NCGA

The GOP's "despicable and cowardly" game of voter suppression

Strong words from the N&O on the Republicans' behavior while in office:

The Republican politicians in North Carolina, and elsewhere for that matter, see their attempts to suppress Democratic voters with Voter ID laws and curbs on early voting and on voting sites on college campuses as some clever game. They really do.

The voter suppression laws passed in North Carolina and other Republican-run states are despicable and cowardly. The right to vote is a sacred one, granted to citizens of this grand democracy. That’s the difference in requiring a photo ID to cash a check or use a credit card and requiring one to vote. The first is a privilege; the second is a right.

It's actually more than just a game to them. Republicans believe the majorities they achieved back in 2010 equated to an overwhelming mandate from the people to do anything they wanted, regardless of the legality, Constitutionality, morality, or any other limits to power the general public expects elected officials to operate under. In any sane electoral situation, the voters would soon put that right. But with gerrymandering, it would require many Republican voters to vote against their own party. Which isn't going to happen to any substantial degree.

Duke University research tainted with fracking dollars

I thought I smelled something funky about this:

Shale gas drilling generates sufficient taxes and fees to cover the costs of local government services, such as road repair, waste water services and emergency services, according to a study by Duke University researchers.

Richard Newell and Daniel Raimi of Duke’s Energy Initiative concluded that regions with active drilling generally experience financial benefits from fracking activity.

As to that "road repair" observation, you may want to tell that to the folks in Pennsylvania who are tearing their cars to pieces bumping along what used to be a decent road system. Doubtless much of their other findings are arguable, but right now I'm more concerned with what's fueling the findings:

Is that an incentive under that Red Hat, or are you just glad to see me?

Elite club membership dues come from the strangest places:

North Carolina's newly minted public-private partnership set up to create jobs across the state revealed its five major donors this week, among them Duke Energy and software firm Red Hat. The largest donation, $200,000, came from Duke Energy. Raleigh-based Red Hat pitched in $100,000, and smaller donations came from Piedmont Natural Gas, Morrisville-based computer maker Lenovo and Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Co.

Red Hat has so far received about $470,000 out of $15 million in incentive projects announced in 2011.

I'm sure many corporatists will view this as Red Hat simply "paying it forward" or some other rationalization, but it should be a stark reminder to the rest of us just how unwise and possibly incestuous this misappropriation of taxpayer's dollars really is.

McCrory puts NC workers' safety at risk

Stacking the deck against worker's compensation claims:

This summer, a small note in the General Assembly's final budget bill reclassified the Industrial Commission's 22 deputy commissioners, turning them from career civil servants into at-will employees who will either be reappointed or let go. The lives and careers of these administrative law judges were placed directly into the hands of the commission's chair, a young McCrory appointee named Andrew T. Heath. The first group of deputy commissioners will be let go on Feb. 15, 2015, and have already begun to be replaced by more pro-business-minded Republicans.

"There's an effort being made on a state level to get conservative and pro-business people appointed to commissions and for the commissions to be an advocate for reduction of benefits," says Steve Embry, a veteran workers' comp lawyer and president of the Workplace Injury Law and Advocacy Group.

A safe workplace doesn't just magically appear, there are certain outside influences that drive it. OSHA wields a pretty heavy statutory stick, but the agency simply doesn't have the resources to monitor more than a small percent of workplaces each year. Insurance companies, however, are a totally different overseeing animal. And the more worker's compensation claims your company forces them to pay out, the more involved the insurance company gets in your operation. As such, if a tainted Commission rejects many/most workplace injury claims, nothing will change to reduce those injuries. The system isn't perfect, but with a useless Secretary and Board of Labor, and a mere 3% labor union membership rate, it's all workers have left. Or did have, anyway

The GOP's privatization of DOT costly for schools

Boom for the paving industry is a bust for struggling local education funders:

The budget bill provision mandates that the DOT outsource more of its pavement preservation work over the next four years. At least 80 percent of the department’s pavement preservation budget must be going to the private paving industry by 2018, Herron reported.

Darrell Walker, assistant superintendent of operations for the local school district, told the Journal that the district was mainly using the DOT crew to chip seal student parking lots. The average price from the DOT has been about $5.25 per square yard, he said, and he estimates that the private-sector move will cost the district about $12 per square yard.

No doubt Republicans in the General Assembly will pat themselves on the back for "saving taxpayer's money" at the state level, while ignoring the fact it's being horribly wasted at the local level, thanks to them. And they'll have all the supporting misinformation they need from idiots like this:

Voting machine swiches Hagan vote to Tillis

And it's unknown how many other votes it may have changed:

The problem occurred at the Craft Recreation Center in Greensboro Wednesday morning. A voter intended to vote for Kay Hagan. But before he pressed the vote button, it switched to Thom Tillis. He tried again, and the same thing happened.

The voter then alerted poll workers. Guilford Elections Director Charles Collicutt says they re-calibrated the machine and now it is reporting as is should be. The error with the Craft Rec Center machine is the only one known to have the problem this cycle. He says there’s no way to know for sure how many times such an error has occurred.

There's one way they can check: Check all the votes for that particular machine, and if a voter chose mostly Democrats in other races but also voted for Thom Tillis, there's a good chance that Tillis vote was incorrect. Especially after what happened with the Pat McCrory fiasco, I doubt there's many crossover Dems voting for Thommy Boy.

On fears, fantasies and critical thinking

In which I discuss monsters, both real and imagined:

As Halloween approaches, many are consumed with the desire to scare each other with elaborate costumes and behavior. Ghosts and witches, who previously ruled this holiday, have been replaced by more horrific entities: The ubiquitous walking dead and chainsaw-wielding psychopaths. It’s all in fun of course, but it’s also extremely ironic. Because many of us live in genuine fear of imaginary monsters for the other 364 days of the year, and it negatively alters our understanding of the world around us.

Campaign season is a time when reality suffers and the truth becomes a vague concept, but it's really the most important time for such things. Here are a few more excerpts from my appeal for thoughtful evaluation:

Say the "magic words" or your right to vote is questioned

New Hanover County BoE administers geography test to student voters:

In New Hanover County, dormitory students who cannot state their street address will not be allowed to cast a regular ballot in the coming election. The New Hanover County Democratic Party is challenging this procedure, saying it disenfranchises student voters.

"In other counties, they send dormitory lists to the polling place, and the poll workers have them, and if the student can identify the dormitory they live in, they assist them with the street address. And there’s really been no good reason stated by this Board of Elections why they’re out of sync with the State Board of Elections and other counties."

There's a reason all right, it just isn't a "good" reason. Assisting average voters is not high on the GOP's list of priorities, and assisting student voters is not on that list at all. It's on another list, that would be titled "suppress these people," if they were dumb enough to actually write it down somewhere.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Putting lipstick on a toxic pig

Duke Energy's "philanthropy" geared towards area beautification, not watershed protection:

The foundation is particularly interested in receiving applications from economic development programs that would enhance “community beautification and maintenance with a measurable impact on increasing tourism, business and population growth within the county.”

In the environmental category, RCCF seeks programs “that have a visible impact on the local community, such as outdoor classrooms or environmental signage along trails, (and) walkways along the river.”

While this $10 million from Duke Energy was a voluntary donation and had no regulatory requirements attached, the "visible impact" qualifier for use of these funds makes it part of their wider public relations efforts. Most of the real work that is done safeguarding and enhancing water quality is not visible to the average passerby, but it's much more important than streetscaping or posting a sign by a trail.

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