Monday, December 31, 2012

A Cure for Political Disaffection

Was watching the 1964 movie "Seven Days in May" on TCM and heard this bit of astute political dialogue between a fictional President of the United States and the military general who intends to supplant him in a planned insurrectional take-over of the government. The general refers to himself by his full name as be begins talking:

General James Mattoon Scott: James Mattoon Scott ...  hasn't the slightest interest in his own glorification. But he does have an abiding interest in the survival of this country.
President Jordan Lyman: Then, by God, run for office. You have such a fervent, passionate, evangelical faith in this country - why in the name of God don't you have any faith in the system of government you're so hell-bent to protect?
(The entire confrontational scene between president and treasonous general -- with Burt Lancaster as the general -- is available on YouTube.)

Why has the general organized an armed rebellion to put the president out of office and himself into power? Because President Lyman has signed an arms treaty with the Russians, something that the general thinks weakens us to the point of being sitting ducks for Communist take-over.

This movie came out less than a year after the assassination of President John Kennedy, when possible conspiracies were very much in the air, and it plumbed a certain civic paranoia in a very realistic way. Plus it featured a great cast, including Fredric March as the president, Ava Gardner, Kirk Douglas, and a whole bunch of great character actors.

There was considerable conservative disaffection in the air in those days, particularly in the South and particularly over forced integration. Forget forced health-insurance reform, which in the scheme of things is but a blip of controversy compared to what the Kennedy and then the Johnson administrations were working to achieve ... actual racial justice.

Run for office, sez the fictional president. That's the way our Republic is supposed to work. Let the people decide whether your vision of America is their vision too.

If you think the country is being taken over by socialism, run for office and say so. If you think government will eventually figger a way to confiscate all firearms (including Great-Grandpap’s Civil War musket) and homo-sex-ewe-alls are evidence of the eternal damnation that God Almighty is even now meting out to the United States, run for office and say so.

If you can't run for office and say what you actually want, or fear, then that might tell you something about your own problems, and your own warped perceptions.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


From SCOTUSblog:

In the most significant federal appeals court ruling so far on the new federal health care law’s contraceptives mandate, the Seventh Circuit Court on Friday night temporarily barred the federal government from enforcing that requirement against an Illinois construction company whose Roman Catholic owners see it as a threat to their religious freedom. In a two-to-one ruling, the panel of the Chicago-based court acted two days after Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor had refused – for different reasons — to block enforcement of the mandate against an Oklahoma family and its businesses. 
The Seventh Circuit decision was of potentially major significance, because it marked the first time that a federal court at that level had accepted — at least temporarily — the argument that a profit-making company owned and run by people of strong religious faith fully shares their right to protection of their religious principles. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

North Carolinians, You're Gonna Have To Sacrifice More for the Rich

What can we expect from the Gov. Art Pope regime in North Carolina? Since Mr. Pope is now in charge of the state's budget, we need look no further than Mr. Pope's own Civitas Institute for the blueprint. It's the long-form version of this formula: tax the rich less, tax the poor and middle class more. Period. (There's a bunch of extra blah-blah about job-creators needing to be freed up from the social safety net, and then everything will be just peachy-keen. But we get the message.)

Economist Dave Ribar has taken a hard look at the Civitas outline and has written a compelling analysis of how it's regressive, moving the tax burden from the rich to the poor and middle class, and how it's otherwise full of shit.

This is what you voted for, North Carolina. Enjoy your crap sandwich.

Losses to the Body Politic

These interviews with retiring Congressmen give me new respect for Republican Steven LaTourette of Ohio and Democrat Brad Miller of North Carolina. LaTourette speaks frankly about the Tea Party Republicans who've strong-armed the Republican Conference, and Miller speaks frankly about the cluelessness of the Obama White House.

The loss of such men from our deliberative bodies is a blow to our democracy. As we prepare to cascade over that famous cliff, we wonder if this country has simply become irrevocably ungovernable. That's as dark a thought as one can have approaching a New Year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

We Knew This Would Come Out Eventually

Craptastic retail god and political manipulator Art Pope, who was elected governor of North Carolina last November via his surrogate, Pat Whatisname, is now revealed to have been the Dark Lord behind the redistricting of both the state's General Assembly as well as our U.S. congressional districts. (Hattip: Sharon McCloskey)

Stuff about Pope's hands-on manipulation of redistricting is coming out because of discovery in the lawsuit currently advancing toward the NC Supreme Court which challenges that redistricting:
Documents show that national Republican operatives, funded by dark money groups, drew the crucial lines which packed as many Democrats as possible into three congressional districts. The result: the state's congressional delegation flipped from 7-6 Democratic to 9-4 in favor of Republicans. The combination of party operatives, cash and secrecy also existed in other states, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.

While supposedly the new maps were being drawn by a committee of Republicans in the General Assembly, "the real maps" were being drawn at Republican Party HDQs in downtown Raleigh with Art Pope very much in the room. Not only in the room but sitting at the right-hand of the technician who was manipulating the mouse.

How could the non-elected Art Pope get such a prominent role? This is where it gets downright conspiratorial:
Art Pope, the most influential conservative donor in the state, was appointed "co-counsel" to the legislative leadership and allowed in the room to give direct instructions to the technician. 
"We worked together at the workstation," said Joel Raupe, the technical expert paid by Fair and Legal Redistricting, in a deposition. "He sat next to me." 
Pope, who is a lawyer but does not actively practice, was made co-counsel to the state legislature, offering his services pro bono. Now, because he was technically a legal adviser to the state, he says any information about his involvement in the redistricting is privileged.
Got that? The man's always thinking how he can both run state government and evade any accountability for his involvement. And now ... now, come February, Paul Newby, elected to the state Supreme Court with money pumped in by the same dark forces, will get to decide the legality of the Pope's redistricting.


The Gov. McCrory Scorecard

The Winston-Salem Journal says that Lyon Gray is a moderate Republican. We don't know. But Gov.-Elect Pat McCrory has appointed him as his revenue chief.

How will a moderate Republican get along with Art Pope, who ain't a moderate Republican and who will be writing McCrory's budget?

"Moderate McCrory," "Hyper-Conservative Ideologue McCrory"? Which will govern North Carolina?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pat McCrory Seals the Deal: "I'm a Puppet!"

The folks who made this video before the election had no idea how prophetic they were being.

Stick a Fork in John Boehner

Republican Speaker of the U.S. House John Boehner's "Plan B" was a stunt, a wheel-spinning exercise meant to strengthen his hand with President Obama. "Plan B" was going to show that House Republicans were willing to raise taxes a smidge for people making over $1 million a year, thus saving us all from "the fiscal cliff." (Of course, there was no way that "Plan B" would ever pass the Senate, so Boehner wasted days mounting the illusion of fiscal leadership in a last-ditch effort to save face.)

The whole thing collapsed yesterday because -- guess what! -- a sizable fraction of the House Republican conference would NOT -- O definitely NOT -- raise taxes on millionaires. They're stuck in their own amber. And they stuck John Boehner with the defeat and the lasting odor of conservative extremism that's willing to see the entire country suffer for the sake of their rich masters.

Oh Boehner reportedly cajoled them, pleaded with them, offered some of them committee goodies and door-prizes for their districts if they would just support him. One report said he almost cried. Almost?

Rep. Steven LaTourette, Republican of Ohio who is close to Boehner, tried to defend his friend. In perhaps the most unfortunate analogy he could have used, LaTourette said that the idea that the resounding crash of "Plan B" has hurt Boehner’s speakership is “like saying the superintendent of an insane asylum should be discharged because he couldn’t control the crazy people. I mean that’s nuts.”

Unfortunate analogy, but apt: the Republican conference in the U.S. House is very much like an insane asylum.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

King of the World

Gov.-Elect Pat McCrory has actually done it, put Art Pope in charge of the state's budget.

I have no words. Rob Schofield does:

When the rumor surfaced yesterday that arch-right-wing money bags and politcal attack ad king Art Pope would be Pat McCrory’s new budget director, there was a lot denial amongst the folks we talk with over here at Policy Watch. Folks simply couldn’t believe that the new Guv would take such an outrageous and politically risky step.
This would be like a President Romney appointing the Koch brothers as his directors of the EPA and IRS.
But, here we are, 24 hours later, getting our arms around the idea that the man actually did it! Today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File will explore this momentous decision in more detail so be on the lookout, but here is a preliminary take:
In one fell swoop, before he’s even taken office, Pat McCrory has done at least three very ill-advised things:
1. He’s destroyed any notion that he has moderate tendencies that might allow him to govern somewhere closer to the middle. Pope is the leader of one of the nation’s most extreme, right-wing Tea Party groups, Americans for Prosperity. You can’t place such a man in charge of your most important legislation (i.e. the state budget) and pretend to be a moderate.
2. He’s raised enormous ethical issues for himself and his administration. How do state lawmakers work with a man with millions of dollars and a record as long as your arm of mounting destructive attack ad campaigns against politicians with whom he disagrees?
3. He’s called his own authority and role into question. How can McCrory be Pope’s boss when it is Pope who has all the money and power? Is he really going to crack the whip and tell Pope to toe the line that he establishes? Obviously, to ask that question is to answer it. If anyone’s going to be giving orders in the new administration, it’s clearly going to be Pope. The bottom line, if Pope is now the state’s “deputy budget director,” Pat McCrory is now Deputy Governor.

