Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


CONCOCTED SCANDAL DISRUPTS ELECTION BOARD'S IMPORTANT WORK: It turns out that the only thing “collusive” in the ginned-up controversy over the State Board of Elections’ efforts to settle some mail-in ballot lawsuits was the false outrage from Republican Party and GOP leaders in the General Assembly. It was a desperate ploy gone awry. It revealed the shameful and phony efforts – from the president on down – to create baseless distrust in our election and the security of our ballots. How do we know this? Because the spouse of one of the Republican State Board members revealed, via a Facebook post, that David Black’s quitting was NOT necessarily for the reasons stated in a resignation letter. Rather it came after a “very unhappy” telephone call with the lawyer for the state GOP. “These resignations were not voluntary. They were told to resign. Sad times when Republicans are firing intelligent and trustworthy Republicans,” Deb Black said in a Facebook post.

IN RALEIGH, RECKLESS DEVELOPMENT COULD DESTROY A RARE ECOLOGICAL HABITAT: Azalea Falls is a hidden Raleigh gem that has recently been designated by the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources as being an ecological habitat of statewide significance, possessing “natural values justifying its recognition by the State as an outstanding part of the natural heritage of North Carolina.” It’s importance to Raleigh is increased because of its environmentally sensitive location along Crabtree Creek and along the future Crabtree Creek Greenway that traverses the entire city of Raleigh. The Azalea Falls property abuts a 200+ acre parcel that will be donated to Raleigh in 2052 to complete the citywide greenway connection to Umstead State Park. The 10-acre Azalea Falls parcel is held in trust for the benefit of future Raleigh generations by the nonprofit City of Oaks Foundation and is the crown jewel of the emerald necklace of Raleigh’s finest natural ecological habitats. But the destruction of Azalea Falls is actively being planned and could be finalized by the Raleigh City Council at their Oct. 6 meeting, when council is expected to vote on a dense 28-acre development project that would replace the steeply wooded hillsides overlooking the Falls with apartments, parking lots and multi-story retaining walls. There is simply no way the upzoning applicant can guarantee that every significant rain event during the stripping, mass grading and construction on the steep hillsides will not send torrents of mud washing down the hillsides, killing the forest habitats, aquatic habitats and turning Azalea Falls and its stream bed into a sludge pit and an ecological dead zone.

TRUMP'S NEEDLESS POLL WATCHERS ONLY BREED DISTRUST AND DISRUPTION: Our elections administrators, with the added burden of dealing with the safety and health demands of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, have put more equipment, new practices and added personnel in place so voters will deal with as little inconvenience as possible – whether voting by mail or in person. At nearly every turn, President Donald Trump and his most fervent supporters on the federal and state level, have worked to make their jobs more difficult. The goal isn’t to assure as many qualified voters cast ballots or have them counted accurately. It is to instill fear and worry in voters; manipulate the laws to secure partisan advantage. That is why Trump has been steadfast in his unfounded claims of insecure mail-in voting and false accusations of voter fraud. During the presidential debate Tuesday he went even further calling on his supporters “to go into the polls and watch very carefully.” Such activities have already started to disrupt voting and election activities in Fairfax, Va. and Philadelphia. If these spontaneous legions of poll watchers start descending on voting sites, it will add even more challenges to an already difficult situation. It only works to make legitimate voters uncomfortable and fearful.

THE MEDICAL BRIEFING ON TRUMP'S HEALTH WAS AN INSULTING EXERCISE IN OBFUSCATION: Every first-year medical student knows that you can’t describe a patient’s condition without including the exact vital signs. We heard that the president has no fever, but not what his temperature has been — and whether he’s fever-free because of fever-reducing drugs. We heard that he has an oxygen saturation of 96 percent — but not what it’s been throughout his illness. Was a low oxygen saturation part of the reason he was transferred to the hospital? White House physician Sean Conley volunteered that the president was not on supplemental oxygen at the time of the news conference and that day, but repeatedly evaded questions about whether Trump had been on oxygen since he became ill. There was also no accounting of test results. Another physician cited cardiac, kidney and liver tests as being normal, and Conley referred to the president as having received “ultrasounds.” For covid-19, a respiratory disease, it’s inconceivable that lung studies of X-rays or CT scans weren’t conducted. What did they show? Without a full description of which diagnostic tests were performed, we are left to wonder whether other test results weren’t revealed because they were abnormal. Then there are major questions raised about the timeline of the president’s diagnosis. Conley reported that Trump developed a fever Thursday. Fever is usually a later sign that follows other symptoms of covid-19. Conley said Trump had other symptoms, such as cough, congestion and feeling run-down. When did the first of these symptoms start? The answer is important because those with the virus are most infectious 48 hours before symptom onset. Public health officials need to know in order to trace back the president’s steps and find out who else could have been exposed. The president and White House officials are said to have daily tests. These are the rapid, less accurate tests. Presumably, Trump had a positive rapid test that came back within minutes, then his doctors conducted a confirmatory test with a more accurate test that took hours to provide results. So when was the first positive test? The public needs to know: Was the president still continuing his activities after that initial positive test?

