Commentary
Davidson die in

Photo: John Deem, Lake Norman Citizen

John Deem, the Senior Editor of a suburban Charlotte community newspaper called the Lake Norman Citizen wrote a thoughtful opinion piece this week about a “die in” protest that Davidson College students conducted during their community’s recent Christmas festival to protest the nation’s epidemic of police killings. (He also took the photo at left.)

One might quibble with a point or two that Deem makes, but the spirit of his piece and his hopeful support for the Davidson students is a welcome addition to the discussion.

As Deem notes:

“Each of the protestors Saturday wore the name of a person who died at the hands of a police officer. While that didn’t necessarily imply that each cop in those examples was guilty of using undue force, it did illustrate a trend that was troubling to the students, and to many other Americans.

The underlying reasons for that trend are the subject of intense debate, of course. The reactions range from, ‘Don’t cause trouble in the first place and you won’t have a problem,’ to, ‘I don’t have to do anything and the cops will still hassle me because I’m black.’ From, ‘You can’t truly understand the decisions a police officer has to make until you have to make them yourself,’ to, ‘You can’t truly understand what it’s like to be black and feel targeted by the cops just because of the color of your skin.’

Most of us live in a world comfortably between those extremes. And most police officers of all races, despite some tragic exceptions, conduct themselves honorably. Tying all cops to those who employ excessive force is its own form of discrimination.

One thing we can all agree on is that, for a variety of reasons, a racial disconnect persists in America. The good news is that if some of  our most promising young people are willing to spend their Saturday night lying on a wet street in Davidson in an effort to demonstrate their concern over an issue — as remote as it might seem to most of us — then there’s hope that they, as future leaders, will someday be part of the solution.”

Click here to read the entire essay.

News

justice2What can you do with a drunken lawyer?  Last night Georgia executed Robert Wayne Holsey,  a man of questionable intellectual capacity convicted for killing a sheriff’s deputy in 1995 — despite the fact that his court-appointed lawyer failed miserably in his defense and admitted to drinking up to a quart of vodka in the evenings while trying the case.

Ken Armstrong of The Marshall Project discusses the sad truth in response to his own question — “What Can You Do With a Drunken Lawyer” — that very few defendants get a new trial due to their attorney’s incapacity.

Says Armstrong:

One reason is the test that courts use to evaluate such claims. A defendant must show not only that his lawyer was incompetent, but that the trial’s outcome would likely have been different had the attorney been more capable (and sober). This second prong has been used to defeat so many claims of ineffective assistance of counsel that some practitioners consider the whole exercise virtually pointless. One attorney put it this way: “We just simply put a mirror under the lawyer’s nose, and if it clouds up, that’s effective assistance of counsel.”

You can send a kid to Harvard for what it cost to keep him incarcerated.  Also at the Marshall Project is a report out by the Justice Policy Institute on the costs of jailing youth offenders entitled “Calculating the Full Price Tag for Youth Incarceration.”

“We could send a [juvenile justice youth] to Harvard for [what we pay for incarceration] and we don’t get very good outcomes,” one state family service director said in the report.

The price tag for confinement  in North Carolina, according to the report? Up to $437.67 per day for one juvenile — or $39,390 for three months; $78,781 for six months; and $159,750 for a year.

The mysterious case of Bobby Chen.  In early November, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case brought by a man — acting as his own attorney — who had sued the city of Baltimore for allegedly razing his row house to hide damage caused by the city’s demolition of a house next door.  As the Wall Street Journal reports here, Bobby Chen asked the court to address his inability to get court extensions of time because of difficulties serving papers on city officials.

Mr. Chen filed his petition to the Supreme Court in March. Parts of it were hand written. His grammar was often incorrect. And he made a motion to submit the case without paying the court’s $300 filing fee because he said he had virtually no money. Despite incredibly long odds, his appeal caught the court’s eye. The justices announced on Nov. 7 that they would hear Mr. Chen’s case.

The problem now? Nobody can find Mr. Chen — who has until Dec. 22 to file his opening brief.

 

Commentary

windfarmIn case you missed it, the good people at Environment North Carolina released another very encouraging report last week on the growth and potential of renewable energy — this time focusing on wind. The report is entitled “More Wind, Less Warming: How American Wind Energy’s Rapid Growth Can Help Solve Global Warming” and it’s worth a few minutes of your time — both to lift your spirits and to help prepare you for your next debate with the fossil fuels lover next door.

This is from the executive summary:

“Wind power is on the rise across America. The United States generates 24 times more electricity from wind power than we did in 2001, providing clean, fossil fuel-free energy that helps the nation do its part in the fight against global warming.

American wind power is already significantly reducing global warming pollution. In 2013 alone, wind power averted 132 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions — as much as would be produced by 34 typical coal-fired power plants. But with the United States and the world needing to move toward a future of 100 percent clean energy in order to prevent the worst impacts of global warming, America must do much more.

If America were to take advantage of just a fraction of its wind energy potential to get 30 percent of its electricity from the wind by 2030, the nation could cut carbon emissions from power plants to 40 percent below 2005 levels. That much wind power would help states meet and exceed the carbon dioxide emission reductions called for by the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft Clean Power Plan, and help the nation meet its commitment to cut U.S. carbon pollution by 26 to 28 percent by 2025.

Power plants are the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. By implementing policies that increase the production of wind energy, both on- and offshore, America can help put the nation and the world on a course to prevent the worst impacts of global warming.”

The bottom line: Wind energy can become a huge source of power in the U.S. and federal, state and local governments can make a big difference in pushing it forward in order to speed the nation’s transition from carbon to renewables. Let’s keep building the momentum.

NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina’s metro areas have been the location of the strongest job growth since the Great Recession.  But as the October 2014 county data released yesterday demonstrate, the improvements for metro areas have been insufficient to make up for the lost ground during the Great Recession.

Instead, 13 of the state’s 14 metro areBTC - Metro Area Recession Watch October 2014as still have a higher number of unemployed persons than they did before the Recession began.  Two metro areas–Hickory and Rocky Mount–have actually seen the number of employed persons continue persist below December 2007 levels.

And while improvements year over year have been made in job growth–the greatest growth occurring in Raleigh-Cary, Asheville and Wilmington–year over year the labor force has declined in eight of fourteen metro areas signalling an unhealthy level of employment opportunities.

There remains a long way to go for the economy to achieve a full and sustainable recovery if the variation in labor market experience persists to such a great degree even within metro areas of the state.

Commentary

Richard Burr 2It’s nothing new for Senator Richard Burr to express embarrassing views or to engage in inexplicable political behavior, but the senator’s comments yesterday on the horrific findings in the new report on the CIA’s un-American torture program hit a new low.

As you can read for yourself here and here, the torture report details a long, disturbing (and ineffective!) list of disgraceful actions taken in the name of the American people. Raleigh’s News & Observer rightfully described the actions of the CIA and its contractors in this morning’s lead editorial as “brutal and illegal.”

Sadly, however, Burr, the soon-to-be chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, opted to turn the findings into partisan political fodder by describing them as “a blatant smear on the Bush administration,” and unnecessary because  the information was “already known by the vast majority of Americans.”

You got that? People acting in our name did this:

“CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families—to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to “cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.”

and this:

“(1) the attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap, (5) cramped confinement, (6) wall standing, (7) stress positions, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) waterboard, (10) use of diapers, (11) use of insects, and (12) mock burial.”

but according to Richard Burr, it’s no biggie and shining the light of day on such horrific information is “political.”

One shudders to imagine what kind of behavior Burr would be outraged by. It’s a sad state of affairs that a man with such an off-kilter moral compass now stands near the top of the American foreign policy establishment.