Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


THE NC GENERAL ASSEMBLY IS UNDERMINING THE RULE OF LAW: From our founding, our state constitution has given an independent judiciary the solemn duty to declare what is the law for every case that comes before it, including whether or not an act by either the executive or legislative branches violates the constitution. The judiciary is accountable to the rule of law and not to the legislative or executive branches. Once the judiciary has established the rule of law for the case, the legislative and executive branches of government hold the companion duty to assure the rule of law is fully implemented. This principle is fundamental to our democracy. That legislators believe they can ignore constitutional obligations without check by the courts should profoundly disturb all citizens. That some legislators demeaned a judge acting in accordance with law, thereby undermining judicial independence and authority, is equally disturbing. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. GOP leaders have behaved like tyrants for over a decade, and would have been infinitely worse if not for the Judicial Branch. Of course they attack Judge Lee, because he represents their only obstacle to complete domination, our Constitution itself.

NORTH CAROLINA IS VULNERABLE TO A NEW BOOK-BURNING WAVE: Banned books often center marginalized identities or taboo topics. The Hate U Give depicts the police killing of a teenager; Speak talks about a teenage girl’s sexual assault at a party. Gender Queer, the newest addition to this literary canon, is a memoir about non-binary and asexual author Maia Kobabe’s experience with coming out and understanding gender and sexuality. This canon pairs well with the right’s moral panic over Critical Race Theory, which they have co-opted and has become a dog whistle for white supremacy. The fear of teaching students any history that depicts our country in a negative light is spreading across subjects. For public school students living anywhere in North Carolina, these books may be their only means of understanding their own identities, or the identities of others outside their communities. Sure, students will find another way into those worlds: they have Tik Tok and Instagram and other social media. But a book means that these identities and experiences are officially documented, no matter how uncomfortable they may be to talk about. Every kid should have access to that. You would think these bible-thumping, self-appointed guardians of our moral virtues would embrace at least the Asexuality movement; which, at its core, is a very low or non-existent sexual attraction to others. Doesn't that fit perfectly with the Abstinence movement? But no, they apparently want kids to lust after the opposite sex, so they can start cranking out babies whether they are mature enough to raise those babies or not. And if not, the church is ready to step in, to begin the life-long conditioning our male-dominated society relies upon.

PUSHING PARTISANSHIP IN DEALING WITH PUBLIC SCHOOLS DOESN'T HELP THEM: Political leaders are looking to stoke racial animosity -- attacking diversity programs and non-course-of-study matters such as “critical race theory;” health and safety concerns such as COVID-19 mask mandates and demonize classroom teachers’ groups– all under the deceptive label of parental rights. They falsely attack classroom teachers with nebulous charges like injecting “leftist” training in wokeness. What justification is there to demean them and treat them like tokens in a political board game? Our dedicated teachers work too hard and have been going above-and-beyond. They’ve earned and deserve broad praise and support. It is really about camouflaging the true intent – pressing the culture wars in the nation to stoke prejudice and fear. For some consultants, advocacy groups and propagandists it has all morphed into a booming cottage industry. For those looking to take on, or even disrupt, local school boards or even become candidates, there are consultants and groups poised to help including the Cato Institute, Manhattan Institute and emerging networks such as “Moms for Liberty” or “Parents Defending Education” along with political action committees such as the “1776 Project PAC.” In North Carolina it provides an all too convenient and simplistic diversion from the most central issue in public education – the state’s failure to adhere to the constitutional right of every child to receive a quality education. In addition to them distracting from their refusal to properly fund our schools, they're using such propaganda to elevate themselves as "saviors" of those same, underfunded schools. It is the quintessential Strawman argument: create a scary monster that doesn't exist so you can slay it. The only thing they are actually slaying is critical thinking, which may be their true goal anyway.

BIDEN IS WINNING UNDER NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE CIRCUMSTANCES: Forty-one weeks ago, our nation had just survived a violent attempted coup d’état and the outgoing president who had spurred it on by refusing to acknowledge the fact of his defeat was about to be impeached for a second time. Meanwhile, daily deaths from a global pandemic were peaking at their highest levels, the national economy remained a mess, and a dire, worsening, and largely unaddressed environmental emergency continued to place the planet in an ever-tightening grip. Only Abraham Lincoln and possibly Franklin Roosevelt entered their presidencies under more difficult circumstances. What’s more, unlike Lincoln and Roosevelt who took office at a time in which their parties enjoyed large congressional majorities, Biden entered the oval office with no such advantage. Indeed, it was only thanks to two near-miraculous come-from-behind wins in a pair of January Georgia Senate runoffs that Democrats wield any authority at all on Capitol Hill. Now add to all this the fact that the impossibly narrow Democratic Senate “majority” (51-50 thanks to the presence of Vice President Harris) includes determined ideological conservatives like West Virginia’s Manchin and Arizona’s Sinema, and that the antiquated Senate filibuster rule that requires 60 votes to pass almost anything meaningful, and it’s a marvel that the nation has not descended into complete political gridlock and chaos. Amazingly, however, no national crash has ensued. Instead, under the president’s coherent, sober, and science-based leadership, the nation has aggressively locked horns with the pandemic by undertaking one of the largest and most successful mass vaccination campaigns in human history — a campaign that, despite persistent sabotage efforts from some on the political right, has saved millions of lives. Meanwhile, thanks in large measure to Biden’s aggressive and on-the-mark stimulus policies, the economy has revived at a record pace and huge strides have been made in slashing poverty — especially child poverty. Frankly, his accomplishments so far have been nothing short of phenomenal. But unfortunately, an increasing number of Democrats are becoming absolutists: If you don't achieve every single item on their wish list, you have failed. Not only failed, but failed miserably. It's a self-inflicted affliction, and could well be our undoing.

WE MUST PROTECT OUR ELECTIONS NOW. NATIONAL SECURITY IS AT STAKE: By now, it is well documented that in 2020 a sitting president and his allies tried to overturn the results of an election, triggering the worst political violence this country has seen in living memory. It is also clear that this attempt to undermine our democracy did not end with the transition to a new president, but continues with active efforts to make sure the next sabotage succeeds where the last one failed. What is less widely understood — and what keeps us up at night — is how great a threat these activities pose to our national security. This looming crisis is why we, along with nearly 100 other former national security and military officials, issued a statement urging Congress to prioritize protecting election integrity. We both served at the highest levels of our country’s intelligence community, under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, and we know that our foreign adversaries and other bad actors are licking their chops as they watch efforts to destabilize our elections. At the heart of the attack is a homegrown disinformation campaign meant to sow doubt in the U.S. voting system. Unfortunately, it is working — poll after poll shows declining trust in our elections and declining belief in the concept of democracy, particularly among Republicans. And these effects will not be contained to our borders. We have personally seen the lengths to which our foreign adversaries will go to take advantage of any cracks in the foundation of our democracy. One of us was director of national intelligence during the period leading up to the 2016 presidential vote and saw firsthand how Russia used social media to exploit disinformation, polarization and divisiveness. The Russians' objective was to breed discord, and they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. Now others have gone to school on the Russian example and will seek to prey on our country’s state of affairs in just the same way. Unfortunately, adversaries are finding increasingly fertile ground for their efforts. A society struggling to separate fact from fiction is the perfect environment for these actors to further erode electoral trust and kick democracy into a death spiral. They might also seek to take advantage of the exposure of sensitive information about election equipment or voter data that resulted from recent hyper-partisan election “reviews” such as Arizona’s, as well as the inevitable decline in security that will accompany the mass exodus of expert election officials facing violent threats. And if disinformation leads to more political violence like we saw on Jan. 6 — as seems increasingly likely — you can bet the house that enemies abroad will be ready to seize on the resulting chaos. Bolding mine, because there is a fine line separating healthy skepticism and the incapability of recognizing truth, and way too many have crossed it. We need to be more skeptical of our skepticism, before it kills us.


NANCY MILIO: TELL THE GOP, DON'T FIGHT LEANDRO RULING: “What to know about NC’s historic school funding dispute,” (Nov. 11) was lucid, informative and a shocking display of political dereliction of duty. Yet, it was a joy to learn that little Robb Leandro of 1994 is now lawyer Robb Leandro. But how many children have not become their best because lawmakers chose not to enact the N.C. constitutional mandate to guarantee every child a sound basic education? That is a right we might well be proud of, if only the Republican-controlled General Assembly would join the Democrats and Gov. Roy Cooper to do the right thing. They should not waste time — and our children’s lives — in fruitless and misguided litigation. They should invest the large budget surplus in the future generation and end the harms of the past.

ELLY KINNAIRD: IT'S TIME FOR CHAPEL HILL TO ACT ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Op-ed writer Adam Searing (Nov. 7 Opinion) complains that Chapel Hill ranks last regionally in parks and proposes preserving most of the Greene Tract as open space. But a greater need is affordable housing. Many low income workers and city employees must commute from surrounding counties. Chapel Hill talks a good game about being inclusive, but the affordable housing shortage belies that. After 40 years of planning we can finally address that shortage with the Greene Tract plan approved by Orange County and Carrboro. In addition to affordable housing for those who are shut out of living in our community, the plan includes a school, community center, small retail, and preserves environmentally sensitive open space. The devil is in the details, though. Hopefully this housing will be truly affordable and not just a few steps down from what the local real estate market has settled on.

LAURA STILLMAN: THIS IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT: Eight N.C. Republicans in the U.S. House have lined up on the wrong side of history again. This time, they voted “no” on the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed in the House after months of deliberation. Even N.C. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis realized the value of this bill when the Senate approved it in August. The bill will bring nearly $9 billion in federal funds to North Carolina over the next five years for critical infrastructure needs, including roads, bridges, public transportation, broadband internet, ports, airports, and climate resiliency (including flood mitigation). Some of the Republican representatives who voted against it also voted not to certify the 2020 election results and voted “no” on the American Rescue Plan. The scorecard for this group is not looking good. Voters in their districts should pay close attention to who is really looking out for them. This is the inevitable byproduct of gerrymandered districts, and a woefully uninformed (disinformed?) voting public.



"We need to be just as..."

Along the same lines as my comment above about absolutism, I'm seeing a trend among many of my (mostly Facebook) friends criticizing the perceived "weakness" of elected or appointed Democrats. They're not pursuing justice as vigorously as they should, they're not grabbing the power that they could, they're not playing with the same rule book that Republicans use.

One of the things I tried to teach my children when they were growing up is, "Don't let somebody else's behavior dictate your own."

This is important, because if you allow yourself to be drawn into battle, especially on a field with which you are not familiar, you are at an extreme disadvantage. The initiative is not yours, it's your oppressor's. And in order to adapt enough to maybe fight to stalemate, you must adopt many of the tactics used by the enemy. In the case of politics, the tactics deployed by Republicans are lies, innuendo, subterfuge, and a whole laundry list of other traits we (as Democrats) normally shun.

I'm not just talking about occupying the moral high ground, although that is important in attracting support from the growing ranks of non-affiliated voters who have become disenchanted by the perceived venality of the two-party system. I'm talking about being smart enough to not only recognize Gaslighting for what it is, but to avoid its trap.

If you don't believe me, then believe Sun Tsu: “To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

We like to talk about progress, but we are also prone to regression. Primal instincts still permeate our psychy, like defending our cave from those who would take it from us and leave us out in the cold. That instinct may have served us well 20,000 years ago, when we competed with our Neanderthal cousins (and ancestors). But increasingly, conflict does not lead to resolution. It simply leads to more conflict. There are examples all around you, locally and globally, look for yourself.

Now, that does not mean that we should simply acquiesce to efforts by weak-minded, would-be tyrants to roll back progress, to turn back the hands of time to a stratified class system ruled by a gentry of white male landowners. No, that must be opposed.

But opposition comes in many forms, and the most effective opposition is the pursuit of an enlightened majority rule. One that does not need disingenuous tactics to succeed, one that does not rely on brute force to remain in power. Our Founders knew this, which is why they dedicated so much time to constructing and refining our Constitution, even while we shed much blood for our independence. They were imperfect beings, but they had vision.

We need that same type of vision now, without the red filter of anger and self-righteous retribution. You can't see a way forward with that obstruction, only an endless cycle of conflict.