Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The O'Franken Factor on Your Computer

Here's the link to go to for the new Air America -- "Left-Wing Radio." Al Franken is on noon til 3 p.m., opposite the drug-addicted Rush Limbaugh.

The Hypocrisy Is Rank -- As Well As Comic

Second Lady Lynne Cheney wrote a novel, "Sisters," in 1981 that according to Publisher's Weekly was only published in Canada, maybe by design, since it was a bodice-ripper about the Old West in which the bodice-ripping is mainly being done by proud lesbians who DO NOT go blind or die because of their forbidden loves.

What has brought all this back to mind is that Lynne Cheney herself was "surprised" to learn that a paperback version of the novel is about to be published in this country on April 6th. So surprised in fact that she lapsed into amnesia when confronted by a New York Times reporter. Cheney said she didn't remember the plot of her own novel. (See "Whopper of the Week" published today in Slate.)

Which got me Googling, and I found that Cheney's hypocrisy has been a hot topic in some quarters for weeks now, including a satiric dramatic staging of portions of Cheney's novel in New York City back in early March (covered in a Lloyd Grove column in the NY Daily News). And there was a hilarious "live chat" with Second Lady Cheney at on March 18th in which her impersonator said, "I have long stood as a pillar of feminine neoconservatism -- having dedicated my entire adult life to the preservation of an America in which white Christian women enjoy the privilege of never needing to question the 19th century status quo .... I have been a proud personification of the truism that if God had wanted the weaker sex working, he'd have made them pretty much indistinguishable from dudes in the first place."

According to Elaine Showalter in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Cheney does NOT list "Sisters" on her resume for the American Enterprise Institute, perhaps because it "displays a compassionate, indeed liberal, attitude toward a fraught issue of personal choice." Showalter continues:

"I first discovered Sisters in a used-book stall in Paris in the early 90's, and I brought it home to share with members of the Modern Language Association's Executive Council during the years when the M.L.A. was under attack from the right, and an official visit from Cheney [as head of the National Endowment for the Humanities] to M.L.A. headquarters felt like a visit from the queen of a hostile country. I found Sisters surprising and impressive then, very different from Cheney's public persona. Rereading it a decade later, I am even more struck by its narrative power and daring. Historical color, forbidden passion, female bonding, whips and fires, strong opinions, scenes of morbidity and madness -- Sisters is a real page-turner and would make a wonderful movie."

"Whips and fires" -- Courtney Love would be perfect for the role of Sophia!

(Daily Kos had a lengthy post on this developing story yesterday.)

What hangs over all this bizarre cultural baggage, as the CBC points out, is the sexual orientation of Cheney's own daughter Mary, and her husband's boss's declaration in favor of an anti-gay Constitutional amendment: " activists have noted that the novel's positive treatment of lesbian relationships is at odds with the Bush administration's stance against gay marriage. Cheney, whose daughter Mary is openly gay, has so far been silent about the issue."

So far, we haven't seen any mention of this on Drudge, who loves any hint of hypocrisy on the left, and we can't wait to see what Andrew Sullivan does with this story.

Tennis, Anyone?

Dan Balz writes in this morning's Washington Post that Sen. John Kerry's public image has clearly been "damaged" since Super Tuesday by a relentless media assault by the Rovians ... stuff about his being too "liberal" and changing his position willy-nilly. There's been no effective Kerry response to these attacks, and the polls show that Bush has overtaken him.

Balz doesn't mention Kerry's recent Sun Valley skiing vacation, but he paraphrases a respected pollster who clearly alludes to the wisdom of taking time off at this particular juncture:

"Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Center, said Kerry's standing has slipped in part because of the Bush campaign attacks and because he has been far less visible than he had been during the heat of the primaries."

Snow-boarding down an Idaho mountain was like sending an engraved invitation to George Bush: "Define me to your heart's content, since I'm obviously otherwise engaged and will not challenge you."

Just in Time for April Fool's!

Bush's Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said in an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer that the practice of moving American jobs to low-cost countries "is part of trade" and that "there can't be any doubt about the fact that trade makes the economy stronger" (story picked up and reported in the New York Times this morning). The euphemism these cats favor is "outsourcing."

Secretary Snow said those words in O-H-I-O, the 2004 swing state hard hit by the loss of jobs. Which led the NYTimes reporter to remark that, gee-whiz, "Mr. Snow's comments, published on Tuesday, reflect a growing willingness by the Bush administration to defend global free trade even in hard-hit industrial states" and to recall that Bush's chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, N. Gregory Mankiw, got into very hot water last month for saying almost exactly the same thing. Mankiw had to write a letter of apology to Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert for saying what he said.

Now, about the campaign strategy of sending a cherry "outsourcing is good" message into deepest Ohio ... WAY TO GO, TEAM!

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Bob Woodward's New Book Is On Deck

Lloyd Grove, who used to write gossip for the Washington Post and now hangs out at the tabloid New York Daily News, says that Bob Woodward's next book on the Bush administration's war on terror is going to be "very bad for the Bush reelection campaign." Other gossip we heard somewhere on Sunday in the welter of TV gasbags says that Colin Powell has dished the unvarnished truth to Woodward in an effort to save what's left of his tattered reputation, since he plans on leaving this regime no matter whether Bush is reelected in November or goes down in flames to Lurch.

The new Woodward book, "The Plan of Attack," is due out next month and will be excerpted in a multi-part series in the Washington Post as well as featured by Mike Wallace on a 60 Minutes segment on April 18.

Eric Alterman says that Woodward is trying to redeem himself after his kiss-ass performance in "Bush at War."

Bowles Ashamed of Being a Democrat?

Another non-debate joint appearance of Erskine Bowles and Richard Burr, this time in front of the N.C. Bankers Association. The write-up in the Raleigh News & Observer contains this paragraph:

"Bowles, a Charlotte investment banker and former White House chief of staff for President Clinton, barely even mentions he is a Democrat."

Just what we're looking for in a candidate!

Monday, March 29, 2004

Announcement for Commenters

We've heard your pleas for longer comment allowances on this site, and it hath been wrought. You now have 3,000, rather than 1,000 characters per comment, not that you should view it as an enticement toward verbosity.

Kerry & Nader to Meet?

Our guru Josh Marshall says on his blog that "something is up" with this ... and maybe he's right, but the Associated Press is reporting that Nader himself said in Atlanta yesterday that he will meet with John Kerry next month to discuss what Nader sorta described as their "joint effort against Bush." Maybe Nader can spring for lunch with some of that Republican money he's been getting.

Take That, Free Speech Zones!

A Chicago immigrant advocacy group stormed Karl Rove's home yesterday in Washington's Northwest quadrant, causing Bush's Brain to seriously lose his cool.

The group, National People's Action, had earlier requested a meeting at the White House with Rove to lobby for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors [DREAM] Act, "a bill that would permit immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years to apply for legal resident status once they graduate from high school. The measure would eliminate provisions of current federal law that discourage states from providing in-state tuition to undocumented student immigrants." (Washington Post story here.)

When Rove dissed 'em for a meeting, they drove several hundred people on buses into his neighborhood, tromped his lawn, knocked on his door, and shoved signs up against his windows. The crowd chanted, "Karl, Karl, come on out! See what the DREAM Act is all about!"

Rove opened his front door and told them to get off his property. In response, they started chanting "Karl Rove ain't got no soul!"

"The crowd then grew more aggressive, fanning around the three accessible sides of Rove's house, tracking him through the many windows, waving signs that read 'Say Yes to DREAM' and pounding on the glass. At one point, Rove rushed to a window, pointed a finger and yelled something inaudible." Didn't say which finger he pointed.

Cops and Secret Service began arriving. The protestors held their ground. Rove opened his front door again, long enough to speak with an officer. The crowd pelted him with a yelled version of "America the Beautiful." After 30 minutes of stalemate, with the protestors taunting Rove in English and Spanish, the president's special assistant finally agreed to talk to two leaders of the group if the rest would leave the street. They obliged, and Rove opened his garage door to Emira Palacios and Inez Killingsworth. "The meeting lasted two minutes and ended with Rove closing the garage door on Palacios while she was still talking."

Palacios said that Rove was "very upset" and was "yelling in our faces" and that Rove told them "he hoped we were proud to make his 14-year-old and 10-year-old cry." Which was a half-lie, since it later turned out that one of the children was a neighbor.

"Palacios, trembling and in tears herself, said, 'He is very offended because we dared to come here. We dared to come here because he dared to ignore us. I'm sorry we disturbed his children, but our children are disturbed every day.' "


"He also said, 'Don't ever dare to come back,' Palacios said. 'We will, if he continues to ignore us.' "

It's gettin' militant out there!

But what I want to know, as a devoted fan of The West Wing, is why Rove wasn't hard at work at the White House of a Sunday afternoon. It's NOT as though the man shouldn't be laboring long hours on how to massage his boss's tattered image as The Just and Moral Warrior Against Terrorism.

