Saturday, June 30, 2018

NC GOP Tries To Excite Its Base By Knee-Capping the State Constitution

Who's responsible? Your local Republican reps in Raleigh.
In our case ... Jonathan Jordan and Deanna Ballard.
They take action against us. We can take action against them.
When you care enough to monkey with our foundational document to keep your power...

This is a rundown of the six constitutional amendments the Republicans in the General Assembly are adding to your fall ballot:
Voter ID (H1092) -- The "Make It Harder for People To Vote Act" will require voters to present photo identification to vote. And trust the Overlords: they won't set the rules for which photo IDs will qualify until after the election, but be assured: Your college ID won't be one of them
Income tax rate cap/TABOR (S75) -- Sets a 7 percent cap on income tax. "TABOR" stands for "Taxpayer Bill of Rights." The only state that has enacted this bad idea was Colorado, which had to repeal parts of it in 2005 in order to provide basic state services. Who wants this? Rich people. Who will it benefit? Rich people.
Judicial vacancies (S814)-- Allows the Overlords in the General Assembly to appoint who would fill judicial vacancies rather than the Governor. Because justice.
Bipartisan Ethics and Elections Enforcement (H913) -- Allows the NCGA to choose the members of the Bipartisan Ethics and Elections Enforcement board rather than the Governor, along with members of all other state boards and commissions. Trust them! They just want the "most efficient" elections possible.
Hunting and fishing (S677) -- Preserves the right to hunt and fish via the state constitution. What? You didn't know the Commies were planning to limit hunting and fishing?
Strengthening Victims’ Rights/Marsy’s Law (H551) -- Adds legal rights to victims of felony crimes
I intend to vote against every last one of these unnecessary provocations.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

I Think Continually of Voting

Nothing matters as much as this fall's General Election.

With the five conservatives on the US Supreme Court decreeing that DJT can discriminate on the basis of religion, how long will it be before he officially discriminates on the basis of race, and they say that's all right too, Bro, because you're doing it to keep us safe.

Democrats need the US Senate as a check on a would-be dictator who's already a full-time fool.

In North Carolina, Phil Berger and Tim Moore are offering six modifications to the state's constitution in an effort to keep themselves and their ilk in power forever. They're hoping that their power-play will rev up their lackadaisical troops to turn out and vote for them and "their boys" this fall.

Those constitutional amendments (my personal favorite: a measure to make it impossible to sue a hog-shit-sprayer for messing up the enjoyment of your property) may backfire on them. I'm possibly more revved to vote against their crap than their target audience is revved to make them King and continue the backward tumble of our state.

Democrats need at least enough seats in either chamber of the General Assembly to break the Republican majority and uphold Governor Cooper's veto. Majority control of at least one chamber would be even better, and that's clearly in reach.

Who's to blame for the misdirection of our state?

Rep. Jonathan Jordan, left, and
Sen. Deanna Ballard, right

The Omens in Oklahoma

Photo Steve Gooch
The Oklahoma governorship ... in play? You don't say! "Oklahoma! Where the wave comes sweepin' down the plain!" That wave is blue.

Drew Edmondson, a former four-term attorney general of the state, easily won the Democratic primary last night, and he will be competitive this fall. The Republicans are currently stuck in a two-month purgatory. Ten Republicans ran for governor in their primary yesterday, and none of them cracked 30%. There'll be a run-off in August. Meanwhile, Drew Edmondson will be out there, reminding Oklahomans that they've been governed for eight years by the second most unpopular Republican administration in the country (looking at you, Mary Fallin).

Also campaigning in a state where Democrats flipped a state House district last September. The Democrat in that race won by more than double the margin that Trump won over Hillary in the same district in 2016. Then last November another Democrat flipped a state Senate seat. To date, a total of four state legislative seats have flipped since Twitterman moved into the White House.

A state where public school teachers revolted and got action, winning raises and more school funding after staging a statewide April walkout. At the end of that nine-day work stoppage, the head of the Oklahoma Education Association sent her troops forward to work on flipping more legislative seats. “We got here by electing the wrong people to office,” Ms. Priest said. “We have the opportunity to make our voices heard at the ballot box.”

A state that also legalized medical marijuana in yesterday's primary.

How many omens do you require?

Monday, June 25, 2018

A Boy From Yadkinville Is Now President of the Southern Baptist Convention

Pastor J.D. Greear
J.D. Greear won the election for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention, and you might think it's the Beginning of the End, at least so far as conservatives are concerned. American Family Radio's big mouth, Bryan Fischer, thinks Greear is too homosexual-friendly and will lead the denomination into the darkness. He's been attacked for being liberal on immigration (oops, DJT!) and for wanting to protect the Dreamers. And I believe I just heard Greear interviewed on National Public Radio this morning, suggesting that Southern Baptists needed to de-couple themselves from the Republican Party. Whaaa?

Greear is pastor of an odd mega-church in Raleigh-Durham-etc. "Odd" because it's not a single congregation but a series of "campuses" equipped with big-screen tvs. The church is building itself a big new facility in north Raleigh estimated to cost $20 million.

Greear is a hit among millennials, which apparently makes some of the old church lizards mighty nervous. He's a theological conservative -- everyone agrees on that -- but he thinks women should have leadership roles in the church (short of being pastors, mind you!), and he condemned the recent scandal surrounding Paige Patterson's covering up of rape allegations at Southwestern Theological Seminary. (Greear actually studied theology under Patterson.)

But then there's that stuff about embracing homosexuals. And that other stuff about not endorsing Donald J. Trump or his policies.

When I was a young Southern Baptist, attending a Southern Baptist College in Texas, I would have welcomed the arrival of a J.D. Greear as a breath of fresh air. Is it a passing and insignificant zephyr? Or is it a muscular wind that will blow away the bargain the historic church made with the White Jesus of politics?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Still Finding New Reasons To Feel Great About 2018

Are You Hanging On for November?
Me too.

It's the only way to deal with the continuing cruelty of our government toward brown people seeking asylum. And the continuing lust for power by our Republican overlords in Raleigh, who are now proposing multiple constitutional amendments to keep themselves overlording us forever.

New Hope in Texas
Stuff like this.

I've seen some good -- very good and just plain stupendously good -- campaign videos this year. I have to rank MJ Hegar's in that latter group:

Texas Congressional District 31

It's Williamson County, y'all (and parts of Bell County), so naturally I feel some vested interest. It takes in much of Round Rock, Texas, a northern suburb of Austin, all of Temple, and much of Killeen. And the ranching country in between. It also contains Fort Hood, "the largest military installation in the world," which becomes interesting when we consider the military vet running as the Democrat (see above and below).

The Cook Partisan Voter Index rates the district R+10. Trump carried it by 13 points; Romney, by 21 (and when you think about it, that's a possibly significant drop-off in Republican performance in 2016). Sabato's Crystal Ball rates it "Solid Republican." Some 30,735 Democrats turned out for the primary in March, compared to 52,697 Republicans, which further displays dismal prospects for any ordinary Democratic challenger.

Incumbent Republican Congressman John R. Carter won his last reelection in 2016 with 58% of the vote. He's been in the chair since 2002, when the district was first created following the findings of the 2010 Census.

Republican Incumbent John R. Carter
John R. Carter
If you were casting a movie about the silly denizens of New York, and you needed a tall, chiseled actor to play the Texan who'll come in and tell everyone they're full of shit, you'd hire John R. Carter. He's prototypical Texas. You could use his portrait in a religio-political icon. He looks the part of the steely-eyed rounder up of strays, a bullshit detective, and a good man to have on your side -- all wrapped up in that John Connelly-esque visage. 
Photos lie, though. He's actually quite short and may not be the fastest gun in the West (see above).
He trained as a lawyer at the University of Texas School of Law and had a successful private practice in Round Rock. He's pigeon-holed himself in Congress as part of the military-industrial feeding corps. He has personal big $$ investments in oil stocks. For a time, he was a prominent "birther" in his reaction to President Obama.
He has a well earned reputation for ignoring and shutting out his constituents (see the video above, for one example). "Mr. Carter will not hold town meetings, and he doesn't publicize his schedule so voters don't have a chance to engage with him on issues that matter to them," said a constituent who was so pissed off she was planning to run against Carter this year. She didn't, but MJ Hegar did.

MJ (Mary Jennings) Hegar, Democratic Insurgent
She describes herself as "an ass-kicking, motorcycle-riding Texas Democrat," and that'll play in the 31st District. She's an actual war hero. She has a Purple Heart (as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor) for combat in Afghanistan, where she piloted rescue helicopters. She's married now with two young children and lives in Round Rock.
According to her website, she was one of Newsweek's 125 Women of Impact in 2012, and she earned an MBA from the University of Texas following her military career. She's also been recognized by Foreign Policy magazine as a Leading Global Thinker. Plus she's got an Expert Marksman rating with both handgun and rifle.
Hegar wrote a well received memoir about her three tours in Afghanistan, Shoot Like a Girl, which was immediately optioned by Hollywood with Angelina Jolie attached to star in it. At this time, the movie is described as "in development" ... so who knows when, or even if. Even without the movie treatment, Hegar has earned celebrity status.
If the video above is any indication of how she interacts with the voting public, and if she can get that personality known in the district (let alone her personal history), she's going to be a contender in November.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Republican Dinosaur, Norm Sanderson, Steps in His Own Poo

Ginger Garner with her family

Republican State Senator Norm Sanderson made headlines this week patronizing some high school girls (praising them essentially as bait for boys) while they visited his Senate committee meeting.

Sanderson's fellow Republicans cringed.

Democrat Ginger Garner, an accomplished professional, is running against Sanderson this fall in what is considered a safe Republican district. Perhaps she can school this old dinosaur.

Senate District 2 takes in Carteret, Craven, and Pamlico counties on the NC coast.

Ginger Garner is a doctor of physical therapy and a longtime orthopaedic clinician serving the healthcare needs of new mothers and the military (Cherry Point is in her district). She was born in Asheboro "to teenage parents," Republicans who instilled in her the values of hard work and thriftiness which she brings with her into running for office as a Democrat. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and her Master of Physical Therapy and Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the founder of the Professional Yoga Therapy Institute (2000), the first interdisciplinary, medical yoga program in the world. She also established the first doctoral level medical yoga curricula, now adopted by medical schools throughout the US and Canada. She says on her website, "My story speaks for itself: for 20 years I have served our coastal community as a physical therapist, as an aid and Christian mission worker, as a volunteer, as a CEO and small business owner, and as a wife and mother of three." She mentions the opioid epidemic as a major concern of hers along with protection of the North Carolina coast from offshore drilling. She is everything that Norm Sanderson isn't -- the essence of resistance to Trumpism in 2018.

Norm Sanderson is a three-term Republican senator, first elected in 2012. In 2014 and 2016,
Incumbent Norm Sanderson
Sanderson won with about 60 percent of the vote. According to Ballotpedia, Sanderson received a B.A. in "Christian education" from Logos University in 2002. Logos is an on-line, Bible-based, interdenominational education-dispensary based in Jacksonville, Florida. Sanderson's professional experience includes working as a sheriff's deputy and as a real estate business owner. He currently owns Kids Heaven School Age Care Center. In 2017, Sanderson proposed a poisonous anti-immigrant sanctuary city law to punish the state's cities if they won't participate in rounding up brown people. Sanderson is a conservative true believer in Phil Bergerism. He has said that North Carolina is a much better place now and ever since Republican took over in Raleigh in 2011.

Game of Groans

Everyone is still talking about the $39 Zara jacket that Melania Trump wore from the White House to board a plane to the Texas border yesterday. It was an olive green Army jacket with these words scrawled on the back like graffiti: “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?”

The counter move is this popular hoodie offered by Teespring in the United Kingdom. The money goes to charity.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Such a proud time!

2018 Summer Solstice

The sun stood still at 6:07 EDT this morning. Hope you were paying proper reverence to the goddesses of earth and garden.

Photo of the worshippers at Stonehenge this morning. Photo Ben Birchall

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

New Constitution Party Will Make Some NCGA Races More Interesting

The Constitution Party was certified for the North Carolina ballot on June 6th (along with the Green Party). It's further right than the NC GOP, attracts nationalist kamikazes (Forsyth County roman candle Vernon Robinson immediately changed his registration), and may cause some Republican incumbents a little peptic ulceration this November. For example, in NC Senate District 41, which the NC Free Enterprise Foundation rates "competitive," there's already a real race going on between a credible Democrat challenger and a "nice guy" Republican incumbent. Depending on how attractive the Constitution Party candidate proves to be (see below), she might help swing this district to the Democrat. Who happens to be...

Natasha Marcus -- Democratic Challenger 
Marcus made an unsuccessful bid for the state House in the Cornelius neighborhood in 2014, when Republican John Bradford III defeated her 55 to 45 percent. “The policies that touch our lives most closely often come from the state level,” Marcus told WUNC. “Federal politics is important, but what happens at the General Assembly in Raleigh – from public school funding, to healthcare, to whether we’re going to have to pay tolls here in the North Mecklenburg area is also important." According to Ballotpedia, Marcus earned her B.A. in public policy from Hamilton College and her J.D. from Duke University School of Law in 1994. Her professional experience includes working as a lawyer for Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard; as Judicial Clerk for the Honorable Frank W. Bullock, Jr. of the U.S. District Court in Greensboro; and as a founding member of DavidsonLearns, a non-profit providing senior citizen learning and enrichment. Marcus is putting up a fight for the seat: “Cuts to public pre-K through higher education, unconstitutional laws, politicians who put polluters over our clean air and water, policies that make healthcare more expensive and less accessible, and expensive toll lanes on I-77 have taken us backwards. Like many people in our community, I am fed up with being ignored by Raleigh Republicans and am ready to take a stand.”
Jeff Tarte -- Republican Incumbent (Flavor: Vanilla) 
Tarte won by a 21 percent margin in his last non-presidential election. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in econ and has worked as a top-level exec for a number of multimillion-dollar companies. He has served as the mayor of Cornelius. (Civic office in Cornelius has been a repeat springboard for many prominent Republicans including Thom Tillis.) Tarte first ran for the senate in 2012, narrowly winning the Republican primary but running unopposed that November. He did have Democratic opponents in 2014 and 2016. In the latter, Tarte's winning percentage (54.48%) looked a little soft compared to 2014. On some topics, Tarte has at least sounded moderate. On the disruption to the state erupting out of HB2 (the bathroom bill), he told the Charlotte Observer: "Transgenders in bathrooms were not a problem." He opposed the transfer of tax revenues from urban to rural counties, but he is also a cheerleader for shifting the tax burden increasingly onto "consumers." He openly opposed his Republican Gov. McCrory over the I-77 toll lanes.

Sharon Hudson -- Constitution Party Insurgent (Flavor: Rhubard)
Sharon Hudson was until recently a Republican political activist in North Mecklenburg County, working her way from the Young Republicans into the party structure of MeckGOP to leadership of the North Mecklenburg Republican Women to various political campaigns and conservative causes. She joined a Tea Party group, Lake Norman Conservatives, which has drawn her away from establishment GOP activity. She graduated from UNCC with a B.A. in English and has written for PunditHouse, a Tea Party inspired conservative website focused on Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
She became the Constitution Party's official nominee for this office just this past weekend, and as yet she has no campaign infrastructure to speak of. But she has a history of running for office. 
In 2014, the same year Natasha Marcus also ran for the NC House seat vacated by Thom Tillis, Sharon Hudson ran in the Republican primary against the eventual winner of that House seat, John Bradford III. Her big issue was opposition to Tillis's plan for North Mecklenburg toll lanes, but she's a thorough-going and doctrinaire conservative, which is why the Constitution Party blessed her campaign.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Republican Malpractice in the NC General Assembly

Rob Schofield decries the rush of new laws in this current session of the North Carolina General Assembly -- laws written in secret and sometimes quickly, with scant understanding of or respect for unintended consequences (let alone the nasty intended ones): "Time and again last week, in fealty to an artificial and never fully disclosed deadline, legislative leaders summoned new and hugely controversial proposed laws out of thin air, conducted rapid-fire kangaroo committee meetings to bless them, and then waved the detritus briefly in front of glassy-eyed rank and file members for quick, often dazed approval."

That's democracy malpractice, and the practitioners must be called to account. Here's two of them:

Republican Rep. Jonathan Jordan and Republican Sen. Deanna Ballard

A handful of the most powerful of the Republicans in Raleigh wrote their budget in secret and rushed it through by preventing any amendments. The new budget "starves schools, the environment and countless other essential state services in order to give tax cuts to millionaires" (Rob Schofield). Jonathan Jordan and Deanna Ballard voted yes to it and to everything else.

Out of Thin Air
Other pieces of shit coming out of the General Assembly in rapid order:
"A transparently partisan bit of legal scalpel wielding that would alter early voting laws in order to target and discourage participation by minority voters." Their monkeying with early voting now sits on Governor Roy Cooper's desk. It's clearly meant to discourage the whole infrastructure of early voting, as it mandates that all satellite sites must be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every weekday, 12-hour shifts. That provision defies local knowledge of local populations and their druthers and will strap the budget of county boards of elections. Some -- probably many -- satellite sites will have to be closed in Watauga and other counties. Plus ending the last Saturday of early voting aims at black people, who have historically favored that day.
A brand-new "farm bill" -- "what ought to have been labeled The Polluting Corporate Industrial Hog Factory Relief Act.” It's a real piece of shit that we wrote about here recently.
An 18-page compilation of giveaways to favored special interests bearing the laugh-out-loud title “Regulatory Relief Act of 2018.” We'll slowly become aware of the political bribes this bill delivered on.
A bill to gerrymander the judicial districts of roughly a third of the state’s population, because General Assembly Republicans haven't liked the judges.
Speaking of the damned judicial system, a superior court judge recently ruled in favor of a tenant, and the General Assembly promptly passed a special giveaway to landlords. In Raleigh it pays to be upset by a court ruling, especially when you have expensive lobbyists and compliant Republican troops.
And the icing on the cake: Last Friday, a rushed new backroom deal to "put teeth" into penalties on crazy behavior by crazy prison inmates, because harshly punishing craziness always makes it stop.
It's a Raleigh power-trip on acid and with the pedal down. But be informed, you clowns of the apocalypse-- Judgment Day is coming, and the people remember.

If a Democrat Can Win in West Virginia...

The Cook Political Report rates the 3rd Congressional District of West Virginia as "Likely Republican." Some 72% of the district voted for Trump. But other things have also happened, and the upshot is that more people should be watching the rise of Democratic state Senator and career Army man Richard Ojeda (pronounced "Oh-jed-ah") who won the May 8th Democratic primary with over 50% of the vote against three other candidates, and who could very well make Flippity-Flip in November.

He's tough. And tattooed. Brash, even. He's a soldier's soldier. He trained as an Army engineer, and as a Captain he commanded the 20th Engineer Brigade (Combat-Airborne) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2010 and now holding the rank of Major, Ojeda volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan as a combat advisor with the 10th Mountain Division in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where he mentored over 1,200 Afghan Police.

He first ran for the West Virginia Senate in 2014. He became an outspoken critic of majority Republican policies, especially labor laws and the treatment of public sector employees. This year, he became a great champion of the state's striking teachers. But let him tell it:

Hell, he voted for Trump in 2016 and now regrets it. “It’s been a friggin’ circus for a solid year,” Ojeda told Politico magazine. “All he’s done ... is shown that he’s taking care of the daggone people he’s supposed to be getting rid of.”

The Primary Statistic
Carol Miller
Ojeda's Republican opponent in November -- it's an open seat -- will be Carol Miller, a member of the State House from Cabell County. She wants everyone to know that she's always prayed before voting on every single bill, and she will bring that sanctified habit to the U.S. Congress with her. Otherwise, she's a sock puppet Trumpian.

The 3rd CD is actually majority registered Democrat, but they've been voting Republican since the first Bush, motivated by guns, God, and abortion. A Democrat inoculated against at least two of those taints might convince coal country men to think about other stuff for a change, like the advantaging of the 1% over everybody else. (Footnote: Ojeda has a pro-choice voting record in the WVSenate.)

The 3rd CD is majority Democrat, so perhaps naturally, more Democrats turned out to vote in the primaries on May 8th, but the numbers that Ojeda drew, compared to Carol Miller's vote total, are pretty striking:
29,837 -- total votes for Ojeda
8,936 -- total votes for Carol Miller
That looks like a wave to me.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

One Tough Customer

Amy McGrath, the former Marine fighter pilot and Democratic nominee for the US House from Kentucky, earns a big article in today's NYTimes. It's all about how impossible it will be for a Democrat to win the 6th Congressional District, especially a woman who came out publicly for background checks and a ban on bump-stocks in a district with "more AR-15s than you can shake a stick at" (according to the editor of the weekly Anderson County News).

McGrath took that position on guns during an interview with that Anderson News editor. She shocked him with her bluntness and her bravery: “What really surprised me was how honest and open she was about things she knew dang well weren’t going to be popular here,” he said.

It's the Marine thing. She's a freaking Marine, the first woman Marine fighter pilot, and she gives it to you straight and without flinching. That makes her about as rare a brand new politician as you'll ever see.

She was the first female Marine to fly an F-18 in combat. She flew missions in Afghanistan in 2002 and in Iraq in 2003. The last Democrat to win District 6, Ben Chandler, said, "How do you caricature someone as a liberal who has bombed terrorists? That’s ludicrous. I hope they try it. Look at [Republican incumbent Andy] Barr in the face and say how many terrorists have you killed?”

She's married to a Navy man, and they have three children. (If you haven't already, you might watch (again) her video on what really constitutes toughness -- and it ain't lying about the size of your button.)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) Has a Credible Democratic Opponent

Noticing white supremacist and eight-term Congressman Steve King's recent approving retweet of an avowed admirer of Adolph Hitler, I began to wonder about his 4th District of Iowa (which contains the university town of Ames) and about what Democrat is running against him.

This is the Democrat, J.D. Scholten, who's actually out-raised King by a substantial amount.

Scholten is an ex-professional baseball player and is working now as a litigation paralegal. He's a fifth generation Iowan, and he certainly looks like he "fits" the district.

Never mind, though, because the experts say Steve King can't be beaten (just as they say Virginia Foxx can't be beaten). Steve King is so smug about easily winning every time, he hardly bothers to raise campaign money, and he's very comfortable spouting Trumpist racism about how white civilization is endangered by the invasion of brown people over our borders.

The Republican Party under Trump has become very comfortable with open hostility toward non-whites, and perhaps the 4th District of Iowa will continue that embrace, but it's heartening that a man of Scholten's qualities is willing to stand up against that.

Friday, June 15, 2018

You Can Make Them Stop on November 6

Among other pernicious twists in the new Senate bill 325, which would monkey with early voting in North Carolina, is a provision that mandates all early voting sites would have to have uniform hours — 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. — during weekday early voting.

In Watauga during recent elections, the Watauga Board of Elections opted to open some early voting sites later than others -- like the one in the ASU Student Union -- and open them for reduced hours -- like the one in the ASU Student Union. That would no longer be allowed by the new law.

Seven a.m. to seven p.m. Twelve-hour days, with resulting staffing needs and salaries. The requirement seems designed to discourage multiple early voting sites in counties. And that's pernicious.

Yesterday, in an emergency teleconference meeting of the State Board of Elections, the Board criticized the authors of S325 for never consulting the Board of its staff about the proposed changes. Only two of the four Republicans on the Board actually showed up for the meeting -- Four Eggers and John Lewis -- who screamed that the Board's emergency meeting was purely political.

I'll tell you what's political, answered Board member Stella Anderson: "Lawmakers proposing major changes of this sort without consulting experts and the very people tasked with running elections in the state."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Not a Race to Watch -- But Anyway, Fun

Kaine and Stewart
Tuesday's Republican primary for the US Senate put Corey Stewart in an awkward place: He won with less than 50% of the vote (on very puny Republican turnout), and every big buck Republican and conservative machine immediately announced they wouldn't be participating at the US Senate level in Virginia this year.

Because of Corey Stewart (who, like his idol Twitterman, trails disreputable baggage).

See, he's a Civil War fantasist who hangs with white nationalists. "Stewart launched his Senate campaign after surprising -- and alarming -- national Republicans by winning 42.5% in last year's gubernatorial primary against former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie." (Gillespie went on to lose the governorship to Democrat Ralph Northam.)
Corey Stewart, campaigning last year
Stewart made Charlottesville's push to remove its statue of Robert E. Lee the centerpiece of his campaign for governor, holding rallies for the monument and displaying Confederate flags while defending "heritage" at his events. At one point, he attended an Old South ball.
He attended a news conference with the leader of the white supremacist protest that later resulted in the death of a counter-protester in Charlottesville. And after that counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed in a hit-and-run, Stewart blamed the violence on "both sides."
With Twitterman, Stewart has become the norm in the Republican Party of 2018, and the now "old guard" of sane Republicans are withdrawing to the wings. The Koch network, which runs Americans for Prosperity, announced it would not support Stewart -- or anyone else -- and the US Senate Republican campaign arm is giving Stewart a pass too. Ouch.

Incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Kaine had no primary opponent. He'll run strong statewide, and meanwhile Corey Stewart is likely to depress turnout among suburban Republicans ... hurting the reelection prospects of at least three endangered Republican US House members.
R Barbara Comstock (Va. 10th CD) ... challenged by D Jennifer Wexton
R Dave Brat (Va. 7th CD) ... challenged by D Abigail Spanberger
R Scott Taylor (Va. 2nd CD) ... challenged by D Elaine Luria
Now those are races to watch.

GOP in Raleigh: Desperate Much?

At 5:07 this morning, North Carolina election law expert Gerry Cohen began tweeting about a new election law revealed late last night in the General Assembly and already scheduled for a 10 a.m. committee hearing this morning -- a bill deceptively titled (natch!) "The Uniform & Expanded Early Voting Act," which will -- despite its rosy title -- squeeze down early voting from 17 days to 10 days and completely eliminate voting on the last Saturday and do some other wholly unnecessary and pernicious shit.

They are that worried.

May we all turn in their general direction and vow, "You think that's gonna stop us?"

Jonathan Jordan: "I Have a Very Interesting Job, and I'm Very Good At It"

At a House Finance Committee meeting yesterday
Photo Colin Campbell

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Biggest Damn Ignorant Fool on the Planet

Headline at this hour on 13 June 2018: "Trump declares North Korea 'no longer a nuclear threat' "

A Race to Watch in Virginia: Incumbent Barbara Comstock v. Jennifer Wexton

Jennifer Wexton
Back many months ago, when we first started taking detailed dives into the building BlueWave2018, we focused a posting here on Virginia's 10th Congressional District:

Incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock, often mentioned as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress. Cook Political Report rates this race a "toss-up." It's heavily suburban.
Insurgent Democrats -- A whole tribe of them wanting to run in the primary on June 12th:
Kimberly Adams -- educator
Julia Biggins -- scientist
Alison Friedman -- human trafficking activist and a former Obama staffer
Dave Hanson -- Naval intelligence officer
Dan Helmer -- veteran, has won the backing of the Democratic veterans group VoteVets
Julien Modica -- charitably described as a "perennial candidate"
Paul Pelletier -- 9th Democrat to get into the race. A former Federal prosecutor who directed high-profile public corruption investigations of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former congressmen Robert W. Ney and William Jefferson
Michael Pomerleano -- an immigrant from Romania with a Ph.D. from Harvard in business economics
Deep Sran -- school founder
Lindsey Davis Stover --communications strategist and a former Obama staffer
State Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-Loudoun) -- already well known in the district and has the backing of most of the Democrats in the Virginia House of Delegates
By the time filing came around, many of these potential candidates had dropped out, and only six ended up running. Of the six who ran, State Senator Jennifer T. Wexton came out on top -- by quite a lot. I liked Wexton's chances way back last December and ran her photograph.

She's a state senator from Loudon County, which is both the heart of and the population center for the 10th District. She's a lawyer and a former prosecutor, spending four years as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for Loudoun County. She's done a ton of pro bono legal work (and got official recognition for it), served as president of the local bar, and was appointed a special judge in Loudoun District Court. She won her seat in the State Senate in a special election in 2014 and was reelected in 2015 with over 56% of the vote.

She's a suburban mom and an accomplished professional. She's causing plenty of excitement today in Virginia and in Washington, DeeCee.

There's a Special Place in Hell for a General Assembly that Encourages Giant Pork Corporations Spraying Pig Shit on Their Neighbors

Indebted to Jeffrey C. Billman for bringing us up to date on a new North Carolina Farm Bill, now moving through the Republican Senate in Raleigh:
...among other things, [it] carves out even more special protections for multibillion-dollar pork producers. Following a law passed last year that restricted the amount of money neighbors of hog farms can recoup in nuisance lawsuits — industry advocates tried but failed to make it retroactive, which would have negated more than two dozen pending cases against Smithfield Foods — this year's Farm Bill redefines the word nuisance itself.
If it becomes law, agricultural operations can't be sued for causing nuisances if they follow practices, methods, or procedures "generally accepted and routinely utilized by other agricultural and forestry operations in [the] region."
Translation: If everyone does it, it must be okay. (It's also okay with Republicans because it's mainly poor blacks who are suffering.

Wanna know what an environmental nuisance is? It was summed up by the headline in The Guardian: "A Million Tons of Feces and an Unbearable Stench: Life Near Industrial Pig Farms."

Wanna know what another environmental nuisance catastrophe is? Take a look at the power-mad and corrupt boy's club in Raleigh (President: Phil Berger; Vice-President in Charge of Sitting by the Door: Tim Moore) and what they've done -- or tried to do until stopped by judges -- since 2013.

