Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


BILLIONAIRES' DARK MONEY SILENCES VOTERS' VOICES: Through the first year-and-a-half of the current election cycle, 27 billionaires provided nearly half the money — $89.4 million of a total of $188.3 million — raised by the Senate Leadership Fund and the Congressional Leadership Fund – the two main super PACs trying to elect Republicans to Congress. Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts from every donor. Club for Growth Action invested two and a half times more in Budd’s campaign than his own campaign did. For the ultra-wealthy, spending to elect candidates who will protect their tax status and gut regulations is a good investment: millions in donations can mean billions in tax savings and less public oversight of their actions. A MarketWatch analysis of campaign finance records through Oct. 23 shows massive outside spending on behalf of Republicans running in competitive Senate races has more than made up for Budd’s lack campaign fund raising. Budd’s raised $18.2 million less than his Democratic opponent former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cherie Beasley as of the end of September. But he has gained from $55.9 million in outside spending either backing him or attacking Beasley. There has been about $17.1 million in outside spending on behalf of Beasley or opposing Budd. Overall, Budd’s has a $20.5 million financial lead. Curbing the undue, destructive influence of billionaires on elections requires restoring effective limits on campaign spending, such as by outlawing super PACs and ending anonymity for big donors to so-called “dark money” campaign groups. Also, we are in the midst of a vicious cycle of inflation, driven by massive corporate profit-taking. Of course they can afford to spend tens of millions, they've been picking our pockets since the Pandemic started. And now they're using our own money against us. Unfortunately, the average American hasn't made that connection.

DON'T FORGET EDUCATION WHEN YOU STEP INTO THE VOTING BOOTH: The outcome of the soon-to-be-decided races will have far-reaching implications for critically important issues like women’s reproductive rights, gun safety, voting rights, the economy, the environment, and of course, education. We, at The Public School Forum of North Carolina, urge you to research the candidates on your ballot to determine which candidates’ commitments align with what you think is best for the future of our children, our state and our country. When it comes to funding for public education, North Carolina currently ranks 49th out of all states in our effort to fund schools relative to our fiscal capacity to do so. This past year, North Carolina had a budget surplus of over $6 billion, and yet the state is not providing the most basic investments to ensure that all students have access to the sound basic education that our Constitution requires. North Carolina’s average per-pupil spending falls more than $3,000 below the national average. Research tells us that targeted investments in public education yield better outcomes for students’ academic success and long-term economic benefits. How – and how much – funding will be allocated to support our public schools in the years to come is a central question that members of the General Assembly will decide, and that will determine the educational opportunities available to children in every school and district across the state. The days are long past when a vote for a Republican candidate might help public schools. They have shown us (for years) what their priorities are, and education is not on that list.

ENDING RACE CONSCIOUS ADMISSIONS WILL ELIMINATE CAMPUS DIVERSITY AND EDUCATIONAL EQUALITY: First implemented in 1965, affirmative action policies were used to remedy the systemic racism and discriminatory practices that barred people of color from equal opportunities. The legacy of racial exclusion still impacts students of color today. Gerrymandered attendance zones and school districts have been drawn to segregate students of color from their white counterparts. According to the UCLA Civil Rights Project, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, when the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawed school segregation. As a result, Black, Indigenous and other students of color are statistically more likely to attend under-resourced schools and receive lower-quality education. This puts BIPOC at a huge disadvantage when applying to post-secondary school. Eliminating all signs of race from the admissions process will only exacerbate these racial barriers. Research findings have established that the admission rates of Black and Latinx students tend to decrease after bans on affirmative action policies, especially at highly selective universities. Universities would not be able to fully consider the personal statements, leadership experiences, recommendation letters and activities that revealed an applicant’s race. For example, a university could consider the leadership experience of an applicant who volunteered at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or participated in the Future Business Leaders of America, but they would not be able to consider the leadership experience of an applicant who was a member of the National Society of Black Engineers or volunteered with the African Methodist Episcopal Church or the Korean Presbyterian Church. In upholding “race-conscious” admissions, we can start to confront the racism and discrimination that prevents students of color from having equal access to educational opportunities that would give them a competitive edge in a selective college admissions process. All students deserve a fair shot at going to college, regardless of their income, where they grew up or their racial and ethnic background. By joining together, no matter our race, background or zip code, we can stop the blatant efforts to segregate our education system and ensure every child has an equal opportunity. As long as primary and secondary schools continue to produce unequal outcomes for students of color, affirmative action in higher education will be needed.

ONE QUESTION NO ONE NEEDS TO ASK ABOUT RALEIGH MASS SHOOTING: Public officials faced numerous questions last week in the immediate aftermath of the horrific mass shooting in Raleigh: Who was the perpetrator? Why did he do it? Exactly where and when did the killings take place? One question that seemed not worth bothering to ask, however, was this: How did it happen? Tragically and infuriatingly, we all already know the answer to that. In modern America, mass killing machines of the kind used in this instance – the shooter used some kind of long gun – are so incredibly abundant and easy to obtain that just about anyone and with a mind to get one and big enough to lift it can become a mass murderer with minimal effort. As the BBC reported last week, no other nation comes close to the U.S. in civilian gun ownership. Current estimates place the number of firearms in our country at 360 million, or 120.5 per 100 residents – nearly two-and-a-half times the rate of the runner-up country on the list, Yemen. The U.S. figure has grown by roughly 50% in just the last decade. And it appears the U.S. is home to more civilian-owned AR-15-style assault weapons (more than 20 million) than any other country has civilian-owned guns of any kind. While it’s at least conceivable that such a mountainous arsenal might be somewhat safely maintained through the enforcement of rigorous gun safety and education rules – particularly with respect to children and adults who demonstrate a propensity for violence – this is, of course, not how we roll. And as the Washington Post reminded its readers, North Carolina has no minimum age for possessing rifles or shotguns. Meanwhile, other research confirms that hundreds of thousands of mostly minimally trained North Carolina adults obtain and keep loaded, unlocked firearms in their homes, where children can access them. Mass shootings have now become a daily occurrence in our country. We have apparently decided to accept it as an inevitable part of life, as absurd as that sounds.

IGNORE PUTIN'S WORDS. HIS CRIMES IN UKRAINE SPEAK LOUDER: In a Thursday speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s voice dripped with resentment and grievance against Western liberal democracies. By his telling, Russia is fed up with being pushed around and is threatened by “neoliberals” and their “gay pride parades.” Besides, he said, “Unlike the West, we do not climb into someone else’s yard.” This is galling enough from the man who launched a war without cause against neighboring Ukraine. Far more lethal are the missiles Russia is using to drive Ukraine into a savage winter of blackouts and cold. Since Oct. 10, Russia has pummeled Ukraine’s electric power system with cruise missiles and Iranian drones. The utility Yasno said it has only about two-thirds of its normal capacity available because of the Russian strikes. The whole nation is being plunged into darkness. Russia’s onslaught is aimed at forcing Ukraine’s citizens to huddle in humiliation. We have little doubt they will emerge still more determined to fight back. Mr. Putin has repeatedly misjudged their fortitude. At the same time, recent weeks’ missile attacks should be widely denounced as war crimes, along with the civilian massacres and other atrocities Russian troops have carried out in this war. The 1949 Geneva Conventions and subsequent protocols prohibit making a civilian population an object of attack, launching indiscriminate attacks affecting civilians knowing they will cause excessive loss of life and injury, and extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. What Russia is doing is wanton and indiscriminate destruction. Mr. Putin and his many henchmen should be held accountable. Mr. Putin uses words as weapons. Knowing that his speech at Thursday’s Valdai International Discussion Club would bring headlines in open societies — those that do not censor speech, as Russia does — Mr. Putin reached for the hot buttons. “If the Western elites believe they can have their people and their societies embrace what I believe are strange and trendy ideas like dozens of genders or gay pride parades, so be it,” he sniffed. “Let them do as they please. But they certainly have no right to tell others to follow in their steps.” Mr. Putin has articulated these themes before. But reviving them just before the U.S. midterm elections is surely no accident; he wants to stir right-wing populism and encourage criticism of U.S. support for Ukraine. He is also no doubt seeking receptive ears in Europe and elsewhere among leaders who have hesitated to back Ukraine. Yes, his words are directed at the (gullible) GOP voters and politicians in America, and those people should be ashamed of that fact.


TRACY NASH: WALK THIS TRAIL WITH ME: On Oct. 7, Greensboro became part of the National Votes for Women Trail, with the dedication of a historic marker on the grounds of the Old Guilford County Courthouse, honoring Gertrude Weil and the founding of the North Carolina League of Women Voters. After the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites created an online, virtual “Votes for Women Trail,” the William G. Pomeroy Foundation partnered with them to erect a physical trail of markers (250 in total) in all 50 states. Each marker recognizes the historically significant people, places or things instrumental to women gaining the right to vote, finally, in 1920, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. On Oct. 7, 1920, Gertrude Weil, a leading figure in the North Carolina suffrage story, and president of the Equal Suffrage Association of N.C. (ESANC), gathered more than 100 women at the then-new Guilford County Courthouse, at which time the ESANC was dissolved and its successor, the N.C. League of Women Voters, was formed to educate women on how to: register to vote, choose a political party, learn about candidates and vote. One hundred twenty thousand women were registered in time for the November 1920 presidential election. She wasn't just a suffragette, she also worked fiercely to overcome racism in North Carolina. Way ahead of her time.

BRENDA POOLE: VOTE FOR DEMOCRACY AND THE TRUTH: Democracy is on the line. Please vote for our country and all our people. COVID ravaged our country and others. Inflation came to us and all countries, but like all economic concerns it will change. Those who are not patriots attacked our country on Jan. 6. Morals and decency left this country when Trump and his cohorts ran it. Why would you prefer hate and fear to run your lives? Why would you prefer lies over truth? Biden is not perfect but he does try to help the American people. Job growth is great and so is the unemployment rate. Trump helped himself and he cares nothing for this country. The rich got the greatest tax break ever, not the middle class or poor. His line was blame everyone but him. Biden had to come in and fix all his mistakes and a recession. If you let the other party back in, law and order is dead. They did not care that the election was legit. They just let the big lie run and run just like other conspiracies they push, QAnon lies. Their agenda is to make voting hard for anyone but them. They want forced religion. They want to get rid of Social Security, healthcare, Medicare, women’s rights and their right to take care of their own bodies. They cause hysteria over immigration. Have they ever fixed the problems when they have had power? No. They just spread the lies and those who want to believe them pass them on. I am tired of the hate and the lies. Please vote them out and elect those who will do for all the people and not their rich donors. America is a great country for all and not the select few who want to be dictators. We are a diverse nation and our Congress should be. When the Capitol police were begging for help, Trump did not respond until too late because it was his insurrection. Our government has its checks and balances and all should be held accountable to the laws of this land. No one is above it, Republican or Democrat. For the life of me I can't understand why anybody with half a brain could still support Trump. PT Barnum was right.

EILEEN MCCLURE NELSON: ELECTION DENIERS NEED TO STOP THINKING EVERYONE GETS A TROPHY: Election deniers need to stop viewing elections as peewee soccer matches where everyone gets a trophy at the end of the game. In every political contest, there is one winner and one loser, and the margin can be wide, narrow or nonexistent, and a coin toss might be used determine the outcome. In every election, Democrats win, Republicans win and independents win. That’s democracy. And when the losers refuse to accept the outcome, when they threaten election officials for not helping them overturn results, and when they rally their supporters to vigilante-style violence, our democracy is put in jeopardy. We are only as strong as our faith in our system. If our faith gets broken when we don’t win, we will all lose. Exactly. Your true character is exposed not when you win, but when you lose. If more politicians showed grace and humility when they fell short of victory, it would make our system stronger.



The smell of copper...

I've been lucky enough to do a lot of traveling in my life, and I've come to believe that some places retain remnants of evil. Not necessarily ghosts, but maybe an aura of horror, that lies over the land like a dark shadow. You may not be able to see it, but you can feel it. In your bones.

I came across one of those places in North Africa, in the region of historic Carthage. A Roman ampitheatre that Julius Caesar renovated, likely to demonstrate that Rome had not forgotten blood spilled by the Empire to reign in Carthaginian aggression. The ampitheatre formed the nexus of the capital Africa Proconsularis.

Anyway, I was there in 1983 for a joint training mission with the Tunisian military, and we were bused to a handful of historic sites around Tunis. When we arrived at the arena, we were disappointed to find out the site was closed to tourism that day, and the fence was far enough away that taking photos was less than ideal.

After a brief discussion, a friend and I agreed this was unacceptable. Nevermind the fact we were supposed to be maintaining a low profile, much less avoiding any potential legal or diplomatic incidents. Oh no, we simply had to climb that fence and check this place out.

As we walked across the killing ground, the fear of being discovered was slowly replaced by something else. An increasing dread, and the coppery smell of blood, so thick I could taste it in my mouth. I stopped walking, because my feet simply wouldn't work. I was frozen in place, and then the icy tingle crawled up from between my shoulders to the back of my head. I was being slowly stalked, and I was certain there was a hungry lion behind me. But I couldn't move, I could not turn around and assure myself I was fine. I have never felt so helpless, so doomed.

When the feeling finally wore off, I said something along the lines of, "What the hell was that?"

But my friend was gone, and I heard the rattle of the chain-link fence we had scaled just minutes before. That sound spurred me to action, and when I caught up to him near the bus he said, "I don't want to talk about it. Not yet."

Later, we compared notes briefly, and our experiences were so similar it could not be a coincidence. We also agreed not to discuss it with our fellow soldiers; partly because we didn't want to get a reputation of believing in the paranormal, but also because we knew nobody would (or could) understand what had happened to us.

I am a firm believer in science. But I also believe the horrors mankind unleashes sometimes leaves behind things that science simply cannot explain.