SPEAKER TIM MOORE'S POWER GRAB: Since 2011, and until last week, it has been the rule in the North Carolina House of Representatives that there must be at least a day’s notice before a vote on overriding legislation vetoed by the governor – two days if the bill originated in the House. That rule was adopted in 2011 -- the same year Republicans initiated their now 12-year domination of both the state House and state Senate in the General Assembly. The provision was placed in the House rules at the behest of former Republican state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam. Stam is no fair-weather partisan and at the time was the Republican Majority Leader in the House. Every representative present – including then Rules Committee co-chair and now Speaker Tim Moore – voted for it. The point of the rule is not to give any political party or state official any advantage or disadvantage. The point is to make sure citizens know what’s going on and can hold their elected representatives fully accountable. Giving notice on important actions – whether hearings and votes on bills before legislative committees, debates and votes in the state House or Senate – makes sure the public has a way to track and hold their elected officials responsible for their actions. Responsibility is exactly the kind of behavioral trait that Berger and Moore try to avoid, so they can keep shortchanging our public schools and block Medicaid expansion. And they will use every dirty trick in the book (and those not written yet) to get there.
SANTOS' ABSENCE OF ETHICS LOWERS ALL IN CONGRESS. HE MUST GO: While it initially seemed Santos’ fabrications were post-election revelations, there are reports that a 2021 pre-election background check revealed a “pattern of deception that cut to the heart of the image he had cultivated as a wealthy financier.” Further, that report -- which disclosed the fake college degrees, participation with a company accused of a Ponzi scheme and more -- was viewed by key GOP campaign operatives and after seeing it some of Santos’ campaign team quit. Santos is “a bad guy “and added “it’s pretty despicable the lies that he tells,” said Rep. James Comer, a Republican from Kentucky who chairs the House Oversight Committee, during a Sunday appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” But simply being a bad guy who lied about his life and jobs isn’t enough to keep him from being a member of the U.S. House. "It's not up to me or any other member of Congress to determine whether he can be kicked out for lying. Now, if he broke campaign finance laws, then he will be removed from Congress," he said. “The voters of his district have elected him. He is seated. He is part of the Republican conference,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters last week. That stands in stark contrast to Republicans in Santos’ district. The Nassau County Republican Party – the largest portion of his congressional district – has called on Santos to resign. The New York state Republican Party chairman has called on him to resign. “It's clear that he cannot be an effective representative and it would be in the best interest of the taxpayers to have new leadership," said Nick Langworthy, state GOP chair. Is Santos the kind of Republican North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson who now leads the National Republican Congressional Committee – the political committee that works to elect Republicans to the U.S. House – wants to hold up as an example of what the party has to offer? Hudson knows the answer to that question – absolutely not. So he and his fellow Republicans in the U.S. House need to be doing all they can to get him out. Hudson will do whatever he's told, and if McCarthy doesn't give a shit, neither will he.
DOWN WITH DUKE (ENERGY): The general thesis of capitalism goes like this: private companies have a profit incentive. That profit incentive will lead them to maximize profits in a competitive market by offering the best possible service at the lowest possible operating costs. Maximum competition, in the long term, reduces inefficiencies and increases the quality of services for consumers. The invisible hand of the market, supply and demand and all that. Duke Energy and electric utilities as a whole, however, don’t operate in a competitive market. They operate in a state-enforced monopoly. No one else can enter the market due to high barriers to entry and state regulations. Because they don’t have to compete for consumers and because these regional energy monopolies have basically divided the entire country up between them, there's very limited opportunity for expansion. No competition means that the same profit incentive exists, but companies have no incentive to provide better service. All the drawbacks of free market capitalism with none of the supposed benefits. In fact, most utilities don’t actually make any money from the sale of services to consumers, just enough to cover operating expenses. Instead, utility companies make money by building new infrastructure. Say a company decides to build a power plant for $100. They will get a loan for that $100, collect $120 from consumers on power bills for the plant, give $105 to the bank for the loan and collect the $15 as profit. Now, imagine this but at a much larger scale, with companies producing profits in the billions. This model has a glaring weakness, though. Utility companies don’t have an incentive to provide better service or maintain their existing infrastructure, they have an incentive to build new stuff. In fact, it goes further. This model actively rewards power companies for letting their infrastructure fall apart. After all, if one station starts to fail due to a lack of investment, that's not a problem — it's an opportunity for profit. The alternative is really simple: Community-owned local electric utilities with no profit incentives operating as part of a local or state government. Existing public utilities provide power to one out of every seven Americans, are more reliable, more environmentally friendly and are cheaper. Public utilities exist not as engines to generate profits for ownership, but to provide a basic and necessary service to the people. This would also make facilitating welfare programs such as the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, which provides payments to utility companies for heating, far easier. A state- or locally-owned utility could simply not charge households under certain income thresholds or work directly with companies to subsidize power in low-income communities. I don't outright disagree with this idea, but local governments are notoriously fickle, especially when it comes to providing needs-based services. And don't forget the Electricities debacle; the debt burden of major energy infrastructure can warp good intentions severely. But we should keep talking about this, nevertheless.
THE ABILITY OF THE 117TH CONGRESS TO GOVERN IS IN QUESTION: Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania is quoted as saying that he should not recuse himself from any Republican investigation of the committee that just investigated the Insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021. Perry explains: “Why should I be limited just because someone has made an accusation? Everybody in America is innocent until proven guilty.” When pressed that his participation in a new committee investigating a committee of which he refused its subpoena would pose a conflict, Perry offered, “So, should everybody in Congress that disagrees with somebody be barred from doing the oversight and investigative powers that Congress has? That’s our charge,” Perry said. I agree with Perry that up to now all that has been leveled against him and other members of the House are accusations. After all, the only “evidence” against Perry and those other potential domestic terrorists come from a multitude of workers in the 45th Republican president’s White House. So when it is written in the exhaustive January 6 Report that Perry recommended more than once to Mark Meadows that Jeffrey Clark be named acting attorney general because he would “do what is necessary” and that he requested a pardon from the 45th president and he voted not to certify the electoral count of President Biden, questions arise. Perry, like some other House members, including the newly elected Speaker, had ample opportunity to testify under oath before the January 6 Committee. He could have done this not to justify the committee that he opposed, but to clear his name by explaining (under oath) his involvement or non-involvement in the conspiracy to overthrow our government. Instead he stonewalled and refused a rightful subpoena. (Lest we forget, in October of 2015, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat for an 11-hour questioning by the Benghazi Select Committee led by Rep. Trey Gowdy). So why could Perry have not simply come forth and answered the questions about his actions and clear his name? He could have testified under oath and explained why he allegedly wanted an unqualified person like Clark to be appointed attorney general and why on earth he desired a presidential pardon? But he did not and the question “why not?” looms over him — and the other members of the House. Exactly. They have a lot to answer for, which is why they are so anxious to get their kangaroo court started, so they can draw eyes away from their own traitorous behavior.
WHAT MORE EDUCATION ON RACIAL ISSUES TAUGHT ME: Conservatives argue our present-day focus on ideas such as systemic racism make White people feel guilt or shame. I suspect that’s true. But for much of my life, the absence of such ideas left me feeling pretty terrible. We all observed the racial dynamics around us, but we didn’t really know what explained them. So people adopted explanations that made sense to them. In private conversations, I heard (even sometimes from fellow Black people) that Black people didn’t value education and achievement or were more biologically suited for sports than academics. Some of these ideas were published in newspapers, magazines and books. I had to endure conversations about how I was “one of the good ones,” implying my Black relatives, friends and classmates were not. Organizations, I often heard or read, would love to hire more Black people, but couldn’t find qualified ones. By 2008, the country was said to be “post-racial”: If Barack Obama could be elected president, was anything really holding Black people back? The emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement pushed me to think more deeply about racial issues. It also provided more opportunities to do so. News outlets started covering these issues much more. I became more educated about two important concepts in particular: Past racial discrimination still deeply affects Black people today, particularly in explaining their low levels of wealth; and some of the United States’ policy structures and systems still result in negative outcomes for Black people even though overt discrimination is outlawed. The biggest overall lesson was this: There is nothing wrong with Black people as a group. Our reduced levels of wealth and income are the result of U.S. policies. Internalizing these ideas was incredibly reassuring and empowering for me. I want everyone in America to learn what I did in my 30s much earlier. I often meet White people who have recently learned about, for example, the enduring effects of redlining who say, “Why didn’t they teach us this in school?” In a society like ours where racial divides are so clear, the choice isn’t between talking about race or not talking about it. The choice is whether to have formal, evidence-based education on racial issues or to leave race out of education settings so that people are left to come to conclusions on their own. There is certainly room for debate about exactly what that evidence-based education should look like. But there is disagreement among experts on ideas in math, science and history, too — and different views on how those subjects should be taught. We should figure out the best way to teach America’s racial history honestly — not rush to ban anything that offends conservatives. Bolding mine, because as a manager, I had to deal with this on a regular basis. The presumption that good black employees were the exception, and bad white employees were (also) the exception. It came into play when disciplining employees, and when promoting them. A POC had to be a super employee to be considered for anything above entry level, but a white employee had to be demonstrably bad to be considered ineligible. And every time I broke that paradigm when promoting or disciplining, my bosses found some way to question my decisions. Did they learn anything? No, because prejudice can't be so easily fixed. But it still must be (continuously) opposed.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
CAROLYN CHRISTMAN: SO MUCH FOR REPUBLICAN "FREEDOMS": North Carolina Republicans often brag of their commitment to personal freedom, such as their support for ownership of assault weapons and resistance to COVID vaccines and protocols. Such rights are protected, even if they may harm others. In contrast, during the 2023 legislative session Republicans will eagerly vote to take away personal freedoms held by N.C. women: access to contraception, abortion and certain medical procedures. These rights to body autonomy have been in place for 50 years. The truth is that the Republican Party cares only about some freedoms and based on who holds them. Hypocrisy is a way of life for them, and they are immune to the irony.
LAURA STILLMAN: MARK ROBINSON IS DANGEROUS: With his punitive stance on a woman’s right to choose, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson told a crowd at a Jan. 14 anti-abortion march in Raleigh that he wants North Carolina to be a “destination for life,” not abortion. He should concern himself with North Carolina being a destination for the life of all women in all their choices. Our state has a shameful history and track record of providing for women in terms of equal pay, educational opportunities, healthcare, housing, and especially childcare. What we truly don’t need is a lieutenant governor who targets women — just as he targets the LGBTQ population — denying us more choices in our own healthcare decisions. He is irritating but relatively harmless now. Keeping him out of the Governor's mansion is job #1, because he would gladly oversee the total rise of the Tarheel Taliban.
LINDA KOSTRZEWA: HERE COMES SHARIA LAW: Regarding Alexandra Petri’s Jan. 14 op-ed, “Save us from women’s shoulders, Missouri state legislature!”: What? Cover your arms? The Missouri legislature’s new dress code for women scares me as much as any of the possible laws and rules that members of the GOP want to pass. What are they afraid of? Cover your arms lest you offend us with your feminine body parts. Will it be face coverings and clothes that touch the floor next? It gets hot in Missouri, and being able to flap your arms a little, as opposed to your mouth, helps to cool down. Again, leave my body alone. Yeah, this is more than a little spooky. And it's not just about blazers; it's about control, sexism, misogyny, etc. Dog help us.