UNC Could Have Done This Months Ago Without Humiliating Itself

Thurs., July 1: UNC makes NHJ an offer she might refuse + Senate committee puff-puff passes + snake, caught + Trump org, indicted + Rumsfeld, dead + Cosby, free/Britney, not + 1A wins + condo cluster

Editor’s note: I spent yesterday evening hobnobbing at a Journalism Function, because I am a Professional Journalist. Since I didn’t have much time for the newsletter, and there is a lot of news happening, you’re getting a speed read.


1. Board of Trustees Offers Hannah-Jones Tenure, Finally

After a weeks-long pressure campaign by, well, everyone who isn’t a North Carolina Republican legislator or Walter Hussman Jr., UNC’s Board of Trustees voted 9–4 to grant Pulitzer Prize/MacArthur Genius Grant winner Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure.

  • Had the BOT not cowed to right-wing activists in the first place, it would have spared UNC not only becoming a source of outrage but also seeing Black faculty question whether they were valued at the institution.

  • Leave it to UNC to make things worse while calm everything down. Protesters had packed the BOT meeting, but no one bothered to explain to them that state law requires tenure discussions take place in closed session. When they got up and left, things got rowdy, and UNCPD cops got physical.

After all of that, if you read between the lines of Hannah-Jones’s statement, it sure sounds like she might tell the university to piss off anyway:

“Today’s outcome and the actions of the past month are about more than just me. This fight is about ensuring the journalistic and academic freedom of Black writers, researchers, teachers, and students. We must ensure that our work is protected and able to proceed free from the risk of repercussions, and we are not there yet. These last weeks have been very challenging and difficult and I need to take some time to process all that has occurred and determine what is the best way forward.”

2. NC Senate Committee Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

The vote was near-unanimous. The bill would create the strictest medical marijuana regime in the country, allowing doctors to prescribe weed only for specific ailments: cancer, PTSD, ALS, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, sickle cell anemia, and a few others. (Your chronic pain isn’t real and doesn’t count, sorry.)

  • The bill still has to go through several more votes even before it gets to the House, so it might undergo substantial changes or die altogether. For North Carolina, a positive committee vote was something of a breakthrough.

  • One thing struck me, though: The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Rabon, says he got hip to weed after undergoing chemo. Senate Majority Leader Kathy Harrington of Gastonia got on board after her husband was diagnosed with blood cancer, “and she has since come to realize that medical marijuana could help other patients in similar, painful situations.”

“If you had asked me six months ago if I would support this bill, I would have said no,” Harrington said. “But life comes at you fast.” (N&O)

  • It’s interesting how these epiphanies only arrive when people are directly affected, as if there’s not a world of data—both empirical and anecdotal—that has been telling this story for decades.

3. That Spitting Cobra Has Been Captured

The headline pretty much sums things up, I think. Read more here, if you want. At least we’ll always have the T-shirt.

From House of Swank

4. Trump Organization, CFO Have Been Indicted

The ex-president’s business and one of its executives have been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury on charges related to tax evasion on perks and bonuses. This is the beginning, not the end.

The indictment will also amplify the pressure that prosecutors have placed on [CFO Allen] Weisselberg for months to turn on Mr. Trump and cooperate with their ongoing investigation. In nearly a half-century of service to Mr. Trump’s family businesses, Mr. Weisselberg, 73, has survived—and thrived—by anticipating and carrying out his boss’s dictates in a zealous mission to protect the bottom line.

Interviews with 18 current and former associates of Mr. Weisselberg, as well as a review of legal filings, financial records, and other documents, paint a portrait of a man whose unflinching devotion to Mr. Trump will now be put to the test. …

Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, testified in Congress that Mr. Weisselberg had helped orchestrate a cover-up to reimburse him for a $130,000 payment to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels, and that together they had concocted phony valuations of the company’s real estate holdings to suit Mr. Trump’s needs at any given moment. (NYT)

5. Donald Rumsfeld Is Dead

The former Defense Secretary, Nixon aide, torture apologist, and Iraq War mastermind Rumsfeld died at 88 of multiple myeloma. The Washington Post’s obit goes out of its way to gloss over some of the rough patches:

  • “Mr. Rumsfeld was initially hailed for leading the U.S. military to war in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but his handling of the Iraq War eventually led to his downfall. In the invasion’s aftermath, he was criticized for being slow to draft an effective strategy for countering an Iraqi insurgency. He also failed to set a clear policy for the treatment of prisoners.”

  • “Mr. Rumsfeld was more complex and paradoxical than the public caricature of him as a pugnacious, inflexible villain would suggest.”

At The Daily Beast, Spencer Ackerman gets right to the point:

The only thing tragic about the death of Donald Rumsfeld is that it didn’t occur in an Iraqi prison. Yet that was foreordained, considering how throughout his life inside the precincts of American national security, Rumsfeld escaped the consequences of decisions he made that ensured a violent, frightening end for hundreds of thousands of people.

An actuarial table of the deaths for which Donald Rumsfeld is responsible is difficult to assemble. In part, that’s a consequence of his policy, as defense secretary from 2001 to 2006, not to compile or release body counts, a PR strategy learned after disclosing the tolls eroded support for the Vietnam War. As a final obliteration, we cannot know, let alone name, all the dead. …

Rumsfeld was hardly the only person in the Bush administration responsible for the Afghanistan war. But in December 2001, under attack in Kandahar, where it had retreated from the advance of U.S. and Northern Alliance forces, the Taliban sought to broker a surrender—one acceptable to the U.S.-installed Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. At the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld refused. “I do not think there will be a negotiated end to the situation, that's unacceptable to the United States,” he said. That statement reaped a 20-year war, making it fair to say that the subsequent deaths are on his head, even while acknowledging that Rumsfeld was hardly the only architect of the conflict. …

Rumsfeld’s depredations short of the wars of choice he oversaw—and yes, responding to 9/11 with war in Afghanistan was no less a choice than the unprovoked war of aggression in Iraq – were no less severe. His indifference to the suffering of others was hardly unique among American policymakers after 9/11, but his blitheness about it underscored the cruel essence of the enterprise. When passed a sheet of paper that, in bureaucratic language, pitched a torture technique of forcing men held captive at Guantanamo Bay for hours on end, Rumsfeld scribbled a shrug on it: “I stand for 8-10 hours a day.

6. Cosby Freed, Britney Not

Wealthy serial rapist Bill Cosby was released from prison on a technicality—thanks to a decision made more than a decade ago by a district attorney who went on to embarrass himself as a member of Donald Trump’s impeachment team.

On Feb. 17, 2005, I was sitting at my desk at the Philadelphia Daily Newswrapping up my work for the day when I got a fax from the office of Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. It was no ordinary press blast. Instead, Castor was announcing that he would not be prosecuting Bill Cosby for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand.

The fax was timestamped 5:45 p.m.—I still have it—and it was shocking for a number of reasons.

Nearly a dozen other women had come forward already—the number would swell in the years to come—saying Cosby had done the same or similar things to them, which briefly led Constand’s attorneys to hope Castor was going to actually prosecute the disgraced comedian after all.

But in no way, shape, or form was there any inkling this was anything but a press release. Because, why would it be anything other than what it clearly was?

That would come later, when Castor argued it was also a promise not to prosecute the since-disgraced comedian in exchange for his testimony in a civil case. The bizarro move was quintessential Bruce Castor, and it helped make Bill Cosby a free man on Wednesday.

That was the technicality that freed Bill Cosby yesterday—a press release “agreement” from the world’s dumbest DA that Cosby would never be prosecuted, by anyone, in exchange for testimony in a civil case.

Castor didn’t get the required judge’s approval for an immunity deal. He later testified that he didn’t need to because I am the sovereign of Montgomery County. As the sovereign, I determined we would not prosecute Cosby, and that would then set off a chain of events that I thought as a minister of justice would gain some justice for Andrea Constand.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court bought Cosby’s argument and barred the state from prosecuting the 83-year-old again.

On the other side of the country: A judge denied Britney Spears’s request to cut her father out of her conservatorship, which apparently enables him to govern her life to the point of forbidding her from removing her IUD.

  • Actor James Franco, who was never placed in a conservatorship because we don’t infantilize men, settled a sexual misconduct lawsuit for $2.2 million.

  • Britney—what—did some drugs, had a breakdown, and shaved her head? A decade ago?

  • Just a hell of a legal system we’ve got here.

7. First Amendment 1, Ron DeSantis 0

Florida’s governor/unannounced Republican presidential candidate pushed through a Trumpy law to ban social media companies from banning politicians like Trump. A federal judge blocked it before it went into effect—which pretty much everyone expected—saying that law was pretty obviously unconstitutional and also poorly crafted.

The judge wrote a blistering criticism of the Florida law, saying that it “compels providers to host speech that violates their standards.”

“Like prior First Amendment restrictions, this is an instance of burning the house to roast a pig,” he wrote.

He also said that remarks from the governor and other lawmakers made clear that the law was “viewpoint-based,” adding that there was “substantial factual support” showing the law was motivated by hostility toward the perceived liberal bias of large tech firms.

Hinkle also referred to the law as “riddled with imprecision and ambiguity” and said it “does not survive strict scrutiny.” (WaPo)

8. Before the Buiding Collapsed, the Florida Condo Board Quit

The thing about condominium associations—especially ones along the beach that are prone to storms and erosion—is that they need a lot of upkeep. But like people everywhere, condo owners generally don’t want to pay for that upkeep, so they vote for condo board members who pledge not to levy large assessments. Things don’t get fixed, small problems become big problems, and one day …

The president of the board of the Florida condominium that collapsed last week resigned in 2019, partly in frustration over what she saw as the sluggish response to an engineer’s report that identified major structural damage the previous year.

Anette Goldstein was among five members of the seven-member board to resign in two weeks that fall, according to minutes from an Oct. 3 meeting, at a time when the condo association in Surfside was consumed by contentious debate about the multimillion-dollar repairs. …

Debate over the cost and scope of the work, along with turnover on the volunteer board, dragged out preparations for the repairs for three years, according to previously unpublished correspondence, condo board minutes and other records kept by the homeowners association.

Concrete restoration work had not yet begun when the building partially collapsed June 24. Identifying the cause of the catastrophe is expected to take many months, and it is not clear whether the problems identified in 2018 played a role. At least 18 people were killed in the catastrophe, and 145 remain missing.

Despite increasingly dire warnings from the board, many condo owners balked at paying for the extensive improvements, which ballooned in price from about $9 million to more than $15 million over the past three years as the building continued to deteriorate, records show. (WaPo)

The tragedy of the commons leading to, well, tragedy.