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The Triangle's near-daily
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October 2002

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10.31.02 - The scariest thing you'll see this Halloween: Touch-screen voting that doesn't leave a paper record. The N&O reports today that 294 votes weren't recorded by touch-screen machines being tested at two of Wake County's nine early voting sites. As county board of election officials scramble to identify and contact the voters before Tuesday, I'll just point out that touch-screen voting that doesn't leave any kind of paper record of the voter's choice is an invitation to disaster - not to mention computer fraud. It's also worth noting that iVotronic (love that name; it's so robotic!) was responsible for crappy poll worker instructions that were implicated by Florida officials as "a major factor in the election fiasco" during this year's primary. Here's a fascinating analysis of How Florida's Voting Machine Failed (Again).

Any lefties reading might want to break out the smelling salts; I'm about to use Concerned Women of America head (and mom of a gay son, for what that's worth) Phyllis Schafly to make my point:

We should not use any voting machine unless it prints out a receipt confirming that the machine registered your votes for the candidates you chose. If the machine doesn't do that, the technology is subject to all kinds of fraud and we should junk the voting machines altogether to go back to paper ballots.

Even printing out a receipt may not be enough. Listen to Bryn Mawr computer scientist Rebecca Mercuri, who's studied voting technology in depth, quoted in "The Nightmare Scenario Is Here - Computer Voting With No Paper Trail" at the left-wing news site Common Dreams:

"Any programmer can write code that displays one thing on a screen, records something else, and prints yet another result. There is no known way to ensure that this is not happening inside of a voting system...No electronic voting system has been certified to even the lowest level of the U.S. government or international computer security standards."

Amazingly, Mercuri says the Federal Election Commission "provides only voluntary standards, and even those don't ensure election 'integrity.'" How marvelous. Consider the test complete, iVotronic. You didn't pass. Counties that use completely paperless touch-screen machines are asking for whatever trouble they get. [link]

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10.30.02 - Tonight on Monkeytime, 8-9pm, Raleigh cable channel 10: Cash Michaels, editor of Raleigh's African-American newspaper The Carolinian, answers calls and chats about the election, the "black vote," school choice, Boondocks and more. Satellite dish owners are out of luck, sorry; you'll have to get the very basic cable service (only ~$10/month in Raleigh, actually) to watch Monkeytime TV. [link]

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10.30.02 - I had a blast with fellow trouble-maker Peter Eichenberger doing Monkeytime from the state fair last Wednesday night, even if the nonstop barrage of noise, people and lights left us feeling verklempt afterwards. It wasn't until the following night that I heard about the fair worker who got killed when he stepped/slipped in front of the Banzai ride. A friend of a friend who was working a nearby food booth says that the amount of blood on the scene was jaw-dropping. The FOAF was apparently heavily splattered. Odd that the N&O refrained from providing us that kind of detail in its story or photos, especially given the increasingly gruesome world news photos that have been popping up in the paper lately. Is blood on victims in faraway places like Bali somehow more acceptable for local consumption than blood here at home?

Tragedy was soon forgotten, though. I had to make a special trip back on Sunday to really do the fair, which to me means staring at the prize-winning 600-pound pumpkins, gorgeously patterned squash, yams as big as my head and - my favorite this year - the stunningly beautiful roosters my pal Dusty told me to be sure to see. The prize-winning cactus pads in the four-year-old "Hispanic Vegetables" category was an added bonus.

Call it silly if you must, but I don't get how anyone can attend a state fair and not spend time with the produce and livestock - after marvelling at the ingeniously designed Tango (above) and munching on delicious cheese fries, of course. It's the least we can do to pay respect to the farm families who grow our food. Well, used to grow our food, anyway.

