Hide the kids

The legislature is coming back to town to square off with the Governor over corporate incentives. Pardon me if I don’t shout hoo-rray.

I wish someday they’d haul it back to town when they realize they left without doing enough about the hundreds of thousands of uninsured North Carolinians, the continuing degradation of our natural resources, the loss of family farms and an incredible hole in our mental health system.

You can read the reports on Goodyear’s recent quarterly numbers here and their expansion plans here and think about spending $40 million of your taxes on ’em.

Chris has some thoughts on the session.

Gonzales resigns

AG out.

Via Reuters:

Gonzales was to make a statement at the Justice Department at 10:30 EDT. Bush was also expected to make a statement about Gonzales Monday morning, but would not be announcing a replacement, a senior administration official said.

A senior administration official said U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement will serve as acting Attorney General, amid speculation that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff could be a candidate for a permanent replacement.

Nuke leak kept quiet

Nuke fuel plant 46 miles from Asheville has a leak, but nobody knows about it for three years.
Via Citizen-Times site this am where it is a rather well-read story:

A three-year veil of secrecy in the name of national security was used to keep the public in the dark about the handling of highly enriched uranium at a nuclear fuel processing plant – including a leak that could have caused a deadly, uncontrolled nuclear reaction.

The leak turned out to be one of nine violations or test failures since 2005 at privately owned Nuclear Fuel Services Inc., which operates a 65-acre gated complex in tiny Erwin, about 46 miles north of Asheville, and supplies fuel to the Navy’s nuclear fleet.

Later in the story:

Some 35 liters, or just more than 9 gallons, of highly enriched uranium solution leaked from a transfer line into a protected glovebox and spilled onto the floor. The leak was discovered when a supervisor saw a yellow liquid “running into a hallway” from under a door, according to one document.

NIH and whistleblowers

Not a lot of employers go around asking if you’ve been talking to any congressional types recently.

Apparently, the RTP NIH wants to know. Via AP:

The form asks for details of each telephone call from the offices of members of the House or Senate, including on the information sought. Logging and reporting such calls is standard procedure in the congressional affairs offices of federal departments and agencies. But the forms don’t appear to be something given out to “regular” employees, said Sen. Charles Grassley. Their distribution came in the midst of multiple and ongoing investigations by Congress, including by the Iowa Republican’s staff. Nor do the forms appear to have been distributed elsewhere within NIH.

“Hopefully, the intent of this form was not to discourage or intimidate NIEHS employees from talking to Congress; but I must admit, the timing is curious,” Grassley wrote Zerhouni in a letter, sent late Monday, seeking details of the circumstances of the form’s distribution. It is illegal to deny or interfere with a federal employee’s right to provide information to Congress.

TWC: S.C. Primary, Guv money

Sorry I’m late with this one. From Last week’s issue of The Carrboro Citizen:

Is it that time already?
I hope you’re ready, because the Southern primary season is right around the corner thanks to the South Carolina GOP’s recent bid to maintain its first-in-South status.
Responding to Florida’s decision to change its primary date, Palmetto State Republicans moved their primary up to January 19. (That’s less than 160 days away, depending on when you read this.)

That backs up the train, since Iowa insists on first place, New Hampshire follows closely and so on. As a result, the 2008 primary season is edging dangerously close to 2007.

Unlike their fellow South Carolinians, Democrats in S.C. say they’ll keep their Jan. 29 primary date. That doesn’t mean it’ll be any less interesting though.

The S.C. had been a bellwether for the now-defunct Super Tuesday for some time – and the state rang the bell for Bill Clinton in 1992 when the soon-to-be president rolled over Tom Harkin, who had been campaigning with Jesse Jackson, and Paul Tsongas, who was considered Clinton’s top challenger after Nebraska’s Sen. Bob Kerry dropped out following dismal numbers in Georgia.

Clinton’s decisive win there on the Saturday before the ’92 Super Tuesday set him up for checkmate.

Scene: A ballroom after a rally in Columbia; dejected Kerry staffers throwing back a few with the Clinton crowd and everyone swapping tales about dirty tricks courtesy of Lee Atwater.

The Clintons have a solid set of connections in S.C., and not just former governor and Clinton-era Secretary of Education Dick Riley and friends. Hillary Clinton has worked the state’s historically African-American campuses since ’92 and knows the political landscape.

This makes South Carolina her chance to score big against John Edwards and Barack Obama early on in the South.

Edwards, who has been concentrating mainly on Iowa for years now, needs a solid S.C. showing – not just because it’s his home state and he’s seen as the Southern candidate, but in order to prove that his anti-poverty message is going to get him votes in places outside of union strongholds.

Obama has to prove that he can wrestle African-American support from the Clinton camp. If he doesn’t, then he faces hearing Brit Hume and Tucker Carlson question his blackness ad nauseam.

Meanwhile, in N.C.
The primary for North Carolina remains May 7, proving once again what a civilized and humble bunch we are. But eagerness to delve into the races down ballot from the presidential primary has many a pundit scanning for early clues among the scraps of information available, especially the wide-open governor’s race.

The latest campaign finance reports are doubling as tea leaves and show that State Treasurer Richard Moore has a slight edge over Lt. Governor Bev Perdue.

Perdue has a mere $3.4 million on hand right now, while Moore has $3.7 million, according to the latest reports.

That’s still far more than either Fred Smith or Bill Graham (the wealthy lawyer from Salisbury, not the beloved preacher), who are spending away and only have $171,313 and $15,025, respectively, as of the latest reports.

But the GOP candidates have skunked their Democratic counterparts in one category: money they’ve loaned themselves for their campaigns.

Smith’s report lists seven loans from himself for a total of $386,455.

Graham, who is not the former host of Hour of Decision, wrote his campaign one check so far this year – for $613,617.17.

Musta really worked the spreadsheet to get it down to the last penny.

NC getting propos from NYU Law

This just in from the Brennan Center at the NYU Law School

North Carolina Legislature Overturns Matching Restriction on Voter Registration
Governor’s Signature Would Repeal Registration Rule and Help Thousands Register and Vote

Raleigh, NC — Today voting rights advocates in North Carolina and across the country called on Governor Easley to sign a voter registration law removing obstacles that would have prevented thousands of North Carolina citizens from successfully registering to vote, including voters using the new same-day registration procedure. The call came immediately following the overwhelming approval of the legislation in both chambers of the state legislature late last week.

In an election reform bill that passed the Senate 44-4 and the House 101-1, the General Assembly scrapped an existing policy rejecting new voter registrations from citizens if even a single letter of their personal information on their registration card did not match their personal information in state motor vehicle and Social Security databases.

In March, 2006, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law found that states depending entirely on Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Social Security Administration databases to verify information on voter registration forms could create unwarranted hurdles to registration that could disenfranchise as many as 1-in-5 new voters.

The federal Help America Vote Act requires states to maintain statewide lists of registered voters. In 2006 the Brennan Center found that a handful of states — including North Carolina — had misconstrued the law, refusing to place eligible citizens on the rolls unless their registration information “matches” data in the state motor vehicle or Social Security systems.

This matching requirement causes problems for eligible voters, especially in trying to match registration forms with Social Security information. A citizen registering as “Bill” might not “match” if his Social Security number is issued under “William”; a woman’s married name might not match against a database that has her maiden name. Common data entry errors also cause matches to fail. According to Brennan Center court documents in a 2006 Washington State case, one woman was barred from the rolls when her birthday was mistakenly entered into the system as “1976” instead of “1975”.

Washington State has now reversed that policy. Advocacy efforts have also borne fruit in other states, including California, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and under a policy announced by the Secretary of State just before the 2006 election, Texas. North Carolina would now become the latest state to remove the barrier.

Voting rights advocates in North Carolina and across the country praised the General Assembly for repealing the policy and urged the Governor to bring North Carolina into line with the overwhelming majority of states that have rejected “no match, no vote” policies.

“The General Assembly’s action complies with the requirements of federal law and puts the Governor one step away from ensuring that thousands of eligible North Carolina citizens are able to register and vote,” said Justin Levitt, Counsel at the Brennan Center and author of Making the List: Database Matching and Verification Processes for Voter Registration.

“We applaud the State Board of Elections and the legislature for making some vital changes that will protect the right to vote for certain eligible voters,” stated Jo-Anne Chasnow, policy director for Project Vote’s election administration program.

“Last week’s decision by the General Assembly will prevent tens of thousands of eligible voters from being disenfranchised on election day, and we look forward to the Governor throwing his full support behind it,” said Joyce McCloy, Coordinator of the North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting.

Had me thinking about Brennan and, of course, Griswold. And from there what a mess we’re in now. Privacy?

TWC: Letter to no one in particular

A few thoughts on the press and the legislature aimed at no one person or entity. Honest.

This year there proved to be at least one great advantage to having been denied membership to the 2007 edition of the Capital Press Corps: I didn’t have to write about what a regular guy Don Beason is and how I was either shocked or knew all along that he was the one who “loaned” Jim Black half-a-mil’. Unlike some of the pros up in Raleigh, I’m not used to explaining how it’s important I get cozy with lobbyists and insiders and how I’m completely immune to their charms.
That could turn one all pretzely over time.
I’m only kidding slightly here.
The press — particularly the folks who trade on their insidership around the legislature — have some ‘splanin’ to do. After all, it was not they who tracked down the threads that led to revelations of a monumentally corrupt speaker, but a bunch of federal prosecutors. The scandal stories, nicely packaged and written as they were, fed off of the documents from the feds and seldom ran far ahead of the investigation.
Now, I know that transparency is still new to much of the established media, but a little soul searching is in order.
Even in the provinces, we rubes knew the Decker deal stunk and that it was likely the tip of the iceberg. Now, seven years after the loan, we’re starting to get somewhere. And as the evidence of widespread corruption, vote trading and donations tied to legislation mounts, so should the questions about where the watchdogs were while all this was going on.
Maybe they weren’t given the time or resources, thanks to consolidation and media’s addiction to mid-20th century profit margins. Maybe they were clueless or didn’t think it important or were worried about losing access.
Give me a bunch of (insert wildly misinformed stereotyping adjective here) bloggers with nothing to gain or lose over folks in the know sitting on their hands for fear of alienating a source. I’m afraid that, as in many places in this great land, those charged with occasionally mucking out the barn are either too concerned about soiling their trousers or have somehow become mesmerized into believing they too are a fine steed in the stable.
Loyalty to those in power is not in the job description – or shouldn’t be. The idea is to help the rest of us get at the truth not to recreate the Acta Diurna.
The first newspaper in this land, Publick Occurrences, Both FOREIGN AND DOMESTICK, was shut down after its first issue because it mentioned the doings of government without permission. Young Ben Franklin became publisher of the New England Courant after his older brother went underground for publishing without submitting his copy to the censors.
The right to publish without interference from the government was hard earned and should not be easily surrendered or taken for granted.
When I first started out in this business, a newsman of the old school used to remind me of a line from a poem by a famous colonialist: “If you can walk with kings and yet not lose the common touch. . .”
That goes double for y’all having lunch with those kings.