Friday, September 18, 2020

So Now Rep. Ray Russell Is Antifa?


This is the kind of ridiculous attack piece that backfires on a Republican challenger like Ray Pickett.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Watauga GOP Breaks the Furniture in Its Charm Offensive To Win the Affection of AppState Voters

Eric Eller, far left, with Nancy Owen next to him
in the middle

First, Republican member of the Watauga Board of Elections, Eric Eller, addressed a letter to AppState Police Chief Andrew Stephenson last July 8th, raising the specter that Black Lives Matter activists might threaten voters at on-campus voting sites. 

When that letter became public on the AppState campus, an uproar ensued in which student government leaders demanded that Eller resign his seat on the BOE. Eller refused to resign. He also refused to apologize.

The other four members of the Watauga BOE, including the other Republican member Nancy Owen, sent a letter to AppState student government leaders apologizing for Eller's letter and disavowing that he spoke for them in expressing fear of Black students. The letter said in part:

... [Eller's] letter was not authorized by the Board of Elections. It was the action of one member acting on his own. The letter does reference “our board” and “our agenda” and is signed by the individual as “Member, Watauga County Board of Elections”. A reader could certainly infer that it was written on behalf of the Board. It was not.

Members of the Board of Elections are nominated by political parties, but we are then pledged to work in a non-partisan manner. When this letter was written, we were working together on plans for holding an election during a pandemic. To some of us, it seemed the better course not to publicize a letter with which we disagreed, but rather to move on. We knew that the writer did not speak for the Board, but we failed to make that clear to the public we serve. Avoiding conflict then has allowed for misunderstanding, suspicion and pain now. Our neglect was wrong, and we apologize....

Eller then doubled-down, herded fellow Republican Nancy Owen with him, and with the masterful lawyering of Nathan Miller, sued the State Board of Elections for approving a Watauga Early Voting Plan that put an early voting site in the AppState Student Union. How he and Owen have standing to sue is still an open question in this household, but the continued brilliance of the Watauga GOP in wooing the youth vote surpasses previous years of their feverish attempts to block, thwart, hobble, and otherwise discourage ballot access on the AppState campus.

Congratulations are in order.

The Body Count -- Michael Caputo


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

Michael Caputo, the top spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services and a longtime ally of President Trump's, is taking a 60-day leave of absence after a social media tirade in which he falsely accused government scientists of engaging in "sedition."

HHS announced the leave in a news release yesterday, which said Caputo decided to take the two months off as the department's assistant secretary for public affairs "to focus on his health and the well-being of his family."

The leave of absence effectively removes Caputo from government operations through November's election. The statement also announced that Paul Alexander, whom Caputo had brought in as a scientific adviser, would be leaving the department altogether.

Last week, Caputo came under fire after reports that he and Alexander sought to edit and delay public health reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Emails from Alexander obtained by Politico complained to CDC Director Robert Redfield that the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report "hurt the President," and described data-based publications on the risk of the coronavirus in children as "hit pieces on the administration" that undermined Trump's school reopening plan.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

News Flash: Republican Members of Watauga Board of Elections Seek Injunction Against Early Voting Site in AppState's Student Union


Eric Eller and Nancy Owen, the Republican members of the Watauga County Board of Elections, have filed a complaint in the Wake County Superior Court seeking to block an early voting site in the Appalachian State University student union.

Eller and Owen are represented by Boone attorney Nathan Miller, who has a long history of bringing suits to suppress the student vote.

Eller and Owen are asking for an expedited hearing on their complaint. Early voting is due to begin October 15.

Would You Take a Hurried-Up Trump Vaccine?


Sen. Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham faced each other last night in the first of three scheduled debates. This morning, the News and Observer chose to headline Cunningham's expressed "hesitance" about taking a COVID-19 vaccine that was rushed through trials to serve the politics of a lying liar. Tillis said that Cunningham's suspicion that politics was trumping science was "irresponsible."

Irresponsible? It seems responsible in the extreme to be suspicious of having something injected into our bodies that hasn't been thoroughly tested and vetted and certified by public health professionals as not only safe but also effective for the intended purpose.

Right now this minute, Trump has installed a man cheerleading for armed rebellion into a key communications post at the Centers for Disease Control -- Michael Caputo, a close ally of convicted liar Roger Stone, "made outlandish and false accusations on Sunday that career government scientists were engaging in 'sedition' in their handling of the pandemic and that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election."

