Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


DUKE ENERGY'S FAILURE SHEDS LIGHT ON A WAY FORWARD: This event is similar to the one that happened in my native Texas in 2021, which cost the lives of 246. We are incredibly fortunate that North Carolina didn’t suffer a similar loss of life. However, unfortunately, the same mindset prevails in power generation. North Carolina and Texas overwhelmingly rely on coal and natural gas as the primary resources to produce electricity. The lessons we should learn from the storm are clear in Duke’s responses to Gov. Cooper and the Utilities Commission: Climate change is causing more extreme weather, which is unpredictable. We are facing more historic storms, not fewer; Gas and coal aren’t always dependable in extreme weather, while renewable energy with battery storage is more reliable. By signing the Inflation Reduction Act into law, President Joe Biden ensured these costs will continue to drop. In fact, a new study by the clean energy think tank RMI shows the Inflation Reduction Act makes clean energy cheaper than more than 90% of proposed gas plants. Similarly, a study Duke commissioned from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory revealed that Duke could most economically meet the carbon reduction targets mandated by the law by tripling the proposed solar on its grid by 2030. Fortunately, the Utilities Commission highlighted both the Duke outages and the Inflation Reduction Act in its order to Duke. When Duke presents its revised plan to the Utilities Commission in September, they will no longer be able to credibly say natural gas is the cheapest and most reliable path. And we must not forget, the natural gas sector is still plagued by fugitive emissions of the (super) carbon Methane, throughout its entire production cycle. Even sites that are "played out" and supposedly capped are leaking a substance 50 times worse that Co2. The way forward is clear, but the fossil fuel industry and their puppets will fight to their last breath to derail that progress.

UNC IS TOO SLOW IN ITS RENAMING OF BUILDINGS: Asking for buildings to not be named after racists, Confederates and slave owners is not an outlandish or demanding request. It’s an urgent critique of UNC’s long and entangled history, and it's an important conversation about how we go about preserving historical memory in a public space. Instead of listening to these concerns, the University has allowed them to get lost in a whirlwind of bureaucracy: from committees, to the Board of Trustees, to the chancellor’s desk. In April of 2021, the University Commission on History, Race, and a Way Forward submitted its recommendations for renaming 10 campus buildings whose namesakes, according to the commission, worked to advance white supremacy with their injustices. The Editorial Board wholeheartedly agrees with the Commission's conclusions. While we understand that those opposed may present concerns over historical remembrance on our campus, we feel that naming buildings after problematic individuals is not a means of remembering but of revering. It’s been over seven years since former Chancellor Carol Folt formed a task force to change Saunders Hall to Carolina Hall. It’s been over two years since Guskiewicz charged the Commission on History, Race, and a Way Forward with exploring the University's history and making recommendations on how to reckon with it. Since then, four buildings have been completely or partially renamed: The Carr Building is now the Henry Owl Building, Aycock Residence Hall is now McClinton Residence Hall, Ruffin Residence Hall is now Ruffin Jr. Residence Hall and Daniels Building is now the Student Stores Building. Only four buildings have seen name changes, while 10 sit on the docket in what seems like an indefinite cycle of meetings, commissions and votes. These are more than just names on buildings; they are a tacit message from the administration that students should emulate the historical figure in question. Better role models are not hard to find, just do it.

OMNIBUS BILL INCLUDES MILLIONS TO HELP NC: North Carolina taxpayers will see $240.7 million in money they’d sent to Washington being put to work back in this state – thanks largely to Democrats who -- after heat and badgering from Republicans -- voted to pass the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill. President Joe Biden signed it into law just before year’s end. Nearly $26 million in directly-designated spending is headed to the state’s three major military installations – Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune and Seymour Johnson Air Force base. The Republicans who represent those installations voted against the bill, except for Sen. Richard Burr, who didn’t vote. Republican Rep. Greg Murphy, whose district includes Camp Lejeune, termed the bill “a monstrous spending spree that fuels inflation and divisive gender identity politics. Americans don’t want 4,000-plus pages of left-wing projects.” Is that what he considers the $6.6 million for school modernization, planning and design at Camp Lejeune? Republican Richard Hudson’s district includes Fort Bragg. The bill includes more than $15.5 million to improve firing ranges, training facilities, schools and a child development center. He was happy to trash the legislation, vote to stop it and call it a “boondoggle” but gush on its help in his district. “I am glad this spending package includes necessary funding for Fort Bragg and our military, the overall price tag of this 4,155-page boondoggle will further threaten our economy,” Hudson said.
These items didn’t magically make their way into the Omnibus bill. They are in there because members of Congress – Republicans as well as Democrats – asked for them. North Carolina’s Republicans – again all of whom but Burr voted against the bill – requested more than $107.7 million in spending in the bill (45% of the total headed into the state). And you can bet they will be there holding a fancy shovel and smiling for the cameras when these projects break ground. Absolutely no shame.

BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE: I had more fun watching Republicans prove their incompetence yesterday. Kevin McCarthy may be the most hapless politician of our time. This is the second time that he’s thought he would be Speaker. Last time, an alleged affair with North Carolina Congresswoman Renee Ellmers helped derail his bid. This time, the grifter Congressman Dan Bishop from Charlotte is one of the 20 holdouts keeping McCarthy away from the gavel. Another North Carolina Member of Congress, Patrick McHenry, has been floated as a possible alternative. One Republican described the GOP’s failed attempt to elect a new Speaker of the House as a “s***show.” That’s a pretty accurate description of the state of the whole party. They showed us what happens when a major political party refuses to hold accountable the grifters, conspiracy theorists, and misanthropes in their midst. The seeds of yesterday’s debacle were sown decades ago with Nixon’s Southern Strategy and they sprouted with the Tea Party during Barack Obama’s first term. The movement claimed to be about lower taxes and less government but it was infused with racists, charlatans, and tinfoil hat-wearing extremists. Instead of policing them, the GOP embraced them, defending them against charges of bigotry and extremism. Emboldened, they grew in power until they nominated one their own for president. During four years of lying, graft, empowering fascists, and, finally, attempting to incite a coup, Republicans in Congress and their allies in conservative media never once held Donald Trump accountable. They refused to be the check on power that the Constitution demands. Now that Trump has been exposed and the American people have seen through the charade, the GOP is stuck with the corruption and extremism the party nurtured. Lol, thanks, Thomas. I forgot about that affair with Renee Ellmers. I wonder if they ever found that AK-47 that was stolen from her garage? Ah, the memories...

THE U.S. IS INSPIRING EDUCATION CENSORSHIP ELSEWHERE: While demands to ban books in schools in the US are not new, over the last year and a half, book banning has erupted into a national movement. Coordinated and highly organised activist groups have transformed school board meetings into political battlegrounds, threatening educators and undermining students’ freedom to learn. In the United Kingdom, officials are raising the spectre of critical race theory in schools — an issue that was not previously a topic of debate or concern — to try and stop the teaching of histories that explore systemic racism. That’s part of what authors and others have described as a mood “shift” in the UK — a budding “culture war” that is leading to the censorship and removal of books from school shelves. Books being removed are often children’s books that look at institutional racism, diversity and LGBTQ+ identities. Echoes of US-based group tactics are also manifesting in Canada, with parental groups asking school boards to ban certain books — again with LGBTQ+ content — and seeking to change curricular topics that they see as being part of the teaching of critical race theory. The movement is also gaining the attention of politicians. Australia’s Senate voted against the inclusion of critical race theory in the country’s school curriculum in 2021. Turkey has banned the sale of books such as Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls — which offers a series of inspiring stories about women in history — to children. Hungary, meanwhile, has banned an entire academic discipline: In 2018, the government officially removed gender studies Master’s and PhD programmes from the list of accredited subjects in the country. Last year, the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban passed a law banning LGBTQ+ content for minors in schools. And recently, Russia enacted a sweeping anti-LGBTQ+ bill that expands its definition of “LGBTQ propaganda,” targeting books, films, online and public activity, and advertisements. The law was introduced in reaction to a YA novel with LGBTQ+ protagonists. Book bans and legislative efforts to restrict academic freedom are anathema to healthy democracies at home and abroad. Fighting back against these coordinated movements is essential to protect free expression and other democratic values across the globe. We are leading the world in the wrong direction, and it needs to stop. Stop giving bigots the benefit of the doubt on censorship, they haven't earned it.


LEWELLEN AND CLYDE PADGETT: LIARS AND CONSPIRACY THEORISTS: Last year, the American people rejected extreme election deniers up and down the ballot. But we were unable to win every fight, and a tremendous threat to our democracy remains: the MAGA Republican majority in the House of Representatives. According to the Washington Post, over 70% of all House Republicans are themselves election deniers — 135 incumbents voted against certifying the 2020 election and at least 27 freshman members ran on the Big Lie. They might hold the title of “representative” but they have no intention of legislating on behalf of their constituents. They only care about helping their corporate donors and targeting anyone who has attempted to hold them accountable for attacking our democracy. It’s up to us to call out their lies and conspiracy theories and fight back against their extreme agenda. I hope others will join me. The truth will set us all free. If we respond to every lie with that, we will (eventually) make lying something to be ashamed about once again.

THOMAS O'BRIEN: CRYPTOCURRENCIES ARE A CLIMATE-KILLER, TOO: Cryptocurrencies are not only terrible investments and a medium for criminal activity; they also are an important source of carbon emissions. Blockchain technology uses high-powered, energy-intensive computers to solve complex equations. Blockchain is inefficient by design; each bitcoin transaction requires more than 100,000 times the electricity needed to process a credit card transaction. The total amount of energy expended globally to support cryptocurrencies is unknown, but Cambridge University researchers estimated that bitcoin uses more electricity than Argentina. More than a third of crypto mining occurs in the United States, with resulting electricity usage similar to that for all residential lighting in the country. Cryptocurrencies are a significant driver of greenhouse gas emissions. The Inflation Reduction Act aims to make U.S. electricity generation “greener.” Those efforts will be essential, but not sufficient, to address the crisis of climate change. We must also reduce wasteful uses of energy. Eliminating cryptocurrencies would be a great step in that effort. What Thomas said. They use an insane amount of electricity, and should be outlawed.

JAD DALEY: HEALING FORESTS WITH AN EYE TOWARDS HUMAN HEALTH: The Jan. 1 front-page article “Searching for healing within a California burn scar” lifted up mental health impacts from the climate-fueled wildfire crisis across our Western states, exemplified by the lingering trauma felt in communities surrounding California’s Camp Fire burn scar. In addition to the forest walks and other powerful healing practices detailed in the article, there is one other form of healing with outsize importance: reforestation. The future of the Camp Fire burn scar and millions more burned acres across California and the West will be determined by how they are reforested — increasingly they will not regenerate without help. The Camp Fire scar is being used for a leading experiment in climate-resilient reforestation, adjusting tree species, genetics and planting techniques to stabilize this landscape and make it less vulnerable to catastrophic wildfire in the future. Having local communities embrace and participate in such efforts to heal the land will positively impact their success and open new pathways to promote personal healing. I endorse this message. We need our forests, and our forests need us. It's as simple as that.



Social justice worrier...

The above op-ed from Al Jazeera hit many chords with me. The things we tolerate also serve to perpetuate. By "we" I manly mean white male heterosexuals, who still dominate our patriarchal society decades (centuries?) after we should have taken our place standing in the diverse ranks of humanity.

We're still setting the standards, even though we only represent about 7% of the world's population. One of the (big) ways we've maintained that influence is by sowing divisiveness among other races and genders, so we can step up and "repair" the damage that we caused (or allowed).

It is so ingrained in our development most of us can't see it. Or refuse to look at it, which is even worse.

Yes, other races can be guilty of perpetuating sexism and bigotry. But the fact that the world is becoming more dangerous for women and LGBTQ+ folks is (IMO) a direct result of America's failure to evolve. Donald Trump is a prime example of this. His character has been suspect for decades, he has repeatedly proven to be one of the worst examples of humanity; untrustworthy, devious, selfish, totally lacking in integrity. And yet we promoted him to our country's highest office anyway. Shame on us.

But we can evolve. We must evolve. Whether we have earned it or not, America is still the most influential nation on the planet. The examples we set are closely monitored, and our missteps are either emulated or used as an excuse to perpetuate injustice elsewhere.

We must stand against racism, sexism, bigotry, wherever these things emerge. They cannot be tolerated or ignored, because indifference doesn't make evil go away. It thrives in that environment.