Sunday, February 17, 2019

Republicans Killed the Film Industry, But This Bill Could Help Bring It Back

Sen. Harper Peterson
A tax credit program for North Carolina film production helped build Wilmington into a major venue for film and TV production, with location work (and local jobs -- some 4,200 statewide) often spreading out all over the state including into these western mountains. In 2014 alone, film productions brought more than $300 million to more than 30 counties across the state. Then the Republican super-majority in the General Assembly, abetted by Republican Governor Pat McCrory, trash-canned the tax credits, then sealed the lid shut with HB2, and the film industry obliged -- "We know when we're not welcomed" -- and largely fled to Atlanta and other friendlier Southern states, taking their jobs and their cash with them.

Newly elected Democratic state Senator Harper Peterson of District 9 in Wilmington is trying to reverse that trend, though he doesn't expect much cooperation from his Republican brethren (who just naturally hate Hollywood or any group of different people who seem happy). Peterson introduced Senate Bill 57 to bring back the tax credits for film production, but he admitted that with the Berger/Moore people still in charge, he faces a strenuous uphill climb: “I don’t assume this will go forward, but it keeps the discussion alive and look at where we were when we were very prosperous.”

“I’m optimistic but I’m also realistic,” he said. “The industry is changing before our eyes. We have to reinvent and update the incentive program to meet the demands and competition from other states.”

Kudos to Senator Peterson for trying. At least the Democrats in the General Assembly are now on record as favoring job creation and bringing back an industry that the Republicans stabbed through the heart.

And don't we love seeing our state depicted on the big screen, as well as the little one?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Oh, Look! Sen. Tillis Gets Crossways With Trump's Wall

Thom Tillis, running for reelection into the teeth of a strong headwind, issued a statement opposing Trump's emergency declaration yesterday. Mighty brave of him. And he started the text with a blunt “It doesn’t matter who the President is...."

Oh really? We'll see about that when Tillis is actually called on to vote on the legitimacy of Twitterman's going around Congress to fund his vanity project on the southern border. And no doubt about it. Senator Tillis will be called on to vote his conviction in this matter.

Friday, February 15, 2019

In Case You Were Wondering -- Yes, There Are Still Blockheads in the NC House

Larry Pittman
The chief blockhead among them ... Rep. Larry Pittman (Cabarrus and Rowan counties), who wears the label of "reverend" and thinks Abraham Lincoln was the worst possible president to represent the Republican Party, even if he was the first of that flavor and widely regarded as a great man. Rev. Pittman doesn't regard him that way.

Pittman is the chief sponsor of House Bill 65, along with co-sponsors and fellow blockheads Mark Brody (Anson and Union counties) and Keith Kidwell (Craven and Beaufort counties), a bill essentially intended to nullify gay marriage in the state. It's a ridiculous stunt that will go nowhere, and clearly Messrs. Pittman, Brody, and Kidwell have way too much time on their hands.

But they're master scholars of Constitutional law -- you bet! -- explaining why Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case which legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, was just wrong:

Obergefell v. Hodges in effect has imposed the views of Secular Humanism on the People and the States of these United States in the matter of marriage law, which authority is not given to the federal government in the United States Constitution, and is, therefore, an unconstitutional establishment of religion and also an unconstitutional usurpation by the United States Supreme Court of powers reserved to the People or to the States.”

“In the wake of the Obergefell opinion, there have been increased efforts by the proponents of Secular Humanism to persecute nonobservers of the religion of Secular Humanism and to infiltrate public schools with the intent to indoctrinate minors to the Secular Humanist worldview, against the wishes of many of their parents, and to inculcate them with the Secular Humanist view on faith, morality, sex, and marriage. … It is an unsettled matter of opinion whether sexual orientation is immutable or genetic, and therefore, for a person to suggest that he/she was born homosexual or the wrong gender or that to disagree with their beliefs makes the dissenter a bigot, is nothing more than a series of unproven faith-based assumptions and naked assertions that are implicitly religious and may not be enforced by government upon anyone.”

Therefore: “Marriages between persons of the same gender not valid.”

