Monday, February 27, 2006

It Just Got Interesting

News reached us late Monday evening that two more candidates have filed to run in the Democratic primary for the 5th District congressional seat: Mark Dulaney Glen, a Winston-Salem architect, and Roger Sharpe, a former state senator and D.C. lobbyist for 95,000 elected school board members. Sharpe grew up on a tobacco farm near Winston-Salem. Besides his doctoral work at Harvard, he studied Christian ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

More to come as we learn it.

Virginia Foxx, The Female Jesse Helms

The National Journal has found, based on her 2005 votes on economic issues, social issues, and foreign policy, Madame Virginia Foxx is more conservative than 91.3 percent of the rest of the House of Representatives.

A feather in her 19th-century cap!

That she represents a far-right conservatism much more effectively than she represents the common people of the 5th Dist. of N.C. may be a fact that will some day dawn on our folks.

Here's how the dominoes stack: Foxx is more conservative than wet-behind-the-ears Patrick McHenry of the 10th Dist, who is in his turn slightly more conservative than Sue "Hell No" Myrick, who is in her turn slightly more conservative than Robin Hayes ... oh, go read the rest for yourself.

Except, please note that Elizabeth "Helmet Hair" Dole is 81.8 percent more conservative than the rest of the Senate ... more conservative than Richard "Dick" Burr.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Finally, Bill Kristol Said Something We Can Agree With

Bill Kristol called Sue Myrick an "idiot" this a.m. on "Fox News Sunday," for her shoot-from-the-lip opposition to the Dubai Ports deal.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Rachel Hunter Stirs It Up

Rachel Lea Hunter, former Republican, current Democrat, and candidate for the N.C. Supreme Court, wants her nickname used on the ballot this year: Rachel Lea "Madame Justice" Hunter. (N&O coverage here)

There's actually legal precedent for this sort of ballot enhancement. Who will ever forget Leonard "Preacher Man" Harris, Ken "Stump Grinder" Dennis, Jeff "Radio Man" Wilson, Tammy "Lady in Red" Wilson, Leroy "Chicken Plucker" Jones, and Sam "Turdball" Green? (The first three of those are actually real examples.)

Hunter is giving the N.C. Republican Party fits, ever since they dissed her in 2004 by endorsing someone else in the race for another seat on the Supreme Court. Now she's running against Republican Justice Mark "Blow-Dried" Martin. Call him Mark "Nonplussed" Martin.

First We Count the Votes and Then We Pray

Churches sending their member directories to the N.C. Republican Party are very likely endangering their tax exempt status with the I.R.S.

"Almost half the tax-exempt groups under examination [by the I.R.S.] are churches. Churches played a pivotal role in the 2004 elections, and the Republican Party, in particular, harnessed their influence to register, educate and deliver voters .... the North Carolina Republican Party made waves when its leader sent an e-mail request for church directories. Of the 47 complaints against churches under investigation, 37 were found to have merit." (NYTimes today)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Watauga Sheriff Race Grows Smaller

Jim Furman the pharmacist says he won't be running after all for Watauga County Sheriff as an independent.

So much for THAT bizarre development.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What's Happened to Drudge?

Anyone know? Anyone care?

The DrudgeReport hasn't moved off the same dime in days.

And we sooo depend on him for the two-headed calf report.

Jackalopes Are Running South Dakota

South Dakota lawmakers stuck their heads even further into precincts where the sun don't shine yesterday and passed the most far-reaching ban on abortion attempted by any state since 1973, deliberately and provocatively flying in the face of Roe v Wade. You see, these guys heard that El Presidente had put a couple of right-wing judges on the Supreme Court, so they felt called by the supreme god Opportunity to rush into passing a law banning nearly all abortions, including in cases of rape and incest. Can't for the life of me figger why, in fact, they would even leave in an exception for "life of the mother," since the lives of women generally count for so little in their state.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"Conservative" Imposter

Interesting review of "IMPOSTOR: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," by Republican conservative Bruce Bartlett, former executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress who also worked in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and wrote the 1981 supply-side manifesto "Reaganomics."

