Gita M. Smith – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Tue, 12 Dec 2017 10:36:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-DewLogoSquare825-32x32.png Gita M. Smith – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com 32 32 LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/dew3_mh4feed.png http://likethedew.com 88 31 A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics 110899633 Holy Land Theme Park http://likethedew.com/2013/04/24/holy-land-theme-park/ http://likethedew.com/2013/04/24/holy-land-theme-park/#comments Wed, 24 Apr 2013 18:50:17 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=50676

20062-1-dwpO, come all ye faithful. The latest must-see Florida attraction to compete for your tourist dollars is The Holy Land Experience. It is comfortably situated in the Greater Orlando-Kissimmee theme park district chock-a-block with hotels and “family dining” style restaurants. Owned by mega-giant Christian broadcasting network TBN (the T is for Trinity), this biblical theme park features a recreation of the Garden of Eden, wax figures depicting the Resurrection, and a LIVE dramatization of the Crucifixion (performed daily at 4 p.m. sharp).

Hungry for manna? Steaming foot-long hotdogs are available at Simeon’s Corner café, while Chik-Fil-A appears on the menu of several other on-site dining areas.

If someone had told me this was the plot of a Carl Hiaassen book, I would have raced to the bookstore, no questions asked.

Holy Land Pics 5-9-08 152lrMake no mistake, there’s Judaeo in the Judaeo-Christian design of Holy Land Experience. At the Shofar Shop (Hebrew for the ram’s horn that will be blown on Judgment Day) you can buy faith-based souvenirs and trinkets including a silver Ten Commandments bracelet ($16.99 plus tax).

These chatchkes are made in China, in case you wondered. Wander through a Jerusalem Street Market.

Reflect on the meaning of it all while sitting on a bench or temple pew at one of seven areas created for, well, sitting and reflecting.

Here are some FAQs for those of you who have done Branson to death…

Q: Will there be smiting?
A: That is our MOST frequently asked question! Smiting and Public Shaming are held in the Leviticus Pavilion.

9-012-COAN Passion DSC_8842_2Q: Will they use nails in the crucifixion or will they use dowels, the way it was actually done in Jesus’ time?
A: Nails, I think. Or dowels. You were showing off your Biblical trivia knowledge, weren’t you?

Q: Are there actual rides, like camels and elephants?
A: Camels stink in the summer in Florida. I doubt they’ll want to mess with camels.

Q: Are they hiring?
A: This would be a swell summer job for kids from Bob Jones University or other wholesome teens who have no interest in sex and would not go wild as soon as they were on their own!

The RobeQ: You haven’t really been there yet, have you?
A: Um, no.

Q: But you plan to go, right?
A: Not unless I am generously paid to do an ironic travel piece.

Oh just go on, look it up for yourselves: HolyLandExperience.com

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Congresswoman Betrays Montgomery Voters http://likethedew.com/2011/03/06/alabama-congresswoman-betrays-montgomery-voters/ http://likethedew.com/2011/03/06/alabama-congresswoman-betrays-montgomery-voters/#comments Sun, 06 Mar 2011 05:17:48 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=20143 You may recall, the Music Man once sang, “Oh, we got trouble, right here in River City.”  Well, we got trouble right here in the River Region.

See, two years ago, Montgomery area officials all posed with brand new shovels to break ground for a new community health facility, to be funded with $1.5 million from the city and the rest with federal funds.

Among those turning the dirt was Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby, who vocally supported the River Region Health Center. But now that she’s Congresswoman Roby for Alabama’s Second Congressional District, her tune is different.

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You may recall, the Music Man once sang, “Oh, we got trouble, right here in River City.”  Well, we got trouble right here in the River Region.

See, two years ago, Montgomery area officials all posed with brand new shovels to break ground for a new community health facility, to be funded with $1.5 million from the city and the rest with federal funds.

Among those turning the dirt was Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby, who vocally supported the River Region Health Center. But now that she’s Congresswoman Roby for Alabama’s Second Congressional District, her tune is different. This week, she shoveled dirt again — right back on her constituents. Rep. Roby voted to slash funding for vitally important community health centers across the nation as one of her first major votes in Washington.

Roby voted with others in the Republican-held House to pass a federal budget proposal cutting $1.3 billion in funding to nonprofit community health centers, nationwide, like the River Region Health Center. These are the very community clinics that offer health care to uninsured or underinsured patients. They take the burden off hospital emergency rooms, which have become the port-of-last-resort for indigent patients who cost hospitals a staggering $4 billion annually in uncompensated care.

Hospital administrators and boards want centers like the River Region Health Center to be built and funded. The city wanted the RRHC to be built and funded. So did the county. And so did Martha Roby, when it was politically expedient.

The following quote from Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Mark Kennedy is taken from an Associated Press story: “Martha Roby celebrated this health center by smiling for the cameras with a shovel in her hand when she was on the city council, and now she’s flip flopped to gain favor with her political masters in Washington by putting an incredibly valuable community resource for her constituents at risk. She’s only spent just over a month on the job, but she’s already proven herself to be a first-rate political opportunist.”

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The Schadenfreude Report http://likethedew.com/2010/11/04/the-schadenfreude-report/ http://likethedew.com/2010/11/04/the-schadenfreude-report/#comments Fri, 05 Nov 2010 03:58:19 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=12783 I have no hard figures to back this up, exactly, but I’m pretty sure schadenfreude has become the new national pastime. Taking pleasure in another’s misfortune is -- if not our default emotion -- pretty darn close to the mood in America right now.

I know I got a huge dose of it when I heard Christine O’Donnell had lost her race in Delaware, early Tuesday night. Then, I experienced another sweet round of it a few hours later when Harry Reid was declared the winner and Sharron Angle the loser.

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I have no hard figures to back this up, exactly, but I’m pretty sure schadenfreude has become the new national pastime.

