Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Another Democratic Candidate Enters the 2022 NC Senate Primary


Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton says he's going to run for the US Senate in the 2022 Democratic primary. Interesting, considering the major talents already in the game and Newton's relative obscurity for a statewide electorate.

According to the AP, which broke the news, "Newton is a retired Air Force colonel and current doctoral student at Duke University studying marine science and conservation. He says the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol motivated him to get in the race because he wants to defend democracy against violent actors."

Them's some noble sentiments, but still.

Newton said he hopes he can attract Republicans in a general election “who share my interest in protecting our democracy, protecting our environment and helping those that are stuck in the socioeconomic divide.”

There's that forlorn hope again -- let's call it the Manchin Phantasm -- that Republicans will be attracted to support a Democratic mission.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Super Lawyer Marc Elias Sues the New Georgia Voter Suppression Law


Marc Elias, of the Perkins Coie

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp had barely finished signing the new Georgia law clamping down on giving ballot access to suspicious people when Washington power lawyer Marc Elias filed a lawsuit to overturn it on behalf of the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter Fund, and Rise, Inc. (which focuses on student enfranchisement). “The Voter Suppression Bill inflicts severe burdens on Georgia’s voters through each individual restriction and the cumulative effect of all the suppressive measures which impose barriers to voting absentee and in-person,” the lawsuit alleges, citing the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Marc Elias ... hmmm ... where have we heard that name before?

He's the devil, according to various spokespersons for the North Carolina Republican Party, the NC Senate Pro Tem's office, Congressman Dan Bishop, and many other pooh-bahs on the vote-suppressing Right. In as remarkable a case of projection we've ever seen, The Carolina Journal (Art Pope) claims that lawyer Elias makes a total mockery of our election system, which is really (right?) a begrudging admission that Elias is actually very good in both court and in private. 

Elias, a partner at the Washington firm of Perkins Coie, represented Governor Roy Cooper during the drawn-out fight over the outcome of the 2016 election. He represented Dan McCready in getting the 2018 Congressional race in the NC-9 redone because of voter fraud, "the first and only time a state has set aside a federal election as a result of fraudulent activity." Last year Elias talked two Republican members on the NC State Board of Elections into signing a consent agreement that allowed, because of the COVID pandemic, absentee ballots in the 2020 General Elections to be accepted up to nine days after the election and without a witness signature. Those two Republicans on the NCSBE immediately said they were "duped" (advantage, Elias) and got their asses fired anyway from the board by the NCGOP. A lawsuit naturally ensued and a federal judge ruled that at least part of the consent agreement violated constitutional separation of powers. U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen ruled that the State Board of Elections could not accept mail-in ballots without a witness signature on the envelope.

The NCSBE had overstepped under Elias's guidance, and Republican members in the General Assembly have been theatrically indignant ever since about both Elias as an operator and the administrative staff at the NCSBE. It's all grist for the "fraud" myth, the Big Lie. 

Marc Elias is someone I'll take in my corner, even if he oversteps (and sometimes gets sanctioned for it). Why should the other side have all the slick and highly effective legal operators? It's about time we have our own bulldogs with a taste for blood. Elias makes no bones about his proclivities. The unit of lawyers he runs at Perkins Coie is called, quite frankly, "The Political Law Group":

"Marc represents dozens of U.S. senators, governors, representatives and their campaigns as well as the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Priorities USA, Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC. Marc served as general counsel to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016 and John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004." (Perkins Coie)

Elias is also lead counsel in an attempt right now this minute to overturn the certified election of a Republican congresswoman in Iowa by arguing before the US House's Committee on Administration that Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks should be kicked out of Congress in favor of Democrat Rita Hart, who lost in November to Miller-Meeks by only six votes. Elias says he's found almost two dozen uncounted ballots that should be counted. “22 ballots remain uncounted,” Elias declares at his Democracy Docket website. Elias concedes that a few of those votes would go to Miller-Meeks, but most would add to Hart’s count --“the results of which would put her ahead by 9 votes.” He argues that Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution empowers the House and Senate to overrule vote tallies as each body is the "Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members."

It looks like another bridge too far for the talented and sometimes over-stimulated Marc Elias. We doubt that even the Democratic majority in the US House will overturn that election.

As of March 31, "Democrat Rita Hart has dropped her challenge in the Iowa 2nd Congressional District race, asking the House to no longer consider an investigation into the outcome of her race against Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks following intense Republican pushback."

New Ad Targets Madison Cawthorn


The work of the Republican Accountability Project:

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Pity, Joe Mancin


Joe Manchin doesn't care that progressives hate him. He recently taunted "liberals" mad at him for being out of step on many issues including the elimination  of the filibuster:

“What are they going to do, they going to go into West Virginia and campaign against me? Please, that would help me more than anything.”

He says he believes in the Cookie Fairy and a "bipartisan Senate." He doesn't believe that. He is not dumb enough to believe that 10 Republicans will voluntarily vote someday for something Biden wants, if everyone will just compromise. He doesn't believe that. It's a convenient excuse for being really terrified of your constituents. Do we need to be reminded? West Virginia voted for Trump last fall by 40 points. Manchin holds his seat because he's so "regional."

Found this summation of Manchin by Jonathan Martin in the NewYork Times very helpful:

A former high school quarterback who friends say still relishes being at the center of the action, Mr. Manchin is something of a unicorn in today’s Congress. As a pro-coal and anti-abortion Democrat, he reflects a less-homogenized era when regionalism was as significant as partisanship and senators were more individual actors than predictable votes for their caucus.

Twice elected governor before claiming [Robert] Byrd’s [Senate] seat, he’s the only lawmaker standing in the way of an all-Republican congressional delegation in West Virginia .... he is an unlikely majority-maker of the Democratic Senate.

"Still relishes being at the center of the action." Got it! Wants to be loved and thought of as civic savior by his voters. Who happen to hate Biden and hate most Democrats. I almost feel sympathy for Manchin's balancing act. But not his character.

