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22
Are Washington Republicans learning from Wake County Republicans?
 
Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a leading opponent of the health-care reform bill, said Sunday: “What the American people should pray is that somebody can’t make the vote.”
 
Democrats protested that Coburn was wishing misfortune on a Senator.
 
Maybe Coburn was just hoping that – a la the WakeCounty commissioners – a Democrat will go to the bathroom long enough to let Republicans prevail.
 
Given the heavy-handed rule of Republicans when they ran Congress, they hardly have room to squawk now.
 
Harry Reid’s strategy is bold and brutal: We’ve got the votes, and we’re going to pass the bill.
 
It’s about time Democrats showed some ruthlessness.

 

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21
Editorial writers, defense lawyers and letter-writers claimed that Governor Perdue was defying the courts and the “rule of law” in the life-doesn’t-mean-life brouhaha.
 
But now one judge has agreed with her – and the Supreme Court has decided to review the matter.
 
In truth, her critics’ rhetoric was just as overheated as the Governor’s.
 
She had the right instinct on this issue. And the public agrees with her. But she overreached at first, especially when she vowed to stand in the jailhouse door.
 
Sometimes in politics it pays to underreact.
 
The Governor can dial it back now. If the (Republican majority) Supreme Court rules against her, she can disagree and vow to do whatever she can to keep people safe.
 
Let the critics rage, Bev. They’re helping you.

 

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17
There was a pretty glowing report in the paper Wednesday about the Copenhagen Summit, saying just about everyone’s agreed to compensate poor countries for preserving forests and swamps. (Just think, once, not too long ago draining a swamp was a virtue).
 
It seems the big hurdle standing in the way of an agreement was how to define a forest – but, somehow, the climate experts got that worked out and rolled on glowingly gushing how it’s a dead certain absolute fact exactly 20% of greenhouse gas emissions are due to folks chopping down forests and how this deal is a bonanza for everyone from poor countries to multi-national conglomerates – so just about everyone in Copenhagen is for it.
 
But the report never mentioned one thing.
 
Where does the ‘compensation’ – the cash going to the third world nations – come from?
 
The answer is from you – Mr. U.S. Taxpayer.
 
That’s right. The federal deficit is a trillion dollars, unemployment is 11%, and your money is going to Bangladesh – to pay them not to drain a swamp.
 

 

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11
Here is the real world of politics.
 
Imagine you’re Governor Perdue’s political adviser. You’re trying to solve her poll problems. You’re looking for policy ideas and initiatives she can push. You’re tweaking her schedule for maximum media. You’re branching into new media and online communications.
 
Then you hear this exchange between a drug-store clerk and a customer – clearly a regular – buying lottery tickets:
 
Customer: “I guess I’ll try one of those Holiday lottery tickets again.”
 
Clerk: “How are those working out for you?”
 
Customer: “Not as good as last Christmas.”
 
Clerk: “Well, you know, we’ve got Perdue in office now.”
 
Customer: “That’s right.”
 
That’s the thanks Bev gets for casting the vote that passed the lottery.

 

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04
The new majority took over the Wake County school board like the Jacobins took over Paris.
 
Replacing a board that was seen as high-handed and arrogant, they set new standards for high-handed and arrogant.
 
One step got little attention. The board hired a Republican lawyer. Unclear is whether they fired Tharrington and Smith, which has one of the state’s largest education practices.
 
Is this retribution for Wade Smith speaking out in the campaign against resegregation?
 
This board – after one meeting – has alienated half of Wake County, including teachers.
 
It won’t take them long to antagonize the other half.
 
But how much damage will they do first?

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02

 

You can tell when a politician lands in the soup – because he starts writing op-eds in the News and Observer – praising himself. What put Secretary Lanier Cansler in the op-ed writing business was a story on WRAL-TV about Cansler trying to cut medical care to a 20 month old infant on Medicaid.
 
Cansler’s answer – in his op-ed – was he hasn’t (and isn’t going to) cut care to one patient who needs it.
 
Which sounds fine – except it seems Cansler determines how many people he wants to cut, then, almost magically, finds that precisely the same number of people don’t need care.
 
Of course the root of Cansler’s problem is money – which goes back to the budget negotiations last summer when Governor Perdue was zigging and zagging between cutting spending and raising taxes. Somewhere along the way Secretary Cansler told legislators he could cut his department’s spending $400 million if, first, they’d let him hand out $250 million in no bid contracts.
 
Now, of course, that’s what every Cabinet secretary says when he wants to pass out no bid contracts – but this is politics and Democratic legislators said yes and left town and Cansler passed out the contracts, increasing spending $250 million.

Then he focused on cutting his budget and ran head on into a problem: Medicaid is an entitlement program. Which means by law poor, sick people are ‘entitled’ to care and Cansler couldn’t just wave a wand and cut them. First he’d have to change the law. Which he didn’t do.
 
Plus the Obama Administration had told him making it harder for elderly, sick people to get medical care could cost North Carolina $2 billion in Medicaid Stimulus Funds. Plus, cutting care to patients – like a twenty month old infant wasn’t going to make him – or his boss Governor Perdue – look very kind hearted.
 
Cansler needed a solution. And he found one. In fact, he killed two birds with one stone by declaring the patientshe was going to cut weren’t sick and didn’t need carethat side step got him around the Obama Administration’s objections and solved his political problem, since no one was going to argue with cutting a patient who was cheating Medicaid to get care they didn’t need.
 
Now there’s no doubt there’re probably plenty of people cheating Medicaid – but the number Cansler came up with was eye-popping. Right off the bat he announced that so many people were cheating in one program – Medicaid Home Care – that 58% of the care being provided was going to skizzlers.  
 
And how Cansler arrived at that number was odd. He announced it before a single patient – for instance like Chloe – was examined.
 
So, in fact, all this looks like politics as usual: Cansler promised legislators $400 million in cuts, then promptly increased spending $250 million (to pay for no-bid contracts) and, now, to cut his budget is claiming 58% of the Medicaid money being spent for home care is going to skizzlers – a number even a right wing Republican like me has trouble believing.
 
Then, Cansler sat down and wrote an op-ed for the News and Observer saying he’s not cutting care to a single patient who needs it.
 
After the latest polls the folks in the Governor’s office must be happy to see Beverly Perdue’s popularity rebounding from fatal to nearly fatal – but there’s no need for Republicans to worry. Secretary Cansler is taking care of the problem for us.

 

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01
Over at the Federal Courthouse in Raleigh a Grand Jury’s investigating former Governor Easley for corruption.
 
The newspaper reports just before he left office former State Treasurer Richard Moore handed a San Diego hedge fund $500 million in state pension money to invest – then a few weeks after he left office took a job with the fund.
 
The former Agriculture Secretary, a former Congressman, a State former Representative and a former Speaker of the House have all served time in prison for corruption.
 
Over at the Department of Motor Vehicles there’s an investigation underway into a no-bid contract the Department gave Verizon.
 
And over at the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Lanier Cansler’s passing out no-bid contracts to his former clients and his wife’s lobbying firm’s clients left and right and WRAL-TV reports – at the same time – Cansler’s department tried to cut twenty month old Chloe Garris
 
 
 
(who was born with a genetic defect and can’t breathe without a tracheotomy or eat without a feeding tube) home care nurses in order to save money.
 
And what’s Governor Perdue doing about all this?
 
Watch: 

While Rome burns the Governor’s running TV ads telling on UNC basketball games – at taxpayers’ expense – to tell people they ought to wash their hands to stop the spread of germs.

 

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23
Next year may be a Republican year, but politics is funny. Polls show Richard Burr getting little more than 40 percent of the vote against a generic Democratic opponent.

One problem: No Democratic candidate has yet convinced the party he or she can beat Burr.
 
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is making another run at Cal Cunningham – now that the DSCC’s ill-advised wait on Bob Etheridge is finally over.
 
But the election is less than a year away. Burr is several million dollars ahead in fundraising. His stout defense of the pharmaceutical industry won’t hurt his fund-raising either.
 
The parade of Democrats who maintain they are putting their families first is getting ridiculous. Get real. Any politician worth his or her salt will happily neglect their families for a year for a chance to go to the United States Senate. The calculation is all about whether they can win.
 
The spotlight is now back on Cunningham. His Facebook club says, “We now have every reason to believe that Cal is listening to those who want him back in the running.”
 
Enough listening. Get in the game or get off the field.

 

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18
 
Here’s another odd story about how the Department of Health and Human Services works.
 
Early in the Easley Administration, when Lanier Cansler was Assistant Secretary, the department decided to ‘Reform Mental Health’ in order to save taxpayers money and provide better care.
 
About the same time Assistant Secretary Cansler was handling bidding out a $265 state contract for DHHS. Later, after the ‘Mental Health Reform’ plan got rolling, he decided to leave the department to go to work lobbying for one of the firms bidding on the $265 million contract.
 
That left the folks in the Mental Health Department carrying out the reforms, including Deputy Director of Mental Health Tara Larson – then Ms. Larson landed in hot water for running up 6951 minutes of cell phone charges making personal calls on her state phone. The department’s solution was to move her into the backwaters of DHHS where she spent the next few months lying low.
 
Next, after Cansler and Larson departed the scene, ‘Mental Health Reform’ turned out to be a disaster. It left the state’s mental health care programs in a shambles and cost taxpayers a whopping $400 million.
 
Now you might have thought that might leave the ‘Reformers’ – including Cansler and Larson – behind the eight-ball. But it didn’t.
 
When Governor Perdue was elected she promoted Ms. Larson to Deputy Director of DHHS $12 billion Medicaid department and made Cansler Secretary of the whole department.
 
So now the folks who reformed ‘Mental Health’ are running Medicaid and, on top of that, three months after the Governor made him head of DHHS Cansler’s department awarded the $265 contract to his former client.
 
Now the question you might ask is: Does anyone in state government have a lick of common sense?
 
And the answer is: Well, yes. If you look at it from their perspective.
 
If you’re the Director of a state Agency and another director or deputy Director – like Ms. Larson – gets in trouble common sense comes into play real quick and what it says is: The same thing could happen to you. So to Ms. Larson’s peers Governor Perdue rescuing her with another state job has a soothing feeling about it.
 
And what if you’re Secretary Cansler? Well, with Governor Perdue looking like an odds on favorite to be a 1-term governor common sense may be whispering to him, You’d better stay friendly with your old clients – because he may be back in the lobbying business sooner than he anticipated.
 
In fact, the only person who’s not showing much common sense is Governor Perdue – who’s got a problem her deputies and Cabinet Secretaries don’t. She’s got to face voters in three years. And what common sense may be whispering to them is, We’ve had enough of running state government like a three-ring circus.
 
 

 

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17
Back in August in her rush to pass the budget and get the legislature out of town, it looks like Governor Perdue slipped up and pulled a number out of thin air. What the Governor did to balance the budget (at least on paper) was tell legislators she was going to cut the Department of Health and Human Services budget $400 million.
 
Only she missed one fact: DHHS runs entitlement programs: Like Medicaid. And by law if someone’s poor and sick and needs help the state can’t just cut their care. The only way to cut Medicaid is to change the law to take away the entitlement.
 
But the Governor (and legislators) didn’t do that.
 
Which leaves Medicaid Director Craigon Gray wrestling with the knotty problem and it looks like he’s come up with sneaky solution.
 
Director Gray has decided thousands of Medicaid patients – who his department’s been saying for years are entitled to care – are not actually eligible.
 
Now, in the real world, discovering ten or twenty thousand Medicaid patients don’t need care would be a welcome savings – except this revelation isn’t the result of welfare reform. Instead it’s the result of the Governor’s $400 million mistake and the poor folks on Medicaid just happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time – and eligible or not they’re about to get cut.
 
Worse, what’s going to happen when Gray executes his plan is going to be a huge train wreck – at taxpayers’ expense.
 
To put a fig leaf on his cuts Director Gray’s paying $24 million – to a former client of Secretary Cansler’s – to review every patient in one program, Medicaid Home Care. What’s odd is that even before the first patient’s been examined Director Gray’s already announced the results: The study will find 40% of the patients are ineligible. And he’ll cut, he says, exactly $138 million.
 
And here’s what is going to happen then: Every patient Director Gray cuts – by law – has a right to appeal. There’ll be appeals and lawsuits out the wazoo and when there’re done there’ll probably be the same number of patients on Medicaid as there are now – except taxpayers will be out the $24 million Director Gray paid for his study, plus untold millions in legal fees.
 
Oh, yes, and while Director Gray is telling folks he’s got to cut care to patients with diseases like Muscular Dystrophy – Secretary Cansler spent $140,000 to fly 16 bureaucrats to sunny San Diego for two weeks for a conference.
 
 
 

 

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