Sunday, April 30, 2023

Braxton Winston Running for Labor Commissioner


The offices the wolfish Republicans can't gerrymander in North Carolina are the Council of State seats, including the Commissioner of Labor. The various commissioners with their own constitutional kingdoms run statewide, along with the governor and the lieutenant governor. Every four years the voting power of Charlotte and Raleigh and Fayetteville and Greensboro isn't sliced into strips and sauteed for the benefit of conservatives too extreme to win a fair race.

So Braxton Winston has a shot. He announced he's running for Labor, and he could energize whole new swaths of infrequent voters who'll follow his banner.

Winston has served for the last six years on the Charlotte City Council and is currently mayor pro tem. He is also a labor activist -- a professional videographer but also, as a stagehand and grip, a union member, in "our region’s robust sports television and entertainment production community" (Winston website). He was born at Camp Lejeune where his father was serving in the Marine Corps, but Braxton was educated up north at the super-prestigious Phillips Academy Andover, "where he excelled in academics, arts, sports, and student government." After high school, Braxton came back to North Carolina for a bachelor's degree in anthropology at Davidson College.

But the real measure of the man came in 2016 when Keith Scott was shot dead after police say he failed to drop a gun upon their order. The officer who shot him was not charged. On the evening of September 20, 2016, at the south Charlotte address on Old Concord Rd. where Keith Scott lived and where he was shot dead, a crowd gathered and grew angrier.  Braxton was in that crowd and he live-streamed Keith Scott's daughter pleading with the police -- "Why did you just kill my father? He didn’t have to die." Something shifted in the videographer, who had after all led a pretty privileged life: "And it was just like, a chill came over me and everything changed. And I took the people’s side ... you know, we gotta get these questions answered and when the police tried to get out of there, the people demanded the conversation to keep going and that turned into a protest. We were met with riot police and tear gas after that and, you know, the rest is kind of history.” [WBTV]

That history contains a famous, viral photo of Braxton Winston, shirtless, with a clinched fist confronting a phalanx of riot cops. AP photographer Jeff Siner took the shot. Braxton said his shirt was off to serve as a gas mask. He had not been prominent before as a civil rights activist "but found himself taking on a leading role after the demonstrations, which eventually turned into a run for office. Charges against him after his arrest were dropped, as was a lawsuit he filed against the city. [Guardian]

That photo was September 2016. By 2017, Winston was running for an at-large seat on the Charlotte City Council. He was one of four Democrats elected and was reelected just last fall.

He puts his money were his mouth is. In 2020, during building fury over the killing of George Floyd, he was arrested a second time. He had joined protesters outside of Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department's metro division "in an attempt to de-escalate the tensions between the police and the citizens of Charlotte," an official Winston statement said. "During the time he was out there, he was in communication with CMPD, press, community leaders, and protesters." [WCNC]

Winston is part of a whole wave of young talent now emerging in North Carolina, and none too soon. It won't be instant, a winning wave, but it will come. Statewide campaigns will be the point of the spear.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Now Acting as Partisan Hit-Men, the Supremes of NC


This news broke yesterday afternoon:

Chief Justice Paul Newby.
"You are feeling very sleepy."

RALEIGH -- The newly Republican-controlled North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday reversed two decisions made by the same court last year when it had a Democratic majority -- on redistricting and voter ID -- and issued a third ruling denying voting rights for some felons. 

The court under Democratic control had struck down districts drawn by the Republican-led General Assembly on the grounds that they were illegally gerrymandered for partisan reasons. 

The justices had also struck down a 2018 voter ID law, saying it was racially discriminatory. 

A lower court had restored voting rights to people convicted of felonies who were out of prison but remained under state supervision....

NOTE: The majority opinion in the redistricting (gerrymandering) case, Harper v. Hall, runs to 146 pages. The opinion in Holmes v. Moore (the voter ID case) runs to 54 pages. "Among several other decisions, the N.C. Supreme Court also ruled on Community Success Initiative v. Moore, deciding that people with felony convictions who are on parole, probation or post-release supervision are not allowed to vote under the state constitution" (Daily Tar Heel).

Justice Anita Earls' dissent in Harper v. Hall (the gerrymandering case):
Justice Earls
Today, the majority strips the people of this right [their “fundamental right to vote on equal terms”]; it tells North Carolinians that the state constitution and the courts cannot protect their basic human right to self-governance and self-determination. In so doing, the majority ignores the uncontested truths about the intentions behind partisan gerrymandering and erects an unconvincing façade that only parrots democratic values in an attempt to defend its decision. Despite its lofty prose about the need for principled adherence to the state constitution, the majority follows none of these principles today. Nor does the majority even pay passing reference to the anti-democratic nature of extreme partisan gerrymandering. These efforts to downplay the practice do not erase its consequences and the public will not be gaslighted. Our constitution provides that“[a]ll political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of rightoriginates from the people, is founded upon their will only.” N.C. Const. art. I, § 2.But when Republican lawmakers are free to gerrymander redistricting plans withoutconstitutional guardrails to ensure their party’s indefinite political domination, thisconstitutional requirement is abandoned.

Friday, April 28, 2023

More Gen Z Progressive Fighters for North Carolina


Drew Kromer, when he received
his law degree at UNC

All we senile Democrats dance a little jig -- holding onto a table for balance, because we may be old but we're not prone to suicide -- that the Mecklenburg County Democratic Convention on Saturday elected 26-year-old Drew Kromer as its new chair, and he's already getting the star treatment with a major profile article by Josh Bergeron that appeared in this morning's News and Observer -- "Drew Kromer wants to 'severely cripple' GOP's chances in NC. Here's how he'll do it." 

Who wouldn't click that link?

Short how-to: "...he’s on a mission to build community connections and Democratic Party enthusiasm in areas with few competitive races."

Kromer's clearly a self-starter. While still a student at Davidson College, he became the Democratic chair of Precinct 206 on the Mecklenburg-Iredell County border. He began organizing "a crew that grew to more than 500 members" and raised an eye-popping $150,000 for the precinct (out-raising the entire Mecklenburg Co. party). His newly energized volunteers "cut their teeth" in Davidson town elections and helped Democrat Christy Clark knock off Republican incumbent John Bradford in House District 98 in 2018. (I covered Christy Clark's campaign extensively that year. But I didn't know about Drew Kromer.) Among other things Kromer is planning, he intends to raise the money to hire an executive director for the county party and "professionalize" the operation. (Drew, can we get lunch? Watauga County might have some tips. We've been "professional" for a dozen years.)

Kromer realized that the great Democratic failure in the 2022 elections was complacency in the most progressive counties like Mecklenburg (and incidentally, Watauga), where Democratic candidates have come to dominate most elections and where local government is controlled by a lopsided Democratic majority. Kromer diagnosed the problem in an email during his campaign for chair: “Democrats easily win the vast majority of our local races. Unfortunately, the more races that Democrats are easily able to win, the fewer local campaigns we need, the less excitement that is generated, and the more complacent we become."

Kromer joins 25-year-old Anderson Clayton, the new chair of the NCDP, in the youth movement to regroup and rearm a Democratic Party that's been drifting into senescence. Josh Bergeron mentions other rising Gen Z and Millennials who took over other county parties at this year's conventions: Mackenzie Reedybacon, Cabarrus; Daniel Quick, Stanly; Michael McLamb, Catawba; Travis Lewis, Jackson; and Parron Baxter, Union.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

A Stuffed Shirt Visits UNC-Chapel Hill


Photo Ira Wilder, Daily Tar Heel

Mike Pence spoke at the UNC-Chapel Hill student union yesterday on the topic "Saving America From the Woke Left." He was certainly comfortably asleep during the four years he served as Trump's lickspittle, so that topic was very much on-brand.

Pence, who is notoriously wary of being one-on-one in a room with any woman, favors a national abortion ban -- an exceedingly popular position on college campuses like UNC -- and he owned it in Chapel Hill: “I couldn’t be more proud to have been a small part of the administration that appointed three of the justices that sent Roe vs. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs and give America a new beginning,” he said.

A new beginning? Like, beginning again in 1950?

A counter-protest to Pence's speech formed outside the student union.

Ira Wilder, Daily Tar Heel

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Age Is More Than a Number. It's an Advantage


Joe Biden and I are the same age. Pretty much. Joe was born on November 20, 1942. I was born 16 months later in March 1944. War babies. Joe's age is being held against him. People who don't know anything outside the Fox News bubble -- which means they're ignorant, honey -- like to throw around the word senile, as though that's a game-stopper. I don't know if anyone is accusing me of that, but they probably should. I'm in worse shape than Joe.

Yes, I see the slippage. We all live in our bodies like houses that are constantly falling down around us. I watch the foundation crumbling, the plaster cracking, the paint peeling, the wiring go fritz. I still have my words. I just can't always find them when I want them. And the names of people I've known for decades are suddenly just disappeared. It's frustrating. It's maddening. But I still know a hawk from a handsaw and have a pretty good grip on reality, which is more than we can say for those intellects who call Joe senile because he has the same problem I have, losing his words sometimes. Doesn't matter. He's good at playing poker. Also chess, where he's often three steps ahead of Kevin McCarthy, who seems to be playing checkers.

By any metric -- say, the accomplishments of the Obama admin at this same point in his first term -- Biden's first two years have been stunningly consequential. I'm not going to do the tedious work here of listing all the stuff he's initiated and signed into law (because I need to get out in my garden), but it's extensive, starting with the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure and Jobs Act and includes the appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. And the way he laughed at the Republican peanut gallery at the last State of the Union, and out-maneuvered them into a cul-de-sac, denying angrily that they want to cut Medicare and Social Security. If that's senile, I'm a new admirer of senility.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

A Good Man


And by any measurement that I value, a good president.

Potentially running against this:

Monday, April 24, 2023

NCGOP, Hellbent on Taking Rights From Women


Speaker Tim Moore recently announced that Republicans in the NC House (i.e., Tricia Cotham) have reached an agreement about a 12-week abortion ban, which will be introduced soon in Raleigh.

On the exact same day -- last Thursday -- Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, "tried to help her candidates navigate the subject, suggesting that opposing abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy was a strong position politically" (NYTimes).

In other words and according to the chair of the national Republican Party, North Carolina lawmakers are choosing an extreme position.

You could have knocked us over with a feather.

What happened to you, Tricia Cotham? I mean what really happened? Were you spooked by an apparition prophesying hellfire if you didn't change your entire political identity, betraying 60% of the electorate?

Sunday, April 23, 2023

The More, NOT the Merrier


Photo Robert Willett,
News and Observer

The pompous blowhard Mark Robinson, our Lieutenant Governor whose startling political rise may end up knowing some bounds in 2024, did it yesterday -- officially announced his candidacy for Roy Cooper's job. In keeping with Robinson's brand, it was a raucous spectacle at the short-track Ace Speedway outside Altamahaw, with thousands of screaming fans thirsty for the blood-red meat Robinson always dishes. But yesterday, Robinson was more careful, in keeping with his new attempt to remake himself as a thoughtful public servant. He emphasized his own up-from-poverty life story and praised his mama.

Which Republican big-wigs are buying in on the Robinson brand? Some important ones: "A large group of Republican state legislators, including Senate leader Phil Berger, took to the stage soon after the event began, to express their support for Robinson, and convey the importance of electing a strong conservative to governor" (Avi Bajpai).

Phil Berger wants this guy? Who, if elected, will truly be the worst loose cannon of Berger's career. Good luck with that, Mr. Berger.

Mark Walker

Timed to coincide with Robinson's announcement also came word that former Congressman Mark Walker will get into the race for governor soon: "Tim Murtaugh, whose firm National Public Affairs includes Bill Stepien, former President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, told FOX8 that the firm is advising Walker and that he is expected to enter the race for the Republican nomination for governor 'in the coming weeks.' ”

Forlornly buttoned-down state Treasurer Dale Folwell is already in the governor's race, so with Walker also getting in, Robinson's chances of surviving the primary just went up.

Get ready, North Carolina.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Get Ready, Young People, for Discouraging Words and Deeds


There's already a bill introduced in Raleigh (H123) to shorter Early Voting to seven days. Can other limits to democracy be far behind? Like discouraging the voting of college students, as Trump lawyer Cleta Mitchell recently lectured a private meeting of Republican donors in Nashville was essential if Republicans are going to win elections going forward. 

Mitchell is the North Carolina-based founder of the Election Integrity Network, mainly aimed at decreasing voter turnout, especially among non-Republican cohorts, and she's a well known Stop the Steal personality. Mitchell was on the call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in January 2021 when Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the result. She resigned from her law firm when that call became public.

Of course the authoritarians in Raleigh will figure out more ways to suppress the vote in North Carolina, especially the vote of young people. They have to. The vote of the young is an existential threat to their continued power.

At least in Watauga County there's still a Wake County Superior Court order mandating an Early Voting site on the AppState campus.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Ray Pickett Signs on to House Bill Eliminating Tenure at All NC Colleges and Universities



Rep. Ray Pickett (R, Blowing Rock) became a primary sponsor of House Bill 715, which seeks (among other things) the elimination of all faculty tenure in all state-owned colleges and universities. Pickett's 93rd House district includes Appalachian State University.

Also listed as a primary sponsor ... Rep. Destin Hall of Caldwell County, who represents Watauga's Blue Ridge precinct.

The bill would reduce all faculty employment to either at-will assignments or to limited term contracts of one, two, three, or four years.

The bill also targets faculty research, demanding "cost-benefit analysis" for all "non-instructional research" being undertaken by any faculty. "Cost-benefit" is mischief masquerading as some sort of economic measurement of what good comes from research of any kind. If you're into, say, the status of women in ancient Aegean cultures, the cost-benefit analysis may put you on the outs with Ray Pickett and others who think (?) like him.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Watauga Seniors Strike Back at ARHS


Last night at the regular bi-monthly meeting of the Watauga County Commission, the place was packed (SRO), mainly by senior citizens outraged that the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) had announced in an email on April 3 (from sender that the Broyhill Wellness Center in Boone will be closing on May 31. About 20 paying members and instructors at the Center spoke out at the beginning of the meeting, a sharp departure from the usual order of things.

