Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Let your candy do the talkin’

I think the people who make M&M’s may have hit on the perfect way for folks who are too shy to say how they really feel to finally just put it all out there. I first noticed the “M&M’s Messages” candy in the checkout line this week. It’s a normal size bag of M&M’s but there’s a bold-print message on the bag you can’t miss, like: “He wasn’t even that cute” or “Have a great day pretending to do work” or “Congrats on being above average.”

It’s a clever marketing strategy because who among us hasn’t thought: “Dammit, if only there was a peanut or milk chocolate treat that would help me speak my truth!” Am I right?

Most are nice. Ish. Like “Miss your face,” or “You make Mama proud” but I like the slightly edgier ones: “I’d follow you anywhere… in a non-creepy way.” Which, now that you’ve introduced the notion of creepy is most definitely creepy.

Just because the message is delivered by “saucy green” or “affable yellow” M&M, it’s still a tad weird.

But potentially quite useful.

While I’ve never had trouble sharing exactly how I feel — to the point of being invited this week by a COVID-denier to do that which is anatomically impossible — I recognize some of y’all need a little help in this department.

You don’t want to offend.

You hate conflict.

You have to wash your hair.

The M&M’s messages take the candy hearts of old many steps further. I mean, telling someone “I love being socially awkward with you” is way better than “Dear One,” a standard candy heart that now just evokes those emails from the overly friendly widow who lives a few continents away and needs your bank routing information so she can share her $10 million inheritance with you. Dear one. Oh, also your Social when you have a sec. Dear one.

Years ago, we were invited to “Say it with flowers!” but side eye via candy that costs less than 2 bucks a bag is even better. You may not appreciate the sentiment but if you’re any kind of American, you’re still going to rip off the top of that little packet of goodness, throw your head back and open your gullet like God intended.

So, although there are a whopping 36 M&M messages available for you to toss at someone passive aggressively and either run away or wait for them to cuddle with you–depending on message–there’s room for lots more.

Here are some “messages” and intended recipients I’d like to see distributed. You’re welcome Mars, Inc.

Britney to her daddy: “Get a job, ol’ man!”

Kevin Federline to Britney: “We good, though, right B? I mean, who’s going to hire me? I’m in my 40s and still wear cargo shorts, like, to weddings…”

Marjorie Taylor Greene to Lauren Boebert: “With my fame and your brains we could conquer… the abandoned Stuckey’s over on 301.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to Harvard and Yale: “C’mon, guys. You can’t be that surprised. My dorm room always smelled like grilled manatee. WHOOOHOOOO! #floridaman

Harvard and Yale to DeSantis: (huffy) “Yes, and we are STILL trying to get the smell out.”

Andrew Cuomo to every woman who ever worked for him: “You asked for it. I mean, you said, “Good morning!” So, yeah, I licked your face like a collie and said, “nice t–ts.” I mean, how do you greet YOUR mother?”

Kim Cattrall to the cast of “And Just Like That”: Yeah, I can’t eat another bite. Who knew hands that feed you are so filling!”

The makers of broccoli “pizza crusts” to all of us: “Okaaaaay. So we saw you liked the cauliflower and we may have gone a little overboard. OK, a lot overboard…yeah, we’re gross.”

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Her email is [email protected].

UNC-Chapel Hill student leaders demand more campus COVID-19 safety measures

Teddy Vann

UNC-Chapel Hill student leaders demanded the university mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, improve access to COVID testing, and make online instruction widely available.

Students said at a meeting Friday that the administration’s approach to health and safety is irresponsible considering hospitals and their ICUs are filling with COVID-19 patients, and that students and faculty could get sick and infect family members and others on campus.

“Despite evidence suggesting that the COVID-19 Delta variant would fuel infections on campus and lead to more severe illness in those who contract it, the university chose to return students to campus fully in-person and with no social distancing in classes –  no matter how large,” said Teddy Vann, Black Student Movement president.

The university’s COVID-19 dashboard reported Friday that 466 students and 74 employees had tested positive since August. Ninety percent of students, 95% of faculty, and 83% of staff have told the university they are vaccinated. No one is required to show documentation, Policy Watch has reported.

Student who are not vaccinated must be tested for the virus twice a week, but there is only one testing site and it’s closed on weekends. Students standing in long lines have complained about the wait to get tested.

Unvaccinated faculty and staff must be tested for the virus once a week starting Sept. 15.

UNC student Simon Palmore said students deserve more information.

“We have a student body that is not only afraid of what is going on but is totally in the dark,” he said.

“Students are concerned. I’m concerned. All I’m hearing is optimism.”

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz has said that he would like a vaccination mandate, but that he does not have the power to impose one, Policy Watch has reported.

Student Body President Lamar Richards said Friday that Guskiewicz, Provost Bob Blouin, and other administrators had agreed to attend the meeting, but back out.