Taking pleasure in another’s misfortune is — if not our default emotion — pretty darn close to the mood in America right now.

I know I got a huge dose of it when I heard Christine O’Donnell had lost her race in Delaware, early Tuesday night.

Then, I experienced another sweet round of it a few hours later when Harry Reid was declared the winner and Sharron Angle the loser. Aww, I thought, smiling widely, wonder what Sharron’s doing right now?

Meanwhile, in living rooms and country clubs around the nation, Republicans and FOX News analysts were swooning with schadenfreude. By God, we put the hurt on Obama, they were crooning. We’re the hammer, he’s the nail.

And the defeat of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House? Wow, that news raised the schad-o-meter past the red line.

It’s tough to deny. Progressives felt this uncharitable version of satisfaction two years ago when we saw the Roves and Limbaughs of the world licking their wounds. I, who am not really a bad person (only a baddish person) kind of loved the moment when I thought we’d seen the last of the GOP for a while.

Little did we know they would morph into something even more shrill and maverick-y. 
I mean, in 2008, who possibly imagined that they would erupt like a forehead growth on the head of Sarah Palin and multiply?

But that’s the thing about schadenfreude: it is enjoyable, but it’s short lived. The cycle is about 730 days.

The happier we are at someone else’s downfall, the happier they will be when it’s our turn.

So, to the people standing on the sidelines of my unhappiness wearing smiles, right now, I say: Remember this moment two years from now.

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Decoding the racial message in a campaign ad http://likethedew.com/2010/05/18/decoding-the-racial-message-in-a-campaign-ad/ http://likethedew.com/2010/05/18/decoding-the-racial-message-in-a-campaign-ad/#comments Wed, 19 May 2010 02:40:31 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=9401

The current campaign ad by Tim James, who is running for Alabama governor on the GOP slate, contains a strange non sequitur, at first glance. James starts out by saying he doesn’t mind showing his driver’s license when he votes. He then segues into a couple of remarks about being a business man and wanting to grow jobs for Alabama. He concludes by saying it makes sense to him to show a driver’s license when voting…”Does it to you?”

What does a driver’s license have to do with growing jobs in the state, you may ask? Seems like the two have nothing to do with each other.

Aha! You didn’t get the memo! It’s a CODE, silly.

The part about drivers’ licenses IS the campaign message of this spot ad. All the rest is noise.

What Tim James, son of former Gov. Fob James, is really saying  is “Aren’t you fed up with the bleeding heart black legislators and candidates who want to make it easy for po’ black folks to vote?”

Give a look, here:

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMgKmgnU70c

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Marshall County Alabama Sheriff’s Race Bogged Down by Cybersquatting http://likethedew.com/2010/05/14/marshall-county-alabama-sheriff%e2%80%99s-race-bogged-down-by-cybersquatting/ http://likethedew.com/2010/05/14/marshall-county-alabama-sheriff%e2%80%99s-race-bogged-down-by-cybersquatting/#comments Sat, 15 May 2010 03:44:31 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=9350 www.Tealforsheriff.com,   www.VoteEdTeal.com, and other variations on that theme.]]>

Ed Teal, Republican candidate for Marshall County sheriff, is suing Marshall County chief deputy Doug Gibbs for “cybersquatting.”

Gibbs allegedly bought 19 internet domain names that Teal could have used as his campaign website. The domain names include www.Tealforsheriff.com,   www.VoteEdTeal.com, and other variations on that theme.

Teal’s lawsuit states, “On Jan. 6, the day after I announced my candidacy for sheriff of Marshall County, a person who took steps to mask his identity purchased a series of internet domain names with the intent of obstructing my campaign.” After some investigating, Gibbs’ name surfaced. It is not known whether he acted on behalf of his boss, the incumbent sheriff.

It has been rumored in Marshall County that Teal had dropped off his campaign literature (bearing a domain name that he hadn’t yet registered) at a printer. Fortunately, the printer checked the web address before filling the order, and he had to explain to Teal that the site already belonged to someone else.

Note to other candidates: Go register your domain name BEFORE you announce your candidacy. Politics is a blood sport.

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The Search for Perfect Matzoh Brei: A Passover Quest http://likethedew.com/2010/03/07/the-search-for-perfect-matzoh-brei-a-passover-quest/ http://likethedew.com/2010/03/07/the-search-for-perfect-matzoh-brei-a-passover-quest/#comments Sun, 07 Mar 2010 21:37:07 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=8320

The year was 1999, a week before Passover, and I was pushing my cart through the aisles of Bruno’s in Bessemer, Alabama. At the time, Bruno’s was THE grocery store chain in the state. It was, in fact, a highly innovative company for its time, the first to offer gourmet prepared foods like chicken breasts encrusted with toasted pine nuts or fresh tabouli. You sure didn’t see that fare in the Piggly Wigglies around the South. So, naturally, I assumed that Bruno’s would sell matzoh for the Passover table.

But I was wrong, as the assistant manager – a man in offensive plaid pants – informed me. He had never heard of matzoh. He pronounced it motzer. I tried, and failed, to keep a petulant tone out of my voice.

I tried, and likewise failed, to explain exactly what this seasonal ethnic product was.

“Sounds like Rye-Krisp. The crackers are on aisle five,” he pointed.

Back home, I phoned a synagogue in nearby Birmingham to request the location of matzoh-selling stores.
In no time I was loaded up with fresh, crisp sheets of unleavened bread and ready to start my annual ritual: the making of matzoh brei, an undertaking fraught with childhood memories and sentimentality.

Matzoh brei (rhymes with rye) is a dish of utter indulgence. It requires many eggs, much butter, and untold thousands of carbs. And yet, it is so simple that Jewish children everywhere learn to make it – often at their fathers’ knees – as a rite of passage. “Know ye how to make the matzoh brei, and thou shalt not go hungry whilst thy parents are sleeping off the Manishewitz wine from the night before.”

My father, who cooked few things in this world other than a steak on a grill, made killer matzoh brei. But it is at this point I must digress and explain to you the Great Matzoh Brei Schism. For, as with so many things Jewish, there are factions who disagree about the Right Way and Wrong Way to get things done.

In one camp are those who take the sheets of dry matzoh and soak them thoroughly in an egg-and-milk mixture before frying, much as one would soak bread for French toast.

In another camp are those who soak the matzoh sheets in water to soften them, then press out the water, and add the eggs later on, in the skillet.

Still others run water over the matzoh to merely dampen it, then into the skillet with sizzling butter it goes, later to be scrambled with eggs.

Finally (I know this is exhausting, but hey, we’re Jewish) there is a Great Divide over how to flavor the matzoh brei. The sweet camp (to which my father belonged) pours maple syrup over the brei, treating it like pancakes, while the savory camp seasons with salt and pepper. In the South, according to an informal telephone survey by yours truly, savory outpolls sweet two-to-one.

Lest you think these distinctions are trivial, I should note that great men ponder these matters. No less a cooking maven than New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman has stirred the waters of Matzoh brei factionalism. While in Spain, he interviewed the noted architect, Frank Gehry, designer of the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum. Gehry is of the savory brei school, and he dampens his matzoh under a tap before frying. The two, in fact, discussed a matzoh brei contest, won by a Harvard biologist whose brei was sweetened with cinnamon and syrup. You can watch the video here:  http://www.spainontheroadagain.com/

But now to the recipe itself, a delicate balance – a dance if you will – among three participants: matzoh, eggs and butter. The well-known food writer, Ruth Reichl, offers a simple savory recipe, using one egg per sheet of matzoh. I will follow hers with my family’s recipe for the sweet version. You, gentle readers, may judge for yourselves.

RUTH REICHL’S MATZOH BREI

4 matzos
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter

Crumble matzos into a large sieve placed over a bowl to catch crumbs, then hold sieve under running cold water until matzos are moist and softened but not completely disintegrated, about 15 seconds. Transfer to bowl with crumbs, then add eggs and salt and mix gently with a fork.

Heat butter in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Add matzo mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until eggs are scrambled and matzo has begun to crisp, about 3 minutes.

JACK MARITZER’S MATZOH BREI

In a large bowl, crack five eggs with a third cup of whole milk and beat until foamy.

Break four sheets of matzoh into pieces and soak in the egg mixture for 10 minutes, or until most of the mixture is absorbed.

Melt ¾ stick of unsalted butter in a very hot skillet until butter starts to brown. Add the eggy matzoh to butter and press down to make a solid pancake-shape.

Reduce heat to medium and fry each side for four minutes (a large spatula makes flipping easy).

Plate the matzoh brei pancake on platter, drizzle generously with maple syrup. Let diners serve their own portions from the platter. Best with ice cold milk.

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Killing the Queen at the Seed and Feed http://likethedew.com/2010/02/17/killing-the-queen-at-the-seed-and-feed/ http://likethedew.com/2010/02/17/killing-the-queen-at-the-seed-and-feed/#comments Wed, 17 Feb 2010 21:39:39 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=7948 The salesman behind the counter glowered. It was a gale-force scowl that started at his hairline and rolled downward till it ran out of face.

“Are you back, AGAIN?”

It was a Saturday morning at the seed and feed store. The hometown seed store is the last honest bulwark against the encroachment of big-box mega-stores.  It is a bastion of individuality where a gardener can find eccentric products of yesteryear alongside new horticultural advances, a place where salespeople know your dog’s name or ask things like, “So how’d that collard seed do, the organic we special-ordered for ya last fall?”

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The salesman behind the counter glowered. It was a gale-force scowl that started at his hairline and rolled downward till it ran out of face.

“Are you back, AGAIN?”

It was a Saturday morning at the seed and feed store. The hometown seed store is the last honest bulwark against the encroachment of big-box mega-stores.  It is a bastion of individuality where a gardener can find eccentric products of yesteryear alongside new horticultural advances, a place where salespeople know your dog’s name or ask things like, “So how’d that collard seed do, the organic we special-ordered for ya last fall?”

However, unlike the Wal-Marts and Home Depots which are cut with the same cookie-cutter, your hometown seed store also may be subject to salespeople with — how to put this? — strong personalities.

The salesperson in question on that recent morning was scowling across a linoleum-topped counter. His balled fists (each about the size of a Hormel canned ham) rested on a yellowed pattern of happy dairy cows.

“NEXT, please!” He turned to another customer who was buying onion sets and early peas.  Behind her in line was a couple who were wrestling forward a sack of chicken feed the size of a sofa.

“Mizzz Smith,” he said slowly, like he was reminding a demented child of her name, “we’re real busy now filling orders. No one’s got the time for more of your questions.”  He said the word like it was a spinal tap.

“We have customers with serious problems like plum curculio worms on their fruit trees.” With that, he chugged away down an aisle.


A Phorid fly moves in for the kill


“What seems to be the problem, darlin’?” came a kind voice. The owner of the voice was Purvis Gaines. He is a prolific grower of blueberries.

“It’s the fire ants, Purvis. They’re back, and nothing I do seems to slow them down.”

Purvis nodded in that comforting, flannel-shirt way of Southern men who let a woman spill her problems and then make the world all better with a monosyllable. “Yep.”

“All the products promise they’ll kill the queen,” I blubbered, “but they never do. They only kill the mound.”

I hitched the cuff of my jeans an inch above my ankle socks to show the latest batch of fire ant bites. Five pink welts with yellow centers ringed my leg.

“I came here today to see if there was anything new against fire ants for 2010, that I maybe hadn’t tried,” I said. “Do you know of anything?”

“Well,” Purvis offered, “There’s this new fly I heard of that bites the heads off ants. Don’t know whether they got that yet in Alabama. Maybe someone at the university could tell us.”

Us. I liked the sound of that. Me and Purvis Gaines in this together. Two humans against the fire ant queens. Out to make the pastures safer for blueberries and gardeners.

One dead, headless fire ant

“Can’t hurt to make some phone calls, can it?” Purvis said, moving me out the door and into the parking lot. “We could call over to Auburn University on Monday morning and see who knows about the fire-ant eatin’ flies.”

I felt all grateful and confident again. See? That’s the thing about a seed and feed store. You go there with a problem, and you leave with a solution.

I glanced back toward the store and thought for a moment I saw a face in the window.

It looked like it was saying “THANK YEWWWW.”

But I can’t be sure.

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Raider Riley Rides Again http://likethedew.com/2010/01/31/raider-riley-rides-again/ http://likethedew.com/2010/01/31/raider-riley-rides-again/#comments Sun, 31 Jan 2010 21:34:06 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=7718

Alabama Gov. Robert Riley wants to shut down electronic gaming in the state. At his orders, state troopers have been making secret midnight and 2 a.m. raids on the large lucrative casino at VictoryLand Greyhound Park, in Shorter, and at Country Crossing casino and country music park, in Dothan.

Bold move, probably appreciated by the anti-gambling faction. Go Bob.

There’s just one picky problem: Electronic bingo is legal. Mere semantics, Riley says. Calling the machines “bingo” is skirting the issue, which is that they are slot machines, he says.

So, back to the raids. Picture a stream of squad cars, lights flashing, sirens whooping, followed by semi trucks with empty cargo holds ready to receive thousands of slot machines. (I am not sure whether the troopers were going to empty the money out of the slots first and give the casinos their contents. That detail was never mentioned.)

Wednesday and Thursday nights of last week, the playbook was the same: surround the casinos’ doors, enter en masse and seize the casinos’ assets. Raider Riley was gonna clean up Dodge.

Problem was, the troopers had no warrants to enter the premises and search or seize anything. 
Riley had obtained a warrant at a previous time for a previous raid, but it had expired.

The casino operators were within their rights and adamant: No warrant, no entry. No and hell no. And “Get off this private property!”

The troopers, lights and sirens now off, turned tail and drove back out to the highway where they parked, all 20 or so vehicles, plus semis, on the shoulder and waited for further orders. And they waited. And waited. 

Hours later, unable to get the paperwork for his raiders, Riley called them all back to Montgomery or to the posts from which they came.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has advised the governor that seizing the assets of these businesses could well leave him (and the public safety director) open to lawsuits. He and others have also pointed out that the casinos generate millions of tax bucks, payroll and other, for the state and counties. They provide thousands of jobs, too.

Raider Riley did not like the Attorney General’s advice. He fired back angrily, saying that the AG is more concerned with protecting the gambling industry than the laws of the state.

For now, the slots continue ringing up money for the casinos, and we the taxpayers are out thousands of dollars for trooper overtime, coffee and gas.

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What Is It About South Carolina? http://likethedew.com/2010/01/24/what-is-it-about-south-carolina/ http://likethedew.com/2010/01/24/what-is-it-about-south-carolina/#comments Sun, 24 Jan 2010 22:58:09 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=7621 breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce,]]>

The other day, South Carolina Lite Gov. Andre Bauer (a Republican candidate for governor) compared people who take public assistance to stray animals.

“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals,” Bauer told a Greenville-area crowd. “You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is, you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

Now, you are probably thinking, “Gita, that can’t be right! Andre Bauer is a good Christian man. It’s part of his campaign to be a Christian, and that statement didn’t sound either Christian or intelligent.”

Please. Allow me to explain. Two hundred years ago, the Gullah people of coastal South Carolina made a pact with Satan. They asked that the white rulers of the state all be so stupid that they’d eventually self destruct.

In return, Satan made them promise to develop an exquisite cuisine that he could enjoy any time he dropped by South Carolina for a little R and R.

“You can keep your souls,” the Lord of Darkness said. “I’ve already got enough souls from the Deep South, what with the cotton plantation owners in Mississippi and the future oil barons in Texas. You just busy yourselves with perfecting shrimp bisque.”

And so it was that South Carolina brought forth Mark Sanford, of the Restless Penis Clan, and Strom Thurmond and Andre Bauer, of the False Christian Clan. Also came Bob Jones (the man and the campus), pioneer of Christian branding and marketing. And even though the white rulers have not yet blown away in a hurricane, each new day brings them closer.

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Pleading the Fourth http://likethedew.com/2009/12/07/pleading-the-fourth/ http://likethedew.com/2009/12/07/pleading-the-fourth/#comments Mon, 07 Dec 2009 23:18:46 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=6937 President Obama has started to appoint new judges to the federal courts, especially the appellate courts which decide more than 30,000 cases a year. What kind of jurists will the president pick? In particular, how will he fill openings on the appellate courts in Atlanta and Richmond? His remarks, so far, have been opaque.

Over eight years, the Bush/Cheney legal viewpoint left a heavy footprint on the hundreds of district and appeals courts. Bush's appointments cemented a philosophy of exclusion and a system in which justice served a narrower band of society than ever before. Thus, progressives are hoping Obama’s appointments will reverse the neo-con influence and reshape the legal landscape.

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President Obama has started to appoint new judges to the federal courts, especially the appellate courts which decide more than 30,000 cases a year. What kind of jurists will the president pick? In particular, how will he fill openings on the appellate courts in Atlanta and Richmond? His remarks, so far, have been opaque.

Andre M. Davis

Andre M. Davis

Over eight years, the Bush/Cheney legal viewpoint left a heavy footprint on the hundreds of district and appeals courts. Bush’s appointments cemented a philosophy of exclusion and a system in which justice served a narrower band of society than ever before. Thus, progressives are hoping Obama’s appointments will reverse the neo-con influence and reshape the legal landscape.

