Thursday, July 11, 2024

Joe Biden Has Less Than a Month To Drop Out


Once President Biden is nominated for the presidency by the National Democratic Convention, replacing him on the ballot will be fraught. The delegates will actually vote virtually on his nomination on August 5th, two weeks before the August 19 Convention in Chicago. The WashPost reports that election law experts say that if Biden drops out before he's officially nominated by the party, "replacing him on the ballot would be relatively straightforward." If he waited until after the delegates vote, then all hell could and would break loose.

If Biden were to drop out before delegates vote, then a legal challenge by Republicans to his replacement -- whoever that turned out to be -- would lack standing in the courts, because the decision on who the Democrats choose to run is their decision, not the Republican Party's.

The real problem for Democrats if Biden should wait to drop out until after he's officially nominated are the various ballot deadlines in different states -- the date when ballots have to start being printed. We don't want to go there.

Immediately following the Debate From Hell, I wrote that I wanted an open nominating convention -- let 'er rip and we could count the corpses later. I've changed my mind. Thomas Mills wrote on July 5th a compelling rationale for why Biden's replacement would have to be -- needs to be -- Kamala Harris. And I agree with him. She would strengthen several factions of the Democratic and progressive alliance, especially women and Black voters, and I believe she would help energize the most seriously unenergized portion of our coalition -- young voters.

Mainly, I think, with Kamala we would experience a great surge of relief that we were not doomed -- irrevocably doomed -- to another Trump presidency and that we at least have a fighting chance.

Friday, July 05, 2024

Rep. Ray Pickett Shouldn't Brag


So NC House Rep. Ray Pickett (R-Watauga) sent out a newsletter dated July 2nd in which he bragged that he helped pass the local bill, S 912, spinning that it's a great plan for enhanced democracy -- "ensure[s] that every resident's voice is heard in the election of local officials." S 912 is the attempt by Senator Ralph Hise to keep the voters of Watauga from rejecting by referendum his new gerrymander of both the County Commish and the Watauga School Board.

Pickett's bragging may be a trifle misplaced, since the destruction of the current non-partisan School Board by a gerrymander that will ensure it will become much more partisan and divided is widely hated by both Republicans and Democrats. The current School Board, which was not consulted nor warned that Hise was about to upend it, is composed of two Republicans, two Democrats, and one Unaffiliated member, and that body unanimously opposed the change.

Pickett doesn't vote in the best interests of the people of Watauga. He votes like Senator Hise tells him.

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

I've Stopped Going to Tractor Supply


I was pleased when a brand new Tractor Supply store got built about a mile from my garden, which saved me a much longer trip to the garden center at the local Lowe's, and I spent a lot of money there on everything from a new manure fork to dog food. If I wanted to mingle with rural folks, Sunday just after noon was the time to visit, because lots of church-goers in their Sunday clothes made a stop there on their way home from church.

During the height of COVID, you never saw anyone in masks, including the cashiers, so I tended to stand out as maybe the only liberal in the store. I got a few side-eyes, but at my age the stinkeye doesn't much faze me.

The company had a good reputation nationally, especially for its diversity programs that encouraged voter registration and PRIDE festivals. Bloomberg praised it for promoting gender equality, while Newsweek called it one of the best U.S. companies for diversity.

But the current reign of MAGA hatefulness was bound to notice. So a conservative podcaster with a big following in Tennessee, where Tractor Supply is headquartered, posted a denunciation of the company because it supports queers. An employee had messaged the podcaster the inside poop that Tractor Supply was way too woke for his taste. “Start buying what you can from other places until Tractor Supply makes REAL changes,” the podcaster wrote on X on June 6. Other MAGA soldiers joined the boycott, and the company’s share price fell by 5 percent in the past month, according to the Financial Times.

So Tractor Supply caved to the bigots, issued a public letter recanting all its diversity efforts, and why on earth would I want to give any more money to a company with that little courage of conviction?

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Chief Justice Paul Newby's Flag Merely Confirms What We Already Knew About Him

Paul Newby, Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court, waited just hours (it seems) after the 2022 elections gave him his conservative majority to reverse the Court's previous ruling that gerrymandering of legislative districts violates the equal rights of citizens. Newby's newspeak: It's perfectly all right for the Republican majority in the General Assembly to stack the deck however it damn well pleases. Short version: Newby is an enemy of democracy.

So it came as no great surprise that the same Christian nationalist/MAGA escutcheon, the "Appeal to Heaven” or Pine Tree flag, that got Samuel Alito into hot water, was flying over Newby's beach property in Cartaret County (a house technically owned by Newby's wife, so there's another "my wife did it" excuse in the making) as recently as May 23rd.

Picture and story, NewsAndObserver, June 27

Newby told the N&O in a statement that he was given the flag as a gift before Jan. 6, 2021, and flies it during national holidays such as Memorial Day. 

“Until recently, we had no idea of the association of the ‘An Appeal to Heaven’ flag with anything other than its actual history — a history that reminds us to pray for our nation,” he said. “At no point did we intend the display of the flag to be a political statement, only a statement of our faith.”

Uh-huh. So Newby -- wholly innocent of political intent -- runs a flag up his pole, the sign-of-the-times meaning of which is totally mysterious to him. May 23rd, just incidentally, is the day after the New York Times ran its story on Alito's flag, which became the news of the nation.

And please forget any enforcement of judicial ethics in Newby's case. The Judicial Standards Commission is totally under Newby's thumb. He appoints six of the 14 members himself, and another eight are appointed by Berger/Moore in the General Assembly. 

Monday, July 01, 2024

Just Another Day in the Clown Car


Rep. George Cleveland,
cheerleading his H 1071 last Thursday

Let's put election deniers in charge of purging North Carolina's voter rolls! Yeah, baby!

Can't imagine why it's taken this long to think of the next brilliant solution to the greatest problem vexing North Carolina -- too many people voting.

NC House member George Cleveland (R-Onslow) just last Thursday introduced H 1071, a bill that would force all county boards of elections to establish a new system for investigating and correcting data provided by “election integrity” organizations to assist in maintenance of the state’s voter registration lists.

In case you haven't been paying attention, "election integrity" is code among election deniers for using idiotic claims of massive voter fraud to harass as many progressive voters as possible, particularly those with skin pigmentation slightly darker than George Cleveland's. This is merely another attempt to take power away from our State Board of Elections and give the right to vote to partisan manipulators who can, on any given day, find hoards of people who need to be eliminated (and not just from voter rolls).

In a House discussion of Cleveland's proposed legislation (reported on by Clayton Henkel),

“How is a voter integrity group defined?” asked [Democrat] Rep. Ashton Wheeler Clemmons.

“Actually, it’s two or three people who have years of experience in data collection and data usage. There’s two that are prominent here in North Carolina,” Cleveland responded....

“So my question is can you name a group?” asked [Democrat] Rep. Allison Dahle.

“I can name two,” said Cleveland. “I don’t know what the gentleman’s real name is. It’s Totes Legit. He has consistently over the past several years sent voter list problems to the state board. And there’s a Ms. Snow out in Morganton.”

“I didn’t hear the names,” Dahle asked him to repeat himself.

“Totes Legit. That’s what he calls himself. I don’t know what the gentleman’s name is.”

Seriously? Reporter Henkel went looking for Ms. Snow and "Totes Legit" (who sounds totally legit):

In Georgia, anonymous claims of voter fraud from someone going by the name ‘Totes Legit’ were dismissed last October. It’s unclear if that is the same person Cleveland was referencing.

The second person Cleveland mentioned, Carol Snow of the NC Audit Force filed a complaint with the elections board claiming inadequate maintenance of the computerized registered voter list put the state out of compliance with the 2002 federal voting law.

Snow presented examples of what appeared to be duplicate voter registrations. In one example, a son with the same name as his father was mistakenly checked in as his father. The father and son both received ballots and each voted once.

As NC Newline reported in April, the Board of Elections rejected Snow’s complaint about duplicate voter registrations

What is funnier? That this walking joke from Onslow County has introduced his bright new idea for interfering with the work of election officials or that H 1071 by last Friday had been fast-tracked through the House Rules Committee and three subsequent floor votes (66-45) and now heads to the Senate. Though it didn't get there in time for action, as the Senate adjourned sine die. Thank God. But this will come back next term. You can bet on it.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Religion in Schools


By Jack Yordy, guest-posting:

She who would be Superintendent
of all NC Schools -- Michele Morrow

Religious schooling is familiar to me. As a graduate of Christ The King (CTK) Catholic High School in Huntersville, North Carolina, religion wasn’t just in my school. It was the central idea of my schooling. The core tenet of CTK’s teaching philosophy was "faith through reason." 

