Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


BURR AND TILLIS NEED TO HELP NC MORE THAN APPEASE TRUMP: The House of Representatives, NEARLY TWO MONTHS AGO, passed a relief package that addresses many of the concerns that now demand urgent action. It appropriately continues the $600-a-week unemployment insurance benefit through January and provides $175 billion in assistance for rent, mortgages and utilities. It also provides money for states to do more testing and tracing of COVID-19 spread; $100 billion so schools can safely reopen and helps struggling states with assistance to keep essential workers on the job. The Trump administration and the Senate, other than complain about the House’s plan, have done nothing. Their negligence and failure to act has resulted in an emergency. It is time to stop playing politics with the lives of North Carolinians. The conceptual White House relief package is larded with contingencies such as: requiring schools open in return for aid; rejecting funding states to increase testing and tracing; and cutting a payroll tax that provides NO relief to those who need it most NOW.

MAKE SURE ELECTION RESOURCES ARE ADEQUATE FOR SURGE: Predictions about record mail-in voting numbers appear to be well on their way to coming true this year. With roughly three months until Election Day, the county has received almost 700 requests for absentee ballots. That represents a steep increase from the fewer than 200 received at this time in 2016, the previous presidential election year. Said another way, the county’s number of mail-in requests is currently 3.5 times what it was four years ago. The higher-than-usual numbers are likely the product of concerns about going to polling places to cast ballot while COVID-19 remains a concern. A mail-in ballot eliminates worries about crowds. Voting mail-in absentee also is easier this year because of reforms by the N.C. General Assembly, including the fact that only one witness signature is needed and that ballot requests can now be emailed or faxed. It’s realistic to imagine a scenario were more than 10,000 Rowan County voters request mail-in ballots in 2020 — a situation that would be unprecedented. If the COVID-19 outbreak worsens in Rowan County or North Carolina, the pace of mail-in requests could quicken and produce a total more like 15,000 or 20,000.

VIRUS EXPERT WARNS DUKE ABOUT REOPENING PLAN, UNIVERSITY IGNORES HIM: “I’m an expert on infectious disease,” Krug said in an interview. “Why don’t they listen to me? I’ve gotten no response that’s meaningful.” Krug’s concerns are shared by some Duke faculty members, but they are wary of speaking out. The retired professor, however, will not be put off. Last week, he posted an open letter to Duke President Vincent Price on the website Medium. Krug thinks bringing students from states with soaring numbers of confirmed infections – such as Florida, Texas and California – into a city whose public schools will offer only remote instruction because of rising COVID-19 infections poses too great a risk. He wrote in his open letter: “Duke students, faculty, administrators and other personnel will not be safe from contracting COVID-19 disease, and Duke will accelerate the spread of the COVID-19 disease in Durham and other local communities.” The best approach, Krug said, is to give scientists more time to work on vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. “There are a lot of people working on this. There are a lot of benefits to delaying a little. We’ll know more,” he said. “Why not wait and not expose young people to a dangerous situation?"

WANT TO ADDRESS SYSTEMIC RACISM? START WITH HOUSING: Even before the covid-19 pandemic, housing has always been the primary contributor to this country’s massive racial wealth gap. The creation of the Federal Housing Administration in 1934 led to discriminatory redlining policies that secured loans for white-only, often suburban subdivisions that mandated the exclusion of African Americans. It also furthered segregation efforts by refusing to insure mortgages in and near African American neighborhoods. These policies created the segregated communities we still live in today and persist through federal disinvestment in affordable housing programs. The 2008 financial crisis disproportionately impacted black homeowners, who purchased homes with rate terms and conditions less favorable than those offered to white homeowners and experienced higher foreclosure rates. Many have still not recovered financially. Systemic racism created a society where white households have 10 times the wealth of black households. We are at risk of history repeating itself if federal covid-19 relief measures primarily benefit white households. Compared with the layers of protection afforded to homeowners, support for renters during the pandemic has been paltry. Small stimulus payments and a temporary boost to unemployment benefits — up to a third of which had been approved but still not received in June — are not enough. Black and Hispanic families are twice as likely to rent as white families, and black families are 77 percent more likely to have severe rent burdens. African Americans are also disproportionately impacted by homelessness. Temporary eviction moratoria, most of which expire before July 31, do not absolve tenants of paying back rent, whether they have stable income or not. It is impossible to fully address these issues without starting at home. After decades of disinvestment and denial, now is the time for Congress to show its commitment to housing programs that support the stability and mobility of people of color.

IN PORTLAND'S SO-CALLED "WAR ZONE," IT'S THE TROOPS WHO PROVIDE THE MENACE: I’ve watched them fire round after round of tear gas, along with occasional rubber bullets or other projectiles. They even repeatedly tear-gassed Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, who has demanded that they go home, leaving him blinded and coughing on his own streets. “They knocked the hell out of him,” President Trump boasted on Fox News. “That was the end of him.” Trump is pretending that he is bringing law and order to chaotic streets, and now he has dispatched similar troops — what else can you call a militarized force like this but “troops”? — to Seattle, where that city’s mayor has also said they are unwanted. Yet if Trump is actually trying to establish order, he is stunningly incompetent. The ruthlessness of the federal forces has inflamed the protests, bringing huge throngs of Portlanders out to protect their city from those they see as jackbooted federal thugs. The protesters — including a “Wall of Moms” who turn out each night to lock arms and shield protesters — protect themselves with bicycle helmets and umbrellas, while suburbanites bring leaf blowers to dispel tear gas (this works surprisingly well). Medics attend to the injured, and cleanup crews collect litter. “They have guns; I have an umbrella,” said a protester named Jackie — who added that she was fearful of the government and did not want her last name published. That’s common in dictatorships, but I find it ineffably sad to breathe tear gas in my beloved home state and to interview Americans with such fears of their own leaders.


ALEX KARSTON: PROPOSED CUTS TO UNC SYSTEM SCHOOLS WOULD BE DEVASTATING: The UNC System is a vital public good and ought to be protected as such. It’s true that sacrifices must be made in times of crisis. But a 50% cut is not a belt-tightening, it is a dismantling — or at least the first step toward one. Vague assurances have been made that these cuts will only be triggered in a worst-case scenario. Even if we can blessedly avoid the worst case, it feels naive to believe that these plans will be simply set aside. As an alumnus of UNC-Chapel Hill, I fear that these proposed cuts will be used as a road map for the defunding of the public university system that has long been one of the crown jewels of our state. Once a chancellor is forced to state that a program or a position is “expendable,” it becomes very difficult to fight for its necessity in the future. Right now, the chancellors have been given no other choice.

JACKIE KAUFMAN: PANDEMIC HAS ALSO DISRUPTED CHILD IMMUNIZATION PROGRAMS: As coronavirus grips the world, we’ve seen many lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Another casualty has been a nation of children that is under-immunized as a result of fewer children receiving vaccines, leaving millions at risk for serious disease. As the world anxiously awaits a vaccine for COVID-19, we are reminded of the power of vaccines to save lives and prevent illness due to measles, whooping cough, polio, influenza, and many other life-threatening diseases. As this pandemic continues to spread throughout the world, we need to prevent the next pandemic. Vaccines protect the individual, the community, and even the health care systems necessary to fight this unprecedented public health crisis. In the end, there will be many casualties of COVID-19. We cannot let childhood immunizations and those they protect be one of them.

MARGARET AVERY: TRUMP'S AUTHORITARIANISM MUST NOT BE TOLERATED: President Trump’s re-election strategy to use unidentified armed federal agents to “bring order” to cities with Democratic leaders must be resisted, not only by “moms” in the streets but by all citizens. Where are Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis? When did the Republican Party decide that Attorney General William Barr is entitled to his own private army when he doesn’t like people protesting in the streets? The U.S. is suffering through a pandemic, but President Trump has decided that what we need is not fast-response testing, contact tracing, PPE, and safe schools, but unmarked cars, tear gas, and mysterious “police.” All elected officials and citizens should make clear — today and loudly — that the United States is a country of the people, by the people and for the people, and that using the peoples’ government for self-serving, authoritarian tantrums will be not tolerated.



I've decided to discontinue Dark Side posts

on this weekly diary, for a couple of reasons. There have been occasional complaints about this feature since it began, not from trolls but from regular readers. It's also something I somewhat dread, because I end up reading a whole bunch of crap just to choose the one I find the crappiest. So discontinuing it is more of a relief than a sacrifice.

That said, the reason I started it is still relevant, and I would encourage readers to engage in some of that fact-checking and logical analysis themselves, especially if they are active in voter outreach. Door-knocking and phone-calling, even to people who are registered Dems, will expose you to elements of right-wing propaganda from time to time, and knowing how to (calmly, coolly) debunk that stuff can make a huge difference.

If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. --Sun Tzu

Good call

"It's also something I somewhat dread, because I end up reading a whole bunch of crap just to choose the one I find the crappiest. So discontinuing it is more of a relief than a sacrifice."

That says it for me. What's the point of dragging yourself through the abyss of lies and distortions? They're shameless.

A better use of time?

I would encourage you to think about continuing "the dark side", but shift the focus a little bit.

It could be helpful, as we head into the election, to highlight op-eds from the right's "think tank" and foundation machine where the author has an undisclosed conflict of interest, the newspaper doesn't disclose information about known funding for the author from right-wing sources, or the author is presenting completely false information (and preferably a combination of these things).

Readers can use that info to contact the paper's editors to call them out on this, especially if there's an op-ed that gets reproduced around several small papers around the state.

We already know that this stuff is full of lies. What we need to concentrate on now is letting newspapers know that readers aren't going to put up with this crap being dumped on the public without accountability and full disclosure.

I'll keep it in mind

The thing is, we've been doing just that for over ten years. I used to frequently write blogs I termed as "seven degrees of Sarah Scaife," which exposed the money trail between conservative foundations and pseudo-scientific bullshit, that groups like Art Pope's network use to flesh out their propaganda. And I've tried numerous times to get (state) journalists to make those connections themselves, to point a finger at the Koch Brothers and ALEC as the source of many of the NC GOP's policy efforts.

That effort has been mostly fruitless, not to mention exhausting. And with the economic strain and constantly-changing ownership of virtually all NC's newspapers, there really isn't anybody left who is concerned about the integrity of their publications. Most of them at least try to show both sides, and you will find Op-Eds by Rob Schofield right next to John Hood's. And the N&O just brought back Barry Saunders, which was a pleasant surprise.

I may try a hybrid approach down the road, one I've been contemplating. Write an Op-Ed-ish entry here, which collects bullshit stories and columns from the previous week. But instead of quoting large chunks from the idiots, I would just summarize. That's easier to stomach than reading their words...