Friday, December 29, 2006

Justice, Not Revenge

This post is written in memory and honor of the thousands of Kurds, other Sunnis, Shites, Christians, Jews, political opponents, potential political opponents, those mistakenly identified as political opponents, and passersby, whose lives were cut short and the millions whose lives were shattered by the actions of a troubled, abused, little boy who became the ruthless, heartless, bloodthirsty dictator of Iraq.

I take no pleasure in the death of any man, even this one. His is a tragic life that begat tragedy for millions including his own offspring. But justice is being done, perhaps as I write. His trial may not have been perfect, but he received ample opportunities to present his defense, opportunities his victims did not have. He was never a devout Muslim and does not represent anyone but himself. I suspect, outside perhaps his own family, very few will mourn him.

But neither should we rejoice. This meting out of justice should be done with dignity and solemnly. Democracies do not deal in revenge. They do not kill with joy. They hold every human life precious. Any blogger who taunts the dictator, his family, or his pathetic followers grants undeserved credence to the tyrant's accusations that his legitimate prosecution is actually persecution or revenge.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tomorrow Begins Today!

"Americans have to be patriotic about something besides war."
-John Edwards

Our party is blessed with lots of outstanding Presidential possibilities for 2008. Clark, Obama, Clinton, Biden, Vilsack, Richardson, Kerry... and there's always the chance Gore, Warner, or Bayh might change their minds. For now I'm rooting for Senator John Edwards. Today he made his campaign for President official. I wish him well. I still hold out hopes that Al Gore will join the fray but, barring that, John Edwards is my choice. He will make a wonderful leader. His charisma, his groundedness, his leadership, his sensitivity, his vision, can help reclaim for America the prestige, the unity, the optimism, that has been squandered during the last six years.

Main points in his platform include:
  • reestablish America's leadership role in the world
  • guarantee health care for every single American
  • strengthen our middle class and fight poverty
  • lead the fight against global warming
  • break our addiction to oil

Cold Flute has more on Edwards announcement.

Washington Post story on the announcement.

The John Edwards website.

An added advantage for Edwards is Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Edwards!!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Mercenary for Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford died last night, the oldest living President in history, recently passing Reagan, who had passed Hoover already this decade. His passing brought to mind the few minutes I spent as a mercenary in the Ford campaign of 1976.

During the 1976 Presidential Praimary I was handed a little ethical decision. The local support group for President Gerald Ford gave me a photo and the words they wanted on a full-page ad in our little weekly newspaper, Broadside. I was an outspoken supporter of former Governor Jimmy Carter. I accepted the ad, and designed the most attractive ad I could manage for Ford. I thought it my duty to give the Republicans the best ad I could design given the content they presented me.

Meanwhile the Carter supporters in Rome also bought an ad, but gave us no leeway in its design, we printed it as it came to us (ugh!). So I had the displeasure of printing an attractive ad (I thought) for Ford whom I opposed and an unattractive ad (I thought) for Carter, whom I supported.

At least I was able as an editor to publish my column in support of the man from Plains.

(Click on the pic if you are curious about my 30 year old editorial.)

Ford’s opponent in the primary, of course, was the former actor and governor of California, Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s supporters also bought an ad in that edition of Broadside.

Floyd County ended up presenting Carter 79% of the vote in the Democratic primary. Reagan won the much smaller GOP primary with 63%.

I always admired Gerald Ford for his integrity and gentlemanly conduct. He supported many environmental protections that are anathema to the current Republican Party. He was the last Republican nominee to support a woman’s right to abort an unwanted pregnancy. He was a moderate Republican, left of Reagan but right of Rockefeller. Nowadays he would be considered a liberal Republican, I think. I believe he was motivated by real concern for the country in pardoning Nixon. I once thought it the right decision, but now wonder if a trial would have better clarified the crimes of Nixon and helped to prevent some of the excesses we lament now.

Here are some other reactions to President Ford's death:
President Ford did not agree with Bush's Invasion of Iraq

Oh!pinion on Gerald Ford

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas!
We spent much of Saturday the 16th getting up the Christmas wreaths and lights, so I took a picture. (I first posted this Dec. 16, but I am changing the date to Christmas day.)