So, who will Obama give us? In a May 2009 CNN interview, Obama offered only this murky, liberal-sounding bite:
 “What I do want is a judge who is sympathetic enough to those who are on the outside, those who are vulnerable, those who are powerless, those who can’t have access to political power and as a consequence can’t protect themselves from being . . . dealt with sometimes unfairly.”

The president might as well be hiring a social worker or a nanny. 
From a president who is a former professor of constitutional law and Harvard Law Review editor, this description falls well short of incisive.  Those who hoped to hear the words “brilliant” or “coherent” or “progressive” to describe a new federal judiciary saw their hopes reduced to “kind-hearted guys and gals who are Democrats (or Democrat-ISH).”

Of concern, here, is one Southern bench in particular, the Richmond-based U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. It has been a conservative bastion and an influential voice on national security cases. The 4th Circuit covers Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and the Carolinas. There were four vacancies at the start of 2009. Three weeks ago, Obama nominated, and the Senate confirmed, Andre Maurice Davis to that bench. Davis, previously nominated by President Bill Clinton in an effort to seat more Black jurists, was not confirmed by the Senate during the Clinton years.

Barbara Milano Keenan

Barbara Milano Keenan

Two more judges were nominated in November: Barbara Milano Keenan, of the Virginia Supreme Court, and North Carolina Judge Albert Diaz. Filling these vacancies will lead to a clear Democratic majority, if Obama’s nominees are not blocked.

Albert Diaz

Albert Diaz

There are reasons to watch as Obama makes appointments in Richmond. The Bush/Cheney 4th Circuit Court issued highly conservative rulings, including one that struck down a law allowing rape victims to sue their attackers.  That ruling was a fairly radical departure from the traditional values and culture of the South which historically protected women. How very conservative the judges had to be for a Southern Circuit to rule against rape victims in a case where the federal government really had no compelling interest.

As it is situated in an agricultural region, this court also sees a fair number of labor cases involving migrant workers and complaints of discrimination. Its conservative rulings color the outcomes of other labor cases elsewhere in the nation. For example, in Luis Reyes-Gaona v. North Carolina Growers Association, the court ruled that age discrimination laws do not protect migrant workers who apply from outside the country for the federal H2A worker program – a legal visa allowing farm workers into the country.  Other courts at other times have interpreted the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in ways at odds with the Act’s intent. But the 4th Circuit’s ruling placed a roadblock between jobs and over-40 aged foreign workers who want to come into the country legally. At the same time, this appellate court often hears immigration cases that involve deporting illegal aliens back to their countries. The court’s rulings seem to be at cross-purposes with any cohesive view on immigration. The only commonality among the decisions is a punitive tone towards immigrants.

There are enough Senate Republicans to filibuster judicial nominees, and Alabama’s Sen. Jeff Sessions has shown no indication that he will let any progressive nominee sail through confirmation hearings. (In his view, this is the GOP’s quid pro quo; Democrats successfully blocked some of President Bush’s 4th Circuit and other appellate court nominees.) Will this force Obama to appoint centrist or semi-conservative jurists? Again, the president has not signaled clearly what breed of judges he will nominate.

(Normally, I would not recommend Wikipedia as an authoritative source, but it has a good list of Obama’s nominees to the federal courts, up until last week.)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_federal_judges_appointed_by_Barack_Obama

Although Republican control may persist in many appellate courts for a while, some recent news articles quote legal pundits saying that, by the end of Obama’s term, he and the Democratic Congress will have flipped the 56-percent majority Republican courts. These newcomers may or may not rule more favorably toward women, environmentalists and labor unions than the old guard.  And, after the 8-year Bush drought, we probably should be thankful for small gifts.

I’d be more thankful for assurances.

Read Dennis McCarthy’s update on former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Penny White, Disorder in the Courts.

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Good Hair Days http://likethedew.com/2009/11/27/good-hair-days/ http://likethedew.com/2009/11/27/good-hair-days/#comments Fri, 27 Nov 2009 05:24:21 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=6780


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It is the subject du jour in some Montgomery circles: What is the definition of “good hair” if you are an African American? A new movie by comedian/writer Chris Rock has reopened this particular debate among Black women and, to a lesser extent, Black men. In my opinion, it would be wise for Whites not to dismiss this as a non-starter, and not just because the issue permeates hiring in the television industry and in journalism, in general.

To begin: Born with curly, wild hair, I’ve been curious about other people’s straight tresses as long as I can remember. My efforts to wrestle my hair into submission cannot touch the virtual shaming that my Black contemporaries went through as teenagers and young adults.

E.K. Daufin

E.K. Daufin

Most of us recall the Afro hairdo of the ’60s, a halo that proclaimed Black pride. It was the relief from, and antidote to, decades of ironing and pomading hair to make it look more “white.” But the Afro is long gone, and the “good hair” of 2009 consists of straightened, glazed tresses a la Michele Obama and Tyra Banks. The urgency with which many women of color respond to their natural, kinked hair fuels a billion-dollar annual industry. I know several women who spend between 5 and 12 hours per month at the beauty parlor getting weaves, braids and extensions added to their natural hair or undergoing the chemical straightening process.

I work on a college campus where I watch a parade of Black students, ages 18 to 26; the variety of wigs astounds me. The average cost of a full human hair wig is about $600. Most of the young women on campus own two or three full wigs and several hairpieces that function as ponytails or buns. All these wigs are Asian-straight and black. Men, as well, have braids and weaves added to their hair, or else they wear it cut so close to the scalp that there is no visible nap or curl left.

What does this say about the prevailing standards for young professionals, and what can African American students expect when they enter the job market?

Here comes a cold bucket of reality water from the blog of E.K. Daufin, who teaches communications at Alabama State University. She writes: “A few years ago, I left the Montgomery Area Black Journalist’s Association because a Black woman with chemically straightened, short hair, who was the executive editor of a local national chain newspaper, verbally attacked me and a few male and female student journalists for wearing our naturally kinky hair.  She said that our neat, clean hair wasn’t “professional” and that if White people we were interviewing called us, “The N-Word,” it would be our fault because we wore our naturally kinky hair.

Beyonce

Beyonce

“Also a few years ago in Montgomery, at a local, television news station Associated Press Broadcasters seminar, the White news director at the time, with the blessings of an older Black female reporter who straightens her hair, sent a national award-winning Black female communication student out of the room crying because they verbally attacked her neatly styled kinky hair as “unacceptable.” The victimized student returned to my class on the Monday after the seminar,  in a white-scalped, pin-straight “Tina Turner – Rollin’ on the River” type wig because her self-esteem was so wounded from that attack on her blackness.”

Rice

Rice

You could argue that a student or new graduate is insecure and most likely to buy into the straight-is-better ethos. But Blacks at the top of the chain still buy in. Washington’s bright political lights like Dr. Susan Rice, foreign policy advisor to President Obama, and Deputy Chief of Staff Mona Sutphen do not go natural. Rice’s hair is straightened; Sutphen wears extensions. In Black entertainment, straight hair and wigs are pervasive. Oprah and Beyonce have never been seen without processed hair or fabulous wigs.

Sutphen

Sutphen

To understand the full extent to which the norm for hair in the USA absolutely requires that hair be Caucasian in appearance, pick up your remote control. Surf five or six channels during the news hours and during programs like Good Morning America. In the 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. bracket, the other day, the only African American I saw with natural hair was Whoopie Goldberg.

And this is where my concern intersects with the “good hair issue,” especially in our own industry. If we value intellect, ethics, thoroughness, writing ability and objectivity as the sole criteria for hiring and promoting journalists, why is “good hair” even on the table?  Why would news directors or journalists advise anyone to avoid a hairstyle that represents an ethnicity?  In my view, an inclusive attitude arguably may be the best weapon against the Hannities, Boortzes and Limbaughs of the broadcast world.

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The Dixie Diet http://likethedew.com/2009/11/06/the-dixie-diet/ http://likethedew.com/2009/11/06/the-dixie-diet/#comments Sat, 07 Nov 2009 02:17:52 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=6585

Prison-cafeteria-JCR.jpgStand down, Jennie Craig, Weight Watchers and Dr. Atkins. There’s a new kid in town, The Dixie Diet, and we are proud to say it peels off pounds.

Here’s how we do it. First, we put you in prison. Then we spend between $1.13 and $1.75 per day to feed you. Then a couple of years later, you are a nice emaciated specimen with gum disease and bone loss. Strangely, not all prisoners appreciate this chance to lose weight.

Last week in Tennessee, a federal judge ordered a Robertson County Jail inmate moved to another detention facility after he and other inmates complained about inadequate food at the jail.

U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell heard more than five days of testimony, during which inmates stepped on scales in the courtroom to document their weight. One fellow said he lost 100 pounds during 19 months in the small jail about 25 miles from Nashville. Another, confined at the jail since April awaiting a hearing, told the judge he had lost 16 pounds during his incarceration. He measured 6-foot-3 and weighed 149 pounds when he stepped on the scale. (You might note that this prisoner had not yet been convicted of a crime, and yet he had been placed on the Dixie Diet, so Campbell ruled that he should be moved “to ensure that he does not experience any further weight loss.”)

In this particular Tennessee county jail, an outside vendor, ABL Inc., was spending between $1.13 and $1.24 per inmate meal. The menu consisted of bologna, peanut butter sandwiches, sloppy Joe sandwiches, turkey, noodles, bread, cabbage, cheese, grits, oatmeal, milk, Kool-Aid and, infrequently, green beans (but never all on the same day). The bread was often moldy, inmates said.

Here in Alabama, there is mighty strong incentive for sheriffs to place county inmates on The Dixie Diet. You see, a 1930s law allows our sheriffs to decide how much of their annual budgets they will use to feed county prisoners, and how much they want to keep for themselves. That’s right: Our lawmen can POCKET THE REST.

Sheriffs in 55 of Alabama’s 67 counties make profits operating their jail kitchens (there might be more, no one is sure). Good taxpayer money is theirs to use for, say, a nice new bass boat. (National corrections groups do not record any other states with a system like Alabama’s. At least not one that’s codified.)

index_sheriffpic2The 2009 winner of the Best Dietary Sheriff Profiteer was Morgan County’s sheriff, Greg Bartlett, who, over the past two years has pocketed $212,000 in prison budget leftovers. Disgruntled hungry inmates at his lockup earlier this year brought a lawsuit against Bartlett with help from the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights. It came to light that meals in the Morgan County jail were so small that inmates were basically forced to buy snacks from a store the jailers operated. Prisoners testified before Federal District Judge U.W. Clemon in Birmingham that they spent hundreds of dollars a month on chips, oatmeal pies and candy bars at the jailhouse store just to keep from starving. (But we assure you, The Dixie Diet worked despite prisoners’ best efforts to obtain sugar, trans fats and sodium in junk food.)

In one instance, Bartlett and a neighboring sheriff got a deal and split the $1,000 cost of an corndogs18-wheeler of corn dogs. Prisoners – many of them painfully thin – told Clemon that they ate nothing but two corndogs per day for months. According to one Associated Press report, the head of the Alabama Sheriff’s Association said that prisoner complaints are common around the state. “You’re never going to be able to satisfy them,” said Bobby Timmons.

Judge Clemon took a dimmer view of the prison menu. He ordered Sheriff Bartlett (whose base salary is $64,000 a year) to be jailed until he came up with a plan to provide inmates with nutritionally adequate meals, as required by a 2001 court order. Bartlett spent one night in his own jail before signing a consent decree. Given that Alabama law allots a minimum of a buck-seventy-five per day per inmate, Bartlett probably didn’t have to think too hard about menu options.

Clemon could not impose specific dietary details in the Morgan County consent decree because there are no pesky federal minimum caloric standards for state prison systems.

Laws aside, have you tried to eat on $1.75 per day? What would you buy and prepare for under two bucks, day after day, without getting rickets and scurvy pretty quick?  If you wanted to really stretch to get nutrition, you could make a menu of a cup of brown rice, an egg and a half-can of sardines, on one day. On the next, an orange, a bowl of oatmeal, the other half-can of sardines and a small banana.

Prisoners’ meals, testimony showed, consisted of a few spoons of grits, a piece of bread and part of an egg for breakfast; two white bread slices with a smear of peanut butter at lunch, and a small portion of undercooked bloody chicken for dinner.

(Georgia prisoners, by the way, don’t get lunch on the weekends or Fridays, but officials say inmates get 2,800 calories for men and 2,300 for women. This fiscal year, Georgia slashed almost 10 percent from the Department of Corrections’ $1.1 billion budget.)

The question you might be asking at this moment (work with me, please) is, when will the Alabama Legislature change the law so that sheriffs do not pocket money intended to feed prisoners? We have an answer for you: No time soon. You see, members of the Legislature need the sheriffs in their districts during campaign years. The sheriffs often provide the cars or drive the candidates around from small town to small town. The sheriff is the one who says, officially, that “State Sen. Forbush Spivey gets the law and order vote.”

No one wants to piss off the sheriffs who are supplementing their salaries with the food budget. Ergo, no one’s going to pass a bleeding-heart liberal law against The Dixie Diet.

For more information see:

*Georgia Department of Corrections: http://www.dcor.state.ga.us

*American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project: http://www.aclu.org/prison

*National Institute of Corrections: http://www.nicic.org

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The turkey was in my sight, then … http://likethedew.com/2009/10/25/the-turkey-was-in-my-sight-then/ http://likethedew.com/2009/10/25/the-turkey-was-in-my-sight-then/#comments Sun, 25 Oct 2009 05:02:39 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=6399 If someone said, come try this sport with me, would you say yes to the following?  You will be exhausted, sleep-deprived, cold, bug-bitten, in need of a wicked pee and hungry every morning for the next two months. You’ll get up long before sunrise, drive an hour in the dark, walk through the damp and chilly woods, make idiot noises for a while and risk exposure to snakes, ticks and poison ivy. Would you leap joyfully into that fray?

No, I thought not.

Good. We don’t want any more turkey hunters bungling around in the woods. The rest of the world should stay home in their flannel beds. Leave the birds to us, in all their splendor. The call of the hen in the spring is so sweet with longing, only the pure of heart deserve to hear her songs. The plaintive “Kee-kee-run” of a lonesome juvenile in autumn calls out to the flock, “Here I am, please find me.”

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get-attachmentIf someone said, come try this sport with me, would you say yes to the following?  You will be exhausted, sleep-deprived, cold, bug-bitten, in need of a wicked pee and hungry every morning for the next two months. You’ll get up long before sunrise, drive an hour in the dark, walk through the damp and chilly woods, make idiot noises for a while and risk exposure to snakes, ticks and poison ivy. Would you leap joyfully into that fray?

No, I thought not.

Good. We don’t want any more novices bungling around in the woods. The rest of the world should stay home in their flannel beds. Leave the birds to us addicts, in all their splendor. The call of the hen in the spring is so sweet with longing, only the pure of heart deserve to hear her songs. The plaintive “Kee-kee-run” of a lonesome juvenile in autumn calls out to the flock, “Here I am, please find me.”

In springtime, ah, the hen is hopeful. “Keee-yaw, keeyaw, kyawkyawkyaw,” she goes, sending her song out at dawn. From the roost she sends it, then, with a fly-down cackle she sends it again from the forest floor. And then, from a hundred yards away comes an answer. A tom, as lovelorn as she, lets loose his call. It ripples from his red, white and blue neck — a sound that marries a broken fan belt with a gargle, “Khobbl-khobbl-khobbbl-khobbl-obbl-obbl.”

As outdoor sports go, turkey hunting has an appalling failure rate. The birds have exceptional eyesight. If you move, if you even breathe visibly when a bird is looking your way, poof! He’s gone. Turkeys don’t stand and ponder the likelihood that their eyes deceived them. They flee first and ponder later.  A turkey can spot you raising your gun from a hundred yards away, and before you can say giblet gravy, he’s over the next ridge and heading for the county line. To actually call a bird into shotgun range (about 40 yards) requires a combination of great patience, knowledge of the woods and the ability to remain stock-still for as long as it takes to get that bird close to your 12-gauge.

This is not a sport for sissies or dilettantes. Many a prolific deer hunter can’t believe it takes years of hunting to bag even one bird. The odds get worse if you hunt with a spouse. I should know.

I have this recurring fantasy. I am in divorce court. The room is packed with fellow hunters and outdoor writers. The judge leans toward me from the bench and says, “Now, Gita, tell us what your husband did to you.”

I sniff and say, “We were in the woods; it was a warm fall day. I had called the gobbler into range. He was stepping slowly toward me, you know, that way they do. My gun was raised. I slid the safety off and edged my finger to the trigger. Just as I began to squeeze it, BLAM!! My husband shot my bird.”

The gavel thunders down like judgment day. “The wife,” his Honor roars, “gets EVERYTHING!”  The court erupts with joy.

Yes, hard as it may be to reconcile, my generous husband shot my gobbler, the one that would have been my first. For five years I had been hunting hard, walking miles, calling birds. Finally, I would have had my bragging rights around the fire, just like the guys.

get-attachment-1One of the fondest memories I have of turkey hunts came late one fall, some years ago, in West Virginia. That is the time of year when birds group up according to gender. Bachelor groups consist of older toms and yearling jakes; the hens and new juveniles keep off to themselves. Because it’s not the mating time, there is no point in trying to lure a gobbler to you with a hen call. The way to find a shootable, mature tom is to locate his bachelor group and disperse it – preferably with a dog. The birds will all fly up in different directions. Then you wait till they calm down and look for each other. The sounds to make on crisp fall mornings are “assembly” calls.

But what about the dogs? Won’t they run the birds, over and over? This is the beauty part; some of those West Virginia boys had trained dogs to perfection. Some redbone hounds and setters are relentless. They’ll run the hills and hollows, ridge to ridge, until they find a flock. As soon as they startle the birds to flight, the dogs come back and crawl into a sack shaped like a sleeping bag. There the dogs will stay next to their trainer, still as a stone, until the next command to run.

Last week an Alabama gal who loves to hunt sent me an e-mail. Would I like to plan a turkey hunt (girls only) for the coming spring? She knows the saga of my husband’s crime; when told all she could do was sigh, “Testosterone.”

So do I want to rise before the sun, risk ticks and skeeters and blisters on my feet? Do I want to walk for miles in search of gobblers through hardwood bottomland and briars? To hear the woods wake up and see where wild azaleas bloom? Or see the tiny bloodroot flowers poke up through last fall’s leaves? Heck, yes I do, I wrote her back.  I want it more than Christmas; count me in.

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The Illuminati are gonna git ya. Would I lie? http://likethedew.com/2009/10/20/cottonmouth-the-illuminati-are-gonna-git-ya-would-i-lie/ http://likethedew.com/2009/10/20/cottonmouth-the-illuminati-are-gonna-git-ya-would-i-lie/#comments Tue, 20 Oct 2009 23:03:01 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=6285

In the late 70s, when Eddie Lee and Larry Larson performed outrageous satires on Atlanta’s stages, they poked fun at people who believed in a secret brotherhood called The Illuminati. In some circles today this is no laughing matter. Rather, it’s a consistent and growing conspiracy theory concerning a powerful cabal with a master plan to rule the world.  On the website of a man running for governor of Alabama is a lengthy video exposing how The Illuminati plan to ruin our health with antibiotics and vaccines, thereby weakening us and keeping us subjugated. They say that Al Gore is a member of this power-hungry, slavering cabal.

roymooreThe gubernatorial candidate of mention here is Roy Moore. He was briefly the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court until he defied an order from the U.S. Supremes and refused to remove a granite Ten Commandments from the state’s judicial building. His supporters are almost universally Christian, and their wishes for his success (on his MySpace page) universally include the words, “God bless you Roy Moore.”

Lest someone object and call me the worst possible epithet in Alabama’s vernacular – an ATHEIST —  I want to state for the record that I have no quarrel with Roy Moore holding his personal religious beliefs. Au contraire. I just have quarrel with the general tone of cuckoo-headedness that prevails wherever his followers gather.

To be ousted from the high court for insubordination might quell a lesser man’s political ambitions. But Moore is guided by a power higher than man’s laws, he says.

It is a refrain with some miles on it, by now, having started in the mid 1990s. At the time, Moore was a district judge in Gadsden, Ala., where he posted a small, homemade plaque of the Ten on his courtroom wall, and he ordered juries to pray with him before trials. The prayers were Christian prayers that ended with “In Jesus’ name…” Moore seemed oblivious to the fact that Gadsden was home to several other faiths, including Hinduism and Islam. A couple of those pesky minority members filed a lawsuit against Moore. Money began to pour into Moore’s hands in small contributions from well-meaning Christian citizens across the nation.

honorable_judge_roy_mooreAs a reporter who covered Alabama for the much-loved-and-missed regional desk of the AJC, I sat down with Judge Moore for a talk. He said he had no political agenda nor plans to run for office any time in the foreseeable future. He said that the money coming in from supporters was going to the Roy Moore Legal Defense Fund. I asked him who his legal team was. I called the legal team.

What to my surprise! His lawyers told me (proudly) that they were working pro bono because they believed in Moore’s cause. Free legal aid? Then where was all that money going? Estimates by those closely watching Moore put his “defense fund” at several hundred thousand dollars. There were “Save Roy Moore” rallies.  He was before the news cameras or microphones daily; he was a welcome guest speaker at religious and political events. He became a marquee name at revivals.

I cannot say whether Roy Moore began as a publicity seeker, but once he had a taste of the adulation and limelight, how could he go back to being a judge in a tiny Alabama courthouse, carrying a brown sack lunch, working in obscurity?

For the next 15 years, Roy Moore continued to run for various offices. In 2010 he’ll run for governor for the second time. His platform includes posting religious symbols wherever people gather. Separation of church and state is a foreign concept to his followers. They are truly one nation under God, and that God is a new testament God that loves home schooling but abhors antibiotics and vaccinations, abortions, gay marriage, the One World Order, Trilateral Commission, Illuminati, mosques, immigrants, sex education and Proctor and Gamble.

Moore has positioned himself as The Candidate for Governor Who Can Best Defeat the Radical Obama Agenda in Alabama.

He may not win his party’s gubernatorial primary because a number of big name Republicans will share the field in 2010. Some of those are kin to former governors or are longtime, lesser officeholders. 

But what Moore does, each time he runs, is move the tenor of debates further to the fringe Right. No other candidate wants to be seen as less Christian than Moore or less upstanding. By being allowed to frame the issues and, to some extent, quash rational discourse, the former judge makes Alabama a little poorer, a little sadder.

While candidates for governor in other states discuss economic growth, social justice or funding for education, Alabama’s policy makers ignore many such crucial issues (its  anachronistic 1901 Constitution, for one). Instead, they are forced into debates about religious symbols and protection from the Illuminati.

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