Commentary

Barnett: Another pathetic Tillis flip-flop on SCOTUS

Be sure to check out News & Observer columnist Ned Barnett’s on-the-mark assessment of Sen. Thom Tillis’s latest flip-flop for the ages this morning.

Tillis, who four-plus years ago shamelessly helped block President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court based on the premise that it was a presidential election year, is of course talking out of the other side of his mouth today.

This is from Barnett’s column — “With Supreme Court flip-flop, Sen. Tillis seeks to hold his seat by abdicating his job”:

Not only does Tillis endorse the Senate considering Trump’s nominee late in an election year, he’s committed to voting yes before the nominee is vetted or testifies.

Tillis has now improbably managed to outdo his last spectacular flip-flop. Remember his 2019 op-ed in The Washington Post in which he said he could not in good conscience apply a double standard to presidents because of their party? He wrote that he opposed Obama’s executive orders to get around congressional opposition and he would oppose Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to get funds for the southern border wall.

But, under pressure for taking an honest stance, Tillis promptly turned around and voted in support of the president’s usurpation of Congress’ sole authority to allocate funds.

It’s an odd campaign strategy to run for office as a senator who will be a rubber stamp for the most incompetent, deceitful and self-aggrandizing president in U.S. history. But that’s Tillis’ platform.

Click here to read the entire column.
Courts & the Law, News, Trump Administration

Trump says he’ll announce Supreme Court pick by Friday or Saturday

Environment

Breaking: Coal ash released after sinkhole collapse in Mooresville

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Coal ash from a structural fill site entered an unnamed stream after a sinkhole formed in Mooresville, state regulators announced today.

The sinkhole was in a parking lot built on top of a coal ash structural fill site off NC Highway 150. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality did not specify which fill site was affected, but state records show a previous sinkhole in a parking lot of the Terry K Smith Highway 150 project.

This site contains 45,833 tons of coal ash, sourced from Duke Energy’s Marshall Steam Station, located on nearby Lake Norman.

DEQ said in a press release that a stream culvert pipe collapsed under a coal ash structural fill during heavy rains on Thursday, Sept. 17, that caused a previously repaired sinkhole in a parking lot to reopen.

The orange square represents the Terry K Smith Highway 150 project in Mooresville. A sinkhole opened in a parking near Highway 150, which released coal ash from a structural fill site into an unnamed stream. (Map DEQ)

DEQ said it has been monitoring the sinkhole since becoming aware of it during a site inspection in July of 2019. The property owner had previously repaired the sinkhole in 2018 and 2019.

During site visits after the storm, sediment containing coal ash was observed in the stream bed of the unnamed tributary where it emerges south of Highway 150.

DEQ staff collected water quality samples from the stream and is conducting ongoing monitoring. The location is in the area of a state Department of Transportation expansion project, and DEQ has discussed necessary next steps with the property owner and NCDOT.  DEQ also alerted county and state emergency management authorities.

There are dozens of known coal ash structural fill sites in North Carolina, and more that have been reported but not documented.

 

 

Commentary, immigration

Immigrant families in NC are pleading with Tillis and Burr for assistance

Sen. Thom Tillis, left, and Sen. Richard Burr, right

It’s been over 200 days since the first COVID-19 relief package was signed into law. In a short time, immigrant communities across the country will once again find out where they stand in our leaders’ hearts and minds. Congress has passed not one, but three COVID-19 relief packages that have excluded thousands of immigrants here in North Carolina and millions more nationwide. A legislative response that protects all people requires leadership by Senator Thom Tillis and Senator Richard Burr.

In North Carolina, 889,000 people live in families with at least one non-citizen, including 321,000 children. El Pueblo and other immigrant-serving organizations throughout the state recognize the gap in COVID relief for immigrant communities and have opened mutual aid funds and other services to address this gap. Our top priority has been to distribute direct financial assistance to those who are not receiving any government aid. The amount of need is both astounding and frightening as we have moved many months into this crisis. We know that we are not able to help everyone who has been excluded by congressional leaders.

Community members continue to request assistance to pay for rent, bills, utilities, food, and other basic needs due to loss of work and, increasingly, due to the economic impacts of having one or more loved ones who have been ill and/or hospitalized due to COVID. While we have been able to financially assist many families, our mutual aid funds are not the solution for the lack of action by congressional leaders. Our organizations are helping fill a gap that should not exist. We cannot afford to have gaps in relief to communities; not now, not ever.

The ultimate solution for our communities includes transformational change that would provide full inclusion for immigrants and other community members who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to systemic racism, xenophobia, and other barriers to health. A first step toward this solution would be for Senators Tillis and Burr to support the HEROES Act, an inclusive relief bill that was passed by the House in May.

My parents are immigrants that have shown me the importance of being in community with one another and of supporting each other when government support may or may not be available. In these times of hardship, I see my communities coming together every day to do our best to do what our leaders have failed to do. For months, the Senate has refused to advance this legislation while our communities have suffered. The HEROES Act, while not the ultimate solution for all of the challenges we face, includes critical provisions that would improve health care access and provide economic support for thousands of immigrant families in North Carolina. I urge Senators Tillis and Burr to support the HEROES Act and demonstrate what so many other North Carolinians like my parents are demonstrating every day: that the health and prosperity of each of us depends on the health and prosperity of all of us.

Veronica Aguilar is the Communications Coordinator for the Raleigh-based group, El Pueblo.

Commentary

RBG is gone. This is why we fight.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, best known as a steely champion of women’s equality, gave voice to the voiceless. And as a legendary Supreme Court justice, she was committed to ensuring their rightful place in America until the day she died.

We have lost so much as a country during these last four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, marked by immigrant kids in cages at the border, people suffering in poverty, attacks on voting rights, brazen government corruption, impeachment-worthy foreign policy, waves of police attacks against Black Lives Matter protesters, a rise in white nationalist violence, an assault on LGBTQ rights, especially for trans people, and more — culminating with a plague that’s killed 200,000 people and bludgeoned the economy.

Ginsburg tried mightily to be a bulwark against this rising reactionary tide. “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you,” she exhorted.

No one person can do it alone.

With her death Friday at age 87, it’s so easy to succumb to fatalism, since Trump will almost certainly get to replace her (especially if you made the mistake of spending last night on Twitter, as I did).

If you’re a masochist, social media is a great place to see Republicans’ full inhumanity on display in real time, from U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) fundraising off of Ginsburg’s death minutes after it happened to U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) declaring, “RIP to the more than 30 million innocent babies that have been murdered during the decades that Ruth Bader Ginsburg defended pro-abortion laws.” That’s nothing compared to the cackling from right-wing media figures, of course.

And there was the predictable chorus of Republicans victoriously firing off statements that Trump must absolutely fill Ginsburg’s slot less than two months before the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) waited one hour before giddily announcing that he would definitely try and ram a nominee through this term, even though RBG quite pointedly declared as she was dying, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Talk about spitting on someone’s grave before they’re even buried.

I didn’t mind watching beltway journalists whip up their hypocrisy takes, as so many swallowed the GOP’s solemnly delivered bunk on why they had a moral obligation to tank President Obama’s 2016 pick of Merrick Garland.

But several of those same folks — who, as always, skew well-off, white, male and straight — naturally had hot takes aplenty that this spells doom for Democrats in November. And some decided it was their place to lecture those of us with everything to lose on the correct way to mourn (we’re supposed to wait to talk about political implications) and the proper place to donate (cancer charities, not ActBlue).

Some people feel that the world is entitled to their opinion at all times, on all matters. It never seems to occur to them that they can sit this one out. Read more