scharrison's blog

Duke University rethinking construction of natural gas facility

Taking a step back to evaluate their options:

For a university that has always been protective of its global reputation, contributing to global greenhouse gases through a natural gas plant is no way to burnish that image. That’s one of the conclusions of a Duke University Campus Sustainability Subcommittee, which released a report on a proposed combined heat-and- power natural gas plant today.

As a result, university Executive Vice President Tallman Trask announced that the board of trustees won’t vote as scheduled on a new $55 million, 21-megawatt combined heat and power natural gas plant on campus.

It's good they're taking a long, hard look at this project. I was going to say, "It's about time," but I don't want to look a gift academic horse in the mouth. But timeliness aside, there was one particular point I was looking for in the Subcommittee's report, and I found it:

Mark Meadows: Poster child for ending gerrymandering

We need to build a wall to keep people like him out:

There have been some predictions of a shutdown based on statements from some congressmen that they don’t want to fund a border wall with Mexico as part of a bill to keep the government going, the fear that some conservative House members like Meadows will use the occasion to get concessions on one issue or the other or the possibility of a debate over a ban on funds for Planned Parenthood.

Meadows predicted that Congress will approve funds for a border wall and increases for the military and Department of Homeland Security along with funds to keep the government going and dismissed the idea of a shutdown.

Anti-immigration, anti-abortion, and more money to bomb the shit out of Muslims. When these are your main priorities, you have no business being allowed into the Capitol Building, much less filing bills and voting and such. We've got a lot of work to do.

Please support HB200, non-partisan redistricting Commission

It may be the only way to save our democracy:

No district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent legislator, or member of Congress, or other person or group, or for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a language or racial minority group. In establishing districts, no use shall be made of any of the addresses or geographic locations of incumbents.

Except to the extent required by the North Carolina and United States Constitutions, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and applicable court decisions, no use shall be made of:

(1) Political affiliations of registered voters.
(2) Previous election results.
(3) Demographic information, other than population head counts."

At our Alamance County Democratic Party Convention yesterday, Pete Glidewell (recent Congressional candidate in NC's 6th District) made an eloquent and impassioned argument on the dangers of partisan gerrymandering. This is not a "new" problem by any stretch of the imagination, we've been living with the consequences of blatant partisan gerrymandering since the 2012 Election. And while there have been some promising developments on the legal front, we're over halfway to the next round of redistricting following the 2020 Election, and we need to fix this thing if we can. Here are some stats Pete provided to drive that home:

NC Senate bill would shift more funding to charter schools

charterpirates.jpg

The school privatization train picks up speed:

The battle in question concerns how local funding is shared between traditional public schools and charter schools. SB 658 would require traditional school districts to send more of their local funds to charter schools.

This bill is misguided because charter schools already receive more local funding than traditional public schools, and the gap is growing. A NC Justice Center report published in September showed that, controlling for student residence, the local spending in charter schools in fiscal year 14-15 exceeded the local per pupil spending in traditional schools by $142 per student. That gap has increased in fiscal year 15-16, with charter schools now exceeding local spending of traditional schools by $212 per student. SB 658 would only exacerbate these funding discrepancies.

We're heading into a public school crisis with the unfunded mandate on class sizes, which has already cost educators several dozen jobs. Instead of fixing that problem (which they created), they're trying to take away even more money from traditional public schools. The word "irresponsible" falls way too short in describing their actions, but they just keep chugging along.

GOP's "campus free speech" legislation actually violates 1st Amendment

Also known as the Authoritarian Libertarian conundrum:

State legislators have filed two “campus free speech” bills that on their face would eventually force UNC-Chapel Hill and perhaps other campuses in the UNC system to revise some of their campus-conduct rules and procedures.

As introduced, the N.C. House bill would require the system Board of Governors to prescribe “a range of disciplinary sanctions” for anyone affiliated with a UNC campus “who interferes with the free expression of others.” A board committee would monitor the campuses’ handling of that.

That's right, if you argue with somebody because you don't agree with what they are proselytizing about, you will be disciplined for speaking out. It would be bad enough if the publicly-funded university came up with this, but to have state government enshrine that into statute is *exactly* why the 1st Amendment was added to the Constitution. To keep government from deciding who gets to speak and who doesn't. Yes, it gets messy sometimes, like when Tom Tancredo couldn't get a word in edgewise over protesters on the UNC campus. But stifling those voices of dissent is not the way to cure that messiness, it's how you end up with a place where the word "democracy" becomes nothing more than a label. Let's take a trip to the Goldwater Institute to see where this craziness originated:

NC GOP pay-to-play politics at its very worst

And not one tiny drop of shame:

One of the nominees hoping the state House will award him another term on the UNC Board of Governors emphasized his fundraising efforts on behalf of conservative legislative campaigns in an email to top lawmakers earlier this week.

“I would challenge you to find anyone who has worked harder than myself to get conservatives elected and keep them there,” Hinton wrote in the email obtained by the N.C. Insider. “In fact I have been leading an effort for a new PAC to raise $250,000 to help with the 2018 elections. We have had two organizational meetings and are planning a kickoff on April 26th with an invitation list of over 200 people.”

This article is one of Mark Binker's first contributions to NC Insider, and a prime example of why they hired him away from WRAL. Hopefully the N&O sharing this at their main site (NC Insider is a paywalled subsidiary) is not just a teaser, but will be done on a regular basis. At least until after I get my daughter married off in June, because my budget belt is so tight I feel like one of those balloon animals. ;)

Workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation a violation of the Civil Rights Act

And considering the makeup of the court, this ruling is a game-changer:

A federal appeals court ruled for the first time Tuesday that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBT employees from workplace discrimination, setting up a likely battle before the Supreme Court as gay rights advocates push to broaden the scope of the 53-year-old law.

The 7th Circuit is considered relatively conservative and five of the eight judges in the majority were appointed by Republican presidents, making the finding all the more notable. In an opinion concurring with the majority, Judge Richard Posner wrote that changing norms call for a change in interpretation of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin or sex.

Even if Gorsuch does get seated (which is highly probable), it will be surprising if the Supreme Court reverses this decision. I'm sure there will be some clever arguments put forward, but there simply is no justification for basing an employment decision on somebody's sexual orientation. To decide the Civil Rights Act doesn't apply to some classes of citizens would be an erosion of the Law itself, and I just don't see more than two Justices throwing their weight in that direction.

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