Monday, July 7, 2014 - 11:44am

Feeding the fear-mongering machine:

In May, I released a comprehensive study showing how the Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as Obamacare – will likely play out in North Carolina over the next few years. The diagnosis isn’t good.

First, the short version. In two years, the ACA’s structural problems will lead to substantial premium increases. Once that happens, North Carolinians will likely leave the insurance market in droves. They’ll have little choice – they won’t be able to afford health insurance because federal subsidies won’t keep up with the rapid price increases. Within a decade, this could swell the ranks of the state’s uninsured by 57 percent.

It was either an oversight related to poor vetting on the part of the N&O's editorial staff, or an outright attempt to deceive their readership, but they failed to note this "doctor" was a PhD, as opposed to an MD. I don't usually quibble over that, because I have a lot of respect for PhDs. But when an article is related to medicine, the difference between the two is night and oranges. You don't allow those particular wires to be crossed, even when you're discussing economics. And this cookie-cutter article is appearing in other battleground states as well, proving that politics is behind the propaganda:

628
Sunday, July 6, 2014 - 10:59am

And their disposal is threatening groundwater quality:

“They’re very secretive about how many pigs have died in North Carolina, but we estimate that it’s about two million over the last year or so,” said Rick Dove, a retired Marine Corps lawyer who has taken aerial photos of pig farms for Waterkeeper’s North Carolina affiliate. “They can’t move those pigs off the farm because it will spread disease, so they’re being buried in ground along the coastal waterways where the groundwater level is high.”

The virus does not infect humans. As the corpses decompose, however, they can become hosts for bacteria and other pathogens.

NC's hog farms have long been a source for both air and water quality concerns, and there's been a constant battle between pork industry lobbyists and environmentalists, not to mention the people who live in proximity to these massive operations. And the man NC voters (for some reason) have entrusted with the management of such is once again taking the "do nothing" route to handling the problem:

535
Saturday, July 5, 2014 - 10:21am

A bright light in an otherwise dark environmental state:

In the last few years, the Tar Heel State has quietly become a leader in rolling out solar. The Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA, notes that last year, North Carolina added 335 megawatts of capacity—the third-best tally of any state in the country. With a total of 592 megawatts of solar capacity installed, North Carolina ranks fourth among the 50 states. So far this year, according to SNL Energy, North Carolina ranks second in the number of solar farms under construction, behind only California.

As the industry has gained critical mass, it has also gained clout. The SEIA says $787 million was invested in solar plants in the state last year, and Urlaub says 570 green energy firms in the state employ 18,400 people. That helps explain why in 2013, when Rep. Mike Hager tried to repeal the state’s renewable portfolio standards law, it died in the committee he chaired.

Unfortunately, Mike Hager is only one of several threats to NC's Solar boom. The next big threat is coming from a group that was not elected by the people, and it may be just as devastating as repealing the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards:

468
Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 5:34pm

Born into the British aristocracy, Samuel Johnston was a nephew of a Colonial Governor, and would eventually become a NC Governor in his own right after the War of Independence. But conservative as he was, he remained loyal to the Crown prior to the Rebellion, and dealt with the Regulators and other malcontents harshly:

Samuel Johnston introduced the Riot Bill, and by January 10, 1771, both houses of the Assembly eventually approved it. On January 15, Governor Tryon signed it and legitimated An Act for Preventing Tumultuous and Riotous Assemblies, and for the More Speedy and Effectually Punishing the Rioters, and for Restoring and Preserving the Public Peace of This Province.

It was behavior exactly like this that would eventually propel the colonies into outright war, so it may be hard for those of us who are looking back to understand how somebody like Johnston could not only survive the conflict, but prosper in the wake of it. The answer: he was a lawyer, and a damned smart one, too.

522
Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 11:00am

As many reading this already know, the NC Supreme Court flexed its muscles against Chapel Hill a few days ago, lifting the ban on cell phone use while driving, and modifying the Town's towing restrictions. We'll leave off the cell phone thing for now, and discuss the issue of the Court lifting the cap on towing fees. Which is apparently a personal "liberty" the town was repressing:

Chris Weaver Eroding the power of the municipality...or increasing liberty for the individual....
I'll take the latter, I'll be damned if any municipality should interfere with my business to the point they are regulating my fee...We are not China ...yet

Yes, I made the mistake of engaging in a debate with a Libertarian, an activity that usually produces some comical yet frustrating results. In this case, "liberty" takes the form of somebody latching onto your car and hauling it off to be held for an exorbitant ransom at some undisclosed location. To me, it's glaringly obvious whose "liberty" has been violated, just because they happened to park in the wrong place. But to a Libertarian, there is no excuse:

537
Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 11:21am

Jumping on the meme bandwagon:

“The Obama administration and Kay Hagan have shown a complete lack of willingness to get the bottom of this scandal to determine whether or not Americans were targeted for their political beliefs,” said Tillis. “The IRS’ excuse that it conveniently lost emails that were subpoenaed by Congress is simply outrageous, and yet Kay Hagan continues to provide President Obama with political cover, once again failing to hold him accountable. The American people deserve the truth, and it’s time for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate.”

Speaking of e-mails, Thommy, what about all those back-and-forth communications related to the NC GOP's voter suppression efforts during gerrymandering season? Your IRS accusation has already been proven false after an in-depth perusal of the records, but investigations into the GOP here in NC have been stymied by claims of privilege and immunity. Give up all of those e-mails, and then you can bitch about the IRS.

656
Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 10:47am

Trying to determine which industry shills will sit on a commission:

The proposal, which was released to members of the House environment committee on Tuesday, would move a commission overseeing the cleanup under the oversight of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (under a previous proposal, the commission would have been independent) and grants the governor authority to appoint the chair of the nine-person body.

Notably to Democrats and environmental observers who have complained as the Republican-led legislature has grappled with the coal ash issue, the new proposal doesn’t change the Senate’s requirement that Duke deal with its ponds within 15 years. And it doesn’t specify whom – the utility company or its customers – will pay for the expensive process of removing the coal ash.

I've seen numerous commenters on social media lately opine that if Duke Energy needs to raise its rates to get the coal ash cleaned up, they'd be fine with it. What they don't understand: Duke Energy's quarterly profits are huge, and they would only have to divert a fraction of those profits to clean up their own mess. They could have been doing so all along, but they chose to keep the money or enhance their stock position by giving healthy dividends. That was their choice, not ours, so the responsibility lies squarely on their shoulders.

489
Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - 7:57pm

Putting the health and safety of NC citizens at risk:

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger told WRAL-TV that any budget deal must not only include the Senate’s estimates of Medicaid costs but must also reduce the number of people who are covered by the program. Berger said the Senate wanted “reductions in the welfare spending that is ongoing at the present time.” Medicaid, the health care safety net for the most vulnerable people in North Carolina, is now welfare in Berger’s far-right view of the world.

The budget the Senate passed earlier this session would kick at least 5,200 aged, blind and disabled people off of Medicaid. More than 1,600 of them have Alzheimer’s or dementia and are in special care units, which to Berger must be a new fancy way of saying welfare.

Bolding mine. As the rollout of the ACA has shown, our current level of engagement in Medicaid is going to cost lives for the 500,000 or so folks who fall into the donut hole with no coverage. What Berger is trying to do will amp that number up significantly, costing even more lives. He's been out of control for some time, but now he's endangering people. Taking back the Senate is not just a political goal for the Democratic Party, it's a moral imperative.

631
Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - 9:24am

Be careful what you ask for:

David, I'd say this sums up my reaction:

428