Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Huckabee Visits Hendersonville, Fails To Call Down Fire From Heaven on Asheville

Did you know that full-time Southern Baptist preacher and part-time presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was in Hendersonville yesterday? He was the guest of Congressman Mark Meadows (NC-11), a Republican member of Congress who's generally credited with the government shutdown last year and a man so right-wing that even Virginia Foxx draws her skirts a little tighter around her when in his presence.

Several hundred people crowded in and around Harry's Kitchen in Hendersonville to hear and be near Mr. Huckabee. He talks like what he is, an accomplished preacher with a sharp wit who believes he's sent by God to use that razor against the sinful.

Huckabee is possibly the most vociferous opponent of the Supreme Court currently running under the Republican banner for president (though he has several strong runners-up for that title), and he's very much into the "Christians are persecuted" Kool-Aid.

From the Asheville Citizen-Times coverage: "Asked what he would say to the large gay-friendly population of Asheville who believe the court's decision affirms equal protection under the Constitution, Huckabee said they should have joined forces to change the law through the legislative process."

Riiight. That's often happened in our history, hasn't it? A despised minority manages to get a legislature like North Carolina's to change the laws to give them equal rights?

Meanwhile, outside the precincts of Fantasyland, a cookie still crumbled in the normal way.

NC House Rejects NC Senate's Rejiggering of Greensboro City Council

Sen. Trudy Wade's attempt to redistrict the Greensboro city council so that Republicans can win elections there has been soundly defeated in the NC House ... 35-73.
Wade first sent the redistricting proposal to the House in Senate Bill 36 [reports WRAL]. When the House refused to take up that bill, Wade sent it over again, this time attached to House Bill 263, a redistricting proposal for the small town of Trinity.
The bill would eliminate the city's at-large districts, quadruple-bunk four incumbents into a single district, and revoke the mayor's vote on the council.
The bill, though, is not now dead. It has to go to a conference with the Senate, where House Republicans from Guildford County promise to push for a citizen referendum, which would surely fail.

Feedback on Wade's scheme has been "about 40-1 negative, both Republican and Democrat. They don’t feel good about this bill," said Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford). Said Rep. Ralph Johnson (D-Guilford), "The sponsor of this bill, she’s united Greensboro, both Democrats and Republicans. She’s done that, and I thank her for that."

Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford), the brother of Watauga County Commissioner David Blust, was the most passionate in his denunciation of Sen. Wade's motives: "You all know it is wrong for a city of 285,000 to have a form of government put in place by one person. One person did the design. One person insists that every detail of the plan must be preserved."

Monday, June 29, 2015

"Persecution" Looks A Lot Like Privilege

With conservatives taking a deep-dive into paranoia over the Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage, we stand amazed at the right-wing willingness to drink the Kool-Aid of "persecution."

That word, not to mention the entire mental gymnastics required to use it, is being thrown around like confetti at a … well, at a gay wedding. That sort of exaggeration cheapens the word. It also does spiritual violence to real religious persecution, which this world has witnessed and still witnesses, but not because some store clerk says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

Because we don't bow our heads and confess that your religion is superior to ours doesn't mean that we have oppressed you. We are preached at continuously -- lectured and hectored and warned of hell fire -- by men and women whose superior morality and access to megaphones displays privilege rather than persecution, and it is our privilege to ignore Franklin Graham and turn away to more fruitful voices.

Didn't a Republican presidential candidate recently threaten to call down fire from heaven if the Supreme Court didn't straighten up and fly right? It is my privilege to laugh at him. Is that the "persecution" you're speaking of, O my brethren?

Let's see now:

1. Religious groups enjoy complete tax exemption.

2. Unlike non-profit orgs, religious groups receive their tax exemption without having to ask for it. They get tax exemption by merely existing. "Houses of worship" are given exemption as soon as they open their doors.

3. Houses of worship are free from the mandatory reporting obligations that are imposed on secular nonprofit groups.

4. There is no way of knowing how much money a particular church raises, nor the value of its many assets, because they are not required to tell anyone (unlike a secular nonprofit). Mega-church pastors can own closets full of thousand-dollar suits, drive expensive cars, and even own their own jets without much worry that anyone "official" will ever check on his finances.

5. This is so because Congress passed a special law governing church audits that requires the IRS to show "heightened scrutiny" before initiating such procedures. Church audits must be approved by highly placed IRS officials. When's the last time you heard of a mega-church being targeted for an audit? Was it persecution? Or was it a response to conspicuous consumption?

6. The ability of religious groups to proselytize and spread their theology is limited only by the imaginations of their leaders. They own television and radio stations (tax exempt, by the way). They own publishing arms. They get a regular seat on Fox News and other cable outlets for "balance" (but really because they're entertaining).

7. Religious groups own hospitals, secondary schools, colleges, social-service agencies, and other entities. Many of these are subsidized directly with tax funds. In recent years, religious groups that sponsor charitable services get taxpayer assistance through the "faith-based initiative."

8. A house of worship or a ministry can fire employees at will if those workers violate (or are merely suspected or accused of violating) some tenet of the faith. A religious school, for example, could fire a woman who becomes pregnant out of wedlock. Most American government entities -- really, all of them -- do not allow such retaliation.

9. Most American political candidates and office-holders -- of both major political parties -- are quick to declare their Christian faith and announce their attendance at a Christian church, because not to do so would invite suspicion and rejection.

Get off your "persecution" high-horse. It all suggests that you really have no true faith at all.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Representative Foxx Lives Up To Her Constituents' Prejudices

Virginia Foxx had her response all written and polished by 10 a.m. yesterday morning, so she was able to send it out to the world seconds after Justice Kennedy began to read his historic decision on gay marriage:
“Two years ago the Supreme Court insisted that marriage was a policy decision that properly belonged to the states, but today they have imposed a redefinition of marriage nationwide. This decision undermines the ability of states to set public policy within their borders as voters in North Carolina overwhelmingly did in 2012. I’m also extremely concerned about the threat this ruling poses to the conscience rights of people and organizations who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. I will do everything in my power to defend these rights and protect the sacred institution of marriage.”
Knowing the representative's personal history, it makes my skin crawl uncontrollably to see her evoking "the sacred institution of marriage," not to mention her feeding her constituents the steady diet of ignorance she's known for. The Supreme Court decision yesterday did not redefine marriage. It merely made the old definition available to everyone. The only redefinition is going on in the fantastical brains of Foxx's devoted followers.

This is the woman who once upon a time checked a box on a candidate survey indicating that she was in favor of gay adoption. That was then. Her benighted Fifth District of NC needs different nourishment now.

One response to her statement on the High Country Press website deserves reprinting here:
Joseph W Dickson ·  ·  Top Commenter · Director of Kung-Fu Style Butt Whoopinsat LLoyd's Butt Whoopins and Hair Care CenterOK Rep. Foxx... we get it. You don't believe that the inalienable rights as defined in the U.S. Constitution should apply to everyone. You believe that the beliefs and rights of some should trump the rights of others. As you're an educated woman, I'll assume you're aware of world history. You should know then, that throughout world history, many rulers and countries have made efforts to carve out subsections of the general citizenry they find displeasing. These leaders and countries have then relegated these people to a status where they have fewer rights than those able to access all available rights and liberties. You will not find a single instance of this where the result has not been later seen as a willful violation of human rights. Often it has ended in horrific oppression, suffering, and genocide. Yet, as a representative of the people, elected to fight for that which will bring your constituents freedom, liberty, and prosperity, you advocate for the same oppression history has shown to be so destructive. You argue on behalf of those who would use their beliefs to relegate others to a position unequal to your own. In essence, you do not represent all of your constituents... you only represent those with whom you find yourself in agreement. You publicly advocate to strip some of your very own constituents of those rights and liberties you are sworn to defend and uphold. One day, far in the future, history may well count you alongside other leaders who sought to oppress some for the pleasure of others. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

U.S. Supremes: 14th Amendment Means Same-Sex Couples May Marry

Hot off the SCOTUS blog:

The U.S. Supreme Court, voting 5-4, holds that the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex. And all states must recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when a marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding same-sex marriage bans in several states is reversed.

It's clear that the Court's opinion relies on the dual rationales of fundamental rights AND equal protection.

Chief Justice John Roberts is back on the conservative reservation for his dissent. Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito also wrote their own dissents.

Chief Justice Roberts has the principal dissent, which is 31 pages long. Toward the end of it, he says, "If you are among the many Americans -- of whatever sexual orientation -- who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it."

O-kay then.

From the majority opinion, addressing the role of history in the constitutional analysis: "The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a character protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning."

"The dissents [by Scalia, Thomas, and Alito] are extremely strident." Chief Justice Roberts took a wholly different, conciliatory tone in his.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Moratorium Applies to Maymead Asphalt

Well, bless their hearts! Eggers Eggers Eggers & Eggers have finally decided that the moratorium on permits granted via the High Impact Land Use Ordinance -- you know, the moratorium that the Eggerses did not want the County Commission to pass in the first place -- does in fact apply to the Maymead corp., because ... wait for it ... Maymead is not vested in the project in any way, shape, or form.

Our county attorneys are always the last to know the facts.

Sorry, Haters: Supremes Uphold ACA Subsidies

Voting 6-3, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a few minutes ago its positive decision on the Affordable Healthcare Act's tax subsidies which 8.7 million people currently receive to make insurance affordable.

Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy both sided with the liberal justices on the Court.

Up tomorrow (probably): the decision on same-sex marriage.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

McCrory: Hard Day at the Nail Salon

This candid photograph of Gov. Pat McCrory getting simultaneous manicure and pedicure first emerged on Twitter and has been reprinted many times since then, including on a right-wing blog with no love for our Guv.

And of course the standard joke is now, "Governor removes foot from mouth long enough for a pedicure."

This stuff just writes itself!

McCrory Watches, Copies Gov. Haley on Confederate Flag, But Stubs Toe Anyway

Poor Gov. Squishy! He watched how popular South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley seemed to become when she stood before banks of microphones and recommended that the Confederate battle flag come down on the state capitol grounds.

I know how to make myself popular! Gov. Squishy said to no one in particular.

So he sent out his spokesman Josh Ellis to say that the governor was asking the General Assembly to pass a law outlawing the Confederate symbol from specialty license plates. A swing and a miss.

Turns out the governor doesn't need the General Assembly to pass a law, and why didn't he know that? Since the Division of Motor Vehicles decides what goes on specialty license plates, and since the DMV is under the executive branch of North Carolina government, the Guv can simply order the plates discontinued.

That's what Republican Senate leader Phil Berger immediately said: the issue "is one that can be addressed by the executive branch." Period.

So instead of taking the action which McCrory demonstrably could have taken on his on, the Guv decides to grandstand, copying Nikki Haley, in hopes of winning admirers and naturally votes. But what he's mainly gaining is more public humiliation for how dumb he looks, and you should read the public comments on the web site linked above.

Monday, June 22, 2015

That Was Fast

Eggers Eggers Eggers and Eggers were still hedging on behalf of Maymead -- maybe they're "vested" already in that asphalt plant development on the Doc & Merle Watson Scenic Byway, Four Eggers suggested, leaving that glimmer of hope there for the Big Boys -- but the Watauga County Commission -- all five members, two Democrats and three Republicans -- moved with remarkable speed and no ambiguity to slap a moratorium on any new permit applications under the High Impact Land Use Ordinance, until "defects" in its provisions are worked out.

Commissioners further ordered a 1,500-ft. set-back from any scenic byway and increased set-backs for residences. Details in the Watauga Democrat.

Impressive mobilization of citizen concerns over the location of toxic industries, and the commissioners were much more able than Eggers Eggers Eggers and Eggers wanted to admit last Tuesday to do something quickly and decisively in response to public outcry.

Samuel Johnson once said, "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

Friday, June 19, 2015

Nathan Miller Suit Against Kathleen Campbell Dismissed

Just in: the judge has dismissed Nathan Miller's lawsuit against Kathleen Campbell.

A New Wrinkle in NC's Voter Photo ID Law

Yesterday, and completely out of the blue, the NC Senate, followed quickly by the NC House, voted overwhelmingly to soften the photo ID law.

Assuming that Gov. Squishy will sign this new wrinkle into law, it will set up "a process for voters to use a 'reasonable impediment declaration' outlining why they couldn’t provide a photo ID at the polls. Voters could claim one of eight reasons, including a lack of transportation, disability or illness, lost or stolen photo ID, or a lack of a birth certificate or other documents to obtain a photo ID."

The Rev. William J. Barber II, the head of the state NAACP who was arrested on Wednesday while protesting the N.C. voting laws at the N.C. General Assembly, wasn't impressed by this sudden weakening of what had been the most draconian photo ID law in the nation: “These legislators try to distract us from the full bill implications by minimally fixing a leaky faucet but keeping the whole foundations of the bill intact. The pressure of protest and legal action are exposing their actions and forcing them to adjust. If they were truly interested in change and the tenets of our democracy, they would repeal the entire bill....”

