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advocates and politicians on both sides of the political aisle have argued for a generation the state's tax system is outdated because it reflects a manufacturing economy of textiles, tobacco and furniture.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?

Turkey Talk

Rep. Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth) will be the Number 2 Republican in the new House majority, and in an interview with the Winston-Salem Journal, he sounded a good deal more eager than his Number 1, Thom Tillis, about taking the General Assembly deep into the culture wars:
Q. What kind of priorities will you guys have beyond the budget? Will immigration reform come up? Will we see a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage? Will we see new abortion legislation?

A. I think there will be enough time and talent to hit singles and doubles on all of those issues. But, more specifically, voter ID and voter fraud and voter integrity [will be addressed] .... I think there will be enough time and talent to deal with how people who murder pregnant women in this state are going to be charged. I think there's enough time and talent and will of the people to deal with the marriage amendment issue. I think there will be enough time and talent to do that, including figuring out what's going on with illegal immigration.

Q. How do you keep from over-reaching ... from going too far beyond the mandate of this election and causing a backlash?

A. The same way that you would hopefully prevent yourself from over-reaching if you haven't been up to the plate in a while and your intention is to go up there and hit a grand slam. Chances are you're going to pull a muscle.

If they "pull a muscle," we predict it'll be in the groin, as they attempt to legislate various of their hottest moralizings. Not to mention an Arizona-style "show us your papers" anti-immigrant law. Good times!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Silver Lining Dept.

Matt Comer over at QNotes accentuates the positive about the new presumptive Republican Speaker of the NC House, Thom Tillis ... that he's going to want to focus on budget and revenue problems and not on feeding the Christian Right a great big ole anti-gay marriage amendment to the state Constitution.

If Tillis is indeed "level-headed" and gay friendly, his Republican caucus ain't, and it remains to be seen just how willing Tillis will be to frustrate their fondest wishes to get NC into the active discrimination business.

Slouching Toward Bethlehem

Apparently -- who knew? -- the majority of NC's citizens are not tea partiers.

Also, apparently, not voters. More's the pity.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reading Thom Tillis

The contest for the new Republican Speaker of the NC House was mainly between a far-right conservative, Paul "Skip" Stam, and a smooth corporate type from Mecklenburg County, Thom Tillis. Tillis won. The secret vote was said (by Tillis, incidentally) to have been very close.

We come on these sentences in the coverage of his election this a.m. in the Charlotte Observer:
"...Tillis' selection as speaker may mean that some social issues won't have the same priority they might have under Stam who, for instance, is a dogged abortion opponent. Wake County government temporarily removed abortion coverage from its health plan earlier this year after he questioned it.

"Tillis, a 50-year-old management consultant who has worked for Fortune 500 companies, is congenial and polished, and he has the reputation for focusing on the big priorities...."

Hmmm. Do "big priorities" include an anti-gay marriage amendment to the state Constitution? Dunno, but the article also quotes -- or paraphrases "political consultant" John Davis:
It's important to keep the party committed to social issues, Davis said, but if Republicans are seen as too preoccupied with those issues, they lose the independent voters they need to win elections.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The New NC House Speaker

Thom Tillis of Mecklenburg County.

Who, according to Buncombe County arch conservative Carl Mumpower, is really just a "Republican in Name Only" (RINO).

Tillis's election "tells us even more about what we can expect from NC's new elephant majority," sez Mumpower, meaning by that, "not much."

A full transcript of Mr. Mumpower's podcast about Tillis is posted on This Old State.

Madam Big-Mouth is BA-A-ACK!

After lying low for much of 2010, until the elections were past, Madam Virginia Foxx of the Outrageous Utterances made her reappearance on the floor of the U.S. House on November 18.

She spent several minutes attacking civil servants who work for the Federal government, complaining that (among other things) they have too much job security:
"Short of shooting up a post office, government workers rarely get fired or laid off."

Dear Gods of Cosmic Irony, please please please let Congresswoman Foxx finally understand the weight of her ill-chosen gripes against everyone less elevated than she. You know how best to teach her that lesson, O Gods of Cosmic Irony, so we'll leave it in your capable hands.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sen. Phil Berger's an Economist!

Phil Berger of Eden, NC, has been designated president pro tempore by the new Republican majority in the NC Senate (position won't become official until January), and he sez he wants to cut the state's budget 15% "across the board."

Do you know what "across the board" means?

It means that Mr. Berger knows the costs of everything and the value of nothing.

Foxx Ran a Sweat-Shop in a Previous Life

A bill that will encourage more Federal workers to "telework" from home (more commonly called "telecommuting") passed the House yesterday and is headed to President Obama for his signature.

Supporters say that the law will save government millions ... reducing the need for office space and increasing productivity not to mention the benefits to traffic congestion.

The bill passed the House 254-152, with most Republicans (natch!) voting against it.

Madam Foxx, of course, felt a great need to take a puritanical public position: The law, said she, would "make it easier for federal employees who already had it much better than the rest of the country to avoid the office."

And we thought her first goal was always saving money, rather than merely punishing civil servants. But no. Estimates exist that telecommuting saved the U.S. treasury some $30 million a day last winter when the capital region was paralyzed by a snowstorm.

Kay Hagan Comes Through

Small farmers in western North Carolina can rest a little easier after an amendment offered by Sen. Kay Hagan and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to the Food Safety Modernization Act easily passed its first hurdle yesterday:
"Producers who sell most of their food within the state or a 275-mile radius and producers who generate less than $500,000 in annual revenue would not have to meet standards under the proposed ... Act."

Participants in farmers markets had fretted that they would be subjected to the same stringent rules that mega-producers must meet.

The House has already passed its version of this law, which is, according to Mary Lou Surgi, executive director of Blue Ridge Food Ventures, "much tougher and much friendlier to large agri-business than the Senate version." Surgi, who has helped more than 150 small farm producers get established in the Asheville area, said, "It would be nice if the House would accept the way the Senate passes it."

More Headlines Like This One, Please!

Obama Forces Showdown With G.O.P. on Arms Pact
--This a.m.'s NYTimes

With this lede:
WASHINGTON -- Just two weeks after an election that left him struggling to find his way forward, President Obama has decided to confront Senate Republicans in a make-or-break battle over arms control that could be an early test of his mettle heading into the final two years of his term.

Love to see the word "mettle" used in the same sentence with "President Obama," even though at the moment their relationship to one another is purely speculative.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

South Carolina Republican Blasts His Party's Know-Nothingism

Who is this man? Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), rated by the American Conservative Union as 93% pure conservative, yet a Congressman who takes global climate change science seriously and who was defeated in his primary because of it ... by a tea party ignoramus who doesn't believe in science but who does believe in certain birther myths.

What did this man do yesterday? At a House subcommittee hearing on climate change, and from the vantage point of no longer giving a good goddamn whose toes he steps on because he'll be out of office in a matter of weeks, lectured his dumber-than-dirt colleagues about two things coming down the track: global climate change and the dominance of the new green technology by China:
"...we're here with important decisions to be made. And I would also suggest to my Free Enterprise colleagues -- especially conservatives here -- whether you think it's all a bunch of hooey, what we've talked about in this committee, the Chinese don't. And they plan on eating our lunch in this next century. They plan on innovating around these problems, and selling to us, and the rest of the world, the technology that'll lead the 21st century. So we may just press the pause button here for several years, but China is pressing the fast-forward button. And as a result, if we wake up in several years and we say, 'geez, this didn't work very well for us. The two doctors [industry-paid skeptics of global warming] didn't turn out to be so right. 98 [scientists who do see global climate change coming] might have been the ones to listen to....

"There are people who make a lot of money on talk radio and talk TV saying a lot of things. They slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night, and they're experts on climate change. They substitute their judgment for people who have Ph.D.s and work tirelessly [on climate change]."

Meanwhile, all of the Republicans vying to chair the House Energy Committee -- which handles climate and energy issues -- in the new Congress are climate change deniers. They include Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who infamously apologized to BP shortly after the company's catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last summer, and 87-year-old Texas Republican Rep. Ralph Hall, the leading candidate to take the gavel in the next Congress. Congressman Hall took a potshot at the White House's use of the term "global climate disruption" and said that "reasonable people have serious questions about our knowledge of the state of the science."

These are some of the same folks who want "creationism" taught in the public schools, along with "abstinence only."

Idiocracy ain't just a wildly improbable comic movie any longer.

Another Republican Who Hates the Student Vote

Jeff Polston, the losing Republican candidate for Forsyth County Clerk of Court, wants the election results overturned because students at Winston-Salem colleges voted in the election.

