Archive for North Carolina

(background on the video posted earlier)

When you start hearing “efficiency” used around the office, watch your back and update your resume. It’s like “shareholder value” that way. When Republicans in government start using “efficiency,” same difference.

On Election Day 2014 while Democrats across the country were getting clobbered, there were a couple of bright spots in North Carolina (believe it or not). Democrats picked up a net 3 seats in the state legislature, including sending home an ALEC board member. But in a sweep election where Republicans should have won it all, Democrats won 3 of 3 contested state Supreme Court seats and 2 of 3 contested Appeals Court races. Republicans couldn’t have that. The GOP-controlled legislature responded in 2015 by changing the way judges are elected.

It was just one of many tweaks they have made to change how elections run. Some of them are not so obvious. At the Daily Kos Connects Asheville Conference last weekend, DocDawg, aka Bill Busa, presented findings on how Boards of Elections across the state began “to reshuffle the polling places in the name of ‘efficiency’ and ‘cost-savings’.” Busa’s presentation last Saturday revealed how elimination of early voting places disproportionately increased the distance black voters have to travel to the polls.

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Both Digby and I have written about the growing drone industry before with some reservation. A nightmare for civil liberties? Privacy issues? Aw, c’mon, but they are so cewl! Everyone will want one for Christmas this year:

You’re probably getting a drone for Christmas this year, whether you want one or not. Aviation Week reports that, at a recent industry summit, Rich Swayze of the Federal Aviation Administration said that the agency expects up to 1 million unmanned aerial vehicles to be sold during this year’s holiday season. Swayze’s prediction, if true, is simultaneously great and terrible news for the drone industry. It’s great news because, hooray, money! It’s terrible news because some of these drones will be gifted to kids, and idiots, and others who know and care little for safety and decorum.

Justin Peters has a series at Slate called Future Tense that looks at drones. The project supported by the Omidyar Network and Humanity United includes a drone primer from sponsor New America here. Everybody is so excited about what they’ll get for Christmas that still no one seems worried about a fleet of military surveillance drones in our airspace.

As we have noted before, and as the Washington Post reported last year, the military is planning to fly its large fleet of military drones from 144 U.S. sites. If the Air Force gets its way, the Reapers will soon be sharing the friendly skies with your mother’s flight to Cleveland. “With my flight to Cleveland,” another blogger exclaimed at a conference last weekend:

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Wingnut DARPA

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North Carolina legislators were cooking up some particularly noxious potions yesterday here in one of Charlie Pierce’s Laboratories of Democracy. Pay attention. North Carolina has become wingnut DARPA for this stuff.

The NC state legislature adjourned for the year about the time I got up to write this. Twitter and email lit up last night after all the turds they’d kept plugged up in the legislative pipeline until the very last all spewed out into public view at once. Much like the infamous “motorcycle vagina” bill of 2013, some of the worst appeared as surprise revisions to other bills.

Ironically, a colleague yesterday noticed that sometime after September 2012 our local GOP website had quietly removed its “Principles” page from its website. They included “I BELIEVE the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people.” Well, yesterday the “closest to the people” people in the state capitol attempted to prevent local governments in North Carolina from doing anything remotely progressive:
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Moral Mondays leader Reverend William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Asheville, NC Friday as part of the Daily Kos Connects. Part 2 delves into strategy for moving forward.

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Holly Jones: I’m running

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Cross-posted from PoliticsNC:

Holly Jones: I’m running

I’m running for Lieutenant Governor of North Carolinabecause we can’t take too much more of what the Republicans in Raleigh are doing to our state. I’ve spent fourteen years in local government–seven as an Asheville City Councillor and seven on the Buncombe County Commission. I’ve seen first hand the damage the General Assembly is doing and it’s time to fight back before it’s too late.

In 2011, our county became ground zero for the North Carolina legislature’s interference in local affairs. They redistricted our county. They meddled in our airport business. They created a recreation authority one year and dissolved it the next. They would have seized our water system–a multi-million dollar asset–if the courts had not stopped them.

The party that claims to want small government is using the heavy hand of big government. This is not only hypocrisy, it is extremely harmful.

