The value of majority-minority Congressional districts

When arguing about gerrymandering on social media, it never fails that someone will pipe up and declare that boundaries should be radically simplified, and neither race nor political parties be considered. The arguments get even testier when majority-minority districts are discussed. And very often you will see claims that both parties engage in racial gerrymandering to serve their own interests. But in reality, creating and supporting majority-minority districts actually hurts the Democratic Party:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy's fine is laughable

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It's all about the context:

While these latest fines might seem steep to those of us who are not huge utility companies, Duke Energy has assets of $120.7 billion. Six and a half million is loose change to Duke, a company whose CEO made $10.5 million the year after the coal-ash spill — a $2.5 million raise from the year before. And even the $102 million Duke agreed to pay the feds is hardly enough to clean up the damage the company caused. As ThinkProgress points out, a study from last year “estimated the ecological, recreational, aesthetic, and human health damages from the spill totaled $295,485,000. And that study looked at only the first six months after the spill, meaning the total damage could end up being higher.”

It's also important to remember: Duke Energy's "cleanup" from the Dan River spill only removed a fraction of the volume of toxic coal ash released into the river, leaving over 90% of the mess where it came to rest. The only thing that's harder to calculate than the total environmental damage done by Duke Energy is the amount of influence they wield in state government and the conflicts of interest generated by their political spending:

Wednesday News: Wrecking ball swings again

IN ELECTION YEAR, LEGISLATORS LOOK TO CUT INCOME TAXES (Raleigh News & Observer) -- State legislators could consider election-year income tax cuts that could save families up to $115 per year.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article59396328.html

N.C. LAWMAKERS BEGIN TALKS ON INCOME TAX CUT (WRAL-TV) -- Leaders of the legislative committee responsible for recommending changes to North Carolina tax laws say they are likely to ask fellow lawmakers to consider an income tax cut this year.
http://www.wral.com/nc-lawmakers-begin-talks-on-income-tax-cut/15342490/

Fox in the Hen House, Again.

The "REINS Act" is exactly what it sounds like. A measure that would rein in government by requiring the 'major' rules created by government agencies to be approved by the General Assembly. That's right. ‘Major’ rules would have to go through NCGA, presumably as a piece of legislation. They would go through committees and be passed by both houses, possibly even be signed by the governor. This is what the Locke Foundation proposed last week at an NCGA committee meeting.

Tuesday Twitter roundup

A glimpse into the bizarro world of Republican ideology:

While other states are contemplating decriminalizing drug abuse and opting for treatment methods instead, we're moving to take away *all* medical treatment for drug users, even the life-saving parts. Congratulations GOP, you've set a new standard for wrongness.

Tuesday News: History in the making

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SANCTIONS LIFTED, AMERICAN TOURISTS HEAD TO IRAN (New York Times) -- William O. Beeman, a professor and chairman of the anthropology department at the University of Minnesota and an expert in Iran plans to take 14 travelers to Iran in June on a sold-out trip organized by Iran Luxury Travel , a two-year-old company in North Carolina. Steve Kutay, a former importer, founded Iran Luxury Travel in his retirement “as a good thing to do,” he said, in terms of encouraging people-to-people diplomacy (trips start at $2,995 a person, double occupancy for eight days).
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/travel/iran-tourism-sanctions.html

Dear god

Colorado decriminalized pot and has a fortune in new taxes to work with. North Carolina is still trying to make abortion illegal. Is that why the Broncos won? Is that why you like Colorado more?

Jane and I saw this today while biking on Emerald Isle. Offered without comment.

Posted by James Protzman on Monday, February 8, 2016

Predictably, GOP uses election to justify keeping unconstitutional districts

Elevating shirking responsibility to an art form:

"We trust the federal trial court was not aware an election was already underway and surely did not intend to throw our state into chaos by nullifying ballots that have already been sent out and votes that have already been cast," Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, and Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, said in a statement. "We hope the court will realize the serious and far-reaching ramifications of its unprecedented, eleventh-hour action and immediately issue a stay."

"The pressures that we have are not made up. They are real, live democracy questions," Lawson said. "This is kind of democracy in real time, needing to make sure that we have everything ready for elections that, in fact, have already started."

Guess what, Josh? Sweeping tens of thousands of African-American voters into other districts is a "real, live democracy question" too, and leaving that in place is a much harder pill to swallow than the difficulties straightening out absentee ballots. Also, big LOLs to Rucho and Lewis on that "unprecedented, eleventh-hour action" bullshit. How many bills did you guys shove through in midnight sessions, or about fifteen minutes after giving Legislators a 100-200 page secretly-rewritten and glaringly controversial bill that various committees had already rejected? Petard, hoisted. Get over it.

Duke Energy will request rate hikes for coal ash disposal

Because every step they take is a money-making opportunity:

"But we will do everything we can to keep cost impacts as manageable as possible in any potential cost recovery filing that we might make in the future," Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said in an email.

The company said excavating and reburying the coal ash in lined landfills could cost as much as $10 billion. That's more than Duke Energy spent to scrap a quarter of its coal-burning power capacity and open 10 new natural gas and coal plants in North Carolina, Florida and Indiana since 2009, the company said.

And now comes the economic coercion: If you force us to do what we should have done in the first place, bury this toxic mess in lined pits, we will make you pay for it yourselves. Besides, we have better things to do with our profits than fix our own mistakes with it:

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