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13
The Internet, social media and cable TV may make us more informed, but they also make us more inflamed. And more apt to go down in flames.
 
Frat boys sing a racist song, it goes viral and they are expelled, their parents humiliated and their reputations irreparably ruined. A corporate executive posts a racist joke before she boards a plane, and by the time she lands she is out of a job and the target of online and cable outrage.
 
The angry virus infects politics, too. It inflames our divisions and disagreements. No, there is nothing new about hateful, divisive and racist statements in politics. Joe McCarthy called people communists. JFK, LBJ and Nixon had their share of haters. The nation was bitterly divided over Vietnam and civil rights.
 
The difference today is how much of all that is constantly in our faces and at our fingertips.
 
Your Facebook friends and those you follow on Twitter make sure you see the latest outrageous statement or action by a deranged right-winger or bitter left-winger or degenerate racist or professional big-mouth or fool politician. Your blood pressure soars, your bile rises and you fire off your own angry rant. You feed the fire.
 
Unfortunately, what we say when we have no filter doesn’t always reflect our better selves.
 
Here is some advice from a wise gentleman we call Yoda, given to a friend who had just watched something online that disturbed his Force:
 
“I want you to take 10 deep breaths. Breathe in, breathe out, 10 times. Then I want you to go out to a meadow somewhere. And I want you to say ‘dammit,’ or something even stronger, 10 times. ‘Dammit, dammit, dammit,’ 10 times. Then I want you to drink a Fat Tire beer. Or maybe two. Then I want you to get seven and a half or eight hours sleep, a good night’s sleep. You will feel better in the morning.”
 
Works like a charm.

 

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12
Claude Sitton was, indeed, forceful and fearless. But not without flaws, flaws that show what is great and what can be dangerous about journalism.
 
Sitton’s forcefulness shaped a controversy that rages more than two decades later: Did the N&O unfairly railroad Jim Valvano? Many State fans neither forgive nor forget. One said this week, “Roy Williams is lucky Sitton isn’t around today.”
 
It’s not just rabid Wolfpackers. Several old N&O hands now say Claude’s crusade against Valvano was a mistake.
 
Jay Price’s obituary of Sitton didn’t ignore the issue: “There was nothing unusual about Sitton’s two hats, running opinion and news pages….But Sitton was the last editor at the N&O to have both roles, and that sacred separation between the two worlds was sometimes too flimsy to stand up to his vigorously held views.”
 
That wasn’t the only time. I was at the N&O from the time Sitton arrived in 1969 until I left in December 1975. I saw his strong opposition to a medical school at East Carolina University drive not only editorials but also news coverage.
 
You like that forcefulness when you agree. But what about when you don’t? Watch Fox News.
 
All that said, Sitton was an extraordinary newsman. When he won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1983, many regarded it as a makeup call. He should have won it for his coverage of the civil rights movement for The New York Times in the ‘60s.
 
He inspired fear and loyalty from people who worked for him and, often, fear and loathing from those he covered. He set high standards, and he was demanding. He wasn’t the kind of guy you sat around and shot the breeze with.
 
He once said, “Popularity is not a legitimate goal of a newspaper.” He didn’t chase popularity. He chased the story. He usually got it, and got it right.
 
Pat Stith, one of few reporters who could match Sitton’s chops, said it best: “He was a great man to have on your side, a man of tremendous personal courage, and I was honored to work for him. And lucky to work for him.”

 

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Posted in: General, Raleigh
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11
Over a decade ago some genius up in Washington – I think it may have been Donald Rumsfeld – figured we could conquer Iraq with 150,000 soldiers; that we could fight a little war with a little pain and have the troops home by Christmas – so we rolled straight into Baghdad then found out occupying a nation of 30 million people with 150,000 soldiers wasn’t such a good idea.
 
The occupation turned into a quagmire. The roof fell in. We ended up with ISIS.
 
It was the repeat of an old story: If you go to war use overwhelming force. It hurts more in the short run but pays off in the long run. You don’t get sunk by the inevitable surprises and miscalculations.
 
Now we’re facing another war and President Obama’s sent a bill to Congress – called an “Authorization to Use Military Force” – and it’s like déjà vu all over again.
 
We fought one limited war to whip Saddam and got ISIS.
 
And now we’re about to fight another to whip ISIS and Lord knows what we’ll get next.
 
There’s not much doubt we need a leader with conviction (and, maybe, meanness) to whip ISIS but even more, to avoid another quagmire, this time we need a leader with the courage to tell the hard truth – rather than promising he can get the job done with a little war with a little pain.


 

 

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10
There’re two sides to every coin.
 
Last year, when the State Senate took away Governor McCrory’s appointments to the Board of Review, the Governor vetoed the bill. Then the Senate overrode his veto. Then the Governor  sued the Senate. Then, this year, as soon as the Senate got back to town it passed another bill to do the same thing.
 
So now, I guess, if the court throws out the Senate’s first bill the Governor’s still stuck with the second one – which sounds a lot like an old fashioned political power play. A battle over appointments.  But there’re two sides to this coin.  
 
The ole Bull Mooses in the Senate believe in their bones less government is right. They look out across Raleigh and want to shrink every program from Medicaid to the ‘corporate incentives’ the Department of Commerce gives away and, since they don’t have much faith in the Governor to get the job done, they figure if it takes a bit of bare-knuckle politics to shove him aside, well, so be it.
 
And that’s the one side of the coin.
 
The other side – the side the Governor’s staring at – is a bit different.
 
He’s more practical. He wants to fix problems. But to do that he needs more corporate incentives not less. And the ole Bull Mooses keep getting in his way. He’s accommodating. They’re power hungry. He’s open-minded. They’re pig-headed. He’s even-handed. They’re heavy-handed. And, even if his own popularity is sagging, the State Senate’s is worse so the Bull Mooses look like a useful foil.
 
So the fight over the Rules Review Commission isn’t just another petty political spat. It’s two sides of a coin: With less government on one side. And fixing government on the other.    


 

 

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09
Before any 2016 death match, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush face a death march through the media and their own parties’ chattering crowds.
 
Last week’s crisis was Clinton’s email while Secretary of State. The DC media pounced and some Democrats went into a frenzy of fretting: The Clintons are their own worst enemies! They think they’re above the rules! They can’t handle the media! Hillary can’t get her own campaign organized!
 
While the rest of us wondered: Who cares?
 
(The most interesting development was Lindsay Graham saying he has never sent an email. Really? Never? Isn’t that a Constitutional requirement to be President?)
 
Bush faces his own media/party critique: He’s too moderate! Conservatives in Iowa don’t like him! Even Republicans have Bush fatigue! His charter school in Florida failed!
 
This is all gripping chatter to those who like to chatter. But now is a good time to remind yourself that no real votes will be cast for nearly 10 months.
 
You can breathlessly follow all this all year if you want. After all, either Clinton or Bush, or other candidates, could chase a rabbit off a cliff any time.
 
Or you could save your breath. There’s a long way to go.

 

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09
President Obama held a summit up in Washington about terrorism but decided not to say the words ‘Muslim terrorist.’
 
Instead, he announced, he was leading a crusade to stop ‘Violent Extremism’ and, then he put his finger on the root cause of the villainy: Violent Extremism, he said, is caused by political disenfranchisement and poverty.
 
Then he spelled out the cure: Human Rights. Religious tolerance. And peaceful dialogue.
 
Which sounded sensible and ecumenical and logical except for one obvious contradiction: Our own nation was founded in war by revolutionaries disenfranchised by a corrupt King but they didn’t go around chopping off innocent people’s heads.


 

 

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06
There will be more pain, more tears, more heartbreak as the trial goes on. But Jamie Kirk Hahn’s voice in the courtroom reminded us what was lost that awful April evening two years ago.
 
A witness who had talked to her by phone about a campaign billing problem described her as “genuine and honest.” You heard her characteristic cheerfulness and capableness.
 
A memory surfaced. Just months earlier, Jamie had been recruited to organize a nonprofit group’s bus tour across the state. The first morning, the bus had a flat tire in Winston-Salem. Jamie arranged alternate transportation for everyone, drove by herself to Boone, checked the setup for the next event, greeted everyone with a smile, then left to set up the next event in Hickory. She did everything but change the tire.
 
The media cliché is that she was a “rising star.” No. She was a star. Many a company, campaign or charity would love to have her skills and her smile today.
 
Because we are civilized people, we do not wreak revenge. We seek justice through a system in which 12 selfless citizens sit patiently, hear arguments, consider evidence, deliberate and decide. To the courtroom novice, there is a genius, dignity and even majesty to the system.
 
But this day there was just pain, tears and heartbreak.

 

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06
The Ayatollahs over in Iran say they want to enrich uranium so they can build a nuclear power plant and, if that were so, they could buy plutonium rods from Russia tomorrow and be in business.
 
But, instead, the Ayatollahs say they want to enrich uranium themselves with centrifuges which doesn’t sound unreasonable until you consider the Ayatollahs can’t make a nuclear bomb from a plutonium rod but they can with a centrifuge.
 
So it seems odd to learn that the President’s amenable to Iran keeping thousands of centrifuges on the theory that, at the end of the day, even if it’s not a nuclear power plant they’re after, they’ll still be a year away from building a nuclear bomb.
 

 

 

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Posted in: General, Issues
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05
A TAPster who spent many years as a private-sector economic developer offers this:
 
The myopic, confused and naïve approach of North Carolina Republicans to the state’s business recruitment efforts continues to baffle experts who toil daily to bring good jobs here.
 
Our Republicans are opposed to incentives as “corporate welfare,” and they don’t want taxpayer money going to “subsidize” private business.
 
Fine.
 
Why, then, do Republicans in South Carolina embrace incentives? Why do they give their governor a well-funded incentive plan and authority to aggressively lasso any prospect who comes along? And lure existing businesses from North Carolina?
 
It’s a mystery.
 
The NC House took a baby step this week when it passed a recruiting package, but it’s not enough and too late and even it has plenty of opposition.
 
Our Republicans need to crawl down from their philosophical high horse and take a trip down I-77 from Rock Hill to Columbia, or I-95 through Florence and look at the explosive growth of large businesses and job creators along those corridors. And talk to real people whose lives have been enhanced by a job at one of those places.

 

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05
This is about as good a tale of conniving as I’ve heard: I can’t remember why but forty years ago back in 1976 the state legislature moved our Presidential primary up from May to March – then the unexpected struck and Ronald Reagan whipped Gerald Ford.
 
It was the first time Reagan won a primary. And the only time a sitting President ever lost a primary. And it turned the 1976 election upside down.
 
Down in South Carolina, watching, inspiration struck Lee Atwater and, after a bit of conniving of his own, Lee got South Carolina to move its primary up so in 1980 South Carolina was the ‘first primary in the South.’
 
Atwater’s plan worked better than he ever imagined. The winner of the South Carolina’s primary has gone on to win the Republican nomination in 8 of the last 9 Presidential elections.
 
In fact, South Carolina liked its new status so much, at some point, it got together with Iowa and New Hampshire and persuaded the Republican National Committee to pass a rule saying no other state could hold a primary before March 1.
 
At the same time, after the 1976 election, the North Carolina legislature went back to business as usual – and holding primaries in May – and for the last 40 years the North Carolina’s Republican Primary hasn’t mattered a toot.
 
Which suited Democrats just fine – after all about the last thing, say, Jim Hunt wanted was a liberal like Walter Mondale or Michael Duhakis or Al Gore traipsing across the state while he was running for reelection.
 
But, then, Republicans took control of the legislature and decided we’d been sitting on the Presidential sidelines long enough and moved our primary up to the week after South Carolina’s.
 
Which seemed reasonable.
 
But, oddly, sent national Republican Chairman Reince Preibus into a tizzy – Preibus announced North Carolina would not be allowed to hold its primary before March 1 and, he added, if we tried he’d take away 60 of North Carolina’s 72 delegates to the Republican Convention.
 
Those sounded like fighting words but, rather than calling Preibus out, North Carolina’s Republican Chairman decided to strike the flag and traipsed over to the legislature to ask it to move the primary.
 
The State House played its cards pretty close to the vest and didn’t say much either way about Priebus’s edict. But Republican State Senator Bob Rucho didn’t buy it – Rucho stuck to his guns and he’s got a point.
 
It’s as easy for the National Republican Committee to change its rule as it is for us to change our law – and, after 40 years of playing second fiddle to South Carolina, it’s time to unwind this bit of political conniving.


 

 

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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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