Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sandy Hooks Elementary, Assault Rifles, Gun Laws, NRA, Sen. Manchin, Vicki Soto

Guns Don’t Kill People—People With Guns Do!
By Mildred Robertson
You’re kidding, right?  Just when I thought an intelligent conversation could be had regarding gun violence in America, we see the National Rifle Association (NRA) cock its pistol and send politicians fleeing for cover. After coming out earlier this week as an advocate for a sane conversation about gun control, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin repeatedly praised and defended the NRA, saying on Wednesday that he’s “not supporting a ban on anything.”
It is apparent that Manchin was taken to the woodshed for promoting the idea that a discussion of gun laws was imperative following the horrific slaughter of the innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut. Falling back on the age-old adage that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” Manchin tried to defend the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment as the unfettered right to gun possession.  In his turn-about, he actually pointed to video games as the culprit spawning gun violence, citing the game “Grand Theft Auto” as an example.
Manchin and his gun-toting friends are partially right. While guns don’t kill people, people with guns do. It is unfathomable to me that the NRA or anyone else, for that matter, would fight for the right of the average individual to own a gun that can kill 20 people in a matter of seconds? While I am not a hunter, I am fairly certain you don’t need 20 rounds per second to take down Bambi.
But the truth is that an inordinate number of people are slain each year in America, many in senseless bloodbaths such as the one witnessed in Newton Connecticut. According to the Washington Post, Mother Jones has tracked and mapped every shooting spree over the last three decades. “Since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii,” they found. The Post reports that in most cases, the killers had obtained their weapons legally.
It is obvious that the NRA has flexed it sizable political muscle to cow those who might be prepared to enter into serious discussion about reforming gun laws. But our politicians need to be bigger than that. The reform of gun legislation is far past due in this country.
At some point, our political leaders must muster the courage to stand up for what they believe. Just like Vicki Soto in that elementary classroom in Sandy Hooks, they must be willing to step into harms way to protect those over whom they have charge.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Fiscal Cliff, African Americans, Black Buying Power, Tax Increase

Impact of Fiscal Cliff on African Americans

By Mildred Robertson


If you are African American making less than $250,000, you probably won’t see an increase in your income taxes under President Obama’s tax plan. In fact, roughly 2.0 million working African-American families and about 3.4 million African-American children would continue to benefit from the President’s improvements to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). However, if we plunge over the fiscal cliff, Blacks, along with other middle class house holds earning as little as $53,000, could see an increase of $2,200.

While many Republicans malign black families as “takers,” the fact is that African American spending helps drive the economy. With a buying power of nearly $1 trillion annually, if it were a country African-American spending would rank 16th in the world. Researchers anticipate black consumer spending will grow to $1.1 trillion by 2015.
As we look toward 2013, estimates indicate American consumers will spend about $5 trillion on retail sales. African American spending will account for many of those dollars.  Redirecting wages and income towards taxes will result in plummeting retail spending not only in the Black community, but nationwide. The result will be a real “trickle down” economy, where sales trickle down to nothing as consumers close their pockets to discretionary spending.

Let’s do the math. If we look at three different scenarios, we can get a good idea of what the fiscal cliff means to typical Americans.

A middle-income African-American family of four: a married couple with two children with income between about $50,000 and $85,000 would see a $2,200 tax increase.
·   1,000 because the Child Tax Credit will fall from $1,000 to $500 per child.
·   $900 because of merging the 10 percent tax bracket into the 15 percent tax bracket.
·   $300 because of the expiration of marriage penalty relief that provides a larger standard deduction for married couples.

A single African-American mother with three young children, ages 11 months to 6 years, working full-time at minimum wage ($14,500 annual income) would see an increase of $2395.
·  $1,725 because the Child Tax Credit will fall from $1,000 to $500 per child, while the threshold for refundability will be substantially stricter.
·   $670 because of the expiration of the EITC expansion for larger families.

An upper-middle-income African-American married couple with a 15-year-old at home and a 19-year-old in her second year at a public university with an income of $120,000 would experience a $4500 tax increase.
·   $700 because, instead of being able to claim the $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credit to help with college expenses, they will only be able to claim the Hope Credit worth $1,800.
·   $500 because the Child Tax Credit will fall from $1,000 to $500 per qualifying child.
·    about $900 because of the disappearance of the 10 percent tax bracket.

