Monkey Media Report Archive

A North Carolina news
and arts Weblog
September 2003

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10.2.03 - Look, you don't have any cause to be upset that I haven't posted in over a week. I'm in an absorbing rather than spewing mode right now, sorry, with attention drawn particularly to the Clubmen's "Peaceable Army" at the height of the English Civil Wars of the mid-1600s. Fascinating stuff for all you jittery mouse-clickers, if you can stop caring about moronic mainstream polls long enough to learn a bit of deeply relevant history.

Besides, if you're not regularly reading BodyandSoul, The Sideshow, Counterspin, Metafilter, Atrios and the other sites linked above (which provide tons of pointers to evidence supporting left-leaning positions), reading this blog probably won't help.

But, hey, I like you anyway. You actually care what I think about the Michael Peterson trial (he'll be acquitted), beach erosion, Loretta Lynn, electronic voting that doesn't leave a paper trail, and the completely unjustifiable exemption for newspapers that was recently written into NC's "do not call" law.

Check back in a day or two for specifics. When my brain and fingers agree it's time to spew again rather than simply absorb it all as it passes by, you'll be the first to know. [link]


9.24.03 - Let's see...if I'm curious about the reality behind John Edwards run, which should I bother reading? A jokey, almost hilariously superficial 550-word toss-off from the N&O's lead political columnist? Or an in-depth, highly readable, 7,400-word debate between the editors of two intelligent political magazines? Decisions, decisions...

Don't get me wrong, Rob Christensen's a great reporter who's generally being wasted on the grind of superficial day-to-day political coverage. But it's been years now and Christensen still can't seem to get the hang of writing a political column. What's up with that? His attempts almost always come across as stiff and shallow, and are often needlessly insulting (except when he's writing another of those history pieces that work well for him). It's a shame the folks at the N&O don't seem to understand that there are different skills involved, and that Christensen simply doesn't seem to have what it takes to be an engaging columnist.

Meanwhile, that debate between Chapel Hill-based Jason Zengerle and Garance Franke-Ruta, editors at The New Republic and The American Prospect, respectively, is an entertaining, well-written and highly informative exploration of Edwards' very poor chances at higher elective office. There's simply no reason to bother with a phoned-in 550-word column in the local daily when much deeper analysis is available at the click of a mouse. [link]


9.24.03 - For obvious reasons, I don't like it when people use "monkey" as an insult, but I'd still love more political protests that are as funny and creative as this one, please. [Thanks, tengu.] [link]


9.24.03 - Mystery writer Sara Paretsky's recent op-ed about the Patriot Act is up at (whose managing editor William Rivers Pitt, by the way, will be speaking at UNC's Carroll Hall this Friday at 7pm). Paretsky's essay is a must-read, from her discussion of "the cloud of unknowing" that surrounds three disgusting episodes of overzealous law enforcement through the memories of her chilling experience during the Cold War, "when religion and patriotism were conflated." It's actually a shorter version of a very engaging speech, "Truth, Lies and Duct Tape: Writing in an Age of Silence," available at her Web site, which includes fascinating info about her interest in the Taliban pre-September 11th. For those too busy to read even the shorter of the two, here it is in a nutshell:

A few years ago, I was almost arrested in the middle of the night. The police stopped a hit man just before he reached his target. The hit man had a card with my name and the title of one of my books on the seat next to him, and the police were sure I was involved. But they had to get a warrant, and the assistant state's attorney wouldn't issue it. Today, though, the cops could just come and get me. And U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft thinks that's fine...

I think of Patrick Henry's cry to the Burgesses, "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?" and William Lloyd Garrison's cry to slavery forces, "I am in earnest. I will not equivocate; I will not excuse; I will not retreat a single inch; and I will be heard." I don't want ever to face the choice the U.S. Congress gave Dashiell Hammett: choose between prison and betraying my friends. I don't want to be pilloried in the papers, as my parents were, or have my books blacklisted. But even more, I hope if I am put to the test for my beliefs, I will be strong enough to stand with our true patriots, with Patrick Henry and William Lloyd Garrison, with Dashiell Hammett--and my parents.

I've never been much for mystery fiction (don't mind it, just too busy with robots and elves, I guess), but I think the next genre book I read is going to feature V. I. Warshawski. Perhaps even the new one, Blacklist, due next week. [link]


9.22.03 - Want to know more about General Wesley Clark than 99% of the population? When you've had your fill of the smiley-faced spin in the Clarksphere, take a few minutes to read this transcript from last Thursday's Democracy Now radio show. Turns out Mr. Clark is about as anti-war as I am heterosexual - i.e., not much. Steve Rendall of FAIR sticks to the reality, not the current spin:

Our problem is not with Wesley Clark's campaign, it's with the media's portrayal of him. One point I'd like to say, your listeners should go look at the daily column that Clark wrote for the Times of London, right around the time of the fall of Baghdad. He wrote there, for instance, the day after the fall of Baghdad he wrote "Liberation is at hand. Liberation, the powerful bomb that justifies painful sacrifices, erases lingering doubts and reinforces bold actions." He also wrote that George W. Bush and prime minister Tony Blair "should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt".

This is the day after, this is on April 10, the day after the so called fall of Baghdad. He was cheering this event, and it's very hard for us to see reporters casting him as antiwar candidate.

FAIR offers more specifics at its own site, including this gem from the "anti-war" general's column in the London Times on April 11:

"The campaign in Iraq illustrates the continuing progress of military technology and tactics, but if there is a single overriding lesson it must be this: American military power, especially when buttressed by Britain's, is virtually unchallengeable today. Take us on? Don't try! And that's not hubris, it's just plain fact."

Yeah, that's not hubris. Whatever you say, General. Be sure to read the entire transcript, in which Zoltan Grossman and Robert Fisk share some interesting info about Clark's handling of the reprehensible NATO bombing of Yugoslavia:

...over and over again when NATO has bombed the target, it was clearly illegitimate. Or when they killed large number of civilians, they were either silenced, or they lied. We had the...infamous occasion when American aircraft bombed an Albanian refugee convoy in Kosovo...NATO claimed later it was probably Serb aircraft. It was only when we got there and found the NATO markings on the bomb, that NATO fessed up admitted that they had done it themselves and had been confused...

NATO, in its war against the Serbs, committed a number of acts which I think are very close to war crimes, and General Clark was the commander.

Michael Moore appears to have overlooked an awful lot of dead bodies before begging Wesley Clark to save the left in America. For a sharp contrast try this less gullible take, which makes a decent case that the Clark/Clinton/NATO campaign, yes, involved war crimes. Indiscriminate bombings? Lying about and covering up civilian casualties? Depleted uranium? Cluster bombs blowing up marketplaces? Gosh, is any of this sounding familiar?

I haven't made up my mind among the Democratic presidential candidates yet, but one piece of conventional wisdom I know is garbage is the one that says Dems can only win by running a military Daddy figure. Puh-lease. Anyone with the guts to call Bush a blatant liar on the campaign trail - and to aggressively attack him for entangling us in Iraq at the absolute stupidest possible time - should find the 2004 election a slam dunk. And it's not at all clear that Clark (who comes with lots more baggage than you might think) is the best guy for the job. In fact, the more I read about the General and his familiar crew of handlers, the less I like him.

Apparently, we're supposed to think that Dems are so out-of-touch with Americans that they have no choice but to take as their savior a man who once voted for a clown like Ronald Reagan for president. Yeah, I'll get right on that. My favorite part of that last link is where Clark declines to clarify his Republican past by using the phrase, "I imagine that I voted for Reagan at one time or another." He imagines he voted for Reagan. Well, I imagine I'll be voting for someone other than you, Wesley. Do the folks advising Clark really believe they'll be able to get away with weasely garbage like that?

To be clear: I'm not dead-set against a Clark nomination - hell, I'd vote for the rotting corpse of Harry "what the hell, let's bomb Nagasaki too" Truman over the current crop of White House liars. But even as we acknowledge that a guy who "took four bullets from the Viet Cong" will be useful against everyone's favorite fake fighter pilot, let's not kid ourselves about what a Clark nomination would mean: another triumph for the wealthy, business-as-usual wing of the Democratic Party.

Screw 'em. As far as I can see, no one has yet demonstrated that what the Democrats most need is a general who is also an almost unbelievably inexperienced campaigner. The guy can't even get his own message straight:

What has puzzled some political professionals is that the general's expertise is supposed to be as a military commander, strong on preparation and organization, and yet he does not seem to have a structure or strategy in place for a campaign.

This was immediately evident last week when he announced his candidacy. He did so before hiring a campaign manager and filling other important slots — and before he seemed to have thought through his positions. This was apparent as he reversed himself on the issue on which was perceived to have the most credibility — the war in Iraq.

On Thursday, the day after he announced his candidacy, he said, "I probably would have voted for" the resolution. On Friday, he backtracked, saying, "I never would have voted for war." But last October, according to The Associated Press, he said he supported a Congressional resolution to give President Bush authority to use military force against Iraq.

Christ, what a boneheaded move. In one fell swoop (probably due to his desire to step on Edwards' announcement), Clark completely punctured his image as a thoughtful alternative to Lieberman and Gephardt, while at the same time obviously trying to weasel out of his past Republican voting record. Assuming he's not a complete political moron, his forked tongue has to be seen as a deliberate strategy to blur his positions and win over conservative voters. Pissing off the left while tepidly reaching out to the right is, after all, the centrist Democrat way. Worked real well in those 2002 Congressional elections, didn't it?

Make the candidates work for your primary vote, please. Especially you liberals looking for a military Daddy to take care of you. [link]


9.22.03 - Out of the mouths of citizens...

Atrios links a recent letter to the LA Times:

I heard an estimate that it would take $8 billion per year to inspect all shipping containers coming into U.S. ports. At $160 billion and climbing for Iraq, this means we could have inspected all those crates for 20 years. Feel safer yet?

Now there's a Democratic ad I'd like to see. Simple, to-the-point, and deadly to the re-election chances of our neocon-owned president. [link]


9.19.03 - One of the best things about hurricanes - aside from surviving them with your home intact - is that the weather after they pass is always so goddamn gorgeous. Hell, the weather as they're approaching is gorgeous, too, in its own way. I love the whipping trees, sideways rain and snap in the air as a hurricane gets closer.

This time, Raleigh was lucky to be hit with only a glancing blow from one arm of the storm. I suspected as much from the desperate tone of the TV weather crews after the hurricane dropped from category 5 to 2 ("ISABELA: WILL IT COME BACK?" was a personal fave), but am glad I actually did get the chance to relax and appreciate Isabela up-close for the amazing natural display it is. I don't mean to diminish the death and destruction others experienced, and I'm curious to see how the beach erosion thing turns out, but after living through both Fran and Floyd I figured I was entitled to kick back and just enjoy the beautiful chaos swirling around in the local atmosphere.

While hoping there wouldn't be a hole in my bedroom roof when I got home, of course. I walked up to the house on a carpet of the green and brown debris that covered all of the streets I'd seen, took note of the 25-foot chunk of tree that had fallen on the ground across the street, and the 22-footer that had fallen a few feet from the back deck, and made sure to say hello to and play with the cats, who were still acting as weird as they'd been when I left. Later, with the rain clearing and the wind rising and falling - but no longer gusting - in cycles that got longer as the night went on, I laughed again at how beautiful everything was.

And, sure enough, the weather is gorgeous today in Raleigh, North Carolina. [link]


9.19.03 - Here's something for all of you university laboratory types: Embittered geek humor, found while nosing around for agreeable reviews of John Barnes' cyberpunk hurricane novel Mother of Storms. I'd read the book during my "must devour all cyberpunk" phase years ago, but then a used copy appeared in my life just as Isabel ratcheted up to a Category 5 and headed in this direction. I took it as something of a sign.

It's not a perfect book, by any means, but it probably is "One of the best disaster novels ever," as Booklist put it. Military action triggers the release of huge amounts of undersea methane off the coast of Alaska, which heats the atmosphere enough to create a monstrously powerful, continent-sized hurricane in the Pacific, which spins off a second, equally monstrous hurricane that crosses Central America into the Atlantic, and which itself starts spinning off get the idea. Cue a cast of billions linked via a global network of electronically shared experiences, sprinkle with thoughtful speculation about human-machine spirituality, add a hot, slightly goofy sex scene between a disembodied astronaut in space and his ex-girlfriend on a boat in the Pacific Ocean, and top it off with lots of finely chopped meteorology and political speculation, and you have one helluva sci-fi book. Perfect for those cool, gently breezy post-hurricane evenings. [link]


9.17.03 - "I grew up under socialism - kind of.
Maybe a better word would be communalism."
Johnny Cash: The Autobiography, p. 19

Take time, country fans, to visit Dyess colony, the federally-planned community that Johnny Cash's family moved to in 1935 (the town was named, egocentrically enough, for the WPA administrator who created it). Dyess was one of "102 towns created by President Franklin Roosevelt for people left destitute by the depression," which will annoy conservatives who see Cash's boyhood home as a horrid example of the much-feared "nanny state." After cringing my way through The Nation's 1937 rationale for colonies like Dyess, I can at least understand their concern. Somehow I doubt that Johnny Cash would agree with this framing of the problem his parents faced:

Men fail in the South not because they do not own land but because they are not competent farmers. They are incompetent because they are not physically well—a fact which presents immediate problems of hygiene and medical care. They are incompetent because they are ignorant, because they do not know how to farm or how to dispose of farm products—a fact which presents immediate problems in education, training, and organization. They are incompetent for other reasons, which I shall enumerate presently.

I can't wait.

...They have always had their work laid out for them, with someone to tell them what to do and when to do it. They have been one-crop specialists, almost as limited in their activities as industrial workers in a modem automobile factory. They know little or nothing of the gardening, poultry-raising, and dairying essential for self-sufficing farming. If they are to become independent farmers, they must receive expert supervision and guidance, which can best be supplied by the Department of Agriculture.

I really loved paragraph 8, which forgives the sharecroppers their "shiftlessness and indolence" on the grounds that "a large proportion of them are afflicted with insidious, energy-sapping diseases." The next paragraph is important; it happens to note a minor detail that just might matter more than bad teeth and brainlessness: the credit rates available to sharecroppers in the South "make successful farming impossible." Let's imagine the "energy-sapping" effect of that.

