Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


COURT MUST AFFIRM LEANDRO ORDER AND PLAN, NC MUST FUND IT: CNBC recently lauded North Carolina as the #1 state in the country for business, yet we hear from business leaders that they struggle to find enough qualified candidates for the jobs in our state. Businesses need strong graduates from our K-12 programs, community colleges, and universities. We have countless research studies pointing to the importance of investing in public education for the long-term success of students and our economy. In North Carolina, it is the state’s responsibility to fund public education. Yet our state lawmakers make decision after decision failing to invest sufficiently in our future -- in our kids and their schools. It did not have to be like this. But years of imprudent policy and funding decisions have led to this point. The state has a significant budget surplus, $6.5 billion just this year. We have the money - and when considering the return on investment, is there a better way to spend our surplus than to invest in our students? And as long as Republicans in the General Assembly continue to low-ball education funding, NC's rural-urban divide will broaden. State funding can be the great equalizer, harmonizing the education quality of all 100 counties. But when you force those counties to supplement teacher pay, only the ones with a larger property tax base can afford to do so. Rural counties are forced to make do, and that was surely not the intent of those who wrote and approved our state's Constitution.

WE TEACH NC'S TEACHERS: THIS STATE IS IN CRISIS: Teaching is a profession in crisis. With school starting in less than month, districts are reporting significant shortages of teachers and other staff. My co-author is a longtime N.C. teacher and I’m a university professor who prepares teachers to teach. In my 30-year career of preparing high school teachers in North Carolina, this is the first time in which no students are choosing to become science teachers. If we want to keep teachers in the classroom — and attract new teachers — we need to urgently change the narrative. While low salary is a factor in current vacancies, people choose to teach because they believe education is important and that teachers and public schools are valued. But times have changed. State and national policy makers must recognize that the devaluing of the profession is driving good teachers out of the field and deterring people from becoming teachers. At a time when teachers and schools were working overtime to support children’s education and needed the support of parents and politicians, they were chastised for valuing their own safety. Teachers are also on the front lines of a contentious political and cultural climate which includes parent protests against mask mandates, legislators accusing teachers of indoctrinating children by teaching critical race theory, and states passing laws which ban teachers from teaching about race and racism and from making students feel discomfort or guilt. For example, in the midst of the pandemic when teachers were overwhelmed with juggling unprecedented tasks, N.C. teachers were required to post their lesson plans online for parents to screen for hints of indoctrination. While there were few examples in any state of teachers engaging in “indoctrination,” a blanket of suspicion was spread over all teachers. It's more than a little ironic that most of these challenges are due to Republicans trying to score political points and enrage their base, while they're also engaged in underfunding public schools. In other words, they don't care about those students (or their parents), except as fodder for their political aspirations. And it's frustrating that so many voters fail to detect that blatantly obvious contradiction.

THE GOP'S POSITION ON CONTRACEPTION EXPOSES ITS ABORTION HYPOCRISY: A logical person might think that politicians who oppose abortion rights would want to do as much as they can to prevent unplanned pregnancies that often lead to abortion. A logical person might also assume that those politicians would support, say, access to contraception, which makes pregnancy far less likely. They would be wrong. Because when the U.S. House passed a bill last week that would protect access to contraception, just eight Republicans voted in favor of it. None of them were from North Carolina. It’s hard to pin down the exact reason Republicans voted against the contraception bill, though, because they offered little by way of explanation. Some argued, bizarrely, that the bill was a “Trojan horse for more abortions,” in part because they claim contraceptives like IUDs and Plan B are somehow tantamount to abortion. Such a position, of course, could very likely be rooted in religion. The Catholic Church, for example, has historically been both anti-abortion and anti-contraception, believing it prevents the natural creation of new life, while some conservative evangelicals also object to some or all forms of contraception, particularly the morning-after pill and IUDs. But, as with abortion, a person’s decision to use contraception is theirs and theirs alone. It’s cruel enough to deny a person the right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy. It’s even crueler to simultaneously deny them the ability to prevent that pregnancy in the first place. Keeping contraception accessible and affordable is the simplest way to prevent abortions, even in blue states where abortion remains legal. Millions of unintended pregnancies occur every year, and more than 40% of them result in abortion. Study after study has shown that access to birth control, particularly at free or reduced cost, reduces abortion rates. Yes, religion plays a major role in the opposition to both abortion and birth control. But the strongest thread running through that is pure sexism; the drive to keep women subservient, submissive, subordinate, and sub-class. And the fact that so many women are trustees in this prison is beyond infuriating. They are satisfied and proud of the position of authority (they believe) they have, while simultaneously being jealous and afraid of the freedoms other women achieve (or aspire to). They don't deserve a platform, don't give it to them.

ABORTION ACCESS AROUND THE WORLD: Most countries in Latin America allow abortions only in certain scenarios, including if the mother’s life is in danger, if she has been raped, is a victim of incest, or if her mental or physical health is at stake. These countries include Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil, among others. In many cases, even these exceptions can be hard to prove, and women — not just providers — are often criminalized for running afoul of abortion law. Recently, Mexico also liberalized its abortion laws, with the Supreme Court declaring in 2021 that obtaining the procedure can no longer be considered a crime. Planned Parenthood notes that Mexican states including Oaxaca, Baja California, Mexico City, Veracruz, and more have recently lifted local restrictions on abortion also, making it legal in these places. In Central America, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua prohibit abortions under any circumstance, according to the CRR. El Salvador has even jailed women for lost pregnancies that had been attributed to “health emergencies.” In May, an El Salvador court sentenced a woman to 30 years in prison for the death of her unborn daughter, despite the woman having what advocates said was an “obstetric emergency,” according to Reuters. As in South America, most countries in Africa and the Middle East allow abortions only in certain scenarios, including if the mother’s life is in danger, if she has been raped, is a victim of incest, or if her mental or physical health is at stake. These include Libya, Algeria, and Kenya. Other nations such as Egypt, Senegal, and Iran ban abortions, although exceptions are allowed in some instances in certain countries. Countries like Thailand and China allow abortion on request, though many with gestational limits (as is the case with many countries that otherwise permit the procedure). In India, abortion is allowed on broad social and economic grounds, according to CRR, and can be terminated up until 20 weeks of pregnancy. Before 12 weeks, a person only needs one doctor’s approval, but after 12 weeks, two approvals are required. Australia, which has a state-level policy, also allows abortion on request, and South Australia recently decriminalized the procedure. Japan is one of the few countries in the world to allow abortion on broad social and economic grounds, yet third-party consent is required before having the procedure. This means a married woman must get the signed consent of her husband before she can seek an abortion, and it is often cost-prohibitive. The vast majority of nations in the European Union allow abortion in some capacity. Countries that allow abortions on request, per CRR, include: Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, though many have varying gestational limits and other barriers to attaining care. Many European countries, including Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Switzerland, do not allow most abortions after 12 weeks. Only Iceland and the Netherlands allow abortions up until 22 weeks in most cases, according to the Abort Report. In Britain, pregnant people can get an abortion up until 24 weeks but must get the sign-off of two doctors. Finland allows abortion on broad social or economic grounds, though there are gestational limits and other caveats. I encourage you to click through and bookmark this article, which has literally dozens of embedded hyperlinks for individual countries. Not only does this give you the ability to learn more, it demonstrates the author's deep research. Teen Vogue is not just a fashion mag anymore, folks.

STOP HANDING GET-OUT-OF-JAIL-FREE CARDS TO ABUSIVE MEN: In 1980, American feminist and social activist Ellen Pence founded a new programme aimed at protecting women from domestic violence in Duluth, Minnesota named the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP). Based on an inter-agency approach in which police, probation services, courts, social services and women’s advocacy projects work together to try and protect victims from ongoing abuse by rehabilitating perpetrators, it soon became the blueprint for addressing domestic violence across the United States. In a matter of just a few years, similar initiatives, which came to be known as Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programmes (DVPP), also emerged and became the leading method of addressing domestic violence in the United Kingdom. Today, most domestic abusers in the UK are being given the option of attending DVPPs rather than being processed through the criminal justice system. Advocates of these programmes argue that since many perpetrators are not even reported to the police let alone brought to the dock and sentenced, these initiatives help hold more violent men to account for their actions and keep more women safe. Furthermore, they insist that these programmes are not in any way replacements for criminal justice sanctions. After talking to victims, probation officers and even people running DVPPs, however, I am convinced that more often than not these programmes achieve very little other than helping violent men avoid spending time in prison. Many women who have experienced domestic abuse refuse to endorse such programmes, which often serve as get-out-of-jail-free cards for their abusers. They are appalled at the idea of perpetrators of domestic abuse receiving “treatment” and “counseling” for their criminal acts rather than serving time in prison. Nevertheless, those who support such programmes are convinced that this is the perfect solution to addressing male violence. It seems that they believe, in the absence of a criminal justice system that is capable of efficiently holding abusers to account and protecting victims, it is right to focus all efforts and resources on trying to rehabilitate perpetrators. Defenders of DVPPs often tell me that the primary aim of such programmes is to get perpetrators to face up to what they have done. However, there is a large body of evidence pointing to the inefficiency of DVPPs in changing perpetrator attitudes. In 2015, for example, Project Mirabal – a multi-site study of domestic violence perpetrator programmes in the UK which includes interviews with 64 white British programme attendees – showed that many domestic abusers refuse to take full responsibility for their actions even after completing a DVPP. According to the study, prior to the course, some 90 percent of the interviewees were attempting to justify their abusive behaviour, and after completing the programme, at least three-quarters of the men continued to make excuses. I generally support rehabilitation over incarceration, but I draw the line at violence in general, and violence against women particularly. Protecting them must be our top priority, and divided sympathies simply don't achieve that. Period.


DR. MINDY OSHRAIN: GOP THROWS VETERANS UNDER THE BUS: Every Republican, including Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, voted against expanding healthcare eligibility to 3.5 million post 9-11 veterans exposed to toxins while in the military. They say they support our troops, but refuse to fund care for men and women who have honorably served our nation. North Carolina is home to the finest who serve our nation; they would lay down their lives to protect us all. Our senators should be ashamed. We should vote them out. They're the first to wave the flag and spout homilies about our troops, but time after time they vote against caring for them. However twisted their reasoning is, the result is the same: what we in the military used to call the shit-end of the stick.

CHERYL MITCHELL-OLDS: PASS THE MARRIAGE ACT: I have a gay, married daughter. It is unfair that my daughter and daughter-in-law are terrified about what may happen next. They are kind, loving, contributing citizens. They have good jobs and pay a lot of taxes. They deserve to be protected, just like the rest of us. I expect our leaders, including North Carolina’s senators, to do everything they can to protect my daughter and all other gay and mixed-race couples. We need more love in this country, not less. It has become crystal clear we need to expand the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate beyond this hair-thin 50+1 vs. 50 situation. We (rightfully) complain about Manchin and Sinema, but you know what? That's going to happen. You're going to have a few ideological deviants in any coalition, so you must make them irrelevant. Have a strong enough majority that losing them to the other side won't put you in the minority. Easier said than done? Maybe. But helping Cheri Beasley cross the finish line ahead of Ted Blood is a damn fine way to start.

DENISE BAKER: YOU WANT TO KEEP BIRTH CONTROL? VOTE FOR CHERI BEASLEY: On July 21 the House of Representatives passed the Right to Contraception Act introduced by Rep. Kathy Manning by a vote of 228-195. Two things are remarkable about this bill: First, that it had to be introduced at all; and second, that only eight Republicans, none of whom were from North Carolina, voted for it. The bill is necessary because, according to Justice Thomas’ concurring opinion on the repeal of Roe v. Wade, all of the court’s related rulings, including the rights to contraception and marriage equality, are now open to reconsideration. Indeed, two days earlier, on July 19, the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act 267-157, thanks to the support of 47 Republicans. I applaud this effort to protect marriage equality through federal law. I am shocked and puzzled, however, that guaranteeing the right to contraception garnered so little support from Republicans. Isn’t it responsible to use birth control as a protection against unwanted pregnancies and a deterrence to abortion? Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Rep. Manning’s bill will pass the Senate before the midterm election. So, when you vote in November, remember that Ted Budd rejects the Right to Contraception Act, but Cheri Beasley supports it. Like Denise, we need to keep hammering on Ted Budd's voting record in the U.S. House. It is stark evidence of how he would vote in the Senate, and we desperately need the voters to see this evidence.



About that 2nd Amendment...

As some reading this are probably aware, I was a History major at Campbell University (Ft. Bragg Campus). I've always found it fascinating, but also frustrating when people "skim" the subject with an eye towards confirmation bias. It should be the other way around: study history to provide nuance and relevant context, then form an opinion.

In the midst of our gun debate, I thought it would be valuable to explore how one of our most influential Founding Fathers (Thomas Jefferson) evolved his thinking on this subject.

In 1770, Jefferson was commissioned to lead the militia of the Albemarle in Virginia. I should say he was commissioned to create the militia, a much more daunting task than taking over an already formed unit. While there were some wealthy land owners in the region, most of the inhabitants were incredibly poor, subsisting in any way they could, mostly relying on traps because they couldn't afford to buy and/or maintain flintlocks.

Jefferson soon discovered this problem when first mustering volunteers for the militia. When over half of them (by some reports) showed up with no weapons other than a skinning knife, he set about procuring weapons and other equipment to provision them. This proved to be more difficult than he initially envisioned, and volunteers began melting back into the countryside. Jefferson spent quite a bit of his own money over the next few years securing weapons (some of poor quality), and by the time the militia began engaging the British (1775), they were still in pretty sad shape, and in their first few engagements with relatively well-supplied Crown troops, the militia suffered horrible losses.

No doubt these experiences, combined with later difficulties in provisioning the Continental Army, colored Jefferson's opinion of the need for, and value of, a Constitutional Amendment addressing this.

But let's fast-forward to the post-Revolution years, after our independence was well-established. Likely due to his previous experience commanding militia troops, Jefferson was tasked with "managing" the various regional militias. Not sure why he agreed to such an onerous task, but it has the smell of John Adams about it. With friends like that...

Anyway, monetary support from the federal government for the Continental Army was drying up, and support for regional militias was simply non-existent. That burden fell on local and state governments, most of whom were equally uninterested in maintaining a military force. So the inevitable happened. Roving bands of "militia" began terrorizing the countryside; taking by force what the people wouldn't or couldn't supply them.

This is what Thomas Jefferson was tasked with solving, bless his heart.

So he had to first find militia members who were still loyal to the cause, keep them organized as much as possible, and then deploy them to stop the outlaws. Many of whom were former comrades of the shrinking ranks of loyalists. Disarming the outlaws was Jefferson's main goal, and he succeeded for the most part. But it was not pretty, and many civilians were caught in the crossfire.

The moral of this story: absolutism is folly, and can only lead to more struggle and suffering. Jefferson had to both give and take away weapons, in order to secure and maintain our republic. The 2nd Amendment was never meant to be an absolute, which is why the "well-regulated militia" was at the beginning of it.

We are at the same crossroads that Jefferson faced back then, and I can only hope we will take the difficult but necessary steps to ensure the security and tranquility so many have died to secure for us.