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President Obama 4President Obama’s popularity numbers have soared recently and it ought not to be a surprise. Despite being held back for years by the stubborn refusal of conservatives to fund an adequate stimulus effort and being far short of where it ought to be, the national economic recovery continues to advance. Better times generally produce better numbers for the President.

Here’s the other obvious factor in the President’s rising popularity with voters: he’s stopped trying to play nice with the forces of reaction. Instead of sticking to his doomed efforts to find common ground with the forces on the Right who would never agree to anything, he’s started taking the bull by the horns and giving voice to the kinds of positions that the people who elected him have long hoped for: a direct confrontation of greed and inequality, assertive immigration reform, a foreign policy that eschews serving as the world’s self-appointed police force and a renewed commitment to combating climate change.

Even for folks who may disagree with the President on some issues, his decisiveness and principled, strong leadership on these and other issues are clearly what people want and expect from him. Let’s hope the President is buoyed and emboldened by the positive public reaction to this new, more assertive leadership style and that it becomes one of the defining features of the final two years of his presidency.

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Renee EllmersAs Suzanne Buckley of NARAL Pro Choice NC wrote on the main Policy Watch page yesterday, today is the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision — a great time for people committed to freedom and women’s health to recommit themselves to the cause.

And, happily, such efforts can begin with at least a modest celebration this morning: Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of North Carolina and some other GOP women appear to have raised the ire of anti-choice extremists this week by having the temerity to challenge one among many dangerous provisions in an anti-abortion bill that was being advanced in the U.S. House.

This is from the this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“House Republican leaders, faced with an uprising within their ranks over a controversial abortion bill, pulled it Wednesday evening before it was scheduled for a vote Thursday to coincide with the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1974 Supreme Court decision that legalized the procedure.

Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., and Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., had led a group of Republican lawmakers who disagreed with part of a bill that would ban most abortions at 20 weeks or later.

Ellmers and Walorski on Tuesday officially withdrew their support for the bill, and House Republican leaders scrambled to address the concerns of the two lawmakers and a group of other Republicans. Late Wednesday night, the GOP House leadership replaced the bill with one that would end federal funding for abortions.”

The ironically-named North Carolina Values Coalition decried Ellmers’ action as a “betrayal.”

Good for Ellmers. While it would be of a lot better if she would just speak up publicly and renounce the mean-spirited folly of the entire GOP anti-reproductive freedom drive, her recent actions are better than nothing. Let’s hope it’s the start of a more ambitious connection to common sense on the whole issue of reproductive freedom on her part.

Click here to read Suzanne Buckley’s excellent essay.

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Credit Ian Millhiser of Think Progress with the excellent headline that appears above as well as the following story that appeared on the group’s website yesterday:

ROn Tuesday, the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in Holt v. Hobbs, establishing that a Muslim inmate may grow a half-inch beard “in accordance with his religious beliefs,” despite a prison policy prohibiting him from doing so. This result is not particularly surprising. During oral argument the justices appeared sympathetic to the inmate, who listed as “Gregory Houston Holt AKA Abdul Maalik Muhammad.” And Mr. Muhammad had strong legal arguments supporting his case.

In the Court’s majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito convincingly rebuts the prison’s justifications for requiring Muhammad to shave. Among other things, the prison claimed that an inmate might hide contraband, such as a razor or illegal drugs, in their beard if they were permitted to grow one. According to Alito, however, the prison’s claim that an inmate might smuggle items in a half-inch beard, is “hard to take seriously.” The prison, for example, does not require inmates to shave their heads, so “it is hard to see why an inmate would seek to hide contraband in a 1/2-inch beard rather than in the longer hair on his head.”

Though Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joins Alito’s opinion, she also penned a two sentence concurring opinion explaining why Tuesday’s decision is a proper application of an individual’s religious freedoms — and why she believes that the Court’s birth control decision in Hobby Lobby was erroneous. “Unlike the exemption this Court approved in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.,” Ginsburg explains, “accommodating petitioner’s religious belief in this case would not detrimentally affect others who do not share petitioner’s belief. On that understanding, I join the Court’s opinion.” Read More

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Tommy Tucker 2The last time any significant number of North Carolinians were aware of state Senator Tommy Tucker was probably a couple of years ago when the Waxhaw Republican made some incredibly arrogant statements to people trying to inform lawmakers of the truth about some controversial issues.

“I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to sit down,” was Tucker’s now infamous quote.

Now, Tucker is back in the news making another clueless and borderline offensive remark — this one regarding the victims of the state’s horrific forced sterilization program of the 20th Century and the new and ridiculously inadequate compensation program for victims.

As the Charlotte Observer’s Jim Morrill reported this morning, advocates for eugenics victims are pointing out the existence of a truck-sized loophole in the compensation law. Under the law, hundreds, if not thousands, of people are being denied compensation because their sterilizations took place in county facilities rather than state facilities.

This is, by any fair assessment, outrageous. To think that victims will have to go to the expense and trouble of taking up their compensation claims against individual  counties after decades of effort to get a state compensation law through is simply astounding. Unfortunately, good ol’ Senator Tucker doesn’t see it that way. This is from the Observer article:

“Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Union County Republican who co-chairs the Senate’s appropriations committee on Health and Human Services, said ‘the state’s done its part.’

‘They should go to the county where they were sterilized, not the state,’ he said of those victims. ‘The state’s done its part to right the wrongs that we did, but the county should be responsible for what it did.’

Uh, pardon us Senator, but the last time we checked, the counties of North Carolina were creatures of the state. Moreover, forced sterilization was, by any fair assessment, a monstrous state-supported initiative with disastrous statewide results. The victims have already been denied justice for far too long and the compensation packages available are already inadequate. That the state of North Carolina would attempt play a game of bait and switch with such an abused group of human beings is almost beyond comprehension.

Please do the right thing, Senator. Help get all of these injured people the money they deserve ASAP and then just sit down and be quiet.

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Seats still remain for the first Crucial Conversation luncheon of 2015 next Wednesday – “Fraud in the workplace: How numerous North Carolina employers are cheating their competitors and stealing from employees and taxpayers (and what should be done about it)”

Click here to register

There’s a multimillion dollar crime spree underway in North Carolina. Unfortunately, save for the efforts of a few intrepid journalists and lawyers, it’s a problem that’s mostly being ignored and swept under the rug. The issue is wage theft and the “misclassification” of workers by employers. Mandy Locke

Please join us as we explore this huge and poorly understood problem and how state lawmakers and regulators might properly address it with award winning Raleigh News & Observer investigative reporter Mandy Locke.

Locke will be joined by Raleigh businessman Doug Burton, President and Owner of Whitman Masonry. Burton is one of the numerous North Carolina employers who treats his workers fairly, plays by the rules and is regularly disadvantaged as a result of the state’s lax law enforcement in this area.

When: Wednesday, January 28th, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com