TRUMP HAS SOLD OFF AMERICA'S CREDIBILITY FOR HIS PERSONAL GAIN: A year ago, the world read a record of a phone call in which President Trump pressured Ukraine’s government to provide dirt on his political rival, Joe Biden. The transcript of that call, along with other evidence, made clear the president and his associates asked officials in Kyiv to deliver on Mr. Trump’s political interests in exchange for American military aid needed to defend Ukraine. At the end of last year, the president was impeached for that abuse of power. This was not a unique instance of Mr. Trump’s personal priorities corrupting American foreign policy. As the 2020 election grew closer, the president increasingly ignored the policies developed by his own government and instead pursued transactions guided by self-interest and instinct. The result is a patchwork of formal policies and informal deals that has undermined America’s interests and credibility. But Mr. Trump’s sloppy management matters less than its result: No one can trust American foreign policy right now. It’s not just Ukraine. On China, Mr. Trump undermined the pressure of his own so-called trade war by pleading with President Xi Jinping behind closed doors to purchase commodities in critical electoral districts. Remarkably, Mr. Trump admitted as much last month, saying, “China has been buying a lot of — a lot of things, and they’re doing it to keep me happy.” Mr. Trump’s freelance dealings with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, such as invitations back into the Group of 7 and for a visit to the White House, have compromised American and NATO responses to Russian aggression. No one, not even Mr. Trump, can say with confidence what American foreign policy is on any given issue these days. Such uncertainty is a source of stress and friction, leaving American military personnel, diplomats and intelligence officers not only out of the loop but also out of step with each other and with allies. After almost four years of this uncertainty, foreign government representatives simply shortcut the system and look for a White House back channel to figure out if the United States will zig when it’s supposed to zag. (written by Lt Col Alexander Vindman and John Gans)


SURESH CHANDRA: WE NEED TO VOTE TRUMP OUT OF OFFICE: If reasonable observers had doubts about the urgency of getting rid of President Trump, Tuesday’s presidential debate should bolster that need. While I am not convinced that Joe Biden is the best candidate that Democrats could have chosen, I strongly feel that, despite occasional irresistible pressure from central left figures like Bernie Sanders, he will be considerably better for the nation than Trump. There are several areas where urgent steps are essential for our survival as a vibrant democracy. Race relations have been set back by years or decades. The coronavirus crisis is not expected to be under control even with strict adherence to scientists’ pleas for precautionary measures. Recent decisions by Florida and other states to open schools and public places are certain to exacerbate the impact. Trump’s dismal failure to prevent thousands of deaths, his irresponsible insistence on public rallies, and his mistaken belief that we have turned the corner on the pandemic require new leadership to prevent more unnecessary deaths. We desperately need bipartisan solutions to problems related to health care, immigration, climate change and the unemployment resulting from the pandemic. I am convinced that Trump is not equipped to tackle these seemingly intractable problems. A new leader, therefore, deserves a chance.

RUTH ZALPH: WE MUST STOP THE WAR PROFITEERS: I look through my window as I eat my dinner and enjoy watching how the changing light affects the nearby forest and its animals. All is quiet. There are no drones overhead directed by an enemy thousands of miles away preparing to release their munitions on their targets, not over Chapel Hill. But in Afghanistan, U.S. bombs fell and innocent civilians died. Where are our countries’ morals? Our policy: either sanction a nation into starvation and death or bomb them to death. We must change the dynamics and take the power from the powerful — the war profiteers — and give peace a chance.

