Thursday, November 30, 2006

WHEN WILL MADAME VIRGINIA FOXX hold an actual town-hall meeting and allow her constituents to ask questions, to which she supplies actual answers?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Answer: Approximately NEVER!
Wal-Mart sales for November fell for the first time in a decade ... whereabouts of Supreme Deity in doubt.

H. Lee Scott Jr., the chief executive of Wal-Mart, has ordered nine days of animal sacrifice and auguries. "We will paw through pigeon entrails until we get an answer for why God has forsaken us," Scott said.

Apparently, they don't make 'em any dumber than Sigma Chi at Chapel Hill.

First, they get outed for breaking the Greek code of conduct (forcing their pledges to drink alcohol, verbally harassing them, depriving them of sleep, and making them perform menial tasks), and when the Daily Tar Heel headlines their punishment (suspension until 2009), members of the fraternity run all over campus stealing more than 10,000 copies of the newspaper.

Elemental logic: We steal papers. Nobody read. Nobody know what asses we are.

Now the fraternity president has 'fessed up to the theft, and the fraternity will pay substantial money (the "high four figures," according to the N&O) in restitution.

Elemental logic (reprise): Act like asses and then like jerks, and the whole world's gonna hear about it.
NOW IT'S THE STATE GOP's TURN ... to struggle publicly over power.

Ferrell Blount, who up until Election Day a couple of weeks ago was state Republican Party chair, resigned abruptly November 7th before all the votes had been cast and counted, and he ended up looking like the ship's captain who abandoned the boat at the first sign of a leak.

The struggle to replace him is getting interesting. Linda Daves of Charlotte, who has been vice chair of the state party through four chairmanships (i.e., a loyal party hack), is now acting chair in Blount's absence, and she says she intends to seek her own two-year term when the party has its state convention next spring. In the meantime, she's called a meeting of the state executive committee for this Saturday to formally appoint someone to complete Blount's unexpired term. Everyone seems to think it's going to be Linda Daves, at least the N&O suggests she's the front-runner.

Enter senators Liddy Dole and Richard Burr, who tried (but failed) to postpone the meeting and vote on Saturday, because evidently they have no faith that a party apparatchik like Linda Daves is the one to lead the children to the Promised Land. The senators are apparently pushing for Bob Ingram of Durham, the former CEO of GlaxoSmithKline. (Apparently, he can get good drugs cheap.)

Main problem with Bob Ingram? He's been playing the Big Pharma game of buying politicians in both parties, so his contributions over the years will make for a fun parlor game this winter.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Going Very Up-Scale on Our Up-Slopes

Lengthy, in-depth article in "The Mountain XPress" (out of Asheville) about the implications of so much "outside money flood[ing] into nationally marketed, high-elevation resort projects" in western North Carolina. We're talking BIG money, of which the $150 million worth of unimproved house sites sold at Laurelmor on the opening day of that "offering" is a mere pale foretaste.

The real estate bonanza "is enough to send chills up the spines of many WNC residents," i.e., us peons, as we contemplate the future. The article mentions the downside of "sprawl" and environmental degradation, never mind the annoyance of more white Infiniti limousines blocking the fire lanes outside Harris Teeter.

But the biggest downside will be the higher cost of living that trails the perambulations of the super-wealthy like a contrail. We'll all be engulfed in that cloud of laughing gas otherwise known as inflated land values. Suddenly, my little scrub acre will get the tax re-val it so DOESN'T deserve, and I'll turn bitter, whining Republican (pace M.K. Carter) under the cruel yoke of property taxes.

The upside, they tell us, is that the filthy rich will be paying big bucks into our county coffers to own their upscale retreats, the implication being, we suppose, that the rest of us will pay less. But that line of thought reads like a non sequitur to us, because (numero uno) comparisons are odious and (numero tuo) if my own tax bill is higher next year because Mr. Billionaire bought a mountainside this year, then it hardly matters how much HE's paying. Does it?

The only hopeful thing that might come out of this land-acquisition virus among the out-of-towners would be an expanded homestead exemption, which would as a matter of fact shift the tax burden toward non-resident owners and which will have to be passed by the state legislature. That proposed exemption was championed by successful candidates Steve Goss, who won his seat in the NC Senate, and by Mary Moretz, who intends to introduce a resolution supporting it to the Watauga County Commission (possibly as early as next week).

At the moment, the only thing slowing down the basic underlying problem of a massive invasion by the super-rich, and the factotums who cater to them, are certain land-use restrictions, like steep-slope development ordinances, which are coming on in many western N.C. counties almost as fast as the land-grab.

Welcome to America, You Devil-Possessed Heathen

A 19-year-old Polish exchange student's account of spending quality time in a Winston-Salem home -- "My Half-Year of Hell With Christian Fundamentalists" -- was published (in English) in "Der Spiegel Online." Part of it is believeable, though much of it reads like a clueless Paris Hilton confessional about survival in the yucky midlands of America. In other words, he's pretty much a typical teenager, and his account is maybe more than anything a testiment to the universalizing of teenager disaffection with authority.

Whether he got the details right may not be as important as understanding his version of what happened as a prevailing European stereotype of "George Bush's America" ... Bible-totin' and intolerant.

The boy's story, and his inability to deal successfully with Southern folk culture, reminds me of what the Greensboro writer Fred Chappell once said was the best possible answer to the question, "Son, do you love Jesus?"

"Well, I like 'im."

The Wages of Sin Are Puny Cash Flows

So God does pay attention to the bottomline. From The Hill's "Under the Dome" (scroll down)

Some Christian conservative groups say both Wal-Mart and the Republican Party have "forsaken God." And just as the GOP took a hit in the elections earlier this month, the groups say the retail giant's lower-than-expected November sales figures are the wages of that sin.

Why are sales below estimates? "It is for the same reason things went south for the Republican Party this past election cycle," read a statement by the Rev. Flip Benham and Pat McEwan, with Operation Save America and Operation Save Wal-Mart. "Wal-Mart has forsaken God and it has forsaken the people who love Him."

The groups led protesters on Nov. 24 to picket the "gates of hell" -- that is, Wal-Mart stores around the country. They say Wal-Mart, like the GOP, has strayed from its founding principles, set by founder Sam Walton, citing Wal-Mart's dispensing of "Plan B" contraception and the fact that the retailer is a corporate member of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking of a Plan B, our own Sen. Liddy Dole is now dressing in sackcloth and ashes and is sitting by the gate, begging alms for the poor:

In an urgent appeal to donors this week, Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, the chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, beseeched contributors to "help us retire our debt."

Stumpy shared the Senator's desperate e-mail a couple of days ago, and now the AP has picked up on the story.

Maybe old King Lear was right:

The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to plague us.

May We Hold Your Coats?

If there's gonna be fisticuffs, we trust they'll be televised.

Newly elected Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) admits he got so angry at El Presidente at a private White House reception immediately following the election "that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief" (according to The Hill).

In this corner, wearing the rawhide trunks ... The Thief of Baghdad, The Stem-Cell Mauler ... He's hell with the quick jabs, but can he go the distance? Handicappers say he may have a glass jaw.

And in this corner, wearing his son's combat boots ...
Jim Dandy Webb, The Virginia Whirlwind ... A tough close-fighter with a mean upper cut and a history of going the distance.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"We Don't Need No Stinkin' Poor"

Rev. Joel C. Hunter, president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, has stepped down, saying the group resisted his efforts to broaden its agenda to include reducing poverty and fighting global warming.

The poor we'll have with us always, the Christian Coalition is saying. But The Gays ... The Gays must be dealt with NOW. While they're hot.

They Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges

Two of twelve new sheriffs in western North Carolina have no law enforcement experience and say they have no plans to get the basic training ... the newly elected sheriffs of Graham and Swain counties.

Must be a story there about the characters they replaced!

We are very fortunate in Watauga to have elected a sheriff who may just be the most thoroughly trained law enforcement officer in the whole state.

