GOP voter fraud hunt is really a lack of electoral confidence

Renewed attacks on voting rights in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other states are as much about power as about policy and race. The hand wringing over elusive "fraud" is because America's majority ethnic group sees its traditional grip on power eroding with shifting demographics.

In North Carolina last week, Republican lawmakers again raised the alarm over the possibility that hundreds -- maybe thousands -- had criminally cast ballots in two states in the 2012 election. GOP leaders were quick to insist that the numbers justified the draconian voting law they passed in the last legislative session. The U.S. Department of Justice has challenged the law in court.

Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies just as quickly debunked the study by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach whose office, after checking 5 million voter records in 2013, "couldn't provide any evidence of a single instance in which the Interstate Crosscheck's data had led to an actual legal charge of voter fraud." Because the data, Kromm writes, "offers no proof such fraud is occurring." Requiring citizens to present identity cards to vote would have no effect on voting in multiple states.

On the front lines in the war to protect NC's water quality

The Waterkeeper Alliance on the move:

Peter Harrison has an enviable life: He spends a lot of time in a boat, exploring the waterways of North Carolina. Peter Harrison also has an interesting life: Other boats sometimes follow his, with huge cameras pointed in his direction, shutters clicking away.

“It’s just intimidation,” Harrison says. The people with cameras tend to be security guards for Duke Energy, the state’s largest electricity provider, and a company that Harrison spends a lot of time investigating.

If Duke Energy spent half the time watching their potential sources of pollution as they do watching the watchers, the need for people like Peter wouldn't be as critical. Then again, if you're really not concerned about what damage you do to the environment accidentally, or if you do so intentionally to help you manage the volume of your wastes, stopping people like Peter becomes the top priority:

Schooled by middle-schoolers: the GOP's declining intellect

After reading this article I posted the following on Facebook:

It's a sad state of affairs when Republicans realize they need to tone down or back off on rhetoric that worked with Tea Party adults at C4GC, but probably wouldn't fly under the scrutiny of middle-schoolers.

While I understand that students are relatively smarter than they were a few decades ago (try to help an eighth-grader with their homework if you doubt that), they are also presented with much the same information as those of us with a few years under our belt. Scientific accomplishments, geopolitical developments, social structural changes, etc. Unless you choose to only learn new things filtered through the lens of ideological and/or religious viewpoints. My comment on Facebook was in reference to this:

Parsing the dollars: political spending in NC's U.S. Senate race

More fossil fuel influence coming to your living room:

The most recent big injection of political spending in North Carolina came April 1 from American Crossroads, a super PAC created by Republican operative Karl Rove. The group spent $1.1 million on an ad for Tillis. FEC records show that one of American Crossroads’ biggest recent donors was Contran Corp., a Dallas manufacturing and nuclear waste management company that gave $1 million. Contran’s late owner, Harold Simmons, was a major conservative Republican contributor.

American Crossroads’ major donors also include Billy Joe “Red” McCombs, the founder of Red McCombs Automotive Group in Texas and a former owner of the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs. He is listed as giving $60,000. Tulsa coal executive Joseph Craft III gave $500,000 through his JWC III Revocable Trust.

While I am deeply concerned about the possibility of losing the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, more and more I'm wanting Kay Hagan to win so we can send a message to people like Charles and David Koch and Karl Rove: you're not wanted here, and the money you sling around is and will be wasted.

Rep. Mike Hager polluting the Environmental Review Commission

How can you be objective when your own culpability may be an issue?

And perhaps spending 17 years working for a major polluter colors one's perspective on what worrisome levels of pollution are. After all, in 2002, the last full year Hager served as Cliffside's engineering manager, the plant reported releasing more than 12,000 pounds of toxic chemicals into surface waters -- including 2,100 pounds of arsenic, 200 pounds of chromium and 250 pounds of lead, all known to cause cancer. It also reported releasing almost 2.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals directly into the air.

