Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


UNC TRUSTEES DID THEIR JOB AND DID THE RIGHT THING: The approval of tenure is an impediment that has been overcome. As Hannah-Jones should know well from both her work as a journalist and experience in life, it is just a battle and she has the opportunity to make those doubters – even those who might also be prejudiced – see the error of their pre-judgment and offer them enlightenment and a broader view. She must take this job. Each day she’s in the classroom, each interaction with her students and fellow academics, is a chance to further enhance the university’s reputation for higher education excellence and freedom of thought. Those who seem bent on limiting intellectual inquiry at our public universities will be further thwarted as she gives her students -- regardless of who they are – opportunities to exchange ideas, open themselves to a variety of perspectives and challenge conventional thought with civil dialogue.

THIS JULY 4TH, WE FACE A NEW STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY: In December of 2016, Andrew Reynolds, then a University of North Carolina politics professor, caused a stir with his op-ed in The News & Observer headlined: “North Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy.” Citing international measures of democratic vitality, Reynolds said North Carolina was failing in how it drew its election districts and in how state lawmakers tried to limit access to the vote and exploited a slight advantage in statewide votes to wield autocratic power. Reynolds, who assesses democracies worldwide, wrote: “If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly free democracy that is only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world.” Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said of those who would hinder democracy to hold onto their power, “There’s going to be a ferocious battle if they try anything that is going to damage the integrity of elections or make voting harder.” In that prediction is the enduring meaning of Independence Day. It is not only about a war for democratic freedom fought and won, but a reminder that once attained that victory must be sustained with fresh resolve by every generation of Americans.

REPUBLICANS MAKE NC STATE'S BASEBALL DISAPPOINTMENT A WEDGE ISSUE: For the N.C. State University baseball program, memories of the 2021 season will be of a Cinderella NCAA World Series championship season being undone by the COVID pandemic. Eight Wolfpack players tested positive for the virulent Delta variant of COVID and the team was removed from the competition. As N.C. State Athletic Director Boo Corrigan made clear in interviews, the NCAA COVID protocols were clear and the same for all competitors. For N.C. State University, choices about being vaccinated were up to the athletes. “We do all we can to work to educate. To answer questions, to be available. But at the end of the day, it’s that individual’s choice,” he said in an interview on WFAN-FM radio earlier this week. “And we’re going to move ahead.” With few facts or details known, the state’s GOP reflexively sprang to make it a wedge issue in hopes of enhancing their political standing regardless of the hurt suffered by the university, the team and the fans. Health of individuals and the community was the last thing on the minds of GOP politicians including state House Speaker Tim Moore, U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, Senate candidate and former Gov. Pat McCrory and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis.

THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACY AND TRUTH IS NEVER FINISHED: Our democracy is under assault, because one party has rejected commitment to truth and democracy. It spends its time undermining faith in elections and suppressing voting as a ill-conceived strategy for reclaiming power. Rather that a return to unbridled fear we felt under the past administration as it stomped on democratic norms, coddled dictators, engaged in corruption and all but ignored a pandemic, we should reach a sobering conclusion: Defending democracy and truth is never completed. The voters came to their senses to oust former president Donald Trump, but our democracy depends on the ongoing devotion of active citizens to reject authoritarian schemes. It requires that voter suppression be met with extraordinary voter organization and turnout. It requires the media not to carry the water of a party intent of spreading disinformation and hysteria. If democracy seems still on shaky ground, you should not be surprised. Democracy has often been and will continue to be, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, only a generation away from extinction. As we head into the July Fourth weekend, it is a good time to appreciate how far we have come in six months, as well as the ongoing work it will take to keep our democracy from the clutches of anti-democratic, white supremacists. Democracy has never been for the timid or the passive.

DONALD RUMSFELD TORE MY COUNTRY APART: In Mosul, it was chaos. Army and police forces had fled their posts to provide, I assumed, some protection for their own families. I slept for a few hours before my aunt frantically called to warn us of widespread looting unfolding at our doorstep. As the day proceeded, men in our neighborhood stood guard at their homes, watching as looters rampaged through nearly every public facility, including hospitals, universities and banks. It was the same scene across the country. I still remember what Donald Rumsfeld, then the U.S. secretary of defense, said a day later during a news conference when he was asked why U.S. troops did nothing to stop the looting: “Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things.” Mr. Rumsfeld, who died on Tuesday, described chaos and disorder as freedom. His comments were a sign of Iraq’s trajectory, and it was, for me, my first brush with what I would come to know as Mr. Rumsfeld’s (and the United States’) modus operandi regarding Iraq — the blatant gaslighting and indifference to the reality on the ground, symbolized in the occupying army’s failure to protect the fragile country it had just taken over. Mr. Rumsfeld’s track record in Iraq is a litany of failures: advocating the invasion based on easily debunked evidence, overseeing a drawn-out war in which tens of thousands of Iraqis died, endorsing harsh interrogation techniques — all of which accelerated Iraq’s fall into the abyss. His failure to predict that an insurgency opposing the occupation would arise reflects a lack of understanding of war itself. The failure to stabilize Iraq while losing thousands of American lives shifted the U.S. domestic discourse forever. Any type of U.S. intervention, even when nonmilitary and necessary, is met with skepticism. The Middle East still finds itself in the grip of many dictators and war criminals.


