Highway 431 Blog

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Siegelman On Air America ::

Thom Hartmann had Don Siegelman on for a lengthy discussion yesterday afternoon. You can find the podcast here. I thought that Siegelman acquitted himself very nicely!

note: I tried to embed the podcast, but the link seems to be wrong and I'm running out of time this morning to try to make it work. I'll try again this evening.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bud Cramer's Stash 'O Cash ;;

So, Bud is retiring with upwards of $1.5 mil in his campaign fund. As I recall he had roughly the same amount of cash sitting around during the 2006 campaign cycle and he ignored most, if not all, calls to spread the cash around other local and national Democratic campaigns which could have used some help so I'm interested in his plans for disbursing the left-overs. It's not like he can use the money to treat the entire city of Huntsville to lattes at Starbucks.

My feeling is that Parker Griffith will pretty much be able to hold his own in fund-raising, but Vivian Figures could definitely use some help in her run against "Beau The Embarrassment" Sessions. This could be interesting! Time for some more e-mails to Bud.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Happy Birthday

Harper Lee born on this day in 1926.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Evening ::

We're having another thunderstorm in south Madison County and, given the tenuousness of our power down here, I expect an outage at any time.

I'm afraid that I missed the Madison County Democratic Reunion yesterday. I got involved with yard work and planting some small trees and the time just got away from me. I checked the time and it was already 2:30 pm. I was disappointed but Mooncat covered the event very well with photographs.

I enjoy planting things and, over the years, I have found that I'm pretty good at it. I have a great time visiting nurseries whenever I have the time and I generally find myself buying small, immature plants which I can grow into large plants. The Greenery in the Hampton Cove area is one of my favorites and I have found another, D&D Greenhouses, very near me on Oak Grove Road in New Hope. The selection is not large, but the plants are very interesting and very reasonably priced. Last weekend I picked up an extremely nice Oxalis hanging basket for $12.88. D&D also houses a small hardware section. Visit it if you get a chance. From south Huntsville take Hobbs Island Road toward New Hope and take a right on Oak Grove Road. D&D will be about 1/2 mile down on the right. From Monte Sano take highway 431 south to Hobbs Island Road and turn right on Hobbs Island Road and travel down to Oak Grove where you will take a left. There is a D&D sign prominent at this intersection.

I'll post some plant pictures soon!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Text Of Scott Horton's Remarks At UAH ::

Here is the PDF file courtesy of Lynda Haynes of North Alabama Media Reform.

I'll have some more to say about local print media soon!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Madison County Democratic Meet-Up ::

I had almost forgotten that the spring meet-up is tomorrow (Saturday) April 26 at the Huntsville Depot. I plan to be there and scarf up all of the personalized campaign emery boards offered by the candidates! Can anyone explain why these are favored give-aways?

I missed last years get-together, but I plan to attend tomorrow. I spoke with former Gov. Siegelman at the Scott Horton event last Tuesday evening and specifically asked him if he planned to attend tomorrow and he said that he was not aware of the meet-up and had no plans to attend, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him given the importance of his local support.

Hope to see you there!

[update] The time is from 1pm 'til 4pm. More information is here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Scott Horton In Huntsville ::

Scott Horton, adjunct professor of law at Columbia University and prolific writer, was in Huntsville yesterday evening to present a talk titled “Watchdogs or Lapdogs, Politics and the Alabama Press”, and the evening turned out to be much more interesting than I had ever anticipated given the persons in attendance. Let’s see: we had Don Siegelman, subject of much of Horton’s recent writings along with a related cast including Dana Jill Simpson and Eddie Curran, a Mobile Press Register writer who seems to have been instrumental in offering up Siegelman for prosecution. Curran was, to put it mildly, in a combative mood while encircled by a hostile crowd! Curran seems to have had a distorted view of what this forum offered and several times challenged Horton, much to the displeasure of the crowd. Much of the time was taken up with discussion of the malfeasance of Alice Martin, the U.S. District Attorney for north Alabama and the lack of local Alabama press coverage. I'm not going to go into a long narrative of the night's events. For that I recommend Left In Alabama which also has some video.

I came away from the event with the thought that someone should sponsor a symposium: something of a debate of the press coverage of controversial events in the state of Alabama. I was interested that The Huntsville Times' John Ehinger was in attendance, but declined to make any statements regarding the night's topic. I thought that this was more than a bit cowardly, but I was not terribly surprised.

At the evening's end I was able to spend a few moments with Scott Horton offering my thanks for his efforts in keeping the Siegelman story alive and offering my thoughts that I will miss hiatus from blogging.

[note] I'm typing this on my ancient laptop which drives me nuts. The keyboard, at times, seems to have a mind of its own. The upside to all of the frustration is that I can sit on my back porch on such a wonderful evening as this and enjoy the twilight without being tethered to my desktop.

Democrats meet at the roundhouse this Saturday! I'll be there and I hope that you will be also!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Scott Horton At UAH

Please don't forget about this. I plan to be there and I anticipate a really good turnout. All I have to do is find the building!

"Watchdogs or Lap Dogs? Politics and the Alabama Press," Scott Horton, writer for Harper's magazine and Columbia Law School adjunct professor, sponsored by North Alabama Media Reform, UAH Communication Arts and Political Science Departments, Alabama A&M University Political Science Department, at UAH Shelby Center, 7 p.m., free, northalabamamediareform.org or 489-3884.

Actually, I think I have been to the Shelby Center, but it was several years ago. I'll get someone to point me in the right direction!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Finally, Some Life From The Figures Campaign!

I got this in my inbox yesterday:

As a lifelong committed Democrat and an Alabama State Senator for the past 11 years, I have announced my candidacy for the United States Senate. I Believe that it is time to give this seat back to the people by putting our children, our seniors and our veterans first, providing affordable health care to all Americans and working for a stable economy.

I have been very active over the past few months speaking to many audiences across this great state spreading my message of inspiration and unity. To win the Democratic nomination on June 3, it is imperative that I have the support of people like you who Believe that Alabama deserves better.

Our polling data shows that my campaign will be successful if we are able to raise the necessary funds to get my message out to the voters via literature, yard signs, advertising and other media. Our goal is to raise $500,000 by May 31, 2008. If you can contribute $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford, we would be most appreciative.

I ask you to Believe with me that together we can make a difference and give Alabama what it deserves, bold, visionary leadership. Please go to www.actblue.com/page/figures08 and you will be able to donate to my campaign today.

I also would like to ask that you forward this email to everyone in your address book and ask them to do the same. I promise to make you proud when you send me to Washington, D.C. as your next United States Senator from Alabama.

Peace and blessings,

Vivian Davis Figures

I would have preferred that she had begun an active campaign much earlier, but we still have approximately 7 months left until November. I am going to toss a few bucks her way in hopes that she can at least put a scare into the incumbent embarrassment!

Mmmm, I just remembered the Dem spring get-together scheduled for next Saturday at the Depot. Does anyone know whether nor not Figures will be there?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Food Prices In North Alabama ::

Accepting that, in many respects, our food prices are tied to the cost of petroleum , I am dismayed about the price of food when I visit the local grocery stores, but I am beginning to worry more and more about the future availability. I was listening to NPR on the trip home this afternoon and one topic was how world exports of food are not only drying up, but also increasing exponentially in price with the example of rice, in certain areas of the world, more than doubling in price/ton in the past few months.

Most people fixate on the rise in transportation cost as well as the cost of fuel for farm equipment, but they overlook the fact that fertilizer products are also derived from petroleum, so the increase in the price of oil continues to increase in hidden ways throughout our economy.

Decades ago much of our produce was grown on family garden plots or, at least, locally. Now almost all of our food in grown on large corporate farms and very few of us would know how to grow our own food.

Madison County has a wonderful farmer's market and I visit it often, but I doubt that the growers represented there would be able to supply the food needs of the population of the local area. When I was a little guy staying with my grandparents in rural South Carolina we planted a garden of approximately 1 acre each year and this garden produced enough food for us for an entire year. There was a school nearby which also operated a community cannery during the summer and all excess produce was canned for use during the winter. When my grandfather died in 1975 and the house and land were sold we moved everything from the house. We had a wood closet (at some time I will post about remembering the outhouse and baths in the kitchen in a washtub on Saturday night) where the cans of food were stored. I was probably 27 years old when we cleaned out the closet and we found dated home canned tins which were produced in 1947, the year I was born.

My point is that, for the most part, we, as individuals, are incapable of producing our own food in any sort of quantity to meet our needs, and this worries me!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Is It Art, Or Is It Junk?" ::

The headline is from today's Huntsville Times regarding the city of Huntsville's proposed actions against Wade Whorton and his yard. I have never met Mr. Whorton, but I first came across his house, which is in an extremely obscure location in the city, a couple of years ago and immediately wanted to photograph it. I have yet to have the time when I would consider the light to be right, but I guess that I will have to make the trip soon: possibly as soon as this weekend. Here are some snippets from the Times article:

Wade Wharton's house is easy to spot. Drive south on Triana Boulevard, take a left on Nassau Drive and keep going. You'll pass a dozen or so houses, but be patient. You can't miss it.

At the end of the street, there on your right, is what Wharton's been working on since 2001. For more than seven years, Wharton, 70, has been transforming discarded materials into pieces of art...


There's a Japanese-inspired bridge made out of an old trampoline. There's a disassembled Volkswagen Beetle crafted into the shape of a monkey. And, scattered around his property, are tire irons, shovel blades and transmission flywheels that Wharton has refashioned into flowers.

"Another man's trash is my treasure," Wharton said.

But not everyone sees the beauty in Wharton's art.

"We call it junk," said Bob Rushbrook, the code enforcement supervisor for the City of Huntsville's Department of Community Development.

In January, one of Rushbrook's agents gave Wharton an official notice to clean up the property.

