Friday, May 29, 2009

When last heard from, N.C. House member Cary Allred was suggesting that the chairwoman of the N.C. Republican Party pound sand up her ass for demanding he resign from the General Assembly.

But the headline this a.m., when we fired up the boilers on the old computer, was that Allred had decided he would resign after this current legislative session was over, in, say, September.

By this afternoon, the resignation time-table had accelerated, and Allred now says he'll be out of his friggin office by Monday.

And since he is a demonstrated master of loose-cannonism, he ain't going quietly. He's sick, he says, of being a Republican in a body dominated by Democrats, and he's perhaps even sicker of fellow Republicans:

"I am disgusted with my Republican colleagues who have looked at me through dark-colored glasses with evil thoughts," Allred said.

Sic transit gloria mundi. Which means, roughly translated, "I never liked any of youse anyway."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

BREMCO Loves Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp. draws its power from the Duke Power grid. Eight power plants in that Duke grid burn coal that comes directly from the worst environmental degradation in modern American history, "mountaintop removal" strip mining in West Virginia:
G G Allen power plant, located in Gaston County, NC
Buck power plant, located in Rowan County, NC
Cliffside power plant, located in Cleveland County, NC
Dan River power plant, located in Rockingham County, NC
Marshall power plant, located in Catawba County, NC
Riverbend power plant, located in Gaston County, NC
W S Lee power plant, located in Anderson County, SC
Belews Creek power plant, located in Stokes County, NC

We have learned that BREMCO and other power cooperatives around the state recently bussed employees to Raleigh to lobby in our name against the Appalachian Mountain Preservation Act, which would have stopped state utilities like Duke Energy from burning coal extracted by means of mountaintop removal (which incidentally involves the burying of adjacent creeks with the waste rock and dirt, compounding the destruction).

When the bill's sponsor, Pricey Harrison, withdrew the bill because of the successful lobbying against it, BREMCO employee Renee Whitener sent out an e-mail crowing about the victory and congratulating BREMCO supporters for the success in making power generation in North Carolina safe for strip-miners in Appalachia.

As long-time members and rate-payers with BREMCO, we strenuously object to having the N.C. General Assembly lobbied in our names for the continued wholesale rape of West Virginia and other coal regions. Piously, BREMCO claims that using deep-mined coal would cost its customers more money, which is true ... some 47 cents more per month, according to Appalachian Voices.

We not only object strenuously to the lobbying muscle BREMCO used in our names. We object to the bogus "economics" of tacitly saying a few cents more per month in our power bills out-weighs the wholesale destruction of the mountains north of here because they were unlucky enough to have coal seams buried deep in their bowels. We're also not impressed by the tsk-tsking of various members of the N.C. General Assembly, saying they're totally distressed on the one hand by the reality of mountaintop removal coal mining and totally bulldozed on the other hand by N.C. power utilities to NOT do the right thing.

The "values" of mega-corporations are too often not human values. BREMCO does not represent us.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Jeff A. Taylor over at The Meck Deck, another of the 4 million websites sponsored by the right-wing John Locke Foundation, sums up his reaction to the Tom Fetzer "I'm NOT Gay" side-show in the N.C. Republican Party: "...this dust-up tells me that there is a sickness deep within the Republican Party in North Carolina that will not soon be healed. What was once a party of ideas is now a collection of special interests, boiling resentments, and stunning mediocrity."

We're going to remember that particular oxymoron ... "stunning mediocrity." Nice touch, that.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Lord of Misrule

That's Cary Allred, Republican member of the NC General Assembly from Burlington. He's an accomplished comedian.

First, he was stopped on his way to Raleigh for going approximately a zillion miles per hour. Later that day, and apparently under the influence of lighter fluid, he put the (heterosexual) moves on a female House page, which behavior his (heterosexual) Republican colleagues later jealously called gross, icky, and mildly arousing.

Linda Daves, chair of the state party (until June 13th, when she's OUT), roused herself from baking apple dumplings long enough to demand that Allred resign from the General Assembly, and as late as Thursday Allred was saying, "All right, suckas, I'm outta your friggin uptight little political conclave." Allred said he'd change his registration to Unaffiliated.

But now, the about face and the punchline: Hell no, I won't leave the Republican Party, sez Allred, and who the hell is Linda Daves anyway?
"She never did anything to help me get elected. She doesn't know me. I don't know her," Allred said. "She does not know my constituents and my constituents don't know her."

Ooo, ouch.

Future Chair of the NC GOP ... Heterosexuality "A Matter of Public Record"

It's not just the Watauga County Republican Party that's obsessed with homosexuality. The state party is too. Where else would an e-mailed gay accusation about front-runner to become the new state Republican Party Chair, Tom Fetzer, elicit this hilariously defensive denial from Fetzer:
"I am not gay -- never have been -- never will be. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support any of the scurrilous allegations made in the anonymous attack on me .... The fact that I'm 54 and single does not mean that I have to put up with vicious rumors that I'm gay. The fact that I am heterosexual is a matter of public record."

Excuse me? How did Mr. Fetzer establish his heterosexuality as "a matter of public record"? Is there a central office for doing that? A board of examination? Is there videotape evidence of his rampant heterosexuality in action?

What is even funnier is that Fetzer is also a political consultant (he was big in this state for Elizabeth Dole's reelection), and he's done what I should think a political consultant might have advised him against ... giving credence to the accusation in the way he denies it ("The fact that I'm 54 and single...") -- not to mention letting the whole world in on what was probably just an e-mail kerfluffle among a few Republican wing-nuts.

Such is the paranoia (queer fear) in the modern North Carolina Republican Party.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Watauga GOP Under Foxx Ownership

In today's Watauga Democrat, the column published under the name of the Watauga County Republican Party does not respond in any way to Hugh Sturgill's stinging critique on May 6 in the same newspaper that the local Republicans have been taken over by an intolerant far-right group led by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, her husband Tom, and her employee Aaron Whitener. Sturgill charged that these people have forced out anyone not as self-righteous as they.

(NOTE: Neither Sturgill's column nor this present one are included in the on-line content at, under the apparent logic that if the paper publishes anything remotely interesting to read, you'll have to pay 50 cents to read it. Which is actually pretty good logic.)

As if to prove Sturgill's point, the column in Friday's paper doubles down on self-righteousness.

The column is signed by one "G. Oliver Parsons," who is supposedly a member of the Watauga County Republican Party. I put that name in quotation marks because no "G. Oliver Parsons" exists on the voter file of Watauga County, nor in the phone book, and his/her identity may be the pure figment of a Foxxian imagination. But it doesn't really matter. What he/she has to say matters.

"G. Oliver" pretty much confirms Sturgill's accusation that the local Republicans have no intention of broadening their base. Rather, the Watauga County Republican Party has decided to prove their relevance by attacking gays and gay-defenders.

In the editorial "G. Oliver Parsons" rails: HOW DARE the Boone Town Council, HOW DARE THEY – DEMOCRATS ALL! – fail to support a proposed bill in the N.C. Senate that would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage!? (Apparently, people struggling for the right to get married are a huge threat to the institution of marriage.)

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

G. Oliver Parsons' reasoning, as far as we can follow it, is this: North Carolina, according to slanted polling by the Pope Civitas Institute, is knee-jerk bigoted against gays, and the mountain people of Watauga County are even more bigoted against gays, so HOW DARE THE BOONE TOWN COUNCIL not live up to the expectations of all those bigots!?

Subtext: The Boone Town Council will RUE the day, come November 3, when the voters of Boone will vote out the gay-loving Democrats and vote in the gay-hating Republicans.

We believe this particular editorial is the opening gun in the Republican campaign to convince Boone voters to turn over this little town to Republican control. Which, when you get right down to it, is every bit as brilliant as the rest of Madam Foxx's recent public utterances.


Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., has revoked its recognition of the College Democrats because the club endorses Democratic candidates, who are (obviously) baby-killers and devil-worshippers.

The club's president received the news via e-mail from Liberty University's vice president of student affairs. The club, which was officially sanctioned just last October, was ordered to stop using the university's name, to hold no meetings on campus, and to stop advertising events.

That same VP for student affairs then told the local Lynchburg newspaper, "We are in no way attempting to stifle free speech."


