Commentary

Editorial blasts state senator over “keep our state straight” remark

Buck NewtonThis morning’s Fayetteville Observer features another scathing editorial on HB2 and, in particular, the comment uttered Monday at a rally supporting the law by State Senator Eldon “Buck” Newton of Wilson. According the editorial, Newton “let the bigot out of the bag” when he urged rally attendees to “fight to keep our state straight.”

Here’s the Observer:

The writers, sponsors and endorsers of House Bill 2 have pulled off their scam: They’ve called it the “bathroom bill” so many times that most people are convinced that’s what it’s about….

It is a sweeping act of social engineering hidden under a skillfully organized campaign to gin up fear of who may be in the next stall in the ladies’ room. The manufactured hysteria over transgender use of restrooms is a triumphant public-relations victory that solves a nonexistent problem. There is no evidence anywhere that transgender people are using an opposite-sex disguise to molest women and children. There is, however, extensive evidence of discrimination against transgender people, as well as those who are gay or lesbian. House Bill 2 ensures that they have no protection from it.

Why? State Sen. Buck Newton, the Republican candidate for attorney general in November, let the bigot out of the bag as he wrapped up a speech to HB2 supporters on Monday. Take the message home, he said, about “how hard we must fight to keep our state straight.”

We doubt that Newton is that naive….Newton was indulging in the same successful pandering that House and Senate leaders used to justify House Bill 2, and that Gov. Pat McCrory continues to use as he tries to walk the fine line that will preserve his support from social conservatives, even as he seeks tweaks that will make the bill less offensive to the business support he lost by signing the bill.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

National political columnist lambastes NC voting rights decision

Voting rightsOne of America’s funniest and most insightful political columnists has authored a succinct and excellent take-down of Judge Thomas Schroeder’s lame but predictable approval of North Carolina’s monster voter suppression law.

Here’s Esquire’s Charles Pierce in “North Carolina’s Voting Laws Are Conspicuously Suppressing the Vote: And yet they were just upheld by a Bush-appointed judge”:

Did you hear the trumpets in the sky Monday evening? The Day of Jubilee has sounded again, this time in North Carolina.

In his ruling, the judge suggested that past discrimination had abated. “There is significant, shameful past discrimination,” he wrote. “In North Carolina’s recent history, however, certainly for the last quarter century, there is little official discrimination to consider.”

In upholding the voter suppression laws in the now consistently insane state of North Carolina, Judge Thomas Schroeder, another gift to the Republic from the late Avignon Presidency, has walked right on the same glory road that led Chief Justice John Roberts to cut the viscera from the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County. The conservative movement has worked hard to salt the federal judiciary with people who believe that government has done all it can in the fight against institutional racism, and that the fight itself was won decades ago, and that the country never backslides once it has achieved progress. Combined with this fantastical vision of a country that exists somewhere between the Western Isles and the Big Rock Candy Mountain, these judges also appear completely oblivious to how most people—and especially, most poor people—actually exist in the world. Read more

Commentary

Two powerful news stories explain why NC’s disinvestment in public ed is a big problem

WRAL TV will debut a new documentary tonight about North Carolina’s dwindling commitment to funding public education entitled “Grading Teacher Pay.” This is from a lengthy article summarizing the program:

“At the start of his fourth term in 1997, North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt asked a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic-controlled Senate to raise the state’s teacher pay to the national average in four years in an effort to attract and retain more teachers.

By the time Hunt left office, North Carolina had risen in the national rankings and moved closer to the country’s average teacher salary. During the 2001-02 school year, the state ranked 19th in the U.S. for average teacher pay, less than $2,000 from the then-national average of $44,655, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

But in the years since Hunt left the governor’s mansion, the state’s ranking has plummeted. In 2013-14, North Carolina hit its lowest rank in more than a decade – 47th in the nation, with teachers paid nearly $12,000 below the national average of $56,610.

When adjusted for inflation, North Carolina’s average teacher salary has dropped more than 13 percent since 1999, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The U.S. average teacher salary has dropped 1.8 percent in that same timeframe.”

The article goes on to make a compelling case that falling teacher salaries and education investments lead to a predictable outcome for students.

Also make time to listen to Chris Fitzsimon’s recent radio interview with Clay Johnson, the documentary producer of “Grading Teacher Pay.

Meanwhile, a story on NPR this morning explores the flip-side of North Carolina’s ongoing disinvestment in public schools. In “How Massachusetts became the Best State in Education,” reporter Kirk Karapezza explains that in 1993, Massachusetts embarked upon an ambitious upgrade in its funding for public schools — especially in lower wealth communities.

“I really think that the funding was like winning the World Series,” says Karen English, a teacher of 36 years in Revere, a town just north of Boston where nearly 80 percent of students are low-income. “Everybody embraced [the extra funding], and just to have the curriculum and the books and the space made you wanna be here.”

Read more

Commentary

Decision upholding NC’s restrictive voting law is far from the end of the story (UPDATED)

Voter-ID-signThe lengthy ruling yesterday by Judge Thomas Schroeder (a George W. Bush appointee to the federal courts) upholding North Carolina’s restrictive voter ID law is far from the end of the story on the matter. The following statement issued after the decision by advocates from the ACLU of North Carolina and Southern Coalition for Social Justice explains why:

The American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Coalition for Social Justice condemned today’s federal court ruling upholding provisions of North Carolina’s restrictive voting law. The groups are analyzing the court’s decision and considering next steps.

The groups are challenging provisions that eliminate a week of early voting, end same-day registration, and prohibit the counting of out-of-precinct ballots. Thousands of North Carolinians, disproportionately African-Americans, have relied on those provisions to cast their votes in past elections.

“The sweeping barriers imposed by this law undermine voter participation and have an overwhelmingly discriminatory impact on African-Americans. This ruling does not change that reality. We are already examining an appeal,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

The ACLU, ACLU of North Carolina, and Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed the lawsuit in 2013 on behalf of several plaintiffs, including the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, North Carolina Common Cause, and Unifour Onestop Collaborative, and several individuals.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals previously ordered North Carolina to restore same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting for the 2014 elections as the case made its way through the courts; that ruling was ultimately reversed, however, and the provisions remained in effect.

“Today’s ruling is inconsistent with the Fourth Circuit’s decision in 2014, and we’re confident that the voters in this state will eventually be vindicated,” said Southern Coalition for Social Justice senior attorney Allison Riggs.

At federal trial in July 2015, dozens of witnesses spoke of how the law has severely restricted ballot access for the state’s most vulnerable citizens, including low-income voters, those with transportation challenges, and particularly African-American voters. In the 2012 election, 900,000 North Carolinians cast their ballots during the seven days of early voting eliminated by the North Carolina General Assembly – 70 percent of those who voted early were African-American.

The ACLU and Southern Coalition for Social Justice charge the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act.

This morning, Bob Hall, Executive Director of the voting watchdog group Democracy North Carolina offered the following statement: Read more

Commentary

Revealing claim from HB2 supporter: Law is about stopping “unbridled sexual license”

There have been a lot of amusing moments over the last four weeks in North Carolina since the passage of HB2 (“amusing” in the sense that they want to make you laugh so you won’t start crying). There’s been the spectacle of Senate leader Phil “I’ve never met a corporate tax cut that I didn’t like” Berger solemnly informing us that he doesn’t bow down to corporate pressure. There was the laugh-out-loud nonsense of Gov. McCrory and others attributing the actions of scores of major national corporations, nonprofits and governmental bodies — almost all of which employ gaggles of in-house lawyers and lobbyists — to a “misleading smear campaign” by leftist activists.

But perhaps the most outrageously absurd and unintentionally illuminating claim from an HB2 supporter was the one made this past weekend on the editorial pages of Raleigh’s News & Observer by the N.C. Family Policy Council’s John Rustin. Read how Rustin wraps up his op-ed “Cutting through the liberal propaganda on HB2”:

“Opponents of House Bill 2 are mad that the Charlotte City Council was rebuked for its overreach of legal authority. They are mad that HB2 pre-empts their efforts to open public bathrooms and showers to individuals of either sex. And they are mad that HB2 curtailed their efforts to impose a radical social policy of unbridled sexual license on our state. Unfortunately, the media are propagating the smear campaign, and many levelheaded citizens have been confused and misled by it.” (Emphasis supplied.)

Sometimes, you really have to wonder what’s circulating in the minds of the sex-obsessed folks on the religious right.

“Unbridled sexual license”?

What the heck does that even mean? Is it the opposite of “bridled sexual license? And what in the world could it possibly have to do with whether people are discriminated against because of who they are and where they can find a place to use a restroom in peace?

The bottom line: Throughout the HB2 debate, the loudest defenders of the law have been the folks on the religious right, who keep making clear that what they’re really demanding is a state legal framework in which LGBT people are not acknowledged as human beings. This can be seen in the way people like Rustin almost always include terms like sexual orientation and gender identity in quotations (as he did in the N&O essay) to show that they’re not even legitimate descriptive terms.

What this particular essay also reveals, however, is something else that we should have remembered  about the religious right — namely that its age-old obsession with/fixation on sex and the thought that somebody somewhere is enjoying it in a way they find icky or unacceptable is still fully in force. And, at some basic level, that remains what all of the recent commotion in North Carolina is all about.