Regardless of where you stand on the middle-class spectrum, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will impact your financial stability. Right now, middle class Americans cannot take the hit. Estimates indicate that if taxes go up, American consumers will likely spend nearly $200 billion less in 2013. A decline in middle class consumption could slow the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 1.4 percentage points. That’s not good for African Americans. It’s not good for the middle class, and it’s certainly not good for America.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fiscal Cliff, Debt Crisis, 2012 Election, Partisan Politics

The Election is Over – It’s Time to Govern
By Mildred Robertson
As Washington politicians wrestle with shifting ideology, changing demographics and an electorate bored with partisan rhetoric, it is safe to say that America’s political future is uncertain. Even with a resounding victory by Barack Obama during the 2012 election, many still wonder how much of his progressive agenda he will be able to enact over the next 4 years.
The Republican opposition, though not quite as vociferous as during the election, is still trying to find solid ground upon which it can take a stand against the President. At risk is the safety and security of America’s working class men and women who must depend upon federal programs to retire and live out their lives in some level of comfort and stability; mothers who must struggle to educate,  feed and clothe children; the chronically ill—Romney’s 47 percent.
The Republicans, having been scorched in the heat of battle, speak less ruthlessly about Americans who depend on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to survive. However, their intentions do not seem to have changed. They are attempting to walk the razors’ edge, where it is safe to attack these compassionate social programs without alienating the voting public.
Among the laws set to change by January 1, 2013 are a 2% temporary payroll tax cut, healthcare taxes associated with Obamacare and certain tax breaks for businesses.  In addition, spending cuts that could impact more than 1000 government programs will go into effect.  Both the defense budget and Medicare will experience deep cuts unless Congress can come to an agreement on a spending bill.
Lawmakers have a number of choices to avoid the impending financial meltdown if the nation’s debt crisis goes unaddressed. They can do nothing and let the current policy go into effect on January 1, 2013. This would cut the percentage of the Gross Domestic Product deficit in half, but would burden the economy and possibly push it back into recession.  Scheduled tax increases and spending cuts could be cancelled, adding to the deficit and growing the debt. Or, they can opt to do what they were elected to do. They can develop a non-partisan approach to address the issue.
Americans understand that doing nothing is not an option. We understand that all of us must share some of the pain. We know that we must determine ways to better finance social programs. We understand that we must ensure that federal dollars are invested wisely and used prudently. We have to identify fraud, waste and inefficiency and eliminate them wherever they are found.
What we cannot abide is that the burden of years of poor financial planning be born on the backs of those least able to bear the load. What we cannot accept is that the rich be given a pass, while hourly laborers are burdened with more taxes and fewer resources.
Now that this election is behind us, Washington has a brief moment when both sides of the aisle can come together to do what they were sent to do.  Govern.
It is time to lay ideology and partisanship to the side. It is time to stop the debate about why Romney lost, or why Obama won.  It is time to get down to the business of “creating a more perfect union,” where "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is more than just a well-worn phrase. It is the reason that government exists.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

2012 Election, Governance, Obama Legacy, Political Donations

Battling the Giant with Five Smooth Stones

By Mildred Robertson
It is now 3 days since the 2012 Presidential election. It has been a brutal slog from the mid-year elections in 2010 to the Tuesday night victory acknowledging Obama’s effort to right our ship. We waded through billions of dollars worth of attack ads spewing hate and misinformation, and somehow found the truth. Americans acknowledged that Barack Obama led us through harrowing times, and was, for the most part, successful.  As I watched the returns come in late into Tuesday night, I have never been more proud to be an American.
Historians will be writing about this election for years to come. They will deconstruct every moment in an attempt to determine how Obama defeated the monolithic machine designed to make him a one-term president. I believe the answer is simple. The opposition underestimated the American people and the hand of providence in this administration.
It is a much used cliché to equate daunting struggles with the tale of David and Goliath, but I believe it is an apt comparison in this case. With hoards of dirty money flooding the airwaves, Obama and his team fought back the tide with $3 and $4 dollar donations from folks like you and me.
A handful of millionaires and billionaires were positioned to buy this election, but were struck down by the miniscule donations of millions. The part of this battle that the opposition did not understand is that every one of those $3 and $4 dollar donations represented a vote. Each one of those donations said, I believe in what you are doing. I believe you will bring us through this harsh economy. I believe you can keep us safe. I trust you.  
Those are all things that money cannot buy.
The trust that the American people put in this president does not mean that his path will be easy. He must still fight with a Republican House not invested in his success. Tough issues like the looming “fiscal cliff,” the implementation of “Obamacare,” high unemployment, and the recent natural disaster all demand his immediate attention. But I believe he is up to the task, and so do the majority of Americans.
As we transition from campaign mode to that of governance, let’s not forget what we were able to do together. We were the stone that brought down the giant. As long as we continue to support this president, he can overcome the obstacles that face our nation. If we work to keep our elected officials on track, we can make real progress on the hard issues that face us.
We must not become weary. We must continue to be five smooth stones.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Presidential Election, Obama, Romney, Black Vote