Ripping the Sheet

Rob Christensen's column in today's N&O, about the mounting problems besetting our ex-governor and his wife, is a must-read. Christensen is efficient in summing up the gist:
The saga includes many story lines. Did the Easleys use their position to get free cars, insider real estate deals, and cushy jobs? Were there built-in conflicts because Mary Easley was the first governor's wife with a professional career in a small state capital dominated by government and a university? Why does a former prosecutor, lawyer and law professor need another lawyer to do her talking?

One of the narrative threads is that the Democratic establishment is washing its hands of a leader for whom they never really cared.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mary Easley, Hanging Tough

Mary Easley let her attorney do the talking today at a press conference, though she was standing right there. Attorney Marvin Schiller said that the ex-governor's wife would not be resigning from her $800,000 contract with NCSU, which cost any number of us citizens bet-money, including moi.

Mary Easley smiled.

Attorney Schiller proceeded to read a letter of praise for Easley written by the man who hired her and who therefore resigned his position as Provost of NCSU last Friday. Angels on high were asphyxiated by the irony.

The N&O account hints broadly (because lawyer Schiller would not answer direct questions about it) that Mary Easley might be open to having her contract bought out by NCSU. Which is something short of resigning but nothing short of the family's well documented ability to get fair return on the dollar.

Madam Foxx Votes to Protect Predatory Credit Card Companies

Of the many votes cast by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx that are counter the economic interests of her constituents in the NC-5, few are more breath-taking than her vote yesterday against the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights. Only 64 members of the House voted against this law, which will prohibit retroactive interest rate hikes on existing balances and "double-cycle billing" -- charging interest twice for balances paid on time. It will also require companies to give consumers at least 21 days to make their payments, and it mandates a 45-day advance notice of hikes to interest rates, fees, and finance charges. It also strengthens credit card protections for young people.

Madam Foxx said NO to all that, bless her wee little minuscule organ, formerly known as a heart.

Almost half of American families currently carry an average balance of $7,300 in 2007. An average balance of $7,300. One-fifth of those carrying credit-card debt pay an interest rate above 20 percent. Interest rates over 20 percent.

Madam Foxx's own Catholic Church, of which she's proud to be a congregant while she's in Washington, D.C., had ancient doctrines against charging interest on loans, and 20+ percent interest is beyond loan-shark abusive. It's certainly beyond what Pope Benedict XIV or Pope Gregory XVI would have countenanced. More ancient Catholic doctrine forbid those who charged interest from receiving the sacraments.

The Catholic Church eventually let that doctrine slide (like a lot of other things). Whatever faith or conscience Madam Foxx still possesses in her half-Baptist, half-Catholic schizophrenia, there's no room for protecting the weak from the ravages of the strong.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Impeccable Logic

Via Mark Binker's N&R reporter's blog, we learn that the reason our new Senator Kay Hagan is opposing the bill that will allow the Federal Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products is because people already know how dangerous tobacco products are.


Saith the senator, "We need to have FDA focus on monitoring our food, our drug safety, rather than taking on a product that I think people know is inherently unsafe."

Okay. If it's inherently unsafe, no need to regulate it, right?

Would that logic also apply, Senator, to heroin, say, or to a certain hallucinogenic salvia that the N.C. Senate intends to ban? Or to 12-year-olds getting their hands on vodka?

The actual logic behind her political decision might have a good deal more to do with not bucking a huge (and ruthless) N.C. industry, which peddles (incidentally) an inherently unsafe product.

Those Groves of Academe

So federal subpoenas were flying like confetti in and around N.C. State University yesterday. The Chancellor will be sharing his recollections with a federal grand jury, and so will the former provost, who actually did the hiring of Mary Easley. He resigned last Friday, saying he'd done nothing wrong.

The N&O has the emerging time-line of who did what after so-and-so called him.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sen. Dick Burr Relieved To Be a Backseat Driver

Sen. Dick Burr was in Ashe County yesterday, speaking to students at Ashe County High School.

In an off-hand comment in response to a student question, Burr confirmed what we've long observed ... that Republicans actually relish being the opposition party, since governing means managing the government, which good conservatives don't believe in anyway:
"In many ways, being the minority is liberating because the majority are the ones who are responsible for setting an agenda," Burr said. "I find that when I am in the minority, I have more time to delve into policy, especially when the other team is in the White House."

