Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


ROY COOPER: NORTH CAROLINA IS STRONG, RESILIENT, AND READY: As we enter 2021, we carry the imprint of our people’s frustration and loss as well as our determination and resilience. This new year and this new term as Governor is more than just turning the page of a calendar. The lessons we’ve all learned must usher in a new era. An era where we can acknowledge and work around our differences while refusing to sacrifice truth and facts at the altar of ideology. Where the dangerous events that took place at our nation’s capitol can never be justified. So let’s reach together – to find ways all North Carolinians can afford to see a doctor. To get a quality education and a good paying job. To reform our systems that hurt people of color and to live and work in an economy that leaves no one behind, no matter who they are or where they live. I am humbled by the trust that you, the people of North Carolina have placed in me to serve again as your Governor.

GENE NICHOL: NC'S SEDITION CAUCUS SHOWED LOYALTY TO TRUMP: January 6, Dan Bishop, Ted Budd, Madison Cawthorn, Richard Hudson and David Rouser — along with 116 other Republican congressmen — voted to reject Arizona’s electoral college certification. Bishop, Budd, Cawthorn, Hudson, Rouser, Virginia Foxx and Greg Murphy locked arms with 131 other Republican members to try to cancel Pennsylvania’s election. Even Mitch McConnell protested that “the voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken; if we overrule them it will damage our republic forever … our democracy would enter a death spiral.” Our quisling Republicans voted to overthrow the presidential election even after Trump-incited, violent, armed insurrectionists launched an attempted coup against the United States. Cawthorn had apparently spoken at the rally that preceded the terrorist attack. “The Democrats, with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans, hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice,” he reportedly told the crowd. Supine loyalty to Trump easily outweighed, for these embarrassing Tar Heels, fealty to the constitution, to democracy, and to the foundational premise of America. They sought to do what our country’s adversaries couldn’t manage – end democracy in the U.S.

SCORING POINTS IN BLAME GAME WON'T GET MORE VACCINE IN ARMS: Looking to chip into Gov. Roy Cooper’s popularity for his handling the coronavirus pandemic, the leaders of the General Assembly spent their time in a legislative oversight committee attacking, second guessing and berating the governor and Secretary of Human Resources Dr. Mandy Cohen for the vaccine rollout’s short comings. Those actions left hollow the speechifying at Wednesday’s legislative session opening by Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore and their pledges to “find, develop and expand common ground” as well as “to put politics aside and create a state government that attracts success.” While legislative leaders are saying one of the top priorities for early in the session will be dealing with the pandemic’s lingering impacts, there seems to be little evidence of cooperation and consensus with the Cooper administration. It is cooperation, not competition, that must be the focus of all efforts to stop the spread and show North Carolina’s resilience to reopen the state and restart the economy.

MARK MEADOWS HAS EARNED THE TITLE OF WORST CHIEF OF STAFF IN HISTORY: In a secure tent on the Ellipse last week, as President Trump prepared to incite an angry mob ahead of its assault on the U.S. Capitol, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, smiling from ear to ear, mugged for a video with Donald Trump Jr., as Laura Branigan’s 1982 hit “Gloria” blared in the background. For Trump’s glad-handing chief of staff, it was just another day of dutifully holding the president’s coat while the boss took a hammer to democracy. This will be the defining image of Meadows, for which he has earned the title of worst chief of staff in history. From ignoring warnings of an emerging coronavirus in his President’s Daily Brief, to pretending the virus would magically disappear, to failing to mobilize a federal response, to staging superspreader campaign rallies, to ignoring safety protocols in the West Wing, Trump and Meadows tragically fumbled the pandemic. It was Meadows who enabled Trump’s science-denying alternative universe, letting ignorance rule the day and empowering quack scientists who helped corkscrew the nation’s response. Trump’s chief opposed the idea of a federal mandate to wear masks, a measure that could have saved untold thousands of lives. Meadows followed this up by parading a Star Wars cast of kooks into the Oval Office, feeding Trump fantastic tales of election voter fraud. Meadows’s lowest moment came in the now-infamous phone call with Brad Raffensberger, in which Trump and Meadows tried to browbeat Georgia’s secretary of state into throwing the election, with the chief of staff opining: ”I was hopeful that, you know, in the spirit of cooperation and compromise, is there something that we can at least have a discussion to look at some of these allegations to find a path forward that’s less litigious?” Moments later, Trump cut to the chase: “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes …” Meadows should not have been on that call, much less participated in the illegal fix. He should have prevented it from ever taking place.

KRUGMAN: FOUR RULES THAT SHOULD GUIDE BIDENOMICS: Rule #1: Don’t doubt the power of government to help. The last time Democrats took the White House, they were still in something of a reflexive cringe, halfway accepting the conservative dogma that government always does more harm than good. But everything that has happened since 2009 says that government spending can be hugely beneficial. Rule #2: Don’t obsess about debt. Constant warnings about the dangers of government borrowing hobbled the Obama agenda almost from the start. Biden shouldn’t let that happen again. Rule #3: Don’t worry about inflation. Constant warnings about soaring prices, combined with false claims that the government was hiding the true rate of inflation (no, this sort of thing didn’t begin with Trump) also marked the Obama years; but inflation never took off. Nonetheless, the usual suspects are ramping up to try it again. Rule #4: Don’t count on Republicans to help govern. The original sin of Obama economic policy was the underpowered stimulus of 2009. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped stabilize the economy, but it was much too small given the depths of the crisis. This isn’t hindsight; some of us were very publicly tearing our hair out in real time. One reason the plan was too small was that Obama was trying to gain bipartisan support, rather than using reconciliation to push it through with Democratic votes (which is how Republicans passed the 2017 tax cut). But that support never came; instead, a sluggish recovery helped the G.O.P. take the House in 2010, setting the stage for years of policy sabotage. Biden must not make the same mistake. It’s OK for him to spend a few days giving some Republicans a chance to get on board, but he can’t let the pursuit of cross-party support lead to watered-down policies.


LAUREL VOELKER: OUR REDISTRICTING PROCESS NEEDS TO BE BOTH FAIR AND TRANSPARENT: While the 2019 redistricting process was more transparent than in past years, it was nevertheless extremely flawed. There was insufficient opportunity for the public to participate during any phase of the process. The legislature need not wait for census data to begin preparing for redistricting. It can begin work immediately on important tasks such as creating a website, establishing rules and criteria for map making, passing a redistricting budget, and most importantly, soliciting public input on the process. Voters must demand a fair and transparent process in 2021. Our politicians can, and must, do better. Fair voting maps are a cornerstone of our democracy.

BILL GROTHMANN: REPUBLICANS NEED TO (FINALLY) REJECT TRUMPISM: It remains to be seen whether we are a nation of democratic law and order. If we are, Trump supporters who executed the Jan. 6 coup will end up in jail. They’d join the top honcho himself and abettors like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Rudy Giuliani. Most depressing about this debacle is that so many Republicans, in Congress and the electorate at large, hang on to Trumpism. Thus, the prospect of coming together as a nation, of reconciliation and healing, is slim. To paraphrase an idea from Isabel Wilkerson’s book, “Caste,” it boils down to whether we want to be a nation of whiteness or democracy. For the sake of democracy, Trumpism must be overcome.

LEE KERN: WE ARE SEEING TRUMP'S "DRAMA TRIANGLE" IN ACTION: During the 2016 presidential campaign, I wrote a letter to this newspaper regarding Donald Trump. As a practicing psychotherapist at the time (now retired), I used available public information about Trump to suggest that he had several troubling psychological diagnoses: Anti-social (disregard for the rules and laws), narcissistic (all about me) and hyperactive (impulsive). My point was to shed light on his character and discourage support from voters. A psychological theory that was popular during my therapy training was called transactional analysis (TA). It was a way of understanding the often unconscious workings of the psyche in order to help clients gain a greater understanding of themselves and better regulate unwanted emotions and behavior. Within TA was the principle of the “drama triangle” and its core parts: rescuer, victim, and persecutor. Dysfunctional behavior is often influenced by this triangle, which can be the result of early life forces such as critical, abusive, or neglectful family patterns. It is not uncommon for people to have awareness of how one or two parts of the triangle apply to them, but it is also likely that one or more parts are denied. It seems that the triangle and related denial are alive and well in Trump. He sees himself as the rescuer (make America great again) and the victim (he lost because of voter fraud) but he takes no ownership of the persecutor in him. Recent events and his role in encouraging them appear to be acting out the persecutor component of his character: The storming of the Capitol illustrates his hateful side — anger, rage, blame and destruction. It is scary to see this coming from a man in his position and I look forward to a change in leadership for our country, hoping for more mental health and less psychopathology.



Science is back, baby

In case you haven't seen this yet, Biden is elevating the "Science Advisor" role to a Cabinet position:

If confirmed by the Senate, Lander will lead a White House office that Congress created in 1976 in response to the dismantling of the federal science advisory apparatus by then-President Richard Nixon. Its director has traditionally also served as the president’s science adviser. Although the OSTP position requires Senate confirmation—giving lawmakers the ability to monitor the office’s activities—Congress plays no role in determining whether the OSTP director is also named assistant to the president for science and technology, a position that derives its authority directly from the president. And Biden is going a step further by giving Lander a seat in his Cabinet.

Eric Lander is not the most popular guy in scientific ranks, he has made quite a few enemies along the way. He does not "suffer fools gladly," which in my opinion makes him perfect for Biden's Cabinet. We've had more than enough sycophancy, thank you very much.

But what I really wanted to talk about today was our need for "mainstreaming" science. Although Trump supercharged anti-science, it couldn't have happened if we weren't already primed for it. While scientific advancements have leapt forward, the vast majority of citizens have been left behind. Yes, the information is there for them to access if they are interested, but that's not enough. Just like green vegetables, it needs to be part of their daily diet.

Even as a layman, I find myself shocked at the lack of scientific understanding in the general public. I'm not talking string theory or biochemical reactions, just a basic grasp of the natural world is missing. After trying to verbally explain to a man (a landscaper, no less) about what causes our seasons, I eventually had to pick up a ball and literally walk around him, to demonstrate Earth's axial tilt as it orbits around Sol.

My point is, we have arrived at a point in time where science is a niche category, a "career field" for a small percentage of our population. But as our interest in science has declined, so has our confidence in the results produced by scientists. This is not skepticism based on knowledge, it's skepticism rooted in a lack of knowledge. I don't understand it, so I don't believe it.

While scientific advancement thrives on peer-review and data replication, that dynamic also serves to build a wall between the scientific community and the general public. The people who need to know know, and the rest don't matter. That's a little harsh, but it's also fairly accurate. That


of understanding needs to be filled. I've tried to do that here from time to time; shape scientific issues into something that can be understood by those who (like me) are not scientists. But it's the scientific community itself that needs to reach out, and produce a (constant) narrative of their work that can be consumed by the general public.

I'm not talking about "dumbing it down," I'm talking about breathing life into those data points, and the effect they have on the world around us. Drawing conclusions is not something that comes easy to many researchers, because there's always more data needed. But there's a point when you cross that probability threshold, and it's ready for everybody.

And everybody needs it, even if they don't realize it.