Sunday News: From the Editorial Pages


SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS. STOP BLOCKING LEANDRO REMEDIAL PLAN:: While Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore have never challenged the court’s findings as to whether school kids are getting access to the quality education they are promised, they have contended that no court can force funding of the plan that’s been agreed to by the disputing parties. As to Cooper’s budget proposal, Berger passed it off with a string of cliches, calling it “an irresponsible, unserious proposal from a lame-duck governor who wants … to go on a reckless spending spree.” Moore offered up more of the same empty partisan rhetoric. “Gov. Cooper’s budget proposal takes the same reckless approach to spending that his fellow Democrats have taken in Washington.” Instead of addressing our state’s long unmet and neglected obligations, the two legislative leaders continued promoting more tax cuts for corporations. Moore and Berger have even gone to court claiming no one can force the legislature to appropriate money to implement the education quality program. All of which begs the most fundamental question here. Since Berger and Moore haven’t challenged the repeated findings that children are being denied their constitutional right to a quality education, what is their plan to do their sworn duty to uphold the constitution? Crickets. That's their plan, to do absolutely nothing. They've gotten away with it for years, and instead of punishing them, the voters have given them even more power with which to be irresponsible. And now the voters have given them the power to gerrymander their votes into obsolescence. A flock of sheep comes to mind, but at least those animals occasionally try to escape.

NC MUST DEFEAT BILL TO KICK KIDS OUT OF SCHOOL FOR MINOR VIOLATIONS: Last week a school discipline bill (House Bill 188) was debated in the K-12 Education Committee. As a former judge specializing in juvenile court it is extremely troublesome that young students could be long term suspended from school for minor misbehaviors. This draconian measure must be stopped. The bill does nothing to suggest ways to address the underlying reason children are having discipline problems. There is no mention of: Increasing staff like teachers’ assistants or special education programming; Addressing disabled students’ behavioral health needs; Reducing class size; Adding school social workers to identify and address possible domestic problems. Instead, it encourages schools to take students with even low-level challenging behaviors, like cursing or dress code violations, out of the equation altogether via long-term suspension. Yes, in the short-term, kicking kids out of school may make our classrooms look a little prettier and sound a little quieter. In the long run, it is ineffective and wholly counter-productive for the children. The argument underlying this movement is that a lack of discipline in schools is causing the “demise of our civilization,” the “crumbling of our society.” But “discipline” comes from the Latin word disciplina -- meaning “instruction and training.” The answer to a lack of discipline, then, is more instruction not less. Now more than ever, when child suicide, depression and youth involvement in the justice system are the rise, North Carolina’s policy leaders must step toward our children, not away. Our state has a legal obligation to teach all its students. Not just the well-behaved ones, not just the ones with loving parents, not just the well-fed, clean ones, not just the sweet, quiet ones, but ALL students. This obligation goes back to the days of yore, when truancy officers pounded on doors and dragged the little rascals back to their desk. Today, just like back then, the kids itching to get out of school were usually the challenging ones. But we hold them tight, because children who are removed from schools do not stand a chance. It will also likely backfire on these ill-informed lawmakers, because in the minds of many borderline students, a 10 day vacation from classes is more of a temptation than something to avoid.

A TERRIBLE BET: NC SHOULD NOT CAVE TO THE SPORTS BETTING ONSLAUGHT: North Carolina elected leaders have enacted several ineffective and misleading laws over the years, but when it comes to undermining public confidence in government and taking advantage of vulnerable people, the badly misnamed “education lottery” has to be near the bottom of any “worst of” list. The lottery – which became law in 2005 after surviving some close and sketchy votes in the General Assembly – was sold to lawmakers and the public as harmless entertainment that would provide a magical boon to the state’s public schools. Indeed, lottery ads still promote this fiction. But it never was such a thing. Not only have thousands of North Carolinians of modest means thrown away huge sums on losing bets, but per-pupil education funding has steadily declined as lawmakers quickly learned how to redirect dollars that the regressive lottery tax was supposed to supplement rather than supplant. Now, sadly, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers wants to double down on this losing bet with an even more dangerous and exploitive proposal: legalized sports betting. Under a bill introduced in the state House this week, North Carolina would plunge head-first into murky and toxic waters by transforming millions of cellphones, tablets, laptops and PCs into 24-hour-a-day casinos. As with the lottery, this push is being driven by the multi-billion-dollar gambling industry and neatly packaged for lawmakers by a fleet of handsomely paid lobbyists as wholesome fun that will provide a windfall in tax revenues for state coffers. Prohibition of drugs like alcohol and marijuana has always been a proven failure, but that doesn’t mean society should start dispensing those products from public vending machines either. And so it is with gambling. For well over a century, both American government and sports have done just fine while keeping powerful gambling interests at arm’s length. Now is no time to change those arrangements. At the end of the day, state-sponsored gambling is the single biggest regressive tax that exists. I see it every day going to get my lunch coffee at the quickie mart. Low income folks buying $40-$50 in scratch-offs or Pick 4s, after cashing in $5-$10 in winnings from their previous batch. Lawmakers should be looking hard at stopping this, not expanding it exponentially.

IF BANKS WANT FEDERAL RESCUE, THEY SHOULD ACCEPT FEDERAL REGULATION: Question: What is a socialist? Answer: A libertarian tech bro who had money in Silicon Valley Bank. There is nothing funny about the second-biggest bank failure in the nation’s history, which has roiled financial markets at a time when the economy is already unsettled. It is richly ironic, though, to hear luminaries of the tech sector, after years of complaining that “big government” was the problem, suddenly clamoring for massive federal intervention and largesse. I’m talking about people such as David Sacks, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist who is a member of the so-called PayPal mafia, a group of founders and early employees that includes bombastic anti-government billionaires Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. On Twitter, Sacks has railed against “profligate spending and money printing coming out of Washington” and the evils of what he calls “Bidenomics.” But on Friday, Sacks was frantically calling for big government to come to the rescue of Silicon Valley Bank. He tweeted: “Where is Powell? Where is Yellen? Stop this crisis NOW. Announce that all depositors will be safe. Place SVB with a Top 4 bank. Do this before Monday open or there will be contagion and the crisis will spread.” And I’m talking about people like another Musk confidant, investor Jason Calacanis, who was tweeting along the same lines on Saturday, but in all caps: “YOU SHOULD BE ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED RIGHT NOW – THAT IS THE PROPER REACTION TO A BANK RUN & CONTAGION. @POTUS & @SecYellen MUST GET ON TV TOMORROW AND GUARANTEE ALL DEPOSITS UP TO $10M OR THIS WILL SPIRAL INTO CHAOS.” Shorter version: I want my big-government rescue, and I want it now. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen acted decisively on Sunday, assuring the failed bank’s depositors that they would have immediate access to all of their funds, not just the $250,000 guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It was the right move, and with a suite of other measures has been successful — so far — in preventing what could have been a catastrophic run on regional banks. But these steps could only have been taken by a great big government with enormous resources and the willingness to use them for the common good. It turns out that “profligate spending and money printing” aren’t always such bad things after all. And neither is prudent, effective government regulation. In 2010, following the financial crisis and the Great Recession, President Barack Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Act establishing a comprehensive set of new rules for how banks could operate and how they would be scrutinized. In 2015, Greg Becker, the chief executive of SVB — which he was until last Friday, when the bank collapsed and he was fired — joined lobbyists asking Congress to weaken mandated safeguards for “mid-sized” banks such as his. Congress complied by passing a deregulation law signed by President Donald Trump in 2018. And there you have it. Just like the East Palestine train derailment, Donald Trump is the one responsible for this most recent banking crisis. He shouldn't need to be indicted to keep him out of the 2024 Presidential race, he should be laughed off any stage he can drag his fat-ass onto. But (apparently) half of Americans are idiots, so...

