Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Suffering Only Increases

Exactly as many predicted, the new Republican budget finally unveiled to public view increases the suffering of many of our poorest and most vulnerable in order to give public school teachers an election-year raise, which is mainly calculated to placate them long enough to keep Republicans in charge so that public education can be made to suffer even more next year. Some of our most experienced teachers will get a raise of less than 1 percent. And the university system takes another $76 million whack. Take that, bitches!

Much more budget detail in the WRAL report.

How Our Governor Became Such a Public Zero

Editorial in the Charlotte Observer chronicles only some of the empty rhetoric and broken promises that have issued from the mouth of Gov. Squishy:
During his campaign, McCrory said he wouldn’t sign restrictive abortion legislation. Six months after he was sworn in, he broke that promise.
...Common Core? McCrory publicly supported the rigorous academic standards more than once. In June, he said eliminating them was “not a smart move.” In July, he signed a bill that replaces them....
By signing both laws, McCrory retreated from moderate positions. Each time, he sold out to extreme conservatives.
That list doesn't even include his most recent empty threat -- that he'd veto the NC budget bill if teacher raises went above 6 percent or if Medicaid suffered any more cuts. That pledge is in the Fugetaboutit dustbin by now. You can take that to the bank.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

NC Teachers: "Here's Your Pig-in-a-Poke"

Although there's supposedly a "budget deal" in Raleigh, as of this morning there's still no publicly available document to show exactly what teachers will be getting and exactly at what cost to other areas of public education. Because The Honorables in Raleigh can't pay for much of anything after slashing taxes on the rich last year ... can't pay without punishing other sectors of state government.

There's always a worm in any cabbage this General Assembly picks:
While the budget plan, which still requires approval from the full House and Senate, does not cut any teacher assistant positions, $65 million has been moved from the teacher assistant line item to pay for teachers.
Another $24 million in teacher assistant funding was made "non-recurring," meaning the funds will expire next year without legislative approval. Those funds will cover items other than teacher assistants.
Read more at WRAL
Plus raises for bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and other school support employees is half what other state employees are supposed to get, and raises for the most senior and most experienced teachers will be far less than the 7% that Phil Berger and Thom Tillis have been trumpeting.

Monday, July 28, 2014

News Flash

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. 

The 2-1 ruling from the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a district court judge's ruling in February striking down the state's prohibition on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Richmond, Va.-based 4th Circuit now joins the Denver-based 10th Circuit, which earlier this month struck down a similar ban in Oklahoma.

No Pope Family Member Was Harmed in the Making of This Merger

Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar for $8.5 billion. And, no, neither of these enterprises is a part of Art Pope's Variety Wholesalers Inc. empire.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Good Hands People

Dwane Powell, in the Raleigh News&Observer.

Funny because it's true. Also not funny, and that's exactly what they've done, installed giant eggbeaters in Jordan Lake to take care of the pollution that they also decided needed to keep flowing into the lake in order not to discomfit any corporations.

You can read about this particular boondoggle here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why a Polling Place in the ASU Student Union?

Aceto & Eggers. Photo by Lonnie Webster
Below is minority member of the Watauga Board of Elections Kathleen Campbell's prepared statement that she delivered last night, shortly before Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto voted to prove that they are seeking partisan advantage by making it difficult for ASU students to vote.

One might think that the local GOP would begin developing a strategy for winning the hearts and minds of college students, rather than communicating hostility toward that age group. Is there any wonder why 18-25 year-olds don't flock to the Republican banner?

Everything said for public consumption by GOP leaders, including what Bill Aceto said at last night's Board of Elections meeting and especially what gets written on the Watauga Conservative, acknowledges that additional barriers have indeed been set up to discourage college student voting. That acknowledgement comes with the repeated statement that students shouldn't mind a few extra blocks to walk. They were singled out for a longer hike. That is the indisputable fact, and I believe most college-age voters totally get the purpose of that.

Campbell's statement:

Tonight I am proposing two things, one about early voting and one about election-day voting. I am presenting them together because they are related. Both are necessary to avoid abridging the rights of citizens to equal and fair voting opportunities, especially those voters who are 18 – 21 years old. The 26th Amendment of the US Constitution prohibits such an abridgement of this specific group of voters.
I am proposing:
1. An early voting plan that will put an early voting site on the campus of ASU in the Linville Falls Room of the Student Union Building.
2. Moving the election-day polling place for the Boone #2 Precinct, one of the two precincts that serve the campus and the only precinct located on campus, from the Legends nightclub to the Linville Falls Room at the Student Union.
The importance of these two proposals becomes clearer when you consider the following facts:
· The enrollment of ASU constitutes almost 34% of the total population of Watauga County and an even greater number of the voting population. No other county even comes close to a college population with that large a share of the county population. Jackson County, with WCU, comes closest at just under 25%.
· The ASU community consists largely of people between the ages of 18-21. As we have all discussed before, this age group in particular has demanding class schedules and remote access to cars if any access at all.
· While some students maintain their voter registration outside Watauga County, they have a right recognized in State and federal law to register and vote in Watauga, where they make their home during the time they are in college. A large number have done so. In fact, a full 13% of Watauga’s registered voters is 18-21 years old, lives in dorms on ASU’s campus, and 100% of them live in the Boone 2 and Boone 3 precincts, which together encompass the campus. A larger percentage could do so if they wanted.
· Because of their difficulties with transportation, students at ASU in the past have chosen to cast early ballots. Also because of their transportation challenges, students have voted provisional ballots on Election Day outside their precincts at the ASU polling location. This is particularly true for students living on the west side of campus, whose Boone 3 Election Day polling location is at the Agricultural Conference Center, at least a 20 minute one-way walk along rough roads with no shoulders.
· In 2013, the General Assembly severely limited two methods that students found helpful in overcoming their difficulties voting. The legislators removed the first week from the early voting period, squeezing the time to early-vote into about two weeks. And, except for voters with unreported moves, the legislators prohibited the counting of all out-of-precinct provisional and/or transfer ballots on Election Day. A lawsuit in federal court, filed by students outside Watauga, is challenging both those legislative actions as unconstitutional to the rights of young voters and a violation of the 26th Amendment.
· In the wake of these losses of early voting opportunities and out-of-precinct provisional/transfer voting, one would expect County boards of elections to find ways to accommodate the needs that caused student voters to utilize those methods. The boards could put early voting sites and precinct polling places in more accessible places. Some county boards of elections in counties with large campuses have, if not making things better, at least not making them worse. But inexplicably, in Watauga, which has by far the highest percentage of campus enrollment to voting age population in the State, we have gone in the opposite direction.
· Over the expressed needs of over 30% of our registered voters, and in spite of the fact that over 17,000 students, faculty and staff work and/or study on ASU’s campus, our Board proposed an early voting plan that would no longer include an early voting site on campus. We took away the ASU Student Union site in 2013, a site where more voters per hour cast ballots than at any other early voting site in 2009.
· As a result of eliminating ASU’s early voting site, we saw an astonishing 79% increase in provisional votes cast on Election Day between the Municipal elections of 2009 and 2013 (after which the state took away that option).
· Then, to make matters even worse, we moved the only on-campus voting location, Boone 2, from the Student Union to the obviously inadequate (as expressed by both ASU and our own Director) Legends nightclub, as far away from young voters and all the faulty and staff as we could get.
· The results of this Board’s actions are now in.
· Even though both early and election day voting have been reasonably strong countywide in the last two elections, voting in Boone 2 has fallen by almost 58% between the last two elections, and, in Boone 3, voting has fallen by almost 30%.
· Voting by the County’s 18-21 year old voters has suffered even worse between the last two elections, dramatically so. In Boone 2, votes cast by 18-21 year olds is down 80%, and in Boone 3, voting by 18-21 year olds is down almost 50%.
· For the 2013 Municipal elections, we offered a single early voting site downtown. While we did increase overall turnout by 1.18% in 2013 compared to the 2009 Municipal, this was the result of a 1.26% increase in mail-in ballots. And then, as the result of inadequate one-stop location siting in 2014, we saw an even more dramatic increase in the county’s number of mail-in ballots, up almost 42% higher than even the previous election.
· Comparing the 2010 Primary Election (when an early voting site and Student Union Election Day site were available, and when provisional/transfer voting was allowed) to the 2014 Primary election (when neither were available), total votes cast on the ASU campus has now resulted in a 75% decrease. As a result, the average age of total voters who cast ballots countywide increased in 2014 by 8 years.
· Ballots cast by mail increased by over 50% for both Democrats and Unaffiliated voters from the 2010 to the 2014 primary, while requests for mail-in ballots for Republicans fell by 32%. And because this Board eliminated two of the three in-town early voting locations, Democratic performance fell in one-stop voting by almost 4 percent from 2010 to 2014 while republican performance increased almost 3%.
· The number of votes cast in Boone 2 in 2013 on ASU’s campus location fell by almost 58% in 2014, primarily from the lack of a one-stop site combined with the disallowance of provisional ballots.
· And One-stop voting across all precincts fell from 40% of the vote in 2013 to 35% of the total vote in 2014 even though we offered 5 times the number of one-stop locations.
· This is what has happened when these voters were given the one-two-three-four punch of losing a week of early voting, losing out-of-precinct provisional voting, losing an early voting site on campus, and getting unsuitable voting places on election day. The results are disheartening, but not surprising.
· Plus all this, what we are doing in siting our one-stop locations is a waste of money and staff and a frustration for voters. Of the 5 one-stop locations we used in this May’s primary, the single downtown early voting location took in over 72% of all early voters. And that’s because people drive right past the remote sites we’d offered to come and vote downtown. 37% of the Meat Camp early voters voted somewhere other than the Meat Camp Fire Department. The same is true for all the other remote sites as well. Even one-fourth of Blowing Rock’s early ballots were cast in downtown Boone.
· If we assume a similar turnout for this November’s general election as we had in 2010 (and frankly I believe that’s low), we should expect to receive 7,522 total one-stop voters downtown; that’s a 342% increase from the number we had just this past primary. And we’re looking at 5,416 voters trying to use the single downtown site for early voting alone. Where are we going to park all these people? How are we going to handle the 86 expected voters per hour for early voting at the downtown location this November as opposed to the 26 per hour we averaged this past primary?
· In the 2010 General Election, we offered just three sites, and none of them accommodated more than 38 voters per hour because the other 2 in-town locations eased the traffic at the downtown location. It’s simply a no-brainer to offer an early voting site in ASU’s Student Union. There is plenty of parking, the space exceeds all of our criteria, many if not most of our registered voters live and/or work there, and the public has it made it clear they want the site.
The elections this board has supervised since it took office have been important but relatively small. They should be used as a shakedown cruise for the major election facing us this fall. We now have an opportunity to learn from that shakedown cruise and give our voters an election in which everyone can have confidence. 

Headline of the Day

"North Carolina voters are extremely unexcited about Thom Tillis"

"Extremely unexcited" captures the oxymoronic vibe that Mr. Tillis has created for himself. Jumbo shrimp!

Or living dead.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Comedic Stylings of Bill Aceto

Last night's meeting of the Watauga County Board of Elections had one laugh-out-loud moment. As the two-man Republican majority was turning down third member Kathleen Campbell's proposal to restore an Early Voting site to the campus of Appalachian State University, Board Secretary Bill Aceto said that he thought voters deserved consistency of polling locations. As though the Republican Early Voting plan represented something decades old and hoary with veneration.

Couldn't help flashing on the morning of August 12, 2013, at Mr. Aceto's very first Board of Elections meeting after being newly sworn into office. He and Luke Eggers upended the apple basket pretty thoroughly, voting to combine Boone 1, 2 & 3 precincts into a single mega-precinct, removing the Early Voting site on the ASU campus (where it had been consistently for several election cycles), and moving the in-town polling station for New River 3 far out into the country for the upcoming municipal elections.

Consistency? Not so much.

Naked partisanship twisting the right to vote into a pretzel? Absolutely!

McCrory Who Sits on Fence Has Stick Up His Ass

Governor Squishy said yesterday that it's too early for him to have an opinion on the newest bright idea in the General Assembly to cripple the ability of North Carolina cities to govern themselves.

The power-hungry martinets in the Republican Party tell Boone it can't govern its Extraterritorial Jurisdiction and now wants to tell Charlotte, Raleigh, and other cities that it can't raise sales taxes to pay teachers or expand mass transit, never mind what the voters in those cities want.

Meanwhile, Gov. Squishy can't gin up an opinion?

"Guess what I've got in my hands!"

Shooting Blanks

Okay. I posted this photo yesterday. Then, overnight, I thought that even a prick like Rick wouldn't dare pose in this ridiculous, self-defeating way, and I concluded by the morning light that the photo must be photoshopped. So I took it down this morning. Have been searching since for confirmation.

Juanita Jean thinks it's real, which is good enough for me. Until someone else offers proof to the contrary.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Trial Balloon?

NC Speaker of the House and candidate for U.S. Senate Thom Tillis is now saying that the budget impasse in Raleigh may deprive teachers of any raises at all.

Tillis is off raising money from the D.C. lobbyist crowd. So his bread is buttered.

Maybe what Tillis forecast -- no raise at all for teachers -- is just a hard clod thrown in Senate Republican leader Phil Berger's general direction.

Whatever raise teachers end up with -- if they end up with anything -- will be token, a sop to make up for years of abuse and neglect and outright hostility from Our Betters in Raleigh. May they choke on their campaign cash.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Surveillance Nation

On the night of March 8, 1971, eight persons broke into the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and stole suitcases full of secret files. At first, the break-in was known only to the FBI, whose crazy czar, J. Edgar Hoover, was flipping out -- quite literally, flipping out -- at the thought that unknown persons were now in possession of some of his darkest secrets.

Gradually, the burglary became known to Americans as the burglars began sending copies of some of the files to journalists. One of those newspaper people was Betty Medsger, who was working for the Washington Post. She became one of the first journalists to expose the secret war that J. Edgar Hoover was waging on political activists he didn't approve of, especially campus anti-war activists and most especially black activists still struggling for basic civil rights.

Those burglars were never caught. J. Edgar's total inability to crack the case, even though he devoted millions of $$ of resources and thousands of hours of investigation by hundreds of special agents, inadvertently revealed another secret about the FBI: the cult of personality that ruled it also rendered it massively ineffective.

That burglary in Media, Pa., sprung a leak that has never stopped spewing new revelations about how one twisted man turned the Federal Bureau of Investigation into his personal peephole, a perfect expression of his paranoia, his bigotry, his closeted fear of other people, and of other ideas.

Betty Medsger has now, over 40 years after the burglary and with the cooperation of the burglars, finally revealed the identities of the thieves, their motivations, their planning, and their execution of the theft that was one of the landmarks in saving our Republic from the sick mind and twisted motives of J. Edgar Hoover.

The book Medsger has written, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI, is riveting. It often reads like a spy thriller, but it goes much deeper. At the very least, it is essential history of where we were as a nation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, an emotionally exhausted state where we seem to have arrived again.

Hoover was able to maintain surveillance on hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans out of fear, and use that surveillance to disrupt, intimidate, smear, and even drive to suicide Americans he did not like -- fear of Commies, fear of "radicals," fear of "peace activists," fear of black revolutionaries.

As Medsger points out, Americans are still living in the grip of fear, especially after 9/11, and our government has only expanded -- vastly and without let-up -- its ability to spy on us all, relentlessly and without meaningful oversight. The revelations we all owe to Edward Snowden are an exact analogy to the 1971 Media burglary.

Under Barack Obama, the surveillance nation has only grown. He has not only defended NSA surveillance; he's expanded it. The Obama administration has criminally prosecuted more government whistle-blowers than have all previous presidents combined. Some of the curbs imposed on the FBI after the Media revelations have been lifted by Obama. One of the NSA documents that Snowden released shows that the agency scoops up millions of personal digital address books at a daily rate of 444,743 from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail, and 22,881 from other providers.

It's as though the ghost of J. Edgar is chortling from the grave, while we Americans allow the fear of external and internal unknowns to make us obedient to this massive and democracy-threatening spy system.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jonathan Jordan Does What Art Pope Tells Him To Do

Another lengthy, in-depth investigative report on the octopus grip that Art Pope now holds on the state of North Carolina. In it, there's this section which recounts the death of our state's pioneering system of public financing for judicial races, a system which kept huge special interest money from buying judges outright. Reprinted here to document Rep. Jonathan Jordan's inability to have independent judgment when Mr. Moneybags taps him on the shoulder.
More than a decade ago, Pope strongly objected when the legislature created a pioneering campaign financing system for Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judicial elections.
“Candidate welfare,” he said at the time.
The voluntary program was celebrated by advocates of stricter campaign finance rules as a national model for limiting the ability of special interests to influence judges, by providing them with access to public funding.
“While other states were having just outrageous sums being spent on these statewide judicial races, North Carolina’s races stayed relatively inexpensive,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, a government watchdog group.
When McCrory introduced his first budget in 2013, the program had been eliminated.
Supporters scrambled to find a way to salvage it, enlisting state Rep. Jonathan Jordan (R) to sponsor an amendment that would allow it to continue in a scaled-down form.
The day the issue was set to be discussed in the House, Pope took Jordan aside in a hallway outside the chamber, arguing that the amendment was unconstitutional.
Jordan shelved his measure. The lawmaker, who received $16,000 in campaign contributions from the Pope family when he ran in 2010, did not return requests for comment.
Pope said it was appropriate for him to make the case about the merits of the governor’s budget to a state lawmaker, acknowledging that he has long personally been opposed to such public campaign finance programs.
Asked if he played a role in McCrory’s thinking, Pope said, “I gave my analysis and advice to the governor.”
This year, outside money has targeted North Carolina judicial races, including an $800,000 campaign that accused Hudson of being soft on child molesters. One of Hudson’s challengers was Jeanette Doran, former executive director of the Pope-backed North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law. She placed third in the May primary, but Hudson was forced into a runoff with another Republican.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Renee Ellmers: "Could You Dumb It Down For Me?"

Renee Ellmers got quoted saying stupid things about women, and her office lashed back that "a liberal woman reporter" had taken her comments out of context. The comments in question?
“Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. You know, one of the things that has always been one of my frustrations and I speak about this all the time – many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they’ve got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and, you know, how the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that.
“But by starting off that discussion that way, we’ve already turned people away. Because it’s like ‘that doesn’t affect my life, I don’t understand how that affects my life.’ ”
From there, Ellmers said Republicans need to be “engaging individuals on their level,” adding that GOP men should “bring it down to a woman’s level.”
The reputed "liberal woman reporter" was Ashe Schow, writing in the conservative Washington Examiner. Schow has worked for Heritage Action, the 501(c)(4) arm of the Heritage Foundation, which scarcely qualifies her as a "liberal" anything. According to her "faculty bio" at the Leadership Institute, she "has a background in drafting political donation messaging for conservative-leaning PACs."

You can read for yourself Schow's original article. Rather than taking Ellmers out of context, she got the context exactly right. Ellmers, along with other Congressional Republican women, were explaining how conservative women were going to disprove the Democratic charge that the Republican Party has been conducting a "war on women."

We've got to improve our "messaging," the conservative Congresswomen said, and then they let Ellmers speak into that microphone, which only proved that their messaging still needs work and that Renee Ellmers, in particular, is not ready for prime time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Baptist preacher Mark Walker of Greensboro easily beat Phil Berger Jr., the rising-star son of NC Senate Republican leader Phil Berger Sr., in the primary run-off for the NC-06 Congressional slot.

That was not supposed to happen.

Berger Junior had called Walker "unelectable" and "unfit to hold any office." Good to know. Walker will now face Democrat Laura Fjeld in November.

Democrat Josh Brannon won the primary run-off tonight in the 5th Congressional District, which was supposed to happen. He'll now be facing the Miss Manners of the U.S. Congress, who has over $2 million, cash on hand (and her hand is always out for more).

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shadow-Juggling in Raleigh: The North Carolina Budget

Last year, the Republican-dominated NC General Assembly cut taxes so much on the already Rich&Famous that now there's not enough money to run a formerly progressive state without also running it into the fricking ground.

Our Republican overlords have gotten the message that the entire teaching profession is madder'n hell at them, so they're now scrambling to cover their ever-widening asses with some sort of teacher pay raise. Only there's now no money for that, thanks to their sweetheart tax cuts for the already Rich&Famous.

The NC House attempts some voodoo economics and proposes to raise teacher pay 5% by fantasizing that the NC Lottery could be induced to bring in more money.

The NC Senate proposes raising teacher pay 11% by making working conditions for teachers completely dysfunctional and firing thousands of teacher assistants.

Governor Squishy takes his testicles out of the lockbox and threatens to veto the Senate budget--a pure P.R. stunt meant to make him look less than emasculated.

Following the Governor's veto threat, Phil Berger, leader of the Republican Senate, issued his own "up yours" statement, pretending to be “surprised by [McCrory’s] demand for a budget without cuts to teacher assistants and Medicaid – given that his own budget included almost $20 million in cuts to teacher assistants along with significant, though ultimately unachievable, cuts to Medicaid.”

This is now. And this was then (courtesy of BlueNC):

"We're going to go in. We're going to have a short session. It's going to be focused. It's going to be disciplined. We're going to get in and out.,"
-- House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, WRAL-TV 05/10/2014

“All indications point toward a session that will be short, with a continued focus on economic growth, job creation, and wise investments.”
-- Becki Gray, John Locke Foundation, 05/09/2014

“We will probably be more assertive than in our first year, which I frankly thought was extremely assertive. … “We had a heck of a good first year, but now I think we can take even more initiatives. … I anticipate that we’ll be together 80 to 90 percent of the time. “We’re having very good dialogue and, in almost all cases, good cooperation.”
-- Gov. Pat McCrory, Charlotte Observer, 05/10/2014

“Hopefully (Gov. McCrory) has learned that we have to work together to get things done. I don’t know if he’s there yet. Hopefully this session will tell us that.”
-- Senate Rules Committee Chair Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, Charlotte Observer, 05/10/2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Day in Court

The defendants, on trial in Federal court
Closing arguments today in the Federal courtroom of Judge Thomas Schroeder in Winston-Salem on whether implementation of North Carolina's new voter suppression law should be halted. There's now available at least two different and detailed accounts of testimony that was heard on Tuesday, particularly testimony by Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville attorney and a Democratic member of the NC House. (Barry Yoeman's write-up gives important context. Chad Nance's account is considerably more textured with detail, especially portraits of some of the lawyers who are defending the law.)

Under oath, Rep. Glazier recounted the legislative history of the new voting law, which "was, bar none, the worst legislative process I’ve ever been through."
It didn’t start out that way. When House Bill 589 was first introduced in April 2013, it was a short and narrowly focused voter-ID bill. David Lewis, the Republican chair of the House Elections Committee, invited legislators from both parties to weigh in. Democrats offered suggestions to soften some requirements—for example, allowing the use of student ID cards from state universities and community colleges—and those ideas were initially accepted, Glazier said. There were public forums, testimony from experts invited by both Democrats and Republicans, and opportunity for amendments. The events surrounding the bill’s introduction amounted to “the best process I have ever seen,” Glazier testified....
The bill passed the House 81-36 and then sat in the NC Senate for three months ... until something earthshaking happened at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Roberts Court, in Shelby County vs. Holder, invalidated a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act requiring some jurisdictions—including forty North Carolina counties with histories of racial discrimination—to get federal approval for new election policies, because, Chief Justice John Roberts suggested, racial discrimination was simply a thing of the past. No kidding!

