Commentary

Important anti-Islamophobia rally in downtown Raleigh this Saturday

In today’s toxic environment in which the President of the United States continues to foment hatred and intolerance, more and more people are pushing back in support of traditional American values like love, tolerance, freedom and liberty.

For those in the central North Carolina, there will be a great opportunity to lend one’s voice to this vital cause tomorrow in downtown Raleigh as a coalition operating under the banner “United Against Islamophobia & Racism” gathers near the Legislative Building at 10:00 a.m.

You can learn more and help promote the effort by visiting and sharing the event’s Facebook page.

As activist Manzoor Chema said in an op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer on Wednesday:

“While bigotry and discrimination are employed to breed fear and hatred in the community, we have a choice to build a movement that advances social justice and human rights for all. Any form of discrimination based on one’s ethnicity, religion, class, citizenship, gender or sexuality should be challenged through an intersectional movement. This movement has to bring together the voices and experiences of the communities facing structural and institutional racism, economic crisis and displacement.

We need organized community safety responses led by Muslims, black youth, immigrants and people of color, not unaccountable armed militia groups, as proposed by the Portland GOP chair, that can exploit a moment like this to intimidate and displace people from public spaces. Grassroots people’s assemblies are emerging across the country to build sustainable movements that center on leadership by impacted communities, and allow people from all backgrounds to join a broad movement because we are stronger together. Such a broad-based movement will allow us to bring forward a social transformation and eliminate oppression. In the words of Pakistani poet and freedom -ighter, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, “We shall witness the day when enormous mountains of tyranny will blow away like cotton.”

Commentary, News

New report: Medicaid even more vital in rural areas

There’s more powerful confirmation this morning that rural North Carolinians and rural Americans are voting against their own interests and those of their children to the extent that they are supporting politicians who seek to wreck public health structures like Medicaid. According to a new report produced jointly by the Georgetown Center for Children and Families and the the NC Rural Health Research Program at UNC, Medicaid is an incredibly vital lifeline for rural children, families and  communities. Here are the key findings in “Medicaid in Small Towns and Rural America: A Lifeline for Children, Families and Communities”:

  1. Medicaid covers a larger share of children and families in small towns and rural areas than in large metropolitan areas. In 2014-2015, Medicaid provided health coverage for 45 percent of children and 16 percent of adults in small towns and rural areas, compared to 38 percent and 15 percent, respectively, in metropolitan areas. In nearly all states, a larger share of children and adults living in small towns and rural areas relies on Medicaid than those in metropolitan areas—and is more likely to be affected by increases or decreases in services.
  2. The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion is having a disproportionately positive impact on small towns and rural areas. The rate of uninsured adults in expansion states decreased 11 percentage points in the small towns and rural areas of these states between 2008-2009 and 2014-2015. This is larger than the decrease in metropolitan areas of expansion states (9 percentage points) and larger than the decrease in small towns and rural areas in states that did not accept the expansion (6 percentage points).
  3. The rate of uninsured children in small towns and rural areas declined in the vast majority of states (43 out of 46 states) during the time period examined. The national rate of uninsured children in small towns and rural areas decreased by 3 percentage points. Five states (Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and South Carolina) saw very large declines of at least 8 percentage points between 2008-2009 and 2014-2015. Three of these states (Nevada, Oregon and South Carolina) had the largest percentage point increases in children’s Medicaid coverage among small towns and rural areas.

And this is from a blog post explaining the report by Joan Alker, the Director of the Georgetown Center:

“One of the reasons that rural areas and small towns rely on Medicaid more is because the overall poverty rates are higher and the types of jobs there, such as agriculture or small businesses, are less likely to offer insurance. Read more

Commentary

Some actual facts to know about Trump’s climate policy debacle

The good people at Think Progress have a healthy dose of truth and facts for us this morning that are worth absorbing in light of the prevaricator-in-chief’s announcement yesterday that he will be doing his best to hasten the demise of life on Earth as we know it.

From Samantha Page’s story, “Trump’s argument for withdrawing from Paris agreement contains multi-trillion dollar math error”:

“Trump claimed that U.S. commitments under the Paris accord would cost the country’s GDP $3 trillion, but the report he took that estimate from ‘does not take into account potential benefits from avoided emissions.’

In other words: The study did not account for any benefits of participating in a global plan to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It is a report on climate mitigation that ignores climate change. The report also does not consider the economic benefits to renewable energy industries, nor does it consider the health costs that are associated with fossil fuel pollution.”

And this is from Joe Ramm’s story, “Trump falsely claims Paris deal has a minimal impact on warming”:

“Trump claimed that the Paris climate deal would only reduce future warming in 2100 by a mere 0.2°C. White House talking points further assert that ‘according to researchers at MIT, if all member nations met their obligations, the impact on the climate would be negligible… less than .2 degrees Celsius in 2100.’

The Director of MIT’s System Dynamics Group, John Sterman, and his partner at Climate Interactive, Andrew Jones, quickly emailed ThinkProgress to explain, ‘We are not these researchers and this is not our finding.’

They point out that ‘our business as usual, reference scenario leads to expected warming by 2100 of 4.2°C. Full implementation of current Paris pledges plus all announced mid-century strategies would reduce expected warming by 2100 to 3.3°C, a difference of 0.9°C [1.6°F].’

