Saturday, July 31, 2004

Dumb Political Slogan Contest

Oops! We already have a winner!

"We are turning the corner, and we're not turning back!" --Evel Knievel, July 30, 2004. No, I lied. It was George W. Bush.

Now, let's see ... what is it about this administration that makes swing voters nervous? Could it be the pig-headedness of wrong decisions incorrectly arrived at, pursued with a single-minded fervor right over the edge of the cliff?

We've turned a corner, all right. But the driver of this rig, who's blind to the disaster he's driving us toward, doesn't admit there's any other course possible. For summing up the arrogance of the Bush/Cheney regime, that slogan will do quite admirably.

Bush's Biggest Ever Budget Deficit

Under federal law, the White House budget office is supposed to offer a "mid-session review" of the projected budget deficit by July 15th, which would have put the dismal (and ballooning) Bush deficit figures within easy reach of speechifiers at the Democratic National Convention. So what did the White House budget office do? It delayed admitting that the deficit will reach $445 billion this budget year until the day after the Dems Convention ended. Cool!

And what else is the White House trying to do with that deficit? They're trying to convince everyone that it's good news: "the improved budget outlook is the direct result of the strong economic growth the president's tax relief has fueled," said El Presidente's budget director Josh Bolten.

Wha-a-a? "They're claiming improvement?" said an incredulous Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee. "That is utterly preposterous." According to the New York Times, a $445 billion deficit would make it by far the largest shortfall ever in the dollar amount.

But being utterly preposterous is what this administration is best at.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Ron Reagan Still on the Attack

Drudge is reporting that Ron Reagan has written a 4,000-word essay for Esquire slamming the Bush administration, and not just on the issue of stem cell research.

According to Drudge's direct quotes, Ron says of El Presidente, "He is ineloquent not because he cannot speak but because he doesn't bother to think."

Next month's issue, due out directly.

Excerpts from Kerry's Acceptance Speech

The transcript of Kerry's speech I've found this morning is marked "as prepared for delivery," suggesting that some things got changed at the last minute. For sure the opening "reporting for duty" line is not in this transcript:

"...We have it in our power to change the world again. But only if we're true to our ideals -- and that starts by telling the truth to the American people. That is my first pledge to you tonight. As President, I will restore trust and credibility to the White House .... I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a Vice President who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a Secretary of Defense who will listen to the best advice of our military leaders. And I will appoint an Attorney General who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States....

"We're told that outsourcing jobs is good for America. We're told that new jobs that pay $9,000 less than the jobs that have been lost is the best we can do. They say this is the best economy we've ever had. And they say that anyone who thinks otherwise is a pessimist. Well, here is our answer: There is nothing more pessimistic than saying America can't do better....

"The future doesn't belong to fear; it belongs to freedom....

"And tonight, we have an important message for those who question the patriotism of Americans who offer a better direction for our country. Before wrapping themselves in the flag and shutting their eyes and ears to the truth, they should remember what America is really all about. They should remember the great idea of freedom for which so many have given their lives. Our purpose now is to reclaim democracy itself. We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism....

" is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families.

"...we welcome people of faith. America is not us and them. I think of what Ron Reagan said of his father a few weeks ago, and I want to say this to you tonight: I don't wear my own faith on my sleeve. But faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday. I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side....

"What if we find a breakthrough to cure Parkinson's, diabetes, Alzheimer's and AIDs? What if we have a president who believes in science, so we can unleash the wonders of discovery like stem cell research to treat illness and save millions of lives?"

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Pity the Poor Rich

The New York Times is citing statistical evidence gathered by the IRS that "adjusted for inflation, the income of all Americans fell 9.2 percent from 2000 to 2002."

"Because of population growth, average incomes declined ... by 5.7 percent."

But these declines -- get this -- appear to have hit the upper income brackets the hardest:

"More than 352,000 taxpayers, one of every eight who had worked their way above $200,000 of income in 2000, fell below that figure in 2002. At the very top the ranks thinned by more than half. The number of taxpayers reporting adjusted gross income of $10 million or more fell to 5,280 from 11,215. The combined income of this rich and thin slice of Americans plummeted 63 percent, to $110 billion, in 2002 from $300 billion in 2000. Among those who stayed in this category average annual income fell 22 percent, to $20.9 million from almost $26.8 million in 2000."

Preach On, Brother!

Rev. Al Sharpton, in his speech last night at the national convention, addressed President Bush directly:

"Mr. President, I heard you say Friday that you had questions for voters, particularly African-American voters. And you asked the question: Did the Democratic Party take us for granted? ... You said the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It is true that Mr. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, after which there was a commitment to give 40 acres and a mule .... We never got the 40 acres. We went all the way to Herbert Hoover, and we never got the 40 acres. We didn't get the mule. So we decided we'd ride this donkey as far as it would take us."

That's what the transcript says, but I swear I heard him say "we decided we'd ride this ass as far as it would take us," which is a lot funnier and no less accurate.

Rev. Al also sensibly pointed out: "If I told you tonight, 'Let's leave the FleetCenter, we're in danger,' and when you get outside, you ask me, 'Reverend Al, what is the danger?' and I say, 'It don't matter. We just needed some fresh air,' I have misled you, and we were misled."

Cannon Fodders R Us

Senate candidate Richard Burr told the Rocky Mount Telegram this week that a benefit of the Iraqi War is that it "bought us time." Come again? "The president bought us 14 months where every terrorist has been focused on killing Americans in Iraq," Burr, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told the Telegram. "It bought us time ... time for the intelligence community to rebuild, time to put homeland security in place, time for first responders to be better trained. It enabled us enough time to focus efforts to build relationships with international intelligence services. Every day we get better." (Coverage in the Raleigh News & Observer.)

So the sacrifice of 900 American soldiers and who knows how many others was cover for a bungling federal bureauracy to get its act together? And we're supposed to applaud that?

Apparently, Burr's own campaign aides found that theory as dumb as we do, since they were scrambling almost immediately to "clarify" the candidate's views: "his statement was meant to suggest that giving terrorists a target outside the U.S. is a benefit of the war -- not a rationale for waging war."

Can't you just see the recruiting poster? "Join the Army ... and give terrorists a target outside the U.S." The Burr campaign's "clarification," if anything, is worse than the original statement!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Obama, O Yes!

Here's the transcript of Barack Obama's keynote address last night in Boston, and here's a short excerpt:

"Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America -- there is the United States of America. The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states; red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and have gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?"

Seeing and hearing him deliver these words was downright ... inspirational. And now we know what all the fuss was about! Obama, barring the Second Coming, will be a United States Senator from Illinois come November. The Illinois Republican Party still hasn't found anyone to run against him (and we were so hoping for Mike Ditka!).

"You Wanna Peace of Me?"

This particular story came out a full week ago, on July 21st at a Bush campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and it naturally went by the American press corps without much of a hiccup. "The enemy declared war on us," Bush told a re-election rally in Cedar Rapids. "Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president .... The next four years will be peaceful years." Bush used the words "peace" or "peaceful" a total of 20 times, according to Reuters.

