Commentary

What a way to live: Raleigh mall panic highlights the terror (and costs) of a society awash in guns

News outlets are reporting today that there is still no definitive evidence that gunshots were actually fired this past weekend at a Raleigh mall. This is from Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Police are still trying to determine what caused the ‘loud noise’ reported as gunshots at Crabtree Valley Mall on Saturday afternoon and are asking for the public’s help.

Police say they still have found no evidence of gunfire, including shell casings or gunshot victims. After interviewing witnesses, police concluded “there remains no explanation for the loud noise that people reported,” said spokesman Jim Sughrue.

Eight people endured minor injuries, mainly in the rush to leave the mall, Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said the day of the incident.”

In other words, several people were injured, thousands of lives were disrupted, boatloads of money were lost and wasted and one of the largest shopping centers in the state was crippled for days all because people did the natural thing in our current mass shooting-paralyzed culture: they assumed the worst and ran for their lives. A few hours later, a similar event took place at New York’s JFK Airport when, it appears, people cheering and celebrating in response to Usain Bolt’s victory in the 100 meter race at the Rio Olympics spurred a similar panic.

Though some people are questioning whether officials and emergency responders may have somehow overreacted to the two incidents, such criticisms miss the much more obvious point: the root cause of both incidents is our modern, gun-obsessed culture.

Simply put, guns and mass shootings have become so pervasive in modern America that people have started to factor the likelihood of such events into their daily lives. Schools, churches, movie theaters, hospitals, retail outlets and virtually every business, public or private, that interacts with the public are now operating on the assumption that it’s just a matter of time until they too are engulfed in the nation’s gun violence epidemic. Meanwhile, average citizens, children included, have become permanently jumpy, on edge and, well, terrorized.

This situation is, in a word, madness. By flooding our society with tens of millions of killing machines (and thereby guaranteeing that a large percentage will fall into the hands of people who should have no business possessing or using them) American politicians and their bosses in the gun lobby have quite intentionally undermined one of the chief objectives spelled out the in the preamble to the Constitution — namely, to “insure domestic tranquility.”

What a ridiculous way to live.

Commentary

Supreme Court expert: It’s as if NC lawmakers “were trying to get caught” on voting rights

Ian Millhiser, the extremely knowledgeable Supreme Court observer/analyst at the Center for American Progress, has some advice for the lawyers representing Gov. Pat McCrory and the other defenders of the state’s voter suppression law that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a couple of weeks ago. This is from his new post: “Is North Carolina Trying To Lose One Of The Biggest Voting Rights Cases In The Nation? They aren’t good at this”:

“Here’s some free advice to young lawyers just starting our their careers: if your client loses a case, and you want the Supreme Court to review it, you might want to actually bring the case to the justices’ attention.

The state of North Carolina appears not to have learned this lesson.”

Millhiser goes on to explain how the state has yet to actually seek a stay of the Fourth Circuit ruling from the Supreme Court, 17 days after the decision:

“So we’re now 17 days out from the appeals court’s decision striking down much of the voter suppression law, and the state still hasn’t sought a stay from the Supreme Court. That, alone, is an ill-advised practice for lawyers in this and similar cases. The entire point of a stay is that a party believes that a lower court’s order is so untenable that it cannot remain in effect until after it has been reviewed by a higher authority. It’s tough to make that claim when you can’t even be bothered to file your stay request in a timely manner.

This principle is especially true in a voting rights case. At least before conservatives lost their majority on the Supreme Court, the justices were reluctant to disturb a state’s election law as an election drew nigh.

…The state’s delay, moreover, is only the latest blunder by a state that, at times, has seemed to be trying to lose a court challenge to its voter suppression law….

It’s as if these lawmakers were trying to get caught. Read more

Commentary

The ultimate insult? N&O blasts Tillis as “cable’s friend”

Thom TillisAs we reported here last week, a federal appeals court in Ohio issued an unfortunate ruling on the matter of local governments establishing public broadband networks that compete with cable monopolies. There’s still hope that further appeals could overturn the decision, but for now the cable company giants have won a big victory and one of their chief champions, North Carolina’s junior U.S. senator, is crowing about it. This has spurred Raleigh’s News & Observer to bestow Tillis with one of the ultimate political insults. This is from the lead editorial in today’s edition of the paper:

Now the FCC order has been tossed by the courts, having been tenaciously fought by the big companies that like having their say over consumers with few options. The federal appeals court agreed that the limits state law place on municipal broadband operations are “onerous,” but said the FCC couldn’t override state law.

