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Horrified by the vision of legions of fired Democratic state employees, back when Jim Martin was elected Governor, Democrats changed the law so Martin couldn’t fire much of anyone – then announced (with a show of virtue) they’d gotten nasty old politics out of the state government.
But the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray: One day the typical state employee had a boss and the next he didn’t, then he figured out in place of a boss he had not a person but a set of rules (called the ‘Personnel Act’): He didn’t have quite the same job security as a tenured professor but he wasn’t far from it as long as he didn’t do anything egregious like larceny. 
Which turned out to be a temptation no self-respecting man should have to bear. 
The typical state employee’s day subtly changed.  He fell into a rhythm, eating, sleeping, tending to his wants and needs, and placidly spending eight hours in his office receiving and filing reports on, say, coal ash ponds.  Then, as the years rolled by, placidness compounded and compounded again and deepened into somnambulance until, one fine day, reality reared its head: A coal ash pond ruptured.
Pat McCrory had run for governor in 2008 and lost, toiled three years preparing to run again, built a new and stronger campaign, whipped Walter Dalton, and arrived in Raleigh full of new ideas but, when that coal ash pond ruptured, found himself face to face with an unforgiving fact: He had no one to clean up the mess except the same bureaucrats who’d spent decades blissfully asleep at the switch ignoring what had turned out to be a ticking time bomb.
Worse, wherever he looked he had the same problem. Over in the Department of Health and Human Services, they’d spent eight years and $500 million working on a new computer program but the minute the Governor pressed the go button there was a meltdown.
The program sputtered then settled into a smoking heap and the only people he had to fix it were the people who’d told him to press the button.
It seemed the Governor could set policy (and had plenty of well-meaning people like State Senators telling him what his policy ought to be) but what he really needed were people who could do things – who could fix problems.  Like coal ash ponds. 
So he tried a logical step: He asked the legislature to give him not the kind of unlimited power Jim Hunt had during his first two terms but a bit more power so he could replace somnambulant bureaucrats but as soon as the words were out of his mouth the State Employees Association and Democratic Legislators started hollering, accusing him of putting nasty old politics back into state government.



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Everyday emails float in out of the ether about miracle cures and hot stocks and how to meet the woman of my dreams in Moscow – it’s like having a swamp on my doorstep.  
But even in swamps virtue has a way of showing up now and then and the email below (part of a chain of emails that flew across the country) landed in my friend Richard’s inbox, who sent it along to me with a two-word note: Good quotes.
Subject: About Government
In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a government. – John Adams

If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. – Mark Twain

Suppose you were an idiot.  And suppose you were a member of government. But then I repeat myself. – Mark Twain

I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. – Winston Churchill

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. – George Bernard Shaw

Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. – Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. - P.J. O'Rourke, Author

Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. – Frederic Bastia, French economist (1801-1850)

I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. – Will Rogers

If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free! – P.J. O'Rourke

In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other. – Voltaire (1764)

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you! – Pericles (430 B.C.)

No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. – Mark Twain (1866)

Talk is cheap...except when government does  it. – Anonymous

The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. – Ronald Reagan

The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin. – Mark Twain

There is no distinctly Native American criminal government. – Mark Twain

What this country needs are more unemployed politicians. – Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995)

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. – Thomas Jefferson

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. – Aesop


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The Brasstown possum’s landed back in court.
Up in the mountains, in Brasstown, there’s a gentleman who celebrates each New Year’s Eve by putting a possum in a box, suspending the box from the top of a general store, then, as the clock ticks down to midnight, dropping the possum to the town square just like the Yankees drop a crystal ball from atop a skyscraper above Times Square.
Only using a live possum instead of a crystal ball landed him in hot water with PETA which sued, saying he was abusing the poor nocturnally shy critter, which led to the politicians getting into the act (against the possum).
State Legislators passed a law saying the Wildlife Commission, no matter how unkind PETA felt it was, could grant the fellow a license for his ‘possum drop’ so last New Year’s Eve Brasstown celebrated again but PETA caught ’em in a mistake: The fellow put the possum in the wrong box or, at least, in a different box from the box his state license required.
This time PETA sued the Wildlife Commission for dereliction of duty and the whole thing landed back in court only, this time, with the Attorney General battling PETA.
And that’s when things took a bizarre turn.
The Attorney General asked the judge to dismiss PETA’s lawsuit as foolishness but the judge said no.
Then PETA asked the judge to make a ‘Declaratory Judgment’ in the possum’s favor – but the judge said no a second time. 
So now there’s going to be a full-blown trial over not the possum or the possum drop but the box the possum was dropped in – with taxpayers footing the bill for the Attorney General’s lawyers.
All in all it’s a pretty good example of the old-fashioned out of favor idea we’re all better off when the government does less not more – if the state legislature hadn’t gotten into the business of licensing ‘possum drops’ then PETA and the fellow from Brasstown could be battling it out to their hearts’ content while the rest of us peacefully watch the ball fall in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.


