Category: Connecting The Dots

Krystal Ball: Who Looks Presidential For 2008?

Presidential Tip Sheet: Early Bet on Edwards

Looking under the hood of the muscle car in the Krystal parking lot, it looks like John Edwards could be the next president of the United States.

Here’s why.

In this early week in the race for president in 2008, rendered important due to new Democratic Party rock star Barack Obama’s early hints he may run and the resulting step up of Hillary Clinton’s reelection schedule, Edwards also stepped up in the public eye. Edwards the trial lawyer and vice presidential candidate and his smart yet southern wife Elizabeth out hardballed Chris Mathews of MSNBC on Tuesday.

For reasons I’ll explain later, he already has a head start in the early primary and caucus races in Iowa and New Hampshire, and will emerge from the pack as the electable moderate southerner with the strength of character to pull off being president. When you think about it, he even looks a bit like Tony Blair – but without the penchent for supporting George W. Bush.

Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, who has been traveling the world since focusing on his major populist theme of solving the poverty problem here and abroad, was the recent top choice among likely Iowa caucus-goers asked to say who they would support in the 2008 caucuses. Edwards, who has traveled to the state extensively since the 2004 campaign when he was the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee, won the support of 36 percent of those polled. U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., finished second at 16 percent. Obama got 13 percent.

Edwards has been working on an upgrade to his profile as the son of a mill worker, the story he used to get the Veep nod after strong early primary showings in 2004.

Trust us when we say this will become even more important as the 2008 approaches and economists officially announce the economic recession. Yes, it will be out of the bag by then.

Edwards has not declared his candidacy yet, so to learn about his recent activities you have to go to his One America Website.

Edwards may also be in a good position from a horse racing point of view. He can refine what his plan is riding loosely in third or fourth and wait for the next turn, while most of the media spotlight shines on the two early leaders on the rail, Hillary Clinton and Obama.

A Cook/ RT Strategies poll looking at the Democratic Party’s crowded field of contenders shows Clinton leading public opinion with 34 percent. Obama is a distant second with 20 percent, even though he may not even run.

Former Vice President Gore, who has been testing the track’s surface of late while fishing for an Oscar for his Global Warming film, still gets the support of 11 percent of the people, while Edwards gets 9 percent.

Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts tied with 4 percent. Everyone else – New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, and retired Gen. Wesley Clark, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio – scored 2 percent or less in the survey of Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independents.

Taking Gore out of the race, Clinton rises 5 points to 39 percent, Obama gains 1 point to 21, Edwards goes up 2 points to 11 percent. Kerry picks up 2 points to 6 percent.

Without Gore or Obama in the race, Clinton goes to 51 percent and Edwards grabs second place with 13 percent. Without Gore, Obama, and Kerry, Clinton gets 52 percent and Edwards 14 percent.

But that is before the race has even officially begun.

We still like Al Gore and think he should have won in 2000, and he would prove to be a much more loose and effecitve campaigner now, we suspect. So if he runs, he will be a major contender and may even get our votes.

But then, why would he want to go through it all again – when he can have far more fun and potentially be even more effective on the outside?

Gore on the Web

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland, Ohio, who ran as the Ralph Nader of Democrats in 2004 and didn’t get very far, made an impasshioned speech for peace this week in making his announcement that he would run again.

His key point: “What kind of credibility will our Party have if we say we are opposed to the war, but continue to fund it?”

He says the Congress has already set aside the $70 billion it would take to get American troops out of Iraq and home, and he is suggesting we face facts and do that – rather than give President Bush another $160 billion supplimental appropriation to continue the war for another year?

Dennis Kucinish on the Web

Which brings up another reason Edwards could emerge as the front runner during the primary process.

Expect to hear Bush take John McCain’s advice, not Jim Baker’s. Watch this.

In a month, Bush will go on national television and ask Congress for even more money to send another 40,000 to 50,000 MORE troops to “win” a “victory” – “Over there.” He still doesn’t get it.

Coupled with the inevitable recession, if this war is still dragging out that will make it very hard for any Repubican to “win” in 2008.

The obvious leader will be Sen. John McCain of Arizona. A few months ago he looked like the only hope the country had. But since his foray to the major-domo of the Christian Right, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and his recommendation for more troops, McCaiin is likely to sink like a horse with a stone embedded in his hoof before this is all over.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will pursue the GOP nomination (ho, hum) and may well be joined by Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas (yech!), Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (yawn), Rep. Hunter of California (who?), and Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado (give us a break).

The question marks in the Republican race are former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (har, har).

Although national polls of Republican voters often show Giuliani at the front of the GOP’s 2008 pack, most observers with a real grasp of the Republican nominating process think Giuliani’s support for abortion rights, gay rights, and gun control knock him out of any real chance of winning the nomination.

Cook Political Report/RT Strategies polled Republicans and Republican-leaning independents about the 2008 contest. When Giuliani was included in the list of candidates, he ran first with 27 percent, followed by McCain at 25 percent and Gingrich at 10 percent. Romney ran fourth with 9 percent. Everyone else was in the low single digits.

Taking Giuliani out of the mix, McCain’s support rose from 25 percent to 34 percent and Gingrich’s climbed from 10 percent to 16 percent. Romney edged up to 10 percent. No one else drew more than 5 percent, according to the Cook Political Report.

Then there’s today’s front runner on both sides, Hillary Clinton. But does anyone really think she can really win the presidency? Her negatives with men are way to high for her to have a chance, unfortunately.

If the Democrats really choose 2008 to be the year of the woman in American politics, then McCain could very well be the next president.

You will recall that one of the early front runners in the 2004 presidential race, now Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean, said that to win, the Democrats need to appeal to the NASCAR vote.

If John Edwards is listening, here’s a tip on how he can win this thing. Get yourself a muscle car, go to Nashville and make some CMT-style music videos. In essence, start hanging out in the Krystal parking lot and talking it up. Get yourself a cowboy hat. Go country.

The liberals in New York, D.C., California and the other cities, can’t win this thing without some working class votes in the South. And they will never, not in a million years, vote for Hillary.

Edwards has the union bona fides to talk the talk and walk the walk. He may even be able to carry Alabama in two years – once the economy goes in the tank and the war gets even worse.

How about Obama for Veep and president in 2016?

A Retirement Home For Out of Work Journalists?


The newspaper industry is in trouble, and in no measure, it’s because of out of touch people like William Bunch, a senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News who also publishes a blog.

His latest misinformed missive was the lead story today on the Poynter Institute’s media blog put together by a little guy named Jim Romenesko.

Romenesko: Your daily fix of media industry news, commentary, and memos.

First, here’s some of what he had to say, followed by my response.

I’m a fan of some conspiracy theories. And so really, what could be a more compelling conspiracy theory than the plot to destroy the American newspaper, hatched – in our imagination anyway – by a secret cabal of bloggers and Web gurus meeting in a diner off Calle Ocho in Miami, then launching their assault on circulation from a Grassy Knoll somewhere in cyberspace?

Except this is one conspiracy that can be easily debunked. The American newspaper is being assassinated by “a lone nut.” And we’re going to tell you the name of that lone nut:

Craig Newmark of Craigslist . . . a man whose altruistic vision of running a business to NOT maximize profits is now threatening the livelyhood of thousands of working men and women across this country, your neighbors who work at and publish your local newspaper, jobs that were once supported by the classified ads that have migrated to the most free . . . Craigslist (sic: dot org).

Last week, Newmark’s co-conspirator (OK, he’s not a totally “lone” nut) – his CEO Jim Buckmaster – told stunned Wall Street analysts how they’re happy to forego profits to save you a couple of bucks on a classified ad, and put some of my best friends on the unemployment line in the process. They even leave on the table money in ways that wouldn’t come directly from their customers:

If you won’t charge customers for ads, and apparently you won’t, then at least start accepting those text ads, and funnel those millions of dollars into the newly formed Craig’s Foundation. And what will be the main benefactor of this new foundation? A scholarship fund, to pay for the college education of the dozens of displaced journalists across America losing their jobs everyday. . . . And if there’s any cash left, how about building a retirement home for any newspaper folks who might somehow see a diminished pension down the road?

The “lone nut” theory of the American newspaper assassination

Since no one else will ever set the record straight on this, apparently, perhaps because they have not studied the issue enough to be in command of the facts, let me have a go.

It’s not that much of a mystery to me why newspaper reporters do not understand what’s going on here. Most of them got into newspapering in the first place because they could not do math. And from their early days in the business, they shunned any knowledge of the business side of newspapering, believing that to know the facts about business would jeopardize their objectivity.

But anyone who has ever worked as an academic, teaching journalism, should be familiar with the literature on how newspapers make money to pay reporters. And its not from classified ads or the price of a subscription.

Admittedly, a lot of academics don’t have those facts at their disposal for a variety of reasons. I once got into a heated argument with a faculty member at a reputable regional university who insisted out of ignorance that the Washington Post was a national newspaper, for example. But anyone who knows the facts here, including the publisher and the circulation manager at the Post, knows this to be true: The Post made a conscious decision not to invest in regional printing plants and daily distribution across the country like USA Today, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. It is a metropolitan newspaper with distribution in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

They now have an opportunity with the Web Press to reach out to a national and international audience, however, and so far they seem to be capitalizing on it – without charging for access to their Web edition.

So let’s be clear. Craigslist.Org is not putting any newspaper reporters out of work because the revenue from classified advertising never, ever went for paying the salaries of reporters in the first place. Nor did the price of a mail subscription or the price of the paper in the newsstand or box on the corner.

The price of the paper itself has always been earmarked primarily for the cost of distributing the newspaper. If anything was left over from that, it went for the cost of printing the newspaper.

Fact: It costs nothing to print or distribute a newspaper on a Web Press. It does cost a little to put it online, but nothing compared to the millions of dollars of paying for and maintaining an offset press, not to mention the rising cost of paper and ink.

Classified ads in newspapers has been a source of revenue for paying staff at newspapers, but mostly for the production and circulation staff. News staffs and most of the employees of newspapers have always been paid from general advertising revenue.

So perhaps Mr. Bunch should redirect his ire at Craigslist toward building a retirement home for newspaper delivery boys and pressmen.

But guess what? There’s an antidote to Craigslist and the newspapers have it in their power to overcome the threat from the competition. If they would just stop bashing the online revolution and join it, they are in a powerful position to take advantage of it. If newspapers would just invest in original journalism and put it online for free, thereby putting themselves in a position of generating a massive amount of traffic AND online advertising revenue, they could survive.

They could even start their own free online classifieds to compete with Craigslit. They could sell Google text ads and pocket all the money and brag at the end of the year to their stockholders.

But apparently, newspaper managers (and columnists) are so out of touch with the reality available right in front of them that they will go on bashing the Web until they are out of business.

When that day comes, us former newspaper reporters who understand the Web Press will be right here to take over where they left off – if there is a First Amendment left after Bush’s appointments to the federal bench get done with sending it to the trash heap of history.

Connecting The Dots: Writing, Art and Freedom…

Good writing is good writing … it sets you free, if you are an artist.
– Anonymous

by Glynn Wilson

TUSCALOOSA, Ala., Nov. 11 – It is an almost surreal feeling to be standing in the cold fog within earshot of Bryant-Denny stadium during an Alabama football game and there’s not a person in sight. Not a soul yelling “Roll Tide.”

At this moment Alabama is hanging in there with LSU and only trailing by a touchdown in the first half. But there is not a sound around the campus in the dark.

Except for the voices coming from the TV.

Half of the inhabitants from here are on the road too, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Sipping on just enough Jamaican rum to keep the bones warm, I am watching the game and at the same time trying to think some more about what I might say to journalism students at the university about the state of writing for the Web.
Read more: Connecting The Dots: Writing, Art and Freedom…

It’s A Sweep: Democrats Take The Senate and House

Rumsfeld Ousted As Secretary of Defense

by Glynn Wilson

The sweep is final and complete. The Democrats will now control a majority in both the Senate and the House for the first time since 1994 as the two close races still in play on Wednesday in Montana and Virginia ended up going to the Democrats, according to the Associated Press and other news organizations.

Jim Webb’s close victory over incumbent Sen. George Allen gave Democrats their 51st seat in the Senate, an astonishing turnabout at the hands of voters unhappy with Republican scandal and unabated violence in Iraq, according to the AP, which called the race first this evening.

The Senate teetered at 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one independent for most of Wednesday, with Virginia hanging in the balance. Webb’s victory ended Republican hopes of eking out a 50-50 split, with Vice President Dick Cheney wielding tie-breaking authority.

The AP contacted election officials in all 134 localities where voting occurred, obtaining updated numbers Wednesday. About half the localities said they had completed their postelection canvassing and nearly all had counted outstanding absentees. Most were expected to be finished by Friday.

The new AP count showed Webb with 1,172,538 votes and Allen with 1,165,302, a difference of 7,236.

An adviser to Allen, speaking on condition of anonymity because his boss had not formally decided to end the campaign, told the AP the senator wanted to wait until most of canvassing was completed before announcing his decision, possibly as early as Thursday evening. The adviser said that Allen was disinclined to request a recount if the final vote spread was similar to that of election night.

The victory puts Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in line to become Senate majority leader.

Combined with the major victory in taking over the House of Representatives on Tuesday by re-capturing at least 27 seats and leading in four other races, Election Day 2006 was a repudiation of the failed policies of President George W. Bush.

In an acknowledgement of that defeat and the failed war strategy in Iraq, the president handed the Democrats the head of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a last gasp attempt to appear willing to acknowledge mistakes and avoid total lame duck status by appearing to be willing to work in a non-partison fashion for his last two years in office.

Rumsfeld resigned with a short statement in which he quoted the great British war strategist of World War II Winston Churchill.

To paraphrase Richard Nixon, let’s make one thing perfectly clear. Mr. Rumsfeld, you are no Winston Churchill.

Bush replaced Rumsfeld with Robert Gates, who may come under close scrutiny during his Senate confirmation hearings, which will now be led by Democrats, for his controversial role in the Iran-Contra scandal when he worked for then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in the late 1980s.

Wilson’s Krystal Ball: Election 2006 Predictions


by Glynn Wilson

Turning to the polls online to look for hope or impending disaster on election day 2006, it is surprising to find the online pollsters more optimistic for the Democratic Party than even the national corporate broadcast media at this point.

It’s a balanced picture on TV, of course, with the Republicans coming back in the end.

But the best pollsters seem to think it’s over and the Democrats will take back both houses of Congress.

We are not so sure, due to the “too close to call” nature of many races – and our fear that the Republicans will likely do their best to disengranchise voters where they can and “steal” any close election.

Let’s hope the pollsters are right.

According to the Cook Political Report, the Democratic Party should pick up 20 to 35 seats in the House, four to six seats in the Senate and a six to eight more governor’s races than the GOP.

“All Monday there was considerable talk that the national picture had suddenly changed and that there was a significant tightening in the election,” Cook says, but it’s not true.

“This was based in part on two national polls that showed the generic congressional ballot test having tightened to four (Pew) and six (ABC/Wash Post) points,” he says.

But seven national polls have been conducted since Wednesday, November 1 and give Democrats an average lead of 11.6 percentage points, “larger than any party has had going into an Election Day in memory.”

Even if you knock five points off of it for the margin of error, it’s 6.6 percentage points, he says, “bigger than the advantage that Republicans had going into 1994.”

“Furthermore, there is no evidence of a trend in the generic ballot test,” he argues.

In chronological order of interviewing (using the midpoint of field dates), the margins were: 15 points (Time 11/1-3), 6 points (ABC/Wash Post), 4 points (Pew), 7 points (Gallup), 16 points (Newsweek), 20 points (CNN) and 13 points (Fox).

In individual races, some Republican pollsters see some movement, voters “coming home,” in their direction, and/or some increase in intensity among GOP voters,” he says. But “all seem to think that it was too little, too late to significantly change the outcome.”

It might be enough to save a few candidates, but no one thinks it is a major change in the dynamics of races.

For all the details on each individual race, go to the Cook Political Report.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball is predicting about the same result, 4, 5 or 6 seats going to the Democrats, “resting party control of the Senate squarely on the edge of the butter knife,” according to Larry J. Sabato and David Wasserman of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

“We think the Democrats may replicate their feat from 1986 (the sixth year election of Ronald Reagan’s Presidency) and capture just enough seats to take over,” they said. When they add together all their predictions, Democrats pick up six seats, “sufficient to wrest control from the GOP.”

For all the details on each individual race, go to Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

So, it looks good tonight, but don’t count on it. Go to the polls yourself and make it happen. Your future freedom depends on it.

If the power does change hands, it means above all, that Rep. John Conyers will become chair of the House Judiciary Committee. No one is campaigning on the issue, but he will no doubt launch a major investigation into President George W. Bush’s war crimes and bring articles of impeachment against the dicktater in chief.

He’s already drawn up the articles and held hearings in the Capitol basement, since the Republicans would not use their Constitutional oversight responsibilities to do the right thing for their country. They won’t even give him a room or put his hearings on the agenda.

It’s at least worth an investigation, some hearings, a national discussion and a damn vote. Otherwise, we are a democratic republic no more and the world will never believe us or look up to us again…

Important Elections Only One Week Away

by Glynn Wilson

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Oct. 30 – For the better part of the past month, it’s been a blast on the road “cowboying” in the Chevy van enjoying the fall weather and taking a break from television and politics out in nature – twelve days on the Gulf Coast and then four days taking in the peak color in North Carolina.

me_lakejames2b.jpg
That’s me, in the Pelican Navigator on Lake James near Marion, N.C. Photo by Don Markum

The elections coming up next Tuesday, Nov. 7, however, are too important to ignore for any serious newsman.

Alas, I almost fell asleep trying to concentrate on the televised political debates tonight on Alabama Public Television.

Governor’s Debate Episode 2006

Gubernatorial candidates Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley and Gov. Bob Riley exchanged viewpoints in this live one-hour event presented by Leadership Alabama, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, Alabama Public Television and the Alabama Press Association.

Unfortunately, according to APT’s Website, the show is also sponsored by a few of the most corrupt corporate polluters in the state, including Alabama Power, Vulcan Materials and Entergen. It is also sponsored by one of the worst corporate spies in the country, BellSouth, which is about to merge with AT&T, now owned and operated out of George W. Bush’s Texas by Southwest Bell.