Chalk this up to Trumpism ... the creeping sensation that you might be losing your grip on your fellow blockheaded peeps, so you need to redouble your efforts to play the sensational bigot and rile up the rubes, who you (bottomline) have utter contempt for.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

New Hope for an End to Gerrymandering in North Carolina

Yesterday in Raleigh, a bi-partisan coalition (two Republicans and two Democrats as primary sponsors, supported by others including Democrat Pricey Harrison) filed House Bill 69 to establish a nonpartisan redistricting commission in time for the 2020 Census.

"If it passes, the redistricting committee would be made up of 11 non-politicians appointed by legislative leaders of the state’s main two political parties. It would have four Democratic voters, four Republican voters and three other voters. Anyone who has been a politician, campaign staffer, lobbyist or state board member, or who is related to anyone in those positions, would be legally barred from being on the committee until five years after they leave politics." (NandO)

This is a step, and perhaps Berger/Moore might be a little motivated toward giving it a fair shot at passage following last fall's comeuppance at the polls, with another perhaps ground-shifting election approaching next year. Berger/Moore could lose it all in 2020 and then watch a newly empowered Democratic Party, with revenge in its eye, take out its own map-drawing software for the next round of partisan gerrymandering.

I'm ready for that back and forth to end and to end decisively and for eternity.

Yesterday in Raleigh, North Carolina legislators Rep. Jon Hardister, a Guilford County Republican, and Rep. Robert Reives, a Chatham County Democrat, and other lawmakers from both parties spoke to the press about HB69:

Read more here:

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Get This Partisan Embarrassment Off the NC Supreme Court

Justice Paul Newby
Yesterday, NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Paul Newby (who's made a serial spectacle* of himself since 2012--see below) pitched an injudicious fit that he wasn't the one chosen by Governor Cooper to become Chief Justice of the Court.
* Like his 1st Supreme Court election in 2004, running as the only NC GOP-endorsed candidate at a time when judicial elections in NC were officially non-partisan 
* Like showing up in 2005 at a rally against gay marriage, not the first or only time Newby has shown his bias on issues likely to come before him on the bench 
* Like getting reelected in a tough 2012 contest against Sam Ervin IV on the strength of big-bucks dark money coming from Big Tobacco, Big Insurance, and "a Washington-based group described as providing direct technical assistance to the North Carolina Republicans who drafted the [new and highly gerrymandered] legislative maps" 
* Like failing to recuse himself from sitting in judgment on Republican gerrymandering early in 2013, despite receiving over $1 million in TV advertising from a dark-money group that supported the gerrymandering
Now about the accusations Newby made yesterday...
A. "...Governor Cooper decided to place raw partisan politics over a non-partisan judiciary..."
Funny, coming from the most visibly partisan justice on the state's Supreme Court! And Newby appears to have forgotten that it was his guys in the NC General Assembly who decided to change state law and make all judicial elections partisan.
B. " refusing to honor the time-tested tradition of naming the Senior Associate Justice as Chief Justice..."Funny, since there is no such tradition. In 1986 Republican Governor Jim Martin appointed fellow Republican Rhoda Billings to be Chief Justice despite her having served only a year on the court. 
C. "...The Governor's decision further erodes public trust and confidence in a fair judiciary, free from partisan manipulation..."
"Partisan manipulation"? When Democratic Chief Justice Sarah Parker was forced into mandatory retirement in 2014, Republican Governor Pat McCrory appointed Republican Associate Justice Mark Martin to her seat. That's the tradition. A tradition pursued like a July chicken after a junebug by the Republican super-majority in the NC General Assembly ... attempting to manipulate the courts through "retention elections," judicial gerrymandering, seizing the appointment power for themselves, and engineering an entire election for the son of the President Pro-Tem of the NC Senate.

Newby promises to be on the 2020 North Carolina statewide ballot, running (yep!) to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The dude is a veritable cathedral of disqualification.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Gov. Cooper Makes History with Supreme Court Appointee

Justice Beasley with Gov. Cooper
this afternoon at the Governor's mansion
Governor Roy Cooper this afternoon appointed Associate Justice Cheri Beasley as the first black woman to head the state's Supreme Court, replacing Republican Mark Martin who is stepping down.

Beasley has been a judge for the last 20 years and an associate justice on the Supreme Court since 2012.

Beasley's associate justice seat on the court will now be open, and Gov. Cooper will also be able to appoint a replacement for her. The only Republican left on the high court, Justice Paul Newby, was miffed that Cooper did not elevate him to the chief justice position because he has the greatest seniority. Newby had already announced weeks ago that he would be on the ballot in 2020 for the chief justice seat. He'll likely be opposed by Cheri Beasley, who will have to run in her own right for the seat next year.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Trump Voters Waking Up From Their Long Snooze?

Why is this woman laughing?
More than just anecdotal evidence that some Trump voters are getting the message directly that the great Trump Tax Cuts of 2017 were a fraud. You can't continue to give the billionaires a cushy ride and not expect the shrinking middle class to pick up the slack. Take a look at this long and angry thread: #GOPTaxScam.

Heather Long: "Millions of Americans filling out their 2018 taxes will probably be surprised to learn that their refunds will be less than expected or that they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service after years of receiving refunds."

The tax bill in 2017 was Trump's sole major legislative "achievement," and Paul Ryan bragged that it would be a major political achievement that would be a bulwark against Democratic gains in the midterm elections. Didn't work that way. Paul Ryan himself is gone home. In fact, the tax bill has consistently polled badly, and now this public relations nightmare of voters waking up to a new reality about their tax refunds.

Rich people may be ecstatic, but the rest of us ... not so much.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

"A Porous Sieve of a Denomination"

A collection of mugshots of some of the 220 SBC pastors
or other church workers who were convicted of or pleaded guilty
to sexual crimes -- just since 1998.
Compiled by The Houston Chronicle
Because I grew up in the nurturing embrace of Texas Southern Baptists, among other Christian fellow-travelers, and spent untold hours in church being warned about Hell, and went to college at a Texas Southern Baptist institution (where I was actually lucky to be invited to read widely and learn more than I had so far been taught), I have not been able to tear myself away from "Abuse of Faith," an extensive (3-part) investigation into Southern Baptist Church sexual misconduct by its pastoral leaders -- not just in Texas but across the nation -- including highly inappropriate and even criminal activity in the pastor's study, in the choir room, on the pews, and out in the parking lot (or wherever The Spirit leads).

A team of reporters from the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News has spent months investigating this sorry history:
1992. A lawyer for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) writes in a court filing that the SBC does not distribute instructions to its member churches on handling sexual abuse claims, and therefore can't be held liable for negligence. Every Baptist church is famously independent, the lawyer argues, "autonomous" (a point of fierce pride), and therefore the Convention has no authority to order churches to track sex offenders.
2007-08. Some Baptist Church victims of sexual predation begin to organize in Texas (the largest concentration of Southern Baptists in the nation) and raise hell and demand a predator-tracking system. "Name names!" In response to the pressure, the Baptist General Convention of Texas publishes eight names of pastors who have been convicted of sex crimes.
2008-18. Baptist Church victims continue to cry out and encounter the stone wall of top SBC leaders who coincidentally include several who have themselves participated in or covered up bad behavior.
2018. A 40-year-old Texas woman, Debbie Vasquez, stands before the Southern Baptist Convention and again requests a tracking system that would identify pastoral personnel who have been creditably accused of abuse or convicted of sexual assault. The Convention rejected her request.
(In "Abuse of Faith," Vasquez reveals that decades earlier she had been sexually exploited by her pastor from the age of 14 until she was pregnant by him at 18. When the leaders of her church discovered the pregnancy, they "forced her to stand in front of the congregation and ask for forgiveness without saying who had fathered the child." Even though Vasquez sued pastor and church in 2006, and the pastor had to acknowledge paternity of her child, he was welcomed to continue pastoring and didn't go to jail.)
The Vasquez case caught the attention of Houston Chronicle reporters who began to search news archives, websites, and databases nationwide to compile an archive of allegations of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and other serious misconduct involving Southern Baptist pastors and other church officials. They focused the search on the 10 years preceding the victims' first call for a registry (1997-2007) and on the 10-plus years since (2008-2018).

At least 10 SBC churches welcomed pastors, ministers, and volunteers since 1998 who had previously faced charges of sexual misconduct. In some cases, they were registered sex offenders.
In the last 10 years more than 250 people who worked or volunteered in Southern Baptist churches have been charged with sex crimes. Since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, leaving behind more than 700 victims, "many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions."

Arriving at this inescapable conclusion: "... All a con artist has to do is talk a good talk and convince people that he's been called by God, and bingo, he gets to be a Southern Baptist minister. Then he can infiltrate the entirety of the SBC, move from church to church, from state to state, go to bigger churches and more prominent churches where he has more influence and power .... It's a porous sieve of a denomination."

All of this rings several bells of memory for me, and I could tell stories. You didn't grow up in the faith and come to an age of reckoning without hearing multiple tales, sometimes from your female friends who had just been pawed and told they were beautiful young instruments of God. It was different then, because nobody did anything. Women were more reluctant to raise a stink because they knew the condemnation would come down on them ... especially in an organized religion that still preaches "Wives, be subject to your husbands" and "the women should keep silence in the churches." 

Friday, February 08, 2019

Republican Congressional Retirements Already Cranking Up Before 2020

Rep. Rob Woodall, 48, a five-termer from the Georgia 7th District (suburbs of Atlanta), has announced he won't be running for reelection in 2020.

Carolyn Bordeaux
Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux came within 433 votes of beating him last November, the closest House race in the nation.

Woodall came into the House in the 2010 Tea Party wave, and we might say he's leaving just ahead of the 2020 Blue Wave.

It looks like Carolyn Bourdeaux has every intention of running for the seat again. She'll have the advantage.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

First Berger Jr., Then Barringer, and Now Stroud

Judge Donna Stroud
Potential Republican candidates for the Paul Newby seat on the NC Supreme Court are forming a scrum. We've noted Phil Berger Jr.'s interest in the seat and Tamara Barringer's. Now Jonathan Kappler says NC Court of Appeals Judge Donna Stroud is eyeing it too.

Source Ballotpedia: Stroud received her bachelor's degree in government summa cum laude from Campbell University at Buies Creek in 1985. She received her J.D. magna cum laude from Campbell University School of Law in 1988. She also earned an LL.M. from Duke University School of Law in 2014. She began her legal career in 1988 with the law firm Kirk, Gay, Kirk, Gwynn & Howell. She then joined the firm Gay, Stroud & Jackson, LLP in 1995. Stroud worked as a lawyer with this firm until 2004. During this time, she also served as an arbitrator for the 10th Judicial District Court and as a certified superior court mediator. In 2004, she was elected to the Wake County District Court (10th Judicial District), where she served until her election to the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2006. She was reelected to an eight-year term in 2014. Along with fulfilling her judicial duties, Stroud currently works as an adjunct law professor at Campbell University School of Law.

In other words (and on paper), she's better qualified for the Supreme Court than either Phil Berger Jr. or Tamara Barringer.

Could be a really interesting Republican judicial primary in 2020 for the Paul Newby seat on the NC Supreme Court.

Watauga GOP Dragging Its Feet on Making Recommendations for Local Board of Elections

The list of recommended partisan members of all 100 county boards of elections is on-line, and we notice that the Watauga Republican Party has made no recommendations.

Those appointments were due to be made this morning at the State Board of Elections (SBOE) meeting in Raleigh.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Barringer to Berger Jr.: "Not So Fast There, Scooter!"

Sen. Tamara Barringer, 2016, calling for
repeal of HB2 ("bathroom bill")
WRAL photo

Musical Chairs on NC's Highest Court
Republican Chief Justice Mark Martin announced he was stepping down this month, and Governor Cooper gets to appoint his replacement (who'll have to run for the seat in 2020). Republican Associate Justice Paul Newby immediately announced he would be giving up the Newby seat to run for Chief Justice next year. Soon after, Republican Phil Berger Jr. announced he would run for the Newby seat (as did Democratic Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman).

Yesterday former NC Senator Tamara Barringer announced she will also be running in 2020 for the Newby seat.

My first thought: "D'oh! Tamara Barringer saying (in effect) to Phil Berger Jr., 'I don't care who your daddy is! I'm running for the same thing you think you're entitled to!' "

Interesting, since, as a state senator, Barringer was always under Father Berger's thumb, though she's been capable of a streak of independence (see the photo).

Contrary to what I initially thought (and hattip to Gerry Cohen), there will be judicial primaries in North Carolina in 2020. The elimination of primaries for partisan judge races applied only to 2018, which was one of those Berger/Moore schemes supposed to sow chaos among Democrats. Didn't work that way, and we now have a 5-2 Democratic majority on the Supreme Court likely to move to 6-1 when Cooper appoints Martin's replacement.

If there's a Berger Jr. - Barringer primary, that'll be interesting to watch. If. Many other factors could change that: If Cooper appoints one of the sitting Democratic justices as Chief, that'll open another named seat, and Barringer could elect to run for that rather than going head to head with Berger.

Barringer had been a four-term state senator, representing the Wake County District 17, until last fall when Democrat Sam Searcy flipped the seat. Wake County has been trending away from hardline conservatism, but in announcing yesterday, Barringer sounded pretty hardcore conservative:

“In the last week, I received many calls encouraging me to run for the Supreme Court,” Barringer said in a press release Tuesday. “All of you know my love for the law and the importance of maintaining a strict Constitutional interpretation of the laws passed by the General Assembly. It is imperative that we have justices who refrain from legislating from the bench” (emphasis added).

But in 2016, she was the first Republican lawmaker to call for the "substantial and immediate" repeal of House Bill 2 due to the measure's "unintended consequences" (WRAL).

The Greatest Moment From SOTU2019

Nancy Pelosi, dog-walking a very bad pooch.

And a look that will be on T-shirts before the close of business today!

Did you notice how often Twitterman turned to his left, checking out in his peripheral vision whether Nancy Pelosi was reacting correctly to his applause lines? Here's what he said that occasioned this memorable moment in SOTU history:

“We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good.”

At the moment captured by the photo, Trump is actually mouthing "Thank you!" to Pelosi, completely missing the subtext of her mockery.

Why mock that line in his speech? 

Because this is "a president who proudly retaliates against his enemies, taunts his political foes with nicknames and considers himself one of the world’s great counter-punchers" (Philip Rucker et al.).  Just yesterday, during a lunch with major print and broadcast journalists, Trump had "assailed Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) as a 'nasty son of a bitch,' ridiculed former vice president Joe Biden as 'dumb' for his history of gaffes, and accused Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) of 'choking like a dog' ” (Rucker).

Last night, it was Teleprompter Trump, who reads high-minded, normal-sounding lines like he's reading a hostage statement, while we all know the real man. Nancy Pelosi is drawing a bead.

DJT never appreciates irony though he's a great creator of it.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Hottest Ticket in Raleigh

The newly appointed five-member State Board of Elections has announced a hearing on the certification of the NC-9 Congressional election for Monday, February 18, at the North Carolina State Bar (217 East Edenton St., Raleigh). The SBOE is apparently expecting a lengthy hearing, because it has reserved the room through the 20th.

To repeat: It will take three votes to certify the election of Rev. Mark Harris and four votes to call for a new election.

On February 7 -- Thursday of this week -- members of the SBOE will be getting an in-person debriefing on what the staff's investigation into the NC-9 election has turned up, and they'll reportedly be making appointments to county boards of election.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Out-of-a-Job Jonathan Jordan Wants on the Ashe Planning Board; Planning Staff Says "No Thanks!"

Photo Mickey Hutchings
Recently unelected NC House Rep. Jonathan Jordan has applied -- "late," according to the Ashe County Line -- for a seat on the Ashe County Planning Board, which would put him in a position to scratch some backs and deliver some deals as a real estate attorney.

He said on his application that he just wanted to make Ashe County Great Again!

But the planning department staff did not recommend his appointment. Ouch. What'ya wanna bet the county commissioners appoint him anyway?

Friday, February 01, 2019

Sen. Thom Tillis, Targeted by Dark Money Group reporting:

A series of ads purchased by Majority Forward — a non-disclosing 501(c)(4) nonprofit linked to Democratic leadership in the Senate — plans to go after after Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.), Susan Collins (Maine), Thom Tillis (N.C.), David Perdue (Ga.), Martha McSally (Ariz.) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) with a $600,000 ad buy in mid-January, attacking each incumbent Senator over their role in the 35-day government shutdown.

Each ad follows an identical formula, noting the “the longest ever” shutdown caused issues with government food inspections and plane flights, along with an issue relating to the targeted state and blaming the respective Senator for the length of the shutdown. Each ad links the respective target to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who repeatedly blocked bills to reopen the government and is also up for reelection in 2020.