Monday, January 31, 2011

Protestors Outside the Koch Bros. Tea Party for Billionaires

The Koch brothers, Charles & David, billionaire financiers of the Tea Party and such groups as Americans for the Prosperous, hold an annual "retreat" for similarly rich reactionaries and their elected puppets. Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were reportedly guest speakers last year.

The retreat yesterday at the posh desert resort of Rancho Mirage was suddenly invaded by hundreds of people protesting the corporate take-over of American democracy.

Dollars to donuts Art Pope was among the rich attendees.

Art Pope was indeed on the invitation list (hattip: Mike). So was Robin Hayes, the new chair of the NC GOP.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wilkes Watch

With the slow demise of print journalism, here's where we're headed. Power to the people.

GOP: "It's Not Rape If We Say It Isn't Rape"

Apparently, focusing on the budget deficit and jobs jobs jobs means redefining rape.

So now, the 13-year-old seduced and impregnated by, say, her 20-year-old cousin is shit outta luck unless she can prove that the older cousin was holding a gun to her head. And the 20-year-old college co-ed, drunk out of her mind or deliberately drugged at a fraternity party, who wakes up and finds she's been gang-molested ... why, that ain't rape, honey, that's just boys being boys!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

David Parker Elected Chair of NCDP

Faison -262
Montgomery -15
Parker -355

The Mudd of History

Am now reading James L. Swanson's "Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer," the meticulously researched and juicily detailed account of John Wilkes Booth's every movement immediately prior to and following the April 14, 1865, shooting of President Lincoln at Ford's Theater. Swanson has triangulated everyone's movements and actions from "letters, manuscripts, affidavits, trial transcripts, newspapers, government reports, pamphlets, books, memoirs, and other documents." It couldn't be more thorough, and it's as unput-downable as any thriller.

Reading about Dr. Samuel Mudd, the Maryland doctor who set Booth's broken leg early on the morning of April 15, I was surprised to learn that he was not a random stranger onto whose farm Booth blundered in the dead of night. Not only did Mudd already know Booth rather well, but Mudd also had joined Booth late in 1864 in a fantastic plot to kidnap President Lincoln and transport him south to the Confederate capitol in Richmond, Va.

Mudd was very much a part of the philosophical environment in Charles County, Md., at that time. That part of southern Maryland gave Abraham Lincoln a total of just six votes in the election of 1860, out of 1,197 votes cast. Mudd himself was "anti-Union, antiblack, and the owner of up to eleven slaves before emancipation freed them."

That being said, Mudd was evidently wholly innocent of any involvement in the successful plot to kill the president some six months after Booth had wanted to kidnap him. Mudd did, however, on April 15, 1865, and during the days following after he learned what Booth had done, conceal this knowledge from the authorities. And for that he was severely punished.

All of this brought back memories of an old 1936 movie I had seen as a farmkid in Texas, "The Prisoner of Shark Island," a total whitewash of Mudd's motives which conveniently also erased all of Mudd's prior involvement with John Wilkes Booth. The character of Dr. Samuel Mudd in that Hollywood movie was victim of Union tyranny, pure and simple. He's railroaded into a military trial for his life, barely escapes death by hanging, and is instead sentenced to a fate virtually worse than death, long confinement in the notorious prison on the Dry Tortugas. In other words, it was the perfect movie to stir the anti-government passions of a Southern pre-teen of that day. Which it did.

Having just finished Ulysses S. Grant's "Personal Memoirs," I already knew that the general was in Washington on the day of the assassination -- which came just five days after Lee's surrender at Appomattox -- and was actually supposed to accompany the president to Ford's Theater that night. That double appearance of the president and the Union's great general was known all over Washington that day, as the Ford Theater management put out handbills advertising the fact. But the general and Mrs. Grant changed their plans at the last minute.

John Wilkes Booth was not crazy. He was politically motivated. And he gathered a sizable group of co-conspirators around him who shared his radical anti-Union, pro-slavery views.

Friday, January 28, 2011

No Comment

To: xxxx
Sent: 1/28/2011 9:28:26 A.M. Eastern Standard Time
Subj: RE: Voter ID Bill

January 28, 2011

Dear XXXX,

Thank you for your email on this important issue [proposed voter photo i.d. law]. The right of a citizen to vote is the foundation of our Republic. It is protected by both the North Carolina and US Constitutions. Accordingly, the integrity of the voting process must remain unblemished or voters will lose faith in our system of government.

It has become clear to me that there are numerous areas of our voting and voter registration processes that must be addressed to ensure that all voters are treated fairly and equally. I believe that North Carolina needs to require voters to present legal photographic ID's when voting. Such a requirement can hardly be described as a barrier to voting. For the estimated one percent of the eligible population without a photo ID, I will support provisions to provide such documents at no cost to the prospective voter. There are election-related cost savings that we can implement to cover such additional requirements. And I am confident that the cost of such requirements will fall far below the millions of dollars some groups are portraying.

I am convinced that a law requiring the presentation of a photo ID at the time of voting will help protect the integrity of our electoral process, and I intend to support it.


Rep. Jonathan Jordan
93rd District - Deputy Majority Whip
Office 418C
Phone: (919) 733-7727

Burps from the GOP General Assembly

Instead of dealing with "jobs, jobs, jobs," like they promised, our new Republican overlords in the NC General Assembly are instead bent on gesturing like nine-year-olds in a snowball fight, so that their first official business was rushing through a bill (in the House Judiciary Committee) to exempt this state's citizens from a key provision of the federal Affordable Health Care Act.

Are they even talking "jobs, jobs, jobs"?

No, they're talking a conservative agenda to strangle our cities (no forced annexation), to disenfranchise voters without picture ids, and to further cripple public education by lifting the cap on charter schools.

John Grooms, in Creative Loafing:
...Our suggestion, as has been made by many others in the state’s press, progressive think tanks, and most Democrats, was that the GOPers should leave the current “temporary” sales tax, and the tax rate on wealthy residents, the same as it is now for the coming year. That one simple decision could reduce the shortfall by more than a billion dollars without raising taxes. It’s something that nearly 60 percent of North Carolinians support, according to a recent nonpartisan Elon poll. Granted, leaving the tax rates alone would still leave us in a $2.7 billion hole; but when you’re desperately deep in debt, cutting a quick billion is a good place to start, and a sensible way to manage a government.

To our dismay, but certainly not our surprise, the new House Speaker, Thom Tillis, yesterday shot down any talk of making such a sensible, responsible move. According to a Charlotte Observer story by Jim Morrill, even former N.C. governor Jim Martin, A Republican and no slouch in the political-strategies department, told the new GOP leaders that they should at least “hold open” the idea of keeping the temporary taxes on the books to help cut the budget deficit. As Morrill succinctly reported, however, “Tillis said later the decision has already been made to let the taxes expire.”

As we wrote earlier, one thing is for sure: If the $3.7 billion shortfall is handled through spending cuts alone, North Carolina will be left with a second-rate excuse for a state government; many of its people will be worse off; our public schools will be in the crapper; and desperately needed human services will be a mere memory.

So, here’s a big Thanks For Nothin’ to Thom Tillis, the House Speaker and supposed education proponent from Mecklenburg County, for immediately caving in to Tea Party irrationality, right off the bat. At least now we know what we’re dealing with, which is, frankly, a major shit storm that will hit the state for the next two years. It’s not a pretty sight.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Slavery and Southern "Memory"

Just finished reading "The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant," all billion pages of it which was published originally in two fat volumes in 1885 (initially published by Mark Twain, incidentally).

I found myself a paperback copy of all billion pages when I was last in a Barnes & Noble, mainly because in my reading of modern histories of the Civil War, I kept stumbling on references to General Grant's Memoirs as one of the truly great reads in American literature.

They were right.

More than that, the man's "Memoirs" have completely changed my mind about him. I associated his name primarily with government corruption during his two terms as president (1869-1877). He bears the blame since he was chief executive and allowed certain men into office who generously helped themselves. The justification for that blame is another study altogether and not one I've undertaken or plan to undertake.

His writing about the Civil War is another matter, and he comes across as brutally honest (especially about himself), with a sharp intelligence and a quiet but active wit. He was no brute, which is also a part of the reputation I absorbed from somewhere.

I found this passage near the end of those billion pages:
The cause of the the Great War of the Rebellion against the United States will have to be attributed to slavery. For some years before the war began it was a trite saying among some politicians that "A state half slave and half free cannot exist." All must become slave or all free, or the state will go down. I took no part myself in any such view of the case at the time, but since the war is over, reviewing the whole question, I have come to the conclusion that the saying is quite true.

Slavery was an institution that required unusual guarantees for its security wherever it existed, and in a country like ours where the larger portion of it was free territory inhabited by an intelligent and well-to-do population, the people would naturally have but little sympathy with demands upon them for its protection. Hence the people of the South were dependent upon keeping control of the general government to secure the perpetuation of their favorite institution. They were enabled to maintain this control long after the States where slavery existed had ceased to have the controlling power, through the assistance they received from odd men here and there throughout the Northern States. They saw their power waning, and this led them to encroach upon the prerogatives and independence of the Northern States by enacting such laws as the Fugitive Slave Law. By this law every Northern man was obliged, when properly summoned, to turn out and help apprehend the runaway slave of a Southern man. Northern marshals became slave-catchers, and Northern courts had to contribute to the support and protection of the institution.

This was a degradation which the North would not permit any longer than until they could get the power to expunge such laws from the statute books. Prior to the time of these encroachments the great majority of the people of the North had no particular quarrel with slavery, so long as they were not forced to have it themselves. But they were not willing to play the role of police for the South in the protection of this particular institution....

Out of curiosity, I just Googled "Civil War not about slavery" to see what would turn up and was actually not at all surprised that a great deal of special pleading turned up, a concerted effort to erase slavery as the prime mover for the Civil War and replace it with reasons a good deal more high-minded and, incidentally, a good deal more flattering to those political forces of this day that are resisting our current president and his legislative initiatives.

Resistance is one thing. Mythological history to justify it is something else and quite debilitating to boot.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

EAT Your Peace!

Eat Your Peas!

Every Apple Finds Its Worm

"Foxx in the School House," courtesy of Mother Jones. Scroll down to see the animation. Whoever did the Madam's voice got pretty close to those foghorn tones we all know so well.

Elsewhere in Left Blogtopia, people are asking this a.m., "Where was Congresswoman Foxx last night? Who did she sit with?"

Consensus is that she was either not there or that she sat sulking in a clutch of other Republicans who (a) didn't have "dates" and (b) didn't want "dates."

Pleasantness is not the Madam's style.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Them Perks, Them Perks, Them Big Perks

Newly installed Tea Party Republican Renee Ellmers (NC-2) admitted yesterday her own noticeable hypocrisy, telling a caller on WPTF in Raleigh that yes, bee-yotch, she was taking advantage of the taxpayer-subsidized health insurance we provide for her while vowing to throw herself on the live grenade of health-insurance access for the rest of us.

Her excuse? It's damn expensive to be a U.S. representative! Why, they only pay me $174,000 a year (her husband is a surgeon, so her scale for "average" may be a trifle skewed):
“Unfortunately, being here in Washington is very expensive,” said Ellmers. “Yes we do have a salary and we do have benefits. It costs a lot of money to be here. I've signed on to the private plan, just like so many in America are on. The benefit is available to me. People need to understand out there it costs a lot money to be here in Congress.”
Love that tea-party poor-mouthing!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Watauga GOP Targets Town of Boone

Interesting column in Sunday's Watauga Democrat (not -- yet? -- on-line) by Donald Bolster, "chairman for the Watauga Country [sic] Republican Media Committee." Mr. Bolster declares in unmistakable terms that the local tea party's next target is Boone town government.

There's much to chew on, but this is particularly noteworthy:
...Citing a loss to the town's tax base, council members routinely fight Appalachian State University's expansion efforts. Such actions show a lack of insight and understanding. The fact is, as the university grows, so does Boone's economy. If town leaders are truly interested in the tax base, they would work with, not against, the university...."

Taking time off, evidently, from blaming the "liberal" university for indoctrinating the minds of NC's young and from grumbling about the fact that those indoctrinated students are allowed to vote in Watauga County, the Watauga Country Republican Party now discovers that ASU is a poor, put-upon victim. That's situational ethics at its finest and most cynical.

1. "the town's tax base" -- Yes, every expansion of ASU means a loss to tax revenue, like the former Quality Inn property at the corner of Hwys 105 and 321. That's nothing to sneeze at.

2. "council members routinely fight Appalachian State University's expansion efforts." That's not true. What is true is that ASU -- until perhaps rather recently, following the flap over the location of the College of Education bldg. -- routinely ignored the town's development regs. and flagrantly violated them. Without breaking much of a sweat, I found five such instances of Civil Penalties accessed against ASU from 2003 - 2007 for breaking the law. The College of Education was another, separate case, and ASU agreed to changes in their building plans to get the required permitting.