Oh, you didn’t even know about the debates? Why would you, since none of the corporate television news stations or newspapers in this state did much to promote public involvement in the show.

And let’s face it, the race may already be a done deal anyway. The latest polls show Riley leading the governor’s race by a margin of 57 percent to 32 percent.

According to an article out today in StateLine.Org:

Republican Bob Riley is vying to become the first Alabama governor to be re-elected and to serve two full terms since George Wallace in the 1970s. Incumbents have lost the last three gubernatorial elections in Alabama, and Gov. Guy Hunt (R) won re-election in 1990 only to be removed in 1993 for an ethics violation.

In a state where voters have demonstrated their willingness to split tickets, Riley appears headed for a second term with a strong lead in the polls over Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, the Democratic nominee. In an Oct. 8 poll by the Press-Register/University of South Alabama, Riley led with 57 percent of voters, compared with 32 percent for Baxley.

Baxley, elected lieutenant governor four years ago after two terms as state treasurer, is trying to become the states first female governor in four decades. Wallaces wife, Lurleen, was elected in 1966 when state law barred her husband from succeeding himself.

Riley, a former three-term congressman, has benefited from little scandal, a strong economy and the states efficient reaction to several hurricanes that hit Alabama and neighboring states in 2004 and 2005. Top issues in the race include property appraisals, minimum wage levels and tax cuts.

With the state now enjoying a budget surplus, Riley is pushing for more than $300 million in personal income and business tax cuts to be phased in over five years. Early in his administration, when state revenues were down, Riley had proposed a $1 billion tax plan that would have been the largest tax increase in state history. But voters defeated the proposed increase 2-1 in a special election.

Baxley said she opposes Rileys proposed income tax cuts and prefers that extra state funds go towards education and other government services.

But both candidates favor abolishing annual property appraisals in favor of appraisals every four years. During his tenure, Riley instructed his revenue commissioner to order annual appraisals, a move he said state law required. Baxley has criticized the Riley administration for this, noting that her first business as governor would be to do away with annual appraisals, which she describes as a de facto tax increase on Alabamians.

Baxley is pushing for the state to set a minimum wage of at least a dollar more than the federally mandated rate, now $5.15 an hour. Riley is opposed to a state-mandated increase.

Historic Election Year For Governor’s Races

According to an early AP story out on the main debate:

Baxley, Riley Debate Differances On Tax Cuts, Credibility

And of course the Alabama bureau of AP put out this story a couple of days ago, which just struck me as funny.

Washington Scandals Don’t Touch Alabama’s GOP Governor?

So why have the Washington scandals not touched Bob Riley? Because the pathetically weak Alabama press corps did nothing to investigate the stories. Riley’s connections to Bush and his lobbyist cronies have been on public display for any reporter willing to look and connect the dots. Unfortunately, since Sen. John McCain is now courting the conservative base in his obvious run for president in 2008, his staff would not cooperate with our own attempt to investigate all the connections.

So the best we can hope for is a change in the power balance in the U.S. House and Senate.

Also according to the latest polls:

Democrats Hold Double-Digit Lead in Competitive Districts; GOP Troubles Extend into Home Territory

With less than two weeks to go before the midterm elections, the Democrats not only continue to maintain a double-digit advantage nationally, but also lead by the same margin in the competitive districts that will determine which party controls the House of Representatives, according to the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Nationally, the Democrats hold a 49 percent-38 percent lead among registered voters, and a nearly identical 50 percent-39 percent lead among those voters most likely to cast ballots on Nov. 7.

An oversample of voters in 40 competitive districts – identified by a consensus of political analysts-shows that voting intentions in the battleground districts are about the same as they are in the “safe” House districts. Among registered voters, the Democrats lead by 11 points in competitive districts (50 percent-39 percent) and by the same margin in safe districts (49 percent-38 percent).

So even though none of the Alabama races will make a big difference in the Congressional elections, we can watch from here and have some hope that there is a good chance the power balance will change in D.C.

Sources in Washington indicate to us that the Senate could end up in a 50/50 split, putting the tying vote on many issues into the hands of Vice President Dick “Shooter” Cheney. What a wonderful prospect.

We will leave you with this final point. It is a point which we tried to get Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley to embrace in the last three weeks of the governor’s race, but she was obviously too afraid of being labeled a liberal to reach out to the most intelligent and progressive voters in this state who see no candidates with any creativity at all in their political platforms.

Photo by Glynn Wilson

yellow_warbler20b.jpg
A ruby-crowned kinglet (regulus calendula) caught in the net during the annual migration bird count across from Fort Morgan, Alabama.

