Saturday, January 31, 2009

Steele's 2006 False Advertising

Via Joshua Micah Marshall ... one of the yard signs that "proud Republican" Michael Steele used in 2006 in his run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.

Limbaugh: "This Was All About Race"

Michael Steele, the new Chair of the Republican National Committee (who, incidentally, has been known to pal around with Republicans), said yesterday after his election, "This is the dawn of a new party moving in a new direction with strength and conviction."

Mummies on the march!

Steele also said, somewhat cryptically, "We're going to say to friend and foe alike: 'We want you to be a part of us, we want you to be with us.' And for those who wish to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over."

Obstructionists? Was he talking about Republican members of Congress? Did he clear those remarks with Rush?

Steele's an interesting politician. A black Republican in the heavily Democratic state of Maryland, he was elected lieutenant governor of the state partly by posing as a Democrat. Really. He used bamboozlement. And his campaign recruited homeless men and women from Philadelphia (twice) to hand out flyers on election day that identified him as a "Democrat."

Steele was supposedly the most moderate of the candidates running yesterday, but he has struck poses that look remarkably similar to the far right. During his failed Senate campaign in 2006, he said stem cell research was like Nazi experimentation.

He didn't say a word, however, about the morality of reanimating the dead.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The New Republican Party Chair

As predicted down-column, it's Michael Steele on the 6th ballot.

Came down to a contest between Steele and South Carolina's Katon Dawson, who was apparently the favorite of the party's most conservative elements.

One North Carolina conservative sounds unhappy at the prospect of Michael Steele, whom she labels a "squishy moderate" and then a "main street Republican" (apparently, that's a bad thing) but then backpedals and says she's happy happy happy to have any new chair of the Mummy Party.

Looks like a lot of the same old dust to us. But time will tell, as it always does with mummies.

Unemployment in Watauga

The Employment Security Commission of North Carolina released new out-of-work figures for every county in the state today, and Watauga's unemployment went up from 5.1 (Nov. 2008) to 5.7 percent in December ... a much smaller increase than in several other counties. North Carolina counties with unemployment rates over 10 percent exactly doubled, from 17 counties in November to 34 counties in December.

Worst city for jobs: Rocky Mount, with 11.7 percent unemployment.

Best city for jobs: Durham, with 6.1 percent unemployment.

Furloughs Coming to ASU?

UNC President Erskine Bowles says he's going to ask for authority to furlough university employees in response to cuts in state appropriations. The Chancellor of NC State jumped in and said that "faculty leaders" at his institution are willing to volunteer for unpaid furloughs in order to save support staff jobs. Mighty nice of 'em.

Hard times comin' for the North Carolina higher education workforce ... as for everyone else.

Meanwhile, Virginia Foxx and the Mummy Party say (a) the American economy can still basically take care of itself and (b) it's all the Democrats' fault.

The Head Mummy

The Mummy Party is supposed to be choosing its Head Mummy today at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting. According to The Politico, incumbent RNC Chairman Mike Duncan is in the lead, followed by former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson, with Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell far back. Former Tennessee Republican Chair Chip Saltsman, he of "Barack the Magic Negro" fame, dropped out of the race yesterday (bless his heart).

We're betting on Michael Steele to win. Republicans may feel that they need their OWN magic Negro to counter-balance President Obama.

Not that any of this matters very much. Whoever becomes the new Republican Chair will have to answer to the REAL party boss, Rush Limbaugh, who's already decreed that President Obama must be made to fail at all costs. Madam Virginia Foxx and all the other little Republican foxes in the House instantly obeyed their leader and voted for Obama's failure in the stimulus bill. Even Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia was forced to apologize to The Great One for asking him to pipe down about hoping for Obama's failure. You DO NOT cross the Limbaugh!

All of which is yummy pudding for Rush's fragile ego.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Perdue Will Stand Strong for Abortion Rights

The Guv told a breakfast of Lillian's List supporters in Raleigh, "North Carolina is going to be a state where choice is safe under my watch."

Not that anybody in the know is predicting that an anti-choice act could get out of committee in either the NC House or the Senate, but still, it's good to hear.

Strip Tease

The Charlotte Observer, in a series of investigative reports last year, found that NC Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry was NOT enforcing workplace safety laws, preferring rather to be "cooperative" with big business, meaning, she preferred to cover both eyes with her hands while simultaneously pinching her nose closed.

Sen. Doug Berger has introduced a bill that would strip Berry of her (unused) authority to enforce workplace safety. Berger's bill would transfer that power instead to the Employment Security Commission.

We applaud that proposed law. Anything that removes that particular hairball from the state's plumbing would be welcome.

The Mummy Party

We were on the road to Raleigh (and beyond) when the House voted on the stimulus package and didn't get any state papers into our hands until this a.m. We were not at all surprised that NOT ONE SINGLE Republican voted with the president nor that 11 Blue Dogs jumped off the porch and went hunting with a strange pack of flea-eaten hound dogs.

Eventually, we figger, President Obama's gonna learn who he's dealing with.

Le'ssee here ... the American people rejected Republican economic policies in both 2006 and 2008, wrapped up that whole philosophy in surgical bandages and buried the whole shebang in a deep crypt, yet the Republican remnant in the U.S. House (along with those bright Blue Dogs) are stubborn in demanding that the president and the rest of us just lie back and accept more Bushian economics ... more tax cuts for the rich, more enabling of corporate robber barons, more deregulation, and unless we accept a continuation of what they've been doing since 2001, and accelerate it, they're not going to cooperate. Big freakin' surprise!

This a.m., Madam Virginia Foxx is quoted in the Raleigh N&O. Foxx is busily rewriting history and twisting logic out of all recognizable shape. She says that "President George Bush's signature tax cuts in 2001 had spawned years of growth, but the nation's problems started when Democrats regained majorities in Congress in the 2006 elections." With this abysmal representative, it's always the Democrats' fault, and the year is ALWAYS 1929.

We guessed (before we could confirm it) that Heath Shuler (NC 11) was one of those 11 Blue Dog Democrats, and he was. Even Mike McIntyre (NC 7), one of the most dependably Republican of "Democratic" representatives, voted with President Obama. Shuler, evidently, likes hanging with the Foxx.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Giant Weenie Roast

Rush Limbaugh is riding high, buoyed by his daily ability to be outrageous and get liberals all upset at him so that he can then play the victim of a liberal witch-hunt (uh, make that a "liberal Pillsbury dough-boy hunt").

So one day he says he hopes Obama fails.

Then yesterday he said that Republican leaders in Congress were essentially girly men.

This afternoon Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., a very conservative member of the House, shot back and suggested that Limbaugh shut his fat trap. Rather, Gingrey essentially said that Limbaugh is out of touch:
You know you're just on these talk shows, and you're living well, and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of thing.

In other words, Limbaugh's a dilettante? Instead of The Most Important Conservative Philosopher in the History of the Universe?

Guess Who's the New Renaissance Woman

Sarah Palin "believes the Republican Party is at the threshold of an historic renaissance that will build a better future for all," and she intends that you give her a generous contribution (to "SarahPAC") to prove it.

The first Renaissance was all about enlightenment and learning and art, about discovering science and challenging The Church.

Yep. That's what Sarah is ALL about.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Big Dog Clinton Raising Money for Shuler

Ex-Prez Bill Clinton is in Raleigh today at North Carolina State University (actually, Reynolds Coliseum), speaking about "issues facing the country." The university has announced that there are no more "general public tickets" available, but if you know somebody, you might get in.

One VIP who'll most definitely get is in NC-11 Congressman Heath Shuler, though he could just wait until this p.m. when Clinton will be hosting a luncheon fundraiser for the congressman.

Shuler supported Clinton's wife for president in last year's state primary, and as a super-delegate to the Democratic National Convention, Shuler pledged himself to Hillary because she won his 11th Dist. in that primary ... not that he ever got to cast his vote for her.

Sure 'nuff looks like Shuler is off and running for Senate in 2010 against Dick Burr, backed by some powerful fundraising mojo.

Sign of the Times

Photographed last week along Route 16 in Pleasants County, West By God Virginia.

HatTip: J.K.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bev Perdue, Thinking Big

Looks like our new Guv is thinking her own large-ish change agenda, which is good. Rob Christensen, who is well qualified, does a little history primer on NC's Depression Guv, O. Max Gardner, on whom Perdue may be modeling herself.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ugly Is as Ugly Does

Representative Virginia Foxx has sent out another fundraising letter to a NewsMax e-mail list. We'll delve into that screed, but first:

NewsMax is a conservative web site/media conglomerate backed by Richard Mellon Scaife. It's stock-in-trade is paranoid fantasy. It has fanned the flames against Mexican immigrants and published an erroneous article in August 2007 alleging that Barack Obama was present for Rev. Jeremiah Wright's "God damn the United States of America" sermon (he wasn't). Foxx's fundraising letter is prefaced by a note from NewsMax administrators introducing Foxx as a "sponsor" of the web site ... which sort of implies that NewsMax GAVE the Madam its e-mail list. More likely -- and we DO believe in capitalism, right? -- she had to pay for it. Evidently, she targeted just North Carolina subscribers (since she says at one point, "No matter where you live in North Carolina I ask you to join me in restoring the conservative movement in our state.")

