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...Politics & Current Events In N.C.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Question For You 

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I know I don't get a lot of hits, but I had a question for you brave souls who actually do read this site. Staty with me...I promise there is a question here.

As I posted below I'm working on a site called North Carolina Public Trust. It is a project to provide commentary and services to progressives in North Carolina. Hopefully, it will have some blog-like components to help build a community of activists in the state as well.

Or at least that's what it's going to be if it works out.

But someone asked me question that I couldn't answer last week when I was talking to them about this. I was expressing my enthusiasm for this project, and they asked me "so what?" He is someone who is busily preparing for the state legislative races next year. He likes the internet, LOVES what Dean is doing, but he doesn't see how it can help at the state legislature level.

In most state legislative races the candidates websites will get maybe 30-40 hits a month. It's hardly worth paying for the domain name. How can we build a site that will actually help candidates with shuch small constituencies besides doing the normal stuff of providing research, message, and money? I have a few ideas, but perhaps someone else out there has a better one.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Fate Is Strange 

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Luck? Fate? Destiny? Or Just Random?

I come to NC looking for a job, and in my spare time start up a little blog to help myself follow the news better. Thomas Mills gets in touch with me and we end up discussing how he has read my blog!!

It's not a full time job or anything, but I am now doing news updates for the NC Center for Public Trust. I will also be dishing it out to John Hood and the John Locke Foundation. I don't quite know what I'll use this site for now. I'll have to consider it for a couple of days.

IF YOU WANT TO CONTRIBUTE ARTICLES TO THE NC CENTER FOR PUBLIC TRUST EMAIL ME!!! ----->

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Abbreviated News Roundup 

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I have to see a man about a job this morning, so this will be abbreviated.

Easley Challengers Take First Shots. The six candidates running for the nomination play nice for an hour to get together and attack Gov. Easely.

There was little to distinguish them.

Amy Gardner at the Raleigh N&O did her best to shed some light on their differences.

The AP has Mac McCorkle of the Easley campaign saying, "What they need to do is to join Governor Easley to get the attention of the Republican administration in Washington to stop its failed trade policies"


Under the Dome says Dan Blue is still considering running for Senate against Bowles.

Some follow up articles on U.S. Rep. Ballanger's decision to retire, from the W-S Journal,Raleigh N&O,


Ballenger has also weathered his share of controversy.

In October, he said that the breakup of his marriage was due to the stress of living near an American Muslim advocacy group and the decision by the House in the mid-1990s to ban gifts from lobbyists.

Last year, Ballenger said that a black congresswoman from Georgia stirred "a little bit of segregationist feelings."

He also came under increasing scrutiny from constituents for his support of foreign-trade policies. His district lost about 40,000 manufacturing jobs in the past four years.


Comedians around the country will miss him.


Eastern North Carolinians are unhappy with plans to put a new airstrip near their homes.

Two counties in Eastern North Carolina will pursue legal action to fight a proposed landing field for U.S. Navy jets that would cover 30,000 acres of what is now privately owned farmland.

North Carolina Schools are getting better and better.

More students are passing their end-of-year tests to advance to the next grade. However, the N&O decides to put concerns about social promotion in the headline.

One benefit of the promotion rule, she said, has been to force schools to better monitor student progress.

"It's raised the level of awareness to really look at individual children," Buchanan said.


The evidence shows that there has been major improvement in this area. But wingnuts will certainly point to this as proof of a failing school. Up is down, black is white, ignorance is bliss.


Funnily enough, John Hood wants people to mind their own business.

That's all I got time for today.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Blog*Spot 

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This is the second time that Blog*Spot has gone down for a significant period of time since I started this website I will have to give some serious thought to finding a better service.

Misleading Or Just Wrong? 

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The Triangle Business Journal today runs an article with this headline: State spending up despite cuts.

It uses real gems of illusion and mis-direction.

RALEIGH - Disabusing months of jawboning by lawmakers about belt-tightening, state government agencies spent 6 percent more in the first quarter of the current fiscal year than during the same three months a year ago.

See the thing is, the state budget is not like your home budget. State and Federal law often require the government to spend more when, say, Pillowtex goes under. Another example would be if more kids enroll in school. That should cost more money don't you think?

As if to prove the difficulty of reining in government spending, state agencies paid bills totaling $2.948 billion during the quarter that began July 1 of this year. That was $165.9 million more than the $2.782 billion that was spent from July 1 through the end of September in 2002. During the same quarter, the state raked in $1.3 billion in revenue after deducting the state-mandated essentials from the receipts.

Spending bumps, whether up or down, are driven largely by two areas of appropriations - education and health care.

"K through 12 enrollment, the university and the community college system and Medicaid - they are the growth areas that drive the budget," says David Crotts, head of fiscal research for the General Assembly


So the Journal admits it, but insists on putting up headlines that pretend that this makes no difference. The government is spending more than last year--thus there were no "real" cuts.

The real test should be if the government is spending less than they WOULD HAVE OTHERWISE. And that is happening.

I think I need to put these guys on my list of links. They need to be watched.

Democrats Sue Themselves 

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Redistricting just never stops being fun.

David Rice at the WSJ one again gets the goods. In an effort to controls which judge will hear the redistricting suit, legislative leaders went to court to get clearance.

Meanwhile, the Republicans were in front of Judge Jenkins trying to get a ruling declaring that he should be the one to hear the case.

Less than a week after state legislators adopted new legislative districts, the dispute is already back in court - two courts, actually - as Republicans and Democrats argue over which judges should hear a challenge to the districts.

The redistricting plan that legislators adopted in a special session last week says that any court challenge to the districts must be heard by a three-judge panel in Wake Superior Court, which includes one judge from the eastern part of the state and one judge from the west.

Legislative leaders filed suit in Wake County yesterday, asking the court to declare that requirement constitutional because "litigation is imminent and unavoidable."

The lawsuit filed by House Co-Speakers Richard Morgan and Jim Black and Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight says that the case must be resolved quickly to hold candidate filing on time in February and primary elections in May. "We have a compressed time line, and we need to get on with it,"said Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand. "Everybody says, 'We're going to sue, we're going to sue.' Let's get it on."

At the same time, Republicans who filed a lawsuit that resulted in a Johnston County judge drawing districts for legislative elections last year filed a motion with the same judge yesterday, asking him to declare the "venue-stripping" effort unconstitutional.


You can't even make this stuff up.

Pender County is also going to sue over the new districts. They don't like being split.

My Prayers Are Answered 

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I know some younger people who have literally spent their entire lives dealing with traffic jams in Greensboro.

At some points, I have been in favor of paving the entire city.

The Raleigh N&O reports today that someday soon the project may actually be complete.

Under The Dome--Still Worth Reading 

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Under the Dome is a column that makes me believe in the value of journalism again.

Three things today:

1) The jockeying for conservative credentials is on among the contenders for the Republican nomination for governor next year.

Former state GOP chairman Bill Cobey is the latest to make his move.

Cobey, who quit his party post to join the gubernatorial race in July, announced Monday that state Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, an Apex Republican, will co-chair his campaign.

In the announcement, Cobey described Stam as a "pro-life leader."


2) State Treasurer Richard Moore continues to attract national attention with his push for reforming the way mutual funds do business

3) North Carolina again leads the country in new nationally certified teachers, Gov. Mike Easley announced Monday.

U.S. Rep. Ballanger To Retire 

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Another open seat in a district that any Democrat would have a hard time winning.

George Moretz, a former Ballenger ally and donor, has already said he will challenge Ballenger in the Republican primary in the 10th District.

Moretz is board chairman of Carolina Mills and said his candidacy stems from layoffs in textiles and other traditional North Carolina manufacturing industries.

Ballenger's district has lost about 40,000 manufacturing jobs in the past four years in the textile, furniture and fiber optics industries.

Ballenger cast a key vote in December 2001 that helped pass fiercely contested legislation giving President Bush authority to negotiate global trade agreements and submit them to Congress for a yes-or-no vote.

Waiting until time had expired on the roll call, Ballenger was one of a small number of Republicans who stepped forward to assure a one-vote majority for the measure.


I think 30 years is a healthy turnover time for Congress.

Monday, December 01, 2003

HTML And ME 

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If you have checked out this site over time you may have noticed that I am continuing to build up my list of links. Let me know if you have any suggestions for sites I have missed. I was going to put up links to all of the weeklies, but I can't even find time to skim the dailies, so that is all of the newspapers I will put up for the moment.

Two people have now commented that they wish they could e-mail me directly. I have put up a new link for that, and I think it is working.

Mike Adams Is a Liar: Part One of Three 

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[tongue firmly in cheek]

I have a working theory that whenever wingnuts start to make sense it is because they are lying.

I cannot prove this yet empirically, but I decided to use this blog to give my theory a whirl.

I came across this post at The Locker Room posted by Jon Sanders.

He said:

Read here about how the UNCW Student Organization Committee excluded its sole Republican member from the vote to derecognize the College Republicans.

So I did. That link goes to a column by Mike S. Adams in the online rag Townhall.com run by the Heritage Foundation. It is a follow up to this article that ran on Nov. 19 disclosing a controversy between UNCW and the College Republicans.

The controversy began when the CRs were asked to incorporate two non-discrimination clauses into their student group constitution. One requires that organizations not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, handicap, or sexual orientation. The other says that organizations must adhere to all University rules, regulations, and policies, as well as to all local, state, and federal laws. According to the constitutional Guidelines for all student organizations, both clauses must appear in all constitutions and by-laws (Emphasis theirs).? In other words, all student groups must follow them in their entirety.

So far so good. I'm with you Mike. Tell me more.

By making groups adhere to all University rules, regulations, and policies factors such as political affiliation enter into the mix. Because the graduate catalogue includes political affiliation and because the CRs have members who attend graduate school, they realized that the second clause posed a serious threat to the well being of their group. Put simply, they did not want to open up their group to Democrats, Greens, and Nazis (please pardon the redundancy).

Nazis in the College Republicans! No one can stand that much irony!! What did these poor College Republicans do?

So the CRs did the only reasonable thing under the circumstances. They told the university that they would not incorporate the clauses. Of course, the result was predictable.

In a letter to the CRs, the Assistant to Student Organizations in the Campus Activities and Involvement Center, Faydra Stratton wrote the following:

The (Student Organizations Committee, or SOC) voted to revoke the registration status of the College Republicans due to the absence of the required adherence clause (read: loyalty oath) and the required anti-discrimination clause in the College Republicans constitution?Because your registration status had (sic) been revoked, the College Republicans has lost all the rights and privileges of a registered student organization


OK, Mike, I understand. But what's wrong with having a few Democrats mixed up with the Nazis in the College Republicans. Isn't that part of President Bush's bi-partisan tone?

What Stratton and the members of the SOC fail to understand (or perhaps pretend to fail to understand) is that numerous opponents of the CRs could join simultaneously and create an instant majority. In addition to keeping themselves from being removed, they could fundamentally change the nature of the group.

So the College Republicans were booted because they refused to succumb to a vast left-wing conspiracy to join the CRs and then take them over. That makes so much sense. Oh, the outrage!!

BUT THAT's NOT ALL!! In his follow up article Mike lets us know just how insidious the leftists really were.

New information also surfaced this week to support the assertion that malice accounts for the decision to ban the CRs from UNC-Wonderland. In fact, on the very day my article appeared, a student visited me, who is on the Student Organization Committee (SOC), the body that de-recognized the CRs.

The student who visited my office is one of five students on the SOC. There are also seven professors on the committee, which is chaired by an administrator named Faydra Stratton. While in my office, the student explained that he is the only Republican presently serving on the committee. After that revelation, I asked whether he voted for or against the decision to de-recognize the CRs. He informed me that he could not cast a vote either way because he was not informed of the meeting that was convened to revoke the CRs status.

A quick examination of the voter registration records indicates that the decision to de-recognize the CRs was, in fact, done without the input of a single Republican. In other words, the SOC excluded Republicans from a vote to force the Republicans to include the Democrats under the threat of excluding the Republicans from campus if they don't. Is everyone following the logic of our leading educators?

But I'm afraid it gets even stranger than that. The aforementioned student member of SOC has also disputed Faydra Stratton's assertion that all student groups were subjected to the same review as the CRs. In other words, both the CRs and one member of the SOC are now beginning to say that the CRs were discriminated against when they were singled out to sign a clause designed to end discrimination. Are you still following me?


WOW!! That is really convincing!!

But now I need to focus. I am testing the theory that wingnuts like to make things up. So I started doing a little fact-checking. I didn't expect to find much. Who wouldn't believe that a conspiracy involving administrators, students, and faculty was targeting the College Republicans? Also, I spend my time writing cover letters and can't really get too involved in this.

Sadly for Mike Adams, (but good for my theory) almost none of what he said is true. And it wasn't even that hard to find out how much of liar he is.

Blogging is Still Hard 

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Another thing that is hard about blogging is doing it quickly but getting all of your facts straight. Earlier I posted about the North Carolina Center for Public Trust. For some reason I got the impression that it was a splinter faction of the GOP.

It isn't.

My apologies.

Carolina Journal Has A Lot Of People 

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Some days I beat the Carolina Journal with my list of stories. Today is not one of those days.

