Archive for North Carolina

May
02

Some things are timeless

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This was at the top of my news feed when I got home. Borrowing this wholesale from a Facebook post by Rick Perlstein:

One of the letters Senator Thomas McIntyre got in 1978 after voting for the Panama Canal treaties: “Quisling Traitor Senator McIntyre: Conservative Republicans have added your despicable name to the list of TRAITORS in our stench-producing Senate tainted by those on the Radical Left and representing your ilk. Your refusal to be swayed by either reason or eloquence indicates your leftist orientation…An awesomely large mass of information can be mobilized to invalidate your fuzzy left-wing thinking. Traitors of your gutter orientation abound in our corrupt Senate dominated by the scum and vermin of the Marxist Democrats/ Rest assured, Commissar McIntyre, that you will be classified as insidious and corrupt. Americans who care t stand u in your Marxist behalf are to be sledge-hammered as QUISLINGS and odious incendiaries. We will concentrate on your vicious leftist VOTING RECORD and your excessive loyalty to the liberal pig in the tainted WHITE HOUSE. My qualifications: Washington Unviversity postgraduate and honor student. You are unquestionably one of the most DISHONEST AND VICIOUSLY CORRUPT hucksters and charlatans in our thieving Senate controleld by vermin of your Far Left views. We will work assiduously to damn you in scathing terms. YOU ARE AIDING AND ABETTING your beloved communist cause. conservatives ARE BEING ENLISTED TO STOMP OUR WAY THORUGH OUR COMMUNIZING SENATE WHIHC DARES TO STAND UP TO ITS conservative betters. Rest assured that we deem you to be on THE same plane as the COMMUNISTS. You are vermin.”

Currently seeing similar sentiments (only with better spelling) among local T-party types over this:

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At Political Animal, Nancy LeTourneau comments on Rebecca Solnit’s essay on cynicism in Harpers. She writes that when Barack Obama entered the White House riding on a message of hope and change, that “the Republican strategy of total obstruction was designed to dampen all that with cynicism about the political process.” Cynicism about the political process is not in short supply in 2016. Hope is. But let’s not give Republicans too much credit.

Solnit writes:

Cynicism is first of all a style of presenting oneself, and it takes pride more than anything in not being fooled and not being foolish. But in the forms in which I encounter it, cynicism is frequently both these things. That the attitude that prides itself on world-weary experience is often so naïve says much about the triumph of style over substance, attitude over analysis.

Anyone who dares venture onto Facebook or Twitter these days knows the posture. Solnit continues:

If you set purity and perfection as your goals, you have an almost foolproof system according to which everything will necessarily fall short. But expecting perfection is naïve; failing to perceive value by using an impossible standard of measure is even more so. Cynics are often disappointed idealists and upholders of unrealistic standards. They are uncomfortable with victories, because victories are almost always temporary, incomplete, and compromised — but also because the openness of hope is dangerous, and in war, self-defense comes first. Naïve cynicism is absolutist; its practitioners assume that anything you don’t deplore you wholeheartedly endorse. But denouncing anything less than perfection as morally compromising means pursuing aggrandizement of the self, not engagement with a place or system or community, as the highest priority.

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Apr
28

Who do you think you’re fooling?

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Not that long ago, campaigns here fretted that black voters did not take advantage of early voting. With the exception of Sunday voting (souls to the polls), seeing neighbors at the polls on Election Day was a kind of communal celebration. Responding in the New York Times to Monday’s federal court ruling upholding North Carolina’s 2013 voting restrictions, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., notes how dramatically that changed:

The law eliminated voting rules that had enabled North Carolina to have the fourth best per capita voter turnout in the country. In 2012, 70 percent of black voters used early voting — and cast ballots at a slightly higher percentage than whites. Although black voters made up about 20 percent of the electorate, they made up 41 percent of voters who used same-day registration.

