Friday, October 30, 2020

Georgia Republican David Perdue Should Not Have Shown Up Wednesday Night


I was unenthusiastic about Democrat Jon Ossoff's decision to take on incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue in Georgia. Ossoff had run unsuccessfully in 2017 in a special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District. He lost, even though he raised a metric ton of money. I began to think he was a focus-group candidate, created in a backroom by campaign consultants, groomed because he checked a bunch of boxes for electability but lacked a core belief system that could energize a Democratic base.

I take it all back. Ossoff obliterated Perdue in a televised debate on Wednesday night, a take-down so savage (when have you ever seen a candidate call another candidate a "crook" to his face?) that Perdue has dropped out of the last debate with Ossoff which was supposed to be on Sunday night and which was agreed to back in September.

Here's a clip, but there was much more dismantling beyond this (and have you ever seen a better impersonation of that proverbial deer in the headlights than Perdue?):

If Texas Goes Blue, I'll Win a Bet

I have a bet on the outcome in Texas, and serendipitously I hear from my oldest friend in Texas with some on-the-ground analysis:

This election has rendered me manic-depressive. My emotions range from euphoria to depression. 

Today's polls suggest NC looks better than Texas. CNN's "poll of polls" has Biden +3 in NC. Texas polls are all over the place: from Trump +1 to Biden +4. I don't know that I can offer you much comfort about Texas. At least it's trending during the past year from Republican to leaning Republican to a toss-up. 

There is good news. 1.9 million new people registered in Texas since 2016. Much of that driven by grassroots registration and get out the vote drives. Beto has led the most successful recruiting with thousands of people, mostly young, to calling and texting and lately knocking on doors. My son hosted a webinar this Tuesday with Beto to talk about gerrymandering which became mainly about his efforts to flip the Texas House to control redistricting next year. He was pleased with the efforts of his army, but mentioned how much better they could have done if the Biden campaign had taken Texas seriously. Bloomberg is pumping in millions and Harris tomorrow will campaign in the Rio Grande Valley, Ft Worth, and Houston. 

Texas is 40% Latino and 2/3 voted Dem in 2016. One million Latinos turned 18 this year in the U.S. A large chunk in Texas. That group was one of Beto's targets. And the young Latinos are more liberal than their more conservative parents and grandparents. The best way to be a successful state Dem candidate in the valley is to be anti-abortion. Strong Catholic hold on the older Latinos. 

One million early voters in Texas are below 30 years old. In Houston, the young city officials are holding the polls open from 7am today until 7 pm Friday, the last day of voting. Yeah, 36 hours, through Thursday night without closing. Beto and the Dem campaign officials keep saying Texas is not a red state but a non-voting state. With enough voters who hadn't voted before, Texas is blue. Also, the concern about Biden's comments in the last debate about "transitioning" from fossil fuels is not as big a big deal in Texas as the Republicans hoped. Texas is not just an oil state anymore. Being a state without a state income tax, we attract all kinds of businesses and have become a leading state with technology centers as well as now big in windmill energy (you know about west Texas wind) and solar farms. 

Here's an interesting polling projection I read this morning: If all the electoral votes go to the candidate in each state who leads in the polling by 3% or more, Biden wins with 326 votes. And if the state polls are as wrong this year as in 2016, Biden wins by 335. I didn't believe that last number until I saw that there were more states where polls underestimated the Dem vote than overestimated the Dem vote.

As you can see, I'm not only manic-depressive, but also obsessed with this election. Counting the days. 

Gotta Love @Jakeli_117


Thursday, October 29, 2020

'Anonymous' Is Anonymous No More

Remember the famous anonymous op-ed published in the New York Times in 2018, "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration," which later became a book titled "A Warning" by Anonymous?

Boy, I do. Those writings launched a whole cottage industry of speculation: "Who is Anonymous?" VP Mike Pence denied he wrote it. Ditto Mike Pompeo. DNI Dan Coats denied it but was forced out anyway. Someone, possibly on drugs, suggested that TreasurySec Steven Mnuchin wrote it. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen got fingered for it and denied it via her press secretary. Maybe SecDef Jim Mattis. Hilariously, maybe even Rick Perry, who is only tenuously literate. Kellyanne Conway, Wilbur Ross, Nikki Haley, Betsy DeVos (hahahaha!), Ben Carson, Mick Mulvaney, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, disgraced Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, CIA Director Gina Haspel, White House counsel Don McGahn, and many others made the cut and were forced to deny it because Herr Trump was watching.

Turns out "Anonymous" was Myles Taylor, chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, so the closest anybody came to the truth was suggesting Kirstjen Nielsen, for whom Myles Taylor worked. He was in and out of the Oval Office and in meetings with Trump constantly. He absorbed his boss's knowledge and pain, since Nielsen was fired from the job for resisting "some of Mr. Trump’s demands — including shutting down the border with Mexico and shooting people crossing the border illegally in the legs to slow them down" (Michael D. Shear). 

As one of Ms. Nielsen’s top advisers, Mr. Taylor was part of the administration during some of the most controversial decisions of Mr. Trump’s first three years in office, including the ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries, the decision to separate immigrant children from their parents at the border and the efforts to turn back asylum seekers.

Nielsen was fired in April 2019. Taylor left government soon after in June of that year.

Taylor is a moral hero. I don't care that he blew the whistle anonymously. I don't care that he comes out of the closet now, so close to the election. He was the first to say something's bad wrong with the strange man in the Oval Office. His was the first Molotov cocktail hurled over the wall in what became a blizzard of bombs, both Trump's astonishing subversion of ethics and morality, the revelations followed by placid, grazing cow satisfaction from his supporters (whom we all fear now like working scissors in the hands of a running toddler). Years later, after so much chaos, we can barely remember "I Am Part of the Resistance."

Taylor is also a calculating operator, and I respect that. He's an ideological conservative and deeply partisan. He says in his published confession, "...former Vice President Joe Biden is likely to pursue progressive reforms that conservatives oppose (and rest assumed, we will challenge them...)." He decided on anonymity out of pure tactical necessity: Trump was already well known as a vicious insulter of people he wanted his followers to hate as his enemies and enemies of the State. Blind hatred became the only reality. Taylor correctly calculated that his inside revelations about a man too clueless to rule and too corrupt to abide would get lost if he signed the op-ed. He knew that he would personally become the battered beachball for Trump and his social media tribe while his great concerns about a government going off the rails would be ignored.

He was right. He was strategic, which is what we all have to be as the Republic circles the drain.

SCOTUS Lets Stand New Extended Deadline in NC for Mailed Ballots



In a 5-3 decision yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to order North Carolina to return to an old deadline of November 6th for receiving mailed absentee ballots. The revised deadline of November 12th was allowed to stand, but all mailed ballots still have to be postmarked by next Tuesday, November 3rd.

Newest Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part in the deliberations or the decision.

The tag-team of Phil Berger and Tim Moore had brought the suit as a further effort to squelch the legitimate votes of distracted voters, people working two jobs, laggards, and idle layabouts who couldn't get their ballots mailed earlier.

Previous SCOTUS rulings about extended timelines for receiving and counting absentee ballots are confusing some people, particularly Trumpists who don't read. For example, SCOTUS ruled 5-3 on Monday night that Wisconsin could not extend its deadline for accepting mailed ballots.

The difference between North Carolina and Wisconsin is that SCOTUS was dealing with state court decisions in the case of NC, with Federal court decisions in the case of Wisconsin, and so far at least Chief Justice John Roberts is not willing to overrule state courts that are carrying out the mandates contained in their own constitutions. (Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch feel no similar restraint.)

That reluctance for SCOTUS to impose itself on individual state courts (at least in matters of ballot access) is likely to dissolve once Coney Barrett gets unpacked in her new office.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Body Count -- Ronald Sanders

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

Ronald Sanders, the Trump-appointed head of the Federal Salary Council, a key advisory council on the civil service, has resigned over a Trump executive order to strip away protections against political interference in hiring and firing for a large portion of the career federal workforce.

Sanders said in his letter of resignation that the president's order “is nothing more than a smoke screen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the President, or failing that, to enable their removal with little if any due process.”

“I simply cannot be part of an Administration that seeks ... to replace apolitical expertise with political obeisance. Career Federal employees are legally and duty-bound to be nonpartisan; they take an oath to preserve and protect our Constitution and the rule of law ... not to be loyal to a particular President or Administration,” he wrote.

2020 Sucks. So Does Mark Meadows

The "death march" on June 1, 2020.
Meadows is 3rd from right, next to Trump.
Former Congressman Mark Meadows (NC-11) has left a trail of political havoc pretty much everywhere he's been. One of his earliest fender-benders was the 2013 government shutdown to stop Obamacare. That did not gild the GOP with glory. In 2018 (still in the House as leader of the Freedom Caucus) he helped get Trump a little more money for "border security," which certainly endeared him to Twitterman, and soon (March 8, 2020) Mark Meadows was elevated to White House Chief of Staff (Trump's 4th).

But to get to the White House, Meadows needed to extricate himself from his North Carolina congressional seat. Hmmm. 

Mark Meadows' To Do List, December 2019

1. Find a trustworthy successor, someone you know will play ball. (Ah, wife's personal friend and Tea Party debuttante, Lynda Bennett of Maggie Valley.)

2. Advantage Lynda Bennett's campaign every underhanded way you can.

3. Take the P.R. heat from a crowd of Republican primary candidates running with Bennett who think you crossed the line in advantaging her. Especially critical of you is young Madison Cawthorn, one of about 15 candidates vying for the office. Also Jim Davis, NC Senate member, favored by the Republican establishment.

4. Hide and watch Bennett get only 21% of the primary vote (though finishing as Number 1) and face a run-off against -- surprise! -- Madison Cawthorn.

5. Get Trump to endorse Bennett in the run-off. Check.

6. Watch in shock as Slickster Cawthorn runs away with the election, fueled partly by his Bachelor vibe and partly by widespread Republican resentment at the way you sprung your retirement on the district.

Meadows attempted to repair all this damage to his reputation back home by immediately pivoting to wholehearted endorsement of Cawthorn, shoveling corporate help his way and getting him into the presence (though carefully distanced) of Donald J. Trump along with star billing at the Republican National Convention. Reality show stuff. Maybe good TV, but the whole saga smells situationally tawdry, like a bacteria-laden swamp. Plus Golden Boy has turned leaden, sandblasted by a series of unfortunate revelations.

This morning WashPost reporter Josh Dawsey published "Meadows Under Fire as Trump Chief of Staff," and we learn again the hallmarks of the Meadows touch. He's criticized anew for being "ineffective," a "bungler," a sender of mixed messages, secretive. He claims to rely on -- as a kind of job manual -- “The Gatekeepers,” a book on presidential chiefs of staff by Chris Whipple. Chris Whipple, though, went on the record to say this: “It’s hard to count the ways Meadows has failed as chief of staff. It’s been an unmitigated disaster.”

Photo by Amanda Volsard,
for the WashPost
But Meadows thrives because he's attached himself to Trump as fawning sycophant, the one who agrees and enables, the one willing to take a bullet -- whether hot lead or hot virus. He jumped into the helicopter with Trump to Walter Reed, the only staffer to do so. Then he practically slept at Trump's feet in the hospital. He wasn't afraid of COVID. In fact, he'd already survived one self-quarantining the actual day after he was named chief of staff. So what's this flu-like chest cold to one so devoted to the leader? He even apes Trump's dress style. It's embarrassing.

"Unmitigated Disaster"

Among the other torn sheets of Meadows' tenure in the White House, none is more galling and life-threatening than his hand in getting Scott Atlas, the "herd-immunity" king, into intimate contact with Trump. Dawsey reports that Meadows "helped empower Scott Atlas," a single act that will eventually be credited for tens of thousands more preventable deaths from the coronavirus.

Meadows has also (and rather notoriouslyflirted with young-Earth creationism, the ultra-conservative belief that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. Anyone who encourages that will also believe any cockamamie medical theory in 2020 and be a lethal threat to all of us.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Another Sterling Example of Video Advertising

In my quest to be infinitely entertained by good candidate introductory videos, I stumbled onto Minnesoootan Dan Feehan by way of this paragraph in a WashPost article:

In Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District — which borders South Dakota, includes a large rural population, and went for Trump by 15 points in 2016 — Democrats are outspending GOP incumbent Jim Hagedorn, $2.7 million to $1.8 million. Candidate Dan Feehan, a former Army ranger in Iraq and onetime public school teacher, almost defeated Hagedorn two years ago, coming up 1,300 votes short. Now he’s trying again.

So I hastened to his campaign website and found this absolutely first-rate introductory video. How can you not relate to this guy and instantly like him? (Whoever thought of the unifying device of a covered dish supper needs to get a bonus. And the corny bits of Minnesota humor warm my cold, cold heart.) I'm especially gratified that Feehan doesn't just introduce himself but also draws a stilleto-sharp contrast to the incumbent, jowly Jim Hagedorn, who could be a poster-child for "Retire This Corrupt Politician."

Watch it: 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

There's Only One Issue in This Election

So Trump benched the actual doctors and scientists who know something about pandemics and how they spread, about the same time that Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist, joined the White House's Coronavirus Taskforce and began telling Trump that the real response to the disease ought to include infecting as many healthy people as possible -- herd immunity, dontcha know? Rarely has a harebrained theory better fit the predisposition of a dumb, lazy leader whose own inclination is to deny everything and simply ignore a wildfire that is hitting a third distinct peak with over 80,000 new infections daily.

Ignore and facilitate the death rate. That's the two verbs of the Trump regime.

New reported cases by day in the United States, 7-day average
Note: Rural areas are those counties located outside of metropolitan areas, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. They may include small cities and towns.

The trend-lines depicted above go from March 1, where it's totally flat, to October 20th, a few days ago. The blue line is Metro areas. The red line is rural areas. [More discussion of the graph in the NYTimes]


The Quest for Herd Immunity, Boone-style, last night at a local bar/restaurant -- recorded video by The Appalachian's star reporter Moss Brennan (go look for yourself. My attempt to embed the video here went haywire).

The adult (😜) version of that shit-for-brains behavior:

It's verifiable that the places where Trump holds rallies subsequently experience spikes in COVID cases. For example, a total of 23 COVID-19 cases were traced to two rallies that Trump held in Minnesota in September. "A separate analysis of new coronavirus cases from counties in which Trump held campaign rallies between late June and late September found that there was a surge in COVID-19 cases in seven of the 14 cities and townships where Trump held rallies" (Daniel Politi). 

Those newly infected Americans can do as they please, and they will, but unfortunately, they become a threat to the rest of us who are treating the pandemic with respect. They don't worry about their own health, and they certainly don't worry about anyone else's health. In fact, some of them glory in pretending to cough on people wearing masks. It's performance art from the Theater of Cruelty.

Why would they want four more years of it, when they may not survive the next six months?

Friday, October 23, 2020

It's One Thing for God to Manipulate Voters To Give Us Trump; It's Another Thing for God to Manipulate the Polls To Give Us Tillis Again


Whole lot of direct communication with God going on in conservative circles in the closing days of this first term of Twitterman. Of course, locally, with that actually rather porous "prayer shield" around Trump, but now statewide in the case of Sen. Thom Tillis, about whom a "prophet" at Touch Heaven Ministries in Ohio announced that God had told him that He was about to adjust the polls 5 points in Tillis's favor and 5 points against Cal Cunningham.

No, really.

Do what we can to fast and pray for justice and decency, God always turns out to be a partisan Republican. I need to get to the bottom of that the next time we talk.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Sam Elliott, Y'all! With Quite the Closing Argument


Oh, Watauga GOP! You're So Predictable


Anne-Marie Yates, who is once again the chair of the Watauga GOP, has filed election law complaints against two local groups who put up billboards, an absolute right they have to express a political opinion. It's the same right Anne-Marie Yates has. (The same right the guy up on the billboard has, though he may have violated some private property rights to express it.)

Yates was maybe reacting to the rumor that West End Women were actually a bunch of Antifa-adjacent, possibly Soros-financed, pro-abortionists out in the vast Western stretches of the country, like maybe in Nevada: “These shadow groups are funneling dark money into our local elections, and the voters deserve to know who is funding these advertisements,” said Yates.

Who is funding those billboards are two separate groups of Watauga County concerned citizens who raised the money among themselves. For the West End Women, no one contributed more than $200, which would be the threshold for itemizing their names on the FEC report, which isn't due until after the election. The expense of renting the billboards is considered an Independent Expenditure and is perfectly legal. And commendable, as a matter of fact, since the Trumpists in Watauga can't abide the sight of a Biden/Harris yard sign.

Despite the heavy breathing of professional hall monitors in the Watauga GOP, political activism and free speech are still viable options for ordinary citizens.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Laying Hands on Trump


Well, of course I'm gonna read an article headlined "Slipping Christian Support for Trump." Holy cow! They've seen the light? Well, some, a few, especially in the suburb/exurb neighborhoods around big cities. The article turned out to be about Durham and a group of Christian activists calling themselves "Vote Common Values." 

So ... slipping Christian support for Trump? Yeah, maybe, but I have my doubts out here in my rural world. It's surprising, really, for a boy who grew up on a farm in West Texas and attended faithfully a Pentecostal church and who went on to a Southern Baptist college in a little West Texas town and attended Chapel three times a week -- astonishing that so many rural Christians thank God for Trump. Full stop. Thank God that He sent them this raving apostate as the Protector of Their Faith. (Donald J. Trump, who has admitted that he despises the rubes who lay praying hands on him.)

Where I grew up in West Texas, there was aggressive evangelism and there was First Baptist Church establishmentarianism. Assertive "Love Thy Neighbor" style Christianity was really, in that setting, the zygote of bleeding-heart liberalism that had not yet emerged and found a political outlet. Bleeding-heart Christian liberalism at a Baptist college sometimes embraced local mission work of the most basic "helping hand" good deeds, and sometimes veered into ecstatic mysticism -- which was frowned on and therefore, irresistible -- and was always a fertile seed-bed for eventual anti-war anti-establishmentarianism.

