Author

Commentary

As North Carolina endures the absurd, never-ending ad blitz of a U.S. Senate campaign, here are two quick, must reads that explain: 1) just how far out of hand the wholesale sell-off of our democracy to the top 1% has gotten and 2) what we ought to be doing about it.

Number One is a great, interactive post from the the Center for Public Integrity entitled “Who’s buying the Senate?”  If you follow the link, you can check out a partial list if who is paying (sort of anyway) for the remarkable flood of thousands of junk TV ads (there have already been nearly 50,000 of them on TV  in North Carolina (not including local cable and many other media).

Meanwhile, Number Two is this editorial from yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch that tells you what we ought to be doing to rein in this situation and reclaim control of our democracy – namely, pass the “Democracy for All” amendment that would reestablish the constitutionality of limits on campaign finance.  The editorial is entitled “While America sleeps, plutocrats are stealing its government.” To quote:

Thanks to a series of wretched decisions by the Supreme Court, effective political speech now belongs only to those who can afford it. What’s more, donors can easily keep their names secret.

The court has ruled that money is a form of speech that cannot be abridged. But as Justice John Paul Stevens wrote so succinctly in 2000, upholding Missouri’s campaign finance limits, “Money is property; it is not speech….”

Given the sordid record of the Rehnquist and Roberts courts on campaign finance issues, Democratic Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Michael Bennet of Colorado saw the obvious solution as amending the Constitution to make it clear that democracy is not plutocracy. But that requires the cooperation of the party that benefits from the status quo. When Mr. Udall needed a Republican co-author for an op-ed commentary about his amendment, he had to go Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who retired from the Senate in 1997.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other agents of the plutocrats are couching the vote on SJR 19 as a free-speech issue. Mr. McConnell appears to think that the public will be fooled, or that it doesn’t care. He went along with Majority Leader Harry Reid’s, D-Nev., plans to spend this week debating the amendment.

Don’t be fooled. This is not about free speech rights. It is about property rights, specifically whether those with the most property should have the biggest say in the way government is run. Without enough money to hire consultants and staff and to barrage voters with television ads, candidates for federal and statewide offices — and increasingly, local offices — have virtually no chance of being elected.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Commentary

Health-Reform-SBFinding irony and contradictions in the arguments espoused by Obamacare haters is not a difficult thing to do. Heck, one of the nation’s most powerful opponents of the new law is trying to force its repeal even as he embraces its remarkably positive impact in his home state!

That said, a new issue brief from the Center for Economic and Policy Research points to an especially interesting and problematic finding for opponents who continue to lambaste the law as an “assault on freedom”: the law is actually enhancing freedom. It’s doing this for millions of average Americans in a vitally important way by expanding their choices when it comes to how, when and where they work. Here’s the introduction:

“Most of the discussion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has focused on the extent to which it has extended health insurance coverage to the formerly uninsured. This is certainly an important aspect of the law. However by allowing people to buy insurance through the exchanges and extending Medicaid coverage to millions of people,
the ACA also largely ends workers’ dependence on their employer for insurance. This gives tens of millions of people the option to change their job, to work part-time, or take time off to be with young children or family members in need of care, or to retire early. Read More

Commentary
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Image: www.savehofmannforest.org

This morning’s lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer gets it right in critiquing N.C. State’s proposal to sell tens of thousands of acres of forest in eastern North Carolina to developers. While crediting the university with scaling back its original plan to sell of the whole thing for bulldozing purposes, the editorial rightfully notes that the new plan (to sell part to developers and another part to a company that would treat the rest as a kind of timber farm) is still a cause for concern, As the paper notes:

The best plan for Hofmann’s future was voiced on the opposite page earlier this month by former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, long a conservationist and a respected attorney. Meeker believes the State of North Carolina or an “environmental group” should buy the forest and set it up for permanent conservation. Either the state or such a group could pay for the forest in installments and reap the benefit of selling those training rights to the military.

Meeker notes the money involved, now at roughly $130 million, would in installments be fairly small inside a state budget of $21 billion. The university would get money for its environmental departments, and the forest would be preserved.

Of course, such a plan would probably require state leaders to step up to the plate and do two things the current group hates to do: spend money on higher education and protect the environment. The N&O and former Mayor Meeker advance a good idea, but we’re not holding our breath that Gov. McCrory or legislative leaders will heed the advice.
For more on the efforts of activists to save this important natural resource visit:  http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/save-hofmann-forest-from/ and https://www.facebook.com/SaveHofmannForest
Commentary

Voting rightsThe good people at Democracy North Carolina released a new and detailed report today that documents the negative impact that North Carolina’s new “monster voting law” has already had on voter participation. The report actually provides the names, hometowns and zip codes of 454 voters who were denied the right to vote in the May primary, but who would have been allowed to vote under the rules governing the 2012 election. This is from the report, which is entitled “Be Prepared: Hundreds of Voters Lost Their Votes in 2014 Primary Due to New Election Rules”:

We analyzed the provisional ballots cast in the 2014 primary by more than 400 voters whose votes would have counted in 2012, but who were rejected this year because of two changes in the rules: (1) these voters were unable to register during the Early Voting period because they couldn’t use the old “same-day registration” law; or (2) they were unable to cast a ballot on Election Day outside of their own polling place because they couldn’t use the old “out-of-precinct voting” law.

Voters denied a chance to have their voices heard include a veteran returning from Afghanistan whose registration was incorrectly terminated while he was away; a first-time voter who registered at the DMV, but that registration didn’t reach the local board of elections; a precinct judge assigned to a precinct other than her own who couldn’t leave to vote in her home precinct; a disabled senior who was driven to a friend’s polling place on Election Day; a nurse who temporarily registered her car in a nearby county while working at its hospital for nine months; a college student who registered during a voter drive but her application was not recorded; and a new couple in town who mailed in their registration but it did not reach the county board of elections before the registration deadline…. Read More

Commentary

If there’s anything good coming out of the sickening situation involving former NFL running back Ray Rice in recent days, it’s the growing national chorus that much more must be done to end the scandal that is this nation’s record when it comes to violence against women.

Along these same lines and in case you missed it, check out this morning’s lead commentary on the main Policy Watch site by local attorney Chavi Khanna Koneru “Sexual assault on college campuses: The need for federal legislation.” 

As the article explains, UNC Chapel Hill is at the epicenter of what is clearly a national epidemic.

UNC is currently under investigation by the federal government for mishandling sexual assault complaints. However, the problem is not limited to UNC. More than 60 other colleges around the country are also being investigated and students are continuing to come forward with personal stories of unsatisfactory treatment of their complaints.

The mishandling of sexual assault complaints by colleges is a longstanding problem, but these recent stories dramatize the lax federal oversight that allows these matters to continue to be improperly addressed. Universities often underreport the number of sexual assault cases on their campuses and fail to properly investigate complaints yet there have been no effective sanctions against the schools for these blatant violations.

One partial solution to the problem lies in the passage of federal legislation that provide feds with some real tools to force colleges to replace the “good ol’ boy” systems that far too many still employ with respect to such matters — especially when high profile athletic departments are involved. As the author notes:

Read More