Category: Southern Scene

Alabama Governor Bentley Sticks Foot in Mouth, Again

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley seems to like the taste of his own toes. He sticks his foot in his mouth so often that people down south have taken to calling him “Goober” after the character on the Andy Griffith Show who just could not keep his mouth shut even though he rarely knew what he was talking about.

But that’s Alabama for you, where the state’s history is rife with goofy governors, especially Republicans like Guy Hunt and Fob James.

This time, the mainstream Associated Press picked up Bentley’s comments suggesting that Massachusetts Mormon Mitt Romney might want to release his tax records if he wants to be president as President Barack Obama has been saying regularly on the campaign trail of late. It was Saturday at the National Governors Association conference in Virginia, and a reporter just happened to spot Bentley and ask him whether he thought Romney should release his tax returns. The governor said yes – adding that he believes in transparency and releases his own tax returns every year.

“If you have things to hide, then maybe you’re doing things wrong,” Bentley reportedly said. “I think you ought to be willing to release everything to the American people.”

After Democrats seized on his words and the comments began to be picked up on blogs, Facebook posts and Twitter Tweets, Bentley later stuck his foot even further into his mouth, saying he still believes Romney’s taxes should be released and he believes in transparency, but his staff issued a statement insisting he wasn’t implying that Romney had anything to hide.

“I believe my comments were taken out of context, they were not reported in their entirety, and I want to make sure the record is set straight,” Governor Bentley said in this statement. “I believe in trasparency, and that was the basis for my answer. I personally choose to release my own returns each year, and there was no effort to imply that Mr. Romney has anything to hide.

“While I believe in total transparency, I also believe much of the rhetoric surrounding Mitt Romney’s personal finances is nothing more than an attempt by Democrats to distract from the real issues of the presidential campaign,” Bentley said. “The real issues are the economy, employment and getting America back on the right track. I fully support Mitt Romney and his vision for our country, and I will do everything I can to help get him elected.”

Woops. Too late, and wrong.

Romney’s record on the economy is not only fair game in the campaign, it is sort of critical for voters to know what kind of president he would be if elected. If his record as a business administrator are any indication, he will outsource jobs overseas, hide his personal wealth in overseas accounts, and then lie about it, according to the AP.

Bentley has his own political problems back home in Alabama. Perhaps he should stick to trying to set things right in his home state. He has made the state the butt of national and international jokes once again as a racist place for passing a discriminatory and draconian immigration law in a state where illegal immigrants are hardly a problem at all compared to California, Arizona and Texas.

He presides over a state in which all three branches of government are run by a rapid, right-wing Christian tea party that has damaged the very thing everyone seems to value most: the business recruitment climate. They have ruined public television and are hell bent on destroying the unions, just like the Republicans tried to do in Wisconsin. They are trying their best to run off school teachers and even turn the public schools into Christian schools.

They are going to join a few other so-called conservative states in defying the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, even though a conservative U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law.

All of this begs a few questions on this Sunday morning.

Are people still trying to secede from the rest of the country and the world by creating a safe little poor place for only uneducated, white Christian radicals to live?

Doesn’t it sort of remind you of the Civil War all over again?

Why would any half-way intelligent person want to live and work in Alabama?

Perhaps it’s time to make that move out West, my friends, or at least escape to the mountains of North Carolina or Virginia.

If some smart, progressive Democrats don’t get it together and take back over this state — and soon — they will see a brain drain like nothing they have seen so far. Most of the kids from Alabama who manage to get out and get an education today don’t come back anyway. They know there are better opportunities elsewhere where a higher percentage of the population can at least think for themselves.

While many talented and intelligent people have come from Alabama, it is becoming an almost unbearable intellectual wasteland of morons and dingbats, even on the political left. What is an educated person to do? Get out, that’s what.

How Much Heat Can We Take Before We Attack Global Warming?

How to Save the Planet and Fix the Economy Too

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The Big Picture

Just how hot does it have to get before the people of the United States finally acknowledge that global warming is happening? When are we going to stop arguing about it and start doing something to at least slow it down from getting even hotter?

We have known about this for at least a couple of decades. The science was settled on this back in the 1990s when I wrote a doctoral dissertation about media coverage of global warming.

There is no doubt that humans are causing the warming of the planet with our insatiable demand for electric power from the burning of fossil fuels, which causes greenhouse gases to build up in the atmosphere and trap heat around the planet.

What will it take to convince the corporations that profit from electric power generated by the burning of coal, natural gas and oil? What will it take to convince the Republicans? What will it take to convince the Christians?

Once again this summer, temperatures have soared over the 100 mark in the United States and around the globe, setting more records, just as we have seen over the past 20 years. From Philadelphia and New York, to Louisville, Kentucky and Birmingham, Alabama and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the heat baked the landscape like a plague.

At least 30 deaths were blamed on the heat, including nine in Maryland and 10 in Chicago, while officials said the heat caused highways to buckle in Illinois and Wisconsin. Thousands of mid-Atlantic residents remained without power for more than a week from deadly summer storms and extreme heat, including 120,000 in West Virginia and some 8,000 in the suburbs around Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In the Washington area, Pepco asked customers to conserve power, saying the heat was stressing the system.

This heat wave and an accompanying drought — and freak storms and massive power outages — will continue to spread over the next couple of months. But the Republicans in Congress and the states would rather try to defeat President Obama at the polls by lying to and exploiting their conservative constituencies than to tell people the truth.

Corporations like Southern Company, which controls Alabama Power and Georgia Power, would rather spend their money on campaign contributions to Republicans who oppose doing anything about global warming — or air pollution and water pollution for that matter — than to get onboard and try to help reverse the warming of the planet and the inevitable changes in climate.

As for the Christians, who tend to vote Republican, they just seem to figure that when the entire planet catches on fire, some god will snatch them out of the flames and save them and take them to another planet in the universe where they can live in what they call “heaven,” while the rest of us burn.

I’ve often wondered if these Christians, like our not so esteemed governor of Alabama Robert Bentley, really believe there are separate planets in the universe reserved for the white Christians and the black Christians? Is there another planet set aside for the brown Christians and the yellow Christians?

Since scientists have not found a suitable new planet to house any of us yet — or a way to travel there — would it not behoove us to try to slow down the warming of the planet, the melting of solar ice caps and the rising seas until we might find such a place?

Or is god a space alien like the Mormons believe? Yeah, that’s the ticket. Let’s elect a Mormon for president and put off doing anything about global warming for another eight years and see what happens. Morons.

If the U.S. Supreme Court had not handed George W. Bush the presidency in the year 2000, we could be a long way down the road of doing something about this by now. But no, we just have to keep on having a silly argument that drags on for years and serves no purpose except to make a few people richer, while the rest of our lives just continue to get worse.

Now I know a lot of people on the left, including a lot of environmentalists, are no fans of President Obama. But if everybody does not get onboard and prevent the election of the Massachusetts Mormon Mitt Romney to the White House in November, we may see the world end as we know it in our lifetimes.

At least science and merit are back to some extent in the federal government, although we’ve got a long way to go to get rid of all the bureaucrats Dick Cheney hired. Maybe we can do that in a second Obama term.

Otherwise, we might as well fool ourselves like the Maya did by committing human sacrifices and polluting their own water supply. Oh, but we learned this week that the Maya calendar doesn’t end on Dec. 21, 2012. Maybe it ends by the end of Romney’s second term? Let’s ask Nostradamus why don’t we?

Or, perhaps it’s time to stop fouling our own nest and to take responsibility for conserving this planet so there can be future generations.

If we would make up our minds to get on with a program to change this warming trend, it would not cost us jobs or hurt the economy. In fact, fixing the power plants we have and building new, cleaner ones would create millions of new high paying union jobs and save the economy.

And while we’re are it, if we really wanted to fix the economy, there are two other things we could do right away — if we could find the political will. Get rid of the ridiculous Cold War trade restrictions on Cuba, and legalize marijuana. Trade with Cuba could save the Southern states from economic ruin, and the taxes we could collect on pot would immediately save us a billion dollars on law enforcement and eliminate the budget deficit overnight.

I’ve got it. Why don’t we end the war on drugs and start a war on global warming? Would that help people understand?

We can do these things. But not if we cower to the corporations, listen to the Christians — or elect Republicans. We must first face reality in our politics.

Suite: Occupy Little Rock

OLR
Arkansas’ State Capitol reflects in a button worn by a protester. (Photo by Sitton)

Movement the First: To Protest or Not

It started with a spark.

A Canadian spark no less, when the Adbusters Media Foundation came up with an idea to Occupy Wall Street. That spark started the occupation in Liberty Plaza Park Sept. 17, America’s Constitution Day.

At first, few paid attention. But the movement gathered steam and the spark spread to cities across the country and then around the world.

During the time of year normally reserved for the state fair, the spark made it to the Natural State.

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I stayed up too late Friday night with one of my best friends. He would leave Saturday morning for three weeks of drill with the Arkansas National Guard, which has orders to be ready to go to Afghanistan at a moment’s notice … they just don’t know when they’re going. He’s already been to Iraq twice and would just as soon not see the site of America’s longest war.

I’d told him I’d planned to go to the march, to which he retorted, “As a participant or to cover it?” I hadn’t actually decided yet. So he asked me what was the goal, since he’d heard it was just a bunch of rich kids camping out in New York. Why weren’t they in D.C. instead, if they wanted to fix something with the government?

As I explained, it’s not the government. When 9/11 happened, where did they aim first? At corporate America. That was a terrorist act; this seemed to be something more.

We spent the evening debating whether a protest would actually work. I suggested if I marched in protest, my personal reasons would be to end the Federal Reserve and to get the military out of Afghanistan. Needless to say, we kept it up long after we needed to go to bed.

As I lay down and set my alarm, I noticed it was nearly 2 a.m.  That 9 a.m. start would come early.

Read more: Suite: Occupy Little Rock

Eat Southern Foods!

The Southern Food & Beverage Museum declared Sunday, Oct. 11 to be the first Southern Food Heritage Day. (Luckily, I started early by eating fried Oreos from the Arkansas State Fair.) If you don’t have any idea what to make to celebrate this day, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our Southern Compendium entry. Granted, some of the links are toast … but that’s probably keeping some of us healthy! Seriously, I’ll try to update it with some healthy food choices added.

Celebrating National Parks’ Week

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Fall in the Smokies

MONTICELLO, Ark. — All apologies for the lack of posts in September. But as promised, a cross-post from my personal blog when it relates to the South.

For those wondering, this week’s celebrating the U.S. National Parks and Ken Burns’ documentary showing on PBS. After staying West for most of the week, it’s time to turn attention to the Eastern United States.

The Great Smoky Mountains hold a special place in my heart for many reasons, some of which I will describe. I first remember visiting the Smokies at the age of 5, about the time my parents were going through a divorce. Mama and Papa took me on a tour of the Southeast in hopes of getting my mind off the events at home. For the most part, it did.

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First frost, Great Smoky Mountains

It’s amazing that 35 years later, I still remember some of the things I saw, e.g. I remember seeing people outside of their cars trying to get pictures of the black bears. Granted, some of this memory has been muddled as Tanya told me about her dad trying to take a picture of a black bear and getting closer and closer until he realized he was way, way TOO close.

Much clearer, I remember coming into the North Carolina side of the Smokies. A caged bear amused tourists by drinking soda pop from a bottle. I’ll never forget how sad it seemed to see such a magnificent animal behind bars when I’d just seen other bears in the “wild.”

Smokies' Stream -- This picture once appeared in The Southerner as part of our Secret Vistas.
Smokies’ Stream — This picture once appeared in The Southerner as part of our Secret Vistas.

I also remember meeting Chief Fish (at least that’s what he told me his name was) and getting a picture. When I returned to the area a quarter of a century later, I asked about Chief Fish and was told that he had moved away to start a road-paving business. I don’t hold that against him, but I wonder if he got tired of being a curiosity. I know I will never forget him.

I moved to Eastern Tennessee in the late 1990s to work on my doctorate at the University of Tennessee. While there, I took a bunch of trips to the Great Smoky Mountains to clear my mind. It was a special haven, especially after one of the most severe break-ups I encountered in my lifetime. I don’t recommend having personal angst as a reason to see it, but the beauty puts things into perspective.

I turned the camera eye on the Smokies to provide pictures for Scenic Vistas, a special feature in The Southerner online magazine that we started while I was in graduate school. The picture at the bottom of this post and the river picture to the left both came from that period.

One of the best places in the Smokies must be Cades Cove, a nice circular drive that takes you past some of the original settlers’ outposts and pastoral scenes, including this one of deer in the field.

Cades Cove drive
Cades Cove drive

One of the funniest things about the Great Smoky Mountains that I heard actually came from a conversation with a North Carolina resident while I was visiting Boone. She noted the “Flor-idiots” would come up to see the scenery and stop in the middle of the roads, causing traffic jams (at the very least) and occasionally being a health hazard to those not smart enough to get out of the road.

But really, who can blame them when you see sights such as this (below)? Once again, I plan to add a section to my home page of photos from across the nation … but that takes time and right now, time is taken. Soon? I hope. Until then, hope you enjoy what’s shown here, but better yet, get out and see it for yourself. It makes me proud that our government set land aside for future generations to enjoy without having to be wealthy individuals. Truly, it’s one of the best things our government has ever done.

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NOTE: Updated 22 Feb 13 to fix broken links.

Eureka Springs’ Blues Festival Gives Back

Breathing good, I’m in the yard workin’ but I saw this and though I should pass it on; yes, folks, the following is a press release but ya know …
-rws

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Buy tickets now for the 2009 Eureka Springs Blues Weekend at www.EurekaSpringsBlues.org! This year’s Blues Weekend will be on May 28, 29, 30 & 31, and features a lineup that Blues Festival Guide describes as “a who’s who of the blues”.

Presented by the 1905 Basin Park Hotel, the 2009 Eureka Springs Blues Weekend will feature Guitar ShortyHubert Sumlin & the Buddy Flett Band and Joe Louis Walker headlining evening shows in The Auditorium May 28, 29 & 30 respectively. For acoustic guitar lovers, we have Delta Blues legend David “Honeyboy” Edwards headlining a special “Acoustic Afternoon at The Auditorium” with EG Kight and Mary Flower on Saturday, May 30th. Shows will also be held throughout the weekend in the 1905 Basin Park Hotel’s Barefoot Ballroom and Ozark Room, Basin Spring Park and at various venues around Eureka Springs.

This year’s Blues Weekend will be a fund-raiser for The Blues Foundation’s Handy Artist Relief Trust and Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. The HART Fund provides assistance to musicians in need, including acute, chronic & preventive medical & dental care, as well as funeral expenses. For more information, please visit www.Blues.org.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is located seven miles south of Eureka Springs on Highway 23. It provides lifetime refuge to abandoned, abused, and neglected “Big Cats”, with emphasis on tigers, lions, leopards, and cougars. Natural habitats have been built over the past decade to allow the “Lions, Tigers & Bears” to live in more natural surroundings. For more information, please visit www.TurpentineCreek.org.

During last year’s Eureka Springs Blues Weekend, a pair of cubs were born at Turpentine Creek, one of which, “BB King,” is sponsored by long time supporters of the refuge and producers of Blues Weekend, Lori and Charles “Rags” Ragsdell. Also, Candye Kane could not perform during last year’s Blues Weekend due to illness, and The HART Fund helped pay her medical bills. These two events helped “seal the deal”, and Blues Weekend became one of the few blues festivals in America that dedicates 100 percent of all profits to charity.

Other headliners appearing in The Auditorium and the 1905 Basin Park Hotel Barefoot Ballroom and Ozark Room include EG KightMoreland & ArbuckleCandye Kane, Mary FlowerRJ MischoLee McBee & the ConfessorsDeanna Bogart and John Nemeth. Also, one-man band King Clarentz, International Blues Challenge winner JP Soars & the Red Hots and Ozarks Blues Society Blues Challenge winners Oreo Blue and Kory Montgomery & Isayah Warford will be opening acts.
Read more: Eureka Springs’ Blues Festival Gives Back

Secret Vistas: The Great Smoky Mountains

National Park Celebrates 75th Anniversary

A rock tunnel beckons as you enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park…

by Glynn Wilson

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS — When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood at Newfound Gap with one foot in North Carolina and the other in Tennessee on Sept. 2, 1940 at the official opening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the visibility into the dark blue ridges ranged about 80 miles. By the year 2000, soot and ozone from automobiles and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal-fired power plants in East Tennessee had so polluted the air that on a good day, you could only see for about 12 miles.

Due to cleaner cars and smoke stack scrubbers on TVA’s three nearby coal-fired power plants, and a 10 percent drop in the number of people and cars passing through the park over the past decade, perhaps, you can now see for about 14 miles, a slight improvement of a couple of miles, according to park spokesman Bob Miller.

To read the entire few features, with photos, visit our sister site, The Locust Fork News-Journal.

Science Wins Over Religion in Scopes Monkey Trial?

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species Turns 150

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Glynn Wilson
The famous Rhea County Courthouse, where the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial took place

gwcubamug.jpgUnder the Microscope
by Glynn Wilson

DAYTON, Tenn. — Forty-three years after the death of British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose 200th birthday is being celebrated far and wide this year, a few men were sitting around in a Rexall drug store across from the now famous courthouse in this rural Southern town talking politics, science and religion.

In contrast to most of the official accounts of how the so-called “trial of the century” and the “Scopes monkey trial” got started, this was the genesis for an idea for a trial to test the legality of teaching evolution versus creationism in the public schools: A conversation over Coca-Colas at a soda fountain counter. (There’s no official indication whether whiskey was involved).

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Glynn Wilson
A photograph of the drug store where the idea for the Scopes Trial was hatched

You won’t even find this account on the Wikipedia page about the trial, although the evidence is presented in the museum in the basement of the courthouse, and knowledgeable locals know the story.

The way the word got out happened as it often does, with a leak to a newspaper reporter, in this case the old Chattanooga Times.

To read the whole column, visit our sister site, The Locust Fork News-Journal.