Sunday, April 23, 2017


By Cash Michaels

            THE O’REILLY FACTOR – Science tells us that dinosaurs became extinct tens of millions of years ago when something huge happened to the world, forcing the big beasts to perish against their will.
            But that’s not what happened to one of our modern-day media dinosaurs named Bill O’Reilly. In his case, he became extinct on the Fox News Channel last week when the venerable New York Times  reported that both he and his employer paid $13 million to five women who alleged that “Billo” had sexually harassed them in the workplace. That was followed up by two women – one of them black and from North Carolina – who also accuse O’Reilly of the same prehistoric behavior, forcing upwards of sixty advertisers to desert his “O’Reilly Factor” program like the plague.
            That  exodus forced the Murdoch family, owners of Fox News, to decide to show their company’s biggest star (and money maker) the street after over 20 years.
            And the rest, as they say, is history.
            Without question, the O’Reilly ouster was among the biggest stories across the nation last week, and it was, indeed, a victory for those progressive forces who have been trying relentlessly for years to get Billo ditched. The problem was, until last week, despite clear evidence of O’Reilly being an alleged sexual harasser since 2004 when one of his female producers accused him of some clearly desperate behavior (and yes, Fox News paid her once the smell of lawsuit hit the air), the man was virtually invincible. And his arrogance of having the Number One channel in all of cable, let alone cable news, behind him made him even worse.
            But lets bring this O’Reilly thing for just us folks, shall we?
            Black folks have known for the longest time that whatever else Bill O’Reilly is, being racially intolerant was at the top of the list. Some have even called O’Reilly a “racist.” All we know is anytime the subject turned to the African-American community, rarely…indeed VERY rarely, did Bill O’Reilly have anything reasonable or sensible to say about us.
            Many thanks to comedian Trevor Noah of Comedy Channel’s “The Daily Show” for replaying clips of some of O’Reilly’s most infamous racially insensitive remarks during his tenor on-air.
            Who could forget (and this was from his short-lived national radio show) when O’Reilly was talking to his black “buddy” Juan Williams about the time years ago when he went to the world famous Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem to eat lunch with the Rev. Al Sharpton, and how amazed he was that black people, in this black restaurant, were sitting down and enjoying their meal, just like civilized people normally do. If fact, O’Reilly was so amazed, he remarked, “Nobody yelled out, “Hey m-f’er, how about some more ice tea!”
            When a powerful white man gets on the air and tells his audience that he actually had the unique experience of sitting done and having a meal with decent and civilized black people, and he still has a job after that, you know racism is alive and well in the old USA.
            Or how about when O’Reilly told one of his black guest TO HIS FACE that he looked like a drug dealer? Seriously?
            Or most recently when he went on TV and said Congresswoman Maxine Waters had a “James Brown hairdo” just because she spoke out against Pres. Trump?
            So hell yeah we’re glad Bill O’Reilly is gone, and we wholeheartedly applaud everyone who came together to make it happen. Given what we face over the next four years with Trump in the White House, it is a mall, but significant victory indeed. But let’s not rest on our laurels. There are plenty more battles to be fought, plenty more scoundrels to bring down.
            And more times than not, it will be their own careless, senseless behavior that will do the trick.
            But for now, let’s rejoice. Television’s biggest dinosaur is finally extinct!


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Once again, black families across the state that have students graduating from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are preparing for May commencement exercises, where leaders in the fields of business, education, politics and entertainment come to deliver keynote addresses to new graduates about the world that awaits them, and how they should handle it.
            In Durham, the 2017 Spring Commencement for North Carolina Central University undergraduates in O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium on Saturday, May 13th at 8 a.m. will feature retired astronaut Joan Higginbotham. She spent 308 hours in space during the Space Shuttle Discovery mission in 2006, the third African-American woman ever to travel in space. Currently she is a Lowes Companies, Inc. executive, and serves on the NCCU Board of Trustees.     
            On Friday evening, May 12, Justice Mike Morgan of the NC Supreme Court will address the Graduate and Professional Commencement Ceremony in McDougald- McLendon Arena. Justice Morgan is an alumnus of the NCCU School of Law.
            Nationally syndicated radio host Tom Joyner will be the keynoter for Shaw University’s 2017 Commencement exercises Saturday, May 13 at the Raleigh Convention Center starting at 10 a.m.
            Also in Raleigh on Saturday, May 13th, St. Augustine’s University will hold its commencement exercises on the campus quadrangle, starting at 9 a.m..
            Lamell McMorris, the keynote speaker, is the founder and CEO of the Washington, DC-based group of companies bearing the Perennial name: Perennial Strategy Group, Perennial Sports and Entertainment, and Perennial Law Group. In his work, Mr. McMorris offers strategic insight and external affairs services to some of the nation’s leading decision-makers in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. 
At Bennett College in Greensboro, a familiar face will deliver the commencement address on Saturday, May 6. US Congresswoman Alma Adams, (D-12- NC) who had previously taught art at the all-female HBCU for over 40 years, will be speaking during the 10 a.m. ceremony on the campus quadrangle. Rep. Adams formerly served in the NC House for many years, before being elected to Congress in 2014.
 A few miles away on Saturday, May 13th, NC Agricultural and Technical State University will welcome undefeated boxing champion, author and TV hostess Laila Ali, daughter of legendary champion Muhammad Ali, as the keynote speaker during the main commencement ceremony, beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.
            Ms. Ali, born in 1977 to her father and Veronica Porsche Ali in 1977, began her boxing career at the age of 18, turning pro at age 22. She retired undefeated after eight years with a record of 24-0. Her world-renowned father died less than a year ago at age 74.
Winston-Salem State University’s 2017 Commencement, scheduled for Bowman Gray Stadium on Saturday, May 19th at 9:45 a.m. will feature noted attorney and CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers as the keynote speaker.
            Sellers is a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, and a 2014 Democratic nominee for SC Lieutenant Governor.
            Sunday, May 21 at 8 a.m. is the date and time to see graduates walk to get their hard-earned degrees during commencement exercises for Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte. The ceremony will take place at the Irwin Belk Complex.
Suzanne Walsh, deputy director of the Postsecondary Success in the US program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is slated to be the keynote speaker.
            At Fayetteville State University, also on Saturday, May 13th, commencement exercises will be held at Crown Coliseum starting at 9 a.m.. Retired Brig. General Arnold Gordon-Bray will deliver keynote remarks.
            Brig. Gen. Gordon-Bray assumed command of the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, known as the “Falcon Brigade.” He led the Falcon Brigade during the early months of the Iraq War in 2003, and then served a second tour of duty in Iraq from 2006 to 2007 as the principal advisor to the Iraqi Ground Force Commander.  He retired from the military in 2012.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            An attorney representing the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro has filed a complaint with the North Carolina Utilities Commission against Duke Energy, alleging that the public utility has threatened to shutoff electrical service to the facility at 134 South Elm Street “…unless it posts an $18,224.00 deposit, in addition to paying the regular electric bill.”
            However, according to the complaint, filed Monday, the ICRM’s account with Duke Energy “…is now up-to-date and current…,” but that didn’t stop the utility from unexpectedly turning off the electricity for several hours without warning in February, a week after the museum paid its bill in full.
            The complaint asks the NC Utility Commission “…that the service be ordered to remain on until the Commission can rule on this complaint in a final ruling and that no deposit be required until there are further orders of the Utility Commission.”
            A top historic attraction in downtown Greensboro, the ICRM is housed in the former F.W. Woolworth Store that four NC A&T University students boldly ordered food at at the whites only counter on February 1, 1960, this reigniting the civil rights movement. The facility was reopened on the fiftieth anniversary of the sit-in as a civil rights museum in 2010, and opens its doors to school children, and visitors from around the world.
            Addressed to the commission’s chief clerk, the letter from Greensboro attorney Douglas S. Harris is on behalf of Sit-in Movement, Inc., a nonprofit corporation that runs the ICRM and owns the South Elm Street property.
            Harris tells the commission, which regulates public utilities in North Carolina, that the museum was “…under some temporary financial pressure due to financial charges associated with the successful completion of….” two federal tax credit programs related to historic properties and “financially distressed areas.”
Duke Energy as “working with” the museum during this time, atty. Harris continued, and was informed by the museum that “…all past due power bills  [would be] caught up by the end of February and be completely current…(which was accomplished),” he added.
            Duke Energy sent a written notice to the museum on Jan. 25, 2017 stating that if the bill was not caught up by February 16th, that power would be disconnected, the letter continued. So checks were sent to Duke “…the week previous to the due date which checks should have cleared and did clear…,” but on February 16 at 8 a.m. in the morning, power was cut off without any notice, written or otherwise to anyone at the museum.
            A source confirms that the museum’s checks were at Duke, which ended up putting the power back on at 11:30 a.m. that same day.
            “Our director, John Swaine, …contacted Duke Energy who confirmed that they did have the checks; two hours later, Duke Energy cut the power back on without a deposit or reconnection fees by reason that it was their rror and not the museum’s,” atty. Harris wrote.
            But the power interruption did force the museum to refund $765.00 to a “…large group of eighty-one disadvantaged school children” who had bused in from Union County to take a tour. A corporate conference had to be moved across the street, forcing the ICRM to refund $800.00 for that.
            And a group from Durham also had to have their tour cancelled and money refunded.
            “All of this happened because Duke Energy varied from its usual routine…” of informing Director Swaine that there was a problem,” Harris wrote in the complaint.
            The ICRM attorney further charged that that the museum was being treated differently from “other companies which used more power and had hundreds of thousands of dollars in electric bills overdue for months [and] did not have the power cut off and did not have to provide a deposit.”
            Atty. Harris charges that the Duke Energy liaison to the museum did not inform Director Swaine of the cutoff in order to “…help those forces who wished to take over the Museum…,” and in the past has expressed “concerns” about the ICRM’s leadership and direction.
            That Duke Energy liasion “…injected [himself] into the situation to help put financial pressure on the museum, embarrass the museum, and to hurt fundraising with the end result that the black-run Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro would collapse…,” atty. Harris continued.
            Paige Layne, a Duke Energy spokesperson, said, “Disconnecting a customer’s service is the very last step in our collections process and it’s an action we never want to take. We work closely with all customers who have difficulty paying their bills so service interruptions can be avoided, and we’ve worked with this customer for years. While it’s unfortunate that our efforts to assist the museum’s leaders with their delinquencies have resulted in a formal complaint to the NC Utilities Commission, we will cooperate fully within the process to ensure facts about the experience, including the basis for the deposit requirement, are presented.


            [CHARLOTTE] For the first time in eight months, North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped below five percent in March. The February jobless rate was 5.1%. However, according to the NC Dept. of  Commerce, the state lost over 4,400 private sector jobs. That, however, was offset by the creation of 4900 government jobs statewide, along with 2600 manufacturing positions. Analysts say while North Carolina’s employment is improving, it’s happening at a slower rate than anticipated.

            [RALEIGH] Once more, legislative Republicans are daring Democratic Gov. Pat McCrory to take them to court, this time after they overrode his veto this week their law combining the state Elections Board with the NC Ethics Board. Cooper successfully sued over the first version of the law, saying that the new version is unconstitutional and does not protect voting rights. Republicans, however, say the new version encourages bipartisan cooperation because Democrats and Republicans would serve in equal numbers.

            [RALEIGH] When Republican state Appellate Court Judge Doug McCullough surprised everyone Monday by announcing his early retirement, Gov. Cooper wasted no time naming his replacement that same day – John Arrowood, a Democrat. Cooper three days earlier vetoed a GOP bill that would have cut the number of appellate court judges from 15 to 12. GOP lawmakers now have to override Gov. Cooper’s veto, meaning that this case may also end up in court between the governor and Republican lawmakers.


Monday, April 17, 2017



By Cash Michaels

THE SMELL OF WAR IS IN THE AIR – I don’t know about you, but last weekend…Easter weekend…a time where Christians around the world were supposed to rejoice that Christ had risen after his crucifixion, I virtually slept with one-eye open.
Hadn’t done that since I was a kid growing up in the People’s Republic of  Brooklyn, NY, where every night there were gunshots, loud traffic and fire sirens 24/7.
But starting on Friday night, reason for my inability to get a good night sleep – a malady which would continue onto Saturday night – was the loud, and I do mean very loud saber-rattling between that small country run by that crazy maniac of a North Korean leader, Kim Jong Um, and that rather large country with the world’s most recent crazy loudmouth maniac on the world stage, US Pres. Donald J. Trump (and the “J” stands for jackass).
These two clowns began sending signals to each other  that if the other one so much as blinked, they would be scooping what was left of their country after a nuclear attack off the ground.
Indeed, the whole world was watching these two to out-macho each other, with Trump pointing toward his worthless Syria airstrip bombing – you know, the one where Trump first told the Russians to warn the Syrians to head for the hills while we bomb most of their old planes – while Jong Um basked in the glow of one over-sized missile after another during a colorful parade of arms and soldiers through the streets of the North Korean capitol.
And that was followed by a promised missile launch that “luckily” blew up before it got five feet in the air.
But in between the missile parade and the faulty missile launch was a very bold threat from the North Korean leader to our US president that a nuclear war was more and more possible than not.
And, of course, what does Trump do? He starts taunting the North Koreans to chill out, or else he’ll start some mess they won’t be able to handle.
It’s been my experience that when someone is crazy enough to talk smack to you, ALWAYS be ready for the worst, but don’t antagonize them, especially if they’re crazy. That’s what Pres. Obama did for eight years. Does anyone doubt that he was always ready to put North Korea out of business, but never wanted to rachet up tensions unless absolute necessary.
Why, you may ask?
Primarily so that decent citizens like yours truly could get so sleep, knowing that the president in charge has the good judgment not to do anything stupid. With Obama in the White House, a good night’s sleep was had by all.
But with Trump as the new commander-in-chief, you doze off at your own risk. This man could literally tweet all of us into World War III without us knowing it.
No, this is NOT what I want. It’s not what anybody wants, anybody with sense, that is. But right now, Donald Trump is trying to show the world that he’s Tough Guy Number One. That’s a big problem. He’s trying to bully someone who is committed to proving that he can bloody the big bully’s nose cause he has the weapons to do it with, and he’s ready to rumble.
Yes, it started Easter weekend, but this is what reality will look like for all of us for the next four years.
This is shaping up to be the biggest nightmare ever, whether we sleep or not!


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Several weeks ago, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper unveiled his 2017-18 budget proposal, the first of his new administration, that called for increased state government spending by $1.1 billion in order to primarily improve education – pre-school to college - making the state a national leader in education by 2025.
            The Cooper $23.4 budget would also give teachers a ten-percent raise over two years,  expand Medicaid coverage for over 600,000 North Carolinians, and restore tax credits
            Democrats in the legislature, naturally, applauded the governor for his vision and budget priorities.
            “Governor Cooper’s budget makes investments in North Carolina’s greatest resource: its people,” said state Democratic Senate Whip Terry Van Duyn in a March 1 statement. “
            “We are very encouraged to see Governor Cooper’s people-first agenda,” Sen. Van Duyn continued. “These priorities reach out to groups that have been marginalized by the Republican leadership over the past six years in favor of corporate tax breaks. It’s added up to a big payday for corporate bosses, but has left workers struggling to make ends meet.”
            Legislative Republicans, for their part, weren’t as impressed with Gov. Cooper’s budget proposal, accusing Democrats again of “overspending,” with Senate Leader Phil Berger (R- Rockingham) saying that the GOP believed in “…returning hard-earned tax dollars to our taxpayers.”
            State GOP legislative leaders are expected to release their budget plans shortly now that Easter has passed, and Democrats are indeed expecting more of the same as in previous years – massive tax cuts for corporations and the rich, meaning more cuts to education and less social investments to help pay for them.
            Last year, the state budget from the Republican-led NC General Assembly featured $400 million in income tax cuts, which were offset by new sales taxes on repair, installation and maintenance services paid mostly by low-to-moderate income families.
            During his district town hall meeting last month in Raleigh, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake) also said he expected Republican leaders to lean towards more tax cuts for the wealthy and increasing taxes for the working class.
            On April 5, Sen. Blue wrote on his Facebook page, “The Senate just passed the "Billion Dollar Middle Class Tax Cut" bill. Sounds good, right? But I voted against it for several reasons. Here's the reality of the bill.”
            Blue continued, “The tax cuts average out to $80 per person, going from a $55 tax reduction for those making less than $55,000 and up to $680 for those making $200,000 or more. It also reduces the corporate tax rate to one of the lowest in the nation.”
            “If this were truly a middle class tax cut, corporations and those making over $200,000 a year would be excluded from this bill. My colleague, Senator Ben Clark, tried to run an amendment to this point and Republicans voted against it.”
            “Beyond that,” Sen. Blue continued, “…this bill truly outlines our ideological differences. We have been operating under recession-level funding over the past six years - state employees are facing premium increases and are in need of substantial raises; school districts are weighing the decision to lay off art and PE teachers in order to adhere to smaller class size standards.”
            “At the end of the day, I believe that a billion dollars can have a greater impact on the 10 million people of this state than $80 can have on a single person.”
            “The bill will go to the house for final approval.”
What has been evident when Republican leaders have cut social programs like Medicaid in the past, is that North Carolina has been running higher and higher budget surpluses. Two months ago, state officials projected $552 million in budget surplus revenues. In 2016, the amount of state income taxes collected was $425 million, while 2015 saw about $400 million.
            House Republicans say the surpluses are a result of “…a commonsense, conservative approach to state government.” Translation, say Democrats, leaner social programs, and even more taxes for the low-to-moderate income taxpayers.
            “Lawmakers’ fiscal strategy of flawed rigid formulas and persistent tax breaks is holding back our economy by leaving many investments that support thriving communities unmet or underfunded,” wrote Tazra Mitchell, policy analyst with the NC Justice Center, a nonprofit progress advocacy group in Raleigh. "This approach hampers North Carolina's ability to generate improved economic outcomes today and in the future through proven strategies—strategies like investing in public services and programs that expand opportunity, build pathways to the middle class, and connect people to jobs and communities to markets.”


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            A national gathering of students from historically black colleges and universities [HBCUs], co-organized by an alumnus of Winston-Salem State University, is slated for next week in Washington, DC, targeting lawmakers to do more to help their schools survive.
            Scheduled for next Thursday, April 27th, the “HBCU Day of Action” is a rally at Capital Hill geared to “urge the White House, members of Congress, and state and local officials to maintain funding and increase resources for the hundreds of thousands of students enrolled at HBCUs every year,” says the event sponsor, The HBCU Collective.
            Alumni and students play an integral role in preserving and growing our HBCUs,” Winston-Salem State University 2008 alumnus Robert Stephens, a co-leader of the Collective, told The “We’re here to make sure our elected officials see and feel the importance of HBCUs—and we’re here to hold them accountable for their support.”
            Stephens was WSSU student body president for 2007-08 and has served as a board member for the WSSU Young Alumni Council.
            Joining the other over 100 HBCUs from across the nation that will be sending student representatives for the “Day of Action” will certainly be many of the schools from North Carolina, which boasts of at least ten of them.
            Prominent among them will be Robert Stephens’ alma mater, Winston-Salem State University.
            “At Winston-Salem State University, we are motivated by our motto ‘Enter to Learn. Depart to Serve,’” said WSSU Chancellor Elwood Robinson, in a statement. “From the time they are freshmen, we instill in our students the need to be active and thoughtful citizens.”
Chancellor Robinson continued, “Our alumni and students play a critical role in ensuring our elected officials understand the important role of HBCUs. We appreciate that they feel passionately enough about what we do at WSSU to advocate on our behalf.”
This year’s “Day of Action” is particularly relevant, given the recent HBCU Fly-in Conference at the end of February, where over 80 presidents and chancellors went to Washington, DC, at the invitation of NC Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro (R-NC-6), to discuss how the Republican-led Congress, and Pres. Donald Trump, could partner with historically black schools to increase financial support.
However, after the Trump Administration released its budget proposal weeks later, it became clear that HBCUs would not be getting what some felt they were led to expect. While Congress has not yet released its budget for the coming fiscal year yet, thus far, HBCUs are not realistically expecting any more support than what the Obama Administration offered.
Jack Minor, communications director for Rep. Walker, cautions, however, that it’s still too early determine exactly what HBCUs are in store for.
For us, most of what we are looking for can and would be done outside the scope of the budget,” Minor said in a statement. “For instance, expanding Pell grants to year-round, and focusing on fostering private-public relationships to help HBCU students with more opportunities after school. One other area of interest is any transportation bill that would come through Congress. The [Trump] Administration has noted that this is a place where HBCUs could see advancements to invest in their campuses.”
Shambulia Gadsden Sams, an alumna of another North Carolina HBCU, Shaw University, is also a co-organizer of the HBCU Collective’s April 27th Day of Action.


            [RALEIGH] A progressive advocacy group is calling for a criminal investigation into false claims of voter fraud by former Gov. Pat McCrory and the state Republican Party after the 2016 election.  Democracy NC Executive Director Bob Hall told reporters Tuesday that his organization was calling for a probe “ …by state and federal agencies into wrongdoing related to preparing, filing and promoting bogus charges of voter fraud. Hall released a report after a five-month investigation “…into false allegations of voter misconduct and uncovers a pattern of unsubstantiated claims of election fraud and irregularities, made without regard for the harassing and harmful impact on innocent voters.”

            [DURHAM] Police Chief Odetta Johnson of North Carolina Central University is no longer on the job, according to published reports. There is no explanation for why Chief Johnson is no longer in charge. She has been chief since December 2015. Johnson, a black female, has been replaced by Connie Bullock. Chief Johnson was lauded for being a role model for African-American females wanting to enter law enforcement.

            North Carolina is back in business with the NCAA being threatened with losing any bids to host championship games in coming years because of the state’s controversial HB 2 “bathroom” law which restricted members of the transgender community from using restrooms contrary to their birth certificates. The NCAA demanded that the law be repealed, and two weeks ago, it partially was. Now, beginning in 2020, men’s Division I basketball tournaments  will be played in Greensboro, and the first and second rounds hosted in Raleigh the following year.
In all, Raleigh, Cary, Greensboro and Winston-Salem were granted 24 men’s and women’s NCAA events ranging from basketball to indoor track and field championships.