Monday, April 30, 2007

South Carolina in April

As everybody knows by this point the first Democratic Debate of the 2008 Primary season was last Thursday in Orangeburg, SC. The debate was one of several opportunities the Democratic Candidates had to show their stuff for the early primary state. I had the fantastic opportunity to go to SC and volunteer with the John Edwards campaign Thursday and Friday, so I wanted to share a little of my experience with you guys.

We arrived on Thursday to what can only be described as a carnival-like experience. As we drove in to Orangeburg we immediately spotted the large and unmistakable campaign signs (in my hometown we complain when they go up two months before the election). The wait staff at the local Waffle House seemed unimpressed by the goings on and just hoped to pick up some extra customers. I had suspected that only real political junkies would be excited about the election this far out.

Once we arrived at the SC State campus the carnival atmosphere increased tenfold. Campaigns had tents for volunteer check-in and media vans were everywhere. This scene was nothing compared to what we found in the middle of the campus. There were big satellite trucks, stages for live shows, reporters and anchors everywhere. People all over the campus were wearing the shirts for their favorite “team” and would start calling out to the other side as we walked through the streets. We made our way to the official area for candidate drop-off and visibility. There is no doubt that the Edwards campaign and Obama campaign had worked hard at putting the signs up, but Obama was clearly the sign usage champion. I would hate to know what the Obama campaign spent on those signs that were, in the end, never seen by anyone except those there for visibility.

Next, we went to greet Elizabeth Edwards as she arrived for her Hardball interview. She seemed truly delighted to have a crowd meet her at the door. As always, she was incredibly gracious and fun to see. We followed her over to the stage and managed to get some space to show our JE support. There were a lot of Obama and Hillary supporters at the Hardball interview, but they did not show the enthusiasm for their candidate that the Edwards group showed. Obama’s group was close, but Hillary’s crowd just stayed very quiet for the most part. The most telling part of the interview was when Chris Matthews asked the crowd who planned to vote and everybody screamed, then Elizabeth asked how many were registered and only a small portion responded in the positive.

After the interview we went back to the visibility area to greet Senator Edwards. He was glad to see us and clearly in the “zone” getting ready for the debate. Speaking of the debate, I hardly saw any of it. By the time we got back to our tent and had dinner the debate was beginning. I had a ticket for the simulcast party but it was hot in the building and hard to see the screen. I went back outside and watched on the big screen at the Edwards tent. We were glad to see him be thoughtful in his answers, but the opponents seem to think pausing before an answer to think is a weakness. I guess that is how we got into this war.

Friday, was much more laid back and fun. SC was hosting a Jefferson-Jackson dinner and the Edwards campaign hosted a party across the street beforehand. All of the Edwards supporters were in one location and traveled together to the JJ Dinner. We were led down the street by the Edwards’ then a drum line. We marched as a group into the convention center with a megaphone leading the charge. We definitely picked up crowd and media attention with our efforts.

We made the same entrance into the Clyburn Fish Fry. For those not from SC, Congressman Clyburn has a huge Fish Fry every year. It is the political event in SC. The Edwards folks met early to do visibility on the street (we were very well received). When the candidate arrived we made our drum line-escorted trip into the building. It was like the crowd parted for us just to see what was coming. It was one of the most well planned events of any campaign I have ever been a part of. The Edwards campaign is often overshadowed in the media by the star power of Hillary and the newness of Obama. This was JE’s chance to show everybody he is still a strong player. Congratulations to the campaign advance and volunteer teams for pulling off an amazing event.
Cross posted at BlueNC.

Karl Rove is right

WNCNN crack reporters got this exclusive footage of Karl Rove's appearance before 11th District Republicans Saturday in Henderson County. Click and listen to him explain how Republicans can take back Congress and return to the White House in 2008.
It's entirely possible for you to shape the outcome of this contest by what you do in the months between now and 2008.
Guess what, folks. He's right.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pat says he's now free to vote his conscience?

Why now? Because he's in the minority

I kid you not. He calls the burden of being in the majority an anchor!

From Anglico at BlueNC:

I missed this story last week, an interesting analysis of how Republicans in the US House of Representatives are feeling "freedom" to vote their consciences now that they're no longer in the majority. Isn't that something? Grown men and women flat out admitting that they haven't been voting with personal integrity for the past six years because they're afraid of @$$holes like Tom Delay and Karl Rove. Disgustible.

Anyway, what does this have to do with North Carolina? Well, not surprisingly, one of the hypocritical Republicans the reporter interviewed is our own little Pat McHenry, who had this choice comment [in the Washington Post]:

"As a junior member, there is a certain amount of liberation in the minority. You have a greater freedom of action, not just in private but in public," said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., another floor warrior. "When you are in the majority, you have a line to toe, and that can be a heavy burden. It's more like an anchor than a line."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Best debate coverage: Comedy

From Fliss, who watched while hosting the usual Thursday night crowd at Asheville's Drinking Liberally:
Now, these were not debates as I understand the term; they were more like a game show or a panel discussion or a really short interview with lots of people, but it was interesting all the same .
. . .
The thing is, at the last election the stupid Dems chickened out and refused to nominate anyone who they thought was in the least confrontational or controversial or anything, really, but bland and annoying and wishy washy. They said someone angry and tough, like Dean, or visionary and smart, like Kucinich, couldn't get elected and I went along with them because I thought they had a handle on this thing called realpolitik which I, a humble dreamer who is only even interested in politics in occasional spurts, do not. Well, fuck that.
. . .
I'm not going along anymore. I want someone angry. I want someone controversial and pissed off who's not afraid to alienate people and ignore his handlers and speak his mind. Not a slick politician like John "Did I Mention That Daddy was a Millworker" Edwards or a tough politician like Hilary "Pearl Collar = Bad, Bad Fashion Choice" Clinton or Barack "I really like him but I don't think he's ready for the presidency just yet" Obama or Whatsisname "Did he really just say that if he'd been in charge at the Bay of Pigs he'd have nuked Cuba? He didn't really just say that, did he? Holy Shit." Richardson or any of the other old party hacks like Dodd, or, for gods' sake, Biden. Joe? Earth to Joe Biden? The original election jokes about you weren't funny when I was in high school, Joe. That was a loooong time ago. This is not the Academy Awards. No one is going to give you a lifetime achievement award for running in every fucking primary since the Taft administration. Give it up. Go back to Delaware and drink yourself to death like a good hack, okay?

