Monday, July 31, 2006

Evangelical Push-Back

Quote of the Day:

America wasn't founded as a theocracy. America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn't bloody and barbaric. That's why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.

--Rev. Gregory A. Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church, Maplewood, Minn.

You'll find the above, and much else of considerable interest, in a NYTimes profile of Pastor Boyd and "the emerging church," an evangelical counter-offensive against the highjacking of American Christianity by right-wing extremists. (Thanks to Stumpy for the link)

Pastor Boyd was galvanized during the 2004 campaign year when he was increasingly pushed to make his suburban St. Paul "megachurch" an outpost for Republican conservative causes. He preached a series of six sermons that year that lost him 1,000 parishioners, a fifth of his congregation, who walked out on him. But he stuck to his doctrinal guns. He preached that "the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a 'Christian nation' and stop glorifying American military campaigns."

Well, hallelujah!

Rev. Boyd has published a book based on those sermons: "The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church."

Mr. Boyd lambasted the "hypocrisy and pettiness" of Christians who focus on "sexual issues" like homosexuality, abortion or Janet Jackson's breast-revealing performance at the Super Bowl halftime show. He said Christians these days were constantly outraged about sex and perceived violations of their rights to display their faith in public.

"Those are the two buttons to push if you want to get Christians to act," he said. "And those are the two buttons Jesus never pushed."

When's the last time you heard a preacher make points like that?

News From the Old Dominion

Back from a weekend in Virginia talking with disgruntled local Democratic leaders (and picking ticks out of our hair, which, come to think of it, isn't all that dissimilar from talking to disgruntled Dems). The local ground campaign between incumbent Sen. George Allen and challenger James Webb does not look encouraging.

Webb is getting bashed quite openly by county party workers for being aloof and inactive. He's NOT going out to meet the people, he's NOT raising money, he's just NOT engaging with anybody (including the putative "enemy").

This criticism is not coming just from Harris Miller supporters in the recent primary campaign (though some of it IS coming from that side). Those who actively supported Webb in the primary are also disappointed in his performance.

Most chalk it up to pride. Webb seems to think he's famous enough, and sterling enough, to get everyone's appreciative support. But we know it doesn't work that way. Candidates have got to ASK for the people's votes, especially in Virginia.

Most disturbing are the reports that Webb just doesn't show up at many local events. Reminds us of our own Guv. We could wish that Webb might do as well as Easley manages when the votes are actually cast. But it's not sounding good. The worst part: George Allen is obviously vulnerable. He hasn't cracked 50 percent approval rating yet this year.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

DAVID BRODER (whose column I almost never read any more) says that among the old Taft-Goldwater-Reagan wing of the GOP there's "simmering rage" over the performance of the Republican-dominated U.S. House and Senate ... a rage that may well translate to major losses for Republicans this fall.

"Whether or not the complaints are justified," writes Broder, "they are often accompanied ... by the comment that everything the White House does seems to be aimed at pleasing only one section of the Republican coalition -- the religious right."

And then this: "That is why there was so much high-fiving on e-mails and phone calls among other Republicans over the defeat last week of Ralph Reed .... a symbol to many of the influence of the religious right."

Gosh. That makes me feel so ... old-guard Republican all of a sudden.

This'll Be Easy to Enforce

"Under compromise ethics legislation announced yesterday, [N.C.] legislators would be allowed to accept unlimited gifts without having to disclose them as long as a 'reasonable person' wouldn't connect the gifts to lobbying." ("Ethics Plan Takes a Twist," W-S Journal, today)

And get this: "Legislators and lobbyists would be able to decide for themselves whether a particular gift meets the standard. And ethics officials would investigate only if they get a complaint."

They have GOT to be shitting us!

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, they are.

The Democrats behind this deserve whatever the electorate has the energy to dish out. You can bet the Republicans are going to beat this oil drum with a stick. (Not that they would have done any better.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Honeycutt Clarifies His Position

County Commissioner Keith Honeycutt is now officially FOR a new high school, seeing that the majority of citizens support it and considering he's running for reelection. That DOES tend to clarify the mind. (See the last paragraph of Scott Nicholson's article about the special joint meeting of the County Commission and the School Board last night.)