(Public comment's moving to the start of the meeting was fortuitous. Public comment has always been pushed to the last item on the agenda in Watauga, after all votes have been taken, but at the last Commish meeting on April 4, a large group of mainly young people had spoken out against the practice and requested that the commissioners move public comment to the front end, before official votes. Not only did the commissioners agree to that last night, but Chair Larry Turnbow moved to begin the new order of things at once.)

The first speaker emphasized that he and the others appearing before the Commish knew that the county did not own or control the ARHS, but perhaps there was some moral suasion (jaw-boning, I thought) that the County could wield with the ARHS management to reverse the decision. (NOTE: I've just seen the closure announcement that went to -- I guess? -- paying members. It contained a little strategic finger-pointing, subtle but implied, that the County's new center, a couple of blocks away from the Wellness Center, had become a competitor, which along with COVID, had negatively impacted their memberships and hence their revenue (they didn't say that last part about revenue). Not enough money from coaching retirees to be more active? And here I thought that old age in America had been thoroughly commodified and monetized.

The speakers last night were unanimous that the new recreation center is not elder-friendly, and not equipped in layout or equipment anyhow to take the place of the Wellness Center. And what about all the wonderful instructors hired and paid by the Wellness Center? The instructors, some of whom attended last night, received high praise for creating community as well as promoting active health? They're paid $18.00 an hour (one speaker said), and they'll be losing their jobs. Another speaker suggested that the County hire all of them to move their classes to the county's recreation center, a cheery thought and probably a non-starter. 

The bottomline implication is that the County has an actual obligation to do something material -- either some stern talk to put pressure on the ARHS management to reverse a decision that seems whimsical and callous, or making the new recreation center more accessible/usable for the displaced Wellness Center seniors. One speaker did point out that not many years ago Watauga County did own the hospital and could control -- or at least influence -- its direction and its priorities, and that something bad had happened to healthcare in the interim when the county lost control -- or gave it away. 

ARHS removed the lap pool from the Wellness Center in 2021, citing as a reason the county's large new pool at the new recreation center, a competitor, and the ARHS concluded, an unnecessary duplication of available amenities (that is, fiscally unjustifiable). 

I've searched for any company announcement or press release from ARHS about the closing. I've searched the ARHS website, and I find nothing. I've searched the ARHS Facebook page, where there was nary a peep -- going back to March -- that a big change was coming. I've searched the local press, which has been totally silent and/or oblivious to the closure (unless I missed it, which is always possible). It's almost like closing the Wellness Center became a secret, or maybe a live grenade that everyone is tiptoeing around. On the Broyhill Wellness Center webpage, all the regular membership information, etc. is still very much up, with no indication that they may soon be kaput. One speaker last night mentioned the some 1,200 families that are directly impacted. (Membership is that large?) That's news worth reporting.

The ARHS is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit that brought in right at $30 million in revenue in 2020 (as reported on Nonprofit Explorer). Although "nonprofit" is part of their identity, so is the need to meet large expenses (which for ARHS includes at least a couple of top executives making over $1 mil a year).

Following some 20 speakers who were begging the Commish to do something to help save what has been a net asset for good health in Watauga County, as hundreds of elders struggle to stay active, Chairman Turnbow made the motion to instruct the Commish's rep on the ARHS Board, Commissioner Ray Russell, to convey the distress of the community to the top bosses.

The Petition

An on-line petition about the Wellness Center's closing is gathering signatures:  

After 25 years, administrators at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System have decided (without consulting the members of the community it serves) that these true preventive services are no longer compatible with the "clinical mission" of the organization. The administrators found prevention to be innovative in 1998, but "orthopedic and sports medicine care, physical therapy and rehabilitation and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation" are deemed more innovative in 2023.

The administrators have suggested to our community that the Watauga County Community Recreation Center is where Wellness Center members should go after May 31, 2023. The Rec Center is a great facility, as is the Wellness Center. They both serve a purpose and both have unique constituencies. The assumption that the two facilities are homogeneous and that the Rec Center can easily absorb the functions of the Wellness Center is completely unfounded.

The Community of Wellness Center users respectfully request that the ARHS administrators reassess this ill-considered decision. At the very least, involve the people that are affected by the proposed closure and try to come up with a plan that might meet the needs of all concerned.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

What Are Republicans In Favor Of? What Are Democrats Afraid Of?

Rep. Laura Budd

House Bill 40, "Prevent Rioting and Civil Disorder," passed both House and Senate in Raleigh in February and became law in March without the governor's signature. Gov. Cooper did not veto it because Tim Moore had established the first of what will be many veto-proof super majorities with the ineffable help of several Democrats, most of them Black, who voted for the law and who ought to know better or at least show some recognition of who stands to get hurt the worst. 

The Democrats who voted for H40: Cecil Brockman, Laura Budd (why?), Abe Jones, Garland Pierce, Shelley Willingham, and Michael Wray. Budd and Wray are white. Everyone else is Black. Note that Tricia Cotham's not on the list.

I searched all these six House members in social media, going back to February, to see if any of them opted to explain their votes on H40, their siding with the Republicans over something that sounds very like the racial politics of the Nixon era -- "Prevent Civil Disorder," and what exactly in your mind reaches the level of "disorder"? The bill is so transparently aimed at the folks who have for generations pushed for their civil rights, the concession of so many Black legislators is, well, noticeable.

But not one of those six issued any public rationale that I can find, or even a scrap of discussion that might shed some blessed light on their odd fellow-travelling -- quite literally helping to demonize Black Lives Matter and other mass movements to come. Who else didn't explain themselves most noticeably and notably? Mecklenburg Democrat freshman Laura Budd, who is a very liberal attorney and who is quite voluble discussing all sorts of other legislation on her own Facebook group, but sez nary a word about her surprising defection on H40.

So it's not surprising that today the American Civil Liberties Union announced their legal remedy:

WLOS — The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit, challenging a North Carolina law just passed this year that imposes stricter penalties for protesting and rioting.

House Bill 40 increases penalties for protesting and makes protestors liable for civil damages to individuals harmed by a protest, even where a protestor only verbally encouraged activities defined as “rioting” and did not take any individual actions to cause injury or damage.

...the lawsuit contends that “multiple provisions of the law, including provisions that could apply to protestors whose own conduct is entirely peaceful, are overbroad and vague and will function to dissuade people from engaging in lawful protest activities.”

“HB40 represents a culmination of the legislature’s repeated efforts to crack down in response to the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. It is a flagrant attempt to vilify and criminalize a social justice movement. This bill forces North Carolinians to risk the immediate and long-term loss of their freedom when exercising their right to protest. This suit is an effort to protect the right to protest and advances our continued support and defense of the Black Lives Matter movement and activists,” stated Sam Davis, Attorney from the ACLU of NC Legal Foundation.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

The NCGOP's "Death Dive" on Abortion


In the first week of April, NC House Rep. Keith Kidwell (he of the mean eyes) filed House Bill 533, "An Act to Prohibit Abortion After Conception." No one much took that total ban bill seriously, as House Speaker Tim Moore has been promising and forecasting a less apocalyptic abortion law but certainly one that will shorten the time period allowed for legal abortion.

Republican legislators have been meeting about this and arguing in private for weeks and weeks, and so far nothing concrete has emerged. Tim Moore himself has said he would prefer a six-week cutoff, otherwise known as the time when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, but President Pro Tem Phil Berger of the Senate, the biggest cock on the block, has said he's in favor of the first trimester as the marker, about 12 weeks into a pregnancy. Whatever. It seems pretty clear that the Keith Kidwell total ban is not the one the Republicans are going to move in this General Assembly, though they are duty-bound to move something, to persecute women's bodily decisions a little or probably a lot further. Currently, the law in the state allows abortions during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.


The very recent defection of Rep. Tricia Cotham might have changed the calculus of just how far they're willing to go -- or maybe not. Cotham has already said that she's willing to consider stricter rules on abortion, but so far no bills have appeared to compete with the Kidwell total ban. Why, it's almost as though the Republicans are frozen. Make that frozen with fear. I'm indebted to Sen. Graig Meyer for turning me onto The Editorial Board (John A. Stoehr), who published a really insightful thread on Twitter about the new politics of abortion (since the overturning of Roe) and the "Republican death dive." Sen. Meyer suggested that Stoehr's opinion "helps explain why #NCGA Republicans haven’t run an abortion restrictions bill yet …. They’re screwed."

Here's part of Stoehr's argument, contained in a long string of tweets that I've collapsed for easier reading:

The thing about antiabortion politics is there’s no going back. You can’t spend decades equating it to murder, then go soft on murder. The other thing about antiabortion politics is there’s no going forward.  Some Republicans are now seeing that the whole “abortion is murder” thing is a loser. This would appear to be a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. But that suggests an exit. There is no exit. Republican legislators can’t help themselves. They’re caught in their own death drive....

These Republicans can’t get more in line with where voters are, because most voters believe abortion should be legal with limits here and there. At the same time, they can’t soften their position for fear of being accused on being soft on murder. The problem isn’t doing a poor job of selling antiabortion politics. The problem is antiabortion politics. To see the problem clearly, consider a secondary theme of antiabortion politics undergirding the principal (abortion = murder). That theme is rooted in nostalgia – for the days when a man was a man, a woman was a woman, and an embryo was not sacrificed on the altar of modernity. These days never existed. Humans have experienced the full range of human sexuality and gender expression since the history of humans began. The antiabortionists believe they do exist, however, for a reason: in order to maximize the emotional trauma that comes with liberal democracy moving on from the old days. Because liberal democracy never stops moving on, neither does the antiabortionist’s trauma. The trauma is woven into their personalities. It must, given the bedrock belief in the existence of the old days. But, again, those days never existed. So the antiabortionists ensnare themselves in a vicious cycle. The more they long for the old days, the more trauma they feel. The more trauma they feel, the more they long for the old days. Victimhood is the base on which they build their group identity. They can’t help it. It’s their death drive....

The death drive is compulsive, though. The more they see themselves as victims of trauma that never happened, the more grotesque they are going to be, even in the face of growing resistance by a majority of Americans that hasn’t changed its mind about abortion in decades.The Republicans have entered a new phase. The death drive is killing off their power. They can’t help it, though. The problem of antiabortion politics isn’t messaging. It’s antiabortion politics. A majority doesn’t like it. The antiabortionists, however, will never admit it. They’re victims, after all.

Phil Berger realizes the danger of a deep dive on abortion in North Carolina. Tim Moore perhaps realizes it too, but he doesn't care, so giddy is he about his new main squeeze in the House. But whatever they do to punish women is going to energize opposition. It's going to galvanize those suburban districts where Democrats have a fighting chance, even under the extreme new gerrymandering that is also coming down the track from Berger/Moore.

Fear of the "death dive" might also influence what the US Supreme Court ultimately does with the appeal of that Amarillo judge's decision on mifepristone. Kavanaugh -- particularly that party-boy -- might think twice about the jurisprudence of denying scientific authorities for the sake of religious ideology.

Saturday, April 08, 2023

Sobering Up the Drunk-with-Power


Showing up in their thousands outside the state house in Nashville, young people are taking a necessary first step -- the stirring of the pulse. The second will be registering to vote and getting their butts to the polls for the next time. Not just in Tennessee (of all unlikely places!) but in Wisconsin, where I'm persuaded the young people voted down that man for their Supreme Court, Daniel Kelly, who was first appointed to the Court by Gov. Scott Walker. Kelly had a record as an anti-abortion rights judicial activist, and young people turned out like never before to say no to him.


Now that House Speaker Tim Moore has former Democrat Tricia Cotham in his pocket, you can certainly expect more persecution of abortion rights in North Carolina -- maybe not the total ban that some of that Republican caucus want, but certainly new hobble-skirts for women, especially young women.


Whether or not a rolling tide of young voters breaks on North Carolina's sandy shore, it'll all depend on how relentlessly and smartly the Democrats raise the rights of women as not just a campaign theme but as the blazing torch of a movement to light the nighttime (i.e.,extreme Republican rule).


Yes, many a Republican local government is either already drunk with power, or they're hitting that bottle hard and regularly. And what happens when state legislators get shit-faced on their own ability to order people around?


*State of Missouri passed a law that allows for deadly force by “occupants” of “private property"— conditions written so loosely that occupants could refer to a diner or a baseball game attendee or someone watching a movie, while invasion could mean anybody they feel intruding on whatever property they happen to be on.


*Oklahoma has banned individual cities from even considering raising the minimum wage on their own.


*Texas is justifiably famous for SB 8, signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last year. It not only bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy but also deputizes citizens to enforce it, allowing any person to bring a civil lawsuit against an entity who “aid or abets” in an abortion procedure for damages of at least $10,000. 


*Idaho lawmakers, copying Texas, pushed a bill that not only bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy but uses a similar bounty-style component that would allow family members of rapists to sue medical providers who perform an abortion on the rapist’s victim. 


More examples abound, especially in states with a Republican super-majority (like in North Carolina, now), and every day we witness the bravado of bullies -- "Just how cruel can we get? Just how much can we make lives unbearable?"


If young people registered and voted, this excrement would be greatly curtailed. It can happen in North Carolina.



Friday, April 07, 2023

Meanwhile, Next Door in Tennessee


What's happening in Tennessee right now makes me flash on what the same Tennessee House of Representatives did in 1925. It passed the Butler Act, a bill “prohibiting the teaching of the Evolution Theory in all the Universities, Normals and all other public schools in Tennessee, which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, and to provide penalties for the violations thereof.” The text stated that it would be illegal “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.”

That worked out okay, right? (Well, maybe earned them the moniker of "the Stoopid State.")

Follow The Tennessee Holler (motto: "Always Yell the Truth"), "an audience-supported progressive news site with a series of active social media feeds that seek to amplify voices throughout Tennessee and YELL THE TRUTH about what’s really happening in our state." Their main website: I follow their very active Twitter feed: @TheTNHoller and their satellite operation, Tri-Cities Holler on Twitter.

We have nothing like this org in North Carolina, and we sorely need it, since we're moving into the Era of Cotham and the complete rule of The Stoopid Party.

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

The Cotham Carte Blanche


Photo Mary Ellen Jones

Without even waiting for her formal announcement scheduled for a press conference this afternoon, Tricia Cotham reseated herself on the Republican side of the NC House chamber yesterday, surrounded by her new best friends.

Both the chair of the Mecklenburg Democratic Party and Anderson Clayton, chair of the state Democratic Party, called on Cotham to resign immediately. So did EqualityNC: "Tricia Cotham sought ENC's endorsement in 2022 affirming that she held values consistent with our own. Since then, she has betrayed those values, voting against equality by supporting legislation that targets the rights of marginalized communities." The NC League of Conservation Voters said in a statement that Cotham's party switch was "an act of betrayal." CarolinaForward tweeted: "No matter how your morning is going, just remember that you -- unlike @triciacotham -- didn't wake up the most hated and distrusted person in #ncpol." EQV Analytics tweeted: "Big payday, I guess. In just 5 months NC-112's @triciacotham went from opposing 'attacks on our democracy,' 'inequitable funding of public schools,' 'Republican attacks on our health care' & 'Republican attacks on LGBTQ+ youth' to being a Dan Bishop goper. Wow."

I just visited Cotham's website. It still represents her as a liberal Democrat, in favor of all the stuff that the Republicans are busily doing away with -- now all the faster with her help.

Gov. Roy Cooper, whose veto of legislation eliminating the pistol permit requirement Cotham helped override last week by being absent, issued a statement late yesterday: “This is a disappointing decision. Rep. Cotham’s votes on women’s reproductive freedom, election laws, LGBTQ rights and strong public schools will determine the direction of the state we love. It’s hard to believe she would abandon these long held principles and she should still vote the way she has always said she would vote when these issues arise, regardless of party affiliation.”

Cotham has said -- in explaining why she missed last week's veto override vote -- that she suffers from long COVID, a condition that is said to be "neurological" in its human effects. I'm looking for an explanation for what looks more than slightly wiggy about her behavior.

There's been speculation that her heavily Democratic House district -- she took it last November with almost 60% of the vote -- will turn against her wholesale for the future. Also speculation that House Speaker Tim Moore has promised her a newly gerrymandered district to protect her, once the Supreme Court issues its gerrymandering carte blanche decision any day now.

We live in very strange times. With strange people.

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

BREAKING: Rep. Tricia Cotham, Giving the Republicans Their Veto-Proof Majority in the NCHouse


Lucille Sherman is reporting for Axios:

NC Democratic lawmaker Rep. Tricia Cotham is expected to switch her party affiliation to Republican, handing NC Republicans a legislative supermajority and the votes to override D Gov. Roy Cooper mid-legislative session.

Cotham just won her seat (Dist. 112) last November. Would she have won, running as the Republican she's about to become?


Above the Law and Beyond the Pale


Kevin Siers, Raleigh News and Observer, 3 April 2023

Monday, April 03, 2023

What She Said/What She Meant


Washington, March 31, 2023 – Today, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) issued the following statement on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s "inexcusable contortion of the justice system" in his targeting of President Donald Trump:

What She Said
“Our Republic’s system of justice should never be weaponized or tainted by political predilections."

What She Meant
Predilection is a special liking for something. I have a special liking for facepaint, but you won't catch me shop-lifting makeup. That would be "weaponizing my predilection."


What She Said
"Sadly, Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, refuses to do his job in prosecuting violent criminals and has instead dedicated his time to targeting President Trump."

What She Meant
Please hold my Perrier while I kiss ass. I have his autograph. Actually, several of them.


What She Said
“Alvin Bragg’s decision to resurrect a case, that his predecessor refused to prosecute while in office, reveals his stark partisan acrimony."

What She Meant
Partisan acrimony is my wheelhouse, and I don't appreciate Alvin Bragg horning in. Doesn't he know his place? If there's to be backbiting, I will supply the teeth, not him.


What She Said
"House Republicans will hold Alvin Bragg accountable for his insane power trip and expose his partisan agenda. Count on it.”

What She Meant
Dust is not good for engines and can shut them down. Speaking of which, I need a new fan.


Sunday, April 02, 2023

Passing Obamacare in NC: A Republican Bug Zapper


People treated Republican leaders in the state's General Assembly like Moses down from the Mount when they finally agreed to pass Medicaid expansion to cover an additional 600,000 citizens who haven't had health insurance. The governor signed that law, and front pages everywhere celebrated with photos and headlines, and many people who don't actually read newspaper articles, or don't read to the end, thought the people had won one. Done. Delivered.

But hold on there. The Republicans had not suddenly gone soft on poor people. They were simply coiling themselves into a tighter fist, because they tied the implementation of their Medicaid expansion to the passage of the state's $30 billion budget. Their plan all along was to force Governor Cooper to accept a budget full of pain and grief for progressives, using the lives of 600,000 poor people as their pawns. So cool. So totally Phil Berger.

The state House of Reps published their proposed budget last week and plans to pass it this coming week. Some Democrats will help them, more's the pity. Then it will be the Senate's turn to fiddle with the House's brave new world, stuff such as this (indebted to WRAL's Travis Fain and Will Doran and to Jane Porter at IndyWeek):

** The initial budget draft includes language banning pro-environmental policies. 
Remember when the new Republican majority in the General Assembly passed a law (in 2012) that banned the state from basing coastal policies on the latest scientific predictions of how much the sea level will rise? Remember that, sports fans? It's about to get worse. And more directly spiteful.

The House budget specifically forbids Governor Cooper from entering a multistate agreement to cap the amount of carbon dioxide power companies emit. Governor Cooper has been working toward it for months, carbon reduction being one of his highest priorities.

Would also ban the North Carolina Utilities Commission, a body appointed by the governor that regulates Duke Energy and other utility companies, from ordering any cap-and-trade rules. That's a particularly egregious pay-off.

**Let's give millions of dollars to antiabortion groups like the crisis pregnancy centers, who use folklore in place of medicine. 

New language in the budget this year would ban the state from hiring any outside groups to help mount teen pregnancy prevention programs, if those outside groups also offer abortions. (They're talking about you, Planned Parenthood.) So we can expect plenty of "abstinence only" preaching and lots of new pregnancies.

**Continue the assault on public school teachers and further enable the know-nothing book banners.
The House's budget will require all public schools to post nearly all classroom materials to the internet -- not just books but prepared "hand-outs" and most particularly, day-to-day lesson plans that might be suspected of slipping a piece of historic reality into the fragile minds of school children. Huge addition to the workload of teachers. Because conservative ideology sorta demands the demonization of "liberal arts."

Funnels more money to private school vouchers for K-8 kids already enrolled in private schools; strips the state board of education of basic powers to set academic standards and decide on approval, renewal, or revocation of charter schools; extends and expands funding for low-performing virtual charters. (Jane Porter quoted Kristopher Nordstrom, senior policy analyst for the NC Justice Center's Education Law Project)

The House budget would also take the banning of printed materials from schools away from local boards and superintendents and give it to a new state mechanism, "media advisory committees," established to cover districts composed of multiple school systems; each regional committee to be composed of a principal, teacher, library coordinator, and parent each from a high school, middle school and elementary school in the district. Who will select these personnel?

Does not include the $300 million to boost teacher pay in daycares and preschools, which the state’s "business community" had pushed for. The money would have replaced pandemic-era federal subsidies that run out later this year, "and which are used now to boost salaries in an industry struggling to find workers." They say that more and more teachers are defecting to retail jobs, as that job sector raises pay for the same reason: the scarcity of workers.

**Would establish the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) as its own cabinet-level agency.

Taking the SBI away from the attorney general (vendetta much?). But the governor would still get to appoint the director and would still be able to fire that person, so maybe this is no big woop.

** Raises the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges from 72 to 76.

So? Fain and Doran explain:

"That would allow Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby to stay on the court past his 72nd birthday, which is in 2027. And since court vacancies created by retirements are filled by the governor, the change would keep a Democratic governor — or whoever wins the 2024 election to replace a term-limited Cooper — from appointing Newby’s replacement. That would help Republicans defend the 5-2 majority they won on the state’s highest court in the November elections...."

Saturday, April 01, 2023

NC Senator: "Your Untalented Children Get Squat!"


Tim Moffitt

NC Senator Tim Moffitt has the solution for keeping our school children safe: Ban participation trophies. Not making this up. Yesterday, Moffitt filed S430, "Eliminate Participation Trophies," which would actually prohibit local governments from petting their un-athletic kids ... because the NCGOP is all about small government.

Not an April Fool's joke.

Samantha Campbell tweeted:

@TimMoffitt The world is a literal dumpster fire, gun shot wounds are the NUMBER 1 KILLER of children and teens, and YOU are worried about PARTICIPATION TROPHIES?? You have no clue. Are you tone deaf on purpose or simply THAT moronic?

Tim Moffitt represents Henderson, Polk, and Rutherford counties in the Senate. Moffitt had been a member of the NC House representing a Buncombe County district. He was defeated by Brian Turner in 2014 and subsequently moved his center of operations to Henderson, and after Chuck McGrady retired, Moffitt got appointed to fill out his unexpired term. In 2022 he jumped to the Senate seat he now occupies.

Moffitt's remembered on this blog for attempting in 2012 to seize Asheville's water supply and give it to a regional authority which would be more favorable to developers. It was probably that issue which contributed heavily to his defeat for reelection in 2014.