Mark Robinson Wants Teachers to Stop Indoctrinating Your Kids
Catch up in 8 minutes: The case for rent relief + Google’s big Durham play + NCGOP vs. absentee voting + Raleigh considers abortion-clinic buffers + Chevron gets its revenge
Fri., March 19, 2021
Hello, friends. I’ve been busy with a quick-turnaround story over the last few days (#freelancelife), so I apologize for not getting to the newsletter. Let’s catch up on the week, shall we?
Weather: Rain in the morning, cooler, high around 55.
Today’s Number: 2.4 Billion
Amount, in dollars, that more than two-dozen local officials from all over the state want Governor Cooper to spend on rent relief in his upcoming budget proposal.
“We urge you to allocate $2.4 billion to rent relief in your budget proposal. According to the NC Justice Center, $200 million would be the monthly cost to cover the equivalent of fair market rents for all North Carolinians who are behind on their payments, and $2.4 billion would cover a year of payments. Although the state spent $175 million in rental and utility assistance last year, it was not enough to address the widespread need.”
Coop’s budget proposal is a largely symbolic document. The Republicans who run the state legislature generally don’t pay it much mind.
+TODAY’S TOP 6
1. Google, Fujifilm Make Big Plays in the Triangle
Yesterday morning, Google announced plans to create a Durham hub for hundreds of engineers working on its cloud products. That news was soon followed by word that drug manufacturer Fujifilm Dionysnth would build the world’s largest monoclonal antibody manufacturing facility in Holly Springs, a $1.5 billion project.
Fujifilm got a $19.7 million incentive from the state, contingent on it meeting its job promises.
A few years ago, Novo Nordisk’s similarly massive insulin manufacturing plant in Clayton received a $16 million grant based on the promise of 700 jobs.
“I think we will probably see a number of companies on the West Coast and from the Northeast looking at North Carolina, [specifically] in this field of biotechnology,” Cooper told the N&O. “I can see us challenging the Cambridge-Boston area because of our great universities and the workforce that we have.”
Also because you can buy a house for less than a mill.
2. Has Your Kid Learned About [Whispers] Homosexuals? Mark Robinson Wants to Hear from You!
Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, a walking testament to the weakness of the North Carolina Democratic Party, just knows that liberal teachers are liberally indoctrinating your children with communism and climate change and LGBTQs and historically accurate classes acknowledging the atrocities perpetrated against marginalized populations. He can’t prove it yet. But he’s got himself a conclusion, and darned if he won’t find evidence soon.
“While there have long been rumors of indoctrination efforts, or one-off stories about a teacher’s controversial lesson plan, Robinson said he hopes to soon be able to show people just how widespread it might be. ‘People say, Well, where’s the proof? Where’s the proof?’ said Robinson, a Republican who took office in January. ‘We’re going to bring you the proof.’” (N&O)
This is the kind of bigoted crap you’re going to see: “One man told Robinson that he pulled his son out of Wake County Schools in elementary school because his teacher gave the class a reading assignment about a transgender person.” (Ooh, reading.)
This is interesting: The submission form assures complainers that “No personal information including name or location given through this form will be shared outside of the F.A.C.T.S. board unless given permission by the individual who submitted the form.”
Here is North Carolina’s public records law. I don’t see anything that exempts the names of submitters. (Any 1A lawyers out there, please tell me if I’m missing something.)
And yes, he calls it the FACTS (Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students) Task Force.
Robinson: “We want this task force to be a resource for parents and students who feel that they are unable to tackle the issues that they are facing in their schools. And trust me, folks, that is happening in this state.”
3. NCGA Republicans Want to “Restore Trust” in Elections
Three Republican senators have proposed a bill that would bar the State Elections Board from counting any absentee ballot that arrives after 5 p.m. on Election Day, no matter when it was postmarked.
In November, this would have applied to 14,500 ballots.
The reason: “to really restore trust, restore confidence in the election process,” according to Sen. Paul Newton. (N&O)
Of course, we’re only “restoring” trust in the system is that Newton’s party spent two months after the last election gaslighting about election fraud.
▶️ OTHER NCPOL NEWS
In what should come as a surprise to no one—particularly not readers of this newsletter—Cheri Beasley authorized a friend to announced that she will soon announce her campaign for U.S. Senate, which is basically an announcement, right? (N&O)
A really smart story here from the NC Watchdog Reporting Network: Unlike other states, North Carolina won’t release data on deaths in police custody, using a really weak-beer justification.
4. Raleigh Considers Buffers for Abortion Clinics
On March 6, some yahoo at an anti-abortion protest outside of A Women’s Choice of Raleigh accidentally shot himself. As much as North Carolina loves guns, it’s still a crime to carry a weapon to a protest. The protesters claim the man wasn’t one of them.
Mayor Baldwin told the N&O the cops will soon press charges. But MAB seemed to say the city had decided against revoking the protesters’ permit: “My understanding is that the city attorney’s office was involved, the police department was involved, and they made decisions based on what we can do from a constitutional standpoint.”
Earlier this week, Raleigh council member David Knight asked the city’s staff to look at ways to protect the city’s abortion providers, including A Woman’s Choice.
His council predecessor, Stef Mendell, urged her former colleagues to enact a buffer: “I have recently learned that the Supreme Court has upheld a buffer zone ordinance in Pittsburgh. I would like to request that this council pass a similar buffer zone ordinance to protect health care organizations and neighborhoods from danger.”
Indeed, earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal challenging Pittsburgh’s ordinance, which bans protests within 15 feet of health care facilities. Pittsburgh’s ordinance passed constitutional muster because it didn’t target abortion protests but applied to all health care facilities. (Courthouse News)
Part of the reason the appeals court allowed the ordinance to stand was that it allowed protesters to get within ear- and eyeshot of the women entering the clinic. In other words, they could yell at them from a distance, but they couldn’t impede their entrance or tell them they were going to hell from the sidewalk in front of the clinic.
Quick journalism observation: The N&O gave a lot of ink to the anti-abortion crew’s propaganda—“Abortion is a very selfish decision,” “We’ve made it sexy to abort children,” “One compared the clinic to a concentration camp, and the staff to the Ku Klux Klan”—none of which is either new or newsworthy.
A clinic volunteer who reported being physically assaulted by protesters got much less attention.
5. U.S. House Passes Dreamers Bill
Providing a pathway to citizenship for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children shouldn’t be controversial. It’s the lowest-hanging fruit of the immigration debate. Polls consistently find that 75–80% of Americans support giving Dreamers legal status. Yet when the House approved a bill yesterday to give Dreamers permanent legal protections, only a handful of Republicans joined with Democrats. And the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate.
“On Capitol Hill, though, nascent legislative efforts on the issue have become immediately intertwined with the increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children now arriving at the U.S. border—an escalating challenge that the Biden administration has struggled to manage.”
“As legislation establishing a pathway to citizenship for those known as “dreamers” easily cleared the House on Thursday, Senate Republicans have made it clear in early private negotiations that any measure that includes legalization would be difficult absent measures that would bolster border enforcement and tighten U.S. asylum laws, according to senior GOP and Democratic senators. At least 10 Republican senators are needed to pass most bills in the evenly split Senate.” (Editor’s note: Until Democrats decide otherwise.)
It’s true that there are record numbers of children and unaccompanied minors at the border. This is happening for many reasons: the usual poverty and violence in Central America, plus COVID and natural disasters. There’s also the fact that Donald Trump is no longer president.
Migrant advocate the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde: “Migration is like the stock market — it reacts to any sign, positive or negative. Since Biden was a candidate, he gave hope to migrants, although he never said the United States was going to open its doors to all migrants.” (WaPo)
What the Republicans want—maintaining Trump’s draconian asylum rules and rapidly deporting children—is a nonstarter. Sen. Dick Durbin, who is negotiating for the Dems, hopes to convince Republicans to use their demands as leverage for a larger immigration package coming later this year.
More likely: This will be another example of the choice facing Senate Democrats—eliminate the filibuster or do nothing.
▶️ OTHER BIDEN NEWS
Biden is expected to appoint former Florida Sen. Bill Nelson to head NASA. As a congressman in the ’80s, Nelson went into space on a shuttle (as I recall, the mission before Challenger). As a reporter who covered Florida politics, I can tell you that the otherwise dull pol hasn’t shut up about it since. (WaPo)
5. What I’m Reading: How Chevron Manipulated Federal Courts to Extract Vengeance
It's a beautiful day in New York, but Steven Donziger cannot leave his house. There’s an electronic bracelet around his ankle, and he is only permitted to leave for medical appointments, meetings with lawyers, and school events for his 14-year-old son. … He has not been convicted of a crime. He's only been accused of a misdemeanor, and he's still awaiting trial. But, as of March 17, 2021, he has been locked up in his apartment for 589 days because, he says, he took on a massive multinational oil firm and won.
Donziger is a human rights lawyer who, for more than 27 years, has represented the Indigenous peoples and rural farmers of Ecuador against Texaco—since acquired by Chevron—which was accused of dumping at least 16 billion gallons of toxic waste into the area of the Amazon rainforest in which they live. Cancer is now highly prevalent in the local population. Some have called it the “Amazon Chernobyl.” They first filed suit in New York in 1993, but Texaco lobbied, successfully, to move the proceedings to Ecuador. In 2011, the team of Ecuadorian lawyers Donziger worked with won the case, and Chevron was ultimately ordered to pay $9.8 billion.
But for Donziger, that was nowhere near the end. Chevron, a $260 billion company, went to a New York federal court to sue him under a lesser-known civil—non-criminal—provision of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. They later dropped their demands for financial damages because it would have necessitated a jury trial. That is something Donziger has been unable to get. Instead, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, a former corporate lawyer whose clients included tobacco companies, became Donziger's judge-and-jury in the RICO case. He heard from 31 witnesses, but based his ruling in significant part on the testimony of Albert Guerra, a former Ecuadorian judge whom Chevron relocated to the U.S. at an overall cost of $2 million. Guerra alleged there was a bribe involved in the Ecuadorian court's judgment against Chevron. He has since retracted some of his testimony, admitting it was false.
But Kaplan, who refused to look at the scientific evidence in the original case, ruled the initial verdict was the result of fraud. And he didn't stop there. He ordered Donziger to pay millions in attorneys fees to Chevron and eventually ordered him to turn over decades of client communications, even going after his phone and computer. Donziger considered this a threat to attorney-client privilege and appealed the ruling, but while that appeal was pending, Kaplan slapped him with a contempt of court charge for refusing to give up the devices. When the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York declined to prosecute the case, Kaplan took the extraordinary step of appointing a private law firm to prosecute Donziger in the name of the U.S. government. The firm, Seward & Kissel, has had a number of oil-and-gas clients, including, in 2018 ... Chevron. Kaplan bypassed the usual random case-assignment procedure of the federal judiciary and handpicked a judge to hear the contempt case: Loretta Preska, a member of the Federalist Society, among whose major donors is ... Chevron. Preska has, like Kaplan, rejected Donziger's requests to have his trial heard by a jury of his peers.