Saturday, December 31, 2022

Josh Stein Drops a Bomb, and It's a Dud


Josh Stein

Yesterday afternoon, beginning at 3:55 p.m., NC Attorney General Josh Stein posted a series of tweets, the bottomline of which was this: "After an extensive investigation by the SBI and a thorough review by career prosecutors in my office, I have concluded that we will not be pressing charges against Mark or Debra Meadows concerning their own voting in North Carolina in the 2020 elections."

Because when you've got bad news for your Democratic base, news which seems to confirm that rich and powerful white men have different, rosier expectations from the justice system than ordinary schlubs, you dump it out on a Friday afternoon heading into a three-day weekend.

Stein preceded the declaration quoted above with a tweet implying that Mark Meadows is anyway a giant douche, perhaps to soften the actual blow of announcing that voting from an address in western North Carolina you'd never lived at or even ever visited gets a pass from the A.G.: "BREAKING: Mark Meadows has made numerous unfounded and damaging claims about voter fraud both before and after the 2020 election. In fact, the January 6th congressional committee identified him as a likely co-conspirator over his central role in the January 6th insurrection."

Hardly "breaking" news, but I get that the A.G. was trying to wrap his smelly carp of exoneration in some fancy holiday tissue for an audience looking for justice of the swift and sharp variety.

In tweets 5 and 6, Stein added a fig leaf of justification for the decision to let Meadows off entirely:

Given that NC law has a residency exception for people working for the federal government in Washington DC, the Meadows had a year-long lease for the Scaly Mountain property, and cell phone records indicate that Mrs. Meadows was at or around the property in October of 2020, we have concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they knowingly engaged in voter fraud. If further information relevant to these allegations comes to light in any other jurisdictions, we reserve the right to reopen this matter.

The key words: "beyond a reasonable doubt." And it's fair for our top lawyer to calculate the likelihood of conviction by a jury of his peers, even if the storm of criticism that erupted after Stein's announcement suggested that prosecution would be the right thing to do, even if perhaps not ultimately successful.

I want to give Stein the benefit of my doubts. I'd like to see him become governor. Maybe he knows that the Federal web is closing on Meadows for far greater misdeeds, and he doesn't want to get in the way of that.

But I also can't help remembering Lanisha Jones, the Black woman from Hoke County, who in 2016, out of prison on probation, thought she was eligible to vote. She wasn't. She made an honest mistake, The local Republican prosecutor threw the book at her for felony voter fraud. Mark Meadows didn't make a mistake. He registered to vote where he didn't live deliberately, and voted deliberately. He gets "not sufficient evidence," and it tastes bad on the tongue.

And add this to the rancid whiff of special treatment for rich white men: according to the News and Observer, Mark and Debra Meadows "refused to be interviewed by the State Bureau of Investigation" in its probe of the allegations. Those nice, upstanding folks refused. Try that yourself sometime when the SBI comes knocking. How would that have worked for Lanisha Jones?

Friday, December 30, 2022

Jody Agonistes


The now notorious Sheriff of Columbus County, NC, Jody Greene is about to have his tenure in office decided by another judge.

To recap: Jody Greene was elected sheriff in 2018 by a margin of less than 40 votes. Last October, racist diatribes against his own Black employees went public, secretly recorded by his chief deputy, who opted to run against Greene in November. The district attorney, Jon David, based on those phone conversations and other evidence that began to emerge, petitioned the courts to have Greene permanently removed from office as unfit. The DA had said that he could no longer rely on Greene's testimony in criminal trials because of the sheriff's blatant racism.

Before there could be a hearing on the DA's petition for permanent removal, Greene up and resigned, though his name remained on the November ballot. And sure enough, Columbus County voters reelected him with a little over 54% of the vote. Of course they did.

At the time, the DA vowed that if Jody Greene were actually sworn in for another term of office, he, Jon David, would refile his petition for removal. And that's exactly what he's done. Greene was sworn in yesterday. The DA submitted his new petition also yesterday. Both sheriff and DA are Republicans.

Among the allegations against Greene:

DA Jon David
Arresting his perceived political enemies — including a county commissioner who Greene had arrested, after he was recorded threatening to arrest him if he voted against a budget increase for the sheriff’s office.

Threatening county commissioners with retribution in other ways, including by removing air conditioning units from a local middle school and sending investigators to one commissioner’s business.

Sexual harassment, involving an affair with a deputy under his command.

Damaging government property, for a broken window that allegedly stemmed from a tryst with that deputy.

Failing to protect people in county custody, after one man was left with severe brain injuries from a beating that jail staff under Greene’s command failed to stop.

What I want to know is how you break a window having sex with an employee. I've run several scenarios through my Imaginator 4000, and only one makes any sense at all.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

English Prof Sez He Was Fired for Being Too Conservative


(And maybe he was. I don't know. He may be an innocent victim of hateful narrow-mindedness. Litigation will determine it.)

David C. Phillips holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Chapel Hill. He's had trouble getting a foothold in the state's academic hierarchy, holding low-level teaching jobs since 2008 at UNC-Greensboro (Lecturer, Dept. of English), Guilford Technical Community College (Instructor), and Wake Tech CC (Instructor). Add a regular gig since 2013 teaching summers at the Governor's School, West Campus at Winston-Salem State University.

The Governor’s School was started in 1963 by Gov. Terry Sanford as a five-and-a-half week summer program for "gifted high school students pursuing academic and artistic endeavors." "Learning focuses on the exploration of the most recent ideas and concepts in each discipline, and it does not involve credit, tests, or grades" (DPI page about the NC Governor's School).

Apparently, Professor Phillips decided that the debunking of Critical Race Theory, and accusations that it (whatever it is) had thoroughly infiltrated the faculty and curriculum of the Governor's School, was in fact "a most recent idea and concept." A sad state of affairs has developed for "white, male, cisgender, conservative Christians" who are blamed for everything bad, and David Phillips rejects the badge of dishonor. So in June of 2021, during his ninth term of teaching in the Governor's School, Phillips offered three optional seminars in which "he critiqued some concepts from critical race theory" (what, specifically, ain't clear). Other faculty and several bright students attended his seminars, probably with a interest in challenging him, for indeed, fierce arguments broke out. Whatever Phillips said, or taught, was considered toxic enough to get him fired. For he does appear to have been fired immediately after the uproar in his seminar and in the middle of the term, which ain't common -- except for cause. "Cause" in this case is also shrouded from us by the Department of Public Instrux (DPI) as "a personnel matter."

So Phillips has allowed the Alliance Defending Freedom to file a lawsuit on his behalf in Wake Superior Court, asking to be reinstated at the Governor's School. What is the Alliance Defending Freedom? "An American conservative Christian legal advocacy group that works to curtail rights for LGBTQ people; expand Christian practices within public schools and in government; and outlaw abortion." Wikipedia 

By allying himself with such a hard-right operative as the Alliance, Phillips signaled that he's very willing to have this litigation usher him under the lights at Fox News, and indeed the lawsuit itself (which can be read in its entirety here -- scroll to the bottom) appears to have been written to attract conservative media attention -- a kind of dime novel featuring pure innocence, tied to the train tracks by the jackbooted tyrants demanding white guilt.

I'd really like to know more about Prof. Phillips and how he talks about the things he talks about, but I've found no presence for him on social media anywhere, no published pieces that I can get my hands on, and actually no eye-witness accounts of his lectures -- even hostile eye-witness accounts. But I did find some student evaluations on him. At Wake Tech he gets a 46 (out of 100) student rating of "Professor quality relative to others in department." His ratings tip negative in student comments too (though I take those always with a spoonful of salt) because he's a very hard grader. Normally, "hard grader" is going to get my sympathy and support, but digging a little deeper it appears that he bases final grades heavily on a couple of written essays -- and for the writing of which he offers little guidance and no coaching (a no-no for me, who taught a lot of writing classes). Rather than look at drafts with students in advance of grading, allowing for revisions, he used "peer editing" -- students handing their drafts over to fellow students, who knew in many cases even less about appropriate written English. So Phillips slapped D's and F's on stuff that wasn't good but could have been better with the proper instruction, and students felt blindsided.

"His lectures will take your soul," one student wrote. And that's the sum total of my insight on the type of teacher he was/is.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Who Deliberately Lies in a Published Memoir? Why, Mark Meadows, Natch!


Under the Federal statute defining "conspiracy to the defraud the U.S.," the January 6th Committee believes that former NC Congressman and Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is worthy of referral to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

According to the News and Observer, the committee's report names Meadows some 50 times:

...the committee said it believes that Meadows included several “intentional falsehoods” in his December 2021 book, “The Chief’s Chief.” 

One example cited in the report involves Meadows’ recollection of Trump’s intentions after he spoke to supporters at the Ellipse, before many of them walked to the Capitol grounds. In his book, Meadows wrote that when Trump walked offstage, he told Meadows he “had been speaking metaphorically about the walk to the Capitol.”

“He knew as well as anyone that we couldn’t organize a trip like that on such short notice,” Meadows wrote. “It was clear the whole time that he didn’t actually intend to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue with the crowd.” 

According to committee members, however, Meadows’ recollection in the book “appeared to be an intentional effort to conceal the facts.” 

“Multiple witnesses directly contradicted Meadows’s account about President Trump’s desire to travel to the Capitol, including Kayleigh McEnany, Cassidy Hutchinson, multiple Secret Service agents, a White House employee with national security responsibilities and other staff in the White House, a member of the Metropolitan Police and others,” the report states.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

NC Supreme Court Strikes Down Voter Photo ID (Again!) and Orders New NC Senate Districts


Judge Robin Hudson

This happened Friday, but I've been on the road and am now in catch-up mode.

A lame-duck North Carolina Supreme Court (because two of its Democratic justices were defeated in November and will be off the bench come January) struck down two unconstitutional Republican laws.  Both decisions were 4-3 with all justices voting along partisan lines. 

The Republicans' newest version of the voter photo ID law was rushed through following the 2018 elections when the GOP lost its veto-proof super-majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. The first version of voter photo ID was struck down in Federal court. The second version suffered the same fate for the same reason, for imposing ID rules that intentionally discriminate against Black voters.

The other law struck down on Friday was the redistricting maps drawn earlier this year for the NC Senate (and specifically that body alone; the NC House maps were allowed to stand as redrawn). Associate Justice Robin Hudson wrote the majority opinion, and she reaffirmed that partisan gerrymandering violates free elections and incidentally took a pointed shot at the "independent legislature theory":

“We expressly and emphatically reaffirm the fundamental right of citizens to vote on equal terms enshrined within our Constitution’s Declaration of Rights, and this Court’s constitutional responsibility and authority to assess legislative compliance therewith.”

Friday, December 16, 2022

Allison Riggs Appointed to the NC Court of Appeals


The election of Court of Appeals Associate Justice Richard Dietz to the NC Supremes last month leaves a seat vacant on the Court of Appeals. It's not vacant any more.

Gov. Roy Cooper has appointed Allison Riggs to the seat. Riggs is co-executive director and voting rights chief counsel at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ).

Riggs’ voting rights work over the last nearly 15 years at SCSJ has been focused on fighting for fair redistricting plans, fighting against voter suppression, and advocating for electoral reforms that would expand access to voting.

She has litigated redistricting cases on behalf of State NAACP Conferences in Texas, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina. In 2018, she argued a Texas redistricting case in the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 2019, she argued a North Carolina partisan gerrymandering case in the same high court. Most recently, she worked as lead counsel on the Moore v. Harper case, which was heard earlier this month in the U.S. Supreme Court. (Press release)


Thursday, December 15, 2022

Madison Cawthorn Sued By His Own Lawyers


In January 2022, Congressman Madison Cawthorn hired the James Bopp law firm of Indiana to defend him against charges that he was not eligible to run for reelection on the basis of having participated in insurrection against the government. Bopp is one of the most prominent conservative election lawyers in the country.

With Bopp's help, in March a U.S. District Judge ruled in Cawthorn’s favor and prevented the North Carolina State Board of Elections from looking into whether he should be on the ballot for the 2022 primary in May. The plaintiffs in the case appealed the ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. The appeals court ultimately reversed the ruling and sent the case back to the district court, where the Bopp attorneys moved to have the case “dropped as moot.” 

The Bopp law firm is now suing Cawthorn for not paying them for seven separate invoices totaling $193,296.85. 

It ain't cheap, hiring big-time conservative lawyers, especially when you're known as a media elite with the ability to raise lots of loose cash. But the media spigot appears to have been cut off.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Mark Meadows' Voter Fraud Case Referred to AG


CBS17 was the first to report yesterday afternoon that the State Bureau of Investigation had completed its investigation of voter fraud allegations against former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and had submitted the file to the attorney general. It's up to the AG's office to assess the facts and bring charges or not.

Ordinarily, county district attorneys would investigate and potentially prosecute voter fraud cases, but when it came to light that Meadows had voted in 2020 from an address in Macon County where he never lived, Macon County DA Ashley Welch, a Republican, asked the AG's office to relieve her of the case.

In April, the Macon County Board of Elections removed Meadows from its voter rolls. He last voted in 2021 from an address in Virginia.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

How To Fall Upstairs and Find God


NC Democratic Party Chair Bobbie Richardson has published a post-election statement, and I rather wish she hadn't. Because she has also apparently stated her intent to run in a few months for reelection to another two-year term as State Party Chair, and the editorial she published does not reflect any critical understanding of, nor interest in, why North Carolina failed to achieve more success in the last elections or even what might be done differently. If Richardson stays as the leader, there's no apparent path for change in how the NCDP runs and wins campaigns.

I saw Richardson's statement in the Indy Week, headlined "In This Year's Midterm Election, Democracy Won." I think it must have been "exclusive" to Indy Week, because a quick Google search finds it nada. If it's published on the NCDP website, even, it's well hidden. In other words, it's not a piece of post-election analysis that's likely to get any play.

In fact, it's not a piece of post-election analysis at all. The whole thing celebrates every other state that went blue or purple because of their passion to save women's rights and turn back MAGA extremism, and that kind of celebration really leaves North Carolina out, because here things most certainly got redder, devastatingly so. "The American people did our part," Richardson writes, but why didn’t North Carolina? Cheerleading about the voting power of "Americans" seems a bit tone-deaf.

What happened in North Carolina looks like bloodshed compared to the other states of blessed moment.

Richardson gets as close as she dares to the unpleasantness way down in paragraph 6, but even then she wants to bury the bad news at the end of the paragraph:

North Carolinians chose election denier Ted Budd to serve in the U.S. Senate, and voters elected a conservative majority to the state supreme court. These losses are devastating for our democracy, but we must not grow weary. Our democracy is worth fighting for, and we will never give up on it.

But that's it, so far as introspection, or acknowledging failed technique, strategy, or messaging, and with no hint of even a curiosity about what we might do better in the future as a Party.

Granted, the duties of the top leadership of the state Democratic Party tilt more to the ceremonial, which includes rah-rah morale boosts, than to supervision of daily Party operations, data management, targeting, messaging, let alone the arduous, almost impossible task of recruiting candidates in every NC House and Senate district, among other races. Party Chairs are more figureheads than strategists, more fundraisers than accountants, more cheerleaders than the callers of plays, and they rely entirely on a staff that they have hiring and firing power over. And hence the power to mandate new directions, new "best practices."

The Executive Director runs the operation and has a staff with titles like "Political Director," "Finance Director, " "Coordinated Development Director," etc. There is no "Data Director" currently listed, and one of the frequent complaints in 2022 against the State Party involved reduced access to targeting data, and a problematic lag sometimes in getting it, as though State Party operations don't trust a county like Watauga to manage its own data and messaging.

A major change in "operations" at the State Party can't happen without, first, acknowledgement that some things need changing. Without it, doing the same things over again like they were done in 2022 seems likely for the NCDP, like a longer version of the movie "Memento" in which the hero/victim leads his life in perpetual reverse.

Bobbie Richardson's reelection as NCDP chair, or not, will occur at the winter SEC (State Executive Committee) meeting in a couple of months. I have heard of at least one challenger.

Friday, December 09, 2022

Sinema: "I Discovered I Wasn't Getting Enough Attention"


Photo: Francis Chung, Politico

Hard on the heels of Democrats' winning a true majority in the US Senate with the reelection of Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona made every Democrat go "Oh shit!" early this morning by announcing she was leaving the Democratic Party and registering as independent.

As a full-time narcissist, Sinema's promise that nothing will really change about how she will vote and which committees she will sit on can scarcely be taken to the bank -- because that promise presupposes that she will caucus with the Democrats since Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer makes those committee assignments. “I don’t anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure,” Sinema told Politico.

Rather than high-minded independence from "partisan wrangling," Sinema's decision may have more to do with an expected primary for reelection in 2024, which she would be widely expected to lose. She is reportedly underwater in polling of Democrats in Arizona. An AARP poll released in September found that 54% of voters had an unfavorable view of her.

She is perhaps most notorious in Democratic circles for refusing to reform the filibuster and resisting rolling back the Trump tax-breaks for billionaires.

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Just How Bad Was Democratic Performance in 2022 in NC?


Michael Bitzer, the numbers man at Catawba College, published a graph-heavy assessment of turnout in last month's election. Jane Porter, for the Indy Week newsletter, extracted some bottomlines (for which I'm most grateful). The sum and substance ain't pretty. The Democrats need to reassess what they've been doing and do something very differently.

3.7 million North Carolinians cast a ballot in last month's election, or 51 percent of all of the state's registered voters

58.4 percent of registered Republicans turned out
51.2 percent of registered Democrats turned out
44.7 percent of registered Unaffiliated voters turned out
54 percent of registered Greens and 30 percent of registered Libertarians turned out

58 percent of white non-Hispanic voters turned out
42 percent of Black/African American non-Hispanic voters turned out
26 percent of Hispanic/Latino voters turned out
37 percent of all other non-Hispanic races turned out
34 percent of voters whose race was unreported turned out

24 percent of Gen Z voters (ages 18-25) turned out
35 percent of registered Millennial voters (ages 26-41) turned out
55 percent Generation X voters (ages 42-57) turned out
71 percent of Boomers (ages 58 to 76) turned out
66 percent of Silent Generation voters (ages 77 to 111) turned out

47 percent of voters living in central cities turned out
54 percent of voters living in urban suburbs turned out
52 percent of voters living in surrounding suburban counties turned out
51 percent of voters living in rural counties turned out

Bitzer calls this mid-term's crop of voters "Whiter, older, more Republican." Here are his conclusions:

For Republicans, it's simple: keep doing what you do. In the short-run, higher turnout rates for key GOP groups will continue to see you win the "competitive but stuck" battleground electoral environment, at least state-wide.

For Democrats, it's also simple: if you want to keep your federal candidates getting 48 to 49 percent of the vote, but lose to Republicans by the narrowest of margins time after time, keep doing what you are doing. Keep getting your registered partisans to show up just at the state-level, but allow your partisan opponents to show up at a higher rate. Ignore turning out voters under 40 years old, ignore turning out out core Black/African American voters, and ignore your regional dominance in the central cities.

In the end, it wasn't that Democrats like Cheri Beasley did as well as she did in what was presented as a classic mid-term environment, but rather she did as well despite the fact that core Democratic voting blocks has abysmal turnout rates.

And it may seem like we say this every election cycle, but in North Carolina, it's true: it's all about who shows up and turns out. Once again, 2022 repeats the consistency of North Carolina's electoral politics as a 'stuck battleground' state, and in the end, turnout matters.


Tuesday, December 06, 2022

At Its 1st Meeting with 2 New Republican Members, Watauga CoCommish Votes To Spend Money Advancing the Cause of Affordable Housing


Castle and Eggers last night

Last night, with newly installed Republican members Braxton Eggers and Todd Castle and presided over by new Commish Chair Larry Turnbow, the board voted unanimously to approve $52,300 for an affordable housing study of an 8-acre tract of county-owned land near Brookshire Park. The proposed study is the result of the interest generated for affordable/workforce housing at last spring's "housing forums."

As a result of those well attended forums, the dormant Watauga County Community Housing Trust was reactivated with County Planner Joe Furman serving on the board of directors. Furman initiated discussions with the UNC School of Government's Development Finance Initiative (DFI), which is charged with helping counties with economic development projects. 

The DFI subsequently presented a proposal for technical services to the county "to attract a private development partner for the development of housing for low- and moderate-income households" on the Brookshire Road site. The proposed "technical assistance" was priced to the county at $62,300, but the High Country Assoc. of Realtors and NC Realtors Assoc. have pledged $10,000 to help underwrite this study. The DFI estimates the study and recruitment of a private partner to take seven months. (The full scope of the "technical assistance" that DFI is promising gets outlined on pages 29-30 here.)

If people were expecting the election of Republican members to the Commish to signal cantankerous wrangling over the spending of public money, it certainly didn't happen last night. Affordable housing appears to retain its salience for both sides.

Monday, December 05, 2022

People in the Dark Put 40,000 Other People in the Dark


Moore County is east of Charlotte and is largely without electric power this morning because some people, so far unknown, used fire arms to shoot up a couple of Duke substations in a very targeted way -- “The persons who did this knew exactly what they were doing,” says the Moore County sheriff -- in the process knocking out power to most of the county and incidentally breaking a federal law that has brought in the FBI to investigate. And perhaps just incidentally, the outage happened as a drag show -- much hated and protested by Moore County rightwing activists -- was just getting started at a downtown theater in Southern Pines.

From the NandO coverage:

On her Facebook page, Emily Grace Rainey, an outspoken opponent of the drag show, posted an invitation to protest at the theater. After the lights went out, Rainey, who became known in Moore County during the pandemic for her opposition to mask mandates, posted on Facebook that, “The power is out in Moore County and I know why.” 

Later, she posted that the Moore County Sheriff’s Office had come to her house to ask about the outage. 

“I welcomed them to my home,” wrote Rainey, who organized a group of Moore County residents to travel to Washington on January 6, 2021. “Sorry they wasted their time. I told them that God works in mysterious ways and is responsible for the outage. I used the opportunity to tell them about the immoral drag show and the blasphemies screamed by its supporters.”

Rainey said, “I told them God is chastising Moore County, thanked them for coming, and wished them a good night...."

Emily Grace Rainey
So Emily Grace Rainey, who seemed to know something specific about the outage -- perhaps God told her about his mysterious ways with firearms -- got along swimmingly with the sheriff's office. Later, the sheriff himself, at a press conference yesterday, said flatly that Rainey's Facebook posts were "false." He said officers “had to go and interview this young lady and have a word of prayer with her, but it turned out to be nothing.”


Rainey has earned a very high profile in Moore County. On January 6th, while she was still on active duty at Fort Bragg attached to 4th Psychological Operations Group (PSYOP), she helped organize a hundred Moore County Republicans into buses for the trip to D.C. to hear Trump rev up the crowd on the ellipse. The Moore County group subsequently said they were not part of the storming of the Capitol, but Rainey was investigated by the Army for her political activity and is no longer in the military.

She had previously in 2020 sparked a run-in with the police in Southern Pines when she filmed herself tearing down yellow tape cordoning off a playground after Gov. Roy Cooper closed parks to prevent the further spread of COVID.

Incidentally, training in PSYOP means that Rainey has a handle on how "to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals" (Wikipedia). Whether she has talent, I know not, but it's clear she has skills, courtesy of the US government.

Sunday, December 04, 2022

How I Became a Man To Be Feared

Always concerned about the healthy future of man-kind, Madison Cawthorn gave his farewell speech on the floor of the US House, and I can't help feeling that he was aiming his words directly at me:

“It used to be a rite of passage in this country for young men to be punched in the face when they did something stupid. Our nation used to believe that there was strength and purpose in taking the hits, learning from your mistakes and growing through the adversity,” Cawthorn said.

“America is weak. Her sons are sickly, and her daughters are decrepit,” he continued. “Our country now faces the consequences of enabling a participation trophy society. We’re no longer the United States. We’ve become the nanny state. Our young men are taught that weakness is a strength, that delicacy is desirable, and that being a soft metrosexual is more valuable than training the mind, body and soul.”

“I ask the young men of this nation a question,” Cawthorn said. “Will you sit behind a screen while the storied tales of your forefathers become myth? Or will you stand resolute against the dying light of America’s golden age? Will you reclaim your masculinity? Will you become a man to be feared? To be respected? To be looked up to? Or will you let this nation’s next generation be its final generation?”

Well shit! This wise man, this man's man, has seen me for what I am, even though he's never seen me. How many ounces of my precious bodily fluid have I allowed to dry up while getting my hair styled, my nails cured, my body sculpted? How much money have I wasted on "product." So I went out immediately and bought a bullwhip -- took a while to find a vender for that one! -- and a good 7-inch fixed blade fighting knife (I was shopping on line, so I impulsively threw into my cart a Benchmade Infidel Dagger switchblade for a mere $450). I am equipped! (Even if it's going to take a few more washings to get that perm out of my hair.)

I started kicking sleeping dogs, if they were someone else's dogs. My own is being retrained for combat, and I darsn't. I'm currently shopping for a big-ass overpowering truck with an armored cab, and I've begun to hang out where the tough guys are, at stampedes and rodeos and cigar-tastings.

I don't take no backtalk from women, either, especially the "decrepit" younger ones who are always posing for selfies anyway, and you can get almost anything past them. I eat my meat raw. I think I might now have become a man feared, because I notice more people avoiding me.

Thank you, Madison, for showing us The Way -- all the weak ones.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Demands Being Made of the NCDP


So I was indulging my daily graze of the InnerWebs, when I was arrested by this headline: "Backtalk: NCDP is a concentrated pool of ineptitude ... And other things our readers told us this week."

"NCDP" being the North Carolina Democratic Party. So naturally, waxing either narcissistic or masochistic -- take your pick! -- I clicked. The article is a compilation of comments solicited by Jane Porter, editor of the Indy Weekly who invited subscribers of the Indy Week newsletter for "ideas about how progressives can do better in turning out rural voters and rural voters of color in 2024 and beyond."

Working 2022 in a largely rural county, even one with a university, in the western NC mtns, has given us some 30 years of experience in motivating the vote, naturally with some successes and some whopping failures. Sad to say, with that experience in mind, we ended this campaign season feeling not just let down by the state Party but actually hindered at times, deliberately. I won't get into the technicals, the databases and their access. But as a very active and organized county Party, Watauga has long turned jaundiced eyes on "Coordinated Campaigns," which tend to rule the flow of resources in a General Election cycle. We have not found "Coordinated Campaigns" coordinated. They more often come with top-down dictums that only have the top of the ticket's message in mind -- the governor's or the president's or, in 2022, Cheri Beasley's. Those top campaigns, run by consultants and strategists and contractors who are all making money on it, often have little salience in a rural county, relying way too much on paper postcard excess and TV saturation and not enough on on-going, on the ground voter registration and engagement.

Down Home North Carolina, founded in 2017 and so far well funded, has a new model of paid canvassers, and because they are paid, they are also trained to engage in conversations at the door about stuff that animates wage workers. Any canvassing is essential, of course, though sometimes the training is de minimis. Many county parties and individual candidate campaigns have mounted big canvasses, and will continue to do so, but sustaining a purely volunteer force year and after is very tough, and the difficulty of replacing those who age out is the curse of rural America. So a paid force carrying a unified message and technique offers an appealing alternative to giving so much of the money to consultants and contractors.

Dustin Ingalls, one of the commenters on Indy Weekly, included Down Home in a longer list of brand new orgs who are doing good work in rural NC, all of them with a crying need for more financial backing: "We need to scale up programs that already exist from organizations like Down Home, New Rural Project, New NC Project, NCLCV Foundation, and A. Philip Randolph Institute. They’re already on the ground doing the work to register and regularly communicate with voters of color and white rural voters who might align with progressive values, but they don’t have enough money to hire enough staff to recruit and train enough volunteers and knock enough doors." An '07 graduate of UNC, Ingalls is the political director of the Environmental Defense Fund NC chapter, and lists a long, impressive string of activist immersions in progressive causes.

Paying volunteers? In some circles, it's a radical idea -- "Why, how come we have to pay people to do the right thing for the future of America?" But we have some evidence that maybe, seems like, the state Party might give it a try, diverting some of the large budget from professional consultants to paid volunteer recruitment, training, and employment. Wouldn't take that much in the blessed scheme of things.

"More consistent organizing," to be implemented and led --  somehow, someway -- by the state Party, that is the overriding theme of the criticism.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

David Wheeler v. Lauren Boebert -- Timeline


What follows are the facts of the case that led to the hearing for dismissal this week in Watauga County Superior Court. All parties are waiting for Judge Gary Gavenus to rule on whether this defamation lawsuit can move forward.

Lauren Boebert (left), in full bloom,
with Marjorie Taylor Greene

May 2022
-- Following the successful efforts to unseat Rep. Madison Cawthorn (NC-11) in the Republican primary, David Wheeler, utilizing resources developed by his American Muckrakers PAC, launched an oppo research effort to also go after the reelection of Rep. Lauren Boebert in Colorado. Boebert, like Cawthorn, had made a spectacle of herself as a right-wing avatar.

Dirt on Boebert 

Wheeler subsequently "obtained, analyzed, researched and publicly disclosed information regarding [Boebert] that had been concealed from the public .... That information included ... (1) use of methamphetamine; (2) work as an unpaid escort; (3) involvement with multiple abortions; (4) causing and concealing a serious drunk driving accident that resulted in significant bodily injuries to one or more individuals; (5) failure to pay her employees for prolonged periods of time; (6) delinquincy, disruption, and misconduct of a child...; (7) concerns regarding political relationship with the Koch brothers, Ted Cruz, and related campaign financing." (Wheeler response to Boebert motion to dismiss, filed Nov. 28, 2022)

June 15, 2022 -- Boebert instructed her lawyers to write a letter to Wheeler denying all these allegations and threatening to sue American Muckrakers, David Wheeler, and all the donors to the PAC, a threat which Wheeler claims led to the drying up of fundraising for the PAC. 

Significant for Wheeler's suit, the Boebert lawyer's denial letter was sent first to the press -- namely to North Carolina-based journalist Andrew Kerr, who writes for the right-wing Washington Examiner and other conservative publications -- while Boebert herself launched a national press tour attacking Wheeler, claiming that he had fabricated all the dirt listed above. According to Wheeler's suit, Boebert actually defamed him as a liar on the Sean Hannity radio show, on Fox News, and in other national outlets. In her appearances, Boebert promised that she would be filing a defamation suit against Wheeler and all those involved with him in American Muckrakers PAC.

To date, Boebert has never filed any legal action relating to the charges that Wheeler made against her.

November 28, 2022 -- Boebert attorneys Nathan Miller and Kevin J. Cline argued that the Wheeler defamation suit should be tossed largely on procedural grounds.

All parties now waiting on a ruling from Judge Gavenus.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Thom Tillis Called Out as a Sinner for Supporting Marriage Equality


Mark Brody

Republican Rep. Mark Brody representing Union County in the NC House (Dist. 55) has published a harsh editorial condemning Sen. Thom Tillis for his support of the "Respect for Marriage Act," which is set up now to pass the Senate this week. The bill would make it more difficult impossible for the US Supremes to do away with gay marriage the way they did away with abortion rights. Tillis has already voted to overcome any filibuster of the law and has promised to vote for final passage.

Mark Brody is very concerned that Tillis is coloring outside the lines of both the NC and the National GOP platforms, which is pretty funny in itself since Trump found the national platform disposable enough to decree no rewrite or update when he ran in 2020. At that point the platform had no visible champions among GOP rank-and-file,

But Brody sez he's prepared to make a big stink at the next NC Republican convention because of Tillis's departure from "God's Law": 

The United States Congress, with the support and leadership of our own Senator Tillis, will vote to “Institutionalize” a direct and unequivocal prohibition by God, the Creator referred to in our Declaration of Independence.

Senator Tillis will vote to “institutionalize” a sin against God’s Law!

It's important to notice that GOP political doctrine lines up perfectly with Divine Instruction, and hence also with Divine Retribution.

Will Thom Tillis care? Will he quake under the glare of Mark Brody's side eye?

Saturday, November 26, 2022

If You're Lauren Boebert-- Sued for Defamation--Who You Gonna Call in Watauga? Why, Nathan Miller, Natch!



Monday morning in Watauga Superior Court, Judge Gary Gavenus will hear a motion to dismiss a defamation and malicious prosecution civil suit against Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert. The suit was brought in Mitchell County back in October by the American Muckrakers and its president David B. Wheeler. 

(American Muckrakers was the org that made Madison Cawthorn's last months before the May primary fairly uncomfortable, and then turned its guns on Lauren Boebert in Colorado who eventually won reelection by less than 600 votes. American Muckrakers president David Wheeler ran a vigorous campaign against Ralph Hise in 2018 in NCS Dist. 47.)

The lawsuit alleges that Boebert defamed Wheeler and American Muck (which is a registered PAC), saying they “knew what they said [about her past activities] was a lie, and posted it anyway” in regard to Boebert's allegedly having two abortions, being an unregistered paid escort, and causing an ATV accident in Moab, Utah, in 2019.

"The lawsuit will show that Boebert had no idea that all of the PAC and Wheeler’s information came directly from hours of recorded phone calls and other written and verbal information with former employees, former friends, and Republican political operatives in Colorado. She lied, and she knew she was lying, and she damaged the PAC and Wheeler, which entitles Plaintiffs to have their day in court." [American Muck press release]

Watauga County Lawyer Nathan Miller, representing Boebert, is moving for dismissal "for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Lack of Standing, Lack of Personal Jurisdiction, Improper Venue and Failure to State a Claim." We doubt very seriously that Lauren Boebert herself will be present for the hearing.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Sen. Thom Tillis Goes Farther Off the Trumpist Reservation


The establishment Republican publication, Carolina Journal, published Sen. Thom Tillis's response to a question posed to him in a Zoom press availability -- would he support Trump's newest announcement for the presidency? Tillis said he would "wait and see."

As in "wait for the inevitable indictments" and "see whether the sun still comes up in the morning"?

Wait and see. It's definitely a signal of a cooling off, especially when Tillis went further, hinting that maybe unto us another political savior has been born in Florida: “We’ve seen a number of people in the Republican Party emerge as leaders. Maybe you should take the time to see who will come out and build a message that we think resonates best with the American people.”

Tillis famously broke with Trump over using an emergency declaration to move other budget money into paying for the Mexican wall and very quickly repented that, earning Trump's endorsement in the 2020 Senate race against Cal Cunningham. Tillis appeared at Trump rallies during that campaign and probably benefitted from the endorsement, though the Trumpist wing of the party remains suspicious of if not outright hostile to him. He seems now prepared to rip the sheet once and for all.

We're taking a "wait and see" attitude toward Tillis's shifting allegiances.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Burr and Tillis Vote to Advance Marriage Equality Law


Senator Dick Burr is retiring, so his vote was perhaps easier than Thom Tillis's, who seems determined to become a moderate bridge-builder (not that there's anything wrong with that). Joining ten other Republicans (some of them even more surprising in their choice to support gay marriage -- see list below), Burr and Tillis helped reach the total of 62 senators favoring cloture on the Respect for Marriage Act. Sixty votes are required to forestall a filibuster. The full Senate is expected to vote again on passage, immediately after Thanksgiving, at which time it goes back to the House which has to vote again because the Senate added a religious liberty amendment not in the original House version.

The Respect for Marriage Act would require that people be considered married in any state as long as the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed. That may sound like a loophole, and it does allow some backward states to cause trouble. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its prior same-sex marriage rulings, state governments could make the unions illegal within their borders, requiring same-sex or interracial couples to travel to a state where it is legal in order to wed. Those home states would, however, need to recognize the marriages under this bill, as would the federal government. So maybe it's a loophole with no real effect.

The bill would also repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman and allowed states to decline to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. That law has remained on the books despite being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

The religious liberty amendment that the Senate added (and which the House will have to vote on) clarifies that the bill does not authorize the federal government to recognize polygamous marriages and confirms that nonprofit religious organizations would not be required to provide “any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.” There are plenty of other venues besides Our Church of the Divine Retribution ("but it has a center aisle!"), so there's no need to force yourself onto religious groups that have a bad case of the yips over gay marriage.

Republican Senators Who Voted for Marriage Equality

Retirees: Sen. Roy Blunt (Missouri), Sen. Richard Burr (North Carolina), Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio)

Plus Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), Susan Collins (Maine), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Cynthia Lummis (Wyoming), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Thom Tillis (NC), and Todd Young (Indiana).

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Losers Who Become Invisible Men


I hate kicking him as he exits, but as Madison Cawthorn became our own 15-minute celebrity, we have to keep up his history.

Photo Jabin Botsford, in the WashPost

The news is not too surprising: He's disappeared from the job that he's supposed to continue to function in for two more months. He's missed a bunch of votes and used proxies some 86 times to vote in his name (something that oughta not be allowed --we're paying those guys very well to show up to work), he's pretty much moved out of his congressional office space, he's closed all but one of his regional offices (and even then, his rep is only answering calls about on-going constituent complaints or requests; don't bother calling if you've got a brand new problem), and he hasn't been seen in his western North Carolina district since the primary.

Sarah Pequeno reports in the NandO

He has always struggled with constituent services, but all but one of his local offices are closed, and his main Hendersonville office is only tackling existing constituent services cases. When calling his office as a non-constituent, you are rerouted to Congress’s call center. When calling as a constituent without a pending case, the phones route you to a voicemail for the Hendersonville office. Only when saying I was a constituent with an active case was I able to speak with an actual human on the other line.

On October 6, Pequeno reports, Cawthorn was supposed to speak at a Duplin County GOP banquet — but he missed it in favor of spending time in Florida, where, just incidentally, he recently purchased a million dollar pad in Cape Coral. Pequeno tried but couldn't uncover whether Cawthorn had even voted in NC last week. Those records will be publicly available eventually.

Pequeno's closing shot: "Cawthorn’s fall from grace among the Republican party was swift and permanent, so it isn’t entirely surprising that he went into hiding. It is, however, disappointing. Whatever he pursues next, hopefully he can find the time to be more present."

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

American History X


Columbus County, NC, is a long way from Watauga County, down almost to the coast with no major highways that you might have traveled on your way to getting a tan at the beach. It's almost exclusively rural. Whiteville is the county seat, a name that has some resonance for this story. According to the 2020 Census, the county's population is a little over 30% Black, with an additional 2,000 Waccamaw Siouan American Indians. 

As recently as the 2018 general elections, the county had a Black sheriff, Lewis Hatcher, who was defeated in that election (by 34 votes) by one Jody Greene, who was suspended from office in October pending an investigation of recordings of his going off on racist rants. The county's DA had filed the court petition to remove him. (Actually, Greene voluntarily stepped down to head off a public hearing on his misdeeds.) His unbecoming behavior toward Black subordinates went public in September (covered here on WataugaWatch, you bet!).

Once (and future?) Sheriff Jody Greene

Nevertheless -- and this is where rural North Carolina can be as irrationally unpredictable as a Franz Kafka short story -- Jody Greene's name remained on November's ballot, and he actually won the election with 54.26% of the vote, beating the sheriff's deputy, Jason Soles, who blew the whistle on him for his balls-to-the-walls racism.

The DA -- maybe with remarkable presentiment -- issued this warning on the same day Jody Greene stepped down: “These allegations speak through time and are disqualifying to anyone seeking to hold the high office of sheriff. Should Greene be successful in the November election, my office would have an ethical obligation to file, and will file, a new Petition to Remove Greene from that term of office based on the allegations alleged in the current Petition to Remove.” Whoa! 

In the updated petition for removal, the DA lists new allegations against Greene, claiming Greene had arrested residents without basis, threatened county commissioners, and had a sexual relationship with a female employee while on duty.

Trump America likes its autocrats, especially the armed bullies.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Update From Transylvania County: Is Our Future Now Behind Us?


Guest Post by Deda Edney

It’s a few days after the mid-term election of 2022 in Transylvania County, North Carolina. I’ve read online that Democrats won seats across America beyond expectations, but, even from the top of this mountain, I can’t see one who did.

I also read that national analysts have colored our purple state red. Overnight. I feel disoriented, as if the future is somehow behind me.

Halfway down the mountain, I stop to watch some monarch butterfly stragglers on their way south to Mexico. I hope they come back a thousand fold.

From here I think I can see the dome of the State House in Raleigh, faintly glimmering far off to the east. Is that Governor Cooper with Attorney General Stein, stranded on a blue Democratic island in a red Republican sea? No! It turns out the NC Legislature is still hanging by a blue thread.

“But the state Supreme Court,” I think, squinting into the distance. “We’ve been so fortunate that a 4-to-3 majority of justices have supported the Governor.” Wait! A ceremony appears to be going on and two blue robes are turning red. It’s now a majority of five red to two blue!

From miles away a slight breeze cools my spirit; the door to the Chamber of Justice has just slammed shut.

I put on my sweater against the chill and go down to my county where it’s still Election Night. A loud party is going on in the camp of the Red Caps. I’m curious, so I walk over to a stout, bushy-whiskered figure in shorts and ask him for a comment.

“I’m standing in the back of the GOP headquarters celebrating,” he explains.

Then a small woman in a dress and very high heels briefly appears from the shadows. She’s murmuring something noncommittal, such as, “I’m pleased and excited.”

During the campaign, these two new School Board members told voters that it’s ok to arm teachers. This, they said, would keep the children safe during AR-15 rifle encounters.

So, now with the School Board at four red and one blue, we can expect … but I turn my head away.

Our schools do need attention. For years the Commission Board has chewed over the same question, “Should we or should we not spend your hard-earned tax money on more buckets to catch rainwater in classrooms?”

Once when the commissioners were close to a decision on this, one of them said, “Ok, but not one penny more.” As his words hung in the air, inflation pushed up the cost to 10 pennies more, and the project was again put in question.

Coming back to the reality of tonight’s revelers, I think, “Maybe the newly elected Republican Commissioner will finally talk the Board into helping out the kids!”

In his campaign T-shirt, he’s easy to find. “Excuse me," I say to him. “What will you do now for the people?”

“I’m enjoying my victory and will discuss my priorities later,” he says. “I’m trying to have fun here.”

This energetic fellow must have seen my confusion over what leadership should look like, because he twirled back around and added, “I did a lot of jobs and nobody was ever disappointed.” Then he disappeared into the shadows.

So that was my mid-fall night’s dream. But this morning the sun came up on a world that still needs our care.

I know in my heart that you don’t suddenly stop caring about the Earth, about each other or about health, education, voting rights, or human rights. Respect for the truth, for the law equally applied, and for social differences — all this matters today as much as it did a week ago.

American democracy still needs our help.

When you care about something going wrong, you show up. You speak up. And then you realize you’re not alone. The door to our county Democratic Headquarters is still open.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Starting Over From Scratch


After today, no matter what happens, #democrats need to shred their messaging memos, stare into the abyss of the American id, and start over from scratch.

--Twitter post by @bullydoc, 3:07 pm Nov. 8th



Those of us who have been organizing and strategizing on the county level for over 30 years know from stupid. The fact that no one in the high-up offices pays us any attention is generally a blessing, leaving us alone to practice the right way what we've learned the hard way, but being ignored is also a burden when you can't get the mailing lists you need because someone at the state party is guarding data like it's the Crown Jewels.


It's also bad when the state and national Party apparatuses, or individual candidate campaigns with lots of money for high-dollar consultants, set their messaging around polling that's just plain off its rocker -- as some of that polling was leading up to last Tuesday. We all gotta stop listening to talking heads, even those doom-scrollers among us like me.


Timidity, being afraid to say outright what you believe, has taken over in much of the Democratic Party of the Old South. Shyness about ideals has been building actually for decades, and I'll tell you who hates it the most -- Gen Z and the Millennials, the very young voters that the state Party should be talking to all the time, registering them every year and not just in election years, getting them out to vote in municipals as aggressively as we do for even-year general elections.


Patting the youth vote on its head via social media for the two months before a big election doesn't cut it. Because "Twitter ain't real," as the youngest member of the Boone Town Council argued on this site following last May's primary. Having big Twitter followings or Facebook likes or cute TikToks doesn't mean you've earned any votes.


Twitter ain't real and neither, for that matter, is any social media if Democratic candidates are relying on it exclusively as an easy button-pushing excuse for not getting their effing boots on the actual effing ground. Why was turnout in North Carolina so down this year? Why especially was the Gen Z vote, so startling in other states, not spectacular in North Carolina? Social media is not voter engagement. It is too often an excuse not to do the actual hard work of voter engagement.


We need a statewide summit of Party activists and operatives -- please gawd, no candidates! -- to hash it out and suggest what "starting over from scratch" might look like, and then we need some Party leadership to put those goals into action.


Thursday, November 10, 2022

The NC Congressional Races, 2022


We now have seven Democrats representing North Carolina in the US Congress, seven of 14, so we improved our numbers there and helped blunt Democratic losses in other states (like in Florida, where -- yikes! -- there is officially no intelligent life surviving).

Don Davis

CD1 -- Democrat Don Davis comfortably beat the bullying Trumpist Sandy Smith by 11,600 votes for the open seat once held by the venerable G.K. Butterfield.

CD2 -- Democrat Deborah Ross easily held on to her seat.

CD3 -- Republican incumbent Greg Murphy easily buried his Democratic opponent.

CD4 -- Democrat Valerie Foushee easily won David Price's open seat.

CD5 -- Republican Virginia Foxx ... don't get me started.

CD6 -- Democratic incumbent Kathy Manning won reelection with 53.75% of the vote.

CD7 -- Republican incumbent David Rouzer easily put away Democrat Charles Graham, who had one of the best introductory candidate videos, produced by Frank Eaton while Graham was planning to run against Dan Bishop in CD9, but new gerrymandering did him in there.

CD8 -- Republican Dan Bishop, a male Virginia Foxx, is now elected to be a jerk to infinity and beyond.

CD9 -- Republican incumbent Richard Hudson easily won reelection.

CD10 -- Republican incumbent Patrick McHenry took 72% of the vote.

CD11 -- Republican Chuck Edwards is now permanently (probably) a D.C. fixture, beating Jasmine Beach-Ferara. It wasn't even close.

Wiley Nickel

CD12 -- Democratic incumbent Alma Adams easily beat Madison Cawthorn clone Tyler Lee, who apparently believes he's on a mission from God.

CD13 -- For Ted Budd's old House seat, Democrat Wiley Nickel beat the other Madison Cawthorn clone, Bo Hines, by over 7,000 votes. Hines and his patron Donald Trump were counting on that red wave, which didn't arrive for him. Maybe Hines can now go seek an actual job.

CD14 -- For the brand new 14th, state Sen. Jeff Jackson easily rolled over his Republican challenger. Can't help thinking he would maybe have won that Senate seat this year.