Now, get in my WayBackMachine and hold on tight. February 2004, on "Meet the Press": "I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind." (Transcript of the Russert show here.)

So ... looks like the February strut is now inoperable? Poll reality setting in?

Back to Grand Rapids, last week: "For a while we were marching to war. Now we're marching to peace .... America is a safer place. Four more years and America will be safer and the world will be more peaceful," Bush said.

"Four more years and America will be safer"! 'Cause we're marching toward peace now, whereas we used to be marching to war for a while, and in four more years maybe we won't be marching at all but just standing in a stupor in the middle of a debris-strewn field of former dreams, if there are four more years.

Have you got that? Is that all perfectly clear now?

Robinson Asks Foxx to Bow Out Gracefully

You can't beat the Republican race to replace Dick Burr in the 5th Congressional District for low comedy.

According to the Winston-Salem Journal, Virginia Foxx had already written her official request to the State Board of Elections, asking for the run-off that it is her right to ask for, when her tormentor in chief, Vernon Robinson, came out in the press suggesting that she bow out gracefully -- like gubernatorial candidate Richard Vinroot did in favor of Patrick Ballantine last week. Robinson's implication is that Virginia would do well to back out rather than suffer the insufferable, i.e., a terrible drubbing at the polls on August 17th.

"If she is interested in helping the rest of us strengthen this party, Virginia will have the courage to follow Mayor Vinroot's example," Robinson said in a statement. Whatever Virginia Foxx is lacking -- and there are several things I can think of, including a working heart -- it ain't courage. So nice try, Vern!

And if someone needs to bow out to avoid the embarrassment of losing miserably to a "secret liberal" like Foxx, Mr. Robinson might want to consider his options, because enough of Broyhill's and Helvey's primary voters are going to flock to Foxx in the run-off to make a sad spectacle of Robinson's flirtation with national politics.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Voting Blue in a Red State

Watching this election unfold not only in a Republican "red state" but in the most Republican section of that red sea could lead to chronic heart-burn.  The anecdotal information we have from Watauga County Baptist Churches is that they've drunk the Kool-Aid of QueerFear and are preaching what Karl Rove wants them to preach.  And we watch the coalescing of Republican candidates for governor around the young Patrick Ballantine with great apprehension, since we have nothing to look forward to from our own Mike Easley but the kind of campaign-by-TV he conducted in 2000.  And we behold our senate candidate Erskine Bowles with mounting disquiet too, since he seems still spooked to be running as a d-e-m-o-c-r-a-t and can barely admit it, even in a room of partisans.

What gives us hope are all our local candidates, from Jim Harrell for U.S. Congress, to Cullie Tarleton for N.C. State House, to Jim Cain for N.C. State Senate, to our team of Watauga County Commission candidates, Jim Deal, Winston Kinsey, and Billy Ralph Winkler ... all good men with superior credentials, offering a hopeful platform against the depressing team on the other side who don't believe in government in the first place and who want to make sure that government is as crippled as possible in favor of business interests.

Will QueerFear swamp good men under a wave of straight Republican voting in this reddest corner of a Southern red state?  That scenario is certainly possible but gives no credit whatever to voters to make distinctions.

What was it that Bubba said last night in his amazing speech at the convention?

"They think the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their political, economic, and social views, leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves on matters like health care and retirement security. Since most Americans are not that far to the right, they have to portray us Democrats as unacceptable, lacking in strength and values. In other words, they need a divided America. But Americans long to be united."  (Full transcript of Clinton's speech here.)

We spent the weekend at a family reunion up in another blatant red state, Virginia, and I spent some quality time talking with one of my wife's cousins who's a political writer for a Virginia newspaper and whose personal decency and quiet political wisdom could almost break your heart.  He's not discouraged about the future, thinks Kerry will win, and is not distracted by the marginal roles of North Carolina and Virginia in the grander scheme of things.  He said I was about the "wariest Democrat" he'd encountered this whole year, as though I'd been dog-bit and might be rabid.  I confess to being wary and to riding the roller coaster of red-state expectations, but I'm available to good news, fair prospects, the off chance that North Carolina mountain voters won't always and forever vote against their own economic interests.  Let the local Baptists take note: I pray fervently for that.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Easley Better Watch His Back

Tom Campbell, creator of NC Spin on North Carolina public TV, wrote this in his e-mail newsletter, Spin Cycle, following Richard Vinroot's surprise decision not to contest a run-off with Patrick Ballantine:

"Mike Easley now has a fight on his hands. The GOP thinks Mike Easley's support is soft and he is vulnerable. Patrick Ballantine ran a very effective TV campaign the closing two weeks of the campaign, ads that resonated with a lot of viewers. He is surging in strength even as Easley and Vinroot were tailing. Easley never hit the campaign trail in 2000, depending only on TV to deliver his message. Ballantine is a hard worker who will go most anywhere to talk to voters. The contrasts in style are very obvious. The race is on and the pros aren't ready to put big bets on either side quite yet. Yes, any incumbent Governor has distinct advantages. This one has fewer than most. Easley's chickens may come home to roost. He may be wishing he had done more attending party events, traveling the state, taking a more prominent lead on issues."

It would be nice if we had a Guv who could stand to go out and meet the people -- a campaigner.  The only time Easley has been to Watauga County is to pick up big checks from fat cats, never bothering to meet with ordinary voters, which suited both the Guv and the fat cats just fine.  That kind of stuff has an unpleasant reverb to it.  Rings a lot like arrogance.
Virginia Foxx, in a Winston-Salem Journal Q&A:

Q. Should a woman be able to choose to have an abortion while she's pregnant? If she's the victim of rape or incest? If her health is in danger?
A. No. Life is a precious gift from God and I make no exceptions to God's will.

Remarkable.  She used to be pro-choice, back in the days when she had a conscience, or a heart.  Now she's as hard as obsidian and more extreme in this position than even the Republican platform, which at least gives a dying woman an out.

If she's taking this hard-line stance just because she's running against another extremist, Vernon Robinson, then she's also unprincipled, cynical, and calculating.  Not a huge surprise, not to those of us who've known and observed her for three decades.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Understatement of the Day

"While [Gov. Mike] Easley is popular in the polls, some Democrats are not wildly enthusiastic about him.  Some of the faithful note his unconventional behavior, such as not showing up at party events, most recently the welcome home rally for the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards this month."  Thus spake the Raleigh News & Observer this a.m. by way of explaining how come Ricky Kipfer, the odd-ball challenger to Easley on the primary ballot who didn't even campaign, still managed to get almost 65,000 votes statewide in Tuesday's voting.

"Which leads inquiring minds to wonder: Was there a protest vote of sorts against Democratic Gov. Mike Easley?"

Well, we would venture a wild guess: yes.

