Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Christmas ... Good for the Rich

A new column by our favorite mental case Paul Krugman ("mental case," according to the Bushies, who think we'll all crazy) offers an analysis of the first hard figures beginning to emerge about the Christmas shopping season just ending ... it was good for luxury goods and not so good for Wal-Mart. Which, of course, is pretty much a microcosm of this entire Bush presidency.

Empty Bluster

When County Commissioner David Blust was running for office in 2002, he told the voters that he was just brimming over with fresh new ideas, especially for helping the elderly and the young in Watauga County: "I am anxious to offer other plans and proposals. I believe my ideas will work." On the Watauga swim complex, which has an unfixed leak and needs major work: "I have two ideas that I believe will work to get a better swim complex without more taxation on the people as a whole." [Both quotes, Watauga Democrat, 25 Oct. 2002]

But a full year after taking office, no one has heard ANY IDEAS put forth by Mr. Blust. Oh, except for his recent bright idea of passing a law to limit the time that political signs can stay up .... this legislative move suggested, evidently, to please State Senator Virginia Foxx, who has been plenty steamed at seeing all those signs for her (male) opponents start sprouting in Watauga as early as last Summer.

But, not to worry ... Idea Man David Blust to the rescue! We'll pass an ordinance!

Far from being the fountainhead of new, innovative thinking in county government, Blust can now take his honored place as the vanguard for new laws restricting the freedom of speech! (And carrying water for Virginia Foxx.)

No Jobs R Us

Wanna see some real figures about the employment situation that Prez Bush's tax cuts hath wrought? The Economic Policy Institute's "Job Watch" gathers the actual numbers. Despite the hype on Fox News and among other cheerleaders for Bush, George W.'s "Jobs and Growth Plan" still fell "249,000 jobs short of the administration's projection" last month. And this site also shows North & South Carolina as among the states that "have lost over 10% of their manufacturing jobs in just two years."

A partial explanation for why Bush's approval rating was discovered to be sinking in North Carolina in a recent state-wide poll.

Mad-Cow-Gate, II

Here's a fascinating analysis of "slaughterhouse politics" by James Ridgeway. Most astounding revelation ... that the USDA "inspections" we all think we've depended on all these years, to certify that the meat we buy is wholesome, are largely fictions perpetrated by the beef industry, with the full collusion of the federal government. Read the whole article by clicking here.

More Environmental Retreatism

Here's an interesting article on the crisis in Florida with the Everglades -- as though we needed more evidence of the rollback everywhere on environmental protections!

Edwards Targets Workplace Safety

Reacting to investigative journalism in the New York Times that found that from 1982 to 2002, the Occupational Safety & Health Admin (OSHA) declined to seek prosecution in 93 percent of the 1,242 cases in which the agency concluded that workers had died because of "willful" safety violations, Sen. John Edwards came out this morning with "a plan to decrease workplace deaths and injuries by strengthening laws and hiring more federal safety personnel." (Full article) We assume he intends to achieve this if he's elected President, since -- gosh -- he's giving up the very Senate seat where he might have fought for such laws.

Appearances Are Everything

An article in this morning's New York Times by David Sanger analyzes the Bush administration's sudden apparent swing toward government activism to protect the public health (the banning of Ephedra yesterday, for example). Here's the crucial passage:

"Ephedra's fate has seemed clear since a 23-year-old pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles died after taking it early this year, though this is the first time the Food and Drug Administration has banned such an herbal supplement. And with mad cow disease suddenly dominating every cable channel and front page, Mr. Bush and a small clutch of his aides staring out at the cattle grazing his ranch knew they had to appear to be taking action. In this case, the action included some protective steps they rejected as unnecessary just months ago...."

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Cracks in Bush Support Among 'Hard Right'

The Washington Times, which ought to know, was reporting today some major dissatisfaction with Prez Bush among some conservatives, including direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie. Viguerie was quoted: "I'm beginning, for the first time, [to hear] people talk about 'it would not be the worst thing in the world if Howard Dean were president,' because the size of government would stay still rather than increase 50 percent under a second Bush administration."

This is major, folks.

In the same article, Pat Buchanan is also quoted: "President Bush is an active war leader, which gives him a measure of immunity from conservative defections. But his spending is making his father look like Barry Goldwater, and my view is that domestic social spending is exploding. He's not vetoed a single bill, he has gone south on affirmative action. And I think he's gone AWOL on social and cultural issues."

Another key paragraph: "Public signs of discontent inside the Beltway include scathing critiques from the American Conservative Union's new online journal and from the Cato Institute's president, Edward H. Crane, who writes in the current institute newsletter that Mr. Bush is responsible for the "philosophical collapse of the GOP."