Richard Burr Heads for the Center

Hard to find fault with the speech Sen. Richard Burr made yesterday in Chapel Hill. The N&O reporter paraphrased the gist of what he said: "The South, and North Carolina in particular, must sustain itself as a center for biotechnology, top-rate universities and quality of life .... The key to fulfilling this promise, Burr said, is public education."

He's been seduced by "the education racket," looks like. And notice his tacit endorsement of evolutionary science. Whoa.

This is how he spun illegal immigration: "The state's booming illegal immigrant population proves that the immigrants fulfill a need, Burr said, but he would like a federal verification process to vet their criminal histories and limit their stays in the United States." There's not a whiff of Foxxism in that statement. Why, it's downright moderate and even -- gulp -- statesman-like.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Filthy Lucre

Touching story -- I almost wept -- in the NYTimes about how a "physician-scientist” named Robert H. Glassman, after a decade in private medical practice, decided he wasn't getting rich fast enough, so he left his medical practice and signed on as a medical consultant with a Wall Street investment firm. Now he's a multi-millionaire and ever so much more satisfied with himself. He says he's maybe 10 times less smart than some of his Harvard classmates but many times richer.

Yes, Virginia, the rich have no souls.

"The nation lacks enough doctors in family practice, where the median income last year was $161,000." Family practitioners? Peasants!

"It was not our goal to create masters of the universe," said James Aisner, a spokesman for Harvard Business School. "It was to train people to do useful work." Quaint. Feeling a little guilty are we, Harvard Business School? Talk to the hand!

Who said this: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Who said that wasn't any of those new "masters of the universe" being created and promoted in George W. Bush's America and denied by the Harvard Business School. No, it wasn't.

Not So Fast With the Coronation There, Bucko

The headline in today's N&O says Beverly Perdue has the "early edge" in the Democratic race to succeed Mike Easley in the governor's mansion, but then we discover that

1. The "poll" was conducted for the Civitas Institute, the Pope-funded right-wing think-tank, which is the last place we want to turn for insight into the thinking of N.C. Democrats. And

2. The "early edge" that Bev is said to have is a big ole 24 percent of people claiming to be Democrats, with some 54 percent undecided. Big freakin' deal.

Obviously, the majority haven't paid any attention whatsoever to who may or may not be on the ballot in 2008. A fair percentage of the 24 percent who said they favored Perdue probably did so because she's the most familiar name. Maybe she reminds them of a brand of processed chicken.

Black Marks

The N&O finally gets around to outing the ever-so-apparent ... connection (the French would discreetly call it une affaire de coeur) between Speaker of the N.C. House Jim Black and his former staff member/paid lobbyist Meredith Norris. Some had worried earlier in the year that these shenanigans could bring down Democratic government in Raleigh, but they appear only to be bringing down Mr. Black. No one expects him to be reelected to the Speaker's chair again, even if he somehow manages to survive this very close election (which still isn't settled).

The sneak-around sex is one thing. The buying and selling of influence is much worse.

The incipient Black scandals were a difficult hot potato for state Republicans to hurl at Democrats in the campaigns just concluded. Were we going to sit still and be lectured about morals and ethics by the party that's been running Washington through the cash wringer for years?

Poor Gene Wilson (bless his heart!) attempted to drag Jim Black into his reelection battle against Cullie Tarleton, sending out a mailer that attempted to make local politics out of Black's alleged misdeeds. But the message was so muddled -- "It's time for a change!" hardly works as a rallying cry for a 16-year incumbent! -- and the scandals so distant to most people not in the Raleigh in-crowd that the mailer just fizzled. Like everything else Wilson tried.

But the Black poultry has only just begun to come home to roost. By the New Year, we suspect the political ground of the state Democratic party will have so shifted that Mr. Black will find himself alone, as if on a vast wind-swept tundra.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Nothing focuses the mind like sweeping an election and then contemplating how all those gains could be largely (or even partly) taken away from us in the very next election cycle, all because the Democrats might run A Disaster in the all-important presidential year looming ahead of us.

So much of what Democrats achieved in red-state counties like Watauga could be taken back in 2008 if the Democrats nominate the wrong person.

After mulling this conundrum obsessively for nine hours on the road to & from grandmother's house this weekend, we arrive at an inescapably logical conclusion, which is therefore full of holes and subject to derision ... that Al Gore is the best possible presidential candidate (of the available possibilities).

Hillary Clinton? She would offer the shortest route between a defeated and dispirited Republican Party and a reenergized opposition with a holy crusade to save America from the lesbo-pinko-fatal-fetal Libruls. We shudder at the thought.

John Edwards? No way.

Barack Obama? No way in hell.

Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, John Kerry, or any of the other four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in the Senate pie ... no, no, no, a dozen times NO. In fact, no U.S. senator, on EITHER side, brings anything more than way too much baggage to the race. Hear that, Mr. Straight Talk Express? (And see Allen, Sen. George and Frist, Sen. Bill for early examples of how senators don't fly.)

Governors? Remains to be seen. But certainly not Bill Richardson, not Mike Easley, obviously not Mark Warner, not Tom Vilsack ...

Incidentally, here's a simple Electability Touchstone (other than NO SENATORS NOT EVER!). To wit, how will the prospective president's name look on a yard sign, and how will that yard sign play in the South and in rural America generally? "Vilsack for President"? Ain't gonna happen.

By a process of elimination, we're left with Al Gore (and that's a little how we feel in reaching this conclusion ... slightly bereft). He's one ex-presidential candidate who's actually grown in stature since he ran. He's "clean" on the war; he's never had to tack, make excuses, or change his position. He's a leader on "green" issues, and those are only going to grow like a phosphate plume in the next couple of years. He's credible on foreign affairs, with tons of experience. He's smart, and maybe the country will think it's time in 2008 to make the long trek back from dumbsville. He could win the South. He could carry North Carolina. He would not be a drag in Watauga County.

Who else can we say all of that about, and with confidence?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Turkey Day

Don't look for us back in these precincts before next Monday.

In the meantime, find something to be publicly, extravagantly thankful for. Go eat some yams. Or cranberry sauce. Go now. You owe it to yourself.

As we owe it to each other to think collectively about the end of this regime and the dawning of Something Better. Go on: offer thanks. You know you can. You know you must.

Attend the Prayer Vigil at Wal-Mart This Friday

What's this? Wal-Mart is going queer on us!

Smite them, O Lord, smite their toilet-paper clearances and cheap cat food! Smite them hip and thigh! (Well, maybe not so much the thigh.)

To defile the temple of Christian shoppers! They shall pay a price, and it will not be slashed.

We had JUST gotten them to end their war on Christmas! Now this.

So many of our moral foundations are crumbling! Now Wal-Mart too. Where will we get cheap sodas and discounted electronics?

YOU THINK WE'RE KIDDING? Read this. As it says, "It's time for Christians to come out of the closet!"

Senator Webb and Economic Populism

Billmon was the first commentator I saw who marveled at what the newly elected senator from Virginia, Jim Webb, has transformed himself into ... summed up in an op-ed Webb published in the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 15th. Because that paper isn't accessible on-line, I had to wait until the Webb essay became more widely available ... which it has, here.

We can only hope that Senator Webb quickly establishes himself as a leader among the Democrats in Washington, because he's talking the language that we've been waiting a long time for a Democrat to learn.

"A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate," he writes, and gosh, ain't it amazing how apt that line is for our current highest elected official in the 5th Dist.? And this:
The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet. But this election cycle showed an electorate that intends to hold government leaders accountable for allowing every American a fair opportunity to succeed.
The issues Webb highlights throughout his essay are getting dubbed "economic populism." There's not an entrenched Republican office-holder in the South who can't be un-entrenched by economic populism, and that goes doubly for Madam Foxx. The right candidate with that message could whittle down the 4 percent of her support that gets her to 50 ... just by opening his/her mouth.

