Friday, June 30, 2006

EL PRESIDENTE plans to get his photo taken with military men and women at Fort Bragg on July 4th, but the Charlotte Observer says no N.C. congressperson, save Dick Burr, plans to share the stage with Bush ... not Robin Hayes, who's very vulnerable this year, nor Walter Jones, who's broken with the president over the war, nor wet-behind-the-ears BushBot Patrick McHenry, nor Sue Myrick, nor (can it be?!) Madam Virginia Foxx.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Shook Explains

An interview with Sheriff Mark Shook in today's High Country News (p. 3, not as yet available on-line) quotes him clarifying his statement that the first sexual harassment suit against him was "politically motivated": "When I said it was politically motivated, I didn't mean by any [political] party, but by certain individuals who want to hurt me and who want me out of office in retaliation for being terminated. I'm not saying the Democratic or Republican Party is behind this. These are individuals who are trying to discredit me to the voters."

He also emphatically denied a rumor (running rampant through county offices yesterday) that he had decided to resign.

Tomorrow's Watauga Democrat (not yet available on-line but out now on news stands) contains a lengthy interview with county attorney Andrea Capua. Among other interesting wrinkles: Sheriff Shook's attorney, Rebecca Eggers, was county attorney during the time that the two plaintiffs allege they complained about Shook's behavior to the county manager. Eggers denies that those complaints were ever lodged.

Capua also spoke on the record about the "politically motivated" comment that has now been clarified: "I don't think this is Democrat versus Republican. The political motive is to get [Shook] out of office. [Townsend] would have loved for Mark to have lost the primary so she could have a way back into the sheriff's department." But Capua went on: "This is just me speaking personally. To me it's pretty obviously politically motivated, because [Townsend] put [the lawsuit] out to the press before Mark was even served. Paula's the one getting it out to the press, so she obviously has no problem with this stuff being out there."

Reading between THOSE lines might cause vertigo.

Angela Gray, the Winston-Salem attorney representing both plaintiffs, admitted that language in the lawsuits is aimed at seeing the sheriff removed from office, opening the way to the possible reinstatement of her clients.

Jim Webb Calls Allen's Bluff

Immediately after Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) suggested Tuesday that his Democratic challenger James Webb was unpatriotic for opposing a constitutional ban on flag-burning, Webb was in Allen's metaphorical face calling HIM a coward for avoiding the draft during the Vietnam War. Allen spent the war "playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada," said the spokesman for Webb. (While he was a student at the University of Virginia, Allen did work summers at ranches in the Southwest. Webb, meanwhile, was carrying a rifle for the Marines in 'Nam.)

You know it's going to be a brawl when they start using your middle name. The spokesman for Webb kept referring to Sen. Allen as "Felix," the middle name the senator is known to detest.

And damn if it didn't work. A spokesman for Sen. Allen began backpedaling fast: "They're saying we questioned his patriotism, and that's a lie. We just raised a legitimate question about whether he supports a flag amendment or not. How is that questioning his patriotism?"

Our kind of Democrat, James Webb! He reminds us of that Sean Connery character in "The Untouchables" (1987): "You wanna know how you do it? Here's how: they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?"

Mark down James Webb as one Democrat who's ready.

Tune in for "Watauga Talks"

Guest blogging: Glenn Hubbard

More than 14 years after I quit WATA in a self-righteous pique -- angry that after nearly six years' work my pay was less than a quarter above the minimum wage -- I am both amazed and bemused to report my return to Watauga county's first local radio station. Here's the really funny part: I'll be making even LESS money than before!

Much has changed since I last walked those hallowed -- or should I say -- cigarette smoke-stained halls. I've raised hell in local politics, sold cable TV advertising, worked as a radio news reporter in a top-30 market, and made it to the final year of a Ph.D. program at the University of Tennessee. I've also become one of a very few individuals in the history of the county to be directly attacked in a Watauga Democrat editorial. My mom is very proud.

Several weeks ago, a group of Democrats petitioned the General Manager of Aisling Broadcasting, asking for at least a semblance of equal time after a former Republican Party chairman, Mr. Jim Hastings, had been offered a weekly show on WATA and WXIT. I think these Democrats learned a lesson about being careful what they wished for, because much to their surprise, the station's manager agreed to their request and suggested that they produce a show themselves. That's when my phone rang.

I have met with the station manager, and we have agreed that Watauga County does not need a polarizing, venomous, hard-line talk show. Mr. Hastings has promised civility, as have I. In my opinion, the radio industry has more than enough shows already that feature blowhards who are convinced that they've never been wrong about anything in their entire lives (other than possibly dependence on pain killers or efforts to keep their names off Viagra bottles). We don't need an extreme right-wing OR left-wing talk show -- which is good, because I don't believe I could pull either of these things off; I think too much.

So I am pleased to announce that "Watauga Talks" will air for the first time on Friday, June 30th at 9:15 on both WATA (1450 AM) and WXIT (1200 AM). Shelley Wainscott-Wallin and Kathleen McFadden will be my co-hosts, alternating weeks. Our guest on this week's show is Watauga County Commission Chairman Jim Deal, who has some fascinating insights on the nature of Watauga County politics, as well as updates on the Watauga High School issue, tax valuations, economic development and more. Due to scheduling issues, the interview with Jim Deal has been prerecorded, although in the future our guests will take your calls. (In case you're wondering, Commissioner Deal does comment on the County's having been named in two lawsuits against Sheriff Mark Shook.)

