Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas Candid Camera

All families have them. Stories and memories that are unique to us or so we think. The time the cat climbed the Christmas tree and knocked it over or the dog grabbed the ham off the table. The uncle who drank too much and ended the evening wearing his underwear on his head. I’m sure you have one or two. Today, I share a couple of ours.

Shortly after Thanksgiving one year when we were living in Cincinnati and Bill was working for Xavier University, a local television station asked the pr office to suggest a family for a story about budgeting for Christmas. Now, we are certainly not poster kids for budgeting, but we are pretty much game for an adventure, and we agreed to be that family. The crew came out and filmed us in our living room discussing what the budget would be, $800, and we set up times for them to film us shopping. Jeff was in high school and Scott was in pre-school. I’ll have to try to dig up the video to refresh my memory, but I mostly remember two things: the female reporter had a fake name and a male reporter applied make-up before our final interview. The rest is a blur, but I don’t think we embarrassed ourselves too much, and that was the only Christmas we’ve been able to stick to a “budget.”

Our second media Christmas encounter came last year. The little neighborhood we live in, Cloverdale-Idlewild, has a traditional Christmas caroling parade, and the leader called me to see if they could visit our house to carol. Seems we have a dearth of elderly and infirm who are the usual recipients of the caroling. I need to backtrack one little bit to explain why I was called, though. The first week in December of last year, I tripped over our Samantha and broke my arm. So, I guess I officially qualified for the infirm status and my arm WAS still in a sling. A few evenings before Christmas, the carolers, about 75 strong, showed up on our doorsteps, guitars and voices strong with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas!” And oh yes, there was a local television camera crew with them. Not only did all of my neighbors know I was a klutz but quite a few more people in Montgomery did too.

If you have a Christmas story to share, I’d love to hear it.

Christmas Countdown –– 25

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

International Tourist Destination

Regular readers might remember my earlier posts about Comedy Central’s “The Stephen Colbert Show” coming to Colbert County, Alabama. Last night, they finally aired part one of the three-part feature on this little town in northwest Alabama, and Stephen’s bid to open a museum about himself. Stephen sent his lackey Tad since as he phrased it, “This is ‘Deliverance’ country.” Nah, Stephen, but I’ll let it pass.

In part one, Tad meets the mayor and visits the Helen Keller Museum where he tries to tell the director a Helen Keller joke and borrow the pump where she learned to say, ‘water.’ By the end of the segment, Tad has successfully located a storefront for the museum, and tonight we get to see the grand opening. Comedy Central repeats the show at 7:30 p.m. CST.

Christmas Countdown – 26 days

Don’t Bother to Pick Up the Phone

SERVICESEXT2463 or 702-8181-2463 wants to talk with me. You too. This is why I love caller ID. I always look up who called just to be sure it wasn’t an important call. This number had quite a few posters at whocalled/us/lookup. There was even a funny story about a mother or wife seeing the name and thinking one of the guys in the family had called a phone sex outfit, and they were calling him back. I think after a long explanation, she finally believed him.

Anyway, I think these guys are scammers or at the very least they aren’t anyone you want to spend your time conversing with, not unless you just have a mean streak. What if we all started to talk to these folks and tied up their lines. Maybe that would put a few out of business. I have been known to do that. You know, let them go through their script and then say something like, “Oh dear, I have to go, the mule just got out.” And don’t tell me someone is just trying to make a living. Let’s have some fun.

Christmas Countdown -- 26

Thank You For Shopping at Kohl’s

Dad: “Scott, do you have a blank disc I can borrow?”
Scott: “Sure, Dad, I’ll grab one. Here you go, Dad.”
Dad: “Thanks, son.”
Scott: “Thank you for shopping at Kohl’s.”

He turns around halfway to his room, comes back in and says, “Did I just say what I think I did?” We all laughed. Scott works as a cashier, and I think Kohl’s has successfully ingrained politeness in my sometimes gruff and always opinionated offspring.

Christmas Countdown -- 26

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

So-So Doesn't Cut It

Mike Shula felt he had the Alabama program back on track.

This sentence from the AP story about Mike Shula, the University of Alabama's fired football coach is exactly why our cute coach needed to go. A decent man by all accounts, Shula didn't recognize what was going wrong and therefore, couldn't fix it. His ego is bruised, but his family is secure financially unlike the typical family who must struggle when the main breadwinner loses a job. The challenge ahead is to find an experienced, seasoned coach of the first rank. The University, her fans, students and alumni deserve nothing less than this.

Pop Culture and the Marketing of Christmas

Stuart Elliot of the New York Times explores the influence of pop culture in the marketing of Christmas in this week’s advertising column, Shorthand for a Holiday: Ralphie, the BB Gun and the Flagpole. As Elliot points out, “A Christmas Story” has become this generation’s “It’s A Wonderful Life.” The movie is based on autobiographical stories from Jean Shepherd’s book, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. The stories from the movie have been compiled into a book, also of the same name.

I had already seen the Cingular ads featuring a surprisingly accurate take-off of the movie. “Ralphie” gets a GoPhone in this version instead of an “official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle.”

Office Max is jumping on the Christmas Story bandwagon too with online games including one called “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out.”
“Fun is a big part of what our culture is,” Mr. Thacker (senior vice president for marketing and advertising at Office Max) said, contrasting the humor of “A Christmas Story” with the sentiment of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

In other Christmas news, you may have seen the story that a fellow in Cleveland had bought the house from “A Christmas Story” and restored it to its original movie splendor. Of course, he’s charging admission to visit. I’d like to see the furnace that the Old Man was always cursing at. Wouldn’t mind paying either.

TBS is showing this year’s marathon of “A Christmas Story” at 8 p.m. Dec. 24. But this family will be grabbing our video long before then.

Christmas Countdown -- 27 days

So Many Deer

Scott and I are in love with the Berry College campus. We drove over to Rome, Georgia, Sunday night and talked with the admissions folks yesterday, including the recent grad we’d met at a college fair. This campus is quite unlike others I’ve seen. Bill has worked for Rice University and Washington University in St. Louis, and like these campuses Berry has lovely architecture. But unlike these schools, Berry has vast expanses of open grassland, hilly heavily wooded forests, log cabins for guests and faculty housing and herds of deer leaping around like they own the place. Barns, columned buildings that reminded me of the University of Alabama and a private elementary school for Berry’s education program. It’s just a very unusual campus. A mountain campus hugs the hills about two or three miles apart from the main campus, and we drove up there being careful of the deer grazing near the road. Past Swan Lake (yes, we saw two of them), at the end of an unpaved road, we found an old mill with a huge water wheel. With 28,000 acres, Berry claims to be the world’s largest campus, at least in acreage. Parts of the movie “Remember the Titans” and “Sweet home Alabama” were filmed here.