The text of the letter is like vintage Jesse Helms: scare the bejesus out of people already primed to think the absolute worst about everybody, except maybe the members of their own church and/or country club (and not all of them either). Although the letter makes us think of Ole Jesse, maybe her real mentor for this kind of writing was her opponent in 2004, Vernon Robinson, who would say absolutely ANYTHING about ANYBODY (including Madam Foxx), as long as he considered him/her a political enemy and hence not quite human.

She begins the letter with some conservative boiler plate ... dropping a name sure to swell the bile ducts (Nancy Pelosi) ... and FDR's (hated) New Deal ... and the plummiest plum of all, Obama's word "Change." "That 'change,' " Madam Foxx fumes, "includes an all-out assault on our principles and our freedoms .... this is a scary time."

What Foxx says scares her are a collection of the usual suspects (abortion, immigration, gay marriage), with some additional manufactured "crises" concocted out of a feverish imagination, like the suggestion that liberal Democrats are getting ready "to silence Limbaugh, Hannity and all the other great Americans on talk radio" by means of "The Fairness Doctrine." Here's the world Foxx imagines as a result:
"Since liberal talk radio can't sell any ads in most places, radio owners faced with dead ad time every day will cancel the conservative programming and go to an easy listening or some other format. Needless to say, there will be no requirement for Katie Couric or public broadcasting to be fair."

If anybody's in on a vast liberal conspiracy, that would be moi, and I'm telling you there is no such plot. This is manufactured "fear" being promoted by ... (wait for it) talk radio blabbermouths like Limbaugh and Hannity. And why this gratuitous nastiness directed at Katie Couric? Because she dared ask Sarah Palin what publications she read?

Foxx also warns her NewsMax buddies to beware of "socialized health-care" (check!), big bullying labor unions (check!), higher taxes (check!), "higher energy prices to combat 'global warming' " (check! Though the difference between this nightmare scenario -- that Obama might want to combat global warming -- and the high gas prices we so recently experienced when NOBODY was combattin' nuttin' ... totally escapes us).

Foxx warns about a hellacious "Freedom of Choice" act which would "strike down every abortion restriction in the country." That's just a plain damn lie. The "Freedom of Choice" bill as written by Congressman Jerrold Nadler says simply, "it is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child; terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability; or terminate a pregnancy after viability when necessary to protect her life or her health." The bill died in committee in the 108th Congress, did the same again in the 110th Congress, and has not been reintroduced yet in the current 111th Congress. If it is introduced in 2009, we will support it. The sad fact is that an earlier version of Virginia Foxx would have supported it too, or at least that was what she told the 100 Women of Watauga County PAC in 1994. Foxx also supported back in those days adoptions by gay couples, but that was then, and now she's remade herself as an extremist willing to wield every pathetic wedge issue in sight.

Foxx also fans the racist fear of illegal immigrants, decrying "amnesty" as though it were about to happen and as though her favorite kissin' cousin George W. Bush didn't advocate it first. Never mind. Considering The Madam's own wealth, earned partly through the sweat of immigrant labor in her family's nursery and landscaping businesses, the irony of her continuing to throw kerosene on the fear of immigrants is ... just gross.

Attacking Katie Couric has apparently become the soup du jour for extreme conservatives like Madam Foxx. But get a load of this whining piece of excrement near the end of her letter:
As you know, conservatives face problems in getting our message out. The mainstream media will not cover our message. In the rare occasion they do, they often distort or misstate it. No better example of the double standard used by the media is available than the treatment of Caroline Kennedy. She has yet to put four coherent sentences together in an interview. If she were a Republican, Tina Fey would be caricaturing her on Saturday Night Live. But because she is a liberal Democrat, she gets a pass.

Following her mentors, Virginia Foxx has now officially transformed herself from an overly ambitious and often rapacious member of the Watauga County Board of Education, who once upon a time actively campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment, into a Standard Issue Conservative Asshole.

Friday, January 23, 2009


NC Senate Grandee Marc Basnight is calling for new state taxes on booze and tobacco to help make up the expected short-fall in state revenue.

Currently, the state taxes cigarettes at 35 cents a pack. According to the N&O, the taxes on tobacco products raised a mere $241 million in 2007, or 1.3 percent of general fund tax collections. In other words, current tobacco taxes are a mere drop in a very large bucket.

According to the N&O, each 1-cent increase in the cigarette tax is projected to raise only an additional $5.35 million. With the projected budget gap now growing to near $3 billion, according to some estimates, Basnight would have to raise the cigarette tax, say, $14.00-a-pack to make a dent in that deficit.

The tax collection figures for alcohol are even worse. Each 1-cent increase per gallon on beer, for example, would generate a measly $1.9 million annually.

Mark Twain might suggest that this state has been neglecting its vices outrageously.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Who Is Russell Tice?

Tice is a whistle-blower who has worked as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Air Force, Office of Naval Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and National Security Agency (NSA). He took an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and since December 2005 he has been saying that the Bush administration subverted the Constitution and broke the law in spying wholesale and without warrant on American citizens. As a whistle-blower, he has suffered reprisals for speaking up and was ultimately fired from the NSA in May 2005.

He was one source of information for the NYTimes investigative report in Dec. 2005 which first revealed that the NSA was engaged in a clandestine eavesdropping program that bypassed the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court.

In January a year ago, another whistle-blower named Dave Larson made significant disclosures to the Inspector General of the Dept. of Defense substantiating Tice's allegations and detailing unlawful criminal acts committed under NSA supervision. This matter remains pending and current with the Dept. of Defense Inspector General as case #103586. (Much more on Tice and his struggle as a government whistle-blower at Wikipedia.)

Last night on "Countdown with Keith Obermann," Tice said that journalists and reporters were one group that the Bush administration particularly targeted for illegal data mining. He will be back on Obermann's show tonight on MSNBC.

This is only the beginning, as Americans finally discover what the Bush administration criminal conspiracy has been up to in the name of keeping us safe.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

No Honeymoon for Virginia Foxx

NC-5 Rep. Virginia Foxx, critiquing President Obama's Inaugural address:
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th, said she thought that Obama was "too negative" in his assessment of the economy in his inaugural address.

Foxx said she is sympathetic with those who have lost their jobs in the current downturn, but said she thinks that the current problem is "not the worst situation we've faced in this country economically since the Great Depression," citing the stagflation of the 1970s.

"I think it's possible to talk down about the economy to the point that it hampers the economy," Foxx said in an interview. "Yes, we have problems, and I'm quite familiar with them, but we don't solve our problems by being negative."

Apparently, we'll solve our problems by being relentlessly ideological.

Well, at least she's finally acknowledging that "we have problems," though she's clearly prepared to start blaming them all on President Obama for being too negative in his assessment.

Warning: Not Water Proof

Long-range projections suggest that by the end of this century large swaths of coastal land in North Carolina will be under the Atlantic. Sea levels are predicted to rise anywhere from 16 inches to three feet.

The report, "Coastal Sensitivity to Sea Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region," was prepared by the (Bush administration's) Environmental Protection Agency.
Rising sea levels might be especially disastrous to North Carolina, as some sections of the coast are slowly sinking, magnifying the effects of rising seas.

Tide-gauge readings in the mid-Atlantic indicate that relative sea-level rise (the combination of rising waters and sinking land) was generally higher -- by about a foot -- than the global average during the 20th century.

Apparently, the truth isn't debatable that sea-level is rising:
"Whether sea level is rising is not something scientists argue about it," [one of the report's authors] said. "It is. It's different than an argument about whether humans are causing global warming. We have directly measured an acceleration ... over the last two decades."

Are local governments going to institute planning decisions to accommodate these predictions? Not bloody likely. No more than mountain counties are going to plan for avoiding catastrophic landslides on steep slopes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For

I, Too, Sing America

by Langston Hughes
I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

Hat tip for the reminder: Eugene H. Robinson

On the National Mall This Morning

Thanks to M.R., who is one of many Wataugans in Washington today for the event.

M.R. writes, "Wow. Four hours waiting for tickets, then getting them, then nine hours standing in the cold today without rest ... all of it was well worth it."

Monday, January 19, 2009

With Language as a Tool

The book that Barack Obama is carrying in this photograph is Fareed Zakaria's "The Post-American World." That Obama is a deep reader of many texts is on fascinating display in Michiko Kakutani's analysis of the man's immersion in language in today's NYTimes.

He knows his native tongue as a means for thinking through complex problems, as a tool for lifting the spirits, as a pry-bar for opening up the puzzling ambiguities of human beings. It's his immersion in language that allows him to reach those who want to hate him.

And won't it be something to have a president who speaks and writes with precision and insight and who is NOT a victim of grammar and logic and syntax?

An Inaugural Prayer

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, at the opening inaugural event at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., January 18, 2009 (HT:J.E.):
O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will...

Bless us with tears -- for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger -- at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort -- at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience -- and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility -- open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance -- replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity -- remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand -- that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Blossoming of Virginia Foxx

Bless her heart, Virginia Foxx has found her moment at last.

Fate has dealt the Congresswoman what she’s not had since she entered Congress in 2004 ... something, somebody to be wholeheartedly and unreservably against.

The Republican Party has always been much better at opposition than at governing (need we mention the last eight years?). Being in opposition is easier, and neater, and more exhilarating, and infinitely more theatrical. To point the finger of accusation, to sound the knells of doom, to light the bonfires of outrage ... these are actions so much more satisfying to the frustrated drama queens of the GOP.

Madam Foxx can hardly believe her luck, to grab a florid moment in the national spotlight as the congresswoman who would deny the new president the other half of George W. Bush’s stupid TARP money. How convenient for her that the actual authors of that stupidity are out the door (since they happen to be the standard bearers of her own party). With Bush & Co. gone safely to seed, she can oppose to her spleen’s content.

Does she have an alternate plan? Well, no, not exactly. “Let the market work”? Wouldn’t that have turned out well, if Virginia Foxx and her fellow congressional Republicans had gotten their way to privatize Social Security and pump the money into the same market that hasn’t finished crashing yet? What did Madam Foxx want to do during the recent failure of banks? Stand by and watch?

The sun rising on Obama is also rising on the conservative obstructionists. When Republicans are out of power, there are no evident requirements that they have an actual idea, a plan, a solution. Being in opposition is its own idea. No solutions required. Just John Boehner playing Aunt Pittypat: “Oh my heavens!”

No solutions nor intellectual consistency, either. Recently, Madam Foxx said that she was “philosophically opposed to the federal government operating this way” (handing out money in the financial services bail-out), but she was famously in favor of the United States Congress imposing itself on a private family matter in the Terri Schiavo case. Foxx was an enthusiastic foot-soldier in that unprecedented imposition of federal power, mugging for those C-SPAN cameras in an early foretaste of her theatrical talents.

But apparently, giving out ultimatums in private moral matters is quite different from giving out money to people or institutions who need it.

Madam Foxx has never tired of using her own early childhood poverty as a banner for her character, and apparently no one EVER helped her. She intends to get her revenge for that. So if you’re hurting right now and there’s something government might do to help out, don’t go to The Madam all whiny and stuff, because she’ll gush like an artesian well, NO NO NO NO.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

R.I.P. Andrew Wyeth

We treasure it as one of our enduring memories -- a few years back, during to visit to Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania, we stood in front of many Andrew Wyeth paintings in the halls of the Brandywine River Museum. I’m no art critic (duh), but those “images of absence, silence, loss, abandonment, desolation but also expectation” (as Michael Kimmelman described them in the NYTimes yesterday) moved me like few pieces of art have ever moved me.

It had long since been unfashionable to admire Andrew Wyeth in the art world. He was considered old-fashioned, even sentimental, definitely “conservative” (he was well known for having voted for both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan), but I found his realistic images of a rural landscape ... dark and astringent and mysterious and spiritually deep. You could almost feel yourself falling against your will into those paintings, sucked into a reality that was both beautiful and foreboding.

This will sound passing strange, but those canvases (some of them quite huge) offered an experience like the unthinkable temptation I’ve heard one person express about being in a busy subway station, with trains roaring in and then out again, and with people jostling to get on ... the vortex of the tracks themselves, the almost irresistible pull of the edge of the platform. “I don’t like subway stations,” she said to me, “because I think I might throw myself on the tracks.” That was Andrew Wyeth’s paintings for me: a seduction that I could not resist, something both dreadful and very sexy.

The Bushes' Moving Van

Here's a sight we thought we might never see.

The mind races with apt captions, with parting shots, with poetical adieus, but we're far too dignified to set them down here.

You may, however, consider this your open thread for getting your own thoughts off your chest.

Friday, January 16, 2009

So, Bush Wins (Revisited)

By guest blogger Matthew B. Robinson, Ph.D. (Professor of Government & Justice Studies, Appalachian State University):

In November 2004, George W. Bush had just won reelection, and I reacted as honestly as I could in an essay that was published here on Watauga Watch. Now that the Bush disaster –– I mean, presidency –– is finally over, I thought it might be useful to review that column for its prophetic accuracy.

FYI, my kids are now 7 1/2 and 4 1/2 years old, respectively. They managed to survive the Bush presidency, although not unscathed. Fortunately, each is happy and healthy, still too young to know what they've actually managed to live through. But they're also much poorer than they would have been had someone else –– probably anyone else –– been elected in 2000 or 2004.

Thankfully, I was wrong in my prediction that we'd be attacked again on our soil by al Qaeda. There has not been another attack against America on our soil under the Bush presidency, and Bush takes credit for this every chance he gets.

Frankly, he does deserve some credit but maybe not as much as some think. I've read numerous accounts of al Qaeda –– what its goals are and how it operates. Each attack, they think, must be bigger and more dramatic than the last. The first time al Qaeda attacked us on American soil was in 1993. The next time was in 2001. That eight-year gap gave them time for something much bigger and more horrific.

It's now been about eight years since 9/11. Had we done nothing to weaken al Qaeda in America, it'd be just about time again for another major attack.

You might say that George Bush gave al Qaeda a much easier way to attack us, not here but in Iraq. The group known as "al Qaeda in Iraq" did not exist until our invasion, and there simply was no al Qaeda presence in Iraq prior to 2003 when we started the war. Now that we are there, so too are they, and Americans have paid with their lives.

Which brings me to my next 2004 prediction –– that we'd be in Iraq for 5-10 years and lose as many as 5,000 to 10,000 military personnel. Four years later, we're still there. Fortunately, we haven't hit 5,000 deaths yet -– not quite -- but about 600,000 Iraqis has died prematurely as a result of our invasion and occupation.

We didn't start another war against a country not involved in the 9/11 attacks, as I thought likely. But the Iranian influence in Iraq and in the Middle East is far greater now, and Bush policies are the proximate cause. "The Iranian problem" is being passed on to President Obama, along with the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Sure enough, we've swelled the ranks of al Qaeda, creating more enemies and putting our country at greater risk. U.S. intelligence shows that al Qaeda is stronger and larger now than on 9/11 and is operating freely in portions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The rest of my predictions were 100% accurate. Bush gave us Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. These two individuals are young and healthy and will continue to push the Supreme Court to the right for decades to come.

Medicare and social security are still in deep trouble. The gap between the rich and the poor is greater than ever. Poverty, child poverty, true unemployment, and the number of people without health insurance have increased steadily throughout the Bush Administration.

The Environmental Protection Agency was reduced to a good old boy hangout, just like FEMA, and now plant and animal species are threatened. Further, literally nothing has been done to reduce our reliance on foreign sources of energy. Funding for education (and for just about every social service) is in serious jeopardy. Cuts are occurring everywhere.

We are less free because of the USA PATRIOT Act (now permanent law), domestic eavesdropping/warrantless wiretapping (in violation of U.S. law), the suspension of habeas corpus, the detention of US citizens as enemy combatants, and the official use of torture as part of the war on terror.

What I was probably most wrong about was that George W. Bush would finally be forced to take responsibility for all of this. Just the other day, Bush held a farewell press conference, saying he was disappointed that we did not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that one of his greatest mistakes was hanging that "Mission Accomplished" banner on the aircraft carrier. What a warped sense of morality this guy has!

The last four years of the Bush Administration did in fact give us tens of thousands of Americans who are poorer, more uneducated, more uninsured, more polluted, sicker, more threatened, definitely more hated, more monitored by Big Brother, and even deader. But thankfully, I was also right that the last four years of George W. Bush shifted the political pendulum to the left.

We can credit George W. Bush for giving us a black man named Barack Hussein Obama, the 43rd President of the United States of America. Think about it –– would this have been even remotely possible without a George W. Bush presidency?

Now Democrats and Republicans of good will can get back to fixing the problems thrust upon us by eight years of the Bush Administration.

It's over.

And I'm feeling much better now!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Conservative Columnists Host Muslim Socialist and Get Cooties

Look who came to dinner at George Will's place!

With a whole host of conservative bloviators passing the mashed potatoes: William Kristol, David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, Larry Kudlow, Peggy Noonan, Rich Lowry, Michael Barone, Paul Gigot, and others yet to be ratted out.

Go to any right-wing website and read the reactions, for example, this one. You'd get the impression that George Will shared Obama's prayer rug.

Reacting to screams of "traitor" on the right, Charles Krauthammer joked: "And I'm here to tell you that, speaking for myself, [Obama] has succeeded. I am brainwashed entirely. I'm in the tank, and I am a believer of hope and change and, above all, audacity."

Rush Limbaugh's feelings were hurt because he wasn't invited.

Gymnast of the Day

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said she plans to vote against it [the economic stimulus package] because she is "philosophically opposed to the federal government operating this way." But, she said, "if money is going to be doled out, certainly I hope some of it will go to North Carolina." (W-SJournal)

Philosophically opposed but functionally obliged.

Madam, your slip is showing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Universities Do For Money

BB&T banker John Allison's attempts to indoctrinate North Carolina university students in Ayn Rand's "objectivist" philosophy of capitalism-uber-alles continues apace. It's come to light that Western Carolina University administrators inked an agreement for a million bucks from Allison's BB&T Foundation with the stipulations that faculty would teach Rand's philosophy and require students to read "Atlas Shrugged."

