Monday, June 24, 2013




By Cash Michaels

            With the state Senate now poised to pass voter ID legislation into law next week, and a court case challenging what critics say was a racially-gerrymandered redistricting map drawn by Republicans ongoing, Tuesday’s 5-4 US Supreme Court decision crippling the 1965 Voting Rights Act was considered yet another blow to civil rights by many North Carolina and national figures.
            “[Tuesday’s] decision by the United States Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder delivered a devastating setback for civil rights in America,” said Stacie Rouster, spokesperson for The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonpartisan legal group which fights racial discrimination. “The Court ruled that the coverage formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional for purposes of identifying the jurisdictions that must submit voting changes for federal review (preclearance) before they can be implemented.”
Royster continued, “The Court did not find the Section 5 preclearance requirement itself unconstitutional, but the ruling appears to bring federal review of voting changes under Section 5 to a halt until Congress enacts a new coverage formula.”
Politically, most observers agree, getting the current divided Congress – with a Republican-controlled House and Democrat-led Senate – to even agree what must be done to meet the High Court’s ruling would be impossible. As far as the GOP, which has been pushing voter ID laws in over 30 states (including North Carolina) is concerned, the US Supreme Court is a gift, allowing new voter restrictions and racially gerrymandered restricting lines to stand with little worry over US Justice Dept. challenge.
State Sen. Tom Apadoca [R- Henderson] told reporters Tuesday it was the green light  the NC Senate had been waiting for. Beyond voter ID, Republicans want to shorten the early voting period, end same-day registration, end “Souls to the Polls” Sunday voting for African-Americans, and penalize parents whose college-age children vote at their schools instead of at home.
"I guess we're safe in saying this decision was what we were expecting," Sen. Apodaca told reporters.
Both President Obama and US Attorney General Eric Holder expressed “deep disappointment,” and challenged Congress to immediately address the High Court’s concerns.
            “I am outraged with the Supreme Court’s decision to declare as unconstitutional Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act,” NC Congressman G. K. Butterfield [D-1-NC] said in a statement.  “The decision will lead to less protection for minority voters in covered jurisdictions.”
            “It is an absurd remedy for the Supreme Court to expect Congress to redefine the coverage formula to prevent discriminatory voting changes,” Butterfield continued.  “The Republican House majority has shown its disdain for civil rights laws.  It is unreasonable to believe Congress will act in good faith and in the spirit of the Court’s decision.  And so, the result of this decision will be a complete gutting of Section 5 which will embolden state efforts to enact discriminatory laws and procedures.”
            Rep. Butterfield concluded, “The Court should have implemented an interim formula that could be used until Congress enacts a formula that is constitutional and protects minority communities from vote dilution.”
            Congressman Butterfield’s North Carolina colleague, Rep. Met Watt [D-12-NC] of Charlotte, was equally outraged.
            “My colleagues on the Judiciary Committee and I helped build a voluminous legislative record of over 15,000 pages that we believe more than justified reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and extension of the preclearance requirements of Section 5 of the VRA,” Watt said in statement Tuesday. “Today, the activist majority on the Supreme Court has taken the unprecedented step of taking over a uniquely legislative function in disregard of the extensive work of the legislative branch and substituting their own judgment for that of elected representatives.  The decision overturning Section 4 of the VRA leaves millions of Americans vulnerable to discrimination in the most fundamental right of citizenship—the right to vote.  I am deeply disappointed by the result they have reached and its impact on minority voters as well as the precedent they have set for disregarding the factual and political judgment of elected Members of Congress.”
            Randy Voller, chairman of the NC Democratic Party, agreed.
            “This is a sad decision for those who have fought so hard and sacrificed so much to ensure all Americans, regardless of race, have free and fair access to the ballot box,” Voller said, “The Court’s decision to send this critical component of the VRA to a Congress muddled in gridlock due to Republican extremism is an affront to voting rights in this country.  Democrats will continue to oppose political efforts that erode the right to vote from Republican leadership in the General Assembly and in the halls of Congress.”
            Benjamin Jealous, president/CEO of the national NAACP, also chimed in.
            The Supreme Court just aided and abetted those who seek to suppress our right to vote,” Jealous said in a statement.
“The Supreme Court's decision is extreme, and simply unconscionable. At least 31 states are considering laws to make it harder to vote by restricting early voting periods, enacting harsh voter ID laws, and instituting the modern day equivalent of poll taxes.”
            Jealous continued, “The target for these discriminatory laws is clear: communities of color, and young, women, elderly, and disabled voters. The extremists responsible for these laws probably think today's ruling is a big win. They are smiling ear to ear as they read the Supreme Court's decision.”

