Sunday, January 20, 2019

Thom Goolsby Plays the Hit Man on the UNC Board of Governors

Watch for it: Thom Goolsby will force a bloody awful showdown on the Chapel Hill campus over the Silent Sam Confederate monument. He's already said he intends to force the statue's return to its original location on campus, even if it takes a moat, a few guard towers, and tank traps to keep it unmolested. Goolsby leads the conservative faction on the UNC Board of Governors, which is clearly in the ascendant.

Goolsby has a history of nastiness and bullying. When he was a NC senator from Wilmington, he pushed for "vaginal wanding" of pregnant women before an abortion. He sponsored the bill to repeal the Racial Justice Act, which prohibited the imposition of the death penalty on the basis of race. He called protestors "Monday Morons" who were organized for Rev. William Barber's "Moral Mondays," which had rattled the Republican overlords. He pushed a vote on the UNC BOG to prohibit the UNC School of Law's Center for Civil Rights from pursuing legal remedies for low-income and minority groups.

Notice the good solid strain of racial politics in Goolsby's policy positions?

Goolsby graduated from The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. (venue for a good deal of *pop culture male displays), then went for an MBA at Golden Gate University. He came back to Chapel Hill for his law degree. Goolsby and a partner started Empowered Investor, handling big-buck investments and securities and doing quite well at it, and so he naturally ran for the NC Senate (Dist. 9) in that watershed year, 2010. He was reelected in 2012 and would have been a cinch for reelection in 2014, but a fiduciary scandal interceded. In a consent agreement with the Securities Division of the Secretary of State's office, Goolsby lost his licenses for doing investment and securities deals (because of, yes, fraud), and he won't get those licenses back before 2024. So, understandably, Goolsby decided against running for reelection in 2014. He actually put out a statement that said he wanted to spend more time with his family. No really. (His former seat in the Senate is now -- since November -- held by Democrat Harper Peterson.)

On the UNC Board of Governors, and in keeping with the self-image The Citadel bestowed on him, Goolsby has been a champion prick. Goolsby was appointed to the all-Republican board in August 2015 by the NC Senate (Phil Berger's joint), as a conservative counter-weight to BOG Chair John Fennebresque, a country club Republican who unilaterally fired Democrat Tom Ross from the university presidency and installed his favorite and fellow country club Republican Margaret Spellings in the chair. So Goolsby came onto the board primed for a big fight with Chair Fennebresque. Goolsby quickly demanded Fennebresque's resignation, and eventually got it, but not before Fennebresque got Spellings. (See "A Margaret Spellings Timeline") Of course, ultimately, Thom Goolsby got Spellings too, in a mortal sense.

Soon after Spellings took office -- almost immediately, in fact -- Goolsby was in the vanguard of her conservative harassment. Goolsby and his fellow travelers immediately threatened to move her comfy office out of Chapel Hill to some far-flung precinct where'd she be less comfortable (and comfitted by the Chapel Hill elite). They leaned hard on Spellings to be a no-exceptions enforcer of the notorious bathroom bill against transgender citizens. And when Spellings was caught redhanded talking to Governor Cooper about "the Silent Sam problem," Goolsby signed a letter condemning her and further threatening her future.

Spellings ended her five-year contract three years early, and in July 2018, the moderate BOG chair who had replaced John Fennebresque was himself replaced by one of the conservative hardliners. The conservatives are in full control now, and in full roar, and they're not likely to hold Goolsby back. The Citadel evidently taught dying on the ramparts, even if those barricades were built on Southern racism.

Goolsby clearly intends to force the return of Silent Sam. And because he's nasty by nature, he couldn't refrain from digging a knife into the Democratic rib-cage when he made his public proposal about bringing back Sam: "I'm even willing to add some 'two-sides-to-everything' balancing statues," he said, "the kind that inform students that Democrats are the real racists" (Jeffrey C. Billman). For example, add a statue commemorating the Wilmington insurrection of 1898, Goolsby suggested, when white supremacists, all members of the Democratic Party of that day, burned a black newspaper to the ground and overthrew the town’s newly elected black Republican government. Yes, and put up another statue dedicated to the minority women “forcibly sterilized by the Democrat Party who controlled our state for decades,” wrote Goolsby.

What Goolsby thinks we won't notice is that he would have participated in that 1898 insurrection -- probably with a fixed bayonet -- and would have voted for forced sterilizations of black people. You think he wouldn't?

Only question that's relevant right now: Will Goolsby's aggression be another Pickett's Charge? Will history finally overtake him?

*The Citadel in pop culture: I'm thinking "The Great Santini" and Frank Underwood in "House of Cards." There's more in that vein.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Thom Tillis Is With Mitch McConnell

NC House Speaker Tim Moore Sucks Up

NC House Speaker Tim Moore, whose personal corruption is visible from outer space, is warbling a new tune:
Come on-a my house, my house, I'm gonna give you candy
Come on-a my house, my house, I'm gonna give a you
Apple, a plum and apricot-a too eh
Come on-a my house, my house a come on...
A half-minute after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi disinvited Trump to the House chamber for the SOTU, Speaker Moore took to the grandstands to invite Trump to deliver his speech in the NC House chamber, with its red carpet and gold gold GOLD chandeliers.

The ridiculousness of that invitation is possibly explained by Moore's own need to distract everyone from the news that the FBI is nibbling at Moore's ankles, which is only the most recent news indicating that Moore is an accomplished server-of-self while using his position in the government to feather his nest.

Come to think of it, Moore and Trump have several things in common, so why not a SOTU in Moore's House?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Blessed Be the Astroturfers!

What's not to enjoy about the following fable? It's got illegal Trump campaign funds. It's got Michael Cohen, Trump's crooked fixer, going into business with Christian operatives at super-Christian Liberty University, first to make himself into a sex symbol and then to make Trump into The Answer. Yum. Failure and hypocrisy on a Biblical scale.

John Gauger
No one has been a bigger Trump supporter and apologist than Jerry Falwell Jr. He's practically turned Liberty University into a neon runway for Trump. Back in the olden times when they were good fellas, employer/employee locked in a pact of mutual protection, Trump's lawyer and right-hand man Michael Cohen accompanied Trump to Lynchburg on his very first visit there in 2012. Cohen, as Trump's mouth, naturally met Liberty's chief information officer, one John Gauger, who was also a young tech hotshot (supposedly) who was also verbally ambitious to get into the politics game. The Wall St. Journal broke the story (behind a paywall, so I'm relying on 2nd-hand replays) that Cohen and Gauger kept in touch for the next six years, with Cohen ever dangling the prospect of big money in a build-up to a Trump presidential campaign.

Cohen was slow to deliver, and first he tested Gauger's talents. Cohen wanted a dummy Twitter account, Women For Cohen (no, seriously), where various professional women publicly celebrated how sexy and irresistible Michael Cohen was, and possibly the greatest legal mind in New Yawk City, all of which was actually written by a female friend of Gauger (presumably also employed by Liberty University?). Apparently, Gauger did alright because Cohen wanted him for another job. It was 2015, the run-up to the 2016 primaries.

Someone who thinks like Cohen, abetted by someone who operates like Gauger -- well the bright idea was bound to pop up: Why not rig a couple of CNBC on-line polls to show how popular Trump was? Russian-style social media manipulation before anyone knew about Russian-style social media manipulation. Gauger was more than game.

So Cohen made an oral contract [cough] to pay Gauger $50,000 to write computer programs that would vote automatically over and over, simulating the on-line popularity of one Donald J. Trump. First, in 2014 it was a poll for America's "top business leaders" (Trump didn't make the top 50) and then a poll on who ought to run for president. Trump got 5% of that vote. Gauger's tech savvy turned out to be an illusion. And so was the $50,000. Gauger showed up in person at Trump Tower to be paid, and Cohen (should have) said, "You gotta be kidding me!" But Cohen did pay him off -- $12,000 and change, in cash, in "a blue Walmart bag," which also contained (you couldn't make this up) a boxing glove once owned by a famous Brazilian athlete. (Did Cohen know Gauger was somehow a fan, or what? What's the market in Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter memorabilia?) Anyway, that bag o' cash presumably broke at least two campaign finance laws, and Cohen has incidentally confirmed Gauger's account on Twitter (natch) and said he did all at Trump's direction and for Trump's sole benefit.

(Cohen later made up for stiffing Gauger by giving him work for another client, the chief executive of CareOne Management LLC, a New Jersey assisted-living company that had given Cohen a consulting contract. Gauger created "a positive media presence" for the CEO. Don't know how successful he was or how much he got paid.)

Cherry on This Sundae
Jerry Falwell Jr. is proudly bragging about the entrepreneurial ambition of his chief information officer. He issued an official response to the Wall Street Journal article: "John Gauger is one example among many outstanding LU employees who have made great contributions in their official roles and also enjoyed success as independent entrepreneurs, allowing them to enhance their capabilities and generate more revenue for their families while allowing the University to retain them on our team."

Falwell was getting ahead of the question ... What's an employee of Liberty University doing moonlighting for the Trump campaign? And completely ignoring the other question: What's a born-again employee of Liberty University doing committing internet fraud?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Senators Burr and Tillis Try to Please Trump, Vote to Remove Sanctions on Russian Oligarch Deripaska

Let the Russians do as they please! This roll call vote in the US Senate says so much about the values and allegiances of our two senators from North Carolina.

Those sanctions on Oleg Deripaska and his companies, imposed in 2018 by Trump's own Treasury Department, were justified, according to the Treasury's own language, because Deripaska had furthered “the Kremlin’s global malign activities, including its attempts to subvert Western democracy.”

Doesn't matter any more to Burr and Tillis, because Trump now wants those sanctions lifted because Trump owes Putin. Who do Burr and Tillis owe?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Silent Sam Has No Place To Stand Now

The granite pedestal on which Silent Sam, the white supremacy symbol at the entrance to UNC-Chapel Hill, used to stand got hauled away in the wee hours this morning, by order of Chancellor Carol Folt, who incidentally also announced she's leaving her post as chancellor at the end of this semester just ahead (we imagine) of an angry mob of UNC Board of Governors members with pitchforks and torches who apparently did not know that Chancellor Folt was going to resign and order that hunk of granite removed on the same Monday in January. The BOG is largely an adamantine bunch of Republicans, and many wanted that warped statue back up on that pedestal.

UNC BOG Chair Harry Smith was particularly outraged by Chancellor Folt's actions, perhaps because he was in the middle of conducting a phone-in meeting of the board when news of Folt's resignation reached him. The board was discussing "personnel issues," and it's no secret that some of the board were gunning for Folt. Perhaps her unexpected resignation was one of those "you can't fire me because I quit" moments. We don't know. But Smith was unamused: "We are incredibly disappointed at this intentional action," Smith said in a statement. "It lacks transparency and it undermines and insults the board’s goal to operate with class and dignity."

With class and dignity. Is that code?

Smith made his fortune selling and installing air filters, but he's also the owner of apartment buildings that rent exclusively to students, and he's been accused of trying to steer member campuses in the UNC system to build public-private student housing via a company he had "a relationship" with. Uh-huh.

Smith, described as part of "an aggressive conservative faction" of BOG members, took over as chair last July. That faction ran off UNC President Tom Ross. Then they ran off his replacement, Margaret Spellings. Now Carol Folt is leaving too. Harry Smith and his faction get to replace those people with their people, and how they ultimately decide to handle symbols of white supremacy hang in the balance, sort of like that granite pedestal. If they go all hardline, we trust it will be with class and dignity.

The UNC BOG has decided that Chancellor Folt will not be allowed to continue until the end of semester. She needs to clean out her office by January 31st, they said.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Southern White Boy Tries To Show Other Southern White Boys "There's an Exit Ramp From Your Cultural Blindness"

On May 19, 2017, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered a speech about why he ordered four statues glorifying the Confederacy removed from their public spaces. I think this speech may go down as one of the most profound of the 21st Century.