Where have we heard this complaint before? Oh yeah.

Mr. Polston, in singling out "college students," was apparently really targeting a particular group of college students, mainly those at Winston-Salem State University, an historically black college.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

True Colors

Carter Wrenn, than whom you just about can't be much more conservative, posts a warning to the new Republican majority in the U.S. House: Might want to think twice about repealing the new regs on Wall Street bankers:
...the Wall Street Banks are now rubbing their hands together and purring over the prospect of the new Republican Majority repealing the President's new banking regulations -- like the legislation the Democrats passed that cut debit card fees for retailers, costing banks billions.

And the Washington Republicans aren't exactly saying to the banks: Forget about it.

Who'd have imagined it: It's just two weeks after the election and in their political wisdom the Washington Republicans are contemplating doing favors for the only villain in sight who's even more unpopular than President Obama: The Banks.

The sooner this new (old) generation of Republicans dances on their puppet-strings to the only puppet-masters they've ever had -- the super rich and the super pious -- the sooner the Democrats can perhaps grow some sinew to take them on.

The New Dark Ages

From the Shelby Star, on prospects that the new Republican majority in the NC General Assembly will want to make their major prejudices both known and felt as quickly as possible:
Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, a [no gay marriage--yuck!] amendment supporter, said many Republican voters want action on social issues after seeing Democrats push through laws last year such as anti-school bullying law designed in part to protect gay and lesbian students and a school sex education law that teaches more about contraception.

By all means, fellows, let's unleash the bullies while keeping sexually active teenagers as much in the reproductive dark as possible!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Well, That Didn't Take Long

As predicted here just this past Sunday, the new Republican majority in the NC General Assembly, which was so recently overwhelmingly in favor of an independent redistricting commission, has experienced sudden and severe aphasia, or a coughing fit, and is now concerned that there just isn't enough time before the 2012 elections, what with all the gay marriages to head off and the preggers girls to force into early motherhood, plus the other four and twenty blackbirds of mischief they need to yank out of their pie before the voters really catch on to their schemes.

Landmarks in Republican Hypocrisy

Andy Harris ... newly elected conservative Republican member of the U.S. Congress from Maryland's Eastern Shore ... pitched a fit yesterday, wanting his goddamn government-run healthcare ... quicker.

When told at a Capitol Hill orientation session for newly elected members of Congress that his government health insurance would not kick in for 28 days after his swearing in, Mr. Harris made himself a little public spectacle, demanding, "How am I supposed to cope with a gap of 28 days without health insurance?"

He's a medical doctor, mind you, an anesthesiologist, who also happened to win his seat by campaigning against "Obamacare."

When told on Monday that he would have to wait for his government healthcare to kick in, Harris asked if there wasn't some way he could buy into the government care in advance, which was pretty much what the so-called "public option" would have allowed. Harris called the "public option" socialism in 2009, but now that he's a public servant, socialism seems not only okay but essential.

The new Tea Party movement: all for me, none for you.

Sacking the QB

Jim Neal tackles Heath Shuler. Ouch.

Makes us recall that in 2009 Jim Neal ran briefly to replace Jerry Meek as state party chair. Since Meek left, the state party had nowhere to go but down. Maybe Jim Neal would like to make that race again.

Unless putting your mitts on the likes of a sitting U.S. Congressman is seen as a job-prospect killer. When the Congressman is that far out of line, it would appear to us as positive proof that you're up to the job.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Freakin' Hilarious (and so unexpected!)

El ex-Presidente George W. Bush is a plagiarist!

So far combers of "Decision Points" have found 16 instances of direct word-for-word lifting of other writers' words passed off as George W. Bush's own. How did this guy get through Yale? Oh, riiight!

Just one example:
From Decision Points, p. 205: "When Karzai arrived in Kabul for his inauguration on December 22 – 102 days after 9/11 – several Northern Alliance leaders and their bodyguards greeted him at an airport. As Karzai walked across the tarmac alone, a stunned Tajik warlord asked where all his men were. Karzai, responded, 'Why, General, you are my men. All of you who are Afghans are my men.'"

From Ahmed Rashid’s The Mess in Afghanistan, quoted in The New York Times Review of Books: “At the airport to receive [Karzai] was the warlord General Mohammad Fahim, a Tajik from the Panjshir Valley …. As the two men shook hands on the tarmac, Fahim looked confused. 'Where are your men?' he asked. Karzai turned to him in his disarmingly gentle manner of speaking. 'Why General,' he replied, “you are my men—all of you are Afghans and are my men...'"

