Friday, December 31, 2010

McHenry Wants to Investigate Why the Bush Admin. Didn't Bail Out Wachovia

Congressional Oompa Loompa Patrick McHenry of the NC-10 has been appointed chair of a (self-) important Congressional subcommittee to investigate the government's bank bailout, which happened, O my brethren, during the last gasps of the Bush administration.

One of the top priorities for investigation, McHenry sez, is why the Bush administration did NOT bail out Wachovia too.

McHenry's not about to lift the scummy skirts on the Bush administration's decision to give all the money to the banks. No, he wants to know why in the hell they didn't give MORE money to the banks, particularly one located in Charlotte.

Another top priority for McHenry is to "re-examine" the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill, which imposed strict new rules on the banks and which McHenry happily voted against. According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, two of McHenry's biggest donors are the political action committees of Bank of America and the American Bankers Association.

Evidently, this is what the Tea Party meant when they screamed about the bailouts -- give Wachovia some of that loot too and don't make the banks follows any rules.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Civil War Mythology and the Indoctrination of the Young

Headlines today about school history textbooks being taught in Virginia caught our eye, primarily because of the claim in those textbooks that "African Americans fought in large numbers for the South during the Civil War."

Funny claim, that. Made, obviously, to prove that slaves were really quite happy with their lot in the South, and when that way of life was threatened by the "Northern War of Aggression," they willingly picked up arms to defend Massa and the Missus against the Yankees.

I just finished reading a history of the Civil War ("The American Civil War: A Military History," by John Keegan: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009) and remembered that Keegan had some things to say about the participation of ex-slaves in the armies of the North ... and this bit following about certain proposals by some Southerners to force slaves into defending the South:
At the very end of the war, as the clouds of defeat began to gather over the Confederacy, there arose a mood even there to make good its growing shortage of manpower by enlisting slaves. The proposal to arm and train slaves as soldiers, advanced by General Patrick Cleburne of the Army of Tennessee in January 1864, found favour with many of his senior subordinates, who accepted his argument that black enlistments would greatly expand the South's fighting strength. Others, however, violently disagreed. Cleburne's proposal simply caused division and ill feeling until Jefferson Davis [president of the Confederacy] forbade its being further discussed or even mentioned. By November 1864, however, Davis called on the Confederate Congress for permission to purchase slaves to be used as military cooks and transport drivers .... [The Confederate] Congress, however, drew back ..., with the former presidential candidate Howell Cobb stating, "You cannot make soldiers of slaves or slaves of soldiers. The day you make soldiers of them is the beginning of the end of the revolution. If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong."

Take time to think about how enlisting slaves to save the institution of slavery would expose the practice to ridicule. Cobb was right. Plus the Nat Turner slave rebellion in Virginia, which preceded the Civil War by a couple of decades, could still sent a shiver of fear down the backs of many Southerners who contemplated for even a second the thought of hundreds of slaves holding guns and bayonets.

General Robert E. Lee weighed in on the issue in February 1865, just a couple of months before his forced surrender to U.S. Grant. Lee wrote a letter to a Confederate congressman in which he concluded that "if the enlistment of blacks was the only means to avert defeat, then blacks must be accepted as soldiers."

Historian Keegan:
By March 1865, the Confederate Congress officially called on slave owners to make up to a quarter of the slaves in any one state available for military service. Eventually only two companies of black soldiers were enrolled, and they had taken no part in fighting before the Union army arrived in Richmond to impose surrender.

In other words, though moves were afoot to try to enlist slave soldiers to save the Confederacy during its death throes, only about 200 were ever mustered in, and those never took part in any battle.

So much for the bogus claim that African Americans fought "in large numbers" for the South.

Southern generals were justifiably worried about what sort of fighters coerced slaves would be. Black soldiers fought very well for the Union, incidentally, but they were literally and figuratively fighting for their individual freedoms. Ultimately, between 180,000 and 200,000 black men served in the Northern armies. Twenty-three of those soldiers won the Congressional Medal of Honor before Appomattox.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Hates Dick (Burr)

A little over a year ago, on Dec. 16, 2009, during debate on the Mecklenburg County Commission over proposed domestic partner benefits for LGBT county employees and their partners, Republican Commissioner Bill James leaned over to fellow Commissioner Vilma Leake and said, "Your son was a homo, really?"

Commissioner Leake had just made emotional comments about her own son who died of AIDS.

Now Commissioner James is really, really morally outraged at fellow Republican and U.S. Senator Dick Burr, for voting to repeal "Don't Ask/Don't Tell."

We assume, also, that he won't be attending the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) convention, since that leading conservative group has invited the gay Republican group GOProud to participate.

What's becoming of the Republican Party and its confessed conservatives? Must Bill James fight this battle alone?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pointing the Finger While Deflecting the Blame

Scott Nicholson's interview with Congresswoman Virginia Foxx is fun reading (Watauga Democrat, Dec. 24, not shared on-line). In answering Nicholson's question as to why she voted against the Obama tax bill extending the Bush tax cuts, she goes wide in the casting of blame but stops short of a full accounting. Who's responsible for this bad bill?

1. the White House

2. the president

3. Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell

Where's John Boehner on Foxx's list of culprits? And the rest of the senior Republican leadership in the House, who whipped their members to vote for the bill?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Choices in Our "No Choice" World

New Republican grandees in the General Assembly, and their willing followers out in the boonies, seem not at all resigned to making citizens of North Carolina suffer. They seem eager. What does it say about a political philosophy that is positively giddy about the prospects of "austerity," when that austerity will fall disproportionately onto the heads of the poor, the disabled, the homeless, the hungry?

We happened to drive by a downtown Raleigh park yesterday morning where that city's homeless were gathering for Xmas-Day handouts. At first we thought it must be some sort of rally, there were so many people. But no ... it was a stark visual manifestation of the world the Big Banks have already wrought so that a few thousand robber barons could get fatter. Our new Republican overlords in the General Assembly intend, evidently, to make things much much worse.

An excellent editorial in the Richmond County Daily Journal pretty much summed up the ridiculousness of these leaders -- along with Guv Perdue -- in saying they have "no choice" but to make more people suffer:
...It's all quite absurd of course, that somehow the hands of our policymakers are tightly tied and that raising new revenue next year to protect public education and lessen the severity of the budget cuts is a suggestion that is unfathomable.

The comments from [incoming House Minority Leader Paul] Stam and [Speaker-to-be Thom] Tillis are especially telling. Stam admitting that the Republican budget will be unpopular seems like an admission that people don't want their child's teacher fired or services cut off to a family member with a developmental disability or mental illness.

Tillis is openly saying that suffering won't matter to the new legislative leaders because there's no room to consider it in their narrow ideological agenda marked by no new tax pledges and all sorts of hyperbolic rhetorical claims about big government and state spending.

It's not clear where [Gov. Bev] Perdue's recent no choice pandering comes from, most likely bad advice from a political consultant urging her to sound more conservative to out-Republican the Republicans with an eye toward the 2012 election. It rarely works, but it has become the safe advice to give a Democrat struggling to find their way.

But Stam and Tillis and Perdue all know they actually have many choices before them as they prepare to tackle the state's massive budget crisis. They could extend the temporary taxes passed in 2009 that would raise $1.5 billion to protect teachers' jobs and keep programs in place that help at-risk kids.

They could reform the states antiquated tax system by expanding the sales tax to include more services. That would bring in more revenue even if rates stayed the same.

They could make multistate corporations pay the taxes they owe by changing the law that allows them to play a shell game with their profits to lower their tax bill.

They could raise excise taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.

Some of these approaches are better than others as tax policy goes. But they are choices and there are plenty more....

Friday, December 24, 2010

Look for My Return, Once the Eggnog Wears Off

Happy New Year, Wake County Schools!

News hit this a.m. that the embattled Wake County school district has a new superintendent, former Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata. His hiring was apparently conducted under a cloak of secrecy by the 5-member Republican majority. The special meeting called yesterday to finalize the hiring was sprung on the Democratic minority with 48 hours notice.

Tata's background in education policy and performance seems thin. During the last phase of his time as a general with the military, he spent some time at the Broad Superintendents Academy, a Los Angeles nonprofit institute that trains former generals, CEOs, and others to lead large school systems. With that training under his belt, Tata joined the District of Columbia for an 18-month stint as an operations officer in charge of procurement and other mainly non-academic responsibilities.

A letter-writer in the N&O this a.m. suggested that if an ex-general can be trained to be a school administrator after only 10 months of "instruction," then perhaps ex-school teachers can be trained as generals in a similar period.

Tata's outspoken conservative political views might appear to be his chief attractions for the Republicans on the Wake County Board. Tata has appeared frequently on Fox News, writes political thrillers, and recently said of Sarah Palin after reading her book,
"The recurrent thought in my mind was that this woman is far more qualified to be president of the United States than the current occupant of the White House."

Whatever, Dude. If everything's going to hell, might as well take the rocket toboggan as the stairs.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Foxx Votes Against Zadroga Bill

The U.S. House passed the final compromise version of the 9/11 first responders health-care bill 206-60. Many Republican members didn't even show up for the vote, including Patrick McHenry and Walter Jones, but Congresswoman Virginia Foxx was for sure on hand to cast her usual "no" vote.

Foxx, to 9/11 first responders dealing with some of the rarest and nastiest cancers: "You have my permission to die, bee-yotches."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Choice!

A young conservative turk in the NC Republican Party considers the three men who've declared their candidacies for chair of the state party, to replace Tom Fetzer in January, and assesses them thusly:
Robin Hayes ... the former congressman defeated in 2008 by Larry Kissell, who appears to have the backing of both Fetzer and other big wigs in the party: "No. A front for the establishment and some nebulous puppet masters no one is certain of."

Tim Johnson ... former Buncombe County party chair and a bit of a fictionalist, but he also happens to be one of a handful of active conservative black Republicans in the state. Sez our young turk: "...Maybe too driven. I like Johnson. They say he has been beating the pavement for the last two years as vice chair. I tell you what concerns me. He seems wayward. He was Buncombe chair and then moved to Durham when he became state vice chair. We Tar Heels pride ourselves on our homes and our heritage. At least we use to. I know more and more people like calling North Carolina home, but I am left to wonder why Johnson left Buncombe for Durham of all places if not solely for to further a political career."

Marcus Kindley ... a flame thrower and chair of the Guilford County party: "If I had a vote and was asked to cast it right now I would vote for Kindley. I would do so with many concerns because I have seen Kindley play the role of bull in a china shop."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Net Neutrality Is at Stake

Today the Federal Communications Commission will vote on a new draft "order" (that has not been made fully public) about which all of us should be concerned. The two Republican members of the FCC say they'll vote against the new order, which according to in-the-know commentators will for the first time set up "online discrimination" aimed at privileging certain big corps like AT&T. I believe those Republican commissioners are correct in their votes. The Democratic commissioners, including Obama's appointed chair, appear to be wrong. Very wrong. (The technicalities are complicated, so you'd better be fully awake and focused before you start boning up on the issue.)

What is Net Neutrality? If you don't already know, the concept advocates for no restrictions by Internet service providers and governments on content, sites, platforms, the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and the modes of communication.

We view with alarm anything that threatens that principle. The new order proposed by the FCC chair appears to do that very thing.

In Congress, only Sen. Al Franken has been outspoken on the issue, and you might want to take a look at the warning he sends.

Because the basis for this threat appears to be another sell-out by President Obama, it is all the more credible.

The FCC passed its new "order" by a 3-2 vote (here's an assessment, for what it's worth), but this sentence leaps out at us:
The commission's order is rumored to be 90 pages or so long, but there's no public copy available as of yet.

Proposed in secrecy and passed in secrecy and now discussed in secrecy. Doesn't seem kosher.

Bears watching.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Now You Know: Next October 21st Will Be All She Wrote!

It took this woman in Raleigh painting up her white Subaru with the announcement that the end is very nigh -- and getting her picture in the paper -- that alerted us to the website where she's getting her information:

Now, just to get this straight, there are two key dates: Jesus is gonna take up into the sky all the elect (more on that below) on May 21st, 2011, and then on Oct. 21st, 2011, He's gonna crisp up all of us left-behind types.

The Elect: One has to question the sounding of a "warning," when there's not one thing that any of you sinners can do about saving yourself, because this WeCanKnow bunch believes in absolute predestination. Which is to say, your sorry ass was either "elected" or "unelected" long before your father's sperm and your mother's egg got introduced to one another.

There's not a thing you can do about it. Except maybe make a spectacle of yourself by painting up your Subaru. And speculate, of course, about whether you're one of The Elect (how would you know? A special tingling in your leg while singing "Amazing Grace"?) and about who else might be among the elect. For example, would I have to sing in the heavenly choir for eternity next to Michele Bachmann?

Dick Burr Causes Heartburn

One right-wing NC blog goes bonkers over Burr's pro-gay vote on DADT.

Best explanation (among the comments): He's a Methodist!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Another Shining Moment

The U.S. House passed the "Dream Act" on Dec. 8, 216-198, mostly along partisan lines (though some 48 blue dog Democrats voted against it). The legislation would provide legal residency to undocumented young people who graduate from high school, complete two years of college or military service and have no criminal record.

Naturally, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx voted against the bill. What you may not know is that local authorities say that a young woman who grew up on the Foxx estate might have benefitted from its provisions. The young woman's parents worked for the Foxxes. Meanwhile, she graduated from Watauga High School with honors and attempted to enroll in Caldwell Community College. She was rejected because she did not have citizenship papers.

Obviously, she needs to be punished for eternity over something she had no control over.

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Republicans -- assisted, incidentally, by NC Democratic Senator Kay Hagan -- voted not to even take up the "Dream Act."

A compilation of comment on the action taken by Senate Republicans, from this morning's gas-bag shows:
NBC's ANDREA MITCHELL: The dumbest thing that the Republicans did was the DREAM Act. … that is going to turn out to be a real setback for Republicans because these are people who wanted to serve in the military and get educated and contribute to the society.

NEWARK, NJ, MAYOR CORY BOOKER: To tell people who've been through high school, high school presidents going on to college some of the best brains who have no relation to their home country. This is crazy. It's hurting America.

GOP STRATEGIST MARK McKINNON: The Republican Party has got to recognize Hispanics are the huge growing demographic in this country .… We gotta send the right signal to Hispanics in this country in addition to the fact that it's the right policy.

FOX NEWS' JUAN WILLIAMS: The one thing that I regret … is the defeat of the DREAM Act for the immigrants and the immigrant kids. I just think, again, Republicans play politics with real lives, real people, real aspirations and they leave the immigration issue on the table when that's the real business of the American people.

Profit and Human Life

We've been following Jon Stewart's attacks on the U.S. Senate for failing to pass the 9/11 first responders health bill. His stunning show last Thursday was not the only time he's brought up Senate Republicans' hypocrisy and their failure to help the men and women who are actually and literally dying from exposure to toxic dust and other contaminants at the World Trade Center site.

What Jon Stewart did not tell us -- at least I don't recall this in any of his analysis of why Republican senators blocked the bill -- is that the proposal included paying for the health-care costs by closing certain corporate tax loopholes on foreign investments. Apparently, big business went nuts on their puppets in the Senate.

Now -- and Jon Stewart probably deserves some credit for this -- there's new hope that the bill will be resurrected with the costs shifted to "a 2 percent fee on procurement contracts for certain countries, combined with a visa fee." Whatever the hell that means.

More light is shed here.

Even Blind Pigs Occasionally Find the Acorn

The U.S. Senate yesterday voted to strike down the Pentagon ban on gays serving openly in the military, by a vote of 65-31. Eight Republicans -- including (surprise!) Richard Burr -- voted with all the Democrats. Burr had previously voted against bringing the measure up, so his switcheroo is indeed a surprise. Has he had a genuine change of heart, or is he just secretly gay? He issued a statement that scarcely clears anything up:
"Given the generational transition that has taken place in our nation, I feel that this policy is outdated and repeal is inevitable. However, I remain convinced that the timing of this change is wrong, and making such a shift in policy at a time when we have troops deployed in active combat areas does not take into consideration the seriousness of the situation on the ground."

"It's wrong, it's bad, but I'm voting for it." What's up with that?

Actually, not all the Democrats voted. Joe Manchin of West Virginia found it convenient to be elsewhere and didn't vote. So did Orrin Hatch.

This Senate vote concurred with the vote already passed in the U.S. House to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, so the law is on its way to the president for his signature.

Chamber of Commerce Pulls the Supreme Court's Strings

Headline in this a.m.'s NYTimes:
Justices Offer Receptive Ear to Business Interests

The article contains this particular factoid: in 16 cases before The Supremes for which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed briefs in support of one side, 13 of them were decided by a 5-4 majority in favor of big business interests.

One of those cases was Citizens United, which unleashed Art Pope and other corporate fat cats to buy any legislature they can personally afford.

That's only a foretaste of what The Supremes now seem poised to grant to big business. From the NYTimes research:
In a single week this month, the court heard arguments in a case brought by the [U.S.] chamber [of commerce] challenging an Arizona law that imposes penalties on companies that hire illegal workers, and it agreed to hear two cases that could reshape class-action and environmental law.

The chamber had urged the court to hear both cases. It said one of them, an enormous sex-discrimination class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart, posed "grave risks for American business." It said the other, a suit by eight states against power companies over carbon dioxide emissions, "has potentially disastrous implications for the U.S. business community."

The court's docket is studded with other important business cases as well, including ones concerning consumer class-action suits and claims of employment discrimination and securities fraud. The chamber has filed supporting briefs in all of them. In AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, for instance, the chamber urged the court to allow companies to use standard-form contracts that in essence forbid consumers who sign them from pursuing class-action suits. In Thompson v. North American Stainless, the chamber asked the court to forbid some employment discrimination claims, saying that "it costs, on average, over $120,000 just to defend a wrongful-discharge claim." Next month, the court will hear arguments in 11 cases. The chamber says it will file briefs in seven of them.

In other words, O my brethren, The Bottomline is king. Justice, fair treatment, and human rights are withering under the Roberts Court. What comes next? We know what comes next: because of the irresponsible and outright criminal behavior of the cowboys in the world banking system, the axe is about to fall on the middle and lower classes of society who will have to bear the burden of less (or actually, "none") so that the corporate kings can continue to live in the style they've created for themselves.

What has become abundantly clear is that President Obama has been captured by these business powers. His behavior in protecting the interests of Big Insurance companies during the health reform kabuki was fair warning. His complete cave on the Bush tax cuts was final proof. Add to that his decision after taking office that Bush domestic spying needed to be kept in place, and we have all the mechanisms poised to enforce the will of the rich elite and the means to squash dissent. Most of the big wigs in the national Democratic Party -- Democratic senators, we're looking particularly at you -- are also sell-outs who are absolutely terrified of being targeted for extinction. So they go along.

Which leaves us exactly where to turn? The guerrilla action of Wikileaks-type exposure of official secrets is beginning to look like our only resource in fighting the power.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Another tasty new blog has emerged in the High Country, conducted by a frequent poster on WataugaWatch, Dr. Matthew Robinson, professor of government and justice studies at Appalachian State University.

He takes his blog name from the title of his forthcoming book on the way national media plays with crime and criminals for the amusement of their sensation-addicted consumers.

Dr. Robinson, we hope that you're ready for the vandals that inhabit this neighborhood and the trolls that dwell under every bridge to the future. "Anonymous" has all the bravery and social grace that his/her name implies.

Friday, December 17, 2010


The Obama Rich People Enhancement Act of 2010 passed the U.S. House last night 277 to 148, with 112 Democrats and 36 Republicans voting "no."

Among the 36 Republicans were theatrical deficit hawks, including Virginia Foxx, given a pass by their leadership (who had brokered the deal, after all) to vote against the bill because it was assured passage ... because so many Democrats caved in to their cave-prone president.

The price tag on just some of the goodies for the uber-rich that Tea Partiers' grandchildren will be paying interest on to the Chinese government:
● The top tax rate, on taxable income above $379,150, would stay at 35 percent, instead of increasing to 39.6 percent. Cost: $186.8 billion.

● More generous itemized deductions for high-income households. Cost: $20.7 billion.

● A top capital gains tax rate of 15 percent. Cost: $25.9 billion.

● A top tax rate on dividends of 15 percent. Cost: $27.3 billion.

● A lower estate tax for the next two years, allowing couples to pass estates as large as $10 million to heirs tax-free. The balance would be taxed at 35 percent. Cost: $68.1 billion.

