Friday, June 29, 2007

Tie Fido to the Car Roof

Mitt Romney mistreated the family dog.

But has he ever kicked a cat in anger?

Scalia, Insult Comic of the Wrecking Crew

With the dismantling now in high gear on the Bush Supreme Court of all the social safety nets within reach, you might find Scalia's calling fellow arch-conservative (and Chief Justice) John Roberts a wimp (in effect) somewhat amusing, in a rueful sort of way.

The NYTimes today has the story and the analysis.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

High Density Development on Holloway Mtn Rd

On the same day we attend a meeting to learn more about Watauga County's comprehensive planning process, being launched now to produce a plan for growth in two years, we also learn of another massive, high-density housing development planned for the corner of Hwy 221 and Holloway Mountain Rd., west of Blowing Rock.

A preliminary plat plan, which we've seen, calls for almost a hundred building lots in addition to a bunch more "townhomes," "cottages," and "lake house cottages." Both the primary and a secondary entrance will intersect with Holloway Mountain Rd.

Oh, the "lake" of "lake house cottages" is a proposed empoundment of Boone Fork Creek.

The potential impact on both Holloway Mountain Rd. and on Hwy 221 -- just the additional traffic -- will be substantial. The new lake? Well, who knows?

This sort of massive development on fragile mountain land is currently little addressed by county ordinances, and there IS NO PLANNING for this or much of anything else. Here's hoping the planning document forecast to be unveiled by August 2009 will address this sort of development and what it's doing to us.

Our Bumbling State Auditor Has Been Moonlighting

Les Merritt (sic), the man who brought us the Great N.C. Voter Fraud Fizzle, has been moonlighting and using his official position as State Auditor to advertise his services.

He'll be up for reelection in 2008.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

And No One Has Ever Been Held Accountable

Big surprise, this: the CIA did a document dump yesterday, proving that our worst fears about the agency back in the 1960s and 1970s were wholly and fully justified, that a "no-holds-barred culture" existed at the CIA for illegally spying on innocent Americans, all justified by a paranoia about the Soviet Union.

That was then. This is now. And should we believe that the "no-holds-barred culture" has gone away, that secret foreign prisons and torture and the interception of innocent Americans' phone & e-mail messages, and the Good Lord knows what else, hasn't accelerated under this current regime?


Young Voters Turned Off by the GOP

A significant new New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll discussed this a.m. in the NYTimes. More Americans aged 17 -29 are paying attention to politics, and what they see doesn't make them lean toward the Republican Party.

No wonder the state GOP wants to suppress voter registration and voter turn-out among this group!

One surprising number in the polling: Rudy Giuliani attracted only 4% of these respondents. We thought his name identification and support would be much higher among young people.

Heath Shuler, Speaking Very Carefully

The new congressman from NC-11, parsing those words, threading that needle, in Christianity Today:

What is the best way to handle abortion politically?

I'm pro-life. We can talk about how we're going to vote and what we're going to do, and so many people are activists. Far too often it's about Democrats and Republicans and their views on that issue. We need to spend more time as Christians being part of the solution to make sure that women know there's someone here for you financially, there's someone here who will support you, and someone telling you they love you.

What legal measures do you support to reduce the number of abortions?

I don't think it's as much about legal measures. Our communities have to do better. Our churches have to do better. I think that's part of growing up in a community like I did. It was a small, very [tightly] knit group, and you knew people in your community and your church whom you could lean on and [who] would help you make these difficult decisions. Everyone wants to talk to us about legislation.

Monday, June 25, 2007

"I have a different understanding with the president"

Anyone even vaguely interested in the drift of this nation under the ministrations of Vice President Dick Cheney will want to read the multi-part series that debuted in the WashPost yesterday. Part I is here, and Part II is here. Parts III & IV come tomorrow and Wednesday.

The quote that we're using as the title for this post is what Cheney told former V.P. Dan Quayle, when Quayle warned him that as vice president he'd mainly be attending a lot of funerals. "A different understanding," but did Bush understand it?

The sources of the current stand-off with Congress -- Cheney's bizarre argument that he is neither a member of the executive branch nor of the legislative branch and is therefore not subject to any of the rules that apply to either branch -- are all laid out here. Cheney's "understanding" with El Presidente gave him unusual powers to "reach down" into any cabinet-level policy-making council and to impose himself on decisions, to sit with the president during daily briefings, to keep all his own daily contacts and briefings utterly secret.

Clearly, he began even before 9/11 to fashion a rationale for an imperial presidency beyond the power of any of the other branches of government, a presidency that could indefinitely imprison and could use cruel and inhumane treatment on anybody considered an enemy, without legal niceties. 9/11 gave him the justification to seize power.

All of this we've known but hardly in the detail offered in the WashPost series.

"Most of his operational agenda, in practice if not in principle, remains in place .... an insurrection against legal limits on the commander in chief ... bypassing Congress and the courts .... Cheney turned his attention to the practical business of crushing a captive's will to resist .... Many of the harsh measures he championed, and some of the broadest principles undergirding them, have survived intact but out of public view."

Eventually, they will come to public view, though it'll be too late.

There'll Be No Blowin' in the Wind Here, My Friends!

The town of Blowing Rock's decision to ban residential wind turbines is a municipal black eye that just gets blacker.

The W-S Journal editorial on Sunday found the town's action, well, backward.

Hell, Mary

In 2004, some dozen American Catholic bishops announced that they wouldn't give Sen. John Kerry communion because he was pro-choice. A.k.a., religious bullying for the sake of a political agenda.

According to the NYTimes today, those same Catholic bishops are dodging press questions about whether Rudy Giuliani should also be denied communion, considering his pro-choice views. (Possibly, according to the article, Giuliani already doesn't even attempt to receive communion, but that's far from proven.)

"Most bishops are quiet primarily because the presidential election is still more than 16 months away, said church officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be quoted on political matters."

Yeah, right. They're quiet on Giuliani because the election is so far off? No, they're quiet because Giuliani's a REPUBLICAN. Blows their orthodox minds to be confronted by a socially liberal politician who's also a member of the "faith," i.e., Republican.

Though a few (mainly unnamed) Catholic bigwigs ARE pretty upset with Giuliani: " leaders say they are frustrated by prominent Catholic politicians like Mr. Giuliani who argue that while they are personally opposed to abortion, they do not want to impose their beliefs on others."

Study that sentence carefully. Catholic leaders are upset because a Catholic politician like Giuliani isn't ready to impose Catholic dogma on others. Yeah, that IS pretty upsetting all right, especially if you've had several hundred years' experience with imposing your beliefs to the point of torture (Inquisition, anyone?).

The gist of the Times article is that the Catholic prelates pray Giuliani doesn't get very far in the primary process, so that they won't ever really be threatened by a serious pro-choice Catholic Republican candidate.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Oxymoron of the Day

Don't we love rhetorical contradictions! Expressive, logic-defying, yet so true, like...

a fine mess
clever fool
organized chaos

Today, via Public Policy Polling, comes a lovely oxymoron in a report on the rightwing Civitas Institution and its recent luncheon to discuss El Presidente's continuing decline in NC polls and what that decline may mean for fellow Republican office-holders:

desperate optimism

That's the state of mind that conservative NC Republicans appear to be in, at least to Mark Yacoub's keen eye.

Wilkes Co. Pulls a Fast One With Lottery Money

Proceeds from the Guv's notorious "education lottery" are supposed to go to N.C. counties as bonus money for education, but Wilkes County commissioners are using the money to give their citizens a 1-cent tax reduction.

Needless to say, this is not what The Guv had in mind.

Wilkes has a 4-1 Republican majority on its board of commissioners. The vote to rob the lottery money for a tax reduction was 3-2, with one of the Republicans breaking off to vote with the sole Democrat against the scheme. The Republican defector, Charlie Sink, said the budget the other three commissioners approved was "short-sighted." "If we bow down to political pressure ... we're backing up," Sink told the W-S Journal.

Indeed, that great big old 1-cent tax reduction will mean a total of some $10 a year on a $100,000 property. For that kind of empty symbology, the Republican majority is willing to short-change local education.

Reminds us of the tax cute we got in Watauga County during the last Republican domination of the County Commission. For that empty gesture, both the Sheriff's department and the schools were made to suffer. But ultimately, the commissioners who passed it were made to suffer too.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Republican Allegations of Voter Fraud Go Poof in Raleigh

A Republican Party house of cards collapsed in Raleigh this week. It had to do once again with preventing citizens from voting.

The Senate was just about to vote on a same day voter registration bill, a law to make it easier for people to vote in elections. Nothing gets GOP operatives as riled up as THAT.

Enter the State Auditor, Les Merritt (pictured), who has indeed risen to the meaning of his name. Merritt is a Republican, and he came elbowing his way into the Senate committee that was considering the voting rights bill and declared that he had conclusive evidence of massive fraud and abuse in the State Board of Elections. His argument was that the SBOE could not possibly handle the voter verification paperwork for a same-day registration law when it was already allowing thousands of DEAD people to vote. Blah blah blah. Alleging the favorite Republican allegation ... massive voter fraud.

Merritt's charges, and the SBOE's responses, finally came to a head on Tuesday this week before the Senate Committee on Government & Election Reform. Rarely have we witnessed a public spanking like Merritt received, with his admitting that he really had no evidence of anything at all. The N&O account is here, but BlueNC has actual video footage of the testimony here.

What -- rather WHO -- was behind this stunt? Not Les Merritt, who, as his name suggests, is a somewhat bumbling bookkeeper. We got the answer to WHO when at the Senate committee hearing Senator Doug Berger referred to an e-mail written by Chris Mears, a "public affairs" staffer for the State Auditor, which suggests that it was Mears who was behind the great North Carolina Voter Fraud Hoax of 2007.

Who is Chris Mears?

Formerly the Political Director of the North Carolina Republican Party, that's who. It was Mears who famously started gathering church directories early in 2006 to mobilize Christians against the Democrats. That shenanigan landed Mears in just about every newspaper in the country. Here's the WashPost coverage from that time.

There's more to come on this story. Facing South is tracking it, but by far the most succinct summary of everything that's happened so far is found here on The Political Junkies.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How Rumors of Devil Worship Get Started

The Summer Solstice, the High Holy Day of the Druids and of modern pagans, arrives tomorrow afternoon, June 21st, at precisely 2:06 p.m. E.D.T. Ah, to be at Stonehenge!

Tomorrow at 2:06 p.m. E.D.T., the goddesses will appreciate sacrifice, particularly growing things in bloom and especially aromatic herbs like tansy, artemesia, alchemilla, lavender.

The Summer Solstice, when tilt is everything, when the sun appears to stand still, and above the Arctic Circle they experience 24 hours of daylight ... technically, the beginning of Summer for us but also the herald of the sun's inevitable decline toward Winter, because after tomorrow we lose daylight gradually every day.

Smoke 'em while you got 'em.

The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate

Now a headline like this on The Conservative Voice is just naturally going to draw our attention:

Judicial Watch Fingers Congresswoman Virginia Foxx

What's this?! The Congresswoman caught making another earmark for the infamous Teapot Museum in Sparta immediately after kicking up a HUGE fuss about Democratic earmarks!

We didn't even go to Nathan Tabor's website searching for hypocrisy updates on Madam Foxx (though as one of Foxx's Republican opponents in the 2004 primary, Tabor perhaps relishes pointing out the obvious). We went there to follow up on an e-mail alert we received from Tabor about the possibility of Rosie O'Donnell being tapped as emcee for "The Price Is Right," now that the 308-year-old Bob Barker has actually retired. O the horror! We hadn't even realized until reading Tabor's overheated e-mail how important this game show is to the fabric of a Christian nation. Rosie's beliefs "are abhorrent to most Americans, and immoral in the extreme," plus it's a "family show." Tabor wants us all to write CBS and protest, and we will! Anything to save the best part of post-modern materialistic acquisitiveness from the taint of lesbo radicals.

The Dumbest Website on Earth

Thanks to Craig for sharing this article in the LATimes about Conservapedia, the brain-child of Andy Schlafly, the fruit of Phyllis Schlafly's loins. It's the anti-Wikipedia website, set up to combat the perceived liberal bias of the known world and to bring comfort to people who apparently can't deal with the last thousand years of science. It's aimed specifically at high school students who've been raised to believe that Christians are being persecuted in the good ole U.S. of A.

Example: Conservapedia articles maintain that the earth and all its contents are less than 10,000 years old.

Environmentalists are "people who profess concern about the environment." (Ah! We get how this works: "Republican candidates are men and women who profess belief in Jesus Christ in order to get votes.")

Anyway, get into Conservapedia and you won't get out for a while. It's a hall of mirrors, reflecting a self-congratulatory set of "facts" meant to flatter the rightness of the True Believer's faith, the World According to Phyllis Schlafly, a.k.a., Cut Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face.

Which is what brought us to Conservapedia's entry for "Homosexuality," to see how the Schlafly Universe was dealing with Phyllis's oldest son John, a lawyer who admitted he was gay in 1992. Not only does John work for his mother and The Eagle Forum, the anti-abortion, anti-gay rights org she founded, but he also evidently buys into the Company Line that his sexuality is by definition immoral. We then looked up "self-loathing" on Conservapedia, expecting to see a picture of John Schlafly. Instead, we were led to this debate: "Is President Bush Good for America?" It took a minute, but we see the connection!

The 2008 Race Just Got a Lot More Interesting

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg abruptly left the Republican Party yesterday, evidently clearly the path for an independent run for the presidency. He did this extraordinary thing while in California, which will have an early primary in 2008, and in the presence of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, another nominal "Republican" who's been pulling away from party orthodoxy. There was some joking in the press corps about a Bloomberg-Schwarzenegger presidential ticket. Stranger things have happened.

Our favorite quote about the Bloomberg gambit comes this a.m. from Rev. Al Sharpton:
"A girl in high school catches you looking at her and she starts wearing nice dresses. It doesn't mean she's going to date you. But she's at least teasing you, so it really increases your hope. This is a serious tease."
Our second most favorite quote comes from an anonymous political consultant:
"The market for billionaire businessmen is basically with soft Republican voters, and so he is likely to help the Democrats if he runs."
Serious teases, soft Republicans, hard money (Bloomberg has BILLIONS to self-finance a campaign) ... O the head swims at the prospects!

Bloomberg wouldn't have far to go to find a ready-made and growing campaign organization, either ... Unity '08. In fact, that group, which is dedicated to the proposition of transcending the deadlock of the two-party system, already has extended congratulations to Bloomberg for his gutsy move:
[Bloomberg's announcement] reinforces what Unity08 has been saying since our inception, that the current political system is broken and does not address the concerns of the majority of the population.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

First Baptist Church Selling Out to ASU?

Apparently, the possibility of ASU's buying First Baptist Church is back in play, and our informants say it is deeply dividing the congregation. No surprise that. The same deal was on the table last year, with one strong group of members wanting to take the university's money and run to the suburbs (keeping up with the Methodists?). The deal to sell out to ASU was scuttled when word of it leaked prematurely.

We'd hate to see the Baptists go. They're the last congregation downtown on King Street, an institutional anchor that is much more than mere bricks & mortar. Even more, we'd hate to see the university gobble up another significant chunk of our little town.

If they must leave city center, we wish the congregation could find a good private developer committed to the sort of mixed-use development -- commercial plus residential -- that is beginning to be seen and which is an economic boon to Small Town, U.S.A.

What Would Thomas Jefferson Say?

In his notorious "signing statements," El Presidente has long claimed that he's above the laws that Congress passes. He's said so ... 160 times. The federal ban on torture? "I'm not bound by it," the President wrote. Turn over data on the USA Patriot Act to Congress? "I don't have to," the President said. Postal reform? "I can open any mail I damn well please and without a warrant," quoth the Emperor.

Yesterday, the nonpartisan Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report outlining exactly how and when this president has made good on his threats not to follow the law. Jonathan Weisman has the story in today's WashPost.

The GAO followed 19 separate threats and found that the administration was not following the law in a third of those cases. The GAO can't exactly PROVE that Bush is still torturing, since torturing, as we know, is super-secret and often carried out in foreign prisons. The same impenetrable secrecy applies to the opening of the mail and to other secret spying on U.S. citizens. Who knows what they're doing?
...the GAO's findings are legally significant, said Bruce Fein, a conservative constitutional lawyer who served on an American Bar Association task force that excoriated the president's use of signing statements in a report last year.
Those good Republicans who can wink at this presidential power-grab might ask themselves: What would I be saying if this were President Hillary Clinton putting herself above the law? Better speak up now, 'cause waiting will only confirm your total hypocrisy.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Snakes in the Grass

News has filtered out of Raleigh that Appalachian State University is shopping for a state rep to move a local bill to exempt the university -- and all state universities? -- from local ordinances that might stand in their way ... "their way" being the taking of whatever property they want and the putting up of whatever structure they desire ... local neighborhoods be damned!

This news is all the more interesting because the university has chosen to go around the backs of our local elected representatives.

This move has to do with ASU's frustration over not being able to put up a huge new college of education where it isn't wanted by taking the property of at least one elderly woman and ignoring Boone's rules on setbacks, height, parking, and compatibility with the neighborhood.

And since they're in the business of teaching good citizenship to young people, the ASU administration has managed to spoon-feed their resentments against the Town of Boone to the ASU Student Government, which doesn't understand the issues involved. The ASU SGA has mounted a petition against the town in an effort to rile up students. Apparently, if the town insists on its rules for development, it is somehow anti-student.

The University administration has sold the line to the students that if ASU doesn't get to build its College of Education in precisely that spot, they will have to go up on student fees. Why? To pay for their own blunder. ASU entered into contracts to pay roughly $4.5 million for .689 acre BEFORE they had approached the town to rezone the property. And when the town turned down the request, ASU went ahead with the purchase anyway.

But the ASU administration has lied to the students (no over verb adequately conveys the depth of their cynicism) that they had talked to the town prior to these land transactions and were told that all was hunky-dory. Not so.

Now ASU wants state government in Raleigh to get them out of their own mess by legislating a huge exemption for their every whim. Every other small N.C. town that hosts a huge state university is possibly also threatened by this back-door deal and preferential laws.

The Rand Corporation

No one is better than Chris Fitzsimon at understanding the budget stakes in Raleigh right now between the (Democratic) grandees in the state Senate and the (Democratic) dissidents in the state House:
Lower taxes on millionaires, higher taxes on thousands of working families, fewer services to help children, the mentally ill, and kids at risk of dropping out of school -- that is essentially the Senate position in budget negotiations with the House at the end of the week....

[The proposed Senate budget] is a regressive recipe for disaster opposed not only by House leaders, but Governor Mike Easley and dozens of public interest groups across the state.
Chief among the Senate offenders: Tony Rand.

Your Pharmacist Is God

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina has released a report that some 40 percent of pharmacies in the state do not stock the "Plan B" morning-after pill, even though it's been federally approved for non-prescription purchase since last August, because many pharmacists do not approve of women who have promiscuous sex.

No, really. (Lord knows that when it comes to moral weathervanes, we ALWAYS turn to our pharmacist first!)

If a young woman is date-raped and seeks Plan B from a morally superior pharmacist, that's just. Too. Bad.

You can read a fairly adequate summary of the report here in the N&O.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The History That the Winners Write

Thanks to the N&O and AP, we now know that staffers for The Guv got to substantially rewrite the entry on their boss in a state-funded history of N.C.'s governors, massaging the entry into something closely resembling hagiography.

A new edition of "The Governors of North Carolina" was published in March by the Department of Cultural Resources. According to The Guv's press office, they were ASKED to "review and edit" the entry on Easley, and they DID ... rewriting more than two-thirds of the article and in the process making these changes (among others):

They left out completely Easley's failed run for the U.S. Senate in 1990.

They deleted a section saying that as a child Easley had a reputation for "making mischief."

They deleted a reference to Easley's taking office "in the long shadow of James B. Hunt Jr."

They added a comment that Easley inherited a budget shortfall from his predecessor.

They added a patriotic statement by Easley.

They inserted a section that said Easley "successfully led" the state to "a new global economy."

They inserted a reference to USAToday's saying Easley was one of the most effective anti-drug governors.

Yadda yadda yadda. What they wrote was a third longer than the 1,000 word limit, and they complained when the book's editors started cutting it down. Finally, to cover themselves, the editors added a statement to the book's preface admitting that The Guv's lackeys had a BIG hand in writing his entry.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Trent Lott: 'Talk Radio's the Problem'

Both Democratic & Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate are planning to revive "The Slave Labor Enablement Act of 2007," a.k.a. the comprehensive immigration overhaul, and Trent Lott, who favors the "reform," is quoted in the NYTimes saying, "Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem."

Lott then suggested a plotline that might have come out of, say, season 4 of "The Sopranos": "At some point, Mr. Lott said, Senate Republican leaders may try to rein in 'younger guys who are huffing and puffing against the bill.' "

"Rein in." Wonder what that would include?

Can't wait to hear what the weenies with the microphones have to say about that.

Terri Schiavo II?

Another Terri Schiavo-type end-of-life case brewing in Arizona (hat tip to Faithful Democrats). There's a wife who's ordered the feeding tube removed from her (mainly?) brain-dead husband in a hospice facility in Mesa, Ariz. The husband's family is trying to wrest control away from the wife because the couple was arguing when the husband lost control of the car that caused the wreck that put him into a vegetative state. Many details are obscured or lost altogether in what already looks like an incipient media frenzy.

And can big-wig conservative Republicans and right-to-life pressure groups be far behind?

Blowing Rock Pays Tribute to Fossil Fuels

The Blowing Rock town council voted -- unanimously! -- Tuesday night to ban residential-sized windmills.

There's a mote in their eye. The arguments against wind energy were all about "appearance."

Eventually, one of these peak-oil days, such attitudes are going to seem as stuck in the 20th century mud as a triceratops in the goo of the Permian Basin.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

No Comment

We've taken a solemn vow not to comment on the following curious facts:

1. Wednesday morning, Ruth Graham, the feisty and totally admirable wife of evangelist Billy Graham, slips into a coma as a result of complications from pneumonia.

2. Later Wednesday, Billy Graham releases a statement that both he and wife Ruth, who is declared "close to going home to heaven," will be buried at the tourist attraction lately opened by son Franklin Graham in Charlotte. Rev. Graham produces a document to that effect bearing both his and Ruth's signatures.

3. A previous document signed by Ruth, saying, "I want to make it very clear my final wish is to be buried at the Cove [near Asheville]. Under no circumstances am I to be buried in Charlotte," is declared null and void.

Source: Charlotte Observer

Others Notice the Spectacle of Madam Foxx

Ours is not the only gutt that inflates with dyspepsia at the sight of Foxx hypocrisy. Ed Cone too. Watch the video he links to. In fact, all his links are useful.

More on the Rural Collapse of the GOP

The poll referenced down column has a great deal of detail to digest, but if you're interested in chewing on it further, The Political Junkies offer "a glimpse" at some of the numbers which show that Heath Shuler in the NC-11 is going to be very difficult to bump off in his first reelection campaign (even considering that he's been extra busy alienating his progressive Dem base in Buncombe County).

What's especially noteworthy is the actual polling that was done in the NC-11 to test the depth of the rural switch-over to the Democrats. The conclusion? "It appears it will be a severe challenge for Republicans to reclaim these seats."

New Baptist Dogma: Blessed Are the Polluters

Not so amazingly, the Southern Baptists, who sold themselves to the National Republican Party some years ago, have passed a resolution at their big convention in San Antonio that certainly breaks new doctrinal ground, warning that concern over global warming might be sinful.

They don't want the members of their congregations even talking about it.

And get this: they claim that doing something about global warming might hurt poor people. Rarely have we seen a more innovative use of the poor as a prop in an argument benefitting rich polluters.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Horny Old Lobbyist Wants To Be President

Rudy Giuliani and the other Republican wannabees are NOT going to give ex-Sen. Fred Thompson a free walk to the Republican presidential nomination. Not by a long shot. No sir-ee.

Politico is reporting just some of the preliminary dirt that Thompson's rivals are beginning to spread like fine compost through the pundit neighborhood. Leading off the list is Thompson's lucrative work as a Washington lobbyist both before and after his stint as a senator from Tennessee.

But more damning than any of the stuff catalogued by Politico is Thompson's well-known aversion to hard work. Among staffers in the Senate he was known as Senator Putting-in-an-Appearance. He arrived late for meetings and left early.

Plus he essentially faked driving around Tennessee in his famous red pickup, the prop that was supposed to prove that he was one of the people. Michelle Cottle has some interesting eye-witness evidence about how that staging worked, and a good deal else.

So, yes, Thompson IS Reaganesque, in the worst way.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Big Utilities in N.C. HATE Alternative Energy

There's some buzz developing statewide about the State Senate leadership -- Democrats all, to be sure! -- who proposed in their version of the budget to kill the State Energy Office and therefore eliminate alternative energy research programs at three of our state universities including Appalachian State. (Addendum: This editorial in the Salisbury Post)

It's no secret that the big utility companies are behind this maneuver and that Senators David Hoyle, John Kerr, Janet Cowell, and Katie Dorsett appear to be hauling their water. According to a "legislative alert" from the Progressive Democrats of North Carolina (PDNC), Senator Cowell (who is otherwise known as an "environmentalist") is rationalizing that "killing the Energy Office is essentially an upgrade of its functions." Yeah, right. Where have we heard that kind of reasoning before?

The real target of the budget slashing appears to be Larry Shirley, the director of the State Energy Office, who does not kowtow to the big utilities. From the PDNC alert: "Larry Shirley ... and his staff are heroes to the environmental activists in this state who deal with energy issues. They have been strong, well-informed, principled, and independent advocates for sustainable energy -- and that seems to be the problem."

Locally, the ASU Energy Office is in the forefront of wind power research, solar, biodiesel, micro-hydro, and landfill gas-to-energy projects. It would be more than just a shame to lose this valuable resource. It would be a case of spiteful budget-cutting run amok.

Advocates for alternative energy who want to see the State Energy Office kept in the budget should contact senators Walter Dalton, Kay Hagan, and Linda Garrou, co-chairs of the Appropriations Committee. Their legislative e-mails are available at those links. Watauga County's own representatives, Cullie Tarleton (NC House) and Steve Goss (NC Senate) are both supportive of saving the State Energy Office. The final state budget will have to be worked out in a conference between House and Senate, but it's the top dogs who need to be barked at.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Republican Collapse in Rural America

The Center for Rural Strategies, headquartered in Whitesburg, Ky., has released a new poll showing a general dissaffection for the Party of Bush across rural America.

Fred Thompson isn't doing any better than his rivals for the Republican nomination among that rural cohort. Neither are the Democratic candidates, for that matter.

But for a party that has depended heavily on rural America to keep it in power, the signs ought to be fairly alarming.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Geezer Vote

Maybe it's that new wife 25 years his junior? The AP reports:
WASHINGTON: Fred Thompson's expected entry into the tight Republican presidential race is drawing crucial strength from conservatives and older men, vaulting him into the thick of the nomination fight, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll says.
Or maybe it's America's growing inability to distinguish TV fiction from reality. Mitt Romney, rival candidate for the presidential nomination, is quoted by AP saying of Thompson, "He's a terrific guy, and he's been putting bad guys away every week on [the NBC show] 'Law & Order.' "

Naw. It's the much younger wife.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thompson Way Ahead in N.C. Tracking Poll

According to Public Policy Polling, Thompson is beating Giuliani by 12 points among N.C. Republican primary voters.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Republican Presidential Debate in New Hampshire

Lightning was striking all over the place last night in Manchester, New Hampshire. Rudy Giuliani, in the midst of yet another explanation about respecting other people's views on abortion, joked that maybe his Catholic God was trying to send him a message.

But to us, the lightning (without audible thunder) was just a stage effect perfect for another episode of Wagnerian braggadocio: guys wearing horned helmets, claiming supernatural powers. We shall smite Islamic fundamentalism, hip and thigh! We shall nuke Iran! We shall root out every illegal immigrant and pour salt on their shanties!

All the basso-profundo posturing on that stage went hoarse, however, when a small woman in the audience got to ask a question. She said her beloved younger brother had died in Iraq just eight days shy of coming home. What would you do to end this war and bring the troops home, she wanted to know. The question went first to Mr. Macho Duncan Hunter, who took a defensive posture and began talking about his own son who joined the Marines after 9/11 and who served two tours of duty in Iraq, blah blah blah ... as though that answered the woman's question. Then McCain got on his feet and approached the woman and as much as admitted that her brother might have died in vain: "This war was badly mismanaged, and we've had some losses that were unnecessary." But we have to win, we have to win, we have to win, McCain concluded, trying to wipe away the woman's tears with a theoretical victory. Congressman Ron Paul was next, and again, he was the only man on the stage not willing to sing from the approved text: "You can't enforce American goodness, like the neo-cons preach, through the barrel of a gun." But Rudy Giuliani, than whom no one is more belligerent and who now makes a habit of following Ron Paul with "corrective" militarism, bragged to the poor woman that "because of your brother's service, we're safe now." Really.

Contradiction Alert: Giuliani wants to excuse the death & destruction in Iraq, because it's supposedly made us safer, while simultaneously yelling "Boo" every five minutes about terrorists ... "We're NOT safe, we're NOT safe!" Giuliani was the candidate last night who repeatedly brought up the (un)scary plots by those pathetic mopes to blow up JFK and Ft. Dix, when all the evidence points to the utter inability of the suspects to boil water without burning it.

Worst Use of the Sainted Dead ... Mike Huckabee: "Today is Ronald Reagan's birthday." No it wasn't. Ronald Reagan was born on the 6th of February

Worst Use of Latin, Together With an Obscure Mathematical Term ... Mitt Romney, who said, in answer to the question "Knowing what you know now, was it a mistake to invade Iraq?" answered ... "The question is a non sequitur or a null set" (at which, I'm pretty certain I could hear three political consultants in the wings swallowing their tongues)

Best Impression of Joe Biden ... Sam Brownback, who has begun advocating a "three-state solution" in Iraq

Meaner Than Duncan Hunter ... Hunter, who bragged that "they'll not get across my fence," was one-upped by Tom Tancredo: "We are becoming a bilingual nation, and that is not good"

Attitude Adjustment ... Mike Huckabee, who has started calling homosexuality an "attitude": "You don't punish people for their attitudes but for their behavior"

Cruel Joke of the Night ... Tommy Thompson, asked how he would "use" George W. Bush in a Thompson administration, said, "I certainly wouldn't send him to the United Nations." Thompson would, however, put Mr. Bush out on the lecture circuit to talk to young people about honesty and integrity in government

In Bad Marriages, It's Called 'Ripping the Sheet' ... Tom Tancredo: "I got a call from Karl Rove who said that because of my criticism of the president, I should never darken the door of the White House again .... I'm afraid that as president of the United States, I would have to tell Mr. Bush exactly what Karl Rove told me."

Most Pro-Life Statement of the Night ... Ron Paul, who said that the most pressing moral issue in America right now is "the acceptance of the principal of preemptive war"

Americans ... 1st in War, 1st in Self-Righteousness

Faithful Democrats points out, quite correctly, that the Gallup organization has polled yet once again on "morality" without asking one single question on "materialism, greed, poverty, or degrading the earth."

The only "morality" that counts with Gallup (and with most Americans, evidently) is the kind wherein at least one of the parties takes off some clothing.

They Have a Dream: No Abortion, Not Ever, for Any Reason

With leading Republican contender Rudy Giuliani trying to lead his party to a more moderate stance on abortion, anti-abortion activists met in Washington yesterday to beat their tom-toms, but rather than the reassuring, mindless chant these gatherings usually offer, there was open revolt among the brethren. "Anti-abortion absolutists" criticized the biggest voices in the movement, like Focus on the Family and National Right to Life, because they have emphasized making abortions more difficult to get rather than banning all abortions outright.

The dissidents accused Mullah James Dobson and others of "money-grubbing" the issue.

Get this: the revolt among the anti-abortion crowd is led by people particularly upset by the recent Supreme Court case outlawing "partial-birth abortion." Why? (Especially considering that for the first time, the Supreme Court approved a restriction on abortion that contained no exceptions, not even for the health of the woman, and the justices adopted antiabortion rhetoric in key portions of the majority opinion.)

Because the ruling also explicitly endorsed other methods of abortion.

According to the LATimes, that Supreme Court decision was nothing short of evil to anti-abortion dissidents like Brian Rohrbough, president of Colorado Right to Life. "He was appalled that his fellow activists not only claimed the ruling as a victory, but also used it as a fundraising tool, appealing to donors for more money to keep the momentum going."

Rohrbough and the pastor of the Denver Bible Church wrote a long letter to Rev. Dobson urging him to "repent," and they've turned the letter into newspaper ads that have run in the Washington Times and in Dobson's hometown newspaper.

The day that the Rev. James Dobson is seen as compromising on abortion is a dangerous day indeed.

The "absolutists" intend to force their movement back to an absolutist position: "No more compromises, no more half-steps, just an all-out effort for an all-out ban."

And wouldn't THAT be a happy kingdom of God on earth? The ultimate in the Power of the State.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

$$$ to Donuts: The Virginia Foxx File

Thanks, Ryan.

Companies that Give $$$ to Virginia Foxx
[70.8% of all Foxx's PAC Contributions come from big business]

Bank of America

Blue Cross and Blue Shield

Branch Bank and Trust


Coastal Federal Credit Union

Coca-Cola Company

Conoco Phillips

Coventry Health Care


Dean Foods


Duke Energy

Exxon Mobil

First Citizens Bank

Food Lion

Georgia Peach


Jefferson-Pilot Federal

Kerr Drug

Lorillard Tobacco Company

Lowe’s Companies



Norfolk Southern

North Carolina Farm Bureau



Pepsico (Pepsi-Cola donated $250 less than Coke)

Piedmont Natural Gas

Piedmont Stone Center

Pike Electric

Progress Energy

R.J. Reynolds

Remington Arms Company

Sallie Mae

Smithkline Beecham Corporation

Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, LLP

Sprint Nextel

Truliant Federal Credit Union


Tyson Foods

Union Pacific Corporation

Verizon Communication

Vulcan Materials

Wachovia Corporation (Bank)

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.


Weyerhaeuser Company

Other Donors of Notable Interest

Natl. Beer Wholesalers Association ($26,000)

Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America ($1,000)

Wineamerica PAC ($350)

Vernon Robinson ($3,470)

Ties with Scandal (From the DCCC Website):

Foxx has taken:

  • $15,000 from Tom DeLay's ARMPAC.
  • $5,000 from Bob Ney, the first congressman to plead guilty in the Jack Abramoff investigation.

With all of these ties to the DeLay/Abramoff mess, is it any surprise that Foxx has:

  • Voted to weaken House ethics rules when DeLay proposed doing so as GOP Majority Leader.
  • Voted with Tom DeLay 81% of the time (through 3/31/2006)[1]


According to

$1,200 donated to Foxx came with incomplete information

(INCOMPLETE DISCLOSURE: Occupation listed gives no indication what the person does for a living. Examples of unacceptably vague disclosures are such "occupations" as "businessman," "entrepreneur," "self-employed," and "executive".)

$11,900 donated to Foxx came with no disclosure at all

(NO DISCLOSURE: No information about the donor's employer and / or occupation was listed)

Top Donation Zip Codes (

27030 (MOUNT AIRY, NC)


27104 (Winston Salem, NC)


28607 (Boone, NC)


Personal $ Scandal

In spite of saying to that "We're not in the business anymore. [Christmas Tree Sales] We've gradually gotten out of it.” Foxx lists Foxx Family Inc. Garden Shop, Mini-Storage, and Mortgage on her 2005 House disclosure.


Foxx also owns stock in Chevron and Wal-Mart, earning dividends reported on her 2005 House disclosure.

The Heritage Foundation paid for her food, lodging and travel expenses twice and the American Israel Education Foundation did so once in 2005.

In 2004 she reported in her House disclosure charging the Grandfather home for Children $12,933 for “Const. Fees”.

[1] [Interesting given this:] Saturday, January 20, 2007 Bits and Pieces: Rose-Colored, Redux

Winston-Salem Journal

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."

This somehow seems in keeping with her conclusion last summer that the war in Iraq was going well. Bits can't help but wonder just how Rep. Foxx gets her information.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Foxx Scratches Own Haunch, Alerts Voters

You can see in the graphic to the right how much Congresswoman Virginia Foxx spends on the bulk-mailing of her propaganda to the 5th Dist., compared to what other N.C. Congressmen spend (graphic courtesy of BlueNC).

In the last biennium Foxx spent more than double her next nearest competitor, Patty McHenry in the 10th Dist. According to the W-S Journal, the AVERAGE for Congressmen during the same period is some $55,000.

This by the woman who claims to be such a fiscal conservative that her heart constricts a little every time a Katrina victim gets a free meal.

And typical of Foxx's charming personality, when the W-S Journal reporter pointed out that she was spending much more than any other member of the N.C. delegation, she replied, "So what?"

That's the Foxx version of accountability.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Nothing Screams 'Conservative' Like a Trophy Blond

Ex-Senator Fred Thompson (and future spoiler in the Republican presidential nomination race) with his new wife, Jeri, in April 2006.

She's been an employee for the Republican National Committee and the Senate Republican Conference as well as a political media consultant.

The couple wed in 2002 and now have two young children. Thompson has two other grown children and five grandchildren from a previous marriage that ended in divorce after 25 years.