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Entries for November 2012

30
The 2012 election and its aftermath show how sharply – and bitterly – divided we are in America.
 
Elections are no longer choices between candidates or debates about issues. They are holy wars between Red and Blue America.
 
Ferrel Guillory at the UNC School of Journalism recommended an excellent book about this split: The Big Sort by Bill Bishop, who once worked at MDC here and now lives in Austin, Texas.
 
Bishop says we are choosing to live near, associate with and identify with people who share our political, religious and social values. This leads to red and blue states, red and blue neighborhoods, red suburbs and blue cities, red news and blue news, etc., etc. That separation in turns fosters not only a lack of understanding, but outright hostility toward people who are different.
 
He writes: “The lesson for politics and culture is pretty clear: It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re a frat boy, a French high school student, a petty criminal or a federal appeals court judge: Mixed company moderates; like-minded company polarizes. Heterogeneous communities restrain group excesses; homogenous communities march toward the extremes.”
 
I commend the book to anyone concerned about how we became so divided and where we’re headed.

 

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29
A TAPster – and Appalachian State student – responds to the N&O’s story about sociology professor Jammie Price:
 
“The film she showed was a sociological examination of the porn industry. Very mainstream film that would really only be offense to a very young child. She is a SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR. And it was a higher-level class for sociology majors. It was appropriate for her class and subject and every student, as always, has the right to not watch the film if they're uncomfortable.
 
“I wish App would get publicized for the good stuff for once. It wasn't on the front page of the paper when we had the most board certified teachers in the country or when the first graduating class from the nursing school had a 100% pass rate on the state nursing exam.”

 

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29
So this whole Libya flap is about what our UN Ambassador said on Sunday talk shows? That’s what has Senators McCain and Graham and the Republican Party in high dudgeon?
 
Not security in Libya. Not what the American deaths portend for our role there. But talking points for a Sunday talk show.
 
Let’s make a deal with these enraged Senators: Drop this, get back to work and we won’t investigate every time you lie, mislead or misspeak on a Sunday talk show.

 

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28
Was Governor-elect McCrory for Governor Perdue’s Dix plan before he was against it? A well-wired TAPster says yes.
 
The source – whom I’ve always found to be reliable and knowledgeable – said Governor Perdue ran her plan by McCrory and Art Pope before announcing it. She thought she had their support.
 
But Senator Berger and Speaker Tillis squashed the idea. So yesterday Governor-elect McCrory came out against it.
 
If true, this suggests that the real power in Raleigh will rest in the Legislative Building next year, not the Governor’s Office.

 

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27
Tom sues Dick. Dick spends $2 million to elect Harry judge. Harry wins. And rules in Dick’s favor in the lawsuit. Sound rotten? Try this:
 
The Democrats sue the Republicans to stop redistricting (and name Republican House and Senate leaders Thom Tillis and Phil Berger as defendants). The Republicans raise $2 million to elect Paul Newby. Newby wins. And will cast the deciding vote (on the Supreme Court) in the Democrats’ lawsuit.
 
The Democrats cry foul. Which sounds sensible. But there’s a catch: They did the same thing. The Democrats raised money to elect their own judge – Sam Ervin. Who lost.
 
So, now, Democrats are saying, Look at the rotten thing Republicans did.
 

 

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27
Just three weeks after the election, Governor-elect McCrory is getting a taste of the story line he may be reading for a long time to come: Is he “Charlotte Moderate Pat” or “Tea Party Pat”?
 
The first story comes from a national publication, Businessweek.  The headline: “N.C.'s Gov.-Elect Shifts Hard-Right, From Transit to Tea Party.”
 
It says: “In 14 years as Charlotte’s mayor, North Carolina governor-elect Pat McCrory advocated light rail, bike lanes, tree planting and mandatory sidewalks in front of new homes.”
 
Citing as its source Chris Fitzsimon, executive director of NC Policy Watch, the article says: “A different McCrory emerged in the gubernatorial campaign….He spoke against President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul at rallies sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit group funded by billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch. He endorsed a Tea Party- backed measure condemning as ‘extreme environmentalism’ a 20- year-old United Nations statement in favor of urban planning and energy conservation. He told the Charlotte Observer that he supported a ban on gay marriage.”
 
Now, Fitzsimon is hardly a neutral observer of McCrory. But he put his finger on the issue that will dominate media coverage of the new governor.
 
A big reason for McCrory’s big election win is that, unlike Mitt Romney, he didn’t have to run a Republican primary gauntlet of contentious debates and true-believer litmus tests. That helped him, like President Obama, run up a big margin in Mecklenburg County.
 
McCrory did what any politician would do: appeal to as broad a coalition as possible. Nothing wrong with that.
 
But governing is different from campaigning. You’re forced to choose. And big GOP majorities in the legislature – as well as Republican leaders who want to run for U.S. Senate in 2014 and are thinking about a primary – will tug him to the right.
 
If McCrory goes right, he risks losing moderates. That could make him vulnerable in the 2016 general election. If he runs to the middle, he alienates the right. Then he could face a primary challenge. One Republican who worked in this year’s campaigns mentioned Congressman-elect George Holding as a potential challenger.
 
McCrory adeptly pulled off his balancing act in the campaign. Now it gets harder.

 

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26
A sixty-eight year old Oxford educated UNC professor gets an offer (from where isn’t clear but it sounds like the Internet may have been involved) to fly to Bolivia to meet Miss Bikini World.
 
He lands in Bolivia; a middle-aged man meets him at the airport and says that he needs to fly on to Argentina to meet Miss Bikini World in Buenos Aires – then asks him if he’d mind carrying her suitcase she left behind.
 
When the Professor lands in Buenos Aires another stranger tells him Miss Bikini World’s flown on to Brussels. The Professor spends a day and a half in the Buenos Aires airport waiting for a ticket – then decides to fly home. But before he boards the plane the police open Miss Bikini World’s suitcase – and it’s full of cocaine. Four pounds of cocaine.
 
The Professor hollers he’s been duped; the Argentinean police throw him in prison then, at his trial, produce emails he sent Miss Bikini World saying, ‘I’m worried about the sniffer dogs,’ ‘I’m looking after your special little suitcase,’ and, ‘In Bolivia this is worth nothing, in Europe it’s worth millions.’
 
Back in Chapel Hill the Chancellor announces he’s no longer going to pay the Professor’s $107,000 per year salary.
 
The Professor howls bloody murder.
 
And here’s the crazy part: Seventy leading academics at the University write an open letter to the Chancellor – condemning him.

 

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26
I’m always flattered to be quoted in Under the Dome, but this time I’m flummoxed. Dome took note of only three of the four rising Democratic stars I spotlighted last week (See “New Democratic Leaders” below). Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx was left out.
 
Paranoid Charlotteans will not doubt take this as a sign that the paper believes one former Charlotte Mayor as Governor is enough.

 

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21
The party needs a new leadership pipeline for Governor. For decades, it was the Sanford-Hunt tribe. Then it was the Senate’s Basnight-Rand clan, which produced Easley, Perdue and Dalton. It was a good run, but has run dry.
 
The party has talent in the legislature. But do the rising stars have the requisite political skills – especially the money-raising ability of their predecessors?
 
One criticism of the new breed is that business doesn’t like them – and has gone over to the Republicans. But there is a lot of money in this state – and a lot of new businesses and new entrepreneurial, business people. Along with trolling for cash in the same old spots, especially among business people concerned about education, there are new fishing holes to be found. Plus the world of Internet fundraising that the Obama campaign pioneered.
 
Some of the names being mentioned:
 
Josh Stein: Rose to Minority Whip after just two years in the Senate. Focuses on education, infrastructure and innovation. Has vision and proven, practical political skills. He raised more than $400,000 this cycle, more than any other Democrat in the legislature.
 
Deborah Ross: An effective advocate in the legislature for the past decade. Hard-working, smart and tough. Will be an important leader in the House with the vacuum created by Joe Hackney's departure
 
Anthony Foxx: Mayor of NC's largest city, which is no longer a curse. Put on a great convention; delivered when the spotlight was on.
 
Eric Mansfield: Great resume – doctor, minister and soldier. In just one term, impressed Democrats and Republicans alike. Ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor, and some people now talk about him for new party chair.
 
It’s easy now to pooh-pooh them as candidates for Governor in 2016 or 2020. But it once was easy to dismiss the presidential hopes of a first-term African-American Senator with a funny name.

 

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21
Years ago when I enrolled at the University of North Carolina, I arrived on the campus and to my delight I found I had been assigned to the first ever co-ed dormitory. Then, my first night on campus, at orientation the powers that be introduced us to the wonders of birth control. We were all summoned to the lobby of the dormitory where they set up rows of tables lined with exhibits of every kind of birth control imaginable along with how-to manuals and free samples.
 
In a second room off the lobby, in case anyone had missed the practical benefits of birth control, they had set up rows of tables with exhibits depicting the horrors of abortion – they’d lined the tables with old, grainy black and white photographs of abortion mills in garages and blood-soaked sheets and, on a final table, a pair of black metal forceps that looked like they’d been used in a blacksmith shop to forge horseshoes.
 
As I left the room my roommate glanced back at the rows of tables and said, They included everything but a mouse on a string.
 
Last week, continuing its tradition of progress, the university proudly announced that this fall for the first time students will be able to live in ‘gender-neutral’ housing – which means girls and boys can now live together in on-campus apartments and suites.
 
The reason for this latest advancement is straightforward: A group of students convinced the powers that be that gay students would be more comfortable living with female friends and that transgender students would be happier if they could choose their roommates based on the gender they identify with.
 
Chancellor Holden Thorpe says it all makes sense to him and, looking back, I can’t help but wonder why we never figured out telling the fussy ole’ Chancellor Carlyle Sitterson that, to be fair to gay and transgender students, he ought to let us room with the co-eds. I guess we never dreamed any Chancellor – or at least any Chancellor raised in North Carolina – would be crazy enough to believe us.
 
 

 

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