Teachers and students alike had difficulty grappling with that ideological framework. In my first year at CTK, we learned about the Big Bang and the theory of evolution in history class. The next class of the day was Theology, where our teacher did not just call those ideas into question but claimed that they were unequivocally false. Between claims about homosexuals infiltrating the Church, he also liked to discuss the difference between Christianity and Catholicism, highlighting with vigor the "heresies" of other Christian doctrines and biblical interpretations, and of course, his belief that god put dinosaurs on earth to "test our faith." 

One day in my Junior year, after I had come out and was known to be gay by both my peers and professors, my history teacher decided to spend an entire class session talking about homosexuality. He asked us, “Well, why would gays want to get married? What’s the point other than getting government benefits?” and claimed that gay people knew they weren’t truly married if they weren’t married in the church. He finished this diatribe with a point directed at me and my mother, who was also the biology teacher at the school, saying in front of my classmates, “If you let your son be homosexual, it’s the same as letting him jump off a bridge." One of my classmates brought this to the administration, who decided that my history teacher was speaking within Catholic doctrine and therefore was not in the wrong. 

On Thursday, June 27th, the Oklahoma State Superintendent mandated that the Bible be taught in Oklahoma public schools. As a person who went to a Catholic school, these are some of the questions that I believe must be asked when we’re thinking about teaching religious doctrine in schools: 

  • Which doctrines and interpretations of the Bible are we going to teach?

  • Will we allow or encourage teachers to contradict scientific claims that are universally accepted but are in conflict with the Bible?

  • Does it mean vilifying queer students and students of other religious and cultural backgrounds who don’t fit into a teacher’s interpretation of the Bible? 

  • If a student disagrees with a teacher’s Biblical interpretation, will their grades be affected? 

These are not rhetorical questions. When voters go to vote in North Carolina’s state superintendent election this year, they should be asking these questions because the Republican candidate Michele Morrow is not thinking of them at all. She will likely try to implement the Oklahoma state policy in tandem with other Republican states regardless of the chaos in classrooms that will follow. Voters in this election must consider if they want to live in a state where these questions need to be answered and where their tax dollars are spent, through private school vouchers ("Opportunity Scholarships"), to confuse and punish students without the same religious views as their teachers.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Of Course Trump Lied (Like a Cheap Walmart Rug), But It Doesn't Matter


Many of my fellow Democrats took the lemon that was Thursday night and have been busily making lemonade, occasionally spiked with a good dash of grenadine and a jigger of Tequila. "Look at all the lies Trump told!" they shout, giving ample evidence and seeking any comfort they can find in these stormy seas. The best fact-checker in the business, Daniel Dale, did a whole segment about the lies on CNN, or if you'd prefer to read his analysis at length, go here.

None of it actually matters, especially in that part of the electorate that I work most closely with, college-age skeptics who are more than likely registered Unaffiliated and who generally distrust both political parties, but who are children of the age in that style matters more than substance. In fact, style is substance. One person looked alive and in control. The other didn't. That's awfully hard to overcome among people who spend their lives watching rather than reading (though Joe's performance the next day in Raleigh may have helped, but how many saw that speech compared to the millions who tuned in to the debate?)

I love that man. I memorably got to sit in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room in 1981 and watch Judiciary Chair Joe Biden grill Reagan's nominee Sandra Day O'Connor for the Supreme Court. With grace and good humor, he spared with her, and I've remembered him ever since as a good man who upholds the best values of our history. The morning after that terrible debate, I posted down-column a cri de coeur begging for some alternative to Joe, but I know that's not going to happen. We've been dealt our hand, and we have to play it as bravely as we can.

But we can't kid ourselves that the debate didn't hurt Joe's chances in North Carolina, especially among the unaffiliated and more especially the young unaffiliated. Which means for us personally as campaign operatives that all our door-knocking persuasion shifts to the down-ballot -- the governor's race, all the rest of the Council of State races, judge races, legislative seats, and local candidates -- a universe certainly rife with MAGA extremism at every level and a fiery determination for revenge and retribution.