It’s not just Buncombe. They’ve imposed their heavy-handed tactics on local governments across the state. They redistricted Wake County’s school board and county commission. They made nonpartisan school board races partisan in Lee County. They took away Charlotte’s airport authority. Most recently, they redistricted Greensboro’s City Council. They’ve interjected themselves into zoning ordinances, appointments and even dictated highway buffering. And they’ve done it against the wishes of local officials and without the support of the citizens who are most affected by their actions. 

Clearly, these Republican legislators are more interested in power than in governing. They’ve caused uncertainty and instability in local government just because they can. As one Republican legislator said, “Municipalities and cities are subdivisions of the state, and the state can play with their property if they feel like it.” They’re playing games while we’re trying to govern. They are on a big government power trip.

While they’re meddling in local affairs, they’re also passing laws that hurt municipal and county budgets and leave our employees in flux. Their cuts to public schools and other programs put pressure on local governments to make up the difference–leaving us with nothing but bad choices. In reality, their cuts are little more than unfunded mandates.

But it’s not just what they’re doing to our local governments that bothers me. It’s what they’re doing to our state.

In their ideological zeal, they’ve slashed public education leaving our schools underfunded and our teachers underpaid.  They’ve cut funding to our public universities while raising tuition on our students. They’ve short-changed our children and our future.

I grew up in Wadesboro and Asheboro and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I know the value of our public schools and universities because of the opportunities they afforded me. As the parent of a teenager, I’m angry and dismayed that, because of the decisions of these Republicans, my daughter and her peers might not have the same opportunities that I did.

I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life working with women and families through the YWCA. I’ve been proud of the leadership role North Carolina played in offering people the tools to escape poverty and build better lives. From early childhood education to access to child health insurance, we were a leader and model for the nation. Now, it seems like almost daily, we watch legislation that dismantles these avenues to a better future.

And they’ve embarrassed us. For most of my life, North Carolina was a leader in the South and I was proud of what we’ve done. The GOP legislature has made us a laughingstock and left the country wondering “What happened to North Carolina?” They passed the most restrictive voter suppression laws in the country. They allowed guns in bars and guns on campuses. While other Southern states were taking down their Confederate flags, our legislature was passing laws to protect Confederate monuments. And they passed blatantly unconstitutional laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians.

I’ve never been one to sit idly by and I’m certainly not going to now. I’m ready to fight to put North Carolina back on the right track.

I am running for Lt Governor because I have a deep investment in North Carolina. But North Carolina has also made a deep investment in me.

It’s time I paid her back. I hope you’ll join me.

Photo by Kathi Barnhill

Paid for by the Committee to Elect Holly Jones

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“This is our Selma!”

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On Monday at 8 a.m. EDT, the North Carolina NAACP chapter takes NC Gov. Pat McCrory and the cheerfully nicknamed VIVA voter suppression act to court:

On July 13, a federal court in Winston-Salem will hear North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory, our lawsuit to reverse North Carolina’s unconstitutional and immoral voter suppression law. North Carolina’s law is the first and the worst since the 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Our voting rights, gained because people stood up despite great consequences in Selma and across the South, have been compromised. Now we must march!

The outcome of this historic case in North Carolina will have an impact on voting rights across the nation. This is a battle for voting rights for all of us. We will not surrender the most fundamental right of a democracy: the right to vote. 
 Just like in Selma, we must march!

Join us in Winston-Salem on July 13 at 5:00 p.m. for a Mass Moral Monday March for Voting Rights.  

This is Our Selma!

Activists believe Winston-Salem was chosen as the venue for hearing the case because its small size. Few observers will get inside and no audio or video feed will be available. The NAACP will nonetheless hold a press conference at 8 a.m. at the courthouse, plus other events during the day, prior to the planned march led by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the weekly Moral Monday marches.

Republicans in the legislature appear nervous about the case. After hundreds of citizens spoke against the law at State Board of Elections forums held across the state, the legislature amended the law to loosen the ID requirements just weeks ahead of the July hearing. Think Progress:

[V]oters who lack the an ID will still be able to cast a ballot, but only if they sign an affidavit swearing they fall into one of the acceptable categories of reasons they couldn’t obtain a government photo ID: a lack of transportation, disability or illness, lost or stolen photo ID, a lack of a birth certificate or other documents to obtain a photo ID, work schedules or family responsibilities. The voter would also need to present an “alternate form of identification,” the last four digits of their Social Security number, and their date of birth.

That is, they swapped out some of the barricades against voting for hoops.

Yet the voter ID provision — which does not allow for the use of student IDs — is just one piece of the sweeping voting law overhaul that the state passed just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down a cornerstone of the Voting Rights Act. The law also eliminated same-day voter registration, cut a full week of early voting, barred voters from casting a ballot outside their home precinct, ended straight-ticket voting, and scrapped a program to pre-register high school students who would turn 18 by Election Day.

University of California law professor Richard Hasen, of Election Law Blog, described the law in 2013, saying:

It rolls into a single piece of legislation just about all of the tools we’ve seen legislatures use in recent years to try to make it harder for people to register and vote.

On Monday, we’ll see if we can’t roll it back.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Ich bin ein Tar Heel

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Atlantic‘s Emma Green cites attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson on the effect Citizens United has had on local races across the country. The two debated the effects at the Aspen Ideas Festival this week. But let’s begin, as she does, quoting Norm Ornstein:

Loads of money—mostly conservative—went into judicial-retention elections in the last cycle in Florida, following a similar experience in 2010 in Iowa and Illinois. We saw similar efforts on a smaller scale in other states, including Wisconsin and Michigan. All had a ton of attack ads. Those efforts have exploded in the 2014 elections. In North Carolina, where repeal of the state’s Judicial Campaign Reform Act by the right-wing legislature opened the door to a further explosion of campaign spending, and where the GOP sees retaining a majority on the court (ostensibly, but risibly, nonpartisan) as a key to their continued hegemony in politics, the Republican State Leadership Committee spent $900,000 on an unsuccessful primary campaign to unseat Justice Robin Hudson, and will target Court of Appeals Judge Sam Ervin IV in his second attempt to move to the Supreme Court (the first one, in 2012, cost $4.5 million or more).

Ervin won that Supreme Court seat (defeating incumbent Robert N. Hunter, Jr.) as did incumbent Democrats Hudson and Cheri Beasley in these officially nonpartisan elections.

In Aspen, Ted Olson, who represented Citizens United lobbying firm, began:

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Another day, another boondoggle

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Stick a fork in it. Another of those public-private partnership deals is done. Investors are ready to bail:

Barely 10 years after paying the city $1.83 billion for the right to run the Chicago Skyway for 99 years, a Spanish-Australian group of investors has put the historic tollroad concession deal up for sale.

The Skyway concession company’s executives have informed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration they’re trying to sell their interest in running and collecting tolls from the 7.8-mile-long road on Chicago’s South Side, city officials said Monday.

And right on schedule, too. I described how these go down in December:

US and state taxpayers are left paying off billions in debt to bondholders who have received amazing returns on their money, as much as 13 per cent, as virtually all – if not all – of these private P3 toll operators go bankrupt within 15 years of what is usually a five-plus decade contract.

A “staggering” number go bankrupt, Salzman continues.

Of course, no executive comes forward and says, “We’re planning to go bankrupt,” but an analysis of the data is shocking. There do not appear to be any American private toll firms still in operation under the same management 15 years after construction closed. The original toll firms seem consistently to have gone bankrupt or “zeroed their assets” and walked away, leaving taxpayers a highway now needing repair and having to pay off the bonds and absorb the loans and the depreciation.

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Them boys ain’t goin’ gentle into that good Knight

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You knew it was coming as soon as calls to remove Confederate battle flags caught fire across the South starting in Columbia, SC:

The Ku Klux Klan has been approved to hold a protest rally at the Statehouse next month against removing the Confederate battle flag, with the group calling accused mass murderer Dylann Roof a “young warrior.”

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan applied for the permit last week to hold a rally for 100 to 200 people on July 18 on the north side of the Statehouse.

If you are holding your breath for Fox News’ Griff Jenkins to cover the Klan rally live just to remind us all that racism is dead and only racists and race baiters say otherwise, don’t.

Actually, this Klan group hails from North Carolina:

Calling itself the “Largest Klan in America,” the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan are based in Pelham, N.C., according to the group’s website.

A man identifying himself as the “great titan” of the N.C. chapter of the Loyal White Knights left a message with The State saying his group is holding the demonstration because “to us they are erasing white history and white culture right out of the history books. That’s why they want to take that flag down.”

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