Maybe it's because I'm a city boy or maybe it's because Dad loved to go to the Millersport Corn and Reynoldsburg Tomato Festivals every year, but I'm fascinated by our fast-dying agricultural roots. The most interesting experience I had at this year's fair was wandering through the antique farm machinery building and gawking at the huge, multi-limbed reapers, spreaders, corn shellers and the like. I struck up a conversation with an old tobacco farmer and his wife about an enormous antique bow saw and then walked around half the building with them, asking questions and listening to them talk about what it was like to tie tobacco, work a thresher, hand-crank a washing machine and more. It was great. The best part came after I wondered, half-joking, how humans come up with creative ideas like being able to turn the blade and handles of a bow saw sideways. The old man looked at me and laughed. "When you're cutting up a big tree, you have lots of time to think about how you could do it faster." [link]

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[Skip this one if election stuff bores you]

10.30.02 - Six days left. Time to check in with the horse race handicappers, courtesy of Political Wire, found at the thoughtful MyDD.com, which was itself recommended by the smart and challenging Josh Marshall. J'adore the Weblog world. For all its bullshit (and lord knows there's plenty), blogs are still a wonderful tool for spreading information. Congressional Quarterly's handicapping, complete with a few NC-related news stories, is worth a look, too. But there's not a whole lot of new analysis of Bowles/Dole at these sites - it's tightening, it's looking close, Bowles will probably lose by a few percentage points unless there's a strong turnout among blacks [yawn]. I hate to admit it, but Peter Orveti's prediction [doc] seems to me likely to hold up, especially if Dole gets any of that famous "Jesse bounce" that never seems to show up in pre-election polls:

NORTH CAROLINA: Elizabeth Dole (R) over Erskine Bowles (D). [GOP HOLD]
Bowles has effectively closed the gap, but trends in this state still favor Dole. A stronger Democratic candidate, or an earlier and/or less divisive Democratic primary, could have done Dole in. Instead, she wins by about five points.

An earlier Democratic primary could have done Dole in? Orveti's off-target on that point, I think A candidate whose positions lit just a teensy fire under the Democratic base might have been a bit more useful than an early primary. Surely we all remember the Democratic base? It's the one sharply opposed to the unilateral Iraq invasion that Bowles completely supports, and the one that includes the NC Association of Educators, who failed to endorse Bowles over a woman sure to be a reliable stand-in vote for Dick Cheney. It's worth asking what kind of Democratic Senate candidate could come out of a state teachers' union meeting and not have their endorsement in his pocket. Does that seem unprecedented to anyone else? Or is the so-called "divisive" primary (which felt more like wiffle ball than war, now that you mention it) to blame for that, too?

Bowles is picked by almost all the pundits to go down next Tuesday, but hey, anything really can happen. I've been smacking my disaffected non-voting pals upside the head all week, and suggest other left-leaners start doing the same.

In other campaign news, Larry Sabato picks Robin Hayes to keep his House seat, but doesn't bother to mention the Brad Miller/Carolyn Grant contest in the new district that, er, Miller helped draw. Give Carolyn credit for trying, anyway. The Political Oddsmaker, which claims 98% accuracy in 1500 or so races since 1996, has downgraded Hayes over Chris Khouri to just a 51% chance. Miller over Grant gets 56%. Of course, most NC House races are in the 90% range due to the deliberate creation of "safe seats." Democracy chugs merrily along.

The big toss-up in Raleigh is the race for the new District 16 seat: 3-term state Senator Eric Reeves against ex- mayor Paul Coble, who's going for his first shot at statewide office. I was going to call both of them smart people, but then noticed that neither one of them has a campaign Web site that's easy to find. How smart is that? Coble's name recognition (along with Judge Knox Jenkins' very helpful redrawing of the district so that most black voters - poof - disappeared) makes this one a tough call. I tried organizing a candidates debate on Raleigh Community Television with Locke Foundation President John Hood as co-panelist, but while Reeves was interested, neither Coble nor his campaign manager could be bothered to return my phone calls. Hmmph. And after all I've done for that man. It's an outrage, I tell you.

