Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


FETZER OUT OF BOUNDS; UNC BOARD SHOULD CENSURE HIM: Tom Fetzer’s behavior as a member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors isn’t simply rude or self-serving. His latest, self-confessed actions in connection with the recruitment and hiring of a new chancellor for Western Carolina University are disruptive. Specifically, the UNC Board should examine the appropriateness of Fetzer – one of the state’s most influential legislative lobbyists and former chairman of the state Republican Party -- using his appointed government position to gain access to otherwise confidential information, specifically the names of candidates for the Western Carolina University chancellor’s position. Then, did he violate policy and ethical conduct procedures by giving that confidential information to a private “screening” firm Fetzer personally hired to dig into the background of a candidate for the chancellor’s post?

HOG FARM VERDICT RAISES THE PRICE OF DEFIANCE: Hog farmers joke that the odor that sometimes wafts from their hog operations is a welcome one. “It’s the smell of money,” they say. After Friday, that carefree humor is gone. The odor is still the smell of money. But it’s the smell of massive jury awards going to neighbors of industrialized hog farms. Republican politicians reflexively aligning with the hog industry and other polluters is the opposite of what they should be doing. Instead of denouncing the plaintiffs’ lawyers as “ambulance chasers” and doubting the veracity of the neighbors’ sworn testimony, they should welcome how these lawsuits have exposed, or rather re-exposed, a long-running problem in eastern North Carolina. The politicians claim they’re standing up for “family farmers,” but these factory livestock operations are run by giant corporations that have largely replaced the family farmer. And this isn’t really about farming. It’s about polluting, not only the air that their neighbors breathe, but the wider natural environment and, as the State Fairgrounds meeting and the legislature’s action attest, the political environment.

RENEWABLE ENERGY LOSING ITS EDGE AS POLITICAL WEDGE IN NC: One conservative blogger labeled Republican Bob Steinburg a “solar weenie” and called the wind farm in his northeastern North Carolina state House of Representatives district “Bob’s Windmills.” As anti-wind activists, bloggers and politicians rallied against his bid for state Senate, Steinburg declined advice from some to downplay his support for clean energy. In the end, he won his May primary handily, with the widest margins in counties where wind-farm foes had stirred the most controversy. “There were folks on the other side that were hoping that issue would be my Achilles heel. These are primary voters. These are the most conservative of the conservative,” said Steinburg, who is serving his third term in the state House. “But being for renewable energy — it did not hurt me at all.” Observers say Steinburg’s victory in this red corner of the state is a sign of growing support for clean energy among voters on the right, despite opposition from key party leaders and conservative groups.

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT LIVES. NOW LET IT THRIVE: Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration have done just about everything they can to it. They’ve eliminated the requirement that people buy it. They’ve cut advertising for it. They’ve reduced the sign-up period by half and reduced funding for “navigators” who help people sign up for it. But the Affordable Care Act lives. And it’s not just surviving. It’s getting stronger. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina announced this week that it has asked the state to approve lower rates for its subsidized ACA plans in 2019. On average, rates will be 4.1 percent lower. The request could have been at least 15 percent lower if the Trump administration and Congress had not undermined the health care plan, Blue Cross said. It’s time for the ACA’s opponents to concede that it works as a health care plan and there’s no political gain in attacking it without a plan to replace it. In North Carolina, where Republican resistance to the ACA has been especially strong, Republicans should see the value of embracing and improving it. Let the ACA be more broadly advertised, provide sign-up help and accept funding under the ACA to expand Medicaid to cover nearly a half-million North Carolinians.

WE HAVE A CLIFF TO CLIMB IN CLIMATE CHANGE: Does this photograph trouble you? It was taken last week near Nags Head, where 10-foot cliffs suddenly have emerged and forced beaches to be closed. Do you understand that this photograph will not change with time, that the erosion will eat away the sand until property is stolen, resources are lost and billions to trillions of dollars of value is lost for residents? But that’s what’s happening, that’s where North Carolina’s lovely and once-pristine shoreline is headed, into the salt water and out into the Atlantic. Warming of our atmosphere — 2018 is expected to be the fourth hottest on record — continue to melt ice caps and push water into the oceans, which in turn rise, sometimes driven by ever volatile storms. And the U.S. is enduring what scientists call “sunny day flooding,” when water surges without the impetus of a storm, much earlier than expected. Our natural resources, our wildlife, our human life who rely on the coast to exist ultimately will be lost. This is a vision of our future. But what are we doing to stop it? How do we stymie our rapidly changing climate? Our leaders are watching the ocean rise.


CHRIS ANGLIN: ENSURING AN INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY: Some have questioned if I’m a “genuine” Republican. That is a fair question for many elected GOP leaders today. Is Donald Trump? An independent before 2012, I voted for George Bush and Pat McCrory and interned in Phil Berger Jr.’s D.A. office. I want to represent the traditional GOP, one that respected our Constitution and the rule of law. Now legislators have taken steps to misrepresent my campaign on the ballot (by removing party designation), and the incumbent continues to remain silent. They made the rules. I followed them. They will stop at nothing to hand pick their judge, and undermine our democratic process. Even children understand that changing the rules in the middle of the game is wrong. It’s downright un-American. No matter what happens next, our campaign has been victorious because it has exposed the folly of partisan judicial elections and the emperor’s naked grab for power. North Carolinians have a chance to get off this dizzying ride by defeating all six unneeded, misleading constitutional amendments the General Assembly has proposed and by electing lawmakers and judges who will fight for the rule of law, not undermine it.

MARGARET S. MILES: TRUMP'S CLAIMS OF "ECONOMIC ENVY" IGNORE GROWING POVERTY IN U.S.: Regarding “Trump touts economy as ‘envy of the entire world’” (July 28): I am astounded by Trump’s suggestion that the latest Commerce Department Report on the economy shows that “Once again, we are the economic envy of the entire world.” Perhaps the rest of the world doesn’t know how many of our children go hungry on a daily basis; how many of our families have low-paying jobs or have to work two low-paying jobs that still do not meet their needs; how many individuals in our country do not have health insurance and adequate health care; that one of the richest countries in the world does not adequately support the education of its children (the future of the country); and that so many people of color or ethnic minorities are discriminated against over and over again. Trump is the president of all citizens of the United States, and he is not doing his job.

BASHIR ALI: HAS THE REPUBLICAN PARTY BECOME THE RUSSIAN PARTY?: Republican Party = Russian Party? I pose the question because it sure seems that the Republican party is doing Russia’s bidding. First, the Republican party, which controls both houses of the Congress and the White house, refuses to deal with Russia’s meddling of our elections. Not only it is shameful that the Republican-controlled Congress is not willing to take any stand against a chaotic White House that promotes Russia’s interests at the expense of the interests of our European allies, congressional Republicans are defending the White House’s Russia-centric policy continuously. Even if one reserves judgment as to whether the president has colluded with Russia during the 2016 elections, it is very hard to ignore the fact that Russia meddled in our elections and that it is doing everything it can to derail our democracy. Now come the Republicans in the Senate and vote against a meager $250 million bill slated to strengthen our elections and, by extension, our democracy. That party-line vote to block efforts to strengthen our elections followed another party-line vote that the Republicans in the House used to derail a similar measure. As an independent, I have no choice but to wonder whether the Republican Party is the Russian Party.



From the dark side

J. Peder Zane has once again claimed his reserved seat at this embarrassing table:

Any doubt that the Trump/Russia investigation is an Orwellian plot aimed at overturning a democratic election in the name of democracy was erased on July 21 when the DOJ released FISA warrant documents used to authorize spying on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

It corroborated the suspicion that the FBI’s application to spy on an American citizen hinged on a dressed-up Clinton attack ad: the 35-page dossier compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele for an opposition research firm, Fusion GPS, that was paid millions by the Clinton campaign to dig up dirt on Trump.

The FBI regularly receives raw, unproven, ax-to-grind material. Its job is to independently investigate such allegations to determine if there is any there there. That was especially crucial in this case because Steele was not a witness to any of claims he relayed, but merely conveyed hearsay. Instead of identifying and interviewing those figures, the government committed a gross dereliction of duty by simply trusting Clinton’s henchman.

It's long past time to put this already debunked nonsense to bed. The FBI had already been investigating at least two of these individuals before they even joined the Trump campaign, which is one of the main reasons they looked closer at the Steele dossier. It independently corroborated detailed information they had previously discovered themselves, of the movements and activities of some of the principals, including Carter Page.

But of course Zane omits that fact from his diatribe, because it undermines his whole argument. Something else he omits in his Kool Aid-laced regurgitation of some of the wackier Fox News guests' false narratives is just who Christopher Steele is.

He's a former MI-6 operative recruited out of Cambridge, and before he left the service, he headed the Russia Desk at MI-6 for nearly four years. In other words, he wasn't just some paparazzi scrounging up dirty deeds by people, he understood perfectly well the proper methods for obtaining and analyzing gathered intelligence, and he had a keen understanding of literally all the Russian players in this game, be they spies, businessmen, or valuable and credible sources.

I'm not going to quote any more of Zane's nonsense, because it's all the same: Trying to question the reasons for the FBI's interest in certain individuals, while omitting the very reasons they were interested. And the assorted indictments, convictions, and plea bargains that have taken place since the investigation began. To read this piece of stinking garbage with no previous knowledge on the subject, you would think nothing had yet been discovered. Making Zane guilty of journalistic malpractice, among his many other faults.

Again, the News & Observer needs to take a much closer look at what they are giving ink and column space to. I understand there's sometimes a fine line between opinion and outright propaganda, but Zane has crossed that line one too many times, and the paper is doing its readers, even conservative readers, a serious injustice.