Let me emphasize that while the Hastings show is called "The Right Side," our show is not intended to occupy exclusively the left side of local issues. I consider myself a moderate Democrat, as do most of the Watauga County Democrats I know. Our interest is in delivering an informative show dealing with issues that matter to all Wataugans. We want the show to bring people together, not push them apart. We welcome your suggestions and participation. During the show, you can call 262-1567. Also feel free to leave comments here on this blog. Before long, we'll probably set up a website specifically for the radio show, so stay tuned.

See you on the radio!

Glenn T. Hubbard

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Text of Shook v. Shook

If you want to read the text of Patricia E. Shook's federal discrimination complaint against Sheriff Shook, here 'tis.

The main difference from the Townsend suit is that whereas Townsend alleges the sheriff pursued a sexual "relationship," Ms. Shook alleges that all her difficulties stemmed from her supervisory role over certain male employees of the sheriff's department (she was Chief of Communications, after all), and that when she gave one of them a poor job performance rating, "Defendant Shook advised the Plaintiff that he would terminate her if she continued to report the male subordinate's poor job performance. Thereafter, Defendant Shook frequently made negative, sexual comments about females working within the Sheriff's Department. The Plaintiff contends that Defendant Shook also demeaned her and other female coworkers and made an effort to undermine the Plaintiff's supervisory authority within her department."

Nothing about unwanted sexual advances. It seems to be all about a "hostile work environment" based on negative (sexual) stereotypes of women.

Coverage of 2nd Shook Suit

Fairly lengthy coverage of the second discrimination lawsuit against Sheriff Mark Shook in today's Winston-Salem Journal here. And more perfunctory coverage in the Raleigh News & Observer here.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Second Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Sheriff Shook

Details are sketchy so far, but here's what the Watauga Democrat has in Monday's paper.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

State Democratic Convention

The press wasn't barred, as it was from the Republican state convention a few weeks ago, so the N&O did what it could with the red meat of an abortion debate among Democrats at yesterday's state convention in High Point. "Debate," such as it was. Anti-abortion Democrats can claim "back of the bus" status if it pleases them. But Democrats aren't forcing anyone to have an abortion, while the official position of the N.C.G.O.P. WOULD force women to procreate against their will.

So it wasn't much of a flap ... is what we're saying.

Better copy, though, if you're looking for controversy among the Ds, was the Black-ening of the party by a certain state House speaker, and of course the continuing snit that Gov. No-Show Easley seems dedicated to, like Achilles sulking in his tent.

We choose to fasten on the trivia instead, the meaning of "blue-moon election," which happens in North Carolina every 12 years when there is no national or state-wide race on the ballot to galvanize the parties and bring the voters to the polls ... no governor, no senator, no president. The N&O points out that the last blue-moon election was 1994, and we know what happened THAT year. The speculation is that it might happen again ... only this time to a bunch that has so richly EARNED it.

(On whether the Dems likewise earned the 1994 drubbing ... we'll defer that discussion, though we have to warn you: you'll get no argument here to the contrary. If Easley bears an uncanny resemblance to Achilles, we're totally into Amos today! ... "...because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes -- they that trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and turn aside the way of the afflicted..." You get it, right?)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

What Conservatives Believe?

...that it is natural and good to:

1. Take more money for yourself from the national treasury, while

2. Denying the poorest wage earners a modest raise.

Thus the 99.9 percent "pure conservative" Madam Foxx went along with raising her own congressional salary by $3,300 last week, to $168,500 per freakin' year, while fighting tooth & polished nail against raising the minimum hourly wage from $5.15 to $7.50.

For that queenly salary, The Madam is actually working fewer calendar days than any congress since the late 1940s. They've been in session this year for -- what? -- 70-some days, sum total!

Bonehead Politics

"Stay the course." A.k.a., "When you're in a hole, keep digging, only faster. Hint: Use a bigger shovel."

With the national Republican Party out in full force on the wisdom of El Presidente's Iraqi quagmire, what else do they have going for them?

Queer fear and flag burning, that's what. The gay marriage ban has already failed miserably in the Senate, but up next ... a ban on flag desecration, which apparently has reached epidemic levels and must be CONTROLLED.

Matt Bennett, a former Democratic staffer who is vice president of Third Way, a centrist think tank, and a follower of polls and focus groups, is quoted in this a.m.'s WashPost: "The gay marriage political ploy was a masterstroke in 2004, but it is not working this year." Voters want serious debates on serious issues, not "flag burning and this other nonsense," he said, adding: "I am highly skeptical that this is smart politics."

Friday, June 23, 2006

Letting the Genie Out of the Blog

Interesting follow-up article on the election of Rev. Frank Page as president of the Southern Baptist Convention last week ... particularly the influence of religious blogs in that revolution among the Southern Baptists. Rev. Wade Burleson of Enid, Okla., is particularly cited as influential. Here's his blog, if you want to check him out.

From the N&O article comes this insight into how the blogosphere has uncorked the access to information that religious hierarchies would rather keep from their people:

"Many of those blogs that routinely write about faith are giving religious leaders heartburn. 'The old ways of ordering church life are breaking down,' said Bill Leonard, the dean of the divinity school at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. Few people read denominational newspapers, Leonard said, and church leaders are no longer able to shape the message the way they did in the past."

Which is why Republican legislative initiatives to control or limit or censor or regulate the Internet should raise the small hairs on the napes of all our necks, religious or not.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Faith & Reason

Fellow Southern Baptist skeptic Bill Moyers will be back on television with a weekly exploration of "Faith & Reason," punching some of those current hot buttons ... What is prayer? Why do some kill in the name of religion? How should we talk about religion in public life? (Airing on UNC-TV, starting on Thurs., July 6th, 10 p.m., with Salman Rushdie, and every Thurs. thereafter for awhile, each program featuring another prominent author from a variety of religious backgrounds who professes a variety of religious attitudes).

Moyers is interviewed in the current Sojourners magazine (free registration required):


...All over the world, the consequence of [the] collision between faith and reason is tragic.

Many writers today are threatened by repression, oppression, and persecution because of the strident claims to authority of fundamentalist religion. And, of course, as one of the writers says, the basic issue of religion is the basic issue of free speech -- if we're not free to write about religion and critique it without being subjected to persecution and oppression, then religion will never be tempered by how others see the world....

The fact that religion has become a weapon in political combat has robbed it of the deep mysterious profundity of language, and the effort to try to be more thoughtful about what we mean when we use the words "God," "faith," "hope," or "belief." It's just such a rich conversation that I felt I owed it to our viewers and to the country to try to hear religion in a way that you don't hear it discussed today....

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer Solstice

It arrived on the East Coast this a.m. at 8:26 EDT, the furthest tilting of the Northern hemisphere toward the sun, which gives us our longest day of the calendar year (and our shortest night), a momentous event since prehistoric times for worshipping the sustainable earth.

O to be at Stonehenge on this morning, that great megalithic sunrise-marker, built to record and trace the movement of the sun through the heavens (though we hear that clouds and rain hid the English sunrise and dampened the Druidic spirit on the Glastonbury Plain this morning). Here in this Appalachian latitude, I and the dogs were out on our walk at 6:30 a.m. and watched the cloudless arrival of our longest day with quiet gratitude, mixed with the scent of wild honeysuckle and the mad running of dogs intent on taking life by the scruff. We were back in our own garden at precisely 8:26 EDT to welcome Solstice (meaning, literally, "sun standing still," which is what it appeared to do to early men and women who had a keen interest in the cycle of the seasons). I'm about to go out and pick sugar peas.

Last night was "midsummer's eve," which in our ancestral British Isles was a time marked by woodland high jinks. We hope that wherever you stepped last night out of doors that you saw Mustardseed and Peasblossom. Not to worry if you didn't. They'll be out again tonight, if you know where to look.

The Greening of the Me Generation

College students at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa have agreed to assess themselves (or their parents) an extra $20 each semester to pay a wind-turbine electricity producer to generate 4.4 million kilowatt hours of "energy credits," making their campus 100 percent "green" as far as electricity goes (at least theoretically).

Forward-thinking student leaders at Appalachian State University voted a couple of years ago to assess themselves additional student fees to help move ASU toward solar power and other sustainable practices.

Not that all of that age group are blithely transcending hedonism, not by a long shot, but at least they're leading us in a new and hopeful direction.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Paula Townsend Interviewed in Today's Watauga Democrat

Doozy of an interview!

Especially interesting in that it names the second woman who was supposed to have filed her own sexual harassment lawsuit against Sheriff Shook by today ... but looks as though the lawyer is now talking "by the end of the summer."

Also interesting in that Townsend seems to send a signal about possible settlement.

Also about getting it all out in public in a trial.

Foxx Is Mind-Numbingly Conservative

The Madam has been acknowledged as more conservative than a granite block by the American Conservative Union. Also "One of the Best and Brightest Members of Congress" for her ideological purity.

For the record, though, apparently she cannot walk and think extremely conservative thoughts at the same time.

Quote of the Week

"This is nothing more or less than really a charade."

--Republican Rep. Walter Jones (NC-03), commenting on the U.S. House floor debate on "the present and future of our commitment in Iraq," staged late last week by the Republican leadership to show their support for President Bush's handling of the war ("stay the course") and to spotlight Democrats' disunity on the issue.

Jones broke with his party last year and called on El Presidente to develop an exit plan from Iraq.

Jones refused to vote for his party's Iraq resolution, voting "present" instead. (Tim Funk's coverage in Charlotte Observer here)

Friday, June 16, 2006


We haven't actually published the name of the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention, but now we have to, before quoting from that sharp tack E.J. Dionne ... the new president -- Rev. Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. Read and heed:

"...Page's upset victory could be very significant, both to the nation's religious life and to politics. He defeated candidates supported by the convention's staunchly conservative establishment, which has dominated the organization since the mid-1980s. His triumph is one of many signs that new breezes are blowing through the broader evangelical Christian world."

"...[Rev. Page] also signaled that the spirit he hopes to embody is quite different from that of the angry, right-wing, politicized preacher who has been a stock figure in American life for more than two decades."

" 'The election [of Page],' [Bill Leonard, the dean of the Wake Forest University Divinity School] said, indicates that 'the leadership of the denomination that pushed it hard to the right on theological and social issues is aging or passing from the scene and is unable to rally the troops as they once did.' "

Amazingly, the blogosphere has a hand in this too. Moderate Southern Baptists have found blogging as a way around the establishment house organs of men like Bush ally and big-time Southern Baptist pooh-bah Rev. Richard Land (of iVoteValues fame).

"Blessed be the bloggers, for they shall drive up the price of pajama stocks."

If She Can't Be Scriptural, She Can at Least Be Dogmatic

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx claims she's a Baptist. Big Baptist.

Earlier this week, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution in Greensboro reaffirming the denomination's "total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing and consuming of alcoholic beverages."

What DO the Baptists think, then, of The Madam's accepting of thousands of $$ from the beer, wine, and liquor industry? Hmmm? Doesn't drink herself but takes money from the PUSHERS of demon rum. Nice Christian testimonial, that!

