Monday, July 31, 2023

Republicans Are Better at Seduction

At 5 a.m. Sunday morning, Kate Kelly and David Perlmutt posted a long piece in the NYTimes (in the Business section, of all places, which is why I didn't see it until Carolina Forward tweeted it out) -- about how the Republicans wooed and won the tragic defection of Tricia Cotham. It was Republican bigwigs Speaker Tim Moore and Majority Leader John Bell who reached out and encouraged her into her "comeback" campaign last year, without expecting -- they ludicrously claim -- that she would in fact change parties. Moore and Bell said they wanted Cotham back because she had been an excellent member of the House from 2007 to 2016, but we know the predator in Moore detected a weakness for flattery. He poured it on.

Meanwhile (back story), Cotham had been very publicly sick with COVID. In February 2022, Cotham put out a TikTok confession (“This is my third time battling COVID. Yes, the third time. And before you jump to conclusions, yes, I’m fully vaccinated and boosted,” she said. “I’m in a lot of pain. My lungs hurt. I’m mentally drained”). That went viral in her district, especially after WSOC reporter Joe Bruno interviewed her on camera.

So partly (largely?) because of that plague narrative, when it came time for the Dist. 112 Democratic candidate recruitment committee to begin approaching prospective candidates for what was sure to be a Democratic pickup in a newly drawn House district with a distinct Democratic majority, they did not automatically think of Tricia Cotham. Three other Democrats had filed for the 2022 primary when Cotham arrived on the last day of filing and put her name in too, which ought to have been and probably was a clear warning to Democrats that she was a gathering thunderstorm of raw feelings.

"She fumed that Lillian’s List, an abortion rights organization, had 'really screwed' her by endorsing another Democrat in the primary," and Jonathan Coby, her former campaign consultant, said she had already developed a bunker mentality, an "us-versus-them" defensiveness toward Democratic interest groups. A former advocacy director at the Charlotte-based Latin American Coalition -- who had been a friend of Cotham's for years -- said Cotham “felt she did not get the gratitude or spotlight that she felt she deserved,” and added, “she was jealous that other Democrats were getting the adulation from the party.”

Ms. Cotham told Mr. Coby and her mother [Mecklenburg Co. commish Pat Cotham] that she was put off that Democrats treated her as a newcomer when she returned to the House, inviting her to freshman orientation and offering her a mentor. She declined both.

Instead, that charmer Tim Moore designated Cotham as a part of his "honor escort," "a small group of lawmakers who escorted Mr. Moore to the dais to be sworn in as speaker." Her seduction was pretty much a done deal.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

SUCH a Nose for Corruption -- By the Maven of Unintentional Irony


So the Madam went on Fox News to support Speaker Kevin McCarthy's threat to impeach President Biden. There is a “rot in this administration that goes all the way to the top, and we want to root it out,” she said.

Root it out. They sure are a rooting bunch all right, who by all outward appearances don't know from corruption in their own ranks, at the highest level.

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx got herself right on up under Trump's armpit (figuratively speaking) on numerous occasions and never, apparently, caught a whiff of that man's particular degenerative morality -- ethical rot. The smell of Trump's disrespect for the law and for others has only gotten stronger in recent weeks, yet Foxx can't nose it out at all. 

But really, she has a lot of gall.

AP/Evan Vucci

Friday, July 28, 2023

Maybe Not Illegal But Certainly Corrupt


Two investigative reporters for Carolina Public Press, Mehr Sher and Grace Vitaglione, published a shocking/not at all surprising piece last Tuesday which found that "Campaign committees of at least eight lawmakers received a total of $34,400 from at least four donors linked to The Cordish Cos. from November 2022 to March 2023."

So what? The what is that The Cordish Cos. runs gambling casinos and is pushing for three new casinos for Rockingham, Anson, and Nash counties. You won't be surprised that the Republicans in the General Assembly, at least eight of them greased with campaign cash, are falling all over themselves to deliver. There's actually a "draft bill" making the rounds.

Who got the money?

Phil Berger
Phil Berger, President Pro Tem of the NC Senate who represents Rockingham (yeah, baby!), got $5,600, which was the max allowed at the time of the gift, Nov. 2022

Sen. Lisa Barnes, who represents Nash Co., also got $5,600

Rep. John Bell in the House, who's also Majority Leader, got $5,600

Rep. Jason Saine, who's also senior chair of the Appropriations Committee, got $5,600

Sen. David Craven, who represents part of Anson, got $2,500

Rep. Kyle Hall, another chair of an Appropriations subcommittee, got $2,500

Rep. Larry Strickland, another chair of an Appropriations subcommittee, got $2,500

Sen. Todd Johnson, a chair for a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, got $2,500

A single Democrat, Rep. Kathy Manning, shows up in the list: "Jon Cordish gave $2,000 to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Political Action Committee and earmarked the funds for U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning, D-6th District. Earmarking funds allows the PAC to act as a conduit for the donation." Manning's 6th Dist. includes Rockingham.

With watchdogs beginning to bark -- notably Bob Hall, the former executive director of Democracy NC, -- the legislators and others are talking up the economic benefits of gambling casinos to Rockingham, Anson, and Nash counties, some of the poorest in the state. But there are verifiable statistics and studies that show that the coming of legal gambling to an economically distressed area further impoverishes local residents, who are more likely to take up habitual gambling when it's that accessible. And didn't anyone watch Ozark?

“It’s a pay-to-play scheme, and the system itself is corrupt,” said Hall. “They put a lot of money behind their requests to get attention and overcome the hesitation of legislators,” he said, referring to businesses and companies who make campaign contributions. “That corrupting dynamic leads the leadership into compromising and bringing proposals to the members of their caucus.”

Do you need that explanation to know this stinks?

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Keith Kidwell Wants To Lead the NC House (Backwards)


To "slick" and "aw, shucks!" who will be running next year for Republican Speaker of the NC House -- previously discussed -- add "paranoid," the new flavor that says it's running also and has history. From Lynn Bonner on NC Newsline:

Rep. Keith Kidwell announced on Facebook that he is running for NC House Speaker.

The eyes of Keith Kidwell

Kidwell, a Beaufort County Republican, is serving his third term in the House. He is a leader of the House Freedom Caucus, a group that often takes positions more conservative than other Republican legislators.

The position of House Speaker is one of the most powerful in the state. House members vote for the office holder.

House Speaker Tim Moore, who has held the job since 2015, has said that this is final term in the position.

Kidwell was the primary sponsor this year of a bill that would have banned nearly all abortions from conception. Under the bill, a person who performed, induced, or attempted an abortion would be guilty of a felony and face a civil penalty of at least $100,000.

The legislature went on to pass a law banning most abortions after 12 weeks gestation. During the House debate on that law, Kidwell was overheard referring to a Black female legislator who talked about her decision to have an abortion as belonging to the “Church of Satan.”

Kidwell lost his position as deputy whip in the House GOP caucus over the remark. He remains senior chairman of the House Finance Committee.

Kidwell joins at least two House Republican colleagues who have announced they are running for Speaker, Rules Committee Chairman Destin Hall and Republican majority leader John Bell.

So far in his House career, Kidwell has promoted suspicion over election results and pushed to inspect voting machines for modems. The Freedom Caucus announced in 2021 that it wanted to open Durham County’s voting machines, despite no evidence of problems. Their plan did not move forward because the law did not allow it.

Kidwell vehemently opposed COVID-19 safety measures, telling colleagues that Gov. Roy Cooper could not make him wear a mask. He was hospitalized and treated for COVID-19 in August 2021.

He was one of 24 House Republicans who voted against Medicaid expansion in March, after Republican leaders in both chambers endorsed it.

Speaking about “government overreach” last year, Kidwell said, “That’s one of the main reasons I’m here. I don’t trust my government.”

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Another Republican Wants To Be Governor


Andy Wells, a Hickory real estate developer and former member of the NC Senate, announced he'll run in the 2024 Republican primary for governor. He also ran in the lieutenant governor primary against Mark Robinson in 2020, coming in second but with less than half the votes that Robinson commanded, so apparently he's thinking that 15% is like a running start and will catapult him into serious contention.

Why? He told the News and Observer that he believes he can come out on top in next March's gubernatorial primary because “I think the world is considerably different than it was” in 2020. Yeah, it's worse, but somehow Wells looks at Mark Robinson and sees an overripe plum about to drop on the ground.

There's no accounting for how vaulting ambition sees reality.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Who Will Be the Next Speaker of the NC House?


Slick and Aw, Shucks

At the moment, the struggle to succeed Tim Moore as Republican Speaker of the NC House comes down to a contest between "slick" and "aw, shucks" -- that is, a rivalry for the job between current Majority Leader John Bell ("aw, shucks!" from Wayne Co.) and slick Caldwell County lawyer Destin Hall, chair of the all-important House Rules Committee and the also very important Redistricting Committee. I profiled Bell not so long ago; Hall is better known up here because of his redistricting shenanigans, which included his snatching Blue Ridge precinct, Watauga's biggest precinct which has trended "blue," for his own Caldwell County House district, thus safely diluting the Democratic vote -- no threat to himself -- while strengthening Ray Pickett's hold on Dist. 93.

Hall is like a walking knife blade, as sleek and polished as rival John Bell is rumpled and scruffy. Hall cuts, too, is willing to draw blood. He was once caught in the act:

RALEIGH A political trial that has mostly been dominated by math and academic research erupted in drama late Wednesday [Jan. 5, 2022] , when a top Republican redistricting leader said on the witness stand that he had used secret maps, drawn by someone else, to guide his work.

That statement, made under oath, appears to directly contradict what he told Democratic lawmakers at the legislature in November, shortly before the Republican-led legislature passed those maps into law over Democrats’ objections.

