Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 10:55am

Chopping away at the Judicial Branch:

The stakes in the political and ideological battle over choosing justices are high: State supreme courts review local courts’ criminal and civil verdicts and the constitutionality of state laws, and about 95 percent of all legal cases are filed in state courts, according to a 2008 report.

More than $3.1 million has been spent this year on television ads in elections already held in Tennessee, Idaho and Arkansas and in a May primary election bid to unseat a North Carolina justice, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center reported earlier this month. Races in Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Montana, New Mexico and Texas will likely attract millions of political party and special-interest dollars, the groups said.

That number is on the low side, I would think. About half that much was spent here in North Carolina alone in an effort to get rid of Robin Hudson and have two Republicans run for her seat. Low estimates aside, voters should find this trend chilling, if they ponder what it represents: A concerted effort to preserve and protect unconstitutional government actions by Republican legislatures.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 11:17am

Fighting over who gets to rule the contaminated sand box:

But as the proposed law progressed through the General Assembly, McCrory objected to the proposed independent legislative commission that would bar his executive office from any influence over the cleanup of coal ash. Most of the commission’s members would be appointed by the legislature.

He and his counsel wrote strongly worded letters to legislative leaders, warning them that the commission would create useless bureaucracy and could violate North Carolina’s constitution. “We’ve been doing this for years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right,” McCrory said. “I need to raise these questions, not only for the executive branch but for future governors.”

I've been here at BlueNC, looking at state-level politics and policy since 2007, and I've paid particular attention to newly-created boards and commissions. The character of these bodies often gives you a glimpse into what they will do in the future, the direction in which the legislation will lead the state. Strictly from memory (without researching), the power shift proceeded thus:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 1:53pm

A new low for the mother frackers fossil fuel industry:

Another 18 or so men sported turquoise-colored “Shale Yes” T-shirts. Some of them expressed confusion about why they were in Cullowhee. A handful removed their shirts or turned them inside out after anti-fracking supporters quizzed them about their knowledge of fracking. One of the men told The Herald he stays in a Winston-Salem homeless shelter and came because he had been told it would help the environment. He said he felt misled. The man, an Army veteran receiving mental-health care, refused to provide his name or additional details, saying he didn’t want any trouble. To prove his story, he fished in his pocket and produced a Bethesda Center For The Homeless business card.

The men who would talk – none were willing to provide their names -- seemed nervous. They asked reporters to close their notebooks when other people approached. One warned another to be quiet. They denied receiving money to attend the hearing.

This was somebody's "bright idea," and that somebody needs to be splattered all over the nightly news and the front pages of newspapers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 9:50am

More whistling past the graveyard from McCroryland:

Another grossly overpaid empty suit:

Monday, September 15, 2014 - 10:32am

If that doesn't get your attention, I don't know what will:

The North Carolina Republican would have to choose between two possible chairmanships: Intelligence, for which he’s next in line behind retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss, and Veterans’ Affairs, where he’s already at the top of the GOP ranks. Burr tells POLITICO he hasn’t made up his mind what he would do under a GOP majority: “I’ll wait and see if it happens.” As Intelligence chairman, Burr would be likely to take a close look at the ISIL threat, which he says he’s concerned with because intelligence agencies don’t know how many of those terrorists might hold U.S. passports. If he doesn’t take the Intelligence chairmanship, James Risch of Idaho would be next in line.

We also don't know who their favorite Disney characters are (Jafar from Aladdin comes to mind), but that may be equally inconsequential. ISIL is radically different from Al-Qaeda and other groups who try to erode the fabric of a society; they're mainly focused on taking over territory to create a (future) Islamic state in the region. An attack on US soil, while not out of the question, would be counterproductive to its goals, by bringing the full wrath of the US military might down on its head. The biggest threat right now to the American people is the possible takeover of the US Senate by the GOP.

Sunday, September 14, 2014 - 11:38am

The "process" is not working, Speaker Tillis, it's inherently flawed:

Then the lawyers started pushing for what they knew must exist – police files, interview notes, State Bureau of Investigation reports and physical evidence. Slowly, the Whiteville Police Department produced files and evidence that had never been given to the lawyers defending Norfolk “Fuzzy” Best at his 1993 trial.

The lawyers dug up several folders of notes and reports from the Whiteville Police Department, including a tip about a suspicious car near the murder scene 12 hours before the bodies were found. The car turned out to be stolen. The thief, a habitual felon with a lengthy criminal record in several states, reportedly told friends that he had killed an elderly couple in Whiteville.

Bolding mine. Proponents of the death penalty often claim the "process" of convicting capital offenders is thorough and fair, but that appears to be mostly supposition and wishful thinking. In reality, law enforcement often latches onto the first suspect that emerges in the investigation, and then puts on blinders as they compile evidence (real or circumstantial) on their target. Anything that leads away from said suspect is a distraction to be avoided. And then hidden from prying eyes, apparently:

Saturday, September 13, 2014 - 11:25am

Surrendering rights might not be wise:

The American jury has long been a protection of the lives and liberties of her citizens. The jury system protects our individual freedom by prohibiting the government from taking us to prison unless it can prove to every single person on that jury that we have committed a crime. This jury of our peers must not only be unanimous in their judgment, but must agree "beyond a reasonable doubt," the highest legal burden in our judicial system. The fundamental protection of the jury system allows each us to go about our daily lives secure in the knowledge that, if faced with a criminal accusation, our liberty will ultimately be in the hands of our fellow citizens.

As I mentioned on Facebook recently (which is ironic), after observing the herd-like behavior and general lack of discernment exhibited by many of my "peers" on social networking sites, I don't have nearly as much faith in the jury process as I once held. That being said, bench trials might be more streamlined, less dramatic, and of course cheaper; but there's only one arse sitting on that bench. And you better hope the owner of that arse has got the smarts and integrity to see and understand the truth.

Friday, September 12, 2014 - 11:14am

Big shrimp on a small plate:

What you won’t hear any of the union organizers who flew into Durham last week talk about is the menu of opportunities the restaurant industry offers to more than 13 million people of varying ages and experience levels across the nation. As a restaurant owner and operator, I know how important the restaurant industry is to North Carolina and the benefits the industry brings to my employees and our community.

I started in the restaurant industry as a cook in one of my parents’ restaurants...

Gonna stop you right there, fella. You have no idea how the vast majority of your employees live, and if you actually had to survive on $3-4 dollars per hour, plus tips from blue-haired fixed-income hush puppy fans, you would probably be living in someone else's mobile home and waiting patiently for the beginning of next month for your food stamps to recharge. You know, I was just saying something good about the N&O the other day...