Monday, December 31, 2007

Huckabee's Religiosity Led to Constipation

An article in the LATimes this a.m. unfolds a curious tale about when Mike Huckabee was governor of Arkansas. He refused to sign a much-needed disaster insurance reform bill because the legislation used the term "acts of God" to refer to natural disasters.

What was it Jesus said to the Pharisees, about straining at a gnat while managing to swallow camels (Matt. 23)?

The Races of '08

Filing to run for office in North Carolina in 2008 will open February 11th. The Watauga County ballot will include three County Commission races: the seats held by Commission Chair Jim Deal and commissioners Winston Kinsey and Mary Moretz will be contested, as will three seats on the county Board of Education. State Senator Steve Goss and state House member Cullie Tarleton will both be defending their seats, as will Madam Virginia Foxx, NC-5 representative in the U.S. Congress.

The ballot will also be crowded with state-wide races: Liddy Dole will be defending her U.S. Senate seat against the winner of the May 6th Democratic primary. There'll be a regular brawl for the governor's mansion, pitting whoever wins the two parties' primaries (which are already bare-knuckled fist-fights). The Lieutenant Governor's race will also be a battleground, and there are already five candidates total from both parties vying to replace Richard Moore as State Treasurer. (The N&O has a useful summary this a.m. of some of these key contests.)

One of the most important races on the '08 ballot, and one that will be overlooked or taken for granted by many voters, is the N.C. Supreme Court seat of Associate Justice Robert Edmunds, a Republican, who must run for reelection. Democrat Suzanne Reynolds, a law professor at Wake Forest University, has already announced her intention to run against Edmunds. The balance on the state's Supremes tips Republican at the moment, with 4 Rs to 3 Ds. As if we didn't already know what's at stake in this race, a Republican Appeals Court judge spoke publicly about it last October (summarized by the N&O):
"Judge Doug McCullough encouraged Republicans in Haywood County to re-elect Edmunds. He suggested that Edmunds would uphold GOP interests if the court considers a lawsuit over redistricting plans drawn up by the legislature. Edmunds has emphasized his impartiality and distanced himself from McCullough's comments."

Yeah, we know something about the "impartiality" of Supreme Court justices, especially the five who appointed George W. Bush president in 2005!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fox News Barring Ron Paul from New Hampshire Debate

Everybody knows Fox News has been pushing for Giuliani. So why wouldn't Fox bar the candidate who has repeatedly made Giuliani look foolish from its January 6th New Hampshire debate? It's just perfectly logical ... as well as Fox-y.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dipping Another Toe Into Iowa

Checking in on some of the action -- or speculation -- out there in Eye-O-Way:

The Iowa Independent is saying that Ron Paul could well finish third in the caucuses, which, if that happens, could be the biggest story coming out of the January 3rd events. That would be called "getting some traction." The same site gives a slight edge to Obama to take the Democratic nod: "The Illinois senator consistently seems to draw larger crowds than his opponents in the same places, which speaks both to the strength of his campaign's organization and the enthusiasm his candidacy seems to generate. And his wave of small-town newspaper endorsements should enhance his second-choice support in rural parts of the state where he has been perceived as weak."

Via 24-Hour Dorman comes news that Hillary Clinton has apparently stopped taking questions from the audiences at Iowa campaign stops. Hmmm.

John Deeth reports that Obama and Huckabee are ahead, respectively, with Iowa newspaper endorsements ... for whatever that's worth.

Dave Price takes the (unenthusiastic) pulse of a Hillary Clinton crowd waiting (as usual) for the candidate to show up (she takes after Bill in that respect). Clinton staffer keeps pleading with people for "some noise," but doesn't get it. Must be rough working for a sinking candidate.

Charlotte Eby interprets latest Iowa state polls as "Obama Dropping" while both Edwards and Clinton are gaining. But given what happened to Howard Dean in 2004, despite the polls, we're beginning to think that polls are pretty useless in Iowa.

RadioIowa reports that Hillary Clinton's campaign has purchased two minutes of airtime during the six o'clock local TV newscasts in all eight Iowa media markets to make her "closing argument" on the night of January 2nd. (Closing argument ... as in, "Save my campaign for president, please!"?) Same source also reports that Sen. Fred Thompson, last heard from while refusing to come off his campaign bus in Waverly, predicts he will come in first or maybe, in a pinch, second in the Iowa caucuses. Which just naturally raises the question: "What's Fred Thompson smoking?"

Huckabee's Religion Problem ... And His Mean Streak

This is just too interesting ... and germane, especially as to the Huckabee character issue raised down-column.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Stop Your Claws (But Not Your Claus)

Merry Christmas!

Get with some family. Hug a friend. Think less-than-gloomy, if not outright jolly thoughts. Turn off Fox, CNN, MS-NBC, and throw away your Maalox. Sing a carol, preferably one with dancing and prancing, or whatever rings those chimes of yours. Eat and rejoice (but not too much of either one).

Me? I've got new books to read (including Robert Morgan's new biography of Daniel Boone; Richard Preston's "The Wild Trees"; David Sedaris' "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim"). And seed catalogs to argue about (the days are ALREADY getting longer, and will we plant corn or winter squash next summer?).

Ain't going near a computer again until next Friday!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Huckabee You Don't Know

The New York Times this a.m. published the most in-depth, comprehensive account we've seen anywhere of Mike Huckabee's formative years as Arkansas governor. There's much here to digest, and the article helps us sort out why sometimes we're strangely attracted. (I said strangely.)

1. He's a preacher, goddamnit. Which means he feels compassion for the least among us. That's good. But he's also shockingly gullible about people's motives when they proclaim they've found Christ, which is what got him into consistent trouble as governor in granting clemency to violent criminals: they said they'd found God; the governor believed them and shed his mercy upon them; and then they promptly went out and raped and killed again. There's something touching about Huckabee's belief in people's sincerity. Also something dumb.

Another major by-product of his vocation as preacher is his expectation of "tribute," gifts and cash from admirers. Apparently, there's a thick binder of ethics complaints against Huckabee during his dozen years as Arkansas governor for receiving all sorts of baksheesh, from gift certificates at Hardee's to new clothing to a $500 canoe. The point is: As a career pastor, he expected such gifts and in fact depended on them for his livelihood and his family's comfort (and to be fair, the salary for Arkansas governors is barely above poverty wages).

Point is: can a man of honor be influenced by such generosity? You bet. My own childhood pastor, who hated TV and preached that you were going to hell if you watched it, laid off that topic noticeably after my family gave him a half-beef for Christmas.

2. He's a class warrior. Good. He was poor (a Republican "of humble background"), and unlike Virginia Foxx, he's never gotten rich, so he's avoided her learned attitude that the poor have only themselves to blame. Apparently, when he and his family moved into the governor's mansion in Little Rock in 1996, he was considered something of a hillbilly: "Mr. Huckabee's touchiness over perceived slights was to become a byword in succeeding years." Huckabee wrote in his memoir, "Dozens of hate-filled letters proclaimed that we lacked the 'class' to live in such a fine and stately home." Such class sensitivity explains Huckabee's willingness to do battle with Wall Street and his simultaneous willingness to take gifts. He's owed.

His family reminds us of Bill Clinton's family ... working class, plain, ordinary, warts and all. Much fun has been made of the photograph reproduced above, the Huckabees wishing a merry Christmas several years ago ... a decided contrast to the svelte Romneys with their million-dollar wardrobes and grooming.

3. He's intolerant of people who disagree with him, and he freezes them out. Uh-oh. Not Christ-like. But pretty much like all the rest of us, who ain't so Christ-like either. But intolerant ... plus those doctrinal views ... is a brew we dread sipping.

4. He's got a liberal streak which has led him to work with Democrats. He proposed raising state taxes several times to supply roads and various strands to the Arkansas safety net. In 1997 he pushed through the Arkansas legislature, with overwhelming support from the Democrats, a major expansion of health insurance for children of the working poor whose families did not qualify for Medicaid. Then what happened? "He sought the electoral defeat of Republicans who opposed him, according to some in the party" (see # 3 above).

5. He moved to close small rural school districts in Arkansas as a cost-cutting reform of state education. He had very good reasons for doing so, but it's the last thing we'd ever praise a politician for doing. Local schools are the heart and soul of rural communities. Don't be driving stakes through the heart of rural America! Just don't.

Friday, December 21, 2007

By Her Endorsement We Will Know Her

Virginia Foxx's heavily publicized endorsement of Mitt Romney for the presidency opens up new vistas for analysis. Why didn't she go with Mike Huckabee? Especially since recent polling suggests that most of The Madam's Republican constituents support Huckabee by a wide margin, and Romney is hardly registering at all in N.C. polls. Plus isn't Huckabee the new avatar of conservatism? Why wouldn't his social conservatism make The Madam's heart sing like a caged bird, especially since she also claims to be a fellow Baptist?

Might it have something to do with buttering one's own toast? Support of Mitt Romney is showing obeisance to Wall Street, and The Madam has been nowhere more astute than in anticipating the deepest interests of the very rich.

Huckabee doesn't heart Wall Street. On the Today show this past Wednesday, Huckabee allowed as how "the Wall Street-to-Washington axis, this corridor of power, is absolutely, frantically against me." He may be a born-again Christian conservative, but he also fervently believes in an economic populism that sees a role for big government -- yes, BIG government -- in reaching out to the needy among us. That makes Huckabee a pretty good Baptist but also a Republican apostate to the likes of Virginia Foxx.

And it exposes the problem for Foxx in putting herself so nakedly out there for the Wall Street candidacy of Mitt Romney. Her Republican Party is pulling apart a little at the seams. She personally stands with the rich wing of her party, which, while making itself quite comfortable, is making life for most of her constituents increasingly difficult to manage. A big-government populist like Mike Huckabee, with his simultaneous anti-evolution, anti-abortion, anti-gay social views, becomes all the more attractive in the NC-5 and incidentally reveals The Madam's own vulnerability. She can talk about having been poor-as-lice once herself, but everything else about her -- most particularly her voting record -- screams a total lack of fellow-feeling for anyone struggling. An economic populist -- say, a Democratic one -- could take The Madam's congressional seat away from her ... in the exact same election that might give Mike Huckabee a wide margin for the presidency.

Conservative writers Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam have a new book coming out about "the failures of the conservative revolution," by which they mean the global-trade-and-Wall-Street neo-conservative "revolution" with which The Madam signed up and for whom she carries water. Foxx's hostility toward Social Security and the rest of the safety net that poor rural people (especially) have come to rely on could yet bite her in the butt (and as early as November 2008).

E.J. Dionne: "The white evangelical electorate is tired of taking orders from politicians who care more about protecting the wealthy than ending abortion, more about deregulation than family values."

Foxx Endorses Romney

Yeah, that'll help him!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Why Won't Walter Dalton Debate?

Walter Dalton, N.C. state senator representing Cleveland and Rutherford counties, is the presumed front-runner as the next Democratic Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina. We haven't a clue why. But apparently, he's the choice for the job among "the Democratic establishment," and we're supposed to KNOW that, evidently by osmosis.

But there are three other guys running. We've met all three of them because they've all three been in Watauga County and all three have asked for our support: Dan Besse, current Winston-Salem city councilman; Pat Smathers, current mayor of Canton; and Hampton Dellinger, deputy attorney general of North Carolina. Far as we can tell, all three are worthy men with credentials galore and outlooks that appeal to us.

Walter Dalton has not been in Watauga County that we know of, and apparently he doesn't need to ask for anyone's vote because he's already the presumptive heir to the office.

Public Policy Polling pretty much nails what's wrong with this picture.

Rumors About Fred Thompson Turn Out To Be True

Roger Simon has the embarrassing details, here, but we'll share the closing:
So the sum total of Thompson's day in Waverly [Iowa] was meeting with a newspaper editor and saying nothing and then meeting about 15 people in a warm firehouse and saying nothing.

When he was supposed to go out and find voters in shops and diners, talk to them and answer their questions, he decided to skip it and get back on his luxury bus instead.

That's not retail politics. That's not Iowa. And that's not laconic. That's lazy.


Free Advice to Rudy Giuliani

Now this story about Rudy "retooling" his failing campaign is just plain alarming, especially this paragraph:
After seeing no results from expensive TV advertising on Boston stations, whose markets include the populous southern part of New Hampshire, he has scaled back. He is spending more time in New Hampshire and waging what some call a "stealth campaign" in Iowa. He is also doing something that is potentially far more challenging for him: He is recasting his belligerent persona. Maybe, he seems to have realized, it's not enough to be the toughest guy on the block.

Has no one suggested to the ex-mayor that he try ... crying? It seems to be working for Mitt the Metrosexual ex-guv of Massachusetts. He's, like, shed tears publicly three times, no? in the last few days alone.

Oh, hey, there's one other thing Rudy could try, though it's a little more extreme: he needs to get himself down to South Carolina, find a tent revival, and get right with God. What's Catholicism done for him? Find Jesus, Mayor, and give Huckabee a run for his money!

Madam Foxx, Afraid of Bad Publicity

The most remarkable thing about Congresswoman Virginia Foxx's claiming that she'll never ever again -- next year, that is -- put special pork project earmarks into the budget is that she fears the bad publicity: "Though Foxx said she will swear off earmarks next year, ideology didn't drive her decision. Rather, she suggested, she was worried about negative publicity."

That little teapot!

If bad publicity bugs her so much, looks like she might decide to hold the occasional town hall for her constituents, since nothing has caused her more bad publicity than her refusal to meet with the voters and answer their questions.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Some Days We'd Like To Be an Iowan

...just to be, you know, RELEVANT in the presidential primary campaign instead of totally useless (except as a state to suck money out of. We're looking at YOU, Hillary).

Trying to understand the Iowa caucus system gives us a migraine, so we're relying on a handful of Iowa blogs as our crystal balls on what's going on, up and out there.

The Caucus Cooler is a Republican site with what appears to be state party insider poop on the major struggles for power. Leans toward Romney, but was gloating today that the Des Moines Register's endorsement of McCain was helping the senator while simultaneously hurting Huckabee. Takes a swipe at Fred Thompson, too, for deciding -- just 15 days before the caucuses -- to mount a campaign. Apparently, Thompson has attracted the support of a big NRA dude in Iowa (not to mention Congressman Steve King), and NRA members could make a difference for Thompson on the evening of January 3rd, since they don't mind going out in the cold.

African-Americans constitute only 2.3 percent of Iowa's population, but Dana Boone says that many of them are mobilizing to make an impact at the caucuses. They're not universally for Barak Obama.

Just stumbled across "God, Politics, and Rock 'n' Roll," a joint blog between two soon-to-be-married Iowans. She's a liberal Unitarian-Universalist (is that redundant?) who supports Obama. He's a born-again Rudy Giuliani supporter. Will this marriage last? Inquiring minds want to know (also how does a born-again defend Giuliani? We obviously didn't read deeply enough in the archives to get to the bottom of that burning question).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fred Thompson Picks Up an Endorsement

That's popular Republican Congressman Steve King, of the Iowa-5, who yesterday, in the midst of an endorsement speech, veered suddenly away from Mitt Romney (whose people were in the room, all smiles) and unexpectedly endorsed ex-Sen. Fred Thompson in the Iowa caucuses.

An astute reporter for Radio Iowa asked Congressman King after the endorsement whether he had spontaneously made up his mind while he was speaking, and the congressman replied, "You have great intuition."

Because, see, Congressman King had not actually said anything particularly encouraging about Fred Thompson in his endorsement statement and had also said, "That candidate [I will endorse] also has to have the fire in his belly to go the distance and the brains and resources to get there." "Fire in his belly"? Definitely not Fred Thompson.

It's like Congressman King decided to stay completely out of the real battle in Iowa, the one between Mitt Romney and upstart Huckleberry, and instead throw his considerable weight behind someone who's never even been in the horserace, not by anybody's estimation.

"His considerable weight"? Congressman King is by some accounts beloved by the entire state of Iowa. He's as ultra-conservative as they come. He has a 100% rating by the National Right to Life, a zero from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a zero from the Humane Society, and a zero from Americans for the Arts (just to give you a taste of his legislative priorities). So he doesn't exactly sound like a Mitt Romney Republican to us, but this Iowa blogger, who runs the site "Iowans for Romney," was absolutely convinced that King would back Romney.

Michelle Malkin (bless her heart) thinks the sudden stampede away from Romney was because of his performance on Meet the Press, particularly his waffling on immigration.

This Resolution -- and 4 Bucks -- Will Get You a Latte

Never let it be said that Madam Virginia Foxx isn't working for us 24/7. See here now, she screwed up her courage to the sticking place, risked political suicide, and introduced legislation that actually passed.

No doubt about it. We're getting our money's worth in Washington!

Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear?

"When fascism comes, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."

--Ron Paul, this a.m. on "Fox and Friends," commenting on the not-so-subtle white cross in a new Huckleberry TV ad pictured here (watch the YouTube video).


"The evangelical crowd was fine when it was just a resource to be cynically exploited every few years in demagogic anti-gay get-out-the-vote campaigns. But now the holy-rolling monster the GOP's Dr. Frankensteins have created has thrown off the shackles, fled the lab, and is currently leading in Iowa. And the party doesn't know what to do."

--Arianna Huffington

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cruising New Hampshire

Dipping one or two toes into both Right & Left Blogostan, New Hampshire style, to see what folks are thinking in the state where people will be going to the polls just five days after Iowans have their caucuses. (Thanks to Lonnie for the Edwards pix, taken last summer during his campaign swing through eastern Kentucky.)

Monday Morning Clacker foretells a whole new ballgame for Edwards in New Hampshire, IF -- a mighty big if it is, too -- he comes in first in the Iowa caucuses. May be nothing more than a caffeine prediction, but it's kind of nice to see our North Carolina boy getting such good notices in the North woods.

Although the Hillary-Clinton-is-inevitable campaign lined up most of the Democratic party establishment in New Hampshire early on, pglenshaw thinks Hillary's supposed front-runner status was always a mirage ... even before recent polls found her support plunging.

Susan Wessels 'splains why she's wholeheartedly for Obama (and it has nothing to do with hating Hillary).

GraniteGrok, who says he never much cared for Mitt Romney anyway (ever since Mitt dissed Saint Ron Reagan back in 1994, if you have to know), really can't stand 'im now, ever since Mr. Romney teared up on Meet the Press yesterday: "I have thought that, well, I should try to find SOMETHING I can like about Mr. Romney just in case he becomes the Republican nominee." But crying on national TV was NOT the missing something! (That's a "Daddy Party" Republican for you.)

Free State Blogs is a Pauleroid site and incidentally wants to legalize marijuana. (But don't they understand that "legalizing" stuff means getting the government involved?)

Politizine says the resignation of Billy Shaheen, "one of the state's most powerful Democrats," as state co-chair of the Hillary campaign ... over a bit of Obama dirt he was peddling ... has hurt her chances in New Hampshire.

Where Would Jesus Shop?

"Consumerism is the greatest threat to Christianity today, not evolution, secularism, post-modernism or any other ism."

We hear you, Brother, but you're swimming upstream against a strong current.

National GOP ... Having a Nervous Breakdown?

Political bloggers are doing some of the work for us ... gathering up Republican discomfort over the Huckleberry phenomenon. Like Balloon Juice. "The Huckabee Panic." Cool!

And now they've also got to deal with the Pauleroids raising another $6 mil yesterday.

But not to fear! Joe Lieberman endorses ... [drum roll] ... The Old Guy! Love that Joementum!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Newsweek Cover Boy

We'll confess that we really haven't taken the candidacy of John Edwards all that seriously. But there he is on the cover of the new Newsweek as "the sleeper" candidate of Iowa. We'll know the evening of January 3rd whether his crackerjack organization, especially in Iowa's rural precincts, was able to trump Hillary's and Obama's star power. The Newsweek cover article reminds us, too, of Edwards populism, which we applaud.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cruising Iowa

Been dipping into the Iowa blogosphere for any insight into the political contests in both parties, which will be coming to a throbbing head very, very soon.

A College Republican gives his thoughts on all his party's candidates. Bottomline: he'll support even Giuliani against ANY Democrat.

Daren Jaques addresses "My Foolish Fellow Republicans" for stampeding toward Huckleberry: "We have lost our way, and while many of you evangelical Republicans might not think you want people like me in your party, you just may get your wish."

Lynda Waddington complains that Barak Obama doesn't "get" Iowa politics, in that he eschews gatherings of fewer than 20 people. Apparently, Iowans like their politicians in their individual kitchens putting on coffee and making sticky buns.

An Iowa social conservative who favors Giuliani says he's increasingly uncomfortable with "the campaign of Mike Huckabee and the influence of evangelical Christians in Iowa." (Whatever caucus he attends should be livelier for his presence!)

Though he says he would be proud to call any of the Democratic candidates "our nominee," Chris Woods allows as how he plans to caucus for John Edwards: "...he is the candidate with the experience and leadership to challenge the status quo."

The Caucus Cooler alleges that Rudy Giuliani has a clever and effective strategy in Iowa, letting everyone believe he's not even trying to win with caucus goers when in actuality he's got a mail campaign going that's gonna help him "cruise to a strong finish." Me thinks Caucus Cooler has been smoking dope, or something stronger.

iPol thinks that Hillary Clinton made a huge strategic blunder in portraying herself to Iowans as The One to Beat.

The Real Sporer confidently predicts a "brokered convention" for the Republicans, gloating visibly that Rudy can't -- won't -- get the nomination outright.

Premature Tumescence?

Jokes about sudden deflation should be held in reserve.

Early reports that this 200-foot long flying billboard would be visiting major population centers along the East Coast, all the way up to Boston, have been severely revised. Apparently, the dastardly and hated hand of government (FAA?) said you can't just willy-nilly fly a blimp over major cities, so the Pauleroids have settled for minor cities in North Carolina (where there is no primary until May) and tiny portions of South Carolina (where there is actual voting scheduled in January).

Huckabee Breaks With Bush Over Iraq

Uh-oh. The current front-runner and God's Own Candidate says George W. Bush is an arrogant little prick. (God sure is fickle.)

Do we detect, not the hand of the Lord, but the calculations of Republican political strategist Ed Rollins, appointed only yesterday by Huckabee as his national campaign chairman? Rollins hasn't been much involved in presidential politics since Ross Perot seemed like a fresh idea.

Huckabee's bold bid to challenge Ron Paul for a little of the Republican anti-war vote is on the one hand very smart. The Republican candidates have GOT to get George W. Bush off their backs, and merely refusing to utter his name at their candidate debates hardly does the trick. On the other hand, Huckabee's wading into the Iraq policy quagmire may only remind people that he might not be able to find the place on a world globe, not without a head start and a little prompting. Foreign policy ain't Huckabee's strong suit. In fact, having Huckabee as the Republican nominee would more than anything make people forget about Obama's relative lack of the same expertise.

ACLU Sends Letter to Johnston County Schools

The state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union may get between the Johnston County School Board, caught up in a rapture of censoriousness, and the list of books Shyster posted in another thread down-column as the targets of book-burners everywhere.

Goddamn ACLU. Bunch a commonists.

How Bush Won Ohio?

How can they NOT replace those voting machines? Every last blooming one of 'em!

Teams of investigators working on a test of the Ohio touch-screen voting system were able "to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines. At boards of election, they were able to introduce malignant software into servers." (NYT report)

The new Ohio Secretary of State wants to replace all the hackable junk with optical scan systems, where voters mark paper ballots and feed them into readers. This is the system currently used in Watauga County.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Right Side of Retail

The folks over at the Center for Responsive Politics also chart the political donations of our biggest retailers (thanks to rtl for the link). Many give to both parties, but most of the ones highlighted here show a clear tilt right or left. There are a few bizarre cases, where 70+ percent of their political contributions are going to Republicans, yet they've given their largest presidential money to Democrats. First, the benefactors of Republican candidates:
Best Buy
2006 total contributions: $134,300 (87 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $31,175 (64 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Republican Rudy Giuliani
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $235,000

Hallmark Cards
2006 total contributions: $230,170 (78 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $66,350 (66 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Hillary Clinton
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $200,000

Home Depot
2006 total contributions: $1,119,360 (77 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $510,050 (57 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Barack Obama
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $570,000

Limited Brands
2006 total contributions: $408,200 (76 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $228,100 (80 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Hillary Clinton
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $360,000

Linens N Things
2006 total contributions: N/A
2008 total contributions: $2,500 (92 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Republican Rudy Giuliani
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

2006 total contributions: $18,150 (79 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $23,150 (71 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Hillary Clinton
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $20,000

2006 total contributions: $130,200 (66 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $32,700 (61 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Republican Mitt Romney
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $40,000

2006 total contributions: $5,550 (77 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $2,725 (91 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain (tie)
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $45,000

Sears Holdings Corp (parent of K-Mart)
2006 total contributions: $450,550 (66 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $89,450 (52 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Republican Mitt Romney
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $140,746

2006 total contributions: $663,140 (73 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $277,400 (72 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Republican Rudy Giuliani
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $100,000

Toys R Us
2006 total contributions: $2,100 (72 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $250 (100 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Barack Obama
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

2006 total contributions: $1,781,800 (71 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $727,830 (60 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Hillary Clinton
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $685,000

The lefties?
Barnes and Noble
2006 total contributions: $156,180 (84 percent to Democrats)
2008 total contributions: $55,067 (100 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat John Edwards
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $20,000

Bed Bath & Beyond
2006 total contributions: $100,800 (91 percent to Democrats)
2008 total contributions: $33,200 (87 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Republican Rudy Giuliani
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

2006 total contributions: $9,600 (54 percent to Democrats)
2008 total contributions: $1,350 (100 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: None
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

Circuit City Stores
2006 total contributions: $4,300 (72 percent to Republicans)
2008 total contributions: $2,750 (100 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Barack Obama
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

2006 total contributions: $3,000 (67 percent to Democrats)
2008 total contributions: $300 (100 percent to Republicans)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: None
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

Costco Wholesale
2006 total contributions: $166,150 (87 percent to Democrats)
2008 total contributions: $77,190 (98 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Barack Obama
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $0

2006 total contributions: $250,900 (76 percent to Democrats)
2008 total contributions: $68,550 (72 percent to Democrats)
No. 1 recipient among presidential candidates: Democrat Hillary Clinton
2007 total lobbying expenditures: $100,000

Time out, while I struggle into my brand-new Gap jeans.


Dickpedia is a hilarious new Wikipedia knock-off dedicated to memorializing the jerks in the media. Every entry commences like this:
William James "Bill" O'Reilly, Jr. (born September 10, 1949) is an American television commentator, author, novelist, and dick.

Or try this one:
Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton (born October 26, 1947) is a senator, a presidential candidate, the wife of former president Bill Clinton, and a dick.

Did we mention it's hee-larious?


Speaking of whining...

The publisher of the paper nobody reads blows hard.


Despite the Republican Party's apparent lock-down on the loyalty of religious voters, especially in its wholly owned subsidiary, the Southern Baptist Convention, the actual campaign giving by actual religious leaders is right now favoring Democrats and especially Barak Obama.

Although "clergy and religious organizations" are a mere drop in the bucket among those pumping millions of $$ into the 2008 races, the Center for Responsive Politics discovers that 56 percent of religious donations are going to Democrats in this election cycle, with Obama raking in nearly three times as much as the top Republican recipient, Mitt Romney.

What's curious is that in these charts Gov. Hucklebee is nowhere to be seen.

Pity Peggy Noonan!

There's something about Peggy Noonan. Maybe it's that lock-jawed aristocratic delivery of hers. Every time she starts talking, we feel the irresistible urge to bow and scrape.

Peggy Noonan, bless her heart ... she who applauded so loudly when the Republican Congress and El Presidente decided to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case, for the sake of religion, now views the rise of Gov. Mike Huckabee as a dangerous moment for the GOP. What a smug and odious little born-again is Gov. Huckabee, Noonan opines. He betrays "the purring pleasure of 'a Christian with four aces,' in Mark Twain's words."

Her Ladyship helped create this GOP, so she can bloody well live with it.

Another architect of the far-right take-over of the Republican Party, His Lordship Rich Lowry, is also alarmed at the thought of Huckleberry (and betrays in the process the dirty little secret of many extreme right intellectuals ... their utter contempt for the intelligence of the common masses they've been manipulating for two blessed decades!).

"Huckacide" is how Lowry labels the sudden and improbable rise of the Good Christian Governor:
The GOP's social conservatism inarguably has been an enormous benefit to the party throughout the past 30 years, winning over conservative Democrats and lower-income voters who otherwise might not find the Republican limited-government message appealing. That said, nominating a Southern Baptist pastor running on his religiosity would be rather overdoing it. Social conservatism has to be part of the Republican message, but it can't be the message in its entirety.

Noonan and Lowry are partly responsible for setting those wind machines on high many years ago. Let them reap their whirlwind.

And stop the whining!

Friday Morning Fringe: Burn 'Em, Ban 'Em, Hang 'Em From a Lightpole

1. Johnston County, N.C., school officials, having successfully banned Julia Alvarez's "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" from both the school curriculum and the school library, and feeling empowered in their quest to save their teenagers from any appearance of "evil," are said to be "scouring" their school library shelves for other books that need to be consigned to the flames of hell. Said Vinetta Bell, an English and language arts consultant for the state Department of Public Instruction, such frenetic censorship seems to follow the broadening of school reading selections beyond "the work of well-known white, male authors of the literary canon."

2. Chapel Hill town councilman Mark Kleinschmidt has received the attention of a neo-Nazi group, Vanguard News Network, which listed Kleinschmidt as part of a "National List Of Openly-Homosexual Public Officials." After Kleinschmidt linked his personal blog to VNN to point out his notoriety, someone identifying himself as a "senior member" of the Vanguard posted a comment that if killing homosexuals ever becomes legal, "I'll be more than happy to provide this information to those that might legally string you degenerates up" -- "this information" being Kleinschmidt's home address and phone number.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Important Movie

Watched "The Good Shepherd" last night and was impressed by the political timeliness of a Hollywood movie that seriously helps explain the current behavior of the CIA by delving deeply into its origins during and following World War II. (It stars Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie; directed by Robert DeNiro; released December 22, 2006. Okay, okay, I'm running a full year behind on my movie-viewing, but gimme a break!)

Up front, "The Good Shepherd" was a flop, earning only $60 million in domestic receipts (against an estimated budget of $85 million), though foreign and DVD sales have put it into the black. We can well understand why no one went to see it:
1. It requires a little basic understanding of 20th-century American history, particularly the disastrous attempted invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

2. It reflects on American failure, and American audiences have shown little appetite for anything less than rah-rah self-congratulation

What's remarkable is the story. It sees the American spy bidness as a function of social class, depicting the recruitment of spies and special agents from the ranks of the wealthy elite, particularly from Yale University and most particularly from the membership of Yale's Order of Skull & Bones. The attitudes, the complacent expectation of privilege, the cold WASP aristocracy of old money is depicted as writing the charter for America's spy agency. Considering the CIA today (does the destruction of evidence despite a judge's order ring a bell?), one can clearly see those same blood-lines (psychological if not actual) surviving into our present. "The Good Shepherd" suggests that in fact some people are above the law.

In other words, "The Good Shepherd" is about American arrogance as an extension of class privilege. One of the Yalie boys turned CIA officials in the movie knowingly says toward the end, "Someone asked me why when we talk about CIA, we don't say 'the CIA,' and I told him, 'You don't say the when talking about God."

Sent a chill down my spine!

Matt Damon's style of understated acting is pretty perfect for playing a buttoned-up, cold as ice WASP who can order the torture of a Russian defector or shoot an East German woman he's just sexed up without a flicker of human doubt or pain. He's as close to a robot as you can get and still have blood in the veins. So he's not exactly admirable. He's playing definitely against the type people do pay their money to see at the pitcher shows, the Jason Bourne version of the American spy.

In one very telling scene, Damon as CIA agent Ed Wilson is trying to recruit Mafioso capo Joseph Palmi (played by Joe Pesci, who's in the movie for a grand total of maybe two indelible minutes) for some dirty business in Cuba:
Joseph Palmi: Let me ask you something. We Italians, we got our families, and we got the church. The Irish, they have the homeland. Jews, their tradition. Even the niggers, they got their music. What about you people, Mr. Wilson, what do you have?

Edward Wilson: The United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting.

That's pure privilege talking, calm and self-assured. That's the attitude that planned the Bay of Pigs invasion, that invented tortures judged very effective down to our own day, that thought that lesser ethnicities will naturally bend, and quickly, to the American will. That is the attitude of Skull and Bones, the social club that birthed George W. Bush.

Former Buncombe Sheriff Arrested

Former Republican Sheriff of Buncombe County, Bobby Lee Medford, and four of his deputies, were arrested this a.m. by federal agents.

Big-time corruption, which apparently the voters in Buncombe had some notion about in 2006, when they voted Medford out of office.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Virginia Foxx: "Foreclosure Got You Down? Take a Chill Pill, Bill"

Madam Foxx: The foreclosure crisis isn't so bad as the goddamn media is making it out to be, and anyway, even if it is bad, you can call this helpline I'm going to give you, and a non-governmental expert will COMMISERATE with you for, oh, 15 minutes, which should make you feel just spiffy about the shithole you're in, and it won't involve the government. We don't EVER want the government involved, do we? You got bootstraps, don't you? Well, pull 'em up!

Meanwhile, foreclosures in Iredell County, part of The Madam's congressional district, are on their way to breaking the all-time high, which was set last year (910 foreclosures in 2006, already 860 for 2007).

Huckabee: Wives Should Submit

Ah yes, the 1998 "statement on the family" passed by the Southern Baptists and then personally endorsed by then-governor Mike Huckabee in a full-page ad in USA-Today. Crooks & Liars has the details, the links, the golden memories.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

First in War, Last in Peace, and Nowhere in the Hearts of Their Party

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll (conducted Dec. 11th, using 1,028 people contacted via phone) found that not one of the Republican candidates is viewed favorably by even half the self-identified Republican electorate.

Not one.

Cokie Roberts said it Sunday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos: "The Republicans don't have a candidate."

The poll also found that a majority of Americans think the economy is bad and getting worse.

"A vast majority think the country is heading in the wrong direction."

Here's Something Mike Huckabee Won't Believe

News flash: "People today are genetically more different from people living 5,000 years ago than those humans were different from the Neanderthals who vanished 30,000 years ago, according to anthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin." (Reuters)

Which means what, exactly?

That human evolution has actually speeded up, particularly because of changes in human diet brought on by agriculture.

What these scientists are saying doesn't include one word about our getting better. Only different.

Another Indictment of an N.C. House Member

Another Jim Black crony and a Democrat. Oy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Republican presidential candidates -- all, save Tom Tancredo, bless his heart -- appeared last night at a Florida debate in which the questions were translated from Spanish, and the candidates' answers, translated into Spanish, were beamed out to watchers of the Spanish-language network Univision. All the big-head guys took great pains to re-dress their former anti-immigrant rhetoric in a new I'm-perfectly-harmless wardrobe.

Though, according to this AP report, none of the candidates felt they could renounce their original campaign positions on immigration. They abandoned, however, the hot, angry rhetoric of previous debates. No scratching and clawing over who disdains illegals more, Giuliani or Romney, while coddling them in "sanctuary cities" and on "sanctuary home lawns." No Duncan Hunter bragging about machine-gun nests on his mile-high border wall.

Only John McCain, the single Republican candidate for president on that stage who has been previously considered the least bit "soft" on immigration, correctly blamed "the rhetoric that many Hispanics hear about illegal immigration" for the fact that Hispanics now favor Democratic candidates by 57% (to 23% who favor Republicans, according to a new Pew Hispanic Center poll).

It's hysterical, this mincing ... both the walking-on-eggshells of this bunch of political ruffians and their evident delusion that Hispanic voters are that easy to fool.

"Not a single candidate referred to them as 'illegal aliens,' a term many Hispanics find objectionable."


'Cause, once the big heads get away from that Spanish-language venue, they'll return to bashing "illegals" with the gusto characteristic of small minds who believe unquestioningly in the power of The Wedge.

It's becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with and catalog all of "Their Most Embarrassing Moments." Last week it was Hucklebee's wrapping himself like a mummified communion wafer in Christian piety and then Romney's deer-in-the-headlights attempt to get back into the Jesus-is-my-BFF piety contest, followed by Fred Thompson's saying that Jesus was just all right with him, though he doesn't go to church and doesn't intend to start until he's elected president.

These masters of manipulation. These legends of legerdemain. These wizards!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Applause for the Watauga Democrat

Sign us up to support the Watauga Democrat's editorial yesterday about saving the old Appalachian Theater as a performance venue in downtown Boone.

Public/private partnership? Non-profit foundation? Visionary and community-minded individual money-bag?

Whatever it takes!

Maybe some of our Town Council could convene a pow-wow of interested citizens to brainstorm a solution.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ashe County Wisdom

As we already know, don't look to the Democratic nor the Republican candidates for governor of North Carolina for any positive leadership contra the current witch-hunt against immigrants. Don't look to Madam Foxx. Most of our political figures have either gone completely to the dark side of immigrant-bashing to curry favor with an ignorant and bigoted minority of voters, OR they're too afraid to say anything at all except "me too, me too, me too!"

But you can look to Jim Thompson at the Jefferson Post ... for sanity, actual Christian values, not to mention economic reality. From today's editorial:
We can debate immigration all the way up to Election Day 2008. But for all the brave talk of roundups and border-long fences, our county will be damaged, and damaged badly if the Tom Tancredos of the world have their way. We will wake up to find our tree industry a memory, and our retail commerce staggered by a loss of customers. Every Ashe County resident needs to remember this before signing on to Tancredo-style of rhetoric.

If the average Ashe County worker wants to see their enemies, they will not find them among our Hispanic citizens and workers. The enemy sits in board rooms, closing factories, shipping jobs overseas and moving unsafe products into the country that poison our families. They may look like "us," but -- to borrow a biblical word -- their hearts belong to Mammon, the ancient god of money. Be cautious of what they want you to believe.

A Fathead Denial of Global Warming

That's Kentucky legislator Jim Gooch, the face of climate "awareness" in the Bluegrass State. Oy! He's a total tool of the greed-head Kentucky coal industry.

Gooch is also the Democratic chair of the Kentucky interim joint Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, and in that role he decided to "educate" fellow state legislators on global warming. His script, if not outright written by the coal industry, at least warmed the carbon cockles of its so-called heart.

Instead of inviting actual scientists to discuss the latest data, Gooch hosted a lawyer from an Exxon-Mobile free-market think-tank (who outright lied to the legislators: "Most scientists don't believe in global warming") and a member of the British aristocracy who wants HIV-infected persons locked up for life (no, really), hates Al Gore as much as he hates gays, and denies that global warming has anything to do with carbon dioxide. The Lexington Herald-Leader provides generous coverage of the clown-car.

Some Kentuckians buy this crap. Some North Carolinians, too.

The Last Word on Buncombe Republican Infighting--Please!

Mountain XPress has a long, in-depth profile of the internecine blood-letting within the Buncombe County Republican Party that gave birth to the Carolina Stompers, a theocratic rump group led by young Chad Nesbitt (the step-son of Democratic N.C. state legislator Martin Nesbitt). The Stompers are out to grind down Democrats AND the current leaders of the local Republican Party, who tend to be Libertarian in perspective ("crackheads" is how Nesbitt describes them). Nesbitt's motivation in making himself such a pariah appears to be his unsuccessful campaign to become chair of the Buncombe County Republican Party early in 2007.


Former White House Counselor Dan Bartlett, in an interview with Texas Monthly, characterizes right-wing blogs as regurgi-bots:
"...It's a very efficient way to communicate. They regurgitate exactly and put up on their blogs what you said to them. It is something that we've cultivated and have really tried to put quite a bit of focus on...."

How embarrassing ... to be exposed as passive tools of this particular regime.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Well, This Is Interesting

What does it mean when a high-profile Republican office-holder -- never defeated for election -- challenges another high-profile Republican office-holder, blaming the rotten national economy for her decision?

Catawba County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Kitty Barnes, 60, 1st elected in 1998, says she will challenge N.C. Sen. Austin Allran in the May Republican primary. Allran, 55, has held his N.C. Senate seat since 1981 ... 26 years.

Saith the Kitty: "Our region has been especially hit hard in recent times due to the restructuring of our national economy. We need new leadership in Raleigh that understands our challenges here at home. We cannot just sit back and wait for the future. We have to better plan and focus on building the partnerships we need to bring new and better paying jobs to western North Carolina."

That's a two-for-one rebuke ... to the Republican administration in Washington and to the job Allran's been doing in Raleigh.

"This is not helping when you've got an incumbent in Allran being challenged by another elected official. It can't help the current situation. I think this will further divide our party," said fellow Republican and N.C. House member Mark Hilton.

Hilton was talking about lingering bitterness over the way Little Patty McHenry beat Sheriff David Huffman in the 2004 Republican primary for U.S. Congress.

Illegal Immigrant Hysteria

According to the N&O, the N.C. Community College System is the third largest in the U.S., enrolling more than 800,000 students in degree programs and continuing education classes. "With 58 campuses, it is the state's primary provider of work-force preparation and adult education."

Also according to the N&O, the community college system has about 340 undocumented students out of more than 271,000 degree-seeking students. Do the math: that's .00125 percent of our community college population who are illegal immigrants.

Well, call out the killer dogs! Or worse, the killer Foxes, as in Bill O'Reilly, than whom there is no one else more self-righteous. He lambasted the memo sent out last week by the N.C. community college system chief legal counsel directing all 58 campuses to accept illegal immigrants as "out-of-state students," meaning that each would pay around $10,000 a year in tuition, fees, and books. At those prices, "you're not going to get many takers," said Steve Scott, president of Wake Technical Community College. Facts not at all interesting to Bill O'Reilly.

Our local Caldwell Community College was one of the 58 campuses that previously rejected undocumented students. We know that because last year there was local buzz about the child of one of Virginia Foxx's Hispanic workers -- a child who was an honor graduate of Watauga High School, by the way -- who was denied admittance at Caldwell because she couldn't prove her citizenship.

The retiring president of the N.C. Community College system, Martin Lancaster, came out yesterday with a strong defense of the decision to admit illegals. The N&O calls it "a passionate defense." Lancaster said:
For North Carolina to be competitive in a global economy, it must depend on a knowledge-based workforce which makes it imperative that every future worker in North Carolina receive as much education as possible....

To deny a significant portion of tomorrow's workforce any higher education opportunities will not only hurt these young people who came to North Carolina through no fault of their own, but it will also significantly diminish their incomes forever. The consequences to North Carolina are reduced tax collections and potential payments for social services and incarceration long into the future.

Not that Lancaster's opinion will make a hill of beans' difference to people who slurp their wisdom from the Bill O'Reilly fount, nor people with hate in their hearts for .00125 percent of students (even when those students are paying significantly higher fees to be educated and are NOT getting anything free), nor those who want 12 million people rounded up, put in cattle cars, and shipped south.

Few politicians have made more political hay from the illegal immigrant hysteria than Madam Foxx. Ironically, her landscaping business has meanwhile profited from the hard labor of Hispanic newcomers. Perhaps it's occurred to The Madam that the truly Christian thing for her to do, now that Caldwell is being forced to admit that child it previously rejected, is to pay that out-of-state tuition bill.

Holding our breath ... we are not.


With three Republican candidates for governor and two Democratic candidates for governor all stampeding in the general direction Bill O'Reilly suggested they should go, and with Gov. Easley (along with Martin Lancaster) standing pretty much alone on the burning question of whether or not to educate illegal immigrants as out-of-state students... who should jump to Easley's defense but the Libertarian candidate for governor, Mike Munger:
"To withhold the right even to attend to people who are paying taxes in North Carolina seems to me just another step toward creating an apartheid system with second class non-citizens," Munger said in a statement. (AP story)

The State's Water Crisis Deepens

Durham and Raleigh are being forced to consider a hold on any new construction and an actual mandatory shut-down of car washes and power-washing businesses. A ban on new water customers is possible. Considering those steps, mind you. Durham has only 52 days of "premium water" left. Raleigh ... 101 days.

Duke University in Durham is earmarking some $5 million for water-conservation projects and is giving away 5,000 low-flow shower heads to university faculty, staff, and off-campus students.

To underscore this, the worst state drought in recorded history, The Guv yesterday urged North Carolina citizens to "redouble conservation efforts" through the holiday season. The state's 800,000 heads of cattle are threatened by a hay shortage, so The Guv's Council of State okayed a $3.5 million purchase of 100,000 bales of out-of-state hay to be trucked in for farmers.

According to the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council, some 14 water systems serving 470,000 residents have regular water supplies of less than 100 days, given current conditions.

The Monroe City Council is imposing steeply increased water fees on residential users who go over 6,000 gallons a month, considered "typical usage" for N.C. homeowners. That might get the attention of wasteful users.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Case of Nerves

How do the Ron Pauleroids make the North Carolina Republican establishment nervous? Let us count the ways.

The Pauleroids might learn the rules about how to become delegates to the state Republican convention.

The Pauleroids, according to ThunderPig in Asheville, are scary idiots.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Republicans' Ron Paul Problem

Reading the posts at A Watauga Conservative about "the enthusiastic group of young supporters of Ron Paul" who showed up at the local Republicans Christmas Party (both the posts by Don Clark and the comments from some of those Paul supporters -- Pauleroids?) ... one can't help noticing certain parallels to 2004, specifically to the Kucinich people and their impact on the Democratic Party four years ago.

The local Republicans are doing exactly the right thing in welcoming the Pauleroids into the party. Many Democratic officials in some North Carolina counties did not welcome the Kucinich people four years ago, which accounts for the subsequent uprisings in those county parties. Staunchly anti-war, dedicated to a vision of the future NOT shared by the leaders of their respective parties, NOT given to compromise, both Kucinich people and Pauleroids have offered a challenge and an opportunity to their respective two parties.

The next shoe will drop early in 2008, when the Pauleroids face the inevitable result of their enthusiasm and their unprecedented political fund-raising ... when Paul gets precisely nowhere in the Republican nomination process. Then what?

The county parties that have embraced the Pauleroids, listened to them, given them roles to play, will have a shot at keeping their energies at work through Nov. 2008. The parties that alienated them early on (primarily because Pauleroids hate George Bush almost as much as the Kucinich people did) will suffer without them, or contend against them, for they are a force to be reckoned with.

Worst case: Ron Paul mounts a third-party challenge, a distinctly rich possibility, especially given Paul's already proven ability to raise impressive and sudden cash.

During an October 24th interview with MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell, Paul rather significantly left the door open a noticeable crack: "No, I don't plan to run in a third party. That's not my goal. But if we have a candidate that loves the war and loves the neocon position of promoting--"

We'd love to have heard him finish that sentence, but O'Donnell cut him off. (The difference between Norah O'Donnell and a stump is entirely negligible.)

The Pauleroids are NOT about compromise, especially on the war, and we don't see a potential winner of the Republican nomination who is going to energize them like a Ron Paul.

We'll be interested in seeing what becomes of all that mutual enthusiasm between local Republican power players and the Pauleroids by, say, next September.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Republicans Get a State Senate Candidate

According to A Watauga Conservative, Boone dentist Jerry Butler announced last night that he's planning to run as a Republican in 2008 for the state senate seat currently held by Steve Goss.

This announcement opens up a whole cabinet full of speculation. None of which we're prepared to catalog tonight.

Gov. Easley Takes a Stand

Every once in a while our mainly invisible governor comes out and says the right thing, even if it is highly unpopular.

Gov. Mike Easley told Jack Betts of the Charlotte Observer that it's in the state's interest to allow undocumented immigrants to attend community college if they qualify and if they pay out-of-state tuition. These comments provoked some of the nastiest responses we've ever seen posted on a blog story, including what we've read on WataugaWatch in recent months.

The governor told Betts, "Here's my position. The people we are talking about were brought here as babies and young children through no fault of their own. They distinguished themselves throughout our K-12 [public school] system. Now, I'm not willing to grind my heel in their faces and slam the door on them. The Community College System has to be open to them in order for them to be productive members of our society and help North Carolina and America compete in the world economy."

Many North Carolinians, including several who are highly paid politicians, ARE willing to grind their heel in their faces.

Raleigh Mayor Wants to Raise Development Fees

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and his newly elected allies on the city council campaigned on promising to raise impact fees on new residential construction in Raleigh. Meeker has now delivered on that promise and proposed that his new city council double impact fees on a house of 2,500 to 2,700 square feet, raising them from $1,200 to $2,500. Meeker said the higher fees are needed to help finance roads and parks and other necessary infrastructure.

Naturally, developers will pass the costs on to new home-buyers and demonize the mayor and the council as "anti-growth."

We can appreciate the bind that Raleigh and other N.C. cities are in, trying to pay for the infrastructure to service whole new subdivisions. They have relied primarily on property taxes, but continuing to jack up taxes on every home-owner while many of the expenditures are going to accommodate new development doesn't seem entirely equitable. Making developers pay for the expense of new development -- schools, sidewalks, roads, parks, water & sewer mains -- seems fair.

Though ... if we were Meeker, we would worry a little about the politics of taking this move at this time, imposing a substantial new drag on housing sales while the housing market is already in a slump.

Time will tell.

The Political Correctness of Science Education in Texas

Hat-tip to Craig.

Last October Chris Comer, who has been the Texas Education Agency's director of science curriculum for more than nine years, received an e-mail announcing a presentation by Barbara Forrest, author of "Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse." Forrest is an authority on "intelligent design" (she was a witness for the prosecution in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, the now famous Pennsylvania case), and her book makes the case that creationist politics are behind the movement to get intelligent design theory taught in public schools. (The judge in Kitzmiller thought so too.)

Anyway, Chris Comer forwarded the announcement about Forrest's talk to a handful of friends inside and outside the Texas Education Agency, with the notation "FYI."

Naturally, someone who received Comer's e-mail promptly forwarded it to the local thought police, a former Bush administration apparatchik, Lizzette Reynolds, who had joined the Texas Education Agency as a senior adviser in January. Reynolds went ballistic, wrote Comer's supervisors about that horrifying "FYI": "This is highly inappropriate. I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities."

No, mustn't have anyone even knowing about a respected philosopher of science and nationally recognized authority on the "intelligent design" movement giving a local talk!

Bottomline, those scientifically inclined administrators at the Texas Education Agency placed Chris Comer on 30 days leave and then got rid of her entirely.

News of all this broke yesterday in the Austin American-Statesman.

Comer quite correctly says that her "forced resignation" was for political reasons. The American-Statesman also quoted Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education: "This just underscores the politicization of science education in Texas. In most states, the department of education takes a leadership role in fostering sound science education."

Far as we know, the (Republican) judge's ruling still stands in Kitzmiller v. Dover, that the introduction of intelligent design into public school science curricula is unconstitutional (though you can teach anything you please in your private academy, including that velociraptors joined Mr. and Mrs. Noah on the ark and that God personally selected George W. Bush for the presidency).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Atheist Envy

Mark Galli, a senior editor at Christianity Today, writes honestly (theatrically?) that you have to be a little bit crazy to pray for more of God's presence. Says he secretly "cheers for the atheists."

Christianity like being trapped inside an Ingmar Bergman movie. Or a Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem.

Endangered N.C. Birds

Watauga County's own Curtis Smalling is IBA ("important bird area") coordinator for Audubon North Carolina and is quoted extensively in an article this morning about threatened bird species in N.C. Curtis is a good man doing good work.

The two major threats to several dozen species in our state is air pollution and loss of habitat through development. Of particular concern in our mountains is the golden-winged warbler (pictured).

Audubon North Carolina's website is here and contains a wealth of information, including opportunities for volunteers.

Think wild species have nothing to do with you? The article linked above makes the point that birds are directly reflective of the health of our planet. The old "canary in the coal mine" symbol was in fact a fairly accurate rendition of reality.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Transfer Tax Defeat Revisited

Interesting item over at Public Policy Polling, delving a little more deeply into the across-the-board defeat of the "transfer tax" referenda in 16 N.C. counties in this past election.

We didn't have a dog in that particular fight, but we were otherwise dealing with the same sort of coalition of big money developers and real estate interests that spent hundreds of thousands of $$ to defeat the transfer tax referenda. Dean Debnam sums up the gloating about the results: "Some on the right and in the development community have declared that result to be the death of the concept of having those responsible for the rapid growth in many counties across the state pay for their fair share of it."

Public Policy Polling undertook its own poll to understand better why the referenda went down so resoundingly. Bottomline: County commissioners in those 16 counties stuck the referendum on the ballot without bothering to explain it or (heaven forbid!) actually campaign effectively for its passage.

Number One: Those county commissions failed to explain adequately that "there are costs associated with growth and that they will have to be paid through some form of taxation. Foes of transfer tax measures this fall created the impression that not paying was an option. It isn't, and the counties with referendums this fall failed to get that message across to their citizens."

Not paying for growth is not an option. Duh.

PPP discovered in Wake County that polling respondents favored the transfer tax when they (1) understood that growth requires more essential infrastructure like water & sewer lines and more schools, (2) understood that the emotional campaign AGAINST the transfer tax was ginned up and paid for by developers and the real estate industry and (3) understood that property taxes will probably have to go up if a transfer tax isn't passed.