By Cash Michaels

            North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act – a unique law which allowed those on death row to challenge racial bias in their sentencing - is now officially dead.
            Gov. Pat McCrory quietly signed the repeal of the measure, recently passed by the Republican-led NC General Assembly, last week.
            "Nearly every person on death row, regardless of race, has appealed their death sentence under the Racial Justice Act," McCrory, a Republican, said in a statement. "The state's district attorneys are nearly unanimous in their bipartisan conclusion that the Racial Justice Act created a judicial loophole to avoid the death penalty and not a path to justice."
But by signing the repeal, the governor may have opened a legal can of worms which some experts say could keep the issue in the courts for some time.
Passed in 2009 and signed into law by then Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, the Racial Justice Act, one of only two laws of its kind in the nation, allowed judges to change death sentences to life-in-prison-without-parole if evidence of prosecutorial racial bias was determined.
The law, which was later gutted by the Republican-led NC General Assembly in 2011, was bolstered by a study from the University of Michigan which proved that statistically racial bias indeed played a role in North Carolina’s capital punishment cases over several years.
District attorneys across the state disputed the findings, denying that blacks were more likely to get the death penalty if they killed whites, even at least one UNC study showed exactly that.
In addition, at least four death row inmates have been released from prison after DNA evidence proved their innocence. Supporters say they were convicted because they were black, and if it wasn’t for conclusive DNA evidence, they would have been wrongly executed.
None of that mattered, however, when Republicans took complete control of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office in 2012, and it wasn’t long before the Racial Justice Act was targeted for repeal.
            Senate Bill 306, sponsored by state Sen. Thom Goolsby [R-New Hanover] and passed by the General Assembly before Gov. McCrory signed it into law, not only repeals the Racial Justice Act, but effectively restarts the death penalty in North Carolina for 152 inmates on death row. Executions had been placed on a de facto moratorium since 2006 because of legal issues over the role of medical personnel who assisted in the needle injections.
            But Section 5(d) of the law speaks directly to the Racial Justice Act, stating, “…this section is retroactive and applies to any motion for appropriate relief filed pursuant to Article 101 of Chapter 15A of the General Statutes (the Racial Justice Act) prior to the effective date of this act. All motions filed pursuant to the Article 101 of Chapter 15A prior to the effective date of this act are void.”
            In effect, any pending cases before a North Carolina under the Racial Justice Act are supposed to be vacated. 
            In Cumberland County, a Superior Court judge last year reduced the death sentences of four black convicted murderers under the Racial Justice Act to life in prison after it was determined that prosecutors deliberately attempted to keep blacks off of the juries, and made negative references about African-Americans in their notes.
            Under the repeal, even though the state Supreme Court is supposed to review those cases, they are now legally considered void. In fact, all 153 convicts on death row – 53% of which are black - have filed claims under the Racial Justice Act.
            The repeal cancels those as well.
But many legal experts say that can’t happen.
"To me, it's a violation of due process," Mark Rabil, director of Wake Forest University law school's Innocence and Justice Clinic in Winston-Salem, told Reuters News Service. "I don't really know what the legislature thinks they've done with our money other than buy a lot more litigation."
            “I think there’s going to be intense years of litigation over this,” state Rep. Rick Glazier [D-Cumberland] told The New York Times.
            Attorney Irving Joyner, law professor at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law in Durham, says the legal standard of “ex post facto,” which means, “ a law intended to apply to crimes or events that took place before its passage,” is unconstitutional according to the US Supreme Court.
            “The government cannot take away rights that have already been given and exercised by individuals,” Prof. Joyner says. “It can make laws for the future, but not for the past. So what the governor and the Legislature seeks to do is clearly unconstitutional. Those inmates who have already filed claims, and those claims are pending, cannot be legislatively prevented from pursuing evidence that would support those claims.”


            The first seventeen protesters, including NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber, who were arrested during the first Moral Monday demonstration at the NC legislature on April 29th, had their court dates Monday set for September 23rd and 30th on charges of trespassing, among others. The protesters pleaded not guilty, saying that they had a right to be on public property. They said their charges should be dismissed. Meanwhile, during the eighth Moral Monday demonstration Monday, 120 more demonstrators were arrested, bringing the total thus far to over 600 arrests.

