Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


NC SHOULD BLOCK THIS DUKE ENERGY POWER GRAB: Finally, the most obviously imbalanced aspect of HB 951 is how Duke’s over-earning (i.e., revenue over the Commission-set return, a.k.a., windfall profits) is treated as compared to under-earning. Duke is free to keep over-earnings above its Utilities Commission-approved rate of return or profit to the tune of approximately $100 million per year. But, if Duke under-earns by even a penny, they can recoup that under-earning. This is blatantly imbalanced and, once again, advantageous only to the monopoly utility. NO reciprocity. It is hard to see why any state legislator – Republican or Democrat – would find voting for House Bill 951 to be in the best interest of his or her constituents due to the bill’s dramatic imbalance in favor of Duke Energy at the expense of North Carolinians. HB 951 would take an electricity regulation regime that already unfairly favors the monopoly utility and make it even worse. And Duke is structured so they can easily jigger the numbers to make it look like they lost money here or there.

RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS ERODE WALL BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE: Vaccine resistance is another place where religious exemption is being used and Jefferson’s wall has been eroded. While the First Amendment prevents the establishment of a preferred religion, it also ensures that citizens can believe as they choose and practice their religion freely — within limits. Some vaccine refusers claim a religious justification on the grounds of free exercise. If individual religious objections to vaccines can supersede mandates designed to protect the public, we are headed for a society where anyone can invoke a “deeply held belief” to choose to ignore any law they wish. This flies in the face not only of common sense, but also the Constitution. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), signed by President Clinton in 1993, had broad support across the political spectrum as a means of protecting minority religious practices. Since that time, the RFRA has been twisted so that it has been used to justify discrimination and other harms in the name of religion. The Do No Harm Act, currently in the U.S. House and Senate, would modify the RFRA to clarify that religion cannot be used to harm people. This legislation is vital to restoring a level playing field that does not privilege one religion over another or no religion. As James Madison said, “religion and Government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”’

LEGISLATORS' BUDGET MUST FULLY IMPLEMENT LEANDRO PLAN FOR EDUCATION EQUITY: The message to North Carolina General Assembly’s leaders cannot be clearer – coming from a Superior Court Judge; the plaintiffs including six local school boards and 14 parents; the defendants including the state of North Carolina and the State Board of Education. That message was echoed and amplified Tuesday by Gov. Roy Cooper and the state Commission on a Sound Basic Education: “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to use our state’s resources to truly transform and strengthen our public schools. Our state has the resources to live up to our constitutional obligation to our children,” Cooper said. In his negotiations with legislative leaders, “I will work as hard as I can for strong investments in this plan so that we can make it a reality,” Cooper promised. The question for our legislative leadership is a basic and simple one of will. Are they determined to unequivocally stand up for public school students and parents, public school teachers and staff and the Constitution of North Carolina? Will they do what it takes? They haven't done so in the last decade, I can't envision them changing for the better. Unless they are forced to.

THE DISCOURAGING RESPONSE OF NC CONSERVATIVES TO NEW REVELATIONS ABOUT TRUMP'S COUP ATTEMPT: As a growing body of evidence has made clear in recent days, our nation came much closer than most of us had realized to experiencing a right-wing coup d’état in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. What’s more, the would-be traitors behind the effort remain on the scene and, by all indications, actively engaged in renewing their efforts. Meanwhile, the people and organizations with the greatest power to help expose this criminality and stop it – Republican politicians and their allies in national and state conservative think tanks – remain worrisomely muted or even complicit in the scheme. If this all strikes you as alarmist, you probably haven’t perused the now infamous memo in which Trump adviser and confidante John Eastman spelled out a step-by-step scheme under which former Vice President Mike Pence could have sought to overturn last November’s actual election results. As veteran journalist Jay Bookman explained recently, the memo was “pretty much a how-to booklet on ending American democracy.” Here’s Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger as he whipped up the audience at a conservative Christian event in Mt. Airy on Sept. 25, as reported by Raleigh’s News & Observer: “There’s never been a more critical time in America than right now. Our world is polarized, and it only continues to get more and more divided. Our values are attacked, day after day, our freedoms often becoming an afterthought.” A similar tone can be found over at the John Locke Foundation – the state’s most visible conservative think tank and a group that has long boasted of its supposed commitment to civil debate – where the drumbeat of fiery incitements has been unceasing. The group regularly features and/or links to posts from commentators who cast President Biden and Gov. Cooper as fiendish tyrants and promote the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Big lies, little lies, it's all in a day's work for Pope's Puppets.

DREAMERS ARE BEING FAILED BY CONGRESS: It has been nine years since the Obama administration established a program to give some semblance of security to “dreamers,” the young migrants brought to this country as children by their parents, and 20 years since a bill was first introduced in Congress to grant them similar breathing space, including protection from deportation and permission to work. Overwhelmingly, Americans of both parties favor extending those privileges permanently, and on Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans alike offer sympathetic-sounding statements of support. Yet even now the dreamers’ fate continues to hang in the balance, with no legislation passed to protect them and no long-term assurance that they can remain in the United States. Successive administrations and Congresses have failed to normalize the lives of well over 1 million dreamers, most of whom, having arrived in this country at the age of 7 or younger, are now in their 20s and 30s. Can there be many more telling examples of Washington’s enduring paralysis and dysfunction? On Monday, the Biden administration proposed an administrative rule that might shield Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama-era program that provides work permits and safety from deportation for dreamers on a two-year, renewable basis. Essentially, the move is a stopgap designed to safeguard the original stopgap — although it may not be sufficient to preserve DACA against an adverse Supreme Court ruling. The only ironclad guarantee for the dreamers would come in the form of a law enacted by Congress and signed by the president. That prospect has fallen victim again and again to political gamesmanship, posturing, cowardice and hypocrisy. To get anything done will require a bipartisan lift. Efforts by Democrats to pass it on a party-line vote under budget rules did not pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian. Those without the protections conferred by DACA can be deported at any time; most also cannot drive legally and have slim chances of securing a college degree. While some states have enacted laws enabling DACA recipients to get driver’s licenses and access affordable higher education via in-state tuition at public colleges and universities, other states have not. Most migrants without driver’s licenses and college degrees are consigned to a life on the margins of the only country they consider theirs. We most certainly need to enshrine DACA in law, but it needs to be re-written first. Those children who arrived in the U.S. after June 15 2007 are not eligible. Not only is that is a travesty of justice, every day that goes by takes the program deeper into the moribund category.


LINDSEY HANES-MASLOW: CORNER STORES CAN COMBAT FOOD DESERTS: As a professor focusing on access to healthy foods for low-income communities, the public deserves a peek into a field of research that’s broader than the one study David Cox cited in his Sept. 28 op-ed. Healthy corner stores are a vastly studied topic, in North Carolina and nationally. While they normally don’t sell a wide variety of healthy food options, several states, including North Carolina, have passed legislation to promote such sales. Research suggests these policies increase the availability of healthier foods and beverages and improve customers’ intent to purchase them. Healthy corner store policies need to be part of community supported innovations directed at improving diets. My study dives into the nuances behind these policies. Communities where people walk and bike to corner stores to buy healthy foods are not a utopia. The reality is some communities lack access to grocery stores. Let’s not shortchange the public with reasons why we can’t support healthier options for them. Policies and programs for improved nutrition and health are goals we can all support. Here is an excerpt from David Cox's editorial, wherein he uses an anecdote to prejudice readers against corner stores: "As kids we went there to buy candy, soda (which we called pop) and, I hate to admit this, my mom sent us there with notes to buy cigarettes. And, yes, they sold them to us and I dutifully carried them home. Remarkably, I never smoked. But my mom, who I miss dearly, died of lung cancer in 1993. She was 58 – way too young." Sadly, this type of rhetoric has become indicative of those who oppose the City Council majority and Mayor. Reductive reasoning, hyperbole, and barely-veiled innuendo have become normalized, while healthy arguing has receded into the background. What they don't realize, and I wish they would, is that type of behavior makes people worry about how things would go if they managed to gain control.

HILLARY PAUL HALPERN: IT'S TIME TO RETIRE CAMERON PARK'S NAME: Having grown up in Cameron Park, I’ve been following the name change efforts. I find it absurd to hear the argument that the neighborhood wasn’t named after the Camerons, but was simply always referred to in this manner. If there’s a substantive difference there, I fail to see it. If some white residents feel pulled to make this argument, I urge them to notice their defensive stance and ask themselves what the Cameron Park name represents to their neighbors of color. People of color have made their stance clear. Anti-racist work is about listening and responding. Are those in Cameron Park who oppose a name change going to get bogged down in the details of defending their stance, or will they look around and notice how history weighs on the shoulders of those who’ve experienced marginalization? No one ever said that changing the name was enough. It’s simply an initial step towards offsetting the burdens of our painful history. It was created and marketed as a white enclave, regardless of what some history re-writers would have people believe. Jim Crow had enough defenders back in the day, he doesn't deserve any now.

PHILIP S. MORSE: KAGAN WAS RIGHT ABOUT THE DANGERS WE FACE: Robert Kagan’s Sept. 26 essay pretty much summarized a fact that people don’t want to embrace or admit — that the phenomenon of Donald Trump is unique and what is going on is unprecedented. We are, indeed, dealing with people who feel profoundly aggrieved, which means that they are on a fundamentally different wavelength. The parallels with the rise of a movement such as Nazism are there, mainly because we are dealing with gut emotions rather than reason, or even a fundamental desire for a constitutional order. It is just as pernicious and dangerous as George Orwell’s “doublethink” and the other characteristics he defined as a movement toward authoritarianism. So far, we seem to be primarily talking and writing about what is happening rather than articulating real resolutions or coming up with substantive, workable and abiding suggestions for how we can get to a better place. In many ways, it is similar to global warming and other pressing, multinational issues with the same sense of helplessness and a feeling that truly effective, permanent solutions are not yet within our reach. If you needed proof that LTEs can reach a national audience, there you go. Philip is from Pittsboro.



Reading is fundamental

I was at a friend's house recently, admiring his fancy bookcase, when I realized it was more of an objet d'art than a functional repository of literature. Only one shelf had actual books on it, and they were carefully arranged to impress. All hardbacks of course, and almost all non-fiction political or technical tomes.

When he asked me, expectantly, how many I had read, I ended up complaining about Salman Rushdie beginning his critique of Islam with a surrealistic flying fantasy. He kind of smirked at me, as if I simply couldn't understand what the author was trying to purvey. And he was probably right, but here's the deal: reading for relaxation should not be a chore. And what you read should not be viewed as a gauge of your intellectual prowess, your wokeness, or any other social construct. And reading for relaxation most definitely should not be viewed as a fruitless or pointless exercise.

Without delving too deeply into areas I'm not qualified to pontificate on, the human brain requires (daily, in my case) regular maintenance. And escapism is an important tool in that box. We are uniquely vulnerable to stressors, that left unchecked, can play in a continuous loop in our thoughts. Perceived injustices are not easily set aside, but they must be. At least temporarily. In many cases, non-fiction fails at that miserably, and can introduce new and often formidable stressors.

So that leaves fiction as a reliable escape mechanism. But it's important to note, we each have unique needs to achieve that result. Style, point of view, moral judgments, and even word choice by the authors can facilitate or hamper a reader's transition into the fictional world to which we are hoping to travel. For this reason, book clubs or reading groups may not serve the purpose you envision. Just remember this: if you don't like something, it is not a failing on your part. You haven't missed the bus, you just need a different bus to get where you want to go.

If you are like many I know, who believe you have "grown up" and no longer need fiction in your life, I would beg to differ. You may need it now more than ever.