Meanwhile, the grandees at Art Pope's Civitas Institute, who had pushed hard for photo ID, were forecasting the end of Western Civilization. Susan Myrick, elections policy analyst for Civitas Institute, said that she was caught off guard by the Senate vote. “To say the least, we were surprised,” Myrick said. The provisional ballot addition, she said, “guts” the ID rule. “It demolishes it,” Myrick said. “There’s no voter ID in North Carolina. It’s over.”

Well, we could hope, but Myrick's hysteria is no more impressive than the small change to the law that they voted on yesterday.

But why this sudden reversal? Astute observers are pointing out that this sudden move comes just two weeks before a federal trial over the constitutionality of the entire new voter laws will begin in a Winston-Salem courtroom. Changing the rules on the eve of trial seems just a little ... too ... transparent. Especially as Republican bosses in the General Assembly -- not to mention their "amen corner" out in the wilds -- have contended for years now that stringent photo ID laws were necessary to squelch widespread and prevalent voter fraud.

“One of the things we’ve been doing over the past two years is getting feedback,” Senate leader Phil Berger, the hardliner's hardliner said. “So what that provision represents is some of the feedback to try to make sure everyone who is eligible to vote has the opportunity to vote and have their vote count.”

Wow, commented someone. "Republicans have ears?"

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Revenge Politics Targets UNC Law School

Gene Nichol
Remember Gene Nichol? He's the University of North Carolina law professor who led the UNC Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, at least until the center was eliminated by Republican tools as political payback. Nichol had been an outspoken critic of the governor and of the NC General Assembly. He has published op-eds in the Raleigh News & Observer which pointed out that laws passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. McCrory are hurting the citizens of this state.

Republicans killed Mr. Nichol's center, but Nichol remained on the law faculty. So what did the Republican bullies in the NC Senate do yesterday? Chief bully Tom Apodaca from Hendersonville, in the sixth hour of debate over a new Republican budget for the state, suddenly introduced an amendment to jerk $3 million away from the UNC School of Law and give it to the Mountain Area Health Education Center.

Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, called Apodaca's amendment "piƱata politics." Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, said that Apodaca's revenge politics "breaks my heart because it seems totally undeliberative and quite, in fact, punitive and just not worthy of this body, and it pains me to say that. This is not the way we should be making laws."

"This feels like the Gene Nichol transfer amendment," said Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham.

Tom Apodaca
For his part, Apodaca didn't even bother to deny the charges of political revenge. As Chair of the Senate Committee on Rules, he was unembarrassed. He is the very essence of the governing spirit which has seized control of this state.

Are You Ready For the Summer Solstice?

Photo by Lonnie Webster
At precisely 12:39 p.m. this coming Sunday, June 21, the sun will appear to stand still directly over the Tropic of Cancer. The summer solstice, one of the high holy days for the ancient Druids and for gardeners everywhere.

I explain this every year, but it's important to repeat it: sol-stice literally means "sun standing still." It's the precise moment at which the northward tilt of the earth on its axis reaches its maximum and begins its slow tilt back toward the south.

The planet earth rotates around the sun, always tilted on its axis at a 23.5-degree angle. Because of this tilt, the latitudes of 23.5 degrees north (called the Tropic of Cancer) and 23.5 degrees south (called the Tropic of Capricorn) become important for the summer and the winter solstices. The tilt gives us our seasons, our meteorological changes, our summer gardens. If Earth had no tilt and was just straight up and down, there would never be a winter or a summer. 

We're wobbling through space, O my brethren, and the ancient Druids held their collective breath on the solstice to keep the wobble orderly.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Evolution of Deborah Greene

Back in 2001-2002, Deborah Greene led the county forces who were against land-use planning to protect the citizens/homeowners from polluting industries, specifically (and most especially) asphalt plants. We were fighting on the other side.

Deborah Greene won that battle and in the process managed the defeat of county commissioners Sue Sweeting and Pat Wilkie in the fall of 2002, lambasting those two women as "pro-zoning."

Deborah Greene was a formidable opponent, the best organizer and strategist that the local Republicans had -- smart, capable, and effective.

Last night at yet another public hearing before the Watauga County Commission on yet another proposed Maymead asphalt plant, I heard Deborah Greene repent. She said, "I'm ashamed to say today that I opposed the group [Citizens Against Pollution] that fought an asphalt plant at Roby Greene Road because I was afraid that my farm would be zoned. I'm older and wiser today."

"If it takes zoning to stop it [the newest Maymead asphalt plant]," Greene said in closing, "then zone it!"

Goes to show that there really are "second acts" in America. And that Maymead now has another potent force lined up against their power and their greed.

Several speakers at last night's public hearing mentioned ruefully that there had been no public notice nor public hearing when Maymead first decided it would put an asphalt plant on the Doc & Merle Watson Scenic Byway in close proximity to residential development.

It might interest current County Commissioners that, as originally proposed, the High Impact Land Use Ordinance did include public notice and a public hearing for those negatively affected by the location of a polluting industry. That provision was removed by the Republican-dominated County Commission of that day (as Jimmy Hodges might well remember, since he was sitting on the Commission at that time, as a Democrat).

That public notice/public hearing provision should be reinstated now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Another Chapter in the Corruption of the Watauga Board of Elections

An agenda item on this evening's meeting of the Watauga County Commission was a recommendation that Matt Snyder be allowed to start paid work as the new executive director of the Watauga County Board of Elections two weeks in advance of his actual appointment.

To recap, Matt Snyder is the former Republican Party Chair who got the job of running Watauga elections without a competitive job search or even an open call for applications.

It came out that Mr. Snyder is being paid $48,000 per annum for the job.

After the commissioners voted to begin paying Snyder in advance of his actual appointment (a motion that John Welch and Billy Kennedy voted "no" on), in the public comment period at the end of the meeting, we also learned this:

1. The $48,000 salary figure had been a "place-holder" in the annual county budget projections, a place-holder which became fact after that budget was voted on by the Commission.

2. Mr. Snyder had actually demanded a salary of $55,000, but he sent that request not to the Board of Elections which hired him but to the County Commission, which did not hire him.

3. It is required by law that the Board of Elections consider and decide Mr. Snyder's salary, not the County Commission. The BOE is then supposed to make a recommendation to the Commissioners. None of that happened.

4. What happened is that Mr. Luke Eggers, chair of the Board of Elections, simply set Mr. Snyder's salary unilaterally, bypassing his own Board, and further requested the two-week "running start" to that salary, also bypassing his own Board.

5. People speaking about this during the Public Comment section of tonight's agenda, including Kathleen Campbell, the Democratic member of the Board of Elections, who testified that no Board meeting was ever held to consider Mr. Snyder's salary, were essentially addressing their objections to the legality of those proceedings to Mr. Austin Eggers, sitting in as County Attorney. Austin Eggers is close kinfolk of Mr. Luke Eggers.

6. The Eggers Eggers Eggers & Eggers law firm seems to have cornered operational conflicts of interest in pretty much the Western World.

Will the Watauga County Commission Do Anything About the Proposed Maymead Asphalt Plant?

The Watauga County Commission won't do anything to protect the citizens from another asphalt plant if they listen to their attorney, that's for sure.

The attorney representing Eggers Eggers Eggers & Eggers was very discouraging when Commissioner John Welch asked what the procedures were for instituting a moratorium, which is what the majority of the speakers at the public hearing tonight begged the commissioners to pass. Oh it's very difficult, it's very hard, it has to pass rigorous tests, EggersEggersEggersEggers belly-ached, but every specific "test" to warrant a moratorium that EggersEtc. mentioned seemed like a snap to me, especially the presence of an "immediate threat."

What is the proposed Maymead asphalt plant on the Doc & Merle Watson Scenic Byway if not an immediate threat?

Commission Chair Jimmy Hodges said that his fellow commissioners would be considering their options as they went into closed session with their -- ahem! -- attorney, the ineffable Republican agglomeration of EggersEggersSquared. Everyone left the commissioners' meeting at that point, for their closed session. I didn't wait around for them to come out of closed session, and neither did any members of the press. Maybe someone is posted as a guard of the public trust there and will let the rest of us know if the Eggers' brand held the commissioners in check and if they might have stumbled into actually doing something for the rest of us.

Jimmy Hodges, as always now, is the swing vote. The other two Republicans were noticeable silent after the public hearing, though you could see Mr. David Blust's body language and Mr. Perry Yates's facial expression as not-prepared-to-take-action "tells." Mr. Hodges, on the other hand (along with the two Democrats, John Welch and Billy Kennedy), was at least mouthing sympathy and understanding for the plight of residents and school children at two elementary schools near where Maymead intends -- by its own estimate -- to spew 62.32 tons yearly of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds. (Several people during the public hearing said they didn't believe Maymead's estimate for their own pollution -- why would they have any incentive to be honest under NC's current trust-the-polluter regime? -- and neither do I. Those estimates of air pollution are quite simply public jokes worthy of public ridicule.)

Anyway ... Jimmy Hodges, he's the man with the power to do something. Will he? Dunno. He has a history of voting for moratoria on asphalt plants back in the 1990s when he was first on the County Commission. But, of course, he's become a registered Republican since that time, and it's the ironclad Republican doctrine that private land ownership trumps public health, private investment by the neighbors, and the moral dictates of God Himself.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Another NC Republican Law Gets Slapped Down by Judges, and Not Just Any Judges

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from North Carolina, letting stand the ruling of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said the Republican law passed in 2011 mandating ultrasounds for women seeking an abortion was "ideological in intent."

Miller v. Campbell Comes To a Head

There's an old saying -- "A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client." I believe I witnessed the truth of that at a hearing in Watauga civil court this morning when former Watauga County Commission Chair (and practicing attorney) Nathan Miller represented himself in defending a motion by Kathleen Campbell for summary dismissal of the suit that Miller brought against her last year for the production of public records.

Miller admitted to the judge this morning that he had in fact received everything he had sought from Kathleen Campbell, the Democratic member of the Watauga County Board of Elections. At issue for him now is that he wants Kathleen Campbell to pay personally his lawyer fees for suing her. I'm not making that up. That is exactly what he wants: he wants Kathleen Campbell to pay him for the time he spent in harassing her because of her political affiliation and her defense of voting rights for everyone.

The lawyers for Kathleen Campbell argued for the dismissal of Miller's original lawsuit on the grounds that Miller had not sued the right person -- the "custodian" of the public records -- who was Director of the Watauga Board of Elections, Jane Ann Hodges. Plus, they argued, because Miller's lawsuit was essentially "frivolous" and in the nature of political payback, they're planning to make their own case for the recovery of attorney's fees from Miller.

Miller replied that if his lawsuit was frivolous, then why did Kathleen Campbell produce the email records he was seeking? The judge, who is from Stokes County and totally unfamiliar with Watauga politics, suggested an answer to that question from the bench: "Perhaps, Mr. Miller, because you know where she lives."

Whoa. The judge was evidently reading Miller quite correctly, seeing the bully beneath the sharkskin suit.

When Miller rambled off into a disjointed narrative about the contentiousness of recent Board of Elections meetings and decisions, the judge listened patiently for a while and then asked pointedly, "What are you talking about?" I believe the Stokes County judge was beginning to get a pretty good glimpse into the politics of Watauga County and did not particularly want to go there.

Miller at one point appeared to be arguing the other side altogether. He admitted to the judge that there is absolutely no precedent whatsoever in North Carolina for a lawyer representing himself getting attorney's fees for that representation. He even produced a U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled against such a fee award.

The judge from Stokes will rule later this week on the motion for summary dismissal of Miller's lawsuit against Campbell and presumably on Miller's motion that Campbell should pay him for the privilege of being sued.

And I believe we have a new benchmark for hubris in the political history of Watauga.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Let the Litigation Begin!

Tim Moore, the Speaker of the NC House, suddenly found his opportunity to override Gov. McCrory's veto of the "magistrate's recusal" law, so now it's perfectly legal for government officials in our state to pick and choose which couples they'll marry, based on their "religious belief," a.k.a., personal prejudices.

This law is so blatantly unconstitutional -- guaranteeing unequal treatment for some people -- that it will be enjoined by a judge probably before the veto override ink is quite dry.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

This Is the Ad That Made Franklin Graham Pull His Money Out of Wells Fargo

The Reverend Franklin Graham is positively outraged about a banking ad depicting two women learning sign language in order to adopt a deaf child. These two mommies love the child enough to learn her language. Who can plumb the depths of that moral depravity?

The kicker: Rev. Graham took his millions billions out of Wells Fargo and shoved it (without doing the proper research, as it turns out) into BB&T in Charlotte. Take that, you gay-loving bank!

But now it comes to light that
...BB&T has received an 80 percent score in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index and this year is the sponsor of the Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade, along with the chief sponsor of Miami Beach Gay Pride’s “Legacy Couples” program, which celebrates same-sex couples in “committed relationships of 10 years or longer.”
A bank spokesman said the company hopes to “support the individuals and organizations that broaden our perspectives and strengthen the diverse fabric of our communities. That’s why BB&T is proud to be a part of this day of pride and celebration of the 2015 Legacy Couples.”
That would constitute a big ole oops for the Rev. Franklin, wouldn't it?

We're also waiting for the pious pastor to give up his Facebook pages, since that corporation is notoriously gay-friendly too.

This Stinks To High Heaven

Justice Robert Edmunds
Hard to believe -- but, no, it isn't hard to believe at all -- having done their best to suppress the vote and gerrymander themselves into perpetual power, the Republicans in the General Assembly are now moving very fast to make sure that the current members of the state's Supreme Court (4-3 Republican) do not have opposition for their jobs in 2016 and beyond.

That would immediately impact Supreme Court Justice Robert Edmunds, the Republican who wrote the majority decision last year saying the Republican gerrymandering of the General Assembly was perfectly okay. That Edmunds decision was recently turned back by the U.S. Supreme Court, who said, as in a similar Alabama case, North Carolina was unconstitutionally packing black voters into districts where they couldn't vote against Republican powers-that-be.

So here comes the Republican scheme to hold "retention" elections for the Supreme Court. No justice would have an opponent. Every justice, starting with Robert Edmunds, would be on the ballot in 2016 alone, and we would vote to retain him or not.

As Bob Geary asks, "what are the chances the voters will remove an unopposed justice?"

If the voters by some major miracle did vote to remove Robert Edmunds, the legislation passed by the Republicans in the General Assembly would mandate that Gov. Pat McCrory -- that independent thinker! -- would get to appoint the successor.

I dunno: maybe, eventually, the good citizens of this state will grow tired of this political opportunism, if they're even paying attention to what the Republican operatives are doing to us.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Vernon Robinson Watch

Remember Vernon Robinson? "The black Jesse Helms," he liked to call himself. He was the Winston-Salem city councilman who famously ran against Virginia Foxx in her first congressional race in the 2004 Republican Primary, warning everyone that Foxx was a very dangerous liberal femi-Nazi who was a soft-on-gayness Trojan Horse.

Well, he got the horse part right.

Robinson actually came in first in that primary, with Foxx in second place, but he failed to get his 40%. In the 2nd primary that year, Foxx prevailed.

Robinson ran one of the nastiest campaigns imaginable against Foxx, which included a now-famous racist attack on Hispanic immigrants. You could hardly imagine anything nastier, that is, until Robinson ran in the 13th Congressional District in  2006 against incumbent Democrat Brad Miller. Robinson repeatedly intimated that Brad Miller was probably homosexual.

After losing to Foxx in 2004, Robinson subsequently lost his seat on the Winston-Salem City Council, ran again unsuccessfully against Brad Miller, ran unsuccessfully for State Superintendent of Public Education, and ran unsuccessfully for chairmanship of the state GOP. Quite the political record!

Which is why it's more than just interesting that Robinson was present and vocal when Hasan Harnett won the NC GOP chairmanship yesterday. Evidently, Robinson sees Harnett as doubling down on the Robinson Recipe for Winning Hearts and Minds in North Carolina.

Robinson is also the instigator and manager of the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, because, while Robinson personally tends to drive voters away, he also tends to collect big bucks from the well-heeled who are motivated primarily by hatred/fear. The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee is a super-PAC that has raised $12.2 million, which makes Robinson a player, y'all.

Steven Greene, a state politics expert at North Carolina State University, is quoted as suggesting that Robinson is a "strategic loser"—"so extreme in his positions that he'd never have a serious shot at office, but an appealing target for the fundraising dollars of ideologues."

"Strategic loser" or "Angel of Death"?

Those blessed with the Robinson imprimatur seem not to prosper. Have you noticed the Ben Carson for President campaign lately? Carson has recently lost his campaign chairman, his national finance chairman, his deputy campaign manager, and his general counsel: "The four senior advisers all quit the campaign, which has fallen into disarray due to dysfunctional leadership, a lack of professionalism and frequent in-fighting" (PoliticusUSA). Was the Robinson personality involved in driving those people away? Dunno. Could be.

