Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


NC HAS GREATER NEEDS THAN MORE CORPORATE TAX CUTS: In the next fiscal year, North Carolina’s corporations will likely pay about $598 million in income taxes. That is less than half the $1.4 billion they paid during the 2013-14 budget year. Here’s the math. Right now, the income tax rate for corporations is 3 percent. Based on current collections, total taxable corporate revenue for the 2018-19 budget year will be about $23.9 billion resulting in income taxes collected at about $718 million. On the first of the new year, the corporate tax rate drops to 2.5 percent. At that new rate, with the same taxable revenues, corporations will pay $598 million in state income taxes -- $120 million less. That’s enough money for a 2 percent increase in public school teacher pay.

FAITH LEADERS CHEER MECKLENBURG SHERIFF'S ENDING OF 287(G) PROGRAM: For well over a decade, the Sheriff’s Office has voluntarily engaged in a program whose consequences have been exceptionally punitive and hurtful toward our immigrant siblings. The Sheriff’s Office has wasted valuable time and resources actively helping ICE deport people. It never had to be this way. Mecklenburg County’s willingness to do ICE’s job for them was completely voluntary. The vast majority of counties nationwide — approximately 98 percent — don’t have a 287(g) agreement with ICE. And despite efforts to justify the program as being a safeguard against crime, its supporters could never muster credible evidence along those lines, rather only anecdotal scaremongering. Just look at ICE’s response to Sheriff McFadden’s announcement: openly threatening more raids in local neighborhoods and at work sites, and irresponsibly claiming, without evidence, that the decision was “an open invitation to aliens who commit criminal offenses.” Spreading baseless fear, rather than working cooperatively with our local elected officials, flies in the face of responsible leadership.

AMID THE GLOOM ON CLIMATE CHANGE, A SPARK OF HOPE: The U.S. government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment – quietly released on Black Friday – also describes in disturbing detail the anticipated impacts of climate change. As temperatures increase, so do the odds of wildfires in the West, more record-breaking “nuisance flooding” and more disruptions in ocean fisheries. Absent a course correction, it suggests we face staggering effects on water, energy and human health. The fee would gradually increase the price of carbon products, like coal and petroleum, based on the emissions they produce. The goal is to encourage consumers to use less, and to spur coal and oil companies to innovate clean-energy solutions. As a trade-off, the bill would suspend federal environmental regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. If the plan fails to achieve hoped-for carbon reductions, the regulations would return. Without question, Deutch’s bill would lead to higher fuel and energy costs, but people would get a monthly dividend check to help offset those costs. If they want to spend that check on other things, perhaps they’ll be motivated to turn up the air conditioner or drive fewer miles. And companies that produce carbon-emitting products might be spurred to innovate to reduce their fees.

MICHAEL COHEN GOT WISE. WILL AMERICA?: I’ve been fascinated by Cohen for a while, but until this past week, that fascination sprang from what a shady character he was and how perfectly he mirrored Trump’s ethical rot. No president in my lifetime has been surrounded by such a populous crowd of scammers, grifters and shameless opportunists, and Cohen was Exhibit A, doling out hush money, threatening disobedient reporters, and bellowing and swaggering through a world lit by neon and shimmering with gilt. But over recent days, I began to see Cohen, who spent more than a decade as Trump’s lawyer, fixer and mess cleaner, differently. He’s a lesson for us all. A cautionary tale. He’s the country’s credulousness in extremis, its ugly bargains writ large. Trump’s hold on him was that of “a famous real estate mogul whose business acumen I truly admired,” he said in court on Wednesday as he was sentenced to three years in prison for campaign-finance violations and tax and bank fraud. That was a big part of Trump’s hold on many voters. Cohen told the judge that he had lost his moral compass. The many Republicans who continue to stand by Trump have lost their moral compasses, too.

TIME MAGAZINE RIGHT TO HONOR THE TRUTH-SEEKERS: The battle over truth has had a tremendous impact during 2018, and the continuing struggle is crucial. Any casual student of history knows that one of the first acts of a would-be tyrant is to try to control the flow of information and the definition of “truth.” Edward Felsenthal, Time’s editor-in-chief, was not exaggerating when he wrote that “democracy around the world faces its biggest crisis in decades … manipulation and abuse of truth is the common thread in so many of this year’s major headlines, an insidious and growing threat to freedom.” Time chose four individuals and a group of journalists as its “Guardians.” One is Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post who was murdered by agents of his native Saudi Arabia, likely, the CIA says, on orders from the crown prince. Then there’s the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., who put out their newspaper as they were in shock and mourning for five colleagues shot to death by a disgruntled reader. Time also recognized journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, imprisoned in Myanmar for reporting the mass killing of Rohingya Muslims; and Maria Ressa, persecuted in the Philippines for her news site’s courageous coverage of the Philippine president, who brandishes Trump’s “fake news” epithet.


CRAIG MERRILL: GIVE SILENT SAM THE BURIAL HE DESERVES: In a recent opinion article about the Silent Sam statue controversy, Distinguished Professor Eric Muller asked why we should observe laws that do not warrant our respect (“The Confederacy Lives in NC law. Why respect that?” Dec. 12). I agree with his sentiment, but I believe there are alternative solutions that side-step ignoring NC regulations. The law allows us to return Silent Sam to its original location or relocate it. If it is relocated, it must be “to a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability . . .” However, these criteria do not apply if we return Sam to his original location. So, let’s dig a grave where Silent Sam once stood and bury him. This meets the legal requirement to return the “memorial to its original location, and serves to mark the death of an horrific historic event. If UNC wants a more elegant solution, they could mount it “properly” below ground with a glass floor over top so that everyone could look down on this shameful symbol. Also, the law only applies to state owned memorials. Thus, the state could donate him and make the law irrelevant. I think a foundry would be an ideal recipient.

REV. SADIE LANSDALE: MARCUS SMITH'S DEATH COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED: I am a Unitarian Universalist minister. We clergy are no strangers to death — we bury people, we remember their lives, we comfort the grieving. But the deaths that haunt me are the preventable deaths, and that is why I am writing to you in response to the Dec. 1 article, “Greensboro releases video in police custody death,” about the police killing of Marcus Smith. I was disturbed by this section of the article: “The city of Greensboro has said that officers followed all procedures in the events before Smith’s death and that the four officers ... are back on their regular patrol duties.” In fact, the police did violate their own policies which state that they will not bend an individual’s legs more than 90 degrees (Section 11.1 of Greensboro Police Procedures). In the video, one can clearly see that his legs were pushed to more than 90 degrees, which is known to be deadly. In order to restore trust and confidence in the police, the City Council must bring about the dismissal of Police Chief Wayne Scott for gross negligence of the safety of our citizens. If they don’t, we will see more preventable deaths.

ANN T. BERRY: WAKE COUNTY IS RIGHT TO KEEP THEIR SCHOOLS TOGETHER: Loud applause to Wake Schools for keeping their eye on the ball despite distracting sideline hoots from inconvenienced parents. I was both a mother of three school-age kids and an editorial writer with the late Raleigh Times when Raleigh and Wake County schools merged and desegregated in the 1970s. Despite recently leaving Raleigh, I still care, and I can say without reservation that splitting today’s admittedly ungainly single district would be a disaster. I remember my shock on seeing the pathetic excuse for a library at the formerly black school where my eldest would attend sixth grade. Go back to that? Not on your life.



From the dark side

This week's loser is (once again) the News & Observer, for publishing this classic passive-aggressive smorgasbord of whataboutism by Dallas Woodhouse:

To the media covering the 9th U.S. House District election:

I know many of you personally. As a television reporter so many years ago, I covered stories with you. I have broken bread with you. As one of the main spokespersons on Republican issues in North Carolina, I interact with you on a daily basis.

At times I have disagreed with you, or asked for a correction. Our disagreements have always been respectful. You have asked me some tough questions, never more than last week — every one of them fair, questions that should be asked and deserve to be answered.

On behalf of the North Carolina Republican Party, our activists in the 9th Congressional District and the voting electorate, I want to thank you and encourage you to continue these efforts for years to come.

That's nice. And of course totally out of character, which means another shoe is about to drop, and one with dog poop on the bottom:

Only you can help end systematic failure to fix this problem going back more than a decade, involving three different North Carolina governors of both parties, several different boards of elections, countless local, state and federal prosecutors and both major political parties.

And there you have it. The rest of his letter, which was supposed to be a "thank you" to journalists, was nothing more than a vehicle to get GOP talking points in print, in a handy little collection:

Just to review some of your phenomenal efforts:

You raised serious questions about the lack of transparency and how the State Board of Elections bought this forward with a stunning lack of transparency.

You held the state Elections Board chair to account for unacceptable public partisan behavior leading to his just resignation.

And of course the first two references are about the state elections board, which Republicans tried to take over when Roy Cooper got elected, but got spanked by the courts. If that original formula they created had been in effect, there would have been a Republican Chairman in place, and Mark Harris would have already been certified, regardless of whatever concerns had been raised about ballot integrity.

Dallas dropped several links into this propaganda piece, but here's one he left out:

Yet for the past week, Woodhouse has repeatedly questioned and downplayed the inquiry — at one point going so far as to complain, without evidence, that it was part of a Democratic conspiracy to steal the election — and regularly threatening legal action over the official inquiry into the integrity of the race.

“We think they have abused their discretion and violated the statute,” Woodhouse said of the bipartisan election board on Nov. 27, the day it declined to certify Harris as the victor. “This will inevitably end up in court. The fact of the matter is Mark Harris won the race. He got more votes.”

On Twitter, he pointed to a culprit: “The democrats decided not to certify the results,” he wrote, “and everyone know[s] it.”

Woodhouse was also part of a group of Republicans that pressured the election board’s chairman, Andy Penry, a Democrat, to resign, because of partisan statements he had made in the past on Twitter. But Woodhouse also framed the push for the chairman’s ouster because of the way the inquiry into the 9th Congressional District race was unfolding.

On Monday, Woodhouse made perhaps his most inflammatory remarks about the fraud probe yet, even as evidence and word of investigations had began to mount. Speaking to potential donors to fundraise off the investigation, Woodhouse laced his remarks with the whiff of conspiracy theories and baseless accusations of theft and cheating on the part of the Democrats.

“They are throwing everything against the wall, and it is running up expenses for us by the minute,” Woodhouse said, according to a transcript published by Charlotte-based television reporter Joe Bruno. “But you know they’ll steal it if they can. And the frustrating thing to Chairman Hayes, and, I know, you as well: This is just a test to see if they can steal North Carolina from Donald Trump in 2020.”

Talk about "throwing everything against the wall." These are the same tactics used two years ago, when Roy Cooper defeated Pat McCrory. Wild accusations and innuendo, all in an effort to cast doubt.

I've noticed more than a handful of my Progressive friends paying homage to this letter by Dallas, with "credit where credit's due" and other niceties. All I can say is, pay closer attention to what is actually written, the real points he's trying to convey. Dallas doesn't have a humble bone in his body, and if you detect humility, it is simply a persuasive construct. Don't be fooled.