Friday, November 27, 2020

Is Fred Eshelman the Biggest Rich Dope in North Carolina?

 

If you were around in 2010 and watched a dark money group calling itself "Real Jobs NC" trash the reputations of our two representatives in Raleigh, the late Steve Goss and Cullie Tarleton, you probably don't remember that a major donor behind that trashing was Wilmington gajillionaire Fred Eshelman, a pharmaceuticals industry mogul.

Eshelman has made the news this week because immediately after the November 3rd election he gave $2.5 million to True the Vote, a Texas outfit run by Catherine E. Engelbrecht of Houston, who just knows -- has always known -- that when Republicans lose elections it's all because of massive fraud. Engelbrecht told Eshelman that she had a sure-fire plan to expose the fraud behind Trump's losses in seven swing states, so he immediately wired her all that money to fund her plan to expose election fraud.

Now he's suing to get it back because it turns out Engelbrecht was spouting nonsense and she can't/won't explain what she did with the money. She apparently filed trifling lawsuits in four states, which she voluntarily withdrew, and she's consistently offered no answers, or vague answers, to Eshelman's nagging questions. Short answer to all his questions: You might have gotten scammed! (The suit itself, linked above, makes for fun reading.)

I'm indebted to Juanita Jean over at The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc. in Texas for putting me onto poor dumb Eshelman's squandering of big money to help salvage Twitterman's reputation as a "winner." Juanita Jean knows Engelbrecht because they used to be neighbors and opposing political warriors, so she's especially enjoying the spectacle of one rich Republican suing another Republican over the failure to prove massive fraud in the recent election.


Thursday, November 26, 2020

Culture Wars Update: US Supremes Rule That It's Okay to Spread the Virus at Church

 

Chief Justice John Roberts,
in the minority now
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York had imposed very tight restrictions on some church services in "hot spot" areas. As New York got the pandemic under more control, Cuomo relaxed those restrictions. But the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn sued anyway (later joined by Jewish temples), and just before midnight last night the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the governor couldn't impose those restrictions any more. Chief Justice John Roberts was one of those in the minority and wrote a dissent.

Roberts noted that while the case was wending its way to the court, Cuomo had eased the restrictions. So why would the court intervene now? “It is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” Roberts wrote.

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the court was intervening where it should not: “The Constitution does not forbid States from responding to public health crises through regulations that treat religious institutions equally or more favorably than comparable secular institutions, particularly when those regulations save lives. Justices of this court play a deadly game in second guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily.”

But go ahead, brethren. Pack those pews! The best way to spread Christian cheer is singing loud for all to hear. The aerosols you share are witness to your faith.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

None of Biden's Cabinet Appointments Will Be More Important Than This One

 

I'm talking Attorney General, natch.

We need a person of the highest caliber to clean out and disinfect the Department of Justice from the Trumpian politicization pursued by William Barr. He who coddled Trump's buddies, dropping charges against Michael Flynn and intervening on behalf of Roger Stone. He who took the hint after Trump tweeted that people should "liberate" themselves from COVID-19 lockdowns in states and cities and who announced that the DOJ would formally begin reviewing and challenging state public health orders. He who approved of LGBTQ discrimination laws under a very capacious interpretation of "religious freedom" and who got himself into the Christian dominionists' neighborhood when he warned that “militant secularists” were behind a “campaign to destroy the traditional moral order.” He who actually asked Congress to give him the power to hold people in detention without trial indefinitely. That last one couldn't make it past a Democratic majority in the US House.

Gonna take a person of impeccable character, someone strong on civil rights and the protection of the weak, someone totally committed to voter enfranchisement, someone to whom favoritism or presidential interference causes a gag reflex. I've been reading about the leading contenders.

