WHY DID UNC GIVE MILLIONS TO A NEO-CONFEDERATE GROUP?: After years of protest, Silent Sam was pulled off its pedestal during a rally in August 2018. Since then, the university has hidden the statue in a secret location. The Daughters of the Confederacy recently handed over ownership to the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans, which made clear that it intended to sue the university for control of the statue. Before it could, several members of the university system’s board, each appointed by the conservative state legislature, announced that not only would the group get the statue, but it would also get access to $2.5 million to be placed in a trust for the “care and preservation of the monument.” The board, and the university, claim that the settlement avoids a nasty legal battle and ensures that Silent Sam will no longer sit on school grounds. But legal details aside, how do you make a deal with a group that valorizes something so morally abhorrent as the Confederacy?
ECHOS OF NORTH CAROLINA, PAST AMD PRESENT, DURING IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS: Wednesday those at that convention -- particularly William Davie and Hugh Williamson along with the state’s foremost constitution advocate James Iredell -- were present again, in thoughts and spirit if not in body, for the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s opening hearing considering impeachment of President Donald Trump. Not only were these North Carolina framers front-and-center, but Professor Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law, was one of the key witnesses to open the proceedings. “The framers concern about the need to protect against a corrupt president was evident throughout the constitutional convention. … James Iredell from North Carolina, whom President Washington later appointed to the Supreme Court, assured his fellow delegates, the president is ‘of a very different nature from a monarch. He is to be [p]ersonally responsible for any abuse of the great trust placed in him.’” If the president could not be impeached, Davie said, “he will spare no efforts or means whatever to get himself re-elected.” Impeachment was therefore an “essential security for the good behavior of the Executive.” Davie was pointing out that impeachment was necessary to address the situation where a president tried to corrupt elections.”
RICHARD BURR KNOWS THE TRUTH ABOUT UKRAINE. HE SHOULDN'T HAVE DODGED IT: As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr tries to maintain the role of a low-profile, deeply informed overseer of U.S. intelligence agencies who monitors threats to U.S. security that transcend domestic politics. But every once in a while he reverts to being a Republican pol who puts his party before his country. Now the North Carolina’s senior senator has made another switch from august chairman to water carrier for his Republican president. The Washington Post reports that Burr joined other Republican senators in giving support to President Trump’s debunked claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in support of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “There’s no difference in the way Russia put their feet, early on, on the scale — being for one candidate and everybody called it meddling — and how the Ukrainian officials did it,” Burr said as he and other Republican senators spoke with reporters around their weekly lunch on Tuesday. That comment must have startled the Intelligence Committee’s vice chairmanr, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., since the committee’s investigation found that Russia alone engaged in a systematic effort to help the Trump campaign. Warner tweeted: “There is absolutely no factual basis for this Ukrainian election interference/CrowdStrike nonsense. None. Spreading this discredited conspiracy theory only serves to advance Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaign against the United States.”
DOES THE ATTORNEY GENERAL REALLY BELIEVE THIS?: Mr. Barr’s speech last month to the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, was stunningly and dangerously at odds with reality. He argued that Democrats have devolved from “loyal opposition” to a force “engaged in a war to cripple, by any means necessary, a duly elected government” — while Republicans “tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means.” When Mr. Barr complains that lawmakers “drown the executive branch with ‘oversight’ demands for testimony and documents,” is he honestly forgetting the unending GOP investigations of the Benghazi attacks or the Fast and Furious pseudo-scandal, which culminated in the Republicans voting to hold then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress? In accusing the Democrats alone of justifying means by ends, did Republicans’ aggressive gerrymandering and restrictions on the franchise just slip his mind? It is Republican legislators who recently stripped governors of powers in states where Democrats had just won gubernatorial elections. It is Republicans who have sought to roll back Florida’s voter initiative to enfranchise ex-felons. Regrettably, obliviousness and partisanship are all too common in Washington. For it to reside in the attorney general’s office is way beyond regrettable.
OF ALL THE DEFENSES OF TRUMP, THIS CONSPIRACY THEORY IS THE WORST: Much of the House Intelligence Committee’s report on Tuesday about its impeachment inquiry involved the president’s demands that releasing military aid to Ukraine be conditioned on its announcing investigations into Joe Biden and his son. But of all the efforts to defend Mr. Trump, legitimizing his efforts to have Ukraine investigate the 2016 election may be the most egregious, since it helps Moscow deflect blame for its assault on American democracy. In her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 21, Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert at the National Security Council, chided lawmakers for spreading a “fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.” Senators received classified briefings from intelligence officials this fall detailing Moscow’s multiyear effort to spin that tale and pin its malfeasance on Ukraine. This whole fantasm haunts Washington in tandem with Attorney General William Barr’s aggressive efforts to discredit the F.B.I. investigation of Russian ties to the 2016 Trump campaign. The Justice Department’s inspector general has reportedly concluded that the basis of that investigation was legitimate and that claims of deep-state manipulation were nonsense, leaving Mr. Barr fuming.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
JIM WARREN: DUKE ENERGY'S LAME ATTEMPT AR GREENWASHING: Ned Barnett’s column explaining how Duke Energy is actually inhibiting the growth of renewable power while greatly expanding fossil fuels was right on target. Duke’s reply letter from NC President Stephen De May — bragging about their commitment to renewables — was predictable corporate propaganda that clashes head-on with the official forecast Duke must file with regulators. In its latest 15-year Integrated Resource Plan filed in September, Duke projects to be 5 percent renewable in the Carolinas by next year. In 2033, Duke projects to be 8 percent renewable — which is under the national average for utilities. Meanwhile, Duke projects to build nearly 12,000 megawatts of generation from natural gas during that period – the equivalent of 30 large power plants — at the very time that the world’s climate scientists demand we must be closing fossil fuel projects. No wonder Duke spends tens of millions of customer dollars every year to make people think it’s a green corporation.
JOHN MARLOW: BLAME SENATE INACTION FOR CONGRESS' LACK OF ACCOMPLISHMENT: I agree with the author of “Wasted tax dollars,” (Dec. 4 Forum). Congress is spectacularly ineffective, but I see a stark difference in root cause. The House has passed over 400 bills since January 2017 and a mere 70 of them have even come to a vote in the Senate. Depending on your perspective, these bills may be good or bad but they achieved a majority of support in the House and it would certainly be useful to hear the rationale of senators behind a vote for or against each bill. However, we are denied that because they’ve not been given the courtesy of a vote. The Senate majority leader, elected by a majority of the 3 million eligible voters in Kentucky, gets to dictate the entire legislative process for 190 million voters in America. Wasted tax dollars, indeed.
MINTA PHILLIPS: CLIMATE CHANGE REARS ITS UGLY HEAD DURING THANKSGIVING: Climate change storms wreaked havoc on travel this past Thanksgiving across the U.S. Global concern is gathering with the U.N. climate change summit in Madrid now. New data show that the situation is getting worse every day. People’s lives everywhere are impacted, whether from extreme heat, fires, air and water pollution, intensified floods, droughts, mass migrations or national security concerns, threatening our known way of life. Global emissions are reaching record levels with no sign of peaking. The U.N. has called on leaders for climate action with realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, and to net-zero emissions by 2050. Citizens’ Climate Lobby has a great bipartisan solution developed with climate scientists and economists to reduce carbon emissions with a workable carbon fee and dividend, which would promote free-market energy innovations, creating an estimated 2.1 million U.S. jobs through the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. The U.S. Senate has recently formed a bipartisan climate caucus. Why not check out HR 763 and call your representatives? Let’s use our political will lever now!
**edited to add this letter from Ricky Hurtado:
I have filed to become your next North Carolina House representative in Alamance County (District 63). I am launching this campaign because I love North Carolina. It has been home for over 25 years. But I know we can do better. We deserve elected officials who will build a North Carolina that works for all of us — a North Carolina for the many, not just the few.
My parents, working-class immigrants from El Salvador, stressed to me that if I worked hard I would have an opportunity to succeed and own a piece of the American Dream. That mentality led to my becoming a Morehead-Cain Scholar at UNC and a graduate from Princeton University. I now teach at a university and lead an initiative to help first-generation college students from working-class families go to college.
However, I have realized that success like mine is more often the exception rather than the rule. In reality, too many people in Alamance County are working hard and getting less because of the decisions of our elected officials. In the last decade, we have seen a decline in investment in public education, a refusal to expand access to affordable healthcare, a worsening of family economic insecurity, and a rise in poverty for working-class communities and communities of color. To top it off, partisan gridlock and gerrymandering have all but paralyzed our policy-making process to solve any of these issues.
That’s because politicians in Raleigh aren’t looking out for us. It is time for new leadership that can bring our diverse community together to promote a forward-looking vision that addresses the systemic challenges of our education, healthcare, and workforce systems to build a stronger North Carolina.
I believe we can build a better future where race, gender, sexual orientation, or ZIP code does not determine your life outcomes — but we have to build that future together, as a community. I look forward to getting to know you as we head into a pivotal election that will decide the direction of the next decade. To learn more and get in contact with me, please visit www.rickyhurtadofornc.com.