Friday, March 27, 2009

Failure to Launch

Congressional Republicans are now operating out of a parallel universe in which they think it's perfectly reasonable to release a "budget" that contains almost no numbers, except the imperative straight out of 1890 to reduce the tax rate on the richest among us to a flat 10 percent.

House Minority Leader John Boehner held up the royal-blue-bound 19-page Republican pamphlet yesterday at a big press conference and actually crowed: "Two nights ago, the president said we haven't seen a budget yet of the Republicans. Well, it's not true, because here it is Mr. President."

Thereby proving that Republican Congressional leaders CAN see their own mirages.

Mike Pence, chair of the House Republican Conference of hyper-conservatives, stood behind Boehner and looked like he was working on a good-sized kidney stone. But Mike Pence always looks that way, and turns out that yesterday's big roll-out of the Republican non-budget was mainly Pence's idea. According to Glenn Thrush at Politico, Pence prevailed over the more cautious Eric Cantor, Minority Whip, who is said to be "embarrassed" about this whole fiasco. We noted that Cantor got himself out of that room yesterday before the questions started flying.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cutting Shuler Some Slack

...and pretty soon that blue dog is sleeping on the neighbor's porch.

Long profile piece about how people feel about Shuler in the NC-11 in today's Smoky Mountain News. Mainly, people feel just swell about the fourth most likely Democrat in Congress to vote with the Republicans, especially Republicans.

Some Democrats are not so thrilled. Jane Allison, a Swain County Democrat, said that while it was maybe "cute" two years ago for Shuler to vote with the Republicans, since "the Democrats weren't going to get anything passed anyway," it's not so cute now with the whole country struggling to get out of the Bush depression.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Miracle! The EPA Decides to Protect the Environment

During the last seconds of the George W. Bush presidency, the Bushie Environmental Non-Protection Agency attempted to make permanent its rule that mountaintop coal mining in Appalachia could go forward unabated and that coal companies could bury adjacent streams with the "waste" removed from the mountaintops.

The Obama EPA just reversed that policy, putting on hold any new permits while impacts of mountaintop coal mining on streams and wetlands are reviewed.

We join our own J.W. Randolph of Appalachian Voices in applauding that move.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pauleroids Live!

Intercepted e-mail, from the Ron Paul remnant on the ASU Campus (and all hail, student action!):
From: appliberty
Date: Sun, Mar 22, 2009 at 7:48 PM
Subject: Action Item

Hello members of political action clubs,

This is an announcement of an event taking place on April 15th, 2009 (Tax Day). Various people with differing opinions have at least one thing in common: they don't like the direction our country is going in. Whether it is the bailouts, the ballooning national debt, the dollar crisis, the encroachment of the federal government on individual liberties, the failure to hold the Bush and Obama administrations accountable, increasing taxes, the deployment of troops on American soil, or the failure of our government to represent the people's interests, we can all agree that there are huge problems with our nation's current trajectory.

So "We the People" have an option to legally and effectively make our voices heard. We will do this by striking at the real power structure of the current system, economic dominance by fiat money, financiers, and the wage system.

Here is the plan. On April 15th, all participants will do at least one (hopefully all) of the following:

1) Refuse to go to work.

2) Refuse to go to class.

3) Do not buy anything.

4) Withdraw all your money from the bank and keep it withdrawn for a couple of days.

5) Send a tea bag to your representatives in government, from the highest to the lowest. They will get the message.

6) Wear a white armband or wristband on you right arm to show that you are participating.

Two thousand years ago, a Roman Senator suggested that all slaves wear white armbands to better identify them. "No," said a wiser Senator, "if they see how many of them there are, they may revolt."

Members of our club will be participating, and it would be great to see people from all different political and social backgrounds coming together, despite their differences, to bring the message to the government that "We the People" are not happy and that the ultimate power over the course of our nation belongs to us.

--The ASU Campaign for Liberty

I'm down with taking it to the streets. If we can agree on who's responsible for this fine kettle of fish. The ASU Campaign for Liberty uses a curious choice of words to describe "the enemy" in the memo above -- "fiat money, financiers, and the wage system." Well now, I'm totally ready to burn those guys at the stake!

Fiat money. I don't think they're talking about a certain Italian automobile company, but who they mean, we dunno.

Whoever they mean by "fiat money" specficially, they're talking against Obama generally, because he's not Ron Paul, and therefore he's the proximate cause of everything that's just wrong. Sorry, but I can't go there. The ASU Campaign for Liberty doesn't like the president, and I do, although I care a good deal less for the Wall Street dudes the president's hired to advise him. Getting him unstuck from those particular men-in-suits may be difficult, though protests like this might help. Who knows? Might not, too. Because this particular call to arms seems a trifle ... blunt-edged, if you know what I mean. "Burn the whole place down" has never much appealed to me as a tactic, even back in the 1960s when, indeed, they were burning the whole place down. Didn't much work then, either.

