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20

 

According to the Census Bureau, back in the fall of 2011 without knowing it we crossed a kind of Rubicon.
 
Back then – during the last quarter of 2011 – 101,716,000 people had full time jobs while 108,592,000 people were receiving payments from welfare programs and, if that sounds like skating across thin ice, there’s more to the picture: 101,439,000 people were receiving Social Security, Medicare and unemployment compensation.
 
When you eliminate the overlap between the two groups, according to the Census Bureau, the number of people receiving government benefits climbs to 151,014,000.
 
151,000,000 people receiving benefits. And 101,000,000 people working.
 
Can that last?

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19

 

About one minute after sitting down Sean launched off into a tirade saying the border children ought to all be shipped home – then he stopped and was asked, Suppose one of those children fled El Salvador (or wherever) because she’d been repeatedly gang-raped – would you send her home too?
 
He said, Absolutely. Yes. She broke the law.
 
Now if someone waved a magic wand and suddenly put the power in your hands to settle the fate of the border children would you ship them all home – knowing you could be sending one back into the arms of a rapist?
 
That’s a question conservatives don’t like to hear and there’s a similar question liberals don’t like to hear: Would you allow all the border children to stay, even if you knew you’d be letting a gang member who crossed the border to evade the law settle in America for the rest of his life?
 
Finding a victim fleeing terror means a Republican can’t say, They’re lawbreakers, send them all home, andfinding a gang member makes it harder for a liberal to say, Keep them all here.
 
This is a peculiar debate and the roadblock isn’t immigration or just immigration: It’s our odd (and near total) incapacity to address a not very complicated moral question except with black and white answers like ‘send them all away’ or ‘keep them all here.’

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15

 

Thirteen years ago the terrorists blew up the World Trade Center and, since the terrorists lived in Afghanistan, we attacked Afghanistan.
 
The terrorists then moved to Pakistan but we kept right on attacking Afghanistan.
 
A decade later we killed the lead terrorist in Pakistan but we’re still fighting in Afghanistan.
 
In 2003 the ‘wise men’ said in order to whip the terrorists we needed to invade Iraq too, so we did and nineteen days later we’d whipped the Iraqi Army and taken Baghdad.
 
But no one (with the exception of General Colin Powell) told us our army might not be big enough to occupy a nation of 30 million people.
 
And no one certainly ever mentioned the dreaded word ‘draft.’
 
Eight years later we were still in Iraq and 96% of our causalities had happened after we whipped the Iraqi army.
 
It was the time for the inevitable skedaddle and, in 2011 , we got out of Iraq.
 
We also decided to give $200 million in guns to our friends the Kurds but the Maliki regime told us that wouldn’t do; they said we should give the guns to Iraq’s ‘official government’ which in turn would give them to the Kurds.
 
We did.
 
But the Maliki regime didn’t like the Kurds and didn’t give them the guns.
 
Then ISIS got up a head of steam, conquered western Iraq and captured an arms depot full of American guns. ISIS then took the guns and attacked the Kurds who had hardly any guns at all.
 
President Obama announced Maliki had gotten himself into this mess and he could get himself out.
 
Then the President sent 1,000 soldiers to Iraq.
 
Then he announced he was going to bomb ISIS.
 
So, now, we’re bombing ISIS to destroy the guns we gave the Iraqis.
 
Next the President announced he was not going to fight another war in Iraq and the House added we wouldn’t be in Iraq long.
 
Then, the next day, the President said we may be bombing Iraq for months.
 
So we’re bombing ISIS. But it’s not a war. We said we wouldn’t send soldiers. Then we did. We told Maliki he was on his own. Now we’re bailing him out. And we’ve armed the people we’re fighting against.
 
How much more muddled can this picture get?

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15
Governor McCrory’s blast at The N&O got him another day of the “blaring, top-of-the-fold” headlines he blasted. But this is just the beginning of the Coal Ash Saga. We soon will have a U.S. Attorney’s investigation and a fight over who pays: McCrory’s former boss, Duke Energy, or his current boss, the People of North Carolina.
 
McCrory protested that the N&O’s story Thursday “mischaracterized a misinterpretation of a very convoluted form.” It is not a convoluted form. Look for yourself here. In fact, it is just like your income taxes: You file them by April 15 for the prior year ending December 31.
 
Still, I believe Governor McCrory when he says, in effect, that it was incompetence, rather than a conspiracy. But it is breathtaking incompetence. It is hard to fathom how the Governor of North Carolina and his legal counsel misunderstood the form. Or why somebody on the Governor’s staff didn’t foresee the problem.
 
Here’s what former legislative counsel Gerry Cohen says (and remember, he was honored a couple of weeks ago by members of both parties for his reliability and integrity): “How could Bob Stephens have had a misunderstanding that the date of ownership of the stock was as of April 15, 2014, when the 2013 SEI CLEARLY says on the tip of page 2 that the date of stock ownership was to be as of December 31. Was the mistake that he only read page 1? Or missed the penalties provision at the end of the form, which states that it could be a violation of GS 138A-45? I know that the text of 138A-45 tells you that for a constitutional officer, it is malfeasance and punishable under GS 123-5.”
 
The “misstatement” is a small part of the Governor’s problem. As one TAPster noted, he says he sold the stock NOT because it was the right thing to do, but because his “integrity was being challenged” and he wanted to put “this thing to bed.” In other words, it’s about PR, not integrity.
 
Second, as WRAL reported, “McCrory has steadfastly refused to take a position on whether shareholders or customers should pay for it (the coal ash cleanup), saying that decision should be left up to the state Utilities Commission.”
 
That is a dodge. Democrats in the legislature tried to amend the coal ash bill so the Utilities Commission couldn’t let Duke pass the cleanup costs on to ratepayers. Republicans squashed that, and they will answer for it this fall. And Roy Cooper has taken a position exactly opposite of McCrory’s.
 
Finally, away from the cameras, the federal grand jury investigation rolls on. Wait for those blaring, top-of-the-fold headlines.

 

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14

 

Our President praised the President of Iraq and urged Iraq’s new Prime Minister-to-be to bring Iraqis together and ‘form an inclusive new government.’
 
Which sure sounds fine.
 
Except for one hitch.
 
In New York City ‘inclusive’ means bringing together diverse ethnic groups and minorities in homogenized harmony, but in Iraq it means getting your enemy alone in a room where you stick a knife in him.

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14
Well, looking back, it was bound to happen. 
 
First, John Boehner decided to sue Obama for not enforcing the Obamacare laws and most of the House Republicans went along on the theory even if they didn’t like Obamacare the laws are the laws and the President can’t just change one whenever it suits him.
 
Then never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, to turn the tables on Republicans, Obama rolled out a bevy of spokesmen who proclaimed, Boehner’s getting ready to impeach the President, which worked out fine for Obama and brought the Democrats a windfall of cash from agitated Obama supporters.
 
Of course, on the other hand, most people sloughed off the whole brouhaha as just one more example of political foolishness – except for one group of folks who devoutly hoped it was true: The Tea Partiers.
 
To them impeaching Obama sounded just fine. 
 
Next, right in the middle of the impeachment flap, Attorney General Roy Cooper stood up and announced he wasn’t going to lift a finger to fight the federal court ruling that could strike down North Carolina’s gay marriage ban.
 
Amendment One, Cooper said, was kaput.
 
And from there it was inevitable.
 
Impeachment was infectious.
 
So we shouldn’t have been surprised when a State Senator, speaking to his local Tea Party group, announced he wanted to impeach Attorney General Cooper, added the Republican leaders in Raleigh were just the folks to do it, and added the wheels were already in motion.
 
What State Senator Norm Sanderson missed was what struck him – and the Tea Partiers – as a grand idea didn’t look so grand elsewhere; his call to impeach Roy Cooper landed in the News and Observer with a dull, uncomfortable thud and the Senate Republican leadership, sensing a backfire, announced no one, nowhere, no how in the State Senate was planning to impeach Roy Cooper and, suddenly, Senator Sanderson vanished as if he’d been quarantined.

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13
 The other day Gary wrote, “For Democrats this election year, this legislature is the gift that keeps on giving. Maybe they’ll stay in session all the way to November” – considering by Speaker Thom Tillis’ announcement the legislature is about to return to town and pass the stuck ‘coal ash’ bill, Gary may get more than he imagined.
 
According to the Speaker, in a compromise the House has agreed to the Senate’s demand that Duke Energy be allowed to petition the Utilities Commission next January to raise electric bills to pay for the coal ash cleanup.
 
In other words, a week after Duke Energy announced $609 million in profits for the last quarter, and less than three months before the election, legislators are going to return to Raleigh to vote to allow Duke Energy to raise electric bills.
  
Duke must have the best lobbyists on earth.
 

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12
I swear it looks like there’s not a peaceful corner on the planet.
 
We’re bombing the Taliban in Afghanistan. There’s a war in Iraq. And Syria. And Gaza. And this morning NATO reports Russia is about to invade the Ukraine.
 
It’s like every varmint on the globe got loose at once and went on a rampage.
 
It makes you wonder where we went wrong?
 

 

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11
Over lunch Mickey and Minnie were talking about Governor McCrory’s statement last week on the influx of child immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
 
Mickey was outraged. “McCrory must figure he’s losing the education debate. So he decided to bash child immigrants!” He noted that the N&O said McCrory’s remarks were “tinged with election-year politics.” He thundered, “’Tinged’, my foot. They were dripping with demagoguery.”
 
But Minnie saw it differently: “Look, 1,200 of these children have already come to North Carolina. And more are on their way. Right now, we’re barely able to take care of the people here. Our schools are overcrowded, and our health care system is overwhelmed. Who knows what kind of health, social and developmental issues these children have?”
 
Both Mickey and Minnie are Democrats. They are compassionate people. But their discussion shows how politically divisive and morally and practically vexing this issue is when you step away from the knee-jerk politics.
 
Our hearts tell us to take care of these children, the way religious charities are doing in our state right now. But our heads worry over our ability to take care of them.
 
In the end, one fact in the story jumped out at both Mickey and Minnie. A refugee group in Raleigh that has helped 130 unaccompanied minors reported that 95 percent of the girls in their program were raped before they came to the U.S.
 
Mickey shook his head sadly. “And we’re going to send them back?”

 

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07
It was unusual summer – first Governor McCrory reared back and threw a punch at the old Bull Mooses, then he threw another, and another.
 
Back in May, when he’d sent his budget over to the Senate, the Bull Mooses had unceremoniously dumped it in the waste bin, just as they had the year before, but this time instead of folding his tent the Governor let fly saying even if the Senate Leaders – like Phil Berger and Bob Rucho – were Republicans they sure reminded him of Marc Basnight and Harry Reid.
 
Of course some folks said that sounded like a fit of pique but it’s a cold hard fact most Republican Senators serve in Republican Districts and the most popular Republican in the state calling them Democrats was serious business.
 
Then, in July, as punches were flying and  it looked like the Governor was about to get some R-E-S-P-E-C-T at last, at a press conference a newspaper reporter asked him what troubled him most about this session of the legislature and he said his one disappointment was the Senate hadn’t passed his puppy mill bill.
 
We all love puppies but it was an unfortunate answer.
One minute the Governor was sounding as tough as John Wayne and the next he was sounding like Wally Cox and, sadly, R-E-S-P-E-C-T flew right out the window.

 

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