Those deficit-spending chickens are beginning to fly home to roost in this administration. The War in Iraq, the huge boondoggle of a Medicare bill.... And Bush's attempts to straddle issues like gay marriage ("it's awful, evil, and the end of civilization, but really, gosh, gee, individual states should get to decide") may end up discouraging his most loyal troops not to work all that hard for him next year.

Maybe, just maybe there's a little sunlight streaming through these cracks in the Hard Right.

The Almanac Arrest

BOONE, Dec. 30, 2003 -- Following up on the FBI's suggestion that people with almanacs bear special watching (read the Associated Press story about the secret instructions), Ruby Norris Hayes Miller Greene of Deep Gap was detained in the Boone Lowe's Hardware store today when an alert Lowe's employee spotted an Old Farmer's almanac in Ms. Greene's purse.

Greene was attempting to pay for a tub of drain cleaner, garden fertilizer, two 8-ft. sections of PVC pipe, and wire screening, among other items (which did include apparently several seed packets bearing the stamp "Packed for the 2004 season").

The Lowe's employee, who was not identified by name, reportedly told Sheriff deputies that the purchases were "suspicious on the face of it."

Shortly after being released from custody, Ms. Greene was informed that her suspicious activities were sufficient to trigger the entry of her name on the FBI's "terror watch list," and that federal investigators would be digging deep into her life, looking for any dirt -- her finances, her email traffic, her book-purchasing habits, her library patronage, among other personal information-- and that turning her life upside down was all perfectly legal, according to the Patriot Act, which allows whatever snooping the federal gov thinks it needs, and it doesn't even have to say to any judge why it suspects Ms. Greene in the first place, because what the Justice Department is doing to keep us safe is nobody's goddamn business!

Check it out. And be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

Up a Creek Near You

Many of us have felt for some time the urgency of the local environmental issue -- anything can basically happen at any time, especially in a rural county with desirable real estate, money to be made in great big buckets, and no effective land-use controls on basically anything. Anything can happen at any moment, and has ... three, now four asphalt plants threatening near neighbors ... outside private corporations buying up available water and sewer systems for profit ... warehouse districts springing up on former farmland to the detriment of neighboring homesteads, etc.

What comes tomorrow? God only knows. Your County Commissioners are too busy making sure that only "natives" get their ear, and most of the "natives" they listen to are filthy rich already and want to get richer, so don't look to the guys they'll keep in office for protection.

Now here's a pretty definitive scorecard that the federal environmental protectors are also not to be trusted with the future, especially under this new guy, Mike Leavitt, Bush's replacement for Christine Todd Whitman at the EPA.

We got a crisis, folks, from top to bottom, among the people who have been entrusted with our health, safety, and the very pursuit of happiness, both locally and nationally. They'll sell you out for money.


From The Capitol Times, yesterday:


Now that the first case of mad cow disease in the United States has been confirmed, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman's subservience to the agribusiness interests she once served as a lobbyist is no longer merely troublesome. It's dangerous.

Veneman was put in charge of the Department of Agriculture by President Bush because he knew the longtime advocate for the genetic modification of food, factory farming and free trade policies that favor big agribusiness over family farmers and consumers could be counted on to choose the side of business interests over the public interest.

Veneman did just that when she announced that mad cow disease had been found in the United States. Instead of offering a realistic response to the news, she was still doing public relations for agribusiness. She declared the case was isolated, praised the USDA for a "swift and effective" response, and discounted any risk to human health.

Unfortunately, because of the USDA's lax approach to inspections and regulation, Venemen has no idea whether she is right....


Get the whole article here.

'Bush Hatred' Analyzed

Columnist E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post:

"...Conservative critics of 'Bush hatred' like to argue that opposition to the president is a weird psychological affliction. It is nothing of the sort. It is a rational response to getting burned. They are, as a friend once put it, biting the hand that slapped them in the face...."

Nicely said. Click here for the entire column.

Tofu Burgers, III

The Wall Street Journal is reporting this a.m. that there are now 81 missing cattle that may have eaten the same feed that the mad-cow-infected Holstein fed on. (Click here)

This story is going to get bigger, despite the best efforts of the Bush Agriculture Department to quash it.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Tofu Burgers Are Looking Better II

The AP was reporting on Christmas Eve that legislation that would have stopped the slaughtering of that mad-cow diseased Holstein in Washington state was derailed by Republicans and (yep!) farm-state Democrats. This ought to be an issue when Congress reconvenes January 20th, but will it be?

