Thursday, June 21, 2018

Such a proud time!

2018 Summer Solstice

The sun stood still at 6:07 EDT this morning. Hope you were paying proper reverence to the goddesses of earth and garden.

Photo of the worshippers at Stonehenge this morning. Photo Ben Birchall

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

New Constitution Party Will Make Some NCGA Races More Interesting

The Constitution Party was certified for the North Carolina ballot on June 6th (along with the Green Party). It's further right than the NC GOP, attracts nationalist kamikazes (Forsyth County roman candle Vernon Robinson immediately changed his registration), and may cause some Republican incumbents a little peptic ulceration this November. For example, in NC Senate District 41, which the NC Free Enterprise Foundation rates "competitive," there's already a real race going on between a credible Democrat challenger and a "nice guy" Republican incumbent. Depending on how attractive the Constitution Party candidate proves to be (see below), she might help swing this district to the Democrat. Who happens to be...

Natasha Marcus -- Democratic Challenger 
Marcus made an unsuccessful bid for the state House in the Cornelius neighborhood in 2014, when Republican John Bradford III defeated her 55 to 45 percent. “The policies that touch our lives most closely often come from the state level,” Marcus told WUNC. “Federal politics is important, but what happens at the General Assembly in Raleigh – from public school funding, to healthcare, to whether we’re going to have to pay tolls here in the North Mecklenburg area is also important." According to Ballotpedia, Marcus earned her B.A. in public policy from Hamilton College and her J.D. from Duke University School of Law in 1994. Her professional experience includes working as a lawyer for Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard; as Judicial Clerk for the Honorable Frank W. Bullock, Jr. of the U.S. District Court in Greensboro; and as a founding member of DavidsonLearns, a non-profit providing senior citizen learning and enrichment. Marcus is putting up a fight for the seat: “Cuts to public pre-K through higher education, unconstitutional laws, politicians who put polluters over our clean air and water, policies that make healthcare more expensive and less accessible, and expensive toll lanes on I-77 have taken us backwards. Like many people in our community, I am fed up with being ignored by Raleigh Republicans and am ready to take a stand.”
Jeff Tarte -- Republican Incumbent (Flavor: Vanilla) 
Tarte won by a 21 percent margin in his last non-presidential election. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in econ and has worked as a top-level exec for a number of multimillion-dollar companies. He has served as the mayor of Cornelius. (Civic office in Cornelius has been a repeat springboard for many prominent Republicans including Thom Tillis.) Tarte first ran for the senate in 2012, narrowly winning the Republican primary but running unopposed that November. He did have Democratic opponents in 2014 and 2016. In the latter, Tarte's winning percentage (54.48%) looked a little soft compared to 2014. On some topics, Tarte has at least sounded moderate. On the disruption to the state erupting out of HB2 (the bathroom bill), he told the Charlotte Observer: "Transgenders in bathrooms were not a problem." He opposed the transfer of tax revenues from urban to rural counties, but he is also a cheerleader for shifting the tax burden increasingly onto "consumers." He openly opposed his Republican Gov. McCrory over the I-77 toll lanes.

Sharon Hudson -- Constitution Party Insurgent (Flavor: Rhubard)
Sharon Hudson was until recently a Republican political activist in North Mecklenburg County, working her way from the Young Republicans into the party structure of MeckGOP to leadership of the North Mecklenburg Republican Women to various political campaigns and conservative causes. She joined a Tea Party group, Lake Norman Conservatives, which has drawn her away from establishment GOP activity. She graduated from UNCC with a B.A. in English and has written for PunditHouse, a Tea Party inspired conservative website focused on Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
She became the Constitution Party's official nominee for this office just this past weekend, and as yet she has no campaign infrastructure to speak of. But she has a history of running for office. 
In 2014, the same year Natasha Marcus also ran for the NC House seat vacated by Thom Tillis, Sharon Hudson ran in the Republican primary against the eventual winner of that House seat, John Bradford III. Her big issue was opposition to Tillis's plan for North Mecklenburg toll lanes, but she's a thorough-going and doctrinaire conservative, which is why the Constitution Party blessed her campaign.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Republican Malpractice in the NC General Assembly

Rob Schofield decries the rush of new laws in this current session of the North Carolina General Assembly -- laws written in secret and sometimes quickly, with scant understanding of or respect for unintended consequences (let alone the nasty intended ones): "Time and again last week, in fealty to an artificial and never fully disclosed deadline, legislative leaders summoned new and hugely controversial proposed laws out of thin air, conducted rapid-fire kangaroo committee meetings to bless them, and then waved the detritus briefly in front of glassy-eyed rank and file members for quick, often dazed approval."

That's democracy malpractice, and the practitioners must be called to account. Here's two of them:

Republican Rep. Jonathan Jordan and Republican Sen. Deanna Ballard

A handful of the most powerful of the Republicans in Raleigh wrote their budget in secret and rushed it through by preventing any amendments. The new budget "starves schools, the environment and countless other essential state services in order to give tax cuts to millionaires" (Rob Schofield). Jonathan Jordan and Deanna Ballard voted yes to it and to everything else.

Out of Thin Air
Other pieces of shit coming out of the General Assembly in rapid order:
"A transparently partisan bit of legal scalpel wielding that would alter early voting laws in order to target and discourage participation by minority voters." Their monkeying with early voting now sits on Governor Roy Cooper's desk. It's clearly meant to discourage the whole infrastructure of early voting, as it mandates that all satellite sites must be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every weekday, 12-hour shifts. That provision defies local knowledge of local populations and their druthers and will strap the budget of county boards of elections. Some -- probably many -- satellite sites will have to be closed in Watauga and other counties. Plus ending the last Saturday of early voting aims at black people, who have historically favored that day.
A brand-new "farm bill" -- "what ought to have been labeled The Polluting Corporate Industrial Hog Factory Relief Act.” It's a real piece of shit that we wrote about here recently.
An 18-page compilation of giveaways to favored special interests bearing the laugh-out-loud title “Regulatory Relief Act of 2018.” We'll slowly become aware of the political bribes this bill delivered on.
A bill to gerrymander the judicial districts of roughly a third of the state’s population, because General Assembly Republicans haven't liked the judges.
Speaking of the damned judicial system, a superior court judge recently ruled in favor of a tenant, and the General Assembly promptly passed a special giveaway to landlords. In Raleigh it pays to be upset by a court ruling, especially when you have expensive lobbyists and compliant Republican troops.
And the icing on the cake: Last Friday, a rushed new backroom deal to "put teeth" into penalties on crazy behavior by crazy prison inmates, because harshly punishing craziness always makes it stop.
It's a Raleigh power-trip on acid and with the pedal down. But be informed, you clowns of the apocalypse-- Judgment Day is coming, and the people remember.

If a Democrat Can Win in West Virginia...

The Cook Political Report rates the 3rd Congressional District of West Virginia as "Likely Republican." Some 72% of the district voted for Trump. But other things have also happened, and the upshot is that more people should be watching the rise of Democratic state Senator and career Army man Richard Ojeda (pronounced "Oh-jed-ah") who won the May 8th Democratic primary with over 50% of the vote against three other candidates, and who could very well make Flippity-Flip in November.

He's tough. And tattooed. Brash, even. He's a soldier's soldier. He trained as an Army engineer, and as a Captain he commanded the 20th Engineer Brigade (Combat-Airborne) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2010 and now holding the rank of Major, Ojeda volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan as a combat advisor with the 10th Mountain Division in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where he mentored over 1,200 Afghan Police.

He first ran for the West Virginia Senate in 2014. He became an outspoken critic of majority Republican policies, especially labor laws and the treatment of public sector employees. This year, he became a great champion of the state's striking teachers. But let him tell it:

Hell, he voted for Trump in 2016 and now regrets it. “It’s been a friggin’ circus for a solid year,” Ojeda told Politico magazine. “All he’s done ... is shown that he’s taking care of the daggone people he’s supposed to be getting rid of.”

The Primary Statistic
Carol Miller
Ojeda's Republican opponent in November -- it's an open seat -- will be Carol Miller, a member of the State House from Cabell County. She wants everyone to know that she's always prayed before voting on every single bill, and she will bring that sanctified habit to the U.S. Congress with her. Otherwise, she's a sock puppet Trumpian.

The 3rd CD is actually majority registered Democrat, but they've been voting Republican since the first Bush, motivated by guns, God, and abortion. A Democrat inoculated against at least two of those taints might convince coal country men to think about other stuff for a change, like the advantaging of the 1% over everybody else. (Footnote: Ojeda has a pro-choice voting record in the WVSenate.)

The 3rd CD is majority Democrat, so perhaps naturally, more Democrats turned out to vote in the primaries on May 8th, but the numbers that Ojeda drew, compared to Carol Miller's vote total, are pretty striking:
29,837 -- total votes for Ojeda
8,936 -- total votes for Carol Miller
That looks like a wave to me.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

One Tough Customer

Amy McGrath, the former Marine fighter pilot and Democratic nominee for the US House from Kentucky, earns a big article in today's NYTimes. It's all about how impossible it will be for a Democrat to win the 6th Congressional District, especially a woman who came out publicly for background checks and a ban on bump-stocks in a district with "more AR-15s than you can shake a stick at" (according to the editor of the weekly Anderson County News).

McGrath took that position on guns during an interview with that Anderson News editor. She shocked him with her bluntness and her bravery: “What really surprised me was how honest and open she was about things she knew dang well weren’t going to be popular here,” he said.

It's the Marine thing. She's a freaking Marine, the first woman Marine fighter pilot, and she gives it to you straight and without flinching. That makes her about as rare a brand new politician as you'll ever see.

She was the first female Marine to fly an F-18 in combat. She flew missions in Afghanistan in 2002 and in Iraq in 2003. The last Democrat to win District 6, Ben Chandler, said, "How do you caricature someone as a liberal who has bombed terrorists? That’s ludicrous. I hope they try it. Look at [Republican incumbent Andy] Barr in the face and say how many terrorists have you killed?”

She's married to a Navy man, and they have three children. (If you haven't already, you might watch (again) her video on what really constitutes toughness -- and it ain't lying about the size of your button.)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) Has a Credible Democratic Opponent

Noticing white supremacist and eight-term Congressman Steve King's recent approving retweet of an avowed admirer of Adolph Hitler, I began to wonder about his 4th District of Iowa (which contains the university town of Ames) and about what Democrat is running against him.

This is the Democrat, J.D. Scholten, who's actually out-raised King by a substantial amount.

Scholten is an ex-professional baseball player and is working now as a litigation paralegal. He's a fifth generation Iowan, and he certainly looks like he "fits" the district.

Never mind, though, because the experts say Steve King can't be beaten (just as they say Virginia Foxx can't be beaten). Steve King is so smug about easily winning every time, he hardly bothers to raise campaign money, and he's very comfortable spouting Trumpist racism about how white civilization is endangered by the invasion of brown people over our borders.

The Republican Party under Trump has become very comfortable with open hostility toward non-whites, and perhaps the 4th District of Iowa will continue that embrace, but it's heartening that a man of Scholten's qualities is willing to stand up against that.

Friday, June 15, 2018

You Can Make Them Stop on November 6

Among other pernicious twists in the new Senate bill 325, which would monkey with early voting in North Carolina, is a provision that mandates all early voting sites would have to have uniform hours — 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. — during weekday early voting.

In Watauga during recent elections, the Watauga Board of Elections opted to open some early voting sites later than others -- like the one in the ASU Student Union -- and open them for reduced hours -- like the one in the ASU Student Union. That would no longer be allowed by the new law.

Seven a.m. to seven p.m. Twelve-hour days, with resulting staffing needs and salaries. The requirement seems designed to discourage multiple early voting sites in counties. And that's pernicious.

Yesterday, in an emergency teleconference meeting of the State Board of Elections, the Board criticized the authors of S325 for never consulting the Board of its staff about the proposed changes. Only two of the four Republicans on the Board actually showed up for the meeting -- Four Eggers and John Lewis -- who screamed that the Board's emergency meeting was purely political.

I'll tell you what's political, answered Board member Stella Anderson: "Lawmakers proposing major changes of this sort without consulting experts and the very people tasked with running elections in the state."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Not a Race to Watch -- But Anyway, Fun

Kaine and Stewart
Tuesday's Republican primary for the US Senate put Corey Stewart in an awkward place: He won with less than 50% of the vote (on very puny Republican turnout), and every big buck Republican and conservative machine immediately announced they wouldn't be participating at the US Senate level in Virginia this year.

Because of Corey Stewart (who, like his idol Twitterman, trails disreputable baggage).

See, he's a Civil War fantasist who hangs with white nationalists. "Stewart launched his Senate campaign after surprising -- and alarming -- national Republicans by winning 42.5% in last year's gubernatorial primary against former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie." (Gillespie went on to lose the governorship to Democrat Ralph Northam.)
Corey Stewart, campaigning last year
Stewart made Charlottesville's push to remove its statue of Robert E. Lee the centerpiece of his campaign for governor, holding rallies for the monument and displaying Confederate flags while defending "heritage" at his events. At one point, he attended an Old South ball.
He attended a news conference with the leader of the white supremacist protest that later resulted in the death of a counter-protester in Charlottesville. And after that counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed in a hit-and-run, Stewart blamed the violence on "both sides."
With Twitterman, Stewart has become the norm in the Republican Party of 2018, and the now "old guard" of sane Republicans are withdrawing to the wings. The Koch network, which runs Americans for Prosperity, announced it would not support Stewart -- or anyone else -- and the US Senate Republican campaign arm is giving Stewart a pass too. Ouch.

Incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Kaine had no primary opponent. He'll run strong statewide, and meanwhile Corey Stewart is likely to depress turnout among suburban Republicans ... hurting the reelection prospects of at least three endangered Republican US House members.
R Barbara Comstock (Va. 10th CD) ... challenged by D Jennifer Wexton
R Dave Brat (Va. 7th CD) ... challenged by D Abigail Spanberger
R Scott Taylor (Va. 2nd CD) ... challenged by D Elaine Luria
Now those are races to watch.