Bush was not at Karzai’s Innauguration.

"The Poor Can Always Beg"

"Simpson-Bowles is a significant unforced error by the Obama administration." So saith U.C. Berkeley economist J. Bradley DeLong. And Erskine Bowles goes back to being just another rich guy.

But watch President Obama cave to the "catfood commission" anyway.
Finally! The perfect gift for the Congresswoman who already has everything!

The Banking Industry's New Pet Congressman...

Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10) ... who's all fluffy over the prospect of removing those pesky new regs on the Big Banks.

A spokesman for the American Bankers Association, said (whilst patting Congressman McHenry on his freakishly inflated head) that "banks expect a corrections bill to peel back some of the financial regulations passed into law this year. Among them would be a repeal of the so-called Durbin amendment, which cut debit-card fees for retailers, costing banks billions."

As a member of both the financial services and the oversight committees in the new Republican-controlled House, McHenry can't currently suppress his drooling over how many favors he can personally deliver to derail banking regulation and re-unleash the Big Money Boys to do what they damn well please.

It is, after all, their government now.

NC on Schedule to Break Foreclosure Record

Prediction: 70,476 total foreclosure filings in NC before Thanksgiving.

Last year: another record high of 63,286, but that was last year.

"While some foreclosures came from speculating investors and second-home owners, most are indicative of people who just got caught in loans they couldn't afford, especially if they lost a job or had a serious illness."

The bleak silver lining: "...most foreclosure experts say the crisis will peak next year."

Well, at least our new Republican majorities in the General Assembly are well disposed toward helping people out, rather than coddling the big banks, and praise God for their determination to exempt NC from health insurance reform, so that the terminally ill can also be terminally out in the street.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I've heard Madam Virginia Foxx at least twice in the last year say that politics needed to be removed from redistricting following the decennial Census. The way to accomplish that goal is to establish an independent redistricting commission to draw the lines for legislative and congressional districts.

Guess what? According to Chris Fitzsimon, at least 20 NC House Republicans co-sponsored legislation in 2009 for an NC independent redistricting commission, "including the leading candidates for Speaker next session, Minority Leader Paul Stam and Republican Whip Thom Tillis. Fourteen of the Senate's 20 Republicans co-sponsored an independent redistricting bill last session, including Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, who will almost certainly be elected the President Pro Tem when the Senate convenes in January."

So with Republicans in charge of both houses in the General Assembly, we're bound to get that independent redistricting commission, yes?

We're not holding our breath. The new Republican majorities will suddenly discover the pleasures of gerrymandering, just as the Democratic majorities did. That's our bet.

'Course, miracles could happen. Even Jesse Helms said "I was wrong" (about AIDs) on his deathbed, though it was, naturally, too late to do anything constructive with the realization.

Torture. It's Not Just For Republicans Any More

We now have the public spectacle of an ex-president bragging that he authorized torture. "Damn right!"

It's infuriating that no one in the Obama administration says a word in response. No one with a justice or human rights portfolio, no one the least embarrassed that our legacy in the world is now stamped forever.

Complicity in torture is like any other complicity. Silence is assent.

"A More Moderate Approach"

A little more milquetoast with your weak tea?

How about a little jackass in a power suit?

That's what Heath Shuler wants to deliver on Capitol Hill, if only House Democrats will recognize his outstanding possibilities for driving the Party into even more of an all-out retreat. Here's a bold prediction: Heath Shuler will never be Minority Leader.

Nancy Pelosi, who will be Minority Leader, is one of the few Democrats in Congress with some balls. Men like Shuler can't stand her. Tough.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Maddow and Stewart

My respect and admiration for the pure-dee smarts exhibited by both Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart in their long interview yesterday could not be higher.

Newt Gingrich Wants Me for His Army

So a little after 8 this a.m., the phone rings, and this young man on the other end sez he wants me to take an important opinion survey, but first would I listen to a short, informative message before answering some questions.

'Fraid we never got to the questions, because the recorded message was from one Newt Gingrich. I wasn't taking notes -- hell, I was only on my first cup of coffee -- but I clearly heard "liberal, liberal, liberal ... socialist, socialist, socialist" and the general pitch that the serial fornicator Mr. Newt and I (presumably, or else why was he calling me?) could together Take Back Our Country.

