Commentary

Funny, must-see video explains why Trump Supreme Court nominee needs to come clean

Check out this very funny video generated by advocates demanding that Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh stop hiding his record.

Commentary

Editorial lauds former Guvs for taking a stand against amendments

Be sure to check out the lead editorial in today’s Fayetteville Observer, which lauds the action of former Governors, Hunt, Martin, Easley, Perdue and McCrory for their recent actions to oppose the power grabbing constitutional amendments advanced by legislative leaders.

As the editorial (“Ex-governors take a stand”) rightfully points out:

“They perfectly characterized two amendments that will appear on the ballot in November, one addressing appointments to judicial vacancies, the other establishing how members will be placed on the state elections board. In both cases, the power to do those things is being taken from the governor and given to the General Assembly. But if you haven’t studied the amendments’ background before you walk into the voting booth on Nov. 6, you won’t know that. The lawmakers who wrote the ballot questions took great pains to conceal their power grab.

This provoked the ire of former governors Pat McCrory, Bev Perdue, Mike Easley, Jim Martin and Jim Hunt. The five held a press conference in Raleigh Monday and then met privately to plan a campaign against the two amendments. Current Gov. Roy Cooper has already filed suit against the amendments, seeking to block them from the ballot. A three-judge panel will hear his request this week. The former governors say they intend to continue their campaign, hoping to raise $250,000 to finance it. We hope they raise more, and that they raise an even bigger ruckus too.

The way these amendments were written and then railroaded onto the ballot is the embodiment of what’s wrong with our General Assembly. The former governors are right: It’s time to take a stand.”

Click here to read the entire editorial and here to read this morning’s on-the-money commentary on Pat McCrory’s somewhat surprising participation in the anti-amendments effort by Policy Watch managing editor Billy Ball.

Commentary, News

University researchers: North Carolina among the nation’s more politically corrupt states

The 2018 results will not come out until this fall, but according to the 2017 research compiled by the Institute for Corruption Studies at Illinois State University, North Carolina is (or, at least, is perceived as) one of the nation’s more corrupt states.

Since 2014, Professors Oguzhan Dincer and Michael Johnston have published an annual report known as the “Corruption in America Survey” which includes a “Corruption Perceptions Index” that is based on feedback from journalists who cover state government. Here’s how the authors describe their methodology:

“We contacted close to 1,000 reporters via email/phone. We received a total of 270 responses. Unfortunately, in some states (Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, and Virginia) we have a small number of responses partly due to small number of reporters covering state politics. Hence, while interpreting the results from these states we should be cautious. We received no responses from New Hampshire, and North Dakota.?

In our survey, we define illegal corruption as the private gains in the form of cash or gifts by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups. It is the form of corruption that attracts a great deal of public attention. A second form of corruption, however, is becoming more and more common in America: legal corruption. We define legal corruption as the political gains in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups, be it by explicit or implicit understanding.” [Note: Policy Watch reporters were not surveyed.]

The study ranks states in several categories, including “Illegal Corruption” and “Legal Corruption” in the executive, legislative and judicial branches. In each area, North Carolina was ranked as more corrupt than most states.

“Illegal Corruption” in the executive and legislative branches was characterized as “moderately common” — tying us with several other states and ranking us behind only a handful in which corruption was determined to be “very” or “extremely” common in one or both categories, including Alabama, Kentucky, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Georgia, Hawaii and Pennsylvania.

Similar findings were reported in the area of “Legal Corruption.” In this area, North Carolina finds itself in the “very common” category — a rating that places it worse off than most states.

Obviously, the rankings include a host of very subjective factors and no doubt suffer from a time lag — many of North Carolina’s most infamous corruption stories date from a few years back — but the whole thing still makes for interesting reading. Click here to read the entire report.

Commentary

The best op-ed of the weekend

Controversial UNC BOG member Tom Fetzer

If you missed it, be sure to check out the Saturday op-ed on WRAL.com that was signed by an array of former members of the UNC Board of Governors. In it, ten prominent North Carolinians of different political parties and philosophies all agree on one thing: the current, right-wing-dominated UNC board is a group that’s running amok. This was best exemplified by the recent chaos surrounding the aborted hiring of a chancellor at Western Carolina University and the downright bizarre and inappropriate actions of board member Tom Fetzer.

This is from the op-ed “Former UNC board members concerned about current board’s ‘bad governance'”:

Good governance can take many shapes and forms, depending on the organization and circumstance, and is not always easy to see or detect. Bad governance is different – like many things, you know it when you see it.

And what we saw at a recent meeting of the UNC Board of Governors was clearly bad governance.

  • First, an individual board member took it upon himself to retain a third party to do a background check on the UNC President’s recommended candidate for Chancellor of Western Carolina University.
  • Second, a committee chairperson allowed the unanimous recommendation of a candidate by her committee and her President to be overturned by the board without returning it to the President or the committee for their input and recommendation. This inappropriate action severely undermined both….

Unfortunately, it appears our Board of Governors has become increasingly politicized, and some members are conflicted. Politics has no place in the selection of members, and any conflicts of interest must be avoided. Boards must have a high level of independence and professionalism to be effective.

What we saw last month was not good governance. Our state, our President, our faculty, our students, our entire University System deserve better. What we witnessed will negatively affect the quality of people willing to come to our Universities as Chancellors, faculty and staff.

Good governance has many positive aspects. Maybe the most important is to attract and retain great talent and leadership.  We ask our legislators and our Board of Governors to remember that they serve the people of North Carolina.  They can and should do better.

Signed by the following former members of the UNC Board of Governors:

  • Paul Fulton
  • Ann Goodnight
  • Fred Eshelman
  • Derick Close
  • Brad Wilson
  • Jim Deal
  • Peaches Gunter Blank
  • Leroy Lail
  • Phil Phillips
  • Jim Babb”

Click here to read the entire op-ed.

Commentary

Tillis continues to obfuscate on climate change…but it’s probably better than it could be

North Carolina’s junior senator Thom Tillis sat down with Spectrum News reporter Tim Boyum the other day for a discussion of climate change (plus some other issues) and, as is so often the case with Tillis, watching the video provides for a maddening experience.

On the one hand — hallelujah!! — Tillis actually concedes that climate change is real and acknowledges the scientific fact that humans are playing a role in bringing it about. This position, of course, contrasts sharply with the thoroughly absurd and conveniently extreme position he voiced during the Republican Senate primary in 2014. At that time, Boyum — who was moderating the debate — asked whether climate change was a fact and Tillis, like all three of his fellow right-wing competitors, said “no.”

During this week’s interview, Boyum cited the two contradictory instances and also noted actions in the Senate in which Tillis has signed on to a resolution that acknowledged climate change as real, but denied the human role, and another in which he urged President Trump to renege on the Paris Accords that seek to attack climate change. Boyum then, quite generously and gently, asked him about the “evolution” in his position and, amazingly, Tillis refused to acknowledge there had been any such evolution, i.e. a flip-flop.

Instead of acknowledging it directly, he simply appears to mumble “Yeah I don’t know” and then immediately pivots into talking about things that people in the military and business have told him about the obvious reality of climate change and the need for us to change human behavior. He even alludes to the scientific reality of ozone layer depletion, says it plays a role in climate change, and describes his recent conversation with some young people about that fact.

But, of course, ozone layer depletion dates back many decades. Why didn’t he mention that in 2014?

Happily, though, he then, he goes on to actually talk with some conviction about the need for moving toward alternative, sustainable energy and even defends North Carolina’s “renewable portfolio standard” that has been incessantly attacked by his fellow conservatives.

Unfortunately, just when one is ready to get excited that Tillis has mustered some guts to speak the truth, he lapses into an absurd attack on President Obama and the Paris Accords and then concocts an imaginary and powerful group that supposedly wants to do away with all carbon emissions.

To which all a caring and thinking person can do and say in response is to sigh, slap one’s forehead and at least be thankful that the man has come this far. Lord knows, given the extremist positions espoused by many of his fellow conservatives, it could be a lot worse. That said, given Tillis’ penchant for 180 degree political pirouettes, more dispiriting moments are likely right around the corner.

Click here to watch the video.