Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Get Him Drunk, We Bet, and He Talks Like Adlai Stevenson

This is circulating on the internet (thanks, Bobbie), so we checked it out (because occasionally somebody makes stuff up, duh), and apparently the following exchange took place in Orlanda, Fla., at one of El Presidente's let's-strangle-Social-Security-in-the-bathtub events, and as we are admirers of clear English, we thought we'd give the little man credit, when credit is so richly due:

Woman in audience: "I don't really understand. How is it the new [Social Security] plan is going to fix that [deficit] problem?"

President Bush: "Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to that has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help -- on the red."

Left his secret transmitter earpiece at home that day? Audience screening missed a ringer, i.e., someone who asks a concise, direct question?
Revealing moment, when the Social Security Reformer-in-Chief doesn't have a clue what he's talking about.

Collusion? Rhymes with Confusion

Mike Allen reports in today's WashPost, "Within a day after President Bush taps a Supreme Court nominee, a conservative group with an $18 million budget for the confirmation fight plans to be on the air with a heartwarming ad featuring vintage photos of the candidate to try to cement a sympathetic portrait."

Riddle me this, Bunky: Doesn't that kind of plan require working with the White House well ahead of any announcement? We know media is quick quick quick these days, but even so, it takes more than 24 hours to produce a television ad, especially one "featuring vintage photos of the candidate." "Heart-warming" can take an additional full day! The White House's bringing in conservative shock troops ahead of time to feed them biographical info on their planned nominee also implies that those same conservative groups actually get a veto on any nominee they don't like ... not that El Presidente would EVER nominate anyone even slightly less anti-abortion than Rehnquist and Scalia.

Are we foolish to take even a smidgen of consolation that we're now two days removed from the end of the Supreme Court's session, and still no resignation announcements?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Scripture of the Day

Matthew 23:24: "You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!"

News development of the day, straining-out-a-gnat department: "Within hours of yesterday's Supreme Court decision allowing a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol, Christian groups announced a nationwide campaign to install similar displays in 100 cities and towns within a year." (WashPost, this a.m.)

Jesus continued, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like white-washed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." Matt. 23:27-28.

This lust for setting up graven images to god has nothing much to do with "preserving Christian heritage." It has everything to do with power. The group launching this 100-monuments-in-100-towns crusade is also the group that forced Congress to its weak knees over Terri Schiavo.

The Dead Will Not Applaud

With El Presidente in Ft. Bragg tonight to use the obedient military as pawns, the N&O has some bad news to greet him: "Our statewide poll shows a dip in Tar Heel support for the war -- and Bush's handling of it."

"42 percent of active voters agree the war has been worth it, but 49 percent say it has not." Notice the target group here as a possible predictor of future elections: they asked "active voters."

Wonder if those hundreds of hand-picked soldiers who will provide El Presidente his patriotic pep squad are to a man/woman convinced that their Commander-in-Chief is the same brilliant tactician he believes himself to be?

Wouldn't it be liberating if just one strong voice was heard to utter, "Mr. President, Sir, I was just wondering..."?

But ... not gonna happen.

"Of Van Wettering I speak, and Averill,
Names on a list, whose faces I do not recall
But they are gone to early death, who late in school
Distinguished the belt feed lever from the belt holding pawl."

--Richard Eberhart, "The Fury of Aerial Bombardment" (Eberhart was already 37 years old when the U.S. entered WWII, but he enlisted anyway in that just war and became a Navy gunnery instructor, training soldiers in the operation of the 50-caliber Browning automatic. Eberhart died a few days ago on June 9th, aged 101.)

"I Think Continuously of Those Who Were Truly Great"

I can't stop thinking of e.e. cummings. Lines of his keep banging around in my noggin like marbles inside a plastic pumpkin. Lines like "when god lets my body be" and "all in green went my love riding" and (especially, since the Republicans passed their flag desecration Constitutional amendment last Thursday) "I will not kiss your fucking flag." Could be that the times we live in so closely mirror the times when e.e. cummings came to maturity, before and during World War I, when another set of greedy, self-righteous pricks had a death-grip on America, and e.e. cummings was so good at telling them off.

"What is precious is never to forget." That's not cummings. That's Stephen Spender, the brave Brit who volunteered on the side of the doomed Republic in the Spanish Civil War and who lived to tell the tale. That's Spender's line too that forms the title of this posting. I once rode in the backseat of a car chauffeuring Mr. Spender from Lubbock to Plainview, Texas, because my teacher at the time incorrectly thought I was the student most likely to carry on an intelligent conversation with the Famous Poet. He was wrong. Dead. Wrong. I shrank from that great, tall, impossibly robust man with the posh British accent. I wanted to be invisible. I made of my gangly West Texas farmboy bones the smallest parcel I could in the dusty cushions of that back seat and uttered nary a word for 75 painful miles.

