Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


DRUG MAKERS HAVE OBLIGATION TO ADDRESS OPIOID EPIDEMIC: In 2016, for the first time, the number of opioid-related deaths in North Carolina (1,518) exceeded the number of people who died in motor vehicle crashes on the state’s roads (1,439). It is a sorry trend that doesn’t yet appear to be changing. That is not acceptable. The companies that make opioids need to be a part of the solution and pay to fix the mess they helped create. This is hardly new or cutting edge. The massive settlement with tobacco companies several years ago has helped pay for smoking cessation programs as well as establish a foundation that’s provided millions of dollars to help tobacco-dependent communities shift and revive their economies. Similar settlements have provided money for energy efficiency and land conservation initiatives. Drug manufacturers should, on their own, recognize their accountability and accept responsibility to fix the deadly mess they in a very large way created. They should work with communities and states like North Carolina to come up with settlements that provide the funding, programs and treatments to stop this deadly epidemic.

THE DEMOCRATS' GENTRIFICATION PROBLEM: The nation’s largest cities and metropolitan areas — home to a majority of Democratic voters — are at the forefront of the party’s most vexing racial, ethnic and class conflicts. Allies on Election Day, the two wings of the Democratic Party are growing further estranged in other aspects of their lives, driven apart by the movement of advantaged and disadvantaged populations within and between cities. These demographic patterns exacerbate intraparty tensions. Upscale liberal whites “who consider themselves committed to racial justice” tend to be “NIMBYists when it comes to their neighborhoods,” Cain wrote, “not living up to their affordable housing commitments and resisting apartment density around mass transportation stops.” A heated conflict has erupted within Democratic ranks in California over pending legislation (SB 827) that would override local zoning laws to allow developers to exceed height and density limits in return for an agreement to include more affordable housing units near transit hubs.

REP. FOXX'S MISGUIDED STUDENT AID BILL BETRAYS HER OWN BACKGROUND: The bill makes it tougher for many students to get, or repay, loans and is loaded with provisions appealing to narrow interests – including allowing colleges to discriminate or even forbid some social or romantic relationships under the guise of religious liberty. What it does do, a broad spectrum of high education advocates say, is cutback student loan availability – particularly to graduate students – while also scaling back increased accountability, particularly on for-profit institutions, that was put into place by the Obama administration. “It would sharply increase the costs of higher education for students and make students and taxpayers more vulnerable to predatory actors and poor performing institutions and programs,” said Peter McPherson, president of the distinctly middle-of-the-road Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

CASH BAIL SYSTEM PREYS ON, PROFITS OFF THE POOR: Under North Carolina law, money bail should be rare, ordered only when absolutely necessary to ensure public safety and the appearance of a person in court. In most cases, prosecutors should affirmatively advocate release with only a promise to return. But that rarely happens. Instead, prosecutors take an adversarial approach, reflexively demanding the full amount listed on rigid bail schedules, often without regard to the individual circumstances of each defendant. Too often, judges simply adopt the prosecutors’ demands. The result is that people are jailed solely because they do not have money. Poorer, disproportionately minority defendants are pressured to plead guilty even in cases with weak evidence. Desperate to go home, and faced with the possibility of losing jobs, missing school, or needing to care for children, it is not unusual for innocent people to plead guilty when it is their only immediate chance at freedom. Those who choose to fight their charges from jail can wait years before trial.

A PALTRY PENALTY FOR COAL ASH SPILLS: It’s much easier to pollute, and then pay a small fine when caught, than to take costly preventive steps to keep this sort of thing from happening in the first place. A analysis based strictly on costs and benefits might say to pollute away and wait to be caught. The penalty was initially even lower — $84,000 — until public comment and “further consideration” on the part of the N.C. Environmental Management Commission led to an increase, Lisa Sorg of N.C. Policy Watch reported last week. There were 21 illegal “constructed” seeps in the coal-ash basins — in which Duke Energy built a pipe or channel to allow the water to flow — so even the increased fine amounts to less than $10,000 per leak. Duke Energy generated $23 billion in revenue last year, earning $3 billion in profit, and paid its chief executive, Lynn Good, $21.4 million in 2017. A penalty of $156,000 represents less than a rounding error.


