• Around the State of North Carolina

  • Two more failing grades for the State of North Carolina

  • Editor’s Note: Following are some excerpts from an extensive article published in New York Magazine. A link to the full article is provided following the article.
    The unfolding of the Russia scandal has been like walking into a dark cavern. Every step reveals that the cave runs deeper than we thought, and after each one, as we wonder how far it goes, our imaginations are circumscribed by the steps we have already taken. The cavern might go just a little farther, we presume, but probably not much farther. But what if that’s wrong? What if we’re still standing closer to the mouth of the cave than the end? What is missing from our imagination is the unlikely but possible outcome on the other end: that this is all much worse than we suspect.Suppose we are currently making the same mistake we made at the outset of this drama — suppose the dark crevices of the Russia scandal run not just a little deeper but a lot deeper. If that’s true, we are in the midst of a scandal unprecedented in American history, a subversion of the integrity of the presidency.
    It would be dangerous not to consider the possibility that the summit is less a negotiation between two heads of state than a meeting between a Russian-intelligence asset and his handler.
    • How do you even think about the small but real chance that the president of the United States has been influenced or compromised by a hostile foreign power for decades?
    • The combination of [Trump’s] penchant for compromising behavior, a willingness to work closely with criminals, and a desire to protect aspects of his privacy makes him the ideal blackmail target.
    • It is not difficult to imagine that Russia quickly had something on Trump, from either exploits during his 1987 visit or any subsequent embarrassing behavior KGB assets might have uncovered. But the other leverage Russia enjoyed over Trump for at least 15 years is indisputable — in fact, his family has admitted to it multiple times. After a series of financial reversals and his brazen abuse of bankruptcy laws, Trump found it impossible to borrow from American banks and grew heavily reliant on unconventional sources of capital. Russian cash proved his salvation. From 2003 to 2017, people from the former USSR made 86 all-cash purchases — a red flag of potential money laundering — of Trump properties, totaling $109 million.  “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia,” boasted Eric Trump in 2014.
    • This much was clear in March 2016: The person [Paul Manafort] who managed the campaign of a pro-Russian candidate in Ukraine was now also managing the campaign of a pro-Russian candidate in the United States. And Trump’s campaign certainly looked like the same play Putin had run many times before…
    • Contrary to Trump’s recent efforts to depict his relationship with Manafort as distant and short-lived, the two continued to speak regularly even after the inauguration. We know this because U.S. investigators had convinced a FISA judge to wiretap Manafort’s phone.
    • One way to make sense of his behavior is the possibility that Manafort is keeping his mouth shut because he’s afraid of being killed. That speculation might sound hyperbolic, but there is plenty of evidence to support it.  Russia murders people routinely, at home and abroad. In the nine months after Trump’s election, nine Russian officials were murdered or died mysteriously.
    • Now that he’s in office, Trump’s ties to Russia have attracted close scrutiny, and he has found his room to maneuver with Putin sharply constrained by his party. In early 2017, Congress passed sanctions to retaliate against Russia’s election attack. Trump lobbied to weaken them, and when they passed by vetoproof supermajorities, he was reportedly “apoplectic” and took four days to agree to sign the bill even knowing he couldn’t block it. After their passage, Trump has failed to enforce the sanctions as directed.
    • In a Republican meeting a month before Trump clinched the 2016 nomination, the recording of which later leaked, House Speaker Paul Ryan mused about how Russia “hacked the DNC … and, like, delivered it to who?” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy replied, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: [Dana]Rohrabacher [R-Representative] and Trump.” When others laughed, he added, “Swear to God.”
    • Trump barely puts much effort into predicting a clean bill of health anymore. He acts like a man with a great deal to hide: declining to testify, dangling pardons to keep witnesses from incriminating him, publicly chastising his attorney general for not quashing the whole investigation, and endorsing Russia’s preposterous claims that it had nothing to do with the election at all.
    • Like many of the suspicious facts surrounding Trump’s relations with Russia, it was possible to construct a semi-innocent defense. Maybe he just likes to brag about what he knows. Maybe he’s just too doddering to remember what’s a secret. And as often happens, these unwieldy explanations gained general acceptance. It seemed just too crazy to consider the alternative: It was all exactly what it appeared to be.
    The full article can be read HERE, where the following “collusion chart” can be seen in more detail.
  • Understanding the amendments that may appear on our November ballot

    Round-up: NC General Assembly discusses four constitutional amendments — hunting and fishing, voter ID, victims’ rights, legislative appointment of judges.

    Excerpted from

    GOP lawmakers want North Carolinians to make sweeping, permanent changes to the state Constitution and trust them to sort out the details of it all later. The legislature considered four constitutional amendment proposals yesterday and voted to move along two of them and continue discussing the other two.

    The two that are moving forward:

    1. The House Rules Committee voted first along party lines to pass a constitutional amendment that would protect people’s right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife. There was no debate.

    2. An amendment to enshrine a voter identification requirement for in-person voting in North Carolina. The details of how North Carolina’s voter identification process would not be decided until after voters approved the amendment, which technically means lawmakers could resurrect the same “monster voting law” they did before that was struck down by the courts.
    •The Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, President of the N.C. NAACP, said: “When voter ID was last attempted in this state, it was proven to block eligible voters from casting ballots, and those who were denied their rights were disproportionately African-American voters. House Bill 1092 would be one of the nation’s most extreme voting restrictions.…Voters are being asked to vote on a confusingly vague and permanent addition to the state constitution and enshrine discrimination without telling them what the change would be.”
    •Tomas Lopez, Executive Director of Democracy NC, a voting rights organization, echoed some of Spearman’s sentiments and expounded on the gravity of having a constitutional amendment on a voter identification requirement. Paula Jennings, who represents the League of Women Voters of Wake County, said the organization strongly opposes a voter ID amendment.
    •Other members of the public spoke in favor of the amendment, recounting personal experiences with voter fraud and calling for more security.
    •It should be noted that the State Board of Elections released an audit of the 2016 election and found that only one of the 4,769,640 votes cast in November would probably have been avoided with a voter ID law.

    Committee members voted again along party lines, 21-9, to advance the measure. It is scheduled Monday for a House floor vote. (Only three states have a voter identification requirement in their constitutions.)

    The two that will be debated further:

    The Senate Judiciary Committee met to debate two more: “Strengthening Victims’ Rights” and “Judicial Vacancy Sunshine Amendment.”

    1. The first is a version of Marsy’s Law, which is a multi-part proposal to expand crime victims’ rights. On the surface, it sounds simple, but Senate debate proved it’s anything but. Sen. Tamara Barringer (R-Wake) championed the bill and said the most important provisions involved the expansion of notification to victims of crime about proceedings and outcomes, the expansion of the definition of victim and an enforcement mechanism for victims to file motions in cases when they’re dissatisfied. But, Democratic Senators had a lot of questions, including how notification and a victims’ right to be heard would be implemented in bond reduction hearings, how courts could manage inappropriate victim responses when they have a constitutional right to be heard and how much money would be involved. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said the state Conference of District Attorneys had been consulted about the amendment process and provided feedback up to the day before the meeting. But, she said a lot of what the amendment does is already in place — victims’ rights already are enshrined in North Carolina Constitution. The Committee did not vote on the amendment, but expects to take it up again Monday.

    2. The last constitutional amendment discussed was one sprung on the legislature the day before by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. The Judicial Vacancy Sunshine Amendment — sponsored by Senators Warren Daniel (R-Burke), Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus) and Shirley Randleman (R-Stokes) — would transfer judicial vacancy appointment power from the governor to the legislature. The enabling legislation that comes after the constitutional amendment is passed could result in the legislature choosing seven of the nine-member commission and the governor and state Supreme Court Chief Justice each choosing one member. All of the members could be from one party or the other. And lawmakers would not be bound to choose anyone the commission picks. Again, the Senate Committee did not vote on the amendment, but discussion will continue Monday.

  • NC STATE BUDGET

    FACTS AND OPINIONS ON THE NC STATE BUDGET: