Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


PRESIDENTIAL CHARACTER, HONESTY MATTER. CONGRESS NEEDS TO ACCOUNT FOR TRUMP: It is painful to watch and listen to President Donald Trump. There seems to be no end to the deception, disrespect, arrogance, meanness and plain old lying. He even says it is OK to take information about his political opponents from foreign governments and not bother to alert the FBI. This has nothing to do with politics or policies. It is all about character and the corruption of core values. Anyone who disagrees or might challenge him, is a “failing dummy.” Trump’s insulting personal denigrations are crude. Trump goes to extraordinary lengths to hide the truth of his own worth, business relationships and even his physical health. Yet he has the gall to make unfounded and veiled accusations about others.

LOW PAY FOR COURT-APPOINTED LAWYERS SHORTCHANGES JUSTICE: Many experienced lawyers have ceased to handle these appointed cases because the reimbursement payment is less than their out of pocket expenses of office overhead. According to a recent study by the North Carolina Office of Indigent Services, nearly one third of PAC had no staff in their office, and almost another 20% had only part time staff. PAC representing indigents are often times young, inexperienced lawyers practicing law alone without the benefit of staff or partners to guide and help them through the difficult struggles of representing those persons charged with crimes. The North Carolina State Bar is the agency created by the General Assembly to regulate the practice of law and to protect the public by ensuring the competence of lawyers in their representation of clients. Its membership is made up of all the lawyers who are licensed in North Carolina. It is our collective responsibility to protect those indigent defendants who are provided PAC just as diligently as we protect those individual and corporate clients who select and pay their lawyers from their own funds.

THIS TIME, THE "FAILING" NEW YORK TIMES REALLY FAILED: Editorial cartoonists across America and the world have consistently, uniformly and vigorously defended the ideal of a free press from the attacks of tyrants, dictators and twittering demagogues. But now cartoonists are united in their outrage as it has become apparent this week that The New York Times has indeed sadly failed. Monday, the Times announced it would no longer publish in-house editorial cartoons in its international editions, ending its regular publication of the work of internationally acclaimed cartoonist Patrick Chappatte. This decision comes weeks after the Times was burned by its own editorial negligence in running a syndicated cartoon that was widely condemned as being anti-Semitic. Doubling down on this clumsiness in response to the resultant furor, the Times announced that it would no longer run syndicated editorial cartoons. Their decision now to not run in-house cartoons as well only adds to that ham-handedness, blaming the medium of cartoons for what resulted from its own lack of editorial oversight.

THE SEXISM BEHIND THE "CONTROVERSY" OVER THE U.S. WOMEN'S SOCCER TEAM: But the U.S. women didn’t really misbehave on Tuesday. The backlash to the final score — and the lopsided score itself — is a product of the way we treat women’s sports differently from men’s. Many of the traits valued in sports are violations of the qualities we expect women to embody. The result is that women athletes face a double standard: People still react negatively when women express the competitiveness and aggression that are routine in men’s sports. Women cross the line into what’s decried as “poor” sportsmanship more quickly than men — and they face greater sanction for similar actions. Women, far more than men, are asked to rein in their emotions and demonstrate “class” as they compete in sport. These demands go well beyond the boundaries of fair play; instead, they reflect powerful gender expectations of women’s friendliness, nurturance and humility. Ultimately, the backlash against the U.S. women’s soccer team represents a form of social control that protects the long-standing perception of sport as somehow a uniquely masculine endeavor most appropriate for men.

A DOWN AND DIRTY WHITE HOUSE: The president is an unabashed gargoyle atop the White House, chomping on American values. The way Trump publicly wallows in his mendaciousness and amorality is unique in presidential history. His motto might as well be: “I cannot not tell a lie.” His ego is too fragile to play patriarch to the country, so he takes the more ruinous role of provocateur. Trump doesn’t want to lose just when he seems to be getting more comfortable with all the power he wields. He makes it so easy for everyone to focus on the tweets and the maniacal, moronic reality show that you have to struggle to look away and take the measure of what he’s doing. And what he’s doing is altering domestic and foreign policy in terrible ways while running up huge deficits. The Trump White House may be a clown show and a criminal enterprise. But it’s also an actual presidency. It’s turning out to be a genuinely reactionary administration led by a wannabe authoritarian who refuses to recognize constitutional checks on power. The real danger is not the antics but the policies. If Trump isn’t careful, he’s going to add substance to his administration. And it won’t be the kind we want.


CAROLYN GUCKERT: WAKE'S TAX HIKE HURTS SENIORS: The decision by Wake County to raise property taxes by a whopping 10.1 percent will severely affect seniors on fixed incomes. (June 3) Supporting public schools is vital; we must increase funding as the N.C. General Assembly tries to slowly eviscerate public education. But what is the county doing for longtime residents now retired with lower incomes? Social Security increases are minimal and must be spread among countless other rising costs. Many of us who have lived in our homes for decades have seen greatly increased assessments as the city grew and prices skyrocketed, something I never expected upon moving into my modest home 25 years ago. The fact that my house/land is more valuable now does me no good if I have nowhere to move upon selling. Have you seen housing prices in Raleigh? All we want is to stay in our homes as long as we are physically able, but if assessments/taxes continue to rise, we are doomed.

ERICA SMITH: LET'S PROTECT WOMENS' ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE: When I was pregnant with my youngest son, Elias, I was told at 16 weeks that if I continued my pregnancy, I was risking my own death and leaving my sons and husband without me. “If it comes down to it,” my care team asked, “Do you want us to save you or your unborn child?” My husband did not get to make that decision — only I could make that decision. Despite my infinite love for my children and family, I made the decision for doctors to save my baby — if they could not save us both. This experience has shaped my views and policy positions on abortion rights. I reject the premise that one must be either pro-life or pro-choice. I am proudly both. With the rise of back-door attempts at overturning Roe v. Wade across several states, I believe that it is imperative for Congress to enact federal protection of women’s rights to reproductive health care and access to abortion. This federal law should prohibit states from enacting unnecessary authorizations for women to access treatment or defunding Planned Parenthood and Community Health Centers that provide access to care.

JIM WARREN NC WARN: WE NEED TO BLOCK SB559: Duke Energy’s Senate Bill 559 is indeed a Trojan Horse (oped June 1). The bill – which could be worth tens of billions for Duke – is as lousy as the deceptive process pushing it forward. Duke loaded the bill with complexity so neither legislators nor the public can track the rip-off. It’s quite telling that every stakeholder group opposes the bill – business big and small, consumer, clean energy and environmental justice groups. In fact, the only supporters are a few powerful legislators who sold their colleagues on Duke’s ludicrous claim that the bill would help electricity ratepayers. Virginia’s former Republican attorney general warned NC legislators that, under a similar power grab, utilities overcharged Virginia customers more than $1 billion. This bill would help Duke Energy lock in its massive expansion of climate-wrecking fracked gas, keep driving up rates and keep blocking competition from cheaper renewable energy. If SB 559 passes, it will confirm what NC WARN and other Energy Justice Coalition members exposed last month: Duke’s campaign money and lucrative private work for legislative cronies continue to pollute our state. Voters across the political spectrum must demand our elected officials reject this ratepayer rip-off. It’s time to end the Duke Energy monopoly.



From the dark side

This week's loser is David Brooks, for wholeheartedly embracing American Exceptionalism:

Most of human history has been marked by war. Between 1500 and 1945, scarcely a year went by without some great power fighting another great power. Then, in 1945 that stopped. The number of battlefield deaths has plummeted to the lowest levels in history. The world has experienced the greatest reduction in poverty in history, as well as the greatest spread of democracy and freedom.

Why did this happen? Mostly it was because the United States decided to lead a community of nations to create a democratic world order.

In reality, the lull between WWII and the Korean Conflict (a brief five years) had more to do with licking wounds than any grand visions, but don't let me slow down the pep rally:

That order consisted of institutions like NATO, the U.N. and the World Bank. But it was also enforced by the pervasive presence of American power — military, economic and cultural power as well as the magnetic power of the democratic idea, which inspired dissidents worldwide.

Yeah, and some of those "inspired dissidents" finally broke the autocratic grip on their country and democratically elected a Parliament. But when they moved to nationalize their oilfields, the United States engineered a military coup and put their Shah back in power, giving him more authority than his royal line had exercised in decades. So much for the democratic idea.

But the U.S. having been dragged into two world wars, leaders from Truman to Obama felt they had no choice but to widen America’s circle of concern across the whole world. This was abnormal. As Robert Kagan writes in “The Jungle Grows Back,” “Very few nations in history have ever felt any responsibility for anything but themselves.”

If you still needed evidence that David Brooks has been drinking from a tainted pond, there you go. Neocons have mastered the art of painting beautiful pictures of previous American exploits in their crusade to engage in more of the same, and Robert Kagan leads that pack. But their view of the role of America in international affairs makes Social Darwinism seem mild in comparison.

And their frustration with the American public's lack of interest in that is palpable:

Over all, this history should be a source of pride for all Americans, but it is not. Researchers from the Center for American Progress recently completed a survey of American foreign policy views. They write: “When asked what the phrase ‘maintaining the liberal international order’ indicated to them, all but one of the participants in our focus groups drew a blank. Voters across educational lines simply did not understand what any of these phrases … meant or implied.”

That by itself is not a problem. The liberal order was built by foreign policy elites, from George Marshall to Madeleine Albright. The problem is that voters are now actively hostile to the project. Instead of widening the circle of concern, most Americans want the U.S. to simply look after itself.

The truth is, Americans no longer trust these pro-democracy cheerleaders, or their master plans. Because there's always a corporate influence behind such actions, just like what happened in Iran, and numerous other places. Democracy is more of a beard than a driving ideological force, and that charade has put some really nasty tyrants in place.

But the worst part of an essay like this is when the writer tries to create groups of people that don't exist:

There are two types of low-trust voters. On the right there are the Trumpian America Firsters, who want to cut immigration and break alliances. On the left there are the New Doves. These are young people who express high interest in human rights, but having grown up in the Iraq era, they don’t want the U.S. to get involved in protecting them. A survey of American voters by the Eurasia Group Foundation reported, “People under 30 years old were the most likely to want the United States to abstain from intervening in human rights abuses.”

The America Firsters and the New Doves may think of themselves as opposites, but they wind up in the same place. America should not be abroad preserving the liberal world order.

Understand, nothing exacerbates human rights abuses more than war does. To date, some 460,000 Iraqi citizens have died as the result of the U.S. invasion. In Afghanistan, 18 years of conflict has resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths, and American air strikes are increasingly responsible for those. You throw in Syria and Yemen, and what you see doesn't even resemble "democratization" by the U.S. More like a cage match, where the spectators are continually smashed over the head with folding chairs.

You're damn right young people are losing faith in such activities, and it's a blessing.