Monday, April 30, 2012

Ashe County Crack-Pot Politics

Not to be missed ... this account of the Ashe County Tea Party and the politics of discrimination against The Gayz. And, welcome back on-line, Ashe Watch.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thom Tillis: "Toxic to the Fortunes of the NCGOP"

We'll have to agree with the conservative blog "Daily Haymaker" when it refers to Republican Speaker of the NC House as "mealy-mouthed." We were sitting in the audience that night in Boone when Mr. Tillis, more responsible for getting the absolutely horrible "marriage amendment" through the General Assembly than any other mother's son in Raleigh, deny that he even wanted to put that amendment before the people.

Look no further. That matches our definition of "mealy-mouthed."

"Isn't There a Liberty Interest in Choosing To Marry?"

Under the headline "Why So Many Conservatives Oppose the Amendment," John Russell, in the Raleigh News & Observer:
...Only a month after the U.S. Supreme Court heard powerful arguments against the health insurance mandate as unconstitutional, it rings hollow to many conservatives to insist that the heavy hand of the state come down against people who want to commit themselves to sharing a life. Put simply, if there is a liberty interest in choosing to buy health insurance, isn’t there a liberty interest in choosing to marry? 
If Amendment One were simply an annoyance to business, then conservatives wouldn’t have so much trouble backing it. But it’s so bad that scores of normally apolitical business leaders have written or spoken publicly in opposition.
Jim Rogers, the CEO of Duke Energy (speaking for himself, not the utility), lambasted Amendment One during a speech in Charlotte recently. A top Bank of America executive said that passage would be “disastrous” for the state’s business climate. 
Among emerging growth companies, the situation is even more pronounced. North Carolina is uniquely hard hit by measures that cut our advantage in fields such as technology and life science, which rely on hiring talented people of diverse backgrounds. Amendment One attacks this creative meritocracy. 
One of the strongest criticisms conservatives make of liberal social legislation is that overly broad language forces judges to make law. This happened in Ohio, which passed a amendment similar to ours. There, multiple men accused or already convicted under the state’s domestic violence statute contested their guilt on constitutional grounds. The reason? The women they abused, threatened or assaulted weren’t their wives. It took the Ohio courts two years to decide they were guilty anyway. 
Conservatives criticize sweeping laws that attempt to control the future – witness debates over climate change. Conservatives believe in less certainty of prediction than liberals, and want market forces of all kinds to play out. U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a recent case involving police searches that he wished for a limited result that would not “embarrass the future." ...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Froth Meets Substance?

Interesting analysis from the North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation, which ain't no Democratic group:
In Senate District 45, Sen. Dan Soucek (R-Watauga) toppled an incumbent Democrat in 2010, but the district looks very different this time and includes populous Caldwell County, which is home to former Rep. George Robinson (R-Caldwell), who is facing Sen. Soucek in the primary. This race has largely flown under the radar this primary season, but don't be surprised if this contest is closer than many expect.

Wouldn't that be a kick in the old pantaloons!

These Entrepreneurial Businessmen Say Amendment 1 Will Be Bad for Business

Powerful stuff. "This amendment will make it harder for the high-tech startups that are driving our economic growth to continue to grow and operate in our state."


According to Chris Fitzsimon, WRAL in Raleigh produced a documentary about the impact of Amendment 1 on the business climate of the state and went through the amendment's supporters to find a CEO willing to speak on camera in favor of the law, "but they could not come up with a single one."

A Courageous Citizen And the Double-Talking Member of the General Assembly

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Renee Ellmers: Tea Party Republicans Collectively Became "A Monster"

Renee Ellmers, who beat Bob Etheridge in the 2010 Tea Party uprising to represent the 2nd District of NC, apparently spills the beans about her fellow Tea Party freshmen in a new book, depicting the Republican Conference under Speaker John Boehner as something approaching the Freedonia of Duck Soup, or the student council of Beverly Hills High.

