Commentary

Another scathing editorial blasts UNC system’s leadership

William Roper

Randall Ramsey

The leaders of the UNC system got a few headlines last week by publicly lamenting the state’s ongoing budget stalemate and then, predictably if nonsensically, calling on the General Assembly to override Gov. Cooper’s veto of the inadequate budget bill the General Assembly passed last spring.

Happily, this morning’s lead Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com exposes the illogic of the action. This is from “A predictable partisan potshot from subservient UNC board,” which rightfully described the publicity seeking move as being born of [President William] Roper, [Board chair Randall] Ramsey and the entire board’s literal fealty to their legislative overlords”:

More than support for an inadequate budget it was a blatant partisan potshot at Gov. Roy Cooper and the Democrats in the legislature — by the Republican UNC Board — who have been pressing for GREATER resources for education – including UNC.

It was Cooper after all, who vetoed the budget as vastly inadequate to meet the pressing needs of the state — particularly education and UNC as well as failing to expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of working citizens. Democrats in the legislature have backed Cooper and demanded the legislative leadership do more.

And then there is this:

If the schools are suffering from neglect, it has been because of the decade-long assault on public education by the legislative leadership.

It is a record of mismanagement and neglect. Need proof? The system is on its third president since 2011 for starters.

The colossally bad decision to negotiate, settle and pay the Sons of Confederate Veterans millions is another.

The problem here isn’t the people who are fighting against all odds to do better by our universities.

The crisis is the current management – from the legislative leadership to the UNC Board it appoints that demands passage of a budget that doesn’t do the job.

Exactly. Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Yes, the Hollywood elite are crazy, but they’re also…well…right

Am I the only one who thinks it would’ve been hilarious if someone at the recent Golden Globes had frowned in disgust and hissed at the waiter: “I had the STEAK!” when the vegan meal was presented with a flourish? Turnabout’s fair play and all that.

I always feel a little guilty when seated beside the woke banquet guest with a little “V” card at her plate to signal the wait staff she has the non-meat entrée. Sometimes, as an icebreaker, I’ll ask if she’s Vulcan.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are vegan. OK, no they’re not. But they could be because it’s a noble concept which I hope to embrace someday. No, I don’t. Let’s face it: I’m just not that nice. Vegetarianism? Maybe. Vegan? I’d rather be forced to watch “Cats” on auto repeat with my eyes propped open with wires like that poor bastard in “A Clockwork Orange.”

The vegan meal was the talk of the night. Well, that and Jennifer Lopez’s freakishly oversized gold bow-enhanced gown—“Who’s it by? Thank you for asking, Ryan. It’s a new designer. She’s called Errybody’s nutty ol’ great aunt on Christmas morning…”

Much has been said about the hypocrisy of all the Hollywood elite chowing down on those vegan scallops (really mushrooms) just moments after arriving at the venue via enormous ozone killing limos.

To which I say: Oh, just shut up. It’s a big night. Did you really want Gwyneth Paltrow to explain to her Uber driver she wasn’t technically nude? I thought not.

Still, the Hollywood Foreign Press’s ham-handed (ha!) attempt at demonstrating concern for the planet by serving a meal in which no animals were harmed had the opposite result. That’s what happens these days. If you try to do the right thing, no matter how minor, you get lampooned and worse. In the South, this is known as “licking the red off someone’s candy.”

Was Scallopgate a bit overwrought and on the nose? Sure. It’s easy to skewer Hollywood hypocrisy on the reg but, if we’re being serious for a moment (which, y’all know I just hate), was it really such an awful idea to call attention to considering switching to a less meat-centric diet because it’s better for our dying planet? Nah. Nah, it wasn’t.

It’s the same way it’s fun for some to pounce on 16-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg, making fun of how she won’t fly and instead crosses the ocean in an emission-free racing yacht. Yes, isn’t integrity HILARIOUS?! Isn’t she just the weirdest little thing with all that earnestness and caring? What a loser.

The new decade is a nice time to stop persecuting teenagers for giving a damn about the stuff (climate, gun control) that we “grownups” have avoided like a vending machine burrito up to now.

That said, I do hope we can do this with at least a little humor because, well, we need it. The Vulcans told me so.

Celia Rivenbark of Wilmington, N.C., is a New York Times-bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.

Commentary, News

Conservative NC lawmakers boost controversial King Day gun rally

Concerns continue to grow about a gun rights rally that has been planned for Richmond, Virginia on the upcoming January 20 King holiday.

Click here to read a Virginia Mercury story about how a state court judge recently upheld a temporary ban on bringing firearms onto the site of the rally and here to read about how the FBI has arrested three suspected members of a white supremacist group who planned on attending.

The state’s governor has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the event, which has been endorsed by some of the same actors that participated in the infamous 2017 Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

Meanwhile, despite these many troubling aspects to the event and its obvious overtones of racism and violence, it appears numerous North Carolina lawmakers have signed on to a letter in support of the rally’s goal of promoting so-called “Second Amendment sanctuary” cities and counties.