We certainly want to make sure that Sen. Dick gets extended years for "delving" rather than governing. In fact, Senator, think how much time you'd have for criticizing the majority if you were out of the Senate altogether.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Another Prilosec Moment

Now the Chancellor of North Carolina State University says that it would be a good thing if Mary Easley would just go ahead and resign her $170,000 job, a position the Chancellor can't remember helping her get. It "would be in the best interest of the university."

Anyone taking bets that the position will be vacant within 24 hours?

Then what are the bets that the chancellorship itself will be vacant pretty soon after?

Acid Reflux

Rep. Heath Shuler's chief of staff is spreading the word that the congressman's phone has been positively ringing off the hook with all sorts of very important people asking Mr. Shuler to reconsider his decision NOT to run against Richard Burr in next year's Senate contest.

This is reminiscent of the bygone days of a local political boss who used to be famous for volunteering that "Many people have told me..." and what always came next was what the political boss himself wanted to happen, and everyone knew the "many people" were a figment of his imagination.

We think Congressman Shuler made the right decision the first time. Many people have told us that.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

News From the Matrix

Timothy F. Johnson (left), chair of the Buncombe County GOP, is running for vice chair of the NC GOP and sees himself as an insurgent. He's speaking out against vague "tactics" used to keep folks like him from sitting at the proverbial table. The "Old Guards," he calls them, and they're evidently as shadowy and mysteriously powerful as the Illuminati.

Nasty, too.

Writes Johnson, "One of the criticism of our party has been the perceived nastiness and underhanded tactics employed by some." That nastiness, Johnson says, has been used against him in his efforts to win the vice chair role in his own party. He alleges that his personal and professional life have been investigated, and false or not-entirely-true allegations have been spread around, sub-rosa.

So, in defense, Johnson has an endorsement from his ex-wife.
'GOD GUNS GUTS' ... not necessarily in that order.

The Sermon on the Mount ... on indefinite hiatus in east Tennessee.

Hat tip: LM

Friday, May 15, 2009

Erskine Bowles Bares His Teeth

And well he should. He's asking for the resignation of McQueen Campbell, chair of the N.C. State Univ. board of trustees, who's implicated in the hiring of Mike Easley's wife Mary at a very high salary in some of the mutual-back-scratching that the Raleigh N&O has been delving into.

As soon as we posted the above, at 2:38 p.m. to be exact, the Charlotte Observer had posted news that McQueen Campbell has resigned as the NCSU board chair. But he's hanging tough. In a letter addressed to Gov. Beverly Perdue, Campbell said: "I am not resigning because I have acted inappropriately. Both the chancellor and the provost have communicated publicly and independently that the hiring process of Mary Easley was free from any improper influence."

So why are you resigning?

At 2:34 p.m., the N&O posted news that the State Board of Elections has opened a criminal probe of former Gov. Easley's campaign reporting.

And the F.B.I. is also probing ... Easley's glomming onto all that free private air travel, which involves none other than ... McQueen Campbell, jet owner and pilot.

Roy Cooper, No Go

In an e-mail to supporters this a.m., N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper says he won't run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Dick Burr.

Bad for us.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Yes, Just Do It ... Investigate Mike Easley

For a cascading series of recent stories that former Governor No-Show exercised an arrogant disregard for political ethics and was as prone to cronyism as Boss Hogg, Phil Berger, the Republican leader in the N.C. Senate is calling for a special prosecutor.

Unfortunate that it took a Republican leader, rather than a Democratic one, to drop that boot.

The full panoply of N&O investigations of the former governor can be accessed here.

The Diet Some People Eat Up

A friend told us about coming back to Boone up U.S. 321 down the mountain and stopping in at a brand new Wendy's. Set up in that Wendy's in a prominent spot, and turned up loud, was a large TV screen tuned to Fox News.

My friend protested and was told that it was permanently tuned in to Fox News, apparently for the nutritional value.

Seeing as how my friend had already put in his order, he took the logical next step: he told the young lady behind the counter that she would need to come find him outside, since he had no intention of listening to the propaganda while waiting for his Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger with fries. And she agreed. (She had no use for Fox News either, but her boss was apparently on a mission.)

In some American fast-food joints, it's just not enough, apparently, to lard up your arteries. Gotta anesthetize those brain cells too!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The headline of today: "Sarah Palin Gets Book Deal."

Never mind who'll write it. We're wondering who'll read it to her.

Hugh Sturgill and the Foxx Flying Elbows

One of the first rules of political warfare: you don't let direct attacks go unanswered.

Yet the new Foxx regime of the local Watauga Republican Party appears to be unresponsive to Hugh Sturgill's attack on them in the May 6, 2009, issue of the "Watauga Democrat" (a lengthy column that never made it on-line).

According to Sturgill, a former member of the Watauga GOP central committee, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx and her husband Tom made a successful power grab of the local party, forcing out "moderates" and anyone not prepared to kiss the congresswoman's ... ring.

Failure to respond to the charges of bullying only confirms Sturgill's charges and suggests further that the new leaders have something to hide.

One might have thought that Madam Foxx had a job in Washington, though it must get mighty boring after a while just voting no on everything (though that $174,000 annual salary apparently makes boredom bearable). Why take on the new job of running the Watauga GOP? The obvious answer, despite her protestations to the contrary, is that she's deeply embarrassed to be losing her home county in election after election, and she intends to do something about it.

"Doing something about it," turning Watauga more in her favor, apparently involves, first, alienating a portion of her Republican worker-bees. Public relations ain't Madam Foxx's strong suit. Shoving people out of the way is.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The New Face of the Republican Party

The Party of Torture has its standard-bearer, whether it wants him or not.

They might have chosen Charlie Crist instead, the popular Republican Governor of Florida, who says he's running for the U.S. Senate in 2010, for the seat being vacated by Republican Mel Martinez. But Crist (bless his heart) endorsed President Obama's stimulus plan and had the gall to be seen on the same stage with him, so Florida Republicans (well, some of them, but still) hate his ever-loving guts.

So there's going to be a really nasty Republican primary for Senate in Florida next year, most like, to save the party from any hint of moderation.

You go, guys.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Patty McHenry Wanders Off the Reservation

Rut-roh. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-Munchkinville) is quoted as saying the Republican Party needs to drop its endless whining about taxes. The Reagan Era is over, he says, having just awoken evidently and having just smelled the coffee.

"Marginal tax rates are the lowest they've been in generations, and all we can talk about is tax cuts," he said. "The people's desires have changed, but we're still stuck in our old issue set."

Next thing we know, he'll be declaring gay people full citizens of the United States.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

No State Regs on Steep Slope Building This Year

Because the real estate industry and its allies don't want anything interfering with their God-given rights to sell steep land to people without mentioning that road-building and construction on it may cause it to slide into the nearest valley.

And because the N.C. General Assembly won't mandate disclosure and mitigation laws, neither will individual N.C. counties, even where there is hazardous slope mapping, complete and specific down to individual parcels. Like in Watauga County.

The Asheville Citizen-Times has details on this most recent demise of common sense.

It'll take another round of hurricanes (remember 2005, when part of the White Laurel development came down that hill in Boone and several people died in Macon County?), and maybe not even then, not when there's bunches of money to be made by ignoring the obvious.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Watauga's "Right Wing Queen"

Better go find yourself a copy of today's Watauga Democrat if you want to read Hugh Sturgill's lengthy blast against Virginia Foxx and her take-over of the Watauga Republican Party. Sturgill was until recently a member of the Watauga GOP executive committee and resigned in protest, he says, because of Tom Foxx's bullying and the installation of Madam Foxx's employee Aaron Whitener as chair of the local party.

You'll have to go find a copy of today's paper because the paper's management did not include this particular item in its on-line version.

And, yes, Sturgill does indeed call Madam Foxx our "right wing queen."

N.C. Republican Strategist Says Foxx Could Be Hurting the GOP

From Roll Call today, an article titled "Foxx Hunts for GOP, Sometimes Misfires":
One North Carolina political strategist said Foxx's work ethic was impressive at home and inside the Capitol, but that her inability to communicate the Republican message effectively could end up hurting the party.

"I don't see how it's been helpful," the strategist said. "The party should do what it can to raise the profile of females and minorities, but a lot of the time the people we put out front may not be the most effective spokesmen."

We're sure the strategist meant "spokespersons."

Also mentioned in the article ... Republican Minority Leader John Boehner called Foxx down for grinning in front of Capitol cameras. Apparently, he was concerned that the Foxx smile might melt the faces of innocent bystanders.

N.C. GOP Stands Tall for Bullying Gay Kids

The School Violence Protection Act, Senate Bill 526, passed the N.C. Senate yesterday. Not a single Republican senator voted for it because it recognized gay and lesbian students as potential targets of bullying. Republican politicians don't want to get caught being "gay friendly," no indeedy.

So Public Policy Polling's discussion today deserves some attention. In March, PPP found that 69% of the general public support the sexual orientation provision in the bill, and even a 51% majority of Republicans support the bill. Writes Tom Jensen,
This is a pretty good example of how legislative Republicans marginalize themselves and why Democrats have generally been able to keep control of the legislature in election years that otherwise went very well for the GOP. The truth is that the issues they choose to lose sleep over are outside the mainstream of even much of the Republican base.

In other words, the Republicans in the state senate are considerably to the right of even their base, who don't seem all that concerned that protecting gay kids from getting beat up is going to lead to Sodom&Gomorra, right here in River City!

Anyone waiting for the "rebranding" of Republicanism in N.C. needs to pack several meals and a bedroll.

Worser and Worser

So Madam Foxx has written Matthew Shephard's mother a note, saying "If there was anything I said that offended you, I'm sorry you were offended," which is parsing words in order not to make an apology, and then lied to WXII-TV, saying she was speaking "off the cuff," when she was clearly reading from prepared remarks in the video we've all seen. And then refused to say whether she now considers Shephard's brutal beating death a hate crime.

Because she doesn't. And if you think for a micro-second that she didn't use EXACTLY the word she meant, then you don't know Foxx. And if you think she's sorry for anything beyond the fact that she's been embarrassed INTERNATIONALLY as the very face of bigotry, then you don't know beans.

She's our Michele Bachmann.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Who's Your Daddy?

The Catholic Church hierarchy in North Carolina ... what peaches!

The two Catholic presiding bishops have come out against Senate Bill 526, otherwise known as the School Violence Protection Act, because, saith the prelates, if you ban bullying of gays and lesbians, you're on the pathway straight to gay marriage.

Their holinesses thus join up with the Christian Action League and the N.C. Family Policy Council in proposing that it ought to be the constitutional right of every red-blooded American teenager to fatten the lip of any gay kid who gets in his/her way.

The ironies are rife. The church dictum is effed up. And the example of Christ is nowhere to be seen.

Foxx Chase

This just in: Madam Virginia Foxx is ranked the second most partisan Republican in Congress. According to Ryan Beckwith, "The Hill" newspaper surveyed more than 100 Capitol Hill lawmakers and promised them anonymity to speak frankly. The ranking of Foxx comes from her own peers in Congress, mind you.

And in case you missed it: the very nearly universal scolding of The Madam over her insult to the memory of Matthew Shepherd extended itself into the pages of the Winston-Salem Journal, which ran an editorial, "Outrageous Statements," blasting the congresswoman last Friday while we were on the road to Raleigh.

Judy Shephard, Matthew's mother, who just happened to be in the House gallery when Madam Foxx made her hateful assault on her son's memory, appeared on the Rachel Maddow show, on Thursday, and commented unfavorably on Foxx's non-apology.

Here's the link to "The Hill" article, which I should have referenced above. In it, Foxx is described as "opaque" by one of her colleagues, which means, we think, that she emits no light.

Polling on Landslide Hazards

The survey of Watauga County voters about land development issues reported on in yesterday's Watauga Democrat might, in the best of all possible worlds, lead to some new public policy.

Nearly all of the 402 people surveyed -- 95 percent of them -- believe property buyers should be forewarned about landslide hazards.


And in this county particularly, there are now very thorough landslide hazard maps available ... though no ordinance requiring the information in them to be shared or acted on. The real estate industry is dead set against it.

Waiting for "Heaven"

I grew up in the infancy of commercial broadcast TV. How we worshipped that little glass window! It opened up a sumptuous feast of worldly delights for this clod-hopping Texas farmboy. I jumped off the school bus at 3:45 every afternoon and ran the quarter-mile fencerow to catch the beginning of the 4 o'clock movie beamed out of Amarillo. It was often an indisputable classic, though I didn't know from "classic" back then and enjoyed Bud Abbott and Lou Costello maybe a little more than Sir Laurence Olivier in "Wuthering Heights."

One I especially remember seeing was called "Stairway to Heaven," a war movie made in Britain. An RAF pilot (played by David Niven) is going down in his flaming plane over the Channel, and he establishes a sudden emotional bond with an anonymous American woman (Kim Hunter) on the ground, the only voice he can raise on his radio and the last voice he is likely to hear before he dies. He tells her he loves her. She tells him she loves him too, knowing he's about to die.

But he doesn't die (and this part, it turns out, was based on an actual happening during the war, when an RAF pilot survived bailing out of his plane without a working parachute). The death angel, the pilot's "conductor" to the afterlife, misses him in the blasted English fog. By the time his conductor locates him 20 hours later, the pilot has found the American woman he last spoke to on the radio, and they're in love. Fantasy? Hell yes, but nothing like what's coming. Because the pilot owes heaven his death, and because everything is now changed by the love between a man and a woman, heaven grants the pilot a trial to determine whether he will live or die.

I was riveted by this movie ... the wartime ethos of sacrifice and shared purpose, the eternal hope in the healing power of love. I saw it just that once, interrupted often by commercial breaks. No matter. I have remembered it all these years. Those images have never died.

It was made in 1946 by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, that remarkable team who made "The Thief of Bagdad," "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp," "Black Narcissus," "The Red Shoes," and several other stunning movies. I've watched them all in the last two years by way of the brave new world of DVD. But "Stairway to Heaven" was never available ... until now.

First off, its original title was "A Matter of Life and Death." "Stairway to Heaven" was put on it for American release. I have just watched it for the second time in my life, the two viewings separated by 52 years. I was afraid that my teenager infatuation, like most such infatuations, would just look silly after all this time. But, no, the movie holds up, an emotional tribute to British/American solidarity in what was perhaps our last just war. It was propaganda, of course. And let's get real: most movies ARE propaganda, aimed at flattering our self-perceptions and our egos.

I ain't against a movie making me feel good about being American. And Michael Powell's conception of a war-time heaven is so surprising, and so visually engrossing, it's a comfort to know the movie can be commanded again into my mailbox any time I need a fix.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Mellow Man

Nathan Tabor, the right-wing Republican battlebot of yore (he came in fifth in the Republican primary for U.S. Congress that Madam Foxx ultimately won in 2004), says he's now "gentler, softer, more agreeable" in his new role as chair of the Forsyth County Republican Party.


He was the cleverer-by-half candidate who did things like buy up all the domain names he thought his opposition might want to use. According to John Railey, "Tabor has the Facebook savvy and youth [Republicans will] need to [sell themselves to voters again] -- if moderates aren't scared off by his past stances."

Tabor graduated from the Rev. Pat Robertson's Regent University, and has been endorsed, if not enabled, by both Robertson and the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

He now says that, though he still listens to Rush Limbaugh, he doesn't always agree with him. (For that slip of the tongue, he might want to keep this website bookmarked on his computer.)
Published with permission of Kevin Siers, The Charlotte Observer (from May 1, 2009)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Dealing with W.

I'd been avoiding this movie. But at someone else's house this weekend, where someone else punched it up via Pay Per View, I found myself watching it compulsively and hating myself for giving in so easily.

Amazing what a Whole New Context will do for a movie like this one. Which is to say, with W. out of office, there's a little more distance -- precious little, granted -- to appreciate what that bad bad boy Oliver Stone manages to pull off.

Not going for a full review here. Because the movie turns out to be what I read about it, unusually sympathetic to the subject, and I ain't there yet.

But it deserves a viewing, via whatever means.

Just a brief special bravo for Stacy Keach, who does a small turn as the Reverend Earl Hudd, the preacher who helped W. find God. And raspberries for the usually excellent Thandie Newton, who is turrible as Condoleezza Rice.