Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


NC SUPREME COURT SHOULD END RACIAL BIAS IN JURY SELECTION: North Carolina is one of very few states where appeals courts have never acknowledged discrimination against a juror of color and have allowed prosecutors to offer reasons for striking black jurors that are vague, suspect, and difficult to verify: the juror didn’t make eye contact, had an unusual hairstyle, or said “yeah” instead of “yes.” This week, North Carolina has a chance to confront a problem that has haunted the state for too long. The North Carolina Supreme Court will hear arguments on August 26 and 27 about the North Carolina Racial Justice Act (RJA). This groundbreaking law allowed people on death row to present evidence that racial bias played a role in their death sentences. After the law’s passage in 2009, a study of capital trials found that prosecutors removed qualified black jurors at more than twice the rate of white jurors. Thus, nearly half of North Carolina’s death row prisoners were tried by all-white juries or juries with only one person of color. If you doubt that the racial makeup of juries matters, remember that all-white juries have sent dozens of innocent black men to death row, including some of my clients.

THE TROUBLING NOTION THAT EDUCATION IS THE ENEMY: Monday, the Pew Research Center published a new study, “The Growing Partisan Divide in Views of Higher Education,” which found that the share of Americans who say colleges and universities have a negative impact on the country has jumped by 12 percentage points since 2012. But here’s the kicker: “The increase in negative views,” said Pew, “has come almost entirely from Republicans and independents who lean Republican.” GOP antipathy toward higher education is driven in part, the study says, by a belief that colleges have gone overboard in protecting students from views they deem offensive. On the other hand, most Republicans also think professors should stop bringing their social and political views into the classroom. We will pass lightly over the contradiction of saying students should not be sheltered from differing opinions while at the same time, wanting to shelter students from differing opinions.

DON'T BE FOOLED BY THIS NC TAX "REFUND": Everyone loves tax refunds — especially politicians approaching an election year — but don’t be fooled by the sudden generosity of the skinflint senator whose governing credo is: “North Carolina does not have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem.” North Carolina does have a spending problem. It’s not spending enough and the unmet needs are piling up. Teachers need substantial raises across the board, as do school bus drivers, custodians and teacher assistants. The shortage of textbooks and school supplies remains acute. Many local water systems need major improvements to provide safe water. The state’s judicial system from courtrooms to prisons is underfunded to the point where justice too often cannot be served. The University of North Carolina needs more state support to be affordable to most North Carolina residents. The state is leaving hundreds of thousands of people uninsured because Republican lawmakers won’t accept the cost of expanding Medicaid.

NEW "RELIGIOUS FREEDOM" RULE LOOKS LIKE A LICENSE TO DISCRIMINATE: First, it would define a “religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society” eligible for the exemption in a sweeping way that extends beyond philanthropic institutions such as soup kitchens or refugee resettlement agencies. Also eligible for the exemption would be some “closely held” profit-making companies whose owners claim a religious mission. The order cites the 2014 decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby, a business owned by a Christian family, needn’t abide by the contraception mandate imposed under the Affordable Care Act. But it doesn’t follow from that ruling that such companies are entitled to a federal contract if they engage in discrimination. Second, the rule says that an employer can reject not only applicants who aren’t members of the same denomination, but also those who fail to demonstrate “acceptance of or adherence to religious tenets as understood by the employing contractor.” That seems to suggest that employers with religious objections to same-sex marriage or wives working outside the home could refuse to hire a gay applicant or a married mother – and yet still would be eligible for a taxpayer-funded contract. The Labor Department suggests that its proposed religious exemption, like the current one, couldn’t be used as a smokescreen to conceal discrimination rooted in other sorts of bias. But why make such subterfuge easier by loosening definitions? And what about contractors who sincerely believe that engaging in discrimination is God’s will? They’re free to believe that, but they mustn’t be allowed to act on that belief.

TRUMP'S TRADE WAR SHOWS THE REALITY OF "AMERICA FIRST" IN ACTION: Is John Deere “tired of winning,” as Trump promised that all Americans soon would be? Not exactly. The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. farmers are buying fewer farm machines — Deere & Co.’s profits from this business are down 24 percent from a year ago — partly because farmers’ incomes have suffered as a result of the tit-for-tat trade spat that Trump started with China, which has included China canceling the purchase of almost 500,000 metric tons of soybeans. Home Depot, the world’s largest home-improvement retailer (more than 2,200 stores in North America), partly blames the trade war for its lowered growth expectations. The tariffs, which the Financial Times accurately refers to as “import taxes,” will, according to a JPMorgan estimate, cost the average U.S. household “around $1,000 a year.” If so, this Trump tax increase — it is his alone — is more important to the average American than his (actually Congress’s) tax cut. The Financial Times recalls that “hundreds of U.S. companies and trade associations said in a joint communique in June that the proposed duties would cause the loss of 2 million jobs and reduce U.S. economic output by 1 percent.” The losses and reduction are related to the fact that, as Allan Golombek of the White House Writers Group notes, “Over 60 percent of U.S. imports are used by businesses in their products and production processes.” Hence Trump’s tariffs make U.S. goods more expensive, thereby dampening U.S. consumer activity.


JAMESE COOK-MINOR: PASS THE WAGE BILL: On July 18, I sat in the gallery of the U.S. House along with other members of NC Raise Up, Fight for $15 as Congress passed the Raise the Wage Act. Some of us cried when the bill passed. We were finally being heard by lawmakers. Now, I worry that this critically needed bill to raise the federal minimum wage might die in the Senate because leaders like Thom Tillis and Richard Burr aren’t taking action. As a McDonald’s crew member making $8.05 an hour, I don’t make enough to keep up with the rising cost of living in Durham. I want to be independent and move out on my own, but I don’t earn enough. When I look for other job opportunities, I primarily see minimum wage jobs. I’m not the only person who will benefit from this bill. Most Durham residents will agree when I say that it’s hard to afford an apartment in our city when you earn poverty wages. It’s time for Burr and Tillis to listen to us and follow the House in raising the minimum wage to $15. They worked to give corporate CEOs a raise through tax breaks, why won’t they give American workers a raise?

JOE LYONS: BURR & TILLIS, YOU OWN TRUMP: This letter concerns the behavior of congressional Republicans in general and of Tom Tillis and Richard Burr in particular. By remaining silent in the face of Trump’s despicable behavior and moral laxity, you enable him to continue his disregard for our constitutional democracy. It is not enough to say you disapprove of his intemperate language and unfair accusations, but agree with him on trade, taxes and immigration control. You helped elect this man, so now you cannot pick and choose. You own him, lock, stock and barrel. You own his bigotry, racism, self-promotion, and his geo-political ignorance. You also own his lies, intolerance and lack of empathy. Your silence speaks volumes, gentlemen. It reveals your intense desire for re-election over your integrity as legislators; it means you are no longer functioning as members of a legitimate political party, but as Trump’s shoe-shine boys. Shame on you; shame on all of you!

STEPHEN J.LAWLER: SAVING THE STATE HEALTH PLAN: Thanks to the tenacious efforts of our state’s hospitals, health systems and other partners, teachers and their families will be able to keep their in-network access to local health care providers and hospitals for the upcoming year. For months, more than 700,000 teachers, state employees and retirees were caught in the middle of an ongoing debate over how to best stabilize the State Health Plan. The North Carolina Healthcare Association and our member hospitals and health systems repeatedly offered to work with the state treasurer to come up with a common-sense solution. The offer still stands. If this close-call catastrophe has taught us anything, it should be that government can’t fix complex health care problems on its own. Our state’s health care providers need to be involved upfrontand be able to offer solutions based on their unique perspectives. A “my way or the highway” approach, which puts politics ahead of people, does not lead to better outcomes or a better plan, and it certainly does not lead to a healthier North Carolina. The NCHA and our member health systems and hospitals is forging ahead with stakeholder discussions about how to create a better future for the State Health Plan — one that will keep the most pressing health care needs and interests of patients and communities first, at the head of the class, where they should be.



From the dark side

This week's loser is WaPo columnist Marc Thiessen, for his reductive anti-Muslim rhetoric:

During a news conference on Monday, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., accused Israel of denying her and fellow Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., entry because they are “the first two Muslim American women elected to Congress.”

On Twitter, Omar was even more pointed, accusing Israel of implementing “Trump’s Muslim ban” — a calumny echoed by supposedly responsible Democrats such as Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who tweeted “PM Netanyahu — Drop your Muslim ban.”

Sorry, it’s not a Muslim ban; it’s an anti-Semite ban.

Sorry, it's not an anti-Semite ban, because Israel apparently doesn't care about that:

Gavin McInnes, founder of the white nationalist Proud Boys, was allowed to visited Israel in 2017. He described his personal animus toward Jewish people in a video shot in Tel Aviv that was originally titled "10 Things I Hate About Jews."

