Friday, August 31, 2018

Thank You, Juanita Jean's, The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon Inc.

Trump Exhaustion: There's a Cure for It

The daily tantrums. The hourly insults. The several thousand lies, fabrications, and misstatements. The muddying of crystal clear waters.

Living with Trump is like the constant itching need to tweezer out the tick before the tick gets to your bloodstream.

It's all so exhausting. Not just to us Twitterman-averse types but to his supporters too.

Exhausting was the word Sean Spicer used. Working for Trump wore him down, the way a nurse in the trauma ward is worn down. Cal Thomas noticed that Fox News host Neil Cavuto sounded more tired than mad when he addressed an on-air editorial to Trump personally: Payoffs to porn stars? Really, Dude? You've been denying any affair, and the $130,000 (at least) that sloshed over it --“You promised to drain the swamp, but you are muddying the waters."

"Mr. Trump should worry that Americans will stop believing anything he says.” --Cal Thomas. 

Isn't disbelief plain evidence of exhaustion? Or is it the cause?

Outrage maintained at high dynes for extended periods of time can lead to exhaustion. Exhaustion leads to shrugging the shoulders and rolling the eyes at the most recent outrage. The Onion can't even parody what is already the greatest living parody ever in the history of The Presidency.

"We’re exhausted. Trump has exhausted us to the point that he can rip up documents that belong to us — rip up our history and our ability to have a full accounting of what went on here — and all we can do is shrug." Elie Mystal was talking about the actual, literal Trump habit of tearing up all paper that comes across his desk, but it could be the metaphor for Trump's shredding of the emoluments clause. See, you're too exhausted to even notice any more.

Exhausting to the point of numbness. Are we becoming a Nation of Numbnuts? 

Not on your life, Bucko.

Lack of energy -- exhaustion -- can also follow a lack of motivation. Got no plan. Got no energy. That's a bad hole to fall into politically, but it isn't the trap this year. 2018 is full of energy, motivation, and A Plan, and it all climaxes in a vote.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Beto O'Rourke, Ballsy and Punk

So one of 2018's rock stars, Beto O'Rourke, has pulled even to Ted Cruz in polling for the Texas Senate race. Pulled even. He had proposed six debates to Ted Cruz, and Cruz countered with five and demanded the first one be this coming Friday at a place of Cruz's choosing and with a moderator of Cruz's choosing, and Beto said, "Whoa, Big Boy," and refused to jump to Cruz's tune:
O’Rourke said Monday that Cruz’s campaign has “attempted to dictate” different aspects of the debate schedule, such as the time, the moderators and which subjects the candidates could speak about.
“We’re working through those differences, and we’re trying to introduce more of a collaborative style to the negotiations than he [Cruz] may be used to,” O’Rourke said .... “And so we’re confident that out of that, we’re going to come to something good.”
That took balls.

So what did those miffed boys over in Cruz-land do? They dug up an old photo of Beto when he was
Beto O'Rourke, rock star.
He's on the left in goatee
and ponytail
in college and in a punk rock band, and they tweeted it out with the sarcastic suggestion that Beto couldn't debate this Friday because of a previous engagement [wink wink], because they thought that photo would embarrass him and hurt him with Texas Marlboro men.

It's fascinating to watch misfire after misfire by the Trumpian troops, miscalculations that can be deadly. Remember the video ad in favor of Jonathan Jordan that attacked weatherman Ray Russell as the "nutty professor." That one also backfired in a big way. People so mad they're contributing to Russell's campaign.

May the gods of tone-deafness continue to smile on this bunch and continue to inspire their dreams.

By Their Works ... We Shall Know Them

Indebted to the fine folks at Real Facts NC for compiling this list of 19 laws enacted by the NC General Assembly (Berger/Moore), subsequently ruled unlawful by the courts.

So ... an issue of legitimacy and hence illegitimacy. If you drew your own district illegally -- twice now --  and were "safe" via unconstitutional gerrymandering -- then you're illegitimate, and bastards do what bastards are:

Case/Short Name
Bill Number
Passage Date
Struck Down By
Congressional Districts

Congressional Districts
Federal panels as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders in January 2018 and August 2018
Legislative Districts
Election/Ethics Board Reform
Three-judge Superior Court Panel; ruling upheld by State Supreme Court
Elections/Ethics Board Reforms
Voter ID
Fourth Circuit (7/16); affirmed by US Supreme Court
Coal Ash Commission
Judicial Retention Elections
Stopped NCAE Dues check off
Career status for teachers
Wake County Board of Education
Wake County Commissioners Redistricting
Greensboro City Council Redistricting
Women’s Right to Know Act
Planned Parenthood defunding
Asheville Water
Forced Annexation
Ballot Labels for Judicial Elections
Sore Loser Law

Berger/Moore, Reaping What They've Sown

"Sizzling frustration." That's the hot turn of phrase that Sam Levine used to describe the attitude of the three federal judges who issued the 300+ page ruling about the NC General Assembly's continued attempts to keep the state's congressional districts gerrymandered using unconstitutional maps. Well, really it was one of the three, Federal Judge James Wynn, who wrote that decision and showed his mounting anger at our power-blind General Assembly.

