Tuesday, October 31, 2023

"To Undo What We’ve Done.” Tim Moore Mis-appoints a Crony


Isn't cronyism inherently corrupt? I feel obliged to at least try to keep up with the new scandals that continuously sprout wherever House Speaker Tim Moore treads. His plans for Congress are well known, though he continues to play bashful about actually running for the newly drawn 14th CD that includes his home in Gaston County. Everyone even partially warm to the touch knows he's lusted for a seat in Congress, which he's now describing as only one of his many options. "Had we but world enough and time, this coyness, Timmy, were no crime." 

Kenneth Robert "Rob" Davis

According to Speaker Moore's fellow NCGA member Sen. Danny Britt (Lumberton), Speaker Moore hisownself put a name on a five-page list of appointments to important state government jobs, in particular an old college buddy and long-time friend Kenneth Robert Davis (goes by "Rob"), appointed to the Disciplinary Hearing Commission of the State Bar. All those appointments got voted on last week. Reporter Bryan Anderson discovered that the Disciplinary Hearing Commission (just this last May) found that as a lawyer Rob Davis had "failed to maintain accurate identification of all funds in his trust account, had mismanaged client funds, and fell behind on filing and paying several years of state and federal income taxes."

Sen. Danny Britt fingered Tim Moore as behind the appointment, because the appointment itself has become toxic enough already that fellow Republican Britt --also closely connected to Rob Davis in local politics; Davis is a county attorney for Robeson -- needed someone to blame not named Danny Britt. Britt's conversation with reporter Anderson included this:
Britt said Davis’s appointment came directly from Speaker Moore, and that Davis hadn’t requested it.

“He had not requested to be placed on this committee,” Britt said. “It kind of came out of the blue to him. He didn’t request to serve on it, but he appreciates being asked to serve on the committee. … I did not know he was nominated until I saw it in the appointment bill language. I know for a fact it was Tim Moore’s decision to put him on there and nobody else’s.”

For his part, Moore ain't talking (at least not to Anderson), though he did issue a statement last Wednesday that "he’d revisit the appointment" (whatever that means ... sounds juicy!). In the meantime the legal community and others involved in civic government are gaping at the appointment of a metaphorical jailbird to the new role as jailer (as political scientist Chris Cooper put it). Even though he was willing to finger Moore as culprit, Britt wants to peddle the narrative that Davis's transgressions were just "a minor bookkeeping thing."

Sen. Danny Britt

Rob Davis was a Republican member of the Bladen County Board of Elections during the great ballot harvesting scandal of 2018 to benefit the Rev. Mark Harris's campaign for Congress in CD9. After the State Board of Elections conducted its investigation of McCrae Dowless and his activities, the SBOE vacated all the sitting members on county BOEs involved in the Dowless multi-county shenanigans, just for a clean slate, apparently, and not because everyone was guilty of something. NCGOP Chair (at the time), Robin Hayes, appealed to the SBOE to keep Davis on the board but was denied. Asked very recently by reporter Anderson, Hayes now sez he has no memory of Davis. “The name doesn’t even ring a bell.” Ouch.

Lawmakers won't be back in Raleigh until November 29. In the meantime, Davis's appointment to the Disciplinary Hearing Commission is officially the law. Anderson reports that Davis himself is quite aware of the embarrassment and is seeking legal advice on how best to handle it, or simply not take the job. "Yeah! That's the ticket,"sez Britt, who actually did say out loud that Davis could "just choose to not participate in any commission activities":

“If he doesn’t get seated, doesn’t go to any meetings, doesn’t participate, then he’s a nonparticipating member and that’s really no issue,” Britt said. “I don’t think there’s anything we can do between now and [November 29] to undo what we’ve done.”

How to deal with the wounds cut by corrupt politicians: If a public servant doesn't do his job, that's a solution for a corrupt appointment!

Monday, October 30, 2023

We See the Kind of Campaign Bishop Will Run Against Jackson. Goody!


Thursday, October 26, early morning: Jeff Jackson announces he's running for Attorney General.

Thursday, October 26, mid-afternoon: Republican rival-for-Attorney-General Dan Bishop issues on Twitter a mock "welcome" to Jackson for entering the race and alleging that Jackson's use of TikTok makes him a Chinese stooge. Bishop included a statement made to look like it was from Jackson’s campaign. It was written in Chinese, and included a translation that said Jackson was a “Tiktok star who wants to make North Carolina soft on crime” and was “helping China spy on North Carolina.” At the top, it included the logo for Jackson’s campaign. 

Posting the mock statement on X, formerly Twitter, Bishop wrote that it was “for our unamerican friends.” (Avi Bajpai)

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Speaker of the NC House To Be, Accomplished at Gerrymandering


Rep. Destin Hall, who as chair of the House redistricting committee gerrymandered the hell out of Watauga, pulling blue-leaning Blue Ridge precinct out of Ray Pickett's District 93 and adding it as dilution to his own heavily Republican Caldwell County District 87 -- that Destin Hall appears destined to become the new Speaker of the NCHouse, replacing Tim Moore who has his own eye on a free US House seat that was created specially for him. Destin Hall's biggest rivals, John Bell and Jason Saine, have both dropped out of the race and endorsed him. 

We profiled Hall and Bell back in July. We called Hall "slick," which was not meant as praise (and I don't take it back now).

Less corrupt than the previous Speaker? Remains to be seen. Should be easy since Tim Moore set a high benchmark.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

The Need for Studs


Photo J. Scott Applewhite for AP
Whoever's in charge of the Twitter feed for the Forsyth County Republican Party (@FCNCGOP) tweeted this shortly after 9 p.m. last night following an appearance by Matt Gaetz at a dinner:

Big thank you to @mattgaetz for headlining our Lincoln Day Dinner tonight!!! 

