Wednesday, January 31, 2007


We live in one of the windiest places on God's green earth. The potential for producing cheap electricity from that wind source, without polluting any air or water and without using up non-sustainable sources of energy, is virtually limitless.

Yet people fear wind energy. You'd think wind turbines were asphalt plants, from the way antis packed a hearing before the NC Utilities Commission in Ashe County recently.

Now the staff of the Commission has come out with a very negative staff report against a turbine "farm" near Creston, and the AG Roy Cooper is threatening to get involved. Cooper's hostility to wind energy goes back years. The Utilities Commission's befuddled fear of wind power seems mere minutes old (and awfully convenient for Duke Power). Together, AG and Utilities Commission appear poised to strangle this baby in its cradle.

That's just so 20th century of them.

Rebecca Heppel, who found herself suddenly unemployed when her former boss, 11th District Rep. Charles Taylor, lost to Heath Shuler last November, and who now works for U.S. Sen. Dick Burr (tobacco uber alles), on why Republicans lost so decisively in western NC counties:
"Why is it we took such a beating in November? We simply got beat at our own game. The Democrats started early and set goals and achieved them. But we Republicans have the power in Western North Carolina, and folks in Raleigh like to forget that we exist."
But look out, suckas, 'cause Heppel and other fellow travelers have organized a new PAC, West Wins (get it?), and they mean to influence elections in 2008, especially in the 11th, the 10th, and the 5th congressional districts.

"We Republicans have the power." Hmmm. We're a bit miffed that Heppel would steal Howard Dean's mantra, though we're otherwise entertained by the defensiveness in that boast.

Madam Virginia Foxx and wet-behind-the-ears Patrick McHenry have joined 16 other Congressional Republicans in calling on the Department of Justice to force Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton's national security advisor, to take a polygraph test in the case of purloined papers from the National Archives.

One would think that the Madam's reputation anent the subject of shoplifting would have kept her far away from this particular crusade.

My momma always said, "Beware of a person who can't be embarrassed."

Oops. Here's a link for the story, which no state paper that we've consulted has covered.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Quote of the day (from The Politico):
"I really feel strongly that if the [Republican presidential] slate is what we have now, then we're not going to win in 2008," [said] Erick Erickson, the founder of the influential blog, RedState. Erickson, who recently posted an entry about the GOP contenders titled "They All Suck," said in an interview that he's "not sure if there is a Republican out there who can win" the general election next year.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


It's going to take a couple of years, evidently, because the Bush administration isn't ABOUT to admit the increasingly deep doo-doo they've waded into with this insane preemptive war, but this article for the McClatchy Newspapers highlights the dawning reality that aggressive warfare is going to eventually demand a military draft. We'll simply need more young American flesh to extricate ourselves from Bush's Folly. And to protect ourselves from all the new jihadists that El Presidente has created.

The presidency that will keep on giving!

It's been the Bush administration that perfected the late Friday "document dump," to get embarrassing material out into the mainstream press just as everybody's leaving work for the weekend. Fewer people notice, and it seems to work.

Congrats to new NC House Speaker Joe Hackney for dumping the Jim Black-commissioned $80,000 "history" (all 23 badly written and inexpertly typed pages of it) this past Friday. He did exactly the right thing. It's a Jim Black problem and not a Joe Hackney problem, and since North Carolina taxpayers paid for the thing, they ought to get a look at it. It made the front pages of Saturday's N&O and will quickly -- and deservedly -- die a quick death as yet another example of why we're glad we have a new speaker of the NC House.

(Can't fail to mention, either, that the N&O appears to have rewarded Hackney for that opening candor: This morning's N&O contains the headline, "New speaker works hard, shoots straight," which is obvious good will from a newspaper that can do NC politicos real damage.)

For just one example, the N&O also chose today to front-page a snide suggestion that presidential candidate John Edwards has no right earthly to be an advocate for the poor while living in a $6 million house in Chapel Hill. The nerve of some rich people to think beyond their own wealth!

Friday, January 26, 2007


Another attack on wet-behind-the-ears Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10) on the NC Conservative, for taking big bucks from the National Beer Wholesalers' Assn. The author failed to notice, however, that the very darling of NC conservatives, Virginia Foxx, also takes money from the same outfit.

The author's larger point is that McHenry is doing the bidding of big business contributors across the board and NOT representing the best interests of the NC-10.

Jeez, you'd think someone at that site would notice the hypocrisy of attacking McHenry while leaving Foxx on her exact same pedestal. But we all know the problem with McHenry for these guys is NOT his corporate shilling but something else altogether.

Pam Spaulding has a remarkably level-headed response today at NCBlue to Senate Bill 13, filed yesterday in Raleigh to write discrimination into the state constitution regarding -- yes -- the grave threat to the commonweal that gay unions pose. All the sponsors are not only listed but also pictured, if you need a face to go with bigotry. Most of the active avatars of prejudice in the NC Senate are there, including Robert Pittenger, who fellow conservative Sue Myrick recently broke with, and Fred Smith, who wants to be governor.

The lone Democrat in this congregation has his own 'splaining to do.

Quite by accident, apparently (and in more ways than one), medical researchers have discovered that a knock on the noggin above the ear can cure addictions to tobacco. I'm very interested in this research and envision 'STOP SMOKING NOW' clinics in which addicts line up before a team of white-suited technicians holding wooden meat tenderizers.

Course, getting conked on the haid in precisely that same locale can also induce sudden death, so there may be some necessary cost-benefit analysis to be performed here. But still. I'm just sayin'.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if a little craving could be subsided by a little wake-up knock?

Be just our luck, though, if we suddenly also wiped out certain creative urges, the writing of music, the painting of great masterpieces, the cleaning of closets at 2 a.m., and other valuable signs of human genius.
Or, What Cheap Catfood REALLY Costs Us

Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, spoke in Asheville yesterday about the downside of Wal-Mart superstores and their ilk. From the Asheville Citizen-Times coverage:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. alone takes in one out of every $10 Americans spend on retail goods, she said. The stores' building spree has doubled the amount of retail space in the United States since 1990, Mitchell said. The expansion reduces the cohesiveness of communities, she said, by reducing the role of traditional downtowns where residents are likely to run into acquaintances.

The replacements, she said after flashing a slide of a huge Wal-Mart parking lot on the screen, are places where "people get out of their cars and they make a beeline for the front door because who wants to hang out here."

The expansion frequently comes at the expense of local business that often pay middle class wages and spend more of their money close to home, boosting local economies, Mitchell said. One study found that $68 of every $100 spent in a locally owned store stays in the community while only $43 of that spent in a chain store does, she said.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Last night, senators Dick Burr and Liddy Dole joined 41 other Republicans to block cloture on the minimum wage bill ... thus allowing a Republican filibuster to kill the first increase in federal minimum-wage levels in almost 10 years.

A handful of Republican senators voted with the Democrats to end debate: Coleman of Minnesota (he'll be running for reelection in '08, possibly against Al Franken), Collins & Snowe of Maine, Specter of Pennsylvania, and (here's a surprise) Warner of Virginia.

Boone's own 1451st Transportation Company, currently deployed in Iraq (about 175 men and women), will have its tour of duty extended for 125 days, part of El Presidente's "augmentation."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


We've been searching this a.m. for a transcript of Jim Webb's Democratic response last night to El Presidente's SOTU address. Found both a transcript and the video on Think Progress. If you missed it, it's worth a viewing. Webb had everything Bush (or "Dim Son," as he's now been nicknamed) lacked ... clarity, brevity, and good writing (Webb, we're told, wrote the short speech himself).

Webb also has a grasp of American history, in a section of the speech that has been overlooked because of his strong words about Iraq:

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves "as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other." And he did something about it.

I flashed on Congresswoman Virginia Foxx & her fellow rubberstampers, constantly informing us peons out here that the U.S. economy is the best it's ever been. She's speaking from HER vantagepoint, which ain't too far away from those she serves, the 21st century robber barons.


See Congresswoman Foxx wrestle fellow Republican welter-weight Michelle Bachmann (Minn.) for the right to feel up El Presidente last night. We haven't seen such sexual hysteria since Elvis left the building.

Roundup of percolating trouble:

1. Incoming students at UNC-Chapel Hill will be asked to read a book by Sister Helen Prejean (played by Susan Saranwrap in "Dead Man Walking") that is deeply anti-death penalty. Probably nobody will care, ya reckon?

2. Rep. Sue Myrick goes public with a feud with fellow Republican (super) conservative Robert Pittenger, who represents Charlotte in the state senate. 'Pears Pittenger was trying to push Myrick into the race for guv so he could run for her seat in the U.S. Congress. Not so fast there, Bob, sez Myrick. Pittenger blames it all on Myrick's chief of staff, Hal Weatherman, "an angry young man." Now everybody's angry!

3. Tough guy John Edwards makes threats anent Iran RE nuclear bomb ... to an Israeli audience.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Or, Can We All Pretend the Wheels Haven't Come Completely Off?

Not exactly a kegger in the Congressional halls tonight, with the Republican side particularly and noticeably lacking the fire of moral certitude. There was an air of sweaty necessity in the air, rather like watching Baptist deacons dutifully file into church every weeknight in July because the pastor has decided, "We need a revival!"

9:00 - 9:07 ... on C-SPAN, blessedly free of yammering voice-over commentators, Nancy Pelosi and Dick Cheney have to stand awkwardly side by side on the dais in cool silence, awaiting El Presidente's appearance at the backdoor. What kind of small talk would be possible at such a moment anyway?

9:10 ... El Presidente is announced. Everyone stands and applauds. Applause is desultory, at best, and soon dies. El Presidente is doing his best Regular Guy at the frat house, coming down the aisle. "Commander Codpiece," someone remarks.

9:14 ... El Presidente begins with a gracious flourish on "Madam Speaker," an historical moment. Genuine applause for Nancy Pelosi.

9:16 ... "large endeavors underway" ... congrats to the "new Democrat majority" -- he can't hide the smirk

9:17 ... "evil" ... didn't take long to make an entrance

9:18 ... "wages are rising," so can I take credit for what my party would never have done on its own?

9:19 ... "economic reforms" ... and did he just say we should balance the federal budget? That takes balls, you gotta admit ... "eliminate the federal deficit in five years" (big, BIG balls!)

9:21 ... "We can fix Medicare and Medicaid and save Social Security," thus ending the mystery of whether Vlad the Impaler can successfully impersonate a bleeding-heart liberal

9:21 ... "No Child Left Behind" -- there it is!

9:23 ... "No Child Left Behind" again ... camera pans glum faces on the Republican side

9:24 ... "affordable and available health care," 'cause, apparently, if it ain't affordable, it ain't available, and vice versa. But for two full minutes at least, we're told we're sick sick sick

9:27 ... "the best medical decisions are not made by government and insurance companies but by patients and their doctors" ... interesting words coming a day after the man spoke (by phone) to the National Right to Life rally, which is in love with the idea of government interference in private medical decisions

9:28 ... "temporary worker program" ... camera finds Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) in the crowd, who looks like he's choking on a sour lemon drop

9:29 ... "but no amnesty for illegals" ... Ton Tancredo looks happier

9:30 ... Pelosi appears to be working a sesame seed out from betwixt two molars

9:30 ... omigawd ... El Presidente is now channeling Al Gore ... "alternative energy" ... "hybrid vehicles" ... "reduce gas usage by 20 percent in 10 years" (right after bats fly out of Dick Cheney's posterior)

9:32 ... best, most cryptic three words of the speech ... "mandatory fuel standards"

9:33 ... yeah, but enough of that environmental doo-doo, 'cause we've gotta pump more oil in this country, and you chickenshits are gonna help me

9:34 ... "be better stewards of the environment" ... Al Gore is back, and Rahm Emanuel leaps, applauding, from his seat

9:35 ... Vlad the Impaler returns ... "terrorists ... terrorists ... terror ... take the fight to the enemy"

9:36 ... "terrorists" ... and you can't quarrel with the logic of this: "We cannot know the full extent of attacks we didn't suffer" ... Oooo-kay

9:37 ... the man's on a roll ... "terrorists ... terrorists ... evil ... America is still a nation at war"

9:39 ... "Sunni and Shi'a extremists"

9:41 ... "a decisive ideological struggle" ... which is apparently some necessary groundwork for bombing the shi'ite out of Iran too

9:44 ... "This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it's the fight we're in" ... Again, that impeccable logic! "Let us find our resolve and turn events toward victory" ... gosh, much of Congress appears to have left its resolve in its other pants

9:45 ... "a new strategy in Iraq" ... Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-N.M), a recent defecter from Republican orthodoxy on the war, appears to be studying her shoe laces

9:48 ... "I chose this course of action" ... at which Cheney smirks

9:49 ... "September 11th"

9:50 ... "War on terror"

9:51 ... "I need boys, I need man-flesh, I need 92,000 more soldiers in the active Army in the next five years, 'cause, guys, this perpetual war is hard to sustain"

9:53 ... "Iran ... nuclear weapons" ... isn't this where we came in four years ago, only it was "Iraq ... nuclear cloud" back then?

9:54 ... "Korean peninsula ... nuclear weapons" ... O God, make it stop

9:54 ... here comes the bleeding heart liberal again: "hunger ... poverty ... disease ... HIV-aids ... continent of Africa" and then he throws in malaria too

10:02 ... it's over! If your own personal drinking game hinged on variations of the word "terror," you're roaring drunk by now

10:09 ... El Presidente is making his way out of the chamber, and this person, this woman, I think, starts pawing at him, grabs a hank of hair or a shoulder pad of the President of the United States, and pulls him into a wet kiss ... Oh Jeez, it's Virginia Foxx! She's mugging the man.

The Hickory Daily Record sent a reporter out to Shell's Bar B-Q to see what was on ordinary people's minds on the eve of El Presidente's State of the Union address, and the poor reporter couldn't find a single citizen who wasn't ready to tongue-lash the president on a whole range of topics but especially on the war. Read it.

And that's in one of the most thoroughly and dependably Republican counties in the state.

Monday, January 22, 2007


It IS a new day for ASU in the state legislature, following those clods in a churn who've supposedly represented our state university's best interests in the past (we're talking Virginia Foxx here, and Gene Wilson, not John Garwood).

But is it our imagination, or did ASU Chancellor Ken Peacock sound slightly less than enthusiastic about his new House & Senate members in the closing paragraphs of the article linked above?

Chancellor Peacock is something of an overly lubricated weathervane, swinging wildly with the prevailing tradewinds. Up until 8/21/02, he was a registered Democrat. He switched to Republican on that date and remained in that camp through the election of The Madam to the U.S. Congress in 2004 (and how many times in a few months post-election did he manage to get his picture taken with Virginia Foxx?). Then, perhaps sensing a shift in wind direction -- we don't know -- he again changed his registration on 9/16/05 to Unaffiliated. Politically, he's just plain jumpy.

It's like standing at the water cooler, trying to shake off the last lingering penumbra of a too energetic weekend, and hearing your fellow office clones rave on about a TV show you watched one time and would never watch again, not even with a cocked revolver pointed at your temple, and you're amazed that so many people could be so enthusiastic about so little.

That's the way we feel this a.m. with -- what? -- eight Democratic presidential hopefuls to choose from ... SO FAR.

Here's the chatter at the water cooler:
...just terrific people. They are each bright and capable. Person by person, they are committed to bringing out the best in America. In ethnic and gender terms, they represent a marvelous picture of the real America, and not a one of them appeals to hate or divisiveness.

Of course, each of the Democratic candidates would be vastly superior to the incumbent. Each would study the issues, bring fine people into public service with them, honorably represent America, and make tough but moral decisions. Not a one is unqualified. Not a one lacks adequate experience. Not a one harbors extremist views, or is unaware of the significance of the Presidency to not only Americans but everyone in the world.

--Reed Hundt

Oh, God, make it stop. We feel so strangely guilty that we've not up for the happy talk. Where's the Excedrin, anyway?

Chuck Hagel ... why isn't HE a Democrat?

Unless things change -- and they WILL, as they always do -- we'll put our energies into defeating our two female bobbleheads in the House (Foxx) and the Senate (Dole), and let the presidency take care of itself.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


$15,000 in political contributions from Tom DeLay apparently can induce both deafness and dumbness:
This week, in a report broadcast on WFDD-FM, 5th District Rep. Virginia Foxx said that former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is not facing trial, has not been indicted and certainly does not face criminal charges. She hadn't heard. When informed that DeLay's trial on criminal charges of money-laundering is pending, Foxx concluded, with no further research, that the indictment was a "trumped-up charge."
W-S Journal, 20 Jan. 2007
Meanwhile, in the job we all pay her to do, the Madam continued to harden her already miniscule heart:

On the Clean Energy Act of 2007 (H.R. 6), which repeals special tax breaks for oil & gas producers ... the Madam voted "no" (Roll Call # 40)

On the College Student Loan Relief Act (H.R. 5), which will reduce interest rates on federal student loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent over the next five years ... the Madam voted "no" (Roll Call # 32)

On the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007 (H.R. 4), which would require the Secretary of Health & Human Services to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies "in hopes of lowering drug prices" for Medicare Part D beneficiaries ... the Madam voted "hell no" (Roll Call # 23)

On the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 (H.R. 3), which would direct the Secretary of Health & Human Services to allow federal research $$ to go to support embryonic stem cell research (under certain stringent conditions: see below) ... the Madam voted "no" (Roll Call # 20)
*To receive federal $$ under H.R. 3, experiments must meet all three of the following conditions: (1) the embryos must have been donated for use in "in vitro fertilization" processes; (2) the head of the clinic to which the embryos are donated must certify that they would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded and; (3) the individuals donating embryos must sign a letter of written consent for the embryos to be used in research and must not have received any financial benefit from the donation.
On the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 (H.R. 2), which would raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over 26 months ... the Madam voted "f**king NO!" (Roll Call # 18)

On Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act, which would (duh) actually implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations ... the Madam voted "no" (Roll Call # 15)

Much additional detail on all these bills available at US House Digest (hat tip to Stumpy).

In an article in today's N&O about the impending reelection of Jerry Meek as chair of the NC Democratic Party, there's a nice little shout-out to Watauga, in the context of a discussion of the positive change Meek has brought to the statewide party:

One such county was Watauga, home to the college town of Boone. Even though registered Republicans outnumber Democrats, the county elected a completely Democratic county board of commissioners and a Democratic sheriff, and helped elect two new Democrats to the legislature.

Diane Tilson, the Watauga County Democratic chairwoman, said a strong local effort was aided by the state party, which provided regular consultation as well as other help such as voter information and helping plan a roadside advertising campaign.

"I do know that Jerry has been very hands-on," Tilson said.

Otherwise, there's very little in this article to indicate that anyone in NC's mainstream press really gets what's happening out here on the ground, beyond the Capitol beltway. And frankly, my dears, we'd like to keep it that way.

Friday, January 19, 2007


And the guv gets to make the announcement.

$100 million in tax breaks to the company, in exchange for 210 jobs and up to $600 million invested by Google in Caldwell.

At least one Lenoir city councilman was not drunk when the incentives package was voted on (the city council agreed -- get this! -- "to waive 100 percent of Google's business property taxes and 80 percent of its real-estate taxes for three decades"). Jay-sus.

Said the councilman, "I'm philosophically opposed to economic development incentive grants. In my mind they're not an effective way in the long run to recruit business. I think they're a good way to make a splashy show to bring in a business .... Everyone else in the community is going to have to take up the slack."

We'll be able to watch this batch of porridge cook over the long term.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Something needs to be done about these drug-pushers and about their chief Senate defender, Dick Burr. Only in America, brother, only in America.

Nothing spells trouble like secrecy, piled on top of $75,000 in state money wasted on a sinecure for a "historian" who isn't one, and a "history" that wasn't one, and which didn't get written anyway, and would have possibly amounted to no more than a piece of publicly financed flattery for the Speaker of the NC House, who isn't now going to be Speaker of the NC House any more, but whose abuse of that office just keeps giving off waves of rankness.

We hope that Joe Hackney -- who, far as we can tell, had nothing to do with this mess -- can find a way to dispose of it without appearing to shield guilty parties from the embarrassment they have evidently worked hard to earn.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Thanks to Stumpy for directing me to this interesting exchange in Christianity Today with Francis S. Collins, head of the Human Genome Project and a practicing Christian. Just one excerpt:
I encounter many young people who have been raised in homes where faith was practiced and who have encountered the evidence from science about the age of the earth and about evolution and who are in crisis. They are led to believe by what they are hearing from atheistic scientists on the one hand and fundamentalist believers on the other that they have to make a choice. This is a terrible thing to ask of a young person....

My heart goes out to sincere believers who feel threatened by evolution and who feel that they have to maintain their position against it in order to prove their allegiance to God. But if God used this process [evolution] and gave us the chance to discover it, then it seems anachronistic, to say the least, that we would feel we have to defend him against our own scientific conclusions. God is the author of all truth. You can find him in the laboratory as well as in the cathedral. He's the God of the Bible; he's the God of the genome. He did it all.


Wanna see an ugly Staple's, wedged onto a piece of ground where it should never have gone, come on up to Boone!

Staple's refusal to cooperate in Asheville comes as no surprise.

Josh Marshall was all over this story yesterday, and it made the AP wire today ... "an obscure provision" in the Patriot Act reauthorization is allowing El Presidente to systematically push out US attorneys and replace them with partisan flunkies without Senate oversight. Among those given the shove is the US Attorney for the Southern district of California who prosecuted Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Recently defeated candidate David Blust is reportedly thumping his chest and declaring he's going to clean up the Watauga County Republican Party and set it on the right track.

Let the holding of breath commence.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Rep. Virginia Foxx, quoted in today's Watauga Democrat, on surges and/or augmentations:
"The war in Iraq is critical to the Global War on Terror and we must continue to fight and defend against the terrorists there as much as at home. We must maintain our efforts to provide security and stability for the Iraqi government and its people until they are able to do so themselves. We cannot walk away or we will face increased bloodshed at home and abroad. I applaud the president for recognizing the need for a new direction in the Iraq war in order to achieve this and presenting tangible solutions to the problems we currently face there."

Foxx said she believes Iraqis should take the lead in stabilizing their country "and act aggressively and swiftly against any violence. Prime Minister Maliki has issued a commitment to meet these challenges, and the President must hold him accountable to this pledge."
"Our troops deserve unwavering support and this new direction the president has implemented must show progress. Now is the time to unite as Americans, and not as partisan politicians."
Yadda yadda yadda. But what's that "must show progress" in the last paragraph? "Must show progress" ... or else? Else what? She's not signaling a potential end to her open-ended me-tooism, is she?

Kudos to NC Democratic Party Chair Jerry Meek for leading the party to remember and to deal with its racist past: "The N.C. Democratic Party is expected to apologize later this week for its role in the 1898 white supremacy campaign and Wilmington race riot."

If you don't know that history, you should. If you don't know how reversed the two major parties were in those days, you should. White mountain Republicans, especially, were allied with their black brethren against a race-baiting Democratic Party.

That history partially explains why Harvey Gantt had such a daunting time in 1990 against Jesse Helms. But also why Gantt's accomplishment in carrying Watauga County by over a thousand votes that year was historically significant and maybe not all that surprising.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


He's pursuing "self gain," has hung a "for sale" sign over his Congressional nameplate, and lived with a man ... says this writer on "North Carolina Conservative."

Oh my.

Foreclosure filings reach record high in N.C.

The Charlotte Observer examined foreclosure statistics for 2003 through 2006 and found:

More than 80 percent of foreclosures involve homes valued at $150,000 or less.

Most foreclosures cluster on [Mecklenburg] county's west, north and east sides, where houses and land often carry lower price tags.

The newspaper also ... found dozens of relatively new, starter-home neighborhoods with high concentrations of failed mortgage loans. Those foreclosure clusters drove down home values in whole neighborhoods, even hurting owners who made their payments on time.

So goes George W. Bush's "ownership society."

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Fri., Jan. 5th -- Heath Shuler (D, NC-11) said he didn't think escalation in Iraq was "the solution" but would consider it if "that's what our military leaders said."

Wed., Jan. 10th -- Heath Shuler spokesman Andrew Whalen said the freshman congressman hadn't decided yet how he would vote on the stem cell bill. Hours later, there was no change. "It's still being discussed," Whalen said as night fell. U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, chief deputy whip for the Democrats, said this week that the party would be more lenient on this issue than others in its 100-hour agenda. "Some of our members are struggling with it, not necessarily for political reasons, but from their conscience," said Butterfield, of Wilson. "We're not going to whip on this vote with a heavy hand." Whalen said that as far as he knew, Shuler had not received any pressure about the vote. "He's not voting with the Democrats," he said. "He's voting his conscience."

Thurs., Jan. 11th -- About 100 members staged a rally outside Heath Shuler's office on Biltmore Avenue in Asheville. "As a progressive, I'm always shopping for someone who is fully progressive, but one has to realize the reality of the situation and pick and choose your fights," said John Russell, a member of the local group.

Also on the 11th (scroll down) -- Shuler said he received no party pressure about his vote. "I think that's what's been so great about this leadership," Shuler said.

Fri., Jan. 12th -- Representative Heath Shuler announced today that he has been chosen to serve as a Deputy At-Large Whip in the 110th Congress by House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC). Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said of adding Shuler to his whip team, "When I visited Heath Shuler this fall in North Carolina I saw in him the leadership and dedication needed for an effective whip organization. But even more important is the perspective he brings to our Caucus and to my leadership team."
EVERYTHING'S BIGGER AND BETTER AT DUKE was probably thought best to avoid making Nemesis angry., definition of "Nemesis"
According to CBS News, RE the Duke lacrosse players in the notorious Durham, NC, rape case:

Dr. Brian Meehan, the forensic expert hired by Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, has admitted to "60 Minutes" a "big error" in judgment by not stating that the only DNA he found on the "exotic dancer"/accuser was from several men who were not on the Duke lacrosse team.

Meehan told Nifong about the other DNA for the first time in mid-April 2006.

Later that same month, Nifong indicted the three Duke lacrosse players anyway.

Nifong took six months to tell the players' defense attorneys about the other DNA ... potentially "exculpatory" evidence. In fact, Nifong filed a court motion that stated he was not aware of any potentially exculpatory evidence. Which is why he's under investigation by the state bar.

Meehan now says that Nifong's behavior "irks" him.

Pause ... while we consider Nifong's potentially unethical and illegal behavior and before we get to the righteous mothers in this case ... but it might be important to point out that Meehan's story does NOT mean that the indicted lacrosse players' DNA wasn't found on the accuser. It was. But it was there along with that of other males unknown ... as we read and understand the "60 Minutes" story.

But Nifong is damned to everylasting hell by vengeful goddesses seeking retribution: Rae Evans, the mother of indicted player David Evans, says, "I would say with a smile on my face, 'Mr. Nifong, you've picked on the wrong families … and you will pay every day for the rest of your life.' "

Whoa, dude!

And maybe he will. Certainly seems like he willfully misbehaved.

But what WAS going on in that frat house that night?

Just came from an uplifting and energizing swearing-in ceremony for Watauga & Ashe counties' newest member of the NC House, Cullie Tarleton. What a great crowd of people (including several Republicans, nervous as cats that they might be photographed and have their cover blown with their local brethren)!

Cullie in his remarks after the ceremony announced that he (and Rep. Ray Warren, who was present and also newly elected from Alexander County) had supported Rep. Joe Hackney for House Speaker in the House Caucus from the very first vote. "From the get-go," Tarleton said. And then joked, "I'm hoping for some committee assignments."

"When I receive a constituent request, I won't be asking 'What's your party affiliation?' I'll ask 'How can I help?' " he said.

The politicking during the reception following the ceremony was intense, with speculation swirling around a certain person who seems very close to announcing his candidacy to challenge Virginia Foxx in '08. And Winston-Salem City Councilman Dan Besse was there, handing out cards announcing that he's a candidate for Lieutenant Governor in '08.

After today, we're fresh out of newly elected Democrats waiting to take their oaths of office. We've had a perfect swarm of ceremonies and receptions, and we'll miss the fellowship.

The Southern Baptists -- the denomination I grew up in and one of whose colleges I attended in Texas -- continues to send unmistakable bulletins of exclusivity and intolerance to the rest of the world.

Rev. Tony Cartledge, 55, editor of the Biblical Recorder, a biweekly newspaper published by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, is being ousted as too liberal.

"I stand by my conviction that unity in diversity is better than uniformity in doctrine, but that has become the minority view and some have considered my efforts divisive," he wrote on the paper's website.

According to the religion writer for the N&O, "The convention has increasingly taken a conservative bent, ostracizing churches that affiliate with more liberal Baptist groups and barring gay-friendly churches from membership."

Yowza! The way to win the world for the message of hope embodied in Christ is to constrict yourselves into a tiny ball so tight nobody "foreign" can get in and no squeak of light can escape.

Friday, January 12, 2007


There'll be more of this sort of profiling of the likely new speaker of the NC House -- and we can't vouch for the details in this -- but here's a start on learning about Mr. Joe Hackney.

We had been hearing (while in our Bell South-imposed Cone of Silence) that Jim Crawford, who came in second to Joe Hackney in the NC House Democratic caucus vote for House Speaker, was "upset" that he didn't win. He's been mentioned as the No. 1 candidate of NC "business interests."

Today's N&O gossip speculates that Crawford might strike a deal with the Republicans to take the speakership away from Hackney. That would be a seriously uncool thing to do, and we feel prayfully confident that Crawford won't.

Meanwhile, Heath Shuler is doing what he can to cause acid reflux in everywhich direction. At the link above, scoll all the way down to the last item. So can you tell the difference between Heath Shuler and Virginia Foxx so far? Said to me last Saturday at the Goss swearing in, by an activist who busted butt for Shuler: "Omigod, I think I woke up and found out I elected a jerk to Congress!"

Just mark it down in your memory books: Bell South is an evil god.

It's been like falling out of a canoe in the Amazon.

And there we were Wednesday night, when we got the call from Raleigh that Joe Hackney will be the new speaker of the NC House, and we couldn't post a word about him!

Tomorrow morning at the Watauga County Administration Bldg., in the Commissioners Boardroom, Cullie Tarleton will be sworn in as the new representative from the 93rd NC House Dist. Following that, we'll hope to get back into some regular order with this blog.

Monday, January 08, 2007


WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 -- Families earning more than $1 million a year saw their federal tax rates drop more sharply than any group in the country as a result of President Bush's tax cuts, according to a new Congressional study.

The study, by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, also shows that tax rates for middle-income earners edged up in 2004, the most recent year for which data was available, while rates for people at the very top continued to decline.

"Bush Tax Cuts Offer Most for Very Rich, Study Finds," NYTimes, 8 Jan. 2007

Saturday, January 06, 2007


It was standing-room-only in the Ashe County Courthouse this a.m., as Steve Goss was sworn in as the new Democratic senator from the 45th district ... the "miracle candidate," who wasn't given much of a chance of beating Republican David Blust last November 7th but who pulled out a victory that stunned everybody and sent shock waves all the way to Raleigh.

"Steve Goss always beats the odds," said his daughter Kelly Sechrist. He was the first in his family to attend a four-year college, and he was the first person to reach "level 5 language competency" as a Baptist missionary in Japan years ago. Naturally, he would beat the odds again to give the 45th Senate dist. (Wilkes, Alexander, Ashe, and Watauga counties) Democratic representation in Raleigh for the first time in many years.

Goss took the oath with his hand resting on a Bible in his wife Phyllis' hands, opened to Romans 8:28: "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose."

Steve Goss is a man of faith, and he's also a progressive Democrat. He's hit the ground running, with the needs of the 45th district upper-most in his mind. He's going to make us a great state senator!

Friday, January 05, 2007


You know you're in a changing world when you hear that the city of Hickory "is considering higher standards for retail stores of more than 25,000-square-feet." Wow! That vast wasteland of big-box-and-parking-lot landscaping has had enough?

"We just don't ask for a lot as far as our landscaping and architectural standards," admitted Hickory city council member Sally Fox. "We need to raise our level of expectation."

Ms. Fox is a big ole socialist, obviously.

But what brought this on? A new Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, that's what.
"Lowe's is a lesson in that we didn't ask for a lot," councilwoman Fox said.

'Course, now that Hickory might be on the verge of asking a little more from huge corporations that want the right to blight and sprawl ... councilwoman Fox and her compatriots can expect the political backlash from those same big money interests whose sense of public responsibility does not extend past their profits.

Why, only last night Boone mega-developer Phil Templeton was heard to promise that he will now build something really ugly on State Farm Road, as revenge for the Boone Board of Adjustment's unanimous vote in turning back his special use permit request to build a huge addition on a former church structure in an R-1 neighborhood. You can't tell these rich guys they can't do exactly what they want to do without also suffering their wrath.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Back last fall, the U.S. Forest Service issued two alternatives for "managing" the Globe, the large forest on the slopes immediately below the town of Blowing Rock: (1) "selective cutting" of the forest (which everyone recognized really meant, essentially, clear cutting the viewshed); or (2) no action.

A huge public outcry followed the announcement, along with tense public meetings between Forest Service personnel and Blowing Rock citizens, and some 1,200 letters urging "no action" flowing in to the Forest Service during the public comment period.

Meanwhile, Blowing Rock officials and concerned citizens began trying to get a legislative ball rolling in Washington, D.C., to designate the Globe a scenic area, to protect it from Forest Service "management." Local congresswoman Virginia Foxx was approached. She reacted angrily and rudely, essentially cussing out a Blowing Rock town council member for "putting pressure on her."

Meanwhile, and apparently in reaction to public outcry against the proposed timber harvest, the Forest Service announced a couple of weeks prior to Christmas a third alternative which was essentially # 1 above, reduced by approximately 20 acres of the total acreage proposed for cutting. The officials and citizens of Blowing Rock, not to mention numerous environmental groups, were not mollified. However, Virginia Foxx announced that she would support this alternative.

Those trying to save the Globe have given up on both Virginia Foxx and Patrick McHenry as potential champions in the U.S. House for introducing legislation that would grant a scenic designation to the area.

We hope those trying to save the Globe will approach Heath Shuler (or even David Price or Brad Miller) to introduce the legislation. Surely there's a Democratic member of Congress from North Carolina who will help us out up here!

The press conference staged by Patrick McHenry yesterday in the Capitol featured none other than Madam Virginia Foxx as one of the handful of Republican lawmakers whining that the new Democratic leaders of Congress were not granting THEM what THEY had previously denied to Democrats (though Foxx isn't mentioned here, she is mentioned here).

The McHenry & Foxx team has apparently regaled certain selected recipients in their districts with a whining memo suggesting that evil-doers (i.e., Democrats) have cut them out of the legislative process, thereby covering their own future failures to deliver for their constituents. "It's all the Democrats' fault." Yep. Minority status has its own special blessings.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Fascinating long report in today's NYTimes about research into longevity. Why do some people live long and vigorous lives and other people don't?

The answer is education. The more you've got, the longer you live. So long as you don't smoke.

A graduate student in economics at Columbia University was apparently the first researcher to put two and two together. She discovered that people started living longer in direct correlation to forced attendance at public schools. States began passing mandatory education laws about 100 years ago. Those forced to go to school for more years, even when they didn't want to (natch), tended to live longer.

More education equals better health. (Unless you SMOKE, goddamn it!) No other factor accounts for longer life ... not wealth, not race, not being chosen by God to tell other people how THEY should live.

And you can't max out, apparently, on education: might be expected that after a certain point, more years of school would not add to a person's life span. That, however, is not what the data shows. The education effect never wanes.
So, go on ... get that second doctorate!

Meanwhile, life for the uneducated tends toward the Hobbsian quartet of "nasty, poor, brutish, and short."
...less educated people are less able to plan for the future and to delay gratification.
Shouldn't take more than a nano-second to understand why instant gratification is bad for one's health, though you might not have associated the "want it now" habit of contemporary Americans with a lack of education.

The uneducated and hence unhealthy tendencies in our culture were fascinatingly showcased last night on the premier episode of the new Courtney Cox sleaze-fest, "Dirt," on FX. It's a mirror image of dumb-dumb America totally wrapped up in celebrity. It's sickening to behold. I couldn't take my eyes off it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


We're not entirely sanguine about the prospects for a 'reform' of our state's tax policy led by Senator David Hoyle. We'll hope for the best. But the whole process needs close monitoring.

The Charlotte Observer story reports this:
Corporate income tax, as a percentage of overall [state] revenues, has declined from 12 percent 20 years ago to 7.4 percent. Personal income tax has risen from 47.5 percent to nearly 54 percent.
In other words, the tax burden has been shifting more and more onto individual wage-earners and away from corporations. Do we expect Sen. Hoyle, the greatest friend to big business, to correct that trend? We don't know. We can always hope. We can also hold our breaths until we turn blue.

What a lot of us have been hearing sub rosa ... was finally put into print by a poster on BlueNC, so we can now officially talk about the likelihood of Jim Black's going to jail and for how long. And about who will succeed him as NC House Speaker, as opposed to who SHOULD succeed him.