Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


ELECTIONS BOARD MEMBERS' JOB IS TO ADVOCATE AND PROTECT VOTERS, NOT PARTISANSHIP: It’s happened again. A former state legislator gets placed on an important state board. That ex-legislator cares only about the wishes of the legislative leaders and their partisan agenda and NOT working on behalf of ALL the people of North Carolina. All too often in recent years, the narrow demands of legislative leaders are in stark contrast to the best interests and needs of North Carolinians. While Tucker claimed “Democrats filed 416 lawsuits nationally which created chaos, overwhelmed the post office,” he did not mention lawsuits and challenges filed by Republicans. He didn’t bring up the operational changes ordered by Postmaster Lewis DeJoy that jeopardized the timely delivery of ballots to voters or the return of those cast ballots to board of elections. Nor did he say that it was President Donald Trump, during an appearance in Wilmington, who famously urged North Carolina voters to cast ballots twice – a violation of state and federal law.

WHEN THE PANDEMIC ENDS, SHOULD CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM RETURN TO NORMAL? NO: As the pandemic has reduced public activity, arrests have dropped. Meanwhile, sheriffs and prosecutors have taken steps to reduce jail populations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They are putting fewer people in jail for probation violations and nonviolent offenses and bail requirements are being reduced or waived. The result is a criminal justice system that is bending toward what the Black Lives Matter protesters seek – a system less needlessly punitive, especially toward Black Americans. Recommendations on that issue and other aspects of North Carolina’s criminal justice system will be coming soon. In response to the Black Lives Matter protests, Gov. Roy Cooper in July commissioned the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice. The group, which includes police, criminal justice advocates and elected officials, is co-chaired by state Attorney General Josh Stein and state Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls. The task force will release its full recommendations in a report to Cooper on Dec. 15. The task force has already indicated it will recommend the decriminalization of the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana, a charge brought disproportionately against Blacks. But Morey said the task force also will call for much broader reforms “from the beginning of the criminal process to the end — the death penalty.”

FAMILIES HAVE BEEN TORN APART BY POLITICS. WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM NOW? In the most extreme cases, what began as a manageable political disagreement in 2016 morphed into something much darker, as people watched family members who voted for Trump become absorbed by conspiracy theories that the president himself was spreading. Christine, a real estate agent in Massachusetts, remembers her mother’s excitement at Trump’s win in 2016. They were on a family vacation, and no one else was happy about it, but the difference didn’t seem to matter very much. But over the past year, she said she has seen her mother, a 75-year-old waitress, change from an enthusiastic gardener and antiques shopper to someone so obsessed with the QAnon conspiracy theory that she said she could no longer get through to her. Her mother was spending her free time staring at her iPad, and this spring, bought a necklace with a Q on it. “I feel like I’ve been in mourning for someone who is still alive, and that’s a bizarre thing,” said Christine, 34, who shares a last name with her mother and asked that it not be used in order to protect their privacy. “The person she used to be is not here anymore. I miss her so much.” She said this was the first Thanksgiving of her life that she would not be spending with her mother, who had been one of her closest confidants and lives 10 miles away.

I AM THANKFUL THAT TRUMP WILL BE OUT OF OFFICE. BUT DARK DAYS STILL LIE AHEAD: On Thanksgiving Day, I expressed gratitude that Donald Trump will no longer be president of the United States as of noon on Jan. 20. I also gave thanks that Air Force One, the presidential limousine, the White House mansion and all other appurtenances of the executive branch of the U.S. government will fall within the purview of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala D. Harris. The thought that Trump aides Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, Peter Navarro and Kayleigh McEnany and her crew of spin doctors will have to surrender their White House passes, and thereafter resort to taxis, ride-hailing companies, Metro or their own two feet to get around town is, well, delicious. Today, I am looking forward to a William P. Barr-free Justice Department, a State Department no longer under the thumb of Mike Pompeo and a Defense Department led by experienced and competent professionals, all of which ensures that the causes of justice, diplomacy and our national defense will soon be in good hands. Yet, I stop short of breathing a sigh of relief because Trump will be out of office. He will, after all, only be out of the building. Trump is encouraging his supporters to resist, to not accept the results, to believe with all their hearts that he is being cheated out of what is rightfully his. Trump, by declaring Biden’s victory illegitimate and encouraging street protests that lead to clashes, is sowing the seeds of violent behavior. In fact, pro-Trump organizers have planned another D.C. rally on Dec. 12, two days before electoral college ballots are to be cast. The Proud Boys, with their black-and-yellow garb, seemed to confirm on social media that they will be back in town.

LET'S TALK ABOUT HIGHER WAGES: Democratic politicians have tended to campaign on helping people left behind by economic growth, the difficulties caused by economic growth and the problems that cannot be addressed by economic growth. When Democrats do talk about encouraging economic growth, they often sound like Republicans with a few misgivings — the party of kinder, better tax cuts. This is not just a political problem for Democrats; it is an economic problem for the United States. The nation needs a better story about the drivers of economic growth, to marshal support for better public policies. The painful lessons of recent decades, along with recent economic research, point to a promising candidate: higher wages. Raising the wages of American workers ought to be the priority of economic policymakers and the measure of economic performance under the Biden administration. We’d all be better off paying less attention to quarterly updates on the growth of the nation’s gross domestic product and focusing instead on the growth of workers’ paychecks. Set aside, for the moment, the familiar arguments for higher wages: fairness, equality of opportunity, ensuring Americans can provide for their families. The argument here is that higher wages can stoke the sputtering engine of economic growth. Preaching the value of higher wages is a necessary first step toward concrete changes in public policy that can begin to shift economic power. It can help to build support for increasing the federal minimum wage — a policy that already has proved popular at the state level, including in conservative states like Arkansas, Florida and Missouri where voters in recent years have approved higher minimum wages in referendums. A focus on higher wages is not a sufficient goal for economic policy. There is a genuine need for a stronger safety net to ensure a minimum quality of life. The pursuit of economic growth has to be balanced against other imperatives, notably environmental protection. Wage growth by itself is not a corrective for the accumulated effects of racism or other social ills. But a focus on wage growth would provide a useful organizing principle for public policy — and an antidote to the attractive simplicity of the belief in the magical power of tax cuts.


INGEBORG DE BECKER: WE NEED TO ACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE NOW: Regarding “No Green New Deal,” (Nov. 22 Forum): Saying the Green New Deal would be a disaster for the U.S. turns the climate crisis into a partisan issue, which of course it is not. Earth is warming up, faster than ever before, with powerful leaders and decision makers at the helm. Our planet will survive, bruised and parched and flooded. But the human species, will it survive? We can already see the suffering hurled at us by rising waters, hurricanes, wildfires, unhealthy air, drought, economic instability, hunger, migrations, and wars. We must slow down Earth’s warming. The good news is that we know how to get started now: There are already several bills in D.C., in particular H.R. 763, which puts a price on carbon — and is bipartisan.

JOE LYONS: OUR DEMOCRACY IS IN PERIL: Our constitutional democracy is now in extreme danger. When Donald Trump first took office, we began to realize that he was a serial liar, a gross manipulator and emotionally unstable. We also learned he was an inept businessman whose father had to bail him out of at least six bankruptcies, and therefore his business acumen and fiscal judgment were already suspect. Then as time went on, much to our chagrin, we realized that his lies and gross exaggerations were an intrinsic part of his nature and not merely situational occurrences. But most importantly, we learned that his pathological lies and emotional instability indicated a serious sociopathic condition that could allow him to inflict long-term damage to our democracy. So now that he has lost his re-election, he is beginning to remove responsible people from the Pentagon and other security agencies, and replace them with sycophants who will do his bidding. The worst thing that Donald Trump can hear is that he is a loser. That’s why he will lash out indiscriminately and recklessly at anyone or anything he considers his enemy. Unfortunately, that enemy happens to be our constitutional democracy.

KATHY HUFFSTETLER: OPPOSING SETTLEMENTS IN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES IS NOT ANTI-SEMITIC: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently visited an Israeli settlement and declared that the U.S. would consider any supporter of the boycott movement against Israel as “anti-Semitic.” I support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and I’m not anti-Semitic. Throughout the years I’ve had the privilege of serving alongside many Jews in social justice work, seeking truth, justice and love. Calling nonviolent advocates for Palestinian rights anti-Semitic is just a cheap shot done to divert attention away from the real problem, which is the right-wing extremists in the Israeli government who relentlessly grab land owned for generations by Palestinian families. It’s a right-wing government that fails to treat each individual who resides in Israel and Palestine as a human being who is owed basic human rights and dignity.



Ignore the madness, focus on the positive

I have (at least) 10 friends or family who send me texts or Facebook messages whenever they come across something that scares them, be it outrageous statements by Trump, speculations about GOP legislatures overriding their voters and handing the election to him, stories about right-wing "militias" gearing up for civil war, etc.

What it amounts to (in most cases) is anxiety-induced fear, as opposed to the more basic stimuli-induced fear hard-wired into our brains via evolution. I know that sounds like a distinction that doesn't exist, but humor me for a few minutes.

Fear that is stimulated by your immediate surroundings (Is that a copperhead? Shit!) supercharges the amygdala, resulting in an adrenaline rush. You jump before you even realize the full threat.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a cumulative effect; a structure built on countless and often seemingly harmless pieces of information processed by your brain. And not just hard data; sights, sounds, smells, facial expressions of strangers. All sorts of stuff. But even though it's a generalized effect, the fact we don't know exactly what's causing it actually contributes to our anxiety.

So we are driven to discover the source. Identity it, deal with it, and maybe lessen our anxiousness. But in the process, we (usually) only add to it by immersing ourselves in things we cannot change. We are drawn to stories of horror and mayhem, and it may be our motivation is not to quell the anxiety, but to justify those anxious feelings.

Needless to say, this effort is counterproductive. It doesn't mean we flip the "off" switch. Crawl into an information void, as it were, where nothing can intrude. We need information, we just need to exercise better discretion in what we consume.