Funny, Johnny Cash doesn't remember his family as particularly lazy or ignorant of basic farming knowledge. Here's the description in Cash's 1997 autobiography of the way his father and older brother cleared the tangled mess of swamp, brush and trees ("It was jungle - I mean real jungle," he writes) that the government so kindly provided:

The land was awfully hard to clear, but Daddy and my oldest brother, Roy, then almost fourteen, went at it from dawn till nighttime six days a week, starting on the highest ground and working their way downward foot by foot, cutting with saws and axes and kaiser blades - long-handled machetes - and then dynamiting and burning out the stumps. By planting season the first year they had three acres ready. Two went for cotton, a cash crop Daddy would use to make his first payment to the government, and the other went for animal feed and food for our table: corn, beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and strawberries.

The crops came in well that first year, and the Cashes were on their way.

Autobiographies are notorious for spin, of course - a fact Cash acknowledges early on - but the description above is spark enough to at least wonder how much of the sharecroppers' "shiftlessness" really came from bad teeth and malaria, or "because they are ignorant, because they do not know how to farm or how to dispose of farm products." It's not clear how much help from the nanny state the Cashes needed after they were able to get some credit and a bit of land no one was using, and pool their resources with neighbors to get the crops to market. After reading Cash's fascinating discussion of "how it went with cotton and us," including his story of the whole family, including his mother Carrie, chopping cotton the day after his brother Jack's burial, I found it a bit hard to take the tone in that Nation piece, which feels way too much like bigotry. Ignorant? Lazy? Disease-ridden? Those were the main problems?

Yeah, well, maybe. I suppose I haven't studied it enough to know for sure. But I do know the generally patronizing picture painted by the Nation piece doesn't tell the whole story about folks like Johnny Cash's parents. It certainly doesn't square with a population of colonists who, um, organized their own schools in 1936 rather than wait for formal help from WPA administrators.

Anyway, there's lots more information about Dyess in the links here, including a vivid first-hand report of a 1937 flood that I assume is the one that inspired "Five Feet High and Rising." But if you really care, I'd go for Johnny Cash: The Autobiography instead. The book's a quick, tremendously entertaining read that will knock your spiritual socks off more than once, while deepening your respect for Cash immeasurably. And get you ready for that piece I'm still working on about Johnny Cash's public politics, which are perhaps most charitably described as "fucking bizarre." [pics added 9/18] [link]


9.17.03 - "In the last days the gospel will be spread by cowboy." Great Christianity Today article on cowboy churches, including the Nashville Cowboy Church run by Johnny Cash's sister Joanne and her husband. [link]


9.17.03 - Well, at least someone's excited. [link]


9.17.03 - Oh, by the way, everything you think you know about sexual monogamy is wrong:

In recent years, researchers have steadily pared the list of animals believed to be monogamous, deleting even that veritable icon of fidelity – the swan. Indeed, said Tim Birkhead, a professor of behavioral ecology at the University of Sheffield in England, the most striking result of these studies has been "the near elimination of the idea of male and female sexual monogamy.

"From organisms as different as snails, honey bees, mites, spiders, fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, birds and mammals, research has verified behavioral observations of females' polyandry by showing that multiple paternity is widespread." In other words, said Birkhead in his book "Promiscuity," "Females of most species ... routinely copulate with different males."

...For example, out of some 4,000 known mammal species, only a few dozen appear to form reliable pair-bonds: some bats, foxes, certain species of mice and rats, the giant otter of South America, the northern beaver, a few kinds of seals, small African antelope like the duiker, klipspringer and dik-dik. Even in seemingly solitary species like orangutans and black bears, females have been found to get around, to copulate with more than one male, if available.

Primates practice all manner of reproductive behaviors, monogamy being the rarest of all.

I'm not saying a thing. Just read the long and detailed Sept. 2002 article for yourself. But only if you can handle the truth about what's "natural" and what isn't. [link]


9.17.03 - Know any underinformed conservative types who could use a good summary of the current awful situation in Iraq? How about if it was from the guy who was in charge of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad at the time of the first Gulf War? Yeah, I figured you would. [link]


9.17.03 - Media gossip: Former Indy editor John Yewell, who was hired and then quickly replaced a couple of years ago as head of our local weekly amid allegations he was difficult to work with, was just fired from the Salt Lake City weekly he moved to, amid allegations (and refutations of those allegations) that he was difficult to work with. No gloating or anything like that; I never knew him. Just noting a bit of news local types might find interesting. [Thanks to you-know-who for the link] [link]


[Make that Tuesday evening. You just can't rush an essay about how everyone's gotten Johnny Cash so hilariously wrong. If you're jonesing, the sites above should give you plenty to digest until then.]


[Blogging will resume Monday evening]


9.11.03 - I told myself just after 9/11 that I'd get trained in basic emergency medical care as a response to the pathetic violence of terrorism.

It's been two years, and I haven't gotten trained in basic emergency medical care yet. I'll be thinking about that, and about whether in fact "the world changed" for me on 9/11/01, throughout the day today. [link]


9.11.03 - I'm curious: Does anyone honestly believe that Kerry, Gephart, Edwards and Lieberman were somehow unaware last October that the rationale for an immediate invasion of Iraq was complete horseshit? Please, do speak up.

Even the normally sharp Atrios (who just documented an astonishing example of Donald Rumsfeld lying through his teeth to PBS host Jim Lehrer) approvingly quotes the spin that John Kerry's vote in favor of war won't be a liability for voters in 2004. He writes, "When Senator Kerry says he believed the resolution was necessary for the US to negotiate from a position of strength, people will get it."

William Saletan over at Slate pulls a similar trick; in a bizarre, near-schizophrenic article, he actually states that Kerry's debate performance Monday night was "clear, candid and matter-of-fact." He and Atrios are asking us to believe that pro-war Dems like Kerry honestly didn't see through the obvious warmonger card Bush was playing, and that failure on Kerry's part is somehow excusable. Puh-lease. A reply at Atrios' site says it best:

We get in this business because, in the end, we want to do the right thing. And we all understand the need to make compromises. But the Iraq war vote was a defining vote. The stakes were too high, and too well known in advance. Anyone paying attention at the time -- and that includes every single member of Congress -- knew what that vote meant. It meant war. It meant Americans would die. It meant setting a dangerous precedent for the doctrine of pre-emption -- the circumstances of which we have yet to fully understand.

They were running for President and they ran for political cover. They gave Bush a blank check to make the safe political play. It is precicely on these "gut-check" moments that you can truly judge a person's political character. All three of those men failed. They are good men, but they proved that they do not have what it takes to be in the Oval Office at gut-check time. When faced with the toughest decision of their political career -- they folded. They took the easy way out, when all common sense (not to mention their years of professional experience) should have been screaming at them to stop.

