I generally don’t say much on CitizenWill about Federal officeholders but since there’s been a lot of blather about Elaine Marshall’s chances of overcoming Richard Burr I thought I would submit one way she can challenge Burr’s reputation of supporting our troops.

Elaine, as part of her Senate campaign, started a petition calling on Burr to support a Consumer Finance Protection Agency.

Burr, so far, and his Republican colleagues have been less than supportive (to put it mildly) of the initiative.

In fact, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.),

ranking Republican on the Senate banking committee on Monday [June 21st, 2010] told a group of N.C. bankers that a proposed consumer financial protection agency is the “worst” part of an industry overhaul making its way through Congress.

“They will decide what products you can put out, to whom and probably at what price,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in remarks at the N.C. Bankers Association’s annual meeting, held at a University-area hotel. “Can you imagine all this?”

Charlotte Observer, June 22nd, 2010

Senator Shelby, after Wall St. gamblers pissed billions of investor dollars down the drain, threw the economy into a historic tailspin and bamboozled American citizens into picking up the tab, I can well imagine having more oversight. For instance, “visualizing” restoration of the kind of protections we once enjoyed under the Glass-Steagall Act.

Shelby was visiting the Old North State “at a breakfast fundraiser for Burr attended by about 70 bankers”.

What does the Consumer Finance Protection Agency have to do with our military families?

The Department of Defense’s Office of Personal Finance specifically endorsed the creation of the CFPA [PDF] because, as Director Julian said, “DOD firmly believes that the financial readiness of their troops and families equates to mission readiness and anything that we can do to help our families be financially ready, we will support the family and the mission.”

That letter of endorsement starts by highlighting the effects predatory and unscrupulous lending practices by some automobile dealers have on our military families.

The excellent academic consumer credit ‘blog Credit Slips has posted a good overview of those reprehensible tactics:

So what are the problems in the auto lending world?  Here are some.  I’m guessing I’ll learn of some new ones in the comments.  I’m also guessing that auto leasing has its own bag of tricks.  

Bait and Switch.   There are lots of variations on bait-and-switch with auto dealers.  Here’s one: the dealer gives the consumer a quote on a particular model and says that it is in stock.  The consumer comes in and guess what–that model is still in stock, but only with a bunch of dealer-added features (hubcap locks, pinstripe, fog lights, etc.) that raise the cost of the car by more than the value given.  Want to guess why I’m driving a Honda Odyssey with a “racing pinstripe” on it?   

Hidden Fees.  This is sort of self-explanatory, and is another bait-and-switch variation.  The consumer bargains with the dealer over the price of the car and the financing and thinks that a deal has been reached.  Then the consumer gets the final bill for the car and it has a bunch of previously unmentioned fees.  The dealer says don’t worry, we’ll just increase the amount financed.  

Dealer reserve kickbacks.  These are the yield spread premiums of the auto world. The dealer often acts as a broker for a financing company that will finance the car purchase.  The dealer is compensated for this service by getting a slice of the interest on the loan.  The higher the loan rate, the larger the kickback.  So the consumer qualifies for a loan at 10%, but the dealer steers the consumer into a 14% loan in order to get a larger dealer reserve payment.  (One way to avoid being steered due to dealer reserve is to go in with a direct financing offer lined-up from an independent finance company; I wonder how many consumers do this, though.)  

Loan packing.  Overpriced and underused or frankly unnecessary products like credit life insurance and GAP insurance and rust-proofing get bundled in to the deal.  

Overselling.  Dealer’s cuts on loans can give them an incentive to steer consumers into larger loans.  One way to do that is to sell the consumer a more expensive car, which requires more financing.  Of course the consumer still has to be qualified for the loan, and there have been problems in auto lending, just as with mortgages, of dealers (and borrowers) fudging the numbers on the paperwork to make borrowers look more creditworthy.  

Spot delivery yo-yos.  This is one of the sleaziest moves.  The consumer buys a car with financing arranged through the dealer.  The financing includes a nonrefundable deposit.  The consumer takes the car home thinking that everything is in order.  The dealer then calls the consumer the next day to say that the financing was denied in the end and the consumer has to return the car.  And the dealer keeps the deposit. 

Binding mandatory arbitration.  This is a generic consumer finance problem.  

Such practices are familiar to folks who live in North Carolina’s host communities.

Unfortunately, the protections DoD asked for have been gutted by both Republican and Democratic (BOO!) House members.

Elaine can differentiate her candidacy not only from Burr’s but of her own Party by coming out strongly for specific remedies to this loophole.

John McCain really stepped in it out West. When he suggested sending more of Colorado’s precious water south to Arizona, a broad spectrum of citizens rose up to condemn him.

Water, it appears, is precious, no matter what a Coloradan’s political stripe.

Our own multi-governmental OWASA (Orange Water and Sewer Authority) has suggested we borrow additional water from the Haw River, either from the Town of Haw River, or directly, via a pipeline as suggested by this 2008 Stage 3 drought emergency plan.

A Stage Three declaration will also highlight our preparations for a worst case drought response that will provide for temporarily pumping water from the Haw River to the Cane Creek Reservoir. Unless supplementary water is available from neighboring communities, this will be the most viable option for ensuring that we do not run out of water under worst case conditions. Cost estimates for the temporary system are under development, but will likely be in the $4.5 million to $8 million range, depending on the duration and volume of pumping. Specific funding source(s) have not yet been identified, but any supplemental revenue from the Stage Three surcharges will offset a portion of those costs

$4.5 to $8 million sounds outrageous but pales in comparison to the estimated cost of $50 million to cooperatively tap the ever filthier Lake Jordan.

Over the next few years, Chapel Hill’s citizens have to decide whether they have a firm commitment to “live within our means”, to bound development based on our local carrying capacity or to continue expanding to the extent we have to take other folks vital resources (and further diminish the viability of our natural environments, such as the Haw River corridor). There’s little will to substantively take on the long term consequences of our current trajectory. Even with the incredible conservation efforts our local citizenry and institutions have demonstrated, what was once a Stage 3 emergency will become a daily necessity.

Shipping waste 90 miles or pumping water 30 doesn’t jibe with our responsibility to maintain our community’s footprint within what resources are available. Living within that footprint, especially as energy costs increase, makes great economic sense. But for all the teeth gnashing some local politicos and a few green-washed foundations like to engage in, we have taken too few practical and effective steps to realize that commitment.

Talking about commitment (mental?), I was just looking over some old and new requests I have made of our local elective bodies these last eight years.

From my newest one to the Orange County Board of Commissioners – asking them to begin the process to either site a new landfill or develop an in-county alternative for waste management – to one of my oldest to Chapel Hill’s Town Council – setting a goal to reduce fuel use by %5-10, measuring progress and rewarding folks that exceed our expectations – I’ve tried to push a proactive approach to living within our community’s “means”. Water use, available land, even the ability of a wide cross-section of our residents to pay their property taxes, should all play a part in our decision to expand. The current local love affair with high-density, mixed-use developments has obscured this central concern: there are limits to responsible growth – growth that doesn’t demand “borrowing” (to use a development euphemism) resources from far-afield – and Chapel Hill is quickly nearing those limits.

Still haven’t sold our Council on that concept.

Who needs to wait, though, for a popular uprising? Is the plan to schlep on, continue to rely on a comprehensive plan that lacks the nuance to account for carrying capacity, and build until the taps run dry? Do we dump garbage in someone else’s community until it becomes prohibitively expensive to transport it from ours? Do we limit home ownership to those making well-above our Town and University staff’s median income?

Or do we just wait and wait and wait until our own John McCains “step in it”?

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.

Robert Kennedy

Robert Kennedy’s presidential run is the first political race I vividly remember. Even though I was young, nearly seven when he died, the enthusiasm my mother showed, some snippets of what he said, the way folks drew courage from his words have stuck with me through the years.

“What is objectionable, what is dangerous, about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”

Robert Kennedy

My mother’s enthusiastic support for George McGovern, apparently the candidate of “amnesty, abortion and acid” (Novak), in 1972 was another watershed moment in my political life. McGovern was not a popular choice in our small, conservative, rural town. Nixon was still popular, though his war, which even touched this small community, wasn’t. His landslide victory, powered by dirty tricks and nasty innuendo, taught me that a well-intentioned, courageous run for office is vulnerable to those willing to use the basest means.

That ’72 race was the first time, though unfortunately not the last time, I felt keen disappointment in an electoral defeat.

At the end of a long campaign, I believe I know our people as well as anyone. Based on this knowledge of Georgians North and South, Rural and Urban, liberal and conservative, I say to you quite frankly that the time for racial discrimination is over. Our people have already made this major and difficult decision, but we cannot underestimate the challenge of hundreds of minor decisions yet to be made.

Governor Jimmy Carter’s Inaugural Address – January 12, 1971

I certainly didn’t know who Jimmy Carter was in 1971 (who did outside of Georgia?) but by his 1980 campaign, the first national election I could vote in, I was an admiring supporter. My first year at college, I volunteered to drum up votes for Jimmy “down East” Carolina (east of I-95). On campus, the “progressive” students were throwing their support behind Anderson. While Anderson’s economic policies, including his effort to invest in energy development, had some appeal, Carter, especially in that hell year of ’79, had demonstrated political courage in talking straight about our country’s problems (including race).

Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, even the world. We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom, and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence in the future, we are also beginning to close the door on our past.

Jimmy Carters, 1979 “malaise” speech to the nation.

Reagan won North Carolina by a hair in 1980 (less than Anderson’s %2.85) but had a landslide in the electoral college. I knew that electing Reagan, a harbinger of style over substance in the Imperial Presidency, was a mistake. His many errors, both foreign and domestic, should have ended his presidency in ’84. Sadly, his incredible popularity with young voters, my peers, over those years made me a bit worried about our country’s future. In spite of Reagan’s formation of an illegal shadow “arms for drugs” government to support his Iran/Contra operation, numerous illegalities and other similar anti-democratic initiatives, his version of a “new day in America” wasn’t antithetical enough to cause a populist uprising.

George “I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing! about Iran/Contra” Bush’s win in 1988, after Reagan’s debilitating tenure was more than disappointing.

Worse, the Democrats inability to field a credible defense throughout the 1980’s led me, and others, to realize that our political process had lost the necessary vitality to meet our country’s escalating challenges. Where was the “loyal opposition”? Heck, where was the “opposition”? If I had known that “Mr. Deregulation’s” administration would father the “Smirking Chimp’s” “torture-r-us” madministration that has plague our nation these last 8 years, I would have worked harder in 1988 to oust him. Daddy Bush’s administration became a breeding ground for all the worst war-loving, Orwellian 1984 emulating, Constitution hating champions of kleptocracy that his son let run roughshod over our citizenry.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that we don’t as a general community want to talk about it [racial issues]. We don’t want to talk about it in political campaigns. I’m guilty of that. We don’t talk about it in social settings. WE don’t talk about it in the work place. We used to talk about race a lot more often back when desegregation was being introduced to our society. There were more interracia l groups that said, “What is this going to mean? What is this going to be all about?” Then we quit talking about 1970 and we really haven’t talked since the so-called demise of desegregation laws. And the fact is that need to do more talking to each other, more bluntly, more commonly.

Harvey Gantt, 1996 PBS Black Issues Forum

While the Democrats followed their defeat in 1988 by shedding the best elements of a populist and progressive agenda, finally stumbling upon a charming winner in Clinton, the general level of political discourse continued to devolve. Pioneered by race-baiting weasels, like North Carolina’s own Senator Helm’s protege Lee Atwater, the new politics introduced a mass-marketed vileness that continues to be repugnant to the proper functioning of popular democracy.

In 1990, I threw myself into the campaign to elect Harvey Gantt to the United States Senate. Harvey was a welcome antidote to Jesse Helms. Jesse’s antics were notorious. When my family moved to North Carolina in the late ’70’s I wondered how representative he was of the state as a whole. The only other Senator from North Carolina I knew was Sam Ervin. Ervin, I thought, didn’t want to desegregate the South but stood against calls to infringe upon our basic civil rights. While I grew to respect Ervin during the Watergate hearings, I wondered how the same North Carolinians that elected him could support a demagogue like Helms.

In the ’90 campaign, I had a chance to work directly on reforming North Carolina’s Helmsian reputation. Gantt was a stand-up candidate who spoke directly on North Carolina’s continuing socio-economic divide. As the first African-American elected to the Senate from the South since Reconstruction, his win would be historic. We could replace the race-baiting caricature Helms with a candidate that represented a progressive South.

But 1990 wasn’t Harvey’s, North Carolina’s or my year for progressive reform. The problem? Harvey Gantt is black.

Helms’ Rovian brigade accused the Gantt campaign of running “black only” radio ads, tarred Gantt’s initiatives as communist, claimed Gantt’s support of equal rights for all – including homosexuals (gasp!) – anti-American and capped off their river of crap with this famous “white hands” ad

You needed that job. You were the best qualified, but they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota.

I put a lot of heart and soul into that Gantt campaign. In a way working for Gantt was an opportunity for a catharsis – channeling the disappointment I felt from years of Reaganism and Reaganism-lite – into a positive attempt to help set a new path for North Carolina.

I wouldn’t come close to putting that kind of effort into a campaign until Gore’s 2000 run. With Bush’s and the neo-cons fortunes rising within the Republican party, I knew that 2000 was a game-changer of an election. It was obvious that the Cheney/Norquist wing of the GOP was salivating over the buffet a new Bush administration promised. Their reckless, anti-democratic, Orwellian policies might have a fighting chance to flourish with the smirking chimp as figurehead. I hoped that Republican stalwarts, like the then apparently honorable Senator John McCain, would temper these radicals agenda.

Not the case, as recent history has borne out.

The Republican Party in North Carolina said Wednesday it’s launching a television ad calling Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama too extreme for the state, despite the objections of GOP presumptive nominee John McCain. In an e-mail to state GOP chairwoman Linda Daves, McCain said the advertisement was “offensive” and urged party leaders to withhold the ad.

“I don’t know why they do it,” McCain told reporters on his campaign bus Wednesday in Kentucky. “Obviously, I don’t control them, but I’m making it very clear, as I have a couple of times in the past, that there’s no place for that kind of campaigning, and the American people don’t want it.”

McCain said he hasn’t seen the ad but it has been described to him, “and I hope that I don’t see it.” The advertisement raises the specter of Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright, beginning with a photo of Obama and Wright together and a clip of Wright’s contentious remarks about America.

News & Record, Apr. 23, 2008

Which brings us to today, a short 30 days from our country deciding whether it will be four more years (or more) of a disastrous Bush plus agenda or the promise, but by no stretch an iron-clad guarantee, of real, substantive change.

“Evidently there’s been a lot of interest in what I read lately,” she [McCain’s VP pick Sarah Palin] said. “I was reading today a copy of the New York Times. And I was really interested to read in there about Barack Obama’s friends from Chicago. Turns out one of his earliest supporters is a man who, according to the New York Times, was a domestic terrorist, that quote ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and the United States Capitol.'”

Saturday’s New York Times story, an investigation into whether Obama had a relationship with Ayers, concluded that the men were never close and that Obama has denounced Ayers’ radical past, which occurred when Obama, who was born in 1961, was a child. It also found that he has downplayed their contacts.

“This is not a man who sees America as you and I see America,” Palin said of Obama. “We see America as a force for good in this world. We see America as a force for exceptionalism. … Our opponents see America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who would bomb their own country.”