REFLECTIONS ON ONE YEAR OF WAR IN UKRAINE: On the morning of Feb. 24, 2022, I woke up in a small apartment in central Moscow. I had arrived only a few weeks before, elated to conduct archival research, meet new colleagues and see old friends. But as soon as I saw the morning’s headlines, all my aspirations crumbled. Scenes of military helicopters launching missiles on Ukrainian airfields and downtown Kyiv seared themselves into my brain. I was far from alone in wondering how this could have happened – not out of naivety that Vladimir Putin held a shred of respect for Ukraine, but with a clear understanding that there was no endgame. Ukraine was – and remains – its own country inhabited by people who would risk everything to resist Russian imperialism. The new realities of war forced me to confront new challenges, a few of which I share here to shed light on some of the larger ramifications of this conflict as we mark its one-year anniversary. Most immediately, I had to leave Russia. Within 48 hours of the initial invasion, I packed my bags, vacated my apartment and boarded a plane to Istanbul – one of the few international flights still available. My departure was easy and transitory, but for millions of Ukrainians and several hundred thousand Russians, displacement has become a way of life. Thanks to ad hoc and relatively welcoming policies for wartime refugees, Ukrainians have found temporary residences primarily across Europe and the Americas. For very different reasons – opposition to their own government, threats of imprisonment and fear of being coerced into military service – some Russians, too, have joined the ranks of their own diasporas in Almaty and Amsterdam, Tbilisi and Tel Aviv. As the war continues to unfold, Ukrainian refugees will rely on allies’ "temporary" support systems while myriad short-term visa regimes will test anti-war Russians’ resourcefulness. A deep, intractable uncertainty has haunted the 365 days that have now passed since the first February 24. My questions are professional and personal. What use are nuanced histories of a Russia that only confirms the worst stereotypes of its own brutality and thuggishness? How do I process my feelings of betrayal by people whom I know to be better than this? While facing far more dire uncertainties in their own lives, Ukrainians, Russians and everyone entangled in this horrid mess also face broader questions. How long can this war of attrition and mass destruction continue? What will finally bring an end to the war – irresolution from Ukraine’s allies, a violent and chaotic coup in Russia or some as yet unseeable alternative? And, depending on the resolution of this conflict, how will Ukrainians and Russians rebuild themselves, their countries and their futures? As we commemorate the first of potentially several February 24ths, I do not offer any concrete answers to these questions. Still, I remind readers that it is absolutely vital we remain committed – in spirit and practice – to supporting Ukraine and Ukrainians, opposing Russian violence and working together to build a brighter, more livable future. I too was caught completely by surprise. I studied Russia (not as extensively as the author above, but considerably more than most Americans), wrote a couple of long papers in college, and seeing them mimic Soviet behavior and tactics is a gut-punch I was not prepared for. The author is correct that we must be resolute in our support of Ukraine, or Putin and his henchmen will target other countries for the same treatment.


LAURA STILLMAN: END THE ANTI-ABORTION MADNESS: Regarding “GOP lawmakers allowed to join lawsuit over abortion pill laws,” (March 13): Legislative leaders Phil Berger and Tim Moore continue to make it worse for women in North Carolina. Not only are they hell-bent on introducing greater abortion restrictions, but now they want to force women to ignore FDA guidelines on abortion pills. They want to require women to take the first pill in-person at certified facilities and to wait 72 hours before doing so, neither of which the FDA requires. Would they require those who get a prescription for Viagra to take the pill in-person? The FDA has spoken on what is safe. And North Carolina’s attorney general, Josh Stein, agrees. FWIW, the NC GOP doesn't give two little shits about what is "safe" for women. This is just one more vehicle to oppress them, and deny them the freedom to choose.

SUSAN DIETZ: BOOK BANS ARE AN EVIL WE CAN'T IGNORE: Regarding “Books on race and sexuality are among the most targeted in NC schools, survey finds,” (March 15). Four individuals have lodged almost 90% of school book complaints in this state. They have not all been successful, but some have. Don’t all parents have the right to know what books others are trying to take away from their children? I advocate that every time someone wants a book reviewed, a letter should go out to parents in that school or district so they can review the book and offer their opinions regarding the request. I want no books restricted at the library. When my child was young, I didn’t let her read the books that I felt were not appropriate for her age. That is good enough. We live in a democracy — don’t let the few take away our rights. When a handful of parents believe they can speak for all parents, and government officials let them, you've already crossed the line into an oppressive and bent society. It's time to put our collective foot down.

DEBRA TEPLIN: ABORTION *IS* HEALTH CARE: As the North Carolina legislature begins its session, instead of increasing abortion restrictions it should be focused on making abortion more accessible in this state. Abortion has been widely studied and shown to be eminently safe. But adding an arbitrary ban after a certain gestational age, as well as putting impediments in the path to obtaining a procedure, not only is economically harmful to women but also increases the risks of problems. The mandatory 72-hour waiting period in North Carolina presumes that, with the “correct” information, a woman will change her mind and choose to continue the pregnancy. Sixty percent of women seeking an abortion are already mothers, so they well know their options — and only they know their life circumstances. As a former abortion and family planning provider, I can attest to the fact that most women know right away what they want to do. Sometimes these decisions are easy; sometimes they are more difficult — but, bottom line, they should be made solely by the woman and her health care provider, not politicians. Abortion is health care; bans and restrictions are unwarranted, unjust and downright harmful. Again, they don't really care about the health and safety of women, they only care about perpetuating patriarchal control. And they would be ashamed of themselves if they could actually feel shame.



The funnies...


Yikes, indeed.

Nail on the head, Kevin.

Pizza pizza.

***I just saw this, and had to add it: