Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


UNC BOARD'S FOCUS SHOULD BE EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE, NOT LEGISLATIVE FEALTY: A dozen members of the UNC board – fully half of its members – carry the very real potential to be compromised and become puppets of the legislative leadership. Years ago there were various criteria and categories legislators were required to follow in their election of UNC board members. There were even candidate nominations and fierce campaigns within the General Assembly to win a coveted slot. We are not about to suggest that the old was optimal. But the evolution has NOT been an improvement. To achieve more diversity and less fealty to the legislature, give the governor the authority to appoint a third – eight members -- of the board. Even in circumstances where the governor and legislature’s majority may share political party the clear difference in interests would bring about a broader board.

NC'S REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVES WOULD GIVE TRUMP A PASS: It’s significant that the vote was not about impeaching the president. It was about whether the evidence supports looking further into whether his actions merit impeachment. The evidence is strong that Trump tried to use the leverage of withholding $391 million in military aid to get Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. This evidence wasn’t brought forth by Democratic politicians or their staff. It was brought forth by members of the U.S. Foreign Service, the CIA and the military. And yet Republicans are treating it as a partisan fight. Not only do they think Trump’s offenses are not impeachable, they don’t even want to know more about what he did to invite foreign involvement in a U.S. election and put an ally at risk. “Every member should support the American people hearing the facts for themselves,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor. “That is what this vote is about. It’s about the truth. And what is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy.”

KAY HAGAN--ASSERTIVE AND EFFECTIVE SERVICE TO HER CONSTITUENTS AND STATE: Her congressional victories weren’t always the stuff of headlines, but groundbreaking nonetheless. Early in her U.S. Senate term she broke the gender line for use of what was then the men-only senate swimming pool. She pressured Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. who was the Rules Committee Chairman at the time, to open the pool to ALL senators. When she lost reelection in 2014 to Republican Thom Tillis, there was no break in her high-energy style. She was a 2015 Institute of Politics Fellow at Harvard University where she examined the influence of money in politics. The 2014 North Carolina Senate race was, at the time, the most expensive Senate race in the nation – exceeding $100 million. “I worry how we are going to get good people to run for office if you have to spend so much time raising money,” she said at the time. “In any competitive race you’re doing fundraisers at breakfast, at dinner, and it’s just so much time that should be spent on policy, on drafting legislation, on engaging with constituents back home.”

TO BEAT TRUMP, FOCUS ON HIS CORRUPTION: Given the severity of Trump’s misbehavior — turning American foreign policy into an opposition-research arm of his campaign — Democrats had no choice but to start an impeachment inquiry. Yet they need to remember that impeachment is an inherently political process, not a technocratic legal matter. It will fail if it does not persuade more Americans of Trump’s unfitness for office. It will succeed only if he is not president on Jan. 21, 2021. And it is far more likely to succeed if Democrats can connect it in voters’ minds to a larger argument about the substance of Trump’s presidency. The most promising version of that argument revolves around corruption: The Ukraine quid pro quo matters because it shows how Trump has reneged on his promise to fight for ordinary Americans and is using the power of the presidency to benefit himself. As Leah Greenberg, a co-founder of the progressive group Indivisible, says: “This man is not working for you. He is working to put his own interests first. And he is endangering the country to do it.” Demagogues “don’t exist in a vacuum,” Zingales has said. “The more the elite go after him, the more people think, ‘He’s one of us.’” The better strategy — one that defeated Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, for example — is to treat demagogues like normal politicians who have failed to deliver. The Ukraine scandal offers Democrats a chance to do so. As a candidate, Trump promised to fix the country and make it great again. But he didn’t really mean it. From the beginning — like the secret negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign — he has tried to help himself, not the country.

CHINA CAN SILENCE ME, BUT IT CAN'T SILENCE HONG KONG'S MOVEMENT: When I first decided to run for the district council position, I understood that Beijing might decide to thwart my candidacy. The decision, and the suspicious way it was made, exposes to the world just how much Hong Kong is already under Beijing’s authoritarian grip. This is not the first time Hong Kong authorities have infringed on my political rights and those of my fellow activists. I myself have been placed in jail three times for my activism. After spending several months in prison this year for my role in the Umbrella Movement, I was released in June, but was arrested again in August alongside my colleague Agnes Chow for participating in the protests. Previously, the Hong Kong government disqualified six elected, pro-democracy legislators between 2016 and 2017. This most recent outrage shows that Chinese and Hong Kong authorities have not learned from protests. The protesters are calling for Beijing to respect its own promise to allow Hong Kong a democratic system until 2047, under the “one country, two systems” policy. This was a chance for Hong Kong’s government to show it had heard the cries of Hong Kong’s young generation and to bring a youth voice into the district council.


DREW SHINDELL AND DALE EVERTS: IT'S TIME TO STOP BUILDING NATURAL GAS INFRASTRUCTURE: It’s time for leaders across the country to stop the expansion of natural gas infrastructure. Duke Energy is planning to spend billions building dozens of natural gas power plants in the Carolinas, which are damaging to public health while countering efforts to slow climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that societies must complete nearly half the transition to a net-zero carbon economy during the next decade to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. The power plants and pipelines planned by Duke would operate far beyond that timeline. This build-out of gas is also financially risky for ratepayers and investors, who may be saddled with higher costs and stranded assets as markets keep shifting to less costly wind and solar matched with battery storage, which is quickly solving the intermittency challenge of renewables. This transition is creating thousands of good jobs. We’ve called on Gov. Roy Cooper to impose a moratorium on new natural gas infrastructure in N.C. and lead an effort to do the same across the country. The global community needs bold leadership at this critical time.

JOHN TALLMADGE: VOTE FOR DURHAM'S AFFORDABLE HOUSING BOND: When my wife and I moved to the Old West Durham neighborhood in 1999, we were motivated by Durham’s diversity, the community’s activism, and affordability of homes for first-time buyers. As home prices and rents have risen on our block, we can see that our newer neighbors have higher incomes and that fewer neighbors are people of color. I see these changes reflected across downtown neighborhoods and beyond. The real estate market is not working to provide housing options for people of all incomes. Nonprofit organizations have been doing great work for years to provide affordable housing, but it’s not enough. It’s past time for the city, county, and Durham Housing Authority to act together to provide more affordable housing for our neighbors who are being priced out. Join me in voting yes for the affordable housing bond.

GREG BRUHN: WHAT TRUMP CALLS "LYNCHING" IS SIMPLY THE BALANCE OF POWERS: The recent comment by President Trump describing the scrutiny he has received during the impeachment inquiry as a ‘lynching” demonstrates his lack of understanding of the gravity of that word. If there ever was a lynching in recent years it occurred when Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared and was savagely murdered at the hands of Saudi nationals. Our elected representatives are held to higher standards. They have heard firsthand accounts of how U.S. government officials were pressured to compromise the integrity of their roles after being directed by a superior to suggest Ukraine would not receive military assistance unless Trump received political ammunition to use against Joe Biden. We are still governed by a balance of powers that metes out justice in a responsible manner, not in an approach that circumvents the law in destructive, vicious and self-serving ways.



From the dark side

This week we're going to lowlight right-wing letter writers, like Stephen Metzler:

The never ending anti-Trump hatred spread by some in the media will fail to remove our duly elected president. The Democrats do not have a single presidential candidate who can win the next election so they must try to damage the president and change the minds of the people who voted for him in 2016. They fail to realize that the American people are not as stupid as they believe or want us to be. They will fail in their impeachment attempt, just as they failed and embarrassed themselves with the Muller investigation..

The fact he can't even spell the guy's name tells me the author hasn't read more than a few sentences on the subject, and likely gets his info from talk radio. But even more damning to his little missive is the glaringly obvious fact: We wouldn't be having the Impeachment proceedings if Democrats hadn't flipped the majority so resoundingly.

Proving he's right on one point: The American people are not as stupid as we thought they were.

Here's a doozie from Thomas Snell:

The choreographed assault on President Trump continues. Trump is a direct person, impatient with protocol and diplomacy. I love this man. I absolutely trust him more that I trust anyone in D.C. He is America’s champion. His singular achievements in the face of unrelenting attack is miraculous. He is a treasure, a gift the likes of which may appear only once in a century. He must be defended!

I don't even know what to say to that, other than, "Thank god this only happens once in a century."

Here's a little thinly-veiled racism topped with classism from Barbara Gerwe:

The presumed need for more affordable housing does not justify a $95 million bond issue and higher property taxes. Durham is already budgeting millions per year for affordable housing, and incurring still more debt means only that we’ll build affordable housing faster than currently. Plenty of affordable housing exists in Durham outside downtown. Durham’s property taxes are already some of the highest in the state. We should vote to defeat the $95 million bond and budget more funding for our police force.

Missing context: Her property value is around $1,018,204, and tax assessment is currently $13,271 per year. Two Americas, indeed.

And last but not least, a little off-the-mark education advice from Eugene Simmons:

Regarding “NC reading scores have not risen on national tests, despite Read To Achieve effort, (Oct. 30): Folks, don’t you think it is time to get the dreamers off the Wake County school board and elect some citizens with down to earth thinking? Let the parents parent the students and let the teachers focus on reading, writing, and math. I know there are other subjects important, like history and civics, but in the short time students actually spend in classrooms we should teach them so our country’s students can learn at the level of other civilized countries that use no-nonsense teaching. We need to throw out the social engineering courses and focus on subjects that will allow our graduates to communicate and become productive citizens.

First of all, the report was based on state-wide reading skills. Wake County didn't have a damn thing to do with it. Secondly, the policy itself came from the state Legislature. Again, Wake County didn't have a damn thing to do with it, other than being forced to comply. Lastly, we're talking about 3rd grade evaluations. "Social engineering," or whatever the hell you think you're talking about, doesn't come into play. As far as parents are concerned, if they are as dense as you are, we are in deep kimchi.