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On Election Day my cousin Winifred who’s pure steel magnolia walked into the voting booth, stared at the names of the three judges running for Supreme Court, remembered the Republican ad saying Judge Robin Hudson was for child molesters, thought, I’ve seen enough of that kind of nastiness, and did something she’d never done before – voted for a liberal Democratic judge.
More recently, calling itself a ‘Civil Rights Group’ (for Hispanics) the old liberal shibboleth People for the American Way is trying its own brand of nastiness, running radio ads on Spanish-speaking stations saying, Thom Tillis is against everything that’s important for Hispanic families.
Not a few things. Not some things. Everything.
Now it’s a stone cold fact Thom Tillis is for sending murderers to jail. Isn’t that important to Hispanic families? And it’s a stone cold fact Tillis is for throwing drug dealers in jail. Isn’t that important?
I could go on but you understand my point – there’s a long list of fundamentally important things Thom Tillis, Hispanics and just about everyone agree on.
So why on earth would People for the American Way run an ad telling Hispanics something that is obviously untrue?
The most obvious answers that come to mind are arrogance and cynicism.
Either they’re so arrogant they believe they can say anything and get away with it – or so cynical they think they can say anything and people will fall for it.
Of course, there is one other possible explanation – that the ones who’ve made a dumb mistake are People for the American Way because they’ve now given Cousin Winifred a rock-solid reason to vote for Thom Tillis.

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To get their votes, the politicians are up to a lot more than just promising women the ‘power’ to fulfill their heart’s desires – listen to the serenade Democrats are singing: If you vote for Kay Hagan, Democrats say, you’ll get more pay and equal pay and health care and birth control and education and, they add, Thom Tillis opposes equal pay and abortions and (brace yourself) believes states should have the right to ban contraception.
Now, as a male, that last one threw me. 
I’d like to hear Thom Tillis explain banning contraception to men – not women. 
Why our country is so free and promiscuous Miley Cyrus can gyrate three ways to Sunday on TV and even the Baptist preachers have given up complaining – so who’d have thought any politician would figure banning contraception would get him anything other than run out of town on a rail. Politicians would be more likely to ban chastity than contraception.
So, I was expecting Thom Tillis to laugh and say, Did you ever hear so much piffle? Folks ought to vote against Kay Hagan just for telling a tale like that.
But Tillis didn’t.
Instead, Tillis’s spokesman tried his hand at making promises of his own but of course he can’t possibly out-promise a Democrat – saying Thom Tillis is ‘going to get the economy back on track’ sounded pale beside Kay Hagan saying she’ll make every wicked, woman-exploiting man in a suit wish he’d never been born and put more money in women’s paychecks.
How on earth can Thom Tillis hold a candle to that?

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According to the newspaper one super powerful group is going to pick the winner in the Senate race: Women. 
Not money. Or virtue. Or sin. But Women.
Which, of course, if you’re a woman, may sound like floozy flattery. 
Or if you’re a woman, and a tad skeptical, you might be wondering, Why are all these politicians whispering sweet nothings into my ear? 
Could the answer be there’s a serpent curled in the weeds whispering to the politicians, Just tell her she’s got the power to fulfill her heart’s desire – that’ll get you her vote.’

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There are scads of Super PACs running around attacking Thom Tillis or Kay Hagan so one more came as no surprise except when Planned Parenthood said it was going to whack Tillis I thought, Whoever heard of a government-funded group spending $3.3 million on a Super PAC? It didn’t seem quite right. Planned Parenthood spending taxpayers’ money to elect Kay Hagan – so she’d give them more taxpayers’ money.
But then I thought that wasn’t fair – that, after all, the Chamber of Commerce has a Super PAC doing its best to elect Speaker Tillis and what its members get from the government makes Planned Parenthood look like a piker. 
For example, just last month, the local  Chamber spent a quarter million dollars to help Republicans defeat a Democratic Supreme Court judge then, at the Chamber’s behest, Republicans in the State Senate sponsored a law to give pharmaceutical companies (who’re members of the Chamber) a legal pass so they can’t be held responsible when they sell defective drugs.
Super PACs: A new wrinkle in a very old kind of politics.


