Saturday, July 30, 2005

Battle Royal in Ohio's 2nd Congressional Dist.

There will be an important special election in Ohio this Tuesday for Rob Portman's congressional seat. Portman got appointed by El Presidente as U.S. Trade Representative. His district has been heavily and dependably Republican for decades. It stretches up the Ohio from Cincinnati, where decaying industrial towns still vote against their economic interests out of pure habit. Some of the counties in this district went for Bush/Cheney in 2004 by over 70 percent.

Ought to be a shoo-in for any Republican who can walk and chew gum, right? The Republican candidate is a woman to boot, Jean Schmidt, a former member of the Ohio House of Representatives and head of the Cincinnati Right to Life. Not a hair out of place, in that Republican femme way. Shoo-in.

But wait. The Democrat running against her, Paul Hackett, is a blunt-talking Marine who has seen active duty in both Iraq wars of the presidents Bush. He is described by one Ohio newspaper that endorsed him as "a libertarian Democrat" who "doesn't seem to have much use for the orthodoxy, or the partisanship, of either party. He doesn't want the government telling him what kinds of guns he can own, nor does he want it interfering in family or medical decisions or taking away civil liberties in the name of fighting terror." He likes to note that, if elected, he would be the only member of Congress with direct military service in Iraq.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has dumped more than $500,000 at the last minute into "slime" TV ads attacking Hackett. The most amazing thing about this ad buy was an admission made by Carl Forti, Republican committee spokesman: "What prompted the committee's entry into the Schmidt-Hackett race was a comment made by Hackett in a USA Today article published Thursday. Hackett, talking about his service as a marine in Iraq, is quoted as saying, 'I've said I don't like the son-of-a-b--- that lives in the White House. But I'd put my life on the line for him.' Because Hackett said that, Forti said, 'we decided to bury him.' "

Remarkable. It was the French that invented the term "lese majeste," which means literally "an offense to majesty," an insult to the king, for which there was a follow-up prescription: "Off with his head!" When did El Presidente morph into Louis XIV? Is Karl Rove channeling Cardinal Richelieu?

For his part, Hackett ain't pulling his punches, and he shows an effective talent for getting under Madame Schmidt's skin. He whipped her pretty decisively in at least one debate, making a huge point that Schmidt, since winning her Republican primary, had gone all stealthy on her extreme anti-abortion position: "Hackett seized upon Schmidt's reluctance to assert the vehemence of her anti-abortion stance. He pushed the need to fund preventive education and said that, until there are no unwanted pregnancies, abortion should remain legal, safe and rare. Hackett managed to make the pro-choice position seem manly and obvious, dominating a debate that Republicans almost always rhetorically win."

And check out this scene from the end of that same debate: "Once the debate ended, Hackett dramatically took off his sport coat to reveal sweat stains across his blue Oxford shirt. He raised his drenched arms, as if in victory, and grinned widely, connecting with the laughing crowd, who shared his sense of deflated tension."

Looks and sounds like a winner, now don't he? No wonder the National Republican Congressional Committee is dropping a half-mil on his head.

But even the most sanguine observers say it's still the longest of long shots. Our guru of Wall Street, Billmon, doesn't think he has a prayer, though he sent him $50 anyway.

Win or lose, Hackett's demeanor and bravery ought to be on the study list for every other Democratic congressional candidate in the country, especially the ones who think they can be "nice" and get into office. His forthright talk about abortion rights, as the only "manly" position to take, is especially worth studying.

Check out his web site:

Friday, July 29, 2005

Charlie Taylor ... Smells Like Fish

Rep. Charlie Taylor of Brevard claims he tried to vote NO on CAFTA but that he somehow used an out-of-date voting card, or that his voting card malfunctioned, or Gremlins in the voting machine ate his vote, or...

People jumped on that alibi and began dismantling it immediately. Read Chris Kromm on the latest developments and make up your own mind about the lies and the lying liars who tell them.

Charlie Taylor is plainly CAUGHT in the act.

Robin Hayes, Charlie Taylor ... Doofuses on Parade

News is out all over that two North Carolina congressmen are responsible for the passage of CAFTA ... Robin Hayes and Charlie Taylor. Hayes just plain flip-flopped under pressure. Taylor failed to vote, and his promised "no," along with Hayes' promised "no," would have sunk it.

Hayes, a frail reed on which to balance a sacred honor, had previously bragged "I am flat-out, completely, horizontally opposed to CAFTA," and "It's not in the best interests of the core constituency I represent," and "Every time I drive through Kannapolis and I see those empty plants, I know there is no way I could vote for CAFTA."

A little arm-twisting later, Hayes completely changed his mind (such as it is).