UNC Media Relations released an email Guskiewicz sent Richards that said Guskiewicz and Vice Provost Leah Cox had planned to go when he believed the meeting was going to be a Q&A with no more than 25 students, as Richards had described in an email last week.

An email from students Thursday about UNC student leaders slamming the administration “reveals you are more interested in generating publicity than producing meaningful dialogue,” Guskiewicz’ email said.

The UNC Media Relations email said masks are required indoors and the university notifies students in residence halls as soon as it sees a trend of positive cases and encourages them to proactively test.

Students invited the UNC-Chapel Hill community to sign a statement of demands. By Friday evening, nearly 250 faculty, staff, and students representing organizations had signed.

This article was updated Sunday at 7:50 am to correct a misattributed quote.

N.C. Court of Appeals stays lower court ruling which expanded voting rights for people with felony convictions

Dennis Gaddy, the founder and Executive Director of Community Success Initiative, was denied his right to vote for seven years because of a felony conviction. A lawsuit filed this week to restore the voting rights of others in similar positions is personal, he said at a press conference in 2019. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

A three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals stayed an injunctive order that effectively restored voting rights to 56,000 North Carolinians with a felony conviction but while on parole, probation and post-release supervision.

As Policy Watch previously reported, a three-judge panel of the lower court heard the case, filed by advocacy organizations against State House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger Sr. in Wake County Superior Court.

That three-judge panel granted injunctive relief while the case is pending, saying that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that disenfranchisement laws are rooted in racial discrimination.

Republican legislative leaders lambasted Attorney General Josh Stein for not appealing immediately after the oral ruling last Monday. Berger and Moore sent a letter informing Stein’s office that Stein was “fired” and that they were seeking outside counsel. Berger and Moore appealed the decision the day the written order was entered, but were denied the request to vacate the order by the same Superior Court judges. They then sought the stay from the Court of Appeals. Court of Appeals cases are usually heard by a panel of three judges.

The state Court of Appeals ruled in favor of legislative defendants without hearing any oral argument.

Plaintiffs are now appealing to the state Supreme Court, where Democrats hold a 4-3 advantage.

”This case is a matter of statewide and national significance, requiring immediate action from the state’s highest Court,” the plaintiffs said in a press release. “Hundreds of North Carolinians are exercising a new right to vote in this state, encouraged and inspired by the three judge panel decision — we will not rest until their rights are fully vindicated. ”

A press release from Berger’s office said the stay preserves the 1973 law regulating voting rights passed by Democrats.

The press release quoted Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, as saying: “This law, passed by a Democrat-led legislature 50 years ago, provides a path for felons to regain voting rights. If a judge prefers a different path to regaining those rights, then he or she should run for the General Assembly and propose that path. Judges aren’t supposed to be oligarchs who issue whatever decrees they think best.”

In a previous interview, Dennis Gaddy, the founder of Community Success Initiative and a lead plaintiff in the case, said Black legislators wanted to do exactly what the plaintiffs asked for in the 1970s. “But it was stymied by the legislature and that was because they wanted to include probation and parole as part of the sentence,” he said.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections modified the voter registration forms the day of the oral ruling announcement and urged county boards to permit affected individuals to vote. However, following the stay, it reverted back to the original form used before the injunction with the a line that states: “You must not be currently serving a felony sentence, including any probation, post-release supervision, or parole OR you are serving an extended term of probation, post-release supervision, parole, you have outstanding monetary obligations, and you are not aware of other reasons for the extension of your period of supervision.

New report: NC’s services to people with traumatic brain injury are “shamefully inadequate”

A new report from experts at the nonprofit advocacy organization Disability Rights NC offers a damning assessment of the actions North Carolina is taking (and, more typically, NOT taking) to provide services to people with traumatic brain injuries — often referred to as “TBI.”

The following excerpts are from “Shamefully Inadequate: North Carolina’s Service System for People with Traumatic Brain Injuries:

The State of North Carolina lacks adequate services and systems to support people with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). It lacks even basic data about the location and needs of TBI survivors. The state’s own publications support these conclusions.

The report then highlights the following excerpt from the state’s own plan for serving people with TBI:

Some North Carolina children and adults with TBI are unable to reach optimal physical, cognitive, and psychological functioning following a traumatic brain injury because of smaller provider networks due to lack of funding for, or access to, necessary and appropriate therapeutic services… As a result of lack of knowledge and misdiagnosis, survivors often do not get referrals to specialized treatment. As such, individuals with TBI have sometimes been placed in inappropriate institutional settings (i.e., nursing homes, psychiatric in-patient hospitals) or are being sent out of state for residential programs because of the lack of support and appropriate community-based residential services for them in North Carolina.

As the report authors note:

This paragraph is an urgent call for action to address many serious concerns regarding the wellbeing and rights of people with TBI in North Carolina. However, a similar paragraph was in the state’s 2017 action plan for people with TBI. This sad and frustrating fact is clear evidence of the lack of progress North Carolina has made in creating a system of care and supports for people with TBI.

As with so many other areas in North Carolina’s torn and threadbare system of human services, there’s no particular mystery about what needs doing or how to go about it; the problem, as always, is the lack of a commitment (and, of course, adequate funding) from state leaders.

As a news release that accompanied the report put it succinctly:

The stories and data collected were consistent: North Carolina has failed to ensure that services for people with TBI are accessible and sufficient. The state does not track data on people with TBI, does not have an adequate TBI provider network, and leaves those with TBI and their families to navigate a complex system without needed case management.

“The data is clear and the stories are heartbreaking,” said DRNC CEO Virginia Knowlton Marcus. “People with TBI, their families, advocates, and providers have been calling upon the state, for many years, to establish an adequate, coherent support system for people with TBI. It is well past time for the state to take action about this shamefully inadequate system. We must not continue to overlook these issues.”

Click here to explore the report and its commonsense recommendations.

Threats against nurses, school boards rage on as mainstream GOP stands by

Georgia Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey – Photo: Ross Williams, Georgia Recorder

Madison Cawthorn contributes to the danger infesting U.S. politics

In a press conference at the Georgia Capitol this week, the state’s public health commissioner condemned a campaign of bullying, intimidation and threats directed at health care workers attempting to improve the state’s abysmal vaccination record against COVID- 19.

“Many of our line workers are receiving threats, are receiving hostile emails, harassing emails,” Dr. Kathleen Toomey said. “That’s something that has happened to me early on. Maybe it comes with the territory of someone in my position, but it shouldn’t be happening to those nurses who are working in the field to try to keep this state safe.”

According to Toomey, the harassment has become so threatening that one mobile vaccination effort in north Georgia had to be shut down entirely. “Aside from feeling threatened themselves, staff realized no one would want to come to that location for a vaccination under those circumstances, so they packed up and left,” Toomey’s spokeswoman, Nancy Nydam, later explained.

Think about that: These people are not only refusing to get vaccinated themselves — and by doing so facilitating the spread of this deadly virus — they are using harassment and intimidation to try to prevent other people from getting life-saving vaccination. That’s outrageous. Yet later in that same press conference, when Gov. Brian Kemp had the chance to strongly condemn such behavior and promise that it would not be tolerated, that it would be investigated aggressively by law enforcement and prosecuted, he did not meet the moment, issuing only a mild call for “unity.”

A few months earlier, at the very spot in the Capitol where Toomey and Kemp stood, Gabe Sterling of the Georgia secretary of state’s office had been far more courageous. State and local elections workers were being threatened, harassed and intimidated by people who bought into false claims by Donald Trump that the election had been stolen from him, Sterling said, and it was up to leaders to intervene.

“You need to step up and say this … stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence,” Sterling said, addressing Trump directly. “Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed, and it’s not right.”

As we know, Trump did not condemn the violence, and people did get killed.

We’re also seeing similar threats of violence directed at school boards around the country, both over mask mandates and the manufactured controversy over “critical race theory.” Again, the idea seems to be that what cannot be won at the ballot box or through debate can and should be won through physical intimidation, even violence. In Pennsylvania, to cite just one of many examples, a GOP candidate for county executive bragged at a state Capitol rally Sunday that he would confront the local school board over its mask mandate not with facts or data, but with “20 strong men.”

“I’m going to speak to the school board, and I’m going to give them an option: They can leave or they can be removed,” Steve Lynch said.

Not surprisingly, Lynch is a Trump supporter who attended the January 6 rally that ended in an assault on our nation’s Capitol. Instead of an act of shame, that attempted coup is increasingly being described by Republicans such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia as an heroic act of patriotism, with the attackers cast as champions of freedom.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn

In North Carolina over the weekend, U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn told a campaign rally that if he knew where those arrested in the coup attempt were being imprisoned, he might try to “bust them out.” He also told the crowd that the 2020 elections had been stolen from Republicans, and “if our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it’s going to lead to one place — and it’s bloodshed.”

These are people who have been told for decades that they have an inherent right to rule this country, that if they are losing election after election it is only because those elections are rigged against them, and that they have not just the right but the obligation to turn to violence to correct that injustice.

You could argue that this is only the lunatic fringe of the GOP, but we have seen too many times how yesterday’s GOP lunatic fringe becomes tomorrow’s GOP mainstream. And the people who might be able to rein it all back in remain in ominous silence.

Veteran journalist Jay Bookman is a contributor to the Georgia Recorder, which first published this essay.