YES, JOHN BOLTON REALLY IS THAT DANGEROUS: The good thing about John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, is that he says what he thinks. The bad thing is what he thinks. There are few people more likely than Bolton is to lead the country into war. His selection is a decision that is as alarming as any Trump has made. His selection, along with the nomination of the hard-line CIA director, Mike Pompeo, as secretary of state, shows the degree to which Trump is indulging his worst nationalistic instincts. Bolton, in particular, believes the United States can do what it wants without regard to international law, treaties or the political commitments of previous administrations.
ONE OF THE PROBLEMS WITH FACEBOOK IS US: Those waiting for Facebook to solve these issues will be waiting a very long time. The trove of data it collects about each of its users is exactly what makes it valuable to those who do business with it. And deleting our Facebook apps altogether and en masse is an unsatisfying solution as well; some people need Facebook to stay connected to friends and family from far away, and in some countries Facebook is the de facto Internet. So a world without Facebook is very hard to imagine. The solution, if there is one, thus has to come from somewhere else. We might start with ourselves. If we have to trust our friends or Facebook to decide how private our data is going to be, then maybe the only solution is to be more thoughtful about what we share. Both Facebook’s mission statement and its business model rely on another well-known adage: knowledge is power. By giving up so much about ourselves every day on social media, we give up a certain part of our power as well.
IT'S TIME FOR GUN LAWS THAT PROTECT OUR KIDS' RIGHTS: We don’t want to diminish the efforts of those who are seriously trying to address the epidemic of gun violence. A group of North Carolina state legislators on Monday offered a series of common-sense proposals that should be at the forefront of the General Assembly’s agenda when it convenes in May. But it is action in Washington that is most needed. Here’s the reality: Military-style rapid-firing assault rifles and the like – are too easy to get by too many people who have no business owning or using them. To many these guns are toys to be played with. They are not. If used as intended they will quickly kill human beings, lots of them. That, in fact, is what they were made to do. Make no mistake, WE SUPPORT the Second Amendment – all of it. But the Second Amendment doesn’t provide an unlimited right to all weapons. Sensible limits protect everyone.
RENT REALLY IS TOO HIGH FOR THE POOREST AMERICANS: A new research note from the Federal Reserve Board’s Jeff Larrimore and Jenny Schuetz of the Brookings Institution shows a combination of rising rents and falling incomes among the poorest fifth of households. Larimore and Schuetz estimate that poor American households pay more than 55 percent of their earnings in rent, compared with less than 30 percent for households in the second-lowest quintile. Despite much public outcry over rising rents in the U. S., most non-poor households are still able to afford shelter without a severe economic burden. More money spent on rent means less for everything else. Larimore and Schuetz find that the average household in the bottom fifth has only $476 to spend every month after paying rent. This is down from about $600 a month at the turn of the century, in inflation-adjusted terms.
IT MIGHT BE WOMEN WHO EMPTY THE SWAMP: If intentions become reality in November, then 2018 really may be the Year of the Woman. And to whom should we pay homage? None other than President Donald J. Trump. Thanks to a series of issues and comments underscoring his apparent contempt for women who aren’t subservient to his appetites, political or otherwise, the weaker sex is fighting back. At least 431 women are running or are likely to run for the House this year — 339 Democrats and 92 Republicans, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. Two years ago, the number at this point was 212. Republicans have plenty to worry about with this range of interest and momentum. If women can flip 23 seats from red to blue, Democrats can take back the House. Given the level of intensity, this seems every bit as likely in 2018 as it was for Republicans in 2010, when the midterms saw a surge of tea party candidates who ran primarily against “Obamacare” — and won.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
BRYAN LEE: THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS ARE NOT ENOUGH, WE NEED ACTION ON GUNS: As a young man growing up in rural eastern North Carolina, my access to guns was wide-open. Guns and ammunition were stored together, no trigger locks and no safes. At best, but not often, a flimsy lock on a glass door and a key within reach was all that stood between myself and a loaded gun. At a young age I was taught how to use a gun and the dangers of allowing a bullet to come anywhere close to a human. However, it did not stop me from holding a .357 revolver to my head in a fit of grief one afternoon at home by myself before my parents got home. I’m not sure of what stopped me that day but, thankfully, I live to fight today for laws that require registering guns, insuring guns to their owners, safes, trigger locks, or any other means that may have kept a loaded revolver out of my hormone-driven hand or an assault rifle out of the hands of a would-be school shooter. It may not be the end result that I would love to see but taking these steps would be going in the right direction.
STACY WENTWORTH: A FRIEND IS DEPORTED OUT OF UNFOUNDED FEAR: Last Wednesday, my husband accompanied our dear friend to Homeland Security in Charlotte for deportation. When R. — we will call him that to protect his family — crossed the border 20 years ago, he picked tobacco, planted Christmas trees and harvested oranges. He found his way into construction, working alongside my husband to build hospitals, churches and schools across the Triad. Through hard work, R. achieved the “American” dream — a family, a job with benefits, home ownership, a faith community and, of course, he paid taxes. But for this time in history, he is any of our ancestors. After a minor traffic violation, R. was turned over to ICE, spending a year in an overcrowded detention center. Family and friends scraped together $20,000 to pay his legal bills. Last week, he lost his final appeal and boarded a flight over a man-made border. Because someone sees our friend as a threat and decided that he should leave his job, home, family and community — to live 500 miles south of an arbitrary line in the desert. While smoking a cigarette, eating an orange or walking through a hospital, think about how our friend affected your life. We belong not to countries or states or parties. We belong to each other.
JEAN BUSBY: AFFORDABLE CARE ACT HELPS WOMEN: The March 23rd birthday of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) gave us another thing to celebrate this Women’s History Month. Not only has it expanded coverage to over 20 million people, but it has reduced the number of uninsured women by almost half. As a woman who has diabetes, I know how critical health care coverage is. I lost my job and my health insurance in 2009, and my inability to get medication for my condition while without insurance was life-threatening. Thankfully, the ACA got me insured again. It also ended gender discrimination in health coverage and stopped insurers from treating gender as a pre-existing condition that allowed them to charge us more, drop services, deny care and cap coverage. We have stopped repeal, but ongoing Republican attempts to sabotage the law threaten the progress women have made under the ACA. This sabotage has driven up premiums, denied women access to preventive care like no-cost birth control, and put us at risk once again for being charged more for pre-existing conditions like c-sections, cancer, or depression. The GOP must clean up the mess they’ve made with legislation to stabilize marketplaces and lower premiums. Women voters care about health care.