Bartlett sees Mr. Bush as a "pretend conservative" -- "a partisan Republican, anxious to improve the fortunes of his party" but "perfectly willing to jettison conservative principles at a moment's notice to achieve that goal." Bartlett writes that the current White House is "obsessive about secrecy," argues that Mr. Bush has pursued "what could be described as a Nixonian agenda using Nixon's methods" and declares that when it comes to the federal budget, "Clinton was much better." Mr. Bush, Bartlett contends, has set the country on "an unsustainable fiscal course," resulting in a ballooning deficit that will inevitably lead to tax increases.

As Mr. Bartlett sees it, "the 2002 collapse of Enron" -- the giant energy trading company, which "borrowed heavily, paid little in taxes, and made big profits in ways that were known to be contrary to sound business practices" -- "may in some ways be a metaphor for the Bush Administration's economic policy."

Bartlett's critique extends well beyond the economic sphere. He argues that "Bush has driven away and even humiliated the few intellectuals in his midst, preferring instead the company of overrated political hacks whose main skills seem to be an ability to say yes to whatever he says and to ignore the obvious." And he declares that the president's "unwillingness to properly utilize the traditional policy development process" lies "at the heart of the failure of his Social Security proposal and possibly the Iraq operation as well."

"One of the hallmarks of George W. Bush's approach to policy that is disturbing both to friends and foes alike," Mr. Bartlett writes, "is an apparent disdain for serious thought and research to develop his policy initiatives. Often they seem born from a kind of immaculate conception, with no mother or father to claim parentage."

Mr. Bartlett argues that the failure of "the administration to chart or articulate a consistent economic policy" stemmed, in large measure, from "Bush's disinterest in serious policy analysis" and his sidelining of people with genuine expertise. He writes that Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and his successor, John Snow, were treated as "little more than errand boys," and that the Council of Economic Advisers was accorded little influence as well. It became clear, Mr. Bartlett writes, that the main job of the Council's chairman, R. Glenn Hubbard, "was not to devise economic policies, but only to offer support for those Bush had already decided upon."

Monday, February 20, 2006

Baptist Minister Files for State Senate

At this hour, Rev. Steve Goss, a retired Baptist minister and missionary, is filing as a Democrat to run for the N.C. Senate, Dist. 45, the seat currently held by John Garwood of Wilkes County.

Goss describes himself as a progressive Democrat. He has been an active volunteer in improving race relations in several N.C. counties, he spent four years as a high school teacher and coach, he lived in Japan as a missionary for going-on five years (and is still fluent in Japanese), and was a securities trader for seven years on the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. He's pastored Baptist churches in Ashe, Watauga, Montgomery, and Duplin counties in our state and in Henry County, Virginia.

Good guy. Like a lot of other deeply religious Democrats, he's had a crawful of Republican self-righteousness and believes it's time for men and women of faith to speak up about the power-mad hypocrisy gripping our country.

He'll face the winner of the Republican primary between Garwood and David Blust.

This Is What I'm Talkin' About

Tomorrow morning the Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments that a developer ought to be able to fill a wetland he owns with sand so he can put a shopping mall on it. The U.S. government prohibited such a thing from happening in Michigan over a decade ago, and with two new Bushites on the Court, everyone's holding his/her breath about what's to come. If the Court rules for the developer (actually two different developers), the decision will remove more than half of the nation's streams and wetlands from federal regulation.

In other words, the possible consequences are huge, the court is packed now with guys who lean far right against environmental protections and in favor of business interests, and we may begin to see what REALLY was at stake in the Sam Alito confirmation.

You can read about the legal issues here.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

El Presidente's Approval Down in N.C.

So there George W. was trying to get up the aisle and out of the House chamber following his State of the Union speech, and he was having trouble walking. Something had wrapped itself around his right thigh and was a major drag on his progress. He looked down to find Congresswoman Virginia A. Foxx grinning up at him.

Madame Foxx seems to be hitching her reelection to her manifest adoration of Her President, assuming, we assume, that those approval ratings for Bush are going to stay as rock solid as the president's thigh muscle. Looks like they ain't.

In data collected from 600 voters in the state between Feb. 10 and Feb. 14, the president's approval rating was overall a dismal 43 percent. He did best among (dead) white Republican men, naturally. Most interesting to us is that 64 percent of unaffiliated voters can't stand 'im. What percentage of the vote is unaffiliated in the 5th Dist.?

Click on N.C. at the site above to see the breakdowns. And note that the voter sample comes from the "Charlotte area," the "Raleigh area," and the coastal plain, most certainly NOT the 5th Dist., but still...

If wrapping herself around Bush isn't going to work, what WILL The Madam do? She might be forced to start answering questions from the voters, a chilling scenario.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Making Religion Their Bitch

The W-S Journal has the story ... that N.C. Republican Party political director Chris Mears has been caught trying to obtain church directories across the state. Because God told him to, we imagine.

And God, no doubt, told the spokesperson for the N.C. GOP to say the following in self-defense: "We're just appealing to one of our constituencies, just as the Democrat Party does .... The Democrats may feel it's more profitable to go and do voter registration drives at a homosexual convention. We feel more comfortable going to churches."

Democratic State Party Chair Jerry Meek fired back: "We believe that people go to church to worship and not to sign up to receive Republican propaganda. I would say the vast majority of Democrats are Democrats because of their faith, not in spite of it. But that is a place that is so sacred that we should not inject politics into the church."

FLASH! Republican Primary for Watauga Sheriff Gets Crowded

Dr. Tom Furman, a pharmacist with the Boone Drug Co., filed for Watauga County Sheriff today in the (growing) Republican primary.

Don't know who Furman's backers are, or his political base, but assuming he has a following of some kind, this development can only help incumbent Sheriff Mark Shook by diluting his opposition between his (now) two opponents.

And the Republican Party USED to be so disciplined!

UPDATE FLASH: Dr. Furman returned to the Board of Elections minutes after he filed, withdrew as a Republican candidate for Sheriff, changed his registration to Unaffiliated, and will attempt to run as an Unaffiliated candidate for Sheriff, which requires a petition signed by some 1,400 voters.

UPDATE, UNRELATED FOOTNOTE: The field for the County Board of Education is growing crowded:

Allen Trivette (R) ... former County Commissioner
Lowell Younce (R) ... incumbent
Alan Utter (D) ... ASU professor of health, leisure, and exercise
Phil Smalling (U) ... former County Commissioner
Al Wheeler (D) ... Blowing Rock businessman and former candidate for N.C. Senate

CORRECTION: Phil Smalling is now registered unaffiliated. He's another of those good men who got dissed by the local Republican Party power elite years ago.

Laughed? We Thought We'd Die!


--headline, recent Virginia Foxx mailer, sent to the entire 5th Congressional Dist. at taxpayers' expense

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Entire State of Vermont on Terrorist List

"The National Counterterrorism Center maintains a central repository of 325,000 names of international terrorism suspects or people who allegedly aid them...."

--Walter Pincus and Dan Eggen, WashPost, 15 Feb. 2006

It's a growth industry, what with El Presidente's domestic bugging program. Every time I talk on the phone about my "terrier" with my vet, do those Big Ears perk up? The NSA is certainly welcome to put my little "terrier-ist" on their watch list, 'cause Annie Doo clearly needs more discipline.

Liberal Media, My Fat Ass

"His [V.P. Cheney's] approval rating dropped to an all-time low of 36 percent in November, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, before rebounding to 41 percent last month."

--Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker, WashPost, 15 Feb. 2006

Giving new meaning to rebound, huh boys? It now means, evidently, "the surge in approval that brings one from embarrassed to slightly less embarrassed."

But at least you got those White House talking points into print!

Creationists Vow Holy War in Ohio

Sure enough, the Ohio state board of education, by a vote of 11-4 yesterday, tossed out a mandate that 10th grade classes contain an "intelligent design" subversion of the science of evolution ("critical analysis" is what they're calling it this week).

The 'droids at the Discovery Institute, the outfit shoving Intelligent Design under every tent flap they find a little loose, have vowed a holy war in response, willing as they are to play politics with science and its competing bookend, total ignorance.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

More Watauga County Candidate Filings

Allan Trivette (R) ... School Board

Virginia Foxx (R) ... U.S. House of Representatives, N.C.-5

NOTES: Foxx arrived trailing footmen and body servants ... the unspeakable in pursuit of the inestimable. She did not take questions. The public was ordered to kneel and supplicate.