The signed agreement between administrators of the WCU College of Business and Allison committed WCU faculty members essentially behind their backs: "The Professor shall work closely with the Ayn Rand Institute and have a reasonable understanding and positive attitude toward Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism."

Can you imagine the subsequent meeting between the Dean and the faculty member teaching "Greed Is Good": "Dr. Fitzenheimer, we hear that you may not have an entirely 'positive attitude' toward Ayn Rand, in direct contravention of our agreement for the money paying your salary, so I'm afraid that we'll have to let you go."

When the WCU faculty got wind of what their administrators had committed them to, they displayed less than a positive attitude toward WCU's making a public joke of academic freedom.

So the agreement controlling the $1 million has been rewritten requiring that the designated professor of Ayn Randianism "shall maintain open communications with the Donor concerning his or her role within the College of Business and University and the implementation of the Gift Agreement." And "Atlas Shrugged" will not be required reading.

We guess this is an improvement, but even maintaining "open communications" with a "donor" who wants to propagandize a captive audience of teens and post-teens is one hell of a step for any American university to take.

Virginia Foxx: 'We should learn from history'

Madam Virginia Foxx has a growing rash and can't refrain from scratching:

"I don't think that we should make the same mistakes that were made in the [1930s]. We should learn from history."

Nothing scares me more than a successful President Obama.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Applause for Gov. Perdue

Guv Bev is off to a bold start -- signing executive orders to remove political patronage from the road-building process, among other things -- and thereby setting up a massive confrontation with the grandees in the state's General Assembly (we're talking Democrats here) who kinda basically like their patronage and their money-raising powers and will likely not take kindly to the Guv messing in their sandbox. But she needs to mess with 'em.

And we've glad that on his way out the door, Mike Easley signed an executive order that e-mails sent by state employees are properly part of the public record and should be saved. The governor's office was being sued by a number of newspapers for deleting e-mails. It's sooo Mike Easley to wait until he's almost out of office to tacitly acknowledge that the newspapers were right about this issue all along.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Is Rahm Emanuel Really That Petty?

Politico is reporting that the Obama team dissed Howard Dean by deliberately staging the transfer of power at the Democratic National Committee while Doctor Dean was 7,000 miles away, where he was actually doing his job. Apparently, there'll be no acknowledgment of Dean's 50-state strategy as the proximate cause of the Obama victory ... let alone no high-profile job for Dean in the Obama administration.

Joe Trippi, who was Dean's main man in the primary campaign of 2004, says it's all Rahm Emanuel's doing.

The prick.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Mississippi Burning

Mississippi, where they don't want their teenagers to know the first thing about preventing pregnancy or about sexually transmitted diseases, has the highest teen pregnancy rate in these United States.

The Centers for Disease Control found that in 2006, the Mississippi teen pregnancy rate was over 60 percent higher than the national average and increased 13 percent since the year before.

But they simultaneously know how to preach that "abstinence only" line of propaganda, which (let's face it) is a whole lot easier to peddle than the truth.
Mississippi schools are not required to teach sexuality education or sexually transmitted disease (STD)/HIV education. If schools choose to teach either or both forms of education, they must stress abstinence-until-marriage, including "the likely negative psychological and physical effects of not abstaining." […]

If the school board authorizes the teaching of contraception, state law dictates that the failure rates and risks of each contraceptive method must be included and "in no case shall the instruction or program include any demonstration of how condoms or other contraceptives are applied."

A nervous titter might run through the room.

Harry Reid: Step Away From the Microphone

Really, Senate Democrats can do better in a Majority Leader.

The ineptitude of Harry Reid has become too monumental to ignore. He will continue to be destructive to Democratic clarity and unity and therefore to the Obama initiatives. Jane Hamsher succinctly identified the manifold problems with Reid yesterday: "I Want to Play Poker With Harry Reid."

It's time for him to step down. If he won't do it voluntarily, he needs to be booted.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Good profile article on Rev. Ryan Eller in today's W-S Journal. Ryan took over on Dec. 15 as head of CHANGE in Forsyth County. Don't tell Sarah Palin, but Ryan is a ... community organizer.

He's also another graduate of Appalachian State University, a student leader during his time in Boone, and most recently, he managed Roy Carter's campaign against The Madam.

We're blessed to have him in the NC-5 for the long-haul.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

We believe that the Mike McLaughlin who's been named chief policy analyst for Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton is the same Mike McLaughlin who graduated from ASU way back in the day and worked for a time as a reporter for the Watauga Democrat and then got himself to Raleigh for a string of interesting jobs, including editing the journal for the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research and serving as Communications and Research Coordinator of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice.

If it's the same guy, we're both tickled and impressed.

Does This Make Sense?

Caldwell County Commissioners agreed last night to put off a scheduled revaluation of property values in 2009 until 2011, giving as their rationale their fear that the re-val would put a greater burden on the taxpayers.

Haven't we just been witnessing a massive de-valuation of real property, as the real estate bubble of the 1990s went KER-PLOOEY?

Putting off a tax-revaluation right now would more logically arise because the commissioners fear they'll have LESS tax money, not more.

Smoke and mirrors, this.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Globe Forest Makes '10 Most Endangered' List

The Southern Environmental Law Center has placed the forested slopes below Blowing Rock, locally known as "The Globe," on its list of 10 most at-risk sites in the South. "According to SELC, the forest includes trees more than 300 years old, and [US Forest Service's plans to log more than 200 acres of it] threatens to destroy scenic views."

Bev Perdue Names New DOT Top Dog

Eugene A. "Gene" Conti Jr. will head the NC DOT for Gov. Perdue. Good choice.

Gene was a VISTA volunteer in eastern Kentucky back in the mid-'60s, and after earning his undergraduate degree in sociology and anthropology at Eastern Michigan University, he completed both a master's and his Ph.D. (in anthro) at Duke. I knew him back in those days for his work on cultural change in the Appalachian mountains, before he shifted gears, got another degree in Policy Sciences and Public Affairs, worked as a policy analyst with the North Carolina Department of Administration, and headed to D.C. as a Presidential Management Intern and then onto the staff at the Office of Management and Budget. After other distinguished service, he became Congressman David Price's chief of staff for several years.

He knows transportation issues. When he left Congressman Price's office, he served a couple of years as assistant secretary at the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, and from 2001-2003 he had the number two job in the NC DOT.

Massively and uniquely qualified, this guy. With a BIG job ahead of him, draining that particular swamp.

ADDENDUM: Tom Jensen says that Perdue's appointment of Conti is (as much as anything) a positive signal of gubernatorial independence from NC Senate grandee Marc Basnight.

Dick Burr Decides To Take an Interest in NC

Watching absentee Senator Liddy Dole go down in flames apparently focuses the mind for another relatively unknown senator from NC. "Under the Dome" is reporting that Sen. Burr's PR machinery is cranking up noticeably with an overhauled (hip?) new web site, etc.

Expect to see Sen. Burr kissing a baby near you soon.

We hear he'll come wax your dining room table. Or clean out your refrigerator.

What to Expect from Madam Foxx in 2009

She's made herself useful to the House Conservatives as a foot soldier in the Dogma Drama: "No government, no how ... No money spent on nothing, no way."

She's earning a reputation for theatricality ... those huge blow-ups of Roger Clemens she showed such an anatomical interest in, her school-marmish rounding up of spectators in the Capitol rotunda to attend the "Drill, Baby, Drill" insurgency last August.

Merely a taste of what's to come as Republican conservatives launch their "Stop Obama Socialism At All Costs."

The Madam intends to be a playah.

If that means a whole new Red Scare and nasty obstructionism, well, whaddya want? Flowers and sweets?

FOOTNOTE: Yes, I said "Red Scare." Expect a whole new kind of McCarthyism rousing itself on the right. Eve Fairbanks cracks open that particular egg in The New Republic.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Carry Him Back to Old Virginny

Remember Terry McAuliffe, former chair of the Democratic National Committee? McAuliffe played the Black Knight for Sen. Hillary Clinton during the primaries of 2008:
Black Knight: 'Tis but a scratch!
King Arthur: A scratch? Your arm's off!
Black Knight: No, it isn't!
King Arthur: Well, what's that then?
King Arthur: I've had worse.
King Arthur: You liar!
Black Knight: Come on, you pansy!

Ah, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" taught us so much about life!

Even while McAuliffe was stubbornly refusing to admit that Sen. Clinton was losing the Democratic presidential nomination, he was planning his next political circus, and now he's come right out and announced that he's running for governor of Virginia.

We wish him well. We wish the state of Virginia well, since it's now a fellow blue state. And we thank God we receive no television feed from the Old Dominion and will not have to listen to those inevitable McAuliffe 30-second spots, which will seem much longer by the time he ceases to talk.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

We're relying (at the moment, at least) on former Dems operative Gary Pearce for a run-down on our new governor's first cabinet picks. Pearce's summation appears in his opening sentence: "all kinds of interesting twists."