N.C. Joining the Chorus of Protest About "No Child Left Behind"

North Carolina education leaders, including the Secretary of Public Instruction Mike Ward and members of the State Board of Education, will board a bus Wednesday to visit Washington, D.C., to bitch about "No Child Left Behind." They'll be meeting with the state's congressional delegation, mainly Republicans. Said Howard Lee, chairman of the state board, "This is an attempt to establish dialogue and give our representatives insight into the challenges we're facing." (Raleigh News & Observer story here.)

Mainly, the N.C. officials want permission to use the state's own accountability system -- known as the ABCs of Public Education -- to meet the national standards. But the guys on the bus Wednesday are also carrying three pages of specific complaints about problems with "No Child Left Behind," lack of federal funding to carry out the testing mandates being very high on the list.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Republican Mischief Re: Nader

Wayne Slater (who co-wrote the book on Karl Rove, "Bush's Brain") broke the story in the Dallas Morning News (free access but requires registration) on Friday that some of Ralph Nader's largest contributors are actually Republican activists who see a vibrant Nader candidacy as one more piece of insurance against a Kerry win. Nothing surprising there. Recall that another Republican activist, Roger Stone, was supplying free advice on strategy to Al Sharpton, another potential spoiler, at least in Republican dreams (previous posting on Stone is here).

" 'Republicans are well aware that Ralph Nader played a spoiler role in the 2000 election. And there is no reason why they wouldn't want to encourage and help him do so again in 2004,' said Jano Cabrera, a spokesman for the Democrat National Committee."

Discombolulation in Virginia

Virginia -- the only state in the Union with a servants' entrance -- has gotten itself into deep Republican doo-doo, with their Republican-dominated state Senate advocating tax hikes -- yes, I said TAX HIKES -- amounting to some $4 billion ... meeting head-on the total intransigence of the Republican House of Delegates, who are trying to hold firm to doctrine -- "No new taxes!" -- but who have nevertheless approved their own budget plan calling for some $500,000 in new taxes on -- gulp! -- corporations. The deadline for setting a budget -- March 13th -- came and went with no new budget. The new fiscal year begins July 1st, and that day could well dawn with no budget in place, shutting down state government.

Can we spell c-r-i-s-i-s?

The bemused Democrat Governor Mark Warner is trying to mediate the impass, which has only infuriated the hard right even more: " 'The Senate Republicans are such morons, because they've made Warner look like the centrist, the peacemaker,' said Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, a conservative group that has vowed to finance primary campaigns against any Senate Republicans who vote for raising taxes," according to the New York Times this a.m.

Well, the governor IS more moderate: "Like the Senate Republicans, Mr. Warner proposed raising income taxes on the wealthy, as well as sales and cigarette taxes, while lowering income taxes on middle- and lower-income residents. But his plan, which would raise $1 billion in new revenues over two years, is far smaller than the Senate's."

Virginia votes in a new governor in 2005, and this side-show will not help their chances. Tra-la.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Kerry's Corporate Tax Gambit

The car radio tuned to the news yesterday brought the headline, "Presidential Candidate John Kerry proposed today reducing corporate tax rates," and I almost took out a mailbox, a trash can, and a jogger before I reestablished control and got the car firmly back on the road. My first thought: "Gee, John, couldn't wait to hand a big fat issue to Ralph Nader, huh?" But since then I've been cruising the 'net looking for hard facts on just what, exactly, John Kerry proposed, and it's not quite as bad as the radio headline made it sound.

(I incidentally also found the understatement of the week from a Kerry aide, which sort of sums up the problem of putting out a complicated tax idea that's going to be tagged as "cutting corporate responsibility": "When is the last time you saw a Democrat propose a corporate tax cut?" Some of the boys in Kerry's backroom are PROUD of this move. I just hope they don't live to regret it.)

Anyhoo ... what Kerry has proposed is actually a tax TRADE-OFF, to encourage those big companies rushing to get their operations out of the country (in order to cash in on Republican tax schemes) to turn around and come back home with their reinvestments. According to Jim VandeHei in the Washington Post, Kerry is calling "for the elimination of all tax breaks that encourage U.S. companies to locate operations and jobs overseas. For the first time, he will target a popular tax incentive, known as 'deferral,' offered to most U.S. companies that do business in lower-taxed foreign countries.

"To soften the blow to corporations, Kerry will propose a one-time, one-year offer to tax at 10 percent any profits a company brings back to the United States and invests here, an expanded tax credit to companies that create domestic jobs, and a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 33.25 percent from 35 percent -- a 5 percent cut."

Got that? No? Well, it's complicated. Which may be exactly the problem with it. The Bushies have already rushed to label it "a shell game."

And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce turned up its nose: a spokesman said the Kerry plan seems to ignore the complexity of the global economy. "There is a broader point he [Kerry] completely misses: There are companies that open up overseas" for reasons other than tax avoidance, a Chamber spokesman said.

This all appears to be the work of Democratic Leadership Council types, who've infiltrated the Kerry org and are steering it into the Clinton wake of coupling new tax breaks with what amounts to a new tax hike if loopholes are closed. Kerry said this scheme will create some 10 million new jobs in the U.S.

"Under law, most U.S. corporations do not have to pay taxes on their foreign income until they bring it back to the United States. Many defer U.S. taxes by keeping their money overseas and reinvesting it there. Kerry wants to eliminate the incentive for these companies to invest and keep their money in places such as India and Mexico."

Clearly, that radio headline that made me leave the hardtop was calculated to silence the "tax-and-spend liberal" charge, and maybe it'll do that. I just worry about what Nader will do with it too.

Morningstar, Inc. a Chicago "global investment research firm whose mission is to help investors make better decisions to reach their financial goals," reported the Dow Jones not unfavorable take on Kerry's plan, which contained this bit of inside-the-Kerry-camp gossip: "Kerry overrode some of his advisers who opposed the corporate tax cut on political grounds." Read "some of his advisers got elbowed aside by former Clinton economic advisor Gene Sperling," from whence cometh the whiff of DLC-inspired corporate pandering.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Bush Protestors, Supporters Engage in Brawl in Boston

Well now! FINALLY, some political dissenters who weren't ABOUT to move to one of those infamous "free-speech zones"! And in this case, several hundred brawny guys, many wearing Ironworkers union hats and carrying signs ("How About Some Jobs HERE?" and "Get the Terrorists Out of the White House"), gathered outside a Bush million-dollar fundraiser at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston last night. (Boston Globe account here.)

When the local cops tried to move the protestors out to a distant "free-speech zone" -- leaving pro-Bush demonstrators and their signs strictly alone -- some of the ironworkers took umbrage, and fists started flying. That's one version. Another says the anti-Bush guys went after some pro-Bush frat boys after being taunted. I'd be raising money for a legal defense fund right now, except that the local cops decided not to arrest anyone. At least, so says the Boston Globe. Would you call that a "politically inspired" decision? since jailing a bunch of Reagan Democrats might not be the photo op the Rovians are looking for?

Nader Maneuvering To Get on N.C. Ballot

By ROB CHRISTENSEN, Staff Writer of the Raleigh News & Observer:

RALEIGH -- Presidential candidate Ralph Nader said Thursday that he would form a new political party, called the Populist Party, to help him get on the ballot in North Carolina and several other states.
The longtime consumer advocate said the strategy, which cuts by 40,000 the number of signatures his campaign must gather, is designed to get around North Carolina's election law, which makes it difficult for anyone but a Democrat or a Republican to get on the ballot.

"Why are the two parties out to exclude their competition?" Nader asked about 200 people at N.C. State University, his first stop on a two-day swing through the state. "What are they afraid of?"

Striking a populist note, Nader bashed corporations and said globalization is costing the state textile and furniture jobs....

He also said that the gulf between the rich and the poor is growing and that it is increasingly difficult to tell a difference between Democrats and Republicans because both parties are beholden to corporate interests....

He dismissed criticism from Democrats that his candidacy would hurt Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

When he ran as the Green Party candidate in 2000, Nader won 3 percent of the vote nationwide. But he won enough votes to tip two states, Florida and New Hampshire, to Bush, assuming that most of Nader's votes would have gone to Democrat Al Gore.

This year, Nader said, he thinks he will draw equally from Democrats and Republicans. He said he would appeal to conservatives who dislike the deficit spending and the loss of manufacturing jobs under Bush.

Nader promised to "open a second front against the great corporation in the White House, disguised as a human being called George Bush."

But there were skeptics such as Adam Kraft, an NCSU senior from Boone. "My concern is that he will pull votes away from Kerry," said Kraft, an independent who votes Democratic.

How to Create a Best Seller

The Rovians felt they had to DESTROY, via carpet-bombing, former terrorism czar Richard Clarke, since his criticism of El Presidente's policies anent terrorism and Iraq were (a) irrefutably well grounded in 30 years experience and (b) capable of undermining Bush in the one area where Americans Who Don't Read think he's the cat's pajamas, in his War on Terror. So Bush & Company have pulled out the stops to stomp Clarke.

With the result that ... Clarke's book, "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror," is the hottest best-seller going. Went on sale just Monday and is already in its fifth printing. The New York Times is reporting this a.m. that as of yesterday in Washington, D.C., copies were extremely hard to come by.

So, keep on attacking, Bush operatives!

