Auditor report shows excessive OT at State Fair

State Auditor Beth Wood released an investigative audit of overtime at the State Fair, which is managed by the Department of Agriculture. The report cites excessive overtime and off hours working.
The State Fair, as you may recall, has a rather checkered past. So, watch this latest development closely.

The report contains an interesting response to the Ag Department’s response to the report in which Wood calls the department’s response misleading.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (Department) provided a response to our investigative report that we believe is misleading. While our report did not include a finding of fraud, it did include a finding of excessive and unjustified overtime hours. As noted in our report, overtime pay decreased from $23,143 to $14,698 over a four-year period after the Department hired an employee to assist the Facility Sales Director. However, the Department continued to pay for overtime even though the State Fair Manager said he was generally unaware of what the Facility Sales Director was working on outside of normal business hours.
The Department contends that the sales and marketing staff at the State Fairgrounds is significantly understaffed. However, in our opinion, the Department has no basis for this argument in the absence of a comprehensive evaluation of the Facility Sales Director’s work habits and relative efficiency. Thus, any increase in expenditures for staffing would be imprudent without performing this type of assessment.

New maps are worse for Dems

Why is it not surprising that the fix is worse than the original?
Via Roll Call:

The new map draws Democratic Reps. Brad Miller and David Price together into Price’s 4th district and puts Democratic Reps. Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell together in Kissell’s 8th district. The first version of the map did not pair any incumbents together and the latest, and likely final version, looks substantially different from that draft and the current map. Tar Heel State Republicans attributed the changes made to the new map largely to the requests of Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield, an accusation he denied.

Have a look yourself at Congress 2.whatever

The Maps of Mid July

“Elections matter” although perhaps a little condescending is the best way to answer the questions you get when trying to explain the consequences of the newly redrawn state House and Senate districts and the process by which they were created.
Once the final tally came in on the evening of the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2010 this was inevitable. Elections matter and in this case they mattered greatly. As one political consultant put it to me recently, losing big ahead of a redistricting year is “like a hurricane coming ashore at high tide on a full moon.”
In any contest one side being able to set the rules of the game is an overwhelming advantage. Being able to change them midstream is even more advantageous. That’s the case here in North Carolina where the GOP led redistricting will reset the dynamics of the state’s legislative contests. At the same time there’s been a robust effort on the part of the party in power to rewrite as much of the state’s election code as they can get away with. Many of these bills are complex but their goal to reduce both the turnout and impact of votes from traditionally Democratic areas and constituencies is not. At this point, with the cards now on the table, no one could look at what is being done and declare it neutral.
That the attempt to override Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of the Voter ID bill, the crudest of the vote suppression tools, is coming during a session dedicated to redistricting further underlines that this is a coordinate, partisan effort to consolidate and hold on to power.
The House and Senate maps released yesterday, just days ahead of the session, were full of tricks and traps for specific members of the opposition as well as a highly transparent overall effort to mitigate Democratic voter turnout.
Data from the maps show Democratic voters more tightly packed in their districts than Republicans. Totals of how each district leaned in past races is far out of line with the actual statewide results. The carving up of minority areas, the double-bunking of sitting Democratic legislators into one district and drawing specific legislators out of their districts are tried and true techniques to rig the outcome.
The courts will have their say on this and as they’ve done in the past when Democrats have similarly overreached require some reworking of the specifics, particularly in how the cities with large minority populations are sliced and diced.
Even after the courts get a hold of them and ask for a redrafting here and there the strategy and its consequences in 2012 and years later will be felt and the end result will be the same: for the next decade the state legislature will be more conservative than the state itself.
Statewide races for both state and national office won’t be greatly affected by the legislative maps (they will be affected by the some of the vote suppression efforts) so we’re likely to continue to see the state skew more for Democrats in those races, while the new districts help GOP candidates in races for U.S. Congress and the state House and Senate.
A big turnout in next year’s election could upset these dynamics, but in the non-presidential years the maps will favor the GOP. In 2016 and 2020, whether North Carolina is in play in the presidential contest and the general enthusiasm of the electorate will have a big effect on the makeup of the General Assembly. But in 2014 and 2018 the maps will set the stage for the GOP to win back what might have been lost in prior elections.
Election matter.

Meager job creation, unemployment rate rises

The June jobs numbers are out and they are not good, even though economists expected a big bounce back from May’s dismal report.
Non-farm payroll rose 18K. Nationwide, the unemployment rate is now 9.2%
Via Marketwatch:

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The U.S. economy added jobs at a slower pace in June than in May, suggesting that the sudden slowdown in the economy might be longer-lasting and more severe than feared.

This is really disturbing since both federal and state leadership seems to have forgotten what counter-cyclical spending is all about. Instead, we’re cutting thousands of state workers, who use their paychecks to, you know, purchase goods and services. At 9.7 percent, North Carolina’s unemployment rate was higher than the national rate. We’ll see when the state numbers come out if that’s still the case. There was a significant drop in the state’s initial unemployment claims, but not a lot of other data to suggest even a slight turnaround.

Joe Stiglitz from this morning:

The remedies to the US deficit follow immediately from this diagnosis: put America back to work by stimulating the economy; end the mindless wars; rein in military and drug costs; and raise taxes, at least on the very rich. But the right will have none of this, and instead is pushing for even more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, together with expenditure cuts in investments and social protection that put the future of the US economy in peril and that shred what remains of the social contract. Meanwhile, the US financial sector has been lobbying hard to free itself of regulations, so that it can return to its previous, disastrously carefree, ways.

Not created by saints

Read another comment this morning alluding to the “divine” origins of this nation. There’s always been a politician or theologian or two or twenty trying to raise the people who founded this country up as divinely-inspired saints. They twist the revolution into a kind of moral crusade rather than the gritty, long war of survival, self-determination and anti-colonialism that it was.
Lately, there’s been a much more organized effort to bestow a kind of divinity to the Founders. It’s being pounded into the national psyche to rack up cheap political points as it pleases both the Tea Partiers and those in religious right. No doubt, we’ll see a further canonization of the Founders as we press on into the presidential campaign.
Unfortunately, like a lot of the historical inaccuracies that get spouted these days, the idea that this is a divinely inspired nation – and thus holy or chosen – is not being questioned nearly enough. There’s a tendency for interviewers to not drill into the way viewing this country as a Christian nation and believing that domestic public policy and foreign policy ought to hew to “god’s will” shapes a candidate’s thinking. This is a mistake and its dangerous. The history of the planet is full of lessons on what happens when the rhetoric of religious nationalism is allowed to flourish unchecked.
We’re willing to look at all kinds of things that have influenced a politician’s world view – what books they read, movies they watch, what they studied and so on – but those professing godly guidance in their public life as well as their private one too often get a pass. Rather than a question about boxers or briefs or Coke or Pepsi, it would be refreshing to hear a moderator ask “Do you believe god sends a nation a message through natural disasters?” and the follow-up “How would that affect your relief and recovery efforts.” And, yes, it is perfectly responsible to ask someone who states a belief in the literal translation of the Bible, whether they believe the Earth was created in six actual days and what they think about the eventual world-destroying battle between Good and Evil know in the literature as Armageddon.

In what respect, Charlie?

So it’s worrisome to see the Founders portrayed more and more as mythological caricatures and less and less as people. Revolutions do that naturally, especially if the new country prospers.
The Founders now are portrayed as icons of piety; steady, resolute men sure of their mission. At the time, it wasn’t such a safe bet. When independence was declared in this country driving it was the weight of the crown’s oppression and the opportunity that being free of it presented. There’s plenty of historical evidence that many of the people involved in the rebellion drew strength from their faith and many were indeed motivated by their ideals, but the revolution was about a much more immediate destiny.
The quest for religious freedom did mark the early history of European settlement of North America, but that doesn’t mean every small and big p pilgrim was making the trip to join a crusade; nor is there much evidence that many of them envisioned a new country. Your standard fourth grade history text may have the landing at Plymouth Rock (December, 1620) a page or two away from the Shot Heard Round the World (April, 1775), but a lot happened between the two events, including a century of rapid migration mainly driven by commerce, especially Europe’s growing addiction to tobacco and fondness for New World cotton.
The war itself was hardly a religious exercise – a dirty, bloody conflict of attrition rife with political meddling, shifting loyalties and desperate moments. Contrary to the resurgent contention that it was the godly-inspired work of state militias, it dragged on for years thanks to a small, dedicated army led by pioneers of guerrilla warfare. Events in Europe helped the cause tremendously and the end game would not have been possible without the participation of a large contingent of French soldiers and the arrival of a formidable French fleet in Chesapeake Bay. Yet somehow, to mention these facts today seems unpatriotic or at the very least uncharitable to the saints of the revolution.
Even more annoying to those touting the divinity of the revolt must be the record afterward. The Declaration of Independence, now thought of as a sacred text in some circles, included the oft-quoted reference to the creator, but the document produced and ratified at the war’s end included explicit language preventing the establishment of a state religion.
In case there’s any doubt about the Founders’ concept of the country’s origins, you only have to look a few years ahead to the Treaty of Tripoli (1797), proposed by the administration of John Adams and ratified by a Senate full of founder types.
The first line of Article 11 of the treaty begins:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion . . .

Following events today in Tripoli and the revolutionaries who now seem poised to take that far away capital, you often see references to the long ago revolutionaries of this country. “America also was started by a ragtag group of Freedom Fighters,” read a recent comment from the front lines.
There’s a similarity to the two wars – an uprising that crossed the line into open revolt after a brutal, violent suppression; an army that would have been destroyed in its infancy were it not for popular support and the aid of foreign powers; an opposition made up of individuals of various loyalties united in revolt, but maybe not much else; and a people just beginning to come to terms with what victory might mean and where to go from there.
May this country and the one that emerges in Libya proceed in their respective journeys with the wisdom to remain humble about their origins, to honor the sacrifice of those who fought for freedoms not by making them larger than life, but by remembering their true nature. For it is the fact that those we now honor were ordinary human beings who made extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of their fellow citizens that is so worthy of our reflection and respect.
Give all the thanks and glory to the almighty you want. But the country is of, by and for its people.
If we can keep it.

Early handicapping NC US House races

The official proposed congressional maps are out and some early analysis says that the districts now represented by Reps. Larry Kissell, Heath Shuler and Brad Miller are decidedly more Republican with Rep. Mike McIntyre’s now leaning more that way. GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers district is shored up with more GOP voters thanks to a shift of Wake County voters that helped Democratic Rep. David Price. Dem Reps. Mel Watt and G. K. Butterfield also emerged with stronger districts.
Source: John Davis Report. h/t MB @nando

Maps, more links to follow

What’s in a name

Now that the General Assembly is preparing to head home, I’m wondering what to call this session. It was certainly historic. It was certainly partisan. And, it looks like it’s not going to be the only session in 2011.
The Historic Partisan First Session of 2011 seems a bit dull and isn’t descriptive enough. And to call it what it really was would take up a lot of space as in the Truly Awful, Spiteful, Mean-Spirited, Half-Cocked Ideas Filled ClusterF#%k of 2011. And yet, that still doesn’t capture it.
I’m at a loss. If you’re not too shellshocked, please send along your ideas for what to call this historic session.
The email is info (at) exileonjonesstreet (dot) com.
Or leave a comment here.