SARAH K. MCINTEE: DAN FOREST NEEDS TO HEAR A SERMON ON "ICON WORSHIP": Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is confused about what religion is. Religion is about building a community. Religion is about being respectful and listening to others. It’s about hospitality and nursing each other. When disaster strikes, like illness, losing a loved one or surviving a genocide, religion helps us emotionally deal with the horror. Religion and faith are for surviving what we can’t change. It is about acceptance, carrying hope, letting go, letting others, and letting God. Perhaps, the lieutenant governor was thinking about another concept mentioned in the 10 commandments: idolatry. Idol worship is holding onto an object or ideology too tightly. The idol comes above, and before, everything else, including community and human relationships. It turns a human being into an island – deaf, blind, and unreachable. Some examples of icon worship include: hoarding money and resources at the expense of the poor and strangers; fixation on guns at the expense of the innocent; the love of Confederate statues and power at the expense of the oppressed; and the adherence to current technology and habits at the expense of future generations.

TRINA HARRISON: WALKER MUST ADDRESS HR2 WITH THE PUBLIC: Recently an item came across my social media feed called “From Crops to Congress: A Breakfast Discussion with Rep. Mark Walker” with an Eventbrite sign up. I quickly reserved two tickets since we so rarely get to see our Congressman in a public forum. Within a day, the item had disappeared and I was told by organizers that it is now an invitation-only event with a guest list approved by Walker’s office. I have not been invited. Granted, I am not a farmer; however, I am a constituent who regularly visits our area farmers markets and rely on local food sources. My greatest concerns about H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (the Farm Bill), lie in the unprecedented partisanship of its drafting behind closed doors and in its promise to fix SNAP, which is not broken. Most folks who receive SNAP do work, especially if you look at recipients’ employment history over the course of a year, rather than a single snapshot. Folks with low wages are most likely to be intermittently employed, so if someone needs SNAP today and isn’t working, chances are they were working within the past year and will be working again. Work requirements do not lead to meaningful employment. Legislating job training programs without funding them, as this bill does, really won’t help either. A living wage would. In addition to cuts to SNAP, the bill also strips funding from farmers market programs, Rural Energy for America, conservation programs, and others, undercutting sustainable agriculture, a mainstay of families in District 6. There are benefits and subsidies to corporate agriculture, especially livestock operations, which are inherently unsustainable (just ask eastern North Carolina). I’d like the opportunity to hear the Congressman address these issues in public and I’d like to know why that opportunity was offered and then denied.

C. MILLER SIGMON, ESQ.: WHY SPLITTING NC SCHOOL DISTRICTS IS A BAD IDEA: Why after months of discussion and hearings do state lawmakers just now understand they don’t know enough to make an informed decision on how to proceed? Because this issue is a good example of the Republican leadership looking for another way to further their agenda of not supporting the public schools in North Carolina. Why is this issue to split the larger school districts being raised? How will this improve public schools? When was the last time a member of the leadership visited a public school to discuss their needs? In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” was not consistent with our Constitution. To split school districts would widen the gap between the “haves and have nots.” We have seen here in North Carolina how the consolidation of school districts has helped to accomplish the Court mandate and equalize education. How can splitting districts and thus creating more legal entities be more cost effective than the consolidated systems? This is not consistent with less bureaucracy. More districts mean more beaucracy, duplication and more money being spent – and less to go where it is needed. The leadership in the General Assenbly needs to tell their members they should not waste any more time and taxpayer money on an issue that will not help the schools and children in our state.



From the dark side

This week's loser is the News & Observer for putting this steaming pile at the top of its Opinion page:

As President Donald Trump continues to remake the Republican Party in his image, calls for last rites to be given to American conservatism are not just premature –they’re entirely wrong. Accusing Republican voters of political apostasy for supporting Trump is wrong, too. These perspectives are also evidence that the accusers are missing an intellectual and political reformation that is reshaping U.S. politics.

