Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


IT'S TIME TO STOP. NOTHING "FICTIONAL" ABOUT JAN 6 INSURRECTION: Phil Berger can’t have it both ways – as he seems to try to do during his meandering reply to reporter Travis Fain’s question about the Jan. 6 committee hearings. In one breath, Berger says: “I generally steer away from fictional readings … What’s going on there is an effort to paint a picture that is an exaggeration, in many respects, of what happened. And, clearly, in many respects it is an exaggeration of what, or maybe even just a fictional account what someone’s perceptions is of people’s motivations.” He suggests that in 2000, Democrats did the same thing. While Democratic nominee Al Gore’s campaign sought a detailed recount of the close results in Florida, Gore also, on Dec. 13, 2000, conceded the election to George W. Bush. Democrat Hillary Clinton, in the early-morning hours after Election Day 2016, conceded to Trump. It was an act of faith in the law and our nation that American’s have yet to see from Republican Donald Trump. Aside from the fact that we all watched the insurrection as it took place, the most damning testimony dealing with "motivations" has come from within the Republican Party fold; a brilliant move by Congressional Dems. And just like with gerrymandering, Berger's, "Democrats did it too!" falls flat for lack of relevance.

IRISH EYES AREN'T SMILING: During the repeal debate, I had dinner in Dublin with prominent women from both sides of the issue. It got passionate. Una Mullally, a columnist for The Irish Times, was there that night, making the case for repeal. I talked to her on Thursday, curious to see what she thought about Ireland and America swapping roles: Ireland growing less benighted; America more so. Ireland less influenced by the dictates of the Catholic Church; America more influenced, reflecting the views of the five right-wing Catholics on the Supreme Court and Neil Gorsuch, an Episcopalian who was raised Catholic. Ireland once had too much church in the state. Now America does. “I thought, ‘That’s it,’” Mullally recalled. “People thought there was this American dream but it’s clearly becoming more of an American nightmare.” She is mystified at the weak response of President Joe Biden and the Democrats, calling it “appeasement” and “magical thinking,” given that Trump and the Republicans had spent years loading the courts with conservatives who were restricting abortion. “Democrats saying, ‘Women’s rights are on the ballot’ and ‘Vote in November!’ is offensive,” she said. “This is not about votes for your party. Nothing is as important as bodily autonomy. And November? This happened in June. People should be out on the streets. Rape victims are crossing state lines.” That includes the horrifying case of the 10-year-old in Ohio who was raped and had to travel to Indiana to get an abortion. I understand the cause of such frustration. But frankly, it's "magical thinking" to believe this can be fixed outside of the political system. Una should ask some of her friends in Sinn Féin about the effectiveness of marching in the streets to get what you want, as compared to taking the political route. The truth is, the November election in the U.S. is going to determine both national and state policies on abortion, and every single vote is precious.

JLF IS FILMING A "LOVE STORY" ABOUT 1898 WILMINGTON MASSACRE: The John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank, announced it is shooting a short film about the “little-known” Wilmington Massacre, a white supremacist coup d’état that occurred in North Carolina in 1898. The film, titled “In the Pines,” will depict the 1898 insurrection through a “captivating, fast-paced love story.” Because apparently, we need to romanticize white supremacy and murder. John Locke claims it is making the film because “understanding history is critically important, regardless of how difficult or uncomfortable it might be for one group or another.” Which is ironic, considering the foundation’s fervent pearl-clutching when it comes to teaching about racism and history in schools (they call it “wokeism” and “indoctrination”). The way to reckon with our history is not by fictionalizing it, or by pretending like it’s completely behind us. We still see attempts to suppress the political power of Black citizens through election laws and gerrymandering. We still see state-sanctioned violence against Black people. We still see white backlash to progress — backlash that sometimes turns violent. To tell the story of Wilmington without acknowledging the many parallels between our past and present won’t stop us from repeating it. What happened in 1898 wasn’t a love story, and it’s absurd and callous to rewrite it as such. There’s nothing romantic about institutionalized racism. And most of all, we shouldn’t care about it simply because it was an “important historical event.” We should care about it because it was a violently racist insurrection that made North Carolina a white supremacist state — the remnants of which are still present today. How very Gone With The Wind of them. They always have an agenda, and white-washing history is one of their faves. That being said, this is also an opportunity for them to attack the Democratic Party, and it being a "period" piece they won't have to even consider how the two parties have switched roles since then.

*Edited to add characters from their casting call:

Scarlett Manning: the daughter of black newspaperman Williford Manning. She came of age in post-Civil War era Wilmington where blacks were predominantly middle class, prosperous and equal to whites. She is scarred deeply when the Democrats' "Campaign of White Supremacy" succeeds in dividing her white and black neighbors. Her friends abandon her, violence erupts, and she sees her entire world destroyed. As the tragic night of destruction unfolds, she makes one last attempt to push back against the evil that has taken hold of her city.
Ethnicity: Black / African Descent

Ashleigh Jordan: is the daughter of Democrat media baron Josiah Jordan. However, she's fallen in love with Sam, who works for her father's hated enemy. Ashleigh wants nothing but to leave Wilmington with Sam and escape the confines of her father's estate. She cares nothing for her father's newspaper rivalries nor his desire to gain favor with the Democratic Party elites. While Scarlet may envy the love between Sam and Ashleigh, Ashleigh is intensely jealous of the relationship Scarlett has with her own father. Ashleigh might suspect a history between Scarlett & Sam, but she learns that horrible night, Scarlett is her one and only friend.
Ethnicity: White / European Descent

Sam Murray: is the child of Irish immigrants. He grows up dirt poor and loses his parents in an accident but finds a new lease on life when Williford Manning takes him in as a printing apprentice. He quickly becomes one of Manning's most dedicated workers, but he falls hopelessly in love when he meets Ashleigh. Sam is torn between his love for Ashleigh and his dedication to the man who saved his life. Instead of eloping with Ashleigh, he returns to help Manning during the night of violence even though doing so may jeopardize his life.
Ethnicity: White / European Descent

Willford Manning: a stoic entrepreneur and newspaper editor, the owner of the only black daily in the nation. He took advantage of everything he could during the reconstruction era to create a harmonious and prosperous life for his family. But, when Josiah Jordan aligns his massive media operation with the Democrat Party's anti-black propaganda agenda, Manning stands as the sole voice of reason, truth, and accountability. With the help of Scarlett and Sam, he becomes a thorn in the Democratic Party's side as the only thing standing in their way toward total control of North Carolina.
Ethnicity: Black / African Descent

Josiah Jordan: equally as clever and entrepreneurial as Williford Manning but massively more successful, Josiah's ambitions toward power derail him morally. His desire for success has aligned him with the Democrats, and he uses his massive newspaper operation to help them create a race war. When his only daughter learns of the nature of his business dealings, she rejects him. He is enraged at what he perceives as her betrayal.
Ethnicity: White / European Descent

Old Scarlett: narrates the film. In the years since the tragedy at Wilmington, she has come to terms with the past. Old Scarlett is not angry but clear-minded. She takes things as they come, at face value. So when a left-leaning documentary producer tries to hew her interview responses to fit a party agenda, she is not as irritated as she is amused. The film crew interviewing her reminds Scarlett of ghosts from her past - the Redshirts. Note: Old Scarlett is in her 80s but we will make up a younger actress.
Ethnicity: Black / African Descent

Good Lord. Their agenda here is blatantly obvious: attack Democrats and create (out of thin air) white heroes to admire. I think I'm going to be sick...

A SALISBURY WOMAN TAKES DOWN THE HOG BARONS: In a letter promoting his new book, “Wastelands; The True Story of Farm Country on Trial,” for use in college and law school classes, the book’s author, Corban Addison, explains how he learned about Wallace and her efforts. “Three years ago, a friend called me and told me a story that sounded almost too good to be true. It was about a lawyer he knew, a woman named Mona Lisa Wallace from his hometown in North Carolina.” Addison‘s Salisbury-connected friend is best-selling author John Hart, whose most recent novel is “The Unwilling.” Addison continues, “In 2013, Mona took up the banner of a rural community ‘down east,’ as the locals call it, a community comprised of mostly Black people of modest means. Over the course of a generation, that community had seen its ancestral land—as well as its air and water—degraded by pollution from factory farms tied to the world’s largest hog producer, Smithfield Foods. They had agitated for change, but the change never came. Not until Mona took Smithfield to court. Her mass action required seven years to litigate. It sparked rallies in the streets, a firestorm on social media, death threats to the lawyers, witness intimidation, and an attempt by the industry’s bedfellows in the state legislature to modify the centuries-old definition of nuisance retroactively to prevent the lawsuits from ever reaching a jury. Notwithstanding these headwinds, Mona and her co-counsel persisted, bringing five cases to trial and winning five plaintiffs’ verdicts.” All the work paid off in trials in a Federal District Court, but the defendant appealed the verdict to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Although one judge dissented, the panel of three judges, including conservative J. Harvie Wilkinson, voted to assure Smithfield’s loss. I'm not a big fan of non-fiction, but I may have to read this one.

NC ELECTIONS BOARD WAS RIGHT TO REJECT A REPUBLICAN BID AIMED AT "ELECTION SECURITY": On July 14, the North Carolina State Board of Elections refused a request from the N.C. Republican Party to implement a new “election security” measure that research shows would have had the opposite effect. It would have thrown out legal absentee votes without providing significant benefit to election security. The State Board of Elections (SBOE) followed the facts and rejected this anti-voter proposal. But, unfortunately, the N.C. GOP is considering appealing the decision to the courts. That would be a mistake. Absentee voters in North Carolina already have to take significant steps to prove their identities, namely by finding either two witnesses or a notary public who can verify their ballot. The Republican Party asked the SBOE to allow counties to take one more step to verify ballots by having election workers match voter signatures to the signature file on record. While this might sound like a sensible layer of additional security, our research at VoteShield demonstrates that it actually throws out legal votes without identifying significant cases of fraud. First, research overwhelmingly demonstrates that election workers will not be able to effectively identify fraudulently signed ballots. Even trained handwriting experts cannot reliably identify fraudulently signed signatures. Research also suggests that even if experts conducted signature matching, only 1 in 167 ballots identified as having non-matching signatures are likely to be fraudulently signed. The remaining 166 would be “false-positives” — legitimate voters whose ballots would have a good chance of not counting. Second, signature matching will introduce inconsistency across precincts and elections, and result in voters being treated differently for arbitrary reasons. Our comparison of the 2020 Georgia general election and 2021 Senate runoff demonstrates such a lack of standards. Finally, the processes put in place to allow voters to fix or “cure” their incorrectly rejected ballots would impose even greater burdens on already taxed local election administrators — not to mention voters — during a time when the public expects prompt, accurate reporting of results. And that last part puts the lie to the GOP's seeming concern for rapid results, which they used to justify rejecting mail-in ballots that arrive after election day. They would do away with voting entirely if they could, but reducing the number of eligible votes will have to suffice.


ROBIN NEWMAN: VOTE FOR GUN SAFETY THIS NOVEMBER: After five fatal shootings in Raleigh in a week and a Little League tournament in Wilson interrupted by gunfire, we do not need another gun advocate in Congress or the statehouse. We need common sense protections for our children and families. As citizens, it’s our duty to end the horrific slaughter of our school children, neighbors and those just going about their lives. This insanity must end. Are we a nation that will allow the sacrifice of our kids, moms and dads, brothers and sisters to gun violence just so some can enjoy owning weapons of war? This November, I hope we send a clear message to our elected officials by voting for those who pledge to enact stricter protections from gun violence for us all. It is my hope as well, but considering people like Kidwell and Hanig keep getting re-elected, I'm not confident in the voters to follow through on that.

DOLORES BANKS: BERGER SHOULD BE ASHAMED: North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger recently likened the Jan. 6 hearings to “fictional readings.” It is unbelievable that a person who is elected to make laws for North Carolina continues to make up things that the whole world has seen and heard. But he closes his eyes and ears to truth. Jan. 6, 2021 was a horrible day for this nation. It is a shame that we have to continue to hear this garbage from our state representatives. Berger is the master of Kabuki theatre; a false show of support for expanding Medicaid, contradictory statements about Donald Trump, it's all part of the show.

JERRY GOODNIGHT: WE MUST ACTIVELY OPPOSE HATE: Silence begets silence. In our political and educational landscape, there are more “buzz words” that trigger extreme responses than ever before. In our state (and even in our area), attempts are being made to prevent your students, your children, from truly learning. In America today, our political and economic landscape serve as major manipulative factors. School boards, ransacked by political extremism, resort to banning books and removing key words like “systemic” to whitewash a historical narrative that might provide insight into the dangerous world we have built for our posterity. We cannot pick and choose what history to teach, what narratives to tell, or what rights to honor. It is no longer good enough to fight against bias — we must be actively objective when we can. It is no longer good enough to not be racist — we must be actively anti-racist. It is no longer good enough to not use hateful language — we must be actively anti-hate. It is no longer good enough to be silently accepting of the LGBT community — we must be actively pro-LGBT and actively against their close-minded detractors. As parents or teachers, we spend time wrestling with our personal convictions as it relates to the young people under our charge. Our convictions must direct us to counter hate and ignorance in all of its manifestations. Ignoring this problem, silence in the face of hate, whitewashing, and conservative, unyielding traditionalism constitute a moral failure that amounts to complicity. And when we are complicit in the failures of our country, we have made the choice for our children to inherit a world less than what they deserve. What Jerry said. The days for silence are over.



Stop bashing Brittney Griner.

I've seen it from the right, the left, and the middle (if that even exists anymore). It seems that everybody can find a reason to not be concerned about her situation, when we should all be appalled.

"But Steve, why was she in Russia in the first place? To make money?"

Not that it really f**king matters, but yes. She went where the work was, which is something many people are forced to do. She was arrested a week before Russia invaded Ukraine, and if you don't see the significance of that, look again. The two events are intricately connected, making her arguably the first prisoner of war.

"But why did she carry drugs with her?"

This is her sixth year traveling back and forth to Moscow, and complacency is something we all are guilty of, from time to time. And some hash oil in vape cartridges (obviously for personal use) should not be conflated with drug smuggling, especially by people with whiskey decanters on a fricking sideboard.

"We should be equally concerned about people jailed in the U.S. for marijuana."

I don't disagree with this observation, unless it is used as an excuse to dismiss Brittney's predicament. Or to distract from it. It's not a zero-sum game, you can advocate for both.

"There are others incarcerated in foreign countries who are more deserving of our concern."

You mean, people who aren't a Black Lesbian Woman With Tattoos? I'm not accusing anybody reading this of using a bigoted lens, but I also have no doubt that these factors come into play. Not just with white people, but African-Americans as well. I've heard it. Seen it. And read it:

Russian prisoner and WNBA star Brittney Griner is no hero contrary to what her wife and the Rev. Al Sharpton opined. Although her plight has been turned into a political circus and she’s the pawn in a chess match between superpowers, I don’t feel one bit of sympathy for her situation. Ms. Griner and all of her tattoos have been playing in Russia for seven years, so she’s well aware of that country’s laws she’s a guest in.

That's Kenny Hardin, a Black journalist who has fought against racism for years. But it appears he needs to work on his sexism and gender diversity a little harder.

Brittney is a pawn in the U.S.- Russia standoff, but she should not be a pawn in our debates about Progressive policy. She is in very real danger right now, and not just because of some vape cartridges. LGBTQ rights in Russia have deteriorated a great deal under Vladimir Putin's rule, and he's used bigoted propaganda to strengthen the uber-nationalism of Russian youth.

We need to bring her home before it's too late.