Allan Trivette, fresh from his crushing loss on the County Commission in 2004, now wants to bring his vision to local public education. Trivette is most famous for suggesting that "the ladies of the schools" could help the county save money by voluntarily cleaning the bathrooms. That, and his suggestion that the dental insurance the county carries for its employees be dropped.

AN INQUIRING MIND WANTS TO KNOW: Why is James Coffey, another of the ousted commissioners from 2004, running for his same old seat again? Answer: the Republican Party couldn't find a candidate.

SPEAKING OF THE WATAUGA GOP: The Republicans now have their third chair (in about as many months) ... Denny Norris. OUT: Karen Wilson. Proving what some have speculated on ... that the old lions of the local GOP have a problem dealing with women. Virginia Foxx is NOT an anomaly nor an exception (figure it out!).

FOOTNOTE ON THE SHERIFF RACE: Sheriff Mark Shook showed up yesterday to file for reelection with what looked like 60 supporters, and the mood among his backers was very upbeat. However, the old lions of his party have confirmed that fear of carnality overrides all other values or considerations (with a couple of notorious and glaring exceptions, but as with everything else, these exceptions prove the rule).

Paul Hackett Forced Out of Ohio Race

Man, oh man! This is bad.

Paul Hackett is saying he's been forced out of the Ohio Senate race. He WAS giving Democratic Congressman Sherrod Brown a run for his money in a Democratic primary to oppose Republican Mike DeWine this fall. Now he's not. Hackett's fingering two prominent Senate Democrats, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, for forcing him out.

There's any number of congressional districts across this broad land that ought to go into a bidding war to attract Hackett to move and run there. For example, the NC-5 district could offer a fine, scenic homesite and help with setting up a small-town law practice. The sky's the limit.

If Hackett is dead-set on joining the Senate, so that he can kick Reid and Schumer's butts in the cloakroom, we'd welcome him here anyplace in N.C. in 2008 to ruffle Liddy Dole's coif.

"Intelligent Design" Withering in Ohio

Like a pebble in a pond, the rippling effect of Judge Jones's decision in the Dover, Pa., "intelligent design" case -- ruling ID an unconstitutional intrusion of religion into public school science education -- has reached Ohio next door. According to an article in today's NYTimes, a majority of Ohio's state board of education are expected to do away with a suggested lesson plan for science classes that is viewed as another of those creationist Trojan horses that the right-wing is so fond of this century.

Behind this move was a pretty impressive uprising among both scientists and science educators, some of whom labeled Ohio's attempt to sneak in "intelligent design" as "a lie," "crackpot," "religious," "creationism" and "an insult to science."

For its side, the creationists find comfort in public polling that shows a majority of Ohio voters -- like a majority of Americans generally -- are ignorant of science and prone to myth.

Finding comfort in general ignorance ... there's a growth point for a political movement!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Watauga GOP Busily Eating Its Young

There's no more popular Republican office-holder in Watauga County than Sheriff Mark Shook. He's received nationwide attention for cleaning up an epidemic of meth labs. He's young and graced with all the benefits and some of the problems of youth.

So naturally the local Republican Party power-structure wants to destroy him. Led by ex-Sheriff Red Lyons, the party has recruited Joe Moody to bring down Shook in a primary. In a profile article in today's Watauga Democrat, Moody says "he wasn't interested in negative campaigning."

Moody may think so, but the people pulling his strings have a tremendous appetite for the negative and have already been trotting round their little scandal xeroxes for months now. Some old hands in this county say the ex-sheriff has a grudge against Shook for rather complicated reasons, but factored in is the embarrassment that the ex-sheriff had allowed the meth epidemic to get a good foothold in the county during his 20-year tenure in office. Shook, his former deputy, showed him up immediately upon assuming the office late in 2002.

Also factoring in was Shook's not-so-secret support for Democratic county commission candidates in 2004. But considering the way the Republican commission had treated him, what did they expect?

Whatever. The Democrats have recruited their own strong candidate for Sheriff, to face either Shook or Moody, whoever survives the internecine conflict on the Republican side ... L.D. Hagaman, who has worked as both a sheriff's deputy and as a Boone police officer and police administrator. He was also Boone town manager and then worked as director of public works for the city of Lenoir ... among many other qualifications.

There's been a veritable tsunami of filings today at the local Board of Elections:

L.D. Hagaman (D)... Sheriff
Mark Shook (R) ... Sheriff (incumbent)
Joe Moody (R) ... Sheriff

Cullie Tarleton (D)... NC House
Gene Wilson (R) ... NC House (incumbent)
Dan Hense (R) ... NC House

John Cooper (D) ... County Commission Dist. 4
David Triplett (R) ... County Commission Dist. 4

Mary Moretz (D) ... County Commission Dist. 1
Keith Honeycutt (R) ... County Commission Dist. 1 (incumbent)

James Coffey (R) ... County Commissioner Dist. 2

Glenn Hodges (D) ... Clerk of Superior Court (incumbent)

Ron Henries (R) ... School Board

The other Republican primary (so far), Dan Hense's challenge to Gene Wilson for the NC House seat that Wilson has been glued to since approximately the cooling of the earth's crust, perhaps deserves passing comment, since until rather recently Hense was a registered Democrat. He's run twice before for this house seat as a Democrat and has not appeared to grow significantly from the experience. His switch to the Republican Party sort of suggests an evolutionary regression. Now he's Gene Wilson's annoyance.

How Many Episcopalians Does It Take?

There really was a Darwin's 197th Birthday observation yesterday, in "hundreds of churches" around the country -- and who knew there were THAT many Episcopalians! -- "asserting that the opposition many Christians say exists between science and faith is false."

"A faith that requires you to close your mind in order to believe is not much of a faith at all," said one of those Episcopal priests yesterday.

No, not a faith but a political movement, which IS pretty much of a thing. Fundamentalism, in all its different flavors, from the Muslim to the Southern Baptist, intends to take charge. Darwin is simply in the way.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Closet Jobs

A reader has shared with me an e-mail he received from the American Family Association, headed by the aptly named Donald Wildmon. The subject line: "NBC Does It Again! Vulgar, Tasteless, Indecent Scene Part Of Network Program."

Rev. Wildmon is all upset about the February 6 episode of NBC's "Las Vegas," which contained a scene inside a strip club. "The content of that scene was extremely graphic." So graphic, in fact, that the Rev. Wildmon wants all his e-mail distribution list to put down their Bibles and WATCH. "We have provided a video of the scene below." (Maybe this link will work for you too.) "Please forward this e-mail message to your family and friends!" Wildmon shouts, especially the ones with 14-year-old boys, who will no doubt enjoy loading the video onto their iPods. It's sooo nice of the Reverend to stoke those hot fires of lust, all in the name of holiness.

I've watched it four times myself and am thinking of changing into something more comfortable.

Kiss Your National Forests Goodbye

News circulated last night that the Bush regime wants to sell off 200,000 acres of national park land to help pay for "rural schools" (yeah, right!), but Dianne Feinstein has a clearer notion: She attacked the plan as "crazy," saying: "Here the administration wants to pass more tax cuts for the rich, and to pay the bill, they want to sell off public land -- our nation's natural heritage." You can go here and scroll waaaay down to see what's fingered for sale in North Carolina: some 153 acres in Caldwell County, 36 in Avery Co., and a whole bunch of land in Mitchell, McDowell, and Madison counties, not to mention a bunch of other places in the southwestern mountains and in the Uwharries.

Betcha a stale cow chip that Madame Foxx, the Queen of "Privatize This!", is all for this sell-off.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Charlie Taylor Picks Up a Primary Challenge?

According to this source, Charlie Taylor in the NC 11 Dist. has attracted a Republican primary challenger ... a sure sign of how much trouble he's in.

Empty Bluster

Topic: David Blust, Republican Watauga County Commissioner (elected to 4-year term in 2002), and candidate for State Senate Dist. 45, a seat currently help by fellow Republican John Garwood. Blust will face Garwood in the May primary.

David Blust evokes a certain amount of pity. He's faced significant personal tragedy very recently, in the early death of a son from drug abuse. He's a likeable guy -- friendly, chatty, up-beat.

He's also a politician, which according to my Brave New World Dictionary means he's a cynical opportunist. He's decided to gin up the prejudices of rural people in Watauga County and lead a crusade against a planned new high school. He throws around big dollar figures with a wild abandon, stirring up resentments that county school officials are squandering tax dollars like sailors on shore-leave following a long nine months at sea.

Considering Mr. Blust's own history with bankruptcy -- an inability to manage his own tangled businesses -- and considering Mr. Blust's history of promoting private "Christian academies" at the expense of public education, his attack on the public school system is not only hypocritical. It's tawdry, calculating, and fundamentally unChristian.

He does not wear lightly the cloak of his piety. He likes to preach. You won't find him hiding his manifest self-righteousness under a bushel. That moral superiority, in fact, has fueled his race against John Garwood. Blust blames Garwood for the state lottery, as indeed Garwood IS to blame for the state lottery ... not showing up to vote on it when his vote could have killed it. But self-righteousness ALONE, without good deeds, is a tinkling cymbal.

When Blust was elected to the Watauga County Commission, riding in on a great wave of rural prejudice against two incumbent women on the commission, he promised to be an "idea man" during his tenure in office. We're still waiting for the first idea. Instead of ideas, we've gotten a man who is almost always unprepared. He has rarely done his homework before commission meetings, and it shows. He tries to coast on the opinions of others. He covers his lack of preparation with locker-room banter. He comes across as essentially harmless and -- oh yes! -- very pious.

He is not harmless. His current crusade among rural and church people against the building of a badly needed new high school is playing politics with the future of our children. He hopes to stir up the same prejudices that he manipulated against zoning four years ago.

My Bible says, from such forms of godliness, turn away.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Seeing Past Their Halos

Some 86 evangelical Christian leaders, including Rick Warren, author of the best seller "The Purpose-Driven Life," have come out on the issue of environmental protection, making global warming a major cause for concern within their congregations.

Other "big Christians" are throwing stones, however, including Chuck Colson, Mullah James Dobson, and Southern Baptist Richard Land (of iVoteValues fame). As far as they're concerned, the world can't go to hell fast enough.

Leadership? We Don't Need Any Stinking Leadership!

Yet another article in today's NYTimes about the general limpness in the national Democratic Party.

It's not as though we Democrats on the local county level didn't already know we were pretty much on our own for vision and leadership. We've been sailing our bark all by our lonesome for how many years? We get next to no leadership out of our so-called "Democratic" governor. We hear virtually nothing out of Easley, except when he wants to pass a lottery. So a lack of leadership at the national level is hardly big news in these parts (though we'd really like to see more of Howard Dean, not less, no matter how much heartburn he gives Hillary).


So I roll open my morning copy of the New York Times, and what's the first headline I see? This one:

Low-Fat Diet Does Not Cut Health Risks, Study Finds

O great! Since I haven't had so much as a spoonful of ice cream in going on six years and never touch butter and have eliminated all fried food and junk food and desserts and anything that tastes good.

The article itself is just salt in the wounds:

"The $415 million federal study involved nearly 49,000 women ages 50 to 79 who were followed for eight years. In the end, those assigned to a low-fat diet had the same rates of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attacks and strokes as those who ate whatever they pleased, researchers are reporting today."

Wait! Did they say 49,000 women? Well now! There's still hope, ain't there, that the effect of fat on men is wholly deleterious and that I have not followed my regimen in vain?

Even my dog is laughing.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Foxx Blasted for Cuts to Student Aid

"The Appalachian" student newspaper at Appalachian State University has published an editorial criticizing The Madam for her budget bill vote last week, particularly as it impacts student aid.

Virginia Foxx will be on her broom to campus in a jiffy, telling those mouthy students they need to divest themselves of their cell phones and their DVD collections, and to stop whining.

Sympathy for the Devil

Thank heavens the strongest advocates for the poor rich were all in Raleigh yesterday, sounding the trumpet for all good men and women to rally to the protection of corporations against the unfair predations of the state of North Carolina!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Swamp Creatures

History dictates a certain modesty about predictions. Early in 1994, few foresaw the size of the Republican landslide-in-the-making. By November, the anti-incumbent mood overwhelmed even well-prepared candidates. If the public mood deteriorates further this year, Republicans could be swamped.

--Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza, WashPost, 6 Feb. 2006

By Their Deeds Ye Shall Know Them

The reality of the new bankruptcy law passed by Virginia Foxx and her pals in Congress is nowhere more clearly set down than in a ruling by Judge Frank R. Monroe of the US Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Texas. Here's his opinion (in a pdf), short and bitingly sarcastic about "the parties" that pushed the passage of the new law (fradulently named "The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention & Consumer Protection Act of 2005"). "They had their own agenda," Judge Monroe writes. "It was apparently an agenda to make more money off the backs of the consumers in this country." (Thanks to Irmaly for the link.)

When those lobbyist-built robots in Congress start talking about "consumer protection," you can bet they're about to rip you off. Same deal when they start talking about Jesus.

Irmaly reminds me that 229 Republicans and 73 Democrats voted for this bill. Seventy-three Democrats! Opposing it were 125 Democrats and one independent, Vermont's Bernard Sanders. You can go here to see which 73 Democrats you can blame for this situation. Bobby Etheridge is on that list. Harold Ford of Tennessee (who wants to take Frist's seat in the Senate) is on that list ... Mike McIntyre (of the NC 7th District) ... David Price, fer crissakes!

Sell outs. Every last one of them.

And it takes a judge in Texas to point out the meanness of it all.

Met at a political event over the weekend a man who was in law school with Harold Ford up at the University of Michigan and who was shaking his head ruefully about how Harold feels he has to vote like a Republican to continue the Ford family dynasty in Tennessee. Remains to be seen whether Tennesseans will elect a black man to the Senate, no matter HOW much he tries to pass as a rich white man.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Corporation Is a Psychopath

Okay, I'm a little unsteady on my feet this a.m., since every drop of blood in my system reached a boiling point last light while watching the documentary "The Corporation."

I know this movie's been out for going on two years, but I'm just catching up here in the documentary-deprived hinterlands, but thanks (natch!) to a corporation (Netflix), we've been able on occasion to see something beyond the CGI du jour.

You need to see this movie, especially at a time when corporation $$ have completely corrupted (or very nearly) our democracy, from top to bottom. To deal with the threat, it's necessary to know the anatomy of the beast, and "The Corporation" does anatomy very entertainingly.

Out of 450 hours of raw film footage (including some of the most amazing archival items you'll ever see in captivity), 70 interviews with CEOs and other experts, and 800 pages of transcripts, the filmmakers have put together a two-hour primer on "market fundamentalism," which it turns out is pretty much like Muslim fundamentalism and any other kind of fundamentalism: it's psychopathic in its single-minded pursuit of its goal, which in the case of corporations is ... well, you know! It jingles in your pocket and in mine.

Psychopathic? This film convincingly shows that whereas American law (now well established by precedent) views corporations legally as "persons," with all the rights thereunto appertaining, and whereas corporations have a well documented inability to feel empathy, remorse, guilt, or common human sympathy and lack all moral obligations to obey the law or social conventions (Enron, anyone?), they fit the textbook definition of "psychopath," a person that only acts in his own self-interest.

"Cost/benefit analysis"? It's a psychopath's game! Let's see, FIXING the automobile's tendency to explode in a fireball when tapped on its rear bumper is actually more expensive than paying damages to families who lose members to such explosions.

The term that corporations (and the economists who serve them) have developed for such problems are "externalities," that is, the costs and burdens of doing business that can successfully be off-loaded onto the rest of society or government. Polluted water is an "externality," starving workers are an "externality," maimed animals in factory farms are "externalities." The list gets quickly exhausting for its inherent callousness. But what do you expect from psychopaths?

As the legal device of the corporation is a means of relieving its owners from responsibility, the people in a (so-called) democracy must find the courage to take back control. There's hope. The film ends on examples to taking back control, and the writer Joel Bakan says in an interview that "dominant orders" (the omnipotence of corporations right now in our lives and our government) are most vulnerable when they seem most powerful because they forget to "legitimate themselves to the people," they become arrogant and rigid, and they CAN BE DEFEATED.

There's much more to be said. Go to "The Corporation" website for more information on what I consider a life-altering insight into the forces that manipulate us.

Friday, February 03, 2006

"Darwin Days" Celebration Feb. 13th

Though Charles Darwin's birthday is February 12th, because that day falls on Sunday, the annual celebration has been moved to Monday, February 13th. Programme follows:

Watauga County's Darwin Days Celebration on February 13th will begin with the annual My Uncle Was A Monkey observance at the flag pole at Watauga High School. In compliance with recent Supreme Court decisions, the gathering will be student-led and completely voluntary. This year's theme will be: "Opposable Thumbs -- How Cool Are They?"

