Archive for North Carolina

Sep
16

Astro-fracking North Carolina

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Courtesy of its GOP-led legislature, the great state of North Carolina is exploring fracking Triassic Basin shale deposits in the center of the state. Gov. Pat McCrory this summer lifted the moratorium on the practice in place since 2012. The bill he signed also made revealing the chemical components of fracking fluids a misdemeanor (an earlier draft made it a felony). A friend already has a T-shirt listing fracking chemicals on the back. The front reads, “This T-shirt is illegal in North Carolina.”

The Mining and Energy Commission is taking public comment on fracking in the state, naturally. Last week, they held their last public meeting in the mountains at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. About 550 people attended. Opponents, mostly, and a few astroturf fracking supporters.

Few pro-fracking supporters made themselves visible. People favoring the drilling technology were booed and hissed at during previous fracking hearings. There were some, however. Three or four from America’s Energy Forum and N.C. Energy Forum, groups that receive financial support from American Petroleum Institute. And there was Winston-Salem resident Christian Bradshaw, who said he made the three-hour trip to support “energy-creating jobs” for North Carolina.

According to news reports (and friends who were there), about 18 men arrived wearing “Shale Yes” T-shirts, but seemed unaware of what fracking is. At least one had come from a Winston-Salem homeless shelter because “he had been told it would help the environment.” As a friend described it, once the Army veteran realized he’d been duped, he couldn’t believe he’d sold out for a sandwich.


“The energy industry keeps claiming that there is support for fracking in WNC. What they fail to mention is that they have to bus the clueless ‘supporters’ in,” said Betsy Ashby, who helped organize Jackson County Coalition Against Fracking.

One of the men apologized to Ashby, saying “I didn’t know they were trying to do this to me.” Another indicated he had just done it for the money.

“They’re being exploited seven ways to Sunday,” Ashby told reporters.

Whether the issue is women’s health, school funding, Medicaid expansion, or preserving voting rights and the environment — the Moral Monday Movement’s fusion agenda — that’s pretty much how it goes. Among the tens of thousands of Moral Monday protesters, a thousand were willing to be arrested to oppose the NCGOP’s radical agenda. The Koch brothers, Art Pope, and the rest of the Midas cult have to buy support. Boy howdy, can they afford to. And even then, they are exploiting people.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo. h/t Ashevegas)

Comments (0)

Last night, FiveThirtyEight blog reported a marked shift in polling on the NC Senate contest between incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and NC House Speaker Thom Tillis.

In North Carolina, a Rasmussen Reports poll found Democrat Kay Hagan ahead of Republican Thom Tillis 45 percent to 39 percent. Tillis had led in the previous Rasmussen survey by 5 percentage points. Another North Carolina poll released Thursday, by SurveyUSA, gave Hagan a 3-point lead (46 percent to 43 percent).

Combined, the two polls move Hagan from a “45 percent underdog to a 61 percent percent favorite.” But there’s not much analysis on why.

Let’s speculate, shall we?

In part, Hagan has opened up a 21-point advantage over Tillis among women. The “war on women” message has taken such a bite out of the NCGOP that the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity feels the need to cut an ad to sell Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, to women way out in WNC. Thanks to Tim Moffitt, ladies, you’ll be glad to know you have “the power to determine your own destiny,” to invest and to keep more of your money away from Raleigh. Just don’t keep it in your pants. That’s one area Tillis, Tim, and their friends in Raleigh have made sure by law that you don’t control.

More and more, Tillis and close associates seem to be alienating their own base.

WidenI77 held a town hall meeting in Mooresville on Tuesday to explain how “Thom’s Tholl Road” on I-77 would work. The NCDOT is already signing agreements with a Spain-based contractor for the 50-year tolling contract I wrote about in the AC-T. WidenI77’s presentation above details many of the unknowns in the contract, raising concerns about cost and privacy as well as the fact that paying tolls to a foreign vendor for 50 years siphons vast sums of money out of the local economy. The tea party, libertarians, and GOP activists are increasingly unhappy about the prospect. So much so that it seems Tillis and his lieutenants are having to fan out to defend the deal before angry constituents.

After the town hall, Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, got an earful from Republican and independent attendees about corruption they suspect in the highway deal he’s backed along with Tillis. Ashevillians will remember Brawley as one of Moffitt’s allies on the legislative study to look into transferring the Asheville Water System to a regional authority. He was in the posse Moffitt brought with him to face angry parents at a May education rally at Roberson High School in Buncombe County. Brawley, Moffitt, and Nathan Ramsey, R-Buncombe, co-sponsored the bill to wrest control of Charlotte-Douglas airport from the city of Charlotte.

Speaker Pro Tem, Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, is having to face a meeting of the Southern Wake Republican Club this coming Tuesday. Stam gets to rebut a presentation by NC Citizens Against Toll Roads that believes that legislative efforts to promote public-private partnerships “violates the state constitution, and delegates taxing authority” to unelected officials. They may mistrust government, but they mistrust a marriage between government and business even more.

Tolls and public-private partnerships (P3s) are the new funding model these politicians are promoting, not just for I-77 but for future highway expansion projects across North Carolina. And over objections from angry conservative businessmen, Republican officials, and party activists. Perhaps those are more reasons why Tillis’ senatorial prospects are headed south.

How much weight would Tim Moffitt, the former co-chair of the state’s House Select Committee on Public-Private Partnerships (2011), and Brawley (the other co-chair), and Tillis give to local objections when it is time to widen I-26?

(Barry Summers contributed much source material for this post.)

Categories : NC Senate race
Comments (2)
Sep
10

Math is hard

Posted by: | Comments (0)

TillisCaptureNorth Carolina’s Republican House Speaker, Thom Tillis, wants to be the state’s next U.S. senator. He’s finding it a tough sell. Tea party members and Republican small businessmen oppose Tillis for pushing for toll lanes on I-77 in his own district and elsewhere in the state. Then, someone anonymously slipped a provision into a must-pass budget bill that “allows warrantless drone surveillance at all public events … or any place which is in ‘plain view’ of a law enforcement officer.” Privacy advocates from left to right cried foul.

Next, Tillis was been pilloried for “mansplaining” both in his debate with incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan and in a TV ad where he uses “simple math” (just numbers on a white board) to show how math is lost on Hagan. The Tillis ad spotlights the average 7% raise he claims state teachers received under his leadership (only after the loud public outcry over Republican education cuts in an election year). Well, not so fast.

When Gov. Pat McCrory wrote to welcome teachers back to the classroom, he touted a “substantial” pay raise that amounted to “an average pay increase of 5.5 percent for teachers.”

That might have been exciting news, except that legislative leaders have been touting a 7 percent average pay raise for more than a month. House Speaker Thom Tillis trumpets that 7 percent figure as “simple math” in a recent campaign ad for his U.S. Senate campaign.

McCroryCapture

I guess math is hard for Pat and Thom.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Comments (0)
Sep
08

Whose Side Are You On?

Posted by: | Comments (1)

Warren on solving the student debt crisis:

Young people are– they’re not buying homes, they’re not starting small businesses. They’re struggling with the student loan debt. It’s bringing them down. It’s bringing their parents down. This is something that America sees, understands. We know which side families stand on and we know which side the millionaires and billionaires stand on. For me, it’s time to choose and that’s what I’ve learned about Washington. You make people choose, sometimes they make good choices.

Which side are you on? Warren is crystal clear.

Sen. Kay Hagan needs to answer that question definitively. Reacting to last week’s debate between Hagan and NC Speaker Thom Tillis, the News & Observer sees An empty race for the U.S. Senate: “This exorbitantly funded Senate contest has taken a page from Seinfeld. It is a race about nothing. With Seinfeld, it was funny. With Hagan-Tillis, it’s sad.”

