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Excellent primer on Russian hacking and Trump/Putin involvement

I have to give McClatchy two blue stars for this intel brief:

The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the inquiry.

Steele’s reports also alleged that Russian consulates in New York, Washington and Miami were used to deliver “tens of thousands of dollars” to Kremlin-hired operatives using fictitious names as if they were legitimate Russian-American pensioners. That “ruse” was designed to give Russia “plausible deniability,” Steele’s reports suggested. However, Russia does not operate a consulate in Miami.

The quality of Steele's intelligence-gathering efforts should be suspect, to a certain degree. When you're paid (originally by a Republican, and later by a Democrat) to find damaging information, you will find damaging information, even if it doesn't exist or is created by somebody else for you to find. But Steele isn't an amateur. He worked for 6 long enough to spot bullshit a mile away. So, there are probably some kernels of truth in his report, but verifying them will be difficult, at best. What we should be concerned about (as of tomorrow, or Monday, if Dingus does take the weekend off) is the likelihood the incoming President will quash any ongoing investigations being pursued by Executive Branch agencies. Which covers all six agencies in this working group. And it's a good bet Putin wants them to stop ASAP:

Environmental Injustice: Living in Hogland

Talk about your bad neighbors:

The EPA says the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality has not done enough to reduce asthma, stench, flies, truck traffic and other problems caused by the facilities. The federal agency also says it has “grave concerns” about reports from minority neighbors of threats and intimidation against those who have complained.

“North Carolina hog farmers are good neighbors who care deeply about protecting our water and air,” Andy Curliss, chief executive officer of the Pork Council, said in a statement released Wednesday. “We welcome the opportunity to sit down with state regulators and those who live near our farms to address any concerns they may have.”

Oh, Andy. How far you've fallen. You used to investigate stories like this, and uncover the dark secrets behind the shining public façade. Now you are that façade. And you're not just covering up unethical business practices, some of this behavior is not unlike the mafia in its implied violence and brutality:

Thursday News: We're way past "I'm sorry," dude

HEADLINE, TO PHOTO, FAKE NEWS MASTERPIECE FROM DAVIDSON GRAD (New York Times) -- It was early fall, and Donald J. Trump, behind in the polls, seemed to be preparing a rationale in case a winner like him somehow managed to lose. He was hearing “more and more” about evidence of rigging, he added, leaving the details to his supporters’ imagination. A few weeks later, Cameron Harris, a new Davidson College grad with a fervent interest in Republican politics and a need for cash, sat down at the kitchen table in his apartment to fill in the details Trump had left out. In a dubious art just coming into its prime, this bogus story would be his masterpiece. “I had a theory when I sat down to write it,” recalled Mr. Harris, a 23-year-old former college quarterback and fraternity leader. “Given the severe distrust of the media among Trump supporters, anything that parroted Trump’s talking points people would click."
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/us/fake-news-hillary-clinton-cameron-harris.html

Introducing the NC GOP's favorite money-man: Roger W. Knight

A little background from our friend Greg Flynn:

The Carolina Business Coalition, Inc., has been in existence since May of 2011 but publicly dormant until recently. Originally set up by Roger Knight, a campaign finance attorney with fingers in various right-wing pies, the organization switched the record of responsibility in April to Peter Barnes who filed paperwork for the Carolina Business Coalition Education Fund with both the IRS and the State Board of Elections on May 10th. Roger Knight serves as a director of the parent Carolina Business Coalition which is chaired by Allen Gant, President and CEO of Glen Raven, Inc. a major contributor to Real Jobs NC set up by Fred Eshelman, and for which Knight has served as Executive Director. In 2010, largely funded by the Republican State Leadership Committee, Real Jobs NC spent $1.6 million on state races, a big factor in the Republican takeover of the NC General Assembly.

Since the early days of the Republican takeover of NC government, dark money has poured into individual races for the General Assembly, often in the form of vague (and hugely expensive) television commercials promoting Republican candidates or attacking their Democratic opponents. For the most part, those subsequently elected (or re) officials have tried to separate themselves from that dark money. But while doing a search on the new Appropriations Committee Co-Chair (Dean Arp), I stumbled across this relatively new 501(c)4 independent expenditure org which is directly tied to the NC House GOP leadership:

Make Inauguration Day a day of mourning? Not so fast says Chapel Hill.

Dear James:

Thank you for reaching out to the members of the Chapel Hill Town Council and me.

I am writing to respond to your petition. While I, too, am deeply concerned about the impact of Mr. Trump’s words and actions, I believe that it is imperative for local and state elected officials to set a positive tone for our communities so that we can continue to move forward together over the next four years.

Wednesday News: Power to the women

MARCH ON RALEIGH PLANS TO GIVE VOICE TO THOUSANDS OF WOMEN (WRAL-TV) -- If all goes according to plan, thousands will fill Fayetteville Street on Saturday for the Women's March on Raleigh, planned at the same time as the massive Women's March on Washington. The march in downtown Raleigh on Saturday is intended to give women a voice that some feel was lost in the recent political climate. “I am concerned about paid maternity leave, I am concerned about the wage gap, I am concerned about my reproductive rights,” said organizer Carly Jones.
http://www.wral.com/march-on-raleigh-plans-to-give-voice-to-thousands-of-women/16443299/

Is GOP Congress gunning for Endangered Species Act?

The Magic 8-Ball sez, "You betcha."

Now, with the ascension of President-elect Donald Trump, Republicans see an opportunity to advance broad changes to a law they contend has been exploited by wildlife advocates to block economic development.

“It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species. It’s been used for control of the land,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop. “We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.” Bishop said he “would love to invalidate” the law and would need other lawmakers’ cooperation.

Make no mistake, the fossil fuel industry is the main driver of this. The Federal government has granted thousands of leases to these folks to drill, but it's still not enough. They want unfettered access, and no pesky inspectors to keep an eye on them. And Republicans won't even have to repeal the Act, just fiddle with it a little bit

Tuesday News: Medicaid expansion battle continues

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NC, FEDERAL OFFICIALS ASK JUDGE TO LIFT BLOCK ON MEDICAID EXPANSION (Raleigh News & Observer) -- State and federal officials filed court motions Monday asking a judge to lift a court order that temporarily blocks Gov. Roy Cooper’s plan to expand Medicaid in this state before President Barack Obama leaves office. The requests come two days after U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan filed a restraining order blocking Cooper from trying to expand the state’s Medicaid program for at least the next two weeks. In their court documents filed Monday, a federal holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the state and federal officials argued that Phil Berger, president pro tempore of the state Senate, and Tim Moore, speaker of the state House of Representatives, overstated potential problems that could come from such an expansion.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article126894289.html

I attended a political event yesterday with three NC House members

Some good friends here in Chapel Hill hosted an informational meeting yesterday, featuring Verla Insko, Graig Meyer, and Darren Jackson. Attendance was off the charts, people were eager to find a way to take action in the face of so much ugliness and overreach by Republicans in Raleigh. There was plenty of chit-chat about the national scene as well, but the focus was on North Carolina in general, and the NC House in particular.

I had two takeaways from the meetings. First, I was encouraged by the level of energy of people to take action. Second, I was deeply frustrated by the "strategy" that seems to be driving the Democratic Party. I was looking for bold, fresh thinking. What I heard was "give money, host fundraisers, make phone calls."

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