Ricky Don’t Lose That Number -The Suppression of The Suppression of our Voter ID Law

I just wanted to use a Steely Dan song title for once. You should go and research how that band got its name.

The news that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Voter ID law was an enormous victory here in North Carolina. As Rob Schofield highlighted in his posting on NC Policy Watch’s “The Progressive Pulse” blog, there are two paragraphs that really stand out in the 80+ page opinion paper (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/07/29/breaking-fourth-circuit-court-of-appeals-strikes-down-ncs-monster-voting-law/#comments ).

“It is beyond dispute that “voting is of the most fundamental significance under our constitutional structure.” Ill. State Bd. of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party, 440 U.S. 173, 184 (1979).  For “[n]o right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.” Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 17 (1964).  We thus take seriously, as the Constitution demands, any infringement on this right. We cannot ignore the record evidence that, because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history.

We therefore reverse the judgment of the district court. We remand the case for entry of an order enjoining the implementation of SL 2013-381’s photo ID requirement and changes to early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration.”

The phrases “beyond dispute”, “infringement of rights”, and “largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history” are strong uses of diction. Emphatic actually.

And there is more in the report that offers an even stronger repudiation of the Voter ID law.

Page 11 of the report (found here – http://electionlawblog.org/wp-content/uploads/nc-4th.pdf ) states,

“In response to claims that intentional racial discrimination animated its action, the State offered only meager justifications. Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist. Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation. “In essence,” as in League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry (LULAC), 548 U.S. 399, 440 (2006), “the State took away [minority voters’] opportunity because [they] were about to exercise it.” As in LULAC, “[t]his bears the mark of intentional discrimination.” Id.

“Surgical precision?” Wow! “Intentional discrimination?” Double Wow!

What makes this decision even more historical is that it happens in time for the November elections. An appeal process would almost be impossible to be galvanized before Election Day. So now NC will have to reinstitute full early voting, same day registration, and ability to vote in a different precinct.

Furthermore, it highlights why North Carolina is such a huge state in this presidential election.

Whether some would like to admit it or not, NC is a purple state. It went for Obama in 2008, and barely went for Romney in 2012. In 2012 Romney won the state by less than 100,000 voters. In 2008, Obama won NC by less than 17,000 votes.

A Reuter’s study estimated that around 29,000 voters would have been compromised by the current version of NC’s Voter ID law. Most all of them would have been poor minorities.

If one looks at the demographics of those who are supporting the Trump campaign as opposed to the Clinton campaign, it is not hard to see that Clinton is the clear beneficiary of the Voter ID law being struck down by the court system. And since NC is considered a vital swing state with FL, PA, and OH, this decision looms LARGE!

And we already knew that NC was big, right? Look at it closely.

  • Clinton was in Charlotte the night the DNC started to convene.
  • Trump was in Winston-Salem the night the DNC came to order.
  • Two of the speakers Thursday at the DNC were North Carolinians, most notably Dr. Rev. William Barber, the head of the NC NAACP who has spear-headed the legal challenge to the Voter ID law.
  • North Carolina is a huge military state.
  • NC has been in the national spotlight already with HB2.

So, take that Ohio, Birthplace of Flight! Just kidding.

What I am more interested in is the response that will come from the governor’s office, particularly his spokesperson, Ricky Diaz.

This will weigh heavily on McCrory. Not only will thousands of more people vote for president, they will also vote for the next governor. McCrory has championed this bill for voter suppression and it has been declared unlawful. Polls were showing he and Cooper close, but now 29,000 new voters are in the mix. I don’t think that bodes too well for McCrory.

And it might be worth noting that this may have an effect on whether or not a special session convenes for the NC General Assembly to get HB3 on the ballot. That’s the TABOR Bill – you can read about that here – (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/06/24/tabor-a-tourniquet-around-the-bloodlines-of-our-republic/ ).

Oh, and when HB2 gets challenged, guess who might make the ultimate decision –

Yep. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Dolly Parton and The Neutering of Some in North Carolina by a Bathroom Bill

We have some crude adages when it comes to expressing how people lack the courage and conviction to say what is true or do what is right. Many of those unsophisticated terms and sayings involve the use of expressions with references to anatomy.

“You don’t have the “@#$%^” to go through with that!”

“You’re just a “#$#%$^”!

I am trying not to be vulgar here, but many came to mind when the North Carolina General Assembly refused to repeal the anti LGBT law known as HB2 – the Bathroom Bill this past week when it had a chance to.

It made me think of a recent conversation that Dolly Parton had with the media when she came to NC last month while other entertainers had boycotted performing in the state because of the discrimination of the LGBT community. And her statement was timeless and classy and pointed. She said,

“I think everybody should be treated with respect. I don’t judge people and I try not to get too caught up in the controversy of things. I hope that everybody gets a chance to be who and what they are.”

That’s Dolly Parton. “9-5”. “Islands in the Stream”. Dollywood. Tennessee. One of a handful of entertainers to actually be nominated for an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award.

And she is very candid and humble. She calls them like she sees them.

I am not a huge country music fan, but I do know that Dolly Parton’s appeal to her audience goes far beyond her work. She is one who truly has given back to her community. Just drive on I-40 West to Knoxville, TN. You’ll see it.

Additionally, she generates so much income for that part of the Smoky Mountain region in Tennessee that it would be hard not to call her one of the most successful business people in the Southeast. And she still tours regularly, performing to sold-out shows.

Her quote made me think of how neutered in many ways our General Assembly has become. While fixated on a red-herring of a problem and unwilling to even think about doing what is right, these lawmakers have literally dug in their heels for the sake of avoiding humiliation. And Dolly Parton knows heels. She wears them very well. Except she doesn’t dig them in. She uses them to gracefully carry on.

It’s like many in the GOP would rather cut of their noses to spite their faces and create a rainy day fund in the budget to fight a hopeless battle for HB2 that will ultimately be money wasted.

Maybe, it’s not really the cutting off of noses that has happened, but rather some other part of the anatomy. Game of Thrones style.

Consider this:

  • The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled on a matter of a transgender student.
  • The Federal Government has already filed a lawsuit citing discrimination.
  • The Pentagon has even now allowed transgender people to serve in battle.

And that’s not even counting the many suits sure to be filed against the state.

Furthermore, the Williams Institute out of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), put out a study that says HB2 could cost North Carolina over $5 billion a year (http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/hb2-could-cost-north-carolina-almost-5-billion-a-year/).

And if you think that it is just a California university creating headlines, UCLA is considered a top public institution in the nation by many. In fact, California is considered by some to have the best public university system in the nation. Some would say that New York follows, and then arguably North Carolina’s system – at least up until about three or four years ago.

When the General Assembly had a chance to repeal HB2 in the summer session at the behest of groups that included the NBA (who has an All-Star game here next year scheduled), it decided not to. Rather many in the GOP sought to find more ways to blame others for their self-gelding.

Oddly, Gov. McCrory’s campaign spokesperson, Ricky Diaz, was quoted as saying, “Any Democrat standing with the Human Rights Campaign and other out-of-state liberal interest groups by refusing any compromise is attempting to drive the NBA All-Star Game from North Carolina” (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article86845312.html).

Is this the same Human Rights Campaign that McCrory called stronger than the NRA on Meet The Press this past spring? Yep.

Is this the same Ricky Diaz who was once the highly paid spokesperson for the DHHS and Dr. Wos who resigned when it became known that he was paid exorbitant amounts of money with no experience? Yep.

Is he attempting to say that Dolly Parton is a Democrat with the Human Rights Campaign funded by out-of-state liberal interests groups? Sounds like it.

Responses like the one Diaz gave are simply emasculated words, barren of reason and simply infertile to logic. Why? Because to even suggest that others are to blame for not willing to compromise on an issue that has no middle ground to begin is an act of castration from reality and truth.

All I can say is that many in Raleigh just need to grow a pair, at least metaphorically.

Balls or ovaries. It doesn’t matter. Dolly Parton isn’t judging.

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Your Words Will Never… Wait, What The Hell Did You Say? – Or, The Truitt, Woodhouse, and Diaz Show

This past Wednesday, a group of 14 North Carolina educators were arrested as part of a demonstration that ended up as a “sit-in” on a busy Raleigh road.

As WNCN.com reported, a larger group of educators started a two-day march from Durham to the capitol building on Tuesday (http://wncn.com/2016/06/15/mccrory-wont-meet-teachers-who-march-to-his-office-today/).

The march was planned to build awareness to what organizers believe are unfit learning environments for North Carolina students.

About 50 or more teachers, school counselors, parents and students say their plans are endorsed by the North Carolina NAACP and Forward Together Moral March. The march started in Neal Middle School in Durham and also from Wakefield High School in Raleigh.

The group reached the capitol around 5 p.m. and began knocking on the building’s doors.

After not getting an answer, the group began to march on downtown streets, blocking them.

Needless to say that was a busy intersection. And it got the attention of a lot of news outlets, which is part of the reason for having the demonstration.

Fourteen teachers/educators were arrested. I am unsure of what will come from their arrests, but to many they just became heroes for their schools and for their students. Simply put, it takes guts to do what they did. Their students and communities will look at them and see them fighting for them.

I have met some of those teachers in that demonstration. They work in tough schools. They know what is happening all too well. They are good people. I would want my kids as their students.

Some people will no doubt say they went too far, were demanding attention from the governor on too short of notice, and were acting selfishly in stopping innocent people from getting home during rush hour. We can talk about that for a long time, maybe while we are stuck in traffic.

Yet it was the reactions from McCrory’s staff that made me realize why having demonstrations for public schools like this are very important. BECAUSE IT PUTS THE DIALOGUE ABOUT SCHOOLS IN THE PUBLIC’S EAR!

Three specific people stood out in this standoff (aside from McCrory), and their words and lack of actions show the disconnect that people in office have when it comes to the governor and the General Assembly’s actions concerning public schools.

First, there was Catherine Truitt, the Senior Education Advisor for McCrory. She offered to meet with the demonstrators and maybe they should have taken her offer, but she is really another shill for the GOP mainstays. One of the reasons that the demonstrators were wanting to meet with McCrory was because of the per pupil expenditures that have gone down in the past three years.

She was quoted as saying by abc11.com (http://abc11.com/politics/14-arrests-made-in-raleigh-as-teachers-protest/1385439/),

“We are doing a great job of educating our students and 57 percent of our general fund goes right into education in North Carolina, which is higher than the national average.

One needs to take that comment in context. Mrs. Truitt wrote a much uninformed op-ed for EdNC.org this past March where she “explains” how the governor has been very pro-public education. You should read it (https://www.ednc.org/2016/03/25/the-truth-on-education-spending/)

I wrote her a letter back and posted it on this blog after not receiving an answer from her. It remains the second most viewed item on caffeinantedrage.com out of over 70 postings.

Her quote about the 57 percent was the very same item she bragged about in that op-ed. She seemed to forget that our state’s constitution actually stipulates that we spend that much for public education. In fact, that percentage was higher before the governor took office under other republican governors. You may read my response to her here with all of the sources cited. (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/03/28/open-letter-to-catherine-truitt-senior-advisor-on-education-to-gov-pat-mccrory-concerning-her-op-ed-on-march-25th-on-ednc-org/).

But remember, Mrs. Truitt has a job to do. She is speaking on behalf of a politician. Yet, I doubt she read any responses to he claims earlier which might be the reason she keep making the same uninformed claims.

Secondly, there was Dallas Woodhouse, the NCGOP Executive Director. He was quoted as saying in the WNCN report,

“What a bizarre group of union activists, blocking traffic and getting arrested to apparently protest Governor McCrory on raising teacher pay more than any other state over the last three years.”

Union activists? There is no union in NC, Mr. Woodhouse. You want to see union activists? Go to Chicago. Those are unions. In fact, those union activists have shut down one of the biggest school districts in the nation overnight. That’s power. But it is interesting that the very people you claim are union activists whom the NCGOP called “hardly newsworthy” became very much the night’s news.

Another point that Mr. Woodhouse brought up was the “raising teacher pay more than anyone else over the last three years.”

What he is referring to is that “average” teacher pay in North Carolina was increased by putting most raises in the hands of beginning teachers and not veteran teachers. He forgot to delineate between average teacher pay and actual teacher pay.

And the operative word here is “average.” Beginning teachers saw an average pay hike of over ten percent, yet the more years a teacher had, the less of a “raise” was given. The result was an AVERAGE hike of 6.9 percent, but it was not an even distribution. In fact, some veterans saw a reduction in annual pay because much of the “raise” was funded with what used to be longevity pay. And as a teacher who has been in North Carolina for these past ten years, I can with certainty tell you that my salary has not increased by 6.9 percent.

Also according to the most recent NEA report there is not much “growth” in NC’s educational condition. We are 48th in Percentage Change in Average Salaries of Public School Teachers 2004-2005 to 2014-2015 (-10.2) – Table C-14.

Furthermore, those raises in teacher pay included the elimination of longevity pay which all public sector employees receive, EXCEPT TEACHERS. What really happened was that the NCGA took money from the pockets of educators and then presented back to them in the form of a raise all the while promoting it as a commitment to teachers. It’s like robbing someone and then buying them a gift with the stolen money and keeping the change.

Like Mrs. Truitt, Mr. Woodhouse is reciting practiced half-truths like he is paid to do.

An old friend, Mr. Ricky Diaz, was also referenced in the WNCN report.

Following the arrests, McCrory campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz issued a statement that called the demonstrators “union-funded campaign surrogates.”

“Not only did this demonstration inconvenience drivers, it wasted law enforcement resources during rush hour,” Diaz said in a release. “If Roy Cooper is in charge of enforcing the law in North Carolina, why would he send his campaign surrogates to break it?”

Diaz is the campaign spokesperson for McCrory’s reelection campaign.

Remember him? He was the 24-year old former spokesman for the DHHS in NC under Dr. Aldona Wos. He received a substantial raise soon after taking the job. He was making over $80,000 to be a spokesperson in what turned out to be one of the most disastrous DHHS administrations in recent history. When that raise was brought to light, he resigned to pursue a job in Washington D.C.

And here he is again getting paid to say weird things probably for a substantial salary.

According to Diaz’s quote, Roy Cooper is coercing the non-existent NC teacher’s union to fund demonstrators who eventually block traffic? The same demonstrators who were “hardly newsworthy”? Interestingly enough, Mr. Diaz used Cooper’s name more than his boss’s name in the report.

But now I see why he commands that big salary. He has to speak for the governor, who never speaks to any group that questions him.

Did the governor defend HB2 to the LGBT community face to face? No. Did he go to his hometown as the former four-term moderate mayor to explain why HB2 struck down their local ordinance? No. Did the governor defend his lack of action against Duke Energy in the wake of the coal ash spills to the people who were affected most? No. Did the governor defend those who were seeking more explicit explanation on how fracking could hurt rural environments? No. Has the governor ever actually addressed the North Carolina Association of Educators? No.

Did the governor respond to the demonstrators’ request for a meeting when an invitation was extended well before the actual march began in order to give him time to accept or decline formally? No.

Rather, he has others explain his actions or lack thereof. And all Mrs. Truitt, Mr. Woodhouse, and Mr. Diaz did was make the arrests of these 14 educators that much more important and newsworthy. Their non-answers prove that the questions raised by the demonstrators actually need to still be answered and that someone has to take responsibility.

Gov. McCrory should be willing to meet with the demonstrators. He needs to explain his actions. As a man who actually went to college to study to become a teacher, the governor should be very willing to talk to teachers and other educators about the state of schools.

But until then, the governor and those who “voice” his answers are just being roadblocks in the process of delivering a quality education to all North Carolina students.

And in Raleigh, creating a roadblock gets you arrested.

Or unelected.