Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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WITH THURSDAY'S MEETING, LET GERRYMANDERING REFORM BEGIN: Of the three bills the committee discussed, House Bill 69 -- Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission, offers the best starting point. Maps will be developed with NO legislative involvement: The independent commission would develop the legislative and congressional district maps and submit them to the General Assembly for an up-or-down vote. No substantive amendments would be permitted. If a plan didn’t pass, the commission would be directed to submit a new one. Public input from the outset and throughout the process: No fewer than three public hearings are required before the maps are developed. At least two public hearings are required when the plans are considered by the legislature. Process transparency: All data and methods used to develop any of the plans must be available to the public BEFORE the plans are introduced for consideration by the legislature.
https://www.wral.com/editorial-with-thursday-s-meeting-let-gerrymandering-reform-begin/18717942/

NC DOT SHOULD LOOK BEYOND ROAD BUILDING: The era of the big commuter highway should be behind us by now. Every study and survey shows that by a wide margin, peoples’ preferences now are for more compact, walkable and urban centers, with less driving and commuting in their lifestyles. A long commute on a wide highway is nowhere to be found on the wish list of the current generation. Our community’s desire for being a 21st century innovation center, and an eye toward a healthy, sustainable future should be informing a rebooted DOT. Let’s try to manage traffic without all the costs, asphalt, and destruction. For example, If cameras to collect tolls were aimed at the Beltline, and fees charged at rush hours, drivers would start to think differently about their habits. Even if only commercial carriers were charged and began to redirect their fleets to off-hours travel, traffic would be considerably reduced. Longer term, rail transit is key to offering resilience and real alternatives to driving. We have tracks leading in and out of Raleigh’s new train station to Durham , Apex, Clayton, Knightdale, Cary, RTP — and all over the state — shouldn’t some of our resources be focused on commuter and regional rail? Right now, NC DOT’s annual budget stands at $5 billion, of which a puny $37 million is for rail.
https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/article236559423.html

BURR'S COMMITTEE FINDINGS STILL NEED HIS FOLLOW THROUGH ON RECOMMENDATIONS: The evidence that has been gathered and exposed by the Senate Intelligence Committee should trouble all Americans – regardless of partisan persuasion. The report provides critical evidence and recommendations to address and thwart future foreign interference in our elections. But it fails to more directly address the behavior of candidates and campaigns that directly or indirectly encourage, embrace, take advantage or even directly participate in these efforts to disrupt our democracy. The Senate report on interference in the 2016 elections dropped earlier this month with barely a thud. But the findings from the committee headed by North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr will have resounding significance. The committee starkly and impartially gathered and presented undisputable evidence of how the Russians interfered with the 2016 election, how significant the impact was and just who it helped. “In the final three months leading up to Election Day, the top-performing intentionally false stories on Facebook actually outperformed the top news stories from the nineteen major news outlets,” the report said of the success achieved by Russian disinformation, diversion and distraction efforts.
https://www.wral.com/editorial-burr-s-committee-findings-still-need-his-follow-through-on-recommenda...

ELIJAH CUMMINGS: WE ARE IN A FIGHT FOR THE SOUL OF OUR DEMOCRACY: As I pen these words, we are living through a time in our nation’s history when powerful forces are seeking to divide us one from another; when the legitimacy of our constitutional institutions is under attack; and when factually supported truth itself has come under relentless challenge. I am among those who have not lost confidence in our ability to right the ship of American democratic life, but I also realize that we are in a fight — a fight for the soul of our democracy. As an American of color, I have been able to receive an excellent public education, become an attorney, and serve my community and country in both the Maryland General Assembly and Congress because of one very important fact: Americans of conscience from every political vantage point took our Constitution seriously and fought for my right to be all that I could become. When people in the leadership of the nation attack our courts, the members of our Congress, our civil servants and our media, they are attacking the glue that holds our diverse nation together as the United States of America. And when these attackers do so on the basis of factually unfounded opinion, rather than verifiable evidence, they are engaged in demagoguery of the most dangerous sort. This is why our civil service, committed to maintaining the rule of law and decision-making based on verifiable facts, is so important to maintaining the legitimacy of our government, both elected and appointed.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/elijah-cummings-we-are-in-a-fight-for-the-soul-of-our-democr...

