Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


JULY 4 CITIZENSHIP EVENTS SHOW EMPTINESS OF LT. GOV'S ATTACK ON MULTICULTURALISM: Dan Forest wants us to believe, as he says he does, that North Carolina and the United States is a weaker place because of differences in background, nation of origin, forms of faith and worship. But he is wrong – and our nation’s unique and successful history is ample evidence. It is our nation’s ability to embrace those differences in a system where allegiance isn’t to any individual, royalty, family claims of divine right, or dictator whose power rests in fear. Citizens in the United States don’t swear allegiance to a president or any politician. Our allegiance is to the Constitution and the law. It was unique 243 years ago. It is the model of democracies that have followed. Dan Forest doesn’t get it. But we do. We support legal immigration. We support paths to citizenship. We welcome these newest citizens. We are a stronger nation for their participation and loyalty.

DUKE-BACKED BILL WILL RAISE UTILITY RATES FOR ALL: Duke’s CEO Lynn Good was quoted in the Charlotte Business Journal, on Sept. 7, 2017: “It is also important that we pursue regulatory and legislative initiatives that underpin our ability to deliver returns and turn those investments into cash and returns to shareholders.” Duke recently admitted that the proposed new rate mechanisms could be used for paying for coal-ash clean-up and vast grid upgrades that could cost ratepayers billions of dollars. The truth is SB559 will drive Duke’s earnings for the next decade. If this bill is enacted and Duke proceeds to utilize these “new regulatory tools” to make customers pay for the projected $10 BILLION in coal-ash clean-up costs and $13 BILLION grid modernization costs over ten years, the energy costs for Parkdale and fellow manufacturers will increase by an estimated 10-40%; and increase residential costs of over 50% and commercial costs 12-40% during the next decade. This equates to an approximate additional $4,000 for the typical residential customer and millions of dollars in extra costs for manufacturers and State government.

THE FOUNDERS WOULD GAG AT TODAY'S REPUBLICANS: I don’t expect Republicans to know Thomas Jefferson’s words by heart — that if he were forced to choose between “a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” This from a man who was subject to a lifetime of biased and inaccurate press. But what part of “Congress shall make no law” abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, do these citizens not understand? Regarding the other foundational liberty in the First Amendment, restricting an “establishment of religion” by the state, the cult of Trump would throw that under a steamroller of bigotry as well. A majority of Republicans think Christianity should be the established national religion. And half of all Southerners — the deepest, most anti-American part of Trump’s base, with the DNA of Civil War traitors still coursing through the region — believe the United States was founded as an “explicitly Christian” nation.

ERIC HOLDER: IF THE SUPREME COURT WON'T PROTECT OUR DEMOCRACY, THE VOTERS WILL: Over the past decade, the conservative Supreme Court has reshaped the American political system in ways that fundamentally undermine voting rights and equal representation in our nation. In a trio of cases, the court has unwisely removed protections needed for a well-functioning democracy. These deeply flawed rulings — intentionally or naively — shift power away from the people and toward entrenched special interests and the already powerful. Most recently, five conservative justices determined last week that federal courts have no role reining in partisan gerrymandering. In doing so, the court has torn at the fabric of our democracy and put the interests of politicians ahead of the voters. Map manipulation allows politicians to pick their voters so a party with minority views and support can illegitimately govern with majority power. As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her powerful and prescient dissent, the partisan gerrymanders in Maryland and North Carolina “debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people.”

TRUMP IS LOSING HIS TRADE WARS: Donald Trump’s declaration that “trade wars are good, and easy to win” will surely go down in the history books as a classic utterance — but not in a good way. Instead it will go alongside Dick Cheney’s prediction, on the eve of the Iraq war, that “we will, in fact, be welcomed as liberators.” That is, it will be used to illustrate the arrogance and ignorance that so often drives crucial policy decisions. For the reality is that Trump isn’t winning his trade wars. True, his tariffs have hurt China and other foreign economies. But they’ve hurt America too; economists at the New York Fed estimate that the average household will end up paying more than $1,000 a year in higher prices. And there’s no hint that the tariffs are achieving Trump’s presumed goal, which is to pressure other countries into making significant policy changes. This leaves him politically vulnerable to foreign retaliation. China may not buy as much from America as it sells, but its agricultural market is crucial to farm-state voters Trump desperately needs to hold on to. So Trump’s vision of an easy trade victory is turning into a political war of attrition that he, personally, is probably less able to sustain than China’s leadership, even though China’s economy is feeling the pain.


DENNIS BURNS: WE NEED TO PURGE OURSELVES OF RIGGED DISTRICTS: A narrow majority of the U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to correct a violation of citizens’ constitutional rights because they deemed the task beyond judicial capabilities. This was a weak reason to ignore partisan gerrymandering, depriving voters of their fundamental right to choose their representatives. Justice Elena Kagan was right in her dissent that partisan gerrymanders debase and dishonor our democracy. Gerrymandering turns upside down the American ideal that power comes from the people. Chief Justice John Roberts pointed to state courts and legislatures as paths to end gerrymandering. Common Cause NC is doing both. Our state court challenge against partisan gerrymandering goes to trial July 15. We’re also working with a broad, bipartisan coalition of voters and lawmakers to enact lasting redistricting reform. There are a half-dozen bills awaiting action in the legislature that would establish nonpartisan redistricting, but legislative leaders have not allowed any of them to get the hearing they deserve. We urge North Carolinians to contact their legislators and demand fair districts now.

GARY PARKER: TRUMP JULY 4 EVENT AN AFFRONT TO THE NATION: President Trump threw a different Fourth of July celebration than our Founding Fathers intended. Not just fireworks to celebrate Independence. Not just people gathering for that and to enjoy a festive atmosphere of laughter and good food. He wanted tanks on the Washington Mall and a flyover by military jets. Hey, why didn’t we just drive the tanks down Constitution Avenue, followed by 100,000 marching armed troops for the president’s review? Just like they do in Russia, China and North Korea. This day is supposed to be about celebrating 1776’s Declaration of Independence with fireworks, cotton candy and music. It’s not about partisan touting of any president or political party. It’s certainly not about giving preferred-seating tickets to Trump and Republican Party donors. But that is exactly what was done. Apparently the president, in a disgraceful example of political grandstanding, spoke in front of the Lincoln Memorial so this great national event of celebrating our country’s Independence could be associated with him. That was an affront to the Lincoln Memorial and one of this country’s greatest presidents, and to our country.

SALLY MACLEOD OWENS: MARK JOHNSON'S ISTATION WILL BE AN EXPENSIVE FAILURE: The proposed use ofIstation, a computerized program to test reading skills of third graders, will be a dismal failure for students whose reading skills are poor. This will be true whether the poor readers have intellectual or learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, cultural deprivation or a lack of English proficiency, lack computer skills, or just do not like reading. If the student does not read well for whatever reason, the student will do no better using a computer than a printed page. Even if the student succeeds in getting into the computer and completing the first pages, it succeeding segments of the test and instructions will get progressively harder. The student will become frustrated if unable to complete the tasks. You can assume some students will need assistance from a teacher, aide or volunteer. This will defeat the purpose of using a computerized testing program instead of a teacher-administered test. It will quickly become an expensive failure.

CHARLIE BOARD: GERRYMANDERING IS THE RESULT OF TYRANNY OF THE MINORITY: So let’s recap. We have a President the voters soundly rejected by a margin of more than three million votes. We have a Senate whose “majority” party members received more than 16 million fewer votes than their opponents. This voter-rejected president and this voter-rejected Senate conspired to steal the Supreme Court swing vote — from a president twice roundly approved by the voters. And now this illegitimate, stolen Supreme Court has — on purely partisan grounds and without even bothering with a fig leaf of logical cover — formally rigged the system to make it infinitely easier for their minority party to also deny the voters control of both the U.S. House and state legislatures. Sadly, the end game to Benjamin Franklin’s “A republic, if you can keep it” remark is now in sight, as the last gasping vestiges of democracy in the US are being strangled by a flood of gerrymandering and voter suppression laws. We in North Carolina know already how this business of politicians selecting their voters plays out. It’s not pretty when voters no longer matter. No accountability, no responsibility. No democracy. No more “We The People.”



From the dark side

J. Peder Zane once again regains his throne as the asshole of the week:

Vigilantism is rising again across America.

Instead of the hardcore racists of the Jim Crow era, these new protectors of the realm are social justice warriors who form Twitter mobs in cyberspace where they condemn the accused without trials or basic facts.

And once again they are being abetted by mainstream news outlets that stoke and amplify the rage of today’s left-wing hatemongers as they did that of reactionaries a century ago.

This one analogy alone should get Zane banned from the pages of the N&O. Between 1882 and 1968, nearly 5,000 African-Americans were lynched in the United States, and the vast majority of those lynchings occurred in the South. And what punishments have racists suffered due to social media exposure? Some of them have been fired from their jobs. That's it. To make such a comparison requires a level of ignorance and inherent racism I can't even quantify.

The latest example occurred last month in Wendell where, media outlets reported, a “social media firestorm” was ignited by a Facebook post listing the supposedly discriminatory rules at a local pool.

At issue was the Outdoor Recreation Center’s prohibition against “baggy pants,” “dread-locks/weaves/extensions” and “revealing clothes,” which was immediately determined to be an effort to exclude African-Americans.

Because that's exactly what it was. The only way they could have been more obvious was to post "Coloreds not allowed." But apparently Zane is of the breed who are willfully ignorant, satisfied and comfortable with efforts to barely conceal racist intent. The rest of us are not.

The paper also ran an op-ed by a Duke University professor who said the rules reflect a broader effort by whites, “often in collusion with law enforcement, to police black behavior.”

My fake news alarm pinged as I read such reports which were rife with accusations of white supremacist behavior but empty of evidence to support these damning claims.

You want evidence? Pay attention. Incidents of white people calling the police just because a black person is at a park, or driving through their neighborhood, or walking down the sidewalk, or (fill in the blank) have skyrocketed in the last few years. And I'm beginning to believe these reactions are more sinister than just being afraid. There have also been numerous police shootings of unarmed black men, and countless arrests for resisting arrest, even when there was no actual crime to begin with.

When Parking Lot Patti calls the cops, she's betting that a confrontation between them and the subject of her bias/bigotry will take place, and said black people will be "dealt with." And she usually wins that bet.

Two African-Americans who have known Freeman for decades said he is not racist. Donal Gooch, 62, who runs a horseback and bull riding outfit, said Freeman came to his assistance a few years ago when a white landowner “didn’t want me crossing their property. John talked to them and worked things out. … He always calls reminding me to come to the auction.”

Otis Bumpers, a 68-year-old retiree, said he has known Freeman “since he was a baby” and “I’ve never seen anything racist from him.”

Both men were surprised by the charge of racism because “John has black grandkids.”

When I called Freeman back, he said he hadn’t mentioned this because he didn’t want to drag his family into this ugly mess. “All I’ll say now is that my son-in-law is one of the finest men I know.”

I don't care. One of the realities about the rural South is that blacks and whites do have relationships with each other, that are often cherished to a certain degree. But racism still pervades their communities, and rules that are tailored specifically to black citizens is just one more example of white control. Those days need to be over, but they're not, and a big reason why is people like J. Peder Zane who peddle rationalizations.