Pretty low, according to the editorial board of the Winston-Salem Journal. An editorial posted over the weekend highlighted the dreadful/shameless effort of far right social conservatives led by Rep. Paul Stam and his protege, Senator Chad Barefoot (both of Wake County), to slip in a last minute provision that would have repealed all sorts of local ordinances — including some that ban wrongful discrimination against LGBT citizens, seniors and veterans. Here’s the Journal:

“Before ending its session early Wednesday morning, members of the legislature took one more crack at government overreach, trying to pass measures that would limit the authority and decision-making ability of local city and county governments. And they did so through underhanded methods that should put them to shame.

Members of a conference committee led by Sen. Chad Barefoot and Rep. Paul Stam — a panel of House and Senate members that is supposed to hash out the differences between their bills — inserted new language into an old bill, then used a procedural maneuver to send it to the Rules Committee, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported. From there, the bill would have gone to the House floor for a vote before members could absorb its implications…

If passed, it could have overhauled a wide range of nondiscrimination ordinances, housing regulations and workplace regulations that some cities and counties have adopted or may adopt. It would have banned local ordinances to establish a higher minimum wage. It would have voided local ordinances governing housing and rental practices, possibly affecting Winston-Salem’s efforts to encourage housing diversity, Mayor Allen Joines told The Associated Press….

It’s hard to discern a motive for this attempt at tying local governments’ hands, beyond simply exerting more and more control — which seems to be motive enough for this legislature, as seen by previous attempts this session to restructure local elections and redraw districts to Republicans’ advantage. The legislation would have hit the LGBT community and the poor, making their lives more difficult than they already are.

It also seems to be common practice now to try to sneak these changes through rather than permit debate….

Fortunately, the legislation failed, but we condemn these repeated underhanded tactics. This isn’t the way democracy is supposed to work.”

Unfortunately, such deceptive maneuvers are increasingly the tactics of choice on Jones Street, where not only does the current crop of lawmakers have little use for the public structures and systems of good government, they also have little use for the rules of transparency and openness that make it work properly.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary, News

Dan ForestYesterday was a wild and wacky day (and night) in the already wacky world of North Carolina policy and politics as lawmakers stayed in session past four o’clock this morning and sent all kinds of new potential laws to the Governor — often with only a cursory review of what they actually will do.

For some of the players in the drama, however, the chaos of end-of-session sausage making was clearly not enough to hold their complete attention. Take Lt. Governor Dan Forest, for example. Yesterday, the presiding officer of the state Senate took three hours out of his workday to serve as “guest host” on Called 2 Action Radio — an program hosted by a self-described “Christian wacko” named Steve Noble (In 2011, Noble released a book entitled “The Making of a Christian Wacko: Are You Next?”)

In case you’re not familiar with Mr. Noble and his program, it is a syndicated show based in Raleigh in which the host and his guests spew a steady stream of vitriol and condemnation — especially toward gays, Muslims, Mormons and anyone else who does does not adhere to their particular brand a far right, fundamentalist religiosity. Just last week, Noble held forth on multiple occasions on the supposed incompatibility of Islam and the the U.S. Constitution, how he “hates Islam,” how the Bible is explicitly pro-capitalist, how Donald Trump has twice violated “Jesus’ prohibition against divorce except in cases of sexual immorality” and, well, you get the idea.

According to the folks at Right Wing Watch, Noble said the following in the run-up to the vote on the marriage discrimination amendment back in 2012:

“The homosexual lifestyle is not an orientation it’s just a temptation, we all face that, but they’re the ones, that’s the only group of sinners that’s chosen to try to attack the entire world, let alone the word of God, to say ‘no, no, we’re going to keep fighting until you all agree with us that this thing that we know as a sin, isn’t.”

Noble went on to describe homosexuality as, among other things: “the playground of Satan and the evil forces against God’s way.”

Yesterday, a post on on Forest’s Facebook page stated that:

“Dan is the fill in guest host for Steve Noble’s nationally syndicated radio show today. On live now with Congressman Mark Meadows. Tomorrow we will post the full three hour podcast where you can hear Dan interview Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, David Barton, Rep. Meadows and more>’
Then in the middle of the afternoon, Forest tweeted the following:
“On air in place of Steve Noble for the next few hours. Have presidential candidates, business and faith leaders on your local radio station.”
As of yet, the promised podcast has yet to materialize on either the Called 2 Action website, Forest’s website or his Facebook page. We’ll keep an ear and eye out.

In yet another round of rather remarkable hypocrisy for a group comprised of members who have repeatedly complained about the supposed problems of “state government mandates” and threats to “local control,” state lawmakers are advancing bills in  the waning days of session to seize more power in Raleigh at the expense of local governments.

Late last night, the Senate passed and sent to the House a bill that will, among other troubling things, reduce the number of forms of ID government officials, including police, can accept. In addition, IDs handed out by individual cities and embassies would no longer be recognized. WRAL has the story here.

Meanwhile, the conference committee report on a bill that was originally dealt with sex trafficking prevention, emerged yesterday with all new language that would place all new sorts of limits on local governments with respect to their ability to mandate wage standards and prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods, services and accommodations. (Click here and scroll to page 8.)

As is so often the case in the General Assembly these days, the language appears to have materialized out of nowhere without discussion so it’s hard to say exactly what its effect will be. But given the recent shenanigans on Jones Street and the hostility the leaders there have displayed toward immigrants, LGBT citizens and other frequent targets of discrimination, there is reason to be very concerned. Stay tuned.



Despite having attempted to distance himself from newspaper advertising for a conservative Christian event that featured his image and the words: “Come Join me in a time of worship, prayer, fasting and repentance,” Gov. Pat McCrory did show up and speak at a Saturday event in Charlotte organized by a far right religious group known as the American Renewal Project which argues that the United States is a “Christian nation.”

McCrory used his few minutes on the stage to talk about substance abuse and to ask the people who were in attendance to join in the effort to combat the problem.  “We need your help because government cannot do this alone, you can do it, God can do it,” the Governor stated.

What was weirdest and most disturbing about McCrory’s appearance, however, was the spectacle of several middle aged men crowding around the Governor to lay their hands on him and dispense statements of hate and fear masquerading as “prayer.” Click the video below to watch as a fellow who appears to be American Renewal Project founder David Lane making several remarkable claims, including:

  • that the United States is “a nation founded on the Bible,”
  • that “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,”
  • that the U.S. committed the great sin of removing “prayer and Bibles from the public schools in 1963 after 350 years as a principal component, as the fixed point in order to judge society,”
  • that safe, legal abortion has left “55 million babies dead,”
  • that “homosexuals praying at the inauguration” and “red ink as far as the eye can see” were among the other great sins afflicting the country.

For this, Lane said, the United States “deserves judgment.” He then called on attendees to pray for McCrory and made several other offensive claims — including that the U.S. is a nation that was “founded for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.” Click below to watch:

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Commentary, News

johnson_terryAny notion that Alamance County’s anti-immigrant crusading sheriff Terry Johnson (pictured at left) would be at all chastened as a result of being sued by the federal government for unlawfully targeting Latinos has been quashed in recent days. On Monday, the Alamance County Board of Commissioners approved without debate a request submitted by Johnson to send four of his officers to Texas at taxpayer expense for a “Sheriff Border Summit” sponsored by the notorious anti-immigrant group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

As the watchdogs at the Southern Poverty Law Center document here, FAIR is an anti-immigrant advocacy  group that maintains a “veneer of legitimacy” at the same time that “its leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements.”

Click here and scroll down to page 7 to see a flyer describing the event, which looks as if it will feature a who’s who of anti-immigrant zealots. This is from the flyer:

“Join Sheriffs from around the nation for the 3rd Annual Border Summit, and education and training event created specifically for Sheriffs.

Hear from top experts in the field of:
Drug Cartels
Narco Culture and Occult
National Security
Transnational Gangs
The training will include a tour of the Texas-Mexico Border meeting with Texas Border Volunteers and Texas Bar B Q at the Vicker Ranch”

Johnson’s request is that Alamance County taxpayers pay “Approx. $2,570” for four individuals from his office to travel to Texas next month to attend the event. Somewhat strangely, Johnson’s request seeks approval for the men to travel to El Paso, Texas, but the flyer attached to the request says that the event will be in the city of McAllen, which is 800 miles east of El Paso. Sounds like quite a road trip could be in the offing.

According to the Associated Press, one of the men slated to attend the event, Richard Longamore, once “forwarded an email to the sheriff and his chief deputy bemoaning a federal program that provides temporary visas to foreign nationals who are the victims of such violent crimes as rape, incest and torture.”

Johnson was, of course, has long been a controversial figure in North Carolina and one of the state’s most outspoken public officials on the matter of  immigration. He was sued by the United State Department of Justice for unlawfully targeting Latino residents for investigation, traffic stops, arrests, seizures, and other enforcement actions. Last month, a federal judge in Winston-Salem dismissed the lawsuit, but advocates remain hopeful that the Department of Justice will appeal the ruling.

This is from a statement issued by the ACLU of North Carolina in response to the judge’s decision: Read More