BISHOP AND CAWTHORN'S "AMERICA FIRST" PUTS FREEDOM LAST: If anyone is seeking a credible litmus test to determine if an officeholder truly believes in freedom, justice and civility, they need look no further then how they vote on aid for the Ukrainians’ defense of their homes and nation against the unwarranted and unjust deadly aggression by Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin. Two North Carolinians – Republicans Dan Bishop of Charlotte and Madison Cawthorn of Hendersonville – fail the test miserably and in doing so, demonstrate they lack the humanity and integrity to represent the state or nation. “America First” – Donald Trump’s slogan with roots in the isolationist, anti-immigration anti-Semitic slogan of opponents of U.S. involvement in efforts to oppose the aggression of the German Nazis a century ago – does not mean freedom last. America, Cawthorn and Bishop don’t seem to realize, is the world’s beacon of freedom. Their vote is a rejection of all this nation stands for. They don’t represent the real America. Cawthorn has screwed up so many times in the last several weeks it's hard to tell which controversy sunk him. I'd like to think it was his attack on Zelenskyy and not something stupid like wearing lingerie, but we can't afford to take that for granted.
WHAT ARE ABORTION FUNDS, AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT NOW? An abortion fund, in the simplest of terms, is a non-profit that helps people pay for an abortion when they need one. Here, we have Carolina Abortion Fund, which helps cover the cost of the service, transportation, lodging, and more in North and South Carolina. Right now, an abortion costs $300 at minimum in North Carolina, and it gets more expensive the further along a person is in their pregnancy. Even when taking an abortion pill, North Carolina requires the patient to visit a doctor in-person, and requires them to wait 72 hours between their initial appointment and the procedure. For some, $300 or more is inconvenient but not impossible. For others, like the 13 percent of people living in poverty in North Carolina — or even the half of the population making less than $56,000 annually — it’s a burden. Three hundred dollars is multiple shifts at many jobs and doesn’t account for the money lost if you have to take off work, buy gas, stay at a hotel, pay for childcare. CAF can’t pay for every single case in full – the fund received 4,000 requests so far in 2022 – but pledges about $260 per person on average. Right now, abortion funds are necessary everywhere, but especially in a state like North Carolina, where getting an abortion comes with extra expenses and can be hard to access. Abortion funds already struggle to meet current demand; CAF has only been able to fund 61 percent of the cases they’ve received in 2022. If North Carolina becomes one of the only states in the southeast without an immediate ban on abortion, as it likely will with the Supreme Court decision, there will be a flood of people coming into our state to get the care they need, and a flood of people who need even more money to get the transportation and lodging they need. Ideally that money should be spent getting public policy changed, but we're past that now. We need to be prepared to fund an underground railroad of sorts, to assist women in need, regardless of where they are from. Desperate times, desperate measures.
AMERICA TURNED THE GREATEST VEHICLE OF SOCIAL MOBILITY INTO A DEBT MACHINE: The working class so believed in higher education’s promise that they didn’t waver even as tuition prices rose year after year. They believed it when guidance counselors and politicians told them that going to college was the single most important thing that they could do for themselves and for their children. They believed the financial gurus who told them that theirs was “good debt,” the kind that would pay for itself in guaranteed higher wages from good jobs waiting for them upon graduation. They believed so much that when one degree was not enough to pay off the debt, millions took on additional debt for more degrees. Reasonable people made decisions based on the available information at the time, and all information from trusted sources pointed to “borrow.” If you did not want to borrow, the cost of college narrowed your practical choices. You could attend a community college, join the military, be born to a wealthy family or not go to school at all. This debt crisis is the outcome of a set of foreseeable market forces and policy decisions. Every student who took on debt under those conditions did so under circumstances that made it impossible to make better choices. No one, not even graduates who now earn a lot of money, deserved odds as bad as the ones we created. The people making the rules did not talk straight with the American people about what college debt would actually cost, how it would work and what it would mean for economic mobility. Year after year, campaign after campaign, the people in charge of the train looked us dead in the eyes and told us it was on the tracks. The only thing I would add or clarify is the author's either/or approach to community college. Both of my degreed children did their first two years in community college, then transferred into the UNC System to finish. And both ended up with a pile of student loan debt, although it would have been worse if they had not combined the two. The government should have subsidized their education from the start instead of trying to profit from it, and debt forgiveness is the logical solution to the problem.