Meanwhile, Taylor didn't vote and is scrambling to claim that he did vote NO but that the machine malfunctioned. That's a "dog ate my homework" excuse, and we trust that in the N.C. 11th District the people won't buy it. Taylor has a real viable opponent in 2006 already, former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler of Waynesville, who may remind voters that Taylor couldn't accomplish even the most basic functions of his job in D.C. -- i.e., VOTING on a bill that has a direct impact on his constituents.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

If We're Going To Be Less Safe, Let's at Least Be More Manipulated

The FBI admitted yesterday in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that it's further behind -- FURTHER BEHIND -- in translating "terrorism intelligence" than it was when 9/11 happened. Currently some 8,300 hours of untranslated "material," which might include a few hot plans in the old town tonight, is just sitting there. Plus the Bureau admitted that the long-promised overhaul of its computer system will not be completed until 2009 at the earliest.

Whatever else El Presidente has been doing in Iraq, fighting terrorism is demonstrably NOT at the top of the agenda.

Jon Stewart did a segment last night on "The Daily Show" about newspeak in the Bush administration ... their changing the rhetoric from "the global war on terror" to "the global struggle against extremism" ... based (the truth is bound to come out) on this article in Tuesday's NYTimes.

"Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end, we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it .... The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought as we understand it now." George Orwell, 1984

Let's Just Get It Over With

A second article in as many days mining the John Roberts papers from his days as a Reagan administration lawyer fills one with the promise of tomorrow: let's just get it over with and do away with women's abortion rights. Then maybe these 20-year-old college women, who think they're Republicans, can reap what they've been voting for. 'Course, many of them will have parents rich enough to fly them out of the country if need be, so they'll hardly notice and certainly won't care.

Let's just go ahead and say there's no constitutional wall between church and state. Then we can start swearing candidates and voters alike to a qualifying oath: "I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ..." 'Bout time.

Let's just go ahead and admit that a president's powers should be limitless when he says -- with no particular verifiable evidence -- that he's protecting us from terror.

Let's just go ahead and throw out all those ways that government regulates business. Shouldn't be infringing the freedom of corporations to make a buck any way they can.

Let's just do it. We're sick of watching the mission creep, particularly that part of it which involves fellow Democrats as willing handmaidens of the rich and powerful. Let's just get it over with and see if there's still any democracy left, or if the people are so anesthetized by TV that they don't even notice.

If it's inevitable, let's just do it. Let's see if that shoe fits.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Turd Blossom Gets Ink

It's well known in the blogosphere that El Presidente's nickname for Karl Rove is "Turd Blossom." But when Gary Trudeau used it in "Doonesbury" this week, a small uproar broke out at a few daily papers that carry the strip. In Tuesday's strip, Bush and an aide are lamenting the problems the administration has had over allegations that Rove leaked the name of a CIA officer to reporters.

Bush says, "Karl's sure been earnin' his nickname lately."

The unnamed aide says, "Boy Genius? I'm not so sure sir..."

Bush then says, "Hey Turd Blossom! Get in here."

The Providence (R.I.) Journal removed the term entirely from the last panel. The Kansas City Star removed the strip entirely.

But it's pefectly acceptable West Texas lingo. My mother, who never cussed, used "turd" as a wholly descriptive and necessary enumerator of the things of our rural world. The (ahem) tasty irony here is that it takes a turd for a turd blossom to bloom out of, and who but El Presidente himself has provided the fertilizer for Rove's inflorescence?

The Opinions of John Roberts

Very generous samplings here (from the WashPost) and here (from the NYTimes) of the legal memos John Roberts wrote in the 1980s as a 20-something hiree in Ronald Reagan's Department of Justice ... if you've got a stomach for it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Foxx Rolling In It

The Charlotte Observer on Sunday reported that U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx has raised more than $400,000 this year from at least 650 individuals and that she has over $300,000 in the bank for her reelection. There'll be more to come. Enough to hide her record from every voter in the Fifth Congressional District?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Six Big Adjectives in Search of a Noun

From today's NYTimes: "John G. Roberts is an erudite, Harvard-trained, Republican corporate-lawyer-turned-judge, with a punctilious, pragmatic view of the law."

How many adjectives can dance on the head of a Supreme Court nominee?

punctilious: adj. Attentive to the finer points of etiquette and formal conduct. Precise; scrupulous. (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1969) Comes from Italian, puntiglio, meaning "fine point, quibble," which is the diminutive of Italian punto, "point," which in turn comes from Latin punctum for "pricked hole, point," out of the Latin verb pungere, "to prick, pierce."

erudite: adj. Deeply learned. Comes from a Latin verb meaning "to take the roughness out of." (Roberts' father was a plant manager for Bethlehem Steel, an executive. Roberts grew up rich.)

pragmatic: adj. Dealing with facts or actual occurrences; practical. Active rather than contemplative. Pertaining to the study of events and historical phenomena with emphasis on their practical outcome. From two Greek words, meaning, roughly, "to do deeds."

Harvard-trained: adj. Embued with a sense of entitlement.

Republican: adj. Bedewed with self-righteousness.

corporate-lawyer-turned-judge: adj. Having been exposed to emotional hardening, insensitivity, and a lack of fellow-feeling, though not necessarily subject thereby to those attitudes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

John Roberts for the Supremes

We've been cruising right-wing sites to see if there's any expressed discomfort with El Presidente's choice for the Supreme Court, since Roberts is about as non-confrontational and "modernist" a jurist as Bush could have picked. So far the doubts are muted. Except for Ann Coulter. Drudge has posted what he says she's saying.