Sedition. That's a Trumpian set-up if I've ever seen one (and I've seen plenty). Any scientist who subsequently suggests that Trump's hurried-up vaccine is not safe, not effective, will be branded a traitor to the president. You can see that coming, right?

Cal Cunningham's hesitance is just good sense. Tillis's shock is more toadying to a strong man he's profoundly afraid of.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Joyce Elliott Looking Better To Flip a US House Seat in Arkansas

I warned you guys back on August 2nd that you should pay attention to Democrat Joyce Elliott, running for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of Arkansas. Arkansas. Elliott is one of those dynamic new Black women running for office all across the land, and new polling puts her essentially even right now with the Republican incumbent, French Hill.

“The congressional race is thoroughly tethered to the presidential race in the current polling with all the geographic, demographic, and political patterns from the presidential race essentially replicated. Thus, while the presidential race is a referendum on Trump, the congressional race — in which Hill has not attempted to separate himself from the top of the ticket — is driven by nationalized patterns. Elliott’s campaign has emphasized her public education credentials, including 30 years as a teacher, which serves her particularly well in suburbanized communities where public schools serve as the glue for communities like Conway, Bryant, and Benton.

 “Elliott does run just behind Biden in Pulaski County [Little Rock] and needs to close that gap to maximize her vote in the largest county. She does also underperform slightly with younger voters (who are more likely to be undecided) and college-educated voters. Otherwise, the Biden and Elliott coalitions look very much alike.

“With Elliott showing solid fundraising success, all signs point to a very close race in the district before early voting begins. Elliott relies upon Biden maintaining his strong position in the district. Hill either needs Trump to rejuvenate his standing nationally or he must figure out how to subtly separate himself from the President without alienating core Trump voters.”


Saturday, September 12, 2020

C.J. Cregg, You Rock Me


C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney

So we started watching "The West Wing" -- from the pilot episode, on -- to check our memories that it was the best TV of all time. Netflix obliged us. That old show -- which premiered in 1999 on NBC in the waning days of Bill Clinton's misadventures in Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac -- looks to me now like evergreen commentary on guts versus compromise and a culturally significant artifact from the sundowning of American liberalism. 

I don't believe I found the show until well into its 1st season of 22 episodes, in the late fall of 1999, as the buzz about it spread. I remember Stockard Channing vividly as Abigail Bartlet, but she didn't appear as a character until about four episodes into the run. So the earliest eps are new to me, but the whole production has made me laugh out loud, and moved me to tears, and reminded me of our naive hopes and unrealized fears about a president who is actually a good person. Cheating on his wife would never happen, nor cheating period. 

I try to remember what we were up to back when "The West Wing" captured our imaginations. We had recently been involved in the painful resurrection of a Democratic Party in our local county. Old Guard Democrats were not amused that we had organized insurgents in almost all 20 precincts and took control of the party at the 1997 county convention. Which split the party. Which took time to heal (and may not in fact be fully healed even yet). 

The new guys were activists and organizers, "liberals" in the parlance of the day. Bright-eyed optimists and pushy reformers who wanted to change stuff. They easily earned the resentment and opposition from a conservative old guard. But the new party -- better organized with each passing month -- nevertheless won two seats on the local county commission in 1998, and with the election of a third Democrat, very much an old guard type who eventually admitted that he was really a Republican and switched parties -- Democrats had taken control of county government for the first time in years. "Control," so to speak because while liberals ran the Party, conservatives ran the County Commission and were rooted among the business elite. During the election campaigns of 2000, the old guard actually opened its own rival "Democratic Party HDQs" and entertained its own constituency, especially among the legal community and various business interests. 

I had sort of forgotten that "The West Wing" was really about those same tectonic pressures and the strains and failures that can follow. President Josiah ("Jed") Bartlet's flaw is his hesitance, a caution about acting on his beliefs, and the great dramatic conflict of the first season seesaws between a desirable liberal menu of high-minded cultural causes, and the iron maiden of compromise ("betrayal"). The greatest threats to the stability of the universe is said to be the liberals who are too radical, refusing under any circumstances to compromise. The frustrations of the president's idealistic staff, that even with a liberal Democrat as president, liberals are always always forced to compromise away the marrow of their beliefs. But finally, in the episode titled "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet," number 19 of 22, the president and his chief of staff decide to stop the habit of pussyfooting and to make the appointments they want to, rather than the ones the party honchos in the Senate want. They gird for battle, the promised retaliation by a Congress in the hands of the opposition. You feel your pulse quicken when fictional characters take out the sword and throw away the scabbard.

C.J. Cregg, played by wonderful flamingo Allison Janney, provides stunningly fresh commentary from two decades ago on what a presidential Press Secretary ought not to be, a lying co-conspirator in a criminal enterprise. C.J. Cregg suffers torment when she inadvertently cites the law wrong on appointees to the Federal Election Commission -- an honest error of not reading the briefing paper -- and she agonizes like a repentant sinner in the hands of an angry God, even going to the president for forgiveness for something so inconsequential. She intends always to be accurate, to be honest, and anyone causing her to utter untruths in the daily briefing is in for hellfire. She has a powerful moral compass and can blast the president himself to stay out of something he has no business sticking his nose into. She's a rock and funny to boot. A sense of humor about herself, and honesty -- a combo missing from our world.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

The Woman Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

So today I found Angela Mayfield, a Democrat in Georgia running against a four-term incumbent Republican for a Georgia House seat. The incumbent doesn't even usually have an opponent, so Angela Mayfield is just what the doctor ordered -- a gutsy, no-nonsense, kick-ass woman unafraid to talk the way we talk. Also a progressive who's scaring the holy hell out of the white men.

"Anyway. I’m Angela Mayfield. I’m tired of tater tot legislators who care more about the health and welfare of Confederate statues, than Black mothers and babies. My mother follows me here, so everything I say, I say in front of my Mama. Underestimate me again."

She broke through to local fame when the managing editor of the Douglas County Sentinel scrolled through her Twitter feed for months past and found that she used the word "pussy" in reference to a sexual act which she said too many "babymen" were loath to perform. The editor sent Mayfield a question about that, being ever so careful not to use the p-word:

Mayfield was scornful of his squeamishness and began to have fun with him:

And then this, when the editor went suddenly mute:

The editor of the paper retaliated with a front-page article, above the fold (which I've not been able to read in its entirety because ... paywall ... but I'm not giving this rag any of my money):

So Angela Mayfield goes into my 2020 pantheon of strong women running for office and ruffling feathers. I've no insight into this district, its demographics, nor her prospects, but it's fair to note that the newspaper's hit piece on her helped her raise some $50,000 in contributions. Her Republican opponent is scared shitless.

The Way the Pendulum Swings in North Carolina


Am I going to read an article titled "Suburban Women Hold the Balance of Power in the Swingiest of Swing States" (meaning, yes, North Carolina)? You bet I am!

It opens with this profile of "a decisive voter," meaning a voter who hasn't decided yet but whose vote, once they do decide, will be decisive: 

She’s white, college-educated, unaffiliated and moved to a close-in suburb of Charlotte or Raleigh in the last decade or two — and as Election Day looms, she’s still making up her mind.

Some vital stats:

...of the 7,040,308 registered voters as of last month, 36 percent are Democrats and 30 percent are Republicans, but an ascendant 33 percent are unaffiliated — the fastest-growing group, clustered in the fastest-growing suburbs. And of that 33 percent, [Paul] Shumaker, a Tillis consultant, wrote in a recent memo to donors, 30 percent are “behavioral Republicans,” 30 percent are “behavioral Democrats,” and the remaining 40 percent are “pure swing voters.” These, both sides agree, are the voters that are most up for grabs — in the places that are most up for grabs.

One of those places most up for grabs? According to US Senate candidate Cal Cunningham, it's definitely “the urban ring around Charlotte.” Said Cal, “That is going to decide probably the presidential race and possibly the outcome of the United States Senate. And it’s ground zero for a marquee governor’s race.”

Good to know. We've been following several General Assembly races in Cabarrus County, part of that "urban ring around Charlotte," and we like the image of a confluence of irresistible forces there.

Republican operatives are thinking Trump can scare those suburban women into voting for him because antifa! ... BLM! ... invasive species threatening the suburbs! Democratic operatives are convinced that suburban women are not idiots -- they know who's been stirring the trouble and for what ends.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Iconoclasm Has Its Limits


A few days ago, a Washington, DeeCee, commission formed in response to Black Lives Matter issued a report recommending that the Mayor and city government "remove, relocate or contextualize" the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument because of the slave-holding history of those two presidential honorees. The report additionally "recommended renaming dozens of public schools, parks and government buildings in the nation’s capital — including those named for seven U.S. presidents — after studying the historical namesakes’ connections to slavery and oppression."

Conservatives lost their shit. They had not read past the word remove, which -- let's face it -- is both alarming and ridiculous, to get to the word contextualize, which ought always to be done for public art from the past meant to memorialize what certain elite groups were thinking about great personalities and great events at the time. 

I can't account for the brilliant minds that decided to list the options that way -- "remove, relocate or contextualize" -- since the failure to deal with reality in the first two options -- relocate the Jefferson Memorial? Seriously?) renders irrelevant the only sensible option, "contextualize," and we're left wondering, "Is this committee a ship of fools or just stampeding for survival with the herd?"

This is what gives liberalism and liberals a bad name. This is what Republicans mean when they screech about "cancel culture." Trump set the pace after Charlottesville: “So this week, it’s Robert E. Lee, I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

If ever Trump could think clearly for a change, or within any contextual frame, I might have to agree with him. I don't like the blunt force trauma of wiping out the history of our mistaken venerations. Civic monuments erected at particular points in our history recorded contemporary thinking about the various flawed individuals who defined our values at that particular time. Contextualizing "Silent Sam" at Chapel Hill would have been preferable to pushing his nose into the dirt. Imagine a new plaque in front of "Silent Sam": "Here stands the expression of white supremacy as it existed in 1890 North Carolina. This statue was meant to proclaim, 'Venerate the Confederacy to keep the Blacks in their place!' "

Southern monuments, in particular those erected between 1890 and 1920 (and most frequently on public property), were mainly reminders of Jim Crow. So I cannot grieve the removal of those set up at court houses, like the one removed from the Chatham County Courthouse in Pittsboro, or the ones on State Capitol grounds also recently removed to storage. Those were objectionable because their expressions of "Our White Heritage" looked, because of their overt placement near the benches of justice, not only sanctioned by government but part-and-parcel of government, with the power to segregate, harass, and execute.

The North Carolina monument    
at Gettysburg, sculpted by
Gutzon Borglum

I cherish the Gettysburg Battlefield which is littered with hundreds of statues -- some of them the size of WWI battleships. The Confederacy is amply and suitably represented. The North Carolina monument in particular haunts me. I had to get up close and study the faces of the soldiers, ordinary enlisted men -- the bravery, determination, and resignation that sculptor Gutzon Borglum, the creator of Mt. Rushmore, captured. Their tragic devotion to the cause of maintaining slavery humbles one's tendency to pass judgment too quickly on our ideological opponents.

Civil War battlefields or museums -- that's where the Confederate monuments and statues belong, within and because of an historical context. There they are no longer the pugnacious and threatening specters of white people lording it over black people to the point of violence. They are images of the brave and dedicated men who rebelled for the sake of maintaining an economy built on slavery, and who paid the ultimate price.

Some of the Southern generals were brilliant and cunning, and those qualities speak to pretty perennial American values. Whether generals or mega-businessmen, we've tended to elevate the most ruthless among us. It's a sad fact (read Jill Lepore's recent "These Truths: A History of the United States") that our Constitution was written essentially to protect property from certain Democratic urges that the elite feared, and especially the property of Southern plantation society. Realizing those flaws in our founding values, contextualizing them (and amending the damn Constitution!), is the best we can do with what we've been given. We can't remove our foundations, but we can understand them more profoundly.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Trump Bombshell Dropped on the Military: Will It Matter to the Congressional Race in NC-8?


The American military was already backing away from Trump -- carefully, to be sure (discussed more below) -- even before his contempt for military sacrifice became a bombshell revelation yesterday.

I immediately wondered how that totally credible news of Trump's betrayal would affect the Democratic insurgency of Patricia Timmons-Goodson down in the 8th Congressional District. She's from Fayetteville, in Cumberland County, which just happens to hold two large military parks: the US Army at Fort Bragg and the US Air Force at Pope, meaning, in short, that the military vote in Cumberland County could be a wildcard heavy thumb on the political scales of 2020. Being pissed at what Trump said could sway the election toward the Democrat. But are they pissed?

(NOTE: Used to be, in the old 8th district, only the northern, more rural parts of Cumberland were included, but that already included Fort Bragg and Pope. The new 8th adds all of Cumberland, including more urbanized and liberal Fayetteville. Which makes the 8th lean slightly more Democratic, though it's still stubbornly labeled "Lean Republican" by the Cook Report.)

I've been surfing this a.m. for any answer to how Trump is playing there this weekend. Can't find a thing specific to the populations of Bragg and Pope, and the Fayetteville Observer gives me nothing. What I did run into was background on how the military decided to ban all displays of Confederate battle flags without triggering Trump's wrath (he has very forcefully defended everything Confederate). Because Trump's also notorious for not reading, the Pentagon's order cleverly buried their ban by not using the word ban, nor the word Confederate, and by making their policy order sound wholly positive, not negative. Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed the order on Thursday night, listing all that's allowed, and so much is allowed (U.S. and state banners, flags of other allies and partners, the widely displayed POW/MIA flag, and official military unit flags). The Confederate flag is not listed. Oops. But it would take reading to understand what just happened. The Pentagon's wording was "a creative way to bar the flag’s display without openly contradicting or angering President Donald Trump" (Lolita C. Baldor, AP).

That significant attempt to deceive the Commander in Chief is what I was referring to in the lead graph above: "Military, backing away from Trump already," even before he characterized their sacrifice as sucker-hood. Not to put too fine a point on it, the freshest and most promising new federal Democratic candidates since 2016 have tended to be former military men and women. I'm not going to list them here now. Take my word for it: the new Democratic star is likely former military, fed up with Donald Trump. I've profiled a bunch of them here since 2017, in many different states.

Timmons-Goodson is a distinguished lawyer and jurist, with 30 years experience including a seat on the NC Supreme Court and nomination by Barack Obama to the US 4th Circuit. She's massively accomplished and Black. The "new 8th" still contains plenty of the "old 8th," the conservative White counties of Harnett, Moore, Montgomery, and Stanly. A Black woman in the race complicates the Deep South metrics -- the incumbent Republican is a White man, Richard Hudson, who's supposedly more moderate than most of his brethren. But her candidacy maybe also liberates a different voting bloc that hasn't been participating up to their potential. The new 8th is about 1/4th Black. It's more heavily urban in the far east -- Cumberland -- and also the far west, Cabarrus (with its big city of Concord), which is increasingly a suburb of Charlotte and where there are several other strong Democrats making energetic runs for the General Assembly. They all mutually benefit one another.

I have no -- zero -- information nor insight about how Trump's words are playing among the active duty in Cumberland County, just curiosity to know. Not just the active duty personnel but also the retired military community, which I've been led to believe is substantial. The military has always been considered a part of the Republican base, hasn't it? Trump's been reportedly popular with the troops, and he's certainly courted their approval, which just makes his reported opinions about the Service all the more a betrayal.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

What the Hell R U Talking About, Virginia Foxx?


Virginia Foxx, autograph hound

The Appalachian's political editor Moss Brennan reported
something that Virginia Foxx said at a meet-the-candidates event at Hollar and Greene on Sunday (August 30):

“You know, the Democrats cannot win at the ballot box. They just can’t,” Foxx told the crowd.

What? What species of Trumpist lying bullshit is that? 

Here are the facts of how Virginia Foxx has fared at the effing ballot box in Watauga County, her home county, since her first run for the US House in 2004:

2004 Foxx beat Democrat Jim Harrell with 54.62 percent of the vote

2006 Democrat Roger Sharpe beat Foxx, who took only 46.42 percent of the vote

2008 Democrat Roy Carter beat Foxx, who took only 46.33 percent of the vote

2010 Foxx beat Democrat Billy Kennedy barely, with 51.16 percent of the vote

2012 Democrat Elisabeth Motsinger beat Foxx, who took 49.96 percent of the vote

2014 Democrat Josh Brannon beat Foxx, who took 49.04 percent of the vote

2016 Democrat Josh Brannon again beat Foxx, who took 49.04 percent of the vote

2018 Democrat D.D. Adams beat Foxx, who took 43.63 percent of the vote

That's what the ballot box has done to Virginia Foxx in her home county. She won her very first race here in 2004, and she edged out Billy Kennedy in the Tea Party year of 2010. But she's been beaten every other election at the ballot box in her home county. But. yeah, you tell your lie, Madam, that Democrats can't win at the ballot box.

Not making predictions here, but your track record in your home county suggests that you'll lose Watauga again in 2020 to David Wilson Brown. At the effing ballot box, which I personally can't wait to reach in order to send you my biennial message of disgust.