Monday, January 26, 2015

Crazy No More?

The other day Tom Fetzer, a longtime GOP consultant, fundraiser-turned-lobbyist, and former chair of the NC GOP, commented that he thought that 2015 in the NC General Assembly could generate "perhaps a more normal agenda for the legislature on more traditional issues," like jobs and the economy.

"More normal." More normal, as in not abnormal? More normal, as in not warped by too much power and too little humanity? As in, "we knocked down the building. Now it's time to neatly stack the bricks"?

So are we to understand that the new Republican majority in the General Assembly did all the damage they ever intended between 2011 and 2014 -- got that out of their system -- and are now ready to make a thousand flowers bloom? Nothing else to dismantle, strangle, deprive of oxygen? Just the reaping of the blessings now, letting the new conservative utopia grow great, with the benevolent rich teaching us peons the beauty of austerity and giving us occasional part-time work waxing their Mercedes?

That would be "more normal," right?

Or is it the new normal, sort of like the extremes of weather that have become routine because of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Certainly, the Raleigh Republicans have spewed tons of pollution into our political atmosphere during the last four years. They've breathed their own emanations and convinced themselves that the poor will accept whatever they dish out, that the unemployed will accept being treated like cur dogs, that teachers will accept crumbs, that voters will accept every attempt to make voting more difficult.

We're not about to believe that the clown college has removed its make-up, retired its fright-wigs. Unless, of course, they really are nervous about another election cycle coming in 2016, with their patsy governor threatened and a turn-out that may overwhelm them.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Your NC Gen'l Assembly at Work: Huge Bonuses for Capitol Staffers

Article in this a.m.'s News&Observer about continuing fallout from the General Assembly's axing of pay bonuses for public school teachers, with this addendum: Republican staffers are getting huge bonuses:
Since 1988, lawmakers have given their staff longevity pay that amounts to as much as 19.2 percent of their salaries. Those bonuses also start much earlier. At five years of service, staffers start earning the bonus pay, at a 4.8 percent rate that’s better than most state employees will ever see.
Gerry Cohen, who retired in August as special counsel to the legislature and is now a lobbyist, was the top paid employee in the fiscal year that ended June 30, earning a $196,400 salary. The $37,700 in bonus pay brought his compensation to more than $234,000.
Cohen spent 37 years on the legislature’s staff. He is one of 49 legislative employees who earned $10,000 or more in longevity pay in the last fiscal year, legislative records show. The average pay for those employees was $105,500, not including the longevity pay. That average climbs to $123,600 with it.
Providing longevity pay for roughly 300 of the nearly 700 legislative staffers costs far less than giving it to teachers. Lawmakers spent $1.6 million on longevity pay for their employees in the last fiscal year, compared with the $60 million in longevity pay that was rolled into teachers’ base pay. The average longevity pay for full-time legislative staffers was $7,090.
State Sen. Majority Leader Harry Brown, a Jacksonville Republican, noted that Republicans weren’t in charge when the longevity pay was put in place for staff. He said it might be worth taking a look at, but he otherwise defended it as a tool to keep valued employees.
It's all about feathering the right nests.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Renee Ellmers, Your Door Prize Is Almost Ready!

Jim Duncan
Hattip: Roll Call

PITTSBORO, N.C. -- Rep. Renee Ellmers, the North Carolina Republican who led the charge to pull the House GOP’s 20-week abortion ban bill this week, could have a bruising primary from the conservative wing of her party in 2016.

Jim Duncan, the chairman of the Chatham County Republican Party, is mulling a bid against Ellmers, according to multiple GOP sources in the Tar Heel State.

Duncan could not immediately be reached for comment. But GOP operatives say Duncan was looking at a primary challenge against Ellmers before this week. Operatives say Thursday’s events — in which a group of anti-abortion protesters in Washington, D.C., for the March for Life demonstrated outside her Longworth office — could push Duncan toward entering a primary race.

Ellmers already started the 2016 cycle with a couple cracks in her hold on the seat.

In 2014, local activists were angry over her support for giving undocumented immigrants earned legal work status, and she received a primary challenge. She defeated Frank Roche, a radio host whom Republicans called a weak and underfunded challenger, with 58 percent of the vote.

Republicans say Duncan, a retired businessman who ran a computer disaster recovery company, is a more serious candidate than Roche. Duncan has better ties to the conservative base in the district, both because of his role as chairman of the Chatham County Republican Party and as a co-founder of the Coalition for American Principles, a group that seeks to elect Republicans in the Raleigh-Durham area.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Raleigh Republicans Mismanage State Into a Budget Deficit

The current six-month revenue shortfall in North Carolina: $199.2 million, half-way into the budget year.

Raleigh Republicans are totally cool with it. Not to worry. No sweat. Not a big deal. Nothing to see here.

But what if the deficit gets worse, considerably worse, in the next six months? "Asked about that last week, Senate leader Phil Berger said he doesn’t want to get into hypotheticals" (The Daily Reflector).

We bet he doesn't. Instead, he wants to pivot to the obligatory bashing of prior Democratic regimes (always a good move) and to vague promises that the Lord will probably -- might or for sure will -- provide: “We were able to deal with a $2.5 billion shortfall,” he said, referring to 2011. “If we end up with a situation where we are short from projections, we’ll manage, and we’ll manage in a way that will continue to move North Carolina in the right direction, continue to move North Carolina forward.”

Forward, North Carolina!

At least some people -- the very rich and large corporations -- are getting very forward with the new Republican flat tax in North Carolina. The rest of us ... not so much, especially school teachers, university employees, the long-term unemployed, people who used to work in the NC film industry, and numerous others who had the bad judgment not to hire expensive lobbyists.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How Extreme Is the New Anti-Abortion Bill in the U.S. House?

So extreme that even NC Rep. Renee Ellmers opposes it. Ellmers, in fact, is credited with leading a revolt of Republican women against the bill. Without the votes to pass it, the Republican leadership in the U.S. House pulled the bill last night. (Oh, it'll come back eventually, my brethren. Republicans love their rituals.)

The vote was supposed to happen today to coincide with the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It was all show, of course, since any of the far right's anti-abortion legislation has zero chance of becoming law until Rick Santorum sits in the Oval Office.

But ... Ellmers? Reportedly, she was upset over the rape provisions in the bill, and she rallied other Republican women to her side. (No mention of Virginia Foxx in any of the reporting, but you know she's not going to buck the Catholic hierarchy, let alone the bulls in Congress.)

The bill was creatively named the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act." (Oh Republicans!) It would ban abortions after 20 weeks, even in cases of rape, unless the mother filed a police report.

The fury against Ellmers by Tea Partiers, and others determined to legislate women into becoming involuntary breeders, has already erupted. (Which is precisely why you won't see Virginia Foxx taking a public stance on the bullshit being shoveled by her male colleagues.)

Raleigh News&Observer is reporting that Ellmers couldn't take the heat from the pro-lifers. So much for that profile in courage!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Virginia Foxx Pants

Some things about the State of the Union ... you just couldn't make up. Virginia Foxx's fame-whore rush to get the president's autograph, despite what he stands for as opposed to what she stands for, despite what he just said in that speech, despite the embarrassing optics of her fawning ... well, it's cringe-worthy.

Even more gag-inducing ("Gag me with a dipper, y'all!") was Joni Ernst's #breadbag brag that she knows everything there is to know about being poor, so y'all should just cheer up about your low wages 'n' stuff, because she's made it to the U.S. Senate!

Someone on Facebook observed that fake poverty screams as loudly as does a fake Southern accent.

As does the hypocrisy of the Lady in Blue.

Yep. She pours acid out of that side of her mouth that isn't simultaneously drooling. From Carolina Public Press:
Rep. Virginia Foxx, who represents a portion of Western North Carolina in the state’s 5th Congressional District, slammed the president’s speech, declaring him “mired in the past.”
“The American people spoke loud and clear in November, but it’s evident from tonight’s State of the Union that President Obama wasn’t listening,” Foxx said in a news release. “Despite a rejection of his policies at the ballot box, the president continues to propose outdated, Washington-centered ideas that simply don’t work.”
Foxx, who was elected to a sixth term last year, decried the president’s proposals on tax reform and higher education, calling the latter a “top-down federal government boondoggle.”
Still, the congresswoman thought highly enough of Obama to ask for what appeared to be an autograph on the floor following his address, causing a buzz among social media users who spotted her on TV.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NC Republicans to Hollywood: Drop Dead

The axing of North Carolina's film incentive program is costing us jobs, and more than just the jobs for the crews and the support staffs, it's costing small businesses BIG TIME.

Just announced: the Fox television production of "Sleepy Hollow" has announced that it will move to Atlanta for its third season (assuming it has a third season).

Where Hollywood goes for its on-location filming, local small businesses benefit. When "The Winter People" filmed in Avery County back in the 1980s, local antiques dealers sold props to the production. The making of Michael Mann's epic, "Last of the Mohicans," in the 1990s benefited more antiques dealers as well as hundreds of local people who worked as extras.

Here's a partial list of small businesses which profit from local film production:
Printers and Sign Manufacturers
Florists/Plants sales
Restaurants and Caterers
Window Coverings
Event Rental Services (tents, etc.)
Camera and Lighting Equipment
Heavy Machinery
Car/Van Rentals
Security and Locksmiths
Antique Dealers
Marine Services
Mobile Restrooms
Aerial Services
Hollywood deals in cash money and generally doesn't waste time haggling. But the economic geniuses in the NC General Assembly wanted Hollywood gone. And it's going.

Gee, thanks, Governor McCrory, for signing that bullshit legislation.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tom Ross for U.S. Senate?

Thomas Mills started a little boomlet touting Tom Ross as the Democratic candidate to take on Dick Burr for the U.S. Senate seat in 2016.

Ross was fired as President of the University of North Carolina system on Friday in what is emerging as the most nakedly political firing of recent history. Board of Governor members -- Republicans, mostly -- made the decision, but it was the Board Chair, Republican John Fennebresque, who stumbled around at the subsequent press conference -- the most bizarre press conference you'll ever see -- saying how wonderful Tom Ross's leadership has been, but, we -- uh -- need his wonderfulness gone.

Politically, powerful Republican members of the NC General Assembly apparently wanted Ross out. So they could have someone more to their ideological liking in? Well, duh. But will it be Art Pope, who apparently has been overheard to say he'd like the job? If so, expect cloudy weather with a threat of shit-storms.

But back to the question at hand ... Tom Ross for U.S. Senate?

Ross has spent most of his life in academic settings and in academic pursuits, managing academics. That might automatically qualify him as a superior "hand" at handling hungry crocodiles. But with all due respect, I haven't found academics particularly ready for the prime time of high-level politics, especially at that national level, where some political experience might be considered pretty essential.

The late, great Paul Wellstone, excepted -- the exception which proves the rule.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Duane Powell, Jan. 17, 2015, in the Raleigh News&Observer.

You might be forgiven for failing to recognize Franklin Graham in the Templar Knights outfit.