Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


LET'S LOWER THE CURTAIN ON THE NC GENERAL ASSEMBLY'S BAD SHOW: This is political and judicial theater that is both comedy and tragedy but, more importantly, a show that should not have taken the stage in the first place. These six potential amendments to the state’s constitution — two taking appointments from the governor, one requiring voters to produce IDs, one to lower the state’s income tax ceiling, one about rights for crime victims and one to be sure you know hunting and fishing are a right — are not worthy of constitutional status. You will hear and read that dozens of times between now and Nov. 6. They shouldn’t be on the ballot. Legislators rushed back into session to change the law so that they, not that commission, would write those descriptions. When Cooper vetoed that bill, lawmakers returned Saturday to override that veto. That generated the various lawsuits, which argue that those efforts mislead voters with imprecise wording.

COURT CHALLENGES SHOW LEGISLATURE'S EMPTY AGENDA: The official ballot wording of the half-dozen unnecessary amendments the legislature rushed onto the ballot – as a cynical partisan effort to boost Republican turnout for the fall elections – is at best misleading and at worst in stark contrast to the actual intent. It’s no accident. Efforts to mislead voters have been unrelenting. In language that could have come from one of George Orwell’s novels, House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis, R-Harnett, tried to blame those seeking more clarification for the controversy and latest lawsuits. “It’s an attempt to once again use the courts to short-circuit the will of the people,” Lewis said last week. Is the action of a court-declared illegally gerrymandered legislature the “will of the people?” We should heed the caution from former House Republican Majority Leader Paul Stam of Wake County, who once said of Lewis: “David can obfuscate more than anybody I know.”

WANT TO HURT NC'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS? LOWER THE INCOME TAX CAP: Public schools are integral to our state culture. So, what do public schools have to do with a proposed income tax cap? In short, everything. Education is our state’s second highest budget expenditure. Each year, all of our well-earned income taxes are collected to fund the state—and over a third of that money goes directly toward our public education system. This is the money that pays our teachers, principals and counselors. Without redistribution efforts from the state, rural school districts will be left to fend for themselves as their urban neighbors’ income levels soar. Families living in these districts will continue paying the flat income tax rate, but their districts will be unable to make up for disparate local funding levels. This amendment will make poor schools poorer, and rich schools richer. We should be proud of our public education system. Income taxes aren’t the most glamorous issue, but they will almost certainly make the difference between staggering inequality and prosperous, equitable growth.

WHY THE GOVERNMENT WANTS TO KNOW YOUR CITIZENSHIP STATUS: The involvement of people like Steve Bannon and Kris Kobach — the Kansas secretary of state, who is a leading proponent of the idea that voter fraud by noncitizens is rampant — says everything you need to know about what the real rationale for the question was. These are individuals who, along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other members of the Trump administration, have long had a deeply anti-immigrant agenda. They’re seeking to redefine and restructure American democracy to preserve their political power at a time when the demographics of this country are changing significantly. This isn’t the first time that nativists have sought to have a citizenship question included in the census. It’s just that it’s always been a fringe agenda, and now that fringe is in political power. And this question is just the beachhead. It goes hand in hand with efforts to purge voters and restrict voting rights; with moves to strip citizenship from American citizens; and with schemes to revoke birthright citizenship, which is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

GENE NICHOL: CONFESSIONS OF A FIREBRAND: I’ll confess I don’t think the answer to North Carolina’s stunning war on decency (see, there you go) is to move a smidgen or two toward the compassionate and humane side or to coolly moderate the General Assembly’s path-breaking agenda of tribalism. It won’t work, at this point, to focus on what “unites” us. When folks blatantly and enthusiastically reject equality, democracy, separated powers, checks and balances, and the traditions of constitutional government, it won’t do to say, “Hey bud, I’ll meet you in the middle.” Think about it. Federal courts have repeatedly found and Republican leaders have occasionally admitted to a bold and historically stunning agenda to diminish African-American political participation and representation in North Carolina. Through state and federal redistricting plans, biased ID laws, ballot access tampering, polling place restrictions, threatened criminal prosecutions and public accusations of voter ineligibility, Republicans have sought to re-embrace Jim Crow electoral schemes. These measures aren’t judgment calls. Nor are they miscalculations. They are explicit refutations of our constitutive norms and unhidden repudiations of the premises of egalitarian democracy. Facing them with pleas for moderation, civility and purported common ground betrays our calling as a people. That’s nothing to either seek or brag about.


MARTHA BOGDAN: WE NEED TO KEEP THE CLEANER EMISSIONS STANDARDS FOR CARS: The Trump Administration has announced its plan to roll back cleaner cars standards. This rollback would result in dirtier cars that pollute the air and harm public health. Transportation is the number one source of carbon pollution in the United States. Cleaner cars standards are critical when it comes to protecting public health from the impacts of climate change. Rolling back cleaner cars standards would weaken the ability of the U.S. to reduce vehicle emissions and protect Americans from the worst impacts of climate change and the health threats it brings. From heat waves and droughts to wildfires and floods, climate change degrades air quality and puts children and people with lung disease at even greater risk; these impacts are taking a toll on Americans’ health today. I urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration not to roll back the cleaner cars standards. The health of Americans depends on it.

DEB PRINTUP: I'VE SEEN IT FIRSTHAND, TARIFFS ARE HURTING: Regarding Tom Kirkman’s letter of Aug. 4 (“Trump knows what he’s doing with tariffs”): He states that, whenever you hear a comment by a member of the media or a politician about how tariffs are hurting American citizens, it’s untrue. As an American and small-business owner, I beg to differ. I have been in the publishing business for almost 20 years, and I am experiencing firsthand how tariffs are hurting our industry. We are a small company, and every price increase affects our business. During the past couple of months we have been notified twice by our longtime printer that the price of paper is increasing because of the new tariffs imposed on paper. This is likely not the end of the increase, so we are bracing for more bad news. No, Mr. Kirkman, we are not receiving money from any foreign government or industry. We are just a small company trying to stay alive.

LYNN MITCHELL KOHN: MAKE THE SWITCH TO CLEAN, RENEWABLE ENERGY: Every night the news is dominated by reports of “record-breaking high temperatures” accompanied by disasters of biblical proportions – floods, fires, droughts – making it harder to deny the human and economic consequences of global warming. If climate change doesn’t directly cause such catastrophes, it certainly makes them worse. Warmer temperatures lead to longer and more frequent heat waves; warmer air holds moisture resulting in storms and floods; warmer soil dries out, resulting in droughts. At the same time, we now know that natural gas is not the solution to global warming. Methane, of which natural gas is largely made up, is a greenhouse gas. The need to move to and develop renewables is obvious. The response of Duke Energy has been to promote natural gas projects like pipelines and hinder the development of solar energy. It is time for Duke Energy to drop its obstructionist, reactionary policies and instead use its influence to help our state make the necessary switch to clean energy.



From the dark side

This will be our first (and hopefully last) poke at a Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial, provided as a counterpoint to a recent pro-renewable energy piece:

Environmentalists and renewable energy advocates, most recently in a piece on these opinion pages and a WUNC report, are pushing “analysis” that goes something like this: A few Republican primaries recently broke for candidates who support renewable subsidies and oppose offshore energy exploration. It’s proof of a shifting electorate and shifting public opinion on the best way to power our homes and our country. So resounding is the anti-fossil fuel sentiment in North Carolina that even the most strident Republican primary voters are going green.

Voters, elected officials, reporters, and political observers across North Carolina need to know this is advocacy cloaked in objective analysis, designed to scare candidates away from a common sense position on our energy future. If we move beyond a few isolated anecdotes, we see data, history and common sense telling us offshore exploration and oil and natural gas production enjoy bipartisan support in North Carolina and nationwide. This has been the case for years – and it will be true for the foreseeable future.