The 0.2°C estimate used by Trump may be from another MIT group; the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change did have such an estimate in early 2015, before all of the Paris pledges were in. But, their post-Paris 2016 analysis also concluded the impact of the full pledges was closer to 1°C.

In their analysis, Sterman and Jones ‘take all nations at their word that they will fully meet their national commitments. If nations increase their ambition and set future pledges, as is outlined in the agreement, then the positive impact would be even larger.’

This point is key. The Paris commitments not only help the globe avoid the worst-case scenario for total warming and related climate impacts, they keep the best-case scenario open. Indeed, the Paris pledges buy us another decade close to the 2°C (3.6°F) path.”

Of course, none of this should come as any surprise. If President Obama had been against the Paris agreements, Trump would have been for them. As the lead editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer explains:

“The truth is, Donald Trump probably knows or understands very little about climate change or the Paris accord. Read more

Commentary

Trumpism on the march in NC: House budget directs millions to groups that lie to vulnerable women

Donald Trump speaking

President Donald Trump

In an era in which the President of the United States is a serial liar, it probably should come as no surprise that leaders in his party at the state level would funnel public funds to groups for whom dangerous and misleading propaganda is their stock-in-trade. Still it’s always a bit of a shock to see such shameful behavior in action.

Sadly, however, that’s where we are this morning as the North Carolina House of Representatives prepares to vote on a budget bill today that would, under language added in recent days, direct $2.6 million to an anti-abortion advocacy group that masquerades as a supporter of health services to women. Here’s item #76 in the Health and Human Services section of the “money report” that accompanies the proposed budget:

“Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship

Provides funds to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship to purchase durable medical equipment for clinics that apply to the Fellowship for such equipment. Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship may use up to thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) in each year for administrative purposes. Up to $170,000 may be used each year to provide grants to clinics for training on the use of durable medical equipment. The revised net appropriation for the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship is $1.3 million in each year of the biennium.”

As Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship makes clear on its website, the group is connected to scores of so-called “pregnancy care ministries” around the state that exist to dissuade women from seeking abortion services and to urge them to carry pregnancies to term. All of which might be okay at some level if these groups were actually honest and upfront with women about what they’re really in business to do and gave those who walk in the door accurate and unbiased medical information.

As a seminal 2011 report from advocates at the NARAL Pro-Choice NC Foundation (“The Truth Revealed: North Carolina’s Crisis Pregnancy Centers”) made clear, however, that ain’t what these groups are about. This is from that report:

“Unable to shut down legitimate reproductive health clinics, the anti-choice movement built a national network of organizations of generally unlicensed, unregulated organizations posing as comprehensive health-care providers – ‘crisis pregnancy centers.’ Since 2006, the number of CPCs in North Carolina has almost doubled.

NPCNCF identified 122 CPCs in North Carolina, the vast majority of which are not medically licensed facilities and have neither medically trained nor medically supervised personnel on staff. Read more

Commentary

Tillis abandons moderate pretenses; joins science deniers to endorse Trump’s climate policies

There have been a tiny handful of incidents since he went to Washington in 2015 in which North Carolina’s junior senator, Thom Tillis, seemed to at least hint that he might have some semblance of an inclination to stand up to the extremists on radical right.

Early on in the outrageous blockade of Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Tillis bucked conservative powers-that-be for about five minutes by briefly suggesting that Garland should get an actual hearing. He quickly backtracked on the statement, but it was at least somewhat encouraging to know that Tillis had to be told to abandon all decency and honor on the matter rather than doing so naturally and as a matter of instinct.

More recently, the senator uttered at least a few semi-moderate words of concern about Trump’s heinous Muslim ban effort. Again, Tillis’ “objections” amounted to little more than momentary peep, but hey, under the standards in force in Washington now (in which even supposed mavericks like John McCain and Lindsey Graham stick with the Trumpists almost 100% of the time), it was better than nothing.

Unfortunately, for those who may have gotten their hopes up that he might be birthing a new version of himself, the senator returned to the far right-wing fold with vengeance in recent days by urging President Trump to take the horrific action he seems to have taken today: abandoning the Paris Climate Accord. As Yahoo News reported last week:

A group of 22 Republican senators signed a letter urging President Trump to make a “clean break” from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The letter, dated May 25, commends Trump for signing 14 executive orders to roll back regulations established under the Obama administration. It singles out the “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” order for beginning the process of dismantling former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan regulations.

But the many high-profile Republican leaders — including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and Oklahoma Sen. James M. Inhofe — argue that remaining in the Paris Agreement would interfere with rolling back the country’s “regulatory burdens.”

“Because of existing provisions within the Clean Air Act and others embedded in the Paris Agreement, remaining in it would subject the United States to significant litigation risk that could upend your Administration’s ability to fulfill its goal of rescinding the Clean Power Plan. Accordingly, we strongly encourage you to make a clean break from the Paris Agreement,” the letter reads.

To which all a caring and thinking person can say is: Good grief! Even Richard Burr avoided signing this disaster. By lending his name, Tillis has truly aligned himself with what is likely the most dangerous cause of the most dangerous presidential administration in American history. It’s yet another sad day for North Carolina.