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07
 

I reckon U.S. Attorney George Holding has done more to fight corruption than just about anyone in North Carolina except News & Observer Editor John Drescher. But, now, it looks like Holding’s days are numbered.
 
There’re three Federal Judges and three U.S. Attorneys for President Obama to appoint in North Carolina – want to guess which Republican prosecutor the President decided it was most urgent to replace?
 
The one investigating Mike Easley and John Edwards.
 
At least the President is pulling his the political skull drudgery right out in the open – unlike Senator Kay Hagan who’s now apparently been in Washington long enough to figure out how to say one thing in public but do another in private.
 
Here’s how politics works when it comes to Judicial Appointments.
 
If Senator Hagan wanted she could stop Obama dead in his tracks by withholding what’s called the Senate ‘Blue-Slip.’ It’s an old Senatorial prerogative. The Senate will not hold hearings on a nominee for judge or U.S. Attorney in a Senator’s home state if that Senator objects – which he or she does by withholding the ‘blue-slip.’ Jesse Helms did it. Terry Sanford did it. It’s been going on for 200 years.
 
With George Holding investigating her fellow Democrats Senator Hagan – to look fair minded – is telling newspapers she hopes Obama leaves him in office until he finishes the investigations but behind the scenes she’s given a green light to Obama to replace Holding with Democrat Thomas Walker from Charlotte.
 
Here’s an equally puzzling fact: Where on earth is Republican Senator Richard Burr? Burr could withhold his blue slip too and stop Obama’s nominee but instead he’s struck the flag without putting up any fight at all.
 
All in all it looks like the rescue of Mike Easley is underway but then, again, maybe not.
 
The other fellow in the state whose record fighting corruption matches Holding’s and Drescher’s is Democrat Joe Sinsheimer, who had an odd thing to say in the News & Observer about Obama replacing Holding: “Look, no one is trying to save Mike Easley or John Edwards here. What they don’t want, I believe, and what there is great fear about in Eastern North Carolina is that the current Easley investigation will spread to other areas.”
 
12 hours later WRAL-TV made Sinsheimer look like a prophet when it reported the President of a Raleigh corporation had accused his Board Chairman, State Senator Tony Rand, of insider trading in stock.
 
It turns out the first place Rand’s accuser took his information was to U.S. Attorney George Holding – about the last man the Democrats want conducting another investigation.  Worse, for Democrats, one of the people who bought the ‘penny stock’ Rand was pushing is current Governor Beverly Perdue.
 
Finally, a fact popped up about Thomas Walker of Charlotte – the attorney Obama picked to replace Holding. Back during the Lottery Scandal a lawyer from Charlotte named Thomas Walker defended one of the Democrats who helped former Speaker Jim Black try to rig the Lottery contract.
 
So, now, it looks like the President has put a lawyer who’s been defending crooked politicians – in charge of prosecuting them.
 

 

 

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07
All the nice, well-intentioned people who support diversity in the Wake schools better wake up and realize they’re in a war.
 
Many of them eschewed Democratic Party help in the election. We’re non-partisan, they said.
 
Well, the other side had no qualms about enlisting the Republican Party on its side.
 
So now the county that carried North Carolina for Barack Obama is debating resegregation of its schools.
 
Here’s the first thing the diversity forces should do: Sue.
 
File a lawsuit – right now – accusing the new board of violating the Open Meetings Law in its first meeting.
 
Tie them up in court. And let them know they’re in a fight.
 
The only way to deal with a bully is to punch him in the nose.

 

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Posted in: General, Raleigh
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04
The new majority took over the Wake County school board like the Jacobins took over Paris.
 
Replacing a board that was seen as high-handed and arrogant, they set new standards for high-handed and arrogant.
 
One step got little attention. The board hired a Republican lawyer. Unclear is whether they fired Tharrington and Smith, which has one of the state’s largest education practices.
 
Is this retribution for Wade Smith speaking out in the campaign against resegregation?
 
This board – after one meeting – has alienated half of Wake County, including teachers.
 
It won’t take them long to antagonize the other half.
 
But how much damage will they do first?

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04
Once I asked a friend what he thought of a prominent South Carolina politician and he laughed and said, Well, you know what they say about LeRoy – he hasn’t met a principle since high school.
 
Back when she was running for Governor, Beverly Perdue promised liberals and environmentalists there was never, ever, ever going to be offshore oil-drilling in North Carolina on her watch. Then after she got their votes in the primary she turned around and said maybe offshore drilling wasn’t such a bad idea – to get votes from folks worried about soaring gas prices.
 
There are some politicians with agenda’s (President Obama’s got an agenda) but there are other politicians who just want a career in politics and to them agendas are as useless as a screen door on a submarine.
 
Now the gremlin in the works when it comes to that second species of politician is that not having an agenda just naturally leads to a state of vacillation – their lodestar is to get reelected and since, at heart, they don’t fundamentally care, say, if taxes go up or down they’re like political weathervanes changing directions with the wind. That usually works out fine in the short run – after all, Beverly Perdue did win election – but over the long haul the vacillations add up and take on a life of their own and become flip-flops.
 
With the political winds changing daily over the last six months Governor Perdue’s been spinning like a top calculating and recalculating how to get re-elected and in the process she’s been on both sides of half a dozen issues: She announced she was for cutting spending. Then she announced she was against cutting spending. She said she was never, ever going to raise taxes. Then she announced the only answer to the state’s economic crisis was to raise taxes $2 billion. Her first day in office she announced she was going to clean up politics – then she turned around and put a lobbyist in charge of the biggest department in state government and let him pass out $250 million in no bid contracts (a lot of them to his former clients).
 
The Governor’s the Scarlet Pimpernel of North Carolina politics – She’s here, She’s there, She’s everywhere – and just a couple of days ago on WRAL-TV she did it again. She looked the camera straight in the eye and chirped how she was building roads in Charlotte “without raising the gas tax, which I’m not going to do ever” – but what she forgot was just last summer she signed a bill to raise the gas tax.
 

 

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03
Democrats have no pity.
 
No sooner did unemployment hit double digits than Mayor Meeker and Raleigh’s City Manager and Meeker’s allies on the City Council announced a plan to raise property taxes.
 
Think of it: Right now almost everyone in Raleigh is paying taxes on overvalued homes and the Mayor and company are setting their sights on raising their taxes 8%, to pay for a $450 million building spree downtown.
 
It’s been (by a rough guess) a year since Mayor Meeker built anything new downtown and I reckon it would be cruel and unusual punishment to expect Charlie and Russ Stephenson and Tom Crowder to bear the agonies of resisting the temptation to spend another $450 million until the recession is over.
 

 

 

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03
News & Observer Executive Editor John Drescher doesn’t miss much. Within minutes of my post below about the N&O’s 25-year club, he shot me this email:
 
Gary,

There are far more long-timers here than you give us credit for.

Of the people in the 25-year club, 15 are in the newsroom: Tudor, Christensen, Stevens, Siceloff, Medlin, Woodward, Alexander, Lynch, Rottet,  Frederick, Jeffries, Willett, Krueger, DuPre and  Cornatzer.  That doesn't count  Steve Ford, editor of the editorial pages.

Others have long-standing ties to the paper and
North Carolina.

For example, I was here in 1984 but left and returned. I remember the 1984 race well.

Another example, Linda Williams (who oversees news, sports and business) was here in the 1970s, left and returned. She covered the merger of the
Raleigh and Wake school systems for The N&O.

That means the top two people in news go way back in terms of experience and institutional knowledge.

Others worked in
North Carolina for other papers and moved to The N&O later. For example, Jay Price didn't show up in the 25-year club but he's been associated with the paper his whole life. His grandfather was managing editor and his uncle was a reporter here for decades.

I would make the point opposite of yours: To an unusual degree, The N&O has a large number of staffers with long-time ties to the paper and to
North Carolina.

John

Two footnotes:
 
Jay Price’s grandfather, Woodrow, hired me as a copyboy.
 
And I still bet John would have retired me by now. Especially if I didn’t check my facts any better.
 

 

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03
As an ex-News & Observer employee (I left in 1975), I’m always interested in the 25-year club members.
 
The ad in today’s paper was revealing.
 
Of the 62 members, only five work in news. One more is in editorials. And two more are in interactive media.
 
That is, only five people in the newsroom were there when Jim Hunt and Jesse Helms collided for the Senate in 1984.
 
Clearly, institutional memory is a victim of the newspaper depression (not recession).
 
A footnote: If I’d stayed, I’d have 44 years. (I started as a 16-year-old copyboy).
 
Except they would have retired me long ago.
 

 

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02

 

You can tell when a politician lands in the soup – because he starts writing op-eds in the News and Observer – praising himself. What put Secretary Lanier Cansler in the op-ed writing business was a story on WRAL-TV about Cansler trying to cut medical care to a 20 month old infant on Medicaid.
 
Cansler’s answer – in his op-ed – was he hasn’t (and isn’t going to) cut care to one patient who needs it.
 
Which sounds fine – except it seems Cansler determines how many people he wants to cut, then, almost magically, finds that precisely the same number of people don’t need care.
 
Of course the root of Cansler’s problem is money – which goes back to the budget negotiations last summer when Governor Perdue was zigging and zagging between cutting spending and raising taxes. Somewhere along the way Secretary Cansler told legislators he could cut his department’s spending $400 million if, first, they’d let him hand out $250 million in no bid contracts.
 
Now, of course, that’s what every Cabinet secretary says when he wants to pass out no bid contracts – but this is politics and Democratic legislators said yes and left town and Cansler passed out the contracts, increasing spending $250 million.

Then he focused on cutting his budget and ran head on into a problem: Medicaid is an entitlement program. Which means by law poor, sick people are ‘entitled’ to care and Cansler couldn’t just wave a wand and cut them. First he’d have to change the law. Which he didn’t do.
 
Plus the Obama Administration had told him making it harder for elderly, sick people to get medical care could cost North Carolina $2 billion in Medicaid Stimulus Funds. Plus, cutting care to patients – like a twenty month old infant wasn’t going to make him – or his boss Governor Perdue – look very kind hearted.
 
Cansler needed a solution. And he found one. In fact, he killed two birds with one stone by declaring the patientshe was going to cut weren’t sick and didn’t need carethat side step got him around the Obama Administration’s objections and solved his political problem, since no one was going to argue with cutting a patient who was cheating Medicaid to get care they didn’t need.
 
Now there’s no doubt there’re probably plenty of people cheating Medicaid – but the number Cansler came up with was eye-popping. Right off the bat he announced that so many people were cheating in one program – Medicaid Home Care – that 58% of the care being provided was going to skizzlers.  
 
And how Cansler arrived at that number was odd. He announced it before a single patient – for instance like Chloe – was examined.
 
So, in fact, all this looks like politics as usual: Cansler promised legislators $400 million in cuts, then promptly increased spending $250 million (to pay for no-bid contracts) and, now, to cut his budget is claiming 58% of the Medicaid money being spent for home care is going to skizzlers – a number even a right wing Republican like me has trouble believing.
 
Then, Cansler sat down and wrote an op-ed for the News and Observer saying he’s not cutting care to a single patient who needs it.
 
After the latest polls the folks in the Governor’s office must be happy to see Beverly Perdue’s popularity rebounding from fatal to nearly fatal – but there’s no need for Republicans to worry. Secretary Cansler is taking care of the problem for us.

 

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02
This isn’t how Cal Cunningham wanted to reenter the Senate race.
 
Joe (the Sledgehammer) Sinsheimer weighed in on Facebook: “While I think Cunningham is an attractive candidate, I really don't like the idea of folks in Washington choosing our next Senator.”
 
Nor does Elaine Marshall’s campaign. The Hill says: “This has left Marshall's campaign pretty sore, and Cunningham should probably expect a heated primary battle.”
 
CQ Politics adds that Cunningham’s reentry in the race “is a victory for the DSCC, which has been working to get Cunningham to reconsider the contest after he passed on the race in mid-November. The only problem is that the news leaked out on the same day that…Marshall, who is also competing in the Democratic primary, was holding a funeral for her husband, who died last week at age 77.” 
 
Well, let’s get real.
 
The DSCC gets a say because the DSCC put $11 million behind Kay Hagan last year, and that’s why she’s a senator today.
 
Frankly, nobody believes Elaine Marshall can raise the money a Senate race will take, probably including Elaine Marshall.
 
As for the unseemliness of the DSCC and Cunningham plotting while Marshall’s husband was dying, his tragic illness did not keep the Marshall team from campaigning in recent weeks.
 
Besides, no one has asked how Ken Lewis, the other Democratic candidate, feels about the Obama White House dissing an African-American candidate who worked hard for Obama.
 
Welcome to the NFL, boys and girls. They wear helmets and pads for a reason.
 

 

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01
Over at the Federal Courthouse in Raleigh a Grand Jury’s investigating former Governor Easley for corruption.
 
The newspaper reports just before he left office former State Treasurer Richard Moore handed a San Diego hedge fund $500 million in state pension money to invest – then a few weeks after he left office took a job with the fund.
 
The former Agriculture Secretary, a former Congressman, a State former Representative and a former Speaker of the House have all served time in prison for corruption.
 
Over at the Department of Motor Vehicles there’s an investigation underway into a no-bid contract the Department gave Verizon.
 
And over at the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Lanier Cansler’s passing out no-bid contracts to his former clients and his wife’s lobbying firm’s clients left and right and WRAL-TV reports – at the same time – Cansler’s department tried to cut twenty month old Chloe Garris
 
 
 
(who was born with a genetic defect and can’t breathe without a tracheotomy or eat without a feeding tube) home care nurses in order to save money.
 
And what’s Governor Perdue doing about all this?
 
Watch: 

While Rome burns the Governor’s running TV ads telling on UNC basketball games – at taxpayers’ expense – to tell people they ought to wash their hands to stop the spread of germs.

 

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