The filthy rich that Fox News said were on feeding tubes prolonging the appearance of life because of inheritance taxes may now commence their death-bed leave-takings. The coast is clear.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Do Tell

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx voted against the repeal of Don't Ask/Don't Tell, which passed the House yesterday 250-175. Several Republicans voted for the repeal, including David Dreier, soon to be the Republican chair of the Rules Committee (on which Madam Foxx is ever so pleased to be addressed as "Dr. Foxx"), and hyper-conservative Jeff Flake of Arizona. And Ron Paul.

NC Dems Congressman Mike McIntyre voted against the repeal, while Heath Shuler voted for it.

It's all up to the Senate now, where Reason goes to die.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Solution Desperately Seeking a Problem

The new Republican majority in the NC General Assembly say that one of their top priorities, come January, will be passing a new voter photo i.d. law that will require citizens to present valid (government-issued?) photo identification in order to vote.

According to the State Board of Elections (via Scott Mooneyham), there were a whopping 18 acts of voter fraud in the 2008 cycle -- out of 4,353,739 ballots cast. As numbers go, that one's mildly amusing, considering the Republicans' lust to throw up more stumbling blocks to voting.

Another number presents itself: The Brennen Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law estimates that 10 percent of the total U.S. population do not possess a driver's license or other photo i.d. That would mean that an estimated 700,000 North Carolinians do not possess a photo i.d. Many would be elderly. Some would be indigent. Many more would be both. A few would just be eccentric or given to certain opinions about entangling themselves with government.

Un-photo-id-ed citizens will be required under the new Republican law to register with the grid, in effect, engage the government, sign up with The Matrix -- in short, they will be required to obtain "paper" on themselves, a record with an official mug-shot. Proving what exactly? That he/she has sufficient leisure -- for one thing -- and sufficient know-how to fill out the proper forms, present the proper documentation, properly swear to this one and that one -- and pay the fees. According to Chris Kromm at the Institute of Southern Studies, in North Carolina, a first-time learner permit starts at $15. "Don't drive? A U.S. passport card starts at $55."

What was the poll tax? An economic burden that fell much more heavily on a certain class of voter. After the Civil War, when poll taxes became popular in the South, the powers-that-be clearly expected a certain class of voter NOT to pay the tax, which was okay because the participation of that class in the voting franchise was unwelcome. Simple as that.

How is a new photo i.d. not another poll tax under a new name with a whole new set of hoops?

Photo i.d. voting laws are a growing trend in states where ruling elites perceive a new threat to their power, particularly from immigrants. Indiana was one of the first, followed by Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, and others. So far the Roberts Supreme Court has ruled that at least some of these laws are constitutional.

The U.S. Supremes from the beginning of the Republic were frankly indifferent to how the individual states identified their qualified voters. At first, they had to be white property owners. Poll taxes were instituted in the South only after the 14th and 15th amendments bestowed citizenship on former slaves and their descendants. The Supremes upheld poll taxes in several important rulings, from 1898 (Williams v. Mississippi) on up through 1951 (Butler v. Thompson). It was not until 1966 -- 1966! -- that the Court finally found poll taxes a fundamentally unfair burden, in Harper v. Virginia. This latest iteration of uneven requirements on the underclass is just more of the same old b.s.

North Carolina certainly has big problems right now. The new Republican majority in the General Assembly might focus on them, rather than on the non-problems sprouting from their fears of newcomers.

Yesterday in Rowan County, new Republican Speaker of the House To Be Thom Tillis said to a roomful of Republican Party regulars: "In 2012, when you vote, I hope you won't be annoyed when they ask you for a photo ID," drawing applause from the crowd.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Senators in Opposition

Sen. Kay Hagan voted against the Obama Tax Bill yesterday ... which is to say she was one of 15 who voted against cloture on the issue. The others in opposition:
Bingaman (D-NM)
Brown (D-OH)
Coburn (R-OK)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Feingold (D-WI)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Sanders (I-VT)
Sessions (R-AL)
Udall (D-CO)
Voinovich (R-OH)

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Age Sensitive Man Gets His Groove On

John Boehner tears up on 60 Minutes while confessing what a superior human being he is.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

20 CEOs and Obama in a Room...

I saw in passing some headline this morning, "Business CEOs Will Take Obama to Woodshed Next Week" (okay, that's not an accurate memory, but that was my sense of it). I didn't take the time to go read all about it.

So I was delighted to find that a fellow blogger in Statesville had taken the time:
On Wednesday, Obama will be hosting a get together with 20 CEOs of the nation's largest multinationals where they will presumably be making their ransom demands. As seems to be usual, the President's counter demand is small.
The administration wants to persuade U.S. companies to unleash some of the $1.93 trillion in cash and other liquid assets they're hoarding in their treasuries. Cash as a share of total assets is at the highest level it's been in a half-century, the Federal Reserve said last week. Mr. Obama wants the nation's biggest companies to invest that money in expansion and new hires in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the ransom is high.
"Regulations have been a fault-line with business, so compromise on them would be a very welcome change," said Johanna Schneider, executive director of the Business Roundtable, composed of chief executives from the nation's biggest multinationals.

Compromise as a welcome change? For crying out loud, all Obama has done in two years is make concessions to this crowd, to the detriment of our nation's economic health and his own political fortunes. Needless to say, the CEOs are happy with the latest cave-in.
"The tax compromise and the Korea deal made a big difference -- there's a lot of respect, and the view that this could open the door to further compromises by the president and Congress," she said. Recent dire reports on the federal deficit also served to focus the executives on collaboration with Washington, Ms. Schneider said.

I don't expect us little people will get much out of it, with this as the meeting agenda.

Among the topics will be deficit reduction, an overhaul of the tax code, government regulation, export promotion, public-private investments in areas like technology and clean energy, and efforts to improve education and job skills, Ms. Psaki said. Sounds like they're planning to fray the social safety net of the working class again to me. And of course this is the root of the CEOs heart's desire.
The issues of health care and financial regulation continue to roil relations with business because the administration now is writing the regulations for implementing both laws. And fights could loom over reducing deficits and simplifying the tax code, with industries poised to protect a raft of subsidies and tax breaks.

Somehow, I'm not expecting those subsidies and tax breaks to be put on the table as a means to reduce the deficit at this meeting. But I'd be happy to be wrong.

Campaign Promises?

A headline on the ConservativeNC website caught a reader's attention (hattip: GAW):
Christianity is alive and well in Union County, NC

It's an article about the swearing in of three new county commissioners in Monroe, NC. It doesn't say exactly what went on at the swearing in, or what was said, but it does document this:
"...Christian values run deep in these 3 families. Union County's residents and visitors witnessed one of the most respectful 'Christian' expressions in local government of my entire lifetime....


Has Jesus Christ become a third party lien-holder of Union County?

Mark Twain:
Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion -- several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight.

The Return of MeanDean

NOTED, WITH ALL DUE RESPECT No Sunday Morning GasBag Show thought Bernie Sanders particularly worthy of interview. However, Howard Dean, who has been noticeably quiet on the issue of the Obama tax deal, did come out today on Face the Nation. Excerpts via Sam Stein are copied below (full transcript will be available on the CBS website eventually).

Incidental Footnote Seeing the Big Dog standing there Friday on an emergency mission for the President, did not necessarily increase the president's stature nor persuasiveness. The appearance in fact threw the president's deficiencies under a brighter light.

Additional Footnote "The AARP thinks it's okay" (last graph below). The AARP just incidentally thought the Medicare drug add-on back in 2003 was just fine too. And so much for their concept of "deficit."

Howard Dean:
"This is a short-term Washington fix. It does nothing about this biggest long-term threat to America, which is the deficit. I don't hear Republicans or Democrats talking about the deficit. There is no pain in this agreement. This is the easy way out for everybody, much as everybody is complaining, hooting and hollering, this is an inside-the-Beltway fuss, and somebody needs to do something about the long-term problems to this country. It is not in this bill....

"The thing that bothers me about it is, we have yet to deal with the biggest problem that is facing this country, which is the size of the deficit, and nobody is doing anything about it.

"It is easy to promise everybody tax cuts all the time. You have got to make some cuts if you are going to do that....

"What piqued Dean in particular, however, was a provision in the 'framework' that provides a one-year, two-percent payroll tax holiday that, critics say, could end up siphoning money from the Social Security Trust Fund. The nation's largest senior-issues lobbying organization, the AARP, said it was comfortable with the provision -- confident that it won't be extended down the road."

Ironic, Ain't It?

Hattip: C.D.

Creepy Hypocrite of the Week

Propaganda from Madam Virginia Foxx's own office:

"Krysti, a young constituent frοm thе Fifth District won thе North Carolina Tar Wars Poster Contest, аn anti-smoking contest sponsored bу thе American Academy οf Family Physicians. Shе met wіth Congresswoman Virginia Foxx іn hеr Capitol Hill office. Pictured here wіth a copy οf hеr winning poster іn Foxx's office."

Dear Krysti,

The Congresswoman did not confess something significant to you in that cold embrace and politically expedient posed photograph: she supports Big Tobacco.

Learn to spell h.y.p.o.c.r.i.t.e, Krysti. You're going to need that word, going forward in your life in the 5th Dist.

On April 8, 2009, Congresswoman Foxx told an audience of teenagers at North Surry High School that "Governmental attempts to regulate and tax tobacco are no different than if the government were to regulate and tax Mountain Dew," which we believe, Krysti, was pretty much an all-clear signal to those teenagers that smoking was just A-okay by her.

A Genuine Folk Hero

...Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who talked for nearly nine hours on the floor of the Senate Friday against the Obama administration's decision to continue the Bush era tax cuts to millionaires -- and make them worse.

By Friday night, Sen. Sanders was at the top of Twitter's "trending topics," the true mark of post-modern buzz.

What did Sen. Sanders say?

"You can call what I am doing today anything you want. You can call it a filibuster. You can call it a very long speech. I am not here to set any great records or to make a spectacle. I am simply here today to take as long as I can to explain to the American people the fact that we have got to do a lot better than this agreement provides....

"Mr. President, in the year 2007, the top 1 percent of all income earners in the United States made 23.5 percent of all income. The top 1 percent earned 23.5 percent of all income -- more than the entire bottom 50 percent. That is apparently not enough. The percentage of income going to the top 1 percent has nearly tripled since the 1970s. In the mid-1970s, the top 1 percent earned about 8 percent of all income. In the 1980s, that figure jumped to 14 percent. In the late 1990s, that 1 percent earned about 19 percent.... [Figures subsequently verified by PolitiFact, just incidentally]

[The top 1 percent say...] " 'How can I get by on one house? I need five houses, ten houses! I need three jet planes to take me all over the world! Sorry, American people. We've got the money, we've got the power, we've got the lobbyists here and on Wall Street. Tough luck. That's the world, get used to it.' Rich get richer. Middle class shrinks....

"It has been a very long day. I do believe that if the American people stand up … I think we can defeat this proposal. I think we can come up with a better proposal which better reflects the needs of the middle class."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rock Salt

Frank on a comment thread below wants to know where the Tea Party went in the face of their Republican leaders' proposing to add almost another trillion to the national debt with their hostage deal to keep the millionaires' tax break while adding even more to the deficit through the mechanism of estate taxes.

This is where the Tea Party went:

1. Under the wheels of the Good Ole Boy Republican bus.
Congressman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the so-called "Prince of Pork," is elected by the majority of old-school Republicans to be Chair of the Appropriations Committee. Rogers is best known for the heaps of Federal dollars he's been able to cart off (in some cases, literally for his own family) as one of the Republican "appropriators" with a big appetite, He's talented: Rogers secured 137 earmarks worth $251.9 million between 2008 and 2010. Now of course he wants everyone to know that he's a reformed alcoholic.

2. To School, Learning How to Snag Lobbyist Money for themselves.
At least 13 new Tea Party Republican members of Congress got to Washington, sniffed the morning air, and promptly hired known and experienced corporate lobbyists as their chiefs of staff. It's good to know where the money is and how to get it! According to reporting in the WashPost, freshmen Tea Party Republicans have already ingratiated themselves into the cocktail culture of K Street. Dozens of freshmen Republicans have crowded into near-daily fundraisers, parties, and high-priced dinners hosted by corporate lobbyists ... because, evidently, close adherence to the Constitution demands it!

But to update Frank on the Tea Party response to the Obama/Republican Senate deal on the tax cuts, at least one Tea Party group -- the largest one, actually, the Tea Party Patriots -- sent out an e-mail call for action for their members to oppose the bill (according to Evan McMorris-Santoro). Their reasons for opposing the bill seems to rest heaviest on the provision giving extended unemployment benefits to those lazy no-good workers who were unwise enough to lose their jobs, but still.

The bottomline message, then, appears to be ... more money for Tea Partiers, OKAY FINE. More money for anybody else, BOO HISS.

And that's why they cherish the Constitution.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Nerve!

House Democrats show some strength. We ain't holding our breath yet, but we like the implications of some backbone in Washington. Thank you, Nancy Pelosi.

The American Dream in the Age of Nightmares

How to get super-rich selling cheap crap to poor people.

The Layoffs Coming to ASU

First, they'll try privatization. Appalachian State University Chancellor Ken Peacock says, in an official university press release, that he's looking at out-sourcing some services, which will mean staff layoffs:
"We want to ensure that Appalachian remains a good return on the state's investment in us. But we will do what we have to do to make sure we are one of the most efficiently run institutions in the UNC System. While the thought of outsourcing some services currently performed by our dedicated state employees gives me pause, we have a responsibility to go through an evaluation process in order to make sound financial decisions.”

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Congressional Pharisees Speak Out

Madam Virginia Foxx was among 41 mostly Republican members of Congress who wrote President Obama a letter on Monday complaining that he had not used the word "God" nearly enough when he recently visited Indonesia. During that trip the president referred to "E Pluribus Unum" (out of many, one) as the nation's motto. The 41 Congressional Church Ladies (a.k.a., pious frauds) objected strenuously, maintaining that "In God We Trust" is the motto of the U.S., just proving that the president is actually a foreign-born subversive who wants to stab Jesus through the eye with a Muslim dagger. Or something like that.