Best debate coverage: Drama

And the winner is:

The blogger known as "lcloud," who posted this analysis at her homeblog, Maia Pinion, but it originated as a comment on BlueNC.

She called the debate
psycho drama more than anything else. It certainly wasn't 'debate' by any stretch of the imagination. Each candidate had roles to play.
Here are the highlights:
Gravel spewed out our anger, bellowing fury over the last 6 years of inept government, and in particular the last 5 years of improper, mishandled war . . ."

Kucinich . . . represented conscience, believing that all would be well if we just followed the Constitution, played nice, and ate our veggies . . .

Richardson reminded me of our teenage selves - desperate to be heard, and to make a point, and to score points. (. . . I thought maybe it wasn't him, and that they had already gotten Horatio Sanz to play him.)

Edwards represented the part of the self/society that doesn't always stand out, doesn't always make noise, but usually knows what's right, and does what's right, not because it will be noticed, but because it's right.

Dodd represented the middle manager in all of us that believes we could do a better job than the boss, if we'd only get a chance.

Biden, ah Biden. He is the showman, the ultimate politician. Is that good or bad? Only your subconscious knows for sure.

Obama is the part of us who looks for a better way. We all do, because hell, we've all got a little Gravel in us.

Clinton represented the smart kid; the one who has always gotten straight A's, without studying. She's memorized most of the answers already, so she's pretty sure she can ace this test, too.

McHenry to appear at bogus non-profit

Giuliani, Dole, Burr, Shuler expected

at Civitas Raleigh event

McHenry is one of many elected officials whose presence legitimizes a self-described conservative group known for its partisan activities that violate federal rules for 501(c)3 tax exempt organizations. Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is expected, as well as senators Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr.

Federal 501(c)3 tax exempt organizations are not allowed to participate in lobbying or partisan activity.

Yet, several who have attended Civitas events agree that the organization leaders don't even try to hide it's partisan political goals. According to one attendee:
At a 2006 Civitas workshop, subjects included how to recruit Republican candidates, how to run Republican campaigns, as well as talking points against the current North Carolina Democratic administration. Civitas President Jack Hawke said he hoped the training would give Republicans "a better understanding of what we're up against." He then joked, "But, of course, we're a nonpartisan organization. Wink. Wink."
11th District Congressional representative (and Democrat) Heath Shuler's appearance is even harder to explain. Here's what Screwy Hoolie reported that Shuler spokesman, Andrew Whalen has said:
“Generally, the idea behind it is that as Democrats we must speak to all people whether we agree with them or not. We can change no minds if we don’t make our case. As I said on the phone when you mentioned the Republican “Machine,” us standing across the street and railing against the machine does nothing, but by crossing the street we can have an effect on that machine. If there is one young person there whose mind opens up after hearing Congressman Shuler speak, we’ve had an important effect.
The problem with Shuler's appearance: we wish he would appear before law-abiding conservatives. We'd love for him to "open minds up" without providing cover for an organization clearly violating federal tax laws.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dalton, Clary, Kiser mostly funded from non-constituents

State legislators Walter Dalton, Debbie Clary, and Joe Kiser get 73 percent of campaign funds from outside their districts.

Average from inside: $310. Average from outside: $1,148.

That means when an issue you care about comes up (like the current mental health funding crisis), you need to let them know that you expect them to represent YOU and not some group of people who don't live here.

Here's the story, from the INSIDER:
A report from liberal policy group NC PIRG found that 10 of the more powerful state legislators collected, on average, 73 percent of their campaign contributions from sources outside their districts. The report examined the out-of-district fund-raising during the 2006 election cycle by top appropriations chairs and minority leaders -- Reps. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank; Jim Crawford, D-Granville; Joe Kiser, R-Lincoln; Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenburg; and Debbie Clary, R-Cleveland; and Sens. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham; Kay Hagan, D-Guilford; Linda Garrou, D-Forsyth; Walter Dalton, D-Rutherford; Tom Apodaca, R-Buncombe.

Among the 10, the report found that the average in-district contribution was $310, while the out-of-district contribution was $1,148. Many of the out-of-district contributions came from political action committees. Rob Thompson of NC PIRG said the out-of-district contribution undermine the influence of voters within the district. The group is advocating public financing of legislative campaigns. Thompson acknowledged that the report did not take into account the amount of contributions redistributed by the candidates to other candidates in other legislative districts. That practice is typical of legislators in leadership positions like those selected for the study.(THE INSIDER, 4/26/07).
They get this money because they are in influential positions. If their seats are safe, then they can pass their money on to other legislators, gaining influence with them. That's why it's so important that we keep track of what they are doing. And that we let them know we are keeping track . . .

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mad Miss Mattie's worried about Liddy Dole

Has Liddy Dole lost more than her way to North Carolina? Mad Miss Mattie addresses her concerns in another WNCNN exclusive.

Cross posted at BlueNC and Scrutiny Hooligans.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Notes from the Cleveland County Convention

County conventions from across the state wrapped up over the weekend. In Cleveland County we have a new chair for the first time in 9 years. Chair, Betsy Wells, decided to give up her office so that she can travel around the state and country helping the Edwards for President Campaign. I know the Cleveland County party will miss her undying dedication and hard work, but she has new opportunites waiting for her. We love you, Betsy!!

We were all very sad about the retirement of dynamo Chair Wells, but we have a great new team coming in. New officers are as follows: Jennifer Helton, Chair; Dustin Bridges, 1st Vice Chair; Curtis Pressley, 2nd Vice Chair; Caroline Dedmon, 3rd Vice Chair; Betty Carrigan, Secretary; and Connie Savell, Treasurer.

One of the exciting things about our new officers is that we have Young Dems in the Chair and 1st Vice Chair seats. It will be great to see what kind of energy and enthusiasm they can infuse into the party. I know they will hit the ground running and have a great program in place for the next cycle. Cleveland did great in 2006, but we still have seats to pick up!!!

Rep. Bob England addressed the crowd gathered, and talked about the Democratic Agenda in the General Assembly. Of course, Rep. England also congratulated the party on the 2006 successes. Keep up the good work, Rep. England.

Catawba water wars continue

Two non-profit organizations created to protect the Catawba River have taken legal action to stop the water transfer planned for Concord and Kannapolis.

According to the Charlotte Observer, and the Winston-Salem Journal,
The Protect the Catawba River Coalition, a group of local governments that oppose the transfer, will spend $100,000 to hire two lobbying firms to push a bill introduced by N.C. Rep. Mitch Gillespie, R-McDowell, and similar bills that would tighten laws regulating water transfers.

If passed, Gillespie's bill would toughen controls on water transfers. It would also retroactively require Concord and Kannapolis to install flow meters tracking water they withdraw from the Catawba and to withdraw only as much water as they need at the time, among other directives.

In January, the N.C. Environmental Management Commission approved the transfer by Concord and Kannapolis of up to 10 million gallons of water a day from the Catawba. The cities may take the same amount from the Yadkin River.

Last month, the coalition appealed the decision, asking an administrative law judge to overturn it.
The Southern Environmental Law Center represents Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation which is joining with the state of South Carolina in a lawsuit.
SELC is representing the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in an appeal filed March 28 with the state Office of Administrative Hearings. Among our concerns:

* The commission approved the water transfer despite numerous defects in the application review process, including the failure to notify South Carolina, which has a section of the Catawba River basin within its borders.
* The commission failed to give citizens adequate time to review and comment on a series of revisions to the “final” environmental impact statement for the project.
* The transfer could prolong water shortages during periods of drought within the Catawba River, fuel residential growth in the sensitive habitats of the lower Yadkin River, adversely affect instream flow in the Catawba, and damage aquatic habitat in both rivers.
. . .
South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster joined us at the press conference with the river foundation to announce his plans to seek a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court on grounds that the North Carolina acted against the U.S. Constitution in allowing the transfer, which will impact waters of his state. A few days prior, a coalition of 17 local governments in the Catawba basin filed a similar administrative appeal to stop the transfers.

The Catawba River originates in the mountains of North Carolina and flows through a series of lakes into South Carolina. Many people within the basin depend the river as a source of drinking water, as well as for a host of recreation activities. In addition, the waters of the Catawba River provide habitat to varied plant and animal species.
For background check out this great compilation of articles in the Hickory Record about the transfer, a removal of 22 million gallons of water from the Catawba for Concord and Kannapolis.

Water Commission members and contact info.

City of Hickory Interbasin Transfer Information webpage

Division of Water Resources Interbasin transfer information

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mentally ill need your help to push Raleigh to fund needed services

Secretary Carmen Hooker Odom and her antisocial lackeys at the Division of Medical Assistance decided last week that they needed another week to analyze the costs of Community Support services. Of course, they didn't see any need to analyze costs at all when Secretary Odom precipitously slashed funding by a third, making the cuts retroactive to March 1. Due to massive public pressure (that's you) the Odom retreated to a position of making the new unsustainable rate begin April 5 and continue until they set a new rate using their magickal After-the-Fact cost analysis.

The Asheville Citizen-Times and the head of Western Highlands Local Mgmt. Entity (the body that ostensibly coordinates services for many of the western counties) have both called for Secretary Odom's dismissal. Reminiscent of George W. Bush's "complete confidence" in Alberto Gonzales, Governor Easley has expressed his complete confidence in Secretary Odom. Her decision to slash rates to $40/hour for a service that breaks even at $53/hour sent the entire state network of private providers into a mad scramble for cash to meet payroll, to keep their doors open.

Hundreds of thousands of mental health service recipients have been affected by the instability brought on by Secretary Hooker Odom's caprice, and over a thousand providers are holding their breath until the Dept. of Health and Human Services releases the new rate. Without a substantial increase in the rate, you can look for providers across the state to close their doors.

Secretary Odom and Governor Easley have decided that, rather than take responsibility for the chaos, they'll blame mental health providers laboring under the system that Odom regularly overturns. They've been calling counselors, psychiatrists, and community support workers "abusers" that "abuse" the system. They're attacking the only people in the state who provide the services. They continue to misrepresent the results of the state audit, which discovered many cases of misuse among the 167 most suspicious companies in the state.

Secretary Odom audited only the companies who were billing outrageous amounts of Community Support. She audited only 1/6th of the service providers in the state, and she has yet to make any of her data open to public scrutiny. She sneakily released the slashed rate on the Thursday before Easter weekend, when no one could do anything about it. She is unconcerned about the 5/6th (or more) of providers who are performing Community Support services with integrity and efficacy. Her rate slash would guarantee worse service for clients, since the $40/hour rate wouldn't allow providers to hire Master's level practitioners. Hooker Odom has demonstrated contempt for recipients, providers, and the public at every turn in this process, and yet Governor Easley continues to give his full support to her irresponsible, dangerous leadership.

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services agreed last week to hold public hearings on this issue, but they have not scheduled the hearing. Budget negotiations are underway, and legislators are swamped with acres of maddening detail. The danger of the Mental Health Crisis being swept under the budgetary rug is great, and that's what I'm writing to ask you all to help with today.

Please contact the three Chairs of the Appropriations Subcommittee to encourage them to schedule this important hearing. Legislators need to understand the precipice at which we stand, the lives that will be forever affected by Hooker Odom's impulsive decision. They need to understand that we're last in the nation in mental health spending and first in the nation in hospitalizations. They need to understand that they'll spend twice as much on institutionalization as they do on prevention and maintenance. They need to understand that the impoverished twelve year old bipolar boy with the bipolar, disabled mother needs Community Support services in order to have a chance at succeeding. They need to understand that slashing the rate is the same as slashing at the lives of thousands and thousands of mentally ill North Carolinians.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPlease contact the Chairs to urge a date for the public hearing.

Rep. Beverly Earle - 919-715-2530
Rep. Verla Insko - 919-929-6115
Rep. Bob England - 919-733-5749

And, while you're at it, feel free to drop a note to...

Secretary Carmen Hooker Odom - (919-733-4534; fax: 919-715-4645)

Governor Mike Easley - (919-733-4240)

Lt. Governor Bev Perdue - (919-733-7350)

Deputy Director Mark Benton - (919) 855-4100; Fax - (919) 733-6608

Your local newspaper

This was written by Screwy Hoolie and posted at BlueNC and Scrutiny Hooligans

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Support Same-Day Voter Registration

Making it easier to vote in North Carolina is not only the right thing to do for Democracy, it also happens to be a good thing for Democrats.

State House and Senate bills that would permit same-day registration and voting during the early-voting window are sailing along. House Bill 91 passed the third reading in the House late last month, by a vote of 66 to 45, with all Democrats in support. Now the companion Senate Bill 195 is being considered on the Senate side.

In a letter to all Democratic State Senators last week, NC Democratic Chair Jerry Meek urged support, saying:
From Woodrow Wilson's signing of the Women's Suffrage Act, to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, Democrats have always fought to expand suffrage rights and to make voting easier and more accessible.
Same day voter registration was also unanimously endorsed by the delegates to the 2006 North Carolina Democratic convention. Members of the Young Democrats of North Carolina lobbied their legislators in Raleigh to rally additional support.

In addition to making Democracy more accessible in general, same day registration is likely to increase the turnout of younger voters (aged 18 to 35). Some voters in this age group "tune in" to election issues later than other voters, and many in past elections have been turned away because they did not register before the 25-days-before-the-election deadline. These new laws will make it possible for them to both register and vote during the early voting period (up to three days before election day).

Younger voters tend to skew heavily Democratic in their voting choices.

As Jerry Meek also pointed out:
It is also likely that same day registrants would disproportionately reflect racial and ethnic minorities and voters from lower socio-economic strata, all of whom are more likely to vote Democratic.
On their own, these bills are unlikely to turn North Carolina from red to blue, but they're a big step to moving North Carolina off the bottom rung of states in terms of voter turnout percentage.

Please urge your State Senator to support Senate Bill 195.

Friday, April 20, 2007

McHenry supports taxation without representation

Tenth district Representative Pat McHenry calls DC voting rights "padding the House for the democrats," even though the current bill gives Republicans a seat in Utah. Of course, that's assuming the people of DC and Utah elect a dem and a 'pub, respectively..

Clearly going to bat to defend the undefensible McHenry has been quoted repeatedly including this CD Examiner article, House passes District voting rights bill
WASHINGTON (Map, News) - The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to give the District of Columbia its first full vote in Congress in more than two centuries, a critical but early step in a difficult journey to make the bill a law.

Three days after thousands of D.C. residents marched on the U.S. Capitol to demand representation, House members voted for the D.C. Voting Rights Act 241-177, sending the bill to an uncertain fate in the Senate. The legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., would expand the 435-member House by two seats, one for the heavily Democratic District and the other for Republican-stronghold Utah.

Norton, a tireless supporter who stands to become the city’s first voting representative in 206 years, called the bill a “labor of love.” Mayor Adrian Fenty described the vote as “a statement of our country’s principles, values and morals.”

“Today the House of Representatives said you’re a part of this country 100 percent,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said during a post-vote press conference.

The measure’s critics argue it flouts the Constitution, which explicitly provides representation only to residents of “the several states.” If the District wants a vote, they say, it should do so through a constitutional amendment or by ceding to Maryland.

“I would submit the new Democratic majority is trying to pad their numbers here on the House floor,” Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., said.
I guess he forgot that our forefathers, including on Patrick Henry, fought and died so that people not be taxed and unrepresented. I wonder what he'd say if the voters of DC tended to vote Republican.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

McHenry all set to attack Iran

Insists we wait until 2008 to evaluate surge in Iraq

McHenry told Hardball's Chris Matthews today that he supports a military strike in Iran "to eliminate their nuclear capability."

Matthews confirmed with this question: "You believe the possession of a nuclear weapon is itself justification for a US air attack?" McHenry replied, "I believe so."

Here's the video (excuse the quality). If you listen past the McHenry comments you can hear some sanity from Alabama's Representative Artur Davis, who spoke last month at North Carolina's YD convention in Greensboro.

Earlier in the MSNBC interview Matthews asked McHenry, "When can we ask ourselves if this surge is working." Pat insisted that this "new plan is taking hold." Then he named 2008 as the time to do any evaluation. Here's that video:

Again, stay tuned after McHenry's comments to here Rep. Artur Davis speak rationally about our prospects in Iraq. Davis said,
"This world is full of tragedy and suffering. Our military and our power can't always turn around tragedy and suffering. We're learning the limits of our power in Iraq and a wiser president would understand that and would take this vast number of troops out of harm's way."

Cross-posted at Scrutiny Hooligans and BlueNC.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

News round-up for the 10th

The Lenoir Topic-News has the sad story of the good life and recent death in Iraq of 29-year-old Granite Falls native Sgt Robby Bowman.

Let's always keep in mind the Robby Bowmans, his fellow fallen comrades, the injured, their families and friends, as well as the innocent citizens of Iraq. They are why we keep up this fight against the current American fiasco of an administration. This is what drives us to get political war-loving hacks like Pat McHenry out of office. May our work bring honor Robby Bowman and all the soldiers formerly and currently fighting in our names in Iraq and Afghanistan.

New Real Estate tax proposed

State Senate bill S1516 provides for county commissioners to have the option of levying a 1% land transfer tax through the referendum process.

The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners loves the idea.
The property tax base is not growing fast enough to keep pace with the demands caused by the state’s rapidly growing population. As an example, North Carolina county Medicaid costs are increasing at nearly 10 percent annually, while the property tax base – the only source of revenue that county boards of commissioners have the authority to increase – is growing at less than 7.5 percent annually.
So who's against this? Well realtors for one.
“They’ve got their budgeting priorities out of whack.” – Tim Kent, executive vice president of the North Carolina Association of Realtors, on why counties are struggling to deal with the state’s rapid growth.
As always, be sure to let your legislators know what you think.

Mental Health hearing proposed for next week

As always, Screwy Hoolie at Scrutiny Hooligans has the latest on the state-created mental health funding disaster.

One-stop voting bill advances

Kudos to 10th district co-sponors Bob England, Cullie Tarleton, and Ray Warren (among others) who are sponsoring House Bill 91, that provides for in-person registration at absentee voting sites. How great is that? No excuses now. This is definitely for all of you great people who make thousands of GOTV calls, only to find out the person who would vote your way isn't registered and the deadline has passed.

Here's Andrew Jackson Democrats arguments for it:
an important step forward in opening up its elections to all eligible citizens.
Here's the Republicans arguments that the bill is dubious.
“Senate Bill 195 and House Bill 91 ‘proof of residency’ requirements are simply not enough to protect the integrity of our voting system. Potential voter fraud is a serious problem and needs to be addressed seriously,” says NCGOP Chairman Linda Daves.
Of course, the Republicans should know. They got burned in 04 when popular Catawba County Sheriff lost by 85 votes to political hack Patrick McHenry. At the time and since, McHenry has been repeatedly accused by his own kind of registering dozens of out-of-state Young Republican college students.

Potential lawsuit against the Google agreement

Jonathan Cox at the Raleigh News & Observer writes that Bob Orr of the NC Institute for Constitutional Law is investigating the option of suing the state for the perks given to Google for their plant in Caldwell County.
At issue is language approved by the General Assembly last year that excused Google from paying sales taxes on electricity and equipment. Because of the provision, the company, which in January agreed to build a data center in Caldwell County that could employ 210, could save as much as $90 million over three decades.
The institute had also sued over incentives given Dell in Winston-Salem. The suit was thrown out of superior court.
Orr, who is running for governor and plans to resign from the institute this month, said the suit will challenge the constitutionality of the exemption. He said the measure is illegal because it gave special treatment to one company, "which would seem to run counter to the fact that there be uniformity in the tax law." The suit could be filed by month's end, he said. Officials with the state Department of Commerce and attorney general's office declined to comment.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Lil Pat has no influence with his own Prez

Check out this Hickory Record piece on some Bush-proposed cuts:
Dalco Nonwovens is a start-up company that cranked up production in 2004. Without nearly $200,000 in CDBG money, co-owner Joy Evans says the company might never have been.

“It’s really frightening, starting a business in this county with everything going overseas,” Evans said. “There is not a lot of incentive to start your own business, with start-up costs and all.

“This money gave us the courage to move forward.”
Federal budget cuts could put the breaks on other entrepreneurs wanting to do business in the county. Current funding provides $3.7 billion nationwide for the CDBG program. The proposed upcoming federal budget cuts that figure to about $3 billion, a $700 million reduction, according to Aaron Latham, spokesman for Congressman Patrick McHenry’s office.
So he knows about it and has no power to stop it. Mmmmmm. And this is the guy that spends all his time blaming Nancy Pelosi for everything wrong with the world. Could it be the problem is you, Pat?And why do you do all their dirty work for them, putting yourself out there so that the entire county thinks you're an ass. But then, when you need their help, they dump on you.

Here's more:
“It (cuts) would be the single greatest blow in the economic region in the past 25 years,” Duncan said. “I’m all about supporting our military, but I don’t want to see our CDBG funds to build infrastructure here used to build infrastructure in Iraq.”

In Conover alone, more than $8 million in CDBG funds were allocated for business and residential development over the past 27 years. Almost $20 million in private investment was generated for the projects. As many as 188 jobs were created by CDBG grant money in six Conover industries alone, including Dalco.

Also at stake in Conover is the refurbishing of five houses on Nosey Street, while adding sidewalks and improving storm water drainage. The CDBG grant application is for $847,000. The city will contribute $40,000 to the project.

Evans is grateful for the money her company received.
“It certainly gave us a sense of support from our town and community,” she said. “Every dollar means a lot.”


The CDBG program began in 1974, and provides annual grants to local governments and states to provide housing and expand economic opportunities, principally for low and moderate-income families. The program is also designed to create jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses.

President Bush’s proposal calls for a $700 million cut to the $3.7 million [either this is billion or above it's million] program, according to Aaron Latham, spokesman for Congressman Patrick McHenry.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Joe Sam stirs up Republic hornet's nest in the northlands

State Senator Joe Sam Queen introduced an innocuous bill, S1302, called "Divide District 24." And a bunch of Republicans have their panties in knots over it.

The current district attorney, Republican Gerry Wilson, is going all over the place (and being printed all over the place) telling everyone who will listen that it's a "waste of money" with no benefits. It will cost $1.25 million in the first two years.

Democratic Senator Queen counters that there's such a backlog of cases and such distances to travel that the savings to private citizens would be far greater than the newly created administrative costs. Of the five judges in the district, none live in Madison or Yancey. The district attorney lives and works in Watauga. The new division would give Madison and Yancey the chance to have district attorneys and judges living closer.

As if it's a bad thing, DA Wilson has said it will create several high-paying jobs. Those jobs: another district attorney, as well as two additional superior court judges, directors of juvenile and mediation, as well as additional staff. If there's that much work, one wonders why DA Wilson is opposed to adding more staff.

Which brings us to the political realities. Avery and Mitchell are over 80% Republican. Watauga Democrats fight hard to win their county elections. They do not have any chance to come up with numbers to overwhelm the Avery/Mitchell onslaught. However, any judge or district attorney from Madison and Yancey would have a good chance of being Democrats. And if the bill passes as written, our Democratic governor will be appointing them.

"What they want to do is gerrymander the district and create jobs," Wilson wrote recently. He also pointed out that since most candidates in the fightin' 24th ran unopposed, "This does not sound like a district in which the people are dissatisfied."

(I guess he's never heard of the Soviet system and their so-called election results of overwhelming support.)

DA Wilson argued in a front-page article he wrote for the March 28 Avery Post that the provision to provide for gubernatorial appointments are a constitutional violation (separation of powers). He wrote that even if the bill didn't pass, "it would give a legislator the power to influence the actions of judges and prosecutors by merely threatening to introduce a bill to realign their district unless the judge or prosecutor gave into his wishes."

Former Avery County Sheriff Clerk of Court Nub Taylor has a lot to say about all of this. Perhaps that's because he recently lost his job and was convicted through the actions of DA Wilson for modifying bonds. Below I reprint some of his letter to the editor from April 4th Avery Post, even though it obviously should be taken with a large bucket of salt:
"What Mr. Wilson fails to tell you is that he and all of the other judicials of the 24th District would be losing their grip, or, as I like to call it, a stranglehold of two of the counties that they draw political contributions form.

"Last May, when I was standing trial for modifying bonds, I was taken out behind the courthouse by Mr. Wilson and my attorney, former DA tom Rusher, and the two of them gave me a heads up on how I had steeped on the toes of the Brotherhood Justice, that I needed to show more respect for the judicial system. I told them that I give respect where respect is due. I didn't roll with the flow and the flow drowned me. I was accused of a lot but only convicted of modifying bonds: something I had done for Sheriffs and other law enforcement for 23 years. I crossed the line with the Brotherhood of Justice and I paid the price just alike a former Clerk and Sheriff did. They too rocked the boat. Now Senator Joe Sam Queen is rocking their boat."

"For twenty-two years I saw people who knew someone, or knew someone that knew someone, get slapped on the wrist while those who were considered nobodies paid the price of the system. Judges and District Attorneys work when they want to , that's wy our system is so backlogged. Here in the 24th District, judges continue cases to get home early while DAs pick and choose who to try."
I might not have reprinted former Sheriff Clerk of Court Taylor's accusations except the vehemence and amount of Wilson's argumentation seem excessive. Also, I got suspicious when Wilson's front page article appeared with no notation that it was not written by a reporter, no notation that it was a letter to the editor or opinion column. (His name and title were printed on the jump page at the end.)

As to Taylor's strongly worded accusations, another local paper, the Avery Journal, has asked for information on the cases that were dropped. He won't tell them.

Joe Sam is coming to Avery County in May to speak before the all-Republican County Commission. I'll have to make note on my calendar. Last time he came to Avery County, they locked him out of the courthouse. Good thing it was a nice day.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Convention information redux
Lincoln County changes time

Lincoln county's convention time changed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., registration at noon. Still being held at the Democratic Headquarters.

Below is the information provided by the North Carolina Democratic Party on upcoming county conventions in the 10th Congressional district. Click on any name to email.

Avery County: TBA. Contact: Wayne Johnson, 828-733-3493

Burke County: April 21, 1 p.m. (eat at noon) at the Cooperative Extension Building off of Enola Road, (above the Sheriff's department) Morganton. Contact: Jess Crowder, 828-397-6388

Caldwell County: April 21, 11 a.m., City/County office Building, Lenoir. (BBQ lunch to follow.) Contact: Steve Potter, 828-758-9806

Catawba County: April 21, NEW TIME: 2 p.m., 1924 Courthouse, Newton. Contact: Dan Green, 828-324-4943

Cleveland County: April 21, 12 noon, at the Cleveland County Office Building Auditorium, 130 S. Post Rd., Shelby. Contact: Betsy Wells, 704-739-1545.

Gaston County: April 14, 10 a.m. at the Department of Social Services Building (across from the courthouse), Gastonia. Contact Mel Black,: 704-435-0753.

Iredell County: April 14, 1 p.m. at the Hall of Justice, 201 E. Water St., Statesville. Contact: Gene Mahaffey, 704-592-5521. Speaker: Dan Besse, candidate for Lt. Governor

Lincoln County: April 14, NEW TIME: 1 p.m., Lincoln County Democratic Headquarters in Lincolnton, Contact: Patsy Black, 704-483-3908.

Mitchell County: April 14, 9:30 a.m. Mitchell County Board of Education, School Road, Ledger, Contact: Doug Sudduth, 828-688-2399.

Rutherford County: April 21, 10 a.m. at Party Headquarters, 142 W. Main, Forest City. Contact: Keith Price, 828-248-1638.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pat Paints a Picture of Posies

Patrick McHenry just returned from a Congressional trip to Afghanistan where he toured the area and assessed the progress of our ongoing military efforts in that country. In one news account McHenry painted a pretty picture of what is happening in Afghanistan. He told the Hickory Record "So much attention has been focused on Iraq that Afghanistan has been ignored." Too bad he was referring to press attention and not realizing he had just described the Bush Administration's policy on the wars.

McHenry went on to talk about all of the improvements that had been made and how he wishes more attention would be paid to them. Again, if only we had concentrated on the Afghan mission that really hampered Al-Quaeda instead of invading Iraq, then what could we have already accomplished there?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New information to Save our Mental Health System

Call To ActionTomorrow at 11 a.m. we need bodies to gather at the ,Governor's office, 116 W. Jones St.,the State Capital, 16 W. Jones St. Raleigh. Signs saying "Save Our System" and "Fire Odom" would be appropriate.

As of this afternoon, not one Western North Carolina mental health care provider has figured out a way to stay in business under the recent (and retroactive) fee cuts. The best way to help is call Health and Human Services Secretary Carmen Hooker Odom or Alan Dobson of the Division of Medial Assistance both at 919-733-4534. Or call the Governor at 919-733-4240. Here's a link to email the Governor. And for Odom:

See yesterday's post for background information on the NC Mental Health Reform

On the afternoon before Good Friday, the North Carolina Division of Medical Assistance (NCDMA) chose to cripple mental health services across the state. This deliberately sneaky move has echoes of White House Friday night document dumps, and the NCDMA thought they could avoid a tsunami of phone calls and emails protesting their catastrophic decision. They thought wrong.

By cutting reimbursement rates for Community Support Services (CSS) from $60/hour to $40/hour, the NCDMA effectively made it impossible for private mental health providers to offer quality services and stay in business. Community Support Services allow mentally ill children and adults to receive needed help in life skills (e.g. balancing a checkbook, managing anger), to access resources like child care and medical services, or to practice behavioral skills vital to living independently. Without these services, many clients will end up unemployed, expelled, or institutionalized.

An emergency committee met on Monday and Tuesday, and mental health providers felt certain they'd see the light and correct the mistake made by the NCDMA. Instead the legislators skulked away from the meeting hoping no one would notice that they'd thrown mental health services under the budgetary bus.

While there are three kinds of CSS workers (Master's level, Bachelor's level, and others), they are all reimbursed at the same rate. The NCDMA falsely asserts that most CSS workers are unskilled know-nothings. A local mental health agency, Appalachian Counseling, which employs dozens of CSS workers, has only two without college degrees and many are Master's level practitioners.

The State government is forcing agencies into a terrible choice - Employ unskilled people to provide complicated services to our neediest citizens or go out of business. Most will choose to do the latter because most mental health agencies aren't in this business to make a buck. They're in it to provide quality mental health services for our most vulnerable citizens.

hands3hr.jpgNow's the time to act. The Secretary of Health and Human Services Carmen Hooker Odom is responsible. Call her at 919-733-4534 and let her know that the cuts in Community Support funding will destroy mental health services and urge them to consider alternatives like this one. They will try to make you call another number which is a "Citizen Services" line and will put you on hold for 20 minutes or more. Insist on leaving a message with the Secretary Odom.

When you're done, call Governor Easley at 919-733-4240.

If you have the time email or write the Citizen-Times:

The Raleigh News and Observer:

And The Charlotte Observer:

This is crossposted at Scrutiny Hooligans and BlueNC and mostly written by Screwy Hoolie.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

ACTION alert for mental health care funding

If you care about mental health services for the indigent, please join me today in emailing or phoning the legislators involved.

Here's a sample email (please cut, paste, and edit to make it your own):

Dear Senator ________:

Please correct your recent cut of mental health funding for North Carolina's mental health service providers. The budget cuts of the last five years have taken their toll on the service providers who remain in business.

The recent 33% cut is negligent and irresponsible. Those service providers who are defrauding the state should be dealt with separately. It makes no sense to cut services for the least able to defend themselves because a few providers are breaking the rules.

Do you realize that the state is already ranked 50th in per capita mental health funding? Among other unacceptable scenarios, these recent budget cuts will result in untrained police officers having to deal with the dangerously untreated mentally ill.

Please immediately restore the $61/hour payments to those qualified.

As to the future, it's obvious that North Carolina legislators need to completely overhaul our mental health system. The current system is negligent, irresponsible, unacceptable, and unChristian.

Thank you so much for your attention to this matter.

Your name, address, phone.

Here are the 10th district legislators with email addresses and phone numbers.

Representative Bob England, Cleveland Rutherford, Email: 919-733-5749

Representative Debbie Clary, Cleveland, Gaston,, 919-715-2002

Senator Jim Jacumin, Burke, Caldwell, Email: (919) 715-7823

Senator Austin Allran, Catawba, Iredell, Email: (919) 733-5876

Senator James Forrester, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Email: (919) 715-3050

If you would prefer to cut and paste a whole list of emails into your "To" box on your email use these lists:

The House Mental Health Committee members emails:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Link to Senate Mental Health Committee members:,,,,,,,,,,,

Here are the senator's phone numbers.

Sen. Martin L. Nesbitt, Jr.
(919) 715-3001 or (828) 252-0490

Sen. Austin Murphy Allran
(919) 733-5876 or (828) 322-1410

Sen. Robert C. Atwater
(919) 715-3036 or (919) 715-3036

Sen. Janet Cowell
(919) 715-6400 or (919) 649-4172

Sen. Charlie Smith Dannelly
(919) 733-5955 or (919) 733-5955

Sen. James Summers Forrester
(919) 715-3050 or (704) 263-4716

Sen. Vernon Malone
(919) 733-5880 or (919) 828-5853

Sen. William Robert Purcell, MD
(919) 733-5953 or (910) 276-7328

Sen. Jim Jacumin
(919) 715-7823 or (828) 397-3723

Sen. Eleanor Kinnaird (Dem)
(919) 733-5804 or (919) 929-1607

Sen. Jean Preston
(919) 733-5706 or (252) 354-6993

Sen. Larry Shaw (Dem)
(919) 733-9349 or (910) 323-5303

Sen. John Snow (Dem)
(919) 733-5875 or (828)837-5052

Sen. A. B Swindell (Dem)
(919) 715-3030 or (252) 462-0190

Legislature throwing mentally ill under the bus: tomorrow is a day of action

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

{Division of Medical Assistance Team Forsaking North Carolina's mental health service recipients}

Tomorrow BlueNC will join with bloggers across North Carolina to urge our readers to contact legislators and bureaucrats in an effort to reverse a killing blow first mentioned here yesterday. This post is a background piece for the action tomorrow.

In 2001, North Carolina undertook a massive reform of its mental health system. The network of publicly funded providers had grown bureaucratic, bloated and stagnant. While individual practitioners continued, in most cases, to provide excellent care, the system was buckling under its own weight and lacked innovation.

The mental health system reform was intended to improve services and cut costs by introducing competition. In this regard the plan was a success, hundreds of private providers sprung up across the state to provide psychiatry, counseling, psychological services, case management, day treatment, job training, and community based services to mentally ill children and adults.

The problem, of course, is that despite being dead last in the nation in spending on mental health, state legislators wanted to cut more deeply, more lethally. They changed the definitions of the services they reimbursed. They slashed the rates at which doctors and therapists were paid, driving many away from providing services to impoverished children and families. They changed the system again and again and again, and many providers, including the massive New Vistas in western North Carolina, shut their doors and sent their clients into the streets.

There are a few dozen providers left after the storm of 2006. They are among the most creative, flexible, innovative entrepreneurs in the nation, somehow staying in business despite the state's every attempt to force them into bankruptcy.

The state decided to kill mental health services once and for all on the day before Good Friday. Mere hours before the state would commence a 4-day holiday, word came from the Division of Medical Assistance that reimbursement rates for Community Support services would be cut by a third, from $60/hour to $40/hour.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketCommunity Support services, a new service definition created by the state les than a year ago, allow clients to receive needed help in life skills (balancing a checkbook, etc.), accessing resources like child care, or practicing behavioral skills vital to living independently. Without these services, many clients will end up unemployed, expelled, or institutionalized.

The state, unwilling to try systems that have worked in other states, is going to kill the last few private providers by forcing them into this choice: Hire only low-wage workers who will provide sub-par services, or lose money and go out of business.

Tomorrow I'm going to ask the North Carolina Blogging Community to join with BlueNC and Scrutiny Hooligans in calling for a reexamination of this catastrophic decision. I'll ask you to call and email legislators to demand a fair shake for the mentally ill. There is no one to speak for them, so it is up to us.

Thanks, and I'll see you tomorrow.

This is crossposted at Scrutiny Hooligans and BlueNC by Screwy Hoolie.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Be the change you wish to make in the world

Professional faux-conservative hacks like Patrick McHenry probably think alternative energy is some kind of diet milkshake, but Progressives and open-minded folks know it's much more.

1. It's a potential lucrative industry and job-creator for Western North Carolina.

2. It's a way of powering homes, cars, and factories while considering greenhouse gas emissions and our planet's future.

3. It's a route to national energy independence and thus a route to greater national security (because it could eliminate dependence on foreign oil).

As new technologies emerge, Western North Carolina can become a leader for technological research and for practical applications.

In the short- and long-term, however, energy conservation needs to be part of our solution. And Democrats can lead the way.

Kudos to the Gaston County Democratic Party, or more specifically Gaston Progressive Democrats for a great and easily replicated idea: at a recent meeting they offered free fluorescent lightbulbs to anyone bringing in a standard light bulb for exchange.

What a great way to encourage participation in the party while also standing up for what Democrats believe in -- reducing energy consumption. Way to go Gaston!!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Pat screws his DC neighbors

Thanks to Pat McHenry, much-needed improvements to the DC area Metro have been stalled in committee. Have you ever driven in DC? Without the Metro, I doubt even half of DC's workers could even get to work, much less get to work on time. Their roads are a mess.

But Patrick doesn't care. This is from the DCist

How Many Times Must We Say It: Metro is NOT Pork!
One of the most important parts of the Virginia transportation bill passed yesterday is the provision that dedicates about $50 million a year to Metro for 10 years. Virginia's contribution, along with similar contributions from both D.C. and Maryland are requirements of the massive $1.5 billion Metro funding bill being pushed by Reps. Tom Davis of Virginia and Steny Hoyer of Maryland. The District has already passed legislation that allocates the money (contingent on action by both of our neighbors) and Maryland's transportation secretary is working on funding options.

Since Davis proposed the bill in 2005, there has been a smattering of opposition (ably rebutted, we might add) from those who think investing in one of the region's most important assets is somehow wasteful. That baseless rhetoric came to a head last week, when Rep. Patrick McHenry, a baby-faced-yet-grey-haired Congressional sprite from North Carolina blocked the bill's passage out of committee on procedural grounds.

We wonder, if McHenry conducted an informal poll of his staff asking how they get to work each day, would he reconsider his position? We're guessing a survey of Hill staffers would quickly reveal that without Metro, the federal government would pretty much shut down. (Though McHenry is a Gingrich protégé -- could the new Republican strategy to reduce the size of government be to cut off its source of transportation? Has anyone ever seen Grover Norquist on Metro?) Either way, there are enough of these members on both sides of the aisle that Davis remains optimistic that the bill will be voted out of committee next month.

Nice guy, eh? Remember how much he was worried a few month's ago that the people of Western Samoa were left out of the stem cell research act? The stem cell research act that he voted against for you and me? Now, he's protecting us from helping the DC transit system. Gee, what a guy. Why do I get the feeling he just likes screwing with people?

I'm sure there's more to this than meets the eye. We'll be looking into it . . .

And next time you meet him, ask him why DC doesn't have its own representative in Congress. Could it be because that's a guaranteed Democratic seat? And here a good reason why they need one.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

McHenry indictment rumored

Not kidding. Reporters from major news organizations are trolling for comments. CBS Evening News has been calling everyone and anyone in the district for weeks. My sources say for money-laundering. That's all I know. Cross your fingers.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Is Pat protecting residents or plant owners?

The Hickory Record reported in a January article titled "State scrutinizes furniture foam" that our beloved Congressman is going be all over a state study of hazardous material and its effect on communities. Isn't that nice of him? It's not a federal study, of course. But he's going to make sure the study is all "appropriate and accurate." I feel so protected.
“It is imperative that the scientific methods used to conduct this study are appropriate and accurate,” McHenry said. “I have been assured by the ATSDR that I will receive notification and a complete, up-to-date briefing prior to any testing. I will remain fully engaged and informed as this process moves forward.”
I wonder what he'll do for us if the study concludes that we're breathing toxic air or all the plant's neighborhood kids are dying mysteriously?
Hickory Springs Manufacturing Co.’s Conover plant is one of several plants that will be studied. Officials are looking at the health effects of polyurethane foam, known as TDI, a substance used in furniture and bedding industries.

TDI is considered a hazardous material and is regulated by state and federal agencies. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the Centers for Disease Control, is the federal agency involved. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is partnering with them at the state level.
Now, that's real encouraging and sounds cool. The thing is:
Hickory Springs officials and the Polyurethane Foam Association say the study is flawed and could frighten the community.
Yeah and that's the same Polyurethane Foam Association that just figured out, according to their own March 20, 2007 press release that gee, they don't want to have to have their foam products to be expected to pass an open flame test. They need more time to come up with alternatives. If kids die in that time, well, too effing bad, I guess. This is their lameass excuse after spending all their time and money fighting the laws requiring the flame test:
Brominated and chlorinated fire retardants comprise about 90% to 95% of the foam industry's typical fire retardant usage. If necessary, we can eliminate these materials from foam, but the industry needs a transition period for research and development.
So, I'm not sure I'm supposed to care what they think. And I'm not sure what Patrick McHenry thinks he knows about scientific standards but we can all feel safe knowing that he is on the scene.

Let's all pray that of the fraction of plants that still functioning in the 10th district, NONE of them are causing harm to residents. Because we sure as hell don't want to lose the jobs. But we also don't want to lose our health. I wonder if concern for the bank accounts of the plant owners is what has gotten Pat's attention or the health and welfare of neighbors and workers. Since he's all over the science, it doesn't sound encouraging. We'll see.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Pat Go Bye-Bye's dream come true: Pat's gone bye-bye

On his way to Pakistan, PGBB's favorite Pat has stopped off in London.

I wonder why he doesn't mention it on his website?

I thought everyone told their friends when they traveled? I can't wait for the pictures. Do you think Pat has a flickr account? We'll have to start one for him.


Staff of Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., will hold office hours 1-5 p.m. Thursday in the conference room of the Cherryville Fire Department, 116 S. Mountain St.

Brett Keeter, McHenry's regional field director for Gaston County, will be available to talk with constituents who have issues with federal agencies including Social Security, Veterans Affairs and immigration.

Details: 800-477-2576.

Let's have a lottery on what kinds of activities he'll participate in abroad. Any ideas? We'll let Brett settle any disputes over the winnings.