THANKS, WHISTLE-BLOWER, YOUR WORK IS DONE: “Where is the Whistleblower, and why did he or she write such a fictitious and incorrect account of my phone call with the Ukrainian President?” President Trump tweeted Thursday night. “Why did the IG allow this to happen? Who is the so-called Informant (Schiff?) who was so inaccurate? A giant Scam!” The thing is, Mr. Trump, virtually every piece of information that the public first learned from the whistle-blower’s complaint has been corroborated by the White House’s reconstructed transcript of your call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine or by the congressional testimony and documents provided by current and former administration officials. In the few remaining cases, save one, journalists have backed up his assertions through reporting. 1. The President did solicit interference. "I would like you to do us a favor,” Mr. Trump said in a July 25 phone call with Mr. Zelensky, according to the White House account of the call. 2. Giuliani and Barr were involved. Mr. Trump told Mr. Zelensky that Attorney General William Barr and the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani would call him. 3. There was reason for alarm. The inspector general for the intelligence agencies, Michael Atkinson, confirmed in a Sept. 9 letter to Congress that the whistle-blower’s complaint “met the definition of an urgent concern.” 4. National security was put at risk. Fiona Hill, former senior director for Russia and Europe at the White House, testified before Congress about “her fears that Mr. Sondland” the American ambassador to the European Union and a central figure in the president’s dealing with Ukraine, “represented a counterintelligence risk because his actions made him vulnerable to foreign governments.” (plus 27 more points)
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/26/opinion/trump-whistleblower-letter.html

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

ROBERT ALDRICH: TRUMP MUST BE STOPPED: It is clearer than ever that a segment of the Republican Party is determined to help Donald Trump subvert the American system of laws and government. I urge U.S. Rep. David Price and Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis to not allow this to happen. Impeach, remove, and prosecute Trump. Push back against his defenders like Attorney General William Barr and Sen. Mitch McConnell. Forbid the U.S. House representatives who stormed the secured spaces Thursday from ever being granted security clearance. Disbar Trump’s attorney who had the audacity to suggest a sitting president couldn’t be investigated while in office. That these actions need to be taken is insanity. That we, the constituents, must demand our elected officials take these actions is nothing short of tragic and shameful. Burr, Price and Tillis must do their duty, protect America, and stop Trump.
https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article236571043.html

JUDITH PULLEY: ABANDONING OUR KURDISH ALLIES WAS SHAMEFUL: Regarding “Senators offer support for Montagnard refugees” (Oct. 23): The story of how North Carolina welcomed about 12,000 Montagnard refugees, recognizing their bravery in fighting alongside us in the Vietnamese War, is heartwarming. What a contrast to Donald Trump’s betrayal of our faithful allies, the Syrian Kurds, who lost over 11,000 while fighting alongside us to defeat ISIS. He has rewarded their courage by green-lighting the Turkish invasion of a territory in northern Syria, in which they have thrived. Now, they have been left to the tender mercies of Turkey and Russia and have been forced to turn to that butcher Bashar Assad for protection. As they withdrew from their posts, U.S. troops were pelted with rotten fruit by outraged Kurds. I wonder if Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis have any words of support for the Kurds?
https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article236570978.html

BLAIR REEVES: WE NEED TO STOP HUMORING CONFEDERATE STATUE DEFENDERS: Regarding “Confederate monument in Pittsboro draws hundreds to demonstrate support, opposition,” (Oct. 19): The elected representatives of Chatham County have bent over backwards for months to accommodate the feelings of the tiny, vocal minority of statue supporters — and it still has not been enough. We now have all stripes of white supremacist and skinhead groups making Pittsboro their rallying cry. As often as not, these people are coming from out of town, and even out of state — and for what? To engage in some fantasy version of the Civil War while they parade around downtown brandishing firearms and logos they found on the internet. The Confederacy was a terrorist insurrection premised on the murderous enslavement of black people, and it has no legacy worth honoring. Those people agitating to preserve monuments to it only prove that point to the rest of us.
https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article236478433.html

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From the dark side

J. Peder Zane resumes his throne of the jackass of the week for politicizing campus sexual assault:

I don’t know what’s more alarming: The recent report that 27% of women who’ve spent at least four years at UNC-Chapel Hill have experienced “nonconsensual sexual penetration” or the muted response to that sickening finding.

What’s worse, the UNC numbers are not an outlier. They are consistent with trends identified by the prestigious Association of American Universities in a survey of 181,752 students at 33 elite private and public schools, including Harvard, Yale, Northwestern and the University of Oregon.

This is what's known as a "hook." A seemingly reasonable and concerned introduction, so the reader is more amicable to his other points. Beginning with these:

The study’s bottom line: elite schools may be the most dangerous places in the world for young women — and men. “Nonconsensual sexual penetration” is not unwanted sexual touching but a euphemism for rape. The AAU reports this horrific crime occurs more frequently at UNC and Yale than in war ravaged dictatorships.

Their ivy covered landscapes turn too many boys into predatory criminals who blithely act with unimaginable cruelty and women into victims with scars that may never heal, and traumas that may haunt them the rest of their lives.

Bolding mine, because he's already laying the groundwork for an attack on the schools themselves, and the faculty (mostly Liberal) that create the environment. While it may be true that attending a university is the first real freedom many students have experienced at 17-18 years of age, those impulses that drive "boys" to rape have been stewing for years already.

If the report is correct, this is not merely a problem — it is a law enforcement crisis of monstrous proportions which the universities have proven unwilling or unable to address effectively.

If the rates of rape and sexual assault in the broader society matched that reportedly occurring at elite universities, we’d be hearing calls for martial law. In this context it is hard to understand how campuses can get so exercised about Confederate statues or the liberal bias of professors while this criminal conduct continues.

And here we see the first real signs of denialism: "If the report is correct." And there's also a snarky reference to Silent Sam in there, to posit that students and adults are wasting their time with social justice issues instead of tackling this problem. That he doesn't believe exists:

The report raises other questions: Why isn’t there a panic on campus? Why did most news outlets shrug off the findings as a one-day story? Why are parents still desperate to send their children to these schools?

Some experts say it’s because the numbers are cooked — that the AAU sensationalizes and ultimately criminalizes a broad range of sexual interactions that are far more nuanced. The most thorough book I’ve read supporting this view, “The Campus Rape Frenzy” by K.C. Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr., noted that the federal government found that reported incidents of rape and sexual assault on campus declined between 1997 and 2013 and that in 2014 the Bureau of Justice Statistics “estimated that 0.61 percent of female college (and trade school) students are sexually assaulted per year, of whom 0.2 percent are raped.” (The rates for women aged 18-24 not attending schools were higher – though that receives little attention.)

As usual when Zane quotes "experts," they turn out to be right-wing fringers and not objective researchers. From the book review he probably shouldn't have provided a link to:

If only the same could be said about “The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities,” by KC Johnson, a professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, and Stuart Taylor Jr., a contributing editor at National Journal. An in-depth look at how universities compromise due process norms in adjudicating sexual assault cases — and it is clear they do — is overdue; instead, the authors choose a handful of egregious examples to make the case that campus sexual assault isn’t all that common and that the bigger problem is innocent young men railroaded by promiscuous women who get drunk and regret their choices, or flat-out lie at the behest of conniving campus feminists. Instead of an honest analysis of the complex issues and competing values at play, the book teems with vastly overstated claims, questionable statistics and quotes massaged beyond their original meaning.

Johnson and Taylor describe the sexual histories and relative state of drunkenness — often according to bartenders or other observers not conducting breathalyzer tests — of the various female accusers, as well as the “flirtatious” nature with which those women either talked to or texted the men they later charged with sexual assault; the men are given no such treatment. Being falsely accused of rape, it seems, is just as common, and just as terrible, as being actually raped.

The only way, at least theoretically they say, for men to truly defend themselves from women who “have been propagandized and lobbied to believe that they should make claims against you whenever they end up unhappy about sexual contact, even if it was clearly consensual,” is to be celibate or to videotape all sexual encounters. As they castigate the news media for being too deferential to alleged rape survivors and not investigating women’s claims independently, they adhere to no such standard for themselves, sympathetically sharing the story of one young man who “suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder,” after being “accused of rape and other sex crimes by a fellow student whose story kept changing, according to his mother.”

No wonder Zane was enamored of this book. Implication and innuendo are his stock-in-trade, and these guys were apparently shoveling quite a bit of both.

But for those of us who really do care about solving this problem, we'll find no solutions or "wise insight" reading gibberish like Zane peddles.