The real losers, of course, are the voters in District 16. For the record, I also tried to set up a debate between Miller and Grant in District 13, but getting approval at CTV took too long and the opportunity was lost. Still, Democratic front-runner Miller very quickly agreed to engage his opponent. Paul Coble - and local voters - might want to remember that as they consider Eric Reeves. [link]

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10.30.02 - You've gotta love the state fair. And pumpkins. You've gotta love the state fair and pumpkins both. Oh, just ignore that stench of corruption hanging in the air like the stench of manure that hung over the water ride. And ignore the fact that Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps apparently believes that the presence of hand-sanitizing stations and Kiddieland rides negates the State Board of Elections report about her "grossly negligent" fund-raising involving carnival companies. Here, have a fried Twinkie. Let me know when you stop vomiting.

Let's get real: Fried Twinkies are gross. And Phipps should still resign. Her decision to turn the fair over to new management after 53 years is nice, but even some of her worst critics supported her on that. Yes, she overturned the utterly unfair good ol' boy monopoly Jim Graham had been giving to Strates Shows for far too long, and yes, it's great there were more kiddie rides this year. Soccer Mom and Office Park Dad loved it. But that's a sideshow. It's certainly not the issue people are pointing to as they demand her resignation.

The real action, as usual, is down on the Midway. That's where Phipps' aides hustled donations to pay off the ridiculous $1.1 million Phipps wasted during her 2000 campaign. According to the Independent, her Democratic primary opponent spent only $72,000. Her eventual Republican opponent spent $27,000 during the entire race. Holy butter cow. Talk about overkill; Phipps actually mortaged her farm to spend that million bucks. After she won, her office threw itself into the job of getting it back, by God.

'Unseemly' doesn't begin to describe this mess. A box of $22,000 in cold, hard cash was actually handed to campaign treasurer Linda Saunders at one point. Forget carnies' uniform shirts; let's focus on that box. When the news broke, both Phipps and Saunders insisted they didn't know that cash donations bigger than $100 are, ahem, completely illegal. Charlotte Observer columnist Jack Betts called that cute little excuse "about as credible as a 16-year-old professing ignorance of the meaning of a red light." That Phipps initially claimed ignorance and blamed Saunders, and then shunted her off to a $68,000-a-year "special assistant" job instead of firing her outright, is a blatant smack in the head to voters. And we're supposed to forget all that because - what? There were hand-sanitizing stations at the fair this year? Yeah, right. There's a reason almost every major newspaper in the state has called for Phipps to resign (see sidebar here). Even the reliably Democratic News & Observer belatedly joined the crowd when it became clear that Phipps had learned nothing from her previous scandal:

[T]he Agriculture Department tried this year -- this year! -- to give a lucrative contract to a Florida carnival consulting company whose president, Robin Turner, had made illegal cash contributions to Phipps' campaign (her campaign treasurer testified that Turner had handed over a box containing $22,000).

After a state purchasing official vetoed that sole-source contract, the department allowed the company and Turner to work without a contract and without permission from the governor, both required by state law. It proceeded to pay Turner $5,300 for a few pages of work that, it seems, wasn't worth keeping around in the files.

Un-freaking-believable. Can this person possibly give the GOP any more ammo to use against her? Can she damage the state Democratic Party any more than she already has? I'm honestly sorry Meg Phipps is deep in debt, but it couldn't be more clear that she intends to keep using her office as a cash cow to make up for poor decisions during her campaign. The fact that Governor Easley hasn't asked for Phipps' resignation yet is nothing short of astonishing. Phipps and her crew repeatedly violated the most simple and basic campaign finance laws North Carolina has. If she stays in office, the message will be heard loud and clear by every politician in the state: Those laws mean nothing. Goodbye, Meg. Try again in five or ten years.

It's too bad, really. Phipps could have become a much stronger voice for an end to the absurdly anti-capitalist U.S. trade embargo against Cuba than Jim Graham was. NC's been pushing for a loosening of Cuban trade restrictions for a while now; it would result in significant increases in North Carolina exports to the island (and maybe even increases in democracy, if the free-traders are to be believed). It's a shame Phipps has squandered whatever credibility her office might have brought to this very touchy issue. [link]

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10.30.02 - State Fair then:

State Fair now:


[link]

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10.29.02 - You know, Durham officials don't even seem to care about the appearance of corruption anymore Yet another Herald-Sun front-page scandal, this one involving Marcia Conner, the city manager hired away from Austin to clean up just this sort of thing (register at the H-S already, it's free).

A company run by a former colleague of City Manager Marcia Conner informally has been given a city consulting job worth up to $30,000 for work the city never advertised or put out to bid...City policy requires a competitive bidding process, including advertising a "request for proposals," for city work valued at $10,000 or more...[I]t’s not the first time that Conner, who can approve contracts up to $30,000 without City Council approval, has been accused of steering work to people she has known or worked with in the past. Many are from Austin, where Conner was an assistant city manager for seven years before coming to Durham in June 2001.

Conner, whose personality and work style are analyzed at length half-way through this Austin Chronicle piece, denies ever seeing the contract. Durham's Housing Director refused to answer questions about who suggested the company. Instead, we're told the contract "slipped through the cracks" and "The process...should have been better."

That sure must be one seriously screwed-up "process" over there in Durham. Remember it was July 2001 when we learned of a massive scandal involving federal Housing and Urban Development funds being disbursed to non-existent businesses from within the city's economic development department. For background, check the 3rd story in this newsletter from Durham's Center for Economic and Environmental Justice (prettier pdf here). That scandal erupted a year after HUD attacked the city's inadequate record-keeping for "serious discrepancies." And now, more than two years after that warning, we still have the head of housing in Durham admitting "The process could have been better, should have been better"?

Hello? Earth to Marcia Conner. Shouldn't you have fixed this kind of thing by now? City Council member Cora Cole-McFadden asks the right questions: Why wasn't this put up for bid locally? Why is the Atlanta company doing work for the city without a signed contract spelling out its requirements? Why is it only now that the city says an RFP (request for proposals) will be advertised for the rest of the work?

One last thing: Former prosecutor Guy Seaberg really nailed this stuff last summer at the now-defunct hizzoner.com (search for "official misconduct" and go from there). If you can set aside for a moment the site's association with Michael Peterson, the novelist/gadfly who's since been accused of murdering his wife, you'll find plenty of thoughtful analysis of Durham corruption on that page. [link]

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10.29.02 - Couple of interesting points about age, the U.S. Senate and Mondale (along with large dollops of the unsourced speculation that seems the norm in much British journalism) in this Daily Telegraph article:

Republicans admit that [Mondale] is unlikely to be defeated...One Republican Senate aide said: "I'm surprised they don't have any younger people they can find in places like Minnesota and New Jersey. It must be demoralising for young liberals to see these crusty old warriors being trotted out to save the day." [...]

Probably about as demoralizing for the crusty old warriors to see youngsters like John Edwards have the gall to run for President.

[Mondale] is understood to have been offered the option of standing down for a younger man in 2004 or 2006.

Understood by whom, one wonders? I don't suppose the claim would be any better if it began with "Senate sources claim," as is de rigeur in the U.S. press, but I'd at least feel a tiny bit more grounded in reality reading it. Perhaps the difference is just stylistic. Btw, I just love this quote: "The Senate is such a comfortable little gentlemen's club that the turnover is probably lower than the House of Lords, particularly since Tony Blair threw out the hereditary peers." Ouch. [link]

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10.28.02 - Ok, I'll admit my first reaction to the news that Walter Mondale may be filling in for the recently deceased Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone was, "I smell the stench of failure in the air." But now that I've had a minute to think about it, it makes perfect sense. Hell, both Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld served with President Ford. Since they're now obviously trying to recreate the Reagan years, complete with insane, budget-busting increases in military spending, the least us left-leaners can get is a blast from the past like ol' Walter Mondale. Here's the Senate's highly informative, slightly fawning career overview. Despite Mondale's disastrous national failure against Reagan in 1984, he did win one state: Minnesota, where he's apparently well-respected for having been an even-keeled and thoughtful liberal Senator.

The Mondale pick, I'd wager, would guarantee that the Democrats will hold on to their Minnesota Senate seat (despite the fact that Minnesota stupidly insists on counting absentee ballots for Wellstone if they've already been sent in). This is good news for those of us concerned about Republican domination of the federal court system for the next 20 years. If the Senate falls back into Republican hands, though, it's more than a bit ironic that it was Mondale who led the charge during the mid-1970s to reduce the power of filibustering. In what he himself called "long and sometimes bitter debates," Mondale pushed to reduce the votes needed to end a Senator's filibuster from 67 to 60. Do a search for "Metzenbaum" at Mondale's Senate bio for a particularly heavy-handed 1977 episode in which Mondale and Robert Byrd, of all people, squashed liberal Senators who'd been filibustering for 12 days over Carter's attempt to deregulate the natural gas industry. The move infuriated many Senators.

Let's hope Fritz doesn't live to regret that one. If the Senate goes Republican, I for one will be happy to see lots of filibustering.

Update: Via Metafilter comes this from long-time blogger James Lileks:

If it’s Mondale as a replacement, it ought to make Wellstone’s supporters scowl a bit. The true heir to Wellstone’s policies would be the Green candidate - but oddly enough, none of his supporters are suggesting that anyone vote for that fellow...The objective is not to carry the Wellstone torch for the next six years. The objective is control of the Senate. The Wellstone legacy turns out to be no more than a seat marked D.

Which wouldn't surprise Wellstone's critics on the left, of course. But Lileks begs the question of why Wellstone didn't himself belong to the Green Party. Seems to me that "a seat marked D" as Wellstone's immediate legacy would suit his practical brand of left-leaning politics just fine. [link]

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10.25.02 - UNC champion wrestler Paul Wellstone ('65) has been killed in a plane crash The U.S. Senator, his wife and daughter and five others went down this morning. Horrible. Like Mel Carnahan in Missouri in 2000, Wellstone died criss-crossing his state near the end of a hard-fought campaign. CNN says Minnesota law gives the state Democratic Party the right to pick a replacement candidate. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a good overview of Wellstone's career arc from fiery activist to Washington insider, and this enthusiastic fan site offers a glowing take. The difficulties of being the Senate's most consistently left-wing voice are perhaps best demonstrated by reading a few recent - and sharply critical - articles about Wellstone from Mother Jones and Alexander Cockburn. [link]

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10.23.02 - It's the single most important issue affecting the course of the United States over the next two years. So why aren't Democrats like Erskine Bowles talking about what we'll face if Republicans gain control of both the House and Senate along with the White House and Supreme Court? The Washington Monthly has a fascinating discussion that may help answer the question:

Across the country, Democratic politicians don't want to talk about the one thing that every Democratic politician is worrying about...As a result, even though most Americans - especially swing voters - strongly prefer divided government, most voters aren't really aware that Republicans are one seat away from controlling all three branches of the federal government for the first time in more than 80 years. It's a mistake that could very well cost the Democrats this election--and much more.

Apparently, it all comes down to conventional wisdom that says that nationalizing campaigns on that particular issue won't work. Are they f***ing kidding? Concern about the Executive Branch's disdain for basic civil liberties is obvious across the entire political spectrum, from far left to far right. A group of high school kids could figure out a way to pull moderate voters into Bowles' camp on that one. Why can't Bowles' advisors? It's not like they're above scare tactics, and it seems apparent that Bowles isn't getting the traction he needs with his Social Security accusations, since Dole's been able to parry them effectively. Time's running out, Erskine. Don't wait until two days before the election to go after an issue like, oh, the rubber-stamping of conservative federal judges, which will affect tiny things like, you know, abortion, environmental protections and citizens' right to a trial before being tossed in jail. These are all Democrat-inspiring issues, and yet instead of hitting them - hard - in order to increase turnout, Bowles is running ads telling us how much he loves his Dad.

Puh-lease. Drilling in the Alaskan wilderness is more relevant to the voters Bowles needs to reach than pictures of Erskine Bowles' father. We know drilling will happen if Dick "I Ain't Accountable to No One" Cheney gets to present his ridiculously backward-looking energy plan to a Republican-controlled Senate. What the heck kind of Democrat can't make hay out of an issue like that? What kind of Democrat wouldn't even try?

Oh, right. This kind of Democrat.

Be sure to read to the end of the Washington Monthly article, which captures what's at stake nicely:

The Democrats, of course, may choose to play it safe. They can choose to spend the next month talking about why their prescription drug plan is better than the GOP's prescription drug plan. They can warble on about Democratic "priorities."...They probably won't lose very many seats. They may even gain a few.

But it's a hell of a gamble. By refusing to tell voters what's really at stake, the Democrats are relegating the election to a mere contest of policy proposals, proposals that few Republicans will claim to be against. In the end, no issue will matter unless the Democratic Party gives voters a real reason to vote against the Republicans--one that encompasses all the agenda items and forces Americans to think about the real consequences of Republican rule.

I can't help but wonder: Would Dan Blue be running away from this one? [link]

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10.3.02 - Oh boy, this ought to be good The N&O reports today that the oh-so-earnest Mo Rocca was in town last week, filming a Daily Show segment on the UNC Quran controversy for Comedy Central. A producer says it could air "Monday or later in the week."

I've always wondered how Rocca gets anyone to talk with him, since his hilarious brand of comedy usually depends on his subjects looking like unwitting dolts. I may have just gotten my answer from state House member (and now district 35 Senate candidate) Fern Shubert (R), who says Rocca interviewed her for (gulp) about an hour. "Obviously, they were aiming for comedy," she says, "because some of it was off the wall." Uh-oh. Sounds like someone doesn't watch the The Daily Show. Wonder if Shubert (was she chosen for her name, you think?) will feel the valuable TV facetime was worth whatever it is that Mo's producers do with that hour of footage. [link]

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10.2.02 - Update on that Durham rape trial where the DNA from the man being prosecuted by District Attorney Jim Hardin's office didn't match the facts of the case. The Herald-Sun's John Stevenson followed up last week; the suspect, who'd spent a full year in jail awaiting trial, was completely acquitted of all charges [reg'n req'd]. That's not all. The jury foreman, Howard Williams, Jr., had extremely harsh words for the prosecution, describing the trial as "a waste of time":

"We all wondered what we were doing there," he said of himself and fellow jurors. "The evidence was nonexistent. We're very comfortable with the decision we made. I can't understand why that man spent a year in jail when there was no evidence whatsoever against him. It made no sense to us. Where's the justice?"

Surely something's wrong when a jury foreman calls out the D.A.'s office for locking someone up for a year with "no evidence whatsoever." Given the strange deal-making in the case, is it fair to wonder what on earth prosecutor Tracey Cline - who still insists she had the right man - was thinking? And is it fair to wonder - without engaging in moronic cop-bashing - how often this kind of thing happens in Durham, or in other Triangle jurisdictions? I think it is. [link]

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10.2.02 - Say hello to your new best friends: Raleigh's baamphf. Saw them at Kings Sunday night and, as usual, was laughing as I got blown away by the aggressively smart, tight music they make. Keep an eye out - two drummers, two guitarists and one bassist, all of whom obviously enjoy tearing the hell out of their constantly-changing songs. I'd call it math-rock, but Susan Humphreys (screaming above) would probably punch me, so we'll just mention they invoke Shellac, Don Caballero, shrieking metal, intricate jazz and the Melvins at various times and leave it at that. Ladderback were great, too. They're from Raleigh, work a similar sound and are apparently scheduled for a tour of Japan soon. (beware, the mp3s at the baamphf site occasionally hung up my browser, not sure if it's me or them) [link]

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10.2.02 - I haven't looked forward to a music show as much as this in a long time. Greensboro's avant-garde jazz/country/noise genius Eugene Chadbourne (is it fair to call him the most well-known free jazz musician the state has produced since Coltrane?) is playing in an improv duo with Gerry Hemingway, the former drummer in Anthony Braxton's most brilliant quartet, at Go! Studios in Carrboro tonight. Yeah, I'm gonna miss that. I previewed this show - a spillover from the ArtsIgnite festival currently underway in Winston-Salem - in last week's Indy. This provided me the smile-inducing benefit of hearing "Hi, this is Eugene Chadbourne" on my answering machine one night. You can imagine the thrill. Local quirk-rockers Cantwell, Gomez, Jordan are opening. How lucky can you get? [link]

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10.2.02 - One of the things I dislike most about the Weblog world is the way bloggers jump on any mention of themselves in the mainstream media. Gay neocon Andrew Sullivan (whose work always makes me think, even if what I occasionally think is, "good lord that's convoluted") is notorious for the speed with which he responds to the slightest mention of his name in the press.

So I hesitate before commenting on the cheap shots N&O features columnist Dan Gearino (left) sent my way in Wednesday's paper, except to note that I've sent the paper a letter asking for an apology from his editor. The difference between the shots I've taken at Gearino in the past and his at me yesterday? Mine were grounded in specific examples of his work. His weren't. That says it all. We'll see if the paper prints the letter. And Dan, here's the attention you were obviously gunning for. You owe me one, pal. [link]

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10.2.02 - Why hasn't Dan Blue endorsed Erskine Bowles yet? This Charlotte Observer article lays out the continuing spat nicely. It's difficult to see how Bowles can win this thing without lots of black support, and attitudes like this aren't helping:

Blue's critics within the party suggested it is odd for him to act as the aggrieved Democrat, given that he spent months bashing Bowles as an elitist who is insensitive to working-class issues, while Bowles consistently complimented Blue and Marshall on the campaign trail.

Oh, come on. "Bashing?" This campaign "wasn't especially bitter," the N&O reported on Sept. 17. Sure, both Marshall and Blue attacked Bowles as a wealthy corporate Democrat, but that's because Bowles, um, is a wealthy corporate Democrat. Not that there's anything wrong with that; I'm sure Dan Blue would've loved to have been able to loan his campaign $1.3 million, like Bowles did in August.

It's not hard to imagine why a man who's been working in state political trenches since 1980 might still be miffed that the national party machinery (and money) stepped in to quickly anoint a businessman who's never been elected to public office. With the editor of Raleigh's black newspaper claiming he's heard black voters say, "I lived through 30 years of Jesse Helms, I can do another six under Elizabeth Dole," the fact that Blue still hasn't endorsed Bowles is a red flag that doesn't bode well for black voter turnout. [link]

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10.1.02 - Huntin' for Nascar-Lovin', Moon-Pie-Eatin', Bluegrass-Listenin', Shotgun-Totin' Democrats You have to see this hilariously revealing NY Times Magazine story about the new "rural white males" strategy that some Democrats - including John Edwards - are using in their campaigns. The idea is that Democrats, who once ruled "the back roads and general stores," now have a "wuss problem" because they're "seen in much of the country as disconnected from - if not contemptuous of - the people who spend their weekends hunting, at church or watching stock cars."

One analyst in the Times article dismisses the idea completely ("If the Democratic Party thinks its future lies with rural white males, they're crazy") but our junior Senator obviously believes he can milk the tactic (until he gets the nomination, anyway); he's hired the two hottest "NASCAR Democrat" strategists to manage his presidential campaign. They were responsible for his appearance at - are you ready? - O Cooter Where Art Thou?, a fundraiser to help former Dukes of Hazzard actor Ben Jones run for Congress in Virginia. Edwards was the guest star - listed just above Deputy Cletus, it should be noted - and now also has his own stock car (right) and a bluegrass group as his official musical act. He'll probably have the sense to stop before campaigning with the Confederate battle flag, but, hey, you never know.

I told you that his campaign was going to be fun to watch.

Don't dismiss this stuff, though. For one thing, Cooter's maverick approach to guns sounds like it could actually work to pry some firearms fans loose from the Republican party. He's a staunch defender of the 2nd Amendment (and with Ashcroft around, who isn't?) but also has the guts to really go after the NRA with statements like, "Bring it on, Chuck, bring it on. You would be surprised at how many people are sick and tired of your outfit."

Can I get a yeehaw from Southern Democrats on that, at least?

Thanks to owillis at Metafilter. And don't worry, arts lovers. This isn't a political-junkies-only blog. You'll be next. [link]

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