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21
A TAPster more knowledgeable than me offers a word of praise for one thing the legislature is doing:
 
The legislature this week will continue its napalm assault on long-standing policies and practices in the civil war to create a conservative nirvana in North Carolina. And, while most Republican efforts have hurt the poor, the sick and the feeble, raised tax payments and irritated Democrats, one target actually is getting what it deserves.
 
The so-called Map Act needs to be fixed. DOT obviously must retain its ability to buy rights of way and build roads. But DOT has abused its authority when, in essence, it condemns private property by proposing a highway through it, and then takes years or decades to actually obtain the property and compensate the property owner. This isn’t a partisan issue, because property owners of all political flavors are being screwed.
 
It’s a surprisingly good week on Jones Street when the honorables take a break from carpet-bombing history and tradition to work on something worthwhile.

 

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20
It happens just about every day: You open the newspaper, read about a politician, and shake your head thinking, That’s just plain crazy.
 
Not long ago the Senate proposed that, prior to Congress approving an agreement with Iran, the President should certify Iran is not supporting “terrorist attacks against Americans.”
 
Oddly that didn’t sit too well with White House Press spokesman Josh Earnest – who shot back it was a bad idea because the provision would make “the agreement contingent upon Iran renouncing terrorism.”
 
Yes, it would.
 
But do we really want an agreement that allows Iran to build a nuclear bomb – if it doesn’t renounce terrorism?


 

 

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16
Supporters of gay marriage figure it’s time to change two things: First, to change the legal definition of marriage to allow a man to marry another man.
 
The other change is even knottier: Discriminating against a man (or woman) because of race is illegal; gay rights supporters want to make it equally illegal to discriminate against a man because of his sexual orientation. Which, in a way, sounds reasonable. But, in another way, is the legal equivalent of giving government a knife to hold to the throats of people who disagree with gay marriage.
 
Under the current law, even if the state of Indiana changes the definition of marriage, Ms. Crystal O’Connor of Memories Pizza can say no to catering a gay wedding. It’s her choice. It’s not discrimination.
 
But if gays become a protected minority that changes. And not catering a gay wedding becomes illegal. And Ms. O’Connor lands in the soup.
 
Twenty-five years ago two Native American drug rehabilitation counselors who worked for the government got fired for smoking peyote. That sounded logical. But the Indians argued peyote smoking was part of their religion so firing them violated their freedom of religion. That sounded a bit odd. But Congress agreed. And New York Senator Charlie Schumer passed a law saying firing the Indians was wrong.
 
Liberals also like to say government has no business telling people what they can or can’t do in the privacy of their bedroom – but what about government walking into Ms. O’Connor’s pizzeria and telling her what to do?
 
Shouldn’t she be allowed to practice her religion – just like an Indian smoking peyote?
 


 

 

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15
Paul Krugman’s column runs twice weekly on the far-right side of The New York Times’ op-ed page, which is ironic given how far left his opinions are. He’s more liberal than me!
 
But he had a good one this week on the vast differences between any Democrat and any Republican in the Presidential race. He gave Democrats who yearn for a Democratic challenger to Hillary Clinton much food for thought.
 
Krugman decried what he called “personality-based political analysis,” a debatable stance, but his real point was:
 
“There has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less. As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other. The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.
 
“For example, any Democrat would, if elected, seek to maintain the basic U.S. social insurance programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — in essentially their current form, while also preserving and extending the Affordable Care Act. Any Republican would seek to destroy Obamacare, make deep cuts in Medicaid, and probably try to convert Medicare into a voucher system.
 
“Any Democrat would retain the tax hikes on high-income Americans that went into effect in 2013, and possibly seek more. Any Republican would try to cut taxes on the wealthy — House Republicans plan to vote next week to repeal the estate tax — while slashing programs that aid low-income families.
 