The following Facebook post by North Carolina State Rep. Steve Jarvis of Davidson County indicates that at least three North Carolina lawmakers will attend the rally and deliver a letter signed by 50 House members (see page one above — Raleigh’s News & Observer has the full letter here), including House Speaker Tim Moore. The

Today as your State House Representative I signed a letter in Support of the 2nd Amendment counties and cities in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
This letter states that the North Carolina House Republican Caucus supports the counties and cities that have self-declared themselves as “2nd Amendment Sanctuaries”.
The signers of the letter include Speaker Tim Moore and Majority Leader John Bell Freshman Majority Leader Steve Jarvis as well as 47 other members. Representative Kidwell will attend a rally on January 20th where he and several other members of the North Carolina House of Representatives including Rep Michael Speciale (Craven) and Rep Bobby Hanig (Currituck) will present the letter to the members of the Virginia legislature. “It is our hope that we can impress upon the Virginia legislature the importance of protecting the rights of the people they represent”. Said Rep. Kidwell. As stated in the letter, North Carolina and Virginia have stood together beginning with the revolution, and it is the hope of the signers of this letter of support that we will continue to stand with the citizens as their rights are being attacked in much the same way they were under colonial rule.
All in all, this is pretty scary stuff. It’s one thing to hold strong views on gun rights, but it’s quite another to play footsy with avowed white supremacists and some of the other characters involved in this event. The North Carolina lawmakers should take a step back and rethink their implicit endorsement of the event.
Commentary, Courts & the Law, News

The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

Commentary:
1. Make no mistake. The budget failed because Republicans failed to compromise.

There is a temptation—and believe me, I understand it—to celebrate the fleeting nature of this week’s special session of the North Carolina state legislature as some sort of coup.

Resist that temptation, even if the sight of an ostensibly frustrated Phil Berger is a new one to these tired eyes.

Berger and his compatriots in the Republican caucus enjoyed near unchecked power in the last decade. A post-Obama surge of conservatives played a modest part in that, although the gerrymandering did its part too. [Read more…]

2. Pipelines, roads and railways: This is why you should care about Trump’s rollback of NEPA, a key environmental law

By the time the new Interstate 885 opens in Durham later this year, some of the people who conceived of the original project will have been long dead.

In the works for 60 years, the East End Connector, as Durhamites call it, funnels traffic over four miles from NC 147 to US 70 and onto I-85, to reduce congestion on surface streets.

But environmental laws did not slow-walk the project. In fact, when the highway was first conceived in the early 1960s, there was no EPA. There was no Clean Water Act, no Clean Air Act. There was no NEPA — National Environmental Policy Act. All those laws were passed in the 1970s. [Read more…]

3. NC’s new “Raise the Age” law appears to be off to a promising start

New facilities and policies offer hope to 16 and 17 year-olds once consigned to the adult corrections system

Tall trees and a rocky, woodsy landscape envelop the C.A. Dillon juvenile detention campus in Butner. Save for the tall metal fence that rings the confinement building, the area could be mistaken for a summer camp or private school grounds.

The feeling that greets the visitor of wanting to go for a group hike or play flag football with old pals quickly diminishes inside, however, as the smell of fresh paint permeates the building and barred windows and concrete walls remind you that this isn’t a fun trip away from home. But it won’t be like that forever – after all, this isn’t jail.[Read more…]

4. State lawmaker’s failure to disclose business ties highlights broader ethics enforcement problem

State Rep. Holly Grange (R-New Hanover) failed to disclose a business owned and operated by her husband on state Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) forms for several years, according to documents reviewed by Policy Watch.

In North Carolina, public officials are required to disclose connections to all non-publicly owned companies by which they or their immediate family members are employed or in which they have an interest.

Grange’s husband, David Grange, registered his “consulting” business Osprey at Compass Pointe LLC with the state Secretary of State’s office in July 2015. Yet the business did not appear on Grange’s SEI form in 2016, when she was first appointed to a state House seat to replace incumbent Rick Catlin. She ran unopposed for the seat in that year’s election. Rep. Grange also did not list the business on her SEI forms in 2017 or 2018. In February 2018, the business was administratively dissolved by the Secretary of State’s office for failure to file an annual report. [Read more…] Read more

Commentary, Education, Higher Ed

UNC law professor: Silent Sam deal an “investment in falsehood”

Just before the holidays, five members of the UNC System Board of Governors defended the Board’s decision to pay $2.5 million to the Sons of Confederate Veterans to house and display the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans are purveyors of what historians call the myth of the Lost Cause – the story that “the preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight” what they call “the Second American Revolution.” The group insists that “the war was not fought in order to keep African Americans enslaved.”

It stands to reason that these are the historical claims Silent Sam will bolster in any museum they build with the $2.5 million.

The five Board members said that this was the best deal they could strike to try to resolve what they saw as “a deeply divisive and personal issue.”

“Divisive?”  I suppose the centrality of slavery to the Confederate cause remains divisive in some circles.

But “personal?”

There is nothing remotely personal about this issue.

To see why, think about a few hypothetical $2.5 million settlements the university might reach with others to help them tell their story.

  • The university settles litigation with a soft drink company by setting up a fund to support a series of conferences about how sugary sodas do not contribute to the obesity epidemic.
  • The university settles litigation with an anti-vaccination group by setting up a fund to finance a social media push against childhood immunizations.
  • The university settles litigation with a religious institution by funding a geology museum proving that no rock can be more than 6,000 years old.

How would the public react to any of these expenditures?

With near-universal outrage, and for good reason.  However “divisive” the causes of obesity, the merits of vaccinations, and the age of the Earth may be in some quarters, these university expenditures would be serving untruth.  They would be doing the opposite of what a research university does, which is to study things carefully, using rigorous standards of inquiry, and thereby to increase knowledge and uncover truth.

There is nothing “personal” about whether the perpetuation of slavery was central to the Southern cause in the Civil War.  It is something that brilliant historians – including many in the UNC System – have devoted their lives to documenting.

This is one of the things that is so deeply disturbing about the decision of the Board of Governors to pay a huge sum to an organization to preach the myth of the Lost Cause.  It’s a $2.5 million investment in falsehood.

To watch this unfold is devastating.

But it’s nothing personal.

Eric Muller is the Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor of Law in Jurisprudence and Ethics at UNC-Chapel Hill.