Friday, March 31, 2023

North Carolina Women Are Expendable


Keith Kidwell
On Wednesday, the same day three Democrats were helping the Republican NC House override Roy Cooper's veto, this high-topped brogan also finally dropped -- the other shoe:

Republicans—three white guys—introduced the first abortion ban bill of the session. (A fourth white guy, Rep. Kevin Crutchfield, appears to have withdrawn his name as a bill sponsor since yesterday.) The primary sponsor of the bill is Oath Keeper Rep. Keith Kidwell, and the bill is extreme, banning abortion from the time of conception. This is likely a gambit to make the next abortion ban that gets introduced this session — whether it bans the procedure at six weeks or 12 weeks — look "reasonable" by comparison. (Hattip: Jane Porter)

The extreme stuff is beginning to float to the top.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

By Being Absent, These Democrats Helped Override a Cooper Veto


Two Days Ago (March 28, 2023): Just a day after the school shooting in Nashville, every NC Senate Republican voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto abolishing our state background check system for buying handguns, and since the Rs have a veto-proof majority in that chamber, it was a successful override vote.

Yesterday (March 29, 2023): Three Democratic members of the NC House abandoned the governor by just not showing up in the House. The Republicans only needed one Democratic absence. They got three.

Here's one result of that:

It's interesting that Wray, Brockman, and Cotham -- all three -- had been honored by House Speaker Tim Moore with plum committee roles. 

After the vote Brockman defended himself, claiming he was in an urgent care office, and Cotham issued a printed statement saying she was receiving hospital treatment for "long COVID," and adding that she would not have voted to override, had she been present. Wray had no comment.

Carolina Forward, which produced the graphic above, was not swayed by Cotham's excuse:

We are distressed and deeply sympathetic for the personal health issues @triciacotham is going through. If she is unable to perform her duties as an elected official, she should resign in favor of an appointee who can more effectively represent Mecklenburg.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Four Eggers Votes To Remove 2 Republicans from Surry BOE


Four Eggers
Photo by Jesse Barber

Boone attorney Stacy Clyde Eggers IV ("Four") not only made the vote unanimous (4-0) to remove two members of the Surry County Board of Elections, he introduced the actual motion: I move that the State Board of Elections formally remove Tim DeHaan and Jerry Forestieri for "breach of duty and a violation of the oath of office.” (The other Republican member of SBOE, Tommy Tucker, was absent.)

The case was not complicated. DeHaan and Forestieri, the two appointed Republicans on the Surry BOE, had refused to sign the certifications for the final vote both last November and again on March 7th, after the special election for town of Dobson commission. The failure to sign is "a failure to comply to the laws that exist," as Eggers put it in his motion (quoted in Mt. Airy News). Their simple duty and obligation is to sign. 

Why? Why wouldn't they perform their mandated-by-law obligation to certify the results of two elections. The votes had been "canvassed," totally tabulated and verified. Simple Psychological explanation: DeHaan and Forestieri were upset that Fed Judge Loretta Biggs ruled back in 2018 (again) that the Republican voter ID law was unconstitutional. She threw it out. DeHaan especially attacked her for that perversion of what some see as a necessary step toward Christian Nationalism. In a letter to fellow board members, which Forestieri also signed, DeHaan threw down the insurrection gauntlet: "I don't view election law per NCSBE as legitimate or Constitutional," he wrote. Just too holy for his shirt.

They didn't allege fraud or any malfeasance in either election. They didn't challenge the accuracy of the vote, the functioning of the machinery. But someone had told them that he possy-tively knew for a fact that a neighbor of his from across the state line in Virginia had voted in both states. That was the sole excuse (as reported by the Mt. Airy News) that DeHaan and Forestieri offered at the hearing, someone who said he saw someone do something illegal. A rumor. One possible illegal vote in a county that went 75% for Donald Trump. 

What is the logic of that? The conclusion that "I, an official who certifies elections, am actually above the law."

Anyway, those two are off the Surry BOE. On the positive side, DeHaan and Forestieri can be martyrs now.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

A Terrific Book


His official christening gave him a royal heap of names: "Henry Charles Albert David of Wales." He was known as "Haz" to his best school mate (and then much later to Meghan). He took the screen-name "Billiard Baz" when playing video games online. "Spike" was his nickname when he spent weeks working on an Australian cattle ranch. For two combat tours in Afghanistan, his code name was "Widow Six Seven." His brother William ("Willy") calls him "Harold." His father, King Charles, has always addressed him as "darling boy," which papered over Harry's actual expendability as "the Spare" to "the Heir." It's a cold family that does not show love. It's a family full of blood relatives and "courtiers" both capable and perfectly willing to leak negative stuff, and outright lies, to the British tabloid press out of jealousy and spite. Looking at you, Camilla.

He was known as "the naughty one" growing up. He and his brother William fought frequently, with William developing the overbearing expectation that the younger brother would -- and absolutely should -- kowtow to him. Harry longed for acceptance, for closeness, for the love of his brother, especially after their mother died. Harry smoked a lot of marijuana and has used mushrooms to rewire his brain and tame "the red mist" of anger and loss that sometimes descends on him.

In the "Acknowledgements" Harry praises his "collaborator and friend, confessor and sometimes sparring partner," J.R. Moehringer, who ghost-wrote the book. I know Moehringer's work from the Andre Agassi memoir Open, which he also ghost-wrote and which ranks among the very best autobiographies I've ever read. Moehringer digs deep with his subjects, forces confrontations with insecurities and dark secrets, and the results are astonishing.

The rendition of Prince Harry's time in the British Army is especially compelling. Just one small passage for a taste of the writing:

In between the runs we'd drag our bodies up ropes, or hurl them at walls, or ram them against each other. At night something more than pain would creep into our bones. It was a deep, shuddering throb. There was no way to survive that throb except to dissociate from it, tell your mind that you were not it. Sunder yourself from yourself. The color sergeants said this was part of their Grand Plan. Kill the Self....

I couldn't tell how the other cadets felt about all this, but I bought in, all the way. Self? I was more than ready to shed that dead weight. Identity? Take it.

I could understand, for someone attached to their self, their identity, that this experience might be harsh. Not me. I rejoiced as slowly, steadily, I felt myself being reduced to an essence, the impurities removed, only the vital stuff remaining.

 Count me on Harry and Meghan's side.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

At Least Dale Folwell Seems Sane


Gary D. Robertson, for the AP:

North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell announced on Saturday he will run for governor in 2024, a bid that will likely require him besting Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson to earn the Republican nomination.

Political prognosticators, and not a few smart-alecks, say the Republican primary for governor is already over, and Robinson won. I suspect that's true, but I have to applaud Folwell's willingness to offer a rational alternative to the irrational ravings of a man who gained his fame because he has a big, booming voice and uses it to preach hellfire 'n' brimstone against anything resembling progressive fairness.

When I learned this next bit about Folwell, it's been my go-to measure for his humanity and his potential for not being a complete conservative jerk in office:

In May 1999, Folwell's 7-year-old son Dalton died after being hit by a car as he tried to board a school bus. Following the accident, he and his wife allowed their son to be an organ donor. Since then, Folwell has been an advocate for organ donation, and in 2012 completed a motorcycle ride of all 48 contiguous United States for the cause.


Saturday, March 25, 2023

Her Moment in the Spotlight Is All About Extinguishing the Light in Others

From a news report:

I Spy With My Little Eye

Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from Banner Elk, championed the bill [HR5, "Parents Bill of Rights"] through committee hearings and on the House floor, where an exasperated Foxx repeated from her podium that HR 5 would not jeopardize books in schools

 “This bill will not ban any books,” Foxx said. “Let me repeat: this bill will not ban any books.” 

“Our bill is meant to give parents their God-given rights to be involved in their children’s education and to seek the best education possible,” Foxx said. “We do not want anybody to be treated unfairly. We want everyone to be treated fairly. We do not want to ban books.” [Danielle Battaglia]

Ban? How about harass. Harassment mandated in one of HR5's provisions, the right to "inspect the books and other reading materials in the library of their child's school." Look forward to those scenes: Hard-right Trumpist parents, stirred up by Moms for Liberty, pillaging the school library. And leading, we would think, to many a young teacher caving, or many an old school administrator caving, a world that Foxx loves from the darkside of her heart and that she never would have put up with when she was an educator.

One amendment added to the bill states that if a school allows a transgender girl to play on a sports team, her parents must be notified. The second forces notification if a school allows a transgender child to use a bathroom or changing room matching their gender identity.

In other words, not just harassment of books but harassment of children trying to express themselves while not doing anybody else any harm.

Foxx can't hide her predatory aroma, a fox on the hunt: “Teachers’ unions and education bureaucrats worked to push progressive politics in the classroom while keeping parents in the dark,” Foxx said. “The Parents Bill of Rights aims to end that and shine a light on what is happening in schools.”

"Progressive politics"? She means "diversity, equity, inclusion," the "DEI" currently defining conservative know-nothings' notion of "wokeness." 

Friday, March 24, 2023

They Seem Nice


What was merely a cult is now a death cult?

Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Devil in the Software


Ever striving to stay up with the latest technology, I'm here to inform you about the newest "ChatBot" that can quote scripture. "Chatbots are computer programs that are capable of maintaining a conversation with a user in natural language, understanding their intent, and replying convincingly in the way a human would behave as a conversational partner" (Wikipedia).

A new Christian chatbot that knows the King James version of the Bible -- backwards, forwards, sideways -- was recently test-driven by Sarah Posner who published her experience on Talking Points Memo. She "spoke with" ChatKJV (get it?) about a number of hot-button social issues dear to the generous Christian hearts of conservatives. 

Here's what ChatKJV said about abortion:

“The Bible does not explicitly state that an abortion is wrong, and ultimately, it is up to the woman to weigh the risks and implications of any decision she makes.” 

Gender identity:

Verses from Romans and Galatians “indicate that we should treat all people equally, regardless of their gender identity.”

When I asked ChatKJV if taking away the rights of transgender children honors God, it said, “it is not God’s desire to take away the rights of any person, especially a child. God wants us to come together in love and acceptance so that everyone can feel included and safe.”

Posner engaged in a lengthy exchange with ChastKJV about justice:

Our conversation progressed to this point through a discussion about justice. ChatKJV wants to know how you’re feeling, so I asked it about my concerns and fears about threats to democracy (in which the Bible has been wielded as a weapon, but we didn’t get into that). ChatKJV is not very worried about rising authoritarianism, nor is it worried, presumably, about whether the Department of Justice is working speedily enough to bring those who assaulted our democracy to justice. [ChatKJV is also very firm on homosexuality, that it's a sin, and can't find a text anywhere that condemns slavery.] Only God can ultimately dispense justice, ChatKJV says, and we must trust in God to carry out justice. The bot leaned heavily on Romans 12:19 (“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”) to assure me God will “always” bring justice “in due time.” When I fretted that perhaps those who had committed wrongdoing would not ultimately be held accountable, the bot reassured me several times with Philippians 4:8 (“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”) That verse, it said, encourages me to think about “the positive” and “let go of bitterness.”

Hardline on some topics, suspiciously soft on others. Clearly, ChatKJV may know the Bible, but it doesn't know the Trumpist preachers.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Bo Hines -- The Once (And Future?) Congressman


Bo Hines, who tried out the political "fit" for himself in several Congressional districts (including Virginia Foxx's 5th) before finally settling on the 13th in 2022, with Donald Trump's ineffable blessing, but ultimately lost that contest against Democrat Wiley Nickel by almost nine thousand votes. Berger-Moore will soon redesign the district to be more winnable for "the second-coming of Madison Cawthorn," if he decides to run again. Bo Hines's main claim to fame seems to be that he once threw a football several yards downfield.

That football -- or at least, a football -- figures prominently in a video that Hines posted on Twitter on March 2, announcing that his new role in public life will be CEO of something called awkwardly "Today Is America" (what?), which bills itself as a "Media and News Company." Today Is America first joined Twitter early in July 2020, posting boilerplate conservative memes and especially attacks on Roe v. Wade,  but so far its website is empty of content. It's so far very unclear what Today Is America is selling.

I mention the heavy attacks on Roe because Hines himself scrubbed his own campaign website free of all references to his previous anti-abortion stances even before the 2022 election. That scrubbing was well documented. And the speculation for it centered on the new high focus on abortion rights following the overturning of Roe by the Supreme Court before last fall's voting. It's as though Hines -- or someone close to him -- said "oops" and repainted his stripes. He can change his issues as easily as change the district he's planning to run in.

It's enough, apparently, that Bo Hines displays a football prominently in every appearance. It's his shibboleth, his touchstone, his substitute for a golden retriever.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Congressman Chuck Edwards Goes Jihad About Investigative Reporter


Chuck Edwards

Newly elected Congressman Chuck Edwards, who took over the 11th CD seat from Madison Cawthorn, has thrown a hissy fit about Smoky Mountain News investigative reporter Cory Vaillancourt and banned him from his office:

My office makes every effort to respond to media inquiries of reporters with a willingness to report news in a balanced manner and without bias. is no such reporter. My office will not waste our time with his inquires [sic]. Readers have many other options. Please use them.

That was at 3:45 p.m. on March 19, following ten days of massive upset in the heart of Edwards' district over the announced closing of the huge Canton paper mill (formerly Champion Paper, now Pactiv Evergreen), which is putting hundreds out of work and endangering the economic health of all of Haywood County. Vaillancourt fired back at Edwards on Twitter, and the whole backstory began to take shape. At 4:38 p.m. on the 19th, Vaillancourt tweeted:

Some things I’ve reported about @ChuckEdwards4NC (a thread):
- Pulled out of a legitimate debate in favor of a taped TV softball-fest with a corporate TV station he’d spent hundred$ of thousand$ with
- opposed student debit relief, never paid back his own $1m PPP loan
- refused to interview when mill closing broke
- attributed my reporting about stock trades to aforementioned friendly TV station
Where’s the bias, Chuck?
- voted himself a tax break on said PPP loan - didn’t even know own party leader’s positions on Medicare, SS cuts - couldn’t find 10 minutes over 5 days to talk about mill troubles in Feb
i contacted you prior to Feb. 8 about troubles at the mill. you didn't even know what was happening & refused to speak on it — probably because you knew nothing & had done nothing. when canton's working families needed you most, you did nothing. shame on you.


That "shame on you" might be considered unprofessional for a reporter, but it was certainly human, and it came after Edwards had announced that Vaillancourt was persona non grata in his office, so not only "human" but understandably human.

In my limited experience, I have to rank Vaillancourt at the top of reporters I've followed in western North Carolina.

Monday, March 20, 2023

A Sad Tale of Destructive Delusion


One of the best, most complete write-ups I've ever read of a courtroom drama. Thank you, Michael Gordon!

A North Carolina man, the second youngest defendant in more than 1,000 arrests linked to the deadly riot at U.S. Capitol, will spend the next three years of his early adulthood behind bars.

Aiden Bilyard of Cary was 18 when he sprayed chemical agents at police and broke out a window in the Capitol during the violent mob attack on Jan. 6, 2021, to keep Donald Trump in office. 

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton sentenced the now-21-year-old to 40 months in prison for assaulting police with a deadly or dangerous weapon. Bilyard, he said, had answered “the calls of a demagogue” and had taken up arms with “people prepared to destroy this country to get what they wanted. “... Age and immaturity are not an excuse for what occurred.” ...

The judge’s announcement drew a sob from the convicted felon’s mother, Amy Bilyard, who was seated in the Washington, D.C., courtroom. Walton warned her that she would have to leave if she could not control her emotions. “I know you’re upset,” Walton said. “Unfortunately your son did what he did. And as my mother always told me, ‘You make your bed, you have to lie in it.’ ” 

Bilyard pleaded guilty in October, part of a deal with federal prosecutors that led to the dismissal of eight other charges, including four felonies.

His Raleigh-based attorneys had asked the court for home detention instead of prison time. They argued that a young and impressionable teenager with no history of violence had succumbed to the “social media perversion of what it means to be a man.” Yet, they said, Bilyard had driven to Washington without weapons, protective gear or a plan to break the law. Once there, they said, he was sucked into it. “He acted like the immature, impulsive teenager that he was,” attorney Jamie Vavonese told the judge. “Every day he has worked to be a different and better person. His is a one-time mistake, the biggest mistake of his life. Yet the only mistake of his life.” ...

Bilyard, according to court documents, was part of a Raleigh-area group of teenage Trump supporters who drove to Washington two years ago to attend the losing president’s “Stop the Steal” rally near the Capitol. Photographs included in court documents show Christopher “Chriss” Carnell of Cary and David Worth Bowman of Raleigh on the floor of the U.S. Senate that day. Both were charged this month with obstruction of an official proceeding, a felony that carries up to an 8-year sentence, and multiple misdemeanors. Unlike Bilyard, neither is charged with an act of violence.

However, in an unexpected twist, Vavonese said her client made an intentional decision to drive alone to Washington on Jan. 6, because two of his friends, believed to be Carnell and Bowman, had talked in a text of bringing weapons. Court documents also show that Bilyard provided information to the FBI that led to Carnell’s and Bowman’s arrests.

Government attorneys had recommended Bilyard receive 47 months — on the low end of an agreed-upon sentencing range of 46 to 57 months. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan Konig told the court that Bilyard “made a lot of mistakes on Jan. 6. But it’s fair to say he’s made a lot of good decisions since.”

“He admitted his conduct. He did not shy away from what he did, why he did it, or the wrongfulness of it, which sadly is not universal in these cases,” Konig said.

Bilyard has been held in a Virginia jail for the past five months under 22-hour lockdown. Given a chance to speak to the judge, he tearfully apologized to the police officers he may have injured, his mother, and for making “the most foolish decisions of my life.” “My promise to the court is that I will never make these mistakes again,” he said, adding that he was aware that Walton had heard such promises before. “Know that there is a real person with remorse behind these words,” he said. “Please have mercy.” Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, was not swayed, saying the seriousness of Bilyard’s crimes demanded more than home detention or a short prison stay.

The judge did agree to recommend that Bilyard serve his time in a North Carolina prison so he can be closer to his family. He closed his comments on a long, cautionary note. “It’s scary,” Walton said. “What happened on Jan. 6 is not something just in the past. It’s something that still haunts us. ... It goes to the roots of what we’re supposed to be as a democracy, and a democracy cannot survive if [people] attempt to subvert an election simply because they lost. “... It’s just very perplexing. People want to holler that they’re ‘patriots. They’re calling ‘USA, USA.’ That’s not the America I want to live in.”

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Banned Books Will Set You Free

 Something in us is drawn toward what we are ashamed of being drawn toward.

--George F. Will

At a very small Southern Baptist College in the Panhandle of Texas, in 1962, I enjoyed the company of a history professor who used to say off-hand, cryptic things in class, like "You must never, ever read The Decameron" and "You are forbidden from reading Candide." But I thought I saw a wink when he said those things. I don't remember what other books made his banned-and-condemned list, but he was always pointing us toward material that the Southern Baptist preachers who ran that school would not have approved of. 

That excellent history prof always prompted a scavenger hunt. I managed to get my hands on both Bocaccio's collection of 100 risque -- sometimes outright raunchy -- tales, known as The Decameron, and Voltaire's satire of sunny privilege, Candide. (The Decameron was especially easy. I found a cheap paperback edition in the tiny college bookstore. Go figure.)

Voltaire tickled my itch more than any other book at that time. Voltaire's bizarre sense of humor and cruel imagination made mincemeat out of what one character was always saying, "All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds." Candide presented human misery and hardship to a sheltered young man as shocking but necessary education. Every incident becomes an ironic joke (for all the best lessons contain irony!), so we could justifiably propose that Candide began my slide to perdition, though it took years to pull both feet out of Southern Baptist concrete.

Banning books doesn't work. Don't the screaming Moms For Liberty and the gun-toting Proud Boys know that? (Maybe they know that, but those people get their ya-yas from force and cruelty, not from religious philosophy.) The more they ban and persecute what they don't like/approve of, the bigger those things grow in the imaginations of spooked individuals who can't grapple with secretly desiring what is forbidden. Tell any functioning American teenager worthy of his smart phone that he "must not" and you'll guarantee he will.


In my high school, which was pretty much all Southern Baptist with a smattering of other Christian denominations, the underground in forbidden material brought stuff into my hands that my mother would confiscate if she found it. (She didn't like my having comic books, even.) 

One of my best friends handed me a copy of Auntie Mame and said "You've gotta read this. It's really funny." Forbidden fun. The novel featured racy people doing racy things and looking very glamorous while doing them. Auntie Mame was actually very tame, especially by the standards of today. It was published in 1955 with plenty of restraint, implying far more than it ever depicted. My mother found that borrowed copy tucked under my pillow, and it got gone, disappeared from my life. I never saw that book again, and I was only half-way through it. My very religious, sainted mother strived to keep the world and "worldliness" far away from the likes of her baby son. She failed.


I believe the most violent, truly disturbing piece of smut I ever read in high school had to be Foxe's Book of Martyrs "a polemical account of the sufferings of Protestants under the Catholic Church," including the most graphic descriptions of torture, beheadings, disembowelings, and auto-de-fe action involving that theatrical centerpiece, burning at the stake. You come away from Foxe's Book of Martyrs hating and fearing Catholics, which was exactly its purpose when it was published in England in the mid-16th Century. My older brother was going to a different Baptist college at the time, and he brought Foxe home with him on one spring break. I couldn't resist picking up any new book.

My mother's obsession with "worldliness" reminds me of Mr. Worldly Man, a bad seed in Pilgrim's Progress, another super-Protestant piece of propaganda preaching the earliest version of WWJD ("What would Jesus do?"). Book made a big impact on me, since this was pre-Voltaire while I was still at an age and nervousness that wanted to avoid hell.


The big banned hit of 1956 (when I was still in middle school) was Peyton Place, a scandel of a novel described in a 50-year-anniversary story by AP: "Grace Metalious' sensational story of sex, violence and other scandals in a small New England town ... made the author an international celebrity.... It transformed an otherwise obscure township into a symbol of decadence and hypocrisy and rivaled Elvis Presley as a shocking breach to the official decorum of the 1950s."

The book was banned in numerous places, but somehow the local druggist in little backwater Silverton, Texas, managed to keep a paperback rack well stocked with the latest best-sellers, and soon one of my older friends had a copy of Peyton Place, and it began to make the rounds and even more importantly began to expand a bunch of teenaged boys' anatomical and biological knowledge -- or at least their fantasies.

By the way, whatever became of "the official decorum of the 1950s"? Does anyone know where that went? It's disappearance -- poof! -- is pretty much all the evidence I need for how banning stuff doesn't work, how the act of banning in fact produces exactly the result the censors where trying to forestall.


The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1960), by Max Shulman, really engaged my imagination more than Peyton Place ever did, probably because Dobie and everyone else was college-age, like me, not some Martini-guzzling society people in New England (what did I know about New England?). I loved that book, laughed out loud at the everlasting teenager quest of "getting laid." This book I kept well hidden, and finished it, and went looking for more Max Shulman.

Dobie Gillis wasn't even that raunchy, not at all as raunchy as Shulman's earlier sex romp, Rally Round the Flag, Boys (1957), which I also sought out. Max Shulman, I reckon, was the first author I ever crushed on.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

What They DON'T Want Their Kids To Read in Pitt and Moore Counties


According to a report in the News and Observer, over the past two years, some very loud people have brought at least 189 book challenges across North Carolina’s 115 public school districts. As a result of those challenges, some 16 titles have been banned from specific North Carolina schools. Those include All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely in Pitt County Schools and Life is Funny by E.R. Frank in Moore County Schools. 

I went looking on Amazon. Here's what I found about All American Boys (which, from the title, I figgered had to be about a homosexual grooming operation. Why else would it be banned from Pitt County?):

In this Coretta Scott King Honor Award–winning novel, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

There were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

Oh, okay, I get it. Too much ripped-from-the-headlines reality.

Amazon sums up the other banned title, Life Is Funny, this way:

E. R. Frank’s seminal first novel weaves together the stories of eleven teenagers in one city over seven years in this groundbreaking and “impressive debut” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

Why does Gingerbread always have a smile on his face? “Because life is funny,” he tells Keisha. But for her—and almost everyone else in her Brooklyn neighborhood—there doesn’t seem to be much to laugh about.

China, Ebony, and Grace are best friends, but Grace’s mother isn’t crazy about her being friends with two girls who aren’t white, and each cut Ebony makes on her wrist seems to drive them even further apart.

Just across the schoolyard there’s Eric who has to raise his younger brother Mickey, even though no one expects him to amount to anything. Meanwhile, Sonia’s Muslim parents expect everything of her, and it may be more than she is able to give after she suffers a shattering loss.

When Drew brings his father’s Jaguar into Sam’s family’s auto body shop across town they seem to be from opposite sides of the tracks, but Drew’s the one hiding a dark family secret. And he’s not the only one.

Harder to figure what's so terrible about this one, but maybe it's the self-harm (cutting) that the white girl is inflicting on herself (all too common, I'm told) and surely not the fact that she has two Black friends and a mother who disapproves of them.

I'll have something to say in a subsequent post about the A-Number-1 best way to get kids into banned stuff -- ban it.


Friday, March 17, 2023

NCGOP Attempts To Make Bank Failure a Culture War Issue


Dale Folwell

Republicans are trying their best to make recent bank failures just another sub-category in their culture wars, claiming that "woke" attitudes toward fairness and diversity caused the Silicon Valley Bank collapse. The NCGOP used that line in attacking Wesley Harris, the Democrat serving a Mecklenburg County House district who has also just this week announced he's running for NC Treasurer. The current Republican Treasurer, Dale Folwell, may step aside to run for governor. (It's been rumored.)

“NC should reject #Silicon_Valley_Bank-style leadership for the NC Treasurer’s Office,” appeared on the NCGOP Twitter feed. (Never seen underscores used in a hashtag before, so what's up with that?)

But ... oops. The news came out very soon after this GOP attempt at issue-mining that under Dale Folwell's administration, over $17 million of the state's retirement fund was invested in Silicon Valley Bank and also in the other failure, Signature Bank. Folwell's spokesperson Frank Lester sounded desperately forlorn: “We are unsure at this time” if the money will be recovered, he said.

Republicans are supposed to be soooo good with money. They're terrible at understanding irony too.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

American Muckrakers v. Boebert: Further Update


Quentin Young, Colorado Newsline:

The Ides of March, 2023 --A North Carolina political activist is preparing to file a lawsuit against U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt in federal court in Colorado, the activist told Newsline.

David Wheeler, president of the American Muckrakers PAC, sued Boebert in a North Carolina state court last year for defamation and malicious prosecution. In January, the judge dismissed the case, saying that the proper venue for it was in Colorado.

Wheeler said he’s heeding the judge’s advice and is poised to bring a similar lawsuit against Boebert in Colorado, though now he plans to file in federal court.

Wheeler said he’s looking to depose Boebert on video about her involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection and numerous other matters related to the case. “It would certainly be in the public interest to be able to see that videotape,” he said.

And the defamation case may be expanded to include more defendants, like Fox News and Sean Hannity, he added.

American Muckrakers is widely credited with damaging the electoral prospects of former Republican U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina after Muckrakers released unflattering video of the congressman, who lost his reelection bid after a primary defeat. The political action committee later turned its attention to Boebert and started publishing information about her with the explicit intention of spoiling her reelection effort.

Boebert spokesperson Ben Stout declined to comment for this story, but he referred Newsline to a CNN article last year that debunked many of Muckrakers’ claims, and he noted that Wheeler was already unsuccessful in the North Carolina case.

Last year, Wheeler and Muckrakers published information they said was gathered from sources close to Boebert, though some of the claims lacked corroborating evidence. They announced that sources revealed personal information about Boebert that appeared to run counter to her political stance against abortion, among other allegations. In subsequent statements and on media appearances, including on Hannity’s show, Boebert accused Wheeler and Muckrakers of publishing “false statements knowing they were completely fabricated,” characterized the statements as “defamation,” and said she was “moving forward with a lawsuit.”

A lawsuit from Boebert never came. But Wheeler’s did. In the North Carolina defamation case, Wheeler said donations to the Muckrakers PAC went into free fall, and his own income, which came solely from Muckrakers, took a huge hit. He also said Boebert engaged in false prosecution after she filed for a temporary protective order against Wheeler and indicated in court documents that he engaged in “physical and verbal threats” against her — allegations he denies. A court in August rejected Boebert’s request for a protection order.

Though some of American Muckrakers’ claims about Boebert turned out to be false, Wheeler stands by the main components of its case against the congresswoman.

He noted that the judge in North Carolina dismissed the case only on the question of jurisdiction.

“He didn’t dismiss it on the merits, and he could have, because that was part of (Boebert’s) request for dismissal,” Wheeler said.

The decision to file in the U.S. District Court of Colorado is largely to get around the question of jurisdiction, he said, since Wheeler expects that if he filed a case in a state court, Boebert would seek to move the case to a federal court.

He said Hannity and Fox News could be defendants in the new defamation claim, because they “went after me pretty heavily,” saying Wheeler knowingly published falsehoods about Boebert.

“How they would know what I was thinking will be the issue,” Wheeler said. “Because everything that we published and put out was based upon what we were told, either in writing in documents or in recorded phone calls.”

Wheeler is working on the case with Denver attorney Dan Ernst, who specializes in defamation....

Sunday, March 12, 2023

"Mitigate the Rural/Urban Divide" By Removing Representative Government From the Cities, Sez Member of the NCGA

One cow, one cop

The constitutional principle of "one person, one vote" was affirmed by the Supreme Court in Sims (1964) which ruled that state legislatures, unlike the U.S. Congress, "needed to have representation in both houses that was based on districts containing roughly equal populations, with redistricting as needed after censuses." Some states directly affected by that ruling had an upper house (Senate) based on per-county allotments, not on population, a set-up obviously giving unequal and therefore unfair political power to rural counties. States like that don't get liquor-by-the-drink without a big fight. 

Also in 1964, in Wesberry v. Sanders, the same Earl Warren Court declared that equality of voting — and they expressly used the term "one person, one vote" —means that "the weight and worth of the citizens' votes as nearly as is practicable must be the same," and ruled that states must also draw federal congressional districts containing roughly equal represented populations. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

Conservative rural politicians have always hated that decision, and they have gotten more aggressive lately -- gerrymandering, yes, but also a culture war often egged on by preachers. Right now in countless country churches, cities are both jokes and monsters of deviance, objects to fear -- and pray for, of course! -- the dangerous liberties of the city.

But math is not on their side. Because in NC, many more persons/votes -- too damn many of them! -- live in cities that always seem to elect Democrats who fit the stereotype of "liberal" -- for just one example, allowing men to dress as women and parade around provocatively. What do you do about the constitutional math, if you also happen to hold all the power? What to propose? How about this: Test the constitutional precedent of "one person, one vote" specifically for the NC Senate, and propose we do it like the US Senate -- membership based on real estate, not population. If each state, no matter their population, can have two  senators apiece (count-em!), then why can't a state's counties also be the basis for apportionment? 

A Long Way Getting To This

A Hickory Republican, Rep. Jay Adams, appears to be serious about introducing a constitutional amendment in the General Assembly to change the way the 50 state senators are selected. He wants to "pair" together contiguous counties (whole counties, no matter their physical size or population), each 2-county district to get 1 senator -- 100 paired counties equals 50 senators. The arbitrary nature of it takes the breath away.

Adams in his very forthcoming interview with A.P. Dillon becomes seriously hilarious (and not in a good way) as he tries to explain his political science for pairing counties: “My thinking would be that we would start from the east and the west and pair counties, and then as we got to the center [of the state], we would have a little bit more of a challenge .... what county is going to be associated with Mecklenburg? And what county is going to be associated with Wake? I don’t think these adjacent counties are going to willingly attach themselves, but we’ll see.”

We'll see? Why, yes. But note the implication: Meck and Wake are seriously icky.

While Adams finds the idea of challenging a Supreme Court ruling “daunting,” he pointed to a scholarly report examining the issue published by the University of the Pacific Law Review titled “Little Federal Model: One County, One Vote.”

“It was written a year ago and it talks about the rural/urban divide and the tensions that exist between the rural areas and the urban areas, which I think is probably most pronounced right now by what’s going on in Oregon,” Adams said. “You got 63% of the state land area that’s trying to secede and attach itself to Idaho, and, interestingly, that 63% of the land area only represents 9% of their population. So, there’s growing tensions in this area.”

I'm impressed. Jay Adams read something, "a scholarly report," that challenged the legitimacy of Sims, Wesberry v. Sanders et al., probably with impressive legal footnotes. The establishment of the US Senate embedded in our Republic a wholly different but no less legitimate theory of apportionment. That's the argument.

It's wrong.


Saturday, March 11, 2023

How the NC GOP REALLY Treats Rural North Carolina


Thomas Mills very recently wrote a sharp column that began, 

Dear Rural and Small Town North Carolinians,

We need to talk. You’ve been voting for Republicans steadily for the past decade or more and it really hasn’t worked out very well. It’s time to reconsider your choices.

I thought it was a damn thoughtful and also correct analysis of what rural Democrats -- all Democrats -- should talk about with their conservative neighbors. Mills -- like the campaign consultant he used to be -- lays out the specific Democratic messages that could begin to reverse the slide -- messages that come as questions for country people: "What's happened to your rural public schools?" "What's happened with your failing and disappeared rural hospitals?" (Republicans in the General Assembly stubbornly refused Medicaid expansion, until this year.) Mills adds a potential "What the hell?!" issue that could cut deep in rural counties -- the recent Republican imposition of a new sales tax regime on "services":

Who do you think pays more for car repairs, somebody driving a fifteen-year-old Ford F-150 or someone driving a brand new Tesla? And you know what they don’t tax? Accounting services. How many of you use accountants? I guarantee you, all of those millionaires do.

Today I finally got around to reading "The Political Geography of a Changing North Carolina" on It's an unsigned article, so possibly written by founder Blair Reeves. Whoever put this report together provides some valuable maps, statistics, and hits some of the same issues that Mills is also stressing for any renewed Democratic activism in rural counties.

By opposing Medicaid expansion for over a decade, North Carolina's lawmakers have forced 11 rural hospitalsto close. North Carolina is now #3 nationally for rural hospital closures, and despite millions of residents being in collections for medical debt, lawmakers have done nothing.

Lawmakers have carefully protected a 2011 ban on municipal broadband networks sponsored by telecom lobbyists, leaving wide swaths of the state at the mercy of spotty, unreliable and expensive broadband providers.

Long-running Republican opposition to adequately funding public schools, even after court orders to do so, has left rural schoolchildren in under-resourced schools with poorly paid teachers and staff, while urban counties can afford to supplement their schools.

These are not "culture war" issues. These are pocketbook issues, especially the one where government is supposed to help our kids get ahead in this world with a good, competitive education. Preachers have convinced their flocks that Democrats only want to turn everybody into homos and force the teaching of "diversity," which is their code for stuff that offends a church-goer, while Republican lawmakers take them for granted and continue to peddle fear of weird people and weird theories in school. Those are not real things. The real things are the ones Thomas Mills and CarolinaForward are talking about.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Can This Warthog Shrink His Warts?


People are talking about the "new Mark Robinson" who showed up in a pre-taped "response" to Governor Cooper's state-of-the-state address, using a conversational tone of voice and expressing a Rodney King-level desire to "come together" for the good of the state.

That, of course, ain't the Mark Robinson who became the most popular Republican in the state. That Mark Robinson is invited to fundamentalist churches explicitly because those folks love the yelling, the hell-fire threats, the attacks on the weakest symbols of liberalism -- homosexuals, woke women, diversity teachers, the godless transgendered. The crowds that flock to him, and simply can't wait to vote for him for governor, love the way he owns the libs by pounding them with a booming voice that entertains no self-doubt. That's what the Republican base wants and what it likes -- meanness, cruelty, the hatefulness of the hard-hearted toward all its enemies, especially the domestic ones.

But suddenly, it's as though Robinson drank undiluted red meat tenderizer before taping his official Republican response to Governor Cooper's legislative vision. WRAL noticed the transformation and aired an entire segment on Robinson's attempt to remake himself as a reasonable human being who could credibly lead North Carolina:

Can this reinvention work? Can Robinson make himself stop yelling and insulting and belittling and driving wedges? Or will the public allow him to do his pre-recorded "I'm-a-really-reasonable-guy" routine for the general public while still delivering the untenderized red meat for the church crowd?

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Her Felony Sentencing Will Come on June 20


On her Facebook page before the 2020 Republican primary in the NC11, which she ultimately lost to Madison Cawthorn, Lynda Bennett gave herself these tags: "Pro Trump. Pro Gun. Pro Life. Committed Christian Conservative Woman."

But now this (hattip: News&Observer):

The candidate who former Rep. Mark Meadows handpicked to replace him in Congress, after he became former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to a campaign finance charge. 

Lynda Bennett, 65, of Maggie Valley, appeared in federal court in Washington, D.C., accused of knowingly taking $25,000 from a relative and doing so in another person’s name. 

Federal authorities said Bennett borrowed $25,000 from a family member, saying she needed the money for personal expenses because she had to spend so much on her own campaign, then deposited the money into her personal account and loaned a total of $80,000, including the $25,000, to her campaign. She did not report that it was a third-party contribution, and the amount far exceeded the $2,800-per-election limit set by federal law and just crossed the threshold to make it a felony charge. 

Bennett pleaded guilty to accepting contributions in the name of another person.

Next Tuesday


Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Look What's Happening in the Mecklenburg Co. DemsParty


Drew Kromer (left) and Braxton Becoats (right)
Two under-30 young Democrats are vying with one another to become chair of the Mecklenburg Democratic Party.

I'm indebted to Danielle Chemtob (Axios Charlotte) for filling me in on what looks like a true generational shift in one of the most important (and most under-performing) urban counties in the state.

According to Chemtob:

Drew Kromer is an employment law attorney, whose campaign for chair emphasizes the "need to engage underrepresented voters and increase attention to precincts in communities of color. Black turnout was 38% in Mecklenburg, according to an Axios analysis of North Carolina and Mecklenburg board of elections data. Kromer also wants to hire an executive director and split the county’s 195 precincts into regional groups. Many precincts are led by a couple of people and clustering them together could build community and drive turnout. His goal is to raise at least $100,000, as party fundraising lags in Mecklenburg compared to other urban counties...."

Braxton Becoats is a seventh grade social studies teacher. He told Chemtob that "the party needs to do more to get out the vote to energize voters who don’t always come out every election. That requires going places that might be uncomfortable for some .... 'Sometimes Democrats are not comfortable going into the community,' particularly the Black community, Becoats says. 'If you don’t go into the community, then you’re not going to reach your voters, you’re not going to know what your voters want.' Becoats, who is also president of the African American Caucus of the local Democratic party, wants to partner with local colleges to engage with students. He also says the party needs to do more advocacy at the state and local level."

The election of one of these two young men will happen at the county convention on April 22. Since I know them only from Chemtob's reporting, I'm willing to declare this decision one of the toughest in the state for activist Democrats.

(Chemtob includes some numbers representing Mecklenburg County's "under-performance" in last fall's election, which gave us buddy-boy Ted instead of Cheri Beasley in the US Senate. That failure has ignited soul-searching and changed directions at all levels of the Party.)