Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


THE NC GOP, MORE THAN THE STATE ELECTIONS BOARD, NEEDS TRANSPARENCY: It is hard to imagine where the North Carolina GOP leadership found the gall to have the Ninth Congressional District Republican Executive Committee pass a “resolution” demanding the State Board of Elections “immediately certify” Mark Harris the winner of that district’s disputed election. These are the same politicians who have spent the last eight years rigging elections through hyper-partisan gerrymandering; mid-election changes in ballot order and candidate identification; placing illegal limits on early voting; passing voter ID legislation courts ruled targeted African-Americans with “surgical precision;” and more. While purporting to push voter ID laws to thwart voter fraud, these same GOP leaders have expressed token concern about the very strong indications that mail-in absentee voting was manipulated – particularly in the Ninth District.

GIRLS WERE SEXUALLY ABUSED. THE WORK OF THESE JOURNALISTS COULD PREVENT IT FROM HAPPENING AGAIN: Shortly after moving to Texas in February, Sarah Smith saw a news story about a father and a son arrested on charges of sexually assaulting children. The men and the children attended an independent fundamentalist Baptist church in Mesquite, Texas. A previous pastor of the church had been charged several times with sex offenses before he hanged himself in jail in 2011. Smith, then a reporter with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, wondered if there was a pattern of sexual abuse at the church and began investigating. About eight months later, the Star-Telegram published articles tallying at least 412 allegations of sexual misconduct in 187 independent fundamental Baptist churches and affiliated institutions in 40 states and Canada. There were more churches in North Carolina with reported abuses (17) than in any other state. “It was re-traumatizing for them,” Smith, who’s now at the Houston Chronicle, told me. “But they really wanted to make sure it got out there to prevent it from happening to at least one other person.”

JOSH STEIN: AFFORDABLE CARE ACT PROTECTS PEOPLE AND MUST BE SAVED: Right now, this very second, I bet you could turn on your TV or log into Twitter and find multiple opposing opinions about a whole host of important issues. It’s enough to give anyone “crisis fatigue” – a phrase I heard used to describe how many of us are becoming overwhelmed by the sheer amount of breaking news happening on a given day. But what if we take political arguments and posturing out of the conversation? Our government could benefit from a lot less conjecture and a lot more focus on the facts. Take the health care debate that’s still going on across our country. People are struggling to make ends meet at a time when they also need life-saving healthcare treatment. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), between 2010 and 2015, about 552,000 people in North Carolina gained health insurance coverage. An additional 70,000 young people gained coverage by staying on their parents’ insurance. It’s likely that we’ll always see opinions posing as facts. In the meantime, I’m going to pay attention to the fact that protecting the ACA means more people have more of a chance at a healthy life.

WHAT'S NOT "COOL" IN THIS STATE IS POLITICAL DYSFUNCTION: “You have some cool cities,” Tom Stringer, a site selection and business incentives specialist for the consulting firm BDO told The News & Observer, “but they don’t have the feel of Austin, Nashville, Brooklyn or Boston.” It probably didn’t help that North Carolina hasn’t made the most flattering national headlines over the last two years. For instance, the state’s now partially repealed “bathroom law,” HB 2, cost the state millions economically. And the bitter aftertaste lingers. Then there is the state’s broadening reputation for scorched-earth partisan politics: The hot mess over possible absentee-ballot fraud in the still-unresolved 9th Congressional District election. Attempts to strip incoming Democratic governors in Wisconsin and Michigan of their powers by Republican legislatures — following North Carolina’s playbook. And the unsuccessful attempt to nominate Thomas Farr, who played a role in a postcard campaign by the late Sen. Jesse Helms to intimidate black voters, to a federal district judgeship in North Carolina’s Eastern District. If we take a good look in the mirror, maybe we’re shoveling our own hole.

NONE OF US DESERVE CITIZENSHIP: Reaching for a radically more humane immigration system is not pie-in-the-sky, utopian dreaming. But it does require a certain measure of humility on the part of those of us who have benefited from birthright citizenship. Rather than viewing immigrants as seeking something that we, Americans, have a moral right to withhold from them, we ought to begin by acknowledging that none of us who were born here did anything to deserve our citizenship, and yet all of us — no matter where we were born — deserve compassion and basic human rights. It’s tempting to imagine that our position as gatekeepers is morally sound — since we’re frequently reminded that “all nations have a right to defend their borders” — but our relationship to those who are fleeing poverty and violence is morally complex. Not only does birthright citizenship bestow upon us a privileged status that we haven’t earned; our nation’s unparalleled wealth and power, as well as our actual borders, lack a sturdy moral foundation. But for slavery, genocide and colonization, we would not be the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world — in fact, our nation would not even exist. This is not hyperbole; it’s history. There’s good reason some Mexicans say: “We didn’t cross the border. The border crossed us.” That is, in fact, what happened.


WILL BREAZEALE: AS A FORMER REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE IN NC, I AM ASHAMED OF MY PARTY: As the former 2008 Republican nominee for NC US House District 7 (at the time encompassing all of Bladen County) and a past resident of Bladen County, I am appalled at the circumstances of the election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. I declare that the good ol’ boy system is alive and well, and what is right rarely rises to the forefront. I want to thank the bipartisan State Board of Elections for realizing that the absentee ballot scandal is not worthy of certifying the election in NC-9. I also criticize the state Republican Party for putting ethics aside and calling on the board to certify the election when it is clear malfeasance was present. This whole scandal is making a laughing stock of the Republican Party and Bladen County. I disagree with my party and call for a new election to be held in the NC-9 race as well as a full criminal investigation into the activities surrounding the election. Anything short of these actions will show democracy does not exist in North Carolina.

GAIL S. PHARES: WE NEED TO WELCOME IMMIGRANTS, NOT LOCK THEM UP: In this season of joy and blessing, when we remember Mary and Joseph and Jesus, let us welcome the immigrant. Rather than talk about strengthening the wall (“A government shutdown is looming, but you may hardly notice,” Dec. 17), let’s work for an immigration policy that supports asylum seekers and strengthens economic development in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Let us stop supporting a border patrol that dumps out water left for thirsty immigrants in the desert. As people of faith, we are called to welcome the stranger and to give support and loving kindness to those in need. It is long past time to close the internment camps for children! Come on folks. We are better than this. Tell Congress and President Trump to follow the law and provide a hearing for those who seek asylum.

COLE VULPIS: UNC'S FUTURE IS AT STAKE OVER SILENT SAM: I am a high school student in Apex, and I would agree that spending $5.3 million to create a history center for Silent Sam is a ridiculous proposition. It doesn’t take a genius to see that UNC is creating it specifically for the statue; therefore, it’s no surprise that opponents would call the history center a “shrine to white supremacy.” My brother is a sophomore at UNC and has talked to me about the divide the statue has created among students. He said, “Having it on campus has caused a lot of controversy. Sometimes I look out of the classroom window and I see protests happening on the Quad. This will still happen if the statue is somewhere else on campus.” In my opinion, while sending the statue to a landfill may cause anger among some for a short period of time, keeping it on campus permanently will cause division and protests indefinitely. If getting rid of the statue is not an option, then the UNC Board of Governors needs to find a more reasonable solution.



From the dark side

This week's propagandist is Jay Ambrose, for his outlandish column, "Mueller is a danger to democracy":

Ours is an age of egregious excess, of tearing everything apart to set everything right and then hiding from reality when everything gets worse. So it is that we’ve got a president often acting as if he is still host of a TV reality show that is, at least, high in its ratings, and a special counsel who figures the guy has to go even if that means justice has to go, too.

This is a tried and true formulaic beginning for conservative columnists, where they begin their tirade with a half-ass attempt to criticize the one they're trying to protect. That (mis)leads the reader into believing they are getting a neutral assessment, when in fact, the dog-whistles are about to begin:

“This is not the way our democracy works,” said Hillary Clinton in a campaign debate after Donald Trump said he might not accept the outcome of the election. “We’ve been around for 240 years. We have had free and fair elections. We’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them. And that is what is expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election. He is denigrating — he is talking down — our democracy.”

Well, we see elections contested all the time, as in the recent midterms, and democracy is not necessarily denigrated. But suppose there’s a presidential election, no evidence of campaign wrong-doing is found and yet every other trick in the book — even felonious leaking of classified papers — is used to deny the winner his rights.

Phony means to a possibly chaotic, unjustified end is the real denigration of democracy, especially when the fight is between the high-and-mighty and rule of law. Clinton knows where she stands, hints at running for president again, goes on money-making tours with her husband and can at least count on him to show up at the rallies.

This is of course stage 2 of said formula, where the propagandist takes steps to fill the reader with anger, and Bill and Hillary Clinton can serve that purpose nicely. But it's that "felonious leaking of classified papers" thing that is truly infuriating.

First of all, it skims over and lessens the impacts of just exactly "what" those documents revealed; several red flags pointing to evidence of collusion with a foreign (antagonistic) power. Second, it draws attention away from the real felonies, the hacking and theft of DNC materials by Russian Nationals. And they're still doing it. Several Democratic US Senators have been targeted by Russian hackers a good two years after the DNC got hit, and a big reason for that is the unwillingness of Trump and his apologists like Jay Ambrose to force Putin to stop that crap.

Back to the nonsense:

To bring the anti-Trump frenzy together in an organized attack, a special counsel was needed to investigate whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to beat Clinton. Not just anyone would do. What was needed was someone who was a friend of an important witness, had a steely, gotcha temperament and would happily spend millions, use discredited tactics and thereby intervene fundamentally in the rightly focused conduct of the presidency for a year and a half.

Robert Mueller is not only a life-long Republican and Vietnam (combat) veteran, he was initially appointed by Bush the Elder, and has been a prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General, and Director of the FBI. Rod Rosenstein chose him not because he would be a good "attack dog" against Trump, but because he has *never* put politics above the pursuit of justice.

Which is of course the exact opposite of pundits like Jay Ambrose:

The Russian collusion may yet take center stage, but the latest, most threatening move in the Trump investigation is to let us all know that he served his campaign with hush money sent to two women who had served him sexually.

The thing is, it can be a felony not to have reported the expenditures, although these sorts of errors are often pretty much ignored, as in something noted in a National Review article. The Obama 2008 campaign paid a relatively slight penalty for $2 million worth of transgressions.

Not. Even. Comparable. The "hush money" Trump paid was not only illegal; the bigger story behind it is that he made those payments in order to conceal that behavior from the American public. To dupe the voters, as it were, and especially those in red fly-over states that he knew would be his only savior from the popular vote.

That may not be "actionable" in a court of law, but it should damn well be recognized and addressed by the pundits who set themselves up as the "explainers" of our political system.