Amen. Folks like Kerry, Gephardt, Lieberman and Edwards may find a way to rationalize their vote in an ad that winds up being palatable to the majority of TV viewers. But don't try to tell me that they didn't know exactly what they were doing. They were making a cold, calculating decision to advance their political careers at the expense of innocent civilians in Iraq. End of story. [link]


9.11.03 - You know that $87 billion Bush asked for in his mess of a speech Sunday night? According to the LA Times, it's $55 billion short of what his own people say the U.S. will need to manage Iraq's reconstruction. Best part:

That would increase the deficit from 4.2% of the nation's gross domestic product to 4.7%, a level considered uncomfortably high but still below the records set during the Reagan administration in the 1980s.

And Republicans are the fiscally responsible ones? I love it. Bush's oh-so-earnest request comes on top of $79 billion already appropriated for Iraq this year. That's $166 billion to secure profits for Dick Cheney's pals and lock down a few more years of cheap oil, at the expense of thousands of lives lost.

Good lord. This one article could be the blueprint for a Democratic victory next November, if Dems are smart enough to avoid nominating a pro-invasion apologist like Kerry, Gephardt or Edwards in favor of someone who had the guts to point out that Bush was lying from the start. Wampum sets out the ad campaign nicely:

[T]he budgets of the departments of Energy ($19.8 billion), State ($11.0 billion), Interior ($10.4 billion) and Justice ($22.2 billion) combined ($63.4 billion) will probably come in less this year than operations in Iraq.

The Talent Show provides the perfect graphic for the spot. The info in those two blog posts, along with the administration's complete lack of any post-war plan (aside from no-bid contract awards for the Vice-President's friends), should make the next presidential election a gimme. The Dems will only screw it up by choosing an Iraq war apologist like this for their presidential nominee. [link]


9.9.03 - Well, North Carolina can kiss its Democratic Senate seat goodbye. You've surely heard by now that John Edwards is leaving to run for Vice-President (or Attorney General, or whatever else he can get). There's really only one word to describe Edwards' decision, courtesy of my pal Sean:


Fits, doesn't it? Not immoral. Not insulting. Just...tacky. After spending $6 million of his own money to convince voters to give him his first-ever shot at elected office, the guy has effectively stepped down before his term ends to, um, run for another office. As if that wasn't enough, he's doing it in a field crowded with copycat versions of his Lite Conservative shtick (and yes, that includes Howard Dean on many issues), at a time when the Dems need every Senate seat they can possibly keep. So why is Edwards bothering? Best I can tell, it's because he's cute and from South Carolina. Like Sean said: "Tacky."

Still, the hype is running thick over at Edwards' new, relatively unimaginative campaign blog. One page that probably won't be linked by the staff there is this gently dismissive take on Edwards' chances, posted Sunday at Slate:'s not clear why Edwards is considered in the Democratic field's "top tier" or why his candidacy is taken so much more seriously than, say, Bob Graham's...In reality, Edwards doesn't appear to have momentum, he doesn't have name ID, and after Dean raises the $10 million to $15 million he's going to raise this quarter, Edwards won't have a money advantage, either.

Which isn't to say that he doesn't have a chance. In the two days I follow Edwards through northeastern Iowa, everything about his campaign proves to be just fine. The candidate is fine, the message is fine, the crowds are fine. The problem for Edwards is that fine doesn't appear good enough to topple the growing Dean juggernaut...

The slender hope of the Edwards campaign rests on the candidate's preternatural reputation for melting voters' hearts by touching their shoulders and mystically "connecting" with them. The campaign staff's hope: If he can just touch the hems of their garments, we will be healed.

The reliance on Edwards' supposedly irresistable personal charisma (sorry, I don't see it) also fits what we know of campaign manager Jim Andrews' preference for media buys over grassroots organizing. If that seems to you like fairly shaky ground for a Presidential campaign, you're not alone. Democrats are going to lose yet another Senate seat for this?

I wonder how many NC Dems, excited by the outsider who barrelled into party politics 6 years ago, are now feeling just a teensy bit burned to find an upwardly climbing career politician in his place. National HQ certainly can't be happy that an incumbent Democrat Senate seat just became a free-for-all, particularly when the hand of Karl Rove's obnoxious White House team is helping push U.S. Rep. Richard Burr toward the finish line.

So how is NC's conservative Democratic establishment responding to all this, anyway? By once again trying to convince us that our best hope lies with Erskine Bowles, a corporate banker who's already shown himself to be a wretchedly dull campaigner. Yeesh. Who's advising these people? Bowles may be a perfectly nice man with better-than-average name recognition, but "corporate banker" is hardly a profession that excites the Democratic faithful. These days, Bowles' main claim to fame seems to be the number of corporate boards he's been asked to join. Yeah, that'll galvanize us. Bowles' tepid, ineffectual 2002 campaign not only failed to excite center-left voters against Elizabeth Dole but also managed to alienate many of the black voters he'll need to win this time. Anyone else [who's slightly liberal -ed.] will be turned off after learning of Bowles' complete hawkish support for the invasion of Iraq. Sorry, Erskine, but "Vote for me! I'm almost like a Republican!" will fail just as badly in 2004 as it did in 2002.

Karl Rove is surely leaping in glee at the prospect of facing Erskine Bowles again. The conservative clique of top-down managers currently driving the NC Democratic Party into the ground will never get it, of course, but the only way they'll beat back Republican growth in the state is by inspiring and appealing to the center-left more than the center-right. And that means running someone who knows how to speak to and galvanize black voters as well as suburban NASCAR lovers. And that is clearly not Erskine Bowles. [link]


9.5.03 - Wow. There's so much great art and music happening this weekend. I've got to get to work, so here are the two First Friday shows I'm most excited about:

Over at Lump, Michael Salter continues his exploration of symbols, communication and, er, brand identity with an installation that my roommate Lauren (who rents studio space at Lump) says I'm going to love. The latest twist from Salter: copyright. The back room apparently features floor-to-ceiling wall paintings by Brooklyn's surreal, cartoony Dalek. Meanwhile, Lauren finishes up her Emerging Artist residency at Artspace with a neat exhibit that's been taking up space in our living room for a few days. The best I can do to describe what she's been up to is "Southern Living found upholstery meets the modern world at war." Or something. Bickett Gallery has a Cypher spoken word/DJ night with the amazing Shirlette Ammons doing her backwoods brilliant poetry, I hear Goldie's spinning tonight at the Berkeley Cafe, DesignBox has "Stuck Up" with Ron Liberti and Dale Flattum, two of the area's best poster artists, Saturday's another of the smart, soulful biweekly Housewarming parties at Retail, and I'm late for work because I'm posting to my blog. Again. [link]


9.5.03 - Why, yes, thank you; I accept. The NC Libertarian Party just sent me a cordial invitation to join them in objecting publicly to John Ashcroft's traveling dog-and-pony show, which cavorts its way through Durham tomorrow. Be sure to check The Nation's pointed critique of Ashcroft's happy-faced PR (to closed audiences only, of course) before deciding whether the Constitution is worth getting off your ass for on a Saturday morning:

Saturday, September 6, 10.45am, for noon address by John Ashcroft at the
Sheraton Imperial Hotel Imperial Convention Center
4700 Emperor Blvd (Page Road, Exit 282, Interstate 40)
Durham, NC 27703 (919-941-5050)

The Libs encourage everyone to "arrive at 10.45am with cameras," but I think drums will be a much more useful tool. Keep in mind that Ashcroft is already on the run, his PR push is a direct response to the growing movement in Congress to, as the conservatives at Newsmax put it, "limit the definition of domestic terrorism in an attempt to keep anti-war, anti-abortion and other protesters from being classified as terrorists..." Three cheers for right-leaning skeptics of unchecked federal power. At least they recognize that the so-called Patriot Act "represents a massive infringement on individual privacy with little return for law enforcement efforts at fighting terrorism." Amen, say their comrades.

