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Entries for May 2010

31
In a way Bill Randall was clever, taking a fifty year old document, Stan Evans’ ‘Sharon Statement,’ renaming it and posting it on his website as his own ‘Charter of Principles’ as if he’d written it.
 
After all, it worked for almost a year – until last week when Randall got caught red-handed.
 
Since, Randall has made one misstep after another.
 
At first he tried to brazen it out: He took his original ‘Charter’ off his website, replaced it with a new version with a footnote, then sent the new version to a reporter in Greensboro – like the footnote had been there all along – and said, See, look at the footnote. That proves I haven’t plagiarized anyone.’
 
Why he thought that would work is hard to say.
 
Of course, the next day Bernie Reeves’ campaign produced the original footnote-less ‘Charter’ Randall had been using for a year, plus ten more examples of Randall plagiarizing stands from Congressmen and Senators and the Republican National Committee.
 
By then Randall’s cover-up was in tatters and he had no fig leaf left so it looked like it was time for him to try confession and contrition – but instead, misstepping again, he announced all the plagiarism on his website, every bit of it, was the fault of an errant volunteer – who he hinted had done him in intentionally. What’s more, he said, he had, himself, personally, purged every plagiarized word from his website.
 
By the time Randall was through explaining it was hard not to feel like he ought to get the Good Conduct Medal for cleaning up the mess – but that fig leaf only held up a couple of hours until someone asked Randall a question he hadn’t figured on. They asked: If that plagiarizing was done by an errant volunteer – then why did you try to fool the press with that bogus footnote the first time you were caught?
 
It turned out Randall had landed himself in another mess.
 
By his own admission he’d been using that plagiarized ‘Charter of Principles’ for years – so there was clearly no way an ‘errant volunteer’ from his campaign had written it. But to say he’d been undone by two different plagiarists, one who’d stolen Stan Evans’ Sharon Statement years ago and another who’d worked in his campaign, was like saying lightning had struck him twice in the same way and in the same place – four years apart.
 

 

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31
It seems to be accepted truth today that all money in political campaigns is inherently evil. Let me offer a contrary view, thanks to Ferrel Guillory
 
Ferrel is the ever-wise director of Program on Public Life at the UNCCenter for the Study of the American South.
 
At breakfast the other day, we were talking about public financing of campaigns.
 
Ferrel told us about a conversation he had with a young woman here about politics. She never got excited about politics, she told him, until Barack Obama.
 
“Do you realize why you got excited about Obama?” Ferrel asked her. “Because he had $750 million in his campaign.”
 
Obama, you recall, scorned public financing. He raised so much money – including a lot of small contributions online – that he could play in all 50 states. He didn’t have to husband his money for a few battlegrounds. He had enough money to have offices and people working everywhere.
 
Whether you like Obama or not, the point is that money can help candidates get people motivated and involved in campaigns.
 
Look at the electricity and excitement surrounding the Democratic Senate primary.
 
Or not.

 

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28
The Gulf oil spill set off massive responses. No, not the ones to stop the leak or clean up the spill. The political responses: Republicans and the media trying to stick the gooey blame on President Obama – and the White House, to keep it away.
 
Sarah (“Drill, baby, drill”) Palin says the spill proves Obama is too close to Big Oil.
 
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who used to say the federal government did too much, now says it isn’t doing enough.
 
The 24-hour media beast is in full frenzy. James Carville worked himself into a frothing diatribe about Obama’s response.
 
Obama – as usual – made a calm and reasonable defense of himself yesterday. You may have missed it in the N&O, as it was overshadowed by his visit with the Duke basketball team.
 
His handling of the spill fits the cool and somewhat distant approach he always seems to take in a crisis – going back to his campaign.
 
Obama operates at a different temperature level from most politicians. Bill Clinton would have been down there the first day hugging people and pelicans. George Bush – after spending the first few weeks clearing brush on his ranch – would be stumbling all over his tongue to make amends by now.
 
Obama is more like Ronald Reagan, keeping a somewhat-regal distance.
 
It’s no small matter cleaning up a catastrophe that looks like some kind of karmic message to us from Earth: “You want oil? Take this!”
 
The science and the consequences of all this are beyond me. The politics I can grasp. And if Obama keeps this mess from sticking to him, he will have pulled off an amazing feat.

 

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27
It’s no surprise Jesse Helms cozied up to the FBI. He and J. Edgar Hoover were the leading enemies of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement.
 
But the revelations spotlight part of WRAL’s history that people at the station today might rather forget.
 
In the 1960s, WRAL was known as the Jesse Helms station. The self-proclaimed “Voice of Free Enterprise.” The conservative counter to the liberal News & Observer. And the “white station.”
 
Five nights a week, Helms would spew his special brand of venom against liberals, Kennedys, King and all those he suspected were closet communists. His “Viewpoints” lasted several minutes, an eternity today.
 
Mysteriously, the tapes seem to have disappeared. Too bad. They’d make interesting viewing.
 
