Thom Tillis’s Accidental Advice for a Climate Emergency
Biden pauses fossil fuel leases + the Trump cult’s consequences + Jeff Jackson runs for Senate + Durham’s mass vaccination center + UNC’s Campus Y gets vandalized
Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021
Happy Hump Day … A study in General Psychology says naps are good for cognitive function (at least among aging Chinese) … Today’s newsletter is an 11-minute read … There’s a chance of rain this afternoon, and light snow possible tonight. High around 53. (WRAL)
Today’s Number: 11
Percentage of Americans who expressed satisfaction with the direction of the country just before Joe Biden’s inauguration. (Gallup)
Lowest-ever rating: 7%, in 2008
On This Day
1785: Georgia became the first state to charter a university. (UNC opened in 1795, before the University of Georgia did.)
1788: William Tyron, the royal governor of North Carolina whose tax to build a governor’s residence sparked resistance in the 1760s and early ’70s, died in London.
1825: Congress approved the Indian Territory, leading to Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears genocide.
1880: Thomas Edison patented the incandescent lamp.
1931: Cheerwine inventor Lewis D. Peeler died in Salisbury.
1945: Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps.
1961: A fire in the Apollo 1 command capsule killed astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.
1993: Richmond County resident Andre the Giant died. (He retired to a ranch in Ellerbe.)
One Year Ago
Top Google Search rising queries, Raleigh-Durham MSA, Jan. 27. 2020:
Grammy Winners 2020: The Grammys were held the night before.
PowerSchool: An app that tracks North Carolina students’ grades, schedules, and contact info.
iReady: An instruction program that helps teachers determine on-grade proficiency.
+TODAY’S TOP 6
1. Biden Halts Fossil Fuel Leases
New research published Monday shows that the planet loses 1.2 trillion tons a sea ice a year, a catastrophic amount, and an increase of more than 60% since the 1990s.
“The [study] finds that the current ice losses, which are accelerating quickly, are on pace with the worst scenarios for sea-level rise put out by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).” (WaPo)
A second, NASA-backed study found that at least 74 major glaciers on the Greenland ice sheet have been severely weakened.
Melting ice = rising oceans = drowning cities.
With that as prologue: Today, President Biden will pause new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, though the moratorium won’t affect existing leases or coal mining leases.
“Fossil fuel leasing on federal and tribal land accounts for nearly a quarter of the country’s annual carbon output. The drilling program also generated $11.7 billion in tax revenue for the federal, state, local, and tribal governments last year.” (WaPo)
Environmental groups want Biden to reverse President Trump’s plan to open nearly all U.S. coastal waters to drilling, as well as to permanently end leasing and permitting on federal land.
Do you remember when, after Republicans lost the midterms, Sen. Thom Tillis penned an op-ed denouncing Trump’s use of an emergency to redirect funds to his border wall? Tillis reasoned:
“Republicans need to realize that this will lead inevitably to regret when a Democrat once again controls the White House, cites the precedent set by Trump, and declares his or her own national emergency to advance a policy that couldn’t gain congressional approval.”
“Conservatives should … be thinking about whether they would accept the prospect of a President Bernie Sanders declaring a national emergency to implement parts of the radical Green New Deal.”
Tillis may have backflipped like an Olympic gymnast, but he was on to something. After all, unlike Trump’s white nationalist fever dream, climate change is a real, honest-to-God emergency. And on Rachel Maddow’s program Monday, Chuck Schumer said Biden should go for it.
—> OTHER BIDEN NEWS
For a guy who’s yet to sign a bill into law, Joe Biden’s had a busy first week. Yesterday brought another flurry of executive actions:
The DOJ will end contracts with private prisons. (CNBC)
HUD will reinstate a 2013 rule that bars the housing industry from using practices that have disparate impacts on minorities. (WaPo)
The federal government will reaffirm its “commitment to tribal sovereignty and consultation.” Biden also signed a memorandum aimed at combating xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. (NPR)
Tomorrow, Biden will reopen the ACA exchanges for several months and reverse a Trump policy that erected barriers to Medicaid. (WaPo)
Biden’s initial approval rating, depending on the pollster, is either 63% or 56%. Trump never got near those numbers. (The Hill, Morning Consult/Twitter)
On the other hand: A federal judge stayed Biden’s 100-day deportation moratorium. (WaPo)
2. Dear Leader Still Rules the GOP
On Monday, House managers delivered an article of impeachment to the Senate, kickstarting a process that will lead to Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial on Feb. 9, a month after the Jan. 6 insurrection he fomented. On Tuesday, 45 Republican senators voted against holding the trial, making it highly unlikely he’ll be convicted.
The delay gave Republicans — especially those with presidential ambitions who want to court Trump’s voters — time to work out a defense. The theme was that trying an ex-president — like, just because he tried to stage a coup — will be too divisive. (NYT)
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc.: “I can’t think of something more divisive and unhealing than doing an impeachment trial when the president is already gone.”
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla.: “This impeachment is nothing more than political theater.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.: “Waste of time impeachment isn’t about accountability. It’s about demands from [sic] vengeance from the radical left.”
(This is my favorite.)
Former Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley to Fox News, Monday: “I mean, at some point, I mean, give the man a break. I mean, move on.”
Former Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley to the Republican National Committee, Jan. 7: “President Trump has not always chosen the right words. He was wrong with his words in Charlottesville, and I told him so at the time. He was badly wrong with his words yesterday. And it wasn’t just his words. His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.”
—> CULTS HAVE CONSEQUENCES
Trump no longer has a Twitter feed. But he’s still the GOP’s dominating presence, and he’s reshaped the party in his image. In Oregon, Hawaii, and Arizona, Trumpification has taken the party over the deep end.
The Hawaii GOP defended QAnon adherents as misguided patriots. (WaPo)
The Oregon GOP passed a resolution condemning the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. The resolution called the attack on the Capitol a “false flag” event akin to the Reichstag fire.
The Arizona GOP not only censured John McCain’s widow, the current Republican governor, and a former Republican senator, but it also re-elected a Trump-backed chair with a long history of losing. The AZGOP has lost two straight Senate races.
Trump’s effort to keep his stamp on Republican politics could have profound consequences on the party’s efforts to reclaim the Senate next year.
Six races will determine control: Ohio, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.
Ohio: Earlier this week, Rob Portman announced that he wouldn’t seek another term. Trump ally Jim Jordan seems an early favorite in what will probably be a crowded primary.
Arizona: Term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey, just censured by the AZGOP for certifying the state’s election results, says he’s not interested in challenging Mark Kelly. If he doesn’t change his mind, the party has few top-tier contenders.
Georgia: If Trumpy U.S. Rep. Doug Collins doesn’t primary Trump enemy Gov. Brain Kemp — another apostate who certified an election — he’ll probably challenge Raphael Warnock. But Collins might get a headache of a primary from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-QAnon.
Pennsylvania: Two Trump-aligned candidates — Reps. Mike Kelly and Scott Perry, the latter prominent in the DOJ attempt to overturn the election — will likely seek to replace the retiring Pat Toomey. If either wins the primary, bet on the Democrat.
Wisconsin: Trump suckup Ron Johnson may or may not seek reelection in a state Biden won and where Democrats have a solid bench. Without Trump on the ballot, he’ll need a red wave.
North Carolina: There’s talk that Lara Trump will run, but she appears to be having second thoughts. Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker is already in. Trump bros Ted Budd, Dan Forest, and Dan Bishop have expressed interest — not the best general election candidates — as has former Gov. Pat McCrory.
Bonus: In Florida, Ivanka Trump apparently won’t primary Marco Rubio.
—> OTHER TRUMPLANDIA NEWS
Kellyanne Conway’s 16-year-old daughter accused her of posting a topless pic of her on Twitter: “Kellyanne, you’re going to fucking jail.” (Variety)
The My Pillow guy has been banned from Twitter. (AP)
3. Jeff Jackson Is In
Erica Smith didn’t even get the Democratic primary to herself for a week. On Tuesday, as expected, state Sen. Jeff Jackson announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate.
Jackson is an army reservist, a four-term legislator, an effective social media user, and a former prosecutor.
He’s on record having told Chuck Schumer to piss off two years ago when Schumer told him a Senate bid would mean constant fundraising rather than hosting town halls around the state.
This time, he says he will hold town halls in all 100 counties. After the Cal Cunningham debacle, Schumer’s probably not in a position to argue.
He’ll raise a ton of money.
The NCGOP — which, keep in mind, supported Donald Trump — labeled Jackson an “unaccomplished twitter troll.”
Jackson says he can keep it in his pants.
See Jackson’s announcement video here.
Nothing against Jackson, but this feels accurate:
—> OTHER NCPOL NEWS
Bo Hines, once a wide receiver at NC State, will challenge Virginia Foxx (assuming she runs) in the Republican primary for the 5th District. He’s a 25-year-old law student. (Gaston Gazette, Twitter)
North Carolina voters can no longer register as members of the Green or Constitution Parties, as neither garnered enough votes in November. (N&O)
4. Durham Gets a Mass Vaccination Site
The state and Fidelity Investments are finalizing details for a mass vaccination site in Durham that could innoculate 17,000 people per week. The site’s placement comes at the request of DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.
Former Greensboro News & Record editor John Robinson raises an interesting point about that:
Meanwhile, Cohen apologized to hospitals and counties for changes in the way the state was distributing the vaccine that had left some of them with less supply than they expected.
Orange County hasn’t received new first-dose allotments for three weeks. (Chapelboro)
The White House told governors to expect a 16% increase in vaccine supply next week. It is also seeking to purchase 200 million more doses through the summer.
—> OTHER COVID NEWS
SHOT: The CDC says there’s little evidence that COVID spreads in schools that have precautions in place. (WaPo)
CHASER: Wake’s school system is working on virtual options for the fall for students who want one. (N&O)
Whites are getting vaccinated at twice the rate of Blacks and Latinos. (W-S Journal)
Trust in the federal government’s COVID response has surged since Biden took office. (Axios)
Scientists believe a new drug called Aplidin — derived from a rare sea squirt found only in the waters around Ibiza — will be a more effective COVID treatment than Remdesivir. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
5. N&O Settles SBI Defamation Suit
The N&O has settled a decade-old defamation lawsuit with SBI agent Beth Desmond for an undisclosed sum. The case stems from a 2010 investigative series that looked into the State Bureau of Investigation and alleged that Desmond, a ballistics expert, might have gotten a murder case wrong.
Desmond was awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages and $7.5 million in punitive damages, which state law reduced to $4.5 million.
Last year, the state Supreme Court upheld the verdict but ruled that jury instructions in the punitive damages phase were incorrect. Read the decision here.
The underlying legal issue is “actual malice.” Basically, if you’re a public official — Desmond is — you have to prove not only that a story is wrong but that the publication knew it was wrong or acted recklessly. The courts found that the N&O and reporter Mandy Locke did.
Disclosure: I know Mandy. I think the world of her. It’s impossible for me to imagine her publishing something she knew was incorrect to sensationalize a story. I suppose I’m biased.
—> OTHER MEDIA NEWS
Washington Post editor Marty Barron, who over eight years made the Post the country’s most essential paper, announced that he will retire next month. (CNN)
6. UNC Y Vandalized with Anti-Semitic Symbols, Racist Epithet
This weekend, some jabroni illegally entered UNC’s Campus Y and left anti-Semitic symbols in offices and a racial epithet on a whiteboard. UNC Police have identified a suspect, though the jabroni in question hasn’t been named.
“The Campus Y has been working for social justice as a department in the Division of Student Affairs since the 1970s after the YMCA and YWCA chapters originally joined forces in 1963. Since then, it has served as a hub for student action, addressing issues of integration, free speech, gender equality, workers' rights, world hunger, apartheid, and armed conflict.” (ABC 11)
“The university has seen similar vandalism before. In April 2019, campus police charged two people with vandalism and racial intimidation after they defaced a monument and art exhibit, the N&O reported. They were sentenced to 200 hours of community service and a $500 fine. Later that same year, a campus residence hall was defaced with racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic speech, according to a University statement.” (N&O)
—> OTHER LOCAL NEWS
Durham school employees who got raises when the county boosted its minimum wage to $15 an hour will have those raises made retroactive to July. (N&O)
A Tarboro man has been charged with murdering an unborn child in Nash County after a high-speed chase led to a crash. (WRAL)
North Carolina native Jennifer King is the first Black woman to become an assistant NFL coach. (ABC 11)