Blinkered by an outdated hermeneutic based on the post-Reagan right-left split, the sentinels of the conventional wisdom have been predicting the demise not just of Trump but also of the entire conservative project for more than two years now. In fairness, it’s an easy mistake to make. Who thought an obscure monk from Wittenberg would upend the medieval social and political order? Like Martin Luther, Trump is--

Cue the sound of car tires squealing to a halt. Martin Luther was not just a "monk," he received a Doctorate of Theology. To say he was "well-read" is an understatement. Trump can't read a damn fortune cookie message without handing it to an assistant to read it for him, and highlight maybe 2 words for him to ponder. But an even bigger flaw in using that analogy is glaring in its contradictory nature. Luther saw many things wrong with the Roman Catholic Church, but one of the worst was the proliferation of Indulgences, wherein people had their sins forgiven if they paid enough money to the church. Eventually it got so bad they could pay first and sin later.

Donald Trump (literally) embraces the idea of indulgences, whether it's paying off a porn star or attacking those who refuse to throw money at him or his family. The only thing he has in common with Martin Luther is his slide towards prejudice and racism as he slouches into his dotage. Continuing where I jumped in:

--an unlikely catalyst for this much-needed political reformation. Because the critics focus too much on the man and not enough on the message, their basic complaint about Trump voters has been: “You sold your principles to back a grifter for short-term political gain.” But who’s really been selling the snake oil?

Oh, we're focusing on the message, alright. It's hard not to when that man-child jumps on Twitter every single day with his selfish, self-centered, painfully naive and bitter ad hominem attacks on anybody who doesn't worship him. Which makes this clap-trap even more contemptible:

And in some ways even more significant, Trump has pushed back against the stultifying political correctness that has chilled free expression and thereby undermined the foundation of free government in the United States.

You know what? Just remove that "political" and leave it with "pushed back against correctness" and at least the first half of that sentence will be accurate. I've known some liars in my time. You know, people who would lie about everything, regardless of how trivial the matter was, simply because it had become a habit. But I've never come across a liar like Trump. He has set a whole new standard in that field.

As to the second part of that sentence, our system of government has *never* been jeopardized as much by one man as it is now. Federal departments are being run by extremists and lobbyists, numerous White House advisors have been compromised by a hostile foreign government, and our FBI is ridiculed and threatened on a daily basis for just doing its job to try to clean up that treasonous influence.

There is much more nonsense in this "article," but I have reached my limit. Needless to say, the News & Observer needs to step back and re-assess its recent shift in editorial focus. This column never should have been published, much less elevated to the top of the flagpole. Conservative voices should be given some exposure there, but a constant barrage of non-truths does a disservice to all.

The N&O must have been dazzled ...

... by the big fancy phrases like "political apostasy" and "outdated hermeneutic" to overlook the ridiculousness of comparing Internet troll Donald Trump to Martin Luther.

When I first saw this, I thought it was a rather badly conceived joke.

The author is a conservative talk show host and web site publisher that was indoctrinated into ultra-conservatism in college through a program at the Claremont Institute. Apparently, they taught him how to write term papers with a thesaurus to mask the weak arguments at the basis of what he was saying.

Too bad that NPR turns to this guy for opinion on occaision. He's really sort of a more intellectual-sounding John Bircher.

I'd give his N&O position paper a "C-". It has structure and form, but little else to distinguish it from the other generic product turned out by extreme-right think tanks, including its use of weasel words like "political correctness", “Obamacare”, and "free government" to excite the lizard brains of Trump followers.

After Trump is forced to resign from office or convicted for corruption, I look forward to Buskirk's op-ed comparing Twitter to Jesus Christ, "crucified" by the "conservative coastal elites" for bringing the "Good News" of "America First"-ism to the great unwashed (white) Republican masses.

I kinda hate that pseudo-intellectual crap

Especially when the author's conclusions are all wrong, yet are fluffed up by the verbosity.

Reminds me of the big, tall facades that hide a tiny dilapidated structure behind them. They're only impressive if you can't comprehend 3 dimensions.