Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


NC SENATE--STOP PLAYING GAMES WITH LOBBYISTS, ACT TO PROTECT CONSUMERS: In mid-May, as the COVID pandemic-related financial challenges hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians were about to face came into focus, the state House of Representatives passed without a dissenting vote, a bill to protect consumers from debt settlement companies. These companies exploited a couple of loopholes in current state law that otherwise prohibit such practices. They particularly target over-extended borrowers such as those in the military services as well as those who, because of unexpected health care costs, overextend their consumer credit and need debt relief. Days after the legislation was filed, settlement companies engaged at least nine lobbyists – most with deep ties to Republican legislators or the state GOP -- to fight the bill. And it’s working. Stop playing hide-and-seek and bring the bill to the Senate floor. Pass House Bill 1067, “Modernize Debt Settlement Prohibition.”

BLACK LIVES MATTER? SHOW ME THE RECEIPTS: Recently, we’ve seen many elegant statements from corporations and organizations stating that Black Lives Matter and that they stand against systemic racism. In addressing systemic racism (racism embedded in institutions like education, housing, employment, banking, healthcare, environment, criminal justice, etc. that no longer has to say “colored”), virtue signaling alone is insufficient. It’s not just Charlotte. For local governments across the state, addressing injustice also means allocating more than a tiny fraction of your budget - just 3.8% in Charlotte - to housing and economic development, areas that have disproportionately impacted Black folks for generations. It means eliminating Source of Income discrimination in housing. It means no longer blindly allotting 40 percent of your budget to police departments to subsequently under-protect and over-police the recipients of underinvestment. For counties, it means restoring collaboration with school boards versus playing old politics that will feed educational shortfalls, disproportionately impacting the students who constantly lose the most. For state lawmakers, it means expanding Medicaid. For our business communities, it means addressing internal hiring, promotion, and decision making while not using philanthropy as a shield for structural change. Denouncing systemic racism isn’t a catchphrase to stop protests. It’s a workout routine. It’s time to grab a dumbbell versus continuing to filter our Instagram photos.

REOPENING NC SCHOOLS SHOULD BE ABOUT HEALTH, NOT THE NEXT ELECTION: It is simplistic, incomplete and even dangerous to declare: “Kids ought to be going back to school, regular schedule.” Berger, who is a lawyer, not a doctor or public health expert, said: "There's no question that children are going to catch the virus. The question is whether it's going to be something that's going to tax our health resources, or it's going to be something that's going to cause someone else to get sick. And I think that we can control for both of those things without requiring every child in the state of North Carolina to either distance learn or show up every third day." How does he know? Even if he is 100 percent right that school kids who have the virus won’t get sick, -- and he’s not – what about the 174,000 adults in the schools? What about the parents and other adults in the lives of the 1.6 million school kids? There may be those who consider themselves immune. That is a dangerous and selfish bet when it is the health, safety and lives of others that are at stake. It is not an idle threat that hundreds – perhaps thousands – of teachers will opt to stay away from their classrooms. Not out of any lack of love for their students – but worry about the health and safety of their colleagues and loved-ones at home.

THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN IS THE GRIFT THAT KEEPS ON GRIFTING: In two days alone during March, the president’s reelection effort forked over roughly $380,000 of its contributors’ money to his hotels for “facility rental/catering services.” The Trump Organization told my colleague David Fahrenthold that this paid for a “donor retreat” to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. A source familiar with the arrangement explained to Fahrenthold that the figure had to be broken into 43 separate payments, because Mar-a-Lago can’t handle credit card transactions of more than $10,000. The campaign has also been paying more than $37,000 a month in rent to Trump Tower in New York, which is odd, considering that the campaign’s headquarters is in an office building in Rosslyn. The Center for Responsive Politics has been keeping track of all of this on its OpenSecrets website. During this election cycle, the center reports, the president’s campaign and its related committees have steered $2.6 million of their donors’ money to Trump’s family-owned properties and businesses. The Republican Party has spent nearly $1 million as well, and GOP candidates, elected officials and their political action committees have spent another $391,000. Sophisticated political contributors are generally wary when they see campaigns holding events in expensive hotels and resorts with lavish catering. That’s because they are well aware who is paying for it: They are. But Trump’s donors, big and small, apparently are so dazzled by the aura of celebrity he has created around himself that they don’t care how much of their own money goes directly into his businesses. It’s all part of the experience.

PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME RISK GETTING COVID 19 TO TEACH YOUR CHILD: I became an educator after a career as a nurse. I teach medical science and introduction to nursing to 11th and 12th graders at a regional skills center that serves students from 22 different high schools in 13 different school districts. My school district and school haven’t ruled out asking us return to in-person teaching in the fall. As careful and proactive as the administration has been when it comes to exploring plans to return to the classroom, nothing I have heard reassures me that I can safely teach in person. If I’m asked to return to the classroom as the pandemic rages, I will have to walk away. As deeply as I love teaching, I will not risk spreading this virus in a way that could hurt a child or a family member of a child. While children make up a small proportion of U.S. coronavirus cases and they are less likely to become seriously ill than adults, the virus might be linked to “multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.” Plus, many of my students struggle with poverty or are from multigenerational households. I will not risk passing a virus to them that they might pass to their vulnerable loved ones. I won’t do it. It isn’t fair to ask teachers to buy school supplies; we aren’t the government. But we do it anyway. It isn’t fair to ask us to stop a bullet; we aren’t soldiers. But we go to work every day knowing that if there’s a school shooting, we’ll die protecting our students. But this is where I draw the line: It isn’t fair to ask me to be part of a massive, unnecessary science experiment. I am not a human research subject. I will not do it.


STEFANIA ARTEAGA: TILLIS WAS WRONG TO BLAME HISPANICS FOR COVID 19 NUMBERS: Sen. Thom Tillis claimed North Carolina’s COVID-19 spike was the result of our “Hispanic population” not wearing masks and social distancing. The real cause of the spike is Tillis’ inaction. Each bill Congress has moved into law has left millions of people without access to COVID-related testing and treatment. Many are essential workers, including immigrants. Tillis and the Senate must move immediately to protect the health of the country by ensuring access to testing and treatment for everyone, regardless of immigration status. All Congress needs to do is include a line in the next relief package that ensures COVID-related services are available under emergency Medicaid, so that immigrant eligibility restrictions do not apply. Tillis would rather point the finger at the Latinx community than take responsibility for Congress’ failure to adequately respond to the pandemic.

BARBARA PAINTER: WAIT LONGER BEFORE REOPENING NC SCHOOLS: Yes, school is important. I worked in Wake County schools for a lifetime and my daughter has taught school for 24 years. Teachers would love for their students to return to the classroom. No one is more concerned about your child’s education than their teachers, and parents can be sure that teachers will work diligently to provide quality online classes. Once the virus has abated enough to provide safe conditions for return to the classroom, teachers will ensure students receive any supplemental work necessary to bridge gaps that may have occurred. Tell Gov. Cooper and the Wake County school board that the risk is too great. We must not risk the lives of our precious children.

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: REPEAL NC'S ILL-CONCEIVED MONUMENT LAW: The 146 Confederate monuments still standing throughout North Carolina are not honoring our heritage or remembering history. Rather, these monuments are romanticizing oppression, violence, and white supremacy. In an effort to permanently remove these monuments, our group of over 30 students and others fighting for social justice are calling for a vote on House Bill 10, a repeal of the 2015 state law that protects monuments. We are choosing to use our voices to call for an end to the inaction on the issue of Confederate monuments. We need the public to use its voice as well. Demand that Republicans bring HB10 up for a vote. We cannot have justice if we’re still displaying hateful, harmful monuments across our state. Lily Kane, Broughton High School. Owen Von Weihe, Raleigh Charter High School. Azaria Anderson, Research Triangle High School. Minnah Gaballah, Leesville Road High School. Willow Grossmann, Broughton High.



From the dark side

John Hood is back in the lemon-light for his infatuation with natural gas:

The proposed natural-gas pipeline through Eastern North Carolina is dead. Long live natural gas!