Mercury News, Oct. 4th, 2008

Pal around with terrorists? Unconscionable though not unbelievable coming from the well-oiled Republican smear apparatchik.

The children of Helms, notably Rove, casually display such villainy as part-and-parcel of their practice of politics. That McCain, who was on the receiving end of similar Rovian sponsored lies during his 2000 South Carolina primary (“Would you vote for McCain if you knew he fathered an illegitimate black child?”), is so desperate to win should be caution enough to reject his run but I know better.

Nearly forty years of my own personal history of American politics has taught me that the tactics of smear, the strategies of the non-answer answer, the closing of the ranks, the avoidance of the media, the “big lies” (here’s 107 from McCain), backdoor racism (Bobby May[PDF]) can work their magic on the ill-informed, detached, jaded, cynical, prejudiced and selfish parts of our American electorate.

Yes, Obama’s prospects appear to be on the rise. The day for change, at least in the presidency, might be upon us. But nothing is sure (still time for our own Gulf of Tonkin in the Hormuz Straits).

And if Obama wins, the battles – as the recent $850 billion Wall St. giveaway Democatic cave-in demonstrates (read Keillor’s “They’re Stealing from You and Me — Where’s the Outrage?” or listen to Kucinich on following the bull) – will continue. The war to wrest control of the Congress from the hands of the powerful to those of the people will be hard fought. To win we need a strength of character from our elected officials that we haven’t generally seen this last decade.

If the battle be won, I’m not as confident as I was when I started voting in 1980, that the governed are that interested in the quality of their governance. Recent Chapel Hill politics have provided a few examples of Carter’s malaise.

Then again, I don’t plan to withdraw or cede ground. And I certainly won’t give up either nationally or locally on a citizen-led democracy.

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Robert Kennedy, Day of Affirmation Address, University of Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966

The exercise of current politics seems to be a matter of shading or ignoring facts while often obfuscating the truth with misleading rhetoric. Whether as blatant as claiming Obama voted for tax increase 94 times or subtly slick as suggesting prioritizing a delay in building a local library expansion over a pet Downtown development project, the pros no how to manipulate reality to the detriment of our citizenry.

We expect our media to shed light on policy debates (that is when debate isn’t shutdown as a bloc campaign tactic – as we sadly observed in our last local municipal election) but that isn’t always the case.

Luckily, there are some excellent resources for checking the factual basis of this years presidential race with various organizations fact-checking both politician and media statements for accuracy. Examples?

From the Annenberg folk’s

Palin repeated a false claim that Obama once voted in favor of higher taxes on “families” making as little as $42,000 a year. He did not. The budget bill in question called for an increase only on singles making that amount, but a family of four would not have been affected unless they made at least $90,000 a year.

Biden wrongly claimed that McCain had said “he wouldn’t even sit down” with the government of Spain. Actually, McCain didn’t reject a meeting, but simply refused to commit himself one way or the other during an interview.

From the Congressional Quarterly and St. Petersburg Times

Palin wrongly characterized Barack Obama’s health plan when she said it would be “government-run.”

From Media Matters

National Public Radio senior news analyst Cokie Roberts responded that Sen. Joe Biden “talked about the Bosniaks.” Roberts later said: “[I]f [Gov. Sarah Palin] had said ‘Bosniak,’ everybody would be making a big deal of it, you know.” In fact, Biden correctly referred to certain residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina as Bosniaks. According to the U.S. State Department, as of 2002, the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina consisted of the following ethnic groups: “Bosniak 48.3%, Serb 34.0%, Croat 15.4%, others 2.3%.”

There are more resources than ever to pierce the veil of political spin (BS) that has become the working currency of national politicians. Unfortunately, and especially with our local media in flux, there are far fewer resources to untangle the web some of our local leaders like to spin.

I write my ‘blog knowing full well that there are many folks more eloquent, more on-point than I will ever be. Jim Protzman, former Chapel Hill Councilmember, BlueNC’r sent this simple request to Representative David Price about the Bush Administration’s $700 billion long con.

Dear Congressman Price

We were told last week that the world would end if the bail-out didn’t pass immediately. It didn’t pass, and the world didn’t end. Then we were told we had a few days. Then we were told next Monday would be okay. Some even say a few weeks would be okay.

The truth is, no one in Congress has any freakin’ idea what you’re dealing with here. The $700 billion figure was pulled out of Paulson’s ass. It has no grounding in reality whatsoever. It’s not even clear that a bail out is absolutely necessary…..

Dead on. Thanks Jim for articulating, if even a little freakin’ off-color, what I want David to do – reject the Bushies final grift.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that David’s efforts, if he should take Jim’s sage advice, will be subverted by his own party’s leadership, ala Salon’s Glenn Greenwald’s recent observation what the Democratic Leadership
(The complete (though ever-changing) elite consensus over the financial collapse) will probably do:

Leave aside for the moment whether this gargantuan nationalization/bailout scheme is “necessary” in some utilitarian sense. One doesn’t have to be an economics expert in order for several facts to be crystal clear:

First, the fact that Democrats are on board with this scheme means absolutely nothing. When it comes to things the Bush administration wants, Congressional Democrats don’t say “no” to anything. They say “yes” to everything. That’s what they’re for.

They say “yes” regardless of whether they understand what they’re endorsing. They say “yes” regardless of whether they’ve been told even the most basic facts about what they’re being told to endorse. They say “yes” anytime doing so is politically less risky than saying “no,” which is essentially always and is certainly the case here. They say “yes” whenever the political establishment — meaning establishment media outlets and the corporate class that funds them — wants them to say “yes,” which is the case here. And they say “yes” with particular speed and eagerness when told to do so by the Serious Trans-Partisan Republican Experts like Hank Paulson and Ben Bernake (or Mike McConnell and Robert Gates and, before them, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell).

So nothing could be less reassuring or more meaningless than the fact that the Democratic leadership has announced that what they heard scared them so much that they are certain all of this is necessary — whatever “all this” might be (and does anyone think that they know what “this” even is?). It may be “necessary” or may not be, but the fact that Congressional Democrats are saying this is irrelevant, since they would not have done anything else — they’re incapable of doing anything else — other than giving their stamp of approval when they’re told to.

This will be the third “big scare” used to justify the most corrosive of public policies. 9/11 led to the hasty adoption of the Orwellian Patriot Act. Fabricated “intelligence” of Iraqii WMDs led to the worst foreign policy and humanitarian disaster of the last few generations. And now, with the implosion of financial institutions whose underpinnings were based on incremental movements of trust in instruments spun from less substance than cotton candy, we have the rush to payoff the indefensible ripoffs on Wall St.

By every and any measure, the American public, prodded by fear and ignorance over 7 years, have emptied their, their childrens’ and grandchildren’s pockets – trillions of dollars – in the largest transfer of public weal to private hands ever.

Never have so many given so much to so few.

And as the Cheney/Bush madministration draws to a close, this third and final act seeks to strip the America’s cupboard bare, dot the final i on the most incompetent Presidency in our Republic’s short history and end, it seems, by drowning the Neo-Con’s favorite whipping boy – a Federal regulatory government – in the bathtub.

Barack Obama swung by Chapel Hill tonight in his on-going attempt to clinch his party’s nomination. As David Price noted, for the first time in decades North Carolina is relevant – and we have an opportunity to push Obama over the top.

As with many political events, the rally, scheduled for 9:30pm kicked off promptly at 10:19pm. The Dean Dome was 3/4’s full – the crowd a mix of college students and locals (with a smattering of notable politicos – Mel Watt, David Price, Hampton Dellinger, Alice Gordon).

If you’ve seen Obama speak before, the stump he gave was fairly familiar – tweaked a bit for both the Tar Heel college and North Carolina “blue” crowd. He butchered Chancellor Moeser’s name (quickly corrected with some input from the crowd). He made a small reference to RTP – proposed cloning its success (I suggest better research by his crew). Spoke of mitigating college tuitions using a Americorp type program ($12K per annum -whew!). Talked about off-shoring of jobs and closing of mills. But mostly it was a speech targeted towards a national audience.

He riffed on McCain – “25 years in Congress” and a $25 gas tax refund “is the best he can do”.

After pummeling McCain a bit, he carefully highlighted the differences between him and Hillary.

Obama painted Hillary as the candidate of lobbyists, special interests and the back room party apparatchik. Contrasting his trip to Wall Street to inform CEOs that their personal tax bills were headed up, that under his administration Federal subsidies for their cash cows would dry up and windfall profits (literally highway robbery) were going to be taxed with Hillary’s Union hall pandering, he made the case for his political courage. And, he noted subtlety, she hasn’t been quite honest.

Which brings me back to our local Board of Commissioners race.

Between the two at-large candidates that I know and have seen in action at close range, Neloa Jones is the hands down best candidate.

She’s united her community, built coalitions and been honest and up-front with her concerns. She’s demonstrated her political courage.

She is no creature of the local “rah rah growth at any cost” political clique.

Neloa has not been missing in action and she hasn’t, like her opponent laid claim to positions she hasn’t fought for – kind of our own homegrown Obama. Sharp, with a real sense of purpose, Neloa is the kind of leader we need for Orange County.

Please, when you go to vote for Obama (or Hillary) cast a vote for Neloa.

Here’s some action from tonight’s rally. All photos compliments of my son Elijah.


[UPDATE:] More from the CarrboroCitizen.

[UPDATEx2:] Some photos of the event..

Peggy Misch wants to make sure everyone knows, in spite of what the local press says, there is no Sheehan rally at Carr Mill Mall. Just a simple lunch with Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton and some folks from GRIM ( Grassroots Impeachment Movement).

It appears Cindy is interested in lending her weight to the movement to boot Bush out of office.

The original scuttle-butt suggested there would be a rally on the Weaver St. lawn, but fears of another backlash quashed those plans.

How sad that a visitor of Sheehan’s nature can’t stand under the broad branches of the sheltering trees of the Weave’s lawn to tell her story and make a call for action.

This is NOT a rally on the privately held Carr Mill parking lots.

Peggy Misch, not attending a protest rally.

Other non-protesters at a non-rally on Carr Mill’s private property.

Cindy Sheehan, welcome to Carrboro/Chapel Hill

Maybe there was no room under the tree? Whoops, doesn’t appear so…

I’m a registered Independent.

OK, OK. I know there is no such thing as an Independent designation, just unaffiliated.

Unaffiliated. Indecisive. Indifferent. Uncommitted. Uninvolved. Fence-sitter. Don’t care.

A truly perverse bit of political framing.

I hope my occasional contributions to the local debate (CitizenWill , OrangePolitics, SqueezeThePulp, the Daily Tar Heel, the Chapel Hill News) and my willingness to take principled, though sometimes unpopular, stands on local issues demonstrates a small measure of care and commitment.

For years I’ve worked to elect Democrats. Dropped a few bucks here and there for a few of their more worthwhile national candidates. Sat polls for the local Orange County party. Contributed oodles of time to their and other affiliated organizations’ efforts to Get Out The Vote (GOTV). No plans to stop those efforts anytime soon.

But I am no Democrat (I was once). And I am no Republican (never have, never will be).

Heck, don’t try to graph my position on the one dimensional line passing through the Democrats Right to Republicans…. I, like many other local folks, exist outside these parties calculus.

I don’t know why three folks chose this week, from the many other recent weeks of Democratic disappointment, to ask me how to switch their party affiliation.

Maybe it was the recent reversal on Iraq or just the steady dissipation of last November’s promise.

Why me? I’m certainly not trying to “recruit” Independents. Sure, I haven’t been reserved in expressing my dissatisfaction with our local Democrat US Representative. They each knew of my efforts to open the local political scene to Independents via non-partisan elections and other voting reforms.

And I’ve been quite open about my status.

When, during my 2005 run for Town Council, a few local political operators counseled quiet discretion – suggesting talk of my non-affiliation would lead to a loss of stalwart Dem votes – I countered that to do so would not only be against my own tenets but promulgate the ruinous myth that folks are only capable of selecting representatives that fall along a one-dimensional political axis.

They might’ve been right. I did lose.

There is safety in numbers. Yet change springs from the outliers. And in today’s United States, it isn’t too far from “united we stand, divided we fall” to “deru kugi wa utareru”.

If you would like to lose your affiliation, either Republican or Democrat, or register to vote under any flag, the procedure is easy:

  • Review the instructions here.

    If you wish to change your party affiliation, you must complete either a Voter Registration Application Form (downloaded from address above) or complete the reverse side of a Voter Registration Card that has been mailed to you and return to the Board of Elections. All changes must be either postmarked or received in the Board of Election’s office at least 25 days before the election.

  • Download the registration form here [PDF].
  • Emancipate yourself from either of the two currently recognized parties.

Scared? You don’t have to go totally “cold turkey”. You will still be able to play some of the old game, for instance voting in either party’s primary. Initially, in many ways both large and small, you’ll feel stuck on the sidelines – constrained to vote for choices you wouldn’t have made, for flavors as close as Pepsi to Coke.

At first you might feel a little light-headed drifting above our current political Flatland. Navigating the multi-dimensional political reality we all currently occupy, whether we appreciate it or not, without the constant tether of partisan loyalty is heady stuff. Don’t panic! After a while, the relief of free agency sets in.

Still, though shorn of your party’s old baggage, paralyzed by its intransigence no longer, you leave one burden for another.

Sorry. Independence doesn’t mean “indecisive”. It doesn’t mean “uncommitted” And it certainly doesn’t mean “don’t care”.

Another back and forth between Orange County Democrats over the Iraq debacle, local Representative Price’s efforts to scale it back and the party’s local leadership communicating that effectively (OrangePolitics Art on Weaver and Nudge Price, No More War Funding).

On the cusp of Bush’s Iraq “surge” the moment has come for the Democratic Party, and our local Representative David Price (contact), to make a stand.

This far and no farther, if for no other reason than the selfish desire to preserve what shred of credibility remains with their party’s leadership.

As I noted, Iraq 2007 has been quite bloody for civilians as exemplified by these individual incidents:

  • 01/16/07 100 killed, 245 wounded
  • 01/22/07 75 killed, 160 wounded
  • 01/30/07 38 killed, 100 wounded
  • 02/01/07 60 killed, 150 wounded
  • 02/03/07 120 killed, 340 wounded
  • 02/12/07 90 killed, 190 wounded
  • 02/18/07 60 killed
  • 03/06/07 120 killed, 200 wounded

The coalition casualties continue to mount.

In Iraq:

There have been 3,451 coalition deaths — 3,193 Americans, two Australians, 134 Britons, 13 Bulgarians, six Danes, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Fijian, one Hungarian, 32 Italians, one Kazakh, three Latvian, 19 Poles, two Romanians, five Salvadoran, four Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and 18 Ukrainians — in the war in Iraq as of March 12, 2007, according to a CNN count.


In Afghanistan:

There have been 536 coalition deaths — 367 Americans, one Australian, 52 Britons, 45 Canadians, three Danes, three Dutch, nine French, 18 Germans, nine Italians, one Norwegian, one Portuguese, four Romanians, one South Korean, 20 Spaniards, two Swedes — in the war on terror as of March 12, 2007, according to a CNN count. Below are the names of the soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors whose deaths have been reported by their country’s governments. The troops died in support of the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom or were part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.


Compromised beyond reason, the vastly weakened Democrat-sponsored legislation creeps through Congress.