My first political thought came with the thunderbolt of a devout Christian named Norman Morrison, the 31-year-old Quaker, pouring kerosene over his head in front of the Pentagon and setting himself on fire on November 2, 1965. I was a senior at Wayland Baptist College. Morrison's self-immolation shook me to my core, because I had studied the Christian faith as a source of personal courage in the face of persecution. I had read the handbook, Fox's Book of Martyrs, so Morrison's horrific death made me think new thoughts about what my government was doing and how it didn't gibe with any Christian values I was following. That's where it started: that self-martyrdom of a devout Christian made me measure my courage and my commitment to opposing official cruelty.

I even wrote a poem about Morrison, which is luckily for anyone reading this, long lost.)

The country people I have known, grew up among, am surrounded by now in a rural Western NC county, are the sweetest people on earth. Non-confrontational, slow to wrath, respectful, deferential, and instantly aligned with the underdog. The rural Trumpsters who parade their big Trump flags and their Confederate battle symbols on the backs of their giant trucks and love to speed through town and harass people with Democratic stickers on their cars -- those are not representative of the country folk I knew and know. The guys in camouflage armed with automatic and semi-automatic weapons, who give in to a craving for Subway for lunch -- these are the bullies we all knew, the few in every place who somehow replaced the basic sweetness of rural humanity with an insecurity that apparently lusts for violence -- at least some shoving -- to prove itself.

God will judge us, O my brethren, for our sins of omission.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Some Statewide Early Voting Turnout Numbers


I'm indebted to Jeffrey Billman's new PRIMER/North Carolina (and see below about Billman's valuable fresh contribution to your appreciation for hard news), who's indebted to political scientist Michael Bitzer, for the following early voting statistics from North Carolina (through last Saturday, October 17):

A total of 1,433,772 votes had been cast in North Carolina as of the close of business on Saturday, counting both Absentee By Mail (ABM) and Absentee One-Stop (in-person voting). That number equals 20% of registered voters in the state and 46% of the total number of absentee voters in 2016 (46% of the 2016 vote in only the first three days of early voting, holy cow!).

By party:

Democrats: 46%
NoPartyAffiliation: 28%
Republicans: 25%

By generation:

Boomers: 45%
Gen X: 22%
Millennials: 14%
Gen Z: 5%

By regions:

City: 31%
Urban suburb: 26%
Surrounding suburbs: 24%
Rural: 19%

Important: 22% of these votes — roughly 308,000 — came from people who either didn’t vote in 2016 or registered afterward.

Burning questions and snap assumptions proliferate in my brain as I peruse those numbers -- like Unaffiliated voters out-voting Republican voters, let alone the surging turnout of Democrats -- and the lagging performance of Gen X, Millennials, and (yikes!) Gen Z (sort yourselves out, kids!) -- but beyond that I'll leave you to your own private cogitations.

Now, about the estimable Jeffrey Billman and his daily, free newsletter (though you can also subscribe, which I did, which gives you more, including access to the archives). Billman used to edit the Indy Week in Durham and produced a daily newsfeed which I would devour and often steal from, but he's gone fully independent, and I'm all for supporting the work of independent news sources when so many newspapers are going caput. Here's how Billman describes his labor of love:

If you’re trying to figure out what this newsletter is about, think of it like this: Imagine your news-junkie friend obsessively consuming media from the Triangle, North Carolina, and across the country, boiling down all of the essential stories to their core points, putting things in their historical and political contexts, and giving you the rundown while you have your morning coffee.

Suits me! You can join him on Facebook, where you can also sign up for the free daily newsletter or go further like I did and throw a little money his way. He's already become essential reading for me. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

An Iconic Photo That Raises Many Questions


This is a photograph from Watauga County that is going to live in memory about the 2020 election.

Because I am tiresomely philosophical by nature, I have questions:

1. Does this guy think his side is winning?

2. Does this guy think his side is losing?

3. If his side wins, how will this guy and his compatriots behave?

4. If his side loses, how will this guy and his compatriots behave?

5. Is his single-fingered salute only an "eff you" to Biden/Harris supporters or to something more general and more inscrutable?

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Senator Ben Sasse Deserves It

An audio recording surfaced of Republican Senator Ben Sasse (Nebraska) telling a group of supporters all the worst stuff about Trump, concluding, “I’m now looking at the possibility of a Republican blood bath in the Senate, and that’s why I’ve never been on the Trump train. It’s why I didn’t agree to be on his reelection committee, and it’s why I’m not campaigning for him.”

(The most interesting nugget of Sasse's laundry list of Trump's gnarliest failings? “He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors." Of course he does. He hates all that "laying on of hands" stuff.)

Twitterman has naturally hit back at Sasse with some truly awesome syntax: “The least effective of our 53 Republican Senators, and a person who truly doesn’t have what it takes to be great, is Little Ben Sasse of Nebraska...." etc. etc. He went on for several tweets to get his disdain fully expressed.

For the record, and when he could have done something about the human train wreck in the White House, Sasse voted not to hear witnesses at the impeachment trial and voted for acquittal. So I ain't sympathetic.

And, anyway, what does Trump's dump on Sasse amount to? Absolutely nuttin'. Sasse got through a May Republican primary easily (with Trump's support, incidentally), and he's running for reelection with weak Democratic opposition against Chris Janicek, "an Omaha baker," who's never held office and also ran unsuccessfully for US Senate in 2018 but lost in the Democratic primary. Nebraska Democrats have actually been trying to force Janicek off the ballot since June when a sexting scandal erupted about him (many men really do need to have their smart phones taken away), so last I heard, Democratic party leaders were trying to mount a write-in campaign for someone else. Write-in campaigns rarely work (pace Lisa Murkowski).

So Ben Sasse is going back to the US Senate, and he clearly thinks Trump is not staying in the White House or he would not have risked the Trump wrath by telling the truth about him.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Pictures, Better Than Words


Statistics From First Day of Early Voting 2020, Watauga County

1st Day of Early Voting, 2018

Turn-out at the various early voting sites: 

ADMIN Bldg., Downtown Boone 637 
ASU, Plemmons Student Union 766 
Blowing Rock 353
Deep Gap VFD 496 
FOSCO, High Country Vacation Homes 217 
Western Watauga Community Center 351 
Total 2,820

Party affiliation across all sites: 
1,065 were Democrats 
696 were Republicans
1,029 were Unaffiliated


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

'Herd Mentality': Trump Wants You To Get COVID Too!