Let me say at this point that several years ago, when I lived within the city limits of Huntsville, I had some interaction with this department due to a truck which was not running, but which had a flat tire. Didn't matter that I was working on the truck to get it running: A couple of trips to court and a used tire solved the problem, but I can attest to the tenacity of Huntsville's Department of Community Development. On with the story:

Is it art?

Wharton, who's lived in the same southwest Huntsville home for more than 40 years, said he doesn't remember why he started decorating his yard.

But he knows where his artistic abilities originated. Wharton had a stroke in 1974, and it changed how he looked at objects. He started whittling, which led to painting, drawing, gardening, creating stained glass and writing poetry.

In 2001, Wharton began adding items to his yard like the movable, metal praying mantis and the bright, pink bug on top of his roof.

This all reminds me of the fiasco of local businesses being forced to paint over outside murals relating to their business because these murals happened to violate some obscure ordinance which no one knew about, but here's some more:

Some of Wharton's art pieces are similar to the metal work of Alabama folk/outsider artist Charlie Lucas of Selma. Lucas, like Wharton, uses discarded materials. But Lucas, who has been featured on "All Things Considered" on National Public Radio, has been called a "visionary folk artist" and has shown his work around the world...


It's Wharton's ingenuity, creativity and mechanical know-how that impressed Dan Halcomb, the deputy director of The Arts Council, Inc.

Halcomb, who took the tour on a recent Monday, called some of the pieces "smart" and "incredible."

"There are several pieces there within the garden that I think belong in a museum," Halcomb said. "It's good outsider art." ("Outsider art" is typically produced by self-taught artists who have little or no contact with the established art world.),
But Halcomb made it clear he was speaking from an artistic standpoint, and not about code violations.

"Here's someone that's thinking outside the box and being endlessly creative," Halcomb said. "To me, it's just fascinating."

Aesthetics, values, rights

We have this very nice museum occupying space down at Big Spring Park, but here is what the city's agent has to say about Mr. Whorton's art:

After an inspection of Wharton's property in January, his art was deemed junk.

"If it is art, then the landfill is a museum," Rushbrook said flatly.

Every so often I drive throught the neighorhood expressly to see Mr. Wharton's yard and I take great delight in seeing his yard. I have never stopped in simply because I never met Mr. Wharton and I had no idea just how he might react to my wanting to photograph his yard and I'm happy to see that he is very open to visitors. In fact, I might make this a part of my observance of Earth Day next Saturday.

I do plan to offer what support I can to Mr. Wharton's artistic endeavours and I sincerely hope that there is an outpouring of community support!


Although it doesn't feel much like spring outside this morning I can tell that my favorite season of the year has arrived. I put up my Hummingbird feeders a couple of days ago and saw my first bird earlier this morning. The trees are putting out their new leaves and I have baby birds nesting on my front porch.

I have two fairly large windchimes out front and, for some reason, little swifts seem to like building their nests atop the chimes so I can stand at the kitchen window and watch the nesting progress.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cramer Endorses Parker Griffith! ::

I'm happy to see that Bud jumped off the fence and took a position. I was beginning to worry about who he might ultimately endorse, but I'm wondering just how far his support will go. The last time I checked, Cramer was sitting on around $1.7 mil in his war chest. I hope that he spreads this around in this election cycle to worthy Democratic challengers wherever they may be!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Shooting Range At Columbia High School Opens ::

I first heard of the plans to build a shooting range at Columbia High back in December and posted some thoughts here.

My mind has not been changed and I still think that opening a firearms range in a high school is a terrible idea although I now see more details about the program such as the rifles are single shots firing .177 caliber pellets. Here are some snippets from The Huntsville Times article:

First, to dispel one possible fear, local JROTC programs use single-shot, .177-caliber air rifles, not high-powered rifles. Students use flat-headed pellets, not bullets.

Linda Haynes of the North Alabama Peace Network isn't convinced school ranges are safe.

"We need to be teaching conflict resolution skills rather than teaching (students) a violent skill, giving them something to commit violence," Haynes said.

For Haynes, whose group campaigns against war and violence, it's the idea of teens using guns that's bothersome. "I'm floored that they're doing that at that age."

But Hobbs and other JROTC instructors say precautions and training minimize the chance of injury.

Hobbs said he will recruit a shooting team this fall when the range opens. He said no student will be allowed inside the range before acing a safety test, demonstrating maturity and getting fit.

"There's going to be a lot of pushups done on this sidewalk before anybody goes in there," Hobbs said in front of the range, behind the school.

Safety first

I was also unaware that there are shooting ranges at Grissom, Johnson, Lee, Sparkman, and Buckhorn. I have to say that I find that shooting ranges of any sort are incorporated into a high school atmosphere to be disturbing. I went through ROTC in college and 4 years of military service in the U.S. Navy without ever firing a weapon!

I'm genuinely surprised and amazed that the presence of shooting ranges in high schools doesn't generate more concern.

Let me also say that I am the owner of a .177 caliber pellet rifle although I have not had any pellets for probably 8 years!