Posts by Rob Schofield

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Commentary

The two best editorials of the weekend

Poisoned water and poisonous healthcare policy were featured in two of the weekend’s best editorials. Number One comes from the Wilmington Star News. In “CFPUA, Give Us the Answers Right Now,” the authors demand an immediate series of answers regarding the public health crisis that surrounds the region’s poisoned water supply:

“Each answer we get to questions about GenX, the unregulated toxic chemical in our drinking water, seems to raise five more. In fact, we’re not sure any important GenX-related question has been adequately answered. We’re betting people who drink the tainted water would agree.”

The editorial then goes on to explain how local official at the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority are failing to act with requisite urgency regarding water that may well be poisoning hundreds of thousands of people every day:

“Friday, at a special meeting of the CFPUA board, Executive Director Jim Flechtner refused to say why he had not informed board members and the public about GenX.

‘I will let the review process run its course,’ he said.

Here’s the thing, Mr. Flechtner: We — and we suspect the thousands of people CFPUA serves — are no longer content with letting GenX-related issues “run their course.”

As New Hanover commissioner and CFPUA board member Pat Kusek told the StarNews when informed of Flechtner’s response: ‘That’s unacceptable. People need to tell the truth about what they did and why they did it.’

So far, all Chemours and CFPUA are providing is lots of posturing and deflection. Meanwhile, there’s a critical shortage of timely and complete answers.

Commissioner Kusek is absolutely right: That is not acceptable.”

Meanwhile an editorial in the Greensboro News & Record was on the mark with its demand that Congress abandon its disastrous recent approach toward healthcare. After noting that the prevaricator-in-chief has been signing a different tune lately and blasting the House health plan he once praised as “mean,” “Give us a better bill” has this to say:

“We agree, and we also hope the Senate comes up with a ‘generous’ alternative to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. It was never perfect, or even close, and now it’s shedding people as insurers pull out of markets or raise premiums beyond what most can afford. That’s not only a result of inherent flaws in the system but because the Trump administration isn’t supporting it as the law requires. If subsidies aren’t provided to cushion premiums, and if penalties aren’t assessed to push young, healthy Americans into coverage, a collapse is possible. So Congress must either shore up the current system or write a better bill. Read more

Commentary

Blue Cross Blue Shield, Duke Energy sponsor conference featuring extremist speakers

Representatives of the hardcore right wing of the North Carolina conservative movement will gather in Raleigh this weekend for the annual “conservative leadership conference” held by Art Pope’s Civitas institute. As in past years, the event will feature a motley collection of Trumpist politicians, anti-government crusaders, religious right social warriors, anti-choice zealots, white nationalists, xenophobes, gun mavens and alternative news propagandists — many of them too extreme even for mainstream conservatives. The featured speaker is an English politician named Nigel Farage, a Trump buddy who helped lead the “Brexit” effort and is widely regarded as a leader in the latest wave of European ethno-nationalism. Somewhat humorously, Pat McCrory is also buried at the bottom of the list of speakers — looking mostly like an afterthought. You can see the whole list by clicking here and scrolling down.

It is, in other words, business as usual for the Civitas group — the reactionary branch of the Pope empire that, if nothing else, serves to make their cousins over at the ultra-conservative/”libertarian” John Locke Foundation look somewhat more responsible — and an event that deserves to be roundly ignored by caring and thinking people.

Here, however is one aspect of the event that does deserve to be held up to the light of day: In addition to being sponsored by the usual assortment of far right funders and businesses (e.g. the Charles Koch Institute), the event has attracted financial support from two major corporations based in North Carolina that ought to know better — Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and Duke Energy.

Of course, few have ever alleged that BCBSNC or Duke were liberal do-gooders when it comes to corporate citizenship. Duke is one of the state’s largest polluters and Blue Cross infamously attempted to convert billions of public assets to private property with its ill-fated late-1990’s effort to convert from a nonprofit into a for-profit insurance company. Both also hold something close to monopolies over their industries — electricity generation and health insurance — in North Carolina.

Still, sponsoring the Civitas event featuring such a reactionary cast of speakers is a remarkable and troubling step for two businesses that have long sought to walk the middle line in state politics. Let’s hope the sponsorship levels are small and represent the acts of mid-level bureaucrats and not of corporate leaders. If you’d like to communicate with either of the two giants about their unfortunate decisions, you can try contacting Blue by clicking here and Duke by clicking here.

Commentary

Good government watchdog decries GOP redistricting blockade

Democracy NC Director of Communications and Digital Strategies Jen Jones has a great op-ed running in multiple outlets about ongoing Republican efforts to, in effect, hack our elections in North Carolina. Please enjoy and share it widely.

The political hacking of N.C.

By Jen Jones

Like Russian efforts to hack U.S. elections, the N.C. legislature’s attacks on our state’s democracy have been broad and brazen.

Rev. Dr. William Barber II, taking his moral movement beyond N.C., reminded us last week on The Daily Show that our state’s racist election tampering was more of threat than Russian operatives. The observation was sobering.

And his warning unheeded, at least by too many members of the General Assembly.

Just a few days later, the N.C. Legislature pushed back against the executive and judicial branches to prop up its racially-gerrymandered districts. Despite three pronouncements in as many weeks from the U.S. Supreme Court that North Carolina’s legislative and Congressional districts were designed to pack and crack the political power of Black voters, GOP lawmakers boldly batted efforts by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s call for a special session to redraw these discriminatory districts.

Senate leader Phil Berger responded to the notion of a special session with the audacious claim that the governor’s call to fix the unconstitutionally drawn districts was “unconstitutional.”

But the political hacking hasn’t stopped there. In fact, it seems to have just started. Read more

Commentary

Three of Trump’s extreme judicial nominees get hearing; Tillis actually expresses concern about at least one

If you want to see and be profoundly depressed by the views of three of the men recently nominated by Donald Trump to the federal judiciary, check out the video of yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing considering the nominations of John Bush and Kevin Newsom to be federal appeals court judges and Damien Schiff to be a judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Throughout the two-and-a-half-hour hearing, all three men — and particularly Bush and Schiff — go to extreme and downright laughable lengths to pretend that their past lives as right-wing advocates dispensing extreme views (Schiff called Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy a “judicial prostitute” in a blog post) are completely irrelevant to their new gigs.

Here’s federal court watcher Ian Millhiser on Bush’s cringe-inducing performance:

“Here’s a pro tip. If you are a judicial nominee, and you have to spend much of your confirmation hearing denying that you endorsed birtherism, maybe ‘judge’ isn’t the ideal job for you.

And yet John Bush, a lawyer and conservative blogger who spent years publishing many of his most controversial opinions under a pseudonym, is in line to be a judge on a powerful federal appeals court. Given Bush’s prolific history as a political blogger, those opinions were on full display during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday.”

Bush — who, for years, played the role of loudmouth bully as an anonymous blogger, but in the hearing adopted the persona of a sheepish boy scout — even drew some mild rebukes from a couple of Republican senators.

Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana told Bush “I’ve read your blogs. I’m not impressed.” He also asked Schiff to apologize for his attack on Justice Kennedy — a demand to which Schiff readily acceded.

Sen. Thom Tillis

Meanwhile, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis seemed to send a couple of shots across Bush’s bow.

First, Tillis noted that he also had some concerns about Bush’s blog posts — although, weirdly, he followed that observation up with this strange statement: “I just thank God that when I was your age that there were not blogs.”

Tillis is 56. The nominee is 52.

Tillis then tossed out the soft ball question: “Do you think that impartiality is an aspiration or an absolute expectation?” When Bush, rather surprisingly and clumsily said that he saw it as an aspiration, Tillis disagreed.

“I actually have a concern with someone who thinks that impartiality is an aspiration. I think it’s an expectation.”

Newsom was only too happy to avoid Bush’s blunder and parrot Tillis’ opinion.

The committee took no action today on the nominations and Tillis gave no indication that he will do anything to slow them down. Let’s hope that Bush’s desultory performance causes the senator to show a little backbone on the matter.

Click here to check out the hearing. Tillis shows up around an hour and 37 minutes in.

Commentary

Editorials: Only two possible solutions to NC’s gerrymandering mess

This morning’s lead editorial in the Fayetteville Observer (“Gerrymandering proceeds in an endless loop”) gets it right when it says it decries Republican foot dragging in drawing fair and constitutional electoral maps:

“It doesn’t matter to Republican leaders that courts found 28 of the state’s House and Senate districts were illegally gerrymandered on a racial basis. It doesn’t matter that the U.S. Supreme Court concurred. It only matters that the Supreme Court also gave them a free pass from having to fix the mess immediately. They aren’t a bit inclined to refuse the pass and do the right thing promptly. And why should Cooper or anyone else expect they would? After all, they knew exactly what they were doing when they drew those maps back in 2011, just as they knew what they were doing when they “reformed” election law in ways that another court found targeted minority voters “with almost surgical precision.” They used race as a tool to reduce the effectiveness of Democratic voting and chose to worry later whether a court would catch them in illegal tactics.”

Yesterday’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com (“Scheming, procrastinating perpetuate unconstitutional districts”) offered a similar take:

“The record of partisan gamesmanship this General Assembly has amassed has hit an all-time low. It would be foolish to believe the legislature will, on its own, come up with a fair and constitutional set of legislative districts.”

As the editorials also note, there are really only two possible solutions to this mess — swift action by the courts and/or a new way of drawing maps. This is from the WRAL editorial:

“The court should be direct and specific on what the legislature must do, how to do it and set a firm deadline on when it needs to be done. If they fail, the judges should impose their own redistricting plan….

If the legislature will not follow the guidelines, the court should use the same criteria and draw districts itself.

Fair redistricting is not brain surgery. It is time for the legislature to end its costly procrastination and do its job.”

And the Observer editorial closes this way:

“This wrangle has been going on since 2011 and there’s no end in sight — except, of course, the 2020 census, which will trigger yet another round of redistricting, followed by years of legal challenges.

We are weary of this endless conflict, as, we expect, are most North Carolina voters. We know we would be best served by an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission, and the gerrymandering follies we see before us are all the evidence we need. What will it take to force both parties to rise above self-serving, petty politics? We need giants as leaders but we keep electing dwarfs.”

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