Saturday, October 15, 2011

U.S. abandoning plans to keep troops in Iraq. Do it. The time has come.

 Verne Strickland Blogmaster / October 15, 2011

Iraq Troop Withdrawal 
LARA JAKES and REBECCA SANTANA   AP    10/15/11 05:37 PM ET   AP

BAGHDAD — The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline, The Associated Press has learned. The decision to pull out fully by January will effectively end more than eight years of U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, despite ongoing concerns about its security forces and the potential for instability.

The decision ends months of hand-wringing by U.S. officials over whether to stick to a Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline that was set in 2008 or negotiate a new security agreement to ensure that gains made and more than 4,400 American military lives lost since March 2003 do not go to waste.

In recent months, Washington has been discussing with Iraqi leaders the possibility of several thousand American troops remaining to continue training Iraqi security forces. A Pentagon spokesman said Saturday that no final decision has been reached about the U.S. training relationship with the Iraqi government.

But a senior Obama administration official in Washington confirmed Saturday that all American troops will leave Iraq except for about 160 active-duty soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy.

A senior U.S. military official confirmed the departure and said the withdrawal could allow future but limited U.S. military training missions in Iraq if requested.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Throughout the discussions, Iraqi leaders have adamantly refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the Americans have refused to stay without it. Iraq's leadership has been split on whether it wanted American forces to stay.

Some argued the further training and U.S. help was vital, particularly to protect Iraq's airspace and gather security intelligence. But others have deeply opposed any American troop presence, including Shiite militiamen who have threatened attacks on any American forces who remain.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has told U.S. military officials that he does not have the votes in parliament to provide immunity to the American trainers, the U.S. military official said.

A western diplomatic official in Iraq said al-Maliki told international diplomats he will not bring the immunity issue to parliament because lawmakers will not approve it.

A White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said discussions with Iraq about the security relationship between the two countries next year were ongoing.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said the U.S. remains "committed to keeping our agreement with the Iraqi government to remove all of our troops by the end of this year."

"At the same time we're building a comprehensive partnership with Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement including a robust security relationship, and discussions with the Iraqis about the nature of that relationship are ongoing," Little said.

The Strategic Framework Agreement allows for other forms of military cooperation besides U.S. troops on the ground. Signed at the same time as the security accord mandating the departure deadlines, it provides outlines for the U.S.-Iraqi relationship in such areas as economic, cultural and security cooperation.

Iraqi lawmakers excel at last-minute agreements. But with little wiggle room on the immunity issue and the U.S. military needing to move equipment out as soon as possible, a last-minute change between now and December 31 seems almost out of the question.

Regardless of whether U.S. troops are here or not, there will be a massive American diplomatic presence.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is the largest in the world, and the State Department will have offices in Basra, Irbil and Kirkuk as well as other locations around the country where contractors will train Iraqi forces on U.S. military equipment they're purchasing.

About 5,000 security contractors and personnel will be tasked with helping protect American diplomats and facilities around the country, the State Department has said.

The U.S. Embassy will still have a handful of U.S. Marines for protection and 157 U.S. military personnel in charge of facilitating weapons sales to Iraq. Those are standard functions at most American embassies around the world and would be considered part of the regular embassy staff.

When the 2008 agreement requiring all U.S. forces leave Iraq was passed, many U.S. officials assumed it would inevitably be renegotiated so that American forces could stay longer.

The U.S. said repeatedly this year it would entertain an offer from the Iraqis to have a small force stay behind, and the Iraqis said they would like American military help. But as the year wore on and the number of American troops that Washington was suggesting could stay behind dropped, it became increasingly clear that a U.S. troop presence was not a sure thing.

The issue of legal protection for the Americans was the deal-breaker.

Iraqis are still angry over incidents such as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal or Haditha, when U.S. troops killed Iraqi civilians in Anbar province, and want American troops subject to Iraqi law.

American commanders don't want to risk having their forces end up in an Iraqi courtroom if they're forced to defend themselves in a still-hostile environment.

It is highly unlikely that Iraqi lawmakers would have the time to approve a U.S. troop deal even if they wanted to. The parliament is in recess on its Hajj break until Nov. 20, leaving just a few weeks for legislative action before the end of year deadline.