And who knew, anyway, that it's perfectly legal for the beef industry to slaughter for food animals that can't walk ... some 130,000 every year ... of which that notorious mad-cow afflicted individual in Washington state was just one.

Sheesh! The protections I thought I could depend on my government to provide are beginning to look as spongiform as that cow's brain.

A Beating Richly Deserved

This is old news, but we're just now catching up on our reading ... Michael Moore's Stupid White Men.

Moore included a blistering tongue-lashing for the Donkey Party in a chapter titled "Democrats, DOA."

Won't quote the whole thing but a few salient passages, all of which we find ourselves ruefully agreeing with:


"...our real problem, ultimately, isn't Bush -- it's the Democrats. Bush would be paralyzed if the Democrats started behaving like a true opposition party....

"And for the better part of Bush's first year, it's Democrats who have been Bush's willing and necessary partners to madness....

"Bill after bill that came from the Bush-occupied White House to the Congress found scores of Democrats with open arms. The Bush tax cut bill passed overwhelmingly with Democratic support, even though the bill was designed to benefit the richest 10 percent in the country....

"...not a single Democratic senator was willing to filibuster the way a rabid Republican would have if a Democratic President had selected such a fringe radical as Ashcroft to be attorney general....

"But that's the difference -- Democrats have no spine. They always back down. There is no one on their side of the aisle willing to go to battle for us the way a Tom Delay or Trent Lott will for his side. Those guys will not rest until they win, no matter how many bodies the road is littered with...."


And Moore was writing this even before the War Powers Act, before the Medicare bill, before the umpteenth tax cut for the rich, before Zell Miller made a complete ass of himself, before the slipping in of the Patriot Act II into the Intelligence Authorization Act (see below).

My gawd! When are we going to fight back?

If Americans see that the Dems won't even stand up for themselves, why would they trust us to stand up to the terrorists of the world?

And this is precisely why Howard Dean has caught fire. He's standing up for "the Democratic wing of the Democrat Party," and he looks like he might be able to go toe to toe with any world leader.

Bush's Stealth Campaign Against Our Freedom

Guess what folks -- especially those foresighted among you who have been warning us against "Patriot Act II," which we heard was being cooked up by John Ashcroft to take away even more of our privacy.

Patriot Act II is ALREADY HERE, signed into law stealthily on Saturday, Dec. 13th. It went totally unnoticed because that also happened to be the day that Saddam Hussein was captured.

Sweeping new powers have been given to the FBI to snoop into financial records. These broad new executive powers were tucked quietly into the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004. No Democrats cried "FOUL." In fact, the Senate passed it by voice vote, "to avoid individual accountability."

Read the whole story here, from the San Antonio Current. (Where's the Washington Post on this?)

Tofu Burgers Are Looking Better All the Time

The news this a.m. is that the single mad-cow carcass (that we know about) was sent out to eight western states as well as Guam and was sold and presumably consumed by unsuspecting citizens. And the government continues to say "Not to worry ... everything's fine ... it's all Canada's fault. And anyway, eating the meat won't hurt you."

But Canada is fighting back. Here's a brief passage from the article in the New York Times today:

"...On Saturday, officials in Washington said they believed the diseased animal had originated in a herd in Alberta, Canada. Canadian agriculture officials and cattle industry experts immediately said that was a premature reaction.

" 'America's Beef: Blame Canada," read a headline in The Toronto Sun Sunday, reflecting the mood of many Canadians.

"There are considerable discrepancies between the positions of American and Canadian officials on the investigation, including the age of the diseased animal and the reliability of methods used to trace the animal's origins...."

Deeper in the article comes this paragraph:

"...three days before that announcement [that the animal was definitively from a Canadian herd], American officials said that records on the diseased animal were terrible and that its birthplace might never be known...."

What do you wanna bet that somebody in the Bush Agriculture Department is lying through his/her teeth in an attempt to get the pressure off the American beef industry and to cover George Bush's ass?

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Beyond Red & Blue

Here's a fascinating analysis of the American voting public which divides the nation into 10 distinct regions (which cut across state boundaries). Written by Robert David Sullivan for Commonwealth magazine (out of Massachusetts), the article boldly chucks out the dreaded and simplistic "red states" vs. "blue states" electoral map from the election of 2000 and offers hard evidence based on actual voter history, rather than polling, to show both President Bush and a Democratic challenger what they'll have to do to win. Very detailed, very even-handed, very absorbing. (Click here for the full text)

Do We Believe These Guys?

When is WMD like BSE?

BSE = bovine spongiform encephalopathy, i.e., mad cow disease.

About WMD (weapons of mass destruction), the Bush Administration greatly exaggerated the threat to justify a war in Iraq.

About BSE, the Bush Administration is greatly minimizing the threat to our health, to win an election.

Sure we believe 'em. Yeah, right!

When the mad cow outbreak became news during Christmas, the chief veterinarian of the Bush Dept. of Agriculture warned that it could be days, weeks, or even months before his guys could trace where the cow came from. Then as if by magic, on Dec. 27th they were fingering Canada as the culprit and happy-talking about how all this presents no particular threat to human health. Secretary of Agriculture Anne Venneman had already cheerily announced she was serving beef for Christmas.

(Visions of the British agriculture minister years ago force-feeding a hamburger to his darling daughter to prove how safe British beef was, just prior to being proven tragically wrong on that boast!)

Discrepancies about the age of the diseased cow, between supposed U.S. records and Canadian records, doesn't exactly reassure us that they have even traced the right animal.

Bottomline: that diseased cow was slaughtered and her meat was delivered to the consuming public. And in that cow's herd were 73 other calves that presumably ate the same feed, and none of those 73 carcasses are accounted for. (Click here for the most recent update) And, far as we know, "mad cow disease has no cure. It has no preventive vaccine. Everyone who gets it dies, without exception, a gruesomely painful death."

But nobody's reporting that currently in the press. Nobody!

And we're expected to take the word of an administration that wants us to take in just a smidgen more arsenic in our drinking water, just a tiny bit more mercury in our air ... wants to relax every environmental reg in sight. Comes right down to it ... we don't believe a word out of their mouths!

A Good Republican Is a Nervous Elephant

Despite the smokescreen Karl Rove has engineered -- that he really PREFERS Howard Dean as George Bush's opponent in '04 -- there's plenty of evidence that thinking Republicans are more than a little spooked by the prospect. For example, this morning in the New York Times comes this conclusion reached by reporter Rick Lyman:

"...George Walker Bush and Howard Brush Dean III are from opposite sides of the nation's political fault line. Yet besides energizing the left wing of his party, Dr. Dean has some Republicans worried that the characteristics he shares with President Bush could appeal to swing voters, especially when Dr. Dean's current image as a Vermont liberal is leavened with details of the fiscally conservative way he governed Vermont for 11 years...."

Those "characteristics he shares with President Bush" ... you can read about on your own. (Click here for the full article)

But the Republicans are so disciplined as a group, that once the "company line" has been set, no one will deviate from it. Just moments ago we heard Republican shill David Brooks on CBS's Face the Nation saying that Dean was by far "the weakest" of the Democrats running for the nomination.

"Weakest"? He of the bull neck? He of the get-in-my-face-and-I'll-take-your-friggin-head-off attitude?

But don't we love this whistling in the graveyard we're beginning to hear from the Rs?

Saturday, December 27, 2003

MeanDean To Be Bushwhacked?

An intriguing look inside the George W. Bush reelection strategy, written by Adam Nagourney and Richard W. Stevenson. The Bush guys are assuming it's going to be Dean running against them. Here's the beginning of the article:


WASHINGTON, Dec. 25 -- President Bush's campaign has settled on a plan to run against Howard Dean that would portray him as reckless, angry and pessimistic, while framing the 2004 election as a referendum on the direction of the nation more than on the president himself, Mr. Bush's aides say.

Some advisers to Mr. Bush, increasingly convinced that Dr. Dean will become their opponent next fall, are pushing to begin a drive to undercut him even before a Democratic nominee becomes clear. But others said the more likely plan would be to hold back until after the Democratic contest had effectively ended, probably no later than March.

As a Bush strategist put it, Dr. Dean's rivals are "doing a great job for us" with their increasingly tough attacks on him.

"Voters don't normally vote for an angry, pessimistic person to be president of the country," Matthew Dowd, a senior Bush adviser, said as he pressed the anti-Dean theme this week in an interview at Mr. Bush's re-election campaign headquarters. "They want somebody, even if times are not great, to be forward looking and optimistic."


Read the whole text by clicking here.

Shut My Mouf!

An interesting assessment of Gov. Dean's "closed" papers as Vermont chief executive, and the political considerations that may have been involved in his decision to seal some of his official papers for 10 years.
Read the story, from Rick Lyman in the New York Times.

Edwards Supporters, Star-Dazzled But Forlorn

Elisabeth Rosenthal, traveling with the John Edwards campaign on behalf of the New York Times, reports on an inspired cadre of loyal supporters who are nevertheless slogging through depression at the prospects for Edwards in the early primaries. Read the story.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Merrry Merry to All!

We'll be posting again to this site on Sunday the 29th. Until then, may everyone have a safe & merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2003

N.R.A., Not So Flush Any More

Today there's an article in the New York Times saying that membership in the National Rifle Assoc. (NRA) has slid 20 percent, from a peak membership of 4.3 million in 2000 to 3.4 million today. And the organization, which did so much to defeat Al Gore in 2000, has been consistently spending more than it takes in, currently running a $100 million deficit.

Sort of reminds us of the Bush administration.

More Free Speech Slippage

We apologize for being behind-the-times on this Reuters report, published Thurs., Dec. 18th:

Amnesty International has called on Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for an independent inquiry into "police actions" that led to more than 200 arrests and dozens of injuries during protests of the Free Trade Area of the Americas meeting in Miami on Nov. 20th.

Some 15,000 unionists, environmentalists, retirees, small farmers, anarchists, and civil rights activists took part in a peaceful demonstration on Nov. 20th that police dispersed by firing volleys of rubber bullets, pepper spray, and tear gas. Either in response, or as provocation, "a few protesters" threw rocks. In response, "phalanxes of riot police, backed by helicopters and armored cars, chased protesters through the city center."

Amnesty International said many were shot in the back with rubber bullets while running away, and "volunteer medics appear to have been targeted while helping the injured."

Why ... it's friggin' mornin' in America all over again!

Tidal Wave of Indignation

Paraphrasing Phoebe Eaton, in the New York Times:

The web-based Bush-bashing group announced a contest last October for homemade 30-sec TV commercials "challenging" the Bush administration. Move.On intends to show the winner during the week of Bush's State of the Union address in January. (Click here to see the whole article.)

The spots came rolling it by the hundreds and hundreds, mostly attached to email messages. Clever, inventive, amateurish at times, amazingly polished occasionally, marked by "the inflamed passions of street rallies" and often featuring scores of regular Americans in speaking parts (skewing to the 20-something age group), this out-pouring of thought was being dismissed by Republican Party operatives as "an insult-the-president home-movie contest."

Some 1,017 of the ads have been posted by MoveOn at It's entertaining. You get to watch & rate the ads.

(You have to register on -- simple -- and you must have QuickTime or other video-viewing software on your computer -- also simple. You'll get a prompt to download the necessary program. It's free.)

In the first hour of public polling on the ads on Dec. 17th, more than 5,700 votes were logged. So many people visited the site that MoveOn, experiencing bandwidth problems, limited viewers to 20 ads a day.

"Founded five years ago to oppose the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, became a catalyst for demonstrations earlier this year, and subsequently raised more than $7 million from 133,000 donors to oppose Mr. Bush's policies. Last month two billionaire philanthropists, George Soros and Peter B. Lewis, announced they would match contributions to the group up to $5 million between them."

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Banner Elk Citizens Organize.

A citizens group has formed in Banner Elk, catalyzed by the big proposed Lowe's development ... "Banner Elk Advocates for Responsible Expansion" (BEARE). (Read the article.)

They are peeved by the lack of due process in the planning procedures of local government and by a lack of public notice. (Does any of this sound remotely familiar?) Such citizens groups will continue to spring up in the mountains, so long as local government ignores the pressures of rapid growth. Direct citizen organizing is often the result of no zoning. But Banner Elk has a zoning ordinance ... just not a very effective one, apparently.

Dump Site.

A large 30-acre shopping center proposed for the wetlands along the Elk River in Banner Elk has been turned down by the state's Division of Water Quality. Read Miles Tager's story by clicking here.

Defeated for the moment, yes, but it will be back, rest assured.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Foxx Hunt II

Here's an interesting choice made by state Sen. Virginia Foxx:

Both UNC-Chapel Hill and Appalachian State University used the same book for its Freshman reading program in 2003 ... Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel & Dimed.

The book became the subject of a heated dispute in Chapel Hill, a dispute in which Foxx participated publicly. But she never let out a peep about the book being used at a college in her own district.

Foxx was one of a dozen or so Republican state legislators who spoke out against the use of Nickel & Dimed at Chapel Hill ... at a news conference organized by a group of conservative student activists.

Foxx was quoted at the time in the Raleigh News & Observer saying that "incoming freshmen should read one of the classics instead of the propaganda put forth in Nickel & Dimed."

One wonders whether she had actually read the book?

One wonders, if she felt so strongly about it at Chapel Hill, why didn't she pitch a fit about ASU using the same book?

