NEW HOUSE PANEL STIRS MEMORIES OF EARLIER MCCARTHY: Lawmakers point to outrageous abuses of the federal government’s unchecked law enforcement and intelligence apparatus, vowing to get to the bottom of the dirty business and root out the shadowy figures responsible. McCarthy on Thursday described the new committee as “Church style” as he trumpeted the first week’s work of House Republicans, including the creation of the panel. “Government should be here to help you, not go after you,” McCarthy told reporters. Democrats and historians see darker historical parallels. They liken the Republican zeal to pursue nebulous allegations of deep state conspiracies to the “Red Scare” days of a McCarthy from an earlier era: Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis. The McCarthy hearings in the 1950s and investigations by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1930s and 1940s have come to be seen as sordid, painful chapters in the congressional past, a series of communist witch hunts that needlessly destroyed lives. Lawmakers unleashed unfounded allegations in pursuit of sensational headlines and nonexistent infiltrators and traitors, and Democrats warn that the same could happen again. “Dozens of whistleblowers who have come and talked to Republican staff on the Judiciary Committee don’t think this is a ploy,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chair of the Judiciary Committee. “That is why they came to talk to us. They know how serious this is.” Right, just like the "dozens of whistleblowers" who claimed they had evidence of widespread voting fraud that led to Donald Trump's "stolen" election. Nothing but conjecture and conspiracy theories. We knew this was going to happen after Trump's (two) impeachments and the Insurrection hearings, but hopefully the media will give it the attention it deserves, which is very little.
SUSTAINABLE ELECTRICITY UPON WHICH WE CAN RELY: We only have to look at December’s severe cold weather to see more than half a million frustrated North Carolinians without power during the Christmas holidays. According to Duke Energy, the Christmas Eve power outages resulted from equipment failures at coal and natural gas plants while renewable energy performed as expected. Families spent Christmas Eve without lights or heat because of equipment failures at five different fossil fuel plants. This is unacceptable and North Carolina is taking action to prevent future power failures. It starts with the plan to transition from fossil fuel-generated electricity to more clean energy. In October 2021, I signed the bipartisan state law, House Bill 951, which set the first-ever carbon reduction goals for our state while working to keep costs low and reliability high. As directed by this legislation, the Utilities Commission recently released a carbon plan with a balanced approach to increase renewables and make sure there is a more reliable electric grid. Solar energy is already cheaper than coal and gas, and rapid advancements in wind energy and battery storage technology will make them an even more essential part of a reliable, lower-cost energy mix. Clean, reliable and low-cost electricity is the backbone of our communities and a strong economy. The significant investments to move the electric grid to more reliable, cleaner, renewable energy will help put more money in the pockets of North Carolinians. Finally, there is almost universal scientific agreement that climate change is causing more severe weather and putting our planet at risk. Carbon emission reductions are essential in the fight against climate change, and high-paying clean energy jobs are a positive by-product of the transition away from fossil fuels. Bolding mine, because that cost factor rarely comes up in discussions of our energy portfolio, and it should be front and center. Too many people out there believe the opposite; simply take it for granted. Hat-tip to Governor Cooper for speaking so clearly on this.
OPENNESS, TRANSPARENCY CRITICAL AS MONEY PLAYS BIGGER ROLE IN COLLEGE SPORTS: North Carolina legislators – who opened their 2023 session Wednesday –express plenty of interest in college sports as fans and to promote gambling -- but they haven’t yet made a top priority of some rapidly emerging issues involving student athletes and the integrity of competition. While the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has adopted rules concerning NILs and the transfer portal, those rules are being ignored or out-and-out violated with little oversight or consequence. College athletes and boosters openly talk of NILs being tied to recruitment. Players are being enticed to some schools, before they even enter the transfer portal, with offers of compensation. All is in violation of current NCAA rules while the colleges either don’t know, don’t say or won’t publicly acknowledge what they do know or the deals being made. The General Assembly should create a special study committee on NILs, the Transfer Portal and other issues concerning college athletic competition and student athletes. The goal should be to develop laws that assure athletes are treated equitably, intercollegiate athletics are fair and competitive without undue advantages resulting from the corrupting influence of outside compensation. Money, as much as athletic performance, is becoming the currency for recruiting collegiate athletes and it is distorting athletic programs and competition. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for NC Republicans to monitor this. They are increasingly benefiting from dark money groups to help them get elected, and "transparency" is something to be avoided, not promoted.
CAN YOU GOVERN ON A LIE? HOUSE REPUBLICANS GIVE IT A TRY: Ryan Zinke stepped up to the microphone and into the Twilight Zone. “Despite the ‘deep state’s’ repeated attempts to stop me, I stand before you as a duly elected member of the United States Congress and tell you that a deep state exists and is perhaps the strongest covert weapon the left has against the American people,” he told the House. The Montana Republican, who has returned to Congress after a scandal-plagued stint in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, informed his colleagues that “the deep state runs secret messaging campaigns” and is trying “to wipe out the American cowboy.” Yee-haw! Zinke was speaking in support of a new Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, or, as Democrats call it, the “Tinfoil Hat Committee.” In substance, it’s the QAnon committee, with a remit to probe the “deep state” and other wacky conspiracy theories. With the panel’s creation, QAnon completes its journey from message board for the paranoid to official policy of the House Republican majority. After the chaos of the first week of the 118th Congress, many Americans wondered: If it took them 15 ballots just to choose a speaker, how could Republicans possibly govern? Now we know. They are going to govern by fantasy and legislate on the basis of fiction. On Monday, their first day of legislative business, they voted to repeal funding for a fictitious “87,000 IRS agents” who don’t exist and never will. On Wednesday, they approved legislation purporting to outlaw infanticide, which is already illegal and always has been. In between, they set up the deep state committee. What next? Sorry, that’s secret. And therein might be the biggest falsehood of all. After numerous promises of “transparency” from the new leaders, they are refusing to reveal multiple backroom concessions Kevin McCarthy made to secure the speakership. You might even call it a conspiracy of silence. Steve Scalise is the ideal majority leader for the post-truth era. Boasting to reporters about passage of “the bill to repeal those 87,000 IRS agents,” he claimed that the Congressional Budget Office “confirmed” that those agents would “go after people making less than $200,000 a year,” including “the single mom who’s working two shifts at a restaurant.” In reality, the IRS is hiring only about 6,500 agents — and that’s over a decade. In reality, the CBO said that only “a small fraction” of revenue from increased enforcement would come from taxpayers earning less than $400,000 a year. Here’s what else CBO said: The Republicans’ bill to cut funds to the IRS — the new majority’s first legislation — would add $114 billion to the deficit. So much for fiscal responsibility. Yep, and when peoples' tax returns take much longer to process, hopefully they will blame the GOP and not the IRS. But that may be asking too much of Billy Bob and Peggy Sue...
I HAVE A DREAM: Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, Black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds. But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, when will you be satisfied? We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: for whites only. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right down in Alabama little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring. And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
PAT BULLARD: KEEP CALLING OUT THE LIES: I support wholeheartedly Lewellen and Clyde Padgett’s “Call out lies and conspiracy theories” (Jan. 8). The former guy twice impeached continually told lies and his big lie is so implanted in the extreme far right, and all of that keeps the U.S. democratic republic in continued peril. Not only are that many far right extremists election deniers in the U.S. Congress, have you considered how many from the N.C. delegation fall into that category, including former Rep. Ted Budd, now elected to the U.S. Senate? And how many far right extremists are among local officials and in the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly? The recent debacle in the U.S. House when it took so many votes and ridiculous promises to elect a Speaker of the House illustrates they cannot govern and are only interested in controlling power and are extremely anti-democracy. Speak out often against their lies, conspiracy theories and destruction, and God help and protect the USA. A lie that goes unchallenged, even a silly, unimportant lie, serves to erode the idea of truthfulness. Don't stand for it.
LISA HARTER: VIRGINIA MUST DO MORE TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM ACCESSING GUNS: Regarding the Jan. 10 front-page article “Gun shot by 6-year-old was mom’s, Va. police say”: After a harrowing year of gun violence in Virginia, 2023 started tragically with the shooting of a teacher by a 6-year-old child in Newport News. Because this child was able to obtain a gun legally purchased by his mother, according to police, a young woman was critically wounded, and dozens of children and an entire community are traumatized. Too often, children are able to access firearms because they aren’t stored properly. Though Virginia has recently taken important steps to strengthen its gun laws, the state can and must do more to prevent this from happening. Virginia’s legislature should strengthen its child access prevention statute, including increasing penalties for negligent gun owners and promoting secure firearm storage statewide. Secure storage can decrease unauthorized access to minors, prevent intentional and unintentional shootings, reduce firearm suicides in children and teens, and decrease gun theft. As a responsible gun owner, I understand that common-sense gun safety laws and responsible storage practices will keep our communities safe. I and other like-minded gun owners hope our leaders in Virginia can join us to prevent future tragic incidents such as this one. What Lisa said. Lock the gun away, or lock the gun owners away. This must stop.
ELLEN HAYES: BRING BACK INTEGRITY: The Jan. 8 front page had a number of articles covering the dysfunction of choosing a speaker of the House, an example of the lack of direction that endangers our country. The warning in the movie “Inherit the Wind,” that anyone who troubles their own house will inherit the wind, can stand as a guidepost for the Democratic Party today. It has a timely opportunity to work intelligently and strategically to provide the country with the leadership it deserves, as opposed to the chaotic, mean-spirited guidance it has seen since 2017 and that is all the Republican Party has to offer. What is needed: agreement on goals vs. selfish adherence to an individual preference; collaboration vs. fistfights on the floor of the House; checking credentials when choosing candidates vs. embarrassing discoveries of falsification; and choosing to follow the principles set down in the Constitution vs. rhetoric and actions that mislead the voters and serve only as talking points on social media. This is the chance to turn our nation toward integrity. We cannot let it slip through our fingers. I endorse this message.