Sunday, August 28, 2011

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY – ANOTHER WARNING

Let me be very clear that I have voted for Rick Perry for Governor of the State of Texas. Let me also be very clear that even as a Moderate Conservative whose granddaddy served on the Republican National Committee, this writer will ponder righteously before voting for him again for any other public office – however modest or important – especially including President.

Without any consideration for political substance I always liked the “Rick Persona”. Rick is Ray and Amelia’s boy from Paint Creek and I liked his unassuming, deferential pastoralism. His home-grown rural, working class style, tone and rhetoric seemed to fit us as he concentrated on creating a positive environment for business and related to critical fundamental issues like immigration that reflect our border status. The ill-conceived and now cancelled Trans-Texas Corridor and Cameron Todd Willingham aside, I guess that I naively never knew nor cared about how he felt about any other topics and for that, shame on me. It would appear that Perry has reinvented himself as the new poster child for the religious right in order to advance his political agenda and perhaps even consolidate and energize its base. That’s what got my earnest attention.

My Perry devolution actually started in 2009 when obviously shooting from the hip he stated outright to a bunch of Tea Party folks, “When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that...” Perry then insinuated that secession from the United States continues as an option for Texas? The Texas State Archives and Library address that issue as follows, “In fact, Texas received no special terms in its admission to the Union. Once Texas had agreed to join the Union, she never had the legal option of leaving, either before or after the Civil War.” Perry’s PR folks continue to spin that one yet it’s obvious to this writer that Perry doesn’t have a clue about American or Texas history and is willing to say and do anything to appeal to the visceral and confrontational emotions of the extreme right wing of the Republican Party.

Yet, for all this Perry is now collaborating within the system to gain the presidency of the United States of America. I guess some might say that’s another take on the if you can’t beat them, join them mantra. It would appear to this writer, however, that despite his loathing of the federal government this is an attempt to change our government into something Perry feels more acceptable – and frankly from a process perspective, that’s not all bad. That’s the way our system works. Glad he appreciates that opportunity though if he is going to be perceived as a serious candidate he needs to be more in tune with historical fact and the reality of the Texas institutions over which he has purview. Perry surely has no clue about scientific method and the differences between scientific laws, hypotheses, and theories.

Whatever his motivation he has now joined Michele Bachmann in the Foot in Mouth Club (FIMC) given his propensity to utter absolutely absurd crap. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a warning… How did I miss this before? Word on the street is his managers and speech makers have been trying to rein him in since he declared for the Republican Presidential Nomination and have directed him to carefully read comments that have been scripted for him. That stratagem hasn’t worked and probably won’t fly especially with Perry’s freewheeling style, glad-handing and the spontaneous nature of rallies, neighborhood and town hall meetings that now characterize political campaigns.

Perry was recently bushwhacked at a Portsmouth, NH rally where an obviously concerned Mother through her young son damaged Perry’s not so quietly eroding credibility. The sad and slimy reality was that the Mother used her minor child to get at Perry knowing how politicians like to kiss babies and pander to children.

That child obviously goaded on by his mother asked Perry how old he thought the Earth was. Perry said he didn't know, but that he expects it’s "pretty old." At this point the Mother can then be heard in the background, “Ask him about evolution."

Perry responded, "I know your mom is asking about evolution. It's a theory that's out there and it's got some gaps in it. In Texas, we teach creationism and evolution because I feel you're smart enough to figure out which one is right."

So Perry declared to the whole world that Texas public schools teach creationism alongside evolution — a statement that is patently false and contradicts the 1987 United States Supreme Court ruling (Edwards v. Aguillard) that teaching creationism in public schools was unconstitutional because it advanced religious beliefs. Now if that raises the hackles of some fundamentalist folks let them be reminded despite what you have been fed, 72 Nobel prize-winning scientists, 17 state academies of science and 7 other scientific organizations filed amicus curiae (Friend of the Court) briefs in support of Aguillard describing creation “science” as part and parcel of religious tenets. And, no, that there is nothing scientific or intelligent about Creationism and, yes, Perry will continue to blur the lines of distinction between Science and Religion as, "a firm believer in intelligent design (creationism) as a matter of faith and intellect" and seemingly because it’s good theater that plays to his base.

Debbie Ratcliffe spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency issued the following statement to Talking Points Memo (TPM) in response to Perry’s comments, "Our science standards require students to analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations, so it is likely that other theories, such as creationism, would be discussed in class," she said. "Our schools can also offer an elective course on Biblical history and it is likely that creationism is discussed as part of that class too." So, the State of Texas offers elective Religion and Biblical history courses but all under the label of Religion and not disguised as “Science”.

TPM followed up with Ross Ann Hill, president of the Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT) who pointed out that, “Evolution is part of the curriculum and creationism is not. Students are expected to know that "Evolutionary theory is a scientific explanation for the unity and diversity of life."

TPM contacted Kevin Fisher, a former STAT president and current president of the Texas Science Education Leadership Association who stated that the controversy could leave students unprepared for the Texas State assessment test and, ultimately, college biology courses. Fisher also offered that, "Usually if creationism is brought up, teachers would discuss the nature of what is science and not science...and help the students understand the difference between science and religion. What Perry said is not an accurate statement about what occurs in Texas science classrooms."

I got a kick out of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, another contender for the GOP presidential nomination, who took Perry’s most recent creationism comments to heart Twittering, “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." Though Huntsman isn’t going to win the Republican nomination, he earned some major points with Independents.

On global warming – We at Might of Right think that the earth is going through some changes – some natural and some manipulated or at least exacerbated by Man. That sentiment is pretty much echoed by Mitt Romney and I suspect most Americans. While we certainly don’t believe in the scare tactics offered by a beaming Al Gore (I told you so), the reality is that a change is taking place. Perry’s response: the scientists have cooked the books and manipulated the data so they can continue their research of the phenomenon. From Perry’s bully pulpit the scientific community around the world created and is perpetuating an economic opportunity for themselves. The ostrich has his head deep in the sand while we desperately need someone responsible and educated to facilitate/devise a strategy to address this alarming trend.

While campaigning in Iowa last week Rick Perry further validated his FIMC pedigree demonstrating his ignorance of economics and worse yet crossing the line of civility with his extremist rhetoric that it would be "almost treasonous" for Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, Ben Bernanke, to print more money between now and the 2012 election. "I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas," Perry said. While Bernanke may be imperfect (like the rest of us), he appears to be doing everything he can within reason to stimulate the economy. Perry’s remarks were perceived by many as a threat, including the White House. Now, just how ugly would it get, Rick? Mr. Benanke, on behalf of all Texans, thank you for your service to our country. Come on down to Texas and we’ll honor you with a BBQ with all the fixins, give you a plaque and some gewgaws to take home with you.

Indeed, Perry has been chastised by many Republicans for his inappropriate remarks and even called, “an idiot” by Bruce Bartlett, a Treasury official under George H.W. Bush and domestic policy adviser to former President and Republican icon Ronald Reagan. It appears that the only folks willing to defend Perry are the commentators at FOX who portrayed Perry as “passionate” about the issue characterizing his approach and demeanor as a, “Texas Swagger.” Lemmings all…

With the latest outbreak of verbal excreta by Perry, Karl Rove and other Republicans offered that Perry’s comments weren’t, “Presidential.” Rove then expressed concerns about all the GOP presidential hopefuls, stating that they needed to think more about their ultimate electability rather than moving further to the right. It sure is right crowded there….

Some including Dr. Mark Chaves, professor of sociology and religion at Duke University insinuate whether that end of the political spectrum anchored by Perry and Bachman is even a wise political stratagem. Chaves notes in his new book, American Religion: Contemporary Trends, “that the Michele Bachmanns and Rick Perrys of the world are playing to a base that's much smaller than it was in the 1970s and 1980s."

The recent very dramatic polarization of religion with politics and the ascension of the Religious Right (Bachmann and Perry) has not been without consequence with some of that seemingly well-choreographed. The disaffection of many young moderates and progressives of the Gen Y /Millennial Generation (spiritual though progressive on most social issues) from religion may well find the politics of the conservative right equally unacceptable.

