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!

Drug Companies Are Totally Out of Control

While Madison is discussing how to solve the opioid epidemic in Wisconsin…from both prescription and illegal forms of the drug…watching TV in a Chicago hotel Sunday night…I was bombarded with ads for drugs to solve Opioid Induced Constipation. The use of opioid painkillers is so endemic and long term that we have a new side effect that requires another drug to ‘cure’?

If this isn’t another indication that we need a coherent policy on drugs and drug abuse, I don’t know what is.

Democrats Behaving Badly: Playing Walker Bingo At the State of the State

Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that State Representative Gordon Hintz created a little Governor Walker bingo game and passed it out to Democratic legislators for use during the governor’s State of the State address. Now I am hardly a fan of Governor Walker but he is still governor of Wisconsin until 2018. And if the dems want to have any semblance of respectability going into the 2018 elections…they need to act like responsible adults.

Republicans were not happy that Democrats weren’t focused on the governor’s largely ceremonial talk to the joint session of the Legislature.

At this point I wouldn’t mind seeing them all replaced by dems who want to do the job!

On the other hand:

…the Walker administration did not give them (the Democratic legislators) a transcript of the governor’s talk, the first time Hintz said this has happened. Instead, they were given highlights of Walker’s remarks.

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.

Labor Shortage Solved By Capt Obvious at JSOnline

In a business column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (JSOnline) interviewing ‘futurist’ and Milwaukee businessman Bob Chernow…MJS writer Steve Jagler quotes Mr. Chernow’s solution to an anticipated labor shortage in the Milwaukee market area:

Chernow says one possible solution would be to provide transportation for workers living in the inner city to jobs in the suburbs.

You think? Helping get labor to available jobs would help?

But isn’t that exactly what the suburbs have been trying to prevent since for EVER? Keeping ‘those people’ in the city?

Trump NY State Co-chair Almost Apologizes

Taking after his idol, Trump’s New York State Co-chair, Carl Paladino issued an almost apology for his earlier racist remarks about President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

So what got him into hot water in the first place? Well he answered a questionnaire about what he hoped to see in 2017 provided by Artvoice, a weekly publication from western New York. His responses included:

Paladino said his main desire for the New Year was that President Obama would die after contracting “mad cow disease after being caught having relations” with a “Herford” [sic]. He also wrote that he wanted Michelle Obama to go away and “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”

Now we’ll get back to the apology in a moment but he also stated:

In a previous interview with the Buffalo News, Paladino did not claim his answers were a mistake. He stood by the comments and said they had “nothing to do with race.” Paladino also told the News that he made the remarks “just for” Rod Watson, one of the paper’s black editors.

“Tough luck if you don’t like my answer,” Paladino said to the paper.

Yeah well, that’s very nice. But now on to the apology:

In a press release, Paladino apologized to the “minority community” for his remarks, which appeared in a feature that was published in the Western New York weekly Artvoice on Dec. 23. Paladino blamed the comments on an “emotional” reaction to President Obama’s handling of the situation in Syria and accidentally hitting the wrong button in his email.

“I never intended to hurt the minority community who I spent years trying to help out of the cycle of poverty in our inner cities. To them I apologize,” began Paladino, who has been a member of the school board in Buffalo, N.Y., since 2013.

“Those survey questions provided me with the spark to vent and write deprecating humor about a bad president for whom the mainstream media continues to seek an undeserved legacy,” Paladino said. “I wanted to say something as sarcastic and hurtful as possible about the people who are totally responsible for the hurt and suffering of so many others. I was wired up, primed to be human and I made a mistake. I could not have made a worse choice in the words I used to express my feelings.”

So let’s get back to that apology. Did you notice anything unusual about the target audience? He aimed it at the “minority community”. Why not all of us? Do you think I wasn’t a little bit pissed off? Don’t you owe an apology to the “majority community” who were also offended? Or don’t you think that we were offended? Just about how President-elect Donald Trump would handle the situation, aina?

You may have also noticed that his is on the Buffalo School Board. By a 6-2 vote he has been asked to resign or risk being kicked off of the board.

Paladino didn’t attend the meeting. He says he won’t resign.

This guy should never be elected or appointed to another public office…ever.

Donald Trump’s New Year’s Message (Tweet):

Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly,
they just don’t know what to do, Love!

[copied from news account not actual twitter feed]

Does that actually sound like a uniter who will be president of all of the people or still an overbearing egotist who will continue to gloat (for how long)?

You won, get over it!

Donald Trump: Still Not Convinced?

This morning’s headline: Code associated with Russia hacking found on Vermont utility computer.

Russian (and any others) hacking is a national security risk that shouldn’t be taken lightly. As I have posted previously the incoming Congress should work towards strengthening American cyber-defenses across the board.

A code associated with a broad Russian hacking campaign dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected on a laptop associated with a Vermont electric utility but not connected to the grid, the utility said on Friday.

“We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding,” the Burlington Electric Department said in a statement.

“Our team is working with federal officials to trace this malware and prevent any other attempts to infiltrate utility systems. We have briefed state officials and will support the investigation fully.”

The Department of Homeland Security alerted utilities on Thursday night about a malware code used in Grizzly Steppe, the Burlington Electric Department said.

The article goes on to mention that his might not be a direct attempt to access the Vermont grid. That the laptop may have been infected by visiting a rogue site of some sort. But considering Ukraine has accused Russia of accessing their electrical grid and shutting parts of it down, this isn’t a laughing matter.

btw: Now I have to wonder if I may be hacked…when researching yesterday’s posts: Trump Shrugs Over Russian Hacking Accusations and Oh Cripes: Twitter Diplomacy!, I at two points ended up on a website of the Russian embassy UK and after that my laptop crashed…hmmm.

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: