Sunday, July 31, 2016

What Happens Now With Early Voting?

Scene at the State BOE on Friday
when the 4th Circuit announced its decision.
Documentary photo
Friday, the same day that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals announced it was throwing out the new election rules passed by the Republicans in the General Assembly -- and signed by our dim bulb governor -- was also the deadline for the submission of rival Early Voting plans from counties -- like Watauga -- where Republican and Democratic Board of Elections members could not agree.

Stella Anderson's submission of an Early Voting plan, in opposition to Republican BOE Chair Bill Aceto's plan, makes for very good reading, especially the Executive Summary.

Anderson makes a compelling case that (number 1) Bill Aceto can't even do simple arithmetic, and (number 2) the intent behind Aceto's plan to move Early Voting to Legends rather than use the far superior facility proven effective in the last two elections -- his intent is clearly discriminatory against college-age voters.

But now that the Fourth Circuit has thrown out in its entirety the changes to election law enacted by the Republicans, Early Voting gets stretched to its original 17 days, rather than the 10 days the Republicans preferred. NC statutes require that Early Voting sites be advertised 45 days prior to the start of Early Voting, which means that the SBOE hears, over their shoulders, time's winged chariot hurrying near.

Stella Anderson's argument for increased after-work hours and for locating the ASU site in the Student Union still exhibits solid logic. Meanwhile, the State Board of Elections grapples with a whole new reality. Rumor on the street suggests that the SBOE -- once they stop hyperventilating -- will extend the extra seven days of Early Voting at only the "primary" Early Voting sites, which in Watauga's case would be the courthouse/Admin bldg., and at no satellite sites. Then the last ten days would open up the proposed satellite sites.

There are budgetary issues at play here. Seven more days of Early Voting mean seven more days of wages for poll workers.

It's all a mess, a mess of their own making. It's a plumb grievous thing when another of your Republican laws gets thumped down as unconstitutional.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Delving Deeper Into the Fourth Circuit's Written Opinion

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision yesterday, throwing out the entire Republican rewrite of North Carolina's election law -- both wash and wash bucket -- makes for riveting reading.

The court found that North Carolina's Republican lawmakers requested data on racial differences in voting behaviors in the state. "This data showed that African Americans disproportionately lacked the most common kind of photo ID, those issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)," the judges wrote.

So what did the Republican legislators do? They made it so that the only acceptable forms of voter identification were the ones disproportionately used by white people. "With race data in hand, the legislature amended the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans," the judges wrote. "The bill retained only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess." [The Gen'l Assembly also eliminated NC University IDs as acceptable, for reasons we completely understand.]

The data generated for the use of Republican lawmakers also showed that black voters were more likely to make use of early voting — particularly the first seven days out of North Carolina's 17-day voting period. So what did those lawmakers do? Naturally, they eliminated these seven days of voting. "After receipt of this racial data, the General Assembly amended the bill to eliminate the first week of early voting, shortening the total early voting period from seventeen to ten days," the court found.

The panel of Fourth Circuit judges also found an actual "smoking gun" of outright and obvious racial discrimination. The state argued in court (in front of the now notorious Judge Thomas Schroeder in Winston-Salem) that "counties with Sunday voting in 2014 were disproportionately black" and "disproportionately Democratic," and said it did away with Sunday voting as a result:

"Thus, in what comes as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times, the State’s very justification for a challenged statute hinges explicitly on race — specifically its concern that African Americans, who had overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, had too much access to the franchise," the judges write in their decision.

"Too much access." Of course, the Republican changes to NC election law do not directly account for the suppressive actions locally of the Watauga Board of Elections and County Attorney "Four" Eggers, but the Eggers/Aceto junta have obviously and blatantly believed that college students had too much access to voting and needed to be curtailed.

"Faced with this record," the Fourth Circuit judges end, "we can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent."

Governor Pat McCrory immediately both whined and thumped his chest in his best rendition of Macho Man: "...three Democratic judges are undermining the integrity of our elections while also maligning our state. We will immediately appeal and also review other potential options."

Focus for a minute on McCrory's first charge: "undermining the integrity of our elections." According to Christopher Ingraham, "One of the most comprehensive studies on the subject found only 31 individual cases of voter impersonation out of more than 1 billion votes cast in the United States since the year 2000. Researchers have found that reports of voter fraud are roughly as common as reports of alien abduction."

Voter fraud has always been their claim. It's bogus. And the American courts so far know it.

Good luck with that, Guv! You can ask the entire Fourth Circuit to sit en banc and perhaps overrule the decision of the three-judge panel, but it's unlikely to happen. The Fourth Circuit does not usually respond favorably to petitions for full-court review.

Or you can go to The Supremes, but since your Republican brethren in Washington, featuring prominently senators Burr and Tillis, have refused to even consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Scalia, you're probably facing another 4-4 split, which will mean that the Fourth Circuit's decision stands.

Actions have consequences. Bad actions have bad consequences. You're in a mess now, and it's a mess of your own making.

Friday, July 29, 2016

BREAKING: NC's Voter ID Law, Struck Down by 4th Circuit

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the NC General Assembly's 2013 monster election law rewrites in their entirety, which includes voter photo ID, ruling that the entire law was done "with discriminatory intent."

No shit, Sherlock!

Federal Judge Thomas Schroeder, who presided over the trial challenging the law last summer in Winston-Salem and who subsequently ruled that the whole rancid package looked perfectly constitutional to him, came in for some very pointed criticism: “In holding that the legislature did not enact the challenged provisions with discriminatory intent, the court  [Schroeder] seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees. This failure of perspective led the court to ignore critical facts bearing on legislative intent, including the inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina.”

The Fourth Circuit ruling prohibits North Carolina from requiring photo identification from voters in future elections, including the November 2016 general election, restores a week of early voting and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and ensures that same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting will remain in effect.

So you can mark this date in your diary: Republican voter suppression ended on this date in North Carolina -- at least temporarily but probably at least through this fall's general elections. Can we all say "Hallelujah!"

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Only Question

Josh Marshall: "The question isn't whether Trump has business in Russia but whether Russia has business in Trump."

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

McCrory Goes Full Trump

It's hard to act the Strong Man role when you're squishy, but Gov. McCrory is giving it a try.

He called the NBA's decision to move the 2017 All Star Game out of Charlotte because of HB2 "PC BS." That's pure #CheetoJesus talk, aimed squarely at the cheap seats. By Gawd, McCrory intends to play Trump, swaggering a little like the Tin Horn Wannabe but making sure to abbreviate the actual cuss word.

Can we now expect to see McCrory tweeting 140-character insults late at night?

McCrory also bounced on stage in advance of Trump's speaking gig in Winston-Salem last night and immediately "started acting like a flight attendant" (according to reporter Jenna Johnson): "All right, let's be safe now. We've got a big crowd, so if you need to leave suddenly, we've got exits this way, exits this way and exits this way," McCrory said, motioning straight ahead, to his right, and to his left.

What the hell? He was setting up a really fun-type joke, doncha know. He continued: "And if any of you need to use the restrooms ..." and he paused for the HIGH-larious HB2 joke to sink in.

Transgender people are soooo funny.

That's the Trump persona: make fun of people who are already defenseless and stomp your macho stuff all over people who can't fight back. Only ... Squishy looks like an idiot trying it.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Sign of the Times?

NC House Rep. Charles Jeter, Republican of Mecklenburg County, has suddenly resigned his seat and withdrawn from reelection this fall. Hmmmm.

He is sometimes described as a middle-of-the-road Republican ("moderate" being a permanently retired term, O my brethren). Jeter was one of only three Republican members of the NC House who did not show up nor participate in the special session called to pass HB2 targeting transgender citizens.

Chaz Beasley
Jeter was challenged by a far more conservative Republican in the March Primary (natch!) and won by only 35 votes. Jeter faced a good Democratic opponent this November in Chaz Beasley, a graduate of both Harvard University and Georgetown Law School.

The Republicans of Jeter's House District 92 will choose a successor to finish out Jeter's term (which is actually effectively over anyway) and someone to run in his place. We're betting it'll be Tom Davis, who was Jeter's primary opponent and who ran unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2012.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

HB2 Has Hit McCrory Where It Hurts the Most

Let's hear from Gov. Squishy again how HB2 has had no effect on him and his state, except for positive public response. Yeah, right. WBTV went deeper:
Both [Pat McCrory & Roy Cooper] saw a spike in donations on March 23, 2016, the day the North Carolina General Assembly held its one-day special session to pass the controversial bill, which McCrory signed into law later that evening.
McCrory pulled in $89,410 on the day he signed HB2, more than four times his daily average prior to the bill’s passage. His fundraising dropped off the next day, averaging less than $10,000 a day over the next week.
Cooper saw his fundraising spike on March 23, when he raised $72,861, more than twice his daily average prior to that day. That momentum continued into the next day, when he raised $83,931 and through the remainder of the week, when he averaged more than $42,000 each day.
The day after the United States Department of Justice said HB2 violates federal civil rights laws Cooper brought in $100,511, his campaign’s best day up to that point.
The same trend has had more mixed results for McCrory. After raking in nearly $90,000 the day he signed HB2, his campaign has usually seen donations trend downward when the controversial law was in the news.
After averaging more than $20,000 a day through the first month of the quarter, the McCrory campaign collected just over $2,500 combined during the two days after Bruce Springsteen announced he was canceling his concert in Greensboro.
But it wasn’t all negative for McCrory. The day after appearing on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News show to defend HB2, McCrory pulled in more than $180,000, one of his campaign’s best day’s this election cycle....

So there is a monetary downside to bigotry enacted as public policy ... and footnote: When your bigotry is costing you big bucks, where do you go? Why, on Fox News naturally, where bigotry is financially remunerative.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Distinguished NC Republican Calls Trump "A Danger to the Country"

Robert F. "Bob" Orr, a former Republican justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, has left the Trump coronation but not before telling a WRAL reporter that Trump is “singularly unqualified to lead this country.”

Orr led the John Kasich campaign in North Carolina. His candor about Trump earned him a denunciation from Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the NC GOP: Orr “hasn’t been a good Republican for a long time,” Woodhouse said.

"Good Republican." Whatever that means to Woodhouse, we doubt you could find a Republican Party regular with a more distinguished pedigree. After he was appointed to the NC Court of Appeals by Republican Governor Jim Martin in 1986, he won election to the Supreme Court in 1994 and served there for ten years. He ran for governor in 2008, losing to Pat McCrory. He would have made a hell of a better governor.

He even served for a few months in 2014 as the appointed District Attorney for the 24th Prosecutorial District, which includes Watauga County, after the resignation of DA Jerry Wilson.

He's a principled conservative, and he's read the character of the Republican presidential nominee correctly. Upon departing Cleveland, Orr said, ruefully, “I’ve had all the fun I can have.”

Here's your platform, chumps, and enjoy the rest of the 1920s!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

John Locke Foundation Called Out for Participating in Outright Fraud

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), along with 18 other Democratic senators, named the John Locke Foundation of North Carolina, along with other "climate deniers" in business and think tanks, for deliberately and consistently misleading the public about the role of fossil fuels in climate change.
Whitehouse accused the 48 groups – including some major corporations, media outlets and research organizations – of trying to “fool the public about the risk of climate change.” Those entities, he said, “provide talking points to right-wing talk radio” and “take advantage of a lazy media's impulse to offer both sides of the story even when one is false.” [N&O]
Senators Dick Burr and Thom Tillis immediately started whining that Sen. Whitehouse was trying to suppress free speech.

Actually, dear senators from North Carolina, fraud is not covered by free speech rights.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Anne Marie Yates Presented a Falsified "Petition" to the Watauga BOE

Anne Marie's reach exceeds her grasp
Anne Marie Yates, the ineffable chairwoman of the Watauga County Republican Party, stood up during public comment at Tuesday's Watauga Board of Elections meeting and stated that she had "walked the Boone 2" neighborhood -- where the Legends nightclub is located -- and was turning in a petition signed by 30-something people who wanted to keep Early Voting at Legends. Her exact words (from the tape of the meeting: her testimony begins at the 57:18 mark on the video: "I recently walked through that neighborhood, and I have obtained 30 signatures on a petition asking you [Watauga BOE] to keep that location at Legends."


Since Legends has never been used for Early Voting, we decided that we needed to see this so-called "petition."

A call to Matt Snyder, administrator of the Board of Elections, produced a spreadsheet of people and their signatures on a sheet with no headers and hence no indication of what these folks were signing onto.

A call to one of the names on the so-called "petition" produced this information: the signer thought she was signing a petition to keep Legends as the polling place on Election Day, not for Early Voting. A totally different thing. A horse of a different color.

And therefore, Anne Marie's "petition" was a bogus little piece of fluff...

... apparently done -- we have to assume -- so that Watauga BOE Chair Bill Aceto could claim at least some semblance of public support for the action he took Tuesday night, moving Early Voting on the AppState campus to Legends.