Co-authors of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam and Notre Dame professor David E. Campbell, opined in an October, 2010 article in the LA Times, “Walking Away From Church,” “Increasingly, young people saw religion as intolerant, hypocritical, judgmental and homophobic. If being religious entailed political conservatism, they concluded, religion was not for them.” Putnam and Campbell continued, “The Tea Party's sinking approval rating -- currently at 20 percent, below Republicans, Democrats, atheists and Muslims -- signals a growing discomfort with mingling faith and politics, including the kind of "overt religious language and imagery" recently used by Bachmann and Perry on the campaign trail.”

Some speculate that for some of those Republicans on the far, far right this is a deliberate stratagem to gain control of the political and cultural institutions of our country – what some now refer to as dominionism. While no one knows where Perry stands on this issue, there are those in that camp “firmly rooted in biblical principles” who believe that, “the Bible offers explicit guidance on public policy” and that Christians and only Christians should have purview of them - all in advance of the tribulation and “end of days”. Putnam and Campbell offer that the Tea Party is much more religious than originally thought that, “The Tea Party's generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.”

We wonder about these issues more than ever when you have yahoos like the Reverend Pat Robertson (a charter member of FIMC) who have historically merged religion and politics. Robertson continues his hysteria by now declaring that the recent earthquake in the eastern United States is certainly a harbinger of the second coming of Christ (old song, new verse). Of course, we all remember his infamous “pact with the devil” explanation for the earthquake that rocked Haiti and killed 200,000+ people in 2010 and suggesting in 2005 that Hurricane Katrina was fomented by legal abortion. Robertson has suggested that 911 and the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, "could... be connected in some way.” Robertson’s explanation for any natural disaster of magnitude, terrorism and even our recession is the manifestation of God’s displeasure with something we are or are not doing. Wonder what he will say about Hurricane Irene? Remember, this guy wanted to be president and in 1987 won the Republican Ames Straw Poll and ran well in the Iowa Caucus – just like Michele Bachmann who has now slipped in the polls.

We ask how can folks of that ilk be counted on to make sane and rational decisions in times of national emergency, let alone run the day to day operations of the country?

Bill Keller, Executive Editor of The New York Times said it all when he addressed a rigid religious doctrinal approach by any political candidate, “And I care a lot if a candidate is going to be a Trojan horse for a sect that believes it has divine/Biblical instructions on how we should be governed.” “… I do want to know if a candidate places fealty to the Bible, the Book of Mormon (the text, not the Broadway musical) or some other authority higher than the Constitution and laws of this country. It matters to me whether a president respects serious science and verifiable history — in short, belongs to what an official in a previous administration once scornfully described as “the reality-based community.” I do care if religious doctrine becomes an excuse to exclude my fellow citizens from the rights and protections our country promises.”

We don’t know at this time if Perry is just along for the ride, an opportunist pragmatically courting those far right votes. However, while he is riding a wave of popularity now, in this interim he could be destroying any credibility he may have had with the great majority of voters.

Michael Keegan observed in the Huffington Post that Perry is in the process of uniting the really far right and the really, really far right and “If Rick Perry does become the Republican ‘unity candidate,’ that will be further evidence that the GOP has abandoned any credible claim to representing the economic interests or constitutional values embraced by most Americans.” We agree. A Perry nomination would give a legitimate voice to every extremist wacko on the far, far right. Some folks have been overheard speculating that a Perry/Bachmann ticket would finally, for the Republicans become for them a self-fulfilling prophecy – the end of their times.

And Pulitzer Prize winning Opinion Writer Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post with her usual keen insight has absolutely nailed the issue for me with her post just a few minutes ago observing that we seem to be sliding towards a debate that has little to do with a candidate’s policies, rather, “everything to do with whether he or she believes in God” and “signal that we are slip-sliding toward governance by emotion rather than reason.”

