Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


JUDGE'S RULING REFLECTS LEGISLATIVE OVERREACH MORE THAN JUDICIAL ACTIVISM: State Sen. Phil Berger may be a lawyer by profession, but he might be angling for a job as a carnival barker or street hustling illusionist. He’s been in distraction overdrive since a Wake County Superior Court judge last week ruled that two constitutional amendments the legislature placed on the 2018 ballot should not have been there. Three organizations challenged the placement of the amendments on the ballot – one limiting the state income tax rate and another to require voter ID – because it was done by a legislature filled with representatives from illegally gerrymandered districts. He and other legislative leaders would have little to complain about if -- rather than obsessively working to rig laws to impose their rigid ideology and make it easier for Republicans to win elections -- they’d focus on making North Carolina a better place to learn and live.

NOTHING "WILD-EYED" ABOUT JUDGE'S RULING ON LEGISLATURE'S LEGITIMACY: The first thing the public needs to understand is that Collins noted in his order that this was a question of first impression for the court — thus there really wasn’t any precedent to answer the constitutional issues raised. Having acknowledged that, the judge noted at some length that the federal courts had conclusively determined that the legislative districts drawn and challenged were unconstitutional. That wasn’t a ruling by Collins. That was a ruling by the federal courts which have ultimate authority in the matter. N.C. Supreme Court cases have for years stated that all power is vested in the people and exercised through their elected representatives in the General Assembly. But what if that legislative body is comprised of members elected in unconstitutionally drawn districts? Are there any consequences for that legal conclusion beyond a requirement to redraw districts and have new elections? Can those elected members continue to pass laws and propose constitutional amendments without any limitation?

MAKING IT WORK WITH UNC'S BOARD OF GOVERNORS: The mounting pressures on public higher education are taking a dangerous toll on our best institutions and their leaders in ways that call for concerted and thoughtful reevaluation of institutional oversight. The boards of these institutions have a responsibility to ensure that they are working to empower the institutions’ leadership, not undermine it. UNC is hardly an outlier but rather is the latest in a troubling trend of poor board governance. In the past decade AAU member institutions in Virginia, Texas, Oregon, and beyond have struggled to maintain their identity and mission, provide the highest quality education, manage internal conflict, and combat challenges to their institutional autonomy. It is the job of governing boards to understand that these universities invariably question what we think we know. Governing boards must not only protect but also promote an environment where we can challenge current knowledge. Because without intellectual challenge, there is no genuinely “higher” education or human progress. Boards do not need to “resolve” debate. Universities do so themselves by encouraging the competition of ideas even if resolution of debate may take years or decades.

12 YEAR-OLD JOURNALIST STANDS HER GROUND AGAINST BULLY COP: These are, needless to say, hard times for the free press. If that concerns you — and it should — the confrontation between Marshal John Patterson and reporter Hilde Kate Lysiak will provide some needed consolation. Not just because she stood up to him, but also because she’s 12 years old. You may think it fanciful to call someone her age a reporter, but you’d be wrong. Hilde joined the Society of Professional Journalists as its youngest member in 2016. As publisher and editor of the Orange Street News ( from her hometown in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, she broke the 2016 story of a grisly neighborhood murder. She has since reported on bank robberies, alleged rapes and a rogue mountain lion. When a piece about an alleged drug dealer resulted in reported threats, Hilde republished it. “You should know by now,” she said in a video, “that I won’t be intimidated.” Obviously, Patterson was over matched when he twice confronted her — the second was captured on video — and threatened to arrest her for following him on a bike, chasing news. “So how is that illegal?” she asked. He never answered. Instead, noticing that she was recording him, he told her it was against the law to post the video online. It wasn’t. Eventually, the cop drove off, muttering about talking to Hilde’s parents.

THE SYCOPHANT AND THE SOCIOPATH: In his testimony, Michael Cohen called himself a “fool” when it came to Trump. “I ignored my conscience and acted loyal to a man when I should not have,” Cohen said. A fool for love, held in thrall by Trump. How could anyone be held in thrall by such a sleazy goofball, much less offer to take a bullet for him or make 500 threats on his behalf? “It seems unbelievable that I was so mesmerized by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew were absolutely wrong,” said Cohen in his “Goodfellas” accent, adding that being around the “icon” was “intoxicating.” “Mr. Trump is an enigma,” Cohen said. “He is complicated, as am I.” Actually, Trump is simple, grasping for money, attention and fame. The enigma about Trump is why he cut off his lap dog so brutally that Cohen fell into the embrace of Robert Mueller and New York federal prosecutors. Trump is often compared to a mob boss, but Michael Corleone would never turn on a loyal capo, only on one who had crossed him.


TAD SIMINITZ: MARK MEADOWS SET A NEW LOW: In watching the House Oversight Committee hearings with Michael Cohen, one thing became clear. Despite their rhetoric, most of these of these members of Congress have more allegiance to their party, and likely their own self-preservation, than they do to their country. Everyone on both sides acknowledged that Cohen was an extremely flawed witness. However, one side, led by our own U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, clearly was there solely to badger and discredit the witness at any cost – as if Cohen needed more discrediting. Meadows’ shameful performance set a new low for N.C. politicians, despite the already low bar we have seen recently.

MAUREEN PARKER: THE JOB IS PRESIDENT, NOT KING OF THIS NATION: The framers of the Constitution, having observed firsthand the excesses, egos, greed and whims of kings, sought to avoid the possibility that our country would ever have a monarch. To ensure this, they set up three co-equal branches of government: the executive (the president), the legislative (the Congress) and the judicial (the Supreme Court) — in order to limit the power of any single branch. This is our system of checks and balances. We find ourselves now in a situation in which those constitutional checks and balances are being tested in ways that our forefathers could not have predicted, and the rule of law is being fractured and bent in ways they did not intend. The high ideals of our forefathers are being trashed, twisted and distorted. Government shutdowns, “national emergencies,” threats and bullying are perfect examples of an executive branch gone wild, a president who wants to be king.

JOAN WALSH: "LOVE THY NEIGHBOR" MEANS EVERYBODY: Kudos to Katie Mgongolwa for the Feb. 14 letter, “Ice Arrests.” As a yard sign and bumper sticker say: “First, they came for the immigrants.” Trump has few skills, but one is tapping into paranoia and xenophobia. He’s really good at that and at pooh-poohing facts, such as 1) the vast majority of immigrants pay taxes, 2) crime rates are lower where the immigrant population is higher, 3) immigrants start new businesses at a higher rate than non-immigrants, 4) this country needs young, hard-working people in industries like agriculture and construction, and few citizens will take those jobs. We should be grateful that others can and will, and we should pay them well for their hard, essential labor. Kudos also to Durham’s new sheriff, Clarence Birkhead, for refusing to cooperate with ICE by holding people in jail after their release date. It would be wonderful if the computer link that automatically alerts ICE to immigration status whenever anyone is arrested could be severed. No wall will prevent people under threat of death, violence or starvation from trying to go to a safer place. Many of those willing to be cruel to immigrants call themselves Christians. Whatever happened to “love thy neighbor?”



From the dark side

This week's loser if former Fayetteville Mayor Nat Robertson for his "drill baby drill" corporate servitude:

North Carolina is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. However, many people in counties outside the booming Research Triangle and other urban centers are still struggling. While seasonal tourism drives much of the eastern half of the state, and is a vital piece of the statewide economy, a lot of North Carolinians are left searching for stable job opportunities that can provide a good income year-round. Thankfully, those jobs and accompanied economic benefits could be just around the corner.

Bolding mine, because that strained sales pitch is the same thing you'd hear before buying a time share or a spiffy new house built over a haunted Indian burial ground. Thankfully, most people probably stopped reading when they came across that load, but there's no respite for the weary critic:

While we wait to hear what future is decided for federal waters in the Atlantic, the governor and others continue their efforts to appease small but vocal groups aimed at putting a stop to offshore exploration, uninterested in hearing about the many benefits it could bring to our state. This unreasonable position puts the governor and his allies in stark contrast with the more than 200 members of the Explore Offshore coalition, which is made up of small businesses, trade associations, veterans and citizens who support increased access to our domestic energy resources.

Nice try, Nat. But polling over the last few years has shown steady growth in opposition to offshore drilling, now around 65%-70% opposed to it. That's statewide, not just coastal regions. So you can take that "small but vocal" meme and stick it where the sun don't shine.

As business and community leaders, Explore Offshore recognizes the many real and tangible benefits opening the Atlantic to offshore natural gas and oil exploration will have for communities – especially those in North Carolina. The coalition continues to urge the federal government to include the Atlantic in the final leasing program and not undercut the state residents eager to fill the jobs that are expected to follow.

Of all the states on the Atlantic coast, North Carolina stands to benefit the most if the Atlantic remains in the five-year program. Our longer coastline would give us access to more of the projected resources in the outer continental shelf. Offshore development could create nearly 56,000 jobs, and contribute over $3 billion a year in annual spending within two decades. Beyond the economic benefits, these additional resources could contribute significantly to a state whose economy is so heavily reliant on affordable energy.

Before this nonsense goes any further, we need to expose the (oil) man behind the curtain. "Explore Offshore" is not a grassroots coalition formed by ex-Mayors and businessmen and such, it's an astro-turf group created by the American Petroleum Institute, in order to disseminate industry talking points and serve as a supposed "citizen" group to advocate and lobby elected officials.

That didn't take much sleuthing to uncover, because API has done this same shit several times in the past:

The American Petroleum Institute (API), is the largest trade association for the oil and gas industry, claiming to represent around 400 corporations engaged in oil production, extraction (including hydrofracking), distribution, and other aspects of the industry. API is based in Washington, D.C. and has offices in 27 state capitals. [3]

In August 2009, an API-led coalition called "Energy Citizens" announced plans to hold rallies opposing the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill in about 20 states, targeting states "whose Democratic Senators aren't strong supporters of a stringent bill, such ... Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mark Begich of Alaska." [3] In addition to API, "Energy Citizens" has backing from the National Association of Manufacturers, American Farm Bureau, American Highway Users Alliance, National Black Chamber of Commerce, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, FreedomWorks, American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform and Council for Citizens Against Government Waste. [4]

"The group has loudly protested the EPA’s decision to have greenhouse gas emissions regulated under the Clean Air Act. API members include Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, GE, Halliburton and Shell." [5]

I should not have to expose that industry connection, the News & Observer has a responsibility to do that for its readers. This isn't new territory, we've been dealing with astro-turf organizations since (at least) the early 1990's, and we know a lot (if not all) of their tricks. Meaning, there's no damn excuse to let this propaganda fly a false flag. Fix it.