Going down to zero by the end of this year would allow both al-Maliki and President Barack Obama to claim victory. Obama will have fulfilled a key campaign promise to end the war and al-Maliki will have ended the American presence in Iraq and restored Iraqi sovereignty.

The Iraqi prime minister was also under intense pressure from his anti-American allies, the Sadrists, to reject any American military presence.

An advisor close to al-Maliki said the Americans suggested during negotiations that if no deal is reached in time, U.S. troops could be stationed in Kuwait.

With the U.S. military presence in Iraq currently at about 41,000 and heading down to zero, almost all of those forces will be flowing out of Iraq into Kuwait and then home or other locations.

A western expert in Iraq said it is conceivable that if the Iraqi government asks early next year for U.S. troops to return, there will be forces still in Kuwait able to come back and do the job.

But he stressed that the core problems still remain on the Iraqi side about what types of legal immunity to give the American troops and whether parliament can pass it.

Associated Press writers Anne Gearan and Erica Werner contributed from Washington.

Port City candidates quizzed at NAACP, Black Caucus forum. Saffo, Sparks, are no shows.

Wilmington mayoral candidate Justin LaNasa speaks during the candidate forum for the Wilmington City Council and the Wilmington mayoral race at St. Phillip AME Church in Wilmington Friday, October 14, 2011. The New Hanover County NAACP and the New Hanover County Black Caucus sponsored the forum.
Photo By Matt Born
Modified: Friday, October 14, 2011 at 9:14 p.m.
Six of the 11 candidates in the running for the Wilmington City Council and mayoral elections showed up Friday night to field questions from the NAACP and New Hanover County Black Caucus.

Dozens of people filled long tables in the St. Phillip AME Church on Eighth Street. President of the Black Caucus, Helen Worthy, said she heard from city council candidate Ricky Meeks, who couldn't make it, and incumbent Ron Sparks and Neil Anderson sent proxies to speak for them. Council candidate Josh Fulton also did not attend.

The first half hour was reserved for mayoral candidate questions, and candidate Justin LaNasa fielded them alone. Mayor Bill Saffo did not attend.

"I feel that the majority of our citizens are going unheard," LaNasa said. 

This was the third annual candidate forum for the New Hanover County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the New Hanover County Black Caucus. Candidates fielded questions from a panel of members of the Alpha Psi Omega Chapter of AKA Sorority Inc. The subjects ranged from violent crime to city services and regulations. 

Brenda Fong, treasurer of the local NAACP group and downtown resident, said her biggest concerns were traffic in the Wilmington area and better explanations of the bus routes. Once again, candidates debated the prevalence of crime, but Fong thought transportation should be a more pressing issue for elected officials. 

City regulations have also taken center stage in the race for the Wilmington City Council, and Friday's forum was no exception. The panel asked candidates if they thought a proposed expansion of the city's rules aimed at preserving historic buildings was too invasive.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Obama cuts major part of health care reform law -- a few more bites and it will be all gone!

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / October 14, 2011

Barack Obama Health Care Reform 

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration Friday pulled the plug on a major program in the president's signature health overhaul law – a long-term care insurance plan dogged from the beginning by doubts over its financial solvency.

Targeted by congressional Republicans for repeal, the program became the first casualty in the political and policy wars over the health care law. It had been expected to launch in 2013.

"This is a victory for the American taxpayer and future generations," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., spearheading opposition in the Senate. "The administration is finally admitting (the long-term care plan) is unsustainable and cannot be implemented."

Proponents, including many groups that fought to pass the health care law, have vowed a vigorous effort to rescue the program, insisting that Congress gave the administration broad authority to make changes.

Long-term care includes not only nursing homes, but such services as home health aides for disabled people.
Known as CLASS, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program was a longstanding priority of the late Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Although sponsored by the government, it was supposed to function as a self-sustaining voluntary insurance plan, open to working adults regardless of age or health. Workers would pay an affordable monthly premium during their careers, and could collect a modest daily cash benefit of at least $50 if they became disabled later in life. The money could go for services at home, or to help with nursing home bills.

But a central design flaw dogged CLASS. Unless large numbers of healthy people willingly sign up during their working years, soaring premiums driven by the needs of disabled beneficiaries would destabilize it, eventually requiring a taxpayer bailout.

After months insisting that could be fixed, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, finally admitted Friday she doesn't see how.

"Despite our best analytical efforts, I do not see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time," Sebelius said in a letter to congressional leaders.

The law required the administration to certify that CLASS would remain financially solvent for 75 years before it could be put into place.

But officials said they discovered they could not make CLASS both affordable and financially solvent while keeping it a voluntary program open to virtually all workers, as the law also required.

Monthly premiums would have ranged from $235 to $391, even as high as $3,000 under some scenarios, the administration said. At those prices, healthy people were unlikely to sign up. Suggested changes aimed at discouraging enrollment by people in poor health could have opened the program to court challenges, officials said.

"If healthy purchasers are not attracted ... then premiums will increase, which will make it even more unattractive to purchasers who could also obtain policies in the private market," Kathy Greenlee, the lead official on CLASS, said in a memo to Sebelius. That "would cause the program to quickly collapse."

That's the same conclusion a top government expert reached in 2009. Nearly a year before the health care law passed, Richard Foster, head of long-range economic forecasts for Medicare warned administration and congressional officials that CLASS would be unworkable. His warnings were disregarded, as Obama declared his support for adding the long-term care plan to his health care bill.

The demise of CLASS immediately touched off speculation about its impact on the federal budget. Although no premiums are likely to be collected, the program still counts as reducing the federal deficit by about $80 billion over the next ten years. That's because of a rule that would have required workers to pay in for at least five years before they could collect any benefits.

"The CLASS Act was a budget gimmick that might enhance the numbers on a Washington bureaucrat's spreadsheet but was destined to fail in the real world," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Administration officials said Obama's next budget would reflect the decision not to go forward. Even without CLASS premiums, they said the health care law will still reduce the deficit by more than $120 billion over 10 years.

Kennedy's original idea was to give families some financial breathing room. Most families cannot afford to hire a home health aide for a frail elder, let alone pay nursing home bills. Care is usually provided by family members, often a spouse who may also have health problems.

"We're disappointed that (Sebelius) has prematurely stated she does not see a path forward," AARP, the seniors' lobby, said in a statement. "The need for long-term care will only continue to grow."

Sebelius said the administration wants to work with Congress and supporters of the program to find a solution. But in a polarized political climate, it appears unlikely that CLASS can be salvaged. Congressional Republicans remain committed to its repeal.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Victoria Jackson descends on Occupy Wall Street and "inflames protestors" says HuffPost, assailing her "hateful commentary."

Verne Strickland Blogmaster


HUFFINGTON POST  10/12/11 Updated: 10/13/11 11:46 AM ET
Former "Saturday Night Live" actress, conservative columnist and avowed enemy of both "Glee" and gay people, Victoria Jackson took a video camera to the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City, predictably trying to inflame the supporters camped out in Zuccotti Park.

She dove right into her particular brand of hateful commentary early, pointing out Ground Zero from her car window and saying "some Muslims flew in to" the Twin Towers.

Once Jackson got down to the protests, she began interviewing both the protesters and those that happened to be passing by. She began by asking what they were protesting, then seizing on their responses. She often brought up President Obama's connection to GE, calling him a Marxist and socialist.

"Right now, 50 percent of people pay taxes and 50 percent do not. So if everyone gets free stuff, who is going to pay for it?" she asked one protester, who said the government "should end the wars and tax the super rich" to end the deficit. Her response? "Class warfare is Marxist."

Continuing her argument with the same protester, she said, "If you want everyone to be equal, how are you going to make them equal in good looks and smart brains? Everyone's not created equal." She later called Van Jones a communist, and then said, "So you don't think Obama is stirring up racial and class warfare, and it's straight out of 'Rules for Radicals' written by Saul Alinsky?"

Then she brought out Jeremiah Wright, devolving into the old anti-Obama arguments.

Glenn Beck recently spoke about the protesters, telling his listeners, "Capitalists, if you think that you can play footsies with these people, you're wrong. They will come for you and drag you into the streets and kill you ... they're Marxist radicals ... These guys are worse than Robespierre from the French Revolution ... They'll kill everybody."

Jackson is known for her provocative conservative statements; in May, she wrote a column slamming "Glee" and made TV appearances hitting out at the show for its inclusion of gay people in its story lines.

"They should have a celibacy campaign and tell kids that 50 percent of teenagers now have this new STD from oral sex. That's what they should try to be doing instead of making kids gay," the former actress said on Showbiz Tonight.

"I just want to know why the liberals are pro-Muslim and pro-gays. Muslims kill gays. That's what's confusing to me. And the only thing I can come up with is the Mulims hate God and the gays hate his word," she was quoted as saying.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ilario raises $175,000 for primary, leads against Johnston County opponent 2-1.

Seven months before primary, Ilario has raised more than the $161,000 that helped him to win the 2010 GOP primary with 51% of the vote.


Ilario's  third quarter report FEC shows the 2010 Republican nominee raised $65,000, bringing his primary campaign to over $175,000 raised this cycle, with 7 months to go before the primary. Pantano reports having $29,000 cash on hand and will continue investing heavily in ground operations in 12 counties and a field office that is making over two thousand phone calls per week.

“There is no question that President Obama has his eyes set on North Carolina,” Ilario said. “Our South Eastern Congressional district (NC-7) will be one of the most competitive in a state that will be one of the most competitive in the country.  We can expect an onslaught of money being spent across the district, and ACORN-style professional organizers being bused in to blanket our neighborhoods. We decided early on that the 2012 race will be decided by an organized ground game and that is where we are focusing our efforts.”

“We can’t wait for the GOP Presidential candidates to organize here,” Ilario continued. “They won’t be focusing on North Carolina until next year, because our primary is too late for them. If we want to take back America from Obama and the tax and spend liberals that are ruining our country then we have to do the heavy lifting ourselves. The future of my children, and yours, hangs in the balance so we must start now. ”

Congressional redistricting by the legislators in Raleigh has leveled the playing field and made the conservative South Eastern North Carolina district much more competitive. In 2010, Ilario nearly won NC-7, a seat held by democrats for over 140 years, despite Rep. Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spending over $600,000 to preserve Rep. McIntyre’s seat.

Poll Shows Ilario is the Frontrunner in Newly Redrawn 7th District (NC-7) Primary Race.

On September 1st, Conquest Communications Group conducted a poll of 350 likely Republican primary voters, all in the newly configured congressional district. Their poll results show that voters favor Ilario more than 2 to 1 in a head to head comparison with his nearest competitor and that Ilario has a 3 to 1 name ID advantage over his nearest competitor.

Ilario noted, “We are pleased that our strong standing is an early indicator that our grassroots conservative message will prevail. ‘Business as usual’ politics and the status quo by both parties is how America lost its way and became mired in unemployment and debt. In these trying economic times the people of South Eastern North Carolina are looking for bold leadership to restore America’s economy and ensure her security. ”

To view the poll results go to:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This is Al Gore's picture, which I post here to remind me daily of what he could have been.

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / October 11, 1011

          Al Gore, presidential candidate. 
          We are blessed beyond measure.
The irrepressible Al Gore of Tennessee, winner of Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, and the man who, but for the grace of God, might have been president of the United States. We are blessed beyond measure.

Monday, October 10, 2011

War on the EPA -- Republican bills would erase decades of protection. Isn't that wonderful?

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / October 11, 2011


First Posted: 10/9/11 09:38 AM ET Updated: 10/9/11 02:07 PM ET
WASHINGTON -- America's environmental protections are under a sweeping, concerted assault in Congress that could effectively roll back the federal government's ability to safeguard air and water more than 100 years, Democrats and advocates say.

The headlines have not been dramatic, and the individual attacks on relatively obscure rules seldom generate much attention beyond those who are most intently focused on environmental regulation.

But taken together, the separate moves -- led by House Republicans -- add up to a stunning campaign against governmental regulatory authority that is now surprisingly close to succeeding.

In just the year since the GOP took control of the House, there have been at least 159 votes held against environmental protections -- including 83 targeting the Environmental Protection Agency -- on the House floor alone, according to a list compiled by Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"Republicans have made an assault on all environmental issues," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee. "This is, without doubt, the most anti-environmental Congress in history."

Some of the efforts are broad-based, like the TRAIN Act, which would install overseers for the EPA and require cost considerations to trump health and science concerns for new rules. Another such effort is the REINS Act, which essentially requires Congress to approve all new regulations, essentially granting each chamber the ability to veto the executive branch.

Both have passed the House and are pending in the Senate. Still another proposed measure that would have all-encompassing reach is the Regulatory Accountability Act, which would make cost the top consideration for all federal regulations.

"It single-handedly amends probably more laws of the United States than any law ever introduced in Congress," said John Walke, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It shows just a profound disgust and disdain for the regulatory state that is unhinged from any facts or concerns for the benefits from those rules."

Taken together, the measures would so hamstring regulators that they would effectively return the nation to the 1880s era of the nation's first modern-style regulator, the Interstate Commerce Commission, advocates say.

"This is a departure not just from recent political thinking but literally would be a reversal," said NRDC's David Goldston. "The last time this was a situation that prevailed was the 1890s."
The ongoing anti-regulation crusade was on display in the House this week -- and will be again next week -- with some smaller bore bills. On Thursday, the House passed a measure that will delay regulations of cement factories that were aimed at implementing court-mandated controls on mercury and other pollutants.

Next week, the House is expected to pass a similar measure to halt rules on boilers and incinerators. While Republicans argue that both measures are merely "time-outs" to allow for deeper study on the impacts on jobs, environmental advocates note that in the case of the boiler bill there is a repeal of restrictions on burning hazardous wastes.

"What the bill does is codify a deregulatory Bush administration rule that was issued in 2001 and overturned in the courts," said Walke. "And it allows all of these nasty hazardous wastes -- oil residue, chemicals and plastics, to be burned in boilers and not subject to any control standard, monitoring or reporting."

In fact, while Republicans have argued that the Obama administration is running wild passing new regulations -- and therefore needs to be checked -- many of the measures coming up in the current Congress are aimed overturning laws first written in 1990. Many of the regulations required were delayed or rewritten by the George W. Bush White House, and then reinstated by courts, often with scathing verdicts.The boiler rules are a prime example, where the Bush administration argued that "any" didn't mean "any," but "none" or "some."

With the wretched economy, Republicans have made the need to protect jobs their prime justification for delaying environmental and health protections. And they've made it a consistent part of their campaign push, as well.
After Democrats voted Thursday against delaying regulations of cement plants -- the third-largest source of mercury pollution, according to the EPA -- the National Republican Campaign Committee blasted out a release targeting dozens of Democrats for voting "to risk 23,000 jobs with more job-killing red tape from Washington."

"The people of America understand that the EPA is in fact killing jobs," said Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), a Tea Party freshman who sponsored the boiler measure. He added that the bill would make sure "regulations are reasonable and effective" and "make sure that we protect the jobs of the United States of America while we go forward protecting the environment as well."

While Republicans estimate the cement rule could cost 23,000 jobs, EPA scientists say it would prevent 12,500 pollution-related deaths and 7,500 heart attacks. The agency estimates the boiler bill will kill 20,000 people prematurely.

Democrats are pushing back on the GOP by highlighting numbers like this, but they also take issue with the idea that regulations harm the economy. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, released a report at a press event Thursday that she would "explode the myth that a clean environment is antithetical to a strong economy."

The report, citing Commerce Department data, says that in more than 40 years since the creation of the EPA, an estimated 1.7 million jobs and $300 billion in revenues have been generated by industries that support environmental protection. Further, it says, clean air protections will produce an estimated $2 trillion in annual health benefits by 2020, and for every $1 billion invested in infrastructure to reduce water pollution and treat drinking water, up to 26,669 jobs are created.

"The Environmental Protection Agency and the nation's landmark environmental safeguards were created with overwhelming bipartisan consensus in Congress and support from Republican and Democratic presidents," the report argues. "Forty years of achievements are now threatened by partisan attacks."

For the moment, it will be difficult for many of the House's bills to get through the Senate, where Boxer plans to stop them. The White House also has promised vetoes of the measures.

Still, once anti-EPA legislation is written, it can wind up attached must-pass bills, or at least used to try and embarrass Democrats. Thursday night, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to attach a measure to a bill on Chinese currency manipulation that ostensibly aimed to stop the EPA from regulating farm dust. But the measure's language doesn't actually mention "farm dust" after its title. Instead, it targets soot regulation. Democrats successfully blocked it.

More troubling to environmental advocates is that they see the attempts to roll back regulations as a sustained effort that will not go away, and likely could pick up steam -- especially if Republicans take back the Senate in 2012.

"I think it certainly will continue through the 2012 election," said Goldston. "I think it's partly an attack on Obama but I think much is a broader part of a Tea Party effort to question the role of government in providing public health protections across the board and funding that."

And he predicted the range of attacks would only get broader."This can play out in spending; this can play out in the series of efforts to block any additional protections, not only in the clean air area, but more broadly, there are bills that have been pending in the house and the senate ... that would change the entire structure necessary to create protections," Goldston said.

The anti-EPA campaign has born some fruit already for the GOP, with President Obama delaying planned new regulations of ozone and citing economic reasons.

The political climate has left Democrats wary -- and concerned they could lose some battles -- but they also think the GOP could pay a price.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, expressed relief that so far lawmakers had successfully blocked EPA-targeted legislation in the Senate. But, he added, environmental protections remain vulnerable.

"It's an area where the current Republican leadership sees an opportunity to express frustration with government and regulation," Cardin said. "It’s consistent with their philosophy -- less government -- and that’s what they’re moving forward. I find it extremely disappointing because environmental issues have always been either nonpartisan or bipartisan. Some of our most amazing advancements on environment happened under Republican leadership. So I think this is very disappointing. But I think I understand their strategy, and I think it will backfire because Americans want clean water and clean air, and they think that clean water and clean air are important for our economy."

, , , , , , 112th Congress Gop , Ben Cardin , EPA Targeted , Henry Waxman , National Resources Defense Council , Air Pollution , Deregulation , Environmental Deregulation , Environmental Protection Agency , Environmental Regulations , Epa , Gop Epa , House Gop Epa Restrictions , Mercury , Republicans Environmental Deregulation , Tea Party Environmentalism , Politics News

Mainstream "news" denizens finally realizing that their hero (our president) may actually be full of crap!

Posted by Leon H. Wolf   RED STATE  / Friday, October 7th at 10:30AM EDT
Q. And secondly, on your jobs bill, the American people are sick of games — and you mentioned games in your comments. They want results. Wouldn’t it be more productive to work with Republicans on a plan that you know could pass Congress as opposed to going around the country talking about your bill and singling out — calling out Republicans by name?

Q. My question has to do with your powers of persuasion. During the debt ceiling debate, you asked for the American public to call members of Congress and switchboards got jammed. You have done a similar thing while going around the country doing this. Talking to members of Congress, there’s not the same reaction; you’re not seeing — hearing about phones being jammed. Talking to one member of Congress, he told me there’s a disillusionment he’s concerned about with the public that maybe they just don’t believe anything can get done anyway. Are you worried about your own powers of persuasion, and maybe that the American public is not listening to you anymore?

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Anybody on Capitol Hill will say that there’s no chance that the American Jobs Act, in its current state, passes either House. And you’ve been out on the campaign trail banging away at them saying, pass this bill. And it begins, sir, to look like you’re campaigning, and like you’re following the Harry Truman model against the do-nothing Congress instead of negotiating.

Both the tone and the substance of these questions should be worrisome to the White House. More worrisome, to some extent, should be the follow-up coverage from the press. It is one thing to notice that Obama is completely disconnected from the country at large and has no effective political power – it is quite another for the media to actually call out Obama on his favorite tactic of attacking strawmen instead of actual Republicans.

In this Associated Press piece (via The Transom) the AP took the unusual step, in a piece dripping with sarcasm, of calling out Obama for lying about Republicans in Congress, opening the bidding by noting that “In challening Republicans to get behind his jobs bill Thursday. . . The rhetoric in the president’s quick-moving press conference dodged some facts and left some evidence in the dust.”

In less than three short years, Obama has gone from the President most beloved of the American media since JFK into an object of scorn for the very same media. If he’s lost his last natural constituency this thoroughly, his re-election chances look very dim indeed.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pantano hosts friends and supporters at Riverfest event on banks of the Cape Fear


Conservative GOP congressional candidate Ilario Pantano with guests

By Verne Strickland / October 9, 2012

 The invitation read: 

Come out to Mike McCarley's beautiful riverside garden in Historic Downtown Wilmington to view the Invasion of the Pirates Flotilla and Fireworks on the Saturday night of Riverfest and get 'fired' up for Pantano for Congress.

The event lived up to its billing -- and then some. An estimated 125 guests turned up to cheer on their hero and favorite in what is certain to be a long and arduous struggle for the Seventh District seat in Congress -- a contest that won't be settled until November 2012.

Pantano led the group in prayer, then launched into a patriotic stump speech that pounced on liberal Democrats far and wide, promising that GOP stalwarts in North Carolina would be in the front ranks to rout them from their cushy incumbent lethargy.

A pulse-quickening display of fireworks flared brilliant against the night sky. The "Pirate Flotilla" arrived to the thunder of booming cannon. When the echoes faded, one person onshore --doubtless a Republican --  was heard to inquire: "Is Obama the captain of this boat? He's a pirate isn't he?"

Then it was down to business. I interviewed candidate Ilario Pantano about his campaign and the Riverfest GOP spin-off:

VS: It's a beautiful night, and your supporters are obviously fired up. What is this event all about?

It’s a celebration, and our chance to thank our growing ranks of supporters for all their hard work at the grassroots level. As I said, we’ve been building for seven months, and we have seven months to go. The heavy lifting starts now, and I say it matters. It matters more than ever. And I have a sense they all agree.

VS: Where are you now in your campaign?

We’re actually at the halfway point in this drive for a primary victory. We started this campaign back in February, and we’ve been running hard for seven months. We now have seven months to go before the primary, and we’re focused on that primary.

VS: You've always depended on strength and energy at the grassroots and precinct level. How is this ramping up?

What I will tell you is the support and the excitement in every county in this district is huge. And you know we have twelve counties in the Seventh now, and some of them are new. Even in these new counties, new friends are joining our cause, and are excited about what we represent. Because we are not the establishment, we’re not business as usual. We are just somebody who loves their country, and have sacrificed for it time and time again, who understand how the economy works and how to create jobs. That combination is pretty important right now.

VS: Many in the political game just talk the talk. But you claim to walk the walk. What does that mean actually?

A lot of people can quote the policy all day long, but when you look to their life experience and understand their true motivations, and understand that their heart isn’t a service heart, and what sacrifice really means, you have to wonder – do they know John 15:13? Do they really know? I am insistent on living out my faith, and this keeps me in a positive state of mind. I am really bullish on this country. What I see happening with this Occupy Wall Street movement is they want to replicate this right now.  And this very desperate president wants to foment unrest throughout the country to shore up his chances in 2012. His game plan is a strategy of destruction. It is not in the best interest of the country. It’s not good for my children or yours. I going to fight it and fight it hard.

Joe Agovino of Southport, long-time GOP leader in Brunswick County, was on hand at the GOP Riverfest celebration. He said conservative candidate Pantano has learned much from his experience in the political arena since his challenge to incumbent Mike McIntyre in the last congressional election.

VS: So you feel he has only gained strength and wisdom from being in the political arena?

That's right. I think Ilario has grown a great deal in the last year and a half. He’s even more committed to serving his country. He has also learned a great deal about internal politics. I’ve been close to Ilario through the  last campaign, and now this one. His commitment is genuine, and his loyalty is to his country, which he has served unselfishly.. In so doing, he has faced daunting challenges, but he has risen above all this, and has distinguished himself in many ways. So, today, I think he stands a better chance to win this primary because his supporters and the general public are comfortable with him and are really behind him. 

VS: Ilario will face off in the GOP primary against State Senator David Rouzer of Johnston County. What do you expect from him as a candidate?  

This race is a struggle between the old guard of the Republican Party and the newer members who are committed Constitutionalists and want to take our country back to work for the general well-being of the people. Mr. Rouzer is a bright young man, but is basically a Washington insider, and also a product of the system for a number of years. My personal opinion is that David Rouzer getting into this race will be good for Ilario, because of  the stark contrast between the politician, David Rouzer, and the patriot, Ilario Pantano.

VS: You hang your hat in Brunswick County. How do you size up the conservative Republican base there?

In our county -- Brunswick -- we’re seeing growth and strength at the precinct levels. That will be vital as Obama’s paid volunteers flood into North Carolina with their liberal agenda. We intend to be ready.
What I’m seeing is more cohesiveness in the organization, and more motivation. I’ve been involved in politics for many years, and this is the earliest I’ve seen our Republican Party become involved in statewide or presidential elections in an off-election year. That’s a tremendous plus. Our leadership is proactive and aggressive.We're putting the lessons we've learned to work for us on the road to 2012.