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Entries for 'Carter Wrenn'

25
Immigration, the newspaper says, is ‘bedeviling” Congresswoman Renee Ellmers. It’s also bedeviling Speaker John Boehner. And half the Republicans in Washington. 
 
It’s a knotty problem.
 
Part of the politicians have decided it’s best to send every single illegal immigrant back to where they came from – but no one’s quite sure how to go about rounding up 10 to 20 million people. 
 
Another group of politicians, who’re mostly Democrats, want to make all the illegal immigrants citizens. 
 
And, as  a sort of compromise, a third group of politicians propose to let the illegal immigrants stay here but not make them citizens.
 
It gets more complex.
 
Groups like the Farm Bureau say they desperately need workers and without illegal immigrants the crops won’t get picked.
 
And, to make it more complex still, amid all this hollering, no one’s answered a couple of questions.
 
For instance, how, in the middle of a recession with high unemployment, is there a lack of workers? Is there really no one to hire? Or are the farmers simply looking for cheap immigrant labor?
 
Farmers have given their answer to that question loud and clear.
 
But isn’t there an independent study by Harvard or North Carolina State that proves it’s a stone cold fact unemployed workers won’t touch a job on a farm with a ten foot pole?
 
There’s another question.
 
Out of the ten million or so illegal immigrants living here now there must be at least one who’s a saint. Or genius. 
 
Should we deport saints and geniuses?  Or let them stay here?
 
There’re also bound to be some thugs and gang members among the illegals. If we make everyone a citizen, what do we do about them?
 
The politicians are treating illegal immigrants as a class which is a lot simpler than treating people as individuals – but wouldn’t it be more practical to ship the ne’re-do-wells home and allow the saints and geniuses to stay?
 
Sorting out the good guys and bad guys would be another complex problem but, instead of answering tough questions, all we hear is politicians howling: Keep ‘em all here. Send ‘em all home.

 

 

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21
The number floated up off the page and hung shimmering in the air in front of my eyes: 580,834.
 
Surprised, and curious, I clicked on the computer, then stared at another number that looked dreary in comparison: 345.
 
580,834:  The number of people who have watched Clay Aiken’s video since he announced for Congress.
 
345:  The number of people who have watched Congresswoman Renee Ellmers’ last video.
 
Of course, Republicans are reeling in the face of this phenomenon.
 
How many, one said to me, of those 580,834 people live in the 2nd District? Those are people who read the Hollywood Reporter – not the News and Observer.
 
That’s fine – but, politically, that’s not the end of the story.  
 
What if a fraction (1%) of those 580,834 people send Clay Aiken a contribution of $100 – that’s $580,834?
 
When a celebrity abandons fame and fortune to run for political office the normal rule book flies out the window.  For example:   
 
38 years ago, next month, Ronald Reagan (an underdog running against Gerald Ford) flew into Greensboro, climbed onto a bus and for two weeks before the Republican Primary rolled through the small towns and rolling foothills of the Piedmont.  And each time that bus stopped in town squares, farmers and housewives and mill workers turned out in droves not to hear a candidate for President but to see the first movie star ever to roll into Wilkesboro or Morganton or Gastonia.  And an hour later, after Reagan finished speaking and he climbed back onto the bus, they’d been converted.
 
Of course, today a fellow doesn’t have to roll through town squares – we’ve invented this little widget they didn’t have back in 1976 called the Internet with little add-ons like YouTube so people can sit at home and watch videos. 
 
The Internet’s also the greatest rumor mill ever invented and the other day the gossip was flying with people claiming The National Enquirer’s in Raleigh doing a expose on Aiken. There’s a video of Aiken in a Kasbah.  In a bordello.  In a gay-chat room.  Aiken’s broke.  His records don’t sell.  He’s a washed up singer running for Congress.
 
Four years ago, Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge handed Renee Ellmers a victory in a district a Democrat should have won. Then the State House handed her a district where a Republican should win. But now, she’s landed in a different world where the old rules no longer apply – which doesn’t mean she will lose but does bring a litany of earthshaking new realities.
 