So this news reached us last week: Joe Manchin's wife Gayle has been named by President Biden to head the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)

(I say "head" when the title is actually Federal Co-Chair, because the structure of the ARC also includes a figurehead co-chair, mandated to be the governor of one of the constituent states. Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia is currently Federal Co-Chair. But the civilian Co-Chair is the real showrunner. Has always been that way.)

What are Gayle Manchin's qualifications? The White House on Friday cited her career as an educator and her service as the first lady of West Virginia, when Manchin was the state’s governor from 2005 to 2010. In other words, she's the "missus" of somebody Biden needs to make happy. First thing I thought: The ARC appointment for Manchin's wife is reward for Manchin's vote for the American Rescue Plan (ARP).

What is the ARC? It's an economic development partnership agency established in 1965 through which the federal government works with 13 states and 420 counties across the Appalachian region to theoretically help invest in communities and spur job creation. The criticism of the ARC by actual Appalachian activists tended to highlight the ARC's aggressive four-laning of highways, to get the coal, gas, timber, you name it -- out of state faster.

I'm hoping that Biden can get more out of this clear case of social bribery than just the vote for the ARP. The vote on ending the filibuster as we know it? The vote on an infrastructure bill that will put a tax on every coal baron in the state of West Virginia? The vote on voter rights?

Kernersville 'Proud Boy' Called 'Pivotal' in Capitol Attack


Kevin Donohoe, who was arrested by the FBI on March 18 in Kernersville as a Proud Boy leader involved in the insurrection, is now being called a "pivotal" figure in a conspiracy to take over the US government. This is the reporting by Michael Hewlett:

In new court papers filed Friday, federal prosecutors say Charles Joseph Donohoe, a Kernersville resident and Proud Boys leader, played a pivotal role in leading his fellow Proud Boys in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.
Federal prosecutors say this is a photo of Charles Donohoe, the Kernersville Proud Boys leader, at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

He also assisted another Proud Boys member in carrying a riot shield stolen from a police officer on Jan. 6 and sought to destroy electronic messages afterward, prosecutors said.

Documents also allege that, celebrating afterward, Donohoe said he felt like a “complete warrior.”


In 2019, Louis DeJoy Loved Him Some Dan Bishop. Oops!


Grinning Trumpist Dan Bishop, who won his seat in Congress in a special election in 2019 after preacherman Mark Harris crashed and burned, has become a true(er) prick in Congress, blossoming pungently like a weed on compost. Dan Bishop was the proud parent of the "North Carolina bathroom bill," which means he's also awful at economics. That bathroom bill cost the state billions in economic investment, including harm to the cash cow of sports promotion and tourism. But how has he behaved in Congress? On Sept. 2019, Bishop became the first member to divulge the name of the whistleblower whose memo sparked the House impeachment inquiry. On Twitter.

He was reelected to the 9th District seat in 2020 (don't remind me!) because of the rural Trump surge. He easily beat by more than 10 points a dynamic Black woman candidate in Cynthia Wallace. His district stretches along the South Carolina border from the suburbs of Mecklenburg to Robeson County and isn't quite ready for change.

In keeping with creepiness, Bishop just got fined by the Federal Elections Commission for failing to report contributions of $1K or more within 48 hours of their receipt during the last 12 days of the 2019 special election campaign. Bishop kept those contributions secret -- reporting them only after the election -- and now has to pay a fine of $11,634 for flagrant abuse of the law. One of those unreported contributions -- the max allowed by law -- came from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. You remember him. Just another worm in last fall's cabbage.

You can read Brian Murphy's reporting here.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Catawba County Man Becomes 10th (At Least) North Carolinian Arrested for Capitol Riot

James "Les" Little was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday in Catawba County, charged with unlawful entry onto government grounds, two counts of disorderly conduct in a restricted building or on Capitol grounds, and parading or demonstrating in the Capitol. On Thursday, he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Cayer of Charlotte.

“We just took over the Capitol,” Little bragged in a text to a relative on January 6th. “And you are bragging?” the relative fired back in a fusillade of exclamation points and capital letters. "THIS IS TREASON!!! IF YOU DON’T CONDEMN THIS, NEVER BOTHER SPEAKING TO ME AGAIN! HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE PEOPLE. IT’S A COUP! YOU OBVIOUSLY HATE AMERICA!!!”

Then the relative turned in James "Les" Little to the FBI. He's the 10th (at least) North Carolinian charged for participation in the insurrection.

According to Michael Gordon, "Court filings by the U.S. Justice Department have alleged that North Carolina served as a recruiting ground and training site for right-wing groups that are now the focus of government conspiracy investigations linked to the Capitol assault."

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Former High Point Police Officer Charged With Conspiracy as Oath Keeper


Laura Steele (left) with her
brother, captured by video
surveillance in the Washington Metro

Laura Steele, a former High Point police officer facing charges in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, will be released from federal custody but won’t be able to leave her house, and she cannot have any contact with her co-defendants which includes her brother (Graydon Young, 54, of Englewood, Fla.,) and cannot have access to any electronic device, including cellphones and computers.

Prosecutors have emails that Steele sent just a few days before the Capitol riots, asking to become a member of the Oath Keepers. She touted her 13-year experience as a law-enforcement officer, including being a member of SWAT, court documents said.

Laura Steele was a police officer with the High Point Police Department from 1992 to 2004, when she was fired for conduct toward superior personnel, absence from duty, and violation of communications policy. While at the police department, she worked as a school resource officer. Steele was investigated — and later cleared — in two separate incidents where she pepper-sprayed students, an 11-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy.

She is married to Kenneth Steele, a former assistant chief of the High Point Police Department. They have two children, Jacob and Seth. Jacob is a police officer with the High Point Police Department, and Seth plans to join the department soon.

The U.S. Attorney in charge of her case alleges that after she and her brother came back to North Carolina, she deleted Facebook posts, call logs, and text messages from her phone. It also appears that she got rid of the clothing she wore, including clothing with Oath Keepers insignia, in the days after she returned from Washington. Federal agents executing a search warrant on her home could not find the clothing. The prosecutor said that’s where her experience as a law-enforcement officer came in; she knew how to cover her tracks. “She knew how to do that and why it was important to do that because of her law-enforcement background,” the prosecutor said.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Watauga County: First in Landslides

In 2004 Hurricane Ivan dumped tons of water on Watauga County, causing the soil under the White Laurel subdivision to give way with catastrophic results.


As a result of that event and other devastating landslides in western North Carolina -- four people died in a slide on Peeks Creek in Macon County -- the General Assembly appropriated money to map landslide hazards in the western counties. The mapping of Watauga County was completed in 2008. Hardly anyone knows those maps exist, and even fewer prospective homeowners and home builders know how to access and read them before investing in a piece of property.

Watauga is responsible for some 2,257 documented landslides in the Department of Environmental Quality database, far outstripping our nearest competitor for number of earth movements, 919 in Polk County.

We watch the continuing development on steep slopes in Watauga and wait for the next hurricane to follow a period of drought, which is often the one-two punch that produces disaster.


Red dots represent the 5,237 recorded “landslide points” where these disasters have occurred since the early 1900s. (Source: DEQ)

Monday, March 22, 2021

Is Cheri Beasley Now the Frontrunner?



Photo Julia Wall, News and Observer

News broke while I was traveling on Thursday that former NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is expected to announce her candidacy for the US Senate, sometime before the daffodils wither.

“She’s putting a team together, is planning to announce and I think we’ll see that in early April,” said Kara Hollingsworth, a Cary-based political consultant who has worked on previous Beasley campaigns and remains close with Beasley. (Brian Murphy)

The thing is: Beasley has run statewide and came within 400 votes of winning against Rumpelstiltskin last November, so she could easily have multiples of the base that Jeff Jackson of Mecklenberg County currently has.

I've been a big fan of Senator Jackson since the first time he stood up in the NC Senate and indicted the Republican bosses for malfeasance and bad faith. (Here's just one YouTube from Jan. 2015 of his communication skills.) Plus I owe him for helping rally support in Watauga during the last off-year, in 2019, when he came to our fall rally. We knew what our collective goals would be in 2020, and Jeff helped us focus and build our reserves.

I had wanted Jackson to run against Tillis in 2020. A lot of people wanted that. But Cal Cunningham got there first. IMO, Cunningham's damage to himself has swollen into a throbbing, abscessed sore spot for all young, photogenic, white men trying to run for high office. Anecdotal evidence: Women, particularly, no longer trust young, photogenic, white men. I keep hearing, "No more Cal Cunninghams!"

I don't think Jeff Jackson is another Cal Cunningham. I'll contribute to his campaign and vote for him. But I'll also watch the rise of Cheri Beasley with actual hope for the possibilities.

Frankly, I think Beasley would make the stronger candidate, especially if we wind up with Lara Trump running a cheerleader's campaign on the other side. Beasley has actually been on the ballot statewide multiple times. The first was her election to the NC Court of Appeals in 2008. Then she ran for and won her first seat on the NC Supreme Court in 2014. Governor Cooper would eventually appoint her Chief Justice, just in 2019, the seat she was defending last fall.

Kara Hollingsworth, the political consultant who made the announcement for Beasley and was quoted above, is partner in Three Point Strategies (TPS), an all-Black woman management firm -- described on LinkedIn as "a radical, Black, millennial-led, DC-based consulting firm." This purpose appears on their website:

We specialize in electing the first’s, the only’s and the truly magical. At Three Point Strategies we not only trust Black women, they are our North Star. We’ve worked with candidates running for US Senate to City Council and in 2017 TPS worked with six Black women mayoral candidates to usher in the #yearoftheblackwomanmayor.

[Not sure which six new mayors TPS worked with, but some 10 Black women won big-city mayorships in 2017, including in Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Charlotte, North Carolina; San Francisco; and Chicago.]


The three partners of Three Point Strategies

Another Interesting Senate Candidate I Missed

Don't know where my head was on March 5th that caused me to miss this news (from James Arkin in Politico):

Joan Higginbotham, a former NASA astronaut and the third Black woman to go to space, is seriously considering running for Senate in North Carolina as a Democrat, according to multiple people familiar with her deliberations. [If she runs, she'll also be the third Black woman running for the US Senate from North Carolina.]

Joan Higginbotham

Higginbotham, 56, has never run for political office before and would be entering what is expected to be one of the most expensive and high-profile Senate races in the country next year. North Carolina is an open race and is among Democrats top targets, alongside Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as they seek to protect their fragile 50-50 majority.

To the pileup of Democrats willing to jump into the 2022 Senate primary you can also add Black virology scientist Richard L. Watkins, profiled here, and former NC Senator Erica Smith.


Cleveland County Man Arrested for Capitol Insurrection


The FBI arrested Johnny Leroy Harris last Thursday in Shelby. He's charged with unlawful entry, impeding government business, disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and unlawful parading, demonstrating, or picketing.

Harris wore a Go-Pro camera while participating in the insurrection and posted photos in real time. He's easy to spot in other photos, wearing an American flag sweater and a red, white, and blue bandanna or mask around his neck. On his head, a Donald Trump ski cap in the same color scheme. He carries a flagpole flying a red, white and blue banner.

The FBI said it learned of Harris from an anonymous tipster who reported that he knew someone who had been posting interior photos of the Capitol on his Facebook page.

When agents questioned Harris two weeks after the break-in, he admitted that he’d carried a flag and a megaphone into the Capitol, and shot video with his Go-Pro and his phone.

According to the affidavit, the FBI received additional confirmation of Harris’ identity from inside sources — two unidentified witnesses who went with Harris to Washington and picked out their travel companion from the photos they were shown.

According to Michael Gordon, Harris is "at least the ninth North Carolinian charged with the violent breaching of the Capitol."

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Virginia Foxx, Too 'Establishment'?

Michael Ackerman of Boone is the newest Republican to announce that he'll challenge Congresswoman Virginia Foxx in the 2022 Republican primary. There's already a 25-year-old, Bo Hines of Winston-Salem, in the race. Both challengers are central casting conservative. There's not a dime's worth of difference between their philosophical positions and Foxx's. Their main beef with Foxx is that she's been in Washington too long.

Moss Brennan reports that "when ... Donald Trump ran for office, Ackerman said he saw the 'curtain' being pulled back on the 'political machine' in Washington, D.C. He said he saw how both Democrats and Republicans were fighting to keep the establishment ways as they care more about 'the power' and 'the money that they’re getting' by being in office."

True dat! About getting rich in public office.

“We didn’t elect them to represent their self interests,” Ackerman said. “They’re there to represent us. Whether they’re Democrat or whether they’re Republican, they should be representing their constituency. I started to see what was really going on up there was that there were too many people who’ve been up there way too long. [They] have really forgotten why they’re there and, they’ve gotten too comfortable.”

Congresswoman has pretty regularly attracted primary challengers, none of whom get very far.

Alleged NC Member of Proud Boys Arrested Yesterday


Charles Donohoe of Winston-Salem was arrested yesterday in Kernersville by the FBI for conspiracy to interfere with law enforcement officers at the Capitol on January 6th and for obstructing the certification of President Biden’s electoral victory. Donohoe's arrest was "part of a widening investigation that now includes 13 people identified in court papers as members of the Proud Boys. The right-wing group has been associated with protests organized by white supremacists and is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center" (Richard Stradling).

Although my count was up to six (counting Donohoe) of North Carolinians arrested for participation in the insurrection, the Raleigh News and Observer sets the number "at least " at eight.

Twitter activist @m1523751 says that Donohoe goes by "Hunter Donohoe" on Facebook and was formerly with the USMC.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Can These Notorious Libertarians Buy Themselves a Senate Seat in Ohio?

Peter Thiel

Politicos perked up when Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder, donated $10 million last month to a super PAC seeking to recruit author J.D. Vance to run for the Republican Senate nomination in Ohio, for the seat that Rob Portman is giving up. Peter Thiel has a big, actually abusive Libertarian reputation, and really so does J.D. Vance, the author of the best-seller Hillbilly Elegy, who hasn't even said definitely that he's running.

Why would Thiel be so enthusiastic about Vance? The super PAC that's trying to recruit Vance calls itself "Protect Ohio Values," a phrase out of sync with the ambitions of a man like Thiel, for whom nothing seems sacred and who clearly thinks of other people as a problem to be solved -- or evaded. He's built himself a sprawling luxury compound in New Zealand as a refuge for himself and other like-minded Libertarians when there's a collapse of civilization in the United States. (I can recommend Mark O'Connell's "Notes From the Apocolypse," which includes a chapter on Thiel.) Thiel also helped found the spy world's ideal Big Eye, the Palantir company, which hacks "big data analytics," bigger and better than Cambridge Analytics of Steve Bannon fame. But Ohio values?

So the name of that super PAC backing a Senate candidacy for J.D. Vance is camouflage for something else, something not at all sinister, I'm sure.

Vance himself wrote his best seller about growing up poor and white in Appalachia and getting all the way to Yale Law School as an up-by-the-bootstraps saga of personal triumph against great odds. He sold the book to the movies, and now Glenn Close is nominated for an Academy Award. The movie was loudly panned as stereotype-strangled claptrap. David Sims called it "the worst movie of the year" in The Atlantic.

J.D. Vance

The book the preceded it, however, made Vance the go-to oracle not only of modern Appalachia but also of the rural, white, economically struggling "Trump voter." Vance was in the media multiple times explaining, for example, why/how Trump had won Pennsylvania and Michigan. White resentment, what historian Bob Hutton called "sado-nationalism," got fully flowered because of decades of the liberal welfare system, hatred for which the Trump presidency provided full justification. Vance himself was an enthusiastic Trump supporter (as was Thiel, at least in 2016), both attracted to the norm-shattering populism of an otherwise ignorant and cunning con-man.

Despite its best-sellerdom and the wide respect Vance earned as a writer of words, Hillbilly Elegy was the most hated book of 2016 among the regional activists and scholars I know and pay attention to. An entire book of Vance denunciation, "Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy," was published by West Virginia University Press in 2019. The essays, one and all, found Vance to be not only "clueless" about the diversity of life in Appalachia but dangerously clueless, peddling “a media-constructed mythological realm, backward and homogenous,” "full of Scots-Irish hillbilly welfare queens and kings too lazy to work who spend most of their time drinking moonshine and getting high on opioids" (1st quote, Dwight Billings, filtered through the reviewer James Branscome in the 2nd quote).

I have little doubt that Vance will be running for that Senate seat and that Thiel knows it. Vance will have a primary -- already, two other Republicans, both avid Trumpists vying for an endorsement from he who was formerly known as Twitterman, have announced their candidacies. I'll get around to profiling all those candidates, and the Democrats, eventually. But right now I just want to marvel at what our broken political finance system and the continuing evil of Citizens United can potentially do to our Republic.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

"It's About Time!" -- The Rest of Us Get Some Help From Congress


The following, published by Chair Diane Tilson on the Watauga County Democratic Party website:

March 11, 2021 -- President Joe Biden signed The American Rescue Plan into law


It’s about time.


For generations now, Congress has refused, for the most part, to recognize and act on legislation that actually helps millions of hard-working Americans trying to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Instead, tax cuts and other legislation of all stripes have made life even more satisfying for those who already have everything they need or want and then some. The rest of us got stiffed.


So we had pretty much given up on the people we elected to represent us, deciding that Congress is woefully broken and out of touch with the daily challenges we face. To hide what they were really doing, Congress pitted us one against the other, hoping we would lose sight that we were all in the same boat and would throw each other overboard instead.


