Tuesday, October 31, 2017



            Well here we are, another odd numbered-year November, and another municipal election in Wilmington and surrounding cities across New Hanover County.
            A year ago at this time, everyone was so souped up about who was going to win the presidential election. Well, we know how that ended, and yet, truth be told, who won has little to do with the quality of life, or lack thereof, we have here in the port city.
            The president of the United States is not concerned with economic development in Wilmington’s black community, nor is the office concerned with how our black neighborhoods have been gentrified, or the need for more affordable housing.
            No, those issues are best handled by whomever we elect as our mayor and city council. Those issues are their territory, and they are directly accountable to the taxpayers of the city of Wilmington.
            They are elected to appropriately address our concerns and problems. They are responsible for governing our Wilmington Police Dept. They are responsible for setting the policies by which city government can operate by.
            We need more black police officers, NOT more riot gear and military equipment  to cause trouble with.
            It’s our City Council that decides that.
            More small black businesses want to open in downtown and across the city, and they need all of the assistance the city can give them.
            Again, it’s our City Council that sets the policy to make that happen.
            In turn, the more black businesses are helped to grow, the more employment there can be for citizens looking to work, and earn their way out of poverty.
            Wouldn’t a Wilmington City Council that is truly sensitive to answering our community’ employment and small business needs be just the ticket to improving the overall quality of life here?
            There are nine candidates running for City Council, and three of them are black. Now we are not going to recommend that you go out either during the early voting period, which ends this Saturday at 1 p.m, or to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 7th Election Day, starting at  6:30 a.m., and vote solely for the three black candidates just because they’re black.
            As a people, and a community, we’ve historically been on the business end of racial voting when the tables are more often than not, flipped against us. Our job as voters, is to know the issues most important to our community, know what ALL of the candidates are saying regarding our issues, and then choosing the BEST candidates, based on their stated positions.
            Sometimes it doesn’t always work the way we would like, but that’s why voting has two key parts to it. First, we decide, abased on personal analysis, who the best candidates deserving of our support should be, and then secondly, if that candidate wins, we work hard to keep he or she accountable to our community for the support given.
            To be blunt, if you do one without the other, you’re wasting your time!
            You want a better community? Of course you do, but it takes work on everyone’s part, because ALL of us want better, and expect better from our Wilmington City Council. Hey, these candidates are all on job interviews, and they’re asking us to hire them because they say they are qualified.
            Our job is to decide who to hire, but our job is also to then make sure they know what the job we hired them for is, and that they do it to the best of their ability.
            So, now, during early voting period until this Saturday until 1 p.m., or on Tuesday, Nov. 7th, with polls opening at 6:30 am, ALL of us have important decisions to make about WHO WILL SERVE US on the Wilmington City Council.
            It is extremely important that our community know the issues, and is unified in electing the best candidates to address them.
            This election is when we decide, NOT divide!
            Early voting/same – day registration hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 2nd and 3rd; 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4th at the Board of Elections, 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 38 in Wilmington.
            Tuesday, Nov. 7th Election Day hours at all precincts in the city open at 6:30 a.m., and close at 7:30 p.m..
            Last word on all of this – VOTE!


By Cash Michaels

The other day I was perusing Facebook to see what interesting tidbits people were writing about, or nuggets of news people were reacting to (I find those most interesting). 
Then I came across a post by one of my nieces, who I think very highly of. She was opining about the fact that apparently some people have accused her of “talking white,” and this seemed to bother her, though she was quick to dismiss them, and in my opinion, rightfully so.
My niece is a young woman, so I doubt if folks in her generation have ever heard the term “code-switching,” or know what it means. Black folks in my generation, who mostly came up in the 1960’s, know only too well what “code-switching” means, and I dare say it’s a skill that just doesn’t apply to African-Americans, as you’ll see in a minute.
Code-switching is how black people are able to appropriately adapt to the different circumstances they find themselves in, and effectively communicate accordingly. So, for instance, being a black man of age 61, appropriately educated, generally skilled, professionally trained and having been “around the block” a few times in various settings, I feel that I’m able to be conversant with just about anyone I come in contact with, as long as they are speaking (or at least trying to speak) what they call “the King’s English.”
Thus, when I have to be “Cash Michaels” in various settings, either meeting the public, or being on a radio or television interview, or conversing with my media colleagues or asking questions of a public official, I instantly “code-switch’ to be able to adequately and appropriately do my job. Indeed most black people I know are able to do the same thing, depending on what they do professionally, and that’s a good thing.
But some folks would call that “talking white.”
Then, when I’m home, talking with my family, the “professional” code is no longer appropriate, and I just …talk, being more relaxed (assuming there’s nothing to get upset about). Now if I have to jump on the phone per business, I’ll code-switch in a heartbeat, but generally at home, I’m more laid-back in my speech and tone.
Again, most black folks I know are like this.
If I’m talking to an old friend from “around the way, back in the day…,” I definitely code-switch to an even more relaxed tone and texture than what I have even at home, and indeed, that’s where my “Black side” may show itself most. I’m talking to old friends, almost family, so my language with them is even more intimate, more exclusive. I’m more likely to say “Yo man (or Yo cuz)…” or “Yeah...,” or “Damn right… (I’ve consciously reduced my cussing significantly in recent months), or “Thank you, my Sistah….,” or any other variety of some of what folks would call “street” talk.
Again, it’s a language of intimacy, which reminds me, how many of us “brothas” really say, “Yo baby…” when we’re talking to our significant others, especially if you’re way over the age of 20, huh?
The one thing I’ve always been proud of when it comes to my people and community is that African-Americans are multi-faceted, and ALWAYS have been. Whether it be speech, literature, music, dance, or other viable means of expression, we can, and have, mastered it all. Indeed, I’ve always found it extraordinary hearing some foreign guy or gal speak in their language, but then when it came to singing, sound a “black” as possible (anyone ever hear of “Tom Jones” from Wales?)
Indeed, many foreigners who came to America have also had to learn how to code-switch in order to mainstream into American society. Some even adopted Americanized names in order to appropriately fit in. But when back among their own, their Spanish or Italian would be as thick as ever.
A lot of American television newsmen, like Dan Rather or Bob Schieffer, actually have thick Southern accents (they’re both from around Houston, Texas), but code-switch on TV in order to communicate better.
I could go on and on, but the bottomline is judging black people by the way we speak is dangerous territory. I’ve also learned in my life that judging black people by who they marry is also perilous. In both cases, they should be judged by their actions towards or for their communities.
Is a drug dealer who uses black “slang” truly “Black” just because he sounds the part?
C’mon, if you’re THAT interested in whether someone is really “Black” or not, broaden your standard, including yourself. What should be the TRUE measure of any black person’s commitment to our community? I mean really.
Answer that, and you’ll find a lot of the cosmetic stuff we’ve been arguing about amongst ourselves has been just a tremendous waste of time!
Yo, ya dig?!!!


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Once again, a three-judge federal panel has dealt Republican legislative leaders in the NC General Assembly a legal, and potentially political blow by ordering last week that a “special master” assist the court in both evaluating, and most likely redrawing the redrawn NC legislative maps submitted to the court in September.
            But now, not surprisingly, comes word that GOP leaders aren’t happy with the special master chosen to essentially correct nine of the 28 redraw districts still found to be “legally unacceptable”. This new development signals that Republican legislative leaders may be willing to throw a monkey wrench into what would most likely be a fair and nonpartisan redrawing of North Carolina’s state House and Senate districts, compared, most observers agree, to what it is now.
            A process that could remove the apparent partisan and racial advantage the original 2011 GOP redistricting voting map gave Republicans in illegally “stacking-and-packing” African-American voters into “minority-majority” voting districts in order to lessen their influence in surrounding elections. The US Supreme Court ruled those districts unconstitutional.
            Some observers even suggest that the GOP might again appeal any final decision of the federal three-judge panel – two of which were appointed by Pres. Obama – again, as they did in 2016 to the US Supreme Court, where Republican appointees now hold a 5-4 advantage with Pres. Trump’s addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch.
            Doing so not only delays any implementation of a nonpartisan redrawn redistricting map for the 2018 primaries and possibly the general election (candidate filings in February would be delayed pending a High Court decision), but also takes the final decision on whether the GOP ‘s redrawn maps in September are indeed still unconstitutional because of the nine outstanding districts cited, out of the hands of the lower court.
            Phillip Strach, the attorney representing Republican legislative leaders told the court Monday in a motion that they oppose the appointment of special master Professor Nathaniel Persily of Stanford University in California. Strach went on to say the court failed to rule on why the nine outstanding voting districts from the legislature’s September map submission were legally invalid.           
By assigning a special master now, Strach went on, Republican leaders will be denied the opportunity to fix whatever problems indicated, and further suggested that Persily was biased.
            "The legislative defendants are concerned that the appointment of a special master as described by the court will instead affirmatively obstruct the state's ability to exercise its sovereign right to redistrict in the first instance,” Strach wrote in his letter.
            But that’s not how Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and lead attorney representing plaintiff Sandra Covington and others in the case, sees it.
            “It has been shown time and again that the state legislature refuses to draw fair districts that comply with the law. Our clients are hopeful that this process will result in fair districts for all North Carolinians,” she told reporters after the three-judge panel issued its order.
            And that Oct. 26, 2017 order from the court was also clear.
            After careful review of the parties’ written submissions, arguments, and evidence, the Court is concerned that 2017 Enacted [nine House and Senate districts] either fail to remedy the identified constitutional violation or are otherwise legally unacceptable.  In anticipation of the likely possibility of such a finding, in view of upcoming filing period for the 2018 election cycle, and upon consideration of the technical nature of determining an appropriate remedy when district lines are at issue, the Court finds exceptional circumstances and intends to appoint a Special Master …to assist the Court in further evaluating and, if necessary, redrawing the Subject Districts by developing an appropriate plan remedying the constitutional violations allegedly rendering the Subject Districts legally unacceptable.”
            Both sides in the Covington case had an opportunity to recommend a special master to the court they both agreed could do the job, but failed to do so.
            Prof. Persily is widely known and regarded for his expertise in redistricting plans, having previously been appointed by the courts as a special master to draw voting districts in the state’s of New York, Georgia and Maryland. Persily has also written extensively about redistricting and voting rights, and is considered an expert in the field.
            "Persily has many media appearances and published works relating to North Carolina redistricting which raise questions about his ability to fairly assess the plans before the court," attorney Strach alleged in his court letter.
            The professor filed an affidavit with the court last week indicating that he saw no reason why he couldn’t fulfill the court mandate.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            No, President Trump and the Republican Congress haven‘t “repealed and replaced” Pres. Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal health care law, yet. But yes, as Open Enrollment began on Nov. 1st this week, there are significant changes than in previous years.
            Here in North Carolina, the enrollment period, now underway, ends on Dec. 15th for coverage through the 2018 Federal Health Insurance Exchange to begin January 1, 2018. This is the shortest enrollment period (45 days) in recent years, so those without health care coverage are urged to act immediately.
             And in order to qualify for federal tax subsidies to offset the rising cost of health insurance premiums, those seeking to apply should go online to www.healthcare.gov. An estimated – 496,420 residents -  85% of those insured by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBS) through the ACA are eligible for what are known as Advanced Premium Tax Subsidies (APT).
            The average ACA health insurance premium is calculated at $662 per month, but after the APT subsidy tax credit kicks in, comes down to just $129 per month, and in some cases, as low as $87 a month.
BCBS is the only ACA health insurer in all 100 North Carolina counties, insuring 502,000 residents. It has been given the green light by the NC Dept. of  Insurance to raise ACA insurance rates by an average of 14.1 percent for 2018 coverage (the insurer originally asked for 22.9 percent). Federal premium subsidies, however, would also increase to cover.
            Reportedly, 549,158 North Carolinians signed up for the ACA last year for 2017 coverage, a decrease of over 64,000 more who signed up the year before. Observers say one of the reasons for the decrease was uncertainty about the future of the ACA, especially after Pres. Trump won the 2016 presidential election, vowing to mothball the federal law, which he and the Republican Congress have repeatedly failed to do.
            The Trump Administration has significantly cut the advertising budget to make more Americans aware of the ACA Open Enrollment period, in addition to shortening it to just 45 days, hoping to slowly phase it out in the future. It has also cut federal funding to nonprofit groups that traditionally helped low-income residents navigate the process of signing up and qualifying.
            The White House has also discontinued the cost sharing reimbursements to insurance companies to help offset rising premiums to consumers. As a result, premiums across the nation have gone up anywhere from 15 to 21 percent, according to published reports.
            North Carolina residents “are guaranteed to be insurable and are encouraged to sign up for health insurance….” through the ACA if they currently have ACA coverage, but want to change their plan for 2018; they don’t have health insurance through their employer or spouse’s employer; they don’t have government coverage (veterans, Medicaid or Medicare); or they’re older than 26 and are no longer on their parents’ policy.
            Failure in having health insurance in 2018 will result in a sizable tax penalty, official warn. For the past two years, that fee has been $695.00 per uninsured adult, and $347.00 per uninsured child, or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is higher.
            Also keep in mind, per new rules that are now in effect, insurance companies can now deny you coverage if you owe them money on current coverage. You must settle any outstanding balances before you will be re-enrolled.
            And you can also be denied the premium tax credit to lower your bill in 2018 if you’re behind in your taxes. To correct this, fill out the federal tax reconciliation IRS form 8962 to determine your 2016 taxable income.
            For more information, call the NC Dept. of Insurance to speak to a consumer specialist at 1-855-408-1212.


