Friday News: Childish distractions

REPUBLICANS PLAY WITH FIDGET SPINNERS DURING IMPEACHMENT, THANKS TO RICHARD BURR: As senators sat through endless hours of arguments on impeachment, they found a new outlet to focus their attention: fidget spinners. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., handed out the toys to his colleagues before Thursday's trial proceedings began. A fidget spinner is a small toy designed to be spun between the fingers, relieving stress or boredom. The devices and stress balls were on the tables at Burr's "Carolina Cookout" luncheon for senators that included hamburgers, hot dogs, sweet potato fries and ice cream sundaes. Burr was later seen playing with a blue spinner while listening to arguments by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., an impeachment manager. Other senators, including Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., were also seen with spinners on their desks.
https://www.wral.com/trial-highlights-conspiracy-theories-and-fidget-spinners/18905917/

Contemptible Icons: Thomas Ruffin portrait removed from Orange County courthouse

There are heroes, and there are villains:

The defendant in the case was John Mann, a North Carolinian who had been renting a slave named Lydia. When she committed a trifling offense, Mann whipped her. During the whipping, Lydia attempted to escape, so Mann shot her, gravely wounding her. North Carolina authorities deemed his response to her escape attempt disproportionate and charged him with assault and battery. In the criminal trial, the jury ruled against him. He appealed, claiming that assault on a slave by her master could not be indictable since a slave was property of her master.

Ruffin concluded that “the power of the master must be absolute, to render the submission of the slave perfect.” He argued that inhuman punishment of slaves was indeed legal in North Carolina.

Before you say, "But that was the law of the land back then" or something along those lines, both the local authorities *and* a jury deemed his actions were criminal. There is some evidence that suggests Mann was not well respected in the community, and his jury conviction may have had more to do with getting rid of a local nuisance than concern over the slave's injuries. But I also can't help noticing that John Mann was *not* the owner of Lydia, he was merely renting her. Which sounds absurd enough. The slave's real owner was a teenage girl, whose uncle rented out Lydia to whoever could pay. But apparently none of that mattered to Ruffin, which is one more reason to pull those portraits down. Note: the portrait hanging right behind Chief Justice Beasley in the above photo is of Thomas Ruffin...

Thursday News: Collective bargaining

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NCAE POLLS MEMBERSHIP ON POTENTIAL TEACHER STRIKE: The NCAE Organize 2020 Racial & Social Justice Caucus is surveying school employees across the state about how many days of work they’re willing to miss to pressure the General Assembly to meet their funding demands. The survey gives options ranging from missing zero days to up to 10 days. The survey is taking place even though it’s against state law for teachers and other public employees to go on strike. Jeffrey Hirsch, professor at the UNC School of Law, cited how teachers in other states with similar bans went on strike and were not punished. If there are any consequences, he said it would be more likely that a North Carolina school district targeted the ringleaders for punishment. “Going after a large group of teachers would be very, very unlikely,” Hirsch said in an interview Wednesday.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article239504518.html

Coal Ash Wednesday: Hold on to your wallets

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Duke Energy looking to raise rates to pay for ash cleanup:

Duke argues that closing the ash basins, as state and federal rules now require, is part of its cost of doing business. That, it says, makes the company eligible to recover those costs by adding them to the electricity rates that consumers pay.

“We’re relying on the fair and well-established precedent in North Carolina that allows us to recover money that we spend to comply with environmental rules and regulations,” Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said. “We’ve managed coal ash properly for decades, so historically the Utilities Commission determined that those costs are recoverable and should be included in customer bills.”

Bolding mine, because damn. That is Trump-level nonsense right there. The Dan River coal ash spill dumped 46,594 cubic yards into the River, leaving at least a 2" layer of toxic ash on the river bottom for over 10 miles. Just to give you a reference on such volume, that amount of coal ash would fill 330 tractor-trailers. If that's managing coal ash "properly," I'd hate to see what mismanagement would do. Thankfully Josh Stein isn't under any delusions about Duke Energy's responsibilities:

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