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.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Signs of the Times in America

The wages of a Wal-Mart shelf-stocker average around $8-an-hour, which puts many Wal-Mart workers below the poverty line. Deborah Shank of Cape Girardeau, Mo., a Wal-Mart shelf-stocker on the midnight shift from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., escaped the indignity of the poverty line because her husband is also a maintenance worker at the local university. On their two meager salaries, they were raising three sons.

They were until a semi plowed into the driver's side of Deborah's minivan one Saturday morning, leaving her with major brain trauma (among many other injuries). She spent weeks in a local intensive care unit and months in the hospital, drifting in and out of a coma.

As a Wal-Mart worker on the night shift and after months of probation, she had qualified for Wal-Mart health insurance only about three months before the truck hit her van. Recall that Wal-Mart has been increasingly forced by public pressure into extending health-care benefits to some of its employees, since many of them have been forced onto state and federal welfare for lack of insurance.

Overall, Wal-Mart paid out some $470,000 over several years for Deborah Shank's medical care. She's now in a nursing home, requiring round-the-clock attention. She cannot eat without help. She can barely talk. Her life is shattered. But the pain is only just beginning for the family. Wal-Mart has seen to that.

The largest company in the world found out that its lowly former shelf-stocker Deborah Shank of Cape Girardeau, Mo., and her husband had successfully sued the trucking company that owned the truck that flattened Deborah's minivan. For his losses, Mr. Shank collected $200,000. Deborah got $700,000. Well, not actually. The lawyers took a good chunk. Mr. Shank actually wound up with $119,000, and Deborah, $417,477.

Mr. Shank used his money to buy the family a one-story home fitted with wheelchair ramps and wider doors. Deborah's award was placed in a court-created special trust designed specifically for Deborah's future care. Which means the Shank family did not get that money but that it could be drawn on for Deborah's direct medical expenses.

According to a little-noticed clause in the Wal-Mart health insurance agreement that employees are required to sign, the company can demand reimbursement of insurance expenses if the employee wins any lawsuits for damages. And that's exactly what the richest corporation on the face of the earth did to the Shanks ... demanded they reimburse Wal-Mart for $470,000. In fact, Wal-Mart sued the Shanks for the money. If you find that a perfectly reasonable thing for the company to do, then you worship a slightly different version of the American dream than I do. And you're unusually qualified to be a federal judge in George Bush's America.

Ah, Land of the Free in the age of the corporations! Several federal judges sided with the company against the Shanks, ruling in effect that the Shanks were unfairly burdening the hugest merchandiser in the history of the universe with its nuisance brain trauma and nursing home whining. Mr. Shank has had to get rid of the extra-care nurse he had hired for his wife, since he has to work all the hours he can as a janitor to hold the shattered family together.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration took the Shank's middle son and exposed him to death in Iraq, from which he promptly died. Deborah Shank still does not know exactly what became of her baby boy. And Mr. Shank, in a last-ditch desperate attempt to help his wife with medical expenses, put her in a nursing home and then divorced her, not because he didn't love her but because he loved her enough to get around government rules about who qualifies for medical-care crumbs. The federal government is kinder to a single woman on life support than to a married woman on life support whose poor husband is a minimum-wage broom jockey.

These details, and many others, are found in the Wall Street Journal report on this now infamous case (and thanks to Craig for bringing it to our attention).

It's beyond me why you're still shopping at Wal-Mart. There are far greater costs than you recognize for cheap cat food and high-calorie snacks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Brother James Brings It

We're directed by Revolution in Jesusland to the Book of James, Chapter 5, for a small dose of New Testament class warfare:
1 Look here, you rich people, weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. 2 Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. 3 Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh in hell. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment. 4 For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every whim. Now your hearts are nice and fat, ready for the slaughter. 6 You have condemned and killed good people who had no power to defend themselves against you. [New Living Translation]

This is bracing scripture and a kind of antidote for the orgy of consumerism we're commanded into starting this Friday ... go forth and buy buy buy! No less than our president has told us that our patriotism shall be measured by our conspicuous consumption.

Can you read these admonitions of James without conflating his "rich people" with our rich, acquisitive nation? And does it salve your conscience to think, "That has nothing to do with us"?

Tuesday Morning Wow Factor

1. Ted Turner ... feminist!

The CNN founder was on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill yesterday and said, "Men have been running the world for the last, God knows, how many thousands of years, and we've really, kind of, I think, screwed it up."

2. Barbara Kingsolver will give the commencement address at Duke University in May. Who is Barbara Kingsolver, you ask. Only the best writer ever to come out of Kentucky ... is all.

