Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


LATEST REMAP EFFORT PROVES NONPARTISAN REDISTRICTING SYSTEM IS A MUST: It should not be a surprise to anyone that when the court takes up the latest submissions, they are rejected and the expert referee for the case Nathan Persily is directed to develop more appropriate maps. The lesson here is simple. It can be addressed right away. Legislators lack the ability – either because of their own incumbency or partisan bias – to draw election districts that put the interests of voters and representation of communities first. Only imposition of a non-partisan system will fix it. Legislators can act now to pass an amendment to the State Constitution, to require a non-partisan system drawing legislative, congressional and ALL other election district maps. It is past time to end unfair and unconstitutional representation of North Carolinians in Congress and the General Assembly.

CORRUPTION IS UNDERMINING NC GOVERNMENT: The NC-09 election happened because campaign workers of Republican candidate Mark Harris stuffed the ballot box with illegally completed ballots last year. Republicans got a re-do. Voters rewarded their corruption by electing another Republican. Or consider the budget override. Headlines have focused on whether Republican leaders technically followed procedural rules, ignoring that the Republican majority stems in part from unconstitutional electoral districts. An unconstitutional assembly using tricks to pass a budget vetoed by a legitimately elected governor is not a good look in a democracy. Finally, that same assembly spent much of the week on redistricting. Thanks to a court order, the public has seen how politicians bargain over precincts for personal and partisan advantage. Whether legal or not, we should never view it as anything but corrupt.

WHY REPUBLICANS PLAY DIRTY: Republicans across the country seem to have embraced an “any means necessary” strategy to preserve their power. After losing the governorship in North Carolina in 2016 and Wisconsin in 2018, Republicans used lame-duck legislative sessions to push through a flurry of bills stripping power from incoming Democratic governors. Last year, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a Republican gerrymandering initiative, conservative legislators attempted to impeach the justices. And back in North Carolina, Republican legislators used a surprise vote last week, on Sept. 11, to ram through an override of Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto — while most Democrats had been told no vote would be held. This is classic “constitutional hardball,” behavior that, while technically legal, uses the letter of the law to subvert its spirit. When party leaders fear that they cannot win future elections, or that defeat poses an existential threat to themselves or their constituents, the stakes rise. Their time horizons shorten. They throw tomorrow to the wind and seek to win at any cost today. In short, desperation leads politicians to play dirty.

TILLIS DID NOT STAND UP TO TRUMP FOR NC'S MILITARY FUNDING: In North Carolina, projects designated to lose money include an ambulatory care center and a new battalion complex at Camp Lejeune, and a new storage facility for the KC-46 tanker planes at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Fort Bragg will not be the worst hit, from appearances. It will lose just under $33 million for an elementary school project it had already planned to scrap. A staff member of Tillis’ told The Fayetteville Observer the cuts will have “no impact” on the post. Tillis’ staffer said the $3.6 billion taken from the military will be put back in the next National Defense Authorization Act in a process he called “backfill.” The staffer also said Tillis has brought in more than $1 billion in defense projects to the state and $300 million for Fort Bragg. We guess we understand why Tillis’s team believes that is an adequate defense, but it does not explain his passivity on Trump’s money grab for the unpopular wall. Even Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader who is usually in lockstep with Trump’s desires, vowed to fight for a middle school at Fort Campbell that is on the chopping block. Tillis should defend our state’s military funding with at least the same vigor. Our soldiers, families and military communities deserve that much, and more.

TRUMP HAS DONE PLENTY TO WARRANT IMPEACHMENT. BUT THE UKRAINE ALLEGATIONS ARE OVER THE TOP: Though the details remain secret, apparently this much can be gleaned: The complaint is against the president. It concerns a “promise” that the president made, in at least one phone call, to a foreign leader. And it involves Ukraine and possible interference with the next presidential election. The complaint is being brazenly suppressed by the Justice Department — in defiance of a whistleblower law that says, without exception, the complaint “shall” be turned over to Congress. We also know this: As he admitted Thursday night on CNN, the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, has been trying to persuade the Ukrainian government to investigate, among other things, one of Trump’s potential Democratic opponents, former vice president Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter about the latter’s involvement with a Ukrainian gas company. Trump held up the delivery of $250 million in military assistance to Ukraine, which is under constant threat from neighboring Russia. He had a phone conversation on July 25 with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. According to the Ukrainian government, the call included a discussion of Ukraine’s need to “complete investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA.” So it appears that the president might have used his official powers — in particular, perhaps the threat of withholding a quarter-billion dollars in military aid — to leverage a foreign government into helping him defeat a potential political opponent in the United States. If Trump did that, it would be the ultimate impeachable act.


CHARLIE BOARD: WHAT THE GOP DID WAS WRONG, WHY THEY DID IT WAS HORRIFYING: Over the last couple of days there has rightfully been a lot of contempt aimed at the deeply cynical, dishonest, immoral and, yes, profoundly un-American stunt that the N.C. GOP pulled to override the budget veto. Scorn and derision truly earned. But in the end we should not forget the “why.” What they did was horrifying, but why they did it was more so. They did it because they are ideologically opposed to N.C. citizens receiving health care — paid almost completely by the federal government — that will save our lives, relieve our suffering, keep our rural hospitals open, and help alleviate our opioid crisis. They did it solely to refuse to participate in a proven program that is working well and saving lives in 37 states. It’s beyond shameful. It’s evil.

SARAH J. SANCHEZ: CARBON DIVIDEND ACT IS A POSITIVE STEP FORWARD: I am deeply concerned about the world that I will be leaving to my grandchildren. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019 is currently pending. So far, only two N.C. representatives — David Price and Alma Adams — have signed on to sponsor this bill. I do not believe that this bill would solve all of our environmental problems, but I do believe that it is an important positive step forward. We desperately need to take positive steps and we need our representatives in Congress to join this effort. This is not a partisan effort, but one that affects all of our citizens, and most importantly, our children and grandchildren.

KRISTEN POWERS: ALAMANCE'S MUNICIPAL LEADERS NEED TO UNITE AGAINST PIPELINE: I attended an event hosted by the Sierra Club and the Haw River Assembly at the Haw River Civic Center. Its purpose was to prepare speakers for a hearing on the MVP Southgate pipeline project. As we reviewed the advocacy materials, one of the riverkeepers demonstrated how the pipeline would run behind the civic center, putting nearly all municipal buildings in Haw River within the blast zone. While the Alamance County Commissioners signaled their opposition to the pipeline in 2018, the coalition has had a difficult time engaging our local municipal leaders here in Alamance County. They noted that a countywide unified voice is sorely needed in this fight. This lack of action by our municipal leaders surprised me given the devastating implications of the MVP Southgate pipeline to our community. Not only will this pipeline disrupt natural waterways and destroy sensitive environments, it will also strip farm and land owners of their ability to access and use their land as they wish. Alamance County will not benefit from the natural gas, nor do we need it. Our municipal leaders must follow after our County Commission and make a strong, unified stand against the MVP Southgate pipeline. We must do all we can to ensure the integrity of our land here in Alamance County. That includes all of our municipal leaders speaking up about the danger the pipeline poses.



From the dark side

This week's losers are Elaine Chao and Andrew Wheeler, for their dishonest defense of Trump's attack on CAFE standards:

Speaking to auto workers in Michigan two years ago, President Donald Trump pledged that his administration would review and revise ill-considered fuel economy regulations from President Barack Obama’s administration.

Those regulations made it too expensive for American families to buy safer, newer cars and light trucks. Average Americans simply cannot afford the vehicles they need to pursue their livelihoods and care for their families.

That second part is not true, not even close. Part of the reason for that is because automakers have been researching technology to improve fuel efficiency for decades, in anticipation of the CAFE standards they knew were coming. That's why they did not oppose Obama's regs when they (finally) came.

Of course the fossil fuel industry did oppose them, which is what is actually driving Trump's ill-advised rollback.

Now we are delivering on an important aspect of the president’s commitment to make the fuel economy standards (and all government regulations) work for the American people. The NHTSA and EPA have signed the One National Program Rule, which will ensure that the federal government can establish uniform fuel economy standards for vehicles across the United States, just as Congress intended. No state gets to opt out of these rules, and no state gets to impose its own policies on everyone else. To do otherwise would hurt consumers and damage our economy.

Lol! These two are idiots. We already had a National Rule, which both automakers and the states were conforming to rather well. Now you're trying to sell this disruption as a "unique" National Rule, as if we had never contemplated that? Orwell would be impressed.

The updated standards will not force automakers to spend billions of dollars developing cars that people don’t want to drive. The new standards will help make new cars more affordable. And they will ensure that American consumers still have a variety of choices when selecting vehicles that best suit their needs. The rule will strengthen our domestic manufacturing base by adding new car sales and supporting well-paying American jobs. And, most important, because newer cars are safer, the standards will save lives.

Okay, let's get a few things straight. In order to meet the fuel efficiency standards under Obama's rule, automakers had to reduce the weight of their vehicles. Which means, reducing the amount of steel in the chassis. Which is a damn good thing, because Trump's tariffs on imported steel have already added something like $1,800 to the cost of new vehicles. If the standards had not been in place, the pricetag for those tariffs would probably be an additional $3,500 or more, per vehicle.

While we're on the subject of "affordability," the increased fuel efficiency brought about by Obama's CAFE Standard has likely saved many Americans roughly $650 per year, in gas they didn't have to purchase.

With today’s One National Program Rule, the administration is standing up for all Americans, their needs and their choices. We won’t let political agendas driven by a single state be forced onto the other 49.

Make that 23 states. That's the number who have joined California in legally opposing Trump's blatant attempt to line the pockets of Big Oil. Now go back to your dinner parties and golf games with lobbyists, because your mealy-mouthed propaganda ain't flying.

Why I do this ^

Deconstructing conservative opinion pieces is more than just scratching an irritating itch; it's an exercise in critical thinking and persuasive reasoning. I know I get things wrong sometimes, ascribing motives that don't exist or focusing on less important aspects than others of more import. I am human, so I err.

But it is an important exercise, nonetheless. Query: How many times have you been in mixed company, and two (or more) people were discussing/debating a particular issue, and they failed to mention what you believe is the most important aspect? I expect more than a few times this has happened to you. Why do I expect that? Because you're reading this, which is evidence of a deep curiosity of political developments. You are generally more informed about a wider range of issues than the average person. That's a good thing.

But unless you are willing to share that information, to correct the misinformation that is being put out there every day, progress will remain just out of reach. It's hard, and generally thankless, and you will make mistakes just like I do. Comes with the territory. But the pursuit of truth, even in a world that seems to shun truth, is much more fulfilling than biting your tongue.