Students are invited to bring pictures of their closest monkey relative to share with the crowd. They are also free to bring the actual relative, but they will be held responsible for the uncle's behaviour. No uncle (or student) will be allowed to throw crap into the crowd or scratch "those places."

Students are reminded that the WHS dress code will be suspended for the Darwin Days Observance, and they are free to wear T-shirts that depict a walking fish and bracelets (already distributed) that say, "I don't know what Jesus would do. I just want to know why He did it."

Following the observance, classes will be suspended so that students may attend the parade. This year's Grand Marshal will be that Intelligent Design Bitch-Slapper Judge John E. Jones who recently decided the Dover School Board case and pointed out to the thinking world that Intelligent Design is neither.

The parade theme will be "Don't Let Them Drag Us Back Into the Ooze." Floats will represent how science and logical thought have bettered the lot of mankind and taken us from caves to the edge of the universe.

Recognizing that there is some descent (pun intended) over the issue of evolution, a free and open debate will be held following the parade. The debate topic: If evolution is real, how long will it take the Christian Right to evolve?

The debate will be administered under Foxx Rules. Each side will have six minutes to comment.

(Guest Blogger: Shyster from Vermont)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"Counting on Nausea"

Fascinating profile article on former Republican Senator John Danforth, who also happens to be an ordained Episcopalian minister and is taking on the dominance of the Religious Right mullahs in his own party.

"The Republican Party has been taken over by something that it's not," Danforth says. "How do traditional Republicans put up with [intolerant Protestant evangelicalism]? They put up with this because it's a winning combination, for now. It won't last."

"I'm counting on nausea," he says.

What turned Danforth into a vocal Republican dissenter was the Terri Schiavo case: "If you turned on Fox News, you would hear relentless talking heads talking about, 'They're killing Terri!' and 'This is murder!' " Danforth says. "I thought, 'This is not what the Republican Party does. The only explanation for it was an effort to appease the Christian right.' "

Way to Govern!

That atrocious budget bill passed the U.S. House by only 2 votes yesterday, with 13 Republicans voting against it. You'll recall that it passed the Senate in December only with V.P. Cheney's tie-breaking vote.

Republican Congress to the American poor: "Let them eat wallpaper!"

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Budget Bill Abomination Being Voted on Today in Congress

Back on Dec. 19, by a vote of 212 to 206, the U.S. House passed a major budget-cutting measure -- championed by the White House and conservative GOP leaders -- that would throw some of the poorest off the Medicaid roles and deny aid to some of the neediest college students and cut other social safety-net programs.

Small changes in the Senate version of this bill has forced it back to the House for a re-vote, which is supposed to come today.

Madame Virginia Foxx said in Boone last week that she can't wait to vote FOR this atrocity and denied that a single solitary living soul on this or on any other planet would be hurt by the cuts -- a lie so transparent, so cynical in its calculation that ancient potted ficus plants in the congresswoman's vicinity simply turned black and crispy from their proximity to such heartless carbon dioxide.

But according to today's WashPost, passage of this budget bill is far from assured. N.C. Congressman Walter "Freedom Fries" Jones, as conservative a Republican as treads the earth, says he's going to vote against it. Partly because "on Friday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office informed lawmakers that $28 billion in cuts to Medicaid over the next decade would impose new costs on 13 million poor and working poor recipients. By 2015, new fees would end insurance coverage for 65,000 Medicaid enrollees, 60 percent of them children."

That kind of stuff doesn't impress The Madam. Her cardiovascular system would set off metal detectors at the airport.

One of December's yes votes, Republican Rob Simmons of Connecticut, has announced he will vote no today. Said Simmons, "Representation is only effective if the elected official listens to the people. In a democracy, the government must serve the people, not reign over them. I have listened and concluded that the budget, as it stands, falls short."

What kind of Republican is this!? One that LISTENS to his constituents!? How novel is that!?

ADDENDUM: This a.m.'s N&O points out another way this budget bill will hurt North Carolina counties ... "County social service agencies could lose millions in reimbursements or be forced to change their priorities for placing foster children."