The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Why do Republicans elect horrible human beings?

US Representative Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) yesterday laid out his love of American democracy at an event back home:

Now, did he really mean the election, or just the XPOTUS losing by more votes in history to now-President Biden? The more you learn about Cawthorn, the more it seems he said what he meant:

Within 72 hours of taking office, Cawthorn made headlines for helping to recruit and incite the mob that attacked the Capitol trying to subvert the peaceful and constitutional transfer of power and steal the presidency for Donald Trump.

In February 2021, TSA agents caught Cawthorn with a gun in his carry-on bag as he attempted to pass through security and board a commercial flight at the Asheville Regional Airport.

Cawthorn’s official conduct is no better than his personal conduct.  He has missed 36 of 519 roll call votes. That means he failed to report for duty 6.9% of the time, more than triple the median of 2.1% missed votes by his 434 House colleagues.

Western North Carolina may be better served when Cawthorn does not show up for work. He voted against funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program that provides $3.4 million annually to 13 mountain counties with non-taxable federal land.  He voted against funding for the Safe Rural Schools program that provides over $1 million a year to our schools. He voted against VA health care eligibility for Burn Pit Veterans. He was the lone member of the North Carolina House delegation to vote against the Opioid Prescription Verification Act.

Moe Davis, the author of that column and Cawthorn's opponent in November 2020, left out a few other details that Wikipedia helpfully fills in:

U.S. Representative Mark Meadows nominated Cawthorn to the United States Naval Academy in 2014, but his application was rejected before his 2014 car accident; Cawthorn had claimed during his congressional campaign in advertisements that the accident "derailed" his plans to attend the Academy.[13][6][17][7] Cawthorn subsequently said that at the time of the injury, he knew only that he had been nominated to the Academy and that he had expected to be accepted, and added that he never said that he had been accepted before the accident took place, but could have applied again later.[18][19] But in a lawsuit deposition, Cawthorn admitted that he had been rejected before the accident.[12]

During the fall 2016 semester, Cawthorn attended Patrick Henry College, studying political science, but earned mostly D grades and dropped out. He said his grades were low primarily because his injuries had interfered with his ability to learn.[13] Cawthorn said in a deposition, "You know, suffering from a brain injury after the accident definitely I think it slowed my brain down a little bit. Made me less intelligent. And the pain also made reading and studying very difficult."[20] He also said he withdrew due to "heartbreak" after his fiancée broke up with him.[7][21]

In a 2021 speech, he called women "earthen vessels sanctified by almighty God".[83] In 2021, he joined the House Freedom Caucus, a caucus of conservative House Republicans.[84] He describes himself as "fiscally conservative", says his stance on immigration is "conservative", and supports legal gun ownership, opposing gun control legislation.[85]

In August 2020, during Cawthorn's campaign for Congress, several women came forward accusing him of sexually aggressive behavior, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault.[6][97][98][99] Katrina Krulikas described an incident when she was 17 and Cawthorn was 19 in which Cawthorn pressured her to sit on his lap and attempted to kiss her forcefully twice, which she resisted.[12] Cawthorn did not deny the allegations, but said, "I did try and kiss her, just very normal, just in a flirtatious way", adding, "If I did make her feel unsafe, I feel bad", but questioned the timing of her allegation.[100] His campaign characterized Krulikas's allegations as politically motivated, which she denied.[99]

After Krulikas made her allegations, three other women made allegations of sexual misconduct against Cawthorn, including forcible grabbing and kissing.[97] One woman said Cawthorn called her "just a little blonde, slutty American girl" when she rejected his sexual advances.[12][7]

On October 17, 2020, a group of Patrick Henry College alumni released a public letter accusing Cawthorn of "sexually predatory behavior" while he was a student there for little more than one semester, as well as of vandalism and lying. The letter originally had 10 signatories but the number increased to over 150 alumni. Cawthorn claimed that most of the signers did not know him personally and his campaign posted a letter of support for him signed by six alumni, two of whom work for Cawthorn's campaign. The letter implied support by former Patrick Henry College President Michael Farris; Farris disavowed the support letter and asked that he not be associated with it.[101]

A February 2021 BuzzFeed News investigation found 20 people who said that Cawthorn had harassed his female classmates during college; the reporters spoke to four women who said that Cawthorn had harassed them. It was alleged that Cawthorn often recklessly drove women in his car to remote areas off campus while asking them sexual questions, which he called "fun drives". Two resident assistants said they warned women to avoid Cawthorn and not to ride in his car. A male acquaintance said Cawthorn bragged about pulling a woman into his lap and putting a finger between her legs.[7]

So, basically, Cawthorn is an entitled, misogynist, philandering, lying asshole, who represents Christian white male privilege a lot better than he represents the North Carolina 13th. He deserves nothing more than to lose his seat in Congress to anyone else with a pulse. But the good ol' folks in Western N.C. will probably re-elect him until he finally gets charged with something he can't avoid, which seems like the path of highest probability for a man like him.

Context (winter weather edition)

The coffee shop I went to about an hour ago had a sign that said, "Snow day - open at 10am." It did, in fact, snow overnight here. And some of the sidewalks were, in fact, icy.

But the temperature only got down to one degree below freezing, it snowed less than 20 mm, and none of it stuck to the roads. Ah, North Carolina in winter, bless your heart!

Relaxing weekend

Cassie and I headed up to Tyranena Brewing in Lake Mills, Wis., yesterday to hang out with family. Today, other than a trip to the grocery and adjacent pet store where Cassie picked out an "indestructible" toy that now lies in tatters on the couch, we've had a pretty relaxing Sunday. I thought I'd take a break from Hard Times to queue up some stuff to read tomorrow at lunch:

I will now return to Dickens, because it's funny and sad.

Backfield in motion

That's American for the English idiom "penny in the air." And what a penny. More like a whole roll of them.

Right now, the House of Commons are wrapping up debate on the Government's bill to prorogue Parliament (for real this time) and have elections the second week of December. The second reading of the bill just passed by voice vote (the "noes" being only a few recalcitrant MPs), so the debate continues. The bill is expected to pass—assuming MPs can agree on whether to have the election on the 9th, 11th, or 12th of December. Regardless, that means I'll be in London during the first weekend of the election campaign, and I'm elated.

Meanwhile, a whole bunch of other things made the news in the last day:

  • Writing for the New Yorker, Sam Knight argues that before Boris Johnson became PM, it was possible to imagine a Brexit that worked for the UK. Instead, Johnson has poisoned UK politics for a generation.
  • Presidents Trump and Obama came to Chicago yesterday, but only one of the personally insulted us. Guess which one.
  • That one also made top military officers squirm yesterday when he released classified information about our assassination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, including a photograph of the dog injured in the raid. The dog's name remained classified, even as it seemed clear that he was a very good boy.
  • Grinnell College in Iowa released polling data today showing just how much people don't like President Trump. Moreover, 80% of those polled thought a presidential candidate seeking election help from a foreign government was unacceptable. Adam Schiff cracking his knuckles could be heard all the way to the Grinnell campus.
  • An appellate court in North Carolina ruled that the election maps drawn up by the Republican Party unfairly gerrymander a Republican majority, and must be re-drawn for the 2020 election.
  • Grubhub's share price crashed today after the company released a written statement ahead of its earnings call later this week. The company made $1.0 million on $322.1 million in revenue during the 3rd quarter, and projected a loss for the 4th quarter.
  • The City of Atlanta decided not to pay ransom to get their computers working again, in order to reduce the appeal of ransomware attacks.

Finally, it looks like it could snow in Chicago on Thursday. Color me annoyed.

Not a political post

Just a note that this afternoon, American Airlines flew its last scheduled flight on an MD-80 airplane:

The retirements mark the end of an era at American for the workhorse known as the Super 80, whose old-school design and noisy rear engines spawned a love-hate relationship among industry employees over the four decades it flew. The plane once provided the backbone of American, powering the carrier's expansion through the end of last century on bread-and-butter routes such as Chicago to New York or Dallas to St. Louis.

The single-aisle jet could be challenging to fly, but it sharpened pilots' skills and earned the loyalty of pilots like Gomez, who relished having more control over every aspect of the plane.

So on Wednesday, after 36 years, American will operate the last commercial trip of the MD-80, flying from Dallas to Chicago. It's Flight 80.

American will ferry the last 24 of its MD-80 jets to a desert parking lot in Roswell, N.M. Two more will be donated to flight-training schools.

Delta Air Lines continues flying some MD-88s and MD-90s, later vintages of the model.

I don't know exactly how many times I flew on American MD-80s, but it's north of 150. The last time was on 10 November 2018, from Raleigh-Durham to Chicago. And that was, indeed, the last time.

Off-peak travel

Yesterday around 7am, I made it from where I parked in the main O'Hare parking garage to the concourse past security in 7 minutes. Today, at Raleigh-Durham, I made it from my Lyft to the concourse past security in 4 minutes.

If you have the option of traveling to or from a smaller airport on Saturday afternoon, do it.

Also, it's gorgeous out, so I not only got a chance to walk around Durham for an hour after brunch, but I also got to play with this cutie in her yard:

That's Hazel, my host's 6-month-old pit-lab-something mix. Chillest puppy I've met in a while. And so sweet. Fortunately for my host, Hazel didn't fit in my carry-on.

Missed anniversary

I was thinking back to a somewhat strange question: where in the world have I experienced all 12 months of the year? I mean, I think you have to do that in order to say you really know a place.

Before I get to that, let me explain the post's title. The second time I ever set foot in New York was 30 years ago Monday, on 4 December 1987. (The first time was 23 July 1984.)

New York is also the second place in the world, after Chicago, where I experienced all 12 months of the year. I crossed that finish line on 1 April 1989, during my first year at university.

The other places (and dates) are Raleigh, N.C. (1 May 2010), London (1 September 2013), Los Angeles (1 October 2014), and San Francisco (29 October 2015).

L.A. really surprised me. Half my family lived there for 30 years, but between school, work, and dumb luck, it took over 40 years from my first visit there (19 April 1974) until I finally, finally experienced an October day there. And that was a work trip—I didn't even intend to do it.

The other odd bit is that the entirety of the time I spent in North Carolina is documented in this blog.

I think this post will interest about six people, but since one of them is me, and the rest of my brain is working on some pretty slippery user stories for work, up it goes.

North Carolina turns purple in the face

A friend living in Greensboro, N.C., flagged a Times article about North Carolina's struggling to deal with the influx of northern progressives:

Last year, aided by a new Republican governor, Pat McCrory, the legislature enacted one of the most far-reaching conservative agendas in the country, passing a “flattened” income tax that gives big breaks to the wealthy as well as new rules that limit access to voting, expand rights for gun owners and add restrictions for abortion providers.

And yet, in a tight race that could decide control of the United States Senate, it is Democrats who hold the advantage here in registered voters. Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat, is preparing to face Thom Tillis, the state House speaker, a Republican, and Democrats have 2.7 million registered voters to the Republicans’ two million. About 1.8 million registered voters are not affiliated with a party.

The North Carolina of 2014, it seems, is neither red nor blue, but a shade of deep Dixie purple. It is a state where Republicans could retain control of the legislature for years, thanks to an aggressive 2011 redistricting and also because of white conservatives’ abandonment of the Democratic Party after years of post-Civil War fealty.

But it is also a state where a modern-day Democratic candidate like Ms. Hagan — or even like Hillary Rodham Clinton — may still dream of a statewide victory.

I remember the big joke in the Triangle was about the town of Cary. The name, locals said, stood for "Containment Area for Relocated Yankees." Seems like the Yankees might have busted out.

Social experimentation in North Carolina

Krugman outlines how the state of North Carolina cutting unemployment benefits has completely failed to encourage people back into the workforce:

The idea behind cutting benefits is that we are “paying people to be unemployed”, and that tough love will force them to go out and create jobs. It’s never explained exactly how greater desperation on the part of the unemployed will, in fact, lead to higher overall employment. Still, you could imagine that an individual state might gain some competitive advantage against other states by cutting wages. What you actually see in North Carolina, however, is nothing....

The unemployment rate did fall — but this was due to a large drop in the labor force, as the number of people looking for work fell. Why? Well, a likely explanation is that some of the unemployed continued to search for work, and were therefore counted in the labor force, despite low prospects of finding a job in a depressed economy, because such search is a requirement for those collecting benefits. Take away the benefits, and they drop out.

[I]f there were anything to the theory that cutting unemployment benefits encourages job search and somehow translates into higher employment even in a slump, harsh policies should work better at the state than at the national level. But there is no sign at all that North Carolina’s harshness has done anything except make the lives of the unemployed even more miserable.

I've asked some friends in Raleigh and Charlotte for comment.

The Decline of North Carolina

The New York Times on Tuesday lamented the state's decline:

In January, after the election of Pat McCrory as governor, Republicans took control of both the executive and legislative branches for the first time since Reconstruction. Since then, state government has become a demolition derby, tearing down years of progress in public education, tax policy, racial equality in the courtroom and access to the ballot.

The cruelest decision by lawmakers went into effect last week: ending federal unemployment benefits for 70,000 residents. Another 100,000 will lose their checks in a few months. Those still receiving benefits will find that they have been cut by a third, to a maximum of $350 weekly from $535, and the length of time they can receive benefits has been slashed from 26 weeks to as few as 12 weeks.

At the same time, the state is also making it harder for future generations of workers to get jobs, cutting back sharply on spending for public schools. Though North Carolina has been growing rapidly, it is spending less on schools now than it did in 2007, ranking 46th in the nation in per-capita education dollars. Teacher pay is falling, 10,000 prekindergarten slots are scheduled to be removed, and even services to disabled children are being chopped.

I lived in Raleigh for a few months and went to Duke, so it pains me to see the South's most-progressive state become its most-repressive. As the Times concludes: "North Carolina was once considered a beacon of farsightedness in the South, an exception in a region of poor education, intolerance and tightfistedness. In a few short months, Republicans have begun to dismantle a reputation that took years to build."

Update: Reader TB, writing from New York, says: "I can attribute this to one thing, and that is NC becoming more of a purple state in the last few elections. They are trying to be more punitive towards those who vote Democratic. Not to mention the abortion restrictions they are trying to pass, which McCrory promised during the campaign he would not sign."

I think he's right.