March 6, 2018 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 216

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Topic: Gerrymandering in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Guest interviews with author Adam Eichen, Rabbi Michael Pollack of March on Harrisburg, Paul Blest of Splinter News. Produced: March 1st, 2018.

Episode 216 (51 min):
AFD 215

Pennsylvania links

March on Harrisburg
“How We’re Fighting to Save Democracy From Bribery and Gerrymandering, One State at a Time” | Alternet
Previous AFD interview with Adam Eichen about the book.

North Carolina links

– The News and Observer (Raleigh): “Who will choose NC’s judges – Voters? Lawmakers? The governor? New plans released.”
– Scalawag Magazine: “The North Carolina GOP’s campaign to rig the judiciary”

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Music by friend of the show Stunt Bird.

Chapel Hill

I write about Islamophia a lot on this site, and we talk a lot about it on our news radio show. We’ve talked a lot about how the hateful, fearful rhetoric translates into violence. As most of you are by now aware, last week there was a triple murder in Chapel Hill, North Carolina of a Muslim family. It seems quite likely, despite all media spin to the contrary, that the attacker was motivated to extreme violence because they were visibly “different” and perhaps symbolized to him everything he (reportedly) despises about religion in general. In particular, there has been a lot of anti-Islamic vitriol directed from all quarters, including some broadly anti-religious factions, which is not matched in breadth and intensity against other religions. Whatever his motivation, it was, at any rate, not merely because of some made-up parking dispute (as if that would somehow make it better). They would probably not have been targeted had they not been visibly Muslim (or visibly some other thing that set them apart and was the object of a lot of American hatred).

I don’t have anything new to contribute to the discussion, especially since this horrific act just confirms a lot of what I had already been saying and since others have said so much more so much better. So, I will just point people toward the Fusion article on the affair entitled “My best friend was killed and I don’t know why”. Here’s an excerpt:

I know that he’s an aggressive man. That’s not the first we’ve heard from him. Hicks was their neighbor.

In October or November, we went to dinner at Yusor and Deah’s house. Right after we left, Yusor heard a knock at the door and it was Hicks. She told us he was angry and said we were noisy and there were two extra cars in the neighborhood. We used visitor parking but he was still mad. He said we woke up his wife. It wasn’t that dark yet. It wasn’t late. And it wasn’t that loud. We were playing a board game called Risk. I mean, I know I was mad because they were beating me at the game, but that was it. While he was at the door talking to Yusor, he was holding a rifle, she told me later. He didn’t point it at anyone, but he still had it. Yusor called to check on us after we left, to make sure he hadn’t approached us. We thought that was so weird—our neighbors don’t come to the door with guns! So when I heard the news it was shocking, but it wasn’t a surprise that it was the neighbor.

When I heard the news report and drove down there from Raleigh, I hoped it wasn’t anyone I knew. But I saw the apartment on the news and it was his apartment. If it wasn’t a hate crime, what was it? If you have a problem with your neighbors, you write a letter; you don’t shoot people. I think they were targeted because they were different. He was always so annoyed with them for little things. They are talking about a parking dispute online—that’s definitely not true. There’s plenty of space, and Deah had just gotten off the bus. I wonder if he just thought Deah was some white guy before his wife moved in.

 
Do go read the full essay.

Carolina guvs, past and present, aim for McDonnell-level corruption

They should ironically name Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina the “Ethics Coast” — like the Space Coast but for launching massive corruption into the highest levels of state government:

In the months after receiving his $171,071 payout of stock from Tree.com, [N.C. Gov. Pat] McCrory appointed the state’s banking director and a majority of the banking commissioners who regulate mortgage brokers.
[…]
That Jan. 30, the board voted to accelerate the vesting of McCrory’s 10,063 restricted shares of Tree.com stock, valued on that date at $171,071, even though thousands of the shares were not due to vest for another 16 months.

Without the board’s action, the shares would have expired, making them worthless. Tree.com founder and Chief Executive Officer Doug Lebda told the AP in an interview that the decision to accelerate the vesting of the shares for retiring board members is standard practice at the company.
McCrory’s total take of $185,509 from Tree.com in 2013 far exceeded the $139,590 salary he earned as governor that year.

 
(Which is why Pat McCrory is a compassionate governor with a true sense of the plight of the non-plutocrat and the poor. Ok, now back to Tree.com…)

[U.S. Rep. from South Carolina Mark] Sanford joined the Tree.com board in April 2012 after finishing his term as South Carolina governor in a cloud of ethics questions. He had been forced to pay $74,000 to settle 37 state ethics charges, including using taxpayer funds to pay for flights to Argentina to visit his mistress.
[…]
All told, Sanford cleared $239,159 in stock, director’s fees and special dividends in his 13 months with Tree.com, records show. Since then, Sanford has voted on financial regulations in Congress, where rank-and-file members are paid an annual salary of $174,000.

 
And I didn’t even bring up S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, who has her own special brand of ethics too.

5000-dollar-bill-madison-slider

Clay Aiken primary opponent suddenly passes away

clay-aiken-2011-flickr-TimmyGUNZ Unfortunate news out of North Carolina today as a Democratic Congressional candidate passed away unexpectedly after an accident. He was locked in a close primary race with former Idol runner-up Clay Aiken.

North Carolina Democratic congressional candidate Keith Crisco was found dead at his home on Monday, days after his primary race against singer Clay Aiken was declared too close to call. Crisco was 71.

The Asheboro Courier-Tribune reported that, according to employees at his company, Asheboro Elastics, emergency workers found Crisco after he suffered injuries related to a fall in the residence.

Crisco, who served as the state’s Secretary of Commerce from 2008 to 2012, reportedly trailed Aiken by 369 votes following their May 6 primary election.

 
Here is my analysis on the district and Aiken’s chances in the general election from February:

Clay Aiken, American Idol season 2 runner-up and a very successful singer, of Raleigh, North Carolina is throwing his hat into the political ring as a Democrat in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. A lot of the articles I’ve seen have either failed to provide any context whatsoever or have written him off completely without much detail. So, I aim to remedy that here.
[…]
In terms of the big picture for the U.S. House, Democrats would probably love to recapture that district, which — before it was redrawn — had once been historically black and was only lost to Ellmers in 2010 by fewer than 2,000 votes. Barack Obama won the old district in 2008 (but would have lost it heavily to McCain under the new lines).

That being said, the NC 2nd is a district that was drastically redrawn by the Republican legislature after 2010, to be a low-income and heavily white district with a 50-50 urban rural split. It has a 10 point Republican voter lean in the 2013 Cook PVI ratings, though it may be that those Republicans are more solid than the previous version of the district, since it was actually slightly more Republican on paper when it was held by Democratic Bob Rep. Etheridge. In the 2012 presidential election, it voted for Mitt Romney by 18 points.

So, it will be an uphill battle for any Democrat there, even without considering that it would be a midterm race (lower turnout) and that Aiken is openly gay in a state that just voted in 2012 to ban any legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Ellmers, while unpopular nationally as a person (her shutdown comments are the tip of an unpleasant iceberg), is a solid conservative in a new district that voted to re-elect her last time by a margin of over 45,000 votes or 15 points. But it’s probably worth noting that Mitt Romney outperformed her in the same election when her Democratic opponent in 2012 didn’t have much name recognition, which may demonstrate some vulnerability. Even so, it’s still a decisive result that will made it a challenge for any Democrat — even for someone like Aiken who could probably assemble a reasonably credible campaign.

Clay Aiken (D) will challenge NC Republican Congresswoman

clay-aiken-2011-flickr-TimmyGUNZClay Aiken, American Idol season 2 runner-up and a very successful singer, of Raleigh, North Carolina is throwing his hat into the political ring as a Democrat in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. A lot of the articles I’ve seen have either failed to provide any context whatsoever or have written him off completely without much detail. So, I aim to remedy that here.

If nominated — he has to get past two other Democrats first in the May primary — Aiken would likely be challenging incumbent two-term Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers — known best for justifying Congress being paid during last year’s shutdown, saying “I need my paycheck. That’s the bottom line.” She’s also the Republican Women’s Policy Committee chairwoman.

Ellmers already faces a primary challenge, from the right, from a local right-wing radio host. She seems personally offended that Aiken is also daring to run against her and was quite mocking of him during a recent interview (audio).

Aiken plans to emphasize education (they’re trying to highlight past work in special education, but I’m not sure he actually spent a whole lot of time doing that), as well as job-creation and the usual stuff. He will come into the race with a lot of potential for self-funding (assuming his earnings haven’t dropped too dramatically in just the last couple years) and very high name recognition. In terms of the big picture for the U.S. House, Democrats would probably love to recapture that district, which — before it was redrawn — had once been historically black and was only lost to Ellmers in 2010 by fewer than 2,000 votes. Barack Obama won the old district in 2008 (but would have lost it heavily to McCain under the new lines).

That being said, the NC 2nd is a district that was drastically redrawn by the Republican legislature after 2010, to be a low-income and heavily white district with a 50-50 urban rural split. It has a 10 point Republican voter lean in the 2013 Cook PVI ratings, though it may be that those Republicans are more solid than the previous version of the district, since it was actually slightly more Republican on paper when it was held by Democratic Bob Rep. Etheridge. In the 2012 presidential election, it voted for Mitt Romney by 18 points.

So, it will be an uphill battle for any Democrat there, even without considering that it would be a midterm race (lower turnout) and that Aiken is openly gay in a state that just voted in 2012 to ban any legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Ellmers, while unpopular nationally as a person (her shutdown comments are the tip of an unpleasant iceberg), is a solid conservative in a new district that voted to re-elect her last time by a margin of over 45,000 votes or 15 points. But it’s probably worth noting that Mitt Romney outperformed her in the same election when her Democratic opponent in 2012 didn’t have much name recognition, which may demonstrate some vulnerability. Even so, it’s still a decisive result that will made it a challenge for any Democrat — even for someone like Aiken who could probably assemble a reasonably credible campaign.

American History: A bloody coup in the U.S.

wilmingtonpress_540-2bf0830e2573b95312f000c316a44a5c57c107a2One of the reasons we have a month set aside to celebrate and remember Black History is because unfortunately the teaching of American History tends to leave it out the rest of the time (which is also why there’s never been a need for a White History Month). However, just because it isn’t taught doesn’t mean it’s unimportant or that it doesn’t count. Here’s one historical event I want to talk about today because — sad to say — I only just recently learned of it myself.

Did you know there was once a bloody coup d’état within the borders of continental United States?
Read more

North Carolina: Go rich or go anywhere else

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s campaign to drive out the poor seems to be continuing full speed ahead. In addition to cutting and phasing out the Earned Income Tax Credit, Think Progress observes that,

…low-income North Carolinians will be paying higher taxes in order to pay for a tax cut for the richest people in the state. Republicans moved from a two-tiered, progressive income tax system to a flat tax rate of 5.8 percent. A person who earns a million dollars per year will get a roughly $10,000 tax cut thanks to that move, but the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution will see their taxes rise. That means that four out of five taxpayers in the state were going to pay more next year even before the EITC repeal.

The combined effects of those tax changes give poor North Carolinians some incentive to move out of the state, a population shift Gov. Pat McCrory (R) hopes to encourage.

 
It’s a flat-tax miracle, y’all!

Just last June, the state became the first in the nation to provide zero unemployment benefits. When the Federal government shut down in October, North Carolina immediately suspended WIC vouchers — literally taking food from the mouths of babes — as every other state used emergency/contingency funds.

This is all in line with Gov. McCrory’s views that North Carolina is too generous to low-income and unemployed people and that those undesirables must be just absolutely flocking to the state’s inner cities from the Dickensian hellscape that he apparently believes is the rest of America right now. That view in turn is just the tip of the McCrory/NC Republican iceberg of destruction, which has included trying to vaporize abortion rights and making it very difficult for some people to vote.

His deeply regressive policy agenda, shared by Republican state legislators in the majority there, has been called by The New York Times, “The Decline of North Carolina” and by me “North Carolina: Not Checking Itself, Before Wrecking Itself, Since 2010.”

Oddly, the former seemingly-moderate Charlotte mayor, seems to be extremely (and oddly publicly) thin-skinned for a high-profile politician and has not been taking the criticism well at all, as explored in a prominent column in the Charlotte Observer this past December:

…my interview with him last week and a breakfast with him a couple weeks earlier make clear he hasn’t changed a bit in one respect: This is a man obsessed with his image and how he’s portrayed. It’s clear he doesn’t go a day without being deeply frustrated by what he sees as unfair attacks on his good name.

My hour-and-40-minute one-on-one with the governor began with him complaining about an editorial cartoon and ended with a complaint about how Art Pope, one of his chief advisers, is depicted. In between, McCrory repeatedly sprinkled asides and bromides about how the media are out to get him and his administration. When I sat next to him at a recent breakfast, he tugged on my sleeve every couple of minutes, leaned over and murmured his displeasure with this cartoon or that editorial or a news story from six months ago.

[…]
Most of McCrory’s troubles stem, in his mind, not from his support of policies that a majority of North Carolinians disagree with but from a media that, through bias or incompetency, just can’t understand his greatness.

 

Huzzah. That’s leadership you can depend on.