James @
Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 1:57pm

The courts continue to smack down unconstitutional laws passed by the NCGOP. Another one bites the dust: Received via email from the ACLU.

RICHMOND, VA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today ruled that a 2011 North Carolina law that would have allowed the production of a “Choose Life” license plate, but not an alternative plate with a message supporting reproductive freedom, is unconstitutional.

“Issuing a ‘Choose Life’ specialty license plate while refusing to issue a pro-choice specialty license plate constitutes blatant viewpoint discrimination squarely at odds with the First Amendment,” the court ruled in a unanimous 3-0 opinion.

ACLU Choose Life
James @
Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 10:45am

Some excellent reporting from the Associated Press. Please go read the whole article, but if you're looking for a synopsis, here it is:

  • Duke Energy gives Pat McCrory more than a million dollars to run for governor
  • Pat McCrory names pollution profiteer John Skvarla to lead DENR
  • Skvarla blocks efforts by real environmentalists to force coal-ash clean up
  • DENR makes backroom deal with Duke Energy to let them off the hook
  • New deal is ready to go when - boom - Dan River spill happens
  • Skvarla and Co. shift into delay and deny mode
  • Look for more backroom deal-making coming soon
DENR Duke Energy
James @
Monday, February 10, 2014 - 11:19am

Deputy Assistant Governor Pat will take the stage at 10:30 to offer a bold new plan for teacher pay. Here's are the details of his presentation.

  • We cut the education budget by $285 million last year.
  • The blow back was terrible and embarrassing.
  • We concocted a band-aid solution that creates the illusion of responsiveness.
  • Our new plan will raise pay a token amount for 24,000 new teachers.
  • At the same time, we will ignore the needs of 71,000 experienced teachers.
  • NC voters are stupid enough to fall for this half-assed scheme.
  • Thank you.
Pat McCrory
James @
Monday, February 10, 2014 - 10:55am

WRAL.com has renewed its credentials as a member in good standing of the Puppetshow after trotting out Dr. Mike Walden to endorse Pat McCrory's economic agenda. For those unfamiliar with Walden, he's part of the Art Pope School of Agricultural Economics at NCSU, a reliable echo chamber for free-market fantasies, trickle down theories, and privatization schemes of every shape and size.

Even better, Walden has also jumped into the branding business, advising the Deputy Assistant Governor on how to position the state to compete. According to Waldon, North Carolina should brand itself as "the innovative state."

Sounds good, except for one minor detail. To be effective, branding has to have at least an element of truth. Then again, maybe Walden is right. Just look at all the innovations North Carolina is adopting:

  • We're testing the most extreme voter suppression policies in the nation to see if we can legally rig state elections.
  • With bottom-of-the-barrel teacher pay, we're looking to see just how far we can go in crushing public education.
  • In an innovative partnership with Duke Energy, we're exploring the joys of arsenic poisoning in our rivers.
  • We've cut taxes on the top 10% and raised them on everyone else, an innovative breakthrough in income redistribution.

Got more innovations? Bring 'em on. We're the Innovative State, ya'll. Yeeee-hah!

Mike Walden
James @
Monday, February 10, 2014 - 10:27am

DENR shielded Duke's coal ash pollution

Over the last year, environmental groups have tried three times to use the federal Clean Water Act to force Duke Energy to clear out leaky coal ash dumps like the one that ruptured last week, spewing enough toxic sludge into a North Carolina river to fill 73 Olympic-sized pools. Each time, they say, their efforts have been stymied by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The state agency has blocked the citizen lawsuits by intervening at the last minute to assert its own authority under the federal act to take enforcement action. After negotiating with Duke, the state proposed settlements where the nation's largest electricity provider pays modest fines but is under no requirement to actually clean up its coal ash ponds.

The LA Times covers the story

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it had incorrectly reported that results of water samples taken Feb. 3 were within state standards for arsenic, a toxic heavy metal. In fact, the agency said, two samples exceeded the standard of 10 micrograms per liter. “We made an honest mistake while interpreting the results,’’ Tom Reeder, director of the agency’s Division of Water Resources, said in a statement Sunday afternoon.

No worries Tom. Just smile and be happy.

DENR John Skvarla
James @
Sunday, February 9, 2014 - 6:54pm

One hundred sixty thousand, three hundred and forty-nine.
That's how many comments have been made at BlueNC
over the past decade.
Not bad?

James @
Sunday, February 9, 2014 - 11:45am

I hate it when he's right:

Because of redistricting, Republican legislators know there is no chance that they will lose control of the legislature in November no matter what they say. They are probably safe in 2016 and perhaps beyond as well. That is also true for most individual lawmakers.

As far as most lawmakers are concerned, Rob's point is well taken. But two caveats apply. First, the statewide races in 2014 (Hagan) and 2016 (McCrory and Council of State) are immune to gerrymandering and will produce Democratic victories. McCrory is doing everything humanly possible to ensure he's a one-term Deputy Assistant Governor. And second, Democrats will claw back enough legislative seats by 2016 to be able to sustain vetoes. These are battles Democrats can win if they behave like Democrats instead of corporate tools.

rob christensen
James @
Saturday, February 8, 2014 - 8:11pm

Some are saying 80 to 100k. Others say 20,000. I say "enough to change the world."

More pictures below the fold.

James @
Friday, February 7, 2014 - 11:12am

When the integrity of a public organization is thrown into doubt because of weaknesses in leadership, the consequences are far-reaching:

Test results released by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Duke Energy showed arsenic and other potentially harmful contaminates were detected in the Dan River, but at levels considered safe for both people and fish. The state and Duke cooperated to collect samples from the same sites, the closest about two miles downstream from the power plant where about 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash mixed with 27 million gallons of contaminated water has spilled into the river since Sunday. The spill produced a plume of contamination that coated the river bottom in sludge and turned the water slate gray for miles.

John Skvarla
James @
Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 12:13pm

It's been fascinating to watch Renee go into crisis mode in response to Clay Aiken's candidacy, quickly underscoring one of the major differences between her and her opponent. Ellmers has already proven herself to be a petty jerk, while Clay has occupied the high ground with thoughtfulness and maturity.

That's a tough choice for voters of the second district. Which candidate will they choose? The petty jerk is looking more than a little vulnerable.

Happy Clay Day, folks. Share whatever stories and news you come across.

PS Barry Saunders has a great column today about this race. Check it out.

clay aiken