Anyone wavering about showing up at the Sheraton with a sign tomorrow should re-read Nat Hentoff's bitter November 2001 column about "one of the most undemocratic breakdowns in the history of our legislative process":

By a 36-to-0 vote, the House Judiciary Committee did pass a somewhat improved version of the bill; but late at night, behind closed doors, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, other Republican leaders, and operatives from the White House scuttled that legislation and crafted a new bill. On October 12, right after that coup, the House voted, 337 to 79, for a 175-page bill that most of its members hadn't even had time to read. Democratic congressman John Conyers said on C-Span that only two copies of the bill were available to his side of the aisle.

Congressman David Obey of Wisconsin reacted mordantly to what he described as "a backroom quick fix" before the vote. "Why should we care?" he said. "It's only the Constitution." Barney Frank said it plainly: "This was the least democratic process for debating questions fundamental to democracy I have ever seen. A bill drafted by a handful of people in secret, subject to no committee process, comes before us immune from amendment."

Remember, Texas Republican Ron Paul (right) said the bill "definitely was not available to members before the vote," adding that Bush and Ashcroft "played all kinds of games" to rush their version through the House. Hentoff notes a similarly undemocratic process in the Senate:

Present at that closed-door session were Senate leaders and emissaries from the administration. Swiftly, the Senate passed that much harsher legislation by a vote of 96 to 1 on October 11. Again, most members of the "world's greatest deliberative body" did not have time to read the entire 243-page bill...The hope of the ACLU and other civil libertarians was that in the traditional conference between the two legislative bodies to negotiate an agreement, at least some of the excesses of Ashcroft's proposals could be removed. But...there was no conference. Leaders of the House and Senate papered over the differences in "a pre-conference," also held behind closed doors.

As a result, when sections of this new law are challenged in court, the judges—not having a formal conference report—will not know the clear intent of this legislation. So the judiciary, too, has been rushed past in this war against terrorism that has also terrorized our Bill of Rights.

Yeah, yeah, you know all this already. Just be there tomorrow and help make it fun. I'll be the guy belting out "Let the Eagle Soar" with all the patriotic fervor I can muster. For more info, contact LPNC executive director Sean Haugh at 919-286-0152 or [link]


9.3.03 - Funny how no one seems to be talking about what Al Sharpton's been up to in South Carolina.. Turns out the lone wolf has been busy making the state his "second home":

Sharpton, the 48-year-old preacher and civil rights activist from New York, has visited the state 13 times -- more than any other Democratic presidential candidate -- since stepping into the race in January. Almost any weekend, Sharpton can be found addressing black churches that dot the landscape from Columbia to Charleston...

Sharpton is the first black Democrat to make a White House bid since Jesse Jackson in 1988. That gives Sharpton enhanced standing because black voters are the party's most loyal constituents.

"South Carolina is critical for us," Miller said...

In the 2000 general election, the last year exit polling data were available, 54 percent of the Democratic vote was black. Kevin Gray, state campaign consultant for Sharpton, predicts the black vote could reach as high as 60 percent and adds, "I expect Al to do very well...Good preaching goes a long ways in the black community..."

"If you look at the white candidates, they are not speaking the language blacks understand," Gray said. "Al is the only one speaking their language."

Sharpton has a gift for connecting with Democratic audiences. His jokes and anti-Bush one-liners have made him a crowd-pleaser...The question is whether Sharpton's stump charisma will translate into more black voters at the polls.

Sharpton has also been stirring things up (quelle surprise) in both the black and white establishments:

As he campaigns for the S.C. Democratic presidential primary, the Rev. Al Sharpton is traveling down roads ignored by other candidates, and that's winning him publicity but also riling some black leaders.

In campaign appearances and through his civil rights group, the National Action Network, the Pentecostal preacher has been upstaging the NAACP in debates over how to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in York County and a fatal shooting in Chester County.

Sharpton has visited the state more than a dozen times since January -- logging two more days in the state than Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, whose campaign calls South Carolina a must-win.

Does anyone seriously doubt Sharpton's ability to siphon votes away from Joe "I marched with MLK but still voted for invading Iraq" Lieberman and John "Let's bomb Baghdad with or without UN approval" Edwards? I know, South Carolina Dems are from another planet, what with their conservative religious views and all, and we all know by now that Republican and independent voters are allowed to vote in the Dem primary, which will definitely put a kink into predicting the outcome, but neither of those minimizes Sharpton's indisputable ability to galvanize working class black voters. And while Sharpton's no Jesse Jackson, one thing he knows how to do is get attention. That just might matter:

If modern political history is any guide, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 will be the white candidate who does best with black voters. But, half a year before the first votes are cast, there are few clues as to who that might be.

So, do you think the Kerry and Dean campaigns are already making polite overtures in Sharpton's direction? Love him or hate him, whoever wins South Carolina is going to have to be at least superficially nice to the guy. I doubt Edwards' people are going to bother. [link]


9.3.03 - Recycled telephone wire baskets. From the amazing Indigo Arts online gallery/store, which also features beautiful West African barbershop signs and striking folk art from Cuba, Brazil, the Congo and other gorgeous places. [Thanks to Dublog for turning me on to such a great site.] [link]


9.2.03 - Via Ed Cone, a sharp article [if down, try the Google cache version] about the Edwards campaign from the Greensboro News & Record. Most relevant bit for those too busy to follow blog links:

"I think these guys sort of thought they could win a presidential race with money, that they could just buy it," said N.C. State political scientist Andrew Taylor. "But it really requires massive organization. There are so many interests out there you have to win over to get the nomination."

Taylor said the surprise success of Dean may pose the biggest problem for Edwards...

"They were hoping to win a style primary," Taylor said of Edwards' campaign. "He would go out and be young, energetic, look good on TV and motivate Democrats. ... Dean beat him to the punch."

The article points to a couple of hopeful signs for Edwards as well, but nothing that will come close to getting him the nomination. Interestingly, both Ed Cone and the oddly anonymous Stinging Nettle (who claims to have debunked my "9 reasons" post below but really only highlighted how deep in the pocket of the Edwards campaign he is) are still insisting that "someone has to be the anti-Dean." Too bad neither of the two commentators realizes we already have the anti-Dean waiting in the wings.

It's Howard Dean. It couldn't be more obvious that the guy's a centrist who's pretending to run left to win the nomination. This bothers Stinging Nettle. Stinging Nettle would rather Edwards have that role. But the fact remains: Edwards isn't needed in this race. He is needed in North Carolina. More to come later on Stinging Nettle's so-called "debunking." In the meantime, check the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the current state of things in South Carolina, where Joe Lieberman still leads and Howard Dean just started running. [link]


8.29.03 - Here's an easy question: Who was the richest man in America at the time of the Revolution? A bit tougher: What percent of "We the People" could vote in 1776?

Take a guess at both of those. And then, sometime before the Labor Day holiday, take the rest of the Working Class History Test, courtesy of labor historian Pete Kellman, who's also the subject of a wonderfully sharp and wide-ranging interview with Corporate Crime Reporter. Must-reading, especially for libertarians who bitch and moan about centralized government power but somehow fail to see centralized corporate power (not to mention the absurd notion that corporations are "persons") as any kind of problem.

Oh, and if you're around Raleigh this weekend, I'm spinning the opening set at the Afridisia party at Kings Saturday, and the regular Sunday night Neu Romance party should be off the hook since everyone will be reading about the Pullman Strike instead of working on Monday. [link]


8.27.03 - You won't read about it in the N&O, but John Edwards has been under attack for the last week by a New Hampshire group that advocates for the legalization of medical marijuana. Members of Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana have challenged Edwards with questions and signs at least three times in the past week - enough to fluster the candidate's handlers, apparently, and raise questions about his commitment to free speech in public settings:

...on Sunday, for the third time in less than a week, Edwards' campaign staff tried to block GSMM members from peacefully expressing their views in a public space. At a town hall meeting in Keene Central Square Park in Keene, New Hampshire, five GSMM members tried to enter the public park with signs protesting Edwards' position favoring the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA's) raids on medical marijuana patients in states that protect patients from arrest. Several campaign staff members stopped them.

When a campaign worker said, "We'll not allow you in with the signs ... this is our park," GSMM Campaign Coordinator Aaron Houston replied, "We have the right to be here," and entered with GSMM volunteers and signs. Edwards' campaign staffers then held their own signs in front of the protesters to prevent voters and journalists from seeing the GSMM placards.

This angered some audience members. An unidentified woman approached an Edwards campaign worker -- who was blocking a sign that read "Stop Arresting Patients" -- and asked, "What are you afraid of?" Under audience pressure, Edwards' staffers eventually withdrew and stopped blocking the signs.

Here's how the pro-pot activists described the scene a few days earlier:

When four GSMM members entered City Hall Plaza with the signs, several campaign staff members attempted to block the way. After the protesters from GSMM refused to leave, another unidentified Edwards campaign staff member approached them and offered a one-on-one meeting with Sen. Edwards if the protesters would agree not to display the signs.

As the forum started, six Edwards campaign workers held Edwards' campaign yard signs in front of the GSMM protesters to block television cameras from viewing the protesters' signs. At one point during the forum, an unidentified Edwards campaign worker became so flustered that she forcibly grabbed GSMM Campaign Coordinator Aaron Houston's sign, crumpled it, and walked away with it.

GSMM member Linda Macia, who suffers from debilitating illnesses for which conventional medications have not provided relief, said, "His campaign formed a wall of people in front of my wheelchair," referring to campaign workers who positioned themselves around Macia to block her sign. "Edwards is too much of a weasel to tell a wheelchair-bound patient to her face that he would jail seriously ill people for taking their medicine. We don't need a coward as president."

Ouch. To their credit, John Edwards and Republican Congressman Charles Taylor did both help medical marijuana criminal Jean Marlowe get better medical care during her 10-month federal prison stay:

BBSN: When you were inside, there was an effort by Senator John Edwards(D-NC) to secure proper medical care for you. What kind of things were done?

Jean: After five months of nausea and anorexia, my blood platlets had dropped very low and I was very weak. My family was on the phone to my legislators. Senator John Edwards's office called the prison warden and advised them that they were watching after my health. I began receiving Ensure (which had been prescribed for me by my physician at home) after Senator Edward's call. My case worker called me to his office to approve release of my medical records to the offices of all my representatives that called.

BBSN: I also understand that Congressman Charles Taylor(R-NC) also acted on your behalf. How did Congressman Taylor show support for your plight?

Jean: Congressman Taylor's office was very aggressive in letting the prison officials know that they had been aware of my condition for many years and that they would be watching my health condition while I was a guest of the BOP. Mr. Faulkner from Mr. Taylor's Asheville, NC office called the prison warden and the BOP to inquire why I could not receive the only medicine that I could take relatively safely...

But while you might think that would sensitize both of them to the idiocy of arresting people who use a freaking natural plant medicinally, it couldn't be more obvious that Edwards' political ambitions won't let him come out against the system that puts folks like Marlowe in jail in the first place. Be sure to read the full details of Marlowe's utterly horrifying story before pondering Edwards' current position on medical pot:

Responding to questions from Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana on July 7, 2003 on C-SPAN, Edwards reiterated his intention to set up a commission to study the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana. When asked if he would jail seriously ill patients while his commission studies medical marijuana, Edwards responded "what'd you just say, there are raids?" However, when asked a week later on July 15, 2003 whether he would continue the current policy of jailing sick patients, he responded "the government has a responsibility to enforce the laws," echoing a comment he made six weeks earlier.

More study? Yeah, I'd call that cowardly, given the vast body of suggestive evidence - not to mention the roadblocks Congress has set up that discourage the clinical studies which might turn the evidence conclusive. Without that evidence, how the hell can Edwards' "study commission" make up its mind? We don't need any more study commissions, John. What we need is for pols like you to push for rescheduling marijuana so the relevant basic research can begin. Yeesh. As a fan of the scientific method, I wouldn't go so far as the commenter at Calpundit who said, "I am skeptical of either the integrity or intelligence of anyone who still thinks there is a scientific debate on the issue" [search for "Brian"], but I damn sure am skeptical of the integrity of someone who claims not to know the basics of the issue after helping a woman who was jailed over it get medical treatment in prison. Thanks a lot for insulting our intelligence, John.

Here's the funniest part, though. It turns out, like John Kerry, our Johnny hasn't been above the occasional puff for pleasure himself:

He had a little fun in college, drinking beer with buddies and, according to campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri, smoking marijuana a few times. His campaign would not provide more specifics other than to say Edwards' occasional marijuana use continued through law school but stopped after that.

Next question for John: Do you think it should be legal for law school students to smoke pot for fun, Senator? How about terminally ill people, for medicine? Jesus, 70-80% of the public is behind this issue, John. What more does an articulate trial lawyer need? And aren't you going for the good ol' boy vote, anyway? If your advisors really believe there's no way to play the medical pot issue as a Southern-acting populist, their heads are up their asses so far they're tasting last night's dinner. Hope they have the munchies.

More info: Alternet's useful roundup, Democrats on Weed, summarizes the candidates' positions on medical pot and the War on Some Drugs. It's not pretty:

Dean's strong opposition to the Iraq war and support for gay marriage have won him credentials as a liberal, but his legislative arm-twisting and veto threats killed Vermont's medical-marijuana bill in 2002. "My opposition to medical marijuana is based on science, not based on ideology," he told the Website in May...

The former governor's rhetoric is good, says Nadelmann – he has called the Drug War a failure, and criticized mandatory-minimum sentences – but on the issues that actually crossed his desk, medical marijuana and methadone maintenance, he was "among the worst."

Science, not ideology. Oh, Howie, you're just so adorably [gag] liberal. But at least Dean promises he'd "require the FDA to evaluate marijuana with a double blind study with the same kinds of scientific protocols that every other drug goes through." Come on, John. Your handlers can at least let you commit to that. [link]


Guess which Presidential contender is currently drawing 15,000-person crowds?
Hint: He's not from North Carolina.

