CITIZENS ARE SPEAKING UP TO LEGISLATORS. ADOPT NON-PARTISAN REDISTRICTING NOW: “I do not think that the legislators should be picking their own voters,” Ann Watson said at the hearing last week at Pitt County Community College. “We the people want to elect legislators that are loyal to our communities and not to the parties themselves. We want a democracy that is a government of the people, by the people and for the people -- not politicians,” Lori Yoshi Newsman of Greenville said at the same meeting. For all the passion of the speakers, the sessions have been a showcase for civil discourse in stark contrast to the bitter, angry and disruptive displays at several recent local boards of education meetings around the state. But the civility doesn’t mask the frustration and neglect felt by citizens who have been deprived of a voice in Raleigh and Washington.
HERE'S WHY JUSTICE PHIL BERGER JR. MUST RECUSE HIMSELF: While common sense would tell us that it is improper for a son to decide his father’s case, North Carolina’s Code of Judicial Conduct fortifies that prohibition: “A judge should disqualify himself/herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality may reasonably be questioned”, “including but not limited to instances where...the judge or the judge’s spouse, or a person within the third degree of relationship to either of them, or the spouse of such a person is a party to the proceeding.” In a similar situation, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine recently recused himself from a case on pandemic unemployment benefits because of the role played by his father, Gov. Mike DeWine. Justice DeWine stated, “The reason for my recusal is to avoid any appearance of impropriety that might result from my father’s public involvement in this matter.” But Justice Berger need not look as far as Ohio or COVID-19 legal debates for an example to follow. While serving on the N.C. Court of Appeals in 2020, Justice Berger recused himself from consideration of a separate challenge to the same voter ID requirement, a case in which his father was also a named defendant. A decision by Justice Berger not to recuse himself in this case would set a new and dangerous precedent. He should instead follow Justice DeWine’s example and his own from just a year ago, preserving public trust in our legal system. Republicans have spent a lot of money trying to recover their control of the NC Supreme Court, and it was done for cases just like this. I doubt they will let something as paltry as "ethics" get in the way of exercising power they have paid for dearly.
THE THREATS TO OUR SCHOOL BOARDS AND LOCAL SCHOOL LEADERS MUST STOP: Our districts and schools need the resources and capacity to understand their students and meet their academic, social, and emotional needs. However, when I look at what is unfolding across the country and specifically in North Carolina, I see school boards, superintendents, and district leaders’ time and meetings co-opted for politically charged issues that unfortunately do not fit into those three pillars for student success. This is not to say that wearing masks in our schools, how we talk about race in our classrooms, or how to employ vaccines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 do not impact students; however, how the debates have and continue to unfold are focused mainly on the adults, not the kids. In my school district, we no longer have in-person school board meetings without a police officer present. And, we are not alone. I regularly talk with colleagues — school board members and superintendents — across the state who are fearful for or receive threats to their safety. This is merely a continuation of Trump's Big Lie; a false narrative is created, with some evil conspiracy that needs to be confronted, resulting in a shared psychosis. And just like Jan 6, the danger is real and needs to be addressed.
DYING BECAUSE THE DEMOCRATS ARE "WORSE": On Monday, Bob Enyart, an evangelical preacher who mocked people who died of AIDS by reading their names to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” succumbed to COVID after dismissing mask mandates and the vaccine. His wife is reportedly very sick. Karma is a bitch. A Nashville radio host, Phil Valentine, died a few weeks ago after a month long battle. He used to play a parody of the Beatles song “Taxman” called “Vaxman.” His family says he died wishing he had been more “pro-vaccine.” I just wish he had been smarter. And the list goes on. At least three other conservative talk radio hosts have died. One claimed the government was using the virus and the vaccine to consolidate control of the population. That’s funny because I believe the right-wing is using talk radio to dupe people into doing stupid things like not take the vaccine. The people over at Fox News, though, are the real cynics. At least the talk show hosts who died walked the walk and paid the price. The Fox News hosts are all vaccinated while telling their audience about the dangers of vaccines and downplaying the threat of the virus. They’ve pushed conspiracy theories about Democrats using the pandemic for control. They’ve been wrong about the pandemic since the beginning and yet people still watch them. I don’t believe they care about the well-being of their audience as long they keep getting the ratings. Ironically, prolonging the pandemic is in their best interest. It keeps dumb people watching and believing their bullshit. If the mask mandates go away and the vaccines become less controversial, they will have to find another divisive issue that has as much emotional juice as COVID. As is often the case, Thomas cuts to the chase. Kudos to the publisher for not watering it down.
