Sunday, August 20, 2006

Captain Plaid - New Approaches for New Days

I'll be cross posting the following across the five efforts. I'll keep Captain Plaid up and running via Blogger, although TypePad continues to call me. Until I announce otherwise, Captain Bama is leaving the building. For the near future at least, I'll abandon Tin Shop Tartan. I'm going to put Captain Jimi in the holster as well in that I can fight the culture war on the main blog. Marque Stuart has long been neglected and my inner Martha will need to be surpressed even further given these next few weeks ... and perhaps even months and years.

I've been slack in posting these last few days but family called. I was unexpectedly called in to help a relative with a business/building project and that has been the priority these last few days. Even though the fam might not always understand me, I am thrilled to help any of my brood. I understand Highlanders had "broken men" that had left their own Clans and joined with another in some respects, generally free to return to or assist their kin as circumstances required. Maybe that is what is going on with me? There have surely been plenty of shifts and changes for me over this summer! Here's the immediate deal ...

I'll be working for a Progressive Political Action Committee until mid-November. Reporting on Labor Day for duty, I'll be in Milwaukee for the first few days but they'll soon farm me out to at least one candidate. Although there may be some races for Governor or other state/local positions, I'm likely going to be working in one of the competitive U.S. House districts. I could be working pretty much anywhere but doubt it will be in Alabama or even the South (Florida doesn't count as the "South" does it?). Country come to town?

I'm hoping to find future work, ideally in politics/policy or some type of non-profit education, away from rural East Alabama. I'm looking in relatively urban areas along the East Coast or in the Mountain West. This PAC I'll work for next will assist in placement and yet I've got friends and contacts that are also looking and helping. The experience will hopefully teach me much plus it will admittedly help expand my resume. By the first of the year I hope to have a long term position nailed down. If anybody knows of something that might suit me please let me know. I'll work like two trojans. I can get along with most folks, event though some family and a few past "significant others" might disagree.

I'm leaving for several reasons. I've mentioned that several fundamentalist family members reacted rather harshly to a letter I sent First Baptist Church on their shilling of Amendment One, the Alabama Contitutional Amendment on banning same-sex marriages that every major paper or reasonable authority in Alabama agreed was not necessary and even foolish. Some have expressed displeasure with my Letters to the Editor to my local paper. I think I've done four since the first of the year and I've yet to have anybody say my facts were wrong. In every letter I challenged Bu$hCo (and often the GOP and conservatism and ...) so I think that was mostly the problem. Again, explain where I was wrong! Until then, and probably even after then, I feel very patriotic to have spoken out against the abuses of this worst administration ever. Additionally, my ex-wife has gone on the warpath so that my ability to have the type of relationship I'd like with my son has become more of a challenge.

I've left the classroom after five years back in the trenches frustrated with NCLB and other bureaucracy, with this last years's experience trying to teach the young adults of Heard County, Georgia being the final nail in that coffin. I was also feeling "cooped up" in that teachers are forced to work inside cement block rooms for most of their day and not always able to engage people and the community as might be ideal for any profession. I'd pondered returning to the practice of "country law", thinking a low overhead practice where I could perhaps avoid the drudgery of merely paying the bills might be rewarding. I'd thought I could do criminal defense and some worthy activism plus simply help folks but I've decided I can't remain here in rural East Alabama and keep my sanity. I'm somewhat afraid I'd wind up an angry, lonely old man. Living in this conservative backwater, even though I cherish some of the rural lifestyle, might do more harm than good. As a single man, the social scene around here is especially scary. I love the dirt and woods and critters and ..., and certainly a few dear friends, but I'm now certain I need another setting.

I've learned to live simple, and the older I get the less I seem to need, but I want "purpose" to my life. I seek intellectual and spiritual experiences. I want to work with people that generally possess a Progressive outlook. I want to find my place in a vibrant community that values learning and art and compassion and service and health and ... I've long though about building a "home" where I'll feel some measure of security and completeness. My experiences as a child, with my mother dying rather young plus several other unfortunate realities, have I think tempered me where I default to seek "place", although I'll argue this is a very Southern, perhaps even Scottish, trait.

My failed marriage and practice, one that I'll submit I've placed in the proper order, plus the resulting troubles, were certainly events I'd have just as soon avoided. Ten to seven/six years later, I'm twice the man I was and I'm just forty. I can still be a good father, even though the idea of moving away from my son is the toughest part of these changes. In fact, given the current attitudes and actions of my ex-wife, I'm perhaps making the best of a bad situation. I wanted to be near "the boy" through these early teen years but if I'm better centered by being elsewhere then more good might result.

I've really enjoyed posting on these five blogs and hope they've been valued for at least effort if not for insight. I've only done a few on Marque Stuart but I've dropped 126 posts on Captain Jimi. Tin Shop Tartan has seen 127. A total of 186 post appeared on Captain Bama. Captain Plaid has had 279. Over seven hundred posts! Many hours of mousing and keyboarding (with Blogger being bloggered often making it take longer!) but I've learned so much. I appreciate the comments and communcations. For those that have honored me with a blogroll link feel free to leave any or none. I'll continue over at Captain Plaid, with the caveat that if my new gig doesn't allow time then posts might be scarce. I anticipate a new email addy once I get settled in.

Thanks again for allowing me to share my thoughts and frustrations plus my hope for a better world. Peace ... or War!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

George Allen - All Hat and No Cattle Version 2.0?

Jesus General gives us the image and link to Jeffery Feldman's Frameshop that reveals the apparent racism of this new version of Dubyah. Crooks and Liars has the video of Senator Allen playing to the base. Betcha he didn't tell them "My mama is French."

I've posted on Virginia's George Allen previously. Ryan Lizzi's "George Allen's Race Problem" is looking rather prophetic.

I liked SusanG's Kos post "Keep Talking, George Felix Allen Junior! Please." This guy and Dubyah might make good fishing buddies for each other. They can talk sports at least. Dumber than buckets of spit! Bu$hCo cuts brush and Junior saddles up. Silver spoon born and raised yet they've provided ammunition for the anti-evolution loonies with how they've regressed. C&L has a large but timely video file up showing some classic "Bu$hisms" and commentary. When you need both Joe Scarborough and John Fund having to work this hard to provide cover to Dubyah then you see how far this White House has fallen.

The WaPo's Michael D. Shear and Tim Craig reporting entitled "Allen on Damage Control After Remarks to Webb Aide" is the most recent I can locate. What a wanker! Peace ... or War!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Susan Jacoby examines the "Activist Judge" Myth

"Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism" by Susan Jacoby is pictured to the left. Ms. Jacoby is also Program Director for The Center for Inquiry in their New York City effort.

Her commentary on "activist judges" covers the death threats concerns yet the following is especially solid:

But the current climate of hostility to the judiciary cannot be written off as a product of the lunatic fringe. Attacks on “activist judges”—a phrase that, like “the elites,” has become a code word for liberals—are regularly issued by Republican officeholders from the White House to state legislatures. The assault on an independent judiciary has always been an integral part of the Rovian political strategy that put President George W. Bush in office.

The Democratic Party’s response has been defensive and wishy-washy. Al Gore and John Kerry said almost nothing about the judiciary during their presidential campaigns unless they were asked a direct question—and questions were rarely asked because judges, unless their relatives are being murdered, are not hot news. Furthermore, the issue of “activist judges” resembles the “values issue” in that it has been brilliantly hijacked by the right in a fashion that tends to elicit me-too answers along the lines of, “I don’t like activist judges either, but I do want fair judges.”

The truth is that the real issue is not the activism of judges but the principles upon which they are acting. ...

... What the right resents is what the framers of the Constitution intended—a judiciary able to serve as a counterweight to popular passions. Conservatives oppose the appointment of any judge who, like many great Supreme Court justices in the past—Hugo Black, Earl Warren and Harry Blackmun come to mind—might confound the expectations of the presidents who appointed them. ...

... This is not a case that judges should have to make on behalf of themselves but a case that politicians who understand the meaning of the Constitution ought to be making to the public.

Peace ... or War!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Anniston Star's H. Brandt Ayers Scolds Southern Baptist Convention

My regional paper, The Anniston Star, provides a rare Progressive voice down here in my wilderness. H' Brandt Ayers, boss hoss for the paper, delivers "Faith of my father" that rightly demonstrates why many of "the best and the biggest Baptist colleges and universities" are breaking their ties with the Southern Baptist Convention. He also writes "thoughtful Christians began to drop away", serving up examples like Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter as Exhibit A. I especially like this:
This cleavage between faith and reason, between a doctrine of godly perfection and an intelligent, fallible Christian's struggle to find his way in a sinful world shouldn't be black-and-white choices.
I'm thinking hope in the new President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Frank S. Page, is a bit optimistic but I'm sure Mr. Ayers hangs out with a different set of Baptists than I do. Down here, and in my family I fear, they've seemingly swilled the Fundy Kool-Aid. Peace ... or War!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Understanding America's Scientific Illiteracy

Ker Than reports “U.S. Lags World in Grasp of Genetics and Acceptance of Evolution” building from a recent study by Michigan State’s Jon Miller and then National Center for Science Education in California’s Eugenie Scott . The article begins as follows:

A comparison of peoples' views in 34 countries finds that the United States ranks near the bottom when it comes to public acceptance of evolution. Only Turkey ranked lower.

Among the factors contributing to America's low score are poor understanding of biology, especially genetics, the politicization of science and the literal interpretation of the Bible by a small but vocal group of American Christians, the researchers say.
“American Protestantism is more fundamentalist than anybody except perhaps the Islamic fundamentalist, which is why Turkey and we are so close,” said study co-author Jon Miller of Michigan State University.

I'm thinking a stretch to explain it all about Turkey's religion, although partly true. Much of it is poverty and, while Turkey tries to remain rather secular for that neck of the woods, fuanamentalism pockets continue. There's a pull I think of fundy thinking to poor people. I'll also add that I'm convinced some in the GOP manipulate evangelical voters through fear, wedge issues, anti-intellectualism, ...

