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Duke Energy Agrees to Screw Us 25% Less
The N&O asks Biden to not do socialism + Josh Hawley’s outrage game + long waits for NC sexual assault nurses + Kane’s $1B innovation district + blame plastics for our shorter anogenital distances
Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021
Welcome to Tuesday, comrades, and thanks for joining me … Today’s PRIMER is an 11-minute read … Our weather will be weirdly springlike, with a high around 64. (WRAL)
Today’s Number: 25 Million
Confirmed U.S. COVID cases as of Sunday morning. (NPR)
—> OTHER COVID NEWS
After four consecutive days of 100-plus deaths, North Carolina only reported 25 deaths on Monday. (N&O)
Wake asked for 3,000 doses of the vaccine this week but received fewer than 1,000. (WRAL)
Moderna says its vaccine is effective against the COVID variants that have emerged in the UK and South Africa — although less so with the South African strain. (NYT)
President Biden reinstated or imposed travel restrictions on non-US citizens who have been in Brazil, South Africa, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and much of Europe. Also, all travelers to the U.S., citizens included, must show proof of a recent negative COVID test. (CNN)
On This Day
1564: The Council of Trent established distinctions between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The two groups lived in harmonious accord for the next several centuries, obviously.
1784: Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter expressing unhappiness with the bald eagle as a national symbol. “He is a Bird of bad moral Character.”
1826: North Carolina Gov. Benjamin Smith, who served one term from 1810–11 (and declined a bid for reelection because he didn’t find the accommodations in Raleigh suitable), died a pauper, his once-immense wealth depleted by financial misfortunes.
1838: Tennessee, home of Jack Daniel’s, enacted the country’s first prohibition law.
1918: James Barber and his wife held one of the first miniature golf tournaments in the U.S. in Pinehurst.
1934: Germany and Poland signed a 10-year non-aggression pact. It didn’t work out.
1951: In Blue v. Durham Public School District, Judge Johnson J. Hayes ruled that the city’s school district must provide equal funding to its Black and white schools, though the district wasn’t desegregated for another 18 years. (Thanks to reader Eddie Davis for bringing this to my attention.)
1998: Bill Clinton told us he did not have sexual relations with that woman.
2020: Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash.
One Year Ago
Top Google Search rising queries, Raleigh-Durham MSA, Jan. 26. 2020:
Kobe Bryant: All top-10 queries were related to Bryant’s fatal helicopter crash.
+TODAY’S TOP 6
1. N&O to Biden: Don’t Get Crazy
As a rule, I don’t comment on newspaper editorials, because a) no one cares, and b) they’re almost always predictable and anodyne. But Tuesday’s N&O editorial board plea to President Biden not to get too ambitious — in effect, to revert to the status quo ante — was sufficiently politically naive and reflective of establishment horniness for incrementalism to warrant discussion. So we shall. First, the editorial:
“History is strewn with political parties, both state and national, overreaching as soon as they have a legislative majority. … Inevitably, that backfires. Voters recoil.”
“But for those who see a Democratic Congress as an opportunity to push the progressive pedal to the floor, we’d like to remind you of North Carolina’s 2020 Blue Wave. … That’s right, there wasn’t one. … We hope and expect President Biden to govern from the middle.”
Let’s start with the last three wave elections:
2006: Bush’s wars were a disaster, his immigration plan had crashed and burned, his Social Security privatization scheme had blown up, gas prices were through the roof, his administration’s handling of Katrina was borderline criminal, the GOP was plagued by scandals, and Congress was lazy.
2010: The economy was mired in the Great Recession, and voters punish the party in power when the economy sucks. President Obama’s stimulus wasn’t big enough to produce immediate benefits, and the Affordable Care Act was too convoluted to be politically advantageous in the short run.
2018: Voters thought Donald Trump was an asshole, the GOP-run Congress had accomplished next to nothing, and Republicans learned (like Dems during the Obama years) that Trump voters didn’t show when Trump wasn’t on the ballot.
FWIW: The Republicans’ success in 1994 came from nationalizing House races, especially in the South, which had been trending red since LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act. Politics was no longer local.
In none of these elections were lawmakers punished for “overreaching.” The only midterm this century that turned out well for the party in power — 2002 — wasn’t a victory for incrementalism but for ginned-up post-9/11 yeehaw patriotism.
Voters don’t care if Congress does too much. They care if they can’t find work or if their kid is going to die in some far-off desert or if they can’t afford their blood pressure meds.
In midterms, swing voters are few and far between, so stop fetishizing them. In midterms, energized partisans show up. Demoralized partisans don’t.
The last idea I’ll touch on is that Biden should “govern from the middle.”
The “middle” is a meaningless abstraction.
There’s no “progressive pedal to the floor” so long as Joe Manchin is the 50th vote.
Nearly everything on Biden’s agenda is popular: hiking the minimum wage, relieving student loan debt, adding a public option to Obamacare, passing COVID relief, strengthening unions, taxing corporations, protecting the environment, and so on.
Republicans will call him a radical socialist anyway.
Tl;dr: Results are the only thing that matters. If Democrats get stuff done, they’ll win in 2022. If they don’t, they’ll get wiped out. It’s as simple as that.
SUBSCRIBER BONUS: The truth isn’t unifying, and the results the country needs won’t happen if Mitch McConnell gets a veto. (PRIMER)
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—> OTHER BIDEN NEWS
The Biden administration is renewing efforts — suspended by the Trump administration — to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. (WaPo)
Biden signed an executive order overturning Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. (AP)
Centrists are worried that Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan is too expensive. Biden says he’s open to negotiations, but congressional Democrats say they’re moving quickly, with or without Republicans. (WaPo, WaPo, WaPo)
The Senate confirmed Janet Yellen as the first woman to lead the Treasury Department. (CBS)
2. Josh Hawley’s Outrage Game
It takes a special kind of jackass to complain about being silenced on the front page of a national tabloid. The Senate’s youngest member — and the first to announce that he would object to Biden’s clear victory — Missouri’s Josh Hawley was en route to a 2024 presidential run before some, you know, minor sedition cost him financiers, his mentors’ support, and a book deal (don’t worry, Josh, Regnery will publish anything), and led his hometown paper to demand his resignation and fellow senators to file an ethics complaint.
What say you, Senator?
“Have you checked your social credit score lately? You might want to. Mine seems to have taken a nosedive this month.”
“They’re the latest form of cancel culture in this country, as corporate monopolies and the left team up to shut down speech they don’t like and force their political agenda on America. For those who still believe in free speech and the First Amendment, this is the time to take a stand.”
This is how the Outrage Game is played: Hawley does something reprehensible or indefensible, catches hell, whines about cancel culture, defiantly declares that he Will Not Be Silenced, and watches his name recognition go up. Rinse, repeat.
After seven Democrats filed an ethics complaint against him and Ted Cruz for whipping up the fatal insurrection, Hawley, a grown-ass adult man, filed a counter-complaint again them: “The idea that one Senator who disagrees with another Senator can therefore have that Senator punished, sanctioned, censured, or removed is utterly antithetical to our democracy and the very idea of open, lawful debate.”
This is Trumpism with a new suit and a Yale law degree.
Suggested reading: The Kansas City Star dove into Hawley’s background, including his teenage defenses of militia members following the Oklahoma City bombing:
“Many of the people populating these movements are not radical, right-wing, pro-assault weapons freaks as they were originally stereotyped.”
—> OTHER INSURRECTION NEWS
The Department of Justice’s inspector general has opened an internal investigation into efforts to overturn the election. (NYT)
—> OTHER TRUMP NEWS
With Trump out of office, the Supreme Court dismissed lawsuits over the Emoluments Clause. (WaPo)
52% of Americans want the Senate to convict Trump, and 57% want him barred from running from office again. (Monmouth)
Trump is threatening to form a “Patriot Party” to prevent Republicans from voting to convict him at his upcoming impeachment trial. (WaPo)
Former Trump press secretary/taxpayer-funded serial liar Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running for Arkansas governor. (NPR)
3. Duke Deal Means We’ll Pay Less for Coal Ash Cleanup
To be clear: less, not none.
Quick recap: Last month, the state Supreme Court ordered regulators to revisit an order that would kindly allow Duke Energy to pass along the $4 billion cost of cleaning up its coal ash ponds to its 3.4 million customers. Under the new deal — an agreement between Duke, the attorney general’s office, and the Sierra Club — electricity customers will “only” be on the hook for $3 billion. Score one for corporate monopolies.
AG Josh Stein: “It's wrong for North Carolinians to bear the full cost of cleanup. Duke's shareholders should pay [their] fair share. [The settlement] is a win for every single Duke Energy customer.”
“The agreement covers cleanup costs from 2015 through 2030 and applies to two previous efforts by Duke Energy to seek rate increases from the Utilities Commission and future requests, according to Stein’s office. The settlement would force Duke Energy to write off $755 million in cleanup expenses and seek a lower rate of return — something similar to profit — as it relates to incurring these costs.” (WRAL)
The deal still needs approval from the Utilities Commission.
Just so I have this straight: Duke pollutes the ground and water, wants to charge us to clean up its mess, and we consider it a win when we pay 75% of the tab?
—> OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS
The Colonial Pipeline that ruptured in Huntersville in August spilled 1.2 million gallons of gasoline, making it the largest spill in the U.S. since at least 2000. (Policy Watch)
The Biden administration is seeking to free up $10 billion for FEMA to use to protect against climate disasters. (NYT)
Biden is expected to sign a series of climate-change-focused executive orders tomorrow, including one that would set the table for a ban on drilling on federal lands. (NYT)
4. Rape Victims Have Long Waits for Nurses in Some NC Hospitals
When survivors of sexual assault go to the hospital, they’re supposed to be seen by a nurse who specializes in sexual assault. These nurses collect evidence of the assault and help the survivor prevent STIs. But at some hospitals in North Carolina, survivors have to wait for hours to see someone, a new investigation from Carolina Public Press reveals.
“Finding a [sexual assault nurse examiner] at the first hospital a victim approaches can be a roll of the dice. The dice are loaded in their favor if they live in a big city. In rural areas, it can be hit or miss.”
“Patients will wait, [Academy of Forensic Nursing president Catherine] Rossi said, because a local hospital says it has a nurse, who may not arrive for her shift for several hours or may not be available at that moment. ’I’ve had a couple of experiences in the last year,’ Rossi said. ‘We were the third facility they made it to, 17 or 19 hours after they sought care.’”
“At least 150 SANE nurses work in North Carolina, according to a Carolina Public Press survey of nearly 130 hospitals conducted over the last three months. But the true number of such nurses in the state is unknown.”
About half the state lives in a county with a SANE nurse available 24/7, mostly in urban areas.
“An analysis of court data by Carolina Public Press in 2019 showed fewer than 1-in-4 people charged with sexual assault were eventually convicted of that or a similar crime; the CPP analysis examined 4½ years of court data.”
“Rural areas fared worse than urban areas. In 38 counties, there were no recorded convictions — not even on plea deals reducing original sexual assault charges to lesser offenses.”
One issue with finding SANE nurses: The average salary in North Carolina, according to ZipRecruiter, is $49,000. That’s not an easy job, and definitely not for that money.
—> OTHER SEXUAL MISCONDUCT NEWS
The Raleigh owner of the popular holiday lights show at Honeycutt’s Fieldstream Farm was arrested for allegedly recording women as they used the bathroom. (N&O)
5. Kane Announces North Hills Innovation District
On Monday, mega-developer John Kane announced a $1 billion “innovation district” for North Hills that will include an 18-story office tower, a 200-unit apartment complex, and a 20,000 square-foot food hall.
“The innovation district adds to Kane's decades-long development of North Hills. Last fall, the company unveiled a $350 revitalization plan for the North Hills Main District. The plan is to redevelop the area including the former JCPenney store. Plans call for a high-rise residential building, 100,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and 346,000 square feet of office space across 5- and 10-story buildings.” (TBJ, sub. req.)
“Josie Reeves, director of design for Kane Realty, said that the project is a signal to the market that Raleigh will continue to be a destination for tech-focused companies following the pandemic.” (N&O)
On that note: The pandemic — and our newfound do-everything-from-home lifestyles — may reinvigorate the suburbs.
—> OTHER LOCAL NEWS
Raleigh’s city council approved an 18-story mixed-use tower in Glenwood South last week. (TBJ., sub. req.)
Retired judge Elaine O’Neal has announced a bid for Durham mayor, with the likely backing of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. Incumbent Mayor Steve Schewel has not yet announced whether he’ll seek reelection. (Hey Steve, if you wanted to give your favorite morning newsletter the scoop on that, I wouldn’t object.) (N&O)
In light of [gestures at everything], Triangle gun sales shot (sorry) through the roof last year. (N&O)
6. What I’m Reading: “Toxic Chemicals Threaten Humanity’s Ability to Reproduce”
Shanna Swan is the senior author of a 2017 study that documented a dramatic drop in sperm counts in Western countries over the past half-century. That meta-analysis of 185 studies involving 42,935 men found that total sperm count fell 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. Swan, a reproductive epidemiologist, pointed to the role of environmental chemicals in that trend. Now she has written Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race, a book that ties industrial chemicals in everyday products to a wide range of changes taking place in recent years, including increasing numbers of babies being born with smaller penises; higher rates of erectile dysfunction; declining fertility; eroding sex differences in some animal species; and potentially even behaviors that are thought of as gender-typical. …
Your study showed that baby boys who had been exposed to four different phthalates at the end of the first trimester in the womb had a shorter anogenital distance, or AGD. Can you explain what AGD is and why it’s important?
Nobody is going to like that term, so you could use taint or gooch instead. But basically, it’s the distance between the anus and the beginning of the genitals. And scientists have recognized its importance for a long time. I have a paper from 1912 that looks at AGD and showed that they were nearly 100 percent longer in males than in females. Our work has shown that chemicals, including the diethylhexyl phthalate, shorten the AGD in males.
You’ve also linked phthalate exposure to a lack of interest in sex.
Yes, we found a relationship between women’s phthalate levels and their sexual satisfaction. And researchers in China found that workers with higher levels of bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, in their blood were more likely to have sexual problems, including decreased desire.
Source: The Intercept