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.