“Any Democrat would try to preserve the 2010 financial reform, which has recently been looking much more effective than critics suggested. Any Republican would seek to roll it back, eliminating both consumer protection and the extra regulation applied to large, ‘systemically important’ financial institutions.
 
“And any Democrat would try to move forward on climate policy, through executive action if necessary, while any Republican — whether or not he is an outright climate-science denialist — would block efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.”
 
No matter how-many-angels-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin internal debates Democrats have, this is the real debate in 2016.
 
Let’s get on with it. As Krugman says, “American voters will be getting a real choice.”

 

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13
Hillary Clinton’s announcement was so damn good it ought to end all the hand-wringing and bed-wetting in the Democratic Party. It won’t, of course, Democrats being Democrats. But she puts a stake down right on the ground where Democrats can win big in 2016 – from the White House all the way down the ballot in North Carolina.
 
She puts it more smoothly than this, but her message is blunt: It’s all of us against them, them being the 1 percent at the top and the Republicans who are their handmaidens.
 
Before we descend into the coming 19 months of over-analyzing, over-thinking and under-listening, let’s frame the presidential race the way most American voters will: Who understands ME and who will really be on MY side?
 
That’s what the video hits squarely: the myriad lives and concerns of real people and families – people starting out in life, people (yes, including same-sex couples) starting a marriage, people retiring, people starting a new career, people starting a new business and even people who just want to keep their dog from eating the trash.
 
The political media hates this sort of thing, of course. As The New York Times noted archly, Clinton “finally” appeared at the 1:33 mark of her 2:18-minute video, titled “Getting Started.” The Times failed to note that, in her first screen shot, she’s listening, not talking. Now we’ll have to endure endless media commentary about whether she’s said enough yet about where she stands and whether she’s done enough yet to make the media happy.
 
The video’s contrast with the Republicans who have so far announced for President was striking. Both Ted Cruz and Rand Paul had the traditional Big Speech at a Big Lectern to a Big Crowd. Their events screamed “Politician!” Clinton’s video said “People!” As of 9 am this morning, her video had been viewed 2.2 million times on YouTube alone. How many people saw Cruz’s and Rand’s announcements?
 
(By the way, Cruz staked out his turf as the reddest red-meat Republican there is. His real base is a handful of billionaires who care about one thing only: not paying taxes. Paul’s target constituency appears to be, as one TAPster noted, white males between the ages of 18 and 20. Which is fitting for a candidate who looks like a cross between a hobbit and one of Harry Potter’s classmates.)
 
Let’s do something radical here. Let’s actually pay attention to what Clinton said, and not just what the big feet and big mouths say about it:
 
“I’m getting ready to do something, too. I’m running for President.
 
“Americans have fought their way back from some tough economic times. But the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.
 
“Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion. So you can do know more than just get by. You can get ahead, and stay ahead. Because when families are strong, America is strong.
 
“So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote — because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”
 
Here’s how one wise old North Carolina Democrat sized it up: “People in this country are getting pretty damned fed up with struggling to get by while the top 1 percent take everything and tell the rest of us to go to hell.”
 
That’s the ground where 2016 can be won, and won big. That’s why Democrats who yearn for an Elizabeth Warren to get in the race are wrong. As California Governor Jerry Brown said, “the primaries get into all the little nuances and small differences of candidates of the same party. What Hillary needs is a good debate drawing the distinctions between where she stands and where all these Republicans, these wannabes running around, (stand).”
 
Those differences are big. And that debate is on.

 

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06
You could hear Republican heads exploding when the President announced a deal to keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Predictably, Republicans sided with Bibi over Obama.
 
There is something about their knee-jerk response that raises suspicions. Is it really a bad deal, or is it just that Obama’s political enemies are just bound and determined to oppose anything he does? Is it really such a great idea for the United States to blindly rubberstamp everything Bibi does? Is what Bibi says is good for Israel automatically good for America?
 
The same suspicion rises when the GOP war hawks demand a full-scale war with ISIS. Their reasoning: ISIS is a bunch of savage, terrible people. They behead innocent people and do other horrible things. Even worse, we see it online and on the evening news.
 
Well, the world is full of terrible people doing horrible things. Like Boko Haram in Africa. But they don’t seem to have the same level of media savvy as the savages in ISIS. Ergo, send our military into the Middle East. After all, it worked out so well last time.
 
Pardon us for noticing that the Iran deal’s detractors don’t have such a great track record.

 

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31
Thanks to a TAPster who remembers the 1980s for this one:
 
 
“(North Carolina Congressman) Patrick McHenry is listed as an organizer of a new joint fundraising committee named – drum roll – Whip It Good PAC.  At first I thought it was a joke, but apparently not.”
 
 
For those not familiar with the Devo song and video “Whip It,” enjoy.
 
 
Whip it, Patrick.

 

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26
Folks who vote in Republican primaries, if asked, will tell you they’re Conservative and most will firmly add they’re Very Conservative as opposed to A Little Conservative.
 
In the uncompromising depth of his conservative beliefs, Ted Cruz is their cup of tea.
 
But…
 
It’s hard to put your finger on that ‘but…’ but instead of marching onto the Presidential battlefield at the head of an army of Conservatives, Cruz trails Scott Walker and Rand Paul.    
 
National Review published an article by Charles Cooke that may touch on the reason why.
 
Mr. Cooke described the first time he heard Cruz speak: He listened, agreed, admired Cruz’s intelligence, never doubted his sincerity but added, For all his obvious talent Cruz’s rhetorical style frankly makes my hair curl a little.
 
He heard both Cruz and Marco Rubio speak a year later: The audience, he wrote, was more excited to hear Cruz – but after the speeches that changed.
 
Rubio talks to you – Cruz seemed to lecture, one attendee told him.
 
Ted Cruz is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative running in a primary full of two-fisted conservative voters and being tough and smart and sincere may be all it takes at the end of the day. But… how you explain your beliefs matters and a glimmer of conversation, and speaking to people rather than at them, might be the fuel to ignite Ted Cruz’s campaign.


 

 

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25
Sometimes in politics you have to rise above principle.
 
Republicans vow to resist fight President Obama’s “redistributionist” economic policies. Then GOP legislators plot to redistribute sales tax revenues from urban (Democratic) to rural (Republican) counties.
 
Senator Ted Cruz vows to repeal Obamacare. Then he signs up for insurance under Obamacare.
 
Governor McCrory pledged to end the corrupt, secretive practices of his Democratic predecessors. Then he repeatedly fails to accurately report his financial affairs.
 
Legislative Republicans promised to end the partisan machinations of their Democratic predecessors. Then they gerrymander congressional and legislative elections and then move on to county and municipal elections.
 
John Hood has a timely warning in his blog about the unintended consequences of monkeying with elections: “…my message to today’s North Carolina Republicans is this: change an electoral rule if it makes sense on the merits, but don’t do it assuming that your party will benefit. Back in the day, Democrats checked their swing. Now they’re glad they did.”

 

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24
With the Irish Prime Minister sitting beside him, Obama said Republicans are against education. Infrastructure. Research. The things needed to create jobs. National defense. And the middle class.
 
Then having thrown down the gauntlet, and concisely summed up how he felt about the Republican budget, the President rolled out the welcome mat for the Prime Minister.
 
Next I turned to a stack of newspaper clippings about Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker – looking for an answer to Obama.
 
Walker was criticizing unions.
 
Cruz was criticizing Obama’s deal with Iran.  
 
Paul was talking about criminal justice reform.
 
And Bush was saying it’s the President’s job to reweave civility into political discourse.
 
Answering Obama would have been as simple as saying, If you don’t agree with the President about how big the federal government ought to be – he says you’re against the middle class. Now, does that really make sense?  
 
But no voice took up the gauntlet.


 

 

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