Thursday News: Go back to Kansas, Toto


TRUMP DISBANDS KRIS KOBACH'S "VOTER FRAUD" COMMISSION AFTER PUSHBACK FROM STATES: President Donald Trump has dissolved a commission intended to investigate voter fraud after a massive data request by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach led to a backlash from state officials across the political spectrum. The White House announced the dissolution of the panel late Wednesday, citing resistance from states about complying with the commission. Kobach, the commission’s vice chairman, had sought personal information on every voter in the nation in June, a massive data request that spurred multiple lawsuits and backlash from state officials from across the political spectrum. Many states had refused to comply with the request, citing privacy concerns, and even Kansas could not legally provide the commission with partial Social Security numbers as Kobach requested.

And they shall be ruled by a Conspiracy Theorist


This man is not fit to be President of a homeowner's association:

President Donald Trump accused the Justice Department Tuesday of being part of the “deep state” and urged prosecution against a top aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey. Trump’s latest tweets pressed familiar arguments for the president, who is set to begin his first full year in office with the victory of tax legislation but the Russia investigation still hanging over his administration.

“Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents,” Trump tweeted in an apparent reference to a report by the conservative Daily Caller. “Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others,” he added.

This "Deep State" thing has, for several years, been the clarion call of some of the most dangerous right-wing extremist groups. What Trump doesn't understand (because he's an idiot) is the true nature of the meme: The bureaucracy is a product of the Executive Branch, so Trump is really complaining about his own inability to control what he's supposed to be in charge of. It's a false meme of course, because the vast majority of Federal government employees operate under Constitutional Statutory guidance, but the ignorant love to create monsters out of thin air. Now we're going to switch to an article that explores some of the challenges Democratic Congressional candidates will likely face in the run up to November:

Wednesday News: Attacking the Constitution


REPUBLICAN LEADERS IN NC TAKE AIM AT DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED JUDGES: In separate interviews broadcast last week on Spectrum News’ “Capital Tonight,” Republican legislative leaders Berger and Moore said they could take action on constitutional amendments, GenX river contamination, Gov. Roy Cooper’s appointments to state boards, possible budget tweaks and judicial redistricting proposals. Polling from the conservative Civitas Institute in October found that 66 percent of people polled oppose a constitutional amendment that would end judicial elections and instead allow for judges to be appointed by government officials. Only 25 percent supported such an amendment. Moore told Spectrum that he doesn’t think merit selection has enough support yet to get the three-fifths majority vote required to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, but he said he’d support a system in which the legislature appoints judges – “if the process is set up the right way, with input from the local communities. ... It works in Virginia, it works in South Carolina.”

Tuesday News: Grifter-In-Chief


FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS HELP TRUMP'S BUSINESSES ABROAD SUCCEED: In Indonesia, a local government plans to build a road to shorten the drive between the main airport on the island of Bali and the new high-end Trump resort and golf course. In Panama, the country’s federal government intervened to ensure a sewer system around a 70-story Trump skyscraper shaped like a sail in Panama City would be completed. And in other countries, governments have donated public land, approved permits and eased environmental regulations for Trump-branded developments, creating a slew of potential conflicts as foreign leaders make investments that can be seen as gifts or attempts to gain access to the American president through his sprawling business empire. “If you have a foreign government providing a benefit to the Trump company that is going to violate emoluments clause of the Constitution,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Monday News: The year to stand up


POOR PEOPLE'S CAMPAIGN SETS OUT GOALS FOR 2018: The NAACP teamed up with the Poor People’s Campaign at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church to ring in the new year Sunday night with a renewed sense of passion for long-standing issues on their agenda. Watch Night service is an African-American tradition that has been around for over 100 years, but a mix of people attended Sunday night’s service. The Poor People’s Campaign viewed the service as a fresh call to action. The goal was to highlight issues the organization has always focused on, including poverty, racism, environmental destruction and other controversial topics. The organization also called for everyone in attendance to renew their commitment to the cause. “In every age, people have to decide to stand up just like they did on the first Watch Night. They had to say ‘we’re going to stand up and take on the system of slavery.’ We have to stand up and take on the systems of oppression. We do not have the luxury of sitting down,” said Rev. William Barber.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


UNC BOARD'S IDEOLOGICAL BIAS EXPOSED IN COURTING PRINCETON'S CONSERVATIVE CENTER: It is of questionable wisdom, not to mention fairness, for the UNC Board to complain of ideological bias and close some campus-based centers while at the same time actively courting another, clearly ideological center. Does anybody on the board worry about this inconsistency? It is particularly troubling to consider that such a center might be publicly funded or carry the endorsement of the state. As it is imagined now, it is not the place to spend the taxpayers, tuition or student-fee dollars. This board is acting with the kind of fiat that we’re used to seeing from the General Assembly. Sure, the board has the power and authority. But there should be a sincere effort to demonstrate a need, and desire to build support – in this case from a campus, its students, faculty and administrators.

Judge sides with environmentalists in Blounts Creek ruling

Score one for the good guys:

The court ruling can on December 18 when Judge Joshua Willey Jr. overturned the lower court decision and vacated or annulled the twelve million gallons per day mine discharge permit given to the Martine Marietta Materials by the Division of Water Resources.

Judge Willey also ruled that the Sound Rivers and community members had the right to bring a permit challenge to court. The foundation said they worked hard to protect the public’s right to access the courts when the regulatory agencies get it wrong. The court win will protect Blounts Creek.

This is a pretty big victory, folks. On par with successfully shutting down the Titan Cement project, both of which involved limestone mining and the ruination of hundreds (if not thousands) of acres of critical Eastern NC wetlands. Interesting side-note: This case was originally given to Junior Berger, after daddy got him an appointment as an administrative law judge. But Little Phil ran for Court of Appeals back in November 2016, and after daddy got his name pushed to the top of the voting ballot, Junior stole that seat from the highly-qualified Linda Stephens. While that election was a kick in the pants, it very well may have paved the way for the savior of Blounts Creek.

Saturday News: So much for philanthropy


NEW TAX LAW COULD DEAL DEATH BLOW TO CHARITIES AND NON-PROFITS: Taxpayers claim charitable contributions, along with mortgage interest, property taxes and some other expenses, as deductions from their taxable income if they itemize and the total exceeds the standard deduction. For some people – particularly those with higher incomes – the deduction for charitable gifts has served as an important incentive for giving because it helps reduce taxes owed. Operators of some nonprofits are hopeful Congress may still act. If not, and if charitable giving drops $13 billion nationally as one economist has predicted, North Carolina charities could be expected to take a big hit. So could the people who depend on them. In the state, Heinen said, nonprofits collect and spend roughly $42.5 billion a year and employ about 10 percent of the workforce. In the Triangle, they include Duke University Medical Center and WakeMed hospitals.

Notable environmental developments during 2017

Topping the list is a new Governor who actually cares about it:

Molly Diggins, executive director of the North Carolina Sierra Club, said the most noticeable change in 2017 was definitely the new governor. Cooper, she said, has been consistently showing leadership on environmental issues, like offshore drilling since taking office. “Second to that is the end of the reign of terror at the Division of Environmental Quality and the return of staff being able to do their jobs and being able to have transparency and accessibility in their work again,” Diggins said. The department had become secretive under Regan’s predecessor, Donald van der Vaart, she said, with professional staff reports subject to rewrite to satisfy policy objectives. Regan has done a better job of transparency and outreach, particularly in rural parts of the state.

Grady McCallie, senior policy analyst for the North Carolina Conservation Network, agreed that the change within DEQ’s top ranks has been important. “We have an administration that cares about good, science-based policy and isn’t trying to smother what their agency scientists are telling them with political overlay,” he said. “Every administration considers politics, but this administration seems to be listening to its civil servants and longtime staff and that’s a huge change.”

And it's a job that has been made monumentally more difficult by the NC GOP's approach to funding. Not satisfied to allow Cooper and/or Regan to manage DEQ how they see fit, Republicans have tailored their budget line items to whittle down the staff in certain areas, while blocking the shifting of resources to fix those shortfalls. It was in the midst of these budget debates that GenX contamination of the Cape Fear was initially reported:


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