But Honeycutt can't escape his past votes. While saying he supported education, every action he's taken as a commissioner has been to IMPEDE the paying for the education he says he supports. He voted AGAINST the last budget because it included the modest tax increase that will pay for the new high school over the next 20 years.

He's been a Republican robot. Which has turned him into a full-fledged hypocrite, as of last night. He plans to take credit for a new school he never lifted one finger for.

At least Commissioner David Blust has now fully accepted his own ineptitude as a county official and refused to show up last night. He's got his sights set on taking his ineptitude to the state senate and can no longer be bothered with stuff like local public education.

Kinder & Gentler

Here's the face of the contemporary Republican party in the North Carolina mountains.

And the source for our quote of the day: "To just allow them to walk across the border, bring whatever diseases or bad habits they bring with them, and demand we should treat them like citizens is a bit over the top."

--Kathie Lack, president of the Buncombe County Republican Action Club

ADDENDUM: Here's a photo of one of the billboards.

It Takes a Witch to Charm a Snake

Virginia Foxx is escorting Vernon Robinson around Washington today, helping him get money out of the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. (Details here: scroll down.)

That Foxx would help the man who labeled her as queer for Hillary Clinton shows what a generous (Baptist) Christian she really is. Either that, or this: that Foxx would help a man of his morals shows what a political slut she really is.

Fourteen Disgraceful Democrats

These are the Democratic senators who voted for the Breeder Livestock Control Act of 2006, a.k.a., the law that will prohibit a grandmother or anyone else from "transporting" a pregnant minor across a state line for an abortion, if the girl's parents haven't given their consent. One step closer to the cheery world of "The Handmaiden's Tale"!

Evan Bayh of Indiana ... he who would be president!
Robert Byrd of West Virginia
Tom Carper of Delaware
Kent Conrad of North Dakota
Byron Dorgan of North Dakota
Daniel Inouye of Hawaii
Tim Johnson of South Dakota
Herb Kohl of Wisconsin
Mary Landrieu of Louisiana
Bill Nelson of Florida
Ben Nelson of Nebraska
Mark Pryor of Arkansas
Harry Reid of Nevada (bless his heart)
Ken Salazar of Colorado

A handful of pro-choice Republicans joined the rest of the Democrats in voting against this atrocity:

Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island
Susan Collins of Maine
Olympia Snowe of Maine
Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Southern Baptists In the News

Since I am a Southern Baptist, and the graduate of a Southern Baptist college in Texas, I tend to notice when my denomination makes the news. Here's this morning's round-up:

1. Thanks to Stumpy for sharing this: The expectation among some of the Baptist faithful that colleges affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention should indoctrinate first has led to more disaffiliation of some of those colleges from the convention. Most recently ... Georgetown College in Kentucky.

"The [Southern Baptist] convention itself in its national and state organizations has moved so far to the right that previous diversity on the faculty and among the trustees is no longer possible," said Bill Leonard, dean of the Divinity School at Wake Forest. "More theological control of the curriculum and the faculty has been the result."

David W. Key, director of Baptist Studies at the Candler School of Theology at Emory, put it more starkly. "The real underlying issue is that fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist form is incompatible with higher education," Professor Key said. "In fundamentalism, you have all the truths. In education, you're searching for truths."

I've written before in this space that my own education at a little Baptist college on the High Plains of west Texas was a liberating experience. Even though we were required to attend Chapel three times a week, we were also encouraged to question, to search. We were quite literally wading in preachers every single day, but we also learned to be skeptical of preachers who were more than 50 percent ego.

2. Two very pious Southern Baptist hucksters were convicted in Arizona of three counts of fraud and one count of conducting an illegal enterprise in a scheme that lasted decades and cheated 11,000 investors across the country of about $585 million.

Investors were recruited "in Southern Baptist churches and by Bible-quoting salesmen who visited their homes." They were told "their money would help Southern Baptist causes, such as building new churches, and were promised above-market returns."

The difference between these guys and Ken Lay is only the difference of scale. They all proclaimed their righteousness in the eyes of men. I learned a long time ago to feel for my wallet in any business dealings with someone quoting the Bible.

3. UPI was moving a story on its wire this a.m. that the West Texas city of Lubbock, very near where I attended college, is organizing everybody in town to pray and fast for rain this Sunday.

This is a part of the country where a "wet" year would mean 20 inches of rain, yet it's incredibly fertile because of underground aquifer-mining. Or was. They've been depleting the Oglalla aquifer since well before I was a tyke, and the rains just don't come.

It's an environmental crisis of, well, Biblical proportions, and I'll join them in their prayers on Sunday if not the fast.

I know this place so intimately that it comes as no surprise that local government would actually organize a religious observance without the merest peep of protest because ... well, everybody's a Southern Baptist, or certainly the power structure is, which means everybody's a Republican too, and hey! it's the contemporary Republican vision, isn't it, to seamlessly meld government and religion into a single engine for making demands on the Almighty.


The Democrat-controlled N.C. state legislature -- most especially the august state senate -- steps back from real ethics reform and puts its wing-tips into a fresh cow-plop.

The latest version of an ethics reform bill would keep complaints against state legislators secret, along with any hearings. Yep. Secrecy in government, we've always found, is the first clue that everything's just hunky-dory. Witness the regime in Washington.

And shutting the public out of the process ... the first rule in democracy!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Madam Foxx's Democratic Opponent

Major in-depth interview with Democratic 5th Dist. congressional candidate Roger Sharpe has just been posted on BlueNC here.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Liddy Dole Gets Coif Caught in Head-Wind

Sen. Dole (Carpetbagger--N.C.) lobbied hard last year for the important position of head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, "which raises money, recruits candidates, plots strategy and shapes the party's message." She won the position by a single vote after heavy influence on Republican senators by her hubby, Bob Dole.

According to this article in the NYTimes, she's less than a sterling success. Apparently, "head of" refers to doing more than keeping every hair meticulously fixed in place.

She's been poor at raising money, at recruiting candidates, at plotting strategy, at getting a winning message out to the public. She's done poorest, evidently, at keeping the boys in the Republican caucus happy with her performance.

Plus she's turning 70. Ouch.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Closer, My Checkbook, To Thee

Ralph Reed, on being abandoned by Christian conservative voters in the Georgia Lt. Gov. primary: "God uses our mistakes to draw us closer to him."

Translation: "I have sinned and grown more perfect as a result." When you're that big a hypocrite, that sort of contortion is not only possible. It's required.

Apparently, Reed can hope for a career wearing a paper sack over his head, sort of "The Unknown Born-Again" of Republican politics.

Friday, July 21, 2006

No North Carolina Dist. on DCCC Top-Tier Hit List

According to Chris Cilizza, no congressional race in North Carolina has yet made the grade for targeted spending by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DCCC has made TV ad-time buys totaling some $20 million and covering 11 media markets and 14 congressional districts, none of them in the Old North State.

Mind you, this is Rahm Emmanuel's decision, not Howard Dean's.

You can go to the site above and see where the money's flowing.

Mr. Reed Disposes

What's this? Ralph Reed is blaming John McCain for his humiliating primary loss in Georgia on Tuesday?

Well, just so long as Ralph Reed doesn't have to shoulder any of the blame for being, like, a scum-sucking hypocritical liar.


The Charlotte Observer says today that Caldwell County is on a very short list of two or three locations being considered for a Google operations center ... potentially employing several hundred.

I know some Watauga County folks, several of them with less than spendid feelings about ASU, who'll be filling out application forms.

It would be a huge economic boon to Caldwell County. Plus it would drive those local politics more Democratic, now wouldn't it?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

We Dig This Guy

The last man named Starkweather that we remember anything about went on a killing spree with his girlfriend in Kansas and Nebraska in the 1950s. His namesake today, Jeffrey Starkweather of Chatham County, might as well be a mass murderer, for the way the development-and-paving lobby is reacting to him.

Realtors absolutely HATE him and have named him, like, Public Enemy No. 1 in N.C.

Now, we admire the kind of activism that gets heralded as a threat to civilization itself.

Jeffrey Starkweather is a "loquacious lawyer" from Pittsboro who's recently become executive director of the N.C. Smart Growth Alliance, but the fear he strikes in the guts of big-time real estate developers goes back to May's Democratic primary in Chatham County. Starkweather was behind a political movement that won three Democratic primary races for "slow-growth" county commissioners, one of them ousting the pro-growth chair of the County Commission.