Pelosi also fielded criticism from lawmakers for removing language from the bill barring military action against Iran without congressional approval. She said the issue would be addressed in future legislation.

“We’re having folks expressing every doubt, every reservation, every aspiration they have for this bill,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., another supporter.

In a bid to broaden its appeal, leaders stripped the Iran requirement and omitted language favored by several liberal members that would have specifically prohibited funding of military operations after fall 2008.

While the liberals said this threat would help enforce the deadline, Democratic leaders viewed the politically charged language as unnecessary.

The measure provides nearly $100 billion for two wars, including more money than Bush had requested for operations in Afghanistan, and to address what Democrats called training and equipment shortages. House Republicans say they will work to sink the measure, and the White House threatens a veto.

USA Today

No withdrawal by 2008. No restrictions on an Iranian adventure. $100 billion for “readiness training and equipment” on top of the $540+ billion already ear-marked for 2007/2008 (this with the US already accounting for 48% of 2006’s total military spending).

Price should say “No deal”.

CountryCrats RobertP has an excellent recommendation for keeping Joe Lieberman in line

There really is only one thing the Senate Democrats, with their old-fashioned Senate rulebook, can do [about Lieberman siding with the Republicans]. Promise him, in private, that if he switches they will pocket every bill he ever proposes, interrupt every speech he ever seeks to give, force him to read the text of every amendment he offers, and make him dance the hula in his underwear. I believe that is actually possible under current Senate rules.

Let Joe know that there won’t be one penny of pork coming to CT, there won’t be any saved sub bases, there won’t be any bills with the Lieberman (CFL) name on them passed in this Senate if he caucuses with the Republicans. None. Ever. No matter what.

(via BlueNC)

Faintly reminiscent of the Corbomite Maneuver

Kirk:“Our respect for other life forms requires that we give you this… warning. One item not recorded in any ship’s tapes is… Corbomite. It is a substance and a device that prevents… attack on us. Should any destructive energy touch the ship, an energy of equal or greater strength is returned, destroying –”

Balok:“Eight minutes.”

Kirk:“– destroying the attacker. It may interest you to know that since the introduction of Corbomite, more than two of our centuries ago, no attacking vessel has survived the attempt. Death has little meaning to us… if it has none to you, then attack us now. We grow annoyed at your foolishness.”

Looks like the stratagem will have to be applied sooner than later – Lieberman stands firm on Iraq war…Connecticut Post.

According to WCHL1360 some kind of organized tomfoolery is going on at the Morehead Planetarium polling place

Some students from UNC Chapel Hill are working to get votes for Conservative judges, but are not always transparent in their efforts.

Chapel Hill attorney Bob Epting says a young woman approached him outside the polling place and asked if he was a Democrat.  When he said yes, she gave him a list of candidates.

The implication was the list was of progressive judges (essentially Democrats) in this non-partisan race.

Fred Black relates the following over on OP:

Yesterday when I voted at Morehead (#996 since Oct. 23d), there was a young lady on the edge of the parking lot. She asked me if I was going to vote and I replied that I was. She handed me a small piece of paper that listed Duke, Martin, Levinson, Calabria, Bailey, and Stroud. With the DTH and the WCHL story as background, I asked if the named people were all Republicans. She said that she thought so but their’s are nonpartisan races. I asked her what organization she represented and she said she was just helping her friend who was in class.

More information on this BlueNC and OrangePolitics threads.

With the current vote flipping problems in Arkansas, Missouri, Texas and Florida – all biased towards Republican candidates – one has to wonder if the Morehead trickery is the least of election 2006 problems.

That said, I’ve gone ahead and contacted the campaigns of Duke, Martin, Levinson, Calabria, Bailey, and Stroud in case they weren’t aware of folks scamming the electorate in their name.

Their handling of this mess will be a great indicator of their willingness to cultivate public trust both in the election and judicial process.

Contact information:

  • Judge Duke –
  • Justice Martin –
  • Judge Levinson –
  • Judge Calabria –
  • Judge Bailey –
  • Judge Stroud –

Mailto link: MAIL the JUDGES.

My email:

RE: Apparent organized effort to deceive Orange County voters
TO: Judge Duke, Justice Martin, Judge Levinson, Judge Calabria, Judge Bailey, Judge Stroud

According to local media reports (WCHL1360 – ) and several eyewitness reports ( ) , an organized effort is being made in Orange County to deceive voters in your name. A list of your names is being presented to Democratic voters in a fashion meant to mislead uninformed voters into voting for you.

Given your current standings as judges, given the responsibility you’ve been entrusted with, given the tenor of all your campaigns, I imagine this tomfoolery comes both as a surprise and a disappointment.

Now that you are aware of the problem, would you please publicly ask the participants to desist? A quick resolution to this problem will serve the public well.

Thank you for your prompt attention,

Will Raymond
Independent, Orange County

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I’m hooked on the ‘blog CreditSlips, “A blog on all things about credit and bankruptcy. We are seven academics who will use this space to do what we like to do when we get together–discussing and debating what does happen and what should happen when consumers and businesses borrow money.”

Local UNC law professor, Japanese internment expert and battler of the Malkinator, Eric Muller (, turned me on to these wild-n-wacky debt analysts last year.

One of their more interesting and disturbing threads involves Judge Leif Clark, a man of conscience, driven to criticize the precipitous dissipation of our civil liberties. Turns out that the Judge exposed himself to censure for practicing his First Amendment right to declaim the Bush madministration’s actions.

Over the past two weeks, I have been following a story about Leif Clark, a bankruptcy judge in San Antonio (see here and here). As regular Credit Slips readers will remember, Judge Clark wrote a letter to National Public Radio responding to an interview. In the letter, Judge Clark made remarks highly critical of the Bush Administration’s attitude toward civil liberties. At the time, I thought we had the proverbial tempest in a teapot about whether Judge Clark’s comments violated the Canons of Judicial Ethics which forbid judges from engaging in “political activity.” The San Antonio News-Express has reported that Judge Clark’s comments are now “under review by the chief judge of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the tribunal that disciplines federal judicial misconduct in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.”

Further commentary over on CreditSlips.

Keith Olbermann, Sept. 11th, 2006 – on fire:

And anyone who claims that I and others like me are “soft”, or have “forgotten” the lessons of what happened here — is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante — and at worst, an idiot — whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.

…in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight.

“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices – to be found only in the minds of men.

“For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own — for the children, and the children yet unborn.”


Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides.

Time makes more converts than reason.

As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means of calling the right of it in question (and in Matters too which might never have been thought of, had not the Sufferers been aggravated into the inquiry) and as the King of [America] hath undertaken in his OWN RIGHT, to support the [Congress] in what he calls THEIRS, and as the good people of this country are grievously oppressed by the combination, they have an undoubted privilege to inquire into the pretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpation of either.

Thomas Paine (abridged) – Common Sense, Philadelphia, February 14, 1776, 3rd edition

Five long years of depredations to both our Constitutional freedoms and to our Nation’s good standing, one may hope that Time makes more converts than reason, for reason alone has not yet won the day.

Practicing “moral mischief”, the President’s men, steeped in treachery, subscribing to ” professional belief to things they do not believe”, have “corrupted and prostituted the chastity” of our nation’s mind and prepared our country for the commission of heinous crimes antithetical to its founding spirit.

Leading up to this anniversary, confounding all good sense and common reason, our mad-ministration continued to lie about their call to war, to justify cruel and unusual punishments, to undercut or abolish acts under which they might eventually be punished, to pervert the course of justice – all in an effort to tighten their grip on their dissipating power.

Today, a day we should honor the sacrifice of our citizens by celebrating the highest ideals of democracy, our President shamelessly wrapped himself in an ash stained flag – and feebly tried to resurrect his waning fortunes by justifying his race towards tyranny in pursuit of the noblest of causes – freedom for all.

Yet, returning true to form, our modern-day Janus once again condemned those that rightfully question the accelerating mischief, misery and death he and his ruling party have caused. Forgetting a previous President’s admonition that those who question power are indispensible, “for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.”

His and his cronies’ calumny should not, must not, stand.

Yet, in the last five years, as the 4th estate floundered and the electorate wavered, so many slights – large and small – have gone without due reckoning. Weariness melds with a sadness borne of watching our hard-earned freedoms and worldwide goodwill slip so easily beyond our nation’s grasp.

Fortunately, the deepest and darkest of shadows serve to concentrate our attention on the merest flickers of light

Yes, what my generation earned too lightly, we’ve esteemed too little. But now we’re blessed with a clear distinction and sharp contrast between two futures: a declining fascist state of Amerika or “a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.”

Remembering that “those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must…undergo the fatigue of supporting it”, to honor this day, I’ll continue to try to be Paine’s man that “smiles in trouble”, “gathers strength from distress” and “grows brave by reflection”.

President Bush rambles on incoherently as NBC anchor Brian Williams interviews him during a shameful Katrina anniversary photo-op. Bush’s defense of his failed presidency is scary not for the willful lies but for the uninspected belief in his own infallibility.

He says (5:26 into this interview snippet)

The key to me is to keep expectations low.

Yep, could almost be no lower Mr. President. Mission accomplished.

Video via CrooksAndLiars.

And, yes, I rarely if ever mention the national political scene but local blogher ae over at arsepoetica stirred my ire by highlighting Bush and his madministration’s lackeys continuing condemnation of political dissent as un-fricken-American.


Salt Lake Utah’s Mayor Rocky Anderson’s rebuttal via Anglico’s ‘blog on BlueNC.

Blind faith in bad leaders is not patriotism.

A patriot does not tell people who are intensely concerned about their country to just sit down and be quiet; to refrain from speaking out in the name of politeness or for the sake of being a good host; to show slavish, blind obedience and deference to a dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights-violating president.

That is not a patriot. Rather, that person is a sycophant. That person is a member of a frightening culture of obedience – a culture where falling in line with authority is more important than choosing what is right, even if it is not easy, safe, or popular. And, I suspect, that person is afraid – afraid we are right, afraid of the truth (even to the point of denying it), afraid he or she has put in with an oppressive, inhumane, regime that does not respect the laws and traditions of our country, and that history will rank as the worst presidency our nation has ever had to endure.

In response to those who believe we should blindly support this disastrous president, his administration, and the complacent, complicit Congress, listen to the words of Theodore Roosevelt, a great president and a Republican, who said:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.