3. Cumberland County school officials have decided that maybe it isn't such a great idea to let outside groups come in and throw Bibles at students.

4. Colleges and universities are exploiting part-time teachers to get their classes staffed. Paid a pittance and given few if any benefits (like health insurance), part-timers or "adjunct faculty" are now almost 70 percent of the teaching corps across the country, which means they're teaching a majority of college courses for a fraction of the salary earned by tenured faculty.

You guys need to look into unionizing.

Big Cookies

Yesterday the Appalachian State University Trustees and top administrators help an elaborate public forum about their proposed College of Education at the corner of Howard and College streets. The building they showed us and touted was the exact same one we’ve all seen now for months.

Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Greg Lovins went through the multitude of sites that ASU says it considered for the College of Education. Each possible other site was thrown up on a big screen with “Pros” and “Cons” delineated side by side. Naturally, the Cons always out-weighed the Pros for every other site. Then he got to the Howard & College street corner, where the Pros were stacked up high and the Cons, very few. This presentation seemed like special pleading, as in, “Gosh, since I don’t want to do x, y or z, I can think of many good reasons not to.” Nonetheless, Board of Trustees Chair Jim Deal admitted that the building was indeed “massive” and that there would be serious traffic impacts associated with it (neither of which made Mr. Lovins’ list of Cons).

The lopsided and carefully massaged run-down of why the building couldn’t go anywhere else but on that corner was in fact called out as special pleading by a member of the audience, a decades-long veteran of the Boone Area Planning Commission, who scolded the university for its willful failure to plan in cooperation with the town. She said that if that huge building is simply plopped on that site, without long-range and cooperative planning with the town for the future of Howard Street and for traffic impacts, not to mention storm-water mitigation and other issues, the Town of Boone would be forced to deal for decades with the failure to plan. She reminded all present that years ago the university had in fact promised the Town it would leave Howard Street as a through street and then without consulting the town put a parking deck across it.

What went unsaid was ASU’s need to justify the spending of $5 1/2 million for less than an acre of land, which would appear to be the main driving force behind locating that building on that site, though that financial consideration also didn’t qualify for Mr. Lovins’ chart of Pros and Cons.

Insofar as ASU set up this public meeting, when it has never felt compelled to explain its actions to the Boone community before, and put out a sizable platter of very large cookies for the taking, may in itself be a sign of a new post-election willingness to cooperate (or at least to boost our calorie intake). There was an admission that, yes, the university would be submitting plans for approval to the town (significant in itself, since through all the debate there has never been a formal submission of development plans to the TOB) and that “some modifications” might be made to the proposed building to bring it “more into compliance” with town regulations (though all the displays set up on easels and flashed on the big screen were of the original plan, without modifications).

Everyone wonders what “some modifications” might mean: a building that can actually meet zoning requirements? Or essentially the same building with a few tweaks meant to create the impression of compromise while continuing to violate the long-range planning requirements that the town has in force?

Monday, November 19, 2007

John Locke Foundation Floated by Big Oil Money

Facing South has investigated fossil fuel industry money flowing to the John Locke Foundation, and the foundation's purely coincidental interest in debunking everything to do with global warming.

They also don't like "smart-growth" urban policy nor the "green" Christian movement.

Drink more oil, saith the John Locke Foundation, and you'll feel better.

The Battle Is on in Virginia

Ex-governor Mark Warner vs. ex-governor Jim Gilmore, running to replace the retiring Senator John Warner.

Mark Warner announced he would run months ago. Gilmore waited until this morning.

Mark Warner and Jim Gilmore apparently don't like each other and don't bother concealing that fact. Warner succeeded Gilmore in the governorship and had to clean up a large budget shortfall Gilmore left him. Warner left office in 2007 with a popularity rating in the high 70s. Gilmore is a scrappy conservative who did things like intervene in a death-with-dignity case similar to the Terri Schiavo tragedy. After leaving the governorship, Gilmore served a term as chair of the National Republican Committee, and for a time last year he said he wanted to be president of the United States. When he dropped out of that race, nobody noticed. (Larry Sabato, University of Virginia political science prof, said Gilmore's fake run for the presidency may have been an elaborate ploy to boost his profile for the Senate run he's now embarked on.)

A recent Washington Post poll has Mark Warner beating Gilmore by 30 percentage points. Which means, naturally, that Gilmore will go negative almost immediately. But Warner ain't no de-clawed pussycat. Plus he has the money to fight back.

We in North Carolina will have a ringside seat on the battle.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Reform North Carolina Property Tax Law

A new-home subdivision in your rural neighborhood may not directly impact your quality of life, but long-term, the ripples of high-$$ development may end up driving you off your patch of mountain land. Why? Property taxes.

