Saturday, December 31, 2011

Only the Pure May Vote in Virginia

The fact that Virginia voters will salute and do as they're ordered -- and that voters will be ordered to take a loyalty oath when they vote in the Republican Party's primary on March 6 -- is all the evidence we need that Virginia conservatives are lacking both self-awareness and the least spark of resistance to illegitimate power.

Make that "conservatives everywhere."

Friday, December 30, 2011

Who Said Republicans Are Good With Money?

An audit of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, run by Republican Commissioner Steve Troxler (he's the one on the left, holding his cousin), found that for the fiscal year 2009-2010, the department's Consumer Services & Standards Division failed to collect over $2 million in fines assessed in civil penalties against liquefied petroleum (LP) gas operations.
Violations ranged from a lack of on-site “no smoking “ signs to tanks and piping not protected from vehicular traffic, faulty valves, inadequate employee training and plants operating without required licenses.
The nearly 7,500 violations occurred at 1,189 facilities, including LP gas bulk storage plants, farms, schools, businesses, industrial plants, correctional institutions and campgrounds.

Source: Triangle Business Journal.

It figgers, since Republicans are consistently doctrinaire on non-regulation, except that, O my brethren, the non-regulation of LP gas operations can blow you up into tiny bits and incinerate your world. Or, as State Auditor Beth Woods wrote in her investigative report, "... certain violations present threats to public health and safety or could cause significant property loss."

Mr. Troxler's yadda-yadda in response to the audit (along the lines of "We're taking steps in order to take certain steps to be able to step up to doing something about this") appears to be nothing more than stone-walling.  

'Course, arguably the worst non-regulator in the state is Madam Cherie Berry in the Department of Labor, who is a poster child of malfeasance.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Camel, Meet Needle's Eye

Christianity Today, reporting on a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press: "Most people of all faiths feel taxes are unfair and that the wealthy need to pay more."

Someone remind me: where's the GOP on this issue?

A Breathtaking Display of Mendacity

First, to recap the action:

1. GOP-led NC General Assembly cut $400 million from the state's education budget. Chief arranger of the deck chairs: Republican Speaker of the NC House, Thom Tillis.

2. Speaker Tillis warns that any layoffs will be scored as superintendents' fault, not the General Assembly's.

3. School systems everywhere began laying off teachers and teacher assistants.

4. Speaker Tillis began blaming superintendents for job losses as he conducted his town-hall tour around the state, except when superintendents were sitting in the audience, and he vowed that he would haul those superintendents' sorry asses to Raleigh and grill them on why they fired people. "We will get to the bottom of this," he promised.

Looks like Mr. Tillis is going to be held to his promise, though he's hemming and hawing a bit about when those "hearings" will take place. "Probably in February," a spokesman for Tillis said recently. Okay, we'll promise not to hold our breath if you promise to stop treating the public like dunces.

What will superintendents say, if indeed they're summoned to Raleigh to explain why a $400 million state-wide cut to education spending led to the laying off of teachers? Maybe ... "Duh"?

Photo: Huntersville Herald

Wasting Public Money, The Forsyth County Way

Displays by the Pharisees evidently take precedence.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Renee Ellmers Tries To Spin the Republican Mess

Now with subtitles, so you'll know what she's REALLY saying. Hattip: ProgressNC

$40 DOES Matter!

Snagged from an e-mail from Cliff Moone, Democratic Party Chair of the NC 10th Congressional District:
POINT: This week, some Republicans like Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, have stated that the proposed extension of the Payroll Tax Cut will not have any real effect on the economy. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have gone from not supporting the tax cut extension AT ALL to arguing that it MUST be for 1 year NOW or NOTHING!

COUNTERPOINT: Tea Party Republicans have at last found a TAX INCREASE they CAN SUPPORT! They WILL NOT support ANY tax increase on the top 1%, not even a 3% surtax on 388,000 millionaires and billionaires (and that ONLY on their income ABOVE 1 million dollars) BUT they seem more than willing to let 160 million Americans take it on the chin with a tax hike of about $1,000 per year. To Republicans, Tax Cuts ARE good, but evidently ONLY for the RICH!

