Tuesday, December 20, 2016



CASH IN THE APPLE  for 12-22-16
By Cash Michaels

            MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! – May you and your family enjoy a very blessed and meaningful Christmas holiday this weekend. Lord knows this has been an eventful yaer, one that many of us breathing aren’t going to soon forget. A lot of bad happened, but also a lot of good too. Let’s all come together, somehow, to make the good flourish for our children and their children. They deserve to have it better than we do.
            But don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying to not also teach them to overcome, because as long as they’re human, an still have to work for a living, they’ll have to compete for resources in order to survive. And they better know and understand that as a fact of life. At the same time, that doesn’t mean they should be cutthroat about it. All of us can compete and struggle, and still exhibit decency and honest towards one another.
            Many of us would call that the Christian way. Others would refer to it as the way of Allah. People of most faiths believe in a common path towards brotherhood that doesn’t require us to riddle each other with rhetorical bullets. If only all of us, regardless of color, gender, sexuality, faith or creed could see that common bond.
            Yes Christmas is named in honor of our Christian icon, but truly the warm spirit and good will we’re supposed to experience is something that can be shared by all. But we’re supposed to work for it, consciously create a world that reflects the values we all want to live by. Things like hate, greed, lust, and envy all lead to pain sooner or later. Things in your world may seem perfectly fine now, but allow yourself to wallow in any of those, and you’ll soon realize how unworthy the time spent really was.
            Oh yes, yes, yes, I’m talking to you Republican members of the NC legislature. In this season of giving, when you were called forward to help the victims of Hurricane Matthew and the ravaging forest fires, you proved that the heart of man will always prove original intent when given the chance.
            Sure, Gov. McCrory finally called his brood into special session, allegedly under the guise on appropriating disaster relief funding to help those hardest hit. But then McCrory turned a blind eye to the true objective of his fellow Republicans in charge – avenging his shameful and shame-filled reelection loss to Democrat Roy Cooper.
            And when GOP lawmakers took away most of Cooper’s appointment powers, made state High Court decisions muddier, altered the elections process and took power away from the state Board of Education, McCrory, truly a weasel’s weasel, ws more than happy to sign it all into law. Mind you, these were folks who were more than happy to use the Republican governor’s authority for a doormat during his short tenure. One could even say McCrory lost reelection because of their HB2 shenanigans.
            But ultimately, like a good little puppy dog, McCrory was right there, showing his new boss. Donald Trump, just how obedient he can be.
            At least Scrooge realized just how reprehensible he was by the end of the story. But Pat McCrory and the NC Republicans….not a chance, not a prayer.
            And yet, take it from me, if you still have life, love and good health, you have much to work with to at least attempt to make this a better world, in spite of the Trumps, McCrorys and GOP leaders of the world.
            So Merry Christmas to all…and to all who seek to use their power to harm and divide….good riddance!
By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            The NCNAACP says that it is “planning to sue” the Republican-led NC General Assembly once again, alleging that it committed “violations of the [1965] Voting Rights Act [and] the Equal Protection Clause” when it stripped incoming Democrat Governor Roy Cooper of various appointment powers during what it believes was an “illegal” extra special session of the state legislature last week.
            Democrat Gov-elect Cooper has also vowed to go to court if needed.
            “[These] Republican extremists have a special kind of low, and a thirst for power to lie the way they do,” Rev. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP, charged on MSNBC Saturday. He maintained that the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a recent ruling, found that the 2016 NC legislature was “unconstitutional” because its 2011 legislative maps were racially gerrymandered. The federal appellate court ordered that when the NC General Assembly officially went back into session in January, that it redraw the 2011 maps that, thus far, have been used for the 2012, 2014 and the recent 2016 general elections, by March 2017.
            Once approved by the federal court, then special primaries are to be held in either late August or early September 2017, followed by special elections for state lawmakers in November 2017.
            This also means that lawmakers will also have to run for reelection the following year in 2018.
            The only reason why the US Fourth Circuit did not order the 2011 maps to be redrawn prior to the 2016 elections is because there wasn’t enough time.
Rev. Barber and others maintain that despite the special session originally called by Gov. Pat McCrory to deal with disaster relief in the wake of devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew, and the forest fires in western North Carolina, it was not lawful for Republican legislative leaders to authorize an unannounced extra special session for the purpose of removing key appointment powers from Democrat Gov-elect Roy Cooper (House Bill 17); rerouting appeals cases to the full 15-member state appellate court (which is now majority Republican) instead of the now Democrat-majority state Supreme Court.
“[Republicans removed] the right to appeal directly to the State Supreme Court, requiring every case to be heard "en banc" that is, by the full court, in the Court of Appeals first, seats now held by a majority of Republicans,” said atty Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
The legislature also created an eight-member state Board of Elections, and removed several key powers from the state Board of Education, transferring them to the new Republican superintendent of Public Instruction.
Civil rights activists were outraged.
“These are desperate losers, power mad white men, going beyond anything the Democrats ever did, willing to destroy any institution and the public’s hope for rational government just to keep a political advantage,” said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan public policy group.
“This is majority rule. We have elections. Elections have consequences,” Rep. Nelson Dollar [R-Wake] told members during Thursday’s special session.
Outgoing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB 17, which weakens Gov. Cooper once he takes office, into law Monday evening.
Angry Democrats called what the GOP did nothing short of a “power grab.”
This has been a year of ineffective and reckless governing.,” state Senate Minority Leader Sen. Dan Blue [D-Wake] said on behalf of the Seante democratic Caucus Monday. “We have wasted thousands of dollars on divisive legislation that has created a larger wedge between parties and between the people.”
On the state House side, Minority Leader Rep. Larry Hall (D-Durham), called what happened a “disgrace.”
