Saturday, October 21, 2017

Steve Bannon v. Karl Rove in the NC 9th District

Karl Rove -- so he's still a thing! -- is fundraising for incumbent US Congressman Robert Pittenger. I think we knew that already but had stifled a yawn in its general direction. But then this: Chaos King Steve Bannon has now come out for Pittenger's holy primary challenger, Rev. Mark Harris, whom Pittenger managed to beat in the primary of 2016 by a mere 134 votes.

Karl Rove may have inadvertently invited Bannon into the 9th District primary. Oops. Rove published a tart take-down of Bannon for meddling in Senate Republican primaries, and Bannon responded within hours by expanding his war on the Republican establishment to the Pittenger House seat, probably because Pittenger is one of Rove's pet projects. Take that, Turd Blossom!

Karl Rove is one of the higher profile Republican establishment figures who has consistently criticized Trump as an imploding star who's going to create a sucking black hole for many Republican office-holders. Rove famously said of Trump last June in the Wall Street Journal -- his organ of choice, wherein he also blasted Bannon last Thursday -- "His chronic impulsiveness is apparently unstoppable and clearly self-defeating. Mr. Trump may have mastered the modes of communication, but not the substance, thereby sabotaging his own agenda."

Dan McCready
Rove also said this: "Mr. Trump has figured out how to tweet his way around the mainstream media. Yet by disregarding basic fact checking, he is deepening the already considerable doubts Americans have about his competence and trustworthiness."

Meanwhile, Rev. Mark Harris, who can pound the living hell out of any Bible you give him, has out-raised the incumbent Pittenger. But also know this: the likely Democratic challenger in the 9th District, former Marine Dan McCready, has out-raised both of them, reporting $416,000 for the quarter and bringing his total to $875,000 for the year.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

Jeff Danziger, Washington Post Writers and Cartoonist Group

Matt Davies, Newsday and Andrews McMeel Syndicate

Trump Brags About His Expensive Paintings, But At Least Two of Them Are Fake

In Trump's penthouse apartment in Trump Tower
Trump likes to brag to visitors about his "original Renoirs." The one pictured above, "La Loge" (The Theaterbox) is a fake. The original hangs at the Courtauld Art Institute in London.

Also a fake ... (below) Renoir's "Two Sisters (on the Terrace)," which the camera for a 60 Minutes interview after the election last November caught sight of over Trump's shoulder. The actual original painting has been hanging at the Art Institute of Chicago since 1933.

Trump apparently tells everyone that they're originals, "worth millions." When Trump told New York Times business reporter Timothy O’Brien that it was genuine, O'Brien ventured the truth: "Donald, it's not. I grew up in Chicago, that Renoir is called Two Sisters (on the Terrace), and it's hanging on a wall at the Art Institute of Chicago. That's not an original."

Back the very next day to continue his interview with Trump, O'Brien said that Trump repeated the lie. "Trump pointed out the painting again, as though [our] conversation had never happened."

"He believes his own lies, in a way that lasts for decades," O'Brien recently said on a Vanity Fair podcast.

He believes his own lies. That pretty much sums up the Trump we've all come to know. It's as plain as that Picasso original hanging over my computer table.

Melania in the penthouse with the other fake Renoir

Thursday, October 19, 2017

More Cabbage Worms Than Cabbage Leaves

Nathan Miller
Watauga GOP officer and attorney Nathan Miller brags in the Watauga Democrat that he and Bill Aceto just love "the rule of law" all to pieces, which they have been self-righteously and vigorously exercising to prevent college students from voting in Watauga County. It's not the rule of law, scolds Miller, when Stella Anderson fights back in court, and it's especially a miscarriage when some judge or judges agree with her.

It's "the rule of law" when the mechanisms of government can be turned against the citizens, or against some of the citizens, to prohibit them from voting -- like the removal of polling places. That was a local innovation. Or like the recent state-wide new rule demanding a government-issued photo ID to vote ... any government-issued ID will do but not a state university photo ID (just by the way). ("Rule of law"? A state university is a governmental institution, but to the Republicans who thought up the ID law, now shelved as unconstitutional, a state university evidently doesn't have nearly enough guns and Bibles to qualify those 18-to-25-year-olds as "citizens.")

For Miller and Aceto, it's jungle law when the livestock fight back. And simply unacceptable when judges agree with the livestock!

So the NCGOP has decided that judges must become partisan bots. They passed a law to make judges run by partisan label, the only state in the Union since 1921 to force judges into partisan elections. Judges must wear either red or blue robes and rally to their designated colors.

They're also redistricting all judicial districts, down to superior court and district courts, and just incidentally (purely by accident, I'm sure!) effectively eliminating half of the black judges in the state by "double-bunking" them so they have to run against each other. (Almost half of those "double-bunked" black judges are women.)