The line that might give the ASU Young Republicans some pause, prior to buying in to this protest against Obama: "the failure to hold the Bush and Obama administrations accountable." "Bush and Obama"? That's a lopsided formulation if there ever was one, since Bush had eight years to be held accountable for, and Obama, a few weeks, but the ASU Liberty Fighters have balanced the two presidents as pure equals in evil in that particular sentence. And that's a problem, dudes, if you're really looking for bipartisan involvement in your protest.

First you slap a Republican ("prosecute Bush"), and then you hug a Republican with that mention of sending a tea bag to our public officials. That tea bag gesture is a pure piece of grand larceny from the conservative Republican playbook. The only federal Rep. we have is Virginia Foxx, and she's not going to like getting a bunch of tea bags.

There's just one other phrase in the call to action that has me a little concerned: "the deployment of troops on American soil." Uh, where? Are we talking Green Beret assault on the Ron Paul compound in Texas, or just some National Guard action in the flood zone in South Dakota? That's a phrase that can't just be allowed to slip by unquestioned.

Whatever. Have a productive Tax Day, and we hope your employers are liberals.

Under-Performing Republicans: Foxx & McHenry

According to the Swing State Project (via PPP), in the last election only 23 Republican members of the House did worse than John McCain within their own districts. Two of those 23 were Virginia Foxx (NC-5) and Patrick McHenry (NC-10). McHenry's performance relative to the party's presidential nominee was the sixth worst of any member of the GOP caucus.

Tom Jensen at PPP has remarked before that these statistics suggest just how strong Roy Carter and Daniel Johnson were as challengers to Foxx and McHenry, even though they lost. Jensen also opines that the NC-5 and NC-10 are "completely unwinnable" for Dems, based on the "current configuration" of those districts.

Polling on Gay Marriage in N.C.

Mark Binker discusses two North Carolina polls on the subject of outlawing gay marriage, the most recent by Elon College which shows the state a good deal more moderate on the issue as compared to the Civitas Poll, which generally gets the results that the John W. Pope Foundation pays for.

Angus MacLachlan Deserves Your Attention

Fine profile of Angus MacLachlan in today's Greensboro News & Record. MacLachlan is the graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts who wrote that wonderful little home-grown movie "Junebug," which is known mainly as Amy Adams's big breakthrough movie (she got an Academy Award nom for Best Supporting Actress for her work in it) but ought to be known and celebrated by fellow Southerners for its deep insights into our family strengths and strains.

It's mainly about brothers estranged by one's success and the other's sense of failure. The failure is played by Benjamin McKenzie, who was popular on "The O.C.," I hear, though I never saw that show, and he gets festering Southern male disappointment dead right. The cast also features Scott Wilson as the father of the two brothers. Scott Wilson played the more talkative of the two Clutter family killers in the 1967 "In Cold Blood," and dozens of other parts since then.

This is the kind of film Angus MacLachlan's fellow regionalists should be supporting, instead of those cannibal-hillbillies-feast-on-invading-teenager epics. Or movies in which cars blow up at regular 12-minute intervals.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Watauga's Clerk of Superior Court

It's no small matter to replace by appointment a popularly elected public official with someone from the opposing political party. The voters of Watauga County had reelected Democrat Glenn Hodges to the clerk's office many times over, but when Hodges retired unexpectedly last week, senior resident Superior Court Judge James L. Baker, who had the power to make the appointment, chose not only a Republican but also a Republican who worked as Judge Baker's own assistant.

But now for the rest of the story: Judge Baker was evidently under pressure from the local GOP to appoint a different local Republican, one who had intended to run for the office in 2010. That appointment would have given any candidate of either party a definite leg up. As a Republican judge, Baker might have been expected to act in a partisan way, but his appointment was actually an avoidance of partisanship.

So the calculus is more complicated, and the 2010 race for the office will be one of the hotter tickets in town.

Richard Burr Is a Dick

Sen. Dick Burr has received $355,000 from tobacco groups and employees. He's second only to Sen. Mitch McConnell for having his hand out to Big Tobacco.

At this precise moment, Burr has teamed up with Sen. Kay Hagan to try to forestall tougher legislation aimed at tobacco.

Burr spokesman Chris Walker says the campaign donations don't influence Burr's policy agenda. Riiight.

"It's not something that comes into any equations here," Walker said. "It doesn't really affect what we're doing legislatively."

We're not supposed to believe our lying eyes.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dear A.I.G.: Intercepted E-Mail

Date: Fri, 20 Mar 2009 8:52:51
From: [name withheld]
Subject: some polite suggestions

To the Board of Directors of AIG and Edward Liddy, CEO:

In recent days, the complexity and vastness of our financial system have greatly troubled me. Not because I am a simple, middle-class American and have no capacity for such financial stuff, but because I am frustrated and embarrassed by the amounts of money that (currently unknown) members of your staff have received in bonuses to their salary. I understand that these staff members are of great value to your company and that you surely wish to retain the ones still at your company. Further, I understand that there is an impending 90% tax upon these bonuses which the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to impose.

In the interest of protecting the good name of your staff and company, I would like to make the following suggestion: donate the money to your favorite 501.c.3 organization. Perhaps you have't done your own taxes in a while, and you may not be aware that contributions to 501.c.3 organizations are tax deductible. These types of organizations are valuable institutions such as schools, hospitals, and service organizations which provide the citizens of our nation with education, health care, and other fundamental services. Often rendered in places where the current tax base is not maintaining the high standards to which you may be accustomed, these services are over-burdened and unable to meet the needs of Americans. As members of the Board of Directors of a large, wealthy corporation, you may not regularly be exposed to Americans who are unable to provide for their families or for themselves, despite their best efforts to do so. I only mention this to be sure you understand that there are those who are in desperate need of the bonuses which members of your staff collected.

If in fact members of your staff would be interested in donating these funds, and if they are at a loss to think of an organization which they might like to aid, let me offer a few suggestions.

First, I'd like to suggest my son's school. This Watauga County, North Carolina public charter school serves children in grades K-8. I think it is a very special place which is helping my son be a prepared and well rounded citizen. He just told me that today in science his fourth-grade class made a motor run. Like many other charter schools, this one is working hard to raise funds for a new building. Even more, they need a couple more staff members, like a librarian, who could really help the school achieve its gallant goals. A gift of $1 million (about 1/165th of the amount of your bonuses) would give us a jump start on the building, pay off the school's debt, hire a librarian for a couple of years, and endow several of the programs the school has for its students.

Secondly, I'd like to suggest the New Opportunity School for Women. The NOSW is a program which offers Appalachian women in poverty the opportunity to transform their lives in a three-week residential program that combines self-esteem building, workforce training, and new life skills in a transformative curriculum. Here, your staff would have two locations to choose from, a school in Berea, Ky., and one at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, NC. I'm partial to the Lees-McRae site, since I used to direct the program there, and I am sure your staff can understand the sometimes ugly and self-serving concept of loyalty. For one woman to attend the three-week session, it costs about $5,000. A gift of $500,000 (about 1/330th of the amount of your bonuses) would fund the Lees-McRae program for 100 Appalachian women.

Third, if your staff is interested in a more "national" sort of charity, I would suggest giving to one of the fabulous organizations that works toward ending cancer (certainly a company which offers health-related insurance can understand the great need here). I would be partial toward one of the breast cancer charities. I have a cousin who is currently battling the disease. Her name is Tracy. My friend Marcia is a two-time breast cancer survivor. My best friend since kindergarten, Anne Marie battled breast cancer when we were 30. My sister-in-law Cindy lost her fight when she was 38. A gift of $100,000 (about 1/660th of the amount of your bonuses) to any affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation would fund Breast Cancer screenings for hundreds of needy women in America.

Those members of your staff who prefer to give to causes which support the humane treatment of animals might be interested in our local Watauga Humane Society. This organization is staffed with only one part-time director and relies on the aid of volunteers to help maintain their animals and facilities. A gift of $10,000 (about 1/1320th of the amount of your bonuses) would pay a $45 sponsorship for 222 pets in the shelter, providing food, water, and blankets to homeless animals.

These are only samples of the many fine organizations which help to strengthen our nation with their service to the greater good. I am sure if you looked in your city, you would find other worthy causes. Again, these are only suggestions, but it seems that if you gave all of the money I have recommended, you would have only spent $1,511,000.00.

You would still have over $163 million to pay in taxes.

[name withheld]
Boone, NC 28607

Friday, March 20, 2009

How To Get a Republican Into Office in Watauga County

Judge James Baker has appointed his own secretary, Wanda Howell, as Clerk of Superior Court in Watauga County, replacing the retiring Glenn Hodges.

Tweet Charity

Kevin Bondelli, who blogs on the youth vote at, cross-posted on BlueNC yesterday a tweet he noticed on the Western NC GOP twitter page:
So, this is why the youth vote went to Obama ... because they're a bunch of easily led, useful idiots. Makes sense.

Ah yes, contempt of the young springs perennial in many Republican circles, particularly in western North Carolina where there's a major university.

Michelle's Green Thumb

It's the First Day of Spring, so what could be more appropriate for the season than hearing Michelle Obama announce that she's digging up the White House lawn for a vegetable garden!

We likes us some veggie symbolism!

It'll help keep the president grounded. Get it? Grounded.

And no greater training for government than seeding, weeding, thinning, transplanting, pruning, harvesting, composting. What could be apter for focusing the presidential mind?

Plus you get to eat the proceeds.

We applaud.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

NC Appeals Court Throws Out Buncombe County Zoning

On a technicality. Amazing how 24 hours can become a gigantic clod in the churn.

Reaction from Asheville's Scrutiny Hooligans.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Republican Sun Just Rose

...out of Evan Bayh's ass.

And who is running and barking with the Senate's Blue Dogs? None other than Kay Hagan.

He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.

So Sorry

I heard It call my name. Quite distinctly.

So ... time out, while we get our hands dirty.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Right Here, In River City

Fire ants, all over western North Carolina!

Well, maybe not so much in our mountains, but still.

They bite in unison.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Goss Kills Internet Libel Bill

State Senator Steve Goss today announced he has pulled SB 46, the so-called "Internet Libel Bill," from consideration by the North Carolina Senate.

"There is a need to bring our state's slander and libel laws into the 21st Century, but this bill as written does not in any way express my intent," Goss said. "In this day where misinformation can be sent around the world, literally in minutes, both on internet web sites and by e-mail, the laws need to be updated to cover it."

Goss says that such actions may be covered by current laws against libel and slander under Common Law, "but our laws also offer protections to journalists in more traditional print and electronic media that probably do not extend to bloggers and other reporters on the Internet. These protections cover those who make factual errors but who are acting in good faith, and they should cover the newer media as well."

Goss had intended that a section of the proposed legislation would remove liability from those bloggers who post items on the Internet they later find to be false and for which they then post apologies and retractions, "but that section does not appear to be strong enough to solve the problem," he said. In addition, the legislation had included criminal penalties that appear nowhere else in current libel laws, a section that "should never have been written," according to Goss.

"I do not ever want to weaken the First Amendment in any way!"

"This area needs to be addressed in the future," Goss said, "but for now the Legislature is focusing on the state's economy and budget shortfall. When I address this issue again, I'll bring it back with a focus on protecting the First Amendment as the first order of business."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jim Cramer, D.O.A.

I don't believe I've watched a more painful 30 minutes of TV. Jon Stewart devoted all of The Daily Show tonight to his special guest Jim Cramer, only one of many financial oracles on CNBC, and frankly, I don't see how that guy Cramer can now show his face in public. He will, of course, and he'll act like it was nothing.

Cramer was close to tears during the interview, only part of which could be shown on the 30-minute show. The whole thing is supposedly posted already at The Daily Show site, or will be by tomorrow ... when I'll steel myself to watch it, since I had plans to sleep tonight.

It's what Stewart does best, and what we've come to rely on him for ... actual truth-probing of the very media that is supposed to be searching for the truth but is in fact in bed with the very guys who've been robbing this nation into the poorhouse.

Bravo, Jon.

NC GOP Looking for a New Chair

Delegates to the state Republican Party convention in May will elect a new leader for their party. has endorsed a Locke Foundation apparatchik for the job.

But we would expect that this guy has greater name recognition, bigger political connections, and hence the inside track.

Distemper Shots Recommended

They're going to need a bigger kennel.

Blue Dogs in the Senate! As though we had not had enough of Democrats Who Really Feel More Comfortable with the Republican Platform.

At least Kay Hagan has so far kept her distance from this crowd.

Homo Sapiens?

Apparently, it's our God-given right to beat the crap out of queers, and the N.C. Family Policy Council intends to keep it that way.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

North Carolina Teens Talk Sense, But Republicans Won't Listen

A group of North Carolina teenagers visited the N.C. General Assembly and talked to legislators about the reality of their lives ... that "abstinence only" sex education is no education at all, and as a result, many of the state's teenagers have a "dangerous" lack of knowledge. The teenagers were advocating for a bill currently being considered that would establish a two-track option for parents: either keep their children woefully ignorant in abstinence-only programs or allow them "comprehensive" sex education.

While the students were visiting the legislature, a House committee voted to pass the proposal, with all the Republicans (naturally, dude!) voting against giving parents the option.

Rep. John Blust of Greensboro spoke for many of his Republican colleagues, holding high the banner of ignorance: expanding the sex education curriculum, saith Blust, would give schools license "to mention things way out there that are properly discussed at home, if at all."

Insurgency in the Davidson County GOP

The Republicans in Davidson County had themselves a good old-fashioned power struggle Monday night at their county convention, with a new slate of officers sweeping out the old officers, even after the old officers attempted to maintain their power by denying voting credentials to 40-some delegates who were apparently aligned with the insurgents.


At least they had a lively convention. Compare Davidson County's dust-up to Watauga's GOP convention last Saturday, which mainly had Virginia Foxx bragging at length that she...

1. ...has been on TV a lot. Did you see me? Me me me.

2. ...has no patience for people who do not see that she and the Republican Party have the superior grasp on economic policies.

3. ...has an uncanny ability to make fellow congressmen absolutely furious with her, a knack that has served her well in Watauga County at election time.

4. ...possesses the gold-standard of personal faith in (the Baptist) God (or the Catholic, depending), and a towering patriotism so grand that she has to shed a theatrical tear about her own piety.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Christian Persecution Rag

The Christian Right likes nothing better than feelings of persecution. Being reviled is like the Union label. Anything that proves Christians are a struggling, Godly minority always in imminent danger of being rounded up out of their million-dollar mega-churches and fed to the lions of secularism ... that absolutely turns 'em on.

So Michael Spencer's "The Coming Evangelical Collapse" in today's Christian Science Monitor will tickle that itch of the Christian Right for technicolor apocalyptic futures and the longed-for coming of the Antichrist. Yeah, verily.

Spencer sees a rolling blood-dyed tide of anti-Christianity ahead, churches deserted and empty, pastors of former thousands begging on street corners, animal sacrifice practiced in the Supreme Court, burnings at the stake ... yadda, yadda, yadda.

Spencer sees all the hyped up fictional persecution as the price to be paid for the Christian Right's decision three decades ago to sell themselves to the political goals of the Republican Party: "Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society."

If you're prone to this sort of delicious fantasy persecution-envy, you can go wallow as you please.

It Rained on His Parade

According to "Under the Dome," Heath Shuler announced last night that he would not be a candidate in 2010 in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Dick Burr.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Watauga Republicans Have a New Chair

Aaron Whitener, according to the Watauga GOP website ... the 20-something ex-ASU student who in 2006 was mentioned as Virginia Foxx's local contact person following that disastrous "listening tour" of hers.

We also note that Virginia Foxx managed to "tear up" yet again in public.

Schizoid North Carolina

Our state wants people to gamble on the state lottery.

But our state also wants people NOT to gamble on the state lottery.

This is what happens when a basically puritanical, uptight society decides to profit itself on people's weaknesses. It wants the money, but it also wants to pride itself piously as discouraging "problem gamblers."

Can we get a giant "AMEN"?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Disappointment Over Larry Kissell

The U.S. House voted yesterday 239-191 to pass H.R.1106, Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009, written "To prevent mortgage foreclosures and enhance mortgage credit availability."

Some 24 Democrats voted against the bill. Based on his developing track record, we fully expected that one of those 24 Democrats would have been Heath Shuler, The Blue Meanie. But, no. Shuler voted for it. So did Republican Walter Jones.

Voting against it were all the rest of the N.C. Republican delegation and ... Democrat Larry Kissell, newly elected last fall.

We've been searching for much of the day for any on-the-record explanation from Kissell of why he voted against the bill. Haven't seen anything. We have seen, however, angry reactions from some of the folks over at BlueNC. Kissell often posted at BlueNC while he was running against Robin Hayes, and at least one poster is calling for him to come on back and 'splain his vote.

He needs to do that.

The Cornered Dinosaur

Sen. Jim Bunning (Ky.) is considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection in 2010. His approval rating among Kentucky voters has never exceeded 49%, and is currently sinking into the low 40s.

More significantly, his fellow Republicans actively can't stand him and have become increasingly more frank in wishing him into the nearest lake. He has "behavior issues," according to a fellow Republican senator. Most recently, he threatened to resign his seat early so that the Democratic governor of Kentucky could appoint a Democrat to replace him. He has kvetched publicly that Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is not shoveling money his way (saying, I don't believe a word Cornyn says!), and he actually threatened to sue the NRSC if it supported another Republican in a Kentucky primary against him.

There was wincing all around when he confidently predicted last month that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be dead in nine months.

It was for more substantive failures at his job that Time magazine named him one of the five worst U.S. senators in 2006.

Ada Fisher and the 11th Commandment

Dr. Ada Fisher, representing North Carolina, is one of three African-Americans on the 168-member Republican National Committee. During the recent tussle over the chairmanship of the RNC, which Michael Steele won on the sixth ballot, Dr. Fisher supported Katon ("whites only") Dawson of South Carolina. She has apparently been a sharp little pebble in Michael Steele's shoe ever since, to the point that she wrote an e-mail to 11 people on Steele's "transition team" at the RNC, urging them to urge Steele to resign. Said e-mail was promptly leaked to The Hill newspaper.

Among other things, Dr. Fisher wrote: "I don't want to hear anymore [sic] language trying to be cool about the bling in the stimulus package or appealing to D.L. Hughley and blacks in a way that isn't going to win us any votes and makes us frankly appear to many blacks as quite foolish."

Last night, Fisher went on The Rachel Maddow Show to explain why she was calling for Steele's resignation. She cited the Eleventh Commandment for Republicans ("Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican") without specifying which Republican Steele had spoken ill of (or noticing, for that matter, that she herself was breaking that commandment big-time on the Rachel Maddow Show).

We are left to assume that Limbaugh is the Republican Steele spoke ill of and thus earned the wrath of Dr. Fisher. But we're not entirely sure.

This is not the first time Dr. Fisher attracted a little attention in trying to discipline a fellow Republican. She got after Chip Saltsman back in December after she received his CD of "Barack the Magic Negro." Chip Saltsman was also running for the chairmanship of the RNC at the time, and as we said earlier, Fisher was supporting another Deep South white boy whose own racial foibles did not seem to bother her at all.

Fisher has also run twice for Congress, both times against Mel Watt. For more background on Fisher, her Wikipedia page is here. Her campaign website is here.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Who's Flying This Plane?

Well now! David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, and (last we heard) Respected Conservative Pundit, had this to say on Monday about "the duel" currently entertaining the public:
On the one side, the president of the United States: soft-spoken and conciliatory, never angry, always invoking the recession and its victims. This president invokes the language of "responsibility," and in his own life seems to epitomize that ideal: He is physically honed and disciplined, his worst vice an occasional cigarette. He is at the same time an apparently devoted husband and father. Unsurprisingly, women voters trust and admire him.

And for the leader of the Republicans? A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as "losers." With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence -- exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we're cooperating!

Frum writes ('pears to us) more in sadness than in anger, but the characterization of The Man in Black seems much more a zinger (and from Limbaugh's own section in the bleachers) than any of the stuff Michael Steele intimated and about which Limbaugh unleashed the full BTUs of his scorn.

David Frum (bless his heart) is showing fellow Republicans how to get their testicles out of hock.

Jon Stewart Strafes CNBC

Man, oh man. Did you see Jon Stewart last night on The Daily Show rip into those nimrods over at CNBC? Starting with Rick Santelli, but hardly stopping there. In fact, Stewart's whole show might be dubbed "Wall Street (and Those Who Enable It) Are Dicks," and it's worth watching all three segments, including his interview with Joe Nocera, business columnist for the NYTimes. The videos are all here, labeled "CNBC Gives Financial Advice," "The DOW Knows All," and "Joe Nocera."

Best line: "If I'd only followed CNBC's advice, I'd have a million dollars today, provided I started with a hundred million dollars."

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Duke Energy CEO on Rachel Maddow

I watched the segment last night with Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers on the Rachel Maddow Show. Interesting dude.

Interesting partially because he says he's in favor of "building a bridge" to sustainable energy and of zeroing out our dependence on fossil fuel and carbon emissions (Duke Energy, he himself admits, is the third-largest emitter of carbon particulates in the country, because Duke Energy mainly burns high-carbon coal). He says that he's in favor of the so-called "cap and trade" scheme of making polluters pay for permits to burn fossil fuel ... just not in favor of the up-front permitting proposed by the Obama administration. He warns that if he and Duke Energy has to pay for a permit to pollute, he'll have to pass along that cost to his customers.

Why not, instead, take a hit to your (enormous) profits, Maddow asked, since all the rest of us have been paying all along for your (also enormous) pollution? (And isn't it amazing that such a reasonable question can sound so radical?) Rogers essentially ducked the question.

Maddow was forward in her questioning precisely because Rogers has said he wants to wean the country off fossil fuels, and the rest of his recent biography might suggest a certain progressive streak to his capitalism: he's a self-professed "life-long" Democrat and gave some bucks to the Obama campaign.

So Rogers wants some of the same progressive goals that Obama wants. But Rogers doesn't want to pay for them. Smaller profit margin? Unthinkable!

Also unthinkable is limiting his ability to buy cheap strip-mined coal from Appalachia, like a bill currently being considered in the N.C. General Assembly would do. For all his public relations spin about "creation care," Mr. Rogers will do what he has to do to keep that cheap coal moving, harvested only by the wholesale destruction of entire mountains, and that would include leaning (heavily, and as a "fellow Democrat") on the Democratic members of the N.C. General Assembly.