Because you can never be "Christian" enough for Madam Foxx, who can't even decide whether she's actually a Baptist or a Roman Catholic, or perhaps both.

Incidentally, the only non-Republican Congressman signing this obnoxious letter was Mike McIntyre of NC's 7th Dist.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Whistling Dixie

Mark Binker in the Greensboro News&Record asks rhetorically why President Obama visited W-S yesterday. His number one answer:
The 2012 Elections. Despite calling for bipartisanship and for politicians to forget the consequences of their actions on the next election cycle, Obama's visit has a lot to do with 2012. "By coming to North Carolina, he's also identifying the importance of North Carolina as a swing state," said Kathy Smith, a political science professor at Wake Forrest University. Obama was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win North Carolina since President Jimmy Carter, and appearing here early is a sign that he intends to try and repeat the feat.

Good luck with that, Mr. President. If Bill Clinton -- who actually knew how to negotiate with Republicans -- couldn't do it, we have our doubts about your chances. Especially as you've mainly worked to lose your base in this state. Independent voters are not much impressed by weakness.

BTW: Being mentioned in the same sentence with Jimmy Carter is more than just merely awkward positioning.

Watauga County Commission 12/6/10

The chairmanship of the new Republican-dominated county commission was a done deal before the meeting got underway. New Republican commissioner Nathan Miller came in early, removed former chair Jim Deal's nameplate from the central spot, and slid his own nameplate into the holder. Then he sat in the chair's chair. So there. It was a mere formality when eventually, after the meeting started, Commissioner Vince Gable nominated Miller as chair, and the vote was unanimous.

One might have thought that Commissioner David Blust would be a contender, since he out-ranks the other two Republicans with prior experience on the commission. Blust seemed more than just subdued. He was glum. The fix was in. At least Blust got Vice Chair as the consolation prize.

Otherwise, with two remaining Democrats on the board, we would describe the continuing business of county government as a "steady state." All votes were unanimous, including (rather amazingly) the vote to accept the report on "Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation," which includes such non-Republican features as a recommended ordinance for preserving farmland ... not that the commissioners were anywhere close to adopting an ordinance, but still. Mr. Blust was silent. He went along with the vote.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Face Palm

We'll be in this posture for days, probably, over the gutless wonders in Washington, starting with Mr. President.

Wonder who they think will work for them now. Or even vote for them?

GOP Priorities

Winston-Salem Journal editorial this a.m. scolds the new Republican majority in the General Assembly for dodging tax reform.

Not a peep about the new Republican majority's betrayal of their previous advocacy for an independent redistricting commission. Nor any word about the new Republican majority's announced plan to make voting more difficult as their top legislative priority.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Official Crap and the Real Crap

The Wikileaks uproar has been mainly just noise off in the distance to me, but the increasingly frantic attempts by the Obama administration (acting in this instance like "the Communist Party of China," according to David Samuels in The Atlantic) to shut down Wikileaks -- pressuring Amazon to block it from its servers and probably launching a powerful cyber attack on it -- has finally drawn my full attention. When it becomes government policy to eradicate a whistle-blower, I get more curious about that government.

Something's up, that's for sure. Republican Congressman Peter King (NY) wants the Wikileaks founder declared a terrorist threat. Mike Huckabee said that the young pfc who got documents about American foreign/war policy for Wikileaks should be executed. And Wikileaks has done the job that not many journalists -- in fact, none -- have been willing and able to do ... shine the light on the darkest corners of the Obama administration's continuation of the international war machine.

As David Samuels comments, this used to be called "journalism." Now it's considered worthy of the death penalty. The man who launched Wikileaks, Julian Assange, expressed his own contempt for the failure of journalists to do their jobs: "How is it that a team of five people has managed to release to the public more suppressed information, at that level, than the rest of the world press combined?" he told The Sydney Morning Herald. "It's disgraceful."

United States foreign policy is only one target of Wikileaks. We were promised last week a raft of documents showing the behavior of Bank of America and other powerful corporations, a topic that I have a keen interest in and which probably many American citizens might be shocked to learn, but our own government is doing what it can -- and it can do much -- to block us from ever getting that information.

The 250,000 cables that Wikileaks published this month are only a fraction of the 16 million documents that the U.S. government classifies "top secret" every -- every -- year. In a three-part investigative series by Dana Priest and William Arkin published earlier this year in The Washington Post, Priest & Arkin concluded: "The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive, that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work."

That's a recipe for official mischief. David Samuels: "The result of this classification mania is the division of the public into two distinct groups: those who are privy to the actual conduct of American policy, but are forbidden to write or talk about it, and the uninformed public, which becomes easy prey for the official lies exposed in the Wikileaks documents."

So ... I guess I'm officially skeptical about all the hysterical, top-down trashing of Julian Assange right now.

The Fight for the NC Democratic Party

As soon as current Chair David Young announced that he would not be seeking another term as titular head of the NC Democratic Party, Iredell County attorney David Parker, who's a member of the Democratic National Committee and was a "super-delegate" to the 2008 nominating convention, jumped out as the first announced candidate.

That news was first posted on the News&Observer site at 2 a.m. Thursday morning. Before the Parker announcement had time to circulate far and wide, party activist and consultant Chris Church posted on his Facebook page at 4:07 a.m. that morning that he thought David Parker "would make a great chairman." At 8:32 a.m. former state party Chair Jerry Meek came back at Church with this comment: "I think he would be a disaster. All talk and no action."


Since Jerry Meek was the most effective chair of the state party that we've personally had any experience with, his opinion carries considerable weight in our immediate vicinity. He turned "Party Dead-Quarters" in Raleigh into a happening place, implementing Howard Dean's 50-state strategy on the state level with remarkable results in 2006. He was unfailingly available to county parties, and he was out there in the public press every time the Republicans did something stupid, which was pretty much every day. He also stood up to Gov. Easley and pissed the guv off, which in hindsight may have been the smartest political move of his tenure.

If we don't get another Jerry Meek, Party Dead-Quarters is going to become Zombieland indeed.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Why We Like Nancy Pelosi

Shortly before 4 p.m. today, the House passed an extension of the Bush tax cuts for people making less than $250,000 on a vote of 234 - 188. Most Republicans voted against it (including Duchess Virginia Foxx), but Ron Paul (R of Texas) and Walter Jones (R of North Carolina) voted for it. Tea Partiers might like to cogitate on that during commercial breaks for the Glenn Beck Show. (And BTW, Heath Shuler, who had opposed Nancy Pelosi for leadership in the 112th Congress, also voted for it.)

'Course, we all know that while the Dems in the U.S. House were standing strong against giving the store away to the very rich, President Obama was busy behind the scenes trying to get them to cave, along with him and the effing Senate. to the effing rich-obsessed Republicans.

If Wishes Were Horses

Wish we had the scary black man for president that the Tea Party has mythologized for itself to be afraid of instead of the paper tiger who finds negotiation distasteful and who seems to confuse speechifying with action. No leadership, no strength, no future.

Thanks to Ari Shapiro for teaching me a forlorn new term: "reactive devaluation."

Just a Smidge More Extreme

Chris Cooper and Gibbs Knotts, a couple of political science professors at Western Carolina University, have started a blog for "Non-Partisan Analysis of Politics and Policy in North Carolina." Yesterday Cooper, using conservative/liberal "nominate" scoring developed by Appalachian State University poly sci prof. Phillip Ardoin to predict the partisan behavior of the newly elected NC Senate, came to this conclusion:
The bottom line here is that we will not be seeing a more moderate leadership in the next legislative session and if anything, the leadership will be slightly more ideologically extreme than it was before.

Change Coming in the NC Democratic Party

NC Democratic Party Chair David Young, finishing his two-year term, says he'll be gone in January when the state Executive Committee is scheduled to meet.

David Parker of Iredell County is the first to step forward and say he wants Young's job. Parker ran for it in 2009. He's a member of the Democratic National Committee and has a long history of activism in the state.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Steep slope engineering, Henderson County, N.C.

Last night's heavy rain brought it down.

Story in Hendersonville Times-News.

Say It Ain't True!

Headline of the day:
Rep. Foxx Blatantly Lies, Claims Democrats Have Not Cut Anybody's Taxes


18th Century Snuff

Just yesterday we saw where Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips said (on a Tea Party radio show) that it "makes a lot of sense" to go back to the practices of "the founders" of the nation, particularly one they enforced allowing only property owners to vote (only white property owners, actually, but Mr. Phillips didn't push it quite that far). In other words...

Renters, this Bud's NOT for you! (Also, we assume just naturally that the grown children of millionaire property-owners would also be disenfranchised, since technically they are hanging their clothes in closets owned by their parents. Or would the tea partiers make an exception in their case?)

Anyway, that clarified a lot about what at least some in the Tea Party mean by taking our country back to 18th century values.

Then this a.m. we see the report on the new Republican freshmen in the 112th Congress (most of them either professed tea partiers or tea party lite), that nearly a quarter of them are already millionaires ... soon to get wealthier (Virginia Foxx has shown the way to take a modest fortune and make it much, much larger by six years of "public service").

Add the Tea Party movement to repeal the 17th Amendment, which established the popular election of Senators, who previously had been chosen by the state legislatures, and there's another attack on the idea of us wig-less types actually voting for stuff.

There's a pattern here involving money and privilege, but I'm not ... quite ... sure ... if I can make it out.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why Isn't the Tea Party Complaining About This?

This is actually old news, from last week, and we've been waiting (in vain, natch) for the hot-to-trot Tea Party to come forth with criticism, but so far all we hear are crickets chirping:
GOP says now's not the time for tax reform in NC

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Tax reform is headed to the back burner again in North Carolina, despite new management at the General Assembly.

Corporate chiefs, social advocates and politicians on both sides of the political aisle have argued for a generation the state's tax system is outdated because it reflects a manufacturing economy of textiles, tobacco and furniture. They've pleaded with the Legislature and governors to retool the tax code....

We had thought that one of the BIG issues for the Tea Party was tax reform, but instead of any acknowledgement that the new Republican leadership in Raleigh just abdicated on that, let alone any criticism, we get foaming at the mouth about "tyrannical" government.

Yeah, we thought so ... about those true stripes.

New Ashe County Blog

Check out the new local blog "Ashe Watch" for some already pointed commentary on the political scene in our nearest neighbor to the north. Particularly appreciated this observation on the economic benefits of Mount Jefferson State Park and the likely impact of its closing:
According to the state park system, 268,000 people visited New River State Park and Mount Jefferson last year. Even if those people just spend 50 cents in the county, that's a hefty chunk of change for a county with 25,000 residents. (A study estimates each tourist visitor to a state park in North Carolina spends $23.56 per day.)

What about newly elected Republican General Assembly members Soucek and Jordan and their actions (or even palid public utterances) in support of the state park?
But no one's heard a peep from new Representative-elect Jonathan Jordan, Senator-elect Dan Soucek or the Ashe County Board of Commissioners. If this is how they're going to govern, it's going to be a long, dark two years for Ashe County.

Welcome to the neighborhood, AsheWatch! We think you'll find plenty to watch.

Fill in the Blanks Yourself

The Boone Tea Party, represented by Diana Poranski, was given editorial space in Sunday's Watauga Democrat to ... editorialize. The product is an interesting mix of patriotic pabulum and inflammatory (yet vague) posturing. (For whatever reason, the WatDem has not posted this piece of writing on-line, so you'll have to get hold of the Sunday paper to read the whole thing. We recommend the local library.)

The piece opens with patriotic pabulum:
"America is an exceptional country with exceptional people; we are a determined and resourceful people who do not cower in the face of danger or back down when faced with..."

And that's where it veers into inflammatory (yet vague) posturing:
"...when faced with an over-reaching government that behaves more like tyrannical dictators than citizen representatives."

Whoa. The government "behaves more like tyrannical dictators"? That's a bit vague and demands at least one measly example to be persuasive. Have there been jackbooted thugs bearing government warrants tromping on porches out in Valle Crucis? Black helicopters landing in yards? People disappeared? Newspapers shut down for reporting too much truth?

I'm serious. What prompted this over-heated and totally unsubstantiated rhetoric? If you're talking about the mandate to buy health insurance, then you should say you're disturbed about a mandate to buy health insurance, and we can then judge your "tyrannical dictators" verbiage on the merits. But since health insurance isn't even mentioned once in the entire editorial, we have to assume that there's something else much more "tyrannical" and "over-reaching" that's poked you in the eye.

For example, perhaps it's tyrannical over-reach for the government to regulate where an asphalt plant can be sited. Some people certainly think so, though Watauga County regulates asphalt plants (to a small degree). Is it tyrannical over-reach for Watauga County to mandate no billboards on the Doc & Merle Watson Memorial highway? Just be specific so that we can evaluate your argument and assess your values.

Oh, it's probably taxes she's talking about, yes? But taxes are never mentioned in the editorial either. Watauga County has one of the lowest property tax rates among the 100 NC counties, and our sales taxes are lower than many other states. If the editorialist wants to defend the millionaires' tax break, I wish she'd just come out and say so.

She does talk about revering the Constitution but does not mention that in fact the ability of the government to collect taxes from its citizens, as part of a social contract, is included in the Constitution.

Here's the main passage where this Tea Partier comes closest to saying what she wants:
"We share the common values of re-establishing limited government, free market/fiscally conservative principles, reassertion of states rights, equitable application of the law and individual rights."

That's a mouthful, granted, but again, exceedingly vague. "Free market principles"? Would that include the free market principles that repealed the Wall Street rules that in turn allowed the big banks to bring us to the brink? Would that include the free market principles that would tell the oil companies they can drill whenever, wherever they want, and we'll trust them to do it right? Would that include the free market principles that would allow, say, sweat shops and child labor?

"States rights" used to be code language for suggesting that Southern states, particularly, might be okay to disenfranchise black voters. Is that what this writer is hinting at, or does she not know that history? And we're just naturally curious how far this writer would take "states rights"? As far as "nullification" of law or even secession?

