Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


AS DEADLY VIRUS SPREADS, LEGISLATORS FIDDLE WITH PARTISAN VACCINE POLITICS: In their letter these legislators say they are worried about the “valid concerns” of workers. They “strongly encourage” employers get “greater input from employees” as well as “include feedback and consideration of employees and staff.” These legislators aren’t fooling these hospital executives nor anyone else. Their main concern isn’t workers’ rights, or more tragically the good health of North Carolinians. The only thing they care about is appealing to a narrow political base to promote a divisive issue embedded in their baseless and dangerous anti-vaccination ideology. Clearly in this very real life-and-death situation nothing is gets in the way of their obsessive quest for a political wedge and a campaign edge. It is unfortunate they don’t have the same devotion to helping stop the spread of the virus and avoid the skyrocketing number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

ARE YOU WILLING TO RISK YOUR CHILDREN NOW, ANTI-MASKERS? It’s an alarming story out of Louisiana: COVID-19, which was previously considered a mild threat to children, might be more dangerous than we thought. Children in Louisiana make up almost 20% of new COVID cases — the third largest number of infections in the state. Doctors warn that with the delta variant, more children are being hospitalized than ever before, with some in intensive care or placed on ventilators due to severe infection. And North Carolina could be next, especially now that back-to-school season is upon us. Even in Mecklenburg County, where vaccination rates are higher than in many parts of the state, one in five COVID-19 cases is in children under the age of 18, county health director Gibbie Harris told county commissioners Wednesday night. Like it or not, our government tells parents rather regularly how we should keep our children safe (see car seats, for starters). Masks may be a nuisance, but they also save lives. “Freedom” protesters have a choice to make: abandon your principles for your children, or abandon your children for your principles.

ROBINSON TAKES DEMAGOGUERY TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL: “ANY politician who encourages people to take a COVID vaccine should be voted out of office. It’s not your job to convince anybody to take that vaccine.” Robinson said. Actually, it is their job. But he didn’t stop with that misguided pronouncement. “What they tell us is that the people who don’t want this vaccine are a bunch yahoos who are conspiracy theorists. I know cardiologists, neurologists. God, I know a podiatrist. I know a urologist. None of them want the vaccine. They’ve studied it. They made their decision. And yet still we have people that are going to force them to take it. Folks, that is not America.” We know it’s a challenge for any North Carolina lieutenant governor to get attention when the duties of the job are largely ceremonial. The temptation to be wild and wacky just to get noticed can be too great. But that is no excuse for the exaggeration, ignorance and shoot-from-the-lip rhetoric of Mark Robinson. It's entirely possible that he's met all those doctors, but also highly unlikely they said what he claims. Like Trump, lies flow off his tongue freely.

CUOMO AND THE OUTRAGE OF THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY: Democrats have appropriately adopted a standard of near zero tolerance for sexual misconduct by politicians. Unfortunately, and quite noticeably, this is not the case for modern Republicans. As the last few years have demonstrated with painful clarity, for the party of the political right and, supposedly, conservative religious morality, sexual harassment by politicians is yet another subject on which repealing the 20th Century is an obvious priority. The most egregious and outrageous example of this disturbing state of affairs, of course, is the crown prince of sexually inappropriate behavior, Donald Trump. Indeed, compared to Trump, who has been credibly and repeatedly accused of not just boorish behavior, but actual sexual assault, Cuomo, and especially Franken, look almost like boy scouts. The notion that a serial liar and predator like Trump remains, despite his countless transgressions, the de facto leader of the GOP and its presumptive presidential nominee in 2024 tells you all you need to know about the subject. But, of course, the list does not end there. Don’t forget Brett Kavanaugh, who was rushed onto the Supreme Court by Republicans despite an enormously credible accusation of inappropriate sexual behavior as a young man. And here in North Carolina, we witnessed a similar wrongful tolerance a couple years ago when state House Republicans allowed one of their members, former state Rep. Cody Henson, to stay in office despite his having been ordered by a judge to turn over all of his firearms to law enforcement officials after he was credibly accused of, among other things, repeatedly sending his wife harassing texts. The bottom line: The demise of Andrew Cuomo shows that American society continues to take incremental steps forward in combating inappropriate sexual and personal behavior, but so long as Donald Trump remains its standard bearer, the modern Republican Party will be largely absent from (and indeed, a hindrance to) that process.

THE FEDERAL EVICTION MORATORIUM LIMBO LAID BARE THE SYSTEM'S DYSFUNCTION: Last week’s do-or-die crisis over the federal eviction moratorium reminded us that the housing insecurity faced by millions of Americans is far from over. Though President Biden’s vital decision to issue the moratorium may or may not survive court scrutiny, the fact remains: Our eviction system is broken and requires urgent and fundamental redesign. In the two days between the expiration of one federal moratorium and the announcement of another, the United States caught a horrifying glimpse of what happens when the eviction system is resurrected. Sheriffs tripled law enforcement teams and express-vaccinated staff to execute a long-awaited onslaught of eviction orders. Judges raced through their calendars and ordered distressed families out of their homes — all before the roughly $46 billion in emergency rental assistance appropriated by Congress reached landlords. Courts in a democracy are charged with providing equal access to justice and making decisions based on law and fact. But this is not what happens in today’s eviction courts, which are beset by structural dysfunction. Tenants don’t always have a right to their day in court. In dozens of states, tenants can’t get a hearing or an appeal unless they pay a rent bond. For example, in Florida, if the tenant is just a day late or a penny short in paying their bond to the court, they automatically lose their home. For tenants already paying most of their income toward rent, the right to be heard is simply unavailable. If an eviction case does go to a hearing, that “trial” typically lasts two minutes or less. Landlords win the vast majority of eviction cases. In contrast, tenants are rarely given an opportunity to present defenses. In one study, even when tenants had defenses, they were evicted 100 percent of the time. To support the substantive goal of housing stability, the federal government can fund a permanent nationwide rent-relief program, and states can require landlords to give a reason (known as “just cause” eviction) when seeking to expel a tenant. Longer term, we recommend that the federal government create a task force on the human right to housing that will include the voices of people most affected by this crisis. Just an observation: This issue will grow more and more critical as populations are forced to move away from coastal areas and flood zones due to climate change. We need to fix it now and not kick the can down the road.


CHERYL TUNG: REMOVE VOTING PROVISIONS FROM NC'S BUDGET PROCESS: The State Board of Elections and county election boards worked tirelessly during the last election to ensure it was free and fair. Instead of addressing the needs of these bipartisan groups, the N.C. House budget proposal seeks to limit their ability to fairly administer elections and it provides unnecessary funding for voter photo ID, which cannot be applied in N.C. elections. This follows a disturbing national trend of partisan politicians granting themselves the ability to intervene in elections. The League of Women Voters of Wake County opposes any legislation that attempts to weaken our election system. We call upon N.C. legislators to remove all voting provisions from the budget. The budget bill should not be a vehicle to achieve a partisan policy agenda.

JIM WARREN OF NC WARN: THE TRUTH ABOUT DUKE ENERGY'S NEW PLAN: Articles Wednesday on the climate crisis and the controversial energy bill, House Bill 951, wrongly implied that Duke Energy is shifting off fossil fuels. In fact, Duke’s 15-year plan — hotly contested in a long-running N.C. Utilities Commission fight — proposes to add 9,600 megawatts of new gas-fired generation. That’s over 50 units at an unspecified number of sites in the Carolinas. A UN-backed climate-and-methane report released in May calls for a halt to the expansion of natural gas (methane) infrastructure as essential to slowing climate change. Its lead author, Duke University’s Drew Shindell, told the New York Times that expanding gas is “going wildly in the wrong direction.” Utilities in non-monopoly states are ramping up renewables paired with storage because that approach wins on economics and reliability. Meanwhile, Duke Energy leaders spend millions giving money to our politicians and running greenwashing ads to hide the truth: Duke is only 5% renewable in the Carolinas — one-third the national average.

MINTA PHILLIPS: WHAT YOU CAN DO TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE: Thank you, News & Record, for the Aug. 10 story “Code Red: UN scientists warn of worsening global warming.” However, we don’t want to fall into climate despair paralysis. What can the average person do? Anything helps that reduces our biggest source of the problem, which is greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. You could give testimony at a zoning board meeting favoring renewable energy infrastructure. You could lobby our local government to make municipal and school bus fleets electric or submit supportive comments on legislation to regulate pollution. You could support companies that are taking meaningful steps to curb emissions and stop buying from ones that resist climate action. You could move your retirement account to green investment funds or make personal changes like eating less meat, switching your gas appliances to electric, using public transit, or walking or riding a bike. The fastest and most effective societal solution is legislating a carbon price to incentivize reducing fossil fuel while increasing innovative renewable energy sources. It’s easy, quick and good citizenship to call Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis and Rep. Kathy Manning to prioritize sponsoring carbon-pricing bills currently proposed in Congress. Please know that your actions help to make our world cooler and safer for us all.



The complete absence of light...

I've been a little preachy lately, giving readers unwanted advice about life and such, so I figured it was time for a self-deprecatory personal anecdote to give you some perspective and maybe a chuckle or two. No critical life lessons, I promise:

When I was in the Army, a "chopper blast" was like the first day of school: a relatively easy and hassle-free venture, as far as Airborne operations go. A big bonus was you didn't have to don your parachute until shortly before it was your turn. Jumping from a fixed-wing aircraft often entailed being cinched up for an hour or two, baking on the tarmac like one of those George Foreman grills, before shuffling onto the aircraft to be packed like sardines until going out the door or off the ramp. When we invaded Grenada, I was in that condition for seven hours, flying in circles over the Atlantic, until they decided we were no longer needed as a back up and we were dropped back home. My back hurts just thinking about that...

Anyway, I was in the second-to-last stick of jumpers (only eight could fit on a UH1H) on the little postage stamp drop zone St. Mere Eglise, and by the time we shuffled over to board the helicopter, it was post-dusk, so dark the jumpmaster had to shine a flashlight so we could climb on. As we rose to 1,500 feet (ASL), the Western horizon was barely lit by the already set Sun, and as we turned to make our pass, even that slight illumination was lost to me. Darkness above, darkness below, legs hanging off the side.

Let's talk about darkness for a minute. When the Moon is out, and after your eyes adjust, you can see almost everything. Even when Luna has yet to make an entrance, starlight is sufficient on its own to provide enough light to see where you're going. That night, however, we had neither of those resources. A high enough ceiling of clouds to jump, but no celestial photonic assistance, makes for some serious darkness. And the lights inside the chopper from instruments and such made that darkness outside even more indefinable. And kinda evil, I thought, as I got my command to exit my only link to safety.

On a normal night jump, you try to steer to the lighter part of the ground, less likely to be overgrown with trees. But when it's all a uniform nothingness? Just try to get the breeze in your face for the slowest descent, and pray to whatever god you think might be listening. None were listening to me that night.

At the last second, I heard tree limbs rustling just below me, said "Shit," and did what I could to make it through. That entails legs together tightly, toes pointed down, hands in armpits (like that's going to stop a limb from penetrating your rib cage), and begin a sort of rocking motion not unlike a snake slithering around obstacles. I broke several of the smaller, higher limbs, then the bigger limbs tried to break me. My right butt cheek was a casualty of this engagement, and I sported road rash (tree rash?) there for quite some time after.

When I finally stopped bouncing off limbs and came to a stop, I had yet to meet the ground. The blessed ground, where only dead tree limbs reside. But I was prepared. I had a flashlight strapped to my chest, but when it resisted my urgent grabs, I grabbed a little too hard, and dropped the damn thing. Great. Another clever hack (we didn't use that term back then, but whatever) was to drop your steel pot helmet (pre-Kevlar), and listen for how far it falls. I heard nothing, and said a few more bad words.

And then resorted to something no one wanted to. "Help! I'm stuck in a @#$%&* tree! Help!"

A short time later I saw some lights heading my way, and immediately thought, either they are swinging through the trees, or I'm a lot closer to the ground than I thought I was.

Actually, my feet were at most five feet off the ground. My helmet had landed in a pile of leaves. And me dropping down without any assistance, after my loud and desperate pleas, only made the laughter increase.

It took weeks for that to wear off. People trying to "help" me down from 3 or 4 steps. When I led physical training from a slightly raised platform a week later, "Be careful up there" from my Sergeant Major had a hundred people laughing uproariously. *sigh*

The moral of the story: Tie a damn chord to your flashlight. There's probably a metaphor in there somewhere, but IDK.

Twenty jumps here

Five at night, including one tree landing. That’s some rough ridin’.

Funny story.

Almost all of mine were night jumps

Not really, that's just a joke we used to have about involuntarily closing your eyes when you jump. I had to force myself to keep from doing it...