Just look at how the Berger/Moore forces have resisted previous court findings: The Republicans passed new congressional district maps in 2011, which were in effect in 2012 and 2014 but were ruled an "unconstitutional racial gerrymander" in 2015. The maps the GA drew in response to that were the maps struck down this week on Monday. In addition to engineering (now) purely partisan gerrymandering to replace their purely racial gerrymandering, the GA has also mucked around in the state's judiciary,  imposing partisanship on those races and eliminating primaries, all in an effort to keep Republican judges on the bench and elect more of them. (And I haven't even gotten to the dismantling of checks and balances that those same Republicans have written into some constitutional amendments, and that's another whole set of lawsuits.)

The Federal judges saw all of that and were not amused. Which is why they're perfectly willing, given Republican behavior, to impose the harshest of remedies, to force the GA (or more likely, a special master) to draw new districts right now.

Berger/Moore, you brought this on yourselves.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Fruit Baskets, TURN OVER!

The whole world appears to be watching now -- the Berger/Moore North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) once again in national news for unconstitutionally cementing its grip on power via gerrymandering the living hell out of their ideological opponents.

The three-judge panel of Federal judges not only threw out the most recent NCGA redistricting of US House seats. They also said that the Republican scissoring of the state may necessitate another redistricting -- this time by a "special master" who isn't accepting back scratches from anybody -- and maybe even prior to November's scheduled election.

The Background
These are the same three Federal judges who heard this case (brought by Common Cause and the League of Women Voters) back in 2017. They issued their unanimous decision on January 9 of this year: That North Carolina’s 2016 redistricting plan (drawn in response to having their first redistricting map thrown out as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander) now relied too heavily on partisan affiliation in drawing constituencies, violating citizens’ rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and Article I of the Constitution.

The first time a federal court had ever struck down a redistricting plan as a partisan gerrymander.

Well, the Supreme Court came to the rescue. By January 19 -- ten days later -- the High Court stayed the three-judge panel's order that new maps be drawn forthwith and sent the case back to the three, to reconsider, using the Supremes own very recently written guidelines for who has legal standing in gerrymandering cases. (Without the right to sue -- "standing" -- you're not going anywhere, O my brethren.)

It took over 300 pages of evidence and legal reasoning for the three to say, well, yes, these plaintiffs have standing because they can demonstrate direct harm, and as a matter of fact there is unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering going on in North Carolina, and it's even more pernicious than we thought. Therefore, the NCGA -- no, better, a special master -- needs to redraw those maps, and they may need to do it before this November. But here's our out: we'll give both sides until August 31st to present arguments on whether the court should allow the existing map to be used one more time. (Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Not using the current maps for this November would probably necessitate turning November 6th into a primary for the 13 US Congressional seats, and move the final election for those seats to January of 2019, just before the convening of the new Congress. The judges even suggested that the state could forego congressional primaries altogether, as the NCGA had shown a willingness to eliminate primaries in other partisan races, namely judgeships.) [judges' mike drop]

The Supreme Court will never let them do it, stop the November election for congresspersons over partisan gerrymandering. The court has never ruled a partisan gerrymander unconstitutional. It blatantly passed up three separate opportunities to do so in its last term (Michael Wines and Richard Fausset). That was with Anthony Kennedy still on the Court.

With Kennedy retired, deadlock could happen, between four justices who have argued that the Court has the ability to judge partisan maps for their infringement on constitutional rights, and four conservatives who've never seen a partisan gerrymander they couldn't wink at. If they deadlocked 4-4, then my understanding is that the three-judge panel would have the magic wand to do its worst.

Some (many? all?) of the current Democratic candidates for US House seats will be relieved when the Supreme Court slaps a stay on this decision, or the three-judge panel stays its own ruling and keeps the old gerrymandered maps for one more time. The only thing worse than dread is dread from multiple directions.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Rewritten Constitutional Amendment Governing the State Board of Elections Is Still Very Bad

So Berger/Moore have taken out the language that would have stripped the governor of his power to appoint hundreds thousands of members of all state boards and commissions, which are charged with carrying out laws, setting policies, and enforcing compliance. But they left in the baseline chuckleheaded proposal to make the State Board of Elections an even-steven board of four hardline Republicans and four hardline Democrats.

Can you spell stalemate?

The current board is nine members, after the Berger/Moore General Assembly lost another court battle. They let the governor appoint the ninth member, and they've been unhappy ever since. Berger/Moore do not want majority decisions on this particular board, because with stalemate over competitive early voting plans, local boards of elections will have to revert to early voting in the local BOE offices only. It's a ploy, once again, to reduce the influence of early voting on the elections in North Carolina. Among other outcomes. A State Board that deadlocks 4-4 means that local board decisions, no matter how repressive, will stand. Or it will mean that a deadlocked local board will be deadlocked for eternity, as the State Board also deadlocks.

Republicans kind of like government that doesn't work.

Watauga BOE. The two Republican members on the left
Look at the local Watauga Board of Elections, divided 2-2 equally between Dems and Repubs. Nothing can change for the better. For a perfect recent example, the proposal to split the very large New River 3 precinct into two precincts with the in-town voters voting at the National Guard Armory and the out-in-the-country voters voting at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church ... Republican member Eric Eller first said it was a logical and excellent solution to a persistent problem for in-town voters. Then when the proposal could have passed, he balked. (Board Chair Republican Nancy Owen was never in favor of splitting the precinct. She hates the very idea of "convenience" for the voters. Or at least she said she hated people asking for "convenience" at the polls. It's like unprotected sex.)