First of all, the main point of Elizabeth's column was to demonstrate that Conservative opponents to renewable energy were losing their battles, most of which were based on propaganda. And it was pro-fossil fuel advocates and lobbyists like the American Petroleum Institute, which created and supports this author's NC organization (Explore Offshore), that perpetuated so many of those now debunked myths. So when I see one of these industry puppets trying to play the victim, that those poor oil companies are being maligned and voters misled, I'm prone to spit coffee on my keyboard.

And as far as that alleged popularity and support for offshore drilling, which the author reiterates here:

First, polling has shown an overwhelming majority of North Carolinians say they’re concerned about the rising cost of energy. An even greater number think oil and gas production are vital to our economy. Of course, environmental protection is popular too – who doesn’t want to breathe clean air and drink clean water? That’s why it’s critical that North Carolinians understand exploring offshore is safer and more scientifically proven than ever before.

We'll start with his earlier claim about bipartisan support in NC and nationwide for offshore drilling, which poll after poll proves him wrong:

Overall, Americans who live close to a coastline are less supportive of expanding offshore drilling than those who live farther from a coast. Only about a third (34%) of those who live within 25 miles of a coastline favor allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling, while 56% are opposed. Opinion is more divided among those who live more inland: Among Americans who live 300 or more miles from a coast, 46% favor expanded drilling, while 50% oppose it.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are overwhelmingly in favor of expanding offshore drilling for oil and gas. Seven-in-ten say they favor allowing more drilling, and only a quarter say they oppose it, according to the survey of 1,503 adults conducted Jan. 10-15.

Democrats and Democratic leaners show the opposite pattern. Only 22% of Democrats favor allowing more offshore drilling and 71% oppose it.

In other words, a majority of Americans, especially those living near the coast, do *not* want to expand offshore drilling. Also, it ain't even close to a bi-partisan issue. Proving this author has been drinking his own Kool-Aid. That was a Pew national poll, and NC may be even more opposed, since 3 out of 4 people see potential risks to the ocean and coastal environments, and that sentiment is constant in other polls, too:

According to the results, seven out of 10 North Carolinians are either “very concerned,” 51 percent, or somewhat concerned,” 19 percent, about offshore drilling off the coast of North Carolina.

Also, 56 percent of residents surveyed are “very concerned” and another 16 percent are “somewhat concerned” about the risk of an oil spill.

More than three-quarters of those surveyed, or 77 percent, said the tourism-related economic downturn from an oil spill on North Carolina beaches would be harmful, including 58 percent who say it would be “very harmful.”

A clear majority, 64 percent, said they were concerned that an oil spill in North Carolina coastal waters would threaten either their job or that of a loved one or reduce the value of their home.

And they have good reason to be concerned. We can't get through a single 3-month quarter without a report of a serious oil spill, whether it's from an offshore rig, ocean-going tankers, rail transported containers, or pipelines:

The U.S. Coast Guard has nearly doubled its initial estimate of the amount of oil that seeped from a crack in a pipeline off the coast of Louisiana.

The leak was first announced on Oct. 13 from a damaged pipeline operated by LLOG Exploration some 40 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana. The privately-owned company originally reported between 333,900 to 392,700 gallons of oil were discharged by the broken line, located nearly 5,000 feet beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a press release from the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard has said it is coordinating with the company as well as the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to locate and respond to any oil that floats to the surface. With overhead flights and underwater vehicle inspections conducted multiple times a day, no recoverable oil has been detected thus far.

That's right, they can't find it. 672,000 gallons of crude oil hiding somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, just waiting for another Cat 4 or 5 storm to dredge it up and hurl it on the beach, or the intercoastal wetlands.

So in answer to the author's plea, "That’s why it’s critical that North Carolinians understand exploring offshore is safer and more scientifically proven than ever before." My response is: North Carolinians understand this problem a lot better than you think, and you can whine all @#$%^& day long about being misunderstood, but karma is a bitch. You and yours have lied to the people countless times in the past, have stifled or twisted the truth whenever you could get away with it, and we are done.

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.