Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Bombs Explode in First Day of Fighting; War Against Christians Claims Famous Martyr

Among those (stink)bombs that went off at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. yesterday, on the first day of the "War Against Christians" conference ... indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay ... getting all pious on our ass. DeLay took time off from conferring with his lawyers to declaim that OF COURSE there's a war on Christians, and he's one of the sadder casualties. Not DeLay -- because DeLay is not that creative -- but another speaker at the conference compared modern-day American Christians to Jews in Nazi Germany, struggling on a daily basis NOT to be turned into bars of soap. (I'm not making this up.)

We note for the record that whereas the Right Wing gets apoplectic when liberals compare various functionaries in the Current Regime to Nazis, it's perfectly fine to refer to Right-Wing Christians as the moral equivalent of Jews suffering through Nazi genocide.

About which, here are two additional viewpoints by other Christians who, strangely enough, don't feel the need to whine:

"Certainly religious persecution existed in our history, but to claim that these examples amount to religious persecution disrespects the experiences of people who have been jailed and died because of their faith." --K. Hollyn Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

"This is a skirmish over religious pluralism, and the inclination to see it as a war against Christianity strikes me as a spoiled-brat response by Christians who have always enjoyed the privileges of a majority position." --Rev. Robert M. Franklin, a minister in the Church of God in Christ and professor of social ethics at Emory University.

Dana Milbank, in the WashPost, on the stale air in the room at the Omni Shoreham.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Turning Water Into Whine

When I saw that there's to be a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., this week on "Christian Persecution," I leapt to the conclusion that panel members would be talking about the SouthDakotaization of America, about Christian theocrats persecuting women and gays in particular, or about Franklin Graham persecuting Moslems. But no! This is a panel discussion about how horribly Christians are THEMSELVES being persecuted in the United States of America, which is, after all, only 90 percent Christian. That other 10 percent is just completely ruining life and the pursuit of happiness for everyone else.

Well, it IS the "War on Christians" conference, I realized, a chance for right-wing Republicans who exploit religion for political gain to whine about how they can't have their way (yet) in forcing women to have children against their will, or in discriminating against people because they're g.a.y., or in forcing American science and science education to veer to the numbskull right for the sake of appearances.

Monday, March 27, 2006

David Blust, Opposed to Alien Sex

A broadside from David Blust on NCConservative serves up four issues he's running on for the NC Senate (but what happened to the NC Lottery?) ... gay marriage (he's agin it, natch), "Holding Government Accountable" (oh, THERE'S the lottery!), "Supporting Education and Educators" (said the promoter of private, Christian education), and (our favorite) "Protecting Life: Life and citizenship begins at conception."

Life and citizenship begins at conception?

There's a wrinkle we didn't see coming. Foreign eggs or sperm produce something resembling life, though a little less equal, evidently.

Let's built that anti-immigrant wall around all the vaginas in the world!

Lesson Learned: Don't Step Out of Line

Mars Hill College freshman Tim Willis has gotten his computer back from the Secret Service. Apparently, Willis is not a threat to the president or to national security after all.

Mike Thornhill, Mars Hill College spokesman, said in the Asheville Citizen-Times, "We're just happy this is behind us. We felt all along there was no criminal intent here. We're glad the Secret Service reached that conclusion. We feel certain the student involved will take this as a lesson well learned."

Don't be a smart-ass on the Internet?

Yeah, you see where it got WataugaWatch and 14 million other bloggers!

The Only Quote I Remember from Yesterday's Meet the Press

"See, I would argue that minority parties don't have to be responsible. That's the one good thing going for them, and when they try to be responsible, they're just going to dig themselves into a hole. I mean, you're on -- your job is to throw rocks. Once you start offering alternatives, then suddenly you're playing defense as well. I think Democrats would be crazy, from a political standpoint, to offer up proposals."

--Charlie Cook, on "Meet the Press," 26 March 2006, in response to David Broder's pious pronouncement two seconds earlier:

"...if [Democrats]’re going to be responsible, they need some policy. And the great void on the Democratic side is nobody can tell you today what their policy is about Iraq, about entitlements, or about any of the other challenges facing the country. Whether they need that politically, somebody else is smart enough to decide, but if they're going to be a responsible party, they need to talk about policy."

Nonsense, says Charlie Cook, a political analyst of no mean talent.

And today, at least, we're inclined to agree with Charlie Cook.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Did You Notice This Poll?

Okay, it came out last Wednesday, but I don't remember seeing it get any MSM ink, and only today do we find it by cruising the back alleys of the Internet:

The opposition to gay marriage has dropped from 65 percent in February 2004 to 51 percent now. Still obviously divisive, but jeez Louise! That's a huge swing in opinion.

And this: "by a 58%-to-34% margin most Americans would oppose a national version of South Dakota's new law banning abortion in all cases."

According to the Pew Research Center, then, the GOP's wedge is going a little limp.
In a Sunday profile piece on Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), who's running both for reelection to the Senate this year and for the conservative Republican nomination for president in 2008, a number of truths emerge:

Allen is BORED with life in the Senate: "I made more decisions in half a day as governor than you can make in a whole week in the Senate .... It's too slow for me."

Well, good. Sounds like the man is begging for forced retirement, which we're hoping little feisty ex-Marine James Webb, the Democratic candidate for that Senate seat, can hand him.

Then this, from a town-hall meeting Sen. Allen held in Culpeper, Va.: "A friendly audience listened politely as he called for tough new border laws and fiscal responsibility."

Fiscal responsibility?

And there you have it, folks, as my political guru Irmaly told me recently: Republicans are going to run against THEMSELVES this year. They have to. No choice. Run against themselves -- i.e., run against out of control, dangerously incompetent WASHINGTON -- and hope the people don't notice the sleight-of-hand.

But people are noticing. Even in that friendly Culpeper audience: "The words kind of ring hollow with me," said one of Mr. Allen's brighter Republican constituents.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Kevin Phillips Just Killed My Buzz

"I believe that Democrats and liberals in 2006 stand to have their greatest opportunity since 1992 (which was lost). You will have the substantial support of many lapsed Republicans and doubters of Bush conservatism like myself. But I also have the sense that many Democrats and liberals have an instinct for the capillaries, not for the jugular. If that leads to failure in 2006, there will be a major price to pay, not just for the United States but in terms of the credibility of your party and movement."

--Kevin Phillips, author of "American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century," on TPM Cafe

"Liberals have an instinct for the capillaries, not for the jugular."

OUCH! I mean, DAMN! But it's so true, in the main, especially as you veer away from the precincts that we work in, i.e., the grassroots, where the liberals we know laid down their pacifism round about the second week of November, 1994. The Watauga County Democratic Party, for example, immediately printed a new bumpersticker following the '94 elections: "DEMOCRATS ARM YOURSELVES!"

That's basically been the attitude ever since, which has made us perhaps unwelcome in certain parlors with chintz on the windows. It also helped us win back a majority on the local county commission for the first time in decades.

Listen to Kevin Phillips. Americans won't elect pussies.

This Is SO Going to Become a TV Movie

Minister's wife shoots minister-husband in the parsonage in rural Tennessee, flees with three small daughters to Alabama. And here's the plot hook: "Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent John Mehr said authorities know the motive for the killing, but he would not disclose it."

The Pilgrim's Progress: The Episode in Which Mr. Godlyman Is Wounded by Himself

March 21: launched its Red America weblog, authored by Ben Domenech, an editor at the conservative Regnery Publishing Inc. and co-founder of the partisan weblog

March 22: It comes out that Domenech, under the screen name "Augustine," had posted a comment that the recently deceased Coretta Scott King was a "communist" ... on Other equally inflammatory material comes to light, as does the more serious evidence that Domenech was plagiarizing while a freshman at William & Mary.

March 23: More Domenech plagiarism is found ... "part of a movie review he wrote for National Review Online," and many more documented examples here. "Plagiarism is perhaps the most serious offense that a writer can commit or be accused of," said Jim Brady, Executive Editor of

March 24: Domenech resigns from, maintaining his innocence even against conclusive evidence to the contrary, suggesting that the William & Mary plagiarism was actually done by his editor on the student newspaper ("he believes the unattributed material was inserted by his editor") and even suggested that one of the sources he plagiarized actually plagiarized him, a superhuman trick since Domenech's source published three days before Domenech ("Domenech said he thought his piece appeared first, but a database review found that Murray's review was published three days earlier"). So he decides to play the wounded victim: Domenech said yesterday he resigned because "if the firestorm gets past a certain level, there's nothing you can ever say that will be taken seriously .... It's reached the point where there's nothing I can really do to defend myself."

Can't defend the indefensible, chum.

Right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin, in an oddly written condemnation of fellow 'winger Domenech, nevertheless invokes the victimhood meme: "But now the determined moonbat hordes have exposed multiple instances of what clearly appear to me to be blatant lifting of entire, unique passages by Ben from other writers." That, Malkin said, is "unacceptable .... And, painfully, Domenech's detractors are right. He should own up to it and step down. Then, the Left should cease its sick gloating and leave him and his family alone."

See, 'cause it's pathologic on OUR part to expect honesty on THEIR part.


Let's see what writings by other young Republican battle bots are actually stolen jewels. This can't be the only case of zeal and stupidity over-extending itself.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Charles Taylor Sucks

Our friends and allies in the NC-11 have put up a Charles Taylor parody site, which deserves a viewing and a yuk-yuk.

Why doesn't someone do this service for Madam Virginia Foxx?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

New Local Website: Citizens for Children

Check out the very informative and fair-minded site just put up by the newly formed "Citizens for Children," which has come together to advocate for a new high school for the county. Especially impressive is the FAQs page where burning questions are answered without inflamatory rhetoric.

Blessed Be Emanuel?

The few times we've seen Rahm Emanuel speaking for the Democratic Party on TV ... we wanted to turn the durn contraption to the wall. An effective TV presence he AIN'T. Emanuel is the second-term Democratic congressman from Illinois and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Thanks to Stumpy for passing on Jonathan Alter's column about Emanuel, which suggests that maybe the man will be more effective working behind the scenes to try to take back the House of Representatives. Emanuel is targeting 40 House races, not one of which is the NC-5, but the strategy, according to Alter, interests us:

"...Just as Harry Truman ran against the 'Do-Nothing Congress,' Democrats will run against the 'Rubber-Stamp Congress,' which pimped for K Street, took a dive on its critical oversight duties (particularly on Iraq) and helped the president bankrupt the country by shoveling money toward the rich. Emanuel won't say yet which votes supporting Bush he plans to wrap around the necks of incumbents. But look for gut-punch ads that highlight the incumbents' 90-plus percent backing for Bush on issues like cuts in college loans and veterans benefits, privatizing Social Security, selling out to Big Pharma on prescription drugs and halting stem-cell research. Republicans are now scurrying away from Bush, but it may be too late. They can't take those roll-call votes back."

Madam Virginia Foxx has done no scurrying away from Bush that we can detect. So just how dense are the candidates arrayed against her if they don't notice that fact?

Mr. Roberts' Neighborhood

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has written his first dissenting opinion on the Supreme Court, which means both that he (with the Evil Twins Scalia and Thomas) was on the losing end of a 5-3 vote and that he's bitter about losing.

The case was Georgia v. Randolph, No. 04-1067, a disagreement over whether the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches was violated when the police in Americus, Ga., arriving at a house to investigate a domestic dispute, accepted the wife's invitation to look for evidence of her husband's cocaine use while the husband said "no way, man." Husband's a drug-abusing jerk, no doubt, but do you, even for a drug-abusing jerk, lift the presumption in the foundation of our law that a man's home is his castle?

Five justices on the court said no. Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas said, sure, the State, represented by the police, can come tromping in. "Our common social expectations may well be that the other person [wife, lover, etc.] will not, in turn, share what we have shared with them with another -- including the police," Chief Justice Roberts wrote, "but that is the risk we take in sharing."

The friggin' risk we take in sharing?

The learned justice is an ass.

Justice David Souter, who wrote the majority opinion and is described by the NYTimes as "usually mild-mannered to a fault," wrote that "in [Roberts'] view, the centuries of special protection for the privacy of the home are over." By invoking a "false equation" between inviting the police into the home and reporting a secret, Souter said, the chief justice "suggests a deliberate intent to devalue the importance of the privacy of a dwelling place."

For people who spout endlessly about freedom (I'm talking about all you conservative Republicans out there), you've got as your champion on the Supreme Court a nice little justice named Roberts, leading a cabal of like-minded guys, who want to get rid of individual privacy so Big Brother can pry at will, one would assume as the first step toward commandeering the wombs of all the fertile women.

Incidentally, Alito didn't vote, or it would have been 5-4.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

So Now We Know: Rush Limbaugh Was a Whiny Little Brat

In the 1960s Jack Block and his wife and fellow professor Jeanne Block (now deceased) began tracking more than 100 nursery school kids as part of a general study of personality. The kids' personalities were rated at the time by teachers and assistants who had known them for months.

A few decades later, Block followed up with more surveys, looking again at personality. "The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity. The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests. The girls were still outgoing, but the young men tended to turn a little introspective."

The research has been published in the "Journal of Research Into Personality" and is bound to send some formerly whiny kids right over the cliff (thanks to Irmaly for sending this link).

We hope Professor Block is ready for the reaction in Right Blogostan. He might want to don an unusually thick raincoat, in anticipation of epic foaming at the mouth.

Democracy, Rampant

Last night's meeting of the Watauga County Commission -- all three hours of it -- was as lively an exercise in democracy as I've attended in many a year. At the end of it, County Commission Chair Jim Deal noted that a record number of people had chosen to speak out during the public comment section. Their speaking out was in the best tradition of America: people felt perfectly free to whine, carp, invoke the Constitution, call upon REALITY (while appearing thoroughly untethered from it), and proclaim revolution across the land. Interest groups flocked, so that there was standing room only in the county's brand-new commissioners' meeting room. Citizens talked -- and in some cases the County Commissioners talked back -- and a remarkable amount of information got aired.

A time-line of some of the high points:

6:00 p.m. -- Jim Deal gavels meeting to order on time. Walls are lined by skate-boarders in matching T-shirts, come with their parents (in many cases) to lobby for a county skate-board park. It's Grunge Night at the County Commission!

7:21 p.m. -- "It's not a Republican vs. Democrat issue." So says the Republican member of the County Board of Elections (and a lawyer -- see below), protesting the possible closing of the county's smallest precinct and illustrating incidentally that it was MOST CERTAINLY a Republican vs. Democrat issue. The Democratic Chair of the Board of Elections had just pointed out that the polling place in North Fork was in violation of two separate state statutes, including the fact that it is not handicapped accessible.

7:25 p.m. -- The Republican member of the Elections Board -- Lord, is he still talking? -- says "We ought not let the details and the minutia in the statutes get in our way." Doncha just love lawyers? I momentarily black out, contemplating the possibilities of not letting "the details and the minutia" stand in my way.

7:26 p.m. -- Speaking of lawyers, Board Chair Jim Deal agrees with the Republican lawyer that the North Fork polling place ought to remain open, and by the same token, all polling places in the county should be as accessible as possible to the voters -- a rather pointed reference to the Republican lawyer's efforts a month earlier to prevent the moving of the Boone 3 precinct onto the campus of Appalachian State University, where 80 percent of the voters in that precinct live.

7:36 p.m. -- Kelvin Byrd, the county's tax collector, presented his figures on a "revenue neutral" tax rate following the recent property revaluation. Current rate is 39.5 cents. Mr. Byrd announced that 31.3 cents would be "revenue neutral" (though everyone realizes that some people's tax bills may still go up. That's just how the millage rate crumbles).

7:45 -- Chairman Deal, in explaining to the audience what "revenue neutral" means, brings up the propaganda put in the Watauga Democrat by Mr. Thomas Roy of Bonita Springs, Florida (see this). "It's the great thing about America," Mr. Deal said. "Anybody can write anything and put it in the paper, no matter whether it's true or not. I don't have a lot of sympathy for Mr. Roy of Bonita Springs, Florida, and his second home."

7:50 -- Chairman Deal, clearing the air of the smoke put up by several other county propagandists, many of whom were sitting in the room last night: "Taxes will NOT remain at 39.5 cents per $100, and whoever's telling you that is NOT telling you the truth. And we do NOT need to raise taxes for the schools, and whoever's telling you THAT is not telling you the truth."

8:08 -- Public Comment commences. First speaker says, "I question the need for a county recreation center when Exxon is making such huge profits." I black out again, straining to get the connection.

8:20 -- Another citizen makes a really nasty comment about a candidate for public office, by way of complaining about an undesirable land-use in his neighborhood: "I bet you people wouldn't let this go on if it was down the road from Virginia Foxx." I decide that the hidden injuries of class are behind all complaints made to government.

8:23 -- We hear that virtually all voters were "locked out" of the decision-making process that has led to a recommendation for a brand new high school ... through a "series of highly controlled group-think sessions" put on by a "Soviet-style" government that is "corrupt," "corrupt and oppressive." Ah, the American talent for insult!

8:31 -- An 83-year-old gentleman from Sugar Grove tells us all that "spraying" is killing all the wild life and that it's going to kill all of us too. But he doesn't say WHAT spraying. I'm thinking Agent Orange.

8:34 -- A citizen wants to know what the County Commission has done, relative to a new high school. Jim Deal responds that the County Commission hasn't done anything, because the School Board has not presented any plan. There are apparently several offers now on the table to buy the old high school property at a substantial profit, which will save the taxpayers many millions of $ toward the building of a new school, but Mr. Deal explains that such negotiations are necessarily done in secret and according to state law for very good reasons. Mr. Deal says he is not in favor of paying for a formal appraisal of the old high school property: "You get an offer to buy, and if the offer is good enough, you sell. End of story."

8:39 -- Commissioner David Blust, rumored to be a businessman and confirmed as a candidate for the state Senate, asks out loud, "What's the difference between an informal and a formal appraisal?" Chairman Deal looks at him.

8:47 -- Spokeswoman for a newly formed group, Citizens for Children, announces the group will be lobbying for a new high school on a new site. In other words, Citizens for Children is the counter-group to RID. The rumored mass demonstration of RID at the meeting -- though many of the RID leaders are present in the room -- does not materialize. Likely more victims of "Soviet-style" oppression and group-think, we reckon.

8:49 -- A young man warns the Commissioners that local revolution may be necessary if the Commissioners don't do something about keeping Floridians from buying second homes here.

8:52 -- More invocation of the Constitution to bash Floridians, specifically the Ginn development. Evidently the Constitution does not apply to anyone not born in Watauga County, a fact I had heard rumors about and am glad to have confirmed.

8:56 -- The seriously bright Matt Cooper talks knowledgeably about making any new high school wholly sustainable with renewable energy. The guy's talking systems and specifications! Chairman Deal asks him to make a presentation to the School Board.

9:00 -- Commissioner Keith Honeycutt, running hard to the environmental left in his race for reelection, assures everyone that he regularly talks to Matt Cooper. Hell, they're practically drinking buddies!

9:04 -- Final speaker requests that the County Commission take away the permits for the Ginn development. Interesting, if oblique, way to get at the kernel in the nut: granting "personhood" to corporations in the 19th-century was the beginning of all our troubles in Watauga County today. But that's another can of worms.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Real Men Don't Preemptively Strike

Good essay by Ruth Marcus in this a.m.'s WashPost about the "manliness" of El Presidente and this testosteronized administration. She titled it "Man Overboard."

Madam Foxx Embraces the Sleaze

It's in the wind this a.m. that House Majority Leader Roy Blunt ("Tom Delay Lite") will appear in Winston-Salem tomorrow for a Virginia Foxx fundraiser.

That's Roy Blunt who has many connections to lobbyist Jack Abramoff. That's Roy Blunt whose political action committee shared office space with Tom DeLay's political action committee, which gave The Madam multiple thousands of dollars. "The [Blunt & DeLay] committees have shared committee coordinators and used the same political consulting firm. Texas prosecutors investigating DeLay have subpoenaed bank records related to $150,000 that his special convention committee gave to Blunt's state PAC in the spring of 2000" (according to the Kansas City Star). That's Roy Blunt whom the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has named one of "the 13 most corrupt members of Congress."

Every level seeks its own water.

And God Said, "Let There Be Tax Exemptions." And They Were Good

Reviewing: I.R.S. rules forbid churches from supporting a political party or candidate. Inviting just one candidate to speak, singling out one candidate for special praise and highlighting a combination of issues tailored to one candidate's campaign are all factors that the I.R.S. considers "problematic."

Nevertheless, as we know here in N.C., Republican Party operatives have been busy collecting church directories, to get all those good Christian names into databases for direct-mail assaults on, say, the weekend before the November 7th election ... stuff saying "The Devil is coming for you, and he's a Democrat!"

Apparently, in Pennsylvania the policitization of religion is running on an even faster track than here in N.C., propelled mainly by the blazing fossil fuel of Sen. Rick Santorum's wedge issue of gay marriage. Religious leaders supporting Santorum have organized the Pennsylvania Pastors Network. On March 6th, the network held the first of a series of meetings to galvanize the churches for Santorum's reelection. At that March 6th meeting, the pastors heard a video-taped message from Santorum which included boilerplate "The Devil is coming and he's a Democrat" fear tactics: "I encourage you to let your voices be heard from the pulpit," Santorum said, urging the pastors to champion Santorum's proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. 'Cause God hates queers. Almost as much as He hates Democrats.

After Santorum's taped get-out-the-vote pitch, participating pastors got copies of the senator's book, "It Takes a Family," described by the conservative advocacy group Let Freedom Ring as "thoroughly and soundly grounded in Christian doctrine and Scripture as the revealed word of God."

Amazing what God will reveal to you when your electoral ass is in a tight crack.

It remains to be seen whether El Presidente's I.R.S. will actually enforce the law, or whether they're just blowing unholy incense up everyone's you-know-what.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Nathan Tabor, Twisted Sister

Right-wing battle-bot Nathan Tabor has published another editorial decrying the spendthrift Congress ... without managing in the process to notice who's in charge of that Congress. In fact, by means of a truly breathtaking contortion of logic, he manages to blame Bill Clinton and Democrats for the monumental fiscal mess El Presidente and his willing toadies in the House and Senate hath wrought for all of us.

As we've said before, we're connoisseurs of hypocrisy, and Mr. Tabor's is a fine vintage, full-bodied, with just a hint of flop-sweat.

How does that logic work again? Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of
homosexuals and Billary Clinton.

By the Perspiration of Their Brow

U.S. Today has a story this a.m. about how few work days the U.S. House of Representatives has actually put in this year: "Through [last] Friday, the House was in session for 19 days [in 2006], compared with 33 for the Senate. If they stick to their current schedule -- including two weeks off in April, a week in May and July, plus all of August -- House members will spend 97 days in Washington this year." They took all of last week off for St. Patrick's Day.

"During the first two months of the year, House members logged a total of 47 hours in the Capitol. They took off almost the entire month of January...."

But remember how hard Madam Virginia Foxx said she was working? All behind-the-scenes stuff, very hush-hush. Plus she has to do laundry for the family, cook three full meals a day for her husband, pray, pull a dead leaf off the ivy...

And for breaking that kind of sweat, The Madam makes $165,200 a year.

I know the counter-argument, which used to be uttered mainly by the Right Wing, that we can be RELIEVED that those cats are on the job so little.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Lesson for College Students: Don't Mock the President

A Mars Hill College freshman had his computer confiscated by the Secret Service because he posted lyrics of a 1978 Misfits song titled "Bullet" on his website, substituting El Presidente's bullet-riddled body lying in the street for John F. Kennedy's. The Secret Service said this amounted to a threat against the president's life. Or at least they thought it MIGHT be a threat against the president's life, so they came all the way up into these mountains and grabbed the kid's computer. Since then the Secret Service has decided that the Mars Hill College freshman is NOT a threat to the president's life, but they're keeping his computer anyway. Special Agent Russ Nelson says the Secret Service plans "to continue to examine other information on Willis' computer before deciding whether he broke the law."

Maybe he's got a nekkid pitcher on there!

Can you spell "harassment"?

Gosh, it's soooo reassuring to know that the Secret Service can make a perfect hell of the life of a freshman at a Baptist college in the North Carolina mountains!

Deconstructing a "Pensioner of a Fixed Income"

Yesterday, the Watauga Democrat published a protest letter about this year's local tax reevaluation. Didn't we all say "ouch" when that document arrived! Our own home went up in assessed value by 67 percent. Yikes.

So I can feel some sympathy for Thomas S. Roy, who says his Watauga County home valuation increased by over 70 percent.

Our County Commission has pledged to lower the tax rate to keep this revaluation "tax neutral," if that's the right term for lowering the tax rate on everyone's more valuable property to keep the tax revenues essentially the same. Watauga County already has the lowest tax rate in the state -- THE LOWEST IN THE STATE, out of 100 counties.

Mr. Roy seems to know nothing about any of that. Rather, he takes the opportunity for a mean little partisan attack: "...this reassessment ... is politically motivated by Commissioner Jim Deal and the newly elected tax-and-spend Democrats."

Ah! It's all the Democrats' fault! Well now! That makes everything so much simpler, eh, Mr. Roy?

Then Mr. Roy decides to wax autobiographical: "I have talked with several other neighbors, all local longtime residents, and a local builder and they are all very upset .... They all advised me that since I am a seasonal resident that I have absolutely no chance of having any success in obtaining a more reasonable assessment. I have been visiting Watauga County for many years. And in 1992, my wife and I decided to build a new home here. And yes, like so many of us we live in Florida and spend our glorious summers and fall at our home in Watauga County. We consider ourselves every bit a part of this wonderful community just as those who are here full time. And we are regular contributors to the High Country United Way, Blowing Rock Stage Co. (and Foundation), ASU Summer Festival, Watauga County Library, Blowing Rock Hospital Society, etc., etc. But we are pensioners of a fixed income."

"Pensioners of a fixed income." It's such a curious locution, tagged onto the end of such obvious flaunting of second-home-owning affluence, that our curiosity was aroused.

Mr. Roy's Watauga County home, built as he told us in 1992, includes two lots in Greystone, amounting to a total (re)assessed value of $776,900 (here and here). If Jim Deal and those horrible tax-and-spend Democrats keep the tax rate where it's been, Mr. Roy would owe approximately $2,952 on his Watauga County properties. Which turns out to be an actual bargain when compared to the OTHER place Mr. Roy owns property, Lee County, Florida, and the town of Bonita Springs, where Mr. Roy paid a whopping $6,209.90 in property taxes last year (Lee County tax collector site is here).

A logical question naturally presents itself: did a tax hawk like Mr. Roy raise a fuss with Lee County commissioners over his Bonita Springs tax bill? Not that we can find searching the archives at nor at the Ft. Myers News-Press site. We wondered why a "pensioner of a fixed income" wouldn't complain to his local government in Florida, where's he's paying almost three times as much in property taxes. Well, now, might it have something to do with the fact that the ENTIRE COUNTY COMMISSION in Lee County, Florida, is REPUBLICAN? Hell, even the tax collector, Cathy Curtis, is REPUBLICAN.

But Watauga County, N.C., has a new majority of Democrats on its County Commission, so Mr. Roy takes out his wrath on them.

"A pensioner of a fixed income" is also a partisan with an axe to grind.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bush to Environment: Eat S**t and Die!

Take a gander at the dude El Presidente has decided to install as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Watch the U.S. Map Turn Blue

Thanks to Stumpy for sending this amazing and instructive link, which shows the Red/Blue map of the U.S. starting with the 2004 election. Watch as the map automatically morphs its colors, tracking monthly presidential approval polls SINCE the 2004 election. North Carolina changes dramatically, as does most of the U.S.

Now! If only the voting this November follows the color flow!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Jim Webb for Senate

Soon after James H. Webb published his Vietnam War novel, "Fields of Fire," in 1978, which was based on his own experiences as a highly decorated Marine in the Vietnam War, he showed up at Appalachian State University to take part in the Festival of the Written Word. He happened to be on the program that year with investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who had just broken the story of the My Lai Massacre and Lt. William Calley, and I recall being at dinner with the two of them -- muscular little Marine Jim Webb and the wiry muckraker Hersh -- eyeing each other with distaste at opposite ends of that long table. I thought, "We might have our own Vietnam War incident right here, tonight," but everybody stayed cool. (Hersh took notes on what everyone told him, storing away names and anecdotes in a little notebook like a squirrel stores acorns.)

I engaged Webb that evening about his name, since I know another Jim Webb in eastern Kentucky, and it turned out that Marine Lt. James Webb had all kinds of family in the Appalachian coalfields, especially in southwest Virginia.

So his decision to file to run for the Senate this year in Virginia against George "Howdy Doody" Allen is partly a matter of reclaiming his birthright. It's also a matter of giving Sen. Allen a real run for his money.

My impressions of James Webb back in the early 1980s put him pretty much in the "strong Republican" category, and he did subsequently serve as Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Navy. I recall his rather bitter campaign against Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam War Memorial on The Mall. He thought the design somehow dishonored the dead. His distaste for the Memorial design did not prove to be perceptive; Lin's Vietnam "Wall" is one of the most emotionally overpowering monuments in that monument-rich city. And luckily for the Virginia Democratic Party, Webb's alliance with the Reagan Republicans also didn't last. Webb's assessment of George W. Bush in 2004: "He committed the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory" with the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

So we're tickled to see him running for what should be a very safe Republican seat in the U.S. Senate. Truly, he IS George Allen's worst nightmare, an actual patriot warrior who knows what he's talking about, who was earning medals in combat while George Allen was coasting on student deferments. We heard somewhere that Allen's approval rating in Virginia is just barely over the 50 percent mark, and he'll actually have to scramble against Webb.

Might put a crimp in Allen's presidential ambitions in 2008 too.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Profiles in Mushiness

Dana Milbank in today's WashPost has the whole sorry scene of Democratic Senators acting like ... like ... like Democratic Senators.


Best to avert the eyes.

Thanks, Gov. Easley, for Defending Forestland

We applaud Gov. Easley's action, taken yesterday, to lobby against El Presidente's plan to sell off N.C. National Forestland to the highest bidder. We've not often found actions by this Guv to praise, but this one deserves great thanks.

Blust Challenges Garwood

Watauga County Commissioner David Blust has challenged state senator John Garwood to a series of debates. Come-from-behind politicians always do ... challenge the incumbent. It's a cheap way to raise one's profile, along with one's cred, so long as he can walk and chew gum at the same time.

That's an open question in Blust's case. He's got ONE issue in this Republican primary ... Garwood's no-show on the N.C. lottery vote. Other than that, he's a predictable portmanteau of right-wing talking points and moral self-righteousness. As a Watauga County Commissioner, he's been a big fat zero.

Garwood ought to consider taking him out in live debates. We'd pay admission.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Fall of Claude Allen

Caught red-handed (on store cameras) in a long pattern of criminality, El Presidente's domestic policy advisor Claude Allen denies the charges and blames it all on "a mix-up concerning his credit card."

This is in the best tradition of morally superior Republican hypocrisy, as is this ... something Mr. Allen said about his decision to register years ago as a Republican: "I realized after the fact that I agree more with the Republican Party platform, that it talked about independence, that it talked about individual responsibility, individual rights, it talked about the ability to guarantee opportunities, not outcomes." (Quoted here in the NYTimes)

Blame it all on a credit card mix-up -- that's taking "individual responsibility"! And obviously a well-stocked Target store is a "guaranteed opportunity," no?

Monday, March 13, 2006

At Least We Have Russ Feingold

One brave, principled Democrat in the Senate. One, at least. How many of the rest of 'em are this morning running away from Feingold?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Well, God DID give Adam dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth, including good merchandise at Target, evidently, because that is exactly where the Good Lord led presidential domestic policy advisor Claude A. Allen, the highest ranking African American in the Bush administration, and a very superior Christian who once worked for that other mighty man of God Jesse Helms, and the Lord said unto Claude A. Allen, "Steal this merchandise, because thou art sanctified." And Claude A. Allen did steal that merchandise ... unfortunately for him ... on camera.

It's all out now, and the White House has another fallen saint on its hands.

During the 1984 N.C. Senate campaign, when Allen was working for Jesse Helms in his contest against Gov. Jim Hunt, Allen said Hunt had links "with the queers."

Allen is also the guy that El Presidente wanted to put onto the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals during his first term, but thanks largely to ex-Sen. John Edwards, Allen never made it onto that court.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Shortly before Vernon Robinson, the self-described "black Jesse Helms," decided that U.S. Congressman Brad Miller is the greatest liberal threat to America, he had decided that U.S. Congressman Mel Watt was the greatest liberal threat to America. Watt represents the 12th Congressional District; Miller represents the 13th Congressional District. Robinson actually lives in the 5th Congressional District. But what's a few digits when you're shopping for a congressional race to get into?

In a fund-raising letter ("Dear Fellow Conservative") mailed in February from Dulles, Va., Robinson was all about "the radical chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus," Mel Watt, who "is even more obnoxious and radical than Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton." Watt is not, however, more obnoxious than Robinson himself.

Who has anyway moved on to Brad Miller, elbowing his way into a Republican primary in the NC-13 where he can swamp the other Republicans in the race with national notoriety and a massive fund-raising machine fueled by Christian conservatives terrified that homosexuals are coming to get them. QueerFear is but one of Robinson's specialities.

Back when he was running against Watt instead of Miller, he was also willing to run against the national Republican Party and its figurehead. Here's lingo from his "Dear Fellow Conservative" letter sent in February:

"Today, we are met at a new crossroads. A choice that will determine whether we are worthy as a country of the Reagan legacy and whether we will become again the common sense conservative party of Ronald Reagan or whether we will become the party of George Gallup, the pollster. It is inexcusable that the White House and GOP majority have failed to stop the illegal immigration invasion into our country. And I'm also disappointed that with Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, we haven't done anything to stop the runaway growth of federal spending or political corruption in Washington, D.C."

Robinson's chief Republican opponent in the May 2nd primary, John Ross Hendrix, is not amused to have Robinson storm-troopering around on his turf. Hendrix says on his website, "Many republicans are searching for a candidate who is not leaning toward the extremism which turned off some 13th district voters in the past. They seek vision, moderation, and a common sense approach to the difficulties facing North Carolina and this nation."

How gay.

Robinson knows how to deal with the likes of you, Mr. Hendrix.

Sandra Day O'Connor Speaking Out on the Rise of Dictatorship

Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor let 'er rip in a speech at Georgetown University. O'Connor evidently did not allow the recording of her speech, but as paraphrased by Nina Totenberg on National Public Radio, she said, "I am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning. Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and formerly Communist countries, where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O'Connor said we must be ever vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."

She singled out -- without naming -- both Tom DeLay and Sen. John Cornyn for intemperate remarks both made about "unelected judges."

Maryland Moving Toward Paper Ballots

The Maryland House of Delegates voted unanimously -- UNANIMOUSLY -- to ditch electronic touch-screen voting and go to paper ballots with an optical scan system, apparently similar to what Watauga County's Board of Elections has opted for. But the Maryland Senate apparently wants to go even deeper into the Diebold ditch, so how all this will turn out is still very much up in the air. Plus Maryland's got a Republican governor who is very resistant to "early voting," fearing evidently that such a system will just encourage more people to vote.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What SHE Said

Bless you, Molly Ivins:

"Mah fellow progressives, now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the party. I don't know about you, but I have had it with the D.C. Democrats, had it with the DLC Democrats, had it with every calculating, equivocating, triangulating, straddling, hair-splitting son of a bitch up there, and that includes Hillary Rodham Clinton."

"The Clinton People" Undermine MeanDean

A data-mining operation begun by Clintonista Harold Ickes is, according to this a.m.'s WashPost, a vote of no-confidence in Howard Dean's abilities to bring the National Democratic Committee into full and effective competition with Republican methods of targeting voters.

Hey, guys, this does not endear Hillary to us. Not at all.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

E.J. Dionne Shoots, Scores

It's a nice bonus when a writer gives you one good line a day. E.J. Dionne Jr. gave me four today:

Don't underestimate the positive power of negative thinking (which is to say, according to Dionne, Democrats have a tremendous advantage right now in a president who steps on his own weenie on a weekly basis).

Republicans are trying to portray anti-Bush feeling (aka, "Bush hatred") as a psychological disorder.

The cure for an arrogant government that doesn't take critics seriously is accountability.

Presidents deserve to be punished for insulting our intelligence.

Monday, March 06, 2006

This Month in God

First, just to catch up a bit, newest Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito displayed last week just how in-synch he is with Mullah James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Or, rather, James Dobson decided to display his close connections to power, releasing to the public a letter that Alito had written him, which thanked Dobson for helping Alito get his seat on the High Court: "This is just a short note to express my heartfelt thanks to you and the entire staff of Focus on the Family for your help and support during the past few challenging months." Alito needed to show how pious he is; Dobson needed to show how powerful HE is. The rest of us can hide and cogitate on the momentous convergence of Divine Right and the application of public law.

Second, Missouri state legislators evidently are considering a bill that would name Christianity the state's official "majority" religion. According to this writer, "people who write bills like this aren't trying to make law. Their intent is to further the right's narrative that Christians are a persecuted minority under siege. They want to guarantee that the good folks at the Anti-defamation league, the ACLU and Americans United fight to have their silly legislation overturned, proving that those civil rights groups have an anti-Christian agenda."

Pious hypocrisy is just like potato chips ... can't stop eating it ... except it leaves more grease on your hands.

MeanDean Catching Flak

According to this a.m.'s WashPost, DNC Chair Howard Dean was called in to a meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who attempted to discipline MeanDean about his notions of focusing resources on organizing Democrats in Red States like North Carolina, instead of pumping all the money and resources into a handful of key races. Must have been a hell of a meeting:

"Neither side was willing to give ground, according to several accounts of the meeting. Dean argued that his strategy is designed to rebuild the party across the country, and that he had pledged to do so when he ran for party chairman."

Reactions to Dean's gameplan of putting organizers into all 50 states were bound to fluctuate, as are results. But at least for our corner of North Carolina, local county Democratic parties are beginning to stir under Dean's ministrations and to shake off decades-old lethargy. That does not mean that Democrats will win everything this fall. It just means that the N.C. GOP won't be able to take so many counties for granted, and that's definitely a step in the right direction.

And when Pelosi, Reid, and Crew begin to act like Democrats up there in Washington -- consistently and with conviction, the occasional odd blip of principled behavior notwithstanding -- then we'll be more inclined to cry "boo-hoo" when they go mewling to MeanDean.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Quote of the Day

"We think it would serve the interests of the university and some of the folks we're dealing with better if we didn't announce what we were thinking about."

--Appalachian State University "chief of staff" Lorin Baumhover, playing Sergeant Schultz to Chancellor Ken Peacock's Colonel Klink, in the Watauga Democrat, 3 March 2006

Helpful translation: When we start thinking, we'll be sure to let everyone know.

Meanwhile, donors of objects in the Appalachian Cultural Museum are clamoring for them back before they get stuffed into body bags and thrown in the back of a van.

Chances of ever rebuilding the collection, even IF ASU starts thinking and finds suitable space ... well, you figger the odds.

You think Junior Johnson's gonna trust ASU again with his memorabilia?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bits & Pieces

Mad dog Vernon Robinson didn't file against Mel Watt in the 12th Congressional Dist., like he said he was going to do. He filed instead against Brad Miller in the 13th. He'll first have a primary against fellow Republican John Ross Hendrix. Why run for Miller's seat rather than Mel Watt's? Dunno. But maybe he's playing the odds. Calling a white boy "lib'rul" will perhaps be more effective than calling Mel Watt by that name.

'Pears there'll be a primary now for Watauga County School Board, with seven total candidates. One will be eliminated on May 2nd. The outcome, in some considerable part, will actually hinge on the Republican primary for Sheriff. If Joe Moody carries that election against incumbent Sheriff Mark Shook, then look for Allen Trivette to survive the primary. One of the "lesser known names" will likely be eliminated.

Most melancholy e-mail of the day, circulating on the ASU campus: "BIG Moving Sale at the Appalachian Cultural Museum!" No, not the priceless artifacts, but the merchandise in the museum store ... which "will be reduced during a special moving sale from March 2 through March 11. Discounts range from 20-50%, with almost everything in the store included." The museum is also offering free admission through March 11th, when it will close its doors ... forever? We dare Chancellor Ken Peacock to prove us wrong, but we have a sinking feeling that once it's in storage, it's all over for that important cultural institution.

THAT will be the Chancellor's signature achievement.

SCHOOL DAZE: "No Zoners" Get Themselves a New Hobby

Topic A: "RID," the local citizens group opposed to building a new high school in Watauga County.

