Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Involuntary Breeders Act of 2005

"There is more than one kind of freedom .... Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it." The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Chap. 5

"The House passed a bill on Wednesday making it a federal crime for any adult to transport an under-age girl across state lines to have an abortion without the consent of her parents." New York Times, 28 April 2005

"Blessed be the fruit." The Handmaid's Tale, Chap. 4

"...under this legislation, those who feel they cannot turn to their parents when facing an unintended pregnancy will be forced to fend for themselves without any help from a responsible adult. Some will seek unsafe abortions close to home. Others will travel to unfamiliar places seeking abortions by themselves." Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), 27 April 2005

One guess on how our supposedly pro-choice Madame Virginia Foxx voted on this atrocious law.

The Republican Retreat on Ethics

So Dennis Hastert stampeded the Republicans in the House yesterday to reinstate the Ethics Committee rules that the same guys had changed back in January to protect Tom DeLay from investigation. The vote was 406-20.

The 20 who voted against reinstating the "regular order" on Ethics complaints were all Republicans -- SuperChristians, we bet, every last one -- including our own Patrick McHenry of the neighboring 10th District. What an issue McHenry handed an opposition candidate ... if only there was any opposition in the 10th District!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Davidson Co. Commissioners Reject Resolution Against Gay Marriage

Standing up to threats of God's vengeance and a standing-room-only hearing room, Davidson County Commissioners last night refused in a 4-3 vote to pass a resolution urging the N.C. legislature to pass a "defense of marriage" constitutional amendment.

Some churches bused people to the meeting.

If the four commissioners were courageous, consider the courage of the handful of gay citizens who spoke out. "I consider myself a Christian, but I am also gay," said Pam Hooker. "We're not trying to hurt anybody. We're just trying to be who we are." Hooker refuted charges that being gay is a choice and said she could not choose to be straight. "I can't -- no more than you could choose to be gay," she said.

To the good "Christians" in the audience consigning them to hell, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Don Truell said, "I really don't think that a lot of you all understand what the constitution is. The Bible is the greatest book there is, but there is a constitution, too." He said the constitution is designed to ensure that the rights of minorities are not trampled by the majority.

Amen, bro.
SOME POLLS JUST MAKE US WANT TO PUKE. News this a.m.: "Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue holds a large lead over other potential Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls, according a recent survey commissioned by several Democratic donors."

Let a Million E-Mails Bloom

A ruling by an administrative law judge might deserve special note on the ASU campus, where a hysterical fear of expressing political opinions via e-mail ensued after Madame Virginia Foxx pitched a fit last year that ASU professors were expressing disdain for her.

Two government employees, both subject to the Hatch Act, were found not guilty of violating restrictions on partisan politics when they forwarded political e-mails.

Background: Last Oct. 25th, one of the workers used a government computer to send 22 people an e-mail titled "Why I am Supporting John Kerry for President." It contained a letter, purportedly written by the son of former Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower, touting Democrat John F. Kerry for president. The other worker, a recipient of the first e-mail, then forwarded to 27 people an e-mail that urged people to vote for "the party that stands firm on morally and ethically correct issues as written in the [B]ible." The e-mail also contained a picture of President Bush in front of an American flag and the statement "I Vote the Bible."

Open and shut case? Certainly, the federal thought police wanted both employees fired. But the judge said no. He ruled that the e-mails "amounted to the electronic equivalent of a discussion of politics around the office water cooler, something that is legal." The judge wrote, "an expression of personal opinion does not constitute political activity merely because it is disseminated to two dozen individuals with one or several computer keystrokes."

The ruling is being appealed.

Not that the Hatch Act and ASU's rule against political expression via computer are the same animal. But ASU's squelching of free speech has never been tested, so far as we know, and it's high time someone did. If the "electronic water cooler" standard holds up for federal employees, it ought to be even easier to defend for professors at a public university.

DeLay Plants His Dainty Butt on Air Force One

We loved the photos from yesterday ... El Presidente deplaning in D.C., and like the cool frat guy with a fat date, trying not to seem too much with Tom DeLay, though undeniably in his general vicinity.

(Incidentally, 50 percent of Americans in a new Gallup poll now believe they were deliberately lied to about weapons of mass destruction. Two liars got on Air Force One in Texas, and two got off together in Washington, D.C.)

Meanwhile, Mike Allen writes in this morning's WashPost that the Republican leadership in the House is trying to stop the blood loss from its own self-inflicted wound ... changing the House ethics rules in January to shield Mr. DeLay. Dennis Hastert can't schedule a vote fast enough to reverse that disastrous decision. Said Hastert, "I wish God, who guides the Republican Party in all matters, would make up His mind about what He wants us to do. First, he wants us to protect His Holy Servant Tom DeLay from evil Democratic nit-picking, and the next thing we know, He's into testing His Holy Servant, like Daniel in the lion's den. We of course know His Holy Servant will stand up to the test. But ... sheesh! Make up Your Mind already!"

But we've come around to Jonathan Alter's position: we need Tom DeLay fully invested in his robes of office for the 2006 elections. Writes Alter: "...all three branches of the federal government belong to Republicans, and the autocratic House majority leader is the purest representation of the breed. On every issue -- ethics, the environment, guns, tax cuts, judges -- he is a clarifying figure for anyone who might be confused about the true nature of today's GOP."

"The midterms should be a referendum on DeLay's America," says Alter. "Stay on the right fringe or move toward the center? Let the people decide."

So this morning I'm flipping: I'm now a DeLay supporter, and I call on all Democrats to stop persecuting this Great Christian gentleman and Servant of the Lord. He has important work to do, and we very much want him doing it as we roll into November 2006.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Revolt of the Moderates

E.J. Dionne writes today about a demographic fact that ought to guide Democratic strategists in red states like North Carolina: "America's moderates may not be screaming, but they're in revolt. Many who reluctantly supported the president and the Republicans in 2004 are turning away. The party's agenda on Social Security, judges and the Terri Schiavo case is out of touch with where moderate voters stand. Worse for Bush and his party, most moderates have a practical, problem-solving view of government and think these issues are far less important than shoring up a shaky economy and improving living standards."

I flash on Madame Virginia Foxx grandstanding on C-SPAN during the Schiavo abomination, nodding her head up and down like a dashboard doll on a washboard road, every time a fellow Republican said anything extreme about "the right to life."

Foxx can gloat all she wants to that she's in a "safe" Republican district. She's in a moderate district where people can tell the difference between posturing for the cameras and actually doing something constructive.
Here's a good argument that the current superior morality of some "Christian" pharmacists (in refusing to dispense the "morning-after pill" or other birth control) is exactly what it looks like ... unAmerican elitism.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Foxx, McHenry Brag About Their Cash

Today's Charlotte Observer contains an interesting item about the fundraising prowess of Virginia Foxx and Patrick McHenry, freshmen Republican congresspersons from the 5th and the 10th congressional districts, respectively.

Since both are from "safe" Republican districts, the Observer opines that the two are crowing to scare off potential Republican challengers in a 2006 primary.

"McHenry raised $155,122 from political action committees, including $26,500 from financial/insurance companies interested in how he votes as a member of the House Committee on Financial Services. McHenry, who's considered a rising star in the conservative House, also got a whopping $38,967 from other politicians' PACs. Foxx, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, got $54,023 from corporate PACs -- including $8,500 from farm companies and groups."

We're sure the farmers of Watauga County will be happy to know just how fat and sassy Madame Foxx is becoming, thanks to corporate farmers.
United Church of Christ seminarian Chuck Currie has the most comprehensive account of Sen. Bill Frist's participation in "Justice Sunday," the Christian Right's rally against democracy (i.e., the rights of the minority in the U.S. Senate to filibuster) and a run-down on the other speakers. If you've got a stomach for it.

First in Flight ... From Education

News out of Raleigh this a.m. is that a legislative joint education appropriations committee is proposing spending cuts to education amounting to more than $150 million, more than double the amount proposed by Gov. Mike Easley in February in his budget plan.

"The proposed cuts are widely seen as a bargaining tactic to win support for such unpopular steps as raising the cigarette tax or continuing a half-cent sales tax that is due to expire."

Cool move: hold education spending hostage to a tax on that sacred cow tobacco.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

MeanDean's Polling on Values

Dan Balz reports in today's WashPost about an extensive poll that DNC Chair Howard Dean commissioned in a handful of red states including North Carolina. While the new poll found that a significant percentage -- 47 percent of voters and 51 percent of white women in the target states -- said their voting decisions are influenced as much or more by their religious faith as by traditional political issues, they are also "movable" on economic issues.

"These so-called values or faith voters are some of the most economically anxious voters in the electorate," the pollster said. "They're tremendously cross-pressured between their pocketbook concerns and their moral values concerns."

"Dean believes that provides an opening for Democrats, but only if Democratic candidates learn to speak a different language. 'Democrats wonder why people vote against their own economic interest,' he said. 'The answer is that Democrats don't connect with people's fears about how to raise their children in a difficult social environment.' "

Most immediately causing potential excitement in N.C. is Dean's promise "to road-test a message" designed to make those red states turn purple, at the very least.

Do guinea pigs usually feel this tingling sensation, this delicious anticipation, this breathless expectation for Dr. Dean's Kibbles 'n' Bits?

What Would Jesus Dispense?

A bill was introduced last Wednesday in the N.C. House by state Rep. Jeff Barnhart, R-Cabarrus, to allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control. Titled "The Self-Righteous Pharmacist Empowerment Act of 2005," or something close to that, the law would allow pharmacists to inflict their religious prejudices on anyone, without fear of legal reprisal or recrimination.

This attitude is being spread by Pharmacists for Life, a radical anti-abortion religious group whose extremism doesn't stop with the "morning-after pill": "The group's president, Indiana pharmacist Karen Brauer, said its members believe birth-control pills, along with emergency contraception, are harmful for women and refuse to refer patients with such prescriptions to other pharmacists."

Thomas D'Andrea, chief pharmacist for Medicaid in North Carolina, was found to be listed on the Pharmacists for Life website by the Greensboro News & Record last week.

This is only the beginning, you can bet on it. And it'll take women standing up to this abuse of power to stop it.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

El Presidente in Knoxville

The President essentially never got out of the airport on Earth Day. He had intended to go up to the Great Smokies from Knoxville and do a photo-op pretending to work on a trail restoration project, but thunderstorms over the mountains caused him to deliver his remarks in a hangar:

"It is wholly ironic for me to get within pissing distance of the Great Smokies on Earth Day, since the policies of my administration have mainly made things worse there. But hey! You can't make a stir-fry without cracking a few eggs, right? And America is its smokestacks, if you get my drift -- and my drift is kinda like the prevailing western winds over the Smokies, bringing air pollution from Ohio -- but seriously, folks, we've got to treat the environment as part of a market-based system. The market don't care 'bout no green but the loooong kind, if ya know what I mean. Hee hee hee."

Friday, April 22, 2005

N.C. Pharmacists & the Morning-After Pill

The N.C. Board of Pharmacy has a new policy covering the filling of prescriptions for Plan B, a.k.a., "the morning-after pill." Pharmacists may refuse to fill the prescriptions but requires them to find alternative arrangements for the client. The second half of that sentence is the crucial part: they must help the customer get the pill.

Which is what a Kerr Pharmacy employee demonstrably did not do in 2004. A Wake Forest couple, Jonathan and Lauren Gaines, were denied the morning-after pills by James Morgan, a pharmacist at Kerr Drug in Wakefield, who also apparently offered no help in finding another pharmacist to fill the prescription. Morgan's refusal reportedly left Lauren Gaines in tears, and her husband filed a complaint which he later withdrew when Kerr Drug fired Morgan. "There's room for people of good conscience to have their beliefs," Jonathan Gaines said. "But I don't feel they should be in a position to impose their beliefs."

Precisely the point.

"The new policy requires pharmacists who object to the ... drugs to do all they can not to obstruct their delivery."

What the policy doesn't address specifically is ... what about women in rural areas where there's often a single monopoly on the dispensing of drugs? Wal-Mart, for one example, refuses to stock the pills in their pharmacies ... bless their hypocritical billion-dollar hearts.

The fact that pharmacists like Morgan -- who incidentally is now working for another drugstore -- obviously either don't care how the pills work or don't know and feel very free to associate "Plan B" with abortion speaks volumes about their competence as pharmacists ... not to mention their competence as moral arbitors.

Sen. Frist Rebuked by Key Christians

Senator Bill Frist has made something of an issue of participating in a planned broadcast on Sunday, sponsored by Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and other mullahs of the Christian Right, called "The Filibuster Against People of Faith." The idea of the telecast is to rouse the Christian Right to support Frist's "nuclear option" -- changing Senate rules to prohibit the Dems' use of the filibuster against judicial nominees -- by alleging that Democrats are "against people of faith" in opposing a handful of Bush's judicial nominees. (Current polls show that 50 percent of Americans are opposed to the nuclear option, a highly suspect poll, since it seems unlikely that 50 percent of Americans even understand what the battle is about or what Republicans are proposing to do and why. But whatever.)

Frist is under fire from moderate Christian leaders, including a top dog in the Presbyterian Church, the denomination to which Frist himself belongs. Several religious groups are holding a conference call today to criticize Frist's appealing to the bigotry of religious divisions.

Frist, who evidently fancies himself as "presidential," is revealing himself as actually quite ... small in terms of statemanship by stooping to such tactics. But, then, he knows the audience he has to play to to win the Republican nomination. It's his party, and he's welcome to it.

Microsoft Goes Limp

News in this a.m.'s NYTimes is that Microsoft, headquartered in Redmond, Washington, has caved in to pressure from a huge local evangelical church and withdrawn its corporate support for a Washington state law that would have barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

"The bill, or similar versions of it, has been introduced repeatedly over three decades; it failed by one vote Thursday in the State Senate. Gay rights advocates denounced Microsoft, which had supported the bill for the last two years, for abandoning their cause."

Apparently the pastor of Antioch Bible Church, Ken Hutcherson, had threatened to organize a nationwide Christian Right boycott of Microsoft products. The Rev. Hutcherson, just beginning to flex his bigotry, also demanded that Microsoft fire its employees who had spoken out publicly in favor of the equal protection law. This latter demand the company declined ... at least so far.

Just another reason to despise Microsoft.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A Perfect Storm?

Is it just me, or does El Presidente's regime show unusual stress cracks right about now?

The Man Whose Mustache Doesn't Match His Hair, John Bolton, is going do-o-o-own as Bush's new ambassador to the U.N. Colin Powell is greasing the skids.

Sen. Rick Santorum, according to The Hill, is now urging his fellow Republicans to lay off the "nuclear option," since Republican internal polling seems to suggest that the American people don't any longer think it cool to change the rules in order to force your will. Read it for yourself. If Rick Santorum thinks the Republicans have overreached, believe me, they've overreached.

Back in January, Republican House leaders replaced their chair of the House Ethics committee and two other members, all friendlier little lap-dogs to their majority leader Tom DeLay, and not being satisfied with thus stacking the committee charged with investigating the several billion ethics complaints against Mr. DeLay, they also forced another of their rule changes to say that no ethics complaint could go forward without a majority vote on the committee. Since that committee is evenly divided between Dems and Repubs, and since none of the newly installed Repubs were about to go against their creepy little leader (speaking of thugs), OF COURSE the new rules meant there would never be any investigations. Now they're caught in their own web. With mounting public disapproval of DeLay specifically and of Congress generally, the Republicans on the ethics committee yesterday actually OFFERED to investigate DeLay, if the Democrats would drop their sit-down protest of the new rules. "No way," replied the Dems. "Drop the new rule, and we'll talk." Score one for the Dems.

And today the big news is that the economy (stupid) is the ticking time bomb that Republicans in congress have refused to acknowledge as a problem. The stock market has soured, gas prices are headed for the moon and beyond, some people (maybe) have actually begun to notice that they aren't doing nearly so well as the super-rich say THEY are.

Virginia Foxx has a lot of explaining to do, not that the press will ever ask her any REAL questions. It's up to the rest of us.

She's great at getting a new flag for Mabel School, but what has she done for anyone lately? Or ever?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bolton Nomination on Hold

We're relieved to see the nomination of John Bolton as El Presidente's ambassador to the United Nations in such disarray, with Republican George Voinovich of Ohio (of all people!) pulling the plug yesterday on what might have been a straight party-line vote to approve the white-mustachioed thug in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

It's always nice when Newsweek magazine's "conventional wisdom" gets its comeuppance. Newsweek said Bolton would be easily confirmed because he's a thug and bully. That's the measure of Newsweek's cynicism about this current regime.

Utah Kicks Up

In what the NYTimes is calling "a stinging rebuke" of the Bush administration's education policies, the Republican-dominated Utah state legislature yesterday passed a bill that "orders state officials to ignore provisions of the federal law that conflict with Utah's education goals or that require state financing."

If Utah gets away with it, other states will follow suit: "Federal officials fear Utah's action could embolden other states to resist what many states consider intrusive or unfunded provisions of the federal law, known as No Child Left Behind."

Not-so-subtle threats did not work to curb the Utahns appetite for defiance: "Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings warned in a letter to Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah on Monday, however, that depending on how the state were to apply the bill's provisions, the Department of Education might withhold $76 million of the $107 million that Utah receives in federal education money."

To which one state legislator replied, "Keep your stinking money!"

No point in threatening Mormons. They're not known for their proclivities toward compromise. That's why the state of Utah exists.

When I lived in Salt Lake City for four years, the schools were pretty good -- actually, damn good -- though there was virtually no separation of church and state. But then, when I went to public school in West Texas, there was virtually no separation of church and state, either. Only it was Baptists in Texas, who at least took their several wives serially.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Catholics Go Fundamentalist?

The election of Pope Benedict XVI minutes ago seems to signal that Catholics can be as reactionary as Muslims and Protestants. It's as though the whole world of religion is contracting into hard little balls of doctrinaire indignation. Heavy weather ahead!

Speaking of balls, did you catch Cardinal Ratzinger's homily in the Mass he celebrated just before they closed and locked the doors to the Sistine Chapel. The man who would become Pope Benedict XVI two days later preached what would be called a hellfire & brimstone sermon in any Baptist church, which seemed to many knowledgeable Catholic on-lookers to be Ratzinger's public acknowledgement that he is too hardline to be the next Pope. Who wants a polarizing figure as pastor of such a huge and diverse flock? Well, at least 77 Princes of the Church wanted a polarizing figure.

Well, how polarizing? This BBC site says Ratzinger was "an intimidating 'Enforcer,' punishing liberal thinkers, and keeping the Church in the Middle Ages." During the 2004 campaigns Cardinal Ratzinger, as the Pope's enforcer of doctrinal purity, opined that politicians who favor abortion rights could (well, definitely should, after a warning) be denied Holy Communion, while he stopped short of saying that all Catholic voters who voted for an abortion-rights candidate should be denied Holy Communion. Perhaps that makes him kind of a "moderate" in your eyes, which might mean you've got one eye seriously impaired.

But ABC News has just posted this information about the new pope: "If the new pope was paying tribute to the last pontiff of that name, it could be interpreted as a bid to soften his image as the Vatican's doctrinal hard-liner. Benedict XV, who reigned from 1914 to 1922, was a moderate following Pius X, who had implemented a sharp crackdown against doctrinal 'modernism.' "

In poking about for information on Benedict XVI, I stumbled across a truly chilling prophecy made well before Pope John Paul II shuffled off this mortal coil. The "prophet" is one Ronald L. Conte Jr. (head-case, or merely playing one on an Internet near you? You be the judge). Conte wrote (mind you, BEFORE this election today of Ratzinger as Benedict XVI): "The next Pope after John Paul II will take the name Pope Benedict XVI, in imitation of Saint Benedict and also of Pope Benedict XV. Just as Pope Benedict XV was an emissary of peace, so will Pope Benedict XVI be an emissary of peace. Just as Pope Benedict XV sought peace and spoke of peace and wrote papal documents seeking peace, so will Pope Benedict XVI do also. Just as Pope Benedict XV failed to achieve peace in the world, so will Pope Benedict XVI fail to achieve peace in the world. Just as the Pontificate of Benedict XV began prior to World War I, so will the Pontificate of Benedict XVI occur prior to World War III. After the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, World War III will begin. The Arab nations will threaten and attack the United States; they will threaten, attack, invade and conquer Europe; they will threaten, attack, invade and conquer the northern part of Africa. It is God's will."

This is only a taste of what this cat is serving up (though he also predicted that Benedict XVI would be a black man, which may indicate that whatever he's smoking, it ain't exactly infallible).

Preach On, MeanDean!

Howard Dean was in the Republican stronghold of Collier County, Florida, yesterday, showing by example that Democrats have got to "show up." And true to his promise, he's carrying the banner of Terri Schiavo as Exhibit # 1 of Republican extremism: "It's a character issue and a values issue. The Republicans are willing to reach into our personal lives at any moment .... There is a deep scar on the American psyche. This is a great tragedy for the American people, and I think the behavior of the governor [Jeb Bush] and the president and the senator [Mel Martinez] is something that will long be remembered."

According to the St. Petersburg Times, "[Dean] is also determined to help combat Republican suggestions that Democrats are out the mainstream, and intends to develop a simple, overriding definition of Democrat."

"We need to kick the money changers out of the temple and restore moral values to America," Dean said, drawing roars from the crowd. "We need a message where people from the Panhandle [of Florida] or Alabama are just as comfortable running as a Democrat as somebody from New York," he said, arguing that whether it's balancing budgets or improving access to children's health care, Democrats are more in tune with most Americans than Republicans.

Looks like national polling backs Dean up, now don't it?
The "morning after pill," a.k.a., Plan B or the emergency contraceptive pill, is not an abortion drug, according to the NYTimes, "because it does not destroy an embryo. Instead, the pill prevents ovulation or fertilization, or blocks a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in the uterus." The pill is effective up to three to five days after intercourse and is obviously most effective when taken immediately.

Its use would unquestionably cut down on the number of abortions in this country.

But the current holier-than-thou refusal to dispense the morning after pill by some druggists reveals the true prejudice behind much of the anti-abortion Religious Right. Even more than being against abortion, which they can fasten on with a horrified glee, these folks are really against unmarried women having sex. Their high moral dudgeon inflates like a condom at the thought of sexual equality.

Four states have already passed laws specifically allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraceptives if they have moral or religious objections: Arkansas, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Georgia. In at least 12 other states, including Indiana, Texas, and Tennessee, other so-called conscience clause bills have been introduced to make pharmacists the moral arbitors over young women's lives.

No matter how much you empower the self-righteous to punish the sinful, young women in Arkansas, South Dakota, Missisippi, Georgia, Indiana, Texas, Tennessee, and everywhere else are still going to have sex, O my brethren, unless your conservative state legislatures out-law hormones and figure out a way to remove them wholesale from a whole generation of teenage girls. (Wonder if those "conscience clause bills" shielding pharmacists would also apply to dispensing Viagra or any of the other male inflation drugs now relentlessly being hawked on TV?)

And never mind the boys, who anyway don't have to worry about going shamefaced to pharmacists, since all the burden in on the girls ... an imbalance of consequences that these pill dispensers and their Republican allies implicitly and tacitly approve of.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Commissioner Honeycutt's Hypocrisy

Watauga County Commissioner Keith Honeycutt has been back-pedaling (sort of) since he and fellow Republican Commissioner David Blust voted against a resolution calling for increased measures to curtail air pollution in the Appalachians. He said at the time that he didn't have enough information on the resolution, a dodge if there ever was one, and when Matt Wasson of Appalachian Voices pointed out in print how Honeycutt voted, the commissioner got all huffy about people playing politics (which, Lord knows, Honeycutt would never ever do, not in a million years, no, not him!) and then tried to obfuscate the issue by saying he now supports the "Clear Skies Initiative," which in point of fact is El Presidente's pro-corporation law that would actually increase air pollution in the Appalachians and everywhere else.

Honeycutt picks up a little trash on our roadways and wants everyone to believe he's an environmentalist. He uses the bait-and-switch lingo of the Rovians, saying he's for "Clear Skies," when what he's actually for is anything this president and congressional Republicans put forward, which are precisely the policies that are harming all our futures.

Be sure to read what ASU student J.W. Randolph, an intern with Appalachian Voices, had to say about Mr. Honeycutt's hypocrisy in this issue of the Watauga Democrat (you'll have to scroll down to the letter titled "Honeycutt Received Enough Information").

In the vernacular, Mr. Randolph rips him a new one.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Real Schiavo Abuse

Florida's social welfare agency released records late Friday that show it investigated 89 complaints of abuse of the late Terri Schiavo but never found that her husband or anybody else ever harmed her.

However, the abuse of Michael Schiavo in public and in private by right-wing fanatics, from Congressman Tom DeLay to garden-variety foot-soldiers in the war against abortion, was relentless, long, nasty, and devoid -- so far as we could tell -- of either a grip on reality or on any known scruple.

Here's a brief sample of how Michael Schiavo was alleged to have hurt his wife: "Terri Schiavo was dirty and unkempt. She did not receive proper dental care or rehabilitative therapy. She was kept in isolation. Her husband beat her and broke her bones. He wanted her dead for her money or to remarry. He pumped her full of insulin, hoping to kill her. He often asked, 'When will [she] die?' Her lips were cracked and dry."

In the name of Christ, we can say anything about you we want to, so long as we declare you evil first.

DeLay Ain't De-Lovely

Apparently some 150 people -- at least some of them Republicans from Tom DeLay's own nearby congressional district -- protested outside the National Rifle Assn. convention in Houston last night when Mr. DeLay was scheduled to speak. We watched a rebroadcast of that speech just an hour ago on C-SPAN, and DeLay seemed so rattled, stumbling over words and droning on with no visible enthusiasm, that someone wondered aloud whether he's drinking again.

You can read the details of Republican restiveness in his home district here in today's NYTimes.

Bush to Be in Great Smokies on Earth Day

El Presidente is planning to visit Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park next week to see for himself how bad his air pollution policies are for America's most visited national park. Oops, no, he won't see that, because the air is too thick with ozone. Instead, he'll pretend to work at a volunteer project for a photo op. And pretend to honor Earth Day.

Praise God From Whom All Pesticides Flow

Only after Senator Barbara Boxer threatened to hold up the confirmation of Stephen Johnson as the new administrator of Bush's Environmental Protection Agency did the EPA decide to scrap its planned "Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study" (the initials of which deceptively spell out "CHEERS").

CHEERS was designed to study the impacts on poor black children in mostly-black neighborhoods in Duval County, Florida, of pesticides and other toxic chemicals. The families of these children were to be paid $970 to continue using pesticides and other toxic chemicals in their homes, while the EPA monitored the children's blood and urine. Human guinea pigs? Pshaw! It's amazing what poor (and under-informed) citizens will let the government do to their children, and for so little money.

Meanwhile, and just in blessed time, Sen. Bill Frist announced that he would take part with prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's judicial nominees. Experiment with toxic chemicals on children ... God bless you for being the most Christian president in the history of the universe! But oppose the mullahs on a handful of extremist judges ... yer going straight to hell.

Whatever plan for America God might have, it's clear what Rev. James Dobson and Rev. Rick Scarborough and their fellow fanatics have in mind: get the right rigid Bible-thumpers into judicial robes, and watch women's right to abortion go the way of the whooping crane.

But as Frank Rich says in his brilliant NYTimes column today on the scandals of the Holy Tom DeLay, "the religious trappings add a note that distinguishes these Beltway creeps from those who have come before: a supreme righteousness that often spirals into anger and fire-and-brimstone zealotry that can do far more damage to America than ill-begotten golf junkets."

Friday, April 15, 2005

MeanDean Targeting North Carolina

In his first major interview since winning the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, Dr. Howard Dean told USA Today that the party needs to target blue voters on economic issues -- "people who certainly aren't being helped by Republican policies." "We need to respect voters in red states who want to vote for us, but we make it hard for them by not listening to what they have to say."

Dean has not been visible since taking over the party. Not quite accurate: he's not been nationally visible, but he's been very busy with the grassroots.

Most crucial for folks like us, he's making grants (totaling so far $465,000) to state party organizations in Missouri, North Dakota, West Virginia, and, yes, North Carolina. That's nice to hear, but let's get on with it! And we hope that money's not going to operatives hired from out of state. Give Watauga County a little of it, and we'll be glad to help train fellow Dems in canvassing and in building a party.

Blue states like North Carolina are going to have a bellyful of Bush economic policies during this Second Term. We'll need really credible candidates as alternatives, naturally. Not just "naturally" but first and foremost.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

DeLay Apologizes; Rudolph Doesn't

We think it significant, or at the very least coincidentally interesting, that on the same morning we're reading that Tom DeLay regrets saying that retribution is coming to American judges ... we're also reading that Eric Robert Rudolph remains brazenly proud of his bombings of an abortion clinic, a gay nightclub, and Olympic Park in Atlanta. Rudolph released a "rambling," 11-page statement that said he set off his bombs to strike out at a "morally corrupt government" that allows abortion and homosexuality. Rudolph, in pleading guilty, apparently avoids the death sentence. DeLay, in apologizing (more or less), is hoping to avoid being booted from his leadership role in the Republican Party. Both are accomplished incendiaries who believe their interpretations of American "freedom" allow them to terrorize the rest of us.

From such, turn away.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Loving the Constitution

Nothing is likely to make you appreciate our Constitution more than a couple of hours in the new National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, even if you're dodging disrespectful 14-year-olds who think it cool to stick their fingers up the nostrils of the bronze (and life-size) statues of the 55 men who wrote our original Constitution in 1787.

Our hours there made us more than usually thoughtful about the threats to the Constitution in the past -- presidents have from time to time assumed that they could do pretty much whatever they wanted, only to be hauled back into (constitutional) reality by the courts. And it's made us especially thoughtful today about the threats to the Constitution posed by El Presidente and his guys, who think they need unusual powers to cope with terrorism.

Or the threats posed by Mr. DeLay of Texas and Rev. Rick Scarborough of Texas, and a thousand other current judge-haters from Texas and all the other States of Grace, who think that the judicial system is all that stands between them and a more "godly" nation. (We heard Laura Ingraham this morning on talk radio getting peeved because the Republican Congress doesn't just go ahead and "do something" about judges who don't do what "the people" want -- meaning, in this instance, the people who agree 100 percent with what Laura Ingraham thinks, which apparently would have included keeping Terri Schiavo vegetatively alive for a few more edifying "home movies.")

They're a threat to our Constitutional freedoms, make no mistake. As the editorial in yesterday's USA Today had it, "The religious right has long been pushing for the appointment of judges -- and ultimately Supreme Court judges -- who subscribe to its beliefs on issues such as abortion and gay marriage .... Some simply can't accept that every state and federal court that heard the Schiavo case upheld her husband's right to make medical decisions on her behalf. They want to substitute their own perception of morality for the rule of law."

The National Constitution Center will make you feel better about these sorts of penny-ante threats to our freedoms. We've withstood worse ... the Civil War, the crack-down on dissidents during World War I, the reaction of Southern state governments to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the attempt of Richard Nixon to exempt himself from the rule of law in the early 1970s. They were all dark times, some of them a darkness approaching the totally opaque. But a few brave men -- and a whole bunch of brave women -- stood up for "We the People," and I'm still counting on them today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Cradling Democracy

We're on the road in Philadelphia, drinking in American history in a blue state. So don't look for a lot of postings to this site this week. What can I tell ya ... we'll eating this wonderful city with a spoon! And we didn't think there was a lot that could make us love this country more, but the historical core of this old, old city does the trick.

Our immersion began yesterday as we entered southwest Philly to find -- in the most unlikely urban industrial neighborhood on the banks of the Schuylkill River -- the house and garden of John Bartram, born in 1699, who lived to become the American colony's first amateur botanist. His house, which he built himself out of native stone, still stands, along with much of the original garden, including the oldest gingko tree in North America and a 200-year-old yellowwood specimen descended from a plant collected in the Tennessee Cumberlands by Andre Michaux, the French botanist who also visited our own Grandfather Mountain. You have to be very deliberate to find the Bartram house and garden, as most tourists don't seek it out. But the Bartrams were our special pilgrimage.

John Bartram is famous in my mind for being a non-conformist Quaker who, when kicked out of the local meeting, refused to stop attending church, and who had the good grace to die in his own garden. I aspire to that. The latter more than the former.

John's son William Bartram also died at this wonderful stone house, where he succeeded his father in taking care of these grounds. William's plant discoveries for the rest of the world included the oakleaf hydrangea and the Franklinia, a cousin of the camellia which Bartram named for his friend Benjamin Franklin. The Franklinia has not been found growing in the wild since 1804, but I saw my first specimens of this rarest of American natives in the Bartram garden yesterday, descendants of the plant that Bartram first collected in the 18th century.

Working in the garden yesterday when we arrived was young Todd, the head gardener, who was the very image of a Quaker descendant of the Quaker Bartrams ... black bearded and open to new people from distant places. Todd is a student in horticulture and landscape architecture at Temple University. He pointed out the original gingko tree from Bartram's time and the yellowwood tree and was very knowledgeable about the other species growing there. He had a good opinion of these trees and a low opinion of the species running Washington right now, so we got along very well with Todd!

Today was our immersion day in colonial and revolutionary war American history. We saw where the Philadelphia revolutionaries of 1775 went to drink at the City Tavern and egg one another on to rebel against the King, and where they marched together (sufficiently liquored up?) down to Carpenters Hall to make speeches and plot and cuss power, just like all the rest of us to this day.

Gosh we love Philadelphia!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Rev. Rick Scarborough's Crusade Against Judges Turns Rabid

The foaming at the mouth on the second and last day of Rev. Rick Scarborough's "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" in Washington threatened to fill the ballroom with tiny little toxic bubbles of right-wing spittal.

The main target: Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Phyllis Schlafly said Kennedy's opinion forbidding capital punishment for juveniles "is a good ground of impeachment." To cheers and applause from those gathered at a downtown Marriott, Schlafly said that Kennedy had not met the "good behavior" requirement for office and that "Congress ought to talk about impeachment."

Then Michael P. Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said Kennedy "should be the poster boy for impeachment" for citing international norms in his opinions. "If our congressmen and senators do not have the courage to impeach and remove from office Justice Kennedy, they ought to be impeached as well."

But the most amazing rhetoric came from lawyer-author Edwin Vieira, who told the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law." Then Vieira approvingly quoted Joseph Stalin: "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said.

The WashPost's Dana Milbank recognized the quote and obligingly supplied the context: "The full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is 'Death solves all problems: no man, no problem.' " Milbank says that Vieira quoted Stalin's formulation twice, so that no one could doubt the firmness of his conviction and the darkness of his implication.

As Maureen Dowd said earlier this week, "Before, Republicans just scared other people. Now, they're starting to scare themselves. When Dick Cheney tells you you've gone too far, you know you're way over the edge. Last week, the vice president told The New York Post's editorial board that Tom DeLay should not have jumped ugly on the judges who refused to order that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube be reinserted. He said he would 'have problems' with the DeLay plan to get revenge on the judges: 'I don't think that's appropriate.' "

Wonder when a reporter will ask Cheney -- not to mention El Presidente himself -- where they stand on "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith."

Jesse Helms' Political Advisor Has Gay Marriage

Arthur J. Finkelstein, a prominent Republican consultant who has been called "the architect of Jesse Helms' rise," wed his male boyfriend in Massachusetts in December, but the nuptials have just now come to light in the NYTimes:

"Some of Mr. Finkelstein's associates said they were startled to learn that this prominent American conservative had married a man, given his history with the party, especially at a time when many Republican leaders, including President Bush, have campaigned against same-sex marriage and proposed amending the Constitution to ban it. Mr. Finkelstein has been allied over the years with Republicans who have fiercely opposed gay rights measures, including former Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina...."

For connoisseurs of hypocrisy, the Republicans have certainly given us a buyer's market. And we're sure that ole Jesse sent a toaster.

Federal Judge Refuses to Intervene in Undecided N.C. Election

Federal Judge Terrence Boyle refused yesterday an appeal from the Republican Party of North Carolina to get involved in the still undecided race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Republicans were asking Boyle to void the state law passed after the election that mandates the counting of provisional ballots cast outside home precincts. The state supreme court had earlier thrown out some 11,000 provisional ballots.

The Republicans were perhaps banking on Judge Boyle's reputation as a partisan jurist. Boyle is one of the dozen Bush nominees to a higher court that the Senate Democrats are promising to filibuster. El Presidente has nominated Boyle to a seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, one level below the Supreme Court and probably the most conservative circuit in the country.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Bush's Poll Numbers Continue Downward

A new AP-Ipsos poll on El Presidente's job-performance:

Bush's job approval is at 44 percent, with 54 percent disapproving. (And only 37 percent have a favorable opinion of the work being done by the Republican-controlled Congress.)

The number supporting Bush's handling of the economy dipped to 42 percent; 38 percent approve of his handling of education and health care.

Support for the president's approach to Social Security remained at 36 percent, while 58 percent oppose it.

"Ed Rollins, a Republican who was a top political adviser to President Reagan, said if Bush continues to push relentlessly for his Social Security plan he's taking a chance. 'If he wants to make Social Security his legacy,' Rollins said, he faces the risk that 'there will be no legacy.' "

DeLay Claims Judiciary "Runs Amok"

At Rev. Rick Scarborough's conference yesterday ("Lynch a Judge Near You!") -- discussed in the previous item down-column -- Tom DeLay sent videotaped remarks that are front-page news this a.m. DeLay just can't help himself. He's for ratcheting up the rhetoric against judges:

"Mr. DeLay faulted courts for what he said was their invention of rights to abortion and prohibitions on school prayer, saying courts had ignored the intent of Congress and improperly cited international standards and precedents. 'These are not examples of a mature society,' he said, 'but of a judiciary run amok.' "

"I am in favor of impeachment," Michael Schwartz, chief of staff to Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, said in a panel discussion on abortion at the conference yesterday, suggesting "mass impeachment" might be needed. What a visual on Fox News that will provide!

I watched much of yesterday's conference on C-SPAN and noticed all the empty chairs in the room. And although every speaker who got to the microphone was obviously coached to rave about the masses of patriotic Americans who had turned out, the NYTimes estimated the crowd as a "few dozen."

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Right Wing's War on the Judiciary

Today brings a new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll which shows a growing nervousness on the part of the American public about the influence (i.e., bullying) of the Religious Right, particularly the intrusion of their (vastly superior) "morality" into the judicial system.

Today also brings the start of a two-day Washington conference being called "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith," dreamed up by a Texas Southern Baptist preacher named Rick Scarborough. Scarborough was on C-SPAN this a.m. promoting his website, StopActivistJudges, and proclaiming his fealty to Tom DeLay, the greatest Christian in the U.S. Congress (who unfortunately, and by the way, won't be able to attend and speak at Scarborough's little conference because, you know, he has to attend the Pope's funeral instead, plus maybe DeLay feels the need right now to lower his profile a little on the topic of threatening judges with divine retribution).

Big topics at "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" include "the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, homosexual marriage, taking God out of the pledge of allegiance, bans on 10 commandments monuments, abortion on demand, and prohibiting school prayer." Reading that list makes us aware of at least two things: this bunch can't (or won't) make any distinctions between right-wing talking points and the way the law works, and they're blaming judges not so much for what judges do as for everything they don't approve of in American culture.

Rev. Rick Scarborough has been a busy soldier for Christ. He founded Vision America to encourage more preachers to impose themselves on the political process. Or to be a little more precise, he founded Vision America to mobilize more fundamentalist preachers to turn out the vote for Republicans, which he considers the surest route to Christian "dominion" over the nation. His big hero is Tom DeLay.

Here's some of the Rev. Scarborough's rhetoric: "Judicial activists are running rampant and a God-free country is their goal .... All means to turn the tide must be considered, including their removal." "All means ... must be considered"? No wonder Tom DeLay is his hero.

Even among Texas Baptists, Rev. Scarborough has been considered something of a wing-nut. In 1996 he ran for president of Texas Baptists against a "moderate" he had severely criticized. Texas Baptists chose the moderate by a wide margin.

"Dominion" is a favorite word among these cats, and they want nothing less than a theocracy. In fact, Scarborough apparently made great strides in Pearland, Texas, in taking over the local city council and the school board, at least temporarily in the late 1990s. But the good reverend doesn't mention those electoral victories today, mainly because they came to grief fairly quickly: "Scarborough-backed officials have been soundly rejected at the polls recently, and one of his cronies, Pearland City Manager Paul Grohman, was fired in 1998 under a cloud of scandal. Scarborough currently has no representation on the city council or school board. One Scarborough critic in Pearland told Church & State flatly, 'That church will never, ever have any influence in this city again. That's over.' "

Theocracy is what Vision America is all about. And you can get a good dose of where they want to take America by tuning in Scarborough's "Judicial War on Faith" conference today on C-SPAN, starting at 1 p.m.

N.C. House Passes Lottery 61-59

The N.C. House for the first time in modern history voted favorably to induce poor people to gamble on the remote chance that they might get rich via a state lottery. The vote was not only extremely close but extremely perplexing in that some House members who have been opposed to a lottery for all the right philosophical reasons ended up caving in because they saw no alternative for the support of public education. That's what we've come to: if we can't finance education on the strength of ignorance, we won't finance it at all.

The law still has to pass the Senate, but the Senate has voted in favor of a lottery three times in recent years. It was the House that was the hold-out. Was.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Hickory Mayor Wants to Censor Speech

Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright said at a Hickory City Council meeting last night that he's sick and tired of obscenity, and he wants the town attorney to research the most restrictive laws nationally on what a town can censor. What set off Wright was seeing a young man wearing a black T-shirt with a four-letter word in white lettering. It was "the one unspeakable word," Wright said, without elaborating. (Probably it wasn't "FOXX," though that's the first unspeakable word we thought of.) Then the mayor said (and I swear we're not making this up), "I've never seen that, and I've been to places a lot bigger than Hickory."

If he'd been in Washington, D.C., at the right time he could have heard his Vice President use a notorious four-letter word (not "FOXX") in public as part of a suggestion made to Sen. Leahy.

But in case anyone might think Wright something of a prude, he hurriedly clarified his position (and, again, we're not making this up): "I'll tell a dirty joke in a heartbeat."

Did you hear the one about the Hickory mayor who planned to ban dirty words from his city?

Maryland's "Wal-Mart" Law

The Maryland Senate yesterday passed a bill that would effectively require Wal-Mart to invest at least 8 percent of its total payroll in health-care benefits for its workers ... OR pay the same amount into the state's Medicaid fund. The Maryland House had already passed a similar bill, and the minor differences in the two pieces of legislation are expected to be ironed out quickly. The bill would then go to Maryland's Republican Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who is certain to veto it. (Wal-Mart hosted a fundraiser for Ehrlich late last year.) But the bill's supporters say they have more than enough support in both houses to pass it over Ehrlich's veto.

The rationale for the law is simple: Wal-Mart supplies virtually no health insurance to its employees and pays them so poorly that many of them end up as Medicaid recipients in their respective states.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

N.C. Lottery on a Fast Track

The main push for a state lottery is coming from Democratic leaders, not least of which is the Guv and Jim Black, the Speaker of the N.C. House. Black appointed a special House committee to write the legislation, keeping anyone off who even vaguely had reservations about funding state education by preying on the venality of uneducated people, which is what a lottery demonstrably does. The N&O reports this a.m. that the bill is about to be trotted out and could be voted on by the full House this week. If it passes, it'll be fast-tracked in the Senate too, and North Carolina will officially start raising money for school construction, etc. by appealing to the gullibility of working people. Another excuse not to ask the wealthiest among us to shoulder more of the load.

It's unfortunate. It's cynical. It's opportunistic. It's bad public policy.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Nearer My Gold Card, To Thee

From July 2002 to March 2003, the National Survey of Youth and Religion (NSYR) conducted 3,290 national, random telephone surveys of American teenagers. The NSYR followed up in the spring and summer of 2003 with 267 in-depth interviews with a subsample of those teenagers in 45 states. The results comprise the largest sociological study of adolescent religiosity ever conducted, "Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers" (Oxford University Press, 2005).

A most interesting summary of that book's contents is here, but some are worth repeating in this space:

The overwhelming majority of American teenagers are so NOT in rebellion. They are basically just like their parents: they say they believe in God without being able to articulate much at all about what God expects of them. They are utterly conventional in their assumptions. But their assumptions, say the authors of the book, are undermining historical Christianity much more successfully -- and rapidly -- than all the other works of Satan, combined.

Why? Because American Christianity has become so thoroughly the handmaiden of American capitalism (with the explicit blessing of both political parties over many decades). That is to say, the real religion of America is something the authors call "therapeutic individualism." The chief doctrine of "therapeutic individualism": "God cares that each teenager is happy and that each teenager has high self-esteem. Morality has nothing to do with authority, mutual obligations, or sacrifice. In a sense, God wants little more for us than to be good, happy capitalists."

God is a happy consumer, and He's made us in his image. If we're not happy, it's because we haven't consumed enough, or we're consuming the wrong brands.

"And to be happy capitalists, we should be good, unless being good prevents us from being happy."

Got it!

The authors of this book are a bit depressed, not because American teenagers are rebelling against the values held by their parents but precisely because American teenagers are NOT rebelling against the values held by their parents. And these "mainstream" values are killing American religion (if not American democracy). Here's the new catechism: "God exists and watches over human life, which was created by God. God wants people to be nice, as it says in the bible and in most world religions. God does not have to be involved in our lives except to solve our problems and make us happy. Good people will be even happier in heaven after they die. The religious beliefs of American teens tend to be -- as a whole, across all traditions -- that simple."

It's not only "simple." It's positively childish.

And it's the perfect reflection of El Presidente's style of government: we can have tax cuts for the rich, huge new government programs, several wars, and NOBODY HAS TO SACRIFICE ... "a parasitic creed," as the authors of this book on teenagers define it.

Novak Turns Sour on Bush

Novak in his column today reports on a wholly dysfunctional White House liaison with Capitol Hill. He quotes anonymously a "senior Republican Senator": "I have been around awhile, and this is the worst administration at congressional relations that I have ever been associated with."

The by-product of arrogance?

Cheney Distances Himself From DeLay

V.P. Dick Cheney, speaking on the record with the editorial board of the NYPost, said he didn't think it "appropriate" that Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had called for retribution against unspecified judges in the Terri Schiavo controversy: "I may disagree with decisions made by judges in any one particular case. But I don't think there would be much support for the proposition that because a judge hands down a decision we don't like, that somehow we ought to go out -- there's a reason why judges get lifetime appointments."

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Virginia Foxx & Richard Burr and God's Plan for Judges

Both Sen. Burr and Rep. Foxx have signed on as co-sponsors of a fine piece of theocratic madness called "The Constitution Restoration Act of 2005." According to our source on dKos, the law will make it possible for the Congress to charge any judge with a crime who disagrees with the concept that all law, liberty, and government comes only from God:

"Amends the Federal judicial code to prohibit the U.S. Supreme Court and the Federal district courts from exercising jurisdiction over any matter in which relief is sought against an entity of Federal, State, or local government or an officer or agent of such government concerning that entity's, officer's, or agent's acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."

Nobody's gonna get to the right of Madame Foxx!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Exterminator Targets Judges

Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay is playing out his own version of wag the dog, starting a war on federal judges to distract people from his own ethical sump.

Last week, in front of Focus on the Family, he conflated his own political corruption problems with the right-to-life of Terri Schiavo: the same forces that are murdering Terri Schiavo are also after me, DeLay told the credulous Christians. And if that wasn't crude enough for you, on Thursday, immediately after Schiavo's death, DeLay issued a statement asserting that "the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." In an atmosphere where judges or members of their families have been recently murdered, and in which a North Carolina man was taken in by the FBI for issuing a murder-for-hire offer on the lives of Michael Schiavo and the judge who ruled in his favor ... how exactly are we to interpret DeLay's words other than as a not-so-veiled threat.

DeLay followed up the above statement by standing in front of cameras on Thursday and saying that he wants to "look at an arrogant, out-of-control, unaccountable judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the president." He has referred to the "failure" of state and federal judges to "protect" Terri Schiavo, which is exactly the kind of there's-only-one-right-answer dogmatism that we've learned to fear from people who are holier than you or I.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) thinks that DeLay might have broken a federal statute against threatening U.S. judges: "Threats against specific federal judges are not only a serious crime, but also beneath a Member of Congress," Lautenberg wrote. "Your attempt to intimidate judges in America not only threatens our courts, but our fundamental democracy as well."

As the noose on his corruption tightens, we look for DeLay to flail away at soft targets even more wildly.

Illinois Governor Takes Action Against Self-Righteous Pharmacists

Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich filed a rule yesterday requiring Illinois pharmacies to accept and dispense birth-control prescriptions to women, specifying "No delays. No hassles. No lectures," and thereby flying in the face of the Sanctimonious Right which has been inducing "born-again" pharmacists to refuse birth-control to (immoral) women because of the pharmacists' presumed "moral superiority."

The Illinois Guv has clearly had it with self-righteousness.

Governor Blagojevich was acting on the basis of complaints from two Chicago women who were denied "morning-after" pills from an Osco pharmacy. "Our regulation says that if a woman goes to a pharmacy with a prescription for birth control, the pharmacy or the pharmacist is not allowed to discriminate or to choose who he sells it to or who he doesn't sell it to," said the Guv. He also said he suspected that the pattern of complaints over the past year was no coincidence, but rather "part of a concerted effort" to prevent women from getting the birth control they wanted.

Meanwhile, other states, primarily in the South, are moving in the other direction ... to explicitly empower blue-nosed pharmacists NOT to fill prescriptions they don't approve of. So far we haven't heard of that sort of legislation being introduced in North Carolina, but surely it's only a matter of time.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Let Them Eat Pie

On Wednesday a student at Earlham College, a Quaker school in Richmond, Ind., with a world-famous "peace studies" program, hit neocon pundit William Kristol in the kisser with an ice cream pie, while Kristol was trying to deliver a speech on U.S. foreign policy. The student faces an expulsion hearing. Kristol, after wiping pie off his face, finished his talk. No word on how much he was paid.

Also on Wednesday, right-wing ego-artist Anne Coulter was heckled so badly during a speech at Kansas University that she suggested vigilante action: "Could 10 of the largest College Republicans start walking up and down the aisles and start removing anyone shouting? Otherwise, this lecture is over." That suggestion was followed by several people leaving their seats and comfronting hecklers. (Coulter is planning to have brown shirts for such volunteer help at her next engagement.) The confrontation followed these remarks from Coulter: "I think there are some people in the audience who meant to be at the sexual reorientation class down the hall." Coulter was paid $25,000 for her appearance.

And last night at Western Michigan University, Pat Buchanan got a faceful of what appeared to be creamy Italian or Roquefort salad dressing, hurled by a 24-year-old student at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Buchanan was paid for the indignity, but we don't know how much. (These guys don't give free speeches.)

Both Kristol and Buchanan are gentlemen, despite what we think of their political views. Coulter's a trash-talker who's been goading Democrats as "traitors" and calling "liberals" pussies, so what does she expect?

These are signs of the times, a kind of barometric reading on atmospheric pressure. What with El Presidente throwing citizens out of his staged pep rallies for privatizing Social Security -- events paid for by the taxpayers -- throwing them out PRIOR to any disruption -- may we not expect more and escalating acts of impertinence?