The notorious and inevitable "re-vals" that come now every four years in Watauga County and are mandated by state law to come at least every eight years across the state can penalize YOU for high-dollar developments on your neighbors' property. The incredible prices commanded for lots and homes in Laurelmor, for example, are driving up everyone's property valuation, which in turn drives up everyone's tax bills, which in turn makes it more likely that more mountain landowners -- some of them inheritors of generations' worth of family history on the land -- will be forced to sell out to more and more Laurelmors.

We hear about property tax laws in other states that do not permit revals of property as long as the land remains unsold. Selling the property triggers the reval. Imagine that! Sitting on a piece of your family's history and not suffering from the escalation of property taxes around you, simply because you refuse to sell! On the face of it, such laws would seem to discourage the loss of agricultural land and the sprawl of urban development.

In North Carolina, one significant step toward reforming at least some property tax law was taken in the state House in 2007: HB1889, which goes under the title of a wildlife conservation bill. The N.C. House passed it 93-22. The N.C. Senate won't take it up until the short session in 2008.

HB1889 would reform some property tax incentives to encourage conservation of land. Presently, a landowner involved in commercial logging or other commercial agriculture gets a lower tax rate than a landowner who wants to actively manage his/her forests and open farmland for wildlife conservation or water quality.

HB1889 would be a valuable reform. But something more sweeping needs to be done to reform N.C.'s antiquated property tax system that unfairly burdens traditional landowners and penalizes them disproportionately for the fortunes the big developers are raking in.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Army Desertion Rate Highest in 27 Years

The AP is reporting that U.S. soldiers are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980.

There's been an 80 percent increase in desertions since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Some 4,698 soldiers have deserted this year, compared to 3,301 last year.

From the AP report:
The increase [in desertions] comes as the Army continues to bear the brunt of the war demands with many soldiers serving repeated, lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military leaders -- including Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey -- have acknowledged that the Army has been stretched nearly to the breaking point by the combat. And efforts are under way to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps to lessen the burden and give troops more time off between deployments.

This news lands on our doorstep in the context of a presentation we heard by a young Marine and Iraq War vet this week. He has started "Bake Sales for Body Armor," a grassroots operation to raise independent money to equip soldiers in the Iraqi theater with hardened body armor, something our own military and government continue to fail to do. On the website linked above, this depressing statistic: "...a Department of Defense Study ... showed that 74 out of 93 Marines killed between March 2003 and June 2005 could have been saved by side protecting body armor that was not being provided for our troops."

For all the money we've spent and continue to spend over there, our leaders can't seem to do the simplest things to protect soldiers on patrol from IEDs. Hence homegrown and underfunded efforts like "Bake Sales for Body Armor."

Maybe Madam Foxx would like to buy some brownies, in between her photo ops with veterans.

She Chokes on the Little Ones

Madam Virginia Foxx ... what a fine example of getting your legislative priorities straight!

She approves of every billion spent in Iraq -- what are we up to now? $196 BILLION? -- but she gets all self-righteously tight-fisted about pittances going to improve Head Start for pre-schoolers. She was one of only 36 House members to vote against HR1090.

The Madam couldn't STAND the thought of S-CHIP extending health insurance to several thousand of her poorer constituents, and voted against federal money for improving water-supply infrastructure in her own district.

But she'll happily stuff untold billions down a foreign rat-hole to avoid admitting that her beloved El Presidente made a colossal mistake.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Katrina Abuse Doesn't Stop

It's now being called "the worst environmental disaster in the United States since the Exxon Valdez accident." That would be Hurricane Katrina with a little Hurricane Rita thrown in, but we're not talking destroyed housing and ruined cities.

This morning's WashPost reports that "satellite imaging has revealed that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita produced the largest single forestry disaster on record in America -- an essentially unreported ecological catastrophe that killed or severely damaged some 320 million trees in Mississippi and Louisiana."

It's not just the lost board-feet. Here's the best (worst) part: "The die-off ... was so massive that researchers say it will add significantly to the greenhouse gas buildup -- ultimately putting as much carbon from dying vegetation into the air as the rest of the American forest takes out in a year of photosynthesis."

Another kicker: the death of millions of native American tree species is allowing the opportunistic advancement of alien species, like Chinese Tallow tree, "an ornamental plant imported for landscaping more than a century ago .... [which] produces a milky, toxic sap that keeps insects away" (not a good thing, incidentally).

The Religious Right Gets Unpredictable

Rev. Ted Haggard, founder of the 10,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., never hesitated to tell his flock of his close association with the Bush administration. But after Haggard was forced out of that pastorship because of his relationship with a male prostitute, his replacement, Rev. Brady Boyd, has a very different attitude toward overt political involvement: he steers clear.

Boyd is the poster child for the current divisions in the evangelical community about which (Republican) candidate to support for the presidency ... and the main subject of this very interesting article in the LATimes today. the three years since [2004, when nearly 9 in 10 evangelical Christians supported George W. Bush's reelection], many Christian conservatives have expressed a growing unease about the entanglement of politics and pulpit. Among young evangelical adults, nearly half say involvement in politics is problematic....

Some of that disillusionment comes from disappointment with Bush's policies, including the war in Iraq. But there's also shame at the often-bombastic, sharply partisan rhetoric of the traditional standard-bearers for conservative Christian values....

One-third of evangelicals under 30 told [an interviewer] that they were embarrassed to call themselves believers.

"They're tired of the hard-edged politics that the Christian right has practiced in the last couple of generations," said John C. Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. "They see all this division, all this anger, without a lot to show for it."

Florida pastor Troy Gramling says he would never consider telling his congregation of 14,000 how he planned to vote: "That would be putting pressure on them to agree with me, and I don't feel I have a right to do that. God doesn't call me and tell me who's his favorite."

Wow. 'Pears we've moved a little left of Pat Robertson, who's recently had an amazing revelation from The Big Guy that Rudy Giuliani is the right pick, despite Rudy's flagrant mastication of everything Rev. Robertson considered holy about 30 minutes ago.

With Jerry Falwell gone from the scene, with Pat Robertson impersonating Gyro Gearloose, and with pastors like Brady Boyd and Troy Gramling admitting they'd be crazy (not to mention un-Christian) to get involved in partisan political gamesmanship, maybe we really are moving beyond a Republican Party dominated by religious dictators.

That is, if El Presidente doesn't take us all to be with the Lord before the last tick-tock of his regime.

N.C. Gap-tists

The North Carolina State Baptist Convention has not only shed itself of Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte (for being nice to gays). It's also severing its ties to its last five Baptist colleges, its Baptist retirement homes, and the Women's Missionary Union. Has something to do with power politics and "Bible literalism." (Apparently, there might be some Baptists who find a good deal of metaphor in the Bible. Metaphor WILL NOT be tolerated.)

Anyway, here's a nugget buried in Yonat Shimron's article in today's N&O:
Many of the changes happened as the leadership of the [state Southern Baptist] organization became increasingly dominated by biblical literalists. The ideological divisions were exacerbated two years ago when several Baptists were denied positions as trustees at two of the convention's institutions. The nominees were rejected because the churches to which they belonged contributed money to a liberal Baptist group that supports same-sex marriages.

We've seen some of this strong-arming OUT of dissidents in local churches, and of course, we've always felt that 100 percent unanimity of opinion in any public group is always a sign of good emotional and intellectual health.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Baptists Cast Out Demons

North Carolina Southern Baptists are expected to "cast out" Myers Park Baptist Church tomorrow morning at their convention in Greensboro ... cast them out because they're nice to gays, a big no-no among Southern Baptists these days, who have evidently gotten rattled by reactionary politics on the way to proving how godly they are.

Oddest part of this saga is that the Myers Park church has itself asked the state convention for this casting out, evidently so a lesbian deacon and the gay-friendly head pastor can make speeches. Likely story! We know the real reason they want to be cast out is so they can practice homosexual "bonding" on the altar and turn all the little children into screaming queens.

The N.C. Baptists will protect us.

The Wages of Fear

Saw the most amazing movie this weekend, "Children of Men," based on a P.D. James novel and directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Get yourself down to Fat Cats and rent the DVD.

Cuaron directed a bunch of Spanish-language stuff in his native Mexico, including "Y Tu Mama Tambien," his break-through 2001 movie, and then the Harry Potter chapter, "The Prisoner of Azkaban" in 2004. But nothing of his I've seen prepared me for the raw power of his visual style in "Children of Men." A battle scene near the end rivals Spielberg's opening sequences in "Saving Private Ryan" for kinetic violence and dread, and one amazing single shot of a car chase runs for something like 12 unbroken minutes. I've never seen anything as exciting that didn't rely on computer-generated imagery.

"Children of Men" is a futuristic action movie without an action hero. Star Clive Owen never picks up a gun and makes it very clear he wouldn't know what to do with one if he had it. He's just an ordinary working schlub, a bit of a drunk, an avoider of responsibility.

He's got every reason to drink and avoid. The world's gone to hell. It's 2027, and women world-wide have become infertile. Although there are plenty of suspected culprits for this devastating sterility -- toxins in the environment, scientific experiments run amuck -- no one knows why. With no live births for 18 years, western civilization is simply winding down. Everything has the look of a city undergoing a decades-long garbage strike. The machinery of advanced capitalism has grown rusty and decrepit.