Sally Q. Yates
Former US attorneyShe was deputy attorney general (the official who actually runs the department) from 2015 to the early days of the Trump administration. Wikipedia: Following the inauguration of Trump and the departure of Attorney General Loretta Lynch on January 20, 2017, Yates served as Acting Attorney General for 10 days. Trump dismissed her for insubordination on January 30, after she instructed DOJ not to make legal arguments defending Trump's Muslim ban (Executive Order 13769). Yates thought the order was neither defensible in court nor consistent with the Constitution. The Supreme Court ultimately upheld a revised version of the travel ban in a 5-4 partisan decision.

Before she pushed back on Trump's targeting of Muslims, she had warned the White House that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI and was acting as a foreign agent in very close proximity to the president.

In other words, Trump had plenty of reasons to fire her. All of which makes her a model of virtue.

Following her dismissal, Yates returned to private practice.

She comes from legal royalty. Her grandmother was one of the first women admitted to the Georgia bar. Gran worked side-by-side with Yates's grandfather, also an attorney. Yates's father was an attorney and became a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals for a long tenure (1966-1984). Yates herself, as a US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, prosecuted political corruption (of which Georgia had its fair share) and she became head of the DOJ's Fraud and Public Corruption division. She was lead prosecutor of Eric Robert Rudolph, the notorious Atlantic Olympics bomber who successfully hid out in western North Carolina for months. 

Bonus points: She'll be good on TV.




Doug Jones
There'll be sentiment to give him a job after his loss of his Senate seat in Alabama.

US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama from 1997-2001, during which time he successfully prosecuted two Klan members for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four Black girls. (It's generally accepted that it was the wave of voting by Black women that got him the seat in the Senate.) He also had a hand in the Eric Robert Rudolph prosecution. It was Jones who secured the indictment against him for domestic terrorism.

In 2018 Jones won a longshot candidacy for Jeff Session's old Senate seat in a special election, beating connoisseur of teenaged girls Roy Moore by two percentage points. He lost that same seat two years later, like everyone predicted he would, to a blockhead coach with very little clue. Roll, Tide!

Considered a "moderate," Jones voted for Trump initiatives about 35% of the time, but he also voted for the conviction of Trump at his impeachment trial. All things considered, he's probably a little less "blue dog" than Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Jones would also bring a Southern accent to TV and could be as effective on that medium.

 



William K. Black
Wikipedia: Lawyer, academic, author, and a former bank regulator. Black's expertise is in white-collar crime, public finance, regulation, and other topics in law and economics. Black was litigation director for the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB) from 1984 to 1986, deputy director of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) in 1987, and Senior VP and the General Counsel of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco from 1987 to 1989, which regulated some of the largest thrift banks in the U.S. He was a central figure in exposing Congressional corruption during the Savings and Loan Crisis.

According to Bill Moyers, "During the savings and loan crisis, it was Black who accused then-house speaker Jim Wright and five US Senators, including John Glenn and John McCain, of doing favors for the S&L's in exchange for contributions and other perks. Bi-partisan enough for you? The senators got off with a slap on the wrist, but so enraged was one of those bankers, Charles Keating — after whom the Senate's so-called "Keating Five" were named — he sent a memo that read, in part, 'get Black — kill him dead.' Metaphorically, of course. Of course." 

Black became very outspoken on the criminality behind the 2008 crash and 2009 recession. Black asserted that the banking crisis was essentially a big Ponzi scheme; that the "liar loans" and other financial tricks were essentially illegal frauds; and that the triple-A ratings given to these loans were part of a criminal cover-up. President Obama declined to prosecute the banks while Black thought that trying to hide how bad the situation was would simply prolong the problems. He fingered Obama's treasury secretary Timothy Geithner as engaging in the cover-up and claimed that Obama's team did not want people to understand what went wrong or how bad the banking situation was.

Given that past criticism of the Obama administration, Black is probably not a leading contender, though his appointment would make the Bernie forces happy ... which in turn would make McConnell very dyspeptic.

William K. Black


Jeh Johnson
Secretary of Homeland Security for Obama's 2nd term. Previously the General Counsel of the Department of Defense from 2009 to 2012 during the first years of the Obama Administration. He is currently a partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and a member of the board of directors of Lockheed Martin Corporation and U.S. Steel. Johnson is a 2018 recipient of the Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Award, has debated several times at the Oxford and Cambridge Unions and is the recipient of ten honorary degrees. In private life, Johnson has been a frequent commentator on national and homeland security matters on NBC, MSNBC, FOX, CNN, ABC, CBS and PBS.

Too corporate for me but probably not for Biden.


Deval Patrick
Former Governor of Massachusetts for two terms, and before that served as the United States Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division under President Bill Clinton. He ran briefly as a vanity candidate for president in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.


Xavier Becerra
Currently Attorney General of California since 2017. He previously was a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing downtown Los Angeles in Congress from 1993 to 2017. Becerra was Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus from 2013 to 2017. 

 

Lisa Monaco
Federal prosecutor who was the Homeland Security Adviser to President Barack Obama, the chief counterterrorism advisor to the president. In this capacity, she was a statutory member of the United States Homeland Security Council.

Monaco previously served as the Assistant Attorney General for National Security from 2011 to 2013, and as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department. In 2017, Monaco became a senior national security analyst for CNN.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Four More Members Named to the Biden Team

Alejandro Mayorkas, as secretary-designate of homeland security 

The first Latino and first immigrant (he was born in Cuba) to lead the Homeland Security Department. He is a former director of the department’s legal immigration agency and a former deputy secretary of homeland security.

According to Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Mayorkas was seen as the candidate who could best stabilize the department, which has spent much of the last four years in turmoil. The department has been cursed with vacancies and interim leaders, has been accused of bending to Mr. Trump’s political whims, whether that meant separating children from their families at the border, building a wall with Defense Department money, or pulling protesters from the streets of Portland, Ore.

Soon after his nomination became public, Mayorkas tweeted: "When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge. Now, I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones."



Avril Haines, as director of national intelligence

First woman named to this job, Haines was also the first woman to be deputy director of the CIA and served as former President Barack Obama’s principal deputy national security adviser. Haines has worked with Biden for more than a decade.

According to Ben Leonard, she was born into a household of two scientists. While Haines was still a teenager, she became a principal caregiver to her mother, who was dying of tuberculosis. By the time she was 24, Haines had studied physics at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University after receiving a degree in physics from the University of Chicago. She then pursued and received a law degree from George Washington University.

In the mid-1990s she opened a book store in Baltimore with her future husband. She then clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit from 2002 to 2003. From 2007 to 2008, Haines served as the deputy chief counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Joe Biden chaired. In 2018, Haines was named a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Juicy factoid: While running her bookstore, she and her husband to be hosted monthly readings of erotic literature.


John F. Kerry, as the presidential envoy for climate

Kerry is (of course!) a former secretary of state, senator, and Democratic presidential nominee. He will lead the country’s reentry into global climate politics in a new role that will elevate climate change as a priority of President-elect Biden. [What follows comes from Brady Dennis et al.]

Kerry has continued to work on climate-related issues since the end of the Obama administration. Last year, Kerry launched World War Zero, a coalition of scientists, celebrities, world leaders and other activists to push for more aggressive climate action around the globe. The group describes its mission as “uniting unlikely allies with one common mission: respond to the climate crisis now.”

Earlier this year, Kerry co-chaired a climate task force with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) set up by the Biden campaign to make policy recommendations and bring supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) into the fold after Biden secured the Democratic nomination.

Catherine Coleman Flowers, an environmental activist in Montgomery, Ala., and a Sanders surrogate on the panel, said Kerry helped smooth over disagreements involving nuclear energy and other issues during Zoom meetings.

“He was quite the diplomat in terms of trying to make sure that all sides were represented and that we could reach compromises that we could all live with,” she said. “He had a good understanding of the climate crisis.”


Janet Yellin, as secretary-designate of the Department of the Treasury

First woman nominated to lead Treasury in its 231-year history. Also the first woman to head the Federal Reserve.

According to Michael Crowley and Jeanna Smialek, "Biden is turning to a renowned labor economist at a moment of high unemployment, when millions of Americans remain out of work and the economy continues to struggle from the coronavirus.

"Ms. Yellen, 74, is likely to bring a long-held preference for government help for households that are struggling economically. But she will be thrust into negotiating for more aid with what is expected to be a divided Congress, pushing her into a far more political role than the one she played at the independent central bank.

“ 'While the pandemic is still seriously affecting the economy, we need to continue extraordinary fiscal support,' Ms. Yellen said in a Bloomberg Television interview in October."

That's a Hell of a Piece of Graceless Denial that Emily Murphy Wrote

 

The head of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, the formerly anonymous Federal employee who has the power to launch the presidential transition, wrote her "letter of ascertainment," and it might supply endless grist for psychological profiles for years to come.

She says that the law gives her sole power to open the Federal government to Biden's transition teams. (She never addresses him as "President Elect," by the way.) Sole authority. It's all her decision. No one pressured her to delay the ascertainment. No one ordered that she issue her letter yesterday. No one in the executive branch or in the White House. No one.

It's Trump-world speak for "I know that I must deny being terrified of existential annihilation."

Immediately, Twitterman tweeted that he ordered her.

Her letter is actually not only a Federal lie of remarkable proportions but also tawdry, as she lapses into whining about the abuse she's taken from a public unamused by her stonewalling.

Deal with it. You chose to lie down with that dog.


Monday, November 23, 2020

Biden Building Out His Foreign Policy Team To Rebuild US Prestige Abroad

 

Biden is reportedly going to name Linda Thomas-Greenfield as his UN Ambassador. Gotta fall back on Wikipedia here:

[She] is an American diplomat who served as the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the United States Department of State's Bureau of African Affairs from 2013 to 2017. Thomas-Greenfield has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (2004–2006), Ambassador to Liberia (2008–2012), and Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (2012–2013). In 2017 she was terminated by the Trump administration as part of a "purge of senior State Department officials and career professionals over nearly four years."

Love it that she's one of the career diplomats purged out of the State Department in the early days of the Trump administration.

Jake Sullivan will reportedly be named National Security Advisor:

Jacob Jeremiah Sullivan (born November 28, 1976) is an American policymaker who was a senior policy advisor to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential election campaign, with expertise in foreign policy.

At present, Sullivan is the Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College and a senior fellow and Master in Public Policy faculty member at the Carsey School of Public Policy.

Sullivan was also a senior advisor to the U.S. government for the Iran nuclear negotiations and a visiting professor at Yale Law School.

Prior to teaching at Yale, Sullivan worked in the Obama administration as Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. He also served as the Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. Department of State, and as Deputy Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Prior to this, he was deputy policy director on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential primary campaign, and a member of the debate preparation team for Barack Obama's general election campaign. [Wikipedia]

 

Biden Makes His Pick for Secretary of State

 

Tony Blinken has the best hair.
Photo Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

President-Elect Joe Biden has chosen his Secretary of State, Antony (no aitch) "Tony" Blinken, who has long and deep experience. The following from Wikipedia:

"...served as United States Deputy Secretary of State from 2015 to 2017 and Deputy National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2015 under President Barack Obama. He previously served as a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2001–2002), Democratic Staff Director of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (2002–2008), and a member of the Obama–Biden presidential transition, active from November 2008 to January 2009, among other positions. From 2009 to 2013, Blinken served as Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President. From 2002 to 2008, he served as the Democratic Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During the Clinton Administration, Blinken served in the State Department and in senior positions on the National Security Council staff."

He's not looking to blow up the world, and he speaks fluent French. His parents survived the Holocaust.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Two Brave Republicans: Chatfield and Shirkey

 

You know you're in a fix when you need to praise two Michigan Republicans for not being intimidated into overturning an election for partisan control.

Lee Chatfield on the left with Mike Shirkey beside him. 
Photo Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press
See, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, they got summoned to the Oval Office by the President of the United States, who just wanted a friendly chat about what the chances were that they could make the Michigan state legislature overturn the election results and name Trump electors for the Electoral College vote on December 14.

Instead, Messrs. Shirkey and Chatfield said no thank you and instead hit the president up for Federal aide to combat the coronavirus. Then they issued a press statement that was the equivalent of a door-slammin':


"We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election."

There was more -- a deliberate slap at Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani (and by implication a slap at Twitterman himself):

"Michigan’s certification process should be a deliberate process free from threats and intimidation. Allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken seriously, thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan's electoral votes. These are simple truths that should provide confidence in our elections.”

Now, I judge those two guys about the bravest elected Republicans in the nation right now. Also strategic operators, like many Midwesterners, as they took command of the meeting for an opportunity to get some help for Michigan in this COVID crisis. "...They focused on COVID-19 assistance, not the president's ongoing efforts to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election." Michigan's virus spike is straining every resource. On the very day that they visited the president in his den, Michigan reported 9,779 new cases and 53 additional deaths.

So imagine the scene: Trump, who by reputation usually does all the talking and expects people to snap to, gets shut down by these two gentlemen from Michigan -- they either used the actual word "No" or otherwise indicated they weren't there to play. Instead, they grab the moment to plead for help for their beleaguered state. Trump sits there, steaming. But the gentlemen are ready and have a definitive printed statement on "threats and intimidation." 

Has Trump trashed them yet on Twitter? Dunno. Will find out by and by (see footnote).

In the meantime, I put Messrs. Shirkey and Chatfield up against Lindsey Graham and just laugh.

Footnote

I went and looked at Twitterman's Twitter feed. At 8:15 this morning, he retweeted the Shirkey/Chatfield press release with the bizarre comment, "Massive voter fraud will be shown!" How, where "massive voter fraud" gets outed -- that's unexplained, along with what the fraud consists of. One wonders if he actually read the press release before he retweeted it. 

So maybe the meeting went like this: "Massive fraud will be shown!" Chatfield and Shirkey: "Call us when you've got something real. Now, we have this other thing going on...."

For Trump it's massive "fraud" when Black people vote in large numbers.


Thursday, November 19, 2020

I'm Thinking of Becoming a Shallow Person

 

Because keeping up and caring about all this stuff is so exhausting.

I mean, I loved "The Apprentice," especially "Celebrity Apprentice," and I think having such an ingenious -- he came up with all those tasks every week -- and decisive president is what people I follow on Twitter say we need right now. Anyways, when is the election exactly?

I've heard of socialism. It's bad. I will avoid it like I avoid looking like a slouch when I go out of the house.

I don't even know what the state legislature does. Something about naming post offices, I think. No, I've never heard of Phil Berger or Tim Moore. Were they on "The Apprentice"?

I keep hearing about a big party in Georgia pretty soon after New Year's, and if there's live music I want to go sooo bad. The travel problems -- not just the weather in January, but have you ever been in traffic in Atlanta? Plus people look at you hard about those masks. This flu everybody's talking about -- I've had the flu before and it's no biggie. Besides, I had my flu shot. And how come the lines at the drive-throughs are miles long? Who's playing in Georgia, anyway? If I had a list of the performers, I could see if it's really worth the effort. Maybe I should try to get others to help drive and share the gas.

I don't know a thing about student debt, about why all those Black people are protesting, about "unemployment benefits and relief packages for the middle class," about Afghanistan and Iraq and the rest of "foreign policy" (yuk!), about some chick at the GSA (whatever that is?), about whether or not the climate is changing for the bad ... so don't even. Don't even ask me. I have heard about maybe North Carolina's legalizing marijuana, and I'm interested in that.

I keep hearing that The Donald is burning something in Washington, or "burning it down." That makes me a little nervous. Maybe it's the National Christmas Tree they're talking about, but we always waited until after New Year's to burn ours. That's why I'm a little nervous, not knowing what they're talking about.

Anyhow, I hear "The Crown" is terrific, and I mean to get to it as soon as I finish bingeing on all ten seasons of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."