Please check out my Top Ten Christmas Memories posted a year ago.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

An Old Tradition and a New One

One of my favorite activities at Christmastime is taking 30 minutes to meditate on the meaning of the event as I stand in our annual Nativity Scene at Trinity United Methodist Church. My family usually stands in the scene on Christmas Eve, but this Christmas Eve I will be busy fetching my eldest from the Atlanta airport. So we took our turn tonight. Our shift included the following cast: Joseph - me; Mary - Sheila; Angels - daughter Lillian and Niece Nora; Wise Guy, er... Man- Sheila's brother Jim, Shepherd - Jim's wife, Sally. The picture above was a little earlier when Joseph and Mary were portrayed by a more age-appropriate pair - my nephew Jonathan and his friend Morgan.

Yesterday my family and Jim's participated in what I hope will become a tradition. The Three Rivers Singers, an orchestra of local musicians, and four wonderful soloists from the Shorter and Berry college faculties, led a community "Handel's Messiah Sing-a-Long". Though I have sung parts of the Messiah before, it's been many years and I did not add much to the choruses from my seat in the back balcony of the wonderfully acoustical Berry College Chapel. What a marvelous concert and how wonderful that the audience could join in those inspiring choruses.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Happy Birthday, Beth!

I tried to upload these pics a little before midnite so they'd be actually on your b'day, Baby Sister, but Blogger wouldn't take 'em. Some sort of conspiracy, I suspect.

Happy Belated Birthday, Beth! Yours is the first original birthday I remember in our family. I actually remember that Sunday and proudly announcing your birth to my grade school class. (I remember when Debi was sick as an infant, but not her birth.)

OK, Blogger still doesn't like your pictures, Beth.

Ta-dah!! Finally!! Ain't she sweet?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Teacher's Life

I have the privilege of going to work at something I enjoy, most mornings. I teach fourth grade children. What a hoot!

Part of the joy of teaching, for a ham like this ol' boy, is having an appreciative audience 180 days a year. I love to tell stories, read aloud, guide tours, sing, clown around, and generally show out.

Here are a few of my show-out moments of the school year:

I lead the students in singing our special birthday song to students during lunch. It is the simple chorus of the song "Cut The Cake".
It makes me think of the good old days
Happy birthday to you
You sure grew out of your baby ways
Happy birthday to you
It's your (7th 23rd, 92nd) birthday
we wish you many more
Health and wealth and friends by the score
Cut the cake and let's eat some more
Happy birthday to you
I learned it from Ed Kilbourne. It has also been recorded by John McCutcheon. It was written by Tina Lisa Jones. Often our entire class will march solemnly into a neighboring classroom room to sing the song for the teacher. I introduce it with a flourish commemorating the anniversary in the most flowery style i can muster.

We also sing songs for the Water Cycle, the Cummutative Properties of Addition and Multiplication, and Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, among others.

I often speak in dialect and pretend to be the explorer we are studying in Social Studies or a mad scientist investigating the topic at hand in our science class.

The school calls on me often to tell stories at special events. Afterwards I am happy but drenched in sweat and worn to a frazzle.

My afterschool duties include calling students to their parents' cars via walkie talkie. I am incapable of performing that task in a businesslike voice. Instead I have to entertain. "Julie Grobesmidt, your Mama thinks you're number one!" "Henry Pomegranite, your chariot awaits at number 2!" etc. I'm sure the rest of the staff would like to stuff a sock in my mouth.

There are several books that I read aloud to my kids every year.

First is The Lion's Paw by Robb White, my favorite children's book. One of my favorite moments of the school year is reading the climactic scene of that book. You could hear a pin drop as the kids hang on every word. Then during the resolution, when a character reaches down to pick up a Lion's Paw seashell off the littered floor of the sloop's cabin, I bend and pretend to pick up the shell I've hidden in my hand, and relish the "Wow!s" and "Ooh!s" and the "Is it real, Mr. Shaw?s"

No Christmas season would be complete without reading Barbara Robinson's beautiful little book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

When the wild-haired foxhound Bristle Face (by Zachary Ball) gets tangled in the widow's bloomers hanging from the clothesline, the kids roar with laughter. When the panther springs our hearts turn over. And when we face the dog's death, teacher and students fight lumps in our throats.

What is your favorite memory of school?
What is your favorite children's book?

I have previously touched on some of my school memories:

Alien Invasion

Cousins, Rice, Sea Legs, and Multiplication

Aslan Is Dead!

Pottermania & Children's Books

Spare the Rod, Icabod!

My more serious cohort, Mike Bock has written:

The Education Of John Adams

Schools That Would Make Stalin Happy

School of the Future

Friday, December 15, 2006

'Possums, Again!

The neighbor's cat food was disappearing faster and faster. Finally he surprised the thief. It took off, waddling swiftly toward our house... and under! When he let me know of the new resident I visited the Lavendar Mountain Hardware and made a $70 contribution toward their Merry Christmas and came home with a Hav-A-Hart trap. I set it with dogfood for bait near the spot the varmint had last been seen, fully expecting to catch as many cats as 'possums. Day after day the bait disappeared magically, but no critter was caught.

Then, as I drank my coffee on Monday morning last, I heard what I took to be an angry feline. "Oh, no! I've finally caught a cat!" I assumed. I nearly spilled the coffee when I bent over the cage and found a hissing 'possum instead. Already late to work, I left him incarcerated for the day.

That evening I placed the trap on the back of the truck, and drove to the PTO meeting at school -- several of my students were delighted to ogle my captive.

Afterwards I drove around to the entrance to the school's nature trail and opened the cage. I figured the huge Berry College woodland preserve behind the school would give the feller his best chance to postpone his roadkill destiny.

After considerable coaxing the critter plummeted into darkness down the trail.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Democrats Must Engage the Grass Roots

I was recently appointed to chair the “Grass Roots Committee” for The Montgomery County Democratic Party. Montgomery County has 540 precincts, over 300,000 voters and over 35,000 registered Democrats -- so there are a lot of “grass roots” to consider. I set the goal for myself to write a blog about what goals this “Grass Roots Committee” should seek to accomplish, and what plan of action the committee should recommend to the Executive Committee. I decided that I would write the blog as a letter to the chair of The Montgomery County Democratic Party -- and send this letter to the chair as a means to start a conversation with him and the rest of the Executive Committee about ideas for possible implementation. I thought that I would have a completed blog this week, but I am not nearly finished. My goal now is to finish by next week. This is how the letter begins:

How Do We Inspire Democrats to Leadership?

The "Grass Roots Committee" has as it main goal the task of creating and outlining a plan, that, if implemented, will result in many more Democrats becoming active and effective participants in our Party.

This main goal can be divided into sub-goals. Here are three sub-goals; I would like our committee to make a plan to:
  1. Create an e-mail directory of all the Democrats in this county.
  2. Fill the position of precinct captain in each precinct with an individual who is committed to active participation in the Party.
  3. Inspire each precinct captain to engage in productive grassroots’ work in his or her precinct at least 3 hours each week, each week of the year.
My thought is that success with the "grass roots" will be determined by the quality and commitment of leadership at the "grass roots" level. Montgomery County Democrats need to develop and empower a core group of "grass roots" leaders and each of these leaders need to make an extraordinarily high level of personal committment to make their leadership effective. Think of what three hours each week, every week, by 540 individuals could accomplish. It would be amazing. This is a big goal, but I think that it is a goal that is actually doable. Certainly we can find a plan that would inspire and engage 540 Democrats in this county to make an extraordinary effort. Finding leaders -- allowing and encouraging leaders to emerge -- is our most important task, and at the heart of a successful "grass roots" program. The key word to finding leaders, it seems to me, is the word, inspire.

What would inspire potential leaders to accept leadership and to commit to an extraordinary level of personal involvement? My thought is that we could inspire Democrats to new levels of leadership and commitment -- if we could implement the right plan. Aspects of a plan that could motivate and inspire, I believe, would include giving Democrats the opportunity to: 1) become involved in personally engaging activities, 2) identify with and participate in a meaningful community of like-minded citizens and 3) contribute to the success of a meaningful purpose. The fact that Montgomery County is a battleground county in a battleground state is one basis for inspiration, one basis for defining meaningful purpose.

This letter will outline one plan of action that I would like the "Grass Roots Committee" to further study and develop.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

What is moderate politics? Victory at Sea. Benchmarks!

Perusing the blogs...

Check out The Moderate Voice today. Joe tackles the question: What is moderate politics?

While you're at it, stop by S.W. Anderson's Oh!pinion, where S.W. remembers "Victory at Sea". Don't miss the comments.

Well over a year ago John Kerry proposed a withdrawal from Iraq based on stated "benchmarks". Now we learn that Donald Rumsfeld, two days before Bush relieved him, proposed a similar plan. Craig at Donkey Path has more.

Baptism by Water and Fire

December 3rd has rolled around again. This one marks the twentieth anniversary of my father's sudden death. I wrote about that last December.

One of my favorite memories of childhood was gathering with a sister or two or three in Daddy's little outbuilding study/office in our backyard at 333 South Ninth Street in Griffin, Ga. and listening as Daddy told tales of his youth. Especially the story of the harrowing day when he (above, left) and younger brother James (above, right) went skinny-dipping in the Yellow River. (Daddy, like all great storytellers, never let inconvenient facts interfere with a good story. Apples don't fall far from the tree.)

Daddy Shaw had taken the boys down to the river before. And he had given his sons stern instructions to never come there on their own.

But this day was hot. And the call of friends and cool water was too enticing to ignore. So Bud and Jim found themselves following the tracks toward the river just to check things out.

And there came the Dinky.

The narrow gauge rail line that served Callaway Mills and its little mill community, Milstead, was aptly named. It only traveled the three miles to and from Conyers. It traveled narrow rails. And it had a little engine. It may have been the inspiration for the Little Engine That Could. It was a dinky lil' train. But it hauled huge loads of cotton to the mill and huge loads of finished cloth away to waiting bigger engines in Conyers.

That day Hub Doyle (the elder Hub) was at the engine. Seeing Grady's boys headed toward the river he hollered that he would tell their Daddy what they were up to. Folks looked out for each other's kids in that close knit little town and everybody knew the barber with the mischievous boys (eventually five of them). Bud and Jim were caught.

Grady Shaw at his barber shop, much later (early 60s)

James sized up the situation quickly. They might as well have a swim, he announced, since they were gonna be in trouble anyway. Charles soon agreed and they slid down the embankment toward the swimming hole. Each found a tree for an undressing spot, left their garments in two heaps and were soon swinging wildly over the pool on the rope swing attached high in a sycamore and cannonballing a dozen peers in the muddy waters of the Yellow River. As the afternoon splashed by, the revelling boys hardly noticed the darkening skies, faraway thunders, and gradually rising and hurrying currents. They were surprised to eventually find themselves all alone in the swirling pool.

"We better head home!" shouted Bud as he slipped and struggled by sycamore root up the muddy red clay bank in the now pelting rain. Hearing no reply he looked back to see his little brother stuggling against the current and getting nowhere in a hurry. Charles dove back into the swift water, grabbed Jim by the neck, and awkwardly dog-paddled toward the bank. He and the sputtering Jim managed to hoist themselves up the bank, race to their respective trees, and climb into their overalls just as a blitzkrieg of lightning split a tulip poplar that crashed with additional thunder directly between the two boys.

Scrambling through the tangled branches Jim grabbed his brother's hand and they scurried home, happy to be alive and willing to accept whatever punishment awaited them.

The boys had had their share of well-deserved whalings. But this time Daddy Shaw perceived that a lesson had been learned and took a pass on any further discipline. Jim and Bud wouldn't soon chance an illegal dip in the Yellow River. That particular sin had been washed away by a baptism of water and fire that they would never forget.

James with their youngest brother, Jack, near the scene of the crime.