But for all the decay of impending doom -- one piece of graffiti starkly proclaims, "Last one to die please turn out the lights" -- the military state of England, where the story is set, has grown new authoritarian muscle. All government now seems fueled by one emotion only -- fear, particularly the fear of alien immigrants (and although the setting is England, there's plenty here to remind us of the present state of the U.S.A. in the grip of the Patriot Act, haunted by Abu Ghraib, and obsessed with dark-skinned interlopers in our midst).

In "Children of Men," alien refugees are being brutally rounded up and imprisoned in over-crowded and appalling camps. It's one possible future and the logical conclusion that xenophobic fear produces.

Our unlikely non gun-wielding hero comes to be the guardian and protector of the hope of mankind, a newly pregnant woman, who for irony's sake and in the face of all the surrounding racial fear, is black. The delivery of her baby, and then the delivery of her and her baby from the middle of a pitched urban battle, offer a moving form of redemption in what is otherwise a bleak glimpse of a future that seems all too possible and all too close.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Democrat Is the One Out Meeting the People

Daniel Johnson, Democratic candidate running to face little Patty McHenry next door in the NC-10, is making a whirlwind tour today of all 10 counties in Dist. 10.

He da man.

Johnson said in a statement, "My decision to run for Congress is a continuation of my service to America and the people of North Carolina. As Veteran's Day approaches, I am going to every county in the district to show the kind of bold leadership and bipartisan solutions I hope to bring to Congress."

Where Would Jesus Vacation?

Nice wheels, Reverend Roberts!

Gucci, Gucci coo!

Meanwhile, blessed are the poor in spirit.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Queen of Mean Strikes Again

This week the U.S. House of Representatives voted to override El Presidente's veto of a $23 billion water resources and conservation bill that would provide more than $70 million for water-resource and conservation projects in Forsyth, Yadkin, and Wilkes counties, parts of the 5th district that have suffered under the current drought in North Carolina. Madam Virginia Foxx was one of only 54 members of the U.S. House to vote against the override.

We'll be watching for the Madam to claim credit for the money anyway, when it starts flowing into those counties in her district.

Foxx's Democratic challenger Roy Carter issued a statement about Foxx's vote, which said in part:
"This is the second time that my opponent has hung our farmers out to dry (Virginia Foxx refused to sign a letter to help North Carolina farmers get federal disaster assistance, the Winston-Salem Journal reported). Voting against giving aid to American citizens in need in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina was truly shocking, and my opponent continues to impose her callous philosophy on the people of our own district. It appears that she will go to any length to support President Bush, even when it hurts the good people of Northwest North Carolina."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Praise for Forward-Thinking County Commissioners

Don't want to lose sight of a big piece of news from Monday's Watauga County Commission meeting. The commissioners agreed that the new county high school will be "LEED certified," meaning that it will be constructed to meet stringent requirements for energy efficiency and sustainable practices. (LEED stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.")

According to the Watauga Democrat, this new facility "could be the first high school facility in the state that is certified as 'green.' " That's a distinction we can all be proud of.

Our thanks to the County Commission for the vision to proceed, especially to Mary Moretz for her influence in advocating for the certification. It's going to cost more money on the front-end, to be sure, with savings on the back-end to make it all worthwhile.

More on the Election

"Growth-minded candidates" mainly lost in Washington, N.C. ("Little Washington"). A group wanting to preserve the downtown, green space, and the waterfront, was unofficially dubbed "the green team" and pretty much won everything. "I think [the citizens] want growth. I think that want the growth to be controlled and strategic," said one of the green team winners. "I don't think they want developers driving the deal. They want the city to have a plan."

Managing explosive growth also appeared to be THE big issue in Jacksonville, where a new mayor swept in and three incumbent council members were swept out.

State-Wide Trends? The Faster the Growth, the Harder the Brakes

In the election results from municipalities around the state yesterday, every one of you can probably find something to flatter your own biases. Below is a brief and quick grabbing up of some examples. Although slow-growth or "smart-growth" was the winning issue in many towns, that trend was far from unanimous.

Footnote on the influence of big money in municipal elections: Lots of dough didn't sway voters in Chapel Hill nor in Boone but apparently did in Pittsboro (# 10 below) and most certainly did in Asheville (# 8 below). Go figure.

1. The Wake Forest town board had been voting 3-2 in favor of controversial large developments, but yesterday all three of those pro-growth incumbents were kicked out, replaced by people "who promised to slow the town's rapid development."

