Saturday, May 31, 2008

When Baptists Act Out

You may recall many posts back that a conservative student group at Furman University was upset that some university faculty said they would boycott commencement this year because El Presidente is the featured speaker (that's today, actually).

Only about 30 faculty have said they won't attend. However, another group of faculty do plan to attend in order to stand silently while the president speaks ... along with others of the university community who intend to wear "We Object" T-shirts.

So out-of-the-ordinary for anyone in South Carolina to object to the Bush presidency, but at a university founded by Baptists, it's even more startling. Unless, of course, you know the history of anabaptists and their habit of stiff-necked objection to all forms and levels of tyranny.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Carter Wrenn Sees Writing on the Wall

So there was King Belshazzar, feeling every inch the neo-con ruler of the world, and he threw a huge feast for a thousand of his lords and generals, and as he drank he became every more expansive in his arrogance, and he sent for the sacred vessels out of the Jewish temple that had been sacked by the Babylonians, and Belshazzar and his lords drank wine out of the vessels and caroused and carried on.

Until a moving hand wrote on the wall of the banqueting house (according to the King James version), "Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin," which turned out to indicate increasingly lighter weights of measure to symbolize the decline of the house of Belshazzar and the utter destruction of the arrogant Babylonian empire, destined to fade to nothingness ... sooner rather than later. You know the story.

Carter Wrenn, former political guru to former Sen. Jesse Helms, writes today that he has seen the new writing on the wall, and it seems to foretell the sweeping away of the Bushalonian Empire.

And who are we to argue with that?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why He Will Go Down in History as President Knucklehead

A few quotes from Scotty McClellan's book about the Bush White House:
"He [President George W. Bush] set the [Iraq war] policy early on and then his team focused his attention on how to sell it. It strikes me today as an indication of his lack of inquisitiveness and his detrimental resistance to reflection...."

"[Bush was] a leader unable to acknowledge that he got it wrong, and unwilling to grow in office by learning from his mistake -- too stubborn to change and grow."

"One [reason] was his fear of appearing weak. A more self-confident executive would be willing to acknowledge failure .... [Another] was the personal pain he would have suffered if he'd had to acknowledge that the war against Saddam may have been unnecessary .... [Bush] was not one to look back once a decision was made. Rather than suffer any sense of guilt and anguish, Bush chose not to go down the road of self-doubt or take on the difficult task of honest evaluation and reassessment .... another motive for Bush to avoid acknowledging mistakes was his determination to win the political game at virtually any cost .... there was Bush's insistence on remaining true to his base .... As far as Bush and his advisers (especially Karl Rove) were concerned, being open and forthright in such circumstances was a recipe for trouble."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Madam Gas Pump

From the Roy Carter for Congress campaign:
WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina – In recent months, gas prices have risen to all time highs and Virginia Foxx, North Carolina’s 5th district representative in the U.S. House, has gone on the defensive, placing the blame squarely on others for this looming crisis. As gas prices reached more than $4.00 per gallon in some areas this past Memorial Day weekend, Foxx is directly profiting from the pain that Americans feel at the pump.

According to personal financial disclosure records, Foxx has owned between $15,001 and $50,000 of stock in Chevron Corporation since 2004. While Americans struggle to meet their expenses in the face of runaway gas prices, Foxx stands to take part in Chevron’s windfall profits. Already a multi-millionaire (her 2006 disclosure lists her total net worth between $2.9 and $9.6 million); Roy Carter believes that his opponent should review her contradictory stance on gas prices in the face of her quest for personal wealth.

“Under normal circumstances, investing in an oil company is a person’s prerogative” said Roy Carter, Democratic candidate for the 5th District seat. “But when an elected official directly profits from the oil industry and then gets on her soapbox to protest against the unfairness of high gas prices, it just rings untrue and is remarkably hypocritical. Until she sells her shares in Chevron, I don’t think anyone should take my opponent seriously.”

In addition to personal gain from high gas prices, Foxx’s campaign has benefited from the oil, pharmaceutical, and health insurance industries. According the Federal Election Commission, since she began running for US Congress in 2004, Foxx has accepted over $200,000 from these three industries in PAC money alone, including funds from the Petroleum Marketers Association of America and Exxon Mobil.

The Buffoon Bites Back

Everyone will be talking today and for days afterward about the new Scott McClellan account of his years as Bush White House press secretary. Politico's Mike Allen has the first sneak peak at its contents.

McClellan was widely viewed as a buffoon and a company suck from July 2003 to April 2006, his tenure as press secretary. Now he'll be a hero to Democrats for at least a day, a traitor to the Republicans for the rest of his life. For me it's hard to gin up much sympathy for the guy who is now in effect apologizing to the American people for lying to them repeatedly, day after day, about matters that stab to the soul of our identity as a nation ... lying with a big grin on that beefeater's face.

My first reaction on hearing the contents of his book? Shut up, please. Go cover yourself in ashes and dress your naked flesh in a tow-sack and sit in penance at the main gate of Arlington National Cemetery ... if you want to repent. Don't sell books.

I'll get over my disdain, maybe by the end of the day. But at the moment I'm feeling mean and unforgiving ... to be told at this late date that everything we thought all along about this administration and its nasty war were true.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Madam Foxx Is Short-Sighted

NC-5 Congresswoman Virginia Foxx wants to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil-drilling. She talks lusciously about “10 billion barrels” of oil under one of the last pristine wildernesses on the face of the globe ... without also mentioning that the U.S. Geological Service says the oil in ANWR would supply less than a year of our current consumption.

Never you mind, says Madam Foxx, because that ANWR oil would miraculously solve two current problems, the high cost of gasoline and the high cost of food. Why? Because so much corn is being diverted to make ethanol, and with ANWR oil, corn production could be returned to the food chain ... thus lowering the price of snacks, and with the increased domestic oil, gasoline prices would also surely plunge. Thus speaketh the Foxx.

What a tool of Big Oil the congresswoman is! (Democracy Now of the High Country has more chapter & verse on that.) Foxx’s amazing ability to see multiple salvations in a proposed new oil patch causes us to recall that she could also detect no steroid usage by Roger Clemens just from gazing on some blown-up photos of him.

Instead of turning American ingenuity to the task of making us oil-free, or at least less oil-dependent, Foxx’s solution is to make us MORE dependent, and destructively so. I understand that just 60 miles west of ANWR is Prudhoe Bay, a great environmental lesson in what oil production has done to another part of the Arctic Wilderness. Prudhoe Bay is now a humongous oil complex, 1,000 square miles of sprawling industrial hyper-activity containing 1,500 miles of roads and pipelines, 1,400 producing wells, three jetports, mountains of sewage sludge, scrap metal, garbage, and more than 60 contaminated waste sites containing acids, lead, pesticides, solvents, and diesel fuel.

Foxx ignores Prudhoe Bay. She wants her constituents to believe that exploiting the oil in ANWR will mean little more than a fingernail scratch on the earth. And anyway, western North Carolinians, it’s not in your backyard! Who cares about a few million birds, or polar bears, grizzlies, Arctic wolves, caribou and the mammoth-like survivor of the last Ice Age known as the shaggy musk ox? Who the fudge cares? Not Madam Foxx and not those of her constituents with equally poor sight for the future.

ANWR has become such an object of lust not because of the great amount of oil there but because of the precedent it would set. Privatizing of public lands for the benefit of mega-corps is the real goal here, and Madam Foxx ain’t been nothing but an enthusiastic cheerleader for privatization, turning over public assets to corporate bidders. Clear-cutting “The Globe” below Blowing Rock is just one more example of her willingness to turn everything precious into somebody’s momentary profit.

Opening up ANWR is not the half of it. Foxx also talks lasciviously about the oil in “deep sea waters” off our coasts. Some of our national parks contain pockets of natural gas and precious minerals. There’s all that timber in our national forests. Let’s take it all, folks! And surely the price of toilet paper will plummet.

It’s frankly embarrassing that our representative in Congress offers no leadership that isn’t retrograde and heavily tetched with greed. It’s appalling that instead of trying to help us get to a position of less dependence on oil she is willing to sacrifice very fragile public lands valued for their wildness and make us MORE dependent on oil in the process. She would evidently burn the house down to bake a potato.

Something's Going On in Kentucky

Kentucky went for Bill Clinton in 1992 and for Hillary Clinton in the recent presidential primary. Apparently, Barack Obama makes the state feel all icky-poo, so write off Kentucky in this presidential race.

But wait a minute. A new Rasmussen poll shows long-serving Sen. Mitch McConnell in trouble, trailing his Democratic opponent Bruce Lunsford by five points. While John McCain leads Obama by 25 percentage points in Kentucky, only 67% of McCain supporters say they'll also vote for McConnell.

McConnell knows how to fight dirty, so look for TV ads of Bruce Lunsford morphing into Barack Obama.

Gosh, it was big news that Sen. Liddy Dole was in trouble in N.C. It's even bigger news that the Senate Minority Leader is in trouble.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Time Out for (Bad) Poetry

Back in the early 20th century, when I was a smug college student, a book that got passed around a lot was "The Poetic Gems" of William McGonagall, a late 19th-century Scot who had a particular affinity for man-made disasters (and I'm not talking about his poems). His most famous poem is "The Tay Bridge Disaster," written to commemorate the worst railway disaster in British history. McGonagall's epic opens this way:
Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

Not just bad poetry but sublimely bad poetry, the kind of bad poetry that you find yourself reading aloud to roomfuls of hooting fellow students. We were sooo mean.

McGonagall was obsessed with the Tay bridge. Prior to the disaster, he had written an ode to the new bridge, which included this stanza:
Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay !
That has caused the Emperor of Brazil to leave
His home far away, incognito in his dress,
And view thee ere he passed along en route to Inverness.

After the disaster, the bridge was rebuilt, which prompted "An Address to the New Tay Bridge":
BEAUTIFUL new railway bridge of the Silvery Tay,
With your strong brick piers and buttresses in so grand array,
And your thirteen central girders, which seem to my eye
Strong enough all windy storms to defy.
And as I gaze upon thee my heart feels gay,
Because thou are the greatest railway bridge of the present day,
And can be seen for miles away
From North, South, East or West of the Tay
On a beautiful and clear sunshiny day

Rarely has "buttressing" inspired its own poet laureate!

Using McGonagall's Tay Bridge trilogy as hallmark, we staged a "Bad Poetry Reading" with a string quartet. It was attended by faculty, students, and some administrators, and as it was well off-campus in a local hotel, everyone laughed until they were sick and got roaring drunk.

My own personal favorite of McGonagall's poems is "The Sorrows of the Blind," which opens:
PITY the sorrows of the poor blind,
For they can but little comfort find;
As they walk along the street,
They know not where to put their feet.

That kind of badness always made me a little suspicious that the McGonagall "Gems" were actually a hoax, deliberately awful verse written by some British wit to make fun of their poor Scottish country cousins to the north.

But, no, McGonagall was quite real and took himself very seriously as a great poet. (Incidentally, you can access all of McGonagall's work on-line here, along with historical, biographical, and critical extras.) That's actually McGonagall pictured above, dressed as a Highland warrior of the Bonnie Prince Charlie era, willing to put himself forward as a kind of hero of Scots culture.

What brings me to this remembrance of McGonagall past is reading this a.m. that a manuscript collection of McGonagall's poems fetched $13,000 in an Edinburgh auction last Friday. He would have been so proud.

Any Excuse to See Bob Barr in that Red Pullover Sweater!

The waiting is over, and Bob Barr is the Libertarian Party's nominee for president. We're as giddy as 13-year-olds over Miley Cyrus.

Barr was busily making a meal of some of his former words on C-SPAN this a.m., saying now that the federal government shouldn't have any role in abortion and that gay marriage needs to be left up to the states (hear that, California and Vermont?). Why, it seems like only yesterday that Barr was introducing "The Sacredness of Marriage Act" (or something like that) in the U.S. Congress, after which he was impertinently asked which of his three marriages was the sacred one.

But Barr will attract some following among Paularoids and disaffected Republicans, probably several times the following that might end up voting for Ralph Nader (who?).

'Tis good. 'Tis all good.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Minnesota Bloggers Create Political Havoc

See there! We've been telling ya -- or maybe we were just thinking it, or dreaming it. We lose track so easily -- that bloggers are Allies of Satan. Destroyers of Civilization. Endangerers of the Gravitational Pull.

Because they publish stuff that's true.

How dare they!

Comparisons Are Odious, But What the Hey!

Michelle Malkin, the internment-and-torture loving velociraptor of the right wing, has published an editorial in today's Washington Times making the case that the gaffes of Barack Obama disqualify him for the presidency (or something).

Seriously, she opens that can of worms without even mentioning George W. Bush's inability to speak or think clearly in English. We only know about the last seven years or so of El Presidente's muddled syntax, but we assume his problem goes back a lot further, to, like, when he was frying his synapses with coke and booze. There are whole websites devoted to keeping up with Bush gaffes (here and here, for example).

We'll take a few missteps from Obama any day. George W. Bush's problem is much more that mere stumbles. They bespeak a clouded head, a cottony batting where the brain ought to be.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Speaker Joe Hackney in Boone

Speaker of the N.C. House Joe Hackney was in Boone this a.m., hosted by Watauga County's own state legislator Cullie Tarleton, to hear from community members and give them insight into this current session of the state legislature.

Hackney is an impressive leader, and he handles these sorts of "listening" tours with great diplomatic skill (Virginia Foxx might take a lesson). That many movers and shakers (well, more movers than shakers) all in a room together saying "gimme, gimme, gimme" must make him feel at times like a sahib beset on every side by the beggars of Calcutta.

He seems to have mastered the ability to say "no, not likely, and don't hold your breath" to people who might seem to demand a little more instant gratification. He didn't promise anybody anything, forbearance in a politician that is positively heroic. But he also showed a willingness to listen and learn, adding local facts and needs to an already impressive fund of knowledge about how this state operates and where it's (ideally) headed in the 21st Century.

Good man. Good show.

Libertarians Will Be on the Ballot in NC

This is major news. For exactly the reasons Ed Cone and others are saying.

Everything will be more entertaining, especially with Mike Munger running as a Libertarian for Guv. Munger is something of a stand-up comedian and a professor of political science at Dook (or is that redundant?).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

People Who Vote in Primary Run-Offs...

...are few and far between, but there'll be an important run-off June 24 for the Democratic nominee for Secretary of Labor, between Mary Fant Donnan and John C. Brooks.

The State Board of Elections made the decision today to eliminate the other two candidates (who were in this race on May 6th and who ran 3rd and 4th), one of whom was Robin Anderson. We'll miss Anderson especially since she's credited with dubbing the ruling Secretary of Labor, Cherie Berry, "the elevator lady" for her selfless devotion to sharing her pic with every elevator rider in North Carolina.

One of the jobs the Secretary of Labor oversees is the inspection of elevators.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"You Vill Listen and You Vill Like It!"

El Presidente Bush (remember him?) is scheduled to give the commencement address at Furman University in South By God Carolina on May 31st, and some Furman faculty members "have suggested" that they may boycott the ceremonies in silent protest.

This outrageous feint in the direction of free speech has set off a stink bomb in the other direction, with some 500 up-tight Furman enrollees, calling themselves "Conservative Students for a Better Tomorrow," demanding that the Furman administration "refuse to allow" any faculty members to skip graduation.

"Refuse to allow" ... it's a plime-blank puzzlement what that might mean. Tie them into their seats? Dock their pay? Dock their ears?

We're certainly glad to see that "Conservative Students" at Furman University understand so thoroughly the blessings of liberty and the guarantees of the Constitution.


The staged circus of rah-rah in support of the Tweetsie bail-out at last night's public hearing was meant to make the County Commissioners feel elated about their "partnership" plan to save the tourist attraction. Only two people spoke against it, but one of them was Mr. Roy Gryder, whose full statement is posted at GoBlueRidge. It needs to be read and understood by everyone, particularly these couple of paragraphs:
You are now proposing that our hard earned tax dollars be used to rescue a privately owned company that for years has apparently misused its profits, and mismanaged its operation. A company that for half a century failed to prepare for the time that leases on the property they use would come due and is now trying to coerce the taxpayer to pick up the bill by threatening to leave.

To expend tax funds in this manner is an affront to the taxpayers of this county, an insult to business owners that run their business well and immoral in view of the other needs in the county.

This is a dangerous precedent that our County Commission may well come to rue. There are a few other splinters, too, that cause discomfort:
The county will have to borrow money to buy the minority interests in the two parcels of land

The published plan offers no accounting of employment numbers and taxes paid past 2004, and there is no disclosure of profit/loss for any year

Mr. Gryder's statement mentions in passing a further irony behind this piece of corporate welfare, the cutting of county fire department subsidies while a big business gets bailed out.

If the can-can dancers and Tweetsie boosters made the commissioners feel warm and fuzzy last night, well good for them, but for some of us out here there's only foreboding. The commissioners still have to vote on the plan, but it sure enough looks like a done deal.

The commission DID vote to accept the deal last night.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Madam Virginia Foxx is in a locked room in Washington today with other members of the Republican U.S. Congress, trying to come up with a new slogan for their party. It's got to be catchy, something that will snatch GOP chestnuts out of the fire before they explode ... since, after all, a mere slogan will convince voters to ignore the reality of the last seven years.

Apparently, "Change You Deserve" just ain't ringing any chimes.

The Republican Study Committee, of which Madam Foxx is a member, offers some of the sharpest minds of the 19th Century, so our money's on them. If bright lights like Patrick McHenry, Sue Myrick, Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, and Michele Bachman (most famous for going mano-a-mano with Foxx over smooching rights to George W. Bush's face) can't come up with something nifty-keen, then there's no such thing as Dr. Seuss or Disney Land and Mother Goose, no nursery rhymes.

"The Republican Party -- Not Just for the Rich Any More"

"Scaring America into a New Century"

"Honk If You Love Preemptive War!"

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Southern GOP ... Going Nuts

First, we have Linda Daves and the North Carolina Republican Party getting denounced by presidential candidate John McCain for producing and running attack ads linking state Democratic candidates to Obama and, by association with Obama, to the Reverend Wright.

Now the Georgia State Republican Party chair Sue Everhart tells her state convention to vote for John McCain because he's the closest thing to Jesus Christ.

As they say in the Frozen North, Jay-sus.

Jeff Taylor at one of the John Locke Foundation echo-chamber sites takes such displays of misguided politicking as evidence that the national GOP is indeed washed up. "Doomed" is the specific word he uses.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rebranding the Dog Food

Metaphors can be dangerous things, and by the time today's Sunday Morning Gas Bags had their say, the Republican Party had become the equivalent of "downer" cows being turned into dog food that nobody would buy and no dog would eat, yet some party leaders were speaking hopefully of "rebranding."

Maybe borrow the branding of a leading anti-depressant ... "Change You Deserve."

Here we thought that good stalwart Republicans had always been opposed to rewarding mediocrity!

Nobody deserves this mess o' pottage.

But this project to repackage the politics that nobody wants anymore should be an entertaining spectator sport for the next few months.

Friday, May 16, 2008

On a Roll

Democratic candidate Daniel Johnson (left, with Fletcher McCrady), running against little Patty McHenry in the NC-10, gets more star treatment today in the Charlotte Observer in a piece written by Jim Morrill.

Pundits and informed observers are now speaking about the Johnson/McHenry contest as "a realigning election." It's already historic in that Johnson has raised more money in a safe Republican district than any other Democrat in living memory.

So McHenry is gonna have a run for his (big) money. That $800 thou he's got in the bank may not be enough. Ten times that may not be enough.

Hear that, Virginia?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How Do You Revive an Elephant? interviewed a panel of Republican campaign experts and distilled their best thinking about the party's current political crisis, "Six Ways the GOP Can Save Itself."

In brief, the six "fixes":

1. Get a clue

2. Cut the crap

3. Beg for help

4. Burn the Bush

5. Change the pitch — and your face

6. Fan the fear

It's an interesting prescription, jangling with contradictions, especially in the way # 6 ("Fan the fear") clashes with the game-changing behavior advised elsewhere in the list. By "Fan the fear" those wise Republican operatives advise attacking the patriotism of Democrats (especially Obama, natch!) at every opportunity. Pardon us, but that's more of the crap that # 2 in the list says you should cut. Just saying.

You can read the discussion that goes with each of the six suggestions for yourself -- and it's entertaining reading! -- but # 4 is especially engaging: the advice to Republican office-holders is to run as far away from George W. Bush as humanly possible, and as fast. We reflect on the problem that scheme is going to pose for at least two of our North Carolina delegation, both Virginia Foxx and Liddy Dole. Both have proven to be dedicated yes-women to every presidential whim. Imagine them unplugged from the Bush command central. Why, it's unimaginable. And Foxx especially has already memorialized herself forever as the Sumo wrestler who would not be denied multiple smooches of the presidential mug.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Subsidizing Tourist-Related Private Businesses

Watauga County Commission Chair Jim Deal's scheme to subsidize Tweetsie Railroad to the tune of $4 million + is certainly not the first time that local North Carolina governments have paid out of the public treasury while chasing after tourism dollars. The city officials of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, borrowed $21.5 million to build a theater and agreed to pay entertainer Randy Parton (brother of Dolly) $1.5 million a year to manage the theater. How'd that work out? Can you spell "boondoggle"?

We find ourselves agreeing with Bob Orr, who recently finished third in the NC Republican primary for governor. Orr, who spent a combined 18 years of service on the NC Court of Appeals and the state's Supreme Court, was a leading critic of government subsidies to private business. As executive director of the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law, Orr was key in suing the state and local governments over the $300 million in taxpayer subsidies given to Dell Computers, but the state Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Although such subsidies are evidently acceptable under the state constitution, we still find them unappetizing extensions of government power, especially local government.

Although the Tweetsie bail-out was sprung on the citizens of Watauga County as a highly detailed and "done" deal (the April 15, 2008, letter of agreement between Jim Deal, Rob Holton, chair of the Tourism Development Authority, and Chris Robbins of Tweetsie, runs to four pages of single-spaced "summary of measures the County will immediately pursue" for Tweetsie's benefit), there is one clause in that letter (which reads very much like a contract) that opens the door just a crack for an unforeseen change of direction, should the citizens be heard. Jim Deal wrote:
Of course, any indications of support contained in this letter of intent are subject to a public notice, public hearing and final corporate approval by the Watauga County Board of Commissioners as required by N.C.G.S. 158-7.1. However, based upon conversations with other Watauga County Commissioners, it is my belief that there is sufficient support for this proposal, provided that comments from the public or other information received do not change those preliminary opinions.

The public hearing on the scheme has been scheduled for May 20 at 6 p.m. in the Commissioners Board Room. "The Proposed Partnership Agreement with Tweetsie Railroad" is posted on the county's website in the form of a sales pitch that omits any particular accounting for the park's revenues and trends since 2004.

Run-Off for the Secretary of Labor Spot

A run-off for the Democratic Secretary of Labor candidate now seems more than likely. The winner will face incumbent Republican Cherie Berry ("the elevator lady").

The four Democratic candidates on the May 6th primary ballot finished so close to one another, and there were so many provisional ballots to certify and count, the outcome is still clouded. Mary Fant Donnan, who had about 27.5 percent of the vote, is the front-runner. Former Labor Commissioner John C. Brooks, who was in second place, has already filed for a runoff. Only 2,584 votes separated Brooks from the third-place finisher Ty Richardson.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Democrat Wins Special Election in Mississippi

Travis Childers, a Democratic county court official in a very rural patch of northeastern Mississippi, won a special election for Congress tonight in a district that has elected conservative Republicans since at least 1994.

The big news in this win, however, is that once again the Republican machine threw implicit associations with Barack Obama at Childers, adding the guilt-by-association with Nancy Pelosi to Childers' short-comings, and none of it worked. (Politico analysis of the campaign here)

They couldn't beat a Democrat in a safe Republican district IN MISSISSIPPI, in RURAL Mississippi, at that, by tying the Democrat to the BLACK (probably Muslim!) presidential candidate.

That's the real news of the night, not West Virginia.

People are just that sick of the GOP.

Local Filmmaker Memorializes Bush's War

Matthew Robinson, a professor of political science and criminal justice at Appalachian State University, has produced a fairly astounding and patient accounting of the run-up to the Iraq War that's now posted on YouTube. Because of its length (just under 20 mnutes), it's broken into three parts. The first two are highly detailed memory joggers about what we were and were not told by the Bush administration as it sold us on preemptive war. The third section doses on the outcome of that salesmanship ... images from that war set to music by the Dave Matthews Band ("The Last Stop" and "Don't Drink the Water"). While the first two sections are dispassionate pieces of history, the third unleashes an emotional reaction to the blood that's on our hands.

Swings, Misses

1. Poor Pat McCrory. The Republican candidate for NC Gov. criticized Democratic candidate Beverly Perdue for an opinion she doesn't have. In fact, Perdue agrees with McCrory on state policies regarding illegal immigrants admitted to community colleges.

2. Poor Gov. Easley. He's submitted his budget to the short session of the legislature, and because it calls for increased "sin taxes" on beer and cigarettes, the N&O judges it dead-on-arrival.

3. Poor little Patty McHenry. The 10th Dist. congressman attacks Democratic candidate and decorated war hero Daniel Johnson as a Nancy Pelosi recruit and a (gack!) liberal. Dear Patrick, you're going to have to do better than that, like, starting with something that's factually accurate.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Kay Hagen Within Striking Distance of Dole?

Public Policy Polling says the Democratic winner of last week's Senate primary in N.C. is just 5 points off Dole. Hell, Rasmussen says Hagen is actually a point AHEAD of Dole.

Well, that's great (if slightly loopy), and Chuck Schumer needs to start coughing up all that dough he promised Hagen. Pronto.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Smell Test

We appreciate postings by Watauga County economic development officer Joe Furman on the thread down-column ("Raising Eyebrows"), trying to clarify the announced scheme to bail out Tweetsie Railroad with county funds ... explanations that prompt more questions.

Our skepticism about corporate welfare still stands.

Our biggest question today: since the non-profits that provide valuable services to Watauga County (child-care, stray animal rescue, family crisis assistance, etc.) are required (aren't they?) to provide financial statements to the County Commission when requesting modest grants, and these financial statements become part of the public record (do they not?), has Tweetsie Railroad been asked for financial disclosure, and if so, is that report available for public inspection?

Otherwise, the fragrance this deal gives off is something short of roses.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Patrick McHenry's Next Big Challenge

Daniel Johnson, the victorious 10th District Democratic congressional candidate, gets star treatment in today's Hickory Daily Record, and for good reason. Decorated military hero, a rising professional, and a proven fund-raiser. "Johnson is viewed as having the background, character and charisma to attract voters," writes Andrew Mackie.

What more could you ask for, other than a congressional district with a little more partisan balance, but Johnson has an admirable history of playing the hand he's dealt, and playing it well.

Meanwhile, the incumbent congressman is looking a little like unrefrigerated meat.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Raising Eyebrows

We've generally viewed governmental subsidies of corporations along with governmental bail-outs and governmental inducements granted to private business interests with a skeptical eye.

So the recent headline in the Watauga Democrat, "County and Tweetsie may go into special partnership," got our undivided attention.

What we see there is that "the county would buy land to support the theme park in exchange for a long-term commitment to keep the business operating" (a projected pay-out of $3.15 million of county money) and "the county would also provide marketing money over the next six years" ($150,000).

The $3.15 million might be viewed as a legitimate investment with potential for eventual earnings (though the land deal is complicated by token rental charges of one buck a year to Tweetsie for six years, to be followed by rental "at market prices" until Tweetsie can maybe buy the property, which might amount to a few too many ifs, ands, and buts). The $150,000 for marketing would be an outright "grant" to the Tweetsie owners.

The County Commission has scheduled a public hearing on May 20 about this corporate welfare. Seems like many questions should be asked.

Gender Solidarity

This post on Under the Dome goes a long way toward explaining the Diane Hamby numbers in the NC-5 Democratic congressional primary yesterday.

1. Hillary Clinton drew many women to the polls yesterday who had medium to low information about any other races on the Democratic ballot.

2. Many of those women went through the ballot marking the candidates who could be identified by gender.

3. Dome finds the drop-off in votes in state-wide races where no woman was running highly significant.

Watauga, Purple in a Sea of Pink

That's little ole Watauga County (and Buncombe further south) colored Obama purple, floating in that wash of Clinton pink (or is it salmon?).

Thought you might get a kick out of seeing what a sore thumb Watauga is.

Winners, Losers, and Big Losers

Say it once and don't say it again: it was a very big night for the Barack Obama campaign, a disastrous night for Hillary. And can we put aside the supposed black/white gulf, when lily-white Watauga County went for Obama by a greater percentage than the rest of the state? This despite the stumping of Bubba through our neck of the woods. Buncombe County, which hosted visits by all three Clintons, went for Obama by over 54%. So much for the "Clinton magic" in western North Carolina (and in rural America generally).

Other Big Winners
Walter Dalton, who won outright in a four-way race for the Democratic nomination for Lt. Gov. Just about everyone was predicting a run-off.

Pat McCrory, who won outright in the Republican primary for NC Gov. Beverly Perdue has now a far tougher row to hoe.

The 40+ NC mayors, including Boone's own Loretta Clawson, who endorsed Barack Obama.

Republican Appeals Court Judge John Tyson, who was knocked out in this primary by two Democratic candidates, who will now have to face each other in November: Kristin Ruth and the grandson of Sen. Sam Ervin.

Poor Fred Smith, whom we were rooting for, who proved (once again?) that free barbecue can't compete with expensive political consultants.

Congressman Patrick McHenry, who though he beat back the challenge from fellow Republican Lance Sigmon, appears to be damaged goods and must now face a gen-you-wine military hero in Democrat Daniel Johnson come November. Sigmon said prior to yesterday that he would never endorse McHenry.

Jerry Butler. What's the deal with Jerry Butler? Why did his home county of Watauga not vote for him in his win in the Republican primary for the NC-45 state senate race? Inquiring minds want to know what the home-town Republican voters were thinking.

Big Losers
Linda Daves and the North Carolina GOP. Their big negative ad against Obama -- the "eeek, a scary black man" TV spot -- did not work in a state where it might predictably have had some effect. Not only have the state Republicans looked craven and desperate to a national audience; they've also effectively slammed the door on reaching out to under-30 voters, who (1) can't countenance the theatrical incompetence of the Bush administration and (2) have apparently grown more mature than their tiresomely racist elders in the South.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Some Watauga Numbers

On the Democratic side, Obama won his match-up with Clinton in early voting, where some 3,185 votes were cast (including mail-in absentees), 1,974 of those for Obama to 1,174 for Clinton. That winning margin for Obama could not be overcome in precinct voting today, even though 11 of 20 precincts today went for Clinton.

Generally speaking, Clinton was strongest in the more rural parts of the county but not everywhere. For example, Elk and North Fork tipped to Obama. Watauga precinct (Foscoe and Valle Crucis) went for Obama. The three Boone precincts and New River 1 went for Obama. Blowing Rock and Blue Ridge turned in dead-even ties between Clinton and Obama.

Fifth Dist. congressional candidate Roy Carter carried Watauga by some 1,300 votes but appears to be slightly behind Diane Hamby district-wide (as of this writing).

U.S. senatorial candidate Jim Neal had an impressive showing in Watauga (2,291 votes), though he lost to Kay Hagan by a thousand votes in the county and to Hagan state-wide by a huge margin. Watauga was probably one of his best counties, perhaps because he made two visits here prior to the voting.

Likewise, Dan Besse came in second to Walter Dalton in Watauga. Good showing for Besse here, while he was losing the rest of the state.

On the Republican side, the most astounding local numbers were local dentist Jerry Butler's loss of his own county to Alexander Co. resident Dwight Shook in the State Senate Dist. 45 primary. Shades of Virginia Foxx! Butler can't carry his own county but wins the district and will be facing incumbent Senator Steve Goss this fall.

Oh, and Ron Paul didn't win the Republican presidential primary, though with 367 Watauga votes, he did out-poll "No Preference."

A total of 2,660 Republican ballots were cast, to 7,081 Democratic ballots. That may turn out to be the most significant bellwether of the night.

Watauga Goes for Obama

Final numbers for Watauga:

Clinton 3,645
Obama 4,570

Watauga County's Newest Commissioner

By winning the Democratic Primary, looks like Tim Futrelle, 33, will be Watauga's newest (and youngest) county commissioner. The only numbers in the race we've seen so far are the early voting numbers, which Futrelle won by an overwhelming margin.

At half the age of most of our commissioners, Futrelle will certainly bring a fresh new perspective to county government.

By not contesting the seat in the fall election, the Republicans simply threw in the towel, and prematurely.


Word from several Watauga County precincts this a.m. says that the Republicans are AWOL. No poll-greeters spotted for any Republican candidates, not even Paularoids (though, clearly, from the count of yard signs alone, Ron Paul is in the lead for the Republican presidential nomination. Apparently, true Paularoids are expecting a Big Uprising at the Republican National Convention this summer that will reject John McCain and sweep Ron Paul into the nomination. BTW, we want whatever it is they're smoking).

The most active Democratic campaigns locally -- from an unscientific count of poll-greeters working key precincts this morning -- would be the Bev Perdue campaign, Team Roy Carter, the Tim Futrelle committee, and both the Clinton and the Obama campaigns.

Turn-out has been steady though not in the overwhelming numbers we've seen reported from other parts of the state.

Cass Ballenger ... Befuddled?

Former Republican Congressman Cass Ballenger of the NC-10 has evidently now endorsed BOTH incumbent Congressman Patrick McHenry AND his primary challenger Lance Sigmon ... at least that's the most sense we can make out of this Hickory Daily Record article.

Reporter Andrew Mackie dangles this further bait on his blog about the charges and counter-charges flying about who or what Ballenger has endorsed: "The past three days rate among the strangest in my journalism career. I'm afraid ethical restraints and a multitude of off-the-record discussions keep me from elaborating."

"Cass-gate." Oh my.

But, really, don't tell us you have dirt to dish and then don't dish it.

The strangest paragraph in the Daily Record story: "In his taped message, Ballenger mentions he voted for McHenry, but changed his allegiance after new information came to light. No one in either camp would go on the record about what information Ballenger was referring to in the message."

Most insiders with knowledge of the big wheels that turn the NCGOP expect McHenry to win this primary ... which, after all, might be the best outcome for that young ex-military man Daniel Johnson who'll likely be the Democrat running for the NC-10 seat come November.

With Cass Ballenger getting such a public case of the political dry heaves over McHenry on Primary Day spells big trouble for the congressman.

The Rumble

Long lines reported at 6:30 a.m. this morning in some North Carolina precincts, particularly in urban areas and most particularly in heavily Democratic areas.

Happened to catch Robert Pittenger's TV ad last night, as I was sinking into a late-primary-campaign coma. Pittenger is projected to win the Republican lieutenant governor primary today. In his ad he attacks wasteful spending in Raleigh and mentions prominently as an example Madam Virginia Foxx's Teapot Museum in Sparta, to which the state government contributed (according to the ad) some $400,000. Isn't it a case of mixed messages when one Republican candidate uses another Republican office-holder's pet project (can you spell "e.a.r.m.a.r.k."?) as an example of out-of-control Democratic spending? Or is it just plain ole vanilla incompetence?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Cass Ballenger Endorses McHenry's Challenger

The tide among Republican Party bigwigs in the NC-10 seems to be turning decisively against little Patty McHenry. The former Republican congressman from that district, the man whom McHenry replaced, Cass Ballenger, has endorsed McHenry's challenger, Lance Sigmon.

Tomorrow may be a looong day for McHenry.

The Hazards of Any Crystal Ball

Dr. Stephen Gheen, an editor at The Political Junkies and an avowed Hillary Clinton supporter, has sent out an e-mail analyzing voter turn-out in North Carolina's early-voting period (sorry, no link). He says Obama is winning the early vote by 57% to Hillary's 43%.

Analyzing hard data supplied by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, Gheen reports that some 333,000+ North Carolina voters cast votes in early voting through last Saturday at 1 p.m. Get this: some 63% of all votes cast in early voting were cast by women; 44% of early voters were black, a performance that runs 10% higher than normal.

Gheen's prediction that Obama wins North Carolina easily is based on the following assumptions:
1. Obama receives 90% of all Black votes

2. The small block of Asian voters breaks 60% to Clinton

3. American Indian/Native Alaskans break for Clinton with 55%

4. Clinton receives 70% of all White voters

5. Undesignated voters break 55% to Clinton

We're not sure what Gheen means by "Undesignated voters." Apparently, he is not referring to Unaffiliated voters, because later in his e-mail he says:
The analysis above includes ONLY Democrats early voting. The composition does not include Unaffiliated voters who may choose to vote in the Democratic Primary in NC. Some 61,000 Unaffiliated voters requested a ballot for the Democratic Primary. Sen. Obama has generally performed better with Unaffiliated voters across the US than Sen. Clinton.

Despite whether his crystal ball is clouded or not, Gheen's numbers and projections make for interesting eve-of-the-primary reading.

A Bridge Too Far?

"If it goes all the way to Denver, I don't think it would be bad for the party."

- Gov. Mike Easley, on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" (quoted in Under the Dome -- scroll to the bottom)

Spoken like a man who endorsed the woman who apparently intends to restage The Siege of Corinth, with plenty of blood.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

ASU and an Ex-President

Faculty members at Appalachian State University, and some astute students too, were asking questions last week that are both pertinent and ... no surprise here ... unanswered by the ASU administration. As we have learned over many months now, the current leaders of that institution are not in the habit of stooping to answer questions from mere mortals.

1. The visit of ex-President Bill Clinton to the ASU campus last week went unacknowledged on the ASU website and unannounced on the general-alert e-mail system.

2. A large and offensive photographic display, featuring billboard-size blowups of aborted fetuses, attempting to equate abortion with genocide was announced (and some say promoted) through the ASU e-mail server to all subscribers.

3. When some asked administration officials about this puzzling disparity, the only official response we've seen said it would be inappropriate for the university to use the e-mail system to "promote a political candidate." Apparently, an announcement that an ex-President of the United States would be visiting campus would constitute promotion of a political candidate, while promotion of an anti-abortion display would not be a political statement. Well, okay then.

4. What do you call an institution that couldn't find its ass with both hands and a head-start?

5. Graduating editor of The Appalachian newspaper, Clair Baxter, perhaps feeling finally beyond the range of institutional recrimination, was courageous enough to ask some highly pertinent questions and, wisely, did not tarry for answers:
A club can sponsor a potentially offensive “Genocide Awareness” group to come fill the center of campus with billboards of unborn children while our faculty members are being asked to remove books and posters from their office walls for fear they may offend one student somewhere down the road.

Is there a double standard here?

Do we believe in free speech or not?

I think as a university we need to do some self-reflection.

Not What Limbaugh Had in Mind

Shirley Morgan, an Indiana Republican from a "staunch Republican family," who's voted Republican in every presidential election since she was old enough to vote for Richard Nixon in 1972 ... is campaigning in her heavily Republican suburb of Indianapolis for ... Barack Obama.

She's profiled, along with other party-switching Republicans, in Saturday's NewYorkTimes.

Rush Limbaugh's daily radio stumping for Hillary, to throw a monkey-wrench into any projected Democratic sweep in November, worries some people, but not me.

Republican voters interviewed for the Times article "said that Mr. Limbaugh was not a factor in their decision to vote in the Democratic primary, and that it was the issues that propelled them."

Limbaugh's urging of Republicans to vote for Hillary is purely an exercise in the negative, and though there are no doubt some handful of dark personalities who might vote in a Democratic primary and chuckle about the havoc they're causing, I don't think most people are motivated to throw away their vote out of pure hostility. Not this year anyway.

Anyway, eventually, when this looong primary season is over for the Democrats, the spotlight is going to shift back to John McCain and what sort of mortal he is and what sort of president he'll make. Limbaugh would clearly like to keep the spotlight on Clinton and off those other age spots.


We finally climbed out of the hole we fell into. While we were down there in the dark, the world continued whirling. And what a world it is, too!

1. Some parents (and we assume their children, though that's not certain) vehemently opposed the Day of Silence at the local high school, not because they're afraid their kids will turn G.A.Y. but because they're afraid their kids might actually be K.I.N.D. to a gay ("Opposing Day of Silence"). These people will not be voting for Obama.

2. Mighty prayers were prayed in an effort to intimidate the Boone Town Council, not because the Council has the power to legislate liquor by the drink in Boone but because the Council has the power to let the voters of Boone vote on that decision. Mighty BLOODY prayers, at that. "Blood will be on your hands," they exhorted. We'll go ahead and take this bet: that these were not preachers who likewise cared about blood on leaders' hands when it came to Iraq (but let's not confuse the truly earth-shattering -- the privilege to VOTE for/against booze -- with the merely trivial -- preemptive warfare). The prominent leader of the political action committee, Citizens for Change, is a prominent leader of the No Booze in Boone group (let's go ahead and call it "Dry Aggression"). Incidentally, if the citizens are given the right to vote, I'll be voting "no," while reflecting on the ineffable mysteries of both prayer and the dangerous freedoms of democracy.

3. Gov. Mike Easley has made a kind of monument of himself for NOT attending North Carolina Democratic Party activities, for dissing party leaders, and for generally sticking his thumb in the pie. So he attends and speaks at Friday night's big Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Raleigh (with the biggest attendance in history) at the Dorton Arena and is BOOED by the crowd. Not just booed but greeted by "lusty boos" that continued while he spoke (according to Rob Christensen). Some thought the booing was because of Easley's endorsement of Hillary Clinton earlier in the week. More likely, it was cumulative booing for 7+ years of frustration. Personally, I'd like to believe that a few of those party razzberries referenced the N.C. lottery, that great improvement to state government engineered by The Guv, but maybe it was the shoes.