As a WRAL radio reporter during the infamous Frank Graham-Willis Smith Senate race in 1950, Helms took to the airwaves after Graham led the first primary. He urged Smith supporters to go to their candidate’s house in Raleigh and urge him to call a runoff. They did, and one of the most racist campaigns in Southern history ensued. Smith won.
 
In 1964, Helms was on TV the night Richardson Preyer led the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Over and over, he credited Preyer’s lead to the “black bloc vote.”
 
One Preyer man remembers supporters calling headquarters: “Do you see what they’re doing to us on WRAL?” Preyer, like Graham, lost the runoff.
 
That’s the way A.J. Fletcher – the man who founded the station and hired Helms – wanted it.
 
Here’s a clue to Fletcher’s viewpoint. Back in those days (my kids won’t believe this), TV stations signed off the air around midnight. Most ended their broadcasting day by playing the National Anthem.
 
Not WRAL. It signed off with “Dixie.” And not the jaunty, bouncy version. But a mournful, dirgelike rendition – over scenes of Civil War battlefields and mossy old plantations.
 
The message was clear: Things were a lot better back when you-know-who knew their place.
 
But that’s a long time ago. Jim Goodmon, A.J. Fletcher’s grandson, has transformed the station. He’s invested in technology, a top-notch website and top talent. And Goodmon has become a progressive force in the state and community.
 
That was definitely a channel that needed changing.

 

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26
I’ve been absolved.
 
Several people asked if I’m the “Agent Pierce” on N&O Executive Editor John Drescher’s blog. Apparently, they think I went undercover by changing the spelling of my name.
 
Drescher absolved me this week. It’s not me.
 
I’ve read Drescher’s frustrations about dealing with bloggers who fling vitriol and venom while hiding behind the wall of online anonymity.
 
A reader asked me once how I put up people whose comments on this blog offer no light, only heat.
 
Easy. They make me look good.

 

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26
There’s an interesting – and important – vote scheduled in the state Senate Finance Committee today at 1 p.m.
 
The bill is S1209.  The Broadband for Everyone NC coalition – which I’m working with – views this as an industry-sponsored bill that will give control of North Carolina’s broadband (and economic) future to Time Warner Cable and AT&T.
 
Click here to see the coalition’s website.
 
The bill was introduced after the City of Wilson – tired of waiting for the cable guy to provide super-high-speed Internet service – went ahead and provided the service itself. 
 
That’s right, people in Wilson have much faster Internet service than we can get in Raleigh!
 
So now the empire strikes back.
 
Shouldn’t the state be promoting advanced broadband rather than shutting down cities that provide it?
 
Stay tuned.

 

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25
Last week over on NC Spin Tom Campbell published a glowing interview with Perdue Cabinet Secretary Lanier Cansler – but even before the ink dried on the page the yarn Cansler spun Campbell was coming undone.
 
You might think before the Governor and Secretary Cansler put someone in charge of caring for the state’s mental patients they might do some kind of background check – but you’d be wrong.
 
Last Tuesday Governor Perdue announced she had put John Tote in charge of the state’s mental care programs – to straighten out the problems. Wednesday the newspapers – who apparently do background checks – reported the revenue collectors have $1.5 million in tax liens against Tote’s last enterprise; by Friday, Tote’s nomination was on hold; today he ‘voluntarily’ withdrew.
 
Flash back one year: You may remember how, in the middle of the budget crisis, when the Governor was saying the state was broke, Secretary Cansler – out of the clear blue sky – gave the order to his aides to buy $38,000 in crab pots to set a handicapped man up in the fishing business. Cansler didn’t do a background check then either, and, now, well, it turns out in addition to his handicap the man had an addiction to crack cocaine which, after he got the $38,000 in crab pots, promptly put him out of the crabbing business. It happened this way: He put out the pots, forgot them, left them, and the poor captured crab’s died of starvation. The only economic benefit anyone seems to have derived from this exercise in government efficiency is other fishermen finding the abandoned traps then selling them at the local flea market.
 
Another chicken’s come home to roost too, and this isn’t exactly a background check problem but it is – sort of. Last year, Secretary Cansler told legislators he was absolutely certain 45% of the patients in the Medicaid Home Care program were chiselers who didn’t need care.
 
Legislators asked, Alright, how much can we save if we stop paying for their care? Cansler said: $40 million. And legislators said: What are you waiting for – get them off the program.
 
For the next nine months Cansler strained mightily to find 15,000 gold bricking patients to cut but no matter how he tried and shuffled the cards at the end of the day his own computer programs and analysis could only find 1,000 patients who weren’t eligible for care.
 
Worse, almost a year after legislators cut the Home Care budget $40 million, Cansler hadn’t even figured out how to get the patients everyone said weren’t eligible off the program.
 
Result: Cansler had a $40 million hole in his budget.
 
Cansler’s solution is a study in government and politics and proof he doesn’t think legislators have a lick of sense: He told the General Assembly the cheating was even worse than he thought last year – that 85% of the patients are chiselers. And it worked. He created so much outrage down in the General Assembly no one even thought to ask, Wait a minute. Didn’t you tell us last year 45% were cheats? If that was true – and they’re really not qualified for care – why are they still in the program? We gave you the authority to drop them.
 
