DEAL TO CURB GUN VIOLENCE IS BARELY A TOKEN EFFORT. MUCH MORE NEEDED NOW: It would be generous to describe as even incremental progress, the bipartisan response to the recent spate of mass shootings – including the assault-style rifle enabled slaughter of 21 at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and before that 10 dead at a Buffalo, N.Y. grocery store. They don’t even make modest progress toward stopping access to automatic-style weapons. There is some small progress. For that, we should be tepidly thankful? But the problems generated by the easy access to weapons whose only purpose is mass destruction is not going away with this latest action. It will not defuse it as an issue in the fall elections. Banning assault weapons is NOT an attack on the 2nd Amendment. It is about protecting public safety and health. When 57% of American parents and 51% of North Carolinians are worried that there will be a shooting at their child’s school, Congress is doing little to comfort and reassure them. How much power does the NRA have to block any meaningful efforts to control these deadly assault weapons? When North Carolinians cast ballots in the fall, it should be clearly for those who will work to ban assault weapons in Congress or in the state legislature. And they most certainly should not vote for candidates who pose for pictures holding assault rifles, or political parties who make them raffle prizes.
MARK MEADOWS WASN'T THERE, BUT HE HAD A REALLY BAD JAN 6 HEARING: Meadows, a former Republican congressman from western North Carolina, was in the thick of the tumult of Jan. 6, 2021 and the failed plot to overturn the election. As others called on him to intervene with the president that day, he apparently did nothing to stop Trump. Instead, Trump used Twitter to stir a mob against Vice President Mike Pence because Pence would not try to block the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Meadows’ aide Ben Williamson said in video testimony played during the hearing that when Meadows learned that the Capitol protest had turned violent, the chief of staff went to speak with Trump. White House staffers thought he would get Trump to call off the violent protesters with a tweet. “We had all talked about — at that point about how it was bad and, you know, the situation was getting out of hand,” Matthews said. “We thought that the president needed to tweet something and tweet something immediately.” Instead, Trump sent a tweet that condemned Pence for not blocking the vote certification. The tweet incited the crowd against the vice president, who minutes later narrowly escaped the Capitol intruders by being taken to a secure location within the Capitol complex. Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said in video testimony played during the hearing that he thought Meadows agreed that the vice president’s role in the vote certification was strictly ceremonial and Pence had no legal power to change the process. “I believe Mark did agree,” Short said, though he couldn’t be sure because Meadows changed his position depending on whom he was talking to. Short said, “Mark told so many people so many different things.” Apparently, that inconsistency didn’t apply to his exchanges with Trump in the days leading up to and on Jan. 6. In those instances, Meadows just said yes. Hapless, hopeless, helpless. The President's Chief of Staff is an incredibly important job, especially in a Kakistocracy like Trump created. He (or she) should be a gatekeeper, keeping bad ideas from influencing the Executive. The last person you want filling that role is a spineless weasel like Mark Meadows.
STATE SHOULD PROVIDE NO-COST HEALTHY MEALS FOR ALL PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS: Children cannot learn if they are hungry. Nutrition is an essential resource for all students, therefore it is in everyone's best interest to provide healthy school meals at no-cost for every student, regardless of income. Resources such as desks, textbooks, and buses for transportation are already provided to all public school students, without consideration of their family's financial background. Why is a resource as crucial as food left off that list? The academic benefits to children who have good nutrition are obvious. School meals, which are supported with federal dollars from the USDA, can also be an economic benefit to a community. The benefits of healthy school meals go even further for students and schools. Research from No Kid Hungry shows that school breakfast, when made part of the school day by serving it after the bell instead of before school begins, can reduce absenteeism by an average of 6 percentage points. The same study also showed that “Breakfast After the Bell” improved troubling behaviors such as anxiety, loneliness, and self-esteem among students. There are clear steps we can take in North Carolina to work towards no-cost healthy school meals for all students. We have examples from other states of how to make it cost-effective, and ways to continue measuring the success and progress. Most importantly, this policy would contribute significantly to the health, academic success, and equitable opportunities for our students. There's no legitimate reason why we can't do this, especially when we have billions in surplus revenues.
NC GOP SEEKS UNDUE BURDENS, SCRUTINY ON MAIL-IN VOTING: Signature verification, a process so flawed that experts have described it as “witchcraft” and “ripe for error,” can potentially disenfranchise legitimate voters. In states where signature matching is required, thousands of ballots get thrown out each election cycle due to signature errors. Those ballots disproportionately belong to younger voters, older voters and minority voters, who may be less familiar with the voting process or whose handwriting may have changed over time. In especially close elections, the number of ballots thrown out may exceed the margin of victory. Even more concerning is the fact that it’s subjective. Election officials aren’t handwriting experts. (They are, however, political appointees.) They have to move very quickly to make sure votes get counted — meaning the signature is glanced at and verified in a matter of seconds. Mistakes happen. And if signature verification is authorized, but not required, by the NCSBE, the level of scrutiny applied to absentee ballots could vary by county. Republicans are arguing that election officials fall short on their statutory duty — and are potentially subject to criminal liability — unless they “exhaust all available resources” to confirm that every mail-in ballot is indeed valid. That, they say, is the only way to protect North Carolinians against vote dilution due to potential illegal votes and maintain public confidence in our elections. The irony of gerrymandering Republicans attacking "vote dilution" is jaw-dropping. That's their bread and butter, and their self-righteous indignation when you call them out on it is Oscar-worthy performance art. The truth is, they don't want most people to vote. Because most people believe in common-sense government, something they haven't quite mastered, to put it nicely.
THERE ARE PSYCHOLOGICAL REASONS WHY THE AGE FOR PURCHASING WEAPONS DOES NOT MAKE SENSE: The Uvalde and Buffalo mass shootings in May 2022 had at least two things in common: The shooters were 18 years old, and they had both legally purchased their own assault rifles. he shooters’ young age was not an aberration. The average age of school shooters is 18, when tracking incidents since 1966. The relatively young age of most mass shooters has ignited conversations about the minimum legal age for purchasing firearms. When it comes to gun laws, there is clearly a legal debate about how to define adulthood. But there is also a complex history of how societies determine adulthood. Researchers who study adolescent brain development argue that different types of maturity develop along distinct timelines. They offer nuanced distinctions between the ability to reason in a systematic way, which typically happens around age 16, and decision-making that involves emotion and risk assessment. This can take many more years to develop. Such cognitive growth in fact continues until around age 25. (Which is why insurance companies use that milestone in determining risk abatement for drivers.) The series of recent mass shootings by teenagers is challenging legal standards about when someone is an adult and can legally purchase firearms. Emotional maturity – the ability to recognize and process one’s fear, to control impulses – should ideally be a facet of gun ownership, if civilians are to have access to guns at all. The decision to pull a trigger requires exactly the kind of forethought that neuroscientists argue develops slowly. In most legal contexts, activities that can put others at risk are not permissible at age 18. Adult status is actually granted in phases, depending on the activities in question. There is a strong case to be made on both historical and scientific grounds that 18-year-olds should not be allowed to purchase firearms. Hell, you can't run for U.S. Congress until you're 25. Can't buy alcohol or cigarettes until you're 21. Allowing 18 year-olds to buy any firearms (much less high-powered assault rifles) is beyond reckless. Shouldn't even have to say it, but here we are.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
SINEAD BORGERSON: TRUMP SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO RUN AGAIN: President Trump did not win the last election; he and the others knew that this was a big lie and they are responsible for the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol and the deaths and injuries that took place. It was criminal and intentional. They collaborated together to try and incite a coup on our democracy. Trump should be banned from ever running again, and criminal charges should be filed against him. His own daughter, his attorney general, and his staff told him he was not winning and the stolen votes were a lie. Even if his base has been deluded, we know. Republicans in Congress have been cowed into cowardly silence. Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr need to speak up or be forever labeled in history dishonorably. Trump survived two Impeachments, and I seriously doubt there will be any formal criminal charges forthcoming from these hearings. There *should* be; the evidence of his culpability is overwhelming. But I don't see it happening. I think the best we can hope for is to erode his influence over political affairs, and remind everybody of something that was common knowledge a few decades ago: he is a grifter and a fraud, and trusting him is the biggest mistake you could ever make.
JUDITH PULLEY: WE NEED BETTER IMMIGRATION POLICY: In North Carolina, we are in dire need of unskilled workers in agriculture, the hospitality industry, and as home health care aides, as well as highly skilled workers in technology fields. Instead of welcoming immigrant workers, we make it difficult to impossible for them to settle and/or remain here. No one wants open borders, but an efficient immigration system would make it easier for potential immigrants to apply without the need to cross illegally. Reform would also fund a mechanism to more promptly evaluate claims for asylum made by those coming to our border, rather than releasing them into the country for years while awaiting a decision. The notion of immigration has been so demonized and politicized that members of Congress are afraid to touch the issue, while countries such as Canada prosper with an effective system that serves the national interest. You can thank the Great Replacement Theory for much of this problem, and the gullibility of way too many citizens. Nearly everybody out there has met undocumented workers in their daily lives, and they are well aware how hard-working and family-oriented those immigrants are. The evidence is right in front of them, but their bigotry still survives. It's exasperating.
ELLEN HANSON-KELLY: EXPAND MEDICAID NOW: Thank you, Senator Carl Ford and the N.C. Senate, for putting forth and passing a bill that includes much-needed Medicaid expansion. Twelve percent of Rowan County residents and 11% of North Carolinians do not have health insurance. Therefore, they can’t afford to see a doctor. Diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes go undetected until it is too late. This could be remedied by North Carolina participating in Medicaid Expansion, provided through the Affordable Care Act, extending health insurance to over 600,000 North Carolinians. This would cost North Carolina nothing for the first 2 years, and only 10% after that. Hospitals want this program, which would especially help underserved areas. Now it is time for the N.C. House to do the same. Governor Cooper will sign it. North Carolina will join 38 other states that have already signed on to Medicaid Expansion. Please join me in urging the N.C. House of Representatives to follow the N.C. Senate’s lead to pass Medicaid Expansion and saves lives! It really is a no-brainer, especially for those Republicans who claim to be for "working people," who will be the major beneficiaries of this long overdue step. Just friggin do it.
A Father's Day soliloquy...
Have I been a good father to my children? I'd like to think so, but that's probably my ego talking more than an objective analysis.
I became a father when I was barely out of childhood myself (20). Still learning what it means to be a mature adult, what society expected of me and what I wanted to become. In many ways I was selfish in those early days, and probably not nearly as attentive to my family's needs as I should have been.
Fatherhood was more of a burden, an added responsibility that was often at odds with what I wanted to do with my time. Make no mistake: I loved my children desperately, and wanted nothing but happiness and prosperity for them. I just didn't know how such things were achieved, I was still struggling with them myself. How could someone who is lost provide guidance and direction for others, especially small human beings with virtually no experience of their own?
These thoughts are in the front of my mind now, but they were with me back then too, just carefully hidden so as not to betray my ineptitude to others.
So my children and I grew up together, almost like siblings separated by several years. And we became Friends, which the Wise Parents told me was not only the wrong approach, but was actually dangerous. Children must be guided with a strong hand, lest they develop behaviors that society would deem counterproductive. That sounded right, but it didn't feel right. So I merely smiled and ignored such advice. And secretly felt sorry for both them and their children.
My marriage, like so many others, failed when my children were very young. At this point, many of those "good" fathers begin to really fail their children. They let go of the burden, and refocus on their own desires. I could not do that. I missed my children. I no longer had any "best friends," because my children were my best friends. The Army kept me away from them for 14 months, and that nearly killed me. The day we were reunited is branded into my memory; I can still see the looks on their faces, and still taste the joy I felt of my not-yet 3 year-old daughter running into my arms and clinging to me for a couple hours, to make sure I didn't disappear again. At that moment I realized how terrified I had been that she wouldn't remember me.
In the years since I have loved them fiercely, worried about them perpetually, and shared my innermost thoughts with them on a regular basis. And we are still growing up together.
I wanted to circle back around to thank you for this. Dads speaking up about being dads and caring about kids. We need more of that.
Happy belated Fathers Day.
Same to you, James.