Thursday, October 31, 2019

Context May Do More Than Iconoclasm Can

A new historic marker has joined the Confederate monument at the DeKalb County, Georgia, historic courthouse. This additional history about the erecting of Confederate monuments provides valuable context.

The Body Count -- Tim Morrison

A Reoccuring Feature on Who's Jumping Off Luxury Liner Trump

Tim Morrison, the top Russia official on Trump's National Security Council, who is scheduled to testify in the impeachment inquiry this morning, resigned his post in advance of his testimony. Morrison is considered a "conservative hawk," and he had been working on arms control and biodefense issues at the NSC when he was elevated to the Russia portfolio by Trump's then-national security adviser, John Bolton. Morrison started in the role in July, overlapping with his predecessor, Fiona Hill — another witness in the impeachment inquiry — who had announced her plans to leave the White House in August.

Ambassador Bill Taylor had told impeachment investigators that Morrison had reported to NSC lawyers that unethical demands were being placed on the Ukrainian government by Gordon Sondland.

"He may have more hawkish views, but he still colors within the lines of what is normally the practice of diplomacy," said Brett Bruen, who served as the White House's director of global engagement in the Obama administration. "Tim is an example, like Fiona [Hill], of serious foreign policy people who are having a seriously difficult time navigating the unethical world of Trump's national security structure." [NPR, which first reported Morrison's departure]

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Remember the Date -- July 10, 2019 --"Detonation of the Ukraine Crisis Inside the White House"

Just try to stay up, O my brethren. It's important that we understand the architectural nuances of Trump's impeachable offenses.

July 10, 2019 -- the date that John Bolton and other White House nat'l security officials discovered just how far the Trump off-books extortion racket against Ukraine had progressed. Keep in mind that during the two full weeks that elapsed between Bolton's Blowup on this date (see below), and the Trump call to Zelensky on the 25th, Trump did not alter his course one millimeter.

July 25, 2019 -- the date of Trump's call to Ukraine President Zelensky, the phone call which prompted the whistleblower's complaint and launched the impeachment.

The Occasion on July 10th

A visit to the White House by Ukrainians Andriy Yermak, who had frequently engaged with key Trump lieutenant Gordon Sondland and other U.S. diplomats; and Oleksandr Danyliuk, the head of Ukraine’s national security and defense council. Col. Alexander Vindman told the impeachment committee yesterday, “The Ukrainians saw this meeting as critically important in order to solidify the support of their most important international partner” (according to a copy of his opening statement released to the public).

The Geography

Two rooms in the White House were involved in "the detonation of the Ukraine crisis":

First Scene: John Bolton's Office 
Yermak and Danyliuk were ushered into a meeting in Bolton’s office in the West Wing along with Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker, Fiona Hill, Col. Vindman et al. "The American team was working through standard U.S.-Ukraine talking points, including the United States’ desire to see Kyiv crack down on corruption, when officials familiar with the meeting say Sondland went off script." "Sondland turned the conversation away from ongoing corruption probes to reviving specific investigations that were important to Trump, according to testimony from Hill and Vindman." 
Bolton "abruptly ended the meeting." He "ordered" people out of his office (as only an angry John Bolton might do it).  
As the group filed out, Sondland pulled the Ukrainians aside and instructed them to follow him to the...

Second Scene: Ward Room 
The Ward Room is in the basement of the West Wing and is regularly used for meetings by national security staff.
Col. Vindman tagged along with the Ukrainians, following Sondland to the Ward Room. Vindman in his testimony yesterday said that Sondland immediately pressed for “investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens and Burisma.” Vindman said he then confronted Sondland in front of the Ukrainians (or later, not in front of the Ukrainians -- it's unclear), saying that “his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the [National Security Council] was going to get involved in or push.” 
Meanwhile, upstairs John Bolton knows about the Ward Room end-run and he sends Fiona Hill, his immediate deputy, down there to take charge of the meeting. Hill enters the room late, hears the word "Burisma," knows what's up, and immediately closes the meeting. 
Upstairs, John Bolton is already steaming mad. Hill comes back up to tell him what happened, and Bolton explodes with his now famous line: “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up.” Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, had met with Sondland on several occasions to discuss Ukraine.

Bolton directed Hill to report what she had witnessed to John Eisenberg, the top lawyer for the National Security Council. Hill spoke briefly with Eisenberg on that very day, but because the attorney was pressed for time they did not finish their discussion until the next day. Hill was accompanied by Wells Griffith, an NSC official responsible for energy policy who is also being sought as a witness by House investigators.

The Ass Most Immediately Caught in the Crack

Gordon Sondland, who's turning out to be Trump's biggest chump, testified to the impeachment committee that "he didn’t know of any Biden connection in Trump’s demands for a Burisma investigation until much later, after the allegations in the whistleblower complaint became known. He has also said that no White House officials ever expressed any concern to him about his efforts to push Ukraine to commit to the Burisma probe."

At the same time -- in the same testimony -- Sondland also admitted that the Ukraine demands amounted technically to a scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours, a.k.a., quid pro quo.

They could charge Sondland with lying to a Congressional committee.

Footnote: Indebted to the reporting of Greg Miller for all the direct quotes

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Bring On John Bolton!

Lindsey Graham in the Senate and the SCIF-stormers in the House have done their damnedest to jizz up their base against the whole impeachment inquiry. But last Thursday, right when that cooked-up Republican froth was still bubbling, the NYTimes team of Michael D. Shear, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos inserted this tidbit into an article focused on Sen. Graham:

"Impeachment investigators have negotiated in recent days with a lawyer for Mr. Bolton about a date for him to be deposed behind closed doors...."

John Bolton's gonna talk, and when he does Lindsey Graham will need grander theatrics for his next stage act -- bigger painted sets, more flamboyant costuming, good lighting -- cause John Bolton knows everything. And Trump fired him on September 10. If there's a Code Red walking case of acid reflux on this planet, it's John Bolton.

Bolton, who actually possesses a moral center, doesn't back down, which made him a problem for liberals well before he became a problem for Twitterman. Hardliner. Hawk. So he naturally recognizes a hand grenade when he sees one. To Bolton (and to his everlasting credit), Rudy Guiliani looked like a hand grenade with the pin long gone. Bolton knew every grand master chess move that Guiliani and Trump made to extort Ukraine.

Better, Bolton left a paper trail. Paper trails are part of the Bolton DNA.

1. Bolton told Alexander Vindman, who's being deposed by the impeachment committee today and who was actually on the phone to hear the infamous Trump-Zelensky "do me a favor" call, to draft a memorandum in mid-August that sought to restart $391 million in security aid that was being withheld from Ukraine. Trump refused to sign it. 

2. Bolton also told Alexander Vindman, star witness today who's also a current White House employee with the NSC, to draft a letter in May congratulating Zelensky on his inauguration. Trump refused to sign that too.

3. Bolton told Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council official in charge of Russia policy, to "brief the NSC lawyers" to make sure there was a record of her opposition to the shadow foreign policy that was putting pressure on Ukraine for "a favor."

4. Bolton told Bill Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, to send a first-person cable to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that expressed Taylor's assessment that it was "crazy" to extort Ukraine for political purposes.

It's always the paper trail, O my brethren, that eventually nails 'em. And these examples above are no doubt just a fraction of what Bolton was inducing and producing before he got shoved out of the White House.

Mark Groombridge, a former aide to Bolton, gave NPR the most interesting insight into Bolton's character. Groombridge said of Bolton:
"His bureaucratic skills served him very well in that there is now a paper trail, which essentially exonerates Ambassador Bolton and, in some ways, almost paints him as the hero in this. I mean, I recall the first day I joined the State Department — it was Oct. 15, 2001. And the only sort of fatherly advice Ambassador Bolton gave me at the time was, he said, 'Always get the process right. That way those who oppose you are forced to engage you on substance.' And I think Ambassador Bolton, in his capacity as [national security adviser], was doing the same thing."
Don't you want to hear what John Bolton knows? Don't you want to read what he wrote?

Judges Order New Maps for All 13 NC Congressional Districts

This news broke after 5 p.m. yesterday: The same three-judge panel that last month ordered new NC House and Senate district maps has now ruled that all 13 congressional districts in the state exhibit the same evidence of "extreme partisan gerrymandering." The 2020 primaries may have to be delayed if new maps aren't drawn in time for the candidate filing deadline in December.

The Republicans in the General Assembly can still appeal the ruling, but Berger-Moore did not appeal the previous order last month to make new maps for some NC House and Senate districts -- which, incidentally, the three-judge panel approved yesterday.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

NC's Judge Bob Orr Is Leading a Republican Splinter Group

Judge Bob Orr
Noted North Carolina constitutional conservative Judge Bob Orr has become the national spokesman for a splinter group of non-Trumpist Republicans. They're calling themselves the "National Republican Party," and they're planning to hold their own rump convention next summer in Charlotte at the same time the Republican National Convention will be (presumably) renominating Donald Trump for a second term.

The National Republicans have a Facebook group page on which they published this "pledge":
1. I am a registered Republican, and/or generally support GOP policies and candidates. 
2. I believe that Republican presidential primaries and caucuses that have been closed should be re-opened, and stay open. 
3. I support the Republican Platform as adopted at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, minus the abortion and same-sex marriage planks, on which we take no positions.
Number 2 responds to the cancelling of some state Republican primaries in South Carolina, Arizona, and a few other states, presumably to clear Trump's path of any (even weak) Republican opposition.

Who Is Bob Orr?
Aside from having served as the appointed District Attorney serving Watauga County and the rest of the 24th Prosecutorial District in 2014 (to finish the term of DA Jerry Wilson), Orr had already built an impressive record of service. He was appointed to the NC Court of Appeals by Republican Governor Jim Martin in 1986. He won election to the NC Supreme Court in 1994 and served there for ten years. He ran for governor in the Republican primary of 2008, losing to Pat McCrory. In 2016, he was a John Kasich delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, leaving the convention early before Trump's formal coronation but not before commenting to a WRAL reporter that Donald Trump was “singularly unqualified to lead this country.” In fact, Orr said, "Trump is a danger to the country."

Truer words?

The News&Observer has an article up this morning about Orr and the National Republicans.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Forward My Mail To Brazil

Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer
News broke late last night that Trump's "own Roy Cohn," Attorney General William P. Barr, has opened a criminal inquiry into the possibility that members of his own Justice Department, including the FBI, ginned up "the Russia hoax" out of personal, "deep state" animus toward his boss.

Trump needs fall-guys to blame, enemies to destroy (that's why he's all over Ukraine too), and he would most especially like proof of disloyalty about a select handful of government employees, starting with former CIA chief John Brennan and including Andrew McCabe at the FBI and Peter Strzok. Don't forget Comey. And throw in Mueller while you're at it. That's what he wants, that's what he demands. And by Gawd, and with the Good Lord's help, William P. Barr will finger 'em!

Never mind the rock cold fact that Robert S. Mueller III secured indictments of more than two dozen Russian military operatives for interfering in the 2016 election. He knows their names. He knows what they did. He knows the actual keystrokes they made on their computers in St. Petersburg to promote Trump and tar Clinton.

But never mind that. Twitterman has made it perfectly clear that he expects the Justice Department to be his battle axe against his political enemies. After all, they're guilty of "treason" -- how many times now has he used that exact word? A most threatening word, because you remember how we treat traitors.

From "Brazil," 1985

Mueller also said in that report you didn't read that he had “insufficient evidence” to determine whether Trump or his aides engaged in a criminal conspiracy with the Russians but that the campaign welcomed the sabotage and expected to benefit from it.

So when I heard Rachel unspool that Barr news at 9 last night, and then I sat down this morning to read the NYTimes story for myself, I kinda went to "Brazil" in my head. Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" in the 1985 movie of the same name. That "Brazil" is a head trip, a fantasy landscape of escape for our hero from an authoritarian and cruel government. The movie ends with the chief of the Department of Information Retrieval saying to the man doing the torture on our hero, "He's got away from us." And the torturer, holding a scalpel ready to slice, replies ruefully,  " 'Fraid you're right. He's gone." 

Escaped mentally. It's the only escape, the movie proposes.

Hence the 1985 movie poster:

Doesn't Trump and his big pug Barr make you want to take a head trip and never return?

Gotta fight that. Gotta keep my head in the game. Gotta keep up my resistance.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Frustrated Trumpist Toadies Yesterday: "Please Arrest Us To Prove How Much We Love Twitterman!"

Yesterday's mob-stunt in the halls of Congress when 20-something Republican members of the Freedom Caucus (including at least four North Carolina congressmen) forced their way into the secure room where the impeachment depositions were being conducted, and then ordered pizza while they man-spread all over the hearing room and ran off the woman who was supposed to be testifying, was evidently a feint toward getting themselves arrested by Capitol police with the hoped-for viral pop on Instagram to be titled "Brave and Upstanding Ass-Kissers of Trump Being Turned Into Martyrs for the Cause."

The Democrats didn't take the bait, let the boys have their pizza and scratch their balls, and when they were finally down to only pizza bones, the boys all left, the woman witness came back, and the deposition continued.

It wasn't exactly the Boston Tea Party nor even the Defenestration of Prague (when furious Protestants threw three stubborn Catholics out of the 3rd floor window of the Prague town hall and thus started the 30 Years War).

Two NC congressmen were prominent in the mob -- Mark Walker and Mark Meadows -- but someone said Ted Budd and David Rouzer were also there. Where the hell was Virginia Foxx? Was the mob action too butch for her?

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Kim Bost, Taking Another Shot in Catawba County

In 2018 we paid attention to Democrat Kim Bost when she ran for the NC House, District 96, contained entirely within Catawba County and taking in most of Hickory and Conover and some of Newton. The 2018 Blue Wave didn't make it to NCH96. Bost drew only 39.26% of the vote against Republican incumbent Jay Adams.

She announced on Facebook yesterday that she's going again for the seat in 2020. It's an uphill slog, no doubt, but certain indicators ought to mean something for Bost to build a stronger coalition in 2020.

For one thing, Charlotte Williams, a very strong Democrat, won her primary for Hickory Ward 2 alderman back on October 8. She's up against a Republican in the November elections. Granted, the alderman races in Hickory are officially non-partisan, but Williams in one of those classic progressives who's very visible in the community: She's the associate dean of Engaged and Global Learning and the program coordinator for the Human and Community Service major at Lenoir-Rhyne University. She serves on the Habitat for Humanity board and the Cognitive Connection Substance Abuse Program board. She previously held leadership roles as the vice-chair of the Hickory City Public School Board, president of the Women’s Resource Center, vice-chair on the Council of Adolescents, and secretary of the United Arts Council.

Why am I talking about Charlotte Williams, a candidate for Hickory City Council, and not Kim Bost, an incipient candidate for the NC House? Because Charlotte Williams obviously has a base of support in Hickory that Kim Bost can/should build on (especially if Williams ends up winning the Ward 2 alderman seat in November).

Furthermore, the two candidates squaring off in November for the Ward 1 alderman seat are both Democratic-leaning Unaffiliated candidates, which means I can't bring myself to think of the City of Hickory as a total Republican stronghold. There are signs of progressivism afoot. Plus the City of Newton has two Democrats serving on its city council and two very left-leaning Unaffiliated members. All of which should add up to an opportunity for coalition-building by a Democrat running in this heavily urban/suburban NC House district. (City of Conover, also in Dist. 96, is a much harder Republican nut to crack, with all of its sitting council members registered Republicans.)

First thing I'd do if I were Kim Bost and had the money -- conduct a telephone robo-poll (combined with texting) of all voters in Dist. 96 and ask one question: "Do you support President Donald J. Trump?" The answer to that question will tell her a great deal about where the persuadable voters are, and where the boulders are that she should avoid dashing herself against. After impeachment, do the poll again. If there's no movement in the Hickory electorate, go to Plan B.

Governor Cooper Defends Damon Circosta

The NAACP and a group of ballot security experts have called for Governor Roy Cooper to oust Damon Circosta from the NC State Board of Elections. Gov. Cooper said yesterday, "No way, no how."

Well, not exactly. What Governor Cooper did was send out his spokesman armed with verbal bubblewrap meant to protect Circosta from the blows: “The security of our elections is the number one priority of the State Board of Elections. This includes ballot and voting machine security, ensuring against voter intimidation and discrimination in all forms, freedom from long lines, and making sure that voting is as easy and hassle free as possible. The Governor believes the board is focused on these concerns.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the views and actions of Circosta but also not a step toward ousting him.

We've been critical of Circosta's cavalier attitude toward certifying electronic voting machines that the experts say are not safe from hacking, starting with his surprise vote back on August 23. Evidence piled up after that vote to demonstrate a curious lack of interest on Circosta's part for ballot safety (here and here and here, for examples). His stubborn attachment to machinery that computer experts say is not secure baffles me. Always has.

Hope the governor's confidence is not misplaced.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Spiritual Driver Behind Facebook

I was slow to get on Facebook. What year did I fill out the account information? Around 2010, maybe. (Facebook could probably tell me the exact minute/day/year if I only knew where to look.) And I was avid at first, trying to fit in. I'm not so avid now.

Late afternoon yesterday, the tech-industry team of Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker reported that Facebook has just removed a whole new network of Russian accounts. The "takedown" actually involved four separate networks -- the one out of Russia and three -- count 'em -- out of Iran.
"The [Russian] network appeared still to be in an audience-building phase when it was removed by Facebook: 246,000 accounts followed one or more of the inauthentic Russian accounts, which had collectively made just fewer than 75,000 posts."
"The audience-building phase." If 246,000 accounts are fetal in nature, do you have any idea the potential when this boy is fully growed up?

I know from watching Homeland (talk to the hand) how Facebook propaganda networks operate: Key postings on dummy feeder pages, which are then shared/replicated by thousands of bots supposedly "residing" all over the country, and so the lies invade the Facebook universe like a virus, traveling on the human gene for viciousness. You've seen it. You've felt it. The raw emotion invoked and stoked: The shared racist meme, the visual joke about Alexandria Osasio-Cortez, and now the latest, the shit bashing Joe Biden and praising Trump, the shit using hashtag (#) multipliers like #BlackLivesMatter to hate on the Democrats, the shit driving wedges on racism and white power, the shit meant to stir up religious people to declare holy war on the Devil (or on other religions). A lot of people actually believe that shit and act on it.

I block it. I delete it. I ignore it.

I'm also a part of it. I use Facebook to spread the postings on this blog, which is no doubt hate-speech to some. And I'm hip to Facebook for organizing and for information-delivery. When there's a new candidate for public office, first place I go ... usually Facebook (after I read the candidate's own website). Groups I belong to use Facebook effectively to raise money, raise a crowd, raise awareness. I participate in and benefit from all of that.

The Russian trolls are effective because they understand the innate power of Facebook, not so much the power to spread fake news as the power to generate raw, lacerating emotion. Facebook has always been a place for self-affirmation, the gratification of personal connections to family or friends. But those emotions translate well to tribes or parties, and can work themselves up into volcanoes of opprobrium. We become attached to Facebook for a range of emotional validations. It's like a feeding tube for connection and love but also for hatred and spite. The emotion that a picture can stir, the feelings that a plea can awake -- these are often irresistible, and they're being invented on Facebook by foreign governments that want to see us destroyed.

I think it's partly because Facebook was invented by a college dude at Harvard who couldn't get laid and had revenge on his mind. That's the spirit behind Facebook.

(I won't be in the least surprised if FB decides to punish me for these words.)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Let the Bedbugs Rest: No G-7 at Doral

Late yesterday, after he had evidently gotten into his pjs, Twitterman completely caved on his self-dealing, wallet-inflating decision to use his own Florida resort for the next G-7 summit. Naturally, because he is Twitterman, he caved on Twitter:
“I thought I was doing something very good for our country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 leaders .... But, as usual, the hostile media & Democrat partners went CRAZY!”
“Therefore, based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020.”
Our first reaction was "way to go, crazed and irrational Democrats!" But the real source of Trump's ignominious retreat was members of his own party in Congress. Trump's acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announced the decision to use the Trump golf resort on Thursday. By Friday, WashPost reporters had interviewed more than 20 GOP lawmakers and congressional aides. "Many said they were repulsed by Trump’s decision to host an international summit at his own resort."

“You have to go out and try to defend [Trump]. Well, I don’t know if I can do that!” steamed a frustrated Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “I have no doubt that Doral is a really good place — I’ve been there, I know. But it is politically insensitive. They should have known what the kickback is going to be on this, that politically he’s doing it for his own benefit.”

Instead of "Crazed and Irrational Hostility" from Democrats, Trump might want to acknowledge "Sudden and Uncharacteristic Growing of Testicles by Fellow Republicans."

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Donald Trump Reminds Me of Dewey Butcher

So Turkey and the Kurds of northern Syria are just like "two kids in a lot." "You’ve got to let them fight," said Corporal Bonespurs. But it's been quite an uneven fight. The Turkish Land Forces -- with approximately 315,000 soldiers, and 3,778 tanks, 7,550 armored fighting vehicles, 1,013 self-propelled guns, 697 towed-artillery pieces, and 811 multiple-launch rocket systems -- vs. the YPG, Kurdish men and women with mere guerrilla arms and some US cast-offs.

In that speech Trump reminds me of Dewey Butcher, a man I knew when I was growing up in West Texas. He liked seeing his bully son physically dominate smaller kids. "Siccum!"

Was Trump one of those dads or is he just one of those presidents? While quite possibly a coward himself, he enjoys watching others fight, like a cock-fighter half-heartedly trying to break the habit. The basic cruelty of the proposition just doesn't resonate with him -- "just two kids." Trump is notoriously stingy with his fellow-feeling. Large swaths of the human race just don't register with him. But "do me a favor, though." Always me.

Despite his slightly bored estimation of the damage done in the Turkish Land Forces' invasion of Syria -- "a lot of sand they can play with" -- it's meant (last numbers I saw) displacement for 130,000 persons, with almost 100 confirmed deaths -- some of them summary executions. Untold suffering. To which the Trump doctrine declares, "Get over it!"

Vicious cruelty in a president -- an unwelcome innovation in the office -- has not existed before in our history. I've read a lot of history. Some presidents had a mean streak. Theodore Roosevelt leaps to mind. So did the other Roosevelt. Nixon, of course, and Johnson. All of 'em! They all could be ruthless, but each -- even Nixon -- balanced his ruthlessness with largeheartedness at times (though not always for the same people experiencing the short-end of his presidential stick).

Trump is something advanced a few degrees to the south. What are allies to him but pawns? Expendable -- to be sacrificed not for the greater good but for his personal convenience.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Get Ready, Eggheads! If Tim Moore Wants To Be Your Leader, He'll Get the Job

Butter wouldn't melt in NC House Speaker Tim Moore's mouth as he denies any interest in taking over as president of the University of North Carolina system. Most recently, the immediate past chair of the UNC system Board of Governors said that Moore's true ambitions are visible from outer space:

"In my opinion, I strongly feel like Tim is interested in the job," says Harry Smith, who was chair of the UNC board of governors until last month. "He's not told me that, but I have every reason to believe that Tim has a lot of interest in the job." []

Tim Moore's particular brand of self-dealing will mesh well with the unsuspecting intellectuals, geeks, book-stack denizens, and political lambs who populate the university system, no? UNC will have achieved its full measure of internal decay as a great educational system.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Body Count -- Megan Brennan

A Reoccuring Feature on Who's Jumping Off Luxury Liner Trump

Twitterman has long expressed disdain for Postmaster General Megan Brennan, a three-decade career Postal Service employee who began as a letter-carrier in Lancaster, Pa. She became Postmaster General in 2015, the first woman to lead the agency, and she was protected from presidential spite by the 11-member Board of Governors who actually vote on new leaders of the agency. Recently (this August), Trump appointees to the board achieved a majority, and yesterday Brennan announced her retirement.

Trump has been mad at Brennan because she won't double the rates charged Amazon for the delivery of packages. Brennan has responded that there is an existing contract which cannot be easily broken, and doubling the rates charged to Amazon would directly impact costs to the public.

Trump hates Amazon because of owner Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post. That newspaper has arisen during the Trump presidency as his chief fact-checker, keeping a running count of the president's lies and misrepresentations (currently over 13,000 enumerated falsehoods since he took office).

So can we look forward to a new Postmaster General who will breach the Amazon contract and bring on higher shipping costs for both shippers and receivers? What could possibly go wrong with that?

A Roomful of Men With No Balls

And one woman willing to stand up to the very stable genius.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Profiles in Chickenshit*

Burgess Everett et al., on
Republicans unleashed perhaps their most aggressive outcry of the Trump era after he abandoned the U.S.’ Kurdish allies and ceded northeastern Syria to Turkey. But now GOP lawmakers are dialing back their direct criticism of the president....
... while they’re still dissatisfied with the situation, they’ve shifted gears away from confrontation with the president.
“I do appreciate what the administration has done against Turkey through executive action, but more to follow,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters Tuesday afternoon, after joining Trump for a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday. “I appreciate the phone calls yesterday with Erdogan, I think [Trump] reached out in a good way to let Turkey know they needed a cease-fire right now.”
It's a good way, according now to Lindsey Graham.

*Indebted to Rick Wilson for the headline.

The Body Count -- Jon A. Sale

A Reoccuring Feature on Who's Jumping Off Luxury Liner Trump

Two weeks ago Rudy Guiliani hired high-powered attorney Jon Sale to head up his legal team. Sale insisted at the time that his new client "100 percent did not do anything illegal.” That odd locution was reported by Yesterday, Rudy Guiliani announced that he intended to defy all subpoenas -- "I ain't saying nuttin to nobody!" Jon Sale announced later on that same day that, by the way, he is no longer a part of Guiliani's legal team.

Did a few percentage points come off that claim of 100 percent innocence?

Sale himself came up with an implausible excuse, as relayed by BuzzFeed reporter Zoe Tillman: "He said he was brought on by Giuliani for the sole task of responding to Dems' subpoena, and that task is done so the representation is over. This was the plan from the start, he said. He doesn't know if Giuliani has other counsel."


High-priced white-collar-crime specialist is hired for just two weeks to respond "No!" for Guiliani to the impeachment inquiry?  I don't buy it.

Who is Jon A. Sale
He's a leading criminal defense attorney, specializing in white collar crime. He's "of counsel" at the large Nelson Mullins firm in Miami. He is touted on the Nelson Mullins website: 
"He is experienced in representing corporations and individuals in grand jury investigations and diverse and complex criminal litigation, including large scale document reviews and productions. He also is experienced in representing defendants at sentencing hearings. He has represented clients in almost every substantive area of concentration, including health care fraud, securities fraud, financial institution fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations, money laundering, criminal anti-trust violations, tax fraud, mortgage fraud, and various fraudulent investment schemes."
He seems made in heaven for the Rudy Guiliani we've all come to know.

Sale is more widely recognized for his past well known role as an assistant special Watergate prosecutor under special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, so you might say he has experience with White House appendages that defy subpoenas.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Lawsuit Is Filed To Stop New Valle Crucis Elementary School

Henri Deschamps, owner of the Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis, has filed for an injunction to stop the Watauga County School Board from buying the Hodges property adjacent to his business for a new elementary school. The proposed new school was the subject of a large joint public hearing before the school board and the Watauga County Commission on September 3 and has generated both heated opposition and support in the community.

Deschamps is represented by Robert N. (Bob) Hunter of the Higgins Benjamin law firm in Greensboro and by "Four" Eggers (Stacy Eggers IV) of Boone. Bob Hunter was appointed to the NC Supreme Court by Gov. Pat McCrory but was defeated by Sam Ervin IV in the election of 2014.

The Watauga County Commission will meet this evening at 5:30 and will take public comment on a proposal to change the Valle Crucis Historic District Ordinance to allow the building of the school on the Hodges property.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Have No Fear -- Jared Is Here!

With son-in-law Kushner in charge of protecting Twitterman from impeachment, Trumpists can sleep soundly, no?

The little known role of Jared Kushner in the smooth-as-silk defense of his father-in-law gets revealed in the final paragraph of Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni's behind-the-scenes write-up, "Inside Trump's Botched Attempt to Hire Trey Gowdy":
"Mr. Kushner, who aides said had been spending many hours on impeachment as part of his broader portfolio of defending the president, has told some people he is running the inquiry response and played down that idea with others."
Sometimes Jared is just sooo modest!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

What Democrat Will Step Forward To Run for NC Senate District 31?

Democrat John Motsinger challenged incumbent Republican state Senator Joyce Krawiec in 2018 for the NC Senate District 31 seat, which includes part of Forsyth and all of Davie counties. Krawiec buried Motsinger in that election, beating him by 20,000 votes. But the district has been redrawn under court order. It still includes all of Davie County -- one of the most dependably Republican counties in North Carolina -- but its portion of Forsyth has been seriously realigned, eliminating all of the western Winston-Salem suburbs but including more of the Winston-Salem urban core. This new map has yet to receive judicial approval.

I noticed on Facebook that John Motsinger announced on September 25 that he would not be running for that Senate seat again -- he is incidentally the son of Forsyth County School Board member Elisabeth Motsinger, she who also ran against Virginia Foxx for Congress in 2012 -- but that he knows of "a few people who have expressed an interest" in running next year. With the opening of candidate filing approaching rapidly -- the first week in December -- we're mightily interested in seeing a strong Democrat step into that race.

Michael Bitzer recently listed the new map as "Competitive, Republican Favored," perhaps because Republicans lost some 8.4% of its predicted vote share in the remapping. And Real Facts NC also recently named the 31st Senate District as a 2020 race to watch.

I'm watching, avidly, to see what characters may enter, stage left. The flipping of the entire NC Senate to Democrat has always seemed like a bridge too far, but with the volatility of impeachment drama and the breeding bughouse in Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac, just about anything can happen. And if other more informed commentators say the 31st Senate District is flippable, who am I to suggest otherwise?

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Body Count -- Kevin McAleenan

A Reoccurring Feature on Who's Jumping Off Luxury Liner Trump

Kevin K. McAleenan, who was until yesterday the acting secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. He had only been in the job for six months. Trump naturally announced the resignation via Twitter and actually wrote that McAleenan "wants to spend more time with his family" (not making that up). 

The lack of self-awareness in this president would be much funnier if it were not such a staggering self-parody.

Mr. McAleenan’s departure from the White House came after he tried to embrace the president's increasingly aggressive assault on legal and illegal immigration publicly even as he privately resisted some of Mr. Trump’s most extreme ideas.
A former deputy commissioner for the nation’s border security agency under President Barack Obama, Mr. McAleenan watched in recent months as the White House surrounded him with Fox News contributors to key positions in the agency....

One of the Good Guys -- Marie Yovanovitch

Photo Mikhail Palinchak--AP
A career State Department diplomat with 30+ years of experience under six different presidents. She was ambassador to Ukraine whose term was supposed to end this past August, but she was asked in May by Trump's State Department to extend her ambassadorship through August of 2020. That request was suddenly reversed less than two months later in July when Trump recalled her and exiled her to a desk in the Department of State.


Trump was about to call new Ukrainian President Zelensky about a little "favor" he wanted, and Yovanovitch might get in the way.

She had become inconvenient to the scheme that Trump and Guiliani had hatched to make dirt in Ukraine. Her personal honesty and integrity apparently did not mesh well with the business and political ambitions of not only Trump and Guiliani but of other guys like these two below, Parnas and Fruman, two Guiliani henchmen whose previous prospecting in Ukraine did not meet with Yovanovitch's approbation. (Why Parnas and Fruman had it in for her is outlined here. It was all about gas.)

“Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president, I was nevertheless incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives,” she wrote in a statement she prepared for the impeachment joint committees.

She chose to testify despite Mike Pompeo's directive, at the direction of the president, that no State Department officials should cooperate with the impeachment inquiry because the Congressional Democrats wisely subpoenaed her early yesterday morning. Yovanovitch's welfare had already been implicitly threatened by Trump himself in his famous phone call with Zelensky: “She’s going to go through some things.” How chilling is that? Yet Yovanovitch is a model for bravery at a time when hundreds of otherwise powerful men have become cowards.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Body Count -- Michael McKinley

A Reoccurring Feature on Who's Jumping Off Luxury Liner Trump

Thanks to Karen DeYoung:
Michael McKinley, a career diplomat and senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has resigned his position amid rising dissatisfaction and plummeting morale inside the State Department over what is seen as Pompeo’s failure to support personnel ensnared in the Ukraine controversy.
A senior officer who has held a range of diplomatic posts, including ambassador to Afghanistan, Colombia and Peru, McKinley was serving as ambassador to Brazil last year when Pompeo recruited him as a policy adviser and a conduit between his office and the career service....

Thursday, October 10, 2019

What Was Mark Meadows Thinking?

Maybe he was thinking: "I wish I was not standing directly behind this man and in full view of the cameras, while he condemns thousands of our loyal Kurdish allies to a Turkish genocide because they weren't at the Normandy invasion in 1944."

Naw. He wasn't thinking that. He was thinking: "How much farther up this great man's ass can I crawl?"

A great man who says these things, out loud, and in public:

Trump downplayed the alliance with the Kurds, 11,000 of whom died fighting to help the US mission against ISIS. "They didn't help us in the second World War, they didn't help us with Normandy for example," Trump said. "They're there to help us with their land, and that's a different thing." Normandy is an area of France, not the US.

He shrugged off the likely escape of ISIS fighters from Kurdish prisons, essentially saying it is Europe's problem, not his. "Well, they're going to be escaping to Europe, that's where they want to go," Trump said. He added that "we have no soldiers in the area."

Some Fox News Headlines Are More Divinely Inspired Than Others

This is Fox News' own headline:
Fox News Poll: Record support for Trump impeachment
The details are stark:
Just over half of voters want President Trump impeached and removed from office, according to a Fox News Poll released Wednesday.
And this is what Twitterman tweets:

Only 25 percent want the President Impeached, which is pretty low considering the volume of Fake News coverage, but pretty high considering the fact that I did NOTHING wrong. It is all just a continuation of the greatest Scam and Witch Hunt in the history of our Country!

12:27 PM · Oct 9, 2019Twitter for iPhone

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Render Unto Caesar, Good Christians, Or Else Go Straight to Hell

Ralph Reed, evergreen
Oh, Ralph Reed, you make spiritual people want to ralph.*

*ralph, verb: to puke, throw up, pray at the porcelain throne

Trump's Betrayal Is Our Shame

As terrible a moment as we've experienced under this Twitterman in the White House:
ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday that Turkey’s military has launched a long-expected offensive into northeastern Syria targeting U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters who have played a central role in battling the Islamic State militant group. [WashPost]
This is on Trump's head. But the shame is on all of us Americans.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Democrats: Compromising Voter Access to the Polls Is Unacceptable

"Good Lord Almighty!" as my grandfather might have said. What were they thinking?

"What the hell!" as any voter today might say, seeing how "compromise" on the Forsyth County Board of Elections is never good news for the voters.

They just want to get along in Forsyth County, so the Democratic majority gave up Sunday voting in exchange for an early voting site on the campus of Winston-Salem State University -- the first such poll on campus since 2010.

Gave up Sunday voting. Got an EV site at WSSU.

Should have insisted on both, and they could have had both if they had been willing to make their case for greater ballot access to the State Board of Elections. The Forsyth Democrats could have dealt with a split vote -- Early Voting plans have to be unanimous on local boards, otherwise the State Board of Elections adopts the plan after hearing from both sides. If BOTH Sunday voting and the EV site at WSSU are good for voters, then both should have been fought for. And right now the current State Board of Elections seems to favor greater ballot access. I would think the Forsyth Democratic majority's plan would get a fair hearing in Raleigh. Do the math.

Why the Democrats on the Forsyth Board are so prone to compromising away more access to voting for some elusive (and illusory) bi-partisan consensus -- I don't get the weakness of that. I don't understand it. When Democrats finally have a majority on boards of election, they continue to act like underdogs, and complacent underdogs at that.

From the Winston-Salem Journal: "Although Democrats also wanted early voting at the Miller Park Community Center, in the end they dropped that plea." Miller Park Community Ctr. is smack in Ardmore, south of Business I-40, in a neighborhood of very small house lots originally platted for workforce housing from 1910 into the 1920s. Guess who votes there now.

The Forsyth Dems gave up too much. They didn't have to give up anything.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Joe, You Gotta Fight Back

I was always a fan of Joe Biden. When he was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Sandra Day O'Connor came up for confirmation, I happened to be living in DeeCee and stood in line for hours to get into that huge hearing room and watch Joe Biden in action. He was engaging, warm, incisive, often funny, self-deprecating, and very entertaining. I liked his easy manner, his intelligence, his good-guy-Joe persona.

He was a good man and still is. You can't say that about his smearing and sneering tormentor in the White House.

I also won't forget the speech Joe made in accepting the DNC's nomination to be Barack Obama's vice president. That was Denver in 2008. When he got to talking about his father and his mother (his mother was there that night), and the lessons he learned from them about forthrightness and honesty, bravery and fair-dealing -- "A man is defined by his sense of honor" -- that was at the heart of who Joe Biden was and is and has always been as an elected official. He's never been known as a mud wrestler, and he eschews negative campaigning as dishonorable. He was taught to be a man in the best American tradition.

Below, Joe's 2008 DNC speech. At 4:55 he begins to talk about his parents and the way he grew up:

The way Twitterman has sought to destroy Joe Biden by smearing his problem-child son Hunter is at least two nasty rungs below despicable. And we can see father Joe flummoxed by the brazenness of the attack and struggling to know exactly how to respond. Hunter has evidently been a troubled human being, and maybe it was politically unwise for him to take a high-dollar international job while his father was VP, but corrupt and dishonest? There's no evidence of that, except the innuendo of Trump and Guiliani, who wouldn't know the truth.

Joe took a long time to respond to the attacks. He finally did this past week, on Thursday, October 3, in a Reno, Nev. speech that got little notice outside the chattering classes. The "I'm Not Going Anywhere" speech addressed directly the character and the sayings of Donald J. Trump, but -- watch it -- the opening delivery is so lacking in energy, conviction, that fighting spirit, it comes across like a dirge, not a counter-attack:

When Biden characterizes Trump like this -- "Like every bully in history, Trump's afraid" -- he's on a tactical threshold, and he needs to step on through. Paint a new portrait of the president as bully who deserves to have his block knocked off. Take the "virtue" the MAGA people worship -- the strength myth of the "You're-Fired" guy from TeeVee -- and reveal it for what it actually is: The cruelty of a self-pitying and insecure little rich brat.

I probably won't vote for Joe in March (but I'll work like hell for him next November, if he's the nominee). But I can't stand to watch him pummeled and deflated, besmirched without cause, dishonored by a dishonorable homunculus who snuck into power and wields it without morals, ethics, or -- yes-- honor. I read this about Joe's team this morning in the NYTimes: "There is no final consensus, in Mr. Biden’s camp, about how consistently he should confront Mr. Trump." I throw up my hands. I may be witnessing the final act of a great public servant as a mere whimper. I hope not. The American tradition of dealing with a bully is to put blood in his mouth.