            The filing period does not begin until July 5th at noon, but at least one candidate for the Wake School Board is already up and running. Nancy Caggia, a registered Republican, has already filed papers with the Wake Board of Elections to begin campaigning for the District 9 seat currently held by Republican Bill Fletcher, who was selected by the board to fill out the remaining time after board member Debra Goldman left a few months ago. Caggia says she’s been a school volunteer and advocate for 14 years. Thus far, Fletcher has not indicated whether he’ll run for that seat.

            Do Durham Public Schools suspend black and disabled students at disproportionately high rates? That what the US Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is officially looking into, thanks to a complaint filed against DPS by Advocates for Children’s Services, and the Center for Civil Rights Remedies last April. The complaint alleges that14.1 percent of black students were suspended from school in the 2009-2010 school year versus just 3.3 percent of white students. In that same school year, 17 percent of disabled children were suspended versus just 8.4 percent of non-disabled students. A DPS spokesperson said that the school system is “fully cooperating” with the feds in their investigation.


            [RALEIGH] Compared to the rest of the nation, the well-being of children living in North Carolina is not improving, says a new study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. One in four children live in poverty, and the state ranks 35th out of 50 states, the report, finds. Based on 2011 data, one in three children live in families without full-time employment. Less children are covered by health insurance now than in 2005, and more teens are not in school or working a job than in 2008. The report does list some improvements in the areas of less low-weight babies, less teen deaths, and less teens who abuse drugs or alcohol, by overall, observers say they expect the well-being of North Carolina’s children to worsen under the policies of the Republican-led legislature, which has slashed unemployment benefits and denied over 500,000 poor people Medicaid.

            [RALEIGH] As of July 1st, North Carolina drivers will pay their vehicle registration renewal and property taxes together. The new system is designed to streamline county tax collections, and increase revenues, officials say. Currently, drivers get two separate bills – one for the county for the vehicle tax, the other from the Division of Motor Vehicles for the registration renewal. The NC General Assembly passed the law changing the system in 2005, and counties have used the passed eight years to prepare for the change-over. The first drivers to get the combined bill will be those due in September. Those bills will arrive in July.

            [GREENSBORO] For the fourth consecutive month, North Carolina’s unemployment rate dipped slightly, this time to 8.8 percent in May. But it’s all not good news. According to the NC Commerce Dept’s labor and Economic Analysis Division, the state still lost approximately 5,900 jobs last month, and with the summer months here, the prospect for job growth doesn’t look good, say analysts. Tourism in the state is doing its part, with the leisure and hospitality sector generating over 6,300 jobs.