"I'm becoming anti-Semitic," McInnes said during his visit, before reiterating common talking points used by Holocaust deniers. "I felt myself defending the super far-right Nazis just because I was sick of so much brainwashing and I felt like going, 'Well, they never said it didn't happen. What they're saying is it was much less than six million and that they starved to death and weren't gassed.'"

McInnes is far from the only far-right nationalist welcomed by Israel: Former Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopolous—who sang "America the Beautiful" for American neo-Nazi Richard Spencer—was also allowed into the country, as was former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, who appeared on Fox News on the night of Trump's inauguration reportedly wearing the badge of the Order of Vitéz, a defunct Hungarian group "under the direction of the Nazi government of Germany," according to the State Department.

Also, Israel was more than happy to allow the right-wing leader of Poland to visit, but he canceled his trip after Netanyahu made some (accurate) comments about Poland's role in the Holocaust.

So, you can be a white and outspoken anti-Semite and still get into Israel, but if you're a Muslim who dares speak out about the oppression of Palestinians, that's a different story. Back to the OP:

Israel’s decision to bar the two U.S. lawmakers was a mistake, because it has given them a much bigger platform from which to attack Israel. But let’s be clear: There is nothing outrageous about Israel’s decision to bar entry to politicians who advocate its destruction.

If Omar and Tlaib can boycott Israel, why can’t Israel boycott them?

Let me explain this so that even a moron like the author can understand: BDS is not about destroying Israel, it's about using economic leverage to alter its behavior. Behavior like bulldozing entire Palestinian neighborhoods in the West Bank to make room for Israeli Settlers. Behavior like using hydraulic despotism to control and punish people in Gaza.

Diplomacy from the U.S., Europe, the United Nations, and all points in-between has failed to curb this behavior, and that lack of success actually created the BDS movement. You want someone to blame? Look in the damned mirror.

Like Omar, Tlaib has accused her colleagues of dual loyalty — a classic anti-Semitic trope — declaring “they forgot what country they represent.” She advocates a one-state solution, which means she opposes the very existence of the state of Israel.

And here you see the classic art of the propagandist: leaving out critical information because it would make their claim obviously false.

A one state solution simply means all individuals within x territory would have equal rights. That's right, equal rights. Roughly 75% of the 9 million Israeli citizens are Jews, but in the Occupied Territory, that percentage is reversed for the 4.9 million who live there. Jews make up about 13% of that population. If those two populations were combined, Jews would represent just under 53% of the total.

So yes, Israel as we know it would cease to exist, but it would not be "destroyed," unless you believe democracy is a destructive force. And make no mistake; the current situation is not a democracy. But we have neither the time nor the tools to solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis on this blog. All I would ask is this: Do your research on the BDS movement, and keep an open mind.

Back to the shtik drek:

There is anti-Semitism on both the right and the left. On the right, anti-Semitism manifests itself in skinheads marching in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us!” On the left, anti-Semitism manifests itself in Democratic members of Congress who compare Israel to Nazi Germany. But while right-wing anti-Semites remain on the political fringes, where they belong, on the left, anti-Semites have found their way into the halls of power and are being defended by the party’s leaders.

Dude, the United States Department of Justice just got spanked because it was sending out daily news briefs that originated at White Supremacist websites and publications, but don't take my word for it:

The latest example of an entire administration being functionally in over its head comes from the Justice Department, which, BuzzFeed News reports, managed to send out a white nationalist blog post—from a hate group no less—in its daily immigration news roundup that is distributed to hundreds of immigration court employees, including immigration judges.

The post, which came from Vdare, a well-known repository for hate speech, targets immigration judges by name, using photos and anti-Semitic slurs. “The post features links and content that directly attacks sitting Immigration Judges with racial and ethnically tinged slurs and the label ‘Kritarch,’” Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said in a letter to the head of the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. “VDare’s use of the term in a pejorative manner casts Jewish history in a negative light as an Anti-Semitic trope of Jews seeking power and control.”

A DOJ spokesperson said the daily news briefing, which includes as many as two dozen pages of immigration-related news items, is provided by an outside contractor, the firm TechMIS. But, for the record, “the Department of Justice condemns Anti-Semitism in the strongest terms,” a spokesperson said. Oh.

Strangely enough, this brings me back to the BDS movement, and the twisted response from Republicans. They tried to pass a law here in NC that would prohibit state government from contracting out to private companies who have pledged to boycott Israel. That's right, they want to boycott the boycotters, but use the force of law to back it up.

But I'm sure those Republicans are just fine with a US DOJ contractor sending out white supremacist nonsense. Welcome to Absurdistan...