- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


Aug. 7

The Charlotte Observer on Mecklenburg Commissioner Bill James’ tweet about transgender ruling:

Today, we’re going to do exactly what Mecklenburg commissioner Bill James wants us to do.

We’re going to say he should be ashamed.

Yes, we know this is a bit of a pointless exercise. In James’ conservative south Mecklenburg district, getting called out by the area newspaper is not such an awful thing. In fact, it’s a formula that’s worked well for him - say something offensive, smile at the scorn that follows, then get re-elected, comfortably.

Because of that, we mostly ignore Bill being Bill. We’d guess that his fellow commissioners also have decided that speaking up isn’t worth it.

But this time, they should. Here’s why:

On Thursday, James tweeted in response to reports that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools hit the pause button on a policy that would allow transgender students to choose the school bathrooms and locker rooms with which they identify. The decision was a response to the U.S. Supreme Court putting on hold an appeals court ruling that allowed a Virginia school district to adopt a similar policy.

James thought this was reason to cheer, which is debatable. His language was not.

“@CharMeckSchools puts tranny bathroom policy on hold - requires boys in drag to men’s room” he tweeted.

That’s shameful. The tweet demeans transgender individuals with a crude caricature - “boys in drag.” It also uses a term - “tranny” - that’s a slur to the LGBT community when used by an outsider. (James knows that, by the way. He’s used the word in the past, then posted links to an article that discusses why it’s offensive to many.)

This is pretty standard stuff for James. He has a history of not settling for declaring something morally objectionable, but proudly going a step or five further with slurs and offensive stereotypes (“gays as predators” was a past favorite).

All of which is his right, of course. We have no issues with disagreement, and while we feel strongly that the CMS bathroom and locker room policy offered all students safe and private choices, we understand that fair-minded people have genuine uncertainties about it.

But incendiary language - especially from an elected official - contributes to the discriminatory and sometimes dangerous landscape that the transgender community faces each day. That may be especially true in this city and state, which is at the center of a debate over sexual identity.

There’s also this: While it’s tempting to shrug off the offensive among us, we’ve been shown again and again in this presidential election that the racist, bigoted fringe might be a little bigger and certainly bolder than many of us thought. Our best response is not to ignore it, but to expose it, parade it and say why it’s not OK.

It’s one of the oldest tenets of a progressive society that in the marketplace of ideas, the truth will emerge. So let’s give the truth a nudge. Mecklenburg commissioners should condemn Bill James’ remarks at their next public opportunity. It may be exactly what he wants. But it’s precisely what this community - and its most vulnerable - deserve.




Aug. 7

News & Record of Greensboro on the debate between UNC and the NCAA over classes:

In the wake of an embarrassing and far-reaching academic scandal involving fraudulent “no-show classes” and contrived grades, UNC-Chapel Hill leaders are pinning their hopes on feats of legal athleticism.

The school’s lawyers are not arguing that the university’s African and Afro-American Studies Department didn’t provide sham classes that rarely met and enrolled large numbers of athletes.

They’re simply saying it’s none of the business of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The legal team, led by a former NCAA investigator, contends that the NCAA, which governs intercollegiate athletics, has no jurisdiction over the “paper classes” scandal because it’s an academic matter.

They say the bogus courses in question did not enroll solely athletes, so, obviously, this isn’t an athletic scandal (despite compelling evidence that academic advisers steered athletes to those classes and that athletes were disproportionately represented in the courses).

Don’t get us wrong, the school notes in its response. We’re not saying we didn’t screw up. We’re just saying the NCAA isn’t the cop on this beat.

The university “raises these jurisdictional and procedural issues not to excuse the underlying conduct or to escape accountability for those events before its accreditor or elsewhere,” UNC says in a written response to the NCAA’s notice of pending sanctions, “but rather to ensure mutual adherence to the rules that govern NCAA enforcement actions, including this one.”

The response notes that an academic accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, already imposed a year-long probation on UNC, which has come and gone, and which involved no penalties, aside from a blemish on the university’s reputation.

And it cites the NCAA’s own clumsy and drawn-out handling of its investigation. For instance, the response notes that the NCAA knew about the bogus classes as long ago as 2011 but failed to act.

Sad to say, from a purely legal standpoint, it’s a clever strategy.

Even Bob Orr, a retired North Carolina Supreme Court justice, who is co-counsel in a lawsuit against the NCAA and North Carolina about the scandal, admitted he was impressed.

“As a lawyer, I have great admiration for really creative lawyering,” Orr told cbssports.com.

But when this scandal is considered as a matter of right versus wrong, the university won’t - and, in fact, can’t - pretend there was no academic fraud, or that it didn’t span nearly 20 years, involving 3,100 students, 47.6 percent of them athletes (who comprise only 4 percent of the student body). Or that the scheme didn’t flourish because of a lack of oversight and “institutional control.”

UNC could accept its medicine, impose its own punishments as an act of good faith and contrition and restore some luster to a higher standard it purports to be “the Carolina Way.” Instead, it chooses to dodge and dissemble.

And it may succeed - depending on how you define success. UNC does point out legitimate loopholes and inconsistencies in the NCAA’s enforcement and penalty protocols (i.e., where exactly does it draw the line between athletic and academic matters?) In fact, the response fundamentally challenges the NCAA’s role in policing academics at all.

But, as effective as it may be, this legal strategy also casts serious doubts as to how much the university actually learned from this debacle and how sincere it is about setting things right.




Aug. 8

Winston-Salem Journal on the 2013 voter law:

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent examination and rejection of key provisions of the state legislature’s 2013 voter law leaves little doubt that those measures were intended to suppress voting by African Americans, who generally go heavily for Democrats.

The three-judge panel noted that a relatively tame 16-page bill, debated for almost six weeks, turned into a 57-page omnibus bill immediately following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that loosened the restrictions of the Voting Rights Act. The bill was passed in three days with scant time for debate.

“Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices. Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans,” the court said.

The legislature “excluded many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans” and retained “only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess,” the court said.

The legislature targeted early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting and preregistration, all provisions more likely to be used by African Americans, the court said.

Supporters of voter restrictions like to say that those who oppose them must think people who don’t have photo IDs are too stupid to get them. But it’s not a matter of intelligence - it’s a matter of money and opportunity. Poor citizens are less likely to have driver’s licenses. They’re also less likely to have jobs that allow them the flexibility to take a day or two off work to run down the necessary documentation to acquire a state-provided photo ID.

Supporters of voter restrictions also cling to anecdotal stories about rampant voter fraud. Legislative leaders responded heatedly to the Fourth Circuit court’s decision, suggesting that the court intended to “reopen” the door for voter fraud, and allow Democrats to “steal” the election. They plan to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the Fourth Circuit’s ruling said that “the state has failed to identify even a single individual who has ever been charged with committing in-person voter fraud in North Carolina.” The insistence on widespread voter fraud is a study in denial.

“Our conclusion does not mean, and we do not suggest, that any member of the General Assembly harbored racial hatred or animosity toward any minority group,” the court said.

But it is clear the legislature intended for the Republican Party to stay in power.

Unduly influencing the vote isn’t a uniquely Republican tactic. Democrats did their share of gerrymandering when they were in charge of the state. But the 2013 law was a new low.

Voting is the bedrock of our democracy. If any one American right should be free of political manipulation, it’s this one. Thanks to this ruling, the 2016 election in North Carolina should proceed on a much fairer basis.



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