When Trump jokes on stage at one of his rallies that he wants to kiss all the men and all the pretty women -- he's promoting, either intentionally or subconsciously, his recently acquired doctrine of "herd immunity." It's a dangerous theory promoted by medical quacks and anti-government zealots. 

Trump brags that he's now immune to COVID. Maybe he is. Maybe he also doesn't have any of the COVID-caused long-term medical problems seeded in his carcass, like a weakened heart. Claiming an actual physical affection for his crowds (that he obviously doesn't feel) -- I'm gonna kiss alla yew! -- Trump sets himself up as Patient Zero, ready to share. That's also why he said the virus is "a blessing from God." Come get yours. It'll save your soul. And the epidemic will go away soon, like the dew of a morning.

He gets this theory about herd immunity -- which he hilariously called "herd mentality" in a TV interview -- from a former Stanford University radiologist and ultra libertarian named Scott Atlas who came to political prominence by being vocally anti-Obamacare. Don't know how he came to Trump's attention, though one avenue might have been via Rudy Guiliani. Atlas was a medical advisor on Guiliani's 2008 presidential campaign. When he got to the White House recently, shoving Dr. Anthony Fauci into a nearby closet, Atlas whipped out some printing, a document called "The Great Barrington Declaration," for a president who doesn't read, so we imagine Dr. Atlas briefing Twitterman like this: "If we open up all the bars and the gyms and the theaters, let all the young people loose again, they'll actively spread the disease and only rarely get a little sick, and pretty soon the epidemic has no available hosts, and the economy will boom again." Libertarian freedom at its edgiest.

The Great Barrington Declaration was written by three doctors from prestigious universities, including one of Atlas's Stanford colleagues, arguing that COVID does not require economic lockdown (and probably not face coverings either) because the key to survival is getting as many young people infected as possible -- while old people and colored people better stay at home. The virus will die out after many people become immune. (Uh, when will the old and colored people get to come out of hiding? Ever?) 

"The Great Barrington Declaration is not a scientific document .... it presents no data. It has no footnotes, few specific suggestions for how to implement the societal segregation and, unlike most scientific arguments, does not discuss potential objections to the proposal." [Joel Achenbach]

Dr. Scott Atlas

Some 78 of Dr. Atlas's other Stanford colleagues ("infectious disease physicians and researchers, microbiologists and immunologists, epidemiologists and health policy leaders") published a document denouncing "the falsehoods and misrepresentations of science recently fostered by Dr. Scott Atlas, a former Stanford Medical School colleague and current senior fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. Many of his opinions and statements run counter to established science and, by doing so, undermine public-health authorities and the credible science that guides effective public health policy."

Nevertheless Trump has jumped on the deal like a real estate plum. He's playing it out with gusto. Look at his new lust for big rallies. He's gambling with our lives because he never had a plan for dealing with this epidemic anyway, and he's desperate to get an upper hand. Plus we know he doesn't give a good goddamn about anybody else in the universe but himself.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

We Doubt Billy Graham's Extended Family Gets Together for Thanksgiving


Jerushah Duford, the granddaughter of Billy Graham and the niece of Franklin Graham, has come out strong for Joe Biden. In fact, her outspokenness, she explained, has been prompted by Uncle Franklin's slavish Trump-enabling.

The first sign of her split with Franklin actually came in late August in an op-ed she wrote for USA Today: “I have spent my entire life in the church, with every big decision guided by my faith. But now, I feel homeless. Like so many others, I feel disoriented as I watch the church I have always served turn their eyes away from everything it teaches .... Jesus said repeatedly to defend the poor and show kindness and compassion to those in need. Our president continues to perpetuate an us-versus-them narrative, yet almost all of our church leaders say nothing.”

Duford told Newsweek that Uncle Franklin's cheerleading for Trump “was a large reason for my speaking out.”

Just two days ago Duford was one of some 1,600 "faith leaders" who signed a letter endorsing Joe Biden for president. “Four years ago, many religious voters decided to look the other way and give Trump a chance, but after witnessing his cruelty and corruption, a growing number of them are turning away from the president,” said Doug Pagitt, executive director of the Christian campaign organization Vote Common Good, which compiled the endorsements.

Footnote: Jerushah is, of course, an Old Testament name. She was the daughter of a high priest in the reign of King David, married King Uzziah, and gave birth to King Jotham. I wouldn't mess with her, if I were you.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Puh-leze, Just Make It Stop!


Just in the recent past:

1. Trump rampaged through the 1st Presidential Debate, effectively signaling to his supporters -- "It's the election itself that is the threat to my power."

2. WASHINGTON — President Trump forced the State Department on Friday to commit to releasing at least some of Hillary Clinton’s emails before next month’s election, resurrecting a four-year-old issue in hopes that it would prove as helpful to his political prospects as it was when he defeated her in 2016. “We’ve got the emails,” SecState Mike Pompeo said. “We’re getting them out. We’re going to get all this information out so the American people can see it.” Neither Trump nor Pompeo explained why they would release the emails now, in the final weeks of a hotly contested presidential campaign, given that they could have done so at any point in the past four years.

FOOTNOTE: After careful consideration, I have made up my mind not to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2020.

3. Still recovering from his own coronavirus infection, Trump made plans to host hundreds of supporters on the South Lawn of the White House today for his first in-person event since he tested positive last week. The continued exploitation of national buildings/monuments for Trump's personal political benefit shocks the conscience. Trump will never pay a usage fee to the US Treasury for such exploitation.