Andrew Cox, The Appalachian
What else? They've over-ridden Governor Cooper's veto of a new law that simply eliminates judicial primaries and makes it easier for unaffiliated candidates to file. Seconds after overriding that veto, Republicans introduced Senate Bill 698 which calls for a statewide referendum on a proposed constitutional amendment reducing the term of every Supreme Court justice, Court of Appeals judge, Superior Court judge, and District Court judge to two years. Judges will perforce become perpetual candidates for office and partisans to boot, jockeying to please their bases.

And get this: Senate Bill 698 would set the referendum for the May 2018 primary, when turn-out will be guaranteed low, not for November 2018 when turn-out will be much higher. (That's how the Republicans passed the constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage too.)

Nathan Miller, that lover of the rule of law, is a mere local symptom of a wider Republican virus that must seize power to stay alive, and pass laws to make the seizures legal.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

More Dirty, Rotten Politics in Raleigh

Bill Rabon
Some Republicans in the NC General Assembly want to change the state's constitution to force judges at all levels, including the Supreme Court, to run for reelection every two years. That would in effect put judges into constant campaign mode and further erode the independence of the state's judiciary.

The constitutional amendment filed by Rep. Bill Rabon of Bladen County is intended as a direct slap at judges who have found so much legislation passed by this General Assembly plainly unconstitutional. If judges uphold new Republican laws, they're acting like wise judges, but if they strike laws down, then they're "legislating from the bench."

Republican Rep. David Lewis (Harnett County) underscored the political calculations behind the Rabon amendment in a comment he made to WUNC: "If you’re going to act like a legislator, perhaps you should run like one” -- that is, run every two years like members of the General Assembly do.

One of the last principled Republicans in the state, former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, has already come out strongly against the Rabon amendment:
“It’s just wrong,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Bob Orr
Orr said the amendment sends the wrong message to the judiciary that if judges won’t rule the GOP’s way, lawmakers will retaliate. 
“That’s just fundamentally repugnant to everything I believe,” he said....
“Not only [are two-year terms] a bad idea, it’s just fundamentally a bad policy. I don’t think the legislators or the public want judges to be full-time candidates.”
The General Assembly has adjourned until January, so perhaps Dictator Phil Berger and Go-Along House Speaker Tim Moore won't call another special session to ram this thing through prior to the first of the year.

In the meantime, people need to let Jonathan Jordan ( and Deanna Ballard ( know that the Rabon amendment is dirty, rotten politics.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Phil Berger to Governor Cooper: "We'd Prefer That You Pound Sand"

Gov. Roy Cooper should not have
to put up with the detestable Phil Berger
Having watched the voters of North Carolina replace the blithe Republican non-entity Pat McCrory with Democratic Governor Roy Cooper last fall, Republican Dictator and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger launched his McConnellizing project of thwarting the new governor in every way conceivable, taking away as much of his appointment power as possible and then refusing to confirm or even consider confirming Cooper's appointments to important boards and commissions that handle much of the public's business.

How many special sessions now has Berger called and participated in and yet failed to call up Cooper's appointments for confirmation? There are ten pending Cooper appointments to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System Board of Trustees, and the State Board of Education.

The governor says there's no reason for the delay other than "an obvious effort by the General Assembly to undermine my administration's ability to ensure faithful execution of the laws." Berger sez, "Oh, you wanted those people confirmed? Why haven't you been begging me to take action, then? It's a good governor who begs. Maybe we'll get around to those confirmations some day -- say, January -- but right now we're busy overriding your vetoes. And, by the way, eat shit!"

Sue their asses, Governor. It's the only action they still fear.

The Ritual Humiliation of Mitch McConnell

Yesterday in the Rose Garden,
Mitch McConnell agreed to put his
testicles into an undisclosed location
A couple of hours before Trump was claiming McConnell as his bestest friend evah yesterday, he was blaming McConnell for all the dysfunction in the Trump administration at a cabinet meeting.

In the Rose Garden, with McConnell shrinking beside him: McConnell's a "friend of mine for a long time," said Trump, and we're "closer than ever before."

At the Cabinet meeting earlier in the day: Trump said he was frustrated that Republicans had not accomplished more of his agenda but added that he's "not going to blame myself, to be honest."

If I were Mitch McConnell, I think I'd be very careful about that "closer than ever before." Especially with Trump's other (truer) BFF Steve Bannon delivering a blunt warning to McConnell in front of iPootValues conservatives over the weekend: “Up on Capitol Hill, it’s the Ides of March .... They’re just looking to find out who is going to be Brutus to your Julius Caesar.”

Good God. Has ever a threat of lethal backstabbing been more publicly delivered?

