Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


LEGISLATORS' PLOTTING TO SOW DYSFUNCTION IN GOVERNMENT MUST END: Purposefully creating dysfunctional local boards of elections by making them four member boards (two Republicans and two Democrats). In Wake County, Republicans seeking to depress the vote of young people, oppose a voting site on the N.C. State University campus – where there are always very high turnouts. The local board split 2-2. Now the battle goes to the state board – and perhaps even to the courts. Similar dysfunction has infected election boards in Orange, Guilford and Forsyth counties.Shouldn’t legislators be working toward building systems that can develop consensus, resolve differences and make decisions? Shouldn’t board of elections be working on ways to make it as easy as possible to get the most citizens to vote? Apparently not in North Carolina.

SHRINKING PUBLIC SCHOOLS REFLECT THE STATE'S NEGLECT: What’s happening in North Carolina is that a concerted effort by the Republican-controlled General Assembly is starving public schools of resources and encouraging the expansion of educational options that lack standards and oversight. Traditional public schools are the most effective way to create an educated public. Diminishing them shortchanges the 80.8 percent of North Carolina schoolchildren who attend traditional public schools and it undermines the goal of broadly educating the public to support a strong economy and an effective democracy. There’s nothing wrong with school choice itself. Parents have chosen to send their children to private schools and religious schools since schools have existed. But it is wrong to encourage the expansion of school choice by making traditional public schools less effective and less attractive.

HOLD TRUMP ACCOUNTABLE FOR HIS SERIAL DISHONESTY: The world has become numbed by President Donald Trump’s casual relationship with the truth. Just as troubling as is Trump’s serial lying is the failure of those we elect to hold him accountable. How distant is Donald Trump’s relationship with the truth? The president of the United States has offered up false or misleading claims an average of 6.5 times daily since entering office, according to The Fact Checker. During a single speech on July 5 in Montana, 76 percent of the 98 “factual” statements from the president were false, misleading or lacked any supporting evidence. Of 578 Trump statements that PolitiFact has checked, 486 –84 percent – have been rated half true, mostly false, false or “pants on fire.” He has been anointed the “King of Whoppers” by Donald Trump’s torrents of untruthfulness haven’t been a campaign convenience or passing blip. It is unrelenting. He – and his enablers – are unaccountable and unapologetic. He is demeaning the office of President of the United States.

HOG INDUSTRY DOESN'T WANT NUISANCE SUITS? TRY NOT BEING A NUISANCE: A prime example of phony victimization could be found Tuesday at a rally in Duplin County. That’s where backers of the hog industry turned out small farmers and residents to protest nuisance lawsuits against industrial hog farms. Gathering folks in jeans with signs reading “I’m a fan of NC family farms” is part of an effort by Republican lawmakers and officials to cast the nuisance suits as an attack on small farmers. But the lawsuits aren’t aimed at family farmers growing soybeans, corn and sweet potatoes. They’re aimed at a Chinese-owned multinational corporation, Smithfield Foods, which is content to treat swaths of eastern North Carolina as cesspools until it’s forced to do otherwise. The neighbors, often African-American and lower income, have had to cope with reeking hog waste ponds, increased flies, vermin and sprayed liquid waste that sometimes splatters the sides of their homes.

MANGRUM CASE WAS A LONG ROAD TO THE RIGHT DECISION: Board Chairman Andy Penry’s motion to overturn the county ruling carried primarily because a majority of the members said they didn’t think the earlier board had evidence to substantiate its ruling. Nay voters seemed to focus on the fact that Mangrum had not “abandoned” her prior home, as cited by law. Frankly, comments after the hearing in May had raised significant questions about why all of this had to continue anyway. The evidence against Mangrum was circumspect, and at least one board member cited the possibility that Mangrum might reunite with her husband as a deciding factor. Is that important? Mangrum may appear the winner here, but the real winners are the voters of District 30. They have the opportunity now to assess the issues and the viewpoints from a full slate of candidates. There will be opportunities for debates, too, and those would well serve constituents. There has been too much delay already because of the one debate we didn’t need: This politically driven argument played out before the elections boards.


KIMBERLY ISRAEL: VOTER ID IS A SOLUTION TO A NONEXISTENT PROBLEM: The voter ID amendment that will be on the ballot in November includes no information about what kind of ID will be accepted. If it passes, the details will be decided by the legislature. Expecting people to vote on an amendment with no knowledge of how it would be implemented is characteristic of a party that finds it acceptable to write a budget in secret and refuse to make changes in light of discussion. We don’t need government transparency, however, to predict the likely results of this amendment. At best, it will be challenged and the state will spend our tax money defending it in court instead of improving our schools or providing health care to the poor. No one has ever been charged with in-person voter fraud in North Carolina, but proposing a law to solve a nonexistent problem is nothing new for N.C. Republicans, as we saw with HB2 in 2016. At worst, a voter ID amendment will disenfranchise many. Politicians who work for the common good have nothing to fear from high voter participation. What does that say about those seeking this amendment?

MAUREEN PARKER: PATRIOTISM DOESN'T MEAN BLIND LOYALTY: I have been thinking lately about patriotism. I was born in the United States, as were my parents, grandparents and most of my great-grandparents. In other words, I am about as “American” as you can get. I am proud to be a citizen of the greatest country in the world. But I don’t come close to thinking that everything our country does is right. Patriotism should not and does not require unquestioning approval of everything our country does. Sometimes we are right, but sometimes we are wrong. And when we are wrong, we should admit it. We must object whenever the ideals that made us who we are are twisted and distorted. The saying, “My country, right or wrong,” is true. I am an American, no matter what. But I want to be proud of what my country stands for, and it’s not our wealth, or our power, or our military strength. It’s our goodness.

JOE LYONS: HOW TO LOSE A DEMOCRACY: First, you need a demagogue with strong plutocratic connections and a lust for power. Then, you need a severely divided electorate with a low voting percentage and an abysmal knowledge of how democratic governments actually work. This demagogue would ideally be a pathological liar and willing to use the levers of government to subvert any democratic initiative that weakens his authority. A free press would be especially abhorrent to him, and he would do almost anything to discredit its power and influence. He would also be required to have a voter base in place that embraces his autocratic ideas and state legislators who redraw (gerrymander) district voting maps and enact legislation that chips away at minority voting rights. This demagogue must know how to use inflammatory propaganda to incite fear among the electorate, making them more amenable to accept discriminatory laws that reflect their mindless fear. In addition, our demagogue must use artificial enemies that he can blame for any social, economic or moral dysfunction which he self-creates. For pagan Rome, it was the Christians; for Hitler, it was the Jews; and for Donald Trump it is the Muslims and Hispanics who seek amnesty from oppression. Our battered country, I believe, is halfway there.



From the dark side

This week's loser is the N&R's laughable excuse for a local conservative voice, Charles Davenport, Jr.:

The illusion of rampant racism and bigotry is the lifeblood of liberalism. In the absence of fear-mongering about those rare but not quite extinct boogeyman, what would progressives talk about?

If the party of Maxine (“Impeach 45!”) Waters were not fully engaged in the effort to convince women and minorities that they are the helpless victims of a mean-spirited patriarchy, how could it raise money or persuade people to vote for every “D” on the ballot?

The only "illusion" I see is the surreal image of society you and others like you seem to see. The growing racism in our society is impossible to ignore, even if you keep your damn TV on Fox News 24/7. Young black men are being shot by the police because they "might" have a gun somewhere on their person, while genuine white terrorists threatening and shooting people are treated with kid gloves and "talked down" to avoid "further bloodshed." Meanwhile, other white snowflakes are calling the police when black people try to have a picnic, or go to a swimming pool, or even mow their damn lawns.