The man is a stud and as American as it gets (hence the recent run on new underwear in DC). 

Thank you Matt!

That actually explains a lot! But what was the run on underwear in DC?

Red Flag


Mike Johnson (R-La.) on his wife Kelly not being in attendance for his ascension to House Speaker: “She’s spent the last couple of weeks on her knees in prayer to the Lord. And, um, she’s a little worn out.” That's slamming the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven ... in our faces. But, you know, privilege of ownership.

Jesus gave advice: "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men."

Friday, October 27, 2023

"I Am the Last Person Corrupt Politicians Want To See as Attorney General"


Ex-state senator and current US Congressman Jeff Jackson put a shot of adrenaline directly into the Democratic blood system yesterday, announcing his run for attorney general. He instantly shot to the top of the ballot (in a manner of speaking) and is exactly what the doctor ordered in these dark, corrupt times.

And say what you will about the boxing -- one commentator called it "corny" -- Jackson knows how to use his hands. He ain't faking it.

Famous For the Wrong Reason


Scott Lassiter sued House Speaker Tim Moore last June for cuckolding him. He claimed that Moore and his wife committed adultery over a period of three years that destroyed his marriage, a period of time that Lassiter's wife later characterized as "a nightmare." After much press speculation -- including Lassiter's claim that Moore admitted the affair to him at a Biscuitville and offered to bribe him to forget it -- Lassiter and Moore suddenly and unexpectedly "resolved" the alienation of affection claim (whatever a "resolution" means, since details remain secret), and Lassiter dropped his exceedingly rare lawsuit. Now Lassiter, a former Apex Town Council member, is running for the new 13th state Senate district in southern Wake County. The newly drawn SD 13 has no incumbent. The Civitas Partisan Index recently judged the district as a D+1"toss-up."

Lassiter works as an assistant principal for the national on-line Connections Academy, "a public school that focuses on helping students grow to be academically competent and behaviorally responsible." Lassiter also serves on the Wake Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors, and served on the Apex Town Council from 2011 to 2015" (WRAL).

Meanwhile, and like anyone warm to the touch would be surprised, Tim Moore actually admitted he was "thinking about" running for the 14th Congressional Dist., specifically drawn for him with no hindrance this year from a Madison Cawthorn. The shadiest of all General Assembly wheeler-dealers, Tim Moore will have vast new grazing rights in DeeCee. 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Power of Bill Graham's Candidacy for Governor


Mark Walker, suddenly running
for Congress

I wrote on October 18 "Fear of Mark Robinson Spawns a New Competitor" about Salisbury lawyer Bill Graham jumping into the Republican primary for governor. I suggested that he seemed to have some powerful king-makers pushing his candidacy, so it comes as no surprise that Graham has already scrambled the field. Just today comes news that former Congressman and until today candidate for governor Mark Walker is dropping out of that race to run again for his old 6th District congressional seat. I think Bill Graham probably caused him to reevaluate his options.

Hannah Schoenbaum, for the AP:

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Just after the North Carolina General Assembly gave final approval Wednesday to a new congressional map favoring Republicans, a former congressman announced he is dropping out of the Republican primary for governor to try to win back his seat in the U.S. House.

Ex-U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a former Baptist pastor from Greensboro, launched a bid Wednesday to reclaim the district he had represented on Capitol Hill for six years. He held the seat until a previous redistricting cycle opened the door for Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning to take office.

“I didn’t really leave voluntarily,” Walker said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Now that the General Assembly has restored the 6th District to how it’s historically been represented, which is conservative Republican, it felt like this was the right time to reengage with everything going on in the country.”


The End of Democracy in North Carolina


If it's not the end, we can see it from here.

There will be no two-party give-and-take in North Carolina until further notice. The Republican Party of Phil Berger will own it all, from steerage to stateroom, even if the other Republican Party of Mark Robinson wins the governorship, because Phil Berger and his boys have stripped this governor and any subsequent governor of much of their former power. (Robinson will have to be content as just a video sensation.) The courts, of course, will be no help to the rest of us looking for simple fairness. Justices Newby, Berger Jr., Barringer, Dietz, and Allen drove the final nail into fairness -- their ruling very recently that overturned the previous court's decision that partisan gerrymandering inherently violates the rights of voters. Unleashed by the Newby Court, Berger-Moore did (and will continue to do) as they pleased. 

They made themselves -- named in the law as "President Pro Tem of the Senate" and "Speaker of the House" -- heads of a super-secret investigative arm of the legislature known as "Gov Ops." Why do Mr. Berger and Mr. Moore get their own secret police? They also slipped it into the budget that each member of the General Assembly gets to decide which of their communications to hide and which to reveal -- the need to hide kinda screaming incipient corruption. 

They can be petty in their punishments: "Attorneys who work for Legal Aid of North Carolina—which helps low-income people navigate civil courts—can no longer participate in NC LEAF, a state program that helps public-interest lawyers pay their law school debt." They can be (and were) grandiose with their singular innovations: "The General Assembly also gives itself the ability to pick 10 special superior court judges, whom Newby can appoint to hear challenges to General Assembly laws and legislative districts." (Quotes from Jeffrey Billman) Berger-Moore also solidified their control of the commission that is hounding Democratic Justice Anita Earls. Bottomline: They will punish you if you're a problem for them. Hence the sudden interference in how Watauga elects its county commission.

Did I say corruption? It's actually out in the open. Under new provisions in the Republican budget, lobbyists in Raleigh can pay $2,000 each for the privilege of  “expedited entry” into the Legislative Office Building and State Legislative Building. Lobbyists for state agencies pay a reduced $1,000 for that privilege. Please exit through the gift shop. 

When Democrats held absolute power, they also became corrupt. It's an inevitable development for any group that gets so powerful and dominant that they have no credible, let alone organized, challenge to their dictatorial power, no guardrails of a vigilant court system, no debates or the informed backing of the people. Who can resist the corruption, that tickling of flattery and tinkling of coin? And how do you fight it, when its power is unchecked and apparently limitless?

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

She's Actually Worse Than Her Personality


Madam V. Foxx yells "shut up" at the 3:10 point in this C-SPAN video, and she joins the booing of ABC News reporter Rachel Scott for attempting to ask Rep. Mike Johnson, the last great hope for a Republican Speaker of the House, about his involvement in attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Apparently, it's a sore point (and well should be).

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Dale Folwell Slams Republicans in #NCGA for Secrecy Provision


Dale Folwell, state treasurer and current candidate in the Republican primary next March for governor, denounced his fellow Republicans in NCHouse & Senate on October 10th for slipping the provision into the state budget that exempted them from the public records act. He published his statement about it on his official state treasurer website the next day. The act of removing themselves from accountability was so outrageously anti-democratic and prima facie evidence of corruption to boot, that a straight-laced puritan like Dale Folwell couldn't help but break ranks. Folwell wrote:

By allowing individual lawmakers to determine what records are public and what material can be destroyed without ever seeing the sunshine of public view creates a system without standards or accountability. It prevents the public from learning who and what influenced decision-making on their behalf.

In the interview Folwell gave to Dan Kane on October 10th, he emphasized how simple and easy a legislative task it would be for Berger and Moore to simply have their chambers repeal that secrecy provision right now, for the sake of democracy and for the sake of Berger-Moore's own reputations as honorable men. (It's so cute of Folwell to confuse those two with honorable men!)

As far as we can tell, Folwell's press release caused nary a ripple on the placid surface of Republican domination. That's how effective Folwell is as a challenger to Mark Robinson, or to anybody.

In his commentary for NCNewsline Oct. 19, editor Rob Schofield praised Folwell for doing the right thing, despite its effectiveness (lack of).

Monday, October 23, 2023

This Right Here Needs To Be a Federal Lawsuit


Study the map below. It's state senate districts 8 (darker color on left) and 7 (light color next to the ocean) in and around the city of Wilmington, North Carolina. The meandering blue line pretty much down the middle is the Cape Fear River, not only a wide and deep natural barrier to travel but also the county line between New Hanover and Brunswick. So you're called on to note the bulge to the east of the river, that allows the new Senate Dist. 8 to hijack a mainly Black population of Wilmington to cripple a Democrat's shot at beating the Republican incumbent for the NC Senate in District 7. 

Sen. Mike Lee is the incumbent and stands to benefit most from this piece of out-and-out racial gerrymandering for political advantage. Could you get any more obvious? Plus the willingness to greatly inconvenience and discourage a whole class of voters for purely petty and partisan reasons is truly despicable. 

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Sen. Natasha Marcus, Also Gerrymandered Out, Considers Moving


Lisa Grafstein is not the only female member of the NCSenate targeted for elimination in the new maps and willing to move her residence to fight back. Sen. Natasha Marcus in SD41 tells the tale herself of her own experience of being so specifically singled out that it would be comic if it weren't such a crap on fairness. In a press statement released last Friday (reproduced below), Marcus explains what the Republicans did to her:

“Republican map drawers cut a line through my hometown of Davidson, putting most of the town in a new district that is based in Iredell County, and leaving part of Davidson in a new district which is currently represented by [Dem] Sen. Mujtaba Mohammed, who lives fairly far away in east Charlotte,”

[She said her current home is in a part of Davidson that’s moved to the district mostly in Iredell County represented by Republican Sen. Vickie Sawyer. The new district Marcus and Sawyer are drawn into leans Republican by a margin of 62% to 35%, according to analysis by Dave’s Redistricting, which analyzes data from previous elections.]

“The mapmakers knew exactly where my house is and seemingly did this on purpose to try to squeeze me out of the NC Senate,” Marcus said.

She's got all her options open and plenty of rage revving her engines. She says moving to another, fairer district is definitely an option, as is running for a different office altogether.

Sen. Lisa Grafstein Willing To Move Residence


Democrat Lisa Grafstein was just elected to the NC Senate seat from northern Wake in 2022, but the Republicans targeted her with the new NC Senate maps by double-bunking her with another powerful Democrat, Jay Chaudhuri. It would be harmful to both senators to run against each other. So is Lisa Grafstein just out?

The news comes that she's willing to move residence and run further south in Wake.

She's not just a fighter. She's a litigator. This is what we found out about Lisa Grafstein when I wrote about her in October 2022 before she won her seat:

Grafstein is a Raleigh disabilities and civil rights litigator, currently on staff of the non-profit advocacy org Disability Rights North Carolina. She's listed on Super Lawyers as a top rated litigator. She's endorsed by both Lillian's List of North Carolina and by the national PAC Emily's List.

She's a first-time candidate but has a long involvement in politics, mainly running the election campaigns for Democratic judges Linda Stephens, Robin Hudson, and Suzanne Reynolds.

Grafstein won her primary last May against Patrick Buffkin with almost 67% of the vote.

Grafstein thinks she's now being silenced -- little does Ralph Hise know! -- because she's been outspoken for LBGTQ+ rights in that Raleigh room full of unreconstructed old men. She's thinking of moving to another Senate open district with no incumbent. She's no stranger to moving her residence. She says she's lived in many different houses in Wake County in her 33 years there, so another move -- while a pain in the ass, especially so because it's the result of political spite -- would be doable.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

What Tricia Cotham's House District Will Look Like

Below, the new proposed Republican map for redistricting NCHouse seats in Mecklenburg County. Tricia Cotham's House district is currently 112, but Carolina Forward tweeted the map below yesterday, with this comment:

Check out Mecklenburg's new House District 105. Custom-drawn for @triciacotham, it still leans Democratic (as does all of Meck), but - wow. #ncpol


Now that's some gerrymandering! Will it save Cotham's seat? Or will she run for Dan Bishop's 9th CD House seat? If she wants to do that, they better pass the maps in S 756, where the map for the 9th Dist. includes Cotham's Mecklenburg abode, and not the alternate maps in S 757, which will throw CD9 northward and well away from Meck.

Incidentally, NCHouse Dist. 105 is currently held by Democrat Wesley Harris who is giving up the seat to run for Treasurer in 2024.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Gerrymandered To Oblivion: Jeff Jackson Bows Out


Congressman Jeff Jackson, in his first term goddamnit, gets effectively annihilated for reelection by new redistricting maps for North Carolina's 14 US House districts, drawn in total secrecy and behind closed doors by a handful of powerful Republicans (Ralph Hise, Destin Hall, et al.) and sprung on everybody yesterday. Hise's committee in the Senate has actually proposed two different maps. One would pretty much guarantee an 11-3 Republican majority, the other one, a 10-4 split. (It's currently 7-7.) Which map you suppose they'll settle on next week?

But, here, let Jeff Jackson himself fill you in:

In both maps, my current district becomes an R+15 seat. That means the last Republican presidential candidate carried the seat by 15 points.

Just to be clear, it is completely impossible to win a seat that leans the other way by 15 points. Not even a remote chance.

I sent you an email two months ago giving you a heads up about this. Unfortunately, it went exactly the way we predicted.

Many of you will ask about the courts. Well, our state Supreme Court flipped in the last election and is now controlled by the same party as our state legislature, so the widespread expectation is there will be no relief there.

As for the federal courts, a few years ago the U.S. Supreme Court basically legalized political gerrymandering. However, certain forms of racial gerrymandering remain illegal. I’m sure there will be litigation on that front, but I don’t have a clear sense of timeline or likely outcome....

In effect, a farewell. With no word about next steps. He's too good at politics to leave politics -- the best communicator that North Carolina Democrats have anywhere right now -- and clearly with the Phil Berger Bunch in the General Assembly, and Paul Newby at the Supreme Court, state-wide is the only way for Democrats to win. Statewide office for Jeff Jackson sounds like a campaign I'd get involved with.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Does Senator Hise Hate Watauga?

New district maps for NC Senate, proposed in S 758.
Dist. 47, which includes Watauga, sends Ralph Hise to Raleigh


Ralph Hise's "local bill" completely upending the structure of the Watauga County Commission -- evidently to give Republicans a guaranteed (or nearly) advantage in three of five new commissioner districts -- is now moving in the General Assembly.

What Used To Be: Every voter in Watauga County got to vote in all county commish races. Didn't matter where the voter lived. Did matter where the candidate lived, because each of Watauga's 5 districts demanded residency for the candidate. But any voter in, say, Beaver Dam, could also vote for any commissioner candidate representing far off Stony Fork.

What Will Happen Under Hise's Local Bill: There will be five new geographical districts. The only map I've seen is this one, annoyingly devoid of place labels and lines. Hise has presented no map, only population "blocks" under the Census, which can actually be reconstructed into a map. It's clear enough that Boone (deep blue) has been segregated into a single district. Three new, large, and largely rural districts will ring Boone and pretty much guarantee a perpetual 3-man Republican majority on the commish. 

So, We Get It. Hise has power. Some might claim absolute power. He'll probably get this bill through, and it'll be another notch on Trump-era belts (but to us-ens a grotesque abuse of any understanding of democracy, of how a republic is supposed to govern itself). But we get it. We do get it. We're all naked apes, potentially, and why pass up the opportunity to pound your enemy into dirt and eat his cake?

The Republican Realignment of 2023


Currently, the Congressional delegation from North Carolina is split evenly -- 7 Republicans, 7 Democrats -- because in terms of registered voters, the state is also split evenly, 50-50. But the new Congressional maps (two different ones) that the Republican super-majority in Raleigh unveiled yesterday -- given the blessing of Chief Justice Paul Newby and the promise that the Court will not stand in the way -- presents another stunning power-grab for a state that is not in fact that red. These guys in Raleigh are doing precisely what most of the people in three public hearings begged them not to do.

Best representation of how they've gerrymandered the 14 Congressional districts is the partisan realignment chart on one of the two maps (S 757) published by Dr. Michael Bitzer:

Democrats who've retained "safe" districts in this map: Rep. Alma Adams (CD12), Valerie Foushee (CD4), and Deborah Ross (CD2). Democrat Donald Davis's CD1 will be a toss-up. The rest look pretty safely Republican, which means Kathy Manning (CD6), Wiley Nickel (CD13), and Jeff Jackson (CD14) were targeted for elimination.

The people doing this have also made themselves as safely insulated as possible in the maps they've drawn for their own NC House and Senate districts. They intend to do their worst under the sanction of their own sanctified ambition.

This is the map (S 757) that Bitzer analyzed above:

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Fear of Mark Robinson Spawns a New Competitor


In 2008 -- the last year that North Carolina Democrats swept governor, US senator, and president -- a Salisbury lawyer named Bill Graham ran a very distant 3rd (with only 9% of the vote) in the crowded Republican primary for governor. Pat McCrory won that primary with 46% of the vote but went on to lose the fall election to Bev Perdue (of clouded memory). Bill Graham went back to lawyering in Salisbury and made a lot of money. 

Graham announced his candidacy today for governor. He said that he's donating $5 million of his personal fortune to his campaign and expects to be running TV spots before the first of November. David M. Drucker, a Vanity Fair contributor who just published his 1st book, In Trump's Shadow: The Battle for 2024 and the Future of the Republican Party, wrote in The Dispatch that Graham is the great white hope of North Carolina conservatives who've grown wary of Mark Robinson's talent for self-immolation. "Republican insiders in North Carolina worry Robinson has too much baggage to win a high-profile contest in a battleground state that has seen Democrats occupy the governor’s mansion for most of the last three decades," writes Drucker.

Don't be fooled. Bill Graham may not bluster like Robinson and break the furniture -- he's a smooth operator with juries in personal injury lawsuits, which is a specialty of his -- but he's ever-bit as hard-core conservative as Robinson. Graham's announcement contained this boilerplate: "We need a nominee who will have the resources, discipline, and character needed to defeat the far-left Josh Stein in November." Labeling with coded language is sooo 1990, and that slur is ridiculous to boot. Josh Stein ain't "far left." 

Graham's bio on his law firm's website paints a picture and checks many boxes:

A committed conservative, he has been a strong supporter of The Jesse Helms Center, where he currently serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors, and is an active member in the American Conservative Union. Bill served on the U.S. Agriculture Committee for Senator Jesse Helms.

The rest of Drucker's important reporting was hidden from me behind a paywall, which I didn't breach. I'm already in-heavy paying my way. 

The problem With a Very Common Name 

I dare you to Google "Bill Graham" and deal with the thicket of other Bill Grahams, including the late evangelist and a 19th-century governor. You'll find no campaign presence whatsoever for anything resembling "Bill Graham for North Carolina Governor"-- nothing but Drucker's singular piece and an AP story -- no discernible Bill Graham social media presence at all -- no website, no Twitter, no nothing.

Was this candidacy rushed, do you think? And we'd lust to know what Drucker knows, since Drucker obviously has an inside source who leaked the draft announcement to him. Drucker also alludes to a Bill Graham YouTube announcement, which I also can't find. Maybe it'll be released by the time I get this posted. Dunno. I'll want to see it.

Graham is fully capable -- given his past -- of making himself important on TV. He first earned notoriety by leading a crusade against the state gas tax in 2006 while also running for Cabarrus County Commish. I posted about Graham in December of that year:

You may have seen Graham's mug on your TV set during the past year. First he was yelling about the state's gas tax. Closer to the November election, Graham switched his yelling to illegal immigration. He was still on as of last Sunday, on local Channel 18, during "NC Spin."

Taxes and immigration. It doesn't get any more "Standard Conservative Talking Point" than that.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Maybe Mark Robinson Is Just a Big Dope

Mark Robinson's blowhard and ill-considered proclamations keep reappearing out of the not-at-all-distant past, like the clip below from 2018. (It's an interview from "The King's Report," a podcast of peculiar origin, which may also rank on whatever scale you personally maintain for Most Bizarre Host of a podcast. "The King's Report" is hosted by Rev. Hyung Jin "Sean" Moon, the son and successor to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. In the podcast, Sean Moon is wearing camo and a crown fashioned from high-caliber bullets. King of the world indeed.) 

It's an hour-long podcast meant to showcase and celebrate the grassroots fightin' genius of Mark Robinson, private citizen at the time, whose recent bravura speech before the Greensboro City Council protesting any restrictions on gun shows had gone completely viral in conservative circles. Robinson was and is an amazingly effective and fluid speaker. When he's in his groove and feels particularly self-righteous, he does not stumble nor hesitate. He's a natural-born preacher, really, and his text is always the unjust shenanigans of pussy liberals who threaten the freedom of born-again Christians. With the volume of his voice and the certitude of his pronouncements, Robinson symbolizes and embodies the fighting spirit that made Donald Trump such an avatar. Robinson, recall, was rising to speak at the hearing in Greensboro during the first two years of the Trump presidency, when pugnacious truculence was becoming the prevailing style. 

The independent news-gathering blog "Charlotte Stories" was the first to unearth a pretty remarkable performance by Robinson soon after his star-turn in front of the Greensboro City Council. Robinson went on Rev. Sean Moon's podcast as an enthusiastic amen-er for that militant version of Christianity, which doesn't emphasize so much the loving arms of Jesus as the iron scourge of right-wing purity. According to Moon, most government (at least all of it not run by Donald Trump) and "the elites" are nothing more than tools of Satan who must be confronted by armed resistance if necessary (which explains the crown of bullets, the camo, and the high-capacity assault rifle sitting prominently on top of Moon's desk). When Moon runs out of breath for his bursts of resentment against the godless elites, Robinson throws in his own Gospel that "leftists hi-jacked liberalism," that they have been leading the blind into greater dependency on government, which means greater power for Democratic politicians. Moon applauds all of that but has his own fish to fry. It's not until the 50:37 mark on the podcast that Moon gets around to the evil of "banks" and "bankers," "Soros and the Rothschild group," appearing to make this very logical connection: that Hitler had to do genocide of the Jews to "pay back" the Jewish bankers:

“When Hitler genocided all those folks -- the Jews and the gypsies, etc., -- in Germany, the national debt of Germany actually went down. It didn’t go up. It went down. He was paying back the bankers.”

To which bizarre enunciation of anti-Semitism Mark Robinson only mumbled, “mmhmm, mmhmm, yeah.” 

Burning Question Number One: Why would Robinson go on this podcast with this particular influencer? I mean, why? Because he had only just begun to be famous, and he was clearly infatuated by all the praise Moon heaped on him as a fighter for guns and godliness. After the Greensboro speech -- which incidentally Moon includes in its entirety at the beginning of this podcast (if you've never seen it), Robinson was enamored of his own sudden notoriety, eager for more media hype, and he didn't mind the reputation of whoever would give him air. Now that he's a successful politician running for higher office and clearly being coached to rein it in, I doubt he'd go on the "King's Report."

Burning Question Number Two: Charlotte Stories wanted to use Robinson's reaction to Moon's anti-Semitism as proof of Robinson's anti-Semitism. I think Robinson's mmmhmm, mmhmm, yeah was probably more indicative of "I haven't got a clue what you just said." That moment, not to mention the whole hour-long production, just screams dumb chump. Had Robinson done any research on Moon and his movement? Dunno. Maybe he didn't care. Maybe he only focused on going off as he likes to go off, in that blustering, preachy style of his, and Sean Moon was clearly dee-lighted with the Black man going after the white socialist elites. Was Mark Robinson so ambitious for more notoriety that he'd jump on a crazy train? Or did he really agree with all those Moon pronouncements?

Friday, October 13, 2023

'The Mark Robinson Show' Gets Bad Reviews


So one of Mark Robinson's political advisors -- or maybe Robinson came up with this himself -- decided that a sterling opportunity had arrived for candidate Mark Robinson to not just aspire to be governor but to be the governor -- because Roy Cooper is in Japan on a business recruitment trip and the lieutenant governor is technically the "acting" governor in his absence. In that role on Wednesday Robinson solemnly announced a "special event" -- which WRAL labeled a "mystery," cause Robinson wouldn't say what it was all about -- for the following day in the NC Senate chambers (where Robinson is privileged to preside as lieutenant governor but rarely does). The special event turned out to be Robinson's stumbling over prepared remarks proclaiming "North Carolina Solidarity with Israel Week" and wordage someone else wrote for him about how North Carolina stands strongly behind the Jewish people. (Who would dare deny that Mark Robinson is a classic opportunist?) He also condemned "anti-semitism," repeating the term several times (and having trouble pronouncing it repeatedly). But that part of the special event worked against him because it sparked almost all of the questions at the subsequent press conference, questions about his past statements that have struck many as anti-semitic. (Was it just an unfortunate tic or a "tell" that he stumbled over "anti-semitism" every time he said it?) (WRAL features a 10-minute video of the entire event, including the unfortunate-for-Robinson press conference.)

Robinson said,
“But I think what we’re seeing here now is the state of North Carolina including me as one of its top leaders, we are dedicated to stamping out antisemitism wherever we find it. And we are definitely dedicated to standing with the nation of Israel as they deal with real antisemitism that has turned into murderous violence. And so our position is clear. There is no antisemitism standing here in front of you, and I can definitely say in the state of North Carolina, the majority of North Carolinians feel the same.”

I'll boil them cabbage down: Asked directly if he would now apologize for the statements he's made about Jews, particularly some Facebook posts that he now disavows (or sez he does), Robinson said, "I apologize for the wording, not the content."

Hmmmm. So instead of calling the producer of the movie "Black Panther" -- Robinson hated it -- "an agnostic Jew," the wording should have been "an agnostic" and the whole vibe is fixed, right? No one will ever be the wiser.

Dale Folwell

The response to Robinson's actorship as governor that caught my attention was the one issued by Republican-rival-for governor Dale Folwell, who minced no words and addressed Robinson directly:

I could not, in good conscience, accept your invitation as a member of the Council of State to stand with you at your press conference this morning.

You have regrettably seized the opportunity to engage in a stunt with dubious authority as acting governor during a brief interlude while Gov. Cooper is overseas conducting state business. How can you pretend to be governor when the record is clear that you haven’t done your job as lieutenant governor? As a person who has shamefully denied the Holocaust and whose history is checkered with hateful anti-Semitic comments you have no right to be commenting on this topic.... (emphasis added)

Whoa. That attack seems particularly well aimed. 

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Tim Moore: 'It Was Phil's Fault!'


Well, granted, Tim Moore didn't say it that directly. No, he was pussyfooting but also being bold perhaps in the knowledge that he won't be Speaker for much longer. So pointing out the failures of Phil Berger may seem less taboo (or not seem like you're just begging for a beating). 

Republican Senate leader Berger sprang the gambling casino language in the state budget and many members of his own party felt blindsided, especially in Tim Moore's House of Reps, and despite what Tim Moore may have promised Berger beforehand -- that he could deliver the House to legalize casino gambling -- he couldn't deliver the House, and Berger lashed out at him as an unreliable partner, and then Speaker Moore took a small measure of revenge when he spoke with reporters very recently and pointed the finger of blame in the general direction of Mr. Berger: “The way that it was done, the way in not going through a committee process like we did on the sports betting, I think – like you used the word earlier ‘doomed’ it -- I think it did.” That's tortured language to say what you're a little bit afraid of saying out loud, that it's all Phil Berger's fault that casino gambling didn't get legalized in North Carolina in 2023. The Fixer couldn't fix it because of his own arrogance. Berger had been dictatorial and brazen with the budget fiasco, because General Assembly rules mandate that the budget gets voted on as an all-or-nothing proposal, meaning once it’s on the floor for a vote there are no amendments allowed. Many of Moore's House Republicans didn't like that one bit.

“There were people who probably would have supported it as a standalone bill who just felt like the way it was being done and not having any input in it, didn’t work,” said Speaker Moore.

But as some smart people have already predicted, and Tim Moore certainly agrees, casino gambling ain't really dead, because they believe it will reemerge in some new duds in next year's General Assembly session, and Phil Berger has already signaled that will happen. When Berger comes again with his prize package, he'll figure out how to buy off all that conservative opposition, and he'll have plenty of PAC money to do it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The Rush To Grab Power Slips on the Ice


I'm indebted to Rob Schofield's NCNewsline podcast of October 9th for new information on just how awful the hidden provisions in the state budget are turning out to be. They're not just naked and crushing power-grabs but also so badly written that some of them can't be enforced. Two examples:

Schofield: "The State Board of Education learned from its attorney that while it can hear appeals from parents regarding local school board actions under the new Parents Bill of Rights, it has no authority to take any action." 

Previous reporting
Under the controversial law, educators must alert parents if their child changes their name or pronoun at school. It also restricts instruction about gender identity and sexuality in K-4 classrooms and makes provisions for parents to review schoolbooks.

Parents can take concerns to the state board if a concern has not been resolved by a local school district within 30 days. Parents must submit concerns to the state board in writing.

Bad Law-Writing Example Number 2:

"The UNC-Chapel Hill official directed to establish a new conservative school on the campus [the School of Civic Life and Leadership] by year’s end, says some of the directives he faces are so illogical that they defy the laws of physics."

Previous reporting:

In addition to a $2 million allocation in each of the next two fiscal years, the budget sets an aggressive hiring deadline of December 31 for the school’s dean. Typically, such a hiring process can take a year or more. The budget also requires the university to hire between 10 and 20 tenured or tenure track faculty for the new school from outside the university....

Prominent faculty members [said that] mandating details down to the number and type of faculty to be hired and from where they must come is a clear message from the legislature that a faculty-led process cannot be trusted to create the school the legislature’s Republican majority wants in the way it wants it.


Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Voting Rights Task Force Sues Over S 747


Immediately after the override of Governor Cooper's veto of S 747 this morning in the General Assembly, the Watauga County Voting Rights Task Force et al. brought suit in Wake Superior Court seeking "declarative and injunctive relief" against a section of the new law governing same-day voter registration, which the suit alleges is a "harmful provision [that] threatens to disenfranchise eligible voters without due process of law and, in some cases, based on mistakes made by third-parties over which the voter has no control."

From plantiffs' petition:

Prior to the passage of S 747, North Carolina’s same-day registrants’ votes were counted unless the post office returned two pieces of “undeliverable” mail. At worst, two undeliverable notices might result in a public challenge to the same-day registrants’ vote being counted, if a challenge was received by 5 p.m. on the day of the election. But even if a same-day registrants’ ballot was challenged, the registrant was entitled to notice and a hearing to defend their vote in the face of such a challenge.

The Undeliverable Mail Provision of S 747 prohibits Defendants from registering a same-day voter and counting that voter’s ballot if the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) returns as “undeliverable” a single notice sent to that voter (the “Address Verification Notice”) before the close of business on the business day before the canvass. Now, these voters do not receive any notice that their ballot was removed from the official count, let alone an opportunity to be heard in defense of their vote counting. Nor are they made aware that their registration was not effectuated. Instead, they are automatically disenfranchised and not registered to vote—all without being afforded any process to contest the removal of their votes from the count or their exclusion from the voter rolls.

This provision undermines North Carolina’s long-standing same-day registration process, wherein eligible North Carolinians may both register to vote and cast their ballots on the same day during the early voting period. Same-day registration has long been a popular and important way for new registrants to access the franchise. In the 2022 general election alone, 104,336 voters relied on it to exercise their right to vote. Those numbers were even higher for the most recent presidential election: in the 2020 general election, 116,065 North Carolinians voted using same-day registration.

The Watauga Voting Rights Task Force and the other plaintiffs are being represented in the suit by the Elias Group. 

The Election Law Vetoes That Will Be Overridden Today


S 747 removes the 3-day "grace period" for getting mail-in ballots to boards of elections. Under this law, all mail-in ballots must be received by Election Day. Gov. Cooper vetoed this bill on August 24th.

S 749 completely restructures all local and state boards of elections so that deadlock is assured with equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, all of them dug into partisan bunkers (unless one Democrat decides to cave because he just wants everyone to get along.) Cooper vetoed on September 28th.

While Republicans say the even split on the boards will lead to more bipartisan decisions, critics of the idea say it could lead to deadlock on important issues such as where to place early voting sites and certifying election results, potentially sending that to courts or the General Assembly to resolve.

Under state law, if there’s deadlock on where to place early voting sites, a county would default to having a single site. (Michael Hyland)

And that's precisely how the Republicans in Watauga can get rid of a polling site on the AppState campus, going around a court order due to stalemate on the Board of Elections. The default when the Board can't agree on an early voting plan is that there is only one early voting site available in that county -- the local board office.

Yeah, that's the kind of chaos the Republicans have created.

Some Laws Demand To Be Broken


Coined by scholar Jarvis Givens, “fugitive pedagogy” refers to the subversive strategies Black educators used to teach students the skills to think and to survive despite a system of education that was designed to only prepare them for manual labor.

--Lisa Delpit, MacArthur "genius" honoree, author of Multiplication Is For White People (quoted here)

"Jarvis Givens is a [young!] professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a faculty affiliate in the department of African & African American Studies at Harvard University" (Harvard bio). His first book in 2021 was titled Fugitive Pedagogy because it traced the history of Black educators -- either informal teachers or licensed instructors -- who managed to pass along to their Black students knowledge and information that they weren't meant to have. That's the fugitive part. The pedagogy consisted of "This is who you are, this is who we are, this is how we got here, this is how we've managed to survive here."

Some Black educators are warning that new days have dawned where the teaching of racial reality can get you canned. Fugitive pedagogy becomes a thing again, but it shouldn't be the tool of Black teachers only. White teachers who know a hawk from a handsaw should also participate in undermining the conservative push to make everything seem as rosy as possible and the status quo as guilt-free as a Sunday picnic.

Monday, October 09, 2023

Guiliani Agonistes


In my business, sometimes you come across English sentences that are such astonishing uses of the language that you grab your Commonplace Book, and you copy it down where it will always be. A sentence that surprised and satisfied your curiosity. A construction of balance and beauty.

I read a long piece in the New York Times by Matt Flegenheimer and Maggie Haberman about Rudolph Guiliani's drinking problem and why it's become an issue in whether Donald Trump has an excuse for his actions on January 6th. This sentence froze me: 

Yet to almost anyone in proximity, friends say, Mr. Giuliani’s drinking has been the pulsing drumbeat punctuating his descent — not the cause of his reputational collapse but the ubiquitous evidence, well before Election Day in 2020, that something was not right with the former president’s most incautious lieutenant.

I was online. If it had been in a book in my lap, I would have grabbed a pencil to mark it. The very architecture of logical thought -- and a sweep of history -- achieved via the versatility of the English language. (That trailing whipsaw of a dependent clause!)

I don't know who of the Times team, Flegenheimer or Haberman, wrote that particular sentence, but because his name comes first, I think it might be Matt Flegenheimer's work. Outstanding, whoever.

Sunday, October 08, 2023

Don't Ask Mark Robinson How Things Work


The Daily Haymaker claims that Mark Robinson has "ducked out" on two Republican primary debates. Not so much "debates" as I understand them, but rather "joint appearances" with his Republican rivals for governor where questions are posed to the candidates. One of those happened in Charlotte. The Republican Women of Greater Charlotte invited all five of the announced Republican candidates to a luncheon on September 13. All came except Robinson. WBTV reporter Brett Jensen reported his absence and also reported on a straw poll of the 130 attendees, in which Robinson got 11% to Dale Folwell and Mark Walker's 40% each. Robinson "continues to see his lead shrink," Jensen tweeted

In another tweet from that luncheon, Jensen quoted one of the attack lines being used by Mark Walker, who has been pulling no punches in his criticism of Robinson. “In 2022, Republicans won independent voters by 9%. According to Mr. Robinson‘s own polling, he’s now down 17 points among unaffiliated, female voters. You can’t win a statewide race if you’re down 17 points among unaffiliated women voters. You probably shouldn’t be saying women can’t lead .... That’s probably a detriment when you’re trying to get the female vote.”

But get real. Either Folwell or Walker should drop out -- would have to drop out -- to help build a united team against Robinson -- for it to mean anything come March's primary.

Friday, October 06, 2023

Dan Bishop's Fake Teeth


He snarls. He growls. He froths at the mouth. Especially when Kevin McCarthy was Speaker and Bishop was a member in good standing of the Freedom Caucus. Back in May, Bishop was the very first House Republican to publicly float ousting McCarthy after McCarthy snubbed the hardliners in his caucus to negotiate a debt ceiling deal with President Biden. “It is inescapable to me. It has to be done,” Bishop told reporters then. "It" meaning vacate the Chair.

But not so much last Tuesday. McCarthy voted to keep McCarthy, saying that Matt Gaetz's motion to vacate was just creating chaos when chaos is the last thing that the sanctified Dan Bishop wants to see ... having cheered lustily just days before for a government shutdown if he didn't get his way on spending. “Among Republicans, there are those who don’t think we should make a change to anything that happens up here,” Bishop said. “And I am going to cast every single vote to see to it that the direction changes. We’re going to change the way this institution functions, so far as I have any control of it.”

Mission accomplished!

But Bishop is running away from that congressional job anyway, leaving the US House to run in 2024 for attorney general of North Carolina, which is evidently in need of its own new dose of chaos and dysfunction. Dan Bishop can do the job. Or at least snarl, growl, and froth at the mouth, while others do the actual dirty deeds.


Thursday, October 05, 2023

The Mark Robinson Turn of Mind


Hattip: Progress NC Action

The Stamping of Tiny Feet

We all saw #GavelSlam, and I at least respect rage. But Patrick McHenry's pique went petty and dark very quickly. As soon as he got back to his new office, flanked by his new security detail, McHenry sent the message to Nancy Pelosi, who's currently attending Dianne Feinstein's funeral and wasn't even in the Capitol for the ousting of McCarthy -- that she was being kicked out of her hideaway office in the Capitol. "You got less than 24 hours to get the hell out." Words to that effect (see the news tweet below). (Incidentally, many senior members of Congress have small offices in the Capitol, in addition to their big suites in the Congressional office bldgs.). 

Here was the news:

Greg Olear tweet: "Interim Speaker flexing his muscles in the most Alpha Male way possible—by making the octogenarian grandmother move furniture while she’s on the other coast at her dear friend’s funeral. Tough guy, this McHenry. Not one to trifle with."

Joe Killian tweet: "There are a number of ways to elicit respect, project authority and express outrage that do not involve dramatically slamming a gavel down, even if you're 5'8'' with your lifts in and given to wearing bow ties. But they aren't going to win the big stuffed bear at the carnival."

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Some More Toys Berger-Moore Gave Themselves in the New Budget


Another provision slipped into the state budget follows the established theme: More power specifically for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and Speaker of the House X (whoever follows Tim Moore -- Destin Hall, a contender -- because Moore is retiring). In this case, it's power to operate what amounts to a secret police. That boils down to the Power to Torture. For reals! The following specific applications were compiled by Crooks and Liars -- bludgeons given to a committee chaired and controlled by Berger-Moore:

The Joint Legislative Committee on Government Operations (Gov Ops for short), is  empowered to seize “any document or system of record” from anyone who works in or with state and local government during its investigations. The rule applies to contractors, subcontractors, and any other non-state entity “receiving, directly and indirectly, public funds,” including charities and state universities.

Gov Ops staff will be authorized to enter “any building or facility” owned or leased by a state or non-state entity without a judicial warrant. This includes the private residences of subcontractors and contractors who run businesses out of their homes.

Public employees under investigation will be required to keep all communication and requests “confidential.” They cannot alert their supervisor of the investigation nor consult with legal counsel. Violating this rule “shall be grounds for disciplinary action, including dismissal,” the law reads. Those who refuse to cooperate face jail time and fines of up to $1,000. In the event that Gov Ops searches a person’s home, these rules mean that the person 1) must keep the entry a secret, 2) cannot seek outside help (unless necessary for fulfilling the request, the law says), and 3) could face criminal charges if Gov Ops deems them uncooperative.

The killer clause is the secrecy that a target of investigation is supposed to maintain. That's police state shit right there. They want you isolated from any help, let alone sympathy.