Monday, May 31, 2021

Who Shot the Sheriff?

 "...a Pulitizer Prize winner should not be awarded tenure because she doesn't give enough credit to white people"

--Judd Legum on Twitter

So it appears pretty certain that the man the J-School is named for at Chapel Hill had a strong role in nixxing tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones. Walter Hussman Jr. gave $25 million to the School of Journalism and Media and got his name on the building in 2019. He had gone to the school and had made a fortune owning newspapers, including the fabled Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

When Walter Hussman heard that Hannah-Jones was being considered for the prestigious Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism, he began writing emails to UNC-CH officials and expressing his reservations about the appointment. "The Assembly" (a new "digital magazine" for freelance writers in North Carolina. Subscription is required) obtained those emails, and former News&Observer executive editor John Drescher wrote a lengthy article quoting from them and delving into the numerous issues raised when a big-time donor puts himself in the way of a hire. 

Drescher doesn't quote the Hussman emails at length (drat!). Hussman is a respected old-time American journalist with a strict philosophy of objective reporting, and I would have liked to take in the full unfurling of his thoughts on Hannah-Jones in long-form (so to speak). Don't know if I'm getting full Hussman in the brief excerpts that Drescher quotes. Is he a fuddy-duddy with a congenital blind spot for his own biases?

From what Drescher quotes, Hussman was particularly alarmed by Hannah-Jones's key role in producing the famed 2019 Project on American slavery and racism. Hussman liked the criticism of the project by a group of four prestigious (white) historians:

“I worry about the controversy of tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 project. I find myself more in agreement with Pulitzer prize winning historians like James McPherson and Gordon Wood than I do Nikole Hannah-Jones.

McPherson and Wood, along with two others, had signed a letter to The Times saying they were deeply offended by the new interpretation of American history offered in the 2019 project -- the thesis that American history was shaped -- and is still shaped -- by anti-Black racism and that maybe the Founders and their followers up to the present day did not and do not in fact commit to the ideals they say they revere. Ouch. The 2019 Project tromped on white piety about the high-mindedness of our national identity, a view cherished by both liberals and conservatives (Adam Serwer).

Hussman wrote in one email that he was particularly offended by this Hannah-Jones's sentence: “For the most part, black Americans fought back alone.” Hussman fastens on the odious exclusiveness of "alone" while ignoring the qualifying "for the most part":

“I think this claim denigrates the courageous efforts of many white Americans to address the sin of slavery and the racial injustices that resulted after the Civil War .... Long before Nikole Hannah Jones won her Pulitzer Prize, courageous white southerners risking their lives standing up for the rights of blacks were winning Pulitzer prizes, too.”

To which Judd Legum commented that Hannah-Jones's big sin must have been not complimenting white people enough (see above).

Still an open question: How did Hussman's criticism of Hannah-Jones get disseminated to the Chapel Hill Board of Trustees? Did it get disseminated? We know (thanks to The Assembly) about Hussman's emails to faculty/administration figures (the chancellor, the dean, etc.). Did he also email members of the BOT? 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Cowardice of Richard Burr

Senator Richard Burr made sure he had to be somewhere else yesterday, when the vote on a January 6th Commission came up in the US Senate. He had an unavoidable conflict, his office said. Burr was one of 11 US senators -- all Republican -- who skipped out, because they knew what was the right thing to do and had no stomach for actually voting against the right thing. So they ducked out. (All 11 are listed below.)

Once upon an odd time, Burr had the courage to vote for Trump's conviction in his second impeachment trial. What happened afterward? He was shunned. Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, who is running for Burr’s seat, sent out a fundraising appeal immediately after the vote. “...I am running to replace Richard Burr because North Carolina needs a true conservative champion as their next senator,” Walker tweeted. U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop (don't get me started) said in a tweet that he supported an immediate censure vote. Yes, I know the NCGOP did censure Burr's ass, so I guess he's now (and forever) one cowed suit (with open-necked collar).

When they voted to censure him, Burr issued a statement calling it "a sad day" for NC Republicans: “My party’s leadership has chosen loyalty to one man [do you think he means Trump?] over the core principles of the Republican Party and the founders of our great nation."

He found his balls once, long enough to vote for impeachment. But martyrdom ain't for everbiddy. Maybe it's the rare senator who can think, while simultaneously going out the door, that he needs to pull down the Temple behind him. "What the hell! They've done their worst to me. I might as well shoot the moon." He could have voted to form an investigative commission to find out how a violent invasion of the Capitol happened, but he ducked out the backdoor.

Jesus H. Christ.

Meanwhile that other North Carolina waffles-and-chicken senator, Thom Tillis, showed up and voted to ditch any investigation. "Tillis called the commission a partisan endeavor — despite its even makeup and rules requiring bipartisan buy-in for subpoenas" (Brian Murphy). Tillis has the courage of his talkingpoint.

  • Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee
  • Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri
  • Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana
  • Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina
  • Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma
  • Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington
  • Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota 
  • Republican Sen. James Risch of Idaho
  • Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama
  • Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona
  • Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania

Thursday, May 27, 2021

For a Republican To Win Virginia's Governership, He Needs To Hide


Interesting analysis by Laura Vozzella appeared yesterday in the WashPost documenting how Republican nominee for Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin has gone all moderate-by-means-of-omission since winning the Republican nomination. The piece is headlined "Glenn Youngkin, GOP nominee for Virginia governor, goes mum on guns and abortion."

Whaaa! No guns and abortion? But that's the essential GOP kindling for a bonfire of the vanities.

But smart(er) Virginia conservatives are going "Shaaa! It's more important to win the suburbs than continue to stroke Jimmie Sue and Radley Joe in their post-rural cultural crusades. Youngkin's just being strategic." Also dishonest.

Get this: Youngkin didn't fill out a single candidate survey from interest groups, including the very long one from the National Rifle Association -- "a first in recent memory for a successful statewide GOP nominee." And his campaign website has no "issues" page, where he might stand a chance of scaring the soccer moms.

And he's gone cagey with the press: "Asked during an interview with The Washington Post on Friday how he would like to change state laws on guns and abortion, Youngkin repeatedly evaded the topics. When pressed, he noted that he is 'pro-life' and that he will 'stand up for our constitutional rights.' But to every request for specific policy goals on abortion and guns, two of his signature issues, Youngkin offered the same jobs-schools-safety mantra."

Will it work?

That depends heavily on who the Democrats nominate, which will happen in the June 8th primary. I tried to write thumbnail profiles of all the diverse Democratic candidates here. The eventual winner could end up being a dynamic Black woman, Jennifer Carolyn Foy. Or Terry McAuliffe.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Posse Rides Tonight


After all the damage he did to our democratic institutions and to the integrity of our Republic, looks like Donald Trump's financial and business deeds may catch up with him firstest and fastest. It's hardly the resolution I was looking for -- insurance fraud can be so deadeningly complicated and ultimately so boring that my condolences go out to any potential jurors who will have to sit and hear all the evidence. As to the malefactor, we take what we can get. The jerk deserves comeuppance.

And Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. means business. He's convened a "special grand jury" for a six-month marathon of hearing all the evidence he's gathered, since he -- and he alone -- has gained access to Trump's tax records. One criminally relevant question: Were the values of specific properties in the Trump Organization’s real estate portfolio manipulated in a way that defrauded banks and insurance companies, and what (if any) tax benefits were obtained illegally through unscrupulous asset valuation? 

(I suddenly feel uncommonly drowsy. Please excuse me while I take a nap.)

This wakes me up: "...Vance’s investigation has [probably] progressed to the point that prosecutors will visit the grand jury, present evidence and witnesses, and potentially ask that charges be considered. Prosecutors were unlikely to take that step without believing they had evidence to show there was probable cause to believe someone had committed a crime..." (according to a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan).

Do you have any doubt who someone is?

The whole Trump house of cards (and cads) appears to be crumbling because of the cooperation of one man and the toppling dominoes he set in motion -- Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer who's already done time in jail for crimes that Trump obviously ordered. Trump's allowing Cohen to take that fall -- “I’m not involved, and I’ve been told I’m not involved .... He handled just a tiny, tiny little fraction of my legal work" -- snapped Cohen out of his daze. Ole Donald will throw anybody under the bus to save his own ass. "So fuck him," thinks Cohen, before he goes to talking (way back at the beginning of 2019).

The biggest domino will be Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, who knows the whereabouts of every penny and Trump's intent at every step during literally decades of financial shenanigans and double-dealings. One of Weisselberg’s sons also works for the Trump Organization, where he manages the company’s Central Park ice rinks. Another Weisselberg son works for a company that has extended loans to the Trump Organization. Both are under scrutiny by the D.A. for possible unreported financial benefits, while Allen Weisselberg himself may have income tax fraud problems. All by way of understanding that Cyrus Vance has a big spatula under the Weisselbergs, to flip them like flapjacks fully cooked on one side.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Any Port in a Storm


I try to pay little attention to polls -- especially when they scare the living shit outta me -- but I'm grabbing for the results from a national poll conducted by North Carolina's own conservative guru Carter Wrenn who teamed up with reformed Trumpist hit-man John Bolton.

Our friend Gary Pearce presents the most salient numbers from those cross-tabs, along with this piece of political wisdom by Carter Wrenn, who "is challenging the conventional wisdom that the Republican Party is Trump’s party":

“When a candidate’s popularity begins to wane it’s seldom like a titanic crash – it’s more like watching a row of dominoes fall: People who once said ‘He’s great’ roll downhill saying ‘He’s okay;’ people who used to shrug ‘He’s okay’ roll downhill saying ‘I no longer like him.’ That’s what’s happening to Donald Trump.”

I'd really like to believe that. I mean, really. But it's hard watching the Republicans in state leges moving hard and fast to barricade the ballot box, and Republicans in Congress doing everything in their power to rewrite the insurrection of January 6th as a merely enthusiastic visit by happy tourists, and Republican parties everywhere purging everyone deemed one degree less than perfectly Trump-loyal. Jeez! It's a spectacle of apparent Trump power everywhere you look.