Meanwhile, tens of millions of us are out of work (a level not seen since the Great Depression); 22 million of us can’t afford to provide food for ourselves or our families; nearly 1 in 5 of us who pay rent have fallen behind on it; and 81 million of us are struggling to buy necessary household needs. The Child Care employment sector is devastated. Morethan 2.5 million women have been forced to drop out of the workforce in the past year to teach their kids online instead; many of us cannot afford even basic health care; and over a half million of us are dead from COVID.


Not all of this can be chalked up to COVID, of course. Congress has in fact been taking from the working class to give to the entitled class for the last 40 years. The result is that the state we find ourselves in now is something so big only the Federal government can fix it.


Enter the “American Rescue Act” Congress passed on March 10.


Finally the Congress many of us had given up on came through, and in a big way. No wonder 70% of all of us, regardless of political persuasion, support the plan. That’s because, at long last, 85% percent of us will directly benefit from it.


This bill is designed to help those of us who earn $75,000 a year or less ($150,000 or less for those of us who file our taxes jointly), and here’s what it means to you and your family:


ŸFor starters, all of us will receive a direct stimulus check for $1400. A family of four will receive a check for $5,600.


ŸTo lift up those of us with dependent children 17 years old and younger, monthly child-credit payments of $250 to $300 will begin this July. This single move will cut childhood poverty in America in half.


ŸFor those of us who have lost our jobs, $300 weekly unemployment payments will run through Labor Day.


ŸFor those of us who can’t afford medical care, health insurance premiums will go down from 150% to zero.


Ÿ$350 billion will be coming to state and local governments to shore up devastation from COVID.


ŸThere is funding to help struggling families for food, rent, and mortgage assistance. 


An obstruction
Here’s high fives to President Joe Biden and those in Congress who stood up for us. To those in Congress who refused to vote for the bill, complaining about the deficits they themselves created in handouts to their well-funded and demanding donors over the years, shame on you for trying to sink our leaky boat once and for all. We’ll remember.



Diane Tilson, Chairwoman

The Watauga County Democratic Party 


Monday, March 15, 2021

The ARP Will Be a Campaign Issue Next Year


You betcha, the American Rescue Plan, passed without a single Republican vote, is going to be a potent campaign issue in 2022.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are launching a victory tour of battleground states this week (no stops yet announced in North Carolina), and a 60-second ad, "Help Is Here," will begin airing on TV. (Can't share the ad here, but you can see it in the News and Observer article -- scroll down.)

Republicans have never had a problem bragging about their smallest butt-scratches (and they even, as we know, will brag about what the other side did that they want to take credit for), so I'm happy to see the Democrats willing to toot these horns.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

What Congresswoman Virginia Foxx Voted Against (Bless Her Heart!)


Virginia Foxx supposedly offers outstanding "constituent services," and I hope that's true (at least past the level of getting Capitol flags for local schools or squeezing out misplaced service medals for aging pensioners), but she's otherwise the Miss Murdstone of North Carolina politics, getting rich herself since gaining high office while remaining extremely stingy with the social safety (no money for you, New Orleans!). 

(Miss Murdstone was the sadistic spinster in David Copperfield whose cruelty and stinginess provide obstacles for the hero's rise. You might glimpse a similarity, if you have bifocals.)

Foxx -- along with every other last Republican in both houses of Congress -- voted no on the "American Rescue Plan"(ARP). Their rationale was Christ-like frugality. What was their rationale when they gave the super-rich a very similar pile of cash in the "Trump tax breaks"? Frugality for everybody else, while Foxx in particular raids the buffet and makes sure the corporate boys are happy.

Direct Payments

Most of us, including, ironically enough, stormers of national capitols, will get a direct payment of $1,400 -- $2,800 for a married couple that files jointly -- plus $1,400 per dependent. Individuals earning up to $75,000 should get the full amount, as would married couples with incomes up to $150,000. The size of the check would shrink for those making slightly more, with a hard cut-off at $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for married couples.

Watering Holes and Non-Profits

Specifically for restaurants and bars, the ARP can make grants to hospitality businesses that suffered mightily under the pandemic. The grants can be used to cover payroll, rent, utilities, and other operational expenses.

For non-profits, the ARP allows them to apply for loans to meet payroll and operating costs. The loans can potentially be forgiven.

Everybody's Watching You, Berger Moore (Ltd.)

Miss Murdstone, from Quirky Characters

The ARP provides billions targeted at a dozen states mainly in the South (including -- you guessed it! -- North Carolina) that wouldn't go along with Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. ARP offers lucrative buy-in possibilities for those Republican-dominated states. What will opposers like Berger Moore (Ltd.) do about it?

WRAL's Travis Fain posted two days ago a story about sudden detente between Governor Roy Cooper and Berger Moore (Ltd.), which seems to have germinated during successful negotiations on school reopenings. Cooper and Berger Moore (Ltd.) actually held an amicable press conference together last week. Since then, high level meetings between Berger Moore (Ltd.) and Democratic leaders in the NC House and Senate came off without anybody throwing a creme pie. No one came out and denounced the other side. 

Travis Fain asked Berger (CEO of Berger Moore Ltd.) if he was softening on Medicaid expansion, which Berger has always hated for its Obama cooties. Berger's quoted answer whipsaws me like Republican yin and yang. What does he mean, and doesn't it count as tectonic movement on the right?

“I don’t think I’ve ever indicated that there is something that, if we get this, I’d agree to Medicaid expansion," Berger said Thursday, when asked what he'd want in an expansion deal. "My opposition to Medicaid expansion has been I think it’s bad policy. ... Nothing I’ve seen has led me to believe that there’s a reason to change my position on that."


Berger continued: “Are there some things I’d like to see done? Yeah. But whether or not that’s something that an arrangement can be worked out – I’m not saying no to that. I’m just saying that, at this point, I’ve always been willing to discuss Medicaid expansion, access to care.” [Emphasis added]

Renters, Take Heart!

The ARP provides more than $30 billion to help low-income households pay their rent and to assist the homeless. States and tribes would receive an additional $10 billion for homeowners who are struggling with mortgage payments and other housing costs because of the pandemic.

Childcare, Especially for Essential Workers

The ARP provides about $39 billion for child care through an emergency fund to help child care providers pay for staffing, rent, and supplies, and through a block grant program that subsidizes the cost of child care for low-income families.

There's much MORE in the ARP for Virginia Foxx To Vote Against, Because It Helps the Very People She Likes To Claim She Once Was

There's plenty of news coverage, O my brethren, all over the place about the full details of what's in the American Recovery Plan, without a doubt the most progressive legislation since the Great Depression. Democrats can celebrate it as a milestone for rebuilding the social safety net. The Republicans can lie in bed with Trump and rue the day the Federal government gave so much to those who have so little instead of to the richest.

Friday, March 12, 2021

A Significant Defection from the Southern Baptist Convention


I was a good Southern Baptist when I lived in Texas. I was in church three times a week. I attended a Southern Baptist College and always went to chapel services. When cracks appeared in my foundation -- because I learned history and I learned science -- oh, Buddy, the whole temple collapsed like Samson at the pillars.

So I have more than a little sympathy and fellow-feeling for Beth Moore, a very prominent Southern Baptist writer and teacher, for announcing her departure from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) because of its appalling fealty not just to Trump but to Trumpian values. “I am still a Baptist, but I can no longer identify with Southern Baptists,” she said.

“Beth Moore has more influence and more cachet with Southern Baptists, especially white Southern Baptist women, than the vast majority of Southern Baptist pastors or other leaders. So her leaving is not just about one individual,” said another prominent Christian leader who happens to be Black.

Beth Moore has been trending toward a split with the SBC since the election of 2016 and especially following Trump's "Access Hollywood" taped confession about how he forces himself on weak women. In 2018, she published a letter to her “brothers in Christ” sharing her bruising experiences with sexism as a female leader in the conservative Christian world. On Twitter, where she now has more than 950,000 followers, she has denounced Christian nationalism, the “demonic stronghold” of white supremacy and “the sexism & misogyny that is rampant in segments of the SBC.”

How did the pharisees take her departure? Like this:

“The fact that Beth Moore joyfully promotes herself as a woman who preaches to men is only the tip of the iceberg of her problematic positions,” Tom Buck, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas, said in a post online following the news.

“I sincerely wish Mrs. Moore had repented rather than left,” he wrote. “But if she refuses to repent, I am glad she is gone from the S.B.C. Sadly, leaving the S.B.C. won’t fix what is wrong with Beth Moore.”

Southern Baptist men do not like uppity women, and they might, if it hadn't gone totally out of fashion, burn a few of them at the stake. As would their new prophet Trump.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Single Democrat in All of Congress Who Voted Against "The American Rescue Plan"


Jared Golden, of the 2nd CD of Maine, was the only Democrat in both House and Senate to vote against the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The 2nd Congressional District of Maine is incidentally the largest in land mass east of the Mississippi, encompassing nearly 80% of the total land area of Maine outside the urban centers of Augusta and Portland.

Golden is a former Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior to becoming a US Representative, he served in the Maine House of Representatives from 2014 to 2018. He flipped the 2nd CD red-to-blue in 2018 running as a political moderate in a district that Trump took in 2016 by seven points. In 2018 Maine used "ranked-choice voting" for the first time. Golden lost in the first round, but came from behind in the second to win. He won reelection in 2020 with 53% of the vote in the first round.

In a statement, Golden said, “Although I support the Senate’s effort to reduce the number of wealthier households that will receive stimulus checks, they did not go far enough...." He also said he was unhappy that the measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 got booted from the bill. “I voted for a $15 minimum wage in the last Congress, and given the opportunity, I intend to do so again.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Winston-Salem Man Becomes 5th North Carolinian Arrested for Involvement in Capitol Riot


Matthew Wood of Winston-Salem was arrested by the FBI for involvement in the Capitol insurrection on January 6th. He had voluntarily identified himself to the FBI on January 25th, after seeing his picture in a photo array of suspects. "He was interviewed at his home the following day. Investigators said Wood admitted he entered the Capitol through a broken window and walked into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s conference room. He also claimed he didn’t intend to march on the Capitol building or disrupt the Electoral College process. He said he was pushed toward the window by the crowd and entered the Capitol in order not to be trampled" (WFMY News 2) -- none of which appears to be true.

Wood had published bragging posts about his participation on Facebook but deleted them before the FBI interview. The FBI was able to retrieve the posts, which along with video revealed that Wood was a very willing participant. "Investigators said ... he willingly climbed through the window with a Trump flag. They also said Wood was among the first group of people to breach the Senate Wing Door."

Investigators said while Wood was in [Nancy Pelosi's] conference room, the video reveals he was waving and encouraging others to "engage and confront law enforcement as they attempted to push rioters back and clear the Rotunda.”

They also said he posted photos from inside the Capitol saying, "This is the PEOPLES house. We sent those politicians running. We sent a resounding message to Washington. We the PEOPLE will fight for our country. Make no mistake, the Capitol Police were not our target, they stood between us and the ones we wanted. America has fallen into ruins of division. When diplomacy doesn't work and your message has gone undelivered, it shouldn't surprise you when we revolt."

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

This Ex-Republican Plans To Run for the US Senate as 'Unaffiliated'


Kimrey Rhinehardt, who actually used to work for Richard Burr on Capitol Hill, decided she needed a divorce from the Republican Party while watching the Capitol insurrection. “I felt like I had no political home,” Rhinehardt said. “I think I’m on a mission to create one. Not just for me but people who feel the same that I do.”

Rhinehardt re-registered as "Unaffiliated," and now she's launching a petition drive to get on the 2022 ballot as an independent candidate for US Senate (her old boss's seat, though she worked for Burr when he was in Congress and before he made it to the Senate). It will be a heavy lift. She needs 84,000 verifiable signatures on the petition, an unconscionable rule that shows you how thoroughly the two major parties have rigged the system to shut out people like Kimrey Rhinehardt. (Make that 84,000 ink signatures.)