We Need to Vote Now!
By:  Mildred Robertson
As we enter the final weeks of the 2012 Presidential elections, it is more important than ever that African Americans across the nation encourage friends and relatives to exercise their right to vote. Our nation faces treacherous times, and it is important that someone with a steady hand be at the helm. It is not just important that the hand be steady, but that a good moral compass directs the path of the man who captains our ship.
Over the next 4 years, decisions will be made about what kind of society America is going to be. We will decide whether success is measured in dollars and cents, or whether we choose to measure success by the quality of life of our citizens. We need to decide whether we want to be a worldwide police force, or rather choose to build friendships abroad and jobs at home. We have to determine whether we are committed to equality for women and minorities or whether certain portions of our society will be relegated to second-class citizenship. We have to determine whether health care is a right or a privilege. We must decide if only the nations wealthiest deserve the American Dream, o r whether it is a vision to which we can all aspire.  
The choice is clear.
It is not only your right, but also your responsibility to make your voice heard in this important election. You have until November 3, 2012 to take part in early voting. Contact the Board of Elections in your county to confirm your registration and determine where the early vote sites are located in your community. If you cannot early vote, make sure that you take a few minutes on November 6 to cast your vote.
The North Carolina NAACP is circulating a powerful video that recounts the battles our forefathers endured so that you and I would have the right to vote. The video eloquently states, “If ever we needed to vote, we NEED to vote NOW.” There have been no truer words said this election cycle. We need to vote now!

Tags: June Atkinson, John Tedesco, North Carolina, Public Instruction, Schools

NORTH CAROLINA'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS DESERVE BETTER

By:  Mildred Robertson

On the way to work, I noticed a sign for John Tedesco that stated:

"John Tedesco
Our children deserve better"

I thought it was ironic that his sign would be worded in such a way, because our children truly do deserve better than John Tedesco. It would be unfortunate if the partisan politics that upended the public school system in Wake County were to suffer the same fate state wide under the leadership of someone like Tedesco. I hope that the citizens of North Carolina recognize that Tedesco's dangerous ideology is no substitute for qualified leadership. While there is room for improvement, our schools enjoy a positive national profile, a profile that was damaged when the "Tea Party" took over the board and brought havoc to the school assignment process. The disruption ended in chaos, and negatively affected business recruitment in our County, because people were reluctant to move their families to a county where so much uncertainty surrounded school assignment. The state of North Carolina deserves qualified, experienced leadership for its public school system. It is clear who holds those credentials.

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/wakeed/john-tedesco-and-june-atkinson-argue-over-neighborhood-schools-in-race-for-state-schools-supe#comment-275504#storylink=cpy

Thursday, October 25, 2012

PROTECTING WOMENS' RIGHTS: Federal Court Stands in the Breach

By Mildred Robertson
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stood between the women of Indiana and a legislature that attempted to eradicate Planned Parenthood by blocking Medicaid funds. The Circuit Court upheld a lower court decision that found the 2011 law denied patients the right to choose their own health care provider. The Court acted as the Founders intended, serving as a neutral mediator and an effective counterbalance to the Indiana Legislature’s implementation of a law found to be unconstitutional.
The7th Circuit Court stated, "The defunding law excludes Planned Parenthood from Medicaid for a reason unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services, violating its patients' statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice."
While this decision is of utmost importance to the women of Indiana, it has even greater ramifications for women across this nation. This Court made its decision based on fact and law rather than the highly partisan posturing that has clouded the facts of this case.
This  case does not represent our first experience in recent years where the Court rose above partisan politics and lived up to its calling to be a counterbalance for the executive and legislative branches of government. This was evidenced by John Roberts’ controversial stand on President Obama’s health care legislation. His actions surprised people on both the right and left of the issue.  At the end of the day, Justice Roberts was faithful to the Constitution, basing his ruling upon law rather than a partisan agenda. 
As the nation stands at the precipice of the 2012 election, the actions of the 7th District Court and those of Justice Roberts should serve as a somber reminder of what is at stake on November 6. As we go to the polls this election year we must balance who will have the weighty responsibility of fashioning the Supreme Court for the next decade and beyond.
With four Supreme Court Justices in their seventies, it is a good bet that whoever wins in November will have a chance to fill at least one Supreme Court seat. That appointment could dramatically change the direction of a court that currently is closely divided between liberals and conservatives. That appointment could change how millions get health care, whether civil rights for women, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and other minorities are rolled back, or whether personal morality will be codified into law regarding issues such as abortion or gay rights.  
This Court will make decisions that will intimately affect the lives of countless citizens across the nation.  So will the decision you make when you go into the voting booth this election year. Choose carefully.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tags: Presidential Debate, Obama, Romney, Joe Wilson, Statesman, Corporate Raider

The Statesman and the Corporate Raider
By Mildred Robertson

As I watched last night’s debate between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, I felt a chill at the simple thought of Romney raising his hand in January to take the Oath of Office. I simply could not imagine this boorish man speaking on my behalf to leaders of foreign nations. I could not imagine entrusting my future safety and security to a man that lacks the tact, craft, sensitivity and skill to understand and honor political rules of engagement, the artfulness necessary for public political dialogue and the courtesy to respect the highest office in the land.