ISH SUD: SOCIAL JUSTICE SHOULD BE ON EVERY GOOD CANDIDATE'S PLATFORM: Every now and then, some events occur that move the conscience of the nation into action to rectify past wrongs. This conscience has been stirring due to the recently publicized extreme mistreatment of the black community, the killing of Breonna Taylor, the killing of George Floyd by the police, and the shooting of Jacob Blake. I urge support of political candidates who support concrete actions to address the wrongs meted out to the black community. In addition to being the right thing to do, eliminating racism will be a boost for our economy. A Citibank study reported that systemic racism in the U.S. has cost the economy $16 trillion over the past two decades. Voters must scrutinize positions taken by the candidates and support those who promote social justice and equality.

JOHN MILLER: LOOK TO THE CONSTITUTION WHEN YOU PREPARE TO VOTE: The Preamble to the Constitution named these minimum values to preserve for Americans as long as our nation shall stand: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity”. These standards are addressed in our Constitution and Bill of Rights and our elected officials take an oath to uphold and defend these guarantees. Their actions as officials are thus bound by the Constitution, until Trump. As you take steps to vote this November, beware of granting more power to the current White House cabal. Trump leads an outlaw administration where the existing law is simply reinterpreted by a toady attorney general and his compliant crew of select lawyers. This is why the cabal is frequently corrected by courts all over America. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s current “personal lawyer” explained it clearly when he said, “truth is not truth”, meaning they are in the process of re-interpreting everything to fit their chosen set of morals. Trump doesn’t listen to anyone; he expects his cabal to follow his orders without question. His morals are often stated in tweets as he daily broadcasts his superstitions and theories, before an astonished world. Like Putin, Trump is determined to silence the free media and create the Cult of Trump, his followers spreading his word and accusing those who correct him of seeking to destroy some great old American heyday. Thankfully, when things get back to reality, lights will come on in our minds that America was great because Americans pulled together to realize the benefits of our Constitution for all.



On consensual sex and 19th Century morals

First let me say: I neither condone nor condemn extramarital affairs, because it's none of my damn business. Even when it has happened with siblings or my adult children, I have refrained from getting involved, unless I am drawn into it to the point I am forced to make my opinion known.

But the truth is, sometimes relationships fail. In fact, they frequently fail. Sometimes people fall out of love in the same mysterious fashion they fell into it. You can talk about "commitment" until the cows come home, but sometimes the cows don't come home. They find another pasture that seems more verdant. I know how stupid that sounds, but at our core, we are still primal creatures that are driven by instincts, impulses, and chemical reactions of which we can only speculate.

Sometimes that love changes into something that is still substantial, still a connection that is strong and critical to our mental well-being. But it is missing something that is also critical.

Physical intimacy (in the form of romantic sex) is hard-wired into our psychy. It produces tangible benefits such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, and (yes) it also elevates our ego and self-esteem. But in the absence of true romantic motivations, such as casual encounters with no desire for attachments and such, it can easily turn into a net loss psychologically. I have a feeling this is also hard-wired into us via evolution, for reasons that are obvious (care and protection of offspring).

Anyway, suffice it to say that cutting sex completely out of your relationship, or placing extreme limits on its frequency, is not a healthy approach. Especially while those drives are still active and strong.

And now for the 19th Century morals. Religious institutions are still preaching some form of "purity" to adolescents, and that abstinence approach carries into young adulthood in many cases. And yet, their bodies are telling them something else, before they've even started high school. It's a battle they are not capable of fighting, especially without the educational tools they need to navigate those changes. So many young girls end up pregnant, and NC's solution is to allow 14 year-olds to get married if they are with child. As if that will solve anything.

But understand, that battle continues, far into adulthood. When you are married, society expects you to no longer be physically attracted to someone who is not your spouse. You have made your choice, now live with it. Of course that's impossible. Attraction is not a conscious effort, it's a response to stimulus. Stimulus that is millions of years in the making. And a stimulus that may be the result of sexual inactivity. But again, just like when we were 13, we are expected to ignore it. Deny its existence. But while many are successful in doing this, or at least not acting on that stimulus, failure is not an indication of a major character flaw.

It's just evolution in action.