Saturday, October 21, 2017

Steve Bannon v. Karl Rove in the NC 9th District

Karl Rove -- so he's still a thing! -- is fundraising for incumbent US Congressman Robert Pittenger. I think we knew that already but had stifled a yawn in its general direction. But then this: Chaos King Steve Bannon has now come out for Pittenger's holy primary challenger, Rev. Mark Harris, whom Pittenger managed to beat in the primary of 2016 by a mere 134 votes.

Karl Rove may have inadvertently invited Bannon into the 9th District primary. Oops. Rove published a tart take-down of Bannon for meddling in Senate Republican primaries, and Bannon responded within hours by expanding his war on the Republican establishment to the Pittenger House seat, probably because Pittenger is one of Rove's pet projects. Take that, Turd Blossom!

Karl Rove is one of the higher profile Republican establishment figures who has consistently criticized Trump as an imploding star who's going to create a sucking black hole for many Republican office-holders. Rove famously said of Trump last June in the Wall Street Journal -- his organ of choice, wherein he also blasted Bannon last Thursday -- "His chronic impulsiveness is apparently unstoppable and clearly self-defeating. Mr. Trump may have mastered the modes of communication, but not the substance, thereby sabotaging his own agenda."

Dan McCready
Rove also said this: "Mr. Trump has figured out how to tweet his way around the mainstream media. Yet by disregarding basic fact checking, he is deepening the already considerable doubts Americans have about his competence and trustworthiness."

Meanwhile, Rev. Mark Harris, who can pound the living hell out of any Bible you give him, has out-raised the incumbent Pittenger. But also know this: the likely Democratic challenger in the 9th District, former Marine Dan McCready, has out-raised both of them, reporting $416,000 for the quarter and bringing his total to $875,000 for the year.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

Jeff Danziger, Washington Post Writers and Cartoonist Group

Matt Davies, Newsday and Andrews McMeel Syndicate

Trump Brags About His Expensive Paintings, But At Least Two of Them Are Fake

In Trump's penthouse apartment in Trump Tower
Trump likes to brag to visitors about his "original Renoirs." The one pictured above, "La Loge" (The Theaterbox) is a fake. The original hangs at the Courtauld Art Institute in London.

Also a fake ... (below) Renoir's "Two Sisters (on the Terrace)," which the camera for a 60 Minutes interview after the election last November caught sight of over Trump's shoulder. The actual original painting has been hanging at the Art Institute of Chicago since 1933.

Trump apparently tells everyone that they're originals, "worth millions." When Trump told New York Times business reporter Timothy O’Brien that it was genuine, O'Brien ventured the truth: "Donald, it's not. I grew up in Chicago, that Renoir is called Two Sisters (on the Terrace), and it's hanging on a wall at the Art Institute of Chicago. That's not an original."

Back the very next day to continue his interview with Trump, O'Brien said that Trump repeated the lie. "Trump pointed out the painting again, as though [our] conversation had never happened."

"He believes his own lies, in a way that lasts for decades," O'Brien recently said on a Vanity Fair podcast.

He believes his own lies. That pretty much sums up the Trump we've all come to know. It's as plain as that Picasso original hanging over my computer table.

Melania in the penthouse with the other fake Renoir

Thursday, October 19, 2017

More Cabbage Worms Than Cabbage Leaves

Nathan Miller
Watauga GOP officer and attorney Nathan Miller brags in the Watauga Democrat that he and Bill Aceto just love "the rule of law" all to pieces, which they have been self-righteously and vigorously exercising to prevent college students from voting in Watauga County. It's not the rule of law, scolds Miller, when Stella Anderson fights back in court, and it's especially a miscarriage when some judge or judges agree with her.

It's "the rule of law" when the mechanisms of government can be turned against the citizens, or against some of the citizens, to prohibit them from voting -- like the removal of polling places. That was a local innovation. Or like the recent state-wide new rule demanding a government-issued photo ID to vote ... any government-issued ID will do but not a state university photo ID (just by the way). ("Rule of law"? A state university is a governmental institution, but to the Republicans who thought up the ID law, now shelved as unconstitutional, a state university evidently doesn't have nearly enough guns and Bibles to qualify those 18-to-25-year-olds as "citizens.")

For Miller and Aceto, it's jungle law when the livestock fight back. And simply unacceptable when judges agree with the livestock!

So the NCGOP has decided that judges must become partisan bots. They passed a law to make judges run by partisan label, the only state in the Union since 1921 to force judges into partisan elections. Judges must wear either red or blue robes and rally to their designated colors.

They're also redistricting all judicial districts, down to superior court and district courts, and just incidentally (purely by accident, I'm sure!) effectively eliminating half of the black judges in the state by "double-bunking" them so they have to run against each other. (Almost half of those "double-bunked" black judges are women.)

Andrew Cox, The Appalachian
What else? They've over-ridden Governor Cooper's veto of a new law that simply eliminates judicial primaries and makes it easier for unaffiliated candidates to file. Seconds after overriding that veto, Republicans introduced Senate Bill 698 which calls for a statewide referendum on a proposed constitutional amendment reducing the term of every Supreme Court justice, Court of Appeals judge, Superior Court judge, and District Court judge to two years. Judges will perforce become perpetual candidates for office and partisans to boot, jockeying to please their bases.

And get this: Senate Bill 698 would set the referendum for the May 2018 primary, when turn-out will be guaranteed low, not for November 2018 when turn-out will be much higher. (That's how the Republicans passed the constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage too.)

Nathan Miller, that lover of the rule of law, is a mere local symptom of a wider Republican virus that must seize power to stay alive, and pass laws to make the seizures legal.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

More Dirty, Rotten Politics in Raleigh

Bill Rabon
Some Republicans in the NC General Assembly want to change the state's constitution to force judges at all levels, including the Supreme Court, to run for reelection every two years. That would in effect put judges into constant campaign mode and further erode the independence of the state's judiciary.

The constitutional amendment filed by Rep. Bill Rabon of Bladen County is intended as a direct slap at judges who have found so much legislation passed by this General Assembly plainly unconstitutional. If judges uphold new Republican laws, they're acting like wise judges, but if they strike laws down, then they're "legislating from the bench."

Republican Rep. David Lewis (Harnett County) underscored the political calculations behind the Rabon amendment in a comment he made to WUNC: "If you’re going to act like a legislator, perhaps you should run like one” -- that is, run every two years like members of the General Assembly do.

One of the last principled Republicans in the state, former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, has already come out strongly against the Rabon amendment:
“It’s just wrong,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Bob Orr
Orr said the amendment sends the wrong message to the judiciary that if judges won’t rule the GOP’s way, lawmakers will retaliate. 
“That’s just fundamentally repugnant to everything I believe,” he said....
“Not only [are two-year terms] a bad idea, it’s just fundamentally a bad policy. I don’t think the legislators or the public want judges to be full-time candidates.”
The General Assembly has adjourned until January, so perhaps Dictator Phil Berger and Go-Along House Speaker Tim Moore won't call another special session to ram this thing through prior to the first of the year.

In the meantime, people need to let Jonathan Jordan ( and Deanna Ballard ( know that the Rabon amendment is dirty, rotten politics.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Phil Berger to Governor Cooper: "We'd Prefer That You Pound Sand"

Gov. Roy Cooper should not have
to put up with the detestable Phil Berger
Having watched the voters of North Carolina replace the blithe Republican non-entity Pat McCrory with Democratic Governor Roy Cooper last fall, Republican Dictator and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger launched his McConnellizing project of thwarting the new governor in every way conceivable, taking away as much of his appointment power as possible and then refusing to confirm or even consider confirming Cooper's appointments to important boards and commissions that handle much of the public's business.

How many special sessions now has Berger called and participated in and yet failed to call up Cooper's appointments for confirmation? There are ten pending Cooper appointments to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System Board of Trustees, and the State Board of Education.

The governor says there's no reason for the delay other than "an obvious effort by the General Assembly to undermine my administration's ability to ensure faithful execution of the laws." Berger sez, "Oh, you wanted those people confirmed? Why haven't you been begging me to take action, then? It's a good governor who begs. Maybe we'll get around to those confirmations some day -- say, January -- but right now we're busy overriding your vetoes. And, by the way, eat shit!"

Sue their asses, Governor. It's the only action they still fear.

The Ritual Humiliation of Mitch McConnell

Yesterday in the Rose Garden,
Mitch McConnell agreed to put his
testicles into an undisclosed location
A couple of hours before Trump was claiming McConnell as his bestest friend evah yesterday, he was blaming McConnell for all the dysfunction in the Trump administration at a cabinet meeting.

In the Rose Garden, with McConnell shrinking beside him: McConnell's a "friend of mine for a long time," said Trump, and we're "closer than ever before."

At the Cabinet meeting earlier in the day: Trump said he was frustrated that Republicans had not accomplished more of his agenda but added that he's "not going to blame myself, to be honest."

If I were Mitch McConnell, I think I'd be very careful about that "closer than ever before." Especially with Trump's other (truer) BFF Steve Bannon delivering a blunt warning to McConnell in front of iPootValues conservatives over the weekend: “Up on Capitol Hill, it’s the Ides of March .... They’re just looking to find out who is going to be Brutus to your Julius Caesar.”

Good God. Has ever a threat of lethal backstabbing been more publicly delivered?

Okay, I'm really delighted that Bannon read Julius Caesar in high school. I'm delighted that anybody in the Trump administration reads anything beyond their Q-Rating. But if I were Mitch McConnell, who scarcely a day after that Bannon attack was standing in dagger distance of Trump, I would not be locked in any embrace with the man who always turns on his friends when he needs to blame someone for his own failings.

True, McConnell has so richly earned all this grief from the leader of his own party, who understands nothing about legislating and cares even less. McConnell punished Obama for eight years by obstructing everything, and now he must endure the idiot in the Oval Office who's pulling down the temple on all their heads.

As you should know by now, I'm a connoisseur of political irony, and at this moment I find the circle closing like a snap purse. Consider the ads McConnell ran in 1984 to defeat Democratic Senator Dee Huddleston and thus began his rise to this present moment. You indeed can't run from your record, Mitch.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Trump's Sycophants

sycophant, noun: a person who acts obsequiously toward someone important in order to gain advantage. Synonyms: yes-man, bootlicker, brown-noser, toady, lickspittle, flatterer, flunky, lackey, spaniel, doormat, stooge, cringer, suck, suck-up
“[Trump Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin may be the greatest sycophant in Cabinet history.”
--Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers
What earned Mnuchin that title? He went out of his way recently to praise Trump's equivocation about race-haters in Charlottesville and also said he totally agreed with Trump that football players shouldn't take the knee (unless they were bowing to Trump). Neither issue has anything to do with Mnuchin's business at Treasury, but Trump needs constant praise and Mnuchin knows how to dish it.

In the famous June 12th Cabinet meeting, a landmark in lickspittle scrambling, Trump insisted on hearing praise of himself from every single official sitting at that large table. Only Defense Secretary Jim Mattis refused to play, praising the men and women of the armed forces instead. From all the others, Trump heard "thank you soooo much for the opportunity and blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda" and “It’s an honor to be able to serve you” and “I am privileged to be here -- deeply honored” and “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership,” said the now disappeared Tom Price.
Trump listens to praise
on June 12th

The photograph of Trump's face while that fawning festival proceeded perfectly captures his needy babyhood. Tell me more about how great I am, because I am just that seriously damaged as a human being and insecure because my mother never loved me and my father never hugged me.

The "adult day-care workers" in the Trump White House, the lowly staffers who don't own a cabinet rank and don't get to travel on chartered jets, know who they're working for. They praise and fawn and lick that spittle while the country goes to hell on impulse.

According to Ashley Parker, "when his advisers hope to prevent Trump from making what they think is an unwise decision, they frequently try to delay his final verdict — hoping he may reconsider after having time to calm down."

Put the baby in "time out." And always -- always -- tell him what a good boy he is.

"One defining feature of managing Trump is frequent praise, which can leave his team in what seems to be a state of perpetual compliments. The White House pushes out news releases overflowing with top officials heaping flattery on Trump .... Especially in the early days of his presidency, aides delivered the president daily packages of news stories filled with positive coverage and Trump began meetings by boasting about his performance, either as president or in winning the White House...."

A boasting man, surrounded by sycophants, does not ground this country in any useful reality.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Teacher Who Is Running Against Phil Berger

NC Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger is the acknowledged dictator of North Carolina. He runs the NC Senate, which means he runs North Carolina. He ran over Republican Governor Pat McCrory for four long years and is partially responsible for making the "toe-stepping" McCrory a laughingstock. And just to show him who's Boss, Berger's crippled the governorship of Democrat Roy Cooper.

Berger wanted to make Phil Berger Jr. a congressman in Washington, his greatest failure to date. Still, he could make Junior a judge as consolation, and now Junior sits on the bench.

No one can beat Phil Berger for his NC Senate seat, which includes parts of Guilford and Rockingham counties. At least that's the conventional wisdom. In fact, to oppose Berger or his lieutenants can figuratively land a horse's head in your bed, so to speak, and according to Greensboro News&Record Editor Allen Johnson.

Jennifer Mangrum
But lookie here at who's rising up to challenge Berger, not because she thinks she can win but because sometimes you just have to stand up to abusive power, no matter the odds.

Jennifer Mangrum is the child of two public school teachers and a lifelong educator herself. She taught elementary school in North Carolina for 14 years, and for the last nine years she's been teaching other public school teachers how best to teach (as a professor of education at UNCG).

She was until recently a lifelong Republican. The power-madness of King Berger (among other actions) changed her mind:
“I’m open. I was a Republican, I need to tell you that. I had a father who fought in World War 2, Vietnam and Korea, and when I registered to vote in the ‘80s, if you were military then the Republican Party was the party that you felt was going to take care of your family .... The party has changed so much since I registered. I’m also really embarrassed that leaders in the Republican Party represent us in the way they do, but I was a voter who looked at the person.” (The Carolinian)
I've only just started following her on Twitter (@jrmangru), and she doesn't appear to have launched a Facebook feed yet (though she's promised one), so I don't yet find a lot of "platform" on-line. But I did find this:
...why do we allow Phil Berger to remain in power? He does not work to insure that all men are created equal. In fact, he does the opposite. He creates laws that discriminate, he defunds schools so that children don’t have the same opportunities when they grow up, and he rules the NC Senate as though he were King, grabbing power from our executive branch and ignoring the consent of the governed.
Mangrum is just beginning to find her political voice, and we hope she'll campaign. That'll take money.