As an American, I was offended. Romney continued the practice by Right Wing Conservatives of ignoring the office that President Obama holds and treating him with dishonor and disrespect. It began during the President’s first State of the Union Address when Republican Rep. Joe Wilson blurted out “You Lie,” disrespecting the President, himself and the American people, and continued as he was painted as “other than American” by the birthers.

In 2008, the majority of Americans choose Barack Obama to be leader of the free world. There is dignity in holding that position that supersedes the person who holds it. It is a position that all true Americans hold in highest esteem. The respect afforded the Office of the President of the United States of America is a key component of any foreign negotiation. The erosion of that respect in the halls of Congress and on the floor of a presidential debate erodes that respect worldwide.

Obviously, this was a debate. It was not expected that Mitt Romney agree with the President, but it should be expected that he voice his disagreement with discretion, delicacy and tactfulness that showed some respect for the office the man holds, if not the man. The debate format does not give license to incivility or disrespect.

Last night’s performance provided the American people with a stark contrast between a statesman and a corporate raider. The President displayed sensitivity to the plight of the American people, discussed the journey from the brink of disaster to a point of fragile recovery, and the hope for a strong rebound. Romney showed that truth, tact and diplomacy are not part of his political arsenal. He attempted to bully his way through this debate.

That tactic may work in a corporate boardroom. It will not play well in the halls of Congress. It certainly would be a disaster on the international stage.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Key Words: Early Vote, Enthusiams Gap, Presidential Election

ENTHUSIAM FACTOR MAY
DETERMINE NEXT PRESIDENT

 By Mildred Robertson

As Americans prepare to head for the polls on November 6, or before if we early or absentee vote, we are flooded with opinions, polls and talking heads that tell us what the outcome will be.  It is almost as though we are on the outside looking in--as though our opinion or actions have no impact on the outcome.

That could not be further from the truth.

The election comes down to you and me. Our individual decision will determine who raises his hand in January to take the oath of office. Our action or inaction will help determine the direction our country will take for the next four years.

Issues that face this nation are daunting. We must determine how to reign in the exploding national debt, while providing for those who are most vunerable in our society. We must balance the needs of the elderly, the sick, the poor and the young with our commitment to free enterprise and personal responsibility. We have to seek an end to international conflicts while safeguarding our shores and promoting our values.  It is imperative that we stabilize and re-energize our economy and put Americans back to work.

These are all imperatives upon which most of can agree. The problem is, how best to address these problems.

So it is not whether we believe Mitt Romney is a social and political snob, or whether President Obama is a Muslim. It is not even whether we believe in gay marriage or the right to choose. While these are issues that spark deep personal emotions, and deserve a place in the national dialogue, the question that we must address on November 6 is which man best understands the critical issues that face America and which one has a plausible plan of action to address them.

As you watch the 3-ring circus on the nightly news, you may wonder what impact you could possibly have on the outcome. It appears that the election is being decided over the airwaves, and political pundits are telling us what we think and how we will act on November 6.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the war of words, and the onslaught of 30-second sound bites that seem to define this race. The media, in general, will provide you with a biased assessment of who the candidates are, and what they stand for, focusing upon a misspoken word, or an ill-delivered speech.

One idea the media has seized upon is, I believe, relevant. It is the enthusiasm factor.  That means how excited voters are about their respective candidate.
It appears that the election may decided, not by what the majority of Americans believe, but rather about whether they feel strongly enough about their candidate to vote those beliefs.

Somehow, each of us must wade through the overwhelming mess that is our current political process and identify the basic issues that are of personal importance to us.  Then we must decide which man is up to the task and vote our beliefs.

The political process doesn’t work if we don’t participate. The simple fact is—it is not over until it is over; and that is when the last vote is counted.

Make sure your vote is among them. Vote on November 6!

To find early voting sites in North Carolina, go to: https://batchgeo.com/map/NCEarlyVoteSites

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Key Words: Higher Education, University of North Carolina, Strategic Plan, Economics