2. "Holly Springs residents voted to keep a watchful eye on growth in their booming town."

3. "The commissioners on Rolesville's Town Board have been advocates for growth, but on very specific terms. As farms turn into subdivisions, most votes for new development are unanimous after commissioners hash out plans at meetings. Candidates for the race, in which there were no incumbents running, have not deviated far from the controlled growth stance the current board has advocated."

4. Managed growth carried the election in Waynesville.

5. Apex's controlled-growth mayor & council members ran unopposed.

6. Smart-growth was the winning issue in Sylva.

7. Controlling growth was the driving issue that won incumbents reelection in Morrisville.

8. Asheville progressives took a hit yesterday. The lone Republican in the race beat a Democratic incumbent who had been a prime mover behind the town's steep-slope development ordinance.

9. In Knightdale, grassroots opposition to the placement of a Wal-Mart Supercenter was not enough to defeat pro-growth incumbents.

10. In Pittsboro, a slate backed by the planned-growth organization Pittsboro Together was defeated wholesale "by a sleazy campaign" led by the anti land transfer tax crowd. The slow-growth mayor was retained in a three-way race. Because of this unusual situation, the incumbent mayor was reelected even though more people voted against him than for him. He's got a rough two years ahead of him.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Boone Run-Off Election Results

Final tallies, including early one-stop & absentee voting:

Aycock 924
Wilcox 808

We should point out, since we're bound to hear screaming in approximately three minutes about the student vote, that Liz Aycock was leading Dempsey Wilcox 749-688 BEFORE the two student precincts (Boone 2 & 3) were counted.

Right now, on, this significant opinion: "Forrest Gilliam, a prominent Republican on campus, also thinks students should make their voices heard."

We don't know yet how many provisional ballots may be in play, but we doubt they could possibly be numerous enough to change this outcome.

Meanwhile, In Kentucky...

They're voting on governor in Kentucky today, and all indications point to a turn-over from Republican to Democrat. Gov. Ernie Fletcher is the Repub incumbent, and as of yesterday a poll had the Democrat, Steve Beshear, ahead of Fletcher by 20 points.

The Fletcher camp was desperate enough to try a very nasty dirty trick in the closing hours of the campaign: voters got an anonymous automated phone call from someone claiming to speak for gays and announcing that "the homosexual lobby" was proud to endorse Steve Beshear.

But just to cover all bases, Fletcher also brought the Ten Commandments into the state capitol rotunda yesterday, just to remind everyone that he's on God's side.

Fine man, that Ernie Fletcher. We trust he'll have time to reflect on his own character in retirement.

Boone's In the Mainstream

As we've been pointing out from time to time over the last several weeks, unregulated growth is THE issue in municipal elections all across N.C. Latest clipping in that vein ... from this a.m.'s N&O.

The face-off between "big development" and "controlled growth" advocates in Boone is no anomaly. It's wholly representative of what's uppermost on voters' minds across much of this state.

We'll do our best to gather up results from other locales tomorrow.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Damn Socialist Tykes!

A male supporter of Madam Foxx in Winston-Salem, who's apparently some sort of freak of nature 'cause he's got three thumbs, writes in today's W-S Journal that Foxx deserves high praise for voting against SCHIP, thus stemming the tide against "socialism." If you start off letting poor tots think they're entitled to medical care in this country, well then, you're just letting the terrorists win.

'Cause, you know, poor children are like stray dogs. If you feed 'em, they'll just hang around, and pretty soon you'll have fleas in your carpet.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Developers Play Defense in Asheville City Elections

At least a third of some $135,000 raised in this Asheville city council election cycle came from developers, real estate brokers, builders, and their allies. That pro-growth money has gone overwhelmingly to two challengers and one incumbent. Need we mention that in the last year the Asheville city council passed new ordinances governing development on steep slopes?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Congressman McHenry Attracts a Likely Primary Challenger

Whatever else little Patty McHenry from the NC-10 is doing in Congress, he's NOT damping down potential challengers. First we get a credible Navy hero and Democrat running against him (Daniel Johnson), and now a retired Air Force JAG officer says he'll probably run against McHenry in the Republican primary (Lance Sigmon).

And seems like there's an independent candidate out there too who finds McHenry distasteful.

Interesting development that the little man handpicked by Republican leaders in Congress to be their new favorite attack dog (after the downfall of Tom DeLay) would inspire so much passion to oust him.

Drama Queen has more on Lance Sigmon at Pat Go Bye-Bye.

Asheville at Center of Climate Change Research

The presence of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville will increasingly make our mountains a significant player in adapting to and dealing with global climate change.

For example, this coming Monday & Tuesday some of the heavy hitters in scientific research into global warming will be in Asheville for a conference hosted by the Data Center. Asheville is also home to 10 of the scientists awarded a Nobel Prize for their work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (some 2,000 total scientists worked with the panel and shared the prize).

The North Carolina Arboretum just outside Asheville has a new climate monitoring station, the first such installation in a national network that will chart long-term trends.

And a new communitywide group that calls itself the Hub Alliance wants to promote a new economy for Buncombe County, building on existing strengths in technology, creativity, health care and other sectors. It plans on accomplishing this not by denying the reality of climate change but by studying it as closely as possible for new models of sustainable economic development.

Ole hippy Asheville ... on the cutting edge.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Texas Baptists Get (Further) Off the Reservation

The Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), the largest state organization of Baptists in the country, has elected a woman as its president, a first in Southern Baptist history. The BGCT has long been at some odds with the Southern Baptist Convention (headquartered in Nashville), which adopted the doctrinal position that women should not serve in pastoral roles and should "graciously submit to their husbands." The Southern Baptist Convention's statement of faith says that the pastorate is reserved for men.

In defiance, Texas is among the top three states with the highest number of women pastors and co-pastors. Surprised?

I've told this before: I grew up in Texas with woman preachers, though I was not a Baptist at that time. I went to a Texas Baptist college, and well, you know, peer pressure!

For its heresy, the BGCT has seen defections of some congregations into a new convention calling itself Southern Baptists of Texas, which considers the BGCT a bunch of flaming liberals. For more on that, check out the third comment on this Christianity Today thread.

Barak Obama, in Durham Yesterday

Thursday, November 01, 2007

When She's Not Fawnin' She's Yawnin'

Hey, did you know that Virginia Foxx made "The Moment of Zen" on Tuesday night's "Daily Show." You did? We missed it because at that precise moment, both our dogs discovered they had an appointment with a rabbit in the backyard. You can probably watch it here.

Reports from them what did watch it ... The Madam made quite a spectacle out of her femme-crush on Condoleezza Rice. Shades of her smooching lunge after The Decider following his State of the Union address last January. This congresswoman obviously has the chops for GREAT satiric YouTube moments!

Meanwhile, back at her day job, Madam Foxx voted against job retraining legislation that passed the House 264-157 (even Patty McHenry voted for it!). Opined the Madam, affecting her best Marie Antoinette impression, "Just like everything Democrats have done in this session, they are creating one more expensive program after another. They're really trying to get back to a welfare state."

According to the W-S Journal, "More than 56,000 North Carolinians have taken advantage of the [retraining] benefits since 2002. This year about 13,000 North Carolinians will participate." None of them in Madam Foxx's 5th Dist., we're sure.

"May Have Been a Technology Glitch"

Dick Sloop in Wilkes County wanted to ask Madam Foxx whether water-boarding is torture, but he was cut off before he got a chance.

Kathleen McFadden in today's High Country Press covers allegations that Congresswoman Virginia Foxx's call-in show was suspiciously skewed to her supporters (be sure to read all the way to the bottom).

Our favorite quote:
"We were not doing anything like [call filtering]. I know I can speak for the Congresswoman by saying she would hate for people to think that she didn't want to hear from them."
--Aaron Groen, press secretary to The Madam

She would hate for people to think.

If you'd seen her turn her back on the audience in her infamous "listening tour" stop in Boone way back in 2006, the last time we're aware of that she presented herself locally for questions before a live audience, you wouldn't just think she can't stand hearing contrary opinions.

Undergraduate Crapola

BMOC Forrest Gilliam, president of the Appalachian State University Student Government Association and point-man on campus for the Templeton Gang during these Boone Town Council elections, has sent out an e-mail trying to propagandize ASU students into saving Dempsey Wilcox's seat in this current run-off election. Here's what Gilliam sent out:
Dear Friends,

The Boone election that was held on October 9 was so close that there is a runoff for the last spot on the Town Council. Dempsey Wilcox, who has supported ASU and its students for 12 years on the council, finished only four votes behind Liz Aycock, who has aligned herself with the people who have done everything in their power over the past six years to limit student housing, limit university construction, and discriminate against students who live in neighborhoods. Obviously, the vote the first time was close, and this one will be just as close. I need each of you to go vote this week for Dempsey Wilcox.

If Liz Aycock is elected there will only be two votes on the Town Council in December to approve the new College of Education. If Dempsey is elected there will be a majority for the College of Education. I hate to simplify things but you need to realize that if Aycock wins there will be no College of Education building on Howard Street, and the alternative sites are East Hall, Duck Pond Field, and Raley Lot. We can't afford to wait longer on a new building and we can't afford to destroy buildings and land that are important to students just because some folks on the Town Council are mad at Chancellor Peacock.

There is currently a shortage of student housing in Boone. This shortage is a result of the moratorium on multi-unit housing that was passed a few years ago (Dempsey Wilcox was the only member to vote against it). During the year plus of the moratorium, Boone continued to grow and students continued to enroll. Since the moratorium expired the majority on the council has turned down several proposals for apartment construction. Enrollment has caught up with the number of available beds in Boone, and the majority on the Town Council doesn't seem to care. A lack of available water has been consistenly used by the majority as justification for their denial of projects, yet just this month there was a proposal for an addition of 144 beds at Mountaineer Village. The developers were going to provide their own water, but the Council voted three to two to deny the project. Had Liz Aycock been on Council instead of Dempsey Wilcox, the vote would have been 4-1. If the vote takes place after Stephen Phillips takes office in December and Dempsey Wilcox is elected, the vote would be 3-2 in favor of the project. If Dempsey Wilcox is not elected, the housing shortage will only get worse....

A few observations on this fine piece of propaganda:

1. Gilliam follows the first rule of political manipulation: Find a bogeyman. Or several. "Liz Aycock ... has aligned herself with the people who have done everything in their power over the past six years to limit student housing, limit university construction, and discriminate against students who live in neighborhoods."

Let's get simplistic about it ... those "people" Gilliam wants ASU students to rise up and smite are ... discriminators! They hate students, pure and simple, and will do anything to hurt them.

Dude, what unadulterated crap is this?

2. Second Rule of Political Manipulation: Create multiple victims. In this case, it's not just students. It's also ... Chancellor Peacock. Quoth Gilliam, "some folks on the Town Council are mad at Chancellor Peacock." Apparently for no good reason. That's Gilliam's insinuation, never mind the recent history of university arrogance, rule-breaking, and failure to cooperate in dealing with the host Town of Boone.

In the Gilliam version of history, "some folks" in the Town of Boone have exercised a motiveless malice against a blameless victim.

3. The smearing of Liz Aycock (her guilt by association with "some folks") for the sake of swaying an election in favor of a 12-year incumbent whose main recent contribution to the discussion is to urge the faster expenditure of our water reserves ... is just gross.

4. Suddenly with this Gilliam e-mail, we have mixed messages thrown at student voters. What had been "Vote for Change" now becomes "Vote for the Most Entrenched," revealing what was in fact the true motive behind "Citizens for Change" all along: "We Want to Go Backward." This is not the only trope in Gilliam's e-mail that insults the intelligence of ASU students.

5. Mysterious arithmetic: According to Gilliam's e-mail, the reelection of Mr. Wilcox will ensure a majority of three on Town Council to overturn zoning law to allow the College of Education on the Howard Street property, where it can compete with the top of the Baptist Church steeple for domination of the neighborhood. Let's see ... Mr. Phillips, already elected, would be one vote. Mr. Wilcox, if reelected, would be the second. Who's the third? Mr. Gilliam doesn't say, but he's awfully smug about it.

6. Gilliam claims that there's a shortage of student-oriented housing in Boone, and said shortage has nothing to do with market forces and water supplies but with those "folks" who hate students. Meanwhile, we can't help noticing that ASU gets a total pass on providing dorms for its own customers.

7. We appreciate the odor of desperation. Citizens for Change has already lost the election. The unprecedented hordes of voters in October made sure that Boone kept a progressive council, no matter what happens to the third seat in this run-off. If Wilcox loses, someone is bound to notice that the biggest accomplishment of Citizens for Change and their expenditure of multiple tens of thousands of $$ was the loss of their one dependable vote on Town Council. Gilliam has worked hard since way back last summer to massage the ASU campus toward the Citizens for Change personalities and their agenda. He's been grooming his bogeyman ("those folks") as well as his imaginary victims. He did his best on October 9th, and it didn't work. He became the subject of an editorial in the new student newspaper, "The Magpie" (not yet on-line), which criticized him for trying to bully the student body into doing his bidding. Clearly, Gilliam hasn't slowed down. We'll see if he's any more successful this time at stampeding students than he was back in October.

8. Some students, at least, really do have a clue about the larger forces at work here, and they look to the future beyond the sort of narrow self-interest that Gilliam seeks to stir up in his e-mail message.

Another North Carolina Town Grapples with Rapid Growth

Town of Wake Forest. Next Tuesday's town government election will decide between "slow growth" and "no holds barred," somewhat like the situation in a lot of other N.C. municipalities. The N&O has a useful profile this a.m. of the two contending sides.