Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


SINCLAIR SOWS DOUBT AND DISTRUST, FAILS TO BUILD CONFIDENCE IN THE VALUE OF NEWS: Stating what a station believes in, building a brand that deserves trust, reminding audiences that reporters are committed to giving the audience the information needed to make decisions, is a real plus and a service to your communities. Cutting down the media and playing into the fake news tirade does not build trust. It only feeds into the anxiety about news today. I am not against a corporate owner articulating core values for its properties and asking leaders in their news organizations to be bridges with the audience. However, dragging down others as proponents of fake news, sowing doubt and distrust, does not help build confidence in our business or its values. Saying “We’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country” without providing facts does not fit a reporter’s role. I would have declined to read that—no matter what the consequences.

NET NEUTRALITY: NC NEEDS RULES TO PROTECT INTERNET USERS: While some have claimed that net neutrality protections are unnecessary, history tells us otherwise. In North Carolina in 2005, Madison River Communications, a small ISP based in Mebane, blocked the Internet telephone service Vonage. Vonage filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, then under the leadership of George W. Bush appointee, Michael Powell, and the FCC sanctioned Madison River, which was forced to pay a small fine and to restore consumer access to Vonage. Similarly, in 2012, Verizon was caught blocking people from using free online tethering applications, forcing their customers to pay $20 per month to turn their cell phones into mobile hotspots. More recently, in 2017, Verizon was accused of throttling — the intentional slowing or speeding of an internet service — when consumers reported that videos from Netflix and YouTube were slower than usual. Verizon attributed this to “network testing,” but without net neutrality protections, these practices could become common.

RELENTLESS PARTISAN MANIPULATIONS OF STATE COURTS THREATENS JUSTICE FOR ALL: In the last year, the legislature has: Abolished primary elections for judges. Worked to impose gerrymandered state’s judicial districts to elect more Republicans and fewer blacks and Democrats. Reduced the terms of judges – thus threatening their independence and impartiality -- from eight to two years. Cut the number of judges on the state Court of Appeals to favor Republicans. That’s just in the last year. These legislators have led the state’s retreat from, and abolition of, a non-partisan and publically-funded system to elect judges that was a national model. They’ve even changed state laws, in middle of the 2016 campaign, to tilt the state court of appeals election in favor of Berger’s son. Let’s be clear. It is a fundamental element of a democracy that citizens have courts, including judges, free from undue political or financial influence. Justice that is rigged, no matter by powerful economic interests or by partisan politicians who thrust their thumbs on the scales, is not justice. It is tyranny.

THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH STUDIES ON GUN VIOLENCE: As with any scientific research, there will be intense debate. Good. Let rival gun control and gun rights advocates debate the paths research should follow, argue the merits of studies, and poke holes in conclusions. That’s how science works. Many people may not have believed the initial studies that showed a link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. They shrugged off the dangers, or justified smoking for its pleasures. But the evidence of health risks grew overwhelming over time. So did the number of people who quit — or never started. It’s a rough analogy, but the overarching point is: Let’s establish some evidence about the gun epidemic and what can curtail it. Then Americans can decide what additional gun measures, if any, they will support. Such research isn’t a threat to the Second Amendment. Information is information. New laws should be grounded in research — not baseless conjecture, fear or ignorance.

THE U.S.-CHINA TRADE WAR REVEALS A DEPENDENCE ON INDUSTRIAL FARMING: Farmers are an important American political symbol. They provide food for the nation, tend to the land and are credited for much of the foundational success of the American economy. Yet, the traditional idea of the American family farm bears little resemblance to today’s industrial farming practices. The ease at which China upsets U.S. farmers highlights the contrast between the American political myth of the family farm and today’s international, industrial agricultural enterprise. Modern livestock agricultural practices rely on factory centralization. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, better known as CAFOs, result in, well, concentrated amounts of animal waste. The waste contains high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, fecal bacteria and residue of the pharmaceuticals the animals are fed. Its concentrated form is thus highly polluting and CAFO managers retain the waste in nearby open pits, periodically spraying it out on adjoining fields. But storm water runoff, causes the animal waste sludge to run into the nearby rivers, polluting downstream waterways and coastal estuaries.


NOAH RUBIN-BLOSE: IT'S TIME TO DEMILITARIZE DURHAM: The Durham City Council took a courageous step last week, introducing a policy statement to prevent police exchanges between the Durham Police Department and the Israeli military. They are now facing bullies who will throw communities of color in the U.S. and in Palestine under the bus to promote their own right-wing agenda. I am proud to see Durham support this policy. The Demilitarize! From Durham2Palestine campaign is led by an amazing, interfaith, multiracial coalition of 10 local social justice organizations. Together, we have been urging the Council to pass this policy for a year now. In the process, over 15 additional community groups have signed on and we’ve gathered well over 1000 local petition signatures. I am engaged in this work because I know that my safety and my liberation is bound up with all beings on this planet. As a white, queer, trans, Jewish person, I refuse to settle for visions of safety that harm black, Muslim, Palestinian, Arab and Latinx people. It is absolutely necessary that we divest from militarization and invest in black and brown futures.

KATHERINE SOFIELD: SPEAK UP WHEN OTHERS ARE BEING TREATED POORLY: My friend approached me this week upset by an experience she’d had at a Burlington restaurant. A patron approached an adjacent table. He declared “I don’t want to sit by those people.” Someone in his party declared, “they’re just people” and his emphatic response was, “I don’t want to sit with black people. I can’t stand them.” Fourth-grade feelings came over me as she recounted the story. My friend and I talked of feelings that took her back to school years in the 1960s when community and government sanctioned the idea that she was inferior. Back to a time when silencing and shaming was a daily practice in public settings. Back to a time that wrestled with her self worth so much so she now tells her grandchildren to never sit at the back of a bus or classroom. A slight consolation was that my friend was not asked to move seats. What was not consoling is that my friend wanted to say something, but didn’t know how or what to say, or who to say it to. She called the restaurant but they had no claim in the matter. She called the newspaper, but in fear of retaliation didn’t want her name published. Despite social changes since the civil rights movement, her reaction was very much the same as then. I want readers to speak up when you see someone treated as inferior. They may not have the same power or confidence in the moment.

ACLU'S SUSANNA BIRDSONG: NC SHOULD AIM FOR ENDING CASH BAIL ENTIRELY: North Carolina’s unjust cash bail system wastes taxpayer dollars by locking people up not because they are a threat to public safety or have been found guilty of a crime, but simply because they cannot afford to pay for their freedom before trial. This practice has created a two-tiered justice system in which those who can afford bail can go home, while those who can’t stay in jail. Risk assessment tools, such as the one in Mecklenburg County, can be a step toward a better system that actually assesses public safety and flight risks in deciding whether to detain someone before their trial. But such programs remain vulnerable to racial bias and can perpetuate racial disparities in the justice system by disproportionately subjecting people of color to court monitoring and other penalties. Risk assessment data should be publicly available and reviewed regularly in order to assess its effectiveness and possible racial bias. Officials should take urgent action toward these and other reforms – such as making it easier for people to show up to court – with the goal of ending cash bail entirely.



From the dark side

I ran across this jewel in a Richmond County paper, which for some reason published a Florida Libertarian's attack on Robert Mueller:

His real goal, of course, is to overturn that election by “getting” Trump on something — anything will do — that Congress can treat, and that the public will accept, as impeachable/indictable.

So far Mueller’s secured indictments of a few Trump associates on charges having little or nothing to do with his overt mission, and of a few Russians for running an internet “troll farm” that posted some cheesy social media ads. But he has yet to put real meat on his mandate and doesn’t seem to be getting much closer to Trump himself than when he started.

It's obvious you have no idea how corruption-related investigations are handled. The first thing you do is follow the money, and isolate the middle-men, the go-betweens who facilitate the subversion of politicians. And Mueller has uncovered direct evidence of tens of millions being exchanged by Trump campaign officials and Russian oligarchs, some of it via Russia-friendly Ukrainians.

And they weren't just "cheesy social media ads," Russian operatives were on the ground in the U.S. staging and manipulating political rallies, while also pushing propaganda to *millions* of people on Facebook and Twitter. This author may call himself a Libertarian, but it's plain from his observations he gets his information mainly from Fox News. More drivel:

Now he’s hitching his wagon to Stormy Daniels’s star. Why? There are two plausible reasons.

One is that he hopes to get Trump on something other than “collusion with Russia.” Trump has publicly denied the affair with Daniels, and has also denied knowledge of Cohen’s payment to Daniels. If he’s lying, and if the payment violated any laws, proof of that might be enough to get impeachment proceedings rolling in Congress and move a grand jury to indict.

The other possibility is that Mueller is baiting Trump to fire him, something sure to be followed by the usual suspects crying “obstruction!” and “constitutional crisis!” then demanding Trump’s head on a platter, and possibly getting it.

Again, follow the money. The Stormy Daniels payoff is only one (minor) aspect of Mueller's interest in Michael Cohen. He's had numerous business dealings with wealthy Russians, much of it real estate purchases that stink of money laundering. But even more important, the Steele Dossier (which Republicans have bent over backwards to discredit) detailed a trip Cohen made to Prague in the Summer of 2016 to meet with Russians, and now Mueller has evidence such a trip did occur, which Cohen has previously denied. That trip took place about a month and a half before Cohen gave Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep mum about her affair with Trump 10 years prior.

If (and right now it's a big "if") that hush money originated in Russia, the goal of that payment could only be for one reason: To prevent negative publicity in the waning weeks of the campaign, to help ensure Donald Trump got elected.

Just an ironic side-observation: I would be more comfortable if it was proven that Trump actually paid that himself, via Cohen. Why? Because the implications of either a corrupt private lawyer *or* a foreign government doing such a thing to protect such a powerful leader are frightening. It implies that they either a) Assume such a leader would be more beneficial for them than he would those he was supposed to represent, or b) Be subject to blackmail if he did not perform as hoped.

In many ways, Stormy Daniels coming forward was the best thing that could have happened for America. Maybe not for Trump, but for all the rest of us? Oh, yeah.