North Carolina Separation of Powers vs. Election Laws

In the waning days of North Carolina Republican Governor Pat McCrory’s term, the Republican legislature went out of it’s way to reduce gubernatorial power before his Democratic successor could take office. And all of us on the left were wailing and gnashing our teeth…and rightfully so…since the power grab happened in special session at the very last minute…and violated the separation of powers in NC.

But then a judge stalled one of the laws…blocking the new law that changed the nature and membership in the state’s election commissions…and the left huzzahed and hurrahed. But on reflection that change may not be what it appears. Really.

The changes to the law at the center of Cooper’s Friday lawsuit convert the five-member state elections board from one with a partisan majority matching the governor’s into a bipartisan body with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats. County election boards would have two members from each party, rather than the current three members with a majority from the governor’s party

Now, I understand that a bipartisan election commission with equal number of Democrats and Republicans isn’t optimal. We tried that once in Wisconsin and got nothing but trouble but not learning our lesson, are doing it again. And I can’t imagine it’s gonna work a whole lot better in North Carolina considering the history of the law.

But even that would be better than the extant law it was intended to replace…which essentially gives control to the governor’s party…and I don’t care what party is in power…that ain’t supposed to be how it works.

Between gerrymandering and stacked election commissions and photo id laws, the right to vote is under attack across the nation. As voters and citizens we need to defend ourselves…and demand fair elections. And maybe something akin to the late lamented Wisconsin General Accountability Board.

No single party should ever control the election process!

So Raise The Damn Gas Tax All Ready!

Wisconsin continues to debate how to increase funds for transportation (in Wisconsin that translates to build more freeways) as gas tax revenues continue to fall as cars get more fuel efficient or don’t use gasoline at all. Instead the governor continues to put highway construction on the credit card or extends the completion dates for major projects (which increases their costs through inflation and often overlooked, loss of utility and increased travel times for users) to balance the transportation budget.

There have been a number of discussions in the legislature around increasing the gasoline tax, vehicle registration and just recently, converting state freeways into toll roads.

Of course Governor Walker continues to stick to his no tax increase pledge by threatening to veto any gas tax increases if they aren’t balanced by tax cuts in other areas. This brings up a number of points. If gas increases are balanced against other tax cuts, those paying increased gas taxes aren’t necessarily the people getting the new offsetting tax cuts. I can’t imagine that will make drivers very happy.

And second, how is reducing other taxes to balance gas tax increases not essentially the same as using general funds to pay for transportation? And isn’t using general funds for transportation now verboten? I am sure many of you can either correct me on that or support my statement.

So about those toll roads…that is a very very slippery slope. Somebody is going to have to spend the initial capital to build the infrastructure to measure and collect tolls. Where’s that money going to come from? Wisconsin already doesn’t have the funds to fix the roads, build new ones, etc….how can it add tolling facilities? (this all assumes the federal government would permit the conversion of freeways to tollways…not unlikely under the President Trump regime)

But the talk is that private investors would pay for the new infrastructure…and then reap benefits from the tolling. And how many years would it take to implement? If we look at the Zoo interchange, years maybe decades. Hmmmm. Who controls the fees and determines the profit margins when private enterprise controls public utilities?

But if you are going to be ‘Open For Business’, you had better have first rate infrastructure, not just a low tax rate…businesses need to get their employees to work on time, need to get their raw materials to their businesses, and need to get their finished products to market. Subpar streets, roads and highways don’t work for them.

So for the quick and dirty, the current Wisconsin gas tax is 30.9 cents a gallon. Take a quick 5.1 cent increase and gas tax revenue jumps 16.5% and takes a lot of stress off of the transportation budget. Increase it 10.1 cents and it’s an increase of 32.7%. When I first suggested this gas in Milwaukee was around $2.00 a gallon and even now at $2.29, a 5 or 10 cent hike isn’t going to be that discernable.

You want some simple background into the issue, please read Ernst-Ulrich Franzen’s article on the resignation of the Secretary Mark Gottlieb from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation…he apparently got tired of speaking truth to power.

Oh Cripes: Twitter Diplomacy!

And no, this time I am not talking about President-elect Donald Trump. It’s the Russian Embassy!

President Obama expels 35 diplomats in Cold War deja vu. As everybody, incl people, will be glad to see the last of this hapless Adm.

I guess we don’t need diplomats anymore or ambassadors for that matter. We can essentially shut down the state department and hire a bunch of people with Twitter accounts and off we go…negotiating trade deals and cease fires or declaring war in 140 characters or less! How charming!

It will get really scary if Twitter starts to allow edits post publication, aina?

Late add (12/30/16 14:17): Mr. Trump’s reply:

Impeach Governor Scott Walker!

No, not over Act 10 which gutted the rights of public employees and their unions, not over Act 14 that gutted the authority of the Milwaukee County Board, not the meddling in the Milwaukee Public School System, not Right to Work Legislation, not budget cuts to public schools, not budget cuts to the University of Wisconsin system, not the ineffective DNR, etc., etc., etc.

But Wisconsin Governor Walker should be impeached…now…for his total failure to protect the young people incarcerated at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls and the total ineptitude and arrogance of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. Since the closing of the Ethan Allen School for Boys in Wales just west of Milwaukee in Waukesha county, all minor males sent to the state for incarceration have been sent to Lincoln Hills near Merrill WI over 200 miles from Milwaukee.

There is a laundry list of mistreatment of inmates, lack of trained medical personnel and a chronic shortage of trained staff…resulting in overtime and overworked state employees. There is in fact little or no reason that this should exist and it can no longer be tolerated…and the blame goes right to the top…the office of Governor Scott Walker.

I suggest that you read this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But here are some excerpts:

For years, officials knew or should have known about the thicket of problems at Lincoln Hills and its sister facility on the same campus, Copper Lake School for Girls.

“It all went on in plain view of the Department of Corrections, but nobody at the Department of Corrections knew how juvenile corrections worked or how Lincoln Hills operated or what was going on,” said Troy Bauch, who until recently was the union representative for workers there.

The sweeping criminal probe, now nearly 2 years old, is examining allegations of prisoner abuse, child neglect, sexual assault, intimidation of witnesses and victims, strangulation and tampering with public records. A separate internal investigation uncovered four incidents where inmates’ bones were broken.

The crisis at Lincoln Hills is rooted in systematic breakdowns, lax management, confusion over policies, a lack of communication and chronic staff shortages, a review of more than 1,000 pages of records and dozens of interviews by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found.

Officials trained staff improperly, failed to preserve video evidence, didn’t document serious incidents, and often shirked their duty to report matters to parents, police and social service agencies.

The shortcomings intensified in 2011 when the Walker administration shut down two youth prisons in southeastern Wisconsin to save $25 million a year. The move put all of the state’s serious teen offenders in one facility — hundreds of miles from most of their families.

“The entire climate went from mildly hellish to the ninth ring of hell,” said Timothy Johnson, a former guard.

While a developing crisis quickly became apparent, no one moved to address it.

After nearly six years in office, Walker has yet to visit Lincoln Hills.

(emphasis mine).

There is absolutely no reason that young people should be treated like this while under the care and control of the State of Wisconsin…no matter what reason sent them to Lincoln Hills.

What is the governor’s most recent response to the issues al Lincoln Hills and the Milwaukee County Boards reluctance to continue to send juveniles there? Build a new prison in Milwaukee County as long as the county pays to run it.

Gov. Scott Walker is considering having the state help fund building a Milwaukee County juvenile corrections center, but the county would have to pay for running it.

Milwaukee County officials have sought a way to keep more teen inmates closer to home instead of sending them more than 200 miles away to Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls.

The two secure facilities share a campus north of Wausau and have been under criminal investigation for nearly two years for prisoner abuse and child neglect.

But nary a word about fixing the issues as Lincoln Hills…so why wait until the criminal investigations bring back the records of wrongdoing and indictments…IMPEACH GOVERNOR WALKER NOW!

Ceding Federal Lands to the States

Over the last decade or so…as a part of the Bundy federal lands grazing incidents and their takeover of federal lands in Oregon…the subplot was state’s rights and federal lands should be ceded to the states. Well those conversations seem to be coming up again since the Donald Trump win on November 8th.

First, ceding federal lands to the states under these conditions is giving into terrorists…something that the US have vowed never to do.

But on what I perceive to be legal and historical grounds, the state’s have no rights to the federal lands within their borders. Because they are federal lands. They belong to me and you and every other citizen of the United States and not just to the residents of Oregon or Wyoming or South Dakota. They are held to benefit all of us as a nation not to the individual states.

And then there is the fact that most of those federal lands have been owned by the United States before any of those states even came into existence. What right do the states have to pre-existing domain?

But I fear that this will come to the forefront sometime during a Trump regime…and it must not be permitted to happen. Federal lands should be held in perpetuity for the common good.

Added 12/21/16: From the NY Times: It’s Our Land. Let’s Keep It That Way.

The Future Of American Manufacturing Under a Trump Regime!

President-elect Donald Trump has continued his threats against American manufacturers who move their plants and the related jobs out of the country with 35% tariffs on the manufactured goods that they import back to the states. The lure of low wages in countries like Mexico and China and Viet Nam may be too overwhelming to prevent those job migrations despite those threats. And here is just what might happen (and there is a hint of this in some of the press around the Carrier plant and a rumored American iPhone plant).

We might very well see new small highly automated American plants building cell phones, TVs, washers, dryers, lawnmowers, microwaves, textiles, etc…plants that stay or come back. Plants that employ 120 people instead of 800 like 15 or 20 years ago. And their productivity will be huge! Just huge! And their output will be sold in the American market and the American market only…cause it’s gonna cost 30, 50, 80% more than products made overseas.

And American plants and American jobs will continue to move overseas but their output will be sold overseas in Europe, Japan, China, India and emerging markets worldwide. They won’t be re-imported…they won’t incur the 35% tax…and the American economy will suffer. Suffer bigly. Suffer from higher prices and a loss of jobs for exported goods when those foreign markets retaliate by not purchasing American manufactured goods or agricultural products or American services.

Trump and His Generals

I am going to leave the names out but here are some interesting comments from the interwebs about some of Donald Trump’s appointments.

“I know more than the generals do.”

*picks a bunch of generals*

it’s hard to build a junta without generals in your cabinet.

Inauguration Day is going to look like a North Korean army-parade.

Yes, but these generals are HIS generals…

Trump Loves Spending Other People’s Money

During the campaign, the self proclaimed billionaire was touting his charitable contributions via the Trump Foundation. But one of the major papers, I think the Wash. Post, discovered that Donald Trump hadn’t contributed to the foundation in years…and the charitable activities he was bragging about were being done with other people’s money…money donated to his foundation by others.

So it should come as no surprise that his highly publicized saving of jobs at a Carrier plant in Indiana works kinda the same way. I am sure you have read or seen at least one article talking about how he convinced UTX, the parent company, of Carrier to keep 700 or 800 or 1000 jobs (depending on which media outlet) in a plant in Indiana instead of moving them to a new plant in Mexico. And of course downplayed in all of that is like 1000 or 1200 or 1300 jobs are still moving to Mexico but never mind.

So Donald Trump is taking credit for saving these jobs…something he made a great deal of during the campaign…but in order to seal the deal, the state of Indiana is giving Carrier a $7 million tax credit. Coincidentally VP-elect Mike Pence is governor of Indiana. So President-elect Trump just saved maybe 1000 Indiana with a combination of threats and Indiana tax payer dollars.

One side question is how come Mike Pence couldn’t have done that without Mr. Trump’s help…or did they know this was going to happen and hold the news back until post-election? I guess that doesn’t actually make any difference.

But isn’t this the same Mike Pence who clawed back a previous tax credit from UTX when they moved other jobs that they were supposed to keep in Indiana? Wonder how this will work out this time?

And did Mr. Trump threaten UTX with loss of government contracts (reportedly 10% of their business) in order to get them to stay. btw: it’s a good chance those jobs are eventually gone anyway since UTX will automate the plant to make it economically feasible in Indiana.

Christian Schneider Proved Gerrymandering Exists in Wisconsin.

Ironically GOP shill and right wing apologist, JSOnline’s Opinion blogger Christian Schneider recently set out to damn the federal court ruling on WI redistricting and prove gerrymandering didn’t exist. When in fact he proved that it does.

In typical Mr. Schneider style book meanderings he starts off with something that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand. And as most of us know, statewide elections whether it be for president or senator or governor hasn’t a thing to do with voting districts. But he digresses with:

It goes without saying that Donald Trump’s victory in Wisconsin nearly two weeks ago was unexpected. But according to a three-judge federal panel who just declared Wisconsin’s legislative maps unconstitutional, Trump’s stunning victory would have been all but impossible.

When you guys figure out what that has to do with the price of corn in Iowa county, let me know.

After throwing out chaff to put everyone off the scent, he got off track and proved the fact he was intent on disproving. And after talking about how assembly districts couldn’t have possibly have been designed to favor republicans, he goes exactly here:
.

A good number of Democrats win large victories without a Republican challenger, which artificially inflates their share of the statewide vote.

Now the last half is meant to deflate the rational that Democrats get the majority vote in the state but don’t hold the majority assembly seats…but in those districts without a Republican challenger there aren’t ANY Republican votes. Yes, that is all kinda round and roundy logic and you can see it from either perspective you want.

And the big BUT is “A good number of Democrats win large victories without a Republican challenger…”. Why do you suppose that is? No Republican challenger? Because the GOP leaders in Madison did in fact gerrymander all of those pesky Democrat voters into their own little safe blue districts. Far far away from the red districts just so they couldn’t muck up the Republican incumbents.

So yes, the WI redistricting was in fact gerrymandering…and this helps support that…if the other clues in the mass media weren’t already proof enough!