Wednesday, August 31, 2005


We were premature in announcing the state lottery DEAD a few days ago, since The Guv and Marc Basnight got the N.C. Senate back into session yesterday & passed the g.d. thing. Opportunists! They pounced on the moment when two state senators were absent (by pre-arrangement? One wonders) and Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue was on hand to cast the tie-breaking vote. It had already passed the N.C. House.

Our own state Senator John Garwood was one of the two absent Republican senators, and he had been described as "wavering." Maybe it became expedient to develop a convenient "staph infection in his leg," to keep him away from Raleigh. Our suspicions are roused especially by this passage in today's N&O: "But they [Republican Senate leaders] desperately sought to persuade Garwood to use a parliamentary procedure in which he would pair his vote with a Democratic lottery supporter -- canceling the effect of his absence. Although Garwood toyed with the idea of pairing his vote with Democratic Sen. Larry Shaw of Fayetteville, he eventually declined, GOP Senate leader Phil Berger said."

If it looks like a duck....

Why Does the Future We Face Look Like the Past We Left?

A poll conducted July 7-17 by one of the most trusted -- fair, objective -- survey outfits in the nation, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, is in print this a.m. in the NYTimes. It found that:

1. 42 percent of respondents "held strict creationist views, agreeing that 'living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.' "

2. 64 percent said they were "open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution," while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism.

It's just too depressing to go on.

Just got off the phone talking to someone about the purge in Boone's First Baptist Church, a purge of long-time congregational leaders (well, at least one) over the heresy of evolution (among several other beliefs, some of them political and not sanctioned by the Southern Baptist Convention, the Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Republican Party). Asked to sign some sort of Baptist loyalty pledge, the brave among those Baptists refused to sign. Stripped of leadership ... you know the rest if you've lived among Southern Baptists.

The leading inquisitor of this First Baptist purge is a sitting superior court judge. And naturally the local news media either doesn't know what's going on (which would make juicy copy for CNN ... Fox News, not so much) or it's chosen not to find out.

A sitting superior court judge becomes the local Thought Police. How would such a person get to be a judge? HE WAS ELECTED, which takes me in a great circle, back to where this post began.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dolesome Prospects

None other than syndicated columnist and leaker of CIA agent names Bob Novak (a.k.a., The Prince of Darkness) says that North Carolina's Elizabeth Dole has been a dismal failure as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Dole's job, one she worked hard to get, is to recruit viable Republican senatorial candidates against weak Democrats running for reelection in 2006. Novak's summation: "The hard truth is that the NRSC's 2006 recruitment under Sen. Elizabeth Dole's chairmanship has mostly failed." With not a hair out of place though. (Thanks to the indispensible Stumpy for the link!)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Off With Their Meth Heads!

Missed these quotes from Madame Virginia Foxx, in last Thursday's Winston-Salem Journal, but trust everyone will want to know that she's into whips & chains:


...Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-10th, wants legislation that would restrict access to over-the-counter drugs containing pseudoephedrine [used in the cooking of meth].

"Legislation that puts the products behind the counter would make an enormous impact," McHenry said. He has co-sponsored several pieces of legislation under consideration that would do just that.

But Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th, sees this approach as burdensome to pharmacies, as well as to consumers who want to use such medications as Sudafed for their intended purpose.

"Increased penalties for anyone caught producing meth should be done, rather than developing elaborate regulations," Foxx said. She is a member of the House subcommittee that has been investigating various solutions to the issues.

"I see strong punishment as the best deterrent to crime," she said, adding that she thinks that states should be able to decide on laws regulating the purchase of pseudoephedrine and other meth ingredients....


We totally agree. Let's dust off the old thumb-screws for, say, shop-lifting. How'd that be?

Cat's Out of the Bag

Deborah Greene and I agree on something. Actually, I knew this even when we were on opposite sides of the zoning issue. I distinctly heard her say once upon a time that we need comprehensive planning in Watauga County. That need for planning has only grown greater. Also more remote, thanks to Deborah's success at equating zoning with, approximately, devil worship.

In the interests of dialogue, here are some random notes on the state of the world and on the sad sad condition of my own soul:

1. I don't like fat cats. Never have. Not since I grew up as a tenant kid on a rich man's 3,000-acre wheat farm in west Texas. My father did the work on that farm. The rich man got the profits. My brother and I helped my father work that land. When I got old enough, the rich man paid me a dollar-an-hour to plow wheat stubble for 11 hours a day. I thought I was rich. That's how easy it was to buy me off! Perspective is everything. And my perspective has shifted.

2. Yes, I have issues with rural people, because I am one. I have issues, always, with people I identify with and love, when I see them driving over a cliff while looking the wrong way.

They were looking the wrong way during the zoning debate. They were looking the wrong way because Deborah Greene, among others, was pointing them in that direction: "They're gonna take away your rights!" But what zoning would have done -- and it's the only thing that can accomplish this that I know of -- is to give some rather significant protection to rural landowners from the whims of fat cats. Zoning allows neighbors the ability to offer competent, relevant, and substantial evidence of harm from, say, a toxic waste dump or a nudie bar, and by showing harm, prevent that use from happening. It ain't poor country people trying to put in toxic waste dumps (or whatever). It's fat cats. They don't like being hindered by zoning regs one little bit.

Zoning does hurt some poor people -- I'll be the first to admit that -- because generally the poorest people are already living on what the zoning administrators will invariably label "industrial" or "multi-use," meaning unfortunately "not fit for human habitation." This is the downside of zoning, and I understand it in the marrow of my bones. The poorest people become pawns. Landless poor people, that is. Remember the 50-odd households in the Greenway trailer park in Boone" Fat cats got their way. Poor people got booted. That was NOT because of zoning. That was because of the FAILURE of zoning administrators and appointed and elected officials.

The country people I'm talking about -- the ones D. Greene and K. Carter seem to think I'm snobbish toward -- are not landless. Land sometimes IS their wealth. Justifiably, they want to protect that wealth. And the more valuable that land becomes -- by development pressures, the real estate boom, tax reevaluations -- the harder it is to hang onto it. Any tax increase based on land evaluations hits our rural population base with unequal force, sometimes like a tsunami. Deborah Greene's outrage about that unequal tax burden is wholly justified. There ought to be tax breaks for people holding onto farms and keeping them agricultural. Appreciable tax breaks. Instead, what happens too often is that one generation passes away, and the heirs, often living and working elsewhere, can't pay the taxes and have to sell off the farm to what ends up sometimes being more noxious development. Under these precarious circumstances, no wonder rural people are so susceptible to someone distracting them -- "Look! They're gonna steal your land!" While they continue to drive over that cliff.

Zoning would not impoverish them. Zoning would make them far more powerful, especially with Deborah Greene as their whiz-bang advocate against fat-cat developers before any Board of Adjustment, offering competent, material, and substantial evidence why Development X (let your imagination run wild) would be detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of neighboring landowners. Think of it.

4. I've wandered into Fantasy Land. Why am I talking about zoning anyway? D. Greene won that battle, though I promise she's going to live to regret that victory.

5. I have a sense of humor. I can especially laugh at myself, and often need to. D. Greene or K. Carter need a sense of humor. Or more of one. Just as I need not to be such a smart-alerk all the time. Ah, what are the possibilities for either?

6. I am partisan. I'll cop to that. But I'm no partisan hack. Ask Governor Easley. Ask the state Democratic Party chair. Ask numerous Democratic office-holders. If you read this blog regularly, instead of only when your name appears, you'd know I give 'em all hell. But I'm partisan in that I believe generally this nation would be better off with Democratic values running it -- if we EVER found a Democrat with the courage of his/her beliefs -- than with Republican values running it, because as far as I'm concerned, the current regime in Washington (and in Raleigh, too, for that matter) is run by fat cats, FOR fat cats, and we're all suffering from it.