By Cash Michaels

            CONGRATS, HEAT! – I’ll say this for LeBron James and the Miami Heat…they sure know how to keep things interesting! But that’s why, for the second year in a row, they are once again World Champions. LB, Dwyane Wade and the crew kept us all on the edge of our seats last week for Games 6 and 7 against the powerful San Antonio Spurs, barely winning Game 6 in dramatic fashion in overtime, and then coming back to take command in Game 7 over a heartbroken “Timmy” Duncan, Tony Parker and the Spurs.
            I must say, though, that all the way from Coach Greg Popovich to Duncan to Parker and others, the Spurs organization is a class act. Not only did they play clean and fair, but they were the epitome of good sportsmanship. Almost never were there any flagrant fouls, any player confrontations, and we even saw opposing players pick one another up off the ground on occasion.
            And when the Heat won the title, we saw both LeBron and Dwyane Wade give strong embraces to Coach Pop, a sure sign of love and respect, and a reminder to all of us that as hard as we fight, there must be respect.
            Without a doubt, the Miami Heat, coached magnificently by Erik Spoelstra, certainly earned their championship this year, having had to go through tough young teams in the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers, only to then fight for their lives for seven games against the San Antonio Spurs.
            This was truly an NBA Finals to remember.
            Congratulations to LeBron and the crew. Now get some rest!
            EARTH, WIND AND FIRE NEW ALBUM – One of the great joys I have as a father is introducing my youngest daughter, KaLa, to some of the best “old school” music in history. Without question, Earth, Wind and Fire – one of the greatest soul groups of the 1970’s-80’s is among that number.
So imagine my excitement upon hearing that after eight years, the “elements” return with a brand new album titled, “Now, Then & Forever” coming this September. Phillip Bailey, Verdine White, Larry Dunn, and of course, Maurice White, are all back with fresh material. It took two years to produce this work, and the first single from it is titled, “My Promise” (listen to it on Youtube at, an uptempo ditty that certainly takes us back to some of what EWF does best.
We’re glad they’re back, and can’t wait to hear Earth, Wind and Fire’s new album. We haven’t had any REAL black music around here in a long, long time.
            PAULA, PAULA, PAULA – Lots of talk ever since the Food Network canned Southern cooking belle Paula Deen last week after revelations from a court deposition that Deen allegedly engaged in using racial slurs towards her black employees, among other tawdry things outlined in the leaked document.
           I love Deen’s excuse, that she is a product of growing up 60 years in the South (she’s a native of Savannah, Georgia). If that’s her excuse for saying racist things like wanting to have all black waiters at her dinner functions, then Paula Deen is a sadder case than I first thought.
          The bottomline line is that what the Food Network did by firing her is fine…for the Food Network. They did not want to associate their brand with someone who clearly is still living in the old 1950’s South. The company said it didn’t tolerate racism of any sort, and wasn’t about to start to now, and they didn’t care what Paula Deen’s fans thought about it. So they immediately took her TV shows off their air.
          On Monday, Smithfield Foods, Inc., where a lot of folks get their hams and bacon, tossed Deen to the wolves as well, dropping her brand from their line of meats.
          Bravo! Now Deen is fighting to save her empire, and is running around apologizing and making excuses of inexcusable behavior.
          Let her grovel for a little bit. Somebody like Fox News will make a home for Paula Deen. Heck, she could cook for Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.
Indeed, I suspect that Deen is capable of giving those two some good old “home” cookin’, if you know what I mean!
           THE SNOWDEN AFFAIR - If you’ve been following the Edward Snowden affair – the American contractor who leaked important National Security Agency information in an attempt to reveal how the United States government keeps track of terrorist telephone and internet communications, then you know that it has gotten way out of hand. Snowden first escaped to Hong Kong, then to Russia, and then flew off to Cuba and parts unknown. Some call him a hero for exposing how the US is allegedly violating everyone’s constitutional rights (I don’t agree), while others call Snowden a traitor who should be tried and convicted (I do agree).
When Snowden released the NSA classified info, he did so to the Washington Post and The Guardian Newspaper in Great Britain. The reporter for The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald, has been running around, talking about what a great guy Edward Snowden is, and how close he is to him.
Well on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, host David Gregory asked Glenn Greenwald a really simple question – "To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?"
            Greenwald bristled at the question, saying it was  “…pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies."
            Actually, it was a very good question, Glenn. I’m not so sure you and Bro. Snowden did anybody any favors by revealing classified NSA information to our enemies so that they know how we keep tabs on their activities. If you wanted a debate on the Patriot Act and the methods used to gather intelligence on terrorists, I think there were other ways of doing so without putting Americans at risk.
            What Edward Snowden did was against the law, and he will be tried for his crimes. Why shouldn’t you join him? Being a journalist doesn’t give any of us the right to break the law and put the lives of millions of others at risk.
            So yeah, I agree with David Gregory…maybe you should be on a plane to Cuba too. At the very least, you could keep Eddie Snowden company.
            DOWNEY BACK FOR “AVENGERS” 2 & 3 - The Marvel Comics movie nation got great news last week. Actor Robert Downey Jr. has signed on to appear in “The Avengers 2” and “The Avengers 3,” the next two sequels in the blockbuster Marvel superhero series. There had been some question as to what Downey would do after starring in the recent “Iron Man 3,” which has down over $1.2 billion in box office around the globe. Last year’s “The Avengers” still holds the global blockbuster crown. What Downey has not down, however, is signed up for anymore “Iron Man” films, though it is expected that he’ll do at least one more.  The actor is 48 years old and says there’s only but for so long he can reasonably continue to put on the iron suit. Agreed, but I’m sure, given the mass worldwide base that he has, and the tens of millions he’s made thus far, Downey will find a way to squeeze himself into that suit beyond just “The Avengers” for at least one more picture.
             Please make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my blog, ‘The Cash Roc” ( I promise it will be interesting.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.


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