Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


BURR'S COMMITTEE WORK WASN'T A HOAX; HE NEEDS TO SAY SO: As a loyal and partisan Republican, Burr may want to stand with the president on the question of impeachment. But loyalty should not be blind. Burr needs to stand up for the work of his committee – one that he has proudly pointed to as a bipartisan effort to find and tell the truth about Russia’s efforts to manipulate U.S. politics and elections. Burr needs to set Reps. Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan and Trump’s other reflexive defenders straight. He needs to call out the president, as well. Russian meddling is no hoax. It is, to paraphrase a witness from an impeachment inquiry long ago, a cancer on American politics that can’t be ignored and is wrong to deny. Richard Burr, for the sake of the nation, stand up for your work; the efforts of your committee; and most important THE TRUTH it uncovered.

MEDICAID EXPANSION WORKED IN DEEP-RED ARKANSAS, IT CAN WORK IN NORTH CAROLINA TOO: I was Arkansas’ surgeon general in 2013 when the state first faced the question of whether to expand Medicaid. Like North Carolina now, Arkansas then had a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled legislature. Fortunately, we avoided an impasse; lawmakers on both sides of the aisle came together to approve an innovative alternative to traditional Medicaid expansion that provides private health insurance coverage to about 250,000 people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. The effect on Arkansas’ uninsured rate was swift and dramatic. A 2015 Gallup report showed that since Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion program took effect in January 2014, the state’s uninsured rate had been cut roughly in half, dropping from 22.5% to 11.4% ― the biggest reduction in the nation. Since January 2010, only one rural Arkansas hospital has closed for financial reasons. In the five neighboring states that have not expanded Medicaid, more than 50 rural hospitals have closed, according to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

TRUMP HAS MADE CIVIL SERVANTS SEXY: Among Trump’s defenders, the impeachment witnesses have been dismissed and derided as deep-state conspirators set on overthrowing a duly elected president. The term “unelected bureaucrat” has been bandied about with the sort of revulsion normally reserved for “child pornographer” or “drug mule.” Now and again, Trump could not resist openly attacking these current and former members of his administration even as they were testifying. Rarely have career public servants inspired such passion. Once upon a time, government officials were largely thought of as dreary drones — that is, when anyone bothered to think of them at all. But along came Trump, and suddenly, these largely unknown operators have assumed an aura of mystery, danger even. For those who don’t see them as treasonous denizens of the swamp Trump was elected to drain, they are heroes of the resistance, calling out the excesses of an out-of-control president.

MISCHIEF-MAKERS WITH AN AGENDA PROMOTE "GUN SANCTUARIES" IN VIRGINIA: Vigilantism, with its alluring tingle of defiance and frontier justice, conjures a cinematic idea of American individualism. A similar impulse is at work among advocates of the so-called Second Amendment sanctuary movement, a trend in mainly rural counties declaring they will refuse to enforce restrictive state gun laws. Both are examples of individuals who, lacking legal authority, put themselves above the law, thereby promoting chaos. In Virginia, the movement has lately become a fad, spurred by legislative election results that will, starting in January, hand pro-gun control Democrats control of both houses of the General Assembly for the first time in a generation. With a Democrat also in the governor’s mansion, some rural Republicans are raising the specter of mass gun confiscations — and pronouncing themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries. The only cases in which gun confiscation could take place would be if the legislature enacts a “red flag” bill, which would allow law enforcement authorities to take away firearms from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others. Such laws, which have received bipartisan support in many states, generally depend on an order from a judge who would consider evidence presented in court. Local authorities who refuse such orders would be thumbing their noses not just at state law but also at judicial orders — and they should be removed from office and prosecuted.

WHY PRESIDENT TRUMP'S UKRAINE SCHEME MATTERS (It's what the Founders warned us about): Mr. Trump’s more honest defenders don’t deny the basic story here. Instead, they argue that soliciting help from a foreign government for personal political gain is just not that bad. Mr. Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine were “inappropriate” and “not how the executive should handle such things,” said Representative Will Hurd of Texas, but he shouldn’t be impeached for them. That’s far too glib a judgment. The nation’s founders made that clear by listing bribery as one of just two specific offenses meriting impeachment. At the constitutional convention in 1787, Gouverneur Morris agreed that impeachment was a tool Congress needed to deal with a corrupt chief executive. “He may be bribed by a greater interest to betray his trust, and no one would say that we ought to expose ourselves to the danger of seeing the first Magistrate in foreign pay, without being able to guard against it by displacing him,” Morris said. “This Magistrate is not the King but the prime minister. The people are the King.” Why were the framers so concerned about bribery and foreign influence? Because they had plenty of evidence of the damage it could do. They were designing the world’s first attempt at large-scale republican self-government, and they knew its success, and even survival, would depend on elected leaders who represented the people’s interest, not their own.


DR. CLAIRE FAREL: HIV PATIENTS IN THE SOUTH ARE SUFFERING: Regarding “Depression and anxiety rates ‘alarmingly high’ among LGBTQ Southerners, survey says,” (Nov. 19): Thank you for highlighting the health disparities LGBTQ Southerners face. As a physician who treats people with HIV I see the results of these disparities on a daily basis. In 2017, 52 percent of new HIV diagnoses in the United States. were in the South. What’s more, Southerners with HIV are more likely to die from advanced HIV than those in other parts of the United States. LGBTQ people, people of color, and youth are at disproportionate risk of HIV and death from HIV. In 2019, HIV is preventable and treatable with access to testing, prevention, and early treatment. Too often in North Carolina, LGBTQ people experience barriers to receiving these services. We have rapid tests for HIV, we have PrEP, and we have antiretroviral medication so that people with HIV can live long, healthy lives. But stigma, poverty, fear and injustice make these things inaccessible to those who need them most. We can change this story and should all commit to being part of the solution.

NANCY MILIO: CONGRESS NEEDS TO TAKE BACK ITS AUTHORITY TO WAGE WAR: Congress has in effect ceded its Constitutional power to wage war, and has taken little responsibility for oversight or control. This dangerous cession of power away from the people’s representatives is not new. It has been going on since the Vietnam War. We have since experienced what can happen when these enormous powers are used haphazardly, without apparent forethought, planning, or regard for consequences to people, their countries, or our allies. In addition to the damage being done in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere, we have seen how thin the line is between representative democracy and illiberal democracy, between checks and balance in government and an overweening executive. Congress must take back its power to declare war, closely examining action by other means, including strong, well-financed, expert diplomacy. When military action with allies seems warranted, it should exercise control through oversight and financing, and be responsive to public concerns and priorities.

JOSE ALVAREZ: DO TRUMP SUPPORTERS WANT HIM TO BE KING? The energy secretary, Rick Perry, says Donald Trump is ordained by God to be president. Well, monarchs also said that about themselves to justify their right to power. Maybe Perry forgot that our country fought the American Revolution to rid this nation of a tyrannical monarchy and formed a democratic government with all people being equal. Yet it seems as if Perry and Trump supporters like the idea of a monarch who is above the law. If, indeed, that is what they prefer as a form of government, look no further. The place for you is called Russia. In fact, Putin as an all-powerful leader is known to kill those who oppose him without consequences — which, come to think of it, is what Trump has said he could do with no consequences. The time is now for Trump supporters to decide whether it is a democracy or a monarchy they want. If it is Russia or any other tyrannical regime that you prefer, do not let the door hit you on the way out.



From the dark side

This week's loser is John Hood for continuing the false narrative about Governor Cooper's ACP Mitigation Fund:

On Nov. 20, investigators hired by the North Carolina General Assembly testified Gov. Roy Cooper had “improperly used the authority and influence of his office” to pressure Duke Energy for concessions as it sought permits for a natural-gas pipeline.

To be clear, it was Republicans who hired the investigators, not the General Assembly as a whole. To be even more clear, it was Republicans on a committee that took that vote, a committee that was even more unbalanced than the supermajority that existed at that time.

Cooper’s defenders also rejected the existence of a “quid pro quo” involving the timely approval of permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a financial concession to the solar-energy industry by Duke Energy, and the creation of a $58 million “mitigation” fund over which the governor would have exclusive control. Democrats cited Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good’s own statement that the company did not see its concessions as a condition for approval of the pipeline — that “Duke did not and would not pay for permits.”

If you are prepared to accept a denial under duress from the alleged victim of one political pressure campaign (Ukraine) but not from the alleged victim of another (Duke Energy), you better have a good reason. Party loyalty doesn’t count.

WTF does Ukraine have to do with this? Besides, you got it backwards. Or sideways...Whatever the case, there are now numerous witnesses that have corroborated that Trump held back $400 million from the Ukraine to get what he wanted, and zero witnesses that Governor Cooper held back permits or whatever else you think he did. The investigators themselves concluded Cooper didn't gain (or even try to) anything for himself, so you can file that analogy where the sun don't shine.

No one actually disputes that these three issues got linked. The Cooper administration argues, however, that the state permits were not made conditional on the creation of the $58 million fund or Duke Energy agreeing to an estimated $100 million in higher payments to solar companies.

Rather, Cooper’s aides insist that they merely wanted to coordinate the public announcement of the permits, the fund and the solar settlement. Oddly, their boss went further than that in response to the legislative investigation, which quoted Duke Energy’s Lynn Good as saying that Cooper had brought up all three matters during a one-on-one meeting on Nov. 30, 2017. “That’s not true,” the governor told Charlotte’s WBTV. “Absolutely did not happen.”

It wasn't a "$58 million" mitigation fund, it was $57.8 million. That difference is important, because John (just like the N&O recently) has left out a critical piece of information: Virginia negotiated a $58 million settlement with the pipeline consortium before Cooper made his deal.

Understand, if Governor Cooper had not followed suit, had not secured funding to mitigate the impact of this pipeline, he would have been accused of doing the industry's bidding, of not looking out for the people in the path of the pipeline. Once you look at that Virginia deal and the almost identical amount Cooper secured, you realize it's standard procedure and not some sort of corrupt scheme. And that's why John Hood didn't mention it.

To accept the administration’s version of events, you have to buy that permits Duke Energy originally expected to receive in mid-2017 but didn’t get until January 2018 were not improperly delayed.

If you have been following the GOP's relentless attacks on NC DENR/DEQ since they took over the General Assembly in 2011, you'll remember when they went around the state talking to business executives and developers, in an effort to compile a list of complaints about the environmental agency. Some of those "horror stories" detailed wait times of up to 18 months to secure permits for new construction of industrial facilities, and even canceled projects that resulted.

What did the Republicans do to help solve that situation? They cut DENR's staff by some 40%, while also giving regulators an additional mandate to calculate economic impacts of every new rule they were considering.

In other words, the delay that John Hood is trying to use as evidence is very likely due to budget cuts that he himself has staunchly supported. Look in a mirror, pal.

When Hood looks in the mirror

There’s nothing to see.

PS Just kidding, Mr. Hood. You know we love you. But we do wish you'd take a more balanced view of this issue. If this process had been adopted by McCrory, you'd be singing his praises as a good steward of NC resources. Your knee-jerk reactions have become entirely predictable.