Republicans in the General Assembly had been waiting for that decision, and once they had it -- in fact, a month after Shelby was published -- the NC Senate vastly expanded that initial Voter ID bill --“It was a 90-percent different bill,” Glazier testified -- adding provisions that disallowed university and college IDs, that ended same-day voting, that shortened Early Voting by a week, that ended out-of-precinct voting, that banned straight-ticket voting, did many other things not originally covered in the House bill that Democrats had actually been allowed to participate in the crafting of.
There was no time to review the new proposals, Glazier said. No committee hearings. No opportunity for “scholarly understanding” of the implications. No fiscal-impact report from the non-partisan legislative staff. When the measure reached the House floor, debate was limited to about two hours. Such a process might have been appropriate to a bill regulating golf carts, Glazier said, but not to a major policy bill with significant civil-rights implications....
At the end of the speeches, the Democrats broke protocol and stood up to vote “no” in unison. The bill passed on a party-line vote. Some Democratic lawmakers prayed aloud in the House chamber, hands on one another’s shoulders. A Republican friend walked over to Glazier to apologize.
“I had never been through anything like it in public life, and doubt I will again,” Glazier said. “If you were writing a textbook on how to write a bill and how to govern a legislature, this would be the textbook example of how not to do it.”
Judge Schroeder is not expected to rule from the bench immediately. (All quotes above are taken from the Barry Yoeman article.)

Footnote on the State Board of Elections, which has been tasked with implementing the new law:

Chad Nance points out that Kim Strach, the current director of the State BOE (and well known to those in Watauga County who have been struggling against decisions by the local BOE), is also the wife of one of the attorneys defending the new voter law, Phil Strach, who cross-examined Rep. Glazier: Attorney Strach "had no luck tripping Glazier up and spent most of his questions trying to make an argument that because discredited and indicted former Democratic Speaker of the NC House Jim Black played fast and lose with the rules then it was ok for the Republicans to do so now."

It's depressing to know that the Republican arguments for "immoral equivalence" are foundational concepts, even in Federal court.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A New Protection Racket

Last night at its July meeting, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners set a public hearing for August 19 on what to do about zoning issues in Boone's former Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ). Until the passage of Senator Dan Soucek's "local bill" to strip Boone of its ETJ, county residents of the ETJ were protected by Boone's development ordinance. Watauga County has no such regs for development, other than very limited restrictions on "high-impact development," which do not as a matter of fact cover college student "quad" housing and other high-density developments.

Following its regular business, the County Commissioners opened the floor for public comment. From coverage in the High Country Press:
Of the four that spoke, only Jeff Templeton, a member of a family of local developers and a resident of the ETJ, spoke in favor of the elimination of the ETJ and told the commissioners he was “overjoyed” with the fact that this became law.
Noting concerns that this change might have on residents of established neighborhoods in the ETJ, Templeton said that the commissioners could approve of “some measure of regulation in order to protect property values” and the quality of life of residents in the ETJ once the new law goes into effect.
“The county should be able to adequately address [these concerns] without burdening everyone with overregulation,” Templeton said.
So ... the one who pulled the strings in Raleigh ... to make the axe drop on Boone ... to deprive ETJ neighborhoods of their zoning protections ... is now saying that maybe "some measure of regulation" might be needed "to protect property values" (just so long as they don't involve steep-slope development or "view shed" regulations).

That was mighty big of Jeff Templeton.

We assume that since he is now saying publicly that some zoning in the former ETJ is fine by him, there will be some zoning in the former ETJ, since the Templeton family is in charge of the known universe.

Less certain is what will happen with Jeff's father Phil Templeton's decree that Watauga County needs its own county-wide water system. The Templetons may discover that the universe they command ends somewhere short of publicly funded water.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Watauga GOP Goes Hard Right

Who is Paul Shanklin?

Anyone know how to get in touch with the mythical staffer who's supposedly already working in Watauga County?

"100% of the proceeds from this event will go to help elect our candidates..." Minus, we assume, the cost of the venue and the sizable fee that Paul Shanklin is charging.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Court Battle Over Voter Suppression in North Carolina

A week-long hearing will get underway tomorrow in Winston-Salem in Federal court for the Middle District of North Carolina before U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder. Judge Schroeder is being asked to issue an injunction against the new Republican voter laws that cut the Early Voting period, eliminated same-day registration, and did a jillion other things harmful to ballot access.

If Judge Schroeder agrees with the plaintiffs that House Bill 589 unfairly targets and discriminates against certain classes of voters, he could suspend the implementation of the law for this November's general elections while its ultimate constitutionality is tested.

Winston-Salem Journal coverage of the suit.

What has gone largely unnoticed is that among the plaintiffs are seven North Carolina college students who are also arguing that they have been unjustly targeted, since the photo voter i.d. section of H589 explicitly prohibits the use of university-issued i.d.s as well as out-of-state drivers' licenses. Today's New York Times has in-depth coverage of the college-age plaintiffs.

Those of us in Watauga County certainly know well enough that the local Board of Elections, manipulated by county attorney Stacy Eggers IV ("Four"), and enabled by the new Republican majority on the State Board of Elections in Raleigh, have made a conscious and concerted effort to discourage the voting of Appalachian State University students.

The hearing that gets underway in Winston-Salem tomorrow is only one of several legal challenges that will fight back against the local and state-wide attempts to fence college students away from ballot access.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Pat McCrory: Champion Patsy for the Rich Guys

News broke yesterday that Gov. Pat McCrory, famous in his own mind for stepping on important toes, will be giving not just any speech but the "keynote address" at the annual meeting of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-funded octopus that has its tentacles in every state capitol, wrapped around every Republican lawmaker who's perfectly willing to let millionaires do the thinking for him.

Governor McCrory, Prize Show Cow, willing to be milked in public.

Practically every extreme measure passed in North Carolina since January 2013 came from the ALEC playbook, from voter suppression to fast-tracked fracking, from tax cuts for corporations to the crippling of public education. You name it, ALEC is likely behind it.

McCrory's defense of this speaking engagement: “I speak to many groups that invite me.”

"Hey, they invited me to the whorehouse. Who am I to turn down an opportunity to speak to a whole room full of wealthy prostitutes?"

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Let's Get Real, Mr. Tillis

Well, He Can Hope

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Thom Tillis told Jim Morrill of the Charlotte Observer that "most people don’t follow the legislature [NC General Assembly]. I don’t think it’s part of the daily lives of most North Carolinians.”

Judging from the polled approval ratings of the NC General Assembly under NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, the people are paying attention, and they don't like what's been happening.

When your election chances hang on hoping for the voters' obliviousness, you're not in a good place.

Tillis led the General Assembly on its quest to be the most extreme governing body in the whole country, and he now has to own it. Maybe Karl Rove and the ALEC boys can pull his chestnuts out of the fire, but it may be too late for that.

Read more here:

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

We're Duke Energy: We Own This State

Frank Eaton strikes again!

What You Find Out Reading Books

I did not know that Fox News honcho Roger Ailes worked on Jim Holshouser's successful primary campaign in 1972 against Republican Party favorite Jim Gardner. According to Gabriel Sherman, Holshouser sold his family's motel in Boone to raise the cash he needed to run a successful primary:
After developing a set of devastatingly effective attack ads, Ailes propelled Holshouser into office, making him the first Republican governor elected in the state since 1901.
Holshouser ran against and beat Democrat Skipper Bowles in the general election. Holshouser probably benefitted from the reelection coattails of Richard Nixon, another of Ailes's clients back in those days.

Ailes was a moderate back then, working for moderate Republicans.

Gabriel Sherman, The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes built Fox News -- And Divided a Country, New York: Random House, 2014.