"The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor."

But O Mr. Spender, you gave me words to light the darkness and to define a bravery I think we may be needing now as much as you needed it in 1936, taking up arms to defend the rights of a poor citizenry against Generalissimo Franco's fascists.

In 1822, Shelley, another fighter against unjust power, called poets "the unacknowledged legislators of the world." That's a grand placard to hang on a bunch of impractical scribblers, now ain't it? But I'm beginning to see his point. Given the actual legislators this country has put in charge of our democratic futures, the poets I studied in my youth return their lines to me in my still-gangly sixth decade, and at this hour in our peculiar history those lines of poetic legislation come as some comfort. Others before us have confronted unreasoning pig-headedness and cruel self-righteousness. And despite the odds, they told the truth, sent forward to us latter-day sinners the bulletins to warm our hearts in adversity, to help us see clearly, to look up and rally together.

I thank god (which is the way cummings spelled His name) for e.e. cummings. And for the Brit Stephen Spender. And for a whole raft of other pains-in-the-ass, true blue, spit-in-your-eye Americans. I will keep you banging around my noggin while El Presidente struts his stuff at Ft. Bragg, all day Tuesday. I may quote poetry to my bean patch, even while the president tells lies to the nation. And beyond that, yes, for as long as it takes.

Monday, June 27, 2005

It's Been a Long Day

"The tone [of El Presidente's 2nd term] has been too much of a permanent campaign. When you're the minority, you need to fight. When you're the governing majority, you need to produce." --Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker and serial adulterer, quoted in today's NYTimes, complaining about the Karl-Rove-dominated White House.

"They thought because they had slain the Kerry dragon, they could claim a mandate and do what they wanted to. Now they have to sell things, whether it's Iraq or stem cells or John Bolton -- let alone Social Security -- on their own merits." --An unnamed "prominent Republican in Washington," also quoted in the same NYTimes article.

The only good reason we can think of to see another sunrise in the Land of the Perilously Free is that Chief Justice William Rehnquist did NOT announce his resignation today, thus NOT (just yet) setting in motion the machinery of Karl Rove's Permanent Campaign to demonize "lib-ruls" and send all Democrats to hell-fire.

Under even somewhat moderate Republican circumstances, as when El Presidente's father got to nominate a Supreme Court justice (Clarence Thomas, anyone?), we get supremely edgy, i.e., suicidal, about the future of The Republic. Our edginess in this season of Bush II reaches off-the-scale readings, since it's very clear what Karl Rove and all the other little Rovians have in mind for us: Numero Uno, they intend to make us, willy nilly, better friggin' Christians, 'cause we've been very, very bad, particularly women who have sex and men who love other men; and Numero Two-o, they intend to dismantle the federal government, regulatory agency by regulatory agency, starting with the Endangered Species Act and moving on to the really big white-bellied meat of Republican wet dreams, Social friggin' Security, so that all that apparatus that makes us soooo dependent on government to save us from this and that just simply ... goes away, so that when your odd oil company wants to drill off the coast of Whatever, there won't be any mechanism whatsoever by which your ordinary beach-goer or beach-enjoyer will have to stop the wholesale destruction of the environment for private profit. (Hell ... even the so-called "liberals" on the Supreme Court are getting into the act. They just ruled that a municipality can confiscate private property for the benefit of developers -- a terrible decision).

But we digress.

The people running this country right now want to make a religious icon out of the flag, intend to stifle dissent, wouldn't understand Christian charity if it smote them on the (other) cheek. They've got everything else. They want the courts too. And intend to have them.

How do we stop this? Our powder (45 sometimes skittish Dems in the U.S. Senate) ain't exactly dry. The American people are into reality TV, NOT reality. When Newt Gingrich is the best thing we've got going, why, oh why, did we wake up this morning?

Jerry Meek Wants Us Talking About God

See Jerry Meek's blog (scroll down) for advice that Democrats go ahead and 'fess up that they go to church too, that they have faith and values, yadda yadda yadda.

Coming off the High Holy Days of last week's great pagan observation of the Summer Solstice, we're still trying to clear our noggins from the herbal-tea-induced semi-coma brought on by too much Mother Earth love. But we're looking for our old Baptist hymnal. It's in that closet somewhere, with several other alarming skeletons. Already have my King James Version at hand, where it always is. Can't get through a day without checking up on El Presidente's interpretation of Our Man Jesus, since El Presidente is given to (ah) liberal misuse of The Word, particularly in respect to Rich Men and War-Mongering.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

From the Folks Who Brought You WMD...

...the great Mad Cow Disease Coverup.

A test that was conducted seven months ago to determine that a second cow in the U.S. had died of Mad Cow Disease has only just now been pried into the light.

The Bush administration is denying "cover up." But c'mon.

El Presidente at Ft. Bragg Tuesday Night

George W. Bush has decided to come where men are guaranteed to salute an immovable stump ... for his Tuesday night address to the nation in prime time ... not to admit to anything that every last one of us knows is the truth but to buck us up for War Without End Amen.

Jerry Meek, the state Democratic chairman, is quoted in today's N&O, saying of El Presidente, "I hope for once he will be honest with the American people about what led us to war and about the planning, or lack thereof, that was done and on how we are going to get out of the mess he created." By which he meant, "The little sonovabitch has SOME gall coming to North Carolina to ladle out the pabulum!"

Anyway, you can decide for yourself how best to spend Tuesday, but there IS a big peace protest scheduled that day in downtown Fayetteville.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Attempt to Rebuke Rep. Jones in Onslow Co. Misfires

Well, U.S. Rep. Walter B. "Freedom Fries" Jones has survived the first Republican uprising against him in his own district. A Republican county commissioner in Onslow County, home of Camp Lejeune, introduced a resolution last night condemning Jones for calling on El Presidente to establish an exit plan for Iraq. The commissioner's motion died for lack of a second. His resolution criticized Jones' support for a withdrawal from Iraq because it would "undermine our national policy, demoralize our troops and strengthen our enemies." Eventually, they'll be saying that Jones hates Jesus.

Armed and Dangerous

The signs of the times slap us in the face on a daily basis. A determined core of the national Republican Party is driving this nation toward theocracy, and at the very least they intend to cow into submission those who disagree with their intentions.

I caught part of the dust-up live on the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday, but this is what went down, according to Mike Allen in the WashPost:

The House was debating a Democratic amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill that would have required the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to develop a plan for preventing "coercive and abusive religious proselytizing." (More about coercive and abusive religious proselytizing at that military facility below.)

Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-Ind.) spoke against the amendment and couldn't resist laying his Republican cards on the table, i.e., the Right Wing's current jihad against "godless" Democrats:

"...The long war on Christianity in America continues today on the floor of the House of Representatives" and "continues unabated with aid and comfort to those who would eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage being supplied by the usual suspects, the Democrats. Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians."

Let's see on which side the "denigrating and demonizing" is happening. Reports of what's been going on at the Air Force Academy have seeped out, including in the New York Times. Apparently, the location of the Academy in the same city where James Dobson runs Focus on the Family, and where other huge evangelical orgs have their headquarters, has created a certain opportunity for what we might call "inter-connectivity" between the behemoths of religious fundamentalism and the big dicks at the academy. An investigation of what was happening there led the superintendent of the Air Force Academy to acknowledge earlier this month that his campus is "so permeated with evangelical proselytizing that it will take years to rid the institution of religious intolerance." For example, a particular chaplain instructed cadets to tell fellow classmates, some of whom were Jewish, that they were "gonna burn in hell" if they didn't accept Jesus Christ. (Information about the situation is all over the news media and elsewhere: for examples, here and here and here and -- oh, that's enough.

Wanting to stop that kind of coercion is now known as "denigrating and demonizing Christians."

Which takes us back to the floor of the U.S. House yesterday and to the lovely mega-Christians who are joyously sending everybody else's soul to hell (and if you don't like the Air Force Academy as a kind of fundamentalist labor camp, it's an index to just how much you hate God!).

So Rep. Hostettler of Indiana sez that Democrats hate Christians, and Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, protested the statement, saying: "I move that the gentleman's words be taken down." "Taken down" in the arcane lingo of the U.S. House means "thrown out," incidentally, NOT "recorded for posterity."

Under the rules, Hostettler had a choice: to agree to withdraw his words, or to stick by them and face a ruling from the chair that he had violated rules against disparaging another member on the floor. If the member's words are taken down, it is considered a serious offense and the lawmaker would not be able to speak for the rest of the day. Eventually, Hostettler rose and read a sentence that had been written out for him in large block letters by a young Republican floor aide: "Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw the last sentence I spoke."

All of this brought business in the House to a complete standstill for 45 minutes.

Rep. Hostettler, incidentally and just to complete the portrait of the sort of "Christian" we're dealing with here, pled guilty last year to a misdemeanor for carrying a concealed Glock 9mm semiautomatic handgun to Louisville International Airport as he was preparing to board a flight to Washington.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Read Any Bad Books Lately?

When Congressman James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) showed his pique on June 10th and abruptly ended a hearing on the Patriot Act before the House Judiciary Committee, he sarcastically challenged a panel of human rights experts to come up with any evidence that American libraries have been asked to divulge records on the reading habits of their patrons ... implying that such a thing, although expressly allowed by the USA Patriot Act, has never happened.

It was trick rhetoric. Rep. Sensenbrenner certainly knows -- since he wrote the USA Patriot Act himself -- that the law PROHIBITS, under criminal penalty, a library from revealing that it's been asked by law enforcement to rat out its readers.

Nevertheless, this morning the American Library Association is out with results of a wide survey of American librarians (1,500 public libraries and 4,000 academic libraries), which reveals that at least 200 formal and informal inquiries (some via subpoenas) have been made to libraries by law enforcement agencies for information on reading material "and other internal matters" since October 2001. One such request was actually a demand to obtain a list of those checking out a book on Osama bin Laden. Under this regime, looking for information could be considered tantamount to treason.

The ALA's survey did not attempt to get too specific on how or whether the USA Patriot Act has been used to search libraries. Why? Because of the aforementioned provision in Mr. Sensenbrenner's law: "The association said it decided it was constrained from asking direct questions on the law because of secrecy provisions that could make it a crime for a librarian to respond." Neat trick, that! Prevent any congressional oversight by making the direct answering of a question a felony.

Only in El Presidente's America!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

We See Your "Tired Old Wimps" and Raise You a Brace of "Mossbacked Lizards"

Howard Dean is due in South Carolina this week. Lee Bandy, famed political columnist for "The State," tried to provoke some South Carolinia Democrats into going on the record warning MeanDean to keep his yap shut. Instead, he got this from State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, a member of the Democratic National Committee: "We've got too many tired old wimps in the party," she says. "Dean is doing a great job. I have not seen one comment he has made that is not true."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Terri Schiavo, According to South Park

As Edith Bunker once famously commented, "It's amazing how coincidences always seem to happen at the same time!"

On the same day that the results of the Terri Schiavo autopsy come out (i.e., yesterday), proving that Schiavo's parents, along with Madame Phony Baloney Virginia Foxx and all the rest of the Christian Right, didn't have a clue what they were pontificating about, the indispensible "South Park" did an episode called "Friends Forever," which involved poor Kenny in a Schiavoesque feeding-tube crisis. Heaven, it turns out, desperately needs Kenny, but Satan and his minions conspire to revive the dead Kenny and keep him on a feeding tube to deprive him of the Pearly Gates. (It's complicated, okay?) Best line: when it appears that the forces of Heaven might prevail to let Kenny die, Satan's evil sideman Kevin (a dead ringer for Supreme Chancellor Palpatine) chuckles wickedly: "We'll do what we always do ... use the Republicans!"

O bliss!

They killed Kenny (the bastards!), but they wouldn't let Kenny die (the idiots!).

Foxx Fur, Very Plush

The eternal poor-mouther Virginia Foxx turns out to be the wealthiest member of the North Carolina delegation in the U.S. Congress. (Details here, in the Winston-Salem Journal.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Virginia Foxx Loves Snooping Government

This just in (and thanks to Stumpy for the tip): The U.S. House just voted to block the Justice Department and the FBI from using the Patriot Act to peek at library records and bookstore sales slips. But Madame Virginia Phony Baloney Foxx voted the other way. But of course. It was lop-sided, 238-187 for the freedom to read without government snooping, which means that a bunch of Republicans saw the folly of going down the road of Big Brother Is Watching. Though NOT, as we said, Madame Foxx.

This issue is far from resolved, however. The Senate has yet to act.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

MADAME PHONY BALONEY, VIRGINIA FOXX, made Ellen Goodman's syndicated column on Sunday, as an example of opportunistic loyalty to Christian Right talking points (the "every-embryo-is-sacred" argument against medical science). Virginia Foxx ... opportunistic? Say it ain't so!

Monday, June 13, 2005

The N.C. House's Conservative Democrats

You may want to make yourself a strong beverage with the flavoring of your choice before reading Lynn Bonner and Dan Kane's report in today's N&O about the loose group of conservative Democrats who hold the balance of power in the N.C. House. Bless their hearts, these dozen faint Dems (or feint Dems) helped block an increase in the state's minimum wage and a moratorium on the death penalty. They call themselves "the business Democrats," by which we guess they mean "the business-as-usual Democrats." Jim Harrell of Surry County is one of them.

From Oreo Cookies, Turn Thee Away

Thanks to Stumpy, for sending me this article in the LAWeekly, titled "The New Blacklist: Corporate America is bowing to anti-gay Christian groups' boycott demands," by Doug Ireland. Ireland reports on dozens of effective product boycotts by the Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association and other Christian Right groups, aimed at the commercial sponsors (like Oreo cookies!) of TV shows that the Christians don't like ... oh, you know! "Will and Grace," "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," "Desperate Housewives," "South Park," and the list goes on.

According to Ireland, The Big Chill is on. Everyone's terrified of offending the saints.

And for precisely the same reason that everybody's terrified of Islamic fundamentalists ... because they're following the orders of God.

Ireland refers us to the so-called "Great Commission" of Matthew 28:19-20: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you...." This "injunction to convert everyone to Christianity" I know well. It's what led me at age 16 to walk down a dusty West Texas lane to our neighbor's house, where I exhorted a 58-year-old semi-alcoholic housewife, for whom I regularly did farm chores at a dollar-an-hour, to get right with Jesus. She graciously thanked me and then had me drive her to her bootlegger's house and keep the motor running. The bootlegger happened to be my great-aunt, so I was doubly embarrassed.

Ireland quotes Chip Berlet, senior analyst at the labor-funded Political Research Associates, who has spent over 25 years studying the far right and theocratic fundamentalism: "The re-election of Bush was a sort of tipping point for these people, who take it as a mandate from God -- they see that the leadership of America is within their grasp, and when you get closer to your goal, it's very energizing. It reaches a critical mass, in which the evangelicals feel they have permission to push their way into public and cultural policy in every walk and expression of life."

Ireland is quite alarmed about the prospect. He sees something coming akin to the anti-communist witch-hunts of the 1950s and '60s, and the inability of Microsoft and the NYTimes to stand up to such bullying certainly concerns me too. But I don't know. I'm also rather impressed by the resilience of my 58-year-old neighbor back in West Texas. Her cheerful stubbornness was Americanism too, you know.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

On Dems Bashing MeanDean

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Don Fowler of South Carolina, on the swooning of some prominent Washington Democrats at Howard Dean's fighting words about Republicans: "The controversy over this statement or that statement is a blip and only a blip." About the Joe Bidens and John Edwardses and Harold Fords and the other Democratic Aunt Pitty Pats, who called for the smelling salts when Howard Dean started calling the Republicans what they demonstrably ARE, Fowler said, "Even if they don't like it, they should have enough sense not to make those comments." (Quotes contained in this AP story.)

'Course, they're all running for higher offices where they think pandering to Republicans is called for. They made that bed. Howard Dean's just making it uncomfortable.

Friday, June 10, 2005

N.C.'s Personal Income Tax Rate Is 11th Highest in Nation

Very clear article in today's N&O about the shifting of the state tax burden from rich and corporate sources to the backs of working people. In the early 1970s, the amount of state income taxes paid by working individuals was some three times what corporations were paying. Now that disparity has grown much wider: working people pay eight times as much in state income taxes as corporations. "As of two years ago, individual income earners paid about 50 percent of the state's total taxes, while corporations paid 6 percent."

And if The Guv (bless his heart!) and the state Senate have their way, the disparity will grow even wider with this year's budget. Easley and the Grandees of the Senate want to lighten the burden on the richest North Carolinians AGAIN, and further shift that burden to salaried schlubs.

Not that the N.C. House is any great champion of working people, but compared to these other nominal Democrats at the helm, they seem at least AWARE that the shifting of the tax burden onto working people is going forward at an accelerated rate. The House passed a different budget package that does not drop the tax rate on the richest. But don't hold your breath.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

State Republican Party Fined, Must Repay $100K

The state Republican Party must repay a $100,000 illegal contribution and must pay a $10,000 fine under a consent agreement reached yesterday with the state Board of Elections.

This misdeed has been -- how you say? -- less than reported widely in state media. Odd, ain't it?

Jesse Helms ... Voluntarily Stuck in the 19th Century

Jesse Helms is about to publish his big biography (due from Random House ... imagine that!), and according to the N&O, he's unapologetic about his views on race ... feels that voluntary racial integation would have worked eventually. Say what? Sure. Your garden-variety deputy sheriff, who basically thought black people were the animals he was ordained by Gawd to hunt down, was just going to voluntarily give up the night stick. Or that churches, schools, and Woolworth lunch counters would just naturally have found their way to welcoming in everyone? What a crock.

"I did not advocate segregation," Helms writes, proving that even now butter won't melt in his mushmouth, "and I did not advocate aggravation" (says the man who had an entire Excedrin headache named for him, not to mention the antacid taken in his name). "By that I mean that I thought it was wrong for people who did not know, and who did not care, about the relationships between neighbors and friends to force their ideas about how communities should work on the people who had built those communities in the first place. I believed right would prevail as people followed their own consciences."

The people who built a racially rigid world, in other words, had every right to maintain that rigidity. Hell, they even gave a ham to their house cleaners at Christmas time. The glacier of racial intolerance and racial separation would not have moved one inch, in other words, if Jesse Helms had had his way.

But I will give him this: he activated me and whole generations of others, in Harvey Gantt's challenge during the 1990 election campaign. I worked tirelessly to defeat Helms in that year, and we carried Watauga County for Gantt -- a (gasp!) black man -- by a cool 1,000 votes, pushing against a tide of racism in our own party leadership at that time (speaking of "voluntary" consciences!). Jesse Helms did give us that -- a revived local Democratic Party. Amazing how an inflammatory boil on the rump of the Old North State could infuse new health into wannabe boil-lancers.

Watauga was only one of three mountain counties that Gantt carried in 1990 (Jackson and Buncombe were the other two). That was the first of several electoral shocks that followed in Watauga County through the 1990s, the first signal on the local scene that the old South Democratic party was changing and that this mountain county, at least, had a strong current of progressive politics moving inexorably through its bloodstream.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

John Edwards Posts New Comments about Howard Dean

Kiss kiss.

After being drawn into a national flap over Howard Dean's comment that some Republicans have never done an honest day's work (and he did say "some" Republicans, folks), John Edwards has posted a lengthy comment on the One America Committee blog that can be read as an air kiss in Howard's general direction. And in the general direction of all those Democratic activists out here who think Dean is, if anything, pulling his punches RE: Republicans. Some of those Democrat activists tend to think that Democrat bigwigs like John Edwards and Joe Biden reacted quickly and negatively to the outspoken doctor from Vermont because they've never gotten over the fact that Dean was right about Iraq and they were soooo wrong.

At least Edwards is trying to make up.

How Would Jesus Edit?

It's gotten waaaaay beyond hilarious. This, from today's NYTimes:

"A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming...."

Here, if you want to read the whole sorry story.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Jerry Meek Praises Watauga

Last night new N.C. Democratic Party Chair Jerry Meek spoke to Davidson County Democrats, and just in passing (mind you), held up Watauga County Democrats as exemplars of keeping the faith. From the Lexington, N.C., Dispatch this afternoon:

"He noted that in Watauga County, where Republicans had long dominated the board of commissioners, Democrats won several commissioner seats last year by waging an all-year campaign in which they telephoned voters, approached them in shopping centers, compiled lists of thousands of voters who shared their beliefs on issues and then got them to the polls. 'It can be done,' Meek said. 'But it means engaging voters one-on-one all year round. It means starting now.' "

Texas Teenager Sentenced to Life for Helping Girlfriend Abort

Back in March we wrote in this space about the case of Gerardo (Jerry) Flores, charged with murder in Texas under a new fetal protection act for helping his girlfriend (with her active encouragement) to abort. The girlfriend was charged with no crime, since it's still (temporarily) legal for a woman to get an abortion in Texas.

Sad, sad case.

Jerry Flores has been sentenced to life in prison for doing what his girlfriend begged him to do.

Sink Like an Anvil, Sting Like a Pissant

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll has found that 58 percent of those interviewed said El Presidente "is concentrating mainly in his second term on problems and partisan squabbles that these respondents said were unimportant to them."

"Ominously for Bush and the Republicans, a strong majority of self-described political independents -- 68 percent -- say they disagreed with the president's priorities."

Monday, June 06, 2005

Best Little Whore House in Texas

"What are you kiddin'!? We got a family here!"

--H.I. McDonnough (Nicholas Cage), in "Raising Arizona"

"What are you kiddin'!? We got a theocracy here!"

--Texas Gov. Rick Perry, June 5, 2005


From today's NYTimes: "Making good on a Republican campaign call to celebrate with 'Christian friends,' Gov. Rick Perry traveled to an evangelical school here [in Fort Worth] on Sunday to put his signature on measures to restrict abortion and prohibit same-sex marriage...."

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Biden, Edwards Distance Themselves from MeanDean

Sen. Joseph Biden said this a.m. on ABC's "This Week" that DNC Chair Howard Dean "doesn't speak for me ... and I don't think he speaks for the majority of Democrats" ... re MeanDean's characterization of Republicans as not making honest livings.

Ex-Sen. John Edwards said yesterday at a party fundraising dinner in Nashville, Tenn., that Dean "is not the spokesman for the party." (N&O coverage of both statements, here.)

Nervous Nellies, but they make heap big trouble for the good doctor.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Appeals Court Throws Out Va. Abortion Ban

The Virginia state legislature thought it could get around Constitutional problems with banning all late-term abortions by defining them as "infanticide," but yesterday a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond (regarded as the most conservative appeals court in the nation) threw out the Virginia law because it provided no exceptions to protect the health of the woman. Granted, the two-judge majority were both appointed to the court by Bill Clinton, and also granted the one dissenting judge (appointed by Bush the First) wrote an inflamatory opinion that accused the majority of (you guessed it!) judicial activism (the Bush appointee said that the majority's opinion "is a bold new law that, in essence, constitutionalizes infanticide of a most gruesome nature") ... but whaddya gonna do? The two-judge majority wrote that its hands were tied by U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Citing a previous decision, the majority wrote: "But even if 'abortion [is] offensive to our most basic principles of morality ... that cannot control our decision,' for our obligation is to apply the Supreme Court's definition of personal liberty, 'not to mandate our own moral code.' "

Imposing a moral code, especially on young women who have S-E-X, is exactly what all this abortion stuff is about, and we're beginning to think that eventually they'll get it done, and we'll have the theocracy they've been promising.

Then young women -- and men, for that matter, but obviously less so -- will get a lesson in reality.

The Pentagon Admits to Koran Abuse

They waited until about 7:15 p.m. Eastern time last night, well after network news broadcasts and with the on-coming weekend bound to blunt the inflamatory admissions, but Pentagon officials have grudgingly admitted that "guards or interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba kicked, stepped on and splashed urine on the Koran, in some cases intentionally but in others by accident." You can read about it in today's NYTimes here.

INCIDENTALLY ... Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made sure he was waaay out of town when this news broke.

Friday, June 03, 2005

MeanDean Gnaws on Bush

Howard Dean yesterday opened a large, suppurating wound on El Presidente's broad, unprotected flank. Dean accused the president of failing to protect private pensions in the United States. He cited Labor Department statistics estimating that private companies underfunded their pension plans by $450 billion last year. He suggested that Bush is responsible for the failure of private industry to protect those pensions: "The president wants to take away our Social Security," he said, "and then he's going to take away the private pension plans, too? What does he think ordinary Americans live on after they get to be 65 years old?"

Dean suggested that pensions ought to be portable. Pension plans "ought not to be controlled by companies, they ought to be controlled by the people who those pensions belong to," he said.

To wit ... a federal bankruptcy judge allowed United Airlines to terminate four pension plans earlier in May ... and it's George Bush's fault? You bet your sweet bippie it is! And Virginia Foxx's fault too.

MeanDean has hit on a supremely important issue: "...retirement in general looks a lot less secure today," said Olivia S. Mitchell, executive director of the Pension Research Council and a business professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. "My advice to my students is don't quit working .... These are bad times to get old."

The Republican Party ... bad for old people.

Take a look at what El Presidente's fat-cat backers are doing to the rest of us: "From 1986 to 2004, roughly 101,000 companies nationwide terminated defined-benefit [pension] plans covering about 7.5 million workers, according to the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., or PBGC. About 99,000 of those plans had enough assets to buy annuities that covered all benefits earned by workers and retirees. But in the remaining 2,000 cases, companies with underfunded pensions shifted their obligations to the PBGC, created as a last resort to meet the pension obligations of bankrupt companies. As a result, the PBGC is itself now underfunded by roughly $23.3 billion."

And who does El Presidente want to put in charge of the Securities and Exchange Commission but Congressman Chris Cox, who is guaranteed to let business regulation slide for the next three years.

You go, MeanDean!

Army Trolling for Fresh Meat

Did you know that a little-noticed clause in the "No Child Left Behind" education act requires schools to turn over students' home phone numbers and addresses to Army recruiters ... unless parents explicitly opt out? Say it again, so it sinks in: "No Child Left Behind" mandates that school districts can receive federal funds only if they grant military recruiters "the same access to secondary school students" as is provided to colleges and employers.

Looks like El Presidente needs cannon fodder about as much as he does an educated electorate.

And parents, according to this a.m.'s NYTimes, are pushing back -- hard.

"In an interview last month, Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, commander of Army recruiting, said parental resistance could put the all-volunteer force in jeopardy. When parents and other influential adults dissuade young people from enlisting, he said, 'it begs the question of what our national staying power might be for what certainly appears to be a long fight.' "

Gosh. You mean, General, that American parents are actually looking at the cost-benefit analysis of this unnecessary war? How ... American of them!

But Army recruiters, under tremendous pressure to fill dwindling ranks of an all-volunteer force, are staging at high schools what one parent described as a "well-organized propaganda machine" ... big shiny Humvees, flashy equipment, huge promises of "career" advancement and special training, and plenty of doughnuts. On a sugar buzz, what does a teenaged boy know about reality?

Is this stuff going on at Watauga High School? Rural areas and high-unemployment sections of the Rust Belt have become prime hunting grounds for the recruiters.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Another Newspaper for Watauga County

Apparently they screwed up, the guys who bought out Ken Ketchie's Mountain Times three years ago. They goofed in not asking for more than just a three-year "no compete" clause, 'cause those three years are now up and Ken Ketchie got bored. We'll confess to more than a little boredom ourselves, a weariness over the indisputable fact that our two formerly distinct newspapers (the lively one that Ken Ketchie created back in the 1970s and the ancient one with ancient ways) have pretty much mind-melded into one echo chamber. Identical articles, in fact. Made the time ripe now for some actual competition in the local news biz. And Ken Ketchie has decided to pick that fruit.

Ketchie's new Mountain News is just a couple of issues old, doesn't have much of a staff as yet, but does have a new headquarters and a wide-open market for alternatives. We'll look forward to the day the Mtn News moves off entertainment and its touristy orientation and starts reporting some actual news. Might end up being good for the other (echo chamber) papers. A little competition is supposed to sharpen the mind, we hear.

Howard Dean Not Raising Cash Fast Enough?

Business Week, whose political leanings might not be too hard to divine, is gloating that Howard Dean has fallen far behind the money-raising of the other side. Business Week cites the Federal Election Commission as a source ... that the Democratic National Committee raised (just) $14.1 million in the first quarter of 2005, vs. the Republican National Committee's $32.3 million. Dean drew (just) 20,000 new donors, while his rivals picked up 68,200. "The bottom line: Republicans have $26.2 million in the bank vs. $7.2 million for the Dems."

And why not? The economic policies of El Presidente's regime vastly favor the well-heeled. Why wouldn't they choke Karl Rove's in-take pipes with thousand-dollar bills?

Vote on N.C. Death Penalty Moratorium Delayed

First The Guv comes out against a moratorium on the death penalty, and now Speaker of the N.C. House Jim Black has delayed a vote on the measure, apparently because its supporters don't yet have the votes to pass it. (A similar law passed the Senate two years ago but died in the House.) Rumor is that the supporters of a moratorium have 58 votes out of a total of 120 in the House. The Guv certainly hasn't helped. The Republicans are all mainly holding firm. They, along with The Guv, see no reason whatsoever to halt the killing while the fairness of the system is given a thorough going-over.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Great Moments in the American Presidency

"On evenings such as these, Deep Throat had talked about how politics had infiltrated every corner of government -- a strong-arm takeover of the agencies by the Nixon White House .... He had once called it the 'switchblade mentality' -- and had referred to the willingness of the president's men to fight dirty and for keeps .... The Nixon White House worried him. 'They are underhanded and unknowable,' he had said numerous times." -- "All the President's Men," 1974.

"President Bush criticized Senate Democrats on Tuesday for 'stalling' a vote on John R. Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations, and indicated that he would not grant them access to intelligence documents they have demanded to see before allowing the confirmation to go ahead." NYTimes, 1 June 2005.

Plus ... "Things You Would Never Realize If You Didn't Watch C-SPAN":

1. Nixon was the victim of the Liberal Media. They made up all that stuff about Watergate because they hated him.

2. Nixon never broke any laws. And even if he did, he was protecting the country from enemies that wanted to destroy us.

3. And even if it all happened, it wasn't as bad as a blowjob in the Oval Office.

4. Obeying the law (for Mark Felt, a.k.a., "Deep Throat") was more important than the truth. Serving the "truth" (for religious zealots) is more important than obeying the law.

Gone Fishin' in Indiana

An Indiana superior court judge ruled yesterday that Planned Parenthood of Indiana must turn over confidential records involving more than 80 of its youngest patients.

The Indiana attorney general, Steve Carter, a Republican (natch!), said he was seeking the records of any patient under the age of 14 because "his Medicaid fraud unit is trying to determine whether children have been neglected because molesting incidents were not reported to the authorities as required. Under Indiana law, anyone under 14 who is sexually active is considered a victim of sexual abuse, and health providers are required to report such cases to the state authorities."

The judge wrote in his opinion, "The great public interest in the reporting, investigation and prosecution of child abuse trumps even the patient's interest in privileged communication with her physician, because in the end, both the patient and the state are benefited by the disclosure."

Ah ... the gentle hand of state power, which can decide just that casually that you have no right to privacy. Just wait until they get their theocracy.

Indiana Planned Parenthood is fighting the decision and will no doubt appeal. The head of Planned Parenthood "questioned the nature of the investigation by the Medicaid fraud unit, saying most of the cases dated from several years ago and hardly seemed to be the emergency that [the attorney general] has portrayed. She said no case involved abortions."

These sorts of fishing expeditions are meant, actually, to scatter the fish via intimidation. We all know that.