In total, from the time EPA began requiring electric utilities to report their toxics releases in 1998 through Hager's last full year with Duke Energy, the Cliffside plant reported releasing more than 96,000 pounds of toxic chemicals to surface water and another 18 million pounds to the air.

Hager needs to recuse himself from any reviews of coal-fired power plants and their associated coal ash impoundment ponds, and the General Assembly should seriously consider removing him from the Commission. Aside from the monetary influence of Duke Energy's campaign dollars, he's not psychologically fit to evaluate the quality of his own work (or his colleagues') as an engineer for Duke Energy. Nobody with the same history would be.

Friday fracking video

Very brief, yet surprisingly fulfilling. For those with more appetite for knowledge:

NC GOP once again turns cold shoulder to unemployed

And the lack of concern is disheartening:

The latest bipartisan congressional effort to restore several months of federal unemployment insurance benefits received a cool reception Wednesday from a state legislative oversight committee. U.S. Senate Bill 2149 would provide five months of federal UI benefits, retroactive to Jan. 1, to more than 2 million eligible claimants nationwide. That would include more than 170,000 North Carolinians. States would not be required to pay back the 100 percent federally funded benefits.

Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, and Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, said they would not support North Carolina trying to become eligible for the retroactive benefits. Howard said much of her opposition is the “logistical nightmare” cited by Avrette. She also the North Carolina economy hasn’t “fallen off a cliff” since North Carolina became disqualified from receiving the federal extended benefits.

If you've quite finished your navel-gazing, maybe you should talk to some of those families who did fall off the cliff when their benefits were abruptly cut off. There's a hell of a lot more to this story than just paying off the debt early, and refusing this money that won't cost the state a dime except in administrative functions is unnecessarily cruel.

Moffitt trying to get BOE complaint dropped

Photo from Scrutiny Hooligans

And enough lies might get the job done:

The complaint stems from a Feb. 24 meeting between Moffitt and Turner at an Asheville restaurant. Moffitt has said he merely suggested that Turner would make a good candidate to head UNC-TV because of his experience as a producer at MTV and more recent work as a vice chancellor at UNC Asheville. A national search for a new UNC-TV director is expected to begin later this year. "Rep. Moffitt did not give or promise Brian Turner any political appointment or support for public office," according to Moffitt's response.

In a sworn statement included in the response, Buncombe County Commissioner David King, who attended the meeting between the two candidates, also says Moffitt didn't give or promise Turner "any political appointment, support for political office, or for any job in the government or with UNC-TV." King, a Republican, also says in his statement that he called Turner in early March to ask why he was making false claims against Moffitt, and Turner responded, "It is good for my campaign."

Riiight. In one breath, you call Turner a liar, and in the next breath, you claim he told you something outrageous, something that can't be verified or disproved. It's a liar's wonderland. Lesson learned: if you're a Democrat, don't meet with two Republicans without wearing a wire.

Tuesday Twitter roundup

We'll start out with a healthy dose of election year madness:

Can I just go ahead and throw up right now? Thank you. Speaking of throwing up:

Chronicling the coal ash crisis: Alaska Dispatch weighs in

Setting the wrong example:

Mr. Rumpler of Environment America says he worries cash-strapped states would feel compelled to "weaken their standards and endanger public health and the environment in a bid to get more business coming into their state." State legislation could also be particularly subject to changes in administrations.

The Duke Energy spill, for one, has focused media attention on North Carolina's Republican governor, Pat McCrory, a former Duke Energy employee. He appointed businessman John Skvarla to head the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Secretary Skvarla views industry leaders such as Duke Energy as "customers," according to several former DENR officials who say they quit because they were kept from doing their jobs.

The sad part is, people like John Skvarla actually believe they're serving the best interests of the public by giving industry a free hand. It's not just a minor character flaw for the person in charge of DENR, it's a major one, which is why the US DOJ and the EPA are being drawn into NC's politics. And why the rest of the nation is looking on in disbelief.

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