Chip Chip Chip

The U.S. Senate voted 61-38 last night in approving the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, sending the law to the president for his signature. (The U.S. House had already passed it by a margin of 254 to 163.) Opponents denounced the bill as an effort to undermine the constitutional right to abortion by recognizing the fetus as a person. (New York Times coverage here.) John Kerry, amazingly, was present to vote against it. So was John Edwards, we're relieved to note. But the following Democrats voted WITH the Republican majority:

Bingaman of New Mexico
Breaux of Louisiana
Carper of Delaware
Conrad of North Dakota
Daschle of South Dakota (gimme a giant break!)
Dayton of Minnesota
Dorgan of North Dakota
Landrieu of Louisiana
Miller of Georgia
Nelson of Nebraska
Pryor of Arkansas
Reid of Nevada
Rockefeller of West Virginia (!)

Take a good long look at these Democrat sell-outs, including the two top-ranking Democratic leaders in the Senate, Daschle and Reid.

And then send a note of thanks to the single brave Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who voted against this bill.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, herself a notorious turn-coat on other issues including last fall's Medicare Bill, said she believed that once the definition of fetus ("child in utero": "a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb") was written into federal law, it would ultimately be used as an argument to overturn existing laws protecting abortion rights.

"This will be the first strike against all abortion in the United States of America," Ms. Feinstein said. She said a federal statute declaring that life begins at conception could ultimately lead to a court finding that "embryonic stem cell research becomes murder and abortion in the first trimester becomes murder as well."


"That's where this debate is taking us," Ms. Feinstein said, "that's the reason for this bill."

Sound Familiar?

A county commissioner race down in Henderson County between an incumbent good-old-boy Republican and a Sierra-Club-card-carrying Democrat is, according to letters to the editor in Hendersonville, "heating up already." The attacks on the Democrat suggest that his Sierra Club membership is proof enough of "environmental extremism."

A letter to the editor in the Hendersonville News made these points: "Ironically large numbers of Henderson County Bush Republicans are softer on environmentalism than you might think. Why? Many are retirees who have chosen to live here because of the mountain environment. I have also read letters from life-long residents lamenting that the once-green ridges are now covered with subdivisions, that apple orchards are disappearing, that their wells are polluted and that certain members of the commission seem to have a surly attitude toward the protection of existing residential neighborhoods from asphalt plants, cell towers and connectors. Extreme environmentalism to be sure."

All pretty much an exact carbon copy of recent political contests in Watauga County, right down to the threat of asphalt plants, the developing demographic of "outsider" Republicans who believe in zoning, and the ironies of mountain natives who SEE the problem but who can't get to the solution from here.

It will be the evolving new majority of non-native Republicans in Henderson County who'll have to change things, same as here. It just may take too long for that new majority to change the power structure, in which case there won't be that much left to save.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Those Pesky, Missing WMDs -- HAR HAR HAR!

The Radio and Television Correspondents' Association 60th annual dinner in Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac last night featured President George W. Bush yucking it up before the sleek and the tuxedo-ed about those missing WMDs. You know, those ones that led to the deaths of over 500 American soldiers, and the deaths of uncounted Iraqis. Forget about official government lying. WMDs are now the subject of cheap after-dinner laughs. How proud that should make us of our president, of our government, of our friggin' journalism community, sitting there laughing right along at the stupid old story about WMDs! That is JUST TOOOOO FUNNY!

N.C. Democrats Raised More Money than Republicans in '02

This is something of a shocker, a report from the Center for Public Integrity showing that in 2002 North Carolina Democrats raised almost $13 million to the Republicans' $4 million ... and couldn't do any better with than dollar advantage than they did! That money IS credited with keeping the N.C. Senate in Democrat hands, but there's little else to point to with pride.

The North Carolina Democratic Party also attracted the largest single donors. Crandall Bowles, the wife of Erskine Bowles, gave $205,000 to the state party, and Stephen Bing, a California screenwriter, gave $200,000 to the state party. By contrast, the top contributor for Republicans was SAS Institute founder James Goodnight of Cary, who gave $80,000. (It's interesting to note that the Eastern Band of Cherokees gave $62,000 to the Democrats. The tribe has been looking to invest some of its big profits from video gambling on influencing politics.)

"No Child Left Behind" Shows Its Behind

The chief education officials of 14 states have now signed a letter to the Bush administration asking that key provisions of the notorious "No Child Left Behind" fiasco be bent, twisted, circumvented, or otherwise suspended, so that those school systems can get on with the business of educating children rather than the business of affirming the right-wing theory that the only way to improve education is to kill public schools outright in favor of establishing a voucher system. The full list of states now in open revolt against Bush's "education reform": Alaska, California, Connecticut, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington. (New York Times story here)

One might notice how many "red states" there are on that list.

The Pledge of Allegiance Case

Michael A. Newdow, the trained, non-practicing lawyer and emergency-room physician who is also a proud atheist and champion for the rights of his 9-year-old daughter NOT to recite a Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school that seems to define her own father as un-American ... the man who induced widespread foaming at the mouth over his suit in Elk Grove, California, last year to remove "under God" from the Pledge and who won in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, inducing REALLY widespread foaming at the mouth. THAT Michael Newdow represented himself yesterday in arguing his case before the Supremes, and apparently he was more than merely stunning in his effectiveness ... "Spellbinding," said the New York Times, he argued his case "with passion and precision," sparring wittily with the gimlet-eyed Chief Justice Rehnquist (one of Newdow's ripostes directed at Rehnquist caused the courtroom to erupt with applause, which in turn caused Rehnquist to threaten to clear the room, "if there's any more clapping"). Newdow "never appeared to lose his footing during the 30 minutes the court gave him, ... managing a trick that far more experienced lawyers rarely accomplish: to bring the argument to a symmetrical and seemingly unhurried ending just as the red light comes on."

FOOTNOTE TO HISTORY: While those given to foaming at the mouth over this issue seem to believe that "under God" was in fact written into the Pledge of Allegiance by George Washington, while Thomas Jefferson held the candle ... the fact of the matter is that the entire Pledge is little more than 100 years old, the product of politics in a different age, and the "under God" phrase was ADDED in 1954 at the height of the Cold War, in a pious and wholly redundent attempt to distinguish America from "godless Communism."

Before the Justices rule on the merits of Newdow's argument, they must first decide whether he has "standing" to bring the case, since he was never married to his daughter's mother, who has complete custody of the child. The Justices might decide to take the easy way out, ruling that without proper standing, Newdow has no right to a decision. Newdow's daughter's mother, incidentally, is represented by professional bluenose Kenneth W. Starr.

What is not widely known about Newdow's appearance and argument yesterday before the Supreme Court is that he demanded that Associate Justice Antonin Scalia recuse himself, and without comment, Scalia complied. ('Pears that Scalia went duck-hunting with God two years ago and has been seen chumming around with The Diety in various watering-holes all over the eastern United States.)

If I were Karl Rove, I would be praying (in school and out) that Newdow prevails (and with Scalia off the case, there could be a 4 to 4 tied vote, which means the decision of the Ninth Circuit, throwing out "God," would stand). What could be better for George Bush's reelection chances than a decision that would galvanize the Christian Right?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Bush Changes His Language, Not His Stripes

Frank Luntz, the very clever Republican manipulator of campaign language, based on his extensive research with focus groups and polling, has been advising the Rovians that they'd better mind "the environment" as a potent issue in 2004 ... that people, even hard-core Republicans, don't necessarily want their air and water befouled, no matter how large their tax breaks.

"Luntzspeak" has become an elaborate strategy (detailed in a 222-page handbook Luntz wrote) which boils down to nothing more strenous than changing lingo. The Bushies should make use of some calm-inducing terms, like "balance," "safe and healthy," and "common sense," Luntz advises, while maintaining the Bush policy trajectories toward "lack of balance," "dangerous and toxic," and "INSANE." It was Luntz that convinced Bush never to refer to "global warming" but rather to "climate change," and to call "environmentalists" (as in "wacko environmentalists") by the more positive term "conservationists," even while opposing everything that conservationists stand for. (Here's a full, detailed article about Luntz's influence on the Bush vocabulary that appeared in the New York Times on March 2, 2003.)

Now a more recent Luntz warning to the Bush team has come to light, "that undermining clean water safeguards is politically dangerous, and goes against the overwhelming sentiment of the American public." "Young and old, Democrat AND Republican, the demand for clean water is universal," declares a February 2004 memorandum that Luntz wrote to the Bush re-elect team (and don't you just love the wide-eyed ALL-CAPS of that "AND" to include ACTUAL REPUBLICANS who don't want increased levels of lead or mercury or MTBs in their drinking water EITHER! Gosh! REPUBLICANS too? What's next? REPUBLICANS who think huge tax breaks for rich people might not be in the national interest?) (The newest Luntz memo is discussed here.)

"Based on its extensive polling about clean water issues, the Luntz organization found that the American people consider safeguarding clean water to be 'a national problem requiring a national solution' and 'the public is willing to pay for it.' Indeed, 83% of those polled supported the idea of a trust fund for clean water infrastructure."

So, if I were you, I'd look for an environmentally friendlier Bush administration in the next few months, at least in word if not necessarily in deed.

Messin' with Howard Stern

Judging from comments from Howard Stern devotees, most of them white, non-rich Republican males (a new demographic, in fact, called "The F-You Boys"), the Clear Channel Corp. decision to silence Howard in some radio markets is playing AGAINST Bush. Here's just one example on Stern's own comment board: "I am a registered Republican and have strong beliefs in Republican ideas. But I will be voting this year and I AM voting Kerry. Don't worry, I'm not like most of the sheep and I won't forget come November."

The Book on Clarke

Billmon over at The Whiskey Bar ("Free Thinking in a Dirty Glass") has the most penetrating summary and analysis I've so far seen of the Right Wing-nuts' assault on Richard Clarke for blowing the whistle on Bush's failure, pre-9/11, to take Al Qaeda seriously. Billmon does a detailed (and funny) run-down of all the talking points the Bushies have developed so far to discredit Clarke and then cites the man's REAL baggage from the past, which the Bushies won't go near because those particular past events also indict various branches of the neo-con power elite. Well worth reading.

Monday, March 22, 2004

The New Police State

Last night on ABC's The Practice, fictional criminal defense attorney Ellenor Frutt (Camryn Manheim) defended a fictional woman against fictional charges involving violation of the so-called (and wholly non-fictional) "free speech zones" around El Presidente Bush. The fictional woman defendant had refused to move three miles away from where El Presidente was appearing, and when a policeman physically tried to move her, she clocked the policeman with a hard right to the jaw.

The show's plotline included an impassioned closing argument by Ellenor about the erosion of our liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.

Turns out, this stuff ain't fiction! Read, if you've got the stomach for it, this account of the arrest and manhandling of peace activists who had the gall to drive into Crawford, Texas, without permission. Who brazenly wore anti-Bush buttons and carried anti-Bush signs. Here's the opening of the article:

"If you're ever thinking about going down to Crawford, Texas, to protest against Bush, beware. The police do not take kindly to demonstrators there -- or legal observers, for that matter. And even if you're just wearing an anti-Bush button, you could get arrested. That's the message a local jury sent last month."

The protesters were arrested just for being there, and the police chief said during the trial that the act of wearing an anti-Bush button was cause enough to get them into trouble. They were fined, and their sentencing recalls vividly the words of the fictional judge on The Pratice last night: "We've got to send a clear message that if you dissent in this country, YOU WILL PAY THE PRICE." (Now, granted, the fictional judge on ABC-TV was deliberately setting up a decision he knows will be challenged on appeal, but still ... that is fiction and what happened in Crawford is for real!)

Police stopping people for merely ENTERING A TOWN in the United States of America in 2004 is reminiscent of what went on in Harlan, Kentucky, back during the Depression, when coal operators hired private gun-thugs to stop and detain visitors to that town ... in an attempt to bar labor organizers and journalists covering the union movement among coal miners. The difference in El Presidente's Crawford is that Bush doesn't need to pay gun-thugs when he's got the full cooperation of regular law enforcement.

We have to stand up to this. We have to fight back.

Another Dukakis?

Dear sweet ole grandfatherly Walter Cronkite has written an open letter to John Kerry, which, once it's been read, can then also be used to strip furniture. In it, Cronkite warns Kerry that he's beginning to resemble Michael Dukakis in his skittishness at being called "liberal," and concludes with this paragraph:

"If 1988 taught us anything, it is that a candidate who lacks the courage of his convictions cannot hope to convince the nation that he should be given its leadership. So, senator, some detailed explanations are in order if you hope to have any chance of defeating even a wounded George II in November. You cannot let the Bush league define you or the issues. You have to do that yourself. Take my advice and lay it all out, before it's too late."

Our sentiments exactly, and the same goes for Erskine Bowles.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Which One's the Democrat ... Again

First we read about Erskine Bowles trying to sound like a Republican in the Raleigh News & Observer. Now it's in the Charlotte Observer: Bowles is said to be "delivering rhetoric more often associated with Republicans. 'Less government paperwork (for businesses), less government regulation,' he told a small crowd at the chamber of commerce in Fayetteville, 'and we've got to get rid of these frivolous lawsuits.' " (Story here. Charlotte Observer requires registration.)

It's tiresome to have to repeat this ... but given the choice between a Republican and a wannabe Republican, the North Carolina voting public will choose the Republican every time.

Whatever happened to Erskine during his 2002 race against Liddy Dole seems to have scrambled his brain, if not his values. And as a matter of fact, it's actually not too late for a real Democrat to declare and run for U.S. Senate.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

5th District Republican Congressional Debate -- Oy!

Just watched "Dawn of the Living Dead," I mean, the Republican 5th District Congressional candidates "debate," or whatever the hell it was, on Channel 12 (WXII), coming live from Kernersville.

One sentence will do to sum it all up, until I get my hands on the transcript: "Nuke a Godless, Communist, Gay Baby Seal FOR CHRIST!!!!"

Virginia Foxx, for all you Foxx hunters out there, somehow managed to induce moderator Cameron Kent to address her consistently as "Dr. Foxx," as though she were a noted gynecologist. She was seated directly next to her chief tormentor Vernon Robinson, which must have made for some interesting dynamics during the cream cheese and punch hour.

I'm tellin' ya ... this current crop of Repub candidates for Congress is enough to make you swear off hallucinogens!

Bush's Iraq Obsession

Drudge broke the story today that former Bush administration terror advisor Richard Clarke is going to blast the president tomorrow night on a '60 Minutes' segment interview with Lesley Stahl:

"Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism," says Clarke in tomorrow night's interview. "He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We'll never know," he tells Stahl.

"Clarke tells Stahl that on September 11, 2001 and the day after -- when it was clear Al Qaeda had carried out the terrorist attacks -- the Bush administration was considering bombing Iraq in retaliation. Clarke was surprised that the attention of administration officials was turning toward Iraq when he expected the focus to be on Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. 'They were talking about Iraq on 9/11. They were talking about it on 9/12,' says Clarke."

Thus the drip, drip, drip of the truth, falling on the flinty face of this administration.

Which One's the Democrat?

Just what we wanted to read ... with reference to the first "debate," or rather joint appearance, between rival Senate candidates Erskine Bowles and Richard Burr ... "At times during their hourlong appearance, it was difficult to tell who was the Democrat and who was the Republican." (Raleigh News & Observer story here)

"Bowles, the Democrat, defended the Bush administration's war in Iraq, while Burr, the Republican, decried cuts made in the 1990s to health-care programs .... Of the two candidates, Bowles voiced the most spirited defense of the Iraq war, saying he would have voted to authorize the war and to appropriate $87 billion to finance the continued U.S. presence." Well, there goes the college vote, the Dean vote, the Kucinich vote!

Just exactly what IS the strategy here, Mr. Bowles?

Another Profile in Courage

State Senator Virginia Foxx has fearlessly decided to risk everything and come out hard and strong against ... gay marriage. Thus sayeth an emailed press release from the Foxx campaign, headlined "CONGRESSMEN APPLAUD FOXX FOR OPPOSING GAY MARRIAGE." Yes, until she had the courage to speak up, risking the wrath of the hoards of her constituents hell-bent on destroying the "sacredness of marriage," U.S. congressmen and -women were hopelessly adrift in passive indecision on the issue.

The Big Chill

Federal Judge Richard Conway Casey has ordered New York-Presbyterian Hospital to turn over to the Justice Department records on abortions performed there, thus giving Attorney General John Ashcroft a victory in his contention that there is no constitutional right to privacy in one's medical records.

Meanwhile, federal judges in Chicago and San Francisco have refused in recent weeks to order clinics and hospitals to turn over the abortion records sought by the Justice Department. Because of these conflicting interpretations, the matter is bound to end up in the Supreme Court.

Ashcroft is seeking the records to defend the so-called "Partial Birth Abortion" Ban, passed by Congress and signed by the president late last year. Doctors working at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, among others, sued to stop the law from going into effect, so their hospitals are being targeted by this fishing expedition. (New York Times story here ... requires free registration)

But cheer up! George W. Bush is protecting our liberties, our freedom, our right to preemptively invade small countries who irritate us.

MeanDean Charges On

Check out the retooled Dean for America movement, now called Democracy for America (website here). The same vision, the same energy, slightly amended goal ... but one of the more hopeful developments during this fateful year.

Friday, March 19, 2004

North Carolina A.G. Points Finger at Other States

Cool move! Under provisions of the Clean Air Act, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper yesterday filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency to force 13 other states (Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia) to clean up their air pollution, particularly that coming from coal-fired power plants, since all that stuff in the air coming across the stateline -- particulate matter and ozone -- is mucking up North Carolina's improving air quality, the result of the state's own Clean Smokestacks law passed a couple of years ago. (Raleigh News & Observer story here)

This move puts the Bush administration's EPA in an awkward spot, naturally. Asked to enforce the law, when it's been on a three-year crusade to bend, manipulate, downgrade, and weaken that law, they immediately started making excuses: "EPA spokesman Cynthia Bergman said the problem goes beyond North Carolina, and that many states are struggling with air pollution from neighboring states. That will be addressed by the EPA later this year, she said, when the agency finalizes its Interstate Air Quality rule, 'which will result in the deepest cuts in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions in more than a decade.' " Blah, blah, blah.

Some of the 13 states named in Cooper's petition reacted with wounded indignation, especially South Carolina, which took a page from Republican Economics 101 ("we know the cost of everything and the value of nothing"): " 'If North Carolina is successful in its petition, it could chill economic development and cost South Carolina jobs at a time when we can't afford to lose any more,' said spokesman Trey Walker. 'We tried to work with North Carolina, but it seems a fight is what they want, well, a fight is what they'll get.' "

As someone else lately and famously said, "Bring it on!"

Mr. Magoo Launches an Investigation

The somnolent House Ethics Panel, where both Republican and Democrat members have been snoozing happily together for years (see earlier posting on this topic here), has suddenly, under a barrage of hot criticism, awakened a little bit. Or, at least they're putting on that show.

What has attracted their attention is the alleged bribing/threatening of Congressman Nick Smith (R-Mich.) who has said that last fall "unnamed GOP colleagues had tried to bribe him into voting for the contentious Medicare prescription drug bill on Nov. 22 by promising campaign help to his son, who is running to replace his retiring father." (Washington Post story here ... requires registration)

According to the Post, inquiring minds now want to know: does this mean that the Ethics Panel has decided to get up off its collective fat ass, after four years of total paralysis, or is it simply yielding to overwhelming public outrage that the blatant buying of Congress goes on pretty much in the open these days? Smart money is betting on the latter explanation.

"Four months after Smith made his assertions via a Michigan radio show and a newspaper column, eight frustrated watchdog groups held a Washington news conference to berate the ethics panel, which had not uttered a peep about the Smith case or other reports of questionable actions."

And recall that I speculated in the earlier posting here that maybe the "ethics truce" in the House, with the Democrats going along meekly with their meaner partisan brethren, was due to the Republicans having some dirt on Nancy Pelosi. Well, now: "With the ethics panel launched on an inquiry that appears to involve only Republicans, there was mild speculation yesterday that the GOP might retaliate by filing complaints against Democrats -- a move that would end the unofficial truce. A potential target, a few Republicans suggested, might be House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)."

Whatever. Let the chips fall. We'd like to (a) get our democracy back and (b) shut up the non-stop bragging by Republicans far and wide that they're the only "moral" people left in the universe.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Foxx Throws a Punch at Robinson

Virginia Foxx has struck back at one of her rivals in the Republican 5th district congressional race, Vernon Robinson, who was behind the launching of a Federal Elections Commission investigation into Foxx's finances.

Now a close ally of Foxx's, Margaret Plemmons Foster, former chairwoman of the Forsyth County GOP, has asked the State Board of Elections to investigate Robinson's money-raising. (Raleigh News & Observer story here)

Perhaps a third candidate, Ed Broyhill, will waltz in and take the nomination while these two are locked in their own version of mud-wrestling.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


President Bush plans to visit Charlotte on April 5 for a $2,000-a-plate luncheon that's expected to raise $1.5 million for his re-election campaign. The luncheon is a rescheduling of last month's fund-raiser, which was dashed by a snowstorm.

Our Burning Rage at Congressional Democrats Just Got New Fuel

What do the following events have in common?

• A Texas grand jury began investigating a political action committee set up by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) -- Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC. An Austin-based grand jury is looking into allegations that TRMPAC illegally used corporate funds to help Texas GOP candidates in 2002. Among those subpoenaed is Danielle Ferro, DeLay's daughter, who was paid by TRMPAC to organize events. Prosecutors are asking whether TRMPAC laundered $190,000 in corporate donations through the Republican National Committee. Prosecutors have also cited documents showing that TRMPAC spent about $400,000 in corporate contributions on political consultants, whose work they say was prohibited.

• Several newspapers described how officers of Kansas-based Westar Energy wrote memos about steering $56,500 to GOP campaigns in return for legislative help from DeLay and Reps. W. J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.). Barton later sponsored a legislative exemption sought by Westar, but it eventually was dropped.

• The Washington Post reported that Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the House's third-ranking Republican, tried to slip a last-minute provision into a bill to help a tobacco company for which his son lobbied. Blunt said the measure was meant to combat cigarette smuggling, but an aide of House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) removed it.

• Common Cause, the public watchdog group that helped topple Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) in the 1980s, called for an ethics probe after the Post reported that aides to Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, told a trade group that a congressional probe might ease if the group replaced its Democratic lobbyist with a Republican.

• The Campaign Legal Center and, public interest groups, charged DeLay's charitable children's organization is improperly soliciting large donations from special interests to finance lavish parties at this summer's Republican National Convention.

What these developments have in common is NOT just that it's all Republican ethical lapses. It's that all these shady dealings are being winked at by the watchdog group supposedly in charge of keeping Congressmen and -women honest, the House Ethics Committee, and the winking is being done by complacent Democrats as well as by complicit Republicans. These things are going on, these charges are being made, and no one's investigating, all with the tacit approval of the Democratic leadership in Congress, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

More of the "go along to get along" crap that we're all terrifically tired of. According to a long article in today's Washington Post (click here, but the Post requires free registration), a (wink-wink) "ethics truce" has existed between the two parties in the House ever since Newt Gingrinch was brought down by his own money-grubbing (followed closely by the resignation of Newt's replacement as speaker, Bob Livingston, over a sex scandal, until the Republicans could identify a member who had never had sex with anyone his whole life, Dennis Hastert).

Part of the inherent problem, according to the Post, is that the meetings and investigations of the Ethics Committee, which includes slightly fewer Democrats than it does Republicans, are totally secret. So secret, in fact, as to be invisible ... so invisible, in fact, as to prompt the Post reporters to ask the obvious question: does the Ethics Committee even meet anymore? No one can say. The committee is totally silent on the ethical lapses and charges detailed above, among others.

So what does this mean? That the Republicans have some really bad dirt on Nancy Pelosi, who is going along with not investigating Republican corruption to keep her own Democratic corruption uninvestigated? That's the impression one gets, and the fact that there is even that impression is a huge problem.

We'll say it again ... we're sick and tired of Democrats acting like Republicans.

How America Is Eating Its Young

A biting investigation by Brendan I. Koerner of "Why America's young are being crushed by debt -- and why no one seems to care" presents itself in the new Village Voice and is well worth taking a look at. Here are some high points:

"The average collegian in the U.S. isn't graduating into a world of boundless opportunity, but rather is $20,000-plus in the hole thanks to student loans and credit cards. So begins the snowball effect: The most desirable entry-level jobs often pay wages too low for the indebted, who must fork over a large percentage of their salaries to Sallie Mae or Citibank. Other posts are reserved for those who can afford to work unpaid internships, or whose parents can support them through an extra year or two of graduate studies."

And this: "The cumulative effect is that merely keeping one's head above water, rather than getting ahead, has become the top priority for Americans between the ages of 18 and 34. Pursuing the relatively modest dream of doing better than the generation before requires serious capital -- up front in the form of tuition and loans, and hidden in the form of lost opportunities. Call it the ambition tax -- the money you've got to pony up if you want a college degree and a shot at middle-class bliss. But it's really more of a gamble, as there's no guarantee those tens of thousands of dollars will get you where you want to go."

Add to this bleak assessment the political reality that neither major party, nor their presidential candidates, seem to be paying the least heed: "If the early rhetoric in the presidential race is any indicator, neither candidate cares a whit about the struggles of America's young. George Bush and John Kerry are happy to trade barbs about draft dodging and flip-flopping. But they've yet to utter more than a few peeps about alleviating the unique economic burdens of the next generation, and the one after, and the one after. It's almost as if Americans under the age of 35 don't exist."

An excellent observation, along with the circular logic that the young don't vote and the reason they don't vote is because politicians pay them and their unique problems no mind, and the reason politicians pay them no mind is that they don't vote. The Democrats have an opening here, if Kerry will develop it, to connect with this potential voting bloc, and that will mean going beyond the obvious -- pointing out the disastrous financial course that George Bush has launched us all on, piling mountains of additional public debt on the heads of the young and on their children and their children's children.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Rove's Former Partner Now Prepping Kerry

It's hard to keep up with all the political news, but behind the recent (wildly improbable) trial balloon of John McCain's signing on to run as Vice President with John Kerry is the almost equally improbable fact that McCain's most trusted political advisor, John Weaver, who in his former life was teamed up with Karl Rove in Texas during George W. Bush's rise in politics, is now also a key advisor to ... John Kerry. Weaver absolutely HATES Rove (and you can read all about why here), but more importantly Weaver understands how Rove thinks and is helping Kerry strategize against the dirt that's already begun to rain down from Republican Incumbent Heaven.

Burr, Under His Blanket

The thing to note about Dick Burr's recent flip-flop in saying we don't need Bush's Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage (see previous posting here) is how under-the-radar this guy tries to fly, racking up one of the most conservative voting records in Congress while also trying to sound positively moderate when talking to, say, young people in Raleigh. Burr gets a whopping 91 percent certified, gold-plated, lifetime "Conservative" rating from the American Conservative Union, which does not suffer "moderates" gladly.

We fondly recall that after Burr took office in Congress in January 1995, swept into office in the fateful Gingrich Revolution of 1994, he proudly came to Watauga County for an open "town-hall meeting" at the Watauga County Courthouse. We attended, along with a bunch of local citizens we did not know, whose motivations were unknown to us, at least until they started speaking. Burr was all proud grins about how well the "Contract With America" was going in Congress ... about how he and all the other Gingrich clones were happily dismantling "government for the people" (though he didn't put it exactly that way), and then he fatefully threw the meeting open for public comment. He did not hear what he was expecting to hear, clearly. You could see him pulling himself into a rabbit hole under the barage of criticism, probing questions, angry looks. And this hostility was not coming from the usual Democratic activists, though we feel sure he THOUGHT that was the case. Because he never came back to Watauga County for an open forum after that. Not once. He instead began to choose "safe" venues, like Chamber of Commerce gatherings that were rarely advertized in advance nor open to the probing questions of the Great Unwashed Electorate in Watauga County.

Brave Congressman Burr!

When Neal Cashion ran against Burr in 1996, we urged him to get a school bus and drive from county seat to county seat with a banner: "Has Anyone Seen Our Congressman?" We thought people might actually notice that their representative in Washington absolutely can't STAND being challenged on his beliefs, his votes, or his philosophy (which appears from his abyssmal voting record to be coldly and doctrinairely pro-big business but which in an election cycle goes conveniently under cover).

If Erskine Bowles tries to play nice with this guy, you can forget it. Because nobody PLAYS nice better than Dick Burr. Bowles needs to highlight that legislative career, those ACTUAL VOTES, because most voters haven't got a clue how he's screwed them to the wall (just as most voters don't have a clue just what, exactly, Virginia Foxx is all about).

The Madness of King Howard

We highly recommend you take a look at Anna Quindlen's judicious post-mortem on the Howard Dean candidacy, its legacy for the Democrat Party, which Quindlen says Dean miraculously brought back to life, like any good doctor would! The Re-Animator! The Passion of The Howard!

Here's a mere sampling of some of what she has to say: "You [Quindlan is addressing Howard Dean directly] raised the level of John Kerry's game -- and the pitch of his voice. The Democrats started acting authentic again, not like moderate Republicans who were willing to be friendly to union members and black women for old times' sake. The Pew Research Center did a survey that showed, by the numbers, the real and substantial differences between the parties. Two obvious examples: seven out of 10 Democrats believe government should do more to help the poor, while only four out of 10 Republicans share that belief. That proportion flips when the question is whether the government is run for the benefit of all; 69 percent of Republicans agree with that contention, while only 44 percent of Democrats do...."

Much of the thrust of Quindlin's essay is directed at how Howard Dean energized the younger generation to hope for actual change in government as a wholly-owned subsidiary of big business ... and her fear (and ours) that large numbers of those idealistic young people will now go to Nader out of the aching need for "purity" in politics: "Unlike most catalyst candidates, who make things happen and then disappear, you [Howard Dean] could use your influence to bring young people to the polls, to convince them that what happens in the Oval Office really will affect their lives and that they have a stake in affecting the outcome. You could convince like-minded independents that there is a real difference between the two parties and point out where their true interests lie...."

Dean will launch his new movement, his new website, and his new blog on Thursday, March 18th. We look forward to his message, to his influence, to his sheer madness for ousting this present regime. If John Kerry is The Anointed One, then John Kerry it is!

Monday, March 15, 2004

Burr to Bush: "Don't Call Us"

Now THIS is verrrrry interesting ... that Dick Burr, Republican candidate for John Edwards' senate seat, in front of an audience of high school students in Raleigh, apparently turned a cold, hard shoulder to President Bush's holy war on behalf of an anti-gay marriage Constitutional Amendment. "Whether there should be civil unions, Burr said, should be left up to the states," according to "Under the Dome" in the Raleigh News & Observer.

Anyone want to take bets about how Burr will change his tune when he gets to, say, Watauga County for the Lincoln Day dinner? And wouldn't you think the local press might want to ask him about his so clearly breaking ranks with the vaulted Prez on this issue ... at least while he's in front of culturally liberal students in Raleigh. Who knows what he'll say in front of the culturally illiberal, though we can certainly guess.

North Carolina Stands for "Non-Consequential"

This headline in the Washington Post this morning greets our travel-addled noggin: "Candidates Narrow Focus to 18 States: Battle Has Begun In Most-Contested Areas of Nation." Bush/Kerry are mainly going after a dozen and a half states. And guess what? North Carolina ain't on that list. All the polls and virtually all the professional handicappers concede North Carolina to the Repubs. So you likely won't see the level of campaigning for the top of the Democratic ticket locally, though the Bowles-Burr match-up for the Senate will generate some enthusiasm, we trust. And Burr's open seat in the House, after the Repubs get done with their Open Form Mud Wrestling event for the nomination, starring Middle-Weight Champ Vicious Virginia, might actually develop into a race WITHOUT a foregone conclusion, depending on who the Dems end up with. Locally, of course, it'll be the County Commissioner races on which the future of civilization will rest.

The local Repub power brokers actually have a bit of a problem, residing in a "safe" Bush state (especially considering the local disenchantment with the Bush deficit, the Bush proposal for changing immigration laws, the Bush Medicare Bill, etc.) ... in that they may have a steep hill to climb in turning out their own voters. They can't automatically count on the "Reagan Democrats" nor on the large percentage of registered Watauga Republicans who are non-native, recent arrivals in the High Country and who actually think for themselves about cultural issues and the environment. We'd like to see any of them work up a froth of enthusiasm for Allen Trivette.

The Beat Goes On

Back after a week on the road, with much to catch up on, including a brimming in-box with interesting news links from readers of this site. It'll take a while, but we'll catch up. In the meantime, here's the first and most pressing item that's caught my attention:

The continuing stench arising from last December's Pharmaceutical Industry Relief Act of 2003, otherwise known as the Medicare Bill. It's enough to gag a Cape Horn vulture. First, last Friday, Knight Ridder broke a story that "the nation's top Medicare cost analyst," a lowly civil servant named Richard Foster who works in the Bush administration's Department of Health and Human Services, got himself threatened by his former boss, Thomas Scully, administrator of Medicare & Medicaid, who "ordered him to withhold from lawmakers unfavorable cost estimates about the Medicare prescription drug bill. He said the estimates exceeded what Congress seemed willing to accept by more than $100 billion." (Original Knight Ridder story here)

"Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D- S.D., said the allegations justified reopening the vote on the drug benefit." Interesting, since Daschle was one of a handful of Democrats who helped the Republicans pass the bill (at approximately the same time I was straining my voice yelling into the telephone at various senators' aides, including one of the Minority Leader's: "What the hell is the matter with you Democrats up there?!")

Anyway. So the Bushies lied and cheated to convince the fiscal conservatives in their own party that the supposed drug benefit they were adding to Medicare would NOT inflate the deficit all that much, when it would in truth inflate the deficit ALL THAT MUCH.

Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), one of 13 Republicans in the House who were induced to vote for the fraudulent bill on the promise that it would not balloon the deficit, said she was highly disturbed to learn of the whistle-blower's spilling the beans. (Story that includes a quote from Myrick here)

But, you see, the plan all along has been to drive the government so far into debt that Congress will have no choice but to end, or at least cripple, many social programs. The Bushies do not want to reform Medicare so much as they want to lay the groundwork for ending it, while giving a healthy boost to some of their biggest corporate sugar daddies, the pharmaceutical and HMO industries.

Then this morning comes another article in the New York Times that "Federal investigators are scrutinizing television segments in which the Bush administration paid people to pose as journalists praising the benefits of the new Medicare law, which would be offered to help elderly Americans with the costs of their prescription medicines." (Story here.) The videos were sent out to local TV stations across the land for use on local news casts ... propaganda masquerading as news.

"Two videos end with the voice of a woman who says, 'In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting' [Karen Ryan is an actress] .... Another video, intended for Hispanic audiences, shows a Bush administration official being interviewed in Spanish by a man who identifies himself as a reporter named Alberto Garcia. Another segment shows a pharmacist talking to an elderly customer. The pharmacist says the new law 'helps you better afford your medications,' and the customer says, 'It sounds like a good idea.' Indeed, the pharmacist says, 'A very good idea.' "

What's potentially illegal about propagandizing about the Medicare Bill? "Federal law prohibits the use of federal money for 'publicity or propaganda purposes' not authorized by Congress. In the past, the General Accounting Office has found that federal agencies violated this restriction when they disseminated editorials and newspaper articles written by the government or its contractors without identifying the source." Not that anybody will EVER do anything about it.

I mean, we're talking Sleaze City with stuff like this ... muzzling the government official who actually has some true facts and then sending out Rovian make-believe to the gullible people who are often in charge of the news at local TV stations.

I'm back from vacation, and already I'm disgusted.

UPDATE: Tuesday, March 16th ... The Center for American Progress has a good overall summary of the Bush administration's lies and manipulations about the Medicare Bill ... if you're keeping a file.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Doug Berger Drops Out

Just saw in the Raleigh News & Observer that Doug Berger has decided not to challenge Judge Linda McGee after all for her Appeals Court seat. According to the N & O, "Berger decided to drop out of the race after losing the state AFL-CIO endorsement to McGee," as though the North Carolina organized labor vote was THE king-maker in our state. As if! But if Berger couldn't win union support, where would he go for a base? So it looks like a wise move.

Spring Harbingers

Difficult to stay completely up on the news, but we're paying enough attention to note Howard Dean's megawatt smile as he shakes John Kerry's hand, in this morning's USA Today. A good sign.

In fact, for the last two or three days, all the signs of spring have been promising ... from Bush's caving in with the 9/11 Commission (saying he'll testify for as long as the commission has questions), with Ashcroft's Justice Department apparently backing off their fishing expedition into the medical files of women who've had abortions, to Kerry's good poll numbers (or more pertinently, Bush's continuing bad numbers ... the last I saw said independent voters, especially, are tilting decisively against the Windshield Cowboy).

Add to that the swaths of blooming galantus and aconite we've seen here in Pennsylvania, and it's almost enough to make you feel better about the state of the world.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The Dog Ate My Homework

Read, for what they're worth, Virginia Foxx's denials in yesterday's Watauga Democrat of the allegations that she has commingled funds for her U.S. House race with her N.C. Senate campaign. "Errors were made." But she is blameless. It's all Vernon Robinson's fault.

There's no doubt that Vernon Robinson is the source of the stink. He's an operator and has been causing nasty mischief for months, not just at Virginia Foxx's expense.

But Virginia is quite a little operator herself. Far as we're concerned, Virginia and Vernon deserve each other.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Wal-Mart Will Be Back

CHADD'S FORD, Pa. -- On the road in the Brandywine Valley of Pennsylvania, I'm typing on a laptop to make a quick post on last Thursday night's proceedings at the Boone Board of Adjustment, when Wal-Mart lost its bid to expand into a Superstore at its present location, at the expense of green space and parking. A few quick observations:

1. It's not so easy to intimidate the Boone Board of Adjustments, not like it used to be. Making quite an entrance into the Boone Town Council chambers last Thursday on behalf of Wal-Mart was quite a parade of "corporate suits" -- three lawyers (two of them from Raleigh, one of them a woman doing the "power click" on high heels, and one of them local bully Charlie Clement), one architect from Arkansas, and a civil engineer from South Carolina. But their preparation and their presentation seemed ... under-prepared at best. Which led at least one local observer to comment that Wal-Mart never intended to win its variance request. His theory is that they've got their eye on another location entirely and plan to use Boone's being mean to them over this first request as leverage. Don't know. But I do know that historically Wal-Mart DOES NOT GIVE UP, and generally they get what they want, eventually, somehow, despite who has to take a bruising. We'll see.

2. Board of Adjustment Chair Jerry Kirksey gave a little speech that got everyone's attention, because (a) he seemed to be speaking FOR Wal-Mart Corporation and (b) it was a not-so-veiled threat. Scott Nicholson in the Watauga Democrat paraphrased Kirksey this way: "Board chair Jerry Kirksey said he had traveled around the country and there's nothing worse than an abandoned building. He said an abandoned building not only harms the entire shopping center but often causes congestion elsewhere when a store moves to a new location. He also mentioned the store's economic impact." Kirksey appeared to be saying that Wal-Mart would abandon the present location, given a snub by the Board of Adjustment, and leave the hulking box to go derelict, thus punishing the town for the affront. But after delivering this threat, Kirksey voted with the (unanimous) majority to deny the variance. So what was up with this? It seems to be Kirksey's philosophy that we mustn't say no to big corporations, because they can turn around and punish us. Bull hockey!

For the moment, Boone has dodged the bullet, stood up to the Mega-Corp That Ate the World, and we can be glad we have what all the County Commissioners hate with a purple passion ... ZONING!

Friday, March 05, 2004

Dick Burr Has Piles

The Federal Elections Commission has reported that U.S. Congressman Richard Burr, Republican candidate for John Edwards' Senate seat, had some $5 million cash on hand at the beginning of the year.

"Burr had a fatter bank account than any candidate for an open Senate seat in the country. The only six candidates who were more flush were incumbent Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Charles Grassley of Iowa, Charles Schumer of New York, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania."

Slightly over a million of those $$ came from political action committees and other special interests. Yes, we know.

In comparison, Burr's likely opponent, Charlotte investment banker Erskine Bowles had $1.8 million. Bowles also happens to have the largest campaign debt of any Senate candidate in the country -- $6.8 million -- from his unsuccessful run two years ago against Liddy Dole.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Bomb's Away!

The dreadful little weasel Dick Morris, who taught Bill Clinton how to "triangulate" the Republicans and then got caught sucking on a hooker's toes, is offering George Bush some advice he'll probably take, we'll wager ... that is, to go "liberal liberal liberal" in Kerry's face as soon as possible and then, more ominously, Bush "needs to elevate the sense of threat so that his advantage as a war president begins to count."

"Elevate the sense of threat..." Now, what, exactly, does Morris mean by that? Surely this administration has been no slouch in encouraging a more or less permanent state of paranoia -- those regular crashing waves of Code Orange -- and though Morris is vague about what elevating the sense of threat might entail, one can't help thinking that he's suggesting that the Rovians actually just go ahead and manufacture a threat or two, for political advantage. I'm not a conspiracy buff, but it's talk like Morris's that might make me one.

Sunshine On Our Shoulder

No less a conservative pundit than Robert Novak, a.k.a. "The Prince of Darkness," says Prez Bush "is in political trouble" and goes on at considerable length detailing why. The bottomline seems to be that Karl Rove and the other Rovians have been too busy with, well, the bottomline -- raising sky-scraper-high piles of campaign cash -- while neglecting the basics of keeping the troops in line. For example, according to Novak, the reelection campaign failed to deal with the stinkbomb that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan laid last week when he suggested cutting Social Security benefits so that the richest 1 percent of us could have permanent tax cuts. Novak describes a "deepening malaise among Republicans in the capital" over Bush's failure to deal with deficit spending, over his failure to consult with congressional leaders before announcing his support for a hateful gay-marriage constitutional amendment, over his Economic Report which extolled the virtues of "out-sourcing" American jobs to cheap labor pools overseas, among other provocations.

First Bush Ads Drawing Flak

"It's unconscionable ... a slap in the face," said the widow of a man who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, commenting on the first run of George Bush's tv-ad campaign, which both shows and mentions prominently the after-effects of the terror strike as a reason for reelecting him. (AP story about the reactions here)

"It's as sick as people who stole things out of the place," said Firefighter Tommy Fee of Queens Rescue Squad 270. "The image of firefighters at ground zero should not be used for this stuff, for politics."

And if you think that brief clips of the collapsed World Trade Center used for political gain is distasteful, just wait for the Republican National Convention in New York the week of the third anniversary of the disaster, when El Presidente and his minions intend to shake that bloody flag for all it's worth.

'Course, they're gonna have to contend with an estimated million protestors who DON'T think George W. is "the most moral president we've ever had" and who will likely present some logistical problems for being rounded up and herded into "free-speech zones," unless Karl Rove is leasing, like, NEW JERSEY as a holding pen. He's certainly got the money to do it.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Probing a Foxx

According to this morning's News & Observer, two voters have requested the Federal Elections Commission to look into Virginia Foxx's campaign finances ... "John Whidden V of Winston-Salem filed an FEC complaint Monday asking for an investigation. A complaint from Paul Michael Cox of Yadkin County is dated Feb. 27."

"Jack Hawke, Foxx's campaign consultant, said Foxx has admitted to making two mistakes -- paying for a phone line and the chamber membership from the state fund -- and has corrected them both.

"Hawke said he's going to ask the FEC to investigate immediately because the results will exonerate Foxx and prevent opponents from using it as a campaign issue.

" 'My hope is we can get someone to listen to reason,' he said."

We won't be satisfied until she's bunking with Meg Scott Phipps.

UPDATE: There's a longer article in the Winston-Salem Journal here.

Phipps Goes to Jail

Former N.C. Agriculture Commissioner and heir to the Scott family political dynasty, Meg Scott Phipps, was sentenced to four years of jail time yesterday by a Greenville judge, "for heading a campaign fund-raising conspiracy that became North Carolina's biggest public corruption scandal in modern history." (Raleigh N & O article here)

Phipps, mother of two adolescents, has also lost her license to practice law. Rather than allow her to return home and await assignment to a prison for several weeks, the judge sent Phipps to the Pitt County jail immediately to await her prison assignment.

Black Legislators in Georgia Halt Anti-Gay Amendment

While white Democratic legislators all over the South are tripping over each other to get to the right of white Republicans on the issue of gay marriage, courageous black representatives in the Georgia House, who know a thing or two about how the law can be used to relegate the rights of a distinct group of people, voted en masse to stop an amendment to the Georgia state constitution that would outlaw gay marriage. The black members of the House "provided 39 of 50 no votes and abstentions that helped the measure fall 3 votes short of the 120 needed for passage."

Since many of these legislators are deacons or even pastors in their churches and are deeply religious, their defection on this issue seemed to surprise the white overlords. But, according to the New York Times, "the state's Legislative Black Caucus has largely come to see [the amendment] as denigrating a minority while playing into the hands of conservative Republicans seeking to spark a large turnout of their base in November."

They get it, even if their white Democratic colleagues demonstrably don't.

" 'I'm a pastor and I don't support gay marriage, but I resent people playing political football with our religious beliefs,' said Representative Ron Sailor Jr., a Democrat whose suburban Atlanta district contains some of the state's largest and most conservative black churches."

Why hasn't a prominent white Democrat made that point, that Karl Rove is "playing political football with religious beliefs"?

Black solidarity against anti-gay initiatives seems to be a national trend. The Mississippi House of Representatives passed a bill similar to Georgia's on Monday, and all 17 no votes were cast by black members.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Cheney To Daughter Mary: "Get Out Of the Boat. Now"

And the word went out to Dick Cheney from Karl Rove that he needed to disavow his much repeated remarks from the 2000 campaign -- you know, that Cheney thought the issue of gay marriage should NOT be a federal issue but should be left to the states to decide (because, perhaps, Cheney's own daughter Mary is a lesbian, and he didn't much like the prospects of the Republicans targeting his own daughter with an anti-gay marriage amendment), but the Word went out to Dick Cheney from Karl Rove to mend this soft-on-lesbians impression, and today Dick Cheney delivered The Word, making the rounds to Wolf Blitzer on CNN, to Brit Hume on Faux News, and to Lester Holt on MSNBC, announcing that what he said in 2000 was no longer operable.

Here's what Howie Kurtz says he said to Blitzer:

"Cheney: The president's made a decision, partly because of what's happened in Massachusetts and San Francisco, that the administration will support a constitutional amendment -- and uh, that's his decision to make.

"Blitzer: And you support it?

"Cheney: I support the president.

"Blitzer: I don't hear you say you believe there should be a constitutional. . . .

"Cheney: I support the president. Wolf, my deal with the president is that I get to advise him on the issues of the day. I never discuss the advice I provide him with anybody else. That's always private. He makes the decisions. He sets policy for the administration. And uh, I support him and the administration."

Wonder how Mary Cheney felt this morning hitting the water?

Bush Polling Poorly With Independents, Youth

If you believe these polls. Our mentor for "The Emerging Democratic Majority" and a man who definitely believes in polls, Ruy Teixeira (pronounced ta-SHAR-a), has interesting polling to discuss about Bush's declining numbers among independent voters here.

Teixeira also posted numbers here alleging to show declining support for Bush among 18-29 year-olds, with this somewhat ominous admission masquerading as hope: "the higher youth turnout is in November, the better for the Democrats." The higher the turnout, there's the rub. (And that would have been one of the potentially brilliant features of a Howard Dean campaign ... heightened turnout among this age group.) But the 20-somethings that we see are taking their cues for hip disengagement from Jon Stewart, among others, and wearing T-shirts that brag, "Voting is for OLD PEOPLE." Teixeira says, "The GOP's best bet here is that old standby youth apathy. Let's hope they're unpleasantly surprised this November." Indeed, we'll hope. We'll be doing much more than that, as a matter of fact, with the student body at Appalachian State University ... the single largest potential voting bloc in Watauga County. But they quite simply have not shown any particular interest in being a part of this democracy since Harvey Gantt lost to Jesse Helms in 1990.

Electronic Voting Machine Problems Today

What with Watauga County and the rest of North Carolina headed for electronic voting by 2006 -- like the rest of the sheep -- and what with persistent and alarming warnings that the machines can be hacked, manipulated, and generally bitch-slapped into producing the election results that nefarious forces might want ... today's news about breakdowns in perfectly new machines in Maryland, security lapses in Georgia, and other problems in other states involved in Super Tuesday primaries should fill us all with suspicions if not outright dread. No paper trail, no evidence you ever touched the screen for Candidate A, B, or C -- don't say you're prone to trust this situation. Not us! Not now. Not ever.

As If We Didn't See THIS Coming!

The lead graph in a Washington Post story by Jim VandeHei and Charles Babington this morning:

"Republicans plan to use Congress to pull Sen. John F. Kerry and vulnerable Democrats into the cultural wars over gay rights, abortion and guns, envisioning a series of debates and votes that will highlight the candidates' positions on divisive issues, according to congressional aides and GOP officials."

Not only are unnamed Republicans spilling these beans ... they're bragging about it.

Their strategy is already well underway, with both John Kerry and John Edwards canceling campaign events today to fly back to Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac "for half a dozen votes on gun legislation, including liability protections for gun manufacturers."

The WashPost reporters describe John Edwards as "not thrilled" to be voting on gun issues just a week from major primaries in Texas and other Southern states ... so obviously the Republican strategy is working to discombobble the Dems, who are also obligingly signaling to reporters that the strategy is working. Sheesh! This is NOT the way to deal with Republican adversity, guys. Didn't you learn ANYTHING from Howard Dean? Well, no. Plus we have the supposed Dems leader in the Senate, Tom Daschle, actually planning to support the Republican gun bill. Makes us want to take a ballpeen hammer, and ...

The Republican Senate leadership is also gleefully planning confrontational votes on the President's gay-marriage-banning Constitutional amendment, another amendment to ban flag-burning, and potentially divisive votes on judicial appointments and more -- MORE -- tax cuts. Also in the wings is a Republican-drafted bill that would treat attacks on a pregnant woman as separate crimes against her and her fetus, which has already passed the House and which clearly chips chips chips away at abortion rights -- the conferring of new legal status to fetuses.

Kerry especially is already vulnerable on his Senate record, not so much the supposed liberal label Republican operatives want to hang on it as the fact that he's missed every Senate vote this year (yes, you read that correctly) and many last year.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Doug Berger Responds

We posted an item about Doug Berger on January 21st, taken from the Raleigh News & Observer, which revealed that fellow Democrat, Judge Linda McGee, against whom Berger is running this year, had filed a complaint against him with a judicial ethics panel.

We have heard from Berger about our posting, and we are happy to pass along his comments here (and pleased, incidentally, to have our error about a Democratic primary in this race corrected -- judges in N.C. now run in non-partisan contests, though both contenders for this Court of Appeals seat are Democrats:

Hi, I just happened to come across your commentary concerning my race for the Court of Appeals. I recognize that Judge McGee is from your area and likely enjoys widespread support there. I respond only so that you as a fellow progressive Democrat will understand why I am running for this seat. I do want to point out that this race is non-partisan, and to date no other candidate has announced any intentions of running. Over the past few years, we have witnessed many shocking cases come to light where an innocent person has been convicted and sent to prison. Most recently the Hunt case out of Winston-Salem and the Gell case here in Raleigh have shaken the public's confidence in our criminal justice system. As you may know the state Supreme Court established an Innocence Commission to examine what reforms need to be made to protect the innocent. I was involved in the main case that led to the creation of this Commission. Terence Garner, a young black man was sentenced to 40 plus years for an armed robbery he did not commit. He was convicted with perjured testimony and denied a new trial by Judge Knox Jenkins, even though the perpetrator to the crime confessed within days after the trial. Judge Linda McGee was one of the three judges who held the responsibility to review this case. She voted to deny him a new trial. I ask you to compare her decision with the decision that Pickering made in the cross burning case. We Democrats used Pickering's involvement in that case to justify stopping him from serving on the federal bench. Terence Garner lost 5 years of his life as a result of the decision that Linda McGee made. The only reason Garner is free today is because of a PBS documentary and the grassroots response to that documentary. I drafted a complaint to the Judicial Standards Commission against Knox Jenkins that was signed by all but one of the elected African-American officials in Johnston County. Jenkins recused himself from the case and within a month Garner was released and charges dropped. Please show me a case in NC history where a citizen was wrongfully convicted, lost his appeal to the Court of Appeals and was subsequently freed by public opposition to the conviction. Why did McGee and her fellow judges deny Garner a new trial? Ann Saker, a progressive journalist for the N&O, who played a major role in the development of the documentary, had this to say:

ANNE SAKER: The system protects itself in the same way that doctors protect each other and lawyers protect each other, and in some instances, the way journalists protect each other. Lawyers- judges protect each other. And this was a case where there's this formalized system of judges overlooking each other's work, and unless there is something that in the legal world is called "shocking to the conscience," they're very reluctant to change anything that a judge did in a trial.

McGee let Jenkins run roughshod over Terence Garner much like the state Democratic Party let him do on the issue of redistricting. In my own county I have been involved in a year-long battle on redistricting and yet unlike the state Democratic Party we won the fight against the same lawyers who successfully won the redistricting battle in the last election.

We need judges who are willing to protect the innocent, not the system itself. I will be that kind of appellate judge.

Doug Berger

P.S. The following blog may be of interest to the progressive Democrats in your area.