Thursday, April 25, 2019

North Carolina Teachers Are About to Paddle Some Bad Boys


Next Wednesday, thousands of North Carolina public school teachers will march in Raleigh, demanding increased funding for what they do to improve all our futures in this state. They are animated by what the Republican General Assembly under the control of Berger/Moore did during the last several years:
The N.C. Teaching Fellows program was eliminated, textbook funding cut by $77 million, classroom supply funding sliced by $45 million and extra pay for master’s and advanced degrees stripped away, while millions were diverted to private schools through the state voucher programs.
Senate President Phil Berger calls them "far-left" agitators who need to stay home. Fellow Republican and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, whose major job should be support for teachers, urged them to cancel their march next Wednesday and pick a day in June instead. Which prompted a response from a Durham school teacher who happens to be both Republican and a Southern Baptist:
“You, of all people should be supporting us, not asking us to sit back and just take what is thrown at us," teacher Angela Coffman wrote to Johnson. "You can choose to stand with us and fight for what is right or you can choose to continue belittling us, making us feel we are not worth fighting for.”
 We know from recent history in other states that when public school teachers get stirred up, their stirring can create a vortex of trouble for the People in Power. Their cause is just, their anger is righteous, and their hour is coming round next Wednesday in the streets of Raleigh.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

We Offer Total Amnesty and Sanctuary for Recanting Republican Lawmakers


Meagan Flynn reporting:
DES MOINES -- Iowa’s longest-serving Republican legislator, state Rep. Andy McKean, ditched the GOP on Tuesday as he offered a searing renunciation of President Trump, saying he could no longer support Trump as the party’s standard-bearer because of his “unacceptable behavior” and “reckless spending." 
McKean revealed he would join the Democratic Party, a decision he described as “very difficult” after spending nearly a half-century as a registered Republican and 26 years in the legislature. But ultimately, he said, “I feel as a Republican that I need to be able to support the standard-bearer of our party.” 
And “unfortunately,” he said, he could not bring himself to support Trump. 
“Unacceptable behavior should be called out for what it is,” he said during the news conference at the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines, “and Americans of all parties should insist on something far better in the leader of their country and the free world.” ...

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Dan Forest Now Admits He Accepted Help From Wheeler-Dealer Charged in Bribery Scheme


Dan Forest
Stop the presses! Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has amended his campaign finance reports. He now admits that he took "in-kind" help from Greg Lindberg in the amount of $3,761. Small potatoes, you say?

Yes, but previously Forest was putting distance between his campaign and Lindberg. Forest neglected to even mention on his reporting forms that a fundraiser had been mounted for him at a Lindberg home, with Lindberg picking up the cost of catering and "refreshments."

Lindberg also donated $1 million to building a Forest juggernaut in 2017, money that was laundered through a super-PAC, and that ain't small potatoes.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Richard Burr Says He Can't Remember


Some guys can't keep a secret.

On March 9, 2017, FBI Director James Comey briefed the "Gang of 8" on the progress of investigations into Russia's involvement in our elections. The Gang of 8 includes the heads of Senate and House intelligence committees, of which Sen. Richard Burr is one, in his official role as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Burr and the others learned from Comey that four, maybe five individuals were under active investigation, including Paul Manafort, Gen. Mike Flynn, “the Greek Guy” Papadopoulos, and Carter Page.

That was highly secret information. But turns out Senator Richard Burr is a gossipy little bitch.

According to meticulous notes taken by White House Counsel Don McGahn (or by his assistant), Burr talked to McGahn via phone on March 16 and spilled those names to McGahn, who presumably passed them on to Twitterman.

The Mueller Report documents all of that transaction in footnoted detail.

What does Burr have to say about that inappropriate leaking? "I can't recall." Followed by "if specific individuals were discussed" -- opening a crack in his denial as wide as a church door -- "it was just people that everybody already knew were being investigated." Really. Here's Burr's statement in part:

"Chairman Burr does not recall this specific conversation with Mr. McGahn in March of 2017; however, any conversations between the two would have been in reference to the need for White House personnel to voluntarily comply with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation," Caitlin Carroll, a spokeswoman for Burr, told NBC News in a statement. "If specific individuals were discussed, they would have been those known to the Committee, the White House, and the media. The Chairman’s stewardship over the Committee’s bipartisan and fact-based investigation over the last two years speaks for itself."

Burr's March 2017 spilling of beans to the White House was not the first time he carried water for Trump. In February 2017, Burr told The Washington Post that he had conversations with the White House about Russia-related news reports and had contacted news organizations to dispute articles by The New York Times and CNN. “I felt I had something to share that didn’t breach my responsibilities to the committee in an ongoing investigation,” Burr told the Post.

A lack of integrity and personal responsibility in protecting Twitterman from justice is going to be the death of the Republican Party.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Wish He Hadn't Done That


Ex-Marine and Democrat Dan McCready, running in the NC-9 special election, has become, IMO, the poster child for craven politics. Also stupid politics. Scared out of his wits by a Republican attack from NC Sen. Dan Bishop (who's also running for the NC-9 seat in a crowded primary), McCready simply folded. Bishop claimed that McCready must be a far-left loony bird, not to mention probably soft on anti-semitism, because he had accepted a $2,000 donation from Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, one of only two Muslim women in the US Congress who has been racially profiled and targeted by none other than our Crook in Chief. Omar gets lots of death threats, so why wouldn't Bishop pile on like the bully he is?

The congresswoman made the donation to McCready's campaign on Election Day last fall. Republican Dan Bishop found out about it and attacked McCready in a web ad titled "Crazy." The ad is unfair, bigoted, ridiculous, and it apparently sent shivers down McCready's spine. So he returned the Omar donation, and issued this statement:
...McCready refunded the donation because he believes there is no place for divisiveness in politics, and McCready did not feel it is appropriate to accept the donation.
"No place for divisiveness in politics" may just be the stupidest thing I've heard a would-be politician say since practicing politician Ronald Reagan said "Facts are stupid things."

Instead of caving and running away from the Dan Bishop "divisiveness," McCready might have turned and faced down Bishop for his history of bigotry against gay and trans people and for his underwriting of white supremacy. McCready could have stood and fought back, like, say, a Marine. There was nothing wrong with the Omar donation, and she's the victim of a racially and religiously motivated Republican mob. In effect, McCready joined the mob.

I was bothered last year by McCready's "flyweight vagueness" on issues, his unwillingness to take clear stands on controversial issues. That shyness now looks like marrow-level weakness and fear. If he's not ready to take on "divisiveness," he's not ready for public office.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

When All You Got to Run on Is a Wall


The primary for the special election in NC-3, Walter Jones's old district, comes on April 30th. Early voting has been going on since April 10th.

The Club for Growth has just endorsed Celeste Cairns, a certified public accountant and a first-time political candidate, for the seat, which may mean a lot, especially if the Club is planning a media blitz for her. She's pretty unknown compared to others in the race like Michele Nix, former vice chairwoman of the NCGOP, and current sitting members of the NC General Assembly Michael Speciale, Greg Murphy, and Phil Shepard. There are 17 total Republicans running.

Cairns is stepping forward as a Trumpist with this TV ad:




On the Democratic side, there's been a pretty energetic race between Richard Bew and Allen Thomas, though Democratic performance so far in the primary does not suggest a Blue surge coming.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What Sound Does a Hollow Log Make?


The Central Committee of the North Carolina Republican Party reportedly met for seven solid hours on Sunday, arguing over what to do about their top leadership. The state party chair, Robin Hayes, was recently arrested for attempted bribery of the state's insurance commissioner and is now under five federal criminal indictments. Hayes has been allowed to step aside from his duties, appoint an interim leader (Aubrey Woodard, who chairs the 11th Congressional District Committee)but also retain the title of "chairman" until the state party's convention in June.

Executive Director of the NCGOP, Dallas Woodhouse, is also being allowed to resign at the conclusion of the June state convention. Woodhouse has been the pugnacious and rambunctious executive director since 2015 and has left plenty of roadkill in his wake. “I am under contract through the convention. When my contract expires I am moving on, which is always what I had in mind,” Woodhouse said.

Woodhouse admits that he testified to the grand jury in the Hayes bribery case but is not mentioned in the indictment. He has also claimed that the party did nothing wrong in laundering a large contribution from Greg Lindberg into the campaign account of the insurance commissioner.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Could the Realtor PAC Up-End the Republican Primary in the NC-9?


Looks like the Republican primary in the 9th Congressional District special election is about to get explosive. A national realtor PAC is putting at least a half-mil into TV ads to make Leigh Brown the irresistible choice. Jim Morrill in the Charlotte Observer says spending might reach $900,000.

Who is Leigh Brown? A locally prominent Concord RE/MAX executive, a well known and apparently very funny motivational speaker using her successful business career as grist. She's written two books, “Outrageous Authenticity” and “The 7 Deadly Sins of Sales.” People apparently seek her out and want to listen to her common sense, her "outrageous authenticity." She's self-described as "a sassy Southern woman."

She's not on my list of Republicans Most Likely to Win the Primary, which include Dan Bishop and Fern Shubert and maybe Matthew Ridenhour, but not Leigh Brown. (Reminder: the 9th District is where preacherman Mark Harris flamed out. Democrat Dan McCready, who might have won last November save balloting fraud in Bladen County, has no primary opponent. McCready will face the winner of the Republican primary on September 10, if there's an outright Republican winner -- must get at least 30% -- or November 5 if there has to be a primary run-off.)

Ten Republicans are running in the primary. Five of those ten don't live in the 9th District. One of those five is the aforementioned Leigh Brown, or "Leigh Thomas Brown" as she appeared on the ballot (unsuccessfully) for the NC House (District 82) in 2014, the other time she's run for public office.

What gives one pause ... she's something of a "brand" herself and eminently marketable.

People in the metro Charlotte viewing area are about to get a big dose of her, if they have their TVs on. The National Realtors Association PAC ("RPAC" to be exact) has paid for a major saturation campaign about Leigh Brown. Jim Morrill of the Charlotte Observer reported on Friday that they had already committed at least $400,000 for TV ads in the Charlotte market. "Records show that the group is spending $88,325 on ads at Charlotte’s WCNC. A spokesperson for WBTV said the buy there is $328,000." None of the other nine Republican candidates are competing on that level (though others may get the benefit of outside money).

According to housingwire.com, Brown has been a major fundraiser for RPAC and serves as the chair of the RPAC Fundraising Trustees. In other words, she's kind of got the zipper in her hand that opens the purse.

Will that TV spending work to catapult Brown into the top ranks of the primary? Maybe for Leigh Brown, it's the only move that will work.

Why does it matter?
Leigh Brown ran for the NC House in 2014 against Larry Pittman, one of the more notorious Republican conservatives in the NC House, another preacherman who's especially exercised against homosexuality and gay marriage. Leigh Thomas Brown challenged him in 2014 and got a bit under 38% of the vote as the antidote to crazy conservatism.

Leigh Thomas Brown was a moderate. And she still looks to me like one of those smart Republican women who find Twitterman an appalling embarrassment. But she knows she has to at least pretend to kiss the emperor's ring.

Reading through her (very slim) website is like watching a contortionist reach for a flag without ever quite grasping it. I want to know her issues, but she twists herself around her own back. Brown says as little as possible about her political philosophy, or any political philosophy (other than the need for more affordable housing, which some people think has a Democratic aroma to it). What she does eke out emphasizes mainstream Republican Gospel -- "create jobs, cut taxes, and reduce regulatory overreach." Sure 'nuf, she uses the "C word" --  conservative -- but without any demonstrable conviction. She's certainly free of the usual conservative icing on top.

How does she deal with DJT? She finally gets around to (barely) mentioning "President Trump" in the next-to-last paragraph of her very sparse biography, "About Lee": "...I will work with President Trump to keep our economy on track." That's it. The safe stuff, keep the economy growing, but no nothing about what defines Trumpism -- no Wall, no "fake news," no exaggeration about how great the tax break was, no climate change denial. No Trumpism anywhere to be seen, and no praise of the man.

But still, so what? Moderate Republicans don't win in North Carolina. More affordable housing is not a big rallying cry for Republicans in the 9th District, is it?

Friday, April 12, 2019

A Legislative Fix for the Student Photo ID Fiasco Passed the NC House Yesterday. What Will the Senate Do?


Rep. Ray Russell
H 646 passed the NC House on a vote of 100 to 9 (wow). It's titled AN ACT TO CLARIFY THE APPROVAL PROCESS FOR STUDENT AND EMPLOYEE IDENTIFICATION CARDS FOR VOTING PURPOSES; TO PROVIDE AN ADDITIONAL WINDOW FOR APPROVAL OF STUDENT AND EMPLOYEE IDENTIFICATION CARDS FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS; AND TO PROVIDE FLEXIBILITY IN THE NUMBER OF HOURS OF EARLY ONE-STOP VOTING IN ODD-NUMBERED YEAR ELECTIONS.

It would do much to alleviate the recent disenfranchisement of college students (and college/university employees) across the state, primarily because no longer would the college be responsible for taking the actual photos. The last clause in the title above refers to more flexibility for local BOEs to set up early voting sites for municipal elections. Gerry Cohen, our guru on election matters, tweeted on April 9, "It looks like a good bill."

Ray Russell of Watauga County has been a prime mover on this issue from the beginning of the crisis, joined by Zack Hawkins of Durham. They're both primary sponsors. Powerful Republican Chair of the Rules Committee, David Lewis, also signed on and actually introduced the bill, which accounts for those Republican votes (along with the creeping fear that the entire law could be thrown out by an advancing lawsuit if drastic action isn't taken).

All attention now turns to the Senate. Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Spruce Pine), one of the co-chairs of the Redistricting and Elections Committee in the Senate, had already said he liked the original law just like it was, but WRAL reported that he may have moved a little. He said "he has some questions about the bill, including language on confirming the identities of people whose ID's have self-taken pictures." Another co-chair of that committee, Sen. Warren Daniel of Burke County, said that the House and Senate agree on "the broad strokes" of Lewis' bill. Whatever that means.

Perhaps the chances of getting this "fix" through the NC Senate have improved. We've never felt sanguine about that prospect, but we're prepared to be amazed.