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.