Friday, December 30, 2005

Everything That Rises Must Converge

N.C. House Speaker Jim Black and the corruption scandal over the lottery makes the WashPost. See for yourself.

Torturers R Us

Another of Dana Priest's investigative reports on El Presidente's secret war on the Constitution, in this a.m.'s WashPost:

When the heat was on about illegal torture earlier this year, the administration dropped authorization for certain "interrogation techniques," then quietly reinstated them. The authorized techniques include "waterboarding" and "water dousing," both meant to make prisoners think they are drowning; hard slapping; isolation; sleep deprivation; liquid diets; and stress positions.

Through executive order, El Presidente has ordered the CIA to capture al Qaeda "suspects" (often with help from foreign intelligence services), to maintain secret prisons abroad, to use the interrogation techniques outlined above, and to maintain a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe (including carriers and operatives with North Carolina connections).

A. John Radsan, assistant general counsel at the CIA from 2002 to 2004, spoke on the record to Priest: "In the past, presidents set up buffers to distance themselves from covert action. But this president, who is breaking down the boundaries between covert action and conventional war, seems to relish the secret findings and the dirty details of operations."

"Everything is done in the name of self-defense, so they can do anything because nothing is forbidden in the war powers act," said one anonymous official who was briefed on the CIA's original cover program and who is skeptical of its legal underpinnings. "It's an amazing legal justification that allows them to do anything."

Do ANYTHING and talk dirty to me!

Our favorite feature: the CIA is developing "procedures" in the event a prisoner dies in custody (from a mite too much "stress"). "One proposal circulating among mid-level officers calls for rushing in a CIA pathologist to perform an autopsy and then quickly burning the body."

Welcome Wagon

According to this a.m.'s NYTimes, the recently passed House "border-security [anti-immigration] bill" will make it a federal crime to offer services or assistance to illegal immigrants. Virginia Foxx dreamed that up. It's her baby. She's a major cosponsor.

Priests, social workers, community do-gooders of all stripes ... THIS MEANS YOU! Help an illegal immigrant and you could spend five years in jail. Virginia Foxx's law would also allow the federal government to seize personal assets of those caught passing out meals, medical aid, or legal advice.

The Roman Catholic Foxx might want to note that the American Conference of Catholic Bishops has denounced the bill.

At the moment, this piece of unnecessary mischief is a House-passed law only. The Senate hasn't acted, and many think the Senate will never go along with the whip-and-chains approach.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

John 8:7

This just in: Spencer Mains, chair of the Watauga County Republican Party, has resigned his position over allegations of marital infidelity, and First Vice Chair Karen Wilson has taken over the party.

The split in the Watauga County GOP gets more unseemly by the week, not that there's anything wrong with that. Except that APPEARANCES are so important to them, as is their belief in their own moral superiority. It MUST be rough for people who spent all those years yukking it up over the sexual improprieties of Bill Clinton to face the failures of their own leaders.

Not that they're facing anything. Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

Pernicious Cookies

According to this a.m.'s NYTimes, the National Security Agency -- in addition to its already notorious illegal data-mining of domestic communications -- has been installing a form of spyware on the computers of anyone visiting the NSA website. The spyware, known as "persistent cookies," can track the Web surfing of your ordinary Joe or Jane who just happened to visit the NSA site for whatever reason.

Not only that, but when a privacy activist discovered the cookies on his own machine and alerted the Associated Press, the NSA quickly disabled the program and said it was all a mistake.

It's an illegal mistake.

Tip of the iceberg, folks. Tip of the iceberg.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Yoo Who?

John Yoo isn't exactly a household name, but he should be. As a mid-level attorney in George W. Bush's Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, Yoo had "a hand in virtually every major legal decision involving the US response to the attacks of September 11, and at every point, so far as we know, his advice was virtually always the same -- the president can do whatever the president wants."

It was Yoo, for example, who advised in an August 2002 memorandum that El Presidente cannot constitutionally be barred from ordering torture in wartime.

It also appears likely that it was Yoo's legal reasoning that suggested that the president could simply ignore the FISA law in ordering massive eavesdropping of international communications by domestic sources.

Yoo is now back in private life as a law professor at UCLA-Berkeley, and he's written a book defending his legal interpretations of the power of the president. There's a book review of it here that is exhaustive in unpacking the dangerous reasoning that is unhinging our constitutional checks and balances.

McCain Thinks Evolution is Running for Class President

Thanks to Stumpy for passing along this link, to keep us up with the Man Formerly Known for his "Straight Talk Express" who is now pandering in the worst way to a variety of audiences in his maneuvering to become the oldest president in American history.

On whether "Intelligent Design" should be taught along with evolution, McCain reportedly told an MTV audience, "Let the students decide."

While we're at it, why not let them decide whether Western Civilization, algebra, and U.S. history are worth studying, and whether pizza should be served every day in the cafeteria?

I just lost a lot of respect for the guy.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Santorum Tacking to the Left

The day after Judge Jones' decision in the Pennsylvania "Intelligent Design" case (Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover School Board), Sen. Rick Santorum (than whom there is nobody more to the taste of Christian conservatives) told the Philadelphia Enquirer that "he was troubled by testimony indicating that religion motivated some school board members to adopt the policy." Wha? (Account in today's WashPost.)

Santorum was on the advisory board of the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, which encouraged the Dover School Board to pass their rule in favor of "Intelligent Design" and then go to court to defend it. "I thought the Thomas More Law Center made a huge mistake in taking this case and in pushing this case to the extent they did," Santorum said. He said he will end his affiliation with the center.

Incidentally, Santorum is fighting for his political life in next year's Senate race, and he's way down in the polls. Does he think that going all gay about evolution is going to help him?

ADDENDUM: We're reminded (on the subject of Santorum's outrageous pandering to gay evolutionists) that the good Senator was not only a big proponent of teaching intelligent design, but his editorial on the subject was also featured prominently in the special newsletter the Dover Area school board sent out to the district after it added the intelligent design statement to the curriculum.

Stockings All Hung ... Up

We like this quote by former Republican Congressman Vin Weber of Minnesota (from this a.m.'s WashPost): "If you look at the whole [legislative year], [Republicans in Congress] didn't have a bad year. But, unfortunately, what matters politically is not the whole, but the end. And the end didn't end very well."

The "end" included El Presidente having to cave in to John McCain on an anti-torture statute (not that he's gonna actually follow the law), no oil drilling in ANWR, the budget reduction for poor people's aid and student loans still not passed, and in the last minutes yesterday, Rep. James Sensenbrenner pulled the rug out from under the brokered deal to extend the USA Patriot Act for six more months. It's extended for a mere five more weeks, after El Presidente said no way in hell he would sign a short-term extension. Way!

Leads to gloomy post-mortems like this one, by former Republican congressman, Mickey Edwards (Okla.): "It's the cumulative effect of all of this, whether it is scandal, or failure to get an agenda enacted or questions in the paper every day about unauthorized wiretaps and the failure of Congress to get involved. It's all adding up to a pretty serious situation."

As in uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff making a deal with prosecutors to nail a dozen lawmakers or so.

And THAT makes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hoping to Find Something Suspicious

"Bush administration officials believe it is not possible, in a large-scale eavesdropping effort, to provide the kind of evidence the [FISA] court requires to approve a warrant. Sources knowledgeable about the program said there is no way to secure a FISA warrant when the goal is to listen in on a vast array of communications in the hopes of finding something that sounds suspicious."

--WashPost, 22 Dec. 2005, p. A1

Hoping to find something that sounds suspicious. Listening in on a vast array of communications.

All you putative conservatives out there ... you're gonna be comfortable with this program, right? when there's a liberal Democrat back in the White House? Listening in on a vast array of communications, hoping to find something that sounds suspicious? That suits you?

Then what exactly is it that you're trying to CONSERVE? Inquiring minds want to know.

The president's dictatorial powers, asserted in the matter discussed above, have already led one FISA judge to resign in protest. Now others on the court are openly asking questions: What is the president doing, and why is he doing it without legal authority? The presiding FISA judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who also sits on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, intends to get to the bottom of it and is summoning all the other ten FISA judges to a briefing with administration officials soon after Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Baby Jesus Made Me a Paranoid Bully

The so-called "war on Christmas," we know, is a fiction promoted by the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Fox News. But the need some people exhibit for FEELING persecuted is actually pretty instructive.

Witness this letter to the editor in today's Watauga Democrat (scroll down to "No Apology for Christmas"). The author labors mightily to find an enemy to stand up to. "This year there has been a great deal of controversy," she writes, unconsciously revealing the success of a head-job that's been done on her poor noggin (with absolutely no visible scars). The "controversy" she's heard about and wants to think she's actually experienced? That some unnamed but very threatening band of liberal Christ-haters don't want her to celebrate the Christ in Christmas. Evidently, they've been threatening her.

"Should Merry Christmas be said or not?"

Without bothering to notice that she lives in a county where 92 percent of residents claim a belief in Christ and fully 72 percent of residents attend church at least occasionally, nor bothering to notice that even her sainted current president said "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" on his own official White House Christmas card, she screws up her moral outrage and her Christian-among-hungry-lions courage to declare, "As for me and my family, we have and will continue to celebrate Christmas." Wow. That's flinging down the gauntlet indeed. "Take that, you liberal socialists who surround me and my family and make it dangerous for us to celebrate Christmas!"

If that were all, it would be ... just plain sad, that such gullible ignorance could be turned into such politically motivated paranoia.

This same letter-writer goes on to claim she doesn't condemn the Christmas haters but then admits they are something of a "hindrance" to "the cause of Christ," which in a miracle of perfectly circular reasoning turns out to be their own salvation. They're hindering their own salvation by not believing in Christ, and just incidentally they're also bugging the bejesus (so to speak) out of this letter-writer for not allowing her to celebrate Christmas as proudly as she might otherwise do.

That's a frustrated Christian, who's not gonna rest until she proves she's being persecuted. Not that she condemns anybody. No, she intends to stand proudly in the synagogue and pray loudly, like any practicing pharisee.

The basic bullying behind such expressions of "Christian love" might have taken as its model this editorial by Nathan Tabor. You'll remember Tabor as one of the "six dwarfs" that ran against Virginia Foxx in last year's Republican primary for the 5th Dist. congressional seat.

Tabor begins his editorial in much the same way that the letter-writer in the Watauga Democrat began: why is there controversy over saying "Merry Christmas"? Then he writes: "Christmas is not just any old holiday. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, and the teachings of good will and kindness towards one another that Christ brought to this world. We celebrate his birth not only to honor Him, but to remind ourselves of how we strive to live our lives of faith."

So far so good, and you'll get no argument from me on that. But note those "teachings of good will and kindness towards one another" that Tabor genuflects before, because quick as Christmas, he'll forget humility and forbearance in favor of a pugnacious political arrogance. He argues that the Christian majority ought to be a good deal bolder in exercising its majority status against the minority: "Why is the majority being asked to hide their faith for the so called 'comfort' of a minority? Our country is based on majority rule. While it would be unreasonable to force all to be [sic] the religion of the majority, it is equally unreasonable to ask the majority to deny their faith because a select few are uncomfortable. Yet, this is exactly what is happening."

Breathtaking, isn't it, the little imps of illogic that leap together out of this figgy pudding?

Presumption # 1: A "minority" is asking the Christian majority "to deny their faith." There follows a litany of supposed prohibitions in 2005 of good Christian men to rejoice ... without, we can't help noticing, a scintilla of credible evidence of such outrageous persecution.

Presumption # 2: The Christian majority has an OBLIGATION, according to the American principal of "majority rule," of FORCING that mythical prosecutorial minority to shut up. Interesting what happens to that "good will toward men" boilerplate when you're busy manufacturing a devil class of Christ-haters to pretend you're afraid of.

Tabor is an object lesson in what the mullahs of the Christian Right REALLY want. They want obeisance (because they're in the majority), and they're mad as hell that they're not in total charge of this culture.

FISA Judge Resigns in Protest

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, has resigned in apparent protest of El Presidente's executive order allowing NSA spying on Americans WITHOUT FISA involvement.

Good for him.

Meanwhile, we think it's pretty clear that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is officially and irrevocably a wimp.

Someone's Lying About Spying

"The authorization given to N.S.A. by the president requires that one end of these communications has to be outside the United States. I can assure you, by the physics of the intercept, by how we actually conduct our activities, that one end of these communications are [sic] always outside the United States."

--Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the former N.S.A. director, now the second-ranking intelligence official in the country ... on whether N.S.A. has spied domestically

"People are running around saying that the United States is somehow spying on American citizens calling their neighbors. Very, very important to understand that one party to the communication has to be outside the United States."

--Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales

"A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases...."

--Anonymous officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified

The anonymous sources say it was an accident. Hayden and Gonzales say it never happened. Who the hell would ever know? And what gullible fool would believe ANYTHING they said?

(All quotes above from today's NYTimes.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Additional Domestic Spying

Following 9/11, the Convenient Excuse for Everything, then Attorney General John Ashcroft loosened up rules on the FBI to allow the agency to spy on PETA, the Catholic Workers group, Greenpeace, and other "activist" groups.

We're tellin' ya ... the stuff about domestic spying by this current regime has only JUST begun to come out.

Judge Rules That "Intelligent Design" Has No Place in Public School

In the matter of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania, in which parents of students enrolled in the public schools objected that the imposition of "Intelligent Design" theory into high school science classes was an unconstitutional establishment of religion, U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III has just handed down his decision ... and he agrees with the parents. Full text of the judge's decision here (pdf file).


As a finding of fact, Judge Jones writes that "an objective observer would know that ID [Intelligent Design] and teaching about 'gaps' and 'problems' in evolutionary theory are creationist, religious strategies that evolved from earlier forms of creationism." In other words, "Intelligent Design" is indeed a Trojan Horse meant to sneak religion back into school curriculums, and any self-respecting Trojan would recognize it instantly for what it is.

Judge Jones is particularly sharp in his writing (starting on page 36, of this 139-page decision!) of what an "objective student" would assume upon hearing the mandated statement regarding Darwin and "Intelligent Design" that the Dover School Board ordered its 9th grade science teachers to read aloud at the beginning of the school year. Devastating analysis.

But by far the most far-reaching part of the judge's decision is this: "...we find it incumbent upon the Court to further address an additional issue raised by Plaintiffs, which is whether ID is science .... While answering this question compels us to revisit evidence that is entirely complex, if not obtuse, after a six week trial that spanned twenty-one days and included countless hours of detailed expert witness presentations, the Court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area" (p. 63). Having said that as prelude, the judge then rules that Intelligent Design is NOT science "in the hope that [my ruling] may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources" in other jurisdictions where fundamentalist and right-wing activists are seeking to subvert evolutionary science with religious dogma.

Furthermore, the judge observes that Intelligent Design, in its attempts to cast doubt on evolution, deliberately distorts the scientific evidence of evolution under the mistaken opinion that to discredit evolution is also to prove Intelligent Design. Not so, says the judge: Intelligent Design "has utterly no place in a science curriculum" (p. 89).

By inference, at least, El Presidente makes an appearance in the judge's decision here: "...ID's backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM [Intelligence Design Movement] is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID" (p. 89). It was George W. Bush, if you recall, who back in September (or was it October?) opined that he thought "the controversy" of evolution v. Intelligent Design could justifiably be taught.

The judge's opinion comes close to comedy when he characterizes the way some Dover school board members lied on the witness stand (they gave "non-credible testimony" that they were not -- no, never! -- acting out of a religious intent). That they should lie is curious to the judge, considering their faith that they were doing the work of their Lord Jesus Christ in wedging Intelligent Design into the Dover school curriculum. "They lied outright" (p. 105), says the judge. If they thought they were acting purely under the guiding spirit of the Lord, why would they purjure themselves denying it?

When called to a Higher Godly Purpose in the Culture Wars, the judge astutely notes, legislative bodies like the Dover School Board often finds itself exactly where the Religious Right wants it: " unfortunate theme in this case is the striking ignorance concerning the concept of ID amongst Board members" (p. 121). Several of them were led by the nose and literally did not know what they were voting to put into their school's science classes. Yes, the judge called that by its plain name ... "ignorance."

And here I've spent five full hours reading the judge's decision, and I've got Christmas presents to wrap!

Monday, December 19, 2005

In a Time of War We Cannot ... Think

El Presidente was holding a press conference this morning and came out truculently, daring anyone to challenge his right to ignore the law.

Here's his reasoning: Because we're at war, I get to do whatever I deem necessary to protect the American people. You, the American people, just need to accept that I am also safeguarding your civil liberties. How do you know that? Well, I can't show you because it's all very secret. But you just need to trust me, because I just told you: "I'm safeguarding your civil liberties. And incidentally, we do not torture."

Oh. Okay. I'm soooo sorry, even embarrassed that I ever doubted you. Don't know what came over me. Obviously I need to spend more time in prayer, thanking God that He's taking care of everything through His Instrument on Earth, George W. Bush.

All those Bush supporters calling in to C-SPAN in total rapture that our strong, moral president is spying on us with warrantless searches are being so ... short-sighted (in addition to stupid, but let that go): Are they going to be so pleased when a Democrat occupies the White House, and this precedent of greatly expanded executive power has been established, and we're still in a situation (at war) where greatly expanded executive power seems useful? Well, no. They'll be apoplectic. Look it up: "Having or exhibiting symptoms of apoplexy" ... which is the "sudden loss of muscular control, with diminution or loss of sensation and consciousness, resulting from rupture or blocking of a blood vessel in the brain." Lord knows they have blockage of the brain already, but the thought of anyone other than Bush spying on them will indeed bring rupture. But then it might be too late.

One might enjoy the thought, "Well, serves 'em right!" But the trouble is that this out-of-all-control power serves all of us, even brain-blocked Bush supporters, so very wrongly.

It's just looking like a merrier Christmas by the minute, ain't it!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Things You Wouldn't Know Without the "Watauga Democrat"

1. ASU Chancellor Ken Peacock's "chief of staff" Stan Aeschleman would not publicly reveal the specific building downtown where the Appalachian Cultural Museum may be forced to move. Aeschleman wouldn't reveal what apparently every last soul in Boone already knows ... that the old Heilig-Myers building on west King Street, across from the new courthouse annex, has been offered to ASU for less that $2 million ... a bargain.

And evidently the need to move the museum for the sake of a nursing school has become somewhat inoperative as the prime excuse. Some sources not tapped by the Watauga Democrat have suggested that Chancellor Peacock has wanted to make the museum disappear from the git-go, and the nursing school -- now apparently relocated to a site closer to the hospital -- was a convenient pretext.

Understatement of the month goes to museum director Chuck Watkins: "I know that not everybody is entirely trustful of what's said..." Because what's said by university pooh-bahs keeps shifting, like the sands of time.

2. The Christmas tree industry has let out its first peep against Madame Virginia Foxx's efforts to decimate its workforce with her war on Latino immigration. A letter to the editor (scroll down) published in Friday's paper from Patricia Gaskin, legislative chairwoman of the National Christmas Tree Asssociation, is only the opening salvo in what could become a most interesting exchange of views: "...the Enforcement bill that Rep. Foxx so proudly sponsors will leave agriculture and small businesses with nothing."

The perceived necessity for populist racism collides with business. Been waiting for that convergence!

The Berg That Sank the Ship of State

First El Presidente says he won't confirm or deny that the conversations of hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of American citizens have been eavesdropped on without warrants. Then yesterday he says hell yes, because I can do what I want on my way to protecting the American public (that all-purpose excuse!) in the War on Terror.

Does this explain, incidentally, why he suddenly caved in to Sen. John McCain on allowing language into the defense appropriations bill that outlaws torture? You pass any law you like, he says in effect to McCain, and I'll still do what I think is right. Because I'm above your law.

The people telling him that it's perfectly all right to conduct warrantless searches on the communications of Americans in this country also told him that he had the power to suspend the Geneva Conventions on prisoners and then suspend those prisoners over hell fire ... to extract information from them. Harriet Myers had a hand in that twisted reasoning. And I really want to know how many Democratic congresspersons were "briefed" and why they've remained so meekly silent for so long ... Sen. Rockefeller of West Virginia, particularly.

If this revelation about warrantless snooping on American citizens isn't the merest tip of an ice berg that is busily ripping the sheet iron off our constitutional checks and balances, then I'll be pleasantly surprised. They've done other stuff outside the law, you can bet on it. You think someone this addicted to limitless power just stops cold turkey after a little e-mail and phone-call snooping?

Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina was very strong on this issue on "Face the Nation" this morning. I demand to know how the president thinks he can break the law like this, he essentially said. We are a nation of laws, not a nation of "outcomes," he said in response to the president's address yesterday claiming he could do what he's done for the "outcome" of protecting the American public (uh-oh) from terrorists (or from giant meal worms from outer space).

George Will also could find no justification on ABC, linking the president's "over-reaching" to an ancient history about the fear of too much executive power.

Meanwhile, Fox News took up the administration's line that Mr. Bush had every right to do what he did to protect the American people (oh shut up) and that Democrats obviously want the terrorists to succeed (and incidentally hate Christmas too!).

FOOTNOTE ON "THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR": We had occasion to see again the 1975 Robert Redford hit film. He plays a CIA analyst whose "section" operation of book readers gets completely wiped out for mysterious reasons. Turns out he's stumbled on a secret plan to invade the Middle East for control of oil. The CIA must keep this plan secret at all costs. To save himself in the end, the Robert Redford character tells the whole story to the New York Times. We're left hanging at the end. Redford's sinister CIA boss (played by Cliff Robertson in a mustache) says the Times will never publish the truth. The movie ends with the Redford character saying, Well, we'll see. Indeed. If that film were made today, guess he'd be waiting a full year before the Times decided to clue in the people about how this constitutional Republic is being subverted by an out-of-control and unaccountable executive ... to obtain oil in the Middle East.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Something There Is That Doesn't Love a Wall

Fifth District Congresswoman and dominatrix Virginia Foxx got her bill passed yesterday punishing illegal immigrants, their families, and their employers. Madame Foxx, who likes her torture over easy, wants to put up vast walls along the border with Mexico. Gosh. When's the last time you saw a society put up walls against hated outsiders and do so successfully? Certainly, it's devastatingly good PR, no? Ask East Germany.

Some 36 Democrats joined 203 Republicans to vote yes for the madame's bill (including Harold Ford of Tennessee and Mike McIntyre of N.C.), but 17 Republicans sided with the rest of the Democrats.

They can't start building the wall until the Senate acts, which won't be until early in 2006.

Meanwhile, Madame Foxx spent how many thousands of our tax dollars publishing a big tri-fold brochure which she mailed to every household in her district, as though we needed reassuring that she's doing everything she can to protect us from the brown hoards south of the border ... who are right now no doubt plotting terrorist acts against next year's Christmas tree crop.

For a summation on the new law, we turn to Congressman Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) who voted for it but evidently hates himself this morning: "We owe a little more honesty to our constituents. This bill means those who are here illegally will stay in the shadows. That's unacceptable. That's not enforcement. That's a charade."

We too often feel negative about ourselves after a night of playing charades. It's not the hypocrisy so much as the wood alcohol.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Feingold ... Mensch!

"I don't want to hear again from the attorney general or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care."

--Sen. Russell Feingold, the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001, commenting on the New York Times story this a.m. about secret eavesdropping on American citizens by the NSA.

Senate Republicans failed today to override Feingold's filibuster of the extension of the Patriot Act ... with the help of Republicans Hagel, Craig, Murkowski, and Sununu.

Would You Buy a Used Waterboard From These People?

Let's see here:

El Presidente signs an executive order allowing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on international telephone calls and e-mail messages of "hundreds -- perhaps thousands" of citizens ... without a warrant and under the cover of secrecy. And although the NYTimes published this fact this a.m., the newspaper is complicit in keeping this information secret from the public for a full year.

"Nearly a dozen current and former officials ... discussed [the secret surveillance] with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight."

Seems significant when you get Bush administration officials sufficiently nervous with this current regime to start blowing the whistle on behalf of all the rest of us devil-worshiping liberals out here, whose fears about government power are routinely dismissed as mere hysteria.

That's just one chilling news story this a.m. The other deals with the Pentagon's illegal database keeping tabs on "peace activists" and anti-war demonstrations.

All of this activity from the freedom-loving administration that (until the heat got too strong) liked the sound of a little torture in the morning.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Speaker Black Apologizes

Democratic Speaker of the N.C. House Jim Black was taken to the woodshed yesterday by fellow House Democrats. Apparently. Anyway, he came out of that meeting, called a press conference, and apologized for bad judgment. He was really apologizing for endangering the Democrat majority in the North Carolina legislature in next year's elections. We trust his fellow legislators made him smell that particular coffee.

She Likes the Whip

Recap on torture: You know that Sen. John McCain introduced an amendment to the defense appropriations bill banning cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners in American custody anywhere in the world. The vote in the Senate was 90-9 in favor of McCain's amendment.

The House's own defense appropriations bill contained no such ban on torture.

So the two bodies have to meet in a conference committee to work out the differences. El Presidente and his minions in the House are vehemently opposed to banning torture.

But yesterday the House overwhelmingly passed instructions to its own members of the conference committee to go along with McCain in banning torture. Some 107 Republicans voted with all the Democrats, save one. But Madame Virginia Foxx (cat-'o-nine-tails firmly in hand) voted on the side of torture, along with N.C. House members Sue Myrick, Charlie Taylor, and Patrick McHenry.

Patriot Act Extension: Madame Foxx, who likes strictness for everyone but herself, also voted for the renewal and extension of the USA Patriot Act, retaining those objectionable features that even members of her own party think cross the line. Rep. Walter "Freedom Fries" Jones voted with the Democrats against the renewal. So did Rep. Charlie Taylor. And a group of at least four Republican Senators have promised to uphold a Democratic filibuster promised by Sen. Russell Feingold in the Senate tomorrow. Republican senators Chuck Hagel, John Sununu, Larry Craig, and Lisa Murkowski say they will vote against renewal of the Patriot Act, so long as it continues to allow "sneak-and-peak" and other violations of individual freedoms.

Cracking Immigrants' Heads: A third showdown is happening at this very hour on the House floor as that body debates Madame Foxx's own harsh anti-immigration bill. It promises to be lively, since moderate Republicans have been drawing back from the meanness of the Foxx bill. Even before debate on the bill commenced this a.m., the Rules Committee had already tried to soften the thing, changing the imposition of felony charges to misdemeanors for those caught without proper papers (if I heard right on C-SPAN this a.m.). The bill would also end "birth-right" citizenship.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Could You Get Virginia Foxx Through the Eye of a Needle?

Conservative religious leaders, like Dobson, Falwell, and Robertson, "have agreed to support cutting food stamps for poor people if Republicans support them on judicial nominees. They are trading the lives of poor people for their agenda. They're being -- and this is the worst insult -- unbiblical."

--Rev. Jim Wallis, organizer of a "Prayer Service for a Moral Budget" and a religious activist kneel-in today in Washington to protest the Republican House budget bill that will cut $50 billion over five years by trimming food stamp rolls, imposing new fees on Medicaid recipients, squeezing student lenders, cutting child-support enforcement funds, and paring agriculture programs ... while simultaneously voting more tax cuts to the richest Americans.

You know where Virginia Foxx stood on all these matters. You can't hurt the poor ENOUGH to suit the Madame.

From the WashPost: "Around 300 religious activists have vowed to kneel in prayer this morning at the Cannon House Office Building and remain there until they are arrested. Wallis said that as they are led off, they will chant a phrase from Isaiah: 'Woe to you legislators of infamous laws ... who refuse justice to the unfortunate, who cheat the poor among my people of their rights, who make widows their prey and rob the orphan."

Pentagon Spying on Peace Activists (Duh)

Lisa Myers and the NBC "investigative unit" reports on good evidence that Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon is spying on non-criminal peace activity by law-abiding Americans whose only offense appears to be opposing the Iraq war.

Chamber of Commerce in a Snit

News in this a.m.'s WashPost says there's a growing rift between the Republican congressmen and -women pushing the anti-immigration legislation in the U.S. House and their normally pleased-as-punch supporters in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"Lobby groups including the chamber, the National Restaurant Association and the Associated General Contractors of America are so vehement in their opposition that they will consider lawmakers' votes on the bill a key measure of whether they will support them in the future."

The law, which Madame Virginia Foxx is cosponsoring, would require employers to check names, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth against government records to verify that workers are legal. Fines for knowingly hiring an undocumented worker would be increased. As for the workers, those in this country illegally could be charged with a felony.

This kind of law plays well in the South among the sort of voters that Madame Foxx has learned to depend on. But could get interesting, so far as the Madame's big corporate sponsors are concerned.

UPDATE: Today's N&O contains another article about the uproar Virginia Foxx's anti-immigration bill is causing among Hispanic groups and refugee-aid organizations. "Hispanic groups say that changing the law to make illegal presence in the United States a felony instead of a civil offense would turn all illegal immigrants -- including nearly 2 million children -- into aggravated felons."

Judging from the mounting opposition to this law, from both Democratically alligned groups and Republican allies, maybe this thing is going to be voted down in the House.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bubble Boy

The Newsweek issue with El Presidente floating on the cover in a bubble arrived today. The cover story is worth reading, more or less, despite Newsweek's corporate squeamishness, with a passage or two worth quoting here:

"He can charm and joke like the frat president he was. Still, beneath a hail-fellow manner, Bush has a defensive edge, a don't-tread-on-me prickliness. It shows in Bush's humor. When Reagan told a joke, it almost never was about someone in the room. Reagan's jokes may have been scatological or politically incorrect, but they were inclusive, intended to make everyone join in the laughter. Often, Bush's joking is personal -- it is aimed at you. The teasing can be flattering (the president gave me a nickname!), but it is intended, however so subtly, to put the listener on the defensive. It is a towel-snap that invites a retort. How many people dare to snap back at a president?"

"...the recorfd so far suggests that Bush is not likely to change in any fundamental way in the three years that remain in his term."

"What Bush actually hears and takes in [understands] is not clear. And whether his advisers are quite as frank as they claim to be with the president is also questionable. Take Social Security, for example. One House Republican, who asked not to be identified for fear of offending the White House, recalls a summertime meeting with congressmen in the Roosevelt Room at which Bush enthusiastically talked up his Social Security reform plan. But the plan was already dead -- as everyone except the president had acknowledged. Bush seemed to have no idea. 'I got the sense that his staff was not telling him the bad news,' says the lawmaker. 'This was not a case of him thinking positive. He just didn't have any idea of the political realities there. It was like he wasn't briefed at all.' "

"In subtle ways, Bush does not encourage truth-telling...."

" all accounts, he is not intellectually curious."

"He has long been mothered by strong women, including his mother and wife. A foreign diplomat who declined to be identified was startled when Secretary of State Rice warned him not to lay bad news on the president. 'Don't upset him,' she said."

Monday, December 12, 2005

North Carolina, the "Help Yourself" State

North Carolina's campaign finance laws allow a political candidate to tonvert any campaign funds to personal use. So State Rep. Joni Bowie (Republican of Guilford) took the $25,000 she had left in her campaign account after her defeat for reelection last year and bought herself a new Acura sports car, a new Dell computer, and then invested the remaining $6,700 for her retirement.

That's a Republican example. The Democrat examples are maybe even more egregious (and you can see all the ones documented by the N&O here).

Suffice it to say that the stuff that continues to come out about Democrat Speaker of the House Jim Black does NOT swell our partisan hearts with pride.

Cootie Watch

What's Congressman Mike McIntyre of North Carolina's Seventh Congressional District (Lumberton/Fayetteville/Wilmington area) doing hanging out with this crowd?

We detect creeping Zell Millerism.

El Presidente's Ghost Writer

Long profile piece in the N&O this morning on Duke political science professor Peter Feaver, who secretly wrote Bush's "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," the pure PR gambit that is said to have already raised El Presidente's poll numbers, like magic.

Feaver has a sense of humor ... is the big news. He'd have to, working for that bunch in Washington.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Eugene McCarthy, Rest in Peace

The coincidence today of former Senator Eugene McCarthy's death at 89 and Fox News's gloating over a supposed split in the Democratic Party because of the Iraq War leads to a flood of memories.

I was 24 years old in 1968 and in graduate school in Utah when I got bit by my first political bug. Senator McCarthy had begun to speak the truth about President Johnson's policy in the Vietnam War. It was my age group that was being drafted to fight. Naturally, I might be expected to take notice. I did, and I volunteered with the McCarthy campaign, which was being run out of a one-bedroom apartment in the avenues above South Temple Street. Utah was only the most Republican state in the union. What few Democrats lived there lived mainly in greater Salt Lake City. The McCarthy campaign in Utah was perhaps as foolhardy an enterprise as trying to fight guerilla forces in Southeast Asia. But Utah would be electing delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August, and I wanted to help elect delegates from Utah who would support McCarthy.

I started out doing door-to-door canvassing, asking people how they were registered and how they felt about the war and if they'd ever heard of the senator from Minnesota. We were looking for any registered Democrat who expressed enthusiasm for Our Guy. They'd be contacted later to organize their precincts for the caucuses coming up early that summer.

I liked canvassing and learned a lot. I was young and stupid and didn't know any better. I got my hair cut and put on a fresh shirt and tie, like so many of my hippy compatriots in 1968 who were urged by the McCarthy campaign to "come clean for Gene." Urban Salt Lake City, with densely packed neighborhoods, made for efficient canvassing, and finding those (few) who were energized by McCarthy's surprise second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary was confirmation that we were not alone. It also helped that three weeks after McCarthy rattled President Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire primary, Johnson announced he would not be a candidate for reelection. Democrats had to make a choice, and the McCarthy brigades were the only grassroots movement out there.

We found that many traditional Utah Democrats -- and especially the party's power structure -- were siding with Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and some of them were fairly mean to us when we appeared at their doors and said the name McCarthy. We were wading into an incipient split in the national Democratic Party, and we were considered traitors for stumping through neighborhoods on behalf of a Democratic rebel. WE didn't care. Internal party politics meant precisely nothing to us. We were trying to stop a war and change U.S. foreign policy. Call it saving the world.

Our job was vastly complicated by the sudden emergence of Senator Robert Kennedy of New York, who jumped into the race after Johnson pulled out. The enthusiasm for Kennedy was palpable, particularly among blue-collar Democrats. McCarthy appealed to the university crowd, the young, and Quakers. I found myself resenting Kennedy as a Johnny-come-lately who had "opportunist" written all over his campaign.

My tirelessness for McCarthy got noticed, and I was asked to become a "regional coordinator" for McCarthy, which meant I was assigned 30 or so precincts in the Salt Lake valley to "coordinate" ... which meant primarily recruiting people willing to attend their precinct caucuses as McCarthy supporters and trying to recruit additional people to canvass in those precincts as I had been recruited to do. It was indeed a "Children's Crusade," as the national press derisively dubbed our campaign efforts. What else but an idealistic childhood fantasy would have put a political infant like me in charge of 30 precincts?

I worked hard at it, stayed on the phone and on the road, and discovered I needed to drop out of school to do my work. People argued with me about that decision, so I only dropped out of my Faulkner seminar, since it seemed likely I was never going to get through "The Sound and the Fury" anyway. For all that dedication, I ended up losing every last one of my assigned precincts. The Humphrey forces and the Kennedy forces swept McCarthy aside, and so I learned that even righteous crusades sometimes lose ... a lesson repeated in 1990 in our crusade for Harvey Gantt against Jesse Helms. I was not nearly so young in 1990 but still idealistic about positive change.

What we didn't know in 1968 was that the McCarthy uprising WAS the beginning of a national split in the Democrat Party that would put a Republican in the White House for the next two election cycles. What followed could not be foreseen. The assassination of Robert Kennedy in California in June (I sat in the garden and cried that night, over a man I had only recently seen as the enemy), the disastrous Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the presidency of Richard Nixon followed by his resignation and the brief rule of Gerald Ford. And through it all, the cowering of national Democratic leaders on the issue of "national security," a growing timidity that has not waned to this day.

THAT was a split in the Democrat Party. What we've got today with Senator Leiberman and Chair Howard Dean and Fox News trying its best to distort both men to benefit the failed policies and empty claims of El Presidente and his handlers ... why, this is NOTHING (so far) that rises to the level of a split.

You'd expect a little disagreement, wouldn't you? over the incomprehensibly colossal MESS this boy from Texas has gotten us into, where there is literally NO solution, NO way out, NO plan, NO strategy that will not mean more death and destruction for Americans and Iraqis alike? Howard Dean is as right as rain. Never in history has a foreign army -- no matter its size and advanced war-making powers -- won against a native guerilla force fueled by hatred of the foreign invaders. Consider our own war of insurgency against the British in the late 18th-century. The same was true of Vietnam in 1968, and Eugene McCarthy was one of the few Democrats willing to speak the truth.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Charlie Taylor Gets Anemia

Information here on how Democratic challenger Heath Shuler is far out-pacing Republican incumbent Charles Taylor at fundraising in N.C.'s 11th Congressional District (which includes Asheville & the westernmost counties). Shuler is kicking butt, not to put too fine a point on it.

Something similar could happen in the Fifth, with the right candidate against Madame Virginia Foxx.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Hold Virginia Foxx Accountable

Take a look at the billboard that is going up in Raleigh ... as a barometer of the hysteria being generated against immigrants by Virginia Foxx, Sue Myrick, and Patrick McHenry.

Clean Up That Cow Lot!

This past Monday four Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives presented a 14-point plan to reform the corruption in that body which has led to the current train wreck we're watching on a daily basis. The four congressmen::

David Obey of Wisconsin
Barney Frank of Massachusetts
David Price of North Carolina
Tom Allen of Maine

Some of the high points of their suggested reforms (full transcript of their presentation on Monday is in a PDF file here):

Forbid any congressional travel if lobbyists or their clients are involved in any way in financing that travel.

Forbid ex-members of the House, who have by tradition "floor access" during important votes, from using that access to lobby for any law in which they have a financial interest.

Strike a blow for budgetary sanity by requiring that reconciliation bills must be tailored to reduce the budget deficit, not increase it, except by a two-thirds vote of the House.

End the practice of holding votes open for hours while the leadership strong-arms members to change their votes.

Prevent the use of "earmarks" (special appropriations aimed at specific member districts) as internal blackmail in the legislative process.

Require that printed copies of all bills be available at least 24 hours before they are called up for a vote. (In other words, actually encourage members to know what they're voting on.)

Require that conference committees of the House actually meet and vote in open session rather than turning everything over to staff members or leadership aides to negotiate in secret. Etc.

Sensible reforms, which mean, naturally, that they will NEVER be adopted until the voters throw out the present rulers.

David Broder wrote a column about these proposed reforms in the WashPost here.

Foxx Votes More Tax Cuts for the Mega-Rich

Last night the U.S. House voted to give additional tax cuts on dividends and capital gains ... to the tune of $56 billion ... which will more than eat up the $50 billion budget cut to services the same bunch passed earlier.

So who is it claiming that Republicans know how to handle money?

It's worth noting the nine Democrats who voted with the Republicans on this miscarriage:

John Barrow (Ga.)
Melissa L. Bean (Ill.)
Dan Boren (Okla.)
Bud Cramer (Ala.)
Henry Cuellar (Tex.)
Lincoln Davis (Tenn.)
Bart Gordon (Tenn.)
Jim Marshall (Ga.)
Mike McIntyre (N.C.)

Three Republicans voted with the Democrats:

Sherwood L. Boehlert (N.Y.)
Jim Leach (Iowa)
Fred Upton (Mich.)

The top 20 percent of the richest households would receive 84.2 percent of the benefit. Households earning more than $1 million a year would get 40 percent of the tax cuts, or an average reduction of nearly $51,000. (WashPost analysis)

The only (frail) hope is that Senate Republican moderates will turn this atrocity aside.

You Can Get Anything You Want at the Torturer's Restaurant

The lead paragraph from a NYTimes article this a.m.:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 -- The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials....

Who put the rend in rendition?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Harold Pinter, With the Bark On

Harold Pinter let the U.S. have it in his Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech yesterday. The Brit playwright, in very poor health because of throat cancer, nevertheless displayed "moral vigour" in a speech that was videotaped and played remotely to the folks in Sweden (and to the rest of the world).

The NYTimes has a quote-rich article this a.m., but we take the descriptive passage below from The Guardian (there's bound to be a full text available later today):

"...At one point ... Pinter argued that 'the United States supported and in many cases engendered every rightwing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the second world war.' He then proceeded to reel off examples. But the clincher came when Pinter, with deadpan irony, said: 'It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest.' In a few sharp sentences, Pinter pinned down the willed indifference of the media to publicly recorded events. He also showed how language is devalued by the constant appeal of US presidents to 'the American people.' This was argument by devastating example. As Pinter repeated the lulling mantra, he proved his point that 'The words "the American people" provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance.' Thus Pinter brilliantly used a rhetorical device to demolish political rhetoric .... At one point, Pinter offered himself as a speechwriter to President Bush -- an offer unlikely, on this basis of this speech, to be quickly accepted. And Pinter proceeded to give us a parody of the Bush antithetical technique in which the good guys and the bad guys are thrown into stark contrast: 'My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians.' Pinter's poker face as he delivered this only reinforced its satirical power...."

ADDENDUM: Here's the full text.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Off the Deep End

Oops. El Presidente and Laura sent out 1.4 million Christmas cards (estimated cost of postage alone = $518,000) that wished their supporters NOT a "merry Christmas" but a godless "happy holidays."

According to today's WashPost, the mullahs are up in arms over this incredible lapse. They've been working hard to convince everyone that there's this big liberal plot against Christmas, and here's El Presidente himself serving the devil!

"This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture," said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Bush "claims to be a born-again, evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn't act like one," said Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Web site "I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it."

The mullahs are nothing if not intolerant. They demand obedience. But what are they really asking of us?

Say "Christmas," they insist. Say it morning, noon, and night. Advertize "Christmas Sale" in your store circulars. Put "Christ" back into WonderBras, reduced for quick sale!

But ... and by the way, O my brethren ... the meaning of "Christmas" brings a little baggage of its own for us Southern Protestants out here. "Christmas" means literally "the [Catholic] Mass of Christ." "Mass," incidentally, signifies the Catholic church rite by which the body and blood of Christ is literally given to believers to eat and drink.

So let's all say this in unison, to satisfy the mullahs: "Merry Catholic ritual in which we eat Christ's flesh and drink his blood." And don't forget to take home extra eggnog for your Christmas entertaining!

What's wrong, again, with saying "Happy Holidays"? Any fool can plainly see that "holiday" meant originally "holy day." It's Catholic too, naturally, but without all the gore of the Mass. If you're really an evangelical Protestant (as you claim to be), you'll probably cavil a bit at the Catholic trappings of that greeting too.

So what's a rigid Protestant mullah to do? Maybe we should invent our own new greeting: "May the commemoration of the Birth of Christ signal the takeover of the American culture by the raving, intolerant tyrants of the Radical Right." You can make it look festive with some garland and red ribbon.

Yeah, that's the ticket!

Monday, December 05, 2005

North Carolina Tax System Favors Big Corporations

This report (PDF file) received no press attention when it was released back in November, but it deserves widespread and intense consideration ... for it shows conclusively that large corporations in North Carolina "are granted more costly tax loopholes as a percentage of total tax revenue than those given to individuals."

The upshot is the subtle shifting of the tax burden off the richest entities and onto the rest of us poor slobs.

Meanwhile, rarely a day went by that we didn't hear our state senator Virginia Foxx complain about how unfair the North Carolina "business tax" was.

Knowing How Not to Leave a Mark

In re: torture as an American strategy in the "War on Terror":

When El Presidente was president of his fraternity at Yale, Delta Kappa Epsilon, he was exposed in the Yale Daily News for a campus scandal involving the "branding" of pledges with a hot coat hanger. "There's no scarring mark, physically or mentally," Bush told the school paper at the time.

How our little boy has grown up!

Cold Wind Blowing Through the "Big Tent"

1. Chris Mintz, the president of the Wake County Republican Men's Club, who just announced he was turning gay, i.e., "Democrat," earned himself a quick denunciation from the new "acting president" of the club, who said in a statement, "Sadly, I can only reach one conclusion: that this decision was made on the basis of political opportunity, not principle." You can't beat a Republican for knowing political opportunism when he sees it.

2. Catawba County's Republican Sheriff David Huffman, whose administration is accused of various shady dealings ($9,000 of drug-bust money went missing, for example), will be challenged for reelection in 2006 (if he should actually choose to run again) by a former deputy ... a Republican primary for a hot office! Huffman ran for congress last year as a popular if under-educated public servant against wet-behind-the-ears Patrick McHenry ... in Cass Ballenger's old district, the Tenth. McHenry is a darling of the mullahs, recently joined Sue Myrick and Virginia Foxx at a keep-immigrants-out-of-North-Carolina press conference in the Capitol, and is a very successful fund-raiser. Big with the gun lobby. It was a no-holds-barred grudge match between Huffman and McHenry in 2004 (similar in ferocity to the Foxx-Robinson match-up and similar, too, in that it took extra innings to determine a winner), and Huffman came close to beating McHenry. Apparently, Huffman is insufficiently conservative, soft on rules governing gun shows, for example. According to interviews in the Hickory Daily Record (via NCRumors) Huffman is more than willing to take on the conservative cabal running things in the Tenth District. Let the games begin!

3. Walter "Freedom Fries" Jones, Republican Congressman of the N.C. Third District, will be challenged in a primary in 2006 by one Greg Dority, a conservative battle bot who actually also ran for Congress last year but in the North Carolina First. Where he lost to Democrat Frank Ballence (who later went to prison, but that's another tale). Dority apparently moved his residence across the line into Jones's district when Jones broke with El Presidente over the Iraqi War.

Jones was for the Republicans what John Murtha was for Democrats ... a respected congressional advocate for the military (Fort Bragg and other military installations are in his district) breaking ranks with the president because of bad stuff he was hearing directly from the military brass who didn't dare challenge Bush directly, which is to say face down Rumsfeld. But Murtha produced a very different and reenergizing reaction among fellow Dems, compared to the mudslide among N.C. Republicans following Jones's call for a timetable for withdrawal. He earned himself a primary challenger. That's what he got for speaking his conscience, which, we suppose, is the reason most Republican legislators, including several who actually know better, don't often stand up for principal. John McCain has been (until recently at least) an exception, and Hagel of Nebraska.

NCRumors is cheering this primary challenge as "a full-fledged populist revolt" within the N.C. Republican Party, genuine social conservatives vs. an "ineffective" and "elite" Party leadership in Raleigh. Amazingly, Dority is denouncing Jones as some sort of weepy (gay) panty-waist with cojones insufficient for The Day. Dority has written, "Unfortunately, Walter proved he was among those who, instead of leadership, responded to the sacrifices of war by feeding the worries of our people and our military families, playing up to press-fueled misperceptions instead of reassuring the faint hearted with a solid understanding of what we are accomplishing everyday in Iraq and elsewhere."

NCRumors is applauding the division this primary will produce in the state party, because they believe this will lead to a purging of dangerous moderate elements (Richard Morgan springs to mind).

For our part, we'll pulling for Dority ... for obvious reasons, which surely don't need to be spelled out here.

Some of Our Best Friends Are Ex-Republicans

News is out this a.m. that the president of the Wake County Republican Mens Club, Chris Mintz, a Raleigh financial planner, is changing his registration to Democrat and plans to run for a seat in the N.C. House currently held by a five-term Republican incumbent.

Oh my.

"The Republican Party appears to be going further and further to the right," Mintz said. "It's really not the party for me any longer. I'm not bitter. I have a lot of friends who are Republicans. I think we are ignoring issues that are important -- like education, economic development and health care," he said.

Not that Mintz is being welcomed with open arms by Wake County Democratic Party pooh-bahs, since if Mintz files to run as a Democrat for the House seat, it will force a primary on the favored candidate, Ty Harrell, a 35-year-old Duke University fund-raiser, who has already announced plans to run for the seat. Harrell was finance director for Erskine Bowles in 2002 and was Howard Dean's southern regional finance director last year.

Oh my again. Much as we tend to love and honor fugitive slaves from the red state of mind, Mintz would be well advised not to run against Harrell, wouldn't he?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Dubya Gets a Feaver; Or, Blame Dook

The NYTimes reports this a.m. that the purported "strategy" for purported "victory in Iraq," delivered by El Presidente last Wednesday at the Naval Academy, was actually written by a couple of Duke professors of political science, principally Peter D. Feaver.

Feaver is all over the Duke University web site, most significantly as director of something called the Triangle Institute of Security Studies (TISS). TISS, a consortium of academics from Duke, UNCC, and NCState, was started in 1958 at the height of the Cold War. Among its important research initiatives currently ... "the relationship between the military and society in the post-Cold War era," especially this question: "whether or not a gap exists between civilian and military society and whether this gap harmed military effectiveness."

In other words, folks, El Presidente and his handlers have decided that the only thing wrong with the Iraq War is a public relations problem, so Dr. Peter D. Feaver of Dook was hired away from the university for a season to go work on the National Security Council and to incidentally write "Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," so that El Presidente could trot it out in Annapolis last Wednesday as though he actually HAD a strategy for winning and then getting the hell out. What he's got, rather, is an academic's research in the "gap" between the general public's perception and the reality of military operations, which fits in very well with the world view of an administration that considers every problem a PR problem which can be overcome by superior propaganda, which, incidentally, they're fully willing and capable of BUYING with taxpayer's money in the form of bogus "journalism."

Feaver's big insight: the American people will accept high levels of casualties in a war so long as they believe they'll ultimately win.

Which is apparently why El Presidente needed to say the word "victory" six times in his speech last Wednesday and why Dr. Feaver's document uses the word over and over. Say it enough times and it becomes true. They teach that at Duke.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

God Rest Ye, De-Ranged Gentlemen!

The religious right, driven into a frenzy of group-think by Bill O'Reilly and other cheerleaders with a political axe to grind, are mounting a holy war against an imaginary enemy that they've been told is trying to take Christ out of Christmas. They go into paroxysms of teeth-grinding when they see the locution "Happy Holidays" rather than Merry Christmas. It's all a plot, they're saying, to de-christianize America.

It's all a bunch of mind rot caused by watching too much Fox News ... is what it is.

Last Christmas, during a family program, I remember suddenly hearing my father-in-law seriously announcing that there were forces in America trying to prevent our observing Christ's birthday. He wasn't absolutely sure, but he'd been told that those mysterious forces were more or less synonymous with the Democratic Party.

An article in today's News & Observer will show you how far that particular hysteria has spread. Members of the Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh, for example, are beginning to resemble certain small characters in Monty Python's "The Life of Bryan." They're agitating with Raleigh city government to have displays on public property of The Nativity scene, including the Holy Reindeer and the Sacred Snowflake. No, really.

When I was a wee elementary school student in west Texas, we were writing compositions about the need to "Put Christ Back Into Christmas." But we thought it was all about the over-commercialization of the holiday. Now O'Reilly and the Christian mullahs are complaining that we don't have ENOUGH commercialization of Christmas. They're boycotting Target, for example, for not plastering the name of Christ all over those holiday Tupperware displays.

They're off their holy rockers.

ADDENDUM: There's a good editorial on this topic in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. Yes, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Buy This Book!

Intrepid web-cruiser "Stumpy" sends us this truly fortuitous link just in time for Christmas shopping ... a new illustrated children's book, "Why Mommy Is a Democrat" ... "a different kind of children's book." And indeed it is. Wonderful illustrations (and you can see sample pages on the site above). Only $8 a copy (cheap!), which includes postage, direct from the author Jerry Zilber.

The "satirical swipes" at Republicans in the illustrations are not to be missed!

Hey! If the right-wing gets to crow that it's a wonderful thing to be buying favorable newspaper coverage for the U.S. in Iraq, I'll pay for a little early indoctrination of future voters!

Friday, December 02, 2005

There Goes the Neighborhood

News is out today that El Presidente will make a "private visit" to Kernersville on Monday. Invitation only. If you're reading this, chances are good you WEREN'T invited. It's something to do with celebrating Japanese/U.S. joint business enterprises.

And the N.C. Senator with the power helmet of lacquered hair -- that would be Elizabeth Dole -- has returned more than $6,000 in political contributions given to her by MZM Inc., the defense contractors implicated as co-conspirators in the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal.

Republican Differences on Illegal Immigration

Do North Carolina Republican members of Congress listen at all to the wisdom of their party chair, Ken Mehlman? Herr Mehlman told a gathering of Republican governors yesterday in California that Republicans who are trying to make political hay on the backs of illegal immigrants are simply on the wrong side of history:

"Throughout our history, there have always been Americans who believed that coming to these shores was a right reserved only for them and their ancestors, but not for others. Ladies and gentlemen, that was wrong then and those who argue that now are wrong today."

Good for Mehlman. Took some courage to go against the prevailing ethos of right-wing Republicanism right now, which dearly loves dangerous dusky-skinned others to organize against.

Witness Virginia Foxx and company. Foxx, Sue Myrick, Patrick McHenry ... they've all jumped aboard that anti-illegal immigrant bandwagon, since they know how powerful racist messages remain for many of their constituents. McHenry recently sent out a fundraising letter in which the dark cloud of immigrants supposedly descending on North Carolina is meant to be a rain-maker for his political war chest.

Such shameless politics are exactly what Mehlman was referring to as "wrong."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Rep.Charlie Taylor Tied to Jack Abramoff

The Asheville Citizen-Times is reporting that ole Charlie Taylor (of the 11th Congressional District) turns up in the Abramoff web of Indian tribe chicanery.

This will take a while to process.