Sunday, November 30, 2008

GOP Consensus? 'Take Down the Big Tent'

The Republican Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, oft-mentioned these days as a potential new leader of the disgraced GOP, opines about the future of his party at and not only agrees with other leaders who are calling for MORE conservatism but also ups the ante slightly by dissing El Presidente's "compassionate conservatism" as mere window-dressing that didn't fool anybody and by actually calling for a purge of moderate or "fake conservative" elements in the party. He doesn't name names, naturally, but we wonder who he's talking about. Could it be Sen. John McCain who needs ousting? Maybe the two Maine senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, whose "moderation" famously led them to vote against the conviction of Pres. Bill Clinton in his impeachment.

If it would be of any help to Gov. Sanford and his fellow travelers, we would be glad to begin work on a short list of prominent Republicans who look suspiciously non-doctrinaire, "persons of interest" whose very presence in the GOP is simply (probably) holding everybody back.

We'll also be glad to hold the governor's coat while he leads the ritual stoning.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Erskine Bowles Wants to Block "Hate Speech"

Following the spray-painting on the NC State University campus of the n-word and the recommendation that President-Elect Obama should be shot in the head, UNC system Chancellor Erskine Bowles has appointed a commission to look into banning "hate speech" from all constituent institutions.

That's a bad idea.

If the student prank at NC State constitutes an actual threat of violence under federal law, let it be prosecuted. Actual threats, in light of this nation's recent history of political assassinations, have to be taken seriously. But to attempt to control every stupid thing that an undergraduate might say -- or spray paint -- in the heat of self-importance, we'll soon discover an inexhaustible supply of stupid things said by self-important undergraduates.

It would also be a suppression of free speech not supported by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Not a road we should be going down, when mere exposure to public opinion often renders the most effective punishment to hormonally imbalanced teenagers with an insatiable need to strut.

The Last Crusading Newspaperman?

I met "The Mountain Eagle" owner/publisher Tom Gish and his wife Pat several times, but I didn't really know them personally. Oh I KNEW them, but mainly from the pages of their crusading weekly paper published in Whitesburg, Kentucky. That newspaper had a huge following across all of Appalachia and nationally because it was at the epicenter of so much political ferment in our region, particularly the rising chorus against the national disgrace of strip mining. We returned from our Thanksgiving road trip to discover belatedly that Tom Gish died a little over a week ago in Pikesville. He was 82.

When Tom and Pat bought "The Mountain Eagle" in 1956, the motto on its masthead read "A Friendly Non-Partisan Weekly Newspaper Published Every Thursday." The Gishes changed the motto to "It Screams" and began actually covering the news, like what the elected officials were up to. Apparently, no newspaper reporter had ever attended meetings of the Letcher County Fiscal Court, the approximate equivalent of our County Commission. Those meetings turned out to be secret conclaves of good ole boys who took payoffs from the coal industry, and the Gishes began exposing the corruption. The local Fiscal Court promptly passed a resolution banning "The Mountain Eagle" from its meetings. "The Eagle" went anyway, and in the face of death threats helped push through the first open meetings law in Kentucky history.

The Gishes also investigated the local Whitesburg police force on accusations that they were harassing and even physically abusing teenagers. One result of that investigation was that a police officer paid arsonists to throw a kerosene firebomb through a window at the newspaper, destroying the building. A week later the Gishes published the paper from their front porch with the motto changed to "It Still Screams." Tom Gish said he later learned that coal company money was behind the crime.

Both Tom and Pat were absolutely fearless and determined to tell the truth no matter the cost. They were the enemies of "business as usual," which meant the rule of "a handful of very powerful interests who want to control every single thing in the county, no disagreements, no opposition, no hints of dissent to be tolerated — the old way of doing things — fire the coal miner who wants a union, don't re-hire the teacher who disagrees, take away the food stamps, the free medications, the welfare checks of anyone who dares express a thought of his own," as the Gishes would later characterize what they were up against.

In recent years they supported the political insurgency of reformer Carroll Smith (a Republican, incidentally) who ran for and won the office of Chief Judge Executive, the equivalent (more or less) of our County Commission chair. Smith successfully held that office for a couple of terms and then was defeated on a campaign of outrageous lies in 2006. But he was only defeated because his opponents (Democrats, incidentally) were "swift-boating" him and managed to buy up every newstand copy of "The Mountain Eagle" the week before the election because that edition of the paper printed the truth behind the lies. (Tom & Pat editorialized about that "nasty trick" a week later.)

I served with Tom and Pat on an advisory board that was helping Elizabeth Barret produce a documentary film about the murder of a Canadian filmmaker in Letcher County in 1967, a crime that put Letcher County in an unwelcome international spotlight and which the Gishes tended to see as yet another expression of a closed, corrupt political system.

"The Mountain Eagle" is now being edited by son Ben Gish, who's been at the helm for several years now. The paper, among its many accomplishments as a fearless beacon for journalistic truth, gave a start to many young reporters who went on to regional and national prominence. Several of them came back to Whitesburg to speak at Tom Gish's funeral.

We might not see Tom Gish's like again, at least not in rural Appalachia. We can, of course, always hope -- and pray -- that courageous journalists will rise perennial among our ranks, whether by means of old-fashioned news-print or through the so far unfettered and newfangled InnerTubes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cost-Benefit Analysis

And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.

Matthew 15:36-37

Friday, November 21, 2008

Madam Foxx Has a Hissy

Former professional Bush-smoocher and giant Puritan Virginia Foxx has decided that El Presidente is an idiot and his Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is a dried up old piece of dog feces, who has done everything wrong in the Bush/Paulson bank bailout, so Foxx has introduced legislation which would mandate stuffing the remaining $350 billion, one dollar bill at a time, up Hank Paulson's alimentary canal, then making him excrete it WITH INTEREST, even after he leaves office on January 20th. The bill also calls for putting a GIS locator on Paulson, so that he can be found anywhere in the universe AFTER January 20th and be beaten with broomsticks. And what was this Bush Administration THINKING, anyway?

There's a Lesson Here: Don't Tempt Cosmic Irony

Cosmic Irony, defined by the Urban Dictionary:
"A type of irony in which Fate, the Universe, God, or whichever omnipotent force you choose makes it their sole purpose to mess with your life. They like to screw you over, and watch the mayhem while laughing at your misfortune."

Miss Manners, killed by a garbage truck. That's an example. Or your favorite racist contracts sickle-cell anemia.

Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasy collapses while defending the Bush torture policy.

Failed national candidate Sarah Palin, self-described "friend to all creatures great and small," acts "presidential" and pardons a turkey, while a bloody turkey slaughter proceeds directly over her left shoulder.

And the cameraman had warned her that bloody snow was in the lens, along with expiring big birds, but the Alaskan doofus said, "No worries!"

Largest-in-World Solar Heating Project in Western NC

In Fletcher. So says the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Foxx Voted Against Extending Unemployment Benefits

The U.S. Senate voted today 89-6 to end the filibuster against the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act, which guarantees its passage. The U.S. House had already voted in the affirmative for the measure in October, 368-28.

And, yes, she did. Madam Foxx was one of the 28 who voted against extending unemployment compensation to the tens of thousands of Americans who are currently losing their jobs at an accelerating pace.

Even Patty McHenry voted for this bill. Even Sue Myrick. In fact, Foxx was the only member of the North Carolina delegation to vote against it. Along with her slobber-buddy, Michelle Bachmann.

Jerk, To the End

The "midnight rules" of George W. Bush:

Rules that will make it easier for polluting industries to pollute.

Rules that will make it harder for women to get federally funded reproductive health care.

Rules that will change the way regulators assess risk for jobs, especially those that expose workers to chemicals.

Rules to make it impossible to sue in state courts for negligence on the part of manufacturers.

Rules making it tougher for employees to take family or medical leave.

Rules that would effectively gut the Endangered Species Act.

And our personal favorite:

Rules to ease restrictions on coal companies that decapitate Appalachian mountains to get at the coal underneath and then push the waste dirt and rock into neighboring creeks.

Thank You, Jerry Meek

We've known for some time that Democratic state party chair Jerry Meek would be stepping down after his second term. The State Executive Committee is scheduled to pick his successor at a meeting in Raleigh on January 31.

North Carolina Democrats owe a great deal to Meek, who during his four years of heading the party took us from what we here in the West used to refer to as "the state dead-quarters" to a near-complete sweep of the ballot.

Meek came to visit us here in Watauga more than once, and he didn't come to tell us what we were doing wrong but to learn what we were doing. In 2006 he came up and spent a day with us canvassing the county, learning our political terrain and how we dealt with it. We sent him to Meat Camp.

He did so much in his four years emphasizing the grassroots and helping the county parties devise and implement strategies. He retooled the state's website and its use of technology. And he's leaving the state party with a healthy bank account.

Gov. Easley wanted someone else for chair in January of 2005, but party activists defied the Guv and chose Meek, who in his turn helped choose Howard Dean as National Democratic Party Chair. As far as North Carolina is concerned, we would not be where we are today without those two.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Madam Foxx Wants to Hold the Purse-Strings

The Hill is spilling it that NC-5 Congresswoman Virginia Foxx wants a seat on the all-important Ways and Means Committee, the House panel that writes tax legislation and that has traditionally, according to our source for this (RE), afforded its members all sorts of district perks in the form of earmarks. But the Madam, we should remember, has so publicly sworn off earmarks (don't even mention teapots in her general vicinity!). So our head-bone is fairly jangling from the cognitive dissonance of the possibilities!

Kathleen Parker Hates God

Oh no she dent!

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, most famous recently for calling on Sarah Palin to step down as John McCain's running mate because she is, you know, dumb as laundry detergent, has ripped the sheet again, this time with the mullahs of the Religious Right. It's one thing for a pinko-commie like WataugaWatch to complain about the Religious Right. It's wholly another thing when the author of "Save the Males" unsheaths her sword against The Righteous.

In the column making the rounds on the InnerTubes today, Parker opines that "the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh."

And this:

"Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party."

"Armband religion." Brilliant turn of phrase that, which pretty much sums up our own feelings about the underlying hypocrisy of most pharisaical displays of religiosity that we've been treated to since The Littlest Angel said God wanted him to be president.

Parker doesn't miss the significance that now Sarah Palin has snatched the anointing oil for herself, promising to plow on through any door that God obligingly opens up. Saith the Parker, "Let's do pray that God shows Alaska's governor the door."

We'd hate to be Parker's InnerTube provider for the next few days.


I'm no fan of Joe "Droopy-Dog" Lieberman, and my disdain for him goes back a few moons beyond the time he jumped the Democratic ship and started campaigning -- hard -- against Barack Obama. I remember his blue-nosed, holier-than-thou scolding of Bill Clinton as the precise moment I began to hate the sound of his voice.

But when I began also to read the drum-beat among Democratic activists for a Lieberman auto-da-fe following the Nov. 4th election -- the demands that he be thrown out of his Senate chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, etc. -- I thought (and still think), Gee, Barack might be needing his vote in the Republican filibusters to come. Despite Lieberman's appetites for Middle-East war-mongering, he's otherwise been a pretty dependable vote for Democratic initiatives.

I've been getting an earful in my own household about that wholly despicable, lower-than-pond-scum Lieberman, and then yesterday, when the Senate Democrats refrained from burning him at the stake, a whole new earful about that wholly despicable, lower-than-pond-scum bunch of Democratic senators for refusing to exact revenge against the traitor.

I have taken and continue to take a different view and am frankly surprised that the people who've most diligently bent my ear about Lieberman don't realize that ... it's just politics. But different now. It's Obama politics.

He said -- promised -- he was going to change the tone in Washington, the way stuff gets done. He said -- promised -- he was going to unify the country. It was Obama, not the Democratic senators, who gave Lieberman his reprieve from the death sentence. It was Obama whose name and reputation Lieberman attacked, and it was Obama who forgave him. It's not my place to insist on a public stoning of the heretic who's already been forgiven by the wronged party.

I think Obama's handling of Lieberman is ... cool, in so many senses of that word, maybe precisely because it goes against my own much hotter thirst for vengeance (in the final analysis, I discover I don't want a president who thinks exactly as I do). It's cool because it neutralizes Lieberman, who now owes Obama for his continued committee assignments. It's cool because it forestalls a sore point that the Republicans in the Senate were itching to massage.

All the froth -- and threats -- coming from certain quarters of Left Blogistan strike me as utterly predictable and totally wrong-headed. My mother used to call that sort of self-lacerating tantrum "Cutting off your nose to spite your face."

I'm not swayed, either, by the predictions that Lieberman has been given license to betray again, that he's like the German soldier spared execution in "Saving Private Ryan" only to come back and murder members of Tom Hanks's squad at the end of the movie. I think it more likely that Lieberman's near-death experience will make him more like George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life," allowed to return to home and hearth after getting a vision of what life would have been like if he'd never been born.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Charges Dropped Against the ASU Six

Last April six Appalachian State University students (actually, five students and one non-student) were arrested during a sit-in in the administration building over the university's policies regarding licensed rah-rah clothing made in third-world sweatshops. Background here.

A few days later five UNC students were arrested at a sit-in in the chancellor's office in Chapel Hill over the same issue.

Both ASU and UNC administrations pressed charges. In August, the five UNC students were convicted of trespass. But we have received word from one of the students involved that Appalachian State has now dropped charges against the ASU Six.

More, as we learn it.

In the meantime, here is additional background on the ASU Six. And here.

It was the judge who dropped the charges against the ASU Six, apparently on the grounds that the arresting officer has been deployed to Iraq.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Man Who Won North Carolina

Marc Farinella, Obama's man in North Carolina, is profiled in today's N&O.

This is the man who got Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan re-elected in 2000 weeks after he died in a plane crash. The dead Carnahan was running against John Ashcroft, who now has it on his permanent wiki profile: "lost an election to a dead man."

" interesting character .... incredibly disciplined .... fastidious about detail ... also endearing and inspires loyalty...."

"Farinella was already tied into the state's Democratic organization. He had worked as a strategist for Erskine Bowles' unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in 2002 and Perdue's re-election campaign for lieutenant governor in 2004."

Apparently, ex-Gov. Jim Hunt tried to talk Farinella into moving permanently to NC, since his wife has family here.

About the Obama win, Farinella said, "It will change politics in the way we campaign for the foreseeable future."

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Ridiculous racists across the South apparently feel that the Obama victory on November 4 was their call to expose their ridiculousness to a national audience. The Charlotte Observer has a story up this a.m. about nasty outbreaks of racist opinion, including one at N.C. State University, but no mention of similar expressions reported at Appalachian State University. Democracy Now of the High Country has that story.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Heath Shuler for U.S. Senate?

We've barely gotten one election past us, and there're people already talking about Richard Burr's U.S. Senate seat in 2010, and truth to tell (hang on to your gag reflex!) we're just a year and a month away from the candidate filing period for the 2010 general election.

Yesterday the Hendersonville Times-News runs a long article essentially beating the drum for Shuler to take on Burr. Shuler, after easily winning his first reelection race against a weak if not unstable opponent, seems more than willing for people to puff up his ego even further than he's puffed it up himself. "Heath the Giant Killer."

Now this morning, Public Policy Polling is up with a post seconding the Shuler nomination, saying that the only state-wide Democrat who could rival him as a winning Senate candidate would be Attorney General Roy Cooper. PPP takes it a step further by helpfully mentioning a couple of local state legislators who could handily win Shuler's House seat, if he vacates it to run for Senate. This we doubt, though PPP's statistics are impressive about how both of Shuler's potential replacements in the NC-11 did in their own reelections.

But leaving a now strong Democratic seat open in the overwhelmingly Republican NC-11 looks mighty iffy to us, though (okay, we'll admit it) we thought a candidate named Hagan had exactly no chance in 2008.

Profiles in Courage

Hugh Webster, the Republican congressional candidate who ran against Congressman Brad Miller in the NC-13 (and was soundly defeated 65% to 35% on Nov. 4), has been accused of stealing over $12,000 from his elderly aunt. Webster was also a member of the NC Senate, infamous for passing out stickers that read "Can't Feed 'Em, Don't Breed 'Em" a decade ago, a not-so-oblique reference to people on welfare.

He's accused of inducing his elderly aunt to withdraw $12,115 from a retirement account and giving it to him, after he told her he could get a higher interest at his Raleigh credit union. According to an affidavit written by a State Bureau of Investigation agent, "She never received any interest or bank statements."

Webster says the money was a gift. The aunt says not so.

Then Webster said the indictment stemmed from a financial dispute with the aunt. "It will be very easy to discredit her," he said. Nice guy, this!

Then he said the charges were politically motivated: "I was the only one who had the guts and the integrity to stand up and tell the truth in the legislature."

Yes, guts and integrity never looked so fetching!

Friday, November 14, 2008

First We Check Your Vote and Then We Give Communion

South Carolina Catholic priest advises parishioners not to take communion if they voted for Obama, because supporting him "constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil."

Hagan Drops Libel Suit Against Dole

Since, apparently, Liddy's losing the election was punishment enough.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rumor Has It...

From the NC 5th Dist. Republican site:
Rumor has it - that Jerry Butler attended a republican party meeting in Alexander County yesterday. The Boone dentist announced that he was planning on returning to the political fray to run against state Senator Steve Goss again in 2010. According to our sources Butler made an anthem of a speech to the local republicans asking them to expel "fringe" conservatives from the party and move in a more progressive direction.

Since this is a rumor and we don't know if its true, someone please tell us it isn't so! This mindset is exactly what lost Republicans the election. Moderate Congressman in the Midwest lost overwhelmingly to their democrat rivals, and where Conservatism was truly on the ballot it was victory! If Dr. Butler wants to be a progressive, maybe he should run against Goss in the primary. Either way we think this helps Goss raise money.

As with so many other things, the "fringe" is on top.

Republican Welcome Wagon: ASU Students & Teachers are "Alien," "Nuts," "Carpet-Baggers," "Not Welcome Here"

The regular Republican bloggers at are resurrecting some juicy rhetoric that we had thought belonged only to defeated Republican county commissioners of Times Past -- and to Sarah Palin -- that there's a true American part of Watauga County and an un-American part of Watauga County, namely university people. These posts below are not by anonymous anybodys but by the anonymous SOMEBODYS who manage the site and represent the thinking of the local Republican Party:
They [Wataugans who carried the county for Obama] are known as carpet baggers not the smart people. They are aliens. (comment thread)

This area of the country, with the exception of the outsiders at the University, is rock solid conservative. (comment thread)

Love the outsiders line about the university - they are, and they are nuts. I am sick and tired of "outsiders" trying to take over Watauga County. "They" are not welcome here. (same as above)

Jeez, guys. Turning on the charm this way is likely to reverse that Democratic tide and sweep in your next team of university-haters!

They're Coming To Get You, Barbara

"Paranoia On the Rise, Experts Say" is the AP headline that was sure to catch my eye this a.m.

"People walk around with odd thoughts all the time," said David Penn, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina. "The question is if that translates into real behavior."

"Real behavior"? You know, like tinfoil hats donned for indoor wear. Like taking an Uzi to work with you.

No doubt that real events like 9/11 and manipulative propaganda like El Presidente's "war on terror" have heightened anxieties for the last seven years. But no mention of what the election of our first African-American president might have wrought in the narrow synapses of some of our citizens.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This Is What the GOP Will NOT Do

At least in the South, which -- let's face it -- IS the Republican Party of the future ... leaders of the party will most definitely NOT follow the advice of this former speech writer for Ronald Reagan.

Jeffrey Hart sez ... these discredited Bushian policies must be dropped:

banning abortion

the block on stem cell research

income tax cuts for the wealthy

attaching Social Security to the Stock Market (privatization)

repatriating 12 million illegal immigrants instead of offering them a road to citizenship ("amnesty")

Sez Jeffrey Hart:
A major -- perhaps insoluble -- problem conservatives face is that the aggressive "social conservatism" of the Republican base and its activists does not appeal to moderates and independent voters.

Getting more specific, Jeffrey Hart sez:
First, the Republican party must distance itself from evangelicalism as the policy preferences of evangelicals have only minority support....

Second, the Republican party must drop its hostility to science:
Bush blocked federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and advocated teaching intelligent design along with evolution. Teaching intelligent design? Where? Biology class? Not since the 1920s has evolution been a subject of political controversy. Astonishing. Now it is controversial again because we are in what historians describe as the third evangelical awakening.

Third, and to put it simply, the Republican party finds itself on the wrong side of history and in opposition to history, like the freedom of women over themselves and their bodies.

4. Movement conservatism is dead. Not acknowledging that would in itself be fatal.

The (Blue?) Meanies

Now, this is more like it, this anonymous Republican operative dude, rallying the pitchforks and torches to purge the North Carolina Republican Party of, first, its chair Linda Daves and then start throwing out members of the Republican caucus in the state legislature who ever even THOUGHT of voting for a Democratic budget. If there's gonna be an internal purge in the North Carolina Republican Party, where do we purchase our bleacher seating?

Contained in that (still anonymous) blog posting (so brave!) is this first-hand account of what it was like inside the Raleigh Hilton last Tuesday night during the GOP "victory celebration." This is "local color" we didn't get from any mainstream reporter:
On one side of me, Bev Perdue was on TV giving her victory speech. On the other side of me, another TV was showing a map that made the U.S. look like it was flooded -- a blue tide was spilling over the coasts, flooding the heartland and drowing our own beautiful North Carolina. And in front of me was a third TV on which several commentators were discussing what Elizabeth Dole did wrong.

And standing at a podium giving a "rah, rah" speech was our own Linda Daves, seemingly oblivious to the catatonic stares on the faces in the crowd -- all desperately wondering if someone got the license plate of that big blue truck that hit us.

The only thing missing was a melting podium and funky looking trees. Believe me, they would have fit right in, because out party was melting before our eyes. Melting into a puddle of gelatinous ooze with no spine, no shape, no form, and no future. And Linda Daves was giving a "go team go" speech.

The Tea Party Shall Go On

A lengthy article in the Henderson Times-News, prompted by the county's turning blue (for Congressman Heath Shuler) for "the first time in decades," allows for some lively chat about what 11th Dist. Republicans need to do to come back. Answer: Don't change. Become more like what we were. Generally makes the Republican Party seem like a teabag left to steep past the time the water turned cold.
" is time for us to rediscover our roots; not to change, not to come up with new slogans, but simply to rediscover our roots. The idea that one loss by a very small popular vote margin signifies the death of our party is wrong." --Robert Danos, Henderson County Republican Party Chairman

...the party needs to look at ways to modernize its campaign strategy and bring good candidates to the voters. --Brent Woodcox, North Carolina Republican Party spokesman

"The Republicans do not need to broaden their tent. The Republicans need to return to the very simple principles that Ronald Reagan ran on, that our local and state officials still run on." --Danos

"There are discussions of [whether] the party should move more left or should the party move more right. I don't think that is productive .... We need to apply conservative principles to everyday problems for North Carolina." --Woodcox

"Do they believe in more populism, like Sarah Palin and Joe Six-pack, or are they going to be more intellectual and argue for smaller government?" --Gibbs Knotts, political science professor at Western Carolina University

...the challenge is to define what the party stands for and not what it opposes. --Knotts

"After the defeat in Western North Carolina, it is going to be difficult to be hard on ourselves" ... because the Republican Party in Western North Carolina is doing well. --Steven Duncan, chairman of the 11th Congressional District North Carolina Republicans

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ladies & Gents: The GOP of 2009!

We can relate to the flummoxing loss the national Republican Party has gone through. Been there.

We are reading the prescriptions for healing itself with great interest, put out by many voices, the most compelling of them conservative insiders who think for a living. The choice seems to be to renew from the ground up, find a way (or just new language) to make conservatism appealing to a broader cross-segment, particularly independent voters who don't fancy fear-mongering and puritanical attacks on personal behavior.

Or ... they could double-down on fear-mongering and puritanical attacks on personal behavior and become even more a minor regional party headquartered in the Old South.

Georgia Republican Congressman Paul Broun has announced his choice. It's the latter:
"It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, [Obama]'s the one who proposed this national security force. I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may — may not, I hope not — but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism .... That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist .... We can't be lulled into complacency. You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I'm not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I'm saying is there is the potential."

It may sound a bit crazy. Check.

"Radical socialism or Marxism," which may be identical to fascism, or maybe not -- we're looking into it -- but when you're making Mulligan stew, you throw in a lot of ingredients and hope they cook together. Check.

Mr. Broun is NOT comparing Obama to the person he just compared him to. Check.

Now here's a political party that is maybe becoming a tad over-caffeinated, something we're sure Sarah Palin would absolutely love to head-up. You betcha!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Watauga, Jackson & Buncombe -- Oh My!

Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Joel Burgess takes an extended look this a.m. at why three lone North Carolina counties in the western mountains went for Obama, while all around them was red hot for McCain/Palin. Answer: young voters. All three counties contain a major state university.

Didn't your mother always warn you that a little larnin' was a dangerous thing?

Interesting factoids:
Of the Democratic-leaning counties, Watauga has the largest percentage of 18- to 25-year-old voters — 31.3 percent. Jackson is next with 15.4 percent, then Swain with 12.7 percent and Buncombe with 11.6 percent. Obama won all but Swain by differences as large as 57-43 percent.

We got us a new Generation Gap, folks!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Other 5th District

The 5th District: mainly rural, mainly white Republican, with a major university planted in one end of it, that nevertheless voted OUT its incumbent conservative Republican member of Congress.

We're talking about the 5th congressional district of Virginia, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the 5th congressional district of North Carolina, except that the Virginian 5th got rid of its toxic member of Congress, Virgil Goode, while the North Carolinian 5th is stuck with She Who Must Not Be Named.

Maybe there's something to be learned from the successful Virginia upset, and this Slate article might be a start. How did a candidate named Perriello defeat the Goode Republican? Perriello's self-deprecating TV ad certainly didn't hurt.

My mother-in-law happens to live in this district. She's a conservative Republican who voted for Obama this year and who particularly wanted Virgil Goode retired ... the rude, crude Goode (his name rhymes with 'mood'). I've been following Goode's career since he was first elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1996. He became an unapologetic traitor to the party in voting for Bill Clinton's impeachment, and after becoming a Republican he let his own inner-Sarah Palin full expression. He went out of his way to insult the first Muslim member of Congress, Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and he had a hair-trigger impulse to demonize the "un-American" elements he saw all around him. It's the base instinct of conservative populism: fear people who are different.

We were tickled to see that Tom Perriello has been declared the winner in that race.

Surviving Sarah Palin

Everything you needed to know about the lethal split in the Republican party was summed up in that snide comment about Sarah & Todd Palin, leaked to the press from a high-up in the McCain campaign a day after the election:
Todd and Sarah Palin were "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast." Newsweek

Hillbillies. That word was the choice of a member of the elite, power-base of the Republican Party calling the upstart, populist, conservative know-nothing rank and file of the Republican Party the worst name that a white American can call another white American.


That word opened the door wide on the true contempt that the current rulers of the GOP harbor for the back-country troops that they regularly rile up with gays, God, and guns, just long enough to win an election, and then continue to ignore or take for granted until the next electoral contest.

The use of that word hillbillies, along with the other garbage about Palin that got dumped into the media bloodstream immediately following the McCain defeat, was clearly meant to destroy her forever as a credible national leader. That speaks to how much the GOP power elite actually fear the great unwashed hoards of their own Huns.

This a.m. Craig sent me a link to an anonymous essay ("Sarah Palin Is the Future of Conservatism") by a political consultant who digs deeper into the Republican Party's Palin problem:
Within the hierarchies of the old right, Sarah Palin's style of pseudo working class conservatism was reserved for the proverbial back of the bus. Her type was not to speak, but to be spoken to; they were assigned to work as the foot soldiers in campaigns and be ignored until the next election.

But as social divisions widen and opportunity declines, there will be an ever-decreasing market for the type of homely business conservatism dished along with breakfast at the local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club. The style of conservatism that Sarah Palin represents will be the only one that has a majoritarian future in today's America. The populist conservatism will be openly hateful, paranoid, anti-intellectual, belligerently militaristic and most significantly ideologically inconsistent and opportunistic.

Hateful, paranoid, anti-intellectual ... you get the drift of where we're headed?

If you need a stronger hint about the forces the GOP has always felt privileged to toy with but which Palin may unleash for real on us all, the Stokes County resident who erected a big upsidedown American flag the day after the election, and then spray-painted a giant 'X' through the whole thing as a symbol of his hatred for Obama and for all who voted him into office, might be instructive. That's a photo above (from the W-S Journal) of the man's hateful, paranoid, anti-intellectual touch-up of the American flag. The violence of the emotion behind it is perfectly clear.

Sarah Palin is that man's hero. She will have her revenge on the Republican power elite, you betcha, and she may cause the Stokes County flag-displayer to have (a somewhat peculiar) love well up in his heart again.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

'Emanuel' Means 'God With Us'

I can applaud the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as the President-elect's chief of staff because it's evidence of Obama's executive skill. You get the meanest sumbitch you know to make sure the trains run on time. It's not that you necessarily WANT the meanest sumbitch (that's just icing on the cake, far as I'm concerned); it's because Emanuel has a proven track record of getting stuff done.

But we haven't forgotten how wrong Rahm Emanuel was back in the spring of 2006 when he got into a shouting match with Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean over how best to run the fall races that year. The meanest sumbitch in the Democratic Congressional caucus met his match in Howard Dean, who had taken over the DNC in 2005 with the express intention of launching a 50-state strategy.

Dean was right. Emanuel was wrong. Dean, in fact, deserves no small credit for what just happened last Tuesday. Without Howard Dean's change of direction from the Clinton-era tactic of triangulation and targeted spending (a.k.a., giving up on over half the land-mass of North America), Barack Obama would never have won North Carolina. Nor probably Virginia. Nor Indiana. I won't go on, though I could.

We have no quarrel with Emanuel's hard-nosed effectiveness and don't even blame him for flaming out with Dean over a difference of opinion. We're just glad he's going to be in the White House to take orders from Obama. Someone said on TV last night that Obama seems to be a "born executive leader," and having a dependable hit-man is what every born executive needs for Christmas.
Apparently, God turned a little bit blue on Tuesday.

We Remember a Pioneer

Charlotte's first black mayor Harvey Gantt was also North Carolina's first state-wide black candidate in the 20th century when he ran against Sen. Jesse Helms in 1990 and came close. He tried again in 1996, less successfully.

Despite two losses, Gantt really deserves credit for energizing progressive forces in NC. In fact, it was the Gantt-Helms race in 1990 that gave birth to the "new" Democratic Party in Watauga County. One could draw a straight line from Gantt organizers in Watauga in 1990 to the Democratic sweeps here in 2004, 2006, and 2008.

Interviewed by Rob Christensen in the N&O, Gantt recognized the changes in NC demographics since his first run for the Senate:
"I think it means the nature ... of North Carolina has changed substantially from those races in the 1990s. It's a younger population. It's a much more moderate population. The urban centers are much more influential in terms of North Carolina -- Charlotte, the Triangle, the Triad, Wilmington and Asheville."

When Gantt first ran in 1990, Christensen points out, there were 3.3 million registered voters; today there are 6.2 million.

Heartbreaks II

Commissioner of Agriculture
Ronnie Ansley (D) 1,941,167 (47.95%)
Steve Troxler (R), incumbent 2,107,270 (52.05%)

Commissioner of Labor
Mary Fant Donnan (D) 1,993,251 (49.40%)
Cherie Berry (R), incumbent 2,042,059 (50.60%)

Supreme Court Associate Justice
Robert H. (Bob) Edmunds Jr. (R), incumbent 1,562,453 (51.02%)
Suzanne Reynolds (D) 1,499,978 (48.98%)

NC Court of Appeals
John S. Arrowood (D), incumbent 1,319,800 (46.32%)
Robert N. (Bob) Hunter Jr. (R) 1,529,583 (53.68%)

It's a shame about these two judge races. Bob Edmunds is a partisan Republican, famous in 2008 for uttering the words (and in Watauga County, too!) that he was all there was standing between good God-fearing North Carolinians and (eek!) godless Democrats. Words to that effect. Anyway, everyone who heard him knew what he meant.

If it's a shame about the judges, it's a disgrace about the Agriculture and Labor commissioners. Putting the Elevator Lady back in office, following the manifold scandals of her failures as a workplace regulator, defies expectations as well as logic. Troxler is the best friend Monsanto has ever had in NC and seems to think it's just fine to gas farm workers, as long as they're poor and migratory.

There are almost 50,000 provisional ballots in NC that won't be certified and counted until next week (which is why the state has not been called for Obama yet, though he's leading). The estimate is that as many as 65% of those provisionals will end up being counted, and about the same percentage of the ones ruled eligible will be Democratic ballots ... not enough, probably, to change any of the close races above.
Check out this array of front pages from all across North Carolina yesterday ... assembled by the North Carolina Press Association.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Of the hundreds of photographs I've seen today, this one haunts my memory like no other ... for capturing what might otherwise be an inexpressible moment in American history.

This is Carolyn Hinkgaines, 61, of Chicago. She's a letter-carrier and got an offer to be a guest at the victory rally from a ticket-holder on her mail route who has become a friend. Photo in the Chicago Tribune by E. Jason Wambsgans.


Although Roy Carter carried Watauga County against the incumbent Republican congresswoman by 2,000 votes, exactly doubling the number by which she lost this county in 2006, he was swamped in all the other ten counties. Foxx's lowest percentage of the vote in all but Watauga was the 54.71% she drew in Ashe, but, here, see for yourself:

Carter 14,727 (53.69%)
Foxx 12,702 (46.31%)

Carter 5,944 (45.29%)
Foxx 7,180 (54.71%)

Carter 11,194 (38.05%)
Foxx 18,223 (61.95%)

Carter 5,934 (34.96%)
Foxx 11,042 (65.04%)

Carter 2,264 (42.85%)
Foxx 3,019 (57.15%)

11,491 (39.52%)
17,583 (60.48%)

Carter 5,324 (31.49%)
Foxx 11,584 (68.51%)

Carter 7,810 (36.23%)
Foxx 13,749 (63.77%)

Carter 48,123 (45.10%)
Foxx 58,589 (54.90%)

Carter 6,394 (32.13%)
Foxx 13,508 (67.87%)

Carter 14,612 (43.67%)
Foxx 18,851 (56.33%)

Carter 879 (28.16%)
Foxx 2,243 (71.84%)

What can you say about numbers like that? Well, actually, a couple of things:

1. One can certainly tell the counties where there's Democratic Party organization (even vestigial efforts): Ashe, Wilkes, Alleghany, Surry, Forsyth, Iredell. And the counties where there's nothing much going on. For a Democrat to be successful in the 5th district, someone is going to have to organize those counties. It's not impossible. A core group of even a dozen people in each county, if they're dedicated to the effort, could move those mountains. Overcoming defeatism would be a fundamental first step (maybe try drugs?).

2. Unless we're willing to accept The Madam for life (and we hear she's not scheduled for the sod until approximately 2050), then we need to recognize that a presidential year is the worst possible time to retire her. That's not what some of us thought going into 2008. We foresaw a Democrat (any Democrat) winning the White House, but we underestimated the relentless, robotic march of the Republicans in all counties listed above save one. When the presidency is at stake, you can forget moving the 5th District, even if every Republican is hitching rides to the polls from the County Poorhouse.

3. That makes 2010 look all the more interesting, if # 1 above could also be achieved.

4. Money. The Carter campaign was always cash-strapped, and it proved that even without resources it could get a shudder out of the incumbent by simply publicizing her record, which is largely unknown in the 5th Dist. and hugely debilitating to the well being of its citizens.

5. Foxx will not change. She hates the people who oppose her and will not reach out to them. Witness her complete absence from any venue where ordinary citizens might ask her an unwelcome question. That is her greatest weakness. That and her hard-hearted conservatism in a changing environment where excessive partisanship is going to seem increasingly unattractive.

Reelection Victory: Cullie Tarleton

Tarleton carried both his counties (Watauga & Ashe) in his first reelection victory, even despite the fact that this presidential thing drew 200 more straight-ticket Republican voters in Ashe than Democratic straight-ticket voters. But Tarleton edged Soucek even in Ashe (6,376 to 6,046) and whupped him badly in Watauga (14,333 to 11,718), where Democratic straight-ticket voters far outnumbered Republicans punching a straight-ticket:

Straight-Ticket Voting, Watauga
Dem 7,157
Rep 6,043

Straight-Ticket Voting, Ashe
Dem 2,436
Rep 2,620

Tarleton's win is all the more notable because the 1,597 votes that Libertarian candidate Jeff Cannon drew, even if every last one of them had gone to Soucek, it wouldn't have changed the outcome.

Both Tarleton and Sen. Steve Goss have given their northwestern NC districts the best representation in Raleigh that they've had maybe in decades. And the voters showed their deep appreciation for that yesterday.

Reelection Victory: Steve Goss

The "miracle" state senator of the 2006 election, Steve Goss kept the miracle alive last night. He was marked for extinction by the state GOP, since -- after all -- he represents a heavily Republican senate district in the 45th. But if Goss can survive in a presidential year, which brings straight-ticket Republicans out in droves (witness the color red in every county surrounding the little island of blueness that has become Watauga), Goss can survive pretty much anything.

Here's how he did it: he took 61% of the vote in Watauga and 66% of the vote in Ashe, which meant he just needed to break 40% in both Wilkes and Alexander, where he actually out-performed that expectation by taking just over 46% of the vote in both those deep-red Republican counties.

Plus he was gifted with a flawed opponent.

There's already a movement forming to draft Goss to run against Virginia Foxx in 2010.

That One

I was not emotional last night, even surrounded by 400+ delirious people at the Dragonfly Theater. What a crowd. What a diverse crowd.

I didn't begin to allow the emotion to well up until we were home and watched Barack give his acceptance speech. It wasn't the speech so much, though that was SOMETHING, but it was the sight of the Obama/Biden extended families taking the stage that caused me to lose it. This morning I've been gazing on the hundreds of still photographs from across the nation last night, and I can't seem to stop crying. (The N&O has some wonderful shots, including pics from Republican HDQs in Raleigh last night, which tell their own story, and the Chicago Tribune has both its own slide shows and reader-submitted photographs galore. You can find many such selections on other sites.)

Nothing (for me, at least) captures the human story of what actually happened in our nation last night like the photographs.

I began this blog five years ago, angry and burdened by the direction our president ... what was his name? ... was taking our country. I'm so thankful to be able to let whatisname go quietly to his dusty sub-basement of American history, and I can shift my burden (comes complete with a well-rubbed strand of worry beads) over to you folks out there who seem to expect, even demand your own personal anti-Christ. Now you can fret and start your own blogs. Here's a title for your first posting: "The Failed Obama Presidency."

It took me several months to come around to thinking that Obama could actually do it, do the impossible, do the unprecedented. Now that he's done it, with solid majorities in both popular and electoral votes (no Supreme Court appointments here, thank you!), I think it unwise for anyone, be it domestic racist or foreign terrorist, to underestimate this man.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Final Numbers in Watauga

Obama 14,513
McCain 13,303

Perdue 13,330
McCrory 13,240

US Congress, 5th Dist.
Carter 14,727
Foxx 12,702

US Senate
Hagan 14,208
Dole 12,428

NC Senate, Dist. 45
Goss 16,331
Butler 10,410

NC House, Dist. 93
Tarleton 14,333
Souchek 11,718

Watauga County School Board
Combs 12,610
Miller 11,719
Walpole 8,627
Ward 8,563
Horine 8,517

[Note: Top three school board candidates are elected. BUT ... there are 237 provisional ballots, which, once they're accepted or ruled out, could change the totals here]

We're late for the victory party, so we won't pause here to make observations on the obvious. We'll leave that to all you Godless socialists Muslin-sympathizers out there in Watauga County.

Godless American Defeats Dole

According to Five Thirty-Eight.

Early & Absentee Votes in Watauga County

If, as many suspect, Early Voting won or lost the election for several candidates, we think it instructive to put up Watauga's Early Voting figures by themselves for a few select races:

Obama 10,654
McCain 7,837

NC House Dist. 93
Tarleton 10,287
Soucek 7,015

NC Senate Dist. 45
Goss 11,473
Butler 6,297

U.S. Congress, 5th Dist.
Carter 10,527
Foxx 7,678

Perdue 9,618
McCrory 8,041

Watauga Co. School Board
Combs 8,198
Miller 7,651
Walpole 6,067
Horine 5,932

Note: these are Watauga County tallies only, and only Early Voting. Tarleton will have Ashe County to also consider, and Goss has Ashe, Alexander, and Wilkes counties in his district. Carter has some 11 counties, or parts of same. But Watauga did well for all these guys.

At the Obama Rally, Charlotte, Nov. 3

Hat tip: Bob Hrozencik

Monday, November 03, 2008

Watauga Early Voting, Final Numbers

One-Stop Early Voting = 17,783 voters
Dem 6,676 ... 37.54% of the total
Rep 5,568 ... 31.31% of the total
Una 5,506 ... 30.96% of the total
Lib 33 ... .00185% of the total

Mail-in Absentee ballots = 1,107
Dem 294
Rep 571
Una 242

Overseas ballots = 15
Dem 4
Rep 6
Una 5

Military absentee = 37
Dem 7
Rep 21
Una 9

Sorry, no analysis from us at this hour, but at least one thing is plenty obvious: the virtual tie between Rs and Us in Early One-Stop Voting.

Republican Campaign Consultants Predict Obama Win in NC

CAJ Consultants, a Matthews-based Republican firm, has issued a report based on voting trends established during the Early Voting period in NC. Their prediction: Obama will take NC with 51% to McCain's 48%.

The report, which was distributed via e-mail last night in a PDF file, is authored by Alan Michael Teitleman and Justin William Moore. Teitleman was once upon a time president of the College Republicans at ASU and has been active with the state Republican Party and as a legislative aide for Republican members of the state legislature. Moore is also a former president of the ASU College Republicans, was an Alternate Delegate to the 2004 Republican National Convention, and has been a volunteer for many Republican candidates including Elizabeth Dole for US Senate and Virginia Foxx for NC Senate.

Highlights from the Teitleman/Moore analysis
● Early Voting in 2008 saw a 300% increase over Early Voting in 2004

● 14.5% of eligible voters voted early in 2004, compared to 41.3% in 2008

● in 2004, 48% of early voters were Democrats; in 2008, 52% were Democrats

● in 2004, 37% of early voters were Republican; in 2008, 30% were Republicans

● Teitleman and Moore believe that more than half of the final NC turn-out has already voted

● going into Election Day tomorrow, Obama and Democratic candidates down-ballot should have a minimum advantage of 128,863 votes from Early Voting

● Teitleman and Moore are projecting total turnout in NC at 4.6 million, approximately 74% voter turnout

Final Early Voting Numbers, from 11 p.m., Saturday:
Dem 1,325,226 (51.50%)
Lib 1,644 (0.06%)
Rep 774,147 (30.08%)
Una 472,189 (18.35%)

Early Voting Difference, 2004 to 2008:
Democratic voting is up 2.9%
Republican voting is down 7.32%
Libertarian voting is negligible
Unaffiliated voting is up 4.45%

Alan Teitleman informs me that he is now registered Unaffiliated.