To demonstrate this point, just turn to the group Birders United.

According to estimates from the National Geographic Society, there are 15 million or more voting age Americans who have a serious interest in the welfare of birds. Huge numbers of adults in our country watch birds, feed birds, keep lists of birds, and give large sums of money to organizations that protect bird habitats.

In the United Kingdom the formidable political force of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is frequently compared to the powers of the Teamsters Union in the United States. But most of the millions of bird people in America do not realize that they have the potential voting power to control the outcome of many elections in our country.

This is not just a utopian dream. In recent presidential contests, a swing of just a few thousand votes would have changed the outcome in a number of key states.

For example, if only 270 Republican bird watchers in Florida had shifted their votes in the 2000 presidential election, President Bush would not have won the election. In many states the number of adult bird enthusiasts is so large that an organized bird watcher vote could control the outcome of almost any election.

It is a big mystery to me, and a number of my closest friends, why some people who support conservation efforts continue, for other reasons, to vote Republican.

Hey, if you really think it is more important for a president to bash gays openly than to support sensible public policies on environmental issues, by all means vote Republican. But now that you know there is a such thing as a gay Republican (thanks to the Foley page scandal), maybe it would be worth reconsidering which party you vote for – or if not, why not just consider staying home on election day?

Better yet, go bird watching. Let the rest of us decide…

I will not be happy voting in a church thanks to the Bush Justice Department’s policy tearing down the wall between church and state. But I will be voting there anyway. And I will be voting for Ms. Baxley and any other Democrat worth checking on the electronic ballot.

Let’s just hope Diebold doesn’t steal the elections for all these so-called Christian Republicans. It’s not really all that funny what corruption and hypocrisy is supported by some people in the name of Jesus Christ.

You Can’t Fake It AND Make It

You can’t fake it. If you’re gonna make it you’ve gotta live it.
– Hank Williams Jr.

by Glynn Wilson

There is no way to escape it. It is too late. America is a car country, especially in the American South.

This fact hit me in a traffic jam at the Alabama-Georgia line the other day while I was driving the Chevy van from Birmingham to Atlanta to buy a used Macintosh laptop computer from a woman in Buckhead.

I wrote a cover story for The Southerner magazine about this during the summer of 1999 after researching the issue for a chapter in a Sociology textbook: The War on Sprawl.

I have made a point of living in places where you can walk to a neighborhood store and ride a bike along the water, including Gulf Shores, Alabama, where I used to ride every day along the Gulf of Mexico. In Knoxville, Tennessee, I used to ride along the Tennessee River. In New Orleans, for almost four years I rode along the great Mississippi every day and even shopped at a Whole Foods store on Magazine Street, using a backpack for a grocery bag.

But for most people in this country, walking or biking is just not an option. Our living spaces are organized into sprawling suburbs with no significant mass transit. So the only way to get around is in a car.

Not surprisingly, people come to love their machines like they do their pets. They name them, and who can blame them?

I love my Chevy van, especially when I can get the canoe on top and the Cannondale in the back and head off for some adventure without having to fly commercial.

The Eisenhower administration first started building the Interstate highway system for defense purposes in the 1950s. Now it has become the primary travel route for moving people around the country for work and play.

So it was inevitable that “the road” made its way into the American arts, literature and folklore.

Willie Nelson is perhaps most famous for the song “On The Road Again.” He was recently arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for smoking pot on the road in his tour bus. The fact that a musician can get away with that in Bush’s America of 2006 is cool for us Baby Boomers who came of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the coolness of classic rock and pot were at their zenith.

It is also inevitable that Americans love older cars. The antique car movement in America is almost as big as religion itself.

America is also a country of technology, where Apple computers and the Internet were invented. Americans tend to love their computers. I’m no different. I love my Mac. And I am not enamored of new computers any more than I am drawn to new SUVs.

The best era for the American automobile came in the late 1950s and lasted until the early ’70s, when rising gas prices and technology began to favor the smaller cars made by the Japanese.

The best era for personal computing occurred from about 1996 to 2006. It is going to be downhill from here, because the corporate bastards are taking over the business and making it harder for the little guy to break through.

So it should come as no surprise that I tend to use a car metaphor to describe why I just bought a seven year old Mac G3 Powerbook instead of something newer. I love the way it drives, like car aficionados may swoon for the 1973 Mustang.

When I talk to computer geeks about this, I have to preface my remarks with the statement: “I know I’m driving a ’73 Mustang. But hey, I like driving a G3 and building Web pages with the fat version of Simpletext that holds a bold command and allows me to see what I’m doing amongst all the gibberish computer code.”

They understand exactly what I’m saying, if the average non-computer geek doesn’t.

It may not be possible to continue driving a computer of this era much longer, although seeing all the ’73 Mustangs still on the road gives me some hope. Where do they find parts for their old machines? Someone’s making them.

The thing about this machine business is that we use the best machines to do something, either for work or entertainment or both. You have to have tools in this world to do what you are meant to do. A crappy car or a shitty computer just doesn’t get it.

Back in The Bunker Saturday night, I ran across a special on the Country Music channel with Kid Rock playing alongside Hank Williams Jr. They sang a song about the road called Hamburger Steak Holiday Inn. It is a song about the road, and has a message for would be musicians who buy cheap guitars and play all by themselves on the side of the road and never learn to finish a song.

I take this message to be just as true in journalism or politics. Some people think they can fake it and make it. George Bush comes to mind, along with most of the corporate PR press.

If you are reading this far you must understand it. You are looking for alternatives to the fake journalism and fake politics that passes for understanding in Bush’s America.

We are doing our best to put together the tools we need to provide that alternative and gear it up even more in the coming months.

Like Hank sings, “You can’t fake it. If you’re gonna make it you’ve gotta live it.”

We ain’t faking it folks. It may not be making us rich, but the way we live and work is rich in experience. We are determined to live it – and make it. So come on along for the ride…

President Bush Needs To Watch Hidalgo

Maybe Condi Can Explain It To Him

by Glynn Wilson

Do you ever wake up in the morning with a start from a dream and find yourself calling the president a dumbass?

Oh, I suppose not. That’s my curse.

I only wish I could get into the press room with George W. Bush and try to question some sense into him. I wish his handlers would get him to read this column, because it contains a lesson in the difference between myth and reality and how Americans should treat the people of other countries.

As I wound down Sunday night, flipping around the cable TV channels to find something worth stopping on as I often do, I ran across a movie loosely based on a true story called “Hidalgo.”

It is a 2004 film based on the life and tales of the famous American horseman Frank Hopkins and his amazing Spanish-American mustang Hidalgo.

While working for Wild Bill Cody’s traveling show in 1890 in the last days of American cowboys and Indians, a wealthy Arab sheikh invites Hopkins and his horse to enter the “Ocean of Fire” horse race, a 3,000 mile survival ordeal across the Arabian desert.

Up until that year, the race was restricted to the finest Arabian horses ever bred, the purest and noblest lines owned by the greatest royal families. But the sheikh was a fan of tales from the American West, and Hopkins was billed as the greatest rider the West had ever known and his horse the greatest horse that ever lived to run.

So the Sheikh wants to puts his claim to the test, pitting the American cowboy and his mustang against the world’s greatest Arabian horses and Bedouin riders, some of whom are determined to prevent a foreigner – and especially an “impure” horse and rider – from finishing the race. Hopkins is presented as half Caucasian and half Native American, born of a marriage between a European father and a Native American mother. His Indian name is “Blue Child” or “Far Rider.”

In spite of the seemingly overwhelming obstacles, Hollywood predictably has Hopkins win the race by a nose in the end. But the sheikh’s nephew the prince, who Hopkins saves from quicksand during the race, lives to come in second on the top Arabian horse. The horse of a British woman, who the Arabs in the film call “the Christian woman,” comes in third, in spite of all her plots to have Hidalgo killed. Some Christian.

I would like to imagine George W. Bush watching this movie in the White House screening room along with Secretary of State Condi Rice, who explains its meaning to him.

“Don’t you see, Mr. President, how this cowboy showed class and humility after he won the race?”

Hopkins befriends the sheikh and his daughter throughout the race and makes a gift of his Colt pistol after it’s over. A hundred years of peace ensues between the two countries as a result, even though the myth of the pure bred horse and rider are blown.

The victory by Hopkins and Hidalgo shows that free will matters more than breeding.

To show he’s truly a class act, the directors have Hopkins travel home to America after the race and use the $100,000 in prize money to buy hundreds of mustangs the U.S. Government planned to shoot. He releases them into the wild and sets Hidalgo free along with them.

Now isn’t there a lesson in this movie about how America should deal with the rest of the world and nature? Isn’t that why they used to love us?

For more information about the film, consult the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. And watch for it on a cable channel near you.

Hold Bush Accountable For Osama’s Stone Cold Trail

by Glynn Wilson

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Sept. 10 – On the eve of the five-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America, you have to read between the headlines in the Washington Post to get the point.

Osama bin Laden’s Trail Is ‘Stone Cold,’ according to a detailed analysis by the new national newspaper of record online.

Osama Bin Laden’s Trail Is ‘Stone Cold’

The clandestine U.S. commandos whose job is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden have not received a credible lead in more than two years. Nothing from the vast U.S. intelligence world – no tips from informants, no snippets from electronic intercepts, no points on any satellite image – has led them anywhere near the al-Qaeda leader, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.

The objective news story doesn’t draw the logical conclusion, letting intelligent readers decide for themselves what the point should be. Here it is:

… and President George W. Bush should be held accountable for that.
Read more: Hold Bush Accountable For Osama’s Stone Cold Trail

Labor Day Celebrates Workers, Not Work

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Sept. 4, 2006 – Waking up early to a cooler morning on Labor Day 2006, and with some important labor tasks out of the way that have kept me busy and distracted from the journal in recent days, I decided to entertain you, dear intelligent readers, by finding some idiocy in some anti-labor Southern newspapers to make fun of this morning.

It didn’t take long.

Turning to the Montgomery Advertiser editorial page from the Alabama news links page, in a matter of seconds I was laughing at the ignorance that passes for understanding. Is it any wonder newspapers are having such a hard time keeping enough readers interested in their clap trap these days?

Get this for a lede.

Reflecting on the ancient words of Sophocles may not be the way you’d planned to spend your Labor Day holiday, but the old fellow did have a way with words and some serious insights to offer. As the nation celebrates Labor Day, it’s worth noting a pithy observation of his:

“Without labor nothing prospers.”

The point of the editorial came down to this: Celebrate (the) Value of Work Today

A quick search online for quotations from Sophocles turned up that misused jewel, but also this one:

“Ignorant men don’t know what good they hold in their hands until they’ve flung it away.”

For a history on this famous Greek philosopher who knew absolutely nothing about modern labor, you could turn to the online encyclopedia the business editor of the New York Times has declared off limits for that newspaper’s reporters to quote, Wikipedia.Org.

For a better search to understand the U.S. Labor Day holiday, try this in Google: “History of Labor Day.”

Right away you can read a page that somehow survives on the Bush Labor Department’s Web site: The History of Labor Day.

Skipping down to one important part on the first Labor Day, you learn that it was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, planned by the Central Labor Union. In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, first named “workingmen’s holiday.”

“Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country,” said Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor. “All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man’s prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation.”

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers, according to the site. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.

As it was first proposed, Labor Day involved a street parade to exhibit “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families.

Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades are not as common as the labor movement has shrunk significantly and lost much of its political clout. Newspapers, radio and television news stations inevitably cover the speeches and the barbecues, although quite obviously, the anti-union newspapers of the American South only misguide their readers on what the holiday is supposed to be all about.

“The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy,” the labor site claims. “It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership – the American worker.”

So the holiday is not a celebration of work. Nothing much is made in the U.S. today anyway, since most of the jobs have been “outsourced” oversees to places such as China and Central America.

But the holiday is a tribute to the workers themselves, who in 1882 did not have the benefit of a Fair Labor Standards Act which said they only had to work 40 hours a week. There was nothing to prevent factory owners from working women and children six days a week, 12 hours a day, and paying them a nickel a day.

That changed in the late 1930s, when Sen. Hugo Black of Alabama, a Democrat, teamed up with President Franklin Roosevelt, also a Democrat, to try and save America from the Great Depression by forcing business owners to pay a living wage to American workers. They passed the first minimum wage law, which of course hasn’t been raised in a decade.

Since at least one politician in Alabama seems to have a sense of what this holiday is about, I will show up at Birmingham’s Sloss Furnace today to see what Lucy Baxley has to say about raising the minimum wage in Alabama, a plan to go around the do-nothing Republican Congress and do the right thing at the state and local level.

We may not make much of anything in America, although we do make a few cars in Alabama and we raise chickens and grow pine trees. Most people here work to keep those cars running, maintain the roads they run on, and count the money of those who control all the capital. Many work in the hospitals to keep those workers alive, if not healthy.

One of the quotes used in the Advertiser editorial did make some sense and it is worth remembering.

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital,” Abraham Lincoln said in his first message to Congress in 1861. “Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

Of course that rarely happens in Bush’s America. So let’s pay tribute to that – at least for this one day of the year.

And while we think about it, we could quote another philosopher who knew far more about capitalism and the industrial worker. Remember what Karl Marx said? “Workers of the world unite.”

Unfortunately, the undereducated American worker has been brain-washed into thinking that Marx was a bad old Socialist-Communist. So his dream of seeing an egalitarian world rise from the ashes of run amok corporate capitalism has yet to be achieved.

If Bush and company continue to have their way, all aspects of government will be privatized and handed over to the Haliburton’s of the world. And we may yet see wages go back to the inflationary equivalent of a nickle a day.

Originally published in The Locust Fork Journal.