Roy Cooper 3

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper

Since Gov. McCrory was too busy winging his way to Las Vegas for a GOP governors’ confab on Tuesday to make a White House phone briefing on the Syrian refugee crisis, it’s too bad that he didn’t arrange for Attorney General Roy Cooper to sit in on the call for him. If Cooper had been able to join, he would have learned why his apparent echoing of McCrory’s call for a “pause” in the settlement of the refugees was just as ill-conceived and disappointing as the Governor’s.

As WRAL reported last night, Cooper said the following yesterday on the subject:

“As chief law enforcement officer of North Carolina, I support asking the federal government to pause refugee entries to make sure we have the most effective screening process possible so our humanitarian efforts are not hijacked. At the same time, we must not let political fear-mongering on this issue divert our attention and resources from stopping terrorists who may already be here or who are trying to get into our country in other ways.”

While Cooper deserves some credit for calling out the fear-mongering that’s been rampant in so many quarters in recent days, his statement ultimately smacks of a politician trying to have things both ways. As multiple experts have explained, there are no good reasons to stop admitting Syrian refugees into North Carolina. Attorney Kate Woomer-Deters of the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center (the parent organization of NC Policy Watch) put it this way in a fine op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Refugees, by definition, are people who enter the United States already having been vetted and allowed to arrive legally within our borders. Under current law, refugees must prove to the U.S. government that they have faced persecution themselves and that they have not persecuted others. In other words, these are the very people fleeing the oppressive conditions and violence in their home countries that terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaida have created.”

In other words, if politicians want to call for a “pause” in accepting refugees so that they can appear virile and appease ill-informed public opinion, we may have to live with it, but no one should harbor the illusion that such a pause will have any real impact on the ground other than to enhance human suffering.

Commentary, News
Koch brothers

Charles and David Koch – Image:

As multiple news outlets have reported of late, the controversial and conservative fossil fuel magnates Charles and David Koch have spurred a rising tide of controversy in recent years with dozens of gifts to universities around the nation. Moreover, as The Atlantic reported last month in “Spreading the Free-Market Gospel: What’s new and interesting about the Koch brothers’ approach to funding academics” there is clearly a method to their largess:

“Last year, a staffer for Charles and David Koch’s network of philanthropic institutions laid out the billionaire brothers’ strategy to spread their views on economic freedom.

Political success, Kevin Gentry told a crowd of elite supporters attending the annual Koch meeting in Dana Point, California, begins with reaching young minds in college lecture halls, thereby preparing bright, libertarian-leaning students to one day occupy the halls of political power.

‘The [Koch] network is fully integrated, so it’s not just work at the universities with the students, but it’s also building state-based capabilities and election capabilities and integrating this talent pipeline,’ he said.”

Click here to check out a database that demonstrates just how broadly their tentacles have already spread.

Edward Lopez

Prof. Edward Lopez

Now, comes word that the Kochs have offered to make a UNC system school — Western Carolina University in Cullowhee — one of their largest university gift recipients. Under a proposal currently under consideration by WCU administrators, the Charles Koch Foundation would give $2 million to the university to establish the WCU “Center for Study of Free Enterprise.” The faculty member driving the process appears to be Economics Department Professor Edward Lopez, who also boasts the title of “BB&T Distinguished Professor of Capitalism.” Lopez, who gave the “Friedman Legacy Lecture” this summer at the John Locke Foundation, is a graduate of the Kochs’ largest university grantee, George Mason University, and an energetic proponent of “free market” economic theories.

While accepting one of the Kochs’ largest gifts in the country to promote conservative economic theory is, for some, controversial in and of itself, what has added extra impetus to the debate at WCU in recent weeks is the fact that the grant is contingent upon the university kicking in another $1.4 million of its own. Read More


State Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry told members of the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations Wednesday that he was repeatedly reminded of the political donations made by a McCrory supporter, but said he did nothing to show favoritism to Graeme Keith Sr.

Sec. Perry told legislators that the $3 million private prison contract awarded last year to Keith was an effort to find savings in the budget, not a “quid pro quo” arrangement based on past campaign contributions.

Asked to explain the governor’s role at an earlier meeting with Keith in Charlotte, Perry said McCrory served to mediate “as he should do in bringing jobs, and more private sector jobs. I saw it completely proper and good of him.”

Still Sec. Perry made it clear his own staff did not feel the extension of the private maintenance contract would save the state much money, or improve safety at the correctional institutions.

As for his own actions, Perry, a former FBI agent, told the commission he did not feel a duty to report Keith’s comments seeking payback or favoritism for his political contributions:

“I know where the line is. I’ve worked those cases.”

The FBI continues to interview state officials about the contract. Perry declined to comment further about their investigation.

Click below to watch a portion of Sec. Perry’s exchange with House Minority Leader Larry Hall.

YouTube Preview Image

As reported here this week:

“A Lake Lure charter school suspended all of its extra-curricular clubs last week after controversy erupted over a new club that supports lesbian, gay and transgender students.

The board of directors for Lake Lure Classical Academy, which serves students from kindergarten through high school in Rutherford County community, voted for the temporary suspension of extra-curricular activities Thursday.”

Today, the ACLU of North Carolina called on the school to reverse its decision:

“Lake Lure Classical Academy (LLCA) should promptly rescind its ban on all student-led noncurricular groups, including an LGBTQ+ student organization that was recently formed to promote tolerance and equality for all students, according to a letter sent today by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) to school officials.

At its November 12 meeting, the LLCA Board of Directors voted to suspend all student-run clubs after some community members challenged the new LGBTQ+ club. In today’s letter, ACLU-NCLF Legal Director Chris Brook explains that the federal Equal Access Act forbids schools from permitting some student groups while barring others. LLCA has a history of allowing noncurricular students organizations, including a campus Christian organization, Raptors for Christ, that has met on campus for five years.

“The LGBTQ+ club does not seek special treatment,” Brook writes in the letter. “They simply seek to be treated the same as other student groups on campus, a right guaranteed to them by the Equal Access Act.”

Read the entire letter by clicking here.


[This post has been updated — scroll down for the post script.]

As The Nation reports this morning, Gov. McCrory’s unfortunate posturing on Syrian refugees bears a striking resemblance to what other right-wing governors and politicians around the country are saying:

“The growing US backlash against Syrian refugees continued to escalate on Tuesday, as at least 27 governors announced that they would close their states to asylum seekers fleeing that country’s civil war.

GOP presidential hopefuls, meanwhile, sought to one-up one another in ways to limit the number of refugees the United States takes in from Syria and the greater Middle East. Senator Ted Cruz called for admission to this country to be limited to Syrian Christians, a position former Florida governor Jeb Bush seemed to adopt over the weekend. On Monday, Senator Rand Paul announced that he would be proposing legislation to suspend visas for refugees from Syria and 30 other countries.”

Meanwhile, as Sue Sturgis reports at Facing South, the Guv is already attempting to raise campaign funds off his stance.

“McCrory apparently also believes the issue makes for winning politics. The same day the governor called for a halt to Syrian refugees being resettled in his state, his re-election committee posted an appeal to its Facebook page calling for ‘NO SYRIAN REFUGEES IN NC’ and linking to the campaign’s contribution page.”

Sigh…this seems unlikely to get less ugly anytime soon.

P.S. on  a more encouraging note, the libertarian conservative website Reason is featuring an article that blasts the political fear mongering. To quote:

“When defending gun rights, conservatives point out that when guns are outlawed only outlaws have guns. The same logic applies to fleeing Syrian refugees: If ISIS victims are banned from America, only ISIS will enter.

But logic doesn’t seem to be driving the conservative response to the refugee crisis in the wake of the Paris attacks. Fear and naked politics is….

Simply shutting down the program won’t stop jihadis from finding their way to the United States. It’s their innocent victims who’ll suffer. This won’t make America, the land of the brave and free, any safer — just a whole lot more ashamed of itself when the fear abates and sanity returns.”