Parker continued, “Perry knows he has to make clear that God is his wingman. And this conviction seems not only to be sincere, but also to be relatively noncontroversial in the GOP’s church — and perhaps beyond. He understands that his base cares more that the president is clear on his ranking in the planetary order than whether he can schmooze with European leaders or, heaven forbid, the media. And this is why Perry could easily steal the nomination from Romney.

And also why he probably can’t win a national election, in which large swaths of the electorate would prefer that their president keep his religion close and be respectful of knowledge that has evolved from thousands of years of human struggle against superstition and the kind of literal-mindedness that leads straight to the dark ages.”

And finally, if you believe Rick Perry’s assurances that the State of Texas has the best record in just about everything in our country (health care, education, jobs, etc.), despite the recession, I have some swamp land to sell you. While Texas is certainly business friendly and has created jobs, please look up our overall record, delve deeply and come to your own conclusions.

Me? I’m going to pray on it… and find comfort that despite Perry’s na├»ve good ole boy approach he probably knows where Martha’s Vineyard is.

Aye,

Ned Buxton

Saturday, August 20, 2011

IDENTITY AND MOTHER NATURE

I recently spent another wonderful summer week in Red Lodge, Montana in the shadow of nearby Grizzly Peak all framed by those magnificent, snow covered Beartooth Mountains. It all went by too fast – so much to see and do, so little time...

Fittingly, a whole Different Kind of Animal - Frontier Airlines - was our means of transport to Montana and then back to Dallas from Billings via Denver. They did their usual superb job.

While we were waiting to board our flight home I couldn’t help but notice all the tourists regaled in every kind of T-Shirt or ball cap that declared their affiliations or their most recent encounters with the geography, flora, fauna or activity of the area. Like the diversity of the wildlife in Yellowstone, the huge number and types of T-Shirts was absolutely amazing. We all want to belong to a special group and likewise hold up and declare to the whole world what we think is important, what we have done and T-Shirts accomplish that goal.

Understanding that this is just an early August weekend snapshot, most of the shirts that numbered in the hundreds showcased Yellowstone National Park and many of its features including Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake and Falls, or some of its more prodigious animal life including Moose, Elk, Grizzly, Black Bear, Red Fox, Gray Wolf, Bison, Pronghorn Antelope, Deer, Cutthroat Trout and even the threatened Lynx, among others. Even the several states that incorporate Yellowstone National Park including Wyoming, Montana and Idaho were featured in some of the shirts. Shirts heralded various activities within The Park including tent camping (not this kid!), climbing rafting, paddling (canoeing and kayaking), among others.

I even noted one shirt that just said YELLOWSTONE in large faded capital letters with YNP and 1872 (the date Yellowstone was founded) in extra wide bold letters. With that shirt we have ascended to the upper stratosphere of privilege, subtlety and perhaps even snobbery. Over 900,000 people visited Yellowstone this July (third year in a row) probably attributable to our staycation rationale. Good or bad, no doubt in future years Yellowstone will surely surpass 4 million annual visitors, many of whom will buy at least one T-Shirt. I frankly don’t know if Yellowstone can accommodate more visitors without permanently damaging their ecosystem or further habituating their wildlife to humans.

So, the medium of T-Shirts we use to pass on a message or to identify ourselves as part of a special class is here to stay along with other clothing and paraphernalia. Along those lines I couldn’t help noticing the hundreds even thousands of welcome bikers in Red Lodge many with the obligatory and very functional leather jackets, T-Shirts, kerchiefs and do rags with most declaring allegiance to Harley Davidson, pilgrimage to Sturgis or another like message. Not surprisingly members of the American Motorcyclist Association have again voted the Beartooth Highway as their favorite stretch of road in the United States. Their numbers grow and I share that sentiment for that daring and scenic stretch of mountain highway known for its steep switchbacks (fall down, fall off) that ascend up to Beartooth Pass at 10,947 feet. As a side bar the only other road that comes close is Trail Ridge Road in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). While known for its spectacular views and higher elevation (climbing to 12,183 feet), it is much tamer.

