Sunday, April 30, 2006

Colbert Draws Blood

Was able to catch on C-SPAN a few minutes ago the replay of Stephen Colbert's gig in front of the White House Correspondents Dinner, with El Presidente sitting three or four chairs away.

The audience seemed a little stunned by Colbert's satire, which is cloaked in the guise of uber-Right Wing pundit.

According to Editor & Publisher, El Presidente was not amused and left the ballroom immediately after Colbert finished. He wasn't smiling.

The E&P link above gives the best account of the speech that we've seen, quoting the best lines.

MeanDean Canvassed in Charlotte Yestiddy

Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean led a 50-state Democratic canvass in Charlotte yesterday. Watauga County led the nation a week earlier in that grassroots effort.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN to me why it's downright offensive to El Presidente, and to right-wing Republicans like Madam Foxx, for the National Anthem to be sung in Spanish? Why isn't that a compliment to the strength of our great Union? Would it not be a compliment if the French started to sing our -- OUR -- national anthem in French? Or if Laplanders went to the trouble of translating the words of our anthem into Laplandese? So what is the friggin' problem? Oh ... right ... you guys need a wedge issue. Incipient racism is always lying dormant, ain't it? Ready to be awakened and used as a giant tool. I got it.

Landmarks in Hypocrisy

Yesterday talk radio personality Rush Limbaugh surrendered to Palm Beach County authorities in Florida, was booked, finger-printed, and smiled for his mug shot. He was promptly released.

He copped a plea, made a deal, and after 18 more months of "therapy" (what a queer!), he'll be free as a bird, the drug-addicted weenie with a microphone who's made a fortune and a huge career out of savagely attacking the moral failings of others. Part of the deal includes the expunging of any criminal record.

The prosecutors in Palm Beach County can document that Limbaugh illegally obtained 2,000 heavy-duty painkillers (including a form of OxyContin), and presumably took same, in the space of six months. That's 11 pills a day, on average.

Listen for some phony humility and contrition at noon on Monday.

Friday, April 28, 2006


An unsigned editorial in today's Watauga Democrat entitled "Rumor has it..." gets all self-righteous about this blog's articles and the comments of some readers. Self-righteous and more than a little defensive, which is a clumsy combination.

The editorialist apparently had gotten around to reading Glenn Hubbard's April 13th guest contribution to this site (here) in which Hubbard faulted the local media for ignoring the biggest news story of the year.

The editorialist is miffed: "Media outlets -- at least legitimate ones -- do not report the mere possibility of a story."

Two paragraphs later: "We don't report rumors." That's funny -- in both the "ha-ha" and the "odd" senses -- because the denunciation of "rumors" comes after five self-defensive paragraphs full of exactly that ... rumors. To wit:

1. "A locally-operated Web site," which we will not name, has

2. Reported "unsubstantiated gossip," which we will not repeat, about

3. A local elected official whose identity we cannot divulge.

Our suggested alternative title for this editorial: "A nervous titter ran through the room."

My favorite part of the editorial is the solemn invoking of Bob Woodward (twice) as the self-justification for not reporting the news. The editorialist appears to be attributing to Bob Woodward the opinion that blogs are "this pollution" that "needs to be eradicated by people in our business." Whoa, dude! "Eradicated"?

We'd be the first to admit that editorial writers for the Watauga Democrat are extraordinarily similar to Bob Woodward, so similar in fact we likely couldn't tell one from the other in a police line-up. And we can understand the Watauga Democrat holding up the True Cross of Sainted American Journalism as a talisman against the likes of us.

Lord knows, we've wrapped ourselves in the mantles of our own heroes. The tricky part of dressing up in borrowed clothes is not to get your feet all tangled up in the hem, which our editorialist manages to do. He doesn't want to be associated with EVERYTHING Bob Woodward has done: "we recognize that Woodward himself has sometimes been guilty of slipshod, second-handed reporting, but he's on the money in this case."

Memory fails me. Didn't Woodward bring down a president and keep his source secret for, oh, 30 years? After that, Woodward turned into the court stenographer, taking dictation from powerful men who wanted to shape their own images.

It's not enough that the "pure journalism" of the Watauga Democrat has marked blogs and blogging for eradication. There seems to be a creeping realization in the editorialist that something may have been overlooked here, so he delivers a stern warning in a different direction at the end: "And to those public officials who think they can hide in those [gossipy] waters [where the Watauga Democrat refuses to swim], be forewarned...." We ARE watching you. We're watching you because we read something we can't talk about on a source we disdain.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Allan Blume, pastor of Watauga County's megachurch, Mt. Vernon Baptist, is on state senate candidate David Blust's website, endorsing Mr. Blust. He makes that endorsement as pastor of that church.

IRS guidelines for churches reads in part (emphasis added):

"Individual Activity by Organization Leaders
The political campaign activity prohibition is not intended to restrict free expression on political matters by leaders of organizations speaking for themselves, as individuals. Nor are leaders prohibited from speaking about important issues of public policy. However, for their organizations to remain tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3), leaders cannot make partisan comments in official organization publications or at official functions.

"To avoid potential attribution of their comments outside of organization functions and publications, organization leaders who speak or write in their individual capacity are encouraged to clearly indicate that their comments are personal and not intended to represent the views of the organization."

Rev. Blume chose not to follow these guidelines. He signed himself as "senior pastor" of a huge church, one that has been quite open in the past about its Republican partisanship, and he called on those reading the letter "to follow him" in voting for David Blust.

He was also careless with his facts. He says that Sen. John Garwood (not actually mentioned by name, but still), "cast the deciding vote on [the] lottery." Not true. Garwood didn't vote, which (okay, okay) allowed the lottery to pass. But still.

As much as I also oppose the lottery, because it pretty much exclusively targets low-income citizens, Rev. Blume goes waaay further and alleges that it is "illegal." How so, pastor? No court I know of has agreed with that characterization. The N.C. lottery is unfortunate, it's wrong-headed, it's opportunistic ... but not (so far, anyway) "illegal."

Though your endorsement of Mr. Blust may well be.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Foxx Wants To Get Drilled

Virginia Foxx supports exploratory gas drilling on the Outer Banks.

Gov. Easley and Sen. Elizabeth Dole don't.

Dan Besse Considering Run for Lt. Gov.

We were glad to hear yesterday that Winston-Salem City councilman Dan Besse is exploring a run for lieutenant governor in 2008. Besse is an environmental lawyer, served on the N.C. Environmental Management Commission, and practices his Democratic ideals. He's one of the good guys.

The race for lt. gov. in '08 could be crowded. Pat Smathers, mayor of Canton, is already running hard. Jim Harrill of Surry County wants it, evidently. There's talk of state senator Walter Dalton of Rutherfordton. Who knows who else? There's many a barbecue between now and 2008.

On the downside, we also hear that Roy Cooper is deciding against a run for governor. Too, too bad.

Webb Wears Combat Boots

Yesterday in Gate City, scrappy James Webb formally launched his campaign to unseat Virginia Republican Senator George Allen. He was wearing combat boots with his suit, a visible reminder of his Marine experience and a direct contrast with the cowboy-boot-wearing Allen, who incidentally managed to avoid military service.

According to this a.m.'s WashPost, Webb said, "My objection to the war is not aimed at my country but at the administration that has chosen to wage this war, an administration that has muddied the truth, made mistake after mistake and refused to accept responsibility .... we're in the hands of people who follow no creed. They speak to you of values but know nothing other than political expediency and blind loyalty to a money-drenched political machine."

That's what Democrats everywhere need to be saying. Voicing what should also become a standard charge against incumbent Republicans this year, Webb called Allen a "rubberstamp." Webb said, "George Allen is in the middle of this, try as he might to distance himself from it. Voting with this president 97 percent of the time tends to hold you accountable."

Doesn't Virginia Foxx have a 96 percent rubberstamping record? Proud of it too, last we heard.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nathan Tabor's Irresistible Itch

"Whew!" writes right-wing battle bot Nathan Tabor. The feminist menace has passed! Hallelujah, praise the Lord, and pass the chastity belt!

"Feminism has been thwarting America's growth and vitality for years -- but, finally, a number of women are rejecting it for the silliness it is." Silly them, working to stay alive! But they've apparently turned their collective backs on Hillary and are going home to Pop 'n' Fresh. Clean floors. Satisfied hubbies.

High time, too, EVEN in this Republican economy, which, not surprisingly, Mr. Tabor seems supremely ignorant of. Women are working, not because of (gasp!) "feminism" but because of the price of positively everything, which now includes most especially gasoline. We spent our day Saturday, as a matter of fact, walking up steep drive-ways in Watauga County to knock on the front doors of $300,00 homes, where multiple children had left multiple toys in the yard and where BOTH parents are working HARD to keep the mortgage up, and where "feminism" is not so much a dirty word as beside the point. We were collecting opinions on the state of the world, and women, especially, were fairly forthright in telling us it ain't so hot with Nathan Tabor's ilk in charge of it.

The point? When Republicans are in power, things get worse and worse, and the need to categorize people's moral failings gets, apparently, more irresistible. Eh, Mr. Tabor?

But thank goodness feminism has been finally dealt with. Nathan Tabor can now move on to the even larger pile of American immorality, gay people.

Heat, But No Light, on Zoning

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times just this week. It could have been written in Watauga County in 2002:

"Vote 'No Zoning' for Buncombe County. When the first people moved to the U.S., there was no zoning. But these first people settled on the land, formed roads, built houses and businesses and all without zoning. If these first people and their ancestors had done such a bad job of creating farms, suburbs and cities why is the government trying to save all the buildings, ideas and innovations that these first people created? If the first people did such a wonderful job without zoning, then why do people today have to be forced into accepting zoning? We don't need zoning because ancestors of the first people (also known as: individuals) are more than capable of planning for the land, roads, houses and businesses. We don't need a few government bureaucrats telling thousands of people how to live their lives. If you agree, call or write the county commissioners and tell them what you think."

The assumption behind this kind of "enlightenment" is a worm that burrows into the very heart muscle of our Republic ... the arrogance of "I am the center of the universe." The author wrote her thesis on a simple dunderheaded breach of reality: "The first people who moved to the U.S. were exactly like me." "The first people"? We realize she means white Europeans with a lust for acquisition and the sure knowledge that God wanted them to dominate nature. But that bland wiping out of memory and consideration for those who really WERE here first explains a great deal about the attitudes behind "no zoning, not ever, no way."

One also wonders, naturally, just how even those first white European RE-settlers would have dealt with Wal-Mart Supercenters and your garden variety asphalt plant, with industrial-sized hog farms and strip mining. They probably would have reacted very much like the writer of that letter would react, should any of that stuff come within a whiff of HER homestead.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Foxx Makes Herself the Issue in N.C. Senate Race

The Madam is out of the closet (so to speak) in her support for D. Blust against J. Garwood in the N.C. Senate Republican primary ... a fact reported here some time back and now confirmed by the W-S Journal.

A match made in heaven (members only!).

Madam No-Show Foxx

A strong complaint, registered in a letter to the editor in today's Watauga Democrat, from the News Director of WASU, for Virginia Foxx's clumsy dodging of the public (once a-freakin'-gain) on an ASU campus open call-in show.

She's so arrogant, she sees no reason for even responding.
John Armor, who's challenging U.S. Rep. Charlie Taylor in the 11th Dist. Republican primary, is using this classic line when he speaks in public about his quixotic challenge to the unseat the eight-term incumbent:

"I'm the only candidate for Congress who's done stand-up comedy -- on purpose."

Gotta admire the style!

N.C.'s First Female Sheriff Is in a Primary Battle

As battles for sheriff tend to go in North Carolina, Watauga's current conniption fit doesn't hold a candle to the gale-force winds blowing in other counties.

In Ashe County, there's a convicted felon on the Republican primary ballot. He served time for jury tampering and solliciting perjury. Or for comparison sake, try out the Davidson County sheriff's office, which has too thick a dossier to wade into today, but the most recent scandal is part of a pattern. In Surry County, eight candidates are running, three Democrats and five Republicans. We're almost positive that every one of them is behaving like a perfect gentleman.

In Lincoln County, the state's first-ever female sheriff, Barbara Pickens (who's been sheriff there for 11 years, for Pete's sake!), is in a primary with a fellow Republican, a man. The incumbent Pickens (they call her "Slim") wants to put a sheriff's station in the local Wal-Mart Supercenter, but we haven't actually heard that her opponent is making an issue of her favoritism for Wal-Mart, as opposed to, say, Target, which (you've got to admit) makes more logical sense.

Understatement of the Week

Long article in the N&O about Liddy Dole stumping in Montana for Jack Abramoff's good buddy, Sen. Conrad Burns.

We're heartened that Senator Dole can find Billings, Montana, just fine, when she can't seem to find a home in North Carolina.

Said Bill Peaslee, chief of staff for the N.C. Republican Party, with just a hint of defensiveness, "Elizabeth Dole doesn't have to be in North Carolina to be serving North Carolina's interests." (We naturally love such a classic example of understatement.)

That Peaslee quote rates right up there with N.C. House representative Gene Wilson's explanation for why he's rated 109th for "effectiveness," out of 120 House members: "Those rankings are based on what you do there [in Raleigh, where, uh, the state legislature is located and where it conducts the people's business]. They don't reflect what you do outside [Raleigh]."

Why, for what he does outside Raleigh, Wilson would be rated at least 110th! So there!

Friday, April 21, 2006

FOX NEWS announces that El Presidente's approval rating has hit a new all-time low of 33 percent.


And take a look at this much more in-depth analysis, state-by-state, of the political map.
We always knew that READING was a suspicious activity in itself, and thank goodness these parents in Gwinnett County, Georgia, are finally doing something about it!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Foxx's Problem With Brown Skin

Really good letter (thanks to Leisa for the heads-up) in this a.m.'s W-S Journal about The Madam's not-so-covert racism. We reproduce it here in toto:


I am outraged at the open bigotry of Rep. Virginia Foxx, who gives the distinct impression that every brown-skinned person with an accent is illegal and a criminal. Is it now open season to hate Hispanics?

From the provocative name of her meeting, "Gangs, Fraud and Sexual Predators: Struggling with the Consequences of Illegal Immigration," to Debra Conrad-Shrader's comments that "these 12 million illegals need to be deported," Rep. Foxx is creating what one would call a "hostile environment." Already, I have heard several first-hand stories of Hispanic people being verbally assaulted in public.

I have the distinct impression that on another day, the title of the aforementioned meeting might have replaced "Illegal Immigration" with "African Americans." My point being that the immigration debate is really about fear of people who are different than we are. Does anyone think this debate would go away if we stopped all illegal immigration and allowed several million Mexicans to legally immigrate to the U.S. each year?

A final note: Most of the strongest anti-immigrant language is coming from conservative Christians. Where in the New Testament is the Christian family-values position against helping poor neighbors found?


Literary News

They say the elephant is slow to mate. Slow to gestate too. A pregnant elephant stays pregnant for 22 months.

Charles Frazier, author of the insanely successful "Cold Mountain" (1997), spent almost 10 years pregnant with his second novel, which has now been delivered and is scheduled for publication this October under the title "Thirteen Moons." He sold this new novel as an idea (on the strength of a one-page outline) way back after "Cold Mountain" became a huge best-seller ... for (gulp) $8 million ... without yet having written a page.

According to this a.m.'s NYTimes, "Thirteen Moons" "is the story of a young white man raised by Cherokee Indians who ends up representing them in Washington in their fight to preserve their land." Ain't no Civil War, with vicious out-riders and an epic journey home, but maybe it'll do.

Plus we have a soft spot in our hearts for Charles Frazier in these parts. Many of us remember him well from his days as a student at Appalachian State University, when he was overshadowed as a budding writer by other students who were more aggressive in promoting themselves as belles lettrists. At student readings, Frazier was always working on something that wasn't quite finished. No one much thought of him as the successful writer-to-be. Boy, were we wrong.

The experience of reading "Cold Mountain" back in 1997 lives with me even today, the jewel-like faceting of every blessed sentence, the indelible characters so efficiently drawn, the epic juice of a really (after all) primitive plotline. Plus I finished reading the thing on the very day that Princess Diana was pronounced dead, so there I was with two losses to sort out -- the blond princess who ought to mean nothing to me, but did, and the no-first-name Inman, the Every Man of the 19th Century South, who seemed as real as boiled cabbage. And for that moment, on that day, Charles Frazier seemed to be commanding all the tragedy in the world.

I hope his second novel is as good as the first, though the NYTimes sourly indicates that there's no reason on earth to expect it will be. Charles Frazier has defied expectations before. We're counting on him again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

First We Hone Our Hyperbole, Then We Get the Facts

Madam Virginia Foxx, proud co-sponsor of the notorious Sensenbrenner anti-Hispanic immigrant law, which would criminalize anyone hiring or even helping an illegal immigrant, staged herself an anti-immigrant campaign event in Winston-Salem that posed as a "fact-finding" hearing.

She's already made up her mind that a supposed tidal wave of illegals in North Carolina is putting undue strain on social services, health services, and the education system. All those nasty illegals are supposedly also wielding chains and knives in a major crime wave.

The W-S Journal's account of this "hearing" makes it clear that even as stage-managed as this event was, enough rational information actually leaked through the propaganda to make The Madam look like the race hypocrite she is.

"At the hearing, Foxx compared illegal immigration to an 'invasion,' one with 'major negative impact on education, health care, Social Security, taxes, employment, wages, the environment, crime and countless other areas of American life.' "

Nice rhetoric, that.

"Those kinds of comments don't make any sense. It's all hyperbole," said Jim Johnson, the director of the Kenan Institute's Urban Investment Strategies Center, part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, someone who actually knows something about the subject of illegal immigrantion.

The Madam ought to be ashamed of herself. But as we all know too well in Watauga, she's really incapable of shame.

Tax Cheats R Us

The moral superiority of the N.C. GOP is again on full public display this a.m., with the arrest of Jesse Helms protege and major player in conservative Republican circles (and former U.S. Attorney) Sam Currin ... on seven felony charges, including tax conspiracy, witness tampering and perjury.

Several others are also named in the 36-page indictment.

More on "Effectiveness" Ratings

Good in-depth article in today's Watauga Democrat by Scott Nicholson on Gene Wilson's woeful "effectiveness" rating in the N.C. House (Wilson ranked 109th out of 120 House members). Sen. John Garwood, also covered in the article, ranked 30th out of 49 Senate members, but Garwood does a credible job of defending himself (and gets in a shot at his opponent in the May 2nd primary).

In other news, as of yesterday fewer than 100 people of ALL political persuasions had voted in early voting at one of two Watauga County polling places. Dismal turnout, as expected.

Where, for example, is the massive dissatisfaction on the Republican side with Sheriff Shook and with Sen. Garwood? Ain't happening. Not yet, anyway. Maybe everyone is waiting to go to the polls on May 2nd.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ya Reckon?

Anger at Bush May Hurt GOP At Polls: Turnout Could Favor Democrats

--headline, WashPost, 17 April 2006

From the article:

"In Collierville, Tenn., school bus driver Charlotte Bruce, 54, .... said she is a moderate Republican and has given money to the party, but now she is exasperated with Bush and his economic policies. She recounted a conversation with neighbors who support Bush because of 'moral issues.' 'I said, "While he's not killing babies, he's killing you" ' with high gasoline prices, a soaring deficit and other problems, Bruce said. 'He is going to bankrupt us all.' "

"Going to bankrupt us"? Make that "pretty much has bankrupted us."

DeLay Fingers McHenry

...but not in a sexual way, ya pervs!

Tom DeLay, asked which U.S. House member might eventually replace him as a take-no-prisoner conservative leader ... said Patrick McHenry of the NC-10. Wet-behind-the-ears Patrick McHenry.

And NOT Virginia Foxx? Who's been striving mightily to get noticed as the MOST conservative member of any deliberative body since Marie Antoinette attended a certain tea party.

Oh the injustice!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Who Shot the Sheriff?

Guest Blogging ... Glenn T. Hubbard:

Allegations that Watauga County Sheriff Mark Shook sexually harassed his chief deputy have divided Republicans in a bitter primary battle, leaving many Democrats intrigued, and revealing a void in the traditional news media's coverage of local issues. A long-rumored complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is moving forward, according to informed sources, but has been slowed down by legal complications because both the complainant and the defendant are law enforcement officers.

"I'm very disappointed with Mark," former Watauga County Sheriff Red Lyons said Tuesday, when contacted for this story, "I'm not going to get into the reasons, but there are some things that have been going on that just don't agree with my lifestyle." Lyons's comments are in sharp contrast with his position just four years ago, when he actively campaigned for the current sheriff: "We have the man right here who has my support," the Watauga Democrat quoted him as saying in September of 2002.

The circumstances that prompted Lyons to withdraw his support for Shook and campaign instead for former deputy Joe Moody this year have become the subject of one of the most divisive controversies in recent Watauga County history. As is often the case with local political issues, the great majority of information has been passed by word of mouth, often in the form of unsubstantiated rumors and, more recently, anonymous postings on this blog. Perhaps as a result, the local mainstream media have avoided the story altogether -- reporting only that Moody is challenging Shook in the Republican primary. This article is an attempt to sort out the facts in a journalistically fair, accurate manner. It contains only information confirmed by multiple, reliable sources whose identity and credibility were verifiable.

In explaining his reasons for supporting Moody over Shook, Lyons emphasized morality. "Joe Moody is a good Christian man -- he teaches Sunday School at his church -- and he worked for me for 20 years," Lyons said. "Mark didn't work for me all that long, but I decided to support him back then -- and now some things have happened that I'm not going to get into, and I've decided that Watauga County needs a change."

Lyons's focus on religious morality in the sheriff's race is not surprising, given that he is a gospel singer popular in area churches. However, it is clear that his position on Shook's fitness to serve as sheriff has changed. Several sources close to the Republican Party say in addition to actively supporting Moody, Lyons was instrumental in recruiting the former deputy to run. Speculation into Lyons's reasoning has centered on four key points:

1) Some sources say Lyons was offended that Shook received positive media attention for a series of meth lab busts during Shook's first three years as sheriff, supposedly implying that Lyons had allowed the problem to fester during his time in office.

2) Democratic Party sources have confirmed that they believe Shook was supportive of Democratic county commission candidates in 2004, because he claimed the Republicans on the board had not supported necessary budget requests for his department.

3) As is often the case with law enforcement operations, Shook's department has been the subject of some complaints -- by defense attorneys and others -- of unfair treatment of suspects, as well as various administrative and legal misdeeds. Some of these allegations will be investigated further and reported in a future article on this blog if the information warrants such a report.

4) Shook is the subject of a sexual harassment claim alleging that he fired his chief deputy after engaging in a romantic relationship with her. I have confirmed that a claim is being processed through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It was originally filed August 5, 2005, but sources say there are special Justice Department rules that apply when an EEOC complaint involves law enforcement personnel, resulting in an even slower process than usual. The complainant, former Chief Deputy Paula Townsend, was a holdover from Lyons's years as sheriff. Many say she became chief deputy under Shook because of a deal between Shook and Lyons. Townsend is also a relative of Lyons's. In addition to the federal complaint, members of the legal community say a civil lawsuit is expected soon -- a point others dispute.

The question of whether a lawsuit is forthcoming is, in itself, controversial, because most sources contacted for this story had expected it to be filed by the end of March. Shook supporters claim the delay in the suit's filing is for political reasons. They say once a lawsuit is filed, legal discovery requirements would force the plaintiff to produce evidence, which they say she does not have. No one close to Townsend had provided an explanation of the suit's delay by the time this article was posted, and neither Townsend nor Shook could be reached for comment.

I have confirmed, however, that a pre-litigation mediation session took place, in which Townsend's attorney produced a letter, purportedly written by Shook to Townsend. Copies of a letter alleged to be the one presented during mediation have been quietly circulated as part of a campaign against Shook for several months. Sources close to Shook say he does not deny writing the letter, but he claims its subject matter was not of a sexual nature. Despite repeated requests, Shook's opponents have not provided a copy of the letter or enough specific details about its content to confirm for use in this story. Several independent sources have confirmed, however, that Shook and Townsend had an "emotionally close" relationship that one or both might have construed as "loving" at one time or another. There has been no confirmation of a sexual relationship between the two, despite rampant rumors that one took place.

I previously reported on this blog that Shook claimed not to have sent the letter to Townsend, but alleged that it might have been stolen out of his desk. I have not been able to confirm such an account of Shook's claims for this story. One source close to Shook said, simply, "He told me there was a letter."

Shook has maintained that he had ample cause to fire Townsend. Several sources have supported his claim. "Paula wasn't there," said an unnamed former deputy who worked closely with Shook and Townsend for several years and was involved in many of the department's meth lab investigations. "I never saw her until it came time to take credit for [the meth lab busts] or get her picture in the paper," he said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Civilians in the county have also come to Shook's defense. "I live in an area that has had many meth labs taken down," said one supporter with ties to the department, who identified herself to me but asked not to be named in this article. "As a parent, I appreciate the time and energy that the WCSO, under Shook's leadership, has put into getting rid of this dangerous drug," she said, suggesting that Shook's opponents have ulterior motives: "I know many of the people who are attacking Mark are mad because of Paula getting fired -- by the way, I do not believe her claim of sexual harassment -- but I wonder if some of them have been busted by the Sheriff's department for their own illegal activities and have an axe to grind."

Many of Shook's detractors, though, are clearly not criminals. Prominent attorneys, former law enforcement officers, politicians, professors and even some journalists are among those who have weighed in against him for this story. Boone defense attorney Eric Eller is one of the only people on either side of the Shook controversy willing to speak on the record: "I believe the overall professionalism of the Watauga County Sheriff's Department has deteriorated badly since Mark Shook's election," said Eller. "He's fired a lot of very good, professional, law enforcement officers and seems to have replaced them with less capable or qualified officers." Eller is among the attorneys accusing Shook of violating suspects' rights and mishandling key law enforcement tasks. "It seems that in Shook's eyes, it's OK to lie, cheat, plant evidence, use threats of physical violence, anything, so long as you convict those whom he thinks are troublemakers, regardless of the facts," said Eller.

There are, of course, many people lining up behind Lyons and Moody with their own reasons to want the sheriff replaced -- from sheriff's department employees either demoted or fired by Shook, to defense attorneys unhappy with how their clients have been treated, to any number of other people who have formed negative opinions of him for countless individual reasons. This is typical in politics. Shook made significant changes, both in terms of staffing and law enforcement techniques, when he replaced a popular sheriff who had been in office for almost two decades. Many argue that the department is more effective and better staffed than it had ever been before. Others claim there are serious problems in Shook's administration. None, though, have drawn a clear connection between the sexual harassment charge against Shook and his effectiveness, or lack thereof, as sheriff. Ultimately it comes down to whether voters believe the allegations against Shook and whether, in light of the allegations, he deserves another term.

Sheriff's races in Watauga County have not always been this controversial. Lyons frequently garnered upward of 75 percent of the general election vote when he ran in the 1980s and '90s, and he never had a serious primary challenge. Furthermore, Shook was considered in many political circles "untouchable" until the recent allegations surfaced. Democratic Party sources say they had no intention of recruiting a candidate for sheriff until they realized the potential seriousness of the allegations against Shook.

For those who have withheld judgment until now, the best I can do is confirm that the letter is real; Shook does not deny its authorship; Townsend was fired; and a complaint is going forward with the EEOC. Shook denies a sexual relationship, and I have neither seen nor heard any proof that there was one. I will continue to investigate, though, and report any pertinent facts I am able to confirm. I have heard compelling arguments from both sides of the controversy, but at this point I have found no proof -- only people with strong personal motivations, some justified, some not, to affect the outcome of the Republican primary.

Many questions remain, but what is certain is that the traditional media have been inexplicably silent on one of the biggest local stories of the decade. I will not editorialize here on why that might be the case -- I've written more than enough on the subject already -- but I hope I've been able to fill the void at least to some extent. The irony is, a few of my sources have told me they're in regular contact with local reporters who know significant details about this story. Still, the papers have printed nothing.

I continue to ask for credible sources to come forward. I intend to look deeper into the story as time allows.

Glenn T. Hubbard

"Ineffectiveness" Seems to Run in the Family

New rankings of the "effectiveness" of North Carolina's state legislators are out, and we note that David Blust's brother John Blust of Greensboro is ranked 119th ... out of 120 members of the House.

More on James Webb of Virginia

We've mentioned James Webb in this space before, the scrappy ex-Marine who's running as a Democrat against Republican Senator George Allen up in Virginia. He has a real chance to bump off ole George.

But he's being hammered by the liberals because there's another Democrat running, someone "purer" in the eyes of the progressives, which means someone guaranteed to lose.

So the several million words Webb has written in a long career, from an early novel on the Vietnam War in 1978 to all sorts of opinionated magazine essays since, are being combed through for embarrassing or incriminating prose. "It's very dangerous to run for political office if you have an intellect," Webb said in response to the attacks.

This morning the Baltimore Sun has an article on some of those positions Webb has been attacked on. One is race. Webb's response is of some significance to us hillbillies in these Appalachian mountains:

"In the interview, Webb said he supported affirmative action for 'native-born African-Americans' because of slavery's legacy. But he said government needed to move beyond race and to confront the poverty that affects all Americans, including Appalachian whites, a group he celebrated in a 2004 book Born Fighting: How The Scots-Irish Shaped America. 'You cannot ask me to abandon my loyalties to my own culture, which, I think, needs help, and that's really what I try to say. You go to southwest Virginia, go out in the Appalachian Mountains and tell them that they've had an advantage,' he said. 'There are people who are Caucasian who are out of cultural groups that have never had an advantage, and if we're going to have diversity programs they need to be looked at.' "

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Who's the Biggest Anti-Hispanic of Them All?

...why, it's Virginia Foxx!

Who proudly touted her co-sponsorship of the Sensenbrenner Bill, which would build hundreds of miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, require that businesses verify the legality of all employees' status through a national database, fortify border patrols, and declare illegal immigrants and those who help them to be felons.

That harsh punishment plan isn't playing all that well.

According to today's WashPost, "many House Republicans are worried that a tough anti-illegal-immigration bill they thought would please their political base has earned them little benefit while becoming a lightning rod for the fast-growing national movement for immigrant rights."

Foxx's Republican leaders in the U.S. House were backpedaling so fast yesterday that Denny Hastert's pants legs were flapping in the breeze. "It remains our intent to produce a strong border security bill that will not make unlawful presence in the United States a felony." Blah, blah, blah.

Is anyone listening?

"There was political calculation that they [Foxx & Co.] could make this the wedge issue of 2006 and 2008, but it's not playing out that way," said Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.). "This has galvanized and energized the Latino community like no other issue I have seen in two decades, and that's going to have electoral consequences."

Anyone looked at The Madam's website lately. Is she still bragging about being a co-sponsor of the Sensenbrenner Bill?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I Hate This Headline

Lottery ticket sales highest in N.C.'s poor counties

--Winston-Salem Journal, 11 April 2006

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ask Madam Foxx

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx will be interviewed live on Appalachian State University's campus radio station WASU 90.5 FM on Wednesday, April 12, from 7:30-8 p.m. She's supposed to answer questions from the audience during the program. Call in to (828) 264-4905.

Press for the Truth

Guest Blogging: Glenn T. Hubbard

What is my motivation for stepping into the controversy over the Watauga County Sheriff's Office (WCSO)?

It comes down to three things:

1) I'm sick and tired of seeing Watauga County politics manipulated by slanderous whisper campaigns. I've seen some very good, well-intentioned people get hurt just because they had the courage to run for public office. I've also seen important policy initiatives killed through the deliberate spreading of false information.

2) On the other hand, I'm also sick and tired of seeing corruption prevail in local government and politics. I'm proud to have been part of exposing problems with the Watauga Ambulance Service contract in the late '90s, and I think local government needs more of this kind of scrutiny.

3) Perhaps most importantly, I consider myself a media watchdog. I blame the local press -- not for causing the above problems, but for allowing them to fester.

I've been there myself, so I feel qualified to say the following:

News reporters in Watauga County are badly overworked because there are so few of them. As a result, they become journalistically lazy. They only cover the stories that are easy to confirm -- the relatively uncontroversial stories that take very little time to research and for which sources will gladly talk on the record. Unfortunately, these are not the stories through which the press could do the most good. In order to clean up the problem I outlined in point #1, news reporters would have to sort out the facts and report that "despite rumors to the contrary, here is the real story..." But that's not easy for journalists to do given the miniscule amounts of time allotted for the huge numbers of stories they're expected to produce. It's easier just to rewrite press releases on uncontroversial topics and move on.

As for point #2, it takes more than just time for a reporter to expose corruption; it takes courage. This kind of courage is extremely difficult to muster when your boss hangs out at Chamber of Commerce or Kiwanis Club meetings with the very people you're supposed to be investigating. This is a problem in national news and big city news, but it's absolutely stifling in a small town. One car dealership can
easily account for 20 to 30 percent of a media outlet's budget. Hypothetically, if that dealership happens to be owned by the best friend of a corrupt politician, I can guarantee that the corruption will NEVER be exposed by local media. Forget about it.

The point of my crusade is that I think blogs are our best hope, because they don't rely on advertising dollars, and they don't require reporters to fill space with pointless stories that keep them from focusing on more important topics. But the key is, in order to fill a role all too often neglected by traditional media outlets, blogs must achieve a high degree of credibility. Some bloggers, including JW, have already accomplished this to a large extent. Even so, I consider the WCSO controversy an opportunity to experiment with a new level of journalistic blogging in Watauga County. It might not amount to anything, but it'' worth a try.

So, again I ask, if you have solid evidence on either side of the WCSO controversy, please email me -- anonymously if you prefer:

Thank you for reading my rants.

Guest-Blogger Glenn T. Hubbard is an award-winning broadcast journalist who worked most recently at 700 WLW in Cincinnati. He has filed national stories for CBS, ABC, AP and Clear Channel Worldwide radio networks and is currently working on reports for an NPR station in Knoxville, TN. He spent 15 years in local media in Watauga County, including stints as a news anchor/reporter for WATA and WECR. He also has experience as a video producer and an advertising account executive. Glenn is a
second-year Ph.D. student in Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and he also teaches journalism courses at UT. When in graduate school at ASU and not working in local news media, Glenn was active as a volunteer media consultant for the Watauga County Democratic Party. In 1998, he played a key role in the party's efforts to expose possible corruption involving the Watauga Ambulance Service contract.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Praising the Lord for Political Effect

Virginia Foxx was in Raleigh yesterday, thanking God for making her as much like a Baptist as a Catholic can be, and bemoaning the fact that every office-holder in the state isn't as conservative as she:

"It is a travesty that North Carolina is controlled by the Democrats," she said.

Yes, we've seen travesty, some of it in your general direction, Congresswoman.

Foxx said those words at a breakfast meeting of the N.C. Conservative Leadership Conference, the first of what its organizers hope will be an annual Republican party-building seminar to get everyone talking as tough as The Madam. (After breakfast, Foxx asked for a take-out box, and eventually hauled away 42 pounds of food and two immigrant workers.)

You can read all about it here.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Rights & Wrongs

Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the group that has sprung up in Watauga County to protest the Ginn Company's 6,000-acre resort development called Laurelmor being developed on some of the previous Heavenly Mountain property, is planning a noisy protest next Thursday, April 13th, in front of the Ginn Company offices (the AF bank building, 1675 Blowing Rock Rd.) Without a good legal basis for opposing the development (that would take ZONING or at least more land-use regs than Watauga County currently has) the group has decided to opt for gestures of defiance.

The group is publishing a newsletter, "Watauga Watchdog," and their third issue alleges that the Ginn Company sent a spy to one of their meetings, a spy who announced that he was with "the Natural Resources District Council," which rang just wrong enough to make everybody instantly suspicious and guarded. Plus he was waving around a camera in a much too friendly way. When the spy began trying to arrange a group photograph, and the group wouldn't cooperate, "he just started taking people's pictures in the room."

If the spy loses his job with the Ginn Company, he can always write a book: "How NOT to Deal with Citizen Protest."

The book the Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains might write will be infinitely more tragic, until the group gets a better grip on private property rights and the processes of regulating growth in an unzoned county.

Congressional Candidates Speak

Last night in Boone, the four Democratic candidates in the NC-5 congressional race held the first of three public forums across the district, to answer questions and to get their temperature taken by voters looking for the right person to challenge Madam Virginia Foxx in November.

Call it Neophyte's Night. One is so new to politics he hasn't learned how to speak without notes. One is probably far too blunt for the 5th district. One has run before but was beaten in the 2004 primary by Jim Harrell. Only one has ever held public office before, and that was nigh on 30 years ago.

But also call it Highly Educated Night. All four have graduate educations. Syndi Holmes is a trained nurse of 22 years. Mark Glen, the architect, went to Phillips Exeter, Duke, and Princeton. Roger Kirkman did graduate work at Chapel Hill. Roger Sharpe (no website yet) attended Harvard, Union Theological Seminary, and Oxford (among several other places).

But can they walk and chew gum at the same time? In our opinion, they make the neophyte's mistake: they want to talk about themselves and their ideals. They need to be talking about the lousy failings of The Madam. Voters won't replace her unless they're shown good reasons why she should be replaced. The reasons to replace The Madam have multiplied like mushrooms in mulch, but only candidate Sharpe even bothered to mention her name in a strongly disapproving way.

The nurse Syndi Holmes was the best communicator on the panel (these are close paraphrases): After the 2004 election, everybody was sitting around crying and I got mad ... I feel very disenfranchised ... We have a rubberstamp delegation in Washington ... With Democrats in control in Washington again, we'll have hearings on the Bush administration's conduct of the war. I'll call for his impeachment ... The proposed sale of federal forestland is the most ludicrous idea I've ever heard. The government has already sold off its integrity, and now it wants to sell the people's assets ... Put a moratorium on international trade agreements and reevaluate them. Look for completely new sources of energy. Maximize our local resources. We have what could become the Napa Valley of the East here ... As long as we keep the current crowd in Washington, nothing is going to change. It's up to you. You are the government ... We've abdicated our responsibilities as citizens.

Roger Kirkman: Elections these days are won by staging and spin rather than by ideas and the truth. We have a cultural disaster in the making ... religious monopoly ... Roll back the Bush tax cuts for the rich ... End polarization through compromise and debate. I'm going around stirring up civility.

Mark Glen: Good hard-working people are vulnerable and are losing ground ... I am a member of the reality-based community ... Rescind the Bush tax cuts to the rich, roll back the capital gains tax rates. We have to bring sense back to our tax policies ... The people who caused 9/11 were fanatics, not fools. Bush was right the first time: nation-building is not in our best interest ... The proposed sale of federal forestland doesn't surprise me, the pillaging of a national resource for short-term fixes. But it's shameful behavior ... The only solution to corruption in politics may be public financing of elections ... I'm a political novice undergoing a steep learning curve ... I'm an angry moderate.

Roger Sharpe: We've got to have a timetable to get out of Iraq, because it's draining our resources ... The proposed sale of public forestland is indicative of this whole administration, of where their values lie ... To help the economy, we should invest in retraining, reeducation of our displaced workers ... Foxx has voted twice against important campaign reform ... I've known Foxx for 30 years. I've seen her change for the worst. She's been a chameleon. Someone needs to hold her accountable for that ... We need jobs, yes, but a good education first, to help retrain people. This administration has gutted public education in this country, while calling it "No Child Left Behind" ... Foxx had a fundraiser in Statesville with "the better people." She called the rest of us "average citizens" and said she would be speaking to us at another time ... I want this job. There's a lot of anger and cynicism in this district. People have given up on politicians and politics. I want to respond to that loss of faith in democracy ... Vote the bums out!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Twice in One Day...

...we find ourselves in agreement with Republicans.

John Armor, candidate in the Republican primary for U.S. Congress against Charlie Taylor in the 11th Congressional District, has written to the chancellor of Western Carolina University about unfair treatment at the hands of that university, which allowed an event for Charlie Taylor on its campus but not one for John Armor.

North Carolina colleges and universities are public property. If political campaigns of any stripe are willing to pay applicable fees and abide by applicable rules, then it's clearly not fair to welcome one candidate and bar another.

Isn't that covered in Free Speech 101?

Reform the N.C. House

We find ourselves on this Thursday applauding a group of Republican North Carolina House members calling for the reform of House rules. Namely,

* Limiting the speaker's tenure to three two-year terms.

* Letting party caucuses appoint their members to legislative committees. The number of members for each committee would be determined by the percentage of seats each party controls in the House.

* Banning provisions within the state budget that have little to do with spending, and banning closed-door budget meetings between House and Senate conferees.

* Establishing an independent redistricting commission to avoid gerrymandered legislative districts to favor incumbents.

What's fair is fair. The Democrats have run the N.C. House like a plantation, and presumably the Republicans would do the same when they take power. Neither situation is in the best interests of the state.

The Truth Will Get You ... Muzzled

From today's WashPost: "Scientists doing climate research for the federal government say the Bush administration has made it hard for them to speak forthrightly to the public about global warming. The result, the researchers say, is a danger that Americans are not getting the full story on how the climate is changing."

"Americans not getting the full story"??? Imagine that!

ATTENTION: Sheriff Partisans

When we set up WataugaWatch, we deliberately made the "comment" feature as accessible to people as possible ... no registration required, anonymous posts allowed.

That privilege has been abused.

It's obviously all too easy to say vile and unproven things from the cover of "Anonymous." Such reckless talk is not brave. It's not fair. And it's certainly not Christian.

And it won't be tolerated. The administrator of this site has removed permanently a number of comment posts from this site that were potentially libelous. Repeat offenders, beware. We've got a "ban" button, and we're not afraid to use it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wal-Mart Pushing the "Gay Agenda"?

Ever hear the one about the lumberjack shopping for motor oil in Wal-Mart who suddenly started singing show tunes?

Evidently, according to the American Family Association, Wal-Mart has begun pushing the gay agenda. Why is the American Family Assoc. saying such things? Because Wal-Mart intends to sell a million or more DVDs of "Brokeback Mountain," that's why.

Ah! How greed is corrupting American macho!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"We're All Being Played" on Illegal Immigration

In amongst all the yelling about the sheriff in the comments down-column, Clay posted a link to an important piece of writing on the whole illegal immigration "issue" that Madam Virginia Foxx is playing as her race card this year. It's a recommended piece of writing, if you're struggling to sort out what the argument is REALLY all about. Thanks, Clay.

Virginia Foxx, Partaker of a "Criminal Enterprise"

So Tom DeLay is out. What that has to do with Madam Virginia Foxx needs some discussion. But first, this line from the excellent reporting done on this story by Jonathan Weisman and Chris Cillizza of the WashPost: "[Delay's] decision [to resign] came three days after his former deputy chief of staff, Tony C. Rudy, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and corruption charges, telling federal prosecutors of a criminal enterprise being run out of DeLay's leadership offices."

Rudy has either rolled over on him or is about to. "A criminal enterprise."

From which The Madam has benefitted mightily. DeLay has given Foxx a total of $15,000 (that we know about). JDub over at Appalachian Voices' new blog has posted a complete run-down of the money DeLay-the-Racketeer has spread around to congresspersons from the Appalachian region.

The Madam's appetite for that cash is both shameless and evidently boundless. Not satisfied about lashing herself to the sinking DeLay yacht, she brought DeLay's protege Roy Blunt, no slouch himself at shaking the money tree, to Mt. Airy a few days ago to help her raise even more.

The embarrassment for such a gawd-almighty Christian to be exposed as a criminal syndicalist is evidently not so huge as the potential embarrassment for DeLay of being beaten in his race for reelection from his Texas district: he wants his name off the ballot, badly enough to change his residence to Virginia: "Under Texas law, DeLay, who will turn 59 on Saturday, must either die, be convicted of a felony, or move out of his district to be removed from the November ballot. DeLay told Time magazine that he is likely to change his official residence to Alexandria, Va., by the end of May."

Did you ever hear the one about the Texas congressman who decided to die rather than have his name on the ballot?

ADDENDUM: Mike Allen in Time magazine, in the scoopiest piece we've seen so far on the DeLay death dive, says that DeLay is talking defiantly about going public on his pet causes, particularly "promoting foster care, Republican candidates and a closer connection between religion and government."

Just what Jehovah needs ... more tarnishing by Tom DeLay.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Kitten with a Whip

Long article in yesterday's Winston-Salem Journal (thanks to Stumpy for the link) about how Madam Virginia Foxx is playing the race card on immigration with one hand -- round 'em all up and deport 'em and then build a thousand-mile wall -- and mollifying -- or trying to mollify -- with the other the big-money agricultural interests in her district that depend on immigrant labor, both documented and un-. (And if you can parse that impossible sentence, you're a better grammarian than I.) Shorthand: Foxx is walking a tightrope ... keeping her far-right Grinch personality on full display while simultaneously making nice with powerful business interests not happy to see their cheap labor pool drained.

We can't wait for those billboards: "Virginia Foxx ... bad for business."

When Getting Hammered Doesn't Make You Feel Better

And I THOUGHT I had seen bitter primaries in the Democratic Party!

When it comes to internecine blood-letting, the North Carolina GOP shows some taste for it. When they take out the sword, they throw away the scabbard (witness the comment posts to the last item, down-column). Sheesh.

The local bleeding in the Watauga County Sheriff's race is a fair reflection of what's going on state-wide, fueled by Art Pope's money and the fanatical push to purge the Republican Party of dangerous moderates.

Big tent? Not so much. More of a jihad-y kind of thing.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Foxx Helping Blust in Wilkes County

A little bird flapped uphill from Wilkes County to tell us that Congresswoman Virginia Foxx is helping or has helped David Blust in Wilkes County (on the "Self-Righteousness Express"?), in Blust's insurgency against incumbent N.C. Senator John Garwood in the Republican primary.

Garwood has not been seen much in Watauga County, partly because the county GOP has treated him like ca-ca in the past (which is the way they tend to treat fellow Republicans who are even slightly less holy than they).

Waiting in the wings to take on whoever comes out of this mud pit alive ... Rev. Steve Goss, a retired Baptist minister with a head on his shoulders, an actual Christian conscience, and progressive ideas.

War Against Christians Wrap-up

Campus Progress, a division of the Center for American Progress, has some good blog entries on the "War Against Christians" conference. A couple of interns attended and wrote what they saw and heard. What they saw and heard was a good Pharisee scene, in the vein of iPootValues. (Thanks to Stumpy for sharing the link.)