The North Carolina Legislature set out to change those figures and suppress minority votes. Its many impediments to voting all disproportionately affect African-American and Latino voters. None of their attacks would have survived pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. A Republican official defended the law this way: “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”

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Apr
26

Back to the voting booth

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Well, that didn’t go as hoped. This morning’s headline in the Charlotte Observer online reads, “Federal judge who backed limits on early ballots upholds voter ID requirement.” Slate summarizes:

A federal judge on Monday upheld a 2013 North Carolina voter ID law that increased the requirements a voter must meet to cast a ballot, a move that critics say is an effort to discourage black and Hispanic voters from political participation. The suit was brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, as well as a group of North Carolina voters, and claimed the new measure, one of the strictest in the country, violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, however, disagreed and in his 485-page opinion wrote “North Carolina has provided legitimate state interests for its voter ID requirement and electoral system.”

Critics condemned the ruling, which they will likely appeal to the 4th Circuit:

“This is just one step in a legal battle that is going to continue in the courts,” said Penda Hair, an attorney representing the NAACP. The law “targets the provisions that once made North Carolina among the states with the highest turnout in the nation. This progress was especially clear among African-American and Latino voters, who came to rely on measures like early voting, same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional ballots to ensure their voices were heard.”

The New York Times explains what was on the table:

The opinion, by Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court in Winston-Salem, upheld the repeal of a provision that allowed people to register and vote on the same day. It also upheld a seven-day reduction in the early-voting period; the end of preregistration, which allowed some people to sign up before their 18th birthdays; and the repeal of a provision that allowed for the counting of ballots cast outside voters’ home precinct.

It also left intact North Carolina’s voter identification requirement, which legislators softened last year to permit residents to cast ballots, even if they lack the required documentation, if they submit affidavits.

Just weeks ahead of a hearing last July, Republicans in the legislature swapped out some of the barricades to voting for hoops.

Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog has additional analysis of the opinion, including these observations on the original impetus behind the bill:

5. On the need for the voter id law to prevent voter fraud, the court says first that it is hard to find impersonation fraud without an id requirement, but more importantly the Supreme Court in the Crawford case said there need not be evidence of impersonation fraud to justify the law. So while the plaintiffs have to present tons of evidence of burden, the state can get by with no evidence of a need. (This seems perverse to me.)

So plaintiffs provided insufficient proof of a burden and the state provided no justification for the law. Let’s call it even.

6. The court also finds that the state did not act with discriminatory intent, citing (without an appreciation for irony) at p. 387 the testimony of Hans von Spakovsky to the legislature on the need for this restrictive law. Whether or not his testimony was true, the court says, the legislature could have believed it true, thereby negating possibility of discriminatory intent.

Spakovsky, the Professor Harold Hill of voter fraud, testified that the “potential for abuse exists.” And windmills might be giants. Sufficient enough reason to pass a law restricting them.

It’s back to the voting booth, people, if voters expect to stop them from stopping voters.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

After spending several post-college months riding trains around Europe, I took the train from New York to Washington, D.C. where I’d left my car with my sister. Compared to the silky ride of the Deutsche Bahn, this sucker was rocking, rumbling, and lurching all the way. Thought I was going to die.

The experience gave me a gut-level appreciation for well-maintained infrastructure and the unsung people who keep things working so smoothly one only notices when they don’t. “Hail the maintainers,” write Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell for Aeon. “Innovation,” they believe, is overvalued:

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Apr
17

Legislating conformity

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Because conservatives have trouble coping with ambiguity….

North Carolina continues to receive fallout and national opprobrium for its legislative freakout over transgender rights. Americans celebrate personal freedom and people going their own way, don’t we, unless it involves gender and sex? I have already written about how North Carolina’s HB2 is a Trojan Horse for a crackdown on workers’ rights. But some coffee urn jokes this week about bathrooms and people’s chosen “lifetyles” got under my skin.

Just as despite everyday observation, the Earth is not flat, neither are sex and gender binary. What laws like North Carolina’s HB2 demand is legally enforced conformity to a binary standard in a world built upon natural variance.

When I was a child, an aunt, uncle and cousins lived next door to a family of albinos. To a kid, they appeared pretty odd. Weird even. But after a few visits and a few neighborhood cookouts, they were just the O’Shaughnessys (not their real name). Both different and the same. They weren’t sequestered in a remote neighborhood of the city, told they had to use a special restroom, or treated as potential criminals. At least, not by us. And albinism is far rarer (1 in 20,000) than the kind of sex and sexual identity variances North Carolina just tried to make disappear through legislation. Disappearing what makes us uncomfortable has become a thing here. The legislature already decreed that the sea level is not rising.

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Apr
13

Springtime for Pat

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Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina

Oh, those Producers. It’s springtime in Raleigh. Just not for Pat McCrory. When last we saw North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory he was backpedaling on House Bill 2 (HB2).

Critics now call the so-called “bathroom bill” aimed at his gay and transgender constituents a radical Trojan Horse for eliminating anti-discrimination protections in the workplace. Since McCrory signed the bill passed during a one-day, special session Republicans called in March, prominent businesses began boycotting the state, canceling expansions and conventions there, and national performers such as Bruce Springsteen began canceling concert dates. Projected job losses number well over 1,000. Revenue losses have not been calculated. It’s almost as if … they designed HB2 to fail.

Nah.

The national and international backlash forced McCrory yesterday to sign an executive order aimed at quelling the controversy over the bill he signed just weeks ago:

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Apr
03

“Frontiers of wrongness”

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Puzzling over how the next few months are going to shake out, it is easy to sympathize with Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir. He writes about a conference call this week in which strategist Tad Devine explained how the Bernie Sanders campaign means to whittle away at Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead:

One reason the thought-leaders of media groupthink listened so eagerly to Devine’s Gandalfian pronouncements is that we’ve been wrong about damn near everything in 2016 — wrong about Sanders, wrong about Trump, wrong about the enduring power of the “Republican establishment” and wrong about the stability of the two-party system. Who is to say we’re not wrong this time too? Who can imagine what new frontiers of wrongness lie ahead?

“Frontiers of wrongness” brought to mind the flat-earthers’ maps. Perhaps the most tantalizing aspect of their wrongness is the notion that beyond Antarctica lie uncharted lands still left to explore. Perhaps Donald Trump will build a resort/casino there? Perhaps North Carolina can send its unwanted gay and transgender people there?

Frank Bruni comments on both the wrongness and the shortsightedness of Republican’s anti-gay agenda, a provincial and retrograde attempt to stand athwart history as it bends towards equality and justice. Plus, sponsors are getting nervous about particpating in the RNC convention, what with the “brew of misogyny, racism and xenophobia stirred up by Trump.” Bruni writes:

THE party’s anti-gay efforts not only undermine its pro-business stance but also contradict conservatives’ exaltation of local decision making. The North Carolina law was drafted and passed expressly to undo and override an ordinance in the state’s most populous city, Charlotte, that extended L.G.B.T. protections against discrimination to transgender people who want to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The law went so far as to forbid any municipality from instituting its own anti-discrimination protections, lest they contradict the state’s.

Apparently conservatives love the concept of local control when the locality being given control tilts right, but they have a different view when it leans left. Rural sensibilities must be defended while cosmopolitan ones are dismissed.

And don’t miss the Trojan Horse provisions in that NC law that significantly indemnify discrimination by employers.

Charlie Pierce is in Madison, Wisconsin to cover the primary on Tuesday and has a few choice words on the wrongness of Gov. Scott Walker’s voter ID legislation. Bernie Sanders had more biting ones:

“It has never occurred to me and I think to most candidates that the way you try to win an election is to make it harder for people who might vote against you to participate in the election,” Sanders said. “That is political cowardice.”

The room erupted in cheers — including one man who yelled “Go get ‘em, Bernie!” — as he accused Walker and other Republican governors who support laws requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote of trying to deny people of color, poor people and the elderly their right to vote.

“If you don’t have the guts to participate in a free, open and fair election, get another job. Get outta politics,” Sanders said.

