Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


FEDERAL RESCUE FUNDS PUMPED STATE ECONOMY AND NC REVENUES: Not only did these federal programs keep the state’s economy from tanking – they positioned it for a rapid recovery and provided a huge boost in state tax revenues. Those additional funds, along with the massive aid from Washington, are what has enabled North Carolina’s legislators to trot around the state with THEIR oversized checks, acting like prize-show hosts and posing with oversized checks at local government and community-agency gatherings. State legislators didn’t get any help from our senators, Richard Burr, Thom Tillis, nor from representatives Dan Bishop, Ted Budd, Madison Cawthorn, Virginia Foxx, Richard Hudson, Patrick McHenry, Greg Murphy and David Rouser – who all voted against it. So, it might be more honest as North Carolina legislators trot around the state with their giant checks – for them to give credit where it is really due – to those in Washington who voted for and REALLY sent the billions to North Carolina that sparked the state’s economic revival and pumped more billions back into the state’s treasury. That's the Hypocrisy Party for you: always ready to take credit for things they opposed, and blame Democrats for problems they themselves created.

THE NEWEST REPUBLICAN DEFENSE OF BAD MAPS MIGHT BE THE MOST ABSURD: To be clear, there’s little question North Carolina’s maps were created to systematically give Republicans a gross advantage in elections. A panel of three Superior Court judges conceded as much in their ruling last month, saying North Carolina’s new congressional maps are “a partisan outlier intentionally and carefully designed to maximize Republican advantage,” leading to results that are “incompatible with democratic principles.” The real question is whether that violates North Carolinians’ constitutional rights — and whether the courts can do anything about it. “We have free, we don’t have fair,” Chief Justice Paul Newby, a Republican, said to one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs Wednesday. That’s absurd. The very idea of free elections implies at least some semblance of fairness. If the outcome of an election is more or less decided before even a single vote is cast, that election can hardly be considered free. The court, and North Carolinians, shouldn’t accept unbalanced maps — maps that threaten the very idea of democracy — simply because the constitution does not explicitly contain the word “fair.” Unlike other measures that Republicans have enacted, such as voter ID laws, gerrymandering technically doesn’t prevent anyone from physically going to the polls and casting a ballot. But unfair maps deprive millions of North Carolinians — especially Black North Carolinians — of their voting voice. When the maps are designed to entrench the power of one political party over another, regardless of public opinion, people lose the opportunity to decide who represents them, rendering the principle of “one person, one vote” meaningless. No doubt they will try to slightly water-down their maps before presenting them to the same 3-judge panel who gave them the ok a few weeks ago. This isn't over folks, it's just beginning again.

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY FORMALLY DECLARES THAT TRUTH IS FICTION AND PATRIOTS ARE TRAITORS: The Republican Party on Friday took an official stand — against truth and democracy. At the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Salt Lake City, party leaders censured Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and moved to aid her primary opponent, Harriet Hageman, who is former president Donald Trump’s preferred candidate for Wyoming’s lone congressional seat. The Orwellian censure resolution accuses Ms. Cheney and fellow GOP dissident Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) of engaging in behavior “destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our republic.” Her transgression? Co-leading the House committee investigating the Capitol invasion, an act of political violence Mr. Trump inspired when he was a sitting president charged with protecting the nation from enemies foreign and domestic. The investigation, the censure resolution claimed, is “a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.” When in recent memory has the House been more threatened as when members had to barricade the doors to the chamber against a dangerous mob screaming for their blood? By insisting on a full probe and accountability for one of the country’s lowest moments since the Civil War, Ms. Cheney is waging what, within her party, is an increasingly lonely battle against those seeking to pervert the U.S. system of government for personal gain. Over the past year, Republican leaders have chosen a different course, putting in their lot with the insurrectionists. Since Jan. 6, 2021, senior party officials have gone from acknowledging Mr. Trump’s guilt to punishing those, such as Ms. Cheney, who continue to speak up about a tragedy that no American should forget. It remains to be seen what punishment former vice president Mike Pence will endure following a Friday speech in which he rebuked Mr. Trump’s claims that he could have overturned the election on Jan. 6. Republicans assailing Ms. Cheney and siding with Mr. Trump and his lies about the 2020 election are the ones who imperil the republic. By asserting, as their censure resolution did Friday, that truth is fiction and patriots are turncoats, they have exposed the dark, festering core of what their party is becoming: an unruly revolt against fact and reason that betrays the principles leaders, such as former president Ronald Reagan, championed. Reagan also hated gerrymandering, too, but you won't hear a Republican quoting him on that.

THE EPIDEMIC OF BOOK BANNINGS MUST BE READ AS A WARNING: Not far from the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin is a public square known as the Opernplatz, where, on May 10, 1933, one of the world’s most infamous book burnings occurred. German students had organized a nationwide, pro-Nazi “Action against the Un-German Spirit,” culminating in numerous book burnings. The one at Opernplatz was the largest. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s chief propagandist, addressed 30,000 eager young Nazis there, urging the mob to “consign to the flames” books that encouraged “decadence and moral corruption.” Several years later, the Nazis turned from burning books to bodies. International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed every January 27, the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp where the Nazis killed an estimated 1.1 million people. More than one million of those killed were Jews. Also killed were communists, Roma (too often referred to by the disparaging term “gypsies”), Christian pacifists, LGBTQ+ people, Soviet prisoners of war, people with disabilities, and others deemed enemies of the German Reich. As this solemn anniversary was recognized around the world this year, a startling, related news story began circulating: the McMinn County, Tennessee school board voted unanimously to ban one of the best-known memoirs of Auschwitz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” by Art Spiegelman. “Maus” depicts the experiences of Spiegelman’s parents, Vladek and Anja, before, during and after their imprisonment in Auschwitz. The comic book format casts Jews as mice and Germans at cats. Auschwitz is called “Mauschwitz.” “I am not denying it was horrible, brutal, and cruel,” board member Tony Allman said, referring to the Holocaust, according to the meeting’s minutes. “It’s like when you’re watching TV and a cuss word or nude scene comes on; it would be the same movie without it. Well, this would be the same book without it.” Continuing his critique of “Maus,” Allman added, “It shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids. Why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff? It is not wise or healthy.” Lance McConkey, a history teacher who lives in McMinn County and teaches in a neighboring district told us, “There’s no pretty way to teach the Holocaust.” I would argue that is *is* both wise and healthy to teach the truth to our children, however horrible that truth may be. It's the only way to keep those horrors from happening again.

POLICE REFORM IS NOT ENOUGH, WE NEED TO RETHINK PUBLIC SAFETY: Since the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020 unleashed what may have been the largest protest movement in U.S. history, the nation has been fiercely debating how to respond — to his horrifying death, and to those of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and so many other Black Americans at the hands of police. Some energy has been directed at accountability for specific acts, exemplified by the trial of the man charged in Floyd’s killing, former police officer Derek Chauvin, underway this month. Some has been directed at reforming police training, discipline and other policies. Several state legislatures have updated use-of-force policies and restricted or banned the use of chokeholds and neck restraints. Some departments now require police officers to intervene when they witness misconduct — a response to the other officers who watched Mr. Chauvin kneel on the neck of an unarmed man as he begged for his life. Today, community activists and law enforcement officers who see eye to eye on precious little agree on this: We rely too much on the police. From the proverbial cat stuck in a tree to an armed hostage crisis, police are the first port of call for a dizzying array of dilemmas. In the words of a former Dallas police chief, “Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. … Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem; let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. … That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.” Over-reliance on police is preventing us from imagining and investing in other public safety tools — ones that could revitalize the struggling neighborhoods that experience the most crime. There will always be emergency calls that warrant a responder who can use force, but they are surprisingly rare. In 2020, calls about violent crime — homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — made up only about 1 percent of police calls for service in many city police departments, including Baltimore, Cincinnati, New Orleans and Seattle. There will also always be murkier situations in which the presence of someone authorized to use force could prevent harm by de-escalating conflict but might also lethally escalate the situation. Even then, jurisdictions could experiment with a blended response in which civilians and law enforcement work together. Civilian responders including medics, crisis workers and others with rigorous de-escalation training could try to resolve crises while law enforcement waits nearby, out of sight. If civilian responders aren’t able to resolve the situation, they could call for backup. That capability could save lives, but again might be needed in surprisingly few cases: In 2019, out of 24,000 calls the CAHOOTS team received, police backup was requested only 150 times. We need to do something, that's for sure. When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.


TALYAH REGUSTERS: A COLLEGE EDUCATION SHOULD NOT INCUR A LIFE-LONG DEBT: I graduated from N.C. State University in 2020, during the pandemic. I wanted to go to NCSU since the sixth grade and obtaining that dream should have felt like an enormous accomplishment. But my degree still sits unframed because putting it on the wall will only be a reminder of the crushing debt that piece of paper represents. As our politicians rally their voices to warn about China overtaking our powerful global position, they do nothing to help Americans compete better on the international stage. There is no better way to protect and strengthen our nation than breaking financial shackles and providing free education. Doing so would not only instill pride back into education and into our country. My love for America is not gone, that’s why I write this letter. But to truly be proud, more must be done. Undergraduate degrees at state-supported schools should be free, if we want to give even a passing nod to the NC Constitution.

LIBBY THOMAS: ROAD-WIDENING IS NOT THE ANSWER TO OUR TRANSPORTATION PROBLEMS: I was heartened by Gov. Roy Cooper’s and Sen. Vickie Sawyer’s op-eds. Sawyer pointed out the stresses of driving and that many projects have been delayed by insufficient funding. Maybe these delays present an opportunity to revisit projects that are car-oriented, were developed years ago, and do not reflect the best use of transportation dollars for a forward-looking, safer, more equitable transportation system. We need more projects like the Durham Belt Line rail path that help knit neighborhoods together, provide active transportation options, and enhance social and recreational opportunities without leading to more car trips. Road-widening projects will lead to more car trips, less safety and more environmental damage. Why would we want more of this? The criteria for projects must be changed to prioritize the well-being of people and reverse, not just minimize, environmental destruction. Living in a near-West suburb of Chicago spoiled me on public transportation, and moving back to NC was like traveling back in time to when having a horse was critical. We had both East-West and North-South bus lines every 5 blocks or so, and an East-West passenger rail service that ran every 30 minutes. I had a car, but got rid of it after it sat for four months unused. There is no legitimate reason we can't do that here.

KEITH TOWNSEND: THESE NC LEGISLATORS SHOULD BE ASHAMED: On Nov. 23, 186 Republican legislators from across the country signed a letter demanding there should be an audit of the results of the 2020 election in all 50 states. Sixteen of these lawmakers are from N.C., including Harry Warren and Wayne Sasser, two of our own local representatives. When interviewed in the Post, Warren’s explanation for signing was that, “It’s important to understand that an inordinate number of people across the country are convinced the 2020 elections were compromised. While I don’t expect an audit to change the outcome of an election, it would provide ample opportunity to determine systemic vulnerabilities.” It seems to me what Mr. Warren may be trying to tell us is he doesn’t actually believe this nonsense, but since a large proportion of the Republican base seems to believe the 2020 election was fraudulent, it makes good political sense to play along. Besides, who knows if something could turn up? In fact, Trump and his allies have already lost 64 of 65 legal challenges in their attempt to overturn the election. It is interesting that even though the letter called for an audit of the results in all 50 states, apparently none of the N.C. signees requested that our state be included in the recount. Sasser explained it wasn’t worth the effort since “the governor would veto any bill we passed to do that.” While I’m sure his assumption is right, I doubt this is the real reason why these Republicans decided not to pursue an audit in N.C. First of all, Trump won N.C. So, why call that into question? More importantly, an audit in N.C. would challenge the legitimacy of these legislators’ own elections. My parents were children during the Great Depression and my father, like millions of other Americans, rushed off to war as soon as he could. Like many, he was only a teenager and told me once that he was afraid it might end before he could enlist. I’m sure that most, however young they were, understood they were fighting to defend our country’s freedom, and in America our freedom is dependent on a functioning democracy. That these legislators could so nonchalantly, without any objective evidence, undermine the very foundation of our democratic system is unforgivable. It is unforgivable, but that won't stop them from being re-elected. But letters like this might make that a little more difficult, so keep them coming.



GoFundMe needs to be closed down

Not sure if you're aware of what's been happening in Ottawa, but anti-vax truckers have laid siege to the Capital to protest vaccine requirements for those trying to re-enter Canada after traveling to the U.S.

Blocking traffic, blowing their air horns all night long, threatening people (especially people of color) they see wearing masks, and just generally making assholes of themselves. And ironically, they're also preventing other truckers from doing their jobs and making pick-ups and deliveries and such.

One of the main reasons this has turned into such a nasty and sustained campaign is because millions of (very likely American) dollars have poured into their GoFundMe account. I say likely because of the anonymous nature of this funding platform. That's fine if somebody needs a kidney transplant, but it's not fine when a duly elected government is being threatened and intimidated.

Sound familiar? It should. Millions in dark money funded the Jan 6 Insurrection, and uncovering that particular conspiracy has been extremely difficult. We only know a fraction of what should be public knowledge, and Trump and his co-horts have been fighting hard to keep it that way.

It's bad enough that rich Americans can threaten democratic institutions in our own country, but to finance active measures like this trucker revolt in Canada is an implicit violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and an ironic reversal of the Barbary Pirate crisis faced by our Founding Fathers in the early days of our Republic.

We (you and I) are at least partially responsible for what's happening in Ottawa right now, due to our inability to act and lack of concern when it comes to how our wealthy spend their money. Freedom is a precious right and concept, but freedom to interfere with another country's government? Nope. Freedom to restrict the freedoms and quality of life of citizens in a neighboring nation? Nope.

If we can't regulate GoFundMe and other platforms to keep this from happening, we need to outlaw them entirely.