Admittedly, there won’t be a coronation ceremony like there would be if a living monarch were replacing a deceased one. But when it comes to reliable, affordable, and environmentally friendly ways to power a 21st-century economy, natural gas is still king. Its reign will continue for many decades, despite the successful effort by left-wing activists to litigate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to death.

Natural gas is not even close to being "environmentally friendly." Fracking has contaminated groundwater in spots all over the country, has used up water resources in many areas that can ill afford it, and fugitive methane emissions have very likely sealed our fate on climate change. Of course you know all these things, which makes this column even more disgusting.

Just to be clear: neither technical considerations nor changing customer demand did the pipeline in. The two utilities behind the project, North Carolina’s Duke Energy and Virginia’s Dominion Energy, made that very clear in their July 5 announcement.

“A series of legal challenges to the project’s federal and state permits has caused significant project cost increases and timing delays,” the companies stated. “These lawsuits and decisions have sought to dramatically rewrite decades of permitting and legal precedent including as implemented by presidential administrations of both political parties.”

If that were truly the case, Trump wouldn't feel the need to gut those current environmental standards. If anybody is "rewriting" shit, it's him. And of course you know that, too.

As a result, Duke and Dominion could no longer make rational plans or take rational risks to construct the pipeline, which would have carried natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina. The legal challenges had driven the cost of the project to at least $8 billion, up from the original $5 billion, and delayed its completion for several years.

Some of that increase in project costs are to implement sound environmental steps they should have put in place from the beginning. That's on them, not the people who called them out for not doing so. But other costs are associated with Trump's insane trade war and escalating tariffs. And we haven't heard a peep from the pseudo-Libertarian "free trade" folks at Civitas and JLF over that problem. That's on you, John.

Activist groups were jubilant. Generously funded by left-wing foundations and other donors, they had used every tactic at their disposal to destroy the project. They truly think that by obstructing the creation of natural-gas plants and pipelines, they will force North Carolina and other states to increase dramatically the share of power derived from wind, solar, and other “renewable” sources of energy.

First of all, "Hah!" Generously funded my ass. And the irony of this coming from a guy who works for a leader in the Koch fossil-fuel empire is staggering. But hyperbole aside for a moment, North Carolina is now producing over 5 Gigawatts (5,000 Megawatts) of energy from Solar Photovoltaic alone. And not only do you already know that, your organizations have tried (and failed) to stop that revolution.

The cleanest practical alternative to coal for baseload generation would be nuclear, of course. Alas, many of the same activists who killed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have waged political and legal war against nuclear power for decades.

And that opposition pales in comparison to nuclear power's innate and ingrained shortcomings. They're just (way) too expensive to construct and maintain, especially in the aftermath of the 3-Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima catastrophes. Fool us a 4th time? Nah.

By suing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline into oblivion, activists have simply increased the cost of delivering a necessary fuel.

I'ma cut you off after this drink of Kool-Aid, because apparently you've had too much already.

How is not doing something increasing the costs? In the long (long) term maybe, if we continue to use the volume of gas we have been, or use more, the transportation costs will likely go up. But here's the kicker: If that $8 Billion was spent (or hell, even the original $5 Billion), the cost of that natural gas would increase substantially per gallon. It ain't rocket surgery, and no accounting tricks will make that debt burden go away.

When you have to resort to voodoo economics to bolster your Op-Ed, it's probably time to hit the "delete" button.

And, of course, one should ask...

what would have happened if that $5 billion had been spent instead on solar, wind, and grid storage so that we could depend on renewables for baseload capacity while increasing their contribution to the overall power supply? The answer is probably a long-term reduction in electricity generation costs (though, as you point out, that investment would have to be paid back in the shorter term.) That's not exactly what those who profit from (or leech off, like Mr Hood) the current utilities industry want to have happen. It means that their overall profits (though not necessarily their profit margin) also falls in the long term. Hood\s objections are ultimately about an industry trying to keep their obscene profits intact for as long as they possibly can, no matter what the damage is that results from that goal.