Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Fwd: What to Do With a Problem Like Duane Hall

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From: INDY Week: Primer <>

Hey y'all! My apologies again for missing Monday and Tuesday, but it's good to be back with you. If you haven't had a chance, please go vote for this year's Best of the Triangle nominees, which you can do by clicking here. As always, you can check out the web-browser version of this newsletter here
THE GIST: I wrote at some length this week about Duane Hall problem, the centrist Democratic lawmaker who was accused last week of several incidents sexual misconduct, including making degrading statements and forcibly kissing a woman. Hall has declined calls from party officials to resign, saying he would leave his fate to voters. But on Sunday, he went on the offensive, claiming the allegations against him arose from a conspiracy of sorts. From my piece: 
  • "On Sunday, Hall went on the attack, telling WUNC in a statement that not only was he not guilty and would not resign, but the allegations against him were the result of a vendetta, a reprisal for him dating and then breaking up with the daughter of NC Justice Center executive director and former state representative Rick Glazier. [NC Policy Watch, which first reported the allegations, is an arm of the NC Justice Center.] 'Policy Watch staff then spent months and much effort aggressively contacting colleagues, associates, and acquaintances to manufacture gossip,' he said. '… I ask that you consider the personal motives of this group in soliciting stories.' He continued: 'I won't run away so a tiny far-left element of my party can finish their attack and install a person of their choosing in House Seat District 11 without a vote of the people.'"
  • "On Monday, Hall told me in a text message (he declined to be interviewed): 'I've had personal relationships with several people at NC Policy Watch. There is no way for me to know what degree that played a role, but it has been confirmed to me by one of them that it was discussed at length and the father of the girl I broke up with [Rick Glazier], who is also the [executive director], edited, proofed, and had final say over this story. The main point of my statement is that minimal journalistic integrity demands those relationships should have been disclosed.'"
  • In a statement [all sic] released yesterday [N&O], Hall doubled down on these claims: "They now admit significant ethical conflicts regarding my ex girlfriends which they refused to disclose in their blogs. Their source [Ben Julen] publicly called for me to have primary opposition on February 12—two weeks before the blog release. NC Policy Watch refused to disclose the public Tweets and political motivations of their sources." After noting that the NC Justice Center is a 501c3 barred from intervening in political campaigns, he continues: "NC Policy Watch must explain their bloggers coordination with other political campaigns to time the release of their story for the end of primary filing. … [I]t is obvious they engaged in prohibited campaigning and coordination. NC Policy Watch activities amount to direct intervention in a political campaign and are a violation of their IRS status." 

WHAT IT MEANS: I fully understand that Hall believes he's being railroaded and that he's done nothing wrong, but this is a really thin branch he's stepping out on. First he accuses Policy Watch of a conspiracy, then he says it violated IRS regulations. Talk about shooting the messenger! More important, though, is that this is all diversionary bullshit, and I suspect Hall knows it. 
  • It makes perfect sense, after all, that a person who has accused Hall of misconduct would want to see his primaried. And if Policy Watch was out to get Hall, why would they wait to publish until the last day of filing, instead of weeks earlier, when higher-profile Dems could run against him? 
  • As I wrote: "Maybe Policy Watch should have disclosed the relationship between Hall and its executive director's daughter. And maybe we should all be skeptical of trial-by-media. But none of that undercuts the numerous, credible women who have accused him of abhorrent behavior that can't be brushed aside as mere flirtation. And trying to pin this on an allegedly jilted lover's angry father, rather than to accept responsibility for his own behavior, is a serious failure of judgment. Come down off that cross, Duane. You're not the victim here, and martyrdom doesn't suit you."

  According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people died from guns in North Carolina in 2016 than in any year in at least the last three decades [Charlotte Obs. via N&O]. That year, more than 1,400 people died from guns, an increase of 120 over 2015. 
  • "Experts are not yet sure why the numbers are rising. But a jump in firearm-related homicides appears to have driven the increase. Homicides involving guns climbed to 558 in 2016–a 27 percent increase over the previous year." 
  • "Gun deaths in North Carolina have risen significantly faster than the state's population. For every 100,000 people, about 14 died from firearms in 2016. That was the highest rate since 1997. … The pace of gun deaths here continues to exceed the national rate, about 12 gun deaths for every 100,000 people in 2016."
  • "Gun control advocates—including Becky Ceartas, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence—blame the state's laws. In its scorecard of state gun laws, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives North Carolina a D-."
  • "As more people carry guns, 'there inevitably will be a rise in the number of people who use that gun in some sort of altercation,' said Mike Turner, chair of UNC Charlotte's criminology department. From 2015 to 2016, the number of concealed carry permits issued in North Carolina climbed from about 68,000 to about 107,000, according to the State Bureau of Investigation. Last year, about 74,000 permits were issued."

WHAT IT MEANS: According to former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Darrel Stephens, cops across the state attribute this rise to social media, with young people becoming inflamed by taunts on Twitter and Facebook and lashing out. Perhaps that's true. But the bigger, far more consequential, and blindingly obvious issue to me is that it is simply too easy for people with homicidal intentions to access guns in North Carolina. Of course, don't bet on the General Assembly to do anything about that. 
THE GIST:  Another day, another high-profile departure from the West Wing. This time it's Gary Cohn, President Trump's top economic adviser, who decided that the president's absurd tariffs proposal was the hill he chose to die on [WaPo].
  • "Gary Cohn, the White House's top economic adviser, announced Tuesday that he was leaving the administration amid a major internal clash over President Trump's sharp and sudden pivot toward protectionist trade policies. The departure of Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs who had been an interlocutor between the Trump administration and the business community, is the latest jolt to a White House that has been especially tumultuous in recent weeks and unable to retain some of its top talent. His resignation as National Economic Council director will leave the White House without a financial heavyweight who business executives and foreign leaders believed had served as a counter to Trump's protectionist impulses and as a moderating force in other areas."
  • "Last week, communications director Hope Hicks resigned. In February, staff secretary Rob Porter was forced out over domestic abuse allegations. That followed the departures of deputy national security adviser Dina Powell and Cohn's deputy on the National Economic Council, Jeremy Katz. Taken together, the departures diminish the White House faction of free trade advocates who hold more traditional views on economics and more closely align with Republican leaders in Congress."
  • "This came after Cohn spent months trying to steer Trump away from tariffs and trade wars. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also lobbied against the tariffs. But they were eventually outmaneuvered by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, trade adviser Peter Navarro and ultimately Trump himself. Financial markets reacted negatively to Cohn's announcement, with Dow futures diving immediately afterward."
  • "Trump admired Cohn as a wealthy titan of Wall Street, but the two men had an on-again, off-again relationship—which was nearly severed in August after the deadly white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville. After privately seething over Trump's claim that 'both sides' were responsible for the violence, Cohn voiced his criticism publicly in an interview with the Financial Times that was interpreted as a rebuke of his boss. But Trump and Cohn repaired their relationship during last fall's push for tax cuts, which became the administration's first major legislative accomplishment."

WHAT IT MEANS: Notice here that Cohn didn't leave after Trump's white-supremacist comments, or after he did any of the many things he does that target minorities and immigrants and LGBTQ people. He stayed then because of tax cuts, and he's leaving now because Trump is acting contrary to the desires of multinational corporations. You could make the argument, of course, that Trump's white-supremacist talk didn't directly conflict with Cohn's gig; you could also argue, however, that this shows where the former Goldman Sachs executive's priorities lie. 
  • That being said, it's not like the multinationals are the only ones opposing Trump's half-baked tariff idea. According to a new Quinnipiac poll, a majority of Americans disapprove of the tariff plan, and nearly two thirds believe (accurately) that a trade war would be good for the U.S.
  • As the Post story noted, Cohn is just the tip of the iceberg for an unusually unstable administration. From the AP: "President Donald Trump once presided over a reality show in which a key cast member exited each week. The same thing seems to be happening in his White House. Trump's West Wing has descended into a period of unparalleled tumult amid a wave of staff departures—and despite the president's insistence that it's a place of 'no Chaos, only great Energy!' The latest key figure to announce an exit: Gary Cohn, Trump's chief economic adviser, who had clashed with Trump over trade policy."
  • "Cohn's departure has sparked internal fears of an even larger exodus, raising concerns in Washington of a coming 'brain drain' around the president that will only make it more difficult to advance his already languishing policy agenda. While Trump has publicly tried to dispel perceptions of disarray, multiple White House officials said the president has been pushing anxious aides to stay on the job to try to staunch the bleeding. 'Everyone wants to work in the White House,' Trump insisted during a news conference Tuesday. 'They all want a piece of the Oval Office.' The reality is a far different story."

Related: North Carolina brewers are worried about Donald Trump's tariffs. [McClatchy via N&O] 

Mark Rauterkus
Swimming and Water Polo Coach, Schenley High School, Pittsburgh, PA
412 298 3432 = cell

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