ADDENDUM: Is Governor Christie correct about the Payroll Tax Cut's effect on the economy? Only in Republican world. To the typical family earning around $50,000 per year, the failure to extend this middle class tax cut will mean that they will have about $40 per pay check LESS than they do now. What would that mean? In John Boehner's district it is 1 less tank of gas. For another person, it would be the cost of her husband's insulin & inhaler. For a person in California, it means 1 less dinner out and economically "it ripples negatively from there!" Indeed, in Jackson Mississippi, the NEGATIVE effect on the local economy is estimated at 10 million dollars per year! $40 REALLY does matter!

Foxx Drains Poole

It was clear from the outset of the Todd Poole drunk-driving-and-resisting-an-officer arrest in Watauga County that Congresswoman Virginia Foxx intended to see him successfully through the judicial process. In a Roll Call interview published on August 12th, three days after her Chief of Staff was taken before a Watauga County magistrate and charged with three different offenses, the Congresswoman said that her employee had her support and would keep his job.

“He’ll remain on the staff. It’s a judicial matter and it will work its way through the process,” she said.

The current odor of special treatment for Poole (from both a DA and a judge with long political ties to the Congresswoman ... Judge Horne was not too long ago Chair of the Watauga County Republican Party during Foxx's rise to greatness) has centered on the sealing of Poole's blood alcohol test.

According to Scott Sexton in the Winston-Salem Journal, in his column on Dec 18, "[Poole] refused a breath test, but troopers got a sample of his blood and sent it off to the State Bureau of Investigation."

That's very different from what the Roll Call reporter was told for the article linked above:
A Watauga County, N.C., deputy clerk confirmed the authenticity of the record and that Poole was “taken to the magistrate’s office,” that is, arrested. A court date is set for Sept. 13, the deputy clerk said.
“He blew a .08,” the clerk said, indicating that Poole was at the legal limit of intoxication under state law....
Passing strange. Would .08 alcohol content in one's blood make one act like Todd Poole acted that night? Maybe. Or perhaps the deputy clerk was wrong, but by what stretch does a deputy clerk of court make that up and tell it to a reporter for a Washington newspaper?

Clearly, someone talked before the Foxx Cone of Silence fell over this whole episode.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Foxx and Friends Completely Lose Control

The "optics" ain't so good for congressional Republicans. And perhaps the American working class are actually paying attention.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winston-Salem Journal, Stirring It Up

In an editorial praising the newly retired Donny Lambeth, leader of the North Carolina Baptist Hospital, the writers at the Winston-Salem Journal made a sly suggestion:

"There was talk a few years ago that Lambeth might run against U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx in the Republican primary in the 5th District. Maybe he'll consider that, or a run for the state legislature. We look forward to following his next step, whatever it might be." [Dec. 20, 2011]

In 2010, there was indeed a rumor that Lambeth would find favor among Forsyth's Republicans if he took on the odious Virginia Foxx in a Republican primary, which apparently led Lambeth to call Foxx personally and squelch the rumor. The Journal's resurrection of that deep desire to have a more mainstream Republican representing the 5th District of NC is note-worthy.

Mr. Lambeth, who is also chair of the Forsyth County Board of Education, may be waiting for Foxx to retire (but, then, aren't we all!?) to run for the open seat. If she retires before the ocean levels rise to drown our coastal cities, and if Mr. Lambeth is still viable, he'll have to face Foxx's chosen (and duly anointed) successor, the ineffable empty suit, Dan Soucek. A Soucek/Lambeth primary would be no contest, and Lambeth would win, going away.

That's all contingent, of course, on Foxx actually winning another term against challenger Treva Johnson, which in this year (2012, that is) is not a foregone conclusion.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Now It's a Political Story

When Todd Poole, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx's Chief of Staff, was arrested a year ago (on Dec. 14) for drunk driving and was subsequently also charged with resisting an officer, I said nary a word on this blog about it because I saw it as a personal tragedy and not a political story.

But now that Mr. Poole has been given very special treatment in the disposition of his case -- and had the actual alcohol content of his blood that night forever sealed by the judge -- it has become perforce a political story.

The things you can get when you work for a powerful Congresswoman. Mr. Poole, on the night of arrest, apparently warned everyone within earshot that they didn't know the towering importance of the person they were dealing with, hauling him in to stand before a Watauga County magistrate. Todd took a belligerent, arrogant "don't-you-know-who-I-am?" aggressiveness with the officers of the law, and, well, turns out he was right.

He's somebody who gets special treatment from the legal system.

Scott Sexton delves pretty deeply into just how special that treatment was in his column in the Winston-Salem Journal.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Big Wind

An amazing sight this morning: we were suddenly aware of dozens of 300-foot tall, huge wind generators, ringing the horizon to our south off I-40 in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Then they were also marching in on us from the north as well, 98 total generators, capable of producing enough power for 44,000 homes. It was curious that all the generators to our south were turning at precisely the same rotational speed -- on an absolutely breathless high plains morning -- while none of the generators on the northern side of the Interstate turned at all. That's an operational mystery.

But what a beautiful panorama.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

GOP-Dominated General Assembly ... Very Unpopular

Sometimes polling gives you the willies; sometimes it gives you ideas. From PPP:
One thing that's been true all year is that whenever the GOP legislature comes back to town, it gets less popular. That's the case once again after their late November return to Raleigh. Only 29% of voters now have a favorable opinion of the Republicans in the legislature, a new record low. The previous worst had been 33%. 48% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of them. The biggest issue for the Republicans is that independents, after voting for the GOP by a huge margin in legislative contests last year, now give them a 22/44 favorability rating.
Contained in such dismal numbers may be the key to the path forward for Gov. Perdue, who has her own bad polling to deal with:
Finally one finding in this poll points to a potential path to victory for Bev Perdue. 44% of voters in the state trust her more compared to 40% who put a greater deal of faith in the Republican legislature. Pat McCrory has tied himself closely to the unpopular new legislative majority so if Perdue can run against their agenda and McCrory's support of it, that might just be the way she pulls out a second term. It won't be easy, but it's something.

Quote of the Decade

"The higher a monkey climbs on the pole the more you can see his butt."

--David Axelrod, on Newt Gingrich

From Slaves-to-Knowledge To Just Plain Slaves

Hattip: Think Progress

Thursday, December 08, 2011

"Unnecessary, Bureaucratic and Costly": Rowan Co. Citizens Push Back on Voter Photo ID

Rowan County Republican commissioners approved a resolution on Nov. 21, asking the state legislature to pass a "local bill" to require that all voters in the county present government-issued photo ID before they vote.

A Salisbury resident asked the State Board of Elections how many voters in Rowan do not currently have government-issued photo IDs, including NC driver's licenses. Almost 6,000 was the answer ... almost 6,000 active, registered voters. Mainly elderly, mainly female, and -- natch! -- mainly African-American. An African-American voter in Rowan County is twice as likely as a white voter to not have voter ID.

Which is, of course, the point of the law, the target of the law, the ulterior motive of Republicans everywhere who are pushing this diminution of democracy.

People in Rowan County came out to their County Commission meeting Tuesday night to complain about the colossal waste of commissioner time on this resolution and the naked racial politics behind it. “When you look at it on a local level, is this something we can justify — that we can say that we need?” one Salisbury resident asked. “This just seems like it’s following the leader of the national agenda, and the national agenda seems like it doesn’t want people to vote.”

The Board of Aldermen of the Rowan County town of East Spencer also passed a resolution Tuesday night opposing all such suppression of voting rights: “[The] Voter ID Act provides an unnecessary, bureaucratic and costly resolution to address a problem that may only occur in one out of each one million or more votes cast,” the resolution states. “[The] Voter ID bill would cause more problems with widespread voter disenfranchisement than it could possibly solve.”

The East Spencer resolution also points out that "the law would disproportionately affect the elderly, people of color, students, low income residents and people with disabilities."

A similar resolution was effectively killed by tabling in Lenoir County (Kinston) Tuesday night, where momentary sanity broke out among the county commissioners.

Hattip: DemocracyNC

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Movement To End "Corporate Personhood"

A sign of the times and the beginning, we can hope, of a widespread movement among the citizens: The Los Angeles city council took a purely symbolic vote last night on a resolution to end the pernicious doctrine of "corporate personhood," which took root in US jurisprudence in the 19th century and matured to full poison fruit in the "Citizens United" Supreme Court case.

A purely symbolic vote, yes, but with the possibility of major influence on widening the circle of American citizens who have become aware, finally, of the hard right turn our laws took when the Supreme Court first decided that a corporation was equivalent to a person under the law.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

New Light on the GOP Suppression of the Black Vote

Forget for the moment the NC GOP's attempted suppression of the black vote (and the youth vote) through a proposed photo ID law (which Gov. Perdue vetoed --veto upheld in the NC House -- but which Republican Speaker Thom Tillis is all itchy to bring back up for another veto over-ride attempt, once a couple of Dems are out sick with the flu) ... forget all that for the moment, and consider what's going on in South Carolina.

The Republican-dominated South Carolina legislature passed a similar voter photo ID law which the Republican governor dutifully signed. According to analysis by the Associated Press, there are 10 South Carolina precincts (among the state’s 2,134 precincts) "where nearly all of the law’s affect falls on nonwhite voters who don’t have a state-issued driver’s license or ID card, a total of 1,977 voters."

The South Carolina law also recognizes only state-issued photo identification, so college students from out of state or those who have not acquired SC photo identification will be SOL.

The AP article which revealed these problems and the way it falls disproportionately on the black population got favorably tweeted by a South Carolina Republican Party operative: "Nice ... proves EXACTLY why we need voter ID in SC."

That "nice" exclamation comes only at the expense of black voters. There's no imputation of voter fraud in the AP report, just a by-the-numbers accounting of how the law will fall disproportionately on one non-Republican segment of the population.

Last night in Matthews at another of his townhalls, Speaker Thom Tillis spoke cryptically about the possibility that the Republican majority in the NC General Assembly "could try to pass a compromise voter ID bill next year" that "could be fashioned on an earlier version of the bill, which would have allowed voters to use IDs without a photo."

We're quite familiar with Mr. Tillis's "greenwashing" of the Republican agenda when he's holding his townhalls, so we won't hold our breath about this latest offer of compromise.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Questions She Ducked

The Foxx "Facebook Friday" event perhaps proves nothing so much as this: you can fool some of the people all of the time.

She just couldn't quite find an answer on that keyboard in her staffer's hands for these pertinent
When will you resume town hall meetings in various locations in our district so people can express their concerns in a public forum?

Rep Foxx, where do you stand on restricting Congress members on using "insider information" for personal investments?? Thx

What is your justification for having signed the Grover Norquist pledge to NEVER raise taxes? This seems to be an ill-advised pledge. Remember that Reagan and Bush #1 promised never to raise taxes, but when necessity dictated, they were flexible enough to make prudent decisions. This pledge seems to put you and your fellow members of Congress in a non-negotiable position. Please explain ~ thank you.

As the Representative of the 5th District, you have stated you're against "government-run" health programs, where the government makes decisions on personal health (versus a for-profit company making those decisions). Since Medicare is a government-run health program, 1) why are you against it, and 2) why would the majority of the 5th District be against it?
Could anything speak louder than this "controlled," public-be-damned poor excuse for a congressional townhall meeting?

Barbara Kingsolver at Occupy Johnson City

The best American writer in spitting distance of Boone (she lives near Emory, Va.), Barbara Kingsolver, went looking for Occupy Johnson City just over the mountain from here, and she found it and wrote this report, from the ineffable "Appalachian" perspective:
"...I saw some American flags and a sign that said 'God Hates Banks' and figured this had to be it. From across the street I heard one person say a few words at a time, repeated by the crowd in the unmistakable 'from this day forward…' cadence of a wedding or a swearing-in, and again I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. As it turned out, the call and response was the people’s microphone, famously re-invented in New York to subvert the ban on amplifiers. Here in Tennessee it sounds like people taking vows. Repeat as one: men in UMW jackets, farmers in their town clothes, college kids, retired schoolteachers, young couples pushing strollers, the wilderness guide in a kilt, the homeless man with the sign in Latin. Really the temptation was to ask any given person, what is the story? Because there is one. This is Appalachia, home of the forested Cumberland and Wildwood Flower and NASCAR and 18% unemployment and bless your heart. Home of mountaintop removal, wherein coal companies find it profitable to tear the earth’s own flesh from its bones and leave the stunned, uprooted living to contemplate drinking poison, in the literal sense. Birthplace of the Blair Mountain rebellion, where underpaid labor ran up against big capital in an insurrection unlike any other this country has known. That was in 1921, and by many accounts the approval rating of big capital here has not improved. Just this month, a dispassionate Wall Street analysis ranked us the fifth-poorest region in the land. The people’s microphone in this context sounds like a tent revival. It took twice as long to say anything, but induced full participation, which is also very southern, come to think of it. At length we agreed to march ourselves down State of Franklin Street, and as we stretched across block after block of stopped traffic, people in their pickups and dinged-up station wagons and gas-conscious sedans honked and cheered to see our 'tax greed' signs, and did not advise us to get a job or a haircut. The orthodox objections have grown ridiculous. Every system on earth has its limits. We have never been here before, not right here exactly, you and me together in the golden and gritty places all at once, on deadline, no fooling around this time, no longer walking politely around the dire colossus, the so-called American Way of consecrated corporate profits and crushed public compassion. There is another American way. This is the right place, we found it. On State of Franklin we yelled until our throats hurt that we were the 99% because that’s just it. We are."

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Occupy Washington Gets It Right

Chris Hayes showed video on his "Up with Chris Hayes" show this a.m. of the verbal tongue-lashing that the big-wig national Democratic establishment got from the "human microphone" of the Occupy Washington contingent on Thursday night at a closed-door fundraiser where comestibles were served per plate at $5,000 - $75,000. The upbraiding starts at approximately 16:20 in the video below, if you don't want to wade through all 40 minutes.

It's a correct analysis of what ails both national political parties, and if the Democrats don't begin to jettison their own soul-destroying "beholdens" to Wall Street (in all its forms), then they will suffer rejection and condemnation ... as they deserve.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Talk to the Hand, You Sorry [Expletive Deleted]

First, it was Thom Tillis, slumming it up in Boone, who spoke of his great personal pain over the Anti-Family Amendment that he nevertheless personally ushered through his Republican-controlled NC House.

Now it's Sen. Jim Davis (R-Franklin) who's suddenly developed buyer's remorse over his vote to urge the rest of us to install anti-gay discrimination into the NC Constitution next May.

At a "sparsely attended" townhall meeting in Macon County, Davis said, “I have a lot of libertarian in me. I believe firmly, passionately that a marriage should be defined as being between one man and one woman. But I also believe with all my heart that in a free America people who choose to live a different lifestyle should have a legal right to do so."

Yet (and you'll forgive me if I'm unimpressed by your sudden pangs of conscience), you voted with the other lemmings in your party to enshrine a constitutional discrimination against a small minority of our citizens into our foundational document...

(You insufferable hypocrite you. With all due respect.)

The Collusion Between The Fed and The Banksters

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Another Young Hero of Our Times: Zack Wahls

Nineteen-year-old Zack Wahls made this testimony before the Iowa state legislature back in February, but this three-minute YouTube of his testimony is again making the rounds because of the Anti-Family Amendment ("Amendment 1") now on the North Carolina ballot for next May

A sixth-generation Iowan, Wahls finished his testimony on an impassioned note. "In my 19 years, not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple. And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of my character."

Occupy Elections

George Lakoff, author of "Don't Think of an Elephant," on what should be next for the Occupy movement:
What's next? That's the question being asked as cities close down Occupy encampments and winter approaches.

The answer is simple. Just as the Tea Party gained power, the Occupy Movement can. The Occupy movement has raised awareness of a great many of America's real issues and has organized supporters across the country. Next comes electoral power. Wall Street exerts its force through the money that buys elections and elected officials. But ultimately, the outcome of elections depends on people willing to take to the streets -- registering voters, knocking on doors, distributing information, speaking in local venues. The way to change the nation is to occupy elections.

Whatever Occupiers may think of the Democrats, they can gain power within the Democratic Party and hence in election contests all over America. All they have to do is join Democratic Clubs, stick to their values, speak out very loudly, and work in campaigns for candidates at every level who agree with their values. If Occupiers can run tent camps, organize food kitchens and clean-up brigades, run general assemblies, and use social media, they can take over and run a significant part of the Democratic Party....

Foxx Announces Another Gimmick To Avoid Facing Constituents

"Facebook Friday."

No, really.

Following her tradition of avoiding any possible embarrassment at having to be actually accountable for her opinions, her statements, let alone her votes, or of answering unfiltered constituent questions, Madam Foxx is generously deigning to pick and choose the questions she would like to answer from among comments posted Friday morning on her Facebook page.

We're lovin' that "profile in courage," Congresswoman.