4. The president appeared intent yesterday on creating an October surprise more to his liking (because the last one didn't work), in this case tarring Democrats by using the instruments of government power at his disposal. He publicly badgered A.G. William Barr: “Unless Bill Barr indicts these people [you know who he's talking about] for crimes, the greatest political crime in the history of our country, then we’re going to get little satisfaction unless I win and we’ll just have to go, because I won’t forget it,” he announced on Fox News, in what would constitute a presidency-destroying impeachable offense if any normal president had uttered it. “But these people should be indicted. This was the greatest political crime in the history of our country, and that includes Obama and it includes Biden.”

5. About John Ratliff, the former Texas congressman who now oversees Trump's secret services, and his very recent selective declassification of one-sided, unverified, and suspect raw intelligence: “He is doing exactly what the administration brought him in to do as [Director of National Intelligence],” said Joseph Maguire, whom Mr. Trump dismissed as acting director of national intelligence in February. Releasing raw intelligence is pure partisanship and a clumsy attempt to smear Hillary Clinton all over again.

6. The president has increasingly declared that the only way he could lose is if the election is rigged and therefore he can refuse a peaceful transfer of power because a loss would be a fraud. Simultaneously, Trump has sent implicit and explicit messages to far-right groups and random Trump supporters (the ones with a lot of guns who want to swagger around with them) to "watch" polling sites (intimidate voters). He famously told the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, to "Stand back and stand by.” Other Trump functionaries are well disposed to carry out voter suppression where they can: One Trump campaign official recently emailed party officials in North Carolina and told them “to not follow the procedures outlined” in a memo sent out by the state Board of Elections.

7. Thirteen people were charged Thursday in an alleged domestic terrorism plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The scheme included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan and Whitmer. How did Trump throw gasoline on this smoldering ember? Like this: “Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job. She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities,” Donald Trump thundered on Twitter shortly after Whitmer appeared on CNN, where host Chris Cuomo took aim at his rhetoric for inflaming her would-be killers.

Friday, October 09, 2020

"Pro-Life" Seniors May Not Want to Line Up for Trump's COVID "Cure"


The ironies for self-described pro-life conservatives Trumpists just continue to pile up:

...the treatment for Covid-19 received by Mr. Trump — a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies he described as a “cure” in a celebratory video posted on Twitter — was developed using human cells derived from a fetus aborted decades ago." [New York Times]

The Trump administration suspended federal funding in 2019 for most new scientific research projects involving fetal tissue derived from abortions. But now Trump is promising aborted fetal tissue free to all "seniors" who catch the noval coronavirus. “To my favorite people in the world, the seniors,” he said in a video. “I’m a senior. I know you don’t know that. Nobody knows that. Maybe you don’t have to tell them. But I’m a senior.” (Not making this up. How could any fabulist make up such narcissistic blather?)

Acknowledging that he had been “very sick,” Trump praised the experimental treatments he was given for the virus and vowed to provide them to seniors. “I want you to get the same care that I got,” he said. “You’re going to get the same medicine. You’re going to get it free, no charge, and we’re going to get it to you soon.”

Thursday, October 08, 2020

The Essence of Mike Pence


Four Eggers (Likely) To Be on the State Board of Elections Again


Governor Roy Cooper's first choice for a vacated Republican seat on the State Board of Elections -- James Carlton "Carr" McLamb Jr. -- dissolved into an oily mist last night:

No reason was given for the swift about-face on the appointment, but in a statement, McLamb alluded to abuse allegations made against him.

"These anonymous allegations were launched against my character just hours after I was appointed to a partisan role that could have national implications," he said. "As a general rule, I do not respond to anonymous attacks, but let me be very clear, I never assaulted anyone or forced anyone into unwanted actions. I’m fortunate to have dated smart, successful women, and all of my relationships have helped to make me a better person." [Matthew Burns]

That left two other names nominated by the NCGOP: Stacy C. Eggers IV of Boone fame and Jeannette Doran, president and general counsel of the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law in Raleigh. Smart money says it will be Four who'll now become one of two Republican obstructionists on a board dominated by Democrats.


Wednesday, October 07, 2020

All Eyes on These Democrats in NC's "Bellwether County," New Hanover


In 2016 Watauga County was designated a "bellwether county" -- one of ten across the nation in that year's battleground states -- because Watauga's political history suggested we more often than not voted for the eventual winner of the presidential race. D'oh. We lost our status in 2016 because Watauga went roguishly for Hillary instead of for the winner, Twitterman. 

So much for an alpha sheep decked with a bell who leads the other sheep.

But we're delighted to see New Hanover County listed again as a bellwether county. Not its first time. The Associated Press named it a bellwether in 2016, along with Watauga: "New Hanover County was chosen because Republicans and Democrats are split almost evenly in Wilmington and the surrounding area, and the number of independents registered here has risen so much since the last presidential election that they now outnumber both parties."

Now for 2020, New Hanover gets the honor again in a list compiled by Dave Wasserman, House editor at the Cook Political Report. The New York Times published it as "opinion," and it's pretty damn interesting. Haven't investigated all the other counties on the new list -- I'll get around to them -- but New Hanover rises in the east today like the sun, and I can't take any more light at the moment. Several men and women from New Hanover, either already in the General Assembly (some flipped their seats in 2018), or are trying to get there, fill my eyeballs today -- the potential and the odds for Democrats' taking back the General Assembly in 2020. 

Here's a primer:

NC House Districts

Dist. 18 -- Deb Butler (incumbent Democrat), one of the most famous progressive warriors in the General Assembly, challenged by Republican Warren Kennedy. Bitzer rates the district "Safe Democratic."


Dist. 19 (only part of New Hanover, with a larger slice of New Brunswick to the south-- problematic for a Democratic win minus a Blue Wave) -- Open seatDemocrat Marcia Morgan is being challenged by Republican Charlie Miller. Quoting myself from January of this year:

Morgan is a 74-year-old Baby Boomer born in 1946. She was an educator, became a career Army officer who retired as a colonel. She taught ROTC and did two tours at the Pentagon including a staff position with the Army Chief of Staff. She says, "I have thoroughly enjoyed retirement and the freedom to do as I please, but the current political environment has challenged me to step forward once again. I do not have a background in politics, but I DO have a strong sense of service to this community and a demonstrated ability to accomplish difficult tasks. I believe we have a commitment to improve our economy, provide equal opportunities for all and protect our environment – and one of the fundamental ways to accomplish those things is through quality education." She details her career, which took her all over the world for the Army, on her website.

Morgan has been endorsed by Lillian's List. She came within 883 votes of beating Ted Davis in 2018 in the old District 19. The last fundraising report I've seen suggested a good effort on her part for 2020.



Dist. 20 -- Ted Davis, incumbent Republican, formerly in the 19th but drawn out of that district and into Holly Grange's district. The double-bunking of incumbent Republicans was certainly part of Holly Grange's decision to opt out of reelection and run for governor against Dan Forest instead (a remarkably empty gesture in today's NCGOP). Democrat Adam Ericson, a public high school teacher, is challenging Davis. analysis of the prospect: "Gov. Cooper lost the newly constituted NC-H20 by just 5 points in 2016, and the NC House race was just as close in 2018. The pool of left-leaning voters who stayed home in NC-H20 in 2018 was about 14 points more left-leaning than the folks who came out to the polls, and the great news is that 2020 primary turnout was up 30% over 2016!"


NC Senate

Dist. 9 -- Harper Peterson (incumbent Democrat: elected 2018), challenged by Republican attorney Mike Lee. Rated a "Toss Up" by Bitzer. Peterson beat Lee in 2018, so this is a rematch. Fundraising on both sides has been eye-popping, though Lee was edging Peterson slightly in the $$ race the last time I looked. Peterson is a former mayor of Wilmington and has been very visible in the controversy surrounding the pollution of the Cape Fear River.


U.S. House

Dist. 7 -- David Rouzer, incumbent Republican, challenged by Democrat Christopher Ward. Considered a safe Republican district because of all that rural real estate north of Wilmington, Republican counties stretching all the way to Johnston County just south of Wake.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Al Gross of Alaska, The Left-Leaning Independent Who Killed a Grizzly

Some liberals are going to hate this photo because of its echoes of the Trump progeny posing with large African trophies. Photo ops with large dead animals that were killed for sport have become anathema in many quarters. But in this Alaskan case, candidate for US Senate Al Gross shot the bear in self defense. It was charging him and another hunter in an apparent ambush attack. Which produced an Alaska Department of Public Safety investigation and report.

I felt the need to know more about Al Gross after The Cook Report moved the race from "Solid Republican" to "Likely Republican," and national media began to pay attention to the left-leaning independent whose current polling suggests the possibility of a sleeper win in one of the most Republican states in the Union. Gross is running against one-term Republican Dan Sullivan, who's a transplant from Ohio and who has failed to establish much of a profile through his six years in office (except that he's a loyal Trumpist).

Who Is Al Gross?

He grew up in a Democratic household. His father, Avrum Gross, was the Democratic Attorney General of Alaska and is still remembered apparently as one of the best. At the age of 14, Al bought himself a commercial fishing boat and went whole-hog into commercial fishing through his teens and into his 20s, earning himself the bankroll that it cost to put himself through college and then medical school. He became an orthopedic surgeon, married a pediatric doctor, and opened his practice in Juneau.

Here's his introductory video biography:

After almost 20 years in private practice, Al and his wife, "discouraged by how high health care costs were affecting Alaskan individuals, small businesses, and the Alaskan economy in general," took the unusual step of closing their practices to return to school for degrees in public health. Al has subsequently become an advocate for a public healthcare option to give Alaskans the choice to buy less expensive insurance through the healthcare exchange. He's also been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration's mishandling of the coronavirus epidemic.

I've been studying Al Gross's platform on his campaign website, and I find nothing that a registered progressive Democrat wouldn't agree with. Why he isn't running as a Democrat is explained by the demographics of "a little bit weird" Alaska: "Of its 585,000 registered voters, 58 percent are listed as 'nonpartisan' or 'undeclared.' Twenty-four percent, meanwhile, are registered Republicans, and only 13 percent are registered Democrats. Deep-red Wyoming has more Democrats...."

There's also an independent, Alyse Galvin, running for Alaska's single seat in the US House against long-time incumbent Republican Don Young, and she's doing quite well in polling. Al Gross and Alyse Galvin together present an enticing prospect of a major shift in Alaska, if the Blue Wave crashes with tsunami strength.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

How Big the Blue Wave in the US Senate 2020?

We're about to have some political accountability delivered to the party holding the White House and strangling the Senate. Maybe a ton of accountability for the incompetence and malfeasance that allowed the coronavirus pandemic to kill 200K (and still climbing).

Here's the list of vulnerable, incumbent Republican senators who could, according to polling and the surge of new voters who haven't always voted in the past, lose their seats on November 3rd. All of their losing would constitute a Democratic blow-out and give the Dems at least a 57-43 advantage.

They're listed here in the order of their vulnerability:

Arizona -- Incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally is well behind her Democratic rival, Mark Kelly, whom we headlined here back in July of this year. Cook's moved the race to "Lean Democrat."

 -- Incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner felt the earth move (not in a good way) when Cook moved this race to "Lean Democrat." The Democrat in question, former Governor John Hickenlooper, seems to have this sewn up. (We profiled him back in January of 2019.)

Maine -- Incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins has been pretty consistently trailing her Democratic rival Sara Gideon (pictured on the right). (We profiled her back before she won the Democratic primary.) Cook's rates the race a "Toss Up."

North Carolina -- Incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis has been in a polling hole all year, with Democrat Cal Cunningham coming on strong and raising big money. We've profiled Cunningham many times, going back to late November 2018; June of 2019; September 2019 ("The Danger of Democratic McCreadyism"); and June 2020. Then came the trysting texts with a woman not his wife indicating a lapse of judgment. So who the hell knows where this race stands at the moment? Prior to the texting scandal, Cook's rated the race a "Toss Up."

Montana -- Republican incumbent Sen. Steve Daines is up against Democratic Governor Steve Bullock (really up against it!) in a race that moved to "Toss Up" as soon as Bullock declared his candidacy (on the last filing day). I haven't profiled Bullock at all, but he's a "moderate."

Iowa -- Incumbent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst woke up one morning and discovered that she's in real peril from the surging campaign of Democrat Theresa Greenfield (whom we profiled first in August 2019 because of her excellent introductory video; then a second time this past June). Cook's rates it "Toss Up."

Georgia -- Surprisingly, incumbent Republican Sen. David "Sonny" Perdue has also found himself in a "Toss Up" with Democrat Jon Ossoff, in whom I have little faith after he lost the special election for a Georgia US House seat in 2017. Ossoff sometimes comes off like a candidate created in a laboratory. 

Georgia -- Georgia has the unique distinction of being primed to replace both of their incumbent Republican senators. This second race is really a "jungle primary" to replace the retired Johnny Isakson. The run-off between the two top finishers on November 3rd will take place on January 5, 2021. Incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler (appointed by the governor to fill out Isakson's term) has both a strong Republican rival in Congressman Doug Collins and a credible Democratic challenger in Rev. Raphael Warnock, whom we profiled on August 20th. Almost unbelieveably (it's freakin' Georgia, y'all!), Warnock has been leading both Republicans in some polling. Cook's rates the race "Lean Republican," though we're willing to believe in miracles.

South Carolina -- Incumbent Republican Sen. Lindsey O. Graham is having his own fright-night, threatened by another black candidate, Democrat Jaime Harrison (whom we profiled here). Cook moved the race from "Of Course Lindsey Graham Will Win Reelection" to "Lean Republican," to show just how squishy Graham's support has become. He won't be missed.

Kansas -- It's an open seat following the retirement of Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. Democrat Barbara Bollier (who was a registered Republican until December 2018) is facing Republican Roger Marshall. Looks like the polling has veered all over the place, so who knows? Cook's rates it "Lean Republican." But there have been signs (the flipping of CD 3 by Democrat Sharice Davids in 2018) that previously set-in-Republican-concrete Kansas is loosening up.

Alaska -- Incumbent Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan is being challenged not by a Democrat but by an independent, orthopedic surgeon Al Gross, who'd likely caucus with the Democrats. The most recent polling I've seen has Sullivan at 46% and Gross at 45%, and Alaska has past history of electing independents over nominal Republicans (Lisa Murkowski). Cook's still has the race at "Likely Republican."

Texas -- Incumbent Republican Sen. John Cornyn was once upon a time considered pretty vulnerable to a strong Democratic candidate in a watershed year like 2020 is likely to be, but is Democratic challenger M.J. Hegar that candidate? Dunno. I loved her fighting spirit when she ran for the US House against an entrenched Republican incumbent in 2018, but she went through a debilitating Democratic primary to cement her spot in this fight, and I'm hearing a lot of poor-mouthing from friends in Texas. Cook's rates it "Likely Republican," which seems about right.

Mississippi -- Incumbent Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith suddenly has a race on her hands from Democrat Mike Espy, who has surged in recent polling to 40% to Hyde-Smith's 41% (still a lot of undecideds). Espy was formerly Mississippi's first black congressman since Reconstruction and Secretary of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton. He is currently and since 2008 an attorney with the mega-firm Morgan and Morgan in Jackson, Miss., and also runs his own consulting firm specializing in governmental relations, rural development, food and nutrition, and international agricultural development issues. Cook's is not sanguine about Espy's chances; they rate it "Solid Republican." But would it not be something beyond imagining if Black Democrats in Georgia (Warnock), South Carolina (Harrison), and Mississippi (Espy) took out Republican incumbents in a truly massive Blue Wave?


Below: Mike Espy in Mississippi. Does he really have a shot at taking out an incumbent Republican senator: 

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Oh, For Pete's Sake, Cal!


The "new right" website National File got hold of a text chain between Senate candidate Cal Cunningham and a married woman in California with whom he's been having some sort of consensual affair, and they headlined it -- "EXCLUSIVE" -- as though it was Bill-Clinton-level sex. The News and Observer amplified that news this morning. It's not Bill-Clinton-level. It's more like high school confidential. 

But ... shittal! The stupidity frosts my berries. And as a politico, I don't want to see this kind of personal, private crap this close to an election, especially one that Cal is supposed to win. May still win, because after all ... so what? Consensual, private. Yes, a breach of trust and some ripe dumb shit, as Cal the candidate immediately copped to in a press statement last night: 

“I have hurt my family, disappointed my friends, and am deeply sorry. The first step in repairing those relationships is taking complete responsibility, which I do.”

So ... facepalm time, and a nagging dread of voter backlash. What are the odds on Cal's still winning the Senate seat? Depends on whether suburban women decide to make an example of him. He betrayed his wife. But his embarrassing text messages aren't comparable to a Bill Clinton sexcapade, or even a Newt Gingrich affair. Clinton smelled of predation, Gingrich of neediness. As far as Cal's adultery, it looks more like coltish hormones set at liberty in a pasture where other coltish hormones also roam. Her texts are even more romantically aggressive. So it was mutual lust. Is lust a killing offense?

Betrayal is not the last and only word about Cal Cunningham. He has other solid human qualities. Also strategic political importance. His ascent as a 2020 candidate, along with the math of the US Senate, makes him an essential player in the restoration of the Republic. This scandal does not IMO negate the key strategery of his vote in the Senate. Which means, O my brethren, he is weighed in the balance and found adequate. 

Full disclosure: I contributed to his campaign, and I've already voted for him and would do so again. 

Friday, October 02, 2020

The (Flying) Fickle Finger of Fate

A few of his greatest hits:

"It's going to disappear. One day — it's like a miracle — it will disappear."

Wearing a mask? "You can do it. You don't have to do it. I'm choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it, and that's OK. It may be good. Probably will. They're making a recommendation. It's only a recommendation."

"It affects virtually nobody. It's an amazing thing — by the way, open your schools!"

Biden’s mask-wearing as a weakness to be ridiculed: “Did you ever see a man who likes a mask as much as him? ... because, you know what, it gives him a feeling of security. If I were a psychiatrist, I’d say: ‘This guy’s got some big issues.' ”

At the Presidential Debate Tuesday night: “I don’t wear a mask like him,” Trump said, gesturing toward Biden. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from him and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

Exactly four years ago today, Trump mocked Hillary Clinton for catching pneumonia: