Solar powerThe good people at the League of Conservation Voters have highlighted a couple of encouraging stories this morning in their weekly newsletter about the rapid progress occurring in the solar energy business (even as the fossil fuel industry and their paid helpers in government and the conservative think tanks do their utmost to stop it).

#1 – Environomics: Solar Jobs Leave Fracking in the Dust

The solar energy industry in NC already produces nearly eight times the number of jobs that fracking supporters predict their risky enterprise will create in our state — and unlike the fracking will-‘o-the-wisp, these real solar jobs are climbing fast. That’s 3,100 jobs and rising.

We’re already fourth in the nation in solar electric generating in the US, and half of that capacity was built just in the last year. And that power and jobs production from solar in NC will keep climbing—so long as legislators and regulators don’t listen to anti-renewable energy lobbyists and ideologues and do something stupid like throwing out the existing policies that are creating the solar boom here.

A few years ago, the big power companies’ trade association mocked solar energy with an ad using the Annie musical song, “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow”. In case they hadn’t noticed it, tomorrow is here, baby. More here.

#2 Around the Globe: Germany Makes Solar Breakthrough

For another stake in the heart of the myth that renewables can’t produce enough power to make a difference, here’s the latest from Germany. As of last month, that major industrialized nation produced a full half of its summer-day electric generation from solar power.

Not only that, but 90% of Germany’s solar generation is coming from rooftop installations rather than big solar farms. That kind of evidence should be enough to make folks over at the N.C. Utilities Commission re-think the stakes involved in the ongoing cases over rates to be paid for solar electricity.

Read the details about Germany’s recent solar electric production records here.

The Wilmington Star News notes that the federal judge who will decide whether North Carolina’s voter suppression law should be placed on hold for the 2014 midterm elections has a lot to consider following last week’s testimony in Winston-Salem. But the editorial board concludes it would be foolish to enforce the law before a full trial. Here’s more from Monday’s Star News:

Voter IDSupporters say they just want to make sure that only properly registered voters have a say in our elections process. The integrity of our elections process is indeed important. But so is ensuring that citizens have the right to participate in that process without facing unnecessary or politically motivated obstacles.

The new voting laws are likely to discourage or exclude many qualified voters. Other states have adopted tough voting laws, but North Carolina’s is said to be the most exclusionary. It does not, for example, provide an alternative to people who do not have photo identification and would have financial or logistical difficulty retrieving a certified birth certificate required to get a government-issued photo ID. That would be a reasonable addition.

Voting is a constitutional right for U.S. citizens 18 and older. It is not a privilege, as is getting a driver’s license or boarding a flight. The government should have to clear a high bar before denying the vote to any citizen.

Kim Strach, the state elections director – whose husband is among the lawyers defending the voting laws – confirmed in a video deposition that the type of fraud North Carolina’s laws purport to prevent is exceedingly rare. Only one case was prosecuted in 10 years. In addition, Strach pointed to a double standard: No photo ID is required for voters who file absentee ballots, a method that tends to be used more by Republican voters.

Democratic voters, on the other hand – and especially black Democrats – are more partial to early voting. But early voting is popular across all demographics. In the 2012 general election, 56 percent of North Carolinians who went to the polls voted before Election Day.

The court has a lot to decide. It would be foolish to put these laws in place before the full trial, where both sides have the ability to lay out all their evidence and prove their case. The most restrictive of the provisions, including the photo ID requirement, do not take effect until 2016 anyway.

Delaying implementation of the voting restrictions until after the District Court-level ruling is the prudent course of action. That also would give the Honorables time to reconsider how to better ensure that in stopping fraud – a legitimate government goal – the law does not – inadvertently or deliberately – disenfranchise any voting-age citizen.

You can read the full editorial here.

Gov. McCrory

Gov. McCrory

Many politicians are well known for the frequent use of a particular catchphrase,  rhetorical device (or verbal tic) when they want to call attention to a particular statement. Richard Nixon always seemed to preface every statement with “let me make one thing perfectly clear.”

Both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama are known for using “let me be clear” and Obama also favors “make no mistake.”

Time magazine even a published a list of favored phrases for several 2012 GOP presidential candidates. Mitt Romney: “let me tell you” and “if you will.”

Here in North Carolina, we’re also used to Richard Burr’s affinity for “at the end of the day.”

And, now, thanks to a post on BuzzFeed, it’s pretty doggone clear that Pat McCrory likes to preface his observations with “frankly.”  Unfortunately, for the Guv, the BuzzFeed analysis is not terribly flattering. The article is entitled: “NC Gov Pat McCrory, Frankly, Will Let You Know When He’s Full Of It.”

Click here to read their compilation of his frank but somewhat-less-than-accurate quotes.

Jobs11-5During the debate over last year’s billion-dollar-a-year tax cut plan, supporters made a lot of big promises about the supposed economic benefits of cutting corporate and personal income taxes for wealthy individuals and highly profitable corporations. The problem—as many warned at the time—is that tax cuts almost never live up to their promises.

And that’s the point made in a recent piece by the well-respected Fiscal Times. In order for the tax proponents’ claims to be true, North Carolina would have needed to generate job growth that is significantly better than other states and the national average. According to the Fiscal Times:

The trouble is that the promised job growth hasn’t really materialized.

To be sure, with the U.S. economy as a whole adding jobs at a pace of 250,000 per month, there aren’t many states seeing a downturn in employment anymore. But the promises that went along with the tax cuts and reduced spending weren’t about keeping up with the rest of the country, but about surging ahead.

The Fiscal Times examined the job creation record of North Carolina and two other states that have experimented with deep tax cuts—Kansas and Wisconsin—and found that:

The dramatic tax cutting doesn’t appear to have done nearly as much for job growth as promised.

Wisconsin and Kansas, for example, have actually lagged the national average in job creation since their big tax cuts and budget cuts were enacted:

Read More

Voting rightsAri Berman at The Nation reports on some of what he saw and learned after spending the week at the voting rights hearing in Winston-Salem,  alongside the unsinkable Rosanell Eaton.

From a list of ten points he makes, here’s number one:

1. The law disproportionately burdens African-American voters

The plaintiffs, including DOJ, the ACLU and the Advancement Project, focused on three specific provisions of the law—the reduction of early voting from 17 days to 10 days, the elimination of same-day registration during the early voting period and the prohibition on counting provisional ballots cast in the right county but wrong precinct. In recent elections, African-Americans were twice as likely to vote early, use same-day registration and vote out-of-precinct.

In 2012, for example, 300,000 African-Americans voted during the week of early voting eliminated by the state, 30,000 used same-day registration and 2,500 cast out-of-precinct ballots. Overall, 70 percent of blacks voted early and African-Americans comprised 42 percent of new same-day registrants.

“It is as if House Bill 589 were designed to deter the very practices that encourage turnout among blacks,” testified expert witness Barry Burden, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Read more here.