Friday, May 17, 2024

Canton Reclamation Project


Here's a thing: Smoky Mountain News reporter Cory Vaillancourt reported on Twitter late Tuesday afternoon that Spirtas Worldwide has signed an exclusive letter of intent to purchase the Pactiv Evergreen site in Canton, North Carolina, the much abused and lamented old paper mill that polluted the Pigeon River for decades but kept Canton alive.

Who or what is Spirtas Worldwide? From their website:

Spirtas is a nationally recognized and trusted partner for all types of commercial and industrial development projects involving the removal, redevelopment, remediation, recovery or renovation of a wide variety of man-made structures. Having completed more than 10,000 projects of all sizes and in most industries throughout the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands, we have earned a reputation for high quality work, outstanding safety record, project management expertise and environmental stewardship. We develop custom solutions to the challenges presented by most facilities and help owners prepare their properties for reuse, including successful transfer of complex environmental liabilities.

In the Spirtas statement that Vaillancourt quoted, they said, "We recognize the site's importance to the local community. We've already met with Town of Canton officials and look forward to a smooth transition as we invest to support the region's economic development goals."

So it looks like Spirtas Wordwide is also taking on the Pactiv corporation's several legal liabilities, right? Which are multitude. I haven't found criticism of or controversy surrounding Spirtas's work yet, but I do see that they are fairly litigious.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Hunt vs. Weatherman: Opening Shot


Around 3 p.m. yesterday, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Rachel Hunt posted a thread on Twitter announcing an amendment to the North Carolina constitution "to protect women's health care and abortion rights." And indeed, there it is, Senate Bill 909, "An Act to Amend the Constitution of North Carolina To Protect Women's Health." The bill calls for a public referendum on the November 2024 ballot.

Bold move, lady. And the right one. It's never gonna pass, natch! But it puts the Republicans in the corner, which is the tight intersection of walls that they themselves constructed. "Let the voting public of North Carolina have their say this November," ha!

She can't get this constitutional amendment on the ballot, but she sure as hell can raise the profile of Republican anti-abortion activities, and beyond present activities (like passing more restrictive laws) to the wishlist of both Mark Robinson (R candidate for governor) and Hal Weatherman (R candidate lt. gov.):

Both Robinson and Weatherman say they want to see a “heartbeat” bill pass the legislature, which would ban abortion after cardiac activity is detected, which is around five or six weeks into pregnancy. [Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan]

Part of her statement published on Twitter yesterday:

Decisions around pregnancy, including abortion, birth control, and miscarriage care, are personal and should be left up to women and their families .... The people of North Carolina deserve a chance to vote for themselves on whether we will protect women’s healthcare or continue down the path of states like AL and TX.

I want to ensure that we are putting families – not politicians like Hal Weatherman or Mark Robinson – in charge of our personal medical decisions.By choosing Weatherman as their nominee, the MAGA Republicans decided they want abortion to be front and center in this election. Weatherman has repeatedly said he wants to completely ban abortion access. He makes a great ally and partner for Robinson, who is leading the anti-abortion charge here in NC. 

...I don’t want my daughter, or any of our daughters, to live in a state where they could be forced to travel hundreds of miles for care or where doctors and nurses could be criminalized for basic access to health care that their patients require....

The Republican facing Rachel Hunt -- Hal Weatherman -- began his career with Rep. Sue Myrick, but he proved himself an accomplished political operative as both Dan Forest's campaign manager and then Forest's chief of staff. The Dan Forest bubble broke in the elections of 2020 when Roy Cooper beat him, and according to his LinkedIn, Weatherman went to work briefly for the Madison Cawthorn campaign from January '21 to June '22, when he apparently had had enough of that particular shitshow and somehow decided to run for lieutenant governor, which will be for Weatherman -- let's be honest -- a lovely little sinecure with hardly any lifting at all, just a job about sitting on committees and being agreeable and showing up at golf tournaments, and -- of course! -- mouthing whatever conservative bullshit is agreeable to the day.

