Friday, January 28, 2022

Mark Walker Stands Up To Trump

 

Last night in Greensboro, former Republican congressman and Christian pastor Mark Walker announced that he was turning down Donald Trump's offer and staying in the US Senate race. Trump had told Walker that he would endorse him for another congressional seat if he'd drop out of the Senate race, thus clearing the Trumpist lane for Ted Budd, but Walker said no way by the love of God. He's full speed ahead for that Senate seat, but on difficult political terrain, where Budd is supposedly coming on strong (with Trump's blessing and the $$ of the Club for Growth, which is getting his name out there). 

Full-speed-ahead? Yes. Walker rolled out his spanking-brand-new campaign bus. See it?

myfox8 WGHP


Walker threw this event at the Greensboro Auto Auction on Wendover Avenue and drew a respectable crowd.

Bad news for Budd. Potentially good news for ex-Guv Pat McCrory, who according to comments from Trumpists, is tanking in polls while Budd is rising, but whose center lane, country-club vibe still has juice in suburbia and whose name recognition alone made him instantly the frontrunner. The overriding irony is that Budd and Walker are really political brothers from different mothers:

“[Walker's decision] obviously is better for McCrory than Budd,” said Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University. “I think Walker and Budd are competing for many of the same voters. Ideologically they are virtually indistinguishable. Demographically they are very similar. There’s just not much daylight between the two of them, except for Trump’s endorsement.”

If this were the best of all possible worlds (and not the Republican Party under Trump), Walker could draw some distinctions now, create a new identity for people who relish the fighting spirit in their preachers: "I stood up to a would-be dictator because I'm a better man than that." But that would happen in a world that doesn't exist right now.

Walker still might get tough, if he decides to fight like a man with one small stone and a slingshot (or like a wildcat in a toesack). Walker published this photo on his Facebook page with this caption:

Keeping a previous commitment at the Senate Forum in Monroe with Pat McCrory at the Sweet Union Republican Women’s Club. As usual, only one candidate didn’t show.


 The "Sweet Union Republican Women's Club" made me flash on Andy Griffith's Aunt Bee.


Thursday, January 27, 2022

The Book-Banning in McMinn County, Tenn.

 

I just spent many tedious minutes reading through the minutes of the McMinn County (Tennessee) School Board meeting on January 10th, when its ten members voted unanimously to ban Art Spiegelman's graphic novel "Maus" from the eighth grade curriculum. That news has only just broken in the national press, and it's broken big because "Maus" was the first and only graphic novel to ever win the Pulitzer Prize.

To be concise, Spiegelman created "Maus" to record his father's experience in the Holocaust as a Polish Jew, and in doing so, Spiegelman was recording his experience being the son of a survivor, and his experience writing about the experience of being the son of a survivor, which raises the urgency of the message a few degrees. Throughout "Maus," the Jews who suffered at Auschwitz are depicted as mice, the Nazis, as cats.

The parents who complained to the McMinn County School Board focused on eight cuss words (which apparently included the words damn and bitch), but one can't help wondering if that Victorian prudishness was a pretext for blocking out something much more uncomfortable for those parents. It's clear from the minutes that school authorities took steps to white out the offensive words (yes, they did), but it didn't satisfy the school board, which to be fair appeared to wrestle mightily with their decision. At one point, by a vote of 6-4, the motion to ban the book was laid on the table, but discussion kept right on going and the motion to table was lifted and the motion to ban eventually passed 10-0.

Board member Tony Allman led much of the attack on the book, and some of his comments in the minutes will cement his reputation as a sterling defender of youth:

I may be wrong, but this guy that created the artwork used to do the graphics for Playboy. You can look at his history, and we’re letting him do graphics in books for students in elementary school. If I had a child in the eighth grade, this ain’t happening. If I had to move him out and homeschool him or put him somewhere else, this is not happening.

Drew pictures for Playboy? That's guilt-by-association, something those cats in "Maus" were good at. But if it's any consolation for the McMinn County School Board, the book is also banned in Russia.


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

What Has He Done Now? (Cawthorn Watch)

 

I'm actually trying to swear off the antics of Madison Cawthorn, like I swore off Trump long before he went down a loser, but when the ox is in the ditch....

Clowning on our dime.

Cawthorn Cleans Gun During Congressional Hearing

[Newsweek] Republican Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina was seen cleaning a gun during a three-hour virtual House Veterans Affairs Committee meeting that took place on [Jan. 19, 2022]. The hearing was about military members being exposed to potentially dangerous toxic chemicals.

The 26-year-old Congress member was seen handling a black pistol for several minutes during the testimony of Jen Burch, an Air Force veteran who experienced breathing problems after exposure to a "burn pit" in Afghanistan. At the hearing, she discussed how medical professionals could help assess other veterans who have been affected by the pits.

Cawthorn Lawyers Up

To defend himself against the charge that an insurrectionist cannot hold office, a legal challenge against Cawthorn's eligibility filed January 10th by a group of NC citizens including a former Republican justice on the state's Supreme Court:

Mr. Cawthorn, 26, who is in his first term in Congress, has denounced the case as an egregious misreading of the 14th Amendment, but he has retained James Bopp Jr., one of the most prominent conservative campaign lawyers in the country, as counsel. [NYTimes]


"Nobody's Afraid of Him"

[Newsweek] Representative Adam Kinzinger called out one of his fellow GOP congressmen on social media [Jan. 11, 2022].

The Illinois congressman, in response to Colorado GOP Representative Lauren Boebert, tweeted, "Trust me here, nobody is afraid of Madison [Cawthorn]. Unless you're a rotted out tree (seriously google that people). Literally you have all built your skills/intimidation up in your own head."

 

Monday, January 24, 2022

The Woman in the Republican US Senate Race in NC -- Marjorie Eastman

 

Nobody's paid much attention to candidate for US Senate, Marjorie Eastman, because the swinging trio of Republican men running for Dick Burr's seat -- McCrory, Budd, Walker -- have sucked up all the oxygen. Only now, Marjorie Eastman is suddenly in the press, because a new super-PAC founded by tycoon Fred Eshelman has been spending $1 million getting her name out there. The PAC is called "Restore Common Sense," and in the best of all possible worlds, Marjorie Eastman could be a runaway good bet to win a normal Republican primary -- distinguished ex-military careerist and smart, normal woman. Damn impressive on paper. Her Wikipedia article -- must reading. There's no indication there that she's any kind of conservative culture warrior. She's all about veterans and wrote a well received book, "The Frontline Generation: How We Served Post 9/11."

She had combat experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan. "She was ranked the #1 Military Intelligence Company Commander in Eastern Afghanistan for the deployment cycle of 2009-2010, awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service as a combat commander and received the Combat Action Badge" (website). She announced her candidacy back last October and was largely ignored until Fred Eshelman decided to help her.

But she's not from around here. Went to school in California, and she accepted a White House Fellow appointment from Bill Clinton in 2000. As a military careerist, she's lived a lot of different places. She and her husband recently retired to Cary, and she's obviously very new to politics. But her Wiki bio lists real achievements in the academic realm: 

[Eastman] also studied abroad at the University College London, School for Slavonic and East European Studies. She attended the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, where she earned her master's degree in International Security, with concentrations in Homeland Security, Intelligence, and Human Rights. During her graduate studies, she was one of 56 students selected nationally for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Honors Internship Program. She also has an MBA from Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management.

Everything I read screams not-a-Trumpist. A moderate Republican with a sense that the United States belongs in the international stew because it can do good deeds.

But then I watched her intro video on her website, and I guess I ought to accept by now that every educated Republican moderate will quickly mouth the magic words -- "I'm a conservative, pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment Republican." Those words are actually somewhat jarring in the video because they follow an opening section that seemed complete in itself -- about being inspired (if not incensed) by the heroic sacrifice in the face of national adversity (9/11). It's soft-focus patriotism. But then the next section -- and it's like the advisors said to her, "can you do a tougher version?" -- Marjorie Eastman obliged and even got downright icky: She says she wants good old American capitalism to save us from "the creeping socialism that's being pushed in our Congress." 

Here's the whole thing:




That internationalist sheen dooms her, no? in the Republican primary. But I can't help wondering if all that super-PAC money might make her more viable and hence a threat to McCrory, by dividing the never-Trump vote, especially if Mark Walker takes Trump's dangle of running for a House seat instead.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Sign of the Times

 

Saw this sign high up in the window of a muscle truck this week. Had just freed my own truck from a foot of drifted snow (I was positive my 4-wheel could handle it), but more difficult was going to be the wall the state snowplows had piled up at the end of my driveway. I torpedoed through it. Later saw the bigger truck with that sign on the way home.

And because I have feelings that are fuckable, I've been meditating on the manner of man -- or woman -- who would display that notice, proudly and prominently -- and what feelings, specifically, he/she intends to fuck.

The bullying instinct in the cult has rarely been better expressed. Don't you try to imagine what this person looks like, the carriage, the shell? A January 6th commando? A cowboy? A steer wrangler? Or your local dry cleaner with something to prove?

It's a man put that up. Because it's a dick-thing, this display of aggression against weakness. (Madison Cawthorn, call your office.) "In red world," says David French, who should know, “you’re weak, you’re a coward” -- as a public accusation -- could end a career or birth a homicide.

In Trumpland this accusation of weakness and cowardice is used as a weapon to keep people in line, because Trump himself defined support for this movement as evidence of your strength.

Trump rallies -- always full to the brim with display -- of swagger, of meanness, of contempt for a long list of enemies, harassment of the press, fist-fights in the audience -- those rallies were rock concerts for a gang that feels slighted and wants to kick ass, who want to take some revenge on late capitalism for putting a new educated class of people ("libs") in charge of everything.

The stereotypical bully intimidates where it's safe to intimidate, the essence of the Trump persona itself. David French: "Trump is a guy who when he can feel like he can intimidate and bully, he’s all in. When there’s real risk to himself, he’s all out."

Or was that guy in the truck with the sign one who would take a weapon to the Capitol? Or to a school board meeting?

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Primaries To Be Delayed Again, To June 7th

 

Republican leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly obviously believe their gerrymandered maps are about to be declared unconstitutional by the State Supremes. The "gerrymandering trial" appeal goes before the Court on Feb. 2nd. Plaintiffs are looking to overturn the 3-judge panel's ruling last week that there's really nothing the judicial system can do about partisan power grabs via gerrymandering. The NC Supreme Court has set arguments on the appeal for Feb. 2nd. They have (by my count) exactly 7 working days from then, to February 18th (Friday of the week of February 14), which according to the State Board of Elections is their drop-dead week for having new districts defined so that they can accommodate candidate filing for a (court-ordered) May 17th primary. 

The Republican bosses in the General Assembly are taking the correct steps right now to delay the primaries another three weeks to June 7th. That's a gift to the Court. More time, more deliberateness, more care in who the Court orders to draw new maps. Ahem.

That delay in the primaries is just an acknowledgement of reality by the Republican bosses, not necessarily IMO a nefarious first step toward impeaching any Justice who rules their gerrymandering unconstitutional. Dallas Woodhouse, writing for the Pope Carolina Journal, has reported that some Republicans are sure 'nuff talking impeachment (Billy Corriher's reporting), but delaying the primaries in this new instance is perhaps merely dealing with it.

I'm okay with the Court ordering the General Assembly to draw new maps (rather than an independent commission). Yes, I realize Berger Moore will slip in what bad faith they can in new maps, but don't they have to be better than what we have right now? Weren't the 2020 court-ordered maps that the Republicans were forced to re-draw better than what they replaced? You bet they were, for at least those new maps prevented veto-proof majorities for the Republicans in NC House and Senate and led to the election of 2 new Democrats in the US Congress. Odds are, new maps would eliminate at least some if not all malicious mischief, like the splitting up of Watauga County between two different Congressional districts and two different NC House districts.

Dallas Woodhouse thinks the delay is particularly bad for the Republican senatorial primary between Pat McCrory, Mark Walker, and the Trump-tetched Ted Budd. It's bad if Mark Walker sticks to his guns and stays in the race rather than take the tainted Trump bait of running for the US House instead. Walker stays in and divides the conservative vote with Ted Budd, and McCrory waltzes. Woodhouse would applaud that.

Probably so would Cheri Beasley.


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Second Chances


Jesse Jones, a composite inmate based on multiple case profiles, was released from a North Carolina jail in 2018. Charged with a non-violent drug crime, and with little means for proper legal defense, he took the advice for a plea bargain from his assigned, overworked public defender. After serving a 9-month sentence, he prepared for his reentry into society. He left the jail with no financial means, lacking even a form of transportation. No one picked him up. The kinds of support structures most have, Jesse has always lacked.

Jesse is one of the millions of people diagnosed with a mental illness, which has made holding a traditional job difficult, especially when he cannot afford treatment, a frequent reality for Jesse. His working-class background made him resilient and able to improvise to survive. He got prison because he lacked money and is out of prison without money.

Formerly incarcerated people, like Jesse, re-enter a society invested in their past. Background checks, even to rent an apartment, often filter them out. Finding steady employment is equally daunting, forcing them into further desperation. They’re caught in a catch-22. There are always boxes to be checked on job and apartment applications, prohibitions on voting, restrictions on travel. Is it any wonder that, according to the North Carolina Justice Center, our state has a 40% recidivism rate? 

The branding of people as felons for the rest of their lives proves the system has little pretense for true and fair reentry. If the entire point of incarceration is rehabilitation, why label someone with a permanent stigma? Once branded “felon,” our Jesse and many more like him face the prejudice – or at least the skepticism – of potential employers and landlords alike. In 2019, of the 212,048 felony charges statewide, only 14.2% were for violent crimes; 85.8% were for nonviolent offenses. But all are lumped together as “felons.”

The failures of our justice system are a frequent point of political discourse. Wouldn’t most people, regardless of a political party, agree that the justice system as it stands is broken? Everyone is comfortable with yakking about policy but fails to truly grasp the individual lives in ruins. Policies like minimal sentencing, targeting of poor or marginalized neighborhoods, and for-profit prisons have to change, no doubt, but we also have to acknowledge we’re failing people like Jesse Jones in the process. People’s lives aren’t policies passed 30 years ago.

Simply put, people deserve second chances. Systems designed to keep people down only increase the chance of another incarceration. As a response to these inequities, folks in the High Country have founded the High Country Reentry Collaborative. The Collaborative has some ambitious goals: The creation and production of video testimonials, showing the faces and personal experiences of individuals impacted by incarceration; help with job placement in a rehabilitation-friendly place of employment; and the cataloging of the resources available to those in our community.

If you’re looking to support the fledgling Collaborative, you can email (highcountryreentry@gmail.com) to find ways to support or get involved!


Jon-Dalton George is a member of the Boone Town Council.

Friday, January 14, 2022

NC Oath Keepers Implicated in Federal Indictment for Seditious Conspiracy

 

Just spent a couple of hours studying the Federal indictment for seditious conspiracy against 11 members of the Oath Keepers (full indictment text here. It's 48 pages of riveting details -- the intensive and comprehensive planning, the weapons, the belief in an evil shadow cabal that's trying to steal the presidency).

Kept finding North Carolina mentioned: A combat training exercise organized by the Oath Keepers, a "North Carolina QRF Team" (Quick Response Force), the hunt for a boat for a potential amphibious assault across the Potomac River (not making that up) ... it's all detailed below, taken directly from the indictment.

Here's the thing: No North Carolina member of Oath Keepers is ever mentioned by name. In fact, the indictment goes out of its way to keep individuals unidentified. They're not targets of this indictment.

Why not? The indictment makes clear that a group of North Carolina Oath Keepers formed a QRF team and actually occupied a room at a Comfort Inn in the Northern Virginia suburbs, with a room full of heavy weapons, on stand-by for a full-on shit show at the Capitol. But they did not go to the Capitol that day. They went home instead. But before that... Being on military stand-by for possible violence at the Capitol seems remotely conspiratorial to me (and grandly comic, when you think about it).

NC Oath Keepers have evaded conspiracy charges. Or maybe other indictments are coming.

[NOTE: Names in ALL CAPS are codefendants in the Federal indictment. For the complete list of names, and their bases of operation, see this DOJ doc. QRF stands for Quick Response Force. Numbers reference paragraphs in the indictment]


Acts in Furtherance of the Conspiracy


24 On December 12, 2020, the North Carolina chapter of the Oath Keepers held a training session that, according to the leader of the chapter, would be focused on: ‘vehicle operations, road blocks, vehicle recovery, convoy operations, .. . setting up hasty ambushes, and reacting to ambushes, but the first thing we are going to do is fall into formation when we assemble.... TDS ‘planned to, but did not, attend that training.

45. In late December, CALDWELL identified the Comfort Inn Ballston, in Arlington, Virginia, as the location that the QRF would use as its base of operations for January 6, 2021. CALDWELL shared the location of the hotel with WATKINS and the QRF team leader for the Carolina Oath Keepers group that traveled to Washington, D.C., for January 6, 2021. The North Carolina QRF team leader reserved three rooms and paid for one of the rooms; MEGGS paid for the other two rooms. One room was occupied by the North Carolina QRF team; the second room was occupied by the Arizona QRF team, including VALLEJO; the third room was occupied by the Florida QRF team. These QRF teams used the rooms to store and guard the firearms that they ‘and other co-conspirators contributed to the QRF.

51. On January 2, 2021, CALDWELL received a message from the North Carolina QRF team leader, stating “FLA. 2 men back, 12 to 15 going in DC.”

52. On the evening of January 2, 2021, MEGGS posted a map of Washington, D.C. in the Leadership Signal Chat, along with the message, “1 if by land, North side of Lincoln Memorial, 2 if by Sea, Corner of West Basin and Ohio is a water transport landing!!” MEGGS continued, “QRF rally points. Water if the bridges get closed.” In response, the North Carolina QRF team leader wrote, “My sources DC working on procuring Boat transportation as we speak.”

60 On January 4, 2021, CALDWELL sent an email to the North Carolina QRF team leader with the subject line, “NEW MAPS RELATIVE TO HOTEL AND INGRESS FOR QRF,” and attached several maps as image files.

65. On January 5, 2021, as MEGGS  and co-conspirators were unloading their weapons, he messaged RHODES, “Yes we are just outside of town unloading at QRF on our way in. Left [the North Carolina Oath Keepers leader's place] at 4:30 am[.]"


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Sheri Everts Accused of COVID Mismanagement

 

I've been hearing for literally weeks about AppState faculty's beef with Chancellor Sheri Everts about her lax policies regarding COVID, especially considering the current spike in Omicron which has coincided with the opening of the spring semester and in-person teaching. The faculty I hear from -- and see mentioned now in the press -- allege that Everts is unresponsive to faculty questions and complaints and -- worse -- simply absent from any collegial conversation about the best plague decisions. Faculty say Everts now goes into an automatic "defensive crouch" when challenged about anything -- which is just another form of hiding out.

What does the majority of faculty want? A recent faculty survey found that some 63.5% of the 441 faculty respondents said the university’s current COVID protocols will not allow the university “to continue to function normally, in a manner that permits them to provide a high-quality education to all of our students, without disruption, for the full spring semester” [reporter Joe Killian]. And...

Nearly 63% said they think it is either likely or very likely they will have to move their courses entirely online in the next few weeks due to COVID infections.

Overwhelming majorities also supported allowing faculty members to control the mode of instruction in their classes, requiring proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test for admission to all on-campus events and requiring all students, regardless of vaccination status, to undergo testing prior to the start of the semester.

The majority of respondents — 76% — said they would be willing to hold courses online for the first few weeks of the semester, until the current omicron-driven surge of infections peaks.

...so far the university’s administration hasn’t been willing to take any of the suggested steps.

AppState's protocol for COVID
accused of being mainly PR



Everts' fear of her own faculty -- or her ingrained disdain for them -- possibly goes back a couple of years (some would say farther than that):

Tensions between Everts and students and faculty at App State have been escalating since August 2020. At the time, the university’s Faculty Senate voted “no confidence” with regard to Evert’s leadership, over the campus’s handling of COVID-19. A no confidence vote is rare in UNC System history. [Joe Killian]

Killian also reports on an open letter that a prof of sustainable development (who also happens to be a former health economist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) sent to all students, alleging that the university is “failing to provide the leadership, guidance and support that students, faculty and the broader community needs”; followed by a mass email response to students from Everts' office alleging that the prof was peddling "misinformation"; which provoked followup questions to Everts' office from the press and from faculty demanding "what misinformation?"; and then finally an attempt at explanation from Everts' flack sent to reporter Killian that does not pass the smell-test among faculty.

Stella Anderson, a professor of management, said that Everts' administration is the worst case of mismanagement she's seen in her 29 years at the university. “It’s an unmitigated disaster,” Anderson said. “The administration and leadership failures and bone-headed communication is really astounding .... I’ve been at the table for a lot. I know good management and leadership and I know when I’m not seeing it.”

The chair of the AppState faculty senate offered the best explanation for Everts' intransigence: political shit ineluctably rolls downhill:

“The era we’re living in now in North Carolina higher education history is truly a hegemony,” Dr. Louis Gallien said. “You have a majority of Republican legislators who appoint the Board of Governors. The Board of Governors in turn appoint the Boards of Trustees. The Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors choose the chancellor. So you have a hegemonic philosophy of leadership and management those groups have. And it is not totally in sync with traditional shared governance principles.”

Sheri Everts is not about to buck the real bosses.

Hegemony, incidentally -- the word -- is just a fancy academic way to say "the power derived from the inability of any group to think and act independently."


The 'Tough Shit' Ruling in the NC Gerrymandering Trial

 

I did not want to get out of bed this morning because I knew what was ahead of me. I refrained from posting anything late yesterday about the 3-judge ruling in the gerrymandering trial -- they sided with the defendants, the Republicans in the General Assembly -- because I wanted to read the opinion of the court. It's 260 pages long. I groaned at the thought of slogging this morning through that appalling hoard of sapience.

But then I discovered that Jeffrey Billman had read it for me. The three-judge panel — "two Republicans, one conservative Democrat, all white, and all selected by Republican Chief Justice Paul Newby" — amazingly, agreed with the Democratic plaintiffs' facts and figures which proved that the Republican gerrymander was an extreme example of partisan power-grabbing:

The new US Congressional district map "is the product of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting."

Based upon mathematical analysis provided by the plaintiffs, the State House and Senate plans are extreme outliers that "systematically favor the Republican Party to an extent which is rarely, if ever, seen in the non-partisan collection of maps.”

In other words, the judges agreed with and accepted the Democrats' expert witnesses and their characterizations of the new maps, citing example after example, Billman says, for over 100 pages.

But then (and nevertheless) ... dum dum DUM:

The judges spent the last third of its tome explaining in exhaustive — and often meandering — detail why, even though the plaintiffs had proven their case and were clearly right on the facts, they wouldn’t get in the way of the General Assembly’s Republicans selecting their own voters, even though “judges, just like many of the citizens they serve, do not always like the results they reach.”

Like John Roberts of the US Supremes, these judges essentially say there's nothing they can do about it. I pluck here just a couple of their pieces of rare logic for finding that Republican extreme partisan gerrymandering will go on with their blessing:

The General Assembly has never forbidden itself from drawing legislative districts that benefit its own members. 

In 2019, a three-judge panel found that the legislature’s maps were extreme gerrymanders under the state constitution, though the General Assembly never asked the state Supreme Court to review that decision. That ruling, this three-judge panel said, was “instructive and persuasive,” but not “binding.”

"Instructive and persuasive"? I am persuaded that these three judges are not immune to the human condition of occasionally (?) having their heads up their own asses.

“Despite our disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our State to ridicule," write the judges on their way to justifying the corruption of democratic principles, "this Court must remind itself that these maps are the result of a democratic process” -- meaning that because the Republicans who drew them were all elected to office, then their self-interested power-grabs are by definition within the sacred realm of the "democratic process."

There's much more detail and many interesting side-trails in Billman's account, and having wound up a considerable head of pissed-off steam in his analysis, Billman ends this way:

...if the best we can do is throw up our hands and say that the General Assembly has an absolute, unassailable right to gerrymander itself into power indefinitely, then this state’s democratic institutions are—pardon my language—well and truly fucked.

As is the whole nation if voting rights aren't also protected.

This really remarkable piece of judicial reasoning now goes directly to the Supreme Court on appeal. Immediately. It ain't over.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Did Mark Walker Just Tell Trump To Pound Sand?

 

Came across an "exclusive interview" that former Rep. Mark Walker gave Channel 11 in Greensboro, and it appears that Donald Trump's attempt to get him out of the US Senate Republican primary and into a Congressional race instead has failed.

It's all about Walker's faith. "I don't run one way or the other because of the odds or what's on paper," Walker said. "I do something because it's in my heart." (Was he right on the threshold of announcing that God called him to run for Senate?) "I'm all about compassion." But next breath: "We've got to make sure we lock that border down."

Anyway, about that "pressure" from DJT to drop out of the Senate race in favor of Ted Budd's candidacy. Walker admits that he was invited to Mar-a-Lago to meet with Trump by the Club for Growth, the super-PAC that has already pumped $5 million into promoting Budd.

During the meeting, Walker said Trump offered his endorsement to run for the U.S. House in exchange for leaving the Senate race to help Rep. Budd.

"I'm always grateful if someone wants to look at our body of work and say we want you back in the U.S. House," Walker explained. "I don't look at it as pressure. Are they wanting to encourage me to look at a U.S. House seat? Yes. But I don't feel pressure."

Walker is either obtuse about how Trump operates or he's deliberately one-upping the weasel while holding an unmelted pat of butter in his mouth. Indeed, Walker went on to criticize Trump in an oblique way, like any good Baptist pastor might:

As for the impact of Trump's endorsement [of Budd], Walker expressed some regret at the rhetoric from the former President -- and some North Carolina Republicans -- about whether the 2020 was "stolen" or "rigged," claims that have overwhelmingly been discredited and debunked by courts and even GOP-led commissions in several states.

"You can get out there, increase your social media following, say the most outlandish things .... Anybody in the political arena can make an argument. It's what makes the viewer feel good. It's what sells on your cable media. But show me the member of Congress, male or female, that's out there making a difference. A lot of times America doesn't know their names."

I'm impressed that he would be so forthright about the baleful influence on Trump on the prevailing mode in the Republican Party. 

His staying in the Senate race gives the advantage to Pat McCrory in the May primary, no?


Monday, January 10, 2022

Thom Tillis In Talks To Prevent Another Trump Coup

 

Sen. Thom Tillis was outed as being part of a bipartisan group of senators discussing changes to the 150-year-old Electoral Count Act, presumably to clarify procedures so that another Donald Trump can't lean on his vice president to throw out electoral votes.

Can't say I'd be opposed to such a reform, so good on Thom Tillis for learning at least one lesson from DJT.

But it comes out that the discussion was the bright idea by Republican senators to distract the Democrats from pressing for a voting rights law. "Here, take this little piece of anti-Trumpism, and then shut the hell up about keeping the right to vote easy, free, and fair!"

The bipartisan group of senators was convened by that champion of women's rights, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who's always eager to spoon pabulum. Her guardianship of women's rights got us Brett Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett, so we should quake with fear that she might turn her hands to voting rights.

The whole gambit appears really a means to entice Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Sinema away from doing anything foolish for voting rights -- like ending the filibuster to pass the law. Reforming the Electoral Count Act might give Manchin and Sinema some cover for otherwise letting democracy wither for lack of access to the ballot.

As a sure sign that this is all just a Republican feint to distract Manchin and Sinema, both Mitch McConnell and No. 2 Senate Republican John Thune told reporters they are open to changing the Electoral Count Act. Manchin and Sinema say they're only interested in legislation that has bipartisan support, so McConnell's dangle was a slick come-on.

As well as a slap-back at Trump.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Pilot Mtn Woman Who Brought 14-Year-Old to Insurrection Gets Jail Time

 

Virginia Marie "Jenny" Spencer, 38, of Pilot Mountain was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years of probation for her part in the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. The US District Court judge said it was "very hard to comprehend" why Spencer and her husband Christopher brought their 14-year-old son with them. All three entered the Capitol on that day and were photographed invading Nancy Pelosi's office.

Christopher Spencer has pleaded not guilty and his case is still pending.

Friday, January 07, 2022

Alienation May End the Republic

 

Brant Clifton over at The Daily Haymaker, is sometimes my window on the North Carolina branch of the national conservative movement (national conservatism = "the intellectual version of Trumpism"). Clifton has never covered up, or even softened, his contempt for anything that smells of "establishment Republican." He's a constant goad for the leadership of the NCGOP. He has launched shitballs at Dallas Woodhouse, Thom Tillis, Renee Ellmers, Tim Moore (among many others). The complaint against the establishment always involves its apparent lack of courage, its frequent failure to scorch the earth, or its corrupt bargains with big corporations. 

Clifton just published (again, as it turns out) a call to action for his brand of politics: 

Are you frustrated with the current state of the NCGOP? Start organizing your like-minded friends to take over — or at least build a sizeable contingent within — your precinct and your county party organization. The county party organization makes the decisions about who goes to the state convention. That’s where the platform AND the party chairman are decided on. He who shows up, wins. That’s how it works.


That alienation from the Republican Party hierarchy mirrors a similar alienation among some Democrats. Many of us are at least sympathetic to an "alienated worldview" because we have our own grievances against long lists of people in power, people with too much money, people who've gotten an unearned advantage at the expense of others. That alienated worldview animated both Tump voters and "Bernie Bros," a sobering but widely ignored connection.

Setting aside Brant Clifton and his brand of conservatism, I understand the attractive pull of some of the basic assumptions underpinning economic populism (and the alienation that goes with it):

Culture War is class war.

"Conventional Wisdom" is the path to stagnation.

Big-time "globalization" -- international deals under the banner of "free trade" -- benefit corporations at the expense of workers.

Globalization moved manufacturing jobs to China (and elsewhere).

The deindustrialization of the US because of globalization destroyed working-class families. 

I can recognize how much of their alienation I might have shared with many who stormed the Capitol on January 6th a year ago. Minus the fundamentally illiberal impulse to fall in behind a selfish and cruel "strong man" who has promised to right all wrongs if only he can be given all the power.


Thursday, January 06, 2022

Confirmed: What We Already Suspected


Reporting: Will Doran, for the News and Observer

RALEIGH A political trial that has mostly been dominated by math and academic research erupted in drama late Wednesday, when a top Republican redistricting leader said on the witness stand that he had used secret maps, drawn by someone else, to guide his work. 

Rep. Destin Hall, testifying in the gerrymandering
trial yesterday in Raleigh.
Photo by Travis Long, N&O


That statement, made under oath, appears to directly contradict what he told Democratic lawmakers at the legislature in November, shortly before the Republican-led legislature passed those maps into law over Democrats’ objections. 

A Durham Democrat and former judge, Rep. Marcia Morey, asked the GOP redistricting leader, Rep. Destin Hall, at the time if he had used any outside materials to help in drawing the maps. Hall said no....

But on Wednesday Hall, a Lenoir Republican who leads the House redistricting committee, said that he would sometimes refer to “concept maps” that his top aide, Dylan Reel, had brought to him. 

Sometimes Reel would bring the maps up on his phone for Hall to look at while drawing the official version of the map, Hall said in a deposition just before the trial, details of which came out during his testimony Wednesday. Other times they would meet in a back room, to discuss the maps away from the public mapmaking terminals which were livestreaming video and audio. 

So the liberal challengers in the lawsuit asked if they could see those concept maps — to analyze them, potentially for signs that they used a process that violated the rules the legislature was supposed to be following. 

But the legislature says those maps no longer exist.

The challengers accused lawmakers of withholding evidence, and suggested they knew it was going to be destroyed and didn’t try to stop it....


Secret fucking maps.




Wednesday, January 05, 2022

The Continuing Rise of J.D.Vance


J.D. Vance became famous -- bankable -- after publication of Hillbilly Elegy in 2016. Seems like everybody was reading it back then. Many praised the beauty of the writing. Others actively hated it.

All the regional Appalachian activists I know, and the academics teaching or writing in the large field of "Appalachian Studies," spat nails about it. Still do. They told me in many conversations that Vance's autobiography about growing up poor and "Appalachian" in Ohio presented the grossest of generalizations about a culture built to sink without protest into despair. When the movie version came out in 2020, directed by Ron Howard, the push-back against Vance's generalizations about Appalachian culture grew even shriller. 

I confess that I never read the book and I avoided the Netflix film. I took my friends' word for it (always a dangerous proposition, but hey! I'm busy). No matter how vibrantly, sharply written, no matter how perfectly scripted for the Hollywood treatment, Vance's version of reality has outlasted its shelf-life.

So I'm primed to sneer a little at J.D. Vance, especially after he became a vocal Trumpist and declared he was running to replace Rob Portman in the US Senate from Ohio, financed in large part by libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel. I wrote disapprovingly last March about how Thiel, a kind of cultural snarling dog, really, was trying to buy Vance a Senate seat with $10 million. Meanwhile, Vance the cherub-cheeked pudge of a new author of 2016 (who looked like this back then)...



is now campaigning for the US Senate as a different sort of avatar -- angry-guy Trumpist J.D. Vance:



That change in persona -- from a Harvard-educated intellectual who "came across as guileless, boyish" -- to "playing Don Jr. on the Internet" -- that transformation becomes major grist for an amazing piece of in-depth analysis by Simon van Zuylen-Wood in yesterday's Washington Post, "The Radicalization of J.D. Vance."

Let’s start with the beard. J.D. Vance didn’t used to have one. The Vance who in 2016 achieved incandescent literary fame with his memoir “Hillbilly Elegy” was all baby fat and rounded edges. The Vance I’m watching now, from the back of a coffee shop in the depressed steel town of Steubenville, Ohio, has covered up his softer side.

One of Vance's friends told van Zuylen-Wood that the change in Vance was more than just outward appearance: “He’s going for a kind of severe masculinism thing. He looks like Donald Trump Jr.” Van Zuylen-Wood followed Vance on the campaign trail and verified the attempt to portray a bullying masculinity, though it often looked inauthentic: "Watching Vance campaign, I felt him straining to deliver his talking points in an angry register." Plus Vance's "shit-posting" on social media, which is "the signature style of young radicals on the right." Elegant writing be damned when you're trying to impress the Trumpists.

If you need to play to the Trump base — which Vance suddenly, desperately, needs to do — it’s not a bad idea to do so via online trolling: “You can own the libs without going on long paranoid spiels about all your enemies within the Republican Party who have failed to steal the election for you.”

Which leads to the central question behind this long profile: Is Vance a changed or a fraudulent person?

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Vance was known as a never-Trumper, so his cutting remarks about Donald Trump back then are being resurrected now by his Republican primary opponents. "Every campaign stop he makes, he patiently tries to explain away his past Never-Trumpism, which has been exhumed in the form of deleted tweets and Charlie Rose clips. An attack ad playing his anti-Trump sound bites ends with a woman saying, 'That’s the real J.D. Vance.' ”

I could go on grabbing quotes from this delicious article, past anyone's patience for taking it all in, but in answer to whether Vance's transformation amounts to fraud or a genuine change of heart, van Zuylen-Wood writes this hell of a paragraph:

Vance’s new political identity isn’t so much a fa├žade or a reversal as an expression of an alienated worldview that is, in fact, consistent with his life story. And now there’s an ideological home for that worldview: Vance has become one of the leading political avatars of an emergent populist-intellectual persuasion that tacks right on culture and left on economics. Known as national conservatism or sometimes “post-liberalism,” it is — in broad strokes — heavily Catholic, definitely anti-woke, skeptical of big business, nationalist about trade and borders, and flirty with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban. In Congress, its presence is minuscule — represented chiefly by Sens. Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio — but on Fox News, it has a champion in Tucker Carlson, on whose show Vance is a regular guest. And while the movement’s philosopher-kings spend a lot of time litigating internal schisms online, the project is animated by a real-life political gambit: that as progressives weaken the Democratic Party with unpopular cultural attitudes, the right can swoop in and pick off multiracial working-class voters.

That's the kind of paragraph that deserves its own long profile. And there's much else in van Zuylen-Wood's reporting, especially on the intellectual underpinings of "national conservatism" (Peter Thielism) that incidentally indict classical liberalism for its own blindnesses and bland assumptions.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

The "Foxx Finger" Featured in the Gerrymandering Trial

 

This gerrymandered abomination got some discussion in the trial in Raleigh that started yesterday on whether the Republican redistricting of Congressional and NC legislative seats violates the state's constitution. It's a pretty good object lesson for "partisan intent."



CD11 used to be in the main CD5, and it's promised to Virginia Foxx by eliminating most of Watauga County except for the Foxx eff-you finger that awkwardly takes the Watauga Precinct out (where she lives) and links it to Guilford County, with a lot of heavily Republican counties along the Virginia border.

Dave's Redistricting gives the new CD11 a Republican "partisan lean" of 54.92%.


Sunday, January 02, 2022

North Carolina Gerrymandering Goes On Trial Tomorrow

 


Here's my understanding of the law: In 2019 a three-judge panel issued a stinging 357-page rebuke to the NC General Assembly's redistricting of NC House and Senate districts (Common Cause v. Lewis). The three judges ruled those maps unconstitutional and forced others to be drawn that were subsequently used for the 2020 General Elections. The legal logic used to rule partisan redistricting (gerrymandering) illegal in 2019 has never been tested by a higher court. But in the next couple of months, it will be.

Before a different three-judge panel starting tomorrow, the constitutional legitimacy of the Republican majority's newest map versions of all three legislative jurisdictions -- US Congress, NC House and Senate -- will be put to trial. Three separate lawsuits have been combined (even though they have different specific complaints and requests): 

NC NAACP v. Berger: Doesn’t challenge the maps themselves but rather the rules that undergird them. Republicans claimed, when drawing the new maps last fall, that there isn’t evidence of racial polarization, and so they wouldn't be using racial data when drawing the maps, a decision this lawsuit argues was meant to eliminate Black officials. 

Harper v. Hall: This is the continuation of the successful 2019 lawsuit discussed above (a decision which has never been appealed). Using mostly the same lawyers and legal arguments, it seeks to prove that even though Republicans drew less skewed maps for the 2020 elections because of that 2019 lawsuit, lawmakers then went back to drawing unconstitutional maps again last fall once the new census data came out. 

NC League of Conservation Voters v. Hall: This is possibly the most ambitious of the lawsuits, since it seeks to not only have the GOP-drawn maps thrown out but also proposes its own maps to replace them. 

(Thanks to Will Doran for keeping me straight. I'm paraphrasing and quoting liberally from him)

The three judges starting tomorrow have been ordered to conclude their expedited trial on all those issues by Wednesday (of this week!) with closing arguments scheduled for Thursday. The judges are mandated to have a final ruling by January 11th (a week, Tuesday). Then any appeal (which will go directly in this case to the NC Supremes) will have only two business days (holy cow!) to get itself filed with the high court. Two high-pressure days to research more law and write arguments. 

Whatever the newest trio of Superior Court judges decide, the NC Supreme Court will get the appeal immediately, and promises to deal finally (?) with the whole thorny issue of partisan gerrymandering as the legitimate power of an arm of state government.