Republican bullies

The NC GOP's sustained attack on local control

Municipal governments may soon be just a fond memory:

These bills significantly favor the interests of homebuilders and Realtors, but at what would be the great expense of communities across North Carolina, and here in Moore County. One of those bills we’ve already discussed here: State Sen. Tom McInnis’ bill preventing municipalities from regulating tree removal. McInnis says he’s no longer pushing his bill, but it remains ominously in the mix.

Other pending legislation is even more grievous. One bill would prohibit municipalities from regulating the minimum square footage of homes, something that has long been the purview of local government. Another bill would roll back reasons a municipal code enforcement officer may consider a building unsafe. And still another would extend the tax exemption to homebuilders from three to five years for unsold houses, and restrict a town’s ability to make a builder clean up a dilapidated site that violates an ordinance.

I've been dealing with the issue of property rights (heavily) for the last 15 months or so, and I can safely say it's a tremendous balancing act. But one thing is certain; when citizen groups get involved in the process (as opposed to one or two ranters) on a local level, they can influence said process. Nobody gets everything they want, but that is itself a sign that property rights are being respected. But apparently some Legislators simply do not understand that:

FYI, Jerry Falwell Jr. is not only a bigot, he's also a hypocrite

Big fan of campus free speech, just not his campus:

Among the incidents of alleged censorship that have become public, Falwell instructed the editor of Liberty Champion, the campus newspaper, in October 2016 to spike a column critical of then-candidate Trump after a leaked recording from Access Hollywood in which he is heard bragging about assaulting women.

In October 2017 and again the following year, Falwell and faculty members pressured student journalists not to cover a gathering of a progressive evangelical Christian group in Lynchburg, Va., where Liberty is located.

If Falwell blocked that "grab them by the pussy" article merely to help Trump's campaign, it would be bad enough. But he wanted more than that; he wanted his students to follow a false prophet, and was willing to deceive them in the process. And the school's lack of transparency and rigid control of student journalists is more akin to a cult than an institution of higher learning:

The right bill for the wrong reason: NC Senate passes whistleblower protections

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Just in time for Sunshine Week:

A bill passed by the N.C. Senate last week to provide greater protections for government whistleblowers is a move in the right direction.

The Protecting Government Accountability Act passed unanimously, 44-0, after adopting two amendments that strengthen it. One requires heads of state agencies, departments and institutions to inform their employees about the law. The other clarifies that the protections cover state employee testimony to agents or employees of legislative inquiry panels appointed by the House speaker or Senate president pro tempore.

The key word there is "agents." They're called "private" investigators for a reason, because they operate outside normal parameters that dictate the behavior of government investigators. The Governor is right to shield state employees from their scrutiny, and to demand the General Assembly get its answers in a formal setting. And as for this observation:

Trump threatens universities with "campus free speech" executive order

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Vowing to withhold billions of Federal dollars if they don't comply:

President Trump vowed Saturday to "soon" issue an executive order that would deny federal research funds to colleges and universities that do not support free speech. "If they want our dollars and we give them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people to speak," said Trump in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

During his speech, President Trump brought on stage and praised Hayden Williams, who was punched last week when he was at the University of California, Berkeley, seeking support for the president and conservative causes and criticizing Jussie Smollett, the actor who is facing charges of false reporting to the police in a hate crime he claimed to have experienced.

First of all, I don't condone physically assaulting somebody because of what they say, for several reasons. And one of those reasons is because (often) that is exactly what the speaker wants, just like this Berkeley dude. He's a field organizer for the Leadership Institute, the same incubator that produced the white supremacist group Youth for Western Civilization that plagued the UNC campus ten years ago:

UNC BOG pushes Folt out several months early

Calling the move childish would be an insult to children:

The Board of Governors accepted Folt’s resignation during a closed emergency meeting Tuesday afternoon, specifying a date months earlier than the chancellor had intended to leave. The board accepted the resignation effective Jan. 31, whereas Folt had said she planned to step down after commencement, scheduled for May.

“She resigned, we accepted it,” said Harry Smith, Board of Governors chair, during a question-and-answer session with reporters, the audio of which was provided to Inside Higher Ed. “We just felt it was better to compress the timeline and then work more toward a healing process.”

Compress the timeline? Reducing 4 1/2 months to a couple weeks is a hell of a lot more than "compressing the timeline." And as far as I'm concerned, the only "healing process" that will actually work is to purge the UNC Board of Governors of any and all political appointees, and a good place to start is with the Chairman himself, whose ethics are more than a little strained:

The Trump Effect: Israeli settlements in West Bank on steroids

The path to a lasting peace is being bricked over:

In 2017, 3,154 tenders were issued, up from just 42 during Obama's final year in office. In 2018, that number rose to over 3,800, the highest number by far since Peace Now started compiling the data in 2002. This sets the stage for a huge jump in construction in the near future.

"There's definitely a change of atmosphere. There's definitely a change of winds," said Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat, a major settlement near Jerusalem, and the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha settlement council. Revivi said that Obama pressured Israel into greatly curtailing settlement activity. Now, he said, Israel is trying to make up for lost time.

There was a lot going on during the Obama administration to bring some sort of agreement to the table over this problem, and we came tantalizingly close in 2014:

2018 at a glance: Florence flooding and Blue Wave cleansing

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Kirk Ross rounds-up a chaotic year:

Although this year started with a continued focus on the GenX story that broke the year before, the two biggest news events of 2018 came much later in the year. On Sept. 14, Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach and began its slow, devastating journey through the state and into the history books as North Carolina’s worst natural disaster.

Seven weeks later, in a usually sleepy blue moon election cycle, voters turned out in record numbers to unseat enough GOP incumbents in the state House and Senate to end supermajorities in both chambers. The consequences of those two events at the end of the year will drive the public policy debates in the year ahead.

Since this is New Year's Eve, and Democrats have earned the power to help sustain Vetoes by Governor Cooper, it's as good a time as any for them to resolve to do just that. While I do believe Senate and House Dems need to use their influence to "temper" the Legislation put forward from their respective bodies, it is equally important they not allow that activity to undermine efforts by the Governor to also temper that Legislation. Just because you voted for a bill, possibly because you were concerned it would get worse after being tweaked, it doesn't automatically follow you are bound by that prior vote if said bill is Vetoed. You won't be labeled a hypocrite if you sustain a Veto; not by anybody that matters, anyway. And make no mistake, the #1 goal of BergerMoore going forward will be to divide and conquer Democrats. The last thing the Governor needs is a handful of Dems ready to cross the aisle and block his attempts to govern, because he's been fighting to retain that authority during every session:

The anatomy of a demagogue: Mark Meadows loves shutting down the government

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And he loves to speak for others without their consent:

Meadows had already been calling for the president not to go along with an appropriations bill without wall funding. When Trump was on the verge of signing the bill, Meadows was part of the conservative backlash that, according to many accounts, persuaded Trump to instead allow large parts of the government to go dark.

"We are going to back up the president," Meadows told the House. "If he vetoes this bill, we will be there. But, more importantly, the American people will be there. They will be there to support him. Let's build the wall and make sure that we do our job in Congress."

As you can see from the chain of events, Meadows actually "backed down" the President instead of backing him up. But just as he did five years ago, he's positioning himself to both take the credit for the government shutdown, while also avoiding the bulk of any backlash that may result. Meadows is a bully, but he's a particularly nasty version of a bully: The one who instigates fights between others so he can sit back and watch. He also isn't representing the wishes of the American people, because the majority don't want the border wall or the government shutdown:

A culture of tyranny: GOP Legislatures attacking Dem governors

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You would almost think they had conspired together:

In Michigan, where the GOP has held the levers of power for nearly eight years, Republican legislators want to water down a minimum wage law they approved before the election so that it would not go to voters and would now be easier to amend.

Republicans in neighboring Wisconsin are discussing ways to dilute Democrat Tony Evers' power before he takes over for GOP Gov. Scott Walker. And in North Carolina, Republicans may try to hash out the requirements of a new voter ID constitutional amendment before they lose their legislative supermajorities and their ability to unilaterally override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

In addition to power-grabbing policy moves, these multi-state Republicans have another thing in common, which made those power-grabs possible: Gerrymandering. If the following sounds familiar, there's a reason for that:

Can Republicans be trusted to keep Special Session free of politics?

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The short answer is "no," but with the election coming up, they may have to:

“The currents will be moving under the surface,” said Gary Pearce, a columnist who was a longtime aide to Jim Hunt, a Democrat who was North Carolina’s longest-serving governor. “You can’t take politics out of anything, and this state is so, so polarized, so politicized, and the last eight years have been so angry and bitter, that even in a disaster like this, it’s going to hard for people to set it aside.”

Few state governments in America have been as divided in recent years as the one in North Carolina, where Democrats and Republicans have regularly fought pitched battles over issues like redistricting, voting rights, bathroom access for transgender people, education, and executive authority.

Republicans take note: When your state-level feud is controversial enough to make the New York Times, you might be tempted to celebrate your success. But voters across the board are extremely tired of such partisan gamesmanship, and they will be watching closely at how you handle recovery efforts after this horrible storm. And thanks to the dynamic campaign of Jen Mangrum, Berger's constituents will be watching closely, too:

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