Commentary

This past weekend’s best editorial

Image: Adobe Stock

In case you missed it, be sure to check out an especially thoughtful editorial that ran yesterday in Raleigh’s News & Observer entitled “When the pandemic ends, should criminal justice return to ‘normal’? Maybe not.”

As the authors explain, the convergence of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement has served to shine a spotlight on the need for a lasting and systemic overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system.

As the essay notes, “the lowering of the criminal justice system’s usual volume has let prosecutors, law enforcement officials and lawmakers consider whether the previous levels of arrests and jailing were necessary.” And happily, some important recommendations of this kind are likely in the offing from the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice that Gov. Cooper commissioned earlier this year.

Again, the N&O editorial:

State Rep. Marcia Morey, a Durham Democrat who previously served as an assistant district attorney in Durham and as a district court judge, is a member of the task force and chair of its working group on court procedures.

…Morey said she was impressed by the members’ ability to reach consensus on the need for changes after being presented with statistics on racial discrimination within the criminal justice system.

…The task force has already indicated it will recommend the decriminalization of the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana, a charge brought disproportionately against Blacks. But Morey said the task force also will call for much broader reforms “from the beginning of the criminal process to the end — the death penalty.”

“I think it will be a very bold report,” she said. “I hope there will be recommendations to achieve real changes for racial equity.”

The pandemic has created a painful disruption in the economy and social connections. But it has also exposed inequities. Once the pandemic passes, we hope the criminal justice system can stick with and build on changes that have fostered fairness in the treatment of all who pass through the state’s courts, jails and prisons.

As the editorial and several other developments (like the ongoing “vigil for freedom and racial justice” taking place outside the Governor’s mansion right now) make clear, North Carolina has an enormous and unaddressed crisis in its criminal justice and corrections systems. Let’s hope state leaders make theses issues a top priority in 2021.
Commentary

Trump goes into full P.T. Barnum mode with latest fundraising scam

One thing you can never accuse Donald Trump of is suffering from a lack of gall. No one in the history of American politics at the national level has ever possessed, much less maintained for decades, such a complete and unshakable willingness to stare straight into the eyes of his most loyal supporters and lie like a cheap rug.

Sometimes the substance and potential consequences of these lies have been horrific — as when he has compromised national security by telling falsehood after falsehood about his relationship with his buddy Vladimir Putin or, more recently, when he threatened to undermine our democracy by challenging the legitimacy of a national election.

More, often, however, Trump’s scam is to spew B.S. like a two-bit carnival barker in hopes of lining his own pockets. Like a 21st Century P.T. Barnum, Trump knows that his target audience is utterly hoodwinked and he is willing to debase just about anyone or anything in order to keep playing the con.

For the latest ridiculous head slapper of an example, check out the following excerpts from an email solicitation sent last evening by the man who will remain, for 56 more long and frightening days, President of the United States:

EXCLUSIVE OFFER

Rob,

You’ve always been there for me no matter what. Despite everything the Fake News media and Democrats have thrown at us, your loyalty has never wavered.

To show you how much I appreciate your support, I want to do something special for YOU:

For a short time, when you make a contribution of $30, my team will send you our ICONIC “COUNT ALL LEGAL VOTES” shirt FOR FREE.

This offer is available to you for ONE HOUR, Rob. After that, you may never get another chance to receive a FREE “COUNT ALL LEGAL VOTES” shirt.

Please contribute $30 IMMEDIATELY to support your favorite President and to claim your FREE “COUNT ALL LEGAL VOTES” SHIRT. >>

I REALLY want you to have this LIMITED EDITION shirt, Rob.

There isn’t much time left, so don’t wait.

Just contribute $30 NOW and claim your FREE “COUNT ALL LEGAL VOTES” SHIRT

Thank you,

 

 

 

Donald J. Trump
President of the United States

P.S. As always, everything is made in America.

CONTRIBUTE $30

As is always the case with Trump, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the preposterous gibberish that appears above and under his name. But given the almost certain fact that hundreds of poor souls of modest means across our great country raced last night to beat the one-hour “deadline” by sending some of their hard-earned cash to this shameless charlatan, both responses would be fully in order.

Commentary, Defending Democracy

Editorial: Election confirms once again what voter ID laws are really about

In case you missed it yesterday, be sure to check out the latest lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer: “The 2020 election did expose one fraud: the GOP case for Voter ID.”

As the editorial explains, the recently concluded election, in which more Americans than ever cast a vote, demonstrated once again why voter ID laws serve no useful purpose other than to discourage lawful voters from voting. After explaining how, despite a nationwide GOP effort to ferret out fraud, virtually none has been found, the editorial puts it this way:

If there was an election in which the GOP could prove widespread voter fraud instead of just imagining it, 2020 was it.

Instead, Americans learned what experts had long told us. Election fraud is rare, and the kind of fraud that Voter ID would address – people going to a precinct and attempting to vote as someone else – is almost non-existent. As of Thursday, the Trump campaign and other Republican interests have filed more than 30 election lawsuits in 6 states. No court has found a single instance of fraud.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. One exhaustive study of 12 years of elections in five states found only 500 cases of alleged voter fraud. In 2016, North Carolina’s Board of Elections found that 4,769,640 votes were cast in November and that one would probably have been avoided with a voter ID law.

