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Last October, Asheville, NC introduced America to Don Yelton on The Daily Show. You remember? The clip where Aasif Mandvi asked Yelton, “You know that we can hear you, right?” after the Republican precinct chair’s remark about “lazy blacks.”

This October, it’s a swastika photoshopped in front of city hall. Asheville is nothing if not colorful.

Known for its hipster arts scene, craft beer culture, and LGBT-friendly atmosphere, Asheville was dubbed “a cesspool of sin” in 2011 by James Forrester, the late Republican state senator. (You could buy tee shirts within hours.) As local gay couples on Thursday anticipated a federal order allowing same-sex marriages for the first time in North Carolina, city council members approved displaying a large rainbow flag from city hall. The local register’s office began issuing licenses late Friday.

So once more unto the breach, two Republican culture warriors — both known for publicity stunts — stepped up to strike back by photoshopping a Nazi flag in place of an image of the rainbow flag. The Sudetenland will rise again or something.

The two Republicans, former city councilman Carl Mumpower and former Buncombe County GOP chairman Chad Nesbitt, criticized the move saying the Asheville City Council’s decision to fly the flag (the council voted unanimously to display it) violated North Carolina open meeting laws.

“I am equating their methods with the Nazi movement,” Mumpower said according to the North Carolina newspaper. “They are indifferent to the rule of law and indifferent to the vote of the people. And that’s Adolph [sic] Hitler all over again in a different disguise.”

These proud, local characters stand as living proof that hippies and fall leaves are not the only local color in town.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Oct
13

The new corruption

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the system is rigged. Sen. Elizabeth Warren makes that point at every opportunity. But her most recent interview about that with Thomas Frank in Salon shifted too quickly from philosophy to process. Warren would rather talk about how the rigging hurts working people. She wants to explain how the system is rigged and by whom:

The system is rigged. And now that I’ve been in Washington and seen it up close and personal, I just see new ways in which that happens. But we have to stop and back up, and you have to kind of get the right diagnosis of the problem, to see how it is that—it goes well beyond campaign contributions.

Indeed it does. But “the question that lies at the heart of whether our democracy will survive” isn’t a matter of process or policy.

Janine Wedel comes closer to the mark in an excerpt (also in Salon) from her book, “Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom, and Security.” Everyday people know the system is rigged better than the elite. Wedel sees it in the comments section of Transparency International’s annual rankings of corrupt countries. “Ordinary people have an instinctual grasp of the real nature of corruption and the inequality that often results.” The United States, they believe, is “grievously under-scrutinized.”

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Oct
13

Watch This

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Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan, political editor of the Huffington Post, argues that if Islam is a violent theology, then 99.99 percent of its 1.6 billion followers have failed to get it.

[h/t Jill Boniske]


Categories : International, Religion
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I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.

Sting

As other states across the country, North Carolina is looking at ways to implement legislation that would allow drone use in the state. The FAA is still attempting to define how they might safely share the skies with other aircraft. Equipped with a GoPro camera, small drones seem like nifty tools for photographers and hobbyists. But given the growing surveillance state revealed by Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, it is natural that civil liberties groups – and even the T-party – are wary of their use by the government against civilians. It didn’t help that one of the sites chosen for early testing in the state belongs to the private security company formerly known as Blackwater.

This morning, the Winston-Salem Journal begins a 3-part series on how drones have been promoted in North Carolina, and by whom.

Imagine: You’re having an open-invitation BBQ in your own backyard. Friends can bring friends. Anyone can come. Thanks to newly enacted legislation, local and state law enforcement agencies are allowed to show up, too, without a warrant, to spy on you with drones.

It seems an unlikely scenario. Yet, a staff attorney at the state General Assembly’s Research Division, confirmed that it could happen. At a BBQ, “a Moral Monday planning session at a friend’s house” or “a conservative Tea Party gathering.”

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Oct
12

Sunday Morning Music

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Brought to you a surprise business trip to LA and an awful serving of tiramisu.


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Oct
11

A new prairie populism?

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Somebody described the DNC’s presidential campaign strategy as counting on large, reliable blocks of Electoral College votes from the East and West coasts, then betting on hitting a triple bank shot and pick up enough votes in a couple of big, Midwest states to total 270. The less-populous “flyover states” in the heartland and the South they abandoned to Rush Limbaugh and the GOP long ago.

Howard Dean thought that was nuts. The DNC thought Howard was nuts. And even after Dean as DNC Chair implemented his Fifty State Strategy and Democrats started winning in places that had not seen the DNC in decades, Beltway Democrats pitched Dean’s strategy as soon as Dean left.

Mike Lux sees a new populism lifting Democratic fortunes in the Plains States in a way Dean would approve. In Oklahoma and North Dakota Democrats are surprisingly competitive this year. And more:

In my home state of Nebraska, the open seat Governor’s race is very competitive, with prairie populist Chuck Hassebrook within 7 points in the latest public poll of close friend of the Koch brothers (He spoke at their secret meeting in June), Pete Ricketts. Hassebrook has spent his career advocating for small farmers and small town businesses at the Center for Rural Affairs, while Ricketts’ Koch-style extremism has gotten him into hot water. (First bias alert: Hassebrook is a long time friend.) Meanwhile, the Democrat running for the House in the Omaha district, Brad Ashford, is in a dead heat race with Republican incumbent Lee Terry.

In Kansas, as anyone following politics has become aware of in recent weeks, both incumbent Republican Governor Sam Brownback and incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts are in very deep trouble, with high unfavorability numbers and trailing consistently in the polls. The Roberts campaign has been awful, but a big part of the reason for the problems these Republicans are having is that Brownback’s extreme tax and spending cut agenda have badly alienated voters.

Finally in South Dakota, in a race long written off by many pundits and national Democrats, support for Republican Mike Rounds has been collapsing in a 4 way race, and Democrat Rick Weiland (2nd bias alert, Rick is also a good friend whose campaign I am helping) is now close enough in the polling that both the DSCC and several progressive groups are putting real money into the state to help him. Rick is running a classic folksy prairie populist campaign against big money, including writing his own lyrics and singing songs like this one on the campaign trail:

Someone complained to me yesterday about Sen. Kay Hagan ignoring rural counties in western North Carolina. She parachutes into the cities for high-dollar fundraisers and high-profile events, but is invisible in redder counties with few Democrats with fat checkbooks. If your priorities run in election cycles, that makes a kind of sense. Lux offers observations taking a longer view [Emphasis mine]:

The first is that these Democrats are campaigning with gusto in small towns and rural counties. There is a very large part of America that Democrats can’t win without appealing to rural voters, and as Democrats have become more oriented over the years toward focusing on big cities and the suburbs, they have sometimes forgotten to reach out to folks in small towns and on farms and ranches. That has made red states redder, and it has made it harder for Democrats to win a majority in the House. But Democrats in the Plains States are making campaigning in small towns and rural counties a cornerstone of their campaigns. Hassebrook, as I mentioned, has been an advocate for rural folks his whole career, and had robust, active steering committees set up in every county in Nebraska from early in his campaign. He fully expects to win or come close in a lot of rural counties where the last Democratic candidate for Governor, Bob Kerrey, did not get to 30%. In South Dakota, Rick Weiland made as the centerpiece of his campaign strategy the idea that he would become the first candidate to ever go to all 311 South Dakota towns, making quite a contrast with Rounds who has spent most of his campaign raising money on the east and west coasts. The bottom line is that rural voters are like anyone else: if you ignore them, they won’t like you. National Democrats have been ignoring rural America for too long, but these Plains States Democrats are proving that they can win a lot of rural votes if they just work at it.

Are we willing to?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : Democrats, National
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The U.S. Supreme Court last night blocked implementation of Wisconsin’s photo ID law for next month’s election:

By a 6-3 vote, the justices granted an emergency appeal from civil rights lawyers, who argued it was too late to put the rule into effect this year.

Lawyers for the ACLU noted that the state had already sent out thousands of absentee ballots without mentioning the need for voters to return a copy of their photo identification.

It would be “chaos,” they said, for Wisconsin to have to decide whether to count such ballots now because voters had failed to comply with the new law.

Meanwhile in Texas, a federal district judge ruled the state’s photo ID card law unconstitutional:

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Oct
10

Friday Open Thread

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Nothing happened this week, amiright?

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We’re going to discuss photo IDs and vote suppression in just a minute.

But first, God and beards were before the Supreme Court on Tuesday in the case of Holt v. Hobbs. At issue: Whether a Muslim prisoner in Arkansas should be allowed to wear a beard in accordance with his religious faith. Per federal statute, prisons should allow such accomodation. As a compromise, the plaintiff, Holt, had agreed that a half-inch beard would satisfy his obligation to God.

University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock testified for the plaintiff.

Inside the court chamber, Laycock told the justices that 40 prison systems allow beards of any length, yet Arkansas still will not allow a short, half-inch beard. That policy, he argued, is “seeking absolute deference to anything they say, just because they say it.”

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