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22
The liberal folks over at ProgressNC let fly with a broadside at the Governor about his ethics, then let fly again with a press conference and, by then, they had the folks at the Charlotte Observer so stirred up they let fly with broadside of their own asking, Was Pat McCrory fibbing then, or is he fibbing now?
 
The way the liberals tell it Governor McCrory underhandedly omitted facts from his Financial Disclosure Reports to hide conflicts of interest – and that he was paid a lot of money by less than saintly corporations.
 
Now it’s hard to believe anyone – even the liberals – thinks the State Ethics Commission (which as long as anyone can remember has been a toothless tiger) is going to strip the Governor’s epilates off in public but, then again, it may be the Ethics Commission is just a way station on the way to court which is where the liberals really want to end up – which would open a whole new can of worms.
 
Either way, this is no one time liberal rant about the foibles of Republican politicians. ProgressNC has fired the opening salvo in the Governor’s race and they mean to go right on chasing Pat.   


 

 

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22
After being blasted by the liberals (for hiding conflicts of interest) Governor McCrory ran head-on into a second broadside from the opposite direction: Tired of Medicaid wrecking havoc on its budget the State Senate served notice on the Governor his time is up – he’s had his chance to fix Medicaid and failed so the legislature’s going to appoint an Independent Board to solve the problem.    
 
Now, for the Governor, there’s two ways to look at the Senate’s proposal. It’s certainly a slap in the face. But, on the other hand, it may be a blessing in disguise. After all, the Senate just proposed to take the biggest tarbaby in all of state government off the Governor’s hands –so, perhaps, the practical thing for him to say would be, Thank heavens. Take it. You’re welcome to do it – but, of course, instead the Governor’s fighting the Senate tooth and nail. He dislikes losing control of roughly half of state government even more than he disliked the Legislature setting up a Commission to handle the coal ash cleanup.
 
Now all this sounds like there’s a great deal of hostility between the Governor and the Senate but, in a way, the Senators like the Governor just fine and want him to get reelected –they just think he didn’t get the job done on Medicaid.
 
It’s also hard not to empathize with the Governor: He’s got liberals shooting at him from one side and Republicans shooting at him from the other and whoever claimed the middle ground was the safe place to be never got caught in a crossfire.


 

 

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16
The mystery isn’t how he died; it’s the Department of Prisons’ silence.
 
Michael Kerr was in and out of trouble with the law for a decade – he was a thief, assaulted a woman and tried to outrun a policeman in a patrol car – then two crimes committed against him left him on the edge of madness: First his son Anthony was murdered then, a year later, his second son Gabriel was murdered then, three months after that, Kerr fired nine shots into a house trailer (where the second murderer’s cousin lived) and, holding the empty pistol, called out “this isn’t over” before he drove away.  
 
His sister says he suffered three nervous breakdowns in the local jail waiting for trial and after he arrived in prison the doctors there diagnosed him with schizophrenia but no one bothered to ask if madness meant his thirty one year prison sentence was a mistake. Three years later he was found dead in the back of a prison van.
 
An autopsy the next morning revealed he’d died for an unexpected reason: Thirst. But an autopsy couldn’t explain how a man in a prison cell with a sink couldn’t get a drink of water so the Medical Examiner, Susan Venuti, asked for Kerr’s prison records but the Prisons Department told her, No.
 
Months later, reporters digging through court filings and letters (including a letter from the prisoner in the cell next to Kerr) pieced together part of the story.
 
The doctors at Kerr’s prison had put him on medications which worked fine until the morning three years later when he stopped taking the drugs; three months after that he landed in solitary confinement and four days after that a prison Captain reported he was just sitting on the floor in his cell in his own urine.
 
After Kerr clogged up his sink and flooded his cell four times they shut off his water; when a guard, afraid he was becoming dehydrated, handed him a cup of water he took a couple swallows, poured the rest on the cell floor and looked back at the guard and said, “Come on in the water’s fine.”
 
Kerr’d spent seventeen days in solitary when the prisoner in the next cell began keeping a notebook: On March 6 he wrote Kerr “used the bathroom on hisself” then added he’d heard the guard and a sergeant talking saying “his pants is halfway down, his butt is out, look at his crusty feet.”
 
The prisoner wrote Kerr “ate nothing” the next day and “they called a Code Blue because he was unresponsive” – a guard and a captain went into Kerr’s cell and put him in leg irons and handcuffs then a nurse entered the cell and examined him – after she left the guard removed the leg irons, walked out of the cell, turned, and told Kerr to come to the door so he could remove his handcuffs but Kerr didn’t move.
 
Two days later the inmate in the next cell wrote “third straight day in handcuff pants still half way off and urine and feces all over cell.”
 