Okay, I'm really delighted that Bannon read Julius Caesar in high school. I'm delighted that anybody in the Trump administration reads anything beyond their Q-Rating. But if I were Mitch McConnell, who scarcely a day after that Bannon attack was standing in dagger distance of Trump, I would not be locked in any embrace with the man who always turns on his friends when he needs to blame someone for his own failings.

True, McConnell has so richly earned all this grief from the leader of his own party, who understands nothing about legislating and cares even less. McConnell punished Obama for eight years by obstructing everything, and now he must endure the idiot in the Oval Office who's pulling down the temple on all their heads.

As you should know by now, I'm a connoisseur of political irony, and at this moment I find the circle closing like a snap purse. Consider the ads McConnell ran in 1984 to defeat Democratic Senator Dee Huddleston and thus began his rise to this present moment. You indeed can't run from your record, Mitch.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Trump's Sycophants

sycophant, noun: a person who acts obsequiously toward someone important in order to gain advantage. Synonyms: yes-man, bootlicker, brown-noser, toady, lickspittle, flatterer, flunky, lackey, spaniel, doormat, stooge, cringer, suck, suck-up
“[Trump Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin may be the greatest sycophant in Cabinet history.”
--Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers
What earned Mnuchin that title? He went out of his way recently to praise Trump's equivocation about race-haters in Charlottesville and also said he totally agreed with Trump that football players shouldn't take the knee (unless they were bowing to Trump). Neither issue has anything to do with Mnuchin's business at Treasury, but Trump needs constant praise and Mnuchin knows how to dish it.

In the famous June 12th Cabinet meeting, a landmark in lickspittle scrambling, Trump insisted on hearing praise of himself from every single official sitting at that large table. Only Defense Secretary Jim Mattis refused to play, praising the men and women of the armed forces instead. From all the others, Trump heard "thank you soooo much for the opportunity and blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda" and “It’s an honor to be able to serve you” and “I am privileged to be here -- deeply honored” and “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership,” said the now disappeared Tom Price.
Trump listens to praise
on June 12th

The photograph of Trump's face while that fawning festival proceeded perfectly captures his needy babyhood. Tell me more about how great I am, because I am just that seriously damaged as a human being and insecure because my mother never loved me and my father never hugged me.

The "adult day-care workers" in the Trump White House, the lowly staffers who don't own a cabinet rank and don't get to travel on chartered jets, know who they're working for. They praise and fawn and lick that spittle while the country goes to hell on impulse.

According to Ashley Parker, "when his advisers hope to prevent Trump from making what they think is an unwise decision, they frequently try to delay his final verdict — hoping he may reconsider after having time to calm down."

Put the baby in "time out." And always -- always -- tell him what a good boy he is.

"One defining feature of managing Trump is frequent praise, which can leave his team in what seems to be a state of perpetual compliments. The White House pushes out news releases overflowing with top officials heaping flattery on Trump .... Especially in the early days of his presidency, aides delivered the president daily packages of news stories filled with positive coverage and Trump began meetings by boasting about his performance, either as president or in winning the White House...."

A boasting man, surrounded by sycophants, does not ground this country in any useful reality.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Teacher Who Is Running Against Phil Berger

NC Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger is the acknowledged dictator of North Carolina. He runs the NC Senate, which means he runs North Carolina. He ran over Republican Governor Pat McCrory for four long years and is partially responsible for making the "toe-stepping" McCrory a laughingstock. And just to show him who's Boss, Berger's crippled the governorship of Democrat Roy Cooper.

Berger wanted to make Phil Berger Jr. a congressman in Washington, his greatest failure to date. Still, he could make Junior a judge as consolation, and now Junior sits on the bench.

No one can beat Phil Berger for his NC Senate seat, which includes parts of Guilford and Rockingham counties. At least that's the conventional wisdom. In fact, to oppose Berger or his lieutenants can figuratively land a horse's head in your bed, so to speak, and according to Greensboro News&Record Editor Allen Johnson.

Jennifer Mangrum
But lookie here at who's rising up to challenge Berger, not because she thinks she can win but because sometimes you just have to stand up to abusive power, no matter the odds.

Jennifer Mangrum is the child of two public school teachers and a lifelong educator herself. She taught elementary school in North Carolina for 14 years, and for the last nine years she's been teaching other public school teachers how best to teach (as a professor of education at UNCG).

She was until recently a lifelong Republican. The power-madness of King Berger (among other actions) changed her mind:
“I’m open. I was a Republican, I need to tell you that. I had a father who fought in World War 2, Vietnam and Korea, and when I registered to vote in the ‘80s, if you were military then the Republican Party was the party that you felt was going to take care of your family .... The party has changed so much since I registered. I’m also really embarrassed that leaders in the Republican Party represent us in the way they do, but I was a voter who looked at the person.” (The Carolinian)
I've only just started following her on Twitter (@jrmangru), and she doesn't appear to have launched a Facebook feed yet (though she's promised one), so I don't yet find a lot of "platform" on-line. But I did find this:
...why do we allow Phil Berger to remain in power? He does not work to insure that all men are created equal. In fact, he does the opposite. He creates laws that discriminate, he defunds schools so that children don’t have the same opportunities when they grow up, and he rules the NC Senate as though he were King, grabbing power from our executive branch and ignoring the consent of the governed.
Mangrum is just beginning to find her political voice, and we hope she'll campaign. That'll take money.

One Part of the Obama Legacy Trump Will Never Be Able To Erase

President Obama left the White House last January with an approval rating of 59%. We can argue all day about what caused that, but I think it was because he was a good man. He was a good man during a hard time, and people honored his character (even though I had my moments of rage at him).

He had and has good character. Scandal knows him not. He has a sense of humor and patience like Griselda. He possesses unmistakable respect for other people, some of whom exhibited nothing but hatred and contempt toward him. (The man Obama graciously ushered into the White House last January 20th had rather recently led a "birther" movement which had questioned Obama's legitimacy to even be in this country, let alone sitting on the throne of the nation. That man had much more recently conceded that birtherism has no basis in fact after all, yet he could not bring himself to apologize to the de-legitimized man who was now extending his hand in comradeship.)

Obama had character. He wasn't one.

He could speak in whole sentences, which built themselves into paragraphs, which often led upward in sense and substance toward what was possible, not backward to petty grievances and grudges. His respect for other people would not allow him to pitch a public fit over his political enemies, who were everywhere and powerful. (Robert Draper found out that some 15 Republican Congressional leaders -- including Bob Corker -- met in the Capitol on the night of Obama's first inauguration and discussed how they would oppose everything Obama wanted. Obama certainly knew or would soon understand their intransigence, yet he did not carpet-bomb them with tweets.)

Opposed in all things, Obama continued to seek compromise. Trying to get health insurance reformed in this country, he sought bi-partisanship for way too long, which only complicated and handicapped the product. (The source of a large part of my personal rage.)

Some times accommodation is not really prudent. Curiously, that goes for Trump too, who'll sign any goddamn thing Congress wants to pass -- whether its pushed through by the Republicans or the Democrats or a tribe of elves -- and he doesn't really care what happens next. That's accommodation that shows a lack of character.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Peckerhead's Gonna Peck

Nothing cheers up Republicans like throwing
people off their health care.
Photo: Doug Mills, NYTimes
Trump decided yesterday -- Thursday -- to stop paying subsidies to insurance companies that cover many low-income Americans.


This action will cause insurers to leave some Obamacare markets, causing higher premiums, among other consequences. 

In a separate action on Wednesday (the signing of the Executive Order pictured to the left), Trump asked the Labor Department to loosen rules that permit small companies to band together to form associations and buy the kind of coverage available to larger businesses (that is, insurance governed by federal employment law, not state insurance regulations, which means cheap prices, poorer coverage, and denied claims).

What Trump did last night -- ending subsidy payments -- he could do because of a flaw in the language of one section of the Affordable Care Act. The ACA created the subsidies but did not clearly fund them, leaving subsidies in a weird legal pickle. Insurers are still required to offer discounts to customers who qualify. And the insurance companies may sue the administration to recoup the funds. But insurance providers will lose money in the short term, and in the long term, they'll raise their premiums to make up for the losses. That could also actually hurt higher-income customers who pay full price.

In theory, precipitously ending the subsidy payments could lead to "catastrophic market failures."

Oh whatever. It's a knee-capping of at least a fair number of Trump voters who have been turned into applauding bots when Trump attacks "Obamacare." Those voters need health insurance too, and Trump is not their friend. He is a termite, chewing at the struts that prop them up.

No law has been repealed.

But it's being pecked at by a Peckerhead who'll hurt the very people he's somehow convinced that he's some kind of genius who actually cares about them.

What Are Bill Aceto and Nathan Miller's Chances of Stopping Early Voting in the ASU Student Union?

Stella Anderson with her lawyers,
Wednesday in Raleigh
As you should know, Stella Anderson won her suit in Wake Superior Court on Wednesday: Judge Graham Shirley II ordered an Early Voting polling site on the ASU campus beginning on October 26 and running every weekday through November 3, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., thus overriding the intransigence of Board of Elections Republican Chair Bill Aceto.

Bill Aceto was able to "intervene" in the case on Wednesday via lawyer (and Watauga Republican Party Vice Chair) Nathan Miller, and according to the Watauga Democrat, Nathan Miller has declared that they will be appealing Judge Shirley's order to the NC Court of Appeals

How likely is Nathan Miller to impress the higher court panel of three, considering that Judge Shirley was not at all impressed by the coherence of his argument on Wednesday?

The Odds of Aceto&Miller Prevailing on Appeal

1. Aceto via his attorney Miller was granted "permissive intervention" last Wednesday at the discretion of the judge rather than "intervention as of right," which means that Aceto has no legally protectable interest in the case. (Aceto asked to intervene as an individual and not under color of representing the majority on the Watauga Board of Elections.)

2. On appeal, Aceto can ask the NC Court of Appeals for a stay of Judge Shirley's order.

3. The State of North Carolina, which is actually the defendant in Stella Anderson's case, has opted not to appeal. (Josh Lawson, chief counsel for the State Board of Elections, has said that he's happy with the judge's Order.) Without an appeal from the state, it will be much harder for Aceto to win because, although intervenors have all the rights of the parties, the Court of Appeals will understand that he is a permissive intervenor. Under those circumstances, lawyer Miller's argument to the Court panel will likely be even less coherent than it was last Wednesday before Judge Shirley. Miller will not have the State's argument to piggyback on.

4. The Town of Boone's request and funding responsibility should tip the scale here in favor of Judge Shirley's Order. Plus, a stay would upend the desire of the majority of the Watauga Board, since Republican member Nancy Owen voted with Stella Anderson for her Early Voting plan which included the ASU Student Union.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Finally, Some Good News

Headline in USA Today: "Yellowstone super volcano may blow sooner than thought — and could wipe out life on the planet."

The last eruption of the super volcano underlying all of Yellowstone National Park happened over 630,000 years ago. The Yellowstone caldera is 40 miles across. The entire area has bulged up some ten inches, "an extraordinary uplift," suggesting an enormous build up of pressure from accumulated magma.

When it blows ... well, you can kiss your sweet ass goodbye. "It has the ability to expel more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of rock and ash at once — 2,500 times more material than erupted from Mount St. Helens in 1980, which killed 57 people. That could blanket most of the United States in a thick layer of ash and even plunge the Earth into a volcanic winter" (Shannon Hall).

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

BREAKING: Wake Superior Court Orders Implementation of Stella Anderson's Early Voting Plan

This just happened: Wake County Superior Court Judge Graham Shirley just ordered that Stella Anderson's Early Voting plan for the municipal elections be implemented, which means there will be an Early Voting site on the ASU campus.

Graham Shirley, incidentally, is a Republican, appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory in September of 2015.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Randleman Will Run for Ballard's Seat in NC Senate

Shirley Randleman announced her candidacy for the NC Senate District 45 seat currently occupied by Deana Ballard (R-FranklinGrahamville).

Randleman's district 30 has been redrawn by the most recent court-ordered redistricting, and Wilkes county got included in Ballard's Dist. 45.

Will Ballard run for reelection against a more powerful incumbent, or will she let Randleman walk away with it?

Eight Ways Trump Is the Smartest in the Land

So this is the ant farm we live in now: Trump wants to stack his IQ up against his Secretary of State's. He hints broadly that he knows exactly how that contest would come out.

Which reminds me of dead old Socrates: “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.”

Trump is no Socrates. (And for the record, Tillerson did not call Trump "a moron." He called him "a fucking moron."

Smart people who think they're smarter than everybody else create problems for themselves (might call them "self-inflicted wounds"). In the interest of understanding our head of state, seen through the gauzy screen of "high IQ" that he prefers, we offer Eight Ways Trump Is a Smart Person:

1. Smart people are overconfident, and they let praise go to their heads, giving them an inflated sense of their own infallibility. It's dangerous to always expect you'll win at everything.

2. Smart people push other people too hard. They set the bar too high, and when their "underlings" take too long or don’t get things quite right, well ... expect a storm. Smart alecks push even harder, and because of their overconfidence (see no. 1 above), they beat up other people emotionally as unworthy and simply lesser human beings.

3. Smart people always need to be right. Being right, in fact, becomes a part of their identity, so any admission of wrongness or error endangers the overconfidence (see no. 1 above).

4. Smart people lack "emotional intelligence." Winning is all that matters (see nos. 2 and 3 above). People's "feelings" and "emotions" (just weaknesses to be ignored) are irrelevant, and in fact emotional attachments (love, empathy, fellow-feeling) are just hindrances to always winning.

5. Smart people give up when they fail. Because failure is unthinkable, because winning is the only thing, when failure inevitably comes, Mr. Wise Guy is bludgeoned by reality and thinks it's the end of the world.

6. Smart people fail to develop grit. "When smart people can’t complete something without a tremendous amount of effort, they tend to feel frustrated and embarrassed. This leads them to make the false assumption that if they can’t do something easily, there’s something wrong with them. As a result, smart people tend to move on to something else that affirms their sense of worth."

7. Smart people think they're good at multitasking. They like to have many things going on at once, and if many things aren't going on, they're impatient. Multitaskers tend to think they're excellent at multitasking, but very often they're not. Jumping from one thing to another without completing anything is not an efficient use of time.

8. Smart people have a hard time accepting feedback or constructive criticism. They tend to under-value the opinions of others, or feel contempt for them. So they also tend to think that any other opinions are not worthy of attention. Which often leads to toxic relationships (see no. 2 above).

Monday, October 09, 2017

Pence Plays Stooge in Trump Reality TV

Yesterday, VP Pence asked himself, "Can I be a bigger tool?"

And the answer came here: "Yes. Yes, I can."

One Less Adult in the Room

Tom Brenner, NYTimes
I'm telling my fellow Democrats that we're losing a good man from the US Senate. Bob Corker is a good man (and not just because he uncorked himself to Jonathan Martin yesterday, who promptly published those comments about Trump this morning in the NYTimes). Corker was the mayor of a large Southern town -- Chattanooga -- which made him a moderate by many measures. When he first ran for the Senate, his Republican primary opponents claimed he was a "leftist." So there's that.

Oh he's voted many times with the Republican monolith on issues anathema to me, but now that the chips are coming down on an incompetent and unqualified president who daily threatens us with nuclear war (among many other things), Corker has been standing up like a statesman.

I have not wanted to like him. I held it against Bob Corker, the way he beat Harold Ford in 2006 for the Tennessee senate seat being vacated by Sen. Bill Frist. Corker allowed the Republican National Committee to run a 30-second ad attacking Ford with rank racism. A blond actress, simpering and giggling in a lewd way, says on camera that she met Harold Ford, who's African American, at a Playboy party (and it's clear that she sure did like that brown sugar!). "Harold, call me!" she says at the close, making a telephone with her fingers.

Gawd, that was an awful hit piece. It intended to awaken racist fantasies and fears, and it did. Immediately after the ad began to air, Corker inched ahead in the polls and ended up beating Ford by a mere three points.

Some men grow in office, especially when given great power. Corker is a very powerful committee chair -- Foreign Relations. And he's worried about how the US is suddenly wobbling like a drunk billionaire all over the place. Meanwhile, other men elected to great power toss paper towels to peons, just to remind them that they're peons.

“He concerns me,” Corker told Jonathan Martin about Trump. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation .... I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him .... I know he has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out .... Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our [Republican Senate] caucus understands what we’re dealing with here. Of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

That's a red alert, coming from an informed and powerful man who cares about this nation and its future and who's willing to rise above partisanship to warn the unwary.

If Corker's evaluation of Trump doesn't chill your spine, then you're likely a Trumpeter who loves the chaos and the destruction. De gustibus ain't what it used to be!

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Southern Cities Trending More Progressive

William Bell, Mayor of Birmingham since 2010 and heavy favorite to win reelection, was defeated last Tuesday by progressive insurgent challenger Randall Woodfin, a 36-year-old former board of education president endorsed by Bernie Sanders.

In the August 22 primary, Woodfin had led the 12-candidate field with 40.84 percent of the vote. Incumbent Mayor Bell ran second with 36.55 percent. Pundits thought the people would once again rally around Mayor Bell. They didn't.

Bell, a lawyer, had served on both the Birmingham city council and the Jefferson County Commission before being elected mayor in 2009 in a special election to replace former Mayor Larry Langford who was convicted of corruption. Bell was re-elected twice more in 2011 and 2013. Bell touted his economic development policies, but challenger Woodfin brought youth and his own reputation for fighting corruption.

Woodfin defeated Bell with 58 percent of the vote on Tuesday.

The Bernie Sanders org, Our Revolution, was on the ground in Birmingham for Woodfin. “We sent nearly 8,000 get-out-the-vote text messages to supporters and sent over 70 volunteers to his campaign” ahead of the August primary, said Diane May, communications director for Our
Randall Woodfin
Revolution Then for the runoff last Tuesday and according to The Intercept, Our Revolution made over 1,000 calls and sent 11,000 text messages to voters. Sanders himself phoned in robocalls for Woodfin. The Woodfin’s director of field operations was an alum of Sanders’s 2016 campaign.

I'm a little vague on what propelled Woodfin to the win, but here's the smoke: “Randall Woodfin ran on the idea that the people of Birmingham have a right to demand a government that truly works for all its people, and that a city can provide opportunity and lift up those who’ve been left behind,” Joe Dinkin, national spokesperson for the [Working Families Party] said in a statement. “Woodfin is part of a wave of local candidates around the nation who are running on bold, transformative, progressive visions and winning.”

"He seeks to make community college free for students who graduate from Birmingham’s high schools. He wants to expand pre-K, and invest in public transit and job training .... He is also looking to boost the city’s police force; Birmingham has the seventh-highest homicide rate of cities of over 100,000 people. He had his own personal connection to the city’s sky-high crime: His nephew was shot and killed during the course of the campaign. The boy’s father, Woodfin’s older brother, was killed in a shooting five years before that."

In Light of Trump, President Richard Milhous Nixon Looking a Lot Better

In 1970, I guess you could say I hated President Richard Nixon's guts. He had been elected in 1968 in the first presidential election I was old enough to vote in. My guy lost, and I was bitter and disappointed. (Actually, Hubert Humphrey was only "my guy" by default. I had dropped classes at the University of Utah during the spring of 1968 to volunteer full-time for Eugene McCarthy. He was my guy, but he couldn't get there either.)

Nixon was just plain evil to a whole generation of college students, especially maybe some college males whose collective ass was in a crack over the draft and the war in Vietnam. Nixon had campaigned on "a secret plan" to end the war, but war-ending under Nixon looked a whole lot like war expansion. At 9 pm on April 29, 1970, President Nixon went on all three networks (yes, children, the world was much narrower back then) and announced that he was invading Cambodia.

College campuses erupted in a geyser of rage. Demonstrations broke out on many a quad; some 500 colleges simply shut down altogether. Among many other serious consequences, four died from National Guard gunfire at Kent State University. The University of Utah was calmer. Someone set fire to an old wooden-frame structure in the middle of campus, but it had been abandoned and scheduled for demolition anyway.

Other serious consequences?

Nixon's popularity went up. Campus ruction in all its extremes in fact guaranteed Nixon's reelection in 1972. We had fired the first gun in the "culture wars," with all its generational conflict and "out-there" rebellion against social norms. We started the war, and we immediately began to lose every skirmish. Our bad press was their good fortune. But families also split apart. Kids ran off to anywhere and shortened their lives. No restraints, no walls, no regrets. That's a lie. There were regrets aplenty. It was bad.

In a noisy time, I had no ears for Nixon.

Reading Evan Thomas
My ears have been opened by Evan Thomas's Being Nixon: A Man Divided, published a couple of years ago. I just now picked it up, and I repent.

Nixon could be -- often was -- awkward in public, socially retarded, incapable of displaying love or empathy, and inappropriately tone-deaf. But it wasn't because of any inner sociopath. Nixon empathized. He actually cared more about black life in America and had an impulse to help black people perhaps superior to that of the Kennedys.

Shortly after the Cambodian Incursion TV speech, Nixon off-handedly called college protesters "bums" --Nixon was known for lashing out when he felt criticized -- and the bums obliged him by calling for a big protest -- the biggest ever -- in Washington, D.C., outside the White House for Saturday, May 9th. "The March on Washington."

The Republicans made a moat of big city buses, parked nose-to-tail so no mother's son could get between them, all around the acres of White House grounds. Troops from the Third Army bivouacked in the Executive Office Building. The city locked down, bracing for the worst, while thousands of hippies and wannabes began gathering at the Lincoln Memorial on the Friday eve of the big march.

In the White House, Nixon was in an agony. On the one hand, he was belligerent and shadow-boxing any foe. On the other, he was also agonizing over the Cambodian decision and his hurt from knowing he was the bogieman of an entire generation. He may have had a Scotch. One drink could make Nixon loopy (a word Haldeman used to describe him in his diary on at least one occasion), and he had not been sleeping at all. What he did next can seem crazy but also courageous and empathetic.

Nixon at the Lincoln Memorial,
May 9, 1970
Unable to sleep, Nixon ordered a car shortly before dawn on May 9 and had himself driven to the Lincoln Memorial, where he got out, climbed the stairs, and began to engage with the protestors camping there overnight. "I know that probably most of you think I'm an SOB," he said to some wide-eyed and sleep-deprived guys with long hair. "But I want you to know that I understand just how you feel."

I think he did know something about how they felt ... because of his own childhood and family, the knocks he'd taken, the losses he'd suffered. But he didn't win the young guys over. They thought he was crazy and -- worse-- irrelevant. Rebuffed at the Memorial, Nixon also immediately took a beating in much of the press, when it got wind of his early-morning expedition: "a bizarre pilgrimage," "a trip to futility," "rappin' with the kids" ... was he drunk?

I see humanity in him that I totally missed at the time. He did not toss paper towels at disaster victims because he couldn't care less what happened to them. He drove down where they were and got out of his car and shed his bubble to reach out and try to talk. The fact he didn't succeed is irrelevant to me.

