North Carolina Still Without Budget, But I-77 Express Lanes in Charlotte Open

Here is my warning to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and the Legislature’s leadership: when you finish your work and fail to finish the basic business of state government in the United States of America, which is to adopt a budget for the state, voters feel vengeful. Specifically, they start to feel that “throw the bums out” may be necessary. This feeling impacts the leaders of both chambers of the state legislature and the governor, but it impacts the executive branch leadership, the governor, the most. After all, the buck stops here—at the governor’s desk, first and foremost. Just hear the sound of this: I hope that when the Legislature reconvenes in January, I hope they can adopt, with the governor’s consent, a spending plan for the current fiscal year. I know, I know, it is truly sad.

I commend the Democratic Governor, Roy Cooper, for taking all of his principled stands. Expanding Medicaid to cover the working poor, still possible under the Obamacare law, is a truly noble ideal. So, also, are granting teacher pay raises that amount to a significant percentage and annual increases. Nonetheless, the NC State Legislature was unwilling to grant either of these. They offered absolutely nothing on Medicaid expansion, and a notable compromise on teacher pay raises that could have saved face, if agreed-upon. No such compromise was available from the Governor’s office, however. Hence, we are left, this year, with nothing. No compromises, and ultimately, no NC State budget this year. We are left with, essentially, only paralysis. Total dysfunction in the halls of Raleigh. It is too bad.

North Carolina State Capitol Building
North Carolina State Capitol Building, Raleigh, NC, by JillLang, http://www.istockphoto.com

On the bright side, one past hold-up in North Carolina state politics has been resolved. The I-77 express lanes/toll lanes leading from Charlotte to the North have opened. Former Governor Pat McCrory was right, on his radio show, that this highway project helped to cost him the election for Governor. Now, under the next Governor’s watch, the I-77 lanes are open. This marks the completion of the project, one that promises to address and relieve some of the perennial congestion plaguing this road. It was wholly unpopular, but it has finished, and it is, finally, open. Therefore, despite popular opinion, the highway has been improved, and the notorious congestion will have been addressed, and hopefully, somewhat substantially relieved. State government has enacted a solution to address the problem of congestion on this important expressway. State leadership did something, and finished it.

Charlotte Skyline Sketch
Charlotte, NC, by chimpyk

The I-77 political open sore will no longer hurt the Governor. The failure to reach any agreement with state legislative leaders can hurt the Governor, however. I encourage compromise, and enacting a state budget for North Carolina. Standing up for noble ideas is all well and good, after all, but doing the state’s business is, I think, more important. I do not send out a call to “throw the bums out;” rather, I call on our good state leadership to come to their senses, to compromise, and to adopt a state budget.

You can do better than what you have done.

—Nicholas Patti

Charlotte, NC

US Hands Off Venezuela

January 29, 2019—It is with more than a little irony that I note that on the current, fiery issue of politics in Venezuela, our U.S. President, Donald Trump, is following the traditional, U.S. capitalist/cold war line, while I am siding with Russia, China, Cuba, and the U.S. socialist, anti-imperialist Left. To be honest, I am more than a little surprised that President Trump is breaking with President Vladimir Putin and Russia on this one. I have taken President Trump to task in earlier posts on this blog for cozying up with Vladimir Putin at a recent joint press conference with him, yet here I am taking the side of Russia and Vladimir Putin, myself, as against traditional U.S., imperialist policy in Latin America, which President Trump is currently upholding and continuing (Mid-term Post-election Recap, 11/10/2018). Wow, Mr. President, such independence from Vladimir Putin. What a surprise! Perhaps you should re-think that, however. In this case, I think a little deference to Russia, in the best interests of the Venezuelan people, of course, would be a good thing. Why so much of the “America First,” for Venezuela? That is not really new, after all. I think we need a little “Venezuela First,” for Venezuela. What’s more, if you ask any of the participants in the now fluid, quickly unfolding events in Venezuela, including you, including Russia, including both sides of the bitterly divided conflict in Venezuela, itself, and including, of course, all afore-mentioned and not-yet-credited U.S. socialists, including, of course, socialist parties, such as the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the on-line media networks of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS), and including big-name, ULTRA-LIBERAL intellectuals, such as Noam Chomsky, including everybody involved, directly and also, not-so-directly, including just about everyone, if you ask any of these players in Venezuela, and regarding Venezuela, they will tell you, in one, very rare moment of agreement, that their steadfast, unyielding position has everything to do with the interests of the Venezuelan people. All that anyone does, including attempts to set up parallel governments in Venezuela, including jailing the opposition in Venezuela, with whom they wish to negotiate, including cutting off the desperately poor people of Venezuela from billions of U.S. oil consumer dollars, including denouncing the U.S. government for imperialism in Latin America, etc. etc., including everything, all sides can agree that everything they do is for the betterment and wholly in the best interests of the people of Venezuela.

Here here. All agreed.

Victory sign with flag of Venezuela – by Lalocracio

As a U.S. socialist blogger, myself, speaking up on behalf of socialism and democracy in Venezuela today, which hopefully are not too far divorced from one another in Venezuela, either, as a U.S. socialist speaking up about Venezuela, myself, I feel the need to concern myself, largely, with U.S. policy in Venezuela, and in Latin America, in general, traditionally, and apparently, still today. It is on that note that I fall on the refrain, “U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!” In this vein, I echo the words of the Venezuelan President, himself, Nicolas Maduro, who is quoted as saying, in a direct response to President Donald Trump, on Monday, January 28, addressing the new sanctions against the Venezuelan state oil company, announced by the White House earlier the same day, Maduro said, “Hands off Venezuela!” as quoted in the associated press from Washington in an on-line news story on Earthlink.net (“US Hits Venezuela with Oil Sanctions to Pressure Maduro,” 1/28/2019).

Apparently, according to the Earthlink.net article, we are talking about $7 billion in current assets, cut off now, and projected income from future oil sales over the next year to the U.S. of about an additional $11 billion, all U.S. dollars. That is a lot of American currency for Venezuela, currently a cash-starved nation, to lose.

The U.S. has pursued “big-stick diplomacy,” traditionally, which meant, historically, sending in the marines, traditionally, in Latin America. Now, under President Trump, as of January 28, 2019, we have what I would call, “big-purse diplomacy,” at this point. The U.S. has not taken the military option off the table, as of January 28, 2019, but it has already exercised the option of economic sanctions.

Meanwhile, it is sad and ironic that President Trump is threatening to hold hostage hundreds of thousands of U.S. federal workers in the ongoing immigration fight over his border wall. He is threatening to close down the U.S. government again, over this issue, leaving all Americans, and pretty much everyone, wondering if he will actually do this, again, to fight for his border wall. He will shut down the U.S. government, again, that is, but U.S. imperialism in Latin America will remain wide open for business. One would think that you cannot have your imperialism in Latin America if you actually shut down the U.S. government. The government (in the U.S., that is) actually has to be open, with its employees actually paid for their labor, in order for the U.S. government and president to throw his weight around with unnecessary intervention in the domestic politics of Latin America, and in particular, Venezuela. It just seems odd, that’s all. We talk of the harm to the people of Venezuela, and what is in their best interests, no doubt, but we also, simultaneously, talk about what is in the best interests of the people of America, and federal workers, in particular. Antonio Gramsci comes to mind. This pattern is all too familiar to U.S. socialists during the course of the cold war, workers in America and countries, abroad, all being oppressed by U.S. imperialism. We need to break this pattern.

Therefore, I implore you, President Trump, listen to your friend, Vladimir Putin. Remember, the Cold War is over. If the Cold War were still on, you, President Trump, would never have been elected President. You could not have benefited from Vladimir Putin and Russia to the extent that you did, in your campaign in 2016, if the Cold War were still on. So, if the Cold War is, in fact, over, then let Venezuela live. Trade with former, and current, socialist countries is a good thing, President Trump. Rescind your silly sanctions, and let the U.S. thaw out relations with the current, socialist government of Venezuela. Then, the U.S. can participate in talks to help end the crisis in government currently unfolding in that country. Starving Venezuela, and the Venezuelan people, of much-needed U.S. capital does not seem to me to be the most helpful thing for them.

Let me be the first to say, “End the sanctions on Venezuela.” After all, these sanctions have not been in effect for even one full day yet.

Remember, President Trump. Latin America today, and Europe, today, are all still in the same world, today. Therefore, although I have called for more independence from Russia in earlier blog posts, forget that. In this case, in the case of Venezuela, listen to your friend, Vladimir Putin. President Trump, listen to Russia. The Cold War is over. Let’s just move on, already, and get over it, like you always say. You know, standing next to Vladimir Putin at an adjoining podium at the same, joint press conference, you announced, “there was no collusion.” Then, in almost lip synch, Vladimir Putin also said, “Again, upon our review by our government in Moscow, we have concluded, also, that, undeniably, there was no collusion.” You see? You can agree! It is not all about just hotel deals and new office towers in Moscow, like New York. It is about a changing international politics in an undeniably changing world. Embrace your new friends on the international scene, President Trump. Embrace, in particular, Vladimir Putin’s traditional, Russian Cold War stance in support of remnant socialist regimes everywhere. Including in Latin America. Especially in Latin America. Even Venezuela.

So, President Trump, here is what I propose for you. Today, economic sanctions on Venezuela. Tomorrow, a second joint news conference with Vladimir Putin of Russia in which you declare that you agree with him, not only on Syria, upon your Presidential review, but also, on Venezuela! End the sanctions on Venezuela!

I think, humbly enough, that if you let the people of Venezuela have their $18 billion US dollars for their oil, you may find that you have a couple million less economic refugees fleeing the country, seeking jobs and a better life, elsewhere. You will not need a wall if you do not starve these Latin American countries, read: Venezuela, of their access to U.S. capital.

O.K. I have said enough. Probably too much. I may be getting myself in trouble now, too, since I should be siding with these new, Venezuelan immigrants to the U.S., before they even arrive here. It is a sad fact, according to the Wall Street Journal (1/28/2019, p. A5), that there are now three million Venezuelans fleeing their country. This reality, I do not actually blame President Trump for, to be honest. That migration is the result of desperate conditions in a country currently undergoing a constitutional crisis. I just hope that the U.S. attempts to make the situation better, and not, in fact, worse.

You can do the right thing, President Trump. End the sanctions, and begin the process of honest talk, real dialogue, between the U.S. and the current, socialist government of Venezuela, and even, between the contending parties in Venezuela, itself. Starving the country of U.S. capital will not help. It will only worsen the situation there.

You can do better than this, Donald Trump. If nothing else, pick up the red phone in the White House, designed to protect against nuclear annihilation with the Soviet Union, and talk to your friend, President Vladimir Putin, in today’s Russia. If you do not want to listen to me, then don’t. Listen to your friend, Vladimir Putin. He will tell you. He will tell you the same thing I just told you in this blog post. I fear that I repeat myself too much.

End the sanctions. Begin the talks.

—Nicholas Patti, Charlotte, NC

 

Letter to Editor, on the 9th District

Letter to Editor, New York Times (12/10/2018, unpublished):

In response to “Winner Says He Backs Revote, if Inquiry Finds Fraud” (New York Times, December 8, 2018, p. A11):

December 10, 2018—Although the investigation of election fraud should continue by the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement regarding the 9th District for the U.S. House, in and around Charlotte, NC, the Board should publish its results soon after their evidentiary hearing on or before December 21. They should certify the election results, also, at that time.

A quick glance at the numbers: Republican Mark Harris won by 905 votes in the general, yet he only received 420 absentee votes from Bladen County, as opposed to 258 such votes in the County in question by his Democratic opponent, Dan McCready, according to The Charlotte Observer (12/6/2018, p. 1A.) Similarly, in the primary, Mr. Harris won by 828 votes, overall, and only received 437 absentee votes in the County, according to The New York Times (12/8/2010, p. A11) and The Charlotte Observer (12/6/2018, p. 1A).

These numbers do not undermine the election of Mr. Harris. However, those responsible for the fraud should be criminally prosecuted.

—Nicholas Patti, Charlotte, NC

 

Mid-term Post-election Recap

November 10, 2018—After all the divisive, rancorous rhetoric of the campaign, the mid-term election delivered a win for all involved—and some notable losses.

Our illustrious leader, President Donald Trump, scored big, for example, by holding the Senate. Impeachment is now officially off-the-table, due, in large part, to his vigorous campaigning for Republican Senate candidates. This means that when President Trump travels to Moscow for a love-summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and declares, “there was no collusion,” no one can correct him. Trump has support among a significant voting bloc of the American public, and his brand was triumphant. He is vindicated in the Senate.

The night was not a total wash-out for the Democrats, either, however. In a significant rebuke to President Trump, Democrats retook the U.S. House of Representatives. Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi is due to retake the speaker’s gavel, and Republicans everywhere are chagrined, to say the least. Democrats everywhere are heartened by their return to power in the U.S. House, as expected during the campaign. If their previously-hyped “blue wave”did not deliver a total Democratic takeover of the U.S. Congress this election, it was strong enough, at least, to account for one chamber of power, the House. They and their voters sent a clear rebuke to President Trump, and they won a significant victory. That victory includes subpoena power, just in case President Trump steps too far out-of-line.

U.S. Congress, Washington, DC
© Alisonh29 | www. stockfreeimages.com

So, the mid-terms delivered mixed results. There was a win for both parties, and a loss. Does this spell bipartisanship? Or, paralysis, due to a woefully divided government? Only time will tell.

In the American political grain, after all, 2020 starts in 2019. Only time will tell.

Washington Monument, Washington, DC
© Pgangler | www. stockfreeimages.com

In North Carolina, a similar dynamic could be seen at work. In every closely-contested race for the U.S. House in North Carolina, counting three, Republicans won. North Carolina is sending back a Congressional delegation that remains 10-3, Republican-led, unchanged in-full from before the election. In this way, the State of North Carolina bucked the national trend. Whereas nationally, Democrats re-took the House, in North Carolina, the delegation did not change, and Republicans held on to every single House seat, including all three of the toss-up districts. This outcome represents a clear victory for Republicans in North Carolina. These headline races were watched closely across the State, and Republicans won all three close contests to keep every single U.S. House seat, previously held before the election.

In another victory for the Republican party in North Carolina, the voter ID amendment passed. Now, the State is no longer finished with the requirement to show photo ID to vote; it is now a part of the State Constitution as an amendment. Also, the income tax limit amendment passed, another victory for NC Republicans, as well as the crime victims’ amendment and the hunting and fishing amendment. NC Republicans were behind all of these amendments, and they won; Republicans will now change the statutes in State law, to follow.

The last two amendments failed, but the Republican party was split on those two amendments. Republican governors, including recent, former Gov. Pat McCrory, opposed these last two amendments, as did former Democratic governors, as well. Those two were the amendments on judicial appointments, and the make-up of the State elections board. Those two amendments would have diluted the power of the office of Governor, and shifted it to the legislature. Those failed.

The State congressional delegation and the four amendments that passed, notably, the photo ID amendment, represented victories for the Republican party in North Carolina. In these areas, Republicans won in North Carolina.

In other areas of government and the election results in North Carolina, Republicans lost, and Democrats won. Democrats won by taking enough seats in the State legislature to remove the Republican supermajority there. This means NC State Republicans can no longer readily over-ride vetoes by the Democratic Governor, Roy Cooper. Democrats won these seats in the State legislature by taking urban and suburban districts in Mecklenburg County, and other urban areas of the State. Removing the Republican supermajority was a major electoral goal for NC Democrats, and the Democrats achieved this goal in North Carolina.

Another significant area of victory for Democrats in North Carolina was right here at home in Mecklenburg County, comprising the city of Charlotte, and suburbs. There was a “blue wave” in Mecklenburg County. Democrats won all seats on the County Commission, defeating three Republicans in previously Republican districts, and the at-large, Republican candidate. The Republican, minority opposition on the County Commission is now gone; the body is now entirely Democrat.