Waterkeeper Alliance

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Congressman Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) Has a Primary Today, and It's No Walk on the Appalachian Trail

Donald J. Trump endorsed Mark Sanford's Republican opponent today, with only three hours left for voting in the primary: “Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA,” Trump tweeted. “He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina. I fully endorse Katie Arrington for Congress in SC, a state I love. She is tough on crime and will continue our fight to lower taxes. VOTE Katie!”

Arrington has criticized Sanford primarily for criticizing Trump.

Curiouser and curiouser, because Arrington herownself has a history of dissing Trump: "In a March 2016 Facebook post, she praised Mitt Romney on the night that he delivered a rebuke of then-Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, whom Romney called 'a phony, a fraud' and someone who was 'playing the members of the American public for suckers.' 'LOVE MITT ROMNEY!!!!!' Arrington wrote that night. When challenged by someone about the posting, Arrington doubled-down, writing that she 'really has a problem with the moral and ethical issue of someone being president who has done nothing more than ... make fun of people'."

It appears that Arrington has had a change of heart. It also appears (again) that Trump doesn't read.

Whoever wins this Republican primary will have this guy -- Joe Cunningham -- as the likely Democratic opponent. We like Joe's chances, whether it's against Mark Sanford or finger-in-the-wind Katie Arrington.

"No One Is Breaking Into the Voting Booth"

Gerry Cohen, former special counsel to the N.C. General Assembly and our walking encyclopedia on North Carolina election law:

The line to vote at ASU
Photo Lonnie Webster
There are important questions to be resolved before the legislature votes to put voter photo identification in the state Constitution via referendum.

The ballot question says, “Every person offering to vote in person shall present photo identification before voting in the manner prescribed by law.” This language appears to not allow exceptions for those without ID or those who have lost them, as the 2013 law did. Will it be a “hard ID” like that struck down in federal court, or a “soft ID” like the 2013 House version that allowed student ID, public assistance ID or employer ID? Will there be a tedious provisional ballot process?

The referendum voter won’t know the actual proposal. Senate staffer Brent Woodcox tweeted, “Very few would read the details of the bill to make their decision on the amendment. Unless it passes, there will be no need for implementing language.” How cynical. Is the amendment just a blank check, as well as a sound bite to trap candidates? Is the actual reason to amend the constitution to end review on state constitutional grounds? Republicans control the legislature; the N.C. Supreme Court is now 4-3 Democratic and will remain Democratic next year.

What justification have proponents offered, other than voter confidence would be improved? Gov. Pat McCrory in signing the 2013 bill said it was common sense because you “need a photo ID to fly.” This is untrue; the Transportation Security Administration has many published workarounds for fliers with no photo ID. Other misconceptions: "The law requires photo ID to buy beer, wine and cigarettes." Not true. There is no law requiring this, but if merchants gets photo ID they have a safe harbor if it’s phony.

“You have to have a photo ID to get a prescription.” Most prescriptions have no legal ID requirement. Controlled substances require a government ID, but it doesn’t have to be that of the patient; others can pick up those drugs by showing their ID.

A large segment of society, especially the poor, don't fly and don't have checking accounts. Research has shown that the poorer the voter, the younger the voter, or if the voter is black, the less likely there is an acceptable photo ID. Also, why are we writing into the constitution 2018 technology, disallowing other methods that may develop?

I’ve seen attacks that people without ID could easily get one. For many, this isn’t true. Those of us in politics are privileged to be in the top 95 percent of society. We often don’t see the struggle of citizens who are un-banked, poor, homeless, mentally ill, with no car, or living far away from DMV in rural areas. The lesser among us deserve respect and honor, not baseless fraud allegations or artificial and unnecessary barriers to voting. This bill will disenfranchise voters and is poorly thought through. No one is breaking into the voting booth....

Monday, June 11, 2018

Voter ID Requirement Coming to Your Ballot This Fall

Tim Moore
NC House Speaker Tim Moore is the lead sponsor of a bill to put the question to voters in November: Don't you really think the state should require photo identification from voters, given all those illegals being bussed into polling places everywhere?

It's a political move, obviously, meant to gin up some enthusiasm among Republican voters by raising the specter once again of The Wrong People voting.

Thomas Mills warns that Democrats better not make a campaign issue of a voter identification constitutional amendment, for it will pass, and opposing it will only stir up the other side. Thomas Mills is probably right, especially about the likelihood that the voters will fall for a sham based on fraudulent rumors about voter fraud. Dunno about the other part of his warning, but it makes sense.

And here's the thing: If the amendment did pass in November, the next General Assembly would be tasked with writing the rules, and if Democrats keep their eyes on the prize and break the Republican super-majority, then Democrats will be in a position to influence those rules.

Friday, June 08, 2018

AppState Hires Itself a Lawyer (With Bonus Intercepted Email)

ASU Chancellor Sheri Everts announced on Tuesday that she had hired Paul Meggett, "a former law professor and interim dean at UNC-Charlotte," as her general counsel (following the retirement of former counsel Dayton Cole). Everts also said that Meggett "spent more than a decade in a dual, in-house counsel role as associate general counsel for the UNC Health Care System and as Assistant University Counsel for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill."

What she didn't say about Meggett appeared in an email from an ASU distinguished faculty member that went to several fellow faculty members:  
"Did you hear that the newly hired General Counsel at ASU - Paul Meggett - is coming from the position of Interim Dean of the Charlotte Law School, a for-profit school that closed last August due, in part, to multiple suits by former students and a suit from a former faculty member claiming that the school defrauded the government out of $285 million by "admitting hundreds of unqualified students, then manipulating records to keep them enrolled so the school could collect their government-backed tuition." Why is ASU hiring administrators - Terry Rawls was another - who come from for-profit institutions that have been in legal trouble? Something we should be concerned about?"
As a matter of record, while other law schools have closed in recent years due to declining enrollment and other difficulties, the Charlotte School of Law is the only one that has closed following actions by its regulators such as the NC Attorney General's office, the US Department of Education, and the American Bar Association. "Its parent company also owns two other law schools that are in the same death spiral."

Chancellor Everts' announcement said that Meggett was a "law professor and interim dean at UNC-Charlotte," implying (logically) that he was a law professor and interim dean of the law school at UNC-C. But UNC-C doesn't have a school of law.

Faculty at ASU are asking, "Was that deliberate obfuscation of Meggett's background" or an honest mistake? Or did Meggett misrepresent his background?

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Atta Boy!

Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the new Republican budget passed out of the General Assembly because of its inadequate funding of public education.
...Cooper wanted to stop the implementation of another corporate income tax cut next year and freeze planned tax cuts on income that people earn above $200,000, using the extra revenue to give teachers a larger raise and also spend money on other projects.

Continuing to Build

Kathleen Williams won the Democratic
primary in Montana on Tuesday to face off
against Republican incumbent Greg Gianforte
who was sentenced for assaulting a reporter the
night before his election in May 2017
I haven't the time to do deep research of my own right now on the Democratic challengers mentioned below, and the Republican incumbents, but soon ... soon ... I'll be free again to sit at a computer.

From the WashPost:
Voters have cast primary ballots in 32 of the 56 Republican-held House districts most vulnerable to a Democratic takeover, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Of the 28 races that have been called, Democratic women have won in half the districts, with women leading the Democratic ticket Wednesday afternoon in one of the four remaining seats still being counted in California. The party’s nominees in these crucial districts also include six military veterans and seven nominees who are black, Latino or Asian.
The winners include new political stars such as Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot running in Lexington, Ky., and Mikie Sherrill, a Navy pilot and former prosecutor running in northern New Jersey....
Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to retake the House and have benefited from a playing field that is largely located in the suburbs of major American cities, where polls show swing voters, especially educated white women, are more likely to reject Trump’s conduct in office. Strategists consider only five Democratic seats, including two in Minnesota, vulnerable to a Republican takeover.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Head of NC Pork Council: Trump's Trade War Will Hurt Farmers

Twitterman announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from our closest neighbors and allies -- Mexico, Canada, and the European Union -- and they promptly threatened back, saying they'll impose tariffs of their own on North Carolina pork and tobacco. Andy Curliss, CEO of the North Carolina Pork Council, pointed out -- if anyone's listening -- that 25% of NC pork gets exported, and Mexico and Canada account for half of those exports.

Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau, chimed in: "Those countries are important customers for us. If [threatened foreign tariffs] come to pass and if it really happens, it could be devastating for the North Carolina pork industry."

Same for tobacco: "The European Union produced a 10-page list of products it would retaliate against, if the U.S. imposes the tariffs. Among the products: tobacco in all forms — cigars, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, water-pipe tobacco and smoking tobacco. The state grows about 50 percent of the nation's tobacco and exports about 75 percent of what it grows, Wooten said."

Two Deaths From Landslide in Watauga County

Heavenly Mtn development, May 30, 2018
Photo Boone Police Dept.
Thing is, Watauga County was mapped for landslide hazards in 2007, and the area highlighted at that time as most landslide prone was in the Stony Fork precinct which takes in the Heavenly Mountain development. That area experienced devastating landslides in 1940 -- literally, hundreds of them -- and geologic science forecasts that a slope which experienced "debris flow" in the past will experience it again.

The Watauga County landslide hazard maps were presented to the Watauga County Planning Board in January of 2008. The mapping was prompted by the 2004 Hurricane Ivan event which killed five people in Macon County by landslide and devastated the White Laurel development in Boone's ETJ. Because of that, the state legislature said that all 19 mountain counties along the Blue Ridge escarpment needed to know the hazards, so it funded the research. Watauga County was the second county surveyed, and it was very nearly the last. As soon as the Republicans took control in 2011, they cut the funding.

Not that knowing the hazards necessarily saves lives. There's knowing, and then there's really knowing, and the land development community in vacationland never really wanted that information made public. It might have a negative impact on land values.

Those hazard maps are available, incidentally, via the Watauga County Planning and Inspections website.