Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


FARR'S NOMINATION MAKES THE WRONG STATEMENT: From 2009 through 2016 two highly qualified African-American women -- Jennifer May-Parker and Patricia Timmons-Goodson – were nominated to fill the judgeship. Sen. But they were NEVER even considered – no committee hearings, no committee votes and no debate by the U.S. Senate. Richard Burr insulted the people of the eastern part of the state by ignoring the two nominees. Now, President Donald Trump’s added to the insult with his nomination of Thomas Farr. Why? Farr, as a counselor and adviser for the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms’ political operations and most recently to the state’s Republican Party, assisted in both developing and later defending, strategies, tactics and laws that were designed to discriminate against and diminish the impact of minority voters. The facts speak for themselves.

KISSING A WOMAN AGAINST HER WILL ISN'T HARMLESS. CAN WE ALL AGREE ON THAT? Can we please stop talking about men's bad behavior toward women like it’s an unfortunate byproduct of the confusing rituals of flirting? It's not OK to kiss a woman without her consent, and it's not OK to excuse misdeeds as jokes, poor judgment, boorishness or misread cues. The #MeToo movement has empowered women to speak out about men who use their power and influence to intimidate, but nothing is ever going to change if we must continuously defend ourselves against arguments of “boys will be boys.” Hall says he's a flirt, but that he has never sexually harassed anyone. But talking about what is and isn't legally sexual harassment doesn't move the conversation forward in any meaningful way. Even if a woman on the receiving end of inappropriate behavior isn't a subordinate of the man who's being inappropriate, it's still wrong.

VOTE. THAT'S JUST WHAT THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO DO: If you are horrified at what is happening in Washington and in many states, you can march in the streets, you can go to town halls and demand more from your representatives, you can share the latest outrageous news on your social media feed — all worthwhile activities. But none of it matters if you don’t go out and vote. Casting a ballot is the best opportunity most of us will ever get to have a say in who will represent us, what issues they will address and how they will spend our money. The right to vote is so basic, President Lyndon Johnson said in 1965, that without it “all others are meaningless.” And yet every election, tens of millions of Americans stay home. Studies of turnout among developed nations consistently rank the United States near the bottom. In the most recent midterms, in 2014, less than 37 percent of eligible voters went to the polls — the lowest turnout in more than 70 years. In 2016, 102 million people didn’t vote, far more than voted for any single candidate.

NORTH CAROLINA'S WAR AGAINST THE POOR: Against this already-transgressing backdrop, North Carolina has launched the nation’s boldest war against poor people — moving from ignoring the impoverished to actually targeting them. In the last six years, the General Assembly radically reduced access for low income people to health care, unemployment compensation, pre-K study, child care, food stamps, children’s dental services and legal aid. We became the only state in American history to eliminate its earned income tax credit. We repeatedly blocked poor North Carolinians from receiving federal funds for which they qualified — preferring that tax dollars go to other states rather than to poor Tar Heels. And we repeatedly raised the taxes of low income filers to line the pockets of wealthy ones. We became path-breaking innovators in fiscal cruelty. And we bragged about it.

TRUMP NEEDS HIS FACTS CHECKED AND HIS REALITY: In a rare expression of self-awareness, President Trump admitted — nay, boasted — that he just makes stuff up. Recounting a recent meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump says Trudeau told him that the U.S. has no trade deficit with Canada, whereupon Trump essentially said, Yes, we do, whereupon Trudeau said, No you don’t. Here’s the hitch: Trump didn’t really know whether his claim was true. He was flying by the seat of his pants, bluffing, playing the wise guy on a wacky little whim all his own. He bragged as much in a speech during a private, fundraising event in Missouri last week. The truth is the U.S. had a trade surplus with Canada to the tune of $2.8 billion in goods and services in 2017, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.


JEFF PORTER: SOMETIMES LAWS SHOULD BE CHANGED, AS IN THE CASE OF THE DREAMERS: The U.S. certainly “rewarded” lawbreaking with amnesty 150 years ago when it changed the law to give legal status to squatters who settled illegally in newly opened western territories. Yet the nation not only survived, it grew stronger and more prosperous as a result. Sometimes action is needed not on the lawbreakers, but on the law. Today, providing a pathway to legal status for America’s 11 million illegal immigrants could similarly benefit not only the immigrants, but the nation. At the moment, the energy of those millions of people is a resource only partially tapped. Make their place in America secure, and the formerly illegal immigrants will be able to put down real roots, buy homes, start businesses and invest in themselves and their children. Just like Kentucky pioneers in the 1840s.

LEE KERN: THERE'S A NEW NORMAL IN GUN CULTURE: In the spirit of “if you see something, say something”: A few days after the school shooting in Florida I was at a Mebane strip mall heading into a jewelry store to get a new watch battery. While walking toward the store I noticed a man walking in the same direction. He had a gun hanging on his belt and was carrying a rifle. He was not a policeman. With Florida on my mind, I had a spike of anxiety, imagining being an innocent victim or witness to a crime. After all, it was a jewelry store and he had two guns. I happened to look up and noticed that two doors down was a store called “Gunworks.” I smiled briefly, realizing he was just on a normal outing to get his guns tuned up — like me taking the car to the mechanic. But it got me wondering, when it comes to guns, what is “normal.” It seems that the encounter was a weird collision of the normal and abnormal. If I belonged to a gun club or went to NRA meetings maybe it would be normal to see men outfitted that way. No, I drive to work, walk the dog, volunteer at a school, go to the grocery store. Other than the occasional observation of a policeman doing his rounds, I don’t see guns in daily life. With random shootings on the increase, and discussions of arming teachers, will the norm in the future include people wearing guns in the grocery store and on dog walks? Thirty years ago I would not have imagined how pervasive cell phones would become. Everyone has one and they are used constantly. Evidence is mounting that constant screen time may be bad for well being. If guns evolve similarly, the new “normal” will be daily danger and chaos and catastrophe. That is not a future I look forward to. My hope is that we, as a community and culture, make choices that ensure that gun encounters are abnormal in daily life.

NEIL STAHL: SUPPORTING EVIL: Regarding “MLK gets drawn into debate over NC’s Confederate monuments” (Mar. 10): I wish I were shocked that some people equate Martin Luther King’s long and relatively successful struggle for equality of all Americans with Confederate leaders’ traitorous struggle to create a nation based on the claim that members of one “race” are justified in owning members of another “race” and treating them in any way they see fit including separating families, raping them, torturing them and murdering them. I wish I were shocked that some people want a struggle between “races” in America when we so desperately need to be united. I wish I didn’t see the hand of American political leaders who have prospered by dividing us against ourselves. But those things have happened for too long to be shocked and those politicians’ evil skills have been revealed long enough that people who fall for their racist talk have no excuses. Those who fought for the Confederacy were wrong and supported evil, and those who fight to preserve racist policies and symbols are wrong and are supporting evil.



From the dark side

This week's "winner" is once again John Hood, for his tendency to launch into pseudo-intellectual nonsense, while giving zero evidence for his claim, "Conservative Policies Are Working In North Carolina":

Isn’t “modern conservatism” a contradiction in terms? That’s one of the questions I received after teaching a seminar at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy entitled “Modern Conservatism and Policy.”

No, modern conservatism is a real thing. It has deep roots in human experience and intellectual history, to be sure. But the modern conservative movement, both here in North Carolina and across the country, is quite a different animal from what would have been called conservatism a century ago. (It’s also quite different from one might call the “postmodern quasi-conservatism” currently being displayed by certain interest groups, media outlets and politicians.)

Like all intellectual and political movements, modern conservatism is an alliance of people who have enough in common to justify working together blah blah blah

This is already in the 3rd paragraph, and we should have had at least a whiff of actual policy efforts by now. I guess we'll have to be patient:

Who populates the modern conservative movement? There are three main groups: traditionalists, libertarians and pragmatists. The traditionalist camp, sometimes called social conservatives or the Religious Right, believes there are certain principles, practices and institutions that maximize human flourishing. These are either the creations of God or have proven their value over history.

Big government injures and supplants these traditional institutions of family, faith and community, say these conservatives, who argue that, while all individuals enjoy moral worth and dignity, they are part of broader communities they didn’t choose, from which they receive benefits, and to which they have obligations. Governments exist because humans are easily tempted by vice, these conservatives contend. They prioritize moral issues such as abortion, marriage and substance abuse.

Ah, well there's a tiny whiff of policy, but John fails to actually follow through and tell us they want to ban abortion, ban same-sex marriage, and I don't know why in the hell he dropped "substance abuse" in there, other than the fact that churches allow AA and NA meetings to take place in their sanctuaries, as long as the God-fearing folks aren't around. Let's keep looking:

The next group, the libertarians, can also be called economic conservatives. Originally, they were called (and called themselves) liberals, because their core political value was liberty. To protect individual rights to life, liberty and property, they argue for a limited government that would deter force and fraud and ensure the provision of certain services that could not effectively be produced within private markets. These conservatives prioritize lower taxes, lighter regulations and more choice and competition in public services.

Again, vague references to what may end up being public policy, like cutting taxes and slashing regulations, but no actual examples of how those policies are "working," whether for good or ill. Let's try again:

The other constituents of the movement, pragmatists, are often labeled neoconservatives — although not to the same intended effect. Some leftists use the term as a charge of extremism, perhaps because it shares a prefix with “neo-Nazi.” Conservatives use it, more accurately, to describe an initial wave of thinkers and politicians who began as progressives or socialists, got “mugged by reality,” as prominent neoconservative Irving Kristol once put it, and changed their views.

Many but not all neoconservatives were foreign-policy hawks, first during the Cold War and then after 9/11. Others emphasized social policy. They criticized the 1960s War on Poverty, for example, for discouraging work and family formation and for unnecessarily muscling aside local, private and faith-based approaches to addressing social ills and promoting opportunity.

Again, a whole lot of nothing there. What have conservative policies done in the last 8 years that Republicans have had here in NC to implement them? What, exactly, is working? Not much, which is why John decided to (once again) tediously explain the different elements of US conservatism.

But you readers are lucky, because I'm going to connect the dots between these three groups, show you what links them together like Siamese triplets: They hate even the idea of government. And not because of some rarefied idea it's a negative influence on prosperity or some other clap-trap. It's because conservatives of all stripes are classist in nature. They don't trust people who don't inhabit their particular economic or ethnic demographic to elect representatives to government and develop policies that will benefit the vast majority of citizens. And that's because they're so navel-gazingly selfish that they believe everybody else is selfish, too. So naturally, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, is literally anathema to them.

That's their common thread, and it's as strong as tungsten steel. And that's why efforts to reach out and maybe form coalitions with them is a mistake, and will eventually produce nothing but regressive results.

Must-read late addition:

Kudos to the Wilmington Star News editorial board:

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The Trump administration wants to cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and give recipients a box of food every month. If we’re lucky, this odd proposal will quickly fall by the wayside.

SNAP is the program once known as food stamps. Today, recipients receive a card. It cannot be used to buy alcohol, tobacco products, pet foods and household supplies.

In North Carolina, about 658,000 households were receiving SNAP benefits in December, 23,009 of them in Brunswick, Pender and New Hanover counties.

The program works. It ain’t broke.

Just wanted to pause a minute so those numbers could sink in. Damn.

If we cut SNAP, don’t think the nonprofit sector can step in and make up the difference. The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina said it would be unable to meet demand if the proposed changes were enacted.

Just so you know, food banks across the state struggle to keep their shelves even half-full. The current state of hunger in North Carolina is past the critical point, and into the realm of a national emergency. Both Greensboro and High Point have dueled with each other over the dubious title of Most Hungry City in America. Not just North Carolina, but the whole damn country. 24.6% of our school children aren't getting enough to eat, and that number is growing every day.

This needs to be at the top of our agenda.