Republican attack on the poor

Never again: Lessons need to be learned from Hurricane Matthew

Residents in Lumberton are still suffering from this disaster:

The southern part of Lumberton was one of the hardest hit areas by the Oct. 8 storm, primarily due to widespread flooding from an engorged Lumber River. Dozens of people were stranded and needed to be rescued, while hundreds were forced from their homes. Five shelters were opened for more than 1,800 people. In the days following the hurricane, many residents were trapped because water had flooded major roads in the city cutting them off.

With no electricity, there was virtually no gasoline, water or food for sale. Bottled water and military MREs were distributed to residents from 10 of the county’s 28 fire stations. The city’s water treatment plant flooded, shutting down public water for about two weeks. About a week after the hurricane, officials attributed three deaths in Robeson County to Hurricane Matthew.

Although McCrory started making noises in late October about a Special Session to allocate funds for the disaster, it didn't happen until mid-December. And Republicans promptly added two more sessions to take away power from Governor-elect Roy Cooper after they had dealt with those pesky relief funds. And just to give you an idea how venal and opportunistic they are, here's Tim Moore's announcement on the bill:

The NC GOP's war on the poor continues with more cuts to legal aid

And the yoyo (you're on your own) keeps spinning:

For years, the three leading legal aid groups have received state funds to represent people in civil matters in part through budget earmarks and a small portion of the fees from court filings and criminal cases. Legal aid funds already had been cut by more than half since 2008 to $2.7 million during the last fiscal year. This year the reduction looks deeper and permanent, and the reasons for the cuts remain unclear.

Although the legal aid groups also get funds from other sources, their leaders said in interviews the new state cuts could mean nearly 35 attorneys and staff ultimately will be laid off, resulting in several thousand potential clients unable to get help each year.

Beginning to see a trend here, which may go a long way in answering that "reasons for the cuts" question. With a backdrop of Republican court losses over the last few years, we suddenly see Josh Stein losing dozens of lawyers, the UNC Center for Civil Rights being hamstrung with "no litigation" rules, and now three dozen legal aid lawyers losing their jobs. Not a coincidence, and not just an effort to clear the way for the GOP's business pals. This is pure spite, plain and simple, directed at the legal profession in general. I shouldn't have to do this, but here are some excerpts from the Preamble to the NC Bar's Rules of Professional Conduct:

Mark Meadows: Making government less accountable

meadowsteaparty.jpg

If you don't like the data, get rid of the analysts:

On Monday—the same day the president attacked political rivals in a speech to Boy Scouts and the U.S. Senate prepared to vote on a health care bill that no one had actually seen—Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus and representative of North Carolina's Eleventh Congressional District, proposed his own means of undermining democratic norms.

His big idea: gut the Congressional Budget Office, the agency that has consistently projected that GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare would leave more than twenty million Americans without coverage. In an amendment introduced Monday, Meadows proposed slashing eighty-nine positions from the agency's Budget Analysis Division, a $15 million cut that would effectively abolish the division.

While it may be doubtful this amendment will have any legs, his real motive for it may be even more ominous than the amendment itself: It sends a chilling message to those analysts that their future data and reports need to be more supportive of the majority's policies, or else. These bullying tactics are rooted in the Tea Party movement itself, which relies on fear of retribution to get its way, instead of scholarly debate, which it simply isn't qualified to engage in. And probably more than anyone else, Mark Meadows has capitalized on that formula, vaulting himself into a position of leadership of a caucus he created for that sole purpose. North Carolina in general, and the 11th District in particular, owes an apology to the rest of the nation for sending this petty tyrant to DC.

Mark Meadows: Poster child for ending gerrymandering

We need to build a wall to keep people like him out:

There have been some predictions of a shutdown based on statements from some congressmen that they don’t want to fund a border wall with Mexico as part of a bill to keep the government going, the fear that some conservative House members like Meadows will use the occasion to get concessions on one issue or the other or the possibility of a debate over a ban on funds for Planned Parenthood.

Meadows predicted that Congress will approve funds for a border wall and increases for the military and Department of Homeland Security along with funds to keep the government going and dismissed the idea of a shutdown.

Anti-immigration, anti-abortion, and more money to bomb the shit out of Muslims. When these are your main priorities, you have no business being allowed into the Capitol Building, much less filing bills and voting and such. We've got a lot of work to do.

Richmond County public comment policy unconstitutional, expert says

Hat-tip to Lisa Sorg, who put the "T" in Tenacity:

Reached by email, Jonathan Jones, director of the Open Government Coalition at Elon University, said the county’s policy “clearly violates the First Amendment.”

Under North Carolina law, counties and cities are required allocated time in their meetings for public comment at least monthly. This time is known as a “limited public forum,” said Jones, who is a First Amendment scholar. And in limited public forums, officials can’t single out a category of class or speech to prohibit. “There’s almost no getting around that,” Jones added.

Thank God. I almost thought I was losing my mind, or losing my grasp of Constitutional principles. When I first read that "No comments about items on the Agenda" thing, I went back and re-read it outloud, to see if it sounded less crazy when vocalized. Sounded crazier. In case you're not up to snuff on this, Enviva is building a wood pellet plant in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, and said neighbors have been trying to express their concern and outrage for months:

Environmental Injustice: Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Give us your land, you poor, huddled masses:

In North Carolina, from a compressor station, built somewhere in these woods of Pleasant Hill, the 36-inch diameter pipeline would continue underground. It would braid itself around I-95, cutting through wetlands, rivers and valuable farmland — even near homes — in seven more counties in eastern North Carolina: Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Sampson, Cumberland and Robeson. Through communities of color, including former routes of the Underground Railroad, and Native American tribal lands. Through some of the poorest areas in the state.

Bolding mine, because we continue to engage in the same mistakes of 50-60 years ago, by pushing our dirty industrial operations into the poorest of areas. North Carolina is already in trouble with the Federal government (or was until the Dingus-in-Chief took over) for endangering poor African-American communities with CAFOs, but the toxins and catastrophic fire threats associated with NatGas transmission can turn deadly, in the blink of an eye. While economic factors might make this pipeline route the "path of least resistance," that's when government is supposed to step in and balance the scale for these folks. When we abdicate that most simple of responsibilities, we become (much) less of a democracy and more a corporatocracy. And FERC appears to be irreversibly contaminated with that mentality:

Governor Cooper set to expand Medicaid in NC

And it may be just that simple:

Cooper’s action seems certain to spur howls of protest from Republican lawmakers and conservative advocacy groups that have long derided Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act (aka”Obamacare”) as “socialized medicine.” Four years ago, at the outset of the administration of Cooper’s predecessor, Pat McCrory, North Carolina legislators enacted a law that purports to prevent the Governor from acting unilaterally to expand Medicaid. Cooper, however, believes that he has authority to act in his role as the state official empowered to craft and negotiate the “Medicaid waiver” plan that North Carolina is currently negotiating with federal officials. It is known that McCrory engaged in conversations with the Obama administration on such a possible move.

Wow. If you had asked me about Medicaid expansion a couple days (or hours) ago, I would have said something along the lines of, "It won't happen until we take back the Legislature." Shows what I know. I am liking Roy Cooper more and more every day.

Must read: Chris Fitzsimon's Monday Numbers roundup for 2016

Selfish governing has produced terrible outcomes:

30—number of years since President Ronald Reagan called the EITC “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress” (“Earned Income Tax Credit,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

3—number of years since North Carolina allowed its state EITC to end in 2013 (“States Can Adopt or Expand Earned Income Tax Credits to Build a Stronger Future Economy,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 19, 2016)

The Earned Income Tax Credit is one of those "out of sight, out of mind" issues that don't generate as much interest amongst the general public, but the loss of it has generated a lot of suffering in families on the lower end of the income scale. And taking it away has served to perpetuate poverty, because those dollars had been spent in areas and businesses that desperately needed that currency to keep them hiring. And when those jobs disappear, the next slap in the face is dwindling unemployment benefits:

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