Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Rise of Leslie Cockburn in Virginia's 5th Congressional District

Republican Congressman Tom Garrett's surprise announcement on Monday that he would not seek a second term because he's an alcoholic has certainly boosted the candidacy of Democrat Leslie Cockburn, a first-time candidate for office who was already looking like a winner.

Leslie Cockburn
Cockburn had cleared the field of her Democratic rivals. The Democrats of the Virginia 5th District opted for a nominating caucus of counties rather than a primary (they can do that in Virginia), and Cockburn had most of those counties behind her. The sprawling 5th District takes in all or part of 21 counties, from the North Carolina border almost up to Maryland. Her leading Democratic opponent, Roger Dean Huffstetler, who'd raised over a million $$ himself, dropped out of the race a couple of days before the May 5th caucus and endorsed Cockburn:
“Democrats in the Fifth District have made it loud and clear through local caucuses that they want Leslie Cockburn to be our nominee to take on Tom Garrett this fall,” Huffstetler said in a statement. “Leslie worked extremely hard to earn that distinction, achieving viability in all 23 localities and winning an outright majority of delegates. She and her team are to be congratulated on executing on their strategy with precision and enthusiasm.”
Roger Dean Huffstetler is a class act, and he himself, an ex-Marine, looked like a winner back in January when he announced. Leslie Cockburn didn't get into the race until July, and she swept everyone away, including Huffstetler. Sic transit semper fi.

So what is it about Leslie Cockburn? She's something of a celebrity, married to Irish journalist and filmmaker Andrew Cockburn (who is also, incidentally, an old Russian expert; he wrote The Threat – Inside the Soviet Military Machine in 1982). Leslie and Andrew's daughter Olivia Wilde is a successful actress. Leslie has been a top investigative journalist, an award-winning producer for CBS's 60 Minutes. She has won two Emmys, two George Polk Awards, two Columbia Dupont journalism awards, and the Robert F. Kennedy Award. John Lewis, civil rights leader and dean of Georgia’s congressional delegation, has offered to come and campaign for her.

"In 2009, Leslie Cockburn directed and co-produced (with husband Andrew Cockburn) her first feature documentary for theatrical release. American Casino relates the story of the origins, progress and consequences of the subprime mortgage disaster that led to the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Beginning filming in January 2008, Cockburn laid bare both the financial machinations and miscalculations on Wall Street that produced the disaster as well as its effects on an array of Baltimore homeowners struggling to stay afloat. The film premiered at New York's Tribeca Film Festival in April 2009." (Thank you, Wikipedia)

So there's some talent there. And smarts. And connections.

She's gonna need all of that. Last I saw, the 5th District of Virginia (sorta like the 5th District of NC) was rated "safely Republican," and it could be a natural dam against any blue wave. But Cockburn is campaigning on kitchen table issues, like health care and education, and she's unapologetic about her environmentalism. She's come out in opposition to the Atlantic Coast pipeline, which would cut through productive farms and small businesses (like the Four Corners Farm in Franklin County) to transit fracked-gas to North Carolina.

Meanwhile, the Republican executives of the 5th District have to choose a replacement on the ballot for Tom Garrett, somebody who will probably be nowhere as prominent as Leslie Cockburn.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Virginia Foxx PROSPERs, But Would-Be College Students Don't

Virginia Foxx has preached for years that government shouldn't fund education, but she's bullish on the for-profit education industry funding her. Foxx was the top recipient in Congress of for-profit college industry money in 2017, raking in $45,450.

Naturally, you want to help your friends. So Foxx has authored the deceptively named PROSPER Act (for "Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform"). Ha! Foxx is now chair of the Education Committee in the House, and her current overhaul of the Higher Education Act would unleash for-profit colleges from accountability and allow them to continue to defraud students and saddle them with predatory loans to pay for an "education" that ain't one (except maybe an education in deceptive advertising). Worst of all? Foxx's law would grant for-profit corporations more access to federal aid.

(The scandals among for-profit education corporations are totally public. I believe DJT had to pay off a bunch of defrauded students in the dissolution of his for-profit Trump University. Foxx loves Trump. Likes his style.)

Foxx gained fame among young people for saying she had very little sympathy for college students with large debts. She's claimed for-profit colleges are “more efficient,” the way a slot machine is efficient. She once compared attempts to regulate the pro-profit industry to the Holocaust and said in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2016 that the Obama administration cracked down on for-profit colleges “arbitrarily,” and that, “We don’t have evidence that [students in these institutions] were defrauded.”

That's our Ginny!

She's a black frost on the civic contract that says that America's youth should be educated. Her ballooning wealth as a US congresswoman has metastasized into self-righteousness and holier-than-thou pronouncements about how poor and underprivileged she was. She did everything herself, and if you're not as rich as she is (she's in the top 60 richest members of Congress), you just didn't try hard enough, and so shut the hell up.

