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Entries for January 2011

19
I’m sure Tom Fetzer wasn’t talking about Carter and me last weekend when he urged North Carolina Republicans to ignore “idiot bloggers.”
 
But I’m sure he was talking about the idiots who virtually hijacked our blog last year with attacks on Fetzer and other candidates for GOP party chair.
 
It got so bad Carter called me one day and asked if I minded him censoring the most libelous and mean-spirited stuff.  No problem, I said. I love when Republicans fight, but I was embarrassed by it.
 
Like Tom and Carter, I’m no milquetoast when it comes to tough politics. But I am surprised by the level of venom, most of which – not all, but most – comes these days from the right wing.
 
That’s certainly true if you go by what was said in Tom’s race.
 
It’s not just tough talk about issue differences and even character attacks. It’s a level of anger and meanness that can be disturbing.
 
Maybe it’s what people turn into when they can hide behind the anonymity of their blog names.
 
The PC thing to say in the wake of the Tucson shootings is that hateful political talk had nothing to do with the madman’s murderous mental state.
 
But hateful speech and hateful politics do encourage hate. And we could do with a little less hate these days.
 

 

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18
Now that the trial lawyers are listening to Carter, maybe Governor Perdue should too.
 
He posted a blog last week, “Perdue Upside Down,” about her political dilemma. He concluded:
 
“Perdue has a choice:  She can ignore her other problems and set to work convincing voters that, whatever her flaws, her Republican opposition is worse.”
 
The more you look at what this legislative session may bring, the more sense he advice makes:
 
- Big and painful cuts are ahead.
 
- Republicans seem hell-bent on taking up divisive issues like voter IDs, abortion and repealing health-care reform.
 
Perdue seems bent on a course that mixes cooperation with combat.
 
That sounds very responsible. But there’s an alternative that may be more politically effective.
 
She could challenge the GOP from the get-go. Propose a budget that extends the sales tax, sells off various state assets and minimizes cuts.
 
She could fight on every issue that comes up: budget, redistricting, abortion, voter IDs – everything that has the potential to divide voters.
 
She could make herself into the progressive heroine, the anti-legislature governor and, ultimately, the bulwark against total Republican control of state government – which might not look so inviting after two years.
 
Voters are leery of giving one party too much power. That might be Perdue’s path to stay in power.
 

 

 

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17
Even if she doesn’t know what it means, Laura Leslie is pioneering the future of journalism in North Carolina.
 
The long-time Raleigh reporter for WUNC Radio is now the “multimedia statehouse reporter” for WRAL-TV.
 
Here’s how Laura defined her new job:
 
“I’ll be on TV a little, but most of my work will be online. Blogging, web stories, web- and podcasting, interactives, social media - we don’t quite know what it’ll look like yet. We’re making it up as we go along.  Which is a little scary, but even more exciting.”
 
This is a combination of a great reporter/blogger and maybe the best TV-news station in the country.
 
At a time when journalism is under unbelievable financial pressures – and when we need good journalism more than ever – this is good news.
 

 

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Posted in: General, Raleigh
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14
How many times have you read stories in the media along these lines: “Tax reform is difficult because special-interest groups always complain when their tax loopholes are threatened”?
 
Then you’ll enjoy the following email from Randall Gregg of The Raleigh Telegram, president of the Triangle Press Club:
 
IMPORTANT NOTICE:
NC Tax Being Proposed On Advertising
 
Dear Friends In The Media:
 
I usually do not write this type of political appeal in our newsletters, but I feel that many of you may not be aware of a proposal that could adversely affect your business and the ability of news outlets to survive in North Carolina
 
In the past, I had heard reports about a proposed tax on services in North Carolina to help cover the budget shortfalls.  They were unsubstantial rumors, so I did not feel they were worth repeating.
 
However, this afternoon, I just spoke with a registered lobbyist who is meeting with members of the NC Legislature this week about a proposed tax on services in North Carolina, including a tax on advertising.  In other words, this time, it's really being considered.
 
I don't have to tell you how hard it has been to sell advertising during this recession.  A tax on newspaper, television, radio, and Internet advertising could mean the difference between surviving this economy and closing your doors. 
 
In my opinion, a service tax on advertising could be far-reaching as it could be raised to the point that it has a chilling effect on free speech and news coverage as news entities try to survive on the barest of incomes already.  We don't need more obstacles to providing a service to the public.
 
Further, any new regulation, tax collection, and paperwork means there will be additional costs that your company will have to bear in order to comply with such a tax.
 
I URGE YOU TO PLEASE CALL your local NC Representative and/or Senator today to voice your opposition to this proposed tax on services, especially on advertising.
 
Thank you for your time and please take this proposal to tax NC media outlets seriously in that it may actually pass the legislature and cause more job losses in our industry.
 

 

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14
President Obama soared. Sarah Palin bombed. And, of course, John Boehner almost broke down.
 
Let’s examine all three performances – and the implications.
 
When even Fox News and Glenn Beck praise him, you know Obama hit a home run. But the most remarkable thing about a remarkable speech was that he had to adjust on the spot to a setting that was dramatically different from what he expected.
 
Obama wrote, it seemed, a 20-minute speech that was pitch-perfect for a solemn, silent memorial. Instead, as Pundit World agreed, the event turned into a pep rally.
 
At first, Obama seemed off-balance. But then he decided to ride the waves of emotion – from grief to relief to even joy.
 
In the process, Mr. Cool showed that he can show emotion.
 
Giving a great set speech is one thing. Giving a great speech on your feet is another. Obama reminded us why he got elected President – and may again.
 
Palin reminded us why John McCain didn’t get elected and why she won’t even get nominated, unless the Republicans have a death wish.
 
Her talk was taped at her compound in Alaska. It was as cold as the tundra. And it couldn’t have been worse.
 
Her biggest mistake was making the whole thing about her, not about the victims and the country.
 
And “blood libel”? Where did that come from? Did she use the phrase in a deliberate effort to compare herself to Jewish victims of the medieval “blood libel?” Or was she just clueless about the history?
 
Whichever, it doesn’t matter. She’s a fool and an egomaniac.
 
Then there’s Boehner’s address on the floor of the House. He lived up to his SNL-skit image as Weeper Speaker.
 
But don’t laugh: Boehner struck me in that moment as a very different character from arrogant, full-of-himself Newt Gingrich, who became such a valuable foil to Bill Clinton. Maybe Boehner won’t help Obama by making the same mistakes Gingrich did.
 

 

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13
Forget the politicians in Raleigh. The most powerful person in North Carolina is Bill Johnson.
 
Under the Duke-Progress merger, Johnson will be CEO of the new company – one of the biggest utilities in the nation and a corporation on the scale of ExxonMobil.
 
He will be a powerful force not just in the energy industry here and nationally, but in all things that affect North Carolina’s future.
 
And with his power and position come an obligation and a burden to make the state a better place to live and work. 
 
In writing the Jim Hunt book, I came to see how much of North Carolina’s progress the last 50 years happened because of business leaders – people like Hugh McColl, Bill Lee, Sherwood Smith, Ed Crutchfield, John Medlin and Bert Bennett.
 
They built great companies, and they helped build a great state.
 
Johnson is up to the tradition and the challenge. Consider: 
  • He played offensive line for Joe Paterno at Penn State
  • A few years ago, he lost more than 120 pounds through a discipline of diet and exercise. And he kept the weight off. 
  • Progress didn’t miss a step when his predecessor as CEO died suddenly. 
  • After the Duke-Progress merger, the CEO of the smaller company will run the bigger company.
 
This is not a man to be underestimated.
 

 

 

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Posted in: General
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12
The last two mornings listening to National Public Radio while driving to work has been like being assailed; folks are calling-in mad as hornets and every media pundit is thoroughly morally outraged and they’re all blasting away at the Tea Party, saying overheated political rhetoric caused the shootings in Arizona and Sarah Palin all but aimed the gun and pulled the trigger.
 
That’s not ‘overheated’ political rhetoric?
 
Did the pot just call the kettle black?
 
Once upon a time in a land far away whenever there was a national tragedy the politicians set aside grinding axes and the media talking heads stopped bellowing long enough to practice old-fashioned good manners and decency by simply saying, ‘The victims are in our prayers’ – and then respectfully hushed.
 
Now everyone tries to milk it for all it’s worth like it’s the latest celebrity scandal.
 
 

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Posted in: General, Issues
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12
Well, I predicted it Monday (“Commence Firing”).
 
And while overheated political rhetoric may not necessarily lead to violence, violence certainly leads to overheated political rhetoric.
 
Sarah Palin says it’s a “blood libel” to criticize her for placing Democrats -- including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- under crosshairs during the 2010 election and talking about a "bullseye" list.
 
Rush Limbaugh explained the Arizona killer’s insanely twisted grin this way:
 
"What Mr. Loughner knows is that he has the full support of a major political party in this country….He knows that...the Democrat party is attempting to find anybody but him to blame."
 
Yes – and the other side. North Carolina’s Heath Shuler said he’ll be armed now when he meets with voters. Brad Miller criticized the media for not making more of Tea Party talk. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) used the shootings in a newsletter and fundraising appeal.
 
But don’t despair. Take a little less than 10 minutes to listen to a voice of sanity: Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s Daily Show.
 
A couple of highlights:
 
“In the political pundit world (some) are working feverishly to find a tidbit or two to exonerate their side or blame the other.”
 
“You cannot outsmart crazy. Crazy always seems to find a way.”
 
“It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn’t resemble how we really talk to each other on TV.”
 
“There is light here….Read up on (some of the victims in Arizona and see) how much anonymous goodness there is in this world.”
 
Then ask yourself why it takes a comedian to make sense of American politics today.

 

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11
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11
Unlike some Democrats, I’m not in despair about the Republican Party’s new power.
 
It’s not just that I’m glad the GOP will share some – or bear all – of the blame for unpopular cuts.
 
Rather, it’s time we finally decide how much government we want – and how much we’re willing to pay for.
 
For decades, we’ve run the country’s finances the way many Americans have managed their personal finances: maxed out our credit cards and borrowed to the hilt.
 
We’ve never had to balance what we want (which is everything) with what we’re willing to pay for (which is a lot less than what everything costs).
 
From Governor Perdue to Jerry Brown in California to Andrew Cuomo in New York – and everywhere in between – this is the challenge every governor faces.
 
I’ll be watching for a Republican politician who is honest about what should be cut. In fact, I have been watching, but haven’t seen it yet.
 
And I’ll be watching for a Democratic politician to make an honest case for what shouldn’t be cut – and what taxes should be raised.

 

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