Tuesday, September 01, 2015

A County Clerk in Kentucky, Our Dim Governor, and Christian Dominionism

"Dominion Theology is the idea that Christians should work toward either a nation governed by Christians or one governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law."
Kim Davis, the Rowan County Kentucky Clerk in charge of marriage licenses, has now been rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and commentators in the mainstream press are beside themselves at her dumbness.

It ain't dumbness, folks. It's bravery, however pretzeled by a fanatic religious belief. Kim Davis is meditating every second of every day on Matthew 5:11: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."

She's divinely right on gay marriage, and everyone else is wrong, everyone on up through the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. She's now willing, I would venture, to go to the stake over this and have the flames rearrange her hairdo. Every court ruling against her, every insult broadcast on the Internet, every sidelong sneer she's now experiencing from some of her fellow Kentuckians -- all of that is just proof, according to Matthew 5:11, that she's a righteous soldier in the army of Christ.

It's the same type of faith that bolstered many a martyr to their deaths in all the centuries of stupid religious wars -- martyrs of every sect, of every warped or blessed belief. You will not shake them, shatter them, nor move them off their rigid platforms of surety.

Now comes word this morning that Governor McCrory has agreed to be a featured speaker at a Christian dominionist rally in Charlotte. His image was being used in a full-page Charlotte Observer ad to promote the event, and words were attributed to him thusly: "Come Join Me in a time of worship, prayer, fasting and repentance."

"Repentance"? For the group hosting the event, The American Renewal Project, that word implies a good deal more than some benign regret for sins of commission/omission.

David Lane, the head of the American Renewal Project, has laid out his agenda elsewhere, and it's fully within the definition of "Christian dominionism":
As to the future of America – and the collapse of this once-Christian nation – Christians must not only be allowed to have opinions, but politically, Christians must be retrained to war for the Soul of America and quit believing the fabricated whopper of the ‘Separation of Church and State,” the lie repeated ad nauseum by the left and liberals to keep Christian America – the moral majority – from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning, and pagan media.
You ask, ‘What is our goal?’ To wage war to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage with all of our might and strength that God will give us. You ask, ‘what is our aim?’ One word only: victory, in spite of all intimidation and terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, America will ultimately collapse. [emphasis added]
That's relatively explicit. They intend war (folks die in war). They intend to "impose" their version of holiness on the rest of us (and what ensues when one of us resists the imposition?). Resistance is futile, O my brethren, because these guys speak for God, and we assume that God is ordering them toward their vision of "victory."

Do you want to go with them there?

Evidently, Gov. McCrory either didn't read the brochure, or he's fully aware of who he's throwing in with. Curious minds want to know.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Back in Court This Morning

The 5-4 Republican majority on the NC Supreme Court ruled eight months ago that the gerrymandering of legislative districts was just fine by them. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Supremes.

The U.S. Supremes in the meantime ruled that a very similar redistricting in Alabama was unconstitutional because it relied too much on “mechanical numerical percentages while drawing legislative districts in which blacks comprised a majority of the population." So when the U.S. Supremes got to the North Carolina case, they sent it back to the NC Supremes and said you'd better reconsider your decision in light of our Alabama decision.

That all comes to a head this morning at the NC Supreme Court, but it you're expecting a different outcome this time around, from the same five Republican judges, then you probably also still believe in the Easter bunny.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Holy Man Trump

Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner for president, sez the Bible is his favorite book and that he's a church attender at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. Yeah, riiight.

Folks at Marble Collegiate say they haven't seen him. He couldn't name a single favorite Bible verse when asked to quote one by an interviewer. (Let us suggest one: "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."

Folks at Trump rallies say he's clearly pandering to the religious right. Ya think?

Can you even imagine Donald Trump on his knees, praying? "I don't get on my knees for anyone. I'm not a woman. And I'll tell you something else. The god that tries to get me on my knees is going to be sorry. I'll take him out. I'll take him out in a New Yawk minute."

Trump worshipping Jesus? "By the way: People say they like the crucified Jesus. I like a Jew who doesn't get himself crucified, just for starters. I wouldn't get crucified myself, but maybe that's just me."

This prideful man is some Christian witness, all right.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Establishment Guy

Well now. You might not know that Congressman Patrick McHenry, of the adjacent 10th Congressional District, has taken an important appointment as state chair of the Jeb Bush campaign. Make that the Jeb! campaign, to keep the branding consistent.

No Donald Trump for McHenry. And good luck with Jeb!, who, we heard, lacks energy. Can't remember right now who said that.

McHenry's really sticking his neck out, with Trump leading Jeb! in North Carolina by over 10 polling points. Jeb! is barely out-polling Deez Nuts.

McHenry's an establishment guy. Like most of the hierarchy in the Republican Party, he figures that Trump is just a summer reality show that won't be renewed for the Fall and certainly won't be on the TV schedule during next year's sweeps. By the logic of the GOP establishment, it's Jeb Bush's turn. Trump's an upstart who has no business messing with precedence.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

NC State Workers: Meet The Shaft

The headline yesterday afternoon:

NC budget deal reached on state employees pay

House and Senate leaders have reached a compromise on teacher and state employee pay and have moved closer to an agreement on overall state spending.
State employees and teachers would receive $750 bonuses this year under the compromise, rather than a 2 percent across-the-board increase the House wanted....
No pay raise for the vast majority of teachers and other state workers and only a one-time $750 bonus. Boy-howdy. A one-time $750 bonus works out to less than $15 per week -- hardly enough to cover gas money to and from school for most teachers. (Although some teachers would receive their contractually-obligated step increases, most teachers who are in between pay steps would get next to nothing this year.)

“Politicians spent months bragging about a $450 million surplus, but they’d rather give more tax breaks to big corporations than make meaningful investments in our public schools,” said Progress NC Action executive director Gerrick Brenner. “This $750 Christmas bonus amounts to a lump of coal for teachers and will only encourage more North Carolina educators to leave the state.”

“Once again it’s a slap in the face,” said Dianne Jones, a veteran teacher of more than 30-years in Wake County. “I just don’t understand why these legislators don’t think we’re that important that they can’t raise our pay to at least the national level.”

“It’s demoralizing,” said Stacy Eleczko, another veteran teacher in Wake County. “We work so many hours, and not to be able to meet basic needs with our pay is just so ridiculous.”

A state budget was due on July 1st and is now 58 days late. Lawmakers have wasted over $1 million dollars in taxpayer money on operating costs and per diem money for lawmakers at the General Assembly. By failing to pass a budget in time for the opening of school for over a million public school students, school districts have been left in the lurch.

Republican leaders in Raleigh have said they do not expect a final budget until after their third self-imposed deadline of August 31. Meanwhile, in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system, 500 teaching assistants are scheduled to be laid off if a budget is not passed by September 4. 

Gerrick Brenner of ProgressNC said, “North Carolina currently ranks 42nd in the nation for teacher pay, and this budget agreement will likely do nothing to change that. Time and again, voters have expressed their desire to see our state’s teacher pay raised to the national average. But this legislature does not seem to care.”

Monday, August 24, 2015

Calendar Check: NC GOP On Schedule To Kill Public Education

Soucek & Jordan
The North Carolina state budget is now 55-days late. Members of the General Assembly took a strange one-week vacation after they missed the July 1st budget deadline. They have now wasted over $1 million in taxpayer funds in extra per diem costs for their extended legislative session.

Without a budget, a million-plus North Carolina public school students are going back to class with school districts still in the dark about staffing and classroom resources.

NC House v. NC Senate v. Gov. McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory proposed a budget in which only one-third of North Carolina teachers would receive a raise. The extremists in the Senate proposed a budget that would slash 8,500 teaching assistant positions across the state. The Senate budget would end state funding for drivers ed., and it would give no raise to the state’s most veteran teachers. The House's version of the budget would give teachers only a 2% pay raise. (NC teacher pay now ranks 42nd in the nation.)

Imagine That Extremist Republicans Wanted To Slowly Kill Public Education

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Schools (CMS) told 500 teaching assistants that their jobs could end on Sept. 4th. Nearly 1,000 teachers resigned from CMS in June.

In Raleigh, Wake Co. Public Schools has ended drivers education classes for high school students. Wake is opening school today still in need of 100 teachers.

In Greensboro, Guilford Co. Public Schools cut three work days from teaching assistants to save $390,000.

In Winston-Salem, Forsyth Co. Public Schools are opening the first day of classes still in need of 68 teachers.

In Asheville, Buncombe Co. Public Schools has cut teaching assistant hours from 8 to 7 per day.

In Greenville, Pitt Co. Public Schools has cut 25 teaching assistant positions due to questions about the state budget. 

In Watauga County, the local school system had to start charging $65 per student for driver's education, which only covers one-third of the cost and which means the school system has to cut about $130 in other programs for every student that enrolls in driver education.

Meantime, the legislature brags about a $445 million surplus.

We Can Do Better Than This

“School systems across the state are feeling the pain from the negligence of state lawmakers in Raleigh,” said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of ProgressNC. “When one party controls state government, claims a revenue surplus, and still cannot pass a budget in time for the first day of class, it’s clear that our public schools are not a priority for this governor and those leading our legislature.”

"Yes-Men" in Raleigh Need To Be Booted Out

Senator Dan Soucek and Jonathan Jordan ... buh-bye!

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Politics of Water in Watauga County

So this morning we find out that a deal has been struck between the town of Boone and Watauga County Commission Chair Jimmy Hodges: the county will grant two small easements for a Boone water line across property it owns in exchange for 500,000 additional gallons a day (gpd) of Boone water to be used for largely unregulated development outside the town, managed by private interests for their profit. (The town had already granted 250,000 gpd -- 100,000 more than the recommendation of Boone's own Water Committee -- for any developer who will take the old high school property off the county's hands.)

The likely boom in development will come first along the water transmission line from Todd, principally in the Deep Gap to Boone corridor.

This deal was engineered by Jimmy Hodges, working the levers on some members of the Boone Town Council who have been desperate to complete a water intake on the New River near Todd. Hodges' two fellow Republicans on the County Commission voted against the deal, immediately raising an expectation that Hodges may face a Republican primary in 2018.

Boone town government has always held the position that it shouldn't give away its water to unregulated development. Boone has land-use planning and development regs that have transformed the town in 30 years from a jumble of sometimes shoddy sprawl to a destination city recently named "Best Small Town in North Carolina."

But that principle of "no piping of town water without land-use planning" is now out the window. To drive home the point (and also underline the complete collapse of Boone's negotiating skills), Hodges is quoted in the Watauga Democrat: “We can get water from the town without the county having to pay for it.”


The Unseen Hand of Sen. Dan Soucek in This Deal
Rep. Jonathan Jordan has been trying to stop the new Boone intake on the New River, along with an assortment of Ashe and Watauga citizens who have a variety of motivations.

Jordan's "local bill H875" would halt the intake dead, without the approval of the two affected county commissions in Ashe and Watauga. What happened to that bill? Soucek is holding it -- blocking it -- and creating the unmistakable impression that he's now in cahoots with the real estate developers (and Jimmy Hodges), who are lusting after that water.

That should come as no particular surprise, but the political ironies are striking: Soucek has built his legislative reputation as a bitter enemy of everything "liberal Boone" stands for. Now he's in bed with the Town Council for the sake of that water intake.

They say the next great wars will be fought over water. Perhaps the next great cross-species romances will also happen over water.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It Smells

The Cleveland County Commission recently decided to hire the NC House Speaker Tim Moore as its county attorney, giving him an up-front appetizer of $25,000 cash and promising $250-per-hour as his fee going forward. The chair of the Cleveland County Commission is Tim Moore's first cousin ("once removed!" Moore is quick to add, defensively).

The Cleveland County Commission is 4-1 Republican, and they know The Main Chance when they see it. Mr. Moore could be a boon to future deals, not to mention a hedge over which the General Assembly might not lobe certain turds (we know all too well the General Assembly's tendency to butt into local affairs).

A boon but also a bone of contention, as it turns out. The man the Cleveland County Commission unceremoniously fired as their attorney to put in Moore is not at all happy about being shown the door, and he wrote his former employees a complaining letter which has been made public (discussed at the link above).

What perhaps smells the highest is what appears to be a rank case of feather-bedding: the Cleveland commissioners appear to have made the job possible -- and much easier -- for the excessively busy Mr. Moore by hiring another full-time attorney to handle routine lawyer stuff for the county while Moore's busy at the General Assembly.

That's kind of a proliferation of legal expenses, ain't it, for no good reason? Or perhaps we should say "for no rational reason," which is more "lawyerly."

How Is Thom Tillis Like Pat McCrory?

Both our governor and our newest U.S. senator from North Carolina are creatures made in executive suites, cobbled together mannikins who have been cooked up in the laboratory of the rich and powerful to please the rich and powerful. Start with an easy smile, add two glad hands, stir in an empty heart containing a pliable set of values, and behold -- the upwardly mobile politician with no core beliefs other than a willingness to please whoever the calendar says needs to be pleased.

'Course, there's sometimes a downside to being as slick as snot on a doorknob. The true believers you fooled on Monday discover your hollowness on Tuesday, and true believers always consider mere hollowness as out-and-out treachery to the cause.

Witness Senator Thom Tillis's suddenly blossoming heartburn with the Far Right:
Although he has only been in the United Senate for under a year, he has wasted no time in moving to the left and allying himself with the Washington Cartel. Presently, Conservative Review gives Tillis a rating of 40% and Heritage Action for America gives Tillis an abysmal 59% conservative rating based, in part, on his votes to extend certain benefits to “same-sex marriage” couples, his support of No Child Left Behind legislation, his confirmation of radical leftist Loretta Lynch to be Barack Obama’s Attorney General and his left of center votes on a number of other issues.
(Should we correct these brethren? Tillis most definitely voted against the confirmation of Loretta Lynch. Naw. The heart believes what the heart needs to believe, and who are we to mess with such vectors?)

McCrory is in similar trouble with the acid-drinkers, mainly because he's just so ... soft and rudderless. McCrory ends up seeming two-faced when he's just confused and scared. Tillis actually is two-faced, and intends to cover his tracks.