Thursday, September 29, 2022

Sheriff Drama in Columbus County


I'm loving me Jane Porter's daily "Indy Week" email blast, and this morning she delivers a doozy about the sheriff mess down in Columbus County. (You can sign up for the newsletter and support independent journalism at

The Drama. The Players

Lewis Hatcher, incumbent sheriff
of Columbus Co. in 2018,
beaten by the guy below by
34 votes

Lewis Hatcher was the incumbent. He was appointed to the vacant job early in 2014 and then went on to win election in his own right in Nov. 2014, with 77.93% of the vote. He's a Democrat. However popular he seemed in 2014 (or hopeful as a new face in the sheriff's office), he had apparently lost the luster by 2018, when he was beaten by just 34 votes by Republican Lewis Hatcher. Or maybe there was fraud in the election.

Hatcher contested the results, and the local board of elections rejected the complaint. Hatcher appealed to the state board (SBOE), which launched an investigation -- actually, not a brand new investigation but an extension of the probe already doing on in Robeson and Bladen counties into the notorious career of one McCrae Dowless (this the investigation that ultimately led to the redo of the 9th CD election and the disgrace of Rev. Mark Harris).

More than 300 votes in the Hatcher race were cast using mail-in absentee ballots, the source of corruption that McCrae Dowless specialized in. But Hatcher won 243 of those absentee votes to his Republican challenger's 93, according to results posted on the state elections board’s website. So...?

When the Republican apparent winner got himself sworn in before the results were certified, Patrick Gannon, spokesman for the SBOE, said, “My understanding is that the county has not issued a certificate in that race, and thus he should not have been sworn in. Sheriff Hatcher should still be serving as sheriff.”

Because the Republican had begun to usurp the office, Lewis Hatcher sued in Superior Court to force Columbus County officials to acknowledge that he is the county’s rightful sheriff, not the man serving in that position, Jody Greene.

Jody Greene, who served as
Columbus sheriff for 3 years
without ever being certified as
the winner of the 2018 election

Jody Greene
, Republican and former highway patrolman, had listed as his place of residence an address that later turned out to be a vacant lot with no structure on it. He later said he was living in a travel trailer at that spot. His campaign also hired the election operations firm of Red Dome, for whom McCrae Dowless had done such energetic work in Robeson County.

Taking charge of the sheriff's office, Greene began smashing the furniture: "When Sheriff Hatcher was in charge, there were two African-Americans on his command staff: Lt. Jeremy Barber and Captain Clementine Thompson. Green demoted Thompson within days of taking office, and cut her pay by $10,000. She was later fired. Barber, formerly the department’s lead detective, was demoted to the civil division. Greene’s command staff, made up of his highest ranking officers, no longer has any minorities." (Indy Week newsletter

A captain on the Columbus force, who got regular ranting phone calls from Jody Greene, judiciously decided to start recording them:

"This one particular phone call that [I] received, he made the comment that he hated Democrats. And then he said, ‘I take that back. I hate a black f***ing Democrat.’ And, and I knew right then, I was like, ‘Wow, this is coming from the sheriff.’ And, I had to start recording those conversations," [the captain] said of the moments before he hit record on the phone call. [That captain becomes a major player in this drama below]

Defeated (?) sheriff Lewis Hatcher and usurper Jody Greene were forced into mediation (which went on for nine hours), after which Hatcher withdrew his law suit and Greene conceded that he would no longer act as sheriff. Greene proposed Deputy Aaron Herring to act in his place as interim.

Deputy Aaron Herring

Aaron Herring already had a bad reputation as a mean racist:

Herring was arrested in 2015, charged with punching a handcuffed black man in the face while serving as a Whiteville Police officer. He was later found not guilty, but that did little to quell concerns in some parts of the community about his treatment of African-Americans. (Indy Week)

Herring had been made Jody Greene's chief deputy, and in that role, he claimed, he was legally mandated to take over sheriff duties. But Herring and Hatcher had signed an agreement that put Captain Jason Soles in charge of day-to-day operations.

Captain Jason Soles, 2022 candidate
for sheriff against former incumbent
Jody Greene

Captain Jason Soles (the captain mentioned above who tape-recorded Jody Greene's phone rants), began to act as interim sheriff and is now in the 2022 election against you-know-who:

Soles, who is now running for Columbus County Sheriff against Jody Greene, said he was concerned that the most powerful law enforcement officer in Columbus County was racist, and would not treat black employees or the residents he policed fairly.

"It broke my heart. Because that’s not what I believe in. It upset me to the fact that I did have to start recording his phone calls. And I’m not wanting to go around recording people’s conversations. But... this was not the leader that we needed leading the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office making these racial slurs," Soles explained.

So Soles recorded calls that captured racist tirades from Greene under the pretense of Greene calling Soles trying to track down a leaker in the sheriff's office and the ranting got worse. Meanwhile, Soles "brought the recording and other concerns about the sheriff to the attention of County Commissioners during a recess at a county commission meeting." Only one county commissioner ... seemed to care [the other commissioners were in Greene's camp].

Just today, this news broke:

North Carolina sheriff Jody Greene was taped on a phone call complaining about a “snitch” in his office who happened to be African-American, WECT reports.

Said Greene: “I’m sick of it. I’m sick of these black bastards. I’m going to clean house and be done with it. And we’ll start from there.”

He added: “Tomorrow’s gonna be a new fucking day. I’m still the motherfucking sheriff, and I’ll go up and fire every goddamn [inaudible]. Fuck them black bastards. They think I’m scared? They’re stupid. I don’t know what else to do it. So it’s just time to clean them out. There’s a snitch in there somewhere tellin’ what we are doing. And I’m not gonna have it. I’m not going to have it.”


The Era of Trump.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Ted Budd -- "No Admission of Wrongdoing" Doesn't Mean There Wasn't Wrongdoing

The factual basis behind this new attack ad appears to be solid (see below):


Court documents reviewed by The Washington Post show that a trustee for farmers and other creditors alleged that his father, Richard Budd, improperly transferred millions of dollars in assets to his family, including Ted Budd. That occurred before Richard Budd and a family company faced a $15 million judgment in the case.

Moreover, the trustee alleged, Ted Budd “acted in concert” with his father “in connection with the fraudulent transfers.” As a result, Ted Budd was named as a defendant in a civil case filed by the trustee.

In the end, a settlement negated the need for a trial and specified that there was no admission of wrongdoing. The “Budd entities” agreed to pay less than half of the amount initially earmarked for the farmers and other creditors — some of whom remain angry they only received a portion of their lost earnings.

The ad was produced by an independent expenditure group, the Senate Majority PAC, whose origins go back to 2010 and Senate Majority Leader (at the time) Harry Reid of Nevada.

Is the ad effective? Well, it made me go looking for the story behind it, so that's something. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Get Ready for Hurricane Ian


Hurricane Ian is forecast to move up the spine of the Appalachians after it comes ashore at the southern tip of Florida. Prognosticators are already warning about the risk of landslides from the heavy rain, and that means us in Watauga County and all the rest of western North Carolina.

Just a reminder that Watauga County has one of the highest concentrations of landslide risks in the western mountains. The map below details them, published by the NC Department of Environmental Quality, UNC Asheville, and the state Geological Survey.

Monday, September 26, 2022

NC GOP Caucus Turns Nasty, Preys on Ignorance


Ricky Hurtado is the only Hispanic member of the NCHouse, representing HD63. Against considerable odds in 2020, Hurtado flipped this seat from red to blue, the only House seat to flip to Democrats in 2020. The Republican incumbent he beat, Steve Ross, was a country-club establishment, former Wells Fargo executive who has nevertheless gone full Trumpist in his attempt to retake his seat from Hurtado this year.

A photoshopped photo of Hurtado was mailed to voters in HD63 with his T-shirt altered to "Defund the Police," a nasty smear of a good man. I was first alerted to this by Sen. Jeff Jackson.

Not sure whose name is on the "Paid for by" disclaimer (assuming there is one), but Carolina Forward says it's the NC House Republican caucus cooking up this lying shit with dough from a dark-money PAC, @joinclc.

 They did one on Rep. Terence Everitt in HD35 (and no telling who else).

It's their identity as a political party. It's in their DNA.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Responding to Wolf's Head


A smart libertarian who signs himself Wolf's Head trolls my posts on WatWatch, and though I don't generally respond to his provocations (why's such a conservative dude like you attached like a pilot fish to this bleeding-heart liberal blog?), I do pay attention to him. Wolf's Head is educated, writes like he respects the language, and he's a flatout intellectual. He has a vision of the world and can articulate it. I think he deserves a conversation. (As to his/her/their gender, I say he for convenience. I don't know Wolf's gender and don't care. I use the gendered pronoun for convenience. Sue me.)

Recently down column I wrote that accepting election-denying Trumpists like Ted Budd would be the end of our democracy. Wolf's Head jumped on that: "We don't have a democracy; we have a Republic." Well, yeah, I get that, but I know where you're headed, to that strawhorse target, "pure democracies mean mob control," and who knows but the mob will want to eat you?


Wolf's Head rests his case against democracy by mentioning when Black people took over and oppressed white people: "Representative democracy? Like the Democratic Republic of the Congo? No thank you" -- bringing up a notorious case when suddenly freed Black people began lording it over whites and killing them. I'll leave the Google research to you about the reality and the hype of "the Congo Crisis," 1960-62, and just acknowledge that Wolf has made his white superiority breath-takingly obvious in other blog threads.


But he doesn't even respect representative democracy. Man, that's extreme.


He then explained himself in a long post:


Democracy means Might Makes Right.

Majority gets their way, Irregardless of what it does to the minority. As with most liberals I meet, you think such a system would only be done altruistically. Conservatives and libertarians beg to differ.

What I have seen in my life is this: Democracy is wanted by altruistic, caring, well-intentioned but ultimately self-righteous people who think everyone would believe what they do if only the opposition knew how wrong they were.

But, it is also desired by those who think they can manipulate those feelings of altruism and caring into giving themselves more power by getting more votes. 

THAT is the great danger.

People use your emotions, your desire to make things better, into power over others.

That is what democracy is all about, power over those less powerful, or less numerous, then you.

So, if someone is brilliant, capable and works hard to support themselves, their families, their employees and community, the majority might be jealous of that. It's a recurring liberal theme and they want to tax or regulate his wealth because the majority isn't capable of achieving what this individual has, and therefore thinks it's 'NOT FAIR!!!'

This happens every effing day.

So, it's easier to vote with the majority to take from someone else, than to achieve it on your own.

Democrats will call the achiever 'greedy' or 'selfish' for creating and keeping his wealth.

But really, who is greedier. the man who works for his achievements or the majority who want to take it for their own benefit?


He doesn't mention "tax and regulation" until late, but I get the subtext: Wolf devoutly believes taxation is theft and that government regulation is mainly harassment aimed at prosperous people because of liberal jealousy about conservative wealth. Clearly, Wolf's Head is a guy who does not believe in the "social contract." (The social contract, which should and can and does produce civic virtue, establishes the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual for the good of the community.) 


Social contract? I do believe in it, which is the basis for my belief in democracy. I grew up with it, the cohesion of a community of equals (farmers who knew how to do everything almost but needed help in crisis times, who got help when they needed it from their neighbors, and depended on Roosevelt socialism that brought the "shelter belts" of trees to break up the winds that were lifting the topsoil and taking it to Arkansas. It was more socialism that electrified the countryside. Locally, and before my time, democratic impulses wanted to see every child enlightened and potentially ennobled, so those early, capable, tough white Europeans who settled the Panhandle of Texas decided to tax themselves and build schools -- including many one-room satellite schools in far-flung sections where poor farm kids who had no way to get to town could learn to read and grow up to write a blog, maybe. "We'll solve that with school buses," which I rode through every grade into high school. Everybody got taxed for all of that, for the good that full and free education brings. And they elected a school board who ran it and county commissioners who worked for free and made sure the muddy roads that became rutted canyonlands got smoothed out. Yes, some probably groused, especially about the school tax: "I don't even have kids in school! Why should I pay?" But simple, good-hearted, civic-minded democratic consensus won out. Later, after government began paving more and more dirt roads (the wonderful socialism that helped farmers get their capitalist goods from farm to store), and at some point some other democrats in Austin decided that "vocational agriculture" should be a thing in rural schools (I took it!), proving that legitimate government could help farmers keep their investments intact by educating their children in the arts of rural survival.

I was a poor kid, but you couldn't tell the poor kids from the rich ones. We all wore the same farming-country dungarees with worn knees. I wore shirts made from cotton sacks. My father owned no land. He worked another man's wheat stubble, and we lived in that owner's houses -- two different ones over a couple of decades. The good will of men (and women) I didn't even know, who weren't kin to me, enabled me to get educated, and then Christian socialist aid got me further to a college we could afford (a Baptist one, which was even in the '50s already fully integrated, where the religion didn't take for me but the world of history and philosophy and literature did). That's why I'm a democrat and also a Democrat.

Yes, I try to win elections. I try to convince people of my truth. It's the social contract if they agree and elect my guys and also if they don't agree and reject my guys and elect theirs. The social contract demands I accept the will of the people in either case. If their guys go wrong in office, I'll try to eject them, and if I can convince others to change course, we will.


The part of Wolf's dissertation that wounded me most:


People [politicians] use your emotions, your desire to make things better, into power over others.

That is what democracy is all about, power over those less powerful, or less numerous, then you.


If I understand his point here, and I believe I do because I understand English -- the very impulse toward altruism -- seeing a need and urging government to do something about it -- that impulse is itself the problem. Dude, that's a dark place. That's a world libertarians seem to live in, and welcome to it. Wolf's gospel that altruism itself -- charity, government help, socialism -- is really only about getting power over people in order to control them -- that's a version of reality that belongs not to the world I know and have known and still actually believe in.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The Screw-You Philosophy of Trump Republicanism


Don't get between a Republican politician and his greed.

The greed for money. The greed for power. They'll run over you for either. They're Virginia Foxx driving a car too fast on mountain roads and tailgating granny to get to her next fundraiser or a vote on denying anybody anywhere any government assistance of any kind. It's their big car and it's their road, so get the hell outta the way!

They're Madison Cawthorn assuming the laws don't apply to them, the rules of the road or the rules about taking weapons onto school grounds.

They're clones now of Trump, of course, who turned his Secret Service detail into a cash machine and would stop at nothing to maintain power. What was he doing with stolen secrets? If the thought -- let alone some overt action -- of turning those docs into cash didn't cross his adderolated brain, I'd be astounded.

Chuck Edwards

Then there's the particular screw-you attitude of Chuck Edwards, the Republican who beat Cawthorn in the primary and is now trying to replace him in Congress, running against Jasmine Beach-Ferrera. Edwards was outraged, in that pinched-face way of MAGA Republicans, when Prez Biden forgave a measly amount of student debt:

“This policy is unfair to the millions of Americans who have paid back their debt and to the taxpayers who will now pay the debts of those who haven’t,” Edwards told the Smoky Mountain News. “And it will make inflation even worse. It has to stop and when I am in Congress, I will fight to restore fiscal sanity to our nation.”


The cry of the greed-head who's been sucking off the teat and is outraged that someone else might get a drop.

Because Edwards himself has had over a million dollars in Payment Protection Program loans (PPP) -- $1,120,000.00, to be absolutely exact -- forgiven by the Federal government. And now he wants to make sure that those ex-students burdened with predatory interest on their student loans have to actually pay state income taxes on those $10,000 of forgiven debt.

That's the screw-you philosophy without any clothes on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

This Alone Disqualifies Ted Budd


Asked now by three different news outlets whether he would accept the outcome of the November elections if he lost, Trumpist Senate candidate Ted Budd wouldn't say. Because as we all know now, elections are fair and honest when Republicans win. Otherwise, they're illegitimate.

From his seat in the US House, Budd voted against certifying the 2020 election on January 6th.

Democratic candidate Cheri Beasley's spokesperson Kelci Hobson told the N&O that Budd “has made a career out of subverting our democracy, from refusing to accept election results in 2020 and 2022 to calling the January 6th insurrection ‘just patriots standing up’ to opposing legislation to secure our constitutional right to vote. That’s dangerous and wrong for North Carolina.”

It's also the end of our democracy.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Mark Meadows Has the Gall


Former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who's under investigation in North Carolina for voter fraud, has sued election officials in Lehigh County, Pa., for ... [suppressing my impulse to giggle] ... an "election integrity" issue (the use of ballot drop boxes).

We're currently at the 6-month mark in the NC State Bureau of Investigation's probe of accusations against Meadows -- that he voted absentee in 2020 using a Macon County address where he had apparently never set foot.

The Macon County Board of Elections removed Meadows from their voter rolls in April.

Ted Budd Intends To Keep Scourging Women


Ted Budd, who's running for US senator from North Carolina (bless his heart!) and feels emboldened perhaps because Trump is holding a rally for him next week in Wilmington, has co-sponsored in the US House the Lindsey Graham proposal to ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy -- which Graham has cleverly labeled "late-term abortions" as though 15 weeks weren't actually early in a pregnancy, not close to half-way through.

Perhaps Budd's putting his name to a proposed law that will take away the rights of women is a calculation to stir up the enthusiasm of his base voters. Whether or not there's something weak about the enthusiasm of Republican voters that needs stirring up, Budd has probably confirmed to sane women voters -- especially young ones -- that he's not to be allowed near the law-making apparatus of the federal government.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Flowering of Q in Waynesville


So this happened in Haywood County: An energetic woman in Waynesville, Darris Moody, who describes herself as a digital warrior, got a good viral case of internet poisoning on hyper-conservative websites and began faxxing bunches of anonymous (although one was signed “ThankQ”), threatening "arrest" warrants and legal-seeming "writs" to public officials that contained hair-raising possibilities -- like placing "bounties" of $10,000 and up on the heads of the letter-recipients and calling for "citizen’s arrests" of treasonous officials supposedly acting on behalf of the Deep State. Who got these threats? Easier to ask who didn't. The local Haywood sheriff (a Democrat) got one. So did some of his deputies, two county commissioners, the district attorney, three judges, the entire Haywood school board, every elected official in the town of Waynesville (along with three Waynesville public works employees), Canton’s mayor, the chairman of the Haywood board of elections, a few Asheville and Buncombe County officials, the Henderson County sheriff, several state Supreme Court justices, and the CEO and chief nursing officer of the Haywood Regional Medical Center. Anonymous (and meaningless) writs and warrants threatening physical and professional injury.

The FBI arrested Darris Moody on September 7. She's charged under the Interstate Communications Act,  which prohibits the interstate transmission of "any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another." The judge let her out on an unsecured $25,000 bond, much to the alarm of the federal prosecutor. ("Interstate transmission" -- apparently Mrs. Moody included a few Washington, D.C., fax numbers and maybe some in Tennessee as well.)

Say you want to use the English language to put the fear of an angry right-wing God into the hearts and heads of a few elected officials. Where do you begin and what do you write? Luckily for you (and for Darris Moody), there's a whole website, “The People’s Bureau of Investigation,” which gave Mrs. Moody her templates and samples of "the peoples arrest warrants," fancied up in quasi-legal language. The website contains instructions on how anyone, anywhere, can “serve” the fill-in-the-blanks “writs,” and for every one served, the website promises compensation of $2,000. From whom the money will come remains unclear (but thank God there's a profit motive behind this craziness, although Darris Moody complained to a reporter that she had gotten nary a check for her good work).

Reporter Cory Vaillancourt of the Smoky Mountain News has been all over this story. In fact, it was Vaillancourt who pursued leads and uncovered the identity of Darris Moody, actually talking to her for an hour on the phone. The interview must have been a doozy:

Moody lives in a world of red pills and blue pills — not actual pills, but rather internet parlance for truth and ignorance, respectively. During a 50-minute phone conversation, she checked off nearly every single box on a long list of QAnon-style conspiracy theories.

She’s concerned about socialism, communism, chemtrails, weather modification and satanic pedophile cults that traffic children for their organs.

She believes that COVID-19 is a psy-op, that the vaccine is a bioweapon and that masks are a tactic of the deep state, worn to obscure the very image of God.

She bandies about faerie-tale talking points from self-proclaimed “sovereign citizens.”

She claims that upon birth Americans are transformed or absorbed into a corporate entity and then are bonded, insured and controlled by the New World Order.

She espouses support for Christian nationalism, maritime admiralty law and the so-called constitutional sheriffs movement.

She promotes the idea that actor Tom Hanks is somehow part of it all, and that President Joe Biden isn’t “the real Biden” but has instead been replaced by a body double.

“Anybody can go look at pictures of him,” Moody said. “It ain’t the real one.”

Of course, she learned all this on the internet.

Vaillancourt published his investigation on September 7th under the headline, "Author of threatening writs revealed, but still no action from law enforcement" -- emphasizing "no action" because Vaillancourt had asked sheriffs in particular why they had not taken steps to stop the letters. Literally, hours after that article appeared in the Smoky Mountain News, the FBI moved on Mrs. Moody. Maybe local law enforcement can be excused because they knew the Feds were on it. Anyway, the Feds were.

McConnell Needs To Save This Guy's Ass


Indebted once again to Jane Porter and her IndyWeek newsletter:

Mitch McConnell's Senate Leadership Fund is dumping $3.4 million into North Carolina's U.S. Senate race between candidates Cheri Beasley and Ted Budd, so now seems like a good time to remind everyone of why Budd, of all candidates running in 34 contested U.S. Senate races this November, is probably the most corrupt politician vying for a U.S. Senate seat this cycle. 

As a new website from the North Carolina Democratic Party details, Budd has been involved in a number of crooked deals, special interest funded travel, and financial scandals. He's also voted against the best interests of North Carolinians at most every turn. Here's a taste:

Budd has consistently taken money from big banks, and then voted to allow banks to charge customers high fees and stymied efforts to lower costs for regular working people.

Budd and his family screwed farmers out of $50 million in an agriculture scheme that went bankrupt and left more than $1.3 million behind in tax debt. We reported on that last September.

Budd traveled on the special interest dime, taking a series of trips worth $30,000 to destinations like Miami, Palm Beach, and Oslo, Norway and staying in $900-a-night luxury hotels. 

Budd voted against legislation in July that would lower gas prices and protect consumers from price gouging by big oil companies. A day before, he had taken $5,000, the legal maximum campaign contribution, from big oil PAC Continental Resources Inc.

Days before voting against H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act in 2019, Budd took $2,500 from GlaxoSmithKline's PAC and $1,000 from Pfizer's.

This is all in addition to siding with predatory payday lenders after taking their money, voting against funding for child abuse prevention services, voting against a bill to address the infant formula shortage, and initially voting against a bill to assist veterans.

Not great! Sometimes it's just helpful to keep all the corruption catalogued in one place. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

In Arkansas, Chris Jones Stirs Excitement for Governor


Okay, the prospects of a Black man becoming governor of Arkansas -- even a Black man who holds a doctorate in urban planning while also pastoring Christian churches -- may not strike you as existing in the realm of possibility, at least it's an uplifting sign that the Democratic Party of the South ain't your granddaddy's political party.

Chris Jones won the Democratic primary for governor in Arkansas back in May, He faces professional liar Sarah Huckabee Sanders, daughter of a former governor and mouthpiece of a former president, running on the Republican side. The only polling I've seen doesn't look encouraging for Jones, but people have been attracted to the introductory video that Frank Eaton, of the D.C. ad firm of Putnam Partners, made for Jones in June and which has gone seriously viral. Frank Eaton, who gained fame in North Carolina more than a decade ago helping the Democrats and guaranteeing that Pat McCrory's tenure would be one term only, continues to turn out stunning work.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Abortion Rights Are Safe in NC ... For Now


Carolina Forward is entering the ad wars RE keeping abortion rights safe in North Carolina. And they're raising money to get the ad seen statewide. Use the link to contribute.

Friday, September 09, 2022

The "Smart Advocacy" of DOJ in The Case of the Purloined Papers


Yesterday, Attorney General Merrick Garland did not appeal to a higher court Judge Aileen Cannon's ridiculous order regarding Trump's stolen docs ... no, not yet. What he did yesterday was file a request that Judge Cannon "revisit her opinion," with an implicit warning that if she does not revisit its most absurd features, the DOJ will be filing an appeal with the 11th Circuit Court.

(Isn't all of this back-and-forth a fascinating case study in how lawyers think -- especially the dumb ones like Trump's bunch -- and how smart lawyers handle a wrong-headed judge? Trump's lawyers may be dumb, because it's hard to be smart with an idiot for a client, but they're not suicidal: "Mr. Trump has claimed that he had declassified everything he removed from the Oval Office to his residence. But his lawyers have not made that same assertion in the courtroom, where there are professional consequences for lying.")

Helping me understand the finesse behind what the DOJ filed yesterday is Glenn Thrust et al. in the NYTimes: "Notably, the government did not file a motion to reconsider [as opposed to a "motion to revisit"], a formal request for the judge to reverse her ruling. Such motions are notoriously hard to win, in part because they essentially ask judges to acknowledge they were wrong in making an earlier decision."


The department did not contest appointing a special master to sift through documents and photographs not marked as classified. Nor did it challenge Judge Cannon’s order preventing investigators from working with those files until they were cleared by the special master, although it said it disagreed with that part of her decision, too.

Instead, prosecutors asked Judge Cannon to grant them immediate access only to the classified material, arguing that her ruling had been based on concerns about Mr. Trump’s personal materials — including medical and financial records — that were swept up in the search.

“The classification markings establish on the face of the documents that they are government records, not plaintiff’s personal records,” they said.

Prosecutors added that Mr. Trump has no right to have classified government documents returned to him and there is no plausible claim that any are subject to attorney-client privilege.

My new favorite legal commentator, Georgetown University law professor Heidi Feldman, explains even more clearly about the "smart advocacy" behind the DOJ's request to Judge Cannon:

Prof. Feldman

The latest DOJ filing very skillfully shows how legal argument and process can make it hard, though certainly not impossible, for judges to simply do whatever they want. 1/

There are some unspoken layers to DOJ’s central position, which is that documents marked classified are both the ones most needed for criminal investigation and least arguably covered by any assertion by Trump of atty-client or executive privilege. 2/

DOJ tells the judge that if [she] puts off imposing the special master process with regard to the classified documents, DOJ will refrain from appealing the judge’s overall ruling. 3/

This allows the judge to walk back from most problematic parts of her arguments and their most unwise implications without requiring her to accept that she is wrong about everything she said. That’s smart advocacy. Judges are human and don’t want to admit to being all wrong. 4/

Even cannier, DOJ is telling the judge they won’t put her in the position of possibly being told by appellate she’s all wrong if she adjusts her treatment of the seized classified documents. 5/

By carefully explaining why law as applied to current facts favors judge allowing DOJ to use classified documents right now, DOJ has previewed for the judge arguments it will make on appeal, so judge can see how persuasive they may well be. 6/

Suppose, though, that Judge Cannon is so wedded to delaying the criminal investigation she refuses DOJ’s motion to allow immediate use of classified documents for that purpose. She could simply deny DOJ motion without explanation or by giving weak reasons. 7/

DOJ will still have gained. Its motion gives appellate court a heads up on potential timing of the appeal and lets appellate court see how it can, if it wants, overturn Cannon re classified docs while giving Trump every chance to get back personal records. 8/

DOJ alerting higher courts that upholding Cannon would mean courts having to say outright that a former president can assert executive privilege against incumbent to stop present executive from investigating theft of classified documents related to national security. 9/

No matter how much Trump-appointed appellate judges or right Supreme Court justices might want to shield Trump from criminal prosecution, that’s a pretty difficult conclusion for them to have to commit to. 10/

Ideally, would be better if DOJ did not have to expend time and resources on dealing with Cannon’s misguided decision to impose special master and enjoin use of seized documents for criminal investigation. 11/

It is especially valuable at this moment in American history, for DOJ to be showing how legal argument and process can be used to hinder judges from simply insisting on an outcome the judge would like to order. 12/12


Thursday, September 08, 2022

Budd v. Brawley in HD103

Carolina Forward has published the most useful "State of the Race for the North Carolina Legislature." In it, they draw my attention back to House District 103. It's a must-win for the Republicans if the Republicans have any assurance of getting back to their super-majority (when they can run rough-shod over Gov. Cooper). I wrote about the Democratic primary in HD103 back in April -- which first-time candidate Laura Budd went on to win. But I never looked at the Republican. And if this district is as crucial as Carolina Forward says it is, then I need to catch up.

NC House District 103 in Mecklenburg County (Matthews and Mint Hill) was won in the 2018 Blue Wave by former Gov. Jim Hunt's daughter Rachel, and she won reelection there in 2020. This year she's leaving the seat to run for the NC Senate in an overlapping district. The House district has also been redrawn, and Dave's Redistricting rates it 49.9% Democratic v. 47.6% Republican. The Republican in the race, Bill Brawley, was the former incumbent whom Rachel Hunt beat in 2018 (and again in 2020). He's determined to get back to Raleigh this year and thinks a Red Wave will get him there.

Laura Budd (D)

Laura Budd (in red), with her family

She's a lawyer who was recruited by Rachel Hunt. She holds her law degree from Wake Forest School of Law and is the managing partner at Weaver Budd law firm, specializing in business litigation and contract law. She said before the primary that she hopes to attract moderate voters.

From her announcement: "In addition to practicing law, Budd has an extensive history of community involvement. She currently serves as the President of Matthews Athletic & Recreation Association, Vice-President of the Piedmont Gymnastics Club, and [is] involved with the Matthews Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scout Troop 39 as well as the North Carolina and Mecklenburg County Bar Associations."

She's been endorsed by Lillian's List and targeted for contributions. She has minimal presence on social media, and her website has no calendar and no sense of forward movement, but all of that can be unrevealing, if not downright deceptive. I don't know what kind of campaign she's running. I hope it's boots-on-the-ground.

Bill Brawley (R)

By unfortunate contrast, the Republican campaign of Bill Brawley looks lit up on Facebook, but not on Twitter.

William "Bill" Brawley is a real estate broker. He was first elected to this seat in the Tea Party tide of 2010. In 2012 he ran unopposed in both the primary and in November. Ditto 2014. In 2016 he had a Democratic woman against him, and she made a respectable showing, getting almost 44% of the vote. In 2016 he refused to respond to a Charlotte Observer written candidate profile. In 2018, Rachel Hunt took the seat from him. He tried to take it back in 2020, and he's even more determined in 2022.

In the House, he was a senior chair of the Finance Committee. In one of the special sessions of 2017, Brawley introduced HB 514 to allow the towns of Mint Hill and Matthews to apply for their own charter schools. The bill passed the House but died in the Senate. In 2007, before he joined the GA, he was managing properties in Charlotte including a hotel that he learned was one of the top three hotspots for organized crime. Men were buying women there for sex. When Brawley barged into the establishment, he learned that some of the women were "trafficked," were there against their will, and he arranged to have one woman rescued by a SWAT team. Commendably, in 2017 Brawley introduced the "Human Trafficking: Resistance and Rescue Act," which didn't go anywhere (but which he's using as a torch on his website).

His website, incidentally, seems un-updated since he ran against Rachel Hunt, but it contains nary a word about Trump nor about abortion nor any of the other regular conservative wedge issues. It's all about taxes and school choice (and of course human trafficking). He's a moderate (though he looks like a stereotypical banker who'd throw a widow out on the street). That must explain why Laura Budd said she wanted to appeal to moderates.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Is There A Quick Fix For Our High Country Housing Woes?


Guest post by Dalton George

Housing is the issue, and it has been for quite some time. The Housing Council — a group that was created from the ambitious and successful series of housing forums conducted earlier this year -- has been working towards some possible solutions, and they’ve got some great folks on the case. This energy isn't only relegated to activism. Local elections may now hinge on the issue. 

Still, as time goes on, it seems like a quick local fix to the housing crisis is nearly impossible. While some published articles (like the one in the recent NC Business Magazine) provide a prescription of extending town services out of town, allowing development with little regulation (and in turn creating a potential disaster for our natural environment — see The Cottages), most data doesn’t really support that. See Oregon, where once they eliminated those pesky zoning laws, rental rates actually increased. 

Even more troubling, housing can be framed as a NIMBY v. YIMBY choice (Not In My Back Yard v. Yes In My Back Yard) that introduces a level of polarization to an issue that otherwise typically should create some unity. While I don’t strongly identify with either NIMBY or YIMBY, I can say this — We desperately need more housing, but I have never been a fan of giving the keys to developers and expecting them to do the right thing. Boone has been bitten in the ass by this countless times. 

Then we have our Congresswoman, Virginia Foxx, writing an Op-Ed damning local regulations and championing the cause of the YIMBY, all while never participating in any of the housing movements in her district. I could write a whole piece criticizing her, but she’s been in Congress since before I was born, so her inability to improve the district she represents speaks for itself. 

I’ve said it a few times, to little effect, but Boone has tried already to deal with some of these issues, so some solutions are already in place that we can utilize. I’ve continued to reexamine our minimum housing code for the safety of tenants and have introduced an agenda item for breaking up the discrimination happening in student rentals, which would open the market in an impactful way (the only items related to housing affordability/safety since the Air-BNB regulation in December of 2021). Boone even recently tried to adopt a penny for affordable housing on every hundred dollars of valuation, though we ultimately compromised by moving the revenue equivalent from our general fund. 

In April of 2020, the Town Council introduced a resolution detailing some of the very problems newer housing groups have identified. It gained some traction, resulting in a response from the state’s Attorney General. However, our two state representatives, and ever passionate-about-housing-Congresswoman, did nothing. Here are the items that Boone asked our reps to take action on:

The $800 per apartment in non-refundable fees to pursue credit checks on tenants and their parents, while potentially not using that money for a credit check.

Landlords not publishing or disclosing certain rental charges and non-refundable fees imposed until the tenant applies for housing. 

Fines on tenants, which are not disclosed or directly included in the leases in some multi-family complexes, that make tenants abide by rules and regulations made by the management, which they can freely alter.

Renting by the bedroom, but requiring each tenant to guarantee full rent for an entire four-bedroom apartment, even though the tenant may not have any prior relationship with other tenants.

Tenants not being properly or effectively advised of the chance for a property to flood, or of the landlord’s refusal to take responsibility for flood damages until after the loss.

Landlords regularly deducting amounts from security deposits that represent charges for normal wear and tear.

Landlords using leases that are so complex people untrained in the law can’t decipher the many predatory and one-sided provisions.

New pushes like the Watauga Housing Trust provide some of the first local initiatives for affordability. Still, a housing trust model is but one piece of a much larger puzzle. Inclusionary zoning is a prospect for the Town, though the lack of clear mechanisms to hold developers legally accountable poses a problem, further worsened when you realize most inclusionary zoning programs only force affordability for a limited number of years. 

The heart of our housing issue is simple — rampant greed in an economic system that encourages it — and since housing activists are working in that framework, we’re already playing against a stacked deck.

Ultimately, we keep trying, and in Watauga that’s thanks to a robust community of passionate activists, but as we watch nearly every other city in North Carolina deal with housing issues, one must wonder if it’s time to hold state legislators accountable.

Dalton George is a member of the Boone Town Council.