Hence some of Starkweather's nicknames: "a Tasmanian devil," "a brilliant, slightly goofy attorney," "like a dog that's bitten your ankle and won't let go."

Starkweather is known for attending every single meeting of the Chatham County Commission, which, as we well know, is the only way to keep up with those guys. Been there, done that. And the only way to keep citizens REALLY informed about what's happening with local government.

Starkweather wants to take his smart-growth campaign state-wide. Sign us up! Especially since he's attracted the baleful gaze of John Hood of the John Locke Foundation and the Art Pope Republican mossbacks, who are fighting any restrictions on growth as tantamount to godless communism.

(See this coverage of Starkweather in today's N&O. And this backgrounder following the May primary.)

Times We're Thankful the State Capitol Is So Far Away

Several politicos in Raleigh, and in other precincts in the state of North Carolina, are a bright shade of pink today ... not from the heat necessarily and certainly not from embarrassment, but from holding their breath, waiting to see who gets indicted for what in the Speaker Black pay-to-play investigation.

People have been marching in and out of the federal bldg in Raleigh to sit before a grand jury, while simultaneously looking both puzzled and HURT that anyone would suspect them or their associates.

Meanwhile, in the N.C. Senate, Democrats are acting like complete dopes.

According to this well-connected Democratic observer, rumors are flying about imminent indictments.

Ed Broyhill Fined $71K

Republican Ed Broyhill, who spent $1.3 million of his own money in 2004 in seeking the congressional seat now smothered under the specific gravity of Madam Foxx, has been fined over $71,000 by the Federal Elections Commission.

Salt in his wounds.

Broyhill, who would have been a much more moderate representative in Washington than Foxx has proven to be, was supported by several prominent local Democrats ... in the absence of any viable Democratic alternative to The Madam.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Backward, Christian Soldiers!

Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition and a major operative responsible for turning out the "faith & values voters" for El Presidente in the last two presidential elections, lost (badly) in the Republican primary in Georgia yesterday for lieutenant governor.

Reed had been best buds with uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Presumably they praised the lord together, but first they counted the cash.

Any resemblance between Ralph Reed and our own conservative battlebot Nathan Tabor is purely coincidental.

New Water-Testing Law Has Passed in N.C.

We'll glad to see that the state legislature passed a new law yesterday requiring counties to test new wells for private homes, including screening for a dozen or more contaminants.

We've been through the joys of a contaminated well, with known carcinogens found in our drinking water, presumably leaching out of the county landfill a mile away.

Water in these mountains exists (and moves) in the cracks between bodies of rock. The haphazard dumping of highly toxic materials onto the ground has gone on for years. I've seen local service stations draining radiators into storm drains. When I was a kid, I watched my own father drain crankcase oil directly onto the ground. All that wonderful man-made stuff goes eventually into those cracks in the rocks, where it will exist for eons, paying us back drop-by-drop for our carelessness and our arrogance.

We're sure county governments are going to moan and bitch about this new water-testing requirement, and real estate people and builders are apoplectic that a little thing like contaminated water might slow up new house sales. But the state legislature has acted in the public interest (against all odds), and The Guv is supposed to sign the law.

Dole Toes the Know-Nothing Party Line

While, amazingly, Dick Burr was voting for stem cell research yesterday in the Senate, Liddy Dole was voting against it.

El Presidente, also amazingly, says he has "moral" objections to it and will sign his first-ever veto.

Sometimes the irony piles up so deep it threatens to clog all our intake pipes.

Earlier in the House, Madam Foxx naturally voted against stem cell research, along with fellow North Carolinians Patrick McHenry, Sue Myrick, Walter Jones, Charlie Taylor, and Robin Hayes. They're proud conservatives ... keeping Parkinson's disease safe for the foreseeable future.

Walter Douglas asks, rhetorically, whether Bush's promised veto is coming "from personal belief or political expedience?" We know that the 33 percent who still worship at his feet believe he's doing it out of a faith-based philosophy, deeply held. But anyone watching the antics of the president in St. Petersburg, talking trash with his mouth full of biscuit, is hard pressed to see anything more than puddle-deep in his "philosophical" makeup.

He's appealing to his right-wing, religious fundamentalist base, which means he's playing politics with science, with healing, and with people's lives. Nothing new there.

UPDATE: This rightwing Republican site can barely mask its perplexity over Sen. Burr's vote on stem-cell research. "Burr did not put out a statement explaining a vote likely to be controversial with his conservative Christian supporters."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

We'll See If This Is All Bark and No Bite

According to this source, the IRS is busily warning 15,000 churches and charitable orgs that they'd best not be engaging in any if-you-vote-for-Candidate-X-you're-going-to-hell type sermonizing, if they intend to keep their tax-exempt status.

"Under the initiative, the IRS plans to expedite investigations into claims of improper campaigning, no longer waiting for an annual tax return to be filed or the tax year to end before launching a probe." Well, we'll see.

We've already seen locally the pastor of a mega-church endorsing David Blust for N.C. Senate, with apparent impunity, but the Reverend was evidently following a little-known Gnostic text once included as part of Matthew 5: "Blessed are the bobbleheads, for they shall rise to the level of their incompetence."

Friday, July 14, 2006

MADAM FOXX ... ONE OF 33 REPUBLICANS who voted against the extension of the Voting Rights Act.

Foxx Update: Still Morally Superior

The editorial in today's Watauga Democrat blasts Madam Virginia Foxx for her vote in the U.S. House to ban internet gambling. The word "hypocrisy" is used prominently.

Watching The Madam get all self-righteous on everybody else's butt is certainly expected, absolutely predictable, but is still reminiscent of a bad case of prickly heat.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gene Wilson's N.C. House Seat Now Rated Vulnerable

Word is, through the political grapevine, that Gene Wilson's seat in the N.C. House is now rated a toss-up, with Democrat Cullie Tarleton given even odds of bumping Wilson into over-due retirement.


Going to the Movies ... Alert the Press

We haven't met Heath Shuler, the star ex-professional football player who's running as a Democrat (whew!) against the odious Charlie Taylor in the NC-11, but this item in the Asheville Citizen-Times seems calculated to calm the fears of western N.C. progressives. Shuler's people announce that he's going to see "An Inconvenient Truth," and that he will be escorted by a known environmentalist. It's like Henry II making his pilgrimage to Canterbury to be symbolically flogged.

Also interesting that the press release says Shuler will be seeing the movie at 7 p.m. but will be making comments at 6:45 p.m., which makes him not unlike a lot of other amateur movie critics.

Textbook Example: "Special Interest"

Duke Power wants to get one of its sulfur dioxide-belching power plants on the border of Rutherford and Cleveland counties exempted from the state air pollution rules, because ... well, just because cutting pollution is (to quote El Presidente) HAAAARD.

Add this phrase to your Brave New World lexicon: "pollution swap." Definition: the stuff going up your nostrils is of less importance than keeping a large corporation perfectly happy. Your breathing problems are an "externality," a cost of doing business that does not (incidentally) fall on the business doing it but on all the rest of us. Actually legislating a mandate that ordinary citizens should breathe more corporate poison is just one of those wonderful by-products of cost-benefit analysis.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Ethics

You watch. The N.C. legislature is going to fritter away an opportunity to reform the way house and senate members take money and give favors. The major culprits in blunting reform are top-dog Democrats, aided & abetted by Republican members who will not, as a matter of fact, hesitate to attack Democrats this fall for a "culture of corruption." Which it IS.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Too Bad

Attorney General Roy Cooper says he won't run for Guv in 2008. And he was the one with the guts to stand up for what's right ... we thought.

Forced Love Always Lasts, Right?

Because the U.S. flag is a wholly owned accessory of the Republican Party, and because Democrats are gutless wonders, the N.C. legislature -- BOTH houses, which are controlled by Democrats -- has passed a law FORCING public school students to do idolatrous obeisance before swatches of cloth while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, first devised by a Christian Socialist in 1892 and not largely foisted on American school children until 1954 by (again) Republicans convinced that FORCING school children to say "under God" would certainly stop them from fornicating under the bleachers during lunch and would most certainly keep us all free from Communism.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Who's Behind This Bull-Hockey?

A bill to exempt state colleges and universities from state review of building code compliance has suddenly popped up in the N.C. Senate in the waning days of the session ... and PASSED that body on a preliminary vote by 46-3.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Long is not only mad about it, he's alarmed about the safety of students attending those colleges and universities. He's asking The Guv to veto the measure, should it pass both houses of our legislature.

"These codes are specifically designed to save lives," Long said.

"Currently the Department of Insurance reviews plans for new construction at UNC campuses to make sure they comply with state building codes for safety. [The] Senate bill would release the university system from that requirement."

Shades of another bone-head move in the state senate when Madam Foxx graced that chamber ... to permit the construction of asphalt plants BEFORE they've been granted permission to befoul the air by the Division of Air Quality. Thank Gawd that got killed before it became law. (Foxx voted FOR it, of course.)

The worst feature of the proposed new law? This: "The bill also allows UNC campuses to choose how renovation plans would be reviewed -- by the state insurance department, by local government or by an independent, certified inspector." Voluntary compliance, anyone? How hard would it be for a college prez to find himself an "independent, certified" patsy to rubberstamp whatever quick-fix scheme the prez hatches?

No offense, College Administrators, but some of you are notorious numbskulls. And liars.

The N&O reporter says, "It's unclear how the legislation came about. A spokeswoman for the UNC system said it was not on the legislative wish list of the UNC Board of Governors."

Embarrassingly, the bill was sponsored in the state senate by a Greensboro Democrat, Kay Hagan, and approved of by a vast majority of Democrats in the senate (along with all the Republicans, natch).

We're just ... so ... proud.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Sign of the Times

The Salvation Army homeless shelter in Charlotte, designed to hold 180 women and children, is currently housing 254. That's only the tip of that particular iceberg. "Social workers estimate that 5,000 people in Charlotte on any given night live on the streets, in shelters, or doubled up with friends and relatives." (Read the whole report in the Charlotte Observer.)

Meanwhile, El Presidente is in a Chicago suburb this a.m., telling everyone who'll listen how splendiferous the American economy is.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Toast to Mars Hill College

The little Baptist college in Buncombe County is turning 150 years old. As a graduate myself of a little Baptist college in Hale County, Texas, slightly less old, I can appreciate first-hand what goes on at little Baptist Colleges in out-of-the-way places.

A spirit of free intellectual exploration used to grace such institutions. Used to.

The very name "Mars Hill College" speaks to that academic freedom that some Southern Baptists have wanted to bury under suffocating robes of Republican right-wing politics, their own version of political correctness.

But "Mars Hill" ... if you don't know, the college was named for the very symbol of freedom of thought and speech, a little basalt knob in ancient Athens named for the Greek god of war, Ares (Mars to the Romans), where freedom of speech and liveliness of thought were both promoted and protected. St. Paul had a run in with the Greeks there (in Acts Chapter 17), but was cornered more by their curiosity than by their hostility. (In the Book of Acts, Mars Hill is referred to as the Areopagus, a combination of Ares -- god of war -- and pagos, meaning rock.)

In other words, those western North Carolina farming Baptists who established Mars Hill College well before the Civil War were staking a claim for their own farm-bred children to hear MORE of the world, not less, to be challenged in their thinking, not congratulated that THEY and THEY alone had the truth and everyone else was going to hell.

That spirit of freedom and the quest for truth DESPITE doctrine were alive too at the little Baptist college I attended in West Texas. I got a hell of an education (so to speak), and one of the byproducts is that I have never had much difficulty recognizing a pious fraud. Back in those college days, we had late-night debates in the boy's dorm -- known by a very un-Baptist descriptor ... "bullshit sessions" -- where we were scoffed at one another, working out our own salvation (as good ole Saint Paul advised the Philippians to do).

I don't have a clue what little old Baptist colleges are like any more, if they are still figurative Mars Hills of the intellectual spirit, or big die-stamping operations meant to turn out exact copies of JerryFalwellPatRobertsonism. Used to be that Baptists were all about "every man his own priest" (hierarchies and "authorities" be damned!). Now men like Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention look like lickspittles to a powerful governmental elite.

I thank my little Baptist college for doing better by me than that.

FOOTNOTE: John Milton (of "Paradise Lost" fame) wrote a ringing denunciation of official censorship. He directed his diatribe against the Puritan government (please note) that had seized England in the early 1640s. He called his protest "Areopagitica," an invoking of the spirit of Mars Hill against overweening governmental power that, incidentally, claimed the divine sanction of God Almighty for oppressive policies. Just a couple of choice quotes from Milton's "Areopagitica":

"As good almost kill a man as kill a good book; who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were in the eye.

"And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?

"I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat."

Watauga Talks

The "Watauga Talks" radio show, simulcast every Friday on both WATA 1450 and WXIT 1200 (AM) immediately after the 9 a.m. news, sports, & weather, tomorrow will feature host Glenn Hubbard and co-host Kathleen McFadden recapping some of the important local news (the county budget, the two lawsuits pending against the sheriff and the county, Watauga High School, a proposed Wind Ordinance, steep slope development, and Boone's new comprehensive plan). Boone Town Councilman Bunk Spann will be a special guest to talk about Boone issues.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Two Deaths

1. Rev. W.W. Finlater, one of the South's great liberal Baptists, an endangered species even in his own day. You can read about his illustrious and heroic career here.

2. Mega-thief Ken Lay. They sometimes said he'd do ANYTHING to avoid jail.

Draw whatever comparisons you wish.

Wednesday Morning Numbers

Here, if you want to see the top recipients in Watauga County for federal crop subsidy dollars.

El Presidente may not be able to do numbers himself, but he's got staff who can count! And he actually uttered at Ft. Bragg yesterday the number -- 2,527 -- of American soldiers dead in his Iraq adventure. 'Course, he turned it into a piece of propaganda for expending even more lives, so's not to make him look totally foolish and inept.

1 -- the number of prominent local Republicans who were overheard saying that the only thing state representative Gene Wilson accomplishes is the conversion of oxygen into carbon dioxide.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Have a Thoughtful 4th

C-SPAN led off its July 4th Washington Journal at 7 a.m. with a call-in poll: Is dissent patriotic? Some people actually had the temerity to say dissent is NEVER patriotic (in which event, we wouldn't even have this country), but many more thought it MIGHT be all right, if it was dissent about something THEY personally also disagreed with.

Oh Americans!

Yet I cling to the hope and the promise of the three most powerful words in our Constitution: We the People.

Four years ago, citizens of Watauga County did what Americans have been doing for hundreds of years ... petitioned their government. Thousands in Watauga County signed a petition to keep billboards off the new Doc & Merle Watson Hwy, and despite the outrage of some powerful business interests and large landowners, the petitioners were heard by the State Board of Transportation.

Early last evening, on the way back into Boone from Deep Gap, on the Doc & Merle Watson SCENIC BYWAY, we couldn't help thinking it was a good thing "we the people" did to keep that beautiful roadway clear of the clutter. Of that, we are proud.

Monday, July 03, 2006

New Lessons in Godliness

Apparently, it's very "godly" to steal other people's words and pass them off as your own, especially when you're accusing others of being "godless."

O Coulter, so warped! And so dishonest.

The Courage of His Convictions

Since County Commissioner Keith Honeycutt was elected in 2002, he's made a great public show of his supposed support for public education. He just can't quite bring himself to actually ACT in the public interest.

He attended an organizational meeting of the R.I.D. group, which is still flogging the dead horse of "renovation," while simultaneously dodging the question of what several hundred high school students would be expected to learn in the midst of such a renovation.

So when the vote was held last Tuesday on the new county budget, Honeycutt was a no-show. That is to say, HONEYCUTT COULD NOT FACE CASTING A PUBLIC VOTE on a budget that (1) lowers the tax-rate more than 8 cents and (2) contains specific support for a new high school. DID NOT SHOW UP.

Commissioner David Blust (bless his heart) did show up and cast the single dissenting vote against the budget, based primarily, he said, on the line item for the Cooperative Extension Service and (oh yeah) because it put aside money for a new high school (why anyone would think the promoter of private Christian schools would ever vote to support PUBLIC education is beyond us). But apparently Mr. Blust (bless his heart) thinks such "principles" will help him get elected to the State Senate, where he can impersonate a potted plant even more fulsomely.

But we digress.

Honeycutt's cowardice is the more striking spectacle. He could have won points among moderate Republicans by voting for the new high school. Now he just looks pusillanimous.