No personal pictures because while I remembered the camera, I forgot the flash card. My bad. These images are from the college's Web site and I hope they don't mind me sharing them.

It’s going to be a huge problem to find a more lovely campus, but Scott has more schools to look at and unlike the junior who was along on our tour, we have started late.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know I write about education from time to time. This particular journey with my son is personal, but many parents have traveled the road to helping their children find a good school. Me, I happen to think that you can find a good education in all sorts of places. While I graduated from the University of Alabama with two degrees, I also went back to school when I was 50 at a wonderful community college, College of DuPage, where I had two of my best teachers ever. I credit them with helping me rediscover my passion for art and design.

Christmas Countdown – 27 days

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Don’t You Ever Paint the Tile!

I feel a bit like Tom Sawyer right now. I started the bathroom project yesterday. I coated the wallpapered ceiling with Kilz and pulled down the remaining wallpaper. When I took down the shower curtain rod, a huge chunk of loose plaster fell off. I knew I’d have to patch the cracks but didn’t count on this big hole. When this house was built in the early 1930s, the plaster was applied to lath and included either cattle or hog hair to help stabilize the plaster. I came across some while examining the hole and figured out what it was after reading about plaster repair in historic houses at the National Park Service Web site.

Why I feel like Tom, is that right now as I take a break from scraping yellow paint off of blue tile, Mr. Bill is scraping wallpaper paste off of the walls. I didn’t nag or ask. I did about a third of the job, and he foolishly came in to ask how things were going. I said something like, “It’s hard to reach the top part,” and he offered to help. I showed him the wallpaper paste remover gel and he went at it. And he’s still at it. Bless his heart!

Christmas Countdown – 29 days

Saturday, November 25, 2006

It’s All About the BUZZ

Did you go shopping yesterday and get caught up in the frenzy? Not me. Well, I did go by Lowe’s for some paint and wallpaper but that was long after the 6 a.m. rush, and while the store was busy, it was the normal “Saturday” do-it-yourself crowd and not the wide-eyed bargain seekers you see at department stores, Wal-Mart and Best Buy. Son Scott had to work at Kohl’s but not until 4:30 p.m. His friend had to be there at 4:30 a.m. I hope they were nice to you.

But around the country Americans jumped on the gotta have it now bandwagon like South Park’s Cartman on the Nintendo Wii. According to the Washington Post, “Retailers said they would not begin tallying the number of shoppers until today but that anecdotal reports indicated strong traffic.”

Christmas Countdown – 30 days

Friday, November 24, 2006

Countdown to Christmas—31 days

As I promised, I’m launching my countdown to Christmas with my favorite Christmas book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. I was a new mom 29 years ago when the president of the Alabama Alumni Association, Ann Pritchard, gave Bill a copy of this classic. Sometime in the next few weeks we will sit down and reread the story of the horrible Herdmans and how they and all around them discovered the real meaning of Christmas. I get choked up each time I read the words aloud. If you have kids and have never read this book, rush right out to your bookstore or order it online (paperback and hardcover available at Amazon), and please read it to them. If you don’t have children, please read it anyway to remember why we celebrate this day. It’s short and wet your pants funny. And yes, it’s sweet and sentimental.

An excerpt from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever:

The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s old broken-down toolhouse.

The toolhouse burned right down to the ground, and I think that surprised the Herdmans. They set fire to things all the time, but that was the first time they managed to burn down a whole building.

I guess it was an accident. I don’t suppose they woke up that morning and said to one another, “Let’s go burn down Fred Shoemaker’s toolhouse” . . . but maybe they did. After all, it was a Saturday, and not much going on.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sharing Thanksgiving Thoughts

Despite my futile attempts to get out of the kitchen this Thanksgiving, yours truly will be cooking tomorrow. I know I shouldn’t complain, but my family allows for no creativity with this meal. It’s got to be turkey, of course, and stuffed celery, cornbread dressing, gravy, sweet potatoes, a throw back to the 1950s Jell-o congealed salad, pumpkin pie, rolls and some random vegetable.

At least I hope for an uneventful morning of cooking, unlike the time I stored freshly made cornbread in a plastic container in the oven overnight. When I turned on the electric oven the next morning, I soon noticed a strange smell and billowing smoke pouring from the oven. I opened the door to a blob of melting plastic dripping down onto the oven racks and bottom. I let the mess cool off and took the racks outside to clean and set about to make more cornbread for the dressing. That was my worse holiday cooking disaster. Martha Stewart is asking for your worst Thanksgiving disasters, but mine can’t top the woman who set her house on fire frying a turkey. Her family and 20 guests had dinner with the firemen at the firehouse.

Do you have a Thanksgiving story you’d like to share?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Alabama is In

And you thought all Alabama could do was turn out American Idol contestants and winners for that matter. But back the first part of October I posted about the Stephen Colbert Museum opening in Colbert County, Alabama and how the county had recently renamed itself after you know who. Well, “The Stephen Colbert Show” plans to air the segments next week on Comedy Central. Imagine, a county actually changing its name. Of course, this is a huge honor, and I’m sure Stephen will be duly humble.

You know I’m kidding, don’t you? Colbert (the ‘bert’ is pronounced as in Bert & Ernie and not as ‘bear’ like Stephen pronounces his name) County had been known best as the home of Helen Keller before all of this hoopla by one of the cleverest men in America. Anyway, I’ll be checking it out. Smart folks those Colbert Countians.

College on my Mind

These days college is on my son’s mind. Mine too. Big questions abound. Where—public or private? How—loans, work or maybe the lottery? If you have a kid in college or have had recently you know how expensive it is. And from the Chronicle of Higher Education this morning:
The nation’s public flagship universities are becoming less accessible to students who are from low-income families or who are members of underrepresented minority groups, according to a report released on Monday by the Education Trust.

Surprisingly, the authors of the report noted that these schools “increased institutional grant aid per student more for those from families in upper-income brackets than for those in lower-income brackets.”

I’ll be taking a little jaunt over to Berry College in Georgia next week with senior son if I can wake him up, and of course, I’ll probably write about the experience. Older son went on his college visits alone, and I’m flattered to be allowed in on the process. Top question: how the devil are we going to pay for this?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Parenting Advice From Stan the Handyman

I just got the best parenting advice I’ve had in a long time, and it was from an unlikely source. Stan has been doing some repair work around our house out of the goodness of his heart since we had trouble finding a reliable person. Anyway, Stan and I were talking about our children before he got started the other day. He told me about his son going away to college and not studying. He said he finally went up to the school and collected the son and told him, “I’m not paying for you to do this.” The son came home and got a manual labor job. When the son’s car ran low on oil and the son didn’t add more, the engine was damaged and had to be replaced. Stan told the son he couldn’t borrow his car, but that if the son bought the parts to do the repairs, Stan would do the labor. Stan said, “I just took my time. I wasn’t in no hurry.”

I told Stan that I was frustrated over an issue with my high school senior not getting himself awake in the mornings and that I had been yelling at him after his alarm clock went off. That’s why I was so fascinated by the Sonic Boom Alarm Clock and bed shaker when I came across it last week. I swear no one is paying me for this, but I think this is the answer. Regular readers will know I am worried about Rip Van Winkle (RVW) son when he goes to college next year.

I blew up again this morning and said some words that ladies shouldn’t say. I told RVW, “I have had it. You are on your own. If you are late, so be it.” When he came downstairs, we had a little conversation. “I’m sorry, Mom,” he said, “you are right.” We talked about how he would truly be on his own and that by me waking him up every morning, he was not learning to be self-sufficient. Then he asked, “How about getting me one those alarm clocks you were telling me about last week for Christmas?”

Well, faint and fall out. We both learned something. Santa, there’s a revision in the Wish List: one Sonic Boom Alarm Clock and Bed Vibrator for RVW. He’s been good.

p.s. In case you are wondering, Stan's son returned to college and will complete his degree in the spring.

This Ain’t No Runway

Bear Bryant, looking down from heaven, might have wanted to reuse one of his old quotes after Saturday’s game.
“What the hell’s the matter with you people down there? Don’t y’all take your football seriously?” -- Upon calling Auburn at 6 a.m. only to find out that none of the coaches were in their offices yet.

Well, coach, those days are history for the Cow College bunch. They are on their game. Our team isn’t.

Saturday’s lost to Auburn was expected. Alabama’s cute coach Mike Shula didn’t get the miracle all of us Tide fans were hoping to see. His job is in jeopardy justifiably so. I’m surprised the moving van hasn’t pulled up to his home yet. For you non-fans, Alabama once had a tradition of winning. Now, we have a tradition of almost. I have been fond of calling Shula, the nation’s cutest coach. But, I like how a call-in listener to a morning talk show put it when he said, “The girls think Shula is good lookin’ but this ain’t no runway.”

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Bit of History Behind That Famous Illustration

One of my favorite illustrators is Norman Rockwell. While some have criticized his work as stereotypical or overly sentimental, I think Rockwell, who by most accounts considered himself more a commercial illustrator, earned his popularity.

“I paint life as I would like it to be," Rockwell once said. Nostalgia aside, Rockwell is well remembered for his “Four Freedoms” series, which was inspired by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech to Congress in January of 1941, an excerpt of which follows:

For there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:
Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

These are the simple, basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

And the part of the speech credited with inspiring the “Four Freedoms” series:

In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world. That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called "new order" of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

Rockwell’s four paintings appeared on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post during four weeks from February 20 to March 6, 1943, and later were taken on a traveling tour of the country. They are credited with raising nearly $132 million for war-bonds.

And today, these images are just as powerful in my mind. The American Dream, which unfortunately some Americans can no longer invision, was reflected throughout his work. Most of our fellow countrymen and women will celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday. Whether we are rich or poor, most of us can find something to give thanks for. We can wrap ourselves in the arms of Rockwell’s warm family and still hope.

Photo from the National Archives and Records Administration

Saturday, November 18, 2006

For the Alabama Kitchen Sink

Came across this indispensable item for the kitchen sink.

Roll Tide!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Can You Hear the Warnings?

Most of you probably know Montgomery was hit by a F-2 tornado this week. One of my readers, The Rev. Jay Croft, presented an interesting point in his comment to a post where I had mentioned the warning sirens. Rev. Jay, retired from the Episcopal Church and who is deaf, wrote
“Warning sirens? What good do they do for the 10% of the population that is deaf or hard-of-hearing? I was incensed a year or two ago when the Mayor announced, with great pride, the siren system. No concern was given for this population.”

I recalled that when we lived in Illinois, the county had initiated, I believe, a kind of reverse 911 whereby hearing-impaired individuals and others with special needs would be notified in emergencies via TTY. I pulled up a link to Gallaudet University and found a round up of various ways deaf persons might be notified ranging from pagers to a radio with a flashing strobe light and an auditory signal as well. There’s even a pillow vibrator/bed shaker, which I swear I’m going to get for my sound sleeper son when he goes away to college next year. Being the “helicopter parent” that I am, I’ve been worried about how is he going to wake up and make it up for class without me to yell at him. The Sonic Boom alarmclock and bed shaker should do the trick.

But Jay’s point is well-taken. We don’t have a very consistent way to notify this population, and more important, we hearing folks tend to have blinders on until advocates like Jay bring up another view.

Alabama vs. Auburn

Don’t call the house tomorrow afternoon until the game is over. Mr. Sheila and I will be glued to the television set hoping that a miracle will happen and that our Alma Mater’s football team coached by the nation’s cutest coach might pull it out. Coach Mike Shula and his run-it-up-the-middle strategy has exhausted my loyalty, but just say Bear Bryant has talked to Jesus and arranged that miracle, then and only then will I give the cutie-pie coach another chance. Auburn has won the last four games, and thus there’s a saying down here in the Heart of Dixie, “Fear the Thumb.” Sheila’s prediction: Auburn 34. Alabama 17.

