Thursday, February 28, 2019

Mark Meadows Shows His Ass at the Cohen Hearing

Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11) had a melt-down yesterday in the Cohen hearing when Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib implied he was a racist twit. Cohen had declared that Twitterman is a racist and gave examples. In rebuttal, Meadows had paraded a black woman who worked as an event planner for Donald Trump as proof-positive that DJT couldn't possibly be a racist asshole, and Meadows went on to angrily reveal that he had biracial nieces and nephews, so he couldn't be a racist either.

Proving once again that Mark Meadows may be the biggest jackass in Congress, a title for which there is stiff competition.

One thing about video evidence: It rarely goes away.

McGruff, The Crime-Fighting Dog, Is Lying on the Porch

Robert ("Bobby") Higdon
Leslie McCrae Dowless was indicted and arrested yesterday in the ballot fraud case in the NC-9. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman is bringing the charges.

Meanwhile, where is the US Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, who ought to take an interest in blatant fraud employed to corrupt a federal election?
Robert Higdon Jr., the federal prosecutor for eastern North Carolina, does not appear to be investigating the 9th District case. Higdon has instead prosecuted cases of noncitizen voting, producing minimal penalties. President Trump and other Republicans have portrayed noncitizen voting as a widespread phenomenon, although there is little evidence to support their claim.
Why would Trump's man in the prosecutor's office want to look into actual election crimes that benefitted a Republican when there are so many suspicious-looking brown people he can single out?

NOTE: Rev. Mark Harris's son John, whose testimony last week completely sunk the Harris campaign's boat, actually works as an assistant attorney in Higdon's office. And Rev. Harris himself is not out of D.A. Freeman's line of fire:
More charges are likely, Freeman said. She said her office’s “very large-scope” investigation will examine “who was aware of and helped finance these fraudulent absentee ballot activities” — a sign of potential legal peril for Harris, who hired Dowless. She also plans to determine whether anyone else besides Dowless allegedly tried to obstruct either the criminal or state board investigations.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Preacherman Harris Won't Run Again in NC-9; This Is the Candidate He Wants in His Place

"Boss Hogg," a.k.a. Stony Rushing
Boss Hogg! No, really. Union County commissioner Stony Rushing thinks dressing up as a notoriously stupid and corrupt county commissioner in the fictional world of "The Dukes of Hazzard" earns him votes.  Apparently so, because he's been reelected more than once in Union County. He's now decided he wants to go to Congress. Reverend Mark Harris, ruined by the balloting fraud uncovered in the 9th District, sez he wants this guy too. He's endorsed him.

"Most elected officials would spurn the comparison to Boss Hogg, especially those eyeing a seat in Congress. But not this local politician and gun range owner, who dressed as the grifter for Halloween last year, on the eve of the November election that would solidify his local following and set him up to seek higher office" (Isaac Stanley-Becker).

"He embraces the comparison to the unscrupulous television character .... He has even campaigned on it, plastering his Facebook page with photographs of himself in the classic Hogg get-up, gun in one hand, cigar in the other."

Rushing says the ballot fraud that scuttled Mark Harris was “blown out of proportion." In keeping with the character pictured above, he blames Democrats for everything. “Dan McCready and his Establishment Friends Just Threw ALL of Our Ballots in the Trash!” he protested on Facebook, sharing an image with an American flag. “What are We going to do about IT?”

As I was finding out about Mr. Rushing, the news flashed that Dowless McCrae has been arrested. That arrest frames Mr. Rushing's impersonation of a corrupt county commissioner. It'll be up to the voters of the 9th District to decide if, denied their sanctified preacherman, they want a buffoon as their representative in Congress.

He may not make it to the special election, as he's almost guaranteed to have one or more primary opponents who don't emulate idiots (though they may play one in private).

Where Was Thomas Shanahan Last November?

I've been waiting for Thomas Shanahan, General Counsel for the UNC System, to hold a promised press conference and explain himself about disallowing all university system student IDs for the purposes of voting, and I missed entirely that Shanahan issued a statement on Monday (reproduced below). Evidence of it showed up in Travis Fain's reporting for WRAL, and the statement itself has been found.

It contains evidence that Mr. Shanahan does not understand the difference between registering to vote and showing up to vote with photo ID.

He warns in the statement that the UNC System can't ensure the validity of their student IDs to be used as proof of identity at the polls because some of those student IDs are issued to those under 18 years old, to some non-citizens, and to those who don't have a Social Security number. He fails to mention (or understand?) that the student ID can be used as proof of identity for registered voters only. Those who are younger than 18, or who don't have SSNs, and/or who are not citizens cannot register to vote in the first place. Trying to go in and vote with a student ID if you're not already qualified and registered will get you nowhere. Why wouldn't Shanahan understand that?

Plus this: In the public hearing held on the law in the Elections Oversight Committee on November 26 last year, neither Shanahan nor any representative from the UNC System attended to voice any concerns about the language of the law. Reps from the Community College system and reps from NC Independent Colleges and Universities were there and had objections and suggestions to protect their students and ensure their rights to vote using college-issued photo IDs. The UNC System was not there, at least so far as we can tell.

Yet months later the UNC System top lawyer precipitates a major crisis about voting rights for college students. Where was he last November?

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

We Do Enjoy a Good Headline

To wit:
Tillis defies Trump on emergency declaration
WASHINGTON — Sen. Thom Tillis plans to vote against President Trump’s emergency border wall declaration....

We also enjoy watching the Tea Publicans going jihad over it. For example, @NC_Zero which is #MAGA all the way and doesn't take "Rino" prisoners. They put Tillis in pigtails cuddling up to Nancy Pelosi.

Like our friend Steve Harrison says, "that little Thomasina Tillis just might give me nightmares."

So Senator Thom Tillis will have a primary opponent next March, if not a dozen of them.

Satirists Hit NC House Speaker Tim Moore for Public Corruption

A satirical new website, "Tim For Him," launched yesterday, highlighting the numerous displays of public corruption that NC House Speaker Tim Moore is currently mired in. An impersonator wearing a giant cartoon head (above) held a press conference outside the legislature in Raleigh yesterday morning and handed out three-dollar bills featuring a caricature of Moore.

The group is highlighting a history of apparent corruption:

  • Bogus chicken plant deal: Bought an abandoned chicken processing plant for $85,000 in 2013 and sold it in 2016 for $550,000 (a $465,000 profit) after using his influence to prevent DEQ from taking pollution enforcement action against the site.
  • Blatant nepotism: Secured a $90,000 state job for his girlfriend, for which no other applicants were considered -- a clear violation of state hiring laws. Also hired his buddy, ex-lawmaker Nelson Dollar, for a six-figure job on Moore’s staff after Dollar was defeated in 2018.
  • Kickbacks on Durham development deal: Took $40,000 in legal fees and nearly $70,000 in campaign donations from a Durham developer in exchange for passing special legislation benefiting the developer. Now under SBI investigation for the corrupt deal.
  • Wining and dining with campaign funds: Failed to disclose over $60,000 in fine dining and travel charges paid for with his campaign credit card, despite sponsoring the law requiring itemization of such spending. Also failed to disclose that he was paying $23,000 in “rent” to his own company for a condo in Raleigh.
  • Pay-for-play at teachers’ expense: Received campaign contributions from construction industry players who were pushing legislation to divert state funding for personnel to school construction instead. Also voted to allow lenders to charge higher interest rates and fees after the industry hired lobbyists and steered campaign contributions to key lawmakers.
  • Making it harder to investigate corrupt politicians: Speaker Tim seems like he has a lot to hide. Is it any wonder why he has repeatedly pushed misguided laws that make it harder for the state ethics board to go after corrupt politicians, and keep ethics investigations secret?

New Developments in the UNC System Student ID Crisis

Rep. Russell
NC House members Ray Russell (Dist. 93) and Zack Hawkins (Dist. 31) have introduced a bill to extend the deadline for colleges to certify the process of producing acceptable student IDs, from March 15 to September 15 (House Bill 167). The duo (perhaps with others in the House) are scheduled to hold a press conference today, and we hear that Republican Rep. David Lewis, the powerful Rules Committee Chair and the king of the gerrymander, is supporting the bill. That's significant, if true.

If there's bipartisan support in the NC House for fixing the crisis in allowing university student IDs for purposes of voting, then maybe there's hope. But what about Phil Berger and the Republican Senate?

Meanwhile, Thomas Shanahan, the top lawyer for the UNC Board of Governors and the man who pretty much precipitated this crisis, has remained silent though he had supposedly promised a press conference early this week to declare why student IDs weren't acceptable. If he were very smart, about now he might want to say something like this :

"I'm so glad that legislators in the North Carolina House have introduced a bill to give our universities time to iron out any difficulties in certifying the process by which students are given photo IDs. We have solid expectations that the bill will pass both houses of the General Assembly, which would be the best thing for protecting the voting rights of all our citizens, especially with the March 15 deadline fast approaching, a deadline that could disenfranchise so many of our students."

The press conference will be today at 1 pm in the Legislative Building press conference room. You can listen to the press conference at by clicking on the link:
Click on audio, then press conference room.

Monday, February 25, 2019

New Hope for Unseating Mark Meadows in NC-11

Steve Woodsmall
I profiled Democratic congressional candidate Steve Woodsmall early last year after he entered the Democratic primary in the 11th Congressional District of North Carolina for the opportunity of taking on Mark Meadows. He didn't make it through the primary, losing to Phillip Price who ultimately lost to Meadows in November by a hefty margin.

It's a notoriously difficult district for Democrats, who haven't held it since Heath Shuler.

Woodsmall says he's all-in for another go, prepared for the 2020 Democratic primary in a way that he wasn't quite prepared in 2018.

I especially appreciate the write-up Woodsmall got from college student Eric Perless which promises that Woodsmall will do more retail, one-on-one groundwork in the 11th District this time, and he's out early enough to gather a good team of volunteers to knock those doors and make those calls.

And what a big, fat, juicy target incumbent Congressman Mark Meadows presents! Master of the government shutdown, toady to Trump, lover of tax cuts for the rich -- Meadows has by now a lengthy record of couldn't-care-less about rural people, including opposition to the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018.

Group Petitioning ASU Chancellor to Sign "Attestation" Form

The Watauga Voting Rights Task Force (VRTF), the group that successfully sued in 2014 and again in 2016 to return early voting to the AppState Student Union, has mounted a petition to AppState Chancellor Sheri Everts, urging her to sign the Board of Elections "attestation" form which would certify student photo IDs as appropriate for the purposes of voting.

Taking her cues from the UNC Board of Governors (and specifically from UNC General Counsel Thomas C. Shanahan), Everts has been dragging her feet about the form and signaling that she has no intention of signing it. She got "cover" from Shanahan last Friday when he told a group from the Faculty Assembly that in his opinion no UNC constituent institution could sign the form.

The lawyers for the Voting Rights Task Force, among others, think that Shanahan is just wrong, that he has decided to apply a blanket disability because of some problems at a handful of colleges over official student photos. Those problems do not exist at AppState. Nor at a majority of the institutions including UNC-Chapel Hill.

Student Government at AppState is also getting active in this fight, which appears far from over as the March 15th deadline date looms closer.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Tom Shanahan, The Man at the Top of Disallowing UNC System Student IDs for Voting

In our attempt to discover what specific concerns AppState Chancellor Sheri Everts has with the "attestation form" discussed extensively down-column, we have been told multiple times by ASU's Chief Communications Officer that Chancellor Everts has never received the form. (For a university leader who has never received the form, she's not been shy in raising specific objections to various parts of the language in the form.)

What Everts' spokeswoman means, apparently, is that the form has never been officially delivered from the man who has been holding onto it, Thomas C. Shanahan, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the UNC System. Has Shanahan failed to provide a copy of the attestation form to all the chancellors of the constituent universities? If not, how can those same chancellors assert the supposed ways in which their universities cannot comply with the form when/if they have not yet received it? And why haven't the chancellors simply asked for a copy? (We were able to get it in short order from the State Board of Elections and reproduce it once again below.)

Shanahan received the form from its authors at the State Board of Elections with a commitment it would be distributed to all the universities. Instead, Shanahan has kept it to himself (though clearly everyone on this green earth has seen it by now). He has then clearly issued talking points and orders to chancellors, generic talking points that obviously don't apply to all institutions.

(Note: When the voter photo enabling law was being discussed in the General Assembly, according to Gerry Cohen who was often in the room, he heard "representations" that "student IDs would comply" with the new requirement. Who made those representations? Someone from Tom Shanahan's office? Inquiring minds want to know.)

You have to ask yourself, "Why would Shanahan hold onto the form?" That question was partially answered on Friday when Shanahan told a gathering of UNC faculty that none of the constituent universities could meet the requirements. None? Shanahan emphasized the few institutions that allow students to submit "selfies" for the photo on their IDs, but that's not nearly all including AppState (which takes official ID photos at a secure location).

We hear that Shanahan is planning a press conference this week to announce his decision that no UNC System photo ID will work for voting. He's laying down his interpretation of the law in an authoritative way, backed by a conservative-majority Board of Governors who have their own authoritative issues and who have displayed open hostility to student rights including the right to vote and who apparently have no problem setting up the 16 chancellors as collateral damage.

People need to be at that press conference. We'll let you know when we see it announced.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

New Crisis for NC College Students -- Your Student ID May Not Count for Voting

This is news. Big honking news. Not because the top lawyer for the UNC System says university IDs can't comply with the state’s new photo ID law, but because he's wrong. At least he's wrong for Appalachian State University.

As part of its new Voter ID Bill, the state legislature determined that university IDs would qualify as valid proof of identity at the polls as long as the universities complied with certain criteria (Senate Bill 824). The State Board of Elections created both rules and a form for certifying compliance with this criteria. The "attestation form" must be signed by university officials no later than March 15th to qualify a university’s student IDs as valid proof of identity. If the attestation form is not signed by March 15th, that university’s student IDs will not count as valid proof of identity for elections through 2020.

Here’s a link to the rules: Form is copied below.

When student activists and others began their approach to ensure that Chancellor Everts would meet the deadline for signing the attestation form, they heard varied reasons why the form could not be signed. Everts cited -- or those close to her have cited -- a problem with the citizenship declaration, a problem of no present expiration date on the ID, a problem with photos, a problem with the collection of SSNs. Those "problems” have all been debunked consistently by lawyers (other than the lawyers who work at the UNC System) as a (willful?) misreading of the form.

Turns out the universities have now banded together under the interpretations offered by Thomas C. Shanahan, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the UNC system, to refuse to sign the attestation, regardless of whether an individual university can comply or not. If none comply, then individual university leadership is insulated. If one or more do comply, the others are exposed for harsh criticism.

The heat has turned up anyway on Chancellor Everts. So much so that on Friday she sent out a statement university-wide asserting her commitment to student voting rights, and while the email reads more like a precursor statement for refusing to sign the form, she also asked for additional input from all interested parties. It's good she asked.

In an attempt to get control of the narrative, on Friday, February 22, Mr. Shanahan weighed in on the “attestation crisis.” Shanahan told a meeting of professors in Chapel Hill that while the system seeks to promote UNC students’ ability to vote, none of the 16 campuses currently meets requirements that the law demands of universities for student identification cards to count as valid voting identification.

Let me repeat that: According to Mr. Shanahan yesterday, none of the 16 campuses currently meets requirements for voter photo ID.

After the law was passed (one wonders, why not before?), Shanahan explained, the UNC system office consulted with campuses across the UNC system (most of that consultation was likely lawyer-to-lawyer). He stated that the requirements that must be met for attestation were steep. And chancellors, he repeatedly emphasized, must, according to the law, make this attestation under penalty of perjury. (More on those requirements in subsequent posts, but I will note here that lying on any such legal document would be under penalty of perjury. So what?)

After saying he has consulted with the 16 campuses, Shanahan concluded that “no institution meets the requirements” under the voter ID law. For Shanahan, the question is whether campuses are actually already doing the things the law expects them to do. As he put it, “Do [campuses] have these procedures so they can say substantively, ‘Yes, we are doing this’?”

As that question pertains to ASU, the answer is “yes."

For other universities, there may indeed be a problem. Some institutions allow students to select their own ID pictures — a “selfie” — for their student ID cards. This is true, for example, at UNC Charlotte. Yet the Voter ID law requires chancellors to attest that their identification cards “contain photographs of students taken by the university or college or its agents or contractors.” 

Shanahan said that the law is subject to multiple interpretations (duh). And there's the crack in the door, for we know that other authoritative legal interpretations don't see the form the same way. Shanahan claimed that the State Board of Elections (SBOE) has not been forthcoming in providing guidelines. “Ultimately what we need is the actual interpretation of the SBOE that will be binding,” Shanahan said. If he gets that, then the legal assumptions above go away. We are hopeful the SBOE will give Shanahan the assurance he needs. And quickly.

Shanahan emphasized that the UNC system strongly supported encouraging students’ civic participation and said that chancellors are not trying to add a hurdle to the voting process. But saying warm things about student voting and how you believe in the highest of civic virtues, and then refusing to find a way to uphold student voting rights just doesn’t get it.

The UNC System Office, based in Chapel Hill, manages the 17-institution system (16 universities and one high school). It is run by the UNC system president, William Roper, and reports to the UNC Board of Governors, which is appointed by the legislature.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Dan McCready Now the Favorite To Win the NC-9 Special Election

Not going to attempt to summarize the explosive final day yesterday in the hearing into the certification of the NC-9, but suffice it to say that Republican Mark Harris's argument that he should be declared the winner collapsed in the wake of his son's testimony. When Harris's lawyers discovered on Wednesday that the State Board of Elections investigators were in possession of emails proving that Mark Harris has been lying about McCrea Dowless for months -- emails that those lawyers had withheld in the discovery process -- they suddenly coughed up another 800 pages Wednesday night of "discovery" that they had somehow not discovered when they should have discovered them.

Any hoo...

Nobody expects preacherman Mark Harris to run for the seat in the special election. So everyone is speculating which Republicans might run in a primary (probably in May) and who will come out on top for an October special election.

We know which Democrat will run. Reportedly, Dan McCready has already raised a half-mil (full disclosure: I contributed to McCready last night), and he might even be considered the favorite to win that special election.

Thursday, February 21, 2019


Rev. Mark Harris, reacting to his son's testimony
yesterday in Raleigh, during the hearing
on whether the election in NC-9 should be
-- Contradicting his father’s previous denials, the son of Republican Mark Harris testified Wednesday that he told the candidate multiple times that he had concerns about the political operative hired to run an absentee ballot campaign in Bladen County. 
The testimony from John Harris rebutted suggestions by Harris and his campaign that they’d seen no red flags about McCrae Dowless, who is now at the center of allegations into voting irregularities in the 9th Congressional District.
John Harris’ dramatic testimony came on the third day of a hearing by North Carolina’s State Board of Elections that could decide the nation’s last unresolved congressional race and has drawn national attention — and it left his father in tears.
“I love my dad and I love my mom,” John Harris said as his father cried. “I certainly have no vendetta against them, no family scores to settle, OK? I think they made mistakes in this process, and they certainly did things differently than I would have done them.”
His parents did not know he was going to testify....

Read more here:[y

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

NC GOP Still Wants To Mess with Judicial System ... This Time, Maybe It's Okay?

I don't know. I don't trust the bastards, after all they've schemed to do to tilt the judicial system in North Carolina to their favor.

But former Court of Appeals Judge Doug McCullough (a Republican, just incidentally) says the newest bill is a good idea, and I tend to trust Judge McCullough ... because of this recent history.

Anyway, three Republican state senators have introduced a bill in Raleigh to reverse a court-meddling bill the Republicans just passed in early 2017. At that time they decided to reduce the size of the state's Court of Appeals from 15 to 12 judges, mainly because mandatory retirements were going to allow Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper the ability to name replacements for a couple of Republican judges on that court (Doug McCullough being one of those).

Now Senate Republicans want to repeal that law and restore the Court of Appeals to 15 judges. One of the chief sponsors for the reversal is Sen. Ralph Hise of Spruce Pine, a man whose ethics have been widely questioned for years, so naturally I'm suspicious of his motives.

It'll take legal minds to unpack that legislation (Senate Bill 75) to determine what might be lurking within it, because I suspect something bad is lurking within it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Another Sign of the Times

Lisa Britt yesterday,
photographed by Juli Leonard
Raleigh News and Observer
“As long as we all stick together we’ll all be fine, because they don’t have anything on us.”
--What Leslie McCrae Dowless allegedly told his team of women absentee-ballot harvesters in Bladen County, his paid workers who were under active investigation at the time, at a meeting he called at his house, according to testimony by Lisa Britt, one of Dowless's ballot-harvesters who also happens to be his step-daughter.

There are moments in human history when someone utters words that bam! identify a disturbance in The Force, a moment of inutterable crisis. I'm not talking the personal crisis engulfing McCrae Dowless right now. I'm talking cultural crisis, national crisis. I'm talking a moment in human history. Ours -- so perfectly expressed by McCrae Dowless -- is the moment we totally know we're fucked because we can't trust our leader. “As long as we all stick together…" will soon and inevitably become "every man/woman for him/herself." "Because they don't have anything on us" is the rock bottom of our moral vacuum. "What's in it for me?" and "what can I get away with?" ends you here, at the tomb of civic faith. 

"For the love of money is the root of all evils." Personal aggrandisement really is the original sin of our Age (and of many ages), but even cherished step-daughters can eventually pull away.

Some Highlights From Yesterday's Hearing

In the hearing into the contested congressional race in the NC-9, the focus fell heavily on Leslie McCrae Dowless, the man Reverend Mark Harris insisted be hired by his political consulting firm, Red Dome, to deliver the absentee vote for him. Deliver Dowlass did.

Grateful to ProgressNC for bulleting these key points:
Dowless employee Lisa Britt went into extensive detail about the mechanics of McCrae Dowless’s vote theft operation, describing how she filled out incomplete absentee ballots in support of Republicans, falsified witness signatures, and gave unsealed ballots to Dowless -- all of which is illegal. 
Britt also provided evidence that Dowless committed obstruction of justice and witness-tampering by asking Britt and other potential witnesses to falsely claim Dowless did nothing wrong. 
Britt testified that Dowless went to great lengths to knowingly conceal his illegal vote theft scheme by delivering ballots in small batches, mailing them from post offices near voters’ addresses, having witnesses falsely use the same date as the voter signed and using different ink colors for signatures. 
Britt also testified that Dowless encouraged her to commit voter fraud by voting despite being on probation for a felony. 
State Elections Director Kim Strach described evidence of a "coordinated, unlawful, and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme" as well as a coordinated attempt to tamper with witnesses by Dowless and potentially others. 
Strach said Dowless was paid over $130,000 by the Harris campaign and its consultant Red Dome. Britt testified that she heard Dowless and Red Dome founder Andy Yates discussing vote totals, indicating that Red Dome was aware of Dowless’s illegal tactics.
Strach said Yates has so far refused to speak with investigators, and that criminal investigations into the apparent vote theft scheme will continue after the hearing.
By the close of the hearing yesterday, it had become clear that Dowless, who was in the room all day, is refusing to testify without a grant of immunity, and his colorful attorney, Cynthia Adams Singletary, played Rudy Guiliani for the cameras, talking way too much in a way that didn't seem to help her client. Cameras like a talker.

The hearing continues this morning (in a few actual minutes). When it ends -- Gawd knows when -- the board will "vote to either certify the victory of Republican Mark Harris, call for a new election, or deadlock, which would throw the matter into limbo" (Brian Murphy et al.).

Read more here:

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Republicans Killed the Film Industry, But This Bill Could Help Bring It Back

Sen. Harper Peterson
A tax credit program for North Carolina film production helped build Wilmington into a major venue for film and TV production, with location work (and local jobs -- some 4,200 statewide) often spreading out all over the state including into these western mountains. In 2014 alone, film productions brought more than $300 million to more than 30 counties across the state. Then the Republican super-majority in the General Assembly, abetted by Republican Governor Pat McCrory, trash-canned the tax credits, then sealed the lid shut with HB2, and the film industry obliged -- "We know when we're not welcomed" -- and largely fled to Atlanta and other friendlier Southern states, taking their jobs and their cash with them.

Newly elected Democratic state Senator Harper Peterson of District 9 in Wilmington is trying to reverse that trend, though he doesn't expect much cooperation from his Republican brethren (who just naturally hate Hollywood or any group of different people who seem happy). Peterson introduced Senate Bill 57 to bring back the tax credits for film production, but he admitted that with the Berger/Moore people still in charge, he faces a strenuous uphill climb: “I don’t assume this will go forward, but it keeps the discussion alive and look at where we were when we were very prosperous.”

“I’m optimistic but I’m also realistic,” he said. “The industry is changing before our eyes. We have to reinvent and update the incentive program to meet the demands and competition from other states.”

Kudos to Senator Peterson for trying. At least the Democrats in the General Assembly are now on record as favoring job creation and bringing back an industry that the Republicans stabbed through the heart.

And don't we love seeing our state depicted on the big screen, as well as the little one?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Oh, Look! Sen. Tillis Gets Crossways With Trump's Wall

Thom Tillis, running for reelection into the teeth of a strong headwind, issued a statement opposing Trump's emergency declaration yesterday. Mighty brave of him. And he started the text with a blunt “It doesn’t matter who the President is...."

Oh really? We'll see about that when Tillis is actually called on to vote on the legitimacy of Twitterman's going around Congress to fund his vanity project on the southern border. And no doubt about it. Senator Tillis will be called on to vote his conviction in this matter.

Friday, February 15, 2019

In Case You Were Wondering -- Yes, There Are Still Blockheads in the NC House

Larry Pittman
The chief blockhead among them ... Rep. Larry Pittman (Cabarrus and Rowan counties), who wears the label of "reverend" and thinks Abraham Lincoln was the worst possible president to represent the Republican Party, even if he was the first of that flavor and widely regarded as a great man. Rev. Pittman doesn't regard him that way.

Pittman is the chief sponsor of House Bill 65, along with co-sponsors and fellow blockheads Mark Brody (Anson and Union counties) and Keith Kidwell (Craven and Beaufort counties), a bill essentially intended to nullify gay marriage in the state. It's a ridiculous stunt that will go nowhere, and clearly Messrs. Pittman, Brody, and Kidwell have way too much time on their hands.

But they're master scholars of Constitutional law -- you bet! -- explaining why Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case which legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, was just wrong:

Obergefell v. Hodges in effect has imposed the views of Secular Humanism on the People and the States of these United States in the matter of marriage law, which authority is not given to the federal government in the United States Constitution, and is, therefore, an unconstitutional establishment of religion and also an unconstitutional usurpation by the United States Supreme Court of powers reserved to the People or to the States.”

“In the wake of the Obergefell opinion, there have been increased efforts by the proponents of Secular Humanism to persecute nonobservers of the religion of Secular Humanism and to infiltrate public schools with the intent to indoctrinate minors to the Secular Humanist worldview, against the wishes of many of their parents, and to inculcate them with the Secular Humanist view on faith, morality, sex, and marriage. … It is an unsettled matter of opinion whether sexual orientation is immutable or genetic, and therefore, for a person to suggest that he/she was born homosexual or the wrong gender or that to disagree with their beliefs makes the dissenter a bigot, is nothing more than a series of unproven faith-based assumptions and naked assertions that are implicitly religious and may not be enforced by government upon anyone.”

Therefore: “Marriages between persons of the same gender not valid.”

Chalk this up to Trumpism ... the creeping sensation that you might be losing your grip on your fellow blockheaded peeps, so you need to redouble your efforts to play the sensational bigot and rile up the rubes, who you (bottomline) have utter contempt for.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

New Hope for an End to Gerrymandering in North Carolina

Yesterday in Raleigh, a bi-partisan coalition (two Republicans and two Democrats as primary sponsors, supported by others including Democrat Pricey Harrison) filed House Bill 69 to establish a nonpartisan redistricting commission in time for the 2020 Census.

"If it passes, the redistricting committee would be made up of 11 non-politicians appointed by legislative leaders of the state’s main two political parties. It would have four Democratic voters, four Republican voters and three other voters. Anyone who has been a politician, campaign staffer, lobbyist or state board member, or who is related to anyone in those positions, would be legally barred from being on the committee until five years after they leave politics." (NandO)

This is a step, and perhaps Berger/Moore might be a little motivated toward giving it a fair shot at passage following last fall's comeuppance at the polls, with another perhaps ground-shifting election approaching next year. Berger/Moore could lose it all in 2020 and then watch a newly empowered Democratic Party, with revenge in its eye, take out its own map-drawing software for the next round of partisan gerrymandering.

I'm ready for that back and forth to end and to end decisively and for eternity.

Yesterday in Raleigh, North Carolina legislators Rep. Jon Hardister, a Guilford County Republican, and Rep. Robert Reives, a Chatham County Democrat, and other lawmakers from both parties spoke to the press about HB69:

Read more here:

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Get This Partisan Embarrassment Off the NC Supreme Court

Justice Paul Newby
Yesterday, NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Paul Newby (who's made a serial spectacle* of himself since 2012--see below) pitched an injudicious fit that he wasn't the one chosen by Governor Cooper to become Chief Justice of the Court.
* Like his 1st Supreme Court election in 2004, running as the only NC GOP-endorsed candidate at a time when judicial elections in NC were officially non-partisan 
* Like showing up in 2005 at a rally against gay marriage, not the first or only time Newby has shown his bias on issues likely to come before him on the bench 
* Like getting reelected in a tough 2012 contest against Sam Ervin IV on the strength of big-bucks dark money coming from Big Tobacco, Big Insurance, and "a Washington-based group described as providing direct technical assistance to the North Carolina Republicans who drafted the [new and highly gerrymandered] legislative maps" 
* Like failing to recuse himself from sitting in judgment on Republican gerrymandering early in 2013, despite receiving over $1 million in TV advertising from a dark-money group that supported the gerrymandering
Now about the accusations Newby made yesterday...
A. "...Governor Cooper decided to place raw partisan politics over a non-partisan judiciary..."
Funny, coming from the most visibly partisan justice on the state's Supreme Court! And Newby appears to have forgotten that it was his guys in the NC General Assembly who decided to change state law and make all judicial elections partisan.
B. " refusing to honor the time-tested tradition of naming the Senior Associate Justice as Chief Justice..."Funny, since there is no such tradition. In 1986 Republican Governor Jim Martin appointed fellow Republican Rhoda Billings to be Chief Justice despite her having served only a year on the court. 
C. "...The Governor's decision further erodes public trust and confidence in a fair judiciary, free from partisan manipulation..."
"Partisan manipulation"? When Democratic Chief Justice Sarah Parker was forced into mandatory retirement in 2014, Republican Governor Pat McCrory appointed Republican Associate Justice Mark Martin to her seat. That's the tradition. A tradition pursued like a July chicken after a junebug by the Republican super-majority in the NC General Assembly ... attempting to manipulate the courts through "retention elections," judicial gerrymandering, seizing the appointment power for themselves, and engineering an entire election for the son of the President Pro-Tem of the NC Senate.

Newby promises to be on the 2020 North Carolina statewide ballot, running (yep!) to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The dude is a veritable cathedral of disqualification.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Gov. Cooper Makes History with Supreme Court Appointee

Justice Beasley with Gov. Cooper
this afternoon at the Governor's mansion
Governor Roy Cooper this afternoon appointed Associate Justice Cheri Beasley as the first black woman to head the state's Supreme Court, replacing Republican Mark Martin who is stepping down.

Beasley has been a judge for the last 20 years and an associate justice on the Supreme Court since 2012.

Beasley's associate justice seat on the court will now be open, and Gov. Cooper will also be able to appoint a replacement for her. The only Republican left on the high court, Justice Paul Newby, was miffed that Cooper did not elevate him to the chief justice position because he has the greatest seniority. Newby had already announced weeks ago that he would be on the ballot in 2020 for the chief justice seat. He'll likely be opposed by Cheri Beasley, who will have to run in her own right for the seat next year.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Trump Voters Waking Up From Their Long Snooze?

Why is this woman laughing?
More than just anecdotal evidence that some Trump voters are getting the message directly that the great Trump Tax Cuts of 2017 were a fraud. You can't continue to give the billionaires a cushy ride and not expect the shrinking middle class to pick up the slack. Take a look at this long and angry thread: #GOPTaxScam.

Heather Long: "Millions of Americans filling out their 2018 taxes will probably be surprised to learn that their refunds will be less than expected or that they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service after years of receiving refunds."

The tax bill in 2017 was Trump's sole major legislative "achievement," and Paul Ryan bragged that it would be a major political achievement that would be a bulwark against Democratic gains in the midterm elections. Didn't work that way. Paul Ryan himself is gone home. In fact, the tax bill has consistently polled badly, and now this public relations nightmare of voters waking up to a new reality about their tax refunds.

Rich people may be ecstatic, but the rest of us ... not so much.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

"A Porous Sieve of a Denomination"

A collection of mugshots of some of the 220 SBC pastors
or other church workers who were convicted of or pleaded guilty
to sexual crimes -- just since 1998.
Compiled by The Houston Chronicle
Because I grew up in the nurturing embrace of Texas Southern Baptists, among other Christian fellow-travelers, and spent untold hours in church being warned about Hell, and went to college at a Texas Southern Baptist institution (where I was actually lucky to be invited to read widely and learn more than I had so far been taught), I have not been able to tear myself away from "Abuse of Faith," an extensive (3-part) investigation into Southern Baptist Church sexual misconduct by its pastoral leaders -- not just in Texas but across the nation -- including highly inappropriate and even criminal activity in the pastor's study, in the choir room, on the pews, and out in the parking lot (or wherever The Spirit leads).

A team of reporters from the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News has spent months investigating this sorry history:
1992. A lawyer for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) writes in a court filing that the SBC does not distribute instructions to its member churches on handling sexual abuse claims, and therefore can't be held liable for negligence. Every Baptist church is famously independent, the lawyer argues, "autonomous" (a point of fierce pride), and therefore the Convention has no authority to order churches to track sex offenders.
2007-08. Some Baptist Church victims of sexual predation begin to organize in Texas (the largest concentration of Southern Baptists in the nation) and raise hell and demand a predator-tracking system. "Name names!" In response to the pressure, the Baptist General Convention of Texas publishes eight names of pastors who have been convicted of sex crimes.
2008-18. Baptist Church victims continue to cry out and encounter the stone wall of top SBC leaders who coincidentally include several who have themselves participated in or covered up bad behavior.
2018. A 40-year-old Texas woman, Debbie Vasquez, stands before the Southern Baptist Convention and again requests a tracking system that would identify pastoral personnel who have been creditably accused of abuse or convicted of sexual assault. The Convention rejected her request.
(In "Abuse of Faith," Vasquez reveals that decades earlier she had been sexually exploited by her pastor from the age of 14 until she was pregnant by him at 18. When the leaders of her church discovered the pregnancy, they "forced her to stand in front of the congregation and ask for forgiveness without saying who had fathered the child." Even though Vasquez sued pastor and church in 2006, and the pastor had to acknowledge paternity of her child, he was welcomed to continue pastoring and didn't go to jail.)
The Vasquez case caught the attention of Houston Chronicle reporters who began to search news archives, websites, and databases nationwide to compile an archive of allegations of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and other serious misconduct involving Southern Baptist pastors and other church officials. They focused the search on the 10 years preceding the victims' first call for a registry (1997-2007) and on the 10-plus years since (2008-2018).

At least 10 SBC churches welcomed pastors, ministers, and volunteers since 1998 who had previously faced charges of sexual misconduct. In some cases, they were registered sex offenders.
In the last 10 years more than 250 people who worked or volunteered in Southern Baptist churches have been charged with sex crimes. Since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, leaving behind more than 700 victims, "many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions."

Arriving at this inescapable conclusion: "... All a con artist has to do is talk a good talk and convince people that he's been called by God, and bingo, he gets to be a Southern Baptist minister. Then he can infiltrate the entirety of the SBC, move from church to church, from state to state, go to bigger churches and more prominent churches where he has more influence and power .... It's a porous sieve of a denomination."

All of this rings several bells of memory for me, and I could tell stories. You didn't grow up in the faith and come to an age of reckoning without hearing multiple tales, sometimes from your female friends who had just been pawed and told they were beautiful young instruments of God. It was different then, because nobody did anything. Women were more reluctant to raise a stink because they knew the condemnation would come down on them ... especially in an organized religion that still preaches "Wives, be subject to your husbands" and "the women should keep silence in the churches." 

Friday, February 08, 2019

Republican Congressional Retirements Already Cranking Up Before 2020

Rep. Rob Woodall, 48, a five-termer from the Georgia 7th District (suburbs of Atlanta), has announced he won't be running for reelection in 2020.

Carolyn Bordeaux
Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux came within 433 votes of beating him last November, the closest House race in the nation.

Woodall came into the House in the 2010 Tea Party wave, and we might say he's leaving just ahead of the 2020 Blue Wave.

It looks like Carolyn Bourdeaux has every intention of running for the seat again. She'll have the advantage.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

First Berger Jr., Then Barringer, and Now Stroud

Judge Donna Stroud
Potential Republican candidates for the Paul Newby seat on the NC Supreme Court are forming a scrum. We've noted Phil Berger Jr.'s interest in the seat and Tamara Barringer's. Now Jonathan Kappler says NC Court of Appeals Judge Donna Stroud is eyeing it too.

Source Ballotpedia: Stroud received her bachelor's degree in government summa cum laude from Campbell University at Buies Creek in 1985. She received her J.D. magna cum laude from Campbell University School of Law in 1988. She also earned an LL.M. from Duke University School of Law in 2014. She began her legal career in 1988 with the law firm Kirk, Gay, Kirk, Gwynn & Howell. She then joined the firm Gay, Stroud & Jackson, LLP in 1995. Stroud worked as a lawyer with this firm until 2004. During this time, she also served as an arbitrator for the 10th Judicial District Court and as a certified superior court mediator. In 2004, she was elected to the Wake County District Court (10th Judicial District), where she served until her election to the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2006. She was reelected to an eight-year term in 2014. Along with fulfilling her judicial duties, Stroud currently works as an adjunct law professor at Campbell University School of Law.

In other words (and on paper), she's better qualified for the Supreme Court than either Phil Berger Jr. or Tamara Barringer.

Could be a really interesting Republican judicial primary in 2020 for the Paul Newby seat on the NC Supreme Court.

Watauga GOP Dragging Its Feet on Making Recommendations for Local Board of Elections

The list of recommended partisan members of all 100 county boards of elections is on-line, and we notice that the Watauga Republican Party has made no recommendations.

Those appointments were due to be made this morning at the State Board of Elections (SBOE) meeting in Raleigh.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Barringer to Berger Jr.: "Not So Fast There, Scooter!"

Sen. Tamara Barringer, 2016, calling for
repeal of HB2 ("bathroom bill")
WRAL photo

Musical Chairs on NC's Highest Court
Republican Chief Justice Mark Martin announced he was stepping down this month, and Governor Cooper gets to appoint his replacement (who'll have to run for the seat in 2020). Republican Associate Justice Paul Newby immediately announced he would be giving up the Newby seat to run for Chief Justice next year. Soon after, Republican Phil Berger Jr. announced he would run for the Newby seat (as did Democratic Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman).

Yesterday former NC Senator Tamara Barringer announced she will also be running in 2020 for the Newby seat.

My first thought: "D'oh! Tamara Barringer saying (in effect) to Phil Berger Jr., 'I don't care who your daddy is! I'm running for the same thing you think you're entitled to!' "

Interesting, since, as a state senator, Barringer was always under Father Berger's thumb, though she's been capable of a streak of independence (see the photo).

Contrary to what I initially thought (and hattip to Gerry Cohen), there will be judicial primaries in North Carolina in 2020. The elimination of primaries for partisan judge races applied only to 2018, which was one of those Berger/Moore schemes supposed to sow chaos among Democrats. Didn't work that way, and we now have a 5-2 Democratic majority on the Supreme Court likely to move to 6-1 when Cooper appoints Martin's replacement.

If there's a Berger Jr. - Barringer primary, that'll be interesting to watch. If. Many other factors could change that: If Cooper appoints one of the sitting Democratic justices as Chief, that'll open another named seat, and Barringer could elect to run for that rather than going head to head with Berger.

Barringer had been a four-term state senator, representing the Wake County District 17, until last fall when Democrat Sam Searcy flipped the seat. Wake County has been trending away from hardline conservatism, but in announcing yesterday, Barringer sounded pretty hardcore conservative:

“In the last week, I received many calls encouraging me to run for the Supreme Court,” Barringer said in a press release Tuesday. “All of you know my love for the law and the importance of maintaining a strict Constitutional interpretation of the laws passed by the General Assembly. It is imperative that we have justices who refrain from legislating from the bench” (emphasis added).

But in 2016, she was the first Republican lawmaker to call for the "substantial and immediate" repeal of House Bill 2 due to the measure's "unintended consequences" (WRAL).

The Greatest Moment From SOTU2019

Nancy Pelosi, dog-walking a very bad pooch.

And a look that will be on T-shirts before the close of business today!

Did you notice how often Twitterman turned to his left, checking out in his peripheral vision whether Nancy Pelosi was reacting correctly to his applause lines? Here's what he said that occasioned this memorable moment in SOTU history:

“We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good.”

At the moment captured by the photo, Trump is actually mouthing "Thank you!" to Pelosi, completely missing the subtext of her mockery.

Why mock that line in his speech? 

Because this is "a president who proudly retaliates against his enemies, taunts his political foes with nicknames and considers himself one of the world’s great counter-punchers" (Philip Rucker et al.).  Just yesterday, during a lunch with major print and broadcast journalists, Trump had "assailed Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) as a 'nasty son of a bitch,' ridiculed former vice president Joe Biden as 'dumb' for his history of gaffes, and accused Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) of 'choking like a dog' ” (Rucker).

Last night, it was Teleprompter Trump, who reads high-minded, normal-sounding lines like he's reading a hostage statement, while we all know the real man. Nancy Pelosi is drawing a bead.

DJT never appreciates irony though he's a great creator of it.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Hottest Ticket in Raleigh

The newly appointed five-member State Board of Elections has announced a hearing on the certification of the NC-9 Congressional election for Monday, February 18, at the North Carolina State Bar (217 East Edenton St., Raleigh). The SBOE is apparently expecting a lengthy hearing, because it has reserved the room through the 20th.

To repeat: It will take three votes to certify the election of Rev. Mark Harris and four votes to call for a new election.

On February 7 -- Thursday of this week -- members of the SBOE will be getting an in-person debriefing on what the staff's investigation into the NC-9 election has turned up, and they'll reportedly be making appointments to county boards of election.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Out-of-a-Job Jonathan Jordan Wants on the Ashe Planning Board; Planning Staff Says "No Thanks!"

Photo Mickey Hutchings
Recently unelected NC House Rep. Jonathan Jordan has applied -- "late," according to the Ashe County Line -- for a seat on the Ashe County Planning Board, which would put him in a position to scratch some backs and deliver some deals as a real estate attorney.

He said on his application that he just wanted to make Ashe County Great Again!

But the planning department staff did not recommend his appointment. Ouch. What'ya wanna bet the county commissioners appoint him anyway?

Friday, February 01, 2019

Sen. Thom Tillis, Targeted by Dark Money Group reporting:

A series of ads purchased by Majority Forward — a non-disclosing 501(c)(4) nonprofit linked to Democratic leadership in the Senate — plans to go after after Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.), Susan Collins (Maine), Thom Tillis (N.C.), David Perdue (Ga.), Martha McSally (Ariz.) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) with a $600,000 ad buy in mid-January, attacking each incumbent Senator over their role in the 35-day government shutdown.

Each ad follows an identical formula, noting the “the longest ever” shutdown caused issues with government food inspections and plane flights, along with an issue relating to the targeted state and blaming the respective Senator for the length of the shutdown. Each ad links the respective target to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who repeatedly blocked bills to reopen the government and is also up for reelection in 2020.