DEMAND LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATES PLEDGE TO END PARTISAN GERRYMANDERING: This is not about Republicans or Democrats. It is about elections reflecting the will of the voters. The current system is unfair. It needs to change. Unfortunately, the leadership of the illegally-constituted majority of the legislature refuses to budge. They have bullied, fought, obstructed and procrastinated to maintain the illegal districts. Bipartisan calls for reform have fallen on deaf ears. Efforts to advance proposals for the development of a non-partisan system of drawing congressional and legislative district lines have been blocked from any consideration. This coming election offers the best opportunity yet for voters to take direct action and elect state and federal representatives who will press to reform the way we draw congressional and legislative district maps.
BREAK THE GOP STRANGLEHOLD ON THE LEGISLATURE--- AND NORTH CAROLINA: When Republican legislative leaders decided in May how they wanted to spend your tax dollars in 2018-’19, that was it. Lights out, taxpayers. There’s nothing for you to see here. You’ve heard of dark money? This was a dark budget. Republican leaders assembled a $24 billion spending plan in secret, rolled it out and said there would be no amending it. That was the first time in modern legislative history that amendments to the budget were not permitted. Why would Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore employ such a Vladimir Putin-like tactic? Because they’ve been in power too long. Because they think they have the corner on good ideas. And especially because they have the votes. These Republicans might have entered office in 2011 with good intentions but they’ve become enamored with themselves and with power. For the good of North Carolina, they need to be checked.
IF A PRINCE MURDERS A JOURNALIST, THAT'S NOT A HICCUP: We need an international investigation, perhaps overseen by the United Nations, of what happened to Jamal. In the United States, we also must investigate whether Saudis bought influence with spending that benefited the Trump family, such as $270,000 spent as of early 2017 by a lobbying firm for Saudi Arabia at the Trump hotel in Washington. The Washington Post reported that Saudi bookings at Trump Chicago increased 169 percent from the first half of 2016 to the first half of this year, and that the general manager of a Trump hotel in New York told investors that revenues rose partly because of “a last-minute visit to New York by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.” If Saudi Arabia cannot show that Jamal is safe and sound, NATO countries should jointly expel Saudi ambassadors and suspend weapons sales. The United States should start an investigation under the Magnitsky Act and stand ready to impose sanctions on officials up to MBS. America can also make clear to the Saudi royal family that it should find a new crown prince. A mad prince who murders a journalist, kidnaps a prime minister and starves millions of children should never be celebrated at state dinners, but instead belongs in a prison cell.
A NORTH CAROLINA SOLDIER DIES, AN ENDLESS WAR GRINDS ON: Last Tuesday, flags at North Carolina’s state office buildings flew at half-staff. Few noticed. Fewer asked why. The solemn symbolism and the public’s obliviousness tell the story of America’s misbegotten – and now all but forgotten – war in Afghanistan. In their sorrow, Slape’s wife and brother take solace in his patriotism. He made a courageous choice and gave the ultimate sacrifice for a cause larger than himself. But it’s also fair to ask how many more must follow him and how many more family members must draw on their own and their lost loved one’s patriotism to give meaning to an American’s death halfway around the world in a war that’s entering its 18th year. Sgt. James Allen Slape died at 23 in a war that goes on largely unnoticed. That should draw our attention. It is time for civilians to fight for such soldiers to end this endless war and bring the 14,000 U.S. troops still there home to flags flying not in mourning, but in gratitude.
GOODBYE, POLITICAL SPIN, HELLO BLATANT LIES: What do they lie about? Lots of things, from crowd sizes to immigrant crime, from steel plants to the Supreme Court. But right now the most intense, coordinated effort at deception involves health care — an issue where Republicans are lying nonstop about both their own position and that of Democrats. The true Republican position on health care has been clear and consistent for decades: The party hates, just hates, the idea of government action to make essential health care available to all citizens, regardless of income or medical history. But Republicans have a problem here: The policies they hate, and Democrats love, are extremely popular. Medicare has overwhelming support. So does protection for pre-existing conditions, which is even supported by a large majority of Republicans. Now, you might imagine that Republicans would respond to the manifest unpopularity of their health care position by, you know, actually changing their position. But that would be hopelessly old-fashioned. As I said, what they’ve chosen to do instead is lie, insisting that black is white and up is down.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
BILL GILKESON: VOTER ID AMENDMENT IS AKIN TO A POLL TAX: The NC Constitution says, “As political rights and privileges are not dependent upon or modified by property, no property qualification shall affect the right to vote or hold office.” The legislature now proposes an exception to that right to vote regardless of having property. On the ballot next month, you’ll see a proposed constitutional amendment to require every in-person voter to “present photographic identification before voting.” The legislature would decide what kind of documents are acceptable. If you don’t have one of those documents, your vote won’t count. I call that a property requirement. Some people – maybe not people we know, but some people – are perfectly eligible to vote but don’t have a document the legislature deems acceptable. They’d have a very hard time getting one. Some states ask for an I.D. but don’t deny the right to vote if voters don’t have one. They find other ways to determine eligibility. When our legislature passed a voter I.D. statute, their legislation was so restrictive a federal court threw it out as a deliberate attempt to make it harder for certain vulnerable people to vote. I’m voting “NO” on their attempt to do that in the Constitution.
KAY ZIMMERMAN: MANNING-BUDD RACE IS MORE THAN A CULTURE WAR: The News & Record article (“District 13 contest tightens,” Sept. 27) was an update of the Kathy Manning-Ted Budd race for the U.S. House of Representatives. It was portrayed as a “culture clash” between a wealthy Democrat and a gun-store-owning Republican. This race is about so much more than this simplistic description indicates. While Kathy has indeed done a great deal for the arts in Greensboro, she has also been a small-business owner and law partner. She has worked tirelessly to bring good jobs to the Piedmont. She has made great efforts to provide health and medical care, job retraining, and mortgage assistance to those suffering from the Great Recession. Kathy has helped provide school readiness programs for underprivileged children, is working to make college more affordable and advocates continuously for veterans and retirees. Kathy has personally negotiated with insurance and health care companies on behalf of her own daughter, who has a pre-existing health condition. This contest is about more than “culture;” it will determine if the citizens of the 13th District move forward into the future in a way that is equitable for all.
LYNN LYLE: TO FIGHT WARMING, WE NEED TO MOVE TO RENEWABLE ENERGY. NOW: The day after your article on N.C. Influencers’ views on climate change (“NC community leaders share concern for climate change,” Oct. 8), you published an article on a scientific report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“‘Incredibly grim’ prognosis on global warming also carries clarion call for action,” Oct 9). It concludes: by 2040 global warming will inundate coastlines and intensify droughts, food shortages and poverty with damages estimated at $54 trillion. In light of the report, solutions from N.C. leaders look like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Suggestions like limiting floodplain development, permeable surfaces, recycling coal ash and ramped-up development of solar and wind are worthy. Leaders rightly worry about how changes affect local economies. What’s missing is an understanding that transformation of the world economy is required at an unprecedented scale and speed (12 years according to the UN report). We need rapid transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, encouraged by a carbon tax and dividend. More broadly, we need massive withdrawal of carbon from the atmosphere using the solutions from robust scientific and economic research by scientists such as Paul Hawken. Every single N.C. business, community, religious and political leader and citizen should be envisioning, promoting, and implementing these solutions. Instead of rearranging deck chairs, we can work together to keep the ship afloat.