According to the Mother Jones investigative piece on Robinson, Vernon "has quietly turned his quixotic Draft Ben Carson effort into a lucrative enterprise for himself. FEC filings show that the PAC paid out over $250,000 to a consulting firm called Tzu Mahan. Buzzfeed reported in November that Tzu Mahan—its name a mashup of ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu and 19th century Navy admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan—is a one-man company, run by Robinson."

We can only hope that Mr. Robinson has the ear -- exclusively -- of new NC GOP Chair Hasan Harnett!

New Leadership for the NC GOP

Meet Hasan Harnett, the insurgent Tea Partier elected yesterday as chair of the North Carolina Republican Party. Hasan beat lawyer Craig Collins, who had been anointed as the "chosen one" by the entire state Republican Party leadership, including Gov. McCrory, Sen. Thom Tillis, Senate President Phil Berger, and NC House Speaker Tim Moore.

Nope, said 700 delegates at the state GOP convention, decisively beating the 562 delegates who followed the establishment in voting for Collins. Make no mistake: this was a palace coup, and a fairly bloody one, according to Tea Party commentator Brant Clifton. And, also according to Clifton, moves are already underway to undermine and neuter Mr. Harnett by the GOP establishment.

The N&O describes Harnett as "a businessman and author from Concord." He previously served as campaign manager for GOP congressional candidate Vince Coakley, who lost his race for Congress against Alma Adams last year.

As Mr. Clifton has noted, this upset election of a far-right political novice to lead the NC GOP is a major set-back for Gov. McCrory, who is busily trying to reclaim the middle ground in the state, and it's a major set-back for the handful of political allies McCrory may have in the General Assembly, who may also be tacking back to the center.

Harnett and his Tea Party choir may make it much harder to tack back center-ward.

Friday, June 05, 2015

ATTN NC Women: Your Lady Parts Are Now Considered More Dangerous Than Hand Guns

Republicans in the General Assembly are currently moving a bill that would allow private sales of hand guns without any sort of background check on the purchaser. Current North Carolina law requires a pistol purchase permit obtained through a county sheriff for the private purchase of a hand gun.

This comes hard on the heels of new harassment of women seeking an abortion, an extended waiting period that Governor Squishy now says he'll sign, his promise to the contrary in 2012 notwithstanding.

This is the legacy of the contemporary Republican Party in North Carolina. This is what they think of women. This is how they care about the public safety.

More to the point: This is the legacy that will come to roost on McCrory's puzzle-brained head in next year's elections.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Gov. Pat McCrory: Ineffectual and Dishonest

Took no time whatsoever for both houses of the NC General Assembly to override their own Republican governor and pass "Ag-Gag," which will penalize corporate whistle-blowers. Gov. McCrory can't even find a handful from his own party to back him up. If he's not the very model of a paper tiger, he'll do until a better one comes along.

Now we fully expect the General Assembly Republicans to override that other McCrory veto of the "magistrate recusal" law, aimed at shielding duly sworn public servants from doing their jobs if it might mean getting The Gay on themselves.

So ... ineffectual. But dishonest too?

Yes. McCrory promised during his campaign for governor in 2012 that he would do nothing to further block access to abortion, and yet he's announced that he will sign the bill now on his desk that will not only increase the waiting period for an abortion but will also triple that waiting time. He wants to claim that tripling the waiting period is not in any way blocking access.

Why is this man chortling?

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

NC Court of Appeals Rules Another Republican Law Unconstitutional

In 2013, Republicans in the NC General Assembly enacted a repeal of "Career Status" (tenure) for public school teachers, just another of their attacks on public education in this state. Their intent was to eliminate teacher tenure entirely by 2018, starting with teachers who had not reached career status by August 2013. Their law revoked career status for all teachers by July 2018.

According to the Progressive Pulse, "as an enticement for already-tenured teachers to act sooner, lawmakers also required local school boards to offer 25 percent of them temporary 4-year contracts with annual raises of $500 in exchange for giving up their tenure rights early."

In May 2014, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ruled the new law unconstitutional, including the "25 percent plan," and his ruling was until this morning under appeal to the NC Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals just upheld Hobgood's ruling, saying that the repeal of the teacher tenure law amounted to an unconstitutional taking of contract and property rights as to those teachers who’d already attained that status.