8.25.03 - Here you go: 9 reasons John Edwards will drop out of the presidential race before Christmas (and I only promised you five). This post is dedicated to those who, upon hearing Edwards' bold statement last month - "I can compete with George Bush anywhere" - immediately thought, "Gosh, John, then why not try competing right here in your own backyard?"

You can't blame an ambitious guy for trying when it looks easiest, I guess, but Edwards doesn't stand a chance. Here are 9 reasons why:

1. Edwards has no organizational structure in place to galvanize voters. Business Week wrote last March that Edwards needed a "better grassroots organization." Daily Kos wrote on August 20 that Edwards' failure to build a grassroots organization is still "damaging his chances." The latest report from Campaigns & Elections' Political Oddsmaker notes that Edwards' "lack of state-by-state polling strength after many months of campaigning is telling." Publius at is even more blunt, stating that Edwards "hasn't built an organization of note anywhere" [emphasis added].

How long can Edwards wait before putting a solid group of grassroots organizers into the field? How many days before a primary should a candidate be mobilizing the people who'll be hustling their friends and relatives to the polls? Answer: It's already too late.

2. Large gifts of soft money from Edwards' PAC to Democratic Party bosses in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina won't translate into votes. Given Edwards' lack of a strong grassroots organization, it's no surprise that New American Optimists led the field in soft money donations to the Iowa Democratic Party last year; like Gephardt and Kerry, Edwards is trying to buy loyalty in key early states. But dumping money is no substitute for committed voters, as Edwards learned in April when Alex Sanders, a former president of the SC Trial Lawyers Association and recipient of $10,000 from Edwards' PAC - i.e., a natural ally - announced he was voting for Kerry. Sanders also has this to say about the value of political endorsements in general: "How many votes can Alex Sanders deliver? I would say, probably, one."

3. Edwards beat an obviously aged and feeble Lauch Faircloth in 1998 by only 83,000 votes out of more than 2 million cast. Sure does put his bluster about beating Bush "anywhere" in a new light, doesn't it? I mentioned back in January that Faircloth ran an almost hilariously incompetent and off-key campaign, so it's nice to see that former state GOP head Bill Cobey agrees with me (in the only part of the recent four-part Observer series that's a must-read). He told the paper, "The Faircloth campaign was simply not well run. They got the tone wrong." Yeah, and a lot else wrong as well. Faircloth's refusal to debate and his inability to string two sentences together without slurring - in his own ads - gave John Edwards an unusually lame incumbent opponent. And he still barely won. More on the 1998 race in reason #7.

4. Edwards just hired Democratic consultant Jim Andrews to "manage message and strategy." This is a terrible sign, despite the obvious spin, and deserves its own, very long post. Bottom line is that Andrews has a terrible recent track record using his patented no-grassroots, media-heavy approach. And I do mean terrible.

5. Edwards' pro-Iraq war position leaves him no solid base of support within the Democratic Party. This one's been obvious for a while. The likely entrance of retired general Wesley Clark into the race will emphasize - repeatedly - that Edwards endorsed patently misleading neocon arguments for invading Iraq. Sure, I was one of the left-leaners who surrounded a fundraiser in Raleigh last March, banging drums and chanting angrily at Edwards' obvious opportunism, but you have to be an idiot to not sense the shift in public sentiment among centrist voters on this issue. It leaves the unapologetically pro-war candidates in the cold with the folks who, you know, bother to vote in Democratic primaries. Gephardt, Lieberman and Kerry all have other built-in constituencies from their years in Washington. Edwards just has trial lawyers, their secretaries and his own staff. It's not enough.

In fact, Edwards has never really demonstrated a solid base of support among Democratic voters. He wasn't just a "political outsider" when he decided to run for office in 1998, remember; he was "a stranger to Democratic gatherings, a casual voter and a millionaire who didn't give a dime to such recent Democratic Senate candidates as Harvey Gantt and Terry Sanford." He'd missed voting - voting! - in 6 of the previous 13 elections, including the one in 1994 that handed the U.S. House to Republicans. His roots in Democratic circles are way too shallow to support a Presidential run in 2004.

6. Edwards' attempt to simultaneously court conservative Southern whites and Southern blacks is leaving black voters cold, which is a known path to failure in a state like South Carolina. Or North Carolina.

7. It's not widely acknowledged, but Edwards had a relatively easy road to his North Carolina Senate seat. Edwards won his 1998 primary race only after two other wealthy and better-known Democrats (now-Governor Mike Easley and former Glaxo CEO Charles Sanders) stepped aside, and then only by seriously outspending his main rival, the nice-but-unelectrifying D.G. Martin:

Edwards amassed a 26-person campaign staff -- Martin had four full-time employees -- and began running TV ads long before anyone else. The spots showed him strolling through downtown Robbins and talking directly to the camera...Every time Edwards appeared on TV, his poll numbers jumped. On primary day, Edwards won a whopping 51 percent of the vote in a seven-candidate field. He had outspent Martin 5-to-1, including $3 million out of his own pocket.

Hell, I voted for him; he was new and exciting compared to what we'd had around here in the past. But as Edwards tries the exact same strategy over again - right down to the TV spots with an oh-so-cute candidate talking about his boyhood in Robbins, SC [ram], he doesn't have a 5-1 spending advantage this time. And he's facing at least one very electrifying opponent who's already amassed an astonishing fundraising record and paid staff in 13 states, while another electrifying opponent waits in the wings. Not a chance, John.

8. Edwards has completely missed the boat on connecting with the Southern swing voters who are angry at textile industry job losses - a truly bizarre situation, given his father's history as a textile mill supervisor. Edwards' 2000 vote in favor of most-favored-nation trade status for China was indistinguishable from the Bush administration's position, and he continues to confuse rather than enlighten on the issue.

Edwards is a bit more of a puzzle. His home state continues to hemorrhage textile, furniture, and other manufacturing jobs to foreign competition, and he opposed normalizing trade with Vietnam and the fast track legislation last year. Yet he has generally kept a low profile on trade, and Carolina contacts of ours report that he is aggressively opposed to highlighting the issue. Additionally, his economic growth plan contains nothing about trade or any aspect of the world economy – a level of disinterest that gives him something in common with Al Sharpton.

And finally, the last reason (for today) that Edwards won't win:

9. Edwards has no online constituency. Hell, his campaign actually smothered the excitement of its most prominent early online supporter, Oliver Willlis (who ranks a very respectable 59th on TruthLaidBear's weblog ecosystem list). Willis simply grew tired of waiting for Edwards to demonstrate that he understood the transformative potential of the Web. Daily Kos nailed this issue perfectly:

So while Dean communicates directly with his supporters via the weblog, the others insist on communicating via press release. While thousands of Dean supporters gather on their own initiative around the country via Meetup, the others think "reaching out to voters" means walking into an Iowa diner and shaking the hands of people sipping coffee at the front counter...Edwards' people say they are not worried about poll numbers. That a massive advertising blitz in the fall will be his salvation. It never had to be an either-or proposition.