Let's be 100% clear--the NCGOP lost the Governor's race, and they lost the recount,” Rep. Hall said. “Now they want to steal the election after the fact. It's a disgrace.”
State Rep. Cecil Brockman [D-Guilford] also expressed outrage.
“Last week we saw the ridiculous new lows the Republicans at the General Assembly will stoop to in order to cling to power. This surprise session, meant to undermine the authority of Governor-elect Roy Cooper, was an assault on democracy and an insult to voters. I strongly oppose this partisan power grab and will continue to support the voice of the people,” Rep. Brockman said.
NCNAACP Pres. Rev. Barber reminds all that since the GOP majority in the legislature came into power in 2011, they’ve had many of their laws overturned 13 times in court, and he expects no less once they’re sued again.
“We’re going to fight this with everything we have,” promised Barber.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            During state Attorney Gen. Roy Cooper ‘s successful run for governor, he vowed to govern in the interests of “all North Carolinians,” and promised that he would lead a diverse Cabinet and administration. Democrat Cooper said that he was  “…mindful that there are so many communities out there who feel targeted, and they yearn to be heard, and they yearn for respect.” He added that North Carolina needs a governor who will work to “make sure that we have that mutual respect, and part of mutual respect is transparency.”
             …[W]e should be about being inclusive.” Cooper said last January. “The first thing we have to admit is that racism does exist.”
            Based on his posture as a moderate Democrat, Cooper attracted a lion’s share of the black vote in November, enough to help him unseat McCrory by just over 10,000 votes to become North Carolina’s 75th governor on Jan. 7, 2017.
But now, thanks to measures passed last week by the Republican-led General Assembly in an extra special session and signed this week by McCrory before he leaves office, observers say Cooper’s ability to indeed govern in the interests of all North Carolinians, and make sure that communities of color across the state are heard, respected and reflected in his administration, has been severely compromised with the removal of many of his key appointment powers.
"The changes are intended to more consistently reflect the checks and balances called for in the [state] constitution," Senate President Pro-tem Sen. Phil Berger [R-Rockingham] told reporters last week.
“This is the result of voters picking a strong Republican legislature, and a Democrat governor by a fingernail," Dallas Woodhouse, executive director the NC Republican Party added.
Democrats were both angered and aghast.
At the height of the Tea Party era, North Carolina lies supine, crushed under the heel of a shameless tyranny of radical Republicanism that stripped the governor of constitutional authority by a blatant political power grab,” said an outraged Michael Carmichael, former Special Deputy Attorney General for Administrative Affairs under state Attorney General Rufus Edminsten during Gov. Jim Hunt’s 1970’s term.
Gov.-elect Cooper was clear that what the GOP did was far beyond just petty politics. “Most people might think this is a partisan power grab, but it's really more ominous," Cooper said, promising to fight in court.
Why is any governor’s ability to hire and appoint what is essentially his executive branch team, so vital for governance? According Tom Hendrickson, a former chairman of the NC Democratic Party who has extensive experience in state government, “The governor needs the historical appointment powers to boards and commissions, as well as Cabinet level and exempt positions, in order to execute his vision for North Carolina that was embraced by the people of North Carolina at the ballot box.”
Hendrickson continued, “The legislative power grab is insider politics that focuses on raw power and vendettas rather than delivering on promises to our citizens focusing on the future of our State.”
That means any intention of Gov. Cooper to deliver a more inclusive state government to the people who voted him into office, is now checkmated at every turn by a Republican-led legislature that, at the very least, has demonstrated, according to the federal courts, a documented hostility towards African-Americans, especially when it comes to suppressing voting rights, the racial gerrymandering of voting districts, the denial of Medicaid expansion to the poor, and the slashing of the public education budget.
Courtney Crowder, who served as Legislative Director and senior advisor to Gov. Beverly Perdue, North Carolina’s last Democrat governor in office, said putting the brakes on Cooper’s vision of an inclusive, fairer state is exactly the reason why the GOP moved so quickly and decisively to gut his power even before he took office.
“There is no doubt that what the legislature intended to do was frustrate Cooper’s ability to install diverse and representative perspectives in as many positions key throughout state government as possible,” Crowder, who currently heads up his own governmental consulting firm, said.
For instance, the governor’s Cabinet - nonelected state officials Cooper would hire to lead key state agencies like the massive Department of Transportation, Health and Human Services and the Dept. of Public Safety. Under House Bill 17, Gov. Cooper can select anyone he chooses, but now the state Senate must provide “advice and consent” on those choices. If the state Senate doesn’t like Cooper’s picks, they go nowhere.
True, that legislative prerogative was already in the state Constitution, but throughout history has been rarely enforced, until now.
Cooper’s ability to fill exempt protected positions in state government was cut from the present 1500 for McCrory, to just 425 (Perdue had 500), meaning Gov. Cooper’s ability to specifically hire over 1,000 more fellow Democrats if he so chose, was decimated by over two-thirds.
The state Board of Elections will now be evenly split between four Republicans and four Democrats, with Republicans chairing on even numbered years when most major elections take place. All decisions will require a six-member majority. That’s a big change from now, where the party of the governor in power has the majority of members on both the state BOE, and the local county BOEs.
And Cooper won’t be able to make appointments to the trustee boards of UNC System schools. The GOP-led legislature already controls appointments to the UNC Board of Governors, and will control the trustee picks as well.
“…[Y]ou will see the General Assembly look to reassert its constitutional authority in areas that may have been previously delegated to the executive branch," declared Rep. David Lewis (R-Cumberland) to reporters last week.
Former advisor Courtney Crowder had to deal with a recalcitrant GOP legislature during Gov. Beverly Perdue’s last two years in office. He says while it’s true the next Democrat governor has been wounded, Cooper can still work with what he has left, in addition to using his statewide bully pulpit to push his vision for more employment, a better economy, more investments in public education and a fairer North Carolina. And with the 2017 special elections coming up, Gov. Cooper could excite voters, and especially African-Americans, to make a change in the legislature.
“This is a fight he’s going to have to take on to achieve those goals that people are expecting of him, ” said Crowder.



            [RALEIGH] At presstime Wednesday, yet another special session convened by Gov. Pat McCrory began for state lawmakers to consider repealing the controversial HB 2, more commonly know as the “bathroom bill.” The measure prohibited transgender people from using bathroom facilities of a gender not indicated on their birth certificates. For the past year, the state has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in event cancelations and sponsorships. The session to repeal was announced after the Charlotte City Council rescinded its initial ordinance protecting the rights of transgender citizens.

            [RALEIGH] After the GOP-led  NC General Assembly passed House Bill 17 last week, shifting power from the state Board of Education to the newly elected Republican superintendent of Public Instruction, Mark Johnson, the board met behind closed doors this week with its attorneys to determine what legal actions it should take to overturn the law. Board Chairman Bill Cobey, also a Republican, said the measure attempts to “diminish the board's constitutional authority" and "raises significant legal concerns." Cobey said the board will meet again  before ohnson is sworn in.

            [PRINCEVILLE] A small Edgecombe County town incorporated by freed slaves over a century ago faces a critical decision about its future in the aftermath of devastating floods brought by Hurricane Matthew several months ago.  The four-member Town Council has to decide whether to elevate their homes, repair damaged homes that can be prepared, or demolish damaged homes, not allowing anything to be constructed on that flood plain ever again. Those are the three choices the Federal Emergency Management Agency has given the town, and the council will have to decide shortly. More than eighty-percent of Princeville was underwater after severe flooding ravaged the town. While some victims say they will leave after being wiped out, town leaders say they must rebuild if Princeville is to have a future.

            [RALEIGH] As the state legislature prepares for the start of the long session in January, Democrats have chosen new leadership in the House. Rep. Darren Jackson of Wake County was selected as the new House Minority Leader, succeeding Rep. Larry Hall of Durham, who stepped down after two years. Rep. Jackson was elected to the House in 2009. He says he’ll seek to build bridges with the GOP majority in order to produce bipartisan legislation. In the state Senate, Minority Leader Sen. Dan Blue was re-elected to his post.

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