John Hood thinks the new maps are doomed to fail a court challenge.

There are also several stories linked here that are worth reading if you want to know who is running where.

Political Columns 

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Ed Cone's column today is on electronic voting machines.

Mark Schreiner in Wilmington compares this round of redistricting to 1875. This is actually more interesting than it sounds.

Ballantine Bash 

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Finally some coverage of the governor election.

And boy is it bad...

Former Wilmington resident Trot Nixon, right-fielder for the Boston Red Sox, will be a special guest next week at a rally, promoted as a "Ballantine Bash," for Sen. Patrick Ballantine, R-New Hanover.

But Sen. Ballantine doesn't know if Mr. Nixon is a Republican or if he is registered to vote. Mr. Nixon has a home in Landfall, Sen. Ballantine said.


I bet this story will really help the voters decide who to vote for.

I did like this quote.

"I can't win with just Republicans," Sen. Ballantine said, adding that he needs Independent and Democratic voters to win the governor's race next year.

I think removing the last three words of this quote would be more descriptive.

Sen. Larry Shaw Unhappy 

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Yesterday I wrote about the important decision facing Black legislators. Today Sen. Larry Shaw says he is unhappy because his district will probably cease to elect Black candidates after he leaves office.

"People in my community have told me long-term ... that that seat is not viable" for black candidates, Shaw said, citing its 42 percent black population. White residents make up 47 percent of the population. While he thinks he can win re-election, he's worried about black candidates who try for the seat after he leaves office, he said.

If the district is 42% Black, that means that a primary race would be fought amongst a mostly Black electorate. The district is designed such that any competent Democrat should (by the numbers) be able to walk away with the general election. The fact that Shaw believes this district would immediately move to white representation after he leaves is a sad indictment of the party and the state.

Recruitment 

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Now that redistricting is over, the next phase of the political cycle is for the parties to run around recruiting good candidates and telling sure losers to sit it out.

This is an extremely important part of the process. It is a pre-screening process that determines the quality of the candidates we get to vote for. But it is mostly done fairly quietly and is difficult to get into the newspapers because it mostly consists of rumors.

I have found a few articles that discuss possible candidates. If you here about any more non-incumbents who are running, please let me know.

Over the weekend I found this one. It covers all of the potential candidates in Harnett County including former State Sen. Oscar Harris. If I get more time to use the links on the right of the screen I should be able to find some more.

New Laws 

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There have been a lot of stories about the new laws that go into effect today. Libertarians can worry about the new DNA database, but I'm not very freaked out. The only particularly interesting law to me is the new districts for the judicial candidates. The rest sort of bores me. But I was imporessed with the creativity of the Asheville Citizen Times in coverng this issue.

A: Amend hazing laws - Redefines hazing to include subjecting another student to physical injury as part of an initiation to an organized society, team or similar group.


B: Battery - Creates a new offense for sexual battery. This includes rape and sexual abuse.


C: Children and assault in the presence - Creates a new criminal offense for domestic violence that happens in the presence of a child.


Obviously It goes on....

No Love 

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The editorial page of the Greensboro N-R apparently has no love for the new redistricting maps approved by the state legislature last week.

Republicans raise valid complaints that black voters were yanked out of those districts to protect neighboring Democrats. Such self-serving maneuvering, however, must at least pass U.S. Justice Department muster and probable judicial scrutiny.

But then they go off the deep end.

The predictable outcome is postponed primaries, lengthy court battles and defense of the status quo. The ultimate price: a fed-up electorate.

I'm sorry, but the electorate is fed up because the economy is in the toilet and they can' afford to insure their kids. I doubt that most NC would rank redistricting very high on their list of priorities. Only freaky news junkies like me follow this stuff that closely.

The Asheville Citizen-Times also gives the districts a thumbs-down.

Whether it was the House leadership - co-speakers Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, and Richard Morgan, D-Moore - or, more likely, un-elected minions working on their behalf, it's a good bet those drawing district lines knew a lot about voting patterns and virtually noting about the neighborhoods and communities whose voters they were impacting by separating them into different districts.

That's just GREAT 

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Here is an article in the Charlotte Observer explaining that the water is polluted.

At first I was worried when I read the title "NC Cites Area Water Toxins."

But then I was releived to find out in the sub-title that: "Officials Say That Chemical Levels Not Dangerouse Unless Consumed Over Long Time."

Phew. For a minute there I thought that this might be a bad thing.

Who Me? 

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Elaine Marshall is the latest NC politician to make "public service announcement" that coincidentally gets her name and face on TV with no cost to her campaign.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall is warning about securities fraud in a television and radio ad. Marshall does not appear in two other ads on the subject, said her spokesman, George Jeter. Money for the production came from a settlement with Merrill Lynch last year in which conflicts of interest between investment banking and research programs were alleged. The state Agency for Public Telecommunications produced the ads.

Council of State members have been in heavy rotation on television this year. Attorney General Roy Cooper and state Treasurer Richard Moore also made ads. These public service announcements often draw criticism because they put the politicians' names and faces in front of voters at no cost to them.


It's good to be the king.

Local Redistricting 

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It's good to know that it's not just a problem at the state legislature. Thomasville and Franklin County both battle of districts.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Words For Monkeytime 

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Shoveldog at Stinging Nettle has a few words on Monkeytime's e-mail exchange with Mrs. John Edwards.

Somehow I get the feeling that Shoveldog does not approve.

Jack Betts on Redistricting 

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Charlotte Observer columnist Jack Betts finds the GOP's complaints about diluting minority voting power unconvincing.

Republicans who usually aren't big fans of social engineering or affirmative action figured out a long time ago that the U.S. Voting Rights Act could work in their own interests. It could be used to concentrate black voters into a political district where they could win a seat, in the process making adjacent districts whiter, where Republicans were more likely to win.

What's interesting is that black lawmakers weren't siding with their Republican protectors who argued they were looking out for black voters' interests. They weren't buying what the GOP was selling.

Black leaders have an interesting choice in front of them. Diluting minority districts will decrease the number of districts where Black legislatures are destined to win. But if they support some dilution it will increase the odds of having a Democratic majority in the legislature. What it really comes down to is how valued the Black community is made to feel by the party. Does promoting a Democratic majority further the cause of Blacks in NC more than ensuring a specific number of minority members of the legislature? Will Black candidates continue to get party support and the nomination in slightly diluted districts?

John Hood at the Locke foundation seems to think that Black legislatures are outraged at the redistricting plan because of the dilution. The account provided by David Rice at the WSJ concurs.

Betts, on the other hand, seems to think that Black legislators are more supportive.

What was strange about this debate was not the Republican argument in support of the Voting Rights Act provisions. It was African American senators' resistance to what they saw as patronizing Republicans' arguments. Instead of siding entirely with Republicans about keeping larger concentrations of black voters in those districts, they supported Senate Democrats' plans to take some black voters out of Democratic districts in order to strengthen other Democratic districts. In those new districts, the scenario goes, coalitions of black and white voters could elect black Democrats, potentially increasing their numbers.

The decision Black members of the legislature make is important because without the support of Black legislature, Democrats will have a tougher time defending the new plan in the courts.

It may be an insiders game, but the decision of these legislators will be very indicative of how valued Blacks feel in the Democratic Party in the state as a whole.

Political Columnists 

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Rob Christensen writes a heartwarming column about male friendship developing under adversity between U.S Reps. Etheridge, Miller, and Price.

Enforcing Trade Laws 

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The Raleigh N&O breaks down the proposed tracer system and explains how it is supposed to fix the system.

The problem is that our trade laws are not easily enforceable. Even with maximum enforcement at the boarder it still wouldn't work, and we can't send inspectors to nose around in every foreign factory.

The United States has agreements with some countries that allow them to ship clothes here without quotas or tariffs if they use American fabric.

"That creates an incentive for the apparel being made in those countries to use U.S. components," said Jim Leonard, a longtime Burlington Mills employee who's now with the U.S. Department of Commerce. "It also creates an incentive to cheat."


snip

North Carolina's congressional delegation has been pushing for more customs agents to make sure trade laws are enforced.

But in some cases, Booterbaugh said, it doesn't matter how many agents there are if there's no good way to tell the fabric's origin.

If they had the technology, Leonard said, N.C. manufacturers could weave the marker into the cloth, send it to a factory in the Caribbean or Central America, and when clothing was shipped back in, customs agents could wave a wand over it to see where it originated.


The solution is to mark the fabric in some un-replicable way to ensure that it is truly Made in the USA.

This spring, Allgood narrowed the list of possible technologies to three: DNA markers; ultraviolet fluorescence; and nano-barcoding, an intricate code based on the fabric's reflectivity.

I strongly believe that in the long run few of these jobs will remain in North Carolina without significant leadership on the part of America to develop a world-wide labor code. But this system couldn't hurt, and would make shopping for American friendly Gap apparel that much easier.

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