Let's give Richard Burr the respect he deserves

When Richard Burr takes over as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee next year, a quintessential oxymoron will step into the spotlight, showcasing North Carolina once again as a state filled with idiots and assholes. Mr. Burr, who famously created his own run on banks at the height of the financial crisis, continues to embarrass us all with every utterance he makes. His comments yesterday about torture and the war crimes of George W. Bush leave no doubt about his loyalties.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said the report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the CIA’s use of torture released Tuesday “only endangers our officers and allies in a blatant attempt to smear the Bush administration.” The Republican U.S. senator from Winston-Salem will become chairman of the Intelligence Committee in January. He said on Tuesday that he would not hold hearings on the report.

“I just don’t know what you would accomplish with hearings,” he said in an interview. Asked if he saw any kind of follow-up, Burr said, “No. Put this report down as a footnote in history.”

As a veteran and former special operations officer in the US Navy, I find Mr. Burr's cavalier observations about CIA torture practices mind-boggling. This is not about smearing anybody, this is about integrity, which is definitely not Mr. Burr's strong suit. If we can't count on the United States Senate to exercise is authority to hold the executive branch accountable for proven war crimes, we are well and truly screwed.

So yeah, let's show Mr. Burr the respect he deserves. Exactly none.

PS Rob Schofield has a slightly more gentle take on Burr's outrageous statements.

Daily dose: Conflicts of interest version

State Ethics Commission belatedly completes review of NC fracking board (Raleigh News & Observer) -- More than two years into the task of writing the state’s fracking standards, all but two of the members of the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission have been flagged for a potential conflict of interest. Chairman Vikram Rao received the 14 ethics evaluations from the State Ethics Commission last month and disclosed them Friday at the Mining and Energy Commission’s regular monthly meeting in Raleigh. … The lifespan of the Mining and Energy Commission has almost run its course. Under a state law passed this summer, the board is scheduled to dissolve on July 31 and will be replaced by a new Oil and Gas Commission to handle fracking permit reviews, variances, trade secrets and other requests. When asked about the belated evaluations, which were issued Oct. 23, the State Ethics Commission’s executive director, Perry Newson, said the ethics commission is working on thousands of evaluations with limited staff. “Frankly, I did not know that the MEC was going out of business soon,” Newson said. “That was a surprise to me.”

Editor's note: No shit, Sherlock. We've been discussing the MEC's conflicts of interest since they were empaneled. Massive fail.

Freedom of Religion

Today is the anniversary of the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, passed January 6th, in 1786. The Statute was the precursor of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Remember this the next time you hear the founding of America was based on Christianity. It was not.

Rush Limbaugh once shared 1 radio station with UNC; today it's 8

Rush Limbaugh in all his glory

On March 23, 2012, the newsobserver.com published an article about Rush Limbaugh and WRDU, the UNC station at that time.

BlueNC.org co-founder James Protzman, who had been outspoken in his criticism of the university’s connection to Rush Radio said, “UNC’s response is more than I’d hoped for, but less than it should have been.”

On campus rape and media missteps

Those poor, misunderstood frat boys:

By Friday afternoon, a Washington Post investigation found discrepancies in the accuser’s story. There was apparently no party at the fraternity on the night in question, and officials close to the fraternity say no members of their fraternity match the name or other details of the attacker that the accuser provided to Rolling Stone or the Washington Post.

There are a lot of victims here. First, perhaps, are the accused, including the student said to be the main attacker, whose identity was known by many on campus. The fraternity named in the Rolling Stone story also has endured weeks of what seems to be misplaced scorn.

Bolding mine. Just typing that sentence should have jogged something in the editorialist's supposedly "questioning" mind, but apparently there was no thinking scheduled for the night this was written. As for this new set of victims, here's a little personal anecdote that may shed some light on my opinion:

Daily dose: 60 Minutes edition

The Spill at Dan River (60 Minutes-CBS News) -- Every year coal-burning power plants generate not only electricity, but a staggering amount of leftover coal ash that contains heavy metals unhealthy to humans. Yet due in part to intense industry lobbying, there are no federal regulations on its disposal. It's left to the states to oversee some of the most powerful utility companies in the country. So coal ash is often just dumped into giant pits that are dug by rivers and lakes, where toxins can leach into nearby water and soil. There are over 1,000 ash pits or ponds dotting the nation, many of them old, poorly monitored, all but forgotten. But every few years we are reminded that the status quo can lead to disaster --like the coal ash spill this past February into North Carolina's Dan River at a power plant owned by Duke Energy, the biggest utility company in the country. The spill at Dan River happened when a drainage pipe that ran underneath an ash basin and dam, collapsed, sucking out six decades of waste and spewing gunk directly into the river. … LESLEY STAHL: So that first report urging Duke to watch that pipe was 30 years ago. But there were others: 1996, 2001, 2006, advising you to keep watching that pipe, over and over. 2009, the EPA warned about the pipe. LYNN GOOD: Most of those-- LESLEY STAHL: How could you neglect those? … Duke closed the Dan River plant in 2012 - and that perplexed the governor. PAT MCCRORY: When I heard about the Dan River plant having a coal ash spill, my first reaction was, "Wait a minute. That plant's been closed for years. Why are we having a spill at a plant that's not even opened?" … Just this year Gov. McCrory cut the budget and staff of the specific department that inspects the ash ponds. The state legislature did pass a law in August, requiring Duke to clean up its plants, but only after the company had already volunteered to do that. Earlier, when Holleman tried to sue Duke, he was thwarted by the state which stepped in and negotiated a settlement that allowed Duke -- you guessed it -- more time to study, and imposed only a paltry fine. LESLEY STAHL: Tell everybody how much the fine was. PAT MCCRORY: I don't have that list, but again-- LESLEY STAHL: It was $99,111--

No jail likely for South Carolina Internet gambling kingpins

Just like banksters, if you steal enough money, you earn your get out of jail free card:

A forensic analysis by agents with the U.S. Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service estimated that over the years Mosley's operations yielded proceeds totaling more than $242 million. Mosely and Caldwell used some of the gambling money to buy secluded lakefront homes in South Carolina, as well as planes, and luxury cars, including a Maserati, documents said.

As part of their plea agreements, Mosely and Caldwell agreed to forfeit $20 million and to cease Frontier's operations in South Carolina. Federal prosecutors, though, allowed them to keep their homes, cars and other property in exchange for the guilty pleas. Mosley will also forfeit hundreds of video poker machines.

And yet, if some teenager is caught with a $15 bag of pot in his car, or even just a roach in his ashtray, there's a good chance that car will be confiscated and sold at a police auction. The dissonance in our criminal justice system is astounding.

Daily dose: Remembering Pearl Harbor

'...A Date Which Will Live in Infamy' (Southern Pines Pilot) -- On this, the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, we bring you this special essay from Pinehurst resident R.S. “Swede” Boreen. Boreen was a sailor aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. I reported for duty to the Battleship U.S.S. Oklahoma (BB-37) on 17 December, 1938 and served in her until that fateful day 73 years ago, a day that will live in infamy, and the day that changed not only the course of history but the course of so many of our lives.

Pearl Harbor memories live for survivor (Fayetteville Observer) -- Now 95, Edd Clay is one of the few survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.


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