Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


UNC'S STATURE THREATENED BY SYSTEM BOARD'S MEDIOCRITY: Folt’s courtesy, professionalism and willingness to meet the desires of legislative leaders (including several key aides to legislative leaders landed well-paying jobs at the campus) has not been returned in kind – as displayed Tuesday when the UNC Board impetuously fired Folt four months before the date of her intended resignation. The board’s action, preceded hours earlier by an angry statement from Board Chairman Harry Smith, displayed just why exceptional and capable leaders like Margaret Spellings and Folt don’t want to work for them. Tuesday was Spelling's last day as president of the UNC system. Folt will leave on Jan. 31. Folt has accomplished a great deal in her tenure as chancellor. We thought at times that she did not move as quickly as she should have. But her deliberate style helped the university smooth out several trouble spots. Smith couldn’t bring himself to offer any appreciative words for Folt’s service to the students, faculty, administration, as well as his board.

IN NC, ALL DIVERSITY SITS ON ONE SIDE OF THE AISLE: In the 2019 House, the 26 African Americans and one Native American member are all Democrats. All 65 Republicans are white. In the Senate, the 10 African-Americans and 2 Indian-Americans are Democrats. Every Republican (29) is white. So when the majority Republican caucuses repair to their private deliberations to set the rules for North Carolina, only white people attend. There are no blacks, no Latinos, no Native Americans – though 22 percent of Tar Heels are black, 9 percent are Hispanic and 2 percent are Native American. Almost 150 years after the enactment of the 15th Amendment, our General Assembly is controlled by a white people’s party. Re-read that sentence. Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, to examine the fruits of their last seven years’ labor. The largest racial gerrymanders in history. Repeated “surgically precise” steps to thwart black electoral participation. Laws eliminating race discrimination claims. The repeal of the Racial Justice Act. State encouraged school segregation. Idolatrous protections for Confederate monuments. Legal shielding of police-camera footage. I could go on.

THE LEGISLATURE'S LATEST ASSAULTS ON TRANSPARENCY: It’s difficult to remember now, but when Republicans took the reins of power back in 2011, they rode in on a platform that promised a new era of openness in government. Whether they were highlighting the corruption of former House Speaker Jim Black, the top-heavy control of the Senate by longtime Democratic leader Marc Basnight, or the numerous ethical foibles that plagued the administration of former Gov. Mike Easley, Republican leaders promised a new, cleaner and more transparent government. As has been documented in the years since, however, most of those promises of reform have been ignored or affirmatively broken. Rather than disinfecting the legislative branch, conservative leaders have doubled down on secrecy, obfuscation, abuse of process, and limitations on debate. From hastily-called late night “special” sessions, to the disastrous backroom deal that produced HB 2, to last year’s remarkable decision to pass a state budget without allowing an opportunity for the proposal and consideration of amendments, the pattern continues.

CONSUMERS EMBRACE RENEWABLE ENERGY, SO SHOULD NC LEGISLATIVE LEADERS: Public officials along with public and private energy generators and distributors should take notice and look for appropriate ways to encourage expanded residential use of renewable energy. Gov. Roy Cooper has noticed and has been leading efforts to grow the clean energy economy. Our legislative leaders have been out of step with both North Carolinians desires and our neighboring states energy policies. Virginia and South Carolina have looked to expand opportunities for solar capacity and offshore wind energy development while appropriately remaining highly skeptical at efforts to make our coastal waters open to fossil fuel exploration and development. These solar rebates were gone in a flash. It should be a bright signal to North Carolina policy makers. It is past time to expand opportunities to embrace renewable energy and put the state back on the road to national leadership in growing its clean energy economy.

THE LOST CHILDREN OF THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: In an accounting that resulted from Judge Sabraw’s order, stemming from a legal challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the government acknowledged that nearly 3,000 children had been separated from their parents since the policy was announced. But on top of that, the inspector general said, thousands more may not have been counted. Over all, the total number of children separated at the border is “unknown,” according to the report. Nor was it clear how many of these children had yet to be reunited with their families. The report describes department officials essentially grasping in the dark to come to terms with what had happened. “Because the tracking systems in use at that time were informal and designed for operational purposes,” according to the report, immigration officials were “unable to provide a more precise estimate or specific information about these children’s placements.” Department officials had to search more than 60 databases “to identify indicators of possible separation, such as an adult and child with the same last name apprehended on the same day at the same location.” Officials also had to review 12,000 case files and contact the department’s shelters to find children who had been separated from their families.


REGAN MENSCH BROWN: DIX SHOULD BE A WILDERNESS PARK, NOT A COMMERCE CENTER: The Triangle has multiple outdoor performance venues, great botanical parks, historical farms, numerous children’s theme parks in addition to the wonderfully renovated Pullen Park, athletic parks for soccer, softball and even cricket, and bicycle trail systems. We also have a great multitude of restaurants and breweries everywhere. But what we need in our bustling city are wilderness park areas — large areas of quiet forest and swamp where we can see and hear wildlife and walk in quietude. Even now, Umstead, the Fine Arts Museum grounds and Dix Park are being threatened with commercial development — from a quarry to a city venue of hotels, parking, restaurants, and amusement parks. Wilderness parks provide a place to walk, sit, and contemplate - a spiritual refuge from the noise and commotion of the city. They also provide ecosystem services - to purify the air, treat the water runoff from streets, absorb carbon, provide habitat for wildlife and preserve plant and insect diversity. Lets make Dix Park a refuge within the city, not just more of what we already have.

JOSEPH LYONS: PRESIDENT TRUMP IS STILL A SPOILED CHILD: When Donald Trump first occupied the office of president, the White House staff expected civility, judgment, and benevolent leadership. They were ready for someone who would respect and dignify the office of the presidency. Instead, they got rudeness, and crass language. They experienced behavior they had never seen before: absurd exaggerations and serial lying, impulsive decision-making, virulent attacks on our free press, the denial of fact-based information from our intelligence agencies, and sudden, incoherent rages. These rages were the most confusing because of their intensity. They were not at all like the noble and righteous anger of leader, but rather like a incessant whine of someone who didn’t get what he wanted. No wonder the staff members were confused and bewildered by this strange, nonpresidential behavior, for many had never seen a full-blown temper tantrum from a grown man. But given the twisted nature of this odd person, his outbursts should have been surprising, but not unexpected. You see, Donald Trump simply grew up a spoiled child who usually got what he wanted if he cried, screamed, whimpered and pounded the floor with his tiny fists. These children intuitively know if they shout long enough, over and over, “I want, I want, I want, I want,” their parents will eventually give in. So it is with Donald Trump. But take heart, these tantrums don’t usually last long, and once over, Donald will be able to resume his abnormal behavior. Unfortunately, he has become a president like no other in history; he is definitely not a mature human being, but rather a man-child who doesn’t read, listen, think or lead.

ALLEN BRYANT: SILENT SAM AND THE MORAL ARC OF JUSTICE: Ol’ Sam was never silent. He always spoke volumes – about priorities and power, about the South’s fetish for romanticizing the Confederacy. Sam stood guard in our beautiful quad, a reminder of who and what was in charge. Legs spread-eagled, clutching his rifle, he stood there like a bulwark against modernity. Or justice. Today, though, on that campus I love more than words can describe, there is just a square space of wilted brown where grass hasn’t grown for a century. And yet Sam still isn’t silent. Now, however, he has a new message, and that is that the moral arc of the universe, though slow, does indeed bend towards justice.



From the dark side

J. Peder Zane reclaims his throne as the most outstanding jackass of the week:

The revival of the Chuck & Nancy show and the renewed calls for “free” healthcare and “free” college make this a good time to recall a central truth of American politics: Republican gains are fleeting, but Democrat victories are forever. GOP tax cuts and deregulation schemes can be undone with a single vote; Trump’s proposed border wall could be dismantled lickety-split by the next Democrat president.

But the Democrats’ signature achievements — Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare — are now as entrenched as the Constitution.

For once I'm actually glad the N&O gives this idiot column space, because he just proved that Democrats work for the people, not big business and the wealthy.

Those signature achievements have done more to keep our nation healthy and prosperous than *all* Republican initiatives combined. And that may be the main reason the GOP hates them so much. Not because they don't work well, because they do, but because they are a constant reminder that one party always pursues progress with everybody in mind, not just a select few.

We can debate whether they endure because they are necessary and good or because so many people are dependent on them. But it’s clear that both parties now consider these programs, which exploded the role and reach of our federal government and account for about half of the national budget, effectively untouchable. This capitulation to the welfare state is a significant reversal for the GOP, challenging the false talking point that it has moved sharply to the right.

Zane is either horrifically uninformed or is being intentionally deceiving. Republicans in Congress resolved to cut $537 Billion from Medicare and over a Trillion from Medicaid over the next 8-10 years. If that's "untouchable," I'd hate to see what they would do if touching was allowed.

Instead, the best true conservatives can do these days is nibble around the edges, such as North Carolina’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The left is relentless and will not stop until it wins that battle as well. As they do on so many issues, they try to obscure the hard choices and tradeoffs involved by framing expansion as a moral issue — and, therefore, beyond reasonable debate.

It's not just a moral issue, it's also an issue of equal treatment under the law. Whether it was a wise choice or not, those who designed the Affordable Care Act had a formula, an approach to make health care more easily available for all but the highest income brackets. The expansion of Medicaid was a link in that chain, to connect with lower-middle and middle class citizens who receive a subsidy to help them pay premiums. By not expanding Medicaid, NC's Republicans put an unequal and patently cruel burden on that specific middle group, who now receive zero assistance while those above them in income tiers are subsidized.

Basically, Republicans in NC did this because they could. Because the law gave them that option, which it shouldn't have. They did it not to save money, but to destroy the ACA, by creating such an imbalanced approach. And now that they realize their little gambit did not work, they need to fix the problem they created in their lust to undermine Obama.

North Carolina’s proponents of Medicaid expansion like to note that the federal government now finances 90 percent of the cost. That does not make it free — because we are the federal government. Thanks to a lack of fiscal discipline from both parties — and the unwillingness of the American people to confront our perilous finances. We are currently running trillion dollar deficits and the national debt stands at around $22 trillion. We can’t pay for the government we have; expansion will just add to the burden of future generations.

Is it moral to stick them with more debt?

Not one solitary word about Trump's $1.5 Trillion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. Nada. We jumped from annual budget deficits of $500-$600 Billion to a Trillion a year, and these right-wing pundits act like that never happened.

To call it "cognitive dissonance" would be a mistake, because most of these jackasses know exactly what's going on, they're just intentionally misleading their readers. In Zane's case though, he may actually be that delusional.