Frankly, those county commissions that decided to rush into a transfer tax referendum without thinking through how they were going to win the vote looked like a self-immolation cult piling up the brush for their own bone-fires. You'd think North Carolina elected officials in all those 16 counties would be savvier than that.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Our N.C. House Rep. Cullie Tarleton reports that foreclosures on homes in our state went from 16,630 in 1998 to 46,510 foreclosures in 2006. By August of 2007, 32,300 homeowners had already filed for foreclosure in North Carolina ... putting the state well along the road to breaking all records this year for the number of people losing their homes. That's tens of thousands of the state's citizens on metaphorical if not literal suicide watch.

There's no descriptive power in mere words to capture the misery of working people thrown out of their homes.

My new working-class hero Joe Bageant calls the whole economic shell-game, which ends in these foreclosures, "the American shelter racket":
At the top end ... you have the new monster-bellum estates. At the very bottom are the people paying off the single-wide trailers sitting on rented space. The trailer is worth practically zilch the day it is sold and the owner has to pay for space to park it. This is the polar opposite of equity building. In fact, legally speaking, the mobile home owner is living in a vehicle and paying for a parking space, which is why trailers are titled like cars and have no deed. It says something about these working Americans that the absence of a deed to their home never strikes them as a drawback.... ["Deer Hunting with Jesus," p. 106}

Bageant cites a friend, "Tommy Ray," who got a loan to purchase a $79,000 mobile home, which after all the loan fees and interest points in lieu of a down-payment ended up costing him $130,000. That mobile home was worth a little more than half what he paid for it the day after he signed the contract, and it will end up costing him $260,000 before it's finally paid off.

We should all be nervous about the bursting of the housing bubble (not to mention that the U.S. dollar is in free fall abroad). Despite the great Christmas imperative to buy more and more STUFF to feel like worthy citizens, a looming recession in 2008 may swirl us all into the same toilet bowl. Bageant gets ruefully apocalyptic about the possibilities:
...Letting go of the very thing that is sinking us is impossible ... to imagine. How could we ever get loose of such an America: the cineplexes, outlet stores, trilevel overpasses, eight-thousand-square-foot "Tyvek houses," disposable double-wides, imported vitro ceramic gas ranges for the doctors' wives and Wal-Mart barbecues for the guys..., Hummers and Hondas and Game Boys and Dale Earnhardt memorial crockpots and twelve-bucks-a-pair Chinese-made fake Birkenstocks, the big box stores and Olive Garden ... the entire buzzing, blinking, digital phantasmagoria.

It has been an orgy so glorious and unholy, so mindless that we have now eaten our seed crop in our spiraling consumerism. Our political masters look the other way. The Republicans have proclaimed the entire disastrous mess to be the lifestyle we are entitled to as Americans, and therefore nonnegotiable. The Democrats, even when they do have power, remain terrified of proposing any real change that would release us from our oil and sprawl addiction.... ["Deer Hunting," pp. 112-13]

Thousands of foreclosures on ordinary working Americans seems like the leading edge of a wave we won't see the top of for months.

Counting-Those-Chickens-Before-They-Hatch Dept.

Today Greensboro blogger Ed Cone points us in the direction of a Doug Clark blog post at the Greensboro News & Record site ... saying that Democratic challenger Daniel Johnson has a surprisingly good shot at unseating Republican incumbent Little Patty McHenry in the NC-10 ... based primarily on Mr. Clark's polling of his Republican-voting mom, who lives in Hickory and who says she's looking for an alternative to McHenry.

A poll of one person works for us, especially when it's Doug Clark's Republican-voting mom in Hickory.

McHenry's also facing a Republican primary challenger, who, like Democrat Johnson, is a service vet, though maybe not the certifiable hero that Johnson is.

That's candidate Johnson pictured above, with 4-year-old Fletcher McCrady on his recent birthday.

The NC-10 is even more Republican than the NC-5, with a long stretch of Republican representation in Congress going back to Jim Broyhill. The Johnson buzz is prelude to a Johnson movement. And if Johnson can start moving, so can Roy Carter in the Fifth against The Madam. Next year could be the annus mirabilis for Democratic resurgence in N.C.

Roy Carter, Live-Blogging at BlueNC at 4 p.m. Today

You'll have to register at the BlueNC site to post a question for the Democratic candidate running to unseat The Madam in the NC-5.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Thanksgiving Story

A doctor of the Hebrew law once stood up and asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:25-37) Jesus answered with the story about a Samaritan, a social group considered heretics by doctors of the law and other pharisees, and in Jesus' story the out-cast Samaritan turned out to be a better neighbor than the holiest men of Israel.

The story of the "good Samaritan" provides a text for this, which happened on Thanksgiving Day in Arizona:

A woman and her 9-year-old son were traveling on a National Forest road in the southern Arizona desert when the woman lost control of the van and it plunged 300 feet into a canyon. The boy survived, got out of the car, but his mother was pinned alive inside. The boy started wandering for help. He found it in the person of Jesus Manuel Cordova, 26, of Magdalena de Kino in the northern Mexican state of Sonora. Cordova had just crossed the Mexican-U.S. border illegally. He comforted the boy, stayed with him through a cold night in the desert, built a fire to keep them warm, and flagged down hunters to get help. In the meantime, the boy's mother had died, but the boy is alive because of Cordova. (Thanks to Nose4News for passing on the link and the suggestion that good Samaritanism is alive among us, with very similar class dynamics at work.)

Cordova was arrested by U.S. border agents. We assume he'll be deported.

He should sell his story to the movies.

A Great American I'm Thankful For

Although we ordinarily deplore impulse-buying, because we hate the relentless promotion of overpriced and useless stuff that we're supposed to be mesmerized into buying, at "Low Low Prices," how were we going to pass up a book titled "Deer Hunting with Jesus"? Turns out ... we couldn't pass it up, and we hit the jackpot for once.

I've read Joe Bageant before, so I knew he writes with a whip-crack style and can make me laugh out loud. He's a self-described "redneck liberal" from the Virginia backcountry and comes from the same cultural strain that birthed me, white trashonomics, where "alcohol, overeating, and Jesus are the preferred avenues of escape." He writes about the real America without pretense, without sentimentality, and without shyness. He pisses in the liberal punchbowl with as much gusto as he hoses the smug Republican rich, so he's an equal opportunity offender. I thank God he's in the world.

The subtitle of his book of essays is "Dispatches from America's Class War," and he has a deep understanding of economic resentments and the massive inequities that have only gotten worse through seven years of El Presidente, partly because white working-class people have invested so heavily in fantasies about "equality" and "opportunity." According to the U.S. Census, at least 35 million American workers can't crack $35,000 a year, and that's with two people working! It's worse than that for some 19 million American workers who are actually below the official poverty line. More than half of them are white. They're the working poor, but they won't let themselves admit it because the myth is that there is no excuse for a white person to be poor in America. No reason but a lack of worthiness. To admit you're a poor white is to admit you're a natural born loser. Better to live the illusion that you're "middle class" and pump up that credit card debt in order to own all the stuff that we're told every relentless hour on TV we MUST own to be fully respectable in George Bush's America.

Joe Bageant:
The middle class, both liberals and conservatives, are utterly dependent on my people, the great throng of the underpaid, undereducated, and overworked. This is not whining, just a simple statement of fact. We are the reason inflation stays low and the private retirement accounts of the middle class have remained stable. Meanwhile, the working class is left entirely dependent on the Social Security program, which eventually will be slashed and privatized by some backdoor method by the ownership class in order to boost (in a wonderfully self-serving loop) the stock market, which serves primarily the upper middle and upper classes. It is easy for conservatives, who were born into the upper quarter and have never needed entitlement programs, to be against them. For liberals born in that quarter, being against them is only slightly harder, morally speaking. You endorse affirmative action at the cocktail party, then bitch afterward about Shaneesa or Marta leaving streaks on the granite countertops when she wiped up the party slops.

Joe Bageant has his own website, where you can both read some of his essays, or reactions from readers of "Deer Hunting with Jesus," and where you can also order his hilarious, sad, true, excoriating account of what it means to be two late payments away from homelessness in America.