Archive for North Carolina


PAC Attack on Robin Hudson

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NC Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson is running in the nonpartisan primary tomorrow against two Republicans. Maybe you haven’t seen the attack ads running on TV against Hudson, but Republican former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot has. He sent an email to the Charlotte Observer editorial board to protest. The board writes,

The ad is so offensive that Vinroot, a diehard Republican, said he will protest it by voting for the Democrat Hudson – and only Hudson. Though voters can cast ballots for two of the three candidates in the race, neither of the other two will get Vinroot’s vote on Tuesday, though they’re both fellow Republicans.

At issue is a vote by Hudson in a ruling where the justices split 4-3 on a law involving sex offenders. Dissenters including Hudson considered the law unconstitutional because it could be considered punishment applied retroactively to those convicted before the law passed. The ad portrays her constitutional dissent as coddling child predators.

Neither of Hudson’s opponents has publicly disavowed the ad.

The ad comes from Justice for All NC, a conservative super PAC. Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies describes the PAC as little more than a bank account traceable to a UPS mailbox in a strip mall.

Due to a loophole in North Carolina campaign finance law, Justice for All NC won’t have to file a detailed report about how much money it’s raised and spent for the recent attack ads until July. However, a Facing South analysis of TV advertising records as of May 2 shows that Justice for All NC has been spent more than $586,000 buying ad time for the Hudson attacks on more than a dozen TV stations across the state — part of more than $1 million that’s been spent on just the Hudson race by candidates and outside groups.

According to the Observer, the group funded “entirely by the Republican State Leadership Committee in Washington” includes among its big contributors Duke Energy, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Chris Kromm has more details on the money and the people behind it here.

For those who have not yet voted, your chance to reply comes at the ballot box tomorrow.

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Good News Week

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Over at Digby’s place, David Atkins ponders what precipitates civilizational collapse:

The free market isn’t a genius system that will lead to utopia. If we continue going at this rate, the free market in fossil fuels and modern big ag will wind up destroying civilization as we know it.

David is responding to a report by the World Health Organization. As we approach the post-antibiotics era, “common infections and minor injuries can kill … a very real possibility for the twenty-first century,” according to the report’s foreword. According to Nature online,

There is nothing hopeful in the WHO’s report, which pulls together data from 129 member states to show extensive resistance to antimicrobial agents in every region of the world. Overuse of antibiotics in agriculture — to promote livestock growth — and in hospitals quickly leads to proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria, which then spread via human travel and poor sanitation practices.

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There are a lot of self-described patriots in this country who really don’t much like this country. (I mean the real one, not their imaginary one.) Jon Stewart pointed out how the gun-toting militiamen surrounding Cliven “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing” Bundy could at least have created their own flag instead of waving the flag of the government they don’t recognize.

North Carolina Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Dr. Greg Brannon, may or may not be a self-described patriot, but he’s endorsed by Tea Party Patriots (of the Bundy kind?). He’s quoted as saying this about discussing guns after the Sandy Hook shootings:

“Senator Hagan says we got to have a nice debate and discussion (about gun control) about what to do. See that’s called a democracy which is actually socialism which is called majority rule.”

Perhaps Brannon napped through civics class? He doesn’t seem to approve of democracy, of majority rule, yet he’s hoping to be elected to the United States Senate by a majority. Because that’s how elections work in the real America. How they work in the Tea Party’s fantasy one is anybody’s guess.

Certain fringe types love to correct you if you call America a democracy. It’s a republic, non-elite patriots insist as pedantically as condescendingly. Perhaps because republic sounds like Republican, and because that word has better mouth feel than anything sounding like Democrat. But for your Bircher, as the sign suggests, it’s more than that. Democracy isn’t just majority rule; it’s mob rule. And, oh, they fear it.

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Buncombe County, North Carolina residents who filed suit after finding their well water contaminated by chemicals from a CTS Corp. facility shuttered in 1986 will argue their case before the Supreme Court on April 23 (video clip from March 18). The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of 23 local citizens last year. CTS appealed.

At issue is whether the suit should be dismissed because of the lateness in filing the case. The pollution dates back decades. Community activist, Tate MacQueen, is among those leading the fight.

Because of the way North Carolina law is written, the Asheville residents may have no legal recourse. CTS shut down that plant and sold the property in 1987. A state statute cuts off a company’s liability 10 years after its last contaminating act, meaning the deadline for filing claims came and went in 1997. MacQueen’s heads-up letter arrived in 2008.

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I-77 Widening: Ah, Privatization

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In case you missed it last Friday. This is NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis’ latest brainchild, one opposed by local businessmen, the Mecklenburg-area T-party, and contrary to his party’s own platform. (Emphasis mine):

Raleigh – The N.C. Department of Transportation announces the apparent successful bidder for its first Public-Private-Partnership (P3) contract to improve the traffic flow along 26 miles of I-77 in the Charlotte area, one of the most congested roadways in the state.

P3 contracts are an innovative way of leveraging new funding sources to lessen the financial impact to the state and help complete projects sooner through investments by a private firm. Following a required bidding process, and pending final review, it appears Cintra Infraestructures, S.A. will construct the I-77 project through a joint venture with F.A. Southeast, W.C. English, and the lead design firm of The Louis Berger Group.

Cintra, a world-wide leader in managed lanes projects, estimates the total project cost at $655 million. Cintra will invest the majority of that in return for toll revenue generated from the managed lanes. NCDOT will contribute $88 million for the project, which is significantly less than the $170 million it had projected.

Wow, that is innovative. The state’s estimated $170 million highway project will now cost $655 million, but only cost the state $88 million in tax dollars. (Update: To be clear, general-purpose lanes were estimated at about $500 million.)

Hmm, where will the Spain-based company, Cintra, make up the difference? Oh, right, by collecting tolls from drivers for next 50 years. But — now listen up — those 50 years of tolls paid to a foreign conglomerate are not taxes. So, Freedom!

Of course, Cintra will have to manage to stay in business if it means to collect. They’re about to go into default on their toll road in San Antonio after only a year in operation. This from last October:

Texas’ first foreign-owned toll road financed through a controversial public private partnership just got downgraded to junk bond status by Moody’s Investors Service. The Spain-based firm, Cintra (65% ownership), and San Antonio-based Zachry (35% ownership), known as SH 130 Concession Company opened the southern leg of State Highway 130 last November.

What innovations will aspiring Speaker of the House and Tillis’ fellow ALEC board member, Rep. Tim Moffitt, bring North Carolina, if re-elected? Maybe a PPP for the I-26 project in Buncombe County? Surely Moffitt will listen to his constituents more than Tillis? You think?

We cannot thank Jay DeLancy enough for the vast amounts of volunteer time and more-limited funds he’s spent, as other voter fraud sleuths, chasing voter impersonation fraud, dead voters (some of whom aren’t), clerical errors and data entry errors in the state’s voter records. (Identity theft is his latest bugaboo.) Since accuracy of the lists is the Voter Integrity Project’s concern, perhaps they would donate those funds to the state Board of Elections, earmarked for database maintenance instead. It would free up the local Voter Integri-T-Party to spend its time registering new voters, getting them to the polls and showing the rest of us how to win elections the American way. Unless they lack the electoral confidence that they can.

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Renewed attacks on voting rights in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other states are as much about power as about policy and race. The hand wringing over elusive “fraud” is because America’s majority ethnic group sees its traditional grip on power eroding with shifting demographics.

In North Carolina last week, Republican lawmakers again raised the alarm over the possibility that hundreds — maybe thousands — had criminally cast ballots in two states in the 2012 election. GOP leaders were quick to insist that the numbers justified the draconian voting law they passed in the last legislative session. The U.S. Department of Justice has challenged the law in court.

Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies just as quickly debunked the study by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach whose office, after checking 5 million voter records in 2013, “couldn’t provide any evidence of a single instance in which the Interstate Crosscheck’s data had led to an actual legal charge of voter fraud.” Because the data, Kromm writes, “offers no proof such fraud is occurring.” Requiring citizens to present identity cards to vote would have no effect on voting in multiple states.

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You Invited Them

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“I don’t get all the anti-immigrant sentiment in this country. Because this is a country that says this is the greatest country in the world. We’re the best. We’re number one. Then we get upset when people actually show up. But when you advertise something … sometimes people buy it. That’s how it works.”
– Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu

Over the years, I’ve opened up in-flight magazines and seen multi-page, color spreads advertising Asheville and western North Carolina as great places to vacation and to build a summer home. Come hike our majestic mountains. Visit our beautiful waterfalls. Tour the fabulous Biltmore Estate. And what better place to retire than the mountains of western North Carolina? Our developers, builders and retailers are anxious to build your dream home for you.

Western North Carolina’s marketing efforts succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. Downtown was reborn. Asheville made top-ten list after top-ten list. People came. Locals made money. Retirees retired here. But newcomers brought their tastes and politics with them. In-migration changed local culture. Some natives are uneasy around people unlike themselves, and resentful. Sure, we wanted their business. But we didn’t want them, you know, in our business.

Hello? You invited them.

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Voter Registration Challenge Tonight

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Voter Integrity Project: Sitting in a darkened kitchen wearing night-vision goggles to protect their crackers from Bigfoot. ——->

The Voter Integrity Project and the Asheville Tea Party are coming to the Buncombe County Board of Elections on Woodfin St. in Asheville for a hearing set for 5:30 p.m. tonight in Room 330 in the William H. Stanley Building, 35 Woodfin St. The preliminary hearing will consider the 182 voter registration challenges filed earlier this month. The PBS program Frontline was there to cover the story according to accounts.

Perhaps tonight there will be fireworks of the sort VIP-NC director Jay Delancy is known for. After a set of his Wake County challenges was rejected by the local board in 2012, DeLancy “snatched his microphone off the board’s table mid-meeting, kicking glass doors open in front of him as he stormed out of the meeting room in the Public Safety Center. He slowed down once he realized news cameras were chasing him.”

When VIP-NC held a “boot camp” in Asheville last fall, they emphasized the need for getting dead and inactive voters off the rolls because of the possibility of widespread voter fraud — or was it a widespread possibility? — for which they never seem to produce evidence. Basically, T-partiers are convinced that if they lose an election it must be because their opponents cheated. What else could it be? Zombies? Bigfoot?!

VIP-NC also warned the Asheville T-party to avoid vote caging, which they had to have defined. It’s illegal. The T-party sent letters to suspect voters that got returned; they knocked on those doors to see if voters still lived where five or more voters were registered.

So, where would they look for the fraudulently dead in Asheville? Well, here’s a list of the precincts (out of 80) in which they looked, ranked by approximate number of challenges:

11.1- ASHEVILLE SENIOR OPPORTUNITY CTR – Grove St- includes Aston Park Towers and South French Broad
2.1 ISAAC DICKSON ELEMENTARY – includes Klondyke Apts and Hillcrest, Montford
10.1 DR WESLEY GRANT SR-SOUTHSIDE CENTER – includes South French Broad, Lee Walker Heights and Livingston
14.3 ELIADA HOME – Compton Dr
14.2 ASHEVILLE CITY PRE-SCHOOL – Haywood Rd- Burton Street Community

As with promoting voter identity cards, much time and effort expended to prevent ineligible people from voting. At the VIP-NC training last fall, not once (in seven hours?) did anyone suggest opening up the franchise to greater participation, registering new voters and encouraging them to exercise their right to vote.

Be there tonight by 5:30.

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Moral Mondays Spread

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Common Dreams: Thirty-nine protesters were arrested at the capitol building in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday during a raucous protest against the GOP-led effort to prohibit Medicaid expansion in the state. In South Carolina, 17 demonstrators were also arrested at the Columbia state house in the third weekly demonstration against lawmakers’ refusal to accept federal health care funding.

“The movements are rare stirrings of impassioned, liberal political action,” writes Herbert Buchsbaum at the New York Times, “in a region where conservative control of government is as solid as cold grits and Democrats are struggling for survival more than influence.”

The actions are spreading to Florida, Alabama, Wisconsin and New York.

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