Turning your back on the Net, without any kind of grassroots structure in place? Now there's a can't-win situation no amount of TV time can cure.

Once again, with feeling: Edwards doesn't have a chance in hell. He may be hilariously ambitious, but he's not stupid. He'll exit the Presidential race before the South Carolina primary, tell the world his heart's in North Carolina, use his considerable talents to kick the Karl Rove/Dick Cheney machine's ass in his Senate race, and maybe then start getting ready for 2012.

Now be sure to read the post just below for an advance look at how Edwards' campaign will self-destruct under its new management. And, if you like the research in these two posts, consider a $3 donation already. Jesus. You people pay for much crappier commentary every day in the local paper. [link]


8.26.03 - Expanding on the post just above, here's why the Edwards campaign's recent hiring of Jim Andrews to "manage message and strategy" is bad news for fans of the senator. If the only thing you read about Andrews was the campaign spin the N&O dutifully passed along (he's a "high-powered Democratic consultant" whose past clients include Zell Miller, Paul Wellstone and Harvey Gantt), you got exactly what Edwards press secretary Jennifer Palmieri wanted you to get:

"Andrews is one of the most accomplished and committed campaign strategists in politics today," Palmieri said. "Edwards and the whole campaign are thrilled to have him as part of our team."

Yeah, sure. Let's take a look at Andrews' recent track record. First, you should know he's a good friend and close political associate of Georgia senator (and former 2-term governor) Zell Miller, best known for his frequent ass-kissing praise of George Bush. Explains a lot right there, doesn't it? Second, we know Andrews managed Harvey Gantt's lame 1990 campaign against Jesse Helms (I was here; I saw it), as well as his losing 1996 campaign. Note how Andrews described his strategy in that race to Barry Yeoman:

"We are running this as a message-and-communications shop," says Andrews. "We made a decision at the beginning of this campaign that we are making a case." That means focusing on raising big dollars and spending them on television -- not on building local organizations, working with environmentalists and pro-choice activists, or printing bumper stickers and yard signs...

Is this sounding familiar to you yet?

Luebke, the state legislator, worries that Gantt's media-heavy strategy "leaves a lot of willing volunteers frustrated." His explanation of the strategic shift? That Gantt "has more Washington influence in the campaign, and it's the D.C. position that more thirty-second spots, paid for by well-to-do donors, is how you win a campaign."

Ok, does it sound familiar now? Andrews tried the same thing in 1997 during Ruth Messinger's campaign for NYC mayor:

By most estimates she is just a primary away from facing Rudy Giuliani in the race for mayor, yet Messinger, the coffee-talk liberal, seems to be morphing into an old-fashioned, media-obsessed New Democrat, hiring Chicagoan Jim Andrews--who specializes in big TV and radio buys--to run her candidacy. It may be a strategy chosen to counter Rudolph Giuliani's cash-fat re-election fund or to avoid getting her image sullied by the traditional Democratic machine.

But in New York, where potent neighborhood street operations have put scores of Democrats in City Hall, the approach is shocking many of Messinger's supporters. Some wonder if she has even a slim chance of getting the big turn-out she needs in order to win...

In a recent interview with the New York Observer, media consultant Andrews boasted of a "massive grassroots operation." But Messinger has yet to open a single satellite operation in the outer boroughs. And in late July, her campaign workers told City Limits they had yet to see any campaign buttons...All things considered, it's no wonder Andrews and Messinger are talking so enthusiastically about their media campaign.

Messinger barely beat back a devastating challenge from Al Sharpton before losing to Rudy Giuliani by a huge margin. Then, in 1999, Andrews morphed into a lottery industry lobbyist, leading the push for an Alabama lottery on the model that he and his buddy Zell had created in Georgia. It failed. Last year, Andrews managed Jim Casey's campaign for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania governor. Not only did Casey lose, but called the campaign, um, one of the worst they'd seen:

Matt Casey and manager Jim Andrews had all the tools. They had the name, the money, labor, state party endorsement and an opponent from ... Philadelphia. Yet the distance Casey keep from the press and public did not work to his advantage. Nor did his negative TV ads...This was Casey's race to lose and it will be remembered as one of the worst gubernatorial campaigns.

Finally, Andrews was at the meeting where Paul Wellstone's disastrous memorial service was planned [scroll down to Tuesday], was among those who were so excited at winning the sympathy vote that they failed to clear any of the speeches, and was among those who were absurdly slow to react as the controversy exploded around them. This is the guy Edwards' campaign wants you to believe is "one of the most accomplished and committed campaign strategists in politics today." Whatever. Can there be any better sign that Edwards is floundering and will soon be through? [link]


8.25.03 - I love it. On the very day that John Edwards is telling the world there's "zero chance" he'll drop out of the presidential race before New Hampshire's January 27th primary, I'm about to post my five reasons I think he'll be gone before Christmas. I'd also like to point out that I posted my suspicions he'd drop out before George Stephanopoulos did: the end of a segment on Edwards' candidacy during ABC News' "This Week" Sunday, host George Stephanopoulos said that several Edwards advisers predicted he would abandon the Senate race by Sept. 16. That's when Edwards has scheduled a formal announcement of his presidential candidacy in his boyhood home of Robbins.

Associates say there is no firm timeline for such a decision.

Well, I say it'll happen before Christmas. [UPDATE: Stinging Nettle caught me being sloppy - abandon the "Senate" race, Stephanopoulos said. I'm so ashamed! That's what I get for pulling a gloat move. But I'm right on one thing: Edwards doesn't have a chance at the Presidency, and I think he's smart enough to know it and drop out of the presidential race before it's too late.]

But before I describe in detail just how off-base Edwards' presidential campaign is, I just want to say one thing to former NC House speaker Dan Blue (above). In 2002, Blue was screwed out of the Democratic nomination for Jesse Helms' seat by his party's establishment (former Governor Jim Hunt broke with tradition and publicly endorsed Bowles before the primary vote, for just one bit of evidence), but is still willing to go up against Republican Richard Burr's frighteningly early start in the 2004 U.S. Senate race. The same cabal of centrist NC Dems who circled the wagons against Blue in 2002 are once again deluding themselves into thinking that an obviously weak and ineffectual campaigner like Erskine Bowles could ever win against the very same Bush/Rove machine he lost miserably to only a year ago.

Good lord. Just how dangerous are these DLC types? Try, "very." With that in mind, here's my advice to Dan Blue:

Run, Dan. Announce your candidacy for Edwards' seat now. He just gave you the green light with that "zero chance" stuff. Hell, he couldn't even be bothered to meet with you about his plans, so you don't owe him a thing. The state's Democratic establishment is clearly ready to hand the nomination over to Bowles so he can lose again, which means that letting loose with an unabashedly outsider, rip-roaringly left-wing campaign really is your only chance. Announce now, dammit, and start running.

Maybe that'll get Edwards to finally realize his presidential run was an ill-timed, badly planned mistake. And yes, I'll have more on that shortly. [link]


You can't stop now.

Second half of August 2003

First half of August 2003

July 2003

Second half of June 2003

First half of June 2003

May 2003

April 2003

March 2003

2nd half of February 2003

January and first half of February 2003

December 2002

November 2002

October 2002

September 2002

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