Virginia Foxx: Belittling People for Over Four Decades

Ken Ilgunas, in today's Winston-Salem Journal:
...[Virginia] Foxx has plenty of tolerance for today's broken system of higher education and its ever-rising costs, but little tolerance, she says, for the students who are struggling with the system that she herself helped create. 
Today's college students don't need belittling words from someone of Foxx's generation, for whom college was affordable. They need the sort of assistance that Foxx profited from when she was young.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pat McCrory & Mitt Romney Share the Same DNA

Both are terrified of their right wing. Neither has a political or philosophic core, unless self-interest qualifies.

Tim Funk on Mr. McCrory in today's Charlotte Observer: "He’d rather talk about something else – say, the economy or education. But press Pat McCrory about gay marriage, and the presumptive Republican nominee for governor will say this much – and little more: On May 8, he plans to vote for the proposed N.C. constitutional amendment reaffirming the state’s ban on same-sex marriage."

Way to stand tall, Pat.

Apparently, he hopes his particular device of hiding out from actual accountability will fool enough voters: "... by not making the amendment a major issue in his 2012 campaign, [NC State Univ. political scientist Andy] Taylor said, McCrory appears to be hoping that he can maintain his appeal with his old coalition of business Republicans and moderates – including many Democrats and independents."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What Kind of Teacher Is She?

Foxx made a bizarre remark last week about American students, saying she has “very little tolerance” for young people saddled with student debt, which now tops $1 trillion in America. 

The Center for Responsive Politics discovered why Foxx doesn’t care about student loan debt. Duh.

It’s because she’s making big bucks from for-profit college corporations. The organization found that in just the last year, Foxx has raked in nearly $50,000 dollars from the for-profit college industry, which encourages students to take out larger loans to meet higher tuition costs.

The Department of Education found that one out of every six students at for-profit schools eventually is forced to default on his or her student loans. And while President Obama is urging Congress today to not let interest rates on federal students go up, he’s facing a headwind from Republicans like Virginia Foxx who are bought off by profiteers running for-profit schools.

Dan Soucek's Old Friend Scolds Him for Bigotry

The following appeared on Facebook last Monday and has been shared 150 times.

An Open Letter to Dan Soucek, North Carolina State Senator:


It’s been a while. A number of years have passed since our heated games of ultimate frisbee, scavenger hunts, and the occasional post-meeting burger. I’m pleased to see you’re doing well for yourself, and congratulations on your recent success in the State Senate. I wish I were writing this letter under different circumstances, but sadly I can’t bite my tongue. I was shocked and dismayed to see your name attached as a Primary on Amendment One, the “Marriage Protection Amendment”. Initially, I thought I must be mistaken. This was not the Dan Soucek I knew. The Dan Soucek I knew was someone who admirably accepted everyone, despite his or her perceived faults, flaws or differences. One of the best things about the Young Life meetings you conducted during my high school years was their inclusiveness. You welcomed a broad spectrum of people, just like the world we live in, who were all treated equally. Sadly, I see that same spirit is not alive today in your political endeavors. The introduction of a divisive, bigoted and unnecessary amendment illustrates that point all too well. I’m not writing to you to contend with your personal and/or religious beliefs. One of the beautiful things about this country is that we’re all entitled to hold our own. I am writing to you though, because the amendment proposed is a vehicle with which to force your own upon others.

This is a bill that attacks our friends, family, neighbors and community members. This is a bill that says the religious beliefs of some, should trump the freedom of many. This is a bill that attempts to make second-class citizens out of our loved ones. This is a bill written with such irresponsible ambiguity, that it risks removing domestic violence protection for any unmarried couple, gay or straight. This is a bill that tells our children that we all have the same rights in our state, unless they’re part of a 10% minority. This is a bill that laughs in the face of a growing suicide epidemic among gay teens and adults. This is a bill that ignores rampant divorce, adultery and other actual threats against the institution of marriage in favor of one that is more politically convenient and divisive. This is a bill that says we’d rather attempt to legislate those who are different rather than accept them for who they are. This is a bill that tells us that as individuals, we’re incapable of passing our own beliefs and interpretations of a diverse world on to our own children. This bill, quite simply, is thinly veiled intolerance.

I’ve always thought better of you, Dan. I once knew a man who understood that our existence is complicated. A man who, like many, might have been personally uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality, yet tolerant of other people’s differences particularly in regard to their private lives. I’ve heard the bill described (if passed) as a “win” for Conservatives. I don’t see it that way. This is not a partisan issue. When we begin to tell others that their victimless actions are intolerable to society as a whole because they contradict the beliefs of some, we all lose. If this bill is passed, people aren’t going to stop being gay. They’re not going to stay out of committed relationships. They will not retract from the public eye. They will though, unfortunately be deprived of something so many of us hold dear. I understand that you, along with other proponents of the bill, believe that it’s very important for marriage be between a man and a woman. How fortunate then, that you chose to follow those personal beliefs and marry the person you love. There’s tragic irony in a concerted effort to deny that same right to all North Carolinians.

More than ever, there are innumerable issues that are directly affecting the citizens of our great state. As a State Senator, I’m sure you’re all too familiar. With that in mind, it’s particularly abhorrent to rehash this issue. The state of North Carolina already forbids same-sex marriages by statute. The proposition of a constitutional amendment that reiterates that fact only serves to distract, polarize and solidify a voting base just in time for election season. You’re certainly not the first to employ such tactics, but you’re one of the last I would have anticipated it from.

I don’t expect this letter to change your position. If you take my words personally, I can’t say I would blame you. What I would ask of you though, is to keep in mind that there are millions of North Carolinians who have taken your words personally too. With good reason, I can’t blame them either.

Jesse Optekar

Voting NO on Amendment One, May 8 2012.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Do Unto Others

Such differences in how people "follow the Lord"! The member of St. Mary of the Hills who conveyed this resolution to me, said, "This is not the kind of knee-jerk stuff you see from other communities of faith, where the in-favor position is based on “well, the Bible says it’s wrong, and God’s law demands...” removing the need to consider the victims of this amendment as actual human beings." Amen, bro.

The vestry of St. Mary of the Hills passed the following resolution at their April 17th meeting after thorough discussion over the past two meetings.

A Resolution against the proposed Amendment to the State Constitution

We, the Vestry of St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church, are called by our Baptismal Covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and we believe all people to be children of God.

The proposed Constitutional Amendment to be voted on May 8th, 2012, if passed, will enshrine discrimination and exclusion into our state constitution. Discrimination in any form directly contradicts what we believe as a community of faith.

To keep silent at this moment in our state's history is to endorse implicitly the likely harm this unnecessary and divisive amendment will cause.

And so, we as the Vestry of St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church stand in opposition to the passage of this or any other such amendment to the North Carolina state constitution.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Christianity is no excuse to vote 'yes' on Amendment One"

Pretty amazing editorial against Amendment 1 in The Appalachian, written by Meghan Frick.

"I'm directing this opinion to people who believe what I believe. I believe that Jesus was born and died and resurrected, and that his resurrection secured my salvation."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Get 'er Done!

Mark Binker tweeted a few minutes ago that "Five Democratic members of the Council of State have just called for NCDP chairman David Parker to resign."


Someone Watched the Dems Debate!

The best political reporters in Raleigh, Laura Leslie and Mark Binker, analyze the performance of the three main candidates in the first debate leading up to the Democratic primary for governor.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Flakking for the Pay-to-Play Educational System

Credit: AP/Jose Luis Magana
At the same time that Foxx has been bragging that she has no tolerance for students who rack up debt to get a college education, it comes out just how bought off, hypocritical, and downright evil she is. Her bill to exempt for-profit colleges from accountability (which Andrew Leonard says should have been titled “The Protecting the Freedom of For-Profit Schools to Suck off the Government Teat Without Any Accountability Whatsoever Act”) passed the Republican-dominated House recently but is stuck (forever, one would hope) in the Senate.

The full measure of The Madam's astounding hypocrisy? Here 'tis:
"...Foxx herself is benefiting from the waste and abuse of federal tax dollars. Among the top 20 financial contributors to Foxx in the 2011-2012 cycle are the Association of Private Sector Colleges/Universities, the Apollo Group (owner of the University of Phoenix), and Corinthian Colleges. Since federal student loans comprise the vast majority of the revenues of those for-profit schools, it follows that their campaign contributions to Foxx are also made possible by U.S. taxpayers."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Duke Energy CEO Compares Amendment 1 to Jim Crow Laws

Not exactly a Democratic crowd that Duke CEO Jim Rogers was talking to yesterday at the Carmel Country Club in Charlotte, where 300 business executives had gathered for lunch.

“If this amendment passes, we’re going to look back 20 years from now, or 10 years from now, and we’re going to think about that amendment the same way we think about the Jim Crow laws that were passed in this state many, many years ago,” Rogers said to applause.

For those of you who didn't know Jim Crow, the Charlotte Observer provides a helpful summary: "Jim Crow laws were those passed in the South between 1876 and 1965 that mandated racial segregation in all public facilities, which had the effect of turning African Americans into second-class citizens."

Deborah Greene, Dan Soucek, Jonathan Jordan, and the rest of that cohort don't want to admit that simple fact, that what they're calling the "Save Marriage Amendment" would in fact enshrine second-class citizenship in our state's Constitution and would do absolutely nothing to save their marriages or anybody else's.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Quote of the Week

From a couple of folks who are not at all friendly to the idea of same-sex marriage (read their credentials here) but who nevertheless see the threats to freedom in Amendment 1 that Deborah Greene is blind to:
...If you disdain gay and lesbian persons, and don’t care whether they and their families remain permanently outside of the protection of our laws, such a policy might be your cup of tea. But it’s not our view, and we doubt that it’s the view of most North Carolinians....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Rich Are Driving a Billboard Around North Carolina. No Kiddin'!

Photo, Donnie Roberts for the Lexington Dispatch
We have to reprint Rob Schofield here to get the context:
For several days now, Americans for Prosperity NC and the Pope-Civitas Institute have been promoting “a major new effort” entitled the “Real Solutions Road Tour” in which their advocates would "criss-cross North Carolina" to promote their defense of the conservative General Assembly and its extreme policy decisions. 
To read the various tweets and website posts, you’d have thought there was going to be a long series of well-attended campaign-style rallies with tea partying conservatives coming out of the woodwork at stops throughout the state. 
Here’s essentially what actually happened on Day One of the tour today: Nothing. Zilch. Bupkis.
AFP-NC Director Dallas Woodhouse and “Real Solutions” TV spokesperson Donna King drove a billboard around a handful of cities. In a couple of places they parked and got out, took a picture and went into the local newspaper for a few minutes. In Winston-Salem they parked in front of the building that houses the progressive Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation for a few minutes. That’ll show those liberals! 
There was no evident news coverage. There were no rallies. There were no crowds. In most places, most people on the street didn’t even appear to notice the billboard truck driving by....

Well, since Rob wrote that report, there has been one local newspaper article in the Lexington Dispatch. It featured a photograph of the billboard-truck (the photo reproduced above), with a group of five people waving. But the caption on the photo makes clear that these folks were waving "sarcastically," because they sure 'nuff don't support the new Republican majority in the General Assembly.

What if you drove a Rich People Rule! billboard around the state and no one saluted?

Harvey Gantt & Richard Vinroot, Together on Amendment 1

Attention Deficit Disorder

We received our invitation:
...BooneTea Party is hosting a joint meeting of the Watauga County Republicans and the ASU College Republicans to plan how we can work together to defeat Obama and elect conservatives to take back our government at the local and state level....
"...take back our government at the local and state level"???