One wonders, considering her own proudly hailed early life in poverty, how does she so callously dismiss journalistic advocacy for the hard lives of the working poor?

The hardness of her heart is no more remarkable than her highly selective outrage at the colleges who promote such "liberal bias."

The Gagging of America

The Bush administration's attempt (totally successful, so far) to curtail the freedom of speech anywhere in George W.'s vicinity is a chilling indication of where we seem to be headed.

Do you know about "Free Speech Zones"? They're actually closer to "protester detention zones." Anyone wanting to disagree with the president, especially if it means holding up a sign that either Bush or the TV cameras might see, are actually rounded up and herded into cordoned off and guarded areas far away from presidential eyes. People who don't want to be rounded up and herded off are frequently arrested. There's a case in South Carolina right now where some poor schmo is being made an example of for holding up a sign during a presidential visit that said "No War For Oil."

But don't believe me. Believe the American Conservative magazine. Here's the most complete and detailed write-up I've seen so far of the history of this pernicious policy and its effects on our Constitutional liberties.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Foxx Hunt

State Senator Virginia Foxx has been making "cold calls" to Watauga County business owners asking for money to finance her run for the U.S. Congress (she'll be in a crowded primary, come May, with a whole bunch of men, at least eight of them, all vying to replace Rep. Richard Burr).

Her boilerplate campaign lit (a solicitation letter on State Senate letterhead and a three-page press release) makes absorbing reading.

For example, in her letter she announces that she is "considered the front runner in the race .... I have raised over $300,000 ... but need to raise another $200,000."

("Front runner"? ... not according to some. We hear that Ed Broyhill, as soon as he announced, began sucking all the air out of the proverbial room, and obnoxious Winston-Salem city councilman Vernon Robinson, causing national excitement as the most conservative black politician since Alan Keyes, took Foxx down more than a peg or two at a public debate in Mocksville (see excerpts from the Winston-Salem Journal story on Robinson's own website). One Internet source on this race handicaps it this way: "Vernon Robinson is said to have the inside track for the nomination for this GOP seat encompassing Winston-Salem and surrounding areas. A primary victory by Robinson would draw national attention to this race, as there are currently no black Republicans in Congress. State senator Virginia Foxx has a strong following in her district, but the entry of Ed Broyhill, son of former senator Jim Broyhill of the Broyhill furniture company, dealt her a severe blow."

In her campaign lit, Foxx says much about herself (raised in a shack without plumbing and electricity ... "God God God" ... "conservative conservative, more conservative than thou!"). (A posting on by the same JohnnyZ who wrote the assessment quoted above said, "She frequently SOUNDS conservative. But she's pro-gay and is said by many to be relatively liberal in her private views -- or when addressing a more liberal audience." There's a huge laugh ... the dangerously liberal Senator Virginia Foxx! (If you want to read Vernon Robinson's hilarious "Foxx Report: A Dossier on the Public Record of Senator Virginia Foxx," you may click here.)

(She can be pro-gay all day and all night ... but speaking plainly, that don't make her liberal. Has no one heard of Andrew Sullivan? Her political philosophy is aptly summed up in a remark she made September 16th in the state Senate's special session on medical malpractice lawsuit reform: "The worst thing we can do is to get government involved in solving problems." At which, Matthew Eisley quipped in the Raleigh News & Observer, "Foxx is running for Congress, where, if elected, she could ignore even bigger problems.")

Foxx's campaign propaganda says very interesting things, sometimes by implication, about male Republicans. She says that she's "by no means a typical Republican politician." What's "typical"? The answer gets slipped into the next paragraph as an "assumption" among unspecified "people" ... "that Republican elected officials are usually male, privileged from birth and from a long line of politicians."

That word "privileged" throbs like a smashed thumb. Several paragraphs later she says, "Many politicians are privileged and out of touch with the people of this area." And then a little later she characterizes the motives of "most people" who run for office (by which we assume she still means "Republican men"): "[They run] because of the desire for power and glory. 'All too often, people go into politics to serve themselves or the special interests that put them in office,' she said...."

Well, duh. But it's reassuring to have that fact confirmed by such an unbiased authority.

