Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Is Dan Bishop the Biggest Dick in Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac?


Dan Bishop beat Democrat Dan McCready in a special election for the NC9 congressional seat in September 2019. In Congress, Bishop promptly joined the Freedom Caucus, a collection of soreheads that Bishop clearly determined to out-shine. (Bishop now represents NC8.) The acid in his veins sloshes like mango juice in a rolling barrel, and since 2019 he's never failed to grab the microphone and scorch the neighboring landscape.

He plays The Scourge of God. While he was running against McCready in 2019, he forced the ex-Marine to return a donation from fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar by smearing her (and McCready by association) with Muslim extremism and even anti-Semitism, a nasty move worthy of a too-clever-by-half white supremacist who enjoys the game.

Before September of 2019, Bishop had served terms in both the NC House and the NC Senate. In Raleigh, he was known as abrasive and obnoxiously conservative. The infamous Bathroom Bill, HB2, was his baby and led to a national boycott of North Carolina by major employers, conventions, sporting events, and entertainment figures. (He's terrible at economics.) About all that collateral damage, Bishop was defiantly unrepentant.

Another result of Bishop's nastiness: During the protests against Trump and trumpism at the 2017 Inauguration, former Gov. Pat McCrory, who had signed Bishop's bathroom bill into law, got recognized by a group of LGBTQ demonstrators on a Washington street, and when he began to run away from them, they gave chase, and there was film of McCrory's embarrassment. Bishop proposed criminalizing peaceful protests with a five-year minimum sentence. In 2020 Bishop became the first member of Congress to divulge the name of the whistleblower whose memo (about a phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky) sparked the first House impeachment inquiry. The federal Whistleblower Protection Act makes it illegal to divulge the name of a whistleblower, but so far as I know, Bishop experienced no repercussions.

Peach of a guy.

The Freedom Caucus held a fomenting press conference yesterday to denounce Speaker Kevin McCarthy's deal for ending the debt limit crisis, and Bishop was front and center. (Plenty on the left hate that deal too. As one activist said, "I'm sorry, but 'it could have been worse' just doesn't do it for me any more!") “This is a career-defining vote for every Republican,” Bishop said. “Many more need to emerge [in opposition] if there is any path to salvaging what we began as a unified conference .… We’re prepared to stand up and take the slings and the arrows.”

Unified conference? I'm no fan of Kevin McCarthy, but Dan Bishop clearly seems to hate the guy. Bishop was one of the 20 hardcore holdouts on McCarthy's elevation to the speakership. He was quoted at one point saying he'd rather resign from Congress than see McCarthy as Speaker of the House, but he denied he ever said that. He finally voted for McCarthy on the 12th roll-call (of 15), because he was reportedly promised his own subcommittee to investigate federal law enforcement agencies, which Bishop claims have been "weaponized against Republicans."

Yesterday, at the press conference, when a reporter asked the Freedom Caucus lawmakers if any of them now supported "vacating" the speakership (Motion to Vacate, which any single congressperson can now make, with humiliation awaiting for someone), Bishop was the only Republican to raise his hand.

The temperature of Bishop's malice is what fixes my attention. Whether it's queer people or Black people or a weak fellow traveler that feels Bishop's lash -- or reporters trying to gather facts -- he consistently confuses cruelty with ideological purity. "I am vindictive; therefore, I am right." 

What should scare the plaid pants and golf shoes off the citizens: Reportedly, Bishop is aiming to run for NC Attorney General. Same report also says that Bishop has already scared off the candidacy of the Republican who was considered a frontrunner candidate -- former US Attorney Andrew Murray, who now serves as district attorney for Henderson, Polk, and Transylvania counties.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Who'll Lead the NCGOP?


John Kane, insurgent candidate
for NCGOP Chair

There's a contest going on right now that'll be fought out and settled one way or another on the second weekend of June at the Khoury Convention Center in Greensboro ... the state Republican Party Convention, where the biggest question before the delegates will be who's going to be the next Chair of the NCGOP? Behind Door Number One: current chair Michael Whatley, running for reelection with the blessings of the old Republican mainstream; Door Number Two features an extreme-MAGA ideologue, John Kane, who comes from an election-denying gene pool of some prominence.

The Daily Haymaker, a MAGA standard-bearer who knows no end of serious contempt for the rest of the world, makes the savaging of Michael Whatley a long-running and therefore tiresome replay. The most recent Haymaker headline story ("Michael Whatley: A Cheney-Kinzinger Republican") opens like this:

The current NCGOP chairman loves to talk about Donald Trump and post pictures of himself with Trump’s plane. But much of what he does and says aligns much more with Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — the two former “Republican” congressmen who colluded with Democrats on the farcical so-called “January 6 committee.”

It takes great courage and fortitude against sin, doesn't it? to sweep away every piece of evidence, including the ocular proof, as totally and unironically "farcical," but at least we know the mind-set we've waded into. Haymaker hates Michael Whatley (at least in today's blog post) because Whatley supposedly "boasted" that he had been the first Republican state leader to "condemn the mob."

Michael Whatley

But who's John Kane, you ask. John Kane is the number one son of an elder John Kane, a renown Raleigh mega-developer who was actually honored as Tar Heel of the Year in 2016. The elder Kane is also renown for raising big money for Republicans. The younger John Kane (he who would be chairman) emphasized his MAGA bona fides in an interview with Haymaker, hitting especially "election integrity," which is MAGA code for a cascade of conspiracies: "The election was stolen and we have to prevent more theft and all Democrats (and some RINOs) are suspect."

Kane also seems on-board for punishing Sen. Thom Tillis and other RINOs for snubbing MAGA orthodoxy, so if Kane wins, we might expect a purge-night with a lot of screaming.

A blow for the Haymaker crowd: Way back in January, Donald Trump endorsed Michael Whatley for reelection. That was before there was a John Kane campaign, so the Trump endorsement perhaps means only that he didn't have another choice.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Anger Lights a Fire


Nationwide, voter files have been updated and verified and the county and precinct-level data have been gathered and organized, which means that truly data-driven and meaningful analyses are emerging of what really happened last fall.

Catalist, a Democratic data analytics firm, has released "What Happened,"  and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report digs into it. Some of the data supports conventional wisdom, some not (and North Carolina seems even more an outlier from Democratic trends in other purple states). 

This particular observation about young voters may be my strongest takeaway:

After 2008, many assumed that Obama's personal connection with younger voters would transfer to the Democratic Party's candidates in subsequent elections. That didn't happen. Instead, what seems to be driving younger voters to the polls isn't love, but anger. In 2018, Donald Trump's presence in the White House was a motivating factor for these voters. In 2022, anger over the abortion decision was the most likely catalyst for turnout.

Google quotes about anger, and you'll be hard pressed to find anybody praising rage as a productive driver of action. But, hell! The Trumpists made out pretty well with it as their signal emotion, so maybe it's high time the Democrats learn to manage that boiling pot.


Credit: Carolina Forward

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Gov. Cooper Goes To the Bully Pulpit


This was our governor last Monday (May 23), calling all of us who care about public schools to rise up, git the frickin pitchforks, because the Republican extremists in the General Assembly mean to let all the little red schoolhouses fall into ruin and disappear, replaced by businesses in it for the profit. (If I had edited the text that the governor reads from a teleprompter, I would have cut it by half.)

The Republicans went ape, especially the newest one, Tricia Cotham, who dismissed the governor's appearance as "political theater." Why yes (even a blind hog finds an acorn eventually). Senate boss Phil Berger's office joined that chorus: “...meaningless publicity stunts do nothing to improve educational outcomes in our state.”

“The general public doesn’t realize the disaster that is brewing,” Cooper told the AP.

The Republicans played their trump: Cooper himself sent his own kids to private schools. So there, hypocrite.

Briana Brough took to Twitter in Cooper's defense: "OMG the pearl clutching They are so mad Cooper is using the one tool left in his toolbox (the bully pulpit) to let people know what this voucher scheme would actually do: give wealthy families a tax break while further defunding public schools. So what if Cooper sent one of his kids to private school? That's his right! There are scholarships to help people afford it. What we shouldn't do is subsidize wealthy folks (like him!) sending their kids to private school while underfunding public schools that serve everyone."

Briana Brough is a Durham activist (a founder of FlipNC) and has joined up with others (Durham Families for Every Child NC), which is hosting a teach-in on the whole Republican privatization crowd and their schemes:

This is the kind of consciousness-raising that needs to be going on across the state. Briana Brough wrote about it compellingly in a Twitter thread:

This plan would siphon $200M from public schools. It would actually DECREASE the amount the state kicks in by about $2300 for each public school kid who transfers to private. But it would INCREASE state funding for a kid currently attending private school by an average of $5000.That means the state will be spending about $138M in new expenditures to families already paying for private school. 

It will pay the same amount for kids who transfer to private schools, but will cost public schools $200M b/c the value of the voucher is < per pupil spending. So basically, half the voucher funding will go to families already wealthy enough to pay for private education. The rest will go to families wealthy enough to make up the difference between the voucher and tuition. 

The rest of us - the vast majority of families who either don't want, can't afford, or don't have a good private school option - get screwed by a budget that continues to disrespect educators and underfund our public school system in violation of the North Carolina Constitution.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Queen of Mean


Rep. Virginia Foxx, as the Republican chair of the Education Committee in the US House, put her talons deep into President Biden's student debt forgiveness program, because let's face it, forgiveness has never been a prominent feature of Madam Foxx's core. (If President Trump had proposed student debt relief, and added government-paid free trips in his jet, with a Trump steak and all the fixins, Foxx would have absolutely drooled with abject appreciation for the spread. But Biden student debt relief is nothing but a "bailout" of unworthy cry-babies who never vote for the likes of me.

When she was in the NC Senate, she once said out loud, "The worst thing we can do is to get government involved in solving problems." During her tenure in the Senate, she was famous for dismissing voters curtly: "There's nothing I can do. Don't contact me again about this." That's a mentality I cannot grok.

Saul Friedman once remarked that Foxx seems like a benign grandma until she speaks. Then her heart reveals itself as a cold cinder of retribution. She stood in the US House and denounced the pending vote on a hate crime bill following the Matthew Shepard murder ("because he was gay"). She said the "gay" part was just "a hoax" to steamroll Congress. She belittled Shepard's death, incidentally, in front of Shepard's mother, who sat in the gallery.

"There are no Americans who don't have healthcare. Everybody in this country has access to healthcare," said Foxx on July 24, 2009, in a Capitol Hill press conference -- evidently putting the emphasis on access, meaning, we guess, that an ambulance will take you to the hospital if you're hit by a car -- but, suckers, you're gonna have to get hit by a car to get medical assistance if you're without insurance.

Remember what she did after Hurricane Katrina wiped out so many lives, so many livelihoods on the Gulf coast? On September 8, 2005, Foxx was one of only 11 members of Congress to vote against an emergency relief bill for Katrina victims. She suggested instead that people with devastated lives should pray. Meanwhile she posted helpful instructions on her congressional website for directing private-sector contractors to the federal trough. Throughout her political career, Foxx has bragged about the poverty she grew up in, but the experience evidently did not enlarge her character.