And while the editorial readily concedes that there will always be isolated incidents of fraud anytime 150 million people cast ballots, it rightfully observes that a much more dangerous threat to the integrity of elections is to be found in the behavior of Trump toadies like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who tried to get the Georgia Secretary of State to toss out legal ballots in areas that voted for President-elect Biden. Here’s the excellent conclusion:

That’s fraudulent, too, by the way. But it’s not new. In North Carolina, Republican lawmakers have spent the past decade pushing for measures that make it harder for their opponents’ supporters to cast a ballot. They crafted a 2013 grab bag of voter suppression measures, including new voter identification requirements, that a federal court threw out because it deliberately diluted the power of Black voters and targeted them with “almost surgical precision.” They’ve had a subsequent attempt at Voter ID blocked by state and federal judges because of the possibility of discriminatory intent. A federal appeals court heard oral arguments on that law in September.

Such measures have long been unnecessary, and the 2020 election once again showed why. Americans didn’t cheat. We voted. Republicans should stop trying to make that harder.

Click here to read the entire editorial.
COVID-19, News

Read Cooper’s latest COVID-19 statement and order here

Gov. Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen

Governor tells North Carolinians “We are in danger”

The COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina continues to grow more dire by the day.The state continues to set more records for positive tests and hospitalizations and 20 counties are now officially considered to be in the “red zone,” which means that community spread of the virus as been deemed “critical.”

In response, Gov. Roy Cooper issued the following statement today:

With Cases Rising Rapidly, North Carolina Tightens Existing Mask Requirements and Enforcement

Ten More Counties Designated as Red for Critical Community Spread

RALEIGH: Governor Roy Cooper today issued additional COVID-19 safety measures to tighten mask requirements and enforcement as cases continue to rise rapidly in North Carolina and across the country. Executive Order No. 180 goes into effect on Wednesday, November 25 and runs through Friday, December 11.

“I have a stark warning for North Carolinians today: We are in danger,” Governor Cooper said. “This is a pivotal moment in our fight against the coronavirus. Our actions now will determine the fate of many.”

In addition to extending Phase 3 capacity limits and safety requirements, the Order tightens the existing statewide mask requirement – making it clear that everyone needs to wear a mask whenever they are with someone who is not from the same household. The Order also adds the mask requirement to several additional settings including any public indoor space even when maintaining 6 feet of distance; gyms even when exercising; all schools public and private; and all public or private transportation when traveling with people outside of the household.

The Order also requires large retail businesses with more than 15,000 square feet to have an employee stationed near entrances ensuring mask wearing and implementing occupancy limits for patrons who enter.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, updated North Carolina’s COVID-19 County Alert System map due to the rapid rise in cases and hospitalization over the past week. Since introducing the system last week, ten more counties have moved into the red category indicating critical community spread. There are now 20 red counties and 42 orange counties. Read the update to see where each county stands and how the system was designed.

“The coming weeks will be a true test of our resolve to do what it takes to keep people from getting sick, to save lives, and to make sure that if you need hospital care whether it’s for a heart attack or a car accident or COVID-19, you can get it,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan spoke at today’s press conference to discuss what the city of Greensboro is doing to step up enforcement of existing, strong statewide safety rules. State officials have encouraged local governments to take action to require compliance and help lower COVID-19 numbers.

Dr. Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.

Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is increasing.

Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is increasing.

Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is increasing slightly.

Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is increasing.

In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.

Testing

  • Testing capacity is high.

Tracing Capability

  • The state is continuing to hire contact tracers to bolster the efforts of local health departments.
  • There have been more than 430,000 downloads of the exposure notification app, SlowCOVIDNC.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • North Carolina’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.

Read Executive Order 180.

Read a Frequently Asked Questions document about the Order.

Read the slides from today’s briefing.

COVID-19, News

Advocates: there’s still time for North Carolina families to get $335 “extra credit grants”

While many have raised serious and legitimate questions about the wisdom of the so-called “Extra Credit Grants” program North Carolina enacted earlier this year as a partial relief measure in response to the pandemic (most notably whether it makes sense to give money to families who are faring just fine during the crisis, while making it hard for many of low income to participate), for better or worse, the program is up and running.

What’s more and to their great credit, advocates for low income North Carolinians at the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and its partners, the  law firm of Robinson Bradshaw and Legal Aid of North Carolina, have succeeded in making the benefit much more accessible to people in true need.

Today, those advocates hosted a press event at which they drew attention to a new website (335forNC.com) launched just last Friday that will give families in need two more weeks to apply for the benefit. This from a release that accompanied the event:

The organizers of 335forNC.com have reopened the application process for Extra Credit Grants to support low-income families in North Carolina struggling to meet the demands of educating and caring for their children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and its partners, Robinson Bradshaw and Legal Aid of North Carolina, took successful legal action to reopen the application process for eligible families to apply for one $335 Extra Credit Grant per household. Eligible N.C. families who missed the original October deadline are encouraged to go to 335forNC.com as soon as possible to apply for a $335 Extra Credit Grant before the deadline, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, at 2 p.m.

…Eligible families who did not get the opportunity to apply for an Extra Credit Grant before the Oct. 15, 2020, deadline are encouraged to apply. People should plan to apply for an Extra Credit Grant if they did not file a 2019 state tax return solely because their gross income for the 2019 was below state requirements (generally $10,000 per year if single and $20,000 per year, if married). Eligible applicants need to have at least one qualifying child aged 16 or younger in 2019, and be a North Carolina resident for all of 2019.

Please note that if an individual applied through the NC Department of Revenue (NCDOR) application process before the Oct. 15 deadline, their Extra Credit Grant check will come directly from NCDOR later this year.

For more information click here to visit 335forNC.com to determine if you are eligible and to apply.