Oh, Republicans! You're so transparently corrupt!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How the NC Gen'l Assembly Has "Preempted" Its Cities

Barry Yeoman
Very grateful to Barry Yeoman for his political history of what led up to Pat McCrory's "bathroom bill," HB2. I'm particularly grateful for Yeoman's teaching me the term "preemption," which explains a great deal about the current frenzy of Republican "power-grabbing" by the North Carolina General Assembly. Quoting at length here, for which I apologize, but this is news to me and important. Highly recommend the full text of Yeoman's excellent article:
When I started covering the North Carolina legislature in the mid-eighties, business interests were already pushing to strip cities and counties of their powers. In 1987, Representative George Miller, a Durham Democrat, introduced a measure making it harder to remove nuisance billboards, as Raleigh's city council was trying to do. He also sponsored a bill, favored by the N.C. Board of Realtors, prohibiting local officials from "down-zoning" properties to lower-intensity use—an important conservation tool—without compensating owners.
Neither bill passed. But a strategy was taking shape: as cities took more initiative to improve their quality of life, aggrieved businesses could plead their cases to the friendlier state legislature. This tactic of defanging local governments is called "preemption." It's hardly restricted to North Carolina. And its use has burgeoned over the years leading up to HB 2.
The tobacco industry, fighting indoor-smoking regulations, helped pioneer preemption in the 1980s....
Big Tobacco made big strides initially, then lost ground as public support grew for smoking restrictions. The more enduring push came from the gun lobby, which blanketed the country with bills to stop places like Durham and Chapel Hill from regulating firearms....
Since then, preemption efforts have flourished. "Every industry, every interest group, said, 'We might not get what we want, but we can stop anything' "....
Those industries are often assisted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a free-market advocacy group that brings together business leaders with state legislators at luxury hotels. ALEC also publishes model laws curtailing local authority, with wording that lawmakers can copy and paste.
It's no shock, then, that in recent years states have barred municipalities from regulating fracking, banning or taxing plastic bags, and creating sanctuaries for immigrants. This spring, Wisconsin outlawed county development moratoriums. Mississippi upended local regulations on companies like Uber. Arizona took away local leverage over drones and puppy mills. And Kansas passed a law preempting—in a single swoop—local policies governing rent control, housing inspections, and nutritional labeling.
As HB 2 makes clear, one focus of this push has been labor: both ALEC and the dining and tourism industries have tried to prevent local governments from regulating wages or other working conditions....
This means not just handcuffing elected officials, but also overturning direct democracy. Two years ago, voters in Orange County, Florida, approved an ordinance mandating up to seven days of annual paid sick leave for workers at all but the smallest companies. Opposing the measure were Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster) and Disney. Before the vote could take place, however, the Florida legislature outlawed local employment standards. That invalidated the ballot measure as soon as it passed....

North Carolina has long used preemption, though not in an exceptional way. That changed with an off-year election [2010] that immoderately altered the political mood in Raleigh....
[The Tea Party wins of 2010 were] more than a partisan shift. The 2010 election triggered a breakdown of North Carolina's moderate consensus, which Democrats like former governor Jim Hunt and Republicans like former governor Jim Martin had shared for fifty years. That consensus favored roads, schools, and racial civility, all of which undergirded a healthy business climate.
The new legislative majority set out to dismantle that consensus: curtailing voting access, cutting education spending, and rejecting a federally funded Medicaid expansion. It slashed unemployment benefits and imposed new barriers to abortion. It repealed the Racial Justice Act, which guarded against bias in the sentencing of death-row inmates. It set into motion Amendment 1, which wrote one-man/one-woman marriage into the state constitution until the federal courts invalidated it. It redrew its own district lines to explicitly give Republicans a greater electoral advantage.
And it picked up the mantle of preemption with exceptional vigor. Never before had there been such a disconnect between the state's government and its urban areas, nor such a strong impulse to rein in liberal and even centrist cities.
This time, preemption went beyond big-picture issues like gun control. Lawmakers got personal with individual cities and counties. They tried to wrest from Asheville control of its own water system and, from Charlotte, control of its airport. (The Asheville case is currently in legal limbo.) They redrew electoral lines for the Wake County commissioners and school board (struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals this month) and Greensboro City Council (still in court). They forced Durham to extend utility services to the 751 South development near Jordan Lake, despite concerns about water quality and traffic. [Et cetera, including, of course, the still unresolved taking away of Boone's extra-territorial jurisdiction.]

Watauga Board of Elections to ASU Students: We Really, Truly Don't Want You To Vote!

When Bill Aceto took a seat on the Watauga Board of Elections in 2013, he took an oath. I'm not talking about the NC Oath of Office that all elected and appointed officials take, the one that includes this language: "…I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the State of North Carolina, and to the constitutional powers and authorities which are or may be established for the government thereof; and … I will endeavor to support, maintain and defend the Constitution of said State, not inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States, to the best of my knowledge and ability; so help me God."

No, Bill Aceto took an oath administered by Stacy C. "Four" Eggers, Watauga County attorney and Republican puppet-master, and Anne Marie Yates, Watauga GOP chairwoman, that he would never give up the partisan goal of preventing, discouraging, hobbling, and otherwise hampering the voting rights of Appalachian State University students.

Now, as Chair of the Watauga County Board of Elections, Bill Aceto lived up to that oath last night, as he's lived up to it at every important juncture during the last three years.

As recent as this past winter, when the board was setting the Early Voting plan for the spring primary elections, Aceto was dead set against any Early Voting site on the ASU campus. He got his ears pinned back over that one by the State Board of Elections. Those Republicans, still smarting over the Watauga lawsuit which forced the return of Early Voting to ASU the previous fall, told Aceto to put early voting at the Student Union. That Early Voting site in March attracted more voters than all the other satellite sites combined and even significantly more voters than the primary courthouse site as well.

So since that experience, Aceto has retreated strategically to anywhere but the Student Union. Because, after all, that's where all the students go at least once a day, which would be far too convenient for them. On that rampart, Aceto made a spectacle of himself last night.

BOE Meeting Last Night
At 10 a.m. yesterday morning, Aceto put out to his fellow Board of Elections members a pompously titled "Findings of Fact of the Majority of the Watauga County Board of Elections," with 92 enumerated reasons why the ASU Student Union will not do as an Early Voting site. I don't believe Bill Aceto wrote this document. I believe it reveals the exquisite, lawyerly dictation of Four Eggers.

At any rate, and after the two Republicans on the board had voted to exclude the ASU Student Union and place the Early Voting site at the more peripheral Legends night club, Stella Anderson, minority (Democratic) member of the board, proceeded to demolish -- point-by-point, calmly, and devastatingly -- the "facts" in Aceto's wad of paper (which, incidentally, the public never got to see, though Anderson obligingly read portions aloud as she dismantled their fictions and their logic).

Anderson ate Aceto's lunch. She cleaned his clock. She mopped the floor with him. She drank his milkshake. She did it without raising her voice or pounding the table. Aceto sat there and took it, occasionally looking like a whipped puppy, saying he would change the language of this or that point among his flaming 92 points, occasionally widening his eyes like the proverbial deer in the headlights. The audience -- and it was large, considerably larger than the 50 people the Watauga Democrat reporter said were there -- laughed at Aceto, laughed at his prevarications, snickered at his partisan panties, stained and fully revealed.

Jaylyn Howard, president of the ASU SGA, could clearly see what Bill Aceto is all about. The many other students from ASU could see what he's all about. The representatives of the local NAACP could see it. The former mayor of Boone could see. The many citizens there to urge an Early Voting site at the ASU Student Union saw the rank motives, the stubborn partisanship, the naked exercise of unconstitutional power. We all see you, Bill Aceto.

The Other Republican
Nancy Owen
Nancy Owen, the other Republican on the board, enacted her part as a mere tool. More accurately, she was a mute stump. She said almost nothing. Her yes vote for Aceto's Early Voting plan was inaudible, and I was sitting in the front row. The only thing I heard her say out loud was that she had not read Aceto's "Findings of Fact," when Stella Anderson began to dismantle them.

Nancy Owen had not read what Aceto titled "the Majority" opinion. Which was just as well, because there was never a vote taken on his fictional "Findings of Fact." Having never read them, Nancy Owen would have indeed been exposed had she voted to accept them as "fact."

Her body language last night said, "Please, God, let me be somewhere else!" She asked no questions. She made no comments. She did not come to Aceto's aid when Anderson leveled the imaginary castles that Four Eggers had constructed.

In other words, Nancy Owen was the perfect utensil. She was there to cast a vote, and she did that.

What Happens Next?
Because Aceto's Early Voting plan passed 2-1, under North Carolina law, the State Board of Elections must now consider both Aceto's plan and a minority plan submitted by Stella Anderson. That meeting of the SBOE will likely be in August or September. The last such meeting, when Aceto's ears got pinned back, was done as a teleconference.

Regarding Student Union vs. Legends, the local BOE must send a letter to Chancellor Everts requesting the Legends building. (Everts is already on record favoring the Student Union.) The BOE letter to Everts must arrive ASAP, because the request has to be made 90 days prior to the start of early voting. The Chancellor has 20 days to respond. If she does not respond within 20 days, Legends will automatically be the one-stop location. If she responds "negatively," she and the local Board will have to negotiate. If they cannot reach an agreement, the State Board will make the final decision.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

NC House Republicans Attempted To Pull Bill Aceto's Chestnuts Out of the Fire

Bill Aceto, Chair, Watauga BOE
If an unnoticed (secret!) new law had passed the NC Senate late in the day on July 1, as it had already passed the NC House, then any damn thing that Bill Aceto, Chair of the Watauga County Board of Elections, wanted to impose on Watauga County voters would have been unchallengable in court.

Snuck into a "technical corrections" bill, new language was added to G.S. 163227.2(g), which governs the implementation of county Early Voting plans, all of which must be approved (usually rubber-stamped) by the State Board of Elections.

Currently, G.S.163-22(l) provides that a person seeking judicial review of any decision of the State Board of Elections rendered in the performance of its duties or in the exercise of its powers under Chapter 163 must file in the Superior Court of Wake County. This is precisely the route taken by Watauga County citizens in 2014, which resulted in a judicial order that an Early Voting site had to be restored on the campus of Appalachian State University.

The new, "technical correction" inserted in the law (and passed by the House but not by the Senate) would provide that any action challenging any decision of the State Board of Elections regarding the site plan for one-stop voting locations may not be challenged. Here is the exact wording: "No plan adopted by the State Board of Elections in the exercise of its supervisory authority under this subsection may be challenged in a petition for judicial review" (, see Section 43.5).

This piece of skullduggery -- and who do you think it was aimed at, huh? -- passed the House late on Friday, July 1, but not before the Senate had already adjourned sine die, and the esteemed honorables were already pouring their after-work Bourbons.

This unnoticed episode in attempted subversion of both the people's right to know and its right to challenge official behavior reveals one fact above all others: Clearly, the people do have the right to challenge boards of elections, else why would a law prohibiting such challenges be deemed necessary? 

It also reveals that Republicans like their subject populations completely without the instruments of resistance.

McCrory: First Thing We'll Do Is Hide the Evidence

Pat McCrory pledged several times on the campaign trail that he would have an "ethical and accountable" government, and he claimed that he would support open records laws. "You should not be waiting until a week before the election to find out who is giving to a campaign," McCrory said. "Today with computer technology it can be done much more often. I think the public has a right to know more frequently." McCrory also said he would open his daily calendar of public activities. Blah, blah, blah.

Open and accountable, huh?
McCrory has just signed HB972, "Law Enforcement Recordings/No Public Record," yesterday, allowing law enforcement agencies to keep police body camera and dash camera footage from the public unless ordered by a court.
Under the new law, body camera and dash camera footage are no longer public record, and footage can only be released to people who are recorded. If an agency refuses, the person who was filmed must get a court order in order to view the footage.
This law would require people who are filmed by police body cameras to spend a great deal of time and money in court in order to see that footage. For people in poor communities, this law essentially strips them of due process.
The new law also prohibits law enforcement agencies from releasing videos of public interest to the general public other than through a court order, which directly targets news organizations. This is yet another assault on transparency and the media by the McCrory Administration.
Bottom Line: Body cameras are a proven way to make law enforcement more transparent and accountable. This law stands in the way of those goals by making it nearly impossible for the public to see footage of an incident.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Will There Be Dessert?

Thanks, Raleigh News&Observer, for the concise list (below) of General Assembly members who definitely won't be back in 2017. It's heavy with heavy-hitting Republicans. At the same link, the N&O's Corey Lowenstein profiles some of the most influential who are retiring this year.

Both the vacated Republican and Democratic seats are considered "safe" for whichever party currently reigns. Extreme gerrymandering of districts has engineered it, so nobody predicts seat turn-overs in November. (Turn-overs, incidentally, are excellent desserts, and occasionally they're done early.)

Sen. Tom Apodaca, Republican from Hendersonville
Sen. Buck Newton, Republican from Wilson (running for attorney general)
Sen. Bob Rucho, Republican from Matthews
Sen. Stan Bingham, Republican from Denton
Sen. Dan Soucek, Republican from Boone (resigned before session ended)
Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Republican from Concord
Sen. Josh Stein, Democrat from Raleigh (resigned before session ended to run for attorney general)
Rep. Leo Daughtry, Republican from Smithfield
Rep. Paul Stam, Republican from Apex
Rep. James H. Langdon Jr., Republican from Angier
Rep. Nathan Baskerville, Democrat from Henderson
Rep. Dan Bishop, Republican from Charlotte (running for state Senate; one of the prime sponsors of HB2)
Rep. Rayne Brown, Republican from Lexington
Rep. Rick Catlin, Republican from Wilmington
Rep. Tricia Cotham, Democrat from Matthews
Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, Republican from Charlotte (resigned before the session ended)
Rep. Paul Tine, unaffiliated from Kitty Hawk
Rep. Ken Waddell, Democrat from Chadbourn
Rep. Roger West, Republican from Marbles
Rep. Chris Whitmire, Republican from Rosman

Read more here:

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Federal Judge Shuts Down That Shit (Republican Whining)

The title above refers to Step 9 in what follows:

Step 1

May 28, 2015: Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly pass the "magistrate opt-out" law, S 2, "Magistrates Recusal of Civil Ceremonies,"which allows religiously motivated public servants to refuse to deal in any way with gay marriages.

Step 2

May 28, 2015: Gov. Pat McCrory announces he will veto S 2, saying he's offended by public servants who don't/won't do their jobs.

Step 3

June 11, 2015: Republicans override the governor's veto. S 2, now the law.

Step 4

June 12, 2015: NC Attorney General Roy Cooper criticizes S 2, saying "it is likely to be challenged constitutionally." Ricky Diaz, NCGOP spokesperson, immediately sandbags Cooper with the following statement: "Unfortunately for North Carolina, our attorney general has a bad habit of picking and choosing which laws he wants to defend and abdicating his responsibilities as our chief law enforcement officer."

Step 5

December 9, 2015: Three couples file a federal lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of S 2. Roy Cooper's department automatically engaged as the state's counsel in defense of S 2.

Step 6

February 5, 2016: Cooper's office files motion for summary dismissal of the lawsuit.

Step 7

February 5, 2016: Same day, Republican leaders in House & Senate (Tim Moore & Phil Berger) announce that they plan to hire their own outside counsel to "assist" Cooper's office in the defense of S 2.

Step 8

March 2016: Private attorneys for Moore & Berger file to "intervene" in the S 2 federal lawsuit. (Without being granted intervenor status, Moore & Berger can't stick their partisan noses into the litigation.)

Step 9

July 8, 2016: U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis Howell denies Moore & Berger's request to intervene, writing that Attorney General Cooper has "zealously" and "aggressively" fought for S 2 by seeking dismissal of plaintiffs' claims. The judge adds that he sees "no benefit" from letting others in government positions intervene in the case using outside counsel.

Friday, July 08, 2016

A Bad Law You Might Not Have Heard About ... Because There Are So Many

One of the worst new laws passed by the NC General Assembly in the so-called "short session" and signed by Governor Squishy -- among so many bad new laws -- was H972, "Law Enforcement Recordings/No Public Record."

The law declares that police body-cam and dashboard camera footage is not a public record but will be kept secret unless citizens can get themselves in front of a judge who will order it released.

What could possibly prompt such a law? Knowledge is power, whether it's knowledge of how a suspect or an arresting officer behaved "in the field." Secrecy, especially when it's for the benefit of the armed reach of the government, is more fitting for North Korea than for North Carolina.

If the police have a compelling reason to suppress video footage, then they should be the ones going to court to make their case.

But McCrory signed this piece of government overreach and then took off for vacation. Hope his tan is developing nicely.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Sour Grapes

Anne Marie Yates, Chair of the Watauga Republican Party, posted this picture of the Watauga Democratic Party Independence Day float, with members of the AppState football team posing down front -- posted it twice! -- and many thanks for that! -- on the Republican Party's FB page, and is mightily pissed off that the Democrats got the photo and the Republicans did not.


Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Republicans' Rationale for HB2: "Factually Baseless and Legally Insufficient"

“HB2 is not merely a solution to a non-existent problem; it is state-sanctioned discrimination that is inflicting immediate and significant harm on transgender individuals. That, along with the balance of equities and the public interest in preventing discrimination, support a preliminary injunction halting compliance with and implementation of HB2.”
--U.S. Department of Justice legal brief, filed with a Federal judge yesterday, asking for an immediate injunction against HB2, Pat McCrory's cherished "bathroom bill"
Clock is ticking on the ultimate fate of the Republicans' newest attempt to legalize discrimination in North Carolina. Most rational people believe that it's a shortening time before the courts throw out this latest insult (in a long line) delivered by our Republican Overlords in Raleigh.

Meanwhile, because non-profit groups can actually rent portions of the governor's mansion, and the governor's office brags that it has never turned down any group, ProgressNC has rented the governor's house/garden next Wednesday evening for a "Garden Party Against Hate," at the same time that a certain weekly protest will be happening outside the mansion on Blount Street. The so-called "Air Horn Orchestra" has been peaceably gathering and obnoxiously blowing air horns, weekly, since the middle of April, with sometimes 100 protesters or more, doing what contrarian Americans have always done inventively in this blessed Republican of ours -- make lots of intrusive noise.

The longer HB2 remains the law of the land.... but you can do the math.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Burr & McCrory Will Not Appear in Public With Donald J. Trump

Trump is appearing in a Raleigh rally today. Not appearing with him will be Gov. Pat McCrory, who sorta, kinda lives and works in Raleigh, and Sen. Dick Burr, who sez he has to be at work in Washington, DeeCee, even though Congress recessed days ago.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

The NC General Assembly Has Gone Home, Thank the Good Lord!

They adjourned sine die last night. Here's what they didn't do:

1. They didn't redistrict city commish races in Asheville, as Sen. Apodaca wanted -- presumably his parting stab-in-the-back for "sin city" as he retires from the General Assembly. Apodaca was the only Buncombe legislator favoring this supposedly "local bill," which under the rules (?) rendered it unpassable, though there were some willing to bend those rules. Redistricting for Asheville failed, and it failed because some of Apodaca's fellow Republicans found it an unethical power grab. Imagine that.

2. They didn't repeal HB2, that odious piece of crap that has made North Carolina about as attractive to economic development as a toxic waste dump. They repealed one small provision, the right to sue for wrongful termination in state court. Otherwise, the rest of that pile of right-wing dung is still in place and under the wrinkling nose of the rest of the nation.

3. They didn't pass the trio of constitutional amendments, including their version of TABOR (Taxpayer's Bill of Rights), which has caused such problems in Colorado.

4. They didn't pass "regulatory reform" bills that would have curtailed wind farms and the construction of solar farms.

5. They didn't pass "background checks" for public school employees which would have criminalized and stigmatized teachers who participate in acts of civil disobedience.

6. They didn't manage to redraw Wake County commish and school board districts following the decision by the Fourth Circuit, which means that the old districts remain in place, sans Republican power-grabbing.

Hattip: Mark Binker. His excellent reporting enumerates other controversial bills that died the good death last night.

Friday, July 01, 2016

BREAKING NEWS: 4th Circuit Rules Redistricting of Wake Co Commish Unconstitutional

You may be forgiven for not remembering -- who can keep up with the power-trip nuttery coming out of Raleigh? -- that the Republicans in the General Assembly redistricted Wake County commission districts in an attempt to make them more winnable by Republican candidates.

News just came over the wire that the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that redistricting unconstitutional.

The ruling "proves that the Assembly’s continued relentless aggression against municipalities across NC has now been proven to be unwarranted, unprovoked, and officially unconstitutional,"said Brian Fitzsimmons, chair of the Wake County Democratic Party.

We can't keep up any longer with how many laws enacted by the NC General Assembly since 2011 have been ruled unconstitutional. The number's high. The number should be an embarrassment. But this bunch is never embarrassed.

KKK Drawing Juice From Donald Trump

Associated Press report on the new lease on life that leaders of the Ku Klux Klan feel in the wake of Donald Trump's ascendency.

From the report:
It's impossible to say how many members the Klan counts today since groups don't reveal that information, but leaders claim adherents in the thousands among scores of local groups called Klaverns. [Brent] Waller [imperial wizard of the United Dixie White Knights in Mississippi] said his group is growing, as did Chris Barker, imperial wizard of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Eden, North Carolina.
The Eden Klaven is considered the most active KKK group in the nation today, according to the Anti-Defamation League.