Mystery Shopper Part II

Yesterday, I completed part II of my secret shopping assignment. The booty: black pants, red confetti-yarn sweater and a free gift valued at $79. What I spent of my own money: $2.30 plus gas to get to the shop. I did have a birthday gift certificate that I combined with the gift card from the secret shopper program, and the cashier voided my first tab and gave me a $25 discount when I mentioned I had forgotten to bring in the coupon the store usually has available in magazines. Great service. I’d mention the name, but I’m hoping they might ask me again. E-mail me if you are curious as to who is the retailer.

Some Blogging Friends

Some blogs have so many links you feel like you are navigating a labyrinth. However, I finally have gotten around to adding some of my favorites blogs. If you have a few idle moments, check them out.

Tim at A Tennessee Redneck in King Harald’s Court writes from an island in Norway. You might find him blogging about being mistaken for an NFL football player by some Norwegian teenagers on a bus or adapting as an ex-pat.

Points of Light has some of the most stunning photography you’ll find anywhere. James in northern Illinois makes the ordinary, extraordinary. The beauty of nature does not escape his eye. It’s my visual meditation.

Marion from British Columbia blogs at Herbal Connection. I read her beautiful writing when I need to calm my fears and worries and be returned to a more peaceful frame of mind.

California-based Mustang n Cowboys gives me the connection with animals that I so love. Janey writes about horses and her two sons. I imagine this is a close as I’ll ever get to having a horse. She’s currently blogging about the new litter of puppies one of the ranch dogs just had and her attempt to save the littlest one.

Rosemary, a.k.a Dirty Butter, has compiled a Blog Village of over 200 blogs she has reviewed. She lives in Alabama too and has three blogs that I know of.

Naomi posts regularly at Diary from England about pop culture, trends and news of note. I like her brief and breezy style.

Vino e Vittles is, of course, Jeff and Natalie’s blog on food and wine that is so good you feel like you just had one of their gourmet meals only without the calories. Check out the recipe for limoncello in the archives.

And finally I want to mention RidorLive although I don’t visit it everyday. Ricky D. Taylor is a celebrity in the blogging community. He’s been interviewed for NPR, written about in major newspapers and new media and is a model for the power of the blog. Last May when Gallaudet University, the preeminent liberal arts university for deaf students, set about to select a person to replace the retiring president, Ricky and fellow deaf bloggers fought the board’s choice. Their efforts fueled days of student protests culminating in last month’s board rejection of Jane K. Fernandes. RidorLive shows that passion and persistence can beat high-powered public relations consultants and Washington Post editorials. Ricky calls himself, “arguably the most controversial deaf blogger in America.” Hey Ricky, I don’t think there’s any need to argue.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Campaigning Stinks

I came across this photo earlier today and could not resist. Perhaps I should realize that politics can get dirty and that politicans really do have a hard and smelly job at times.

This Old House

This old house leaked with yesterday’s downpours. While I’m thankful to still have a roof over my head, it is now a roof that must be repaired. And I need a roofer. Do you know of one?

I don’t think I’ve written about the house before. She’s an older beauty, with high ceilings to reflect the era (early 1930s) when she came to life. Nearly four years ago, we bought her from two professors who had bought her from the Greenhaws. Now, if you are familiar with Montgomery you probably recognize this name. Sally was a judge in Montgomery for many years, and Wayne is a former newspaperman and author of many books about the South and Alabama.

The house will be way too big for us after Scott leaves for college next year, and she’ll go on the market again. We’ve enjoyed her though. She has, as they say, character and charm like an aging Southern grand dame.

But where’s Angie when you need her?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Well, I Guess I Should Listen

If you read my earlier post, you know we are having bad weather in Montgomery today. The Atlanta Highway/Taylor Road area of the city is where most of the damage is from what could have been a tornado. The Fun Zone, an entertainment center with a childcare center for kids, is heavily damaged. All of the kids are safe according to WSFA, but the video of the destroyed building leaves you to wonder how the children escaped injury since it looks like the building was flattened. The Auburn University Montgomery (AUM) campus is now closed mainly because of some power outages. Homes in this part of town have scattered damage, shingles and such. Down south of town in Pintlala, trees are down and a Methodist church was damaged. Meanwhile, Alabama continues to have warning after warning with a steady, heavy rain. We are in for a long afternoon.

Tis that Season

It’s raining cats and dogs here in Montgomery today, the tornado sirens just started blaring and I’m trying to catch up on my Christmas designs for my CafePress Shop, Sheila for Kids. After checking the Weather Channel and finding out I am not in imminent danger, I am back at the computer. Here in the South, we get so many warnings that it is truly hard to know when you should hit the deck. This is a little late though for severe weather. Bill and I once slept through a deadly tornado that roared across Tuscaloosa, destroying a motel.

Anyway, you’ll find two new designs, this Christmas Cardinal and a Merry Christmas Snowman that I just added. Please stop back by in a couple of days for more. Through Nov. 19 you can get ornaments at CafePress for 25% off. Also, if you e-mail me, I will personalize my designs with the recipient’s name at no extra charge.

Wal-Mart & the Christmas Ripple

Mayor Bright (No, I’m not being sarcastic; that really is his name) says this year Montgomery will call the holiday parade, the Christmas Parade. See the ripple effect Wal-Mart’s decision to embrace “Christmas” again is having. Eons ago I watched the parade as a shivering little girl awed by the gaudy lights strung across Dexter Avenue. It’s comforting to know the city will continue this tradition. The Montgomery Advertiser quotes Rabbi Kenneth Segel, of Temple Beth Or, “To ask our neighbors to shut off their colored lights or put away their manger scenes to avoid damaging sensitive psyches is offensive,” said Segel, who thinks it is important to respect the beliefs of others.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New Orleans Is Back!

I don’t know where that boy learned to cook. It certainly wasn’t from me. He’s a native Southern boy, transplanted up North in Chicago, but you know how the South never gets out of your blood even if you only lived here for two years and it hasn’t with my Jeff. My regular readers may recall he’s the elder of my two sons, and he likes to write about what he cooks and the culinary adventures he and my equally talented daughter-in-law Natalie experience.

Check out their blog Vino E Vittles -- “ruminations on wine, food and culture for aspiring foodies” and read about their recent trip to New Orleans. If you are going to Chicago and need a good restaurant to visit, you might want to read their archives. They took the summer off from blogging since they bought a new house, and that new granddog of mine, Monte, takes a lot of time. I’m glad to see the blog up and running again.

Monday, November 13, 2006

High Five: Borat’s Cash Cow Brings Out Litigants

The Borat movie pulled in another $29 million over the weekend. Success is not without its drawbacks. Maybe you heard two of the frat-boys had filed suit claiming they were duped into signing a release after the film makers got them drunk as skunks. You know, they may have a point. Well, I’m not a lawyer. I only spent three years in law school. So just take what I say with a grain of salt.

Now, however, other victims from the film are grumbling and dollar signs are starting to form in their eyes. Look for other lawsuits. Success brings out the opportunists. Remember the legal challenges to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter? And Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code?

Why am I not surprised by this lack of personal responsibility? Lesson to be learned from the “Learnings” -- read what you are signing. That’s is unless you are drunk as a skunk or a frat-boy.

An Interesting Prediction About Fame

This is not my idea, but I’m writing about it because I thought it was well, interesting. The musician, John Mayer, in his blog, says get ready to say goodbye to Borat. He writes,

“It won’t be the fault of the movie, and it certainly won’t be the fault of Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat’s creator. It will be due to a society set up to adopt, consume and then divorce a trend in dizzying time.”
Mayer continues, “And while Dayton, Ohio greets it, the Lower East Side will have already eulogized it.” Mayer is one smart guy. I call it society’s infatuation with “bright shiny tin-foil.” Feel free to quote me on it. You know, one week all the rage is bird-flu and then what happens. Hardly a word for months. We Americans have the attention span of a gnat.

I love the way Mayer concludes his post, “And if you’re still wondering what leg I have to stand on with this, just remember: I was truly hip for three weeks back in 2001.”

Friday, November 10, 2006

Oxana’s Review of “Borat” all the Way from Kazakhstan

Note from Sheila:
My friend Oxana had a chance recently to see the new Borat movie. I wondered what she thought of all the attention her homeland is receiving and she agreed to write a few words for the Alabama Kitchen Sink.

Oxana say hello from village close by Astana, Kazakhstan. Sheila ask Oxana to comments on “Borat: Cultural Learnings for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” How you ask Oxana get to sees this movie? Oxana friend, Dmitri (he hockey player) brings bootlegs copy he gots from Swede. We all curious how Borat makes fun of Kazakh peoples. First offs, he not even from Kazakhstan. He in Romania and thez do have big problem with Gypsy peoples. Second offs, he not real but all made up character.

Oxana think Kazakh peoples not mind much. We gets businez from tourixt with lots dollar and euro. Who laugh going to bez on then? We watch and laugh at Americans. Americans even more backward than Kazakh peoples evers be. They no think. Oxana know peoples nice in Alabama because that where my friend Sheila live and she very, very nice, but those peoples in Birmingham nice to man who bring poop to dinner tables. Those boys drink with Borat cute but not smart as Kazakhs especial Dmitri and hockey team. Dmitri and hockey boyz drink koumyss which is fermented mare’s milk but they no go on tv or movie like college boyz does and say stupid stuffs. Sheila say boyz want sue (Sheila explain what that is since we no have that here) to get moneyz from Borat and big American movie maker company for making them look bad. She say also some Turk named Mahir sayz Sacha Baron Cohen (that Borat real name) got Borat idea from him and he going to sue him. Mahir gotz Internetz Web site where he look for women and he have big black mustache and play pings pong like Borat. Everybodys want to sue. What matter with you peoples?

Oxana think it all in fun. World too serious.

“Bugun aurayie tamasha” which mean in Kazakh “It is a beautiful day.”

The War on Christmas: Wal-Mart Surrenders

I thought all those silly conservatives complaining about the lack of Christmas at Wal-Mart last year was, well, silly. No self-respecting American icon of materialism like Wal-Mart would be foolish enough to ignore Christmas, and they didn’t really if you think about it. Maybe the ads said, “Happy Holidays” and the Salvation Army bell-ringers were turned away or was that at Target (for shame). But, rest assured, Wal-Mart was still backing Christmas all the way to the bank.

This year, however, Wal-Mart and other retailers like Kohl’s are officially embracing Christmas again. From the Los Angeles Times
“Wishing for a bigger holiday season after a sluggish fall, the chain said Thursday that 60% more of its merchandise will be labeled ‘Christmas’ compared with last year. And customers will hear Christmas carols as they shop.”
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. This year I am going to celebrate the displays of ornaments, wrapping papers, tacky Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer boxer shorts, etc. I am going to imagine myself a kid and recall the anticipation I felt. The bright colors and warm cinnamony smells will prompt those memories of a time when I didn’t care about materialism and Christmas couldn’t come soon enough or last long enough. As an only child, I tended to get nice Christmas presents but not extravagant ones since as the principal bread-winner, my mother was frugal with the salary from her secretary job. One year it was a pink and white bike. Then, I met Barbie and Midge and set about to clothe them in the finest fashions. Christmas during those years always meant clothes, some of them hand-sewn by my mom, for my doll family, and as I grew older, clothes for me.

This year I am getting ready. I already have a few new ornaments and Scottie bought me a CD of Ray Charles Christmas music to add to my extensive collection. I may not buy much, but I intend to enjoy the days from now until December 25 despite the troubles of the world. And do not tell me it is too early or that it is too commercial or what the real meaning of Christmas is.

And oh yes, thank you Wal-Mart for making Christmas okay again.

Politically Correct Disclaimer: the Alabama Kitchen Sink endorses and celebrates all legitimate holidays that don’t involve snake handling or human sacrifice.

Veterans Day: A Daughter Remembers

My father died last year at 79. Like many men his age, he was a veteran of WWII. Had I been close to him, I could tell his story properly. Instead, I have only bits and pieces.

I suppose his motivation in joining up was the patriotism of those days or the chance to get out of a small Alabama town where the only future lay in a job at the cotton mill. Part of a family of 11 children, he saw brothers going off to war and joined the Marines the first chance he got, despite being underage. Later, he switched over to the Air Force and flew on airplanes but not as a pilot. His job was as a mechanic. I’m not sure where he was stationed. I know he went on missions to Japan for when he returned to the little country house he grew up in, he brought with him a fancy silk pillow and a complete set of “Made in Occupied Japan” china for my grandma.

As soon as my mother graduated high school, she caught the first train out of Oklahoma and headed to Washington D.C. to work in the War Department. That’s where the two met. He, a dashing young soldier with blond hair and blue eyes. She, a young country girl who sent everything she could afford back home for her family. In 1950 they married, and I was born in Washington a couple of years later. Not long afterwards, my father took us to Alabama and got out of the service.

He was never the same as when he left home for the war my aunt tells me. Can I imagine that something happened during the war that changed him forever? Would it have happened anyway? It’s a mystery that died with him.

I do know that on this day for honoring the men and women who have served our country honorably, I recognize that they have made a great sacrifice, some with their lives. While many have been wounded with bullets and bombs and have healed, others carry forever wounds that do not heal.

This, I believe, was my father’s story.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Carlinda Purcell & Moving On in Montgomery, Alabama

I continue to get several visitors a week who are looking for information about Carlinda Purcell, the former superintendent of Montgomery County schools. You may recall she was fired after a contentious round of haggling in September. The Board of Education had requested a complete copy of Dr. Purcell’s performance review, and when she refused, the board set about to fire her despite raising the ire of Montgomery’s black community which charged that the effort was racially motivated.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King just ruled that the evaluation is subject to the state’s open records laws. One of the staunchest supporters of Dr. Purcell was school board member Beverly Ross. This time, I have to agree with Ross, who was quoted in the Montgomery Advertiser as saying, “I think it’s a little too late. We’re searching for a new superintendent. Dr. Purcell has left the district. It’s time to move on.”

Always Have a Plan B

Always have a Plan B. Our cocksure president, Mr. Bush, forgot this very important lesson in life. We Americans rewarded the confident and cocky cowboy from Texas for way too long. If he had heeded this advice, he would have adapted to the circumstances in Iraq not as he had hoped they would be but as they turned out to be. Wishing doesn’t make it so. When the Iraqi people failed to shower the foreign invaders with rose petals, Mr. Bush and company should have adjusted to the reality that “hey maybe we were wrong.” Instead, they plowed ahead with their Plan A and stayed the course all the way to yesterday - the day after the American voters took our president and his cohorts to the woodshed for a much-need spanking.

Mr. President, your legacy will be a failed war and a failed policy unless you realize that while you are our elected president, you must base your decisions on sound and well thought out policies reached through compromise and cooperation. I hope you have learned this life lesson. That will be a true victory.

A Pigheaded President Changes His Mind & Can This Democratic Dog Hunt?

I sometimes wonder what the international readers of my blog think of my expressions. In case there’s any doubt with the word I called President Bush, let me explain. “Pigheaded” means stubborn or obstinate. I think I’m safe in calling him that especially after last week’s ringing endorsement of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the conduct of the War in Iraq. The President had said Vice President Cheney and Sec. Rumsfeld would stay on in their jobs after the elections.

Well, I certainly don’t think the President decided to change his mind because Rep. Nancy Pelosi called on him to change the leadership. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if I was wrong and the events of Tuesday and yesterday signal a new day of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans? Something that the President once promised but long forgot.

Rep. Pelosi sets just the right tenor if she’s sincere. “Democrats are not about getting even; Democrats are about getting results,” Pelosi said at yesterday’s news conference. As Jonathan Weisman and Charles Babington point out in their Washington Post story this morning, The New House Majority Offers Bipartisanship – And an Ambitious Agenda, “policy clashes are inevitable. Control of both houses of Congress would ramp up pressure on Democrats to turn their calls for change into quick legislative accomplishments.”

Okay my fellow Democrats, at long last our yellow dog is in the hunt. It remains to be seen if the dog can actually hunt.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Too Good to be a Politician: A Real Class Act

And finally, I want to profile one of the losers in the election. Her name is Janie Baker Clarke and she was running as a Democrat for State Auditor of Alabama. I came across her after a reader wrote me about her. I checked out her Web site and am including this excerpt which I hope she doesn’t mind me doing.

From the candidate--“I’ve never been able to raise funds,” Clarke laughed. “When I was a little girl, when it came Girl Scout cookie time, my daddy had to buy all my cookies. I hate asking people for money. I’m conservative in that I know about saving money. I was a single mom (after her husband died) raising two little boys, going to law school at night. I didn’t have money for a gallon of milk at the end of the month. It was either a gallon of milk or a gallon of gas,” Clarke said. “I’m personally frugal and I’ll take that to the auditor’s office.”

Those same experiences helped shape Clarke’s liberal social values. “I am not conservative when it comes to social services, the entitlement of working people — people that are in the shape I was at 35 — who are struggling for health care, good education for their children, the opportunity to go to college, those things,” Clarke said. “There’s money shining everywhere (in Huntsville and Decatur). I think sometimes we forget that there are people who are absolutely poverty stricken in our state. I’ll be honored to serve,” Clarke said, “or I’ll be happy to go home, keep the grandkids and do my yard work.”

Oh how I wish Janie had won! We need people like her who have struggled with life to really understand these issues. These are the real issues. Good jobs, not just any job. Education that offers a chance to be better. Do you realize how many Americans no longer believe that the American Dream is obtainable? Health care. Have you ever lost a job and worried about what you would do if you got really sick? Career politicians have lost touch with reality. They have for the most part not had to struggle, or if they have, they have forgotten what it was like.

Janie didn’t. I admire you for your values and honesty. We need more candidates like her. The state would be a better place.

Elections Notes on Alabama

Alabama, which is a heavily Republican state, elected a few Democrats. It will be good to see that the Lt. Governor remains a Democrat. Way to go Jim Folsom, Jr. in a real squeaker. Democrat Sue Bell Cobb won over incumbent Chief Justice Nabors in what was a nasty tit-for-tat campaign for the Alabama Supreme Court. I hope Sue Bell can go back to being that “Steel Magnolia” we saw in the ads—the one who sweetly plays the piano at church on Sunday and then locks the door and throws away the key for the bad guys when she’s judging.

Sadly, our friend Don running for a circuit judgeship in Birmingham, lost 49% to 51% to the incumbent.

Election Wrap Up: Democrats Gain Seats at the Grown-Up Table

I’m humming “Happy Days are Here Again.” Dear readers, pardon me, but I’m giddy this morning. The Democrats have finally done something right in spite of that moron John Kerry’s attempts to sandbag us. At the very least we have achieved a bit of much needed balance. Now the tough part comes. I am mindful that the Democratic Party must deliver with a plan of action where the Republicans have faltered. Please remember the reason the Republicans were turned out.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Borat for Alabama Sexytary of State

Scott voted for the first time this afternoon. His internship supervisor at the Court sent him off to vote, and he swung by to pick me up so that I could vote with him. After we showed our i.d. and signed in, he began filling in the ovals as we sat next to each other. I blame it on Scott. As many of you know, I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat. Well, I am to the extent that I will refuse to vote at all if I can't in good faith vote for the Democrat. The only other time other than today was when Jimmy Carter was running for re-election. I didn't vote in that election.

I had already decided that I couldn't vote for Secretary of State Democratic candidate Nancy Worley who was running for re-election. Scott whispered, "I'm going to write in a candidate." "Who are you going to put?" I quizzed. "I don't know," he said. And that dear gentle readers is how I came to write in the name, "Borat" for Alabama Secretary of State and Scott wrote in the name of a classmate. So if you happen to see the results from the Cloverdale Community Center and see a couple of strange write-in names, chalk it up to us.

Wowoweewow! Alabama GOP Endorses Democrat

If this isn’t a vote of no-confidence, I don’t know what is.
Shelby County Republican leaders last Thursday realized that thousands of voters in the heavily Republican county received a GOP flier urging them to vote for a Democrat. The flier which went to around 44,000 people shows a sample ballot with the Republican candidate selected in every race but one. In the Public Service Commission race, the GOP apparently endorses Democrat Susan Parker over the Republican Perry Hooper, Jr.

Republicans hastily issued news releases and held a news conference last week. State GOP Chairman Twinkle Cavanaugh said the mistake was unintentional.

Kazakhstan: How They Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Borat

Kazakhstan, the world’s most talked about country of late, finally learned that Sacha Baron Cohen has done what no one else could. He’s put Kazakhstan on the map. Seriously, had you even heard of the country before all the hoopla and hype about the new Borat movie?

Today, I’m giving you an update on a couple of stories from the Kazakhstan Embassy Web site.

Sayat Tour, a Kazakh travel agency, has announced a tour package sure to please Americans. Sayat’s Executive Director, said: “With the release of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, we are hoping many Americans will want to engage in ‘cultural learnings’ of that unknown ‘glorious nation’ for their own ‘make benefit.’ That is why we are launching these new tours and hoping the Americans will come visit us.” The tours will include trying kumyss, the “deliciously tasting Kazakh traditional drink made from fermented horse milk.” Don’t forget to try the horse sausage too.

All of you readers in the Washington, D.C. area mark your calendars for the Contemporary Central Asian Fashion Design Show at the Meridian International Center, 1630 Crescent Place, NW, Washington, D.C., on November 9, 2006 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm which will be followed by a reception. (Don’t forget to ask about the horse sausage and fermented mare’s milk!)

The show will feature “stunning works by some of the trendiest fashion show designers from Central Asia,” including Saida Azikhan from Kazakhstan.

A spokesperson for the shindig said, “The show is really going to astonish those in America who will see it. The designers’ collections are created for women who have been creative and dynamic, and especially sophisticated educated and modern. They combine a strong Western orientation with an equally strong Asian tradition. This show should make Americans wonder first, and then make them want to explore this fascinating part of the world.”

If you say so.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Sexually Discredited Hall of Shame: Preachers’ Edition

Ted Haggard, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and former pastor of the New Life Church, joined an elite group of religious hypocrites this weekend when he issued a letter to his congregation where he said, “The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life.”

In the late ‘80s televangelist Jim Bakker of The PTL (Praise The Lord) Club was exposed and defrocked for sexual hanky-panky. Plus, he was imprisoned for fraud, tax evasion, and racketeering. Flash forward to today, and you’ll find Jim Bakker, along with a new wife, back on television with The Jim Bakker Show broadcasting from the Studio CafĂ© in Branson, Missouri. If you can’t make to the show, you can always leave a donation--“God loves you, he really does!” Or better yet, stop by the Gift Shop and donate $200 + $10 for shipping for a sword of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” which is described as “a wonderful gift for all occasions.” My personal favorite is the “Come Unto Me Offer.” This will set you back from $75 to $1500 + $10 shipping depending on the size of the painting of Jesus you select.

Fellow Christian broadcaster Jimmy Swaggart joined Jim Bakker in the Hall of Shame a few short months later but only after saying to CNN’s Larry King that he believed Bakker was “a cancer in the body of Christ.” Swaggart was able to resurrect his ministry and today is back on the air. I must say though, you can’t really find cool stuff like the sword or the picture of Jesus like you can at Jim Bakker’s store. Brother Swaggart does, however, have plenty of Bibles, DVDs, books and you can get his latest CD with songs like “There's Room At The Cross For You” and “I Would Not be Denied.”

So, former pastor Haggard, have faith. After a while, you will be able to redeem yourself. Evangelicals are very forgiving of their own.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Alabama Kitchen Sink Endorses First Ever Candidate: Don Colee for Circuit Court, Place 16 in Birmingham

An old family friend needs your vote if you live in Birmingham, Alabama. Don Colee is running as a Democrat for the Circuit Court, Place 16 judgeship. Don’s opponent was appointed last year by Republican Governor Bob Riley to fill a vacancy and is running for the first time. I don’t know much about her, but she can’t top Don. Don’s been both a prosecutor and a defense attorney during a 30-year legal profession. A story in the Birmingham News details Don’s qualifications. He’s experienced in the courtroom trenches, ethical, honest, hardworking and the kind of person who should be in a position like this. I don’t know what else matters, but he is one of the most respected and talented attorneys in the state. Martindale-Hubbell, a guide that rates lawyers, gives him an AV—with the A being a very high to preeminent rating and the V being a very high ethical rating. This is the best you can be. He’s experienced in everything from capital cases to misdemeanors. I can’t think his opponent has the extent of experience that he does. I hope you’ll give him consideration.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A REVIEW: New Borat Movie Lives Up to the Hype

Regular (and irregular ones too) readers at the Alabama Kitchen Sink are well aware of my obsession with the new Borat movie since I have posted about it several times, created t-shirts celebrating Kazakhstan and taken on an alter-ego named Oxana. I swear I had no idea that Oxana is Borat's wife's name in the movie. I got the name from looking at an Internet post about some Kazakh basketball players. One of them was named Oxana. Oxana also happens to be the name of a feral child found living in the Ukraine back in the early 90s. This poor little girl was living with wild dogs. Maybe that's where Borat got the idea for the wife character's name.

