scharrison's blog

Tuesday Twitter roundup

The attacks against Obamacare aren't over yet:

Make the calls. It probably won't sway these two very much, but you never know.

Theatre of the absurd: Make all voters pass a Federal gun background check

Kris Kobach's voter suppression train is going off the rails:

A gun researcher who says the federal gun background check system doesn't work has a new idea for preventing voter fraud at polling places: Make every voter pass a federal gun background check.

John Lott, an independent researcher and Fox News commentator, is best known for his book “More Guns, Less Crime,” which argues that increases in gun ownership are associated with drops in crime (most mainstream criminologists reject this view).

Dude is certifiable, and yet he has been invited to the next Commission meeting to put forward this foolish and very likely unconstitutional proposal. It's another in a growing list of cases where the Congress would normally feel compelled to step in and reign back Executive overreach, if it was anybody other than Donald Trump engaging in it. While this gun-check thing is an absurd idea, and wouldn't make it past the first judge tasked to evaluate it, the ramifications of the Commission's willingness to even entertain the idea are the real danger:

Exploring the rise of Unaffiliated voters in NC

Fiercely independent or simply tired of the drama?

North Carolina political scientists, activists and strategists said in interviews there are political and societal reasons for the shift. Having no affiliation also can be attractive because these voters can choose to participate in either the Democratic or Republican primary — so candidates from the parties must keep learning how to win their support.

The bitter political atmosphere within the two-party system is a likely cause for the shift, said Michael Bitzer, a Catawba College politics professor studying registration trends. Forty percent of the registered voters known as millennials — those born since 1981 — are unaffiliated and the largest bloc among their age group, according to Bitzer’s research. “Being children of political polarization, maybe this is a clear sign that they are not willing to associate with either party,” Bitzer said, noting these voters aren’t necessarily moderates: “Being unaffiliated does not mean you’re not partisan.”

But it does mean expecting candidates to figure out what you want, in the absence of any defining trait, is somewhere between unwise and disingenuous. I will accept the Democratic Party hasn't always communicated a clear and concise message about what we stand for, but I also believe many new voters are afraid to align themselves with anything, for fear of ending up on the "losing" side. What we need to do (as always) is better articulate the dangers of GOP policies while also formulating and highlighting genuine alternatives to those policies. Because without the beef, it's just an insult sandwich that nobody wants to continue eating.

A new wave of voter suppression tactics brewing in Trump administration

And propaganda will ride the crest of that wave:

A member of President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was pushing fake news before its second meeting was even able to kick off on Tuesday afternoon.

In an op-ed published by Breitbart just ahead of the meeting, Kris Kobach, the commission’s vice chairman, again asserted a debunked claim that more than 5,000 people in New Hampshire cast illegal votes during last year’s election. His suggestion that there was rampant voter fraud in the region was swiftly rebuked by the state’s secretary of state, Bill Gardner, who said New Hampshire’s election results were “real and valid.”

Mark my words, this is going to lead to another Constitutional crisis, and we can't expect Congress to lift a finger to intervene on this one. The GOP leadership has too much of a conflict of interest going on to protect the voting rights of minorities, even if (and it's a big "if") they were so inclined to do so. It also makes the current lawsuit by Cooper to reclaim majority control over election boards even more important, because whatever policy is produced at the Federal level will need to be interpreted and applied at the state and local level. Eyes open, folks.

Stanford research on utility companies' growing opposition to Solar power

The future of our planet literally hangs in the balance:

As installed solar prices fell in the period after 2009, the utility industry maintained the view that these small installations posed no threat to their businesses. Then, the industry made an abrupt about face with the publication of an important briefing paper in 2013. In January of that year, the Edison Electric Institute, the industry association for investor owned electric utilities released a briefing paper entitled “Disruptive Challenges” that focused on the key economic challenges facing the retail electricity sector. In it, a dark future for the industry was outlined: how flat electricity sales, the rapidly falling cost of distributed solar power, and rising rates necessary to replace existing grid infrastructure create a unique set of challenges for the power sector.

The paper was all the more unusual because it was released for public consumption. Most EEI publications are released only to member utilities for internal consumption.

