scharrison's blog

Voting during a pandemic: Hearings begin today on lawsuit to ease restrictions

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The differences between a genuine threat (Coronavirus) and a perceived threat (voter fraud):

U.S. District Judge William Osteen scheduled three days of hearings starting Monday involving a lawsuit by two voting advocacy groups and several citizens who fear current rules threaten their health if they want to vote. There's already been a spike in mail-in absentee ballot applications, presumably by voters who prefer not to venture out to in-person voting centers and precincts.

The plaintiffs want Osteen to block several voting restrictions like how mail-in ballots are requested, who can help voters with forms and the hours early in-person voting centers operate. They also want drop boxes for completed absentee ballots and later registration deadlines.

I find it almost absurd that groups have to file their lawsuits against the NC Board of Elections, and not the Republican lawmakers who put these roadblocks in place. The NC BoE has tried to get many of these changes done by asking those Republicans, and have been mostly rebuffed. Granted, if the court rules to do x or y, Republicans will have to comply anyway. But it just seems wrong. But I won't be surprised of those Republicans file their own lawsuit against the Board of Elections over this necessary policy order:

Notes from the Kakistocracy: Trump's vaccine czar won't disclose investments

Billions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of lives are at stake:

The scientist leading the Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine program will be allowed to remain a government contractor, a decision that permits him to avoid ethics disclosures required of federal employees and maintain his investments in pharmaceutical companies.

Two prominent watchdog groups as well as some Democrats in Congress had called for the Department of Health and Human Services to require that the scientist, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a venture capitalist and a former executive at the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, fall under the same ethics rules as federal employees.

And why are only Democrats in Congress worried about this? Rhetorical question, we all know why. The GOP has hitched its horse to a corrupt President, and it will go wherever he tells it to. This situation is ripe for conflicts of interest, but aside from the corrupt aspects, the end goal of securing and producing a vaccine is put in jeopardy by those conflicts:

NC private and charter schools rake in millions in COVID 19 relief loans

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I don't think that word "struggle" means what they think it does:

A year’s tuition at Asheville School is more than $60,000 for live-in students, $35,000 for day students. In the last fiscal quarter, the school’s endowment was $43 million.

Yet the school’s leader said COVID-19 tested Asheville School finances in unique ways, making the $1.7 million it collected in federal pandemic relief necessary.

It's a simple fact, the wealthy live in a different world than the rest of us. And their world is more important to the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans than our world is. And of course Art Pope's education puppet Terry Stoops tries to rationalize this unnecessary funding:

Asheville approves reparation (steps) for slavery

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Social justice can take many forms:

Asheville City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night to provide reparations to black residents and their descendants. The resolution also apologizes for Asheville's role historically in slavery and discrimination. The resolution does not give direct payments to descendants of slaves, but instead allocates money to areas that traditionally see racial disparities.

Those areas include an effort to increase minority home ownership and access to affordable housing. Investments will also be made to increase minority business ownership and career opportunities. Other priorities include closing gaps in health care, education, pay and fairness within the criminal justice system.

This all sounds fantastic, but it will take action more than words to make it effective. And those actions, when they do take place, need to be monitored closely to make sure already well-off (white) people aren't reaping the benefits. Film at eleven.

Fracking companies are dying, and leaving leaking wells behind

So much for the vaunted Free Enterprise system:

The day the debt-ridden Texas oil producer MDC Energy filed for bankruptcy eight months ago, a tank at one of its wells was furiously leaking methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. As of last week, dangerous, invisible gases were still spewing into the air.

By one estimate, the company would need more than $40 million to clean up its wells if they were permanently closed. But the debts of MDC’s parent company now exceed the value of its assets by more than $180 million.

Had another discussion recently about "flaring," wherein the oil/gas drillers burn gas in a spectacular display of sometimes 30 ft flames. I agreed that it was wasteful, but it's what you can't see that is the problem. Venting that gas without flaring it does much more damage than burning it off, and there is not nearly enough attention paid to this problem. Or the irresponsible behavior of the companies who should be forced to cap those wells:

SCANA lawsuit may signal the death of (new) nuclear power plants

A scam this big can only last so long:

A civil fraud class action lawsuit brought by shareholders against SCANA and its former top executives over the failure of its $9 billion nuclear power plant project in Fairfield County was settled Thursday for $192.5 million.

The lawsuit was filed in 2017, several months after SCANA and its junior partner in the ill-fated nuclear venture, Santee Cooper, a state-owned utility, announced on July 31 of that year they were abandoning the project that they had been promoting for years as a successful effort on the way to completion. The utilities also had been charging customers in advance for the unfinished nuclear reactors.

Bolding mine, because justice may not have been served yet. That last sentence refers to CWIP (Construction Work In Progress), a process that was shunned 30+ years ago, but utilities brought it back because nobody would loan them money for new nuke plants anymore. The shareholders got their settlement, but I have yet to see anything about ratepayers being reimbursed for their money collected. There should also be some criminal charges on deck, because this behavior is definitely fraudulent:

Draconian hedge fund makes move to purchase McClatchy

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Putting the Raleigh N&O and Char-O in a precarious position:

The refinancing of the company made Chatham — the principal owner of American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid — the largest debt holder in McClatchy.

Enter Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund that has become a major force in the newspaper business. In a surprise move on Wednesday, Alden filed an emergency motion in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court asking Judge Michael E. Wiles to stop Chatham from attempting to buy McClatchy through a credit bid, a transaction that would allow it to put the company debt it had assumed toward the purchase price.

Full disclosure: I don't know diddly about how bankruptcy courts operate, and I hope I never become learned on the subject. But I also believe in "learning from the mistakes of others," and Alden should be the last company allowed to control NC's flagship newspapers:

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