What Should Really Be “Special” in North Carolina

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From Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary:

Definition of special

  1. :  distinguished by some unusual quality; especially :  being in some way superior
  2. :  held in particular esteem
  3. a :  readily distinguishable from others of the same category :  uniquethey set it apart as
    b :  of, relating to, or constituting a species :  specific
  4. :  being other than the usual :  additionalextra
  5. :  designed for a particular purpose or occasion

Over the last year, the North Carolina General Assembly has used five “special sessions” to craft policy and law that has done some rather “nonspecial” things.

They have been called by people who think themselves “special” to create “especially” bad legislation for “special” reasons to make others feel not-so-“special” and unequal.

Those “special sessions” are certainly “designed for a particular purpose or occasion” and are “readily distinguishable from others of the same category” called by people who hold themselves in “held in particular esteem” in order to make others feel like they are “other than the usual.”

In holding themselves as “being in some way superior,” they have distorted what should really be “special” in North Carolina such as:

Protecting “Specials” in Public Schools – Sen. Chad Barefoot’s championing of measures that would allow much needed flexibility to overcome rigid class size requirements is yet another example of why public school advocates view many lawmakers as hypocritical, piously partisan, and “especially” unrepresentative of their office. Without such flexibility, school systems will have to consider eliminating valuable physical education and arts classes (known as “specials”) or with fewer resources, “especially” in rural areas.

Fully Funding Teacher Assistants for All Public Schools, Especially for Special Education Classrooms– It is no “special” secret that cutting teacher assistant positions has been on the table in many of the NC General Assembly education discussions. But doing so would have incredibly “unspecial” Fewer teacher assistants for early grades “especially” limit what can be accomplished when teachers are facing more cuts in resources and more students in each classroom. For students who need extra modifications, teacher assistants can mean more than something “special.”

Special Elections – The first “special session” of 2016 was to deal with the gerrymandered districts that were intentionally drawn by the very NC General Assembly that considers itself so “special.” They were declared unconstitutional, meaning that those very people who are calling future “special” sessions to make “especially” heinous policies like HB2 to make others feel not-so-“special” are actually not very valid in many people’s eyes. We need to have those “Special Elections” to democratically regain a hold of this state.

Make All People Special – Every NC citizen who has been marginalized by lack of Medicaid expansion, tainted water, Voter ID intimidation, gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination, and other dehumanizing measures to allow for others to profit should not be continue to be disregarded.

Those in power in Raleigh need to stop thinking of themselves as so “special” and begin to think of all North Carolinians as “special.”

Sen. Ralph Hise’s Huge, Humongous, Heaping Hummock of Hypocrisy and Hubris

Gov. Cooper has no constitutional role in redistricting, and we have no order from the courts to redraw maps by his preferred timeline. This is a clear political stunt meant to deter lawmakers from our work on raising teacher pay, providing relief to the communities affected by Hurricane Matthew and putting money back into the pockets of middle-class families.” – Joint Statement, June 7, 2017 concerning Gov. Roy Cooper asking for a special session to redraw districts in North Carolina declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States.

That joint statement was made by two lawmakers who helped lead the redistricting in 2011 that led to the ruling just recently passed by SCOTUS – one of whom is Sen. Ralph Hise.

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Furthermore, the above quote might be the richest, most potentially fertilizing statement made in the current legislative session when one considers the speakers, the subject, the audience, and the context.

Sen. Ralph Hise should be no stranger to special sessions. He has gleefully been a part of at least three in 2016 that were so politically motivated that the rest of the country looked at North Carolina in disbelief. The March 2016 special session brought us the economically disastrous HB2 bathroom bill that targeted the LGBTQ community unfairly under the guise of nonexistent transgender assaults in public restrooms.

Then there were those two end-of-2016 special sessions that proved that the GOP controlled NC General Assembly was hell-bent on making sure that the democratically elected governor did not have as much power as his predecessors did.

And Hise said they were there to make sure we were taking care of those hurt by Hurricane Matthew.

But wait. Sen. Hise is also the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Elections who currently faces charges of “pocketing” money from his own campaign (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/05/09/breaking-senate-elections-committee-chair-violates-disclosure-law-suspected-excess-payments/#sthash.WPouXpgI.3b7ZgFWz.dpbs). And he was also key in putting a provision in the Senate budget to stop SNA food assistance benefits that are funded federally for over 130,000 people in the state.

So as far as political stunting is concerned, Sen. Ralph Hise would certainly know it if he saw it, but it would be a huge, humongous, heaping hummock of hypocrisy and hubris for him to even suggest that of Cooper as the governor asks for a special session to address the findings of the highest court of the land which in the last month has issued three rulings that have cast North Carolina as the most racially gerrymandered state in the union.

However, if Hise wanted to exchange the hypocrisy for honesty and the hubris for some humility then he might have hummed these words:

We have been attempting to limit Gov. Cooper’s constitutional role in redistricting with our own gerrymandered majority’s special sessions because we so stupidly passed a discrimination bill that ruined Pat McCrory’s chances of being reelected, and we have no explicit order from the courts to redraw maps by his preferred timeline even though some of the people who are trying to limit his constitutional role may actually be unconstitutionally elected. This is a clear political stunt by us meant to deter lawmakers who actually serve the citizens of North Carolina from our work under the red herrings of raising teacher pay, providing relief to the communities affected by Hurricane Matthew and putting money back into the pockets of middle-class families when we actually are crafting more policies to alienate people and putting money back in the pockets of those who have put money in our pockets.

Two Mandatory Courses For Sen. Chad Barefoot’s Ridiculous Replacement for Governor’s School

If you remember, the recent North Carolina Senate budget included a provision offered by Sen. Chad Barefoot to do away with more liberal arts opportunities for our students and replace those prospects with state funded “camps” to teach students how to legislatively run the state in the same manner as the current powers that be.

Amendment #2 to Senate Bill 257 proposes to establish a “Legislative School For Leadership and Public Service” using the very funds that would have financed Governor’s School starting in 2018-2019 (https://ncleg.net/Applications/BillLookUp/LoadBillDocument.aspx?SessionCode=2017&DocNum=4282&SeqNum=0) .

Actually, it could be called a “Legislative School for Gerrymandered Boroughs and Public Policy to Promote Total Discrimination,” but why split hairs?

I hope that Sen. Barefoot makes sure to include a couple of prerequisite courses for those lucky students fortunate enough to use taxpayer money to learn from his creation.

They should learn their shapes and how to draw well in a gerrymandering district redrawing course. For instance,

12th

No. That is not an internal organ. It is not a paramecium. It is not an ink blot. It is not a lake on a map. It is a real shape.

And the shape is called “Gerrymander.” Students at the “Legislative School for Gerrymandered Boroughs and Public Policy to Promote Total Discrimination” use shapes like this to help draw maps of voter districts.

See how it looks on a real map? Looks just like the 12th congressional district. It somehow connects Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High-Point, Charlotte, and multiple sites in between in a way that only crafty politicians can do. In fact, this district was called the most gerrymandered in the nation (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/05/15/americas-most-gerrymandered-congressional-districts/?utm_term=.6a56823e620f).

12th2

There are more shapes. Some even represent parasites sucking the blood right out of the democratic process.

1st

Looks like a tick sucking out the blood of its victim, but in actuality, this is a shape called “Unconstitutional” and it can also be used on maps.

Like here in the 1st district in North Carolina.

1st2

Sen. Barefoot will also want to make sure to include a class for students at the “Legislative School for Gerrymandered Boroughs and Public Policy to Promote Total Discrimination” on crafting policy that will eventually be struck down in the legal court system or have judgement passed against it in the court of public opinion.

Think about the recent decisions by the Supreme Court concerning the gerrymandering of congressional districts.

Think about the recent decision by the Supreme Court to not “revive a restrictive North Carolina voting law that a federal appeals court had struck down as an unconstitutional effort to ‘target African-Americans with almost surgical precision’”(https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/us/politics/voter-id-laws-supreme-court-north-carolina.html?_r=0).

Think about other decisions in state and federal courts that have rejected legislation brought forth by Sen. Barefoot and his cronies like separation of powers, redrawing school board districts (Wake county), and removing existing teacher due-process rights.

And then of course, there is the infamous “Bathroom Bill” which cost North Carolina untold amounts of revenue and stains in reputation.

But that is no matter, because that’s what the “Legislative School for Gerrymandered Boroughs and Public Policy to Promote Total Discrimination” is supposed to do – keep North Carolina moving in the direction that Sen. Barefoot and his ilk has us moving.

Backwards.

To the past.

But please do not tell him that “Legislative School for Gerrymandered Boroughs and Public Policy to Promote Total Discrimination” has the initials LGBT in it.

He’ll probably want to make a new amendment.

FrankenMoore and BergerStein – Uncle Victor Was Telling You Something

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

And nothing is so detrimental to the health of a great commonwealth as a great and sudden misuse of law.

The preceding quote comes from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the first great dark romantic / Gothic novel. It was written at the ripe age of twenty from an idea born of a scary story-telling contest with her soon-to-be husband, Percy Bysshe, and his friend, the very famous George Gordon, Lord Byron. Also present was whomever Byron was dating that hour.

frankenstein

Rumor has it that on this same fateful weekend Byron concocted one of the first vampire stories, which is appropriate considering his own voracious appetites. But Mary won the contest with a story of a man so bent on obtaining knowledge and pursuing the idea of recalling life that he created something so unnatural that he defied the laws of nature.

Now to even call what Sen. Phil Berger and Rep. Tim Moore have done to be even subpar to what Mary Shelley had Victor do in her novel would be a disgrace to Mrs. Shelley’s brilliance, and even Victor’s, who is not even a real person. For that matter, it would be an insult to the fictitious monster who never gets a name but shows so much more logic (and at times regard for human life) than what many in our North Carolina General Assembly have displayed within the last few years.

That does not mean that FrankenMoore and BergerStein have not spent a few nights in special sessions behind closed doors concocting experiments with the law and the state constitution to create what has become a monster of a political landscape here in North Carolina. But unlike Victor who recognizes the effects of his actions and hubris, the leaders of the NCGA GOP have not yet understood that they have created a monster themselves that is hurting our citizens.

If you have never read the classic novel, it actually is one of the most well-framed books of all time. There are three narrators – Captain Walton, Victor Frankenstein, and the Monster.

Captain Walton is leading a foolhardy quest to the North Pole. He has been writing letters to his sister and then by chance encounters Victor.

Victor relates to him his own story of hubris-filled questing in rather painful detail and even narrates what the monster relates to him within his own story.

You got it – a man tells the story of a man who tells his story and includes what his creation told him in his story that the first man is telling to his sister in a series of letters.

And since we have already established that Berger and Moore could not be Frankenstein or the monster, they must be more aligned with Capt. Walton.

And they are. Because they are on the cusp of a tipping point with their own monster.

Early in the novel Capt. Walton makes this statement to his sister,

“One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race” (Letter 4).

Substitute the words “political Power” for “knowledge” and “government” for “race” and you pretty much have the exact image of what has happened in North Carolina these last few years.

  • Consider the special sessions that gave North Carolina the blemish of HB2.
  • Consider the Voter ID Law.
  • Consider the Gerrymandering.
  • Consider the attack on the Public Schools.
  • Consider the special session that brought SB4.

Recently Jonathan Katz in Politico Magazine wrote an expose on North Carolina entitled, “In North Carolina, Some Democrats See Their Grim Future.” While it is not the type of reading one wants to have for the holidays, it did prove eye-opening considering that it specifically points out the “monster” that people like Phil Berger have created and now are having a hard time containing.

The first two paragraphs read,

“In the end, even Phil Berger, the powerful Republican leader of North Carolina’s Senate, couldn’t stop the debacle. A state law that effectively banned legal protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people—a law he’d pushed through the statehouse less than a year before—had become such a national embarrassment that even he wanted to see it repealed. But the far-right members of his caucus, happily ensconced in ultra-safe Republican districts he’d help draw, saw no reason to back a full repeal, and what was supposed to be a last-minute deal with the incoming Democratic governor fell apart.

“I cannot believe this,” Berger said, throwing down his microphone and slumping back into his leather chair at the front of the senate chamber, as the last session of the year came to a close, the stain still indelibly affixed to his state’s reputation, and his own (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/in-north-carolina-some-democrats-see-the-future-214553).

That is no stain. That is a full-fledged monster.

Fortunately for Capt. Walton, Victor’s story does help convince him that his quest for fame and power is ill-fated and will do more harm than good. Victor lived the experience that Walton would learn from to spare him and his crew a life doomed to death and despair.

And while there has been no Victor Frankenstein that has appeared out of the tundra of North Carolina to teach Moore and Berger their lessons, there have been instances where some sort of Ancient Mariner has come to halt them in their baseless quests: the courts.

  • They did it with the Voter ID Law.
  • They did it with the gerrymandered districts.
  • They have intervened with due-process rights for veteran teachers.
  • They will have a say on HB2.
  • And now they have placed a temporary hold in Wake County on the effects of SB2.

What 2017 holds for this state may actually be a blueprint for how other states may begin to proceed with their own political voyages.

However, it may also be the beginning of an end because if the citizens of North Carolina are tired of being passengers on an ill-fated expedition, then those voices may begin to get louder and ironically, we have election day again in 2017 because of the courts, at least for a few districts.

Probably one of the most haunting quotes in Shelley’s novel occurs in Chapter 20 when the monster, mad at Victor for destroying a would-be companion, warns Victor,

“It is well. I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night.”

Maybe in this instance, it will come back on election night.