Friday, August 19, 2022

Mark Martin's Involvement in Election Denialism Targeted by Carolina Forward


It was very recently announced that former NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin was returning to North Carolina to become the founding dean of the brand new High Point School of Law. When Martin resigned his seat on the NC Supremes, he went to become dean of the law school at Regent University, the school founded by evangelist and Jehovah whisperer Pat Robertson.

Then came this bombshell news: The New York Times reported that Martin served as an informal advisor to Trump in the days following the election and supported an unsuccessful lawsuit that sought to overturn Joe Biden’s wins in Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

The Times also reported that Martin told Trump that then-Vice President Mike Pence had the power to reject state election returns — a move Pence rejected.

The Washington Post reported that Trump spoke with Martin on Jan. 6, 2021, the day Trump supporters overran the U.S. Capitol. Martin has repeatedly declined to comment publicly about his involvement.

Martin’s appointment as dean has raised eyebrows since it was announced in June. Last month, the editorial board of the nearby Greensboro News & Record chided Martin and the university for failing to "address the brontosaurus in the room."

Carolina Forward intensified the debate this week when it purchased an interstate billboard near High Point University saying, “Mark Martin betrayed our constitution.” Carolina Forward is pressuring High Point University (which is affiliated with the United Methodists) to rescind Martin's appointment as dean of its law school.

“Mark Martin’s repeated attempts to help Donald Trump steal the 2020 election were a blatant violation of basic Constitutional principles,” said Blair Reeves, Carolina Forward’s Executive Director. “Martin was an eager and willing participant in an effort to overthrow a duly-elected American government, and helped inspire the horror of January 6th’s right-wing terrorist assault against the U.S. Capitol. He is no longer fit to practice law, let alone guide the course of legal education based on a Constitution for which he shows pure contempt.”

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Abortion Access in NC Took a Major Hit Yesterday


A law prohibiting abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy has been on the books in North Carolina in some form since 1973. But it has not been enforced recently. Federal Judge William L. Osteen Jr. of the Eastern District of North Carolina ruled the law unconstitutional in 2019, based on Supreme Court precedent at the time. Osteen's decision was affirmed by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2021.

Then came Amy Coney Barrett who joined all the Catholic boys on the Court, and they overturned Roe v. Wade.

Osteen reinstated the 20-week ban on abortions yesterday, essentially saying his hands were tied by Coney Barrett et al. "Under Dobbs [v. Jackson Women's Health Org.], there is now no constitutional right to a pre-viability abortion, thus depriving the injunction of any constitutional basis from which to enjoin the challenged North Carolina laws regulating abortion .... Neither this court, nor the public, nor counsel, nor providers have the right to ignore the rule of law as determined by the Supreme Court."

Attorney General Josh Stein had refused to seek the overturning of Osteen's original injunction. Stein had announced last month that the N.C. Department of Justice would not “take action that would restrict women’s ability to make their own reproductive health care decisions.” But BergerMoore were only too happy to take up the crusade against women's rights: “North Carolina’s abortion statutes are undeniably lawful under Dobbs, and there is no longer any basis for an injunction to shackle the state from pursuing its legitimate interests,” Berger and Moore wrote in their brief to Osteen.

So now North Carolina is minutes closer to midnight.

Reagan-Appointed Judge to Jan. 6th Rioter: "You're No Patriot!"


As he was about to be sentenced for his role in the January 6th attack on the Capitol, John Cameron, a real estate agent from the Seattle area, attempted to signal to the judge that he and the judge ought to be buddies: “Can you guess who my favorite president is?” Evidently, Mr. Cameron knew that Judge Thomas F. Hogan had been appointed to the Federal bench by President Ronald Reagan some 40 years ago.

When Judge Hogan stared at Cameron and didn't answer, Hogan proudly announced, "Ronald Reagan," as though he was due a dish of congratulatory ice cream (Rocky Road). The judge instead lowered the boom:

He had questions of his own. How, he asked, could Cameron claim to have seen no violence or clear sign he could not enter the Capitol during the riot? Did he not hear murderous chants and blaring alarms, smell tear gas, see people climbing up scaffolding and through windows? Did he think, as he said on Facebook, that it was all “fun”? And if so, was he withdrawing his plea to a misdemeanor charge?

Cameron changed his tune double-quick: 

“No,” Cameron replied, after a moment’s hesitation. “I picketed within the Capitol, and that was illegal. ... I would never do it again.”

That remorse seemed convenient and actually fake to the judge:

“I keep hearing from Jan. 6 defendants, ‘We’re being prosecuted,’ like it’s a surprise, or ‘We’re being persecuted,’ like it’s unfair. I do not understand that psychology,” Hogan told him. “What irritates me most is that all of you are claiming you’re patriots; you’re not patriots when you attack the Capitol of the United States.”

He compared the Jan. 6 rioters to “a lynching mob” in which the support of encouragement of more passive members like Cameron was crucial: “A mob doesn’t act alone.” ...

Hogan told Cameron that he was lucky prosecutors had not moved to charge him with a felony after his recent social media statements.

“If you had pleaded to a felony, I would just put you in jail for a long time,” he said. Instead he gave him 30 days in jail and three years of probation, as requested by the government, with the incarceration made intermittent to conform with his understanding of the law.

“The court at least hopes that in this three-year period, you don’t engage in any such conduct again,” Hogan concluded.

Whatya wanna bet he does "engage in such conduct again"? 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Mary Trump Understands the "Brand"


The GOP Abandoning Oz in Pennsylvania for Budd in North Carolina


Ted Budd with his anchor

The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced it's canceling $13.5 million in TV ad spending, because it doesn't have the cash to waste any more on hopeless cases like a natural born loser in Pennsylvania (Dr. Oz). They also canceled TV buys in Arizona (Blake Masters), Wisconsin (Ron Johnson), and Nevada (Adam Laxalt), but whether those cancellations signal abandonment of an unsustainable long-shot I know not. I haven't done that research.

Politico reports that Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania, Ted Budd in North Carolina, and J.D. Vance in Ohio haven't done well with fundraising, which perhaps signals a lack of enthusiasm in Republican ranks, though all three have been as Trumpist as possible. We hear that the NRSC will begin pumping TV money for Budd into North Carolina because Cheri Beasley has been rising in the polls. (You might want to be prepared for some nasty attacks on the Black woman.)

Gotta love this newsflash on the DSCC website:

DOG DAYS OF SUMMER – FLAWED CANDIDATES, FUNDRAISING FLOPS ARE BIG WOOF FOR SENATE GOP. News coverage is highlighting how there is “a growing fear among top Republicans that the party’s nomination of deeply flawed candidates in key Senate races” will be a major issue – all while “Democratic Senate candidates are posting blockbuster hauls” and “are outraising their Republican rivals.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

How Democrats Should Run

Don’t make this election about Trump, but draw a sharp contrast with Trumpism.
--Advice of Democratic political consultants for 2022 Congressional candidates, reported by the WashPost

I think that advice is pretty good.

I try not to focus on Trump at all on this site (though I lapse sometimes, like when I got recently fascinated by the theory of Trump and "the Drunken Fist"), but "Trumpism" became a search label on WataugaWatch before 2020 and has racked up many pings in 2021 and 2022. The Trumpists are raging. They're mad. They smell blood (which may turn out to be turtle poo), and they have plans for you. Especially you. They aren't afraid to say what some people consider outrageous things because they're just being themselves, finally released from the bindings of political correctness. 

Women, they have further plans for you. And you, the young and the restless, and you, Black and brown people, and newcomers to these shores from non-European nations. They have plans for all of you (and their Christian nationalist branch has definite plans for public schools and public libraries and the regulation of private behavior.

"The Purge," 2013, Universal Picts.

Gosh. The Trump GOP has created a brand -- "We stand for cruelty and force" -- that just might scorch them. 

What does it mean, after all, that Trumpists love a purge? They run off their best talent, censor them, vote them out in nasty primaries. Because those people do not kiss the ring. Those interior eliminations by the Republicans themselves become ultra mean because that's the way their leader behaves. That's his identity, and now it's become the identity of an entire political party. Hey candidates: do your best Trump, talk tough, spout conspiracy theories and rabid ideas, make your nonsense sound unassailable, and push extreme laws that strip, say, women of equal citizenship in the name of religion. 

Today it's as though Liz Cheney got denounced to the Congregation of the Holy Office (Inquisition) and was quickly condemned to an auto-da-fe ("act of faith") when the Pope Hisself marked her for death, and the Republican voters cult-like piled up the dry wood for her immolation. She's being (by all reliable reports) burned at the stake today, an actually thoughtful, knowledgeable, philosophically consistent member of Congress whose integrity cannot be abided by Trump or by his Trumpists.

Because counter-reformation Christians considered it an "act of faith"
to burn certain people at the stake, the above is a contemporary illustration
of an Auto-da-fe in Valladolid, Spain, May 21, 1559

“I think this is much bigger than Trump. This is about a radical MAGA Republican Party that wants to take away your rights, your benefits, your freedoms,” DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) said. That's it, that's the message and the issue that can energize the Democratic base and draw the Unaffiliated.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Conventional Wisdom, Showing Doubt


More than two weeks ago, after the Kansas vote affirming abortion rights, I let my inner Little-Mary-Sunshine loose (I'm always the eternal optimist, often cock-eyed too) and expressed impatience with the opinions of professional yakkers and political handicappers that the Democrats were absolutely doomed by a coming Red Wave in 2022:

I'm coming to resent the poor-mouthing I hear from some Democratic activists. Maybe we lose the Democratic House and the Democratic Senate, and maybe we don't. You cherry-pick your intimations of doom, and I'll cherry-pick ... my cherries. The prediction that 2022 is going to rival 2010 for the Democrats has become conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom is a ass and a idiot (to paraphrase Mr. Bumble).

So it pleasures me to note that the professional yakkers (especially) are beginning to express doubt that the Democrats are going down hard. The Sunday morning shows today had examples of it, and then I happened on Amy Walter's "Summer Breeze" essay on the Cook Political Report. Maybe the winds are blowing the other way now, not that Democrats can really avoid at least some losses in the House. Walter quotes her colleague David Wasserman's analysis: "... the better-than-expected showings by Democratic candidates in NE-01 and MN-01 House specials mean 'we're no longer living in a political environment as pro-GOP as November 2021'."

Other tangible signs: 

At the start of the summer, Republicans had a 2 point advantage on the generic congressional ballot. Today, the two parties are basically tied (Democrats up 0.1 in the FiveThirtyEight average).

...polling taken this month and last by Monmouth found a 'generic Democrat' running anywhere from 11 to 14 points better among independent voters than Biden's job approval ratings with these same voters. For example, the most recent Monmouth poll found a Democrat pulling 47 percent of the vote from independent voters — which is 14 points higher than Biden's anemic 33 percent job approval rating with these voters. A late July Quinnipiac poll, which found Republicans ahead by just one point on the generic ballot question (44 to 43 percent), also found Democrats doing 12 points better among independents than Biden's anemic 23 percent.

It's that turn among independent voters that's most significant for us in North Carolina, where by last count the Unaffiliated population of voters has overtaken both the Democrats and the Republicans. It's the unaffiliated who hold our fate in their hands, and don't they see Trump and Trumpists for what they are?

A couple of days ago, Alexander H. Jones over at PoliticsNC published a column titled "Is a Red Wave On the Way? Maybe Not," both exhibiting the fracturing of the convention wisdom while still wearing the mask of tragedy: ":...the Democratic party looks as if it may well have the power to blunt Republican momentum and sustain a smaller blow to their majorities than almost everyone in the political class had confidently predicted...."

Still gonna take a hit, sez Jones, especially to its majority in the US House, but "a smaller blow." I both like that and resist its ingrained down-at-the-mouth bracing for disaster. But then, I work campaigns as well as write about them, and I demand hope to carry on.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Donald Trump and the Drunken Fist



Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance. 


--Herman Melville, "Bartleby the Scivener: A Story of Wall-Street"


The quote from Melville ties in at the bottom, but first, thanks to my friend JDG, I've been thinking about the Drunken Fist style of fighting as an explanation for pretty much everything happening in the 21st Century. The Drunken Fist totally explains the eel-like slipperiness of Donald J. Trump along with the Democrats' earnest inability to grab him and hold on.


His hallmark has been getting away with outrageous breaches of decorum -- “Do you believe in Santa Claus? I know it’s marginal at seven.” The artlessness of saying such a thing to a seven-year-old is beyond parody, as is “Look at my African American.” To criticize such is to get sucked into a whole different energy, where you'll always look like a pursed-lip librarian.  


Trump’s not the first American president who could disarm his opponents by being willing to play the fool. On camera once, George W. Bush, on the golf course, talking about the Middle East -- "We've got to stop the terror" -- then ending with, “Watch this drive,” and hitting a good line shot. “See ya in church,” he says, and drives off in his electric cart. We all know it’s somehow wrong behavior or silly tone-deafness for a president, but trying to explain why it’s wrong only comes across as a fuddy-duddy's self-parody.


Abbie Hoffman – he nominated a pig for president, he levitated the Pentagon, and when our elders brought him up as an example of godless unAmericanism, didn't they all sound like impossibly square citizens who didn't even recognize that the joke's on them. 


That’s the heart of it. That's the secret of the drunken fist.


"Drunken Fist" as Kung-Fu Style


I'm aware there's a bunch of movies exploring the drunken Kung-Fu fighter, but I haven't seen them and clearly I need to. Drunken Fist, I found out, is considered a "bona fide style" in the Kung-Fu schools and uses footwork and surprise strikes "developed out of the stumbling gait of a drunken fool." It's a technique used by the accomplished kung fu master when trying to confuse and trick his opponents "into thinking he is incapacitated, insignificant, and unworthy of attention."


Recently (if you'll indulge me), I was socially incapacitated, like by a drunken fist, when the energy I was exhibiting met a totally different wave. Here's the story: I heard while deep inside my house a loud banging somewhere out in our front yard, which was shielded by plantings of shrubs and trees. So I walked out there and came on a scene on the very grass that I mow, an employee of the DOT pounding into the turf, on my property (the state owns zero right of way on Old 421), a big steel post for a highway sign. 


The man's wearing ear plugs, because the work is loud. He can't hear me at first, sees me gesticulating behind him, jerks out the earplugs, and I repeat, "We own this property, all the way to the pavement."


That tickled him. "You probably own to the center of the pavement." He said it in the best good humor, and I knew he was right, for when the old 421 was built in the early '30s, the state retained no right of way. We learned that when they wanted to put a gasline through our yard and take out three 70-year-old shade trees. The man from DOT was laughing at the obviousness of it. 

I countered with, "We didn't get any notification that this was happening." And that tickled him even more. "Oh, we never do that!" like I'm an idiot for thinking such a thing. The state doesn't need right of way to regulate the road, obviously, or there'd be no signage at all on Old 421. And in that moment, I'm completely defeated. After a little more apologetic fact-finding by me, I slink off back to the house and report to higher authorities. Embarassing.


When I tell this story, laughing at my own weakness, JDG says, "You got drunken-fisted." Thereby launching a discussion that's been going on now for days.


It's all about energy, cooling or confusing an opponent's own aggressive energy or his assumed social dominance. And then Pow! the uppercut you didn't see coming. It's Donald Trump when he tries "dancing" on stage, his little hands in fists and his arms pulled up like chicken legs, and those little dainty steps. Then a minute later he's stirring up people to look forward to a day of violence and vengeance on his enemies.

How do you counter the politician who would be King, if he's playing the fool?


Bartleby the Scivener as Model Drunken-Fister


JDG reminded me of Bartleby, the Herman Melville character who works at a Wall Street law office as a hand copier of legal documents, a well paid job in the 1850s (waaay before typewriters and copier machines), and who one day begins refusing certain tasks. "I would prefer not to." That line from that story became a knowing joke in my day, when many of the anti-war university crowd that I was adjacent to quoted it as comeuppance for the establishment, especially, say, the Selective Service. 


"I would prefer not to" -- its mysterious politeness mixed with brazen affrontery has puzzled generations of readers and spawned multiple high falutin interpretations about the meaning of Bartleby's placid (and ultimately self-destructive) stubbornness. As the story progresses, Bartleby's Wall Street employer -- who's actually telling this story -- is totally disarmed and defeated as an employer. Bartleby unaccountably remains in the office all the time, day and night, and prefers not to do any number of things including eventually refusing to recognize his own dismissal from the firm. Ultimately, and to the employer's actual guilty regret, he's physically removed from the premises but remains perched on the stairs outside until he's carted off to an asylum where he dies, still preferring not to.


Here's the first appearance of "I would prefer not to" in the story:


Imagine my surprise … when … Bartleby in a singularly mild, firm voice, replied,"I would prefer not to."


"Prefer not to," echoed I, rising in high excitement, and crossing the room with a stride, "What do you mean? Are you moon-struck? I want you to help me compare this sheet here--take it," and I thrust it towards him.


"I would prefer not to," said he.


I looked at him steadfastly. His face was leanly composed; his gray eye dimly calm. Not a wrinkle of agitation rippled him. Had there been the least uneasiness, anger, impatience or impertinence in his manner; in other words, had there been any thing ordinarily human about him, doubtless I should have violently dismissed him from the premises. 


"Had there been any thing ordinarily human about him." I can't but flash on the Trump we know, and I feel like I understand the principle that playing the fool can be an almost infallible first step to turning the tables.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Watauga County Teachers Attacked for Teaching "Woke" Lit


I might appreciate the warning letter from one Mark A. Murphy that was published in High Country Press, raising the prospect that "Woke Political Indoctrination" has infiltrated Watauga County Public Schools and is on the verge of making our children culturally and racially tolerant. I might appreciate it, but I don't, because it looks like pure unsubstantiated provocation. (And I get the Trumpist implication of capitalizing those words, Woke Political Indoctrination, like it's on a par with Marxism and -- eek! -- Unitarianism.)

Mark A. Murphy trails some high educational credentials after his signed name -- Ph.D. and J.D. -- but apparently missed class the day they taught using examples to make your argument clear. Murphy claims he's found multiple instances in on-line educational resources used by Watauga County teachers -- " is clear that the Newsela materials are filled with the concepts and language of Critical Race Theory, racial and sexual Identity Politics, and 'woke' political indoctrination" -- and I would surely like to see an example of what he's talking about. Murphy offers nary an example, not a single quote of this "wokeness" that alarms him.

No, he's throwing around hard-right lingo like a drunk throws chairs in a Saturday night dive-bar. And trying to stir up parental resentfulness, anger, and fear just for fun, apparently, or out of boredom. If he had an actual case to make, let him make it in clear terms with examples, and we'll make up our own minds.