On the twenty-first day Kerr was still lying on his cot and the guards, along with a nurse, went into his cell and “asked did he want his vitals taken he didn’t respond so they said are you refusing to have your vitals taken he didn’t say nothing so they say okay you refusing and left.”
 
The next morning a prison psychologist called Kerr’s sister and told her, Your prayers have been answered, they’re moving him to the hospital at Central Prison.
 
When the guards went to move Kerr he was lying on his cot, pants and underwear around his ankles, in excrement and urine, and when they tried to unlock the handcuffs they were clogged with dried feces.
 
When they rolled him out the cell door in a wheelchair the prisoner in the next cell saw “his eyes wide open but seeing nothing and he had something white coming out of his mouth.”
 
The guards drove Kerr not to the local hospital but to Central Prison Hospital three hours away and between one prison and another the evils he’d done and the evils done to him consummated in dry squalor inside the back of the prison van – a prison official called his sister that afternoon to tell her he was dead when he arrived in Raleigh. 
 
***
 
There was no confession. Or contrition. Instead a veil of silence descended over the Department of Prisons. They told the Medical Examiner, No, then had a committee write a report then did an ‘internal’ investigation then, a month later, an under Secretary – David Guice – called for the SBI to investigate but the minute an SBI agent asked for Kerr’s records the Prison Department told him, No, too.  
 
The silence stretched on for five months then the Prisons Department cracked the door a fraction, giving the Medical Examiner not Kerr’s medical records or prison records but the report written by its internal committee; after that the Medical Examiner gave up asking and released her autopsy report and said without Kerr’s records she couldn’t determine whether Kerr’s death was suicide, homicide or accident.
 
A week later the U.S. Attorney in Raleigh began a grand jury investigation and Kerr’s story landed in the newspapers and the scramble began in the Prisons Department: The Secretary of Public Safety, Frank Perry, announced his Department had conducted not just a “thorough” but a “transparent” investigation and that the Department had disciplined 40 employees – including nine who’d been fired – then added, “We have been righteous with our investigation and dismissals.”
 
The press then asked Perry why a “transparent” investigation hadn’t included giving Kerr’s records to the Medical Examiner and Perry announced that was for “a righteous reason like privacy or respect for HIPAA” then a reporter, getting down to brass tacks, asked if Perry knew of even one Medical Examiner who’d ever before been denied a dead man’s prison records because of HIPAA laws and Perry said he didn’t know.
 
Broken politics is more than just Congressmen pointing fingers and screaming.
 
There may have been a dozen reasons why silence descended on the Department of Prisons: Frank Perry may have been worried about a lawsuit – he may be working to avoid a lawsuit by negotiating a settlement, right now, and he may figure the less known about what went on in Michael Kerr’s prison cell the less his Department will have to pay. Or there could be other reasons.
 
But Frank Perry holds his office as a public trust and when he buries the truth that’s a breach of trust which, in a democracy, is like plague: Secretary Perry, speak no more of righteousness until you tell how Michael Kerr died of thirst in solitary confinement.  

 


 

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12

 

Obama stands on a stage in Tennessee and promises nine million people he’ll give them $3,800 a year each (on average) and the press coos he’s made a “dramatic announcement” then a skeptic asks how Obama’ll come up with the money and Obama has the White House staff tell him, ‘That’s beside the point.’
 
As cynical politics it’s breathtaking.
 
In our modern world of five second sound bites, promising something for nothing is more powerful than magic: The President says he hasn’t given much thought to whether he’ll borrow, raise taxes, or cut spending to make every Community College (from the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters) free and instead of saying, This fellow’s pulling the wool over our eyes promising us something for nothing – a five second sound bite puts Obama back on top of the world, riding the crest of a PR wave.


 

 

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12
Here’s an idea for Democratic legislators, one that could be good politics and good for North Carolina: Help Governor McCrory pass his plan for Medicaid expansion.
 
After meeting with President Obama at the White House last week, McCrory said he argued for flexibility to develop a “North Carolina plan.” But, as Carter noted during our appearance on WRAL’s “On the Record,” the Governor has to get his idea past not only Obama, but also Phil Berger and Tim Moore.
 
Here’s where Democrats come in. They can support McCrory’s request to the White House, and enlist our depleted congressional delegation. They can also give McCrory a healthy start on the votes to get expansion through the legislature.
 
That would present House and Senate leaders with a bipartisan plan. Pass it, and they look reasonable. Kill it, and they start this session just like the last one. McCrory, in contrast, would be doing some deft triangulation that plays well for him in 2016.
 
Now, McCrory’s idea is apparently to tie Medicaid expansion to some kind of work requirement. Democrats would want to know if that’s unreasonable or onerous. But if they can work out something with McCrory, both he and they come out ahead – as will half a million North Carolinians who need health insurance and millions more of us who are paying their bills now.

 

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08
A poor boy of seventeen Jomah joined ISIS for money then landed in a class to train children to be soldiers; the morning he received his first lesson teachers holding not guns but knives led in three captured soldiers and after the lesson the circle of boys passed around the severed heads.
 
Ismail, also seventeen, joined ISIS for his own ancient vice: Hatred. Of Bashar al-Assad. When ISIS captured an enemy tribe in Northern Syria he was ordered to help behead every male between fourteen and forty-five – and balked.  His ten year old brother stepped up without a qualm to take his place.
 
Greed, hatred and beheading – it’s like a clock rolled backwards a thousand years then a gate in Hell opened setting Mammon and Moloch and a legion of devils lose in the Levant to torment children while, watching safely behind electronic walls on computer screens, believing we have created a mechanical cure powerful enough to banish the heart of darkness, we stopped debating gay marriage long enough to push a button to send a drone to drop a bomb.

 

 

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07
In a realm filled with rumors in the blink of an eye fictions take root in fertile soil and blossom adopting the image of spoken truth like this one you’ve heard a hundred times: ‘Romney lost because he shifted too far to the right during the primaries.’
 
In fact, the polls told a completely different story
 
Here’s another: ‘Jeb Bush isn’t conservative enough to win the Presidential Primary’ – this new homily creates a damning circle of logic for Republicans and a heart-warming vision for Democrats: A conservative can’t win the General Election but only a conservative can win a Republican Primary.
 
Cruz can’t win, Paul can’t win, Bush can’t win, which only leaves one question unanswered: How on earth did the Democrats lose the last election?


 

 

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02
The President, unhappy with North Korea, announced he was going to ‘proportionately’ respond and the next day North Korea’s Internet went black which possibly is a coincidence but may also be proportionate.
 
Now, to be clear, getting hacked by North Korea is a little like getting bitten on the ankle by a small varmint. There’s no need to start a war over it. But there is an unanswered question: That varmint wouldn’t bite a Bengal tiger – so how is it the good ole U.S.A. doesn’t get the same kind of respect?
 
How did we get to be Pollyanna – instead of John Wayne?
 
And that’s why the President’s choice of that word ‘proportionately’ is troubling. It sort of sounds like he’s saying, You nipped us, so we’ll ding you back. Which lacks a certain warrior spirit. Which helps engender respect in varmints like Kim Jong-un.


 

 

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31
A reporter at The Hill newspaper up in Washington let Jeb Bush have it right between the eyes, reporting there’s ‘no love lost’ between Bush and the Republican base and that in Iowa the Tea Party activists are torching Bush’s conservative credentials.
 
Jeb Bush,” he quoted a radio talk show host as saying, “is on the wrong side of every issue that matters most to conservatives.”
 
It’s a simple picture painted in blacks and whites – with no bothersome grays. It also sounds a lot like the beginning of a classic political rant.
 
Now, granted, Jeb Bush isn’t Ted Cruz on immigration but, on the other hand, he was a tax cutting, austere, pro-school choice, pro-gun rights Governor. And it’s not every day a politician comes down the pike with the backbone to take a stand he knows is unpopular.
 
Jeb Bush’s record isn’t black and white but, who knows, a touch of nuance (with grays and subtle shadows) may lead to a more enlightened political debate than ‘he’s wrong on every issue.’


 

 

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30
Obama may be aloof but he’s also soft-spoken and temperate and if he’s unpopular (due to his failures) beyond his failures he’s a genial man – a traditional liberal who believes government should help people out by providing healthcare and school lunches and so on.
 
But now and then, standing at a podium, the President will speak and for a brief moment a window will open revealing a man who has a vision of America that goes well beyond traditional liberalism.
 
These days it’s unfashionable to be against almost any kind of sex. Enlightenment today requires new levels of tolerance and progress requires not just broadening our views on sex but reforming the related institutions of matrimony, adoption and filing joint tax returns.
 
The other day the President, along with the Attorney General, trod further down the road of sexual progress than anyone else has dared to go – they declared ‘Transgenders’ are an official American Minority under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and that the Justice Department stands ready to deal with anyone who differs.
 
Now with no undue disrespect to the President – or to Transgenders – that was a stretch: Not one soul in Congress back in 1964 ever dreamed he was voting to make Transgenders a minority.
 
So now, it looks like, instead of a soft-spoken traditional liberal we have a President on our hands who has a radical vision of the future – and who’s telling us with a straight face he believes fifty years ago Congress declared Transgenders a minority.


 

 

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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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