Perhaps we shouldn't break it to you Tea Party folks, but you already own "local and state level" government: you have Nathan Miller, David Blust, and Vince Gable, a clear majority on the Watauga County Commission, fumbling a quarter-cent sales tax hike and ramming through a resolution supporting Amendment 1; and you have the twin bobble-heads, Rep. Jonathan Jordan and Sen. Dan Soucek, going entirely with the Republican crowd in the NC General Assembly who run that joint too.

You wanna throw the rascals out?

(A black president has made these people lose their grip on reality!)

Preacher Admits, "This Amendment Is Discriminatory"

Photo by Jesse Wood. Dan Soucek, lower right
Interesting article in the on-line High Country Press about last night's prayer meeting at the new high school in support of Amendment 1.

The Reverend Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, a professional agitator imported from Raleigh for the event, readily admitted that Amendment 1 is discriminatory, thereby neatly pulling the rug out from under deer-in-the-headlights legislators Dan Soucek and Jonathan Jordan, who were trying their best to pirouette around the unconstitutionally unequal treatment embodied in their poorly written Queer Fear Law. Preacher Creech was apparently sufficiently turned on by what preachers of his ilk are always turned on by: other people's sins.

All those empty seats in the high school might have induced a little more humility.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Answering Deborah Greene

Deborah Greene is the well known Tea Party activist in Watauga County who opposed “high-impact industry” zoning in 2002, who opposed construction of the new Watauga High School a few years ago, who opposed the quarter-cent sales tax increase proposed by the Republican county commissioners last year (after it appeared the money might go to the school system), and who is now the leader for getting Amendment 1 passed here in the May 8th primary election. Oh, yeah, and she wants a seat on our county Board of Education and is running in the May 8th primary.

She had a great deal to say down-column on Amendment 1, in three different posts (under the piece titled “Where the Pro-Discrimination Folks Are Getting Their Talking Points.”

1. Greene clears one thing up pretty quickly and definitively: Amendment 1 is all about writing the dictates of her religion into the state’s Constitution (her protestations to the contrary notwithstanding). “We know what God says,” writes Greene. That “we” contracts and expands rather freely, I’ve noticed, and is mighty susceptible to politics, especially the politics of the moment (not to mention the charisma of certain religious preachers). On that basis alone, and in the shadow of a long history in our Republic of separating Church from State, I would have to oppose her Amendment and her religious, busy-body stewing over the private lives of fellow citizens.

2. Greene writes, “Why did government think it was necessary to define marriage at all? Government saw the need, for the common good, to establish a law that would protect children and promote/encourage the family. Yes, we have divorce; but, we have divorce laws.”

Government is involved in marriage because marriage is a legal contract, with remedies for breach (adultery) and rules for dissolution (divorce and child custody when children are involved). Contract law is a good deal less “sacred” and a good deal more practical than Greene seems to understand or acknowledge.

Understanding that marriage is a contract should help Greene understand why her Amendment 1 would violate the rights of people legally prevented from entering into that contract and thereby having remedies for damages due to breach and no access to orderly dissolution (not to mention the several benefits given to married couples via tax law, etc.). She either doesn’t get that or is being deliberately obtuse.

3. Greene ties herself into syntactical knots, double negatives, and impenetrable meaning when she addresses discrimination: “Not discriminating is treating same-sex couples equally without going against God’s law.”

I’ve read that sentence repeatedly and have decided that it’s the result of not wanting to admit that she’s perfectly happy and prepared to practice discrimination against a minority via our state’s Constitution, but she doesn’t want to admit it, so she once again hauls in God to cover herself.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Where the Pro-Discrimination Folks Are Getting Their Talking Points

Many of the leaders supporting Amendment 1, and some of those posting comments on this blog, echo the preachments of a crowd that gathered in Wake Forest last week at a Baptist seminary. Bob Geary was there and wrote a lengthy account in The Independent, "Does the Religious Right really believe equality will allow us to marry ice cream?"

Geary's account is certainly a window into the theocratic soul: the paranoia, the group coercion, the fantasies of persecution ... all the stuff I grew up with and was surrounded by continually in West Texas, the firm belief that The Devil was after US and was represented most clearly by THEM.

"We can leave this morning determined that we're going to do God's will on this amendment," thundered former Republican state Sen. Jim Jacumin of Burke County. "Confront the devils who are arranged on the other side."

Ah! Everything's so much clearer when there are DEVILS.

On the issue of the constitutional discrimination represented by the language of Amendment 1, Daniel Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Seminary in Wake Forest, said:
For starters, gays can marry.... They just can't marry each other. Heimbach then spun out an amazing circular argument: Restricting marriage to straight couples cannot, by definition, be discriminatory as long as marriage is defined as a man and a woman and same-sex couples are barred from marrying or entering into civil unions.
It was as if he had said that, because voting was at one time limited to white people, not allowing blacks to vote wasn't discriminatory because, well, blacks weren't white.
Heimbach said marriage is defined now as the union of two people who together can produce a child. "If marriage is radically redefined as a way of just affirming loving feelings of attraction," he said, "then equality will require allowing people who love dogs to marry dogs. And people who love ice cream to marry ice cream."
That's what he said.

"Senior professor of Christian ethics"!

Suddenly, I feel like agreeing with every poster on this blog who screams that college professors are complete idiots.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Qs for Nathan Miller

As the Republican members of the Watauga County Commission launched their sneak attack on equal treatment under the law Tuesday morning, voting a resolution in support of Amendment 1 along straight partisan lines, Commission Chair Nathan Miller said, “Personally, it matters a lot to me that marriage be between one man and one woman.”


If I were a member of that Commission, I think I might have asked my Chair a question or two about that statement:

1. How does someone else’s happiness negatively affect your own?

2. How does someone else’s rights take away your rights?

3. Is your grip on marriage so fragile that someone else’s marriage will destroy it?

4. Do they not teach logic in law school any more?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Freedom and Amendment 1

"The 2010 Census reported 222,800 unmarried couples in North Carolina, an increase of  55% in the past decade. Of these unmarried cohabitant households, 88% were opposite-sex; 12% were same-sex. Couples who cohabitate are increasingly diverse, including not only same-sex couples who cannot marry under North Carolina law, but also young, opposite-sex couples who delay marriage, middle-aged couples who decide not to marry, and older couples who have been previously married and are hesitant to remarry. All these citizens would have their rights limited by [Amendment 1]."

That's the analysis of Amendment 1 done by UNC law professor Maxine Eichner and a team of lawyers.

I'm going to be amused angry hearing our super-pious Tea Party brethren brag about how they stand for FREEDOM. No, they stand for the heavy thumb of the state bearing down on the minority, taking away rights from that minority, both gay and straight, and imposing their religion on people who don't want to be imposed on.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

An Embarrassing Day for Watauga County

Showing that they are definitely not above rank political grandstanding, the three Republicans on the Watauga County Commission this morning suddenly sprang a resolution in support of the terrible Amendment 1. It wasn't on the agenda, there was nothing about it in the commissioners' packets, there was not even a written version of the resolution on the desks to refer to ... just a blanket "we support the efforts of the Republican majority in the NC General Assembly to write discrimination into the state's Constitution."

Democratic Commissioner Jim Deal objected vigorously. "I haven't seen any resolution. It wasn't in our packets. There's been no advance notice."

But the Republicans, led by Commissioner Vince Gable, bulldozed their way right past those objections (Commissioner Futrelle, the other Democrat, was absent). Playing to the lowest prejudices of your base might be considered good strategic politics, but it has little to do with good government or with any of the many problems actually facing Watauga County.