I don't believe D. Greene is any more enamored of those fat-cat values than I am. She objects to my labeling them "Republican values,” and that's fair. Historically, they're NOT Republican -- NOT, I say.

The Republican Party supported the abolition of slavery, actually INVENTED zoning as a protection of individual rights, fought for women's suffrage. It was REPUBLICAN women who founded the birth control movement and "family planning." (I remember the shock of encountering an elderly Ohio farmer at the first pro-choice march I ever attended in Washington, D.C. "It's stupid to tell women they gotta have babies," he said, succinctly. He was a true Republican (and bound to have been run out of the party by now). The Republican Party locally was considerably more liberal, going back to 1900, than the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party all over the South at that time -- and Watauga County was no exception -- was corrupt to the core. It took a long time to change. Just as it took a long, long time for the national Republican Party to change from protecting women's rights and black rights, etc., to riding the hobby horses it rides today. I hate it that the Grand Old Party has been taken over by rich people and by religious fanatics. D. Greene and K. Carter need to take it back.

7. I'll be glad to help with that project. Though I have to reserve much of my energy for keeping my own damn dumb Democrats from chasing off after false gods.

8. Everything's not a conspiracy. Some things are just plain old human blundering, not intentional but also not always benign, unfortunately.

9. Greene & Carter need an editor. But, then, don't we all?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Good Neighbor U?

While no one was looking, our state legislature repealed a state law making the land-development activities of universities subject to the zoning laws of the towns in which they reside (Senate Bill 669, repealing Section 41[e] of S.L. 2004-199).

The upshot of this is of particular cause for concern in Boone, where Appalachian State University is busily eating the town and belching in the citizens' faces. In recent months, the university has been cited at least three times for violating zoning regulations, from cutting historic trees to failing to provide building setbacks as proscribed by law. The university's reaction to being told to cease and desist? "Shove it up your alimentary canal ... SIDEWAYS!"

Or, more specifically, "You have no control over what we choose to do. We are above the law. We are certainly above YOUR law."

As evidence of unneighborly (and illegal) behavior on the part of ASU has piled up, the state legislature decides to be an enabler of what amounts to wife-beating. Presumably, things are only going to get worse.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

FDA Caves to Religious Right Pressure

In its never-ending battle to make sure that unmarried women who have sex will be punished for it, the religious right's threat of protest has caused the Federal Drug Administration to once again delay making a decision on allowing over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill. If they really wanted to reduce the number of abortions in this country, the religious right would help young women obtain effective birth control. And if the FDA wasn't the tool of this present regime, where science always bows to the superior power of religious political considerations, then the morning-after pill ("Plan B") would already be on pharmacy shelves, especially since its been approved for prescription use in this country for six years already.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York described the FDA's decision as "outrageous," "disturbing," and "a wake-up call to everybody in this country."


Most politically engaged citizens of our county have heard by now of the ruckus kicked up last Monday night during a public hearing in front of the County Commission over land acquisition. Deborah Greene and Karen Carter, famous as "no-zoning" activists in 2001 and 2002, put on a tag-team dope-slap of commissioners David Blust (especially) and Keith Honeycutt that included enough actionable accusations to cover just about everybody else in the room.

They alleged among other things that:

1. The Smitherman Winkler land purchase earlier this year adjacent to the high school "is riddled with 'conflict of interests' and lack of due diligence" (Greene).

2. " take great delight in abusing closed sessions and keeping scant notes..." (Greene).

3. "...we have a board majority comprised of real estate moguls..." (Greene).

4. "You do not care one iota how much you hurt the taxpayers!" (Carter).

5. "...this current board's property acquisition and higher taxation agenda is to obviously place more pressure on landowners in order to force them out..." (Carter).

6. "...would that we did have a few corporations here that gave more than just a few meaningful and stable jobs for local people, instead of mainly for the college students, but the only 'corporations' allowed in this area, aside from the unstable rubberneck businesses, are the highly-touted, yet in truth, pitiful cottage-industry bubbles; such as basket-weaving, trinket-and-bauble making -- thanks to the regional and local SOVIETS, such as 'Disadvantage West' and that other taxpayer-funded, 800-pound gorilla -- ASU" (Carter).

Most of these passages (quoted from the written statements Greene & Carter entered into the public record) are either (a) demonstrably false statements of fact, characterized by a paranoia that passeth understanding or (b) earth-shaking revelations of uninvestigated, not to mention unprosecuted, malfeasance.

Ms. Greene's full statement was cut off by the public hearing time-limit of three minutes. "No, I'm sure you don't wanna give us five minutes!" she retorted as she quit the podium, leaving unspoken the last few paragraphs of her prepared statement, which in the interests of public education we reproduce verbatim here:

"You have accumulated an exorbitant fund balance, despite the new jail, Helig-Meyers, courthouse expansion. Therefore there was no need for the current tax increase of 4.5 cents, and now we're speaking to the new board members. You have added insult to injury. Do you really think that we are that STUPID? We guess so. You have even resorted to referring anyone who complains that they can't afford the tax increase to Social Services for investigation, 'police-state tactics of intimidation'! [More malfeasance!] Now, if you would stop your current rate of spending, we would have enough money to renovate Watauga High School at the end of this fiscal year and still have the 12% fund balance level that the county finance director recommends we have. Stop playing 'Monopoly'! This is no game, guys. As it stands, with the Winkler Smitherman fiasco, you all should be 'tarred-and-feathered and ran out on a rail'! Angry, Commissioner Blust? YES, I AM!!!!"

Karen Carter ended her statement with the same personal thrust: "Yes, Mr. Blust, I am angry." The unexplained anger at Blust (specifically) and at Honeycutt bubbled like an artesian well out of D. Greene at the end of her three minutes. She had launched a second front of complaint (in addition to her charge of "playing Monopoly" with land acquisitions), lambasting the tax increase of 2003, NOT the one of 2005, but of 2003, when Blust & Honeycutt were among the political majority on the board. "And I'm not speaking to these three board members here," Ms. Greene said, gesturing toward commissioners Kinsey, Winkler, and Deal. "I'm speaking to these two here [Blust & Honeycutt], 'cause you're part of the prior board. You gave us a 10-cent tax increase that year."

Like all Ms. Greene's published work, mysterious references to facts not in evidence Monday night might have sunk some listeners into a profound puzzlement. But she has a point about the revaluation of property in 2003 and the hugely increased tax revenues because of it, even after the Republican-controlled prior board reduced the tax rate with a partisan flourish. They told everyone in the election campaign that they had cut taxes when in fact they were raking in more money. And we certainly 'preciate a Republican party activist pointing that out!

Apparently, angry e-mails had passed prior to Monday night's hearing from D. Greene to commissioners Blust and Honeycutt, and clearly Ms. Greene had not liked their responses: "Easy for you to simply 'flick off that speck of dust' by saying things like Commissioner Blust 'You don't have your facts straight.' When Commissioner Blust is asked which facts, he's silent. Commissioner Honeycutt says 'People don't know what you know.' " Etc.

Sometimes the worst part of public service, God knows, is dealing with your supporters, and what makes D. Greene's performance Monday night especially worthy of meditation is that she's been the most visible and the most effective operative for partisan Republican attacks for the last three or four years. She worked like the devil to get Blust and Honeycutt elected. And doesn't she speak for the local Republican party? Or has something changed?

There are a variety of possible theories to explain a kitten with a whip going after "her guys," but the one I'm leaning toward was advanced to me by a wise old man of the mountains who once upon a time had an ambition to hold public office with an "R" after his name:

The Greene/Carter attacks are evidence of a significant split in the Republican Party. The split is related to but not limited by the current political exile of Allen Trivette, the voice of the rural working man crying in the wilderness. Trivette's view of civics is shared largely and enthusiastically by Greene & Carter. Trivette's crushing defeat last fall has encysted as a hard knot of rural resentment ... against newcomers, against town folks, against university people. Also against Democrats, but partisan political rivalry seems actually less of a motivation than the demographics of urban wealth, power, and privilege. Of all the county commissioners of recent memory, Trivette stands out as a rock solid man of principle. He was most assuredly NOT a politician, tacking with the winds of public opinion. He stood strong and inflexible for his philosophy of self-reliance, his scorn for manifestations of too much (useless) education, his suspicions of too much government, and his eagerness to limit what government does. He didn't particularly cotton to men in suits, unless they were carrying Bibles and intending to preach on Sunday morning. His was a coherent philosophy, shared for the most part by Greene & Carter. But the philosophy was often animated by a palpable sense of rural powerlessness in the face of arrogance. Powerlessness expresses itself sometimes as frustrated anger, as seething resentment. Powerlessness finds vast conspiracies behind every abrasion of personal dignity.

The resentment, the anger that so alarmed Mr. Blust Monday night is a legitimate political expression of a sense of rural powerlessness. Think of the sub-text of most of what Carter & Greene have published in the local papers over the last few years ... a deep resentment of the Chamber of Commerce, accusations of illegal conspiracies by the Committee of 100, a conviction of corruption behind the hidden levers of "economic development." It's not their fault that their rural Republicanism is now so out of step with the power base of what national Republicanism has become, what Karen Carter sensibly identified as "the flawed public/private partnership" of big business getting local government to spend money on its behalf. Greene & Carter manifestly hate the kind of privilege and string-pulling that seems to come so easy for Chamber of Commerce types, but it's that very coat-and-tie Watauga elite that Blust & Honeycutt so obviously work to please.

(To be fair, Deborah Greene seems considerably less dedicated to the principles of old-time rural Republicanism when she's the recipient of the second largest federal government crop subsidy check in the county, and she did shout out facetiously at County Commission Chairman Jim Deal, after her side lost the vote Monday night, "I have 200 acres in Meat Camp I'll sell you for $50,000 an acre" -- a parting-shot of sarcasm which nevertheless spoke volumes. For someone who always wants to stand on small-government principle, she seems sometimes very nakedly in it for the money.)

Whatever else the Greene/Carter tongue-lashing represented, it did not represent Republican strategic thinking, since Carter and Greene were, after all, holding up to public ridicule their own standard-bearers, the last two Republicans on the County Commission. They broke Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment. Will God punish them? Clearly, they intended to discipline Blust & Honeycutt, rather the way I used to see my grandfather discipline his dog. And the whipping was 50% effective ... 'cause Blust caved under the pressure and voted against the land acquisition. The final vote was 4-1. It was pretty obvious that Blust had been planning to vote for it, and he had certainly been a party to all the negotiations that have gone on for two-and-a-half years. As cave-ins go, Blust's produced a sizable cloud of dust and gave us a fair impression of what we might expect from him in the N.C. House, to which he desires to be promoted by the citizens in the elections of 2006.

For Honeycutt, perhaps it gets more complicated. Will there be a primary candidate against him next year when he runs for reelection to the County Commission? And will Deborah Greene be leading the charge?

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Jon Stewart Take-Down of Christopher Hitchens

Day-after transcripts of "The Daily Show" are as hard to come by as Republican humility, but thanks to our beloved Wonkette, we have this bit from last night's confab between Jon Stewart (who was blazin'!) and the bilious Christopher Hitchens:

Stewart: The people who say we shouldn't fight in Iraq aren't saying it's our fault .... That is the conflation that is the most disturbing....

Hitch: Don't you hear people saying....

Stewart: You hear people saying a lot of stupid [bleep] ... But there are reasonable disagreements in this country about the way this war has been conducted, that has nothing to do with people believing we should cut and run from the terrorists, or we should show weakness in the face of terrorism, or that we believe that we have in some way brought this upon ourselves....

Hitch: [Sputter]

Stewart: They believe that this war is being conducted without transparency, without credibility, and without competence....

Hitch: I'm sorry, sunshine ... I just watched you ridicule the president for saying he wouldn't give...

Stewart: No, you misunderstood why ... That's not why I ridiculed the president. He refuses to answer questions from adults as though we were adults and falls back upon platitudes and phrases and talking points that does a disservice to the goals that he himself shares with the very people he needs to convince....

Library Sues Over Guv-mint Snooping

A member of the American Library Association in Connecticut -- unnamed for reasons explained below -- is suing the Bush Justice Department to challenge an FBI demand for library documents under provisions of the USA Patriot Act. The suit focuses on the FBI's use of a document called a "national security letter" (NSL), which allows investigators to demand records without the approval of a judge and to prohibit companies or institutions from disclosing the request. Which is why the library (or librarian -- it isn't clear whether the plaintiff is an individual or an institution) in Connecticut cannot talk openly about what's going on. Nice!

The only thing clear from the WashPost story is that the FBI is seeking Internet subscriber information, billing information, and access logs for an unidentified target. There's a court-imposed gag order on the lawsuit.

In the land of the free in 2001, you can't protest the actions of Big Bubba because to protest specific government actions would be the same as possessing information that it's a crime to possess. When grow dizzy. When information is criminalized...

Which is exactly what the Republican-controlled House of Representatives wants to do in its proposed extension of the USA Patriot Act, "which, among other things, would allow those who violate a gag order in connection with an NSL to be sentenced to as long as five years in prison." Just the act of debating provisions of the Patriot Act could get you thrown in jail, Sucka!

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said during Senate testimony in April that the Justice Department "has no interest in rummaging through the library records or medical records of Americans." It's not the first time they've lied. Nor the last.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Justice Stevens Says Eminent Domain Decision "Unwise"

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens told a Las Vegas bar meeting that the recent and controversial eminent domain case out of Connecticut was an "unwise" decision. So ... can't we get a do-over?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Shakin' the Money Tree in Boone, North Carolina

Go here to see where $247,301 political dollars went, sent from zip code 28607, including dollar disbursements to candidates in both political parties and to political PACs. All this information, assembled by the Center for Responsive Politics, takes several screens to get through, and we recommend taking the whole trip ... especially to see who in Boone gave to Madame Virginia Foxx. What you do with that information is entirely up to you. Gawd knows it's a burden!

Also of interest are those who gave to Ed Broyhill last year. Broyhill WAS considered Foxx's chief rival for the 5th District congressional nomination, and there was some outpouring of support for him from Boone. We couldn't help noticing that ASU's new chancellor -- or his wife -- threw a little money in that direction, along with others with an ASU connection. Not surprising at all, given Madame Foxx's attitude toward ASU.

Also not surprising that Chancellor Peacock is all born again now. He's registered Republican (there are people extant who seem to remember his being a registered Democrat prior to last year's election), and he's busily bussing the Madame's cheek in full view of various cameras, 'pologizing to her that ASU has been hostile to her in times past. As the old man from Kentucky once said, "There's just some things a body ought not to see."

The Un-evolved John McCain

Senator John McCain, whom some liberal Democrats persistently want to believe is a "moderate," came out in favor of teaching "intelligent design" in high school science classes. Proving that, indeed, the theory of evolution doesn't apply to his own enlightenment.

No Lottery in North Carolina

It's official: there'll be no state lottery in North Carolina, at least not this year.

The showdown came in the state Senate, where all the Republicans and five liberal Democrats dealt the Guv a "stunning setback" -- the Republicans out of a sense of superior morality, the liberal Democrats out of a sense of social justice. Whatever. The lottery's gone, and we're relieved. It's bad public policy that pegs the education of all our children on gambling by the uneducated. Especially while the richest among us are given tax cuts.

The final drama over the lottery involved our own Republican Senator John Garwood, who was targeted by the Guv as a possible flip-flopper (along with a handful of other "soft" Republicans). Garwood was said at one point to be wavering, and the pressure from both sides may have led to his near collapse in the Senate. He was taken to the hospital suffering from "the shakes." Garwood is a diabetic, and it sounds like his blood sugar got dangerously low. The sweet-talking by the Guv didn't help.

North Carolina's distinction now: We're the only state on the Eastern seaboard without state-mandated public gambling, a badge of backwardness I'm willing to wear with pride.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

We Have a Superintendent of Public Instruction!

The state legislature today awarded the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to June Atkinson, thus ending the nation's longest unresolved state contest. We're sure school children will skip more lively to school tomorrow a.m., knowing that their mis-education is still safe in Democratic hands, and teachers can go on teaching godless socialism and seducing the innocent with the rotten promise of tolerance.

North Carolina Libertarian Party De-Certified

As of today the N.C. State Board of Elections will no longer recognize the Libertarian Party in the state. (Thanks to Stumpy for the heads-up.) Citizens previously registered "Libertarian" are now officially "Unaffiliated." Oh there is SO going to be a law suit over this.

God ... Red of Tooth and Claw

So far as I and Google can determine, CNN is the only major news outfit so far reporting on the fatwa Mullah Pat Robertson issued against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Monday on "The 700 Club": "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war .... We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Chavez's sin? He's a left-wing populist with close ties to Cuban President Fidel Castro, and he's sitting on one of the major oil supplies in the world. Ah! Even Mullah Robertson's own Christian Broadcasting Network website can't disguise its glittery-eyed fascination with ALL THAT OIL. Here are the two opening sentences of CBN's background article on Chavez: "His name is Hugo Chavez. He is the president of oil-rich Venezuela...." Has lust ever looked more naked?

Chavez has said that he thinks the U.S. is trying to assassinate him (wonder where he got that idea?) and that he might consider cutting off the oil spigot. Robertson cracked under the strain of that suggestion, evidently, throwing in for good measure a wild accusation that Chavez is trying to make Venezuela "a launching pad for Communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent."

Robertson's utilitarian holiness is very instructive. He's long seen no prohibition in HIS Bible to killing annoying people. In 1999 he called for the lifting of the ban on U.S. government-sponsored political assassinations. In 2003 he off-handedly said that nuking the State Department might be a good idea. And he's recently famous for praying on air for God to "take out" a few more Supreme Court justices.

Not that we always disagree with the letter of the mullah's fatwas. In 1999 he said, "I know it sounds somewhat Machiavellian and evil, to think that you could send a squad in to take out somebody like Osama bin Laden, or to take out the head of North Korea. But isn't it better to do something like that, to take out Milosevic, to take out Saddam Hussein, rather than to spend billions of dollars on a war that harms innocent civilians and destroys the infrastructure of a country?" He said this two years before Osama bin Laden took down the Twin Towers.

He had a point, obviously, borne out by El Presidente's dimness (pre 9/11) and El Presidente's ineptitude (post 9/11). Robertson's frank advice might have saved Bush his present situation. Well, it's OUR situation, our national treasure, our human lives, not HIS. He's off biking somewhere and eating million-dollar barbecue. But we digress. I've always been in favor of surgical killer strikes -- the old Cruise missle through the tent flap -- but then I've also never claimed I was a Christian paragon entitled to lay down the path of holiness for everyone else. In fact, I seem to recall hearing that because I'm a Democrat, I lack a moral compass. If Mullah Robertson is our exemplar of morality, who exactly calibrates his compass? Ivan the Terrible?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Mayor of Salt Lake City Says Protest Is Patriotic

I lived in Salt Lake City from 1966 to 1970, the heyday of The Haight in San Francisco, when Salt Lake City was a stopover for many Eastern teenagers bound for "paradise california." Cut my political organizing teeth in Salt Lake City for the "children's crusade" of Sen. Eugene McCarthy. I was in Salt Lake City when President Lyndon B. Johnson announced on television that he would not seek, nor would he accept, his party's nomination to run for reelection in 1968. That was McCarthy's doing. I was there too on that June night when Robert F. Kennedy got gunned down in L.A. Organizing neighborhood caucuses for McCarthy, I was no fan of the Kennedy brother, but I was impressed by his ability to pull support from the working class in that heartland of Mormonism. That same spring of 1968, Martin Luther King got gunned down in Memphis. My god, they were killing everybody back in those days, and I was watching it all from the City of the Saints.

So I used to know a little something about that place and was more than a little interested to hear that the current mayor out there, Rocky Anderson, a (gasp!) liberal Democrat, was leading what he hoped would be the biggest protest in Utah state history against the war policies of El Presidente, who is in Salt Lake City today to address a friendly crowd of veterans. Evidently, it won't be all that friendly outside on the street.

Don't know what the demographics are like there now, but in the late 1960s Salt Lake City proper was not majority Mormon, the most dependably Republican voting bloc this side of your friendly neighborhood Southern Baptist congregation, so even back then it was not unheard of to have maverick Democrats holding office in the state capitol of Utah.

Rocky Anderson is apparently a maverick Democrat. And an effective leader in urban revitalization. And he's not shy in his opinion about El Presidente's disastrous foreign policy nor in rallying opposition. He sent out an e-mail to ten activist leaders calling for a huge effort to show Mr. Bush that there's plenty of true-blue in the heart of the reddest state: "There should be a collaboration of health-care-provision advocates, seniors, the [gay, lesbian and bisexual and transsexual] community, anti-Patriot Act advocates and other civil libertarians, anti-war folks, pro-Social Security advocates, environmental advocates, anti-nuclear-testing advocates, and anti-nuclear-waste-shipment-and-storage advocates," the mayor wrote in the e-mail.

About which the local senior vice commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars said, "Excuse my French, but -- that son of a bitch! It makes the mayor look very, very unpatriotic. It makes him look despicable."

To which the mayor sensibly replied, "Patriotism demands that people speak out when we see our government officials acting in such anti-democratic and deceitful ways to the people of our country .... I don't understand people simply blindly going along with the sort of deceit and utter cruelty of this administration. It's not just we have the right to speak out, but we have the obligation to speak out when we see misconduct on the part of the government. The most patriotic thing we can do is stand up against the misuse of governmental power."

You tell 'em, Mayor! And say hello to the Saints for me.

Today's Puzzler: Can a Democratic Senator Find His Ass with Both Hands & a Head Start?

In arguing that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts should be given a pass by Senate Democrats, former Democratic Senator John Breaux is quoted in this a.m.'s NYTimes, "Roberts is a good family man with beautiful children. You have to be very careful about how you approach digging into the background of somebody who appears to be a good guy."

We're reminded by that really remarkable sentiment of something the character Aaron Altman (played by Albert Brooks) says in "Broadcast News" (1987): "What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing...."

In the same NYTimes article referenced above, Democratic Senator Mark Pryor is quoted saying his Arkansas constituents "want me to do something about gas prices before I do something about Judge Roberts."

Because, after all, filling up the old SUV is of far greater significance than women's rights, environmental laws, and the ability of the federal government to regulate big business.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Teapot Museum in Sparta

Heard people talking -- and laughing -- about the "pork" ($400,000, which is a lot of bat skins!) that got slipped into the N.C. state budget for a "teapot museum" in Sparta. Rep. Jim Harrell of Surry County did the slipping. And turns out Sen. Richard Burr and Virginia Foxx are pulling strings to get $1 million more in federal money for the same thing.

The full story's not quite so laughable, though possibly the rich Californians who amassed a collection of 8,000 antique and not-so-antique ceramic (and not so ceramic) teapots are worthy of hearty laughter. Most of us collectors are totally nuts, God knows. (My collection of women-in-prison movies, for example, will someday sell for big bucks!)

We actually saw a generous helping of those 8,000 teapots at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware a couple of years ago, and I have to say, they're worth their own institution.

And unlikely as Sparta might be for the location, it's an economic development issue for Alleghany County, which has lost 2,000 jobs under the "strong, magnificent, rebounding" Bush economy since 2000.

If they build it, I will come.

"The Wedge" of "Intelligent Design"

So you think, along with El Presidente, that it's perfectly reasonable to teach the theory of "intelligent design" alongside the theory of evolution in public schools?

Try out the deep background in today's NYTimes on the Discovery Institute, the Seattle think-tank that has successfully pushed "intelligent design" into the consciousness of El Presidente and into the school curriculums of at least three states.

What's perfectly clear is that the Discovery Institute is just another outpost of "movement" conservatism. It published a "manifesto" in 1999 revealingly entitled "The Wedge" (echoes of Mr. Rove's brand of politics) which sought "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies" in favor of a "broadly theistic understanding of nature."

"Many of [its] research fellows, employees and board members are ... devout and determinedly conservative; pictures of William J. Bennett, the moral crusader and former drug czar, are fixtures on office walls, and some leaders have ties to movement mainstays like Focus on the Family. All but a few in the organization are Republicans...."

Perfectly "reasonable" to give over to these folks the teaching of science to children, yes?

One critic of the Discovery Institute has described it as "the institutional love child of Ayn Rand and Jerry Falwell" (and we'll let you Google Ayn Rand on your own to discover just how apt that coupling is!).

At Play in the Fields of the Lord

"Rattle me out of bed early, set me going, give me as short a time as you like to bolt my meals in, and keep me at it. Keep me always at it, and I'll keep you always at it, you keep somebody else always at it. There you are with the Whole Duty of Man in a commercial country." Charles Dickens, "Little Dorrit," 1857.

The number of individuals filing for personal bankruptcy is up over 17 percent from last year in Cleveland ... That number is up 14 percent in Milwaukee and a whopping 22 percent in northern Iowa. Nationwide, bankruptcy filings for April, May, and June were up by 12 percent over the same period last year.

According to today's NYTimes, "bankruptcy filings rose eightfold over the last 30 years, from 200,000 in 1978 to 1.6 million last year. Although filings vary from month to month, the pace for this year, if it holds up, projects to about 1.8 million bankruptcies. The overwhelming majority of them are personal, not business."

What's driving this surge? Last April, thanks to a few nominal Democrats who voted with the Republicans, the U.S. Congress passed, and El Presidente happily signed into law, a major overhaul of bankruptcy law which threatens to bring back conditions that Charles Dickens wrote about in "Little Dorrit." Don't call it The Bankruptcy Bill. Call it "The Debtor's Prison Enablement Act of 2005."

Okay, okay, so the airheads who've been living like sailors on shore-leave off credit cards are about to get their comeuppance, and maybe there's a sliver of my proto-Republican psyche that finds that satisfying. These suburbanite kids who grew up in a consumer society and learned no school work nearly as well as the work of mall trawling are now crashing and burning all around us, albeit their funeral pyres burn all the brighter for the designer duds they're wearing, and the trendy electronics they've piled up on credit, and the cool wheels, etc. But dammit, they've done their best to be "All American," to emulate what Republican regimes have laid before them as necessary to be saved, only to find they're damned to debtor's hell.

Some of these bankruptcy stories -- a LARGE number, we would guess -- are not due to silly consumer drunkenness but to the health-care crisis in this country, like the example detailed in the NYTimes story referenced above: "...the Moore family of Boise, Kevin and Linda, listing a $10 cat and a $5 toaster among their meager assets against a medical bill of more than $18,000."

El Presidente feels their pain? Don't make me choke on a chortle.

Watching the Sunday morning gasbags talk darkly about (a) energy prices and (b) the housing bubble and (c) the lack of personal savings by the majority of Americans, and then opening my NYTimes to this bankruptcy article, could -- COULD, I said -- turn me into a cellar-dwelling hermit guarding my supply of canned goods with a good-sized gun. And maybe there's a sliver of my proto-democratic psyche that thinks, "bring it on!" because it'll take a general collapse of every damn thing to rid us of these ruling Ebenezer Scrooges.

Dark thoughts for the dog days. Who of us are not more than one major medical crisis away from the poor house? And now we can't even afford the gas to drive there.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Origin of Species

July 29, 2005: Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) breaks with El Presidente on support for stem cell research, reflecting some of the thousands of dollars of scientific training he's been through.

August 19, 2005: Sen. Bill Frist agrees with El Presidente that "intelligent design" should be given equal time with evolution in America's classrooms, betraying thousands of dollars of scientific training he's been through.

And proving that when it comes to Republican politics, one cannot make oneself too dumb or too rich.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Blowhard Vs. Boobs

MSNBC host & former Florida Republican congressman Joe Scarbrough is thinking about challenging Katherine Harris in the 2006 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bill Nelson. Apparently, Elizabeth Dole is doing her best to recruit Scarbrough, along with most of the national Republican establishment and the party bigwigs in the Florida Republican Party. Everybody's spooked by Harris, including horses grazing in nearby fields.

Just before announcing her bid for the Senate, Harris accused the "liberal" media of making her look more clownish during the 2000 balloting recount controversy. She said "some newspapers" had colorized her photographs, without specifying which ones.

But last week she made a delicious spectacle out of herself, turning a pointed profile on "Hannity & Colmes" and simpering like a mall-cruising teenager. "Did you notice her platforms?" asked a wicked Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

With Neighbors Like These...

"Camp Casey," which has been pitched around Cindy Sheehan in the roadside ditch about two miles from El Presidente's "ranch," is moving onto an acre a mile closer to El Presidente, sanctuary offered by a friendly, anti-war neighbor of W ... Fred Mattlage, an Army veteran. It was Fred Mattlage's cousin Larry Mattlage who notoriously fired a shotgun into the air twice last Sunday in anger and frustration at the peace demonstrators. Fred and Larry don't share the same politics. Fred and George W. don't share the same politics either. Ain't America great!

NARAL Refuses to Endorse a Candidate for Gov. in Va.

The Republican candidate for Virginia governor would ban abortion and also ban contraceptives. The Democrat says he's pro-life; the Democrat also says he's pro-choice. (Catholic, natch.) So NARAL says "we're outta here!" The Republican will win, mainly because he knows what he thinks. The Democrat will lose because he wants to be Republican on this issue. Then perhaps John Roberts will make it possible for the new Republican governor of Virginia to ban abortion out-right. (Banning contraceptives probably won't play that well with white Republican men of a certain income, but we could be wrong.)

Return of The Mummy

Comes news this a.m. that we have Ed Meese to thank for Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. You remember Ed Meese? Ronald Reagan's Attorney General, chief domestic policy advisor ... "There-are-no-hungry-children-in-America" Ed Meese. (Actually, he said, "I don't know of any authoritative figures that there are hungry children. I've heard a lot of anecdotal stuff, but I haven't heard any authoritative figures ... I think some people are going to soup kitchens voluntarily. I know we've had considerable information that people go to soup kitchens because the food is free and that that's easier than paying for it ... I think that they have money." Makes you almost miss the bland but honest cruelty of the Republican Party of 20 years ago, doesn't it, before they learned to wrap their callousness in "compassionate" gestures?)

Ed Meese pioneered the political movement toward "original intention" (as in, "the original Constitution doesn't say anything about giving rich people's money to poor people, which makes welfare unconstitutional"). John Roberts is said to have sat at Meese's knee, feeding from his hand, yipping for a treat.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Madame Foxx Washes Her Dirty Laundry

Friday the Watauga Democrat published a lengthy interview with 5th Dist. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx. We read it so you don't have to:

What she said: "I try to catch up on mail when I'm in the office. Sunday night, I had about 150 letters to review."

What she meant: "And Sunday nights are usually spent praising the Lord and thanking Jesus."


What she said: "I'm fascinated with the founding of this country. It was a lot more difficult than I think most people realize. There's no doubt in my mind that God's hand was in on the founding of this country."

What she meant: "He's great with the ole 'Reach Around,' praise His holy name!"


What she said: "Their brilliance has not been duplicated. Just look at the Constitution and how well it has worked for us with very little change. Think about the other countries trying to write theirs. It took six years to come up with the Constitution."

What she meant: "It took me seven years to find Jesus as my personal savior. Or whatever you call it."


What she said: "The role of the federal government is defense of this nation, and we need to be constantly reminded that is the most important function. What gave these men inspiration to fight a war was understanding they were a free people and wanted to maintain freedom."

What she meant: "If I can rationalize a foreign invasion based on lies, I can fake being a Baptist."


What she said: "Obviously I have loyalty to the people who elect me, but also to the people of the nation as a whole to maintain the form of government that we have."

What she meant: "The whole is where it's at. W-h-o-l-e."


What she said: "I get at least one letter or email a week, usually a couple, that are misinformed."

What she meant: "I wasn't even in town when-- Never mind."


What she said: "Last night, I got home at 10 and washed four loads of clothes."

What she meant: "Although I have a pair of enormous balls, I am nevertheless a subservient woman."


What she said: "There's almost never a time during the day when I sit behind a desk."

What she meant: "I'm like a camel. I can go weeks without water."


What she said: "A lot of days, you don't have a huge success, but you're building all the time. It takes weeks, months or years to get something really important accomplished. Big things don't scare me off if it's the right thing after they're done."

What she meant: "Having a Vision is haaard and takes really tortured syntax."

Friday, August 12, 2005

What Manner of Man Is Gov. Easley? (Not Easy)

Barry Saunders' column in today's N&O offers more evidence -- as if we needed it! -- of how The Guv just can't seem to do the right thing. What was he like as a little kid? Did he kick his grandmother in the knee?

Get the REAL News from Iraq

Because of this article in this a.m.'s WashPost, I've spent the morning cruising through some of the fascinating stuff on blogs posted by members of the U.S. military in Iraq. Raw news from the front. Things ain't as rosy over there, morale-wise, as El Presidente & Rummy want us to believe.

Military blogging has obviously made the Pentagon very edgy. There are now Army rules for bloggers, most importantly, the order "Thou Shalt Register Your Site with the Chain of Command."

According to the WashPost, after an explosion in a soldiers' mess hall near the northern city of Mosul killed 22 people last December, including 14 U.S. soldiers, Maj. Michael Cohen, the doctor on duty at the nearest medical facility, wrote about the carnage on his blog: "As I stepped outside, I couldn't believe what was going on. There had to be at least 30 patients on the ground waiting for medical care. We divided and conquered, going from patient to patient trying to determine who had the worst wounds and who needed to be treated first. We identified several patients with femur fractures as well as two humerus fractures. We also had two patients who were paralyzed from the waste [sic] down, another with some bleeding in the brain, and two more with eye injuries."

Go to Maj. Cohen's site now, and this is what you see: "...I have some very unfortunate news. Levels above me have ordered me to shut down this website. They cite that the information contained in these pages violates several Army Regulations. I have made a decision to turn off the site."

Our favorite discovery of the morning is "My War: Killing Time in Iraq" by Colby Buzzell, who spent a year in Iraq and started his blogging while on the front lines. He signed all his posts (and still does) CBFTW for "Colby Buzzell Fuck the War." He's back in L.A. now and describes himself as "an unemployed trigger-puller." His book-length account, "My War," is soon to be published by Putnam's.

"The Mudville Gazette" is a "clearinghouse of information on military blogging" administered by an Army veteran who goes by the screen name Greyhawk. There's some "liberal" bashing on his site, not that there's anything wrong with that in this land of the free ("liberal"). I'm all for Greyhawk's operation, outside the purview of military censors.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

"Vision" or Killer Instinct?

"Our elected officials .... must be allies in the formulation of our vision."

Thus spake N.C. Democratic Party Chair Jerry Meek at the Progressive Democrats state convention a few days ago. (Extended excerpts can be found on the Tar Heel Dems site.)

Couldn't agree more, but, alas & alack, therein lies the rub. There's not a state-wide Democratic office-holder at the moment, save Roy Cooper, who seems to be operating with a vision that extends past the bounds of their own self-interests. Or I dare you! Show one to me ... the "vision thing" in any N.C. Democratic "elected official" who represents more than a single county. We are woefully devoid of what Jerry Meek says we must have: elected officials who are active "allies" in "the formulation of our vision." Cf. The Guv.

Meek went on in his prepared remarks before the "Green Dog" convention of progressives: "[Is there] some relationship between strategy and vision[?] The cynic would argue that the electoral strategy should create the vision. In other words, you say what you have to say in order to get elected. Others would contend that the vision should be independent of the electoral strategy -- that there should be no relationship between strategy and vision. I would take it a step further. I believe the vision should drive the electoral strategy. In other words, what we stand for and how we campaign should be inextricably intertwined. So I speak to you today with the premise that we should be a party of vision; that it should be one vision, sufficiently abstract to unite but sufficiently concrete to be meaningful; and that our electoral strategy should be the product of, rather than a factor in, our vision."

Gosh. Meek's thinking out loud is valuable, and I would have wildly applauded much of what he said. I do sincerely believe that my own strategies to win an election are deeply an expression of my vision of who & what Democrats ought to be. But I ain't waitin' for voices on high to speak. If somebody should come up with a good elected-official-assisted "vision" for the N.C. Democrats, I'll be the first to stand up and salute it. I might even try to shape my electoral strategies to it. Otherwise, this kind of talk reminds me of too many candidate committees I've been in where the candidate was headed for sure defeat.

Give me a Paul Hackett any day! Was it "vision" that made him so attractively sure of who he was and what he thought of El Presidente? Or was it killer instinct?

Just too many people -- Democrats, especially progressives -- want to talk "vision," who have no appetite for actual politics. I think I'll take killer instinct.

The Easley-Black Power Grab

Getting closer to the bottom of why The Guv did not appoint a state board of elections back in May, as he was supposed to do.

He was pissed that Jerry Meek didn't recommend his friend Bob Cordle, a Charlotte lawyer, who had already served a term or two on the board. Instead, Meek wanted retired Superior Court Judge Coy Brewer of Fayetteville, described by the N&O today as "a Meek mentor."

State law ties the Guv's hands. He has to appoint three Democrats and two Republicans from lists supplied to him by the chairs of the state Democratic & Republican parties. The Guv didn't like Meek's list.

'Pears that the Charlotte attorney Bob Cordle is also good friends with House Speaker Jim Black. So ... there's a little shenanigan afoot, "slipped into page 262 of the state budget," presumably by Black, to give the Guv authority to appoint all five members of the state Board of Elections ... the party chairs be damned!

"A power grab" is how GOP Chairman Ferrell Blount described it.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Republicans Are Right: Washington IS the Problem

Democratic pollsters Karl Agne and Stan Greenberg are advising "a reform-oriented, anti-Washington agenda" for Democratic candidates in 2006, based on a series of focus groups conducted among rural voters in Wisconsin and Arkansas and among disaffected supporters of President Bush in Colorado and Kentucky.

Pay close attention to who were in those focus groups: rural voters and disaffected Bush supporters.

Though Democrats have the edge when it comes to the economy, they cannot easily overcome a yawning "culture gap." These rural and disaffected Bush voters see the Democrats as weak on national security; they view Democrats as both inconsistent and hostile to traditional values. "Most referred to Democrats as 'liberal' on issues of morality, but some even go so far as to label them 'immoral,' 'morally bankrupt,' or even 'anti-religious.' " (Dan Balz's column in the WashPost is the only place I've seen this report discussed so far.)

So Agne and Greenberg are (essentially) advising Democrats to focus on what superior Republican "morality" gets us ... a crushing deficit, corruption for the sake of corporate dollars, official lying to get us into war. Agne & Greenberg's advice: RUN AGAINST WASHINGTON, especially since it's all controlled by Republicans now.

Works for me. But, then, I'm clearly a moral bankrupt.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Of Extremes ... We Have No End

Okay, okay, okay! Since we brought up John Roberts and opened the door just a crack (below) ... by supposing that he might be a (gasp) moderate on the Supreme Court ... we might as well DISCUSS, as Linda Richman used to request on "Saturday Night Live."

The extreme moral self-righteousness of the Rev. Dobson and the other mullahs of the Right gets our goat, mainly because we grew up with those people. They ran EVERYTHING in our part of rural West Texas, just as they're trying to run everything in this broad country. They passed judgment on everyone. Passing judgment is what they're all about. I've seen them purge churches of people who seemed too "moderate" for their hard-line doctrines. Purges are their speciality.

Dobson and the other cheerleaders for El Presidente's born-again agenda for America want no less than to purge the United States of its sin, starting with the sin of abortion and moving on to the sin of homosexuality and then taking on the really complicated sin of depending on the government for help.

Will Roberts aid them with their purge? I look at that beefeater's face of his and think I see a purge-meister. Wonkette has been suggesting for days that's he's actually g.a.y. himself, for whatever that proves. Don't we know by now that closeted gays on the Right are every bit as willing to drop the blade as any Mr. MachoMan?

About all of this, Richard Cohen's column in today's WashPost gives me thoughtful pause. Cohen conjures on the news that came out in the L.A. Times last week ... that Roberts volunteered his time on behalf of gay rights: "As a partner in the prestigious Washington law firm of Hogan & Hartson, Roberts helped prepare lawyers who were challenging a Colorado law that specifically exempted gays from state anti-discrimination measures. In other words, a landlord or employer in Colorado could not have discriminated against blacks or Muslims or Asians or Jews or whites or greens or penguins, but could against gays. This odious exception to the law was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court, 6 to 3, in 1996. Roberts played a role."

Roberts was NOT compelled to volunteer his time to this cause. From that slim evidence, Cohen maintains he is therefore NOT a bigot. Furthermore, according to Cohen, Roberts appears to know that not being a bigot might be a problem to those pushing him into a seat on the Supreme Court, for he withheld this information about his gay pro bono work from the 83 pages he submitted to the Senate outlining his finances, his OTHER pro bono work, and other matters of interest. "He knows the political peril of tolerance," writes Cohen.

The reaction of the White House & its mullah allies to this revelation of gay cosiness is what most arrests our attention: "Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, pointed out that Roberts had spent less than 10 hours working on the gay rights case. She made it sound like a one-night stand, a youthful indiscretion for which no adult should be held accountable."

Other leaders of other right-wing groups have rushed to explain that Roberts was NOT being tolerant. Heavens no! (Though Rev. Dobson was on Fox News last night admitting he was "concerned" that a man comfortable with helping gay people might be sneaked onto the High Court.)

E.J. Dionne Jr. is also in today's WashPost with the opinion that such extreme moral conservatism is ultimately going to do in the Republican Party. Fine, but will any of us survive the fire to actually see it?

The Clock Is Ticking on Abortion Rights

The White House yesterday filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that a New Hampshire parental notification law does not need an exception for pregnant girls whose health is at risk.

John Roberts could be the pivotal vote for deciding this case. Obviously, the Bush administration can't wait to get him on the Court so he can start rolling back the clock on women's rights. Roberts, recall, will replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was co-writer of the 1992 decision requiring that states not impose an "undue burden" on exercising the right to abortion. If Roberts gets on that bench, you can kiss that standard goodbye (along with your sweet asses, girls). (Unless, of course, we're dead wrong about Roberts. Maybe we should take bets.)

Significantly, this is the FIRST time that the White House has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a Supreme Court case dealing with abortion. Significant, we say. They know Roberts should be on the court in time to hear the arguments, scheduled for late this fall, and to cast the deciding vote.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Our Tardy Guv

The State Board of Elections finally gave up on Gov. Easley. He was supposed to have appointed a new state Board of Elections -- two Republicans and three Democrats -- well before the terms of the old board ran out in May. Normally, the Guv appoints the State Board, and the State Board turns around and appoints local boards in all 100 counties. Not this year. Can you spell e.x.a.s.p.e.r.a.t.i.n.g? So the old State Board went ahead and made the appointments in the 100 counties in order that new members of county boards could attend a training conference in Chapel Hill on Aug. 18-19.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

We Might As Well Be Drunker, If We're Going to Be Poorer

The lords giveth: "The state Senate gave final approval Wednesday to increasing the limit on alcohol in North Carolina beers and other malt beverages from 6 percent to 15 percent." And the lords taketh away: the budget that state legislative czars have been working on in total secrecy is bound to continue the historic redistribution of the tax burden onto North Carolina's working people.

Enjoy yours suds!

Howard, You Da Man!

It was pretty clear even before the e-mail message from Howard Dean yesterday afternoon that the Paul Hackett race in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District was a test, a probing of enemy lines looking for weaknesses. You've got to hand it to Howard Dean that he would decide to probe those enemy lines where they were habitually said to be their strongest. But what had looked like oak -- Ohio's most Republican district -- turned out to be punky wood. Howard Dean has every right to brag:

"The formula is simple. Paul Hackett didn't apologize for being a Democrat, didn't hold back from criticizing a president who has failed to lead in Iraq and at home, and took a strong Democratic message into the heart of a Republican stronghold."

Dean had been saying it over and over. We have to show up. If we show up and have the courage of our convictions, amazing things begin to happen.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Frist's Invitation, Lost In the Mail

Tony Perkins, mullah of the Family Research Council, has failed to invite the most powerful Republican in the U.S. Senate to "Justice Sunday II," even though Tennessee Senator (& Majority Leader) Bill Frist prominently spoke at Tony Perkins' first "Justice Sunday" back in April. The social snubbing! That's got to cut to the quick. Not to mention the salt in the wound: "Justice Sunday II" will be held smack-dab in the middle of Frist's own state, in Nashville, on August 14.

At the first "Justice Sunday" last April, organized as a mass protest against an abortion-allowin', gay-lovin' Supreme Court, Frist in effect gave his imprimatur to a hair-raising movement, a movement of dangerous rhetoric and hot emotions against "liberal judges." It's the sort of angry movement that repeatedly in American history spawns civic violence. You'll recall that the charge was made that Democrats opposed to Bush's judges were making war on "people of faith." Participation by Frist in this hoe-down, in effect his blessing, clearly appeared to ratify the argument "that people of one viewpoint have God on their side and all others are faithless" (as Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a jew, succinctly put it).

That was Frist as bad cop ... never far removed, actually, from Ole Fristy, the good cop. That is to say, it wasn't much of a speech Frist gave. He phoned it in, literally. That is, he appeared via videotape, a nice antiseptic distance away (though he caught that cold anyway). In fact, much about Frist's speech to the first Justice Sunday clearly signaled to the mullahs that Frist wasn't comfortable. Alluding to the Christian Right's talk of punishing judges whose decisions they strongly dislike, Frist said: "The balance of power among all three branches requires respect, not retaliation. I won't go along with that." That pronouncement, in that context, was like flatulence in the second pew during the offetory.

So when Frist broke last week on the subject of federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, Tony Perkins and the other organizers of "Gig a Liberal Judge Near You" (a.k.a., Justice Sunday II) were probably more than happy to drop Frist from the invitation list. According to the AP, Tony Perkins posted yesterday on his group's Web site that Frist's recently announced stem cell stance "reflects an unwise and unnecessary choice both for public policy and for respecting the dignity of human life." The AP reporter added, "Perkins also has been annoyed with Frist for allowing a compromise on President Bush's judicial nominations."

In other words, Frist has ripped the sheet with the Religious Right. There wasn't a pundit in sight last Sunday who wasn't writing his political obituary, at least his ambition to be president. Only Sen. Arlen Spector was taking a contrarian viewpoint ... that Frist had helped himself. Why, Senator? "Because the majority of Americans favor embryonic stem-cell research." The "majority of Americans" would have to include at least a large minority of the Republican Party, you'd think, but many of those moderate Republicans don't routinely vote in primaries, leaving the choosing of candidates to the most extreme elements. To even get the attention of moderate, majoritarian Republicans, Frist would have to make a huge issue out of breaking with extremist Christian Right Republicans. Something he isn't likely to do. At the moment, in fact, he's showing every symptom of the battered child syndrome. But thus goes Frist. And there goes -- eventually -- John McCain?

Hell of a fix for a political party, destroying its most admirable men.

Bush to Scientists: "Eat My Shorts"

Another blow struck for making sure American school children are as dim as our president, and as fearful of facts, as superstitious, as walled in by doctrine, as hidebound by religious orthodoxy.

They Call It "GI Improvisation"

We got so sick of our American image in the cascading new revelations of American torture in Afghanistan and Iraq that we simply stopped posting anything about it months ago ... but sometimes the truth of what we've wrought in the name of "freedom" demands an airing. Take a look at this morning's WashPost, and remember this when you next hear El Presidente getting all rhetorical about the glorious benefits of American-style democracy.

And about how it's those Others who hate liberty.

Ohio Results

Paul Hackett carried the most rural counties in the Ohio 2nd Congressional District -- winning Brown, Adams, Scioto, and Pike counties easily. Where Schmidt beat him was in the affluent Cincinnati suburbs of Clermont County. The final tally was 52% - 48%. The actual vote tallies were roughly 59,000 to 55,000.

What needs to be studied -- and will be -- is the candidacy of a rough-talking Marine who called El Presidente a "son-of-a-bitch" and increased Democratic performance by 15% ... in very Republican Ohio.

And what's up with rural voters? Doesn't look like a particularly good sign for the Rovians, now does it?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Today's Special Election in Ohio

The contest between Paul Hackett, the Marine Corps Democrat, and Jean Schmidt, the all-abortion-is-murder Republican, in the special election today in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District has more variables than a quadratic equation. But check this one out: a conservative anti-tax group, Citizens Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, is running radio spots urging Republican voters to stay home today and not vote, because Schmidt isn't as anti-tax as she is anti-abortion. Best part? The ad is paid for by a liberal political action committee in Oregon.

On Sunday, Hackett seemed to catch Schmidt in a lie. She claimed that she had "never met" and "wouldn't recognize" Thomas Noe, the Republican campaign contributor at the heart of the state GOP's "Coingate" scandal (about which I've heard plenty at a distance but about which I know nothing specific). Hackett produced minutes of a March 2002 Ohio Board of Regents meeting that indicates that then-state representative Schmidt had met with the regents, whose membership at the time included Noe. Hackett made this revelation in front of the Hamilton County Courthouse. "When reporters asked for copies of the minutes, Hackett and an aide raced two blocks down Court Street to his law office in the Kroger building to run off copies."

I like that in a candidate ... somebody willing to make his own copies.

What I can't find is any polling numbers. But if it's true that Schmidt is relying on TV ads and Hackett on shoe-leather -- old-fashioned one-on-one contact by thousands of volunteers, not to mention his running to the Xerox -- then Hackett might just pull off the upset of the year. Especially if a lot of Republicans stay home.

Now, wouldn't that be something!

LATE UPDATE: Going on 9:30 p.m., & Hackett is leading -- last I looked -- 52% to Schmidt's 49%. Still many precincts uncounted.

Billboard Nepotism

State Representative Jim Harrell III (D-Surry) is trying to do away with a ten-year-old law banning billboards from Hwy 52 in Surry County. He appears to be pulling this string on behalf of his father, the Jim Harrell who ran against Virginia Foxx last fall and who is also a Surry County Commissioner.

It's the kind of thing that makes politicians look bad.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bible-Reading, Different From Bible-Thumping

My youth was NOT mis-spent. I was in Sunday School every week, and I studied the Bible much as I've studied everything else in my life -- with an avidity that passeth understanding. I memorized long passages, including the entire second chapter of Acts. When I got to college, I knew every biblical allusion in every piece of literature laid before me, and I've been eternally grateful for that grounding ... especially in these latter days of the Suit-and-Tie Pharisees, who intend to shove theocracy down our American throats.

So it's with some special interest that I've been finding out about a Christian Right group headquartered in Greensboro, something grandly calling itself the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, which has been busy since 1993 sneaking Right Wing propaganda into public school curriculums under the guise of teaching non-sectarian Bible history. But even a cursory glance at its web site reveals some true colors (a web site not to be missed for its grand trumpet-and-drum "resistance-is-futile" signature music). The NCBCPS founder, a real estate broker named Elizabeth Ridenour, says she launched her crusade to offer Bible history classes in public schools when she discovered that "the separation of church and state" was an impious "myth" promoted by the A.C.L.U.

Elizabeth Ridenour runs with some notorious fellow yappers. She brags about her pals on the web site: Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Robertson, Focus on the Family, etc. According to People for the American Way, Ridenour's outfit won't share its curriculum with the public and keeps secret the school districts that are offering her course. Such hush-hush behavior is apparently an operational necessity. If citizens found out what their children were being taught -- for example, that there's incontrovertible proof FROM NASA (no less) that the earth DID stand still when Joshua "fit the battle of Jericho" -- there might be a bit of a peep let out in protest.

I delved a little into this outfit because of its North Carolina connection and because of a front page article in this a.m.'s NYTimes about a fight over this very group's Bible curriculum in Odessa, Texas, where I still have a feel relatives, most of whom can tell a stalking horse when they stare one in the mouth.