Over Christmas someone gave me Mitch Landrieu's new book, "In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History," a book I viewed with skepticism because (1) it's written by a politician and that's often a drag and (2) I knew little of Mitch Landrieu's biography or his politics and doubted he had anything to tell me. I was wrong on both counts.

I feel a kinship with Mitch Landrieu. He's younger than I by many years, but I think we shared some defining history: We were both young in a South that we came to believe was on the wrong side of history. I was young when I decided it was a good thing the Confederacy lost the Civil War, and that thought, even held silently, isolated me from my own working-class culture.

Landrieu was more fortunate, since his father, Moon Landrieu, pioneered the opening up of city jobs for black people when he was also mayor of New Orleans. Mitch grew up in an enlightened white household and went on to become mayor in his own right and take a step that his father may never have imagined, the removal of those symbols of white supremacy that had been erected to maintain the fiction that the Civil War was about honor and gentility rather than about tearing the country apart so that some men could hold others in bondage.

I'm told that Landrieu wrote the speech above. I believe he also wrote "In the Shadow of Statues." (Maybe he had a ghost editor, but I don't think he had a ghost writer.) He's good with words but not in a flashy way. He knows who he is, what he believes, and can express the truth of the moment in clear, straightforward sentences that neither fake human connection nor try to imitate it. By both explicit comment and by implication, Mitch Landrieu may just be the foil for a Twitterman who knows not truth, who has never known it, and who can not speak it on any given day and certainly not under oath.

Virginia Foxx: "A Foolish Consistency Is My Hobgobblin"

Rep. Virginia Foxx said on Friday she supports Trump’s ability to declare a national emergency in order to build his wall.

In 2014, when President Obama asserted his executive authority to protect "Dreamers," Foxx had a fit that he was acting like an emperor. Funny, now that Foxx is cheerleading Trump's boasting that he has the supreme authority to build his wall.

Criticizing Obama for trying to protect the Dreamers while seconding Trump's attempt to hurt others. That's a lovely irony for a woman like Foxx, who's built her fortune on the backs of immigrants and knew a Dreamer or two that she wouldn't stoop to help (according to the persistent rumors).

Trevor Fuller of Mecklenburg Declares His Candidacy for US Senate

Didn't see that one coming.

Trevor Fuller is a Democrat on the Mecklenburg County Commission in his fourth term, and a wild card. The Charlotte Observer this morning called him Sen. Thom Tillis's first "serious" opponent. Also "somewhat unlikely" because he's "only moderately popular in Mecklenburg."

Not at all popular, possibly, with fellow Meck commissioner and fellow Democrat Pat Cotham. Fuller helped engineer her removal as chair of the board of commissioners back in 2013. Trevor Fuller took her place as chair and lasted until 2016, when Pat Cotham engineered Fuller's removal. ("Turnabouts are fair" was the playground rule I grew up with too.) Fuller has continued as an elected at-large commissioner but not as chair of the board.

Fuller's supplanting of Cotham in 2013 largely happened as fallout from Cotham's firing of then county manager, Harry Jones.
When she led the charge to fire Jones in May, she upset people—especially Democrats and the black community. She didn’t let Jones speak that night. She didn’t let him gather his things. That upset those people more. They never let it go.  (Michael Graff)
Cotham, for her part, never backed down. So her revenge against Fuller in his 2016 ouster as commission board chair might have felt like vindication. Fuller called it "treachery."

Fuller has two Twitter accounts. One hasn't been posted to since 2016, and the other's posts stop in May of 2018. His Facebook page is a little more up to date. He last posted there on November 7th, 2018, following his reelection to the Mecklenburg Commission for his fourth term.

Getting a fix on his record, his issues, his guiding light is not easy, though the Charlotte Observer said this morning that "he would check a few important boxes for statewide voters, including a strong record on progressive issues, such as being the driving force behind Mecklenburg’s universal pre-K initiative."

Perhaps Fuller's announcement will spur some stronger candidates to get off the couch.