AS DELUSIONS DRIVE U.S. POLITICS, BOOSTING EDUCATION IS DEMOCRACY'S BEST HOPE: The three veteran teachers are concerned about familiar issues: low teacher pay, rising class sizes, aging school buildings, a lack of support staff, textbooks and technology, and students’ learning loss and mental stress caused by the pandemic. But they are also worried about something new, something perhaps caused by the long neglect of public schools – the rise of willful ignorance that has made educators ”the enemy.” Former President Trump, who once declared, “I love the poorly educated,” has fueled a movement that embraces conspiracies over truth and seeks to ban books and erase uncomfortable chapters in American history from the public school curriculum. Pringle said teacher unions have long faced criticism from conservatives, but “what’s new is actually attacking teachers and support staff, threatening them, literally threatening, physically, verbally, questioning their professional judgment in terms of teaching the complete history of the state and the United States,” she said. The attacks on public schools are often cloaked as efforts to improve them by demanding more teacher accountability, labeling schools with grades A through F and tying teacher pay to student test scores. What’s not done is what’s needed: better teacher pay and more support staff and resources. Pringle is encouraging teachers to speak up about the importance of public schools to a functioning democracy. “An uneducated population will not challenge, will not be able to think critically, will not be able to problem-solve collaboratively,” she said. And that, in a nutshell, is why Republicans attack public education so vigorously--because they can remain in power only as long as ignorance prevails in the general public.
AG JOSH STEIN: BEWARE CRYPTOCURRENCY SCAMS: Scammers are always looking for what’s new and popular to strike the unsuspecting. Cryptocurrency is no exception. Scammers prey on people’s unfamiliarity with and excitement about this new product to trick victims into making a poor financial decision in a variety of different ways. Here’s what you need to know to keep your personal information and money safe. Cryptocurrency, also called crypto, is a type of digital currency. Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin or Ether, can be used to pay for some transactions or as an investment. Unlike the dollar, however, crypto is not backed by a government or bank and often swings wildly in value. Cryptocurrency transactions are not typically reversible and can be difficult to trace back to a person. As with any investment, there are risks, and you shouldn’t invest in crypto unless you have done a lot of research and are comfortable with the stakes. If anyone demands payment from you in crypto, it’s probably a scam. Because transactions in these currencies are difficult to track and lack the legal protections that traditional credit cards offer, scammers often use them to complete their schemes. Hardly any legitimate businesses require you to make a payment only in crypto. Do not respond to any communication claiming that unauthorized activity occurred on your crypto account. Scammers often try to trick people into sharing their passwords, which they can use to drain your crypto from your account. Contact the company directly using a number listed on its website to see if the communication is legitimate. Scammers are greedy and want to steal from you anything of value — your money, your personal information, or your crypto if you’ve bought some. With these tips, you can better protect yourself. If you believe that you have been the victim of a scam, report the incident to the North Carolina Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Division. Call our office at 877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at https://ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint/.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
EVA CLAYTON: WHITE SUPREMACY = DOMESTIC TERRORISM: White supremacy influenced the actions of the 18-year gunman who took the lives of 10 people in Buffalo, NY. His race-based hate was deliberately fueled by misinformation sponsored by various racist groups and condoned or ignored by too many Republican leaders. As we ask ourselves how such hatred and evil spreads so quickly, we must also admit to bearing some responsibility. Democrats, independents, moderate Republicans, and other decent Americans are also guilty because of our “apathy.” As we pray, we must pray for the courage to act. Citizens can demand that our elected leaders pass laws that protect all citizens, enforce laws against hate crimes, and ensure that those found guilty of hate crimes are charged as domestic terrorists. We must demonstrate the same courage to stand up against domestic terrorists as we do foreign terrorists. But before we can solve a problem, we must acknowledge that there is one. She is not wrong. We have tried to shrug off racists and their organizations as merely fringe actors, and debated whether they should be allowed to preach their hate from streetcorners. Or from televisions, a la Tucker Carlson. And the body count grows every year. Don't talk to me about freedom, when people of color can't go buy groceries without worrying about some white boy gunning them down. I don't want to hear it.
NIKITRA BAILEY: BRAVO ON THE APPOINTMENT OF LISA COOK: Sometimes progress does happen. That’s how I felt reading that the Senate voted to confirm Dr. Lisa Cook’s appointment to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors — a first for a Black woman. Cook’s broad experiences as an academic and renowned economist will prove valuable in this time of economic uncertainty. She also understands the barriers that people of color face — Black home buyers, in particular — who’ve been victims of our nation’s history of racist housing policy. Confirming her was a step in the right direction toward building equity in the economy. Having her voice help guide the conversation on fiscal policy will pay dividends for years to come. I would also like to make it clear that Joe Biden does more than give a "nod" to diversity. He is setting a new standard. Remember that before you take in a deep breath preparing to ostracize him for "business as usual" or some other inaccurate nonsense.
KATHLEEN MCCABE: SOME FACTS ABOUT THE BABY FORMULA SHORTAGE: Abbott Laboratories issued a recall of its infant formula products and closed its Michigan plant in February, after reports of serious bacterial infections in four infants, worsening a shortage among multiple manufacturers that began with pandemic supply issues. The shortages began in 2020 as consumers stockpiled due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Formula makers ramped up production, but then cut back in 2021 as demand slowed. Global shipping logjams have also prevented retailers from promptly restocking shelves. ( Reuters, May 17 2022). Canadian dairy products have mostly been kept out of the U.S. market for decades because the U.S. considers them subsidized. Additionally, the Trump administration, under pressure from the U.S. Dairy Council, included provisions in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to restrict exports of infant formula anywhere in the world, not just to the U.S. (freightwaves.com, Eric Kalisch, May 17 2020). The USMCA’s agricultural annex limits Canadian exports of infant formula anywhere in the world, not just to the U.S. Sean Hannity falsely identifies “pallets and pallets” of baby formula at the border amid shortages. According to CNN Business Managing Editor Alex Koppelman, the packages contained powered milk, not baby formula. The photo showed boxes of clearly labeled NIDO, which is not baby formula, it is powered milk. As i’s maker, Nestle, specifically notes, NIDO products are only intended for children over 1 year or older. (thewrap.com, Natalie Oganeyan and Rosemary Rossi, May 14 2022). When does a baby stop drinking formula? Babies should stop drinking formula at about 12 months of age. (yummytoddlerfood.com, Amy Palanjian, Jan. 3, 2022). President Joe Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act to speed production of infant formula (AP, May 19, 2022). Nearly 200 Republicans voted against bill to ease baby formula shortage. (Washingtonpost.com, Eugene Scott and Felicia Sonmez, May 19, 2022). Thank you. I don't expect the rank & file Trumpists to pay any attention, but the rest of us need to keep this in perspective.
Band on the run...
Checking Facebook this morning I was inundated by posts from friends who attended the Paul McCartney concert in Winston-Salem last night. Most were celebratory, but then I started seeing complaints about the traffic problems, and it taking 3 (or more) hours to find a parking place. Here's more:
Okay, first of all, I can't believe you paid $1,000 for tickets to a show. Talk about your first-world problems, holy shit. Don't get me wrong, I love the Beatles, and would have enjoyed seeing this concert. But even if there were ten of you at $100 a pop, that's beyond extravagant. Maybe I'm out of touch?
But aside from that, this demonstrates rather clearly that our car-based society is coming apart at the seams. It's not just a Winston-Salem (or Triad) problem; these things are happening all over the country. In my planning board meetings people complain about traffic constantly, as a reason why you shouldn't allow more people to move in. But when I bring up public transportation to these very same people, they turn up their noses and say "nobody will ride," because they don't want to ride.
What's also frustrating is piss-poor planning on the part of Wake Forest University to handle this event. They sold 36,000 tickets for this concert, but only have about 9,000 parking spots to support that. And of course having the concert on a Friday night in a major metro area was probably not the greatest choice. But the absence of a vital public transportation system is really at the heart of this problem.
Only one bus route (88) services the University campus, and that service ends about 7 p.m. So even if somebody took the train from Raleigh to Winston-Salem, they wouldn't be able to switch to a bus and go to Wake Forest University. Not to mention getting back home to Raleigh after the concert. All that needs to change. Especially in and between metros, public transit needs to run constantly.
And to keep downtown areas from being congested, park and ride lots need to be strategically placed around metros, with shuttles running every 20-30 minutes. Not just during big events, but all the time. For many reasons, but the most important being: half of the people who work in those cities can't afford to live in those cities. So until affordable housing is dealt with (maybe never), those folks are going to have to commute in large numbers from less expensive areas.
Which brings up commuter rail. I lived in a suburb of Chicago, and rode the train to work downtown for several months. Those trains ran every 25 minutes or so, and were mostly full. That was over 30 years ago, and I'm sure they're still running. Both the Triangle and the Triad need something similar, because we are past "peak car" and things will only continue to deteriorate. Don't tell me why we "can't" do it, because we must do it. And the sooner the better.
Understand, we can't fight growth. It's happening, all along the I-40/85 Corridor. I don't care if you're NIMBY, YIMBY, or WIMBY (It's even more confusing), public transportation is a critical element of our future, and demands our attention and investment now. Not next year, or 2030, right now.