So of course she ridiculed and voted to end Biden's student debt relief ... while continuing to "serve" a Congressional district with multiple colleges and with many students going into massive debt in order to get ahead in this life. Foxx herself got ahead and was fortunate (as well as quick with the hands), but don't ask her to have sympathy for others. It's just too heavy a lift.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Lightning Strikes Kidwell and McNeely


Wow. Apparently, the GOP leadership in the NC House actually worries just a tab about its image.

Last week, Republican Rep. Keith Kidwell remarked that Democrat Diamond Staton-Williams, who spoke about getting an abortion, had perhaps been raised in the Church of Satan. And Rep. Jeffrey McNeely questioned whether Democrat Abe Jones only got into Harvard because of his race.

This morning Kidwell and McNeely were stripped of their leadership roles in the Republican House Caucus.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Slow News Monday


This cryptic headline appeared in the News and Observer yesterday: "Former Gov. Pat McCrory is not running for president, but he does have plans for 2024." What?

Turns out it was a nothing-burger article, very much in keeping with the latter days of our former governor, who was during his one term in office little more than a throw rug under the feet of Berger-Moore. The news is that McCrory is now a "volunteer" -- he used that word himself -- with a struggling new political "party" calling itself No Labels (what, "Beige" wasn't even considered as the name?)

Not really that "new" either. It was founded in 2010 with Joe Lieberman as the figurehead national chair. The NandO article at least got me interesting in learning more about No Labels, whose centrist goals are wholly unobjectionable except that it might -- be warned! -- might run a third-party presidential ticket in 2024 "if data shows that Americans aren’t satisfied with the party nominees and the No Labels candidates have a path forward to win, McCrory said."

Which means, practically speaking, diluting the vote for Joe Biden and allowing the nightmare of Trump to return.

The one tangible thing No Labels has accomplished is the formation in the US House of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which has accomplished some good things including passage of Biden's big infrastructure act.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Mark Walker Volunteers for a Suicide Mission


Mark Robinson sucks all the air out of any room he's in. He's a bulldozer salting the air with diesel fumes, which make his biggest fans a little drunk with fantasies of destruction. Robinson gets them shouting "amen!" while attacking the defenseless and promising scorched earth for Democrats, once he gets into the governor's mansion.

And now this ho-hum guy, Mark Walker, wants to go head-to-head with Robinson in the contest for the governorship. Walker's ideology -- especially on the issue of abortion -- is no different from Robinson's, so Walker intends to beat Robinson with style alone -- a former Baptist preacher who doesn't yell at people. This campaign, in other words, already has l.o.s.e.r. embroidered all over it.

Walker launched his campaign last Saturday. At a church. Where he did, in fact, preach but tried to be uplifting rather than contemptuous. AP's Gary Robertson said that a number of Black supporters were prominently featured at the launch, because Walker's "been known for his efforts to work with minority groups, particularly on funding historically Black colleges."

Robertson quoted some of Walker's rhetoric: “You’re fearfully and wonderfully made, and God created you uniquely and you have that potential and the ability to blow past any of these political elites that try to put a ceiling on the very potential that God created you to have. That’s the kind of message that we need to get into all of our communities, and that’s the kind of message that I bring to Raleigh.”

That's some loaded language that attempts to soar into the rafters -- "You're fearfully and wonderfully made" -- but who are "these political elites" (we naturally assume he means Democrats) and what exactly is the "ceiling" on your "potential." What is he talking about?

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Is Vickie Sawyer a Republican Feminist?


To hear Vickie Sawyer, Republican state Senator from Iredell (Dist. 37), tell about the behind-closed-doors negotiations that went on between House and Senate Republicans about how much abortion to ban, and how, you might deduce that she was the leading feminist in that coven of deciders, a warrior for "exceptions" to the new bans.

According to the interview Sawyer gave Will Doran from WRAL News, "Many of her fellow Republicans were initially opposed to allowing exceptions for issues such as rape, incest or medical complications, Sawyer said, adding that she fought hard to get those added into the final compromise. 'If you ever knew how hard those meetings were,' Sawyer said. 'How hard I fought for that rape exception, that incest exception. And how hard that was to get across the line.' "

No. We believe you! We're familiar with folks with that single "pro-life" issue to their name. They don't take prisoners.

Some of Sawyer's Republican colleagues wanted proof of rape -- did the woman report it? -- before they would allow the rape exception into the law. Sawyer told reporter Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan of the News and Observer, "I was very adamant about not having a reporting requirement because I did not want a young woman who was raped to have to go through anything else. So for me, that was a big deal.”

I had to look more into who Vickie Sawyer is and discovered, first, on her website, that you won't find a whisper of allegiance to any of the raw meat, hard-right conservative issues that we automatically associate with the Republican caucuses down in Raleigh. She really does appear moderate or at least totally indifferent to pushing all the regular conservative buttons.

She mentions -- just a passing, brief mention -- that she grew up in a trailer park in rural Davidson County, and I might want to read more into that than I should -- that maybe she learned some toughness but also some understanding and compassion for people -- especially women -- who are "seeing it hard." How different that background may have tempered her, compared to, say, Virginia Foxx, who likes to brag about how poor she was without any trace of humility.

But before I get carried away, I have to note that Sawyer is also a soldier in the GOP army, so she was duty-bound to do something against abortion. It's the price of admission to that political party. Plus she was a prime sponsor of the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, which passed the Senate in May and which will ban transgender girls from competing in female sports events -- an issue I really think is a loser for Democrats. “This bill is not about being anti-trans," Sawyer said during debate. "This bill is about being pro-woman. If we want to talk about uncomfortable, let’s talk about how young women’s lives are put in danger by having to play a sport they love against someone who’s three times as strong as them.”

