Friday, February 26, 2016

Fighting Back: The Harassment of WCU (and ASU) Faculty

The Koch Bros. get their hooks
into Western Carolina University
We know about local Republican operatives slapping university types they don't like with demands for their emails. Republican Party Chair Anne Marie Yates and her chief legal advisor Nathan Miller went after the current Democratic Board of Elections member because she had the gall to sue over the unconstitutional behavior of the Republicans in suppressing the vote of ASU students. Not only did she sue, she won in court. So Nathan Miller demanded all her emails from ASU and made clear to a judge that it was purely a political witch-hunt. That judge listened and dismissed Miller's claim.

It's a pattern of harassment being duplicated at other state universities.

Last November, we wrote here about the scheme by the Koch Bros. to bring indoctrination in predatory capitalism to the curriculum at Western Carolina University and give it an academic coating. The faculty -- some of them, at least -- pushed back against making their institution the handmaiden to conservative propaganda. And the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a flying wedge of the Art Pope Empire for Stamping Out Progressive Thought, promptly filed public records requests for all the emails of those faculty members.

Chilling effect? You bet! Harassment that produces silent acquiescence in the face of ruthless power? You can take that to the bank (and please make sure it's a predatory institution)!

One of those harassed faculty members resisted, apparently without much support from the higher-ups at her university who wanted to get their mitts on that Koch money. Now that faculty member has scooped the snoopers at the Art Pope Empire by publishing all her emails herself on her own blog. Ha!

What terrible misdeeds do those emails reveal? Mainly, that the faculty member was sharing news articles about the Koch takeover of higher education. Off with her head!

Take a look at the faculty member's blog post. Good stuff.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tail Between Legs, Tillis Back in Step With Rest of Obstructionist Republicans

After initially saying it would be wrong to "fall into the trap" of saying "NO Effing Way!" to anyone President Obama might nominate to Scalia's SCOTUS seat, Sen. Thom Tillis has been schooled.

He's repented. He's flip-flopped. He's signed his name in (barely visible) blood (as a member of the Judiciary Committee) to a letter to Senate Majority Turtle Mitch McConnell:
"As we mourn the tragic loss of Justice Antonin Scalia and celebrate his life's work, the American people are presented with an exceedingly rare opportunity to decide, in a very real and concrete way, the direction the court will take over the next generation. We believe The People should have this opportunity."
What he meant was that he had experienced, in less than a week, a political threshing -- "I've been reaped!" -- which, aside from shaking his grain, had rendered him without reproductive organs. (Turns out, those balls weren't actually gone boys but merely shrunk up into his scrotum so microscopically that Donald Trump could not have found them in a week in order to kick them up into Tillis's windpipe if he should ever dare to offer an unsanctioned opinion again.)

Yessir! We have constitutional scholars representing us in Congress, not to mention brave, independent men.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why I'm Voting for Bernie

I've tried to stay out of this, at least publicly, but with Donald Trump now pretty much assured the Republican nomination, what would be the point of remaining politic (adjective: "seeming sensible and judicious under the circumstances") when the world is turning upside-down?

The last head-to-head fantasy match-up poll I saw had Bernie Sanders beating Donald Trump. It had Hillary Clinton losing to Trump. That's upside-down. How could such an over-qualified and historic candidate lose to such an unqualified and dangerous "reality star"? And how could an old, grumpy socialist beat the billionaire braggart?

Not that I'm swayed by polls or even pay them much attention at this point in the political cycle. But that poll is a bell wether. It signals this year's zeitgeist (noun: "the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time"). The voters are hating on "establishment types" (noun: "losers") and will no longer countenance them.

Hence, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Trump is a bully with a bully's instincts. Sanders has the contrasting instincts that I want infusing my nation, let alone my nation's government.

Hillary Clinton is "establishment," and in my judgment, she cannot win against Trump. Hillary Clinton is bespoke. She's been Wall Street's creature for years, and she was tailored by the establishment for the establishment. That's a fashion I cannot follow in this year of the anti-establishment hostile takeover of politics.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

#ncga and #ncgov -- Ready To Stick Their Thumbs in Charlotte's Eye

Last night the Charlotte city council voted decisively for new protections for LGBT citizens.

This morning, NC House Speaker Tim Moore sez he's ready to lead his Republican troops in overturning the Charlotte city council. (Governor Squishy had already announced that he would sign any law meddling with Charlotte's dangerous trend toward tolerance.)

So it goes.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

U.S. Supremes to North Carolina: "Deal With Your Own Mess"

The U.S. Supreme Court late yesterday declined to stay a lower court ruling about the illegal gerrymandering of congressional districts.

The New York Times offered the understatement of the day: "...North Carolina now faces a chaotic situation just when some voters have already begun sending in absentee ballots under the old congressional districting scheme."

Meanwhile, in Mugstomp on the Neuse, the NC General Assembly Republicans forced through their new redistricting plan and set the congressional primaries for June 7, with the new open filing period to run from March 16-25.

Apparently, when we all vote in the other primary on March 15, congressional primary races -- like Virginia Foxx's race against Pattie Curran on the Republican ballot -- will still be on the ballot in Watauga County and presumably elsewhere across the 5th District.

The State Board of Elections issued a statement last night about that: "State Elections Director Kim Strach, acknowledging the potential for voter confusion, urged people to vote for their preferred congressional candidate in both elections. “Vote the whole ballot and let us worry about what will count,” she said in a statement issued after the bill passed both chambers."

"Let us worry about what will count." Excuse me, Ms. Strach, but considering past and recent history at the SBOE, I think maybe there's enough worry to go around.

Renee Ellmers
Meanwhile, the political fallout from this mess is beginning to get interesting: Rep. George Holding, Republican, who has been drawn out of his 13th District, has already announced that he will now be challenging fellow incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers for her 2nd District seat. He might beat her, but from what we're hearing, Holding's about as unpopular with the Republican base as is Ellmers. And who knows how many of Ellmers' original primary challengers will re-file against her. Could be a crowded field, and with the "no run-off" provision, whoever gets the most votes, wins.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Mugstomp on the Neuse Goes Under Water

It has become surreal in Raleigh.

1. The General Assembly -- mainly the Republican Grandees in the NC Senate -- have redrawn congressional districts to maintain their 10-3 Republican dominance, while also conveniently punishing Democrat Alma Adams (by moving her 12th District completely out from under her) and delivering what looks like a career-ending blow to fellow Republican George Holding who is now double-bunked with Democratic Congressman David Price.

2. All this rush to redistrict what a three-judge panel said was unconstitutional gerrymandering may be rendered moot if Chief Justice John Roberts comes through with a Supreme Court stay of the three-judge panel's decision.

3. If Chief Justice Roberts issues a stay, then everything goes back to where we were last week: all primaries in all races on March 15. Otherwise, with no intercession from the Supremes, the Congressional primary will be yanked off the ballot for March 15 -- every other ballot item remaining in place -- and moved to June 7th.

4. No run-offs allowed. For the March 15 primary, and for all the races still on that ballot, top vote-getter wins even if he/she doesn't get to the magic 40 percent marker. (This could conceivably save Renee Ellmers' bacon. She's in a four-person primary race and will conceivably have some difficulty getting to 40 percent. The other likely beneficiary: Deborah Ross, who's in a four-way Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.)

5. Here's where it gets bizarre, according to what passed in the NC House late yesterday. Here I must quote directly from the N&O to get it straight:
In another twist, candidates who won a March 15 primary then could file to run for a congressional seat June 7. If they won in both primaries, they would have to withdraw from one, within a week after the June 7 results were certified.
That means, for example, a legislator who already had been renominated for a seat could run in a congressional primary, and continue to seek re-election as a legislator if he or she lost the latter vote.
I have questions. I hardly know where to start. I'm assuming that the word "candidates" in that first sentence refers to any candidates in any primary race. Certain moments from the early Byzantine Empire are flickering in my mind.

6. No. 5 creates another level of confusion and chaos unanticipated by any sane person outside the halls of the NC House. It potentially creates a campaign finance loophole through which you could drive a tank. Allowing candidates in other state primaries to also file to run for the U.S. Congress without foregoing their state races would open the door for using money raised for a state campaign in a Federal campaign, which is illegal. This will be litigated. It will not stand.

7. Any resemblance between the North Carolina General Assembly and The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight is not coincidental.

Read more here:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Breaking News: "Retention" Elections for Judges Ruled Unconstitutional in NC

The Twitterverse is saying that the three-judge panel which heard lawyer Sabra Faires' case challenging "retention" elections for NC Supreme Court judges -- just two days ago -- has now ruled in her favor. More to come.

If this is true, then what happens? The appeal would have to go to the NC Supreme Court, which has a clear conflict of interest in the issue, since every one of the justices would eventually and conceivably benefit from retention elections.

Another fine mess you've created for us, NC General Assembly!


Pope vs. Trumpolini

We've entered the twilight of our civilization.

The best pope in generations sez that anyone who wants to build walls like Donald Trump isn't a Christian. The actual quote: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel."

Trump counter-attacks, calls pope a loser who dresses funny and can't even get a date.

The Current and On-Going Mess with Congressional Districts

Late yesterday, Republican gerrymanderers in the General Assembly released proposed new congressional districts. It's going to take some time to fully digest what it all means, but in redrawing districts 1 and 12, under court order, the map-drawers redrew all 13 districts.

Virginia Foxx's 5th District would now take in all of Forsyth, which means the urban core of Winston-Salem, and would regain Stokes and Surry counties while losing Iredell.

Two House members have been drawn out of their districts ... Democrat Alma Adams in the 12th (which would now be entirely in Mecklenburg) and Republican George Holding in the 13th.

What happens now? The General Assembly was called back this morning to vote on this new map, which they will because the Republicans are in the majority, but will the three-judge panel who ordered the redrawing accept the maps? Who knows?

And what happens with the primary due to launch Early Voting in a matter of days? Some of the incumbent congress people have primaries, including Virginia Foxx, but with the districts moved -- some of them light-years -- aren't there likely to be new potential candidates who would like the chance to run?

This is a mess made in the Republican kitchen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cherokee Nation Routs the Army of God

The bullying of local governments to put "In God We Trust" on public buildings has been going on in North Carolina for years now, organized by a Christian dominionist outfit called the U.S. Motto Action Committee.

Watauga County Board of Commissioners Chair Jimmy Hodges lept on that bandwagon, and the Watauga County Courthouse now bears that declaration of religion in violation of the separation of church and state.

"In God We Trust" was adopted by Congress as our official motto in 1956 at the height of the Red Scare. It replaced the original motto "E Pluribus Unum," out of many, one. The new motto was a symbol then of terror and Christian backlash in the face of communism and still is a symbol of that terror, though now they're mainly afraid of a Kenyan-born Muslim president who made the horrendous error of being born black. Barack Obama is just a little too e pluribus for many white people, along with the entire public education system, voting rights, and amendments 13-16 of the U.S. Constitution.

Davidson Co.
North Carolina county governments have been falling like the proverbial dominoes to the current militance behind the push for "In God We Trust." To refuse to go along with this crowd is to risk being called "godless" or worse, a Methodist. In Davidson County, N.C., the authorities ordered the four words on the sides of every patrol car.

There have been a few -- very few -- bumps in this road to Christian theocracy in North Carolina. The Jackson County chair of the board of commissioners told the religion peddlars to not bother showing up there. But the sharpest slap in the face came from the Cherokee Tribal Council during the first week of February.

Cherokees Say, "How Dare You?"
The Christian shill for the U.S. Motto Action Committee got a reception at the Cherokee Tribal Council that might have been his Little Big Horn.

"You don’t even know our people,” Councilmember Tommye Saunooke, of Painttown, told the spokesman for the proselytizing committee. “You don’t know what kind of beliefs we have, and it offends me to think that you need to tell us what to do.”

“When you go to an indigenous community, you really have to put in time to learn about who those people are,” said Becky Walker, a Wolfetown community member. “I feel like if you had done that, you probably wouldn’t have come here.”

It only got worse after that. Charitably, the proselytizing committeeman was allowed to withdraw his resolution. He quickly left the Tribal Council chambers, his sanctified tail between his sanctified legs.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"Retention" Elections for Judges: Case Will Be Heard Today

Last fall, the Republicans in the General Assembly changed the way judges on the state's Supreme Court run for reelection, and they did it to protect the one conservative judge -- Bob Edmunds -- whose term is up this year.

Judge Bob Edmunds
Judge Bob Edmunds is now running unopposed because the General Assembly decided the only way we can get a different judge on the Supreme Court is to vote no confidence in Bob Edmunds first, at which point Governor Squishy would get to replace him on the bench. The political maneuvering of this new law screams FRAUD like a drag queen at a Baptist picnic.

A law suit challenging the constitutionality of "retention elections" filed by attorney Sabra Faires in Wake County will be heard by a special three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals in Raleigh this afternoon.

Faires is "arguing that the switch from contested elections to up-or-down votes for Supreme Court slots was a change that required a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution – something that did not happen."

According to reporter Sharon McCloskey, Republican House Speaker Pro Tem Skip Stam warned his fellow law-makers that what they were doing was unconstitutional, but they did it anyway (with Skip Stam abstaining on the final vote).

According to McCloskey, "Because Faires challenged the retention law as unconstitutional on its face, a finding in her favor would send any appeal directly to the Supreme Court." And because every single member of the Supreme Court has an interest in the case, how could they legitimately hear an appeal?

Another mess created by the most politically self-interested and operationally inept state legislature in the country!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Dick Burr's Rationalization

Article II, Section II, of the U.S. Constitution: "The President .... shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court...."
Okay, I deliberately left out the next clause of that sentence, which says in Olde English (hard to accurately transcribe, except for Republicans), "except when the President is a black man or a Democrat, or both."

Amazing how those Republicans, who just love the Constitution to pieces, find rationalizations for ignoring its clear mandates.

Sen. Dick Burr said, “In this election year, the American people will have an opportunity to have their say in the future direction of our country. For this reason, I believe the vacancy left open by Justice Antonin Scalia should not be filled until there is a new president.”

Let's annotate that excuse: "The American people, who had their say in 2008 by electing Barack Obama, and again in 2012, by reelecting Barack Obama, will probably and overwhelmingly agree with Republican obstructionists that the last 11 months of said Obama's term in office should be spent ruing the day he was ever elected in the first place and thanking the Lily White God Above that a white conservative could be elected next November, who'll do the Right Thing!"

Of course, Burr said that because his Republican brethren in the U.S. Senate had formed a chorus already, and of course he said it because he's got Greg Brannon challenging him on the right in the primary, and Burr thought he'd better join the chorus. To his detriment.

The Republican Party, and especially Republican senators up for reelection, are adding more packed baggage to their already weighted-down War Wagon, none of which particularly appeals to independent and swing voters.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Will Watauga County Appeal Its Board of Adjustment Decision in the Maymead Case?

"Four" Eggers
Word is filtering out that Watauga County Attorney "Four" Eggers was first suggesting to his bosses that they don't have standing to appeal their own Board of Adjustment decision in the case of Maymead Asphalt, and then he changed his tune slightly and began saying that it would be highly unusual for a county to appeal to superior court a decision by its own Board of Adjustment.

Both of those suggestions are incorrect.

What's not at all unusual is that the commissioners appointed every one of those members of the Board of Adjustments and those members follow the Republican line of "you can't tell a feller what he can and can't do on his own property. My property rights ABOVE your rights to health, safety, and the enjoyment of your investment in hearth and home."

Those property rights chickens are now roosting on the commissioners' porch railing. And they have a decision to make Tuesday night, at Commissioner John Welch's insistence that they consider appealing the decision of the Board of Adjustment in the Maymead Asphalt plant on the Doc & Merle Watson Scenic Highway.

Concerned about the cost of an appeal, are they? Where was their concern about legal expenses when they voted to intervene in the Town of Boone's lawsuit against the state in protecting its right to Extraterritorial Jurisdiction?

In November 2014, in his last meeting as a member of the Watauga County Commission, Chair Nathan Miller voted to spend unreported amounts of taxpayer money to intervene in the Boone ETJ case in advance of a hearing by a three-judge panel (which Boone won, incidentally). Miller was joined in that vote by fellow Republican commissioners Perry Yates and David Blust.

Miller is gone from the commission, where he delighted in punishing the town of Boone for its very existence. But Yates and Blust still sit up there making decisions that affect the health and safety of large numbers of citizens, and the future for all of us.

If they take bad legal advice from "Four" Eggers and/or if they refuse to pursue their legal rights in the interests of protecting the citizens, then hell may be cool compared to the fury of voters in November.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Jonathan Jordan and Human Decency

An op-ed in today's Raleigh News&Observer, "North Carolina's ag-gag law an affront to human decency," is the only antidote to Rep. Jonathan Jordan's mealy-mouthed defense of the law that appeared in the Watauga Democrat.

Jordan ignores the most obvious examples of whistle-blowing that are now felonies under the law he voted for, like reporting animal abuse at factory farms and elder abuse at factory nursing homes, and instead trots out a wholly bogus example of someone working for Walmart (Walmart!) and working there with insufficient "duty" and loyalty to the largest corporation in America.


Jordan, -- occasionally an affront to human decency himself -- willfully misrepresents the intention and the impact of the law he voted for.

Possible Appeal of Maymead Asphalt Decision On County Commish Agenda Next Week

County Commissioner John Welch has requested an agenda item for the commission's regular evening meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 16 (5:30 p.m.): Discussion of the Watauga Board of Adjustment's surprising decision to restore Maymead Asphalt's revoked permit to cook paving material on the Doc & Merle Watson Scenic Highway.

Prevailing rumor is that Commission Chair Jimmy Hodges is against an appeal. So, too, probably are Perry Yates and David Blust, both of whom are up for reelection this year. Those three hold the power to appeal to superior court their own Board of Adjustment's unaccountable decision.

Reelection. Hope for and fear about. That's the leverage the people have now on the issue of bringing more pollution into this county and plopping it down on a scenic highway and in the middle of residential properties.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Slippery Slope

Grant Whitney
Yesterday, during the hours-long teleconference by the NC State Board of Elections and before the Board voted 4-0 to order an Early Voting polling place at the Appalachian State University Student Union, the same Board voted 3-2 against Early Voting at Winston-Salem State University. Newly installed Chair Grant Whitney voted with the other Republicans in denying the majority black student population at WSSU an Early Voting site. The Winston-Salem Journal captured the most telling comment of the day:
Chairman Grant Whitney said he worried that if the board put early voting at one college, every other college would want the same thing.
Yes, they worry, don't they? You let one interested college student easy access to voting, and pretty soon more of them are wanting easy access to voting. Whatever will this come to?

Grant Whitney then recused himself from the vote on ASU. Inquiring minds wonder why.

This particular moment in the on-going saga of North Carolina voting rights reminds me of an ancient limerick:
An epicure dining at Crewe
Found a very large bug in his stew.
Said the waiter, "Don't shout
And wave it about,
Or the rest will be wanting one too."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

ASU Gets an Early Voting Site While Aceto & Owens Get Egg on Their Faces

Bill Aceto
Jesse Wood at High CountryPress has a good partial blow-by-blow of this afternoon's teleconference of the state Board of Elections, which did not go well for either Bill Aceto or Nancy Owen, the two Republican members of the Watauga County Board of Elections, whose sole reason for existing and holding public office is to prevent ASU students from voting on campus.

Aceto and Owen did not reckon on new member of the state BOE, Republican James Baker. They apparently didn't reckon that Mr. Baker, a retired superior court judge, would actually read the decision handed down in the fall of 2014 by another superior court judge, Donald Stephens of Wake County, declaring that the actions taken by the Republican majority on the Watauga BOE had violated the constitutional rights of college students.

Baker therefore asked Owen (because Aceto was not on the call yet), "What has changed since 2014" to make your Early Voting plan constitutional?

Nancy Owen
Owen had no answer. Neither did Aceto, when he finally got on the call. Growing increasingly frustrated that the state BOE was no longer in the tank for the partisan corruption of Watauga County elections, Aceto finally blurted out that he just didn't agree with Judge Stephens' ruling.

Not a good career move for Aceto. You don't tell a retired superior court judge that you didn't do the constitutional thing because you just didn't agree with another judge's ruling.

Meanwhile, Watauga BOE member Nancy Owen got a strong lesson in the downside of being a stooge for manipulative and corrupt people.

The misrepresentation of Early Voting records that Aceto had presented as truth to the state BOE -- which we reported on here yesterday -- was quickly recanted by Aceto during the teleconference this afternoon. He had no choice but to acknowledge his "error."

If You Want To Dial In to the State Board of Elections Meeting Today...

At two p.m. this afternoon:

Dial 415.930.5321. Access code = 127-597-008

It's reportedly a long agenda, and the Watauga County case may be near the end. Check these document files.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Uncovering Deception at the Watauga Board of Elections

Watauga BOE Chair Bill Aceto and his handpicked successor to Elections Director Jane Anne Hodges -- Matt Snyder -- have clearly colluded in attempting to mislead the state Board of Elections.

Bill Aceto
Tomorrow in a teleconference, the State Board of Elections will vote on an Early Voting plan for Watauga County during the March primary. The Bill Aceto Plan denies an Early Voting site on the campus of Appalachian State University. The alternative plan submitted by "minority member" Stella Anderson provides an Early Voting site on the ASU campus.

Both sides presented their different plans in writing to the State BOE. The Anderson plan is accompanied by numerous displays, calculations of votes-per-hour during the fall 2014 elections (after an Early Voting site was restored at ASU under court order), and demographic information on population density.

Aceto's argument, on the other hand, relies on a factual lie.

Aceto & Snyder Collude
In his argument to the State BOE justifying no polling site on the ASU campus, Aceto attempts to show that a single courthouse Early Voting site for the entire town of Boone is perfectly adequate.

This is a direct quote from Bill Aceto's argument to the State BOE:
"For the November 2014 General Election, 6,142 early voters were easily accommodated by the nearby Board of Elections office site, which averaged 77.25 voters per hour …. Please note the calculations of voters per hour differ with those provided by Member Anderson, and I have verified my calculations with the Watauga County Elections Director [Matt Snyder]. In sum, these numbers do not justify having two sites within one-half mile of each other duplicating efforts when our funds could be utilized in other locations." (italics added)
Indeed, those "calculations of voters per hour differ" from Anderson's evidence … mainly because Aceto's numbers -- "verified" by Matt Snyder -- are totally bogus.

Matt Snyder
Aceto took the combined Early Voting turnout of both the courthouse site and the ASU Student Union site and attributed it to the courthouse site, never bothering to inform the State BOE members that 2,551 of those early votes attributed to the courthouse site were actually cast at the ASU Student Union and that in fact the ASU site hosted more voters per hour than the Administration site.

Why Do We Not Trust Elections in Watauga County?

Because the people in charge of conducting elections in Watauga County are transparently partisan in their goals and fundamentally dishonest in their behavior.