Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 11:12am

Trying to sever residential Solar from the grid:

The Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation's largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy. The conservative luminaries have pushed campaigns in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona, with the battle rapidly spreading to other states.

The institute has warned power companies that profits could erode catastrophically if current policies and market trends continue. If electricity companies delay in taking political action, the group warned in a report, "it may be too late to repair the utility business model." The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a membership group for conservative state lawmakers, recently drafted model legislation that targeted net metering. The group also helped launch efforts by conservative lawmakers in more than half a dozen states to repeal green energy mandates.

The "utility business model" is in no danger from renewable energy. Companies like Duke Energy have seen a vast increase in the amount of power generated from these sources, and their profits are healthier than ever. And for Conservatives to fight net-metering makes no sense at all. It is (by far) the most efficient means of handling Solar PV, as any excess power generated is used by somebody else on the grid. Then again, their claims of "efficiency" may just be another of the masks they wear to fool voters.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 10:54am

The NC Supreme Court is not as supreme as it thinks:

A year ago, the state Supreme Court struck down a rate increase that the state Utilities Commission awarded to Duke Energy Corp. and ordered the panel to reconsider the increase in light of its impact on consumers. Now, Cooper is appealing the same increase to the high court, arguing that the Utilities Commission ignored the ruling.

“The court has already ruled once that consumers must be taken into account when setting utility profits but it still hasn’t happened,” Cooper said in a statement. “Even when given a second chance to get it right, the commission didn’t really consider consumers and approved the exact same rate hike.”

And as long as we allow this flawed formula to continue, where a rule-making commission is tasked with being concerned about profits for wealthy shareholders, many of whom do not even live in North Carolina, the unfairness will be ever-present. Any other private industry would need to dip into profits or borrow to make infrastructure improvements, which would force them to calculate the true need and ROI for such, and Duke Energy should be no different.

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Friday, April 18, 2014 - 11:15am

When the truth doesn't fit your narrative, just change it:

House Speaker Thom Tillis’ claim to have fired two staff caught up in a lobbyist sex scandal in 2012 doesn’t stand up to scrutiny or the public record, and his campaign should remove it from North Carolina airwaves.

The ad, which has more than $500,000 backing it according to Roll Call, contains no backup to the claim that Tillis "fired" his staffers. And Tillis’ own spokesman has repeatedly refused to make the same claim -- that Tillis "fired" the staff in question -- when discussing the ad. The Raleigh News & Observer, upon asking for a justification of the firing claim, was told that Tillis “initiated the action of asking for their resignation.”

If Tillis did "ask" for their resignations, which is not a foregone conclusion, it's only because the affairs were made public and forced his hand. But over and above the parsing of words, the intent of the ad itself is false: to make people believe he dealt with the problem in a rapid and harsh fashion. Here's a little historical context which completely undermines that message:

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Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 12:32pm

And more high-dollar outside contracts:

Davis and DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos told lawmakers they have hired a consultant to help streamline the agency and help make budget forecasts more reliable. "We've got here another single-bid $3 million contract," Tucker said, expressing frustration that a large agency with thousands of staffers could not have found workers to do such a review.

Wos said that DHHS' staff has shrunk and didn't have the ability to both handle day-to-day tasks as well as plan for the future. "This was an example of success. if this was able to be done by the employees of DHHS over the past 14 years, it would have done," Wos said. She added, "We would love to be at our desk working but we are here to provide you with the information you requested."

Shorter version: "It's not my fault, it's your fault." Apparently Republicans in the NCGA don't understand how job evaluations amongst the 1% really work: you fuck up, you move up, and the more money you lose in mismanaging your organization, the bigger your bonus and golden parachute. I shouldn't have to explain these things.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 10:04am

At least snake-oil salesmen put a bottle of something in your hand after their spiel:

No doubt sensing that their attacks on public education – and public school teachers in particular – might backfire on Election Day, Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican legislative leaders grudgingly started flirting with pay hikes for some teachers. But now they seem to be backing up and denying the real cause of their retreat.

But here’s the rub on teacher pay. Thanks to the fact that the Republican giveaway will cost the state about $2.4 billion over five years in lost revenue – personal income tax withholdings are behind forecasts by $221 million – there’s not going to be enough money for an across-the-board teacher pay increase. The entire scenario is brought to you by inexperienced legislative leaders driven by something akin to the tea party ideology of little or no government and few if any taxes. They took a leap without calculating distance and speed and looking at what might be at the bottom.

And now McCrory is saying the raises will happen in 2015, in an effort to get the Republicans past that whole pesky election nonsense unscathed. If we let them get away with it, all it will do is reinforce the value of lying to the people, and 2015 will be even more of a kabuki theatre.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 11:39am

As always, J.W. is on top of the story:

Commissioners Nathan Miller, David Blust, and Perry Yates trotted out their lists of past beefs with Boone, their grievances, their grudges going back decades in some cases, but they readily admitted that their self-righteous spite sprang mainly from the on-going feud Mr. Yates's daddy-in-law Phil Templeton has with anybody and everybody who won't let him do precisely as he wishes as a millionaire land developer.

Last night, Mayor Ball asked Commission Chair Nathan Miller if he thought it was fair that Boone raise 60% of the revenue and get 12% of it in return. You could see the ire rise in Miller. It's plenty fair, he replied with noticeable venom.

Another factor which must have played a role in this decision: Boone had the audacity to elect a dynamic and outspoken YDNC leader as Mayor. Local Republicans might not fear the influence of local Democrats too much, but they do fear what Andy Ball represents; smart, young, Progressive Democrats, who have the vision to see what the future could be, and the intelligence and drive to explain it to others. The only way to fight it is to stack the deck against the new Mayor, and hope his popularity collapses. And if the people of Boone have to suffer as a consequence, it's their own fault for wanting progress.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 10:31am

The assault on the English language continues unabated:

On Sunday, though, the official Twitter account of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory tweeted with pride that the patches on the green jackets were made in the Tar Heel State – and made double-bogey in the process.

“Great to see the patches on the infamous green jackets at @The_Masters are made in Weaverville, NC!” McCrory’s account tweeted.

But the green jackets aren’t exactly infamous – infamous, according to Merriam-Webster, means, “having a reputation of the worst kind; notoriously evil.”

This was not a typo. Apparently whoever wrote this Tweet was under the impression that "infamous" meant "really famous," something a 3rd grader might get confused, if he or she had been avoiding homework.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 11:47am

Unfortunately, there are no cliffs handy for them to march off:

Conservatives are using the April 15 deadline to celebrate tax changes that North Carolina lawmakers argue will keep more money in family wallets and encourage job creation.

Gov. Pat McCrory and key legislators plan to join right-leaning policy groups Tuesday for a tax-filing day news conference in Raleigh. They plan to highlight a new annual report from the American Legislative Exchange Council to promote the tax overhaul law.

And now would be a really good time for some of our larger news outlets to do an in-depth evaluation of how ALEC operates, including how corporations take a direct hand in the crafting of legislation that is subsequently and stealthily inserted into our "public" policy system. In the absence of that explanation to the people, reporting on state government is woefully incomplete.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 9:44am

We'll start with a fine example of ineffective government:

Here's at least part of the problem:

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