Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

LEGISLATIVE LEADERS HOLD SHAMEFUL KANGAROO COURT SESSION: If anyone needs an example of the kind of abusive, unprofessional and unbusiness-like manner in which the General Assembly operates these days, all they needed to do was witness the conduct Thursday afternoon of the legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee meeting. It was an exercise in abuse by the legislative leadership and an embarrassment to the General Assembly and the citizens of North Carolina it represents. The time, place and manner of the grilling made for a disgusting display. The inquisitors were less concerned with answers than making veiled accusations, playing to their partisan base, the TV cameras and intimidating Lilly and the governor’s office. They owe Lilly, their fellow legislators and the voters who have given them the privilege to represent them, a full and sincere apology.

CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS SHOULD BE MOVED AND PUT IN A CONSTRUCTIVE PLACE: I think monuments placed in front of courthouses and other public places served for a time to help bind up the wounds of the people in that place, but not necessarily us as one country. The national and state battlefields, however, do that for us, because we all recognize those places as Hallowed Ground, the mutual loss and suffering. It’s not who is right, or who is wrong, but that these pieces of stone are dividing us now. That’s the real issue here. That is why I favor moving these monuments to a battlefield or museum or other place of context or history, where interpretive Rangers can help people understand, and really hear, all the varying viewpoints about these things and their place in our history and culture. In that way – in those places – these historic monuments will serve the common good.

FIERY RHETORIC AND CONTRADICTIONS OF A TOP NC REPUBLICAN: Two years ago David Lewis bragged about his own partisan efforts to elect fellow Republicans. Now the state representative from Harnett County is angry and says Democrats are doing the same thing. But in a fiery speech to make that point, Lewis fell into an age-old trap of contradictions. "These liberal dark money groups, financed and controlled by allies of the Democratic Party are determined to use and abuse the court system to achieve unprecedented chaos." And Lewis is confident he knows who is leading this political conspiracy. "This is all a part of President Obama and Eric Holder's efforts to sue Republican states while ignoring egregious blue states like Maryland and Illinois." Never mind the fact that North Carolina has roughly 600,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER MESS IN THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE: When White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned Wednesday amid allegations that he abused his two ex-wives and a former girlfriend, he parted the curtains on a Trumpian-scale personnel and security disaster. Bottom line: You don't keep people in the White House who've been credibly accused of domestic abuse. I'd be the first to argue that an allegation doesn't necessarily constitute guilt, and there's been no adjudication of these charges. But there are sound reasons for security checks and, based on what the FBI discovered, Porter didn't qualify. Indeed, he never did receive full clearance and remained in the White House as the president's right-hand man on a temporary permit dating back to his first day on the job. Kelly has pleaded ignorance about Porter's alleged abusive background, saying he only recently found out about it. But it appears that Kelly was informed last fall and that White House Counsel Don McGahn knew a year ago.

NRA SHOULD ANSWER RUSSIA CONNECTIONS IN 2016 CAMPAIGN SPENDING: The Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly investigating whether the NRA helped funnel money from Russians into the election, which would violate U.S. election law prohibiting the use of foreign money. In recent years the NRA has developed relationships with several well-connected Russians, including Alexander Torshin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin who is deputy governor of the Russian central bank. Torshin, who has been implicated in money laundering by Spanish authorities, is also an NRA member. In 2016 he is reported to have met with Donald Trump Jr. at the NRA’s annual meeting in Kentucky, and in 2015 NRA leaders met with Torshin in Moscow. The NRA has said that the FBI has not contacted it about Russian funds. Curiously, however, the gun group has so far failed to take the simple step of denying that it accepted Russian money at all. The NRA reported spending more than $55 million in the 2016 election, including $30 million on Trump — more than the organization has spent on any candidate in its history.


NATHANIEL GRUBBS: CONGRESS SHOULD PASS CLEAN DREAM ACT, NO MATTER WHAT TRUMP SAYS: It is time to pass a bill to protect Dreamers while rejecting all of the White House’s terms to further ban immigrants. Pass a clean DREAM Act. An overwhelming number of Americans want Dreamers protected from deportation. There’s little support for any of Trump’s add-ons – the border wall, cutting legal migration for families and ending the diversity visa program – in a final bill to protect Dreamers. Denying women the legal right to live and work here makes them extremely vulnerable to abuse. Reports of domestic violence and rape dropped because women now fear being deported. Trump’s plan is an attack on entire families, for whom immigrant women are often the main providers and caretakers. Bosses use threats of deportation to keep immigrants’ silent about abuse in the workplace. Around half a million children witnessed the traumatic arrest, detention, or deportation of a parent. And those are only the children who are U.S. citizens. It is Congress’ fault that Dreamers and all other immigrants are now at the mercy of Trump. I want my elected officials to do everything in their power to protect them from Trump. Pass a clean DREAM Act.

DEBBIE BALDWIN: CHARGES AGAINST FELON VOTERS SHOULD BE DROPPED: I have been voluntarily registering voters in Alamance County for two years. I was trained when I began doing this. Occasionally, I encounter someone who doesn’t know if they can vote due to criminal charges. I ask if they were misdemeanors. If so, they can vote, even in jail. But if they are on probation or parole for a felony I tell them to come back when they are eligible,and give them a pamphlet about this. I also don’t let them fill out an application. I met one man who was 63 and thought he could never vote because he “got into some trouble” as a teen. I am horrified that 12 people in our county have been arrested for voting when they thought they could. They filled out applications, received registration cards and were totally allowed to vote by poll workers in 2016. Then over a year later they were arrested, had to pay bonds and now need to pay lawyers to keep them from having to go to jail or prison for up to two years. Now I think these charges from an over-zealous prosecutor should be dropped on these people. One of those arrested has already stated he will never vote again. Suspicion and misunderstanding spreads fast, let it stop here by stopping these charges. Let our entire community make it easier, not harder to vote.

GAILYA PALIGA: SOLVE THE GENX CRISIS NOW, NOT LATER: Dangerous pollution like GenX and coal ash (coal combustion residuals) in our rivers and lakes is exactly the type of emergency situation that state Senate leader Phil Berger and the General Assembly need to address in a special session. The legislature must stop creating emergencies of their own by trying to control the state judiciary and address these man-made health crises. The legislature (and former Gov. Pat McCrory) failed miserably with the coal ash cleanup, which is still a mess and will be for years to come. Now the Senate under Berger doesn’t even want to start looking at the GenX crisis until the regular legislative session begins in May. Do they want the drinking water crisis caused by the disposal of the chemical known as GenX to continue for years, like coal ash? Dangerous chemicals have been released into the Cape Fear River for years. A current lawsuit alleges that GenX is linked to a number of cancers and diseases. Meanwhile, the legislature has slashed the budget of the state Department of Environmental Quality by millions of dollars, so it is less able to investigate and pursue pollution like GenX and Coal Ash.



From the dark side

This is going to be a long one, so go fill up your coffee cup and settle in. As some of you may know, there was some sort of shakeup at the N&O very recently. John Drescher has now been shifted from Managing/Executive Editor to the Opinion pages, and he recently described some of the changes we'd see in that section:

We want a broader spectrum of voices in our commentary. And we want to steer the discussion toward solutions. To make room for more voices, we’ll publish fewer unsigned editorials that reflect the voice of The N&O’s editorial board...But over time, you’ll see a wider variety of voices, more side-by-side columnists with different views, and more pieces that propose specific steps toward solution. We’ll still publish provocative commentary that fires up one side or the other. That’s part of our mission too. But we also want The N&O to be the place where people in the Triangle and North Carolina come to constructively debate and propose ideas and solutions.

After reading that article, I left this comment on his Facebook page:

I will reserve judgment for later, mostly due to the great deal of respect I have for your objectivity, John. But I will say, the tendency towards false equivalence in pursuit of the "both sides" approach by (many) other media entities has often resulted in a net loss of useful information to readers. The climate change debate is a prime example of this, but that's not the only area where scientific consensus has been challenged and eroded by corporate propaganda and superstitious nonsense.

As you can see, I particularly pointed out climate change denialism as something they should avoid, in the hopes they would not be tempted down that particular erroneous path. But here we are, less than two weeks later:

Now that the excitement over the news that 2017 was one of the hottest years on record have died down, it is time for a sober second thought. Did the January 18 announcements by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that 2017 was the third hottest year, and NASA’s claim that it was the second hottest year since 1880, actually mean anything?

Although the Los Angeles Times called 2017 “a top-three scorcher for planet Earth,” neither the NOAA nor the NASA records are significant. One would naturally expect the warmest years to be at the top of a warming record. And thank goodness we have been in a gradual warming trend since the depths of the Little Ice Age in the late 1600s.

Regardless, recent changes have been too small to even notice and are often less than the government’s estimates of uncertainty in the measurements. In fact, we lack the data to properly compare today’s climate with the past.

I'm gonna cut these two Canadian idiots off right there, because for years we've been playing whack-a-mole with them, and they are well known in climate change circles. They've not only been debunked numerous times (something the N&O could have easily discovered), but their ties to the fossil fuel industry are also well-known. Luckily, commenters have already taken them to task:

In case anyone is curious about the credentials of the authors: "Ball was a former professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg from 1988 to 1996. The University of Winnipeg never had an office of Climatology. His degree was in historical geography and not climatology. [12]" -

Ball has been funded by the Heartland Institute, a conservative and libertarian public policy think tank, and a major denier organization against the notion of climate change. It was founded by David Padden, a pioneer of the libertarian movement in the United States and founding member of the boards of numerous libertarian think tanks such as the arch-conservative CATO Institute.
In addition, Ball is an environmental consultant-for-hire. He has steadfastly opposed the worldwide and overwhelming scientific consensus (including over 97% of climatologists and oceanographers) that anthropogenic global warming is happening.

Tim Harris is a mechanical engineer with no degrees nor creditable expertise in climatology nor oceanography. Before his current position, he was Ottawa operations director of the High Park Group, a public relations and lobbying firm active in creating debate about global warming.

And this exchange with one of the authors is nothing short of epic:

The only overheated claims are from ball and Harris who are funded by the Heartland Institute, which used its funds previously to defend the claims of tobacco companies that smoking did not cause cancer and other deadly problems. Once again, this group is on the wrong side of an important national issue and represents a minardi view on the subject. So if you'll loved these folks tobacco science, you will love their climate denial science as we'll. Both are wrong. The consensus of real climate scientists who published in scientific journals and actually do research on the subject is that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant that increases the temperature of the air near the Earth's surface and that climatic temperatures on average are rising over the globe as a whole.
Like · Reply · 4 · 1d

Tom Harris · Works at International Climate Science Coalition
wow - you are apparently just making that up! Show us your evidence of our supposed funding sources, please.
Like · Reply · 15h

Dave James
Tom Harris does not deny he is funded by the Heartland Institute. Mr. Harris just claims that Jeff Herring cannot prove it. Unforturnately for Mr. Harris the Heartland Institute's own tax records show funding to both the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC) and his prior organization the Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP). (source Heartland Institute 2007 Form 990)

Both Mr. Harris and Dr. Ball are associates of the Heartland Institute and have pages on their website.

I tried to warn you, John. I don't know if it's you or some crusty Board member who is driving these changes, but the flagship political newspaper of the state is heading for the reef, and you need to steer it away before you begin to take on water.