But here are some numbers from that poll to leaven the lump:

Here were Trump’s numbers among Republican voters last October in a New York Times/Siena College poll: very favorable, 77; somewhat favorable, 15; unfavorable, 6.

 Here were Trump’s numbers this April in Carter’s poll: very favorable, 58; somewhat favorable, 27; unfavorable, 13....

“Trump opposing a candidate in a Republican primary does not appear to matter a great deal to Republican primary voters. 50% said Trump opposing a candidate makes no difference to them. 26% said they would be more likely to vote against a candidate Trump opposes; 24% said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate Trump opposes – a margin of only 2 points.”

Trump's disapproval among independent voters is much worse.


Pat McCrory Attacked For Being Insufficiently Subservient to Trump


Trump Train conservative Brant Clifton invents a new term to define Senate candidate and former Guv Pat McCrory: TICC ("Trumpist in Certain Circles").


Friday, May 21, 2021

When Political Hacks Take Control of a Once-Great University System


In between trying to keep the weeds from overwhelming my garden, I've been trying to keep up with the controversy over the hiring of journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones at UNC-Chapel Hill. I covered the right-wing boil about her appointment a week ago yesterday, and I've been trying to stay up with daily developments since then, preparing to write about the craven behavior of the UNC-CH administration in the face of a decision by the UNC-CH Board of Trustees to deny Hannah-Jones tenure. But some days are too cluttered, I hear the weeds celebrating out there like frat boys on a Thursday night, and Jeffrey Billman summed up everything for me too perfectly not to steal his sentences wholesale here:

Since we’re about to talk qualifications, let’s remember that the guy chairing the UNC Board of Governors [Randy Ramseydoes not have a bachelor’s degree, lied about earning an associate’s degree, but did receive a diploma from a boat mechanics program, which, in the eyes of the General Assembly, qualifies him to oversee 16 public universities.

Randy Ramsey was also one of the “brains” behind the Silent Sam debacle, which involved the BOG trying to fork over $2.5 million to a bunch of Confederate yahoos—a judge struck down the deal—and then lying to the public about it.

The Board of Governors and the NCGA control the UNC-CH Board of Trustees, which earlier this week denied tenure to “1619 Project” creator Nikole Hannah-Jones on account of … you know, reasons.

Definitely not because she’s Black.

Or because The 1619 Project poked the bear of white resentment by forcing a critical reevaluation of the role of slavery and racism in the formation of American society, which is not exactly something the UNC System is ready to do.

Because—ostensibly—she’s not an academic.

“Susan King, dean of the journalism school, said she was told that the trustees didn’t approve tenure to someone outside of academia, as Hannah-Jones is a professional journalist, not a professor. However, the Knight Chair is specifically designed to bring the best in their industry into higher education.” (N&O)

Of course, other Knight chairs weren’t academics—that’s kind of the point, to bring people with real-life experience into university classrooms. Journalism isn’t a profession you learn in a classroom. (I assume UNC Hussman is better, but my j-school was useless.)

The handling of this phony controversy has made UNC’s administration a national laughingstock, again....

There's more, of course, about white people's misplaced hypertension over the 1619 Project or over any acknowledgement that the very structure of our constitutional government was written to establish (and maintain) a racist understanding of who should govern and who should be subjected.

What's happened to Hannah-Jones and to the integrity of what used to be North Carolina's flagship university is just the logical outcome of the Art Pope/Phil Berger/Tim Moore campaign to control higher education and forcibly rewrite the understanding of history as Anglo-Saxons uber alles.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Virginia Foxx's Heart Sets Off Metal Detectors in Capitol

It's the only logical explanation for this:

Capitol Police reported that Foxx exited the elevators to access the House floor for a vote Thursday.

The 77-year old Republican then "ran through the magnetometer" and "threw her bag underneath the table" next to the metal detectors and "loudly stated she was late for a vote and not slowing down."

Two officers then raised their hands and said "Ma’am" in an attempt to stop Foxx. She reportedly ignored the officers and entered the House floor.

The report submitted to the House Ethics Committee said the officers then observed Foxx while she was in the House chamber to cast her vote.

Foxx then returned to the security screening station to collect her bag and complete the required security check, reportedly telling the officers "good thing no one stopped me."

Foxx has been slapped with a $5,000 fine for evading the magnetometer.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Democrats Dissect the Corpse


While the Republican Party didn't even put out a party platform in 2020, saying "It's just anything Trump wants," and is totally allergic now to any post-election soul-searching -- since Trump really won, dontcha know -- at least Congressional Democrats have done a deep dive into understanding why they lost 11 seats in Congress last November.

Bottomline: Democrats underestimated the number of hard-core Trump voters who would turn out. Polling totally missed the Trumpist surge and overestimated Democratic performance. Which led the guys in the DCCC to assume that freshmen elected in 2018 were safe -- which they most decidedly were not -- and to pump money into more long-shot challengers in districts where the eventual Republican/Trump performance kept their incumbents safe. Six Democrats from the class of 2018 lost by less than 1.5 percentage points (which was pretty close to the margin for most of the losing Democrats in NC for Council of State seats).

The autopsy of Democratic losses also calls for an overhaul of campaign spending. Too much money was pumped into useless TV ads late in the game. Too little went to on-the-ground organizing and digital outreach.

The single ray of sunshine: Trump's not being on the ballot in 2022. “The Republican Party is betting the ranch that they can do Trump’s toxicity without Trump’s turnout," said Rep. Sean Maloney, chair of the DCCC. "And I think that may end up being a terrible mistake. There’s that old saying that when the tide goes out, you find out who’s skinny-dipping. And if this tide of Trump turnout goes out in 2022, the Republicans may end up skinny-dipping.”

That both Democrats and Republicans are depending on the presence/absence of Trump's political and personal bile is the tragic story of American democracy's current brush with authoritarianism. The only thing that may ultimately save us is the presumed justice and force of law in our legal system.

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Seeds of Trump's Demogoguery


What national presidential candidate's speaking style did a journalist describe this way:


His addresses everywhere were extended monologues rather than speeches, a hectic one-man argument without any real beginning, progression, or end.


That same national presidential candidate was recorded saying the following things:


"If one of these two national parties don't wake up and get straight, well, I can priomise that you and me, we gonna stir something up all over this country."


"Hell, we got too much dignity in government now. What we need is some meanness."


"Naw, we don't stop and figger. We don't think about history or theories or none of that. We just go ahead. Hell, history can take care of itself."


If you guessed Donald J. Trump, you guessed wrong. The character exercising his talent for disruptive demogoguery in the examples above was George Corley Wallace, the four-term governor of Alabama who cashed in on racial resentment in 1968 and ran a third-party presidential campaign that won five Southern states, taught Richard Nixon a new "Southern strategy," and laid the groundwork for the rise of our most recent racializing demogogue Trump, who could just as easily have said all the things quoted above.


A friend gave me Marshall Frady's 1968 book about Wallace (thanks, JF), and I've enjoyed the writing. Frady was a free-lance reporter at the time who got uncommon access to Wallace, riding in the car with him between speaking engagements. Frady reminds me of many events that I was alive for, watching politics from a graduate student's perch in Salt Lake City, but also teaching me things that I didn't know or don't remember -- for example, that Wallace's early career in the Alabama legislature was characterized by a liberal populism before he discovered race hatred and that darker populism as his ticket to ride.


I'm most struck by Wallace as a prophet for what was to come. The same people who cheered Wallace as a savior of "Anglo-Saxon culture" signed on enthusiastically to Trumpism and to Trump, not just as the avatar for resentful whiteness but as the savior of fundamentalist religion (which has got to go down as one of the crowning ironies of this still young 21st Century).

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Judge John Tyson Accused of Trying to Mow Down BLM Protestor in Fayetteville


Since the murder of George Floyd a year ago in Minneapolis, activists in Fayetteville, NC, have staged Black Lives Matter protests around the Market House in downtown Fayetteville. On May 7th, North Carolina Appeals Court Judge John Tyson is alleged to have circled protestors and then on the second pass attempted to hit one of them. The vehicle ended up on the sidewalk. The woman who appeared to be targeted has filed charges against Tyson with the Fayetteville police, and a detective has been assigned to investigate. Allegedly, the whole incident was captured on city videotape.

The SUV allegedly driven by Judge John Tyson, sitting on the sidewalk
soon after the incident. The license plate identifies the vehicle
as belonging to an Appeals Court judge. 

The Facebook page for FAM: Fayetteville Activist Movement also alleges that Judge Tyson has a pattern and practice of attempted intimidation of Black activists:

Judge John Tyson 
NC Appeals Court Judge Tyson has a history of attempts to intimidate activists in Fayetteville. Last year, he hired gunmen to act as his personal goon squad and point weapons at people from windows of his buildings downtown. 

A year later, and he's taken it upon himself to try and intimidate free citizens from exercising their First Amendment rights. 

He is now under investigation for "Aggravated Assault" since veering into activists, all caught on city cameras that we need everyone to put pressure on City of Fayetteville, NC Government to release.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Republican Cancel Culture Targets a New Journalism Prof at UNC-CH


Reporter Joe Killian has the scoop at NC Policy Watch:

When UNC-Chapel Hill announced the hiring of Nikole Hannah-Jones last month, it was cause for celebration among students, faculty and administration at the school....

According to UNC-Chapel Hill, Hannah-Jones is, in many ways, a perfect fit for the school’s Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.

She is herself a Tar Heel, having obtained her master’s degree at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media in 2003. In a distinguished career as an investigative reporter she’s worked for Raleigh’s News & Observer, The Oregonian in Portland and Pro Publica in New York before winning acclaim for her coverage of civil rights and racial injustice for the New York Times Magazine. She has won both the Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant.”

But Hannah-Jones is being attacked by conservative groups, two of which have connections to members of the UNC Board of Governors (including Art Pope, ahem):

Killian, again:

Pulitzer Prize? MacArthur Fellowship? “Questionable credentials,” said the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal (formerly known as the Pope Center for Higher Education).

One of America’s most respected investigative journalists? The same group termed that a “charade” concocted by “a powerful coalition with Democratic socialists, the media, and ‘woke’ crony capitalists.”

“This lady is an activist reporter — not a teacher,” said an unsigned editorial from the Carolina Partnership for Reform.

The Carolina Partnership for Reform is "a group that’s long been linked to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger" and it "published an unsigned broadside in which it said Hannah-Jones would force students to conform to her political ideology if they expect to pass her classes" -- an allegation that comes directly out of right-wing victimization fantasies, not out of any actual classroom evidence.

The Carolina Partnership for Reform makes little to no information about itself, its composition, leaders or funders available on its website. But 2018 IRS documents listed then-UNC Board of Governors chairman Harry Smith and current board chair Randy Ramsey as directors of the organization. Asked about the connection this week, the UNC System said Ramsey, who helped found the organization in 2013, resigned from his position there last year. Ramsey’s official 2021 Statement of Economic Interest, however, lists him as the group’s treasurer.

There's much more in Killian's report. Bottomline on what's going down in Chapel Hill: This is all bullying Trumpism let loose on the UNC's flagship institution.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Virginia Foxx Purges Liz Cheney


Bless Virginia Foxx's capacious heart! She's shared her remarks from this morning when she was sliding a 10-inch stiletto into Liz Cheney's heart in the Republican caucus.

What She Said:

"We have always had space for diverse views in this conference and many here can testify to that, but for us to be a majority we must come together and agree on a course of action."

What She Meant:

I mean, you can have roast chicken or fried chicken or chicken and dumplings, or lemon chicken is not out of the question, and I know that some even tolerate kung pao chicken, though I think -- and I've actually prayed about it -- that Mexican chili chicken pizza is going too far.


What She Said:

"Our conference’s main goal now is fighting for sound, conservative policies that will resonate and regain the majority in 2022."

What She Meant:

Did you know that if you stretch a drumhead tight enough you can vibrate down a mountain to an ant hill, if not a large building?


What She Said:

"...our vision for this country is fundamentally and undeniably better than what Speaker Pelosi is offering our country."

What She Meant:

Betelguese! Betelguese! Betelguese!


What She Said:

"Unfortunately, we have been distracted from that goal by your continued statements sowing confusion with the public on our message and agenda."

What She Meant:

MAGA to you, and covfefe forever to unite a bewildered nation in his blessed vision!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Virginia Republicans Pick a Trumpist to Run for Governor, Though Not the Trumpiest


Glenn Youngkin.
Photo by Bill O'Leary, WashPost

Last Saturday, at their disassembled state convention, Virginia Republicans nominated Glenn Youngkin as their candidate for governor in this year's state elections. Youngkin is the former co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group, a global private equity giant, and he had emphatically embraced the politics of Donald Trump. Worth an estimated $254  million, the political newcomer highlights his up-by-the-bootstraps biography, including a stint in his teens washing dishes at a Virginia Beach diner to help support his family. Youngkin claimed that he had raised $1 million from supporters in the first 10 days of his campaign.

Youngkin is a Trumpist running in a state that has turned decidedly bluer during the last several elections, but he wasn't the most dangerously Trumpist of the candidates running last Saturday. That would be Amanda Chase, currently the pistol-packing "Trump in high heels" who occupies a seat in the state senate (a seat recently encased in a plastic shield -- no, really -- because Chase refuses to wear a mask) who earned herself a bipartisan censure from her fellow senators for praising the Capitol insurrectionists as "patriots." She's the principal reason Republican Party leaders were desperate to keep this race out of a primary. They were terrified she could win a primary and go on to crash the whole party in November. 

Now that'll be Glenn Youngkin's job.

Footnote: The most qualified Republican candidate for the job, Kirk Cox, was eliminated from contention in an early round of ranked-choice voting. He's been in the Virginia House of Delegates for three decades, and in his party's salad days, he served as majority leader and then as Speaker of the House. His voting record is not that different from Amanda Chase's, but Cox tries to project a non-Trumpist and "sane conservative" image. His one striking departure from Republican orthodoxy: He swerved on the issue of expanding Medicaid in the state under the Affordable Care Act, so to the Trumpists he's a traitor.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Bo Hines and the Wheel of Fortune


Bo Hines, the Madison Cawthorn wannabe who had announced a Republican primary campaign in 2022 to take out Virginia Foxx, has reassessed his chances of taking out Virginia Foxx and his options for a different district to run in, perhaps one without a fellow Republican as incumbent, and he's decided that the 13th CD, where Ted Budd is stepping down to run for US Senate, looks mighty promising.

The map below was in effect last fall. It won't be in effect in 2022, as the Republican majority in the NC General Assembly will be redistricting to squeeze in a 14th CD, the result of population growth. Bo Hines currently doesn't live in the 13th; he doesn't currently live in the 5th either, as he's a student at Wake Forest in Forsyth. It's not illegal to run to represent a US House district where you don't live, but it's rarely a successful stretch.

We regret that Virginia Foxx won't have the most interesting primary of her nine terms in the US House. Bo Hines might have been stronger than most of the leftovers that Foxx faced in her past primaries.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Beware of Those Wishing To Rewrite the US Constitution


Rep. Louie Gohmert of Tex.,
one of the visionaries who's
totally in favor of a "Convention
of States" to rewrite the
US Constitution

Bear with me here, as this is complicated: The movement among conservatives to demand a new "Article V Constitutional Convention" to rewrite portions of the US Constitution unpleasing to conservatives has several moving parts. The NC House, just on March 17th, voted 61-52 to join a bunch of other states (largely controlled by Republicans) to call for a new convention of states to amend the US Constitution in three broad areas: limiting the federal government’s powers, restraining fiscal spending, and establishing term limits for members of Congress and other federal elected officials. (The same resolution is now pending in the NC Senate.)

Those three action areas may sound benign to you, but they aren't and the first two especially raise the small hairs on the back of my neck. Just the first of those three items -- "limiting the federal government's powers" -- could open a treasure chest of extreme rewrites, everything from doing away with the policing of environmental degradation (do powerful businesses really want all those regs on their activities?) to overturning marriage equality for gay couples. Commentators opposed to a new Constitutional Convention warn of a "runaway convention," since nothing like this has ever been done before, and there are no rules.

First, for background, here's the full text of Article V:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

"On the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states." In the current math of 50 total states, that means 34 can call for a new constitutional convention, and there are no set rules for who gets to be the delegates from the states, and how those delegates would be chosen (but you can bet your sweet bippy that in the case of North Carolina, Phil Berger and Tim Moore will be holding all the chits). 

Here's where it gets a little more complicated: The resolution in the NC House calling for a new convention that passed in March is being pushed by a pressure group calling itself "The Convention of States Action" (COS). On their website, they claim that 13 states have signed on, with a number of others happily pending (like North Carolina, waiting for action in Phil Berger's Senate).

But there's another separate push for a constitutional convention, specifically (and only?) for the purpose of inserting a balanced budget amendment, that has gathered some 28 states as supporters, which would be (if my high school math hasn't completely failed me) just six short of the required 34. This movement is the work of a group called the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force (BBATF), and its success has alarmed many progressive orgs like Common Cause. In a current fundraising appeal, Common Cause alleged this:

Now that the far-right has seen their agenda and their choice for president rejected by the American voters -- we anticipate a major escalation in their drive to rig the rules of our democracy to get their way.

You see, once an Article V Constitutional Convention is called, everything is on the table. Freedom of the press. Freedom of religion. Free speech. Everything.

Many constitutional experts have warned that this is the biggest present threat to our democracy -- and few Americans have even heard of it! But it’s happening as we speak, behind closed doors and out of the public eye.

You take a look at some of the characters cheering on these constitutional rewrites, and you're not reassured that their agenda isn't animated by Trumpist bullying "to get their way." On the COS "Endorsements" page, we see the likes of Ron DeSantis, Sean Hannity, Mark Meadows, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, Dr. James Dobson, etc. Why, you might get the idea that they had ulterior motives. 


The Article V Constitutional Convention came to my attention because a reader of this blog (thank you, SM) saw a small yardsign in Watauga County advocating a Convention of States for the express purpose of term-limits for members of Congress, which might garner slightly more support from the unsuspecting general public than some of the more open-ended policy goals.

Friday, May 07, 2021

The Trump Derangement Syndrome


Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who intends to succeed Liz Cheney in Republican leadership, has done her required public catechism -- stating her undying loyalty to Trump and all he believes, including The Big Lie. Doing it publicly is the last step (?) to an elevation among the Trumpists, whom she otherwise fears. She has to do the catechism not only to survive but to also rise in the new ranks of the Trump Republican Party, and by Gawd, Stepfanik went down on her knees, and now sez she's seen the light. 

In pledging herself to a former TV entertainer, she appeared "Thursday morning on the podcast of former Trump campaign and White House aide Stephen K. Bannon, where she sought to make the case that she is a reliable supporter of Trump and devoted to his brand of nationist populism, distancing herself from her ties to the old establishment wing of the party and her moderate voting record in Congress" (Colby Itkowitz).

...[Stefanik] kept her distance from Trump early in his presidency. She was the co-chair of the moderate GOP Tuesday Group with then-Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and backed former Ohio governor John Kasich for president in 2016.

...Stefanik voted against some of [Trump's] policy proposals, including the 2017 tax cuts [and funding for The Wall].

Raw ambition to rise in the Trump Republican Party requires lying for Trump, specifically lying to pump up his ego. In Stefanik's case, her willingness to do a buy-in on "Stop the Steal" is probably not just her ambition playing the odds. It's survival itself in a party which is right now this minute purging (or censuring) every politician deemed disloyal to Caesar.

Caesar's Creed ("Let the repentant say so in  public"): "The election fraud in Georgia and Arizona and every other state that Trump should have won (and probably did win) -- it was outright fraud in multiple places that changed the results for Biden, and the legitimate president now plays golf at Mar-a-Lago." 

Is Stefanik's forced confession not a now-typical spectacle accompanying the implosion of a venerable political party? The kissing of the cold hand with its big ring, the public abasement of character to a self-serving CEO, the vowing of fidelity to a monster who would just as soon cut your fucking throat.

What set me off was how Stefanik, while simultaneously publicly kissing the ring in a manner that can only be described as revolting, slapped the sponge on Trump doubters, alleging they suffered from "Trump derangement syndrome," couldn't see all the good that Trump has done and all he accomplished for the betterment of humanity. 

I know when it's raining, and I see who's deranged.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Et Tu, Virginia? Foxx To Place the Ceremonial Knife in Liz Cheney's Back


Separated by Trump--
V. Foxx on the right, Liz Cheney on the left

Politico reported that Congresswoman Virginia Foxx has been selected (or volunteered, bless her heart) to introduce the formal resolution in the Republican caucus to remove Liz Cheney from House Republican leadership.

Politico reported that "Foxx ... spoke out against Cheney during February’s closed-door meeting on the Wyoming Republican's future, according to multiple party sources. Ahead of this year's failed first attempt to oust Cheney from leadership, Foxx specifically took issue with the fact that Cheney used her 'conference chair' title in the press release announcing her vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump."

Politico also guesses that Foxx's 2022 primary challenger, Bo Hines, has something to do with her decision to pile on Cheney for her insufficient loyalty to the former president: "...Foxx, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, is notably facing a far-right primary challenger who is accusing her of staying in office too long and being part of the capital's 'swamp.' Her leading role in Cheney's now-inevitable leadership eviction could help her in that fight."

The plan to tap Foxx for the resolution was hatched in recent days. GOP leaders made a calculation that if the effort to remove Cheney from leadership was led by ultra-conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus, their involvement could turn off other more moderate members. Instead, they wanted a Republican to lead the anti-Cheney charge who is both less polarizing and a woman, easing some of the political awkwardness associated with removing the highest-ranking GOP woman in Congress from her role as conference chair.

Foxx ... "less polarizing"? Also ... "a woman"? Personally, we haven't seen that long-form birth certificate. 

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

When Idiots Are in Charge of Education


Rep. Jeffrey McNeeley,
Iredell County

Public school teacher Justin Parmenter is up this morning on his blog, "Notes From the Chalkboard," with a post about being personally singled out and attacked in the General Assembly as a dangerous influence on children. I'm reposting much of what he wrote here because he's informing us about a baleful bill moving in the General Assembly which will make teachers presumptive threats to youth, who must prove themselves otherwise to a Republican majority in the General Assembly who are skeered of their own Trumpish demons. 

"A state legislator is howling indoctrination because my 7th graders are learning the ocean is polluted"

A member of the North Carolina House of Representatives held up my teaching as an example of harmful indoctrination of children this week as state legislators met to discuss a new bill which would require teachers to post their lesson plans online for public review.

The K-12 Education Committee approved HB 755, also known as “An Act to Ensure Academic Transparency,” and it’s on the House calendar for today.

The proposed legislation mandates that all lesson plans, including information about any supporting instructional materials as well as procedures for how an in-person review of lesson materials may be requested, be “prominently displayed” on school websites.

Iredell County Republican Representative Jeffrey McNeely gave the bill two enthusiastic thumbs up, pointing to my teaching as an example of the hidden indoctrination that will be exposed if the bill is passed into law:

...I saw in the Charlotte Observer the other week a English teacher was complaining because he had to do remote learning and in-person learning at the same time and it caused him to shorten his English class on environmental pollution.

What you think about that?

So I think this putting out to me this will help the parents going to the next grade be able to look and see what that teacher taught the year before, and hopefully we’re just gonna teach the kids, we’re not gonna try to indoctrinate ’em or teach ’em in a certain way to make ’em believe something other than the facts, the knowledge, the ability to write the ability to read.

McNeely is referring to an editorial I published in the Charlotte Observer last week about my experiences with hybrid teaching during the COVID 19 pandemic. In the article I discussed being in the middle of a lesson with students both in person and on Zoom when the fire alarm rang, forcing me to prematurely end class for my remote students in the middle of an important conversation.

The Iredell County legislator ignored the overall point I was making about the challenges the pandemic has wrought for teachers and students, directing his tunnel vision at my opening words: “Not long ago I was leading a discussion about environmental pollution with my 7th grade English class…”

For McNeely, this line, which I “prominently displayed” in the state’s three largest newspapers, exposes a sinister plot to deviate from state standards in support of the leftist agenda. Why else would an English teacher be discussing environmental pollution with students, if not “to make ’em believe something other than the facts, the knowledge, the ability to write the ability to read”?

I teach 7th grade English Language Arts in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. We use EL Education’s Language Arts curriculum, which is organized into modules that last several weeks. (The curriculum is open source, so materials are prominently displayed here.)

While working toward mastering state ELA standards, this year my students have studied the Lost Children of Sudan and the Harlem Renaissance, and right now we’re learning about plastic pollution. Through our current module, Mecklenburg County’s 7th grade students have gained an understanding of how plastic has become an integral part of our lives over the years but also how much of it makes its way into the world’s oceans as microplastics, harming wildlife and posing a threat to humans as well.

Not having a background in education, Representative McNeely may not be aware that teaching students to read and write involves selecting topics for them to read and write about.

This process allows teachers to create a broad and engaging educational experience for students and enables us to integrate instruction across subject areas so that our students see connections in class content between my English class, for example, and their social studies, science, and math classes. It’s not a leftist plot, it’s how school is supposed to work.

This drum beating over indoctrination of students is becoming completely absurd.

The vast majority of the public trusts teachers to do their jobs and understands that we already have way too much on our plates without adding the enormous burden of posting everything we do in class online for the pleasure of Representative McNeely and the fringe handful of his constituents who are convinced they’re fighting an end of days culture war.

McNeely and his misguided colleagues need to put down their pitchforks and focus on doing what they were elected to do: creating policies which will actually improve the lives of North Carolinians.


Representative Jeffrey McNeeley was appointed to his seat in July 2019 to replace a retiring Republican woman and then won reelection to the seat last fall. He's a former Iredell County Commissioner, and he owns a company that makes bulk feed for livestock.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Improved Voting Access in Virginia; North Carolina, Eat Your Heart Out!


Virginia General Assembly
With Democrats in unified control of Virginia since the elections of 2019 (governor and both houses of the state lege), they made easier access to voting their top priority, and look at what they accomplished:

Open absentee voting for anyone who wants to cast a ballot early or to vote by mail, not just those who have an acceptable excuse. Almost 60 percent of voters cast absentee ballots last year. 

Legislators also approved ballot drop-off boxes, prepaid postage for ballot return envelopes, and a formalized process allowing voters to correct errors in their paperwork.

Repeal of Virginia’s mandatory photo ID rule, making registration near-automatic through the DMV, and passage of a state-level voting rights law that creates a stricter review process for any local election changes that might discriminate against racial or linguistic minorities. 

A proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters, would automatically restore felons’ voting rights upon release from prison.

A bill allowing ranked-choice voting in local races.

 Legislation allowing same-day voter registration is scheduled to begin for the 2022 general election.


Sunday, May 02, 2021

The Judge in the Andrew Brown Body-Cam Dispute Thinks the Media Are Morons


Photo by Robert Willett
News and Observer

Superior Court Judge Jeffery B. Foster ruled this past week that the police body cam footage of the killing of Andrew Brown in Elizabeth City will remain private. He ruled that the media has no standing to demand its release and even if it did, “good cause does not exist” to make the body-cam video public.

When it looks like a coverup is well underway in this case, the active participation of a judge in that coverup does make one wonder about the biases of the judge.

The News and Observer's Brian Murphy followed up on some investigation by The Root into Judge Foster's social media postings over the years, and they suggest a clear lean to the right:

On Sept. 10, 2020, Foster posted a temporary profile picture of a thin blue line over a sheriff’s badge from Henderson County. That day, Henderson County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Hendrix, 35, was shot and killed by a suspect, who also died.

In May 2020, Foster posted a link to a news story about a Raleigh police officer being shot during a robbery attempt.

“When you work with, get to know, and become friends with law enforcement officers these stories make your heart stop for a moment. Thank God the officer is ok. These LEO’s risk their lives every day to keep us safe. God bless all of our law enforcement officers. Thank you all for what you do every day,” Foster wrote in the post.

In April 2020, Foster posted a meme with a photo of media members asking probing questions about Pearl Harbor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The meme is captioned: “If FDR had to deal with a press corp like President Trump’s.” Foster wrote: “I’m just gonna leave this here.”

Read more here: 2010, he wrote: “I’m constantly amazed at how moronic the press is,” referring to a headline about Mexico’s president complaining about an Arizona law to President Barack Obama.

Foster’s Facebook feed is a fairly typical one — a mix of family photos, travel pictures, sports takes and memes. It contains many photographs taken by him of birds and other natural sights, many marked with a stylish photo signature.

In one post, he writes about his daughter looking for babysitting gigs. In another, he shares a photo of him as a young boy with his mother “in honor of Mother’s Day week.”


The feed also includes some anti-mask rhetoric, including a meme with re-imagined Queen lyrics about not wearing a mask.

“The anti-maskers getting creative. I love this,” Foster wrote.

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Foster wrote in an exchange with someone on his page that “every year the flu kills more people than have died from Covid 19.”

Another post expresses his admiration for G. Gordon Liddy, calling him a “badass.” Liddy was convicted for his role in the Watergate scandal.

Another from April 6 shares a TV screen grab about Coca-Cola requiring photo ID for its shareholder meeting. The company has earned scorn from the right for its stance against recently passed voting laws in Georgia.

“Hypocrisy,” Foster writes.

Before he was a judge, Foster offered his thoughts on other cases. He said George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin but was found not guilty of criminal charges, “should have never been charged. The jury did the right thing. Fox News got it right again.”