Which brings up Tillis’ insult. He said, “Today’s ruling affirms the fact that unelected bureaucrats at the FCC completely overstepped their authority by attempting to deny states like North Carolina from setting their own laws to protect hard-working taxpayers and maintain the fairness of the free market.”

Translation: Time Warner and other companies, thank goodness, will retain control of the market without having to worry about towns competing with them and thus will be able to charge people whatever the market will bear.

For Tillis to say the court ruling, which should be appealed, is a triumph for taxpayers is preposterous. It’s a setback. The “free market” he backs is one free of competition from municipal broadband services that offer a better product at a lower price.”

Commentary

Best editorial of the weekend: Investigate McCrory administration’s water safety scandal

The Winston-Salem Journal minced few words this weekend in an editorial calling for an independent investigation of the McCrory administration’s handing of the ongoing scandal surrounding water safety near coal ash facilities.

Here’s the excellent conclusion:

“In a perfect world, McCrory, a former employer of Duke Energy, would initiate that independent investigation to dispel concerns that he remains too close to the company.

Tuesday, Randall Williams, the health director at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, and Tom Reeder, an assistant secretary in the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, distributed an open letter to the media criticizing Rudo over his evaluation of the safety of well-water near the coal-ash ponds. They charged that ‘Rudo’s unprofessional approach to this important matter does a disservice to public health and environmental protection in North Carolina.’

Megan Davies responded with her resignation letter, also released to the media. ‘Upon reading the open editorial yesterday evening, I can only conclude that the Department’s leadership is fully aware that this document misinforms the public,’ she wrote. ‘I cannot work for a Department and an Administration that deliberately misleads the public.’

She leaves a job that paid her nearly $188,000 annually, McClatchy Regional News reported. In a deposition for a lawsuit, she and Rudo testified under oath that they had concerns about the state’s decision earlier this year to rescind do-not-drink notices to well owners, the news service reported. The release of the deposition led to the clash with the McCrory administration.

The problems over the water in question are on track to being resolved because of a legislative bill signed by McCrory, which makes the administration’s current words all the more frustrating and troubling. An independent investigation is sorely needed.”

It’s worth noting that the editorial puts a bit of an overly rosy spin on the matter of the water being cleaned up soon, but it’s on the money with its call for an investigation. Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

Editorials criticize McCrory administration over clash with scientists

Multiple newspaper editorial pages are calling out the McCrory administration yet again this morning — this time over its troubling actions on the matter of drinking water polluted with coal ash chemicals and the interactions with scientists Ken Rudo and Megan Davies.

The Fayetteville Observer:

“On Thursday, McCrory was in Fayetteville, opening a new segment of the Outer Loop and insisting to reporters that this dustup was only a ‘disagreement among scientists.’ The governor said that, ‘We’re providing all the information necessary to ensure that we have safe drinking water and the public knows exactly what the value of that drinking water is.’

No, not really. The administration is continuing to sow fear and doubt and make this dispute look more like a political coverup than an honest attempt to protect anything except the McCrory administration’s own reputation.

Stop digging, governor.”

The Guv’s hometown Charlotte Observer:

“Rudo’s deposition and Davies’ resignation raise serious questions about what happens inside the McCrory administration when scientific facts and political considerations clash. It will surely bolster long-simmering suspicions that McCrory’s 28-year career as a Duke employee makes him an untrustworthy steward of the state’s delicate relationship with its largest power utility….

The residents near those ash pits need answers. Answers they can trust.And a good place to start is by letting scientists do their jobs without fear of meddling from poll-watching politicians and their politically sensitive aides.”

The Greensboro News & Record:

“One thing’s for sure: This looks bad. McCrory, a Republican, worked for Duke Energy for nearly three decades and critics have questioned whether the state has loosened its reins on environmental protection on his watch.

State Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat, has suggested a better way forward: Have a third party investigate to help ferret out the facts. That probably means the U.S. Justice Department rather than Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is running against McCrory, or the State Bureau of Investigation, which is a link in the governor’s chain of command.

Obviously, somebody’s lying and the biggest casualty (so far) has been the public’s trust.”