He's actually running on charm, I think. This is his photo on Twitter, a prepster dressed impeccably and smiling, in a nicely rugged setting:

He brags that he visited every county -- all 100 -- before the primary and that he'll visit them all again before November. Before the March primary he published videos of himself talking about where he's going that day and who he'll be talking to, but always solo, standing at an anonymous spot somewhere, but the picts he's put on Facebook give a clue that he's been most comfortable in living rooms with crystal light fixtures at strictly high-dollar donor events, with cocktails and polite conversation. I don't see a lot of evidence of this guy's appeal for the MAGA crowd, though an attack piece from the Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association calls Weatherman's campaign "MAGAPURISM." I don't see any evidence yet that Weatherman has faced a crowd of cultists who always prefer blood. Weatherman looks like a country club Republican. Is he gonna roar with Mark Robinson about abortion? I think it unlikely. I think he'll go to ground on that issue and find something else to excite his crowd.


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Run-Off Primaries Over, We Now See the Full Awfulness of the Republican Slate


State Auditor, Republican Ballot

Dave Boliek, a member of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees which has been dismantling the outstanding reputation of our flagship university, won the second primary to run on the November ballot for State Auditor. He has grudges to tickle, with a long list of state agencies he wants to punish with threats of audits. He was particularly focused on sniffing out any "illegals" getting state money, the go-to for Republican candidates wishing to seem as cruelly trumpist as possible. He was so outspoken about revenge that his 2nd primary opponent Jack Clark, who actually finished first in this race last March, felt obliged to take a decidedly different, more judicial tack:

“I know most candidates running for auditor would promise you, ‘I’m gonna audit this, I’m gonna audit that,’” Clark told voters at an event in Cary last month. “That’s not what I see the auditor’s role as. The auditor is very much like a judge. You wouldn’t expect a judge to get up here and talk about who exactly they were going to try and what cases they were going to take up. And I don’t think the auditor should be doing that either.” [Anderson Alerts]

Of course Dave Boliek won with 53% of the vote, because North Carolina Republicans will almost always choose the extremist over the reasonable candidate.


Lieutenant Governor, Republican Ballot

Hal Weatherman, who was former Lt. Gov. Dan Forest's chief of staff and main political strategist, easily won the 2nd primary against Jim O'Neill, Forsyth County District Attorney who had come close to beating current Attorney General Josh Stein in 2020. Weatherman had been endorsed by current candidate for Governor Mark Robinson. Say no more.

The 2024 Republican Slate for the Council of State (with Democratic Opponents)

For Governor, Mark Robinson vs. Democrat Josh Stein, currently A.G.
For Lt. Gov., Hal Weatherman vs. Rachel Hunt, currently a state senator
For A.G., Dan Bishop vs. Jeff Jackson, currently a U.S. congressman
For State Auditor, Dave Boliek vs. Jessica Holmes, currently State Auditor appointed by Gov. Cooper
For Ag. Commish, Steve Troxler vs. Sarah Taber, an agriculture consultant
For Insurance Commish, Mike Causey (I) vs. Natasha Marcus, formerly a state senator
For Labor Commish, Luke Farley vs. Braxton Winston II, currently mayor pro tem of Charlotte
For Secretary of State, Chad Brown vs. Elaine Marshall (I), currently Sec. of State
For Super of Public Ed., Michele Morrow vs. Mo Green, formerly exec. dir. of Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation 
For Treasurer, Brad Briner vs. Wesley Harris, currently a member of NC House

Friday, May 10, 2024

You Can’t Hide Anymore


Jack Yordy, guest posting:

Last week, I spent roughly seven hours watching videos of student protestors being beaten and brutalized by police. If I didn’t have final exams and projects, I’d likely be watching many hours more this week. There are endless high-definition photos and videos of police violence at universities across the country. But that’s not all I’ve been watching. 

In the months since October of last year, I watched people being torn to shreds by bullets and bombs from the comfort of my apartment. Nearly every day I see the aftermath of an airstrike on a school, or a hospital, or a home, or a body. If you’re wondering why young people care so much about this war, and why they’re willing to be expelled, arrested, and brutalized, there’s your answer. We’ve been watching a genocide through the eyes of its victims. We have lived fleetingly in their perspectives for seven months. 

In 1970, students protesting against the Vietnam War were watching their friends be drafted and never return. They heard the horror stories and saw the names of the dead falling down the TV screen every night. They did not stop protesting after four students were murdered at Kent State by militarized thugs. Fifty-four years later, students are watching their friends and people they follow document the daily deaths of their friends and family. They watch the bombing of homes and hospitals, the withholding of food and water, and so many more atrocities available to view at any time. 

When the media began churning out lies last month in response to protests across the country, it was already far too late to change the minds of GenZ. No statement or spin could make me forget about the body of a child and the aid worker who was trying to save her when they were hit by an American-made, university-funded, missile. Israel, AIPAC, and their U.S. propaganda proxies can’t hide what is happening from us even if they ban TikTok. There is no hiding from us and there is no backing down from demanding our government stops supporting genocide. 

I don’t believe this is going away. In fact, I’m almost sure it is not. For the first time in my four years at Appalachian State University, I am seeing large networks of students forming in response to policies that they disagree with. These students are committed to connecting, organizing, assembling, and dissenting peacefully, regardless of the consequences. They’re not going to forget about this over the summer. They’ll be back after spending the summer planning, not playing. No one can watch what we are watching without feeling a duty to stop it. With Israel continuously gearing up their war machine to escalate this genocide, as sad and angry as it makes us, we are not going to stop watching or dissenting in accordance with constitutional rights. 

Jack Yordy is president of the AppState College Democrats.

Monday, May 06, 2024

Rep. Jake Johnson Has a New Plan for Public School Teachers


Justin Parmenter, a 7th grade language arts teacher in Charlotte whose Twitter feed is a daily must-read for me, published an editorial today in the News and Observer that takes a bite out of the youngest punk Republican in the General Assembly, Jake Johnson, for the bill he wrote that would force every public school teacher in the state to post online their lesson plans -- just the public school teachers, mind you, not the private school teachers whose private enterprises are getting lots more money in the form of vouchers and a free ride on accountability.

The purpose of Johnson's "punching down" on public school teachers appears to be nothing more than an attempt to "out" any "socialist indoctrination" going on in these here parts and thereby intimidate teachers and let them know that the state of North Carolina really has total contempt for what they do. No wonder, as Parmenter points out, the state is losing teachers at an alarming rate ("1 in 9 resigned last school year").

I wrote about Jake Johnson extensively when he was appointed to his seat in the NC House in 2019 to replace that other disgraced young punk Cody Henson, and I think the facts still stand:

Jake Johnson claimed that he went to college to get a degree in business administration but that Barack Obama in the White House was the straw that broke his business back. He switched to political science out of revenge for Obama and became an avowed partisan warrior against what America was becoming under a president who might have been -- probably was -- born in Kenya. I found on-line where he was scheduled to speak to the Asheville Tea Party back last January on the "steps we are going to have to take to get younger people into conservative politics." (I wish I'd heard that rap!)

Here's the passage in Johnson's biography that's almost forgotten: He says he served as "field director" for the successful congressional campaign of Mark Harris. That would be the Reverend Mark Harris, whose winning campaign against Democrat Dan McCready in November of 2018 was called back to be redone because of massive ballot fraud committed -- wait for it -- in the field operation.

This is the guy who now has a plan to drive even more public school teachers out of the profession. 

Sunday, May 05, 2024

The NC Voter ID Law Goes To Trial (Again)


At 9:30 tomorrow morning in the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem, federal District Judge Loretta Biggs will begin hearing evidence in the latest challenge to North Carolina's voter ID law. The newest version of that law has been in effect since before the March primary, but its history is twisted (in the truest sense of that word), and for its long string of court challenges you almost need a roadmap.

The case has the potential to block the state’s voter ID requirement before the 2024 election — though an appeal is likely regardless of which way Biggs rules. 

The North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP first sued the state over its voter ID requirement in 2018, setting in motion a case that has now lasted over five years, ricocheting between appellate courts and conflicting with a similar case at the state level. 

In its trial brief, the NAACP argues that the voter ID requirement “was enacted with discriminatory intent” in violation of the U.S. Constitution and “has already had a discriminatory impact on the right of Black and Latino citizens in North Carolina to participate in the political process.” [Kyle Ingram]

Saturday, May 04, 2024

If You Lose the Ground Game, You Lose


Came across some news from The Dispatch while I was traveling last week (or the week before ... who remembers?) that may be the best news for Democratic prospects this year: The ground game plan of former Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel was totally scrapped when the new Trump-obeisant team of Michael Whatley and Lara Trump took over the reins of the party, and now ... "few if any regional and local campaign headquarters; little to no deployed field staff; and little to no traditional voter turnout activities, such as door-knocking, phone banking, or volunteer organizing."

Why? Because all Donald Trump -- that genius political theorizer -- thinks about is "election integrity" and the fairy tale that somewhere, someone is stealing the election from him.

Trump repeatedly told McDaniel in conversations before he pushed her out of the chairmanship that he did not need the RNC to focus on “get-out-the-vote” activities. Rather, knowledgeable Republican sources told us, the former president informed McDaniel he wanted the committee to prioritize “election integrity” efforts .... "I’m not worried about turning out the vote, I just want to catch the cheaters."

Proving once again that you can't out-think a man who ain't thinking.

Friday, May 03, 2024

Don Blankenship, At It Again


Photo Luke Sharrett, New York Times

In 2018, a notorious West Virginia coal baron named Don Blankenship ran for the US Senate as a Republican, and I, along with at least 150 other bloggers and major news outlets, wrote about him. He sued all of us for defamation. You can confirm that here. The suit was eventually dismissed. At least I was dismissed from the suit. I don't believe Mr. Blankenship collected the large sum in damages he was suing for.

A friend yesterday sent me this update on the new political activities of Mr. Blankenship, which are interesting primarily for his trying to involve John F. Kennedy Jr. in his campaign. The following is taken directly from dKos:

• WV-Sen: In case you weren't already aware that Don Blankenship, the ex-Republican ex-con who now purports to be running for Senate as a Democrat, is batshit crazy, please check out his new batch of TV ads, courtesy of Medium Buying. In case you're scared to click (you should be) because you don't want to alarm anyone who might be in earshot, here's a transcript of the first spot:

Blankenship: I'm Don Blankenship, candidate for the United States Senate, and I paid for this ad.

Narrator: Don Blankenship will tell you the honest truth!

RFK Jr.: Don Blankenship … he's the most honest CEO in America!

Narrator: Unfortunately, our government is not honest. Even the truth about the murders of Mr. Kennedy's dad and uncle are kept hidden. They even refused to keep Mr. Kennedy safe because he left the party. Your choice is simple: You could vote for more lies, or you could vote for …

RFK Jr.: Most honest CEO in America!

Blankenship: If they tell you I fell off the bed and hung myself, I didn't.

The old grainy footage of Kennedy, by the way, is from a strange public debate he and Blankenship staged in 2010 over the merits of mountaintop removal mining. Just months later, a fatal accident at a coal mine run by Blankenship led to the deaths of 29 miners, the worst such disaster on American soil in 40 years. The man Kennedy praised as "the most honest CEO in America" would later serve a year in federal prison for conspiring to violate federal mine safety rules.