Monday, June 5, 2017




            YES, REPUBLICANS HAVE GONE MAD! – No, that’s not a partisan statement. Trust me, there have been times that Democrats have convinced me they haven’t a clue which way is up, and I’ve said proudly said so, to the chagrin of many. Problem is, I don’t think Republicans are capable of even chagrin, of even the barest of self-reflection or accountability when they’ve gone too far.
            Right now it’s very clear that GOP’ers are placing party over country when it comes to supporting their standard-bearer Pres. Donald Trump. There can be no question that the man continues to embarrass us every waking moment he’s in the White House. He’s a cranky, 70-year-old corrupt businessman who is leveraging the most powerful office in the world to advantage his family and super-rich friends.
            And it’s frightfully clear that Trump is being used by very dark right-wing fringe forces who have been wanting to get their hands on the federal government for their own dastardly designs for decades . The Trump bandwagon just came along in the nick of time for them to jump on and steer successfully.
            But make no mistake, regardless of whether Trump is crazy (he is) or the forces of right-wing darkness are steadily working to destroy what we know as the United States government (that’s their goal), the fact remains that the Republican Party is fertile ground for their dangerous foolishness.
            Pay very close attention to this now…according to an NBC News/Survey Monkey poll conducted just last year in late June/early July, only 27 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement, “ Barack Obama was born in the United States.” That means 73 percent of 1,700 registered voters who were Republican surveyed still believed that the first black president of the United States was not an American citizen…in 2016!
            It almost makes you want to say that 73 percent of republicans couldn’t find the light switch in a closet bathroom. But then you’d have to consider this…..Republicans interviewed at last week’s state GOP Convention here in Wilmington last weekend by McClatchy News about what they thought of former FBI Director Jams Comey.
            Comey is expected to testify today in the Senate Intelligence Hearing about how Pres. Trump allegedly tried to pressure him to drop the FBI investigation into Russia’s alleged influence into the 2016 presidential election, and specifically former Trump National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn and his alleged ties to the Russians.
            Now Comey has generated some bad feelings on the Democrat’s side, no doubt, with his pronouncements about the Hillary Clinton email probe before the election was over, but that’s been chalked up to him being an over grown boy scout. Republicans really don’t like him because he could bring the whole Trump house of cards down, and they don’t want that.
            That tells me Republicans are willing to believe anything, and say anything, even with the evidence thrust right in their faces, just as long as their agenda is being protected. Thus, it’s party over country, Trump before truth.
            “The whole thing with Russia is nonsense,” says Jim Gannon, a GOP activist in North Carolina, in the McClatchy News story. “They’re desperately trying to justify why Hillary Clinton lost other than saying Democratic policies aren’t acceptable to people,” said Gannon. “This whole thing is a pretty desperate attempt at partisan politics. ‘Wow, the Russians swung the election.’ What did they do, come and vote? No.”
            “We need to do everything we can to become allies with Russia,” said T.J. Johnson, the vice president of the North Carolina Federation of Republican Men. “As for election meddling, I don’t think they really had anything to do with it.”
            Couple this kind of lunacy with the expressed belief that the American media are “enemies of the American people,” and it’s clear that the definition of the word “Republican” is “a person so brain-washed by their right-wing views that they’re willing to lie to themselves repeatedly, rather than realize that their country is drowning because of their self-imposed ignorance.”
            Sounds like the definition of madness to me. What about you?


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            In a surprise move, Gov. Roy Cooper Wednesday invoked his constitutional authority to call the NC General Assembly into special session to redraw North Carolina’s legislative districts.
            That 14-day special session begins today, even though state lawmakers are already convened in regular session.
            In the aftermath of Monday’s unanimous US Supreme Court affirmation of a lower court ruling that Republican lawmakers deliberately created racially-gerrymandered 2011 legislative districts to undermine the black vote, the question now is, after the new maps are drawn, when can a 2017 special election occur if a lower federal court determines that its needed again?
            “Now,” demand those who initially challenged the 2011 maps, and who still want special 2017 legislative elections, as originally ordered by a three-judge panel last August, to happen this year before the regularly scheduled 2018 contests.
            That order represented a tough, well-crafted remedy which is now necessary in order to immediately remove the present illegally constituted General Assembly,” said attorney Irving Joyner, Legal Redress Chair of the NC NAACP.
            "We think there is still time to implement special elections in the impacted districts, and we will do everything we can to make sure that happens," said Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represented plaintiffs who filed suit that black voters were being illegally “stacked and packed” in majority-minority districts to lessen their overall voting influence.
            That judicial panel last August determined that 28 legislative districts (five of which are in the Triad) violated black citizens’ right to equal protection under the law, unconstitutionally minimizing their influence on legislative elections.
            “It’s very hard to argue that race did not predominate in setting up our state legislative districts,” Michael Curtis, professor of constitutional law at Wake Forest University School of Law, told The Chronicle.
            “The reason for that is the legislature had two racial quotas – one was whenever possible, create a black majority [voting] district that was 50 percent-plus African-American, and the second was to have majority-black districts in proportion to the black population of the state.”
            But the scheme was to surreptitious attempt to use the 1965 Voting Rights Act as a “gerrymandering device,” Curtis continued, to pack unnecessary numbers of blacks in majority-black districts.
            “The effect of what the legislature did was to waste black votes,” Prof. Curtis concluded, because African-Americans had previously been electing their candidates of choice in racial coalition with whites, not all blacks.
            Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1), who hailed the High Court’s order last month that also struck down North Carolina’s 2011 congressional districts as racially-gerrymandered, also wants the legal remedy to come now, not later.
            “The General Assembly is required by law to expedite the redrawing of legislative boundaries,” he said in a statement. “The remaining question is whether the new legislative elections will take place this year. The people of North Carolina should not be required to wait until 2018 to live in a constitutionally drawn district and be represented by a legislator who is lawfully elected.”
“The legislative elections should take place in the fall of 2017.”
 But the US Supreme Court vacated the special elections order, sending it back to the three-judge panel to reconsider, along with other legal options. If the panel reorders a special election for this year after new maps are drawn and a hearing, Republican leaders would most likely appeal it to the Supreme Court again, effectively killing any prospect of it happening before 2018.
State Republicans reveled in the legal lifeline thrown to them by the court.
"We are encouraged the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the lower court's politically motivated attempt to force a special legislative election in 2017 and its efforts to 'suspend provisions of the North Carolina Constitution,' ignore voters' constitutional right to elect representatives to two-year terms, and effectively nullify their votes from 2016," said state Senator Ralph Hise (R-Madison) and Representative David Lewis (R-Harnett) in a statement Monday.
Democrats, who have had to struggle with Republican majorities in both the state House and Senate since 2011, especially want new maps done immediately, hoping if they can’t have special elections, they will at least be able to cripple the GOP’s veto-proof majorities by winning three House seats and six Senate seats in 2018.
Whether the election is November 2018 or earlier, redrawing the districts is good for our democracy by leveling the playing field for free and fair elections," Governor Cooper, a Democrat, said in a statement.
Local grassroots leadership agrees.
“We must continue to organize and resist, in order to have fair voting maps,” Rev. Alvin Carlisle, president of the Forsyth County NAACP, told The Chronicle. “The one way to see change as it concerns these extremist policies, is to change the policymakers. We must register, vote and fight for fair voting maps.



            [RALEIGH] Saying that neither the House or Senate $22.9 billion budget proposals spend enough to meet the critical needs of struggling North Carolinians, Gov. Roy Cooper called on state lawmakers to pay more attention to improving quality of life instead of giving the rich and corporations more tax breaks. “I’m looking for more vision from this budget,” Cooper told reporters last week. “They don’t have to squirrel it all away or give it to those who already have.” The House and Senate have passed their respective budgets. Conferees from both sides are now meeting to decide on a compromise budget.

            [WILMINGTON]  Over 1,000 delegates from across the state gathered in Wilmington last weekend for the annual NC Republican State Convention. Party Chairman Robin Hayes was reelected for another term, and Kellyanne Conway, special assistant to Pres. Donald Trump, was a keynote speaker. Conway encouraged delegates to build their networks stronger, and continue knocking on doors and speaking to people to attract more people to the Republican Party.

            [WILMINGTON] Even though he was voted out of office several months ago, former Gov. Pat McCrory is still advocating for the Republican-led NC General Assembly to pass another voter ID law. “I know for a fact that we had a lot of noncitizens that were voting,” McCrory said. “Ladies and gentlemen, voter ID would have stopped it. Keep it a clean bill, stay with a voter ID law and get that passed.” A federal appellate court struck down North Carolina’s 2013 voter ID law last year, saying that Republican lawmakers targeted the black vote for suppression “with almost surgical precision.” McCrory says he’s consulting now.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Now that both the North Carolina House and Senate in the Republican-led NC General Assembly have passed their respective versions of a fiscal year 2018 budget, conferees from both legislative houses are now supposed to be hammering out a compromise package both sides can agree with before the end of the month.
            One prominent feature in the Senate’s proposed $22.9 billion budget, something that Gov. Cooper made clear this week he does not like, is a $1 billion tax cut for the upper income and corporations in that state. Such a huge tax cut, if passed, would mean hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue coming in to improve education, or create opportunities for struggling families across the state.
            In the face of proposed federal funding cuts as well as unmet needs for rebuilding Eastern NC after Hurricane Matthew, these cumulative losses will be compounded,” says Alexandra Sirota of the NC Justice Center.
            Under the Senate budget, eligibility for food stamps would be changed, effectively disqualifying 133,000 people, including 51,000 children. The House version does not include that provision, however Pres. Trump’s federal budget proposal would cut the food stamp (or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP) by $192 billion over the next decade.
            Trump’s federal budget would also cut Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, by $800 billion, and welfare by $21 billion.
            By requiring Social Security numbers to obtain tax refunds, the White House would also pare back the earned-income tax credit and child tax credit — wage supplements for the working poor.,” reported The New York Times in a May 22nd story. “Mr. Trump also wants to make large cuts to educational programs aimed at helping often low-income students secure federal loans or grants, and he would cut access to disability payments through Social Security.”
            To add insult to injury, it didn’t help last month when HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson said in an interview, “I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind. You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they'll be right back up there, and you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they'll work their way right back down to the bottom.”
            At least one Democratic member of Congress rhetorically asked Carson if he considered hunger to be a “state of mind?”
With the president significantly slashing the social safety net at the federal level, and the state legislature offering yet another huge tax cut to the wealthy since 2013, observers say the poor will be placed in a desperate situation.
            It is very disheartening to see these cuts that have been set forth,” said Forsyth County NAACP Pres. Rev. Alvin Carlisle. “The cuts in funding of programs that have traditionally helped the poor will be a tremendous blow to the most vulnerable in our community. The lack of expansion in Medicare (and Medicaid) and the rolling back of support for affordable health care initiatives will bring many minorities communities to their knees. The lack of funding for education and the defunding of programs meant to spur the growth of minority businesses, will serve to lock more blacks out of the middle class, and some hopelessly stuck in the cycle of poverty.”
            State lawmakers from Forsyth and Guilford counties, among others, have cosponsored legislation this year to deal with poverty in North Carolina. House representatives Evelyn Terry, Ed Hanes, Jr. and Cecil Brockman are cosponsoring HB 410 – “Root Out Poverty /Task Force,” which if passed, would “create a statewide poverty task force , establishing two new personnel positions in the Department of Health and human Services dedicated to poverty reduction, and economic recovery, and appropriating funds for those purposes.”
            The bill, however, has been stuck in the House Committee on Appropriations since March 21st.
            "We are concerned about all of the needs of the North Carolina citizens,” state Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) told The Chronicle, “…as well as the concerns of all of our constituents both poor and wealthy."


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