That, and passing along the costs of pollution TWICE to his customers, rather than see any small dent in his massive profits.

So much for "building a bridge" to a sustainable energy future.

Tennessee Poll: We Like Obama, We Don't Like Obstructionist Republicans

Students in the College of Mass Communications at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro polled 629 randomly selected residents of the state and found that, even though Tennessee gave its electoral votes to John McCain/PomPom Palin, some 53 percent of those polled said they approve of President Obama's job performance, while only 24 percent say that Republicans are doing enough to compromise with the president.

The polling sample breakdown is pretty interesting, especially if you're suspicious that the MTSU students over-weighted for age, gender, or race:
Those polled were 50% male, 50% female

White 84.7%
Black 10.4%
Other 4.9%

18-34 ... 29.8%
35-49 ... 28.8%
50-64 ... 24.4%
65+ ... 17%

Three-fourths of those polled said they'd heard at least one racial joke about Obama, while almost 1 in 6 admitted telling such a joke. But some 57% in the poll (the great majority of whom were white) said they considered such jokes unfunny.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Man in Black

Rush Limbaugh addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Saturday as its closing act. Both C-SPAN and Fox carried the speech live. Limbaugh bragged early on in his remarks that he didn't need a teleprompter because he could speak endlessly without notes. He very nearly did speak endlessly. He went a full hour over his allotted time, proving that he did need a teleprompter. I did not see the speech live, but I've put my time in to watch it since, and more importantly, I've read the full transcript on the Fox News site. And here's the real news:

Rush Limbaugh's speech at CPAC was as big a trainwreck as Bobby Jindal's response to President Obama's speech to Congress.

Didn't use a teleprompter, because he didn't have a coherent speech with a logical argument to give. Instead, he offered an incoherent ramble, stuffed with off-hand (and standard) insults, plus anecdotes that went nowhere in particular -- all ultimately very revealing, though unintentionally so, like a slow-motion mental monologue on a psychiatrist's sofa. It takes a fairly large, random slice of the transcript to illustrate the (actually meaningful) mess:
Somebody says they want something that's bad for them, do you give it to them just to be nice? Or do you tell them, regardless of their age, no, you shouldn't have that? Well, it's none of your business. Maybe not. And then you back out of it. But you still have to have the ability to tell people what's right and wrong. And that's not authoritative. That's not authoritarian. And it's not trying to deny somebody a good time. It's not trying to interrupt somebody's hedonism, pleasure, it's about all of us with shared values trying to make sure that people live the highest quality lives they can. Ultimately, it's their decision as to what they do. But the point is, don't treat them -- especially voters -- as kids just -- they say they want it okay we'll come up with a plan to give it to you. Have any of you seen the movie -- I'd never heard of it, but I happened to get a DVD the other day. Anybody see the movie Swing Vote with Kevin Costner? You know, it's kind of a moronic movie like most things out of Hollywood are....

Strange that this famous man with a famous drug problem would have wandered off into these tall weeds about other people's "hedonism" and "pleasure," and then revealed that his social life is so pathetic that he's watching "moronic" movies in that 50,000-square-foot lonely, empty mansion of his.

What ultimately comes through the almost endless stumbling parade of this "speech," like a flashlight left burning in a corncrib, is Limbaugh's self-loathing, the irresistible desire to reveal his neediness for constant validation. The actual inanity of his speech, his inability to made a coherent argument, actually caused him to break out with a good case of flop-sweat, and he referred to it: "For those of you watching at home, I'm not nervous it's just really hot in here." It's his self-loathing, not the slings and arrows of outrageous lib'ruls, against which he must assert his superiority over and over again.

Because he was being broadcast live by Fox News, Limbaugh referred no less than ten times to his "first address to the nation," and it might be natural to write that off to a pomposity that can't see its own toes. But we see it as an inferiority complex fighting to bluff its way into polite company. Self-loathing that's learned to over-compensate with braggadocio.

Because buried waaay down in the transcript (and it seems like Hour Three of the speech), Limbaugh finally got to the thing itself, the source of his most recent humiliation and proof that his self-loathing is fully justified ... the fact that he wasn't even invited to the summit dinner of conservative intellectuals at George Will's when Barack Obama was the guest of honor. Again, to fully appreciate Limbaugh's own psychosis of inadequacy masquerading as egotism, we must quote this passage at length:
This is a funny story. Show you how I can hijack a news cycle even by doing anything [sic]. The Tuesday before the inauguration, President Bush invited me to the Oval Office for lunch. And it was on and off the record, some of the conversations. And he brought out, interesting, at the end of it -- my birthday had been the day before. He brought out a chocolate birthday cake, a microphone, and stood beside me with Ed Gillespie and sang happy birthday. Photographers taking pictures. I wish my parents were alive. My parents wouldn't believe my life. They came out of the Great Depression. They didn't think it was possible for somebody who did not go to college -- and even for people who did -- they didn't think this was possible. Life has changed so much for the better in this country.

