2018 at a glance: Florence flooding and Blue Wave cleansing

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Kirk Ross rounds-up a chaotic year:

Although this year started with a continued focus on the GenX story that broke the year before, the two biggest news events of 2018 came much later in the year. On Sept. 14, Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach and began its slow, devastating journey through the state and into the history books as North Carolina’s worst natural disaster.

Seven weeks later, in a usually sleepy blue moon election cycle, voters turned out in record numbers to unseat enough GOP incumbents in the state House and Senate to end supermajorities in both chambers. The consequences of those two events at the end of the year will drive the public policy debates in the year ahead.

Since this is New Year's Eve, and Democrats have earned the power to help sustain Vetoes by Governor Cooper, it's as good a time as any for them to resolve to do just that. While I do believe Senate and House Dems need to use their influence to "temper" the Legislation put forward from their respective bodies, it is equally important they not allow that activity to undermine efforts by the Governor to also temper that Legislation. Just because you voted for a bill, possibly because you were concerned it would get worse after being tweaked, it doesn't automatically follow you are bound by that prior vote if said bill is Vetoed. You won't be labeled a hypocrite if you sustain a Veto; not by anybody that matters, anyway. And make no mistake, the #1 goal of BergerMoore going forward will be to divide and conquer Democrats. The last thing the Governor needs is a handful of Dems ready to cross the aisle and block his attempts to govern, because he's been fighting to retain that authority during every session:

Monday News: Now that's paternalism

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GOP FIGHTS BACK AGAINST EVIL SOY AND ALMOND MILK: Jan. 1 sets the clock ticking on the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to come up with an enforcement plan “to prohibit the sale of plant-based products mislabeled as milk, such as soy milk and almond milk.” But don’t expect immediate action. The legislation gives the agriculture department a 90-day window to put its plan in motion, but that deadline will be triggered once 11 states — out of a list of 14 — pass similar laws. Republican lawmakers said the provision, part of the 2018 Farm Bill, was an effort to enforce longstanding federal law and ensure that consumers are not confused by product labeling, The News & Observer has reported. Lawmakers also noted that dairy farmers recently have been forced to sell milk at below-production costs.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article223740550.html

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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STATE HEALTH PLAN CUTS WOULD HURT RURAL CARE: Recently, State Treasurer Dale Folwell made a series of remarks regarding the State Health Plan, as he reviews options for covering the cost of health insurance for state employees. His solution would be to enforce massive cuts — to the tune of $400 million — to health systems and hospitals across North Carolina. While the treasurer talks about the “average” impact these cuts would have across the state, it’s important to note that rural communities are not average. The treasurer’s proposal would have a disproportionate impact on these communities, including eastern North Carolina. North Carolina has the second largest rural population in the United States with over 3 million people living in rural communities. Communities that also have lower incomes, lower job growth, higher poverty rates and higher health disparities with higher mortality than urban communities. Communities that need access to quality care—care which would be limited should the treasurer’s proposal go through.
https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/article223371290.html

Notes from the Kakistocracy: Mercury rules on the chopping block

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Andrew Wheeler is about to score a big one for his coal buddies:

Reworking the mercury rule, which the E.P.A. considers the priciest clean-air regulation ever put forth in terms of annual cost to industry, would represent a victory for the coal industry and in particular for Robert E. Murray, an important former client of Mr. Wheeler’s from his days as a lobbyist. Mr. Murray, the chief executive of Murray Energy Corporation, personally requested the rollback of the mercury rule soon after Mr. Trump took office.

In a statement on Friday, Hal Quinn, president of the National Mining Association, praised the new rule, calling the mercury limits “perhaps the largest regulatory accounting fraud perpetrated on American consumers.”

Mercury is a pretty nasty neurotoxin in its elemental (particulate) form, and it's persistent; you just can't burn coal hot enough to get rid of it. But that danger pales in comparison to what happens when elemental mercury drains into or settles upon a body of water. It bonds with microorganisms and becomes motile; it comes to life in the form of methyl mercury. And when consumed by any larger organism (from fish to people), it can no longer be filtered out, so it bio-accumulates. And it becomes selective in its eating patterns, much preferring the soft neural tissues of a developing fetus. Placental barriers mean next to nothing to this creature, and that's why it's incredibly important that man-made barriers be kept in place:

Saturday News: It's the fraud, stupid

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NC GOP CALLS FOR HARRIS TO BE SEATED, STENY HOYER SAYS "NOPE": "The investigation as indicated by this particular board of elections is over," said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party. "There might be – and we hope there are – continuing to be criminal investigations for anybody that's done anything, but this board has failed to act. They have now expired. Mr. Harris should be seated." The stakes of the showdown and the chaos surrounding the 9th District race have been ratcheted up as the Jan. 3 date for the new Congress to be seated approaches. Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer, the incoming U.S. House majority leader, said Democrats won't seat Harris until the investigation is resolved. "In this instance, the integrity of our democratic process outweighs concerns about the seat being vacant at the start of the new Congress," Hoyer said in a statement to The Washington Post.
https://www.wral.com/gop-wants-winner-declared-in-9th-district-fights-plan-for-temporary-elections-b...

The anatomy of a demagogue: Mark Meadows loves shutting down the government

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And he loves to speak for others without their consent:

Meadows had already been calling for the president not to go along with an appropriations bill without wall funding. When Trump was on the verge of signing the bill, Meadows was part of the conservative backlash that, according to many accounts, persuaded Trump to instead allow large parts of the government to go dark.

"We are going to back up the president," Meadows told the House. "If he vetoes this bill, we will be there. But, more importantly, the American people will be there. They will be there to support him. Let's build the wall and make sure that we do our job in Congress."

As you can see from the chain of events, Meadows actually "backed down" the President instead of backing him up. But just as he did five years ago, he's positioning himself to both take the credit for the government shutdown, while also avoiding the bulk of any backlash that may result. Meadows is a bully, but he's a particularly nasty version of a bully: The one who instigates fights between others so he can sit back and watch. He also isn't representing the wishes of the American people, because the majority don't want the border wall or the government shutdown:

Friday News: And then there were none

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COURT RULES NC ELECTIONS BOARD BE DISSOLVED TODAY: The North Carolina board investigating allegations of ballot fraud in a still-unresolved congressional race could be disbanded Friday under a state court ruling in a protracted legal battle about how the panel operates. A three-judge state court panel ruled Thursday to allow the state Board of Elections to dissolve at noon Friday, ahead of a scheduled Jan. 11 evidentiary hearing into the 9th district congressional race. It's not clear when a new election board could be put in place if the ruling stands. The court previously found the board's makeup unconstitutional in a protracted legal battle launched when the Republican-controlled legislature altered the board in 2016 in a power struggle with the Democratic governor. The court had ruled earlier this year to allow the board to remain in place until Friday while it investigates the congressional race. The latest ruling came just after lawmakers enacted a new law to largely restore the board to how it operated before 2016.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/nation-world/national/article223661035.html

Soldiers and slumlords: The privatization of U.S. military housing

Profiting from the misery of service members and their families:

The Corvias homes are among 206,000 now under private management in the 22-year-old U.S. Military Housing Privatization Initiative, the largest-ever corporate takeover of federal housing. The military says the effort has enhanced the lives of service members and their families.

Some of Corvias' tenants strongly disagree. They accuse Picerne's company of renting them poorly maintained homes riddled with health hazards that can trigger illness or childhood developmental delays.

Some background: In the late 80's & early 90's, defense budgeting overall continued to increase, but that was more about high-ticket items like fighter jets and such. The budget allotments for housing and other personnel-related issues suffered, and base housing deteriorated. In 1996 Republicans took over both the US Senate and the House, and (of course) their solution for this problem was to privatize military housing. And since the only rents that could be collected from troops had to match the BAH (Basic Allotment for Housing) rates, it was inevitable the quality would suffer:

Thursday News: Abusing public trust

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FORMER BUNCOMBE OFFICIAL PLEADS GUILTY TO FRAUD & CONSPIRACY: The Asheville Citizen-Times reports the plea by former Buncombe County assistant manager Mandy Stone was part of a deal in which she agreed to assist a federal county corruption probe. The deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office was reached last week, and a judge is set to rule Wednesday on whether to accept the deal. Stone's plea means she admits to conspiring with former county staffers Jon Creighton and Michael Greene, both of whom have pleaded guilty. Greene's mother and former county manager Wanda Greene has pleaded not guilty to charges in the scheme. Prosecutors say they took bribes from Georgia-based contractor Joe Wiseman, who hasn't been charged.
https://www.wral.com/ex-north-carolina-official-pleads-guilty-to-fraud-conspiracy/18088123/

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