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Sometimes, its hard to figure where the folks on the far right are coming from in their crusade to sell off our public structures to the highest bidder. For some, plain, old-fashioned greed clearly plays a part, but with columns like this recent little doozy from the Pope-Civitas Institute, it’s clear that something else is at work.

And that something is an amazingly warped view of human society.

According to the Pope-Civitas people, the North Carolina Zoo is the “waste of the week.” And, no, it’s not because there’s been some incident of waste or graft; they simply don’t see any public value in the concept of a public zoological park. Here’s how they put it:

“Few would attempt to argue that a core service of state government is to display animals for viewing in our leisure time. The NC Zoo is still another example of something the state compels state taxpayers to subsidize that should instead be financed through voluntary support.”

To which all a body can say in response is: “Says who?”

Who says that it’s not a core service? And more to the point, who says that “to display animals for viewing in our leisure time” is all zoos are about?

Honestly, do these folks pay any attention at all? As even many fourth graders probably understand, there’s a hell of a lot more to zoos and other such institutions than “leisure.” Good lord, the list of important contributions made to human society by zoos — with respect to education, science, research, history, preserving the environment and endangered species, understanding our place on the planet and just plain making life more livable (and in dozens of other areas) — would take all day to spell out.

If anything, we desperately need more public institutions capable of such important accomplishments. What’s next on the Pope-Civitas hit list? Public libraries? Read More

Commentary

school_booksIn case you missed it, there is an excellent article on the main Policy Watch site today that highlights the unfortunate problems with the new history curriculum financed by the arch-conservative Koch family. The Bill of Rights Institute, funded by the Koch family and whose Board includes Koch employees, received a contract to help develop materials for North Carolina public school teachers to use in a course, required for all students, about America’s founding principles.

As Ian Millhiser, Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and author of the article, notes this could have been a great opportunity for North Carolina students to learn about important areas of American history that are often ignored by high schools. However, rather than present a balanced view, the materials push a clear Koch-sponsored agenda.

They present a selective view of history, exaggerate conflicts that have largely been resolved, emphasize subjects congenial to a conservative worldview and ignore entirely major threads of constitutional law and history. The students who learn from these materials are likely to emerge more skeptical of federal power and more sympathetic to a libertarian view of property rights. They are likely, in other words, to emerge more like Charles and David Koch.

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Commentary

UNCThere were lots of compelling responses delivered by the defenders of various UNC Centers at yesterday’s inquisition in Chapel Hill, but one of the best came from Dean Jack Boger of the UNC Law School.

This is from the account in Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Boger pointed out that the law school’s Banking Institute was created to support the banking industry in North Carolina. ‘We don’t ask that center to consider socialism as an alternative or to talk about the dissolution of large banks,’ he said. Boger also pointed out that public health professors advocate against sugary drinks in the fight against obesity.”

Boger’s observation neatly highlighted the central absurdity of the ideological attack on the various UNC Centers launched by surrogates for right-wing financier/politico and wannabe UNC prez, Art Pope: Pope has already won. It is already the mission of a vast swath of the UNC system to support, defend, apologize for and train the future leaders of  North Carolina’s corporate business establishment. Read More

Commentary
Hisemug

State Senator and Mayland Community College “Coordinator of Special Projects,” Ralph Hise

Sensing building momentum for the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act that would both cover hundreds of thousands of uninsured low income North Carolinians and bolster the state’s economy with billions in federal dollars, right wingers appear to have launched a new campaign of propaganda and distortion.

A prime example is this article on conservative website known as Watchdog Wire. In it, the author revives and recycles multiple absurd untruths about the supposedly ginormous cost to the state of Medicaid expansion — which she attributes to State Senator and Mayland Community College “Coordinator of Special Projects,” Ralph Hise. According to the article:

“the state would have to cover administrative costs to the tune of $2 billion per year. That’s a ’50-50 split’ said Hise.”

This is utter nonsense. As this detailed analysis by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine shows on page 5, the financial impact to the state from 2014 to 2021 if the it expanded Medicaid under the ACA is a net savings of $65 million. Hise’s “$2 billion” claim is simply out-of-thin-air malarkey.

The article also quotes Hise for the following supposedly damning criticisms: Read More

Commentary

With massive majorities in both legislative houses and a governor who would poses little more than an occasional speed bump — if that — to their plans for reactionary change, North Carolina’s far right movement appears poised to roll back the clock a few more decades when the new General Assembly convenes next January. On virtually every issue — from taxes to health care to education to an array of social issues — North Carolinians should get ready for a new onslaught of reactionary laws.

School vouchers for every student? Constitutional spending caps to eviscerate public spending? An attempt to confer “personhood” on embryos? New efforts to merge church and state? Just name the extreme/outlandish idea and you can pretty much rest assured that there will be a proposal to implement it and that many such efforts will succeed.

Some, of course, depends on who the new House Speaker turns out to be and just how far he (it will almost assuredly be a “he”) wants to push things. If it’s a McCrory ally or someone like him, it’s conceivable that there could me some moderation. If, on the other hand, it’s a reactionary true believer like Paul Stam or someone of his ilk, things could get very grim very fast.

Observers looking for some inklings of hope in all of this might want to consider some of the ballot initiative results from other states last night in which even very conservative voters made clear that here not ready to go that far. In both Colorado and North Dakota, for instance, voters overwhelmingly rejected “personhood” amendments that would have  conferred constitutional rights on fertilized eggs. In other states, voters strongly supported increases in the minimum wage.

Perhaps these votes will be interpreted by the far right powers-that-be in North Carolina as demonstrations of the obvious truth that voters are not nearly as reactionary they are and that, as much as they’d like to, pushing the envelope with a truly extreme agenda could backfire. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with true believers, it’s just as likely that they will see 2015 as their “big chance” to do what they’ve always wanted. Based on the performance during the last four years, the latter scenario seems the most likely.