Monday, June 30, 2008

Alabama Accents (St Petersburg Times-Guest Column)

From "St Petersburg Times" guest columnist Jack Bray:
It got me to thinking. Why do we speak the same language differently? The shades of drawl even in this town are distinct. After living 15 years in Dunedin, listening to a lot of familiar New Yorkese, I found these accents to be colorful and charmin', darlins'.
LINK TO FULL COLUMN at TAMPABAY.Com (note the column cites my story on the origin of Southern Accents)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

UN: fair Zimbabwe poll 'impossible' (REUTERS)

(REUTERS)Jun 24 - The United Nations Security Council condemns violence against Zimbabwe's opposition.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously agreed to take its first formal action on Zimbabwe by condemning violence against the country's opposition and ruling that a free and fair presidential run-off was impossible.

Michelle Carlile-Alkhouri reports. (REUTERS)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pennies for Votes

For many, many years, in elementary and middle schools across the south and perhaps other regions in the nation as well, at a certain time each year, the student body would perhaps `nominate' several young boys and girls to be Mr and Miss `small town' (or whatever the name) of that particular school may be.

But, this contest would not be based purely on popularity, being a good citizen or high academic achievement per se, but instead, by the number of pennies that each student was able to raise since each penny counted as one vote.

After the votes, no, actually, the pennies were tallied the winners would be crowned, perhaps photographed for the yearbook, maybe even ride on a float in a local parade and then carry the largely insignificant title throughout the rest of the year.

After execution of this widely accepted practice by which these schools would raise much needed funds for things like chalk, art paper, kick balls or other necessities utilized for richer educational experiences in the classroom there was an unfortunate fact that remained embedded in the minds of the millions who witnessed or lived through it.

The children who took the title Mr and Miss local school, was in fact the student who in the end, turned in the fattest check to the powers that be at that school, a check that was often written by a wealthy parent.

In the end, the contest was not about merit or popularity but wealth although perhaps in rare cases, childlike money raising prowess. Still, for millions of children, it instilled or perhaps at least reinforced the bitter pill that money equals title, perhaps too power.

What often got lost in the drama of those contests that appears to have rewarded those children who had wealthier parents, was the cold hard fact that the schools who conducted them, often operated under umbrella school systems that under-funded them, a greater system that in many states bore the stench of inequity from district to district that left individual schools in desperate need of cash to operate fully.

It was a greater reality that was complained about, but many parents and others felt powerless to change.

Interestingly, many of our most treasured rights, the very fundament(s) of what we cherish as a free democracy are tainted by similar flaws.

While there is no doubt that Barack Obama did in fact go back on his word when he announced that he would opt-out of the public financing system, irking many, both Republican and Democrat along with those who would like to extinguish the flames of influence that large moneyed private donations, be it corporate donors who bundle, be it lobbying interests who disguise donations through other methods, be it even individuals who accept the fact that in order to win an election in these free and open United States they must contribute dollars to help their choice win votes, the facts in today's electioneering process are what they are.

The United States electoral system is broken.

It truly does not matter who is nominated or who chooses to enter a campaign for any office in this country because, in the end, that candidate must go out and raise vast amounts of dollars because in this nation, in the end, a dollar can be likened to a bullhorn by which to broadcast a message more effectively and thus win a vote.

Until we as a nation begin to aggressively address the fundamental flaws that money in politics has grown into over the past few years, we are only going to continue to witness the political pollution that money buys on an increasingly grand scale.

Yes, presumed Democratic nominee appears to many to have gone back on his word. But, the nominee from Chicago is only operating under an umbrella, a system that has relegated him to this unfortunate choice. It is his political reality and more importantly, it is ours. We as a nation have yet to raise our collective voices and demand change in the way we pick our leaders.

It's really not fair for critics to bombard the Barack Obama campaign machine with criticism or to express profound disappointment in the candidate for choosing to opt out of public financing. It is more appropriate that we express our displeasure with our system of electing our leaders.

What makes this all similar to the analogy of students who go out and raise pennies for the tile of Mr or Miss School?

Well, that's fairly obvious.

But, this is not just a `title' that Senator Obama and Senator Mc Cain are raising their coins for. It is in fact, the most powerful title in the world.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Marriage Race Analysis (EDGE)



A virtual who’s who of familiar right wing social conservative organizations have also converged on California and are making the overturning of the California court decision a priority. "There are a number of national religious right groups that are lending their resources to this effort," said Peter Montgomery, spokesperson at the People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group based in Washington DC.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Disturbing Impact of Higher Fuel Prices

Alabama freelance writer Sandy Williams owns a general store with gas pumps in the town of Crossville. Her observations in this piece published in the "Birmingham News" are powerful and moving.