It’s about the EconomyEducation – Stupid!
By: Mildred Robertson
The debate that rages over education in the U.S. harkens back to the days when Bill Clinton taunted George Bush, Sr. with the phrase:  “It’s about the Economy – Stupid,” a phrase that shaped the debates, and ultimately landed Bill Clinton in the White House. Well, it is still about the economy, but if you drill down to the core of economic issues in our country, you land soundly on education.
As Americans struggle to retool to become competitive in our new service economy, it is obvious that a critical connection exists between the economy and education. It is time we take a look at what are the essential components of a 21st Century education, and how best to deliver them. That is why it is important to pay attention to the University of North Carolina (UNC) as it prepares to devise a five-year strategic plan for the state’s 16-campus system.
The school has established a 27-member panel to forge a long-term plan for North Carolina’s premier public university. While the periodic need to examine and fine-tune the institution’s course is obvious, it seems equally obvious that a public institution’s path is best devised with input from those it affects.
A group of students calling themselves the North Carolina Student Power Union (NCSPU) thinks that UNC has missed the mark. They object to the makeup of the advisory panel, which they say lacks racial and socio-economic diversity. Pointing to retailer and Republican activist Art Pope as an example, the students say the panel predominantly consists of white men, many of whom are corporate executives and conservative politicians who have a record of opposing the creation of “a robust public education system” in the state of North Carolina.  
NCSPU wants the university to reconsider its membership and hold public meetings across the state to gather public input. It seems a reasonable request. This exercise is about more than number crunching. This group will be making decisions about who will have access to the gateway to economic prosperity in our state.
Of course, the economic realities of keeping the doors open while providing a quality product is of utmost importance. However, equally important is the need to provide a reasonable pathway to higher education for every citizen, regardless of his or her race or socio-economic background. Without equal access to higher education, it will be impossible to level the playing field in North Carolina.
There is no need to disparage those who have been selected to serve on the UNC panel. There is a need, however, to seek the diversity on the panel necessary to ensure that the five-year plan reflects the needs of the entire state, not just those as interpreted by an unrepresentative, and many times privileged few.
Economics is about education-stupid!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Key Words: North Carolina, Sample Ballot, Early Voting, Presidential Election

NC Voters can View Sample Ballots for Election
By:  Mildred Robertson

Get ready for the upcoming election by getting informed about who will appear on the ballot in your precinct. If you are a North Carolina resident, you can request a sample ballot for the November 6 election at http://www.sboe.state.nc.us/VoterLookup.aspx?Feature=voterinfo
You will need to enter your name and date of birth to receive your precinct information, voting status and a copy of the sample ballot specific to your precinct. It is important to study the ballot carefully in order to ensure that your vote reflects your true wishes. Remember, even if you vote “Straight Party” you must still select your presidential and vice presidential preference, or else you will not have voted in that contest.
Even if voting a straight party ticket, you still need to vote for nonpartisan offices such as judges, issues or referenda. If you are unsure for whom to vote in these nonpartisan elections, you should research with the political party of your choice to learn more about the candidates whose ideologies best match your own.
If you are not registered, you still have time. The deadline to register at your County Board of Elections in North Carolina is 25 days before Election Day. If you miss that registration deadline, you still may vote at a one-stop voting site in the county where you live during the early voting period. You just have to show acceptable proof of your name and evidence that you live in the county where you wish to vote.
One-stop absentee voting in North Carolina begins on October 18, 2012 and ends on the last Saturday before the election. Contact your County Board of Elections to determine where and when Early Voting will occur in your area.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Key Words: Romney, 47%, Secret Video, Politics, Presidential Race

Romney Takes Aim at the 47%

By: Mildred Robertson
Apparently, if you support Barack Obama, you are dependent upon government and believe you are a victim. You also pay no income tax. And Mitt Romney is not worried about you, because you cannot be convinced that you should take personal responsibility for yourself.
These are not words concocted by PR spin doctors. These sentiments came directly from the candidate’s mouth at a closed-door meeting with wealthy donors. Romney has turned his assault from President Obama, and taken aim at the American public.
He flippantly dismisses the millions of hard-working Americans who work two and three jobs to make ends meet and still must rely on food stamps to feed their children. He does not acknowledge the men and women who rise from bed at an ungodly hour to prepare children for school and catch the bus or the train to work. He ignores the day laborers and service workers who have looked for jobs that pay more than the minimum wage, or offer more than 30 hours a week, but cannot find them. He cannot see the young people working at low paying jobs during the day, and attending college or trade school at night. He overlooks the older workers who have been laid off from a well-paying job only to learn that their skills are outdated and there is no place in the market for them.
Many candidates in the past have lauded this segment of America. Many, on both sides of the political aisle, have understood their plight. But not Mitt Romney. He has changed his focus of attack from President Obama toward you and me. He assumes that “average” income is $200,000 to $250,000, so if you fall below that threshold, you don’t really matter to him.  
He does not understand that the average American has to calculate how many times the family can eat out at a restaurant a month or go to the movies. He has no clue that many of us have to make choices between taking a family vacation and saving for our children’s college education. Some must choose whether to buy a new car or use that money for our retirement, all the while hoping the old clunker keeps going until we can get a little bit ahead of the monthly bills. He doesn’t understand that some of us use lay-away to ensure that we can have that special toy under the tree for our children at Christmas. This is a reality of working-class Americans that Romney cannot envision.
Romney does not understand the embarrassment of standing in a grocery line with a food stamp card, or the uncertainty of receiving an eligibility letter from the unemployment office. He actually thinks that these are conditions that some people desire.
If Romney cannot understand the circumstances under which the average American lives, how can he possibly govern in a way that is beneficial to them? If he cannot respect the circumstances of the full spectrum of American citizenry, how can he possibly represent them? If he cannot understand that every struggle is not self-inflicted and that every search for a way out is not a search for a hand out, how can he possibly be president of these United States?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Voter Suppression, North Carolina, Early Voting

Be Prepared November 6: Check Your Eligibility to Vote

 

By:  Mildred Robertson

Turnout is going to be a key component in the determination of our nation’s future direction as we go to the polls in November. With North Carolina established as a key battleground state, it is important that every citizen be prepared to do his or her civic duty and vote in the November 6, 2012 election.