The News and Observer posted her introductory video. As she talks, she's handling Republican memorabilia from a lifetime of conservative political activism, including photos of her posing with every prominent Republican politician from Jesse Helms to Bob Dole to Richard Burr. She was a party animal. She was also a political science major at AppState.

“I want North Carolina’s voices to be heard. I don’t want it to be a party-driven message,” she told the Chatham News Record. “Because most people that I know don’t sit down and think about the issues facing their family in a political way. They don’t sit down and say, ‘What would the Republican Party suggest that I do?’ or ‘What would the Democratic Party suggest that I do?’ ”

Monday, March 08, 2021

Public Corruption in North Carolina


Political corruption remains a big motivating factor for how voters view their government. We just came off four years of some of the most astounding, out-in-the-ever-loving-open political corruption in our nation's capitol, and that display of civic putrefaction must have had something to do with the resounding loss of power in Washington for a Republican Party that sold its moral compass to gain favor with a Golden Ass. That spectacle of money-grubbing self-interest rivaled nothing in our history so much as the Robber Baron period at the end of the 19th Century, which also happened to coincide with the Rise of the Corporations.

Not surprisingly, a new statewide poll commissioned by Carolina Forward finds overwhelming evidence that the voting public in North Carolina sees public corruption as "a major problem" (and how you choose to define "major" is the whole ballgame). Furthermore, this poll finds corporations, and their political $$, fingered as a major cause of public corruption. The money game in politics could spoil a nunnery, let alone a 25-year-old Congressman from Hendersonville, say.

I'm not able to reproduce the poll's handsome pie charts here, but they're worth studying. Some 67% responded that corruption in our state government is a major problem (vs. 21% "minor problem"), and a whopping 80% say that large corporations have too much power in the state legislature (vs. 8% "Not too much"). Since that watershed election of 2010 and the illegal gerrymandering that followed it, the state legislature has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Berger Moore, a casual partnership that operates with an iron fist and plenty of ruthlessness (another name for corruption, I could argue).

Item. The leader of a giant insurance conglomerate corrupts the chair of the NCGOP, who in turn attempts to corrupt the Secretary of Insurance. The insurance executive is now in jail, the GOP chair, pardoned by Donald J. Trump. Many others from both political parties (yuck!) also benefitted from the insurance executive's generosity and did not give the money back.

Item. Harnett County Rep. David Lewis, chairman of the influential House Rules Committee in Raleigh, charged with federal financial crimes -- essentially embezzlement from his own campaign funds to pay for his personal life, which had been (just incidentally) difficult to keep straight and even, so a bunch of money went into Lewis's pocket where it didn't belong. ("But he needed it, Judge!") Rep. Lewis pleaded guilty, took a deal, resigned his House seat, and served no time.

Item. The multitudinous "deals" House Speaker Tim Moore has allegedly made, based on his power to move shit. Moore is the Gaston County brass monkey who turned to gold in Raleigh.

Item. North Carolina's newest Secretary of Labor, Josh Dobson of McDowell County (Marion), has ethics allegations (double-dipping) filed against him with the Legislative Ethics Committee less than a month before last fall's election. Luckily, the Legislative Ethics Committee is also run by his fellow Republicans. Nothing has come of the complaint so far.

Item. The Ashe County Sheriff scandal of 2017, wherein a new Republican sheriff appointed to the office by the all-Republican Ashe County Commission to follow the administration of a popular Democratic sheriff who retired. Said new sheriff is pretty quickly facing felony charges, followed by misdemeanor charges for refusing to comply with a public records request from WBTV. That sheriff agreed to resign, with charges dropped.

I could go on. I haven't even touched on the voter suppression efforts of the Watauga County Republican Party, starting in 2013, and the never chronicled election of 1998 in Watauga, when the corruption of a local ambulance service fueled a Democratic flip of the County Commission. The stories I know!

The Utility of the Carolina Forward Poll

Whether that 80% who disdain the outsized power of corporations, overlapping with the 67% who say public corruption is "a major problem" in North Carolina -- whether those pluralities ever put two-and-two together and actually vote their ethics -- that's a well with no water in it. We've maybe become so used to public corruption, the plain daylight buying of votes and offices, that we hardly even notice unless the corruption touches us directly. (All public corruption does touch us directly, but that's a hair-splitting for another day.)

Saturday, March 06, 2021

A New Democratic Candidate Announces for US Senate in 2022


Richard L. Watkins, who earned his Ph.D. at Chapel Hill in microbiology and immunology with a specialty in virology, has announced his intention to run for the US Senate seat currently held by Richard Burr. No one saw this coming. A freaking genuine scientist running for US Senate from North Carolina!

He touts his role as founder and CEO of The Science Policy Action Network. I've been on that website and clicked a lot of buttons, but I still don't know what they do. The language is all abstraction --"Exploration, Understanding, Knowledge" -- without specifics, though the bios of the staff and board of directors are quite fulsome about their scientific credentials.

Perhaps Watkins' primary salaried job is coordinating UNC’s Chancellor’s Science Scholars Program, which is cited in the News & Observer interview. He also serves on UNC’s Campus and Community Advisory Committee.

I'm most curious about his previous run for office. In 2018, he challenged Democratic Congressman David Price in the primary for the 4th CD. Watkins took 6.48% of the vote. Why? Why would he challenge the most venerable Democrat among North Carolina office-holders? Was he unhappy with Price's service? I can't find any of his campaign literature from 2018, so his candidacy at that time and against that incumbent just seems ... quixotic.

He's also not at all active on social media. He hasn't posted to his Twitter account since June 12, 2019, nor to his Facebook page since December 18, 2020.

All of which suggests that this may be a "wild hair campaign," when an otherwise attractive and qualified young person leapt before they looked.

Already announced for the 2022 Democratic senatorial primary -- former state Sen. Erica Smith and current state Sen. Jeff Jackson -- both seasoned campaigners who are well prepared for the race and well underway.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Moe Davis Bows Out in NC11


When former Guantanamo prosecutor Col. Moe Davis entered the 2020 congressional race in North Carolina's 11th District, I enthusiastically followed his candidacy because I naively believed that the Blue Wave of 2018 could have a repeat in 2020. (How can you stay political without being stupidly optimistic?) After Davis won the March 2020 Democratic primary, I wrote this about him:

...I'm looking ... to CD11 for my 2020 excitement, even though Cook still considers it "Solid Republican" even with all of Asheville restored to the district after being previously gerrymandered out. I'm looking that way because of the Democrat who won Tuesday's primary against four rival candidates, Moe Davis, who doubled the votes of his nearest second-place contender.

I've been following Davis since he burst out into the public soon after his (admittedly late) filing for the office. Morris "Moe" Davis retired from the US Air Force at the rank of colonel and already had a high pre-candidacy national profile. He served two years as Chief Prosecutor of the Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay and resigned in protest because his superiors in the Air Force Judiciary and the General Counsel of the Department of Defense overruled his decision to disallow evidence obtained via CIA torture. In resigning his position, Davis declared that he wasn't going to take orders from people who think "waterboarding is A-Okay."

In other words, he's a commendable hard-nose. He's got a clear pattern of courting controversy, or at least not skirting around it when it blocks his path of moral certitude (he said the Supreme Court was "meddling" when it chose to review the Military Commissions Act). He's not afraid to defy authority when he thinks he's right, and you've got to admire his fortitude. He's been on all the broadcast and cable news programs as a recognized expert in national security, especially security from terrorists who he thinks should be prosecuted the fair way and not via the CIA torture wheel, but he's also defended Guantanamo as a "humane" detention center (which makes him suspicious to some liberals).

He's a "risk" candidate at a time when too many Democrats want "safe." ...

Davis ran a combative (some liberals thought too combative) campaign against Cawthorn, highlighting the post-teenager's moral and ethical black holes. Full disclosure: I contributed more than once to Davis's campaign. He lost by 12 points anyway, and now the 11th CD of North Carolina has both the youngest and the rottenest member of Congress representing them in Washington.

Screengrab of Cawthorn,
courtesy of Raw Story
I've followed Davis's Twitter feed since the election, and he sure looked like he was determined to make another run at Cawthorn. Plus he had filed paper showing intent to run with the Federal Elections Commission, but he now says that was just a formality to keep his options open. In a new interview he gave to Raw Story, Davis now says he's out because he doesn't think the district can be won by a Democrat unless and until things change, including financial and tactical support from the national Party (not to forget a redrawing of district lines to make it less conservative -- a forlorn hope).

Davis's assessment about the future winnability of CD 11 pretty well matches up with the Cook Political Report's ranking: "The hardcore that drank the Trump Kool Aid, there's nothing I can do to change their minds," Davis said in a telephone interview. "They didn't care, or I think a lot of folks that would be supporters of him, they're not reading the New York Times or watching CNN."

Davis adds another factor to his decision, a genuine threat of violence: 

Davis said his social media manager recently quit because he was tired of having to wade through death threats, and Davis basically feels the same way.

"I'm not going to risk getting myself killed if there's no realistic shot at winning," he said. "If nothing changes, it's still impossible to win here."

He said he could support the candidacy of Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who announced earlier this week, but he suggested that having a big name in Asheville could actually hurt a Democrat's chances of winning the rest of the district -- which sounds about right. 

I think it's more likely that Madison Cawthorn will be taken out next spring in a Republican primary, at which point the punk can go on to his reward as an on-air personality for right-wing media. They like blonds who can parrot.


Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Buncombe County Commissioner Has Entered the Democratic Primary To Challenge Madison Cawthorn


Take a look at this, the announcement video of Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, just released this morning:

“I’m running because Western North Carolina families deserve better than they’re getting from Madison Cawthorn. My faith teaches me that leadership starts with empathy, compassion, and listening and then getting to work to help people. That’s the kind of leadership I want to offer instead of the division and mean-spiritedness we’re getting now,” said Beach-Ferrara. “This is going to be a campaign built on bringing people together, finding common ground, organizing everywhere and talking about the issues that actually matter to people’s lives.”

"Some people will say a gay woman who's a Christian minister just can't get elected in the South. Not to mention, she's a Democrat. When I say an insurrectionist who flirts with Nazis, fires up a violent crowd to attack our democracy, well he shouldn't get reelected anywhere," Beach-Ferrara said in the campaign video.

According to Kristy Kepley-Steward, "As a commissioner, Beach-Ferrara has a reputation as being a pragmatic problem-solver who knows how to bring people together to deliver results for working families, working to bridge the commission’s partisan divide to help expand access to early childhood education, tackle the opioid epidemic and keep people safe during the pandemic." The Smoky Mountain News prints additional background on Beach-Ferrara.

Beach-Ferrara will likely face a lively Democratic primary next spring for the privilege of taking on Cawthorn. Col. Moe Davis, who ran a pugnacious race against Cawthorn last fall, raised substantial campaign cash, but lost to Cawthorn by 12 points, filed a statement of candidacy on Feb. 22 but has a statement on his website saying he’s still “exploring” the idea of running again.

Henderson County businessman and Iraq War veteran Josh Remillard has also filed FEC paper to organize a campaign. Remillard was on the 2020 ballot for the 117th House District against a resurrected Tim Moffitt, but Remillard lost by 21 points. According to the Smoky Mountain News, another potential Democratic candidate, Jay Carey, is also exploring a run, "and it's likely he's not the last."

According to Cory Vaillancourt, Cawthorn may have his own Republican primary next spring with "powerful Hendersonville Republican" Chuck Edwards, who was just reelected to the NC Senate from Dist. 48. Apparently, Cawthorn's stepped on his own weenie a few times too many for an establishment Republican like Chuck Edwards.