Sunday, July 05, 2015

McCrory in Full Stutter Mode: "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda"

Depend on Governor McCrory to pick a fight with his fellow Republicans in the General Assembly on an issue he could not under statute do anything about ... the "local bill" to redistrict Greensboro's city council to make it easier for Trudy Wade's clones to take it over this fall.

Local bills are not subject to veto by the governor. "I would've vetoed it if I could," sez the Guv, puffing out his chest in that pathetic attempt to seem relevant.

Funny man, this governor. Let's see him veto something he actually can veto, and let's see him raise the stakes publicly for sustaining his veto. Soon, very soon, someone's gonna set a match to this paper tiger.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Courtesy of The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc.

Bastards Grab Power in Greensboro

Illegitimate power, illegitimately achieved.

Four sitting minority members of the Greensboro city council are now forced to run against one another as Greensboro's city government is "redistricted" to suit Republican Sen. Trudy Wade, in a process that blocked the wishes of the actual residents of Greensboro, not to mention their elected representatives in both city government and in the North Carolina General Assembly. (Rep. John Blust gets credit for standing up to his fellow Republicans.)

The power grabs in cities, the high-handed mucking about in local issues, and arrogant seizure of process so that no actual citizens have a fighting chance to choose their own course of action ... this is the contemporary Republican Party in North Carolina -- a circle-jerk of super jerks bent on seizing everything they can while they can.

The Lord Voldemorts who run these plays have drawn their own legislative districts to keep the very possibility of change completely beyond hope ... they think. How long are the citizens going to allow this?

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Toxic Dawn in North Carolina

While a growing group of Watauga County citizens have become aware of how Watauga County ordinances actually welcome toxic polluters through weak or non-existent protections, that bunch of Republicans in Raleigh are fast-tracking a bill which loosens regulations for air quality, water quality, and recycling, a new set of regs meant to completely neuter whatever is left of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Naturally, it's coming out of the NC Senate, which is so far to the right on everything that our feckless governor ... oh, never mind! It's coming out of the Senate, which is where extremism has its home office. And who's "shepherding" this particular piece of backward thinking but Sen. Trudy Wade, she of the Greensboro redistricting meanness, which is also slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.

The News&Observer reports:
...DENR distributed a 12-page analysis for lawmakers enumerating the agency’s concerns with the legislation. The document stands out for its tone of alarm coming from an agency that under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory had vowed to treat businesses as partners and customers rather than adversaries.
“The complaints that would be generated as a result of this proposed legislation would be innumerable,” the document stated. The agency warned that one proposal would lead to “severe environmental damage,” while another could result in federal authorities moving in “to take over the North Carolina public drinking water program.”
Doesn't matter. This Polluter Protection Act will pass the Senate. It'll be up to the NC House to have a sane moment. Don't laugh. It could happen.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Huckabee Visits Hendersonville, Fails To Call Down Fire From Heaven on Asheville

Did you know that full-time Southern Baptist preacher and part-time presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was in Hendersonville yesterday? He was the guest of Congressman Mark Meadows (NC-11), a Republican member of Congress who's generally credited with the government shutdown last year and a man so right-wing that even Virginia Foxx draws her skirts a little tighter around her when in his presence.

Several hundred people crowded in and around Harry's Kitchen in Hendersonville to hear and be near Mr. Huckabee. He talks like what he is, an accomplished preacher with a sharp wit who believes he's sent by God to use that razor against the sinful.

Huckabee is possibly the most vociferous opponent of the Supreme Court currently running under the Republican banner for president (though he has several strong runners-up for that title), and he's very much into the "Christians are persecuted" Kool-Aid.

From the Asheville Citizen-Times coverage: "Asked what he would say to the large gay-friendly population of Asheville who believe the court's decision affirms equal protection under the Constitution, Huckabee said they should have joined forces to change the law through the legislative process."

Riiight. That's often happened in our history, hasn't it? A despised minority manages to get a legislature like North Carolina's to change the laws to give them equal rights?

Meanwhile, outside the precincts of Fantasyland, a cookie still crumbled in the normal way.

NC House Rejects NC Senate's Rejiggering of Greensboro City Council

Sen. Trudy Wade's attempt to redistrict the Greensboro city council so that Republicans can win elections there has been soundly defeated in the NC House ... 35-73.
Wade first sent the redistricting proposal to the House in Senate Bill 36 [reports WRAL]. When the House refused to take up that bill, Wade sent it over again, this time attached to House Bill 263, a redistricting proposal for the small town of Trinity.
The bill would eliminate the city's at-large districts, quadruple-bunk four incumbents into a single district, and revoke the mayor's vote on the council.
The bill, though, is not now dead. It has to go to a conference with the Senate, where House Republicans from Guildford County promise to push for a citizen referendum, which would surely fail.

Feedback on Wade's scheme has been "about 40-1 negative, both Republican and Democrat. They don’t feel good about this bill," said Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford). Said Rep. Ralph Johnson (D-Guilford), "The sponsor of this bill, she’s united Greensboro, both Democrats and Republicans. She’s done that, and I thank her for that."

Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford), the brother of Watauga County Commissioner David Blust, was the most passionate in his denunciation of Sen. Wade's motives: "You all know it is wrong for a city of 285,000 to have a form of government put in place by one person. One person did the design. One person insists that every detail of the plan must be preserved."

Monday, June 29, 2015

"Persecution" Looks A Lot Like Privilege

With conservatives taking a deep-dive into paranoia over the Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage, we stand amazed at the right-wing willingness to drink the Kool-Aid of "persecution."

That word, not to mention the entire mental gymnastics required to use it, is being thrown around like confetti at a … well, at a gay wedding. That sort of exaggeration cheapens the word. It also does spiritual violence to real religious persecution, which this world has witnessed and still witnesses, but not because some store clerk says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

Because we don't bow our heads and confess that your religion is superior to ours doesn't mean that we have oppressed you. We are preached at continuously -- lectured and hectored and warned of hell fire -- by men and women whose superior morality and access to megaphones displays privilege rather than persecution, and it is our privilege to ignore Franklin Graham and turn away to more fruitful voices.

Didn't a Republican presidential candidate recently threaten to call down fire from heaven if the Supreme Court didn't straighten up and fly right? It is my privilege to laugh at him. Is that the "persecution" you're speaking of, O my brethren?

Let's see now:

1. Religious groups enjoy complete tax exemption.

2. Unlike non-profit orgs, religious groups receive their tax exemption without having to ask for it. They get tax exemption by merely existing. "Houses of worship" are given exemption as soon as they open their doors.

3. Houses of worship are free from the mandatory reporting obligations that are imposed on secular nonprofit groups.

4. There is no way of knowing how much money a particular church raises, nor the value of its many assets, because they are not required to tell anyone (unlike a secular nonprofit). Mega-church pastors can own closets full of thousand-dollar suits, drive expensive cars, and even own their own jets without much worry that anyone "official" will ever check on his finances.

5. This is so because Congress passed a special law governing church audits that requires the IRS to show "heightened scrutiny" before initiating such procedures. Church audits must be approved by highly placed IRS officials. When's the last time you heard of a mega-church being targeted for an audit? Was it persecution? Or was it a response to conspicuous consumption?

6. The ability of religious groups to proselytize and spread their theology is limited only by the imaginations of their leaders. They own television and radio stations (tax exempt, by the way). They own publishing arms. They get a regular seat on Fox News and other cable outlets for "balance" (but really because they're entertaining).

7. Religious groups own hospitals, secondary schools, colleges, social-service agencies, and other entities. Many of these are subsidized directly with tax funds. In recent years, religious groups that sponsor charitable services get taxpayer assistance through the "faith-based initiative."

8. A house of worship or a ministry can fire employees at will if those workers violate (or are merely suspected or accused of violating) some tenet of the faith. A religious school, for example, could fire a woman who becomes pregnant out of wedlock. Most American government entities -- really, all of them -- do not allow such retaliation.

9. Most American political candidates and office-holders -- of both major political parties -- are quick to declare their Christian faith and announce their attendance at a Christian church, because not to do so would invite suspicion and rejection.

Get off your "persecution" high-horse. It all suggests that you really have no true faith at all.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Representative Foxx Lives Up To Her Constituents' Prejudices

Virginia Foxx had her response all written and polished by 10 a.m. yesterday morning, so she was able to send it out to the world seconds after Justice Kennedy began to read his historic decision on gay marriage:
“Two years ago the Supreme Court insisted that marriage was a policy decision that properly belonged to the states, but today they have imposed a redefinition of marriage nationwide. This decision undermines the ability of states to set public policy within their borders as voters in North Carolina overwhelmingly did in 2012. I’m also extremely concerned about the threat this ruling poses to the conscience rights of people and organizations who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. I will do everything in my power to defend these rights and protect the sacred institution of marriage.”
Knowing the representative's personal history, it makes my skin crawl uncontrollably to see her evoking "the sacred institution of marriage," not to mention her feeding her constituents the steady diet of ignorance she's known for. The Supreme Court decision yesterday did not redefine marriage. It merely made the old definition available to everyone. The only redefinition is going on in the fantastical brains of Foxx's devoted followers.

This is the woman who once upon a time checked a box on a candidate survey indicating that she was in favor of gay adoption. That was then. Her benighted Fifth District of NC needs different nourishment now.

One response to her statement on the High Country Press website deserves reprinting here:
Joseph W Dickson ·  ·  Top Commenter · Director of Kung-Fu Style Butt Whoopinsat LLoyd's Butt Whoopins and Hair Care CenterOK Rep. Foxx... we get it. You don't believe that the inalienable rights as defined in the U.S. Constitution should apply to everyone. You believe that the beliefs and rights of some should trump the rights of others. As you're an educated woman, I'll assume you're aware of world history. You should know then, that throughout world history, many rulers and countries have made efforts to carve out subsections of the general citizenry they find displeasing. These leaders and countries have then relegated these people to a status where they have fewer rights than those able to access all available rights and liberties. You will not find a single instance of this where the result has not been later seen as a willful violation of human rights. Often it has ended in horrific oppression, suffering, and genocide. Yet, as a representative of the people, elected to fight for that which will bring your constituents freedom, liberty, and prosperity, you advocate for the same oppression history has shown to be so destructive. You argue on behalf of those who would use their beliefs to relegate others to a position unequal to your own. In essence, you do not represent all of your constituents... you only represent those with whom you find yourself in agreement. You publicly advocate to strip some of your very own constituents of those rights and liberties you are sworn to defend and uphold. One day, far in the future, history may well count you alongside other leaders who sought to oppress some for the pleasure of others. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

U.S. Supremes: 14th Amendment Means Same-Sex Couples May Marry

Hot off the SCOTUS blog:

The U.S. Supreme Court, voting 5-4, holds that the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex. And all states must recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when a marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding same-sex marriage bans in several states is reversed.

It's clear that the Court's opinion relies on the dual rationales of fundamental rights AND equal protection.

Chief Justice John Roberts is back on the conservative reservation for his dissent. Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito also wrote their own dissents.

Chief Justice Roberts has the principal dissent, which is 31 pages long. Toward the end of it, he says, "If you are among the many Americans -- of whatever sexual orientation -- who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it."

O-kay then.

From the majority opinion, addressing the role of history in the constitutional analysis: "The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a character protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning."

"The dissents [by Scalia, Thomas, and Alito] are extremely strident." Chief Justice Roberts took a wholly different, conciliatory tone in his.