Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bits and Pieces for $50, Alex

Are Southerners Hell Bent on Marginalizing Themselves?

The answer to our title question appears to be a resounding yes, based on an article by Adam Nossiter of The New York Times. The piece is datelined Vernon, Alabama, and it is a compelling and disturbing read about the mindset of white Southerners.

Nossiter reports that almost 90 percent of white voters went for McCain in Alabama. A similar figure has been reported for Mississippi. Let's consider that figure again: McCain ran one of the worst campaigns in history and was trying to replace a member of his own party who already is seen as one of the worst . . . presidents . . . ever. And yet 90 percent of white Southerners voted for McCain? That can only be explained by a form of mass brain death. You've heard of McCain's robo calls. Evidently he had robo voters in Alabama.

"Alabama, unfortunately, continues to remain shackled to the bonds of yesterday," said Glenn Feldman, a labor historian and a faculty member in the School of Business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), my former employer.

Feldman is a very sharp guy, and at the risk of self promotion, I'm going to call attention to an article I wrote about him in UAB Magazine a few years back. The article focused on the history of labor unions in the Deep South, and I discovered that Feldman has an important progressive voice in a region that badly needs such voices.

What's the Matter With Oklahoma?

One of the most interesting post-election articles I've read is a little number called "What's the Matter With Oklahoma?" which was posted at Daily Kos.

I find the article fascinating for a number of reasons. For one, I grew up in Missouri, about 80 miles from the Oklahoma border, so I've known a few Okies in my day. In fact, Okie blood evidently runs through my veins. My mother long has told me that the height in our family comes from the Owenses, the clan from which my paternal grandmother came. "All of those Owenses in Oklahoma are tall," my mother said.

Evidently they are also pretty darned weird. You see, the other reason I like this article is that Oklahomans actually make Alabamians look good in terms of progressive thinking.

Turns out Oklahoma is the reddest state in the country, and it gave John McCain its largest margin of victory. And get this: Not a single county in Oklahoma went blue in the presidential election. Heck, we had a bunch of counties go blue in Alabama, including Jefferson County (home to Birmingham) and the Black Belt counties that run roughly from Selma to the area south of Montgomery.

What are the top five reddest states? It's Oklahoma, Idaho, Utah, Alabama, and Wyoming. (We're No. 4! We're No. 4!)

You have no idea how much better I feel knowing that I don't live in the most whacky nutjob state in the country. Whew!

But here's what I don't get. You can explain wingerism in Idaho and Wyoming because they have that frontier, militia, leave-me-the-hell-alone thing going on. Utah has the Mormon thing. And Alabama has the tortured-racial-history thing.

But Oklahoma? I know the state is ugly, dusty, and windy, but other than that, what's the problem? Are Democrats to blame for that?

I might have Okie blood in me, but I have no clue what's wrong with the Sooner state.

Bar President: Alabama Courts Are Obscene

That headline is intentionally deceiving. Thomas Wells Jr., president of the American Bar Association, actually said the amount of money spent on Alabama's Supreme Court race between Democrat Deborah Bell Paseur and Republican Greg Shaw was "obscene."

But Wells, a Birmingham lawyer, could have uttered the line from our title and been just as accurate.

Wells says expensive races threaten the public's confidence in the judicial system.

I've got news for Wells: No one who knows about our judicial system, and is honest with themselves, has confidence in it.

I recently received an anonymous comment from someone who pretty clearly is an Alabama lawyer. This person admits that our courts are "incompetent" and "bought off." Much more on this unusually honest appraisal is coming up.

An Intriguing Blogging Voice in Alabama

I recently discovered a new Alabama blog--or at least it's new to me--and it's definitely worth checking out.

It's called Beitelblog, and it's written by T.J. Beitelman, who teaches writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and is founding editor of Red Mountain Review.

Beitelblog recently featured an open letter to Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, focusing on the pros and cons of Davis choosing to run for governor in 2010 over a possible spot as attorney general in a Barack Obama administration.

Good stuff.

What on Earth is Newt Talking About?

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro were in Birmingham the other day at the Business Council of Alabama's (BCA) Chairman's Dinner.

The BCA's president, by the way, is Bill Canary, Karl Rove's crony who is at the heart of whistleblower Jill Simpson's allegations that the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman was a political hit.

The Gingrich/Ferraro pairing was billed as "Debate '08," as if the BCA is seriously interested in debate on issues. Not surprisingly, coverage in The Birmingham News focused on Gingrich. And reading about the Newtster left me scratching my head.

According to the News, Newt had two pieces of advice for president-elect Barack Obama:

* Postpone efforts to get rid of secret ballots for union organizing; and

* Postpone efforts to "censor talk radio."

Censor talk radio? What on earth is the Newtster talking about? The News reporter makes no effort to enlighten us. So I can only guess that Newt is talking about plans floated by Democrats to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, which vanished under Ronald Reagan.

A return to the Fairness Doctrine would be censoring talk radio? The GOP truly is losing its collective mind.

By the way, is Newt playing "small ball" or what? We're immersed in two wars and a tanking economy, and he's worried about unions and talk radio? Talk about a party that has run out of ideas!

Finally, a memo to Newt: You had a chance to "revolutionize" the government, and you blew it. The public rejected you and your ideas soundly. What makes you think Barack Obama is interested in your advice?

Enjoy the next eight years in the wilderness with your Republican buddies.


priscianus jr said...

Re: What's wrong with Oklahoma? I don't know the answer, but it's a very interesting question. Here's a possible hint, though. OKLAHOMA! may be one of America's great musicals, but it is a total WHITEwash of the history of that state. The history of every state is unique, but the history of Oklahoma is little more unique than others. I can't help thinking that uniqueness may have left its mark in the cutural psychology of Republicanus oklahomensis.

Here's a blog you might want to know about:

priscianus jr said...

re Oklahoma again, here's an answer to your question from someone who, unlike me, may actually know what he's talking about: