Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


GOP BRAGGING RINGS HOLLOW WITHOUT MEDICAID EXPANSION: “Republicans will continue to champion policies that strengthen our economy, support quality education, and provide for public safety and order,” Berger pledged. Nowhere in his 600-word litany of partisan Democratic Party bashing and Republican Party chest thumping is the word "health" mentioned. Berger and his allies have repeatedly found ways to block, delay and politically entangle Medicaid expansion. About 600,000 North Carolinians – equal to nearly a third of all the votes Republican state Senate candidates received – have since 2013 been denied by state law from access to affordable health care. Yes, not only has Berger and his allies failed to vote FOR expanding Medicaid, they actually passed a law (Senate Bill 4) in 2013 prohibiting it – with only Republican votes in the Senate and a single Democrat (who later switched affiliation to the Republican Party) in the House. The costs have been staggering – as many as 14,700 lives -- of those unable to get the care they needed -- have been lost; 230,000 diabetics have not been able to get the life-sustaining medications they require; 107,500 mammograms missed. And, particularly for politicians who brag of frugality and job growth, the state has missed out on $17.44 billion in federal funds. That is money North Carolina taxpayers already send to Washington that’s paying more than 90% of the Medicaid expansion costs in 39 other states and Washington, DC. Berger is a one-trick pony (tax cuts), who won his race because he was the only horse on the racetrack. But it's not just his fault, there are (going to be) 29 other GOP Senators, and the pressure needs to be on them to force his hand on Medicaid expansion.

ELON MUSK ISN'T FOR FREE SPEECH--HE'S FOR MISINFORMATION: The spread of misinformation in this country is appalling. Last week, far too many people claiming the 2020 election was stolen were elected to political office. School boards are grappling with hysteria and banning books that affirm the experiences of queer people and people of color. A right-wing propaganda network pollutes the hearts and minds of too many people while claiming to be “news.” And the same great tool that helps me keep up with old friends and make new ones can create a horrible environment of disinformation and hate speech. And, thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the companies who manage these platforms are rarely — if ever — held accountable for the content that is spread through their services. Elon Musk understands social media's power and what he can gain from it. He’s a Reddit guy. He saw firsthand how the "r/wallstreetbets" GameStop saga short-circuited the stock market. Already, we have seen the more immediate consequences of a Musk-owned social media platform. One Twitter user with $8 and a dream tanked the stock prices of pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly after creating a verified impersonation account and tweeting that their insulin is now free. As a tool, the platform is no longer useful for journalists, experts or normal people just looking for credible sources. And a website that at its best can help people find community and collective power, is already starting to become flooded with misinformation and hate speech. The internet has the power to democratize information. It is where I — and so many of my peers — first encountered conversations about sexuality, race, climate change and many of the issues that we may or may not face in our schools. Unfortunately, every indication of how Musk’s leadership at Twitter will go points to that dark side of the internet being let loose without any guardrails. Much like Donald Trump, Musk wants to create his own reality, unhindered by verification or critical thinking. I'm still not certain if the end goal is to somehow monetize that new reality, or actually shift social dynamics in some warped new direction. But I don't really need an answer to that to determine if it's acceptable. It is not.

HOW IS DONALD TRUMP EVEN ELIGIBLE TO BE PRESIDENT? How does a democracy protect itself against a political leader who is openly hostile to democratic self-rule? This is the dilemma the nation faces once again as it confronts a third presidential run by Donald Trump, even as he still refuses to admit he lost his second. Of course, we shouldn’t be in this situation to begin with. The facts are well known but necessary to repeat, if only because we must never become inured to them: Abetted by a posse of low-rent lawyers, craven lawmakers and associated crackpots, Trump schemed to overturn the 2020 election by illegal and unconstitutional means. When those efforts failed, he incited a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol, causing widespread destruction, leading to multiple deaths and — for the first time in American history — interfering with the peaceful transfer of power. Almost two years later, he continues to claim, without any evidence, that he was cheated out of victory, and millions of Americans continue to believe him. The best solution to behavior like this is the one that’s been available from the start: impeachment. The founders put it in the Constitution because they were well acquainted with the risks of corruption and abuse that come with vesting great power in a single person. Congress rightly used this tool, impeaching Trump in 2021 to hold him accountable for his central role in the Jan. 6 siege. Had the Senate convicted him as it should have, he could have been disqualified from holding public office again. But nearly all Senate Republicans came to his defense, leaving him free to run another day. There is another, less-known solution in our Constitution to protect the country from Trump: Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars from public office anyone who, “having previously taken an oath” to support the Constitution, “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or gave “aid or comfort” to America’s enemies. In September, for the first time in more than a century, a New Mexico judge invoked Section 3, to remove from office a county commissioner, Couy Griffin, who had been convicted of entering the Capitol grounds as part of the Jan. 6 mob. This raised hopes among those looking for a way to bulletproof the White House against Trump that Section 3 might be the answer. I count myself among this crowd. As Jan. 6 showed the world, Trump poses a unique and profound threat to the Republic: He is an authoritarian who disregards the Constitution and the rule of law and who delights in abusing his power to harm his perceived opponents and benefit himself, his family and his friends. For that reason, I am open to using any constitutional means of preventing him from even attempting to return to the White House. Sign me up. We shouldn't have to worry about it, because Donald Trump has shown the entire world what a narcissistic jackass he really is. But a good, solid half of our country is incapable of recognizing how dangerous somebody like Trump can be. Even after seeing it happen, they still can't see it happening.

AFTER MORE THAN 600 MASS SHOOTINGS THIS YEAR, LET'S BE HONEST ABOUT GUNS: The mass shootings that plague this nation are a uniquely American jumble of contradictions. Each new one horrifies, and yet fits into a depressingly familiar pattern. Communities count the dead — nearly 50 so far in November — and tally the gruesome details. The country vows to honor the lives cut short. And then it all fades from the headlines and people move on, leaving behind thoughts and prayers but no concrete policies to stop the next bloodbath. The United States has averaged nearly two mass shootings a day this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks when four or more people are shot. To put that another way, it’s now unusual to have a day without a mass shooting. “We aren’t numb - we’re traumatized,” tweeted Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, which has been urging action to stop gun violence in America since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six staff a decade ago. It can happen anywhere, to anyone. Fourteen Americans mowed down this month at the University of Virginia, Club Q in Colorado Springs and a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., were doing normal activities of daily life — going to school, enjoying a performance, working. They leave behind grieving loved ones, who ask: Why? In each case, as usually happens, there were warning signs missed — or ignored. The chilling note the Walmart shooter left in his phone railing against his co-workers and claiming his phone was hacked suggests he was a deeply disturbed 31-year-old. And yet, he was able to buy a pistol just hours before he massacred six fellow employees in a break room. In Colorado Springs, a 22-year-old suspect who had been arrested last year for an alleged bomb threat but never prosecuted, was not prevented from obtaining an AR-15-style weapon and a handgun. It’s eerily similar in the University of Virginia shooting: The 22-year-old suspect had multiple prior run-ins with the law, including a 2021 conviction for possessing a concealed firearm without a license. The fact that no single action will stop all mass shootings is no excuse not to do things that could prevent some of them, or lower the toll when they happen. President Biden is right to call for another nationwide assault weapons ban, which he helped enact for 10 years when he was a senator in 1994. Poll after poll show wide support for stricter gun laws. The House passed the ban in July, but the Senate has yet to act. Cooling off period, in-depth background checks, red flag laws. None of those things are "radical," and yet conservative lawmakers fight them tooth and nail. Why? Because they don't want to lose their Primaries. Protecting their power is more important than protecting citizens (even children), and they should all be tossed out for criminal negligence.

REPARATIONS FOR BLACK AMERICANS CAN WORK IF THEY ARE RE-IMAGINED: Land, of course, was not the only essential asset of which Black people had been deprived. Education was another. “Let us atone for our sins,” wrote the leaders of the American Missionary Association, “by furnishing schools and the means of improvement for the children, upon whose parents we have inflicted such fearful evils.” This, too, proved to be a dream deferred. After federal troops withdrew from the South in 1877, Black children were subjected to what can only be called a terrorist campaign. Parents who dared send their children to school were fired by their White employers. Teachers and students were beaten. Schools were torched. And even when terror abated, Black schools were grossly underfunded. By 1950, in Mississippi, Black public schools received approximately $32 of state support per student while White schools received roughly four times as much. And so the debt owed by White America to Black Americans continued to accrue. It grew through the sharecropping system that locked agricultural workers into inescapable cycles of debt. It was compounded by the system of convict labor by which Black men were snatched off the streets for such putative crimes as “vagrancy,” and forced to work unpaid in factories or mines. It persisted into the 20th century as the United States built the semblance of a welfare state from which millions of African Americans were excluded. The signature program of the New Deal, the Social Security Act of 1935, exempted agricultural and domestic laborers who, in the South, were overwhelmingly Black. Black military veterans were excluded, too, not de jure but de facto, from the G.I. Bill. At just the moment when a college degree began to supplant the high school diploma as the minimum credential for entering the middle class, most Black veterans, who came overwhelmingly from the South, failed to qualify because their schooling had been negligible, or because most colleges wouldn’t admit them. These larcenies were measurable forms of theft that help explain why Black Americans have owned so little that could be passed on to their children, and why the median assets of Black families today trail so far behind — by about 700 percent — those of White families. I encourage you to read this entire lengthy article. I did not share some of the proposed solutions, because the "responsibility" question is a barrier that must be surmounted first. It's not just slavery that needs to be atoned for, it's (also) public policy that was enacted for a century after slaves were freed. And all of us but the very young share that responsibility in one form or another.


CHELSEA LYONS: DUKE'S CARBON PLAN SHOULD BE REJECTED: As a new mom, I am worried about the future of North Carolina because of climate change. I worry about the health and wellness of my son. I’m afraid he won’t have a sustainable future or the ability to grow his own family due to pollution and the increased costs it will bring. I am afraid to see what will happen to our planet and how our children will have to adapt to survive without us. It is vital that the N.C. Utilities Commission deny Duke Energy’s carbon plan and request for a new proposal that includes more clean energy sources, such as solar and offshore wind energy. If we do not start to make headway on reducing air pollution, we risk an increased incidence of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases among our elderly, youth and groups vulnerable to air pollution, heat waves and wildfire smoke. Ignoring the grip climate change has on us is negligent. The N.C. Utilities Commission must consider the health and wellness of N.C. citizens, especially children. We need to start putting our children first. There is no time to waste when it comes to clean air. One of the biggest problems I see with Duke's plan is the reliance on untested new nuke technology to hit their carbon targets. It's a pig in a poke, and they will keep firing up their coal plants while waiting for that magical pig to materialize.

DOLORES BANKS: CONGRESS NEEDS TO ACT ON OUR GUN PROBLEM: I find it very disturbing that our members of Congress have forgotten why they were elected. They give these great speeches about a “parents bill of rights,” increasing domestic oil and natural gas production, border security and rising crime rates. But they make no mention of gun control. I fear for our kids going to school — kindergarten through college. Getting shot at school, at a mall. People shooting into cars. This is not the world I grew up in and I do not think our kids should have to live like this. So when will our lawmakers start standing up for the rights of the people instead of saying “we’re going to investigate the current administration?” That does not solve the problem. Please know that the American people need more than threats. We need people to run this country with common sense, intelligence and a caring heart. NC just chose a gun dealer over a former Chief Justice as one of our (US) Senators. I'm not going to stop advocating for gun control, but it's the people and not the politicians who need to be convinced. And right now, when they see a story of a mass shooting, their first impulse is to go out and buy their own gun. Madness.

DOLLY KATZ: YES, THIS IS SEXISM: The Nov. 15 news article “Trump campaign to be a small, Florida-based operation,” about former president Donald Trump’s team for his 2024 campaign for president, characterized Susie Wiles as, among other things, a “grandmother.” I don’t ever notice that The Post uses the equivalent term when talking about male political operatives. Why is it relevant that Wiles has grandchildren? Don’t male political advisers have grandchildren? This focus on her reproductive status seems condescending and sexist. She's right, this is something that comes up frequently, and it shouldn't, especially in the context of reporting on a woman's profession. If they want to bring it up, fine. But focus on the CV and other achievements, and leave that fluffy bunny shit out.



All in all, a good Thanksgiving

I was able to hold my little Grandniece Lorelei a few times, which I didn't think I'd be able to do shortly after she was born.

She had a massive tumor in her head, which literally took up more space than her brain did. So she had to undergo surgery to remove most of it, and has been dealing with radiation and chemo ever since. But she is a fighter. Her brain grew into that void, and she has continued to develop at an astounding rate. She recently came off chemo and is doing well under a different treatment regimen, and her hair is growing like crazy.

But even more encouraging is her zest for life. She doesn't like to be held, because that limits her freedom. But she let me pick her up for like three seconds at a time before saying, "Down" with a little smirk on her face.

Yes, ma'am.

To say that made me happy would be a huge understatement. It also makes me appreciate life, and the moments we can steal here and there. Because that is all we can have, a moment here and there. Treasure them, and don't dwell on why we can't have more moments like that. That's how you miss things, and since the Vulcan Science Academy has determined that time travel is not possible, you can't get those moments back.

That's all the logic I have for today.