If you are looking for confirmation that the current system of drawing districts for Congress and the General Assembly is ridiculously broken, legislative leaders unwittingly provided it this week with their bizarre and bitter reaction to congressional maps drawn as an exercise by a bipartisan panel of retired judges.
The idea was to see what would happen if politics was not part of the redistricting process, if the goal was to create rational districts that make sense for voters instead of protecting politicians in one political party or the other.
The exercise was a joint project between Common Cause North Carolina and Duke University and brought together 10 retired judges, five Democrats and five Republicans, to spend several months coming up with districts that complied with the Voting Rights Act but did not take party registration or residency of incumbents into account.
The result released at a news conference Monday was a map of compact districts that voters could understand. There were no lines snaking through multiple counties and jumping across highways to grab voters here and there to make sure a district was more favorable to Democrats or to pack as many African-Americans into as few districts as possible to maximize Republican majorities elsewhere in the state. [Continue reading. ..]
Last week’s federal ruling blocking part of HB2 for three defendants in the ongoing lawsuit was seen as a victory for LGBT people and their advocates.
But beyond putting part of HB2 on hold, the fight over the injunction also revealed some of the essential motivations of the state, which has variously defended HB2 as “common sense,” as necessary for privacy and to protect women and young girls.
With the issue now before the court, the state has revealed its official position: There are no transgender people – just delusional, mentally ill people who shouldn’t be encouraged.
“The norm for human development is for one’s thoughts to align with physical reality, and for one’s gender identity to align with one’s biologic sex,” wrote the state’s expert, Dr. Quentin L. Van Meter. “Gender identity that does not match natal sex is a mental disorder, previously called Gender Identity Disorder.”
The term “Gender Identity Disorder” was changed to “Gender Dysphoria” in 2012, when the American Psychiatric Association stopped considering it a mental disorder. [Continue reading …]
3. Whitewashing history 
New Supreme Court filing shines a spotlight on the disturbing effort to erase the Racial Justice Act
If you’re a student of world history, you will recall that one of the many horrific practices of the dictatorship in the old Soviet Union was the “purge.” Periodically, members of the Communist Party would run afoul of Stalin or some other boss and find themselves not just banished from the party (or worse), but literally excised from history.
One day, a person could be a loyal and even powerful member of the Politburo and the next, presto, he or she never existed. Long before the advent of modern computers, Soviet bureaucrats made an art form of doctoring old party and government photographs to eliminate the images of officials who had fallen from favor.
Today, weirdly and disturbingly, we’re witnessing something vaguely reminiscent of the old Soviet-style purge in the criminal justice debate in North Carolina. The subject is the law that graced the state statute books from 2009 to 2013 known as the Racial Justice Act or “RJA.”
As N.C. Policy Watch reporter Sharon McCloskey reported back in 2013 in what amounted to a retrospective on the law after it was fully repealed: [Continue reading …]
4. The future of a species hangs in the balance in eastern NC 
Federal decision on endangered red wolf could come as early as next week
A red wolf in the wild is rare to see. Lanky and graceful, with a trim brown-and-buff coat and cinnamon ears, red wolves are a federally recognized endangered species — so endangered that only 40 live in the wild. All of the wild red wolves live on 1.7 million acres of both public and private land in five counties in eastern North Carolina. This is part of the wolves’ original territory, where federal wildlife officials reintroduced them in 1987 in hopes of saving the species.
Yet the future of the red wolf is tenuous. Once extinct, the population rebounded and peaked at 130 red wolves in 2005-06, only to plummet to since. In addition to dying from natural causes, the animals have been hit by cars, trapped, poisoned, drowned and illegally shot.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s inability or unwillingness to manage the red wolves has prompted the agency to weigh whether to continue the red wolf recovery program. This month, USFWS Director Dan Ashe is expected to rule on how to manage the 40 remaining wolves in Tyrrell, Dare, Beaufort, Hyde and Washington counties. His decision ostensibly will be based on science, primarily the health and viability of the wolves in their natural wild habitat. But wildlife advocates fear that several factors could sway Ashe’s ruling: Opposition to the program within the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the influence of politically connected private landowners in eastern North Carolina, who also want to get rid of the wolves. [Continue reading …]
Bonus read: A timeline of North Carolina’s endangered red wolves 
5. Cheers and jeers – North Carolina reacts to the Supreme Court’s refusal to reinstate voter ID 
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to reinstate North Carolina’s restrictive voting law for this November’s elections. That decision drew both praise and condemnation. Here’s a round-up:
“North Carolina has been denied basic voting rights already granted to more than 30 other states to protect the integrity of one person, one vote through a common-sense voter ID law. Even without any support from our state’s attorney general, we were pleased that four justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, agreed with this right while four liberal justices blocked North Carolina protections afforded by our sensible voter laws.” – Governor Pat McCrory
“The highest Court in the land has rejected the State’s efforts to implement election provisions found by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to have been enacted with discriminatory intent….[Continue reading …]