Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


THANKS NC POLL WORKERS! YOU REALLY ARE DEMOCRACY HEROES: It is – or was – a quiet and often unnoticed task. But in the last few years -- amid the bombastic, sometimes violence-threatening, election-denying rhetoric led by former President Donald Trump – it has become an increasing challenge as an aggressive few are determined to disrupt, deny and cast doubt on the election process. For most of the 3.8 million people who voted – both during the early in-person voting period and on Election Day – ballots were cast without incident. In one county a one-stop polling place worker was followed from the election site, to the elections office and then to their home – described by state Elections Director Karen Brinson Bell as “the most egregious situation we had” on Election Day. In Rutherford County, there was a report of a voter being told they must have a photo ID to enter a polling place – which is not required in North Carolina – and wrongly contending law enforcement officers were arresting people at a voting site. The state received 21 reports of conduct violations at polling places involving campaign workers or election observers with a dozen concerning allegations of voter intimidation. It says something of the unfortunate times we’re in when the spokesman says why he can’t compare the number of incidents this year to past years. “We have not tracked these incidents in the past as we have this year, primarily because there has never been such a focus on observer conduct, nor have we had many reported incidents in the past,” said Patrick Gannon, the state board’s public information director. I have a feeling there would have been many more conduct violations if the (US) Justice Department had not monitored a handful of counties (my own included), but they will probably need to send more come 2024, if tRump makes it through the Primary again.

THIS GUY MAY SAVE US THE TROUBLE OF DOING THAT: Attorney General Merrick Garland’s appointment of Jack Smith, a longtime prosecutor, as a special counsel to oversee two criminal inquiries involving former President Donald Trump renewed attention on a position that has played a significant role in politically charged investigations in recent years. Here’s a closer look. A special counsel is a semi-independent federal prosecutor. Normally, U.S. attorneys or the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division oversee criminal investigations, and they are subject to the department’s regular chain of command, leading through other politically appointed officials to the attorney general. But in “extraordinary circumstances,” Justice Department regulations allow the attorney general to appoint a special counsel. Such situations include when an investigation would raise the appearance of a conflict of interest for the department or when there is some other reason it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside prosecutor.
In this case, Garland cited the 2024 election ambitions of Trump and President Joe Biden. Trump announced Tuesday that he would make a third bid for the presidency, and Biden has indicated that he intends to run as well. “Appointing a special counsel here is the right thing to do,” Garland said. “The extraordinary circumstances presented here demand it.” In 2017, the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller, a retired former federal prosecutor and former FBI director, to take over the investigation into Russian election interference and any ties to the Trump campaign. The FBI began that investigation in July 2016, and Mueller pursued it — along with a related inquiry into whether Trump illegally obstructed the investigation — for about two more years. In 2019, he delivered a final report that detailed many links between the Kremlin and associates of Trump but did not charge any Trump associate with a criminal conspiracy with Russia. By any reasonable assessment, the Mueller probe was successful. Trump and his henchmen may have dodged a criminal bullet, but they paid for their behavior at the ballot box. If Jack can keep that jackass out of the White House come January 2025, I will call that a success, too.

A CONSERVATIVE STUDENT ORGANIZATION'S ATTEMPT TO DIVIDE THE SCHOOL OF LAW FALLS FLAT: On Oct. 25, the Federalist Society at UNC Law hosted Jeffery Ventrella as a lunchtime speaker. The Federalist Society is a national organization aiming to upend what they see as law students’ indoctrination in “orthodox liberal ideology.” The UNC Federalist Society made a deliberate and ultimately self-defeating choice to invite a speaker who was not only purposefully provocative, but also failed to deliver any substantive message capable of surviving academic scrutiny. Ventrella spent his 50-minute lecture espousing the value of morality in understanding legal theory, and particularly pushed for teaching greater historical and sociological contexts next to the letter of the law. Ventrella, who does not have a degree in history, admitted he is reluctant to engage actual historians because he fears the introduction of what he deems “critical theory” and “not real history.” Please note that queer and feminist histories, for example, are well-documented even in village and court roles from medieval England. Ventrella posits that studying those texts will adulterate the moral Christian philosophy needed in American legal education. According to Ventrella, law students should rely on "natural moral law" but judges should not. Law schools should reserve academic chair positions for conservative thinkers but should be wary of any sort of affirmative action. All his points were either hypocritical, contradictory or otherwise vacuous. The event brought more student protestors than actual audience members, which may have been the intention. Students proudly and openly protested Ventrella’s connection with the Alliance Defending Freedom, listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for promoting ideas such as the forced sterilization of queer people. Federalist Society board member Meredith Yates attempted to bring police officers into the room to control protestors before a law school dean assured the officers their presence wasn’t necessary. Bolding mine, because that is a core goal of these bigoted groups. They wave it around as some sort of "proof" that their message is legitimate, and must be stifled by Evil Liberals. Which fits nicely into the conspiracy-riddled mindset of those who donate to ADF. All that said, they can't be allowed to spout their hateful nonsense without substantial pushback. Kudos to those who called them out.

THE SILENT MAJORITY THAT SHOUTED: The post-election postmortems are still trying to sort it out. The midterm elections were supposed to be a Republican rout. The Republicans were the ones routed and the finger pointing as to who to blame has ramped up. The former president accepts no responsibility, even though many in his own party lay much of the blame at his feet. And this time when he announced he’s running for president there aren’t so many genuflecting in obeyance as before. A radio interviewer asked my opinion as to why Republicans had such a bad election. Here’s my spin. I believe voters – Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated alike – took stock of where we are in America. They heard all the election deniers, insurrectionists and conspiracy theorists. Voters were sickened by the hate-filled and hyper partisan rhetoric, troubled by the Supreme Court Dobbs decision on abortion and appalled by the attack on Speaker Pelosi’s husband. They were stupefied by supposedly responsible Republicans leaders who poked fun at the attack and failed to denounce the violence. The voters drew in a deep breath, took an imaginary step back and called “time out.” Huge numbers said: “Wait a minute! This isn’t who we are. This isn’t the America I know and love. We are better than this. And I don’t want to be any part of this ugliness.” On that Truthful Tuesday the goodness of this country re-emerged. Regardless of party registrations and in spite of political or philosophical differences, the “silent majority” in this country reclaimed their belief in fairness, honesty and goodness. We the people showed up, rose up and shouted out for a return to decency and normalcy. On one thing I am convinced: So long as politicians in power can ignore the desires of those in the moderate majority, they will. It is the loud, demanding extremes in both parties that make the noise and dominate. Maybe moderates are too polite and too quiet. More likely is the fact that we aren’t united. This election proved there is a space for another 1994 movement. I would never suggest a Newt Gingrich-type person heading up such an effort and I don’t agree with some of the tactics this 1994 revolutionary group employed, but if moderates are to have a larger voice in selecting candidates, controlling platforms and winning elections something needs to change. A good start might be to begin uniting moderates behind a seasoned, articulate and centrist leader, accompanied by a list of well-conceived guiding principles. The above probably won't sit well with some of our readers on the far Left, who (maybe rightfully) condemn Centrism and blame it for voter apathy. But elections are won in the middle, not on the fringe, and unity cannot survive under constant purity tests.

NANCY PELOSI CONQUERED THE MALE-DOMINATED WORLD OF POLITICS: Doing the hard work of government — often behind the scenes — has defined Ms. Pelosi’s 35 years in Congress, propelling her to become the first female speaker of the House and one of the most consequential House leaders in the country’s history. On Thursday, Ms. Pelosi, 82, announced the end of an era with her decision to step down from Democratic Party leadership to make way for a new generation. Ms. Pelosi’s against-all-odds rise to power in the male-dominated world of politics — “from homemaker to House speaker,” in her words — secured her a spot in history. But she burnished it with a string of achievements that included passage of the Affordable Care Act, two major economic bailouts, the Dodd-Frank financial reform, a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a landmark climate bill, the Inflation Reduction Act. She presided over the two impeachments of Mr. Trump and helped ensure there would be a full investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Sometimes working with a thin majority, she wielded her office’s power more effectively than any speaker in at least a century. Ms. Pelosi, of course, was not without fault. She could be tone-deaf; consider her comment that the Affordable Care Act needed to be passed to figure out what was in it. And she presided over an era in which the nation’s stewards failed to right the country’s finances, which are still badly out-of-whack, focusing instead on passing their own pet programs and other spending. Yet that is true of almost every national leader in recent times. In a profile of Ms. Pelosi when she turned 80, The Post’s Karen Tumulty wrote about the speaker’s discipline, her maturity, her refusal to be intimidated — even as she became the target of Mr. Trump’s bluster and countless Republican attack ads. She has inspired and helped usher into politics countless women. And she set a standard for leadership for which the nation should be grateful and to which others who hold the gavel should aspire. Bolding mine, because (way) too many of my fellow Democrats have been quick to criticize Nancy Pelosi for issues that wouldn't raise an eyebrow if she was a man. And Conservatives of course hate her, which says a hell of a lot more about them than the Speaker. She shattered that glass ceiling, and gave millions of women and girls an example that they can do anything to which they aspire. That alone has earned my respect and admiration.


MIRIAM HAMILL: "WOKE" IS NOT A BAD THING: The term “woke” is used by politicians on the right a lot these days. Many wonder just what it means. Urban Dictionary refers to the term as “a reference to how people should be aware in current affairs.” Finally, lots of folks are becoming “aware” of the injustices wrought by Donald Trump and his ilk. Based upon his column in today’s paper (News & Record, Nov. 15, “Toxic Trump must leave the stage”), Cal Thomas has become “woke” to the antics of Donald Trump and, hopefully, all the other election deniers in our country. Maybe there is hope after all. If Cal Thomas can be awakened to societal injustices — “woke” — perhaps others can, too. Don’t worry, Cal. You have finally become aware of an evil in our country and you have called it out. That’s a very good thing. Another term pounced upon by those on the Right is "Social Justice Warrior." In what screwed up reality should that be considered an insult? I'll fly that banner and be proud of it.

YVONNE PERRET: WOMEN WILL KEEP ADVOCATING FOR EQUALITY UNTIL WE ARE EQUAL: In his Nov. 13 op-ed, “50 years later, the ERA staggers on,” George F. Will neglected to mention that, per Justice Antonin Scalia, women are not a protected class in the Constitution. Perhaps that’s why women are still advocating for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, looking at all forms of legal strategies to try to finalize it as a constitutional amendment. Mr. Will’s column lacked any sensitivity to the issue at hand. As it took women fighting for years to be able to vote, the fight will continue to have women as a protected constitutional class. Given the current assault on women’s rights, this becomes even more important. Perhaps if men were not a protected class, he would advocate differently. I'll fly that banner and be proud of it, too.

CHARLES GOEDEKE: IT'S TIME TO END FORCED PRISON LABOR EVERYWHERE IN THE UNITED STATES: As I was scanning the paper on Nov. 10, I noticed an article in KidsPost, “Voters in 4 states reject forced labor for prison inmates.” Because this is a topic that I care deeply about, I was both pleased and bemused that it should show up there. I am glad that The Post chose to present this topic to young readers. In addition to constitutional bans passing in Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont, a ban failed in Louisiana only because its main sponsor wanted a stronger version. I know from other sources that bans are already in place in Colorado, Utah, Nebraska and Rhode Island. D.C., Maryland and Virginia are conspicuously absent in this list, as are all the states that border our region. A resolution to change the 13th Amendment is pending in Congress, with an uncertain future. The shameful record of the United States on mass incarceration is fed in part by our for-profit prisons and the cheap forced labor abused by states and corporations. Now is the time for our regional and national leaders to join the movement to truly and finally end slavery in this nation. We also need to stop charging prisoners for their bed and board. You'd be surprised how many do their time, get released, but have a substantial debt burden for their incarceration. It's not a bed and breakfast, FFS.



Carving the turkey: A right of passage

Yes, I misspelled "rite" in the title, for a reason. A function as mundane as slicing meat off the baked carcass of a flightless bird may sound tedious, and it surely is.

But years of watching my father proudly wielding our electric knife, which was only brought out of its box for special meaty occasions, instilled in me a desire to achieve the status of Designated Carver. The Trusted One, who can artfully slice the meat in various desired thicknesses, and position them on the platter just so, ensuring that each person will have access to choice morsels.

It was a fancy knife, composed of two (2) blades which could be separated for cleaning, and long enough to properly slice even the biggest of birds. It also served as a handy deterrent, waved menacingly at those who would snatch morsels prematurely. If you ask nicely, the Designated Carver may bestow such rewards as he sees fit. But there's no guarantee, and cajoling will not be allowed.

Alas, my days the Designated Carver have waned, and the taste of carved turkey does not seem the same, either. Was it always this dry, desperately screaming for gravy to make it moderately palatable? Possibly, but I'd like to think when I carved it, it was better. And whatever you put on your plate would disappear quickly, so you could justify asking for the platter to be passed again.

I probably shouldn't have written this. My stomach is not aware that Thanksgiving is still several days away, and it's growling like a dire wolf...