If you are a North Carolina citizen and you are not sure whether you are registered to vote, you need to make sure. You can go online to check your eligibility at http://www.sboe.state.nc.us/VoterLookup.aspx?Feature=voterinfo.  There you can determine your eligibility, your voting history and where you are supposed to vote. After September 22, you also will be able to download a sample ballot for the November election.

In the 2008 Presidential Election it was 14,000 votes that tilted the balance in President Obama’s favor in North Carolina. New voting districts drawn by the Republican led legislature may dilute the minority vote in this year’s election and threaten North Carolina’s tenuous position as a Democratic-leaning state.  

Early voting has also been an issue across the nation. In North Carolina, one-stop absentee voting allows registered voters to go in person to their county board of elections or an alternative location to vote an absentee ballot. One-stop absentee voting is conducted starting on the third Thursday before an election and ends on the last Saturday before the election. This year, early voting will begin on October 18 and the last day to cast your early voting ballot is Saturday, Nov. 3. You should check with your county board of elections to determine early voting time, dates and locations. 

North Carolina residents should go to http://www.sboe.state.nc.us/VoterLookup.aspx?Feature=voterinfo. Enter your name, address and date of birth to access your voter information for the county in which you live. If you live in another state, check with your state board of elections to determine your eligibility and early voting options.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Key words: Missouri, Senate Race, McCaskill, Akin, Governance, Politics

It Takes More than Being a Nitwit to End

Political Aspirations in Missouri

By: Mildred Robertson

Having come of age in Missouri, it has pained me to watch the sideshow that has become the senatorial race in my former home state. It was appalling that Claire McCaskill appeared to be in the fight of her life to hold her seat against right wing ideologues. But it appeared earlier this week that Republication Senatorial hopeful Todd Akin had imploded, making Neanderthal remarks about rape. Akin asserted that victims of “legitimate rape” could spontaneously reject impregnation; a statement that drew condemnation from both sides of the aisle, with even Mitt Romney taking a stand against his ill-informed, backward statement.
 Aside from the illogical, unfounded, ridiculousness of the assertion, his statement demonstrated a lack of understanding and compassion toward women in general and rape victims in particular. You would have thought that citizens of the Show-Me State would demand more of its political leadership. But, it appears, it takes more than being a nitwit to end your political aspirations in Missouri. As of Monday evening Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning polling firm out of North Carolina, reported that Akin continues to lead McCaskill 44-43.
Even though prominent Republicans across the nation have withdrawn support for Akin, he believes the Christian evangelicals, anti-abortionists and those who simply despise McCaskill and Obama will keep his campaign from failing. He is even using this gaffe to attempt to raise money, saying that “the liberal elite” are attacking him on the basis of his strong pro-life conservatism.
He says he’s not perfect. And on that one simple fact, he is right.
While we do not expect perfection from our leaders, we should expect common sense, the ability to research facts, and the intelligence to interpret them. If Mr. Akin holds this outlandish position on what constitutes rape, and the physiology of the human body, what other wild, unfounded beliefs does he hold that would influence his decisions as a Senator? You would think that his performance this past week would have given him pause, but instead, he seems emboldened.
I hope that the citizens of Missouri recognize that this election is about more than with what party they affiliate, or whether they lean left or right. It is even about more than Pro-Choice or Right-to-Life.  
The problems that face our nation are myriad and complex. Regardless of our political leanings, we should want individuals in our state houses and in Washington D.C. who have the capacity to understand these issues. We need folk who lead us to know that the decisions they make impact real people with real lives. These issues are not just data on a chart, or position papers, but real social and economic issues that affect the quality of our daily lives..
 As these politicians struggle to reconcile their own positions with those of their sometimes fringe constitutents, they must realize that good governance is bigger than a party, a position or an individual candidate. It is time our political leaders understand that truth is seldom found on the far left or the far right, but generally, right in the middle.  We need politicians who can reason together and find that middle ground.
Todd Akin appears to lack the capacity to reason. He is not alone. And as long as the halls of Congress are peppered with people like Akin who are too far right or too far left to ever approach perfection, our democratic process will suffer.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Collective Consciousness: The Demise of American Independence

By Mildred Robertson

As Americans, we pride ourselves on our independence. We see ourselves as individualistic, self-motivating and self-sustaining.

Don’t believe the hype.

