DISHONEST LEADERSHIP LEAVES OUR GOVERNMENT MISMANAGED: Don’t be distracted. This is not about good or bad; conservative or liberal policies. This is not about Democrats or Republicans. This is about sound management, doing the job, the security of the nation. This is about Donald Trump’s character. It is about his inability, not simply failure, to tell the truth and accept its reality. Without the truth it is impossible to earn the trust to be a leader. Leaders who lack trust cannot manage. The current white-hot crisis with Iran and Iraq is the latest example. An impulsive action – the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s security and intelligence forces – and the national security crisis that has ensued. Trump’s threats, including tweets about targeting Iranian cultural sites, result in advisers forced to follow deflection and justification. In this case, the Pentagon didn’t even try. In a starkly unequivocal pronouncement, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the “laws of armed conflict” prohibit attacking cultural sites and the armed forces had no plans to do so – despite the president’s declaration.
BLACK VOTERS SHOULD DEMAND RESULTS: The need for black voters to have a voice in North Carolina couldn’t be clearer. North Carolina residents face tremendous racial inequality, with the median household income of black households in 2018 at $34,000 — significantly below the median household for white households of $53,000. Of the 58% of black families who rent, for fully one-quarter of those families their rent takes up more than half their income. The statewide unemployment level for black people is twice as high as it is for whites. And insufficient investment in infrastructure, education and transit make it disproportionately more difficult for black workers to cross the lines of segregation that help us get better jobs. But we don’t solve these problems just by documenting them. We solve them by increasing our political power and electing politicians who push for comprehensive solutions to the many problems black voters face. And we don’t get there by shaking our fists. We get there by organizing and demonstrating our power. And now, in Raleigh, North Carolina, the National Black Worker Center Project has recently launched Black Voices, Black Votes, which will create a comprehensive policy agenda for our community and organize black neighborhoods to hold elected leaders accountable.
PRESSURE FROM CITIZENS IN COAL ASH COMMUNITIES WON CLEANUP SETTLEMENT: This was a long-fought battle. There is a lot of credit to go around. This outcome would not have happened without the decisions of Gov. Cooper’s Department of Environmental Quality. I have to say it would not have happened without the dedication and legal expertise of the Southern Environmental Law Center. North Carolina’s press covered the story year in and year out, and scientists investigated the effects of coal ash. But the real heroes are the residents of North Carolina’s coal ash communities. They were willing to stand up publicly to institutions of great power, to go to court and testify in legal proceedings, to keep up the fight for almost a decade, and to insist that their clean water be protected in ways it had never been protected before. At a time when great cynicism is often justified, we should celebrate when democracy works. This time, it did.
THE HOUSE'S RESOLUTION SHOULD BE JUST THE START OF CONGRESS REASSERTING ITS WAR POWERS: THE HOUSE of Representatives’ adoption of a resolution Thursday barring military action against Iran without congressional authorization is a welcome development, as is the impending Senate debate of a similar measure, spearheaded by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). We hope this is only the beginning of a wider reassertion of congressional prerogatives relating to the use of U.S. military force abroad. President Trump’s sudden order to kill Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, brought the United States to the brink of war with Iran on the basis of no consultation with Congress, or even prior notification of Capitol Hill’s top leaders. The administration says no such heads-up was called for, in the face of what it describes as the “imminent threat” Mr. Soleimani posed. In recent years, Congress has passively allowed a variety of new anti-terrorism missions for U.S. troops — in conflicts well-known (the war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq) and obscure (a battle against Islamist militants in Niger). The ostensible statutory authority for much of this, the 2001 authorization for the use of force against the authors of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, does not clearly apply to these new situations and is overdue for a legislative update, as Mr. Kaine has maintained for years.
AUSTRALIA SHOWS US THE ROAD TO HELL: In a rational world, the burning of Australia would be a historical turning point. After all, it’s exactly the kind of catastrophe climate scientists long warned us to expect if we didn’t take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2008 report commissioned by the Australian government predicted that global warming would cause the nation’s fire seasons to begin earlier, end later, and be more intense — starting around 2020. Furthermore, though it may seem callous to say it, this disaster is unusually photogenic. You don’t need to pore over charts and statistical tables; this is a horror story told by walls of fire and terrified refugees huddled on beaches. So this should be the moment when governments finally began urgent efforts to stave off climate catastrophe. But the world isn’t rational. In fact, Australia’s anti-environmentalist government seems utterly unmoved as the nightmares of environmentalists become reality. And the anti-environmentalist media, the Murdoch empire in particular, has gone all-out on disinformation, trying to place the blame on arsonists and “greenies” who won’t let fire services get rid of enough trees. But if a nation in flames isn’t enough to produce a consensus for action — if it isn’t even enough to produce some moderation in the anti-environmentalist position — what will? The Australia experience suggests that climate denial will persist come hell or high water — that is, through devastating heat waves and catastrophic storm surges alike.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
PROF. ERIC MULLER: UNC PAID MILLIONS TO SUPPORT FALSEHOODS: Just before the holiday five members of the UNC System Board of Governors defended the Board’s decision to pay $2.5 million to the Sons of Confederate Veterans to house and display the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam. The five Board members said that this was the best deal they could strike to try to resolve what they saw as “a deeply divisive and personal issue.” There is nothing remotely personal about this issue. There is nothing “personal” about whether the perpetuation of slavery was central to the Southern cause in the Civil War. It is something brilliant historians, including many in the UNC System, have devoted their lives to documenting. This is one of the things that is so deeply disturbing about the decision of the Board of Governors to pay a huge sum to an organization to preach the myth of the Lost Cause. It’s a $2.5 million investment in falsehood. To watch this unfold is devastating. But it’s nothing personal.
PRISS ENDO: STOP SUBSIDIZING THE WOOD PELLET INDUSTRY: Regarding the “Slow Burn” series (Jan. 3): Take note that the pellet industry is consuming N.C. forests at a rate of 145 acres a day. Forest services, including flood control, habitat, water filtration, recreation, and most importantly carbon sequestration, are being squandered for corporate profit. The economic driver for this perfidy are government subsidies used by Drax Energy to buy pellets for its power plants in England. Further down the subsidy chain, Enviva, pellet supplier for Drax, has received $6 million in state and local subsidies. Eliminating subsidies would be the most direct path to the demise of the industry. Though organizations worldwide are trying to persuade the EU to halt subsidizing biomass, more formidable resistance to subsidies is required in our state. If Gov. Roy Cooper and DEQ have no power to control logging on private land, the legislature must step up. Rather than subsidizing the pellet industry, state subsidies for “proforestation,” growing forests to their ecological potential, should be directed to owners for safeguarding forest services that are now more than ever paramount to terminating climate change.
JOHN D. BURNS: COMMUTER RAIL WOULD BE AN ASSET TO THE TRIANGLE: GoTriangle’s $1.8 billion estimate for the cost of commuter rail (Jan. 8) is roughly in line with what was expected when we advanced the Wake County Transit Plan in 2016, and emphasizes the need for federal participation. Federal participation requires regional cooperation and effort. I hope that Durham’s concerns expressed in the article will be met and Durham will be able to get on board and get this done with Wake County. Durham Commissioner Heidi Carter sets up a false choice between bus and train. What is needed is a transportation system where all elements work together. Yes, we need to serve those who are dependent upon bus transit. But the ultimate goal is not to have a bus system that serves only those who are dependent on it. The ultimate goal is to make it so all people can choose to use transit because it is the most convenient, economical and safe way to get around town. That’s a vision for a connected community and one we can all get behind.