When the young man came back on the line, I'm afraid I didn't take his questions, since it hardly seemed worth the effort to mess with his minimum-wage call-center head ... since he was not the author nor perpetrator of this particular piece of crap and only the victim, really, of needing a job.

What I learn from this is that THEY'RE STILL IN CAMPAIGN MODE and intend to cajole and bully the voters for the next two years.

If anyone else gets the same call, perhaps you'll be more patient and let us all know what corporate scum claims to be paying for it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Art Pope's Wholly Owned Subsidiary

Art Pope's role in taking control of the NC General Assembly ... even bigger than previously reported. Go figure!

Art Pope's Got a State Budget for You!

David and/or Dan Soucek and Jonathan Jordan can sit back and relax, because it turns out that Art Pope (through his puppets at the John Locke Foundation) has already written a detailed budget for North Carolina.

Going through it you'll notice some obvious main targets: public education; help for the poor, the weak, the ill; alternative energies; anything dealing with cultural, historical, or environmental enhancements.

The Art Pope Budget recommends zeroing out the NC Arts Council, the NC Symphony, the NC Council for Women, the Human Relations Commission, the Martin Luther King Commission, the Commission on Indian Affairs, and the Youth Involvement Office. Most of these are axed as "advocacy."

Art Pope and his puppets have a HUGE chip on their shoulders about alternative energies, especially wind and solar, so the State Energy Office is a major target, and more specifically the energy research at ASU would be cut from the state budget and transferred to the UNC budget (the message: if energy research is so important, let UNC decide how much to spend on it).

The Pope Budget would end all appropriations for the NC Arboretum and for Public Television.

The Pope Budget would raise the student/teacher ratio in public schools and raise tuition at our community colleges and public universities.

Art Pope and his toadies have plenty of money. And the poor can always beg. It's natural law.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

You and Your Tolerance Will Burn in Hell!

All you namby-pamby "soft" Christians out there had better buck up. A letter-to-the-editor in today's Winston-Salem Journal lays down the Law, straight from the mouth of God, we assume:
...Jesus didn't send his disciples into the world to have pleasant conversations -- he sent them to preach and to save. Governments that oppose or dilute this message are opposed to Christ and will pay a heavy price.

This nation was founded in the name of Jesus, and all this politically correct talk about Muslims and others having rights to their religions is just extending them the "right" to lead people away from the truth. "For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." -- Acts 4:12.

Many will discover this, to their great regret, on the Day of Judgment.

We can deal with "the Day of Judgment" when it comes. What we can't deal with is this joker and his ilk taking over the reigns of government now. Because, apparently, all that freedom of religion in our Constitution and in our historic practice is just a bunch of devil-inspired "political correctness."

Cutting The State's Budget Is Gonna Be Soooo Easy!

Steve Troxler, the Republican incumbent Commissioner of Agriculture in NC, has refused to give Gov. Bev Perdue recommendations on where to cut spending in his department.

The Guv had asked every cabinet official to submit budget numbers to her reflecting a 5 percent cut in spending, a 10 percent cut, and a 15 percent cut.

So the first department head to cry "no possible cuts here!" is one of two Republicans on the Council of State.

Yeah, balancing the state's budget is gonna be an absolute breeze for the new Republican-dominated General Assembly!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Witch-Hazel Is Blooming

Saw three different witch-hazel trees in full bloom this a.m., walking the dogs on the Boone Greenway. (This is not a picture of what we saw today but looks exactly like what you'll see near the Last Bridge before the Humane Society compound at that end of the Greenway.)

The local variety (Hamamelis virginiana) blooms yellow and grows along the margins of woods as an understory small tree or large spindly shrub.

It's one of the wonders of botany that this native has found its own niche and blooms out of season, compared to most other flowering shrubs.

We have an orange-flowering variety in our garden which normally doesn't bloom until warm winter days in January and February. Remarkably, even then there are pollinators that visit those little ribbons of crepe.

Sunday, November 07, 2010


This morning on This Week with Christiane Amanpour, this exchange occurred between Amanpour and Kentucky Senator-elect Rand Paul:
AMANPOUR: One of the emergencies is going to be voting to lift the debt ceiling.

PAUL: Right.

AMANPOUR: Would you do that?

PAUL: I don't believe I will vote to raise the debt ceiling.

AMANPOUR: You won't?

PAUL: No. I think that we need to send a message -- we need to send a strong message that...

AMANPOUR: The government would default, then.

PAUL: Well, only if we won the vote, would they default.

Ain't it a gas to have principles when there's no chance your principles will carry the vote and trigger a default?

I think I'm beginning to understand the Tea Party.

Tail, Meet Mouth

Political historian Rob Christensen reminds us that the last time Republicans had control of the General Assembly in Raleigh, they "raised taxes on railroads and other businesses and increased spending on schools." That was the Republican Party of progressive ideas. This year, a wholly different animal is slouching toward Raleigh to be born.

Christensen projects the likely legislative initiatives we can expect from our new over-lords:
1. "Eliminating the cap on the number of charter schools permitted in the state." Chip-chip-chipping away at the whole concept of free and public education.

2. "Banning government use of eminent domain for economic development projects." We can agree on banning property grabs that are turned over to private developers, but the real target here is the strangling of cities and land-use planning.

3. "Requiring photo IDs to vote." Ah! Voter suppression could not be far behind the suppression of public education.

4. "Challenging the new federal health care overhaul." Because Blue Cross of N.C. is doing such a superb job already gouging the state.

5. "Perhaps a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages." "Perhaps," Mr. Christensen? Surely you jest. There's no way under God's blue sky this bunch won't attempt to legislate whom you love, and how, and for how long.

Left off Mr. Christensen's list is just how Art Pope intends to get his pay-back out of this General Assembly ... the lifting of corporate taxes. And regulations. Don't forget regulations.

His Head Gets Bigger

Headline in this a.m.'s Asheville Citizen-Times: "Heath Shuler Weighs Decision on Opposing Nancy Pelosi as Party Leader."


Saturday, November 06, 2010

The New Republican Party Gets Its Bearings

Gonna be pulling a little to the right.

Just a smidge.

"You can't necessarily set the positive agenda that we want across the board, but you can stop a lot of bad things from happening, and that's a step forward," said Colin Hanna, president of tea party support group Let Freedom Ring.

Check the logic of that statement: A step forward is PREVENTING any steps forward.

Yes sir-ee, Bobtail! The new Republican Party is gonna be well worth watching.

So will President Barack Obama, to see if he ever figgers out that these folks on the right side of the aisle have absolutely no intention of ever "working together" on anything. We're frankly not sure the prez is educable on that issue.

P.S. Ah! A Post-Soviet-Era 40-Year Plan!
"The Tea Party Patriots, a coalition of more than 2,800 local groups, plans to hold a conference for freshman lawmakers later this month to remind them to stay loyal to the movement's values. [Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark] Meckler said activists are looking beyond the next Congress and have come up with a 40-year plan to reform educational, political, judicial and cultural systems to elevate conservative values. The group is also working on a jobs bank to offer the newly elected candidates potential staffers with Washington outsider credentials." (Charlotte Observer)

Friday, November 05, 2010

Real Men Don't Eat Pelosi*

Heath Shuler told Roll Call, evidently, that he will challenge Nancy Pelosi for Minority Leader in the new Congress ... "if no viable candidate emerges."

Good to know that Shuler's willin'. In case of emergency, break glass. It'd be like we didn't have any options otherwise.

*Hattip to "Henery" for this line in a comment thread somewhere below.

The (Unpaved) Road to the Future

On Wednesday, following the loss of Steve Goss and Cullie Tarleton, someone said in my hearing, "Well, I guess we'll never see another mountain road get paved!"

Prophet, that one!

Last night Rep. Thom Tillis, one of the front-runners to become the new Republican Speaker of the N.C. House, said on WBTV that funding formulas for road improvements were going to get changed, if he has anything to do with it:
Tillis said he wants to take a look at the "equity formula," which critics say gives too much money to rural areas while not giving enough to urban areas like Charlotte.

"Like Charlotte." Hmmm. Tillis is from Charlotte.

Meanwhile, it seems all too obvious that Republicans in the U.S. House will spend much of 2011 doing only two things: (a) attempting to repeal the health insurance reform law and (b) investigating Obama (can impeachment be more than a few months away?).

On (a), we look forward to the circus.

On (b), we look forward to the snakepit.

