What Gov. Pat McCrory and his Republican legislative allies call “flexibility,” most North Carolinians are likely to call “political patronage.”
Last week, House Republicans passed legislation increasing a governor’s political appointees. Sponsors of the bill, which still needs Senate approval, say McCrory needs hiring flexibility to enact his policies.
Last year, when it became obvious that McCrory would win the governor’s office, his legislative allies increased the number of state government jobs that are vulnerable to political patronage. It had been under 500. Now it is 1,000. If the latest House bill becomes law, it will be 1,500.
McCrory and proponents of the bill say they need flexibility and a new employee dismissal policy to make it easier to get rid of under-performing state employees. But, when the legislature increases the number of political patronage jobs, it is admitting that the people in those jobs are not being fired – or more delicately described, laid off – because they performed poorly. These workers are losing their jobs simply because the governor wants to give their jobs to others, most likely to political allies.
That’s called political patronage, and it has both its good and bad sides.
A governor, when taking office, deserves the right to put his or her own people in jobs when those jobs are assigned policy-making duties. To deny the governor that power would deny the governor the ability to govern.
But only a small number of state workers make policy. Most state workers don’t; for sure, there aren’t 1,500 state employees who make policy decisions. With the exception of a few hundred policymakers, state employees carry out the policies designed by their superiors. So McCrory only needs 1,500 political patronage jobs if he’s planning to fill state employee ranks with his political cronies.
This legislation runs counter, in its partisanship, to the bipartisan appeal that McCrory made to voters during the 2012 campaign. It rings not of a governor trying to bring a state together but of one who would punish, by firing, those who did not support him.
The governor of my state, Pat McCrory, has completely abandoned his campaign stance of bipartisanship and centrist policies again and again. I didn’t vote for his sorry, lying ass, but I was hopeful that he would walk the walk after he talked the talk. Another political chameleon reveals himself to be a hypocrite of predictable proportions. Honesty and transparency in government would be so refreshing. The repressive and regressive agenda of the modern “conservative” is both heartbreaking and infuriating. When will Americans demand better from our leaders?
This haunting image from the Bangladesh garment factory collapse in Dhaka captures the essence of this tragedy better than any words can describe. At last count, 823 bodies have been pulled from the rubble. More than 2,500 people escaped. It is unknown how many more may lay buried after the factory collapsed two weeks ago. Just yesterday another clothing factory in the region caught fire, killing seven people. In November of last year, 112 people died in a deadly factory fire in the same area. The workers, trapped in a locked building, were roasted alive. Survivors of the fire claimed that doors were locked and that they were ordered to return to work after fire alarms went off.
Police say that the factory owners were ordered to evacuate the Dhaka building a day before its collapse. Owners ignored the order. Mere hours before the collapse, The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association also asked that the factory be shut down.
The environment of lax regulation and close relationships between business owners and government has resulted in extremely unsafe working conditions and few worker protections (sound familiar?). International attention has led Bangladesh to promise labor reforms to prevent another tragedy.
Not so long ago, American workers faced similar working conditions. In 1906 Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, highlighting the plight of workers in the meatpacking industry. On March 25, 1911, fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York claimed the lives of 146 women laborers, some as young as fourteen, who had been locked into the building to prevent theft and unauthorized breaks. Still, millions of undocumented workers in this country deal with long hours for substandard pay in unsafe conditions.
In 2010, California passed the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 requiring “every retail seller and manufacturer doing business in [California] and having annual worldwide gross receipts that exceed one hundred million dollars ($100,000,000) [to] disclose its efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from its direct supply chain for tangible goods offered for sale.” Perhaps similar national legislation would be effective, but I believe businesses should take the initiative to institute fair-trade policies.
There is an advantage for retailers to have a transparent supply chain. Many businesses have profited by acting ethically. Patagonia is one company that has made transparency and social responsibility an important part of its business model. The merchandise is certainly very pricey for the average American, but the example is one that major retailers would do well to imitate. Greater demand for sustainably made fair trade merchandise will serve to lower costs. Wal-Mart and other mega-retailers would make a huge difference in the world if they took heed of this and other successful ethical companies.
Bangladesh is the third largest supplier of apparel to western countries, behind China and Vietnam. Many major retailers, such as H&M, Wal-Mart and JC Penney, sell merchandise made in Bangladesh. After the building collapse, western consumers voiced outrage about working conditions in Bangladesh. Typical workers receive between .30-.40 and hour and often work in poorly ventilated areas with few, if any, windows, fire escapes, or emergency exits. The problem is complex, because there are few job opportunities for the poor, in particular for women. Disney has decided to remove Bangladesh from its list of approved trade countries.
Boycotting goods made in Bangladesh is one option, but a better solution would be actual reform. Bangladesh would be economically crippled without the apparel industry, with 80 percent of exports coming from the garment industry. Retailers monitoring each step of the supply chain and demanding safe working conditions and adequate pay for workers would make it more profitable for factories to implement those changes rather than lose a valuable client.
Since the building collapse Bangladesh has shut down 18 garment factories pending inspections to review the safety of each facility. In the meantime, millions of workers, mostly women, in Bangladesh are uncertain for their futures. As consumers, we have a powerful voice to change for the better the plight of the working poor who provide clothing for our relatively privileged backs.
We wondered, just like everyone else did: why didn’t Elizabeth Smart run? There she was, wandering downtown Salt Lake City, right in our midst, the veiled captive of a madman.
But we also recognized something in that paralysis, that deadly quiet. We recognized something of ourselves.
