Tuesday, January 31, 2023

All NC House Democrats Look Solid on Protecting Abortion Rights


Jane Porter points out in today's Indy Weekly newsletter that all 49 Democrats in the NC House have signed on to H19, a bill to codify the protections for abortion in Roe and Casey, a Democratic bill that of course has no chance of ever passing the Republican-dominated General Assembly. But it may signal a Democratic unity we have devoutly hoped for and cynically doubted. All 49 Democrats have their names on H19, including the handful of more conservative members that Speaker Tim Moore appointed to committee leadership posts in the apparent hope they'll side with Republicans in voting to override a Cooper veto.

With all those conservative Dems signed on to a proposed law that would bar any new abortion restrictions prior to "viability," writes Porter, "the prospect of tightening abortion restrictions in North Carolina — particularly passing a law banning the procedure after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which is House Speaker Tim Moore's preference and which Cooper will definitely veto, along with any other abortion-restricting legislation — becomes a lot more daunting for the Republicans."

Hope springs.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Must Be Something in the Water in CD11 ... Blood?


From Politico.com:

A family friend of Mark Meadows has agreed to plead guilty to accepting an illegal campaign contribution during an ill-fated 2020 run to succeed the former Trump White House chief of staff in Congress, according to newly-released court papers.

Lynda Bennett, who lost in a 2020 Republican primary campaign to Madison Cawthorn, accepted a contribution from a family member exceeding $25,000, according to charging paperwork filed by prosecutors. That contribution was given “in the name of another person,” according to the papers, signed by U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves and Corey Amundson, chief of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section....

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Tim Moore: 'We Don Need No Freaking Mass Transit'


In the New York Times this morning, a lengthy article by Michael Wines about how Republican-dominated state legislatures seek to punish big-city governments in their own states because the majority rural Republicans feel mainly contempt for "urban" (read "Black") cultures and because most of those big-city governments are dominated by Democrats.

It's part of the incipient new civil war that conservatives seem to invite and love.

Here's a section about one of our own Republican legislative bosses who has an obvious cob up his ass about Charlotte:

In North Carolina, where Democrats and Republicans have warred for a decade over gerrymanders, voting restrictions and social issues, the Republican speaker of the State House, Representative Tim Moore, seemed prepared this month to scuttle a $13.5 billion initiative by the Democratic leadership in Charlotte to expand mass transit.

Charlotte leaders aim to move half of the city’s trips away from cars by 2040 through embracing light rail, buses and bike paths. But they need the Legislature’s approval of a local sales tax referendum to finance the effort.

Mr. Moore, who lives in the Charlotte exurb of Kings Mountain scoffed at the plan. “If you put more bike lanes in, that doesn’t mean more people are going to ride their bikes to work — that’s not going to happen,” he said at a political forum this month. “You need to build and expand roads because we are driving cars.” Charlotte’s mayor, Vi Lyles, later said she hoped to meet with Mr. Moore to explain the proposal.


Friday, January 27, 2023

NC House Speaker Tim Moore Has Hired an Avowed White Supremacist as His New Policy Advisor


Carlton Huffman, on Linked In

Carlton Huffman proudly lists a new job on his Linked In page. As of this month he's "Policy Advisor" to the Office of the Speaker of the NC House. He's also self-described as a "Patriot Conservative."

Carlton Huffman has a pretty colorful white history, most famous for us for when he was a staffer for House member Jonathan Jordan in 2011 and was forced to resign his staff position for the following activity....

An unsigned "poison pen" letter with nasty racist overtones was surreptitiously placed on the desks of NC Senate members on the day in March 2011 when the new Republican majority were to vote on an otherwise non-controversial act to symbolically pardon Gov. William Woods Holden for his 1870 impeachment. Holden was a Republican who called out the militia to put down Ku Klux Klan thuggery. He was impeached by a Democratic General Assembly as a n****er-lover, the first governor ever removed from office in the United States. The act introduced in 2011 to pardon him, albeit symbolically, would have been doing the right thing for a Reconstruction Republican who was unfairly and maliciously driven from office by backward, racist Democrats.

But the unsigned letter attacking Holden's biography appeared on Senate members' desks, quoting an un-reconstructed pro-slavery UNC history professor from almost a century ago, who accused Gov. Holden of "corruption." Spooked, the Republican leadership in the Senate immediately suspended action on the bill.

NC Senate rules forbid unsigned pieces of paper that advocate for or against legislative action. WRAL reporter Laura Leslie was the first to identify Carlton Huffman as the author, and he soon resigned from his staff position. 

Huffman batted around in other political jobs in North Carolina and Wisconsin after that, doing field work for Phil Berger and others (according to Linked In). Most recently, he was a regional field director for the Herschel Walker for Senate Campaign, sort of proving that Walker was always mainly a tool for white supremacy.

Because Carlton Huffman is pretty dedicated to the cause of making sure that white people are uber Alles. I received via email this partial list of Huffman's recent activities yesterday:

Huffman has been a regular correspondent and featured guest on The Political Cesspool Radio Program that proudly proclaims this about its principles: “What we are: Pro-Christian (God), Pro-White (Family), Pro-South (Republic).” The program’s host, James Edwards, has been widely panned as a dangerous white supremacist including by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Huffman has had leadership positions in both the North Carolina Council of Conservative Citizens and the national Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). The CCC was the radicalizing organization cited by Dylann Roof in his manifesto found after his 2015 massacre of nine Black parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. In fact, the CCC released a statement after the fact that stated Roof had “legitimate grievances” against Black people.

Huffman, who went by the pseudonym The Unreconstructed Southern and posted under the username dixie1984 (the year of his birth, and linked with his personal email here), was the main individual posting for the NC CCC chapter and also claimed to have spent time writing for the national CCC page.

The topics covered on the NC CCC blog are wide ranging, but never deviate from being white supremacist in nature with regular claims that we must be “preserving European-American culture of the United States.” Huffman espouses anti-school racial integration beliefs, opposition to the Voting Rights Act, fear mongers that Barack Obama will bring about a “vicious anti-white campaign of terror,” regularly attacks the LGBTQIA+ community, regularly refers to minorities in derogatory terms, and seeks to stop the dilution of the language and culture of European-Americans by immigrants and minorities. He further calls for the infiltration of the Republican Party by white supremacists in order to further and more effectively push the message of white supremacy.


Well, day-um! Just as I posted the item above, I saw the news that Huffman has resigned. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

North Carolina OB-GYN Doc Sues Over Restrictions to Abortion Drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently got rid of restrictions that required patients to pick up mifepristone abortion pills in-person from their doctor. Now, according to the FDA, certified pharmacies can dispense the abortion medication to people who have a verified prescription -- just like many other prescription drugs. 

But hold on, say the anti-abortion bosses in North Carolina, "We're not going to let that happen so easily. Patient, meet hoops."

UNC OB-GYN specialist Dr. Amy Bryant has filed a Federal lawsuit against the state's restrictions. The lawsuit states, "Under the North Carolina restrictions, instead of seeing patients in an office setting (or remotely via telehealth), and having the option of either dispensing the medications or providing a prescription for a patient to fill from a pharmacy so that the patient may take the medication at the place of their choosing," N.C. doctors are being asked to provide the abortion pill themselves "in person and be present when it is administered in a specially certified facility." North Carolina also imposes a 72-hour waiting period.

Bryant claims those restrictions "interfere with her ability to provide medical care to her patients, according to her best medical judgment and in accordance with federal law."

Bryant's court filing states, "Medication abortion is inherently time-critical, and delaying such care can unnecessarily increase risk or even push patients outside the window for use of mifepristone, potentially forcing patients to have more involved and more expensive procedures (which will present heightened risks for some patients)."

Monday, January 23, 2023

GOP Asks NC Supreme Court To Go Ahead and Declare Its Partisanship


The eyes of Paul Newby

Just a month ago, with Democrats still a slim majority, the NC Supreme Court in Harper v. Hall ruled the redistricting of state Senate districts unconstitutional, and in Holmes v. Moore, the same court ruled the state’s 2018 photo voter identification law unconstitutional.

Following hard on November's elections which shifted the court's makeup to a 5-2 Republican majority (new justices Trey Allen and Richard Dietz were sworn in on Jan. 1), GOP leaders in the General Assembly have petitioned the new court to expose and flex its new partisan advantage by reconsidering the decisions in both Harper v. Hall and Holmes v. Moore.

It's what we'd call a command performance. "Show us you love us! Give us a sign that we're now free to do anything and everything that our heart desires -- small and shriveled as it is."

My prediction: the Paul Newby Republican majority will do as requested, and this will only be the beginning of regression, repression, and a growing lack of interest in the rights of North Carolina voters.


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Time for New Leadership at the NCDP


I wasn't gonna flap my fat lip about insider Democratic Party stuff -- at least not right now -- but Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein -- Democrats both -- force my hand by endorsing Bobbie Richardson for another term as chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Following that disastrous election. Josh Stein just yesterday allowed Richardson to put his picture and his endorsement on her social media, and Gov. Cooper endorsed her a couple of days before that.

Meanwhile, Anderson Clayton of Person County has been endorsed (according to her own website) by over 90 Democratic leaders, particularly young electeds and Party activists in rural counties looking for a different kind of losing proposition, maybe even a winning formula.  (There are others in the race for Chair; see below.)

Why Cooper and Stein did their endorsements I don't know -- I'm planning to guess, by-'n'-by -- but it certainly brands the coming election of Party leadership as Establishment v. The Folks With Pitchforks and Big Jugs of Vinegar. The State Executive Committee (SEC), made up of over 800 voting members from all (?) the 100 counties, will elect the Party chair (and several other sub-chairs) at a regular Winter Meeting on February 11.

The last time the establishment candidate for party chair lost the SEC election was in 2005. That was the year of Jerry Meek, who was the insurgent reformer running against the establishment candidate Ed Turlington. Governor Mike Easley had endorsed Turlington. But Meek won. It was a surprise, apparently, and the Howard Dean-inspired upstarts made some real gains in 2006 and 2008. Jerry Meek was, in my long experience with the NCDP, the best state Party chair of this century. Whoever wrote his Wikipedia entry got it right:

As State Chair, Meek worked aggressively to rebuild the State Party’s grassroots network, to expand services and support to local party organizations, to make better use of technology, and to encourage new people – especially young people – to become active in the Democratic Party. He retired as party chair in 2009....

Meek got measurable results in the general elections of both 2006 and 2008, when Barack Obama and Bev Perdue and Kay Hagan all won the state. The general elections of 2006, in rural counties in western North Carolina, were a no less stunningly good year, because County parties that had been fading away got their gumption back, and fought back, and took local offices (don't ask me for exact numbers, except this one: In Watauga County in 2006, Democrats swept all the local races, from sheriff to county commission, and helped elect Steve Goss to the Senate and Cullie Tarleton to the House. During his tenure as chair, Meek came to Watauga more than once, learned how we do canvassing by going canvassing with us, and he convened the one and only -- far as I know -- round-table for progressive bloggers at Party HDQs in Raleigh, where I met some of the activists still kicking.

So the point is, an insurgent candidate like Anderson Clayton could surprise everyone. And do us a world of good.

Why Anderson Clayton?

Right off the bat I've got to admit that I've known her for years, and I know the tactical incubator that birthed her. Anderson was a rising leader in the AppState Student Government Assoc. at the same time Watauga Democrats were perfecting their staffing model for field and for mobilizing young voters. Anderson rose in the SGA Senate, won president of SGA in 2017, because she had the qualities of born leadership, and good political instincts, and she was key in galvanizing the college cohort to participate in our democracy. 

She's still young (25), vivacious, smart -- she majored in poly sci and journalism at AppState. Grew up in Roxboro in Person County (up along the northern border with Virginia), and when she got back there after AppState, she immediately took the reins of the Person County Democratic Party, "at a crisis point .... Within two years, Anderson led Person County to flip the Roxboro City Council and flip a seat in the NC House—one of just two red-to-blue flips in the House in ’22" (Clayton website).

On her Linked-In page, Clayton names Rural Innovation Network (RIN) as her current employer, working as a "broadband analyst," which captures some of RIN's focus on helping develop tech infrastructure in rural county cultures. RIN's website says the org has developed outposts in 34 different counties across the nation, including one in Wilkes County, where "local leaders are focused on educating and training local residents in tech skills (especially those traditionally excluded from the tech industry), employing them in new economy jobs, and empowering them to launch startups that will drive a prosperous 21st-century economy."

Anderson promises, "We can break the cycle of Democratic decline," a flash of both hopefulness and frankness that's required when the current Party leadership seems loath to admit anything could have been done differently or better in the future. I understand why gentlemen at the top of the ticket might want control of the State Party -- the so-called "coordinated campaigns" run by the state party have always been skewed to the messaging strategy and tactics of the Top Dog, usually the Guv, which Josh Stein is trying to be.

Stein's surprising, even electrifying preemptive attack on Mark Robinson in his announcement video earlier this week -- that rallied me for a Governor candidate who's going to be under vicious attack constantly. But Stein's endorsement of Richardson sends exactly the opposite message for me, that he's nervous about grassroots and progressive energy in this Party. Granted, the grassroots can sometimes grow stinky weeds. I'm willing to admit it. But a Party stuck in neutral, doing the same things again, that's not for me.

Others in the Race for Chair

Aside from incumbent Chair Bobbie Richardson (about whom I expressed an opinion back in December)....

Eric Terashima (website), a retired career Marine, former chair of the Brunswick County Party, and a losing candidate for the NC House.

LeVon Barnes ran for Durham City Council in 2017 and for the Durham County Board of Commish in 2020 and lost both times in the primaries.

Scott Huffman (2022 congressional candidate website) has become something of a perennial candidate, running for Congress in NC-8 in the Democratic primary in 2018, in the 2020 congressional election in NC-13, and in the NC-8 congressional election in 2022. He lost all of those.

Eva Lee, Wake County activist who toyed with running both a senatorial campaign and a campaign for state Labor Commissioner in 2020 (according to Ballotpedia) but never put her name on the ballot.

And there may well be additional candidates in the days ahead before February 11th.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Everything Happens for a Reason: NC House Committee Appointments


The Associated Press broke the story of Tim Moore's appointments for NC House committee leadership posts in the 2022 long session of the General Assembly. The Associated Press published certain highlights; but the full committee roster for standing and special committees is here. among which is this not very surprising appointment of a Democrat as vice chair of the Commerce Committee -- Rep. Garland Pierce (profiled here a few days ago as a possible Democratic weak link for overturning the veto of an abortion bill). He got a plum committee leadership post, and was only one of several Democrats who got that kind of recognition, some of them at least also suspected of being potential allies for Tim Moore in his quest to overturn every Cooper veto. 

US News made the same point in their coverage of Moore's committee appointments: duh. Awarding gavels to more than one member of the opposing party is an obvious, time-tested means of asserting influence, though we don't know fer shure that any of the additional appointments outlined below will get Moore the one Democratic vote he needs to rout the governor on a variety of veto overrides.

Rep. Shelly Willingham
of Edgecombe County is now one of three chairmen leading the alcoholic beverage control committee. Watauga County's Ray Pickett is a member. Willingham won his seat in the House 2016; Republicans didn't run a candidate against him in 2016; and he's gotten 58-60% of the vote in his other reelections. Represents a safe district.

WRAL reported

Willingham told WRAL News Tuesday that he wasn't asked to commit to anything in exchange for the chairmanship, and he noted that he has more than 20 years experience with the state's alcoholic beverages regulations, including two terms as a vice-chair of this committee.

"Speaker didn’t ask me to make any commitment to do anything and I haven’t committed to anything," Willingham said.

"[My vote] depends on what the bill is," he said. "I’m going to support any bill that will support my district and also the state. … Doesn’t matter who puts that bill forward.”

Democratic Rep. Michael Wray of Northampton County was elevated to one of four senior chairmen of the powerful House Finance Committee.


Sara Pequeno:

Wray is another 10-term state representative who represents Halifax, Northampton and Warren Counties. He had an excused absence the day of the first vote on the 2019 bill [Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act], and he voted to uphold Cooper’s veto when it went to the House floor. On the other hand, he voted for the Human Life Nondiscrimination Act [2021], which would have banned abortions based on gender, sex and disability. He has voted with the Democrats on other abortion bills aside from the 2021 legislation.

Democratic Rep. Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County will be one of three chairs of the K-12 education committee, joining two Republicans. Cotham served in the House for nearly 10 years through 2016 before returning as a candidate last year, and she's an established authority on state education policy. Cotham is never mentioned as a potential vote for a veto override.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Josh Stein Announces for Governor


This morning, slightly after 8, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced via Twitter that he's running for governor in 2024. 

Accompanying the tweet is an introductory video. I was very glad to see him go after the extremism of his likely Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. No holding back. (You can watch the video at the link above.)

Stein's announcement comes hard on the heels of an editorial by Ned Barnett published in yesterday's News and Observer, "To Win Statewide in NC, There's One Thing Democrats Should Change," a title that got my attention.

Barnett reprises the Senate race between Cheri Beasley and Ted Budd and sees similarities with a Stein vs. Robinson battle: "...it’s something of a replay of the Senate race: A prominent and politically cautious legal veteran vs. a very conservative firebrand. The result could be the same, too, unless Democrats address the voting intensity gap they have with Republicans. Democrats who water-down their progressive positions in hopes of cutting their rural and suburban losses also diminish their support among core Democratic groups" (emphases added).

Needless to say I think Barnett is right. Cheri Beasley always seemed politically cautious and watered-down, and we mos def had a voting intensity gap in that election. We saw it in the turnout of young voters in Watauga. We saw it in decreased turnout across the state in most other Democratic allied blocs, especially among Black voters.

Barnett concludes his essay:

A key message for Democratic candidates is that trying to reach unreachable rural and conservative-leaning voters invites failing to inspire core Democratic voters. In short, to win as a Democrat, run as one.

Good advice. And Josh Stein's announcement video this morning, with it's blistering take-down of Mark Robinson's crazy extremism, give me new hope.

Monday, January 16, 2023

The Big Lie Repels Unaffiliated Voters


The headline above comes as a claim made by Carter Wrenn at the resurrected blog, Talking About Politics. Carter Wrenn was the political brains behind the irresistible rise of Jesse Helms back in the 1970s, running the Raleigh-based Congressional Club fundraising juggernaut for a couple of dark decades. In other words, he's no wussy country-club Republican but a true (and intellectual) conservative. So I pay attention to his opinions, especially when they come with supporting data.

(Gary Pearce is back too at "Talking About Politics." When Pearce left the blog to write a book in 2021, my memory is that Carter Wrenn tried to keep it going but it gradually went dormant. Glad to see it's back.)

Here's an extract of Wrenn's article, "The Price You Pay," published last Wednesday. I pray he's right -- "cheering a lie comes with a price."

...Polls aren’t quite that cut and dried – there are crooked pollsters and rigged polls. But real polls are just about the only objective measurement in politics – and last fall’s exit polls told a story about Republicans.

36% of the voters were Republicans, 33% Democrats, 31% Independents – more Republicans voted than Democrats, a three point edge. Enough to decide elections in swing states. Good news for Republicans.

But the next number showed bad news: For three decades Independents had voted against the party of the man sitting in the White House in off-year elections. There was only one exception: In 2002, after 9/11.

But, in 2022, even with Joe Biden in the White House, Independents voted for Democrats – in Pennsylvania’s Senate election by 20 points (58% to 38%), in Arizona by 17 points (56% to 39%), in Georgia by 11 points. Independents turned thumbs down on Republican Senate candidates in every swing state. Higher than expected Republican turnout saved J.D. Vance in Ohio and Ted Budd in North Carolina but Republican Senate candidates lost New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia.

Biden’s popularity was underwater with Independents – by 23 points (37% to 60%). Why didn’t that sink Democrats? Because Donald Trump was more unpopular than Biden, minus 36 points (30% to 66%).

One last number: The exit polls said Independents believed Republicans could handle the economy better than Democrats – so why did they vote for a Democrat like John Fetterman by 20 points? The election ended up being about character. Not issues. To Independents lies mattered. Trump hammered his mantra – “The election was stolen” – over and over. His candidate – Mehmet Oz – nodded. And on election day Oz found out cheering a lie comes with a price.


Sunday, January 15, 2023

Republican Bosses in NCGA Think Women Will Just Take It


Multiple articles appearing right now warning us that secret groups of Republican lawmakers in the NC House and Senate are crafting new limits and restrictions on abortion, to be sprung in the General Assembly this spring. Here's one such article

North Carolina Republican lawmakers are, if nothing else, as tediously predictable as the return of spring ticks, once the weather warms. They're marching in the same rut -- driving down women -- that Republican majorities in other state legislatures are, making new law to restrict women's rights. In NC, Berger/Moore don't think they can ban abortion outright, like in Alabama, but by Gawd, they can make it harder -- "it" being a private medical decision.

And why shouldn't Berger/Moore cinch the chastity belt tighter? The last election proved to them that they can be as mean and cruel, do their worst with the social safety net, and still come out ahead with voters. NC Republicans won seats last November. They've now got a veto-proof majority in the Senate, and they're just one vote short of that majority in the House. Plus in other news, North Carolina voters opted for an anti-abortion, chuckleheaded good ole boy for the US Senate, and they gave a rabidly conservative Supreme Court chief justice a solid majority to rule Republican legislation "constitutional" in the near future. The 19th Century has never looked better nor seemed more attainable!

Will North Carolina women (and the men who recognize them as equals) stand for this? Do we tolerate the forcing of religious dogma onto the levers of State power? Dunno the answer to that. I've learned the hard way that you actually can underestimate the capacity of ordinary people to accept punishment they don't deserve.

Garland Pierce

The Republican leadership in Raleigh seems to think they've got one or more Democratic weak links in the NC House who'll vote to override Gov. Cooper's inevitable veto of an abortion bill. Rep. Garland Pierce, who represents Scotland and Hoke counties, is one of those possible Democratic votes. He's been in the General Assembly for two decades, entrenched in a safe district. (I checked: during all the Republican gerrymandering of districts in the last several years, Republican map-drawers have left Garland Pierce's 48th House District strictly alone.)

Sara Pequeno profiled Pierce a few days ago:

He’s a Baptist minister and army veteran and sided with Republicans on the 2019 bill [Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act] and 2021 bill [Human Life Nondiscrimination Act]. When commenting on the born-alive bill after Cooper vetoed it, Pierce said he “decided to side with the surviving baby.” He then voted to override Cooper’s veto, a move that ultimately failed. [Ah! The good ole days when it took more than one Democratic vote to override a veto.]

Pierce also voted for HB2, the notorious trans-persecution law. I'm afeared of several things. High on the list is theocracy, and the authoritarianism ("Thou shalt not!") that comes as a side-dish for some religious dogmas.

Incidentally, the Republican bosses in the NC House have also just changed their own rules and eliminated the "notice of veto-override," thus tacitly promising to call on Garland Pierce's vote to override a veto on new abortion restrictions suddenly and without notice, like while just one pro-choice Democrat is absent or Rep. Deb Butler goes to the restroom. That's the dishonest sneakiness we've come to expect from Berger/Moore. And apparently accept, if last November's Democratic performance is any indication.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Update on the Haywood County Cray-Cray


Darris Moody, the sweet face of loony

Remember the Haywood County "digital warrior" Darris Moody who was arrested back in September for sending threats to scores of elected officials in western North Carolina (among other places), alleging treason on the part of those officials and promising some mystical Q-based retribution. 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.

The judge released her on bond after that arrest, but when she failed to show up for her arraignment in October, claiming that the government had no goddamn power over her, she was re-arrested. Now the indispensable Cory Vallaincourt of the Smoky Mountain News has updated the Darris Moody saga:

It took more than four months, 62 federal counts and a lengthy period of pretrial detention in Buncombe County, but Darris Moody has finally acknowledged the legitimacy of the United States justice system — by signing a plea agreement related to the threats she sent to elected officials last summer....

After Moody was released on bond, she failed to appear at a subsequent hearing and was taken back into custody on Oct. 14. Since then, she’s made multiple pro se filings reiterating her claims that the United States government and its legal system have no jurisdiction over her....

Moody, of Haywood County, signed the agreement on Jan. 6, offering to waive her right to trial and plead guilty to interstate threats and/or conspiracy to kidnap. Details of the agreement remain sealed.

A presentencing report will consider various factors and make a recommendation for sentencing. The maximum penalty for conspiracy to kidnap is life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for interstate threats is five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, plus three years supervised release.

According to the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, Moody remains in custody.


Friday, January 13, 2023

Scofflaw Punk Goes To Court Today Over Gun Charge


Ex-Congressman Madison Cawthorn's lawyers are due in a Mecklenburg County courtroom this morning to answer the charge that last April their client brought a loaded 9 mm Staccato handgun in his carry-on and tried to board a flight at Douglas International Airport with it. 

Not the first time Mr. Cawthorn pulled that stunt. He had been caught by the TSA with a Glock 9 mm in his carry-on trying to get on a flight in Asheville in July of 2021. That gun was unloaded at the time, but his bag did contain a loaded magazine. The Glock was confiscated but was later returned to Cawthorn.

Appears that $15,000 might be the maximum possible fine for this second infraction. 

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Did You Not Know That "Labor" Is a Commie Word?


Is it not the contemporary Republican playbook, to make a big deal out of nothing? A word.

But at least Madam has a new Victorian top to wear.

Friday, January 06, 2023

How To Win Elections


How to campaign effectively? That is THE question needling North Carolina Democrats right now. Who knows how to do it? Million-dollar consultants? Or the people in field work who know the ground truth about voters?

Yesterday I read a Twitter thread by Chicago-based Chris Gentry, who back in 2016 was a member of our field team here in Watauga. Just for comparison, which is admittedly odorous, in 2016 Watauga County went for Hillary Clinton while the state went to Trump. In Watauga, Clinton won 47.15% of the vote to Trump's 45.68%, which translated to a 441-vote margin. Meanwhile in the state as a whole, Trump took 49.83% to Clinton's 47.17%, a difference of 173,315 votes. 

In other words, we had our act together in 2016 in Watauga.

Chris was a big part of that. He connected with people like few can. But exceptional field operatives like Chris are most often students, and inevitably they graduate and move on. So we lost Chris for the next election cycle. But he landed a job as a field organizer for the Progressive Turnout Project (PTP), an "independent expenditure" PAC that spent over $6 million in the 2018 General Elections in a handful of states. Here's what they were doing on the ground, according to their own website:

"Progressive Turnout Project is a grassroots-funded organization with a single mission: get Democrats to the polls. We design, test, and execute specialized voter turnout programs targeting inconsistent Democratic voters in the most competitive districts in the country. In 2017, our trained teams flipped 10 Republican House of Delegate districts in Virginia. In 2018, we’ll bring that same strategy to competitive districts across the country."

The key to the PTP project was/is recruitment and training of boots on the ground for direct voter contact. In 2018 PTP targeted about two dozen flippable districts, and among the experienced field managers willing to live and work in those targeted districts, Chris Gentry got assigned to the Kansas 3rd (where Native American Sharice Davids indeed won the seat and still holds it. Not too shabby for a crusading queer lawyer and former mixed martial arts fighter). Chris was working totally independently from the Sharice Davids campaign (PTP is one of those "Not Authorized by Any Candidate" groups). Chris stayed on the ground for months in Kansas, organized troops to knock doors and register voters, and he obviously helped sweep the table.

2022, with Chicago Debates

Chris got promoted in PTP, I believe to director of training by 2020, but he took another route that brings him today to the Chicago non-profit urban league group formed in 1995 as "the Chicago Debate Commission" (now known as Chicago Debates), a tax-exempt non-profit dedicated to bringing "the benefits of debate into Chicago Public Schools." See, helping a student learn to stand up and make an argument in a debate, and to respond to others' arguments, and to marshal evidence -- all of that mental training helps those students in every other way academically, so getting underprivileged mid-schoolers involved in debate proved both highly effective and wholly noble. In 2012, Chicago Debates engaged almost 1,500 teen debaters in extracurricular contests, wherein the "debaters spend an average of 440 hours of out-of-school time researching and reading source materials to gather evidence, using the evidence to develop cases and rebuttals, and building argumentation skills."

Chris is now a program officer for Chicago Debates. And he's, just incidentally, involved as a volunteer in some political campaigns. The mayor and aldermen of Chicago will be elected on February 28. Chris supports Chuy Garcia for mayor. Garcia is currently in the U.S. House (Illinois 4th CD), a former Cook County Commissioner and former member of the Illinois Senate. Someone had complained that Chuy Garcia -- with that much community involvement and exposure -- didn't have enough "platform." That got Chris going:

...voters rarely care about policies. To say they vote on "vibes" is a bit reductive but is closer to the truth.

The average voter is going to remember maybe a sentence about a candidate for Mayor, and maybe 2 or 3 words about a candidate for Alderman.

It's a little overused but I like the voting as an expression of social cohesion model, and have found it personally to be the most reflective. We vote for the candidate that we think best supports our self identified social groups.

So I vote as a transit activist [Chris is a dedicated bicyclist], a resident of Pilsen, a progressive, a veteran, etc. I promise you that less than 2% of voters are going to go so far as to look at a candidates website[....]

In other words, it's all in the candidate, and you can't fake genuineness. Unless you're prepared to knock doors and find out the current headspace of the people you need you're not going anywhere. This is why the phrase "candidate fits the district" is the hardest lesson for progressives to learn.


Thursday, January 05, 2023

Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene Resigns Again

Columbus Co's new acting
Sheriff Kevin Norris

Embattled Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene, who resigned once before rather than hear charges against him in open court but was reelected sheriff anyway, resigned again a second time yesterday, rather than hear the charges against him in open court. The judge promptly dropped the issue the local district attorney had brought, instant removal from office, but has promised to rule later on the larger issue of permanent disqualification from ever holding office again.

Columbus County Chief Deputy Kevin Norris was named acting sheriff. Norris has many years of experience in the sheriff's office. Prior to being named chief deputy, he was chief of detectives. It will fall to county commissioners to choose a permanent replacement.

Following Jody Greene's resignation from the office, D.A. Jon David explained why he would still puruse permanent disqualification: “This office has been very consistent with where we stand on this issue. We simply do not feel as though Jody Greene should be someone who ever carries a badge again." 

WECT did extensive backgrounding of the misconduct allegations against Greene, and you can read those at your leisure (with a stiff drink). They suggest that indeed Jody Greene is not someone who should be carrying a badge.

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Dan Bishop, One of the Anti-McCarthy 20

Alexander Jones recently described Dan Bishop as the most reprehensible figure North Carolina has elected to Washington since Jesse Helms. He recently appeared on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show, Jones reports, and dazzled the host with his cheerful nastiness and victim-blaming. Bishop was, after all, the chief author of HB2, the "bathroom bill," that sought to punish transgender kids, because there's never enough humiliation to go around. Now he's part of the 20 Freedom Caucus types who are humiliating Kevin McCarthy.

Bishop won his seat in Congress (NC-9) in the special election of  2019, beating the hapless Dan McCready with a whopping 50.69% of the vote, but like all the Trumpists he acted like he had the mandate to be the biggest jerk on Capitol Hill. Now after redistricting he represents the 8th CD.

About McCarthy's sweaty ambition to be Speaker, Bishop tweeted (a tweet that has subsequently disappeared), “Kevin McCarthy is not the right candidate to be Speaker. He has perpetuated the Washington status quo that makes this body one of the most unsuccessful and unpopular institutions in the country.”

No arguing with that last point, though Bishop has no inkling of his own participation.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Dark Horse Candidate for Speaker of the US House ... Patrick T. McHenry???


The New York Times, under the click-bait headline this morning "Here Are the House Republicans to Watch if McCarthy's Bid for Speaker Falters," proposes NC Congressman Patrick McHenry as a "dark horse" candidate. I swallowed my cereal spoon. Pat McHenry? Granted, I haven't been following his career in recent years the way I did at first.

He was elected to Congress in 2004, the same year that brought us Madam Virginia Foxx. He was the youngest member (29) when he began his career in Congress, and he showed every sign that he intended to rise in the ranks and attract attention as a right-wing attack dog. (Shades of Madison Cawthorn.) But he mellowed and rather quickly. He's been challenged in every Republican primary since 2004 by conservatives who call McHenry a closet liberal, but he always wins.

He became chief deputy whip to Speaker John Boehner, which put him on the "establishment" side of things. According to Katie Edmondson, McHenry "pointedly took a lower-profile, behind-the-scenes approach to the job. And he developed a reputation among other lawmakers for his braininess and interest in tax and financial policy."

The Times article also points out that McHenry is the only member whose name has emerged as a possible compromise candidate for speaker who voted to certify the 2020 electoral count.

So, no, it ain't never gonna happen.

Monday, January 02, 2023

What's Up with Conservative vs. Progressive Catholics?


Benedict XVI
Being a politics hound, I catch the scent even when I probably shouldn't, because in this particular instance, I'm drawn to an article in the WashPost suggesting that the death of former Pope Benedict XVI has major political ramifications for the Church, and as I'm not a Catholic and have no insight whatsoever into the theology or its internal politics, I should probably stick to Baptist preachers and our garden-variety Southern "Christian" hypocrites. 

That said -- and I'm somewhat astonished myself at the things I find on this blog that I posted about years ago -- I was following the political firestorm that the new Pope Francis unleashed with his much more progressive attitude when he took the papal throne in 2013. I had forgot that he promptly called "right-wing Christianity" a "sickness," and that Congresswoman Virginia Sometimes-I'm-a-Catholic-sometimes-a-Baptist Foxx struggled to find anything positive to say about him when he came to Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac in 2015 and addressed a joint session. Because, as the NYTimes explained

The pope’s visit [to Capitol Hill in September] comes with inherent tension for many Republicans, including those who are Catholic. While he has made no changes in church doctrine, Francis has forcefully staked out ideological ground opposite that of Mr. Boehner and his party. He has excoriated the excesses of capitalism as the “dung of the devil,” pleaded for action to stop global warming and enthusiastically supported the new nuclear accord with Iran.

Francis in his first apostolic exhortation to the church, found libertarianism antithetical to Christianity and became a champion for acknowledging climate change. That was enough to unleash Fox News yakkers to take pot-shots. Then I discovered that soon after Trump was inaugurated in 2017, I posted this on WataugaWatch:
Pope Francis 

Steve Bannon, who is not only a Catholic but a self-described "rad-trad" (radical traditionalist), is on record calling Pope Francis "a socialist/communist." Not only has Bannon gone after Pope Francis with language and an attitude that belongs to the depths of the Red-baiting witch-hunts of about 1955, but he's also allying himself with anti-Francis cardinals in the Vatican who are now intent on not just resisting the new pope's outreach to the poor and disenfranchised but also on reversing his more inclusive approach to the Church.

In other words, I should not have been surprised that Benedict's death would have an impact on the "rad-trad" crowd of conservative Catholics. From the WashPost article:

...Even in retirement, [Benedict] was embraced by traditionalists as the embodiment of their ideals. His death leaves that movement — which at times is vocal and oppositional to Francis — without a figure of comparable clout....

...[Benedict] was far from universally beloved, including in his home country of Germany, where the church in recent years — battered by scandal — had sought to modernize, reconsidering stances on homosexuality and celibacy, in an approach antithetical to Benedict’s. Wir Sind Kirche, a movement advocating for church reforms, said in a statement about Benedict’s death that he had brought the church to a “theological standstill” with a “climate of fear.” ...

...the details of how Benedict conducted himself as a retiree proved problematic for the church. He elected not to revert to his given name, Joseph Ratzinger. He remained in the Vatican rather than returning to Germany. He continued dressing in papal white. Despite clearly asserting that Francis was the lone authority figure, he was embraced by conservatives as an alternative power, particularly as Francis sought to modernize the church.

The greatest sense of mourning is likely to be felt among Catholic traditionalists, who saw Benedict as a protector of the eternal truths. He spoke about the dangers of secularism and societies that didn’t allow religious points of view. With pronouncements — and sometimes with purges of liberal theologians — he held the church line on social teachings. His appointment of conservative bishops helped push the American church toward the right. He also eased restrictions on the Latin Mass, an ancient rite adored by traditionalists — a move that was later reversed by Pope Francis.

Traditionalists sometimes have felt under siege in the Francis era. They chafe at his more ambiguous style in relation to hot-button topics, including homosexuality. Francis also has reseeded the College of Cardinals with more like-minded figures, increasing the odds — although hardly guaranteeing — that the next pope has a progressive bent. Traditionalists, in interviews, said their movement would not change substantially without Benedict, because for years he had been more of a symbol than an active participant.


Sunday, January 01, 2023

Virginia Foxx, Measurably Worse Than Madison Cawthorn


Rep. Madison Cawthorn (of grateful memory) missed 45 votes in the US House during this Congressional term just ending.

Rep. Virginia Foxx missed 58 votes, making her Number Two for missed votes, Rep. Ted Budd (now Senator Budd to our considerable chagrin) being Numero Uno at 122 missed votes.

(Source: News and Observer)

Now, what do you think she was doing instead of her job?