Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Trump to "The Common Man": More Goldman Sachs For You!

Steven Mnuchin
We're about to have the third Goldman Sachs executive in as many decades as the top financial officer of the United States:

Robert Rubin, 1995-1999
Henry "Hank" Paulson, 2006-2009
Steven Mnuchin, 2017 - infinity?

“We think by cutting corporate taxes we’ll create huge economic growth and we’ll have huge personal income,” the man who lost a vowel told CNBC. ("Mnuchin" is pronounced mi-NEW-chin.) Mnuchin is going to fit right in with the Trump Locker Room because he uses huge so often. Plus he's rich and a hedge-fund operative. And he thinks that cutting taxes on the rich and powerful is gonna help Mr. Common Man, as though we haven't tried that route before.

Trump barked at the delegates to the Republican National Convention: “The forgotten men and women of our country — people who work hard but no longer have a voice: I am your voice” ... though I intend to hang out exclusively with billionaires in my cabinet, he did not add out loud.

"I am your voice" as long as that voice is spouting lies about "millions" of people voting illegally. "I am your voice" as long as that voice is spouting racist or prejudicial attacks on groups of citizens. "I am your voice" as long as you stay glued to Dancing With the Stars and Fox News and refrain from skepticism.

Meanwhile, Steven Mnuchin, our new Secretary of the Treasury To Be, is criticized for cashing in on the country’s financial collapse in 2008. “He purchased a bailed-out bank for pennies on the dollar and then aggressively foreclosed on tens of thousands of families,” Jon Green, a spokesman for the Take on Wall Street campaign, said following the announcement of Mnuchin's appointment.

Gerrymandering Suit Mandates New Legislative Elections Next Year

The three-judge panel that ruled back in August that 28 of the redistricted NC House and Senate seats were illegal and unconstitutional "racial gerrymanders" has now told the NC General Assembly that it has until March 2017 to redraw the districts. Further, new elections must be held in those redrawn districts within a year.

(Presumably, a primary will be set for either August or September, and presumably the election proper will fall on the same November date as local municipal elections, but the always dependably partisan General Assembly must set those dates.)

Lawyers for the Republican leadership in the General Assembly argued that their clients needed more time to figure out how to redistrict and still give themselves an unfair advantage, but the judges said tough shit. "Redraw the maps and hold your elections in 2017." Words to that effect.

“While special elections have costs, those costs pale in comparison to the injury caused by allowing citizens to continue to be represented by legislators elected pursuant to a racial gerrymander,” the three-judge panel wrote in the order.

While only about one-sixth of all seats in the General Assembly were covered by the order, a redrawing of the maps for those districts will likely effect all -- or most -- other districts.

Republican map-drawers in the General Assembly went instantly to their default position: This decision is "politically motivated," screamed Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) and Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg).

Time out for the only possible reaction to that statement: BWA-ha-ha-ha!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Better Start Kissing Your Medicare Goodbye Now

Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, whom Trump is naming to head the Department of Health and Human Services, has already announced that the phasing out of Medicare ("privatization") won't come in the first toxic wave of new Trump legislation but will come in the second wave next summer. Price seemed confident that a simple Republican majority in the U.S. Senate would be able to phase out Medicare using "budget reconciliation." Passage of an end to Medicare is guaranteed to pass the House.

Via TPM: "Price, an orthopedic surgeon and Budget Committee Chair in the outgoing Congress, is an arch-critic of 'Obamacare' and a top supporter of Speaker Paul Ryan's plan to phase out Medicare and replace it with private insurance and vouchers."

Price is a surgeon who opposes abortion rights. In the U.S. House he supported the proposed Protect Life Act, which would have denied Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) funding to health care plans that offered abortion. That law would also have allowed hospitals to decline to provide emergency abortion care. 

He voted against a bill prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation, and he voted in favor of constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. He voted against H.R. 2965, which would have ended "don't ask, don't tell." In 2008 Price signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity promising to vote against any Global Warming legislation that would raise taxes.

He joins the Trump Locker Room, and he's bringing his own towel.

Commander-in-Tweet

Double the ego, double the chin
We elected a troll for president.

Donald J. Trump, a primate, uses his Twitter account to parade a swollen ego and a remarkable insecurity (especially insecure, considering the ego). If Hillary Clinton did so much better than he in the popular vote, it must have been fraud, "millions" of illegals voting in California but also in Virginia and New Hampshire.

That's just a lie. Or call it "an unsubstantiated claim" -- over-ripe fruit plucked from the Right Wing Conspiracy Tree. We have a president who uses unsubstantiated claims to calm his wounded ego. Meanwhile, a lack of evidence that he is beloved widely and grandly and universally by the American voting public wounds his fragile self-confidence. He has to be a big man, the biggest man.

Actual research into just California reveals a few facts: the turn-out rate in that state was actually below the national average. If millions of illegal votes were cast, that turn-out number should be considerably higher. If millions of non-residents voted illegally against Trump in California, you would expect Trump's loss-margin to be highest in areas where many non-residents live.

But Trump's "biggest losses came on the affluent coast: in Orange and Marin counties, in San Diego and Silicon Valley."
[Trump] underperformed Mitt Romney’s 2012 showing most in Orange County, a redoubt of 20th-century conservatism that voted Republican in every election from 1936 through 2012. Mr. Trump lost the county by a nine-point margin.
These same Orange County residents voted to re-elect all four of their Republican members of Congress — not the result one would expect if Mrs. Clinton were bolstered by a wave of unanimously Democratic illegal votes. [Nate Cohn]
If we are watching the unstoppable night-time habits of an uninformed, fantasy-possessed greed head, then we are in for four years of made-for-TV entertainment -- "Tonight at nine, President Cyberbully Takes on Trevor Noah!" -- that may also be the death of the Republic.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Update on NC Balloting

Via BlueNC:

Roy Cooper's lead in the NC governor's race stands at 7,742 as of 11/27.

Just 18 counties left to make their results official:

D counties: Buncombe, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenberg, Durham, Wake

R counties: Allegheny, Alexander, Cleveland, Iredell, Randolph, Moore, Robeson, Bladen, Johnston, Lenoir, Craven, Carteret

Roy Cooper's lead will only go up as those big urban counties report. Even if all challenges were accepted, no way do they total enough to offset Cooper's lead.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Trump Finds a Woman

KT McFarland, a Fox News national security analyst and Reagan administration official, will serve as Donald Trump's Deputy National Security Advisor.

In addition to talking on cue on Fox, KT McFarland actually ran (and lost) in a Republican primary to take on Hillary Clinton in the 2006 Senate race. Before she lost that primary, McFarland claimed that Hillary was so worried about her candidacy that she sent secret helicopters to spy on her house in the Hamptons and also cased her apartment in Manhattan. "Hillary Clinton is really worried about me, and is so worried, in fact, that she had helicopters flying over my house in Southampton today taking pictures," she told a rally of Suffolk County Republicans.

According to Josh Marshall, McFarland also inflates her personal resume. Her bio on her own website claims that she "held national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan Administrations: as an aide to Dr. Henry Kissinger on the NSC Staff (1970-76)...." Josh Marshall points out that McFarland was born in 1951, making her either 18 or 19 when she went to work as an aide to Kissinger, if she went to work for him in 1970.

Inflated egos are all in fashion!

Before 'The Donald" there Was 'Claytie' Williams

Just finished an old, out-of-date biography of Texas Gov. Ann Richards ("The Thorny Rose of Texas," Shropshire & Schaefer, 1994), and was delighted to be reminded of some juicy history.

In Texas in 1990, Ann Richards ran for governor against a bigger-than-life West Texan named Clayton Williams, and she won. She wasn't supposed to win, but she did. Her own campaign's internal polling showed her 27 points behind Williams just months before the election. But she was a natural politician and a born fighter and ended up edging him out 49.5% to 46.9% (a Libertarian candidate took three percent).

"Claytie" Williams had been the heavy favorite because everyone knew him from TV (a series of "reality" ads with Claytie in the foreground, in white hat, saying he was going to take care of some particular stupidity in government. For one ad, his campaign hired guys from Sul Ross University in Alpine, Texas, to act as jailbirds doing hard labor, with Claytie saying, If you do drugs in Texas, you're gonna become acquainted with "the joys of busting' rocks!"). By most opinion polls, the great majority of voting Texans approved of Williams' tell-it-like-it-is, tough guy, no-holds-barred populist image. He was entertaining. Made for TV.

Ann Richards had a following too, a big one. She had risen through the ranks of Texas Democratic liberalism -- potent, once upon a time -- to the office of State Treasurer. She had become a national media star during the Democratic National Convention of 1988. You remember. "Poor George! He can't help it…." You know the rest.

I was preparing to write about the interesting parallels/similarities between Clayton Williams in 1990 Texas and Donald J. Trump in "2016 Reality World," but I discovered that Lauren Fox beat me to it. Read her.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

I Mourn My Rural America

People have been sending me this essay about how religious fundamentalism explains why Trump won and why rural America is trapped in defeat and alienation, ripe for a huckster to pluck. I see it. I could have written that essay, since I sprang up from the same soil and had my butt in church three times a week, where we heard hell-fire more than heavenly choirs.

I've been to a Baptist funeral in West Texas since last we talked, touched family, and laughed at the old stories told by the aunts. Funerals are like births in many ways -- they bring relatives trailing from far off to eat casseroles together, and dry brisket with yeast rolls, and to marvel at the pure stubbornness of human life and its persistence in the face of bad odds.

That part of Texas, in the high, flat, dry Panhandle, is soooo Republican and so very depressed. My little home town is a virtual ghost-town. More people in the cemetery now than on the tax rolls. One more new grave was wedged into those ranks as of Friday, and I saw around me at the graveside service a diminishing line of my revered elders on the march inevitably toward the same sad treeless plot that's been the local burying ground since 1890. There's sadness in that, but also comfort. In death we get to lie in the same congregation we struggled through life alongside, sometimes fighting, often laughing, always eating together.

"Let her go now. Let her lie in the embrace of her people for eternity, who scratched the soil for food and thanked God for the least blessing."

It will take us some time to sort through the emotions we feel at loss, not only the loss of family but the loss of civic structure. The town I grew up in was a vibrant place. On Saturdays on main street, you had to elbow your way through the strollers and the shoppers and the gawkers and hawkers on the courthouse square. Everybody came to town. It's resoundingly deserted today, the rows of storefronts facing the courthouse on two sides, empty shells now and quickly falling into ruin. There's not even a grocery store in town. Something blew all the people away. Or a space ship landed and teleported them out of this dimension, pausing long enough to loosen every last shingle in sight.

The people left behind don't seem to notice the disappeared, or else have consciously decided to ignore the obvious in hopes the trend will miraculously reverse itself. On Friday I realized too late I had violated a local taboo when I spoke aloud about the desolation. I got a look from the secretary of the Baptist Church that would normally be reserved for a three-year-old acting up during the sermon. Her look said, "Have a little respect, will you, please! We don't talk about how depressing this place has become." And I can appreciate that.

The de-peopling of rural West Texas is not isolated. The rural landscape all across this nation is dotted with abandoned farms and ruined homesteads, dead and dying towns that once thrummed with expectation, and I can't help noticing who has profited by those deaths. The cities have bulged with the displaced, ready to work for any wage at practically any job. Masters of the universe, a.k.a., the captains of industry ... they like a little human misery and desperation amongst their workforce.

Interestingly, the country people being swept into the labor markets of huge corporations have been convinced that the local politicians talking about aborted babies and queer fear will also somehow protect them from the accelerating whirlwind of urbanization and sub-urbanization and global corporatism. And that is what makes me really sad -- the recognition that fear is such a potent political weapon and that people can be distracted from what is actually happening to them.

[NOTE: Everything above, except the first paragraph, was originally published on this site in 2005. The essay linked in the first paragraph caused me to go back and find it, to help me get my bearings.]

Friday, November 25, 2016

Don't You Love the Smell of Math in the Morning

Some election numbers, via the Winston-Salem Journal (with the most interesting numbers coming last):
According to complete but unofficial results, Cooper won early voting statewide 1.52 million to 1.34 million, while McCrory won Election Day by an 845,579 to 681,035 margin.
The absentee vote to date is 89,920 for McCrory and 80,989 for Cooper.
McCrory appears to have inspired “ticket splitting” among Republicans. That means Republicans choosing not to vote for McCrory, while voting for President-elect Donald Trump in his commanding win in the state and for U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in their successful re-election bids.
Before provisional and absentee ballots were counted, McCrory received 62,909 fewer votes statewide than Trump. He had 93,527 fewer votes than Forest and 94,579 fewer votes than Burr.
Ain't that a kick in the pants, Mr. McCrory? It was Republicans who denied you a second term at a job they determined you were perfectly horrid at.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Three Watauga Voters Sue to Intervene in Civitas Attempt to Throw Out Same-Day Voters


On July 29, 2016, the Fourth Circuit ordered the State Board of Elections to reinstate North Carolina’s same-day registration process, which permits voters to fill out a voter registration form and cast a ballot in the same trip to the polls during the early voting period only.

More than 90,000 North Carolinians used the same-day registration process in this election. On November 21, nearly four months after the Fourth Circuit reinstated same-day registration and 13 days after the November 8 general election was conducted, Art Pope's henchman Francis DeLuca of the Civitas Institute filed suit in federal court challenging those same-day voters in a transparent bid to bollix up the election so that the NC General Assembly could step in and declare Pat McCrory the winner.

Here's what DeLuca asked the court to do, in a nutshell: Spend an additional 30 days total doing two different verification mailings to all voters who used same-day registration, waiting 15 days after each mailing to determine whether those mailings would be returned as undeliverable, thus (Mr. DeLuca hopes) throwing out those votes. DeLuca also asked that even the ballots cast by those same-day registrants for whom mailings are not returned as undeliverable and whose registrations are deemed complete under the statutory process -- that their ballots not be counted until the 30-day period has elapsed.

Delay, delay, delay the inevitable of scooting Governor McCrory's puling carcass out of the Mansion, and hoping in the meantime that the general public will be convinced that something nefarious had gone on for Roy Cooper to win. (People hear that "dead people voted" without pausing also to understand that they're talking about people who cast a ballot in early voting and who subsequently died and whose ballots are not counted, according to law. People believe what they want to believe, and Republicans are in luv with any hint of fraud, furiously projecting their own dark hearts onto the rest of us.)

As of yesterday, there is a counter lawsuit filed on behalf of three Watauga County voters to intervene in the DeLuca suit and asking the court to dismiss it. The three Wataugans are voters who used same-day registration to register and vote in the November 2016 general election. Due to no fault of their own, they failed the mail verification process (that is, had at least one mailing returned as undeliverable), but they are eligible voters. Should DeLuca obtain the "relief" he seeks, these three voters would have their votes discounted and be deprived of their fundamental right to vote, in direct violation of their Fourteenth Amendment rights.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Those Trump Campaign Promises: Several More Bite the Dust

Is it becoming clear yet that our nation is about to be in the grip of a man of has no principled core, no guiding philosophy, no standards of conduct for decision-making -- other than his own self-aggrandizement? Someone has said that he's much influenced by the last man in the room.

So, can we keep a running list?

1. Trump, who branded his rival “Crooked Hillary” and said she would go to jail if he were president, said yesterday in an interview with reporters and editors at The New York Times that he was no longer interested in pursuing Mrs. Clinton.

2. After talking to retired Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, Trump has changed his position on water boarding "and worse" that he said he would pursue against the nation's enemies.

3. Trump had reassured his fans during the campaign that human-caused climate change was a hoax and that he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accords. But yesterday in the New York Times interview, that surety evaporated: “I think there is some connectivity. Some, something. It depends on how much.”

4. Trump has already downsized expectations for his famous Wall.

5. Trump previously started finding parts of Obamacare that he approved of.

Self-aggrandizement? That Trump sees no division between his new job and what's good for him also emerged bigly in the Times interview: He admitted that he probably did recently lobby British official Nigel Farage "to oppose the kind of offshore wind farms that Mr. Trump believes will mar the pristine view from one of his two Scottish golf courses.”

And it's clear that Trump intends to continue having big influence in his far-flung companies and to use his position as president to advantage those companies. He said in that interview, “The president can’t have a conflict of interest.” He actually said that.

Sadly, he's citing current law, since the POTUS is exempt from ethics laws that control everyone else. Why that's the case, I don't know, except that perhaps geniuses of a previous era never anticipated a self-serving greed-head like Donald Trump actually holding the office.

You can't really "drain the swamp" when YOU are the swamp.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Conflicts of Interest: Seedbed for Corruption

So Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has named a Philippine real estate mogul as "special trade representative" to the United States. The real estate mogul just happens to also be leasing the Trump name for a new luxury high-rise in Manilla. Do you see a problem with that, bee-yotch? If you do, please face your 2 x 3-foot, framed color lithograph of Herr Trump, and get over it.

Last night, Trump tweeted sweet advice to British Prime Minister Theresa May, urging her to appoint Nigel Farage, the U.K. Independence Party leader and one of the architects of the successful Brexit campaign, as Great Britain's ambassador to the United States. Farage, another of those alt-right types, only with a British accent, campaigned with and for Trump in Mississippi earlier this year.

Everything Trump does, from encouraging foreign delegations to rent expensive rooms in his Washington Trump hotel to allowing his National Security advisor Michael Flynn to lobby for Turkey financial interests, suggests that the president-elect intends no separation whatsoever between his self-interest and what might pass as "the good of the American people."

Monday, November 21, 2016

We Are Not Distracted, Sir

We actually understand, Mr. Trump, why you've ginned up all the controversy over "Hamilton," demanding apologies, offering negative reviews of a show you've never seen, encouraging your supporters to boycott what displeases you.

You're trying to distract everyone from the fact that you paid $25 million to make the fraud case over Trump University go away.

The American Nazi Movement in the Era of Trump

What is the alt-right? Above all, it's a harmless-sounding euphemism for "white nationalism." What is white nationalism? What follows is its most recent and most joyous blossoming on American soil.

Last Saturday in Washington, D.C., the alt-right held an all-day celebration of Donald Trump's election. White nationalists have embraced Trump, and Trump has embraced them back, naming the movement's number one publisher, Steve Bannon, as his right-hand man (so to speak).

Richard B. Spencer
A man named Richard B. Spencer both coined the term "alt-right" and is currently president of the organization spreading its doctrine, the National Policy Institute.

At the conclusion of Saturday's pep rally for Trump in the Ronald Reagan Building and National Trade Center on Pennsylvania Avenue, Spencer said and did this:
Mr. Spencer’s after-dinner speech began with a polemic against the “mainstream media,” before he briefly paused. “Perhaps we should refer to them in the original German?” he said.
The audience immediately screamed back, “L├╝genpresse,” reviving a Nazi-era word that means “lying press.”
Mr. Spencer suggested that the news media had been critical of Mr. Trump throughout the campaign in order to protect Jewish interests. He mused about the political commentators who gave Mr. Trump little chance of winning.
“One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem,” he said, referring to a Jewish fable about the golem, a clay giant that a rabbi brings to life to protect the Jews....
As he finished, several audience members had their arms outstretched in a Nazi salute. When Mr. Spencer, or perhaps another person standing near him at the front of the room — it was not clear who — shouted, “Heil the people! Heil victory,” the room shouted it back.
If this doesn't shoot shards of ice into the chambers of your beating heart, then you either don't know history or don't care what Donald Trump is now mid-wifing into the heart of the American democracy.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

This Week in the Trump Locker Room

Jared Kushner
Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, bought the New York Observer in 2006, when Kushner was 25. The veteran editor of The Observer, Peter Kaplan, quickly soured on Kushner: “This guy doesn’t know what he doesn’t know,” Mr. Kaplan complained to colleagues at the time.

Mitt Romney
Well before the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney said in front of cameras that if Mr. Trump became the Republican nominee, “the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished,” and he suggested that Mr. Trump was dangerous and unstable. He deplored Mr. Trump’s personal qualities: “the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.”

President Elect Donald Trump
The recently opened Trump International Hotel in Washington, which Donald Trump owns, invited representatives from local embassies to the hotel for a tour after the election to encourage them to use it when leaders from their countries visited Washington. Mr. Trump also met during the week of November 14 in his office at Trump Tower with three Indian business partners who are building a Trump-branded luxury apartment complex south of Mumbai. "There does not seem to be any sign of a meaningful separation of Trump government operations and his business operations,” said Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.

General Michael Flynn
Gen. Flynn, according to Nicholas Kristof, is smart and knows the world very well, but he was fired from his last government job -- the Defense Intelligence Agency -- for incompetence. Colin Powell, former secretary of state, explained in hacked emails why Flynn was fired: “abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy, bad management.” He is regarded by many Republican and Democratic foreign policy specialists as "a kook." Colin Powell said that after his firing, he went  “right-wing nutty.” In November 2016, Flynn tweeted an obviously fake story claiming that the police had found emails linking Hillary Clinton to sex crimes with children.

General Michael Flynn
Flynn is also actually also a consultant for lobbyists. He went on an expenses-paid trip to Moscow as the guest of Vladimir Putin. He wrote an op-ed in The Hill "shilling for Turkey" without revealing that he has also taken consulting money from a company tied to Turkish president Erdogan.

President-Elect Donald Trump
The first foreign leader that Donald Trump placed a telephone call to was Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey. “I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul,” Trump told Stephen Bannon in an interview during the campaign. (Bannon was still running Breitbart at the time and had not yet been named Chief Strategist for Trump.) When British Prime Minister Theresa May finally got through to Trump on the phone -- she called him. He didn't call her -- Trump said, “If you travel to the U.S., you should let me know.” The Trump-May conversation lasted 10 minutes.

General Michael Flynn
For his chief of staff, Gen. Flynn chose his son, Michael G. Flynn. Michael has been aggressive on right-wing social media. He's been called "looney" for calling President Obama a communist and a fascist. He shared stories alleging top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin had a connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, pushed a conspiracy theory that Sen. Marco Rubio was a closeted homosexual who abused cocaine, and repeatedly used expletives to attack Trump's political opponents. Flynn works for his father's consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, and he is reportedly always at his father's side.

Federal Judge John Primomo
At a U.S. citizenship ceremoney on November 17 in San Antonio, Judge Primomo, who was conducting the naturalization swearing in, lectured the new citizens: “I can assure you that whether you voted for him or you did not vote for him, if you are a citizen of the United States, he is your president. He will be your president and if you do not like that, you need to go to another country.”

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fraud

Seems like just yesterday:


Today:

"Here's $25 million, which proves I didn't defraud you. Now go away."


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The End of Political Correctness

Trump Nation. The following represents a fraction of the incidents reported by national media since November 8:

—The words “fuck niggers” and “Trump” were painted on a car belonging to former University of Tennessee football player Chris Weatherd.

—A note reading “Gay Families = Burn in Hell” and “Trump 2016” was placed on a car in North Carolina.

--Strangers told an Indian-American Google employee it’s “time to get out of the country Apu” while he was filling his car at a gas station.

—A swastika, the words “Sieg Heil” and reference to Trump were painted across a Philadelphia storefront.

—A swastika and the words “Make America White Again” were painted on a wall in a Wellsville, NY park.

—The words “#FuckNiggers,” #FuckAllPorchMonkeys,” and Donald Trump’s name were painted across a student of color’s locker in a Maple Grove, Minn., high school.

—Swastikas and Trump-related graffiti were found in restrooms at Council Rock North High School in Newtown, Pa.

—A group of students carrying Trump signs chanted “White Power” through the halls of the the York County School of Technology in York, Pa.

—Four white men allegedly threatened a black woman, asking her “how scared are you now, black bitch?” in Delaware.

—A Muslim woman was reportedly threatened by Trump supporter armed with a knife at the University of Illinois.

—Latino high school students were told “you wetbacks need to go back to Mexico” in Salt Lake City.

—Trump supporters parked a pickup truck outside a house for students of African descent at Wellesley college, and jeered residents with pro-Trump slogans.

—KKK recruitment fliers reading “Get off the fence, whitey” were distributed in Birmingham, Ala.

—White students at Royal Oak Middle School outside Detroit, Mich., chanted “build that wall” as Latino classmates watched and cried.

—A black doll with a noose around its neck was found in an elevator at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y.

—“Niggers die here” was scrawled across a bus stop in Grand Island, N.Y., alongside drawings of nooses.

—“Trump” was written on the door to a room used by Muslim students for worship at New York University.

—Students handed out “Deportation” letters to their classmates of color at Shasta High School in Redding, Calif.

—A LGBTQ flag was lit on fire in Rochester, N.Y.

—An anonymous note left for a Muslim high school teacher in Gwinnett County, Ga., explained that her headscarf “isn’t allowed anymore” and suggested she hang herself with it instead.

—Administrators in Wesley Chapel, Fla. are investigating reports that a teacher told a group of black high school students, “Don’t make me call Donald Trump to get you sent back to Africa.”

—The words “Heil Trump” and a swastika were painted across a church in Bean Blossom, Indiana.

—An Indian-American family’s car was defaced with the word “Trump,” scratched into its side.

—A man in Natick, Mass., received a threatening letter which cited Trump’s electoral victory and stating that the town has “zero tolerance for black people.”

—“Kill Kill Kill Blacks” was written on the bathroom wall of an elementary school in Silver Spring, MD.

—Two teachers were cited for making pro-Trump “disparaging statements” against undocumented immigrants at Cross Keys High School in DeKalb County, Ga.

—”White Power” was written across the front door of a black woman’s apartment in Des Moines.

—A white man told a black woman in Hamilton, Ontario that he hopes Trump “cleans up the whole of North America,” and that “you all shouldn’t even be here, you’re murderers and killers, you’re running around killing everybody, I hope he gets rid of all of you.”

—Students in a Miami-area high school were disciplined after bringing a confederate flag to school. At least one student was photographed in his school uniform, with the flag, and a Donald Trump hat.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

So Much To Do, So Little Time!

Watauga GOP Chair Anne Marie Yates, on why she challenged the legitimacy of ballots cast only by registered Democrats and Unaffiliated voters, quoted by the Watauga Democrat:

“ 'We would have challenged the Republican voter from Boone II if we had had enough time to do so,' Yates said, but she did not elaborate further on that point."

16 Ways of Looking at a Mugwump

Mugwump, noun: 1. a Republican who refused to support the party nominee, James G. Blaine, in the presidential campaign of 1884. 2. a person who is unable to make up his or her mind on an issue, especially in politics; a person who is neutral on a controversial issue.
 

Kushner
1. Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law, has conducted a "purge" of certain members of Trump's transition team, starting with Gov. Chris Christie who was fired as head of the transition last Friday. Former Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan and Matthew Freedman, a lobbyist who consults with corporations and foreign governments, were also fired. Both had ties to Christie.

2. The President-elect sent a tweet very late last night insisting that everything was going smoothly. “Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions. I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!”

3. Rebekah Mercer, a major donor to Trump’s presidential campaign and member of his executive transition team, told Republican operatives that she was having difficulty finding people interested in rank-and-file administration posts.

4. Trump took his first conversations with foreign leaders without reviewing official State Department briefing materials, and he broke from diplomatic practice by delaying conversations with close U.S. allies. Trump’s first call was with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, followed by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. British Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t get through to Trump until almost a day later.

5. As of yesterday, officials at both the Pentagon and State Department said they have heard nothing from Trump’s transition team.

Bannon
6. Trump’s newly-named chief strategist, Steve Bannon, helped turn Breitbart News into a platform for the white nationalist alt-right. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a possible choice for attorney general, was once turned down for a federal judgeship after several U.S. attorneys testified that he made racist comments in court. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s extensive business ties to Qatar and Venezuela complicate reports that he could be chosen as secretary of state.

7. Eliot A. Cohen, a former State Department official who had criticized Trump during the campaign but said after his election that he would keep an open mind about advising him, said yesterday on Twitter that he had changed his opinion. After speaking to the transition team, he wrote, "stay away!” adding, “They’re angry, arrogant, screaming ‘you LOST!’ Will be ugly.”

8. Donald Trump and some of his family went to dinner last night at the super-expensive 21 Club in Manhattan (where you can get a ribeye for $68) and said to the well-heeled diners, "We'll get your taxes down -- don't worry about it."

9. Vice President-elect Mike Pence -- who now heads the transition after the firing of Christie -- did his own purge, reportedly dismissing the several registered lobbyists who had moved in, leaving the transition "short-staffed" but closer to Trump’s campaign promise to “drain the swamp.”

Mnuchin
10. Former Goldman Sachs partner and Trump loyalist Steven Mnuchin is the frontrunner for treasury secretary. Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is now favored to serve as attorney general. Seen arriving at Trump Tower yesterday was one-time campaign rival Ted Cruz. Joining the national security transition team is Frank Gaffney Jr. -- labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes,” and who last year defended Trump’s proposed Muslim ban as “common sense.”

11. Rudy Giuliani let his freak flag fly and admitted in public that he's pretty sure he'll be picked as Secretary of State. John Bolton’s name also surfaced for that job. Republican Sen. Rand Paul immediately objected, calling Bolton “unfit” for the job. “You want to have a diplomat in charge of diplomacy. You don’t want a bomb thrower,” Paul told CNN. Then Paul lumped the former mayor of New York City in with Bolton: “I think Giuliani and Bolton are very similar. Bolton just has a more extensive cheerleading background with regard to war in the Middle East.”

12. Republicans will have a one-seat majority in the Senate, meaning any defection -- by a senator like Rand Paul -- could pose a serious roadblock to confirming Trump’s top Cabinet picks. 

13. One source with knowledge of the Trump transition described it as a "knife fight."

14. A particular challenge for the Trump transition is lack of clarity about the division of power among Reince Priebus, named Chief of Staff of the Trump White House; Steve Bannon, the Harvard-educated white supremacist and campaign Svengali; and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has Trump's ear like no one else. Another source tied to the transition described the resulting confusion as "buffoonery."

Flynn
15. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has emerged as a leading candidate for national security adviser. Flynn was a vocal and sometimes inflamatory advocate for Trump during the campaign. At the Republican National Convention he delivered a fiery speech attacking Clinton (as being in the enemy camp, along with Barack Hussein Obama) and waving the bloody flag of "American exceptionalism." He echoed Trump's rhetoric of crushing terrorism, cozying up to Russia, and dissing NATO.

16. Trump on the campaign trail promised repeatedly not to change Medicare. Now his official website says: modernize Medicare, so that it will be ready for the challenges with the coming retirement of the Baby Boom generation – and beyond.” "Modernize"? House Speaker Paul Ryan has a different term: "Medicare is going to have price controls.”

A nation and its Constitution are one. A nation and its Constitution and Donald Trump are one. (Apologies, Wallace Stevens!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Hampton/Maymead Asphalt Case Reaches Superior Court

Judge John O. Craig III of High Point heard what's become known as "the Maymead case" all day Monday and part of the morning today. At the adjourning of court, the judge said it was a "fascinating" case, well presented and well argued, and he planned to have a decision by the end of the week. Or possibly next week.

Judge Craig has handled some high-profile cases and is well respected. He struck me as attentive, smart, skeptical, and fair. He announced up front on Monday that he knew nothing about the case and had never before handled an appeal of a quasi-judicial board's decision. That was a signal for the lawyers to pitch in and educate the judge. (Verily, I was edified too. )

How will Judge Craig rule? Dunno and won't guess.

The Maymead case has amassed a file of over 5,000 pages. That's mainly the record of the 60 hours of testimony in front of the Watauga Board of Adjustment (BOA), which overturned County Planning Director Joe Furman's revocation of an asphalt permit claimed by Maymead Materials of Mountain City, Tenn. It's a complicated case with a multitude of moving parts.

One of the prime issues of law: Whether the Watauga BOA erred in assuming that "Johnny Hampton" and "JW Hampton Co." were legally the same entity. Johnny Hampton as an individual applied for and got the asphalt permit. JW Hampton Co. now claims ownership, which they also now claim to have sold to Maymead.

The JW Hampton Co. first leased and then sold some acerage to Maymead. In none of those conveyances is an asphalt permit mentioned as part of the lease or as part of a bill of sale. Maymead's lawyer argued that the company wouldn't have paid $1,600,000 for the property without the permit (and poo, said Maymead's lawyer, on the "gotcha technicality" of no explicit, written transference of ownership of the permit).

Johnny Hampton is the minority owner of JW Hampton Co. His daughter owns 51% of the stock and is the CFO. The JW Hampton Co. is a excavation and grading contractor, the biggest in Watauga County. The plaintiffs in this case ("petitioners") -- trying to stop the Maymead Asphalt plant -- maintain that the Hampton Company and Maymead cannot qualify for "vested rights," which the BOE found to be the case, no matter how much they've spent, because neither ever legally owned the permit.

The plaintiffs contend that Maymead and JW Hampton Co. are therefore "third parties," insofar as "third parties" can not earn vested rights. Vested rights are based on a substantial expenditure of money by the owner of the permit prior to any revocation. Jamie Whitlock of Asheville, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said he could find no case in North Carolina of vested rights accruing to a third party, nor did opposing counsel for Maymead produce one.

Mr. Whitlock also argued that the expenditures Maymead and JW Hampton Co. claimed as accruing toward vested rights were almost entirely for the crushing and recycling business as well as the grading business of JW Hampton Co., not progress toward building an asphalt plant, which Mr. Hampton, by his own admission, had abandoned until Maymead came along in mid-2014.  And since Maymead only leased the correct land in May of 2015, a month before the permit revocation, they had no time to (and did not)  accomplish any vesting.

Plaintiffs also contend that the BOA erred in another "finding of fact" -- that there had been substantial progress made on the building of the asphalt plant  -- in the form of a major expenditure of money -- four years after the issuance of the permit by Joe Furman. Judge Craig questioned the county's right to abruptly revoke the permit, in light of the failure of the Watauga County High Impact Land Use ordinance (HILU) to specify a process for revocation, a time-line to establish "lack of progress," and the grounds for revocation. Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four") argued persuasively that the Hampton standard of performance -- no appreciable, visible progress toward an asphalt plant after four years -- was valid grounds for revoking the permit. In fact, at the time of the revocation, Maymead had not shown that it had actually leased the land for which the proposed site plan for an asphalt plant had been submitted.

The HILU asphalt permit was granted to Johnny Hampton on June 20, 2011. In June 2015, Watauga County development officer Joe Furman revoked the permit -- "given the evidence that he had available at the time" -- because of no appreciable progress toward an asphalt plant. Some dirt had been moved (5% - 7% of what would have to be moved for the plant to operate, according to expert testimony given before the BOA). According to lawyer Eggers, Mr. Furman had every right to revoke the permit.

Jamie Whitlock for the plaintiffs referred to "the fictions" of Johnny Hampton that the Watauga BOA had relied on to rule in his favor -- a "narrative" constructed to explain away secret dealings done to avoid public scrutiny. The lawyer for Maymead, Mr. Tim Terrell of Greensboro, countered that the revocation of the permit had been the result of political pressure. Mr. Terrell wanted the judge to believe that a different standard of doing business prevailed in Watauga, where things aren't necessarily spelled out in writing (like the conveyance of an asphalt permit). Johnny Hampton did business on a handshake. (I believe Mr. Terrell was saying that mountain people aren't too observant of legal niceties and have "no filter" when "just talking," like when giving testimony to the BOA. The "benefit of the doubt" would therefore need to be paid, Mr. Terrell argued.)


Lawyer Terrell for Maymead repeatedly returned to this as his bedrock: the Watauga BOA, after 60 hours of extreme attentiveness, heard all the testimony and the same arguments that Judge Craig is hearing now and still voted that Mr. Furman had no right to revoke the permit. That struck me as a thin reed for heavy logic to lean on, since this whole trial is about the BOA's alleged "irrational" findings of fact in the case. Just because the BOE bought Maymead's argument doesn't prove anything.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Anne Marie Yates and Watauga GOP Accuse Eight of Election Fraud

Anne Marie Yates attempts to block
videotaping during a Dan Soucek town hall
meeting in December 2013
The leadership of the Watauga County Republican Party has challenged the constitutional rights of eight Democratic and Unaffiliated Watauga County voters who cast ballots in the November 8 elections.

These eight voters appeared in person during the Watauga early voting period to register and vote on the same day. The election judges at the site approved their completed state voter registration forms and their state-required documentation of proof of residency before allowing them to cast their ballots.

Those who have challenged these voters’ constitutional right to vote assert that these eight voters cast fraudulent ballots because their “voter verification cards” were returned as undeliverable, since the voter had not included his/her mailing address on the registration form. State voter registration forms do not require a mailing address for a valid registration.

On or about November 5, Kelsey Wright (past Chair of the ASU College Republicans) submitted a public records request for copies of verification cards that had been returned to the elections board as undeliverable from voters who cast one-stop ballots.

The next day, Wright called the Watauga Board of Elections and asked that the list she requested be sent to Anne Marie Yates (Chairwoman of the Watauga Republican Party) instead of to her.

Nine names were provided to Yates as having verification cards returned. All were Democrats except for one Unaffiliated voter and one Republican.

On November 8, seven Republicans appeared before a notary with the Miller & Johnson, PLLC, law firm (a law firm in which Nathan A. Miller, the Vice Chair of the local Republican Party, is a partner). The notary signed and witnessed their "Notices of Challenge.” The Republican voter whose verification card had been returned was not challenged.

The names of the challengers who disputed the constitutional voting rights of these eight voters are a matter of public record: Kelsey Lauren Crum Wright, Linda D. Byrd, Kim Brackett, Richard Lee Woods, Mark Templeton, James Marshall Lawrence, and Elizabeth M. Rupp.

State law requires that the eight voters who were challenged be notified that their right to vote has been officially called into question and that they have a right to be heard at the local Board of Elections meeting on November 18.  The state requirement for notification to these voters is “achieved” by mailing them a notice of that challenge to the same address that has already been determined as “undeliverable.”

The challengers of these voters, we assume, will attend the November 18 hearing to explain under oath:

(1) Why they decided to challenge the constitutional rights of the particular voter they singled out to contest;

(2) Why and how they acted in a coordinated fashion to challenge these voters; and

(3) Why, considering their significant concerns with voter integrity, they decided not to challenge the Republican whose verification card was also returned as undeliverable.

Under state law, any person who knowingly makes a false allegation against someone else's right to vote can be found guilty of a Class I felony.