Same hedging on the left, mainly. We'd all expected -- at least early on -- an in-your-liberal-face throwing down of the anti-abortion gauntlet. But Roberts ain't that.

What he IS ... remains to be seen. Apparently, he's well known in lawyer circles (and who said lawyers were our only native criminal class?) with a paper trail of advocacy for clients, which is not at all the same thing as a paper trail of judicial opinions. He's kind of a pod-person, one of those alien-grown vegetables from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," with no discernible features of his own. You just dread a little bit going to sleep in his presence.

One liberal blogger -- we forget who -- was saying this a.m. that the Senate should get this over with so we can all go back to topic A: the criminality in the White House arising from the decision to fake the evidence for going to war in Iraq.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Best Thing on TV

Stumbled onto Morgan Spurlock's new FX series "30 Days" last night, and I could not turn away. They were replaying the initial episode, which premiered June 15th, where Morgan and his girlfriend give up their credit cards, their bank account, and move to Columbus, Ohio, to see if they can make it on minimum wage for a month.

It's a shattering experience, captured with humor. Morgan comes across as an amiable American Everyman who takes life -- and other people -- as he finds them. That impression of honest humanity is born out on Morgan's blog. His show features a variety of other Americans who voluntarily give up what they have and who they are to go "walk in someone else's shoes" for a solid month. For example, a born-again Christian from West Virginia goes to live in an American Muslim community in Detroit. If the show I saw last night is any indication at all, these excursions across the cultural barricades are both funny and very revealing. On the show last night, an older black guy who Spurlock is sharing a ride with - a fellow day-laborer -- says, "I'm making less money this morning than I did [on] my first job 29 years ago. I got my first job in 1976 at GM. My starting wage was $7.55 an hour. This morning I'm going out in 2005 and making $7 -- with no insurance. They call this prosperity. But you know, they say, 'We can't pay what the big automakers paid.' I always say, 'OKay, can you pay me what they were paying a quarter of a century ago?' "

The Republicans in Congress have not allowed the minimum wage to rise from $5.15 in eight years. So this particular show was probably not welcomed in Republican households where everybody's fat and sassy. In Republican households where everybody's NOT fat and sassy (i.e., on minimum wage), WHY on earth are they still Republicans?

Spurlock got famous last year by eating McDonald's three times a day for 30 days (and "super-sizing" every time he was asked). He made of himself a human guinea pig, filmed the process, and got nominated for an Academy Award for "Supersize Me." Not bad for a guy who was rejected by the U.S.C. film school five times.

Spurlock was born the same year I came to Boone, 1970, in Parkersburg, W.Va. He knows hard-scrabble. He knows this country, too, from the ground up, and it's a pure-dee good thing that he's out there offering his eye on things.

Monday, July 18, 2005

You Look Like a Terrorist to Me, Mrs. Jones

Life under the USA Patriot Act: evidence in today's papers that the F.B.I. has generously blurred the distinction between "terror" and political dissent.

A coalition of civil rights, animal rights, and environmental groups say they have been subjected to scrutiny by F.B.I. task forces set up to combat terrorism, and under the Freedom of Information Act, the F.B.I. has been forced to admit that it has 1,173 pages of "records" relating to the ACLU and 2,383 pages relating to Greenpeace as well as tons on anti-war groups with "peace" and "justice" in their names.

What do you call a powerful government police agency that collects information (public and private) on its citizens who dissent?

Conservative Republicans Wage War on Science

U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who opposes mandatory curbs on greenhouse gas emissions and questions the science underlying such efforts, did not like a scientific report about global warming. So he did the current Republican thing: he put the three scientists who wrote the report under investigation.

The three scientists? Michael E. Mann will direct the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University as of next month; Raymond S. Bradley is a geosciences professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; and Malcolm K. Hughes is a professor at the University of Arizona's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research.

The scientists' findings (according to the WashPost): "Using climate records culled from tree rings, glacial-ice layers and coral-growth layers, the three professors -- whose research was funded in part by the federal government -- determined in 1998 that temperatures have skyrocketed in the past century compared with the 500 years preceding it. The three men put the figures in a graph now known as the 'hockey stick,' and their work helped prompt the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2001 to declare the 1990s as the warmest decade in the past 1,000 years."

Rep. Barton began investigating Mann, Bradley, and Hughes last month, demanding they "justify" their work.

Fellow scientists protested Barton's "probe." Some 20 "prominent climatologists" sent Barton a letter questioning why he would put these three scientists under pressure, when dozens of others have also contributed to the current thinking on climate change. "A congressional investigation, based on the authority of the House Commerce Committee, is probably not the best way to resolve a scientific issue, and a focus on individual scientists can be intimidating," National Academy of Sciences President Ralph J. Cicerone wrote Barton.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), a senior Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, also wrote Barton on July 1st that some might interpret the probe "as a transparent effort to bully and harass climate change experts who have reached conclusions with which you disagree."

And now, even fellow Republicans recognize the Barton bullying. House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.) has demanded that Barton call off his "misguided and illegitimate investigation." Boehlert, who is probably the most "environmental" of any current Republican in Congress, wrote Barton, "My primary concern about your investigation is that its purpose seems to be to intimidate scientists rather than to learn from them, and to substitute congressional political review for scientific review."

So far, Barton is blowing off everybody in his lust to prove that no one need do anything to stop polluting the air and thereby raising global heat. He's from TEXAS, Bubba, don't you know?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

This Cat Grins

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

--Lewis Carroll, "Alice in Wonderland"

Someone sent me this article by Justin Raimondo, who writes convincingly that Karl Rove is not the target of the special prosecutor's investigation in the Valerie Plame case, because the Office of the Vice President IS. You remember Dick Cheney, don't you, the disappearing Cheshire cat of the phony war in Iraq?

Just this morning on The McLaughlin Group, Pat Buchanan was saying that the leaking of Plame's identity was retaliation against the C.I.A. by the neo-cons for the C.I.A.'s hesitation to get involved in cooking the books on Iraq. Raimondo -- whoever the hell he is -- agrees and weaves together all the known details about Rove, Cheney, and Wilson, and Raimondo names names of suspects on Cheney's staff.

NOTE: Google comes through! Justin Raimondo, turns out, is an openly gay libertarian who ran as a Republican against Nancy Pelosi in California's 8th Dist. in 1996. He supported Pat Buchanan in his presidential bids (hence the resemblance to what Buchanan was saying this a.m.), and supported Ralph Nadar in 2004. He's editorial director of the website

And how is El Presidente like Alice in Wonderland?

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" [asked Alice].

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where--" said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

"--so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.

"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Carteret County Ditches Touch-Screen Voting

Carteret County's Board of Elections permanently pulled the plug on those UniLect machines that caused all the mischief last November and will attempt to restore voter confidence with a different balloting system to be found prior to this fall's municipal elections. Paper ballots are in the running.

We trust the Watauga County Board of Elections will abandon its flirtation with touch-screen technology too, before something similar to the Carteret fiasco happens here.

Every Fetus Is Sacred -- and MIGHT Glow in the Dark

Here's a moral value for the Right Wing ... that all those fetuses they hold up to the heavens as icons of their personal righteousness be allowed life free of chemical contamination. An alarming report released yesterday by the Environmental Working Group, based on tests of 10 samples of umbilical-cord blood taken by the American Red Cross, showed that the American unborn are "soaking in a stew of chemicals, including mercury, gasoline byproducts and pesticides."

Babies are being born polluted. The American Dream.

JAG Heroes

It's very clear from testimony yesterday before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee that the good guys in the U.S. military -- and thank God there are MANY -- actively fought "the suits" who were instituting a torture regime for captured Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. The judge advocate generals (JAGs) for the Army, Air Force and Marines said they expressed their objections to the torture policy as it was being hashed out at the Pentagon in March and April 2003.

Hashed out, that is, at the highest levels. The document being circulated by the Pentagon early in 2003, which appears to be the well-spring for Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and for all the shit we DON'T know about yet, cited the presidential seal of approval for torture: "in order to respect the President's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign ... [the prohibition against torture] must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority."

Once that policy came to light, of course, the Pentagon and the White House immediately started disavowing it. Too late. Torture had already done its worst to help recruit thousands of new suicide bombers against us and did not, we'd wager, advance El Presidente's "war on terror" nearly as much as it hurt it.

Plus it's plain sickening. We thought we were the greatest democracy on earth, while, in fact, we were turning into the Roman empire.

Four Emmy Nods for "The Daily Show"

Hard on the heels of the post directly below, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (Comedy Central) picked up four nominations for the 57th annual prime-time Emmy Awards, twice as many as last year, including citations for outstanding individual performance in a variety or music program (for Jon Stewart) and outstanding variety, music, or comedy series. The winners will be announced in September.

And congrats to Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who has started writing for the show:

WASHINGTON, July 14 -- Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, ending months of increasingly frenzied speculation about his retirement plans, declared on Thursday night that he would continue to serve "as long as my health permits." ...

My momma always warned me that when real life and professional comedy become indistinguishable, we're in The End Times.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Jon Stewart Dismantles Bernard Goldberg

Should have been taping "The Daily Show" last night, to have a record of exactly how the masterful Jon Stewart first deflated professional right-wing wind-bag Bernard Goldberg and then completely reduced him to the laughing stock he's clearly unaccustomed to being.

Goldberg has published a new book, bravely titled "100 People Who Are Screwing Up America," and in case anyone might assume it's a judicious list selected on merit, Goldberg's publisher removes all doubt: it's pure right-wing propaganda. They picture on the cover a generous sampling of the 100 baaaad people (Howard Dean, Michael Moore, Rev. Al Sharpton, Barbra Streisand, senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd, etc.) and add this kicker to the title: "(And Al Franken Is # 37)." It's the kind of book that a lazy, cynical ex-journalist writes by remote control, based on shit supplied by a "clipping service." (Check out Goldberg's website here.)

Jon Stewart dismantled the pretense in 30 seconds flat. Why pick on Hollywood types, who only think they have power, when you've got a crowd down there in Washington running everything who have REAL power?

Goldberg, caught off-guard by his own arrogance, tried to kiss up. "You're one of the good guys," he told Stewart, just after denouncing trash-talk on TV as though Stewart & Co. didn't indulge in envelope-pushing obscenity every single night.

It got so bad for Goldberg that Stewart acknowledged at one point, "I'm hard to talk to" and even offered to go on with Goldberg before an audience of right-wingers, where Stewart wouldn't be getting the applause.

Stewart just simply pointed out that there really are some people in this country who are ruining the place for the rest of us, but they aren't Hollywood stars and gangsta rappers. They're politicians and crusaders willing to turn the Constitution unsidedown for power.

For example, wonder if the masterminds behind the torture policy of the Bush administration are mentioned by Goldberg as "screwing up America"? This morning's WashPost is led by a story that the Abu Ghraib "techniques" were first road-tested at Guantanamo. That's the kind of stuff being gleefully used by "Islamofascists" to recruit 16-year-old suicide bombers. But to Goldberg and other culture warriors, Barbra Streisand is the real enemy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

El Presidente Wraps Carolina in Whole (Cheap) Cloth

According to the Charlotte Observer, El Presidente is showing up in the textile belt of North Carolina Friday to try to shore up support for his Central America Free Trade (CAFTA) Agreement. When he visits a textile mill at Dallas, N.C., and then speaks later at Gaston College, he'll be in Sue Myrick's district. Myrick, according to the Observer, is one of only two representatives in all the Carolinas who supports the Prez on this: "A poll of 39 House members from the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama released Tuesday by Woman's Wear Daily showed Charlotte Republican Myrick one of only two members who support the agreement."

Could be that these mainly Republican representatives are bucking the president because their constituents have actually begun to notice that his economic policies are hurting them personally.

"Traveling to Myrick's district was apparently not the White House's first choice in planning the trip. Weeks ago, Bush's advisers had hoped to send the president to Rep. Howard Coble's district to try to turn the Greensboro Republican into a key 'yes' vote on CAFTA. 'They called and asked us how would we feel about the president coming to the 6th District and how would that affect his vote on CAFTA,' Coble spokesman Ed McDonald said. 'We said it would not move us one inch closer [to supporting the treaty].' "

Must make Gaston County feel extra special to know they're second choice on El Presidente's "to visit" list.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Governor No-Show

The N&O is reporting that The Guv has not done his duty and appointed a new State Board of Elections, possibly because he doesn't like the names forwarded to him by Democratic State Party Chair Jerry Meek. Until the State Board of Elections is appointed, no local boards of election can be appointed. And municipal elections are just three months off in Boone.

El Presidente in N.C. Friday

He's coming again, according to the Charlotte Observer, "to shore up support for his Central American trade agreement."

He's got his gall, no doubt about it.

Also his damn secrecy: "White House officials confirm only that Bush is scheduled to be in North Carolina after a morning meeting with the president of El Salvador at the White House. Republican congressional offices won't reveal the purpose or location of his visit."

Maybe afraid that a few former textile workers will let him know their thoughts on Republican-style free trade?

"Bush is expected to visit a Gaston County textile mill."

Will Virginia Foxx be crowding to get into the picture? Will ASU Chancellor Ken Peacock, who apparently likes to get photographed with Madame Foxx, especially since he officially changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican? Let's all grin, guys, like jackasses eating thistles.

Boycott Exxon Mobil

After the Exxon Valdez disaster, I took out my Exxon card and cut it into tiny pieces and haven't bought that brand of petrol since. Exxon Mobil, thanks to my personal boycott, no doubt, is now the nation's largest oil company. A coalition of groups is mounting a boycott against it for its poo-poohing of global warming and its unseemly salivation over drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. My question to the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Political Action and the other groups forming the boycott: What took you so long?

Monday, July 11, 2005

See the White Boys Sweat!

"No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States."

That kind of stand-up comedy you just can't get on Comedy Central. No, THAT was El Presidente's press secretary Scott McClellan this afternoon blandly maintaining that his boss's earlier boast that anyone on the White House staff involved in leaking the identity of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent would be fired. Promptly. Fired. Apparently, that previous statement is now inoperable.

And all of a sudden, the White House that talked freely about the special investigation into the leak while they were denying that any of them had anything to do with it is now piously saying they can't talk about an on-going criminal investigation because it wouldn't be right.

But here: read the transcript of this afternoon's confrontation between White House correspondents (who FINALLY act as though they really, truly want to be JOURNALISTS after all) and Mr. McClellan. It ain't a pretty picture, but it's funny as hell.

A Match-Up Conceived Somewhere South of Heaven

The N&O says today that influential Republicans are trying to recruit Congresswoman Sue Myrick to run for governor in 2008 and that they expect Beverly Perdue to be the Democratic candidate.

Lordy, what WOULD a progressive Democrat do, given a choice like THAT?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Rachel Lea Hunter -- Anti-War Republican

You may remember Rachel Lea Hunter as a Republican candidate last year in a crowded race for an associate judgeship on the N.C. State Supreme Court. She was a maverick then, and guess what? She's bucking even harder now. (Thanks to Stumpy for the heads-up.)

She's attacked the Bush administration as "fascist." The USA Patriot Act ... a shocking intrusion into constitutional rights. Etc.

Most of her speaking out has been on the internet, well below the radar of most of the daily media in the state. Also well below the radar is the way some prominent N.C. Republicans are attacking her for stepping out of line. Richard Vinroot, for example. You can see her response to Vinroot here on her website. There's a summary of the flying fur here.

Why The Right Hates Gonzales

Interesting article in this morning's WashPost by Lois Romano about George W. Bush's record of judicial appointments while he was governor of Texas: "My impression was that he kept the hard-line Christian right at bay back then," Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston, is quoted. "He relied heavily on an organization that could get good people identified first and foremost. There wasn't much of an ideological test."

He appointed his best bud Alberto Gonzales to the Texas Supreme Court and later brought Gonzales along with him to the White House as Chief Counsel and then appointed him Attorney General after Ashcroft. For all the career advancement, Gonzales did what an amiable lightweight is expected to do: he obliged the president's men by writing a memo saying torture in the defense of freedom is no vice. But we digress.

What's gotten the Right baying against Gonzales right now as a replacement appointment for O'Connor on the Supremes is a decision he participated in on the Texas Supreme Court in 2000, while George W. was still governor. (We wrote about this decision back when Priscilla Owen was up for confirmation as an Appeals Court appointment. Both Gonzales and Owen served on the Texas Supreme Court together and took opposite positions. Gonzales attacked Owen at the time as a conservative "judicial activist.")

The Texas decision involved the right of a 17-year-old girl to have an abortion without parental consent. Gonzales was in the majority for allowing it. Owen bitterly opposed it. Gonzales referred to Owen in his written decision as something of a loose judicial cannon ... that is, "an activist" willing to exert her personal feelings in place of the law. Which makes Owen precisely the kind of activist the Right wants.

The point of the WashPost article is that back in those days El Presidente was more interested in finding good judges than he was in right-wing ideology: "Not once was I asked my position on any hot-button or social issues," said one woman interviewed for a high-level judgeship, who asked that her name not be used so she could speak freely in a politically volatile time. "He wanted to make sure I understood my job to be interpreting the law -- not making law. It was clear he didn't want activist judges."

I've put money down on a bet that Bush will name Gonzales to O'Connor's seat. That's precisely why he's been so unusually defensive about his friend. In other words, could get interesting.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Movie Review: "War of the Worlds"

I think Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" is one of his best films ... primarily for the snapshot it captures of the American mood (I'm resisting with all my might the use of a fancier term, Zeitgeist, which is French, I think, for "Germans sure are paranoid about ghosts" ... or something close). (Spoiler alert: key plot points are revealed in what follows.)

Yes, we're talking American paranoia in the wake of 9/11. "War of the Worlds" dips deep into that swirling eddy and works on our primal fears of being hunted for extermination, just as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" worked on our fear of Commies in 1956.

The film works because of its point of view, limited very strictly to what working-class New Jerseyite Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) and his two precocious kids witness. They don't know the big picture, and neither do we. The big picture doesn't matter here. Only immediate survival matters, and immediate survival becomes increasingly tenuous until I was positively worn out by the Ferriers' struggle. Not to mention the struggle of American-kind. I was a wreck. Because I'd witnessed everything happen on the purely local level to the purely ordinary. The CGI did not, therefore, seem so much grandly staged as organic and totally subversive

I particularly liked the economy with which Spielberg establishes the life of Ray and his community, the side-by-side back yards with clothes flapping on the lines, the life on the street, the sense of totally integrated working-class American life, the utter commonness of these people upon which literally unbelieveable horror suddenly erupts. And how quickly that community disintegrates under stress. This is a movie about Americans acting very American ... as individuals. In that sense, the true American symbol in "War of the Worlds" is not Tom Cruise, who ain't after all any superhero here, but Tim Robbins, as the holed-up survivalist nut-case who is determined not to be individually exterminated and who therefore can't seem to get in synch with anyone else. He lectures Tom Ferrier that running away is no solution, a little before Tom Ferrier is forced to off him to protect his own daughter.

Which brings me to the quiet, insidious secondary theme in "War of the Worlds" that makes Spielberg even more of a prophet of the American Moment -- beyond all that highly visual collective paranoia about being exterminated. This is another movie about the redemption of a bad father. Back when I was actively teaching, I walked around with a mental catalog of all the movies, especially rife in the 1990s, that dealt with bad fathers who redeem themselves. Don't ask me to remember them now. I can't. Suffice it to say that Spielberg himself dealt with the theme in "Hook" in 1991. Americans have been fairly obsessed with bad fathers for some time. It's what "Iron John" was all about, and the whole drumming movement. Hell, it's what Homer Simpson is all about.

Tom Cruise in "War of the Worlds" plays an American bad father. And while the alien exterminators turn out to be wusses when it comes to earthly germs, Ray Ferrier's bad fatherhood is the true dark night that seems in some ways far longer and far more harrowing to get through. He watches like a disconnected bystander as his disaffected teenage son deals effectively with his own sister's emotional melt-down; he watches, paralyzed, as his son heroically risks himself to get people on a (doomed) ferry, people who are calling out to Ray for help: he watches, helpless, as that son breaks free of the (failed) father's authority and chases after the (hopeless) battle against the aliens. Poor ole Ray can't even make satisfactory sandwiches for his kids.

The movie's about the Cruise character's redemption as a father, and one might say that Spielberg has engineered a whole gawdawful alien invasion just to redeem one lousy father. Which in the American scheme of things, seems worth it.

Yes, it's a flawed movie. The whole ending, for one example, which might be summed up this way: "So suddenly and somehow they get to Boston, where the Beacon Hill neighborhoods have miraculously escaped any damage, only to find..." Yeah, a happy ending. It's a mess (though not as big a mess as, say, the last hour of Scorsese's "The Aviator," which is now the contemporary benchmark for "messes").

But, hey! "War of the Worlds" has made me unusually thoughtful now, for more than 24 hours.

Charlie Taylor Being Trageted in 11th Cong. Dist.

Rep Charles Taylor, Republican House member from the 11th N.C. Congressional District, is being targeted for ethical problems by new TV & print ads produced by the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Taylor is among a group of six Republican representatives, including Tom DeLay, being targeted for corruption on the job.

"Tone It Down" ... NOT!

So El Presidente sez to his nail-spittin' constituents, the mullahs of the Right, "tone down your attacks on my friend and All-American Lightweight, Alberto Gonzales, 'cause I don't like it when people attack my friends," which just sends the mullahs into more paroxysms. Radio talk duchess Laura Ingraham apparently bared her considerable fangs at her Dear Leader over "tone it down," according to Michelle Malkin, whose big claim to fame is that she thinks the internment of thousands of loyal Japanese-Americans during WWII was not only justified but salutary.

The nastiness of the Right over Alberto Gonzales is only part of the problem they're posing for El Presidente and his lieutenants in the Senate. The NYTimes has an article this a.m. about the rather desperate (pathetic?) attempts of Republican Senate staffers to get the mullahs to stop sounding like, well, MULLAHS. They want everyone on message ... that the confirmation process for Sandra Day O'Connor's replacement on the Supreme Court should be "dignifed." (Sunday morning, I heard at least three different Republican Senators use that exact word on the Sabbath Gas-Bag shows.)

"The extremism of language, if there is to be any, should be demonstrably on the other side. The hysteria and the foaming at the mouth ought to come from the left," said the chief of staff to Senator Bill Frist.

But when it comes to foaming at the mouth, you can't beat the Extreme Right. And you obviously can't silence them, Mr. President. Asking the mullahs to be dignified about this Supreme Court business is like asking a hyena to stop belching wildebeest.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Guess the Author of THIS

Our Mystery Writer of the Day wrote (not exactly recently, either) that "the world in which we were brought up -- the good, the Christian, the democratic, the capitalist world" is vanishing because of our democracy's lack of moral fiber. Our American "race" is declining "in hardiness" because of "dissatisfaction, maladjustment and moral decay."

Pat Robertson? Jerry Falwell? A right-wing Republican?

No, it was Anne Morrow Lindberg, the wife of famed aviator Charles Lindberg, writing in 1940 in favor of American isolationism from the fighting even then going on in Europe between Hitler's Nazis and their neighbors. Those words of Lindberg's were included in a pamphlet she published called "The Wave of the Future." And what WAS the "wave of the future," which Anne Lindberg was advising Americans NOT to resist? Why, German-style fascism, that's what.

Interesting, ain't it, that voices in 1940 eager to find moral decay all around them in this country were also eager to give in to fascist impulses from abroad? (Charles Lindberg, you know, made at least three secret trips to Germany in the 1930s where he praised Hitler's military build-up and received a Nazi medal from Hermann Goring, and urged the American government NOT to come to the aid of Great Britain and France.) Now, and similarly, the loud voices so insistent that America has become an anti-Christian sump of gay-marrying abortionist embryo-experimenters are also the same people all too willing to kow-tow to the amassing of absolute power by an oligarchy that likes its "news" Fox-style.

El Presidente is getting ready to nominate their fifth vote on the Supreme Court.

Anti-Abortion Extremist Ain't Sorry

Eric Robert Rudolph has been busily writing letters from prison since his arrest in southwest North Carolina for the Olympic Park and several other bombings ... all such violence justifiably provoked, Rudolph says, by the immorality of American women who have abortions and American men who love other men.

"Perhaps I should have found a peaceful outlet for my opposition to the government in Washington: maybe I should have been a lawyer and fought [for] decency in the face of this rotten system; perhaps I could have taken up teaching and sought to inculcate a healthy outlook in a decidedly unhealthy society," he writes. "But I didn't do any of these things, and I resorted to force to have my voice heard. However wrongheaded my tactical decision to resort to violence may have been, morally speaking my actions were justified."

There's a shiver for your spine -- "morally justified violence" -- in between your guffaws that the legal profession might have missed by a hair having Eric Rudolph as a member of the bar.

Not All the Faithful are Republican Drones

"Since when was God pro-war, and pro-rich?"

The battle-cry of agnostics? No, it's the mantra of a mounting chorus of moderate evangelicals, led by such as Southern Baptist minister Jim Wallis.

"We can no longer stand by and watch people speak hatred, division, war and greed in the name of our faith," said Patrick Mrotek, founder of the new Christian Alliance for Progress. "We must reclaim our faith."

Whaaa? A progressive Christian movement in the face of the mullahs? There's enough stirring, apparently, to draw the hot-air of radio weenie Rush Limbaugh on April 27th: "The religious left in this country hates and despises the God of Christianity and Catholicism and whatever else. They despise it because they fear it and it's a threat, because that God has moral absolutes, that God has right and wrong, that God doesn't deal in nuance" (said the serially monogamous and drug-addicted Limbaugh, who apparently doesn't blush when speaking about moral absolutes, so long as they apply only to someone else).

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Judicial Temperament, N.C. Style

We missed this from almost two weeks ago, but when a member of the Islamic Center in Greensboro asked to be sworn in with a copy of the Quran (Koran) during a hearing in front of Guilford Senior Resident Superior Court Judge W. Douglas Albright, the judge turned the person down flat. Then, when asked about his decision by the Greensboro News & Record, Judge Albright said that the law refers to laying one's hand on the "Holy Scriptures," and "everybody understands what the holy scriptures are. If they don't, we're in a mess."

Well, we ARE in a mess, maybe as much from cultural and religious arrogance as from any disagreement about which "holy scriptures" are the best.

Judge Albright seems to think that a potential witness (or juror, for that matter) will be more bound to uphold the truth, swearing on a book he/she doesn't believe in, than taking the oath on the sacred book of his/her religious tradition.

Naturally, the mullahs of the Right are taking up Albright's point of view and proclaiming this just another assault on Christianity. They need to feel victimized on a daily basis.

Friday, July 01, 2005

N.C. State Univ. Successfully Sued Over Sexual Harrassment

It was only a matter of time before women would prevail against the administration of one of our fine universities for failing to do exactly what the Catholic Church failed to do for decades ... act to discipline and fire, if necessary, sexual predators among its faculty.

Two women have won a $300,000 judgment against N.C. State for failing to do anything about a faculty member who was a well known serial harasser of women.

University officials, including former Chancellor Larry Monteith, learned in 1987 that the professor, Shuaib Ahmad, had been accused of sexual harassment. But the university later promoted Ahmad to full professor and made him head of a research laboratory. Where he incidentally was in a position to move in on the two women who just won the judgment. They were research assistants who worked for Ahmad.

For failing to curb Ahmad's appetites, N.C. State is liable.

Top administrators at ASU, we trust, are taking notes. There are courageous women in more places than just Raleigh.

Now It Begins

Sandra Day O'Connor, a key vote to protect a woman's right to abortion and a swing vote in many other important court decisions, has announced she's retiring from the Supreme Court.

War of the Worlds.

Finding Bias, the CPB Way

Reviewing: Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Republican hatchet-man and Bush-appointed chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the agency that disburses about $400 million in federal tax funds to public broadcasters, advanced the "company line" about liberal bias in the media, especially public radio and TV, and secretly hired a mysterious "consultant," one Frederick W. Mann, to "prove" the bias was there. Mann, bless his heart, kept a tally sheet where he wrote down such qualifiers as "liberal," "conservative," "neutral," or "pro-Bush," "anti-Bush," "support administration," "oppose administration" while he watched PBS or listened to programs on National Public Radio. Mann's so-called "research" cost us taxpayers $14,000. Until yesterday Mann's "report" remained secret, but Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who obtained a copy of it, released it to the press.

And now we know ... that Mann listed conservatives such as Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and former congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga.) as "liberal" and "anti-administration" apparently for briefly expressing views that differed from administration policy. Hagel has criticized El Presidente's Iraq policy and Barr has never liked the USA Patriot Act.

Pro-administration cheerleading like Fox News's is "unbiased." Reporting that Sen. Hagel and Bob Barr have problems with some administration policies ... why, that's outrageous "liberal bias."

Got it!