Is it okay? ... because while The Madam is at least nominally a "Baptist," she's first and foremost an extremely conservative Republican who toadies to El Presidente 97 percent of the time.

"Render unto Caesar" evidently trumps "Be careful ... that ... your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak."

Another Shoe to Drop?

Information has been passed to us that another sexual harassment case will be filed against the Watauga County sheriff's department "by Monday." The name of the plaintiff is known, but until an actual complaint is filed, we cannot say.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

TOWNSEND'S CASE AGAINST WATAUGA COUNTY ... Since the sheriff is an elected official, he is in a broad sense an employee of all the people. He's also in a more narrow sense an employee of the county, since he is salaried via the county budget. But he can't be fired by the county administration, and so far as we know, the county does not and probably could not dictate the people he hires and fires.

Maybe some of the legal eagles who read this site can riddle us this: How can county government (elected officials) be held liable for the acts of another elected official, who is therefore in some real sense an equal and hardly an "employee" (at least in the sense that most of us understand that word ... that is, "a person who works for another in return for financial or other compensation")?

Appealing to the county manager to DO something about a bad situation, which Townsend says in her complaint she did, is perfectly understandable. It's probably the first thing I would think of to do also. But I can simultaneously appreciate the position of the county manager. How does an unelected administrative employee discipline an independently elected office-holder?

That's something of a conundrum, though perhaps this sort of liability has been previously litigated and settled. We hope someone out there can enlighten us.

It's also possible -- dare we suggest it? --that plaintiff's attorney is merely throwing everything within reach at this particular wall, looking to see what will stick.

ANOTHER CURIOUS DETAIL: Did anyone else notice in the Townsend complaint (page 2, Sect. III) that "the unlawful practices alleged herein were committed within the State of North Carolina; specifically in Wake and Watauga County...."

Wake? What happened in Wake County? Are we talking road trip here?

They Shall Beat Their Swords Into Bigger Swords

Condoleezza Rice did not noticeably submit herself to her husband on Tuesday while addressing the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro, but she took on the protective coloring of her surroundings and out-Phariseed the Pharisees: admitting, shyly and while digging her toe into the plush carpet of the convention center, that she only prayed to God every day.

"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men."

"Neither shall you learn war any more." Well, no, not that far, not necessarily. The assembled Baptist brethren gave Rice's defense of the war in Iraq a standing ovation.

Interestingly, Ms. Rice refused outside the convention to support the anti same-sex marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was hotly lusted after inside the convention hall. Nobody asked her, evidently, about abortion. She'd have ducked that question too.

The Non-Denial Denial

Sheriff Mark Shook in the Watauga Democrat: "This is a politically motivated and totally unfounded lawsuit."

Sheriff Mark Shook on WATA radio: "This is a politically motivated and totally unfounded lawsuit."

Sheriff Mark in the Winston-Salem Journal: "This is a politically motivated and totally unfounded lawsuit."

That's called getting a story and sticking to it.

Only the reporter for the W-S Journal had the presence of mind to move beyond the role of stenographer and ask, "Politically motivated by whom?" Because, all things being equal, you would assume that the Republican Sheriff meant "politically motivated by Democrats," wouldn't you?

"Asked if the Democrats or Republicans were behind it, [Shook] said: 'I think this is people that will work on either side just to get me out of office. Basically retaliation.' "

Here our intrepid out-of-county reporter failed us. He should have followed up: "Retaliation for what?" No such luck. Not that the reporter would have gotten an answer, but the dodge would have been instructive.

The plaintiff in this mess is a Republican. The forces that tried to oust Shook in the Republican primary over this mess are old Republican bulls in the Watauga G.O.P. To our certain knowledge, no Democrats have had a hand of any kind in this appalling mess. But it pleases the Sheriff to spread the impression that he is a victim of "the other side."

As one local wag commented to us this a.m., "The Democrats did not have sex with that woman."

Shook's opponent on the November ballot, Democrat Len "L.D." Hagaman issued a statement late yesterday afternoon:

"I have been approached by a member of the media about the filing of a lawsuit in the Western District of United States District Court against Watauga County Sheriff Mark Shook.

"First, I am running for Sheriff of Watauga County because, rightly or not, the Sheriff is often perceived as the 'ambassador' of the county. For this reason, it is imperative that the Watauga County Sheriff's Department projects the utmost integrity, unquestionable good judgment, the highest of principles, as well as strong leadership and management. This is what I will bring to the office if elected.

"Second, I have no position on the impending lawsuit between Sheriff Shook and Ms. Townsend. It would be wrong of me to make judgments before all the facts are in. I believe in our judicial system. The plaintiff and the accused both need a chance to be heard and make their case. For this reason, until the courts have settled this matter, I will not comment on the merits of the case."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Southern Baptists Elect a (Dangerous?) Moderate

Well, now! The Southern Baptist Convention elected the underdog outsider as its president yesterday in Greensboro, turning away the hand-picked candidate (and mega-church pastor from Arkansas) and another high-profile candidate who had hosted the second "Justice Sunday" event at his Nashville church.

Instead, they got the pastor of a small Baptist church in the upstate of South Carolina who said that "I believe in the word of God. I'm just not mad about it."

Thus putting his finger on the trend that many of us had noticed was carrying the Southern Baptists completely away from their old independent selves and into a wholly owned subsidiary of a very "mad about it" Republican Party.
CIVIL SUMMONSES were due to be served today on Sheriff Mark Shook and on County Manager Rocky Nelson, to answer the charges outlined in Paula Townsend's complaint, filed in Federal District Court (see below). Shook and Nelson have 20 days to respond.

Text of Townsend v. Shook & Watauga County

PDF file of full text of Townsend lawsuit here.
JAMES WEBB WINS VIRGINIA PRIMARY ... so no-military-service Sen. George Allen will face the ex-Marine this fall. Goody, goody.

In his acceptance remarks, Webb addressed Allen directly: "I wonder, George, what leadership? It's not leadership to follow this administration blindly 97 percent of the time."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Townsend Sues Sheriff Shook

This is the REAL deal.

Today (13 June 2006), former Chief Deputy Paula Townsend sued Watauga County Sheriff Mark Shook for sexual harassment, as well as the county of Watauga. Direct quotes from her 11-page complaint follow below, but check back here early on Wednesday morn, as we hope to have the full text of the suit available as a PDF file.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is invoked as the relevant controlling text ... wherein the key words "because of sex" or "on the basis of sex" form the axle that spins these wheels and by which the plaintiff can also sue the employer of Sheriff Shook (hence Watauga County's share in this mess).

Key words: "wrongful termination" and "intentional infliction of emotional distress."

Key dates: July 28, 2005, when Townsend "submitted a charge of discrimination on the basis of sex discrimination and retailiation" to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and June 12, 2006, when Townsend received a "notice of right to sue" from the EEOC.

Plaintiff alleges "that she was discharged because of her gender, and for refusing to comply with Defendant Shook's sexual advances, requests, and demands."

"Beginning on approximately December 31, 2002, Defendant Shook expressed to Plaintiff his interest in engaging in a personal relationship with her. After Plaintiff rejected Defendant Shook's advances, Defendant Shook began to assign the Plaintiff to work on assignments specifically with him. During various times while Plaintiff and Defendant Shook were working on an assignment, Defendant Shook continually expressed his desire to engage in a personal relationship with the Plaintiff. Plaintiff further contends that Defendant Shook touched her inappropriately in a sexual manner on several occasions. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Shook made sexual comments to her regarding his sexual fantasies and his past sexual experiences.

"Plaintiff contends that after rejecting Defendant Shook's advances and advising him that she felt his comments and conduct were inappropriate and unwelcome, Defendant Shook became offended and thereafter, negatively altered her work conditions. Plaintiff further contends that Defendant Shook ultimately terminated her employment due to her rejection of his sexual advances.

"Plaintiff contends that she made complaints to [County Manager] Rocky Nelson regarding Defendant Shook, however nothing was done. Plaintiff further contends that she was advised that the Defendant Sheriff was free to run his office as he pleased and that the County had no control over the office of Sheriff.

"Plaintiff contends that she was routinely subjected to offensive sexual harassment, in terms of the work conditions, privileges, benefits, and work environment. The Plaintiff contends that she is a member of a protected class and was harassed by her co-worker and supervisor based on her gender. The Plaintiff further contends that such harassment was unwelcome and was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and to create an abusive and hostile working environment; and the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take prompt effective remedial action."

That's some of the guts of the case.

We also note that plaintiff is requesting a jury trial.
THE AMERICANIZATION OF ISLAM ... apparently includes learning the American "Christian" tradition of warehousing the elderly in "facilities" like nursing homes ... not something normally tolerated by Muslim teaching. And Christians feel morally superior ... why again?
SPEAKING OF BIG BULLFROGS ... Appalachian State University has apparently sealed a deal to buy Boone's First Baptist Church.

And Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Jane Helm has been (summarily?) let go, effectively immediately. Looks like a firing to us.

Another Wal-Mart SuperCenter, Another 51 Acres

It's all up to the Knightdale, N.C., Town Council now, and their decision will depend on who they're more afraid of ... the development-at-any-cost lobby or their residential neighborhoods.

Knightdale is a suburb (now), east of Raleigh. It passed a comprehensive new development ordinance last fall which is supposed to help create "pedestrian-friendly urban centers that mix commerce and housing." Much as the new comprehensive plan for Boone is trying to do.

Along comes that squat bullfrog, Wal-Mart, which wants to climb onto the Knightdale lily pad. Wal-Mart (through its paid development agent) wants to plop down a 206,000 square foot SuperCenter on 51 acres adjacent to two residential neighborhoods.

Last night the Knightdale planning board voted 4-2 against the project (following almost three hours of contentious testimony, debate, and deliberation). Final decision now moves to the town council.

Been there, done that. Only in Boone's case, the final decision went to the Board of Adjustment, which was not swayed by the array of lawyers that Wal-Mart sent in to threaten and cajol. (They warned, darkly, for example, that they might just abandon Boone altogether.) If memory serves, the Board of Adjustment was almost unanimous in voting that a SuperCenter was out of character. Thanks, but no thanks.

Don't know what the internal politics are like in Knightdale, but this Wal-Mart decision is likely to intensify them.

Monday, June 12, 2006

No Speakie Common Logic

Tim Funk in the Charlotte Observer zings senators Dick Burr (R-NC) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) for political cortortionism. Both senators voted for declaring English the national language and for Sen. James Inhofe's amendment to the Senate immigration bill that "nobody will have the right to ask the federal government to provide services or materials in any language other than English."

But both senators have features on their official Senate websites that allow visitors to choose options "En Espanol." There one can presumably read all about how Republicans are playing on fears of illegal immigrants.

That Fantastic Bush Economy

Broyhill Furniture announced on Friday that it will lay off 700 more workers in Lenoir. Add that 700 to the more than 1,000 laid off since January 2005. Said a company spokesman: "Unfortunately, this has become a too familiar consequence of the increasingly global manufacturing environment in which our products must compete."

And where are Congresswoman Virginia Foxx and Congressman Patrick McHenry ... to cheer everyone up? We're sure the newly unemployed would like to hear more about how splendidly all the Foxx/McHenry rich contributors are doing under the Bush tax cuts.

Three Things We Know About Virginia Foxx

Don't know how we missed this interview/profile of The Madam in The Hill, but we did. Though it's just as edifying to read it a month late.

1. The Madam, lest anyone forget for a nano-second, is a HUGE Christian: " 'There were times during the campaign when my faith was shaken, but I've tried to discern the will of God in my life and I felt this was his will. When I would have my doubts, something positive would happen.' Foxx's religious upbringing is complex. 'I was baptized as a Catholic and then attended a Baptist church and was baptized as a Baptist,' she explains. 'My faith comes from having attended church on a regular basis all my life. Primarily it comes from my strong feeling that God is leading me in what I'm doing, that God is with me in every moment of every day.' When Foxx can't make it to the First Baptist Church in Blowing Rock, she watches church on TV.' "

A recurrent baptism by water ... makes we flash on Lady Macbeth. "A little water will clear us," indeed.

2. For those who give the congresswoman multiple thousands of $$, there's no lack of loyalty: "What does she make of the ethics accusations against Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas)? 'It's a witch hunt, pure and simple,' she says. 'If it weren't DeLay it would be someone else. The reason they are going after him so strongly is because he is so effective.' When asked about lawmakers taking golfing trips to places such as Scotland, she waves me off and won't listen to another word: 'You know, there are a lot of allegations and not a lot of substance. The media is intent on spreading the allegations with no real basis to them.' "

Won't listen ... check!

3. What kind of an educator was this woman? "Foxx's political TV diet is confined to the Fox News Channel .... 'It is the only thing I watch,' she says, sounding like an ad for the station. 'I watch it because it's reasonably fair and balanced.' (Did she really just say that?)"

Parrots catch-phrases will pleading willful ignorance ... check again!

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Timid Toe in the Water

Oh yeah, on Wednesday this week, in an article about Paula Townsend's appearance on Court-TV, the last paragraph actually acknowledged that there MAY have been some news happening locally:

"In 2005, Townsend's employment at the Sheriff's Office ended without explanation by either Watauga County Sheriff Mark Shook or Townsend."

Virginia Foxx and Booze; Or, Another Landmark in Hypocrisy

Sometimes my ears hear more than my brain wants to process.

So when the leading local Republican talk-radio host (and himself a SuperChristian) begins to opine on-air about Congresswoman and part-time Catholic Virginia Foxx as a fellow SuperChristian, who sprained her wrist while praying, or immediately incident to such prayer, I begin to wonder how all such SuperChristians among us, who feel the need to congratulate themselves publicly and continually about their aroma of holiness, explain The Madam's benefitting so hugely from the beer, wine & liquor industries, to the tune of $18,000 in 2004 and $9,000 in 2006 (so far) (according to this watchdog), and just WHY do the SuperChristians imagine the beer, wine & liquor lobbies are so solicitous of The Madam's positive thoughts? Because she's such a positive CHRISTIAN role-model?

Say what?

Scarlett DeLay

Oh my. When exiting the public stage under a cloud of scandal, is it wise to utter words that you and your political cronies may end up eating? Witness Tom DeLay saying "So long, Suckas!" to the U.S. House yesterday:

"I have scraped and clawed for every vote, every amendment, for every word of every bill that I believe in my heart would protect human freedom and defend human dignity. I have done so at all times honorably and honestly, Mr. Speaker, as God is my witness and history is my judge."

Well, now, there's an open invitation, both to Jehovah and to history. Can't wait to see how THAT plays out.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Paper Tiger; Or, The Stars Fell in Alabama

Roy Moore, of granite Ten Commandments fame in Alabama, got a dismal 33 percent of the vote in the Republican primary for governor yesterday. He's already come out and said he would not be supporting the winner this November, incumbent Governor Bob Riley.

Hmmm ... 33 percent of the Republican activist base ... only 33 percent voting for probably the most visible, most heroic public Christian, in one of the most Christian-dominated states of the Old South. Just 33%. That's pretty much precisely Bush's approval rating right now. Is that the president's base? And just how impassioned is that 33 percent? Well, not very.

So what happened to the 900-lb. gorilla? Roy Moore, the Christian hero of only last year, gets absolutely trounced by a Republican heretic. Gov. Riley had advocated (gasp) for raising Alabama taxes to support education (and was disastrously unpopular in that advocacy).

Another bellwether: The stoopid Gay Marriage amendment attracted even less support in the U.S. Senate this time around.

Are people getting fed up finally with Shiite-y nonsense?

Coincidentally, THIS: "North Carolina and Florida are the only states south of Washington, D.C., and east of Texas that don't have a same-sex marriage ban in their constitution or a scheduled vote on a ban. South Carolinians will vote on a constitutional gay marriage ban in November that political observers expect to pass. Two N.C. House Democrats and most state House and Senate Republicans have pushed for such an amendment for several years, but Democratic leaders have blocked debate" (Charlotte Observer).

Hey, here's to keeping the lid on! That paragraph above accounts for my strong support for Democratic control of the state government. Forget anti-gay laws. When's the last time we've had to worry about some stooopid anti-abortion initiative in N.C.? Despite whatever MAJOR disagreements we have with the Guv and with You Know Who and with He Who Must Not Be Named -- the Democratic Czars in Raleigh -- we appreciate the effort it must take to hold the Extreme Right at bay.

Addendum: In the midst of such deep rumination, I happen on this posting by Anglico on BlueNC, a good and important read about pragmatic N.C. politics and Democratic control of state government. I hold a lot in common with Anglico. I have those same cultural roots. And completely agree with him that the alternative to Democratic control of North Carolina is dangerous millionaire Art Pope and the old Helmsian Hoard, including Jack Hawke, Virginia Foxx, Patrick McHenry, that Republican state convention crew last weekend ... and need we name him? VERNON ROBINSON, who just because he happens to lose a fair percentage of the offices he seeks, also happens to speak strongly for The Thirty-Three (percent), who (also incidentally) have the other 66% of the N.C.G.O.P. totally buffaloed. Make no mistake: a Republican takover of the state would be an extremist takeover.

But just how likely is any takeover by Republicans in any Southern state right now, if the righteous brethren are as weak as they turned out to be in Alabama?

She Caught the Junket Virus

On August 21st, 2005, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, along with hubby Tom, took off for an eight-day excursion to Israel. Total cost? $13,939.24. Paid for by? AIPAC, the "American Israel Public Affairs Committee."

AIPAC? Described by the Center for Media and Democracy as the most powerful pro-Israel lobby: "One strategy adopted by AIPAC for building political support is by organizing tours to Israel. In August 2003, a AIPAC foreign policy associate in Jerusalem told that in that month alone approximately 10% of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives had visited Israel on their tours. AIPAC is associated with the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which sponsors fact-finding trips for many members of Congress."

AIPAC is not above a little freelance espionage, lest you forget: "In 2004 CBS News reported that an FBI investigation had gained evidence that a senior Pentagon analyst with close ties to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith had provided a draft presidential directive on Iran to AIPAC that was then passed to the Israeli government."

Back to The Madam and why it should take her eight days to absorb the obvious, and $13,939.24 worth of designer water and luxury suites, when she's always promoted herself as a fast learner. Apparently, the Madam's brain slows down noticeably while junketing.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Crack Babies?

Whatever else those 500 Republicans were doing behind closed doors in New Bern at their annual state convention this past weekend, they evidently indulged in some powerful hallucinogens. Here's just one drug-induced mis-firing of some GOP synapses (courtesy of the Charlotte Observer): "The problem we have being Republicans," said Frank Feldman, vice chair from Union County, "is we're free spirits. We don't do much in lockstep."

For example (evidently), there were dozens of homosexual couples registered at the convention (not to mention at Crate & Barrel), and the Buddhist seminar on self-effacement was standing-room only.

But nothing, evidently, could quite quell a bad case of the jitters: "The Democrats have always been better about turning out their base, so we better get serious," said former Raleigh Mayor Tom Fetzer, now a political consultant. "We don't have any help from a national ticket. It's going to be a low-interest, quiet affair, and we've got to inject some life into it."

Never has so much life needed to be injected into so many unpredictable "free spirits," eh?

Come a Mighty Wind

In terms of alternative energy sources, Watauga County is blessed with two things: abundant wind and this wind energy center on the campus of Appalachian State University.

Love to see those windmills sprout!

So it's a trifle disconcerting to read about some self-styled "environmentalists" who are fighting wind power, tooth and nail. Like this one.

The only local opposition we've heard about came from a second-home owner who fought the installation of a TVA wind farm across the state line in Tennessee ... because she would be forced to look at it -- miles away -- while pulling dead leaves off her back-deck bougainvillea. She somehow induced N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper to write a letter to TVA stating that the ridge law exemption for windmills did not include a project like the one being proposed. Cooper said that the site could be problematic because it was so close to North Carolina. TVA caved and built the project on a different mountain instead. Poorest decision Roy Cooper's made.

The dude fighting wind turbines up in Maryland, referenced in the article linked above, and such activists as Robert Kennedy Jr., who's fighting a wind farm on Cape Cod, appear to be motivated by NIMBY self-interest, which is too bad. Just tooooo bad ... cause wind power is a-comin', and we welcome it to our own particular ridge and valley. Thank goodness the Watauga County Commission has already passed an ordinance regulating (and endorsing) wind turbines for residential use. May the rest of the mountains follow!

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Smell of Flop-Sweat Filled the Hall

Barely a mention in the News & Observer (but we found it!) that the state Republican Convention in New Bern this weekend was closed to the press. The N.C. Dems sent out a gigging press release:

RALEIGH -- This past weekend in New Bern, the North Carolina Republican Party held their state convention under a cloud of secrecy. 'Apparently concerned about party divisions, state GOP Chairman Ferrell Blount barred the news media from covering official convention business -- consideration of resolutions, platform and other matters -- where the 546 delegates had a chance to talk from the convention floor. Reporters were permitted to hear only speakers officially sanctioned by the party.' [Raleigh News and Observer, 6/4/2006] 'State party chairman Ferrell Blount barred reporters from many convention business sessions, including discussion of resolutions, platform and other matters on which the 546 delegates were allowed to speak from the floor.' [Associated Press, 6/3/2006] ....

It's not generally a good sign when a free press scares your pants off, but these ARE Republicans, after all.

Bovine Flank Steak

A petition is circulating among farmers in Ashe County (and in other rural counties, we wager), hotly decrying a Department of Agriculture "animal ID" plan, which is itself a panicky reaction to the several confirmed cases of "mad cow disease." The petition cites HR3170 and two companion bills (HR1256 and HR1254) "that will virtually destroy the small livestock farmers and make recreational livestock activities a thing of the past." (You can get a snoot-full of oppositional rhetoric at the Stop Animal ID Org site.)

The House has not acted, but the Department of Agriculture has proceeded with a pilot program, the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) ... about which small farmers are very alarmed.

Our own Congresswoman Virginia Foxx sits on the House Agriculture Committee. She joined six (extremely conservative) fellow Republican members of the committee (including Robin Hayes) in writing a letter to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, calling for the privatization of the ID program ... which as far as we can determine pleases corporate agriculture interests like the National Cattlemen's Beef Association but won't do a lot for the small farmers of Ashe County.

Foxx's position appears to be this: If a farmer is going to have to pay to register his animals, better he pay a big corporation rather than the government.

This has at least one letter-writer to the Jefferson Post hopping mad: "...It seems like George W. and his folks have been ruling over this country for about a thousand years with no end in sight. I think I'm getting a pretty good idea of what eternity in hell must feel like and it makes me want to repent fast. And what about old Virginia Foxx? We can't count on her for no help. Now it looks like she helped plan all this on our animals. If George W. tells her he wants an ID on the animals she'll say 'yes my lord' and tell us to put an ID on the animals. I think we should stick a big ID on George W's forehead that says 'President of America' and send him off to downtown Bagdad. I bet those Iraqis would be happy to stop killing each other for four or five seconds and spend some quality time with the man who gave them a free world. I'm sick to death of him taking over our country and getting into every part of our business even our phone calls. He says he isn't listening in on our calls. You just know that's a big fat lie right through his alcohol-stained teeth. I think when he starts messing with our animals its time for us to figure out how to impeach his butt." (Jefferson Post is available on-line only via subscription)

The Ashe County letter-writer notices a trend in this administration ... an avid interest in both our telephone calls and our livestock. At any rate, that's how national animal ID is playing in The Madam's legislative district.

Anyone got time to go look at how much money Madam Foxx has taken from big ag business?

Friday, June 02, 2006

What If Their Wedges Don't Work Any More?

The Pew Research Center has found through its excellent polling that the GOP may be losing a grip on its signature wedge issue, gay marriage (thanks to Stumpy for the link). Just since February 2004, the percentage of people who say they're opposed to legalizing gay marriage has fallen significantly, from 63 percent then to 51 percent now.

Apparently, a logical question has failed to be answered logically by the queer-fear folks: "How does a gay couple getting married endanger your heterosexual union?" There's been no answer that makes a whet of sense. Maybe that's sinking in.

We Heart This Guy

We've made no secret of our affection for this Marine, James Webb, who's running against an established Virginia progressive for the Democratic nomination to take on Virginia Sen. George Allen this fall. The decision will be made in the Virginia primary on June 13th.

The primary is causing some heartburn amongst Democratic liberals in The Commonwealth, and we can appreciate that. It tests the "reality-based" claims of some of our progressive friends, who tend to take the position always that the least compromise for the sake of victory is a sell-out of EVERYTHING. Never mind that Whatsisname, Webb's primary opponent, hasn't got the proverbial snowball's chance of unseating Allen. But Webb DOES, in spades.

But he's MILITARY and he worked in the Reagan administration, carp some progressive voices, which apparently means "he's not to be trusted." We got well on the other side of that kind of liberal cavilling many election-cycles past. We've been in far too many lengthy discussions on whether candidate x or candidate y was "pure" enough for the exalted standards of people who seem not to appreciate that democracy is a game of pushme/pullme, not Mother, May I.

Not that we trust ALL candidates who happen to be registered Democrats, not by a long shot (we'll refrain here from listing the N.C. members of our list, since this is TGIF, not Make Waves Monday).

But we can't find much fault in James Webb, and he looks like a winner (by which we mean ... we'd want him on our side in a barroom brawl, and which is -- come to think of it -- exactly what American politics IS). Why are some progressives so adverse to a winner? Cause he wears combat boots?

Foxx Earns an 'F'

Common Cause has given Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (and five other NC Republican reps) a grade of 'F' for voting against strict disclosure rules in a new House ethics bill, "The Keep Doing What You've Been Doing But Make It Appear As Though You're Being More Honest Act of 2006." (N&O piece here)

When you've got stuff to hide, you take steps to hide it, no?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Foxx Can Weep (Crocodile Tears)

Memorial Day observances earlier this week in Winston-Salem offered a display of real grief over loss, on the one hand, and a stage-managed show of emotion for political effect on the other.

The W-S Journal profiled Cynthia and David Timmons Sr., who lost their son in Afghanistan on May 5th. At a ceremony unveiling granite columns honoring Forsyth County's recent war dead, "Cynthia Timmons stood crying, taking off her glasses and wiping tears from her face as strangers came up to grasp her husband's hand." Real grief over incalculable loss.

And then arrived Representative Foxx, trailing fumes of self-importance -- she had just come from a bill-signing ceremony at the White House where her first piece of legislation had been signed into law. For the Memorial Day ceremony, she read the Gettysburg Address, "at times with tears filling her voice."

Phony tears. We've seen this act before, up close and personal, prior to her holding any office higher than the Watauga County School Board. When she needs sympathy, she cries, or pretends to. I recall a lot of dabbing at dry eyes, and it's easy, with practice, to produce a catch in the voice. For his part, David Timmons wasn't buying the act. "Timmons has been outspoken about American intentions in Iraq .... He spoke to Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th, while they were on stage during the ceremony, he said. He wants to meet with her. He wants some answers, or at least the chance to ask some questions. 'I think the American people are owed some answers here,' he said after the ceremony. 'I hold the legislative branch accountable for those types of decisions.' "

The Madam didn't like Mr. Timmons' affrontery one little bit either, and we'd be willing to bet a little paint pony that Mr. Timmons will not (1) be invited to ask his probing questions and (2) get any answer from his congresswoman.