Impasse. What could help voters get easier ballot access won't happen, and what we see on the local level could become the law of the realm, if the Republicans get this constitutional amendment through.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Door-Knocking: The Rarest and the Bestest

Read a statistic from the Pennsylvania State Department: Voters in the Keystone State who are 34 and younger now outnumber those 65 and older. 

Happening also in other states besides Pennsylvania. According to Dan Levin, Arizona, New York, Florida, and Virginia "have also seen sharp increases" in voter registration among the under-34 demographic. High time and overdue. 

What about North Carolina?

Those kinds of specific demographic numbers haven't immediately presented themselves. (This was one relevant statistic two years ago, in September 2016: "Only 67% of voting-eligible Millennials and 73% of Gen Xers were active, registered voters, compared to 81% of Boomers and 82% of Silent/Greatest voting-eligibles" -- Dr. Michael Bitzer.) But I don't find statistics for total numbers of Millennials and (especially) the rising number of Gen Zers (those born after 1998), as a percentage of total registration. What's the situation going to be in September 2018? Is that percentage of Millennials and Gen Zers rising?

Voter canvass, Saturday, August 25
I think it is, but I have only anecdotal evidence. I follow many Twitter accounts that show young activists campaigning, canvassing neighborhoods, registering voters, talking knowledgeably about issues that grab them. Break the Majority, an NCDP special campaign arm targeting NC House and Senate seats, launched a statewide canvass yesterday, aiming to knock 24,000 doors by 6 p.m. in targeted districts. Many or most of those canvassers are under the age of 25.

They're informed voters. They know what's been going on and not via Fox News. In fact, not really via any TV. Many -- most? -- of the Millennials I've met recently are readers, like ... reading is back, y'all! Which means, maybe, some young brains have better bullshit detectors.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Lipstick on the Pig

So another special session of the NC General Assembly today. Because all the other special sessions worked so well?

The NC House convenes this a.m. at 10 to rewrite (?) the two constitutional amendments that a three-judge panel ruled were impermissibly deceptive. They'll pass something today, probably, and the NC Senate will convene Monday to vote on what the House does.

Even if they're more honest about what those two amendments would do, the amendments will still be appalling usurpations of power to make Berger/Moore the dictators.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Phil Berger Deserves To Lose Because He's on the Wrong Side of History and He Has No Appreciation for Irony

When you run a political scrum like the Republican super-majorities in the NC General Assembly, you shouldn't toss around a word like "mob" so freely.

Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger on the toppling of Silent Sam: "Many of the wounds of racial injustice that still exist in our state and country were created by violent mobs and I can say with certainty that violent mobs won’t heal those wounds."

A mass murder at a Charleston black church on June 17, 2015, ignited a movement to do away with displays of white power Civil War glorification on public property (most of those mass-produced, hollow-core Civil War monuments were erected in the heyday of Jim Crow). How did Phil Berger and his boys deal with that sudden outcry? By pouring salt in "those wounds of racial injustice." By rushing a law to Gov. Pat McCrory's desk (by July 23 of that same summer), to actually ban the removal of white power icons Civil War memorials from any public property unless the NC Historical Commission said it was all right. (The NC Historical Commission? More later.)

Who's fast with a mob? Phil Berger.

And perhaps he was counting on mass chaos -- police, tear gas, people shoved around, Silent Sam defaced -- all exploitable for rousing the base. He got it. By defying the young anti-racist activists at UNC-Chapel Hill and on other college campuses, Berger got an issue, and that shit's dynamite with conservatives.

(Finally, earlier this week, the students found their own way to nullify a law: a bloodless trick to get the statue down without anyone's getting hurt. And that worked. Berger naturally yelled "mob," but that's a hollow sound in this instance.)

Did I say "nullification"? Who -- suddenly, in literal minutes -- nullified his own Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission so that he and his boys could guarantee that the real truth about six proposed constitutional amendments wouldn't be apparent to the voters? Phil Berger, that's who.

What was the trigger for trash-canning the Amendments Publication Commission? Why, sudden panic that there might be a Democratic conspiracy to caption the proposed constitutional amendments accurately for the voters. One of Berger's boys (David Lewis, a big dog in the House) apparently noticed (and suddenly) that the Constitutional Amendments Publications Commission was soliciting public input about how to caption the six, and a former legislative counsel tweeted some suggested captions that seriously spilled the beans, and Berger and his boys rushed to seize back the power. 

So we laughed out loud when Berger put these words on his FB page: "Democrats continue to advance absurd conspiracy theories...."

Courtesy of "James" at BlueNC

Jen Mangrum's New Campaign Button

Dan McCready's 1st TV Ad in NC-9

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Find a Better Place for Silent Sam

Photo: Khadejeh Nikouyeh, News and Record
So "Silent Sam" is down, the monument to UNC students who died in the Civil War, which was erected and dedicated by white supremacists on that campus in 1913. White supremacists? Yes, and if you don't believe it, you can read about the dedication speech made in 1913 by Julian Carr upholding the "Anglo-Saxon race in the south."

This morning, Washington Post reporter and UNC grad Eugene Scott published a little education for Southern white people -- "Most People Mad at the Removal of UNC's Silent Sam Don't Know What It's Like To Walk Past the Statue. I Do." I'm thankful for that perspective, and for the Charlotte Observer's editorial board essay published yesterday, "UNC Protestors Decide Not to Wait for Change. Good for Them." The final paragraph of that gutsy editorial:
What matters more this morning — to UNC students and others — is that Silent Sam is down. One more monument to racism gone. One more reminder that instead of waiting for change, sometimes you have to pull it toward you.
"Pull it toward you." The writer is referring to the actually pretty clever way the students brought the statue down without anyone getting hurt -- by ropes that were concealed from the view of police by large banners.

When last seen, Silent Sam was tied into the bucket of a front-end loader being carted off to reappear (?) in some other, more appropriate venue (we hope), as a relict or holy icon of the racial politics of 20th-century America.

Carolina Memorial,
Gettysburg Nat'l Military Park
I just came from the Gettysburg Battlefield where statues to Union and Confederate heroes are as thick as deer ticks. In fact, the Carolina Memorial is one of the more famous statues there, sculpted by the same man who carved Mount Rushmore. The faces of the soldiers he depicted are moving renditions of dedication and determination and pain. Those are wholly worthwhile emotions to memorialize on the battlefield where no doubt some UNC students perished protecting the right to own slaves. We can honor the pain without necessarily buying the economic forces that caused it.

BREAKING NEWS: 3-Judge Panel Throws Out Two Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Late yesterday afternoon, the three-judge panel hearing the Governor Roy Cooper and NAACP challenge to constitutional amendments agreed that two of them were deceptively written and should not be on the ballot this fall: the amendments which would totally rewrite state government to give all appointment powers for judges and members of state boards and commissions to the General Assembly.

The judges stayed their own decision for three days to give the Berger/Moore team time to appeal to the NC Court of Appeals, which they will do.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Surveying Videos of Insurgent Candidates for U.S. Congress

Democrat Kathy Manning, running for US House in the NC-13 against first-term Republican Tedd Budd, has up a professional 30-second ad on health insurance, built on her own experience dealing with a serious medical problem in her family. I've seen it on her Twitter feed but don't find it on her website (or any videos of her). Am I missing them? Why not feature video introductions and policy statements on the website, since she's so good on camera?

Other North Carolina Democratic candidates for Congress also don't have any video of themselves on their websites, and I wonder why -- Dan McCready in the 9th, David Wilson Brown in the 10th, Dr. Kyle Horton in the 7th.

I love DD Adams and I love her introductory video, and no wonder it's front and center on her website. The unspoken contrast to incumbent Republican Virginia Foxx, whose edge always intends to cut and separate, provides what you need to know about having a representative of the people in Washington, as opposed to a stinging hornet.

Phillip Price, running against house wrecker Mark Meadows in the 11th, emphasizes his blue collar work ethic. Frank McNeill, running in the 8th against George Holding, effectively emphasizes a work ethic than depends heavily on working together -- and exercising kindness (with an implied contrast to the nastiness of Twitterman). For McNeill's district he felt obliged to mention religion three times in two minutes.

Linda Coleman, running in the 2nd, has a very standard sort of bland presentation and message -- "I'm running for us, not us versus them" -- which maybe somebody finds compelling. But surely the campaign could find more than five people to stand behind her at the finale. Better maybe no people than just five, and those fixed smiles distract the viewer.

Democrat Ryan Watts is running in the NC-6 US House District against preacher Mark Walker,  and he's mounted an energetic and accomplished campaign. His introductory video is a head-on sales pitch and perhaps inadvertently highlights his noticeable youth. He's 29 but could pass for 19. But he's going for it and that's something to admire.

NOTE: I didn't go looking at video of the incumbent Democratic reps in Congress, David Price, Alma Adams, and G.K. Butterfield. Maybe another day!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Puddle Deep

Twitterman decided to whistle (loudly) past that graveyard called November and improbably started touting a "Red Wave" coming this year. Jonathan Swan at Axios wrote yesterday that DJT's swaggering might actually be helping to depress Republican turnout. "Republican strategists want the base to panic so they'll show up to vote. But instead, Trump is breeding complacency."

Trump voters are glued to their unreality: "They watch Hannity ... and hear that a red wave is coming to save the House. They really believe it's going to be 2016 all over again."

New Hope for Georgia -- Stacey Abrams for Governor

Many people in Georgia -- Republicans and old-line Democrats (which are in many cases the same thing) -- don't think Stacey Abrams can ever, not in a million years, become governor of Georgia. She would not only be the first woman and the first black to win the governorship, she'd be the first black woman elected governor of any state. (She turned our head on WataugaWatch back in May.)

She was the Minority Leader in the Georgia House for six years, so naturally she made some enemies on her own side of the aisle because she was willing to negotiate with the majority. But don't underestimate her.

We like the glimpses of her we can get from the lengthy profile published in today's New York Times. What follows is from deep into that article:
Ms. Abrams was elected to the General Assembly in 2006, two years after Republicans had taken control of the Georgia House for the first time in more than a century. She was young, but not green. She had served as student president at Spelman College, Atlanta’s storied African-American women’s college, and kept her life ambitions, eventually including the goal of becoming president, listed in a spreadsheet. “The sheer boldness of my ambitions gnawed at me,” she recalled in her 2018 autobiography, “Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change.”
Style-wise, she was more of a listener than a glad-hander, more policy wonk than enforcer. She was a careful, prepared speaker with a bookish quality, a wry sense of humor and a tendency toward efficiency.
“She engendered a sense of loyalty in a lot of people that way,” said Brian Thomas, who was a member of the House Democratic leadership at the time. “A lot of people just respected the fact that she was just a lot smarter than some of us, and able to use that intellect in ways that were really effective.” ...
Her debut on the political scene had effectively come in 1992, when she emerged as a leading voice among black students. Atlanta, like other American cities, was racked by protests and riots after police officers in Los Angeles were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King. Eventually she found herself at a televised town-hall meeting with Maynard Jackson, the city’s first black mayor. As the cameras rolled, Ms. Abrams recalled in her book, she “excoriated his record and scoffed at his leadership.”
Mr. Jackson later co-opted his eloquent critic, giving her a job in the city’s office of youth services. She went on to earn a law degree and a master’s in public policy, and at the age of 29, to serve as deputy city attorney....
She made her bid for minority leader in November 2010. The Democrats had just lost more House seats in the Tea Party wave election, and were watching bitterly as a number of their white lawmakers jumped ship to the Republicans.
The caucus, which had become majority black and held fewer than 70 of the 180 seats in the House, turned to a young backbencher. “I took the lead of a broken party,” Ms. Abrams wrote, “knowing that we would wander in the political wilderness for at least a decade.”
She had already established herself as one of the smartest members of the Legislature. Her background in tax law helped her analyze the deep structure of complex bills, landing her on the powerful Ways and Means Committee as a freshman. Even Republicans saw her talent: In 2011, State Representative Allen Peake called her “brilliant.”
“People who underestimate her risk complete embarrassment,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Dallas Woodhouse, Uber Alles

Just seen on Twitter:
Wow. NCGOP threatens Supreme Court justices if they remove any constitutional amendments. "We'll have a constitutional crisis," Dallas says before reminding people how many votes GOP needs to impeach, remove justices
Dallas Woodhouse is Exec. Director of the NCGOP.

Dallas Woodhouse posted on Facebook a few minutes ago:

Today I suggested that should the democrats on the NC Supreme Court block citizens from voting on constitutional amendments, a Constitutional crisis would be upon us. 
I suggested that there would be an equal and opposite reaction that occur with voters and their elected representatives, that could include many things: censure, further attempts to clarify the role of the courts through constitutional amendments, changes in what courts can hear what cases, and yes Impeachment
I have had no discussions with any legislative members about this issue. I do not believe that is being discussed at this time. 
However should the courts spark a Constitutional crisis, nobody can say definitively where it leads. 
North Carolina will have a Constitutional crisis because for the first time the court take the drastic extraordinary and extreme position that they have a right to block citizens from voting on amendments. 
I believe their will be a very visceral reaction from voters and our activists to having their right to vote on amendments blocked. 
That reaction could be re-amending the Constitution, censure, adding positions to the court and/or impeachment. I did state this morning (a Constitutional fact) 
That it takes 61 in the house to impeach and 33 to remove in the Senate 
Nobody wants that. 
The Constitution clearly says it is the legislature’s Constitutional right to propose amendments AND decide what goes on the ballot. 
The State Supreme Court would be rewriting the constitution and forever changing the amendment process. 
Every single amendment would have the ballot wording challenged in court. 
This is simply a political question left to voters to decide. The Constitution demands it. 
Also the Republican Party’s position is the voters are fully capable to engage in the educational process and cast votes on the amendments as published. 
The democrats position is voters are not smart enough to decide these questions and must be blocked from voting 
The people have a right to decide

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Another Panel of Judges Puts Temporary Injunction on Printing November Ballots

Generally speaking -- and how else would a non-lawyer speak on such a subject? -- temporary injunctions aren't slapped on the printing of ballots unless there's some perhaps wee but fair-haired expectation that the plaintiff might win on the merits.

The plaintiff -- Governor Roy Cooper. The defendants: Phil Berger/Tim Moore (for the NC General Assembly) and the State Board of Elections, which is charged with printing Berger/Moore's constitutional amendments on the fall ballot. The issue for Cooper: Two of the amendments would seriously rewrite the governor's role and destroy the whole principle of the separation of powers, but those ends are studiously hidden from voters by bland and misleading language. It's pretty demonstrably true.

(In a separate filing, the State Board of Elections agrees that the proposed amendments essentially dissemble their true import.)

In court yesterday, a panel of three superior court judges granted the governor's request for a temporary injunction to block the printing of ballots until the merits of the argument can be decided.

Matthew Burns and Laura Leslie reported on the court arguments yesterday morning. This, covering some of Cooper's side:
The judicial vacancies amendment ... calls for "a nonpartisan, merit-based system that relies on professional qualifications instead of political influence." But Adam Doerr, an attorney for Cooper, noted that lawmakers would have the power to appoint anyone they want to the bench and that the only qualifications the state requires for someone to be a judge are that they are a licensed attorney under the age of 72. [emphasis added]
"What [the amendment] is actually doing is letting the General Assembly exercise political influence over judicial selection that it currently lacks but would very much like to have," Doerr said.
Similarly, the appointments amendment calls for "clarify[ing] the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches," as if, Doerr said, it was merely "a bit of legislative housekeeping." He said the state Supreme Court has clearly laid out the appointment powers of the governor, so no clarification is needed." ... 
"If you want to seek the consent of the voters to amend the constitution, you must ask them and you must tell them what you are doing," Doerr [argued].
How did the lawyer for Berger/Moore respond? I shit you not:
Martin Warf, a lawyer for legislative leaders, argued there's no standard for what is misleading and that lawmakers are under no constitutional duty to inform voters about the amendments on the ballot. Voters who want to know more about them, he said, can do research.
Berger/Moore's contention: It's up to voters not to get fooled by their own government when that government is going everything in its power to fool the voters.

Burns and Leslie suggest that the three judges hearing this case are "skeptical" about the governor's argument. That may be, but they at least want to be further schooled in the legal implications of what Berger/Moore are trying to do to the state of North Carolina before they allow the printing of those ballots.

Dark Money Attack Ad Against NC House Candidate Ray Russell

When you see an attack ad like the one below, don't you strain to see who paid for it? Don't you? Don't you want to know whose money went into that? Aren't you ready to spend hours trying to find out? Luckily for me, Blogger Penny Smith in Jackson County did that work, probing a PAC calling itself "Carolina Leadership Coalition," which paid for "Nutty Professor" below:
Steven B. Long
Its registered agent, at least at one time, was Steven B. Long. Long is on the NC Board of Governors; he was the force behind eliminating the ability of UNC’s Civil Rights Center to litigate on behalf of poor people. A Republican donor, he was on the board of Art Pope’s Civitas Institute, but resigned when he won a seat on the Board of Governors. He has also served as the Treasurer of the NC Republican Party.
One address for the Carolina Leadership Coalition is an office suite on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh. That must be a very large suite, because there are 9 companies listing that address as their agent’s address, including Integrity NC, NC Job Creators Forum and NC Non-Profit Corporation. It is also the address of a large, multi-state, law firm associated with Long.
However, on another set of papers the Carolina Leadership address is given as 10540 Swerling Way in Raleigh, a nice suburban house owned by Collin McMichael. It, too, must be large, because seven companies are listed there, including Common Sense Raleigh, North Carolina Issues Project and the Committee for Sound Policy Solutions.
McMichael was also treasurer for the Thom Tillis Committee, a role with which he is familiar. For example, he staffed the Elizabeth Dole campaigns. He is involved with a group called Holding Together Our Majority, which is affiliated with Tillis and includes among its donors the Koch Brothers. He is also linked to Mark Meadows (his treasurer for the Your Voice Counts PAC), whose donors include, yes, you guessed it, the Koch Brothers. And Meadows’ House Freedom Fund is linked to a number of astro-turf organizations as well as the Koch Brothers. For those of you who don’t know, the Koch Brothers are not from North Carolina. They’re not even southerners, although they have spent considerable money enlisting southerners to their pet causes. (Pope, Meadows and Tillis all have links with ALEC, an organization that churns out conservative policy papers and model legislation.)
Penny Smith got started on this research because of slick mailers (not video) in Jackson County (NCH119) extolling the manifest virtues of their incumbent Republican House member, Mike Clampitt. Paid for by a group calling itself a rosy-sounding, made-up name. It looked like a rescue operation, for Clampitt is indeed endangered. His Democratic opponent, Joe Sam Queen, has held the seat before, is widely popular and very well known, and he's been running strong. We noted here back on July 19th that Queen had vastly out-raised Clampitt in the Second Quarter. Same for Ray Russell, the subject of that attack ad below, who vastly out-raised incumbent Republican Jonathan Jordan (NCH93) in the 2nd Quarter (detailed in the same post).

Bound to be more of these "Carolina Leadership Coalition" products out across the state. Many  endangered Republican incumbents, with very anemic fund-raising -- a landscape bleak enough to give billionaires the dry heaves. Clampitt and Jordan don't need to raise money. They have Art Pope and the Koch Bros.

One final observation: This attack ad is gonna backfire. Already has. People in the district know Ray Russell. They depend on his science in their daily lives. They can recognize an outrageous smear when they see one. They resent it. Jonathan Jordan will bear the brunt of that anger, and he'll deserve it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

When Lawmakers Go Wrong

Can you believe that the Berger/Moore duo are appealing Judge Rebecca Holt's injunction in the case of Chris Anglin and Rebecca Edwards? I mean, can you believe that after such a resounding, logical, and completely expected court decision, the Berger/Moore forces continue to hang onto their unconstitutional push to deny Anglin and Edwards equal treatment under the law?

The Berger/Moore appeal goes to the NC Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel will hear it. Ballots cannot be printed until the issue is finally settled, and according to the State Board of Elections, the deadline for getting information to the printers is this Friday. Obviously, that ain't gonna happen (unless the Court of Appeals does some unprecedented fast-laning of the case).

I think you can expect absentee balloting in North Carolina to be delayed from its September 7th availability. You can thank Berger/Moore for the delay.

Monday, August 13, 2018

BREAKING: Judge Rules in Anglin, Edwards Case

North Carolina legislators cannot reach back in time and change the rules of an election after the fact, Wake County Superior Court Judge Rebecca Holt ruled today as she issued a preliminary injunction to stop the printing of ballots that do not show the chosen party affiliations of Chris Anglin and Rebecca Edwards, who changed their party affiliations prior to filing for Supreme Court and Wake County District Court, respectively. Anglin changed his registration from Democrat to Republican, and Edwards switched from Republican to Democrat.

Republicans in the NC General Assembly then retroactively changed the rules so that the new party affiliations of Anglin and Edwards wouldn't be published on ballots.

The duo of Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore "have not yet decided if they will appeal Holt’s ruling, according to what they told other media outlets."

Republicans inserted that worm into the election apple, and they are livid that the worm turned.

Another of the State-Wide Court of Appeals Candidates You Need to Know

Democrat Toby Hampson is running for an open seat on the NC Court of Appeals. Judge Ann Calabria (R) is not running for reelection.
Hampson is a Moore County boy who was plucked out for advanced studies during high school at the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham in 1994. He went on to earn his law degree in 2002 from Campbell University with multiple honors including a seat on the Law Review. He began his career at the North Carolina Court of Appeals clerking for judges K. Edward Greene, Wanda Bryant, and Bob C. Hunter. He then practiced with Patterson Dilthey in Raleigh focusing on trial and appellate litigation before joining Wyrick, Robbins, Yates & Ponton in Raleigh in 2007, where he now leads the firm’s Appellate Practice group as a full partner.
So he's massively qualified for a seat on that appellate bench. He was named one of the "Top 100 Super Lawyers in North Carolina" (2015, 2017, 2018) by Super Lawyers Magazine. He was a top-rated appellate attorney by North Carolina Super Lawyers -- recognized in Appellate Practice (2014-2018) and as a “Rising Star” (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013). He is recognized as "Legal Elite" in the area of appellate law (2018) and "Young Guns" (2010, 2012) by Business North Carolina magazine. 
He's married to another lawyer, Kristin, and they have three little girls.
The two Republicans in this race are Sandra Ray and Jefferson Griffin. Sandra Ray is a single mother of three, a district court judge in New Hanover and Pender counties, and she's not endorsed by the NCGOP -- which anointed the other Republican, Jefferson Griffin, for the seat. Griffin is a Wake County District Court judge. Neither he nor Sandra Ray have qualifications anywhere near Toby Hampson's.

Intercepted Letter -- "Terrible Decisions That Limit the Rights of Landowners"

Dear Editor:

On August 7, Judge Phil Berger Jr. authored an order that denied standing to a couple from Watauga County in their appeal of a case that involves the proposed asphalt plant near their home on the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic Byway, Hwy 421 near Boone. When constructed, this would be the second Tennessee-based Maymead plant in this small county. In that unpublished order, the first sentence of the “Factual and Procedural Background” puts forth four blatant errors of fact. Whether intentional or just the work of a blundering clerk, there is no excuse for such sloppy work from the NC Court of Appeals. One local attorney commented -- “All politics aside, this is one of the worst written findings I have ever read.”

Those misstatements could well have persuaded the other members of the three-judge panel to decide that the substantial legal arguments of the case were not worth considering, and so they took the easy route of agreeing to dismiss standing, an increasingly common practice when the court wants to avoid examining the real legal issues. This decision is contrary to the court’s own previous rulings on standing.

After a three and one half year fight by Watauga County, the Town of Boone, and local citizens, this case has still yet to have a fair hearing. The local Board of Adjustments' ten-day hearing was mishandled, the Superior Court judge admitted in Court that he had gone to see a movie instead of reading the briefs, and Judge Berger characterized the solid evidence presented on the standing issue as “bald assertion.” The undeniable errors of fact in his order will remain unchallenged unless the NC Supreme Court agrees to accept a petition for discretionary review.

These events bring my faith in the system to a new low, and it appears that justice through a fair hearing is sometimes just a fantasy. This is not just a local matter relevant to a small western NC community. It is part of an increasing frequency of terrible standing decisions that limit the ability of neighboring landowners to intervene in zoning disputes so as to not bother big corporations and disturb profits. When citizens and communities seeking to protect their health, property, and way of life have to spend 3 ½ years and hundreds of thousands of dollars without ever receiving a fair hearing, something is terribly wrong.

Judge Berger’s ruling can be read here:

David Sengel

Boone, NC

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Than Which There Is Nothing More Important

Tim Moore and Phil Berger
The ousting of these guys. These power-mad corrupters of good and fair government, these twisters of fact, these concealers of truth, these enemies of fair and open government ... these Tim Moore and Phil Berger, bosses of their respective chambers in the North Carolina General Assembly and would-be dictators and stackers of the judicial system and overlords of all levels of administration.

Jen Mangrum v. Phil Berger
I've written here about Berger's Democratic opponent Jen Mangrum many times (use the search box, upper lefthand corner, if you doubt it). She's giving Berger the shakes, a good case of flop sweat, and everything his minions have thrown at her has backfired and made her stronger. She's much more famous now after they tried to eliminate her.

Our favorite Jen Mangrum quote: “I’m a third-grade teacher at heart. I’ve dealt with playground bullies before.”

David C. Brinkley
David C. Brinkley v. Tim Moore
Speaker of the House Tim Moore's Democratic opponent is less well known. I did write about him here on March 6th, and laid out the case against Tim Moore's manifest corruption. In a period of notorious and ballooning official scandals in the DJT administration -- self-dealing of the most repulsive sort -- Moore is right up there with the most flagrant of them. It's clear he's in it for himself and his best buds.
Back in March I worried that Brinkley had decided that attacking Tim Moore's record would be off limits for his campaign, and that still seems to be the case. He wants to lead "Team Purple" -- never be partisan, which to me is leading a calvary with no swords. It gives me a case of political prickly heat. I've assumed since last March that Brinkley harbors a negative stereotype of politicians and won't be talked into attacking Tim Moore's record of self-dealing because he thinks it's "negative campaigning." But you don't win against an entrenched incumbent without drawing a clear distinction, and there is nothing in God's blue heaven against telling the truth about a corrupt public official. Brinkley's nicer way -- "the purple way" -- takes you under the bus that just rolled over your torso.
Maybe I'm wrong. I'll pray for that.

Veterans Call Trump's Planned Military Parade "A Disgrace" -- It's All About His Fragile Ego

Twitterman witnessed first-hand the military pomp of a Bastille Day parade in the heart of Paris, and he immediately said he wanted one for himself in Washington. It looks like it's going to happen on Veteran's Day, Sunday, November 11, a few days after the fall election.

The military under Jim Mattis has caved, but the Secretary of Defense nixed the idea of tanks and other heavy equipment but will allow an aircraft flyover. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney estimated the parade would cost the taxpayers anywhere from $10 to $30 million.

We received this intercepted email from, a large group of military veterans who have been very critical of the conduct of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars:
When we talk to members of Congress, they often ask why stopping this military parade is such a big deal to us. They wonder if people in their states and districts are really that fired up about this issue.
We tell them the answer is YES. Yes we are. Because this parade is not about honoring our military — it’s about using our military to honor Trump, a man who dishonors America and puts our country at risk.
We recently learned about the personnel and financial cost of the parade, and it’s as bad as you’d imagine: 
· 5,000 to 7,000 individuals marching
· 100 vehicles down Pennsylvania Avenue
· “a heavy air component at the end of the parade”
· A cost of $12 million 
This parade would be a national embarrassment all conjured up to serve a weak president’s frail self-image. To use some of our nation’s best and brightest for the task… it’s a disgrace.
 So a few days after the November 6th elections, huh? Trump's ego will no doubt need a little inflating by then, but do we always have to pay for it?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Interesting Wrinkle in the Legal Challenge to the Berger/Moore Constitutional Amendments

This completely got by me last Tuesday:
In an unusual twist, one of the defendants in Cooper’s lawsuit, the state elections board, agreed with Cooper’s argument that the questions dealing with separation of powers and judicial appointments are misleading and should be kept off the ballot.

A state law requires the state elections board “present all questions in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner.”
Solicitor General Matt Sawchak, who is representing the elections board and its chairman, Andy Penry, said the ballot questions failed to meet that standard.
They [the SBOE] “will be made a perpetrator of a constitutional violation,” Sawchak said.
The SBOE responded to being named a defendant in Governor Roy Cooper's suit to get two of the amendments thrown off the ballot. The SBOE agreed in Solicitor Gen'l Matt Sawchak's "crossclaim" that the public description of those amendments by the team of Phil Berger/Tim Moore amounted to an unconscionable lie.

Berger/Moore team's response. There's no law against it. There's nothing in law that says we can't claim what we want to claim about the content of constitutional amendments:
Martin Warf, a lawyer representing Republican House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, said there’s no statute or case law that sets a standard for ballot language.

“There’s no case that says we can hold up presentation [printing the ballots] based on the fact that the governor or the board of elections thinks they might be misleading,” Warf said.
Our entire state government -- normal, time-honored checks and balances -- hangs in the balance here. If the NCGOP can fool the voting public into buying what it might not buy if it understood the small print, or even knew there was small print, they'll be able to brag: "You might elect a governor, but we can make him irrelevant."

My Civil War

I've only just been there -- to Gettysburg -- and now I'm obsessed. Maybe not obsessed in the way so many of my Southern brethren have always been obsessed -- with the hallowed names, the superior military breeding, the incredible bravery, the almost super-human sacrifice, and the ultimate heroic loss in "Lost Cause." That's nostalgia, like faith, the evidence of things not seen.

I'm obsessed with how close we came to losing our nation.

Joshua Chamberlain
Really, really close. Union General Dan Sickles single-handedly just about did it. But for the quick thinking of Col. Joshua Chamberlain of the Maine 20th -- you wanna talk bravery? -- the road to Washington would have been wide open for Robert E. Lee.

Today, the streets are crowded in Gettysburg and you meet people. Everyone's from everywhere. I met a young guy from Greenville, North Carolina (small world). He was with his wife and two very young children. He was a loud talker and an entertainer by nature, so other people heard him mention North Carolina, including me, and he noticed it and spiked that ball.

"I'm from North Carolina, but I guess you'd call me a Union sympathizer."

We fell in after that and discovered we were both reading the new Ron Chernow biography of U.S. Grant -- he was actually re-reading it -- big Grant fan. And you might call me a Grant sympathizer. So we were not your typical North Carolina boys in Gettysburg, maybe, and we found that amusing. Because we also heard grumbling in the Gettysburg National Military Park visitor center that the entire "public" history being practiced there was one-sided and did not appreciate the Southern point of view.

One woman from Florida -- a super-pleasant woman with an open face -- said to me, "Didn't you think that movie presented the battle from the Northern perspective?" I thought but didn't say -- because why be sarcastic and also because I probably would have run away on Day 1 -- "I thought it was the American perspective." 

At least the perspective of any country I would call home.

It is a good thing the Union won on July 3rd, 1863. A terrible thing too. It was all terrible. Horrendous. Suicidal. But it is a good thing that the country didn't split up. It was a good thing that slavery was abolished. It was a blessed thing that we had another chance to perfect our union.

So when I hear Southerners characterize the Civil War as a fight for cultural and individual freedom, I want to ask -- but won't, probably -- "freedom to do what, exactly? Please lay that out for me, as I've got a couple of basic questions."