Friday News: Of course they did

SENATE COMMITTEE CONFIRMS HALL AS MILITARY AFFAIRS SECRETARY (WRAL-TV) -- After weeks of arguing over the legality of the confirmation process, a Senate committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve former state Rep. Larry Hall as secretary of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Early on in the hearing, he said his office would be focused on making sure veterans knew about the services available to them that they may not be using. "What we've failed to do is engage (veterans) and ensure they get they full advantage of every right and benefit they have earned," he said. Other pressing issues for the office, he said, would be creating more jobs for veterans, ending homelessness among veterans and combating an epidemic of suicides among veterans.
http://www.wral.com/senate-committee-confirms-hall-as-military-affairs-secretary/16561543/

Burr isn't just an incompetent slacker, he's also corrupt

For years friends have told me that Senator Richard Burr is a nice guy. They characterized him as an affable frat boy, proud of not wearing socks. They said he'd never do anything of importance, but that he would be a good soldier, for the most part, and toe the party line. No one ever said he'd prove to be a corrupt lap dog to the most dishonest president in history. But that's what he is.

Thursday News: Budgeting the right way

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IN FIRST BUDGET, COOPER PUSHES FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION (N.C. Health News) -- In rolling out his first budget, Gov. Roy Cooper said he will be able to increase North Carolina’s spending for the coming fiscal year by $1.1 billion. Cooper’s $23.48 billion dollar spending plan for 2017-18 emphasizes increasing teacher pay, increasing salaries for state employees across the board and builds on former Gov. McCrory’s infrastructure improvements to upgrade more state properties. “I have talked to hospital CEOs. I think they are willing and ready and able to step up in exchange for this expansion,” he said. “It’s gonna be a net gain for them. They’re getting hundreds of millions of dollars in this expansion.”
http://www.northcarolinahealthnews.org/2017/03/02/first-budget-cooper-pushes-medicaid-expansion/

Thanks to Trump, we're back to dumping coal waste into streams

MB at Dailykos has the roundup of idiotic Trumpiness:

The regulation he boasted about stopping is the Stream Protection Rule drawn up by the Office of Surface Mining. He signed a bill on Feb. 16 eliminating it, noting that getting rid of this rule that was approved in December would save thousands of mining jobs. The rule was meant to keep coal-mining waste out of streams, but it was considerably watered down thanks to industry lobbying. The rule did not ban mountain top removal that is used to get at coal seams, with the overburden of soil and rock dumped in stream valleys.

Even though the rule was far weaker than it needed to be, now instead of making companies stop dumping their coal waste in those valleys, the consequences will continue to fall as it has for more than a century on the people who live where the companies befoul the water and land with their leavings.

Something a lot of folks fail to comprehend when this subject comes up: Mountain streams make up the headwaters of rivers that run for hundreds of miles, through countless small towns and even larger cities, and these rivers cross state lines on their way to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico here on the Eastern half of the US. As far as surface pollution goes, nothing else competes with the sheer distance and volume of water polluted. And thanks to proposed budget cuts to the EPA, tracking that pollution is now going to be much more difficult:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Selenium levels in Kentucky fish off the scales

Give a man a fish, poison him just a little:

Despite decades of pollution from the Brown plant, the Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife lists Herrington Lake as a great place to catch largemouth bass, crappie, white bass and bluegill. Like every other water body in the state, fish in Herrington Lake are already under an advisory for mercury because of air pollution from coal-fired power plants. But now, state regulators say the power plant’s coal ash pond has poisoned Herrington Lake’s fish in a different way: with selenium.

Nine out of 10 fish tissue samples taken last spring in Herrington Lake exceeded Kentucky’s fish tissue selenium criteria. LG&E and KU were cited for the violation last month and quickly reached an agreement with the state to pay $25,000 in civil penalties and take corrective measures.

Teach a man to fish, and you may be guilty of criminal negligence. Seriously, I just can't understand why fishermen and other outdoor sports enthusiasts aren't beating down the doors of their county/state/national governments to crack down on such pollution. I mean, just the fact you're not supposed to *eat* the fish is bad enough, but the systematic killing-off of fish populations makes the sport of fishing seem about as ridiculous as snipe-hunting:

Wednesday News: The roots of the problem

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HB2 REPEAL WILL COME ONLY WHEN BERGER AND MOORE CLEAR THE WAY (Capitol Broadcasting Co. editorial) -- Thanks to extreme gerrymandering, the General Assembly has become an ideological echo chamber where voices of reason are drowned out by shouts of extremism. It is a place where absurd comments from House Speaker Tim Moore and state Senate boss Phil Berger, complaining it’s always the opponents and victims of HB2 who are preventing its repeal, are inexplicably viewed as reasonable. The bill includes a ridiculously low threshold – 10 percent of voters in the previous municipal election -- to get a repeal on the ballot. That would be a mere 4,200 signatures in Raleigh – a city with a 438,000 population. Such a counter-productive process only breeds more divisiveness and trouble. There will be a referendum in every city.
http://www.wral.com/editorial-hb2-repeal-will-come-only-when-berger-and-moore-clear-the-way/16557836/

Asheville City Council next target of GOP meddling

If you can't be popular, be a bully:

Republican Sen. Chuck Edwards, who represents a small part of South Asheville, sent an email to Mayor Esther Manheimer Tuesday afternoon saying he was "confident that this measure" to require districts in council elections would pass the General Assembly in Raleigh, unlike one attempted by his powerful predecessor.

Apodaca, who was chairman of the powerful rules committee, said he wanted to change the fact that no council member had been elected for more than a decade from South Asheville, which has the highest number of Republicans in the city. Tuesday, Edwards said his "actions are the result of trends taking place in municipalities as well as a great deal of feedback from citizens of Buncombe County."

Asheville needs to fight this the way Greensboro did, if it comes down to it. And I wouldn't trust Republicans in the General Assembly to respect any District maps developed by the City, because they are constitutionally incapable of keeping their grubby fingers from redrawing maps, and double-bunking is bound to occur. Which, in case you're not paying attention, is one way the Legislature undermines the will of the people, by making them choose which one of their 2-3 favorites gets to remain in office.

Tuesday News

CONSTIUTIONAL RIGHT TO FACEBOOK, TWITTER? SUPREME COURT WEIGHS IN (New York Times) -- A Supreme Court argument on Monday about whether North Carolina may bar registered sex offenders from using Facebook, Twitter and similar services turned into a discussion of how thoroughly social media have transformed American civic discourse. The justices’ remarks, which indicated easy familiarity with the major social media services, suggested that they would strike down the North Carolina law under the First Amendment.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/27/us/politics/supreme-court-north-carolina-sex-offenders-social-med...

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