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Years ago a Democratic gnome sitting in a cloister pouring over reams of polls and demographics had a profound revelation: Most of the people who didn’t vote were Democrats. The word spread from gnome to pollster to politicians where it led to scads of mischief (all dressed in the trappings of government) as Democrats passed laws like same day voting, early voting, and moter-voter registration – all to elect more Democrats.
Then the Republicans took power. And set about repealing the Democrats’ laws. And then, as sure as one bad deed leads to another, started passing new laws of their own (also in the name of good government) – the way the Republican politicians saw it a pandemic of voter fraud was loose in the country and the cure to kill that nasty germ was to inoculate everyone with massive doses of Voter IDs.  
By the time all the political machinations were done no one had clean hands but, of course, no Democrat fessed up to doing any conniving and no Republican questioned the Republicans’ counter-conniving.
Until Rand Paul (who must have known he was about to stick his head straight into the tiger’s mouth) said, Everybody’s gone completely crazy on the Voter ID thing.
That made Paul no friends in either camp. Republicans said he’d just proven he  wasn’t tough enough to be the conservatives’  candidate for President in 2016 and Democrats said they didn’t believe a word Rand Paul said because he’d once also said the 1964 Civil Rights Act wasn’t perfect.
Before sundown Paul was getting shot by politicians from both sides – which makes a pretty good case he may be exactly the man we need for President in 2016.



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A group of politicians called Justice for All North Carolinians have had an ad on TV slamming liberal Judge Robin Hudson for ‘siding with child molesters’ in a Supreme Court decision. 
Now if that sounds like a little political fact twisting – it is.
Here’s what happened: The state legislature passed new laws on child molesters, including new punishments like wearing electronic monitors – which was without a doubt a good idea.
Next there was a lawsuit – that landed in the Supreme Court – over whether to apply those new laws retroactively to varmints (child molesters) who’d been convicted before the laws passed.
Of course, it’s an old and cherished democratic principle politicians (and legislatures) ought not to have the power to pass a law one day then prosecute people who broke it the day before – it’d be like giving politicians the power to say, Sure, it was legal when you did it but it’s a crime now.
But in the hands of a group of politicos out to win a Supreme Court election standing up for an abstract democratic principle (which is what Hudson was doing) didn’t mean squat – in fact, it morphed into ‘Robin Hudson sides with child molesters.’
Judge Hudson’s not my cup of tea. But, now, there’s another abstract principle at play in her election that has to be weighed alongside her ideology: What is the consequence if Robin Hudson loses because a Super PAC told voters a lie?
And the answer is: More lies.
So here’s a perplexing dilemma: Which matters most? Defeating Robin Hudson and encouraging more lyin’ in politics?
Or electing a liberal Judge and demonstrating lying backfires?



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In the last week or so before the election, in the midst of conniving to win the Republican primary for Congress, young Phil Berger (and his Super PAC) whacked one opponent as a liberal, another as a wild-eyed big spender, and a third as a secret agent who’s too cozy with Chinese textile firms.
The ‘secret agent’ was Bruce VonCannon.
And Berger’s whack says a lot about Berger’s politics.
Bruce VonCannon was born and raised in Asheboro where his father worked for the Post Office and his mother worked for the Eveready Battery Company. In High School he won the state tennis championship then attended Princeton on a scholarship and, his senior year, was offered a scholarship to study abroad in Singapore.
Though he didn’t know it at the time, he’d taken the first step down a road that would lead him to a 27 year career in overseas banking.
Last year, after working as CEO of the Swiss Rothschild Bank in Hong Kong, he retired and returned home and that, in Berger’s Super PAC’s eyes, was all the proof they needed to whack him with an ad for being too cozy with Chinese textile firms – which was news to VonCannon.
After I saw their ad, since I’ve been helping VonCannon, I asked to see their research which arrived in reams of Internet links and nebulous documents but, when you sorted it all out, their story went like this:
Berger’s Super PAC hadn’t found a shred of evidence Bruce VonCannon owned a single share of stock in a Chinese textile firm. Or that he’d ever ‘partnered’ with a Chinese textile firm.
His employer – the Swiss Rothschild Bank – didn’t own a single share of stock in a Chinese textile firm either.
And the Rothschild family Group – which owned the Swiss Rothschild Bank – didn’t own a single share of stock in a Chinese textile firm.
However it did own a French bank which owned stock in a Chinese Mutual Fund – but that Fund didn’t own a single share of Chinese textile stock either.
From there the trial twisted and turned through Chinese Funds until, at last, they found someone who owned stock in two Chinese textile firms – which irrefutably proved, according to Berger’s PAC, that Bruce VonCannon was partnered with people he didn’t know, and had never laid eyes on, in China.
What the Super PAC was doing is called guilt by association and they believed it down to their toenails.
I reckon, if someone wasn’t troubled by scruples, they could also use the Super PAC’s logic to blame young Phil Berger for all the sinning that went on in Babylon – after all, Berger descended from Adam and so did the Babylonians and, if you hold with guilt by association, that’s pretty solid proof Berger’s responsible for sinning that went on 4,000 years ago even though he wasn’t there and didn’t know one of the sinners.
Of course, that’s silly – it would be outrageous to blame someone for sinning someone else they didn’t even know did. Wouldn’t it?


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