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Entries for November 2010

30
Some folks are wondering if North Korea’s ship sinking and cannon firing (into South Korea) is their idea of extortion – that this is the latest episode of North Korea growling and snapping like a pit bull, which will be followed by the Chinese brokering a deal and extracting another pound of flesh out of our economic hide where we buy North Korea off and give them a bribe to behave for awhile. 
 
On the other hand killing South Korean sailors and blowing up civilians with artillery bombardments isn’t normal behavior even for North Koreans. Both were acts of war. So it’s possible instead of being blackmailers the North Koreans are just plain crazy.
 
The President – sending North Korea a message of his own – has sent the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington sailing straight up to North Korea’s door step. And Hillary has gone to the Chinese, again, asking them to rein in their pit bull, but this time instead of accommodating us the Chinese have announced they don’t want our aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea either.
 
So, now, we’ve got an unreliable ally – the Chinese – on one side and a pit bull (who’s either belligerent or crazy or both) on the other and the George Washington sailing straight at both of them and let’s hope the North Koreans are blackmailers because we may find ourselves fighting a war in the Yellow Sea if they’re crazy.

 

 

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29
Last week in Washington Republicans voted to ban ‘earmarks.’ Then a few days later the press asked Minnesota Congressman Michelle Bachman (a heroine of the Tea party) about the new transportation bill – a traditional source of earmarks for Congressmen – and Representative Bachman said she could see allowing some local transportation projects to ‘get through.’
 
Of course the press pounced. Because Republicans didn’t run against ‘bad earmarks’ and for ‘good earmarks’ – they ran against earmarks period.
 
Beyond that the problem with earmarks is they’re the currency of Congressional vote buying:  Congressman Jones wants to pass a budget busting transportation bill so he says to Congressman Smith, I’ll put an ‘earmark’ for you in it – in exchange for your vote. Then he says the same thing to 433 other Congressmen and in the blink of an eye ‘earmarks’ turn into a form of fiscal hari-kari.

 

 

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29
Want to know what North Carolina’s electorate will look like in another, say, 10 years?
 
Look at what the public-school population looks like.
 
The N&O reported recently that, for the first time, minorities make up a majority of the WakeCounty school population.
 
And note: Hispanic students, now 14.6 percent of the enrollment are “the fastest-growing group in the school system.”
 
Wait ‘til they start voting. The Republican Party will pay a price for years of immigrant-bashing.
 

 

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25
Ten years ago this month, Mike Easley was elected Governor of North Carolina. Today … well, you know.
 
I’ve been reminding people this week that I was a Dennis Wicker man in the 2000 Democratic primary.
 
Despite that, I never disliked Easley. But I recall one thing from the campaign that may have been a warning sign.
 
From the start, Easley had a big lead over Wicker in the polls. One reason was that he had appeared in a series of public-service ads on TV – paid through the Attorney General’s Office, not campaign funds.
 
We thought that was a bit questionable. But we never got much traction on the issue in the media.
 
Some of Easley’s harsher critics thought his luck, wit and charm helped him get away with it.
 
Maybe it would have been better if he hadn’t.

 

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25
A reader passed along my post on taxes – “A Whiff of a Waffle” (see below) – to Senator Phil Berger.
 
The reader received this response from the incoming Senate leader: “No waffle.  No extension of temporary taxes. Phil.”
 
All righty, then.
 

 

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24
The Mike Easley affair had so much foreplay and so little climax that everybody was left frustrated.
 
His enemies gripe that he got a slap on the wrist. His lawyer says he was “trashed” by The News & Observer. The N&O’s editor fervently defends the coverage.
 
After nearly two years of big investigations, blaring headlines and breathless anticipation, it all came down to Easley’s campaign failing to properly report one helicopter flight.
 
Yes, the former Governor did a lot of things that don’t look good and that his friends regret. But the crime, in the end, was a campaign reporting violation.
 
Speaker-to-be Thom Tillis said “this is a sad day,” but got in a partisan dig: “I have been here [in the capital] for four years, and I have seen four high-ranking Democrats go to jail or receive convictions….”
 
Hold the mayo, Mr. Speaker – and all the powers-to-be. Think about this.
 
You are now assuming positions of power and prominence. Moving into a world where a hyper-vigilant media – not to mention hostile Democrats, campaign-reform zealots and various freelance bloggers and watchdogs – will scrutinize your every move.
 
A world where the campaign-reporting laws are strict, fast-changing and apparently confusing. And where, by the way, making a mistake is a felony.
 
The old saying is that a DA can indict a ham sandwich if he wants. He apparently can indict you for not reporting a ham sandwich, too.
 
Welcome to Raleigh. Hope you all know a good lawyer.
 

 

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23
Back in 2009 a newly elected, bristling Michael Steele told CNN he (as Republican Party Chairman) and not Rush Limbaugh was the leader of the GOP and added, ‘Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh’s whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it is incendiary. Yes, it is ugly.’
 
Limbaugh didn’t take that lying down – he landed a verbal hay-maker of his own on Steele’s jaw, Steele went weak-kneed and apologized saying the words that had come out of his mouth did not reflect what he was thinking, meaning, I guess, Steele’s lips have an odd biological capacity for independent speech.
 
Over the coming year Steele landed himself in hot water over and over – by holding a fundraiser in a Los Angeles strip club, using his position as RNC Chairman to charge $20,000 speaking fees (while he was being paid $223,000 to work full-time to elect Republicans) and writing and publishing a book Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda.
 
Michael Steele was having a tough tenure as head of the RNC until President Obama saved him by handing Republicans their biggest election sweep in decades.
 
Now Steele’s up for reelection – so does it matter if he leads the RNC’s campaign to defeat Obama?  No, not unless you’re a Republican political consultant looking for an RNC contract, except for one caveat: The RNC Chairman gets to decide how to spend the party’s $170 million budget and a lot of people think Michael Steele bungled that job last election – so now there’s a race on to replace him. And the rumor mills are churning.
 
Karl Rove, rumor has it, opposes Steele. Sarah Palin supports him. Newt Gingrich backs Saul Anuzis, Steele’s only announced opponent. For their parts, Rove, Palin and Gingrich aren’t saying a word one way or the other.
 
Saul Anuzis, the former Michigan Republican Chairman who has a goatee ‘Skitch’ Henderson would admire, the day he announced declared that since he believes in loyalty his natural instinct wasn’t to oppose his former leader Steele. But then, in the next breath, adroitly sidestepping that hurdle explains as much as he treasures loyalty his duty to answer the challenges facing the Republican Party is a higher calling – challenges, Anuzis says, he but not Steele can overcome.
 
So in the iconic world of Washington Republican politics next January a cache of trunk waving Pachyderms – the 168 members of the Republican National Committee – are going to meet in the Eisenhower Center in Washington to decide whether to give Steele or Anuzis or another (yet unknown) candidate the check writing authority over the GOP’s $170 million for the next two years.
 

 

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22
Bob Etheridge hurt his reelection campaign by losing his temper on a Washington, D.C. street when accosted by Republican dirty-tricksters.
 
He hurt his lasting reputation by showing a singular gracelessness when he conceded to Renee Ellmers:
 
"The combination of the national tide that swept the country, massive amounts of secret corporate cash funding a campaign of distortions, and dirty politics by Washington, D.C., partisan operatives was just too much to overcome."
 
He should have heeded the immortal words of Dr. J – Julius Erving: “You’ve got to win without bragging and lose without whining.”

 

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20
I've been doing a series of book-signings across the state to promote my Jim Hunt biography.  My publisher, John F. Blair Publisher in Winston-Salem, asked me to write something about the tour for their blog.  It follows
 
Halfway through my tour, I’ve concluded that book-signings are God’s way of rewarding authors for all the angst, anguish and anxiety they suffered while writing their books.
 
Because book-signings are an ego rush.
 
You sit at a table decorated with the book you wrote.  You look up at a line of people holding your book, waiting to speak with you.  When their turn comes, they tell you how much they’re looking forward to reading the book, they’re so glad you wrote it, they remember meeting you at such-and-such, etc.  Then you sign, try to think of something warm or clever or memorable to write, and they go away smiling.
 
Nice.
 
When this tour is over, my family and friends are going to have a tough job bringing me back to earth.  (Rest assured: They’re up to the challenge.)
 
I get an added treat on my tour.  Former Governor Hunt goes to all the book-signing events, too.  He’s a real draw, so we get good crowds.
 
Best of all – after years of writing speeches for him and listening to him give them – I get to talk.  He even introduces me.  And sometimes – but rarely – I get the last word.
 
At the end of each event, I’m spent.  I’m exhilarated – and exhausted.  But I go away with a new appreciation for three things:
 
1. People who read – and buy – books.
2. Publishers like John F. Blair.
3. Independent bookstores that care about authors and, most of all, readers.
 
Bless you all.  Long may you read, publish and thrive.

 

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19
The institution of marriage is clearly in trouble. A new poll says nearly four in 10 Americans believe marriage is obsolete.
 
It seems like the only people who want to get married are gays. And the Republican Party is determined to stop them.
 
This is disheartening news for the cake, catering, flower and photography industries.
 

 

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