Monkey Media Report Archive

A North Carolina news
and arts Weblog
2nd half of August/
early September 2003

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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]


8.22.03 - It's been almost two months since I dared to ask the (on average) 330 of you who visit each day if you'd be so kind enough to donate. Donations ranged from $1 to $53, with a total of $143, if I recall correctly. Thank you.

Please, if you've enjoyed the commentary and/or art since then, help me stay focused on the research and writing you like at the Monkey Media Report. If the 8,000 of you who've visited in August would each send a dime - a dime - I could pay rent and bills and really throw myself into this thing. Please consider a small donation.

And when I get back from work tonight, I'll give you five reasons why John Edwards is going to withdraw from the Presidential race before Christmas.

Update: A violent encounter outside a local bar, late-night skinny dipping in [location supressed to keep the place quiet], a Saturday morning work shift and some [activity suppressed to spare the innocent] last night means you'll have to wait another day for the Edwards post. Sorry. Priorities, you know. [link]


8.22.03 - Saw a funny bumper sticker as I was biking past the legislative building a few days ago:

I'll kiss your elephant
when you kiss my ass

Well, I laughed, anyway. Sure, cooperation is better than total gridlock, especially when that cooperation leaves gaping wounds that fester for a long time in the NC Republican Party. But anyone who saw the ridiculously undemocratic power-sharing that went on between the House co-speakers knows that two vindictive, controlling legislators sharing a position with near-dictatorial power is hardly a bipartisan blessing - as you can see by the 30-103% pay raises Republican Richard Morgan and Democrat Jim Black just gave to some of their staffers. Must be nice. And don't forget how the co-speakers buried a ballot access reform bill that had been approved unanimously by a bipartisan House committee. The reason for the outrageous move (after you slap away all of the lame excuses about "illegitimate" parties getting on the ballot)? The fact that one of the bill's Republican sponsors had written a scathing attack back in April against the deal-making that got Mr. Morgan his spot at the top.

It's hard not to think of these revealing incidents whenever I see in the state's newspapers that the co-speakership "went smoothly" this year. Yeah, the two co-dictators sure were "smooth" as they ran roughshod over their peers - and the rest of us. The News & Observer's editors, by the way, nicely demonstrated a lack of commitment to the powerless by never once bothering to mention the ballot access episode in their house editorials, even as they gave an approving nod to the co-speaker arrangement at the end of the session.

I'll pass on this particular brand of bipartisanship, thanks. Let's hope the bumper sticker above is a sign of growing discontent with the (I'll say it again) near-dictatorial powers the House co-speakers enjoy over legislation in this state. [link]


8.21.03 - Don't forget Pink Beats tonight at Bickett Gallery, an evening of some of the Triangle's best female DJs presided over by my friend Stex of Try This At Home TV fame. [link]


8.21.03 - Uh-oh. A UK-based Saudi Arabian dissident just announced that up to 3,000 Saudi Islamists "had gone 'missing' in the kingdom in two months" [via the indispensible Cursor]. Most are probably heading to that marvelous little terrorist haven the Bush/Cheney administration just created. That second article is a must-read for anyone trying to understand the stupid hellhole in Iraq, by the way. Here's another one. [link]


8.21.03 - Metafilter has been great lately, with lots of interesting history and art sites outweighing the daily news stories (and even those are more interesting than usual). A few recent fascinating posts:

If you're looking to get a Web skeptic (yeah, they're still out there; I met one last week) to rethink his or her position, there's not a better place to start than a truly communal collaborative Weblog like Metafilter. [link]



8.20.03 - Brilliant dissection of the electricity grid mess up at Liberal Oasis' Sunday Talkshow Breakdown [via The Sideshow]. The thin column makes you scroll too much, but read the whole thing. Especially the part that rips into the power industry and its bought polticos' frequent assertion that the biggest strain on the grid comes from skyrocketing consumer use:

Let’s look at those claims again. Despite Abraham’s claim, this year’s “Annual Energy Outlook” from his Energy Dept. didn’t exactly forecast a “huge” demand increase in the next 20 years:

Electricity Use Is Expected To Grow More Slowly Than GDP
During the 1960s, electricity demand grew by more than 7 percent per year, nearly twice the rate of economic growth…The continuing saturation of electric appliances, the availability and adoption of more efficient equipment, and promulgation of efficiency standards are expected to hold the growth in electricity sales to an average of 1.8 percent per year between 2001 and 2025, compared with 3.0-percent annual growth in GDP.

For Tauzin’s comment, “You can’t double demand on the system,” it’s not clear if he meant it would double in the future or it has doubled in the past. Either way, it doesn't quite fly. A 1.8% annual growth rate won’t double demand by 2025. And Richardson’s stats show any doubling of past demand must have been spread out over multiple decades.

Speaking of Richardson, what’s the relevance of his 35% demand, 18% capacity stat? Richardson’s not the only one to bring that number up. The NY Times and others have cited it recently. But where does it come from? The industry-backed Electric Power Research Institute, three years ago..So we don’t know what the demand vs. capacity stats are for the last three years. Furthermore, stats from industry sources can be misleading, as California learned in its 2001 crisis. From the SF Chronicle:

Power companies say it so often, and with such certainty, that it has become a virtual mantra: "Skyrocketing" energy use by Californians is a root cause of the state's power crisis, and justification for surging electricity prices. But a computer analysis of electricity usage data by The Chronicle reveals that the mantra is a myth -- that overall growth in electricity demand hasn't been nearly as great as the industry portrays it.

Even taking the EPRI stat at face value, who is to blame for the rise in demand, and the extra burden on the grid? Despite what the pols insinuate, it may not be you. In 2000, the Consumer Federation of America reported:

Creation of markets for electricity services requires a huge growth in transactions…Demands on network facilities are likely to increase as a result of the wide range of new transactions taking place…An increase in the number of transactions may require costly improvements to the transmission system in order to ensure reliability. Prior to the price spikes of 1998, the number of traders increased over 50 fold; the quantity traded increased several hundred times.

Basically, power that used to just go from point A to point B -- from the plant to you -- is now shuttling back and forth between wholesalers, straining the system. Thanks to deregulation. That’s a deregulation that pretty much no regular citizen ratepayer ever asked for. Dereg came about because of upstart power companies wanting to score big, led by Enron, and large corporate power users wanting cut costs. Yet, as Abraham said plainly yesterday, you, Joe Ratepayer, will foot the bill for their deal. Unsurprisingly, deregulation’s role in weakening the grid didn’t come up much on Sunday.

Because, since the various corporate interests have showered money all over DC on elec dereg, the debate in Washington is not liberals vs. privatizers. It’s power companies vs. other power companies. And so, Richardson, a Clintonite, represents the “opposing” view on the talkshows. But he’s for dereg as well. Just a different approach that would benefit a different set of companies. In turn, no one was there to advocate why we shouldn't lighten the load on the grid by scrapping the dereg boondoggle. This is one of those issues that drove Ralph Nader to claim there was no difference between the parties. It should be clear to all now that such a claim is wild overstatement. But on this issue, the Dems have not stood on principle. And we will all suffer for it.

Now that is some fine blogging as reporting. Next time you hear someone spouting off about skyrocketing consumer use of electricity being the cause of all this trouble, just think about all that power being swapped and speculated by deregulated electricity companies who are making a killing by straining a grid you're going to pay to upgrade for them. [link]


[click, it's worth it]

8.20.03 - Over at everyone's favorite conservative Raleigh think tank, John Hood has a skeptical piece debunking overblown hype about the state's supposedly large and vibrant tourist industry:

Long ago, I realized that wherever you go in the United States, you will hear pretty much the same spiel from politicians, industry reps, and gullible media folks. It turns out that the way the "travel and tourism" industry is defined, it encompasses such a large number of disparate businesses and industries — from hotels and convention business to sports, entertainment, movies, restaurants, and transportation — that there is virtually no state in the union in which it does not constitute "one of the largest industries."

Turns out that every time you go to the local multiplex or corner restaurant, you're adding to NC's "tourism" industry.

For years, we've sort of made it a joke at the Locke Foundation to locate the silliest version of the "tourism will save us" story. But it's starting to lose its ability to amuse.

I've just read a story today that has taken the claim to its most absurd degree. "With travel and tourism recognized as the largest industry in the state — generating some $12 billion in annual revenue and creating more than 200,000 jobs — the General Assembly is being more hospitable to its needs," began a piece in last weekend's Charlotte Business Journal about a bill that has passed the N.C. House, but thankfully not yet the Senate, to aid local projects that promise to attract travel and tourism. Originally intended to help Charlotte build an NBA arena for the new Charlotte Bobcats, the legislature was expanded by lawmakers in Raleigh to encompass a wide variety of costly boondoggles — I mean, wise investments in our future.

It also turns out that NC ranks lowest in the region in hotel/lodging expenditures as a percent of gross domestic product. Three cheers for our biggest industry, eh? There's definitely a role for the state in encouraging tourism - I suggest pumping money into Vollis Simpson's Lucama whirligig field (aka "Acid Park") so it survives as an attraction after he dies - but is it too much to ask that we define the industry honestly?

Apparently so. As everyone's favorite liberal Raleigh think tank noted last Friday, North Carolina doesn't seem to worry too much about precision when it comes to government handouts to industry:

A recent study done by UNC for the N.C. Department of Commerce shows that corporate welfare is alive and well, and worse than we thought. The William S. Lee Tax Act was passed in 1996 with the intent to create "widely shared prosperity" throughout the state, accomplished through tax incentives and credits to compete with other states for new and expanding businesses and jobs. Unfortunately, The Bill Lee Act can be "credited" for wasting millions of public dollars.

The report states that 96% of the new jobs supported by the Lee Act would have been created anyway, without the incentives. According to the Department of Revenue, a handful of five or six corporations account for approximately one third of the credits claimed, and furthermore, another twenty corporations account for another third. In effect, 30 businesses consume a colossal two-thirds of the tax credits.

Wait, that's not all. Here's the best part:

Tax credits can be claimed by businesses which are organized into tiers; tier 1 being distressed areas, and tier 5 the most affluent areas. To this date, tiers 4 & 5 have received over 70% of the credits, where tiers 1 & 2 have collected a pathetic 8%...In other words, corporations in the most well-to-do parts of the state claim most of the tax credits, which calls into question the act's ability to create economic opportunity in impoverished areas.

"Calls into question?" If the Department of Commerce's own study shows that 96% of the companies would have moved here anyway without the incentives, I'd say it more than calls the Bill Lee Act "into question." It demolishes the rationale for the act completely. Of course, there's no way state leaders will ever give up the equivalent of a slush fund to hand over to their favorite corporations in wealthy areas of the state. Anyone want to bet that an enterprising journalist who takes a look at those 30 companies' political donations over the last 7 years would find something interesting?

By the way, if you're not subscribed to the Common Sense Foundation's "Consider This" newsletters, you're missing out on some of the sharpest left-wing commentary in the state. Oh, and there's great footage of Vollis' whirligigs in motion up at PBS. [link]


You can't stop now.

First half of August 2003

July 2003

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January and first half of February 2003

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