Webb's going to be fun to watch. As will the Foxx, who's got to decide how to behave differently to a home county that roundly rejected her.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Watauga Recount Wednesday

A machine recount of Watauga ballots will take place tomorrow (Wednesday, Thanksgiving eve) in three races only: the sheriff's race between incumbent Mark Shook and Democratic challenger Len Hagaman, the N.C. Senate race between David Blust and Steve Goss, and the N.C. Court of Appeals race between Donna Stroud and Linda Stephens. Four counties are involved in the Blust/Goss recount, the entire state in the Stroud/Stephens recount.

Hagaman, Goss, and Stroud have all won with narrow margins. No one familiar with recounts expects any of these results to be overturned. But everyone also knows we have to go through these extra steps because they are mandated by law. If we were Shook, Blust, or Stephens, we'd request a recount too. You never know: maybe a major glitch will reveal itself. But we doubt it. Everyone doubts it, including the losers asking for the recounts.

If the machine recount deviates even a single digit from numbers reported to the State Board of Elections following Nov. 7th, then a hand recount is mandated. This could drag on a while ... but it likely isn't going to change anything.

"The Relentless March of Privilege"

UNC-CH Gets 'D' in Helping the Poor

That's the headline in this a.m.'s N&O, breaking the news about a 50-state study of "flagship" public universities and how they are/aren't serving the poor and the minorities in their respective states. Chapel Hill doesn't look so good in that study. The university got Fs on enrolling both minority and poor students.

The university's one decent grade -- a B -- was for the successful graduation rate of minority students, once the lucky ones actually do get admitted. UNC-CH has concentrated its financial aid dollars in the "Carolina Covenant," which started in 2004 and now covers about 950 students (mostly minorities).

Meanwhile, the state's poor whites are not getting anywhere near the doors.

"These institutions, as you all know, are powerful gatekeepers, but they are closing the gates on students who most need financial support to attend college," said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, which conducted the study.

Public universities are too caught up in rankings, prestige, and reputation, Haycock said. They raise their standards and compete for top students in the race to become more selective. Quality then becomes defined by who is kept out of the university.

"I have to believe it's about the relentless march of privilege in this society," she said.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Foxx: Counted Among the Worst Members of Congress

Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina are two truly nasty pieces of work politically. When the public started demanding government action over oil industry price-gouging, Blackburn and Foxx rallied with other oil money soaked Republican Right Wing members of Congress to block any legislative action. They crusaded against wind-fall profit taxes on the excessive profits of Big Oil.

So writes Stephen Crockett. And more, here.

Crockett is co-host of Democratic Talk Radio, out of Lawrenceville, Tenn.

The Politics of Responsibility

We've mainly known Rahm Emanuel in the past year or so as one big Democratic thorn in Howard Dean's side. Emanuel and Dean had a public spat over how best to distribute Democratic Party funds. Emanuel wanted all the money in targeted swing districts, places like western North Carolina be damned! We applauded Dean's 50-state strategy and criticized Emanuel for taking his disagreement public ... sorta like James Carville in the more recent past.

Which is why William Saletan's essay in Slate is a head-turner. Saletan summarizes critical points in Emanuel's new book (co-authored with Bruce Reed), "The Plan." Emanuel and Reed (according to Saletan) propose "a new social contract" based on the concept of "responsibility." We like this line of reasoning, particularly the discussion of birth control as an antidote to abortion.

In this Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, there's no excuse for ignorance about birth control nor justification for making birth control difficult to achieve. And that's the ground on which the old abortion wars need to be fought. If birth control really were universally available, and birth control information universally available, unwanted pregnancies could be shamed as a failure of responsibility. But the leading dependent clause of that previous sentence has to become a reality before the main clause can be realized. And that will happen only over the sanctified scream of the Religious Right and self-righteous druggists who do not want young women to know the first thing about sex and pregnancy prevention.

Theocracy News...

...bringing divinely inspired self-righteousness to a culture war near you!

1. Granted, the American mainstream media is a poor reporter on religion, but missing the growing neo-con theocratic outlook of Mr. Stephen Harper, the relatively new Prime Minister of Canada, to our immediate north, seems particularly incompetent. Last January the NYTimes ran a lengthy profile on the man without even mentioning his religious beliefs (about which religion writer Kathryn Joyce marveled here). Chris Hedges in the current "Nation" magazine begins to redress the inadequate coverage here. But by far the most in depth coverage of Canada's own Christian Right is here, in the Canadian magazine "The Walrus."

2. The Baptist minister who pushed through the new rule in the N.C. Baptist Convention that will allow for the excommunication of gay-friendly congregations is profiled in the N&O today. His very large congregation finds him a sweet grandfatherly pastor, and he's obviously got quite a little Jesus camp going in Wendell, having walled himself into an air-tight logical fallacy: Anything bad that happens is evidence that God is punishing America for the sins of immorality.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

This Is Where "Reality" Lands You

We were actually watching "Face the Nation" this a.m. when Charlie Rangel said what he said about introducing a bill early next year to bring back the draft, but I've relied on the AP for this exact quote:
There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way.

He said it. He's right. But will Democrats get tagged right off the bat as the party of the draft?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

"Carbon Tax" Gains a Toehold

Citizens in Boulder, Colorado, voted to levy what has been dubbed a "carbon tax" on themselves, based on the number of kilowatt-hours used by private homes and businesses. Revenues from the tax will be used to pay for Boulder's ambitious "climate action plan," a town-wide effort to "increase energy efficiency in homes and buildings, switch to renewable energy and reduce vehicle miles traveled." (NYTimes today)

Boulder's goal is to reduce the carbon levels to 7 percent less than those in 1990, which amounts to a 24 percent reduction from current levels.

Boulder town officials say the tax, set to go into effect April 1st, will add $16 a year to an average homeowner's electricity bill and $46 for businesses.

Residents who use alternative sources of electricity like wind power will receive a discount on the tax based on the amount of the alternative power used. A total of some 5,600 residents and 210 businesses in Boulder already use wind power.

All of this desire to lower energy consumption flows from the Boulder grassroots up. Residents wanted to honor the Kyoto Protocols in spite of El Presidente's dissing of the entire international environmental movement, and town officials became responsive to their people.

When the people lead, the leaders will follow.

Gotta Love the Arrogance!

Thanks to DS for sending on this item from Minnesota, where a practicing Hindu, Democrat Satveer Chaudhary, was reelected to the state senate. He received, not a telephone call conceding the race from his Republican opponent, but the following e-mail which essentially said, "Congratulations, you're going to hell." Here's the entire text:
Congratulations on winning the District 50 senate race. Your phone is "busy" ... no doubt with good wishes!

I've enjoyed much of this race, especially the people I've met ... even you! I see your deficits -- not all of them, and your potential -- but not all of it. Only your Creator knows the real potential He's put in you. Get to know Him and know yourself ... you'll be more interesting even to you!

The race of your life is more important than this one -- and it is my sincere wish that you'll get to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He died for the sins of the world, yours and mine -- and especially for those who accept His forgiveness. His kingdom will come and His will be done -- on earth as it is in heaven. There's more .... I love belonging to the family of God. Jesus is the way, the truth and offers His life to you and each human being. Pay attention ... this is very important, Satveer. Have you noticed Jesus for yourself ... at some moment in time, yet???

God commends His love to us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

Death came upon all and was defeated by the superiority of Jesus' life and His tomb is empty. God in Christ is reconciling the world back to Himself, with offered forgiveness -- this is one choice we get to make nose to nose with the living God -- fear Him and you need fear no other. Become His family and know the love of God that passes knowledge. See Isaiah and the Gospel of John ... good reading while waiting for fishes to bite.

God sent not His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
John 3:17

Jesus Christ lives in His earth family by His Spirit. He said He'd be back, and He said it first. You could invite Him to make the race of your life 'eternal'. God waits to be gracious to each person that knows they need to be forgiven. Do you? I think you do. Just ask. Christ won eternal life for you and said so. Take Him at His Word. Take some time to get acquainted with this power-filled Jesus ... God with us. You could be a temple of the living God, by invitation --- yours, TO GOD. :) There's nothing like belonging to Christ ... not winning, not money, not degrees ... it's the best.

Good wishes and better wishes ... until you wish for the best!

Rae Hart Anderson

There's much to admire in Rae Hart Anderson's chummy frat-brother smugness about knowing Jesus so intimately. After being nose to nose with God, you can take certain liberties!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Watauga Provisional Ballots Confirm a Democratic Sweep

The Watauga County Board of Elections left no stump ungrubbed today. Two hundred sixty-some provisional ballots were examined; 92 were disallowed because (a) the voter had moved residence out of the county or (b) the voter had no known place of residence or (c) the voter put down his/her parents' address (some other county) or (e) the voter was a felon (sizable number of those), etc.; 170 ballots were ruled eligible.

The votes from those 170 ballots in the close races:
Goss 107
Blust 58

Hagaman 95
Shook 72

Total county vote, adjusted to the provisionals:
Goss 8,537
Blust 6,711

Hagaman 7,845
Shook 7,724

A total of 15,745 ballots ended up being cast & counted. Straight-party voting occurred on 6,251 of those ballots. The lop-sided break-down by party is unprecedented in recent memory:
3,689 straight Democrat
2,562 straight Republican

Thursday, November 16, 2006

THE DAVIDSON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS has officially gone completely nuts. This is what you get from a too-long entrenched Republican power-structure.

Jerry Meek to James Carville: Shut Up! Puh-leas!

What IS the matter with James Carville? His jihad against DNC Chair Howard Dean is beginning to seem like ... jealousy.

It was Howard Dean, frankly, who helped immensely with our western North Carolina resurgence (discussed at length down-column). His 50-state strategy has reenergized Democrats in every red corner of this great nation. And what does he get for that success? James Carville publicly calling for his ouster in some sort of palace coup. Who does Carville want in Dean's place? Harold Ford, a stand-out for LOSING on election day.

Today North Carolina Democratic Chair Jerry Meek asked Carville, politely, to shut the f**k up. Dean, too, has responded here. So far everyone is being waaay polite to a former hero of ours who has just gotten out of touch with what's happening out here on the ground.

This Christ Fellow Sounds a Little Suspiciously GAY to Us!

Quote of the Day:
"In the state of North Carolina, the Republican Party has no identity. There is no issue that the voters pick out and say this is what Republicans stand for."
Jack Hawke, former state GOP chairman, in the N&O today

Au contraire, mon frere!

We know -- through your wholly owned Southern Baptist subsidiary -- that you ABOVE ALL intend to save us from church-going gays, rescue our imperiled souls from the very sight of gay couples regularly welcomed into worship services. And where they are welcomed in, well then, there'll be hell to pay. Can we get a big old "amen" to that?

Take, fer instance, First Baptist Church in Asheville. That congregation is now on notice under the new queer-fear rules passed by the Baptist State Convention that they shall be among the first to be cast into outer darkness, deprived of the blessing of turning over thousands of dollars a year to support the state's biggest homophobic syndicate.

For his part, the Rev. Guy Sayles, pastor of First Baptist of Asheville, very sensibly responded, "These decisions don't have to affect us, and we won't allow them to. The Baptist Convention doesn't set the agenda for our understanding of Christ. Christ sets the agenda for us."

Turns Out, the Sun DOES Rise in the West

Watauga was not alone in the western counties for a stunning Democratic resurgence on November 7th.

Democrats picked up a balance of +2 sheriff seats (going from 14 Ds to 19 Rs prior to Nov. 7th to 16-17 now). There is a recount pending in Watauga County, but still.

Democrats picked up 16 county commissioner seats across the west.

Ashe County went from R to D in its sheriff race, and from a 1-4 split on its county commission to a 3-2 majority.

Polk County went from R to D in its sheriff's race and finally won some county commissioner seats after concentrating for the last four years on building their party.

Caldwell County went from being 0-5 on its county commission to 2-3 and came very close to upsetting the incumbent sheriff.

And of course there were the up-ticket gains we've already mentioned in this space -- two new NC Senators, two new NC House members, and one new congressman in the US House.

Has this strong pulse of a beating heart attracted attention down in Raleigh? You bet! In 2008, for example, Steve Goss and Cullie Tarleton can both count on reelection support, and by then the party-building in other counties of Madam Foxx's 5th Dist. will make her re-election a second time much more of a toss-up. Count on it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

First We Count the Tithe and Then We Do the Purge

As expected, the N.C. Baptist State Convention voted this a.m. to excommunicate congregations "that affirm or approve of homosexuality," thus enacting "one of the most rigid anti-gay policies among the nation's Christian churches."

Seventeen churches in North Carolina affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists will come "under immediate scrutiny."

"Those churches contribute just $185,000 to the Convention's $36 million budget," convention spokesman Norman Jameson said. So good riddance, you poor little tolerant Baptists, you!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Foxx: No Tears for Gene Wilson, et cetera et cetera

In her interview with the Watauga Democrat published today, Madam Virginia Foxx expresses regret that David Blust did not win a seat in the N.C. Senate but had nary a word of commiseration for state rep. Gene Wilson, defeated after 16 years in the state House. It's been no secret that Foxx and Wilson have cordially despised each other for going on a coon's age.

Foxx also said something else mildly interesting: "The American people want the people in office to listen to them," she said. "If you don't, they are not very happy about that."

She wasn't talking about herself, mind you. She was referencing Charlie Taylor and explaining why he lost in the NC-11.

But she might have connected those dots differently, to explain her own stunning 1,000-vote losing margin in her home county. From the Jan. 30, 2006, Watauga Democrat:
...[Foxx's] recent stop in Boone last Wednesday left more questions unanswered and many attendees upset. Numerous constituents had attended thinking the meeting would be more of a town hall setting, where Foxx would address general questions from the general public.

Scheduled to leave at 9:45 a.m., and with the clock ticking towards 9:39, Foxx opened the floor for questions, and only two attendees were able to speak. When Foxx closed the meeting, it was to scattered boos and hisses.

It's not that she couldn't hear. It's that she wasn't listening.
Is Madam Foxx setting herself up as a leader of anti-stem cell research? 'Pears so (read to the end of the article).

Straight-Ticket Voting

In Watauga County, a total of 6,181 voters cast straight-ticket ballots last Tuesday.

3,645 (58.97%) were Democrats
2,536 (41.03%) were Republicans

No one we know can remember so lopsided a faith in party.

UPDATE: Similar disproportionate percentages of straight-ticket voting also reported this a.m. from Mecklenburg County, here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

N.C. Baptists Hunting Witches

The Alliance of Baptists, which was formed in 1986 largely by North Carolina Southern Baptists alarmed by the fundamentalist takeover of their denomination, issued a statement on same-sex marriage prior to the presidential election of 2004:
...we of the Alliance of Baptists decry the politicization of same-sex marriage in the current presidential contest and other races for public office. We specifically reject the proposed amendments to the constitution of the United States and state constitutions that would enshrine discrimination against sexual minorities and define marriage in such a way as to deny same-sex couples a legal framework in which to provide for one another and those entrusted to their care.

As Christians and as Baptists, we particularly lament the denigration of our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers in this debate by those who claim to speak for God....

For this great sin of tolerance, member churches of the Alliance of Baptists in North Carolina are being sniffed out as heretics by the Baptist State Convention, set to meet this coming week. Members of churches that support the Alliance have already been barred from serving as trustees of any Baptist institution. Now the fundamentalists intend to kick those churches completely out of the denomination. According to the Charlotte Observer today,
The state convention will initially investigate about 20 churches because they are listed on the Alliance of Baptists' Web site as a supporter.

"Those churches that are listed are immediately under suspicion and opened to being questioned," [said state convention spokesman Norman Jameson].

Being "under suspicion" is evidently tantamount to ... well, YOU know.

Thus doth the N.C. Baptist State Convention repudiate the spirit and meaning of Matthew 9:10-13:
And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

"I will have mercy and not sacrifice." Not so much in North Carolina.

MONDAY UPDATE: The Rev. K. Allan Blume of Watauga County's mega-church, Mt. Vernon Baptist, and vice president of the board of directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, is quoted in the N&O tsk-tsking that it's become sadly necessary to "discipline" Southern Baptists who have grown dangerously tolerant of queers.

Thus ending any suspense that Watauga Christians would not be recognized statewide as the opposite of tolerant. It's a good day for pharisees.

Populism Rather Than Partisanship

Revealing article in this a.m.'s NYTimes about the 2006 class of new Democratic Reps. & Sens. set to take office in January and, we hope, change the tone in Washington.
I was taught at a very, very young age about faith and personal responsibility, and through that, that responsibility was about helping those who cannot help themselves. If you look at what the Democratic Party stands for, it is about helping others who can't help themselves. (NC-11 Congressman-elect Heath Shuler)

Populist rather than ideological, these 41 new House members and 6 new senators represent an America weary after a dozen years of hard-right Congresses dominated by Tom DeLay & Co., not to mention six years of dishonest neo-con manipulation.

And just so we all know what we're talking about when we use the term "populism":
"Populism" is a political ideology, the central tenet of which is the conviction that governments ought to concern themselves with providing the conditions for the greatest good for the greatest number. Populists typically are opposed to both oligarchy, or government by the few, and plutocracy, or government by the wealthy.

Organized American populism began with a political party formed in 1891, which was subsequently active in the election of 1892. It arose among farmers exploited by creditors. These agrarian (that is, farm-based) populists opposed deflationary monetary policies that favored creditors, and advocated control of monopolies.

Populists may be found among liberals and conservatives alike. Patrick Buchanan, for example, is a conservative populist, while Jim Hightower is a liberal populist. Generally, conservative populists are more concerned about the size and power of governments, while liberal populists tend to be more concerned about the size and power of big business; but at the base of both perspectives is a strikingly similar concern with large, unresponsive, bureaucratic, and unaccountable institutions. Both would agree with Lord Acton's celebrated observation: "The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to to govern. Every class is unfit to govern .... Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

You go, Democratic populists of 2006!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Foxx Exposed on ABC News

The Madam appeared on a segment of ABC News Nightline that was essentially lampooning the congressional practice of "earmarks." Foxx admitted that she was responsible for earmarking the Teapot Museum in Sparta and was unapologetic about it while also condemning the practice ... a.k.a., eating her cake and having it too.

Reminds us of her views on/practice of political robo-calling.

Did You Hear the One About the Frat Brats?

Two unnamed fraternity boys from an unnamed South Carolina university are suing the producers of the Borat movie ("Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"). They claim they were duped into being drunken louts and uttering insulting comments about women and minorities.

They would never in a million years do any of that unless they were tricked.

Student Voting and the Local GOP

In yesterday's Mountain Times, Watauga County Republican Chair Denny Norris complained about a flyer handed out on the ASU campus which said "Republicans Don't Want Students to Vote. So Why Would You Vote for Them?" Mr. Norris thought the flyer was quoting NC Senate candidate David Blust. Actually, it was quoting Republican "campaign manager" Lauren Cehula, a hired gun that the local party brought in from out of state.

Norris "took issue with the card's implication that Blust's comments came from the entire Republican Party. The distortion of the comment's context was tantamount to a lie, Norris argued." (The video of Blust's notorious statement about student voting, in front of a student audience, can be accessed here.)

Mr. Norris is a nice man, and he does good works for the community. But when he spoke to the MtnTimes reporter, he was himself ignoring a good deal of context:

Following his loss in the County Commission race of 2004, Allen Trivette did up his famous bumperstickers: "SHAME ON YOU ASU." Fellow defeated commissioner candidate James Coffey, Republican Party officer Karen Wilson, and other leaders of the party were all saying very much the same thing: ASU STUDENTS SHOULDN'T BE ALLOWED TO VOTE.

At what point did this attitude NOT become the official position of the Watauga County Republican Party.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Watauga Makes Headlines in W-S Journal:
A bad night for GOP: Democrats swept Watauga County

Our favorite footnote: someone left a hand-lettered sign outside Democratic HDQs in Boone -- "Mission Accomplished."

We're Not Holding Our Breath

"Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina's 5th District, who won re-election as expected, ought to moderate her more extreme positions and help what is now the minority party work toward compromise." --Editorial, today's W-S Journal

Oughta? In what alternate universe?

The Mullahs Get Their Comeuppance?

Analysis of what happened to several Religious Right ballot initiatives have begun to appear in print, and we have further cause for celebration.

The South Dakota complete abortion ban ... defeated 56-44 percent.

Initiatives in Oregon and California that would have required parents to be notified before a girl under 18 could get an abortion ... both defeated.

Stem-cell research ... endorsed in Missouri ... at the same time a leading opponent of both stem-cell research and of abortion, Sen. Jim Talent, was being defeated by Claire McCaskill.

Same-sex marriage ban in Arizona ... rejected.

May this the opening death-knell of moralistic over-reaching by national and state Republican operatives who seemed to think that the election of George W. Bush signaled the arrival or their particular brand of heaven on earth. Maybe, but we doubt it.

It Was Not Just Watauga

A Democratic wave rolled through the rest of western North Carolina, stronger evidently than anywhere else in the state. Why the most traditionally Republican part of N.C. should have experienced a Democratic resurgence will take some careful unpacking over the next weeks and months, but there it is:

Ashe County ... not only participated in the election of new Democratic members of both the N.C. House and Senate (Tarleton & Goss) but also swept in all three of their County Commission candidates (Barber, Blackburn and Gambill), two new school board members, and James Williams as the new Democratic sheriff.

In the NC House, Democrats so far have picked up five seats, expanding our majority from 63-57 to 68-52. Two of those pickups were in the west ... Tarleton in the 93rd and Ray Warren in the 88th (Alexander County and part of Catawba County).

In the NC Senate, Democrats picked up two seats, expanding our majority from 29-21 to 31-19. Both of those pickups were in the west ... Goss in the 45th and Joe Sam Queen in the 47th (Avery, Haywood, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, and Yancey).

And, of course, Heath Shuler's victory over Charlie Taylor in the NC-11 was a big part of the general "blue tide."

We hear, incidentally, that though Sharpe lost to Foxx in NC-5, his campaign has emboldened others to think about challenging her. So a recruitment drive is already underway for a very strong candidate to run against the Madam in 2008. We can't say any names yet, for fear of unnecessarily spooking the barnyard fowl who are even now on their way home to roost.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Holy Cow!

None of the graybeards among us can remember a complete sweep by any party in Watauga County history, let alone the Democratic Party. Three County Commission seats (and they weren't even close contests!). The Sheriff. Two new members of the N.C. House and the N.C. Senate. And an incumbent U.S. Congresswoman trounced in her own home county!

A few minutes ago, a gentleman walking his dog quipped to me, "At least now Virginia Foxx won't have to crawl over so many fellow Republicans to kiss George Bush's feet!"

I spoke to a W-S Journal reporter late last night, and he asked me why I thought Foxx had lost Watauga (and very nearly lost Ashe). I fumbled around for an answer to that question. As soon as I hung up the phone, it came to me: "Because we know her up here."

Incidentally, little ole Ashe County had almost as big a Democratic sweep over there: all three County Commissioners, and of course they share in the Tarleton & Goss wins.

With Cullie Tarleton's win over Gene Wilson, Democratic strength in the N.C. House grew. Meanwhile, Jim Black's margin over his challenger is a mere seven votes. Obviously, there'll be a recount.

One of the sweetest victories of the night was Steve Goss's win in the N.C. Senate Dist. 45. Here's a man who will do his homework. And now it CAN be told that Junior Johnson was supporting him in Wilkes County.

AIR KISSES TO "THE RIGHT THANG": Jim Goff just cussed WataugaWatch on his Republican radio show on WATA for getting the election results first last night. Once again, we can't thank these propaganda arms of the local GOP enough for all the publicity!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Numbers and analysis on all the races tomorrow.
THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS SITE getting sluggish because of traffic, BUT's showing Foxx leading Sharpe by 10,000 votes district-wide (Watauga and several other counties not yet reported)

...Heath Shuler's lead over Charlie Taylor in NC-11 appears to be growing

...Kissell trailing Hayes, with very few votes reported, in NC-8

...Blust leading Goss in NC Senate Dist. 45 race (but clearly Watauga & Ashe aren't included yet)

...Tarleton 0 v Wilson 0 in NC House Dist. 93 race (again, Watauga & Ashe haven't been added to the state system yet).

Democratic judges seem to be doing well, for the most part:

Chief Justice Sarah Parker ... whupping Rusty Duke's right-wing butt

Patricia Timmons-Goodson ... way ahead

Robin Hudson ... slightly ahead

Robert "Bob" Hunter ... with a HUGE lead

Linda Stephens is the only Democratic judge who is currently trailing her Republican opponent ... except for Rachel Lea Hunter (and that's a looong story).

FLASH: Watauga County Goes Strongly Democratic

These are final (but unofficial) numbers (all precincts reporting). Democrats are listed first (naturally):

U.S. Congress NC-5
Roger Sharpe 8,189
Virginia Foxx 7,136

N.C. Senate Dist. 45
Steve Goss 8,430
David Blust 6,853

N.C. House Dist. 93
Cullie Tarleton 8,660
Gene Wilson 6,621

County Commission
Mary E. Moretz 8,302
Keith Honeycutt 6,938

Billy Ralph Winkler 8,550
James Coffey 6,495

John Cooper 8,728
David Triplett 6,338

County Sheriff
L.D. Hagaman 7,750
Mark Shook 7,652

School Board
Ron Henries
Lowell Younce
Lee Warren

OBSERVATIONS: Madam Foxx beaten to a pulp in her own county!

Though Tarleton and Goss have won Watauga County, we don't yet know if they've won their districts.

L.D. Hagaman edges past Shook for sheriff, but there'll likely be a recount ... with almost 200 provisional ballots to be factored in.

You may commence dancing in the streets, O my brethren & sistern!

REMINDER: Wear your raincoat and galoshes.

It's Not Too Early to Start Getting Giddy

Ashe County appears to have gone strongly for Roger Sharpe, for Cullie Tarleton, and for Steve Goss. We'll have actual numbers later.

In Watauga, with four small precincts yet to report, Democrats are leading across the board, except for Sheriff candidate L.D. Hagaman, who is trailing Shook by less than 150 votes. Please note: there'll be literally hundreds of provisional ballots to be argued over and potentially counted.

Big News of the Night: Foxx is apparently losing Watauga County to Roger Sharpe!

Independent Polling on Foxx/Sharpe

Another piece of information we've been forced to sit on since October 26th is an independent poll of the congressional race in the NC-5, done by this Raleigh company. (These are the same folks who first discovered Heath Shuler leading Charlie Taylor in the NC-11 and also noticed favorable movement for Larry Kissell in NC-8.)

In a poll of 808 likely voters in NC-5, conducted Oct. 26th, the poll found that Foxx's support had sunk to 49% (Sharpe 43%, with 8% undecided). That was not only significant, it was cause for (private) jubilation in many quarters.

Further, the poll found 68% dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, with 61% of the 800 "more enthusiastic" for voting on November 7th.

Here's the best part: in the breakdown of who was polled, it was 47% Republican voters, 33% Democrat, and 20% unaffiliated. When more Republicans than Democrats think we're on the wrong track, when a wide majority of Republicans can't summon more than 50% approval of Madam Foxx ... that's more than a slight breeze blowing. Blowing the wrong way for the Madam.

Democrats leading:
Virginia (52-47)
Rhode Island (53-46)
Pennsylvania (57-42)
Ohio (57-43)
New Jersey (52-45)
Montana (53-46)
Missouri (50-48)
Maryland (53-46)

Republicans leading:
Tennessee (51-48)
Arizona (50-46)

Not a single surprise here, other than McCaskill's presumed lead over Whatisname in Missouri.

We didn't think Ford could pull it out in Tennessee, with all the racism, but it's still awfully close.

These are exit polls, so take with a grain of salt.

Election 2006: 5th District Trends

Following below are "performance" numbers for how Democrats, Republicans, and Unaffiliated voters turned out in the NC-5 congressional district during "early voting," from Oct. 19th through last Saturday morning. These figures are a matter of public record, which makes it all the more surprising that some reporter didn't get hold of them and start blabbing about the only news story that can be reported so far about this election: Republicans are NOT turning out. Democrats ARE. And here's the kicker (which may account potentially for the margin of victory for Democrats when the votes are counted tonight): Unaffiliated voters accounted for over 13% of the early vote in Madam Foxx's congressional district (almost 20% in Watauga County alone), and if you're interested in regime change, that's a very good thing.

Early Voting turn-out in NC-5 (some 11 counties, including Watauga):
Total Vote: 32,154
Democrats: 14,557 (45.27%)
Republicans: 13,327 (41.45%)
Unaffiliated: 4,270 (13.28%)

What makes these numbers quite astounding is the low performance by Republicans, who account for well over half of the registered voters in the district. Well over. Assuming that the Unaffiliated vote will swing 60% (at least) for Democrat Roger Sharpe, Virginia Foxx should be VERY worried.

Early Voting turn-out in NC House Dist. 93 (Ashe & Watauga):
Total Vote: 7,684
Democrats: 3,621 (47.12%)
Republicans: 2,729 (35.52%)
Unaffiliated: 1,334 (17.36%)

This is the Gene Wilson/Cullie Tarleton rematch, and these figures are even more astounding. Note the improving percentage of Ds v. Rs, for one thing, and the improved numbers of Unaffiliated, always a good thing when you're trying to unseat an incumbent.

Early Voting turn-out in NC Senate Dist. 45 (Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes, & Alexander):
Total Vote: 13,139
Democrats: 5,961 (45.37%)
Republicans: 5,221 (39.74%)
Unaffiliated: 1,957 (14.89%)

This is the Rev. Steve Goss/David Blust match-up for the John Garwood seat in the State Senate.

Early Voting turn-out in Watauga County alone:
Total Vote: 5,416
Democrats: 2,481 (46%)
Republicans: 1,920 (35%)
Unaffiliated: 1,015 (19%)

Republicans are underperforming more noticeably in Watauga County, when considered in isolation, than in any of the above groupings.

This does not mean, naturally, that the Democrats have won anything YET. Massive turn-out today of registered Republicans could still overwhelm us, especially as all of the NC-5 is heavily Republican ... so heavily Republican that none of the races discussed above -- neither the Sharpe/Foxx, the Tarleton/Wilson, nor the Goss/Blust race -- have EVER been on anyone's radar screen as "swing" races.

Clearly, from party performance in early voting, Foxx, Wilson, and Blust are all in deep doo-doo.

We say that with some confidence because it would at this point take more than merely "okay" Republican turn-out on this rainy, rainy day for these Republican candidates to overtake the trends in these early voting figures. For example, if we assumed a total turn-out in Watauga County of 16,000 voters, including those voting early and today, by our calculation the Republicans would have to dominate at least 53% of the vote today ... a tall order considering that Republicans account for only 40% of the total registered voters in Watauga and with the Unaffiliated coming out in such strong numbers.

It's still HOURS before we'll know. Maybe the Republican machine threw a piston today, and maybe it didn't. But at the moment, we have a good feeling about this, which we'll savor until it doesn't feel good any more.

Since They Can't Win Honestly, They'll Try the Other Way

As though we needed any more reasons to throw this bunch out!

There's coverage in the Raleigh N&O here about the National Republican Party's harassing, misleading, and fundamentally corrupt robo-call campaign in congressional districts where they're perceived to be in real trouble. NYTimes coverage is here.

One of those congressional districts where the robo-calls have targeted registered Democrats -- often at 2 a.m., and repeatedly thereafter -- is NC-11, where Heath Shuler has been leading Charlie Taylor in polls. According to Federal Election Commission filings, the National Republican Congressional Committee spent almost $12,000 on robo-calls in NC-11 between 10/30 and 11/3. Each call costs less than a dime.

Desperation is an unattractive trait, especially when it's been triggered by a fear of losing overwhelming power. We won't even know the full extent of Republican desperation until after the dust settles tomorrow. But these harassing, lying robo-calls, like the deployment of sworn deputies for character assassination, are just more evidence of why we need a top-to-bottom change in this country.

Monday, November 06, 2006

What Those Letters REALLY Say

Guest blogging: Stumpy

The ninth-hour appearance of letters-to-the-editor signed by members of the Watauga County Sheriff's Department (High Country News, Nov. 2nd) would be remarkable enough, but the identical manner in which all three letters attack Sheriff candidate L.D. Hagaman demands response. The letter-writing looks like an orchestrated act of desperation organized by the incumbent Sheriff to distract everyone from a mismanaged department that's been under a cloud -- two federal lawsuits pending against it for sexual harassment and bias.

Such published letters by sworn deputies are unorthodox. It is something I have never seen previously, and my experience includes covering elections for sheriff in three states, including those incessant and controversial Gwynn-Phillips contests in Avery County. In all those races, I never saw such an open demonstration of bias as represented by those letters in the High Country News. Deputies are understandably expected to support their Sheriff as a matter of self-interest, and they feel, rightly or wrongly, their very jobs depend on it. That support, however, is expected to be private and personal, not published in the local press.

In challenging the qualifications of L.D. Hagaman, the letters offer as evidence a collective ignorance. Major Steve Thompson's "investigation" consisted only of "having spoken with several officers in our department." Captain Kelly Redmond questions how someone can have over 30 years of experience in law enforcement while at the same time holding other jobs. Captain Brian Tolbert denigrates Basic Law Enforcement training programs, and suggests that working as a sworn officer is hardly the equivalent of "working cases and patrolling the streets."

These attacks suggest that the signers of these letters view law enforcement as simply a job and not as a profession. Merely allowing themselves to be drawn into making public assertions of this nature alone makes questionable their character and fitness to hold office. Inserting themselves publicly into the middle of a partisan political process shows a willingness by those officers to violate the basic principles of impartiality that the public has a right to expect from law enforcement officers. While not a violation of a specific rule, such as that which covers the conduct of town employees, these letters are clearly contrary to the behavior most people expect from those to whom they entrust their safety.

Frankly, despite having known L.D. Hagaman for almost 30 years, I was both amazed and surprised by the extent and depth of his law enforcement credentials. While his employment did not require having to renew his qualifications as a sworn officer, Hagaman has taken upon himself to maintain his certification as a law enforcement officer. The people of Watauga County would be well served by electing a true law enforcement professional. The sheriff's office badly needs a restoration of good management, basic fairness, and integrity.

Republican Gutter Tactics

The word is that the robo-calling tactic outlined by Josh Marshall here and here is being used (so far) in NC-11 against Heath Shuler.

We trust we'll hear about it if Foxx is doing anything similar in NC-5.

Quote of the Month

Gay Republican commentator Andrew Sullivan reportedly said on CNN last week:
This is not an election anymore. It's an intervention.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Four Defining Moments for Virginia Foxx

When we come to reexamine what happened in the elections of 2006 -- and we will -- we'll need to focus on where Congresswoman Virginia Foxx went wrong. She was supposed to be invulnerable. Her election to the U.S. House in 2004 was supposed to be an inevitability. Her RE-ELECTION, from now 'til eternity ... a foregone conclusion. Opposition to her was considered futile. As a Watauga County School Board member, a N.C. senator, and a U.S. representative, she has never lost an election, and she has built a reputation as a tireless and flawless campaigner. The joke in Watauga County was that there must be at least three of her, because while she was attending the dedication of a school in Wilkes, she was also pouring coffee at a diner in Alexander County, and standing at a plant gate in Ashe.

Here's how the Irresistible Rise of Virginia Foxx was evidently supposed to go: Elected to a "safe seat" in Congress in 2004, the congresswoman could count on automatic reelection every two years. She would raise tons of money and pass it out to fellow Republican fatcats, currying favor and moving up the congressional ladder. Maybe she'd eventually get the chair of an important congressional committee, or maybe a leadership role in the Republican caucus. Maybe she'd run for U.S. Senate or even N.C. governor.

Whatever happens on Tuesday, win or lose, her irresistible rise has stumbled, and her Myth of Invulnerability is gone. Not only is she vulnerable, but she's also as brittle as old news-print. Punch at her, and she crumbles into fluttering bits of airborn particles.

What happened?

1. Virginia Foxx as Political Opportunist. On 21 March 2005, Foxx voted to give federal courts jurisdiction in the Terri Schiavo dispute, thus completing her own personal journey from pro-choice feminist to pro-life absolutist. It wasn't her vote as much as her grandstanding for the C-SPAN cameras that set teeth on edge. The supposed great champion of no federal government interference in private lives happily flew to D.C. to vote for the most blatant example ever of government interference into private, tragic personal decisions.

2. Virginia Foxx as the Queen of Mean. On 8 September 2005, Foxx was one of only 11 members of Congress to vote against an emergency relief bill for victims of Hurricane Katrina. She suggested instead that people with devastated lives should pray. Meanwhile she posted helpful instructions on her congressional website for directing private-sector contractors to the federal trough. Throughout her political career, Foxx has bragged about the poverty she grew up in, but the experience evidently did not enlarge her heart.

3. Virginia Foxx Can't/Won't Hear You. On 25 January 2006, Virginia Foxx's much touted "listening tour" goes deaf and dumb, as the congresswoman refuses at a Boone stop to recognize questions from the audience or to answer when citizens persist in peppering her about her votes. "Sham!" someone shouts. Later, Foxx's mouthpiece tried to explain that the congresswoman's "listening tour" was intended as an opportunity for the citizens to listen to her, not the other way around. The behavior of the congresswoman is nothing new. During her tenure in the N.C. Senate, she was famous for dismissing voters curtly: "There's nothing I can do. Don't contact me again about this." Do not try to approach her if you don't agree with her.

4. Virginia Foxx as Rubberstamp McHappyface. On 1 Aug. 2006, the congresswoman returned from a brief visit to Iraq and declared that all was well with President Bush's splendid little war. The woman who was formerly reputed to do ALL her homework, as well as everyone else's, could not see the forest for the trees (or the sand for the sand fleas). "There was no sense of any problems," she said at the time. "There was no indication of unhappiness."

But with her, there is unhappiness.

We'll find out Tuesday night whether "the wave" takes her too.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Saturday Morning Round-Up

In this edition: Gene Wilson gets wiggy, the military grows antsy, and the GOP's newest gay-in-the-closet

1. Gene Wilson, zillion-year Republican incumbent in the N.C. House Dist. 93, had Wataugans roaring again yesterday with his newest mass-mailing (remember his "It's Time For a Change" pitch last week?). Wondering where Osama bin Laden's gone? Gene Wilson has discovered him on an N.C. driver's license ... in a head-scratcher aof a post-card mailing that's supposed to demonstrate, we guess, the even greater incompetency of the Bush administration. El Presidente and The Boys have been looking for Osama -- where? -- in Pakistan, and all this time he's been in N.C., driving around perfectly legal with a driver's license that is somehow Cullie Tarleton's fault. Whoever's been handling Wilson's media needs an award of some kind. Do they give out Razzies for political advertisements?

2. The Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times, and Marine Corps Times -- the Four Horsemen of Military Gonads -- are all publishing the same anti-Rumsfeld editorial on Monday. Here's an advance peek. And here's a brief taste:
...the ... truth about the Iraq war has been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington. One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "mission accomplished," the insurgency is "in its last throes," and "back off," we know what we're doing....

It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation's current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.

3. Shades of the Haggard reach-around: The front-runner for Florida governor, Republican Charlie Crist, is beginning to look as macho as, well, some other leading young Republicans who spend a disproportionate amount of time on (1) their grooming and (2) public queer-fear.

Speaking of Ted Haggard: The scandal has had the unfortunate effect of putting the poor man into a speaking role on TV waaay more than is good for his image. Meanwhile, the Bush White House is in full denial mode:
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Haggard was on the weekly calls between Bush ides and evangelical leaders only "a couple" of times. The minister has visited the White House, but "there've been a lot of people who've come to the White House," Fratto said. [The Guardian]

"President Bush was NEVER in the shower with the guy," Fratto added. "The President is fully aware of gay cooties and has always taken steps to shield himself and his family from infection."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Advice to GOPers: Grab Your Deck-Chairs & RUN!

Natural history, from Billmon:
Tsunamis, they say, can be deceptive. Out in the deep ocean, travelling at 400 to 500 mph, they may appear on the surface to be nothing more than just a large swell -- like the wake of a large ship. While sensors can estimate the wave's size and power, it's true destructive force doesn't become visible until it reaches shallower water and all that energy is compressed and forced towards the surface. Then it hits, at which point the last place you want to be is on the beach.

This Will Be Foxx's Tactic

Push polling, as detailed here.

"...trying to manipulate us under false pretenses..."

Landmarks in Hypocrisy (Overtime Edition)

You know what they say about those guys who are always yelling about The Gays. Often as not, they're gay themselves.

Yep. The Rev. Ted Haggard, leader of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals, pastor of the mega (14,000-member) New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and a fierce opponent of same-sex marriage, first denies that he's been having monthly sex at $400 a pop with a male prostitute.

Then he resigns both his post with the National Assn. of Evangelicals and his pulpit at New Life Church. Why would an innocent man resign? To spend more time with his wife and five kids?

Now he says he did some of the stuff the male prostitute alleges but not all of it. Lordy! Shades of Bill Clinton parsing what "having sex" means.

Not that leading Republican mullahs of the Christian Right share ANY of the human frailties that almost brought down a president. So can we PLEASE get back on why John Kerry hates America?

FOOTNOTE: Insights on Haggard (and his accuser) by Jeff Sharlet, including the long Harper's piece that Sharlet did on Haggard's mega-church in May 2005 ... here.

Insights From Deep Inside the Robot Brain

Today's headline:
Evangelicals are cool on GOP
Many say the party's accomplishments have been disappointing, but they will vote Republican anyway
(N&O, Nov. 3, 2006)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Targeted by Virginia Foxx

You know you're getting old when you shamble to the mailbox to find you've been targeted by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx for a propaganda flyer aimed at "North Carolina seniors."

Her internal polling must be telling her the same things as the independent polling we've seen ... that her support is WEAKEST among people 60 years and older. Gosh. We wonder why.

Could it be from quotes like this:
People have become too dependent on Social Security as their sole source of income after retirement, Foxx said, adding that President George W. Bush feels people should take responsibility for themselves and plan ahead, rather than rely solely on Social Security. [Watauga Democrat, March 28, 2005]

At the same meeting, she called Social Security "a broken system."

No such talk in the slick flyer that arrived today. And no talk about "privatization," which everyone with a pulse knows means the ultimate demise of Social Security, which is what Foxx demonstrably pants for.

Readers Are Also Doers

Very interesting study based on interviews with 17,135 people age 18 and older about their activities in a 12-month period finds that readers of literature are considerably more likely than non-readers to engage in selfless volunteer work in their communities. Same goes for people who engage in arts-related activities.

Volunteer work by adults aged 18 to 34 is waaay down, perhaps because that age group also has the lowest reading rate. 'Course, they're all working all the time, just to stay even in this Republican economy, so who has time to read, go to concerts, attend museums, etc.?

News of the Sharpe-Foxx Debate

Though The Madam succeeded in barring reporters from her taped debate with Roger Sharpe yesterday, including the W-S Journal's reporter, the paper nevertheless has a partial blow-by-blow of the "often testy" exchange between the two. The Journal's reporter obtained a copy of the tape.

Long after El Presidente himself has abandoned the trope of defending his Iraq war by saying "they attacked us first," since Iraq most certainly did NOT have a hand in 9-11, here's the Madam behaving like an administration bobblehead:
"The war is tough, there's no question about it. But these people came and attacked us," she said.

When the moderator, Jim Longworth, quickly raised a question about the link between Sept. 11, 2001, and the Iraq war, Foxx continued by emphasizing that terrorists attacked the United States and that Iraq was providing a safe haven for terrorists.

That's just willful misrepresentation of the facts. But then, this is Virginia Foxx, after all.

Sounds as though Roger Sharpe held his ground against her. Though we doubt this little exercise will change many votes.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

FLASH! Baptist Minister Preaches Gospel

In today's Charlotte Observer, Rev. Dan Burrell of Charlotte's Northside Baptist Church says he has "lost faith in politics" and has decided to focus "on saving souls, not electing politicians."

This from "an outspoken Christian conservative," who in 2004 registered voters, distributed Christian Coalition voter guides, and urged the 3,000 members of his church to the polls. Not so this year.

He's disillusioned with the national Republican Party. Turns out they don't walk on water after all.

"In terms of major get-out-the-vote campaigns, frankly, we're going to be focused more on the work of the Gospel and ministering to our local community," Rev. Burrell said.

This is exactly what Madam Foxx and the other Rove clones have to fear ... the dawning of the truth on good Christians that they've been HAD for a mess of pottage. Will queer-fear and immigrant-fear scare them back into line by election day?

We dunno, but, yeah, we do know what's coming:
John Green, a Pew Forum senior fellow on religion and public life, said polls show "potential" for Christian conservatives to sit the election out, but many groups -- including the Republican Party -- are aware of that, and are using phone banks and other methods to boost turnout.

"Other methods" include a nastiness not yet witnessed, which will try not to show itself in the light of day, because it cannot stand the light.

Foxx Plans Robo-Calling to Smear Sharpe

Another, even stronger editorial in the W-S Journal today, blasting Madam Virginia Foxx: "she's made herself look silly, naive, and cowardly during this campaign."

Add unscrupulously mean to that list.

News out of the Foxx campaign has reached us, to wit:

1. She knows that her Republican base is not turning out for early voting in the 5th Dist. She knows that some of those same "supporters" are highly likely to sit at home next Tuesday.

2. She's willing to resort to the nastiest tactics anyone can imagine to pull her chestnuts out of the fire.

Her campaign has been telephone-polling for some time, identifying those hard-core supporters who will vote for her if they bother to visit the polls. The campaign plans to robo-call those supporters this weekend, demanding that people get out and vote for Foxx to save the 5th District from a _________.

What goes in that blank ... is being guessed at. Something like this: "Vote for Virginia Foxx, or we'll have a kleptomaniac shop-lifter and serial adulterer representing us in Washington." Not that, but something like that, only nastier.

Robo-calls, mind you. From she who said she wanted them banned.

Nastiness, mind you, from she who claims to be a Baptist.

Her transformation into Latrodectus mactans, a black widow spider, is complete. She's not been available to the public or the press for weeks because she was molting.