For the Record: Nixon's Accomplishments
He signed the extension of the Voting Rights Act.

He signed the Clean Air Act.

He signed the Water Pollution Control Act and legislation establishing the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

He established an Office of Consumer Affairs in the White House and was more aggressive about consumer protections than some Democratic presidents.

He expanded the National Park system.

He signed the legislation that created Amtrak, the Rail Passenger Service Act.

He signed the bill giving 18-year-olds the vote.

He signed the bill that eliminated the Selective Service.

He began the federal war on cancer.

He expanded Social Security and Medicare faster than inflation.

If he hadn't been driven from office, he might have gotten universal health care as well. He had proposed a massive health care reform in 1974, but Sen. Edward Kennedy and the Democrats running Congress blocked him.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Ray Russell, Launching His Campaign Against Rep. Jonathan Jordan

Ray Russell, founder of the mega-popular Ray's Weather Centerwill be launching his campaign this coming week to unseat incumbent sack of doorknobs, Republican Jonathan Jordan.

Check out Ray Russell's website.

The Incumbent, Our Major Hoople

Jonathan Jordan has been an un-energetic but dependable paperweight for the Republican bosses in the NC General Assembly. Jordan has saluted on command and voted as he's told and burped his dessert with the best of 'em.

But you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a list of benefits, problems solved, positive initiatives that could be linked in any appreciable way to Jonathan Jordan. No, he's voted for budgets that hurt the state parks in his own district, that crippled local protections of air and water, that weakened the health of public schools. We certainly do remember him for the loss of Boone's extraterritorial jurisdiction, which for us means he's definitely more pain than gain for the 93rd House District.

Rep. Jonathan Jordan, looking fit in knit,
with Sen. Deanna Ballard

Mocking Justice

Cutting the People's Protection Budget by $10 Million
NC Attorney General Josh Stein
What the Republican bosses in the North Carolina General Assembly have been laying on the Attorney General's office is spit and shit. Pure spitefulness, vindictiveness, revenge, and hyper partisanship ... dropped on the head of a young attorney general whose cardinal sin was winning an election.

Josh Stein was elected attorney general last fall in the same wave with Roy Cooper (accompanied by the ouster of failed Governor Pat McCrory). Promptly in January and seconds after convening a new session of the General Assembly, the Republican Power Grab Twins Phil Berger and Tim Moore moved to cut the Democratic attorney general's budget by $10 million. Ten million dollars. Stein ended up being forced to lay off 45 employees including many staff attorneys.... the three lawyers with the most experience and expertise for handling criminal appeals of convicted child sex offenders; (2) an attorney with 30 years experience specializing in water quality violations; (3) several other lawyers delegated to handle claims of negligence by government agencies; (4) experts on the tobacco settlement, which actually brings hundreds of millions of dollars into the state's General Fund each year.

The AG is mandated by law to (1) assist local law enforcement in fighting crime and prosecuting cases (including the staffing and functioning of the NC State Crime Lab and the NC Justice Academy; (2) provide training and standards for law enforcement at the county-level, which includes overseeing the Sheriffs' Standards Training Commission and the Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission; (3) protect North Carolina consumers from frauds and scams (a big job by itself).

NC House Speaker Tim Moore and
NC Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger
Because of the lay-offs, there's already word percolating out of district courts that child support and sex offender cases are being delayed. So is the handling of criminal appeals, which arrive by the hundreds in the AG's office each year.

Read more here:
Wanna keep that dangerous offender behind bars? Then don't cripple the ability of the AG to keep him there.

Way to go, Berger and Moore, you stand-up guys for law and order!

Time Out To Celebrate Another Irony 
The AG's office is also mandated to "provide legal representation to state agencies," which means incidentally defending certain hair-brain laws passed by the NC General Assembly. Thus cutting the AG's budget looks so much like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Berger actually justified his surprise budget cuts by alleging that AG Josh Stein was doing a poor job defending the Gen'l Assembly's laws, so, yes, the budget cut was punishment, admitted Berger. Which begs the question: Slash his budget and make him do even worse?

Such is civic logic in the age of MAGA.

The Latest Nastiness
When Josh Stein was announcing the staff lay-offs in August, he warned everyone that the budget cut would force his office to shift some of the criminal appeal work to district attorneys. Many district attorneys are Republican, and they didn't like the sound of that.

So a new mandate got tucked into a larger budget-related bill (passed in the special session this week) which will prohibit Josh Stein from pushing criminal appeal work down to local district attorneys. "You have to do everything yourself, in your own little weakened and under-staffed department," says the provision, which still has to be signed by the governor. He won't sign it.

A people's indictment of Berger and Moore will be available for your approval in the General Elections of 2018. We already have a sterling alternative to BergerMoore soldier Rep. Jonathan Jordan.