Governor Perdue’s Solution (and maybe this is why she’s Governor and not Cansler) was even simpler: She announced she’s going to cancel the program completely. Which, in a way, is brilliant. Because if the state has a Home Care program by federal law it has to provide care to patients who need it. But if the program vanishes the state is off the hook. It doesn’t have to worry about federal laws. Or pesky questions from legislators.
 
So, that’s state government Perdue style: The mental health system’s broke, so she hires a man who’s last organization appears bankrupt; Cansler declares 15,000 patients are cheats, finds out he was wrong but the governor solves the problem by closing down the whole program so no one will ask pesky questions; and, no one, anywhere, in state government has breathed one word about what happened to $38,000 in crab pots.
 
 

 

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25
Governor Perdue and Lanier Cansler didn’t need the John Tote fiasco.
 
Perdue has made strides putting her administration in order. Cansler has the thankless task of managing an unmanageable department. But he has Carter and the home-health hounds gnawing on his leg, and the mainstream media is starting to chew too.
 
Then comes Tote, the short-lived appointee as state mental health director. Fresh from an organization that owes $1.5 million in unpaid taxes.
 
On WRAL last night, Tote portrayed himself as a victim treated unfairly by the state, asking: “How did we get here today?”
 
Hello. Your association didn’t pay its taxes.
 
He played the family card: “Nobody should ever have to be put in the situation of myself and my family.”
 
True. Why did you put yourself there?
 
Cansler faced the camera and took responsibility, but he can’t do everything. Didn’t anybody at DHHS think to Google this guy?
 
In cutting Tote loose, Cansler resorted to the time-worn clichés of “distraction and diversion” and not having mental-health care “overshadowed.”

 
You yearn for candor. Something like: “A man whose organization doesn’t pay $1.5 million in taxes cannot run an agency that spends hundreds of millions of the taxpayers’ dollars.”
 

 

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25
An alert reader caught this in my blog yesterday about Mark Critz, the Democrat who won the special congressional election in Pennsylvania:
 
“I don't think Critz voted for health care bill (he wasn't in Congress then). He did say he would not have voted for it.”
 
The reader is correct, and I thank him.
 
To my recollection, this is the first time I’ve ever been wrong on this blog.

 

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24
Last Friday Bill Randall published his ‘Charter of Principles’ on Facebook. Then, so more people would read it, he published it again a few hours later. And with reason. It is an impressive statement. Eloquent. Profound. Articulate.
 
The problem is Randall did not write it. He plagiarized it.
 
Fifty years ago, back in 1960, a group of young conservatives met at William F. Buckley’s home in Sharon, Connecticut and founded Young Americans for Freedom. Respected journalist and author M. Stanton Evans wrote the organization’s charter – The Sharon Statement.
 
Compare Bill Randall’s words in his ‘Charter’ to Stan Evans’ Sharon Statement:
 
Randall: “We further affirm that foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his or her God-given free will, from whence is derived such person’s right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force, unreasonable constraints, or unlawful outside intervention to restrict individual freedom that is not allowed at the expense of another’s;
 
The Sharon Statement: WE, as young conservatives believe: THAT foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force;
 
THAT liberty is indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom;
 
Randall: “We affirm that liberty and freedom are indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom.”
 
Randall: “We affirm that the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of power.”
 
The Sharon Statement: THAT the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration of abuse of power;
 
Randall: We affirm that the market economy, equitably allocating resources by the free play of supply and demand, is the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government, and that it is at the same time the most productive supplier of human needs.
 
The Sharon Statement: THAT the market economy, allocating resources by the free play of supply and demand, is the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government and that it is at the same time the most productive supplier to human needs;
 
Randall: We further affirm that when government interferes with the work of the market economy, it tends to reduce the moral and physical strength of the nation. We deny that government should operate on the tenant [sic] of taking from one person to bestow on another, for this diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both;
 
The Sharon Statement: THAT when government interferes with the work of the market economy, it tends to reduce the moral and physical strength of the nation, that when it takes from one to bestow on another, it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both;
 
Randall: “We affirm that the national sovereignty of the United States is to be maintained without compromise; that history shows periods of freedom are rare, and can exist only when free citizens concertedly defend their rights against all enemies; foreign and domestic.
 
The Sharon Statement: “THAT we will be free only so long as the national sovereignty of the United States is secure; that history shows periods of freedom are rare, and can exist only when free citizens concertedly defend their rights against all enemies…
 
Randall: We further affirm that United States foreign policy must be judged solely by the following criterion: “Does this policy serve the just interests of the United States?”
 
The Sharon Statement: THAT American foreign policy must be judged by this criterion: does it serve the just interests of the United States?
 
With all the chicanery that goes on in politics today plagiarism may not sound like all that big a vice. But consider this: It would have been easy for Bill Randall to simply tell the truth. All he had to do was quote Stanton Evans and say, That’s an eloquent statement and I agree with every word of it. Bill Randall mislead people when it would have been easy to tell the truth. Is he likely to level with them when the going gets tough?
 

 

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