Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Buzz in Boone

None of the local high-fiving about the rehiring of Buzz Peterson as ASU's basketball coach has a peep about what was rumored on April 16 in the Charlotte Observer: "The source said Peterson had been strongly interested in the Appalachian position, but logistics of the move to Boone would be difficult for him, including disposing of his Charlotte-area home in a poor real estate market. Appalachian State is planning to return with a sweetened offer that might include help with disposing of Peterson's home."

That is, buying Peterson's home for $1 million plus? (Some are saying $1.5 mil; others, $1.2 mil.)

Apparently, with Big Banking executives fleeing the Queen City as fast as they can buy bus tickets, million-dollar mansions are just not that easy to unload. Except to regional universities with a Big Sports fetish.

Spokespeople for ASU have been quite vocal in claiming that Peterson's salary will actually be less than former coach Moore's, but that looks like a new species of buffalo dust, since none of this accounting has much to do with perks and "deal sweeteners" and house buyouts.

Ironically, on the same day that this news bubbled up, Chancellor Peacock was writing to retired faculty and staff, telling them that the annual luncheon honoring their years of faithful service has been canceled ... in the interest of budgetary prudence.

Madam Foxx Gives Matthew Shepherd the Stinkeye

In her lust for the approbation of the extreme conservatives in The Party of Torture, Virginia Foxx has indeed arrived at a plateau of assholery that few would have dared predict even last November when she was reelected to her third term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

She calls the luring and torture of Matthew Shepherd in 1998 a "hoax" perpetrated by The Gay Cabal in order to pass hate crimes legislation. Incidentally, her argument lost in the House of Representatives by a vote of 249-175 yesterday.

But by sundown Virginia Foxx got her fame, in spades. I was away from the InnerTubes yesterday, but by the time I got home last night I had a dozen or more forwards of the tape of The Madam saying those hateful words. Oh, here's just one link, if you simply MUST watch this particular witch casting her spell.

The Madam has always depended on the voters of the Fifth District either (a) to agree completely with her extremism or (b) to be totally ignorant of whatever arms-akimbo dance she's doing on any given day in Washington, D.C. My God, the 5th Dist. of N.C. has earned the ridicule of the world.

The Madam has now said her description of Matthew Shepherd's notoriety as a "hoax" was a poor choice of words. What she meant to say is that it was a joke, an escapade, a bit of horseplay, a prank, and a huge shaggy-dog story.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bold Move, But Now He's Our Problem

And problem he WILL be. Though perhaps a few degrees less conservative than Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Listening first to Limbaugh and then to Hannity this afternoon on the Arlen Specter party-switch, the gasbags are too too busy crowing "good riddance to bad rubbish" to reflect openly about the huge bag of crap the Republican Party is now left holding ... with the potential now clinched for filibuster-proof Senate votes. Sen. Olympia Snowe certainly gets it.

Unless Specter turns out to be as big a jerk in the Democratic Party as he was a huge waffler in the Republican. He ain't a leader, that's for sure.

But this rumor that Specter got some sort of deal with Pennsylvania Democratic big-wigs to head off major Democratic primary opposition next year is most surprising. Oh, he'll have a primary in the Democratic Party, no doubt, but this source suggests it won't be from any viable candidate.

And meanwhile he'll be facing a hard-right Republican in November 2010. Specter's odds for remaining in the Senate for another six years just improved immensely. Plus he has an opportunity of becoming a hero to Democrats (and the devil incarnate to you know who).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Being Embarrassed in Public for Profit

That Ted Haggard! Disgraced out of his Colorado mega-church after hiring a male prostitute for sex&drugs, he'll now be embarrassed in public at a church near you if the price is right.

Elevation Church in Charlotte paid Haggard big bucks yesterday -- the pastor says the fee he paid "wasn't huge and it wasn't small. We think it was fair" -- to appear before a crowd of 1,200 church-goers and say he's "so ashamed and so deeply embarrassed" about what he did that he now can't stop talking about it.

Oh, we used to flock to what we called "the switchblade Gospel" peddlars when we were teenagers. There'd be this evangelist show up at the local Baptist church who had wild tales to tell about when he was a dope-addict on the streets of AnyBigCity, U.S.A. We ate it up, the confessions of technicolor sin under cover of "resurrection."

They felt that Haggard's tale was so dangerous -- hence, irresistible -- at Elevation Church in Charlotte that they posted signs outside that children 10 and under should not enter. However, 11-year-olds were perfectly all right to hear about gay prostitution under the influence of drugs.

And only incidentally, we're sure, was Haggard also hawking "his fledgling life insurance and debt-reduction businesses."

Put this guy in charge of the TARP funds! He has just the right mix of shameless self-promotion under the guise of shame, and a smashing business model!

Astroturfing at UNC-Chapel Hill

Scharrison does some welcome digging into the puppet-strings controlling the "Youth for Western Civilization," the student group that invited Tom Tancredo to the UNC campus, which sparked the protest, which led to a bubbling cauldron and embarrassment all around.

And incidentally (from Wikipedia): "Astroturfing is a word in American English describing formal political, advertising, or public relations campaigns seeking to create the impression of being spontaneous 'grassroots' behavior, hence the reference to the artificial grass, AstroTurf."
We had our doubts about the veracity of this photograph, but we're beginning to believe it's not a PhotoShopped composite. Someone pointed us to it in an eBay listing, which, if you don't hurry, may not be there when you get around to looking, since it's a "buy it now."

From the eBay listing, here's the discussion leading up to this photo:
According to New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza, "Before [Obama] went off [to Harvard], he said to some of his community-organizing buddies he needed that credential, that Harvard Law degree, to access the corridors of power and to have that credential because he wasn't going to get that as a community organizer in Chicago." Yet once there, classmates didn't remember him as especially interested in politics. That changed in February, 1990 when he was elected as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. But perhaps an equally defining, and less recognized moment in Obama's political awakening was watching Gantt's campaign unfold that year as he challenged Helms in the most high-profile U.S. Senate campaign of 1990.

Barack Obama, at his fellow HLS student Bradford Berenson's apartment, where he watched the 1990 mid-term election returns. (New York Times)

What's somewhat confusing is that this photo clearly shows the 1990-vintage Harvey Gantt campaign T-shirt, while the eBay listing is clearly for a 1996 campaign poster of Gantt's second run against Jesse Helms.

Ah, the memories!

Friday, April 24, 2009

When You're Losing the Argument, Confuse the Issue

Some of the biggest (richest) global-climate-change deniers also happen to be the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases -- the oil, coal, and automobile industries. We now know that these industries were being told by their own scientists that "the scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied."

The oil, coal, and automobile industries did not just ignore what their own scientists were saying. They lied about it. Through an industry-funded "front" calling itself the Global Climate Coalition, the Dirty Air People conducted a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign challenging the scientific merits of climate change, greenhouse gases, and their own culpability in exacerbating the problems. Among the hungry fish who swallowed that bait were umpteen conservative "pundits."

"By questioning the science on global warming ... groups like the Global Climate Coalition were able to sow enough doubt to blunt public concern about a consequential issue and delay government action."

The handmaidens to this policy of "confuse the issue and delay reform" were the news media, particularly TV news and especially cable news, where supposedly "neutral coverage" demands the 50-50 approach. If you have two scientists saying global warming cannot be denied, then you must put on two "scientists" saying it's all a crock.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NC Republicans Worrying About Libertarians

Should North Carolina Republicans welcome Libertarians and ally with them? That was the deep topic yesterday at It's certainly a yawning chasm of possibility, somewhat in the realm of how many free marketeers can dance on the head of a pin, and poster "Eagle Forum in NC" works up a good deal of angst contemplating a Republican Party in which Libertarians, with their dope smokin' laxity toward abortion and gay marriage, might take over.

Conclusion: Libertarians telling Republicans what to think is a plot hatched at Daily Kos!

The Mayor and the Republican Brand

The Republican mayor of Hendersonville, Greg Newman, who recently heard both N.C. senators speak in his city, thinks the Republican Party is being too negative: "The Republican brand must remain positive, Newman said, adding the party must give reasonable alternatives to Democratic policies.

"I believe Americans will still look to the Republican Party to champion values," he said.

Right now, Mr. Mayor, we're watching the Republican Party champion torture in every media outlet, on every TV channel, on every Republican blog. Not only defend torture but actually advocate for ignorance. Peggy Noonan's "some of life has to be mysterious" attitude would fit well into the platform of the Know Nothing party of the 1840s.

Dick Cheney has handed the Republican Party shovels and commanded that they keep digging. Amazingly, they're following orders.

What Is Virginia Foxx Obsessed With?

Under the Dome, via the Sunlight Foundation, reveals the word that Virginia Foxx uses more than any other. In fact, she uses the word more than any other member of the North Carolina delegation in Congress.

Bless her heart.

The Greening of the Baptists

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is hosting a one-day environmental seminar tomorrow in Wake Forest, the first such gesture of detente toward tree-huggers in Southern Baptist history (or something).

Lest anyone gets the idea that the officials at the Southern Baptist seminary have gone all gay over environmental sensitivity, Southeastern President Danny Akin quickly said, "We're not jumping on the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Al Gore bandwagon. We're using a more cautious, responsible approach."

"More cautious." We got that. But beware. We hear that Druid impulses are awfully hard to keep a lid on, once they get some air.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We knew that Lynndie England didn't think this wretched stuff up on her own. We knew it all along. Now there's proof that the author was Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld is currently sipping juleps on his plantation on the Maryland eastern shore. England was sentenced to three years in a military prison and a dishonorable discharge.

Also prosecuted at Abu Ghraib for carrying out Mr. Rumsfeld's 15 "techniques" of interrogation were Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, Specialist Charles Graner, Sergeant Javal Davis, Specialist Megan Ambuhl, Specialist Sabrina Harman, and Private Jeremy Sivits. They didn't know who the author of the 15 approved techniques were. They didn't know that the policy had circulated first to Guantánamo and then to Afghanistan and finally through an interrogation officer at the Abu Ghraib prison. Somewhere along the line, an enterprising officer had removed the Rumsfeld letterhead, his "fingerprints."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gingrich Disses Palin But Sticks to Party Line on Gay Marriage

Did you know that Newt Gingrich recently converted to Catholicism, which as a religion has been known to frown on serial monogamy?

Newtie gives an interview to Christianity Today in which he takes the expected hard line against gays and abortion but can't seem to remember who Sarah Palin was, and when prompted, refuses to name Sarah as one of the presidential front-runners in 2012.

The thrice-married Gingrich also marvels about how anti-family the Democratic party supposedly is, having apparently memorized "The Works of the Pharisees" in his catechism. So he has determined to speak as a Pharisee and pray in the open as a Pharisee.

First, We'll Count the Chaste, and Then We'll Count the Bodies

In the debate in the N.C. General Assembly on whether parents of high school kids should get the option of putting Sally & Joe into "comprehensive sex ed" classes or into "abstinence only" classes or into study hall, where there'll be no info whatsoever about anything (the Healthy Youth Act, H88, would establish that parental option), some Republican members couldn't tolerate the thought of free choice:
Guilford Republican John Blust accused his fellow House members of living "on Fantasy Island…with Tattoo and Da Plane," for thinking more information would lead to less sexual activity. But supporters say the educational change is less focused on curbing teens' sexual activity (which they're obviously engaging in, anyway) than on making sure they don't get pregnant or ill as a result of it. (Via Laura Leslie at Isaac Hunter's Tavern)

While you absorb the political outlook that would sacrifice young lives for the sake of theology, Rep. Mark Hilton (R-Catawba) "argued the only people who want comprehensive sex ed are liberal fringe groups."

This is part of the reason the Republican Party is so robust and successful right now.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dick Burr a Goner?

A quite knowledgeable political insider using the name "Gosh" has posted an astute assessment of Sen. Dick Burr's prospects for reelection at "Under the Dome" (under a thread about the probability that Roy Cooper will run):
Every state has and needs a Star Senator and a Wonk Senator. The Star's job is to raise money, win, and protect the wonk that actually does stuff. Our Star [Liddy] Dole lost, and in the minority aftermath, Burr not only didn't shine as a star but said no a lot to wonk stuff that would make him more effective in order to fill Dole's void. Burr trying to be it all, is equivalent to Burr doing nothing, or everything half-bottomed.

Burr was still learning to be a Junior Senator when his safety net Dole got tossed by 10 points.

Now he's less than nothing, and bad at even that. Burr's neither a star nor a wonk and solidly outclassed by even more Junior members now that he's in the minority.

All partisanship aside, Burr contributes nothing to North Carolina now, and it's not his fault entirely. He just can't. He's already lost. Blame Dole, McCain, Palin, whomever you like. The guy just has no independent presence to break free from the stigma of his own party's failures. He simply can't please the wingnuts and mainstream constituents at the same time, and he's trying to do both.

What the DC Republicans need to determine is if Burr's worth spending $20, $30, $40 million or more to prop up and even make it a close race even though he's still a goner. For the history books, they passed on [Robin] Hayes and were right.

Still, it's a hard decision to make since the GOP has scant places left to go or spend money. So I still predict NC to be the hottest, most expensive Senate race in America in 2010. But only because the GOP giving up and going home is no longer an option. Homeless parties have no place to go.

Meghan McCain, Philosopher

At the same Log Cabin Republican coven that Steve Schmidt went rogue at Friday (see last post below), John McCain's daughter Meghan used the words "Republican" and "scared shitless" in the same sentence and opined:
"There are those who think we can win the White House and Congress back by being 'more' conservative. Worse, there are those who think we can win by changing nothing at all about what our party has become. They just want to wait for the other side to be perceived as worse than us. I think we're seeing a war brewing in the Republican Party. But it is not between us and Democrats. It is not between us and liberals. It is between the future and the past."

She thinks the new Republican twittering class (Virginia Foxx, you're fingered! -- is a joke:
"Simply embracing technology isn't going to fix our problem. Republicans using Twitter and Facebook isn't going to miraculously make people think we're cool again. Breaking free from obsolete positions and providing real solutions that don't divide our nation further will. That's why some in our party are scared. They sense the world around them is changing, and they are unable to take the risk to jump free of what's keeping our party down."

Oh my!

Thus was it written, "And the sorority girl shall lead them."

Who Is Steve Schmidt and Why Is He Saying Those Things About the GOP?

Steve Schmidt's speech to the Log Cabin (gay) Republicans Friday makes for very interesting reading, and though most people are likely to highlight his advice for the Republicans to get over their opposition to gay marriage, he says a great deal else about the imminent death of the GOP that might give loyal Republicans, not to mention activist Democrats, some pause.

Steve Schmidt's bona fides: He was an acolyte of Karl Rove, a member of the "senior strategic planning group" in the George W. Bush White House, and oversaw the Bush reelection "war room" in 2004. Then he became John McCain's senior day-to-day message manager during last year's disaster.

He told the Log Cabin Republicans on Friday that the Republican Party is shrinking. Most alarming, it's shrinking among voters under the age of 30 and among Hispanic voters. If John McCain had not been on the ballot, he's convinced that the Democrats would have won Arizona last year.

On the issue of gay marriage: " cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un-American or threatens the rights of others. On the contrary, it seems to me that denying two consenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union that is protected and respected by the state denies them two of the most basic natural rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence -- liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, I believe, gives the argument of same sex marriage proponents its moral force."

Sooner or later, Schmidt believes, the Republican Party will be forced to acknowledge the moral rightness of that argument. Sooner would definitely be better, in his view, for the political health of his party. Later, though foreordained, will likely be too late.

And get this: Schmidt believes that a group's notion of the revealed word of God is not a good basis for a political party's platform: "If you put public policy issues to a religious test you risk becoming a religious party, and in a free country, a political party cannot remain viable in the long term if it is seen as sectarian."

Schmidt was making sense. Can we rest secure in our confidence that the leaders of the Republican Party will not listen?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ah, Texas

Reader Jeff sent me this essay by James Moore about the current movement toward secession in Texas, a flirtation with treason led by that state's governor (and towering cathedral of sapience), Rick Perry.

James Moore is one of our favorite Texas authors, now that Molly Ivins is no more with us. He co-authored "Bush's Brain" about that other towering monument of self-aggrandisement, Karl Rove. It was in that book that I learned that Karl Rove and I shared Salt Lake City at the same time, he an aspiring Young Republican at Highland High School while I was studying Milton and English revolutionaries at the University of Utah. We turned out differently. He's rich.

Moore's little essay about some recent history of Texas separationists and the current Republican psychosis (it's called "defeat," guys) flooded me with my own memories of growing up in the Lone Star State, where most male babies seem to be born with a swagger and an innate drive to over-compensate.

Texans will talk to complete strangers. They almost prefer strangers, especially when delivering proclamations of intolerance. I was catching a plane in Houston once, and a gentleman in regulation Texas-wear -- a big white cowboy hat, boots, leather jacket (I'm NOT making this up) -- turned to me from the next seat over, asked, "Where bound?" I replied, "Washington, D.C." He snorted. "Whole place needs to be nuked," he said, and though the extravagance of that prescription seemed to invite laughter, you could tell from the steeliness of his gaze and the total lack of humor in his affect, that he totally and completely meant it.

For the next 30 minutes and until my flight was called, thankfully, he outlined a typical Texan's beef not just with the national government but pretty much with all government. I didn't argue with him. I mainly nodded and said "That so?" the way you'd converse with a meth addict playing with a gun.

In the household I grew up in, my father made fun of Texas dudes like that one, though he worked for them all his life, guys with big booming voices and big ideas and big egos. My father knew they called the shots, but they were just larger-than-usual pissants when the door was closed.

My political science teacher while I was still in Texas once told me, when the topic turned to Lyndon Baines Johnson and his whole history of chicanery, which was well known in Texas, "Son, given the choice between an outright crook and a complete idiot, Texans will always choose the crook."

In the case of Rick Perry, they apparently went with the idiot, and a larger-than-usual pissant.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A.G. Cooper Announcing Against Burr by End of Month?

Senate Guru puts two and two together and comes up with heavy odds that N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper will announce his candidacy by the end of this month for Dick Burr's Senate seat.

That Senate race will be at the head of our N.C. ballots in 2010, and we could not do better than have Roy Cooper leading the slate.

Where Was Madam Foxx on Teabag Day?

Karl Rove, that master mind of the 2006 and 2008 electoral repudiation of Republican policies, sez, "Politicians ignore [tea parties] at their peril."