OUR CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS IS ALREADY HERE: The stage is thus being set for chaos. Imagine weeks of competing mass protests across multiple states as lawmakers from both parties claim victory and charge the other with unconstitutional efforts to take power. Partisans on both sides are likely to be better armed and more willing to inflict harm than they were in 2020. Would governors call out the National Guard? Would President Biden nationalize the Guard and place it under his control, invoke the Insurrection Act, and send troops into Pennsylvania or Texas or Wisconsin to quell violent protests? Deploying federal power in the states would be decried as tyranny. Biden would find himself where other presidents have been — where Andrew Jackson was during the nullification crisis, or where Abraham Lincoln was after the South seceded — navigating without rules or precedents, making his own judgments about what constitutional powers he does and doesn’t have. Today’s arguments over the filibuster will seem quaint in three years if the American political system enters a crisis for which the Constitution offers no remedy. Most Americans — and all but a handful of politicians — have refused to take this possibility seriously enough to try to prevent it. As has so often been the case in other countries where fascist leaders arise, their would-be opponents are paralyzed in confusion and amazement at this charismatic authoritarian. They have followed the standard model of appeasement, which always begins with underestimation. The political and intellectual establishments in both parties have been underestimating Trump since he emerged on the scene in 2015. They underestimated the extent of his popularity and the strength of his hold on his followers; they underestimated his ability to take control of the Republican Party; and then they underestimated how far he was willing to go to retain power. The fact that he failed to overturn the 2020 election has reassured many that the American system remains secure, though it easily could have gone the other way — if Biden had not been safely ahead in all four states where the vote was close; if Trump had been more competent and more in control of the decision-makers in his administration, Congress and the states. As it was, Trump came close to bringing off a coup earlier this year. All that prevented it was a handful of state officials with notable courage and integrity, and the reluctance of two attorneys general and a vice president to obey orders they deemed inappropriate. I don't generally pay much attention to Neocons like Robert Kagan, except maybe to keep up with them to sniff out their next colonial grab. But he raises many legitimate concerns here.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
GAIL PHARES: WE ARE A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS, IT'S TIME TO EMBRACE THE NEW ONES: It is long past time to pass comprehensive immigration reform. I am deeply disappointed that the Senate parliamentarian decided to exclude immigration reform from the $3.5 trillion budget bill. We need to provide a pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers who work here as teachers, doctors, social workers. As a nation, we depend on the farm workers who harvest our food. They deserve to become citizens. I consider immigrants essential workers. We are a nation of immigrants. These people deserve our gratitude, not repression. Although our history and social studies have been continuously white-washed over the years, one characterization miraculously survived that: Melting Pot. Probably only to give the false impression we value diversity, but the fact we kept it speaks volumes.
LYNN MITCHELL KOHN: END THE PRACTICE OF DRONE STRIKES: If it weren’t already self-evident, the disastrous U.S drone strike in Afghanistan that killed a humanitarian aid worker and members of his family, including several children, revealed the impossibility of limiting the damage from any attack launched from so high up and so far away. The strike was called “a tragic accident,” a phrase that could also be used to describe the larger policy of which it was a part. The use of deadly drones is an affront to the allies who rallied to our assistance after 9/11, an insult to all who helped us in Afghanistan and elsewhere at great risk to themselves, and a propaganda bonanza for those who wish us harm. The drone program should be ended before there are any more “tragic accidents.” See my comment below for a counterpoint of sorts.
PAT BULLARD: THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT IS CRITICAL: John Hood, “What’s more democratic than elections?” (Sept. 14), failed to support the Voting Rights Act pending in Congress. Passage of the Voting Rights Act is most critical if the U.S. democratic republic is to survive. Republican-controlled states have and are passing laws that seriously suppress fair and equal voting. Indeed, some would even enable republicans to control the states’ voting process so they could throw out votes they did not like and overturn an election. Gerrymandering is also a process used in many states, including N.C., to control voting for their own party in gerrymandered districts. The U.S. Constitution is based on one person, one vote and should be fair and equal, so that all eligible voters can vote for the persons of their choice and not be controlled by partisan politics. Will Republicans, and John Hood, support the Voting Rights Act, to assure fair and equal voting? If they wanted fair and equal voting they wouldn't (constantly) try to undermine it.