And the likely reason it was released for public consumption was to (more easily) provide talking points for all the other industry-related "think tanks" and right-wing nutters opposed to both renewable energy and climate change science. We're in the middle of this crisis right now, folks, and it's important to understand this is a national battle and not just more Duke Energy shenanigans. And this is especially relevant for many of my environmentalist friends who were eager to make compromises to get the recent energy bill passed, that included more freedom for Duke Energy to "negotiate" rates they pay to Solar farms. It's a long one, so try to stay with me:

Duke Energy to Josh Stein: You don't need to see those documents

dukeenergybuilding.jpg

The sheer arrogance of the all-powerful utility is astounding:

“It’s real easy to give money away when it’s not your money,” Clark said, referring to Duke representative David McNeill’s prior comments about the company’s spending on local charities. “If you’re gonna make the money, then suck it up and solve that problem.” The problem Clark is referencing to is what’s been done with past coal ash spills in the state. According to the Associated Press, Duke Energy wants an extra $477 million a year, with an 11 percent return on a measure commonly described as potential profit margin.

The schedule, which included the Richmond County meeting along with ones in Raleigh, Asheville, Snow Hill and Wilmington, was released the same day that Duke Energy said it doesn’t want to turn over documents about its coal ash management requested by Attorney General Josh Stein, who is monitoring the company’s rate request.

There could be any number of reasons why Duke Energy doesn't want legal scrutiny of those documents, from inflation of the actual costs in order to line their pockets or other activities that may fall afoul of state statutes. But there can't be any "good" reasons for them to withhold these documents, and their lame efforts at public relations are not improving their position:

NC's uninsured rate drops substantially thanks to ACA

And no thanks to the Obama-hating GOP:

North Carolina experienced another drop in the number of individuals without health insurance to a record low of 10.4 percent in 2016, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Since the federal Affordable Care Act went into full effect in 2014, the share of people without insurance in North Carolina has dropped from 15.6 percent.

However, the rate could be significantly lower if the Republican-controlled General Assembly approved expanding Medicaid coverage to more than 500,000 of the 1.04 million North Carolinians who still lack health insurance.

That 5% is huge, close to a half-million people. People who are much less likely now to be forced to either ignore health problems or be plunged into financially-crippling medical debt. I've mentioned this before, but several years ago, when I first left the Army, I managed a discount furniture store North of Durham. We used a couple of finance companies to help people borrow money for new furniture, but at least half of those who applied were turned down because of unpaid medical bills. I'm talking some 40-50 families every week, whose credit was so bad even high interest loans were off the table. Medical debt doesn't just impact the bottom 20%, it threatens the entire middle class. But people like this guy just don't care:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

If you live in Charlotte and forgot to early vote in the Primary, today is the day:

It will be interesting to see the overall turnout numbers for this Primary, which will (very likely) determine who the next Mayor of Charlotte is. And I'd like to give a special shout out to Betsy's mom Patsy Kinsey, who has two Primary challengers to face off to keep her seat. Fingers crossed...

Municipal segregation: African-American community sues for the right to vote

They've been knocking at the door for decades, but nobody answers:

A predominantly black unincorporated community is suing an adjacent North Carolina town after a decades-long fight for annexation. The Winston-Salem Journal reports the 73-household Walnut Tree Community Association and four individuals filed a lawsuit Thursday against the predominantly white town of Walnut Cove, alleging racial discrimination.

K&L Gates Law Firm, which represents the plaintiffs, says the lawsuit is an attempt to accelerate annexation so Walnut Tree community members can participate in town elections and receive the benefits and services available to town residents, including reduced water-sewer service rates. The town rejected a formal petition for annexation in January. K&L Gates says repeated denials of annexation since the 1970s violate the North Carolina Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.

There is so much wrong with this situation I don't know where to start. The community was originally formed with Federal loan assistance, designed to help more African-Americans become homeowners. And most of them originally lived in Town, meaning they had the right to vote in municipal elections before they bought their new house. They didn't intentionally give up the right to vote to secure a home loan, they were under the impression their new community would become part of the Town:

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