Sunday, December 29, 2013

#7 On the List

Appalachian State University made the 2013 list of "The 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech." Here's the citation:
Earlier this year, the Appalachian State University (ASU) Board of Trustees denied an appeal from Professor Jammie Price after she was disciplined for discussing controversial but relevant subjects in her spring 2012 “Introduction to Sociology” course. The discipline stemmed from in-class comments she made regarding then-recent allegations of sexual assault involving ASU athletes. Additionally, she was punished for screening a documentary about the effect of pornography on culture and relationships. Without a fair hearing, Price was suspended from teaching, banned from parts of campus, and prohibited from speaking publicly about her case. After an investigation, she was allowed to teach only under extensive oversight and with “sensitivity training.” Despite criticism of its handling of Price’s case from FIRE, the school’s Faculty Due Process Committee, and the Faculty Grievance Hearing Committee, ASU has refused to overturn its punishment of Price. As a result, ASU has sent a clear message to its professors that their jobs are safe only so long as they don’t discuss controversial subjects in their classrooms. Academic freedom remains in peril as long as Price’s unjust punishment is allowed to stand.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Say What?

According to the new Republican-appointed Executive Director of the NC state Board of Elections, Kim Strach, "there is no state law that would bar political campaigns from receiving proceeds gleaned from a criminal enterprise, as long as the checks came from an individual rather than a company" (AP report).

Well, okay then. This is the same state Board of Elections that found that the Watauga County Board of Elections needs "intervention" but is otherwise perfectly fitted for their office.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

NC Lt. Gov. Dan Forest: "I'm My OWN Idiot"

“We just don’t have a close relationship."
--North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, about his boss, Gov. Pat McCrory
In an interview with John Frank, Lt. Gov. Forest is bragging that he's going to push North Carolina to make teacher pay in the state the highest in the nation, instead of 46th, our current abysmal ranking, which is down there in the cellar thanks to the new Republican majority in the General Assembly (and their stooge, Gov. McCrory).

Forest's "plan," of course, under the current power regime in Raleigh, is patently absurd, even though Republican lawmakers are fully awake to the fact that the teachers of this state would vote them all out of office RIGHT NOW, if they have the opportunity. Several of those Republican lawmakers -- more than just Mr. Forest -- are making promises about raising teacher pay next year, just in time -- they fervently hope -- to blunt the anger before the fall elections. But what that promise is going to do to their sacred austerity budget, or how fulfilling such a ridiculous promise without raising taxes or without wrecking some other part of the NC economy, is The Question of 2014.

While Gov. McCrory is a man without principles, a ship without a rudder, an empty suit who's taken out of the closet and made to dance in the political winds according to what Art Pope thinks best, Dan Forest is a Tea Partier, born and bred. He's the son of Sue Myrick, who never waffled on conservative principles, and he's hugged certain national RWNJs so tightly, he got santorum all over himself.

Forest is the leading opponent of Common Core standards in education, a stance that seems calculated to put air between himself and McCrory (since McCrory has said he supports Common Core, though he could change tomorrow, or simply get run over without anyone in his Party even caring). Forest looks like an opportunist, positioning himself for being the real top leader of Tea Party ideals in the state.

All the talk about raising teacher pay is just that ... talk, and may end up making things worse for Republican politicians when teachers quickly realize that they're to be treated to a worthless show of tokenism or, worse, the old bait and switch in 2014.

In the meantime, Forest will be interesting to watch, especially his "relationship" to Pat McCrory.

Read more here:

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rep. John Blust Goes All Gentler, Kinder

Rep. John Blust, elected to the NC General Assembly from the Greensboro Dist. 62 (and brother of Watauga County Commissioner David Blust), gave an interview to reporter Joe Killian of the News&Record that is potentially going to get him stigmatized as fatally weak-kneed when it comes to political jihad.

Blust said repeatedly in the interview that he didn't want to criticize Republicans in the General Assembly, and he made it clear that the legislative activity of the new Republican majority was A-Okay with him, but he couldn't help suggesting that the manner of operation throughout 2013 was ... wait for it ... just as bad as when the Democrats did it.

The mythology of the victimized ... that what we went through in the minority was akin to the martyrdom of the saints. Which naturally justifies turn-about slaughter of the pagans. John Blust admits that he didn't have the stomach for it, that he blanched at what he saw Thom Tillis and Phil Berger and the other Republican honchos doing throughout 2013 to ramrod and bully and squelch dissent.

John Blust says if reelected to the NC House, he'll be seeking a leadership role. But he may have just rendered himself ineligible.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Judge Shelby's Decision Is Being Read in North Carolina

Judge Robert Shelby
North Carolina has its Amendment One banning same-sex marriage. Until yesterday the state of Utah had its Amendment Three, which did the same thing. But no more. Federal Judge Robert Shelby threw the whole thing out, and as of today, same-sex couples were acquiring marriage licenses in Utah.

North Carolina, you might want to pay attention to the legal arguments put forward by the state of Utah and the way Judge Shelby demolished them. Something similar will be coming to a federal court near you soon.

1. The State argued that "Same-Sex Couples Are Not Qualified To Marry Because They Cannot Procreate."

Judge Shelby ruled: The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized “important attributes of marriage that exist besides procreation,” which is why, for example, prison inmates have been allowed to marry even if they are unable to consummate their marriages. “These attributes of marriage,” he wrote, “are as applicable to same-sex couples as they are to opposite-sex couples.”

2. The State argued that "Same-Sex Marriage Is A “New Right.”

Judge Shelby ruled: "While it was assumed until recently that a person could only share an intimate emotional bond and develop a family with a person of the opposite sex, the realization that this assumption is false does not change the underlying right. It merely changes the result when the court applies that right to the facts before it. Applying that right to these Plaintiffs [three same-sex couples], the court finds that the Constitution protects their right to marry a person of the same sex to the same degree that the Constitution protects the right of heterosexual individuals to marry a person of the opposite sex."

In other words, there is no such thing as “gay marriage” or “straight marriage”; there is only marriage.

3. The State argued that "Tradition And History Have Always Recognized Marriage As Between One Man And One Woman."

Judge Shelby ruled: "Here, it is not the Constitution that has changed, but the knowledge of what it means to be gay or lesbian. The court cannot ignore the fact that the Plaintiffs are able to develop a committed, intimate relationship with a person of the same sex but not with a person of the opposite sex. The court, and the State, must adapt to this changed understanding."

4. The State argued that "Prohibiting Same-Sex Marriage Does Not Discriminate On The Basis Of Sex."

Judge Shelby ruled: "In Loving [Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court case that overturned laws prohibiting interracial marriage], Virginia argued that its anti-miscegenation laws did not discriminate based on race because the prohibition against mixed-race marriage applied equally to both white and black citizens. The Court found that 'the fact of equal application does not immunize the statute from the very heavy burden of justification which the Fourteenth Amendment has traditionally required of state statutes drawn according to race.' Applying the same logic, the court finds that the fact of equal application to both men and women does not immunize Utah’s Amendment 3 from the heightened burden of justification that the Fourteenth Amendment requires of state laws drawn according to sex.

