ThanksgivingIf you’re preparing for the inevitable political discussions that will accompany your family get-togethers this week, here are three new Thanksgiving-themed posts that might help you out:

#1 is today’s Fitzsimon File, which highlights the hypocritical change of heart that so many conservative politicians display toward people in need around the holidays. As Chris notes, the disconnect between what the politicians say about the same needy people during the holidays and the other 11 months of the years is frequently breathtaking.

#2 is a new Q&A from the N.C. Budget and Tax Center entitled “How to talk about the economy and taxes with your family.” Here’s an example:

WHEN THEY SAY: “This state is spending more than ever on public education.”

YOU SAY: We’re funding public schools in NC nearly 6 percent less than in 2008 when you adjust for how much things cost.  This would be like the Panthers claiming a touchdown at the 6 yard line.

As the economy improves—and it is improving—we need to invest in our public schools to ensure that we educate our kids and build a sound foundation for future economic growth. Without investing more, we can’t ensure that our classrooms, teachers and students have the cutting-edge tools to improve learning.

Finally, #3 is this morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing (“Food for thought on the immigration question”) in which several key facts are spelled out (and myths exposed) about President Obama’s executive order on immigration last week. For example: Read More


Voting rightsThere was a good deal of anecdotal evidence during the November election indicating that something was amiss in a lot voting places around the state. Now, sadly, there is damning confirmation in a new report from the watchdogs at Democracy North Carolina. This is from the report summary:

“New voting restrictions and unprepared poll workers kept as many as 50,000 North Carolinians from voting in this fall’s general election, according to an analysis by the elections watchdog group Democracy North Carolina.

Although most voters reported that casting a ballot was easy and election officials generally responded quickly to fix a broken machine, there is mounting evidence that a shorter early voting period, confusion caused by new election rules, and strong turnout pushed many Election Day polling sites to the breaking point.

Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

The stories of children held back from pursuing educational opportunities, of families separated and weakened by deportations or their threat, of communities uncertain how to integrate and engage immigrants, provide the most compelling support for President Obama’s announcement of a new proposal to grant temporary, limited immigration status to certain immigrant families.

To complement these stories, however, data from the Migration Policy Institute details the potential numbers of individuals who this proposal could reach nationwide and in North Carolina. Approximately 117,000 parents in North Carolina would be eligible for the new deferred action program and another 38,000 young people would be eligible immediately for the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. In total, this policy has the potential to reach a little more than 40 percent of the state’s total population of immigrants who are undocumented. Read More


Several protests will be held today in response to a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a Ferguson police officer who shot and killed a teenager last August.

Mike Brown

The shooting death of Mike Brown, who was black, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, touched off protests and unrest across the nation. N.C. Policy Watch’s Sharon McCloskey has this post , “What you need to know about Ferguson” with links to some of the most in-depth reporting so far on the grand jury’s decision.

The St. Louis prosecutor in charge of the grand jury investigation also took the highly unusual move to release the evidence and transcripts of testimony heard by the grand jury, whose proceedings are, by law, secret.

All of that, including Wilson’s testimony, is compiled here.

You can watch a press conference beginning at 10 a.m. from North Carolina NAACP President William Barber here about the grand jury and tonight’s protests.

The state NAACP will hold an vigil and interfaith event at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 1801 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh.

There are several other North Carolina events, all beginning at 6 p.m., scheduled for tonight to protest the grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson.

Tonight’s protests (with updates) are supposed to be held at:

  • Chapel Hill: corner of Elliot Road and Franklin Street
  • Charlotte - Marshall Park, 3rd and McDowell streets
  • Durham: 501 Foster St.  Blue Coffee, 202 Corcoran St.
  • Greenville: Pitt County Courthouse, W. 34d and Evans streets
  • Greensboro – Governmental Plaza, 110 S. Green St.
  • Pittsboro – 1085 Mitchell Chapel Road, Pittsboro (hosted by Mitchell  Chapel AME Zion Church)
  • Raleigh: Moore Square, Martin and Blount streets
  • Rocky Mount: City Hall, 331 S. Franklin Street

Read More


The Marshall Project has this excellent summary of the grand jury proceedings that concluded yesterday with the return of no indictment of Ferguson police office Darren Wilson for the death of teenager Michael Brown.

The summary has links to many relevant stories and sources, including legal commentary on the unusual nature of the prosecutor’s handling of the proceedings — pointing out as some experts have that prosecutors know how to get an indictment when they want one.

Referring to St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s quick release of grand jury testimony and his unusual failure to get an indictment in the case, writer Andrew Cohen says:

The release of the evidence may or may not change the minds of people around the world who have been waiting in suspense for the past 108 days for this story to come to some sort of resolution. But it is unlikely to change the view of some legal observers that McCulloch manipulated the result here by managing the process. This was not a typical grand jury proceeding in which only a few witnesses testify, the prosecutor tightly controls what grand jurors hear, and the suspect does not testify at length about why he should not be charged.

How do we know it is rare for a prosecutor to manage a grand jury in this fashion? We know because the grand jury process has become pro forma in most jurisdictions and because prosecutors almost always get an indictment from them when they want one. On the federal level, Five Thirty Eight reported last night, “U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return in indictment in 11 of them.” That’s about 0.01 percent of the time.