Which raises a somewhat interesting question: Where was 5th District Representative Virginia Foxx? So many 5th District tea parties to choose from, yet she didn't show up for any of them? At least, we can't find her mentioned in any of the press coverage and after scouring local newspapers in the 5th Dist.

The Madam generally lets us know her every move on Twitter (example: "Driving home from Charlotte airport"), but other than pointing out how pious she was on Good Friday, she's been totally silent since April 9, and really eerily silent about any tea partying, and, of course, strangely absent.

She had the whole week off, too, so we know she wasn't required to be in Washington, D.C.

Keeping your distance, eh, Madam, from the wildly illogical? (It's the first time and raises all sorts of questions.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dick Burr, Banking Genius

"Tonight, I want you to go to the ATM machine, and I want you to draw out everything it will let you take. And I want you to tomorrow, and I want you to go Sunday," Senator Dick Burr told his wife Brooke following a briefing on the looming banking crisis by the Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson last year. "I was convinced on Friday night that if you put a plastic card in an ATM machine the last thing you were going to get was cash."

After the senator's rather revealing confession made a national ripple yesterday, Burr's spokesman tried to damp down the amazement: "The senator is simply trying to express what was on his mind as Congress was attempting to respond to the financial crisis last fall."

What was clearly on his mind was grabbing all the cash he could before the rest of the country found out what he'd been told as a privileged individual who gets briefings from the Treasury Secretary.

A panicky senator with little to no understanding of the U.S. banking system, combined with the "me first" attitude of your run-of-the-mill survivalist ... that's our North Carolina boy!

Dear Teabaggers

Now that you've launched your super-colossal, mega-splendiferous revolution against Socialism, we have a simple yet immediately effective way to begin ridding yourselves of all Socialistic taint:

Talk your parents and your grandparents into cutting up their Medicare cards. You should do that too, if you're old enough to have one. Ain't nuttin' but Socialism! And demand that your parents and your grandparents refuse their Social Security checks. Pack 'em up with a couple of those teabags and mail 'em back to the government. Pure Socialism is all those checks are. And if you're a university student, you really need to look deeply into the financial aid you're receiving. Most of it comes from the government, and why would you want to continue to perpetuate the evil reach of government? Why?

Otherwise, you might just look like hypocrites.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bad Show

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill "Welcome Wagon" lost all its wheels last night when former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo attempted to speak in a university classroom and was silenced by protesters and essentially run out of the building. A window was broken. Pepper spray was used by the campus police. Bad, bad scene.

There's finger-wagging going on this morning at that campus, and many people obviously need to feel ashamed. That was not the way to respond to a different opinion.

Book Reports, Cont.

Inadvertently left out of the last post below...

Sitting Bull, by Bill Yenne. The only biography of the great Hunkpapa (Lakota) Sioux medicine man I've ever read and not a book to make your heart swell with pride about the conquest of the Plains by European re-settlers. Sitting Bull got tagged by the white press at the time as the chief who defeated Custer at Little Big Horn. Sitting Bull was certainly there, but he was not one of the leading Sioux warriors. He was busy, rather, trying to get the women and children of his particular band to safe ground. He never wanted to "westernize" after the final defeat of the Sioux, which pretty much sealed his death sentence. He took his band into Canada to escape American domination, but the Canadians didn't want him. He was a tough negotiator for Indian rights, even going to Washington, D.C., to meet with the president. But once gold was discovered in the Black Hills, all treaties were moot, and he watched his people squeezed onto smaller and smaller reservations and reduced to agricultural subsistence. The almost complete extermination of the great buffalo herds certainly accelerated the disappearance of an entire native nomadic culture.

Sitting Bull was essentially assassinated by westernized Sioux who had signed on with the Americans as reservation police. The white American head of the Standing Rock Reservation harbored ill will for Sitting Bull and blamed him for the Ghost Dance movement, which was threatening to revive Sioux resistance to white domination. It seems quite clear that Sitting Bull was not promoting the Ghost Dance. But it's also clear that he resisted his arrest by Bull Head, Red Tomahawk, and the other Sioux sell-outs, giving them the excuse they were looking for to shoot him in the head.

The animus of the Americans toward Indian culture is highlighted by the way Sitting Bull's body was treated after his murder: he was quickly buried in an unmarked spot with no ceremony, no Indian witnesses, and his body covered with quicklime. The Americans wanted not a trace of him left.

NOTE: My favorite reading is history and biography, so you should see the stack of fat books that are still ahead of me for the summer. Among them: Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, which everyone else has already read, and the new biography of Andrew Jackson by Jon Meacham, American Lion.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Book Reports

Been reading a fair amount since Christmas, mainly a stack of good hardbacks that Santa Claus gifted me with. Here's a progress report:

The Hemingses of Monticello: An America Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed. I'm something of a Thomas Jefferson freak, so this massively researched history of the black slave Elizabeth Hemings and her many children, including most especially Jefferson's famous "concubine" Sally Hemings, was the first big thick book I picked up, and I devoured it like a hungry man eats a cold chicken sandwich. It's dense with historical and genealogical evidence but well worth the effort. I had already thought that Thomas Jefferson could not become more complicated, more compromised, more ... perversely human. But this book proved me wrong. The inter-racial shenanigans of slave-owning white Virginians, Jefferson most certainly included, have rarely been laid so bare for modern eyes. Seems certain that Jefferson did not start his decades-long affair with Sally Hemings until his wife Martha Wayles died. But get this: Martha Wayles' own father had originally owned Sally's slave mother Elizabeth Hemings, on whom he begat Sally. So the slave Sally Hemings and Jefferson's own wife Martha were in reality half-sisters. It gets even creepier than that. A man whose vision of democracy so informed the American Revolution also owned, in the most literal sense imaginable, several of his own children.

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, by David Hajdu. With every current Hollywood blockbuster seemingly based on a comic book -- or "graphic novel," as they now prefer to be called -- today's teenager could be forgiven for not knowing that five and six decades ago comic books were a major target for government censorship and public extermination by the conservative forces of that day (which weren't in fact much different from the conservative forces of our day; only the primary targets have changed). Since I lived through my own scary purges, when my mother came up out of the depths of my cluttered closet with a fistful of my own precious comic-book contraband -- Weird Tales and Superman and Amazing Mysteries -- and burned them all before my eyes as the works of Satan, I could relate personally to this book's pop culture history. The lesson: public hysteria in America was (and still is) a powerful force to be reckoned with.

The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman's Fight to Save the World's Most Beautiful Bird, by Bruce Barcott. Great introduction to the Central American nation of Belize, its endangered native species, and the bravery of a handful of conservation activists who are willing to stand up against the awful power of government and mega-corporations. Haven't quite finished this book, but so far it doesn't look promising for the little guys.

Monday, April 13, 2009

More Foxx Bilge

One of Madam Virginia Foxx's favorite myths is that North Carolina has the highest corporate taxes "in the Southeast." She repeated the lie to the Jefferson Post last week.

Actually, researchers at the Big 8 accounting firm of Ernst & Young reported in February that North Carolina has the LOWEST business tax burden in the U.S. According to the report total state and local taxes paid by businesses in North Carolina consume fully 3.6% of the Gross State Product. That is the LOWEST percentage of any state in the country. (Discussion & links here)

And, oh yeah, there's nothing good about President Obama's economic policies, and nothing he is trying will work.

Sez the woman who's been judged harmful to children.

No, the Other ASU

Thanks to Bro Doc for pointing us to this item about Arizona State University's decision not to award President Obama an honorary degree when he speaks at the university's commencement ceremonies next month, because "his body of work is yet to come."

According to an editorial which promptly appeared in the East Valley Tribune, a local Phoenix paper, ASU has a curious mote in its eye about the unworthiness of the president, since the university felt obliged to give Barry Goldwater his honorary degree in May 1961, "three years before his Republican nomination for president and only eight years into his three decades as a U.S. senator. Sandra Day O'Connor was similarly recognized just three years into her 25 years on the U.S. Supreme Court."

Not that ANY honorary degree from ANY of our high-falutin' institutions of academia will get you a discount on a quadruple skinny latte in any coffee house in the land. Apparently, it's the principle of the thing.

At least the Guardians of Honor Worthiness at ASU did not deem the president unfit to be around children, unlike the Mount Airy Times in its assessment of Madam Virginia Foxx.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Virginia Foxx Is a Dick

Fifth District Congresswoman Virginia Foxx never passes up a chance to bestow her extreme conservative dogma on a captive audience of school kids. She's done it to grade school children, so she was certainly going to do it to high school kids marched into the cafeteria to hear her at North Surry High School last Wednesday. She spewed her bullshit about government. She spewed her bullshit about Democrats. She spewed her bullshit about Barack Obama. But the topic she spewed on that got up the ire of the editor at the Mount Airy News was tobacco regulation:
Speaking to students at North Surry High School Foxx assailed government attempts to regulate and tax tobacco, saying that is no different than if the government were to regulate and tax Mountain Dew.

Let us repeat that: Foxx, a one-time educator who is now supposedly representing the state's fifth congressional district's interest in Washington, stood in front of a room full of teenagers and essentially said tobacco use was no different than drinking Mountain Dew.

We cannot think of a more inappropriate, indefensible, irresponsible comment, especially given her audience.

Harsh words, coming from a local newspaper that supported The Madam's election and reelection.

This was the editorial's lead paragraph:
In the world according to N.C. Fifth District Virginia Foxx, seatbelts and airbags would not be required on vehicles, speed limits would be a thing of the past, it would be OK for teens to purchase alcohol, no one working around asbestos and similar materials would be required to wear protective breathing masks, and ... the list could go on endlessly.

And the editorial concluded:
The only good thing we can say is that we're glad Foxx is no longer an educator, because we would not want someone like this addressing the county's youth every day.

And until she issues a genuine apology and can convince the public she doesn't really believe this, we wonder if it is appropriate for local school systems to allow her to address students again.

Best not to hold your breath for that apology.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

We'll Be Going to Bishopville, S.C.

We just watched the most inspiring, the most uplifting, the most beautiful documentary film about an unassuming self-educated man in the above-named town who over several decades has created the most amazing topiary garden on three acres of red clay, using mainly discarded plants thrown away by a local nursery, a man with the unlikely and wholly unforgettable name of Pearl Fryar, a man who's been celebrated now as an original sculptural artist with a generous and compelling vision and a movie to call his own: "A Man Named Pearl."

Five minutes in and we both looked at each other: "This is a place we've got to go!" So ... a pilgrimage to South Carolina will happen, probably next month. You take I-77 south to Columbia and turn left, the only direction I like to turn in South Carolina.

See what another avid gardener had to say about the place, with many photographs.

Dick Burr Tries to Turn Down the Heat

After putting a hold on the confirmation of Tammy Duckworth, an injured Iraq war helicopter pilot whom Obama wants as an assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and never giving a substantive reason why, except that it pleased him to delay her confirmation, Sen. Richard Burr has suddenly relented, saying just as inexplicably that he's now satisfied that Major Duckworth can proceed to a confirmation vote.

Might Burr's abrupt about-face have anything to do with the embarrassing publicity he suffered by inflicting his pettiness on a woman whose qualifications were summed up by Rachel Maddow: "...a decorated helicopter pilot, double amputee, experienced veterans advocate, supported by all the veterans service organizations, and nationally known for her work"?

We assume so.

It's one thing being a big jerk in the cloisters of Washington, D.C., where the home folks don't see your jerkiness. But when it leaks out into the public bloodstream ... well, now, that's another matter.

Same with Madam Virginia Foxx, who is currently rising in the Republican Congressional ranks by empowering her Inner Asshole ... apparently on the belief that her Fifth District home folks don't actually KNOW she's a Giant Asshole, don't stay glued to C-SPAN all day, and even if they did, they'd keep reelecting her particular breed of stink-eye until Jesse Helms arises triumphant from the dead.

Monday, April 06, 2009

That Horse Done Left the Barn

A spokeswoman for the Sarah Palin family issued a statement on Friday that the most famous pregnant teen in America, Bristol Palin, will henceforth focus on "advocating abstinence."

You absolutely, positively could NOT make this stuff up.

Conservatives Lose Struggle for Virginia GOP

The Virginia Republican Party Central Committee ousted its conservative chair on Saturday, signaling that it intends to follow the more moderate path being advocated by its probable candidate for state governor this year.

That gubernatorial candidate, Robert F. McDonnell, along with other top Republican elected officials in the state, says he wants to play down the conservative "focus on ideology and such hot-button issues as gun rights, immigration and abortion."

No, really.

The state party chair did not go easily and vowed vengeance after he was voted out. His conservative supporters screamed "mob lynching."

The ousted party chair -- his name is unimportant; he could be any one of a dozen state GOP party chairs across the nation -- had distinguished himself last year by refusing to coordinate with the less-than-pure John McCain campaign and had compared Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden. He's that kind of conservative.

But apparently, Virginia is not that kind of red state any more.

Kay Hagan's Gut

Kay Hagan's Declaration of Independence last week (as quoted by the N&O): "I'm Kay Hagan, and I vote the way I think people in North Carolina would want. But more than that, I vote according to my gut."

Prior to that, her gut was telling her to sound perhaps a little more abrupt than absolutely necessary. She told an audience of journalists at Elon that President Obama's deficit spending, as projected by the Congressional Budget Office, was "completely unsustainable and unacceptable."

We don't think that was the way the people in North Carolina would want her to speak and act. We think that was the way Sen. Evan Bayh, self-anointed leader of the Senate Blue Dogs, wanted her to speak and act.

And after all that in-yer-face-Obama talk, Hagan voted yes on final passage of the Senate version of Obama's "unsustainable and unacceptable" budget. In fact, and according to the N&O's reckoning, Hagan has voted yes on every major Obama initiative so far.

Such Evan-Bayh-courting on the one hand, and such voting on the other, might tend over time to convince some of the voters that you're basically a trifling politician.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sen. Burr Decides to Gnaw a Bone

Major Tammy Duckworth lost both legs in Iraq when the helicopter she was piloting was attacked in 2004. She ran for senator from Illinois unsuccessfully in 2006 and subsequently became head of veterans affairs for the state of Illinois. President Obama nominated her to become the assistant secretary of veterans affairs in his government, but following her hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee N.C. Sen. Dick Burr decided to be a dick. He managed to delay a vote on her confirmation because he has unspecified questions that he feels haven't been answered adequately enough.

He's playing "petty partisan games," said a spokesman for, "needling the White House for the sheer fun of it."

Rachel Maddow devoted a minute to denouncing Burr for riding the wrong high-horse.

What Dopes We Were Department

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, who'll be seeking his third term in this fall's elections, is beginning to ask rude questions of Dell Inc., which graciously accepted public subsidies a few years back from the taxpayers of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County for their plant down there ... to the tune of over $20 million. Dell stipulated that it would be employing 1,700 full-time people by October 2010.

Current problem is that Dell has been laying people off, not employing more people, and the corporate honchos apparently refuse to tell the local governments just how many people are currently working at the plant.

Joines is pissed. Or at least he's acting pissed (see upcoming reelection bid referenced above). Apparently, he's never heard of the gimme-gimme arrogance of big corporations.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

How Rare Is This?

The new chair of the Watauga County Republican Party is also a full-time Congressional staffer for Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, making close to $50,000 a year in taxpayer money as her "field representative."

Across the country, how many legislative staffers (for Members of Congress from either party) are also county chairs of their respective political parties? Would appear to raise all sorts of questions about how taxpayer money might be subsidizing partisan political activity.

Jim Deal Named to the UNC Board of Governors

Chair of the Watauga County Commission voted to the UNC Board of Governors yesterday by the NC House.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Tony di Santi Advising Hagan

Kay Hagan's high-profile advisory group for recommending presidential appointments to the federal bench in N.C. includes Watauga County attorney Tony di Santi of Blowing Rock.

Hagan's advisory group will make recommendations for appointments to vacancies among U.S. attorneys (N.C. has three), federal judgeships, and members of the Fourth Circuit of Appeals. Hagan will funnel her recommendations to President Obama, who will make the ultimate decisions for appointment. Appointments have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
I've found myself clenching up repeatedly since January 20th, wondering if this or that move by President Obama, this or that statement, this or that appointment to the cabinet, will be the ten-penny nail that seals his coffin and destroys his presidency. Sometimes I feel like frost-heaved soil, alternately thawing with the election and the Inauguration, and then freezing up again at the sight of too many Wall Street Boys in the Obama administration or too many fainting goats among the Democrats in Congress.

I'm tired of winter. I'm tired of fear. I've decided to relax and enjoy the Obama administration.

A smart man in the White House! A calm man. A thoughtful man. A man who can demand that the CEO of General Motors clean out his desk for abysmal performance, and the CEO of General Motors cleans out his desk! A man who is respected and even loved abroad, instead of a wince-inducing buffoon who bullied and blustered and proved on a daily basis that he was in way over his head. (Every time Fox News plays nostalgic TV footage of their hero, George W. Bush, Obama's ratings just go higher.)

And about those approval ratings. The newest polling shows that "the number of Americans who believe that the nation is headed in the right direction has roughly tripled since Barack Obama's election," and the American public actually seems to understand who was responsible for the economic meltdown (it ain't Obama). Despite the universal ululating of the Lilliputian Right, the Limbaugh-ettes who scream "socialism," the Dick Cheneys who intimate that our president is essentially a traitor, the Congressional Republicans who look increasingly like the flying monkeys who served the Wicked Witch of the West ... our president has the people solidly behind him and behind his agenda to change the policies of the last president.

I'm through holding my breath every time the cable-talkers tell me that Obama's presidency has failed because there's a chance that Wall Street or even Main Street is unhappy ("Morning Joe," I'm looking in your general direction). The special election yesterday in the NY-20 to fill the congressional seat vacated by Kirsten Gillibrand is, if anything and even though it isn't decided, proof that people in that Republican-leaning New York district are NOT willing to push back against the Obama administration.

If the American people cared what Congressional Republicans had to say, we would have a different situation on our hands. But the American people don't care what Congressional Republican have to say, aren't listening to them, and the more John Boehner and Mike Pence put both hands on their hips and stamp their feet, the more the American people can't stand the sight of them. (Congresswoman Virginia Foxx is now crying on cue as often as Glenn Beck, and with the same evident purpose of proving how superior her patriotism is to any Democrat's. No one cares.) We don't see any indication yet that the vast public is willing to run back into the baleful embrace of the same political/economic philosophy that landed us in this awful soup.

So I'm through with fear, through with holding my breath, through with jumping at the sound of squeaking hinges. I'm going to enjoy this moment in American history.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'll be back at my worry-beads before the sun goes down on the daffodils.