5. The State argued that "The Amendment Was Not Passed Out Of Animus Against Same-Sex Couples."

Judge Shelby ruled (and please note the striking similarities to the situation in NC with Amendment One): "First, the avowed purpose and practical effect of Amendment 3 is to deny the responsibilities and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples, which is another way of saying that the law imposes inequality. Indeed, Amendment 3 went beyond denying gay and lesbian individuals the right to marry and held that no domestic union could be given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect as marriage. This wording suggests that the imposition of inequality was not merely the law’s effect, but its goal.

"Second, Amendment 3 has an unusual character when viewed within the historical context in which it was passed. Even though Utah already had statutory provisions that restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples, the State nevertheless passed a constitutional amendment to codify this prohibition. This action is only logical when viewed against the developments in Massachusetts, whose Supreme Court held in 2003 that the Massachusetts Constitution required the recognition of same-sex marriages. The Utah legislature believed that a constitutional amendment was necessary to maintain Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage because of the possibility that a Utah court would adopt reasoning similar to the Massachusetts Supreme Court and hold that the Utah Constitution already protected an individual’s right to marry a same-sex partner. Amendment 3 thereby preemptively denied rights to gay and lesbian citizens of Utah that they may have already had under the Utah Constitution."

6. The State argued that "Banning Same-Sex Marriage Promotes 'Responsible Procreation.' "

Judge Shelby ruled: "The State has presented no evidence that the number of opposite-sex couples choosing to marry each other is likely to be affected in any way by the ability of same-sex couples to marry. Indeed, it defies reason to conclude that allowing same-sex couples to marry will diminish the example that married opposite-sex couples set for their unmarried counterparts. Both opposite-sex and same-sex couples model the formation of committed, exclusive relationships, and both establish families based on mutual love and support. If there is any connection between same-sex marriage and responsible procreation, the relationship is likely to be the opposite of what the State suggests. Because Amendment 3 does not currently permit same-sex couples to engage in sexual activity within a marriage, the State reinforces a norm that sexual activity may take place outside the marriage relationship."

7. The State argued that "Opposite-Sex Couples Make Better Parents."

Judge Shelby ruled: "There is no reason to believe that Amendment 3 has any effect on the choices of couples to have or raise children, whether they are opposite-sex couples or same-sex couples. The State has presented no evidence that Amendment 3 furthers or restricts the ability of gay men and lesbians to adopt children, to have children through surrogacy or artificial insemination, or to take care of children that are biologically their own whom they may have had with an opposite-sex partner. Similarly, the State has presented no evidence that opposite-sex couples will base their decisions about having children on the ability of same-sex couples to marry. To the extent the State wishes to see more children in opposite-sex families, its goals are tied to laws concerning adoption and surrogacy, not marriage."

8. The State argued that "It’s Important To Proceed With Caution On Same-Sex Marriage."

Judge Shelby ruled: "Rather than protecting or supporting the families of opposite-sex couples, Amendment 3 perpetuates inequality by holding that the families and relationships of same-sex couples are not now, nor ever will be, worthy of recognition. Amendment 3 does not thereby elevate the status of opposite-sex marriage; it merely demeans the dignity of same-sex couples. And while the State cites an interest in protecting traditional marriage, it protects that interest by denying one of the most traditional aspects of marriage to thousands of its citizens: the right to form a family that is strengthened by a partnership based on love, intimacy, and shared responsibilities. The Plaintiffs’ desire to publicly declare their vows of commitment and support to each other is a testament to the strength of marriage in society, not a sign that, by opening its doors to all individuals, it is in danger of collapse."

The Wilson Perplex

This year of 2013 I have fairly wallowed in 20th century history: David McCullough’s massive biography of Truman; Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “No Ordinary Time,” about the Roosevelt’s during WWII; a massive history of WWII titled “Inferno” (by Max Hastings); “The Girls of Atomic City,” about the thousands of American citizens – most of them women – who were recruited to work at the super-secret installation at Oak Ridge, building The Bomb; and now “Wilson” by A. Scott Berg, which I’m pushing to finish before Christmas (when a whole new stack of reading arrives via Santa).

I knew very little about “Tommy” Woodrow Wilson. I knew that he had been born in Staunton, Virginia, in the Shenandoah and was president during World War I. I knew that he was often listed among the eight or 10 best presidents, though I was vague about why. I see him now as one of the unlikeliest men ever to rise to presidency as well as a tragic figure.

He was a bookish academic, not a politician, but he nevertheless had a way of reaching ordinary Americans with language. There are no recordings of his speeches, so we can only imagine how this rather priggish son-of-a-preacherman and president of Princeton spoke so that the working class heard and felt his message. He became famous through his oratory, not unlike a junior (and rather priggish) senator from Illinois did in 2004.

He was a Democrat. He happened to be a Democrat and president of that most undemocratic “gentleman’s club,” Princeton University in New Jersey, in 1910, which means he was a member of an “out” party that hadn’t held power in that state in many years and he was increasingly on the outs with the “old boys” at Princeton, who didn’t like their privileges monkeyed with. The corrupt boss of New Jersey Democrats, “Sugar Jim” Smith, suggested that Wilson should run for governor in 1910 because Sugar Jim thought the college professor would be a patsy, easy to control, a willing puppet. Wilson not only won the race for governor – his first-ever political contest – but he became Sugar Jim’s worst nightmare: an upstanding, incorruptible, reformist governor. Two years later, he was elected President of the United States in a landslide, beating both incumbent William Howard Taft and Bull Mooser Teddy Roosevelt.

Has anyone more unlikely ever risen that fast in American politics? Well, I can think of one other: Barack Obama.

Wilson was more of a democratic populist than Barack Obama. Wilson saw clearly the rapacious appetite of corporations as a threat to our republic, and he fought those behemoths more effectively than any president in our history. (Obama, on the other hand, has been a corporate tool, or their chump, and to some of us, it appears that the coup is pretty much complete. Wall Street rules.)

Can’t help noticing, too, the similarities in the national paranoia of 1918 and our own since 2001 – fear of foreigners, a willingness to warp constitutional rights into various forms of domestic spying and “anti-sedition” laws, the rise of a toxic racism. Nothing in our political economy is ever new, just recycled in more concentrated and innovative forms.

Wilson finished his presidency a broken man. He had suffered several strokes, mostly in secret. His wife, his doctor, and a couple of close aides literally conspired to keep his true condition a secret. Berg suggests that he may even have been suffering from the onset of dementia. He was often incoherent, driven a little mad by Senate Republicans who refused to confirm the peace treaty he had spent six months in France hammering out, the treaty that included the formation of the League of Nations. Well in advance of the Treaty of Versailles, the Republicans had literally plotted to vote down whatever peace Wilson might sign.

He achieved massive reforms in his first term and really led the combined nations in winning World War I in his second. In the first months of his first term, with a cooperative Democratic Congress, he slashed tariff rates that protected monopolies, passed the first permanent federal income tax, created the Federal Reserve system to end the bank panics that continually ravaged the American economy, bolstered antitrust laws, discouraged child labor, and inaugurated the eight-hour day and workers’ compensation. After the Republicans took back Congress, they delighted in frustrating his every initiative and going off on their own blue-nosed crusades. In his last days in office Wilson vetoed the Volstead Act -- Prohibition -- that grand scheme of a new Republican majority in Congress to make Americans stop drinking, and the Republicans promptly overrode his veto in a matter of hours.

