Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


THE PUBLIC SHOULD KNOW WHO GETS TAX BREAKS FOR CHARITABLE DONATIONS: The identity of those who promote causes – and those paying for it and getting tax breaks – should be known. This is the kind of transparency that makes democracy work. Nonprofits that qualify for tax-deductible donations are NOT permitted to endorse candidates but can promote and comment on causes and issues. If an organization is essentially going to be a mouthpiece for its donors, the public deserves to know, and should know, who is bankrolling the megaphone. Nonprofits, as a matter of pride and identity, should be anxious to reveal their donors. Those who are giving the money should want people to know of their commitment and concern. Note: the Federal bill Republicans are trying to undermine with this legislation only tracks donations of $10,000 or above.

"CRITICAL RACE THEORY" BILL WOULD FORCE NC SCHOOLS TO LIE: Donald Trump – that bastion of inclusion and integrity – said Critical Race Theory was an outrage. House Speaker Tim Moore explained “schools should be places of dignity and respect for ALL students and teachers, [so] the Education Committee passed legislation to address Critical Race Theory and other hateful ideas that are attacking our kids.” No wonder my friends at ECU were terrified Moore might become their chancellor. Kimberle Crenshaw, a founder of Critical Race Theory who teaches at Columbia and UCLA, has explained: “Everything builds on what came before and the so-called American experience was not simply a matter of prejudice but a matter of structured disadvantages across society… Critical race theorists have taken up the task of exploring the role law played in establishing practices of exclusion and disadvantage.” The bill prohibits schools from contracting with, hiring or otherwise engaging speakers, consultants, diversity trainers and other persons who promote Critical Race Theory concepts. That means our students won’t be allowed to hear school programs from the likes of David Zucchino (Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy). It might wound their fragile sensibilities to learn where we come from.

LEGISLATORS' VOTE BLURS THE LINE BETWEEN SELF-INTEREST AND STATE POLICY: The question is not whether at least 30 members – 25% of the of the state House of Representatives – who have ties to entities that received federal Payroll Protection Program loans have a conflict of interest when voting to give those entities a state tax break. They do. The questions are: Whether those legislators should have publicly announced the conflict before voting? Whether the existence of the conflict impaired the independent judgement of those legislators to the point where they should have requested an excuse from voting on the issue? These 29 state representatives should have followed Butler’s course and made their top priority on transparency and excused themselves from voting. If and when the bill, or anything similar, comes before the state Senate, those in that chamber who have direct connections to PPP loans should make it clearly known and better yet, excuse themselves from voting on the legislation.

AMERICA IS FAILING ITS MORAL TEST ON VACCINES: Increasing manufacturing capacity has proved tricky. The global demand for vaccines may be high now, but once the coronavirus pandemic recedes, it will plummet back to normal levels. Increased public ownership, for its part, would ensure that vaccine-production capacity is ready for future pandemics, which are inevitable — potentially including new coronavirus variants for which routine boosters may be required. To this end, the administration should consider taking a page from the Department of Energy playbook: Create publicly owned manufacturing facilities and contract with private companies to run them. (Several of the D.O.E.’s federally owned laboratories are run by private companies like General Electric and Bechtel.) The H.I.V. advocacy group PrEP4All estimates that for $4 billion — less than the country is spending per day on coronavirus response efforts — the federal government could build enough manufacturing capacity to vaccinate the entire planet against the coronavirus. It will cost much more to actually make the needed doses, of course. The nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizen estimates that a $25 billion governmentwide initiative would produce around eight billion doses of mRNA vaccine, or enough to vaccinate half the planet. That’s far less than the trillions that could be lost if the economy contracts further as the pandemic persists. The upcoming Group of 7 meeting offers a perfect opportunity for Mr. Biden to push other high-income nations to also step up their contributions to global vaccination efforts. A global vaccine summit — where world leaders and vaccine makers could work out a concrete plan for sharing technology and scaling up manufacturing efforts to meet global needs — would also be useful. Vaccinating the globe will require leadership and a level of international cooperation that many people may consider impossible. But if the United States provides that leadership and demands that cooperation, millions of lives will be saved, and the world will have a new template for solving some of the many challenges that transcend our borders.

IN GAZA, WE DREAD THE DARKNESS AND WAIT FOR THE NEXT STRIKE TO LAND: In Gaza, when you see the black smoke in the sky, you know you’re one of the lucky ones. Because this time, it wasn’t you. Next comes the guilt. Because while you are safe for the moment, you know someone else is suffering, someone else has lost something or someone. We dread the darkness of the night, when you can no longer tell where or how close the black smoke is. You can only hear it, feel it and, if you’re lucky, survive it. So, we gather together, support each other and tell ourselves that we will survive the night. And we wait for the condemnation from the international community — condemnation that never comes. The attacks on Gaza started quickly and on a massive scale. Almost immediately, the sounds of ordinary life — women shopping for groceries to prepare their Ramadan iftar meals, men chatting with friends and neighbors, kids playing in the streets — were replaced by an eerie silence broken only by the sounds of drones, warplanes and airstrikes. Whatever normal life we had receded, to be replaced by fear, anticipation and horror spreading from one home to another. We are exhausted. Day after day, we watch the bombs fall on homes where our friends and family live and buildings where our colleagues work, wondering if we will be next. And we wait in vain to hear our humanity recognized by the international community in words and actions. Receiving neither, we are left to feel that our rights don’t matter, that our lives don’t matter and that as human beings we don’t matter. When a cease-fire is eventually declared, we will once again dig out from the rubble and begin to rebuild, only to wait for another cycle of bombardment to destroy what we have done.


DREAMA CALDWELL: IT'S TIME TO BUILD BACK BETTER: The pandemic has been disastrous for all communities, especially communities of color. The impacts will follow us for decades. We need a bold investment to lift working families and our local economy. Helping moms, women of color, and their families isn’t a handout, but a hand up. The Center for American Progress estimates that mothers leaving the workforce and reducing their hours to assume caretaking responsibilities amounts to $64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity. We can’t go back to before the pandemic, but we can build back better. We must make sure everyone can recover well and equitably. Congress must quickly adopt national paid leave for all and raise the minimum wage. Only then will we as a country fully recover.

DAVID WILCOX: THE REMOVAL OF LIZ CHENEY IS SHAMEFUL: Though I am not a Republican, I do believe in a strong two-party system where issues are honorably debated and compromise is realized for the betterment of the nation. That is why I was so dismayed to see the vote taken Wednesday to oust Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership position in the Republican caucus. I rarely agree with Ms. Cheney on policy issues. But I applaud her refusal to endorse the obvious lie of election fraud and to exonerate Donald Trump for his complicity in the Jan. 6 insurrection. I hate the cynicism this situation engenders, for it’s obviously nothing but a short-term, naked attempt at a power grab. Trump controls the money. In the 2020 election, Trump garnered less than 47% of the popular vote. Seventy percent of Republicans think the election was stolen. That means the remnants of the Republican Party have prostituted themselves for less than 33% of the electorate. How does that strategy work? This is shameful, pure and simple.

DR. BETHANY CUTTS: CRITICAL RACE THEORY IS A NECESSARY TOOL IN THE BOX: N.C. House Bill 324 misunderstands the value of critical race theory. It is an evidence-based social theory for acknowledging and rectifying differences between the intention and impact of laws and policies. Social theories are not simply a point of view. We are in a moment when the social, economic, environmental and health disruptions we are experiencing, in North Carolina and globally, are unprecedented. At the same time, the impacts of those disruptions are unequal. There has never been a more important time to empower students and civic leaders to think deeply about what the future holds for North Carolina. Youth need skills to challenge assumptions, cultivate curiosity, and contextualize their own experiences in order to make sense of the world and be the change they seek. Critical race theory is an invitation to reflect on whether groups that enjoy many privileges might benefit even more from a world where people of all identities live abundant and free lives. It is a tool that should remain in the public educator toolkit.



On Israel and Palestine

In a conversation I had (over twenty years ago) about the billions in U.S. support for Israel, a friend of mine tried to justify that with the worn-out excuse, "It's one of the only democracies in the region!" My response:

"It's not a democracy."

He then followed the wrong thread, trying to explain to me the Knesset might be a parliamentary form of government, but it was still a democracy.

"That's not what I'm talking about."

I proceeded to explain to him the following: As long as Israel maintains their occupation and/or control over Gaza and the West Bank, those territories are actually part of the State of Israel. It's a defacto singular state, and the freedoms (or lack of) within that state determine whether or not it's actually a democracy. And by no measure does the current situation meet that criteria.

Not only has Israel continually allowed "settlers" to take land from Palestinians in the West Bank, often through violent means, the State has built numerous partitions across the land to restrict movement. This has had the effect of seriously limiting trade, employment, and even access to water resources. The various "checkpoints" manned by IDF troops, which are arbitrarily opened or closed seemingly on a whim, rival and surpass even the harshest of Soviet-era satellites like East Germany and Bulgaria. That is not democracy.

In Gaza, depositing your paycheck (if you're lucky enough to get one) in the bank is a risky business. While Israel now allows banks from other countries to operate there, they still control those businesses to a certain degree. That's the internal economy. The external economy simply doesn't exist. No trade, that isn't exclusively facilitated by Israeli companies under the watchful eye of the government. And then there's the drinking water.

Israel controls all access to drinking water, in both Gaza and the West Bank, and is not hesitant to shut off that access to control the populations. This is the epitome of hydraulic despotism, a practice that has been used to define tyrannical governments for millennia. And yet, the Israeli government views that as a legitimate tool to "preserve the peace."

Needless to say, that is not democracy, by any stretch of the imagination. Ergo, until this situation changes, Israel cannot be honestly referred to as a democracy. And our continued, unquestioning political and monetary support puts our own democratic principles into jeopardy by "normalizing" such behavior.

Time for some teach-ins

The "critical race theory" ban really irks me - it really is forcing schools to lie and suppress any kind of history about race and minorities in the country. It's particularly galling in light of the past and ongoing of violence against people of color in our state.

Already, many progressives are using public "teach-ins" for issues around race, the environment, "fake news", and many other topics. If this bill passes, I'm hoping it will spark similar events here.

It might actually get kids really interested in these topics - "Come see what it's illegal to tell you in school!" is a compelling tagline for teens to promote the events on social media.