Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Why I'm Looking Forward to 2018

Over the past 20 midterm elections, going back to 1938, the out-party has won at least 24 seats a substantial 11 times.
--Stuart Rothenberg
How many seats in the U.S. House would Democrats need to win to take control away from Republicans in 2018?

24 (see above).

Of course, if Trumplethinskin proves to be The Second Coming, then all bets are off. Since he's already shown that his promises are mere bluffs, not to be taken seriously, perhaps his slavish followers won't care when the paint peels on Trump Nation.

House Wrecker

President Trumplethinskin, a builder and promoter of luxury housing, naturally couldn't care less about the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which deals with -- ick! -- poor people, so he's nominating a man to oversee that department who can destroy it.

Ben Carson knows he's unqualified. Or, at least, he knew it on November 15, when another cabinet post was dangled in front of him -- Health and Human Services. Dr. Carson had his mouthpiece, Armstrong Williams, tell The Hill at that time: "Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he's never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency."

He apparently went from not wanting to cripple Health and Human Services (Rep. Tom Price will gleefully do that job) to seeing the Christian value in crippling Housing and Urban Development.

Yessir! Dr. Ben Carson sure nuff is a deep thinker on the whole issue of poverty:
"I do care about the poor people. And in the system that we're putting together, there will be a rebate for people at the poverty level. But I also want to emphasize the fact that as we get the economy moving, and I hope I get a question about how do we get the economy moving, there will be a lot more opportunities for poor people not to be poor people because this is America. This is the land of dreams. And our policies should be aimed at allowing people to realize that dream" ("second-tier" debate, Fox Business, Nov. 10, 2015).
Because ... 'Merica!

Monday, December 05, 2016

Pay-to-Play Already Cranking Up for New Republican Office-Holders

Mike Causey
Nick Ochsner of the WBTV investigative team has revealed a planned lobbyist fundraiser for newly elected Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, a fundraising reception hosted by a bail-bond-underwriting insurance company which is plainly an opportunity to get its snout into the trough early. North Carolina law governing political contributions prohibits corporations from contributing to or even supporting a political candidate’s campaign.

Once this news was out, newly elected Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey is denying knowledge of the fundraiser, while the organizer says that Causey was in on it from the beginning. The emailed invitation, which went mainly to insurance lobbyists, touted that NC House Speaker Tim Moore would be in attendance (if anyone wanted to kiss an extra ring), and Tim Moore about as instantly said he wouldn't be there, said he didn't know a thing about it.

In fact, Mike Causey now says he won't be there either, because -- oops! -- he just found another important meeting on his calendar.

So it goes in Raleigh.

The Change-Over in Watauga County Government

This morning the Watauga County Commission came under Democratic control after six years under the Republicans. With the swearing in of newly elected Democratic Commissioner Larry Turnbow and the seating of Democratic Commissioner John Welch as the new Chair of the Board, Watauga enters a new era.

Equally consequential: the firing of the Eggers Eggers Eggers and Eggers law firm as counsel and the hiring of the di Santi, Watson, Capua, Wilson, & Garrett law firm. No more "Four" Eggers, and for that, we thank you!

Everything was harmony and light this morning. Republican Commissioner Perry Yates nominated John Welch for the chairmanship and expressed his eagerness to work together with the new Democratic majority. All votes after that were unanimous (granted, there was nothing controversial on the agenda).

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Miracle on North Harrington Street

James Baker
Judge James Baker, Republican member of the NC State Board of Elections, voted with the two Democrats yesterday to defeat the forces of Governor Patrick McCrory, 3-2.

It was "the Bladen County case." McCrory's lawyers wanted 400 African-American absentee ballots thrown out over all sorts of suspicions.

It's hard to piece together from available print sources, but here's what I understand about Bladen County (mainly relying on the eye-witness tweeting of InSightUs.Org):

Leslie McRae Dowless Jr., 60, an incumbent Bladen County Soil and Water Commissioner -- one of five District Supervisors -- a former Democrat currently registered Unaffiliated who also just won reelection on November 8 -- filed an election protest on November 15 -- a week later -- alleging voter fraud through “a massive scheme to run an absentee ballot mill involving hundreds of ballots” by the Bladen Improvement Association PAC, "a committee funded by the North Carolina Democratic Party and numerous local and statewide Democrats" (Bladen Journal). Dowless won reelection and wanted revenge on the Bladen Improvement Association, which had endorsed and helped him in 2012 -- "They had me on their sample ballot," Dowless testified -- but then…

“In 2016, were you endorsed by the Bladen County Improvement Association?” Joshua Malcolm asked.

“No sir.”

That may have been the moment when Judge Baker changed his vote.

So there's the motive for the Bladen County protest -- pure political revenge (and thank you, Joshua Malcolm).

Evidence of fraud? … not so much. Oh evidence of aggressive ballot-harvesting, no doubt about it. An organized campaign to solicit and get people to vote absentee with paid campaign workers going door-to-door in some neighborhoods and soliciting people to request absentee ballots and then "assisting" those voters in getting those ballots in on time, including witnessing them. There's always the possibility -- however remote -- that one-on-one "assistance" can cross a line toward coersion or fraud. Possibility … the door the Republicans kicked open like a SWAT team.

NB. It was the Republican General Assembly that made absentee voting easier -- no photo i.d. required -- and the Republicans are past masters at "ballot harvesting." They have regularly beaten the Democrats in the absentee vote. But they obviously don't like it when Democrats, especially African-Americans, also get busy after absentee ballots.

But I haven't even gotten to the best part yet!

The Republican lawyers attempted to keep Dowless from testifying. They in effect hid him. Malcolm was outraged, requested staff to immediately issue a subpoena for Mr. Dowless, at which point, or soon after, McCrory's lawyers presented Mr. Dowless for questioning.

Malcolm asked, “Does Mr. Dowless, the individual who brought all these people here today … does your client intend to answer questions today without being immunized?”

McCrory's attorney Roger Knight: “He is present, and will testify today unless advised otherwise by his counsel. He is not waiving his 5th Amendment right to not incriminate himself.”

Under cross-examination by Joshua Malcolm, Dowless revealed that he had been "informed of irregularities" and induced to file his protest by a lawyer with the North Carolina Republican Party. Dowless also eventually indicated that he himself had been engaging in ballot harvesting, also with paid assistance, but he "took the 5th" when asked by Malcolm who had provided him with the campaign finance report documents appended to his protest filing.

SBOE member Malcolm, boring in: “Do you know Caitlyn Croom?” (one of the get-out-the-vote canvassers charged with wrongdoing in Dowless’s protest).

“Yessir, I know her. She helped me with my campaign.”

“Did you pay her?”

“Yessir, I paid her for bringing in completed absentee ballot forms.”

So Dowless was engaged in the exact same ballot harvesting that he was complaining about and about which he's fearful he might be charged. Hence, the invoking of the 5th Amendment. Mr. Dowless did not even seen clear on the allegations in the protest he had signed, which the Republican lawyer had evidently written for him.

Interesting crux revealed under Josh Malcolm's questioning: Dowless had also been contacted before the election by SBOE "investigators" (because Dowless had reached out to the SBOE to complain?). Did the SBOE investigators tip off the McCrory team that there might be grounds for throwing out black ballots in Bladen and that Dowless could be the vehicle?

The lengths to which the McCrory and Woodhouse regime have been going to keep Pat's ineffectual posterior in the governor's mansion … and the fact that Grant Whitney, the Republican Chair of the SBOE, and The Finder-of-Taint Rhonda Amoroso, the other Republican, were willing with their SBOE votes to wipe out a few hundred ballots based on Mr. Dowless's testimony -- just shows the tawdry depths to which desperation will sink:
"It has to be hard being the first North Carolina Governor to lose a reelection race. He couldn’t do what Jim Hunt, Jim Martin, Jim Hunt again and Mike Easley did. Bev Perdue was a one-termer, but she wasn’t run out."
--Gary Pearce

Friday, December 02, 2016

Trump's Team of Oligarchs

Trump promised to remember "the forgotten men and women."

He vowed to "drain the swamp."

Trump's closing campaign ad prior to the election blasted "the global power elite" and singled out Goldman Sachs as a pillar of the corrupt establishment ... which, Trump claimed, was rigging the election against him.

Presto change-o!

Trump's inaugural is shaping up to set a new standard for "pay-to-play" politics:

⭑ Those giving $1 million or more toward the inaugural party weekend will get perks including an “intimate dinner” with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and his wife and a candlelight dinner with an appearance by Trump, Pence, and their wives. 

⭑ Those who can only afford $250,000 get an “intimate policy discussion and dinner with select Cabinet officials.”

Global elite?

✤ Would-be Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos -- family worth is $5.1 billion. 

✤ Commerce secretary pick Wilbur Ross -- he's worth $2.9 billion.

✤ Deputy commerce secretary choice Todd Ricketts -- his family fortune is also in the billions.

✤ Harold Hamm, paraded at Trump Tower as a possible energy secretary -- worth $15 billion.

✤ Former Goldman Sachs partner (and Hollywood executive) Steven Mnuchin has been named as Trump's treasury secretary. (Mnuchin is worth only about $40 million.)

✤ Trump's reportedly in talks to hire Goldman Sach’s No. 2 executive, Gary Cohn, to be his budget director.

Meanwhile, Back in the Trump Locker Room

A new towel-swingin' dick in the house!

Representative Tom Price of Georgia, whom Trump has tapped as his Secretary of Health and Human Service, is now perhaps trying to hide his membership (scroll down) in "the far-right medical group," the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).

What does AAPS advocate?

1. The group hates all vestiges of "socialized medicine." So it urges its member doctors to refuse to treat patients under Medicare.

2. The group rejects required school vaccinations.

3. The group's publication, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, is known for peddling ridiculous conspiracy theories. For example, in 2005 the "journal advocated for rescinding the citizenship of so-called 'anchor babies,' or the children of undocumented immigrants, who it claimed were responsible for increased leprosy rates. (Not just wacky, but also unconstitutional.)

4. Other journal articles pushed the myth of a link between vaccines and autism and suggested a link between abortion and breast cancer -- scare theories that have been thoroughly debunked.

5. An article posted on AAPS’ website speculated that President Obama’s oratory could in fact be a form of hypnosis, suggesting that he won the presidency by hypnotizing impressionable voters like young people and Jews.

6. The AAPS once urged the U.S. Supreme Court to release post-mortem photos of Vince Foster, the Bill Clinton White House counsel who committed suicide, because conspiracy theorists believed he was actually assassinated.

Hattip: TPM

This Primate Is Gonna Bring Us Together

The election is over -- except that Donald Trump seems awfully nervous about those state recounts -- yet he continues to campaign. Last night in Cincinnati, thousands adored him, as they are required to do. This is what we're going to get for the foreseeable future: big public rallies for Trump where he can continue to parade his incredible insecurity and need for adulation.

He actually told the biggest lie ever during the rally, “We are going to bring our country together, all of our country. We’re going to find common ground, and we will get the job done properly.” Those words were on his teleprompter. Other parts of the speech were not:
[He] gleefully reflected on how it was “a lot of fun” fighting Democrat Hillary Clinton, to which the crowd chanted: “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
He complained about his party’s top leaders, prompted the crowd to boo their state governor, referred to a third-party candidate as “that guy” and told the crowd to keep going as they booed “the extremely dishonest press.” He announced his pick for secretary of defense, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, but told the crowd to keep it a secret until Monday. He mocked a small group of protesters as they were led out: “They don’t know that Hillary lost a couple of weeks ago.”
So much for bringing us together.

Quote of the Day

"If voter fraud is/was as widespread as Gov. Sore Loser has claimed, how is it that he is the only big-name Republican to lose a statewide race? Was the fraudulent conspiracy so surgical that it only took out McCrory?"