Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


TIME FOR NC'S CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION TO STAND AGAINST INHUMANITY AT THE BORDER: What is going on at the Mexican border today is ugly, un-American and WRONG. That is why Gov. Roy Cooper has joined with other governors – Republicans and Democrats, in calling members of the state National Guard now deployed to the border back home. It is why Attorney General Josh Stein joined with 20 other state attorneys general to sign a letter calling on Sessions to end the current policy as “inhumane” and an abuse of children’s rights. There are other North Carolina voices that need to be heard from, loud and clear about where they stand on the Trump administration’s policies and actions that take children from their parents – about 2,000 in less than two months. Speak up Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis. Where do you stand? Do you back the president or will you work with Democrats to end this policy?

INCREASED MENTAL HEALTH CARE ALONE WON'T STOP GUN VIOLENCE: We looked at both the strictness of gun control laws and access to mental health care for those who need it at the state level to determine the relative effects of these two approaches on the number of gun-related deaths in each state. While strict gun control laws alone were strongly correlated with fewer gun deaths (as expected), greater access to mental health services alone appeared to have no significant effect on the number of gun fatalities. We also found evidence that a combination of both approaches was effective at reducing the rate of gun deaths. States that had both strict gun control laws and a high percentage of residents with access to mental health care experienced fewer gun deaths than the mental health care solution alone. The implication of this for policymakers interested in reducing gun violence is that providing more mental health care alone is unlikely to significantly reduce gun deaths in the United States. Instead, any policy to reduce gun violence should include stricter gun control laws.

PAUL KRUGMAN: THE RETURN OF THE BLOOD LIBEL: True, if we look across America there is a correlation between violent crime and the prevalence of undocumented immigrants — a negative correlation. That is, places with a lot of immigrants, legal and undocumented, tend to have exceptionally low crime rates. So the Trump administration has been terrorizing families and children, abandoning all norms of human decency, in response to a crisis that doesn’t even exist. In any case, the important thing to understand is that the atrocities our nation is now committing at the border don’t represent an overreaction or poorly implemented response to some actual problem that needs solving. There is no immigration crisis; there is no crisis of immigrant crime. No, the real crisis is an upsurge in hatred — unreasoning hatred that bears no relationship to anything the victims have done. And anyone making excuses for that hatred — who tries, for example, to turn it into a “both sides” story — is, in effect, an apologist for crimes against humanity.

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS LOSING ITS HUMANITY: For centuries, conservatives have repeated a specific critique against state power. Statism, conservatives have argued, has a tendency to become brutalist and inhumane because a bureaucracy can’t see or account for the complexity of reality. Statist social engineering projects cause horrific suffering because in the mind of statists, the abstract rule is more important than the human being in front of them. This is exactly what the Trump immigration policies are doing. Families are ripped apart and children are left weeping by the fences constructed by government officials blindly following a regulation. This illustrates something crucial about this administration. It is not populated by conservatives. It is populated by anti-liberal trolls. There’s a difference. People like Stephen Miller are not steeped in conservative thinking and do not operate with a conservative disposition. They were formed by their rebellion against the stifling conformity they found at liberal universities. In power they take the worst excesses of statism and flip them for anti-liberal ends.

TAKING OWNERSHIP OF GENX CONTAMINATION: Chemours, the company whose chemical GenX has polluted hundreds of wells in Cumberland and Bladen counties, says it is willing to pay the steep costs of installing filters at people’s homes. Good. The company also says it is evaluating whether to cover costs of connecting residents in the area to municipal water lines. Even better. Paul Kirsch, the president of fluoroproducts at Chemours, told a skeptical crowd last week in St. Pauls that he — and presumably his employer — would “own” the issue. The willingness of Chemours to pay thousands of dollars for granular activated carbon filtration systems, and perhaps many thousands more dollars to run water lines, is a good start for “owning” the GenX problem. State regulators say they do not consider the filters to be a long-term solution. The company says it believes the filters work. We will soon find out more complete results from pilot testing of several filters. And the state’s Department of Environmental Quality has given Chemours until June 30 to develop a plan to provide a permanent water supply to contaminated homes.


AMAKA IMOH: EARLY EDUCATION FUNDING MAKES A DIFFERENCE: I am extremely upset by the $50 million additional dollars that were redirected from early education and funneled back into the state’s general fund. Early education is essential for the development and success of young children. I can personally attest to the difference it has made in my family. Both my brother and I gained valuable reading skills, in addition to cultural awareness, behavioral skills and world knowledge. My brother loved pre-K. The school did the best they could with very limited resources and staff. It was a chance for him to make new friends, play games and gain new knowledge. My brother retained much of that knowledge and is currently excelling in grade school. I currently attend Appalachian State University and am going to graduate one year ahead of schedule. The additional $50 million could have been used to expand access to NC pre-K and to provide much-needed child care subsidies for working families. It’s a shame that many other children will not be fortunate enough to have such experiences due to this lack of funding in 2019.

RENATE DAHLIN: AMERICA HAS BECOME UGLIER...AND THE PUBLIC LOVES IT: never cared for the Republican fiscal policies. But now, as the years went on and the party won dominance to the point that they are the exclusive lawmakers, I feel a strong dislike for them. The Republican General Assembly and even Congress, to me, are akin to a dictatorship. To make laws in private, not allowing the other party to have any input, to give tax cuts (I am not heavy on tax cuts in the first place) to mainly the moneyed elements in the state and country, and do the savings on the back of those who have no voice, is unconscionable. And this power and money greed has made this country slide more and more into a place where only money/power have a voice. I truly miss the caring and benign country and great generation of decades ago. America has definitely lost its luster, and became uglier in actions and speak. And it seems the vocal public loves that. They may not be quite the majority, but they are vocal, and the good voices are silent, obviously feeling overwhelmed.

BARBARA GIBSON: STATE EMPLOYEES' SALARIES GROSSLY MISCHARACTERIZED AS BILKING TAXPAYERS: The authors (Ross Marchand and Donald Bryson of Civitas) apparently used the N&O’s database of state employee salaries to sort workers classified as “research assistants” to conclude that many “with a couple of years of experience” earn $50,000 or more annually. What they failed to point out is that half of those research assistants are top law school graduates who clerk for state Supreme Court Justices and Court of Appeals judges, plus serve as Trial Court Research Assistants. The U.S Labor Department standard cited for comparison is for Social Science Research Assistants, not attorneys. Using the same N&O database, you find that most state agency employees who share the same job name are paid closer to the mean annual wage of $41,020 for Durham-Chapel Hill. Additionally, the authors criticized Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, for earning $192,500. Cohen is a medical doctor with extensive state and federal experience who runs three state hospitals and manages more than 15,700 employees in a vast scope of health- related jobs. It would be a hard sell to persuade a private-sector executive to take on the mission of improving the health, safety and well-being of all North Carolinians at that rate. The reality is that state employees fulfill a wide variety of jobs on behalf of the people of North Carolina, with many of them choosing public service when they could earn more in the private sector. Barbara Gibson is the Director for the Office of State Human Resources



From the dark side

J. Peder Zane takes his reserved spot as this week's loser:

The researchers noted that their small sample size and other restrictions meant their study was probably indicative rather than definitive. Supporters of traditional public schools seized on these caveats. The N&O’s Editorial Board argued, “What the study makes clear is there’s no way to know whether the students who received [the vouchers] … are getting a better education than they would at their local public school.”

Actually, we do have a very reliable measure besides the test scores: the low-income parents who jumped through hoops to secure the vouchers. If the private schools were not an upgrade, we would expect these engaged families to exercise their option to re-enroll their kids in traditional public schools. That is not happening.

This is a slight variation of the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy, because there are numerous reasons a parent would remove their child from a (often much larger) public school, and academics is usually not one of the main contributing factors. Bullying, behavioral or developmental challenges, and yes, the desire to condition (indoctrinate) their own child in religious teachings (as opposed to secular) top the lists of said reasons.

For those parents, a drop in academic quality would have to be substantial for them to even consider it as a factor in relocating their child.

A related line of attack points to a League of Women Voters study suggesting that perhaps three quarters of private schools in North Carolina use a Christian-based curriculum which dismisses the theory of evolution. I am troubled by that. But it’s also true that only 19 percent of Americans in a 2017 Gallup poll believe humans developed apart from God. So traditional schools are not doing a great job on that front either.

In addition, most Americans lead happy productive lives in our high-tech society without ever invoking Darwin. There is zero evidence that graduates of fundamentalist schools are ill-equipped to do college work or secure jobs.

A better statistic is that 57% of Americans believe in some form of evolution, whether God played a part in that or not. That's (frighteningly) low enough as it is without cherry-picking an extreme poll choice.

But what Zane fails to grasp, because he apparently does not understand the subject as much as he thinks he does: Evolution is only the tail end of Darwin's analysis. The key, which he tried desperately to convey, lies in Adaptation. The ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions and circumstances, some of which are eventually encoded in our DNA.

In my experience, the *few* business leaders who received a fundamentalist religious education and became moderately successful have some major flaws, and rigidity is a big one. They are much less likely to view subordinates as a "work in progress," somebody who will be more effective and efficient five years in the future as opposed to right now. So instead of investing time in developing their staff, they fish around looking for people who meet their moral expectations. Good church-going people, nevermind if they're blithering idiots or not.

One more fallacy from this particular blithering idiot:

Perhaps parents are concerned that it is harder to inculcate character in classrooms where, a new study shows, teachers feel less safe because of a breakdown in discipline. Perhaps they take pause at the fact that 34 percent of public school teachers took ten or more sick days last year – compared with 12.8 percent of teachers at charter schools.

Perhaps the most misleading statistic Zane has ever abused, and that's saying a lot. Public school teachers and their unions/associations labored for decades to get paid sick days included in their benefits packages, and (for many) if they don't take them they lose them. That is a structural factor, not a sign of a lack of care and consideration.

Charter schools, on the other hand, are notorious for not only failing to provide such a benefit, but punishing teachers for their absences. Charter school teachers are all "at will" employees, with no statutory recourse for being dismissed, whether 'for cause" or not. Of course they don't take as many days off as those who are authorized to, because the ones that do end up getting fired. Or otherwise mistreated to the point they quit.

File this one under just one more column J. Peder Zane failed to research properly, and/or just decided to pull a Trump and make shit up.

I need another shower...

Suffice it to say, taking such a deep dive into right-wing propagandist muck is not my personal choice for a relaxing weekend activity.

Is that whining? Sounds like whining. Sorry. :)