After the charges were dropped in the Case of the John Edwards 8, talk among the expert witnesses for the defense turned to Sen. Edwards himself and his presidential ambitions. The Rev. W.W. Finlator, Raleigh’s venerable Baptist preacher emeritus, had hoped to testify that the Iraq invasion failed every test of just war theory as he knows it. Edwards supported the war. Still, Finlator said, “I am a personal friend and supporter of John Edwards.” To which Dan Pollitt, also venerable, also emeritus in constitutional law at UNC-Chapel Hill, replied: “I’m with the Dean crowd.”

Yes, Virginia, notwithstanding your reading of our North Carolina newspapers, Sen. Edwards is not the only Democratic candidate for president, nor even the only one with Tar Heel backers. There is also former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose opposition to the war has propelled him from the back of the pack as an alternative to the “mainstream” Dems–Edwards, Kerry, Lieberman, Gephardt–who were pro-war.

Dean, a medical doctor (as is his wife), had planned on making universal health insurance his main issue, along with balancing the budget–he’s a “fiscal conservative,” don’t you know–and strengthening environmental protections. He’s best known for signing Vermont’s landmark law allowing gays to enter into civil unions. But when war talk started, his antiwar position overshadowed–no, outshined–all else. President Bush’s “unilateral approach to foreign policy is a disaster,” is about the nicest thing he has to say about W. It’s all there at, fyi.

We’re told that the first Dean organizing meeting here, in Chapel Hill, drew 15 people; the second one, two weeks ago, drew 54. Next up: A fund raiser–what else?–on Saturday, April 26, 7 p.m. hosted by CH’s Betty and Clay Whitehead. It’s National House Party Day! That means a live conference call with Dr. Dean himself at 11! (If you’re interested, call Linda Watson at 781-1044.)

Fundraising is what they were doing over at the Edwards HQ in West Raleigh–everybody was dialing for dollars–when the J.E. 8 slipped in with their antiwar message one February day and refused to leave. The 8–five students, a college prof and two veteran peaceniks, including Indy contributor Patrick O’Neill–were charged with trespassing. They wanted that. They wanted to put the war on trial. Their lawyer, Al McSurely, had asked Edwards himself to come testify. But Edwards didn’t press the charges and the Wake D.A. dropped them.

Too bad. McSurely had readied a bang-up case–though how much of it a District Court judge would have entertained isn’t clear–with Pollitt ready to argue that the defendants’ First Amendment right to petition their senator for a redress of grievances “trumped” any incidental trespass. And an English barrister, Jonathan Marks, who helped the successful prosecution in Europe of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet–for human rights abuses–was to tell the court that the Iraq invasion was a similarly gross violation of international law.

Marks is a visiting prof at Wake Forest Law School and he’s been getting around. He said American audiences don’t like hearing that any international standards should apply to “what we do in our national security interests,” a position he termed “wholly disconcerting.” The U.S. is working hard to undermine initiatives like the International Criminal Court that could hold a Pinochet, or a Slobadon Milosovic, to account–or a Saddam Hussein, for that matter. “Nonetheless, international accountability is developing in a way the U.S. is not going to be able to stop,” he predicted.

But back to Finlator. Along with a couple of the students, he suggested that our senator could redeem himself by coming out against American occupation of Iraq. He said Edwards is strong on environmental, labor and health issues. But, fielding questions, he amended his remarks. “I am currently supporting John Edwards,” he said. “I myself can be converted. And am standing in the need of prayer.”


The Green Machine That’s what the N.C. Campus Greens, part of the Green Party based at N.C. State, are calling their 1984 VW Rabbit diesel now that it’s running on SOV–Straight Vegetable Oil. (It’s a viscosity thing–the conversion kit comes from Greasel Conversions, at Much less pollution, and waste vegetable oil is free from restaurants before they throw it out.

Remember how Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader wasn’t on the N.C. ballot in 2000? The Campus Greens are out to remedy that for ’04, says State senior Elena Everett, using their Rabbit as the draw to get signatures on their nominating petitions. Everett was just elected state Green Party chair last weekend in Pittsboro. She says it’ll take an all-out effort to collect the 58,000 signatures state law now requires. However, good news: A bill to cut that number by three-fourths, to about 15,000, passed a House committee last week and is headed for a floor vote.

Look for the Green Machine this Saturday at Earth Day in Durham, noon-5 p.m. at the old Durham Athletic Park.

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