Archive for North Carolina


The Lone Legislator Writes Again

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Who was that masked man?

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This is How That Happened

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by Barry Summers

Late in 2013, I was reading a press release from a local state legislator, which publicized his being named chair of a new NC House committee. At the bottom, he listed all the other committees he was currently on, and just on a whim, I compared it to the official list of committees on his legislative website. There was exactly one missing from the press release: “House Committee on Unmanned Aircraft Systems”. That got me curious, and that’s how I eventually came to be the only member of the public sitting in an NCGA hearing room full of military, law enforcement, and drone industry representatives, and being stared at by an angry NSA contractor. Yikes…

2007 – 2012: “We want a fully integrated environment.”

RQ-4/MQ-4 Global Hawk. U.S. Air Force photo by Bobbi Zapka. Public Domain Image courtesy Wikipedia.

With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, it became clear to the Department of Defense that they would have to start planning for the day when most of those drones that they had come to depend on overseas, would have to come home. And they don’t have enough segregated, military airspace in the continental US to fly them all, for training, research, etc.

Pentagon working with FAA to open U.S. airspace to combat drones:

“With a growing fleet of combat drones in its arsenal, the Pentagon is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. airspace to its robotic aircraft.”… “The stuff from Afghanistan is going to come back,” Steve Pennington, the Air Force’s director of ranges, bases and airspace, said at the conference. The Department of Defense “doesn’t want a segregated environment. We want a fully integrated environment.”

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We have met the enemy …

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Vigil last night in Chapel Hill (Image via Twitter)

The shooting deaths in Chapel Hill, NC of three students sparked candlelight vigils last night:

Thousands gathered on the campus of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill on Wednesday night to pay tribute to three local students who were shot to death the night before.

Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her younger sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were killed on Tuesday evening in the couple’s apartment in a leafy suburb of Chapel Hill.

The hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter trended early on social media as users complained that media coverage of the shootings would have been greater had the shooter been Muslim instead of the victims. Coverage has since picked up from Sydney to London.

In an emotional press conference, the family of the victims called on federal authorities to investigate the “execution style” shootings as a hate crime (video) directed at the three for their faith.

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WNCN: News, Weather, Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville

Asheville Citizen-Times:

Hundreds of party activists meeting in Chatham County elected 1st Vice Chair Patsy Keever of Asheville over four other candidates seeking to succeed chairman Randy Voller, who declined to seek a second two-year term. Keever received 369 votes from the 560 members on the State Executive Committee gathered in Pittsboro. Second place went to Marshall Adame of Jacksonville, a former congressional candidate, with 169 votes.

Raleigh News and Observer:

Keever, a former teacher, state House member and congressional candidate, won election to the two-year term handily. Adame was the next-highest vote-getter.

“So many people are ready for the Democratic Party to be strong, to be positive,” she said. “This is a new beginning for us, and people are excited.”

With Rep. Susan Fisher named deputy minority leader in the state House, Sen. Terry Van Duyn appointed minority whip in the state senate, and Patsy Keever elected state party chair, women from Buncombe County are poised to wield more influence over state Democrats than the party’s minority status might suggest. With Hillary Clinton a possible Democratic presidential candidate next year, with NC Gov. Pat McCrory — considered “the most vulnerable Republican incumbent on the gubernatorial map” — up for reelection, and with Sen. Richard Burr up for reelection as well as Democratic Council of State candidates (mostly women), North Carolina will be “ground zero” in 2016.

Going to work.

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Walker & McCrory: Matching M.O.s

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On All In Thursday night, Chris Hayes spoke with Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy about Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to strike 13% from the budget of the University of Wisconsin. In addition, his bill proposes to strike “the search for truth” from the university’s mission statement.

This observation by Chris Hayes jumped out at me:

There’s something sort of ingenious about this from a political standpoint. It seems to me that one of his M.O.s in office has been to sort of use policy as a mechanism by which to reduce the political power of people that would oppose him — progressives, the left. I mean, go after the unions, right? Which is a huge pillar of progressive power in the state of Wisconsin. And another big pillar of progressive power in the state, frankly, is the university system.

Eerily similar to North Carolina, and no accident, is my guess. Like Walker, the GOP-led legislature here has been looking to weaken any foci of opposition.

Then, there’s UNC Chapel Hill’s president, Tom Hill, being forced out 3 weeks ago without explanation. Rumors fly that Art Pope wants the job.

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GREENSBORO — State Sen. Trudy Wade filed legislation Wednesday proposing the most significant restructuring of the City Council in more than 30 years.

Senate Bill 36 would shrink the size of the council, fundamentally change the role and powers of the mayor, lengthen council terms, and reduce the number of council members who are elected at-large.

A stroll down memory lane, ain’t it?

And wouldn’t you know, of the four Greensboro city council members who would have to run for a seat in the same district, three are Democrats, as is the mayor.

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Image public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Oil rigs in the “Graveyard of the Atlantic“? Someone tell the president April 1st isn’t for two months yet:

(Bloomberg) — The Obama administration proposed opening to offshore drilling an area from Virginia to Georgia in a policy shift sought by energy companies but opposed by environmentalists worried about resorts such as the Outer Banks or Myrtle Beach.

The offshore plan for 2017-2022 marks the second time President Barack Obama has recommended unlocking areas in the U.S. Atlantic for oil drilling, and it drew a swift retort from allies who say the payoff doesn’t justify the risk of a spill along the populated coast. The agency said Atlantic leases won’t be auctioned for at least six years and drilling wouldn’t start for several more years.

Well, that’s a relief. Plus, you know, with the Gulf Stream and all, a massive oil spill 50 miles offshore of the Outer Banks might never reach Cape Hatteras.

“Offshore oil spills don’t respect state boundaries,” said Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts. “A spill in North Carolina could affect Massachusetts.”

Heads up, Nantucket.

The proposal is still preliminary, officials suggested:

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told reporters the proposal was a “balanced” approach, but she stressed that it was only a draft.

“It is not final, we’re in the early stages of what is a multi-year process,” Jewell said, cautioning that some regions listed in it “may be narrowed or taken out entirely.”

That caveat and the timing make the announcement a mite suspect. Days ago, the Obama administration had Alaska livid over its request “to designate parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a wilderness area” off-limits to oil drilling. The request left Sen. Lisa Murkowski fuming. Something about decisions on federal land made Outside being a violation of state sovereignty. Other Alaska legislators were similarly put out:

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker was “outraged” at the timing of the announcement, which comes amid low oil prices and declining production “despite having more than 40 billion barrels of untapped resources, mostly in federal areas where oil and gas activity is blocked or restricted,” the joint statement said.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, called the plan “callously planned and politically motivated” in the same statement.

On the heels of the Alaska announcement, the Atlantic drilling proposal is generating predictable howls from East Coast environmentalists:

“This proposal sells out the southeast fisheries, tourism, and coastal way of life,” says Sierra Weaver, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This is an area that has never been drilled for oil production. These are places and communities that rely on natural resources like clean air and clean water for the quality of life and the lifestyle that they know.”

The White House surely knew its twin decisions would raise firestorms from both the left and right.

A head fake in advance of a Keystone pipeline veto? Or a sop?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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The courts: Targets of opportunity

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An acquaintance asked Saturday what happens if the Supreme Court rules this summer to lift gay marriage bans across the country. It seems unlikely the Roberts court will overturn rulings in 36 states, he said. He worried that, since so many of the shifts on gay marriage across the country originated in the courts, that the right will not simply use the decision to energize their base in 2016, but to further colonize and control the courts. In fact that has already been occurring, according to Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies:

Today, special interests are spending record amounts of money on court elections in the 38 states that elect justices to the bench. As a Facing South/Institute for Southern Studies report showed, more than $3 million poured into races for North Carolina’s higher courts in 2014, the first election since state lawmakers — with the help of millionaire donor and political operative Art Pope — eliminated North Carolina’s judicial public financing program.

The controversy over Big Money’s attempted takeover of the courts is now coming to a head. Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing Williams-Yulee vs. The Florida Bar, a case involving a challenge to Florida’s law barring judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions.

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Whistling towards Dixie

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A week ago I wrote about a suspected lynching under investigation along the coast in North Carolina. Eerie stuff. Up here in the mountains, we’ve got this Scot-Irish thing happening that defines local attitudes (the kind of thing Sara Robinson has written about for years). But things are hardly static. Inmigration is changing the South. In the wake of Michael Tomasky’s recent “dump Dixie” column, Chris Kromm at the Institute for Southern Studies counters with why that’s a bad idea.

Southern clout is expected to grow with population, he writes. “Southern states are projected to gain another five Congressional seats and Electoral College votes in 2020. Ignoring the South just isn’t an option if Democrats want to be relevant in national politics.”

And the South is not Democrats’ biggest problem. Democrats’ Senate candidates may have lost by an average of 18 points in the South, but they lost by an average of 26 points in the Great Plains. “But for some reason,” Kromm writes, “we’re never treated to post-Election Day screeds from Northern pundits about the Great Plains being a cesspool of ‘prejudice’ and ‘resentment.'”

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