Republicans have always said that government cannot work, and they're about to prove it all over again.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Bad Light

Winston-Salem Journal editorial this a.m.: "... [Foxx] would help herself and her district by toning down her sometimes inflammatory rhetoric. Some of her comments in the last two years have cast her and our region in a bad light."

The Journal editorial writer had not noticed, evidently, that Foxx did tone down her rhetoric in 2010, leading up to the election. When she's up for reelection, at least during the months immediately preceding those contests, she hardly ever says that the reform of health care is more dangerous than any terrorist in any country. In my own personal list of the 18 most outrageous things she's said, the juiciest were in 2009. She uttered a few more gems early in 2010, particularly in February, but after that, she mainly kept her big yap shut.

Now that she's been reelected, we fully expect her to get back on the crazy train and go to town! Plus she'll have her BFF Michele Bachmann's back in a quest for a party leadership position in Congress, which should give her increased opportunities to grab microphones. Not to mention her role on the House Rules Committee under her other BFF John Boehner.

The Opposite of Leadership

President Obama signals that he's willing to compromise on the Bush tax cuts.

Gumption is not in his vocabulary, let alone his blood corpuscles. Since his disastrous caving on the Public Option for health insurance (which more than anything else caused the very real "enthusiasm gap" in this election cycle), we know what his "willingness to compromise" means.

He gives up without a fight. How can anybody be enthusiastic about such a presidency?

Gavenus Wins After All

Hattip: A.T.

A failure by the Madison County Board of Elections to count a little over 1,000 ballots from two precincts has changed the outcome in the Dist. 24 Superior Court Judgeship race (which includes Watauga). The reported outcome Tuesday night showed incumbent Judge Phil Ginn winning reelection and Mitchell County attorney Hal Harrison taking the second seat.

But the Madison County snafu means Harrison actually lost and Gary Gavenus, an assistant prosecutor in the 24th Judicial District, won. At least, according to WLOS ABC 13 News.

Both Harrison and Gavenus are Republicans, but Harrison was far more partisan in the election, proclaiming his party affiliation on his website when most judicial candidates are demure on the issue because of codes of judicial ethics. Harrison also took extreme positions on the NC Family Policy Council questionnaire.

Gavenus appears to be far more moderate.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

You Ain't Seen Hard Times Yet

A $3.5 billion state budget shortfall + Republican doctrine on taxes x the corporate whip wielded by Art Pope & Friends = ...?

State employee layoffs, benefit cuts, reductions in services, closing of state facilities, and college tuition increases ... just for starters.

John B. Judis writes this a.m.:
This economic downturn structurally resembles the depressions of the 1890s and the 1930s rather than the cyclical recessions that have recurred since World War II. The American people, mired in debt, with one in six lacking full-time employment, are not spending; and businesses, uncertain of demand for their products, are not investing no matter how low interest rates fall. With the Fed virtually powerless, the only way to stimulate private demand and investment is through public spending. Obama tried to do this with his initial stimulus program, but it was watered down by tax cuts, and undermined by decreases in state spending. By this summer, its effect had dissipated.

The Republicans may not have a mandate to repeal health care, but they do have one to cut spending. Many voters have concluded that Obama's stimulus program actually contributed to the rise in unemployment and that cutting public spending will speed a recovery. It's complete nonsense, as the experience of the United States in 1937 or of Japan in the 1990s demonstrated, but it will guide Republican thinking in Congress, and prevent Obama and the Democrats from passing a new stimulus program. Republicans will accede to tax cuts, especially if they are skewed toward the wealthy, but tax cuts can be saved rather than spent. They won't halt the slowdown. Which leads me to expect that the slowdown will continue -- with disastrous results for the country.

Meet Your New Neighbors

Art Pope's North Carolina

Congratulations, corporations! You have said that making the rich richer will fix all in two years, that unleashing Big Business from regulation will mean The Second Coming, and that the poor can beg.

We are now counting down to that Brave New World.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Watauga Finals

Kennedy 8,211
Foxx 8,610

Goss 7,912
Soucek 8,757

Tarleton 8,398
Jordan 8,263

Winkler 8,171
Gable 8,240

Thomas 7,656
Blust 8,732

Kinsey 7,104
Miller 9,103

Deal 8,883
Howell 7,677

Hagaman 9,552
Byrd 5,665

Hodges 7,828
Warren 6,697
Welch 6,131
Walpole 5,385
Utter 5,341
Walpole 3,747