.... So as I'm flying home from lunch, I'm watching television and I see that the word has leaked out that Obama is hosting a dinner with conservative media pundits at the home of George Will. I said: I wonder who these people are? [Laughter] In the media, one of them is going to have to leak it. Sure as heck, one did. Now, we all know who were there. And let's see -- I can't remember all the names, so I won't mention any. But let me tell you Obama's purpose. Does anybody really think that Barack Obama had dinner with a bunch of conservatives hoping they would change his mind?


RUSH: Hell, no. His purpose -- and his purpose really wasn't to change theirs -- his purpose was to anoint them as conservative spokesmen. These are the people that Obama's willing to break bread with. These happen -- some of the people there happen to be the people who think the era of Reagan is over, who believe that conservatism needs to be redefined. Of course Obama would try to lure them in. Well, all of a sudden I land. I get home about 5:00, and my e-mail is jammed with questions from reporters, are you, is that why you took the day off today? Is that why you're not on the air? Are you going to dinner with Obama? By the way, I left out a crucial part of the story. Was this a Monday, Kit? It was a Tuesday. I had forgotten to tell my audience that I was going to miss the next day. I signed off the show saying I'll see you tomorrow. That's the last thing I said. The staff reminded me you're not going to be here tomorrow. I came up with a plan, that the guest host the next day would say that I was called out of town to Washington at midnight the night before. Just an innocent little trick on the radio audience. Everybody picked that up and thinks I'm invited to the Obama dinner. So those people that were invited to it got less coverage than I did and I didn't even know about it. [Laughter] It was fun. [Applause]

Conservatives are naturally happy.

It would take a psychological dissertation to fully unpack the insecurities of that wholly inadvertent confession, the feelings of inadequacy and resentment displaying themselves as a full peacock strut, the little fat wad not picked by the poplar kids for the stickball team, and the apparently perfect revenge of (supposedly) stealing their moment of fame for himself, and then the crashing ironies of that last line ... "Conservatives are naturally happy" (especially when someone else can be imagined as perfectly miserable).

If one thing comes through Limbaugh's interminable monologue on the CPAC couch, it's this: "I'm an unhappy human being."

We want to congratulate the Republican Party for making this guy your national spokesman.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Callousness of Virginia Foxx

If you want to see Virginia Foxx's true feelings about the people in her Fifth District who are losing their homes to foreclosure, you can go here and watch what she said Thursday in floor debate over H.R. 1106, "Helping Families Save Their Homes Act."

Citing no evidence for her sweeping condemnation of the deadbeats in foreclosure, Madam Foxx said that "most of these people never expected to pay the loans back." She came very close to calling them "welfare queens" and did say they are infected with "the welfare mentality."

Great tack, this! Rick Santelli got famous overnight by calling the people getting kicked out of their homes "losers," a word that was so clearly on the tip of Madam Foxx's thick tongue.

Meanwhile, we applaud these conservative clowns for sticking to these particular guns, while recent polling shows that 61 percent of Americans approve of Obama's mortgage refinancing plan, about the same number that were approving of President Obama generally, even before he gave his speech to the joint session of Congress (after which his approval rating jumped to 80 percent).

Public's approval of Madam Foxx? Not so much.

'Til the Landslide Brings Us Down

Watauga County gets prominent mention in a lengthy Asheville Citizen-Times report titled "Homes in Harm's Way on Many WNC Slopes." In that currently rarest activity in some of the newspapery world, Citizen-Times reporters actually did some investigation. They "examined hundreds of erosion inspection reports, reviewed a state database of known landslides, examined maps of landslide hazard areas and interviewed environmentalists, builders, real estate brokers, state legislators and government scientists." And found, among other things, that almost 1,000 homes and 300 undeveloped lots are in the path of potential landslides in Watauga County.

Since 1990 six people have died, five have been injured, and 40 homes and buildings have been destroyed in 534 landslides and debris flows across western North Carolina.

The state Geological Survey completed the mapping of hazardous slopes in Watauga, but so far "officials there have made no changes to land development laws in response to the state's mapping" ... no required disclosure to buyers of property that landslide hazards are known to exist and no required engineering to require new building on known hazardous slopes to compensate for the risk.

And nothing's likely to change until Mother Nature once again shows her power. If history is any guide, it'll take another back-to-back hurricane event, like Frances and Ivan of 2004, and some property owners will be given great cause to rue that nothing was done to prevent loss of life and property when something could have and should have been done.