Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


APPEALS COURT ORDER IN PUBLIC EDUCATION EQUITY CASE NEEDS TO BE CHALLENGED: Earlier this week, a three-judge Court of Appeals panel said that a judge didn’t have the authority to direct other state officials to spend state dollars to finally fix the inequity. But one of the Appeals Court judges, John Arrowood, dissented saying his two colleagues went beyond the issues they were asked to resolve. Further, they violated the state Rules of Appellate Procedure. It was essentially an invitation from one judge to the parties in the case to complain to the state’s Judicial Standards Commission that they were denied their right to respond to the petition that was at issue. “Shortening the time for a response was a mechanism to permit the majority to hastily decide this matter on the merits, with only one day for a response, without a full briefing schedule, no public calendaring of the case, and no opportunity for arguments and on the last day this panel is constituted,” Arrowood wrote in his dissent. “This is a classic case of deciding a matter on the merits using a shadow docket of the courts.” Judicial elections matter. These two Republican judges proved they can't be trusted to limit their actions to what they are asked to do (temporary stay), and the irony of them "overreaching" to combat what they claim is judicial overreach is GOP to its core.

KEEP YOUR MORAL PANIC OUT OF MY WOMB; ABORTION IS A RIGHT WORTH FIGHTING FOR: If the United States Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, pregnant people will die. We will die in our bathrooms with knitting needles and wire coat hangers in our hands. We will die in back-alley clinics from septic shock. We will die in friends’ beds and on their couches because we couldn’t go home. We will lose mothers and teens and those in between, equally. Because making abortion illegal does not stop pregnant people from seeking abortions — it simply makes it more deadly. Across the world, unsafe abortions are the third leading cause of maternal deaths., according to the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute. There may be people, maybe even readers of this column, who might say that pregnant people seeking an abortion should die. That it is our punishment for seeking to end a pregnancy. To you, I say that is a vile wish, and I hope you find it in your heart for empathy and compassion for those among us who experience a far different set of circumstances than you will ever face. At the very least, I say keep your moral panic out of my womb. Comprehensive health care in this country is a joke if you are anything other than a white, heterosexual, cisgender male, and so abortion rights have always been tenuous. Yet nearly one in four child-bearing persons in the United States will have an abortion by age 45. I can confidently say without hesitation that we know people who have had to avail themselves of those rights. We deserve agency over our bodies and we deserve leaders who care if we die. Right now, Americans have neither. The 2022 Legislative races in NC are more important than ever with this looming decision, because it will be Republicans in the individual states who will take advantage of it. We must preserve Governor Cooper's Veto effectiveness, at all costs.

CALLING OUT THOSE WHO PANDER TO BIGOTRY: When did it become an article of faith that being a Republican or adhering to “conservative” political principles meant embracing bigotry and intolerance? Is that where things are today? In North Carolina, it arrived when the party’s leadership decided to solidify a political base on a foundation of fear. Their unequivocal message is that some people -- because of the color of their skin, how they identify themselves, those they choose to love, the houses of worship they attend or faiths they follow, or their disabilities – are inferior. People who are poor, unable to access health care, adequate nutrition, education and employment opportunities, are in that state by choice. They are to be loathed for it and left to their own devices. It makes no matter the race, gender or physical condition of those delivering that message. It is bigotry nonetheless. Should someone in an appropriate forum, with steady affirming language and without name-calling or schoolyard insults challenge it, they are accosted in in hallways, badgered and bullied. There is no dialogue or debate. Enough is enough. The leaders of North Carolina’s Republican party need to stop their not-so-discrete winking and nodding to the fear-mongers and intolerance-peddlers. They are banking on the politics of fear and exclusion, along with a healthy dose of corrupt map-making, to give them the edge they need to remain in power. And it will probably work, which is even more frustrating.

TO GET BETTER PAY NC TEACHERS MAY NEED TO MARCH IN THE STREETS LOCALLY: Since the beginning of this school year and through the final four months of state budget negotiations, we at the North Carolina Association of Educators advocated for meaningful salary increases, increased classroom funding and a fulfillment of the Leandro mandate. But above all, we fought for recognition of what’s happening in our public schools across the state. Teachers and support staff are exhausted, overworked, and their frustration has reached a boiling point. We fear the budget is too little, too late for too many. It’s been more than 10 years since education funding was slashed during the Great Recession, and it’s never recovered. It’s been three years since the last pay raise for educators. And it’s been almost two years since public education was fundamentally altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Underfunding alone was already taking a toll on our public schools. We’ve been losing good teachers and staff for more than a decade, but when you add in the stress and safety concerns of the pandemic without any corresponding appreciation from state lawmakers, the educator exodus took flight. Now that we are in the middle of a pandemic and a staff vacancy crisis, educators have every reason to be disappointed in the new state budget. The N.C. General Assembly had the funds available to give bigger raises and show appreciation to the educators that are working harder and longer hours than ever before. However, state lawmakers chose to do the bare minimum. We could have fully funded our constitutional mandate to provide a high-quality public education for every child. Instead, lawmakers chose more than $2 billion in new tax cuts over our children’s education. As a fiction writer, I have been advised to "show don't tell." Well, Republicans have shown us (numerous times) where their loyalties lie, with their wealthy corporate overlords and not our children. Now it's time for voters to "show" us how much they care about those children. Candidate filing for the 2022 Election begins tomorrow, and every single one of those candidates needs to be asked about education funding.

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR DROPS THE S-BOMB: Stench. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said stench, about her own court, during oral argument Wednesday in the Mississippi abortion case. Specifically, observing that states were passing ever-stricter abortion laws, explicitly inspired by the court’s new conservative majority: “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don’t see how it is possible.” This was no spur-of-the-moment comment. Stench was a word deliberately chosen, calibrated to the perceived danger of the moment, studiously oblivious to whether it would antagonize colleagues. It was the equivalent of shouting, “Fire!” in an uncrowded courtroom, not so much to those present but to a live-streaming nation. And stench was just the start of what Sotomayor had to say. “How is your interest anything but a religious view?” she demanded of Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart. “I just think you’re dissimulating when you say that any ruling here wouldn’t have an effect on those,” she told Stewart when he asserted that overruling Roe would not imperil other court decisions on same-sex marriage, sexual privacy or contraceptive access. “What are the advancements in medicine” that could justify abandoning Roe v. Wade, she pressed — and proceeded to lecture that there have been none that are scientifically valid. “So when does the life of a woman and putting her at risk enter the calculus?” she asked, reeling off statistics on the far greater risk to women, especially poor women, in giving birth than in terminating a pregnancy. Sotomayor is less inclined to horse-trading than truth-telling. The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last year left her as the court’s loudest liberal voice. And she isn’t mincing words or playing nice, not any more. When Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. interrupted her line of questioning Wednesday, Sotomayor inquired coolly: “May I finish my inquiry?” This was no accident. When she is interrupted at oral argument, as studies have shown happens more frequently to female justices, Sotomayor has observed, “I respond in a way that perhaps I shouldn’t, which is I interrupt back.” And when the court, in her view, errs, she slaps back, often with savage honesty and a real-world perspective not often demonstrated in the arid confines of judicial opinions. In 2016, when the court allowed the use of evidence obtained from an unconstitutional police stop, Sotomayor’s dissent took pains to describe the impact on “those subjected to the humiliations” of being stopped without any basis for suspicion. It's the 21st Century, and the subservient woman is no longer the norm. Get used to it.


PATTI MAXWELL: WE NEED TO PASS BUILD BACK BETTER ACT: It’s time to get serious about passing the Build Back Better Act. The next child tax credit payment goes out Dec. 15 and if Build Back Better isn’t passed, it will be the last payment. Social programs in the 1950s contributed to family growth, which contributed to economic growth. According to a Pew Research Center survey released last month, 17% of non-parents ages 18 to 49 don’t want to have children due to financial concerns. Extending child tax credits another year, extending the earned income tax credit, adding 300,000 new housing vouchers for low-income renters, as well as paid family leave, can help families move forward — an important piece towards having a stronger economy. I applaud recent passage of the infrastructure bill. Now it’s time to focus on other things this country values — families and children — by passing Build Back Better. I fear our window of opportunity for doing this is closing. And if we don't do it, that window may slam shut for years.

NIDA ALLAM: FOR EQUALITY'S SAKE, MARK ROBINSON NEEDS TO RESIGN: Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s disgraceful hate speech never seems to let up. (Nov. 21) Enough is enough. These are unacceptable comments from the lieutenant governor. All in North Carolina should feel safe and supported living as their authentic selves, regardless of whom they love or how they identify. Republican and Democrat leaders should defend the rights of every North Carolinian. We need to pass the Equality Act to end discrimination on the basis of sexual identity or gender expression. We need a nationwide ban on conversion therapy, to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ families in adoption and foster care, and to crack down on bullying and discrimination in schools. But first, we need our elected officials to show basic decency and respect to communities they represent. It’s time for Robinson to resign. I wish this were possible, but the man has no shame, and neither do his enablers in the NC GOP.

THANKFUL VANDERSTAR: SPEAK FOR ALL WOMEN, OR DON'T SPEAK: I was appalled to read Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s Nov. 29 op-ed, “Overturn Roe and return abortion policy to the people,” in support of Mississippi’s abortion ban heard by the Supreme Court this week. Ms. Fitch made unsupportable, offensive claims about ease of access to effective contraception and how wonderful things are for the underprivileged women whose lives will be most affected if abortion bans such as Mississippi’s stand. Ms. Fitch did not concern herself with women whose pregnancies are deemed not viable because of the likely suffering and death of the fetus or because of the danger to the mother’s health or life. Ms. Fitch neglected the women and girls who become pregnant from rape, incest or sex trafficking and for whom that so-called widely accessible contraception is moot. Ms. Fitch argued that “it is the core principle of democratic self-governance that U.S. citizens act on hard issues through the men and women they elect and can hold accountable at the ballot box.” Ms. Fitch is one of numerous “officials” who tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election, despite overwhelming and uncontroverted evidence that the election was free and fair. Ms. Fitch no more wants Americans to be able to hold their elected officials accountable at the ballot box than she wants American women to have agency over the decisions they make with regard to whether they want to procreate or to subject their bodies and their lives to the trials of pregnancy, delivery and motherhood. Ms. Fitch does not speak for most women, and those women who value and want better lives for each other should not listen to her. What she said.



What we have here is a failure to communicate...

I've been putting in a lot of hours at work. It's our busy season, when schools around the country (and a lot in NC) are sending in Chromebooks that need to be repaired, and getting them back in the hands of students who desperately need them is the main, overriding goal.

I try to remember that, every day, to ease some of the stress associated with handling the massive volume of repair parts that need to be received, properly stored, and pulled from inventory on demand, in order to make that happen. My background in manufacturing management has helped me streamline this effort, but it is often a struggle to communicate the reasons why certain processes and procedures are necessary to achieve efficiency. I have always operated from the position that, if everybody understands why you need to do a thing, that thing will be easier to accomplish, because they will be active agents in that pursuit, and not skeptics.

It's a lot harder than it sounds.

We (including me) are vulnerable to triggers when we try to communicate with each other. It may be a word, a tone, or even a barely-noticeable facial expression that triggers a negative response. But whatever it is, this creates a barrier. The information being purveyed is tainted, viewed through a lens of distrust and suspicion. It's no longer about the process being discussed, it's about motives and agenda. Spheres of influence. Power and authority. And good ideas simply cannot survive in that environment.

Yes, the above is an analogy of our wider political and social challenges. Most of you reading this would agree that combining our efforts and knowledge is the best way to achieve progress. It's the backbone of science; we would still be fighting over caves without it. But in order for us to do that, we have to work harder to avoid pitfalls in communication.

So let's talk about triggers. We should not be fully-cocked or even half-cocked (yes, that is the origin of the phrase), we should not be cocked at all. Presumption and assumption do not serve us well, they limit our capability to absorb new information. Transference is also a common barrier to communication, when somebody "reminds you" of someone else, who has had a negative influence on your life. We may have learned to be wary from previous experiences, but we need to unlearn some of that. Do not attribute a character trait to somebody else based on your "senses," because they are often faulty and misleading. Your brain wants to sort people into niches, so they're easier to understand, but the exact opposite is the result of that. Your understanding suffers, and your actions will reflect that.

As is often the case, the words above are as much for me as they are for you. Life is way too short to be angry all of the time, and unable to learn new things. New things which just might make that life more bearable.