3. "as the university grows, so does Boone's economy" -- I'll grant you that one, but you left off another key phrase: "and so does Boone's financial burden in police, fire protection, traffic, and a few dozen other expensive incidentals."

The Watauga Republicans' bleeding heart for poor ASU rings more opportunistic than true. If they were really all that concerned about the university, they might be raising holy hell with the Republican budget cuts coming to the institution from the General Assembly, or they might be defending its wind generation and alternative energy research from the attacks of the John Locke Foundation.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Biggest Problem in America? Obviously, the Rights of Women!

The announcement by Thom Tillis that he would be leading the NC House on a crusade to limit the freedoms of women, and the similar movement among conservative Republicans in the U.S. House, are just the tip of the coming chill. Some 20 other states with new Republican majorities in state legislatures will be taking steps to make sure that pregnant women will procreate.

Because there's no greater freedom than the freedom of these Republican legislators to impose their wills on slightly over half of the U.S. population.

It's going to take the awareness and political activism of young women -- and their friends in the other sex -- to stand up to this medieval exercise of power.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Perks of Piety

In October 2009, Franklin Graham was embarrassed enough in public to give up one of his two CEO salaries.

He hasn't, however, given up the perks of the jet-set. Thanks to the brethren over at Ashe Watch, who picked up the information out of the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, Graham's Samaritan's Purse has purchased a new 19-seat private jet (cost of a used Falcon 900, according to Ashe Watch: $21-$40 million), which means that Samaritan's Purse must lease more land at the Wilkes County airport and build a new hangar to accommodate the luxury.

Who ever said missionaries should fly coach on public carriers?

Meanwhile, Franklin Graham can't keep from passing judgment on the rest of human creation and just generally throwing around his weight:

1. The speakers at the recent Tucson memorial service, in his view, were not nearly pharisaical enough for his taste (hattip: Ashe Watch too).

2. He thought that President Obama had better intercede with the Pentagon to get Mr. Graham reinvited to the National Day of Prayer event at the Pentagon ... or else. (Mr. Graham had been uninvited because of certain incendiary statements he made about all Muslims going to hell, or words to that effect.)

3. Last August he opined that the president who couldn't/wouldn't get him a prominent pharisaical spot at the Pentagon's National Day of Prayer bears "the seed of Islam" and is, therefore, you know, fodder for hell.

NOTE: The picture above, incidentally, is the interior of a Falcon 900.

# 2 on the GOP Agenda: Assault on Women's Rights

While former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (and major mover of the Tea Party) is urging Republican freshmen to go easy on the ideological extremes, Boehner & Co. charge full speed ahead on major legislation attacking a woman's right to end a pregnancy. It's not surprising that this ideological bunch would immediately let their freak flag fly, stirring up the base against freedom of choice for women.

We expect that this is only the beginning of extremists moving the agenda in their direction. They campaigned on greater freedom, which always meant "greater freedom for everyone but women."

And immigrants. And gays.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Corporate Appetite

A report by Public Citizen (hattip: Chris Kromm at Facing South, for bringing it to our attention) begins to show the corrosion to our democracy in 2010 from the Citizens United case, which unleashed unlimited corporate money on our electoral process:
* Spending by outside groups jumped to $294.2 million in the 2010 election cycle, a nearly four-fold increase from the $68.9 million spent in 2006, the last mid-terms. Nearly half of that ($138.5 million) came from just 10 groups, with the biggest share by far benefiting Republicans.

* In 60 out of 75 congressional races, the candidate benefiting most from outside spending won the race -- a remarkable 80 percent win rate.

* The source of the money flooding into elections after Citizens United remains largely hidden: Because many of the independent groups aren't required to disclose their donors, barely a third -- 34 percent -- of the groups reported which people and groups gave them money.

Gov. Perdue Comes Out Against Privatization of Liquor

"Under the Dome" is reporting ... from this morning's appearance by The Guv in front of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (a meeting which, incidentally, no Watauga County commissioner attended).

Foxx: Practice What You Preach

A group, er, movement called CREDO Action, "a publication of Working Assets," is calling on those members of Congress who just voted to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act to practice what they preach:
Who would have the audacity to vote for repealing affordable health care for 32 million Americans while gladly accepting generous, federally subsidized insurance for themselves?

Your representative — Rep. Foxx — along with 236 other congressional health care hypocrites.

Over the past two years, especially during the election season, Republicans and a select few Democrats did everything they could to derail health care reform. They fueled fears and misinformation, throwing around terms like "socialist," "fascist," "government takeover," and of course "death panels."

Now they've fulfilled their campaign promise and voted for a full repeal. But what most of them haven't done is given up the affordable, subsidized care that they voted yesterday to deny so many of us.

If you want to join this movement, you can click on the link above, and a message will be sent to The Madam in your name calling on her to stop being a hypocrite and to give up her government-subsidized health care.

McIntyre One of Three Dems Voting with Repubs

Only three Congressional Democrats voted with the Republicans on the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act, one of them Mike McIntyre of the NC-7.

He made a New Year's resolution that he was going to try to be more like the Republicans this year.

Not a herculean stretch, in his case.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Colbert Mocks Wake School Board While Kissell, Shuler Mock Kissell, Shuler

Stephen Colbert used the Wake County Board of Education as the main object lesson in a segment on The Colbert Report last night -- "The Word -- Disintegration." And the N&O duly covered it.

And Dem Reps Larry Kissell and Heath Shuler announced that they would not vote to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act today, despite the fact that they both voted against it originally. "Back then we were dorks," they said. "Now we're not dorks." The N&O duly covered it.

Robert Bentley's Welcome Wagon Not Open to Everyone

The newly inaugurated Republican governor of deepest Alabama, Robert Bentley, sez you ain't his "brother" unless you're a card-carrying, self-professed and sanctified Christian.

If not, you may proceed directly to hell on the nearest rocket toboggan.

"Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother," Bentley said, and he had the gall to say it from the pulpit in which Dr. Martin Luther King used to preach the equality of all.

If there was ever a state well suited to an evangelical politician, or ever a state that deserved him, it might be Alabama.

And trust us, we sooo want to be Alabama's brother.

The Gay Ole South

Some significant insight about the New New South in Census data just released, to wit:
...child rearing among same-sex couples is more common in the South than in any other region of the country....

Say whaaa?

Jacksonville, Fla., is, like, Ground Zero for gay parents raising children, not only in the South but also in the whole country.

And this:
...the families in this region defy the stereotype of a mainstream gay America that is white, affluent, urban and living in the Northeast or on the West Coast....

Black or Latino gay couples are twice as likely as whites to be raising children .... They are also more likely than their white counterparts to be struggling economically.

Experts offer theories for the pattern. A large number of gay couples, possibly a majority, entered into their current relationship after first having children with partners in heterosexual relationships .... That seemed to be the case for many blacks and Latinos in Jacksonville, for whom church disapproval weighed heavily

I guess I am in the land of cotton,
Old times there are best forgotten,
Look away, look away, look away, Dixie Land.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Climate Change Deniers' Floating Picnic

From this a.m.'s Charlotte Observer:
...Water is rising three times faster on the N.C. coast than it did a century ago as warming oceans expand and land ice melts, recent research has found. It's the beginning of what a N.C. science panel expects will be a 1-meter increase by 2100.

Rising sea level is the clearest signal of climate change in North Carolina. Few places in the United States stand to be more transformed.

About 2,000 square miles of our low, flat coast, an area nearly four times the size of Mecklenburg County, is 1 meter (about 39 inches) or less above water.

At risk are more than 30,500 homes and other buildings, including some of the state's most expensive real estate. Economists say $6.9 billion in property, in just the four counties they studied, will be at risk from rising seas by late this century.

Naw, we got no problem whatsoever from global climate change.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New GOP General Assembly Gets Down to Business: 1st, Limit the Freedom of Women

Thom Tillis, the new Republican speaker of the NC House, took time off from praying on Saturday to assure the right-wing of his party that he's no wimp when it comes to forcing women to procreate.

We didn't expect less.

The New Chair of the NC GOP

Former Congressman Robin Hayes easily won the election yesterday to become the new Republican state party chair ... on the first ballot, and overwhelmingly.

The Tea Party insurgency for Tim Johnson fizzled badly.

For more inside baseball coverage of the meeting, you can wade through Katy's Conservative Corner. Katy mentions the tingly pleasures of sitting next to Jonathan Jordan at the meeting.

The Jigsaw Puzzle of Jared Loughner

A team of reporters at the NYTimes dug up exhaustive background material on Jared Lee Loughner and published the long result this a.m.

He began to come unhinged around four years ago, about the time he dropped out of high school, and he cobbled together scraps of strong opinion that he picked up from currents and eddies in the swirl of national conversation, melding them with his own theories and strange beliefs. Some of it seemed all too similar to what others had been saying who never picked up a gun and killed people:
...He became intrigued by antigovernment conspiracy theories, including that the Sept. 11 attacks were perpetrated by the government and that the country’s central banking system was enslaving its citizens. His anger would well up at the sight of President George W. Bush, or in discussing what he considered to be the nefarious designs of government....

“He was all about less government and less America ... He thought it was full of conspiracies and that the government censored the Internet and banned certain books from being read by us.” ...

It was not just his appearance — the pale shaved head and eyebrows — that unnerved [employees at a local branch bank]. It was also the aggressive, often sexist things that he said, including asserting that women should not be allowed to hold positions of power or authority....
Not exactly the apolitical madman that some want to make him, and far, far from the "liberal of the liberals" of Congresswoman Foxx's rhetoric, and bent imagination.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

You Didn't See This on Fox News

Hattip: BrotherDoc (again). NASA reports (scientifically based, so some of you may want to avert your gaze) that 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record. The next warmest years are 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2009, "which are statistically tied for third warmest year." The scientific measurements only go back to 1880, so there's wiggle room -- natch! -- for you global climate change deniers.

Said the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, "Global temperature is rising as fast in the past decade as in the prior two decades, despite year-to-year fluctuations associated with the El Niño-La Niña cycle of tropical ocean temperature."

Lotus Eaters

Thanks to BrotherDoc for sharing this essay about the striking similarities between the pro-secession drumbeat in the South in 1860 and the anti-government rants by the Tea Party in 2010.

The slave-holders of 1860 and the filthy rich of 2010 both managed to convince regular non-slave-holding and non-rich people to support their vested interests. And as BrotherDoc notes, they managed to do it in 1860 without Fox News.

But they did it with an emotional appeal to "freedom" and "liberty," one of the greater ironies of American history, since the "freedom" and "liberty" that the slave owners were trumpeting was the freedom to own another human being and work that human being to death at the end of a whip.

So Southern boys with no personal vested interest in slaves, since their families were small-holders and subsistence farmers with no personal human property, signed up by the tens of thousands to die really gruesome deaths on the battlefields of Shiloh and Vicksburg and Chancellorsville and Gettysburg (and in 10,000 other battles, large and small) to keep the slave-holding planter class comfortably invested in their ruling positions over Southern society.

(We've been reading "The Personal Memoirs" of Ulysses S. Grant, so the realities of the Civil War -- rather than the Southern myth of "the lost cause" -- are quite vivid at the moment. Hearing the constant drumbeat, especially out of South Carolina, that the Civil War was not about slavery just discourages us that our Southern homeland will ever face the truth of its own history. But we digress.)

Back to this thoughtful little essay:
The slaveholders were able to persuade other white Southerners to fight, kill and die for a cause that was, in fact, against their own interests. Slavery worked against whites who owned no slaves. They had to compete with those who had this cheap source of labor. Protecting slavery also made the South hostile to other reforms, including industrialization, that could have benefited less affluent whites.

This story line should sound familiar to us now.

What is happening in the nation’s political economy today is all too similar to what transpired a century and a half ago. The benefits now accruing to middle-class Americans from concentrating more and more wealth and power at the very top — like the benefits 150 years ago of slavery to non-slaveholding whites — can be measured in negative numbers. Unemployment remains high in large part because a consumption-based economy is dependent on a less inequitable distribution of income.

Once again, talk about putative threats to “freedom” and “liberty” is being used to scare ordinary citizens into acting in the interests of the wealthy, who are focused on their own concerns, not on behalf of the people they are stirring to anger.

True dat!

What's in a Name?

Who can tell us how to pronounce "Reince Priebus," whose parents obviously played a big joke on him.





We'll assume "PREE-bus" on the last name (but might be "PRY-bus"), which someone said sounded like a hybrid vehicle.

BTW, we'll sooo miss Michael Steele!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Enduring Hard-On of Tim D'Annunzio

Machine-gun Tim D'Annunzio, the man publicly repudiated by the Republican state party chair back during the 2010 primary in the NC-8, has launched a tea party insurgency against the selection of Robin Hayes as the presumptive heir to the chairmanship of the NC Republican Party.

D'Annunzio favors Tim Johnson, about which there is perhaps slightly less trailing baggage than there is for D'Annunzio himself, but still plenty of baggage.

D'Annunzio does NOT favor Robin Hayes, the plush teddy bear evidently favored by Dick Burr and other country-club Republicans. "Stop the RINO establishment from controlling the NC GOP," reads a banner ad that D'Annunzio paid for on the Drudge Report. (Can't seem to catch the ad. Drudge's banners rotate, but if D'Annunzio's dyspepsia is still evident, we haven't been able to see it.)

AP's Gary D. Robertson posted an extensive profile of the chairman's race.

A Sure Route to Fame

NPR headlined a story about the motivations of assassins this a.m., digging up work done in the 1980s by the Secret Service following multiple attempts on the lives of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. The researchers ended up collecting data on some 83 assassins and would-be assassins, some of them unknown to the public though nevertheless locked up as dangerous. Several of them were extensively interviewed (and given anonymity when requested for the subsequent research published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences in 1999).

Although reading through the short list of assassins and would-be assassins published on the NPR site as a side-bar gives a slightly different impression, the gist of the research suggests that "assassinations of political figures were almost never for political reasons":
"It was very, very rare for the primary motive to be political, though there were a number of attackers who appeared to clothe their motives with some political rhetoric" ....

What emerges from the study is that rather than being politically motivated, many of the assassins and would-be assassins simply felt invisible. In the year before their attacks, most struggled with acute reversals and disappointment in their lives, which, the paper argues, was the true motive. They didn't want to see themselves as nonentities.

"They experienced failure after failure after failure, and decided that rather than being a 'nobody,' they wanted to be a 'somebody' " ....

Among the character profiles is one "FT," an anonymous predator presumably locked up but one who shared his motivations with the researchers:
"FT was a lonely, angry young man with few job skills, living with a mother who was ill with cancer and other ailments and who demanded his constant attention. FT was watching a television show about the state gubernatorial election when he suddenly thought, 'How weird it would be to assassinate the governor.' He then started to read and learn about assassination and assassins and spent the next 18 months preoccupied with selecting and shooting a national leader," study authors wrote. (No public information is available on whom FT attempted to assassinate or when.)
The researchers also maintained that an easy assumption of insanity is just wrong:
"There's nothing crazy about thinking that if I attacked the president or a major public official, I would get a lot of attention. I would get a lot of attention. My goal was notoriety," [one of the researchers] says. "That's why I bought the weapon."

And most of the assassins and would-be assassins weren't totally disorganized by mental illness, either.

"They were quite organized .... Because one has to be organized — at least to some extent — to attack a public official."

Rainbow Nation?

There's a suggestion on the table to mix up the seating for the State of the Union next Thursday evening ... get Repubs and Dems voluntarily to sit together and not on rigidly partisan sides of the hall. Virginia Foxx next to Barney Frank, for example. Dem Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado advocated for this in a letter to the leadership of both parties. Many Dems are embracing the idea, but so far no elected Republican in Congress has publicly endorsed it. But a spokesman for Repub Leader Mitch McConnell has pointedly not rejected the suggestion.

Sen. Udall got the idea from The Third Way, a creation of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). Historically, the DLC has represented the most pro-business wing of the Democratic Party. The presidency of Bill Clinton might be said to have been its apotheosis, and Hillary Clinton essentially ran under their banner. That Clinton legacy endures. "What would Clinton do?" seems to be both a literal and a figurative byword at their "fresh thinking" scroll.

Bill Clinton is so 1992 for the moniker "fresh thinking," but the idea of uncomfortable seating for the State of the Union -- Michele Bachmann next to Anthony Weiner -- might actually get me to watch.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Freedoms of Westboro Baptist Church

Pretty amazing series of photographs by Anthony Karen inside -- and we do mean inside -- the notorious Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. (that's NOT one of them to the left).

Old man/preacher Fred Phelps has 13 children, 11 of whom are lawyers (as is he).

Even without all that legal fire-power, our prediction is that they'll win the Supreme Court case upcoming about their right to hold up offensive signs (like "Thank God for 9/11") at funerals or anywhere else they please.

I don't see the claim that they are intentionally inflicting emotional distress on the families of, say, dead soldiers -- or Elizabeth Edwards, recently -- outweighing their First Amendment rights to free speech.

The Continuing Influence of the KJV

Like the local blogger at Sententiae, I too grew up with the language of the King James Bible ringing in my ears, and not just at church three times a week but during most days out of church, as my mother read it to me and I read it for myself on a daily basis. That language seeped deeply into my own vocabulary, syntax, and (Lord knows!) tendency to call down fire from Heaven.

The language of the King James translation was bolstered by an education at a West Texas Baptist college which required us to take religion courses. I was all too willing. Also annoying, probably, to the professor, because I could quote substantial swatches of scripture right along with him. My favorite in college -- my mantra, actually -- became Philippians 2:12:
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Which actually, because it prompted a certain doctrinal independence, got me into a little hot water as a budding apostate.

"Gradual School" at the Morman-deep University of Utah brought me to one of the best college courses I ever remember taking, "The Bible as Literature" with the great Jack Adamson. Much of what I learned in eight total years of college, the part worth remembering, I learned from this man.

When the iVoteValues crowd erupted in 2004, associating the reelection of George W. Bush with the Will of God, I took the opportunity to re-read all four books of the Gospel, trying to get the actual King James version of the words of Jesus back into my head as antidote to Rev. Richard Land's version and Jerry Falwell's version of who Jesus was and what his example taught us. I did not find that George W. Bush rose in human stature as a result.

Meanwhile, am I alone in keeping this website bookmarked on my computer? The fact that it wants to default to more modern translations when I search the Scriptures, I choose to ignore, since it does give me the option of searching that 400-year-old (this year!) piece of towering English literature, the KJV.

Welcome to Reality

Voters say they want the government to spend less, but don't dare neglect plowing my road during a snow storm!

Remains to be seen just how much voters want our state's children educated. Will they sit by and watch thousands of teachers and other school employees get laid off?

Or ... unlikely as it may be ... we could force our new reps in Raleigh to reform the tax base to keep our schools operating and our roads open.

Intercepted E-Mail RE Civitas & Forsyth Co. Schools

We've posted here before about a not so subtle move by some on the Forsyth County Board of Education to move Art Pope and the Civitas Institute into the philosophical driver's seat of the local school system.

We received the forwarded e-mail below, which sheds some more light on how the Civitas "training" session for School Board members happened and how it was marketed. The author of the e-mail, John Dornan, is both well known and well respected in NC education circles (more about his credentials below the e-mail). After all, the Civitas Institute itself sought out his participation.
To: [Forsyth County School Board members]
From: "John Dornan"
Date: 01/06/2011 02:41PM
Subject: Upcoming School Finance Training


To: The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board of Education & Superintendent
Re: Upcoming School Finance Training
From: John Dornan

I regretfully am writing to inform you that I will not be taking part in the upcoming school board training session on school finance. Over a month ago I was contacted by Kerry Crutchfield, your former business manager, and was asked if I would make a presentation on school finance at a board training session. Over the years the Public School Forum has relied on Kerry a good deal, asked him to participate in sessions with us, etc., and I immediately agreed to help.

There was no mention of the Civitas Institute being part of this session; nor was I told that the event would be marketed by Civitas to board members and others in the surrounding area.

Since the call from Crutchfield, I have not been contacted by anyone else, particularly the Civitas Institute, regarding the event and remained under the presumption that this was simply a school finance work session for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth Board.

However, in the last three weeks I have been contacted by a number of people – school officials, members of the Forum Board, and others – letting me know that in material marketing/promoting this event on behalf of the Institute, that I was featured quite prominently in Civitas material as a speaker. Those calling wanted to know if I was now promoting the Civitas view of public schools.

For your information, while I believe in a free exchange of ideas and respect the right of any would-be think tank, be it Civitas or the Public School Forum, to hold views contrary to my own, I do not agree with Civitas when it comes to their stance on public schools and would not knowingly help them advance their views. They appear to view the free market and choice/vouchers/tax credits as the answer to the challenges of education – solutions I fear would only compound the challenges we now face. As for their very recent entry into the school board training arena I can’t help but believe that it is a thinly veiled attempt to spread their ideology, not one focused on building the capacity of school board members to make decisions that will strengthen the public schools.

My views on Civitas and its philosophy aside, I again regret that I will not be part of next week’s training session. The invitation that was extended was incomplete. Had I known that I was being asked to play a role promoting an organization and a point-of-view that I do not subscribe to I would not have agreed to a part of it. If in the future the Public School Forum can support work on behalf of the young people in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth schools we will gladly respond in the affirmative, but in this case we decline to participate.

A brief bio on Mr. Dornan:
A native of Pennsylvania, Mr. Dornan taught high school English before working with education associations in six states. He was the leader of the NC Association of Educators until becoming head of the NC Public School forum in 1986. The NC Public School Forum is responsible for such programs as the NC Teaching Fellows Program, the Virtual High School Network, and the Education: Everybody’s Business Coalition. John serves on any number of boards of directors and was inducted in East Carolina University's Education Hall of Fame, among other honors and awards.
Yes! Weekly sez the Civitas Institute "training" session has been canceled.

Yes! Weekly apparently was only partially correct. The "training" has been rescheduled to Feb. 11 rather than canceled outright. An insider tells us that the School Board partisans were going to be embarrassed by low attendance this week and are trying to pump it up for later. The defection of John Dornan, apparently, was a big blow.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Today's Watauga Democrat just arrived, and we noticed the headline, "Mood subdued in wake of Tucson shootings." It never occurred to us that the "mood" being described was Virginia Foxx's ... until we began reading and learned that "U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx is staying guarded in her response...."

That brought us up short.

So what mood, exactly, was she in when she gave the Winston-Salem Journal that extensive quote published in Monday's paper?

Nary a word about the many victims in that long screed. Not one. Instead, we got -- first -- defensiveness. It has nothing to do with any member of Congress, and nothing they've ever said, nor especially anything to do with Sarah Palin and anything she's ever said. Nut-jobs happen. If she'd stopped there, she could (almost) get away with "Virginia Foxx's response is guarded."

But then she launched into her own brand of inflamatory up-the-ante-ism.

"This guy appears to be a communist," she said. Really? Because Karl Marx was on his reading list? Ayn Rand is on there too. She might just as easily have suggested that "this guy is a doctrinaire libertarian." But she was only warming up for her real target.

She grabbed the single worst noun she could personally think of ... liberal. He's a liberal. And not just any liberal, but "the liberal of the liberals" [sic]. What evidence she would have to base that assessment on is not only invisible but also mythic.

Her intention, however, is crystal clear.

Heightened Interest in Lowered Expectations

Long article in this a.m.'s WashPost profiling the attempt by the new Republican-dominated school board in Wake County to end the decades-long "diversity" policy that mixed income groups in all schools.

One might have expected some D.C. interest in Wake County because of the hiring of Anthony J. Tata, former chief operating officer of the D.C. schools, as the new Wake Superintendent. But we learn nothing from this article about Tata's tenure or reputation in D.C.

We do get word, however, direct from The Czar of All North Carolina, Art Pope, who actually granted an interview to the WashPost. He acknowledges that the new student assignment program proposed by his guys on the school board will create inner-city schools with great concentrations of poor minority students. Pope generously allows as how that might actually be a good thing: knowing where all the poor kids are will make it easier for his other puppets in government to dedicate more money to them (yeah, right!) -- not to mention that such concentrations of black & brown poverty far from the watered lawns of suburbia will make many an affluent parent rest more comfortably.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Shuler Says He'll Be Armed

Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) told POLITICO that he will be carrying his gun in his home district (he has a concealed carry permit) for protection. He said he will not carry the weapon in the District of Columbia.

"Shuler, who received a serious death threat in 2009, says he is planning to carry his weapon more often and boost security at his district events. He's even encouraging his staffers to get their own conceal to carry permits. 'You never think something like this will happen, but then it does,' Shuler said 'After the elections, I let my guard down. Now I know I need to have [my gun] on me. We're going to need to do a much better job of with security at these events."

The Party Line

From this a.m.'s Winston-Salem Journal:
Rep. Virginia Foxx, U.S. Congress, N.C. 5th District (Republican):
"I don't think members of Congress incite that kind of rhetoric -- I don't think the things we say incite that kind of behavior. And I don't know that the things other people say incite it. I just think we have deranged individuals in this country and occasionally they do bad things.

"This guy appears to be a communist. His beliefs are the liberal of the liberals. There is no evidence whatsoever that this man was influenced by Sarah Palin or anybody in the Republican Party. This man is not a conservative; he's a fan of communism -- that's the opposite of conservatism.