Portions of the balance of the piece include:

The analysis found that Americans with fundamentalist religious beliefs—defined as belief in substantial divine control and frequent prayer—were more likely to reject evolution than Europeans with similar beliefs. The researchers attribute the discrepancy to differences in how American Christian fundamentalist and other forms of Christianity interpret the Bible.

While American fundamentalists tend to interpret the Bible literally and to view Genesis as a true and accurate account of creation, mainstream Protestants in both the United States and Europe instead treat Genesis as metaphorical, the researchers say.

“Whether it’s the Bible or the Koran, there are some people who think it’s everything you need to know,” Miller said. “Other people say these are very interesting metaphorical stories in that they give us guidance, but they’re not science books.”

Politics is also contributing to America's widespread confusion about evolution, the researchers say. Major political parties in the United States are more willing to make opposition to evolution a prominent part of their campaigns to garner conservative votes—something that does not happen in Europe or Japan. …

… Scott says one thing that will help is to have Catholics and mainstream Protestants speak up about their theologies' acceptance of evolution.

"There needs to be more addressing of creationism from these more moderate theological perspectives," Scott said. “The professional clergy and theologians whom I know tend to be very reluctant to engage in that type of ‘my theology versus your theology’ discussion, but it matters because it’s having a negative effect on American scientific literacy."

ID proponents were heard from in “explaining” the study according to the following:

Bruce Chapman, the president of the Discovery Institute, the primary backer of ID, has a different view of the study.

"A better explanation for the high percentage of doubters of Darwinism in America may be that this country's citizens are famously independent and are not given to being rolled by an ideological elite in any field," Chapman said. "In particular, the growing doubts about Darwinism undoubtedly reflect growing doubts among scientists about Darwinian theory. Over 640 have now signed a public dissent and the number keeps growing."

Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education in California points out, however, that most of the scientists Chapman refers to do not do research in the field of evolution.

"If you look at the list, you can't find anybody who's really a significant contributor to the field or anyone who's done recognizable work on evolution," Matzke said.

I suppose in Mr. Chapman’s world the “ideological elite” are the folks that might actually know what the hell they are talking about. American’s United might be a good place to begin understanding this “think tank” and policy shop. Chris Mooney’s American Prospect piece “Inferior Design” is another.

I was discussing this study with a couple of friends last evening and we began talking of the home schooling trend. They seemed to be unaware of the Southern Baptist Convention moving toward this, or at least considering briefly a resolution, as the default preference. The President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary explains what seems to be the official position of the church I grew up in yet NPR also provides space for other faith communities to make their case as well.

As an educator, I’ll tell you that teaching hard shell fundamentalist kids can be a difficult task. Teaching any child in today’s climate is demanding I’ll argue. Still, once they’ve been brought up in that fundy culture it is difficult to get them to consider other views. They often distrust “science” or “history” or … I can also tell you that some of these parents can be a pain. However, many of the kids, and the parents, are super nice and are, or likely will become, solid citizens. The caveat is that “solid citizens” need to be able to entertain alternative perspectives. I want my secular government making decisions on science not superstition. I know some schools and teachers bend over backwards to avoid stirring up a hornet’s nest but if this trend continues we might even be passed by Turkey!

Finally, a tip of the tam to R.J. Matson for the above image located via Daryl Cagle’s MSNBC syndicate. Peace … or War!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Senator Feingold Questions DLC's Republican Lite

Senator Russ Feingold rightly called out the DLC today for their flaws and failures. Building off the Lieberman primary loss, Senator Feingold is right to question the DLC approach. We simply can't allow the radicalism to go unchallenged and our failure to confront the many failures of conservatism on steroids simply legitimizes their wrong thinking. The DLC's sole success was mainly from the skills of Team Clinton with a little help from Ross Perot.

There is plenty of good in some of their ideas but right now there is no way to work around Iraq and the culture war, especially given the way the GOP conducts scorched earth politics, that doesn't involve fighting from our side of the divide. Centrism will not create the kind of change our society needs. Peace ... or War!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Far North Mega-Church Pastor Loses Flock

I ran across this Laurie Goodstein NYT piece but to avoid paying the Gray Lady to read turned to AOL. Her "Disowning Conservative Politics Is Costly for Pastor" reports on Dr. Gregory Boyd's struggles with Conservatives in his 5000 member church in St. Paul Minnesota. He actually only lost part of his flock yet if he were leading the average Southern Baptist congregation down here in Dixie I expect they'd have shown him the door long ago. I think this reporting reveals much about our "culture war", even if this one is being fought inside a church. I also note the church is multi-racial.

I recognized Dr. Boyd's name and in fact his "Letters From a Skeptic" was on my shelves. A/My sister(s) gave it to me, in her/their perpetual battle to save the little brother's soul. I admittedly have only glanced at the book but liked a good portion of what he writes. As I've long told them if I could find a more liberal form of Christianity, ideally Universalist oriented, in my locale I'd at least every so often darken the door. I've tried to attend some local churches but the literalism and resulting fundamentalism and hyper-evangelicalism seem to always hinder my staying around. I might actually wind cracking Dr. Boyd's book due to this article. "The Lord works in mysterious ways." comes to mind. Peace ... or War!