Moral Monday protestors represent what’s best in America

In spring, 2013, a series of weekly protests began in North Carolina that continue until this day called “Moral Mondays.” The Moral Monday protestors came together to provide a voice to those who are being further disenfranchised by actions of the North Carolina General Assembly. The protestors were at first discounted by some legislators as people not from North Carolina, but surveys of the protestors revealed they are almost entirely from our state. The protestors were also lampooned on a website which made fun of those who were arrested in Raleigh for violating trespassing rules and failing to disperse. That was extremely poor form by the website owner. As of this writing almost all of the 900 cases have been dismissed.

I have attended two Moral Monday protests as an Independent voter, one in Charlotte and one in Raleigh with my oldest son. What I witnessed were doctors, teachers, professors, ministers, rabbis, deacons, lawyers and people from all walks of life, races, and ethnic groups. What I witnessed is what’s best in America. I shared with my son how proud I was for the two of us to see democracy in action.

We should remind ourselves of why the Moral Monday protestors came to be, as many of the challenges they are protesting remain an uphill battle. Yet, we should also give kudos to the Moral Monday protestors who, in concert with teachers and parents across the state, helped convince the General Assembly to enact a long needed pay increase for teachers after harmful cuts were made in education funding. The General Assembly and Governor should be commended for acting and I am glad they made the effort, but we should also remember they were filling the hole they and previous Assembly’s dug over the years, so atta boys and girls should be somewhat tempered by that memory.

While the General Assembly has done some good things, actions have also been taken to infringe upon the rights of our common citizens, which have given our state some unfortunate national notoriety. This is why the Moral Monday protestors came into being. In addition to the cuts made in education and disenfranchisement of teachers which is causing flight to (and recruitment from) other states, the protestors are concerned over severe unemployment cuts that went further than needed. The protestors are concerned that a tax cut primarily benefitted those who made the most, while taking away things like the state Earned Income Tax credit for low-income earners. The protestors are concerned about not expanding Medicaid which would help several hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, help rural hospitals from closing and help our state economy.

The protestors are concerned with a voter suppressive law which is being touted in commercials, but is being challenged in court and will likely be ruled unconstitutional next year as was done in three other states – Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The stated purpose of the Voter ID law is to combat fraud, but voter fraud is immaterial and per retired General and Secretary of State Colin Powell, the real problem to solve is not enough people voting. It should be noted two other laws passed by the General Assembly have been ruled unconstitutional, so the Voter ID law overturn would not be the first one. Plus, yesterday the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals placed a temporary order to restrict two features of the Voter ID from being used this November.

And, the Moral Monday protestors are concerned with the changes that will harm our environment. These changes include, but are not limited to, making it easier to cut down trees to put up distracting electronic billboards, not accepting a peer-reviewed scientific report that echoes the 39 feet expected sea level rise by 2100 approved in other states like Virginia, hamstringing the Department of Environment and Natural Resource’s governance, and pushing forward a fracking agenda even though evidence continues to mount that fracking causes environmental problems. Coupled with the failure to fully understand how prevalent solar energy is in our state (and the number of jobs created as a result) reveals an unhealthy fossil fuel industry influence. When I attended a Raleigh Moral Monday protest in May, more environmental advocacy signs were apparent than the one I attended in Charlotte the previous summer.

I recognize some may still discount the veracity of the Moral Monday protestors’ arguments. However, in my view, these protestors should be commended for their efforts. At the very minimum, their voice needs to be heard. With teachers adding their voice and voting with their feet, change did occur this past summer. Now, we need more. Three things could be done in short order to help many in our state, plus doing more of something the Governor is advocating. First, either advocate the US Congress to increase the minimum wage or introduce one in NC that is larger than $7.25 per hour. A living wage in NC for one adult is $9.12 per hour. Second, expand Medicaid in our state before another hospital closes or more people go without needed, but unavailable treatment. It should not take another GOP Mayor walking to Washington to save a hospital and lives to get Medicaid expanded here. *

Third, let’s embrace solar energy as there are more solar jobs than coal jobs in our country and we have a huge start here, even before Duke Energy’s announcements the past two weeks. There is also more sun for energy and tourists than natural gas to frack, plus fracking and tourists do not mix and it does not mix too well with the residents either. And, wind energy can be further leveraged, especially offshore, where ocean acreage has been zoned for consideration.

Finally, we should provide kudos to Governor McCrory for pushing the community college training and redevelopment efforts that began with the Stimulus Act under the President. This is where we should be investing our time, dollars and energy as evidenced by Siemens, Snyders-Lance and others partnering with CPCC. Our state is blessed with one of the best community college systems in the country and we should leverage these assets more.

Thank you Moral Monday protestors. Please keep the faith. Your voice is needed. Your issues should be heard. Let’s hope more legislators are listening. And, thanks Governor for pushing the community college investment.


* Per the Associated Press on September 25, 2014, “The report from the Department of Health and Human Services said hospitals in states that have taken advantage of new Medicaid eligibility levels have seen uninsured admissions fall by about 30 percent. The report estimated that the cost of uncompensated hospital care will be $5.7 billion lower in 2014.”

My mother the teacher

When one of the boys I was coaching in baseball found out my mother had been his teacher, he said immediately about the sweetest woman I know, “Your mother is mean.” I asked him why he would say that and he said my mother put his desk up front by her desk. Now, if you remember anything about teachers, you know when a teacher does this she is beyond her last straw. I also knew the boy was more animated than others in practice and would not listen very well. When I mentioned this later to my mother, she said, “He was a real pill.”

Teaching is a hard job. It can be very rewarding, but it also can be very thankless. My mother has always been a teacher, whether as a second grade teacher, as a substitute or as a bible study teacher. She would spend (and still does at age 83) hours preparing her lessons and, in the case of elementary school, grading papers. In her paying job, she probably worked ten to twelve hours days. Some might say, teachers get summer off, but they work a week after school is out and a few weeks before every one comes back. But, when you add up the hours, they can rival most year-round employment jobs.

However, because they are relatively low paid, especially in my state of North Carolina where we are 46th in teacher pay, many work summer jobs as well. Our state is trying to remedy the problem it created with frozen budgets and cutbacks on additional pay for masters degrees. Teachers have been voting with their feet leaving the state and the Moral Monday protests added a large voice to that of teachers to shame the legislators into doing something. They are still arguing over this as of this writing.

Yet, through this process, teachers have not been shown the respect they have earned. Of course, there are some poor teachers. But for the large part, my experience has been with very dedicated professionals. And, they also take the blame for things outside of their control. My mother would tell you that it does take a village to raise and educate a child. A good teacher cannot do the parent’s job. It needs to be a team effort between the teacher, parents, counselors and teacher assistants. Also, volunteers help, in a large way, especially if there is not enough teacher assistants to cover the classes.

But, you may have noticed I used the plural of parents. The dilemma these days is if you looked at the demographics of classrooms, the number of kids with divorced parents would not be insignificant. Further, the number of those kids with only one parent in their relationship would not be inconsequential, especially in high poverty schools. In the volunteer work I do for homeless families, there is a significant percentage of single parent families. Divorced or single parent families make it tougher on the kids.

A couple of years ago, I tutored two fifth graders in math. They were interesting and attentive little girls who asked for help in writing. This blew me away. Yet, one had ten people and three generations in her house and the other had seven people. Each had a heavy list of chores beyond the normal 5th grader, so school work was difficult to fit in. The nice part is a school counselor was working with the teachers and parents to help these girls keep up. Since English was their second language, word math problems gave them trouble, as did geometry, but that can give anyone nightmares. We worked through their issues and they passed.

Seeing my mother with my kids and my nieces and nephews, she has the patience of Job. She embodies what teachers are all about. They want to help people and take great pride when the children learn and can apply their learnings to something else. In Finland, teaching is one of their most honored professions. Their brightest aspire to these roles and are given the freedom to teach. They are paid well and Finland routinely ranks high in education achievement.

We should value people like my mother. They make such a huge difference in our kids’ lives. They did in my life, as well. So, big shout outs to Mr. Batten, Ms. Bowden, Ms. Regan, Ms. Shrout, Mr. Brickell and countless others. Thanks for teaching me. And, the biggest thanks go to Mom. You are my first and best teacher. I love you, Mom.

Tuesday’s gone with the wind – a few odds and ends for this Tuesday

As a tribute to the great southern rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, I will use a chorus line of one of my favorite songs of theirs, to highlight a few odds and ends this Tuesday – “Tuesday’s Gone.” If you don’t know the song, give it a listen. You may also like “Call Me the Breeze” and “Simple Man” as well by the band. But, before Tuesday’s gone with the wind, here you go.

Economic recovery continues, but the recovery is continually challenged by people not spending. Wal-Mart announced a 5th consecutive quarter of negative same store results, year over year. They cite dampened wages as the culprit. When you have a heavy sales economy, people need to make a decent wage rate or they do what every else does, spend less. In this ongoing debate about minimum wage increase, this is a key outcome by not getting more money into people’s hands. By the way, you can trace the desperate nature of the retailer, car dealer or college, etc  in direct proportion to their eagerness to sell you something. I have had “final offers” made to me over and over again – but you said it was final three times ago.

Moral Monday’s in North Carolina have started up again, but the issues remain the same. They did help get more notice on the poor teacher pay plight which came to a head last year by limits and changes made by our conservative General Assembly. They have promised to do something this session and they need to or opportunity will be lost. The other issues remain – expand Medicaid to those in need, repeal the voter restrictive Voter ID Law which has been ruled unconstitutional in four other states and is on trial right now here, eliminate the severity of the unemployment benefit cuts which are highly punitive, and avoid fracking in our state. I attended my second Moral Monday yesterday and witnessed a diverse group of a couple of thousands people including doctors, teachers, professors, ministers and students. Their voice needs to be heard and heeded.

Failing to remember history, even recent history, can blind your reasoning, especially when people are adamantly against something they were for a few years ago. Former Senator Jim DeMint is adamantly against Obamacare, which is strange because it was patterned after Romneycare which he strongly advocated in writing, TV appearances and campaign speeches for Romney, as something we should do for the whole country. He particularly liked the mandate, as it shows personal responsibility, which he hates today. Newt Gingrich went on TV with Nancy Pelosi to show a united front that global warming was real and man-influenced and we need to do something about it. Newt noted he was wrong before to say it was a hoax. This change was in 2006. Then he ran for President in 2012 and he said he was wrong to say he was wrong. In this cases, two wrongs do not make a right. The make a wrong a wrong.

Finally, our friend Karl Rove won’t stop making a scandal out of nothing. This time Hillary Clinton is the target. Instead, why don’t we talk about a real scandal and ask Rove why his subordinate Scooter Libby went to jail. The greater question is why did not Rove who admitted later that he knew the same information that Libby did. Libby outed a CIA operative (Valerie Plame) in the press to discredit her husband who was a former Middle East ambassador that took issue with the Bush White House misusing his information inappropriately as evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction as a reason to invade Iraq. The ambassador’s report said for the trail he looked into, there was no evidence, yet the White House said he did find something. Please feel free to Google various combinations of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and Valerie Plame. My problem with this, is over 4,000 US soldiers (and countless civilians) died because of making up the WMD reason on false or unverified intelligence. That is a scandal.

Speaking of trails, happy trails to you on this Tuesday. Have a great week. I would love to hear your feedback.


Get really informed – stop watching Fox and MSNBC

My friends Barney and Hugh have noted often that the one thing worse than an uninformed voter is a misinformed voter. My friend Linda wrote an excellent post yesterday called “We, the people, have been had – Part I” which can be accessed by the following link: which gives this issue more meaning.

Her point is to make our country work we have to be informed citizens and question our leaders. If we do not stay informed, we will be duped into believing what politicians and their funders want us to believe. Unfortunately, in our country, it takes so much money to get elected and with the Supreme Court’s inane ruling to permit more unfettered funding, our country is being controlled by a small few with great means.

The only guard against this is to stay truly informed, question leaders and organize in a grass-roots fashion toward common causes. The “Occupy Wall Street, etc.” movements were good and had merit in their mission, but were set up as rudderless ships and failed to move forward. On the other hand, the “Moral Monday” protestors who started in North Carolina to oppose limitations on the rights of voters, teachers, women and impoverished people, is picking up steam and scares the GOP led legislature here and elsewhere – they should be scared as this group is on the side of the Angels with their cause and data to back up their arguments.

Which leads me to Linda, Barney, Hugh and my point that we need to stay informed – and it is hard work. Let me start by making it easier for many – to be truly informed, stop watching Fox News and MSNBC. And, let me throw in to stop listening to entertainers disguised as pundits who are only trying to stir up extreme bases of listeners.

I have had three conversations in the last few weeks about how people watch both Fox News and MSNBC to get a balance of views. I say now, what I told them – do not watch either one of them. Why? These networks provide a biased view of issues reflecting their spin on the news. So, the water is not just fine, by getting the hot and cold version of an issue. A good example is the old joke about the northern relative who was visiting his home in Alabama. When the household dog becomes rabid and has to be destroyed, being the better shot, he was asked to put down the dog. The news in the northern papers was “Visiting relative puts down rabid dog” while the story in the Alabama paper was “Damn Yankee kills beloved pet.” Same story, but…

The other problem I have noticed is most news outlets cover the game of politics and not the issues. The issues are too complex and boring, so people do not want to pay attention to them. Yet, who wins and who loses is important news. Last night, one of the newscasts was tracking what people thought of the President’s speech. People who were not as informed as they should be were grading a speech. Talk is cheap; action is what matters. We need to understand the problems and ask our people to do something about it, not just grade them on how they spoke.

I tend to read and watch a variety of sources of news. It helps me detect when I am reading something biased. I was watching the BBC World News America the other day, and an expert was asked how this event would impact the US and he started to respond with the public relations impact. Katty Kay, the very astute host, said “no I mean the real impact, not how someone will be viewed.” I applauded her for stopping a “spin” comment. My other watching and listening sources of news are PBS Newshour and NPR, as they tend to have people who know the subject matter, sharing opinions without being talked over by someone who disagrees. In fact, if they are not civil, they do not get invited back. Plus, the hosts and reporters have a deeper understanding of what is going on and ask better questions and not whether Santa Claus was white.

Also, I am big on data, so I look for reasonable sources which are cited to support arguments. We have too many governing by anecdote. For example, there is no evidence of a significant voter fraud in this country. Our problem by far is not enough people voting. Yet, there are some who know a couple of instances of fraud, so because of that, there must be rampant fraud. When I have asked for data from politicians like I did last week, I get none.

So, let’s start be altering where you get your information. Seek out multiple sources who can give an even-handed view of the news and not a spun version. Read news columnists who cover issues and less on incumbents. There is one ultra-conservative writer who writes a variation of the same column every week – “I hate Obama because of (name reason).” Obama is far from perfect, but really, every week? You cannot write about our poverty, wealth disparity, global warming, infrastructure, etc. problems?

One of my favorite movies is “The American President” starring Michael Douglas. During the climax to the movie when he realizes he is being self-serving and not thinking of the country, he says something that supports Linda’s post of yesterday. “America is advanced citizenship. You have to want it real bad.” This means we must tolerate the right of someone to disagree with us, but it also means we must stay informed. Work hard at it. And, when you do get informed, be willing to share this with others and question our leaders. I used to think politicians were more informed than the average citizen – I no longer feel this way. So, please question and ask if they have data on their positions.

And, do share information with others and how you feel about an issue. Pete Seeger, who died this week, was quoted as saying be wary of great leaders; it is better to have many smaller leaders doing good things. This is another way of saying it takes a village. Thanks Linda.


Pennsylvania judge honors MLK with decision on voter suppressive law

On Friday, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley ruled that the Voter ID Law signed into law in March 2012 by Republican Governor Tom Corbett is unconstitutional and solving a problem that does not really exist by any great measure. In his 103 page ruling, Judge McGinley noted “Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election. The voter ID law does not further this goal.”

Per The Charlotte Observer, Judge McGinley “ruled that the law hampered the ability of hundreds of thousands of qualified Pennsylvanians to cast their ballots falling most heavily on elderly, disabled, and low-income residents, and that the state’s reasons for enacting the law – that it was needed to combat voter fraud – was unsupported by the facts.” He also noted the “communication designed to explain the law was filled with miscommunication which had never been corrected.”

This ruling will likely be appealed, but is consistent with the expectations of many attorneys that the law is unconstitutional. The law is actually not as over-the-top as the law signed in North Carolina earlier this year to serve the same unsupported claim of rampant voter fraud. I have written several times about the NC Voter ID Law, the latest of which can be found with the following link:

Before the NC Voter ID Law was passed, the Democrat NC Attorney General told the General Assembly and Governor the law was unconstitutional. Personally, I have written several emails to legislators about not passing this obvious Jim Crow type law. Some have written back in disagreement and the legislation was passed anyway. This has also been one of several issues that have been taken up by the Moral Monday weekly protestors which have led to the arrest of over 900 ministers, teachers, professors, attorneys and others.

And, if you watched an episode this summer on “The Daily Show” you will see an interview with a Buncombe County (Asheville, NC area) Republican Party  Leader, who was very animated about the purpose of this law – to suppress votes so GOP candidates could win. He was so over the top in saying what he believed to be true, the GOP asked him to step down. To their credit, the NC GOP did ask him to step down, but this was a party leader speaking, not just an extreme conservative voter. My friend Amaya in her blog The Brabble Rabble has a link to this episode.

The NC Voter ID Law has four pending lawsuits against it. And, both the Governor and General Assembly have retained legal counsel, which will likely cost the state over $1 million in legal fees to defend. My hope is a NC judge will rule accordingly following the lead from Pennsylvania. So, I want to thank Judge McGinley for his very appropriate ruling. This is a nice tribute to Martin Luther King on our holiday to celebrate his life and work. We should not have to be dealing with issues like this, yet when people’s rights are trampled on, we need to follow the lead of the Moral Monday crowd and fight against it. Martin Luther King would want us to.

This North Carolina Voter is Embarassed by New Voter ID Law

My state of North Carolina is getting more national attention, but not the kind that puts us in a favorable light. This on the heels of a legislative session that brought us notoriety in the New York Times, Esquire Magazine, Real Times with Bill Maher, and various science magazines. The recent Voter ID Law is the latest example, which is
unfortunate. From this Independent, former GOP voter’s vantage point, the new
Voter ID Law solves for the wrong problem. The signficant problem in our country
is not the wrong people voting, it is not enough people voting. Our country and
state lag behind other democracies around the world in the numbers of voters who
turnout at the polls. We should be passing laws to enable more voters, not block
the path for more voting.

The ID part of the law is one element of the blocking. As a 54-year-old white man, it is hard for me to walk in the shoes of people who are disenfranchised or discriminated against by how they look. I can empathize, but I truly don’t have that perspective. And, I am amazed by the recent Supreme Court verdict that says we have insufficient discrimination in our country to continue parts of the national law to assure voter
non-discrimination. I wonder what country they live in, as discrimination still
exists today. This North Carolina and laws like it from around the country are prima facie evidence that this discrimination still exists – it is codified now.

When you add the voter ID with the elimination of Sunday voting, with the elimination of same day registration, with the reduction in time period for early voter, with the elimination in straight party ticket voting, with campaign disclosure changes, with the elimination in early registration and with not standing by your political advertisement, I see a law that is horribly flawed and not serving the mission of the people. One of its drafters was on PBS Newshour last night and kept referring to a survey that said 60% or 70% of North Carolinians support this law. First, off which is it – 60% or 70%? Second, I would like to see the survey as I would wager it is from a biased sourced and did not ask about all of the stuff passed with the Voter ID part of the law.

To this point, this morning, The Charlotte Observer reported the results of the newest NC poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) on the new Voter ID law. only 39% of NC voters support the law, with 50% opposed to it. Tom Jensen, the PPP pollster noted that while the ID part of the law is supported by more voters, when the other parts of the law, many of which are noted above, are added in the law becomes “a loser.” For example, only 33% of voters support the restriction to the early voting period, with 59% opposed with even higher opposition with Independents and Democrats.

My GOP friends have told me and I have read claims that this is law is not designed to suppress the vote and is not Jim Crow like. Of course it is. Almost every feature passed in the law will be harmful to African-Americans who tend to vote Democratic. To say otherwise, is an insult to my intelligence. This is why our Attorney General in NC who is a pretty smart guy, is having a crisis of conscience. He will be asked to defend law suits claiming unconstitutionality and discrimination when he knows the litigants are correct.
I don’t know if the courts will be unduly influenced by the Supreme Court, but
in this person’s view I agree with the AG. This law is unconstitutional and
makes NC look backward.

I know a few of our legislators have shown a bent to label folks, if that makes what has been done alright. Anyone against the law is a liberal Democrat. One of the same folks has called anyone a tree-hugger for wanting to protect the environment, and so on.  I am not a liberal Democrat, but that should truly not matter. I voted for our GOP governor nine times in his campaigns over the years for Charlotte mayor and NC governor. He led Charlotte as a moderate and I was hopeful he would be able to hold back the tide against poor legislation like this, rather than sign it. Based on his signing this law among other laws passed this year, there will not be a tenth.

This law should be repealed along with a few others that are harming people and our economy. It is not in our best interests. Our taxpayers will have to spend a lot of money
defending something that is indefensible.

A Pretty Sad Group of People

Through the lens of this fiscally conservative, socially progressive Independent voter, as low as the Republican led US Congress has been ranked, there is a legislative body that dwarfs them in terms of poor legislative activity. While the US Congress has been favored less than a “colonoscopy” per Senator John McCain, the Republican led General Assembly of the State of North Carolina truly takes the cake. The key difference is both chambers of the General Assembly plus the Governor are all Republican, so my fellow citizens get to witness up close what happens when you have an unfettered body passing legislation that is not only contrary economically to what is needed, but stomps on opportunity and rights of others who are disenfranchised.

As a 54 year-old former Republican, I have never been so embarrassed and disappointed by a governing body of people. But, don’t take my word for it. They have been ranked low in formal polls with approval ratings beneath 40%. In an informal poll by the online Business Journal magazine, which tends to be a more conservative cross-section of people, the General Assembly has been given a D or F grade 55% of the time. Also, the Moral Monday crowds which have been protesting every Monday since the first of May, have grown in number and the arrests have increased to close to a 1,000 people. There would have likely been more, but the authorities are weary from arresting ministers, professors, teachers, doctors of all races and ethnicities. The national attention that the Moral Monday protestors have been given at the expense of this legislature is appropriate.

The legislature is following the GOP playbook that is being used by many GOP led states. Our Governor, who initially said the Moral Monday protestors were predominantly from out-of-state (a random survey said 97% were from in state), has had no qualms about having Grover Norquist, the de facto leader of the GOP, fly in to NC on numerous occasions. Note, he was not boarding a plane from a NC city to fly here. Yet, the citizens in this state apparently do not matter in this lobbyist-fueled legislature, which is prima facie evidence of what can happen with unfettered access to decision-making. Well, what have some of those decisions been?

– Significant reduction to unemployment benefits – NC is the only state to reduce long term unemployment benefits so much that they lost Federal long term unemployment benefit funding. This was done in addition to cutting regular benefits by 1/3. Cuts were needed, but this was well beyond the call of duty and will harm people, as well as the economy with $780 million flowing out of the economy the rest of this year alone.

– Not expanding Medicaid benefits under Obamacare – I have written several posts on this failure to act. This will harm 500,000 people and forego bringing billions of dollar to the state that would help the healthcare economy where rural hospitals are suffering as they chase dollars to pay for services. The Rand institute is the latest group to say expanding Medicaid should be a no brainer for a state.

– Reducing funding for education – Teacher pay in NC ranks 46th in the country. So, the solution was to provide very little for raises, cut teacher assistants, cut tenure, cut extra pay for Masters’ degrees and install a voucher program for going to private schools. NC is attractive to industry because of its innovation and education. We have just fallen from 4th most attractive in 2012 to 12th best in 2013. By my math, that is not progress.

– Reducing taxes that benefit the wealthiest – Estate tax is gone, plus the upper end will enjoy the largest of tax cuts. This is called a job creating law, yet trickle down economics has been shown by numerous studies to fail in creating jobs, the most recent of which was by the Congressional Research Office last fall that was buried by Senator McConnell before the election. A recent informal poll by the Business Journal shows its more conservative readers judge this tax change as a positive by only 44% to a negative view of 43%, the rest undecided. Note, this is a tax cut, mind you these readers are not supporting overwhelmingly.

– Funding for environmental protection continues to get cut and oversight committees either disbanded or replaced by business friendly members. The NC Biofuels group that I touted only a few weeks ago for creating a new source of ethanol with reed grasses, will have to shut its doors. We are investigating ways to allow fracking and it took a lot of effort that showed even conservative legislators to not derail an admired law put in place in 2007 to require utilities to provide 15% of their power by alternative energy (or be responsible for the perpetuation if in another state) by 2021. This repeal effort was fortunately defeated by some saner heads.

– The General Assembly has just passed a restrictive abortion rights bill that copy cats other states’ laws like that which was signed in Texas after the famous filibuster. They are about to pass concealed gun laws which will allow guns in restaurants and bars with a permit and alow them on college campuses, if locked in a car. Plus, some of the licensing is being changed over the objection of law enforcement, which is a group you would not typically want to ignore on crime issues. And, they are about to pass a Voter ID law which will reduce early voting, making it harder for college students to vote, eliminate same day registration and require photo IDs. As I have noted, the problem in our country is not enough people voting, not voter fraud, yet this law’s unstated purpose is to make it harder for people to vote and impact typically non-Republican voters more.

– If that were not enough, the state legislature initiated a spitting contest with the City of Charlotte over a city run airport that has been well run by the state’s own admission. Back in February, the legislature proposed a bill to yank control from the City and place it with a regional authority. This was without previous discussion with the City. Whether this is a good idea or not, it was extremely poor form to pose this without detailed conversation with stakeholders before unleashing the news. As of this writing the City of Charlotte has an injunction against the state to cease and desist. Note, this is after the state started down the path of yanking the control over water and sewage resources from the City of Asheville. I believe this is being decided in the courts as well.

My friend Amaya who blogs on www.thebrabblerabble, from another part of our state has written several similar posts. We both are pulling our hair out over this sad group of people. The litany of changes that will harm people, harm the economy, harm the environment, increase gun deaths and make it easier to win elections just boggles the mind. The last point about the airport and water fights with two of its cities show lack of good faith negotiation. These may be the right courses of action to take, but the process to get there showed that the General Assembly has not been very trustworthy. Maybe that is the best way to leave this. They have breached our trust on almost every front. They have been more concerned with the business interests of wealthy donors than its own citizens. The unfortunate part is with the gerrymandered districts from last year, we are likely stuck with this untrustworthy lot. And, that leaves the NC citizens with being sad for this body’s actions.

Be on the side of the angels

A few years ago when a management committee of a client was faced with a decision based on a recent law change, the CFO said something profound that has stuck with me since. He said, “at least we’re on the side of the angels on this.” His point was they could opt to continue what they were doing as it was a justifiable and legally supported decision. I use this quote often, as when you see the issues of the day, if you are trying to do right by people, you tend to be on the “side of the of the angels.”

We have a global poverty problem, which includes what is transpiring in the United States where 47% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and a significant number of children go to bed hungry. Outside of the US, there are even worse situations where people in some countries are severely malnourished, undereducated, have poor hygiene and sanitation, and are preyed upon, especially if they are women and children. Until we can help these people with sustainable measures where they can advise on what is needed and own the resolutions, the severe poverty will continue. Until we give women the voice and protection they need and deserve, these issues will continue to be a problem, as women universally tend to be the health care takers of the family and are half of the intellectual capital in these countries. So when treating women poorly, the countries are doing more than just harming women – they are hurting themselves and their ability to change their paradigm of poverty.

In the US, we avoid talking about our poverty problem. We mask it by speaking of the disappearing middle class. The political party who has been the long time strongest advocate for the poor does not shout loudly enough to help those in need. The other political party has turned into a mean-spirited group that everyone in need is a sycophant and does not deserve to be helped. It was actually used as an argument by its presidential candidate, which fortunately back-fired on him. Yet, what I see happening now is a state by state deployment of a playbook (where this mean-spirited party is in control) to cut support to those in need or not expand on Medicaid to help those in poverty. I also see a Congress leadership group that will exclude food stamps from a Farm Bill or not want to include a path to citizenship to 11,000,000 people living here who have been contributing to our society and can help grow the economy.

I often see the WWJD bumper stickers and arm bracelets standing for “What Would Jesus Do?” From my upbringing, the bible tells me Jesus tended to hang out with the impoverished and disenfranchised folks in his time on earth. Usually, when he was around leadership, he was sharing his frustration and advocating for those in need. He was often encouraging others to help each other, especially “the least of these.” And, the overarching theme of the bible I grew up with is “do unto the others as you would have them do unto you.” These words are so powerful, they find their way into other religious texts and should be our modus operandi.

My friend Amaya ( and I have been sharing with the rest of our blogging friends some of the reasons why our state of North Carolina has been having these “Moral Monday” protests. These protestors of all races, ethnicities, sexual preferences, political persuasions and positions including ministers, professors, attorneys, etc. have been protesting each Monday against legislation which is harmful to people, but also harmful to the economy of the state. The former is important enough, but the latter has been noted by several reputable sources, and will actually do harm on more than just these folks by also harming economic growth that will limit recovery and job creation.

I have been pleading with legislators and the governor to speak openly with the Moral Monday protestors. I have encouraged the legislators to listen, as well. The protestors are risking arrest and over 700 have been incarcerated for failure to disperse and trespassing on government property. The protestors are advocating for the expansion of Medicaid to help over 500,000 people, the reversal, revision or delay of severe unemployment cuts that forego over $780 millions of federal money for the long term unemployed, and the reconsideration of changes passed (or cessation of consideration) to the limitations on voters’ rights, education funding, and women’s rights. This is occurring at the same time the legislature is considering the reduction of state taxes for corporations and those well off.

My plea to the legislators and governor is these folks have passion for what they believe, but they are also on the side of the angels. Their voice should be heard and heeded. WWJD? Jesus would be stepping up the help to people in need, not cutting it. And, having grown up a carpenter’s son, Jesus would know the return on investment of doing something correctly and not wasting anything. Expanding Medicaid, for example, is being done by many states as they see the economic benefit of bringing federal money to the state to serve the healthcare needs of the poor. The Ohio governor of the same party said it would bring $13 Billion to his state over seven years. Jesus would know that by providing money to those without a job will benefit all with the dollars being used to conduct trade. Jesus would know that by taking $780 million out of the economy it will be harmful to others.

Yet, set the economic benefit aside. We must help the people in need climb a ladder. Gandhi said  “a community’s greatness is measured by how it takes care of its less fortunate.”  The protestors are on the side of the angels. They are seeking better treatment or the reversal of poor treatment on behalf of many. They are also on the side of the angels on the economics of the issues, which is interesting given the business mindset of the party in question. A formal poll shows a majority of NC citizens disapprove of the governance of this state. The same poll said citizens who say they are members of the party in leadership disapprove more (40%) of state governance versus those who approve (39%). This is also happening at the national level as well where this party’s membership shows a high level of disapproval of its leadership. Key reasons are the mean-spiritedness and lack of collaboration.

We must help people in need climb a ladder. It is the right thing to do. And, it is the economical thing to do if done the right way. When we look at what we should do, we need to set politics aside and look to be on the side of the angels. If we do that consistently, our communities, countries and world will all be better places.

The wrong way to debate citizens with issues

My friend Amaya on her website, The Brabble Rabble, has aired a pertinent article which shows how public debate should not be done. She has written about a North Carolina GOP power broker named Art Pope, who after helping the new governor get elected, became his Budget Director. In essence, his political website has published photos of a large and growing body of protesters in NC who have been termed the Moral Monday protesters. Over 500 of these Moral Monday protesters have been arrested for failure to disperse and trespassing. Many are ministers, teachers and professionals. Yet, the website goes further to ridicule the protesters with an online game. The article link follows:

These protesters are there because of a series of law and bills that will be very harmful to the less fortunate in our state. Money could not be found to help these folks, yet it could be found for a potential tax cut that will help the upper income earners moreso than others. I have written several posts on the topic, the latest of which can be read with the following link:

My point is not to rehash their issues. My point is that these folks have a right to be heard and not ridiculed. The governor has said they are from out-of-state, when surveys show that 98% are from NC. Other legislators have called them names to belittle them. I have shared with the governor and other legislators by several emails that whether you agree with their issues or not, they have a right to be heard. Especially, when you have people of all races, genders, and ethnic groups risking arrest. I for one believe their issues have merit. As an Independent voter, I am truly baffled by some of our decisions in our General Assembly that will be harmful to our citizens and the economy. These decisions will hurt people of all political persuasions, as poverty knows no political party.

Yet, irrespective of whether our leaders agree with them or not, the Moral Monday protesters deserve to be heard. At the very minimum, they deserve respect. This is extremely poor form on Art Pope and his advisors part. This is extremely poor form on the governor’s part, which is a shame as I voted for him. I have shared with him that his inaction to meet with the Moral Monday protesters and failure to rein in Mr. Pope’s efforts to ridicule them has cost him my vote. I realize my vote does not matter in the big scheme of things, but he needs to know his actions or inactions affect people.

No matter in which state or country you live, if you are permitted to share your concerns over government action or inaction let them know. Do not name call and stick to the issues. If you strive to be constructive in your comments, they will be more easily read and hopefully acknowledged. If you name call, they will go in the pile of unread emails. In our country, it costs so much money to get elected, the people with the money have greater influence. The only way for everyone else to have a voice is to let our leaders know what they have not done well, but also where they have done a good job. Thanks for letting Amaya and me share our state woes as an example to others.

Moral Mondays – the New Civil Rights Protests in North Carolina

I have written earlier about some of the inane legislation that has been passed and considered in my home state of NC by our conservative led legislature. Much of this has been around unwinding renewable energy initiatives and making it easier to frack and drill off shore. Yet, even more troubling has been the onslaught against those who are not well off. These folks are in poverty or living paycheck to paycheck, just above the poverty line. It will not take much to push these fragile people over the edge. While poverty is an equal opportunity offender, when taking together, the legislation bent has been to come down hard on the African-American and other disenfranchised groups.

To make their voice heard, there have been a series of protests over the past five weeks called, “Moral Monday” protests, at the NC state legislative building, and 153 people have been arrested, including doctors, lawyers and ministers. Five others were arrested during a May Day protest. This past Monday four Charlotte ministers were arrested for second degree trespassing and failure to disperse. Yet, what is about to happen is an even greater number of ministers will convene in the month of June as these protests are intensified.

Per WRAL in Raleigh, “the arrests have all started much the same way, with crowds bustling into the atrium between two giant sets of brass doors marking the entrance to the state House and Senate chambers. They sing, they chant, they hear testimony from some of those gathered. During that time, the General Assembly Police Chief uses a bullhorn to warn the protesters that they are trespassing and in jeopardy of being arrested. After about 20 minutes, bystanders are cleared away, and those determined to be arrested are obliged.” Please check out the entire WRAL article at :

Why are they picketing each Monday in the first place? There are several factors:

– NC decided not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act which impacts over 500,000 residents. (passed and signed by the Governor). Other bills restrict access to pre-natal care, make it easier to smoke in public places and restrict information to teens on STDs and mental health treatment.

– NC severely restricted unemployment benefits in total, but also limited the duration for the extended unemployment benefits (usually older workers who have been laid off, downsized or RIFed). This becomes effective July 1.

– NC is considering a Voter Rights bill that is expected to pass which will take us back to Jim Crow-like restrictions requiring a picture ID, eliminating Sunday voting, reducing Early Voting and making it more difficult for groups who have tended to vote Democratic to vote.

– NC is considering a Voucher program for education which will usually gut the funding for public schools and give a subsidy to people who were already prone to put their children in a private or parochial school. So, those with no choice get less school funding. Also, access to pre-K schools for those in need is being lessened.

– NC is considering new tax laws that will reduce the taxes paid by the upper middle class and higher and require more taxes by those who have less ability to pay. The shell game is to reduce tax rates, but increase more things subject to sales tax (groceries, Rx drugs, etc.) which has been shown to hit the impoverished very hard. The rich come out like bandits. These laws are in very poor form and the backlash has been severe by newspaper editorial writers and others.

There are other changes that chip away at protections to those in need. Yet, as a fiscally conservative and socially progressive person, these changes are kicking people in the groin while benefitting a few. The Medicaid expansion is a no a brainer and some GOP led states are now seeing this, but many still don’t. Many see this as a political move to defeat Obamacare, but the pawns are the ones getting hurt.  Dr. Charles Van der Horst, one of the people arrested, has been very vocal of this restrictive NC law as he says it is very harmful to the lives and care of many residents.

These are real people. They are not just African-American; they are Hispanic American, Asian American, and Caucasian American. Poverty is not just in the cities, it is in rural areas. These folks need help and need a place at the table. Our legislators need to go outside and talk with them. If they did, they may rethink some of these bills. But, this is not just me or the protestors saying this. Outside of NC, the legislature is being referred to as “the reign of error.” Esquire Magazine said NC is trying to become like Mississippi, which I did not interpret as a compliment, although I like Mississippians.

But, even others in the state see this. The Business Journal in NC cities took an informal survey of readers and got over 5,000 responses. The question they asked was how do you grade the legislature thus far. 41% gave them an “F” and 14% gave them a “D”. This is a group of readers of business news that ranked them, so I would guess there is a heavier weighting of conservative voters than a random sample of NC residents which makes the ranking even worse.

Getting back to our protestors, I would ask one key question of our legislators. If these folks are risking jail time, you have to ask yourself “are we doing right by them?” The answer is no. So, the next question is “what are you going to do about it?