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Entries for May 2011

31
Early the other morning when I walked out the front door and up the sidewalk and leaned down to lift the newspaper the yard was swarming with caterpillars – not the furry caterpillars from years ago who would curl into a ball when touched, who seem to have vanished, but caterpillars with brown shells crossed with yellow lines; two with rows of yellow legs started climbing a pine tree, slipped on the bark (it had rained during the night) and fell back to the ground; another, striking out on his own, made a beeline straight as an arrow across the yard.
 
When I walked back into the kitchen my wife asked, “What were you staring at so hard?” and I told her and ever practical she looked up the bugs then announced: “They’re not caterpillars. They’re millipedes. They’re called Apheloria Virginiensis.”
 
“What do they eat?”
 
“They’re vegetarians. They also secrete cyanide.”
 
“How much?”
 
“Enough to kill a bird.”
 
“Then why isn’t the front yard covered with dead birds?”
 
She folded her hands in front of her. “Explain that?”
 
“ If I can’t look at that bug and tell it’s poisonous how can a bird?”
 
“Intuition.”
 
“I don’t believe birds have intuition.”
 
She stopped. And leaned back. “Well, they’re only two other explanations: Either those birds were saved by divine intervention – or they’ve got more sense than you do.”
 
 

 

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30
I won’t be blogging for the next two weeks. We’re taking a family trip to France: a week in Paris and three days in Normandy.
 
I’m looking forward to visiting the D-Day beaches. My stepfather, Joe Dickerson of Murfreesboro, was in the first wave at Omaha Beach. He survived to fight on for months, despite being wounded several times. He won a Bronze Star and Silver Star. He was finally wounded so badly they shipped him home to a hospital.
 
So, while in Paris, we’ll toast him and all the heroes who sacrificed so we can enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
 
I’ll raise another glass to all our readers and Tapsters. Don’t let Carter lead you astray while I’m gone.

 

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28
Senate Republicans propose merit pay for teachers and state employees. What a terrific idea! But we shouldn’t stop there.
 
I’m thinking merit pay for legislators.
 
We could hold a statewide referendum after every session to let North Carolinians vote on how much legislators should be paid. Should get their full pay, half pay or nothing at all? Or even better, should they pay us back?
 
If a referendum is too costly and complicated, let’s just put a box on income tax returns. Let taxpayers specify whether they want certain legislators to get a little something extra – or, again, nothing at all.
 
If we keep paying them the same old thing, we’ll keep getting the same old thing.

 

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27

A scruffy-looking rock band comes on TV and the leaping in the air singer bawls, “Big bucks, quick bucks, mega bucks, jumbo bucks”…It was an ad for the Lottery Commission. Whose motto seems to be “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.”

 

 
Back when the Democrats passed the lottery the legislature also passed a law that said the Commission couldn’t run ads urging people to ‘play the lottery.’ And the lady who runs the Commission says promising ‘big bucks’ and ‘jumbo bucks’ surely doesn’t entice anyone into buying a lottery ticket – which led lottery opponents to roar her idea of ads wasn’t what the legislature had in mind at all and the law isn’t working.
 
Here’s a simple solution. Put a statement at the end of each ad: This ad approved and sponsored by Governor Beverly Perdue.
 

 

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27
A Tapster had these thoughts in response to my blog on the GOP’s lousy crop of presidential candidates:
 
“Look no further than the uncivil chaos on Jones Street to see weeds, chiggers and worms in the Republican crop there as well. GOP leaders have lost sight of their promised “jobs/economy” focus, and have let their restless flock wonder aimlessly into unproductive areas. To their chagrin, the leaders must pay disproportionate attention to the impatient demands of the newbie Tea Partyers who want to deliver on campaign promises to put a gun in every hand and keep unwanted embryos in unlucky wombs.
 
“As a result, the GOP’s increasingly strident positions and intense partisanship are increasingly out of touch in a moderate state that simply wants its kids educated, criminals confined and food and medical care provided to those who really need it. Yet, sadly, we are heading for an unprecedented veto of the budget, with an uncharted mess to follow.
 
“The GOP is blowing it big time. It got its hand on the steering wheel for the first time in a meaningful way since Gen. Sherman was in town, and quickly forgot where it’s going because of the noise and complaining from the backseat .  There seems to be no plan and, except for control of redistricting, the GOP would be tossed from political leadership in the next election quicker than a civil rights leader is tossed from the legislative building.”
 
As a Republican friend said this week: “The legislature is doing something I didn’t think possible: make Bev Perdue popular.”

 

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26
A New York Times story reporting that Sarah Palin is moving toward running for President has this intriguing paragraph:

“The drumbeat intensified on Tuesday night when the conservative filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon was quoted on RealClearPolitics, a political news site, as saying that he was releasing a feature film he made with Ms. Palin’s acquiescence about her tenure as governor of Alaska. The film is to be shown next month in Iowa, whose caucuses open the nominating contest.”

Just wondering: Does the movie end like her tenure as Governor? Does she turn to the camera halfway through and say: “You know, I’m tired of this. The End.”?
 

 

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26
Please spare us. Put us out of our misery. Don’t make us go through a months-long courtroom regurgitation of all the tawdry details of John Edwards’ campaigns, marriage and affair.
 
Especially those of us who had anything to do with Edwards getting to where he could do so much damage and bring so much embarrassment to North Carolina and the Democratic Party.
 
I never thought I’d have to apologize for winning a race. But I apologize, because I helped get him elected to the Senate in 1998. The first two consultants he hired were pollster Harrison Hickman and me.
 
I had three goals: beat Lauch Faircloth, elect a Democrat and give North Carolina a great Senator.
 
Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
 
What’s my excuse? I either missed something in Edwards, or he lost something when he went to Washington. He wouldn’t be the first politician to go to Washington and have Washington go to his head.
 
But some people told me in 1998 that he was a self-serving phony. I didn’t listen.
 
I did get lucky. During the campaign, I ran afoul of Elizabeth Edwards. The night before the newly elected Senator was sworn in, during a very nice cocktail party in Georgetown, she confronted me: “You never listened to me in the campaign.”
 
Not true. I listened. I just didn’t do what she wanted all the time.
 
So, after he was sworn in, I quickly got frozen out of the Edwards’ world. I resented that for a long time. Now I realize how fortunate I was. Other people weren’t so lucky. Their lives and reputations were damaged or, for some, ruined by working for him.
 
The experience also was instructive when I was writing my Jim Hunt book. It taught me the fundamental difference between good politicians and bad politicians: The good ones want to do something, and the bad ones just want to be something.
 
Above anything else, John Edwards wanted to be applauded and adored. Instead, he is reviled and despised. Now he may be indicted and tried.
 
So it’s a good lesson for anyone in politics. But do we need a trial to remind us?
 
 

 

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26
Last election President Barack Obama won huge majorities among ‘early voters’so, naturally, now Republicans want less ‘early voting.’
 
Of course, no self-respecting legislator is going to put it quite that bluntly.
 
Representative Bert Jones is an example. He told the press he’s for limiting early voting because it will ‘shorten campaigns.’
 
Think about that: Governor Perdue, Pat McCrory, President Obama and half a dozen Republican candidates for President are all already working on campaigns – are we to believe they’ll stop now Jones has passed his bill?
 
It’s nearly impossible to find a politician in either party who’s able to resist the temptation of tampering with elections by tilting the playing field in his favor. It’s also nearly impossible to find one who’ll admit it.
 

 

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25
If the Republican Party was a farmer and his crop was the current field of presidential candidates, he’d be losing the farm.
 
How can that be? How can a party coming off a landslide election sweep, a party consumed by its hatred of President Obama, a party convinced it has the right ideas for the future, not come up with a convincing candidate for President?
 
The answer lies in Richard Nixon’s typically cynical formula for running for President: “In the primaries, run to the right. In the general election, run to the middle.”
 
Today, Republicans have to run so far to the right in the primaries they can’t get back to the middle. And to get to the right, they have to walk the plank on Medicare.
 
Newt Gingrich’s famously uncontrollable mouth almost sank his candidacy from the get-go when he called Paul Ryan’s kill-Medicare plan what it is: “Right-wing social engineering.” Newt has been clarifying, apologizing and back-tracking ever since.
 
Now Democrats have apparently won a safe Republican congressional seat in New York – thanks to Medicare and the presence of a Tea Party Republican in the race.
 
So the GOP presidential race comes down to who wins the conservative primary to run against Mitt Romney. To many Republicans, RomneyCare looks suspiciously like ObamaCare. So you have to give the candidate of the right, whether it’s a nobody like Tim Pawlenty or a nut like Michael Bachman, a fighting chance to win the nomination.
 
Now, Democrats shouldn’t get cocky. Obama has enough problems – and the economy could still be bad enough – to lose the race. But, just as Sarah Palin shot down John McCain’s jet in 2008, the right wing could doom the GOP in 2012.

 

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24
The North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation has been studying the polls in the Governor’s race and after adding them all up and averaging them together it’s issued a report saying Pat McCrory leads Governor Perdue 50% to 38% – which is no surprise as the Governor’s been in hot water in one way or another since taking office.
 
But there’s a bit of illusion in McCrory’s lead – as the NCFEC points out.
 
These polls show McCrory winning 20% of the African-American vote. Which may be true. But as NCFEF noted the ‘Exit Polls’ in 2008 showed he won just 2% of the votes of African-Americans.
 
So what happens if McCrory’s support among African-Americans vanishes? Suddenly he leads Bev Perdue 46% to 43%.
 
That’s still not bad for McCrory. In fact it’s pretty good. But it’s also a warning.
 
A lot of Republicans think the 2010 election was a sea-change.  What that number says is that may be a bad case of over-optimism.
 

 

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