More recently, Carolina Forward outed two video messages that Hall had posted to his Twitter account, one accusing North Carolina sheriffs of being "woke" because they don't persecute enough brown people. Those videos do not appear to be on Hall's Twitter feed any more.

Back after the terrible redistricting of 2018, Hall had the gall (I made a rhyme!) to tell an audience at the Caldwell County Public Library that “I can tell you that the way the maps are drawn now are much, much, much more fair than they ever were.” That comment elicited prolonged laughter from the crowd. It was not complimentary laughter. It was derisive. Which appeared to stun Hall (sometimes slickness backfires). You can see the footage here.

Lucille Sherman, reporter for Axios Raleigh, has written a good primer on why House Spkr is so important, and notes details about these first two announced candidates. Undoubtedly there'll be at least one more, possibly grinning Jason Saine, who got exposed recently as Tim Moore's bitch.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Cage Match: NCGOP Establishment vs. Hard Right Activists


Michael Whatley

Back on May 30th, we wrote a piece called "Who'll Lead the NCGOP?" about the hard-right insurgency vying with the establishmentarian current chair, Michael Whatley, to lead the state party for the next two years. The insurgent candidate was "MAGA ideologue, John Kane, who comes from an election-denying gene pool of some prominence." Whatley beat the insurgency and won a new term as chair ... with what three convention delegates-for-Kane now allege in a Wake Superior Court was a flawed and/or illegal election process which allowed off-site electronic voting. The office of chair, therefore, must be vacated for a do-over election, the plaintiffs allege.

Unusual lawsuit, in that the three plaintiffs named only "the North Carolina Republican Party" as defendant. How often does the state organization of any major political party get sued?

The delegates' beef with the way Chair Whatley run the convention gets a thorough airing on The Daily Haymaker, which generously reprints much of the complaint. A lot of nit-picking, but then, a lot of nits to pick. The screwed up election -- if it was screwed up to the point of being actually illegal, which the lawsuit alleges -- may have all been accidents or incompetence -- faulty software, poor signal, failure to instruct the delegates -- but the implication behind this lawsuit is that the election was stolen (and Michael Whatley better give it back!).

Oh, Trump-era Republicans. If things don't go your way, it's always election fraud.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Turns Out Kevin Guskiewicz Is a Badass


On July 11, we covered the surprise, unilateral move by UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz to waive tuition and fees for any prospective North Carolina student coming from a family making less than $80,000 ("Is the UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor a Badass?"). He suddenly made that commitment hard on the heels of the Supreme Court's overturning of affirmative action, so the political defiance was pretty clear.

We predicted at the time that his shocking independence (because university rules allows him to do what he did), and the new policy itself, would mark him for ouster. The honchos of the General Assembly (Berger/Moore) don't exactly cotton to independence, and their chosen representatives on the UNC Board of Governors, not to mention Chapel Hill's own Board of Trustees, tend to follow the same path. All Republican (if not 100%, then pert nigh).

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz being grilled
at the July 19 BOG meeting

Guskiewicz faced the music with the Board of Governors in a special called meeting on July 19 -- last Wednesday. The meeting was tense, "Daniel in the lion's den" someone remarked, and Guskiewicz faced a barage of often hostile questions about why this and why not that (read Joe Killan's extensive reporting), and he finally got a little bit fed up. It happened because "Haywood 'Woody' White, a new board member who has been critical of Guskiewicz’s announcement and the program itself, quoted Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion in the case, in which Thomas said he had been struggling for 20 years to see the benefit of racial diversity."

White asked Guskiewicz whether he agreed with that statement in light of the court’s ruling. It was an uncomfortable moment for a chancellor whose university fought to keep race as a factor in admissions — but who understands political appointees to whom he answers largely oppose it.

Guskiewicz replied that as an educator with decades of classroom experience, he has seen the difference a more diverse student body makes to all students on campus and their readiness to engage with the larger world....

[He said a lot more right in here, trying to elevate the BOG's vision for diversity ... leading to this:] 

“The bottom line is a decision has been made,” Guskiewicz said. “And we will abide by that decision.”

Oh, they'll have to get rid of him now. 

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Hopeless Target: Moore County (Or Not)


Moore County (with its small towns of Carthage, Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and other white-shoe enclaves) does not vote for Democrats unless they're running unopposed (it's happened twice in the last dozen years), and according to records kept by the State Board of Elections, the last time straight-ticket voting was allowed in 2010, some 66.64% of Moore County voters voted straight Republican. Moore is also, incidentally, the home county for Brant Clifton and The Daily Haymaker, the epitome of hard-right Republican acid-bath.

Into such forbidding terrain comes last Monday Anderson Clayton, the 20-something new chair of the NC Democratic Party, in her quest to awaken progressive grassroots in all 100 counties, even the most discouraging ones. This was her reception on the early evening of July 18th in the courtyard next to the Pinehurst Village Hall, gathering the corps of what could become the 2024 ground troops all across the state.

We're constantly reminded of the courage of Howard Dean's "50-state strategy" when he was chair of the DNC, the courage it took and the results it showed. 2006 was the first year Democrats in Watauga County swept the county commission.

We also note that a coalition of progressive orgs is bringing next Monday, July 24, the #UniteNC "accountability tour town hall" to the county seat of Carthage. These town halls, sponsored by Common Cause, NAACP, League of Women Voters, and others, aim to rally opposition to the multitude of regressive and oppressive actions taken by the Republican General Assembly in Raleigh, from regressive court rulings, a new redistricting cycle, and all-important ballot-access,

There are a bunch of other deep-red counties like Moore, and may The Awakening continue.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Virginia Foxx Doesn't Like Being Questioned


They were sparring over H.R.3941, the "Schools Not Shelters Act," "To prohibit the use of the facilities of a public elementary school, a public secondary school, or an institution of higher education to provide shelter for aliens who have not been admitted into the United States." The hearing shown here was before the House Rules Committee, as Foxx, as chair of the Education Committee, was trying to move the bill forward.

Joe Neguse of Colorado grills Foxx, reveals her hypocrisy, and exposes the Virginia Foxx we've all known for decades -- the dismissive, contemptuous, high-handed, and arrogant duchess who doesn't like being questioned. The milk of human kindness dried up in her long ago.

Her continuing cruelty to immigrants, considering her own economic history was built on the labor of immigrants, is just cringe-worthy.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Do You Smell Corruption When Tim Moore Is On the Premises?


Long story, short (with gratitude to Danielle Battaglia, of the NandO):

In 2022, House Speaker Tim Moore induced House Budget Chair Jason Saine to write in a new budgeted position for the courts system in the counties of Cleveland and Lincoln (the home counties of Tim Moore and Jason Saine, respectively), "trial court administrator," a new job which promptly went to a former employee of Moore's Kings Mountain law firm along with a $13,000 bump in salary.

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) did not ask for the new position in their budget requests:

Only eight of North Carolina’s judicial districts have trial court administrators and they tend to have a high volume of cases. The others are Wake, Durham, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth and Cumberland counties and the district that encompasses Granville, Franklin, Person, Warren and Vance counties. 

Cleveland and Lincoln counties’ combined population of 193,765 is smaller than that of the other seven districts that have the position, whose populations range from 236,679 to 1.18 million.

Jason Saine
Tim Moore wouldn't speak to Battaglia about this news, but Jason Saine did speak in a way that might identify him as Moore's useful idiot and as a defense attorney's worst client. In trying to explain how a new high-salaried position got into the budget and how Tim Moore's close personal friend landed the job, Saine more or less defined "political corruption" for all of us:

“The local judges and court people were asking for it [a new trial court admin], and I realize AOC might not have requested it, but (the judges) are close to me and the speaker,” Saine said. “I don’t think it’s a big story; it’s just, yeah, turns out that’s how politics works: the proximity to talk to people who are in politics, and our districts do OK.”

We get it. Access = "doing OK."

Saine couldn't shut up:

“Tim interacts with the courthouse much more than I do,” Saine said, while struggling to explain who specifically requested the position. “It was one of those things that I was like OK, fine. That’s good with me. Whatever. They had a reason to justify it, and that was what it was.”

Asked why Cleveland or Lincoln received the positions while other counties were left without them, Saine responded: “Because I’m the budget writer and he’s the speaker. It goes into the budget for our areas and we’re able to see it through. It’s politics. I think readers would be shocked otherwise."

Not shocked any more by the obvious corruption, and by now only mildly annoyed that this sort of thing comes with zero consequences for any of the manipulators.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The Republicans Opposing Mark Robinson for Governor


It won't be enough to stop him. But there are pockets of resistance to the inevitability of Mark Robinson's winning the Republican nomination for governor. On one side is mega-Republican strategist Paul Shumaker, presumably speaking for what's left of the NCGOP "establishment." Shumaker sees disaster coming with Trump and Robinson at the top-of-the-ticket in NC in 2024, because that duo of candidates will turn off the Unaffiliated voters, who are more numerous now than either Democrats or Republicans.

On the other side is Brant Clifton of The Daily Haymaker, an extreme-MAGA conservative who considers Mark Robinson a trainwreck in the making and who just incidentally considers Paul Shumaker a RINO and a loser because Shumaker was the chief strategist for both Richard Burr and Thom Tillis and most recently went down in flames trying to get Pat McCrory through the US Senate primary in 2022. But now Clifton and Shumaker are in bed together in opposing Robinson.

Clifton has been pummeling Robinson (and Robinson's wife) for weeks on his Daily Haymaker blog for "sketchy" business practices and for slopping at the Federal trough, among other "character flaws."

Clifton favors state Treasurer Dale Folwell in the primary. Maybe some evangelicals favor the third candidate, Mark Walker, but probably not enough to slow down Robinson's momentum. Robinson has captured the MAGA crowd and the evangelicals with his "bullying-the-elite" message and manner, which makes him the perfect ballot mate for Donald Trump.