To the folks in this rural community, getting a paycheck on Friday afternoon means they have to drive at least 10 to 15 miles, each way, to work every day for a grueling eight-hour shift in a poultry processing plant or a sock mill. With blue-collar wages here still floating between $5 and $6 an hour, that puts them bringing home, after taxes, a mere $150 to $200 a week.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

High Gas Prices Hit Rural Areas Worst (New York Times)

Rural U.S. Takes Worst Hit as Gas Tops $4 Average
Published: June 9, 2008
Across the South, Southwest and the upper Great Plains, low incomes and heavy dependence on pickup trucks and vans is putting an even tighter squeeze on family budgets.

People are giving up meat so they can buy fuel. Gasoline theft is rising. And drivers are running out of gas more often, leaving their cars by the side of the road until they can scrape together gas money.

LINK TO FULL STORY at "The New York Times"

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Bush Overstated Evidence on Iraq, Senators Report (NYT)

from "The New York Times"
International / Middle East
Bush Overstated Evidence on Iraq, Senators Report
Published: June 6, 2008
The 170-page report accuses President Bush and other top officials of repeatedly overstating the Iraqi threat in the emotional aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

LINK TO FULL STORY at New York Times

In retrospect....FROM ANOTHER TIME.....letter to the editor;

Al Qaeda and Iraq: The Panel and the President
Published: June 18, 2004

To the Editor: While it is upsetting that President Bush and his administration used fear, anger and manipulation to intimidate the American people into believing that Iraq played a role in Sept. 11, it is even more disturbing that many Americans accepted his word as fact.
LINK To full text at "New York Times"

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The race to Marriage Equality (Analysis at EDGE)

excerpt from Part one of my piece at EDGE
Whither California, the nation? That’s the question LGBT activists and just-plain folks across the country are asking. Will legalizing marriage in the California Republic set off a wave of such actions across the country? Judging from what happened in New York, it may already have. EDGE analyzes the move toward (and away from) gay marriage state by state and handicaps the race to be next in line to the altar.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Divided Democrats of Today

Perhaps a half baked play on words taken from that beloved former first lady from a far away land and time might seem inappropriate in this situation. But for some, at least some who happen to be Democrats and happen to also be just a tad bit outspoken while taking what could be politely called 'issues' with our own former first lady, not crying over the way this current Democratic campaign match up has played out, is truly an understatement.

Before moving along, it's important to note, by staying in this race until the increasingly bitter end, it is not, and never really has been, Hillary Clinton's fault, that many of her supporters now say they would not support Barack Obama in the fall. That could be blamed on any number of factors.

Still, it's become increasingly curious and offensive to some Hillary supporters and even those watching from afar, that the tone from much of what has turned into Obama-land, appears to still be immersed in arrogance and self righteous certitude, so much so, they've basically alienated a tremendous number of crucial voters that the Democratic party desperately needs come November when the new White House occupants are picked.

But, facts are facts, and one truth happens to be that there are thousands, make that millions of alienated' Clinton supporters that have been completely turned off by what they see as the sheer nastiness of media coverage and campaign tactics directed towards their candidate. They are turned off by what they see as a dismissive tone in the Obama message, turned off by what they see as the cult like dominance projected by many of his fans, turned off by the way some voices in new and the old mainstream media outlets practically played Pravda in the reporting styles and analysis of each candidate while ignoring the difficult challenge of exploring and explaining exactly how each candidate's potential policy might impact the day to day lives of people in Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey, Mississippi or Florida.

Instead, they dutifully watched as the hip young "it" girls and boys sporting those Pepsi looking Obama pins would anticipate the next Obama rally as if it were a rock concert, where, when they happened, the reporters on TV would convey to viewers that the "energy here is infectious" while the pundits took turns gushing and blushing over this new message of hope, all building momentum among a new cross section of voters, built on a dynamism that might rescue the nation from its long nightmare that had been brought to the citizens courtesy the current White House of horrors.

They watched one joke of a debate after another as questions over Preachers and verification of statements became fodder for the web as the shrill and sillier took the punch lines to higher planes of nonsense, all feeding the growing divides among the voters.

Meanwhile, Clinton was actually holding her own in votes, albeit not as loudly, in the end, now we know, she takes around the same number, if not more of the popular vote from the overall screwball of a primary process.

Despite that, the calls for her to leave the race started months ago and the pundits, newspapers, blogs and others, all began to chime in louder and meaner that Clinton was dividing the Democratic party and with that, the nastiness grew thicker and the putrid tones taken by some of the punditocracy along with the simplistic labeling of voters as `less educated' verses "more educated" latte liberals all coupled with sexist and racist vitriol growing nastier and nastier until it all began what today may be called a sad climax.

Yes, there are a lot of upset Democrats in America today. They aren't as outspoken or loud with their politics as others in their party, they are not the types to go and play hardball at a caucus, they probably wouldn't show up at an Obama rally and chant "yes we can," in fact, they probably wouldn't go to far out of their way to see Hillary either, but, they've been skeptical and they have been paying very close attention to this pathetic affair we call an exercise in Democracy and in the end, they find themselves un-enthused and in many cases, resigned to defeat in the fall.

There is no need for voters in Puerto Rico to cry over Hillary Clinton, but, there are plenty of reasons for all Americans to cry over the way we pick our Presidential candidates.