Liberals point these things out not to raise money, but to raise awareness, because conservatives are damned sure not going to even notice, much less take any steps to stop the trend. And as far as this hogwash:

It couldn’t, because liberals have nothing else. (Let’s face it: Radicals and socialists own the Democratic Party; very few “centrists” or “moderates” remain.)

That’s why progressives rely so heavily on identity politics — the narrative of women and minorities as perpetual victims.

"Moderate" is in the eye of the beholder, and the real loss of the center is happening in the Republican Party. As one of the early supporters of the Tea Party, Davenport not only knows this very well, I'm sure he's proud of it.

In that environment, a Democrat that might meet Charles Davenport's definition of a Centrist would likely be a racist, sexist, homophobic, evolutionary throwback. So yeah, thank god they are a dying breed.

Identity politics are indeed playing out in policy, as we will see below. The editors continue: “The separation of immigrant families flooding our Southern border is one thing — and the poll said 44 percent believe racism motivates Trump there.”

Hang on a second. The sentence should read, “The separation of illegal immigrant families … .” Of course, children were also torn away from their mothers during the Obama administration; yet I don’t recall, during those eight years, a full-throated denunciation of the practice (or accusations of racism) from the editors.

You didn't hear anything about it because it was rare, and not a systematic and well-funded attempt to make immigration so horrible families would be petrified at the prospect of crossing the border.

But the most telling piece of evidence that this brutality has worsened tenfold under Trump is the "rush" to construct new facilities to detain all these people. Ironically, that's one of the main indicators U.S. intelligence sources use to detect human rights abuses in rogue nations. We use satellite imagery to hone in on construction taking place in out-of-the-way areas, because concealing the mass incarceration (or mass graves) of political prisoners is a hallmark of the fall into despotism.

And now that's happening here, and we've got conservative dingbats like Charles Davenport Jr. providing cover for it.

One would think that women and minorities would eventually tire of the paternalism and condescension of progressives. But the grievance mentality, instilled in minorities for decades, is deeply entrenched.

That right there is enough to justify a punch in the face for this jackass. The only thing that's "entrenched" is racism itself, and the implication that minorities (and women) are only concerned about these issues because progressives have been "telling them about it" is a direct and bigoted insult to their capacity for understanding the world around them.

Minorities and women know very well they are second-class citizens, because barely a day goes by where they don't suffer the actual (not imaginary) consequences of that social inequality. They've been living with it their entire lives, so they don't need me to tell them about it. And they damned sure don't need Charles Davenport Jr. telling them it hasn't happened.

A better approach?

Personally, I don't think screeds like this are worth bothering with. They're just a bunch of conservative "dog whistles" strung together without any sense of purpose except to arouse anger and emotion.

While it might make you feel better to vent about it, you can't really deconstruct any sound reasoning or argument behind what he's saying.

Perhaps the better way to challenge material like this is to ask the News and Record editors why they're publishing this "lizard brain" nonsense, which really is about as valid as political commentary as the ramblings of an evangelical minister speaking in tongues. If they want conservative voices, at least find someone capable of constructing coherent thoughts supported by some kind of factual evidence.

I do it for a couple of reasons,

but the main one is: Articles like this either create or perpetuate false narratives, that later find their way into personal conversations and debates, and this is the phone-banking and canvassing season. And sometimes they're brought up in candidate forums, even for local offices that have no bearing on the issues (been there, done that). It helps to be prepared for a sound rebuttal, if one chooses to engage in it.

Not sure if my analysis provides that help, but that is the goal.

As far as engaging with editors to try and stop such nonsense, I do that from time to time. But I have a feeling the "token nut-job" columnist problem is here to stay. The N&R has had Davenport and Romaine Worster (ugh) on their "community" editorial board for a few years now, as unpaid contributors, and they recently shit-canned Doug Clark and Susan Ladd who were paid. And now the N&O has added Michael Jacobs to J. Peder Zane's little clique, probably because Zane wasn't producing enough drivel.

Bottom line: It's probably better for the bottom line, somehow. Or at least they hope it is or will be. Film at eleven.