John Steed, a Republican activist in Beaufort County (who doesn't come out and say he's supporting Robinson, but we have to assume), wrote recently that "the GOP left" is pushing "RINO Steve Troxler" for governor. Troxler has not announced anything other than he's stepping down from his Agriculture Commissioner job and might be open to "new opportunities." Troxler is very popular with rural Republicans, but to John Steed he's a RINO because he once upon a time helped John Edwards in his race for US Senate.

"The GOP left"? Where do they hold their meetings?

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Tricia Cotham's Welcome Wagon Runs on Delusion


Tricia Cotham, now subbing for Welcome Wagon:

State Rep. Tricia Cotham (R-Mecklenburg) didn’t waste much time welcoming Georgia lawmaker Mesha Mainor into the Republican Party.

Mainor announced Tuesday that she is leaving the Democratic Party after falling out with state party leaders over a recent vote she cast in support of a school voucher bill.

Cotham quickly tweeted this note: “Welcome to the Republican Party!”

Mainor’s decision to break with Democrats no doubt made an impression on Cotham who broke with North Carolina Democrats in April. Cotham called the party she’d been a member of for decades “unrecognizable” and quick to “villainize anyone who has free thought.”

So both parties expect compliance, if not outright unity. Big deal! Everybody knows that. And they can put heavy pressure on their elected members. Tricia Cotham only wants to make something unique-to-Democrats out of it to cover her own sense of shame for being the Turncoat of the Decade. 

The Trumpist GOP and "free thought" are not words that should ever appear in the same sentence, else we've learned nothing from the examples of Liz Chaney and Thom Tillis.

Monday, July 17, 2023

New GOP Schools Bill Is Indeed "A Doozy"

A "monster" schools bill was introduced on July 12, S90, "Children's Laws Omnibus." Text of the bill is linked here, which also contains the official report from the Legislative Analysis Division about what the bill will allow/cause -- which will be plenty to make any flat-earther, pissed-off Moms for Liberty happy and further fuel their hobby of raising holy hell over silly stuff.

I mean, can you imagine? The bill was obviously written to tickle an itch against an entire public education system that has taught far too many youngsters to be tolerant of difference. This is a bill written for people who are angry about tolerance. S90 will unleash real chaos on an already shaken and squeezed school system.

The bill is framed by something dreamily called "the fundamental right to parent," defined in the bill as “the liberty of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of the parent’s child.” "That’s dangerously vague," wrote the NandO Editorial Board, "and the ambiguity makes it far too easy for the bill to be weaponized by angry parents seeking to oust educators with whom they disagree."

A sampling of other features in S90 that the Legislative Analysis Division identified:

Section 5 would severely limit sex education, because it's always preferable to keep pubescence ignorant of its own condition.

Section 6 would put partisan parents in a position to censor library holdings and would require detailed -- and we do mean detailed -- syllabi, filed fresh at the beginning of every semester, of what any teacher would be saying about sex and safety in any class.

Section 8 would give parents explicit rights to ban their children from the library and the right to examine their records of borrowing books.

Sections 10 and 11 would give parents the right to sue schools and to get a superintendent fired. 

They should have called S90 "Weaponizing Ignorance." 

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Coming Soon! "Congressman" Tim Moore


Tim Moore is only 52. Plenty of time left to get even richer in Congress!

Moore reportedly told the NC House Caucus that this current term as House Speaker is his last. 

Because he knows a favorable-to-him Congressional district will be carved out in the redistricting that the GOP intends to inflict on us just minutes before candidate-filing opens in December?

Who will stop him, if he gets his new district?

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Virginia Foxx Votes To Clamp Down on Medical Corporation Billing Practices


Virginia Foxx chaired the markup session for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on four bipartisan bills that appear to clamp down on hospital corporations for "dishonest billing, opaque rules, and shady industry practices that have left patients paying higher costs for health care" (Foxx said in an opening statement). And she added this: "Today's passage of our bipartisan health care package makes great strides towards giving clarity to patients and building a health care system that is more transparent, affordable, and accessible." 

Those four bills easily passed the committee and now head to the full House floor.

A soft spot in her heart for her suffering constituents is sometimes no match for the soft spot in her heart for corporations with power. So this seems notable.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Thom Tillis, Statesman


I did not know until recently that NC Sen. Thom Tillis attended the NATO summit in Vilnius, and I did not know his views on transatlantic allies actually matters, until I came across this paragraph:

…He’s the co-chair of the NATO Observer Group, a caucus he reestablished with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in 2018 to inform senators outside defense committees about the spending practices and military plans of allies. That makes him, in a sense, among the most important lawmakers that NATO members must keep happy.

Sen. Tillis, at the Table, 4th on left

As an official observer, he attended meetings both public and private, reassuring NATO officials, but making demands and later defending both NATO and Ukraine in public statements:

"...This summit is another one of several summits that I’ve been to that will be successful, and I’m very optimistic about the future and I’m absolutely optimistic about bipartisan support and Congress for supporting the Ukraine effort for as long as it takes.”

 --Tillis, giving a press briefing three days ago in Vilnius 

This position seems far afield from NC conservative orthodoxy in the trumpian age -- which became bizarrely deferential to Russia, hostile to Ukraine, and invested in smashing NATO and being pugnaciously obnoxious to Europe. So I wonder about the party that birthed Tillis, and which so recently censured him at their state convention for undoctrinal opinions about LGBTQ rights, immigration, and the gun-culture.

Looks like that Party got its answer. Tillis is carving out a role for himself that defies the Jesse Helms DNA. Internationalist Tillis. Transatlantican Tillis. I'm impressed.

(What? I'm impressionable.)

Thursday, July 13, 2023

The End Result


We took notice of Nash County native Matthew Beddingfield's arrest for assault in February 2022 for his part in the violence of January 6th. Here's an update from the NandO:

Matthew Beddingfield fought the law in and around the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, using a metal pole topped by an American flag to slash and stab at the legs and genitalia of police officers protecting the building from an angry mob. 

On Tuesday, the law won. 

Beddingfield, 23, a convicted felon from Nash County, due east of Raleigh, was sentenced to 38 months, three years of probation and $2,000 in restitution. 

He becomes the 11th North Carolinian sent to prison for their roles in the Jan. 6 violence, in which hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump attacked police, smashed doors and windows, then marauded through the Capitol in an effort to stop congressional certification of Trump’s election defeat. 

The unprecedented political assault, fueled by Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen election, has been tied to five deaths, injuries to some 140 police officers and almost $3 million in damages to the Capitol.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Medical Marijuana in NC -- Nowhere Again


It's just not in the Raleigh Republican DNA to want to help people out:

Legislation that would legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes in North Carolina is probably dead for the rest of this year’s General Assembly session, House Speaker Tim Moore said Tuesday, citing opposition by many fellow Republicans in his chamber.

A bill that would lay out the structure for patients with serious and life-ending illnesses to lawfully obtain cannabis and smoke or consume it passed the Senate by a wide margin over four months ago. But it has idled in the House ever since, save for a committee hearing on the measure in early June. (NandO)

Sen. Bill Rabon

Senator Bill Rabon has been pushing legalization for years, based on his own experience after being diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. Smoking marijuana saved my life, he's told reporters, and when he smoked it at age 48, it shure nuff wasn't legal. Rabon, who's also the Republican chair of the Senate Rules Committee, actually played a little hardball, according to the reporting of the Associated Press:

Rabon, the marijuana bill’s chief sponsor, tacked a floor amendment onto an unrelated health care bill favored by the House that said it couldn’t become law unless his bill also became law.

Apparently, bluff didn't work. Even the most restrictive, begrudging medical marijuana law does not interest hardline Republicans in the House.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Is the UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor a Bad Ass?


Kevin Guskiewicz

Last week Kevin Guskiewicz, the chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill, unilaterally announced free tuition grants for deserving NC students whose household income falls below $80,000. He made the announcement hard on the heels of SCOTUS's decision limiting the use of race in college admissions nationwide, and he seemed to be doing it as an "up yours!" to SCOTUS. 

"Our responsibility to comply with the law does not mean we will abandon our fundamental values as a university," Guskiewicz wrote. "We are and will remain passionately public, and we will ensure that every student who earns admission to Carolina can come here and thrive."

A "passionately public" university makes sure its student body isn't just affluent, milk-white kids from suburbia, whether you count them by their skin color or their economic situations. Ballsy of Guskiewicz (who has the power and authority, by the way, to grant tuition wavers or financial aid to certain students).

Especially ballsy of Guskiewicz for making the move without first asking permission. Republican members of the Chapel Hill Board of Trustees and of the UNC Board of Governors (aren't they all Republicans, or wanna-bees?) said they were shocked -- shocked! -- when they heard the same news everyone else was hearing, that the Chapel Hill Chancellor had the balls to counter the backward-trotting Supreme Court of the United States.

I'm developing new respect for Dr. Guskiewicz. We last mentioned his name on this site when he showed up defying the ambitions of House Speaker Tim Moore. Guskiewicz now has at least two strikes against him, so of course they'll want to get rid of him.

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Let Vetoes Blossom!


Governor Roy Cooper vetoed three hateful, unnecessary, intrusive, and obnoxious laws, which of course Berger/Moore will marshal their troops to override. All three target queer people because their small numbers in our population mean they're not strong enough to fight back, and the Republicans love weak victims.

H808, perhaps the most intrusive overreach of the session, puts the legislature between trans children, their parents, and medical experts. There's gathering pushback from families who support their kids, who know their kids better than Republican members of the General Assembly do, like this article currently in the News and Observer: "This 12-year-old wants to continue gender-affirming care. NC lawmakers are trying to stop it."

Add the story being told by a Democratic member of the House, John Autry, about his own granddaughter Savannah, recounted for Cardinal and Pine. The pain felt by the Autry family because of the insertion of state law into private family matters is powerful stuff. Gov. Cooper said in his veto message, "A doctor’s office is no place for politicians, and North Carolina should continue to let parents and medical professionals make decisions about the best way to offer gender care for their children."

Gov. Cooper also vetoed S49, a.k.a. the "Don't Say Gay" law, saying, “The rights of parents are well established in state law, so instead of burdening schools with their political culture wars, legislators should help them with better teacher pay and more investments in students.”

Finally, Cooper also vetoed H574, which Republicans called the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act," and which sets out to ban trans athletes from participating in school sports. Gov. Cooper called the legislation's policies "broad, uninformed decisions about an extremely small number of vulnerable children that are already handled by a robust system that relies on parents, schools and sports organizations."

Proud of the governor for vetoing all three. Ashamed of the Republicans in the General Assembly for deciding that LGBTQ kids are the greatest threats to what's left of our civic pact.

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Cooper Was Right To Veto HB618

The NC Republican Vision for Schools, contained in a new law the governor vetoed yesterday. House Bill 618: First, empower all sorts of maybe sketchy people to invent charter schools that are draining revenue from public education, and then make sure those sketchy people are never questioned about what they're doing and how they're doing it. 

"The legislation creates a new Charter School Review Board with the power to grant, amend, terminate and renew school charters." The governor will have no say whatsoever in appointing the 11 voting members, but (springing this on you now) Phil Berger and Tim Moore each get four appointments apiece, and "two members appointed by the State Board of Education who are not current members of the State Board of Education" and who are charter school advocates in North Carolina, plus the lieutenant governor. It actually singles out "charter school advocates," which should tell you everything you need to know about legislative "intent."

So can you say "naked power-grab"?

The governor left the "naked" part out and substituted a word almost as problematic: “This bill is a legislative power grab that turns responsibility over to a commission of political friends and extremists appointed by Republican legislators, making it more likely that faulty or failing charter schools will be allowed to operate and shortchange their students,” Gov. Cooper said in a statement. “Oversight of charter schools should be conducted by education experts, not partisan politicians.”

Of course Cooper's veto will be overridden, of course. Especially what with Tricia Cotham being the primary sponsor of HB618.

With every move they make, with every breath they take, with every bond they break ... they be grinding down public schools.

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

A Rotten Appointment


Once upon a time, not so long ago, Watauga real estate maven Bill Aceto was a notorious member (and then the chair) of the Watauga County Board of Elections. He did everything he could to make it hard for ASU students to vote, though he eventually couldn't overcome an order from a Wake County Superior Court judge.

The news of his controversial appointment to the NC Real Estate Commission broke four days ago. I'm just catching up. The following from WRAL:

The North Carolina Senate wants to appoint a real estate broker to a commission that is currently investigating him.

If approved, the broker, Bill Aceto, would be a member of the North Carolina Real Estate Commission when the commission hears complaints against him and his company, Blue Ridge Realty & Investments.

Aceto’s lawyer said his client would recuse himself if the matter comes before the commission.

A buyer’s complaint against Aceto alleges that around February 2022, one of Aceto’s brokers misrepresented the condition of a home for sale in Banner Elk.

The complaint states that after inspection reports from three prospective buyers were compared, it appeared that problems were identified and then covered up.

According to the complaint:

A rotten band sill was noted in the crawl space in old inspections, but the new inspector never saw it because insulation had been added, concealing the badly rotted band sill from the view of the inspector.

Old inspections also noted extensive wood rot on siding, window frames, trim, soffits and fascia. The new inspector and a contractor found several places where rotted wood had been painted over and some rot appeared to be concealed with wood filler.

The buyer also claims there were several other material facts that were misrepresented by Aceto’s broker.

Two general contractors estimated the home needed $24,750 worth of repairs.

In the complaint, the buyer, Heather Cobb of Mathews, submitted an email from the seller that said they didn’t provide past inspection reports because the prior inspector was "completely incompetent."

Cobb’s complaint alleges that Aceto then tried to make a deal. Aceto’s firm offered to return $15,000 in due diligence money — but only if Cobb agreed to not sue the seller, Aceto’s broker or the listing firm. Cobb would also have had to sign a non-disclosure agreement and promise not to file a complaint with the N.C. Real Estate Commission.

Cobb said she wasn’t presented a written agreement outlining those conditions, so she terminated her purchase agreement and filed a complaint with the commission. She also sued the seller.

Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said Aceto told his office about the complaint during the appointment process, though Berger said he wasn’t familiar with the details.

“My understanding is that the complaint was against someone that works in the firm and he was included because he’s the broker of the firm and not the person that was specifically complained about,” Berger said. “So, with that information, it was my judgment that we move forward.”

On Thursday, the North Carolina Senate advanced SB 754, which would appoint Aceto to the commission for three years.

Aceto’s lawyer, Stacy ‘Four’ Eggers, sent WRAL a statement suggesting that there has been opposition to the appointment.

"It is very unfortunate that someone would try to deny an appointment on an unadjudicated claim relating to an agent that works for Mr. Aceto’s company,” Eggers said. “Mr. Aceto is committed to his profession and to public service which caused him to accept the nomination for this position. When asked to serve by the Pro Tem’s office, Mr. Aceto disclosed the pending matter. If Mr. Aceto’s appointment occurs before the hearing with the Real Estate Commission, Mr. Aceto would recuse himself from any matter dealing with himself or any agent that works for his company."

Janet Thoren, legal counsel for the N.C. Real Estate Commission, said Aceto’s appointment "presents a problem for the Real Estate Commission."

Aceto’s appointment still has to pass the North Carolina House. If finalized, his term on the commission would begin Aug. 1. The hearing against him is tentatively set for August 2023.

It would be the first time the commission has ever held a hearing against a sitting commissioner, Thoren said.

Sunday, July 02, 2023

Tim Moore Is Basically a Loser


NC House Speaker Tim Moore reeks of self-seeking. He's a schemer. Doesn't he always know "what's in it for him"? Early on in his career, he was grabbing mainly for money. Now, having amassed a great heap of power serving a record number of years as Speaker of the House, he's perfectly capable of torching someone who crosses him. There's now an imperial attitude to go with the nose for cash. But the strong arm doesn't always work for him.

Tim Moore Wanted an Academic Robe

It got leaked in October 2019 that Tim Moore wanted to "retire" from the General Assembly and be president of the UNC system. That rumor actually sparked a UNC student protest demonstration and just incidentally, plenty of coolness from members of the UNC board of governors who were wary about that kind of pressure. In the end, too many important people didn't see Tim Moore in the top dog mortarboard and cape, and that air ship went down.

Then, only a few months later, in Feb. 2020, it had become an open secret that Tim Moore was angling now to get appointed chancellor of East Carolina University. The job was open. It was lesser than being president of the entire system, but maybe he was feeling bargain-basement. Another Republican, Robert Moore, the East Carolina University Board of Trustees member censured as part of an SGA election scandal in February 2020, was the one who outed Moore's pressure campaign, in a defiant and get-even resignation letter

So Moore's second try for a cushy retirement plan deflated as quickly as the first one.

If He Can't Have the Regalia, He Wants It for His Friend

By the spring of 2022, a couple of years after Moore's last feint toward becoming university royalty, Moore became hellbent on getting his former chief of staff Clayton Somers in as chancellor of UNC-W. Clayton Somers had been Moore's inside man at UNC, his messenger boy and his fixer, but a new university president, Kevin Guskiewicz, had begun ignoring Somers and showing a dangerous independent streak:

"Kevin wouldn't just accept what Clayton said unquestioningly," one senior university official said. "Clayton didn't like being questioned .... That got their relationship off to a rocky start and it never recovered." 

Clayton Somers' side-eye. Photo Cornell Watson

Somers had become "deeply involved in negotiations around what to do with the [Silent Sam] statue after it came down. He ultimate plan involved a multimillion-dollar settlement with the highly controversial Sons of Confederate Veterans. It created a public relations nightmare from late 2019 into early 2020 and was ultimately thrown out in court" (The Assembly).

Bottomline: Fair-haired boy Clayton Somers had become a walking, talking sorehead who was on the outs with university administration, plus he was never going to be chancellor of anything. He didn't make it past the second round interview and wasn't on the short list of finalists. Another man got the job, so once again Tim Moore had custard creme on his face.

He took it out on Holly Grange.

Who Is Holly Grange and What Did Tim Moore Do To Her?

In July 2019, Holly Grange was a moderate conservative Republican member of the NC House (Dist. 20, at the Coast). She'd been in the job since the election of 2016 but was evidently getting antsy. She began to talk about maybe running for governor, which Lt. Gov. Dan Forest already had sewn up. That was a surprise (who did she think she was kidding?). NC Republican primary voters preferred the self-righteous vinegar coming out of Dan Forest. So Forest beat Grange with 89% of the vote. Ouchie

Grange's consolation prize, more or less -- she got appointed to the UNC-Wilmington board of trustees, and as a board member she was also selected to serve on the chancellor search committee. She didn't like what Tim Moore was doing to force his guy on the search committee. Some -- several -- members involved confirmed to The Assembly that Speaker Moore waved his dick around, but it didn't impress anyone. So Clayton Somers failed, and Tim Moore failed, and Holly Grange did it!

So about a year into her service on the board of trustees and in October 2022, very soon after Clayton Somers did not become chancellor of UNC-W, Holly Grange received a mysterious heads-up in a text message, that she should look at a bill that was just filed in the House. It declared her trustees seat "vacant." What? She was in the seat, a voting member. But a new law declared she didn't exist. It was a way to fire someone without firing them. Senior admin people at UNC-W couldn't believe it either, but just like that, Tim Moore had Holly Grange dumped out of her seat. Grange herself summed up the action: “I was removed simply because the Speaker of the House could not secure the chancellor’s position for his chosen person.” 

That's a fundamentally weak man who would do that.