Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


OIL COMPANIES SHOULD PAY WINDFALL PROFITS TAX: A month ago it was reported that ExxonMobil’s net profit more than doubled to $5.5 billion from a year earlier – and that was after taking a $3.4 billion charge from closing down its operations in Russia. Shell reports its highest profits ever and Chevron’s quarterly profit was the biggest in nearly a decade. What are these companies doing with the windfall of cash – that has come largely as a result of Russia’s unconscionable aggression in Ukraine? Why is there corporate silence instead of loud cheers of “drill baby drill?” Because oil and gas company execs are more interested in pumping up their own wealth – and that of their investors – than making sure American families can afford to get to and from their jobs, drop their kids at school, pick up groceries and take care of the other basic needs of daily life. These companies are buying back their stock and sending cash to shareholders. In other words, they are sending cash to themselves, while artificially inflating the value of their stocks. And they are artificially inflating the price of crude by not increasing production to meet demand. Their behavior needs to be modified.

THE TOUGHEST TASK: MAKING DEMOCRACIES WORK IN NC AND THE U.S.: When democracies like Germany and the United States were founded, Mounk notes, they were, to a large degree, religiously and ethnically homogenous. The U.S. “has become more diverse, but it doesn’t have a history of treating different groups of citizens equally; one group got the power and influence while other groups were excluded.” This toughest of tasks has been made the more scorching by stagnant living conditions for middle and working class citizens, grotesque economic inequality, resurgent racism, and social media use that pushes the extremes. And the demographics roll. The Census Bureau predicts the U.S. will be a “majority-minority” country by 2045. “So what we’re trying here is really very hard,” Mounk warns, “and we’ve often failed throughout American history.” And now the United States’, and North Carolina’s defining attestations are put inescapably to the test. Many, apparently, would revolt, insisting on historic privilege rather than long-declared principle; but not all of us, not even most of us. And the mission, it turns out, is of the highest order. And we might ask ourselves, even here in the Tar Heel state, did we think we could be only the heirs of freedom and not its guarantors? That we could claim only liberty’s gift and not its obligation? Haven’t we been warned that democracy is never a final achievement; it is a call to unending struggle, not a perpetually vested birthright. That the arc of moral universe bends toward justice, but only if we ourselves do the bending. It all has to do with perception. When you've been raised under privilege, true equality seems like you're losing freedom. And it's all relative. The maternal side of my family settled in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Raising cows, chickens, sorghum, along with a non-farming job (mailman, auto mechanic) just to squeak by. But there was also a Colored side of town, where things were worse. The inequity was obvious, and accepted as normal. For generations. But that's not the America we are supposed to be, is it? So we must continue the work to stamp out inequity.

HOW JOURNALISTS WRESTLE WITH THREATS TO DEMOCRACY: Journalists run into difficult questions like these every day: How to calibrate a headline on a big story like the assault of Jan. 6, 2021. How to correct misinformation when repeating it could amplify lies. How seriously to take fringe groups that might seem inconsequential now but could prove dangerous in the future. Whether and how to quote politicians who make outlandish comments for the very purpose of generating a backlash. How to cover campaigns that exclude reporters from their events or refuse to respond to basic questions. There’s no handbook for any of this, but a group of activists and academics is trying to help. A new 28-page report by Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group, proposes guidelines for news outlets to help them distinguish between “normal political jockeying” and truly dangerous conduct. Its primary author was Jennifer Dresden, a former scholar at Georgetown University who has studied democracy around the world. Dresden said she was driven by the conviction, backed by decades of research, that “authoritarianism doesn’t happen overnight.” Like a stalagmite, it develops from the slow drip of infringements on freedoms and breaches of long-standing democratic rules and traditions. That process is now well underway in the United States, she worries. I remember arguing with some friends about the NYT refraining from calling Donald Trump a "Liar." They actually did from time to time, but not every time, so that was derided as poor journalism. No. Poor journalism is catering to a certain percentage of the ideological population instead of informing everybody. We have enough of that already.

YES, LET'S TALK ABOUT "RIGHTS" IN PUBLIC EDUCATION: North Carolina Republican state legislators are advancing a proposal this spring that they’ve dubbed the “Parents’ Bill of Rights.” The bill, which as a practical matter, does precious little of substance other than to mimic some disturbing aspects of Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law, was whisked through both chambers of the General Assembly in recent weeks and, sadly, could soon be on Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk. Its absurd underlying premise is that public schools are engaged in some sort of diabolical plot to expose children to all manner of information about LGBTQ life, and even to “groom” them to abandon heterosexuality and traditional gender identities (as if such a thing were possible), and that it’s urgent for parents to be provided with the means to intervene. The truth, of course, is quite different. First off, the notion that a third-grade teacher shouldn’t be allowed to explain to a child why another child happens to have two loving moms or dads when asked is absurd on its face. But as NC Policy Watch reporters Joe Killian and Lynn Bonner explained in a story earlier today, the bill is raising numerous other alarm bells: both for educators who could be required under the bill’s vague and confusing language to “out” students to their parents, and physicians and mental health experts who fear that vulnerable kids could be subjected to all manner of inappropriate and damaging treatment if they fail to exhibit the level “masculine” or “feminine” character traits of which their parents approve. As some have noted, North Carolina is not yet on the growing list of states to have completely banned “conversion therapy” – the destructive and discredited practice whereby parents seek to prevent children from expressing a sexual orientation or gender identity of which the parents disapprove. If the bill were to become law, educators could easily find themselves in the situation in which they might be forced to contact parents to inform on kids who have confided in them – even if they had reason to fear this might lead to the child be removed from school and sent to some kind of destructive camp that would attempt, as some critics have described it, to “beat the gay out of them.” This would also inevitably lead to more suicide attempts (and successes) among LGBTQ+ youth, something we should be trying to reverse. Shame on Republicans for pushing this, knowing what it will actually do.

TRUE THREAT OF THE PROUD BOYS BECOMES CLEAR AS JAN 6 COMMITTEE HEARINGS GO PUBLIC: With Monday's 10-count superseding indictment of five Proud Boys, the group's true objectives on Jan. 6, 2021, are now clear for everyone to see — sedition. In charging the Proud Boys with seditious conspiracy, the prosecution has made clear that it views the actions of the defendants as nothing less than an attempt to overthrow America's democratic government. While the group's members and supporters attempt to frame their actions as lawful expressions of free speech or defensive actions against a spectral threat from Antifa or the left, the evidence set forth by the Department of Justice makes clear that the group's focus on that day was a violent assault on the Capitol in order to halt the democratic process taking place that day. With this latest indictment, the narrative is clear: The Proud Boys acted to prevent the transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden on Jan. 6. The evidence also shows the group itself has metastasized into a violent, fascist wing of an increasingly mainstreamed anti-democratic movement that is willing to commit violence to secure power. Recognizing this is crucial in a post-Jan. 6 environment dominated by amorphous anti-democratic, white supremacist, and anti-government movements seeking to capitalize on uncertainty and heightened societal polarization for their benefit. Concerningly, the right-wing Proud Boys also have a long and well-documented relationship with political party officials, along with an established track record for pursuing violence to benefit their political agenda. Proud Boys' mobilization in recent years has regularly intersected with the increasingly violent right-wing rhetoric popularized and mainstreamed by prominent figures in these ecosystems, who see the Proud Boys as loyal supporters of the movement willing to commit violence on their behalf. The Proud Boys, in turn, have seized upon this mainstreaming, using their newfound 'fame' to double down on recruitment and propaganda efforts. Since Jan. 6, 2021, members of the Proud Boys have felt empowered to run for political office, while some chapters have brazenly pushed their hate-filled agenda into America's local communities by intimidating local school boards. In a sign of the increasingly mainstreamed role of political violence, the very narratives and grievances put forth by the Proud Boys — listed as a terrorist entity by Canada — frequently mirrors the conspiracies propagated by elected officials. There are always going to be nationalist fanatics, we can't change that. But what we can change is is the participation of elected officials in that formula. We just did it with Madison Cawthorn, although it could be said he self-destructed due to immaturity and ignorance. Lauren Boebert is facing a Primary challenge June 28, and MTG is running against a black veteran (Marcus Flowers) in the General Election. Getting rid of them won't solve the problem, but it's a damn good start.


JOYCE ROTHCHILD: ROBINSON DOESN'T UNDERSTAND SOCIAL JUSTICE: I just read about Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s recent speech, where he regards social justice as folly. Social justice is what had made it possible for an African American man to become lieutenant governor in a southern state. I am not a Christian, but he doesn’t sound like one either. If his faith is important to him, more important than equality and social justice for all, perhaps he should change professions and become a full-time man of the cloth without imposing his ideas on everyone but the members of his flock. He's too busy trying to find his own belly-button so he can gaze at it to contemplate larger issues. Narcissism be like that.

ILENE FREEDMAN: THE GOP'S MEDICAID EXPANSION GAMBIT: I greeted the news that the N.C. Senate passed legislation to expand Medicaid with a sigh of relief. It’s been a long time coming. I urge voters not to be fooled into thinking that Republican senators had an epiphany and decided to do right. This is a calculated move to take a talking point away from Democrats this election year. The Republicans will tout this as an accomplishment, yet they’ve given N.C. citizens something they denied them all these years. They’ll ignore the thousands who died because they couldn’t afford to access better health care and treatment. Remember this in November when it comes time to vote. I think Berger only did this because he knew Moore would quash it. *If* it actually goes into effect before November, we'll deal with the nuance then. If it doesn't, they are all guilty and we should say so, and not pat some of them on the back.

LAURIE KLAUS: THE IRONY OF A CRYING BULLY: A writer recently stated they will protest the proliferation of Pride month activities and rainbows by boycotting the Pride Cannon Ballers game. He feels bullied, out of place, and uncomfortable at being a minority surrounded by people different than he is. LGBTQI+ people can empathize. Daily, our society demeans any person who doesn’t fit the “straight” mold. In-the-face or subtle, gayness is portrayed as unacceptable and genetically defective. Eyes roll at couples, people are beat up or murdered, laws are passed attempting to demean and erase loving families made up of affirming parents who do not look like lawmakers’ “desired” family unit. Daily, gays are tired of feeling out of place, unsafe and uncomfortable. Going to the store, finding a home, going to work, going to school, going to social and sporting events, shopping for clothes are all filled with a variety of cues that make plain the LGBTQI+ person is not safe there. Pride month establishes 30 days out of 365 where LGBTQI+ humanity can gather openly with the growing tide of allies in stating there is no “us” and “them,” but “we.” “We” are all human. We all deserve to live our daily lives without fear, being accepted as we are and who we are with. For the writer boycotting the game, his protest will affect just a few hours out of one month where he feels bullied. For the gay community, feeling bullied, out of place, unsafe and unwanted is a daily reality. This is what is unacceptable. Being LGBTQI+ is just as much a matter of genetics as how tall we grow. Acceptance. Love. Freedom to be. These 30 days are filled with hope for a future where people can live safely as themselves all 365 days. I am reminded of Twilight Zone (the movie) where Vic Morrow played a bigot who was repeatedly transported to situations where he was the one being persecuted (this is also where the actor and two small children died horrifically during filming when a helicopter crashed). It shouldn't take a supernatural event for somebody to (finally) feel empathy, but there are a lot more sociopaths out there than we think.



Juneteenth is coming up,

making this a good time to learn and analyze. It's always good to do those things, but especially now, with the battle over CRT raging and the pushback from racists who would continue the white-washing of history.

First off: Why is this holiday so important? Because simply winning a war was (and is) not enough to correct social injustice. Local government leaders and plantation owners in Texas sought to continue their subjugation of the (now free) slaves, relying on the poor communication of the times and manipulation of the press to blatantly violate national law. This holiday reminds us that social justice must be diligently pursued, with a unity of purpose (as opposed to fractured movements), or the status quo of dominant > dominated will survive and perpetuate.

This holiday is also a great reminder of the dangers inherent in the "states' rights" mentality. I have studied the debates and missives of the Founding Fathers for several years, and I can safely say that, while some of them were concerned about the ramifications of a strong Federal government, most of their fears have not come to pass. We are no longer a confederation of states, we are a nation, and one that is (mostly) dedicated to improving the lives and the rights of all citizens.

Yes, inequity still survives, and authoritarianism still takes the lives (especially people of color) at an alarming rate. But in most of those cases, it is local governments who are responsible for those injustices, via their city or county law enforcement agencies. Do not make the mistake of placing all the blame on Congress or the other two branches, especially if you can't find the time to vote in municipal elections.

But it takes more than just a strong Federal government to safeguard the rights of all Americans. Quoting President Biden from last year's proclamation:

On Juneteenth, we recommit ourselves to the work of equity, equality, and justice. And, we celebrate the centuries of struggle, courage, and hope that have brought us to this time of progress and possibility. That work has been led throughout our history by abolitionists and educators, civil rights advocates and lawyers, courageous activists and trade unionists, public officials, and everyday Americans who have helped make real the ideals of our founding documents for all.

This is not just an African-American holiday, it's an American holiday. It's not just about the ending of slavery, it's about the continuing struggle to stamp out classism and racism in our society. An annual reminder we must dedicate (and rededicate) ourselves to detecting and eradicating prejudice wherever it shows its ugly head. At work, at home, in our elected bodies.

Because in the absence of that effort, prejudice will grow. As it is doing now. There is no neutral ground, no safe "middle" in which to huddle. You either stand for justice or you stand for injustice. Choose wisely.