She'll get no quarrel from us over "equitable application of the law and individual rights," but what does she mean exactly by "individual rights"? The right of any couple to get married? A woman's right to an abortion? Specifics are left entirely to your imagination.

Which, when you think about it, is kind of the Tea Party's modus operandi -- imaginary goals, vaguely arrived at.

At the time this was first posted, the editorial certainly was not available on-line, but now it is. Here. Scroll down.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Corporate Mischief

Some totals of outside spending in the NC House & Senate races have become available, and a couple of clear patterns emerge: all of it is connected in some way to low-end merchandiser Art Pope and most of it was used for purely negative attack ads:

Goss (D) vs. Soucek (R) (winner)
Americans for Prosperity $22,992, to support Soucek
Civitas Action $33,197.39, to tear down Goss
Real Jobs NC $110,132.38, to tear down Goss

Tarleton (D) vs. Jordan (R) (winner)
Americans for Prosperity $12,437.65, to support Jordan
Real Facts NC $28,549.15, to support Tarleton
Civitas Action $13,709.96, to tear down Tarleton
Real Jobs NC $51,733.11, to tear down Tarleton

Too Many Frasers?

Word in this a.m.'s Asheville Citizen-Times about one of our most important local industries: Christmas trees. The dread word "overproduction" occurs in graph # 4, along with the words "rising production and transportation costs," which earn the whole report the headline "Asheville Area Christmas Tree Growers Not So Merry This Year."

What is this? Blue Monday?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hunger in North Carolina

"Food insecurity" is the new euphemism in the United States for going hungry. It's one of our dirtiest little secrets ... that in this society so many go without sufficient food.

North Carolina ranks only behind Louisiana in the number of children who suffer from "food insecurity." Slightly over 24% of all NC children have real trouble getting fed ... more than one in five.

An article in this a.m.'s Greensboro News & Record highlights the hunger in Guildford County and environs where some 71,000 individuals get emergency food annually from food banks (or 8,700 every week!). Some 31% of those are under the age of 18.

Gosh, with a new crowd of politicians taking control soon in Raleigh, what could possibly happen to this picture? When their Greatest Good is protecting the rich, how will they react to growing hunger in their own state? Like Eberneezer Scrooge?
"Are there no poor houses in operation? I have been forced to support the establishments I have mentioned through taxation and God knows they cost more than they're worth. Those who are badly off must go to the poor houses ... if they'd rather die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population. Good night, gentlemen . . . Humbug!"
The Hunger & Health Coalition of Watauga County is always in need of non-perishable food donations. They are particularly grateful for dry boxed cereals and canned goods.

"Far Overboard"

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) is virtually alone among Republican Senators who support the new START treaty with Russia, which would mandate both countries to reduce their nuclear arsenals and resume mutual inspections. Lugar has urged his Republican colleagues to "do their duty" for the country to reduce the nuclear threat, rather than merely playing politics to deny President Obama any success, let alone a foreign relations victory.

Because of his stand on the START treaty, among other maverick-y positions, Lugar is now drawing the baleful gaze of the Indiana Tea Party, which is promising a primary challenge when Lugar has to run for reelection in 2012.

About this prospect, former Republican Sen. John C. Danforth of Missouri told the NYTimes:
"If Dick Lugar, having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption."

Danforth might know something about redemption, since he's also an ordained Episcopal minister. Plus he might remember something about going "far overboard," since he was Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' chief defender in the Senate back when ... oh, never mind.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Despair, Ashe County, Is All You'll Get

The implied criticism of Dan Soucek and Jonathan Jordan, newly elected Republican members of the General Assembly, is buried deep in the editorial, but it's there. Jefferson Post editor Lonnie Adamson gingerly points out the Soucek/Jordan campaign mantra of "tax cuts" as woefully inadequate for the crisis right now in the state of North Carolina.

Which has created an immediate crisis in the County of Ashe ... the threatened closing of Mt. Jefferson State Park.

While Sen. Steve Goss and Rep. Cullie Tarleton would have fought, and effectively, for the continued operation of the park, Soucek/Jordan offer little prospect of (1) giving a good goddamn about it or of (2) having any clout in Raleigh to head off disaster.

Lonnie Adamson:
The perceived answer to economic success themed in the recent election was tax cutting. The idea is that with lower taxes, businesses will invest, and hire and spend money to grow the economy.

Re-investing has not been the habit of businesses recently when they had a few extra dollars to spend. They have been more likely to sit on the reserves and see what the future holds.

I like to have a few extra dollars lying around as much as anyone, but you'll have a tough time convincing me that cutting immediate revenue sources -- taxes -- is the proper course of action when we are lacking at least $4 billion for the state budget already. In the coming reapportionment of property, we may well see a decline in county revenue sources also.

It seems more likely that tax cuts are going to leave people hurting if we take away more dollars from already hurting entities like schools and health departments.

Does it make sense to take away dollars from Mt. Jefferson State Park that brings thousands to Ashe County who buy things in our shops, eat in our restaurants, buy fuel in our service stations. Those attributes of Mt. Jefferson State Park make it -- in my limited understanding -- a revenue generator for the community.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The NC Congresswoman Who May Make V. Foxx Seem "Moderate"

Renee Ellmers, who beat Bob Etheridge by a thousand or so votes in the NC-2, will be the newest GOP Loose Cannon to watch.

During the campaign, she attracted plenty of attention by equating all Muslims with terrorism (in a TV ad deemed "the most baldly anti-Muslim ad of the year") and vowed that the ambushing of Congressman Etheridge on the streets of D.C. by a video crew had nothing to do with the GOP (the videographers were later outed as operatives for the National Republican Congressional Committee).

She got the endorsement of Sarah Palin, which is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Likely Embarrassment to Come -- something that has eluded Madam Foxx.

Sign of the Times

We're going to be reading a lot more stories about this -- and seeing pictures.

Except, don't these whiners know that global warming is just a myth? Don't they get Rush Limbaugh in those parts?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Let's not lose our heads today, okay?

Or, go ahead and lose 'em.

There's always the couch.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Republicans in Congress: "What's Good for Us ... Not Necessarily Good for You"

According to national opinion-gathering by Public Policy Polling, some 53% of Americans think that "incoming Congressmen who campaigned against the health care bill should put their money where their mouth is and decline government provided health care now that they're in office."

It's the GOP's own constituency that feel strongest about this:

"...Republicans and independents -- who put these folks in office in the first place -- strongly think they should refuse their government provided health care. GOP voters hold that sentiment by a 58/28 margin and indys do 56/27 .... Democrats are actually the most supportive of anti-health care Congressmen taking their health care, with 40% saying they should accept it to 46% who think they should decline."

Those liberals!

Republican members of Congress are pretty liberal too, when it comes to their own perks and Cadillac health coverage. It's just you and me and our needs that get them all pinch-nosed and pucker-mouthed.

Where's the Tea Party in the face of this kind of blatant hypocrisy?