This isn’t going to be a normal political race.  Old-standards – like the advantages of incumbency – no longer hold.  Just consider one change:  Clay Aiken is going to receive more press attention and scrutiny than any Congressional candidate ever in North Carolina. And so will Renee Ellmers.  No stone will be left unturned. 
 
580, 834 means this race is going to be on the front page of the newspaper – day after day.


 

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20
John Drescher down at the News and Observer hit the nail on the head last week when he wrote:  ‘Steve Beam needs a boss.’
 
What’s happened to Mr. Beam (the Director of the Raleigh Housing Authority) isn’t unusual. He’s got a government job and a political board with political goals.  No one spends his own money. No one pays for his mistakes.  Instead the bills land on the taxpayers’ doorstep.
 
That’s one glitch.  Here’s another:  After over a decade in office, like Billy Ray Hall of the Rural Center, Mr. Beam runs his board – it doesn’t run him.  He takes eleven weeks of vacation a year – which is more than Mr. Hall.  State auditors reported to Hall’s board that his $221,000 salary was ‘unreasonable’ – Mr. Beam makes $280,000 and his board thinks that imminently reasonable.
 
John Drescher’s point is simple:  Mr. Beam needs a boss – and he suggests Beam’s boss ought to be Raleigh’s City Manager.
 
That would be a step in the right direction. But it may come up a bit short.  So why not get the question out of the hands of the bureaucrats and politicians entirely.  And put it to a vote.  Let’s hold a simple referendum on the ballot this fall and let voters decide: Should Raleigh’s Housing Authority Director earn $280,000 a year and receive eleven weeks vacation?
 
That should settle it.

 

 

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19
Governor McCrory walked into Reid’s Fine Food and ran head on into a cook who proceeded to tell him what he thought of the Governor’s politics; then, the way the cook tells it, the Governor started yelling, saying he was a customer and shouldn’t be treated that way – then the Governor’s security detail complained to the owner and the cook was fired.
 
Years ago, when ole Joe Hunt (who was Jim Hunt’s uncle) was running for re-election to the State House, as he walked down the street in Greensboro, a lady came up to him and chewed him out, cussing him up one side and down another, saying she wouldn’t vote for him if her life depended on it.
 
When she was done Joe doffed his hat and said, Well, ma’am, I never reckoned it would be unanimous.

It was a better response.

 

 

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18
The other day down at the News and Observer ole Rob Christensen wrote about how Republicans in Raleigh are cocksure there’s not a chance they’ll lose their majorities in the State House and State Senate – because of redistricting.
 
Then he pointed out a not-so-good thing:  When politicians get the idea they’re so powerful they’re invulnerable it leads to mischief. 
 
Now, the way Republican legislators see the next election they’re safe in their castle, manning the battlements, with the drawbridge pulled up.  It’ll take a mighty horde to whip them.  And no horde’s in site. 
 
But just as it was true three thousand years ago in the time of King Solomon, so it may be true today: Pride goeth before a fall.
 
The other morning out of a clear blue sky rumors started flying that former Governor-for-life Jim Hunt has started a mega-million-dollar Democratic Super-PAC – to whip Republican legislators.  Which just might be a horde on the horizon.

 

 

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17
It’s got to be a temptation – but it may not have a happy ending.
 
Lately, President Obama’s taken to running the country by Executive Order – for  instance, the other day he found a part of Obamacare wasn’t going to work so he simply announced he wouldn’t enforce that part of the law.   
 
Which, in a way, sounded pretty good – even Republicans agreed that part of Obamacare was broken.  So, by not enforcing the law, the President avoided a train wreck.
 
On the other hand, there is a right way and wrong way to do things.  
 
Years ago, if a President believed we should go to war, he had to get Congress to pass a Declaration of War.  That system worked out pretty well.  During the first half of the last century we only fought two wars:  World War I and II. 
 
Then, in the second half of the century Presidents dispensed with the legal formalities and started sending troops to attack other countries on their own – without a Declaration of War.  Since then we’ve landed in six wars.  Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
 
The old traditional way of doing things – Congress passing the laws and the President enforcing them – wasn’t a foolproof way to run the country.  But it led to less mischief than giving one politician the power to say, This is what I want to do – and now that’s the law
 
Naturally, President Obama wants to see his agenda succeed but changing laws he doesn’t like is a step down a dangerous road. Today he may be changing laws to avoid a train wreck.  But tomorrow he (or another President) may use the same power to open Pandora’s box.

 

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14
One protestor waved a sign calling for legalizing medical marijuana and another held up a sign “Stop the War on Women” and Reverend Barber looked out at the multitude of marchers, lifted his arms, and thundered into the microphone how he meant to save the school children and save the poor and see that everyone got healthcare and how he wanted to put an end to sending people to jail because of their race then, without pausing for breath, he explained how he and the protestors standing in the street in front of him were the ‘trumpet of conscience’ in North Carolina walking in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King.
 
Now, I don’t know a southern male, black or white, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, who’s crazy enough to start a war on southern women. It’d be the worst mistake since Gettysburg.
 
Voice rising, gaining cadence, the Reverend started talking about morality and right off one thing was clear – the way he sees it he, Reverend Barber, right then, has a hammer-lock on righteousness and any fool and especially any politician who doesn’t see eye to eye with him has got to be immoral, amoral, or, worse, doesn’t give a toot about little school children and poor people.
 
The Governor, he thundered, was a varmint and Republican legislators were even worse varmints.
 
Of course Republicans have been known, occasionally, to sin. But it’s also true, if you boil away the Reverend’s thunder and brimstone, when he says he’s fighting for justice, generally speaking what he’s got in mind is taking money from one fellow and giving it to another.
 
There’s a pretty fair chance before he’s done the Reverend will do a fair amount of harm. But not to Republicans. To the people marching down the street beside him. Because they’re the poor souls he’s most likely to fool with his roaring self-righteousness. And there’s proof more folks than just Republicans have figured that out: No one saw Jim Hunt or Roy Cooper or Kay Hagen marching down Fayetteville Street beside Reverend Barber.

 

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11
It sure seems like Wallace Cheeves down in Greenville, South Carolina has had his share of ups and downs.
 
Right out of college, Cheeves went to work for the video ‘poker king’ of South Carolina. Then he went a step further and opened his own video poker company – which went out of business when South Carolina outlawed video poker.
 
Cheeves was nothing if not resourceful.
 
Next he set up a video sweepstakes company – but, before long, South Carolina put the kibosh on that too.
 
That led Cheeves to start another company to go into the riverboat gambling business in Georgetown and Colleton County, South Carolina – but then both communities banned riverboat gambling.
 
Still scrambling, Cheeves partnered with another company to put electronic bingo games in Alabama – but then Alabama confiscated their software and equipment in a raid on a bingo hall.
 
Unfazed, or at least undaunted, Cheeves partnered with a South Carolina Indian tribe to build a casino – but, true to form, South Carolina stopped him dead in his tracks again.
 
So Cheeves looked north to the rolling hills of Cleveland County in North Carolina and (after he proclaimed his casino was going to create a bonanza of 4,000 jobs) at last he got a Yes from the local politicians.
 
Then, before he could catch his breath and enjoy his good fortune, that Yes was followed by a No from every politician in Raleigh from Governor McCrory to Roy Cooper and 100 of 120 State House members.
 
A normal man might have given up. But Cheeves didn’t stop. He promptly hired three lobbyists and put them to work explaining the virtues of casinos to Raleigh politicians.
 
Still, somehow, all the pieces don’t seem to add up: We’ve got an Indian tribe that lives in South Carolina claiming they’re North Carolina Indians (or, at least, claiming they lived in North Carolina sometime back in the days before Columbus set foot in the New World) so they can build a casino here.  
And a lot of folks, or at least a lot of Raleigh politicians, are sort of dubious, too, about how a video poker mogul is going to create 4,000 jobs and turn into one of the biggest employers in North Carolina with one casino.

 

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10
A long time long ago in the far away Kingdom of Columbialand  two tribes battled over control of Congress for years then one of the tribes (the Republicans) split into two smaller tribes: The Pachyderms and the Tea Partiers.
 
The Tea Partiers turned out to be an unusual tribe. They had a creed and they also had no doubt at all the highest virtue of all was to fight ferociously for spending cuts.
 
When it came to spending cuts, the Pachyderm Chief agreed with the Tea Partiers. Or, at least, he said he did. But, in practice, the Chief had discerned an odd quirk of human nature: He’d figured out that while almost everyone (meaning all the voters in Columbialand) liked spending cuts, as soon as the Tea Partiers cut a specific program everything turned upside down. For instance, if the Tea Partiers cut farm subsidies farmers were outraged and adamantly said, No. He’d seen the same thing happen over and over; whenever the Tea Partiers tried to cut funding for parks, or schools, or widget makers – someone always got mad.
 
Once when the Tea Partiers tried to cut defense spending it made defense contractors so mad they’d told  the Chief they wouldn’t give him another dollar – which caused the Chief a huge conundrum. Because what he loved (with the same passion the Tea Partiers loved that creed of theirs) was winning elections.
 
So the way the Chief saw it what the Tea Partiers were doing was just plain lunacy and, finally, one December morning when he’d had enough he declared war. He opened fire with both barrels, telling everyone who’d listen the Tea Partiers were crooks who were raising money (from the Republican faithful) to line their own pockets then he made a deal with his sworn enemies, the Obamacrats, and passed a budget that increased spending.

For one moment, it looked like the Chief had won a huge victory. But then he got a rude awakening. He found out what he’d really done was start a Civil War. And, worse still, he was the one in hot water. Out in the hinterlands the average Republican didn’t think any more of his deal with the Obamacrats than the Tea Partiers did.

 

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24
50 years ago we declared war on poverty, spent $20.7 trillion, and lost. So now the President is trying again. Only this time he’s calling it a war on income inequality because a war on poverty only appeals to folks who are poor while a war on income inequality appeals to just about everyone except, maybe, Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.
 
Now you’d think the President would start by attacking the root causes of the income inequality. But politics doesn’t work that way. Because what politicians are interested  in is votes – and taking money from one group of folks and giving it to another is a proven plan that works at the ballot box.  But like a lot of modern politics it does little to fix the root of the problem.
 
The other day in the newspaper Robert Rector reported there are now 80 means-tested welfare programs that take $916 billion from one group of folks and give it to 100 million other folks. Despite that poverty rates haven’t dropped but, on the other hand, poverty is not what it used to be. Today, our typical poor soul lives in a house or apartment in good repair with air-conditioning and cable TV that is larger than the house of an average non-poor soul in France, England or Germany. He has a car, TVs and a DVD player. There’s a fifty-fifty chance he has a computer. A one in three chance he has a big flat screen TV. And, thankfully, a big majority of today’s poor are not undernourished and didn’t endure a day of hunger over the previous year.
 
Still, no one doubts there are still people who need a helping hand – which led Mr. Rector to a surprising fact: Fifty-one years ago, the year before we declared war on poverty, 6% of America’s children were born out of wedlock. Today 41% of our children are born out of wedlock. Now, why on earth should a child’s mother and father not marrying make a farthing’s difference when it comes to how much a child earns when he (or she)  grows up?
 
The answer’s a mystery but statistics don’t lie and they say children raised in single parent homes are four times more likely to be poor, and children who grow up without a father at home are 50% more likely to be poor when they grow up.
 
It sounds illogical but the numbers say more traditional families mean less poverty. But for a politician in pursuit of votes that turns a simple political opportunity into a knotty intellectual problem.
 
One more fact: Today when a mother on welfare has the good fortune to fall in love with a man who has a job and marries him she loses her benefits. Now, in a way, that’s logical. But if you’re a single mother who may be losing, say, $10,000 in benefits it’s also 10,000 reasons not to marry the man of your dreams.

 

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