Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


NC CHAMBER PROTECTS BUSINESS TAX CUTS OVER QUALITY EDUCATION FOR KIDS: When dozens of the state’s most prominent business leaders signed onto a brief supporting full-funding of a consensus plan to assure every child has access to a quality education – a right guaranteed in the State Constitution – the state Chamber issued an over-the-top attack on the court order under the guise that the group’s current chair had not given her permission to have her name listed. Three former state Chamber chairs are among the signers and the current chair, according to Tom Bradshaw (one of those former chairs) Sepi Saidi, told him she agreed to be listed and offered to provide financial support for the effort. After release of the names last week, the state Chamber issued an over-heated statement saying she’d not given her permission while also denying – not that it had even been suggested – that the state Chamber supported the order. Quickly after she made it known that she did not want her name included among the signers, it was removed from the list. The N.C. Chamber knows the public education needs of the state but has chosen to ignore them and placed their financial gain above doing the best for our school children. This goes deeper than just a he said, she said issue; it reveals the corrupting influence of the NC GOP and the post-truth phenomena of Trumpism. But every time they rewrite history, their shaky facade of morality weakens.

CHOOSING VOTERS OR CHOOSING OPPONENTS? The courts, largely the North Carolina Supreme Court, have ruled some of these redistricting maps are so egregious as to violate our state constitution. But Republican leadership no longer wants to take the chance that state courts can overturn their gerrymandering, so they have brought a case before the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes our highest court will proclaim that state courts can no longer overturn redistricting decisions, thus giving lawmakers undisputed control. They base their argument on our Constitution that gives sole authority to draw districts to the General Assembly. Those who wrote that codicil in the Constitution never envisioned some of the shenanigans we’ve experienced. Republican leadership is encouraged about a favorable court decision because the U.S. high court is stacked with a Republican majority. No matter how outrageous the district is drawn and regardless of how it might disadvantage anyone’s ability to vote nobody can stop it. Oy Vey! This year we are witnessing another twist, where one political party actually raises money and runs advertising for a candidate of the opposite party in the primary election. The theory is that the party chooses to promote the opposition primary candidate they believe will be easiest to defeat in the general election. So instead of choosing their voters, as gerrymandering accomplishes, they are attempting to choose their general election opponents. This practice was first reported in the 2012 re-election campaign of U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat. Her campaign ran ads for a Republican primary candidate, believing that candidate easier for her to beat in the November election. This year North Carolina Democrats have embraced and expanded the practice. Some are predicting it could backfire on them, using their funds to give name recognition to the opposition candidate. Time will tell how well it works. I'm with Tom on this, but he overlooked the most egregious example: through their Faith & Power PAC, Republicans spent $2.9 Million on Democrat Erica Smith's 2020 Primary run against Cal Cunningham. And it was pretty damn clever, too. They promoted Smith's more extreme progressive ideals, hoping they would give her an edge in the Primary while spoiling her chances in the General Election. The effort failed, but it did help drive the wedge deeper between Progressives and Liberals in Dem ranks. All that being said, it is a dubious practice and should not be pursued.

WHEN HISTORICAL FICTION RUNS OFF THE RAILS (My title, not DG Martin's): Is the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence fact or fiction? “Meck Dec” is a shorthand term sometimes used to refer to the Declaration of Independence adopted on May 20, 1775, by a group of Mecklenburg leaders. The debate about that question could continue forever, but one former Charlotte lawyer has put it at the center of a fictional murder mystery set in a Charlotte retirement community. The new book, “Deadly Declarations” by Landis Wade, opens with the death of a 96-year-old resident, a historian named Mathew Collins. Years ago, Collins wrote a scholarly book titled “American Hoax.” It argued that the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was a fake. But he had, shortly before his death, changed his views and was writing a new book that argued that the Mecklenburg Declaration was real. Possibly, he was killed by someone who wanted to suppress whatever evidence the professor may have that showed that the Mecklenburg Declaration was genuine. Supporting this view, all of Collins’ drafts of the new book and his records relating to Meck Dec were missing from his apartment. One possible suspect could be Robert Elkin, a prominent Charlotte lawyer and top partner in a giant multistate law firm on the 45th floor of the American Bank office building. Elkin, a native Virginian, was a worshipper of Thomas Jefferson. If the Meck Dec was really adopted more than a year before the Jefferson-drafted American Declaration, then Jefferson might be deemed to have copied its language. Elkins and his pro-Jefferson allies might do anything, including murder, to prevent proof of Meck Dec’s legitimacy—and Jefferson’s plagiarism. There is another possibility. Collins loved his granddaughter, Lori. He had long planned to leave everything to her. But shortly before he died, he made a handwritten will that left everything to another woman. Collins was not only a scholar. He had made a $50 million fortune publishing popular magazines. So his last-minute switch of beneficiaries created another big mystery. Okay, everything you just read is pure fiction, except the introduction of author Landis Wade, a real person. I have no problem with a good mystery, and I *generally* have no problem with an author creating a fictional author. But when it deals with historical events, this two-phase separation from the truth is a literal minefield. Even if we weren't living in a time when truth has been shoved all the way into the subjective column, this approach to storytelling would be questionable. But we are living in that time, and too many people will come away from this with inaccurate conclusions. Which is the last thing we need these days.

REPUBLICANS WENT CRAZY OVER THE TRUMP SEARCH. NOW THEY LOOK IDIOTIC: The more we learn about the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, the sillier — and more sinister — the overcaffeinated Republican defenses of former president Donald Trump look. A genius-level spinmeister, Trump set the tone with a Monday evening statement announcing: “These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.” That description allowed his followers to imagine a scene straight out of a Hollywood action picture, with agents in FBI jackets busting down the doors and holding the former president and first lady at gunpoint while they ransacked the premises. His followers — which means pretty much the whole of the Republican Party — took up the cry based on no more information than that. Fox News host Mark Levin called the search “the worst attack on this republic in modern history, period.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) called it “corrupt & an abuse of power.” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) compared the FBI to “the Gestapo.” Not to be outdone, former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Whackadoodle) said the FBI was the “American Stasi,” and compared its agents to wolves “who want to eat you.” “Today is war,” declared Steven Crowder, a podcaster with a YouTube audience of 5.6 million people. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) tweeted “DEFUND THE FBI!” Former Trump aide Stephen K. Bannon, among many others, suggested that the FBI and the Justice Department (“essentially lawless criminal organizations”) might have planted evidence. The right’s hysterical, hyperbolic reaction has weaponized their unhinged followers. On Thursday, an armed man died in a standoff with police after trying to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati office. The gunman was evidently a prolific contributor on Trump’s Truth Social site. After the FBI search, a user with his name wrote that this was a “call to arms” and “we must respond with force.” This should be a gut check moment for responsible Republicans — if any are left — to step back and take a deep breath before more violence erupts. But sadly, most Republicans don’t seem to care what furies they have unleashed in their devotion to the principle that their supreme leader must remain above the law. "Responsible Republicans" is an oxymoron. Or almost one. There are a handful, but their ranks will likely be thinned two days from now, when Liz Cheney loses her Primary. Her constituents should be proud of her, and I'm sure some of them are. But not enough, and this will serve to further silence those R's who might have made a difference.

THE HORROR OF PEOPLE WILLING TO DIE FOR DONALD TRUMP: On Thursday afternoon, a man whom authorities have identified as Ricky Shiffer was shot and killed in a stand-off with police officers after he allegedly tried to break into a FBI office in Cincinnati. Reports suggest that he may have been motivated by a strong devotion to former president Donald Trump and by anger at the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. But whatever we may learn about Shiffer’s motivations and the results of the FBI search, one thing is clear: The number of people who have died seemingly in service of an idol as unworthy as Donald Trump is tragic. Four of Trump’s supporters died at the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol: Ashli Babbit, who was shot while trying to climb through a broken window; Kevin Greeson, who suffered a fatal heart attack; Benjamin Philips, who succumbed to a stroke; and Rosanne Boyland, whose official cause of death was “acute amphetamine intoxication,” but who was caught up in a crush of bodies on the Capitol grounds. Christopher Stanton Georgia died by suicide later that month after he was arrested on unlawful entry charges stemming from Jan. 6; he pleaded not guilty before his death. Some might be tempted to create distance from these tragedies through mockery, or by treating Trump’s devotees as oddities. That impulse — to disparage or dismiss the weird and extreme — seems to undergird a 2020 New York Times profile of a widowed farmer in India who adopted Trump as a personal deity, then collapsed and died after taking to his room and refusing to eat when Trump tested positive for covid-19. It’s also the sentiment behind so much snide social-media chatter. For instance: “some dude woke up today and decided to commit suicide by cop bc the former host of celebrity apprentice wasn't allowed to keep the top secret documents he stole from the white house.” It's easy to scoff. But this sort of commentary ignores the sadness running through so many of these stories. Those of us who live outside the boundaries of this mad realm may be tempted to count ourselves lucky. Still, we should be concerned for the residents of Trumpland for their own safety. And if that’s not enough, we should care because the people who die for Donald Trump may someday take others with them. I take no satisfaction from their deaths, but I also don't mourn them overmuch. It wasn't just poor mental health that brought them to their fate; it was people like Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, and Rupert Murdoch that pushed them to it. And of course Trump, who never should have made it past the GOP Primary. We got where we are by a collective irresponsibility, and we must face that fact and grow from it.


ANNA JOHNSON: KEEPING AR-15S IN SCHOOLS IS A HORRIBLE IDEA: As a N.C. teacher I disagree with the Madison County sheriff’s plan to supply schools with AR-15s. Arming schools with the type of weapon used to massacre 19 children and two teachers won’t prevent school shootings like the one in Uvalde. Teachers know that real change does not involve turning our schools into war zones, but in fighting for laws that prevent children from accessing guns. According to the Secret Service, 76% of school shooters use unsecured firearms taken from their home or a relative’s home. I started NC Teachers for Safe Firearm Storage to urge Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr to co-sponsor Ethan’s Law, which would require gun owners in homes with children to better secure firearms. Teachers in North Carolina know child access prevention laws will make our schools safer. The idea itself is ludicrous, that having "easy access" to assault rifles on site will speed up their reaction time in case of a school shooter. What if that shooter is blocking their access to the gun safe? Keeping it in an "undisclosed location" is a fricking joke. Students will know exactly where it is within hours of it being located there. Dog help us.

NANCY SHAPIRO: IT'S NOT BIDEN WHO NEEDS TO LEARN FROM HISTORY: I was pleased but not surprised that President Biden invited some of our most respected historians to speak with him about the crisis facing our democracy. Winston Churchill’s paraphrase of philosopher George Santayana rings true: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” However, it is not Mr. Biden who needs the historical context briefing. Better would be to invite Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and some of the Republican senators who are abdicating their responsibility to protect our precious but precarious form of government into a room with these wise and thoughtful historians. Invite them in not to preach to them but to engage them in a way that respects their intellect and appeals to their patriotism — patriotism, not partisanship. Fidelity to their oath of office, not cynical posturing. Our great historians have a way of contextualizing the present to provide the perspective that great leaders need to lift them out of the politics of the moment. Don't waste the time or breath on McConnell. He is beyond reasoning and contemplation, power is all he cares about.

MEG FLANAGAN: TEACHERS ARE NOT SURPRISED BY THE TEACHER SHORTAGE: While reading the Aug. 6 news article about the “catastrophic” teacher shortages nationwide, “School year to begin amid nationwide teacher shortage,” I was not shocked or surprised. As an educator, I can assure you that this crisis point has been coming, slowly, for years. Teachers have long been paid well below other licensed professionals with similar levels of education. Teachers have long been overworked, routinely arriving early and staying for hours after the school day, providing routine unpaid labor. Teachers have been expected to do lesson planning, data collection, data analysis, routine paperwork, first-line first aid, mental health monitoring and physical health monitoring. And they typically get no planning time in which to accomplish these tasks. Teachers have long faced rising expectations and criticisms from all sides — blame when political winds shift or when education research indicates a new approach is needed; teachers are often accused when kids fail to meet parental expectations. There are and always have been simple fixes to this crisis: Pay teachers well, at least on par with what other licensed professionals with similar education levels earn. Reduce workloads and increase planning time. Keep politics out of the classroom and allow educational research to drive what is being taught. But, to accomplish those things, we need to collectively agree that K-12 education matters. And then back up that understanding with appropriate levels of funding. Unfortunately, Americans seem hesitant to reach this understanding and provide funding for public schools. Frankly, I'm thinking we should give these anti-teacher idiots enough rope to hang themselves. Instead of going to the tanning salon or the golf course, make them stand in front of the classroom all day. And get nasty texts and e-mails at all hours. And spend $75 a week at Target just so their students have materials. A few weeks of that and they will be more than happy to support real teachers.



Dear N&O: It's not me, it's you

This morning was the last straw. I have been a faithful (online) subscriber for many years, because the overall quality of your reporting and analysis has been pretty solid. I have balanced your use of J. Peder Zane and other hyperbolic conservatives with your inclusion of Gene Nichol and other liberal/progressive voices. And your own editorial voice has been reasonable, and occasionally brave.

But I have noticed a shift in recent months, that has also coincided with what I can only describe as a gluttonous increase in your subscription rate. It's now close to $400 per year, which for many of us would be unsustainable even if the quality had remained as it was. But it hasn't.

When I opened your Opinion page early this morning (granted, the coffee hadn't kicked in yet, but it has now, and I'm still enraged), I was faced with three columns about the Trump raid. One was by some dude in Texas who spent most of his article rehashing debunked conservative talking points, one was by Mick Mulvaney, who has such a horrific conflict of interest re Trump you had no business publishing, and one was your very own, chock full of both-siderism and smelling-salts-breathing, and not one word of the national security implications of the documents Trump possessed.

The end result of this editorial malpractice would leave the average (woefully uninformed) reader with the conclusion that this search and seizure of classified documents was mostly partisan in nature. Just another left/right skirmish, nothing to see here, move along.

If this collection of editorials had been a Left/Middle/Right combination, I wouldn't be writing this. Not saying I'd be happy, but I wouldn't be upset. But it wasn't. It was a Right/Pointless/Crazy Right combination, and I ain't payin $400 per year for that nonsense.

Thank you

I've felt this way for years, but the recent drift to bullshit-land is beyond intolerable. It wouldn't hurt my feelings if we never read (or linked to) the paper again.

N&O thinks politicizing this and calling for violence is OK?

The investigation by the FBI of Trump's mishandling of government documents - some of them highly classified - is not a "both sides" issue.

The warrant makes it quite clear what Trump was holding at his private residence at Mar-A-Lago. The law is quite clear about government ownership of this material and how it should be turned over to the National Archives. The law and procedures for handling and declassification of documents is also quite clear.

Solid reporting on this affair from several sources is quite clear that a) Trump has refused to turn over these documents for several months, b) that his lawyer signed a statement saying all classified material were turned over in June when they were not, and c) the documents were stored in areas that were not secure. Further, it is also quite clear that storing the documents at his golf club resort meant that all manner of people, from low level staff to members of the public, could have potentially had access to the documents.

Finally, we also know, again from solid, faculty reporting from multiple sources, that the FBI subpoenaed security camera footage from Mar-A-Lago because of their concern about materials going in and out of the locations where the documents were stored.

No matter what kind of bogus justifications or outright lies the right, the GOP, or Trump's sycophants put out there about this, these are the facts we know right now.

Adding to this is the fact that Trump's followers, such as Steve Bannon, and Trump himself are making vague and not-so-vague threats against the FBI and individuals involved with the investigation and the warrant. Threats have been made against the judge who signed off on the warrant and even inflammatory and false images were circulated on the Internet and shown on Fox News about the judge.

Just this morning, Trump appeared on FoxNews, again issuing threats of violence if the FBI didn't return the documents and drop the case.

Any justification, excuses, or amplification of the lies coming from Trump and his supporters over what is clearly an illegal act endangering our national security - and ignoring the violent threats that are being made to the FBI and others as part of this - is the height of irresponsibility by any news outlet even pretending to care about truth or journalistic standards.

If the N&O isn't debunking these lies and denouncing the calls for violence, they are aiding and abetting clear and present dangers to our government. Period.