Friday, December 31, 2004

Of Alms & Hypocrites

Bible reading of the day -- Matthew 6:1-4:

"Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Meanwhile, back on earth, the desire to glorify the most moral man ever to hold the presidency, with eating and drinking and making merry, will cause the following things to happen:

Four days of festivities will culminate January 20 with Bush's swearing in ceremony at the US Congress, his parade to the White House, and nine inauguration balls.

"The final bill for all the celebrations will be a cool 40 million dollars." Cool.

The most popular events will include the January 18th "Saluting Those Who Serve" gala honoring the US armed forces and the January 20th "Texas-Wyoming Ball," where country singer Lyle Lovett will perform, and a proper attire of tuxedo plus cowboy boots is recommended.

A more formal event, the "Commander-in-chief's ball" with about 2,000 guests, "will be a special celebration for active troops and their families focusing on those who have recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan or (who) will be soon deployed there."

"The sprawling lawn behind the White House will host on January 19th another service honoring US troops called 'celebrating freedom.' "

The most spectacular events will be fire works and a grand parade through Washington of 10,000 people, including musical bands from 50 US states and close to 300 horses.

Plenty of booze will be served at all events.

The richest and luckiest will have the run of a presidential suite at the Ritz-Carlton costing $150,000 that includes a personal butler to tuck away the guests' belongings and a $20,000 gift-set of luggage.

The committee organizing the Bush inaugural established a sliding price scale for inauguration-event tickets, from the "basic" price of $2,500 per person, on up to $10,000 per person, depending on how much the ticket-seeker raised for El Presidente back during the campaign: Some 550 persons raised at least $100,000 each.

Meanwhile, back on earth, do we need more evidence of the moral superiority inherent in such conspicuous waste? Or see the inherent irony in today's forlorn headline, "Food Drops and Other Aid Trickle Toward Southern Asia." But then, trickle-down makes so many of these little hearts sing like freed birds, the ineffable noblesse oblige of the super-rich.

We want to see their pictures, we want to see them photographed in their furs and $3,000 suits and jewels, we want to see their glowing mugs side by side with Sri Lankan grief -- we insist on seeing them decked out, tricked out, glommed up in helmet hair alongside Indonesian devastation ... to get the full impact of rewards received on earth.

A Camel, A Rich Man, and the Eye of the Needle

In less than a week, the death toll around the Indian Ocean has shot up exponentially. Remember how we thought at first it was 3,000 dead? How horrified Drudge seemed when he put up the screaming headline, "40,000 DEAD!" This morning, almost numb to statistics, we hear 120,000, with no end to the misery in sight.

It's bad enough that network and cable news seem always to focus on the blond-headed victims of the catastrophe, but our own leader has done anything but lead.

At first, El Presidente couldn't be bothered at all, bicycling and breaking twigs. Then he said, O, all right, $15 million, which was less than half what he was planning to spend on his Rich Man's Bash, a.k.a., his second inaugural party. So in the face of indignant criticism, he upped the amount of promised aid to $35 million, still less than he's spending on the big party, and now he's sending Colin Powell, a notorious bleeding heart, and his own brother other there in some sort of symbolic gesture of actually giving a good goddamn.

If El Presidente had a full half-ounce of the Christian charity which he claims to have coursing through his blood by the bucket, he'd donate that $40 million he's raised from other rich guys for his inauguration to the relief effort. (For the full measure of anxiety being suffered right now by upwardly mobile young Republicans who can't quite afford $10,000 to attend the "official inauguration events," and for a rueful laugh at the vanity of human wishes, read this in today's NYTimes.) How these great shining Christians can go forward with their frivolous celebration in the face of such loss and suffering is really quite beyond our powers to comprehend.

State of Montana, On the Primrose Path

Yesterday, one day after a trial judge in Arkansas struck down a state regulation that barred gays from being foster parents, another notorious hot-bed of liberalism, the Montana Supreme Court, struck down a state policy that limited dependent health care coverage to an employee's children and to the spouses of married employees. The policy required employees and their spouses to prove they were married. One way they could do that was by signing a sworn statement that they were part of an informal arrangement known as a common-law marriage, which requires that the couple live together and be known in the community as husband and wife. Couples who signed the affidavit were required to swear that they had "mutually consented and contracted to become husband and wife" and assumed "all the responsibilities and duties which the law attached to such a relationship." The court's majority (in a split decision, 4-3) focused on this option, saying that making it available only to heterosexual couples violated the equal protection clause of the state's Constitution.

The three dissenters on the court whined that the majority was rewriting the definition of Montana marriage.

Not so, said Justice Jim Regnier, who wrote for the majority. "We have not been asked nor will we address the question of whether Montana's marriage statutes discriminate against same-sex couples by denying them the right to marry." One might reasonably wonder, however, how long it will take for plaintiffs in the state of Montana to ask precisely that question: "Do Montana's marriage statutes discriminate against same-sex couples?" The answer is likely to be yes.

In a concurring decision, Montana Supreme Court Justice James C. Nelson criticized the state's recent constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. "Sadly," Justice Nelson wrote, "many politicians and 'we the people' rarely pass up an opportunity to bash and condemn gays and lesbians despite the fact that these citizens are our neighbors and that they work, pay taxes, vote, hold public office, own businesses, provide professional services, worship, raise their families and serve their communities in the same manner as heterosexuals."

Clearly, Justice Nelson is a great big homo, along with Justice Regnier and the other two who made this decision, and they’re all going to hell. Meanwhile, bigots far and wide have another set of judges to hate, in addition to those in California.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Morally Superior Party

According to an article in today's NYTimes, the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives will move to make ethics charges against members more difficult to initiate. And they also plan to wrestle the current chair of the Ethics Committee into a toe-sack and drop him off the Key Bridge into the Potomac. Why? Representative Joel Hefley, Republican of Colorado, the current chairman of the ethics panel, twice presided over two slaps in the face for Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. So Hefley's about to be fish food.

Guess the lesson here is that you pass laws with the representatives you have and not with the representatives you wish you had.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

N.C. SBOE Orders New State-Wide Vote for Ag Secretary

Voting 3-2 along partisan lines, the N.C. State Board of Elections today ordered a new state-wide election for Secretary of Agriculture, arriving at the only legal decision for rectifying the loss of 4,400 votes in Carteret County in the November election. This was the decision urged on the Board by incumbent Ag Sec't'y Britt Cobb, following the Board's first attempt to fix the problem by throwing the vote to Carteret Co. citizens only, both the 4,400 whose votes were lost plus another 20,000 registered voters who did not turn out in November.

We say "the only legal decision," but that remains to be seen, as Republican challenger Steve Troxler, who was ahead in state-wide voting by 2,300 votes, has promised to take this decision to court.

If this "fix" stands up to court challenge, the new election will likely be in March or April.

So THIS is what you get with electronic touch-screen voting machines. At least PART of what you get.

What the Tsunami Means to You Isn't What It Means to Bush

Among our wide, wildly eclectic reading is a Libertarian blog,, where we found a posting today by Jeffrey Tucker which helps explain El Presidente's slow-as-molasses bestirment to say ANYTHING about the disaster around the rim of the Indian Ocean. We quote it at length because it also sheds light on the "evangelical" mind-set that so worships the idea of George Bush:

"Overheard this morning at the doctor's office: two perfect strangers simultaneously concluding that the tsunami is another 'sign.' They flashed knowing looks at each other. I can only assume that this has something to do with the Apocalypse, an extension of Dispensationalist theology, a crazy 19th-century creation accepted by nearly every red-state evangelical in this country (and only in this country). Dispensationalism teaches against peace, and says that the AntiChrist will be a world leader who calls for peace (and presumably, then, godly leaders go to war). All dreadful things are regarded as works of God. This stuff is deeply ingrained in American culture. It is a view held by vast amounts of the voting population and probably by the president and much of his staff. It is another example of mass lunacy stemming from bad theology, and yet hardly anyone really wants to talk about it. And I suppose the eschatological position of the masses wouldn't matter in the slightest if the US weren't the world's only superpower or if people who believed this stuff had no influence over policy. Sadly, this is not the case. I have no idea just how influential these beliefs are over the direction of American political culture -- and I suppose no one really does -- but somehow I suspect it is greater than we think."

It's Difficult to Feel Sorry While on Vacation

If the initial $15 million that the vacationing George Bush offered the survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami wasn't "stingy" -- which it most certainly was -- then why did the Bush administration so quickly add another $20 million to that relief when they got called out by a U.N. official for stinginess?

There was poor Colin Powell -- who's fast becoming a cartoon representation of his own ineffectiveness, in an administration that manifestly does not listen to him -- on CNN practically begging the world not to think us stingy.

The point is not that some of us blue Americans think the American response has been slow and inadequate but that the rest of the world thinks it, especially Muslim nations like Indonesia, directly and devastatingly impacted, which might be obliged to soften its criticism of the USA over the Iraq War and more importantly beef up its own operations against Islamic extremists in its own borders.