Now, Elizabeth Smart, continuing her elegant and courageous adult self-realization, tells an audience at a Johns Hopkins University event on human trafficking that a very traditional Mormon culture object lesson on sexual purity contributed decisively to the paralysis that kept her a captive.
She recalls that a teacher once held up a chewed up piece of used chewing gum and compared it to a young woman who lost her virginity. And after surviving sexual assault during her captivity, Smart recalls:
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”
I don’t know much about Mormon religious teachings on sexuality, but I know a lot about Christian teachings on the matter. I know very well the shame of falling from grace, how worthless and dirty I felt. My purity sacrificed, my honor forever stained…why should I expect a decent man to love me? And it wasn’t just my Christian teachers who instilled that sense of shame. My mother taught me from a young age that my privates were dirty and she teased me mercilessly when I began to mature. Her attitude and ridicule reinforced the teachings of my pastor and teachers that the flesh is evil.
Women are also taught that they are to submit to their husbands, sexually and in all other aspects of their lives. It is only recently that laws have been passed to protect women from being raped by their husbands. The concept is still baffling to some. How can a man rape his own property? Women are blamed for their own victimization.
No one deserves rape. No one deserves to be shamed and treated as property. There are so many facets to the problem of sexual abuse. We cannot ignore the fact that religion often plays a role in both creating the problem and in covering it up. The shame instilled in a child when he or she is sexually maturing can create the very monster that we fear. It can also cause an abused child to keep it a secret. Even worse, it can lead to the covering up of the crime itself if and when the abuse comes to light. Many times, the victim is not believed, or is blamed for the abuse. So many of them turn to drugs and alcohol to numb their pain. Often, they continue the cycle by choosing partners who abuse them, because it is all they know or feel they deserve.
I so admire Elizabeth Smart for speaking out on this subject. After all she has been through, she could easily have isolated herself and hidden from the public eye. Instead, she uses her horrific past to help other children who don’t have a voice. She has her own foundation that fights child abuse and exploitation and teaches kids that they have value, no matter what happens to them.
“Just one of those crazy accidents.”
That’s what the Cumberland County coroner in Lexington, KY said of the horrific accident in which a 5-year-old boy shot his 2-year-old sister dead with his PERSONAL RIFLE. I have a terrible feeling that the parents of these children won’t be charged for reckless endangerment or anything else. Isn’t losing a child enough? Maybe. What would we do to a parent who drove drunk and killed their child in a “crazy accident?” Unfortunately, stories like these happen regularly enough that we aren’t even shocked. Consider the off-duty policeman who left his unsecured weapon within reach his four-year-old nephew. The child picked it up and shot the deputy’s wife dead. Predictably, the sheriff called it a terrible accident. ”It’s a sad, sad set of circumstances,” he said. Talk about an understatement! The deputy was not charged.
Looks like accidents like these will be an ever growing trend in the future, because the gun industry aggressively markets to children, hoping to ensure a new generation of consumers, while lobbying against even the tamest of regulations to prevent accidental discharges. The U.S. General Accounting Office estimated that 31% of unintentional deaths caused by firearms could be prevented by the addition of a child-proof safety lock and a loading indicator. Trigger locks are somehow an infringement on the Second Amendment, however. Keystone Sporting Arms, manufacturer of the ”My First Rifle,” markets deadly weapons to the kiddie crowd, with smaller barrels and stocks in primary colors and hot pink for your little princess. It is (currently) illegal to sell guns to minors, but given the current climate of Second Amendment worship, that could change. At this point, I am not shocked by any proposed legislation.
My father taught me how to shoot at a young age. I knew how to check if it was loaded and was taught basic safety such as rule number one: NEVER POINT YOUR WEAPON AT ANOTHER PERSON! I was punished if I even pointed my FINGERS shaped like a gun at my little sister. Nevertheless, he always kept his guns locked up when he wasn’t using them. Because children cannot be trusted to use good judgment. Grown people have enough trouble with that.
It is apparent that no number of tragedies or deaths will spur the government to finally take action to enact sensible gun laws-not until the NRA and the gun lobby are prevented from buying politicians. Clearly, campaign finance reform is not even on the horizon, so you had better buy up those bulletproof backpacks and teach your young ones to duck and cover. Do they manufacture baby bulletproof vests yet? Hmm, perhaps that’s a niche market I could exploit…KiddieKevlar?
Yesterday, United States Senate failed to pass the law extending the background check requirement to most private gun sales. Although 85% to 90% of all Americans support universal background checks, and more than 50 Senators were in favor of passing the bill, a strong majority of 46 Senators defeated the bill. (According to the current Senate rules, 41 or more votes out of 100 constitute a majority).
We need to apply creative thinking to old problems in order to change the way people think about them. Watch this short video for a lesson in reverse psychology, then get to brainstorming about ways to use this technique for issues that you care about! A few signs and a free Facebook page actually made a difference and saved a library from closure.
Right now in my hometown, my favorite place to go, The Western North Carolina Nature Center, is under threat after state budget cuts have forced our local government to consider closure of the only accredited wildlife sanctuary and rescue in the area. This wonderful place has instilled a love and respect for animals in my children and countless other young minds. The facility hosts dozens of school groups every year and sponsors a competitive young volunteer program, allowing kids to actually care for the animals in the summer. Several times a year I visit the Nature Center and love to watch the two most colorful characters, Obi Wan and Olive the otters. I would appreciate your help if you can help me think of a similar viral campaign as the one that saved the Troy Library!