In addition, NC Democrats swept the state delegation from the Mecklenburg County area, leaving only one, or maybe, two Republicans standing. The suburbs had been reliably Republican, but the voting shifted in this election toward the Democrats. Repeated across urban areas in North Carolina, this spelled the end of the Republican supermajority in Raleigh.

The victory here for Democrats was in Mecklenburg County itself, and in urban areas across the State, reflected in the outcome of the Democratic gains in the State legislature. Republicans did hold on to their majority in the legislature, but they lost their supermajority. Removing the supermajority was the Democrats’ goal. They achieved this, and swept across Mecklenburg County.

NC Democrats could take home a victory on these counts. Therefore, both parties in North Carolina, similar to the national trend, won some, and lost some. The politics of the United States is divided, and resulted in divided government, as a result. North Carolina is known as a purple state, and similar to national politics, both parties could take away victories, and chalk up some substantial losses.

A divided body politic in the United States led to a more divided government, with trends going this way and that, in the recent election. Similarly, in North Carolina, true to its “purple state” identity, both parties could cite victories, and defeats at the ballot box. The main irony in this comparison is that North Carolina bucked the national trend in the election for the U.S. House, showing North Carolina as a red state, in this regard. Republicans won in contests for the U.S. House in North Carolina, bucking the national trend toward Democrats, yet Democrats in the State still made significant gains in the State legislature. Hence, North Carolina is still a “purple state,” with a unique identity in the broader body politic of the United States, itself. Both national parties will continue to concentrate efforts, therefore, in this State, since either party could still win here, in future elections.

North Carolina State Capitol Building,
Raleigh, NC, by JillLang, http://www.istockphoto.com

One little victory for President Donald Trump in North Carolina is that both U.S. House candidates that he rallied for, in a recent campaign rally this election season, held in Charlotte, NC, both won. In a year in which the President just lost control of the House in Washington, it is notable and comforting to him, perhaps, that the two House Republican candidates he personally campaigned for here, both won.

Perhaps, President Trump and national Republicans will cherish this silver lining here in Charlotte, when it comes to their losses nationally in these mid-terms for the U.S. House. Perhaps, these national Republicans, and the President, will appreciate the two Republican U.S. House Representatives from the Charlotte region, both of whom President Trump personally campaigned for, here in Charlotte, when they hold the party convention here in 2020.

It’s all peace-and-love, and all kumbaya for the Republicans here in Charlotte and nationally, but do not let anyone ask the actual U.S. House Representative for the district that actually covers the city of Charlotte. Democratic Rep. Alma Adams, a newly re-elected Democratic incumbent in a no-contest district, the 12th, may disagree. She just cruised to re-election, and she actually represents the city of Charlotte, itself. Not even President Trump dared campaign against her in the 12th. In true Charlotte style, however, and consistent with the state of North Carolina, the two nearby districts (which include South Charlotte, also) both went red. Charlotte will host the 2020 Republican convention, and can champion notable, Republican wins for the House. Democratic Rep Alma Adams, however, will remain silent. Also, she will remain in office.

I feel thankful that we had this recent mid-term election. It is a very good thing that we have periodic checks on power in this country via regular, national elections. It helps to re-align our elected leaders with the will of the people on a regular, frequent basis. Especially with this president, President Trump, we need to check on his level of support among the people in this country. He tends to veer off into never-never-land in his rhetoric, especially during the campaigns, and we need to check if he is actually representing any of the American people, still. It turns out, he is. President Trump and his party, the Republican Party, still command broad, popular support, or they would not have held on to the Senate. Meanwhile, the American people expressed growing opposition to the President and his party. Hence, the Democrats returned to the majority in the House, which is the chamber of Congress more closely aligned to the people, by direct population numbers, and less-so on geographic coverage and equal, geographic representation.

Opposition to the President is growing in the United States of America, but he still retains broad support. In the true spirit of American democracy, we are already looking forward to the next national election, 2020, for the Presidency, itself. Let us just hope there is enough peace, in the interim, to allow for good governance, and not simply paralysis.

—Nicholas Patti,  Charlotte, NC

 

My sources for this article are The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC: in print and on-line, Nov. 6, 7, and 8, 2018).