Let Religiosity Rain Down Like a Virus

Just pulled this off the AP wire, and can hardly believe my eyes, but Richard Vinroot is saying he's having a religious epiphany and won't call for a run-off between himself (in second place with 108,247 votes) and Patrick Ballantine, the younger Republican state senator (who edged Vinroot slightly with 109,552 votes).  "I have made a spiritual decision in this case. ... My decision is to not call for a runoff," the former Charlotte mayor said.  This amazing announcement came the same day Vinroot was also in the papers quoted calling Ballantine "Easley Lite" and vowing to fight, fight, fight for the nomination.  He was also making fund-raising calls all Tuesday night and into Wednesday, and maybe he heard something besides the voice of God: "Richard, it's time to hang it up."

Now, if only Virginia Foxx would let God have his way and listen to that Still Small Voice and not call for a run-off against front-runner Vernon Robinson, we'd all be jolly well better off, because we know that Virginia can't hold a candle to the blast furnace of Vernon's Christianity.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Some Primary Results

It's been a tough couple of days for catching up, but here's what we've found out about what happened in both parties yesterday.

The big local news on the Republican side of the ballot is that Vernon Robinson beat Virginia Foxx narrowly in overall votes (district wide ... Virginia trounced everyone else in Watauga County) and will be forced into a run-off which ought to be fairly entertaining in its content.  Ed Broyhill has the right to call for a recount, since his 3rd-place finish was so close.  Round Two between Virginia & Vernon will be Democrat Jim Harrell's great opportunity to build his campaign treasury while his likely Republican opponent in November depletes hers fighting off charges that she's soft on lesbians.

The other big local news is that Spencer Mains was defeated by party-pick Phillips for the County Commissioner seat that Jimmy Hodges is vacating.  Phillips had the backing of the local Republican bosses, while Mains' reputation for general anger at the influence of "outsiders" in Watauga County might signal that the local party is trying to put its past bigotry against "outsiders" behind it.  Or at least soften its public perception.    (In a non-soft campaign move, Mains refused to answer the Watauga Democrat's questions for the pre-primary election issue.)Spencer Mains was one of the meaner "no-zoners" on the long-running dog-and-pony show, the committee on polluting industries, and has apparently never gotten over his own lapse in voting with the rest of that committee to recommend a conditional-use permitting process for all new polluters in the county -- a recommendation which the newly elected all-Republican County Commission promptly rescinded last year.

Down-state, we were most interested in the fate of those "moderate" Republican allies of House Co-Speaker Richard Morgan, against whom the Republican jihadists had vowed holy war.  Richard Morgan survived his challenger, Peggy Crutchfield, but barely, 51 to 49 percent.  The ever gracious Crutchfield told the press, "I hope my opponent learned something from this election, and takes those lessons to Raleigh with him,  If he doesn't heed the message the voters sent, he may very well see another strong challenge in two years."  A non-concession concession statement, in that sneering voice we've come to expect and value so highly in Southern Republicans!

At least 11 of Morgan's Republican supporters in the state house were targeted for extinction.  Some were indeed exterminated: Political consultant Nelson Dollar of Cary stepped in and trounced Rep. David Miner, a Morgan ally and a 12-year incumbent from Cary; Morgan supporters Reps. Rex Baker of Stokes County and Michael Gorman of Craven County lost. But allies Debbie Clary of Cleveland County and Stephen LaRoque of Kinston won.

Rex Baker lost!  My, my, my.  When he used to represent Watauga County, he was about the only Republican state legislator from this district who would lift a hand to help citizens.  Though he was a bared-fangs campaigner.

Speaking of run-offs, Vinroot and Ballantine get to vie again, along with Vernon & Virginia, and there'll be a primary run-off on the Democratic side for Superintendent of Public Instruction between June Atkinson and Marshall Stewart.  All the run-offs will be August 17, and if you think turn-out was dismal yesterday, just wait until August 17th!  That's when Virginia Foxx wins.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Big-Bucks Empowerment Zone

A headline in this morning's Raleigh N&O nicely sums up the just-completed session of the N.C. legislature, a.k.a., The Best Little Whorehouse in Raleigh:  "Special interests get their way."  And not just the billboard industry.  Read the article to get a sense of the vastness of the money iceberg that sank honest state government.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

N.C. Senate Agrees to Billboard Law Compromise

According to the Raleigh N&O, the environmentalists caved ... and there is therefore a compromise billboard-buyout law that has passed the N.C. Senate, at least, and will be (or has already been) taken up by the N.C. House, which will:
"...give local governments the option of paying to move a billboard to a comparable site. If the owner and the government can't agree on a site, the matter would go to binding arbitration.  The government also could choose to pay the owner to take the sign down. If they can't agree on a price, the government could ask a Superior Court judge to set one."
There's lots of unexplored consequences to a compromise like this one, and we fear the worst (naturally -- we're NOT comatose!), but this is what we got, and it may or may not be an improvement over what the industry engineered for itself before Gov. Easley vetoed it.
And maybe the industry is just struttin' rather than admit they took a hit, but this is what their spokesman is saying: "It's going to accomplish what we set out to do," said Mark Moyer, president of Fairway Outdoor Advertising, based in Augusta, Ga. "The whole purpose of this is to make us whole."
Molly Diggins, director of the N.C. Sierra Club, said the new bill is still a setback for local governments and environmentalists, but not as bad as the previous one. "I think the governor's veto kept the legislature from giving away the store," she said.
The legislators who were busiest at "giving away the store," incidentally -- and we regret having to report this -- were mainly Democrats ... with the gleeful support of low-energy Republicans like Gene Wilson.  Just take a look at the preliminary list of which N.C. legislators got the biggest donations from the billboard industry this year.
My mama always said, "Look out for the man who can't be embarrassed!

Friday, July 16, 2004

Ed Broyhill Says He's Shocked

Ed Broyhill, one of the leading Republican candidates for the 5th Dist. congressional seat, is on the radio saying he's shocked about the tone and content of the current primary campaign among his fellow Republicans.  Reminds me of a certain famous scene in "Casablanca":

Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[A croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much. [aloud] Everybody out at once!
The point is that Vernon Robinson, about which all these pious Republicans are so shocked, SHOCKED! is exactly who and what the Republican party has become.  You guys nurtured him, gave him his talking points, his wedge issues, his burning assurance that God Himself has ordained a holy war against all that is Not Republican ... so live with it.  It's the world you've made.  And may your winnings keep you awake at night.

Vernon Robinson Goes "Official"

Registered Republicans across the N.C. 5th Congressional District pulled out of their mailboxes yesterday a huge wad of paper -- some 16 pages of 8 1/2 x 11 sheets -- labeled "YOUR OFFICIAL VOTER GUIDE & CANDIDATE REPORT CARD," which is in actuality a Vernon Robinson mailing (and a reprint mainly from his snaky website), which includes all the dirt he's been able to dig up on Ed Broyhill, Virginia Foxx, Jay Helvey, and Nathan Tabor.
It makes for entertaining reading: "Ms. Foxx is a very intemperate woman with a reputation for name calling and blowing her stack, and a personality more like a New York City girl than a North Carolina mountain woman.  As the Winston-Salem Journal put it, 'Her record in Raleigh is one of self-righteousness toward all with whom she disagrees.' "
Gee.  There's no arguing with any of that.
And our hat's off to Robinson for just generally "classing up the joint."  We'd vote for him if we could.  But we're a godless, communist, feminazi-coddling, America-hating liberal.

Billboard Industry, Environmentalists Negotiating

According to the Raleigh News & Observer, which yesterday said the N.C. Senate would be voting today on whether to override the Guv's veto of the Billboard Industry Empowerment Act of 2004, is today saying that the industry's lobbyists were in an all-day negotiation on Thursday with lobbyists for environmental and municipal interests to strike a deal that everyone can live with.  The legislature seems determined to adjourn its session this weekend, and time is running out for a vote to override the veto.

The billboard industry lobbyist told the N&O that he was hopeful that the two sides could meet in the middle; the lobbyist for the League of Municipalities was less optimistic, sending a signal that the industry reps have failed to move very far off their demands.  The fact that the senate hadn't already scheduled a vote on overriding the veto also sends a signal that maybe the supporters of the bill aren't so sure they have the votes.  Or something else is going on in the far from transparent state senate.

UPDATE:  The AP is reporting that state senator Walter Dalton, D-Rutherford, the bill's primary sponsor in the Senate, says that a compromise has been reached, and that a newly revised measure will be on the floor of both chambers as early as Friday.  Hmmm.  That's today. Stand by for developments.

Rev. Falwell's IRS Tax Exempt Status Under Assault

Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has sent a letter to the I.R.S. arguing that Jerry Falwell is violating the rules for tax exemption in publicly campaigning for the reelection of President George W. Bush.  Rev. Lynn alleges that one of Mr. Falwell's religious organizations, Jerry Falwell Ministries, disseminated a message in support of Bush's reelection in violation of tax rules, which restrict tax-exempt religious groups and charitable organizations from engaging in politics.  (NYTimes story here.)
Rev.  Lynn said the complaint was also a response to the Bush campaign's effort to enlist thousands of pastors and churchgoers to help get members of conservative congregations to the polls.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

N.C. Senate Will Vote on Billboard Override Tomorrow

The North Carolina Senate will take up tomorrow (July 16th) the possible override of Gov. Easley's veto of the Billboard Industry Empowerment Act of 2004.

If you feel like wasting your breath, or your typing time, you can contact Senator Virginia Foxx and remind her that she's supposed to be in favor of local control and NOT just $$ windfalls for private industry. She won't listen to you, but you can say you tried. Phone 919-733-5743 or e-mail

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The End of Civilization As We Knew It

Well, the U.S. Senate has delivered the United States of America, evidently, into the flaming hands of Satan by voting down a constitutional amendment that would have made discrimination against gays the law of the land. The vote was actually on a motion of end debate (cloture), with 50 Satan-lovin' senators voting NOT to end debate, to 48 Satan-hatin' senators who voted for cloture. It would have taken 60 Satan-hating senators to pass the amendment, but NO-O-O-O! Too many of 'em obviously ADORE Satan!

Six Republican senators joined most of the Democrats as official Satan-lovers. They were: Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona, Olympia Snowe of Maine, and John Sununu of New Hampshire (bit of a shock, that!) Independent senator Jeffords of Vermont joined this group.

Democrats who resisted Satan valiantly and voted with the right-wing Republicans: Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Zell Miller of Georgia, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

John Edwards of North Carolina did not vote. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina did vote, not a hair out of place, and she naturally voted with the Satan-haters. She certainly understood -- even if Senator Edwards did NOT -- that failure to pass this amendment would mean whole counties in the Tar Heel State turning suddenly and inexplicably pink, from the water tower to town hall!

For the record, Three Forks Baptist Church on Hwy 421 hates Satan. They had the message "Pass the Defense of Marriage Amendment NOW!" on their marquee this morning.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

We See Your Zell Miller & Raise You a Ron Reagan

The news that the sainted former president's son Ron Reagan Jr. would speak up for stem-cell research at the Democratic Party Convention in a couple of weeks has set Republicans to foaming at the mouth. We heard that William F. Buckley has called young Ron a traitor (though I haven't found that source in print yet). Guess "the Big Tent" has been folded and put in storage. Deep storage.

We love it. The more they rage against Ron, the higher the profile he'll have at the convention for his remarks. That's always the way purges work -- they inadvertently highlight exactly what the purgers don't want to highlight. It's like the North Carolina Republican Party kicking out their moderate members and mounting a holy war against State House co-speaker Richard Morgan and his pals. Shows us exactly why we don't want these guys in charge.

And highlights, by contrast as well, the fact that the Dems haven't purged Zell Miller, possibly because he's doing such a splendid job himself of flushing his "legacy" right down the toilet.

Bush Throws Rice at Postponed Election Story

It now appears that Condi Rice has added Elections Czar to her duties as national security advisor, as she hastened onto CNN yesterday to soothe fears that the Bush administration was maneuvering for the right to postpone the national election. "We've had elections in this country when we were at war, even when we were in civil war. And we should have the elections on time. That's the view of the president, that's the view of the administration."

To send Condoleezza Rice out as Soother in Chief indicates that the story broken by Michael Isikoff of Newsweek was having seismic impact.

N.C. House Overrides Easley's Billboard Veto

The North Carolina House yesterday, without debate, voted 79-34 to override Gov. Easley's veto of the Billboard Industry Empowerment Act of 2004. The billboard industry proponents in the state house needed only three-fifths of those present (or 68) votes to override. One guess how Watauga County representative Gene Wilson voted.

The matter now goes to the state senate, and it isn't at all clear what happens next. According to the Raleigh N&O, "The Senate didn't take up the issue Monday, and it is unclear when or whether it will."

What IS clear ... that house members had heard little from constituents on this issue (other than from the billboard lobby) and couldn't wait to vote. On their failure to even discuss the merits of the Guv's veto, Easley said, "I am disappointed that the House did not make an effort to reach a compromise. This bill is overly burdensome to local governments and taxpayers. I hope that the Senate will be more deliberative on this important issue."

We would urge you to contact Sen. Virginia Foxx, but what's the use? She doesn't listen to anyone who doesn't already agree with her.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Michael Isikoff of Newsweek is reporting that Bush's chairman of the newly created U.S. Election Assistance Commission, DeForest B. Soaries Jr., has asked Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge to look into whether he, Ridge, might could just postpone the fall elections in case of terrorist attack. And taking up that novel suggestion, Mr. Ridge asked the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (the fine folks who brought us the torture-is-not-torture-if-the-president-orders-it memo) to analyze what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the election were an attack to take place.

Are these guys just itching to short-circuit democracy, or what?

If the Department of Justice says, no, you can't do that, Soaries, who two years ago was an unsuccessful GOP candidate for Congress, wants Ridge to seek emergency legislation from Congress empowering his agency to cancel the election.

We hope the Democrats in Congress are past the point where they'll vote for whatever freedom-ending legislation the Republicans put in front of them. But we can never be totally sure of that.

Bush Pushes Constitutional Amendment Against Gays

Either desperate (as he sees his conservative base eroding) or cynical (no! not him!), or maybe both, El Presidente has come out strong now for a Constitutional Amendment that would mandate keeping gay people on leashes, or bar them from getting married, because all the rest of our lawful marriages would be rendered empty shams if gay people got married, or we would begin to be bitten on the ankles by impeccably dressed but rabid gays. Something like that.

So the Senate Republicans will launch a full-scale debate this week on the amendment and force a floor vote on Wednesday in an apparent effort to embarrass senators Kerry and Edwards, who have for their part promised to be there to vote no. Not that the thing has any chance of getting the 67 votes it needs to pass. This is all just theater, political grandstanding by the Rovians to get their so-called "Christians" all revved up to vote for Bush/Cheney and condemn Kerry/Edwards to the deepest pits of hell. Where they obviously belong with the rest of us. (Who's bringing the beer?)

Nagourney and Kirkpatrick explain in this morning's NYTimes that Bush's move to push for the amendment comes out of seriously conflicting advice. Moderates feel that the gay marriage issue will be toxic for Bush, that pushing for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that would mandate taking away rights from citizens, which is exactly what this amendment would do, will (further) turn off "swing" voters.

But Bush has been cornered by his own fair-haired base: "...conservative leaders said they had complained to the White House that the campaign was blocking opponents of gay marriage from prime-time speaking slots at the Republican National Convention. 'The Republicans have got some explaining to do,' said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobbying group, noting that several of the speakers at the convention have come out against the amendment. 'Social conservatives are not happy.' "

Oh dear.

"...polls have shown that while a majority of undecided voters oppose gay marriage, there is little enthusiasm among them for amending the Constitution to ban it."

Oh double-dear.

The Rovians have clearly rolled the dice, as we fully expected them to, but they might well listen to this gentleman, whose research has in the past proven extremely prescient: "Our analysis of the swing voters shows that they are concerned about Iraq and about the economy, and I don't think they are likely to be swayed, or have strong feelings about a constitutional amendment," said Andrew Kohut, director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. "If anything, they may see it as putting the emphasis on the wrong place when the country has other problems."

So bring it on, Mr. President. Show where your priorities are. Let us see your heart and soul in this.

And, incidentally, Mr. Prez, whatever else you do, don't listen to that wife of your vice president. She was on CNN's "Late Edition" yesterday definitely NOT taking the party line, differing with you about the need for a Constitutional Amendment. Said it should be left up to the states to decide these matters. But what does she know (just 'cause she wrote that lesbian novel and has a lesbian daughter)? Say, is it too late to dump the Cheneys?

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Who Would Jesus Choose?

The "I'm-more-Christian-than-thou" mud fest among Virginia Foxx and company in North Carolina's 5th District Congressional race is apparently just a sample this year of the loose screws that have completely taken over the Republican Party. For example, there's another "Big Christian" slap fight going on in the 10th Congressional District, where Cass Ballenger is stepping down.

Former Catawba County Sheriff David Huffman, whose campaign kickoff in April featured several prayers and Christian music, is the leading contender in the I'd-sooner-burn-a-heretic-at-the-stake-than-look-at-'im sweepstakes. "We need a strong Christian voice in Washington working tirelessly to help our nation return to the core, Christian values that we share here in the 10th District," Huffman said earlier this year.

And because Republican primary voters are now perceived to be mainly the religiously intolerant, the other three candidates in the 10th District Republican primary have been forced to follow suit. Like George Moretz, board chairman of Carolina Mills Inc., who emphasized the need for fair trade and job loss early in his campaign ... why, George has been forced to emphasize his religious beliefs in recent weeks. Well, that IS the first question we ask of a candidate: where do you stand on total immersion, as opposed to (gasp!) sprinkling?

(And as a matter of fact, has Virginia Foxx ever been saved? Does she know Jesus Christ as her personal savior? And does God talk to her on a daily basis, you know, about napalming gay people?)

Sandy Lyons, a third candidate in the 10 Dist. primary whom Ballenger actually endorsed as his replacement, seems at the moment the big victim of Huffman's Jesus-jumpin'. Lyons says Huffman's people are spreading false rumors about him, that he's a member of the Church of Scientology, so that Lyons was reduced to the pathetic need to put out this statement to the press: "Lyons said he is a Christian and regularly attends church with his wife, he just doesn't stress his religious affiliation as often as the other candidates."

And to think, one of these bozos WILL be elected to represent North Carolina's 10th District. (And don't get me started on our own crop of Super Christians here in the 5th District!)

When Religion Is Hazardous to Our Health

According to the New York Times this a.m., health care professionals are beginning to speak out about the Bush administration's clamp-down on sex education out of an apparent "Christian" attitude that preaching total abstinence to 18-year-olds is far better than dealing with the reality of sex in people's lives.

"Never have we experienced a climate of intimidation and censorship as we have today," said James Wagoner, the president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington-based organization devoted to adolescent sexual health.

The International Working Group on Sexuality and Social Policy, an association of researchers and other professionals, released a report two weeks ago citing examples of what it called sex policing under the Bush administration. The report cited, for example, changes in factual information about sex education and H.I.V. transmission on government Web sites as well as questioning by members of Congress about research grants approved by the National Institutes of Health.

The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists has taken a novel approach. They are calling the Bush administration's increased financing of abstinence-only programs at the expense of comprehensive sex education a violation of "children's human rights." "Over 40 percent of 15-year-olds are sexually active and they're not getting information on how to protect themselves from pregnancy and diseases," Barnaby B. Barratt, the association's president, said in an interview.

Nils Daulaire, the president of the Global Health Council, an international group of health care professionals, said in a recent speech in Washington, "It's time to say to those who would stifle debate and dialogue, and to those in power who would allow them to prevail, Have you no shame?"

No, to answer Mr. Daulaire, they have no shame, but they do evidently have their fair share of illicit, illegal, and immoral sex. When it's Bill Clinton doing it, there aren't enough forests in the world to make enough paper pulp to print the moralistic denunciations coming from the Holier-Than-Thou choir, but let a Republican get caught with his pants down around his loafers (and don't make me start listing 'em, 'cause Henry Hyde, Newt Gingrich, and Bob Livingston already have restraining orders out on me!), you've never seen such quick changing of the subject in your life!

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Easley Vetoes N.C. Billboard Law

Well, the Guv came through! vetoing yesterday that grotesque billboard industry relief act passed by both houses of the state legislature (led by damn Democrats). He criticized the bill for creating a "windfall" for the billboard industry and for preventing local municipalities from enacting their own controls over signage.

It will take 3/5th majorities in both houses to override Easley's veto.

Our thanks to the governor for giving us some small reason to vote for him this year.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Dick Burr: Stuck to Big Business

The "Independent" in Durham is out with a lengthy investigative piece on would-be senator Richard Burr, with a few nuggets like this: "...collectively, U.S. tobacco manufacturers have given Burr more money than any other member of the House of Representatives, according to a campaign finance database run by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan, nonprofit watchdog group."

And "the early entrance of third-party advertising in the Burr-Bowles race shows that Burr's corporate backers are deeply invested in promoting him to the ... Senate chamber this fall."

And "Burr ranks No. 1 in PAC donations among all House members, and fourth among all members of Congress, amassing $1.6 million already this campaign season, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. PAC donations make up nearly a third of Burr's total campaign treasury, with 83 percent coming from business and industry PACS and 17 percent from ideological or single-issue groups, including so-called 'leadership PACS' run by fellow Republican lawmakers. When it comes to specific industries, Burr appears among the top five House recipients for 34 industries and special interest groups -- 33 more top-five appearances than any other North Carolina House member."

Whose bidding do you suppose he'll do if he beats Erskine Bowles?

Alphonse D'Amato to Bush: "Dump Cheney"

Alphonse D'Amato, the former New York Republican senator, told a New York cable news channel Tuesday night that he thought George W. Bush ought to dump Dick Cheney as VP and get Colin Powell instead. "I think we can do better." The former senator said he believed Powell would run with Bush if the position was offered to him. (Yeah, right! But first Powell would have to climb out of that deep freeze where El Presidente has had him stowed.) Powell as the VP candidate, said D'Amato, "would change politics in America for the better." "Instead of millions of African-Americans having their votes taken for granted or just saying, 'Republicans don't care about us, they don't reach out to us,' this would send an incredible signal," D'Amato said.

The gritting of teeth among Republican Party pooh-bahs didn't slow D'Amato down one bit. He repeated his "dump Cheney" advice on Wednesday to the Associated Press and added John McCain as another possible replacement for Cheney. Now there's a match-up we'd pay money to see, El Presidente introducing as his running mate the man he claimed was too mentally unbalanced to be president back during the South Carolina primary in 2000.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

If we were picking sides for a barroom brawl, I'd always want Eric Alterman wielding a beer bottle on my side, so I naturally like his response to the inevitable Republican attack on John Edwards that he doesn't look Presidential and couldn't take over the top office if need be. You want someone "presidential"? Guess you mean someone who can

1. mislead the country into war;

2. destroy a worldwide consensus of sympathy and solidarity for the United States;

3. increase anti-American terrorism;

4. destroy all vestiges of fiscal responsibility;

5. turn the justice system over to religious fanatics who ignore homeland defense.

Gitlin Gits "Fahrenheit 9/11"

Todd Gitlin, who did a great book on poor Appalachian white migrants in Chicago in 1970 ("Uptown") and whose media criticism has been indispensible for more than 20 years, whollops Michael Moore upside the head for some of his propaganda in "Fahrenheit 9/11," but this is a piece that needs to be read in its entirety before you leap to any conclusions.

Keeping Those Crazy Uncles in the Attic

The Republicans have been pretty dependable in recent years at pretense, turning a moderate face to the voting public come convention time, and keeping the ring-wing crazies well out of sight, and this year is no exception. At their national convention, they'll be highlighting in primetime such non-mainstream Rs as Michael Bloomberg, Rudy Guiliani, John McCain, and Arnold Schwarzenegger -- guys that DON'T agree with El Presidente on a wide variety of cultural and budgetary issues.

National Review's Kate O'Beirne grumbles, "The only announced speaker who actually agrees with President Bush on major issues is Democratic Senator Zell Miller of Georgia. The decision to showcase rogue elephants as representatives of the modern Republican party is not the mark of a self-confident party establishment. If the lineup is intended to make an overwhelmingly conservative party attractive to swing voters, it does so by pretending to be something it's not. The Republican party seems to habitually internalize the criticisms of its opponents. When the only Reagan Republican to enjoy a prominent supporting role at the party's convention is a Democrat, the GOP has a serious identity problem." (O'Beirne's comments, found on Howie Kurtz's blog.)

The Perp Walk and the Debutante Ball

What could go wrong with a week that brings us Ken Lay in handcuffs (FINALLY!) and the Eternal Sunshine Boy tapped as Kerry's vice presidential running mate? Democrat operatives working in local campaigns feel that the selection of Edwards can only boost the chances of down-ballot Democrats seeking elective office in North Carolina this year. And Lay's belated indictment can only serve to remind the general public of how cozy El Presidente was with that fine, upstanding, denizen of corporate culture.

We also learn this a.m. that the Two Johns (Kerry & Edwards) will be in Raleigh on Saturday afternoon (July 10th) for a joint appearance and rally on the campus of North Carolina State University. This will be a free event, but you'll need a ticket to get in. The party's website is promising ticket information by this afternoon.

And finally, New York Daily News' astrology columnist, Susan Miller, has charted Kerry/Edwards, with these results: "Edwards was born during one of the luckiest times of the year. And it's no wonder his message has always been optimistic: The moon rules public perception, and because Edwards has lucky Jupiter conjunct his Gemini moon, he'll always be considered 'the happy one.' Kerry's moon is also in Gemini, but in his chart it is influenced by disciplinarian Saturn, so he's fated to be seen as 'the serious one,' which will bring balance to the relationship." (Reprinted in the Raleigh N&O "Under the Dome" -- scroll down.)

We tend to lose consciousness when confronted by either (a) the New York Daily News or (b) astrology-talk (something about Edwards mooning Kerry?), but Nancy Reagan would certainly approve of all this careful scientific research, and who are we to say the Widow Reagan ain't right?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

News is out today that Bush's administrator of Medicare, Thomas A. Scully, threatened to fire the program's chief actuary, Richard S. Foster, if Foster told lawmakers the truth about how much Bush's Medicare prescription benefit was actually going to cost. As a result, Mr. Foster's cost estimate did not become known until after the legislation was enacted. Amazingly, Bush's very own Justice Department has decided that there was absolutely nothing wrong with this arrangement, since lying in the interests of George Bush's political agenda is ordained by The Supreme Being, and threatening someone with termination if he tells the simple truth is no big whoop.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" Sets Record in N.C. Military Town

The owner of the Cameo theater in Fayetteville, flanking Camp Lejeune, took a risk in booking "Fahrenheit 9/11" in a military town, but he's reporting the best business he's ever had, with some 75 percent of the ticket-buyers either active military guys or their families.

"Almost all the crowds at the Cameo have applauded the film at the end, with some people giving standing ovations, [theater-owner] Kuenzel said. Many have tears in their eyes as they leave the theater."

The phenomenon that is "Fahrenheit 9/11" is fueled in large part because Michael Moore is offering information that none of our mainstream press bothered to share with us about this war.

"Lea Barnes, a Republican, seemed giddy as she and a friend bought tickets Monday. 'I'm not pleased at all about the way things are going' with the war, Barnes said. 'I trust Michael Moore. He can be out there a bit, but he's for the common man.' "

Memo to GWB: If You're Even in the Polls, You're Behind

Charlie Cook of The National Journal offers a warning to the Rovians that an incumbent president who remains essentially tied in the polls with his challenger is actually losing, and Cook offers compelling logic to support that analysis. (Thanks to Ron for the link!) " incumbent who is basically tied with a challenger at 45 percent, give or take 3 points, is actually in much graver danger of losing the election than a superficial look at the numbers suggests." And Cook also essentially dismissses the potential Nader "spoiler" effect -- "given that Nader isn't the Green Party's nominee this time, most observers expect Nader's vote total to shrink [below the actual 2.7 percent he got in 2000] -- which would likely benefit Kerry."

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Queer Fear Grabs a-Hold of Dick Burr

The Raleigh News & Observer says Congressman Richard Burr is "evolving." Last March, in a speech at Broughton High School, Burr said he thought a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages was unnecessary. "The bar for a constitutional amendment is high," Burr told the students. "I believe we can accomplish what we need to do ... legislatively."

He's changed his mind, caught in the stampede of the wild-eyed: "Burr said he had always intended to support the constitutional amendment and the only question was timing." (News & Observer coverage here; scroll down.) So he's signed on in the U.S. House as a co-sponsor of the constitutional amendment against gays.

Now that his personal "evolution" has gotten him to the knuckle-dragging stage of practically every other Republican politician in the South, will he complete the transition and become another Vernon Robinson brown-shirt Republican?

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Bush Grubbing North Carolina Money Again

El Presidente will be in the Raleigh "vicinity" this Wednesday for a fundraiser at a private home. Why's he back in "safe for Bush" North Carolina, and why's he raising big bucks still? 'Cause he certainly wouldn't come for tea (or for non-alcoholic beer) unless a huge wad of cash was tucked in among the crumpets.

Mayor Burnley Refuses to Sign Boone Resolution Against Parts of the USA Patriot Act

Last Thursday, the Boone Town Council passed on the third reading a resolution that calls on the federal government to review the USA Patriot Act and rescind executive orders and policies that limit or compromise liberties granted by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Similar resolutions have been passed by hundreds of municipalities all across the country.

Councilmen Graydon Eggers and Dempsey Wilcox voted against the resolution. Eggers seemed to argue that giving up our civil liberties during Bush's War was okay by him, and Wilcox, while admitting that parts of the USA Patriot Act were real causes of concern, used the rather strange logic that if we were in "peacetime" (i.e., at a time when the Bush administration didn't feel the need to expand federal powers to snoop into our reading habits and e-mail messages), then the resolution against parts of the Patriot Act would be appropriate. Did I hear that correctly, that it's all right to stand up for your rights when they aren't threatened, but it's just unseemly to do so when they are? (Read Kathleen McFadden's coverage of this vote in the Mountain Times here, and scroll down.)

The one person on the Council who didn't have a vote in the matter was Mayor Velma Burnley, who is rumored to have been a Democrat at one time in her life. Scuttlebutt around Town Hall is that Burnley is reportedly refusing to sign the resolution, which refusal actually doesn't even matter (since neither her vote nor her signature is needed). But it is interesting.

Cheney Booed at Yankee Stadium

Catching up after yesterday's day off for parades and patriotism, we were interested to see that Noo Yawkers, at least, still know how to show the proper deference to power. When Vice President Dick Cheney's picture showed on the Jumbo-tron at Yankee Stadium during the 7th inning sing-a-long of "God Bless America," the crowd stopped singing and started booing, until the camera quickly moved off Cheney. This happened June 29th.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Pegging Bush's Penmanship

If you put any stock in handwriting analysis, which we're hesitant to do since it reminds us a little of the old "science" of "reading" head bumps, you might want to check out what a "graphologist" has to say about El Presidente's penmanship (and thanks to Irmaly for the tip).

But there's really nothing much in this "analysis" that we hadn't already figgered out for ourselves, enduring three-and-a-half years (so far) of God's Will for America.

Rendering Unto Caesar

The subversion of religious belief for crass political porpoises continues apace. Yesterday the Washington Post published news of a Bush/Cheney campaign document aimed at enticing "conservative" churches to risk their federal tax-exempt statuses while pretending not to, and this a.m. the same document is discussed in the New York Times.

"The campaign is asking conservative churches and churchgoers to do everything they can to turn their churches into bases of support" -- oh yeah -- "without violating campaign finance laws or jeopardizing their tax-exempt status." The last part of that sentence is purely cover-your-hiney, butter-wouldn't-melt-in-our-mouths boilerplate, but it's just more Bush/Cheney "down-is-up-ism."

SINCE even laying a few Bush/Cheney color brochures, like, by ACCIDENT, on a table in the church parlor violates IRS rules, so the sort of activities recommended by the Bush/Cheney operatives -- like shipping church directories to Central Command -- are going to invite negative scrutiny. Unless ... wait! ... unless the people in charge of the IRS enforcement of tax exemptions is under the control of ... of ... wait, it'll come to me! ... unless the White House controls the IRS. So perhaps there's more than just a wink-wink involved when the Rovians blandly suggest that churches break the law, "just so long as you don't break the law," since, as we all know from the recent torture-is-not-torture-if-the-president-orders-it memos that it's not illegal if God tells George W. it's all right. And evidently, God has spoken.

In fairness, not all "conservative" Christians think this is such a good idea. Bless his heart, Richard J. Mouw, president of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., one of the largest evangelical Protestant seminaries, said: "Theologically speaking, churches are really in a position to speak truth to power. But this smacks of too close an alliance of church and Caesar."

Now there's a novel role for Christian churches, "speaking truth to power," instead of this current concubine-with-portfolio to the Republican Party. Where did Jesus say, "Render unto Caesar your conscience, your judgement, your ability to think for yourself, not to mention your church directory"?

Thursday, July 01, 2004

What's John Kerry's Brother Doing in North Carolina?

Cameron Kerry, a Boston lawyer and close political adviser to his brother, met top Democratic Party leaders Wednesday in Raleigh to get "the lay of the political landscape" (no jokes, please, since no one named Clinton is involved in this story!).

Speculation about John Kerry's VP choice is reaching a boiling point, with some indication that the candidate will announce his choice as early as next Monday. Everyone seems to think that John Edwards is on the short list, along with Gephardt and Vilsack (those household names!), but we had heard that Kerry is "not comfortable" around Edwards and would never move outside his precious "comfort zone." But this visit by Kerry's brother with the Demo operatives in Raleigh is the strongest hint we've seen that it actually might be Edwards.

We've been no fan of the senator's -- we confess it! -- but given that short list of Gephardt/Vilsack/Edwards, we'd far prefer the "Breck girl" to Eeyore, the stoic sad-sack Gephardt. And who knows a thing about the strangely named governor of a cold Midwest state? If you discover that Vilsack can bend steel with his bare hands, please FAX us immediately.

Edwards would put North Carolina in play (while Gephardt would put everyone to sleep, but let that go!), and we're beginning to like the discomfort to the North Carolina Republican Taliban that having North Carolina in play would cause! And we can't think, really, how Edwards would hurt the ticket (though we can think of how Gephardt would).

So, please, God, don't let it be Gephardt! Give us Barabas!

The Billboard Industry Empowerment Act of 2004

Catching up on news from Tuesday ... when the Best Little Whorehouse in Raleigh, i.e., the state legislature, decided to pass a special dispensation for a very special interest, i.e., the billboard industry, which now (if the Guv signs this piece of crap) must be paid up to five times the annual revenue from a billboard by any municipality wishing to eliminate the eye-sores from its civic landscape.

The Raleigh News & Observer is out this a.m. with an editorial urging the Guv to veto the bill. Will he? Probably not, at which we'll feel even more shame than we feel over the fact that it was mainly powerful Democrats in the state senate who carried this water for the billboard lobby, to the utter delight and amazement of their Republican colleagues, who didn't have to lift a finger to benefit the industry that is probably more prone in the future to fund THEIR campaigns rather than the campaigns of the so-called "liberal" Democrats, who in this particular case ought to be arrested for indecent exposure, if for nothing else, for jacking off in public.

Movie Review: "Fahrenheit 9/11"

So there we were yesterday morning before 10 a.m. in Asheville to get ourselves in line to buy tickets to the 11 a.m. showing of the movie the Rovians don't want us to see, and indeed there was a line that got longer and longer, but we got in and sat on the front row. I expected a satiric hoot, and with such a broad target of fun like George W. Bush under the gaze of such a smart-aleck as Michael Moore, we thought we'd laugh all the way through.

We didn't. "Fahrenheit 9/11" caught me off-guard with the depth of its emotion, with, in fact, the subtlety of its depiction of the United States as an astoundingly decent country led astray by the Cowboy-in-Chief. The faces of American fighting men in Iraq speaking frankly into the camera (and how did Moore get that footage?) puts on display a wide range of American attitudes, our own attitudes, OUR America in the mirror, everyone of them endearing in a different way for the bravery/desperation/defiance/fear of young men used as pawns in a battle they don't entirely understand. We see young soldiers talking in many moods, expressing everything from stunned amazement at the costs of war, a determination to do their best, to the false bravado of the soldier singing "burn, motherf**ker, burn!"

What brings the tears welling up is the story of Lila Lipscomb, the Flint, Michigan, ex-welfare recipient and mother of two soldiers, one of whom was killed in the downing of a Blackhawk helicopter outside Baghdad. Everything about her is midwestern pure patriotism, from the American flag she's been hanging on the front of her house since well before this particular war ever started, to the maternal rage she is now feeling at the administration that lied us into Iraq and lied her son into an early grave. Moore's camera tracks her to the White House, now swathed in an impenetrable gauze of anti-terrorist fencing, where she breaks down on the sidewalk in Lafayette Park, overcome with grief for her son and anger at being so close to the seat of power that sent him to his death.

Set against this purely human-scale suffering, the smirking president is reduced in Moore's film to his more human scale too. They say you can't lie to the camera, and in fact the footage of George W. Bush that Moore has used is starkly revelatory, especially the "raw feeds" of Bush being prepped for live Oval Office TV appearances. The smirk is still very much there, only buried quickly when the feed goes "live," replaced with that down-turned mouth he's perfected, apparently to signify Deep Concern and Seriousness. The camera reveals his nervousness, his darting eyes, the truth of what someone (who?) might have said about him once, that "Down deep, he's very shallow." You can't lie to the camera, but this president has so clearly been living the lie that he's up to this job, that he knows what he's doing, that he understands the consequences of where he has taken us as a nation.

One of the most stunning sequences is the footage of the president on 9/11 itself, in that Florida classroom, in a tape evidently shot by a teacher at the school. When White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispers in Bush's ear that a second plane has hit the second World Trade Tower, that "America is under attack," the camera innocently stays on Bush's face -- the teacher had no idea what information the president had just heard -- and we see fully revealed the inner torment of the man -- just a flawed man, after all, tricked up and pushed into the presidency by powerful friends who've always taken care of his messes -- ruminating, painfully ruminating, "What to do? What to do? What to do?" But it's the incipient panic in those darting eyes that sends a chill as well as a clear message: our subsequent foreign policy really is based on fear and weakness, and a foreign policy based on fear and weakness will destroy itself often through its own paranoia.

Combine the fear and weakness of this boy who became president with the fear and weakness of the "loyal opposition," the Congressional Democratic leadership, and the fear and weakness of the "fourth estate," the ever-lovin' national mainstream media, and you have the present state of things as a result. Moore does not let the Democrats off the hook, and Senator Tom Daschle richly deserves the special exposure he gets in this film, along with the rest of the Democrats in the Senate, not one of whom would ratify the objections of the Florida delegation of black Democrats over the certification of Bush as president, when a single Democratic Senator could have halted the pell-mell coronation of this man for at least a discussion of what went down in those Florida precincts in 2000. If many parts of Moore's film are stunning for different reasons, this bit of now ancient history is stunning for its newness in our store of information. It happened in broad daylight, on C-SPAN, with Al Gore himself as President of the Senate presiding over the certification of the man he had just conceded the election to, and yet we never knew this, how it went down, what it looked like. It wasn't pretty, the selling out of our democracy by the very party that uses democracy as the root of its name.

And the national media? Moore gets footage of Dan Rather on camera admitting that when it comes to war, clearly he isn't going to report anything that isn't the "company line," and we know now that "embedded" journalists were also essentially propagandists who drank the Kool Aide. Moore dismisses the national media, as well he should, as wholly irrelevant now in the struggle for the truth.

My heart was in my throat through a lot of "Fahrenheit 9/11," especially during the second half. Which surprised me. Maybe because it actually reaffirms that we're a decent people, despite what this bunch in the White House have done to our good name. And that made me choke up a little bit. Actually, a lot.

Rolled back into Boone last night to hear the news that the movie is opening locally at the New Market Regal Cinemas this Friday. Everyone who cares about this country should see it. It'll make you care even more.

And we'll hope that the local mullahs of the right-wing don't do what's been happening to the management of the Abingdon Cinemall theaters, which is showing the movie "despite bomb threats and other acts of violence against us" (according to the theater's website, and thanks to Craig for the link). Although nothing has helped "Fahrenheit 9/11" smash box-office records for a documentary like the feverish shenanigans of those wishing to suppress and censor it. As someone famous famously said, "Bring 'em on!"