Thursday, March 30, 2023

By Being Absent, These Democrats Helped Override a Cooper Veto


Two Days Ago (March 28, 2023): Just a day after the school shooting in Nashville, every NC Senate Republican voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto abolishing our state background check system for buying handguns, and since the Rs have a veto-proof majority in that chamber, it was a successful override vote.

Yesterday (March 29, 2023): Three Democratic members of the NC House abandoned the governor by just not showing up in the House. The Republicans only needed one Democratic absence. They got three.

Here's one result of that:

It's interesting that Wray, Brockman, and Cotham -- all three -- had been honored by House Speaker Tim Moore with plum committee roles. 

After the vote Brockman defended himself, claiming he was in an urgent care office, and Cotham issued a printed statement saying she was receiving hospital treatment for "long COVID," and adding that she would not have voted to override, had she been present. Wray had no comment.

Carolina Forward, which produced the graphic above, was not swayed by Cotham's excuse:

We are distressed and deeply sympathetic for the personal health issues @triciacotham is going through. If she is unable to perform her duties as an elected official, she should resign in favor of an appointee who can more effectively represent Mecklenburg.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Four Eggers Votes To Remove 2 Republicans from Surry BOE


Four Eggers
Photo by Jesse Barber

Boone attorney Stacy Clyde Eggers IV ("Four") not only made the vote unanimous (4-0) to remove two members of the Surry County Board of Elections, he introduced the actual motion: I move that the State Board of Elections formally remove Tim DeHaan and Jerry Forestieri for "breach of duty and a violation of the oath of office.” (The other Republican member of SBOE, Tommy Tucker, was absent.)

The case was not complicated. DeHaan and Forestieri, the two appointed Republicans on the Surry BOE, had refused to sign the certifications for the final vote both last November and again on March 7th, after the special election for town of Dobson commission. The failure to sign is "a failure to comply to the laws that exist," as Eggers put it in his motion (quoted in Mt. Airy News). Their simple duty and obligation is to sign. 

Why? Why wouldn't they perform their mandated-by-law obligation to certify the results of two elections. The votes had been "canvassed," totally tabulated and verified. Simple Psychological explanation: DeHaan and Forestieri were upset that Fed Judge Loretta Biggs ruled back in 2018 (again) that the Republican voter ID law was unconstitutional. She threw it out. DeHaan especially attacked her for that perversion of what some see as a necessary step toward Christian Nationalism. In a letter to fellow board members, which Forestieri also signed, DeHaan threw down the insurrection gauntlet: "I don't view election law per NCSBE as legitimate or Constitutional," he wrote. Just too holy for his shirt.

They didn't allege fraud or any malfeasance in either election. They didn't challenge the accuracy of the vote, the functioning of the machinery. But someone had told them that he possy-tively knew for a fact that a neighbor of his from across the state line in Virginia had voted in both states. That was the sole excuse (as reported by the Mt. Airy News) that DeHaan and Forestieri offered at the hearing, someone who said he saw someone do something illegal. A rumor. One possible illegal vote in a county that went 75% for Donald Trump. 

What is the logic of that? The conclusion that "I, an official who certifies elections, am actually above the law."

Anyway, those two are off the Surry BOE. On the positive side, DeHaan and Forestieri can be martyrs now.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

A Terrific Book


His official christening gave him a royal heap of names: "Henry Charles Albert David of Wales." He was known as "Haz" to his best school mate (and then much later to Meghan). He took the screen-name "Billiard Baz" when playing video games online. "Spike" was his nickname when he spent weeks working on an Australian cattle ranch. For two combat tours in Afghanistan, his code name was "Widow Six Seven." His brother William ("Willy") calls him "Harold." His father, King Charles, has always addressed him as "darling boy," which papered over Harry's actual expendability as "the Spare" to "the Heir." It's a cold family that does not show love. It's a family full of blood relatives and "courtiers" both capable and perfectly willing to leak negative stuff, and outright lies, to the British tabloid press out of jealousy and spite. Looking at you, Camilla.

He was known as "the naughty one" growing up. He and his brother William fought frequently, with William developing the overbearing expectation that the younger brother would -- and absolutely should -- kowtow to him. Harry longed for acceptance, for closeness, for the love of his brother, especially after their mother died. Harry smoked a lot of marijuana and has used mushrooms to rewire his brain and tame "the red mist" of anger and loss that sometimes descends on him.

In the "Acknowledgements" Harry praises his "collaborator and friend, confessor and sometimes sparring partner," J.R. Moehringer, who ghost-wrote the book. I know Moehringer's work from the Andre Agassi memoir Open, which he also ghost-wrote and which ranks among the very best autobiographies I've ever read. Moehringer digs deep with his subjects, forces confrontations with insecurities and dark secrets, and the results are astonishing.

The rendition of Prince Harry's time in the British Army is especially compelling. Just one small passage for a taste of the writing:

In between the runs we'd drag our bodies up ropes, or hurl them at walls, or ram them against each other. At night something more than pain would creep into our bones. It was a deep, shuddering throb. There was no way to survive that throb except to dissociate from it, tell your mind that you were not it. Sunder yourself from yourself. The color sergeants said this was part of their Grand Plan. Kill the Self....

I couldn't tell how the other cadets felt about all this, but I bought in, all the way. Self? I was more than ready to shed that dead weight. Identity? Take it.

I could understand, for someone attached to their self, their identity, that this experience might be harsh. Not me. I rejoiced as slowly, steadily, I felt myself being reduced to an essence, the impurities removed, only the vital stuff remaining.

 Count me on Harry and Meghan's side.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

At Least Dale Folwell Seems Sane


Gary D. Robertson, for the AP:

North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell announced on Saturday he will run for governor in 2024, a bid that will likely require him besting Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson to earn the Republican nomination.

Political prognosticators, and not a few smart-alecks, say the Republican primary for governor is already over, and Robinson won. I suspect that's true, but I have to applaud Folwell's willingness to offer a rational alternative to the irrational ravings of a man who gained his fame because he has a big, booming voice and uses it to preach hellfire 'n' brimstone against anything resembling progressive fairness.

When I learned this next bit about Folwell, it's been my go-to measure for his humanity and his potential for not being a complete conservative jerk in office:

In May 1999, Folwell's 7-year-old son Dalton died after being hit by a car as he tried to board a school bus. Following the accident, he and his wife allowed their son to be an organ donor. Since then, Folwell has been an advocate for organ donation, and in 2012 completed a motorcycle ride of all 48 contiguous United States for the cause.


Saturday, March 25, 2023

Her Moment in the Spotlight Is All About Extinguishing the Light in Others

From a news report:

I Spy With My Little Eye

Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from Banner Elk, championed the bill [HR5, "Parents Bill of Rights"] through committee hearings and on the House floor, where an exasperated Foxx repeated from her podium that HR 5 would not jeopardize books in schools

 “This bill will not ban any books,” Foxx said. “Let me repeat: this bill will not ban any books.” 

“Our bill is meant to give parents their God-given rights to be involved in their children’s education and to seek the best education possible,” Foxx said. “We do not want anybody to be treated unfairly. We want everyone to be treated fairly. We do not want to ban books.” [Danielle Battaglia]

Ban? How about harass. Harassment mandated in one of HR5's provisions, the right to "inspect the books and other reading materials in the library of their child's school." Look forward to those scenes: Hard-right Trumpist parents, stirred up by Moms for Liberty, pillaging the school library. And leading, we would think, to many a young teacher caving, or many an old school administrator caving, a world that Foxx loves from the darkside of her heart and that she never would have put up with when she was an educator.

One amendment added to the bill states that if a school allows a transgender girl to play on a sports team, her parents must be notified. The second forces notification if a school allows a transgender child to use a bathroom or changing room matching their gender identity.

In other words, not just harassment of books but harassment of children trying to express themselves while not doing anybody else any harm.

Foxx can't hide her predatory aroma, a fox on the hunt: “Teachers’ unions and education bureaucrats worked to push progressive politics in the classroom while keeping parents in the dark,” Foxx said. “The Parents Bill of Rights aims to end that and shine a light on what is happening in schools.”

"Progressive politics"? She means "diversity, equity, inclusion," the "DEI" currently defining conservative know-nothings' notion of "wokeness." 

Friday, March 24, 2023

They Seem Nice


What was merely a cult is now a death cult?

Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Devil in the Software


Ever striving to stay up with the latest technology, I'm here to inform you about the newest "ChatBot" that can quote scripture. "Chatbots are computer programs that are capable of maintaining a conversation with a user in natural language, understanding their intent, and replying convincingly in the way a human would behave as a conversational partner" (Wikipedia).

A new Christian chatbot that knows the King James version of the Bible -- backwards, forwards, sideways -- was recently test-driven by Sarah Posner who published her experience on Talking Points Memo. She "spoke with" ChatKJV (get it?) about a number of hot-button social issues dear to the generous Christian hearts of conservatives. 

Here's what ChatKJV said about abortion:

“The Bible does not explicitly state that an abortion is wrong, and ultimately, it is up to the woman to weigh the risks and implications of any decision she makes.” 

Gender identity:

Verses from Romans and Galatians “indicate that we should treat all people equally, regardless of their gender identity.”

When I asked ChatKJV if taking away the rights of transgender children honors God, it said, “it is not God’s desire to take away the rights of any person, especially a child. God wants us to come together in love and acceptance so that everyone can feel included and safe.”

Posner engaged in a lengthy exchange with ChastKJV about justice:

Our conversation progressed to this point through a discussion about justice. ChatKJV wants to know how you’re feeling, so I asked it about my concerns and fears about threats to democracy (in which the Bible has been wielded as a weapon, but we didn’t get into that). ChatKJV is not very worried about rising authoritarianism, nor is it worried, presumably, about whether the Department of Justice is working speedily enough to bring those who assaulted our democracy to justice. [ChatKJV is also very firm on homosexuality, that it's a sin, and can't find a text anywhere that condemns slavery.] Only God can ultimately dispense justice, ChatKJV says, and we must trust in God to carry out justice. The bot leaned heavily on Romans 12:19 (“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”) to assure me God will “always” bring justice “in due time.” When I fretted that perhaps those who had committed wrongdoing would not ultimately be held accountable, the bot reassured me several times with Philippians 4:8 (“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”) That verse, it said, encourages me to think about “the positive” and “let go of bitterness.”

Hardline on some topics, suspiciously soft on others. Clearly, ChatKJV may know the Bible, but it doesn't know the Trumpist preachers.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Bo Hines -- The Once (And Future?) Congressman


Bo Hines, who tried out the political "fit" for himself in several Congressional districts (including Virginia Foxx's 5th) before finally settling on the 13th in 2022, with Donald Trump's ineffable blessing, but ultimately lost that contest against Democrat Wiley Nickel by almost nine thousand votes. Berger-Moore will soon redesign the district to be more winnable for "the second-coming of Madison Cawthorn," if he decides to run again. Bo Hines's main claim to fame seems to be that he once threw a football several yards downfield.

That football -- or at least, a football -- figures prominently in a video that Hines posted on Twitter on March 2, announcing that his new role in public life will be CEO of something called awkwardly "Today Is America" (what?), which bills itself as a "Media and News Company." Today Is America first joined Twitter early in July 2020, posting boilerplate conservative memes and especially attacks on Roe v. Wade,  but so far its website is empty of content. It's so far very unclear what Today Is America is selling.

I mention the heavy attacks on Roe because Hines himself scrubbed his own campaign website free of all references to his previous anti-abortion stances even before the 2022 election. That scrubbing was well documented. And the speculation for it centered on the new high focus on abortion rights following the overturning of Roe by the Supreme Court before last fall's voting. It's as though Hines -- or someone close to him -- said "oops" and repainted his stripes. He can change his issues as easily as change the district he's planning to run in.

It's enough, apparently, that Bo Hines displays a football prominently in every appearance. It's his shibboleth, his touchstone, his substitute for a golden retriever.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Congressman Chuck Edwards Goes Jihad About Investigative Reporter


Chuck Edwards

Newly elected Congressman Chuck Edwards, who took over the 11th CD seat from Madison Cawthorn, has thrown a hissy fit about Smoky Mountain News investigative reporter Cory Vaillancourt and banned him from his office:

My office makes every effort to respond to media inquiries of reporters with a willingness to report news in a balanced manner and without bias. is no such reporter. My office will not waste our time with his inquires [sic]. Readers have many other options. Please use them.

That was at 3:45 p.m. on March 19, following ten days of massive upset in the heart of Edwards' district over the announced closing of the huge Canton paper mill (formerly Champion Paper, now Pactiv Evergreen), which is putting hundreds out of work and endangering the economic health of all of Haywood County. Vaillancourt fired back at Edwards on Twitter, and the whole backstory began to take shape. At 4:38 p.m. on the 19th, Vaillancourt tweeted:

Some things I’ve reported about @ChuckEdwards4NC (a thread):
- Pulled out of a legitimate debate in favor of a taped TV softball-fest with a corporate TV station he’d spent hundred$ of thousand$ with
- opposed student debit relief, never paid back his own $1m PPP loan
- refused to interview when mill closing broke
- attributed my reporting about stock trades to aforementioned friendly TV station
Where’s the bias, Chuck?
- voted himself a tax break on said PPP loan - didn’t even know own party leader’s positions on Medicare, SS cuts - couldn’t find 10 minutes over 5 days to talk about mill troubles in Feb
i contacted you prior to Feb. 8 about troubles at the mill. you didn't even know what was happening & refused to speak on it — probably because you knew nothing & had done nothing. when canton's working families needed you most, you did nothing. shame on you.


That "shame on you" might be considered unprofessional for a reporter, but it was certainly human, and it came after Edwards had announced that Vaillancourt was persona non grata in his office, so not only "human" but understandably human.

In my limited experience, I have to rank Vaillancourt at the top of reporters I've followed in western North Carolina.