"The members of Congress, we put ourselves out there, and we're willing to take whatever risk there is, but it is so sad that this involved innocent people. We never want anyone else to be harmed because of our positions."

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Rhetoric of Violence

A list by no means complete and in no particular order:

1. From the campaign calendar of Jesse Kelly, the Tea Party Republican who ran against Gabrielle Giffords last fall: "Sat, 6/12/10, 10:00 AM - Get on Target for Victory in November - Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office - Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly"

2. Republican senatorial candidate Sharon Angle, who said she wanted to "cure" Nevada of Sen. Harry Reid and said she knew a Second Amendment "remedy": "I feel that the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry. This not for someone who's in the military. This not for law enforcement. This is for us. And in fact when you read that Constitution and the founding fathers, they intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical...."

3. Florida GOP congressional candidate Allen West, talking to a crowd of Tea Partiers about his opponent last fall, incumbent Dem Ron Klein: "Let me tell you what you've got to do. You've got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house. That's the only way that you're going to win. That's the only way you're going to get these people's attention."

4. Someone dropped a gun at a Gabrielle Giffords event in August 2009. Also that August, another man brought a gun to a town hall meeting by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) in Memphis. On August 18, 2009, at least a dozen men were carrying weapons outside the Phoenix convention center where President Barack Obama was giving a speech. The week before that in 2009, during a presidential health care town hall in Portsmouth, N.H., a man carrying a sign reading "It is time to water the tree of liberty" stood outside with a pistol strapped to his leg.

5. On the May 17, 2005, broadcast of The Glenn Beck Program, Mr. Beck said: "Hang on, let me just tell you what I'm thinking. I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out -- is this wrong?"

6. Bill O'Reilly mentioned Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller on his radio show 29 times between 2005 and the doctor's assassination in his church on Sunday, May 31, 2009, nicknaming the doctor "Tiller the Killer."

7. In August 2010, a day after talk radio host Laura Schlessinger quit her show, following criticism for using the N-word repeatedly in a broadcast, Sarah Palin told her: "Don't retreat ... reload!" Subsequently, Palin used that line repeatedly in public rallies.

8. On March 4, 2010, James L. Schmidlin placed a call from Tennessee to the office of Democratic Congressman John Boccieri, in which he threatened to set fire to Boccieri's home. (Schmidlin has actually been charged with a crime.)

9. On March 20, 2010, at the Tea Party Republican rally against health-care reform on Capitol Hill, several protestors carried signs reading "If [Sen. Scott] Brown Can't Stop It, A Browning Can." Another: "Vote No Or Else!" Another: "Kill the Bill or Face the November Slaughter!"

10. In September 2010, Justin Carl Moose, 26, of Concord, NC, was arrested by the FBI after posting tips on bomb-making and making threats against Planned Parenthood on his Facebook page. According to the FBI, he had planned the bombing of an abortion clinic in North Carolina.

11. "I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that [health reform] bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country." --Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, November 2, 2009, on the floor of the U.S. House. "All the promises [President Obama] has kept have endangered our lives." --Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, on the Bill Lumaye Show, NewsRadio 680 WPTF, Jan. 5, 2010. "We're talking about four years. If we don't take this country back from the leftists who are running it now, we will lose our country." ---Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, to the Iredell County Republican Party's Reagan Day Dinner, Feb. 6, 2010

Not that any of this would have anything whatsoever to do with influencing the mind of a Jared Lee Loughner. No never.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Jared Loughner's Video Testament

The gunman in the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. On YouTube.

It's a strange rant, but give it time. He gets around to referring to himself as a "terrorist." Also as a recent military recruit.

Apparently -- and we're not making this up -- it all comes down to the government's controlling grammar.

Giffords Did Not Vote for Pelosi for Speaker

On Roll Call # 2 on the first day of the 112th Congress, Gabrielle Giffords voted for John Lewis (Ga.-5) to be Speaker of the House.

It's being confirmed right now that a federal judge and a child of nine are both dead. Five others are in critical condition, including the congresswoman. At least another five were wounded.

Shooter in his early 20s. He's alive.

For the Record

This is the map of the 20 targeted members of Congress on the Palin website cited below. Gabrielle Giffords was one of the three that are "bulls-eyed" in Arizona.

Notice the heading to the page: "We've dianosed the problem... Help us prescribe the solution."


Gabrielle Giffords Was in Palin's "Bulls-eye"

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.-5) was shot point-blank in the head this morning in Tucson where she was holding a "Congress On Your Corner" event at a grocery store.

The gunman ran up and shot Giffords in the head and then shot some six of the Congresswoman's aides and unknown others, including apparently at least one child. (These numbers are approximate. We tried getting on the Tucson Citizen, but its servers appear overloaded.)

Back in September 2010, Sarah Palin launched a website identifying 20 House members who voted for the health overhaul bill. Giffords was one of those. The map of the United States on the Palin site contained 20 rifle-scope bulls-eyes (still contains, actually, but you better go look quick, before the site disappears entirely -- scroll down on the homepage).

Palin posted an apology on Facebook that does not mention the website linked above.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

"Do As We Say, Not As We Do!"

Breaking News: House Republicans' plan to repeal the health care reform law would increase the deficit by $230 billion by 2021, according to a preliminary analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. The Republican leadership's plan, therefore, to repeal health-care reform will instantly break the House's new rule of "pay/cut": "No bills can pass if they add to the deficit, but Republicans are making an exception to their own rules for the repeal bill."

Reading the Constitution

The Tea Party Republicans will perform their stunt, reading aloud the Constitution today on the floor of the U.S. House. Hope they don't stumble over Article I, Section 8:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States....

We know the Tea Partiers loathe the word "welfare." Will that word swell like an angry cyst in the mouth of the Republican reading it and choke his/her windpipe?

Further, in clauses 13 and 14 of Article I, Sec. 8 (powers granted to Congress), this is specifically enumerated:
To raise and support Armies...;

To provide and maintain a Navy....

And nowhere in there, O ye self-appointed strict constructionists, does it mention anything about an Air Force.

We know, we know! You're only strict about what you don't like, particularly the "general Welfare." The Constitution doesn't specify the Federal Reserve either, and that one you want to abolish, because it isn't specifically enumerated among Congressional powers to create. But you can't cherry-pick the specifically unenumerated extensions of government without looking, well, hypocritical and inconsistent.

Republican Congress: "Our First Rule Is We Don't Have to Follow Our Rules"

After calling for bills to go through a regular committee process, the Republican bill that would repeal the health care law will not go through a single committee nor be subject to a single hearing. Despite promising a more open amendment process for bills, amendments for the Republican health care repeal will be shut down. After calling for a strict committee attendance list to be posted online, Republicans backpedaled and ditched that from the rules. They promised constitutional citations for every bill but have yet to add that language to any of the early bills they intend to pass during the first week.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Soucek and Jordan Get Free Health Insurance, Paid for by You & Me

"Despite being part-time workers, every NC legislator qualifies to receive completely free tax-payer subsidized health coverage for themselves through the NC State Health Plan. No other part-time state worker has that right .... NC legislators also uniquely qualify to buy into the State Health Plan at the basic rate after they leave the General Assembly." (NC Policy Watch)

Well taken-care-of themselves, Soucek and Jordan will vote with the rest of their Republican brethren to quickly pass a promised resolution opposing the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ... because (hey!) just because they get free insurance doesn't mean they have to support your right to a shot at affordable coverage.

If they were honest, God-fearing politicians, and not towering hypocrites, they would voluntarily give up the free perks that we pay for and which they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.

We ain't holding our breath.

More Important Than She Ever Dreamed

Madam Virginia Foxx, the new Czar of Higher Education in the U.S. House, told the Chronicle of Higher Education in an interview just published that she can't remember why she was the only Republican member of the House Education Committee to vote against reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.

"Probably just habit?" she suggested.

Then she added, "I can do what I waunt, bee-otch! I'll do what I waunt! What-evah! I'll do what I waunt!"

The bill she couldn't remember a reason for voting against, incidentally, was a Bush administration initiative and was signed into law by George W. Bush on August 14, 2008.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

One School System at a Time

What would you say to a liberal think tank conducting a "training" session on budget priorities for School Board members and getting the school system itself to sponsor the "training" on school property and furthermore qualify the "training" to count as four credit hours toward the professional training requirements that school board members in the state of North Carolina are required to complete? And -- oh yeah -- what would you say to that liberal think tank charging the school board members for the "training"?

Sound okay to you?

Flip the "liberal" to conservative, and that's exactly what's going on in Winston-Salem with the Forsyth County School Board. The conservative think tank that has engineered this swell little plan is none other than Art Pope's Civitas Institute.

Art Pope was the power/money behind the takeover of the Wake County School Board in 2009, and that entire city has been in an uproar ever since ... especially with the recent hiring of a pulp-novel-writing ex-general with very little educational experience as the new Superintendent, he whose greatest qualification for the job may be that he thinks Sarah Palin is a genius. Plus in his spare time in 2010, Mr. Pope also took charge of the NC General Assembly. It just came out today that the Republican leadership team in the NC House is busy kissing the Pope's ring by hiring his underlings to run the joint.

"The Good Government State," Art Pope style.

Foxx to Higher Education: "Respect my authoritah!"

McClatchy Newspapers:

"U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, the Eric Cartman of the 112th Congress, will take over the chairmanship of a subcommittee focused on higher education, her office announced today. The subcommittee oversees federal policy on U.S. colleges and universities and is part of the House Education and the Workforce Committee."

It was already finished. Might as well put the Madam in charge of burying the bodies.

Watauga County Commission 1/4/11

As Long As It Doesn't Cost Any Money
At the Watauga County Commission meeting this morning, the mantra among those presenting proposals for approval became "and this isn't going to cost the county any money."

That was because the new Republican majority was trying hard to assert its perceived mandate for "budget hawk-ism." But after much discussion, every vote still went 5-0, with the Republican newbies going along with the essentially "progressive" stream already flowing. As long as it doesn't cost any money.

How can new projects for bettering infrastructure and enhancing environmental quality of life not cost more money? Through grants. There are still agencies, private and public, giving away money to local governments for worthy projects.

For example:

1. Extending the greenway another 1.4 miles north from Brookshire Park on the New River. The Tourism Development Authority asked for permission to spend some of its fund (collected from the county-wide occupancy tax), which will be matched on approximately a $4-for-every-$1 by the NC Clean Water Trust Fund, to acquire easements to make the extension possible. Ultimately (one hopes), the greenway might extend all the way to Todd and connect to the Boone Greenway under the Hwy 421 bridge and connect to the new Rocky Knob bike park being built now.

There is, of course, a slight burden on the county ... for maintenance and upkeep. The new commissioners expressed concern about that. Rob Holton, as chair of the Tourism Development Authority, crystalized the fundamental question: Is the benefit greater than the cost? (If you know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, you're an economist and not a leader with vision.)

2. The commissioners also granted Economic Development Director Joe Furman permission to seek grant money to fund a local Natural Products Conference in March, to encourage local entrepreneurial development.

Farmland Preservation
At its first meeting in December, the new Republican majority, on a motion by Mr. Vince Gable, voted to "accept" the new "Watauga County Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Plan." That language in Mr. Gable's motion -- "accept" rather than "adopt" or "approve" -- created a major snag. To get reimbursed (by the grant from the NC Dept. of Agriculture) for its $18,000 cost in producing the plan, the Commission must explicitly "adopt" or "approve." On a motion by Mr. Jim Deal, the commission this morning voted 5-0 to amend its minutes from December 6 to reflect that they had "approved" the plan. (I have a copy of this highly detailed roadmap for enhancing sustainable agriculture and the local foods movement and plan to write more about it in the future.)

Epic Fail
The leash agreement worked out between the old Democratic Board majority and the Watauga County Farmer's Market, for Saturday use of the social services bldg. parking lot off the Poplar Grove Rd. Extension, which was up for final approval ... suddenly crashed, as Chair Nathan Miller wanted to know why the County could allow that use for a measly dollar a year (plus costs of supplying county staff to keep the Social Services bldg. open on those Saturdays), when the Farmer's Market had been paying some $10,000 per annum to Horn in the West.

One might almost conclude that the new commissioners have dollar signs for eyes.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

You Go, Joe

Former Speaker of the NC House (and new Minority Leader) Joe Hackney, calling out new Republican Majority Leader Paul "Skip" Stam on his redistricting hypocrisy:
My friend, House Majority Leader Paul Stam, twisted himself into all sorts of knots in his recent letter to the editor, trying to wriggle out of his decades-long previous position that North Carolina should have a Citizen Redistricting Commission.

Not enough time, he says. Needs a constitutional amendment, he says. Neither of these claims is true.

There is plenty of time for a commission to be appointed, to meet and to make recommendations. The General Assembly could then ratify or reject the plans. No constitutional amendment is required for that.