While these bikers come from myriad communities across North America and no doubt are individualists in their own environments, this year many more looked cloned. They were different but all the same. Also, there seemed to be more screaming eagles and skull jackets and fewer sport bikers. I know this is stereotypical but I saw more angry, rough looking men with long hair (or none at all), beards, mustaches, some piercings and lots of tattoos.

Having said that I suspect there were lots of accountants, lawyers and bankers, etc. in that lot. Many professional folks like to jump out of their seemingly mundane lives and adopt a mean, tough persona that includes a Fu Manchu, goatee, shaved head, scowl and with an old timey Nashville Country look that belies their more genteel nature. I guess we on the Highland Games and Scottish Festival fields all decked out in our kilts and country dress are no different though we are celebrating our Scottish origins and culture – all part of that one day longer declaration. Again, whether its leathers on the Beartooth or the Keith & Austin Kilt at Grandfather Mountain, it’s all part of being part of something bigger than we are by ourselves – and that gives us and our ain folk credibility and integrity.

Now back at home in a scorching, drought stricken Dallas, Texas I continue to ponder these cultural paradigms, of course, while wearing my new 2011 Red Lodge T-Shirt wondering how I would look in a Fu Manchu and a tattoo – a thistle, of course

Aye,

Ned Buxton

Saturday, August 13, 2011

END OF THE LEASH IN THE RAIN

This morning Saturday, August 13, 2011 at 5:49am I was on the so-called smart end of the leash, standing in the pouring rain with all the accompanying very impressive thunder and lightning whilst a brindle cairn terrier did her business on the front lawn. Now, she didn’t just go into posture - she had to circle around and wander about for what seemed an eternity while she and the smart end of the leash soaked up and reveled in a rain that she and I hadn’t seen in what seemed forever and a day. We returned to the house literally soaked to the bone. We didn’t melt or suffer any untoward malady. We were just shower dripping wet and that was OK. We found joy in those moments and I swear she was smiling

You see, north Texas hadn’t seen rain in over two months and we are in the middle of a severe, extended drought. We just ended a forty day stretch of 100+ degree days, so far the second hottest summer since they started keeping records. Most nights the temperature here hasn’t dipped below 85 degrees making for a sticky uncomfortable environment and tons of business for the air conditioning companies. The temperature now at 6:15 am is 75° (and falling) - the first time the temperature has dipped below 80° in that same interval.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) via its National Climatic Data Center reports that July 2011 was the hottest July in Texas since the Lone Star State started keeping records back in 1895. The National Weather Service declared that Texas is in its driest ten-month period ever on record with this summer officially usurping 1918 as the second worst drought in Texas history. And if this makes sense, the Texas state climatologist declared this the most severe one-year drought on record in Texas. Only the now infamous drought of 1950-1957 remains the most severe. No wonder Mother moved us all to Rhode Island

This drought and high temperatures are the primary cause for the massive wildfires that have ravaged much of west and north Texas (over three million acres to date). Texas A&M has conservatively estimated the damage to Texas crops at five billion dollars (US). Our frustration with the weather was seemingly punctuated by tropical storm (TS) Don which gave hope of a National Weather Service forecasted three-plus inches of rain to a parched southeast Texas on July 30. TS Don with its resplendent reds, oranges, yellow on Doppler radar aimed for Corpus Christi on the Texas Gulf coast. Texans rejoiced with hurricane parties in sincere appreciation of Mother Nature’s bounteous offerings.

Now you had to see this to believe it, but when TS Don hit the coast and the entrenched dome of high pressure over Texas, those resplendent Doppler effects within a two and one-half hour period literally fizzled to light greens to – nothing. Texans anticipating a respite from the state's historic drought, while disappointed, could only conjure memories of a good party.

So, the storms that rolled out of Oklahoma during these early morning hours are a Godsend to the drought withered Lone Star State though will only be around for a few more hours before we go back to a regimen of dry 100°+ heat and no rain. But, love it or hate it - that’s Texas

We wondered why other folks in the neighborhood weren’t dancing in the streets? The current temperature at West Yellowstone is 28° and it’s been snowing at the top of the Beartooths…

Aye,

Ned Buxton