Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sen. Soucek's Plan To Screw the Suburbs of Boone

Sen. Dan Soucek introduced a "local bill" in the NC Senate today ("local," meaning it would affect only the Town of Boone and no other municipality in the state), which reads in its entirety:
The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:
SECTION 1. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Town of Boone shall not exercise any powers of extraterritorial jurisdiction as provided in Article 19 of Chapter 6 160A of the General Statutes.
SECTION 2. This act is effective when it becomes law.

It's a breathtaking power-grab meant to cripple Boone's ability to control development on its fringes. Most if not all of the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction that Boone now has was requested by residents living there to protect themselves from unwanted and undesirable development, including the Seven Oaks neighborhood off Roby Greene Rd. which requested to be taken in under Boone's zoning regs to protect itself from a Maymead asphalt plant. This bill would simply remove all those protections with a flick of Mr. Soucek's wrist.

The senator requested a meeting with town officials today to inform them of his bill. He brought with him a veritable who's who of power players who've made a crusade in recent years against the city's land-use planning regulations. Chief among them was Jeff Templeton, along with Mr. Templeton's in-law Perry Yates and Keith Honeycutt and Nathan Miller, former county commissioners who've made their grudges against the town a matter of on-going public record.

Jonathan Jordan, we feel confident, is on board to introduce the same bill in the NC House.

According to the UNC School of Government, "By long-standing practice, a legislative 'courtesy' system provides that local bills will almost always win general approval in each house as long as they have the support of the legislators who represent the jurisdiction(s) involved. Occasionally, a local bill that is controversial will face some opposition, but otherwise, the legislators defer to the local delegation on matters of concern to their local government constituents."

So, our representatives, who preach less government when it suits them, intend to trump the residents and Town Council of Boone by ramming through from on high the most draconian change to our terrain. They intend to unleash the developers to do whatever the hell their imaginations can devise. This is "small government" at its most ironic, and it's being done to benefit the few against the wishes of the many.

Libertarian Candidate for NC Gov Calls Amendment 1 an "Abomination"

Barbara Howe, who is running (again) for NC governor on the Libertarian Party ticket, is none too happy with the Republican agenda in Raleigh, especially the intrusion of their religious bigotry into the state's constitution in the form of the heterosexual-marriage-is-the-only-legitimate-marriage amendment passed on May 8th.

Barbara Howe brought a paper shredder to the steps of the NC General Assembly yesterday, and she and her husband ran their 35-year-old marriage license through it as a protest.

No kidding.

"I believe in limited government," she said. "Government should protect us from people who hurts us but otherwise just stay out of our lives, and that's not what we're getting in North Carolina."

No, we're getting the Reign of the Religious Right in NC.

Monday, May 28, 2012

They want you to know they hate fags. Photo by Lonnie Webster
According to the Winston-Salem Journal, some 2,000 protestors of Pastor Worley's "put 'em behind barbed wire and let 'em die" Mother's Day sermon came out in Newton yesterday. About 100 "God Hates Fags" counter-protestors, several from deepest Georgia (like we don't have enough of our own home-grown bigots!), shouted Bible verses at the sinners.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Whose Chickens Are Those, Flocking Home To Roost?

The Southern Baptist Convention, which stigmatizes gays, campaigns against gay marriage, and hates a possibly Kenyan-Muslim President for endorsing equal rights (among other Great Sins), wants everyone to know that it has no connection to the Baptist preachers currently (and very recently) in the news for advocating physical violence against a minority. "We don't even know these guys," they write, but we appreciate the detailed summary they provided in The Baptist Press of the evidence that they share a certain DNA, despite their desperation to deny it:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Anti-gay sermonizing by several independent Baptist pastors has stirred a backlash of death threats, calls for criminal prosecution and planned public protests. 
In question are sermons and comments posted to YouTube and Facebook promoting the genocide, punishment or prosecution of gays or suspected gays. The posts have gone viral on the Internet. 
Among them are anti-gay comments by pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C., advocating the genocide of gays by enclosing them behind electrified fencing until they "die out" from the inability to reproduce. 
Pastor Sean Harris of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., has apologized after he encouraged parents to "punch" and "crack that wrist" of their sons and daughters if they exhibit suspected gay behavior. 
Pastor Ron Baity of Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., has called for the criminal prosecution of gays. Conversely, a Washington watchdog group is calling for the criminal prosecution of pastor Ronnie Spriggs of Hager Hill Freewill Baptist Church in Kentucky after he preached a sermon telling congregants not to vote for President Obama. 
State Rep. Andy Gipson, R.-Miss., is defending himself against death threats at his home after he posted on his Facebook page the Leviticus 20:13 law calling for the death of those engaging in homosexual sex. 
None of the pastors are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention; only Gipson is a member of a Southern Baptist church in Magee, Miss., and a bivocational minister....

