Thursday, August 17, 2017

Talk Is Cheap

"Five armed services chiefs — of the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marines and the National Guard Bureau — posted statements on social media condemning neo-Nazis and racism in uncompromising terms. They did not mention Mr. Trump by name...."

"Republicans, too, issued new denunciations of the hatred on display in Charlottesville, although some remained vague about Mr. Trump’s remarks."

Fox News host Shepard Smith "said that he had been unable to find a single Republican to come on-air to defend Mr. Trump’s remarks."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced “hate and bigotry” in a statement on Wednesday but made no mention of Mr. Trump.

"The president’s top advisers described themselves as stunned, despondent and numb. Several said they were unable to see how Mr. Trump’s presidency would recover, and others expressed doubts about his capacity to do the job." (Reporting by Michael D. Shear, Glenn Thrush, and Maggie Haberman)

But Some People Acted
The CEO's of Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum, titans of business who were brought on during the transition as high profile backers of the president's agenda, decided yesterday to disband in order to "condemn" -- that was their word -- Trump's equivocation that anti-fascists were just as bad as white nationalists.

"There really was nothing to debate," said one member of the Strategic and Policy Forum who described the president's fiery Tuesday news conference as a "tripwire." (CNBC)

CNBC broke the news that the CEOs were jumping ship, so Trump rushed to Twitter to fire them all before they could quit.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Jonathan Jordan Will Once Again Face a Primary Opponent

Robert Block, a student at Appalachian State University, has announced a bid to unseat NC House Rep. Jonathan Jordan in next year's Republican primary. Block is 19 years old.

He has a website and a platform that heavily stresses support for public education (as did Lew Hendricks, Jordan's Republican opponent in 2016).

"Very Fine People on Both Sides!" Trump's Clear Signal to White Supremacists

Following Trump's third, angry statement about the spectacle in Charlottesville yesterday, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke whipped out his smart phone and tweeted, "Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”

The truth, as someone suggested, had set him free.

Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush reported that "members of the president’s staff, stunned and disheartened, said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private."

Eric Cantor, the former Republican congressman and Very Big Deal from Virginia, who's also Jewish, said Trump's efforts to equate the actions of counterprotesters with the neo-Nazis were “unacceptable.” “There’s no moral equivalence,” Cantor said.

Trump's rant yesterday sparked instant condemnation, especially from fellow Republicans (who are watching the intellectual underpinnings of their ideology turn to ca-ca, along with their electoral prospects):
Speaker Paul D. Ryan called white supremacy “repulsive” and said “there can be no moral ambiguity.” 
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, tweeted: “Blaming ‘both sides’ for #Charlottesville?! No.” 
Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said white nationalists in Charlottesville were “100% to blame” and continued in a subsequent tweet: “The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win. We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected.”
Senator Todd Young of Indiana, a freshman Republican, wrote: “This is simple: we must condemn and marginalize white supremacist groups, not encourage and embolden them.”
Yesterday, Trump was in an emboldening frame of mind, which is obviously his native (pure white) and habitual condition.

Newly hired White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly
studies the floor (and his future) during Trump's
impromptu tantrum yesterday.
Photo by Al Drago, New York Times

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Durham Civil War Soldier Statue

I agree with Gov. Roy Cooper: There's probably a better way to do this.

Like getting these Civil War symbols off public land and into museums or private venues.

But this particular metal statue -- which stood there in front of the Durham County Courthouse since 1924, looking as solid as the Confederate dollar -- turned out to be a cheap (zinc?) hollow casting, part of a mass-production made during the first two decades of the 20th century to satisfy the politics of that time. The politics of that time have not aged all that well into the 21st Century.

Work of art or commercialized pop culture from the Jim Crow South?

These statues, or others like them, went up all over and by the hundreds in the first two decades of the 20th Century. (The McNeel Marble Works in Marietta, Ga., did most of the marble ones, the famous "Standing Soldiers" and other icons, but this statue in Durham was cheap pot metal.) At the turn of the Century, these statues were prideful reactions to Northern industrial superiority and reassertions of segregationist ideology -- "Jim Crow." The money was often raised by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, but sometimes local governments wanted to jump on board for obvious reasons.

In North Carolina particularly, that era followed the brief power of the Fusion Party, a coalition of populists and black and white Republicans who swept state elections in 1894, including putting approximately 1,000 black officials into office. US Congressman George H. White was one of them. The Democratic Party of that day was suddenly, conspicuously, and pretty much totally out of power everywhere in North Carolina. There's usually been a strong reactionary white wave against any conspicuous advancement of colored people (and those waves right up to the present often include traditional "Democrats" in the reactionary voting bloc). The Civil Rights movement in the '60s produced a Jesse Helms. The election of Barack Obama brought the Tea Party sweep of 2010. So can't you guess what happened at the turn of the 20th Century? Following two virtual landslides for Fusionists in the elections of 1894 and 1896, the Fusion Party was swept into oblivion in the election of 1898. Boom! Gone! And the broom used in the sweep was overt white racism:
In the 1898 “White Supremacy Campaign,” led by future U.S. Senator Furnifold M. Simmons (1854-1940), chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee, the Democratic Party used identity politics to regain power. “Negro rule” and “Negro domination” became the catchphrases of the campaign. Josephus Daniels (1862-1948), editor of the Raleigh News and Observer, was the unabashed press spokesman for white supremacy. Red Shirts, reminiscent of the Klan, intimidated blacks and thereby limited the number of Republican votes. (North Carolina History Project)
Okay, motivation is one thing, but a God-fearing and church-going populace that didn't have anything to do with putting up those statues is allowed to view them as an honored and important part of their history, speaking to sacrifice and pain and loss and not the rest of it. I certainly see the statues as part of history, too, and I haven't been inclined to bash history or attempt to erase it. The psychic juice released by the fantasy of "the lost cause" is powerful ju-ju and lives today for the Alt-Right too -- "You will not replace us!" The pious matrons of the United Daughters of the Confederacy lacked the wherewithal to question the true ingredients of that "cause," its antecedents, and its effects. I just don't know how much history the Alt-Right understands. (Well, it takes time to see yourself. We've all got our bubbles.)

The ideology of the white Democratic Party of 1900 and 1910 and 1920 has been spectacularly replaced in North Carolina politics by the Republican Party of 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016, busying itself at knocking down and doing it like a raiding party of Vikings. Ta-Nehisi Coates captured very nicely the hidden agenda behind the "heritage not hate" argument: "The heritage of white supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder."

Monday, August 14, 2017

Trump and History

To cut to the chase: Trump knows as much about history as a dog knows his father.

In the statement Trump read aloud on Saturday about the violence in Charlottesville (a part of it not usually replayed on TV news), he said "We must ... cherish our history." That's an interesting line, as it shows up all the time as camouflage on the Web and elsewhere: "We're just celebrating white heritage. We're just honoring history." Well, particularly, the specific history of pain and loss of property by Civil War Americans defending their right to own and sweat human beings for a profit. 

L to R: Trump, Bannon, Gorka, Miller
Josh Marshall asked a crucial question yesterday: Who wrote that statement about "cherishing history" for Trump. He didn't write it himself. He can't write. He can barely read.

Was it White House adviser Sebastian Gorka, who reportedly has Trump's ear as some kind of international sage. Very recent headline about Gorka: "White House Aide Says People Should Stop Criticizing White Supremacists So Much."

Or was it NortoriousSB, Stephen Bannon? Everybody knows his fondness and nurturing care for the "Alt-Right."

Or was the author the other Stephen? Stephen Miller, the man who wrote Trump's Inauguration speech ("Darkness Falls") and the subsequent Trump Anti-Immigration Presidential Order that crashed. This Steve hung out at Duke University not long ago with Richard B. Spencer, the now-president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank. Richard Spencer's big media moment came soon after the election of Trump and in a Washington venue to boot: "At a National Policy Institute conference, [Spencer] quoted from Nazi propaganda and denounced Jews. In response to his cry "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!", a number of his supporters gave the Nazi salute and chanted in a similar fashion to the Sieg heil chant used at the Nazis' Nuremberg rallies. Spencer has also refused to denounce Adolf Hitler."

Jeffrey C. Billman, in The Independent Weekly, threw down the gauntlet to a major political party that is now left holding the coats of resurgent white supremacists:
At minimum, every decent Republican—looking at you, Tillis and Burr—should be demanding that Trump immediately fire Gorka, Miller, and Bannon .... In any normal administration, Republican or Democrat, [people] half that repugnant would have been prevented from getting anywhere near the Oval Office. In Trump’s, they’re top advisers.
History, who hasn't been introduced yet to Mr. Trump, will not be kind in telling this tale of a bad seed moving into the White House.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Keep Your Friends Close and Your Racists Closer

“I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency"
--White supremacist David Duke, responding on Twitter to Donald Trump's pansy-ass rejection of violence yesterday

The Daily Stormer, a leading neo-Nazi website, reacted to Trump's "everybody's at fault but don't let the words white supremacists escape my lips" response to the events in Charlottesville, published the following:

Trump has emboldened, if not empowered, a native nastiness that we fought a European war to defeat.

Deanna Ballard May Have a Tough Row to Hoe

Deanna Ballard
Shirley Randleman
The Mount Airy News reported that some preliminary redistricting maps (still kept quite secret from the voting public) may indeed redraw a Watauga County district and cause a good deal of angst for Sen. Deanna Ballard.

The beans were spilled by Republican Rep. Sarah Stevens, who represents Surry and part of Wilkes Co. and who also serves on the closeted group of General Assembly members who are redrawing NC House and Senate districts to comply with an order from the federal courts. In other words, Rep. Sarah Stevens ought to know what she's talking about.

'Pears that it's likely that the redrawing will force incumbent Sen. Deanna Ballard of Watauga into the same senate district as incumbent Sen. Shirley Randleman of Wilkes County. It's called "double-bunking," and in the past the Republican map drawers used it effectively against Democrats. If what Rep. Stevens suggests comes to pass, Ballard and Randleman will have to duke it out in a Republican primary next year.

Not guessing how that primary contest might turn out. Randleman has a good deal more seniority than Ballard and a higher profile in the General Assembly.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Blessed Be the Peacemakers

Certainly is instructive to our Christian faith to find out -- via a Texas Baptist, no less! -- that God has given express permission to Trump to nuke North Korea.

Can the rapture be far behind?

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Mueller Means Business

Happened a couple of weeks ago, but news is just now emerging:
FBI agents raided the Alexandria home of President Trump’s former campaign chairman late last month, using a search warrant to seize documents and other materials, according to people familiar with the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Federal agents appeared at Paul Manafort’s home without advance warning in the predawn hours of July 26, the day after he met voluntarily with the staff for the Senate Intelligence Committee....
...The search warrant indicates investigators may have argued to a federal judge they had reason to believe Manafort could not be trusted to turn over all records in response to a grand jury subpoena.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

NC House Republicans Are Successfully Strangling the Craft Beer Industry

This will be an issue in the 2018 General Assembly elections. Or it should be.

The NC Beer and Wine Wholesalers is a powerful lobby in Raleigh. They represent the big national brewers, the swill-makers that are most threatened by the growth of small, local "craft" brewers like Olde Mecklenburg brewery in Charlotte. Potentially like Appalachian Mountain Brewery and Lost Province Brewery in Boone, if they wanted to grow and get state-wide distribution.

The NC Beer and Wine Wholesalers control distribution, and their big industry members have no interest in helping small local businesses sell their product. So an attempt to change the ABC laws in North Carolina this year met a stone wall manned by Republican members of the General Assembly who were receiving, collectively, some $90,000 in campaign contributions from the NC Beer and Wine Wholesalers PAC.

Call it "campaign contributions" if you like. I call it bribes.

The recipients of this large money did what the wholesalers wanted: they stripped a provision from the ABC omnibus bill that would have raised the legal cap on how much beer local craft breweries can "self-distribute" and thus stay out of the iron grip of the distribution monopoly maintained by the Beer and Wine Wholesalers.

Legal bribery and an absolute crime against North Carolina small businesses.

Congrats, America! You Withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords, and Here's Your Reward

Unprecedented droughts. Worse and worser heat waves. Rain "bombs" and fiercer storms slashing the landscape. The average temperature in the United States "has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years," according to a comprehensive climate report paid for, researched, and written by the U.S. government -- "Climate Science Special Report."

That report was just leaked to the NYTimes because some of the scientists involved in its writing are fearful that the current administration with suppress it. Or "edit" it for content to please the Koch Bros.

With no interest in science at the highest levels of our leadership, and with no chance of changing that head-in-the-sand status quo for the foreseeable future, we are so thoroughly f***ed. To paraphrase the coroner in "The Wizard of Oz," we're not only merely f***ed. We're really most sincerely f***ed.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

"Shadow Candidates": Republican Long Knives

Mike Pence is running for president. So is John Kasich. U.N. Ambassador Niki Haley has hired a pollster. Senators Tom Cotton (who's a polite young man) and Ben Sasse (who's openly defiant of Trump) have both been to Iowa Republican Party events. William Kristol, editor at large of The Weekly Standard, said he had begun informal conversations about creating a “Committee Not to Renominate the President”

(Hattip: Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, for their reporting based on "interviews with more than 75 Republicans at every level of the party, elected officials, donors and strategists.")

“They see weakness in this president,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. “Look, it’s not a nice business we’re in.”

Pence is Trump's vice president and shouldn't be visibly running just six months into a first term. So he's not visibly running, but make no mistake: He's doing political calisthenics to be in shape should Trump not be able to continue. He's "party-building,"ostensibly, but also raising money for himself and displaying a grounded, adult, and credible alternative to Trump.
... has been more defiant: The Ohio governor, who ran unsuccessfully in 2016, has declined to rule out a 2020 campaign in multiple television interviews, and has indicated to associates that he may run again, even if Mr. Trump seeks another term.
Mr. Kasich, who was a sharp critic of the Republicans’ failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act with deep Medicaid cuts, intends to step up his advocacy by convening a series of policy forums, in Ohio and around the country.
"It may get worse," said Jay Bergman, leading Republican donor. "Grievous setbacks" in the midterm elections of 2018 "could bolster challengers" in the party.

"The Shadow Candidates," Martin and Burns dubbed 'em. Long may they thole, and toughly!

Friday, August 04, 2017

Mob Action

Last night at his triumphalist rally in West Virginia, Trump opened up a new counter-strike against the Mueller investigation;
"They [Democrats] can't beat us at the voting booths so they are trying to cheat you out of the ... future that you want. They are trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution."
We well know that some 60 percent of West Virginia is part of the 36 percent of the American voters who still support Trump, so that rallying cry -- "they're trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want" -- is calculated to get the cheers that Trump craves in a state where the majority still support him. He needs constant flattery to feel validated, and he doesn't travel anywhere that validation isn't guaranteed.

But that line also suggests that he's perfectly willing to stir up the mob to defend him. How far is he willing to go? God only knows, but we'll find out.

Because the Mueller noose is tightening. He's empaneled his own grand jury in the District of Columbia, and he's apparently deep into Trump's tangled finances. Furthermore, the Republicans in the Senate at least -- who all have to run state-wide and not in gerrymandered safe havens -- are clearly done with his shenanigans. They are not adjourning the Senate during August so that Trump can't do any "recess appointments." Ouch. That's a direct slap at the leader of their party.

Thom Tillis
Two different bipartisan pairs of senators have drafted two separate pieces of legislation to prevent Trump from premptorily firing Robert Mueller. One of those bipartisan pairs includes an unlikely senator -- Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who hasn't heretofore shown much of a pulse. Both versions of a Stop Trump From Firing Mueller Act of 2017 would end the executive branch’s ability to fire a special counsel, by putting the question to a three-judge panel from the federal courts. Ouch again. That Tillis is willing to raise his hand in this manner against Trump suggests that he no longer fears retaliation.

Trump's mob actions notwithstanding, it appears that Republican senators intend to see the Mueller investigation through to its end, whatever that may entail. I think they'd probably prefer to have Mike Pence in the Oval Office. Maybe all of us would. Or maybe it isn't even a matter of preference but a matter of the life or death of our republic.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

"As Any Father Would"

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
--John 8:44 

Trump lies out of habit and out of need. Because he's always lied all his life, it comes easy. He lied to clinch deals, to wow and charm potential marks. He lied to pump up his own magnificence. But right now he lies to deflect the investigations into what he did with the Russians leading up to the election and the inauguration.

August 1, 2017: Sarah Huckleberry Sanders admitted yesterday that indeed her boss Trump had participated in the drafting of Junior Trump's original statement about the meeting with the Russian lawyer (and, with, as it turned out, former present Russian agents):
July 8, 2017, Donald Trump Jr. said: It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up. I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.
That statement was issued shortly after the New York Times broke the story that a month earlier, back in June, Junior and the Russian lawyer met in Trump Tower. It had been a secret.

As Huckleberry Sanders said yesterday, very sentence in the statement is technically a true statement (sorta, except for one -- see below), yet those sentences were carefully composed to deceive. Trump Senior has now admitted that he helped draft the statement, "as any father would."

July 9, 2017: Statement above becomes inoperative. New York Times has followed up with evidence that the third sentence was deceptive. The real subject of the meeting was dirt on Hillary. Following the Times scoop, Junior issues a new statement, admitting only that he took a Russian meeting because he was promised "information helpful to the campaign." ("I snapped at the Putin bait," Junior admitted.)

July 10, 2017: Times scoops again: emails exist between Junior and a go-between who was setting up the meeting. Junior has now lawyered up, and his lawyer issues a statement: Yes, there are emails, but they're inconsequential, and the president didn't know a thing about any of this.

July 11, 2017: Junior releases the secret email (first heard about the day before) to pre-empt the Times, which was just minutes away from publishing the texts. The truth about the Russian lawyer meeting is now several blocks south of the "true" sentences in the original statement above.

The Father of Lies
The problem for this presidency is that the lies are being exposed and debunked with amazing ease, not to mention digital speed. Trump's credibility was never good. It's totally in the toilet now, and where it's hurting him the worst is in Congress. Republican senators don't fear him, and Republican House members are beginning to fear him less.

Sean Sullivan yesterday detailed the open opposition to Trump among some Republican senators, a defiant attitude which appears to be spreading. For example, there's growing bipartisan activity in both Senate and House to bypass Trump's rhetoric for "repeal and replace" and find ways to fix the problems with Obamacare. That's hopeful.

If you're caught lying repeatedly and you're also putatively the Leader of the Free World, the consequences -- reactions, interactions, retractions -- weigh far more than if you're the lying drunk at end of the bar. One might say that a president caught repeatedly lying has begun already to quack like a lame duck.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

NCGA Redistricting Case: Judges Not Amused by Gen'l Assembly Foot-Dragging

There'll be no special NC House and Senate elections in 2017, but yesterday the three-judge panel overseeing the illegal racial gerrymander of House and Senate voting districts scolded the Republican leaders of the General Assembly for not "being serious" about correcting the unconstitutional abuses of their power. The judges ordered new district maps by September 1.

To recap:
In August 2016 -- almost a year ago -- the same three-judge panel ruled 28 NC House and Senate districts illegally gerrymandered 
By November 2016, the General Assembly had taken no action to redraw the districts, so the three judges ordered new maps and a special election for March 2017. GA leaders appealed to the US Supreme Court
In June 2017, the US Supremes unanimously affirmed the ruling of the three judges that the districts were illegal racial gerrymanders, but they stayed the order for special elections in March.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice and others sued to force the GA to draw new districts, while the GA asked for an extension until November 15 to produce the maps.

Yesterday the three judges said no to the GA's request and demanded new maps by September 1. The estimate on the number of districts that will have to be redrawn to accommodate the 28 specific gerrymanders ranges as high as 116. “We agree with Plaintiffs that the General Assembly already has had ample time to enact a remedial redistricting plan,” the judges said in their unanimous ruling. “We also agree that constitutionally adequate districts should be enacted as quickly as possible to protect the rights of North Carolina citizens and to minimize any chilling effect on political participation attributable to the continued absence of a districting plan in the face of a finding of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.”
The court also ruled that the GA must submit the new maps to the judges within a week following September 1 and that plaintiffs will have until September 15 to object to any problems and submit their own alternative maps.
The fact that the Republican leaders in the GA have hired the same gerrymandering expert that they used the first time for drawing the illegal districts does not suggest that we'll see fair districts this time, but the judges have warned that the new maps will be under special scrutiny.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Interesting Court Case

A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that the First Amendment’s free speech clause prohibits officeholders from blocking social media users -- particularly in this case, Facebook users -- on the basis of their views.

Davison v. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors involved the chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. According to Mark Joseph Stern, the chair of the board runs a Facebook page to keep in touch with her constituents. In one post to the page, she wrote, “I really want to hear from ANY Loudoun citizen on ANY issues, request, criticism, compliment, or just your thoughts.” She explicitly encouraged Loudoun residents to reach out to her through her “county Facebook page.”

When a county resident did reach out and alleged that the county school board was corrupt, the board chair deleted the post and blocked the person from further comments.

The federal judge ruled she couldn't do that. "Viewpoint discrimination" is prohibited by public officials under the First Amendment, the judge said.

Well now! 

According to Stern, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University has sued Trump on behalf of Twitter users the president has blocked because they replied to his tweets with comments that criticized, mocked, or disagreed with him. Trump's blocking of those people amounted to an unconstitutional effort to suppress dissent, according to the lawsuit.

Whether the Loudoun County case is analogous and sets a judicial precedent remains to be seen.

But Trump's wholesale blocking of his critics from responding negatively to his Twitter rants does seem like more imperial presidency at work, especially in light of Davison v. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

Yes, Ignorance CAN Kill

“The dysfunction is beyond strange — it’s dangerous."
--Alex Conant, Republican strategist, describing the chaos in the Trump White House

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Seven Days in July

We must applaud those scamps over at AMC who're currently running "Seven Days in May," the 1964 political thriller that John Frankenheimer made about an attempted military takeover of the government of the United States. Great cast, great noir lighting, an edge-of-the-seat narrative, and a very interesting choice for AMC right now. A programmer over there might be making a comment on current events.

Back in "Seven Days in May" time, the treasonous General James Scott, head of the Joint Chiefs, sets up a military coup because a very unpopular nuclear arms treaty with Russia has been negotiated and signed by a very unpopular and weak president. The coup doesn't succeed.

Was the programmer at AMC thinking of the military generals who head several crucial arms of the Trump government? Those are arms of government, incidentally, with plenty of arms (if you catch my meaning). A Marine general just became Trump's chief of staff. Presumably, he'll be presiding over the central brain of the entire Trump administration.

A military coup today? What would be the trigger? Trump is soft on Russia like the president in "Seven Days in May," but that wouldn't do it. One too many irrational, dangerous decisions with direct impact on military personnel might, like, say, suddenly banning several thousand uniform service people because they happen to be transgender. Or ordering military operations that cause death because of stupidity.

Maybe all it would take would be a constitutional crisis wherein a general understood the fulsome danger to the Republic from an impulsive, authoritarian ignoramus?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Well ... McCain!

Perhaps mortality focused his energies and his resolve, and he came through like he said he would. Perhaps he didn't want a legacy of killing health care for millions as he approaches his own battle with an aggressive brain cancer.

“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict party-line basis without a single Republican vote,” he said in a statement explaining his vote. “We should not make the mistakes of the past.”

Two votes were called just after midnight. The first was a Democratic motion to refer the "skinny repeal" back to committee. It failed. The second vote was to pass the "skinny repeal." If you were watching, you know that the second vote prompted a full-court press by Republican brass on Senator John McCain.

McCain was seated next to Sen. Lindsay Graham who had derided the "skinny repeal" earlier in the day as a fraud but who had decided to vote for it anyway because he thought he had a promise from House Speaker Paul Ryan that it would never become law. Hell of a way to govern: "I'm voting for this law because I know it'll never become law."

Lisa Murkowski, one of the three no votes, approached McCain who smiled up at her and gave her a thumbs-down. Susan Collins joined the conversation. All three no votes were now talking.

From the well of the chamber, Majority Leader McConnell dispatched the other Arizona senator Jeff Flake to lobby McCain. McCain wouldn't look at him and continued talking to Murkowski and Collins.

According to reporter Ed O'Keefe, "That left Flake, one of the most polite members of the Senate, leaning into the conversation uncomfortably with a pained look on his face, as if he had to tell his father that he had run over the family dog with his car."

Seeing that Flake was getting nowhere, Vice President Mike Pence joined the conversation, and for 21 minutes he cajoled McCain, Murkowski, and Collins until he was pulled away for a phone call from the White House.

At 1:10 a.m. McCain crossed the Senate chamber and talked to Chuck Schumer and other Democrats. Sen. Dianne Feinstein gave him a big hug. As the vote on passage began, McCain was again off the floor talking to V.P. Pence, but he returned at 1:29 a.m. and delivered his no vote to the clerk.

There were audible gasps in the chamber.

Wonder how his best friend Lindsay Graham feels this morning, having witnessed an actual act of courage last night.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Our President Is a Thug

Trump is catching flak from conservatives because of his attacks on conservative darling Jeff Sessions. So what's a bully to do?

You veer right and slug the weakest kid on the playground and invite all the other bullies to pile on.

Everyone with a conscience knows why Trump suddenly and without warning banned transgender persons from the armed forces. He did so without consulting anybody with actual responsibility for the thousands -- yes, thousands -- of transgender persons already serving, many of them overseas. According to Davis and Cooper,
[Sec of Defense General Jim] Mattis, who was on vacation, was silent on the new policy. People close to the defense secretary said he was appalled that Mr. Trump chose to unveil his decision in tweets, in part because of the message they sent to transgender active-duty service members, including those deployed overseas, that they were suddenly no longer welcome....
Some 2,000 to 11,000 active-duty troops are transgender, according to a 2016 RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Pentagon, though estimates of the number of transgender service members have varied widely, and are sometimes as high as 15,000.
Who does that thing?

A man (?) who never served a day in the military. A man who needed a convenient scapegoat he could sic his militantly anti-LGBT followers on. A man who needed a giant distraction. A man with no soul, no humanity, no decency, no idea of the pain and fear he was inflicting on fellow citizens.

He deserves to go to hell, either in this life or beyond. I trust that it will be in this life, so we can all watch.

Same Old B.S. Afoot in Raleigh

The Republican overlords in Raleigh whose 2011 redistricting of NC House and Senate seats was declared illegal and unconstitutional in the courts have hired the same guy who drew those illegal districts to draw new ones. If at first you don't succeed...

To be precise, 28 of the General Assembly districts drawn by hired gun Tom Hofeller in 2011 were declared an illegal "racial gerrymander," but the Republican leadership itself admits that some 116 districts will have to be redrawn, because, you know, the domino principle.

The battle over redistricting is also back in court today in Greensboro federal court, where a three-judge panel will hear arguments about how quickly the redistricting must be done and whether there might still be mandated House and Senate elections this year for those 116 redrawn districts.

Doubt that House District 93 (Jonathan Jordan) would be impacted, but Senate District 45 (Deanna Ballard) might be.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"He Has Moved the Bar of Outrage"

Peter Baker, and the signs of the times:
GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Remember that time President George W. Bush told his attorney general to investigate Al Gore for his “crimes”? Or President Barack Obama called for a Justice Department prosecution of John McCain?
No. Neither thing ever happened.

Trump has:
refused to release his tax returns 
refused to divest from his private businesses
put his son-in-law and daughter on the White House staff
without proof, accused his predecessor of illegally tapping his phones
fired the F.B.I. director who was leading an investigation into certain of his associates
 undercut his “beleaguered” attorney general in public, presumably so he'll resign so Trump can appoint a more compliant A.G., who'll behave like an employee 
On the same day Trump called for a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton by his Justice Department, he also asserted that he had the “complete power to pardon” his friends, relatives, and very possibly himself if necessary, to short-circuit a special counsel’s investigation into any possible collusion between his team and Russia.

This can't go on. This must not continue.

Baden-Powell Is Rolling Over in His Grave

Boy Scout Oath: "On my honor, I will do my best. To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."

Last night at the Boy Scout Jamboree and for over 35 minutes, "the president threatened to fire one of his Cabinet members, attacked former president Barack Obama, dissed his former rival Hillary Clinton, marveled at the size of the crowd, warned the boys about the 'fake media,' mocked pollsters and pundits, and said more people would say 'Merry Christmas' under his presidency. He also told a rambling tale about a famous, now-deceased home builder that meandered from a Manhattan cocktail party to a yacht and then to places that the president would only allow the boys’ imaginations to go." (John Wagner and Jenna Johnson)

Fine role model, that.

A Platform Democrats Can Run On in 2018

1. Crack Down on the Abuse of Economic and Political Power

"The extensive concentration of power in the hands of a few corporations hurts wages, undermines job growth, and threatens to squeeze out small businesses, suppliers, and new, innovative competitors."

2. Crack Down on Higher Prices for Practically Everything
"Over the last thirty years, courts and permissive regulators have allowed large companies to get larger, resulting in higher prices and limited consumer choice in daily expenses such as travel, cable, and food and beverages. And because concentrated market power leads to concentrated political power, these companies deploy armies of lobbyists to increase their stranglehold on Washington."

3. Limit Large Mergers that Unfairly Consolidate Corporate Power
"Currently, it is too easy for companies to unfairly harm competition by merging, and unfairly squeezing competitors, workers, customers, and suppliers."

The concentration of economic power has caused higher prices, lower pay, the squeezing out of competition, and increasing inequality. Look what's happened since the corporate tail started wagging the government dog:

Airlines: Despite a rapid decline in the cost of fuel, ticket prices continue to rise while the quality of service declines.

Cable/Telecom: Access to cable and internet services is critical for American consumers, workers, and small businesses to communicate and compete in today’s economy. Yet today, the market for those services is so concentrated that consumers rarely have any meaningful choice of provider, and prices are high enough to be prohibitive for many. In over 50 million households, Americans have no choice at all for internet provider; they are forced to pay the exorbitant price their single carrier requires, if they get service at all. 

Beer: As of 2016, five breweries controlled over 50 percent of global beer production compared to ten companies in 2004. Although there is a burgeoning craft brewery industry, these small businesses are under threat from large legacy brewers that are acquiring their craft competitors or trying to block craft brewers’ access to the marketplace. That is especially true in North Carolina.

Food Prices Generally: You get your food from farmers. Farmers grow your food from seeds. The consolidation of six agricultural giants is set to threaten the safety of food and agriculture in America. The merger of Dow with DuPont, Monsanto with Bayer AG, and Syngenta with ChemChina, will result in the control of more than 61 percent of commercial seed sales and 80 percent of the U.S. corn seed market. These mergers take place as countless farmers in rural America struggle to adapt to a declining farm economy. This corporate takeover of the farm industry will not only hurt small-town, family operated farms, who will have to pay more for seeds, but it will also raise food prices vastly limiting consumer choice. 

Eyeglasses: The current average price of eyeglasses is now at $400With more than 200 million Americans affected by vision loss, eyeglass affordability has become a critical consumer issue that affects the entire nation. Eyeglasses are a necessity for many Americans, but due to consolidation and concentration in the supply chain, they are increasingly difficult to afford.

We the voters can do something about this lopsided abuse of power. We can. We must.

Hattip: "A Better Deal"

Monday, July 24, 2017

Raleigh "Pork"

CLEVELAND -- An unincorporated community in western Johnston County will receive state money for downtown revitalization this year, although residents aren’t sure where their “downtown” is located.

North Carolina legislators this summer earmarked $30,000 for Cleveland, a fast-growing crossroads community of shopping centers and subdivisions that does not govern itself and does not have a traditional downtown.

The money surprised Johnston County leaders and residents. They hadn’t applied for the money, and so far no one has received direction on what it is meant for or any regulations for its use....
Only deep in this article do we get around to asking who could possibly be responsible for raining $30,000 onto a place that has no government entity capable of spending it.

Was it Sen. Brent Jackson who represents Johnston County and serves on the Senate appropriations committee?  "He said he was not involved in drafting this portion of the budget."

Was it House member Donna White, who represents Johnston County in the other body? She did not return calls from the reporter. Hmmm.

Why engineer pork for your home district and not want to take credit for it? Because it's irrational and shameful?

ead more here:

Jared the Chocolate Soldier -- Keep Refrigerated!

Prince Jared testifies today before the Senate Intelligence Committee and tomorrow before the House Intelligence Committee, both testimonies closed to the public and the press, which suggests that Jared's actually a chocolate soldier and might melt under too much light. We hear he'll not be asked to testify under an oath of truthfulness, which suggests another whole raft of problems with this appendage of a president who makes shit up constantly.

The U.S. Code section 1621 covers lying to Congress under oath, with penalties of up to five years in jail. But another statute, section 1001 of Title 18, requires no oath-taking for a charge of perjury: "Whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the government of the United States, knowingly and willfully falsifies or conceals information, including before a congressional committee's inquiry, may also be fined or imprisoned up to five years."

So it shouldn't matter today if Jared doesn't raise his right hand and promise to tell the truth. Lies will bite him in the butt anyway, eventually.

So what's he going to testify to? According to an 11-page document he released this morning, he never "colluded" (and I trust that someone will ask him how he defines that word), and "I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.” That second claim begs the question: Did you try to rely on Russian funds, and what did trying entail?

Jared says he also wasn't trying to set up a secret back channel with Russia. The Russian ambassador certainly thought that was exactly what he was trying to do.

Russian Ambassador Kislyak subsequently requested that Jared meet with Sergey Gorkov, a Kremlin-linked banker with “a direct line to the Russian President." Jared claims he took the meeting out of courtesy and did not discuss American sanctions against the bank that Gorkov represents. That testimony also doesn't comport with reported facts.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Republicans Find a Vestigial Spine About Trump-Russia

Senate and House Republicans have apparently reached a deal on a Russian sanctions bill to punish Putin and his boys for their interference in our election. The Republican Congressional leaders have done so over the objections of Trump, who does not like that the new bill would tie his hands, make it impossible for him to unilaterally lift sanctions on Russia.

Six months into the Trump presidency and Republicans seem to be less than impressed with the leader of their party. They're certainly not afraid of him any more.

The two houses intend to pass the new language soon, and then Trump will be faced with a decision: veto it or sign it? Taking bets right now on which path he'll opt for. (He's Putin's boy.)

Sarah Huckabee Sanders now says that Trump will sign the bill. Almost simultaneously, on yesterday's morning shows, The Mooch quoted the president (first as "an anonymous source" and then by name) as continuing to disbelieve that there was ever Russian hacking of our election.

So ... just trying to keep up with the bizarre logic of Donald J. Trump ... he is prepared to sign a law extending sanctions on the Russians for the hacking of our election that he believes never happened.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Tillis and Burr Duck the Public on Health Care Debate

Carolyn Kaster, AP
"Another congressional recess has passed without Sen. Richard Burr or Sen. Thom Tillis holding public town halls. North Carolinians have begged for these forums to address the uncertain future of the Affordable Care Act, yet it seems that our senators would rather be anywhere else." --Sarah Squire

Believe that qualifies as an understatement.

Today in Slapstick Comedy

Obviously, Trump has something much to hide, and obviously, the key to unlock those secrets lies in his "finances," and obviously, Robert Mueller is on the trail and may already have those savagely guarded tax returns.

Which is why Trump must and will find a way to fire Robert Mueller. What comes after that induces both fear and loathing.

Which brings us to the new White House personality hired to "message" all that is about to happen, Anthony Scaramucci, the new communications director minister of propaganda. He popped up yesterday and held a slick 30 minute Q&A with the White House press, blew them all a kiss when he exited, and tried his Long Islander best to charm the bloomers off every living soul in that room. He's Leonardo DiCaprio's younger, less dissipated brother in "The Wolf of Wall Street."

What particular reality does Scaramucci inhabit? "...Scaramucci ... suggested his role would be to unshackle an already unfettered president," wrote Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman. Because Trump has been so repressed lately? No, because you're only as popular as your last public appearance, and a good publicist knows what excites the masses.

The name Scaramucci sounds familiar because in European circuses there's often a clown named "Scaramouche," a name which is a corruption of the Italian Scaramuccia, a stock character in knock-about comedy routines. Scaramuccia is a pompous clown and always gets his comeuppance, usually administered by a rival clown, the clever Harlequin. Scaramouch must suffer the indignity of licks from a "slapstick" and hence "slapstick comedy."

So Anthony "The Mooch" Scaramucci becomes Scaramouch the White House pompadour, who will know it all and will tell a version of the truth most pleasing to the man who hired him.

But who plays Harlequin with the slapstick in this improvisational comedy? Why, the media -- I mean the fake news -- which must beat Scaramouch about the head for his idiocy. Trump thinks he's already taken care of the press, discrediting it totally with his enthusiastic base. That his base isn't in fact the majority of Americans will be ultimately the only thing to save us from Pantaloon.

Oh, who's Pantaloon? He's another one of those stock characters from European comic theater/clowning. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, Pantaloon is "a cunning and rapacious yet often deceived ... merchant." My! That pretty much fits the head that wears the clown in the White House.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Seth Banks Considering a Primary Challenge Against Sen. Ralph Hise?

Seth Banks
Rumor on the street: District Attorney Seth Banks (24th Prosecutorial District, which includes Avery, Madison, Mitchell, Watauga, and Yancey counties) is considering a primary run against incumbent Republican Senator Ralph Hise.

Seth Banks grew up on a Yancey County farm, got his law degree from Wake Forest, and lives now in Burnsville. He was just elected District Attorney in 2016 after beating Watauga attorney Nathan Miller in a Republican primary.

Hise is currently under investigation for violating campaign finance laws and for illegally pocketing more than $10,000 from his campaign account. He's also under fire for a potential conflict of interest in his role as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Elections in that he controls the budget of the very agency charged with investigating his campaign activities.

We Are Already in a Constitutional Crisis

Everybody's buzzing this morning about the taped interview Trump gave to NYTimes reporters.

The main takeaway: Trump thought he'd be king once he got into the White House, thought that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was his personal lawyer and would protect him from any FBI investigation, thinks now that he is still above the rule of law. That's a constitutional crisis in the making.

Trump said: “Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”

"Unfair to the president" because obviously Jeff Sessions was supposed to shield Trump from the FBI, and he could have shielded Trump from the FBI, but he went and recused himself and exposed Trump to the FBI. What a louse! (Makes us wonder all over again what Trump must have said to the new guy he nominated to head the FBI, or what he wanted to say to him.)

Is there any other possible interpretation for what Trump meant when he said "it's unfair"?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Why Would the Watauga GOP Nominate Anne Marie Yates to the BOE?

High Country Press
According to reporting in the Watauga Democrat, the Watauga Republican Party nominated Anne Marie Yates to the Watauga Board of Elections. Interesting idea, since Ms. Yates's husband Perry is a County Commissioner who would presumably be running for reelection during her term of service -- creating a flagrant conflict of interest.

Or perhaps her nomination was actually a veiled announcement that Mr. Yates will not be seeking reelection in 2020?

Trump: "I Learned My Politics From Vlad the Impaler"

Trump declared yesterday that his new plan -- Plan D, by our reckoning -- is to "let Obamacare fail." "It’ll be a lot easier,” Trump said. “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us.”

Translation: We will make people suffer to prove a political point. People are mere pawns, and sick people are even easier to torture.

According to Thomas Kaplan, Trump has several options for making Obamacare fail faster:

1. "He could throw insurance markets into a tailspin at any time by cutting off the subsidy payments to insurers, as he has threatened to do."

2. "He could further destabilize the markets by not enforcing the mandate that most Americans have health insurance."

3. "He could cancel advertising and other efforts to encourage enrollment under the Affordable Care Act when the annual sign-up period begins in November."

4. And then there's the poor-mouthing that Trump and all Republican politicians have been doing for months and months: "A barrage of negative statements from the administration could project an official view that the health law is collapsing, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Sabotaging people's health insurance out of revenge seems just so perfect for the "Republican brand." And Trump's doubly an idiot if he thinks he won't own that.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Butch and Sundance Take a Powder

Republican senators Jerry Moran (Kansas) and Mike Lee (Utah) held hands last night and jumped together, announcing they wouldn't support the Republican health insurance bill, thus killing the thing doornail-dead. They made their announcements in tandem, according to Thomas Kaplan, so that neither one of them could be fingered as "the definitive vote" that killed the Obamacare repeal and replace initiative.

Brave souls!

Now Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he'll call for a vote on repealing without a replacement either in mind or in place, which sounds like a super-duper, double-scoop of wonderful to us. Go for it, Mitch! Let's watch that play out.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Trump's "Made in America" Week Is Just Like Everything Else About Him -- A Scam

"Made in America" is totally inconsistent with the Trump organization's own business practices. Ivanka's brand of high-priced clothing and accessories is also made anywhere but here. (One exception: Trump himself was made in Russia.)

and a dozen other countries with low wages

That's where the Trump brand crap is turned out. Not here. Not in America.

Helen Aguirre Ferré, the White House’s director of media affairs, was asked point-blank at a press conference on Sunday if the Trump "Made in America" media event means he and Ivanka plan to get with the program and start buying from makers in this country. 

“We’ll get back to you on that,” replied Ferré.

Right. We're not holding our breath.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Trump the American Churchill?
official photograph
I can't see any of these scowling Trump photos without remembering the intel that surfaced last March, that Trump aspires to emulate Winston Churchill, thinks that staring down the camera in that sour fashion makes him look strong and determined rather than deluded and insecure:

"As a presidential candidate, he wanted to look dour, and vetoed any campaign imagery that so much as hinted at weakness, aides said. Which is why every self-selected snapshot — down to the squinty-eyed scowl attached to his Twitter account — features a tough-guy sourpuss. 'Like Churchill,' is what Mr. Trump would tell staffers when asked what look he was going for."

Which is why, evidently, Trump had a bust of Churchill installed in the Oval Office, presumably so he could study the pose and copy it. He must practice the look. Holding that scowl sometimes makes him look like he's suppressing a wet fart.

He can copy the look but he can't compete with the man. Churchill was a wartime hero, a lifelong politician, an accomplished writer and master of the English language, a painter, a loyal husband, and a celebrated orator whose most famous speech -- the "Iron Curtain" speech -- was a passionate denouncement of the policies and politics of Russia at the start of the Cold War.

To understand Trump, go no further than Tim O’Brien, author of “TrumpNation,” a 2005 biography: “He’s deeply, deeply insecure about how he’s perceived in the world, about whether or not he’s competent and deserves what he’s gotten,” O'Brien said. “There’s an unquenchable thirst for validation and love. That’s why he can never stay quiet, even when it would be wise strategically or emotionally to hold back.”

Saturday, July 15, 2017

From Russia, With Love

Natalia Veselnitskaya was the Russian legal liaison for Trump's Miss Universe pageant in 2013. Trump claimed he never met her.