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Entries for August 2011

31
There’s always been a healthy dose of class warfare in the debate over maintaining roads to barrier islands like Hatteras. It exploded in letters to the N&O today.
 
Said one writer: “Why is it that we all have to cater to the rich and their Shangri-Las at the coast? Isn't it time that we say enough is enough? If the rich and powerful want to have their million-dollar beach houses in a doomed area, then let them purchase helicopters to take them to the edens. I am tired of seeing my tax dollars go to rebuilding an infrastructure in an area made for fish and birds.”
 
Well, yes. There are some big houses on the island, and they’ve been in all the photos and videos.
 
But not everybody down there is a millionaire Yankee retiree. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of blue-collar people who build and repair houses, fish for a living and work in stores, hotels and restaurants. Many of their families have been there for generations.
 
They don’t live in “Nights in Rodanthe” mansions. They’re in trailers and little one-story homes. They support the fishing and tourist industries that generate a lot of business and tax dollars for North Carolina.
 
There has always been a species of environmentalists who, when it comes to protecting birds and fish, are willing to spend unlimited dollars. But people living on the beach? Let them eat crabcakes!
 
If you’re willing to tell all those folks “tough luck,” OK. But let’s do a cost-benefit analysis on the road we taxpayers maintain to your house.

 

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30
A biography of former Lt. Governor Bob Jordan, written by long-time North Carolina reporter and editor Ned Cline, is on the bookshelves.
 
Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh will host a book signing and presentation by Jordan and Cline at 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday.  
 
The book, “The Man From Montgomery,” traces Jordan’s life and career through college at N.C. State, business, elective office and public service since leaving office.
 
According to Cline, “It further details the role Jordan played in helping create and promote the state’s Teaching Fellows Program, Rural Economic Center, Biotech Center, and his allegiance and support for N.C. State and the Methodist Home for Children. The book also gives an inside look at Jordan’s two statewide campaigns and focuses on the race between Jordan and Gov. Martin.”
 
Jordan is one of the most honest, hard-working and public-spirited individuals I’ve known in my 40 years around politics. I’m looking forward to reading the book and to seeing him and Cline Wednesday night.

 

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29
This will make my friends at DOT mad, but face it: When it comes to informing the driving and tax-paying public, your 511 line – and your website – flunked the Irene test.
 
Anybody who tried Sunday to get updated information on specific roads from DOT knows that.
 
Apparently, the 511 line is designed and manned by DMV.
 
As late as 3 pm Sunday, it said that information on whether US 64 was still closed (which I wanted to know) would be available “when the storm subsides.”
 
It had subsided more than 12 hours ago.
 
Sunday morning, two WRAL anchors interviewed a DOT spokesperson. Asked about road conditions, she rattled on about how it was a big storm, that DOT crews would be working hard and that people should “stay home.”
 
The ever-polite Bill Leslie pressed her for specifics, especially: Is I95 open? That’s a right significant piece of information, but he never got a straight answer.
 
It shouldn’t be so hard for DOT to get good information and make it easily accessible to the public.
 
If they can’t figure it how to do it, they should ask WRAL.

 

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28
Politico did the obligatory piece on Governor Perdue and Irene (quoting Brad Crone and me) and reminding us that politics is never far from a storm.
 
“The storm packs a potentially pivotal political moment,” for Perdue, it said. And had this:

“She shines in a battle, and this is going to be a battle. Her mother’s name was Irene, so she’s saying she’s taking this personally,” said an aide to the governor who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss the politics surrounding the storm.
I’m reminded of my days with Governor Hunt – and especially one publicity-seeking emergency official (who shall remain nameless) of whom we joked: “The most dangerous place to be in a storm is between him and a TV camera.”
 
Here’s my question for Governor Perdue: What’s with her pronunciation of the word hurricane? She says, “hurra-kin.” I thought it was “hurra-CANE.”

 

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26
What’s worse: going through a hurricane, or going through days, even weeks, of agony, anxiety and anticipation listening to hyperventilating, iron-pumping weather announcers and reading shrieking headlines (as in “Shrieking Irene aims its fury at NC coast”)? As the storm’s barometric pressure goes down, our blood pressure goes up.
 
Actually, what’s worse is dealing with the aftermath of losses and damages.
 
The cameras are drawn to the beaches. Heck, that’s where I’d go if I were a reporter. But the beaches will survive. People who have places there (like me) will rebuild, repair and replace. The out-of-work carpenters, painters, clean-up crews and repairmen will get a stimulus, as they say in Washington. Barring Andrew-like devastation, the rentals and the restaurants will be jammed next summer – or next weekend.
 
The highest level of suffering will be among the people who live in the low places – and often at the low end of the economic scale. The Princevilles, Lucamas and Kinstons.
 
Some of those communities haven’t recovered from Floyd 12 years ago.
 
But they’ll get the least attention. The local cameras will focus on the beaches for the next day or so. The national cameras will rush to Washington and New York. We won’t know how bad it was inland for a couple of days.
 
In the meantime, if the waiting and worrying get to you, turn off the TV, enjoy your favorite beverage and fortify yourself with a good meal, in case the power and the fridge go out. You’ll know how it turns out soon enough.
 
Most of all, stay safe. Be thankful to the police and firemen and power crews and emergency personnel who will be working for us through the storm and after. And look out for the least among us.
 

 

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26

A TAPster shares this AP story:

“RALEIGH -- Gov. Beverly Perdue's staff is taking the blame for failing to alert the North Carolina public sooner that the governor had declared a state of emergency for nearly 40 eastern counties for the approaching Hurricane Irene.

“Perdue's press office announced late Thursday morning her declaration, which sets in motion mechanisms for state emergency officials to respond to the storm, activate the National Guard and lay the groundwork for Perdue to seek federal financial assistance.

“But Perdue had actually signed the declaration early Wednesday evening and didn't mention it at a media briefing Thursday morning.

“Perdue spokesman Mark Johnson said it was the press office's mistake that the declaration wasn't announced sooner. He said the governor didn't mention it because she believed a news release about it already had been sent.”

 
The TAPster writes:

“So the governor sent this email out to reporters AFTER holding a 9am press conference. But she apparently signed the disaster declaration the day before....Does this strike you as odd? I always thought the governor would want to be out there in front of the cameras/microphones showing that she’s in charge of the situation.  But...she didn’t mention it. On the other hand, she posted this ‘welcome message’ for students where she took a shot at Republicans for budget cuts. Any thoughts?” 

Yes indeedy, here’s a thought: Can we blame the emergency-declaration snafu on Republican budget cuts?
 

 

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25
A group of golfers and non-golfers were talking this week about Webb Simpson’s comments after winning his first PGA event.
 
Not what he said about his putting or a crucial drive or a big save. But the first words out of his mouth when David Feherty stuck a microphone in his face on the 18th hole: thanking “my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
 
A couple of golf fans were offended. One asked, “Was he suggesting that the Lord had nothing more important to do than make sure he won a golf tournament?” Another offered, “Or that God was punishing the golfers who lost?”
 
One person who didn’t like what Simpson said nevertheless defended him: “His faith is obviously important to him, so you have to respect him for saying that on national television.”
 
A third, more hard-headed observer wondered whether the statement would hurt Simpson’s “brand.” As in, “he has to realize he is running a business and he is the product. How much money might in cost him in endorsements to say something that is bound to offend some segment of the population?”
 
And one person offered this apt note: “Imagine what would happen if a golfer thanked Allah.”

 

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Posted in: General, Raleigh
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24
The email from David Parker, state Democratic Party chairman, promised a rip-roaring attack on Republican leaders: “Tillis, McCrory and Berger: Turning Back The Clock On NC Schools.”
 
Then came the first line: 

“Last week, Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly decided to challenge a court ruling on pre-kindergarten access could lead to an appeal of the landmark Leandro school-quality case.” (Sic.)

It’s ungrammatical. Also nonsensical, incomprehensible and, thus, totally ineffective.

Lest you think it was just a bad start, read the second line:

“A recent court ruling overturned the Republican's attempt to charge the parents of at-risk children a premium fee to send their 4 year olds to pre-K programs offered by public schools. Now, in GOP challange (sic) to that ruling, Senate Republican leader Phil Berger's chief of staff said in a memo to Senate Republicans that, by appealing the ruling, the GOP’s ultimate goal of overturning the Leandro case could be a possible benefit of such action.”

During Jim Hunt’s first year as Governor, he sent out a memo calling for all government documents to be written in “Rock Ridge” – that is, a style easily understood by his neighbors.
 
This email won’t get anybody in Rock Ridge, Roanoke Rapids or, for that matter, Raleigh riled up.

Apart from the poor writing, the author assumes that everybody immediately knows what the Leandro case is and the implications.

Trust me: they don't.

This won’t cut it, my fellow Democrats. Nor will going over the top, as Parker did when he accused Paul Coble of "vicious fanaticism," a la Jesse Helms.

Now, Coble may be Helms’ nephew. And he may have similar views. And there’s probably a lot he’s done and believes that Democrats can attack. But he’s not a vicious fanatic.
 
The biggest victims of that attack are Parker and the Democrats.
 

 

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23
I used to think the media or most of it looked at the world through ‘two left eyes’ – back in the days of Jesse Helms the media’s liberal bias was a mantra and article of faith.
 
Now, I’ve come to think what the media loves more than politics or ideology is a good story. A story that sells. And Rick Perry’s campaign may be a pretty good example.
 
Look at Perry’s story so far through a reporter’s eyes: ‘Rick Perry may run’ was a good first chapter – a teaser a lot of people from Republicans to Obama supporters would read. Chapter Two – ‘Perry Announces’ – led to an even better story with trumpets and crescendos. Now the reporters are writing Chapter Three and they have to choose between two story-lines: ‘Perry Soars’ and ‘Perry Hits Iceberg.’ For instance, Sunday the New York Times reported as Governor of Texas Perry has been routinely handing out multi-million dollar government grants and contracts and tax breaks to his biggest contributors, who’ve helped him raise more money than any politician in Texas history – which is saying a lot when you consider Lyndon Johnson and George Bush are from Texas.
 
That’s a ‘Perry Hits Iceberg’ story.
 
Which, if you’re a reporter, is a better storyline than Perry cruises to victory and lives happily ever after.
 

 

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23
Instead of getting him back on the high road, President Obama’s bus tour left him deeper in the ditch. What to do now? Of course, give a Big Speech on Jobs!
 
Clearly, the Obama team is back to the 2008 playbook: When the chips are down, the chief will come through with a powerful, elegant speech that solves everything. (See his race speech.)
 
Obama has two choices. He can promise a big stimulus program that promises to quickly create lots of jobs. That would never pass Congress, so its only value is as a political sword to use against Republicans. And the American people might not like that sword.
 
The other choice is a thin gruel of incentives, investment banks, targeted tax cuts and what the leader of the free world called on his bus trip, “creative ways of managing manure.” (I’m not making this up.)
 
The Republicans have an easier path: blame Obama for everything bad and say the solution is simple: cut taxes, spending and regulations.
 
What would Bill Clinton do? He’d give a big speech that acknowledged the short-term problems and the lack of short-term solutions. He’d say that America needs to think big and long-term: education, research, infrastructure, trade, competitiveness, etc.
 
Bubba would make it sound sexy. And he’d throw in some political red meat, like:
 
“The one thing we can’t do again is trust the big banks, the billionaires and the hedge-fund boys – who got us into this mess by making big bets on big loans – to rescue us.”
 
Or maybe Obama could take this sensible advice from Geoffrey Canada, the President of Harlem Children’s Zone

“I would have a ‘grown-up’ talk with the American people, emphasizing that we are facing a crisis and solving it will require a spirit of shared sacrifice. Those of us who have benefited mightily from this country and made billions, as well as those who make the minimum wage, must all sacrifice.

“The social contract that we have taken for granted must be updated given our tough economic challenges, and all of us must now pay our great country back — giving more than we anticipated just a year ago. Those who can give a lot must do so; those of more modest means must also do their part.

“All our sacred cows must be reconsidered: Medicare, tax breaks for corporations, Social Security, tax cuts for the wealthy and middle class, military spending, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“But there is one group that we must protect at all costs — our children. We must sacrifice so that our children won’t inherit a country that is less than the one our parents left us. Our march toward equity and equality cannot be sacrificed. God bless America and God bless America’s children!”

 

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