The leaders of RID (and isn't that also the brand name of a rat poison?) include many of the same "culture heroes" who battled controls on polluting industries in 2001 and 2002 under a "no zoning" banner. Rather than "no new schools" as a slogan, which would at least be honest and in keeping with the leaders' basic contempt for government generally and for taxpayer-funded public education specially, the RID hierarchy is trying to convince everyone that the shoddily built and falling down catacomb of Watauga High School can be successfully renovated at great savings to the taxpayers ... completely renovated, by the way, while the students evidently sit unperturbed at their desks. None of the actual evidence gathered from engineering firms, architects, and teachers at the high school seems to support their contentions. In fact, renovating Watauga High School seems like a classic example of throwing good money after bad, sort of the equivalent of building a porch on an outdoor toilet. When you're done, you've still got a s**thole.

Interesting that RID has found as spokesman a gentle Democratic soul who keeps saying this isn't about politics. Yet RID is a registered political action committee, and the brains behind it are all Republican operatives with a long history of manipulating public emotion for political ends.

More importantly, they are notorious hypocrites about public education. Deborah Greene, the brains behind RID, is a home-schooler who evidently and for her own reasons despises the public schools. County Commissioner and now candidate for State Senate David Blust -- another original organizer of RID -- is a founder and promoter of a private Christian school. Blust needs an issue to rile up rural people to vote for him in the May 2nd primary against incumbent State Senator John Garwood of Wilkes County. He evidently thinks RID will help him in Watauga, though what the Republican voters of Wilkes will make of his hostility toward public education is, well, their conundrum.

Greene and Blust have teamed up with Allen "Let the Ladies Clean the Toilets" Trivette, who while he was a sitting County Commissioner refused to tour the High School to see for himself the sorry state of the infrastructure. By the way (oh yes), he's also running this year for the School Board. His outright hostility toward education and his aggressive rudeness in the past toward school officials was the subject of newspaper articles during 2003 and 2004 (he called former Superintendent Dick Jones a liar, for example, when Mr. Jones was demonstrably telling the truth about the budgetary crisis facing our school system).

The tangled motives of Greene/Blust/Trivette -- especially their disdain for public education -- is what Judge Marilyn Milian of "The People's Court" might call "unclean hands." Plus they've sucked others into the lightless black hole of their crusade. County Commissioner Keith Honeycutt has attended at least one of RID's meetings, and tries an awkward straddle of the issue. Former Commissioner James Coffey, who is running again this fall for his old seat, has also attended RID meetings. But what former County Commissioner David Triplett, who is now also a candidate for the seat Blust is vacating, is doing hanging out with this crew is a puzzlement. The association taints an otherwise honorable record of public service.

A reasoned debate about what's best for the future of Watauga County education is not the issue. In fact, that debate went on for a year or more in community meetings all over the county, open meetings that none of the leadership of RID bothered to attend. They only now want to RID themselves of public education when it might serve them as a political issue in an election year. As the Church Lady was famous for saying, "How convenient!"

The Greene/Blust/Trivette tactics were honed to a fare-thee-well during their "no-zoning" crusade of 2002. Greene in particular makes a project of besmirching honorable people in public service ... simply because she can. The general public does not know the extent to which she demonized County Commissioners Sue Sweeting and Pat Wilkie, turning what might also have been a healthy debate about controlling unwelcome growth into a vicious personal vendetta. Because she evidently believes that every opinion not in synch with her own represents a "conspiracy," she feels free to conspire on her own. The general public does not know that she used the same vicious tactics to attempt to destroy N.C. Cooperative Extension Director Sue Counts, and Greene went after former resident Richard Beall in a county far from the mountains when he tried to launch a charter school there. And now she's turned her politics of personal destruction on Superintendent of Schools Bobby Short, demanding all her e-mails, for example, and harassing her with insinuations of collusion and malfeasance. Bobby Short is a relative newcomer to our county, taking on a school system fraught with problems, and for those good intentions, Deborah Greene seems intent on running her off. Insinuations are the gold standard to Ms. Greene.

Whatever else the Greene tactics are, they are not Christian. Men and women who profess Christianity should not countenance them.

Ms. Greene reminds me of characters in a short story by Graham Greene, "The Destructors." (Ms. Greene and Graham Greene are no relation, I assure you). The story is about a group of pre-teenaged boys who for no apparent reason -- because they CAN? -- destroy an innocent man's house ... completely dismantle it ... down to pounding the bathroom fixtures into white dust.

Ms. Greene and her cohorts seem to delight in destruction. They do not build up. They do not construct for tomorrow. They find ways to sow fear and resentment and dissension. They find patsies who'll be "out front" to cover the fact that home-schoolers and private Christian academy makers are trying to lecture all the rest of us on what is best for public education in Watauga County.

People have to stand up to this. Greene and Blust and Trivette are entitled to their opinions. They are NOT entitled to bully people and hurt people and lay waste to the legitimate dreams of others simply because they do not believe in public education.

Selling a Forest to Save a Bush

We spent yesterday on a winter woods walk at the North Carolina Arboretum near Asheville, a relatively new public garden that is a gem of the species and within two hours driving time of our present location. Walking in the woods with a retired forester, learning to tell a scarlet oak from a white oak without benefit of leaves, the topic of the day naturally came up: the Bush administration's proposal to sell off hundreds of thousands of acres of our national forests to help offset Bush's out-of-control budget deficits.

Someone in the group said ruefully, "Yeah, sell a forest to pay a bill, and what do you have left? Nothing?"

The proposed sell-off of national forests ought to be as hot a topic as turning over our East Coast ports to the United Arab Emirates. But you get one guess only where Madame Virginia Foxx stands on this issue ... the Queen of Privatization.

But you should write her sorry self anyway. Though she won't listen to you, she still ought to know that there are people out here who disagree with this dismantlement of our cultural and natural heritage.

And visit the N.C. Arboretum!

UPDATE: Gov. "No Show" Says He Hearts Trees ... Mike Easley said yesterday at the National Governors' Conference in D.C. that he "doesn't like" Bush's plan to sell off some 10,000 acres of National Forest land in N.C.