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Nothing has exposed the rot at the root of the Republican tree in Washington more than the case of Michael Scanlon.

Scanlon is the Tom Delay protégé who is now charged with criminal conspiracy related to his ties to GOP superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. According to The New York Times:

Mr. Scanlon is in legal trouble for his business dealings with Mr. Abramoff, with whom he used his ties to the Republican House leadership to build a booming lobbying and public affairs business.

Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Abramoff collected about $82 million in fees from Indian tribes over four years. Their dealings triggered the investigation that led to the criminal conspiracy charge filed against Mr. Scanlon.

The irony is that Scanlon is one of those zealous, conservative young men and women who – until the feds started investigating – was certain of his own moral righteousness.

As Delay’s press spokesman in 1998, Scanlon had this to say about Bill Clinton’s impeachment troubles:

“You kick him until he passes out,” Mr. Scanlon wrote in an e-mail message that was published in the Clinton biography “The Breach.” “Then beat him over the head with a baseball bat, then roll him up in an old rug and throw him off a cliff into the pounding surf below!!!!!”

Mr. Scanlon certainly got around. According to some news accounts in 1996, he was the director of communications for then-Congressman Fred Heineman of North Carolina and vice president for policy research at Multimedia Inc., a Raleigh consulting firm.

These days, he keeps a lower profile. As The Times reported:

Except for one silent appearance before the Senate in 2004 – during which Republican members excoriated him for his treatment of Indian tribes and his refusal to testify – Mr. Scanlon has all but vanished from public view over the last year, retreating to Rehoboth Beach, Del., a summer resort several hours from here.

Documents, e-mail messages and interviews with his former colleagues suggest that Mr. Scanlon had an appeal similar to the title character in the film “The Talented Mr. Ripley” who drew people to his money-making schemes. “He certainly has a charm about him,” said John Feehery, the former spokesman for Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.

Mr. Scanlon, more than Mr. Abramoff, was flamboyant with his earnings. He owned several multimillion-dollar Delaware beach properties and rented a $17,000-a-month apartment at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington.

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New York Times columnist David Brooks gave President Bush a great piece of advice (News and Observer, 11-22-05) about the debate in Congress on Iraq.

My problem on Iraq is I’m beginning to suspect we’ve gotten ourselves into a real mess. And the only thing that makes sense is to get out of it. But I also know I don’t know anything about the religious differences between Shi’ites and Sunnis or why Iran supports one and Syria supports the other and why Turkey supports the Kurds. The hard truth is I don’t understand the subtleties of what’s happening in Iraq or why. And I’m not smart enough to figure out what to do.

But the little I do know has me plenty worried. I know that, today, what the President said about there being weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was wrong. And his explanation – that he didn’t mislead anyone because the intelligence reports he got were wrong – doesn’t give me much comfort. That means he made a pretty awful mistake – believing false intelligence reports – and that mistake got us into a war. The President of United States shouldn’t make mistakes like that. Surely, he could have found someone in this entire country who could tell a false intelligence report from a real one.

Today, the Democrats are saying we should get out of Iraq.

President Bush is saying we should hold on and keep on doing what we’re doing and hope the tide is about to turn (which seems less likely every day).

And one man – Senator John McCain – is saying we should send more troops to Iraq and you’ve got to admire his courage for taking an unpopular stand and it’s for certain he’s one person who’s not ‘playing politics’ with the war.

Which brings me to Mr. Brooks’ advice to President Bush.

Mr. Brooks states, “On February 23, 1942, Franklin Roosevelt asked Americans to spread out maps before them and he described step-by-step, what was going on in World War II, where the United States was winning and where it was losing. Why can’t today’s President do that?” He added: “Since the President doesn’t give out credible information, it’s no wonder Republicans are measuring success by how quickly we can get out; it’s no wonder many Democrats are turning the war into a potential tool to bash the president…”

That’s not good advice, it’s great advice.

We went to war to stop Saddam for building weapons of mass distraction and to stop Al Qaeda. The American people supported the war because those reasons made sense. Today, those reasons are gone and I don’t know what terrible threat we are stopping by staying in Iraq.

The President should tell us. He should say to the American people, ‘All right, here’s where we stand. Here’s the good news. Here’s the bad news. And here’s the threat we will eliminate by winning this war.’

Until he does that it is going to seem like there is no threat and that getting out of Iraq is the only alternative that makes sense.

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Here’s how you can tell just how much George Bush’s political star has fallen.

Keep an eye on the political cartoons. Notice how small the drawings of Bush have become. They get tinier and tinier. Now, he barely occupies an itty-bitty corner of the cartoonists’ panel.

I first noticed this phenomenon during Jimmy Carter’s administration. As Carter seemed more and more overwhelmed by the Presidency, he shrank in the cartoons.

It’s a sure sign of the space a President occupies in the mind of Americans.

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There is one thing that has mystified me about this whole matter of the White House allegedly unmasking the covert CIA operative.

No, not who done it. Or why. Or which reporter got the leak first.

Have you seen a picture of the agent?

Her name is Valerie Plame. Now, get this picture in focus: She was an undercover CIA agent, apparently a crack shot with an AK47. But she posed as an unassuming PTA mom who worked as a business consultant.

On top of all that, she’s a knockout blonde.

Now here’s the real mystery: Why hasn’t someone made a TV movie about this woman?

Posted in: General
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The Iraq War debate made Democrats and Republicans in Congress act more like Sunnis and Shiites last week.

The battle is over whether Congress should set a deadline for the withdrawal of American troops. Republicans say this amounts to a “cut and run” strategy.

But don’t worry, if you’re against the war.

Thanks to all the Republicans who are anxious about the political impact of the war, there actually is a rock-solid, guaranteed date by which you can count on America beginning to withdraw troops.

It’s Election Day 2006

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Exploris is a non-profit museum in downtown Raleigh “dedicated to promoting global understanding” (News & Observer, 11-14-05).

How is it doing that? By showing “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

And who paid for Exploris’ IMAX movie theatre? Well, taxpayers. By giving the museum $11.9 in tax money to build it and an annual subsidy of $1.7 million.

That’s our tax money at work.

Meantime, local theatres will be promoting ‘global understanding’ at no cost to the taxpayers by showing “Harry Potter and the Circle of Fire” on their own nickel.

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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You’ve got to love a beaver. According to the News and Observer (11-14-05) the pesky little critters are causing a problem for the environmentalists who care for the scenic Eno River – by building dams.

For some reason I don’t pretend to understand this has provoked a ‘dam war’ between the environmentalists and the beavers. The newspaper described – in lurid detail – how environmentalists donned knee high waders and tramped into the Eno River to obliterate two beaver dams.

But you’ve got to give the beavers credit. It turns out they’re more than a match for the environmentalists. The next morning they’d built both dams back.

Posted in: General
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Lottery commissioners are dropping like flies. Gordon Myers of Asheville became the third commissioner to resign. Three of the original seven appointees have now bitten the dust.

Myers cited conflicts of interest because he owns stock in Ingles Stores which may want to sell lottery tickets.

Myers is also director of the North Carolina Economic Development Group. Last week federal authorities subpoenaed the groups correspondence with Meredith Norris, who apparently lobbied for Scientific Games which wants to bid on the N.C. Lottery Contract.

And finally, a federal grand jury began to meet yesterday in Raleigh to start hearing testimony in a criminal investigation that has included subpoena’s of lottery related documents.

If nothing else, so far, the lottery has been entertaining.

Posted in: General
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State legislators receive a $104 per diem for expenses (in addition to their salaries). According to the News &Observer, this per diem is supposed to pay for legislators’ board, meals and other costs while they are in Raleigh
But it turns out that’s not how Republican Representative Harold Brubaker sees it.

Rep. Brubaker – who missed more than 10% of the days when the legislature was in session – took per diems for 25 days when he was not in Raleigh. He says he was “working on legislative business or attending conferences,” so it’s okay. Convenient.

Rep. Steve LaRoque of Kinston was more blunt. LaRoque missed 20 days and part of five other days and still took his per diems. He said: “It cost me money to serve – bottom line.” He added, “I hired somebody to help run my business while I’m in Raleigh, and I pay her more than I get paid to serve.”

Maybe Representative LaRoque would like to run for reelection on that platform next year: that taxpayers should pay him enough so he can pay someone to run his business while he’s in Raleigh.

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I don’t know Ms. Betsy Kane – who was the only member of the Raleigh Planning Commission to vote against the Glen-Tree Westin Hotel at Crabtree Valley – but I give her kudos for honesty.

Just before the city council voted to approve the hotel Ms. Kane set forth her views in an opt-ed in the News & Observer.

Unlike the politicians – like Mayor Meeker – who criticized the hotel (but then voted for it) Ms. Kane did not pussy-foot around. She said flat out in her view the hotel should be built downtown: “Landmark buildings, including any extraordinarily tall ones, should be located downtown.” And she added even more bluntly that downtown “will suffer if the Glen-Tree Tower is approved” at Crabtree Valley.

Now, why is it ‘landmark buildings’ can’t be built in North, West, South, or anywhere else in Raleigh? Why are they only to be built downtown?

I’m afraid what Ms. Kane had the honesty to say – right out loud – is, in fact, pretty close to exactly how Mayor Meeker and some of his close allies on the City Council really feel. That downtown merits special treatment.

If not, why are they spending a billion dollars – as the city boasts – of taxpayers’ money on downtown rehab? And $190 million on a downtown convention center that appears ready to join a long list of convention centers across the nation that lose money? And $20 million to build a hotel downtown? It also looks like we may spend close to a billion dollars if the Triangle Transit Authority ever gets its Light Rail project (that goes downtown but not, say, to North Raleigh) off the launching pad.

No doubt a booming downtown would be fine. But what sense does it make to subsidize building a hotel with taxpayers’ money because it apparently can’t make enough money to pay for itself?

Mayor Meeker’s law firm received $75,000 in legal fees for work related to the new convention center but I suspect the mayor’s focus on downtown goes deeper than that. I suspect Mayor Meeker – and Ms. Kane – with all their talk of promotion and investment downtown have the best of intentions.

But it’s the taxpayers’ money they’re spending and they’re spending a lot of it. They wouldn’t be the first people to make a mistake with good intentions.

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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Carter & Gary
Carter Wrenn
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The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
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