Hagan has a large and vigorous field operation across the state which may carry her to a second term. But as “the most moderate senator,” she’s giving voters little to get off the couch and vote for. The N&O asks:

Is it too much to expect politicians at this level to engage in a bold debate about the issues that matter? Over a thousand Moral Monday protesters gave themselves up to arrest because they felt passionately about the state’s direction under its Republican leadership. Just Thursday, fast-food workers in North Carolina were arrested after they joined a national protest demanding a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Can’t people seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate take the risk of taking a stand?

“Moderate” may be poll-tested and consultant-approved, but will it get Democrats out to vote in a mid-term election this November?

Hagan’s campaign could use a dash of hot sauce. Or whatever Breakfast of Champions Elizabeth Warren eats every morning.

Categories : NC Senate race
Comments (1)
Sep
05

Moffitt On Moffitt — On Tape

Posted by: | Comments (3)

Moffitt cribbed it:

ASHEVILLE – A company owned by state Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, lifted passages without attribution from other sources and used them in material for use on other legislators’ websites, a liberal Raleigh political group has found.

Progress North Carolina, the AC-T reports, says it found dozens of instances where anything from “a sentence or two” to “long paragraphs” were lifted without attribution. The irony here is what Moffitt told Barry Summers last Friday at last week’s CIBO meeting about his main focus areas in working with ALEC (on tape):

[P]robably my most pressing issue is intellectual property violations by foreign companies that really hurt North Carolina from the pharmaceutical/biotech standpoint.”

That’s right, nobody can violate the intellectual property rights of good, old Americans companies (like GSK, Bayer, or Novartis) except good, old Americans.

Comments (3)
Aug
30

Thom’s way or no highway

Posted by: | Comments (3)

Besides his woman problem, North Carolina GOP Senate nominee Thom Tillis has a toll problem. And a base problem.

Interstate 77 in Tillis’ district badly needs widening. But Thom and his ALEC buddies insist on installing High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes over objections from his party, local Republican lawmakers, and a conservative think tank in Raleigh. His local tea party calls the I-77 project Thom’s Tholl Road.

The GOP is expert at exploiting wedge issues to divide and conquer opponents. But here the wedge is intraparty. There is a split among the GOP’s right-wing populists, its libertarian ideologues, and it’s ALEC-friendly, crony corporatists. It seems HOT lanes have become a flash point. Free-marketeer libertarians consider that when government (We the People) provides any product or service on a not-for-profit basis, it’s another big-government crime against capitalism; they favor anything that gets government out of the way of private profit. Grassroots fiscal conservatives see schemes such as HOT lanes — contracted to foreign conglomerates, funded with federal loans, and with private profit margins backstopped with state tax dollars — as yet another example of crony capitalism screwing taxpayers. It is. And it’s just what the Koch brothers’ privateers want more of.

So how big a wedge is this? Behold the Weekly Standard from April, critiquing at length a 75-year, single-bidder HOT lanes concession in Virginia:

The arrangement is every capitalist’s dream: free land, developed with taxpayer money, for privatized profits and socialized losses.

Of course, in the Weekly Standard’s fever dream it’s not rent-seeking corporatists ramrodding privatization of America’s highways, but progressive ideologues (and libertarians) bent on discouraging a middle-class lifestyle they find “distasteful.”

Thom Tillis himself did not address the HOT lane issue at an appearance before a group of business leaders in Asheville Friday morning (timestamp 1:00:00). But as party activists and business-minded constituents have before, several times on Friday questioners asked state candidates about highway funding and the possibility of seeing of “dynamic tolling” on I-77 and I-26. These aren’t progressives and libertarians. They are Thom Tillis’ base voters. And they are uneasy.

Hard to tell, but when even conservative are worried about the impact ALEC’s designs might have for their small businesses, tolls just might be a sleeper issue for Republicans that so far the press has missed.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Comments (3)
Aug
29

Friday Open Thread

Posted by: | Comments (2)

Are we not men? WE ARE CIBO!

Let’s see? Who’s on tap this morning at CIBO?

Comments (2)
Aug
25

About Those Toll Lanes

Posted by: | Comments (6)

About Thom’s Tholl Road I wrote about yesterday,

Tillis expects to fund highway projects all across North Carolina using tolls. WSOC-Charlotte reported this summer that a round trip from Mooresville to Charlotte on Tillis’ I-77 HOT lanes could cost commuters $20 every weekday.

People in the Charlotte area — especially those struggling with low-paying jobs — are asking about the cost to use Spain-based Cintra’s toll lanes.

“Who knows?”

That’s how the man in charge of proposed Interstate 77 toll lanes responded to a town commissioner’s question about whether tolls could max out in another 20 years at more than $40 round trip.

[...]

“There is no one I have spoken to that believes an eleven dollar trip is reasonable in any way,” said Cornelius Town Commissioner John Bradford. “These numbers have really set off a lot of alarms and bells.”

Asheville has an interstate highway expansion project in the works, too. What would you be willing to pay? What would state Reps. Tim Moffitt and Nathan Ramsey consider reasonable for you to pay?

Aug
16

Tom Cruise in a jetpack

Posted by: | Comments (2)

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

IMDB describes Minority Report thusly:

In the year 2054 A.D. crime is virtually eliminated from Washington D.C. thanks to an elite law enforcing squad “Precrime”. They use three gifted humans (called “Pre-Cogs”) with special powers to see into the future and predict crimes beforehand.

Meanwhile, here in the past an elite research team at N.C. State University is at work on a top secret project, Future States Processing (announced a year ago yesterday):

RALEIGH — As the field of “big data” continues to grow in importance, N.C. State University has landed a big coup – a major lab for the study of data analysis, funded by the National Security Agency.

This is from the project’s Executive Summary [emphasis mine]:

Broadly, Future States Processing (FSP) is “a mechanism that conceives of the state of an entity (e.g., person, place, or thing) at some point in the future based on a current collection of information.” One challenge is to decompose the broad aim of FSP into a set of key research areas. The group has identified five areas: narrative processing (addressed in another research theme), which allows the identification of emerging topics and narratives from structured and unstructured data; state description, which includes entity, feature, and attribute identification; state modeling, which identifies relationships and dependencies and creates a formal representation; process and prediction models, which infers subsequent states given the current description and a context; and uncertainty quantification, which addresses the precision with which the predictions can be made. Predictions must be made within a context, and an unaddressed issue is context generation. As the group identifies example problems, the preference is to focus on people as entities and to predict behavior or motivation.

Some people are paid to lose sleep over those unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know. For that, there’s “big data.” And now that No Such Agency has a place to store it(Bluffdale, UT), N.C. State just needs to develop the right set of algorithms to predict people’s future behaviors.

But there’s still the unaddressed problem of “context generation.”

Describe your most paranoid fantasy and — with the right data “corpus” — No Such Agency will tell you who’s most likely working on turning that threat into a reality.

So you can arrest or kill them.

What could go worng?

What could go worng?

Categories : National, North Carolina
Comments (2)
Aug
14

Drones Over Your Homes

Posted by: | Comments Comments Off

So in North Carolina’s capitol, one of Charlie Pierce’s Laboratories Of Democracy, Gov. Pat McCrory is rushing to fix items in the budget he signed just days ago. Like a “provision that would stop automatically paying for enrollment growth at public schools.” 

It’s just another of those items slipped anonymously into a must-pass budget bill. Among the hidden pearls is this ALEC-inspired gem found by Asheville-based activist Barry Summers. He wrote about it this week in the Asheville Citizen-Times: 

H1099 was never heard by any Senate committee, but it has become State law nonetheless. It allows warrantless drone surveillance at all public events (including those on private property) or any place which is in “plain view” of a law enforcement officer. It has other loopholes and deficiencies which taken altogether, make a mockery of the “right-to-privacy” anywhere but inside your home with the shades drawn tight.

More at Hullabaloo.

Comments Comments Off