There Are Some Things Money Can't Buy

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Holy Crap

Thom Tillis Doing "A Miserable Job"

When you're a Republican leader and you're also in trouble with the Rhino Times in Greensboro, you're in trouble (not that you'll give a flip or change your ways):
...Speaker of the House Thom Tillis is a prime example [of Republican bomb-throwers who don't have a clue how to govern]. He might be great in opposition, but he is doing a miserable job as speaker. First he gave his staff 20 to 30 percent raises when no one else in state government was getting a raise. Then he looked the other way when his chief of staff and housemate was having an affair with a lobbyist. He also ignored another staff member who was having an affair with a lobbyist. Then when the two resigned under pressure he gave them a month's severance pay. In each instance he made the wrong decision.

The Republican leadership of the legislature did the same thing with redistricting that the Democrats have done in the past, and the Republicans complained bitterly about. The redistricting process was done behind closed doors and presented as a done deal to the rank and file. They could either vote for it, or be blacklisted. 
This is not the kind of government we need in Raleigh. If the Republicans are going to do everything but pass laws behind closed doors, we might as well have the Democrats in office. If the Republican leadership is going to give big raises to its friends, cover up for them when they misbehave and then give them big bonuses for misbehaving, we might as well get former state House Speaker Jim Black out of retirement because that is only one step away from handing out bags of cash and accepting donations to change legislation. Black was convicted of corruption and served time in federal prison.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Sermon on the Mount

Maiden, NC, is not far from here, though this preacher is decades, maybe centuries away.

This is "Christian talk" in the age of Obama. And listen to those "Amens" from the congregation.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sen. Dan Soucek and the Pay-to-Play Gravy Train

An investigative report by Sarah Ovaska has uncovered a junket that Sen. Dan Soucek took to Florida to be wined and dined by a school voucher lobbying group (Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina) that wants North Carolina to adopt a controversial Florida law that established a tax credit scholarship program which diverts needed funding from the public schools "to send children to private, often religious, schools that don’t have to meet state standards."

A highlight of the North Carolina lawmakers’ Florida trip was a $500 luncheon with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at the Biltmore Hotel, a 150-acre tropical resort in Coral Gables, Fla. 
Bush is a major figure in the conservative education reform movement, and now heads the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a think-tank seeking to overhaul the country’s educational systems through policies like ending teacher tenure, expanding the use of charter schools and school vouchers, and the increased use of virtual education. 
The N.C. lawmakers also heard from Florida legislators who supported the tax credit program and businesses that benefited from it. They also went to a private school in Miami that enrolls students through the scholarship program.
NC ethics laws bans gifts to lawmakers, including trips to fancy resorts in Florida if the host is pushing an agenda, and we do believe an agenda was being pushed up Sen. Soucek's willing snout in Florida, without much resistance.

Soucek got a lot more out of the trip besides some shrimp cocktail for lunch. After he returned from junketing, he got a nice check for $2,000 from the Partners for Educational Freedom, a political-action committee associated with Parents for Educational Freedom.

And that's what they call pay-to-play, folks. Soucek perhaps calls it manna from heaven. By any name, it's influence-buying.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Intercoursing and Getting Intercoursed

So NC Speaker of the House and Big Republican Thom Tillis rooms with his Chief of Staff, Charles Thomas, who is outed for screwing a lobbyist, or getting screwed by a lobbyist -- we're not sure -- and Thom Tillis gives Mr. Thomas a nice parting gift as he exits, shamed -- $12,000, called "severance."

You room with a guy and don't have a clue he's cooking molasses with a lobbyist who has a special interest in what legislation gets considered, and when. Doesn't pass the smell test.

Mr. Tillis seemed to indicate that he has a soft spot for disgraced roommates who make faulty personal choices. The Wilmington Star-News editorialized:
The speaker and the Republican-dominated General Assembly didn't exhibit the same sympathy for the thousands of state employees who lost their jobs due to the Republican "austerity" budget. They were merely casualties of the quest to make government leaner and more efficient. Tillis and his colleagues weren't moved by their plight or that of long-term unemployed workers whose "human side" wasn't an issue last year when Republicans held their subsistence benefits hostage in a politically motivated effort to force Gov. Beverly Perdue to accept automatic across-the-board spending cuts during budget negotiations.

That Star-News editorial led off with this line: "Such a stand-up guy, that Thom Tillis." Ouch.

And not one but TWO Tillis staffers were found to be screwing lobbyists (or getting screwed. We're still not 100% sure), but apparently the other one, a woman, was worthy of far less Tillis sympathy, since she only got $7,000 as a parting gift. You gotta screw the RIGHT lobbyist to get the big bucks.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

No Economic Impact from Amendment 1?

The Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce is reporting BIG fall-out from the passage of Amendment 1. “Our phone rang continuously [Wednesday]," said Chamber vice president for media relations Angie Brady-Daniels, with angry calls from regular out-of-state visitors who declared that they were going to start heading anywhere for vacation other than North Carolina.

The Facebook page, "Visit North Carolina," which is run by the state Department of Commerce’s Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development, logged 878 (mostly negative) comments on Amendment 1. An administrator admonished visitors to refrain from foul language and reminded them that the site was intended for discussions about travel, not politics.

But now, and thanks to the unconscionable bullying represented by the passage of Amendment 1, travel is politics.

How long before we hear that Amendment 1 is negatively impacting the High Country?

Friday, May 11, 2012

That Didn't Take Long

The first move, made by a notorious gay-hating public servant (?) in Mecklenburg County, to make sure that the passage of Amendment 1 will inflict real economic and emotional pain on real persons who are now rendered defenseless to this sort of persecution by all you "Christians" out there in Voter Land who needed to prove how much you love the Lord by punishing other people because they don't conform to your dogma.

You ought to be ashamed, but of course you aren't.

Deborah Greene Launches a New Crusade

Notorious tea-partier and candidate for the Watauga County School Board Deborah Greene, fresh off her victory lap after finishing 5th among seven candidates in the May 8th primary, has launched a new front: shutting down Early Voting on the campus of Appalachian State University.

To make the case, she is claiming that Early Voting sites in the Town of Boone actually victimize “the rural people.” Greene understands very well the utility of victimhood in mounting any campaign. After all, she repeatedly claimed to be the victim of gay people because they unaccountably and rudely thought they deserved the same right she enjoys to get married. Such a desire on their part supposedly victimized her value system, and she wrapped herself tight in religious cloth as she led that other crusade locally to pass Amendment 1.

Amendment 1 failed in Watauga County, even though “the rural people” turned out in very strong numbers on May 8th to vote for it. “The rural people” did not, however, vote with equal, religious fervor to put Deborah Greene on the School Board. Go figure. Perhaps there’s some understanding out there that putting a professional wreckingball on the school board might not be the most salutary step the voters could take for education. Personally, I don’t want someone running our schools who publicly and loudly believes that officially discriminating against a despised minority is blessed by God and sanctioned by our U.S. Constitution.

Rather than putting forward a positive platform for improving our schools, Ms. Greene has evidently decided that the path to personal power in her case is the demolition of the rights of others. If Pat McCrory wins the governorship, and if he has both a Republican NC House and NC Senate to help him turn back the clocks, he will sign bills to severely limit or shut down all Early Voting everywhere, end same-day-registration, and impose a voter ID law to disenfranchise most college students (not to mention many of the elderly, minorities, and poor people). Will that satisfy Deborah Greene? Probably not, but if McCrory becomes governor, you can bet there will be no polling place at all anywhere near campus, either during Early Voting nor on Election Day.

Greene’s history of opposing the student vote predates this current crusade. Not many years ago, when she was still a registered Republican, she got herself appointed a Republican precinct judge in one of the ASU precincts with the clear agenda of obstructing as much of the student vote as she could manage. That did not go well for her, and she soon gave up the office, though she hasn’t given up the quest.

ASU students voted for neither Amendment 1 nor for Deborah Greene, which might draw the attention of State Board of Elections officials, if Ms. Greene’s “petition” to shut down Early Voting on campus makes it all the way to that official governing body. Naked self-interest has rarely stood so clearly in the spotlight. The State Board of Elections might justifiably conclude that Ms. Greene is not nearly as interested in increasing the rural vote as she is in decreasing the student vote.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Conservatives Will Rue the Decision

Why I'm glad to call Rob Schofield my friend, and hereby beg his indulgence as I reprint entire his wise words from this morning (via NC Policy Watch):

Why yesterday’s vote is more likely to hasten marriage equality in North Carolina than delay it
Assume that a couple of years back you had been thinking about how to bring about marriage equality for North Carolina’s LGBT community. What might have been your first steps? What would you have done to jumpstart the issue in what was by any fair assessment, a hidebound, conservative, Bible Belt state with essentially zero tradition of high-profile gay rights advocacy?

At the time, the answers to these questions would have been elusive. The state had a longstanding law banning same sex marriage. Leaders of both major political parties were strong, on-the-record opponents. Support in the public opinion polls was very low. The possibility of a successful court challenge seemed remote at best. Even most liberal activists were indifferent -- having never really thought much about the issue or, if they had, maintaining a cynical pessimism. Even the flurry of activity around the country in recent years – from the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” to the emergence of full marriage equality in a handful of northern states — seemed not have an impact in North Carolina. By just about any measurement, the issue in North Carolina was, in a word, “dead.”

The turnaround
And then came 2011 and the fateful decision of North Carolina Republicans to advance an amendment to the state constitution.

You know what’s happened since that decision last fall to ram through a national hate group-approved proposal that’s among the most extreme in the country: a remarkable and inspiring change.

Forced to take sides and to really confront what it means to deny hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens a core human right that the vast majority takes for granted, large numbers of North Carolinians underwent a remarkable transformation. In just a few months, millions of people who would have never given the idea of same sex marriage even a hint of sympathetic consideration – straight-laced middle-aged bankers and religiously conservative African-American pastors, self-absorbed college kids and church-going grandmothers, even Republican politicians and think tankers – looked in the mirror and really thought about what our state’s lack of marriage equality means and what it would mean to enshrine that discrimination in the constitution.

And then – perhaps even more remarkably – they did something else: they spoke up publicly. They put signs in their yards and on their cars. They self-identified as opponents of the amendment in letters to the editor and on Facebook. They gave money and talked openly about the issue to friends and family members.

And they voted. In an otherwise low-energy primary with no presidential contests at all, hundreds of thousands of people turned out to say “no” to discrimination. They turned out in all regions of the state. In the state’s largest urban counties where media coverage was most intense and accurate information the most plentiful, they voted “no” by sizable majorities.

Overcoming long odds
And to make all this that much more remarkable, it occurred in an environment in which the really big national money and political figures were AWOL. Sure, Bill Clinton recorded a robocall at the last minute and, to be sure, a lot of good people from around the country chimed in. But, make no mistake, the big money at the national level decided early on that the amendment would be impossible to stop and stayed away. By any fair and honest assessment, the “no” campaign was a true grassroots, shoestring operation.

And yet, despite these handicaps, the “against” vote was surprisingly large. Had just a couple hundred thousand people — a tiny fragment of the state’s adult population — seen the light and changed their minds, the amendment would have failed outright. If you think about it, it’s really quite remarkable.

Indeed, if the experts and Public Policy Polling are to be believed – and when it came to the actual vote, they were just about spot on – a large majority of North Carolinians oppose the actual substance of the amendment, but simply couldn’t connect the amendment to its actual impact. Many voters didn’t actually understand the amendment at all!

Add to this the blatant and shameless appeals to hate and intolerance propagated by so many pastors and priests – from the embarrassing and troubled mega-church zealots like Fayetteville’s Sean Harris to the backward-looking, top-down push from the state’s ultra-conservative Catholic hierarchy – and it’s really amazing that the “against” forces managed to do as well as they did.

Going forward
So what now? Where does the marriage equality camp go from here? Clearly, nowhere but up. In a state in which the movement lacked momentum and a rallying cry – some kind of a tangible and visible manifestation of hate and exclusion against which to fight and organize – we now have our target.

Eight months ago in this space, I worried about the damage that the amendment fight would do to our state and its public psyche. In particular, I worried about how it would divide us and force us to “choose sides.”

But I also wrote the following:
[R]egardless of the outcome of the vote, there can be no doubt that the months to come will speed up the process – already well underway – in which North Carolinians are coming, at long last, to accept and embrace the concept of LGBT equality. This time next year, we can rest assured that more people than ever before will accept LGBT North Carolinians as full and complete citizens. The trend on this matter is strong and irreversible and the impending campaign will abet it.
Today, it’s clear that the predictions about actually speeding progress were accurate. Rather than harming the public debate and turning it disastrously toxic, the amendment passed (if such a thing is possible) with a whimper. Even conservative Democrats who voted for the amendment last September spoke publicly against it in recent weeks. Many proponents ended up almost sheepish and embarrassed. Conservative corporate executives ran for cover. The top architect, House Speaker Thom Tillis, even called it a generational matter and predicted repeal in the foreseeable future.

So, here on May 9, 2012, the bottom line is this: There are plenty of reasons for caring and thoughtful people to be frustrated and depressed this morning. The near-term impact of the new law will be a lot of unnecessary confusion in our legal system and a lot more wrong-headed and mean-spirited pain and exclusion for a lot of human beings.

But the following is also true: Full marriage equality was never going to come to North Carolina until millions of people woke up to the truth and began to act on it. And when it comes to making such a process a reality, there’s been no single more effective force in state history than Amendment One.

Twenty years ago people picketed and pilloried Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh for performing “holy union” ceremonies within its own walls that had no legal effect. Last night, voters in the county where Pullen is located voted against marriage discrimination for everyone by a large majority.

The proponents of the Amendment may have won the battle last night, but it will ultimately prove to be a Pyrrhic victory. Amendment opponents would, obviously, never have chosen this path, but now that it’s been thrust upon them, there’s no denying the following: 1) the day on which North Carolinians will no longer tolerate marriage discrimination is coming sooner rather than later, and 2) the last eight months have only served to expedite the process.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Amendment One Goes Down in Watauga

By 248 votes.

Watauga County's Early Voting Totals

These numbers reflect One Stop polling only. They do not include absentee balloting

Amendment One
voting for ... 2,117
voting against ... 3,704

Watauga County Board of Education
Fenwick ... 1,860
Greene ... 1,545
Henries ... 1,595
Kinsey ... 2,500
Oliver ... 916
Petrea ... 590
Reese ... 2,366

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

This Man Has ... "Issues"

Rev. Sean Harris, senior pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, is a rabid supporter (not too strong a descriptor, given what he said in Sunday's sermon) of Amendment 1. He urged parents to use violence on their "squishy" children, if they exhibit signs of going gay:
So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he is four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, “Man up, son, get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch, because that is what boys do,” you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed. 
Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male. And when your daughter starts acting too butch you rein her in. And you say, “Oh, no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play them to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You are going to dress yourself up.” 
You say, “Can I take charge like that as a parent?” 
Yeah, you can. You are authorized. I just gave you a special dispensation this morning to do that."
I hope the parents of Berean Baptist Church are wiser than their pastor. And I hope the pastor seeks a little psychological counseling.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Watauga's Republican Commissioners Reaffirm Their Allegiance to the Religious Right

This morning at the meeting of the Watauga County Commission, the Republican majority -- Nathan Miller, David Blust, and Vince Gable -- refused to rescind their resolution in support of Amendment 1 that was passed without public notice and without public comment at their April 3rd meeting.

That was after they heard from ten speakers who respectfully suggested that they had seriously overstepped their bounds as County Commissioners in passing the resolution in support of Amendment 1. Democratic Commissioner Jim Deal made the motion to rescind the resolution and spoke about his own strong views as a Christian, to make the point that he, nor anyone else elected to public office, should be willing to impose their personal religious views on the general populace.

But separation of church and state is clearly not what commissioners Miller, Blust, and Gable are all about. What they're all about in this instance (and ironically, given their supposed philosophy of small government) is governmental overreach.

They believe the prejudices of the majority will carry the day and confirm them in power. That remains to be seen.

Footnote: Mr. Gable would not meet the gaze of many of the speakers this morning. His cell phone rang twice during the public comment, and he struggled to silence it. He also appeared to be receiving texts from someone inside the room.