Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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COURTS, AGAIN. REMIND GOP LEGISLATORS OF THEIR PLACE: It is unconstitutional to just willy-nilly cancel elections, a federal court ruled Wednesday, for state Court of Appeals judges and Supreme Court justices. "The defendants have made no showing of any governmental interest,” was how U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles put it. It is the definition of disingenuousness to say, as legislative leaders did, that Eagles was “once again injecting chaos and confusion into North Carolina elections at the eleventh hour." Or further that her decision was politically motivated because she’d been appointed to her post by a Democratic president. It is the legislature’s obsessive and unceasing efforts at electoral manipulation that’s brought tumult and uncertainty just days before North Carolina candidates are set to file for office in the 2018 elections. North Carolina taxpayers have been forced to waste millions of dollars paying lawyers – including Thomas Farr, whose nomination to a federal District Court judgeship has been embroiled in allegations of racism and voter intimidation – to use the courts to delay and stall. This has been going on since 2012. It is past time to bring it to an end.
http://www.wral.com/editorial-courts-again-remind-gop-legislators-of-their-proper-place/17307433/

Saturday News: Nothingburger

CONTROVERSIAL GOP MEMO FALLS FLAT ON ITS FACE: For one thing, Democrats say, it's misleading to say a judge was not told of the potential political motivations of the people paying for Steele's research. Beyond that, though, the memo confirms the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign began in July 2016 — months before the surveillance warrant was even sought — and was "triggered" by information concerning a different campaign aide, George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with Mueller's investigation. The timing makes clear that other Trump associates beyond Page, who was part of the election effort for only a short period and was not in the president's inner orbit, had generated law enforcement scrutiny. The memo also omits that Page had been on the FBI's radar just a few years earlier as part of a separate counterintelligence investigation into Russian influence.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/national-politics/article198227959.html

The magic number is five: Precinct organizing begins Monday

Regardless of how top-heavy it may seem, the North Carolina Democratic Party is structured from the ground up. Voting precincts are apportioned by population, and there are several thousand scattered across the state. Your precinct is named (and coded) on your voter registration card, and it can also be found by doing a NCSBE Voter Search (Even if you already know this information, you should periodically do the online search, just to make sure your registration is still active).

As referenced in the title, a precinct must have at least five (5) members to be considered "organized." If you have never taken part, that qualification may seem easily achieved. It is not. It takes communication and coordination, and sometimes desperation, just to get that many folks from each precinct to the organization meeting. And it's not uncommon for several precincts in a county to fall short, leaving a whole lot of Democrats with no (official) vote in how the Party operates. From the NCDP Plan Of Organization:

* Editor's note: BlueNC is not affiliated with the North Carolina Democratic Party or any of its committees or divisions, but many of our readers are, or are strong supporters.

Friday News: Repeat offenders

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CHEMOURS LEAKS MORE GENX, NC SENATE REFUSES TO PROPERLY FUND DEQ: Tests by Chemours in mid-December found levels of GenX nearly 20 times higher than the state's health limit of 140 parts per trillion in a water outflow near the company's Fayetteville Works plant. Cassie Gavin, director of government relations for the North Carolina Sierra Club, said GenX and other emerging contaminants are a problem the state will be dealing with for a long time. "I think we're going to continue to see these problems over and over again, and that's why the state really needs to have a concerted effort to deal with it going forward, to deal with emerging contaminants like GenX and like other chemicals," Gavin said. The recent spike is the latest indication that state lawmakers need to restore some of the staff cuts made to DEQ, she said. State House lawmakers unanimously passed a measure three weeks ago to give DEQ $2.9 million in additional funding to respond to GenX contamination, but Senate leaders have so far refused to consider it, saying they believe DEQ can handle the issue with current resources.
http://www.wral.com/deq-investigating-spike-in-genx-near-chemical-plant/17306856/

Tillis and Trump

I’ve never had much use for Richard Burr or Thom Tillis. Burr is a slacker frat boy, with literally nothing to show for his many years in Congress. Tillis, on the other hand, spends most of his time coddling and covering the many crimes of Donald Trump. Both are guilty of failing to uphold their oaths of office.

Russia's top spy chiefs meet with US officials days before sanctions (were supposed to be) enforced

Sanctions? We're not worried about any stinking sanctions:

Russia's U.S. ambassador said Sergei Naryshkin, head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, was in the United States to discuss counterterrorism with his American counterparts. Naryshkin was accompanied at the meeting in Washington by Alexander Bortnikov, who directs the top KGB successor agency known as the Federal Security Service.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the timing of the meeting is suspicious because it came just days before the Trump administration decided not to issue new sanctions against Russian politicians and oligarchs over Russian interference in the election. He released a letter early Thursday demanding that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats disclose details of the meeting by Feb. 9. Schumer said sanctions against Naryshkin impose severe financial penalties and prohibit his entry into the U.S. without a waiver.

Allowing these two (supposedly) sanctioned Russian spies into the country, not to mention meeting with them, is a message on its own. But what was discussed/conveyed at this meeting is of critical importance, as Schumer said. Keep in mind, even if Trump wasn't immediately informed of the proceedings (I'm sure he was), he gets a daily intelligence briefing after he finishes his cranky Twitter ablutions and crawls out of bed. We'll let Vladimir Putin fill in the missing information in his own words:

Thursday News: Partial victory

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JUDGE OVERRULES GOP, REINSTATES PRIMARIES IN STATE-WIDE JUDICIAL RACES: U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles issued an order on Wednesday that, in part, grants a request by Democratic Party officials who sued state lawmakers for canceling primary elections for all judicial races in 2018 – from the district courts to the state’s highest court. At a hearing last week, attorneys for the Democrats argued that the Republican-led General Assembly violated the party’s free speech and equal protection rights by doing away with the election that would have allowed the winnowing of candidates for the general election. Without primaries, ballots in judicial races could have many names on them. A candidate with just 30 percent of the vote could become a judge, according to changes in the law adopted in October. That, Democrats contended in a lawsuit filed late last year, makes it difficult for the party to put forward its best candidate.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article19...

Coal Ash Wednesday: Fact-checking Trump's "Clean Coal" nonsense

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Proving my decision to not watch this trainwreck was a wise one:

TRUMP: "We have ended the war on beautiful clean coal."

THE FACTS: Coal is not clean. According to the Energy Department, more than 83 percent of all major air pollutants — sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, toxic mercury and dangerous soot particles — from power plants are from coal, even though coal makes up only 43 percent of the power generation. Power plants are the No. 1 source of those pollutants. Coal produces nearly twice as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide per energy created as natural gas, the department says. In 2011, coal burning emitted more than 6 million tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides versus 430,000 tons from other energy sources combined.

I don't expect an answer to the following question, because logic dictates there can't be one, but: WTF does "beautiful" have to do with coal? I consider myself an artist of sorts, and I've done numerous charcoal sketches. But I've never finished a drawing, looked at my darkened fingertips and said, "Beautiful." It's just not a word that anybody would automatically associate with coal, is what I'm saying. Until now.

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