Fact is, there's a low grumble among many countries about El Presidente, who so far hasn't felt any need to leave off his done-as-a-photo-op cutting of brush on his Crawford ranch to speak out on the tragedy. John Harris and Robin Wright have an article about Bush's detachment -- and how cold and uncaring it appears to much of the world's population -- in this morning's WashPost.

Harris & Wright point out that the leading American voice speaking out about the tragedy is Bill Clinton, a man whose huge personal immorality the Bushies like to play as a trump card in every game.

According to Harris & Wright, "even some administration officials familiar with relief efforts said they were surprised that Bush had not appeared personally to comment on the tsunami tragedy. 'It's kind of freaky,' a senior career official said."

(As we type this, we hear the radio report that Bush has now made some sort of public statement.)

LET'S TALK MORALITY UPDATE: Eric Alterman points out that the USA is "devoting less than half of what Bush is planning to spend on his own inauguration to helping people recover from one of the worst natural disasters in human history."

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Bush to Cut Pell Grants

Also lost in the holiday distractions was the Bush administration's announcement two days before Christmas that it would be cutting Pell Grants for an estimated 80,000-90,000 low-income college students.

The Chronicle of Higher Education called the move the "December Surprise," and Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, representing 2,000 colleges and universities, said the timing was "unfortunate and probably deliberate." "Deliberate"? People don't notice so much the bad stuff the government is doing when they do it two days before Christmas.

Is there a lesson here for college-aged voters who didn't bother to get involved in this last election? For those who DID bother to get involved and who voted for this administration, we guess you got what you asked for. For those of you cast out of college by this move, you'll always have military service to fall back on. We hear there are going to be (forced) opportunities any day now.

The Poop on Powell

The WashPost spilled the beans on Christmas Eve about some of what led up to Secretary of State Colin Powell's resignation. You're forgiven if you missed it (as did we, up to our expanding butts in gift wrap at the time), but here are the salient points:

Ten days after winning reelection, El Presidente made the strategic blunder of asking Colin Powell his opinion on the security situation in Iraq. It was an understandable blunder, since Colin had been former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and knows a thing or two about conducting military operations in Iraq. But Powell has not shared, apparently, El Presidente's enthusiasm for this particular war, and when asked, he told Bush there aren't enough troops in Iraq to secure the ground and to establish a safe context for a free, fair, and legitimate election next month. Evidently, Bush didn't like Colin's opinion. Powell submitted his letter of resignation on the same day he made the comments ... Nov. 12th, according to the article in the WashPost. He made his resignation public three days later on November 15th.

Then less than three weeks later, in what looks like a minor concession to Powell's honesty, El Presidente announced he was sending 12,000 more troops to Iraq ... a pittance, granted, but also a tacit admission of weakness.

The pig-headedness of this president -- his manifest inability to admit a mistake -- is going to make for interesting revelations for many years to come.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Bush Throws Down Gauntlet on Judges

El Presidente has signaled how it's gonna be in his second term, renominating for lifetime appointments 20 judges who were previously blocked by Democrats in the U.S. Senate. You can read here about the men who are North Carolinians, most of them former Jesse Helms associates who aspire to judge us all, and harshly.

It'll be time, and very soon, for Senate Democrats to stand up and be counted. And for a few so-called moderate Republicans as well.

Lord, save us from conservative idealogues, is our prayer for 2005.

Lord, save us from their bland, moral superiority.

A Fight for State Party Chair

Jerry Meek has made it official ... he intends to buck the Guv and run for State Chair of the N.C. Democratic Party, despite the Guv's having picked Ed Turlington for the top party post.

According to the News & Observer, "Meek noted that he backed off from challenging [Barbara] Allen in 2003 [for the top job], at the request of the governor and was not inclined to do so again. 'This time there is no turning back,' Meek said. 'I am in the race and in the race to stay.' "

The N & O also notes that the State Executive Committee (on which there are 570 votes) has "not in recent memory -- and probably never -- rejected a Democratic governor's choice. 'Ordinarily, having the governor supporting someone else makes it a challenge,' Meek said. 'But for a variety of reasons he has not been as engaged in the party as past governors. I think it will have some impact. But I feel with all connections and friends I have in the party, I will prevail.' "

Jerry Meek ... master of understatement! As in "Easley has not been as engaged in the party as past governors." More like, told the party to pound sand on numerous occasions.

And for the record, Jerry Meek came to Watauga County to speak at a regular party meeting in 2003, encouraging our activists to stay committed, while there is no local memory of the Guv ever showing up here to talk to the people, except for closed meetings were big fat checks got passed into his campaign account.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Merry Christmas To All!

We're gone (ice) fishing for a couple of days and will hope in the meantime that you all get what you need, if not entirely what you want, and that your Christmas remains bright, warm, and jolly ... in the welcoming embrace of your family and friends.

N.C. Supreme Court Block New State School Superintendent

The N.C. Supremes smiled yesterday on Republican Bill Fletcher's last-gasp efforts to deny the State Superintendent of Public Education office to winner June Atkinson. The Supremes have decided to hear Fletcher's argument on why he thinks some 10,000 ballots cast provisionally on Nov. 2nd should not count. Fletcher trailed Atkinson by some 8,500 votes state-wide and apparently thinks he can catch up with her by getting the court to throw out ballots that were cast anywhere but in the voter's home precinct.

The Supremes' order means that come Jan. 15th, the Dept. of Public Instruction will not have a new leader, as the rest of the Council of State takes office -- minus also the Commissioner of Agriculture, of course.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Ohio Recount

Rick Perlstein has written a very useful summary of what has gone on in Ohio with the presidential election recount. It's not an essay that will please everyone, certainly not the conspiracy buffs (of which we have a growing number). But it contains some useful (& practical) advice for Democratic activists who should learn how to deal with an elections system whose confusion, as Perlstein says, "advantages the more ruthless party, the Republicans." Democrats have to learn how to be ruthless too, a tall order for a bunch of bleeding hearts.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Easley Opts for Turlington

All you people vying to become chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party ... AS YOU WERE! The Guv has spoken, and the Guv wants Ed Turlington. According to the News & Observer, Turlington, a Raleigh lawyer, "was general chairman of [John] Edwards' presidential campaign and deputy campaign manager for New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley's 2000 presidential run. Most recently he was state co-chairman of the Kerry-Edwards campaign. He also has one of the longest political resumes in North Carolina, having served as a key aide to Sanford, Hunt and Lt. Gov. Bob Jordan and as executive director of the state party."

The choice of Turlington is described as something of an olive branch to "party regulars," since the Guv had avoided most contact with the Turlington crowd (i.e., John Kerry and John Edwards) during the fall campaign.

Now we'll find out just how much resistance to Turlington will emerge before the vote by the state executive committee in February.

Merry Christmas From My Government, and Yours

The documents that the A.C.L.U. has forced out of the Department of Defense, under a Freedom of Information Act complaint, proves that torture of civilian prisoners is top-down policy in this government, not the aberration of a few "hillbillies" at Abu Ghraib. What is still bound to come out about the behavior of this government and its agents will curl all our hair for the New Year. Not that anybody who voted for these people give a good goddamn.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Opposition to the Bush Agenda from Republicans

The WashPost published an extensive article today on El Presidente's potential problems with his own Republican majority in Congress, especially in the House, where Tom DeLay's megalomania may cause widespread jaundice: "At a recent GOP leadership retreat, two participants said DeLay appeared to irritate White House political chief Karl Rove by signaling a more aggressive role in the new Congress." That is, "a more aggressive role" for what Tom DeLay wants, not for what Karl Rove thinks is best.

The potential trouble boils down to these main sore points:

1. Overhauling Social Security. Many congressional Republicans are apparently alarmed at the thought. According to the Post, "several senators, including a few 2008 presidential contenders, are rushing to promote their own Social Security plans to compete with Bush's." Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and as many as two dozen House Republicans have let it be known they consider major Social Security changes a potential political loser because many senior citizens fear the consequences.

2. Bush's goal of granting guest-worker status to large numbers of undocumented immigrants will "collide head-on with House Republicans' push to crack down on illegal immigrants." The new intelligence reform bill apparently only passed the House because certain conservative ideologues were promised subsequent legislation cracking down on driver's licenses for illegals, etc.

3. The White House plan to impose federal limits on medical lawsuits. Some conservatives see this as meddling with state's rights. "It's one of the worst bills going," says Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.).

Okay, Okay, No More Hanging of Witches

We laughed so hard, we spilled our morning coffee ... but California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told a German newspaper that he thinks the U.S. Republican Party needs to move "a little to the left," presumably not before amending the U.S. Constitution to allow ex-body builders born in Austria the right to run for president. "A little to the left," we take it, would mean updating the party's puritanical biases from the 1690s to approximately the 1870s.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Rumsfeld Couldn't Be Bothered

Comes out this a.m. that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been using an automatic signature device to fake his handwriting on letters of condolence that have now gone out in over 1,200 cases of the deaths of U.S. soldiers in the Iraq War. This admission comes hard on the heels of a Pentagon spokesman lying on Rumsfeld's behalf that yes, of course, the secretary signs his own correspondence. But, no, he doesn't, and the previous statement is now rendered "inoperative." Rumsfeld put out a statement that he will in future be signing the letters to mothers and fathers, to wives and children, to husbands and children, regretting to inform them that their beloved family member has been snuffed out in a legitimately instigated, competently managed, glorious extension of American empire to people who will, eventually, thank us for preemptively attacking their country.

