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Federal court declares two NC Congressional Districts racially gerrymandered

And they've got two weeks to fix it:

After careful consideration of all evidence presented during a three-day bench trial, the parties’ findings of fact and conclusions of law, the parties’ arguments, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the plaintiffs have shown that race predominated in both CD 1 and CD 12 and that the defendants have failed to establish that its race-based redistricting satisfies strict scrutiny.

Accordingly, the Court holds that the general assembly’s 2011 Congressional Redistricting Plan is unconstitutional as violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Having found that the 2011 Congressional Redistricting Plan violates the Equal Protection Clause, the Court will require that new congressional districts be drawn forthwith to remedy the unconstitutional districts. See Wise v. Lipscomb, 437 U.S.
535, 539-40 (1978).

Read it and weep, you anti-democratic right-wing losers.

DisConnect NC: Why the Bond is no longer worthy of support

There's no meat in this shepherd's pie:

The Connect NC bond allocates $1.3 billion or 66 percent of the $2 billion bond issue to universities and community colleges, reflecting Gov. Pat McCrory’s commitment to education. The bond issue is being proposed because most major capital projects such as new educational buildings, particularly those at our universities and community colleges, cannot be paid out of the annual operating budget without a serious effect on students.

It has been 15 years since the last bond issue was authorized to update our state’s infrastructure, and since then North Carolina’s population has grown by 2 million. This growth has resulted in significant infrastructure needs from the mountains to the coast.

Bolding mine. If that is the case, it's a manufactured problem. Capital projects have been funded (sometimes well, sometimes not) out of the annual budget for decades, paid for upfront, and those expenditures did not seriously impact other educational funding. What did (and does) hurt education funding is low revenues, first from the Recession, and now from the ill-advised and ideologically-driven tax cuts for the wealthy. Creating a crisis and then pointing to that crisis to justify other mistakes is sophomoric and reckless behavior, and progressives would be wise to avoid supporting such efforts. As James has mentioned before and Andrew (maybe unknowingly) validated in the 2nd paragraph above, we're likely not going to be able to dip into this bond well again, anytime soon. Doing it wrong (or only partly right) is not an option we should be considering. And what's missing from the current bond proposal is critical:

Friday News: The aristocracy rises edition

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KOCH BROTHERS' SUPER PAC RAKES IN MILLIONS FROM SOUTHERN BUSINESSMEN (Facing South) -- Conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch and their wealthy allies are planning to spend close to $900 million benefiting their preferred candidates in the upcoming elections — likely more than either major U.S. political party. The billionaire brothers' network has reportedly already spent $400 million with the general election nine months away. We now have new details about who's contributing to the Kochs' election-year political efforts — and seven Southern businessmen are among the $100,000-plus mega-donors. * Art Pope, CEO and chairman of the North Carolina retail store chain Variety Wholesalers, gave $100,000 to FPAF in 2015 through his company's wholly-owned subsidiary, Variety Stores. Pope gave $400,000, also through Variety Stores, to FPAF in 2014, days after stepping down as state budget director for Gov. Pat McCrory (R). A close ally of the Kochs, Pope helped found their prominent social welfare nonprofit Americans for Prosperity and his family foundation has given millions to AFP's charitable nonprofit arm.
http://www.southernstudies.org/2016/02/koch-brothers-super-pac-rakes-in-millions-from-sou.html

Central Elementary School Closing

A couple of weeks ago, the Haywood County Board of Education released a study that recommended closing Central Elementary School in Waynesville. Central is Haywood County's oldest elementary school facility, located within walking distance of Waynesville's Main Street. It is also the smallest, with just over 200 students. It is a highly rated school based on whatever measure of student performance is in vogue this week.

The dubious need for economic "recruiting" organizations

Pouring money into a corrupt black hole:

The former CEO of the Triad’s regional economic recruitment organization has been arrested and charged with four felonies and could face a lengthy prison sentence. David Powell, 51, allegedly took a total of $240,000 that belonged to his former employer and spent it on himself.

Understandably, the board, which consists of area captains of industry, was impressed by Powell’s resume and local roots. A Winston-Salem native, he had been vice president of NetJets, an Ohio company that rents and sells part ownerships of corporate jets. He also had a strong background in economic development. Aviation industry experience, hometown ties, management cred ... Powell had seemed a perfect fit.

He "seemed a perfect fit" because he came from a Warren Buffet-owned company which dealt exclusively with customers from the 1% class. But the only thing that really guarantees is that he had developed a "taste" for the finer things in life, and the affluenza affliction that told him it was his right to take those things if he so desired. Luckily, it appears there were very few taxpayer dollars involved by the time he was hired, but it could have just as easily been the opposite. A greater lesson to be learned: Allowing "captains of industry," however local they may be, manage large fund balances used to incentivize the recruitment of new industries to the region, is simply foolish. Will they help potential competitors? Doubtful. Will they funnel money to people they are already connected with in some way? If they can get away with it. Will allowing a corrupt CEO manage that operation aid in those efforts? Oh yeah.

Thursday News: Temporary reprieve edition

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STATE HEALTH PLAN WILL PUT OFF DISCUSSION OF CONTROVERSIAL CHANGES (WRAL-TV) -- Trustees of the health plan for teachers and state employees will put off discussion of controversial changes. Those changes would have included eliminating a popular health plan used by 280,000 workers.
http://www.wral.com/state-health-plan-will-put-off-discussion-of-controversial-changes/15314935/

VOTE ON STATE HEALTH PLAN DELAYED AMID PROTESTS (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Controversial proposals to phase out one of three state employee health plans and eliminate insurance coverage for workers’ spouses will not be resolved this week.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article58...

Bigotry in Char-O's op-ed pages

Stirring the prejudicial pot:

Argument four is the most troubling. Our society is increasingly moving from common sense accommodation of differences to a push for radical acceptance and approval of lifestyles that the vast majority of people do not condone.

It is not hateful to say a male should use a designated male bathroom because he is male, any more than it is hateful to say a horse is a horse. This is science. It is fact.

Often when linking to an article we encourage readers to click through and read the whole thing. In this case, I recommend you don't. If the Charlotte Observer ranks their content on how many "hits" they draw in, it could encourage more of this offensive and small-minded tripe. I don't give a shit if she (or anybody else) "condones" the lifestyle of other citizens, and I don't care if the pain and distress of discrimination only touches a small percentage of the overall population. Arguments like those are resulting in the slaughter of innocents in other countries, and have no place in our society.

Wednesday News: Criminal negligence remembered

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2-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF DAN RIVER COAL ASH SPILL (TWCN-TV) -- Two years ago on Tuesday, Duke Energy announced that tens of thousands of tons of coal ash had spilled into the Dan River.
http://www.twcnews.com/nc/triad/news/2016/02/2/today-marks-2-year-anniversary-of-coal-ash-spill.html

N.C. COAL ASH SPILL CLEAN UP CONTINUES 2 YEARS LATER (WNCN-TV) -- It’s been two years since North Carolina faced one of the biggest environmental disasters in our state’s history.
http://wncn.com/2016/02/02/nc-coal-ash-spill-clean-up-continues-2-years-later/

Wake County Commissioners tackle pay inequality for women

Hopefully other county governments are watching:

Members of the Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday said they want to find a way that the government and community can help ensure that women achieve the same academic and professional success as their male counterparts. Their comments came after hearing a report that the income gap in Wake County is worse than the national average.

Wake women on average earn 69 percent of what men make, according to Jackie Terry Hughes, an attorney who helped author the report presented to commissioners. Nationally, women earn 79 percent of what men make.

Just a historical note: The Equal Rights Amendment was originally crafted back in 1923, but it finally made its way out of Congress in 1972. It fell just three states short of ratification (35 ratified, needed 38), and of course North Carolina was one of the holdouts. Opponents who didn't want people to see their misogynistic underwear have always claimed the ERA was not necessary, that society would solve the problem by itself without Constitutional force. But here we are in 2016, and the pay gap is still there, forcing women to struggle when their male counterparts don't have to. Or don't have to struggle as desperately. And if they dare to have children outside of the patriarchal formula, their struggles are made epic:

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