Her cold fury about privilege suggests a deep split in her personality. On the one hand, she's the poorest of the poor, working her way through high school as the building janitor (and suffering the outrageous slings and arrows of social class contempt that must have gone with that "menial work"). But on the other hand, she can be the Dowager Duchess of the State Senate, deigning occasionally to speak to lesser mortals, but often in a curt and high-handed way. The Great Peasant does not suffer peasants gladly. She's particularly notorious around ASU for sending less than gracious replies to challenges from constiuents employed there. David Forbes, a writer for ASU's Appalachian newspaper, described her as "dismissive and condescending." Forbes was interviewing her about students' concerns over rising tuition costs. Foxx, the poor little urchin from Avery County who might have felt the least twinge of recognition for the struggles of poor students, said instead: "I haven't seen the latest figures on the average income for families of students at Appalachian, but it's rather high. So I'd see no problem with raising tuition a little bit." (See Forbes' complete column by clicking here.)

In her own defense -- and I call this the "Rhymes with Witch Defense" -- she says, "I'm misunderstood in the same way Jesse Helms was." ("Virginia Foxx Discusses Conservative Beliefs")

'Nuf said.

Amazing Disappearing Act

Here's another example of the Bush administration covering stuff up and, in this case, trying to alter the historical record of what one of its own officials said. View the entire Washington Post story by clicking here.

Steven Aftergood, who directs the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, described this behavior as "sleazier than usual."

Underdogs R Us!

There's a new New York Times/CBS News poll out this morning that shows 3-1 that Americans expect George W. Bush to be reelected next year. Low expectations ... sometimes conceal a ticking time bomb. You can view the full story by clicking here.

Another not-so-surprising development: Sen. Joe Lieberman's approval rating among Democrats has lept up since he began snarling at Howard Dean over the capture of Saddam. So look for more of that!

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Bush and Harken Energy

This is the democratic genius of the Internet ... that all information is ultimately available to everyone ... without barriers, filters, or gate-keepers.

Someone just sent me this link to the Center for Cooperative Research, which has compiled the complete and definitive record of George Bush's dealings with Harken Energy. You may already know about this. But if you don't, you can learn.

Driven Nuts by the Bushies?

Joe Klein, Time magazine columnist and the erstwhile "anonymous" author of Primary Colors, offers an interesting bit of history on Howard Dean's rise as Democratic front-runner. Here's my favorite paragraph:

"...The grass-roots dismay [among Democrats] began with the disputed election result in Florida, 2000. The Republicans seemed far more tough-minded in pursuit of the prize, bringing in their heavy guns -- the Jeb Bush operation, family consigliere Jim Baker and, ultimately, five Supreme Court justices -- to win the presidency. Then the Democrats in Congress made the disastrous assumption that Bush would be amenable to bipartisan compromise. 'Bipartisanship is another name for date rape,' the fanatic G.O.P. tax cutter Grover Norquist later said, in what could stand as an epitaph for the gullible Congressional Democrats. No less a liberal than Ted Kennedy gave his imprimatur to Bush's No Child Left Behind education bill, only to find that the money he expected to fund the program had been left behind. Democrats also enabled Bush to pass his tax cuts, his Medicare prescription-drug plan, the Patriot Act -- and, the most egregious case, the Iraq war resolution. When Howard Dean made his landmark speech to the Democratic National Committee last February, he opened by asking, 'What I want to know ... is why in the world the Democratic Party leadership is supporting the President's unilateral attack on Iraq?' The audience -- leading Dems from the outback -- went wild...."

Klein is so right. Since the election of 2000, national Dems (primarily in the House & Senate) have been door mats. A tough-minded Democrat is such a novel spectacle ... which partially explains Howard Dean's runaway popularity. Some people have already dubbed him "MeanDean."

And a tough-minded Democrat is so startling to your regular run-of-the-mill mean Republican that they have been reduced to diagnosing "Democratic anger" at this president as a mental disorder.

Halliburton ... War Profiteer?

Who remembers that just before Saddam got hauled up out of his hidey-hole the breaking news was about war-profiteering by Halliburton and other American contractors in Iraq. Those headlines have now been buried.

But perhaps the story won't go away entirely. Check out Paul Krugman's new column offering additional detail and speculation about what lies ahead on this issue.

Distant Thunder

This new poll by NCIndex does not auger well for state-wide Democratic office-holders in the coming election cycle. Over 50 percent of responders don't think the state is headed in the right direction, and you might want to remember that the direction of the state is being steered by Democrats (and has been for years). The Gov and the Council of State had better be paying attention.

Ironically perhaps, the poll also shows sinking approval for George W. Bush in North Carolina. The mood out there is obviously very volatile.

They Have Much to Hide

Check out conservative columnist William Safire's column today in the New York Times.

Safire is very alarmed -- angry, even -- at the Bush administration's obsession with secrecy, to the point that they are willing to have the Supreme Court decide the issue of whether Vice President Dick Cheney's secret consultations with energy-industry big-wigs must be a part of the public record.

All Profit is Sacred

The Bush administration and the Republican-dominated Congress have turned a deaf ear to predictions about global warming. Or worse, they've hooted with derision at the scientific evidence, often prompted by the drug-addicted Lush Limbaugh, and they have pursued policies guaranteed to worsen air pollution. Bush repudiated the Kyoto Protocols aimed at lessening the problem, and his administration has taken steps to ease restrictions on coal-fired power plants. Alarmed at this public policy trend, and at the spectacle of Republican Senators spouting fake science to buttress this administration's positions, the American Geophysical Union has finally taken a public stand that acknowledges the long-range problem of global warming.

Our local county government seems but a microcosm of the Bush Administration ... writing policy that ignores long-term consequences for the environment in order to benefit short-term big-money interests. Billboards on our highways ... asphalt plants in our neighborhoods ... no real controls ... that's the philosophy, top to bottom, of the prevailing Republicanism currently in power, from the Courthouse to the White House.

Superlatives hardly do them justice.

A local man, who was born & bred in Watauga County and who has served in elective office here, told me last week that this current Board of County Commissioners is "the worst ever" in county history, "and we had some really bad ones back in the 1960s!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Great Big Bullfrog on a itty-bitty lily pad

Some folks in Asheville are organizing to fight a plan by the Grove Park Inn to build a big honking high-rise downtown that will both dwarf Pack Square and take up city parkland for private development. Get a load of the projected Asheville skyline on the group's website!

AARP Gets the Vapors

This is hot news today, from the Associated Press:

"AARP, already under fire from within its over-50 membership for endorsing
the new Medicare law, is backing out of Social Security forums it agreed to
sponsor with the Bush administration and from a group advocating a system
overhaul to allow stock market investing."

All that hell we raised seems to have done something!

Government by, of, & for land-owners.

Mr. Allen Trivette's current assault on the "scenic byway" status of Hwy 194 is very much part of a pattern and seems to represent the thinking of the rest of this current Board of Commissioners. Back at the beginning of December, upon learning that the State Board of Transportation was on the verge of designating the Doc & Merle Watson Highway a "scenic" road, Watauga County Commissioner James Coffey was quoted in the Raleigh New & Observer (Dec. 4, 2003):

"You've got to look at who it affects directly," he said. "It's the one that owns the property. They [the State Bd. of Transportation] are listening to all these college students, summer people and people who don't have any direct interest in it."

Coffey's fellow commissioner Allen Trivette is taking the same approach to Hwy 194. "The people" he wants to hear from on this issue definitely don't include many of us. For purposes of Coffey & Trivette's politics, "the people" only include those who think exactly like them. If you weren't born here, you don't count. If you're a (gawd forbid!) student, you don't count. Apparently, those of us who drive these roads on a regular basis don't count, if we don't also own frontage. Apparently, those of us whose taxes paid for the construction of these roads don't count. Apparently, only the landowners on these roads should have a say (and if you got right down to brass tacks, I suspect Mr. Coffey, at least, really means "the rich landowners along these roads," of which there are several on the new Hwy 421).

Apparently, to listen to Commissioners Coffey and Trivette, there never was a revolution in this country. The old regime of King and aristocrats gave ALL the power to landowners, and that system seems to suit Coffey & Trivette just fine. If you don't own land, you got no right to an opinion.

Fortunately, we became a democracy, though you can't always tell it.

As far as "all these college students, summer people and people who don't have any direct interest in it" ... Mr. Coffey is just wrong. Over 3,000 people signed the petition to keep billboards off that road (including a few with the same surname as the Commissioner). We worked the petition table at the Lowe's Food Store in New Market Center and saw all sorts of ordinary and native-born Wataugans come up and ask to sign. That fact apparently means precisely zilch to Coffey & Trivette.

Revenge for Doc & Merle.

Allen Trivette, one of the new County Commissioners elected last November, has apparently declared war on the "scenic" designation for Hwy 194. In what looks like a fit of pique over the recent designation of the Doc & Merle Watson Hwy as "scenic," Trivette seems bent on spite. This is a fine example of personal vendettas taking over the performance of public policy. And this from a Commissioner who wrote a Letter to the Editor a year ago (Watauga Democrat, 8 January 1003, p. 6A) calling for a "Year of Pride" in Watauga County ... "It's time to think about what we can do to maintain and enhance the quality of life in our communities." How exactly does de-designation of Hwy 194 between Boone and Todd "maintain and enhance the quality of life" in our communities? I'm sure Mr. Trivette has a ready answer for that, but will it make any more sense than when he called for ending dental insurance for county employees?