Anyway, don't come after me 20th Century Fox about this. IT IS PARODY. They have already been after me for my t-shirts where I had unwisely mentioned the movie when I was describing the shirts. I fixed that and now I think CafePress will let people buy my t-shirts which feature the country of Kazakhstan and sayings from the Kazakhstan Embassy's Web site section "Say it in Kazakh" which is also the name of my shop.

Back to the review. Borat is truly an original piece of work. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it. I would caution the more gentle, genteel and Gentile readers that you may be offended. I know Jewish readers will be. There's raunchy language, men's body parts you may not want to see, sexual references, two naked men wrestling and running through a hotel ballroom, a Pentecostal revival meeting with laying on of the hands and whole lot more.

P.S. The New York Times has a more detailed review that I found interesting.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Secret Shopping on the Sly

Have you seen those ads about becoming a mystery or secret shopper? Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? You get paid to shop and write about the experience. Well, I lucked into an opportunity when my favorite women’s clothing retailer sent me an e-mail asking if I was interested in shopping on the sly for them. You bet, I hurriedly wrote back. After a few days, they sent another e-mail saying they could use me at their local store. Soon thereafter, a packet arrived with two $50 gift cards and a copy of the survey that I would have to complete on-line after the shopping trip.

The other day I went shopping and only spent a few minutes of my time. Can’t beat that, can you? And what, dear gentle readers, did I acquire? A beautiful garnet-red suede jacket, a rusty brown silk top and a braided leather belt. I found a $25-off coupon, which I combined with just a little bit of my own money to score big. I love secrets. In a few days, I’ll return for my second adventure. Hey, I could do this for a living.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Big Brother Is Watching You

The BBC story I wrote about yesterday about the Pentagon creating a new unit or rapid responder, if you will, to “set the record straight” with “new media” on the War in Iraq strangely reminds me that “Big brother is watching us.” I’m sure most of my dear gentle readers know my reference. “Big Brother” is a character in George Orwell’s 1948 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the society that Orwell describes, people are subject to surveillance by the authorities and are constantly reminded of this by the phrase “Big Brother is watching you.”

So, the Pentagon public relations hacks are watching what is written about the war and stand ready to jump in to manipulate the news and opinions to fit whatever version of the truth the government wants us to believe. How else are we being manipulated and by whom? What are their motives? Where is the truth?

We have surveillance cameras where we shop, at city intersections, in public buildings, hospitals, schools, banks, airports and other places I’m sure we are not be aware of. Records are kept by Google of what search terms we used on the Internet. Marketers know where we live, how we shop and what organizations we belong to. I know where the visitors to Alabama Kitchen Sink come from and what they were interested in when they visited. Under the Patriot Act the government can investigate the books you check out at the library or the sites you visited while on the Internet without you even knowing about it.

It’s less than a week away from the mid-term elections. How confident do you feel that everything will go smoothly and that your vote, which you so cherish the privilege of casting, will be properly tabulated? Have you seen the news stories questioning the integrity of the new electronic voting machines? Heck, Florida couldn’t even get it right with the paper ballots.

Back the end of September while the collective national attention was focused on Congressman Foley’s penchant for young men, the House and Senate passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that further weakened basic Constitutional protections. Maybe you caught Keith Olbermann’s indignant rant, The Death of Habeas Corpus or The Beginning of the End of America where he said, “We have lived as if in a trance. We have lived as people in fear. And now—our rights and our freedoms in peril—we slowly awaken to learn that we have been afraid of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight have we truly become the inheritors of our American legacy. For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering: A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.”

Over at FindLaw, a legal news and commentary Web site, you can read The Military Commissions Act: A Short Primer by Joanne Mariner where she points out that the Act is “a law that even some Republicans have criticized as unconstitutional. Besides authorizing substandard military trials for suspected terrorists, the new law immunizes CIA personnel for past abuses, bars detainees from asserting their right to habeas corpus, and attempts to render the Geneva Conventions unenforceable in court.”

Maybe you can tell, dear gentle readers, that I am angry to see our rights intruded upon and weakened. Little by little, our precious rights set out in the Bill of Rights are being torn down while we amuse ourselves with “Dancing with the Stars.” Please don’t let it happen. Join me in my outrage. We must question our leaders and challenge them when they steer us in the wrong direction. We still have a chance.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

John Kerry: Can We Please Bring Back Tar & Feathering?

Dear gentle readers please do not think John Kerry reflects what the vast majority of Democrats believe. Of course, I’m kidding about the tar and feathering. Or am I?

This is one of those situations where there is no spinning, John Baby. What you said is that the men and women who serve in Iraq are stupid and have no choice but to be there. I think I know what you were getting at--that some young people turn to the military for a chance of advancing either a career or an education. But, you really did it this time. If anything good comes out of this colossal blunder, may it be that you never run for office again. Democrat leaders please talk to John Baby and stuff a sock in his mouth.

Okay. This was a diversion handed to the Republicans on a silver platter, but let’s get back to talking about the failed leadership of the Republicans on the war and the chance to change that. Before the Kerry snafu, Republicans from Bill O’Reilly to Lynn Cheney were throwing about the question, “Do you want us to win?” Well, I’ll answer that when they can tell me what we are going to win and for how long and at what cost of our soldiers’ lives. I’ll tell you what I want. I want the Iraqis to run their own damn country without having to have the U.S. hold their hands. Of course, I don’t want to see the country turn into a hotbed for terrorists. But I’m also afraid that while we are mired down in Iraq, the fox is stealing the chickens over in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, The BBC reports that the Pentagon has created a new unit to use “new media” to push its messages and “set the record straight.” Maybe the new unit of public relations hacks can tell me where the weapons of mass destruction went. I wonder if the new unit will be more successful in spinning the war. You know we Americans can’t think for ourselves. We are being manipulated. But Al Qaeda or other enemies are not manipulating us as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says. We are being manipulated by the Republicans and their failed War of Terror.

I wished to heck Secretary Rumsfeld was kept awake at night worrying about the young men and women he sends into battle an unseen enemy instead of worrying about U.S. enemies “manipulating the media” as he is quoted as saying.

I don’t have the answer, but neither do these guys.