Thursday, April 29, 2010

Confederate Memorial Day

A few weeks ago residents of the Union States found out that governor's of the Confederate States typically declare April Confederate History Month -- the whole flap in Virginia brought this to light. What has gone totally unreported is that most of the Confederate States have two Confederate related state holidays: Confederate Memorial Day and Jefferson Davis' Birthday. This past Monday (April 26) Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas observed Confederate Memorial Day. The other Confederate States celebrate the day on other dates.

Confederate sympathizers are quick to point out that the day has nothing to do with slavery -- it's merely about honoring the soldiers who fought and died for the Confederacy in the War of Northern Aggression Civil War. I suppose this would be like the German government creating a holiday called Wehrmacht Memorial Day which honors the soldiers who fought and died for the Third Reich, but of course, the holiday doesn't endorse the principals and objectives of the Third Reich.

Based on how there seemed to be no recognition by the general public of Confederate Memorial Day -- the only businesses closed were state offices; the were no major public observances; my co-workers had no clue that it was Confederate Memorial Day -- I think it's really just a tiny, but extremely vocal group of Southerners who not only cannot get over the War of Northern Aggression Civil War, but despite it having happened about 150 years ago, feel extremely victimized by the Union for not allowing the South to secede. They act as bitter and victimized as Poland still does about being invaded and slaughtered by the Germans and Russians, but in Poland's case, it's kinda justified. The whole victimization thing is what makes it so ridiculous. They just don't get that they were on the losing side of history.

And they're always trying to whitewash history by claiming that slavery was just one of many, many things that the War of Northern Aggression Civil War was fought over. Well, I decided do some historical research and see what some primary sources had to say. I found Message of Jefferson Davis to the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America which was delivered on April 29th, 1861 just a few blocks down the street from where I work.

Davis begins the speech by rambling on about state's rights. In the the fourth paragraph he talks about how slaves are crucial to the Southern economy:
[slave] labor had been so directed ... to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of the wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people; towns and cities had sprung into existence, and had rapidly increased in wealth and population under the social system of the South; the white population of the Southern slaveholding States had augmented from about 1,250,000 at the date of the adoption of the Constitution to more than 8,500,000 in 1860; and the productions of the South in cotton, rice, sugar, and tobacco, for the full development and continuance of which the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable, had swollen to an amount which formed nearly three-fourths of the exports of the whole United States and had become absolutely necessary to the wants of civilized man.
He then goes on to say:
With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North [outlawing slavery] to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced. With this view the legislatures of the several States invited the people to select delegates to conventions to be held for the purpose of determining for themselves what measures were best adapted to meet so alarming a crisis in their history ... In the exercise of a right so ancient, so well established, and so necessary for self-preservation, the people of the Confederate States, in their conventions, determined that the wrongs which they had suffered and the evils with which they were menaced required that they should revoke the delegation of powers to the Federal Government which they had ratified in their several conventions. They consequently passed ordinances resuming all their rights as sovereign and Independent States and dissolved their connection with the other States of the Union.
So there you have it. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, in his first message to the Confederate Congress recapping how they got to this point, says that the South seceded because the Federal Government was going to take away their slaves (which they viewed as their property) and that would be bad for their economy. Case closed.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

This is Alabama. We Speak English.

Not to be outdone by Arizona, one of the Republican Gubernatorial candidates here in Alabama is running a TV advertisement to appeal to the xenophobes (aka the Republican Party):

Everything about the add is ludicrous.

Claim: Offering the driver's exam in one language will save money.
Fact 1: The test is computerized and the state already paid to translate it years ago.
Fact 2: One of the key industries in the state is automobile manufacturing. Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz all have plants in the Alabama. Many foreign nationals working in the auto industry live in Alabama for long enough amounts of time that they need licenses but not long enough that they need to learn to speak English fluently.
Fact 3: The state could lose federal transportation funding if it only offered the test in English.

Also, when James calls himself a businessman, that reminds me of the Phil Hartman SNL Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer sketch where he would say something like: "I'm just a caveman. I fell on some ice and later got thawed out by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes the honking horns of your traffic make me want to get out of my BMW and run off into the hills, or wherever. Sometimes when I get a message on my fax machine, I wonder: 'Did little demons get inside and type it?' I don't know! My primitive mind can't grasp these concepts. But there is one thing I do know - when a man like my client slips and falls on a sidewalk in front of a public library, then he is entitled to no less than two million in compensatory damages, and two million in punitive damages."

But the best part of the ad, is when he looks down and pauses.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mosquito Fogging

Last night I saw my first mosquito fogging truck.

I tried to find an image of it online and this was the best I could find:

The truck I saw was put out a thick white mist. It looked more like this:

I'm sure that municipalities are careful about the pictures of the fogging trucks they post online.

I assume that chemical they spray with is somewhat safe -- if it was unsafe someone would have sued by now -- but it's been surprisingly difficult to find any information about it.

When googling, I noticed that some cities announce their fogging schedule, but all I could find on the Montgomery website was a one paragraph summary from 2008. I did find an old press release from the county that indicated that they spray with a chemical called BioMist 4+4. The fact sheet says not to get the stuff on your skin, and especially don't inhale it. I do actually have faith in government, even Montgomery city government -- I'd be really shocked if they are spraying with something dangerous, but then again, I suppose any kind of mosquito spray has to be somewhat toxic. So which is worse: West Nile Virus or BioMist 4+4?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Flying Perks

I wrote this a few weeks ago but never posted it because it isn't unique to the South. But I'm flying tomorrow, so I thought I'd resurrect it.

Every airline lets its customers who pay the most board the plane first. Delta has taken this to the point that they’ve jumped the shark (apparently they stole the idea from Continental, but I’ve never flown on that airline and seen for myself how they do it). On Delta flights, first class, business class, BusinessElite, SkyMiles Silver, Gold and Platinum Medallion members, SkyTeam Elite and SkyTeam Elite Plus all get to board the plane first via the “Breezeway.” Putting aside the fact that allowing so many people to pre-board cheapens that privilege, the whole concept of the Breezeway is ridiculous. It’s a four foot stanchion with a carpet on one side and a sign that indicates that the side with the carpet is the Breezay for all the above mentioned passengers, and that the other side is for general boarding.
As silly as that is, it gets worse. When I flew through Atlanta a few weeks ago, when general boarding was allowed to enter the plane, people were walking on the Breezway side of the stanchion. I know! The nerve of some people. The Delta agent working at the gate panicked, and blocked people from walking over the Breezway carpet and insisted that everyone had to walk on the general boarding side of the stanchion. I hope the carpet was burned – after the shoes of the general public had touched it, I don’t see how a first class or SkyMiles passenger could be expected to walk on it. I’ve checked, and sure enough, the dirt on the soles of general boarding passengers is dirtier than the dirt on first class shoes.

If airlines really want to include a pre-boarding perk that’s worth something, they should give everyone in first class a hand-job at the gate.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Double-A Baseball

Last night I went to my first Double-A baseball game – the Montgomery Biscuits vs. the Mobile BayBears. The Biscuits stadium seats approximately 7,000 and tickets go for $8 to $12. So every seat has a good view at a cost less than a movie ticket.

Even though it was the home opener with fireworks (which were surprisingly on par with the fireworks shows at Phillies games), it never appeared that the stadium was more than 80 percent full. By the 5th inning people began leaving – despite the score being tied – and by the end maybe 20 percent of the seats were still occupied. I’m thinking that the low ticket price actually hurts commitment to the team. For so little money I’m sure that people buy tickets and don’t feel like they’re out any money if they show up late, leave early, or never even attend.

As for the game, the pitching sucked which made it a three and a half hour war of attrition. As little as I know about baseball, the head cheerleader knows less. At one point he said, “We’re only two points down!”

The mid-inning entertainment was excellent. The highlight was a baby race. Two parents handed their 5 month old children over to cheerleaders and then walked to the end of a 25ft runway. The babies then raced to their parents. It was exploitive, but highly entertaining. Also noteworthy is that in addition to shooting hot dogs and T-shirts into the stands, they also fire biscuits.

Final score: Mobile 3-2 in 10 innings.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Yellow Dust and Biking Follow-up

There is so much pollen in the air down here that for the last two weeks everything is coated in a layer of yellow dust. A few days ago I sprayed my car with a hose because the pollen kept getting on my hand, but I quickly found out why no one bothers to clean their car in the spring -- by the next day it was recoated.

Surprisingly, my allergies down here are not as bad as they are in Philadelphia. Some of the trees that I'm allergic to are in my backyard, so my only explanation for my improved state is the cleaner air quality. In a city like Philadelphia, and especially New York, the air is so polluted that over the course of a day the pollution clings to your clothing -- your clothes end up smelling funky by the evening. That doesn't happen down here.

Biking Follow-up

After work today I biked farther into the heart of darkness. I was chased by not one, not two, not three, but four dogs (the last being a three legged dog). Apparently, some people haven't heard of an invisible fence. These dogs shot out off the property line and each chased me about a half a mile down county roads. And they were very fast -- even the three legged dog. Next time I'll need to bring a broom with me. I guess the owners aren't concerned about their dogs getting hit by a car.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Rural Cycling

Now that it's warm, I drove about 30 miles south of the Montgomery where civilization ends to bike (I don't like biking in cold weather). South of the city there are a network of county roads that no one ever drives on, the terrain is mostly flat, and the roads are in better shape than the ones in the city -- so it's ideal for biking.

Despite having spent time last night working on a route, when I got to my starting point, I just headed down a road without checking my map. After 30 minutes I realized that I must be on the wrong road or had gone past my turn. After consulting my iPhone, I learned that I wasn't going in the direction I intended. I was able to work out a new route and the rest of the ride was uneventful.

While there were a good bit of homes (mainly modular and ranch style), I maybe saw a car once every 5 minutes -- that was about the extent of signs of human activity. There was also an abundance of tiny churches.

Below are two videos of the roads: