Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


IS NC IN THE HANDS OF DICTATORS? LATEST BUDGET PLOY SUGGESTS SO: North Carolina citizens should not be deceived. They need to be outraged. The leaders of the General Assembly are making a mockery of representative government. It is no understatement to say democracy is under attack in our state. Complaints over the decision to bypass open deliberations in the General Assembly on the new state budget aren’t some legislative playground squabble between Republicans and Democrats on Jones Street in Raleigh. It is a thumb-in-the-eye, a bully’s chest-bump and turned-up nose of disdain directed at each and everyone of the state’s voters and taxpayers by the tinhorn cabal of Senate Leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and a couple of their lieutenants.

THREE OUT OF FOUR NC VOUCHERS SCHOOLS FAIL ON CURRICULUM: Fundamentalist Christian schools are receiving most of the money from North Carolina's four-year-old school voucher program, but they're not providing anything close to the “sound basic education” the state Constitution promises to North Carolina’s children, according to a new report from the League of Women Voters. The League said in announcing its findings that “77 percent of private schools receiving vouchers are using curricula that do not comply with state standards, leaving many students unprepared for college-level coursework or careers in certain fields.” Bonnie Bechard, a retired UNC-CH administrator and a member of the League's Lower Cape Fear chapter, uncovered those lapses after reviewing the curricula being used at more than 100 schools that receive the most school vouchers. The vouchers, known as "opportunity scholarships," provide a maximum of $4,200 per student per school year.

LEGISLATIVE LEADERS' MOVE TO KILL TRIANGLE RAIL PROJECT IS BREACH OF FAITH: Someone in the North Carolina General Assembly is using the state budget to stop the Chapel Hill-to-Durham light rail project. That is a fact. WHAT WE KNOW: No one, even under questioning during a budget presentation Tuesday, will take responsibility for killing the project. The project moved ahead, relying upon the state’s commitment, written into state budget laws, to contribute 10 percent of the cost. That commitment along with locally raised money, is necessary before the federal government will provide its share. This arrangement is typical for these kinds of major transportation projects. Governments in the Triangle have already spent $88 million of their own taxpayers’ money on planning and implementation. WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: Who it is that wants to kill the project? Why does the project need to be stopped? Why is it ok, with commitments in place that have allowed the project to move ahead, to change the agreement?

NC BILL WOULD FOSTER RACIAL SEGREGATION OF MECKLENBURG SCHOOLS: House Bill 514 would allow the Mecklenburg County towns of Matthews and Mint Hill to secede from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district and set up town-run charter schools. A recent report identifies a host of financial problems with the proposal; even more troubling however, is the fact that the bill will allow these towns to create racially segregated, white enclave schools for their residents, subsidized by all taxpayers. HB514 is part of an ongoing campaign by the General Assembly to undermine public education in general and racial diversity in schools in particular. And while that campaign includes recently developed proposals for turning over public schools to private charter operators, taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools, and expansion of charter schools with minimal oversight or regulation, the tactic of legislatively creating white enclave districts to avoid integration goes back over 50 years.

ENDING "ROSEANNE" THE RIGHT THING TO DO: This was not a partisan decision or an example of political correctness run amok. ABC had invested in a show presenting a conservative viewpoint of a working-class family, a perspective that resonated with a swath of America. Balance, provocation and edginess are elements of mainstream entertainment. Barr also has the right to offend and say most anything she wants, thanks to the First Amendment. But she crossed the line of decency, making her a rotten choice to be a face of America’s working-class conservatives and a flag bearer for one of the world’s largest entertainment companies. Barr’s Twitter tirade included vicious personal attacks and echoes of extremist conspiracy theories. Her Jarrett tweet was part of an extended rant, including false claims about George Soros and Chelsea Clinton that suggested Barr has been drinking heavily from the cesspool of fringe politics.


THOMAS B, COLE, MD MPH: PHYSICIANS ARE NOT "UNINFORMED" ON NUTRITION: In “Why our physicians need to know more about nutrition” (May 29), Michael Jacobs (Business Finance Professor) expresses some legitimate concerns about food additives, but instead of criticizing the food industry he says the real problem is that physicians are uninformed about nutrition. The truth is that nutrition education is built into the medical curriculum – for example, it is inconceivable that the causes of cardiovascular disease would be taught to medical students without discussing the role of obesity. Moreover, medicine is a profession that demands lifelong learning. Physicians are required to participate in continuing medical education so they can keep up with new scientific research, which is why I know how cholesterol-lowering therapy works, although statin drugs were not available when I was in medical school. Physicians are also expected to restrict their advice to subjects they have kept up with and thoroughly understand. Wouldn’t it be great if commentary writers held themselves to a similar standard?

EMILY SUTTON & ELAINE CHIOSSO: THE HAW RIVER IS A GREAT ASSET BUT IT'S NOT HEALTHY: We read ​the May 25 article “What the River Can Tell Us-Western Alamance Students Test Water Quality of the Haw” with interest and were pleased to see high school students getting involved in a hands-on water monitoring project. We applaud their teacher, David Vernon, for bringing science to life. The Haw River Assembly has been teaching volunteers to conduct river and stream monitoring for 23 years and have accumulated a large amount of water quality data on the Haw River, including Alamance County. We are also collecting samples to be analyzed for other pollutants. Vernon was quoted saying the water in the Haw River at Saxapahaw is safe. Unfortunately, we do not agree. Other pollutants are present that can only be found through more intensive testing. There are many industrial contaminants in the river coming from factories in Greensboro, Reidsville, Burlington, Graham and other cities, some similar to the GenX found in the Cape Fear at Wilmington. These toxic pollutants have been found in the drinking water downstream in Pittsboro, Jordan Lake and Fayetteville. We are concerned about the levels of these chemicals in fish as well, and that not enough is known for safe fish consumption. Many of these pollutants of concern enter the body through drinking water, but swimming in the river is a pathway for contamination. Frequent sewer system spills from cities are another problem that may not be discovered in one snapshot of testing. However, the spills mean that the river may not be safe for physical contact throughout the year. Graham reported 488,840 gallons of untreated sewage had spilled into Boyd Creek, a tributary of the Haw, in 2017. Graham has a loan from the state, and plans in place to start repairs on this system, but new spills continue. Haw River is beautiful and scenic and we encourage people to enjoy the wonderful land and paddle trails and parks that are along the river in Alamance County. Until action is taken to hold polluters accountable and prevent contamination, don’t swim in it.

ROSEMARY MCGEE: TAKING A KNEE IS NOT DISRESPECTFUL: Isn’t it a sad day when the leader of the free world, charged with protecting the democracy, is the very instrument altering First Amendment rights. Trump continues wielding the power of his office for personal crusades. His latest target is Jeff Bezos, because the Washington Post will not submit to his threats, accurately reporting the news and earlier the NFL.Although I’m not an NFL or football fan, Trump has no right to pressure the players. And, shame on you Roger Goodell for capitulating and not consulting the players. Until now, our country tolerated differing views, but no longer. All Americans have an opinion about taking a knee; however, exercising our First Amendment rights belongs to everyone, and until today no president has attempted to change it. It’s not disrespectful to take a knee, it’s a right many countries do not have, and the president’s responsibility is to protect this right. His behavior models the leaders from Turkey, the Philippines and North Korea, where democracy and a bill of rights do not reside.



From the dark side

Honestly, I could just post Walter Williams' headline, "Capitalism beats Socialism by every measure" and leave it at that, because 98% of his articles read like they could have been extracted from a 1970's newspaper. But he keeps getting published:

Several recent polls, plus the popularity of Sen. Bernie Sanders, demonstrate that young people prefer socialism to free market capitalism. That, I believe, is a result of their ignorance and indoctrination during their school years, from kindergarten through college. For the most part, neither they nor many of their teachers and professors know what free market capitalism is.

Speaking of ignorance, the Democratic Socialism of which Bernie and many others have come to support has very little to do with the Socialism Williams and his kith so love to rant and rave about. It's actually more of an "Enlightened" Capitalism than it is the dread "S" word. But right-wing pundits have neither the mental capacity nor desire to make an honest argument about this, so we get red-scare tactics.

Free market capitalism, wherein there is peaceful voluntary exchange, is morally superior to any other economic system. Why? Let’s start with my initial premise. All of us own ourselves. I am my private property, and you are yours. Murder, rape, theft and the initiation of violence are immoral because they violate self-ownership. Similarly, the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another person, for any reason, is immoral because it violates self-ownership.

Uhhh. When I see these dudes (mostly dudes) spew this "self-ownership" nonsense the first thing that comes to mind is "self-pleasuring," because it's a masturbatory exercise in rhetorical gibberish with a healthy dose of fear-mongering thrown in for good measure. You want to talk about "immorality" and the forcible use of one person to benefit another, how about the Robber Barons and the use of Pinkertons to keep workers in line, often leaving a trail of bodies in their wake? No? Don't want to talk about that? Didn't think so.

Let’s compare capitalism with socialism by answering the following questions: In which areas of our lives do we find the greatest satisfaction, and in which do we find the greatest dissatisfaction? It turns out that we seldom find people upset with and in conflict with computer and clothing stores, supermarkets, and hardware stores. We do see people highly dissatisfied with and often in conflict with boards of education, motor vehicles departments, police and city sanitation services.

What are the differences? For one, the motivation for the provision of services of computer and clothing stores, supermarkets, and hardware stores is profit. Also, if you’re dissatisfied with their services, you can instantaneously fire them by taking your business elsewhere. It’s a different matter with public education, motor vehicles departments, police and city sanitation services. They are not motivated by profit at all. Plus, if you’re dissatisfied with their service, it is costly and in many cases even impossible to fire them.

And therein lies the true ignorance of Walter Williams. Those stores are not an example of a "true" free market, as any Libertarian will tell you, and those government agencies are nowhere near Socialist in nature. So this comparison is just another masturbatory exercise, littered with anti-government overtones.

You want a good example of what a "true" free market can get you? Go to Somalia. Warlords control whatever real estate and commerce they can, while they can, until somebody puts a bullet in the back of their head and takes over. Pirates operate freely off its coast, terrorizing and ransoming Capitalist corporations and free citizens from dozens of countries around the world.

But that's only one example of what a "weak" government will produce (not "can," will), and frankly, pushing this sort of reform is both ignorant and reckless.