Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Environment Will Go To Hell, and We Will Go To War

So Trump wants to increase military spending by $54 billion and slash environmental protections and strangle the State Department, because why would you even need diplomats when the Great Negotiator is in charge, and Steve Bannon wants war with Islam?

Clean air and water? You can always buy Trump bottled water.

“I don’t know how you take $54 billion out without wholesale taking out entire departments,” said Bill Hoagland, a longtime Republican budget aide in the Senate and now a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Trump's budget proposals were otherwise vague on detail, but supposedly he doesn't intend to touch Social Security or Medicare, thus giving Paul Ryan a serious nosebleed which still hasn't stopped.

But rest assured, Trump will not inflate the military like that without using it. We're going to war, folks. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon, and for the rest of our lives.

"Nobody Knew"

Trump on Sunday, in front of the nation's governors, talking about health care policy-making: “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

Well, what he meant of course was "I didn't know." Because he doesn't know anything about government and its complexities. And doesn't really appear educable or even really curious.

He dances on Steve Bannon's strings, and Bannon only tells him what he wants him to do or say.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Today's Protest at Virginia Foxx's Office

Part of the substantial crowd that showed up this afternoon outside Virginia Foxx's Boone office, demanding that she hold a public town hall meeting before the end of March. Will she? Why would you even ask?

"Enemy of the People" -- A Little History

The phrase Trump has been using and repeating about the news media -- they are "enemies of the people" -- was first used in a political context in France in 1789, while the revolution was busily guillotining anybody who opposed them. According to Andrew Higgins, "the term acquired a far more lethal and legalistic meaning with the adoption of a 1794 [French] law that set up a revolutionary tribunal 'to punish enemies of the people' and codified political crimes punishable by death. These included 'spreading false news to divide or trouble the people.' ”

The phrase earned new fame about a century later in 1882, when Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen wrote "An Enemy of the People," a play set in a small town where a courageous whistle-blower goes up against the local power-structure, which is trying to cover up water pollution to protect the local economy. (Gosh. There's nothing new under the sun.)

Beginning in 1917 during the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the term got its bloodiest and most modern remake under the regimes of Lenin and Stalin -- especially Stalin. Lenin revived the term, explicitly citing the French revolution as his inspiration, so as to rid the Russian people of “landowners and capitalists as a class.”

"Stalin, who took over as Soviet leader upon Lenin’s death in 1924, drastically expanded the scope of those branded as 'enemies of the people,' targeting not only capitalists but also dedicated communists who had worked alongside Lenin for years, but whom Stalin viewed as rivals." Thousands were branded "enemies of the people." The branding amounted to a death sentence, and thousands did perish.

Trump's love affair with Russian totalitarianism now includes the adoption of language once favored by one of the great tyrants and butchers of history. With that language goes also his dictator's attitude toward those who cross him.

Thank God for those courageous newsmen and -women who have the resources to burrow into this man's motives and actions and inform the rest of us, for the sake of our democracy.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

"First, We Get the Power, and Then We Ban the Press"

"We have a respect for the press," said Sean Spicer, soon after his boss had won the presidency but before the inauguration, and we would never ever not ever ban any press from its own government. That would just be wrong.

But that was then.

Gonna Be a Busy Spring in Court

Jim Morrill and Michael Gordon have produced a useful primer on some major court challenges to  recently passed Republican laws in North Carolina:

March 28: The US Supremes will hear arguments in a related Virginia case involving a transgender student (the outcome of which could affect the future of HB2). In May, the 4th Circuit in Richmond has scheduled a hearing on a direct challenge to HB2 (Carcaño v. McCrory, a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal).

Gerrymandered NC House & Senate Seats
Covington v. North Carolina -- a lawsuit filed in May 2015. Some 31 North Carolina residents sued the state, leaders of the legislative redistricting committee, and state board of elections, contending that Republican lawmakers had packed African-American voters into nine Senate districts and 19 House districts in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

A three-judge panel last year ordered new legislative districts drawn by March 15 followed by a new election in those districts. The state appealed and the Supreme Court put the order on hold. The Supreme Court is expected to decide this spring whether to hear the appeal.

Voting Rights
NAACP v. North Carolina --Last year a three-judge federal panel struck down the monster law that rewrote in 2013 North Carolina voting rights -- imposing a photo ID, eliminating days of early voting and out-of-precinct voting and straight-ticket voting, among other changes.

While he was still governor, Pat McCrory appealed the three-judge ruling to the US Supremes. A hearing on that appeal is scheduled for March 3, but last week Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein withdrew McCrory's appeal on behalf of North Carolina, discharged the private lawyers hired to argue the case, and prompted Republican leaders in the NC House and Senate to now seek to intervene in the case.

Boards of Elections
The law passed and signed in the last minutes of the McCrory administration that snatches control of boards of election from Governor Cooper -- After two rulings against it (in Wake Superior Court and by a three-judge panel) and one ruling for it (by three anonymous judges on the NC Court of Appeals), the challenge to this noxious power-grab by the Republicans has been "plucked" by the NC Supreme Court which will soon hear arguments on its constitutionality.

The Governor's Power to Appoint
In another last-minute law passed to thwart newly elected Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, the NC Senate reserved for itself the right to confirm all of Cooper's cabinet appointments. Cooper sued (Cooper v. Berger and Moore), maintaining the new law is an unconstitutional intrusion into the separation of powers.

Cooper is hanging tough. He is refusing to allow his cabinet appointees to appear in the Senate for confirmation hearings. The issue will get a hearing on March 7.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sweet Dreams, Citizens

You might be witnessing the destruction of American democracy if...

1. ...a president demonizes a free and independent press.

2. ...a president's chief of staff attempts to induce FBI officials to deny press reports that have implicated that president's inner circle in secret dealings with a foreign, hostile government.

3.  ...a president views more than half of the nation's population as a threat to his power, assaults his perceived enemies with violent rhetoric, and takes steps to isolate them (see # 1 above).

4. ...a president is compulsively more concerned about his own image than he is in consensus-building with a majority of the citizens who do not agree with him.

5. ...a president has nothing to fear from a complacent Congress in the way of oversight or investigation.

6. ...a president that claims he cannot have a conflict of interest.

7. ...a president that attacks the 3rd branch of government as "so-called judges."

Friday, February 24, 2017

Bannon's Bumptiousness

Yesterday in front of the CPAC audience -- a gathering of conservative warlords and high priestesses -- Trump's puppet-master Steve Bannon was not shy with his grandiosity: The “deconstruction of the administrative state” has just begun, Bannon declared.

“If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction,” Bannon said.

How decorously he wrapped it up! But if you think a bunch of billionaires and Goldman Sachs bankers are going to smash government for the benefit of "common people," you're maybe too deep into the Kool Aid to climb out now.

The Mountain Has Moved Closer

"If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain."
For the nonce, "Muhammad" = Sen. Thom Tillis and all the other Republicans representing North Carolina who have refused to meet with their constituents during the current Congressional recess.

About 300 people held a "Tillis town hall" in Charlotte Tuesday night, and they supplied an empty chair for the non-attending Tillis and addressed their questions at it anyway. I'd say this particular town hall turned into an anti-Tillis rally, and that's on him.

For its part, the chair was silent, but no more silent than the absconded senator, who had said that setting up town halls was just too much trouble for his poor, overworked staff and he was afraid of a "scene."

He got his scene anyway.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cooper, Stein Withdraw McCrory's Supreme Court Petition

In his last, sad moments in the governor's chair, the late Pat McCrory petitioned the US Supreme Court to overturn the Fourth Circuit's ruling on North Carolina's voter suppression law, something the Fourth Circuit overturned and said it targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision” to limit their participation in elections. African Americans were not all it targeted (as college students know all too well).

Governor Cooper and Attorney General Stein yesterday withdrew McCrory's request for SOTUS review on behalf of the state. “We need to make it easier for people to exercise their right to vote, not harder, and I will not continue to waste time and money appealing this unconstitutional law,” Cooper said in a statement announcing the step. “It’s time for North Carolina to stop fighting for this unfair, unconstitutional law and work instead to improve equal access for voters.”

Cooper and Stein also sent discharge letters to the private attorneys hired by Republican Senate President Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore -- lawyers being paid by NC taxpayers, you and me -- saying they were no longer employed to represent the state in trying to retain the voter suppression law. The Berger-Moore attorneys said they couldn't be fired.

And of course, Berger-Moore said that Cooper-Stein couldn't end the Supreme Court appeal, but the catch for them is that they are not named as defendants in the original lawsuit and have no standing in the matter. They may petition to the US Supremes to intervene in the case, and they probably will.

Trump's Belated Denunciation of Racism: Hypocrisy, Yes, But Also Evidence He Can Be Shoved

"Scanning the piece of paper with his finger as he read," Trump yesterday -- during a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture -- "read carefully from prepared remarks decrying bigotry and specifically condemning a wave of recent threats against Jewish centers across the country."

"Read carefully" means read haltingly, with effort, because, as we know, the man does not read. Someone made him do that and wrote out the words for him, not allowing him to free-wheel it in Trump style, because he very likely would have blurted out something that would have further exposed his stone-cold racist heart.

Last Thursday at his first press conference as president, Trump called himself the “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” and, also, “the least racist person.” He was angry that a Jewish reporter had asked for a presidential statement on recent bomb threats at 48 Jewish centers across the nation (and more than 170 Jewish gravestones were found toppled at a cemetery in suburban St. Louis, over the weekend). Trump took the question personally -- wonder why? -- even though the reporter carefully prefaced that he wasn't asking nor implying anything about the president's personal views.

Trump then told the Jewish reporter to sit down and shut up, because he was just another example of the "fake news" media. Trump later claimed that his "opponents" are committing anti-Semitic acts to fuel outrage against him. "Some of the signs you’ll see are not put up by the people that love or like Donald Trump. They're put up by the other side and you think it's like playing it straight, no, but you have some of those signs and some of that anger is caused by the other side."

The other side did not cause the White House to release a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day that did not mention the Jewish people or anti-Semitism. It was not the other side that caused Trump suddenly to not know David Duke and refuse to condemn his explicitly racist endorsement of Trump's presidential bid. It was not the other side that installed Steve Bannon next door to the Oval Office -- Steve Bannon who made his fame with the explicitly racist and explicitly anti-Semitic Breitbart News.

The racism is embedded, as is the narcissism, and what goes with narcissism? A disorienting insecurity about how one appears and a neediness for approval, so yesterday at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Trump's insecurity and neediness induced him to read a statement against racism, carefully tracing the words with his short fingers, a statement that someone else wrote for him and told him to read word-for-word, because whoever wrote the words knows that Trump in his heart has no real understanding of what those words mean.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Three Steps to Losing Our Democracy

David Frum, the neoconservative former speech writer for George W. Bush and a leader of the Jewish Republican Coalition -- David Frum -- has written an important warning about the presidency of Donald Trump in The Atlantic, where it is guaranteed to be read by no one who's drunk the Trump Kool Aid:
What is spreading today is repressive kleptocracy, led by rulers motivated by greed rather than by the deranged idealism of Hitler or Stalin or Mao. Such rulers rely less on terror and more on rule-twisting, the manipulation of information, and the co-optation of elites.
Our Constitution is based on a basic assumption that any person who becomes president will be "restrained first and foremost by his own ethics and public spirit." "What happens," Frum asks, "if somebody comes to the high office lacking those qualities?" That is exactly what has happened, Frum says. Somebody without personal ethics or any leanings toward "public spirit" has taken control of our nation. He is
a president who plausibly owes his office at least in part to a clandestine intervention by a hostile foreign intelligence service. Who uses the bully pulpit to target individual critics. Who creates blind trusts that are not blind, invites his children to commingle private and public business, and somehow gets the unhappy members of his own political party either to endorse his choices or shrug them off. If this were happening in Honduras, we’d know what to call it. It’s happening here instead, and so we are baffled.
The Republican Congress, which spent eight years opposing everything Obama suggested, should be an important "check and balance" to Trump's lack of ethics, but Frum sees how they roll. They will spend the next four years, at least, trying their damnedest not to find out about any scandal in the Trump administration. They will be successful in their blindness.

Most interesting, perhaps, is Frum's declaration that the greatest burden for resistance to Trump rests actually on fellow Republicans: "The duty to resist should weigh most heavily upon those of us who—because of ideology or partisan affiliation or some other reason—are most predisposed to favor President Trump and his agenda."

He ends with this:
Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Shirkers Inc.

There are 535 members of the US Congress. Some 290 of them are Republicans. Guess how many Republican members of Congress are holding open town hall meetings during the current recess.

No. Go ahead and guess. I'll wait.


And not one Republican member of Congress representing North Carolina. Neither US senator, and none of the Republican members of the House. Certainly not Virginia Foxx, who never meets openly with the people.

They're all running for cover. The senators are sipping cocktails during very important (and gawd knows, pressing) foreign travel, while the members of the House are counting their paperclips. If America is being made so wondrously great again, seems like they'd like to take credit for that.

Instead, they slink away to another fundraiser, or stuff their expensive purse from someone else's food bar.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Trump in His Element

Trump has spent the last three weekends at his private resort in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. Private resort. It used to cost $100,000 to join the club. As soon as he was elected president, he raised the fee to
$200,000, and apparently the filthy rich are fighting to get one of those memberships. (Of course, you peasants, there's no conflict of interest in charging the super-rich 200 grand for instant access, because as you should have learned by now, the president cannot have a conflict of interest. He told us that himself!)

Yes, Mar-a-Lago is all about the little guys out there who voted for Trump and whose constant adoration Trump needs, the way the rest of us need oxygen. That is, if you understand that little guys might mow the grass or clean the pool, but otherwise they're not going to get within a mile of that particular high-life.

Who does get to rub elbows? Billionaires like William I. Koch, owner of Oxbow Carbon, one of the world’s largest sellers of petroleum coke, who would also be a significant beneficiary of the Keystone XL pipeline, which Trump has graciously promised him.

High-octane lobbyist Kenneth M. Duberstein is a member. He served as White House chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan and now works as a corporate consultant and lobbyist for clients like the Alibaba Group, the Chinese internet company; Amgen and Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giants; and Dow Chemical and America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents the nation’s largest health insurers. Duberstein got his access to Mar-a-Lago before the membership price doubled, so good on him!

Another member -- Christopher Ruddy -- is the chief executive of Newsmax Media, emphatically not fake news evidently, because Mr. Ruddy is a big donor to Trump, and his publication gleefully spreads the absolutely not-fake manure.

Another member is Janet Weiner, part owner and chief financial officer of the Rockstar energy drink company, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying federal officials to avoid tighter regulations on its products. Save that lobbying money, Janet, honey! Now you can just drop by Mr. Trump's table during dinner.

Trump's company benefits directly from every one of those memberships:
“Mar-a-Lago represents a commercialization of the presidency that has few if any precedents in American history,” said Jon Meacham, a presidential historian and Andrew Jackson biographer. “Presidents have always spent time with the affluent,” he added. “But a club where people pay you as president to spend time in his company is new. It is kind of amazing.”
Yeah. Keep telling yourself he's draining the swamp and helping the forgotten Joes of America.


The FAKE NEWS media (failing , , , , ) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

Who says crap like that? An authoritarian dictator says crap like that, just before siccing his goons on those "enemies of the people."

History will not be mocked. But it can be repeated.

Friday, February 17, 2017

McCrory "Poll-Tested" His Official Bigotry; Turns Out the Poll Was Flawed

RALEIGH - Newly released emails of former Gov. Pat McCrory show McCrory received public opinion poll results on HB2 the day before he signed the discriminatory law in March of 2016. The Charlotte Observer reports that McCrory’s emailed reaction on March 22, 2016, was “Wow,” when he read poll results on HB2, which the General Assembly passed and McCrory signed the very next day.

The polling McCrory studied before signing the discriminatory law suggested HB2 would be popular with voters. But as the damage of lost jobs, lost revenue, and cancelled sports and cultural events quickly mounted, and as the public learned the law discriminated against people far beyond any restroom, HB2 grew deeply unpopular with voters. So the governor who poll-tested HB2 before signing HB2 started a nonsensical campaign to claim that HB2 (which McCrory signed) was some conspiracy of the left.

“The realization that Pat McCrory poll-tested HB2 before signing HB2 shows that motives behind this discriminatory law were just crass politics to get re-elected, not a real concern for public safety,” said Gerrick Brenner, Executive Director at Progress NC Action. “The rotten self-serving motives behind HB2 are one more reason why the General Assembly must fully repeal HB2 before the NCAA blackballs North Carolina for the next six years.”

Sandwich Du Jour

Ret. Vice Adm. Bob Harward, a former U.S. Navy Seal, made it into the news yesterday when the Trump people announced that he would be replacing Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor (NSA). But then Harward rejected Trump's offer. That's exactly the way smart businessmen do business, no? Make a big public announcement about quarry not yet in the bag? Then this tweet followed last night from a reporter:

A friend of Harward's says he was reluctant to take NSA job bc the WH seems so chaotic; says Harward called the offer a "shit sandwich."

But, no, "this administration is running like a fine-tuned machine," Trump assured us during that bizarre press conference yesterday.

Meanwhile, the fine-tuned machine delivers the information that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about his conversations with the Russians (not that that's the reason he was fired). In the normal universe, lying to the FBI is a felony, but not of course in Rollerball World, especially not with the Alabama mush mouth as Chief Law Enforcer.

At the press conference yesterday, Trump also said this about Michael Flynn: "...what he did wasn't wrong -- what he did in terms of the information he saw. What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves in this room, were given that information, because that was classified information that was given illegally. That's the real problem."

Got that? The real crime was our finding out about the collusion with Russia. And if anyone were beginning to think that maybe Flynn acted alone, without Trump's knowledge, you can let go of that fantasy. A little later in the press conference, he returned to Flynn (like a dog to its vomit): "I don't think he did anything wrong; if anything, he did something right."

He was called out for repeatedly claiming his electoral victory last November was the biggest, the yugest, the most colossal in history, and what did he say when he was caught again in that lie: "Well, someone told me." That's the way this fine-tuned machine runs -- on rumors, tales, unverified non-facts.

"The leaks are real. The news is fake," Trump said yesterday. That's a puzzler, as one of the reporters pointed out yesterday: "If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?" Trump's answer to that, verbatim, opens a universe of unexplored personal paranoia and dysfunction:
You know what it is? Here's the thing. The public isn't -- you know, they read newspapers, they see television, they watch. They don't know if it's true or false because they're not involved. I'm involved. I've been involved with this stuff all my life. But I'm involved. So I know when you're telling the truth or when you're not. I just see many, many untruthful things.
And I'll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word "tone." The tone is such hatred. I'm really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such -- I do get good ratings, you have to admit that -- the tone is such hatred.
He measures his own worth -- and everybody else's -- by "ratings," by how popular he thinks he is, by a wildly exaggerated electoral college win, by screaming adoration at mass rallies. We have a really sick narcissist running this fine-tuned machine.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trapped in Their Own Amber

Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer

Russia Taketh What Russia Giveth

quid pro quo, noun -- a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something
 Watch this: We're about to see the full measure of Trump's cowed dependence on Vladimir Putin.
WASHINGTON — Russia has secretly deployed a new cruise missile that American officials say violates a landmark arms control treaty, posing a major test for President Trump as his administration is facing a crisis over its ties to Moscow....
The ground-launched cruise missile at the center of American concerns is one that the Obama administration said in 2014 had been tested in violation of a 1987 treaty that bans American and Russian intermediate-range missiles based on land.
The Obama administration had sought to persuade the Russians to correct the violation while the missile was still in the test phase. Instead, the Russians have moved ahead with the system, deploying a fully operational unit.
These are nuclear-tipped missiles and are a major threat to NATO, which Putin has long itched to dismantle.

Can't you see Vlad's mind working? "I helped you win presidency, Comrade. Now you sit there in gold-plated White House while I make Russia great again. Maybe play with your phone."

We'll be watching how Trump responds to the blatant Russian threat. Maybe he'll tweet something.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Hit Dog Howls

Michael Flynn was shoved. The "sin" he confessed to is laughable: "I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information.”

... inadvertently... incomplete information.

"I'm sorry, Honey. I inadvertently got drunk after work last night, and I'm harboring some incomplete information on why I didn't get home until 5 a.m."

Let's be blunt: Flynn, like a good soldier, fell on his own sword rather than give up his boss as the Colluder-in-Chief with the Russians. We've got presumed treason of the highest order and a completely subverted democratic system, and what do we hear? "I inadvertently gave incomplete information." The real message: "I lied so that President Trump's involvement in Russian subversion could go undetected."

If you think that Donald Trump didn't know what Michael Flynn was doing, you're more gullible than you look.

At the moment, the only thing that makes any sense as an explanation for this bizarre behavior by Donald Trump -- the repeated, fawning praise of Vladimir Putin and the decision to allow Flynn to defenestrate himself over "incomplete information" -- is the presumption that Putin has some dirt on Trump that is so awful, it would bring down this entire administration a bare three weeks into its existence.

Which takes us back to the dossier compiled by the former British secret service agent -- that Putin has video of Trump acting like ... Trump in a Moscow hotel room, the stuff that Trump howled "fake news" about like a hit dog.

NC Supremes Reverse the Court of Appeals, Restore the Block on the Republican Takeover of the Board of Elections

Last night the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed a late-last-week ruling by the NC Court of Appeals, thereby restoring a temporary hold on the implementation of the NCGOP's rewrite of all the boards of elections until a trial on the merits can be held on March 7.

To recap the background:

1. In Special Session # 4 of the NC General Assembly on December 15, immediately after Democrat Roy Cooper was declared the winner of the governor's race, the Republican bosses in the NCGA hatched a new law (Senate Bill 4) giving themselves the edge in dominating all the boards of elections in the state and took power away from the new governor.

2. The implementation of S4 was halted by Wake Superior Court Senior Judge Donald Stephens, but Republican Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court, Mark Martin, "plucked" the case away from Judge Stephens and assigned it to a three-judge panel appointed by himself.

3. Surprise, followed by Republican gasps: The specially appointed three-judge panel ruled unanimously to keep Judge Stephens' temporary stay in place. It was not looking good for the Republican power-grab.

4. Last Thursday (Feb. 9), a three-judge panel of the NC Court of Appeals lifted Judge Stephens' injunction against implementation of S4. The identities of the three judges have not been revealed, and their names continue to be kept secret. That's mainly interesting because Republican Senate President Phil Berger is a defendant in the case, and Phil Berger's son Phil Berger Jr. is now a judge sitting on the NC Court of Appeals. Repeated attempts by news media to find out if Junior had any hand in lifting the injunction have been stonewalled.

5. But never mind ... because last night the NC Supreme Court took over the case, reinstated Judge Stephens' injunction against implementation and scheduled a full hearing on the matter for March 7.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Thank You, Trump, for Getting Us On Our Toes

I don't usually quote Maureen Dowd -- I still bear a deep grudge for something she said about Howard Dean a millennium ago -- but I like "Trump's Gold Lining":
Donald Trump has indeed already made some of America Great Again.
Just not the aspects he intended.
He has breathed new zest into a wide range of things: feminism, liberalism, student activism, newspapers, cable news, protesters, bartenders, shrinks, Twitter, the A.C.L.U., “S.N.L.,” town halls, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Hannah Arendt, Stephen Colbert, Nordstrom, the Federalist Papers, separation of powers, division of church and state, athletes and coaches taking political stands and Frederick Douglass.
We might add to that list the rising resistance in North Carolina to the Republican General Assembly, since the biggest crowd in history showed up in Raleigh on Saturday to demand social justice and voting rights and equality under the law (HB2 is still a thing and is still hurting our state's economy).

Everything that can go wrong will go wrong under our Rollerball president, and the Republicans in Congress are holding that bag.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

North Carolina Rising

A fraction of the crowd yesterday at the Moral March on Raleigh (11th annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street). Photo Jaime Johnston


Photo Mark Turner

Moscow on the Potomac

Trump and Flynn, on the campaign trail
last year. Photo ABC News
There's solid, incontrovertible evidence that Trump's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had multiple contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. prior to the election and that he discussed the Obama administration's sanctions against Russia with the ambassador. The evidence is incontrovertible because intelligence agencies apparently have the tapes of those conversations.

Once the Obama administration took retaliatory action in December against Russia because of the hacking scandal, Flynn was on the phone again immediately with the Russian ambassador. Instead of its own retaliatory action against the U.S. -- expelling a few American personnel from the American embassy in Moscow, for example -- which is what everyone expected from Russia, Putin said he wouldn't respond. Trump immediately praised Putin for his forbearance.

We know that Russia was hacking (and Gawd knows what else) to help Trump win that election, and we know that Flynn was constantly reaching out to Russia, presumably either for Trump's benefit or on his orders. Now Trump is defending Flynn, and the whole thing stinks to high heaven.

I may have fallen off the turnip truck yesterday, but I didn't land on my head. We have the president that Moscow wanted, and we're only just beginning to learn the full measure of Trump's collusion in subverting the American government under Obama for the benefit of Russia.

Friday, February 10, 2017

When Will Virginia Foxx Hold a Town Hall?

Short answer: never.

But you should call her office and ask that she meet openly with her constituents ... and not hide behind one of those filtered, hyper-managed "teleconferences."

Call her and demand accountability: Boone office,  (828) 265-0240; Clemmons office, (336) 778-0211.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

NCGOP Signals Again That It's Hostile to Public Education

It didn't take a minute after Betsy DeVos, the billionaire Trump appointee, achieved her historically narrow victory for confirmation as the head of the Department of Education -- it took less than a minute for Robin Hayes, head of the NCGOP, to ostentatiously invite DeVos down to North Carolina to teach us all how we can abandon our public schools for publicly funded private schools and religious academies.

Apparently, the invitation was done quickly because Chair Hayes didn't want any North Carolina voters to forget how arduously the Republicans in the General Assembly have worked to abandon good public education for everybody in favor of private and for-profit education for special interests.

Never fear, Mr. Hayes. We remember.

Trumpism in North Carolina: When You Lose the Legal Argument, Attack the Judiciary

Governor Roy Cooper won a temporary stay from a three-judge panel yesterday on the General Assembly's 11th-hour law passed in December to require Cooper's administrative cabinet to pass through the acid bath of confirmation by the Republican-dominated state Senate.

The law will remain on hold until its constitutionality gets a full review by the courts.

The Republican leaders of the General Assembly have an abysmal record, stretching back years now, of seeing their overreaches for power struck down in court. What do you do in Trump Nation when you lose in court? You attack the judges.

Senate leader Phil Berger and House leader Tim Moore were in a stupid blind rage, apparently, when they allowed the following words to be put out in their name: “Judges are not legislators, and if these three men want to make laws, they should hang up their robes and run for a legislative seat.”

Apparently, the willful misunderstanding of how three independent branches of government works under our Constitution is currently a bad habit among Republican office-holders.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

See the Foxx Run

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, in her new chairmanship of the House education and labor committee, pushed through "a resolution of disapproval" that guts one of President Obama’s signature labor reforms, "a rule that would forbid contractors with a history of workplace violations from receiving new contracts."

When low-wage, mainly black federal contract workers showed up at her office to lobby against the move, Congresswoman Foxx ducked out a back door and ran -- ran fast -- to get away from the workers. It was all caught on video at this link (scroll down). The workers finally caught up with her and her bodyguard at about 2:30 on the tape, but she refused to speak to them and pushed her way into someone else's office to avoid answering questions.

That's our Foxx!

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Steve Bannon Has Declared War on Pope Francis

Cardinal Burke in the trappings of
pomp that Pope Francis has eschewed
Steve Bannon, who is not only a Catholic but a self-described "rad-trad" (radical traditionalist), is on record calling Pope Francis "a socialist/communist." Not only has Bannon gone after Pope Francis with language and an attitude that belongs to the depths of the Red-baiting witch-hunts of about 1955, but he's also allying himself with anti-Francis cardinals in the Vatican who are now intent on not just resisting the new pope's outreach to the poor and disenfranchised but also on reversing his more inclusive approach to the Church.

Jason Horowitz writes in depth about Bannon's burrowing himself into the anti-Francis faction of Catholic cardinals, particularly Bannon's partnership with Cardinal Raymond Burke, an arch-conservative whom Francis has demoted from various positions of power (the Wikipedia article on the cardinal details all the high-sounding Vatican offices Burke has been ushered out of).

Apparently, Bannon is carefully considering whom Donald Trump should appoint as ambassador to the Vatican, and you can bet it will be another "rad-trad" who'll resist Pope Francis at every turn.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Baby's First Presidency

Of all the journalistic inside information coming out of the Rollerball White House, no one has better or more granular sources than Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman. Their latest posting contains the following pieces of celestial light:

1. Trump is no workaholic. He quits the office about 6:30 p.m. and often watches TV into the night in his bathrobe, mainly alone, since Melania is in New York (and if we were her, we'd stay there). (Not attributed to Thrush and Haberman: The Donald-Melania marriage appears to be largely now a grudge match. She's afraid of him. He's contemptuous of her. We've seen it played out in living color, most especially on inauguration day.)

2. He watches TV compulsively, all day -- "too much in the eyes of some aides — often offering a bitter play-by-play of critics like CNN’s Don Lemon." And "he recently upgraded the flat-screen TV in his private dining room so he can watch the news while eating lunch." And this: "he almost always makes time to monitor Mr. Spicer’s performance at the daily briefings [on closed circuit TV], summoning him to offer praise or criticism...."

3. He did not know the full meaning of the executive order he signed making Steve Bannon a principal on his National Security Council (because he doesn't read and perhaps doesn't really know how to read). Steve Bannon likely wrote the order giving him access at the highest level to foreign intelligence.

4. Trump is obsessed with surfaces. "To pass the time between meetings, Mr. Trump gives quick tours [of the Oval Office] to visitors, highlighting little tweaks he has made .... He will linger on the opulence of the newly hung golden drapes, which he told a recent visitor were once used by Franklin D. Roosevelt but in fact were patterned for Bill Clinton. For a man who sometimes has trouble concentrating on policy memos, Mr. Trump was delighted to page through a book that offered him 17 window covering options."

5. If anyone's in charge in Trump's White House, it's Steve Bannon, the political hack with dozens of axes to grind. Reince Priebus, the nominal Chief of Staff, is neutered but keeps trying to reassert his authority over the flow of orders and initiatives. The chaos perfectly reflects Trump's cluttered, impulsive brainpan. A highly detailed and coherent staffing plan had been developed by Chris Christie before he was fired. That binder full of instructions got rude treatment -- "a senior Trump aide made a show of tossing it into a garbage can."

6. Trump can't stand the protests. He feels bunkered in the White House, without access to his adoring campaign crowds that made him feel like a man. He doesn't tolerate dissent: “ 'Did you hear that? This guy thinks [the first days of my presidency have] been terrible!” Mr. Trump said mockingly to other aides when one dissenting view was voiced last week during a West Wing meeting."

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Reading Is Fundamental -- Ask Any First-Grader

We know that Trump doesn't read, but can he read? The evidence is circumstantial but nevertheless strong that he avoids reading anything aloud, especially in front of other people, has trouble with teleprompters, and perhaps is cognitively impaired.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

ALERT! Squishy Liberals Very Near the Oval Office!

A draft executive order by which Trump would have reversed President Obama's workplace protections for the LBGT community has apparently been scuttled.

The draft EO had circulated within the White House for days and would have extended "religious liberty" to employers who wanted to fire workers because of sexual orientation.

Sources in the White House are crediting Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner with the turn-around. We'd like to believe that Kushner, particularly, has finally had some influence on President Rollerball.

An influential commentator on national politics suspects that it was Ivanka and Jared who leaked that information:

Call me cynical but seems very likely that "sources" portraying Jared & Ivanka in an heroic light are actually Jared & Ivanka.

Rogue Twitter Accounts in Trump Administration Are Proliferating Like Executive Orders

US Forest Service: @AltForestService -- "The unofficial, and unsanctioned, #Resistance team for the U.S. Forest Service. Not an official Forest Service account, not publicly funded, citizen run."

Department of Agriculture: @AltUSDA -- "Resisting the censorship of facts and science. Truth wins in the end."

Homeland Security: @AltHomelandSec -- "The unofficial alternative 'resistance' team of the Department of Homeland Security. Not affiliated with DHS. #resist"

FBI: @AltFBI -- "Serving an alternative form of justice. Not affiliated with the FBI, U.S. govt or its employees. Come for fact-based justice and policy-related information."

US Citizenship and Immigration Service: @Alt_USCIS -- "Join the #resistance, unofficial ALT of people who vet safe immigrants. Independent views. Not affiliated with DHS or USCIS kinda #resist

Department of Health & Human Services: @AltHHS -- "The official unaffiliated resistance account by concerned scientists for humanity. Don't forget to register for ObamaCare before Jan 31!"

Food and Drug Administration: @AltFDA -- "Not FDA but close enough we can micro swab them."

National Park Service: @NotAltWorld -- "The #Resistance team against #AltFacts #FauxNews #FauxScience Formerly: Unofficial National Park Service #Science #Climate #Facts Run by non-gov individuals"

Friday, February 03, 2017

Tear Down That Wall Between Church and State!

Trump has declared war on "the Johnson Amendment." The what? The Johnson Amendment was a 1954 law that prohibits churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status.

Since 1954 exactly one church -- one -- has lost its tax exempt status because of political activity, the Landmark Church in Binghamton, N.Y.

Plenty of churches have flaunted the Johnson Amendment for years and have done so with impunity, mainly because the I.R.S. doesn't have the staffing to investigate complaints and pursue legal action. Plenty of churches in Watauga County are partisan political enclaves and make no secret of it.

Can't see that the destruction of the Johnson Amendment will change anything, other than remove the fiction that Republican outposts operating under religious color deserve their tax-exempt status. And speaking of that tax-exempt status, we assume that too will be gone with the same wind that takes away a prohibition on purveying politics from the pulpit -- which, let's be honest, is honored more in the breach than in the observance anyway.

There are some rich churches with sprawling empires which might ought to be helping pay for the government that shields their ability to preach political partisanship to their pews full of parishioners.

Trump said at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this week, “America is a nation of believers. The quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success.” Both sentences are true statements, but if you think either are accurate in describing our new Prez, you are maybe in greater need of prayer than the Johnson Amendment.

Trump is much more interested in the political fealty of those believers than he is in their spiritual success.

Young Man on a Power Trip

Interesting and long profile of Stephen Miller in today's Raleigh News&Observer. Miller is Steve Bannon's deputy and sidekick in the Trump White House and is credited as the lead author of Trump's inauguration speech and of the Muslim ban executive order.

The N&O profile focuses on Miller's years in Durham as a student at Duke University.

One meaty quote: “He’s the most sanctimonious student I think I ever encountered,” said John Burness, Duke’s former senior vice president of public affairs and government relations. “He seemed to be absolutely sure of his own views and the correctness of them, and seemed to assume that if you were in disagreement with him, there was something malevolent or stupid about your thinking. Incredibly intolerant.”

Thursday, February 02, 2017

There Are Always Casualties in Rollerball

Gen. Michael Flynn, who's clearly lusting for combustion, has put Iran "on notice." Flynn, who famously peddled the rumor that Hillary Clinton was involved in child prostitution and who is obviously therefore rash and incendiary by nature, is just visibly itching with the pleasure of bombing someone.

But don't completely despair. Flynn displayed sufficient calm to remember to blame President Obama for Iran's need to be stomped on by Trump. Mission accomplished.

The combustible Trump administration is showing off its diplomatic skills everywhere. You heard that Trump hung up on a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over the issue of accepting -- by previous agreement with President Obama -- 1,200 refugees from the Middle East who had tried to reach Australia by boat.

That damn Obama!

He didn't hang up on the prime minister until after he had boasted about his electoral win, which apparently didn't impress Mr. Turnbull as much as it should have. You're possibly sending us "the next Boston bomber," Trump raged at Turnbull.

Trump's first covert military assault on Al Quaeda in Yemen, about which he bragged and pranced, was actually FUBAR, and the Pentagon has admitted as much. "Qaeda fighters were somehow tipped off to the stealthy advance" of the Seal 6 commando troops, and "through a communications intercept, the commandos knew that the mission had been somehow compromised."

Their knew they were compromised, yet no one in charge aborted the mission. So a village-wide firefight ensued, a member of the Navy's Seal Team 6 was killed, three others wounded, a $75 million MV-22 Osprey aircraft took a hard landing (which injured an additional three crew members) and had to be destroyed by airstrike, and an unknown number of civilians including children were killed.

And by the way, again …  it was all Obama's fault, because the mission was initially planned for a moonless night during his presidency but was not executed because the next moonless night would not occur until the Trump presidency.

"Go nuclear," Trump told Mitch McConnell, referring to the confirmation of his Supreme Court pick, but maybe he meant the whole world.

“The whole thing is scary,” said David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute. “They have no appreciation for the Constitution, much less the unwritten norms of liberal democracy.”

The Cato Institute said that.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Trump's Attempt to Bully the Press Picks Up Speed

The Trump administration is now officially forbidding its officials and surrogates to go on CNN ... unless and until the cable news network pleases the emperor.

The Resistance in Trump's Government Also Uses Twitter

Here's your pipeline to the growing resistance to Trumpism within the federal government. More will be added as employees in other vital federal agencies begin to push out information about what's really happening in TrumpWorld:

Environmental Protection Agency: @altUSEPA and @ActualEPAFacts. These two Twitter feeds have already attracted more than 200,000 followers and call themselves part of “the Resistance.”

National Aeronautics and Space Administration: @RougeNASA. Describes its function this way: "The unofficial 'Resistance' team of NASA. Not an official NASA account. Not managed by gov't employees. Come for the facts, stay for the snark." And tweeted last Sunday:

If (when?) the time comes that NASA has been instructed to cease tweeting/sharing info about science and climate change, we will inform you.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention : @ViralCDC. Describes its function as "The unofficial 'Resistance' page of the CDC. Follow for evidence-based vaccine and public health info. Actual facts, not alternative facts."

Department of Defense: @Rogue_DoD. "The unofficial #Resistance team of U.S. Department of Defense. Not taxpayer subsidised! Not an official DoD account. Not publicly funded. Citizen run."

More to come!