In other, not unrelated news, some 14 oil executives, corporate leaders, and Texas Republicans have so far coughed up $250,000 each to help give El Presidente a suitably lavish second inauguration. Part of that money will go to pay for the "Commander-in-Chief Ball" at the National Building Museum, "to honor troops who have just returned from Afghanistan and Iraq or who are about to be deployed." Well, that'll make up for everything!

But in the spirit of putting one's money where one's puckered lips kiss fat butt, check out at least two web sites that are outlining the political contributions of many more of the companies and organizations you might be considering doing business with: and On one of those two sites, you can sign up for e-mail alerts. How else would we find out that is relatively bad, but that Barnes & Noble is very very good? Also very very bad ... Circuit City! And Dollar General! And Home Depot, The Limited, and J.C. Penney (though who in this life EVER shops at J.C. Penney?). But go look for yourself.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Judge Throws Out Special Carteret Co. Re-Vote

A superior court judge has canceled next month's planned re-vote in Carteret County as illegal. No big surprise to observers who thought the State Board of Election's decision to allow a revote in Carteret County alone, among two special classes of voters, was a poorly cobbled bit of footwear if there ever was one.

What seems likely now is a statewide re-vote to decide who gets to run the Department of Agriculture ... a costly proposition but the only solution that is likely to satisfy the courts. It's been incumbent Ag. Secretary Britt Cobb's contention all along.

Friday, December 17, 2004

"So Persecuted They the Saints"

Where did the sense of Christian persecution come from, and why is it so important?

"Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matt. 5:11

A sense of righteous persecution is laced through the Four Gospels like chocolate in a marble cake. Truly, the commitment to follow The Christ stood as open invitation to being flayed by the power structure of the time. The psychology of persecution is so ingrained in the Christian identity that, even when Christians account for a lopsided majority of the American public -- in Newsweek's "Birth of Jesus" holiday cover article, a poll found that 84% of American adults call themselves Christian, 82% see Jesus as the son of God, and 79% believe in the Virgin Birth -- the assumption of minority (& victim) status by Christians, supposedly persecuted by "mainstream American culture," is taken as a given by many evangelicals. Within the past year, for example, in Watauga County, a high school student wearing Old Testament quotes on a T-shirt was asked to remove it or be sent home. He went home, and he & his supporters howled that they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs, when what they were being reprimanded for was insulting gay students. School authorities were forced to apologize anyway.

In my hometown in West Texas, the biggest and the most elite church was First Baptist. Second in status was First Church of Christ, whose members were universally known as "Campbellites," even more conservative than the Baptists in that they didn't believe in any musical instruments. Third were the Methodists, those wonderfully accepting, easy-going Methodists, who not only believed in musical instruments but who held dances for high school students in their church basement. Way down that list of churches was the Assembly of God, the "pentecostals," to which me and my mother belonged. In terms of status, we were lowest on the totem pole. The biggest landowners were the Baptists, the Cambellites, and the Methodists. At our little church, we were mainly tenants on other men's farms, laborers, rough-necks, or more commonly the wives of rough-necks, since the husbands rarely darkened the church house door. If being holy-rollers carried a load of class stigma, we clung to it as evidence of our worthiness for the rewards of heaven: "So persecuted they the saints," my mother was fond of saying, warping for her purposes the actual text of Matthew Chapter 5. People did make fun of us. We knew it, and they knew we knew it. We chalked the derision up to our righteousness and their wickedness. Because when you can prove you're persecuted, even when you're not, you get to wear an embattled sense of self-congratulation: "For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. The righteous shall be preserved for ever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off."

I adored that promise. That the snobs in First Baptist Church would get theirs!

We talked endlessly at church about The Rapture, and I took a great deal of secret pleasure in that doctrine because I could pick out the outwardly Christian little Baptists whose behaviors in the schoolyard I knew qualified them for being left behind when me and my mom got taken away to be with Jesus. Such smugness can make you not only endure persecution. It can make you actively invite it.

So give me a break, dear Christian brethren, with your constant harping on how tough it is to be born again in this wicked, wicked America. You love being persecuted, or at least pretending that you are, for the sake of bragging rights. But seeing those beef-eater faces of millionaires like the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the Rev. Pat Robertson, in their $300 suits, wrapping themselves in the cloak of outraged minority victimization because someone has protested a religious display on public property during Christmastime -- their smugness wafts off them like the smoke from burnt sacrifices. "I'm so persecuted, I could gloat!"

It's beginning to amount to bullying.

That's Not a Draft Coming. Definitely Not a Draft

Buried deep in an article in this a.m.'s NYTimes: "...chief of the Army Reserve, Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, told The Dallas Morning News that the Army Reserve recruiting was in a 'precipitous decline' that if unchecked could inspire renewed debate over the draft. General Helmly told the newspaper that he personally opposed reviving the draft."

This, in an article headlined "Guard Reports Serious Drop in Enlistment." The Army National Guard announced yesterday that it had fallen 30 percent below its recruiting goals in the last two months and would offer "new incentives," including enlistment bonuses of up to $15,000. (You'll be spending that bonus on body armor for yourself and extra steel plating for your Humvee, but still.)

"Some military personnel specialists ... said the lower recruiting numbers were the harbingers of tougher times to come. 'I don't think this is an aberration,' said David R. Segal, a military sociologist who directs the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland. 'I think we're going to see significant shortfalls in recruitment, and I think we're to begin to see retention problems. We're also going to see increasing concerns at the state level about how the Guard will man itself and perform its state missions.' "

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Soldier Resistance to Iraqi War Growing

'Pears that Sen. John McCain is not the only one who's lost confidence in Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The Christian Science Monitor is reporting a growing resistance to the war among the uniformed services. According to this article, the Defense Department acknowledges that more than 5,500 service personnel have deserted since the Iraq war began.

"Experts" also note a growing trend for GIs to speak out, like that soldier did recently. "I am amazed that it is not greater," says retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner. "The war continues to go badly. Their equipment is in bad shape. Supply problems continue. Tours are extended. Many are on a second or third deployment to a combat zone. I would expect a louder voice."

Elections Officials in Gaston Co. Are Booted

The state of North Carolina launched an investigation of the Gaston County Board of Elections back in November because the number of votes cast in half the Gaston County precincts did not match up with the recorded number of voters. Plus there was an allegation that an employee of Diebold was handling certain duties that should have been done by Gaston County B.O.E. officials.

The subsequent two-day interview between the State B.O.E. attorney Don Wright and Gaston County B.O.E. Supervisor Sandra Page did not go well. Page walked out of the interview, more or less mid-question, and went on sick leave from which she never returned. Page has held the supervisor's position since 1990, resigning as chair of the Gaston County Republican Party to take the job.

Yesterday, following a six-hour closed-door meeting of the Gaston B.O.E., Sandra Page resigned as supervisor and the chairman of the Gaston B.O.E. also resigned for failing to supervise the supervisor. (Raleigh News & Observer article this a.m.) The Charlotte Observer today characterizes Page's performance this way: "[Her] response to the problems was dismissive at first. At various points she blamed voters, poll workers and her own staff while insisting that everything would have gone OK if she could have been in all 46 precincts at once. As problems mounted, however, she grew increasingly apologetic and morose, finally walking out of a meeting with investigators from the state Board of Elections on Nov. 23."

According to today's Observer, the lead investigator for the state B.O.E. (Don Wright?) "said last week that Page had failed as a manager and should be replaced."

All of which will do a lot to destroy the public's confidence in the fairness and accuracy of the voting process. Even WITHOUT the added irritant of those Diebold machines.

We are blessed in Watauga with very competent supervision of the local B.O.E. But we still have an issue with those new touch-screen voting machines and hope we don't face a time when we're putting our faith in them for the voting process.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

N.C. Senate Democrats Also Opt for Swill

Not to be outdone, apparently, by the N.C. House Democrats in accepting gratuities from industries they may be called on to regulate, N.C. Senate Dems will be taking over what the Raleigh News & Observer calls one of Raleigh's "finer" restaurants tomorrow for lunch ... the entire tab for same to be picked up by, yes, Smithfield Foods with some help from the N.C. Medical Society, N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, and Duke Energy. (Story here, but you'll have to scroll down to see it.)

We don't care if this sort of thing is technically legal. It also technically smells to high heaven.

Bush's Guy

The New York Times is saying today that the reason Bernard Kerik became an instant embarrassment for the Bush administration is that everybody in the White House knew that El Presidente was taken with the guy and that it's become the habit of this White House to "expedite" presidential appointments by doing only cursory background checks. So the FBI wasn't given the chance to find the arrest warrant, the business dealings with the Mafia-connected company in Jersey, nor the simultaneous carnal affairs with two women (one of them an underling -- hee hee -- in the N.Y.P.D.) carried out, evidently, in the same apartment that was supposed to be a resting place for N.Y. police brass near the "ground zero" of the World Trade Center. Kerik did little resting there.

But screwing multiple women at the same time is also perhaps what made Kerik the kind of guy's guy that El Presidente is just naturally drawn toward. Bush was willing to vouch for him, just on the basis of hanging out with him in New York in the wreckage. After all, this is also the same El Presidente who informed us that he had looked into Putin's eyes & taken the measure of his "soul," which he found a-okay.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Democrats Go for Pig Swill

It's embarrassing when leaders of your own party get their snouts in the feeding trough, but that's precisely what happened last night in Raleigh. Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, hosted the House Democrats for a big slopping at the N.C. Museum of Art, on the eve of the Democrat caucus today when Democrats will be selecting their leaders for the upcoming legislative session. (Raleigh News & Observer account here.)

Smithfield Foods, located in Virginia, said it was just feeding the pigs, that there was no ulterior motive. "It's not about us," a Smithfield spokeswoman said. "It's just about having a good time." Yeah, we believe that!

It's tough to believe the "nobody here but us good-timers" explanation in light of this:

"Lawmakers have extended a moratorium on new hog lagoons because they are concerned about the lagoons' impact on drinking water. Four years ago, Smithfield signed a pact with the state to help develop alternatives to the lagoons. A professor at N.C. State University is close to recommending two alternatives that may be more environmentally sound -- but also more costly to the industry."

And even if the dinner last night was NOT hard-core lobbying by an industry with no good intentions for the future of North Carolina's air and water, EVEN IF ... it's still unseemly for legislators to accept such gratuities. It's humiliating for us rank-and-file Democrats out here in the hinterlands, trying to do the right thing. It's infuriating to environmentalists of every political stripe. It's ... it's positively REPUBLICAN!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Onward, to 1950

Kathleen Parker, a writer for the Orlando Sentinel, has a new column out that suggests that some of us are worrying needlessly that El Presidente is trying to steer the U.S. into a theocracy, where the likes of Pat Robertson might be Secretary of State and Jerry Falwell could hand out tracts on The Rapture over at Health & Human Services. It's a bum rap, says Parker: "Indeed, some close observers of the Bush-evangelical dynamic predict that Bush will have caused more consternation than consolation among his conservative Christian brethren before the first year of his second term is up."

We hope she's right. But on the very same morning that we read Parker's calming words, we see a lengthy article about the Christian Right beating the tom-toms on the Faith 'n' Ignorance warpath in various state legislatures and on state boards of education: "Energized by electoral victories last month that they say reflect wide support for more traditional social values, conservative Christian advocates across the country are pushing ahead state and local initiatives on thorny issues, including same-sex marriage, public education and abortion."

Though abortion is listed last in that string of inflamers, we suspect it should be placed first in what ticks off the brethren. And no matter how "moderate" an "incrementalist" El Presidente may yet turn out to be, his troopers in state legislatures are feeling "emboldened," and nothing motivates them more than the thought of women having sex without consequences. Make no mistake: abortion rights are on the chopping block.

"Take America back," the Christian Right has been saying. Back to what? Back to the rural "values" I remember from my childhood in West Texas? Let's see ... that would include:

• No official sex education. That way, young women can be truly ignorant, and young men, truly enflamed by locker-room swagger and empowered by the stupidity of their prom dates.

• The return of the double standard. Whereas young women must be made to suffer fully the heavy consequences of pre-marital sex, young men will be relatively less burdened. Some of them will, naturally, be forced into shotgun weddings, which is always a good basis for a long-lasting and stable relationship, no? Others will flee to Tennessee, or worse, South Carolina.

• The return of shame (which is, we take it, this project's number-one goal). In Texas in the 1940s, one of my close female relatives got pregnant in her 20s and was so shamed that she simply disappeared for several years. She put the baby up for adoption. No one knew. She felt trapped in her shame and spent several years alone with it. The truth only came out in the family recently. No one, as I recall, congratulated my relative for bearing that humiliation so stoically. Of course, stoic shame is not nearly as productive as public shame, which is where Jerry Falwell wants us to head: the Scarlet Letter, awarded with fanfare.

• The triumphal return of ignorance and its proud offspring, disease and desperation. In West Texas in the 1950s, no young woman was on the pill. It simply wasn't available. And few young men used condoms, because to obtain them meant going to the city druggist and risking his wrath and/or scorn in front of other customers. The current movement of so-called Christian druggists not to fill birth-control prescriptions for unmarried women shows us where we're headed. It ain't just abortion they're after; it's birth-control itself. With no options in either direction, we will have achieved what the Christian Right apparently wants: a high birth-rate and perfect misery for any young person who chooses to have sex prior to marriage.

• The free-lance practice of female health care services by a new criminal class, with all its attendant benefits.

• The reinstitution of official and private hypocrisy as the American Way: if we don't see inequity and injustice, they don't exist. And even if they do exist, they don't pertain to us.

• And by the way, there is not and never has been anything in nature called "evolution."

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Spilling Campaign Secrets

Reporters managed to get into a session of political strategists of BOTH stripes at UNC's School of Journalism on Friday, and we can only conclude that the "strategists" in question were drinking shots of Tequila at the time, or else they might not have been so forthcoming ... not, at least, in front of reporters.

Gov. Mike Easley's chief operative admitted that the candidate THEY most feared was Richard Vinroot. "He was a better messenger for change," Easley's guy said.

Yeah, well. But Dems (not to mention the Guv) are blessed in that N.C. Republicans NEVER vote for a moderate in their state-wide primaries, and so long as that pattern holds, maybe we'll luck out with Democratic governors, even if they're Democrats in name only.

Watauga GOP's Reversal of Fortune

The pain of devastating electoral losses can warp your perspective and cause you to do crazy things. Witness Democratic Party Chair Terry McAuliffe telling the Democrat gathering in Orlando Friday that we need to ... well, the lead paragraph from the WashPost’s coverage tells it all: "Outgoing Democratic National Committee Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe said Friday that President Bush won reelection last month by skillfully leveraging terrorism and cultural issues to attract swing voters and even core Democrats, and he argued that his party must learn from Republican successes to become competitive." Maybe he didn't actually say "become more like Republicans," but that's how it sounds.

The stress of catastrophic loss in electoral politics will sometimes, evidently, make you go bonkers. Locally, the Watauga Republican Party is still going through the upheaval of having their entire slate of three Republican County Commissioner candidates rejected on November 2nd, including the thousand-year incumbent chairman of the board James Coffey. They still blame ASU students, natch. In fact, according to observers on the inside who have started worrying that the party is dangerously off-track, James Coffey is angling to get himself appointed to the Watauga County Board of Elections with the high-minded goal of "doing something" about the participation of ASU students in county elections. Sounds like a hell of a plan! We always enjoy the spectacle of defeated politicians declaring war on the U.S. Constitution.

Otherwise, our local Republicans appear to be chalking their loss up to not being nasty enough in their advertizing. Their local media guru, whose track record of nastiness against Dave Robertson in the 2002 cycle is well remembered, had apparently prepared a media attack against Jim Deal, tying him to Heavenly Mountain. We recognize the M.O. But Republican patriarchs could not talk Deal's opponent in the election into running the spots, which speaks volumes about the decency of the man. But the decency of that defeated candidate is now being fingered by GOP leaders as a failure of nerve. So much for Christian values.

What do we have to look forward to from the Watauga GOP in 2006? (1) More concentrated "voter suppression" aimed at ASU students; and (2) more nastiness in the form of negative campaigning.

Instead of blaming ASU students for their devastating loss, Mr. Coffey might more productively ask himself why, while George W. Bush and Virginia Foxx were easily carrying Watauga County, why did he & his fellow commissioner candidates lose so badly? The answer has nothing to do with paying tuition at ASU.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

CHALK UP ANOTHER VOICE OPPOSED to the big-head movement in the Democratic Party to make us more Republican ... Ariana Huffington, our favorite foreign-accented commentator. Huffington quotes George Lakoff, whose "Don't Think of an Elephant" is in my must-read pile: "Democrats moving to the middle is a double disaster that alienates the party's progressive base while simultaneously sending a message to swing voters that the other side is where the good ideas are." Huffington adds: "It [moving right] unconsciously locks in the notion that the other side's positions are worth moving toward, while your side's positions are the ones to move away from. Plus every time you move to the center, the right just moves further to the right."

Later in her essay, Huffington spills some tasty legumes: David Sirota is apparently working on a "brilliant" upcoming American Prospect cover story that he is titling "The Democrats' Da Vinci Code," because Sirota has discovered what seems to have escaped many of the Republican-appeasers in the Democratic Party ... that while El Presidente was winning, Democrats also scored impressive WINS in some locales in red-state America ... like right here in Watauga County! Huffington says that Sirota will show "how a growing number of Democrats in some of the reddest regions in America have racked up impressive, against-the-grain wins by framing a progressive economic platform in terms of values and right vs. wrong. These are not 'left' ideas; they are good ideas."

Sirota probably won't mention Watauga County in his article, but he should. Turns out we're emblematic! That, plus the fact that the grass-roots donor base among Democrats has never been larger nor more energized. Huffington observes, reasonably, "This reallocation of power away from lobbyists and big corporate donors will finally allow Democrats to stop taking policy dictation from their corporate financiers and start offering up an alternative vision to compete with George Bush's."

Sorry, Democratic Leadership Council, but we don't see you as the way, the truth, and the light.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Bill Moyers Sums It All Up

Preparing for his last installment of the PBS "Now" show before he retires at age 70 from TV news, Bill Moyers says, "I'm going out telling the story that I think is the biggest story of our time: how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee. We have an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don't have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people."

And don't we know it!

Pugilistic Advice from Mean Dean

Howard Dean, in a speech last Wednesday at George Washington University, told Democrats that we must "learn to punch our way off the ropes" rather than go that route of "Republican Lite" that is always the first solution some fearful party leaders fix on. (WashPost coverage here or treat yourself to the full transcript.)

"There is only one thing the Republican power brokers want more than for us to lurch to the left, and that's for us to lurch to the right," Dean said. "Because what they fear most is that we may really begin fighting for what we believe: fiscal responsibility, socially progressive values for which Democrats have always stood and fought."

Dean also said, "What I want to know is at what point did it become a radical notion to stand up for what we believe? Over fifty years ago, Harry Truman said, 'We are not going to get anywhere by trimming or appeasing. And we don't need to try it.' Yet here we are still making the same mistakes."

We hear you, Howard.

Inaugural Balls

The following, found in the NYTimes today, makes you proud to be an American. The Second Inaugural of George W. Bush, despite the fact that a war is going on that has engaged some 138,000 troops (and killed how many now?), "the organizers say that the inaugural celebration at the end of the January will not be marked by any noticeable restraint and will cost more than any other in history."

Some $40 million is our understanding. Which is also why we're looking for our invitation every day. We stand out by the postal box, hopping back and forth, watching the horizon for our rural route deliverer to come round the bend, bearing glad tidings of a Star Rising in the East.

Instead, we get this crummy invitation to the Second Inaugural of Gov. Mike Easley instead. "The Governor of North Carolina" (and various hangers-on, like the Council of State) "request the pleasure of your company at the Inaugural Ball on Saturday, the Fifteenth of January, Two Thousand and Five." You know it'll be a swell affair, because the dates are all spelled out.

Prices for the Raleigh to-do range from $5,000, for a "Grand Benefactor," to $100 as a chintzy "Ball Guest." Plus "Ball Guests" will have to suffer the indignities of a "cash bar." Not to mention the mandatory "black tie." (Drat! Mine is out for alterations.) Checks are to be made out to the Junior League of Raleigh, which will pander hostesses for the event and will be celebrating 75 years "of fulfilling its mission of promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers."

Seems like little money, really, to hang out with such a regular guy who so obviously enjoys the company of "the people."

El Presidente, meanwhile, is asking a little more in the way of baksheesh, without the annoying go-between of a volunteer outfit. According to the Times, tickets to all the official Bush inaugural events, including an elegant candlelight dinner at which El Presidente will make a passing wave ... $100,000. Or, significantly, you can upgrade to be closer to the real source of power and get into an "exclusive" lunch with V.P. Dick Cheney and get a pass to all the inaugural balls ... for a measly $250,000. The Times notes that "Bush fund-raisers have placed [that] $250,000 cap on donations to avoid seeming greedy."

And it worked! I didn't even hardly notice the greed.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Stopping Howard Dean, Part Deux

Since National Democrats haven't got a strategic bone in their bodies, what else would you expect from Party Big-Heads but feverish organizing against not just any fellow Democrat but the fellow Democrat who gave the party back its very soul? (Thanks to that bomb-thrower Irmaly for passing on the link.) With Howard Dean the unannounced front-runner to succeed Whatisname as chair of the Democratic National Committee, The Hill reports a scramble among party officials to find a viable Un-Dean to win the vote for the chairmanship on February 12th. Add Harold Ickes' name to the list of possible antidotes to The Good Doctor, along with ex-Congressman Martin Frost (rubbed out by the Tom DeLay redistricting gambit in Texas) and several others whose names are not exactly "market ready" nor even resonant.

The fact that the Vermont governor excited considerable numbers of unaffiliated and Republican voters -- not to mention America's youth -- prior to his ouster as a presidential candidate following the Iowa caucuses last January will have absolutely no bearing on what the Aging Party Dumbbells decide is best.

Rumsfeld to Enlisted Guy: "Armor? You Don't Need No Stinkin' Armor!"

Earlier today in Iraq, an Army enlisted man had the balls to stand up in a packed hangar and directly confront Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the lack of armor on the vehicles that he & his comrades had to use:

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Spc. Thomas Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense. Rumsfeld hesitated and asked Wilson to repeat his question. "We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson said after asking again.

Rummy's answer was essentially that they could still get killed, no matter how much armor they have on their vehicles. And this: "You go to war with the Army you have."

Next question.
MORE ON THE INEFFABLE SUMP CALLED WAL-MART is this must reading, on the new affinity the corp. has developed with the old-line communist government of mainland China (thanks to Stumpy for passing on the link). Buried in the following graph is a nugget about the relative enforced poverty of typical Wal-Mart employees:

"... America's largest employer has opposed every effort of its employees to form a union. Wal-Mart doesn't recognize unions; it doesn't even recognize 'employees.' The proper Wal-Mart name for its workers is 'associates,' a term that connotes higher status and collegiality and that actually means lower pay and workplace autocracy. For the privilege of associating themselves with Wal-Mart, its employees are paid so little that many can't afford the health insurance the company generously allows them to buy. One study of health care in Las Vegas revealed that a plurality of that city's employed Medicaid recipients worked at Wal-Mart."

Spreading democracy and standing up for the American way, yadda, yadda, yadda. Meanwhile, the granddaughter of one of the founders of Wal-Mart paid $20,000 over three years to someone else to do her college papers for her. Where'd she learn such values? (The ABC News investigation can be seen here -- scroll down -- including an interview with the young woman who did that work for her.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Latest Unauthorized CIA Briefing

The NYTimes published this morning the latest leaked document out of Langley, or rather an account of what that document said. The CIA Iraq "station chief" cabled his "bleak assessment" of the situation in that country. His cable "warned that the security situation was likely to get worse, including more violence and sectarian clashes." According to the Times, the cable was drafted by "an officer who is highly regarded within the C.I.A. and who, as station chief in Baghdad, has been the top American intelligence official in Iraq since December 2003. The station chief overseas an intelligence operation that includes about 300 people, making Baghdad the largest C.I.A. station since Saigon during the Vietnam War era."

Did you notice that reference to Vietnam? Not that there's anything comparable between the two quagmires.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Freeing Thyself From Environmental Stewardship

You might want to read Bill Moyers' recent essay, "Battlefield Earth" (thanks to Steve for passing it on). Bill & I came out of the same Texas Southern Baptist tradition, and he has a profound grasp of what seems to motivate the Religious Right. He's particularly astute on the issue of the environment and the current dominant theology loose on the land:

"...Remember James Watt, President Reagan's first Secretary of the Interior? ... Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, 'after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.'

"Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the bible is literally true -- one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index. That's right – the rapture index .... Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre...: once Israel has occupied the rest of its 'biblical lands,' legions of the anti-Christ will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts, and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.

"...[These believers] have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act .... A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but welcomed -- an essential conflagration on the road to redemption....

"So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? ... millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed -- even hastened -- as a sign of the coming apocalypse.

"...Nearly half the U.S. Congress before the recent election -- 231 legislators in total -- more since the election -- are backed by the religious right. Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian coalition was Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book of Amos on the senate floor: 'the days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land.' he seemed to be relishing the thought...."

Stay Tuned for a Word From Our Hypocrites

Came across this paragraph in an article delving into the Republicans' use of market research:

"One of the [TV] shows most popular with Republicans, especially Republican women ages 18 to 34, turned out to be 'Will & Grace,' the sitcom about gay life in New York. As a result, while Mr. Bush was shoring up his conservative credentials by supporting a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, his advertising team was buying time on a program that celebrates gay culture."

According to this source, the Bush-Cheney campaign advertized 473 times on "Will & Grace" between Jan. 1st and November 2nd.

This info comes out of the Wisconsin Advertizing Project which analyzes political advertising and will be studied closely by operatives in both parties.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Irony Gaining on Hypocrisy

Wouldn't it be swell if an avatar of the Right Wing, Fox TV, ended up being the instrument by which the Federal Communications Commission gets its comeuppance for enforcing obscenity standards on TV?

The Fox network has been fined by the FCC for $1.18 million for airing racy fare on a show called "Married by America." If the FCC upholds the fine, Fox is vowing it will go to court to challenge the agency's enforcement of indency standards, which has gotten more draconian since Janet Jackson flashed her headlight.

Frankly, we're on Fox's side in this dispute but enjoy the Bush administration's attempt to placate the Religious Right by sticking it to one of its biggest corporate backers. The fact that the corporation isn't going to just sit back and take it -- and betting that they'll win a court challenge against the FCC -- we'll be looking forward to the new knots of outraged morality the Congress will tie itself up in as it tries to rewrite the law.

Thompson to Terrorists: "Try the Food Supply!"

Yesterday Health & Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson chose his retirement announcement from the Bush Administration to offer helpful cooking tips: "I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not, you know, attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do," Thompson said. "And we are importing a lot of food from the Middle East, and it would be easy to tamper with that."

Or was that a critique of El Presidente's handling of home-land security? Thompson said that he worries "every single night" about "food poisoning" on a massive scale. After his statement yesterday, we suspect there'll be several people joining him in that activity.

Then Thompson said he was "very concerned about pandemic flu, because we're not prepared for it," adding that Congress has inadequately financed preparations. Congress? We thought the Executive Branch had a hand in mishandling the availability of the flu vaccine this year. But whatever. "This is a really huge bomb out there that could adversely impact on the health care of the world," Thompson said.

Thompson strikes us as an honest man, which should promptly move him onto the White House's new enemies list. As Mike Allen in the WashPost points out this a.m., "The alarming tone of Thompson's comments contrasted with an assertion by Attorney General John D. Ashcroft in his resignation letter last month. Ashcroft declared, 'The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.' "

If the possibilities of organized food poisoning and a flu pandemic isn't enough to spook you for the rest of the weekend, try this: Mike Allen in the same article also reports that last Monday Pres. Bush asked Donald Rumsfeld to stay on as Secretary of Defense, thus making it official: no one in this White House will ever be punished for mistakes, miscalculations, and just plain bad policy. Allen says that if Rumsfeld left the administration, some might interpret that to mean that El Presidente admits the war in Iraq has been a disaster. So Rummy stays, apparently for appearance sake.

Meanwhile, the overnight also brings the purely coincidental news that the U.S. Navy has launched an investigation of some new photos of Navy Seals abusing Iraqi prisoners. At the moment, we can't tell whether it's mainly an investigation of who put the photos up on the World Wide Web, as opposed to why the Navy Seals were doing those things to those prisoners. But then, the man who presided over the sump of Abu Ghraib is to remain in charge of the military, so we won't hold our breath that the right crime gets prosecuted. (If you've got the stomach for it, several of the 40 photos can be seen here.)

Friday, December 03, 2004

Careful What You Hope For

Wal-Mart, which campaigned heavily for Republicans in the last election, is now reaping the rewards ... dismal November sales, including flat-line performance Thanksgiving weekend. The Bush economy, especially in the red states, seems to be catching up with one of Bush's head chearleaders in the red. Maybe our personal boycott has had am impact?

Ignorance Is Not a Value Worth Defending

I am concerned about political division in this country, not so much the one between Democrats and Republicans but the one between the rural and the urban, which is what the map of red and blue states reveals. The rural/urban division was even revealed in our election of a new County Commission in Watauga, with the more urbanized portions of the county prevailing for the Democrats over the most rural, which mainly went for the Republicans. That pattern replicated itself everywhere across the American landscape. In the bluest of blue states, the rural areas were more likely to go for Bush. In the reddest of red states, the urban areas just as surely tilted toward Kerry.

I don't like that division for what it does to both sides and by inevitable extension what it does to the whole national psyche, the stereotyping that gets hurled from both sides of that fence. Too many blue staters arrogantly assume the stupidity of red staters, and rural people have an annoying habit of associating every bad thing they see with "outsiders," as though no home-grown sharpster ever cheated them over a galled horse.

The rural/urban split hurts us as a nation because it deprives both sides of the wise counsel of the other. And we need each other. Without knowing any rural people, other than the caricatured "idiots" who voted for Bush, urban Americans are smugly confirmed in their prejudices against hayseeds, rubes, hicks, hillbillies, bumpkins, rednecks, clodhoppers, shit-kickers, and goat-ropers. Meanwhile, stampeded into ever more stubborn corrals of "tradition" (which is often a fear of change), rural people blame the wrong hands for the policy decisions that render rural life increasingly untenable. Willfully choosing to remain ignorant ain't no way to run this railroad.

I spent most of my professional life defending rural people from urban media stereotypes, both the vicious ones (as in "Deliverance") and the sentimental (as in "Where the Lilies Bloom"), since both types of representation achieve essentially the same ends -- the removal of complex realities for the sake of easy pigeon-holing, all designed to make (mainly) urban on-lookers feel better about themselves. I always preached that until country people got hold of the cameras and started aiming them at city people, and at themselves, no fair representation of the real American landscape was likely to happen.

I also appreciated an overriding irony of modern American life: that as the actual proportion of rural people in the total American population has been declining since the first national Census in 1790, the influence of the rural over American urban pop culture has soared. The population of the United States tilted majority urban only in 1920. By the 2000 Census, rural people accounted for less than 25% of our total population. But while it was becoming a puny statistical minority of our total population, increasingly sidelined and sneered at by city people who've evidently forgotten where their food comes from, the stubborn power of country people to redraw the American self-image has blossomed. In the 1920s, just as we were becoming majority urban, commercial country music erupted into the market place and is now THE most popular music in America. What's the current most popular spectator sport? NASCAR racing, the activity that began on America's backroads among moonshiners and mud-daubbers. And who picks American presidents? The South, still the most rural part of this great nation.

I choose to interpret this irony as evidence of the genius of American democracy, that maligned groups have their powers, at least the power over our imaginations, and the most marginalized of us have a way of calling the tune.

But we're in trouble as a union of conflicting interests if the tune being called is a willful rejection of knowledge, a suspicion of education, a dumbing down of what's acceptable according to what's orthodox. I grew up in the country encased in various overlapping cones of silence. After all, what is "culture" if not control over what is thinkable? Rural culture clamped down on us teenagers like a vise. Nobody talked about sex, for example, so we were not only uneducated about it, we were dangerously uneducated about it and prone to believe the bizarre rumors that swept through our playgrounds after school. The "country way" was to control the access to knowledge and to close the doors against anything uncomfortable. But ignorance can kill.

Over the past four years, the evidence has mounted that our rulers are winning by means of willful ignorance. Science has been rewritten to squelch unpleasant news. Evidence has been manufactured to support personal war ambitions. Prejudices and irrational fears have been encouraged, even fed by elected officials, for personal gain. Every morning on C-SPAN now, a caller from a red state offers the opinion that we'd be better off if we knew less about the war in Iraq. Congress passes a rider in the omnibus spending bill that will deprive young women of information about abortion options. And just yesterday we hear that the sex abstinence programs in high schools, so touted by the mullahs as a corrective to the corruption of American culture by Hollywood, is passing out damned inaccurate information to a whole generation. Not just inaccurate information but damned inaccurate information.

Red staters are worried about the loss of a "traditional America." (I'm worried about that too, as I'm tail-gated on every road I drive on, from super-highways to one-lane goat trails. I'd like to drive slow, which is a traditional American value.) But the way to save our traditional values is not to fall for huge fibs, not to close our eyes to the manifest truth, and not to deliberately lie to our children.

Big Brother and His Eyes

Concerns have spiked up all year over the proclivities of those currently in control of all three branches of government to put ordinary citizens on "watch lists" for expressing political opinions contrary to our leaders. Wonder where that paranoia might have come from?

Women in Black, an idea that has become an anti-war "movement" of sorts, with groups of women in all sorts of locales voluntarily standing mute as a testament against violence, has become the object of an FBI investigation. Wonder if Boone's own branch of Women in Black have been interviewed yet: "Just when did you decide to overthrow the government, huh?"

The Congressional staffer who says he was responsible for inserting last-minute language into the Omnibus Spending Bill a couple of weeks back -- that would have given Republican Congressional leaders access to any IRS tax forms they wished ... he says in this morning's WashPost that he's shocked, SHOCKED, that anyone would take that the wrong way. Anyway, it was an innocent gesture meant to give Congress oversight over how the IRS is using increased appropriations, and the staffer says he was sleep-deprived at the time of the insertion. He'd be a lot better at covering his tracks with a good night's rest.

And the ACLU, along with a coalition of environmental and peace groups, is demanding information from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act to find out exactly just how obnoxious the surveillance of American protest has become under this president. The ACLU is alleging that the FBI has been targeting people for their political beliefs and not because they are a credible criminal threat to the peace of the land.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

SBOE Decision for Carteret Re-Vote Takes Fire

No one is happy with the compromise decision by the State Board of Elections on Tuesday to allow a re-vote for Secretary of Agriculture in just Carteret County. The sticking point has become WHO gets to vote ... not only the 4,400 voters whose ballots were lost but also some 20,000 other registered voters in the county who didn't bother to show up at the polls on November 2nd.

"The State Board of Elections flubbed it," opined the Charlotte Observer. The board's decision "is probably illegal, maybe unconstitutional and wholly inappropriate for the problem."

The Durham Herald-Sun: "If there is anything Solomonic in the State Board of Elections' decision to hold a revote in Carteret County to settle the agriculture commissioner race, it is hard to discern."

The Raleigh News & Observer headlined its editorial "Carteret Follies" and offered this assessment: "...why will 20,000 people who didn't vote the first time get another shot? That's ridiculous, and smacks of a decision awash in goofy partisanship."

But whose partisanship? Unfortunately, in this instance it appears to have been the Democratic members of the State Board (who hold the majority) who rejected the commonsensical solution of allowing just those voters whose ballots were lost by computer error to revote.