            [RALEIGH] This week, Gov. Roy Cooper came up short when a three-judge Superior Court panel effectively dismissed the Democratic governor’s lawsuit against the Republican-led state legislature, claiming that it was overstepping its constitutional bounds when it came to restructuring the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethic Enforcement. Republicans combined the two panels in December after it was clear that Cooper won the governorship. The governor balked, saying he had the constitutional right to appoint members to the state’s various boards and commission. He does, but the judicial panel unanimously ruled that the General Assembly has the right to alter the duties and functions of boards and commissions. The panel noted that it did not have jurisdiction to address the governor’s lawsuit directly, only the constitutional powers question. Republican legislative leaders hailed the judicial panel’s decision.

            [WASH., DC] Despite the best efforts of Democrats, the NAACP and others, the Republican-led US Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved Pres. Trump’s nomination of Republican Raleigh attorney Thomas Farr to a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. Now Farr, who has represented the GOP-led NC Legislature in it’s court battles defending voter ID and racially gerrymandered voting districts, is awaiting confirmation by the full US Senate, which has yet to be scheduled. Once confirmed, Farr would serve as a federal judge in North Carolina’s Eastern District.



Friday, October 20, 2017


By Cash Michaels

            THE LOWEST LEVEL YET – The latest episode in the Donald Trump White House of Shame has to be the lowest level yet for “the Orange One’ – effectively calling the widow of a Green Beret soldier a liar because she and her congresswoman, and her mother told the truth about the so-called “condolence” call Trump made to her about the death of her husband – Sgt. La Donald Johnson of Florida.
            By now you know the story – Congresswoman Frederica Wilson was invited to listen by Sgt. Johnson’s widow as Trump called, supposedly to offer condolences on the death of her husband after an ambush in Niger. Trump apparently never used Sgt. Johnson’s name in his remarks, and also told the grieving widow that her late husband “…knew what he was signing up for….,” meaning that the man was a soldier, and soldiers fight to die for their country, so no big surprise here. Sorry it had to be your husband this time, but those are the breaks.
            Needless to say, the widow was even more distraught after her husband’s coldhearted commander-in-chief seemingly write him off as just another war casualty.
            And Congresswoman Wilson, who knew Sgt. Johnson very well since he was a teenager, wasn’t having any of it. Apparently with permission from the widow and the rest of the family, Wilson blasted the president for his insensitive remarks and tone.
            So what does the Trump White House do? Instead of using common sense, and some decency, for goodness sakes, they decide to strike back, first calling Congresswoman Wilson “wacky” because she loves to wear cowboy hats, and then further blasting her for daring to openly challenge Trump.
            That’s when White House Chief of Staff Jo at a 2015hn Kelly, a retired four-star general in the US Marines, who lost his son to combat in 2010, chimed in, personally attacking Rep. Wilson for allegedly self-serving remarks she made at the 2015 opening of a new FBI building in Florida.
            Except that a video of the event Kelly referenced showed no such thing. What the video did show was Congresswoman Wilson praising the FBI, praising law enforcement in general, and praising the memory of the two agents the building was named for.
            If anything, she gave plenty of credit to the Renate who helped her get the naming of the building official in just four weeks.
            So now the world sees that not is President Trump a liar (we knew that, but now he’s corrupted his chief of staff, a military man whose sense of duty should always mandate that he be honest, no matter what.
            Instead, we now know that Gen. Kelly is a liar, too.
            And then Monday morning, the widow interviews on ABC-TV, confirms what Congresswoman Wilson has been saying the whole time, and makes clear that her late husband, who she buried just the day before, deserved better from the president of the United States.
            And what does Trump do? Gets on Twitter, and essentially calls her a liar.
            My late mother used to always tell me that “GOD does not like ugly.” In that case, I can’t see him having any love for Donald Trump, John Kelly, Sara Huckabee Sanders, or the rest of the most shameful White House in American history. Even Richard Nixon’s thieving White House had some redeeming qualities, compared to this bunch.
            This is indeed, the lowest level ever.
            2020 can’t come fast enough for us to vote these evil clowns out of office!

                                          U.S. ARMY SGT. LA DAVID JOHNSON

DEFENDING REP. WILSON - Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1), seen here standing with embattled Florida Congresswoman Fredericka Wilson, joined his North Carolina colleague, Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC-12), in demanding that the White House apologize to Wilson for effectively calling her "wacky" and a liar per the flap over Pres. Trump's alleged insensitive remarks to a Gold Star widow. [ picture courtesy of Congressman Butterfield's Office]

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            In the midst of last week’s blazing controversy concerning Pres. Trump’s alleged insensitive remarks to a Gold Star widow upon her husband’s death, and the president and Chief of Staff John Kelly’s lambasting of a Florida congresswoman who criticized  Trump afterwards, both North Carolina black congressional members are outraged, and say the White House owes apologies to the dead soldier’s family, the congresswoman, and the nation.
            “It is embarrassing that this administration is more concerned about belittling a sitting congresswoman than getting answers for the families of these fallen heroes,” US Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC-12) said in a statement Monday.
Adams and her North Carolina colleague, Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1), joined the chorus of criticism against Trump, Kelly (who is also a retired four-star Marine general who lost his son in combat in 2010), and the rest of the administration for effectively calling Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla) a liar when she alleged that on a condolence call to Myeshia Johnson, the pregnant widow of Sgt. La Donald Johnson, who was killed during an Oct. 4th ambush in the African country of Niger with three colleagues, that Trump matter-of-factly told Mrs. Johnson by speakerphone on Oct. 17th, “ …he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway…,” and didn’t even refer to her late husband by name.
“That’s what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name? And that’s what made me upset and cry even more, because my husband was an awesome soldier,” Mrs. Johnson told ABC News Monday.
Trump, in a series of angry tweets, denied saying that, and Gen. Kelly then publicly blasted Congresswoman Wilson, calling her “an empty barrel” during a White House briefing last week.
            Rep. Adams wasn’t having it.
            “Rep. Wilson has been a principled leader and servant to her South Florida constituents, many of whom she’s come to love like family, for decades,” Adams says. “She continued this record of service last week when she visited with the family of fallen hero Sergeant La David Johnson, who graduated from her mentorship program 5000 Role Models of Excellence. While President Trump spent the weekend at his golf course tweeting about football, Rep. Wilson attended Sergeant Johnson’s funeral and continues to call for answers to what happened in Niger.”
            Rep. Wilson has also been a leading proponent of rescuing 276 school girls from the Nigerian town of Chibok who were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram in April 2014.
Congressman Butterfield was just as flabbergasted.
            “I find it appalling that President Trump was unable to simply offer condolences to a Gold Star wife and express gratitude for the sacrifice her husband made on behalf of our nation.  Instead, he decided to not only attack a sitting Member of Congress in an attempt to impugn her integrity, but today he had the audacity to attack Sgt. La David Johnson’s grieving widow on her account of their phone call.  I stand with Congresswoman Wilson- who is a dedicated public servant, and I believe the White House owes her an apology for their petty insults and false statements.”   
Adding more proverbial salt to the open wound, Gen. Kelly went on at that press briefing to strongly suggest that Wilson was a lying showoff who previously boasted about raising the money needed to get a new FBI building built in Florida in 2015. A video of the event actually proved Kelly wrong (Wilson wasn’t even in Congress when that money was appropriated), but that didn’t stop Pres. Trump from still attacking Rep. Wilson as “wacky” and a liability to Democrats.
            On Monday, Mrs. Johnson, a day after burying her husband, confirmed to ABC News Congresswoman Wilson’s version of events, further indicating that she felt the president disrespected her late husband’s memory, leaving her “angry and in tears.”
            All of the Congressional Black Caucus was livid with the White House, but on Monday, Congresswoman Adams led the female members of the CBC in standing up for their colleague, Rep. Wilson.
            “We were appalled by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s statements where he called Congresswoman Wilson an ‘empty barrel’ and accused her of taking credit for securing funding for a new FBI Building in Miramar, Florida…,” the CBC women’s statement said.
“General Kelly’s comments are reprehensible,” it continued. “Congresswoman Wilson’s integrity and credibility should not be challenged or undermined by such blatant lies. We, the women of the Congressional Black Caucus, proudly stand with Congresswoman Wilson and demand that General Kelly apologize to her without delay and take responsibility for his reckless and false statements.” 
Meanwhile, news is just starting to filter out of Niger this week as to exactly what happened in the Oct. 4th ambush that claimed the four American servicemen’s lives. Cong. Butterfield says that is what the president, and the nation, should be focused on.
            “We should be mourning the passing of Sgt. La David Johnson and honoring his service to our country,” Butterfield said. “I offer my sincerest condolences to Sgt. La David Johnson’s wife and pray that she and Sgt. Johnson’s family find peace in this tragedy.”  

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Just when Democratic lawmakers thought they’d seen it all when it comes to Republican voter suppression laws, illegal voting districts and, in the opinion of many, over-all power grabs, comes yet another legislative shocker.
            As the third Special Session called by Republican leaders in the NC General Assembly ended last week on Oct. 17th, Sen. Bill Rabon (R-New Hanover) filed SB 698, a Constitutional Amendment titled “Increase Voter Accountability of Judges:”
            The bill reads in part, Justices of the Supreme Court, Judges of the Court of Appeals, and regular Judges of the Superior Court shall be elected by the qualified voters (of the state) and shall hold office for terms of two years and until their successors are elected and qualified.
(2) All terms of office for persons elected prior to July 1, 2018, to the office of Justice of the Supreme Court, Judge of the Court of Appeals, or regular Judge of the Superior Court shall expire December 31, 2018.
(3) All Justices of the Supreme Court, Judges of the Court of Appeals, and regular Judges of the Superior Court shall be elected to a two-year term of office beginning with the general election held in 2018."
            With the General Assembly reconvening in January, this amendment could be on the May 2018 ballot for voter’s approval, with judicial elections held in November 2018.
Then on Tuesday morning of this week, Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger (R- Rockingham) announced the formation of a new 15-member Senate Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting.
            Sen. Rabon is one of three Republican senators to chair the committee. Indeed, there are only five Democratic senators appointed to the panel, meaning that Republicans, just like in the rest of the legislature, are in the majority and in control, so they’ll have the final word.
            “This committee will carefully consider all options on how we select judges, including the House’s judicial redistricting bill, merit selection models, retention elections, and, if we maintain a system of elections, their frequency and partisan structure,” Sen. Berger added. “I sincerely hope the committee reaches a consensus recommendation that will modernize and strengthen our courts.”
            Most Democrats interviewed believe that by “strengthen our courts,” Sen. Berger and other GOP’ers simply mean put more Republicans on the bench, especially on the state Supreme Court. Dems’ nerves have already been rubbed raw by House Bill 717, which calls for judicial redistricting without any judicial input, and they found no relief when Republicans voted to literally cancel the 2018 judicial primaries over Gov. Cooper’s veto, leaving the possibility of adopting a judicial merit selection system when lawmakers return for their next regular session on Jan. 10th.
            But the target of Sen. Rabon’s Senate Bill 698 isn’t just reducing the terms of superior court judges or state Supreme Court justices – most of whom are Democrats.
            The most prominent victims of this court destruction scheme will be those judges who were elected during this past election to four and eight year terms of office, and this class includes Associate Supreme Court Justice Michael Morgan, an African American,” says attorney Irving Joyner, chair of the NCNAACP Legal Redress Committee.
            “The goal of this constitutional plan is to provide for the election of judges who are beholding to the Republican Party or its present right-wing ideology,” atty. Joyner continued. “As such, it is an attempt to high-jack our court system and it should be aggressively resisted. Voters, especially African Americans, should fight back against this sordid scheme.”
Morgan’s 2016 election gave Democrats a 4-3 majority on the state’s High Court. Republican legislative leaders toyed with simply increasing the number of seats on the court to ultimately have more Republicans either be elected, or appointed. But now with Rabon’s bill, if it passes next session, Morgan’s term would be end December 31, 2018, giving him only two-years on the bench.
            Every other justice’s term would end in December 2018 as well, meaning regardless of how long they’ve served, they’d have to either run for re-lection, or leave office. Now that justices and judges are required to run in partisan races, it would make it easier for GOP judicial candidates to mount more negative campaigns against Democrats.
            Even former NC Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds, a Republican, who Morgan defeated last year, “questioned the wisdom” of reducing High Court judicial terms to just two-years. Another Republican former state Supreme Court justice, Robert Orr, called the proposed Rabon amendment, “ …just wrong,” adding it was a “…“continued effort to try and intimidate the judiciary.”
            A Greensboro newspaper called it, “..legislating by Keystone Kops…disorder in the courts is the likely outcome.”
Republican Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth), however,  sees nothing wrong with radically changing the system.
            This bill was introduced while we were leaving town and there was no discussion while we were in session.  So I don't know much about it,” Rep. Lambeth admitted.  “But it is an interesting idea and does seem to be consistent with legislative elections that are every two years.  So it seems a reasonable idea.  It is hard to know if it will move forward or when.”
            If Sen. Rabon’s bill passes, it would make North Carolina the only state in the nation requiring just two-year terms for its Supreme Court justices.
            Needless to say, Democrats find themselves, once again, shaking their heads.
            This continuing, unnecessary infringement on the structure of the judicial branch by the legislature - without demand for it and without proper vetting - smacks of the worst type of political maneuvering,” opined Rep. Amos Quick (D- Guilford).
            Rep. Quick’s Guilford County colleague, Rep. Pricey Harrison, also gave the Republicans no slack.
            “Because the GOP has not had great success defending their legislation in the courts, they seem determined to design a system to create more Republican judges, at a time when North Carolinians want less partisanship in the courts,” Harrison said. “The latest bill which would call for a constitutional amendment to shorten all judges terms, seems to be an attempt to create more chaos, and may be intended to build support for the leadership's proposed "legislative selection," where the legislative leadership would chose judges.”
Rep. Harrison concluded, “The justification offered by the proponents of the shortened terms, to hold judges more accountable, is preposterous. We want fair judges, who interpret the law without bias, not judges who are worried about potentially unpopular decisions and elections every two years.” 
Over on the Senate side, Democratic Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake) is one of the five Democratic committee members, along with African-American colleague Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham). But Blue doesn’t hold out much hope for a fair process.
“This bill is the latest in a wave of assaults on the judicial branch,” Sen. Blue declared. “There is no logic or reasoning behind it, only contempt for the courts that have continued to rule against Republican agendas. Two-year terms for judges is ludicrous.”
“This appears to be another intimidation tactic on the legislature’s part and, I hope, it won’t progress any further and come to a vote,” Blue continued. “I trust that my colleagues in the Senate have enough sense not to support such a draconian measure. In the end, this only serves to cause further disruption and instability in our system of government; and that only serves to further hurt North Carolina.”


            [WILMINGTON]  A 58-year-old Leland woman has filed a class action lawsuit against Chemours, the chemical company that admittedly has been dumping the toxic chemical Gen X into the Cape Fear River, allegedly polluting the New Hanover County water supply, and it’s parent company, DuPont. Victoria Carey alleges in her suit filed Monday in federal court that in June she had sludge samples from her five-year-old water heater tested at a private lab. The results showed higher than normal toxicity levels for Gen X. Ms. Carey is suing Chemours and Dupont for negligence, among other charges. This is the third lawsuit against the companies since the new broke about Gen x contamination last June.

            [JEFFERSON] An Ashe County grand jury has indicted the sheriff there for three counts of felony obstruction, and a misdemeanor charge of willful failure to discharge his duties. Sheriff Terry Buchanan. A local TV station investigating Buchanan’s appointment to office last January found itself denied communications records between the sheriff and the Ashe Board of Commissioners twice. Then in April, Sheriff Buchanan, allegedly referencing the records denial, told the board, “We don’t have time for this.” Now the NC State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the matter.

            As the second place finisher in the October 10th Raleigh mayoral primary, the last thing candidate Charles Francis needs is a loss of support. But with two weeks before the Nov. 7th runoff, that’s what Francis faces as Equality NC Action Fund, a political action committee representing the LGBTQ community, tool back it’s endorsement of Francis because a closer look at his history reveals he once campaigned for an anti-gay rights Republican candidate for senator. Francis is a Democrat, and was endorsed by the Wake Democratic Party, even though the Raleigh mayoral race is nonpartisan. Francis is trying to unseat three-term Mayor Nancy McFarlane.



Monday, October 16, 2017


By Cash Michaels

            AFTERMATH – In the aftermath of the horrific alleged sexual harassment/abuse stories about Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, it has been simply amazing how many women on social media – both on Facebook and Twitter – have adopted the hashtag moniker “#me too.”
            Suddenly, women from all over, young and old, black, white and others, are coming forward in their own way, admitting that at least once in their lives, they too were the victims of some man’s craven sexual abuse.
            On Monday on my Facebook page, I felt compelled to write the following to these women, whoever they were, wherever they were:
            I am simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of women here on FB who have adopted the "me too" moniker when it comes to being a victim of sexual harassment of ANY sort.
Yes, it was, and IS wrong, and should not have happened. As the father of two talented and gifted young ladies, I certainly don't want to see ANY female demeaned in ANY way, for ANY reason. As a father I don't tolerate it, as a Christian I won't tolerate it, and as a man, I CAN'T tolerate it. The most important human beings in my life in formulating who I am and have come to be, have been women, starting with my late mother, some of the best teachers I've ever had, close friends, and finally the two outstanding young women who pruodly know me as "Dad."
So I proudly stand with you, Sistahs of every color and creed, on this. You'll recall when the Bill Cosby controversy was raging, I didn't hesitate to hold him accountable, because as much as I loved the man, I knew, deep down, that the allegations against him were true.
The Weinstein controversy is shameful, but I believe it is just the tip of the iceberg. We have the same kind of degenerates in every facet of life, including, unfortunately, the church.
As men, we need to stand with our women in demanding a change in our culture. You see who is president....and we know his history. 
That tells ALL of us that we have a lot of work to do to make this nation a place that our children - female and male - can proudly and safely grow up in.
The chickens ALWAYS come home to roost, brothers and sisters.
I mean, just think about it…to treat ANY human being, let alone a female, as if she were just a possession ripe for the picking, regardless of her basic human rights, is sick, AND sickening. That kind of depraved behavior is certainly the product of a rotting culture. No man would approve of their mother being treated like a piece of meat by anybody. No man would tolerate their female child to be violated or used solely for the pleasure or exploitation of others.
So why do so many men…so many powerful men in particular, engage in this type of crass behavior? Because our culture, by and large, has allowed men to get away with it. Indeed, our American culture has openly promoted this gutter behavior.
To expect a woman, ANY woman, to sell herself to you for any reason, is wrong and ungodly. If a woman willingly gives herself to a man, that is her right. She should never be forced, pressured or blackmailed to do it.
American men, we’ve got to get ourselves together on this, and promote the dignity of our women.
Our children…ALL OF OUR CHILDREN….are watching!
Especially the females!


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            North Carolina Republicans say the state’s judicial districts have not been fine- tuned in 60 years, and as a result, some districts have too many judges, while others have too few. It’s time to correct that imbalance so that all North Carolinians are treated “fairly and equitably,” Republicans say.
            “This gets them back closer to similar size districts,” says Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth).
            Indeed, there is general consensus that new district lines need to be redrawn, and the process of judges being elected or appointed deserves a long overdue look, with judicial input.
            But what state House Republican lawmakers have done per judicial redistricting in their third Special Session of the year goes beyond any “fine tuning,” Democrats, NCNAACP leadership and others insist. They see a plot by the GOP to systematically take over North Carolina’s court system so that more Republican judges and prosecutors can be elected, and Republicans ultimately have a better chance of winning cases involving legislative policy disputes, like voting rights and redistricting.
            “They’re bullies…,” declared Bob Hall, executive director of the nonpartisan Democracy: NC, a Durham-based issues-advocacy group that’s been monitoring what GOP legislative leaders have been up to.
            “They’ve gone after the executive branch, now they’re going after the courts, very deliberately and systematically.”
            It has been a burr in the side of Republican legislative leaders that they’ve spent over $10 million in litigation fees over the past decade, only to have their laws either overturned as being unconstitutional, or their power grabs struck down by both state and federal courts.
            A scheme to maintain a Republican majority on the state Supreme Court failed miserably last year, resulting in the election of Democrat Judge Mike Morgan, an African-American, and with that, a Democratic majority.
            Republicans still hold the majority on the NC Court of Appeals, but that isn’t enough. The GOP majority in both the House and Senate have put party labels back on local judicial races, and there are plans to add more seats to the state Supreme Court so that Republicans can return to the majority there.
With a new judicial redistricting plan that has even members of the judiciary up in arms, the GOP has laid out a scheme that many district and superior court judges, a good number of whom are both Democrat and African-American, in counties like Durham, Forsyth, Mecklenburg and Guilford, will be “double-bunked” in newly drawn districts, meaning they will have to face one another in elections in order to remain in office.
“They’re going to eliminate a lot of African-American judges, “ Hall with Democracy: NC insists. He added that a lot of the programs that counties shared that were alternatives for incarceration for many people,  would now be ended where there are large urban centers.
“It’s a conspiracy on a number of levels,” Hall continued. “They’re trying to find a way to elect more Republican judges; a conspiracy against African-American judges who have gained more stature and seniority; and it’s a conspiracy against the people who are served by the courts.”
Observers say it is no accident that the GOP judicial redistricting plan was concocted by Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly), a bail bondsman who stands to benefit from changing the court system. Burr, however, counters that the judicial redistricting is needed.
“This thing is a mess,” opined Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth), one of the counties where black judges would be affected by the judicial redistricting if it passes when the legislature reconvenes next January.
“It sounds like the real goal is to shift things in the urban areas, pretty much guaranteeing that the number of African-American judges will go down dramatically – whether they’re intending that or not.”
            The hue and cry from Democratic and NCNAACP leaders is almost deafening.
            Based on what we have seen produced from the House plan on judicial redistricting, I am gravely concerned over the rejection of insight and input from the courts.,” Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake) said Monday, noting that members of the state’s judiciary had no say in the Republican judicial redistricting maps.
 “It is critical for the health of the judicial system to support and encourage diversity on the bench and to promote the peoples’ right to a fair and speedy trial,” Sen. Blue continued.  “The plan pushed forward in the House erodes that diversity and obstructs justice.”
Published reports indicate that Republicans in the state Senate have a different idea on how judges should elevated to the bench, suggesting that they prefer the merit selection of judges by lawmakers, thus eliminating judicial elections. To give themselves more time to flesh out the details, the Senate passed SB656 last week, cancelling the 2018 judicial primaries. Gov. Cooper vetoed the law, but the GOP House and Senate overrode his veto with their supermajorities this week before going home.
“While some of the provisions of S.B. 656 were good steps toward reforming our judicial elections, the elimination of primaries is an unnecessary and chaotic step that will only hurt the public’s ability to choose justices,” said Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford).
Attorney Irving Joyner, chair of the NCNAACP Legal Redress Committee, was scathing in his assessment of what the Republicans are up to.
Present efforts by the N.C. General Assembly to reconfigure judicial districts are, once again, designed by right wing ideologues to destroy democracy in North Carolina and further diminish the participation of African Americans, racial minorities and women in the State's justice process,” Joyner, who is also a professor at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law in Durham, continued. “The redistricting proposals have the goal of stacking the District and Superior Courts with people who are loyal to an ultra conservative political point of view and who will undermine constitutional protections that all people are supposed to enjoy in North Carolina.”
 “As proposed, the projected district lines will eliminate the judicial position in which African Americans have been elected and deliberately create districts which will force some African American judges to run against each other,” Joyner, who also called the Senate’s merit selection plan, “…just a further attempt to strip citizens of the right to vote and place the power to elect Judges in the hands of a few right wing legislators…”, said.
“What the General Assembly seeks to do now in the judicial realm is exactly what they unsuccessfully sought to do with legislative and congressional districts. The NC NAACP is preparing to challenge these unconstitutional districts in federal court as soon as they are enacted,” Prof. Joyner concluded.
The newly elected president of the NCNAACP, Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman of Greensboro, echoed Joyner’s concern.
No matter which type of judicial selection process is used--Appointment, Merit Selection, or Election--a judiciary truly “Of, By, and For the People…” must be selected by a process as blind as possible to race, gender, or political affiliation. We advocate for a process that--in intent and effect--removes judicial selection from the control of anyone who would use the justice system for political advantage or racial discrimination,” Rev. Spearman added.
Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), joined the chorus.
“The GOP clearly has designs on remaking our judiciary to elect more Republican judges, at a time when North Carolinians want less partisanship in our judiciary,” she said in a statement Tuesday.
“They had already eliminated our exemplary judicial public financing program. This year they added legislation making us the first state in a century to move to partisan judicial races.  They have reduced the size of the very busy Court of Appeals and then shifted some of the workload to the Supreme Court, presumably to justify packing that with Republican appointments (to undo the shift in balance caused by Mike Morgan's 2016 win).”
“This latest effort to redraw the local races by carving up blue (Democratic) counties while leaving similarly sized Republican counties alone is clearly an attempt to elect more Republican judges at the local level. It has been done hastily and without proper deliberation. And today's vote to eliminate the judicial primary (in anticipation of legislative selection) is a further assault on our judicial system and will likely lead to chaos,” Rep. Harrison concluded.
“Republicans are saying…] ‘We’ll make sure we remain in power,’ Sen. Lowe remarked, feigning what the ultimate GOP goal is. “And they want to make sure that they’ve got the right folks in place.”
Sen. Lowe added that people must take what’s happening seriously, and commit themselves to voting for a change in 2018.
House Republicans went home Tuesday after voting Monday night to override Gov. Cooper’s veto of SB 626, which canceled the 2018 judicial primaries. The Senate also ended its Special Session this week, scheduled to return Jan. 10th to decide ballot amendments on voter ID, and the appointment of judges by lawmakers for 2018.
“It’s a serious crime against democracy,” Bob Hall of Democracy: NC insists. “It’s a serious crime that [Republicans] are committing.”

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            As a federal hearing in North Carolina’s own partisan gerrymandering case involving congressional districts commenced this week in Greensboro, a three-judge panel still reviewing redrawn legislative redistricting maps seemed to hint that they aren’t pleased with what Republican lawmakers came up with, especially with race not being considered in the equation, and have asked both the state and plaintiffs to recommend possible special masters who would ultimately redrawn fairer voting districts in time for the 2018 midterm elections.
            Day One of the partisan gerrymandering hearing saw expert witnesses taking the stand, testifying how much of an “extreme statistical outlier” the 2016 congressional maps dawn by Republican voting district mapmaker Tom Hofeller are.
            Hofeller also drew the 2011 NC legislative maps that were found to be unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court because they “stacked-and-packed’ NC black voters into 28 out of 170 voting districts, thus lessening their influence in elections.
            In the case of the 2016 congressional elections, out of 13 NC congressional districts, Republicans were elected to 10 of them. Blacks were drawn into the First Congressional District, currently represented by Congressman G. K. Butterfield; the Fourth with Rep. David Price; and the Twelfth District with Congresswoman Alma Adams, all three Democrats.
            Expert witnesses testified that based on their studies, a 10-3 Republican majority congressional map had to be deliberate, given that, using the same information and calculations, they were able to come up with many more maps that allowed 7-6 Republican to Democrats, or 7-6 Democrat to Republican congressional combinations.
            Partisan gerrymandering is legal, unlike racial gerrymandering, but that could change per upcoming rulings.
            The North Carolina Leaguc of Women Voters and the nonpartisan group, Common Cause, are the plaintiffs suing  the state of North Carolina, claiming, similar to the partisan gerrymandering case in Wisconsin that the US Supreme Court s considering, that allowing Republican legislatures to draw partisan majorities deprives citizens of fair and equal representation in government, resulting in severely lop-sided electoral results.
            Observers say it should be impossible for a state like North Carolina, which is evenly divided politically, to still lave anything like a 10-3 Republican-leaning congressional delegation.
            The US Middle Court hearing in the 2016 partisan gerrymandering should hear final testimony today.
            Also in Greensboro last week, the federal three-judge panel currently deciding whether the redrawn 2011 NC legislative maps in the Covington v. State of North Carolina case submitted by the Republican-led NC General Assembly in late August pass legal muster, have signaled, as plaintiffs have charged, that the legislative effort has fallen short, and an independent “special master”  designated by the court may have to be brought in to redraw the redrawn maps.
            Nineteen state House districts and nine state Senate districts in the original 2011 redistrict maps were found to be racially gerrymandered by the federal courts. When Republican lawmakers finally redrew the maps this summer, they removed race as a consideration in the criteria, but plaintiffs suing the state countered that the new maps were just as bad.
            After a hearing and a barrage of questions for both sides, the court seemed to side with the plaintiffs that the state could not be trusted to correct their maps, and asked both sides to submit the names of three experts they all agreed could serve as special masters to redraw the maps.
            That list of names was due to the court Wednesday.
            Regardless of this court’s decision, observers say expect it to be appealed to the US Supreme Court, possibly eating up more time before the February filing deadline for legislative candidates for the 2018 midterm elections.


            [WILMINGTON] Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) filed suit in US District Court Monday against the chemical companies Chemours, and it’s parent,  DuPont, alleging that they knew the chemical discharge of GenX into the Cape Fear River since 1980 would be hazardous to human health. Until recently, GenX has been released into the Cape Fear, the New Hanover County region drinking supply. CFPUA further alleges that Chemours and Dupont are in violation of several federal environmental laws as a result of the GenX discharge. CFPUA is suing for damages in excess of $75,000, the final amount to be determined when the lawsuit is heard at trial. Neither Chemours nor Dupont had an immediate response after the suit was filed.

            {WILMINGTON] The Wilmington City Council delayed a scheduled vote this week on purchasing $42,000 worth of riot batons, canister grenades and other riot equipment for the Wilmington Police Dept’s Mobile Field Force Team D (MFF-D).  Official say the riot equipment would help the force to disperse demonstrations.  Approximately 30 current officers will be assigned to the MFF-D. The council vote was delayed, however, to allow for more public comment on the purchase. Officials say the MFF-D would be paid for through funding of the N.C. Drug Tax. The next council meeting is scheduled for Nov. 8th.

            [CLINTON] Sampson County authorities are investigating the shooting of an infant girl who fell victim to a random bullet which hit the child in the torso. Authorities say  shots were fired at 25 Bumpy Lane Tuesday night when two armed men approached a man attending a birthday party, and an argument commenced. As the man ran away, the two apparently fired shots, with one of the bullets striking the home, and hitting the child. The infant was eventually airlifted to UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill for treatment.