On the anti-progressive side, Wilson was an out-and-out racist, he stood in the way of woman suffrage, he tolerated the massive arrests of immigrants and “radicals” during the notorious “Palmer raids” of 1919, the moment at which a young psychopath named J. Edgar Hoover got his first taste of the exhilarations provided by “official” terror.

The last I heard, Leonardo DiCaprio was planning to produce and possibly star in the film adaptation of Berg's biography. DiCaprio as Woodrow Wilson? Hmmm. I can’t exactly envision it. Isn’t Daniel Day-Lewis available?

Friday, December 20, 2013

At the State Board of Elections Today

The SBOE just decided that they will not hold a hearing on the petition to remove Eggers & Aceto from the Watauga County Board of Elections, but they're sending members Paul J. Foley and Joshua D. Malcolm to Boone to hold an "intervention."

Punch and cookies?

State BOE Chair Josh Howard commented this morning that he thought the voters of Watauga County would be better served if the local BOE were made up of the first three names out of the phonebook.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

GOP Logic

Jesus is white.
Santa is real.
Fox is news.
Caring is Socialism.
Secession is patriotism.
Wealth is worth.

(Stolen whole, from Zach Green, founder of @UniteBlue.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Two Local Governments, One Local Attorney

When Watauga County wants to negotiate with the Town of Beech Mountain (over, say, drawing water out of the Watauga River), does the attorney for the County of Watauga call up the attorney for Beech Mountain, and would that conversation go something like this?
4 Eggers: Hello, is this Four Eggers?
4 Eggers: Yes, this is Four. How may I help you?
Because, O my brethren, Stacy C. Eggers IV represents both governments, which presents something of a conundrum, as Beech Mountain moves forward on taking water from the Watauga River.

On November 19, when the resolution written by ... we would guess Four Eggers ... on behalf of Beech Mountain, asking the Watauga County Commission to rubberstamp a new open-ended water acquisition scheme, Watauga Commission Chair Nathan Miller was ready to vote immediately. County Attorney Four Eggers was sitting several chairs to Mr. Miller's left, and he didn't seem to think there was any reason not to.

But Commissioner Kennedy insisted on a public hearing, and that's about to happen Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. in the Commissioners Boardroom.

In the meantime, a curious fact has come to light: the Town of Beech Mountain has suddenly, and radically, changed their "Demand v/s Supply" figures filed with the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). As of Nov. 27, 2013, those papers showed the Beech Mountain water supply at 2.0 million gallons per day from 2012 through 2060. Those same papers showed that Beech Mountain was using an estimated 18% of its 2.0 million supply in 2012 and, projected out for the next 47 years, estimated it would be using 42% of that supply by 2060.

Those figures from DENR became more widely public on December 4, after public comment at the last Commissioner's meeting highlighted them, but then, lo and behold, the "Demand v/s Supply" figures on the DENR website suddenly changed for Beech Mountain. According to the new figures, Beech Mountain has suddenly and unaccountably lost 1.1 million gallons of water supply. And now, "for the first time in the history of any recorded Beech Mountain water supply plan," the demand as percent of supply increased more than 300 percent.

What does Four Eggers know about these suddenly changed water supply vs water demand numbers, and when did he know it?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thom Tillis, Master of the Sound Bite

“I think for the most part, what I see from the folks who are opposing our agenda is whining coming from losers. They lost, they don’t like it, and they are going to try to do everything they can to, I think, cast doubt on things that I think are wise and that the average citizen, when they know what we’re doing, I think, like it.”
Thom Tillis, in an interview with Manu Raju in
Okay, Speaker of the NC House Thom Tillis is contemptuous of "losers." We get that. We also get that he's talking about Democrats primarily (and Gawd knows that in this state, Democrats have been notorious losers in the recent past), but he pushed his contempt just a bit further to sweep up all "the folks who are opposing our agenda." That adds a slightly different pungency to this particular pile of mammal feces, as Kevin Siers in the Charlotte Observer aptly captured yesterday.

The Speaker's choice of the word whining also gives us some pause, especially as cartoonist Siers places Mr. Tillis on the shoulders of our state's Olympic Whiner-in-Chief, Governor Pat McCrory, who has a reputation going back decades for whining incessantly to everyone within earshot that he's misunderstood, under-appreciated, and certainly valued less than his own ego tells him he should be valued.

The Mouths of the South.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Anne Marie Yates Finds Herself a Gin-You-Wine SCHOLAR

Just in the nick of time, an ASU civics professor has produced a piece of writing that purports to be scholarly research proving, we gather (among other things), that Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto do not need to be removed from the Watauga County Board of Elections. (Jesse Wood delved into this "scholarship" in the High Country Press and linked to the full document.) Republican Party Chair, and the person responsible for putting Eggers&Aceto into office, Anne Marie Yates began applauding this piece of sapience immediately, as though it had just come down from Mt. Sinai.

Dr. George Ehrhardt, "a registered Republican and advisor to the Appalachian State College Republicans," poo-poos the voter suppression charges lodged against Eggers and Aceto by purporting to massage voting statistics. Hmmm. I'll leave the evaluation of those numbers to others, but I would like to react to Dr. Ehrhardt's overall presentation and to the "scholarship" underpinning it.

What is his major point? That Early Voting is actually a bad thing and that the Watauga County Board of Elections under Eggers&Aceto were really just doing us all a favor to close down Early Voting on the ASU campus and to move the precinct polling place for an urban precinct five miles out into the countryside.

He also alleges, through the use of published scholarship that is footnoted in his paper, that there may be one or two political scientists who actually agree with him (though, after reading the sources he footnotes, not so much).

Dr. Ehrhardt's Scholarly Scaffolding
1. The trouble starts with Dr. Ehrhardt's footnote # 4. Here it is in context:
Ehrhardt writes: "These results match that of previous research on early voting. In fact, the most recent study on the subject finds that to the contrary, early voting itself actually suppresses vote turnout.4"
That statement is, at best, an exaggeration of what the cited source actually claims
Ehrhardt's source: “The results show that election day registration has a consistently positive effect on turnout while the most popular reform – early voting – is actually associated with lower turnout when it is implemented by itself. We propose that early voting has created negative unanticipated consequences by reducing the civic significance of elections for individuals and altering the incentives for political campaigns to invest in mobilization.”
Notice that italicized phrase. This is an article about get-out-the-vote efforts. When campaigns focus just on early voting and not other forms of “mobilization,” then, yes, early voting alone is not that successful. But that's a fur piece from "early voting itself actually suppresses vote turnout." Bullshit.

2. Footnote # 5: Dr. Ehrhardt suggests that this source supports his contention that early voting actually depresses turnout, but that is not at all the clear-cut case when you actually read the source
Ehrhardt's source: “While one prominent study suggests that voting by mail is associated with a 10% increase in turnout, other studies find smaller—but still statistically significant—increases in turnout associated with other convenience voting methods.” Emphasis added
“Convenience voting” in this context refers to early voting. More bullshit.

3. Footnote # 7: Dr. Ehrhardt uses this source to claim that there is little to no effect on voter turnout caused by moving polling places around. Here’s what the source actually says about moving polling places which inconvenience voters by costing them more for travel: 
“Could changing the locations of polling places affect the outcome of an election by increasing the costs of voting for some and decreasing them for others? The consolidation of voting precincts in Los Angeles County during California's 2003 gubernatorial recall election provides a natural experiment for studying how changing polling places influences voter turnout. Overall turnout decreased by a substantial 1.85 percentage points .... the changing of polling places still had a small partisan effect because those registered as Democrats were more sensitive to changes in costs than those registered as Republicans. The effects were small enough to allay worries about significant electoral consequences in this instance (e.g., the partisan effect might be decisive in only about one in two hundred contested House elections), but large enough to make it possible for someone to affect outcomes by more extensive manipulation of polling place locations.”
In my estimation, Dr. Ehrhardt is guilty of academic malfeasance in the pursuit of partisan advantage, and I cannot agree that the Watauga County Board of Elections has actually doing us all a favor, nor was that their intent back on August 12, 2013.

Sue Counts Announces for NC House (Dist. 93)

Photo: High Country Press
The Twitterverse hummed yesterday at noon with news that Sue Counts, former director of the Watauga office of the Cooperative Extension Service, was announcing her candidacy for the NC House seat currently warmed by Jonathan Jordan.

Counts already has a website and a Facebook presence. Game on!

The filing statement that went to the press yesterday lays the groundwork for what the elections of 2014 are going to be all about:
I am announcing my candidacy for the North Carolina House because I can no longer sit by and watch my beloved state wander down a path which is destroying the gains we have made in education, infrastructure, scientific research, job opportunities, and environmental protections. 
Since the new Republican majority in the North Carolina General Assembly took over control in 2011, and especially after they cemented that control with the election of Governor Pat McCrory in 2012, they have worked overtime to turn the clock back on every progressive program in the state that benefits working people, retirees, the poor, and others. Their budgeting priorities are aimed at helping the very wealthy at the expense of the hardworking people in our mountains. They have actually raised taxes on many goods and services that disproportionately impact low- and middle-income citizens while cutting corporate and higher-income taxes for the richest 5 percent of North Carolina taxpayers. It's Robin Hood in reverse. And it's wrong-headed. 
At a time when unemployment was soaring in the state, the new majority in Raleigh cut the length and the amount of unemployment benefits being paid to those struggling for work. And in a spiteful act based on nothing but shameful partisan politics, they refused to extend Medicaid to some 500,000 North Carolinians, an extension that would have been 100% paid for by the Federal government for the first three years, and 90% paid for after that. These decisions are hurting the people least able to fight back. Furthermore, the failure to extend Medicaid is crippling, and in some cases closing, our rural hospitals. It is simply immoral to condemn our fellow citizens to preventable suffering and even to early death for lack of medical care. 
Our current representative from House District 93, Jonathan Jordan, has voted in lock-step with the new majority in Raleigh. Instead of being an independent voice who stands up for the people of Ashe and Watauga counties, Mr. Jordan has been a mere rubber stamp for bad decisions and worse legislation.
Counts' biography (also at the High Country Press link) reveals deep connections to both the farming community and to economic development initiatives in the mountains. She's widely known and highly respected.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dan Soucek, Wrapped Around His Own Axle

It just gets better and better!

Now Sen. Dan Soucek is back in the pages of the Watauga Democrat admitting that it was his office, and not Watauga Sheriff Hagaman, who suggested the need for police protection at Deep Gap last Thursday. Soucek, according once again to Kellen Short, "said it was routine for law enforcement to appear at such events and said comments on blogs led them to believe they might need to maintain order."

Wait, what? "Comments on blogs"?

The only blog we know of that has had commentary on that Deep Gap public forum has been this one, but Mr. Soucek is once again stretching the truth past its tensile strength if he's fingering WataugaWatch as the proximate cause for thinking his life was in danger when facing the public last Thursday evening.

1. Soucek's staff suggested they needed police protection at least two weeks prior to the public forum, according to Sheriff Hagaman.

2. The first mention of the Deep Gap forum on this blog was on the day of the forum, in the middle of the afternoon, and there were no comments posted under that piece of snark.

3. We know of no other "blogs" that discussed the forum in advance of the forum, and certainly none that would have suggested to any elected official that wolves were about to pounce on the rabbits.

Senator Soucek reminds us of Governor McCrory. He appears incapable of speaking on the record without embellishing the truth to make himself look better.

Rather, "try to make himself look better."

We Pause For a Music Cue, While Certain Persons Take a Deep Breath

Dum dum DUM.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Sheriff Hagaman Says "Watauga Democrat" Story Is Inaccurate

Kellen Short posted a follow-up interview with Sen. Dan Soucek about the Thursday evening public forum on North Carolina education funding. In that interview (according to Kellen Short), "Soucek also called it a 'sad state of affairs' that law enforcement contacted him beforehand to say they wanted to have a presence at the forum."

Not true, asserts Sheriff Hagaman (via text message):
...we did not contact the Senator's office -- we have enough to do without seeking out events. A Jennifer Faulkner [with Senator Soucek] called 2 weeks and again 1 week in advance. Still have voice mails where she contacted patrol commander. No officers were paid. Hopefully, Kellen will help get this straightened out. I have copied her this text

Sen Soucek Accuses Protesters at Last Thursday's Public Forum of Being "Paid" Agitators

Dan Soucek just accused the teachers that he heard protesting his education policies last Thursday night of being "paid" to protest. Don't know why he didn't just go whole hog and call them "outside agitators."

Hell, in this state teachers are not even paid (adequately) to teach, but I sincerely hope they made tons of money by going to The Empty Suit's public forum last week.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

With Anne Marie Yates in Charge, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Anne Marie Yates, Junior Hall Monitor
Apparently, Watauga County GOP Chairwoman Anne Marie Yates was acting in the capacity of “staffer” to Sen. Dan Soucek at the Deep Gap Volunteer Fire Department last Thursday night for the public forum on education, the meeting that is now notorious everywhere across the state of North Carolina.

Anne Marie Yates was certainly doing everything in her power to stop smart-phone recording of the event, and we’re assuming it was she who ordered a Green Valley Elementary School third grade teacher removed from the room by Sheriff’s deputies.

Evidently Chairwoman Yates learned some lessons about crowd control at the disastrous August 12th Watauga Board of Elections meeting. If you’ll recall, at that maiden voyage of the new Watauga Board of Elections, Yates’s Republican appointments  delivered a public performance so disastrous that we’re still awaiting the fall-out of a State Board of Elections hearing on a petition to have those Republican members removed from office for gross irregularities and malfeasance.

What did Yates learn from that BOE train-wreck? (1) Prevent YouTube videos at all costs. (2) Deal harshly with anyone protesting your power.

That’s the only explanation that makes perfect sense for why the clueless Senator Soucek would have allowed a Watauga County teacher to be muscled out of a public meeting – “on orders by his staff.” That teacher, and all others in Watauga, had been invited to that public meeting, after all, by Sen. Soucek himself, who had claimed that he wanted to hear citizen views on his policies toward public education.

You can make up your own mind whether Sen. Soucek wants to hear from anyone who’s not in control of his strings.

The whole question of how Sen. Soucek – and his blessed “staff” – could make use of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Department for their dirty work in this particular instance has yet to be answered fully and definitively. But we hear that the County Attorney, Stacy C. “Four” Eggers, interpreted the law on that matter prior to the meeting, so we guess that everything was perfectly kosher, since Four Eggers was also running that BOE meeting in August by remote control.

It's now a moot point whether the Soucek "staff" could prohibit recordings of the forum, since a complete audio file exists and is available to the public.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Eye Witness Account of Sen. Soucek’s Public Forum on Education: “Downhill For Dan”

All photos: Lonnie Webster
Submitted by Anonymous, who was there:

It was a bad night for Senator Soucek.

Thursday, I had the joy of attending a forum in Deep Gap, NC, on public education hosted by state senator from the 45th district Dan Soucek. He put together a panel of experts such as immediate past NC Teacher of the Year Darcy Grimes, Watauga County Teacher of the Year Katie Matthews, and ASU Professor and member of the Watauga County Board of Education Ron Henries.

And guess what? His own panel ripped him a new one.

Right off the bat, Darcy Grimes got him on teacher compensation. She was the first to speak against him, but not the last. Soon after the forum began, Soucek discussed that the plan had been to give bonuses to 25% of teachers in a given school district. There were no clear guidelines for choosing that 25%. His reason for supporting this new, poorly written policy? “No one is worse off. Some people are just better off.” The audience shouted, almost in unison, "WRONG!"

It only went downhill for Dan from there.

Maybe 15 minutes from the end of the forum, a Watauga County teacher in the audience made a comment about the unreasonably heavy testing done in our schools. A sheriff’s deputy immediately and forcefully removed her. Even after she complied and said to the deputy “I got it, I’m leaving!” and began heading to the exit, the deputy grabbed her, exclaiming, “No you don’t!” and continued to pull her to the exit.

A young man tried to take a still photo of the incident, with Watauga GOP Chair Anne Marie Yates jumping up and down trying to physically block the young man's iPhone. It’s worth pointing out that we were never told we could not take still photographs. Yates called in another deputy, and the young man was scolded for taking a single still photograph during a public forum.

My impression? Not only is the local GOP trying to kill quality public education across the state, but they also don’t seem too fond of our First Amendment rights either. Yates and a Soucek staffer were photographed choosing, rewriting, and combining questions [see photo below]. That perhaps explains why my question on teacher retention was never addressed.

Soucek even made the comment, in response to the outcry over North Carolina’s being 46th in teacher compensation, “Some of that rhetoric is just overblown.”

This “rhetoric” he is referring to is the sound of furious teachers, concerned parents, and students whose education is being compromised for little more than political gain.

Senator, we ARE furious. We ARE concerned. And we will continue this “overblown rhetoric” until you listen.

Anne Marie Yates, Center, trying to block photograph

In background: What are Anne Marie Yates and the Soucek staffer doing with those questions submitted by the audience?

The Ties That Bind Thom Tillis

Major report in this morning's News&Observer showing the deep, deep involvement of NC House Speaker Thom Tillis with the KochBros outfit, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).

The Man Who Would Be Senator dances via other men's strings.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Dan Soucek in Deep Gap

Republican Party Chair Anne Marie Yates, that strategic genius behind the take-over of the Board of Elections, was running around telling everyone this evening that they couldn't film Sen. Soucek's public forum on education. So in the interests of full disclosure, we offer this surreptitious snapshot.

Soucek's Fairy Dust

The deep gap in Soucek's record
Sen. Dan Soucek is holding a rah-rah-ain't-I-great-for-education campaign rally at the Deep Gap Volunteer Fire Department this evening, and the State Department of Public Instruction reports that some 14.3 percent of public school teachers left their jobs in 2012-13.

From the N&O: "Teachers are angry about stagnant salaries, the phase-out of tenure, and the end to pay increases for earning advanced degrees. Teachers and parents protested low salaries and new education policies at schools around the state last month. The state ranked 46th in the nation for average teacher pay in 2011-12."

Never mind that! Soucek will be promoting bogus statistics tonight that will prove -- prove! -- that he and Jonathan Jordan and all the rest of the Raleigh Clown Car have actually increased spending for education in North Carolina.

Plus he'll be changing the subject to his reelection campaign issue of demonizing Common Core.

You can take that to the bank.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Good Lord, Guv!

Spend one hour and 40 minutes with Governor McCrory, and he'll use one hour and 41 minutes of that time to whine, whine, WHINE about how the North Carolina press corps just doesn't appreciate his transcendent greatness.

Americans do not love whiners. McCrory is an Olympic whiner.

North Carolinians do not love whiners any more than the rest of America does.

Voters have a way of putting constant whiners out of their (and our) misery. Unfortunately, we have another three years of whining to listen to before this child with the big title gets sent to his room for good.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Our Shallow and Insincere Governor

Pat McCrory opens his mouth (more than he should, obviously) and out come statements that launch a thousand editorials and blog posts. His brain (such as it is) appears to be disconnected from his mouth, or he simply lacks any filtering mechanism by which he might -- but doesn't -- measure his words for their ramifications.

He lies, because he wants everything to seem rosy: On Charlotte's WFAE this week, McCrory said that he and the new Republican majority in the NC General Assembly did not cut unemployment benefits. A whopper.

He mimics Orwellian "language management": "We didn’t shorten the early voting, we compacted the calendar.”

He is amazingly tone-deaf: About his famous cookie caper and the women outside his mansion protesting his abortion bill, he said, “I don’t care, I felt like doing it. Who cares?”

Meanwhile, Governor Eddie Haskell's minions are charging big bucks for public records requests, in violation of the spirit of our open government statute and as a clear attempt to make access to information more difficult.

His other minions in the Art Pope arm of his administration are meanwhile harassing a UNC-Chapel Hill law professor for daring to criticize The Guv.

Associating McCrory with Eddie Haskell may actually be giving him too much credit, since Eddie was too young to know how transparent he was. McCrory is old enough to know better.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Pope's Bare Knuckles

Pope Francis is finding his groove. In a new "apostolic exhortation" (Evangelii Gaudium, for all you Latin geeks), specially "Chapter Two" of that exhortation, the Pope weighs libertarianism in the balance and finds it wanting.

Libertarianism ... the philosophy that puts "market-forces" over all else, the mind-set that has defined the Tea Party from the get-go, the politics of "let them eat grass."

This is what Pope Francis said (in part -- his exhorting goes on for many thousands of words):
Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape .... In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system .... While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules .... In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule....
Beware the "deified market," saith the Pope, and I do believe His Holiness just endorsed the Dodd-Frank "Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act."

So we reckon that Sarah Palin was right: the new Pope's a liberal. I'll light a candle to that! Hell, I'll light two.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thom Tillis Doesn't Show at "The Stupid Candidates" Tea Party

Back earlier this year, discredited Republican king-maker Karl Rove said on Fox News, "Our object is to avoid having stupid candidates who can't win general elections, who are undisciplined, can't raise money, aren't putting together the support necessary to win a general election campaign."

Rove was announcing that he and the big donors behind his Crossroads Super PAC were going to be recruiting Republican candidates who looked good and knew how to keep their traps shut, hiding their extreme views until they get onto the floor of the U.S. Senate, and then let their freak flag fly!

One of the slicksters that Rove decided to anoint was Speaker of the NC House Thom Tillis, who has been struggling for traction but who is now blessed with not one but four Tea Party challengers, including one certifiable prober of women's vaginas, one God-addled crusader against gays, one talk radio screecher, and one woman who seems to have wandered in from a 1950s taping of "Queen for a Day." With that congregation against him, Tillis is guaranteed a win in next May's primary.

But never mind that. The circus pulled up in Gastonia last night -- the four Tea Partiers with Tillis absent -- and they left their Maalox at home. It was all acid reflux all the time. They stripped the wax off the floor.

Oh Tillis was invited all right, but he was otherwise engaged with none other than Karl Rove, who's been in our state raising money for his "not stupid" candidate Tillis. Did we say there was heartburn in Gastonia last night? The mere presence of Karl Rove within our state's boundaries was enough for at least two of the Tea Party candidates to belch fire. We hear the curtains burst into flame.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

If They Can't Beat You, They'll Shut You Up

Rampant Anne Marie Yates-ism breaking out all over our state. Civitas goes after the emails of a UNC law professor, immediately after he writes a column critical of Governor Squishy.

Art Pope had nothing to do with it, right?

Town of Boone v. The Tea Party

Town of Boone officials and Watauga County Commissioners met last night over the process for making Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) appointments to Boone's boards and commissions, as required by law. Jesse Wood's coverage in the High Country Press is thorough and detailed.

County Commission Chair Nathan Miller's extreme Tea Party philosophy was on full display. He does not believe in any land-use planning regulations. He made that abundantly clear.

Bottomline: It doesn't matter which ETJ residents the Town of Boone recommends for its Planning Commission and its Board of Adjustment. The three Republicans on the County Commission are going to reject those recommendations and appoint people hostile to Boone's development regulations. Always.

Perry Yates, who often doesn't seem to realize what he's revealing about himself when he speaks, said it was "discrimination" that the county might have to jump through an extra hoop (a public hearing) in order to appoint men to Boone's Board of Adjustment who disagree with the town's development ordinances. Discrimination.

Think about that for one minute. Appointees to the Board of Adjustment are sworn in as quasi-judicial officials. They serve as judges, and the law they interpret and apply is Boone's Unified Development Ordinance. In effect, Perry Yates was saying he wanted to appoint judges who not only won't uphold the law but who despise the law.

Let's call this what it is: nullification, the highly popular theory and attempted practice among Tea Party types everywhere. Nullification is the philosophical viewpoint that if you don't like a law, then by Gawd you don't have to follow it.

Nathan Miller, Perry Yates, David Blust, and the entire Templeton clan lost the recent election, in which they attempted to install nullifiers into office in Boone. What is left to them in their toolkit of nullification is their ability to screw with the law by appointing judges who don't believe in the law.

This ain't new. The current crisis of "communication" between town and county was precipitated in April 2011 when the town of Boone forwarded recommendations to the County for appointment to the Planning Commission and the Board of Adjustment. One of those recommended ETJ residents had previous experience on a planning board, a zoning board, and a board of adjustment. Another had work experience in rural and urban development. A third, a nationally noted environmentalist living in the ETJ, was explicitly rejected by Commissioner Nathan Miller because "he agrees with the town's planning ordinances."

In that famous April meeting, the County Commission (with Commissioner Jim Deal voting no) rejected the town's qualified recommendations and appointed two men who had not even applied and another man who lived in the town of Boone and not in the ETJ.

Yet it is Nathan Miller who can always work himself up into a ziggurut of wounded self-righteousness in his approach to the town of Boone. And, ironically, this is the Man Who Would Be District Attorney, if he can get the people of this judicial district to vote him into office next year.

Yeah, I want this man applying the law!

Author Isabel Allende Enters School Reading Controversy

An extraordinary letter written by author Isabel Allende to the Watauga County School Board has come to light (hattip: GH). The letter, with an accompanying article detailing the Watauga County controversy over her first novel, "House of the Spirits," was published in School Library Journal.

The SLJ article mentions the dismissive rants that Watauga County commissioners David Blust, Nathan Miller, and Perry Yates heaped on the book last Friday, calling for its censorship. With cause then, Allende wrote in her letter, "Banning of books is a common practice in police states, like Cuba or North Korea, and by religious fundamentalist groups like the Taliban, but I did not expect it in our democracy."

(Jesse Wood's coverage in the High Country Press also includes the complete text of Allende's letter.)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Another Political Hack/McCrory Crony Put in Charge of Clean Water Trust Fund

How do you telegraph your total indifference to protecting the environment in North Carolina, and specifically safeguarding its remaining pristine water sources? If you're the incompetent and clueless governor, you appoint the husband of one of your other employees, a man who is demonstrably unqualified for the job. How unqualified? So unqualified that it's a literal violation of the statute to appoint him.

The Man. Bryan Gossage, 38, who served eight years on the Apex Town Council, ran unsuccessfully for the General Assembly in 2008, and is now appointed by McCrory as the director of the newly created Office of Land and Water Stewardship which includes the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. In this job, Gossage makes $78,000 per annum. Last May, he was named as a "deputy secretary in charge of innovation support" (a fancy way of saying "public relations flack"?) at the N.C. Commerce Department. That job disappeared following a reorganization of that agency. But never mind: Gossage had a close personal friend in a very high place.

Read more here:

The Wife. Chloe Gossage, policy director for Pat McCrory. She makes $110,000 a year. And presumably knows how to drop a hint.

The New Job. Not surprisingly, Gossage's appointment to the new job was not publicly announced by the agency and with good reason. By state statute, the director of Clean Water Management must have "experience and training in conservation, protection, and management of surface water resources." Gossage has a degree in sociology and has worked mainly as a press flack

The Tell. Just how woefully unqualified Gossage is to manage clean water conservation in our state became painfully obvious when a spokesman for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources came out with a press release saying, in effect, that Gossage is qualified because he was on the Apex town council during a drought. When the laughter in the press room died down, someone pointed out that Apex, like most towns, is run by professional staff, not by elected council members, and that Gossage knows as much about water conservation as a dog knows his daddy.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Forget, for the Moment, What McCrory Has Done to Education; Look What He's Done to Science

North Carolina is bleeding teaching talent as though someone slashed our educational jugular (which in fact the General Assembly did, assisted by Gov. Squishy), but just as alarming is the full-out assault on our scientific community detailed in this WRAL report.

Did you know that the Gen'l Assembly, at McCrory's behest, moved over 1,000 NC civil service employees into "at will" situations, meaning that the governor can fire them without cause and on a whim, and one of the whims actually written into the law is "loyalty to the governor." Not making this up. One of the workers moved to "at the whim of the governor" status was the top scientist at the Nature Research Center in Raleigh.

But first, the governor's new stooge Science Museum Director Emlyn Koster demoted that top scientist, just as a hint that her scientific research was no longer needed in North Carolina. That scientist has understandably taken another job in California.

The logo of the McCrory administration ought to be a bleeding wrist.

The other sure sign of the esteem with which McCrory views science is the other decision by that stooge Science Museum Director Emlyn Koster, to cancel a film-showing about sea-level rise, because as we all should know by now, our generous Republican dictatorship has decreed that sea-level rise does not exist.

The only good thing we can say about the reclassification of hundreds of North Carolina's civil service employees to "at will" employees is that the next Democratic governor can fire the ideological idiots at the get-go.

Monday, November 18, 2013

One or Two Things About Him That We Won't Miss

Gov. McCrory's refusal to accept Medicaid expansion in North Carolina was just wrong, and so was his decision to sign one of the most oppressive laws in the country restricting women's choices.

He makes no wise decisions, only ones that are demanded of him by the teahadists.

Help is on the way, but it's going to take another three years of waiting.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Virginia Foxx and Immigration

“Seventy-percent of the labor force in agriculture is undocumented,” Bert Lemkes, co-owner of Van Wingerden International, a greenhouse manufacturer in Western North Carolina, said at a forum in Raleigh recently. (Hattip: Rob Christensen in the Raleigh News & Observer)

That's a fact that Congresswoman Virginia Foxx knows very well. Her own landscaping business depended on immigrant labor, though, Lord knows, she herself never hired any undocumented landscapers. Heavens no! (The Foxx family went to some lengths to cover up details about an accident with serious injuries caused to a third party by one of her laborers, who later escaped the hospital and disappeared without a trace. You can read about that case here and here.)

Though Congresswoman Foxx built her empire on the backs of immigrant labor, when she was elected to Congress she immediately became one of the flamers willing to make political hay out of brown-skinned immigration. In 2005, Foxx signed on as a cosponsor to Sue Myrick's bill to punish North Carolina for granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. (Screening and testing the undocumented for driver's licenses is a public safety measure, which considering the bad car wreck one of Foxx's workers was involved in -- see the links above -- you'd think Foxx would support.)

She also co-sponsored a provision in federal law that would have made it a felony to offer any assistance whatsoever to an illegal immigrant. The law would have allowed the federal government to seize personal assets of those caught passing out meals, medical aid, or legal advice.

Probably her finest hour came in the spring of 2006 when Foxx hosted a special Congressional panel in Winston-Salem with this ominous name: "Gangs, Fraud and Sexual Predators: Struggling with the Consequences of Illegal Immigration." My links to articles at the time in the Winston-Salem Journal have rotted, but there was this coverage of Foxx's anti-immigration grandstanding which still captures the aura of unjustified self-righteousness that always puddles around Foxx's ankles.

As long as Foxx and Friends dominate the House of Representatives, and are financially propped up by U.S. businesses that actually depend now on the labor of both legal and illegal immigrants, there will be no humane progress for immigration reform.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Watauga County Commissioners Try To Bully the School Board

The joint meeting between the Watauga County Commission and the Watauga County School Board, to discuss future budget projections, was “derailed,” according to the Watauga Democrat, when the three Republicans on the commission decided to grandstand about how outraged they were that “despicable filth” in the form of a world-renown novel was being taught in a high school English class. Another witness described what happened as an “ambush.”

Ah. It’s always a bright and lovely day when political hacks become literary critics, not to mention blue-nosed censors of what other people read but what they themselves have not and will never actually read.

Oh I know that Commissioner David Blust claimed that he had read “parts, not just excerpts” of Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, as though there were some self-justifying distinction to be made between “parts” and “excerpts.” I think it’s likely that he read “the good parts,” as that phrase would be understood by a smutty-minded teenager. I never read Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but I knew “the good parts” almost by heart when I was 15 years old. Which begs the question ... how old emotionally is David Blust?

Nathan Miller is no stranger to bullying, and he has not in the recent past hesitated in extending his power to the Department of Social Services board, so it was wholly characteristic of him to demand that the School Board scuttle its own process for reviewing the charges against teaching The House of the Spirits and simply declare the book an “egregious violation” of all that is holy and decent.

We know what’s going on here. Commissioner Yates (who declared himself a HUGE Christian at the meeting) just stood by and watched as his wife led the Republican Party into a disastrous ass-whupping in the recent municipal elections, and the Republican majority on the commission are behind the eight-ball with their own Party members over the way that County Attorney Stacy C. Eggers IV (“Four”) has manipulated the Board of Elections for attempted partisan advantage.

So what do you do as a Republican majority to overcome this bad hoodoo? You change the subject radically and try to stir up the worst emotions you can in your base. “Look, people, we’re protecting your kiddies from filthy literature, so put us back in control of the county in next fall’s general election!” In the process, they appear to the idle observer as "rude and arrogant." To the informed observer, they acted like "swine."

What we see are cynical opportunists willing to use their religion to divide and conquer. Which means they need to be out of power, not installed into more of it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rolling With the Fat Cats

Gov. Pat McCrory will be attending another of those private functions where the super-wealthy pet him and tell him how smart visionary brave he is, and Art Pope will stand nearby to gloss what The Guv might inadvertently blurt.

Two tickets to tonight's dinner with McCrory  at the luxury Grandover Resort outside Greensboro cost $1,000 and two passes for the entire weekend "retreat" cost $10,000. The Renew North Carolina Foundation, another of those secretive 501(c)(4) orgs set up to skirt campaign finance laws, does not have to reveal its donors, and won't.

The same "foundation" hosted the same weekend retreat last year and then spent $800,000 of the proceeds on TV ads in September and October, promoting how not-dumb McCrory might be (it's at least reasonable to think so!).

What? Did the invites feature a picture of McCrory with the caption, "Please help send this child to camp!"?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NOT Endorsed by a Screech Owl

It must mean something that a North Carolina Republican, when announcing his candidacy for public office in next year's elections, feels compelled to say right off the bat, "I'm not crazy!"

That's how we read Mecklenburg County Republican Dan Bishop's announcement that he will run for the District 104 seat now held by Rep. Ruth Samuelson, who is stepping down.

“I’m known to people in that House district,” Bishop said. “They know who I am. They know me to be conservative. They know me not to be a bomb-thrower, to be an effective advocate.”

That term "effective advocate" kinda stands out, because when Bishop declined to run again for the Mecklenburg County Commission in 2008 (after serving two terms), he said on departing, "I don’t think I’ve been terribly effective as a member of that board."

Does this mean that the comatose "moderates" (the uncrazy ones) in the North Carolina Republican Party are going to reassert themselves statewide next year? Will a country club Republican like Thom Tillis lead a resurgence of "I'm not completely bonkers" politicians who'll pull the state back from the brink? 

No, probably not, at least not in any numbers to make a difference. 

Charges Against Eggers & Aceto Will Get a Hearing

The complaint filed with the State Board of Elections against Watauga Board of Elections members Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto is back on the front burner. Word on the street is that the SBOE will schedule a public hearing on the complaint (technically, a "petition" for their removal) early in December.

If we read correctly the administrative code governing removals of this kind, this means that the SBOE finds prima facie evidence that a hearing is warranted on the merits.

The Screech Owl Is Heard in the State

Ann Coulter has endorsed Greg Brannon in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate next May, and she blasted leading contender Thom Tillis for being soft on immigration.

So that should settle it: Thom Tillis will win the primary by an embarrassingly wide margin.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Final Totals in Boone Municipal Elections

At the Board of Elections canvass this morning, some 94 provisional votes were counted, along with three additional mail-in ballots. These are the final totals, in descending order:

Boone Mayor
Andy Ball 1,139
John Mena 517
Brad Harmon 151
Write-In (Jenny Church) 128

Boone Town Council
Jennifer Pena 1,202
Rennie Brantz 1,191
Quint David 1,093
Mark Templeton 720
Matt Long 691
James Milner 568

Has Anyone Seen our Raleigh Representatives?

The Case of the Disappearing General Assembly Members.

Senator Dan Soucek and Representative Jonathan Jordan have been more than just invisible since the legislative session ended in Raleigh. We understand perfectly why they would want to stay out of sight, since the two of them voted in lockstep with their party. They voted FOR every bad thing that happened in Raleigh this year, and that was plenty.

Squeezing the life out of public education. Treating women like chattel. Bringing the wonderful World of Fracking to North Carolina. Et freakin' cetera. It was all hard work, and apparently they're both so exhausted they haven't left their houses for months.

It's not as though our state senator didn't warn us he'd be hard to find. Soucek self-identifies on his Twitter profile as an "International Man of Mystery." He's tweeted only once since June 25th and that was to name-drop Ken Starr, president of Baylor University, who apparently brushed past him in October. Soucek apparently attended a forum in Caldwell County on homelessness in October, but otherwise we can't find any evidence that he's made himself available to voters for months. Months.

Jonathan Jordan has mainly been in the news as a potential drop-out from the NC House, but he didn't get that Ashe County manager's job. Jordan hasn't posted anything to his Facebook page for a solid year. Same for his Twitter account. He's even more invisible than Senator Empty Suit.

These two sterling representatives of Watauga County citizens communicate nothing more vividly than inaccessibility.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Things Just Got Better for Thom Tillis

Another day, another conservative (RWNJ) challenger for Thom Tillis in next year's Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Bill Flynn has joined a growing congregation of very conservative rivals for Tillis, all of whom help guarantee that Tillis wins the primary going away.

Flynn is a right-wing radio gabber with "The Morning Wake Up Show" on AM 980 ("The Eagle") out of Winston-Salem.

Flynn ran from out of district in the 2012 Republican primary for the Sixth Congressional District seat against Howard Coble. Coble's safe seat had been redistricted, and he had toyed with the idea of not running again. But Coble did run, and he easily won his primary against two challengers, one of whom was Flynn. During that primary campaign, Flynn bragged that he was "the firebrand" that the Sixth District needed in Washington. (Yeah, that's the ticket! Burn the place down. That'll fix everything.)

Coble has recently announced that he will not run for another term, but a Congressional seat has grown too small for an ego of Flynn's size. He wants to be a U.S. Senator.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's McCrory's Fault

This deer in the headlights says it's Gov. McCrory's fault that he got run over on the road to becoming the Republican mayor of Charlotte.


Thomas Mills offers interesting and insightful analysis of the finger-pointing and slut-blaming going on in the North Carolina Republican Party.

Hey, guys, save some cream pies for the rest of us!

Chair of Caldwell County Republican Party Becomes Ashe County Manager

Hattip: AsheWatch.

That's generally not what you want nor generally not what you get in a County Manager ... a political partisan, but the Ashe County Commission -- Republicans all! -- have appointed Sam Yearick as their new county manager (after firing Dr. Pat Mitchell earlier this year for "wearing too many hats"). He's currently and prominently listed on the Caldwell County Republican Party website as chair of the party until 2015.

Some hats are more acceptable than others.

But Jonathan Jordan didn't get the job. Does that mean he'll be losing a race for reelection to the NC House, or will the movers transfer his recliner from the General Assembly back to Ashe County?

Saturday, November 09, 2013

What the Dumb Do

Greg Brannon, the OB/GYN Cary doctor who's running in the 2014 Republican primary for U.S. Senate (for the privilege of challenging Kay Hagan in next year's General Election), has been outed for plagiarizing another plagiarizer. No kidding. He copied off Rand Paul, mainly from Paul's website and particularly his views on several Tea Party issues. Rand Paul, meanwhile, has always copied off others and shows no sign of tapering off.

Who goes looking to see if there are copied parts on candidate web pages? The News&Observer item cites no source. Who tipped the press about plagiarism on candidate Greg Brannon's website?

I betcha a dollar it was someone with Thom Tillis's campaign.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Bizarre Political Landscape of Ronda, NC

Ronda in Wilkes County is a village of 417 souls who on Tuesday chose for their town council one notorious woman, her boyfriend, and the boyfriend's "political ally" (an incumbent who had actually declined to file for reelection), all elected as write-in candidates. Out of a turnout of 131 votes, the trio above received 59, 60, and 75 votes respectively. Interestingly, a third of the 131 voters were mail-in absentees, and 12 were Early Votes, which the Wilkes County elections director says was "unusually high" for Ronda. (WRAL)

The Notorious Woman: Debra Goldman, who was one of the insurgent Tea Party majority on the Wake County School Board elected in 2009, resigned from that board last February to take a job in Ronda. While still a member of the Wake School Board, she ran for NC State Auditor in 2012, unsuccessfully. She got wrapped up in a very public [cough] sex scandal with fellow School Board member Chris Malone, who is now a Republican member of the General Assembly. Goldman became something of a punchline. Even a fellow Republican member of the Wake School Board called her a "prom queen." Goldman is now "in a relationship," according to Facebook, with her boss at the Derie Cheek Reece Foundation in Ronda.

The Boyfriend: Kevin Reece, who has been in a bitter and nasty feud with Ronda's Mayor Victor Varela for years. It's been a struggle over fighting cocks on Reece's property (not making this up), among other issues, devolving into hidden video surveillance and accusations of marijuana use. Reece most recently attempted to remove Varela from office via a recall petition, until he discovered that there is no recall provision for public officials in North Carolina. He immediately set about getting his local Republican representatives in Raleigh to pass a "local" bill to allow Ronda to institute a recall mechanism, which also passed on Tuesday. Kevin Reece's foundation, according to WRAL, was started in 2011, and so far, its IRS activity is opaque. Hmmm.

The Political Ally: Sam Foster, who had supported Reece to fill a vacancy on the town council but was foiled by Mayor Varela. Mayor Varela will now be the target of that recall process that passed the voters on Tuesday.

There's at least a movie in all this, if not an HBO mini-series. I see Anna Faris in the Debra Goldman role, with Will Ferrell as Kevin Reece, and naturally, we're going to need Zach Galifianakis as Mayor Varela. It'll make millions!