The Democrats on the State BOE are trying to redeem this election for Britt Cobb (just as the Republicans are maneuvering for Steve Troxler). Without the missing Carteret 4,400, Cobb is behind Troxler statewide by 2,300 votes. By all reports we've seen, Carteret is a pretty Republican county and no one we've heard of expects a majority of those 4,400 voters to swing to Cobb. Apparently, the Democrats on the State BOE think Cobb's chances will be enhanced if he can go campaigning for those other 20,000 non-active voters. Even in the unlikely event that the outcome changes in Cobb's favor, the Democrats don't need the public relations black eye this has already become.

Who Said These People Were Good With Money?

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who advocates putting Social Security money into the stock market, has lost over $500,000 in the stock market. (The Chattanooga Times Free Press got the story first, and the Washington Post added to it this a.m.) This was money left over in 2000 from his successful Senate race, which he decided to "invest" in the stock market. Later he borrowed some $360,000 against this fund and now doesn't have enough to pay off the loan.

We guess this meshes well with the new Republican philosophy: "Deficits are God's gift to His chosen people."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Bush Inauguration Protest

This site is organizing a "turn your back on Bush" Second Inaugural protest in D.C. for January 20th. No banners, no rude placards, no f-you signs, just people turning their backs in unison. The trick will be getting through "security" to stand on Pennsylvania Avenue, and the trick to that will be presenting themselves as supporters and not dissenters. The site offers opportunities for organizing groups for the trip to the Capitol. If someone in Watauga is organizing, we hope they'll let us know.

CBS & NBC Censor United Church of Christ Ad

Speaking of hypocrisy (see below), two of the biggest double-dealers in TV broadcasting have decided that an ad for the United Churches of Christ is too hot to handle. You can see the ad in question here to make up your own mind.

The gist is that some churches are like clubs with muscled-up doormen who turn away some people as unacceptable, and the ad makes a point that homosexual couples are among those turned away. The point is that "Jesus doesn't turn away anybody" and neither does the United Church of Christ.

Boy howdy! Both CBS and NBC -- owned, both of them, by Viacom -- have decided this message is too "controversial." The church is outraged (and you should read their press release here), and well they should be. The relentless campaigning against the "gay agenda" by El Presidente and his allies prior to the election was just all right, but a campaign that tries inclusiveness in the name of God is wa-a-a-ay over the top. Jaw-dropping in its blatant molding of the supposedly "public" airwaves to one political agenda.

"Desperate Housewives"

One of the enjoyable moments last Sunday during the regular three-hour venting of TV gas-bag-dom was the segment that the pussy-footing Tim Russert had on "Meet the Press," a joint appearance of Southern Baptist Mullahs Richard Land (the mastermind behind iVoteValues) and the Very Reverend Jerry Falwell and Sojourners editor Reverend Jim Wallis and the irrepressible Rev. Al Sharpton. I wanted to get the exact words, so I retrieved the transcript.

Russert sez to Falwell, he sez, "Two interesting developments over the last month or so. A report came out that the state with the lowest level of divorce is [ultra-liberal] Massachusetts. The states with the highest level are the so-called Bible Belt in the South." Sharpton interrupted impishly with, "That's because they watch 'Desperate Housewives.' " Which was an important point, and accurate, but also a distraction. Russert pressed on, trying to articulate his question to Falwell: "Why is it that the red states--" Anticipating Russert's impertinence -- we can only assume Russert was going to ask, "Why is it that the red states are such examples of hypocrisy?" -- Falwell himself interrupted, quickly admitting that the South is no more a part of the body of Christ than the North. It took Falwell only a second more to begin to recover his trademark braggadocio: "I would take that poll a little further. Among born-again, Bible-believing Christians who take the Bible as the word of God--" Russert in turn interrupted him, a bit incredulous: "They don't watch 'Desperate Housewives'?" Falwell snapped back, "I hope they don't!"

Hope springs eternal, eh, Reverend Falwell?

I'm something of a connoisseur of hypocrisy, having grown up in the bosom of Southern Baptist posturing in the reddest of red states. The Reverend was pouring vintage swill last Sunday.

Perhaps the current uproar over this TV show from the Religious Right is that they don't like looking into that mirror and seeing their own reflections. If "Desperate Housewives" shows us anything true about American society, it shows us well-coifed Republican women sunk in the dull outcomes of two highly touted Republican "values": wealth and stay-at-home huswifery. Most of the action in "Desperate Housewives" takes place in exactly those locations celebrated in Republican and Christian Right propaganda ... in those perfect big well-kept domiciles owned and operated by George W. Bush voters. Great wealth, great clothes, great cars, great personal grooming, and great sex or drugs or delusion -- take your pick.

We will continue to watch "Desperate Housewives" for the altogether revealing image it reflects back of "red America."

Carteret Countians Will Get to Vote Again

The State Board of Elections decided yesterday that the 4,400 voters in Carteret County whose votes were lost, plus all the registered voters in Carteret who did not bother to turn out on election day Nov. 2nd, will get another chance to go back to the polls on January 11th to vote again in the race for Commissioner of Agriculture. That decision affects about 24,000 total Carteret voters. A somewhat novel, if not outright strange, decision. Democrat Britt Cobb, who is behind by about 2,000 votes in statewide tallies, wanted a new state-wide vote in the Commissioner of Agriculture race. Cobb's lawyer suggested that Unilect, the company that makes the voting machines that ditched the 4,400 votes in Carteret, should pay for a new state-wide election. Republican Steve Troxler wanted just the 4,400 lost voters in Carteret to revote. So nobody is particularly happy with this decision.

The State BOE also declared June Atkinson winner of the Superintendent of Public Instruction race over Bill Fletcher, which did not make Mr. Fletcher happy. He wanted some 10,000 provisional ballots statewide thrown out that ended up counting. Fletcher is refusing to concede and is likely going to court against the BOE's decision.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Supremes Decline to Carve This Turkey

The Supreme Court today declined, without comment, to rule on a challenge to the nation's only law sanctioning gay marriages. The year-old decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage stands ... until the voters of Massachusetts decide to amend their own constitution or until the U.S. Congress decides to amend ours or until Jesus comes back and jerks all the born-agains out of the line of fire so that Satan can have his way with what's left.

This Could Get Interesting

Barbara Allen is stepping down after six years as chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. According to this a.m.'s News & Observer, two candidates to replace her have already announced: Jerry Meek, a Raleigh lawyer and the party's first vice chairman, and David Parker, a Democratic National Committee member and a Statesville attorney. Meek, at least, has been to Watauga County and shows an interest in party life outside Raleigh.

The N&O says Gov. Mike Easley will play a big role and that the ability to raise money might out-weigh every other consideration. In the money race, two other names emerge: Ed Turlington, a Raleigh lawyer, who was general chairman of Edwards' presidential campaign, and Howard Lee, the chairman of the State Board of Education and a former state senator.

Parker has already labeled himself ideologically in an interesting way, by labeling Meek. According to the N&O, while complimenting Meek on the job he has done as the state party's first vice chair, Parker said that Meek "represents the progressive wing of the party. The party needs to adopt an aggressive moderate stance that will elect Democrats in the state of North Carolina."

Let's see ... "progressive" vs. "aggressive moderate." We're not sure but what "aggressive moderate" might mean "obnoxious conservative," but we'll wait to see how this plays out.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Whom Do We Boycott First?

Won't vouch for the accuracy of what follows (but should be easy enough to verify). It comes to us reportedly from the Wes Clark blog (thanks, Alice!):


Price Club/Costco donated $225K, of which 99% went to Democrats;

Wal-Mart, $467K, 97% to Republicans;

K-Mart, $524K, 86% to Republicans;

Home Depot, $298K, 89% to Republicans;

Target, $226K, 70% to Republicans;

Circuit City Stores, $261K, 95% to Republicans;

Rite Aid, $517K, 60% to Democrats;

Magla Products (Stanley tools, Mr. Clean), $22K, 100% to Democrats;

3M Co., $281K, 87% to Republicans;

Hallmark Cards, $319K, 92% to Republicans;

Amway, $391K, 100% Republican;

Kohler Co. (plumbing fixtures), $283K, 100% Republicans;

Warnaco (undergarments), $55K, 73% to Democrats;

B.F. Goodrich (tires), $215K, 97% to Republicans;

Proctor & Gamble, $243K, 79% to Republicans;

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, $153K, 99% to Democrats;

Estee Lauder, $448K, 95% to Democrats;

Guess Inc., $145K, 98% to Democrats;

Calvin Klein, $78K, 100% to Democrats;

Liz Claiborne, Inc., $34K, 97% to Democrats;

Levi Straus, $26K, 97% to Democrats;

Olan Mills, $175K, 99% to Democrats.


Coors, $174K, 92% to Republicans (also Budweiser -- sd);

Gallo Winery, $337K, 95% to Democrats;

Brown-Forman Corp. (Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, Bushmills, Korbel wines -- as well as Lennox China, Dansk, Gorham Silver), $644, 80% to Republicans;

Southern Wine & Spirits, $213K, 73% to Democrats;

Joseph E. Seagrams & Sons (includes beverage business, plus considerable media interests), $2M+, 67% Democrats.


Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (chicken), $366K, 100% Republican;

Outback Steakhouse, $641K, 95% Republican;

Sonic Corporation, $83K, 98% Democrat;

Tricon Global Restaurants (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), $133K, 87% Republican;

Brinker International (Maggiano's, Brinker Cafe, Chili's, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, Crazymel's, Corner Baker, EatZis), $242K, 83% Republican;

Triarc Companies (Arby's, T.J. Cinnamon's, Pasta Connections), $112K, 96% Democrats;

Waffle House, $279K, 100% Republican;

McDonald's Corp., $197K, 86% Republican;

Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Smokey Bones, Bahama Breeze), $121K, 89% Republican;

Hyatt Corporation, $187K, 80% to Democrats;

Mariott International, $323K, 81% to Republicans;

Holiday Inns, $38K, 71% to Republicans.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

More Republican Cognitive Dissonance

Saw the article on Friday in the Raleigh News & Observer headlined "Evangelical victory worries GOP strategist" and was treated to the spectacle of Jesse Helms' former political strategist, the man who helped build the North Carolina Republican Party, bemoaning that "Bush courted the evangelical vote and turned these elections, in fact, into a referendum on the religious and cultural nature of America. This is my problem."

Now it's his problem! We're getting a trifle weary of these Republicans (bless their hearts!) who are now confessing a small case of jitters over what they've helped achieve.

The speaker of those words was one Arthur Finkelstein. Yes, a right-wing Jew who was, according to the News & Observer, "one of former Sen. Jesse Helms' closest political advisers."

To be fair, perhaps he never intended his words to go public in this country, since he gave this interview to Maariv, a daily newspaper in Israel, and his comments had to be translated from the Hebrew, which, incidentally, the New York Post obliged us by doing and from whence the N&O got its story.

More? Finkelstein said, "From now on, anyone who belongs to the Republican Party will automatically find himself in the same group as the opponents of abortion, and anyone who supports abortion will automatically be labeled a Democrat. The political center has disappeared, and the Republican Party has become the party of the Christian right more so than in any other period in modern history. Bush's strategy secures the power of the American Christian right not only for this term. In fact, it secures its ability to choose the next president."

Right-wing Republican operatives crying in their schnapps over victory. That's one thing. Jesse Helms getting his sage political tactics from an American Jew ... that's another thing. But the biggest source of psychic racket in this little piece is the fact that Finkelstein is gay.

The American novelist Philip Roth has very recently dealt with the paradoxes inherent in any underclass of people actively participating in the triumph of the very people who would gas 'em out of existence ... in the novel "The Plot Against America," in which Roth does a "what if" on the notion that if American hero (and quiet anti-Semite) Charles A. Lindberg had run in 1940 against Roosevelt and beaten him, what would that alternative history have been like for American Jews. A major collaborator in the Nazi-fication of American under Lindberg, Roth imagines, is a Jewish Rabbi.

Make what you will of Finkelstein's alarm that the Religious Right has taken over the Republican Party. His homosexuality, along with his Jewishness, in service to Jesse Helms might keep a team of psychoanalysts hopping for weeks.

Pressure Mounts for a Ballot Paper-Trail

Even before the N.C. Commission charged with looking at the state's balloting process has its first meeting in December, there are already strong voices in the group calling for mandatory paper-trails for all computerized devices. 'Course, it doesn't much matter what this commission comes up with if the state legislature doesn't take action ... which after the national embarrassment of what happened in Carteret County we expect it will. And quickly, too, we hope! Here's the article from today's News & Observer.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Many Well-Stuffed Gobblers To You!

Happy Thanksgiving. You can use this space to sketch out your list -- meager as it may be -- of what you're thankful for, and we'll be back in the saddle by Sunday.

Congressional Pork for B'Rock

Going through an account of some of the 14,000 "earmarks" (i.e., "pork") that was added to the Omnibus spending bill, imagine our surprise to discover that li'l ole Blowing Rock Community Arts Center will get $200,000 ... small potatoes, actually, compared to the zillions doled out by Congresscreeps to their districts ... AFTER raising the debt ceiling to accommodate the bloating!

What isn't immediately apparent is whether Richard Burr or Cass Ballenger or some other dead hand of the law put the money into the bill. We'll try to find out.

Breeder Nation

CBS News last night did a segment on the growing movement among "Christian" pharmacists who are refusing to fill birth control pill perscriptions for women, as a matter of "conscience." They feel "emboldened" by the election of The Holiest President in American History. Let the carpet-bombing of women's reproductive rights commence! Actually, it clearly already has. The U.S. Congress, or rather the Republican Overlords of the House of Reps, stuck their abortion gag order into the Omnibus Spending Bill (along with explicit permission for political operatives to go snooping through tax returns, but they've agreed to take that out). Oh, well. Young American women will have to discover for themselves where we're headed with these New American Mullahs steering the ship of state.

In the meantime, Prevention magazine has a pretty exhaustive round-up of the anti-birth control movement among pharmacists. You might want to inform yourself and watch for developments at a pharmacy near you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

When They Say 'Freedom,' They Mean THEIRS

From the same guys who don't want young women to know about abortion, and in fact from the very same bill that contains the language shutting down information on abortion -- the omnibus spending bill just passed last weekend -- comes news that the House Republican leadership slipped in a provision to allow themselves a quick look at any American's tax returns. It's against the law to reveal or divulge any tax return, but the House Republicans wrote themselves a wee exception that would have rendered them immune from prosecution. The WashPost has a full story this a.m. on the scandal, but it's been percolating for a couple of days in the blogosphere, particularly over at Talking Points Memo.

Just as with the "Tom DeLay Rule," it's very hard now to find any Republican Congressman who admits either knowing about the provision or approving of it ... though they all voted in favor. Josh Marshall has pretty much fingered Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-Okla.) as the writer of the provision, and like any struck dog, Istook is yowling in pain. (Actually, it was Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) who said Istook did it.)

They don't want women to know there's such a thing as abortion, but they want to be able to paw through IRS returns with impunity. And you think our fears of a police state are paranoid delusions! They ARE paranoid. But delusional? We think not.

And now, having been outed in the press, they have to come back after Thanksgiving to repeal that provision, which was the Senate's stipulation. Gawd knows what else is hidden in that 1,000+ page wad of wood pulp!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Kinder & Gentler?

Cass Ballenger, like some other out-going office-holders we can think of, can't keep his mouth shut. He told the Raleigh News & Observer: "I hate to say it. There's no excuse to be homeless."

Gosh. We can think of two or three pretty good excuses. But then we're not in the grip of a philosophical outlook which blames the victim, and, we would suppose, by that same logic, finds your ordinary, garden-variety rich man a living testimonial to goodness. If personal badness accounts for poverty and homelessness, then the filthy rich, logically, must be the purest among us.

That is precisely the assumption El Presidente appears to be acting on in his continued agenda of relieving the tax burden on the rich. Such good people shouldn't be called on to give up a dime to the nasty poor, who have no excuse whatsoever for their nastiness.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Watauga GOP Can't Stop Bashing ASU Students

Which County Commissioner was it overheard at the Boone paint store loudly declaiming against ASU students? "They don't own property here. They shouldn't be allowed to vote here!"

Interesting attitude toward democracy, that! We fought some wars, seems like, to remove that particular sign over the voting booth: PROPERTY-OWNERS ONLY.

But if the local Republican Party wants to campaign on that principle, who are we to tell 'em nay? "No one should vote who doesn't own [real] property." Okay. Let's take them at their word. That would mean:

Renters (period) won't be allowed to vote. That would include the odd Watauga County school teacher who's moved here straight out of college to teach the children of the property-owners. But a servant's a servant, right? and he/she clearly doesn't need to be messin' in local politics.

The class of "renters" actually would cover a right many folks, and not just students. Some of them professionals, like young technicians at the Watauga Medical Center. But they're clearly here to serve their betters, and need not be messin' in Watauga County politics.

Hold the phone! What about the 18-, 19-, 20-year-old children of property-owners, the ones who don't themselves yet own a homestead? Do we rule them out of the right to vote too? Well, no, dunce! We can let them vote, since they'll likely vote the way their property-owning parents tell 'em to vote, and that's all this is about, really ... disenfranchising people who don't think exactly like the property-owners do!

We're warming up to this task! Some pastors of churches must be denied the vote, since their churches often furnish their domiciles. So men of the cloth who don't own property won't be allowed to vote.

We're gonna need a bigger tablet to keep track of everyone this rule is gonna block!

And we can tell ... this is going to be a REAL POPULAR solution to Watauga County's multiple problems, when the Republican Party decides to go fully public ... like, say, Allen Trivette did in his letter to the editor alleging a plot among ASU professors to lead ASU students by the nostril hairs to the polling place to vote against HIM! (How those plotting professors found time in their busy Satan-serving schedules to lead those students by the nose ... we don't actually know. Just that they DID it!)

Let us know, Watauga GOP, when you're ready to take this campaign public, and we'll be happy to help out! We've already got a list started.