Sawyer was first appointed to the senate in August 2018 to fill out an unexpired term. She had already won a Republican primary for the seat in May against her principal rival, the notorious Bob Rucho, who had previously been in the senate and chose not to run for reelection in 2016 but wanted back in in 2018. Sawyer easily beat him, since he had kind of a volatile reputation. So she's in her 3rd senate term. She and her husband run a big insurance firm.

Friday, May 19, 2023

GOP to NC: "You Ain't Seen Nuttin' Yet! Wait Until After We Win in 2024"


Minutes after the Republicans in both houses of the General Assembly successfully nullified Roy Cooper's veto of the new abortion bans, the N.C. Values Coalition, a Christian conservative group, called the new abortion restrictions “the beginning of North Carolina’s first real step towards becoming a pro-life state.”

In other words, O my Brethren, those forces that insist on controlling women's lives ain't fully baked yet, not by a long shot. Speaker Tim Moore has said already he wanted a much more restrictive 6-week ban, but bowed to the compromise the Republican caucus reached with some of its women members for the 12-week ban that passed. Rep. Keith Kidwell and the Freedom Caucus had previously backed a complete and total ban, from conception, and those are the people who'll be newly empowered if they get Mark Robinson in the governor's house in 2025, along with more of their extremist brethren in the legislature.

They expect that they'll have complete and total control because -- you'd forgotten, hadn't you? -- they still get to gerrymander anew all the seats in the General Assembly and make winning all the more impossible for Democrats.

So here's how the GOP leaders were talking and winking immediately following their successful veto override:

Tim Moore said he had wanted the 6-week ban, but what passed was pretty much all that could get passed at this time, he admitted (because of the women). "We won't be introducing any more abortion legislation until after the 2024 elections," he said. “[But] I can’t say what’ll happen two years, four years, 10 years from now.”

Phil Berger was more direct: “Who knows who's going to be in the General Assembly after the next election? There may be members that want to push it further on the restrictive side." Berger quickly added, as though he wanted someone to think he's balanced: "There may [also] be members who want to increase the window for the elective [procedure].” Who knows? 

Well, Mr. Berger, I think we know there's no chance under God's cloudy skies that Republican electeds in the state of NC are ever gonna loosen those chains, not voluntarily.

“Make no mistake — this is only the beginning,” Attorney General Josh Stein said. He'll be running for governor against the very scary Mark Robinson.

Vote or die, folks.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

What's In Their Hearts?


Two prominent members of the far-right Freedom Caucus in the NC House showed their asses in the last few hours, as though they needed even more product branding after their attacks on the rights of women in the state.

Rep. Jeff McNeeley (Iredell Co.) interrupted -- interrupted -- Rep. Abe Jones, who is Black, and asked him if he could have gotten into Harvard if he wasn't Black or an athlete. Okay, McNeeley, said "if you weren't a minority or an athlete," but I think everyone knew exactly what he was implying. Abe Jones does indeed have a law degree from Harvard. (McNeeley apologized, but as we know the harm was already done.)

Keith Kidwell

Before that display of uncooked racism, Rep. Keith Kidwell (of the mean eyes) heckled Rep. Diamond Staton-Williams during the debate on the abortion law veto override. While Staton-Williams was tearfully telling her own personal experience with abortion, even though she had grown up "in the church," Rep. Kidwell quipped, "she means the Church of Satan" loud enough for nearby staffers and House pages to hear him. Will Doran, the reporter for the News and Observer, also heard him.

If Kidwell has ever apologized to Staton-Williams, he's kept the apology well out of sight.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

We Will Remember


The quartet of Republican lawmakers who traded their consciences for their caucuses last night:

Michael Lee in the Senate (New Hanover); John Ray Bradford III in the House (Mecklenburg); Tricia Cotham in the House (Mecklenburg); and Ted Davis in the House (New Hanover).

The veto overrides in both House and Senate passed by one vote. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Does John Bradford Have the Cojones To Sustain Cooper's Veto? No, Probably


Governor Roy Cooper is trying to put pressure on four Republican members of the General Assembly who previously supported North Carolina's 20-week abortion ban, but who have now voted for the much more restrictive 12-week ban, which Cooper vetoed on Saturday and for which Berger-Moore promise veto-override votes, probably this week.

One of those four supposedly (previously) pro-choice Republicans, Rep. John Ray Bradford III of Mecklenburg County, answered a question from Channel 9 about abortion rights in October 2022. Here's his full response:

What is your position on abortion? I support NC’s current law which provides a woman’s choice up to 20-weeks. This has been NC’s law since 1973 and, notably, is longer than many other states and countries which have time limits on lawful abortions. After 20-weeks, I support special exceptions for cases such as when the mother’s health is in danger, rape or incest. Unlike my opponent, I do not support unrestricted abortions through full-term, also known as ‘until viability’. Most Americans agree that reasonable time limits for a woman’s choice are acceptable and do not support unrestricted full-term abortions.

Currently, when he was asked about Cooper's pressure campaign on him, Bradford erupted that Governor Cooper had just not been friendly enough with him: “I am serving my 4th term in the legislature and the Governor wouldn’t know me if he bumped into me,” he said, and then whined bitterly about not being invited to bill signings that he thought he should have been invited to. So Bradford is prepared to disregard his campaign promise of 2022 and to kneecap women's rights because of hurt feelings. Are he and Tricia Cotham pledging the same sorority?

My advice to Governor Cooper: Call John Bradford. Or even better, show up at his office door.

But at least Bradford's expression of hurt feelings allowed him to completely avoid the question of just how far he's willing to go to drop his previous beliefs like soiled laundry. Look, the man has already announced he won't be running for his House seat again anyway. He's planning to run statewide for state treasurer, so the calculus of bucking the Republican bosses right now comes into play. Would it help or hurt him more to be the single Republican who stopped an extreme abortion ban in North Carolina? It could help him with independent voters in a statewide race but invite rabid conservative animus in the meantime. My bet: he won't take the risk of riling up the far right wing.

He would have every reason to worry about that veto override vote if he were running for reelection to his Dist. 98 House seat. He won it in 2014 when Thom Tillis went to his reward in the US Senate. He lost it in the blue wave year of 2018 to Democrat Christy Clark by a margin of 415 votes. In a rematch with Clark in 2020, Bradford took back his seat (the margin was just over 2,000 votes). District 98 is a swing district which could very easily swing against him in 2024 because of his flipflop on abortion rights.

But he's not running in that small district again. He plans to run statewide. Duh. What a time to stand up for what you recently said you stood for.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Gov. Cooper Gooses the Abortion Issue


Big crowd turned out in Raleigh Saturday morning to rally for abortion rights, as Goveror Roy Cooper publicly and with a flourish, stamped VETO on the newest Republican effort to limit the rights of women.

Governor Cooper now has a new responsibility since former Democrat Tricia Cotham did what she did, changed her stripes and her core beliefs and became the veto-overturn vote in the NC House. Cooper has to awaken and energize the Democratic base on the current crisis, that Republicans intend to chip away at women's health care options in a rushed process, because they fear the opposition of the voters and yet cannot resist the extremists in their own base.

Up next (and you can count on it!) -- the Republicans begin enacting new rules to disallow the voting of as many young people as they can -- disallow or at least discourage.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Slicker Than Snot on a Doorknob, Four Eggers Gets Himself Back in the News


A famous cartoon by Andrew Cox for
The Appalachian, 2013

On Thursday, and again on Friday (May 11-12), Laura Leslie at WRAL published and then updated a scoop about two prominent Watauga Countians. Leslie found out that Four Eggers ("Stacy Clyde Eggers the Fourth") had secretly gone to the general counsel for the state Board of Elections (SBOE) and first suggested that SBOE member and current secretary Stella Anderson was ineligible for reappointment and then also suggested (possibly threatened, in that mealy Four Eggers way) that the state Republican Party would sue if she were reappointed to the board that Eggers himself also serves on. (It's a whole nother story about how two Watauga Countians ended up on the same important state board at the same time.)

Bottomline: Anderson, who told Laura Leslie that she fully expected to be reappointed and had been told by the governor's office that she would be reappointed, suddenly discovered that she was out in the cold because the governor's people were afraid of a lawsuit. (H1029, passed in 2018, prohibits state employees from serving, but after the enactment of H1029, Anderson was reappointed anyway because she was considered "grandfathered." She had already been serving on the SBOE when H1029 passed. Why, she now wonders, is she no longer grandfathered? Doesn't that question deserve litigating? Rather than instant retreat?

Four also challenged another Democratic SBOE member, Jeff Carmon, on the same grounds. Carmon teaches one class as an "adjunct" (part-timer) at NC Central. Serious question: Legally, can part-timers get around the state employment prohibition? Probably not, so Carmon actually quit his part-time teaching job to get reappointed.


Here's the kicker. Four Eggers is himself, according to his lawfirm's own website"since 2005, a Certified North Carolina Criminal Justice Instructor through the Criminal Justice Standards Division and has taught continuing education classes to both the Appalachian State University Police Department and the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office."

Continuing Education classes at AppState pay their instructors. I feel pretty safe in suggesting that. So how exactly does Four Eggers stand apart from the same eligibility requirement that ensnared Jeff Carmon to stop teaching? How special is Four Eggers? And where does he get off, successfully manipulating the governor to not appoint his one nemesis on the SBOE, Stella Anderson, who likely knows election law a little more thoroughly than Eggers. She's a many-year veteran of both the county BOE and the SBOE, and her name is on the actual lawsuit (Anderson v. State Board of Elections, 2014)  that successfully reopened the ASU polling place that Four Eggers had tried very hard to get rid of.

A Jesse Barber photo

So it's not the first time that Eggers has been outed as a secret manipulator. He was exposed once before in a Winston-Salem Journal investigative article ("One County Attorney, Two Hats: Documents show attorney as 'author' behind key resolutions") on September 15, 2013, just a few months after Republicans (that is, Four Eggers) took control of the local BOE for the first time in a Protestant eternity. With his little brother as chair, and with Bill Aceto as wingman, Eggers immediately began driving Elections Director Jane Anne Hodges (with decades of experience) into early retirement and went to work suppressing the ASU student vote. He got famous on campus, which was not necessarily a good thing, and became a regular passenger on my personal ship of fools (I'm the friggin cap'n and the purser), this blog. I've written about Four Eggers probably more than I ever did about Donald Trump. Don't believe me? Search "Eggers" at the top of the page.

In response to Leslie's questions, Eggers admitted that, yes, he did go pay a visit to the SBOE general counsel's office, and yes he did raise the issue about Anderson and Carmon's eligibilities, but, he claimed, "it was not a challenge to the Democrats’ re-appointments." There's no paper trail proving he's working the angles for the NCGOP -- no official challenge from them. But I think it likely that Eggers was delivering -- in that unctuous, oily way of his -- a nevertheless clear (and obviously effective) threat from the NCGOP that he was recruited to deliver.

Either that, or he went rogue. Out of ambition and self-interest.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

The Hidden Garth Brooks


Sorry for this lengthy quote -- without my commentary -- on the historical significance of a huge country music star. Move on, if you're not interested:


…the quality that made [Garth] Brooks most relatable was a kind of unforced, benevolent populism. His signature song, the 1990 single "Friends in Low Places," was about a blue-collar jackass who shows up at his ex-girlfriend's black-tie wedding and makes a drunken toast about the failure of their relationship. 

It's absolutely a song about class. 


But what's unusual is the way it does not frame the affluent characters as fake or immoral, nor does it paint the narrator as sympathetic or extra-real. It's possible to impose those meanings onto the lyrics, but only if the listener wants those sentiments to be true. 


The literal message of "Friends in Low Places" is an acceptance of class difference, fortified by the suggestion that living in an "ivory tower" is not necessarily better than living in a dive bar. The payoff phrase is repeated in the chorus: "I'll be okay." 


Garth's version of populism did not pit the poor against the elite. Instead, it implied that the difference was immaterial, and that all people ultimately want the same ordinary things …. To his base, Brooks was an apolitical figure. There was no secondary meaning to loving an album like No Fences or The Chase


It didn't seem to matter that Brooks was more openly political than almost any major country artist of the period, or that his views did not represent the assumed conservatism of country listeners: His lyrics addressed domestic violence and gay rights, and the song "We Shall Be Free" was inspired by (and sympathetic to) the 1992 Los Angeles riots. He received no criticism for these opinions, nor did he receive credit.

         --Chuck Klosterman, The Nineties

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Rob Schofield: The Tide Is High


Rob Schofield

Rob Schofield had some hard truths about Phil Berger, the president pro-tem of the NC Senate and the biggest dick in the NC General Assembly. Back before he had all the power, Berger had famously introduced a bill to do away with partisan gerrymandering. Then 2010 happened, and Berger found a new religion that didn't include the reform of gerrymandering.

So how did Berger react to the NC Supremes' okaying of extreme partisan gerrymandering?

With a degree of venom matched only by his hypocrisy, Berger wrote: “For years plaintiffs and activist courts have manipulated our Constitution to achieve policy outcomes that could not be won at the ballot box. Today’s rulings affirm that our Constitution cannot be exploited to fit the political whims of left-wing Democrats.”

You got that? A politician who abandoned a supposedly principled stance on a central tenet of our democracy [sponsored a Republican bill to end partisan gerrymandering], and then shamelessly and relentlessly used every lever of power at his disposal for more than a decade to rig electoral outcomes, silence opponents, and enfeeble other elected officials while seizing their power (and even to install his son and namesake on the Supreme Court) is purporting to lecture on the subject of “manipulating the constitution.”

All in all, the [Supremes'] rulings and [Berger's] bluster were enough to make a body fear for, and mourn the state of our democracy, and to wonder if all hope for reviving it – at least in North Carolina had passed.

Rob Schofield has been an important voice for North Carolina progressives for decades. From 1992 to 2005, Schofield worked as an attorney at the NC Justice Center – where he helped build the organization from a small Legal Services office into the state’s leading anti-poverty advocacy group. When the Justice Center branched out with "a special news and commentary project" called NC Policy Watch, Schofield spun off to it and became Research Director. Policy Watch published The Progressive Pulse, with Schofield as both opinion columnist and an executive editor of content. The Progressive Pulse has very recently gone through a major upgrade into NC Newsline, in which appeared Schofield's gloomy reflections quoted above.

But Rob, like any progressive-minded American in history, snatched some hope, kinda out of thin air:

…Americans of all ages … are sick to death of the kind of extremist lawmaking that’s practiced in the … North Carolina legislature; we might just be a lot closer to the end of the current dark era than the beginning.

And when the reactionary house of cards does collapse of its own weight in the not-so-distant future, we may well look back on the events of recent days and realize we were witnessing the moment at which the toxic right-wing tide crested and started to recede.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Liz Cheney Ain't Going Away


Released on the same day that Trump announced he'll be attending the NC Republican Convention in June.

The Inevitable Return of the Bad Penny


After pleading guilty last Friday to bringing a loaded gun into Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, former Congressman Madison Cawthorn had only cheerful, upbeat things to say about his likely future in politics, at which no one was heard to shout "Amen!"

“I enjoy the position I’m in now,” Cawthorn said, meaning rich and well supplied with expensive cigars.

Cawthorn added, “The world really is the oyster for the young. I think I’ll return to politics one day. I love the country too much to sit on the sidelines forever. You need to get involved in politics or be destined to be ruled by lesser men,” 

Anyone who manages to get "lesser" than Cawthorn is truly a contortionist. And he doesn't know when to shut up.

He’s leaving the decision about getting back into politics “up to just whatever God has intended for me. I’m an ardent follower of Christ, so wherever he leads me, I’m happy to go. I’m happy to answer the call whenever.”

People who talk about being called by God usually have a downward trajectory.

Monday, May 08, 2023

Gov. Cooper Names Names, and They Don't Like It


Rep. John Bradford

Last Thursday, Governor Roy Cooper called out the hypocrisy of four Republican members of the NC General Assembly who campaigned last year on keeping the 20-week abortion ban and who now are supporting the new 12-week ban: Ted Davis in the House, Michael Lee in the Senate, and John Bradford and Tricia Cotham in the House. Only one of those House members might vote to uphold Cooper's veto and thus end this latest chapter in depriving women of their rights.

The fact that all four represent counties that are trending Democratic might have a lot to do with their promises, now broken. Davis and Lee represent New Hanover (Wilmington) and Bradford and Cotham represent Mecklenburg.

John Bradford, especially, took Cooper's calling him out badly, citing the Republican favorite excuse of victimhood and hurt feelings (a la Tricia Cotham). Bradford told WSOC, “In March [the governor] hosted a Down syndrome advocacy event and despite being the leading advocate for Down syndrome in the state legislature, I was excluded. Last session I was the primary bill sponsor for an organ donor transplant discrimination bill. He held a public bill signing event but chose not to invite me, the number one primary sponsor and Republican, and instead invited a Democrat [sic] legislator.”

Poor snowflake! "And how dare the governor reminding me of my campaign promises!" Bradford told WSOC last October that he supported current state law that allows abortions up until 20 weeks.

The other four have their own promises to rationalize, especially Cotham, who while campaigning for another term in the House last year, said lawmakers “should act now to codify Roe v. Wade to affirm the right to an abortion without interference.”

Rep. Davis actually missed the vote on passage of the 12-week ban, but said during an October town hall that he supported maintaining the 20-week law currently in place. He also said there were times when he disagreed with House Speaker Tim Moore on a bill, and told him he would vote for what he thought was “best for the people I represent.” Davis didn’t respond to a request for comment from The N&O on Friday, but Speaker Tim Moore told reporters on Thursday that Davis is “a ‘yes’ vote on the override,” and that “there’s no issue there.”

No issue except the loss of any pretend rectitude with the voters.

Sunday, May 07, 2023

The Republican Who Ran Away From Dan Bishop (Who Wants Devoutly To Be Our Next Attorney General)


Andrew Murray

It's the saddest political story. Former US Attorney Andrew Murray, who now serves as district attorney for Henderson, Polk, and Transylvania counties and who -- like, 30 minutes ago -- was considered the frontrunner Republican for Josh Stein's current job and who said he was recruited to run in 2024 by the Republican Attorneys General Association, suddenly found out that US Congressman Dan Bishop, professional jerk and insurrection-adjacent right-wing ideologue, wants to be Attorney General instead, so golden boy Andrew Murray has dropped out, saying he decided against getting involved “in a bruising primary.”

Because Dan Bishop has the character of a wharf rat and will play dirty?

What's Bishop currently famous for?

Bishop says that federal law enforcement agencies have been weaponized against Republicans and wanted to form a committee to investigate those organizations. Bishop traded his vote for Kevin McCarthy [to be Speaker] for the creation of that committee. 

He also authored House Bill 2, an infamous piece of legislation that banned transgender individuals from using public bathrooms of the gender they identify with. Instead, it forced them to use the the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate. It came in response to a Charlotte anti-discrimination ordinance. The bill cost North Carolina more than $400 million as both companies and entertainers refused to come to the state following the bill’s passage. [Danielle Battaglia]

Dan Bishop gets aroused thinking of the vengeance he can visit on his philosophical enemies as the chief prosecuting official in North Carolina, and Andrew Murray -- bless his heart -- won't lift a bruise-prone hand to save us.

Friday, May 05, 2023

Big Changes at Indy Week


I've been contributing to both the Indy Press Club, to help support the work and reporting of The Weekly Independent of Durham, and I immediately signed up for a small monthly payment to the new digital magazine for long-form journalism, The Assembly. Both Indy Week and The Assembly have become must reads for me. Indy Week (and editor Jane Porter's daily emailed newsletter) has a distinct progressive lean, while The Assembly touts its non-partisan approach but has Jeffrey Billman on staff, one of the best investigators in North Carolina. (Billman used to be the editor of Indy Week.)

Kyle Villemain

Wednesday's news in Indy Week was that the two publications have merged, though the Q&A with Kyle Villemain, the founder of The Assembly, published on the Indy's website, strongly suggests that the merger was lopsided and that The Assembly is really now running Indy Week. Which is okay, I guess, but I do have questions.

Villemain is very much in charge, now, of Indy Week. In the Q&A, Villemain sez:

We know the INDY is a progressive outlet and we respect that. There will be some stories the INDY publishes that will make me tear my hair out, and vice versa. It’s good and healthy to have different perspectives at different outlets.

Our focus will be on ensuring that the INDY’s reporting is done at the highest level. The paper has to be a place that helps readers navigate where they live. That means local accountability and politics reporting, and a doubling down on arts, music, food, and culture.

More "local accountability and politics reporting" ... good! That's why I go there. But then Villemain sez this, which reads like the lowering of the hammer:

The INDY has to stop doing some things, so that its team has time to do new things.

We’ll be making the painful but productive choice of moving from weekly print to every other week print. That will be the biggest change. Simply put, the INDY’s team needs more time to focus on reporting, and less scrambling to get out a weekly paper.

You’ll also likely see a shorter daily newsletter, so that the INDY’s terrific editor-in-chief has more time for editing, and less spent on early morning newsletter writing.

Jane Porter's daily email is my first reading every morning, and I'll miss it, or rue it if it becomes so sketchy as to be worthless. I don't depend on the print edition, so I have to hope that digitally the Indy Week site will pop with new stuff more frequently than once every two weeks.

Toward the end of the Q&A, Villemain slips in a red letter of blood being shed to keep Indy Week alive:

We’re not doing this so that the INDY can shrink. We’ll have to make some tough cuts to stop the bleeding, but we’ve got a plan to grow the INDY significantly by the end of the year. The Triangle needs more reporters out on the streets, and we think the INDY can be the solution.

 "The bleeding." It's happening to legitimate journalism all over the map. We've got to keep independent voices, and I feel a pay-wall coming at Indy Week, and I will pay it.

Thursday, May 04, 2023

The Other Things the New Abortion Law Does


In addition to limiting when and why a person can choose to have an abortion -- banned after the first trimester, with some exceptions -- S20, which Gov. Cooper has promised to veto, also does this:

S20 mandates that the initial medical consultation (which sets in motion a 72-hour "waiting period") must occur in person, in a doctor's office, and not via phone, which has been previously allowed -- putting an extra burden on people coming from far away and on working people who can't easily get time-off from their jobs.

Forced ultrasounds are back! At least four hours before the procedure.

For medication abortions, S20 requires an in-person visit for the consultation and for the first dose of medication and also requires a follow-up appointment within seven and 14 days -- thus erasing the whole point of mifepristone. The bill also limits medication abortion to the first 10 weeks.

The bill also creates a $5,000 fine for any person or organization caught sending the abortion pill to someone directly through the mail.

The bill also places new licensing requirements on abortion clinics across the state, which are already heavily regulated. A representative for Planned Parenthood told lawmakers Wednesday that none of the organization’s clinics in North Carolina currently meet those requirements. Which, of course, was the point behind the new restrictions.

Judging from the interviews some of the Republican women lawmakers have given about how the bill came into its present form, those Republican women lawmakers expect to be praised for keeping a total, outright ban out of the bill, like many of the Republican men wanted. I see them as accessories before the fact, at best.

The Slow Death of Public Schools in North Carolina


On April 25, Governor Roy Cooper called on the General Assembly to increase spending on public education, siting as incentive the recent report from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction showing that public schools had delivered "significant learning recovery" for students since the easing of the pandemic. North Carolina’s public schools saw an unprecedented amount of federal funding in response to the pandemic, but that extra funding runs out in 2024.

On April 26 -- the next day -- the Republican bosses in the General Assembly responded that they would be decimating public education even more, not fully funding it, but rather pumping $1.3 billion into more private school vouchers. Senate Bill 406 would create the largest expansion of the state’s private school voucher program since it was created.

Republicans say they are supporting “choice” and “students over systems,” but their job is to fund public schools — not private ones. They say that students deserve the opportunity to receive a better education than what’s provided at some public schools, but if they provided schools with adequate funding, perhaps students would not need to look elsewhere to receive a quality education.

--Editorial, Raleigh News and Observer

The bottomline: Republicans have made it gospel to attack and denigrate public education, so expanding opportunities for families to abandon their local public schools, which constitutionally state government is required to support, sets up a new indoctrination to conquer an older supposed indoctrination that committed the cardinal sin of recognizing what must never be spoken of in front of Republicans -- injustice.

Who was very visible at the Republican press conference announcing S406? Why, former Democrat Tricia Cotham, who both defended herself from implied criticism and just incidentally demonstrated Karen-level self-interest masquerading as public policy:

“I started off really anti-school choice for a while when I first entered the General Assembly,” Cotham said at the press conference.

Then, she said, she started thinking about where her own children would go to school. Eventually, she opted for her son to attend a private school.

“That’s where my policy really started to change,” she said. “Because as a policymaker and as a mom, I’m also not a hypocrite. I do believe that as policymakers and legislators, if we have the ability to send our children to a private school or to a charter, then we cannot say to others, well, you can’t.”

The "me first!" moral compass of the contemporary Republican Party! Even a former Democrat can't leaven it. 

Wednesday, May 03, 2023


The Other Shoe Drops: Women's Rights in NC Will Be Curtailed


Photo Travis Long, News & Observer
The Republican male bosses in the General Assembly sent their handmaiden women out to face the public yesterday to announce their newly proposed 12-week ban on the right to an abortion. Turned out, one of the women, Rep. Sarah Stevens, took the opportunity to do some standup comedy. "This is a pro-woman, holistic approach." Stevens said.

The male bosses intend to pass their new law quickly, this week, before opposition can build.

Everybody's Afraid of Mark Robinson, Even Some of the People Who'll Vote For Him


Very recently (April 25), a coalition of liberal orgs announced the formation of a new Political Action Committee with an unfortunate acronym, C.A.R.E., for the Coalition Against Robinson’s Extremism, meaning Mark Robinson, the most prominent fire-breathing Republican who's also running for governor. He's been a constant source of wide-eyed amazement as our lieutenant governor. He would be a trainwreck as governor.

The C.A.R.E. coalition intends to watchdog Robinson, if not actually dog him, for his extremism and his lies, and to publicize it all. Prominent among C.A.R.E. members are America Votes, Progress NC Action, the AFL-CIO, Down Home, Equality NC, North Carolina Assoc. of Educators, North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, NC League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, et al.

The following quotes come from C.A.R.E.'s announcement press release and certainly signal some major lines of attack that will be a part of Robinson's future:

“There are few things more sacred than the decisions we make about our bodies and our families. Mark Robinson has made it clear, time, and time again, that he believes he can dictate these most personal decisions for others, without regard for individual circumstances, viewpoints, or personal faith traditions.”
--Jillian Riley, Planned Parenthood

“I stand before you today as a Black man, I stand before you as a husband, I stand before you as a father, I stand before you as one who follows Jesus and I want you to know that I believe in systemic racism, I believe in a woman's right to choose, I believe in same gender love, I believe in one's right to be who it is that you believe you want to be. I want you to know in spite of what Mark Robinson says that there are many Black men who feel the same way that I do. I want y'all to know there are many White Americans in rural North Carolina who feel the same way.”
--Rev. C.J. Brinson, Down Home NC

“He mocks and diminishes the humanity that he does not understand. When seeking to lead an entire state as beautiful and diverse and expansive as North Carolina, we need a leader who can grasp the teaching of the golden rule, treat others the way you want to be treated.”
--Irene Godinez, Poder NC

Tuesday, May 02, 2023