Eric Mansfield Announces for Dems State Party Chair

Never has the state Democratic Party needed new leadership at the top like it needs it now, and former state Sen. Eric Mansfield of Fayetteville announced via an email blast this morning that he's running. He has a website set up with an emerging plan for the future.

Here's part of what he said in his announcement:
I entered politics like many of my generation, inspired by the grassroots movement of President Obama’s 2008 campaign and the possibility of real meaningful change of our politics. My wife and I started the Fayetteville for Obama group, organized his first visit to Fayetteville, and knocked on doors. I was stirred by the notion that a diverse group of people can move their government when they have a common purpose. 
Encouraged by this example, I used this template for my campaign for the NC Senate. We knocked on nearly 10,000 doors. Daily knocking on doors taught me an invaluable lesson that I have continued to carry with me: Leadership does not emanate from the top down, but that it grows from people up.
At this critical junction in our Party’s history, we must not forget why we are Democrats and who we seek to serve. If the definition of a Democrat is someone who fights for the less fortunate, stands up for the weak, and defends the vulnerable then we are Democrats. If the definition of a Democrat is someone who believes that being fiscally responsible does not mean making irresponsible cuts to education, health care, and human services, then place us among the numbered. If being a Democrat means someone who fights for the right of every child to have an excellent education not based on their color, their zip code, or their socioeconomic status but solely because they our children then we are Democrats. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Scariest Words We Know

"The President will negotiate..."

Kevin Siers, in today's Charlotte Observer.

Fort Hood shooting.

What's Ahead in North Carolina

Even while the National Rifle Association was going very silent over the Newtown massacre, North Carolina gun enthusiasts were just getting more juiced.

First, the Asheville Tea Party announced a "Great Gun Give-Away" of a model .223 assault rifle that looks a good deal like the one Adam Lanza used in the Connecticut grade school. The Asheville Tea Party is throwing in two 30-round clips, provided you pay $20 for a chance to win and then actually win this prize.

Then comes news this a.m. that Grass Roots North Carolina is asking the Republican super-majority in the General Assembly to allow public school teachers to carry, thus lifting the ban on guns in schools.

There's nothing to stop our General Assembly from doing this, and more. Certainly, our new governor won't stop them.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price

Don't you just love the smell of corruption in the morning?

A months-long investigation has revealed that Walmart has systematically used bribes to get what it wants in Mexico. Here's a key paragraph:
The Times’s examination reveals that Wal-Mart de Mexico was not the reluctant victim of a corrupt culture that insisted on bribes as the cost of doing business. Nor did it pay bribes merely to speed up routine approvals. Rather, Wal-Mart de Mexico was an aggressive and creative corrupter, offering large payoffs to get what the law otherwise prohibited. It used bribes to subvert democratic governance — public votes, open debates, transparent procedures. It used bribes to circumvent regulatory safeguards that protect Mexican citizens from unsafe construction. It used bribes to outflank rivals.

When the Bentonville big-wigs of the corporation back in Arkansas found out what was happening in their Mexican subsidiary, they opened an internal investigation. When the investigation revealed the truth, the Bentonville big-wigs shut down the investigation and covered it up.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Newtown, Conn., 14 December 2012

I hear two things from those on the political right, both among the comments on this site and from sources past numbering nationally:

1. The solution is to arm teachers.

2. This happened because we took God out of school.

Those who parrot # 1 love to trot out some version of what sci-fi author Robert A. Heinlein wrote years ago: “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”

Excuse me, but that is the rankest horseshit. According to the latest numbers I can uncover, the total number of nonmilitary firearms in the United States as of 2009 was 310 million. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau listed the country’s population in July 2011 as 311,591,917. Do the math. We’re very close to firearm/citizen parity, and we ain’t noticeably less prone to gun violence. Calling for first grade teachers to be packing heat, along with priests in the pulpit and information-givers in the mall kiosk, is not just ridiculous; it's insane. When in the United States has an ordinary citizen with a gun stopped a mass shooting?

In 2009, the latest figure available from the Centers for Disease Control shows that 31,347 people died from gun injuries in the US. Compared to other "high income" countries, firearm homicide rates were 19.5 times higher in the U.S. than in 23 other countries, using 2003 data.

As for those who piously take the route of # 2 above, words cannot express the tin-ear inappropriateness of suggesting that 20 little first-graders in Connecticut lacked God, or that all they needed to be safe in this world was a school in which prayer and Bible-reading were mandated. If you can’t keep such opinions to yourself, at least get out of my face with that sick evangelizing. If you can first show me a state of the Union where mass consensus on piety and religiosity have produced a more angelic society -- instead of severe alcoholism, serial infidelity, and personal violence -- then we can talk.

By the way, among the six least-violent nations on the face of the earth, you might not like it very much that several of them are also well-known socialist societies or practice religions not covered in your Huckabee sense of religious entitlement.

Friday, December 14, 2012

This Is What He Used

Because he could.

NC Towns Take Action To Protect Themselves From Fracking

Creedmoor, North Carolina, is the first municipality in our state to take action to protect its well water from fracking, with Cary perhaps poised to follow suit.

What are towns to do, otherwise, with Republicans in power and hell-bent on fracturing the rock below the water table and allowing methane and other toxics to invade the water supply?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Whaaa? McCrory Going All Squishily Moderate

Gov.-Elect Pat McCrory, in Raleigh to measure the curtains, held a press conference today and pointedly took a very different tone about the newly created Dix Park. NC Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and what Rob Schofield calls "the conservative shock troops at Americans for Prosperity" had lambasted Bev Perdue for striking the deal with the City of Raleigh for the Dorothea Dix acreage to become a public park, which Berger and Americans for Prosperity had labeled a travesty of Everything Holy = private profit off public lands. Changing his tune considerably from last week, when he was singing from the same free market hymnal with Berger and the Rich Guys, McCrory said he was "all for" the park.

He didn't mean it, probably, but he said it, and these days that gets marked down in the "moderation" column.

Schofield summed up what was striking about the whole scene:

No silly name-calling or manufactured outrage; nothing akin to Berger’s absurd and inflammatory statement on Twitter that "Having failed for years to advance her agenda, Gov Perdue is desperately trying to craft a last-minute legacy at NC taxpayers’ expense” or AFP’s claim that the deal is “a billion-dollar giveaway of taxpayer resources.” 
So, Republicans, how ya gonna handle your RINO governor?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Senator Chucklehead

NC Senator Dan Soucek professes himself "puzzled" that a federal judge would have a problem with what he, Soucek, and his fellow Republicans rammed through the General Assembly last year: NC license plates that take an anti-abortion position on possibly the most contentious political and religious issue of the last 40 years, without a similar opportunity for pro-choice citizens to similarly express their preferences.

Soucek sees no difference between these religious viewpoint plates and those that advocate NC State over, say, UNC Chapel Hill.

A legislator this smart clearly hasn't reached the nadir of his abilities.

The federal judge found "viewpoint discrimination" in the refusal of the General Assembly to allow for a different opinion. Did His Honor even question the provision in the law the gives the money raised from the "Choose Life" plates to anti-abortion religious orgs? Might he have a problem with the State becoming a cashier for a special religious interest?

On the same day that Soucek displays his remarkable puzzlement, the Fayetteville Observer published an editorial that might enlighten him. Might, but won't.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ed Asner on Recent History

McCrory's Own Pay-to-Play Scheme

Got $50,000? That's all it's gonna cost you to get close to our new governor.

Serious Question: Are NC Republicans Crazy?

Public Policy Polling found:

Foxx tops NC Republican wish list
Virginia Foxx tops the wish list of North Carolina Republicans for who they'd like as their Senate candidate next year: 17% pick her to 14% for Sue Myrick, 13% for Patrick McHenry, 11% for Renee Ellmers, 9% for George Holding, 6% for Richard Hudson, 4% for Mark Meadows, and 2% for Thom Tillis. 25% say that they prefer someone else or are unsure.
Pretty humiliating for ole Thom Tillis.

Monday, December 10, 2012

General Assembly, Here's a Suggestion: Choose Not To Be Dicks

In 2011, the new Republican majority in the NC General Assembly rammed through a prize for a special interest: the Clown College decided to issue "Choose Life" anti-abortion license plates, with all proceeds going to an anti-abortion religious group, and no amount of offers to compromise would move them off this goal. The other side suggested including a choice (get it?) between "Choose Life" and "Trust Women: Respect Choice" license plates, so that the state of North Carolina wasn't in the business of promoting a single religious viewpoint.

They passed their law, the NC American Civil Liberties Union promptly sued on Constitutional grounds, and a Federal judge has now ruled that the state can't just decide to discriminate on viewpoints like that.


Sunday, December 09, 2012

Worms in the Cabbage

The National Republican Party's delegate rule changes (a.k.a., "The Tampa Rules Changes"), which elicited boos in Florida at the National Republican Convention in August, amounted to the strong-arming of insurgent campaigns like Ron Paul's. Paulites had out-maneuvered and out-organized the Romney machine in states like Maine and Minnesota and recruited more convention delegates that Romney. Romney, looking forward to his inevitable re-coronation in 2016, and according to The Daily Beast, bull-dozed through the adoption of some new rules to cover his right flank in a future conventions:
In an effort to get more control over the delegate-selection process in the future, Romney’s people overstepped in a way that infuriated many conventiongoers who are otherwise supporting him. Yesterday [29 August 2012], the Republican National Committee proposed a new rule that would allow the party’s nominee to overrule state conventions and choose his or her own delegates. This, many feared, would turn delegate slots into perks for insiders and donors, and further shut activists out of the process.
If this is the new rule, why have expensive primaries? Huh?

Among those loyal Romney lieutenants who helped ram through this rather significant change to the way delegates to the national convention are chosen was one Robin Hayes, former Congressman and current chair of the North Carolina Republican Party, who was by gawd apparently determined to keep his state delegation in line on this. There's existing video of him "ranting" (according to a Tea Party eye witness ... video if you're brave enough to wade through an hour of bad sound and bizarre cinematography). It was as if Robin Hayes shouted, "Respect my AUTHORI-TIE!" or words to that effect. Later, in a videotaped confrontation with disgrunted Tea Partiers at a Moore County Republican Party meeting, Robin Hayes inadvertently (it's downright hysterical, like a comedy routine) admits something he didn't intend to admit in responding to a comment from his audience:

Tea Partier: "You treated the fellow from Louisiana ... who brought in the minority report [on the rules changes] very shabbily."

Hayes: "He wasn't from Louisiana."

Anyhoo, those rule changes ("a power grab," described as "a blow to the Tea Party and the Ron Paul insurgency -- movements that have sprung up precisely because Washington insiders of both parties have abandoned the traditional bedrock principles of the Republican party, namely, economic freedom, fiscal common sense, and smaller, constitutionally limited government")  and Robin Hayes's role in getting them installed are coming back to bite Mr. Hayes in the ass.

At the state Republican Party Executive Committee meeting in Cary yesterday, apparently Hayes was under fairly direct attack. A resolution passed calling for the reinstatement of the old delegate selection rules (hell, why not? Mittford Romington is gone forever!), and if we're to believe Brant Clifton, Tea Party members managed to scuttle the ascension of one Wayne King to the Party Chairmanship. King is a pariah to Tea Partiers largely for allegedly intervening in the Republican primary for State Auditor. You can read about that here.

All I Want for Christmas ... Is Freedom from Smugness

Greensboro Presbyterian minister Mark Sandlin writes compellingly on the so-called "war on Christmas":
...the baby we remember this time of year was not part of the dominant culture the way the religion he started now is. The religious stories that were told in those days were told under the shadow of the dominant culture. They were stories of oppression and hardships, stories of overcoming unthinkable odds, stories of hope for a people living in times and cultural positions that, quite frankly felt hopeless. 
But today, our stories are told from places and positions of power. Today, Christianity is the dominant culture. So, instead of story of a olive skinned middle-eastern, unwed, pregnant mother, who was seen as little more than property, giving birth to what the world would surely see as an illegitimate child who was wrapped in what rags they could find and placed in a smelly, flea-infested feeding trough in the midst of a dark musky smelling animal stall, we end up with a clean, white-skinned European woman giving birth to a glowing baby wrapped in impossibly white swaddling clothes and laid to rest in a manger that looks more like a crib than a trough in the midst of a barn that is more kept and clean than many of our houses. 
So, "War on Christmas?" Sure, sign me up. I'm pretty sure I'd prefer the elimination of what our modern "celebration" has become to the increasingly white-washed version we hear every year.

All Eyes on Chief Justice John Roberts

I saw a great deal of woo-hooing on Facebook on Friday after the Supreme Court granted hearings in two gay marriage cases. From what I’m reading, the elation is a little premature. The menu of options open to the justices, especially in the California Prop 8 case, range all over the map, from outlawing gay marriage restrictions everywhere (woot!) to finding absolutely no constitutional basis for gay rights (OMG!).

It may all come down to Chief Justice John Roberts and how he wants history to view him. It’s said that no Supreme Court ever likes to get too far out in front of the people. But it’s also a given that the truly great Justices have been well ahead of the people and have actually led them where many feared to tread. Chief Justice John Marshall established definitively the right of the courts to interpret the law. Chief Justice Earl Warren took society away from segregated schools and incidentally also led the Court in striking down state prohibitions against interracial marriage (in Loving v. Virginia, 1967), which is a pretty interesting precedent for the current docket.

Roberts has already freed himself from the airless, conservative box of Scalia/Thomas/Alito, in the recent ruling on Obamacare, and he may want to step out again on gay marriage. If he doesn’t want to lead boldly but nevertheless sees clearly where this society is headed eventually, then we would expect a ruling that is incrementally good for gay marriage but is something far more timid than we would like.

1. United States v. Windsor is a challenge to the 1996 law of Congress, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage for all federal purposes as a union of one man and one woman. Everyone I’m reading on SCOTUS blog seems sure that this court will strike down DOMA. But striking down the federal definition of marriage will not necessarily address the underlying Constitutional issue of whether there is a right to gay marriage.

2. Hollingsworth v. Perry is the California Prop 8 case and is generally considered the epicenter for all earthquakes that may come from the High Court's decision to open the gay marriage argument. In their order granting a hearing in this case, the Supremes requested the lawyers to brief them on the legal issues of standing, which is a warning that the Court might take the narrow view and follow the lead of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, find that those clamoring to take away the right of marriage from gay people have no legal standing to be suing in this case and thereby uphold the overturning of Prop 8. If this is the path the Court takes, then gay marriage could be ruled legal in California only (since the state had already approved gay marriage prior to Prop 8). Even more narrowly, the Court could rule that gay marriage is legal in just two counties of California, where county clerks had refused to issue marriage licenses after the passage of Prop 8 and were subsequently named in the complaint that has now landed at last on the docket of the Supreme Court.

Gay marriage had been legalized in California, against which Prop 8, a plebiscite, was mounted and passed, taking the right away. The Ninth Circuit held that under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, a state could not grant an entitlement and then take it away without a legitimate reason. In reaching that conclusion, the Ninth Circuit relied on another very interesting Supreme Court case, Romer v. Evans, which you should know about.  According to Kenji Yoshino, Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU:
Romer v. Evans ... invalidated a Colorado constitutional amendment enacted through a plebiscite that stated that there could be “no protected status” on the basis of gay, lesbian, or bisexual identity. The constitutional amendment in question (Amendment 2) superseded anti-discrimination laws protecting gays that had been passed by progressive cities in Colorado. Those cities were blue dots in a red state. Amendment 2 invalidated those municipal ordinances and, going forward, prohibited the state or any of its subdivisions from enacting a similar kind of anti-discrimination ordinance. 
The Supreme Court struck down the Colorado amendment under the Equal Protection Clause without specifying a level of scrutiny. It observed that Amendment 2 was “at once too narrow and too broad” — it singled out a group of people on the basis of a single trait and then denied them protections across the board. The sweeping nature of the disability on a small group of people effectively made gay individuals “strangers” to the law. The Court stated that the imposition of such harm could only be explained by animus
In the Perry case, the Ninth Circuit panel detected the same animus. One problem with the panel’s analysis was that Prop. 8 eliminated only one right — the right to marry. The panel acknowledged this distinction, saying that animus could be present even (or perhaps especially) when a state enacted legislation with “surgical precision.” Yet this interpretation extends Romer, which repeatedly emphasized the breadth of the harm imposed by Amendment 2 as part of what was constitutionally objectionable about it. 
This objection, however, simply  means that Romer, standing alone, may not dispose of Perry. Because they are both gay-rights cases involving ballot measures, the understandable tendency has been to link Perry with Romer. Yet Romer is but one member of a family of cases in which the Court has invalidated laws that lacked a rational basis. Many of these cases invalidated laws much narrower than Prop. 8. In City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, the Court struck down a city zoning ordinance that discriminated against individuals with mental disabilities, applying equal protection rational basis review. Similarly, in United States Department of Agriculture v. Moreno, the Court struck down a portion of a federal food stamps program that discriminated against “hippies.” The best reading of these precedents is that the problem with legislation based solely on animus is the animus, not the breadth of the legislation. Such breadth is but one of the many possible indicia pointing to the existence of animus. 
If the Court adopted this substantive rule, the decision would only affect the capacity of same-sex couples to marry in California, at least for the time being. No other state has permitted same-sex couples to marry before taking away the right....
Reading legal analysis written by high-powered lawyers can seem a house of mirrors, but I find it pretty stimulating on this particular subject. If you want to read more, SCOTUS blog has been my indispensible source, particularly this and this and this and the above.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Our New Lt. Gov. Has a Sexual Problem

Apparently, newly elected Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, one Dan Forest, finds the women's lingerie ads in Sears a definite turn-on, and in between yelling "Satan, get Thee behind me!" he wants to warn good Christians everywhere to wrap those catalogs in brown kraft paper, to protect themselves from such pornography.

Yes, he's waaay out there, our Dan Forest!

Luckily, the Lt. Gov. of North Carolina has virtually no mandated duties. Just ask Walter Dalton.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

NC GOP Evidently Got the Memo (And Actually Read It!)

The portentously named "NC House Select Committee on the State's Role on Immigration Policy," which had revved up its investigation early in the year like a posse looking for someone to hang, has done a "one-eighty" since that unfortunate election and instead issued a report that is Basic Pabulum about immigration.

No more hard-line on immigration, folks, at least not in this General Assembly about to convene in Raleigh.

That is, until some Tea Partier with poor reading skills decides to act up. We can't wait.

Sen. Burr as Judge of Character

Sen. Dick Burr, who practically had to vault over the wheel-chair-confined former Senator Bob Dole in order to vote against ratification of a U.N. treaty that would give greater protections to the disabled world-wide (see below), is now riding his moral high horse in lecturing us that former Senator Jesse Helms, that tired old bigot and poisonous excuse for a human being, deserves to have a federal courthouse named for him.

This is Congresswoman Renee Ellmers' bright idea. Bless her heart.

Jesse Helms, who was no federalist by any stretch of the imagination. Jesse Helms, who routinely blocked the nominations of federal judges if he didn't approve of their race or their pedigree. Jesse Helms, who said more hateful things in his long, intolerant life than both my dogs have fleas. That Jesse Helms.

She Did It Again

Madam Virginia Foxx has forever taken a Madam Pompadour attitude toward "servants," that is, anyone below her in social station. She's justifiably famous in these parts for chewing out people who get in her way or otherwise irritate her sense of privilege. So the incident memorialized below is no surprise and wholly in character. She's done it before.

From The Hill:
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) chewed out a House staffer after catching her riding on a “members only” elevator, according to an ITK tipster who was on the scene. 
But Foxx’s office is calling our lookout's description of events in the elevator an "exaggeration."

Our spy hit the “members” button on the elevator after waiting (and waiting) for a lift on Tuesday. Elevators were slow that day because furniture was being moved around the Longworth House Office Building. When the members-only elevator arrived, our tipster and a female House staffer stepped in. 
The elevator went up a single floor before the doors opened and Foxx walked in with an aide. 
The lawmaker, who was recently elected to a House GOP leadership post, asked for whom the pair worked. Then she turned to the female staffer, who had no clue she was on board what was soon to be the elevator ride of doom. 
Foxx said to the staffer, “This is a ‘members-only’ elevator; can you read?” She then demanded the staffer’s name before the elevator stopped after going just one more floor up. “Get out here,” Foxx supposedly commanded. 
Before our insider and the berated staffer exited, the politician exclaimed, “What does this sign say? It says, ‘Members of Congress only.’ ” 
But that wasn’t it. The innocent staffer attempted to point out that the sign next to it stated, “during votes,” which is when, our tipster says, Foxx started yelling, “Members only!” as she pointed to signs. 
“I’m just making sure we are hiring people who know how to read,” the lawmaker said. 
Foxx’s press secretary, Ericka Perryman, noted it must be a slow news day, telling us in an email, “This is silly. But it is interesting to see what great lengths of exaggeration some disrespectful junior staffers will go to just to read about themselves in the paper.” 
We wanted to get to the bottom of this elevator etiquette snafu. 
House Administration Committee Deputy Staff Director Salley Wood tells us both Foxx and the anonymous staffer are right … sort of. 
“There are elevators that are designated for ‘members only’ during vote series as well as elevators that are designated for ‘members only’ at all times,” says Wood. 
While not knowing on which elevator the alleged incident took place, Wood says signage should notify riders which elevator banks are usable and when. 
Whatever the case, our ITK mole seemed flabbergasted by the elevator episode, saying of Foxx, “Seriously?!? I have never seen a member do that.”

Secret Super-PAC Will Help McCrory Run NC

A brand new 501(c)4 "non-profit" calling itself The Foundation for North Carolina is throwing Gov.-Elect Pat McCrory's inauguration party at the Raleigh Convention Center and intends to help him guide the state toward "market-oriented solutions."

As a 501(c)4, The Foundation doesn't have to reveal where it's getting its money. It's also not supposed to "coordinate" with any candidate or elected official. Yeah, right. As in this:

"The foundation filed its incorporation papers on Nov. 20, the same date that McCrory announced he would attend the group's event at Raleigh's downtown convention center."

Secret donors with a philosophy straight out of the Art Pope bible. McCrory took the bait on pay-to-play politics faster'n a goose goes after a Junebug.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Ties That Bind

Governor-elect Pat McCrory has not quit his job with Moore & Van Allen, a Charlotte law firm that lobbies state government. And he's never been open about what he does for those boys, though he's not registered as a lobbyist in Raleigh. He's "senior director of strategic initiatives," which sounds like a mouthful of obfuscation meant to conceal more than it reveals.

According to the News&Observer,
Moore & Van Allen lobbyists represent outdoor advertising, technology and real estate interests with matters before the state, as well as the American Petroleum Institute, which is pushing to allow fracking in North Carolina.
Yeah, we got that. We know whose interests Gov. McCrory will be looking out for.

How To Energize the Democratic Base

Every political activist and political observer in North Carolina expects the overwhelming Republican majorities in the General Assembly, along with Republican handmaiden, Gov. Squishy, to pass and sign, finally, their beloved voter photo ID act early -- very early -- in 2013.

We'll have to wait to find out whether they also try to shove the cost of those IDs off on voters -- setting off a court challenge which they will lose, because the state's Constitution mandates free elections -- and what extra hoops they intend to put college students through.

The new General Assembly in Raleigh is not made up of overly thoughtful people, so they aren't likely to pause to consider The Law of Unintended Consequences. After 2010, the Republicans in the General Assembly tried their best to join 35 other Republican-dominated states in hobbling voter turn-out in 2012, especially brown-skinned voter turn-out, but Gov. Perdue frustrated their plans with the veto. They're veto-proof now, but they might want to consider how voter suppression in those other 35 states ended up biting their authors in the ass.

I'm not talking about the court decisions against many of those photo ID and other suppression laws. I'm talking about the increased passion for voting among those groups who perceived that they were the targets of those suppression laws.

The Romney campaign based their strategies (and their wholly off-base polling) on the expectation that black enthusiasm for Obama would be down in 2012, along with the enthusiasm among college students. Both groups were ostensibly the main targets of photo ID and other ballot access laws. But both groups defied expectations and turned out in even higher numbers than in 2008. Some think it was because they knew that their Republican-led state legislatures had targeted them, and they weren't going to take that treatment lying down (or sitting out an election).

So go ahead and do your worst, NC General Assembly, and don't be surprised at the result.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Score One for Bev!

Bev Perdue won one this a.m., and good for her. The NC Council of State approved her plan to lease the 306-acre Dorothea Dix Hospital tract of land in downtown Raleigh to the City of Raleigh for preservation as a park for the people. The deal will cost the City of Raleigh about $68 million over 75 years. Republicans on the Council of State (principally Secretary of Labor Cherie Berry) had their noses out of joint because they were flakking for big-money interests, said they wanted more cash for the land, but more than wanting more, they wanted to deny Bev Perdue a victory. They lost.

Another Council of State member, Attorney General Roy Cooper, said, "This is an extraordinary opportunity that will improve the quality of life for generations to come. I think it’s shortsighted to analyze this as a pure economic transaction for the state.” (Why didn't Roy Cooper run for governor?)

Cherie Berry: "More money!"

Roy Cooper: "More value."

The site contains much open park land already, some 200-year-old specimen oaks and other mature hardwoods, and was lusted after by a rapacious crowd of commercial developers. Bev Perdue has saved that historic jewel from development. For that she gets a star in her crown.

Her chief opponents, who've been raging publicly since she announced the plan: The Koch Brothers/Art Pope group known as Americans for Prosperity, along with their puppets in the NC General Assembly, Thom Tillis and Phil  Berger. And, of course, old Me-Too Pat McCrory, Squishy Pat, who's learned fast whose palm to eat out of.