But getting back to O’Hehir’s frontiers of wrongness, where will Sanders supporters go this fall should he not win the Democratic nomination? Furthermore, where will Trump’s go if he wins the nomination and loses badly in the fall? Michael Bourne wonders:

For a generation, gun advocates have defended the right to bear arms as a check against tyranny, and for just as long liberals have dismissed this as a melodramatic talking point. But what if we take them at their word, and accept that it is possible we are witnessing the opening phase of a still-inchoate violent uprising by a broad class of Americans, who, ignored politically, bypassed economically, and dismissed socially, are beginning to take matters into their own hands?

What if, in other words, Donald Trump isn’t an aberration created by the miscalculations of a party elite, but the political expression of a much deeper, and more dangerous, frustration among a very large, well-armed segment of our population? What if Trump isn’t a proto-Mussolini, but rather a regrettably short finger in the dike holding back a flood of white violence and anger this country hasn’t seen since the long economic boom of the 1950s and ’60s helped put an end to the Jim Crow era?

What is most worrisome about the uncertainty ahead is the sense that on both the left and the right many people have convinced themselves that the republic is beyond repair. Decades of right-wing “voter fraud” propaganda have done their work, to where even the left believes, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren reminds us, “the game is rigged.” She may be speaking primarily (and accurately) about the economy, but the rigged meme is widespread, with even lefty activists quick to see conspiracies first and ask sober questions later.

There is a kind of Nero impulse afoot. Susan Sarandon’s comments captured the mood well. And if there are those on the left prepared to see the republic restored in cleansing fire, Bourne’s concerns about the right may be well-founded. The question is whether all the talk of revolution isn’t more Trumpian-style bluster. The thing about bringing down purifying fire is that innocent villagers tend to get sprayed with napalm.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Apr
02

Attacking the cities

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Image National Conference of State Legislatures

While North Carolina’s HB2 anti-LGBT bill has received lots of press attention, it is simply the latest attack by Republican-led state legislatures against cities filled with large blocks of blue voters, the next phase of the Defund the Left strategy. Like Michigan’s 2015 “Death Star” preemption bill (HB 4052) which, as introduced, overrode “all local ordinances governing employers’ relationships with their employees,” but also “any local ordinance that controls minimum wage, benefits, sick leave, union organizing and strikes, wage disputes” and more, North Carolina’s HB2 is its kin. PR Watch looked at the trend back in February:

With Congress gridlocked and a majority of state legislatures controlled by right-wing interests, cities have become laboratories of democracy for progressive policies like a higher minimum wage, LGBTQ protections, or parental leave.

In response, corporate interests and groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have increasingly been turning to state “preemption” measures—some of them unprecedentedly aggressive—to override an array of progressive policy gains at the city or county level.

“2015 saw more efforts to undermine local control on more issues than any year in history,” said Mark Pertschuk, director of the watchdog group Preemption Watch.

Last year, state legislatures in at least 29 states introduced bills to block local control over a range of issues, from the minimum wage, to LGBTQ rights, to immigration, according to Preemption Watch. Seventeen states considered more than one preemption bill.

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Mar
30

NC’s HB2: Is it getting hot in here?

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House Bill 2 (HB2), North Carolina’s new anti-LGBT law is drawing lots of fire from inside and outside the state. New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and West Palm Beach have banned travel to North Carolina for their employees. Apple, Biogen, PayPal, IBM, and the NBA have condemned the law. Plus Dow Chemical, Google, Bayer, the NCAA, and others. The press center for the annual High Point furniture trade show announced Monday that “dozens of customers have contacted the High Point Market Authority to inform us that they have cancelled plans to attend the Market in April due to passage of HB2.”

Yesterday, former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. criticized HB2 as “inappropriate, unnecessary legislation that will hurt North Carolina.” The Charlotte-based Bank of America was a major player in the financial crisis in 2008, but still figures prominently among the state’s employers. McColl’s criticism will not help McCrory, Charlotte’s former mayor.

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