In reality, we are more like the “Star Trek” character whose group consciousness swallowed up everything it encountered. American values grew from a stubborn individuality, but we have devolved into “the Borg”; a hive-minded collection of drones who internalize and regurgitate predetermined directives for which we will fight, kill or die, no matter how absurd or bereft of fact.  

Case in point—the right-wing attack on the president’s citizenship. This baseless, futile exercise consumed countless news, radio, TV, webcasts, tabloid and magazine pages. While most thinking people dismissed this controversy as the distraction it was, “the hive” internalized and replicated it, wasting valuable time that could have been used to discuss meaningful government reform.

This mindless dash toward the next political, social or economic issue is facilitated by the media. Once heralded as the fourth leg of government and the people’s watchdog, the media now stumble over each other to be the first to report rather than the first to research and inform. Like reality TV, they hunt for the highest ratings with little regard for the public’s need for unbiased facts to make informed decisions.

Whether we label ourselves liberal or conservative, we have allowed ourselves to be subject to the constant guidance of self-proclaimed spokespersons who determine what is right and wrong, not just on an individual basis, but for an entire nation.

We tune into “Morning Joe”, the “Ed Show”, “Fox News” or Rush Limbaugh to receive our cues. We find out whom to hate, who to trust, for whom to vote, who to oppose. The “hive” lets us know whether we are doing well, or whether we are struggling. It tells us whether to buy stock or divest. It lets us know whether we will be supporting President Obama, or whether the Republicans will overtake him. They tell us who will win an election before a single vote is cast.

The “collective consciousness” not only facilitates the sharing of thoughts, but also the ability to adapt with great speed to defensive tactics for any supposed danger. And then it tells us how to respond to these perceived threats.

During this election cycle, we find our mailboxes, email and phone lines inundated with propaganda from the party of our choosing if we are Republican or Democrat, and from both if we are Independent. Our opponents are painted as scoundrels and thieves; our candidates are pictured as compassionate and impassioned.
It is time we disconnect from the hive and question the source of our information. We must demand less rhetoric and more fact and discern fact from fiction—truth from lies. Only by disconnecting from the group-think that has overtaken our nation can we recapture the true American spirit of independence.
The “Borg” would say ‘resistance is futile.’ But resistance is the only sane thing to do. Only by resisting this hive mentality can we be worthy of self governance.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Voting Rights, Election Process, Partisan Politics, Straight-Party Voting

 Confusing the Election Process

By: Mildred Robertson
 
If you vote a straight party ticket in North Carolina, and you think you’ve voted for your presidential choice, you are wrong! Voting straight party includes everything BUT the presidential and vice presidential candidate.

When asked to clarify straight party voting in North Carolina, the State Board of Elections responded: 

“If a voter casts a vote for a straight‑party ticket, that vote shall be counted for all the candidates of that party, other than those for President and Vice President, in the partisan ballot items on that official ballot except as otherwise provided in this subdivision.”

Kind of confusing, right!  It appears to me to be a misnomer. One would think “straight party” would refer to ALL the candidates in a particular party, not just those other than the President and Vice President.  

One also would imagine that the State Board of Elections would clearly word the explanation and state that there actually is no straight party ticket in the North Carolina election process. They should just say that voters must ALWAYS select a presidential and vice presidential candidate, even if their intention is to vote for members of only one party.

Of course, politicians probably like this process. That gives them the opportunity to distance themselves from the top of the ticket if they think it might pull them down. But the fact is that many voters think that voting “straight party” includes the presidential and vice presidential candidate. These individuals, therefore, unknowingly are denied their right to cast their vote for the highest office in the land.

The voting process should be as simple as possible. These kinds of politically motivated processes appear to me to be contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.  The ultimate outcome of the vote should reflect the voter’s true intention, not an outcome based upon the possible misinterpretation of the process. Citizens should not have to interpret the voting process. It should be clear and straight-forward – just like a straight-party ticket should include the entire party.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Brain-Draining Reality TV Shows

By Mildred Robertson
Okay, last night as I was sitting in the living room working on the computer, my daughter and her friend were watching “Love and Hip Hop-Atlanta.” My attention turned from my freelance work to the dramedy unfolding on the screen. I would be lying to say this was the first time I watched it. But disgusted with the Paris’, Kims’, Evelyns’, Kendras’, Snookis’ of the world, and the list could go on; I vowed to watch only legitimate entertainment that had some redeeming social value and did not include girl fights, alcohol abuse and indiscriminate sex.
But, alas, Stevie J decided to invite Joselyn to his couples counseling session with Mimi.
Really?
I have to tell you, it was like watching a train wreck where there were no survivors. For those of you who don’t know, Joselyn is the “jump off” who got pregnant with Stevie J’s child, and had an abortion at his prompting. She also is an artist with whom he works, and with whom he plans to continue to work, even though he says he wants to save his relationship with his long-time partner and mother of his child, Mimi.
Really??? 
You just can’t make this stuff up.
But here’s my point. Television producers have discovered a cash cow in this reality TV formula that doesn’t cost much to make, but brings in the big bucks. In the meantime, Americans have these ever-present images of bad boys and girls living outrageous lives, making horrible decisions and profiting from them. Unfortunately, too many of the young people who watch this stuff think its normal.
The louder, more obnoxious, more radical you are, the more TV time you get. Let’s take, for instance, "Basketball Wives".  The women on that show got confrontational, and the ratings spiked. The stars, and I use that term lightly, found that the more they fought, cussed and were sexually explicit, the more the camera focused upon them. They began to act so ugly that last season, while ratings were pretty good, public sentiment turned against them and they were on TV bemoaning the fact that the Reality TV show only portrayed their worst traits, overlooking the positive side of their personalities. You can’t have it both ways.
While the reality stars can’t have it both ways, neither can we, the watching public. My daughter would be furious at me for suggesting that we should work to eliminate or limit this kind of programming. “Mom, its just entertainment,” she would say. But should we be entertained by some of humanities most base inclinations? Should we revel in grown women leaping across a table to pummel one another, or young people indiscriminately mating with one another? Should we reward TV producers who create this drivel and give star status to those who act out these scenes?
My answer is “no.” It is my belief that this obsession with trash TV is pulling at our moral fiber and somehow, we have to stop it.
Now, before you First Amendment folks get all riled up, I don’t believe in censorship – at least not government censorship. We need to censor ourselves. We need to demand more of ourselves. Turn the blasted thing off. If not off, at least to another channel.
As long was we consume it, the television industry will shovel it to us. We deserve better programming. We should demand better programming.
The journey to that destination starts with your remote control – turn it off, tune it out. They will hear you, and they will respond.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Republicans Take Credit for Historic Graduation Rates

By Mildred Robertson
August 4, 2012

Recent figures released by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction indicate that, for the first time in our state’s history, 80.2% of North Carolina public high school students will graduate on time.

Oddly enough, Republicans are trying to take credit for this accomplishment after taking a sledgehammer to North Carolina’s nationally renowned education system during the last legislative session.

In a recent release they stated that this graduation rate was based upon the actions of the Republican General Assembly which passed crippling legislation that cut the NC DPI off at the knees. The Republican-led General Assembly made huge cuts in education that will negatively impact our school system for years to come.

Therein lies the irony. While it takes 13 years to matriculate through the system, the Republican spin mill is claiming that in one year, their draconian cuts have taken effect and resulted in a higher graduation rate. In fact, these accomplishments have occurred despite their actions.

It would be laughable if it were not so scary, because the truth will actually be told 13 years from now, unless North Carolinians step up to the plate and turn the tables on these radical conservatives. If North Carolinians do not take back their state house, they will remain captive to politicians willing to cut education and social services to the bone in false homage to fiscal conservatism.

North Carolina is recognized among the best places in America for businesses to locate in large part because of its historic commitment to public education. That could all be wiped away in less than a decade unless we return to the policies that positioned us to earn those accolades.

We can’t do that with politicians more interested in ideology than good governance. We can’t do that with leaders who will spin truth to support a lie. In their release they accused  Governor Perdue and Democrats of using the children of North Carolina as political pawns, when, in fact it is they who have engaged in such despicable conduct.

It is callous of the Republicans to fail to acknowledge the success of the North Carolina education system over the past decade to improve outcomes for our students. It is equally callous to remain unwavering in their crusade to dismantle this system, while taking credit for its success.  


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg, Leave My Breasts Alone!

By Mildred Robertson


In an ever-increasing crusade to legislate day-to-day living, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has determined that women should only breastfeed their babies. New York state health officials have joined the bandwagon, issuing regulations that limit “unnecessary” formula feeding for breastfed newborns.

WHAT! How condescending. How judgmental! How uninformed!

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the benefits of breastfeeding, and breastfed both my children. But it was no easy task, especially as a working mother. I chose to make the sacrifice to breastfeed my children even though it was logistically challenging. The key word here is, “chose.” It was not something that some government suit told me that I had to do it. Even my husband felt that was a decision best made by me!

The level of arrogance displayed by Mayor Bloomberg and others like him is mind boggling. How dare they assume that they are better equipped than the everyday person to make intelligent lifestyle and health care choices? It is mind boggling.

I am all for sharing the benefits breastfeeding affords to both the mother and the infant. That is why I made my personal decision to breastfeed.
My healthcare professional outlined ALL the options available to me, and the benefits and drawbacks of each.  I was given the information I needed to make the decision I thought best for me and my children. There is no place in this kind of decisions for government to insert itself. No one outside the family unit should have any but educational input into such issues.
Mayor Bloomberg should be able to find plenty to do without intruding in the personal, private healthcare decisions of New York’s mothers and their children.