Monday, April 30, 2007


Lee Iococca, the 82-year-old former CEO of Chrysler Corp., takes the hide off Bush & Company (the knuckle-headed incompetents) in a new book, "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?"

You can read the searing first chapter here for free.

Saying that the homophobes in the state Baptist Convention have no right to tell them how to run their church, members of Sardis Baptist Church in Charlotte voted yesterday to quit the state organization. This is the third Southern Baptist congregation to dissociate themselves from the new intolerance.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Over 2,500 souls demonstrated in the streets of Yadkinville yesterday, demanding that the Yadkin County Commission ignore the Constitution and pray to Jesus, specifically and explicitly, at official commission meetings.

Because, see, you can't possibly be a good man or woman unless you're seen by men in the act of praying to the right god, like the pharisees.

All but one commissioner voted in February to stop referring to specific deities and religions during prayers at government meetings. The commissioners were trying to avoid a lawsuit that could have been filed if they continued to use sectarian prayer."

Yadkin County Commissioner Joel Cornelius said, "We asked for the advice of our attorney, and he gave us his legal advice on where we stood. I myself made my own personal decision that we needed to adhere to what the law was. I'm a Christian just as much as anybody else is, but I am bound by the oath that I took to uphold the rulings of the court and the Constitution."

For which opinion, Mr. Cornelius is gonna split hell wide open when he lands there.

O no he dint!

Yesterday in Hendersonville, Karl Rove "assailed what he characterized as the tax-and-spend policies of the Democrats." (Asheville Citizen-Times)

That got a HUGE laugh, considering this.

Another knee-slapper, via Screwy Hoolie, who was there: "Our philosophy of government is held by the majority of Americans whether they know it or not, whether they're aware of it or not."

Take his philosophy. Please!

Screwy Hoolie, who probably counted very carefully, said there were 179 delegates present, while both the Asheville Citizen-Times and the Hendersonville Times-News followed the company line that there were 300 there. Either way, paltry attentance for such a comedy star.

A bust, even.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


NC-11 Republican leaders are hosting Karl Rove today in Hendersonville in hopes Mr. Rove will tell 'em what to do to get rid of Heath Shuler.

Mike Harrison, chairman of the Buncombe County Republican Party, said "he hopes Rove will talk about what WNC Republicans can do to improve their chances in the 2008 election and what the national party is planning in order to be more successful next year."

Mr. Rove, for his part, is looking for a crowd of gullible rooters who don't pay attention to national news and who will cheer for week-old fish.

There'll be some chest-thumping in Hendersonville, assuming Mr. Rove can find his chest.

That's Randall Tobias to the left ... until yesterday afternoon the boss of the Bush administration's foreign aid programs, which among other things made him "the AIDs czar." He liked to emphasize "faithfulness and abstinence over condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS."

He resigned suddenly yesterday when his name surfaced in the "DC Madam" scandal ... for hiring high-priced and mainly foreign-born prostitutes for "massages."

Beware the highly placed Bush administration pooh-bah who preaches faithfulness and abstinence. Oh just go ahead and beware of the Bush administration, period.

Friday, April 27, 2007


One of our favorite Republicans is also a past chair of the local Watauga County Republican Party, so go figure ... but Rob Holton is a role model for how responsible environmentalism can be combined with a business interest. He's covered in this week's High Country Press for a "Green Business Plan" proposal he's thought up and presented to the local Tourism Development Authority, over which he's also the reigning chair.

We'll have to wait to see how his ideas about "market-driven" greening initiatives for local businesses work out, but we're willing to applaud his efforts and the notion that it'll take actual capitalists to lead these initiatives for anything really significant to change in the way people behave -- that is, the way we consume and throw away.

Maybe this is a moment analogous to Richard Nixon going to China. (Naw. Too many knots in that comparison.)

Scott Bloch, Special Counsel of the United States. He's opened an investigation into Karl Rove's activities, particularly certain alleged violations of the Hatch Act. Scott Bloch was on C-SPAN this a.m. Seems like a kind of bumpkin (and incidentally master of the double-negative: "We will not leave any stone unturned"), but he just may be that rarest of birds in the Bush administration, an honest man uncorrupted by political manipulation.

Look for the Rovians to begin discrediting him, but Bloch has this history that'll make him hard to discredit without doing the administration itself some harm, because Bloch has been criticized for being a right-wing tool and even a Christian Right tool. It would be poetic justice for him to be the one who finally gets some goods on Rove.

Watched the first hour of the debate from South Carolina last night, before the real Survivor called us away. It was just ... plain ... depressing ... that in a scrum of eight, we can find no one to be enthusiastic about.

No one with "Senator" attached to his name (either "sitting" or "former") will do, though we confess that Mike Gravel was at least passionate, direct, honest, and quite possibly nuttier 'n' a Mr. Goodbar. But he got our attention.

So did Bill Richardson, for how uncomfortable he looked and how unprepared he seemed.

I mean ... it's PITIFUL, the whole field of 'em.

We see no relief for the baneful bruise that Hillary will become other than that former bruise, Al Gore.

Included in the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act of 2007 (H1591) is disaster relief for North Carolina apple farmers, many of whom lost 90 percent of their crop this year due to the recent freeze.

This is the bill El Presidente says he will veto because it contains language for a troop withdrawal timetable. How dare them! (Over there in Iraq is some other expensive apples.)

NC farmers statewide experienced an estimated $111.7 million in crop losses from the April freeze.

Meanwhile, El Presidente is experiencing a spoiled brat tantrum because Congress has begun to say no.

We're on the verge of a tantrum ourselves.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


The Abu Ghraib torture scandal had just popped open into the public, and the Bush administration needed a distraction ... QUICK! So they created a huge lie to turn Pat Tillman into a hero of Afghanistan, covering up the fact that he was actually killed by friendly fire. Pat's brother Kevin testified yesterday to a House oversight committee (novel thing, this oversight!), and he certainly GETS IT:

The U.S. Army fabricated a story of his brother's heroism in action, knowing he was killed by friendly fire, Tillman said. They constructed not only a story of combat action -- accompanied by a silver medal -- but lied about his medical care… "These are deliberate and calculated lies" and "a deliberate act of deceit," Tillman said.

With his voice shaking, Tillman, who also served in the Army, said the official account of his brother's death in 2004 was "utter fiction … intended to deceive the family and more importantly the American people."

Jessica Lynch's fabricated heroism came before Abu Ghraib but was no less a lie ... that she bravely fought until captured. She never fired her gun, Lynch told the committee yesterday. "The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes and they don't need to be told elaborate tales," Lynch said.

A brave majority of three Buncombe County commissioners voted last night for comprehensive county-wide zoning, though some 81 percent of the county's land mass will be in an "open use" district where practically anything can still be built anywhere. Just 19 percent of land within the county's jurisdiction that is served by the Metropolitan Sewerage District will have nine planning designations imposed on it, encompassing gradations of residential, commercial, industrial and public service uses.

The commissioners acted after hearing more than three hours of bitching from people who consider zoning worse than colon cancer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Those of you looking forward to the outlawing of all abortions might want to take a look at the underground market economy for abortifacients in Mexico, a country where abortion is outlawed. The Los Angeles Times today has a lengthy article on the herbs-and-voodoo economy that caters to desperate women ... all of which may be suddenly rendered obsolete if Mexico City's Legislative Assembly votes to legalize abortion in that city of 8 million.

Pennyroyal is a member of the mint family and grows like a weed at these elevations. Once Nathan Tabor and his ilk succeed in criminalizing abortion, we guess they'll want to criminalize the cultivation of pennyroyal and other medicinal herbs too.

UPDATE: Mexico City lawmakers did legalize abortion yesterday in that city during the first three months of pregnancy.

The Dome is reporting that last Saturday the Wake County Democratic Party experienced an upset election for its chair, throwing out the incumbent for a member of the progressive wing. Gradually, evolution happens, even in the Southern Democratic Party. As in so many other things, Wake County is just behind some of the rest of the state.

Or, when expensive haircuts go bad.

Sen. John Edwards spent an hour yesterday on the Ed Schultz's syndicated radio program, which was broadcasting live from Chapel Hill, and apologized for the $400 haircut.

But now he'll be up on child-abuse charges, as he and Elizabeth also announced that their two young children will be joining them on the campaign trail, to be home-schooled by special assistants.

Monday, April 23, 2007


New Congressman Heath Shuler (NC-11) was interviewed for a new book, "The Thumpin': How Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats Learned to Be Ruthless and Ended the Republican Revolution," by Naftali Bendavid, and in it Shuler claims that he refused to accept a call from El Presidente Bush in 2005 because he knew the president was going to try to talk him out of running for Congress on the Democratic ticket.

"Heath, honey, the President of the United States is on the phone for you."

"Tell 'im I'm not in. No, wait, tell him to go pound sand up his ass."

He learned to talk that way from Rahm Emanuel.

Charlotte Observer, today.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Only 24 of 100 counties in North Carolina do not have zoning. Watauga is one of those 24. Buncombe is another, the largest of the unzoned counties.

But as of this coming Tuesday night, Buncombe's era as an unzoned county will probably come to an end, as a majority of three commissioners have already signaled that they intend to vote for a comprehensive zoning ordinance.

Cue the pitchfork-wielding masses.

The commissioners are expecting a big crowd Tuesday night. Duh.

The Telegraph, a Brit news rag, reported yesterday that "friends of Al Gore" have "secretly" assembled a campaign team, just in case they're needed at a moment's notice this fall and next year:
Vice-President Gore's allies believe that Hillary Clinton, 59, the frontrunner, is unable to win the presidency. The most recent poll shows a growing number of voters think negatively of her, in contrast to Mr Gore, who enjoys far greater popularity than when he lost the 2000 presidential race despite polling more votes nationally than the eventual winner, George W Bush.
For what it's worth.

Friday, April 20, 2007


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, for thoughtfully trying to save American women from regret and for assuming they don't know what they're doing and that they would do what he thinks is best if they DID realize what they're doing.

Your patronizing pity is sooo appreciated!

If at first you don't suck seed, keep on sucking 'til you do suck seed.
--Curly Howard, The Three Stooges

Because --hey! -- history offers GREAT examples of walls that suck seeded, right?

Which is why we greet the news that the U.S. is now embarked on building a 3-mile-long, 12-foot-high concrete wall around a bunch of Sunnis in Baghdad with huzzahs and cheers. Way to go, boys! There's nothing like a concrete wall to memorialize ... complete and adject failure. Build it tall! Build it proud! Everybody needs to see how well we've done there.

This wall should compare favorably with another emblem of our collapse, the 680 miles of new fence on the U.S.-Mexican border, something Madam Virginia Foxx was pleased to promote, and the 403 miles of the Israeli "separation wall" in Palestine, another visible symbol of the success of apartheid all around the world.

All these walls will be lasting monuments to right-wing governments that talk "freedom" incessantly while doing what they can for the lack of, and perfect stationary canvases for graffiti artists to practice their craft.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


El Presidente, today, in Tipp City, Oh., talking about the enduring lessons of the Virginia Tech massacre:

"One of the lessons of these tragedies is to make sure that when people see somebody or know somebody who is exhibiting abnormal behavior, you do something about it, to suggest that somebody take a look."

El Presidente, later today, through his
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino: "[I] was pleased with the attorney general's testimony today [and I continue to have] full confidence in him. After hours of testimony in which [Gonzales] answered all of the senators' questions and provided thousands of pages of documents, he again showed that nothing improper occurred."

Wow, Dude, do you KNOW what actually happened in that hearing today? It's kinda abnormal, ya know, for you to ignore reality like this. I mean, it's freakin' me out. Did you notice that Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a conservative Republican with impeccable right-wing credentials, actually called on Gonzales to resign?

Can we help you get an appointment with psych services, maybe?

Last Saturday, two members of our local 1451st National Guard unit, dead by I.E.D. ... Serg. Joshua A. Schmit and Serg. Brandon L. Wallace ... mere weeks before they were to be coming home.

We hate this news. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families.

And we hate this war.

Following yesterday's Supreme Court 5-4 decision to impose guvmint morality on some pregnant women, it was our assumption that Bush's boys on the court were finally plowing the furrow they've long dreamed of and that there'll be no stopping them now.

No stopping until the American people wake up and realize what the bottomline is -- forced breeding.

But here's at least one analysis by Ed Kilgore, a Southern boy and a member of the DLC to boot, that puts a slightly different light on the shadow boxing that Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts were engaged in and how it may cripple them in the future.

We'll grasp at any straw.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


A day after getting some press attention for reaching out to rural Americans, Sen. John Edwards gets tagged for a $400 Hollywood haircut and for charging his campaign for it.

If there was ever a politician who needed a backyard shearing with a cereal bowl over his head, it's John Edwards.

Designer ANYTHING is exactly the wrong message to be sending rural voters or everyone else.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Finding that reporters in Wilson, N.C., had dug out numbers of foreclosures over a several-year stretch, I broad-brushed my snark in referring to "actual reporters." I owe apologies to the High Country Press and to its actual reporter, Kathleen McFadden, who dug out the same info for both Watauga & Avery counties back in January.

The local numbers tell a somewhat different story. Although Watauga's number of foreclosures show a general trend upward during the last 6 years, even the peak of 107 foreclosures in 2006 doesn't come up to the high of 1998:

• 1998: 121—higher than the 2006 number
• 1999: 48
• 2000: 43
• 2001: 85
• 2002: 85
• 2003: 107—the same as the 2006 number
• 2004: 94
• 2005: 95
• 2006: 107

The Avery County figures are even less "trendy":

• 1998: 31
• 1999: 14
• 2000: 22
• 2001: 37
• 2002: 56
• 2003: 208
• 2004: 69
• 2005: 41
• 2006: 49

What was up with 2003 in both Avery and Watauga? Fall-out from the first year of the Iraq War?
My God! Now John McCain says he feels Smith & Wesson's pain.

All together now! Let's temper grief with pro-gun ideology!
In conversation yesterday with someone with a son attending Virginia Tech -- who's all right, thank God -- both of us recalled hearing President Bush's spokesperson defend gun rights BEFORE the president himself said he was sorry about the massacre. Did we hear that right? Is it possible that the first words out of this administration was more solicitous for gun manufacturers than for the family and friends of the slaughtered?

I came home and starting searching the Internet and couldn't find what I thought I remembered, so I dismissed it as a fevered imagination caught up in the horror of yesterday.

But this a.m. Barry Saunders confirms our memory: minutes before President Bush appeared at the lectern, he sent out his spokeswoman Dana Perino to say, "The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms."

How tone deaf can you be?

This nation was majority rural from its first official Census in 1790 right through the Census of 1910. But in 1920 the Census showed for the first time that the majority (slightly over 50%) had shifted to the urban landscape, and that trend away from the countryside has not stopped through the most recent enumeration. The last time I checked the stats, we were pushing 80% "urban" (which takes in all those sprawling suburbs too).

Only 20% of our vast population now live in what the Census defines as "rural" America. Yet that 20% has exerted a relatively huge emotional and cultural pull on our self-image. America saw itself in the Joads in "The Grapes of Wrath," it recognized its country courage in Sergeant Alvin York. In times of crisis, Americans tended to see themselves as innocent and wholesome country folk ... even while those urbanites were draining the countryside of its workers, its raw materials, and often its self-esteem.

The most rural section of the country -- and therefore, statistically, the most out-numbered -- is still the South. Ironically, and despite the lampooning its taken in the urban press as dumber'n a 3-dollar dog, the South has nevertheless exerted a powerful hold over the imagination of the whole country for a solid century. That hold has extended to actual real power. By 1994, the most popular music in the U.S. was country music, the most popular spectator sport was NASCAR (the invention of mud-daubber country boys), and the three most powerful politicians were Southerners: Bill Clinton in the White House, Newt Gingrich in the U.S. House, and Trent Lott in the U.S. Senate.

Rural America may have been withering on the vine demographically -- drive any back-road and observe with regret the abandoned farms -- but its cultural and spiritual and psychological influence was HUGE. What you make of that paradox -- and the sometimes tragic transmigrations of our people that underlie it -- is up to you, but there it is.

Politically, the national GOP seems strapped to the rural past like heavy cargo on a floundering ship. Republicans have all but conceded our urban cores to the Democrats. Meanwhile, they have played their trump cards -- God, guns, and gays -- with fearless repetition and effectiveness in the suburbs and in the farmlands. But messages that depend on prejudice and social fear of strangeness seem to be wearing awfully thin, especially in the suburbs but also now in rural areas. In 2006, the Democratic resurgence in North Carolina was nowhere stronger than in the most rural section of the state, the western mountains and foothills.

What makes sense about Congresswoman Virginia Foxx's recent noticeable vote against the animal cruelty bill is that she was trying to appeal to rural sensibilities, as she understood them. But what's more than dangerous about that vote, and about a whole bunch of others she's made, is that those sensibilities are in flux and those voters are in play. After all, rural America has NOT prospered relative to the rest of the country during the last six years.

Now comes Sen. John Edwards, prepared to point these inequities out. According to Rob Christensen in the N&O, Edwards is making "a major pitch to capture the rural vote." "Rural America has been ignored for too long," Edwards said in Nashville. "Across America, too many small towns have turned into ghost towns."
"What we are going to say to rural America is: 'Look around you,' " said Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, Edwards' chief strategist on rural America. "You can leave Raleigh and drive to Des Moines, Iowa, and every small town you go through it looks like Sherman went through, except he didn't burn anything."
But you have to get off the Interstate to see what Mudcat Saunders is talking about.

God bless John Edwards for turning his gaze to the rural. Maybe other Democrats will follow that lead. It's certainly a more positive vision of America he's offering that the constant fear that Rosie O'Donnell is going to marry her lover in the Cane Creek Baptist Church and then confiscate all our guns.

Monday, April 16, 2007


These are only some of the energetic members of our local auxiliary of College Democrats who turned out Saturday for the Watauga County Democratic Convention.

Seated (left to right): Katie Wingo, treasurer; Hannah Hutchins, secretary; John Fortenberry, president.

Standing (left to right): Jesse Barker-Booth, vice chair of Boone 3 precinct; Zack Wynne, Blowing Rock precinct delegate; Daniel Cobb, vice president; and Nathan Smith, delegate from Boone 3 precinct.

Alexander County Clerk of Court Seth Chapman (left, in center, flanked by Party Chair Diane Tilson and Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson) set the 2007 County Convention on fire Saturday with a keynote speech highlighting the hypocrisies of the Republican Party generally and of Congresswoman Virginia Foxx specifically.

Attendance at the convention, held at the Watauga High School auditorium, was officially placed at 146, making it the largest attendance since the 1997 convention (when more than 300 delegates voted in new top-to-bottom progressive leadership of the local Democratic Party).

On Saturday, Chair Diane Tilson was reelected for another two-year term as Party Chair, as were most of the successful team of executive officers from the 2005-2006 biennium: Charlie Wallin, Marjory Holder, Anna Sagel, Susan Phipps, Celia Roten, Dennis Grady, Loretta Clawson and one of "those Williamsons." New executive officers for the 2007-2008 biennium include Roy Bracey, Marsha Walpole, and Ingrid Kraus.

Taking turns at the podium were many of the new Democratic team of office-holders elected last November, including Sheriff Len Hagaman and State Representative Cullie Tarleton. State Senator Steve Goss was absent, attending the county convention in Alexander County, but his campaign manager Larry Turnbow spoke for him.

It was a great day for Democrats. Woot!

The Pew Research Center study shows that "viewers of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have the highest knowledge of national and international affairs, while Fox News viewers rank nearly dead last."

Apparently, it's not that Fox News MAKES you stupid, but ... you finish writing that sentence for yourself.

"Those who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions."

A couple of ACTUAL reporters in Wilson County, N.C., have dug out the number of foreclosures in that county with a time-span that tells a fairly clear story:

1998 – 159 Clinton
1999 – 136 Clinton

2000 – 168 Bush
2001 – 193 Bush
2002 – 314 Bush
2003 – 322 Bush
2004 – 339 Bush
2005 – 366 Bush
2006 – 384 Bush

Wonder what the numbers in Watauga County would look like over the same time span?

Friday, April 13, 2007


Barak Obama was at breakfast this a.m. in Charlotte ... $1,000 a plate. Them's some expensive grits!

Turns out, Kurt Vonnegut had a nephew living in Charlotte ... who talks about "Uncle Kurt."

N.C. State University paleontologist Mary Higby Schweitzer has found soft tissue at the center of a T Rex fossil that links dinosaurs to chickens. My Rhode Island Red rooster said he knew it all along.

North Carolina could, if it would, leap out front in promoting green energy in the Southeast. Wouldn't that be a kick in the pants?

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I could not have made it through the Vietnam War without Kurt Vonnegut. His clever, irreverent novels about this subspecies MAN gave me a lot of laughs, especially during the two Nixon administrations and that period that Vonnegut called the "count of corpses created by military science in Vietnam."

Kurt Vonnegut is dead at age 84. It's a plime-blank miracle he lasted that long. He tried to off himself back in 1984 with sleeping pills and alcohol, but the joke was on him. He woke up, sober, and you can just imagine his shrugging and sitting back down at his typewriter. He went on to write several more best-sellers.

The books I most remember from the 1960s -- "Player Piano," "Mother Night," "Cat's Cradle" -- were funny but biting, shot through with the sort of acid that burned in the bloodstream of another of my writing heroes, Mark Twain. According to this obituary, Vonnegut shared with Mark Twain "a profound pessimism." "Mark Twain," Vonnegut once said, "finally stopped laughing at his own agony and that of those around him. He denounced life on this planet as a crock. He died."

Vonnegut wrapped up that fatalistic view in a catch phrase -- "So it goes" -- which became a motif in his most popular novel, "Slaughterhouse-Five." I gave my copy away years ago, so must fall back on the obit linked above for this characteristic passage written in 1968:

Robert Kennedy, whose summer home is eight miles from the home I live in all year round, was shot two nights ago. He died last night. So it goes.

Martin Luther King was shot a month ago. He died, too. So it goes.
That's bleak, and it's hard to explain now how Vonnegut's laughter at the condition of man gave us such a hopeful crutch through the Vietnam War. Maybe it was just hearing the laughter of a complete nihilist, feeling the actual human warmth behind that laughter, despite the nihilism, that nurtured our young, draft-dodging hearts.

In one of his novels Vonnegut created the fictional Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, and he always seemed to side with that God, who found human life so disastrously knuckle-headed. But try as he might, Vonnegut was just the opposite of utterly indifferent. It actually takes great love to give us what he gave us, a mirror in which to see ourselves and to laugh at what we see.

The Bush White House, that is.

And they evidently take us for idiots. (Well, in fact, we have been idiots since the Supreme Court appointed these bozos to rule over us.)

The full picture of the rottenness is still just emerging to public view, but the hour-long conference call yesterday that White House spokesman Scott Stanzel held with reporters certainly advanced the taking-us-for-idiots part of this story.

There's been a double set of books at the White House for six years. That is to say, there's been an official e-mail system, which is designed to actively prevent the deletion of e-mails (under the Presidential Records Act), and a parallel e-mail system, with that fat black spider Karl Rove as Master Operator, by which these creeps could keep their political shenanigans secret and (they hope) unrecoverable.

(WashPost reporter Dam Froomkin was in on that conference call, and his account of what Stanzel admitted to is MUST reading. It's totally free to you, but you have to register.)

Here's the key: "Over the past six years, about 50 of the White House staffers most involved in Republican Party affairs -- including [most especially] Rove and his office of political affairs -- were given RNC-issued equipment on which to conduct party business. That included laptops and Blackberries."

They've been busily running the government like a political fiefdom ever since, under cover of a parallel e-mail system not (they hope) subject to the Presidential Records Act and beyond the grasp of Congressional investigators (again, they hope). But of course until Nov. 2006 they had absolutely nothing to fear from any Congressional oversight, since none whatsoever existed under two houses of Congress run by their Republican buddies.

One of Karl Rove's top aides once e-mailed convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff: "I now have an RNC blackberry which you can use to e-mail me at any time. No security issues like my WH email." Could malfeasance be any clearer?

What a stinking, nasty sepulchre of rotting ethics this White House has been. The rottenness goes deep, and it goes far. And their attempts so far to explain this all away are beyond pathetic. "They must think we're all idiots!" is the only appropriate response after reading Froomkin's account of the conference call yesterday.

As of this a.m., Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy is on the case, big-time. "They say [the secret e-mails] have not been preserved. I don't believe that!" Leahy shouted from the Senate floor. "You can't erase e-mails, not today. They've gone through too many servers. Those e-mails are there, they just don't want to produce them. We'll subpoena them if necessary."

We count on that, Senator. Somebody's got to get to the bottom of how our government's been manipulated, used, and abused for over six years.

Congressman Brad Miller (NC-13), who last fall faced down mad-dog Vernon Robinson to win reelection, says he is now at least considering jumping into the race for U.S. Senate for the seat currently being warmed by Liddy Dole.

At a meeting with NC progressive bloggers back in January, Miller was pretty definite that he would NOT be running for that Senate seat. Things seem to have changed, including Dole's less-than-spectacular polling numbers.

Plus she's a total carpet-bagger. She hasn't lived in North Carolina for, like, 50 frigging years, has no residence of record here (okay, she lists her mother's home, but she hasn't ever actually lived there), and mainly drops in (infrequently) to pick up donations and have her hair done. Somebody find this woman a road-map home!

Miller, for his part, recognizes Dole's visitor status as a major chink in her helmet-head: "I think the advantage I'd have -- and any Democrat would have -- is I will never have to be briefed on which state I represent in the Senate."

Oh, snap!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


This story actually came to our attention several days back, BEFORE the Senate passed what the U.S. House had already approved, and it came to us from a good Republican member of the local Humane Society. First, here's today's news:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress has passed legislation cracking down on animal fighting, sending President Bush a measure that would make it a felony to transport an animal across state lines for fighting.

Approval of the bill marked the culmination of a nearly six-year effort to limit dogfighting and cockfighting, centuries-old traditions that most lawmakers and animal rights advocates now label brutal.

The Senate passed the measure by voice vote Tuesday night, following House passage by a lopsided margin on March 26, clearing it for Bush's signature.

"Animal fighting is cruel," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee chairman. "Those engaged in animal fighting ventures must know that this crime is serious and will be punished as a felony."

Critics say animal fighting -- popular in rural areas and Latin American communities -- can also spawn other criminal activity, such as illegal gambling, narcotics trafficking, public corruption, and gang activity....

Virginia Foxx was one of only 39 members of the House who voted against this bill. Can't wait to hear her excellent explanation for that vote. Neither can the Republicans who give their time and their cash to the Watauga County Humane Society, and formerly their votes to Madam Foxx.

Lordy, if we didn't know the GOP is traveling on its knees toward Nov. 2008, Newt Gingrich proved it yesterday in a "debate" with John Kerry yesterday, which was really a case of Gingrich smooching Kerry's arse in public and trying to get to the left of every environmentalist in sight.

Like, this is going to impress the bunny-shootin' conservatives in his party and somehow deliver the presidential nomination!

Former NC Supreme Court Judge Bob Orr (who incidentally wants to be your next Republican governor) is planning a big splashy legal challenge to the sales tax giveaway deal that Google received to set up shop in Caldwell County.

The sales tax exemption on electricity and equipment is illegal, says Orr, because it gave special treatment to one company, "which would seem to run counter to the fact that there be uniformity in the tax law."

We'll not quarrel with that logic.

Elizabeth Edwards walked right into it, evidently with her eyes open and her brain functioning, and now she's got a huge public relations mess on her hands.

At some point either Friday or Saturday, Elizabeth Edwards gave an interview to an Associated Press reporter about her Orange County neighbor, Monty Johnson. The resulting story made it into the N&O on Sunday and was popping up all around the country by Monday.

Elizabeth Edwards committed at least three cardinal sins:

1. She appeared to attack her neighbor without provocation, and she admitted she'd never met him and didn't want to. "I wouldn't be nice to him anyway." That makes her both unfriendly and high-falutin'.

2. She made it partisan: Johnson is a "rabid, rabid Republican," she told the reporter.

3. She played "the class card" (I'm bettern you and I don't like looking at your mess). She said that Johnson "refuses to clean up his 'slummy' property just to spite her family, whose lavish 28,000-square-foot estate is nearby on 102 wooded acres."

Ouch! And it's only getting worse.

This morning the N&O follows up with an interview with Monty Johnson, who is clearly relishing his put-upon status as the gun-wielding hillbilly neighbor who so discomfits the Madam. Just get a load of his bad self, posing for the camera. And he's now got the upper hand. Nothing elevates your status like being the victim, especially of RICH people (and never mind the logic that this poor Republican is victimized every day by the RICH people who've taken over both his party and this country).

And now hubby John Edwards has been sucked into this black hole and looks less than presidential:
John Edwards, asked about Johnson while catching a flight for New York on Tuesday night, said, "You'll have to ask Elizabeth about him."
Oh Jeez. If you're running to be the Leader of the Free World, you don't pass the buck to your wife. Deal with it. Deal with it now!

The Gun Issue: Elizabeth apparently feels entitled to her opinions because Monty Johnson once brandished a 9mm gun in front of some federal agents, and that might give anybody pause. She said it scared her for her children's sake: "I don't want my kids anywhere near some guy who when he doesn't like somebody, the first thing he does is pull a gun out. It scares the business out of me."

Point taken. But still, Johnson didn't brandish the gun in front of Elizabeth Edwards or in front of any of the Edwards family (far as we can tell). He was accosting men in black standing on his property, looking suspicious.

The Unanswered Question: Why did the original AP interview with Elizabeth Edwards happen? How did the reporter know to ask about the neighbor? What got this ball rolling, this great big snot ball of How NOT to Deal with the Press?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


They say, "See, it's cold today, and it was really cold yesterday. Therefore, global warming is a myth."

Call this the Sen. Inhofe Effect.

If it gets unexpectedly cold (their 2nd grade logic demands), there can be no such thing as global warming. Therefore, our weather of the last four or five nights proves that Al Gore's wrong, that the tree-huggers are trying to deprive us of our SUVs, and that it's all a left-wing conspiracy.

But climatologists have warned all along that the effects of global warming would produce unusual extremes of both high and low temps, often out of synch with "norms" or averages. Hence, the unusual warmth of March tempts out buds and leaves that are then assassinated by an unusual April cold snap. That IS global warming, in both its parts and in its sum.

"Extremes that used to be rare will become more common," says Ray Bradley, director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of several books on climate change. He means both extremes, oh you dittohead deniers.

Same goes for extremes of drought and flood, but there's no need to get ahead of ourselves.


From this a.m.'s Asheville Citizen-Times:
"I spent numerous hours looking at different orchards, different varieties, and I can't find a live bud," said Anthony Owens, who grows 61 acres of apples in Henderson. "Some were in full bloom, some were shedding the blooms, and some were in the pink stage. It's killed everything. It's horrific."
They say this is the worst apple crop loss in NC since 1955.

The news from the Virginia fruit-growing belt is probably just as bad. And judging from our several blueberry bushes, there'll be no (or few) blueberries this year at the Farmers' Market.

Spring was canceled. Rudely.

Monday, April 09, 2007


In a federal budget that is miserly for nearly everything that doesn't have a war attached to it, El Presidente has asked Congress to fund an increase of $28 million over current funding of $191 million for an "abstinence only" program of sex education for teenagers.

"Abstinence only" sex education has about as much to do with sex education, or with healthcare, as ham has to do with hamburgers.
"In an Oct. 3 report that surveyed abstinence programs in 10 states, the Government Accountability Office concluded that such programs were not proved to work, and at times contained inaccuracies about condoms and AIDS." (Source linked below)
Condoms? Don't say that word around "abstinence educators," for the money in Mr. Bush's budget request mandates that none of it can be used to promote condom or contraceptive use.

Because, evidently, the shortest distance to sexual health for teenagers is total ignorance. And like that's always worked in the past, right?

So governors of some six states have dropped out of the federal program of promoting abstinence only, or plan to drop out soon, because the Bush administration has its own head so far up its own ass as to be a relatively poor teacher of ANYTHING.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


April is the cruellest month. Somebody said that already, though he was eat up with regret and thinking about something else.

The damage to this forward Spring is severe. Japanese maples, blasted. Lilacs won't bloom this spring, nor the climbing hydrangea, nor the crabapple, nor the viburnams. I haven't been out to look closely, but the blackened leaves and buds I can see out of all windows is a melancholy sight.

And not at all unique. Not many years ago we had low 20s on May 20th , and all the hostas turned black, along with everything else. They all recovered, eventually, but it was a blighted year.

We'll be a month or more before the leafed trees and shrubs fully recover, and some of the exotics may have been dealt fatal blows, like innocent, dumb tourists shivved on our streets of early April. Poor things.

Notice that our mountain natives have been wiser. No native tree had shown a leaf, and probably won't now until half-way through May. But these fotched on species are always fooled by forward springs, and suffer hard, black death. Pray their roots are clinched in a rictus of determination and that we'll see the green fuse light up again.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Pat Robertson's Regent University has a law school. One of the graduates of that law school is Monica Goodling, the 5th-Amendment-hugging and now former top assistant to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Monica, bless her heart, gives every appearance of having been in up over her heavy eyebrows in the politically motivated firing of several U.S. attorneys. She refuses to testify for fear of incriminating herself, and now she's resigned her position at the Department of Justice.

According to this article, there are currently 150 graduates of Pat Robertson's law school serving in the administration of The Godliest President in the History of the Universe. They appear to have them hands in a lot of super-Christian activity, from justifying torture of heathen Moslems to failure to prosecute Civil Rights cases unless Bible-reading's involved.

Pat Robertson's theocratic agenda is and has been very clear: to tear down the wall between church and state in America (a "lie of the left," according to Robertson).

But this infiltration of government by lawyers with Pat Robertson on the brain really hasn't got much to do with religion. It's all about power and Republican Party conservative politics. It's about keeping a certain class of white Protestants and their cultural norms in full control.

And incidentally, former Attorney General and penecostal minister John Ashcroft is now a law professor at Regent University.

Boston Globe article today on Regent Univ. School of Law says that the stampede of Regent graduates into high government positions came about this way: 2001, the Bush administration picked the dean of Regent's government school, Kay Coles James , to be the director of the Office of Personnel Management -- essentially the head of human resources for the executive branch.
They went wormy at the top.

At least, according to this poll.

You coulda knocked me over with a Burley leaf!

The voters also disdain tax deals for huge Google plants (admittedly by a less decisive margin). But still.


Wonderful letter-to-the-editor in Thursday's High Country Press from 80-year-old C. Harry Ross, who talks sense the way Thoreau used to (the Press doesn't have letters up on line, evidently, so you'll have to search your local mercantiles for stray copies). Mr. Ross offers opinions on a wide range of ripe topics:

*Over-lit mega gas stations in rural settings ... he's agin 'em (and we've seen the one in Vilas he's talking about, and he's right)

*N.C.D.O.T. ("heaven almighty you ought to see the mess those boys make")

*Boone developer Phil Templeton ("Son, there's something ain't right in your mind")

*Zero Waste. Makes perfect sense to him. To us too

*Bottled-water guzzling County Commissioners ("either means that they don't think the city water that comes out of the tap is drinkable, or they are too good to drink the tap water")

*Television, which is obviously the source of the need for fancy recreation centers

We sincerely hope Mr. Ross feels led to make further opinions known to us in the future. He has a following out here!

Friday, April 06, 2007


You can decide for yourself about the ineffable educational value of putting Madam Virginia Foxx's brand of partisanship into grade school classrooms, but even a blind hog occasionally finds a chestnut:
Foxx ... said generally Republicans believed people could take better care of their money than the government could.
She knows what she's talking about, having been a part of the government that proved it couldn't take care of budgets nor much of anything else ... except maybe interferring in the death of Terri Schiavo.

So now, instead of "listening tours" among her actual voting constiuents, the Madam is determined to inflict herself on the innocent, who can be depended on not to ask about her actual votes for Veteran's funding.


A little bit ago, in searching for a way to criticize the over-intellectualizing practiced by many "progressives," some advice of Thoreau's came floating up to me from high school: "Simplify, simplify."

This led to a brush fire of Googling, as I cross-checked my memory, and then to the delight of finding a whole bunch of Thoreau quotes I had forgotten ... from the pious ("It is never too late to give up our prejudices") to the insightful ("When a dog runs at you, whistle for him") to the downright cantankerous ("We should distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes").

What a contrarian crank Thoreau was, though he was taught to us in high school as another granite monument to stodginess, a "good" and therefore patriotic American who thought deep American thoughts and lived in a cabin in the woods.

He was pure American, all right, which means he was rebellious down to the marrow, down to his hair follicles -- impudent and irreverent, a radical, a libertarian, a stiff-necked objector to what was "popular," and a sometimes rueful observer of the human condition:
"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them."
That's just plain dark. And so was his view of government, which at that time was allowing the institution of slavery:
"If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law."

"Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison."
You can make up your own mind what Thoreau would have thought of George W. Bush, but here's a broad hint:
"What is human warfare but just this: an effort to make the laws of God and nature take sides with one party."
He wouldn't have felt much affection either for fellow New Englander John Kerry, which brings us full circle to where we began. Poor Kerry couldn't simplify anything, especially those pronouncements he uttered in 2004 that wrapped their tails twice around their heads and throttled their own windpipes.

Because "progressives" so often see complication growing like a thicket screening every worthwhile goal, they find it difficult to simplify. Can't tell yet if any of the four-and-twenty magpies running for president have the gift of Thoreauvian simplicity, but we can hope.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Trying to further remake himself as a hard-as-nails, "I've-been-shooting-bunny-rabbits-since-I-cut-my -teeth-on-a-sawed-off-shotgun," former Mass. Guv Mitt Romney claimed he's "been a hunter pretty much all my life."

That bamboozlement took all of 30 minutes to explode.

One of the exactly TWO times he's been hunting was to shoot quail in a barrel with a bunch of fellow metrosexual suits doing the Iron John routine.

This blunder is on the order of Sen. John McCain's bragging about how safe Baghdad has become, so long as you have a personal posse of 100 armed soldiers, a couple of helicopters, a gunship, and personal body armor.

N'est pas? (Which is French for f***ing A!)

Stands by his strong pro-choice position ... that a constitutional right to abortion means "There must be public funding for abortions for poor women."

Meanwhile, Southern Baptist Mullah Richard Land gets a strong case of the vapors.

Inquiring minds want to know: Who does Madam Virginia Foxx, the formerly pro-choice feminist and now staunchly anti-choice extreme conservative, favor for the Republican nomination for president? Has anyone seen any endorsement on her part? Or would you like to speculate?


I'd been hearing about David Van Biema's cover article in the current Time, and when he popped up on C-SPAN this a.m., I knew I was going to have to go find that article and digest it.

You know what? I'm in favor of teaching the Bible as literature in public schools. The textbooks that have been developed seem more than merely adequate for recognizing the Bible as great literature while avoiding any itch to turn the lessons into devotional pretexts.

By the time I got to college I knew much of the Bible by heart. I sat in college classes with fellow West Texans who had been raised as Southern Baptists -- me? I was a holy-roller -- who couldn't recognize a Biblical allusion to (ahem) save their souls. Whatever they'd been doing all those years in Sunday School, they hadn't been paying attention.

In graduate school I encountered my first academic recognition that the Bible was impressive literature. I enrolled at the University of Utah in a course taught by a man whose eyes glittered and whose voice rose like rolling thunder when he quoted Isaiah. He was officially a proud "jack Mormon," meaning he'd been raised in the religion but had fallen away from it. Actually, I think he was a devout atheist, but he was the greatest Bible teacher I ever had.

I ended up attaching myself to him, and he became my dissertation director. He wanted me to take a few years and learn Hebrew, and since he was himself a Milton scholar, he suggested I could learn Greek "in any odd hour." Had I followed his advice, I'd still be in graduate school.

(Not that it wouldn't be nice to know Hebrew and Greek.)

The English Bible is part of the scaffolding of our language and students should know it like they (supposedly) know Shakespeare. It would make them better people if they possessed those cadences in their DNA. It would certainly make them better cussers, more able to call down the wrath of heaven on their enemies.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


...for both Republican and Democratic candidates ... if you're into this kind of thing.


Well, don't claim you're surprised.

"Corporate profitability rose to its historically highest level at the end of last year as manufacturing and service sector companies benefited from strong sales growth combined with lower energy prices and subdued wage pressures." (Here)

Get a load of that phrase "subdued wage pressures." That's corporate-speak for foreign slave labor.

Yessir, when we squint our eyes in concentration and try to think of a Christ-like example to show the young people, we DO come up with Ann Coulter.

'Course, it helps if your putative saint is also a hardline Republican.

Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, N.C., wants to share this shining example of Christianity with its faithful students (no "faggots" here, Ann!) , but (what the hey!) might as well raise a little holy money at the same time, so it'll cost the godly $55 to get in the door.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Young adults 18-25 in North Carolina are "more likely to engage in binge drinking than participate in elections."
--A report from Democracy North Carolina, quoted in today's N&O (scroll down)
Maybe when they have to bring back the draft, to get us out of the quagmire we got into partially because young people weren't paying attention to what their government was doing around the world ... maybe then.

Fuller account of the report ... here.

Chatham County is the eighth fastest growing county in North Carolina. Some 15,000 new homes have been approved for construction. But finding water for all those new residents to drink, and accommodating what they flush (not to mention roads, schools, and strip malls to serve all those people), has got the Chatham County Commission worrying out loud. Projected growth in Chatham graphs out to a need for some 15 million gallons of water a day.

There's talk of at least a year-long moratorium on subdivision development.

Bunch a socialists!

We'll be following with interest what happens down in Pittsboro. In the elections last fall, the "slow-growth" forces (i.e., the "socialists") won seats on the County Commission. The times, they may be a-changing, with the "growth-at-any-cost" forces moving into eclipse across the state.

Monday, April 02, 2007


A Southern Baptist preacher in Kernersville charged with four counts of sexually exploiting a 17-year-old boy who had come in for counseling over the death of a friend.

"He is basically conservative, outside the social issues."
--Rudy Giuliani, as described by Jim Culbertson, a Winston-Salem businessman who will chair Giuliani's North Carolina campaign, in this a.m.'s N&O
That's called turning a blind eye. Other examples:

"He is basically drug-free, outside the oxycontin."

"He is basically innocent, outside the vehicular manslaughter."

"He is basically hetero, outside of last Saturday night."

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Matthew Dowd was a major architect both of George W. Bush's initial appointment as president and of his reelection. Now Dowd says John Kerry was right.

Talk to the hand, Mr. Dowd.

This morning during the Sunday a.m. gasbaggery, El Presidente's (still) loyal lieutenant Dan Bartlett came within a hair's breadth of suggesting that Dowd was in the middle of a mental breakdown. We're not about to go look, but we suspect that particular talking point has blossomed by now into full, malodorant flower all over the right-wing blogs, because, ya know, NO ONE TURNS AGAINST THIS PRESIDENT WHO ISN'T MENTALLY UNSTABLE. Or gay.