Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


VOTERS LOSE, GERRYMANDERING WINS. THIS NEEDS TO STOP: Tuesday 49.7 percent of the state’s voters picked Democrats to send to the U.S. House of Representatives. But only three Democrats (23 percent) actually were elected. “The blue tide did not breach the gerrymandered sea wall that exists because of the broken redistricting process we have in North Carolina,” Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC, said after the election. “That was what we were watching for. We were waiting to see, does anything change? Gerrymandering does provide a protective sea wall.” Phony rationalizing that Democrats competed in several close races in this election and captured a few more seats, misses the point. What Republicans know – and the evidence shows in the results of this most recent election – is that even when the party put up flawed and lack-luster candidates, the districts are so rigged it is all-but impossible to lose.

I WATCHED A POLLING SITE IN RALEIGH. IT'S TOO HARD TO VOTE: On Tuesday, I spent eight and a half hours poll monitoring outside the Chavis Community Center in southeast Raleigh. At least 75 percent of the people who went in to vote came out without having voted. Most were African-American. Most were told that they were at the wrong location, although they could have voted there three days earlier during early voting. Many had waited in line for 45 minutes, only to be turned away. Still others hadn’t yet registered; again, although they could have registered three days earlier and voted the same day, that option was no longer available. Several people walked away angry, and said they could not or would not vote, either because they had already used up their breaks from work, or because transportation restrictions made it too difficult. Everyone who walked out without voting was frustrated.

POPPIES FOR WAR AND PEACE: 100 YEARS SINCE THE END OF WWI: I’ve got nothing against the poppy. I have a sentimental attachment to it and wear one when I can get one. It leads me into the past. It paradoxically breathes life into the vanished dead. It connects me with my English grandfathers and grandmothers, whose lives were variously shaped by what they encountered from 1914 through 1918. After years of war and wounds, the life of my father’s father lapsed into shell-shocked disarray from which it never recovered. His wife and children had to struggle along, in the backwash of his suffering. But the white poppy, proffered in the UK in 1936 as a Peace Pledge Union alternative to the “red” celebration of military death, now appears to be gaining new ground: hope for a future without war. We should embrace that future. Instead of celebrating the dead with such fervor, why not pledge ourselves to a hundred years of peace? Those American troops who inspired the young English nurse with such hope in the spring of 1918, and all the other dead millions, deserve this commitment.

THE RESISTANCE STRIKES BACK: On Thursday we learned that a year and a half after Ossoff’s loss, Lucy McBath, an African-American gun control advocate, had flipped the seat. McBath’s victory was emblematic of the Resistance triumphs in the midterms. There was no immediate catharsis on Tuesday, no definitive national rebuke of a president whose bottomless depravity continues to dumbfound more than half the country. But the steady work of citizens who’ve been trying, over the last two years, to fight the civic nightmare of Trumpism bore fruit. It was a slog, pockmarked with disappointments. At the end, though, there was hope. During the Ossoff campaign, “we built an army of volunteers,” said Stacy Efrat, a mother of three with a full-time job who’d organized voter registration drives most weekends this year. “We built the Resistance in the Sixth District, and we already had our infrastructure in place to work on the Lucy election.”

NATIONALISM WON'T WORK. WE'VE LEARNED THAT LESSON BEFORE: Germany was swept at the same time with the fantasy that its soldiers had not lost the war on the battlefields and on the seas but had been “stabbed in the back” by socialists and pacifists at home. Those delusions, sharpened by hyper-inflation, fostered the plague of Nazism and the evils that followed — amplified by the insouciant foreign policies of the United States, the world’s pre-eminent creditor nation. Happily, a new generation of American statesmen, coming of age in the war that followed almost inevitably from the first, absorbed the bitter lessons of parochialism and persuaded a triumphant U. S. to behave with sophistication and creativity. Unfortunately, the lessons that laid the groundwork of a more stable and prosperous world are being unlearned by the “nationalist” in the White House, who is steadily wrecking the economic and security handiwork that saw us safely through seven post-WWII decades. "OK?” Trump asked of his adulatory audience when he proclaimed himself a “nationalist.” No, it isn’t OK and could be ruinous.


MAUREEN PARKER: I AM SHAKEN. I AM SHOCKED. AND STRICKEN: My heart bleeds for the families of the Jews killed in Pittsburgh. A horrific sad thing to have happen in our country. I am ashamed. I had thought we were above and beyond such mindless hatred. As I attempt to process this event, I find that I cannot. I don’t understand being persecuted for one’s religion. Freedom of religion is one of the primary foundations upon which our country was founded. And the New Testament tells us not to judge. Most Americans are Christian. But what if we were not? What if we were born Pakistani and Muslim? Or American and Jewish? Or Indian and Hindu? This does not make us bad people. We can support each other. We can learn from one another. We all have truths, and at their core, they are all the same: Love one another. I don’t know where the hate comes from. Why? Why? Why? I had thought better of us. Nobody deserves to be massacred as they pray. Acts like this take us back to the Dark Ages. Have we learned nothing since then?

KATIE SONNEN-LEE: WE CAN ENSURE GUN RIGHTS AND MAKE OURSELVES SAFER: I dropped my 6 year old off at school the morning after the Thousand Oaks shooting. I wasn’t thinking about what he would learn or eat for lunch. I was thinking about how a shooter might access his classroom, where he could hide, and that I need to make sure my last words to him are “I love you.” We have had 307 mass shootings this year in the U.S. That is 307 too many. We must enact common sense gun legislation in our country. I respect the Second Amendment, and we can ensure both the right to own guns and be safe in our schools and gathering places. We could: 1) require background checks on all gun purchasers; 2) license firearm owners; 3) register firearms; 4) regulate firearms dealers and ammunition sellers; 5) require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms; 6) impose a waiting period before the sale of a firearm; and 7) limit firearm purchases to one per person every 90 days.

MELISSA MALKIN-WEBER: AS LONG AS POLLUTING IS FREE, IT WILL CONTINUE: Gov. Cooper has rightly focused North Carolina on addressing climate change as part of our response to natural disasters (“Cooper sets ambitious goal to cut gas emissions,” Oct. 29). The clean energy strategies he proposes are win-win for the state and for us as taxpayers. N.C. representatives at the state and federal level should be showing leadership on climate as well. Opportunities for improvements in energy efficiency, storage and agricultural practices could be providing major benefits if our members of Congress made it no longer free to pollute. Canada just enacted a bipartisan Carbon Fee and Dividend policy that will reduce pollution by putting a price on it, while returning the fees to the taxpayers. It’s a win-win model that we should be deploying in the United States as well.



From the dark side

This week's loser is America itself. The following editorial was written in 2017 by Matthew Whitaker, the man Trump has chosen as in interim replacement for AG Jeff Sessions:

Last month, when President Donald Trump was asked by The New York Times if special counsel Robert Mueller would be crossing a line if he started investigating the finances of Trump and his family, the President said, "I think that's a violation. Look, this is about Russia."

The President is absolutely correct. Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing.

Talk about crossing red lines. First of all, Trump is not an attorney, or a law enforcement officer, and he doesn't know jack shit about how criminal investigations are or should be conducted. Second, Whitaker himself has crossed some major red lines, which will be addressed in a few moments:

In fact, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's letter appointing special counsel Robert Mueller does not give Mueller broad, far-reaching powers in this investigation. He is only authorized to investigate matters that involved any potential links to and coordination between two entities -- the Trump campaign and the Russian government. People are wrongly pointing to, and taking out of context, the phrase "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation" to characterize special counsel's authority as broad.

The word "investigation" is clearly defined directly preceding it in the same sentence specifically as coordination between individuals associated with the campaign of Donald Trump and Russia. The Trump Organization's business dealings are plainly not within the scope of the investigation, nor should they be.

The core of this investigation is to determine if the elected leader of our nation has been compromised, in any way, shape, or form. It has been demonstrated (beyond a shadow of a doubt) that Russian nationals were heavily involved in hacking and propaganda related to the election, and numerous Trump campaign associates have been tied to foreign governments via business dealings.

But the nail in this defensive coffin is the fact that members of Trump's family met with who they believed were Russian operatives in an effort to acquire opposition research. And they met in Trump's flagship building, for god's sake. Mueller didn't fabricate that connection, he discovered it. Which is what we're paying him to do.

I've prosecuted several financial crimes at the federal level and I've also defended plenty in my private practice. From this unique vantage point, I can understand how a motivated prosecutor, in a broad investigation into the financial affairs of high-profile individuals, can become overzealous toward the targets of such probes -- with calamitous results. While no one is above the law, in situations such as this, any seasoned prosecutor must use discretion both judiciously and expertly.

Thank you for giving me the perfect segue into the information previously alluded to. About a month before Whitaker wrote this tired defense of Trump, the FBI was just revealing the existence of a major fraud investigation in Florida, in which Whitaker was one of the principals:

In a nine-paragraph July 10, 2017 letter obtained by New Times, FBI victim specialist Cinthia Sosa confirmed that the invention-promotion company World Patent Marketing, where Whitaker served on the advisory board, was being investigated as a possible criminal matter.

Though Whitaker is not named in the letter and was not named in the FTC complaint, he is listed in company materials as a member of its advisory board. He also appeared in promotional materials and was mentioned by name in scripts that company reps used to persuade would-be inventors to fork over as much as $400,000 each. He once sent an email threatening "serious civil and criminal consequences" to an unhappy customer who was contemplating sending a complaint to the Better Business Bureau.

As attorney general, one of Whitaker's primary tasks is overseeing the FBI. If the investigation is ongoing, this presents a scenario at least one government ethics expert says could be problematic.

"Insofar as the United States Department of Justice is conducting an ongoing criminal or civil investigation of a corporation for which the acting Attorney General served as a director or an officer, or with which he had any affiliation, then the acting Attorney General should plainly recuse himself from any oversight or participation in that investigation," says Anthony Alfieri, director of the University of Miami's Center for Ethics & Public Service.

Not only was Whitaker enriching himself at the expense of defrauded citizens (which included a bunch of veterans, by the way), he tried to silence those victims via e-mail. The last place he needs to be is even "in" the Justice Department, much less the one calling the shots as acting AG.

Alfieri says Whitaker's connection to World Patent Marketing illustrates the White House's "ongoing pattern" of failing to properly vet its nominees for leadership positions in the executive branch.

Yeah, I'm not so sure it was a failure as opposed to a "feature." Slimy is as slimy does, and Trump is much more comfortable with corrupt, unethical people than he is honest ones. It probably has something to do with leverage, but I refuse to dig deeper into the mind of our Sociopath-In-Chief at this time.