I personally experienced Virginia Foxx as an educator in the early 1970s when I was a new assistant professor of English at Appalachian State University and Virginia Foxx was the assistant dean of general education. Her condescension and autocratic impulses earned her many not-admirers. Plus she shit in her hat at ASU and went forward to lay waste at Mayland Community College as its president. She has an Ed.D. and insisted in Congress that she be addressed as "Doctor Foxx."

She's the kind of doctor that won't get you well.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Meanwhile, Next Door in Tennessee

Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn

The US Senate race in Tennessee could be the sleeper upset in 2018 that tilts the Senate to the Democrats. Presumptive Republican nominee and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (her primary will be August 2) will likely face Democratic former governor Phil Bredesen for the Bob Corker seat.

Bredesen was and remains popular, and Republicans have got a good case of nerves. Big names and big money are sweeping into Nashville to shore up Blackburn, who looks weak. Tomorrow, Corporal Bonespurs will headline for Blackburn at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium (after a private fundraising event), and the Koch Bros. are funding 6-figure advertising that praises Blackburn for voting against the $1.3 trillion spending bill in March. Virginia Foxx voted for it, incidentally.

Trump's rally tomorrow will be about his own aggrandizement more than Blackburn's election, but he is helping her raise big bucks at a private reception. Ready to barf? Admission options include a private round-table with Trump for $44,300 a couple; a private photo reception with Trump for $10,800 per couple; or just the general reception, at $2,700 per couple.

Later, at the rally, Trump will be joined on-stage by country music star and Celebrity Apprentice alum Trace Adkins. Adkins has publicly urged Trump to "stay off Twitter" and supports the president conditionally: “I think we ought to try a businessman running the show for awhile. I mean, nothing else has worked. The whole thing has just gotten — I mean, it’s just really hard to take any of it seriously right now. It’s just so crazy, just the way this whole campaign in all respects has just gotten a little silly from time to time.”

Phil Bredesen
Congresswoman Blackburn is a former beauty pageant contestant who turned managing her image into a bankable business managing other people's images. According to Wikipedia, "In 1975 she was named Director of Retail Fashion and Special Events of the Castner Knott Division of Mercantile Stores, Inc. She held this position until 1978, when she became the owner of Marketing Strategies, a promotion-event management and image consulting firm. She continues to run this business." She's also been in Congress since 2002, the same year Phil Bredesen was first elected governor.

Bredesen currently chairs a firm that develops and operates solar power stations. He founded the health insurance company HealthAmerica, and he served two terms as mayor of Nashville. The worst thing Blackburn can say about him -- and she will -- is "he ain't from around here." He arrived in Tennessee in 1975 from Massachusetts, but he seems to have fit in pretty well with the home folks.

Isn't he what Trace Adkins thought a good idea in 2015, "a businessman running the show"?

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Republican-Dominated Review Panel Disqualifies Phil Berger's Democratic Opponent

No really.

Jen Mangrum at Thursday's residency hearing.
Photo Joe Dexter/RockinghamNow
An elections panel composed of three Republicans and two Democrats voted 3-2 to disqualify Democrat Jen Mangrum from running against NC Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger this fall. Mangrum teaches in Greensboro, leased a house in Reidsville expressly to run against Berger while keeping her house in Greensboro. A Rockingham Republican complained, and on Thursday the Republican majority on the hearing panel agreed.

Mangrum will appeal to the State Board of Elections (SBOE).

Bob Rucho of Charlotte did the same thing -- rented an apartment in Mooresville expressly to run in a different senate district. A similar elections panel in the Rucho case let him stay on the ballot. He lost, badly.

Challenging Mangrum's residency is meant to knee-cap her with the homeys. People often don't like "carpet-baggers" coming into their districts to cause trouble, and apparently Jen Mangrum was becoming trouble for Berger. She has attracted strong support and was "bringing it" to Berger. With the atmosphere in North Carolina turning so acidic toward the current Republican dictatorship in the NC General Assembly, Berger needed to remind everyone that Mangrum is a trouble-making outsider.

If Bob Rucho passed muster, then Jen Mangrum will be certified to run by the SBOE.

Has this hurt her? Yes, without a doubt. And that was the sole motivation.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

NC General Assembly Dictatorship: What's Afoot in Raleigh

Indebted to Senator Jeff Jackson of Charlotte for keeping us informed about the overlords:

UPDATE: Legislative leadership just invoked the nuclear option with respect to the budget.
For the first time in modern history, it appears our budget will be passed as a conference report instead of a regular bill.
Why does this matter? Because a conference report gets to skip over the committee process and isn't subject to any amendments.

That means that whenever we see the budget -- and it's still being written behind closed doors -- it's essentially final.

And we're hearing the budget vote will be as soon as next week, so without having seen a single line of it, it's basically done.

You only pull a move like this if you are so entrenched in power that you're ok with openly insulting every taxpayer in the state.

Think of it like driving over your neighbor's mailbox while giving them a thumbs up. You only do something like that if you've become totally detached from what people think of you.

If you're a fiscal hawk, you should be especially concerned by the fact that this budget will spend $23 billion of your tax money without anyone being able to publicly question or amend a single letter of it.

Ultimately, this is about teachers. Republicans know that Democrats are going to offer amendments to raise teacher pay and Republicans don't want to be on record voting against that. So they're going to torpedo the whole process to avoid publicly saying "No" to teachers.
 Add this to your list of reasons why voting this November is absolutely essential.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

'Year of the Woman' Just Got More Interesting

Stacey Abrams is the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia following yesterday's primary. That's just short of astounding for the Peach State, and for any other state in or out of the traditional South, because she won her primary over a white woman with over 70% of the vote.

Abrams is 44 years old, a graduate of Yale Law School, and a leader of the minority Democrats in the Georgia legislature. She's also the successful writer of novels, which she produces under the non de plume Selena Montgomery. (Who's the last Georgia politician who also wrote novels? Yes, you're right: Newt Gingrich.)

“We are writing the next chapter of Georgia’s history, where no one is unseen, no one is unheard and no one is uninspired,” she said at her victory party last night in Atlanta. And she quoted the book of Esther: “We were born for such a time as this.”


Amy McGrath, the first Marine woman to fly an F-18 fighter jet and a candidate I've been very excited about, upset the odds and beat the DCCC's pick in Kentucky's 6th Congressional District. Lexington's two-term mayor Jim Gray had been the anointed-by-Washington candidate to take the district, and he was soundly defeated. McGrath goes on now to face a weak Republican incumbent, and she's already leading him in the polls.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Truth Behind Those Republican Graphs on School Spending

Photo Chuck Liddy, newsobserver
Totally stolen from Thomas Mills at PoliticsNC:
To look at GOP graphs explaining public education funding, you’d think that the legislature didn’t start paying for public schools until 2008. Every one begins with a downward trend for two years and then a dramatic upswing when Republicans took control. Like Oz the All Powerful, they don’t want you to pull back the curtain and see what’s really going on.
In the decade before the Republicans took over state government, Democrats funded public education substantially better on virtually every metric. The only time they didn’t give educators a raise was when the economy tanked and revenue dried up during Bush’s Great Recession. Democrats froze pay in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Republicans did the same in 2011-12.
The difference, though, is that Democrats had a goal to keep up with the national average, even if they fell short. In contrast, Republicans came into office criticizing teachers and calling our schools broken, implying that teachers were somehow responsible. The schools weren’t broken, even if they were struggling like the rest of the country in the midst of the Great Recession.
So what did Republicans do? They started “reforming,” their euphemism for cutting. They eliminated teacher assistants from classrooms. They reduced funding for basic school supplies like textbooks. They shifted funding from traditional schools to charters and private schools without requiring the same level of accountability. Per pupil funding and teacher pay plummeted compared to other states in the region and country.
Republicans claimed they’ve reformed our schools without any significant improvement in outcomes. Schools in more prosperous areas continue to perform very well while those in poorer areas still struggle. Republican reforms are more about ideology than outcomes. They want schools to do more with less, since they believe all government programs are wasteful. They want their conservative evangelical base to have the option to send their children to religious schools and are willing to subsidize them with government funds. And they want to keep cutting taxes for the wealthy instead of making investments in public education.
In 1992, Jim Hunt became a governor with a mission. He wanted to improve public schools and provide children with the tools to succeed. He started Smart Start to better prepare children from disadvantaged families for first grade. He made a commitment to get teacher pay to the national average. He substantially reduced class size, especially in elementary schools. He wanted to reduce the dropout rate to produce more high school graduates. His goal-oriented philosophy drove the Democratic agenda for the next sixteen years.
Republicans have a different goal. They want to shrink the size of government, cut taxes and reduce regulation. They care less about the big picture of society than they do individual rights. The GOP doesn’t want to pull back the curtain to show the progress North Carolina made under Democrats from 1992 until the Great Recession hit in 2007. They want to pretend that history began with the crash and their mediocre investments in public schools are more substantial than they really are.

Things That Clarify the Mind

Being up for reelection to the NC General Assembly and having tens of thousands of aroused public school teachers in the streets of Raleigh as you show up for work -- that convergence on Wednesday may already have had a salutary effect.

For example, Jonathan Jordan has been in the local press twice since Wednesday (here and here) saying soothing things about public education and about helping "our schools." He even already voted, along with every single Republican in the NC House -- not 24 hours after the convening of their session -- for a small step toward getting more school psychologists into action (a "reciprocity bill" to accept psychology training certificates from other states). Good move, but there's going to have to be a lot more including the redirection of state tax money.

Weatherman Ray Russell
Are Republicans in the General Assembly rattled? You bet they are. Collective expression and united action are still salient in our democracy, especially when a segment as beloved as public school teachers are the ones expressing sudden solidarity. A Republican member of the House called them "thugs" to his personal detriment.

So look for Jonathan Jordan to veer "moderate" for awhile. He has something to fear from his November opponent, Ray Russell, who has made education funding one of his issues and who has been raising money. The winds are not at Jordan's back. Public school teachers may not constitute a substantial voting bloc, but the people who admire them and who know how they've been treated do, and a sizable one.

Even out of office, Pat McCrory can't stop himself from becoming comedy gold.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Republican Voters in NC House District 67 Say "No, Thanks"

Justin Burr

I've been too wrapped up in gardening work to even notice that NC House Rep. Justin Burr of Stanly County lost his primary race to an unknown. Whaaa? Justin Burr is the Lex Luthor look-alike and act-alike who most recently was the chief sponsor of the attempt to turn the North Carolina judiciary into a partisan tool for Republicans.

Stanley County pharmacist Wayne Sasser beat the six-term Burr easily with 56% of the vote, running on only two issues -- the opioid crisis and getting broadband into rural areas -- and no campaign infrastructure to speak of. He comes across as a kindly older gentleman, and Justin Burr was not.

House District 67 is rated strong Republican, and Wayne Sasser is going to be its next rep in Raleigh. There's a Democrat -- Karen Webster -- on the ballot, but as far as I can tell, she's just a name on the ballot and otherwise wholly invisible. Too bad! Since, if there ever was a year for more surprises than just seeing Justin Burr lose his primary, this is the year. But you can't win an election if you don't run.

North Carolina Public School Teachers Take Raleigh

The North Carolina General Assembly reconvenes today in Raleigh, and when the House and Senate sessions open at high noon, the legislators will be met by thousands of North Carolina public school teachers protesting salaries and working conditions. The NC Association of Educators is predicting 20,000 in the streets. The Progressive Pulse guesses 15,000. At least 10,000 teachers have requested personal days, which caused at least 38 school systems to suspend classes school-wide (which is what conservatives will seize on to discredit the teachers).

Phil Berger, Tim Moore, and their boys have dribbled a little salary money over the ranks -- so little, so late. Public school teacher salaries are still 16% below national averages. As Berger/Moore gave a little, they "balanced" that actual stinginess with more punishment for teachers in other ways -- cutting support staff (teacher assistants, school nurses, counselors) and cutting supplies (so teachers have to buy their own) and forcing more kids into classrooms (because nothing says learnin' like a restless herd).

Justin Parmenter, a seventh grade language arts teacher at Waddell Language Academy in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County school system, gathered some statistics to prove it's not about "money-grubbing" (another favorite conservative slur against teachers).

North Carolina's population has increased more than 10% since Berger/Moore/Republicans took over everything in Raleigh, and the balloon hit school class size. ("Can we get 12 more desks in here?") Berger/Moore/Republicans dealt with increased school population by cutting teacher assistants. Well over 7,000 teacher assistants lost their jobs under the new Raleigh regime. Parmenter assembled a gallery of other horrors:

  • 30 kindergarten students in a library class with no assistant (Mecklenburg)
  • 31 high school students in Honors Chemistry.  The teacher reports that ‘labs are terrifying.’ (Cabarrus)  
  • 37 fifth graders in a trailer (Winston-Salem/Forsyth)
  • 37 8th grade math students in an Exceptional Children/Inclusion class (Cabarrus)
  • 38 10th-12th graders in AP German class, no planning period (Guilford)
  • 39 freshmen through seniors, Math 4 (Union)
  • 40 high school students in a trailer for Math 3, Title 1 (Mecklenburg)
  • 42 students in Math 2 (New Hanover)
  • 43, 8th graders in healthful living. Only have 40 desks, when all are present, one sits at teacher’s desk, the other two sit on the floor (Wake)
  • 44 students American History I (Onslow)
  • 45 kids in physical science.  The majority of them have taken the class before, class includes many students with learning disabilities and students classified as seriously emotionally disabled.  (Mecklenburg)
It's not just teacher assistants. It's school nurses and counselors. "It’s recommended that social workers be provided at a ratio of 1:400. Our ratio is 1:1427. The suggested ratio of psychologists per student is 1:700. This year our ratio is 1:1857. Nurses should be available at a ratio of 1:750, but we are currently at 1:2315 – with many schools forced to have parent volunteers staff the nurse’s office rather than leave it empty."

Earlier this week, Berger communicated a veiled threat to teachers: “Teacher strikes are illegal in N.C.,” Berger told the state government news service. “And in some respects what we’re seeing looks like a work slowdown, and looks like a fairly typical union activity, and the people of North Carolina don’t support that sort of action.” A Republican lawmaker called organizers "thugs." But last night, Berger/Moore hastily called a press conference and announced a 6.2 percent salary increase for teachers this year, which was actually old news. The budget the Republicans passed in 2017 included the 6.2% raise for some teachers to go into effect in 2018. Governor Cooper has asked for 8%, with at least 5% guaranteed to every teacher. “Instead of prioritizing tax cuts for corporations and those earning more than $200,000, legislators should give real raises to all teachers,” said Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley. “Making education the top priority means more textbooks and classrooms, not more tax cuts for those already at the top.”

I don't think the teachers gathering in Raleigh today are going to be bought off so easily. And I don't think Berger knows anything but dictatorial authoritarianism, so this movement and the reaction to it will be worth watching.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Where We Stand on a Maymead Asphalt Plant on the Scenic Byway

Guest Post by Erwin
Many of you reading this are not aware of the current status of all things asphalt in Watauga and Ashe Counties, so I hope to provide a succinct update and perhaps an opinion or two thrown in as well.
As a member of the group High Country WATCH, which has led the opposition to the proposed Maymead plant on the scenic byway, as well as the proposed Radford plant near Hardin Park School,  I sometimes have a hard time believing this fight has been going on for over three years now.  The appeal by Radford is due to be heard in Superior Court sometime this year,  and a decision by the North Carolina Court of Appeals in the Maymead case is likely due in the next two months.  In a split vote, the Ashe County Planning Board actually approved the Radford permit for a plant near Glendale Springs,  a location which is also very near a summer camp for terminally ill children.  I have not heard of any further appeal in that case.
We have always believed that if the particulars of the Maymead case got a fair and thorough hearing that the facts would speak loudly, and Maymead would have to go home without being allowed to put that blight of heavy industry on the last somewhat pristine gateway to our community. Having attended the Watauga Board of Adjustments marathon and the two day Superior Court hearing,  I can testify that the fair hearing is yet to be had. One example: The superior court judge came to court without having read the briefs, and after the first day he said he would try to read them that evening. Instead, he came to court the next day and proceeded to spend 10 minutes telling the court about the new movie ("Arrival") he had gone to see instead.  
A few days before the Appeals Court was scheduled to hear the Maymead case this spring, their lead attorney asked for a continuance claiming he had the flu. That request was denied, and guess who showed up two days later with no symptoms. The surmise is that he didn’t like one of the judges on the panel and was hoping a delay would result in a panel of judges more favorable to Maymead.
So we continue to wait, continue to fundraise ($70,000 has been spent so far on legal fees), continue to hope. In all likelihood, the Maymead case will not be a unanimous decision either way and will end up at the NC Supreme Court. There are also other options including the possibilities of being sent back to the local Board of Adjustments or back to Superior Court. I believe Maymead thought they could wear us down, spend us down, and we would finally give up. We actually almost have, several times, but the continued support of this community has held us together, barely,  and what? Ain’t gonna quit now.
A shout out to our legal team, Davis and Whitlock of Asheville, who has stuck with us with greatly reduced rates and tireless research, as well as Watauga County, whose supporting brief in the Appeals Court stage has been a potential game changer.
One of the very best results of this whole process has been that every residence in Watauga County is now much better protected from high impact industry because of the increased setback rules in the amended HILU ordinance.  If the county had had the foresight to pass some common sense land-use legislation long ago, like most growing counties, the majority of land-use arguments would never come up. And without that in place, they will keep coming up, so keep your eyes open and help us be a watchdog for responsible development.
www.highcountrywatch, on Facebook, and to contribute to funding for the Maymead case,

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Franklin Graham, Winking

In case you missed it -- as did I -- here's your chance to read Isaac J. Bailey (member of the Charlotte Observer Editorial Board), assessing the Christian witness of Franklin Graham (hattip JF):
Donald Trump said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any support. It was, and remains, the most insulting thing anyone has said about Trump voters because it means they have no principles, no core. It didn't bother them that he said that about them.
I didn’t know then that Trump was referring to the Rev. Franklin Graham, who has become a parody of himself. I should have known, given that Graham decided to side with the man who wanted American missionaries who contracted Ebola in 2014 to be left to die in Liberia.
“The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back,” Trump tweeted. “People that go to far away places to help out are great — but must suffer the consequences!”
One of those missionaries was Kent Brantly, who said he had felt called by God to travel to West Africa. He went on behalf of Graham’s non-profit, Samaritan’s Purse. Fortunately, the Obama administration ignored Trump and brought Brantly home, saving his life.
Not even that level of callousness gave Graham pause about Trump. Graham assesses behavior, not on right or wrong, but political affiliation. That truth slowly began revealing itself during the 2016 presidential election cycle. It continued as Graham began embracing Trump no matter how many lies the president told and was recently cemented in an interview with The Associated Press.
For months, Trump denied knowing that his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, paid porn actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to remain silent about an affair with Trump.
“I found the president to be truthful with me,” Graham said.
We “just have to give the man the benefit of the doubt,” he reasoned, despite Trump’s history of bragging about extra-marital conquests, his declaration that he needn’t repent for anything, his propensity to lie about issues consequential and not.
But all doubt was erased when Rudy Giuliani said Trump reimbursed Cohen for the money. Giuliani did that after consulting with Trump. They’ve since tried to muddy the waters with a partial reversal, but serious people should not believe them. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post have nailed down further confirmation of the scandal. Cohen had hundreds of thousands of dollars to use to keep such issues private and Trump knew about this for months, even as he and his press secretary repeatedly told the American public otherwise.
Still, Graham recently told the AP: “I think this thing with Stormy Daniels and so forth is nobody’s business. … I think when the country went after President Clinton, the Republicans, that was a great mistake that should never have happened.”
Graham led the charge against Clinton, declaring in the Wall Street Journal in 1998 that private conduct has public consequences.
“Clinton’s months-long extramarital sexual behavior in the Oval Office now concerns him and the rest of the world,” Graham wrote. “If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”
Graham says Trump’s affair happened before he was president. He cares not at all that Trump has been proven a pathological liar since he was sworn into office, telling a list of lies and misstatements that has surpassed 3,000, according to the Washington Post fact-checker.
This isn’t about political hypocrisy; it’s that Graham is teaching his flock that nothing really matters. He’s become a moral leader who no longer believes in morality.
That he and his most ardent supporters aren’t ashamed of what they’ve become in service of Trump is most shameful of all.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

What Happened in the North Carolina Primary Yesterday

US Congress
CD2 -- Democrat perennial candidate Linda Coleman buried Ken Romley, who ran an active campaign and looked like he had a shot. Coleman will try to unseat incumbent Republican George Holding this fall.
CD5 -- Democrat DD Adams will be taking on Virginia Foxx this fall.
CD9 -- Democrat Dan McCready got almost 84% of the vote (ouch!), and poor pitiful Robert Pittenger lost to Republican preacherman Mark Harris by less than a thousand votes ... setting up one of the marquee races this fall ... McCready v. Harris. 
CD11 -- It will be Democrat Phillip G. Price challenging incumbent Republican Mark Meadows this fall.
CD13 -- Democrat Kathy Manning did indeed brush aside D challenger Adam Coker to take on Tedd Budd this fall.

NC Senate
SD1 -- Republican establishmentarian Bob Steinberg v. Dem D. Cole Phelps for this open seat. 
SD16 -- D Wiley Nickel won his primary, which is probably tantamount to election to the office in this safe D district. 
SD19 -- D Kirk DeViere will be taking on flawed Republican incumbent Wesley Meredith this fall.
SD25 -- Republican incumbent Tom McInnis easily beat back a tea party challenger and will face a strong D woman, Helen Probst Mill, this fall.
SD34 -- There was indeed a primary slap-down for Republican Bob Rucho, trying to regain a seat in the body he had resigned from in 2016, with "moderate" Vicki Sawyer winning the R primary in a heavily R district.
SD38 -- Incumbent Dem Joel Ford did indeed lose to Mujtaba Mohammed in a safe D district.
SD39 -- Incumbent Republican Dan Bishop, avatar of LGBT hatred, easily brushed aside moderate R Beth Monaghan.
SD45 -- First-termer R Deanna Ballard did prevail over three-term veteran Shirley Randleman -- a surprise to me.

NC House
HD1 -- Dem Ron Wesson, a strong contender in a competitive district, will face Republican Edward C. Goodwin, winner of his primary yesterday (with very low Republican turn-out).
HD3 -- Crazy Republican incumbent Michael Speciale easily beat his challenger Eric Queen in this safe R district.
HD6 -- A strong Dem woman, Tess Judge, will be running against Bobby Hanig and not the toxic incumbent Beverly Boswell.
HD11 -- Democrat Allison Dahle buried besmirched Dem incumbent Duane Hall in this strongly D district.
HD35 -- Democrat Terence Everitt will be challenging Republican incumbent Chris Malone in what should be a very competitive district this fall.
HD83 -- Other crazy incumbent Republican Larry Pittman easily brushed aside his primary opponent and will be challenged by D Gail Young, a progressive activist with strong legs (scroll down).
HD99 -- Democratic incumbent, Rodney Moore, who had often been the dog in the manger for the Democratic House caucus, got less than 17% of the vote in his primary, losing to Nasif Majeed, in this safe D district. 

Monday, May 07, 2018

Other State Primaries I'll Be Watching Tomorrow

Don Blankenship
West Virginia
Holy crap! Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin has been considered the most endangered Democrat in the US Senate, but the Republican voters in their primary tomorrow may grant him a reprieve ... if they choose felon coal baron Don Blankenship to run against him. National Republicans are so worried about that outcome that they induced Corporal Bonespurs to tweet this morning a warning to WVa voters not to vote for Blankenship. "Remember Alabama," DJT tweeted.
Three trumpers are trying to out-trump one another (though outsider Mike Braun, the acknowledged front-runner, has a history of pulling Democratic ballots in his state's primaries, which is being used against him by his opponents). Whoever wins this primary will face incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly this fall. Donnelly is considered vulnerable, and the Republicans badly want to flip this seat.
Republican primary for governor, with term-limited John Kasich on the everlasting outs with trumpers. Vying to replace him: Lieutenant Gov. Mary Taylor, who is backed by Kasich, and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who was endorsed by the state party and most Republican members of the state House. Mary Taylor is apparently nervous about the Kasich endorsement because of trumper backlash.
Also in Ohio (and according to Ballotpedia): "One key primary is in the 16th Congressional District, where pro-Trump state Rep. Christina Hagan is facing former Ohio State football player Anthony Gonzalez to replace U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R), who is running for the U.S. Senate. While Hagan has aligned herself with pro-Trump figures like Anthony Scaramucci and House Freedom Caucus leaders, Gonzalez has attracted traditional Republican donors and is backed by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)."

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Primarily Yours

Tuesday in North Carolina will be crucial for many Democratic candidates and Republicans too. Many races are crowded with people hoping to be their party's standard-bearer this fall, and by Wednesday morning we should know whether the two parties have decided to shoot themselves in the foot or opted for candidates who can actually win a general election.

Here are some of the races in North Carolina I'll be watching:

US Congress
CD2, where three Dems are vying to take on incumbent Republican George Holding. Will it be Ken Romley or perennial candidate Linda Coleman for the Dems? Or long-shot Wendy Ella May, who got the endorsement of The Independent Weekly. (Holding has his own weak primary opponent.)
CD5 -- Which accomplished and determined woman will win? DD Adams or Jenny Marshall, to take on Virginia Foxx, who has only token primary opposition.
CD9 -- Dan McCready is likely to bury loose cannon Christian Cano on the Democratic ballot, while prognosticators are now saying that incumbent Republican Robert Pittenger is going to beat preacherman Mark Harris. Whoever wins on the R side will likely face a very well funded Dan McCready on the D side.
CD11 -- Rising conservative power-broker and incumbent Republican Mark Meadows has token opposition, but there are three interesting men running on the D side.
CD13 -- Kathy Manning will brush aside D challenger Adam Coker to take on Tedd Budd this fall. Budd is now considered one of the most vulnerable Republican first-termers in Congress, and Manning is very good at fundraising.

NC Senate
SD1 -- An open seat considered competitive for the Dem, D. Cole Phelps, who has no primary. Meanwhile, the Republican primary between an establishment R and a Tea Party insurgent may debilitate the troops. NandO profiled the race today
SD16 -- D primary between two admirable candidates, in a district strongly Democratic. Whoever wins the primary should have a good shot at winning the seat.
SD19 -- D primary in a district that ought to be competitive for a D (with a flawed Republican incumbent). The two Ds worry me.
SD25 -- Strong D woman (Helen Probst Mills) with no primary, waiting to see which R she'll face this fall, the incumbent Republican or his arch-conservative challenger. Both Rs have issues.
SD34 -- Will Republican Bob Rucho regain a seat or lose to a moderate woman?
SD38 -- Will incumbent Dem Joel Ford lose to Mujtaba Mohammed?
SD39 -- Will incumbent Republican Dan Bishop lose to a moderate woman, Beth Monaghan?
SD45 -- Will first-termer Deanna Ballard prevail over three-term veteran Shirley Randleman? This race profiled today in the NandO.

NC House
HD1 -- Dem Ron Wesson, a strong contender in a competitive district, awaits the outcome of the primary on the R side, which was profiled in today's NandO.
HD3 -- Primaries on both sides, but the one everyone's watching involves crazy Republican incumbent Michael Speciale and challenger Eric Queen, profiled in today's NandO.
HD6 -- A strong Dem woman, Tess Judge, waiting to see which R she'll be running against this fall, either toxic incumbent Beverly Boswell or her male opponent. This race profiled today in the NandO.
HD11 -- Besmirched Dem incumbent Duane Hall, fighting for his life.
HD35 -- Primaries on both sides. Terence Everitt is probably favored on the D side, as is the Republican incumbent Chris Malone on the opposite side. This should be a very competitive district this fall.
HD83 -- Primaries on both sides in this "safe" Republican district, but it's incumbent Republican Larry Pittman's opponent who might bear some watching.
HD99 -- Another Democratic incumbent, Rodney Moore, could get knocked off by a challenger in a safe Dem district.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

The Week in Prayer

The eyes. Look at the eyes.
Photo Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

The ineffable Dana Milbank, on National Prayer Day (two days ago), offering a prayer for DJT:
Almighty and everlasting God, from whom comes every good and perfect gift, give Rudy Giuliani the gift of discretion. Lead him no more, I beseech thee, to the Altar of Hannity. Grant him the wisdom to know what he does not know, and the courage not to fake it. Give him pause when he would speak about those who say they have lain with me.
Eternal God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, bring peace to the souls of those who have departed my legal team, some before they began, including Ty Cobb, John Dowd, Joe diGenova, Victoria Toensing, Dan Webb, Tom Buchanan and Marc Corallo. I commend to thy Fatherly goodness those afflicted souls who have fallen in service to me, especially Ronny Jackson, David Shulkin, H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, Tom Price, Steve Bannon, Anthony Scaramucci, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and Richard Gates. But not Andrew McCabe.
Deliver me, O Lord, from Robert Mueller, and deliver me no subpoena. Lead me not to plead the Fifth. And of Thy mercy cut off mine enemies, particularly Rod Rosenstein and Adam Schiff. O Prince of Peace, spare me James Comey, for he hath persecuted my soul. 
O God, fountain of wisdom, make people none the wiser that I lied about the hush money. Pardon me, heavenly Father, as I have pardoned Scooter Libby and Joe Arpaio.

Almighty God, inspire the evangelicals to remain faithful to me, with everlasting and unlimited forgiveness. Lift up my followers at Fox News, especially Neil Cavuto, who has lapsed.

Forgive me my debts, O Gracious Father, to Michael Cohen, for the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York would notice further payments. Look with compassion on Michael, and inspire him to turn toward you, and not be turned by prosecutors.
O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven, heal those who are broken in body and spirit. (Yet do not hesitate to send down on Michael Avenatti a case of laryngitis.) Restore, I pray, the dignity of Sarah Sanders; she knows not what she says. Revive Harold Bornstein from his fragility, and inspire him to take it down a notch.
Watch over Thy child Scott Pruitt, O Lord, and grant him a day without a new scandal. May John Kelly, guided by Thy Providence, cease calling me names. May Marco Rubio complain no more about the tax cut. May Jared Kushner not revise his financial disclosures for the 41st time.
By your grace, hold the tongue and pen of Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal and many others, that they grant no further interviews nor write memoirs.
Bless Alan Dershowitz. Raise up Devin Nunes. Strengthen Bibi. And, for heaven’s sake, cut the mustache of John Bolton.
Finally, O Eternal God, grant that my greatness be known throughout this land. For mine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. Amen.

Ill Omens? Republican Enthusiasm Gap in Watauga County

As of Thursday...
916 Democratic ballots requested in Watauga County.
637 Republican ballots requested.
The Democrats have one race of their ballot. The Republicans have five, including a primary for sheriff.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Who Is This Man, and Why Is He So Happy?

This is Harry Smith, the next chair of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, and doesn't he have an eye for the main chance? Yes, the teachers and scholars and students in the UNC system have found themselves a standard-bearer for corruption and double-dealing. Copying here from Thomas Mills, in whose debt we all are for blowing the whistle on this joker:
Under the leadership and example of Donald Trump, the GOP has openly become a party of grifters, using positions of power and influence to benefit themselves and their cronies. The latest example is over at the UNC Board of Governors. The next chair has been trying to profit off his position with little shame or regret.
Harry Smith, who is running unopposed for Chair of the Board of Governors, tried to push a sweetheart deal that would have given East Carolina University more beds and made a bunch of money for him and his business partners. He wanted to buy a foreclosed apartment complex adjacent to university property and then rent the units to ECU. He said he would split the profits with university. The only catch is that to keep the place full, ECU would require sophomores to live in Smith’s newly acquire apartment complex.
Smith and his business partners, The Preiss Company, own apartment complexes including some near other universities. Smith is currently part of a legal battle right now in which he is accused by a North Carolina Central University employee of pushing the school to do business with Preiss. Of course he denies any wrong doing.
Smith’s actions are part of a pattern that’s emerged since Republicans took over the state. House Speaker Tim Moore has gotten rich since he won a seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives. He drives a Maserati. Last month, reporters uncovered a deal where he bought a troubled property with an old chicken plant on it for $85,000 and sold it three years later with no improvements for more than $500,000. That’s a windfall and it’s not likely to have happened if Moore were still just an attorney in Kings Mountain.
In Washington, Republicans in Congress have decided to look the other way while Trump and his family cash in on him being president. They fill their hotel in Washington, DC, with guests looking for favors. His resort down in Florida, Mar-a-Lago is a destination for GOP bigwigs and others seeking favor from the president. Nobody in the GOP is going to criticize the Trumps or hold them accountable in any way.
The GOP has become a party of grifters who worship at the altar of Ayn Rand and supply-side economics. Profits are all that matter and if you can turn your stint in public service into windfall profits, good on you. Accountability and transparency seem quaint. When Democrats did these things, they went to jail. When Republicans do them, the GOP base cheers.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Sarah Palin Endorses Deanna Ballard in NC Senate District 45

"I don't know about you, but I've had it with establishment politicians," says Sarah Palin in an endorsement message posted on Sen. Deanna Ballard's website.

The establishment politician in question here is Shirley Randleman from Wilkes who was first elected from Senate District 30 in 2012 and has been reelected twice since then, before redistricting threw her into Ballard's Senate District 45.

I'm assuming that Ballard's mentor Franklin Graham arranged for the Palin endorsement. Because he thinks the failed governor of Alaska and the failed candidate for vice president will carry great weight with Republican voters in District 45. And perhaps she will.