Good news for NC voters

Amid the pervasive news out of Washington, the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appellate case that ruled the North Carolina Voter ID unconstitutional. This is excellent news for all voters, but in particular African-American, older and college student voters.

Within the law were highly discriminatory provisions designed with “surgical precision” per the US Court of Appeals in the 4th District to infringe upon African-Americans. It was designed to “kick Democrats butts,” so said a Buncombe County GOP leader on The Daily Show, a tape of which was shown during the court case. It should be noted the leader resigned the next day.

When I made reference to this law as “unconstitutional and Jim Crow-like,” to members of the NC General Assembly before it was passed, one of its authors strongly disagreed. My response was simple, “as a 56 year-old white man and former Republican, we both know what this law is about.”

It also attempted to solve a problem that is not significant. Voting fraud is not pervasive as some would let you believe. Numerous studies do not support the claim of more than very small numbers of voting problems. It should be noted that the attempt to discredit our Presidential election through claims of voter fraud was a key part of Russian meddling in October to create doubt.

And, a final key comment is important. The problem we face in our country is not enough people voting. To be such a significant democracy, we don’t have enough citizens participating in the process. We should be doing everything in our power to encourage not discourage voting. And, if voter fraud is such a concern, why did the NC General Assembly not include absentee voting in the law, where there is more fraud (still not a lot) than at the polling sites? The answer is who tends to vote in larger numbers as absentees.

Right now, my strong advice to the NC General Assembly is to not do what they are thinking about, trying to rework the law. The General Assembly has now had four laws passed in the last few years ruled unconstitutional. The solution is stop passing laws that are unconstitutional, not trying to see what you can sneak through.

Just a man with words

My favorite editorial offering each week is when conservative columnist David Brooks joins with liberal columnist Mark Shields on PBS Newsour. Each Friday, they say grace over the news events of the week.

Usually facilitated by Judy Woodruff, these two pundits offer context and civil discourse. It is obvious each has profound respect for the other, as even when they disagree, the rationale is supported by good observations.

It should not be a surprise that both are somewhat alarmed and bemused by our President. In fact, Brooks (along with fellow conservatives Michael Gerson, George Will and Charles Krauthammer) has been a recurring critic of the man who became our President.

Earlier in the year, Brooks described the White House under our new President as “equal parts incompetence and chaos.” This was just following the horribly crafted, vetted, communicated and executed travel ban that caused so much negative reaction.

Recently, after yet another week of bizarre statement and actions that the President’s people had to scurry to defend, he made another insulting reference to the President as being “just a man with words.” Taken in the context of the piece, the President is not a man of conviction and will say just about anything, often not with a lot of thought.

And, that is a sad state of affairs. George Will spoke of the unforced errors when the President just says or tweets things. Will said he has made the world more dangerous and hopes that when the 3 am calm comes with a real problem, they just let the President sleep and wake up Genetal Mattis.

Just a man with words. Unfortunately, many of them are not truthful or well thought out.

 

Tin soldiers – a history lesson worth remembering

A day that lives in infamy can be summoned to memory with the words “Kent State.” If you are not familiar with this term, please Google it as it reveals what could happen today, by showing what did happen in May, 1970.

In short, President Nixon called out the national guard to keep a protest of college students at Kent State University in Ohio from turning into a riot. The dilemma is these “tin soldiers,” as they were termed in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s powerful song “Ohio,” were armed. So, when one of the protesters was alleged to have thrown a rock, a guardsman opened fire and was joined in fire by the other guardsmen. Four college students were killed and nine were injured.

Nixon is remembered mostly for resigning before he was impeached for Watergate (in essence running a burglary operation from the White House), yet his calling out the national guard on college students is a horrendous decision. To understand the magnitude, picture your child being faced down by the national guard.

I mention this today as during an interview with Margaret Atwood, who wrote the dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” she said totalitarianism first occurs when a leader has troops fire on protesters.

What scares many is the possibility of our current President calling the national guard on a group of protesters is not a stretch. It is also not a stretch for one of the armed militias that feel empowered by this President doing the same.

It is interesting that two dystopian books are going through a concerned revival. One is “The Handmaid’s Tale” and the other is “1984.” We need to be strident in protecting our rights to assemble and protest. We need to be civil in these respects, but it is well within our rights to question our leaders. And, we should not be shot at.

Friday Freakiness

This title is actually a misnomer in some respects, as the behavior is normative while the statements are not altogether true. In no particular order:

Representative Robert Pittenger from NC described the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau as dictatorial and bad for the economy. In his one sided argument, not once did he mention the CFPB has fined banks, credit card companies, pay day lenders, etc. over $12 Billion for fraud and aggressive marketing practices. Over 90% of these fines go back to consumers. Banks and their funded politicians don’t like the CFPB, but this is government oversight at its best.

In a sadly comical moved during a scary time with North Korea, the US ships that we were told were heading toward North Korean waters were headed in the opposite direction. To see Sean Spicer try to explain away chaos like this adds to the farcical nature of this White House.

The state of Arkansas has decided it wants to be known for executions rather than something more productive. It turns out their killing drug of choice is about to expire, so the Governor and Attorney General decided a dozen death row inmates had to go. With new DNA techniques and the Innocence project, we can not be certain that all twelve are guilty, with at least one still claiming innocence.

Finally, another shoe has dropped on the election influence with a detailed Russian plans being revealed from a think tank who advises Putin to abet Donald Trump’s efforts. What is also interesting is when this think tank thought Hillary Clinton was going to win in October, the strategy shifted to drumming up concerns over voter fraud. It is also interesting that  this is about the same time Trump ramped up the voter fraud issue and said he had to wait and see if he would support the results. To be frank, for anyone to say these efforts did not affect the election results is selling a story without proof. From where I sit, the survey percentile ranges shifted notably after James Comey’s announcement handing the election to Trump.

That is all the freakiness for one Friday. Have a great weekend.

No caveats found

Going through my mother’s old things, I came across a book mark that must have resonated with her, as it did with me when I found it. My mother was a teacher in public schools and as a bible study fellowship leader, so even after her death, she can still teach me something.

The book mark quotes Jesus’ words in John 13: 34 – 35, which says:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for another.

In looking at this, three words jump out beside the key word “love.” The first is “commandment,” meaning this is so important it is an additional commandment to the first ten. The second is “everyone,” which means he wants all to see the love each has for another as an exemplar. The last is “disciples,” meaning followers of Jesus should love one another.

Throughout this quote or in adjacent bible verse, I found no caveats. He did not say love only those who agreed with you. He did not say love only those who are heterosexual. He did not say love only people of your race. He did not say love only Christians or Jews, since we have to remember he was a Jewish teacher and referred to often as Rabbi.

In our and our leaders’ efforts to win arguments, we have overlooked what is more important. We need to treat others like we want to be treated. Love may be too strong a word for strangers as we are not nearly as good a person as Jesus, but we should treat each other with dignity and respect. We should listen and hear what others are saying. Winning an argument means little if people are harmed by the outcome.

I am annoyed with Democrats and Republicans

This post may be offensive to some of my followers, but I appreciate your comments should you disagree. As an Independent voter who left the Republican Party in 2006, but did not choose to rejoin the Democratic Party, I want our leaders to solve our problems and work together. We have gotten progressively worse with partisanship and that is not good, as we are attempting to solve problems with party rhetoric and not data and or common sense. Both sides are to blame, but I find more fault with my more recent former party given their support by a more active misinformation base parading as a mainstream news network.

Like many people, I do not fit into a nice compartment. I am fiscally conservative and socially progressive. I have these beliefs we need to pay for things and every citizen has equal rights and opportunity. Per Teddy Roosevelt, they need a ‘square deal” and like his cousin Franklin, they need a “fair deal.” I guess I want our leaders to be better stewards than they have come to be with our money and rights. What many have failed to realize is my rights are just important as yours, and vice versa. The right to do something does not include the right to squelch another person’s rights. Think about this last sentence, as folks advocating religious freedom laws seem to miss the subtlety of this point.

Using a recent example, I cite the approval of our new Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch. This man was not perfect, but he seemed to have a pretty good set of experiences. Yes, he is more conservative than I would prefer, but he was nominated by a Conservative president. That is how this works. My question to Democrats is Gorsuch more horrible in their minds than the next few in consideration? Why force the Republicans hand in blowing up the 60 vote rule? I fault the GOP as well for blowing up this rule, as we now could get a more extreme person on the Court. And, that is not what this Court needs in m view. So, between the two actions, we have thrown future stewardship out the window.

Another recent example is the effort that fortunately failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Republicans decided to work without Democrats to do this and their party bickering caused it to fail. It also failed because it was a horribly crafted and rushed bill. Since most Americans want to keep Obamacare, but improve it, why did the GOP waste time and not work with Democrats to fix it? The President even blamed Democrats for this bill’s failure, yet they weren’t even at the table. That is a shame.

Stewardship is an important word to define what is lacking. We need our leaders to be better stewards of our country than they have become. Both parties do not lay claim to all of the good ideas and both can lay claim to some bad ones. So, why not set all the rhetoric aside, study real data and real causes, and come up with informed, bipartisan solutions through civil discourse. Right now, in my view, our Congress and President’s inability to do this are a threat to national security. Please be better stewards. We need you to be.

 

 

 

A few mid-week musings

Since we are at mid-week, let me offer a few miscellaneous musings, mostly good with a few bad. Let me start with some good news:

A Federal appeals court in the Chicago area ruled that the LGBT community is protected under the 1964 Civil Rights amendment even though they were not specifically listed. The court case was around a community college professor who contended she was fired for being a Lesbian. The ruling was 8 to 3, but will of course be appealed to the district court in Indiana.

On what appears to be good news, but falls way short, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a repeal to the discriminatory HB2 law, yet left the most important piece of discrimination therein. They rolled back the change on the transgender bathroom issue, yet left in place the exclusion of the LGBT community from protected status for discrimination. Reviewing the above ruling in Chicago, it is apparent that feature is unconstitutional.

The electric car maker Tesla blew past expected deliveries this past week for their first quarter with over 25,400 cars. Tesla is on pace to deliver the high-end of their 45,000 to 50,000 first half of the year estimate. What is interesting the stock market is valuing the future for this company and its current market capitalization value is $48 Billion which is now higher than Ford at just under $45 Billion. Tesla is owned by Elon Musk who is leveraging his battery technology to aid in solar and wind energy storage, working on a key project to help Australia with an outage problem.

Reuters reported today that utility companies are not being influenced by our President’s fight to end the war on coal. With the exception of one of 31 companies, a two-thirds majority said it would not impact their plans to move to cheaper and cleaner natural gas and increasingly cheaper renewable energy sources. The other companies were silent. In a piece I read last year, we are passed the tipping point on renewable energy and it was postulated about utilities why would they invest in an expensive coal-fired plant that will be obsolete before it is completed?

On the bad side, I am increasingly concerned by Bashar al-Assad and his willingness to gas people. This man has a history of doing this and then lying to reporters and other leaders about it. It would be great to see the UN powers come together and say, we will help end this war in your country, but you must step down now or face charges of war crimes. While our former President did many good things, his handling of Syria was not one of them. He and Congress let the world down by not spanking this SOB for his last gassing of civilians. I am a peaceful person, but there are times when you must stand up to evil.

Then, there is North Korea who remains a threat as it is run by a petulant tyrant. China must join with the rest of the world in helping put a lid on this man’s chest beating. Otherwise, we leave it in the hands of our own mess maker. While I trust some of his military advisors in doing the right thing, I have little confidence in our leader solving this problem without some diplomatic help. What at least should scare North Korea is our President is a loose cannon, as it scares me.

Well, that is all for now. Have a great rest of your week.