SUZANNE MERRILL: NO COLA FOR PUBLIC SERVICE RETIREES IS A SLAP IN THE FACE: North Carolina will have a massive $6.5 billion budget surplus over the next two years, as well as federal American Rescue Plan monies. As a retiree with 40 years of local and state government service to North Carolina’s older adults and adults with disabilities, I was totally disappointed that yet again there was no cost of living adjustment for public sector retirees in the Senate’s budget. With this amount of surplus available what better time is there to fund a COLA for retirees! The value of retired public servants pensions has declined by almost 20% since the financial crisis of 2008. Pension values were never restored even after the economy recovered and the few adjustments and bonuses enacted by the legislature haven’t kept up with inflation. Our retirees did the important work to make this state one of the fastest growing and best places to live in the U.S. They deserve better than this from the Senate.

MARA FRANK: WE MUST PROTECT OUR TREES FROM CLEAR-CUTTING: Just as our houses are homes, the trees in our communities are homes to animals and birds. We coexist; we’re neighbors to the animals who live among the trees. We need each other to thrive. House Bill 496 would force local governments to do more work in order to protect trees in our community. More N.C. trees would be subject to clear-cutting — eliminating the homes of many of the animals who’ve long been our neighbors. Too often, we don’t realize what we’ve really lost until after it’s gone. But we can stop this bill from passing in the N.C. Senate, where it is now pending. Senators should vote “no” on this bill before it is too late.

HEATHER MURPHY: AS A VETERAN, I DEMAND OUR VOTING RIGHTS BE PROTECTED: Many of my fellow veterans rely on early and mail-in voting because of service-related disabilities that make it difficult or impossible to travel to polling locations, wait in long lines, or be in noisy or chaotic crowds. When state legislators like those in the N.C. General Assembly seek to limit early and mail-in voting, we need strong federal legislation to protect the rights of those who have sacrificed for our country. With the recent Supreme Court decision that upheld partisan, anti-democratic attacks on voting rights, it is more critical than ever that Congress act to protect disabled veterans and other vulnerable voters. I’m calling on North Carolina’s senators to do what it takes to pass national voter access legislation, even if it means going against their GOP colleagues. Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, must have the courage to defend the rights of those who fought to defend theirs.



You don't know what it means to win

I borrowed that line from Fleetwood Mac's Never Going Back Again, which has been playing in my head for several days now. Regardless of what Lindsey Buckingham meant when he wrote it, I find it compelling in today's political discourse.

I see it in criticisms of the Biden administration, when this or that issue doesn't seem to be getting the attention people expect. He has (easily) the most diverse Cabinet in history (a Native American in charge of the Interior, for god's sake), but he nominates a white man for a judgeship and out come the smelling salts. Come on, pay attention.

The Nikole Hannah-Jones controversy is another example. Yes, it was an unnecessary, short-sighted and patently racist controversy, but we won. The UNC Board of Trustees could have easily punted, left that problem to the new Board (now seated), but they decided to fix their own mess.

Of course that doesn't mean that UNC has magically evolved overnight into an equitable and diverse institution. but progress has been made. Advocacy has succeeded in correcting (one) wrong, and those who would impose their archaic viewpoints have a high-exposure example to think about before they try such again.

At its very core, protest is an attempt at behavior modification. Or it should be, anyway. And the most effective methods of achieving that combine both positive and negative reinforcements. As a father of 3, I can say that with much confidence. But in order for that to work properly, you have to be able to recognize success when it happens, so it can be positively reinforced. Because if you ignore that success, it likely will not be repeated.

In perusing the LTEs for today's roundup, I noticed a few angry letters from conservatives about the UNC Board of Trustees "folding under pressure" in granting tenure to Hannah-Jones. But what I didn't see is anybody thanking them for doing so. And before you say, "But Steve, we shouldn't have to thank somebody for doing what they should have done to start with!", you are correct. Just like we shouldn't have to thank our child for putting away the toys scattered across his or her bedroom floor. But we do it anyway because that's the behavior we want to see repeated.

"But Steve, these are adults and not little children!"

I beg to differ.

Why are the all-knowing,

Why are the all-knowing, almighty NC RepubliCAN"TS sticking their noses into affairs of the NCAA? They can't even govern (if that's what you call that they do) effectively without doing or saying something stupid.