Commentary, Courts & the Law

THIS is the person Donald Trump has nominated to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the nation’s #2 court

As we reported in this space back in November, Donald Trump’s relentless assault on the federal courts continues in the aftermath of the Brett Kavanaugh debacle. The clear lesson that he and Republican senators learned: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

The latest evidence of this hard reality: Neomi Rao — Trump’s nominee to take Kavanaugh’s spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the nation’s second highest court, who had her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee today.  Yesterday, court watchers at the Alliance for Justice released a detailed report on Rao and it’s not an encouraging picture that they paint.

AFJ:  Rao Should Not Be Confirmed  

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 4, 2019  – Alliance for Justice today released a research report on the record of Neomi Rao, President Donald Trump’s nominee to take the D.C. Circuit court seat formerly held by Brett Kavanaugh.  AFJ President Nan Aron made the following statement:

“Neomi Rao’s record of offensive statements about women, sexual assault survivors, LGBTQ people, people of color and the environment is matched only by her track record of advancing federal government policies that are deeply harmful to these same communities and interests.  It only makes matters worse that she is being named to the nation’s second-highest court and to the seat once held by Brett Kavanaugh, who has faced credible allegations of sexual abuse. Senators should understand that a vote to confirm Neomi Rao is a slap in the face to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Among other things, the AFJ report finds:

  • Rao’s writings blaming sexual assault on survivors, rather than perpetrators, foreshadow her work as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a government office that is taking a major role in rolling back Title IX protections for survivors of campus sexual assault.
  • Rao has criticized the Violence Against Women Act, calling it a “grandstanding” statute.
  • Rao wrote critically about women’s full participation in society, stating that “in exchange for access into the working world and sexual freedom, women have lost much of the previous caring and affection of men.”
  • At OIRA, Rao halted a data-collection program designed to gather information on the pay disparity between genders, as a step toward remedying it.
  • Rao wrote disparagingly about racial justice, saying that Yale “drops its standards only for a few minorities, some legacies and a football player here or there.” Under Rao, OIRA is working with Department of Housing and Urban Development to roll back protections against race-based housing discrimination.
  • Rao has vocally opposed marriage equality and has written critically about the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor, which struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
  • Rao has writings critical of LGBTQ rights, and under her leadership, OIRA is finalizing a rule that would allow health care providers to refuse care to LGBTQ patients on the basis of “conscientious objections.”
  • Rao has written to defend “dwarf-tossing,” a degrading practice in which participants throw little people for sport or entertainment. The organization Little People of America wrote to the Senate opposing Rao’s confirmation on the basis of her views on dwarf-tossing.
  • Rao’s record shows that she is eager to undermine the power of government agencies to create and enforce public protections for consumers, the environment, workers, and health and safety.  She has argued that agencies should have far less power and in favor of a decades-old, discredited legal doctrine (the nondelegation doctrine) that would gut the recognition of agencies’ expertise and authority in their fields.
  • Rao, like many other Trump nominees, believes Presidents are entitled to very expansive and wide-ranging powers.  She believes that Presidents can overrule the other two coequal branches of government. She believes independent agencies should be under a president’s control, and she has also been critical of the independent counsel statute.   Her views suggest that she would not act as an independent check on abuses of power by President Trump.

The full report can be found here: www.afj.org/Rao

Commentary, Education

Forsyth County schoolteacher skewers conservative spin on teacher turnover and attrition numbers

As Clayton Henkel reported in yesterday’s Monday Numbers feature, the issue of school teacher turnover and attrition is back in the news again after the release of the latest edition of The State of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina.

Those endeavoring to make sense of the new numbers would do well to check out the assessment provided yesterday by veteran Forsyth County schoolteacher and regular Policy Watch contributor Stuart Egan on his blog Caffeinated Rage. As Egan explains, the numbers spurred conservative education analyst Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation to argue that the new numbers show that attrition is on the decline and that, therefore, its a myth that thousands of teachers feel disrespected by state leaders.

Egan quotes Stoops:

If teachers truly felt “disrespected” by Republican legislative policies, one could argue that they would be leaving the profession in greater numbers, pursuing the plentiful opportunities supplied by the Trump economic boom.”

Here’s Egan in reply:

Odd that he simply look at the attrition percentages and automatically conclude what he did.

Beginning teachers had a higher rate of attrition than veteran teachers although all of those “historic” raises targeted those teachers in the early years of their careers. But those teachers will never get career status or graduate degree pay like many veteran teachers do as of now. Their retirement maybe has not vested or they are young enough to realize that living on a teacher’s salary may not be as easy in their veteran years as one might have hoped.

Teach For America teachers show a high attrition rate as it is commonly known that most only stay in the profession for 2-5 years. Just ask our state superintendent.

Those numbers do not show the transfer rate of teachers who may go from one county to another LEA that might offer a substantially higher local teacher supplement.

And is it not ironic that after the cut-off date for the data collection for the report there was a march of over 20,000 educators in Raleigh to advocate for public schools? Stoops may cite a victory in the fact that the GOP kept majorities in a gerrymandered state, but that is nothing more than a refusal to  look at the the reality more closely….

But the best rebuttal to the “teachers complain too much when so much ‘good’ is happening” comes from long time education activist and public school advocate John deVille. He articulates: Read more

Commentary

Fayetteville Observer: Time to get serious about rising sea levels

Be sure to check out a new and on-the-money editorial today in the Fayetteville Observer about the hard reality posed by sea level rise, In “How long can we keep shoveling sand against the tides?” the authors explain that North Carolina beach communities are once more in the midst of their nearly annual effort to effect what’s politely referred to as “beach renourishment.”

The big dredge and heavy equipment have arrived in New Hanover County, where an $18 million beach renourishment project is about to begin. It’s a regular event in the towns of Carolina and Kure Beach, as it is in most of the East Coast’s communities with sandy beaches. Storms take a heavy toll. So do currents that run along the shoreline. It’s normal — barrier beaches naturally move and change configuration with tides, currents and storms. But when billions of dollars’ worth of real estate sits on those beaches, government works to protect them, periodically pumping sand off the ocean floor and onto eroding beaches.

That’s an especially big project this year, because Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence last year washed away beaches and sand dunes behind them in many places.

Next month, a big beach restoration project will begin in Carteret County, where they’ll pump more than 900,000 cubic yards of sand onto hurricane-depleted beaches. That only begins to undo damage from Hurricane Florence, which washed away about 3.2 million cubic yards of sand.

But as the editorial also points out, it’s increasingly clear that this pattern simply cannot continue forever as it only partially masks a serious problem that isn’t going to go away. Here’s the fine conclusion:

Some coastal experts say it’s time for the population to begin moving back from the beaches. The costs of continually rebuilding beaches, homes, commercial properties, highways and other infrastructure is growing steadily and at some point will be unsupportable. We doubt most people in coastal communities are ready to take that advice, but it is time for them — and for government at all levels — to take a hard look at rising sea levels and the incidence of more and stronger storms and calculate the costs going forward.

Shoveling sand against the tide has always been an apt metaphor for futility. And now, along much of our coastline, it’s a way of life. How long can afford it? What can we do to strengthen infrastructure? And who’s going to pay those bills going forward? We need to have that conversation.

Let’s hope Republican legislative leaders, who have long buried their heads in the sand on the issues of climate change and sea level rise, are paying attention.

Commentary, News

Report: NC at the bottom of national rankings for LGBTQ equality

The Washington, DC-based Human Rights Campaign released its 2018 “State Equality Index” (SEI) last Friday and, to the surprise of no one, North Carolina was ranked at the bottom of the national pack, along with 27 other states that, for the most part, have nowhere to go but up when it comes to this critical aspect of human rights.

This is from the release that accompanied the report:

The SEI assesses statewide LGBTQ-related legislation and policies in the areas of parenting laws and policies, relationship recognition and religious refusal laws, non-discrimination laws and policies, hate crime laws, youth-related laws and policies and health and safety laws and policies. Based on that review, the SEI assigns states to one of four distinct categories:

  • Thirteen states and the District of Columbia are in the highest-rated category, “Working Toward Innovative Equality”: California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington
  • Five states are in the category “Solidifying Equality”: Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico
  • Five states are in the category “Building Equality”: Hawaii, Indiana, New Hampshire, Utah, Wisconsin
  • Twenty-Seven states are in the lowest-rated category “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality”: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming

HRC’s full State Equality Index report, including detailed scorecards for every state; a comprehensive review of 2017 state legislation; and a preview of the 2018 state legislative session is available online at www.hrc.org/sei.

The report gave North Carolina a zero for its lack of forward-looking policies in eight categories:

Housing – State does not prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Employment – State does not prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Hate Crimes – State does not have a law that addresses hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Public Accommodations – State does not prohibit discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Education – State does not have a law that addresses discrimination against students based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Transgender Healthcare – State has neither a ban on insurance exclusions for transgender healthcare nor does it provide transgender-inclusive health benefits to state employees.

Gender Marker Change On Identification Documents -State has no laws or policies that facilitate a gender marker change on either driver’s licenses or birth certificates.

Conversion Therapy -This state has no restrictions on so-called “conversion therapy.”

Click here to read a detailed report card on North Carolina.