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31
When the Democrats sued the Republicans over redistricting I thought we might be treated to see a bit of grand political theatre with Republicans arguing for the Voting Rights Act (which they hate) and Democrats arguing against it (even though they’ve been in love with it for four decades).
 
It’s a disappointment but no such thing happened.
 
In fact, there’s not much difference at all between the Democrats’ plan and the Republicans’ plan. Both praise the Voting Rights Act. Both ‘pack’ districts. Both create Majority-Minority districts. There’s hardly a thing they disagree about except how many of those ‘packed’ districts there should be. Democrats say 35. Republicans say 41.
 
That’s it. That’s all they’re fighting over. Six districts.
 
The only other irony is the Democrats arguing that Barack Obama’s Justice Department approved a redistricting plan that discriminates against African-Americans.
 

 

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31
After Senator Richard Burr and former Senator Elizabeth Dole endorsed Mitt Romney, a reporter asked: Do endorsements matter? Answer: Not to voters, but definitely to politicians and reporters.
 
No voter who is torn between, say, Romney and Newt Gingrich will think: “Gee, I don’t know who to vote for. So I’ll just vote for the person Elizabeth Dole endorses.”
 
It’s a perception game – the perception of momentum. Romney wants endorsements because he desperately wants to avoid an extended fight for the nomination. He especially needs validation in the South. Born-again, conservative Republicans don’t take kindly to Mormons and Massachusetts moderates.
 
For Burr, it means a ticket to the running-mate sweepstakes. That’s why he endorsed now; waiting for the North Carolina primary in May could be too late.
 
It’s not a bad bet for Burr. Romney will have a pick a Southerner for VP. Possible choices include Burr, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, South Carolina Governor Nicki Haley and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

 

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30
This headline should strike fear in us: “State government reorganizes, seeking more efficiency.”
 
Pardon my cynicism, but I’ve seen this movie before. Every administration in Washington and every state capital promises to reinvent, reorganize and rethink government.
 
Now, Rob Christensen reports in the N&O that North Carolina is scrambling the bureaucratic eggs again. This time, both a Democratic governor and Republican legislature were in the kitchen.
 
Reorganize all you want. Nothing changes in state government.
 
Most state employees will continue to do a great job under difficult conditions. A few sullen, lazy employees will give all the rest a bad name. And clueless political appointees will redecorate their offices and commission heroic portraits of themselves.
 

 

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30
Just as the N.C. Department of Agriculture gets new responsibilities, we find out it bungled its current duties.
 
 
“The state Agriculture Department failed to fine propane plants, dispensing sites and other facilities that mishandled the highly flammable gas, putting the public at risk and costing public schools about $2 million, according to a state audit.”
 
Earlier, of course, the Republican-led Department failed to protect State Fair-goers from ecoli.
 
On the same front page today is a story telling us that the 669-employee Division of Forest Resources is being moved from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, where it’s under the Governor, to the – you guessed it – Department of Agriculture.
 
This is thanks to the legislature’s Republicans, who boast that they can make government work better.
 
Judging from the Fair and the propane gas mess, North Carolina’s forests are in real trouble.

 

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30
A week ago, I thought, It’s too farfetched – Rick Santorum rising in the polls in Iowa would be like blind dumb luck or lightning striking.
 
All year with pure steadfastness a quarter of the Republican voters have stuck by Mitt Romney though thick and thin. But they’ve been the only thing steadfast in this Primary.
 
The non-Romney Republicans have – perhaps out of desperation – reversed the logical order of things: They choose a candidate. Then study his record. The result has been a kind of wild cycle of: Commitment, followed by euphoria, followed by disappointment, followed by collapse of Michelle Bachmann then Rick Perry then Herman Cain.
 
Finally, Newt’s turn came and the cycle didn’t change but it did speed up – in one breath the non-Romney voters propelled Newt into the lead and in the next abandoned him. Then it was Ron Paul’s turn.
 
Paul soared into the lead in Iowa and everyone stopped attacking Newt and started attacking Paul and that’s when lightning struck – a new CNN poll shows Rick Santorum charging past Gingrich into third place and the blind dumb luck (for Santorum) may be there’s just not enough time left before the Iowa Caucus for another collapse

 

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29
Once upon a time, owning a newspaper was literally a license to print money. Then came Craigslist and EBay, there went profitable classified ads and then came the waves of layoffs and furloughs. 

How far a newspaper’s value has fallen is shown by the sale of 16 regional papers – including the Wilmington Star-News and the Lexington Dispatch – by the New York Times Company to Halifax Media Holdings of Florida. 

The price: $143 million in cash.
 
The Times printed a brief article on an inside page that contained this revealing quote from an industry analyst:
 
 “That’s saying basically each title is worth about $10 million, which is just breathtaking when you consider what kinds of profit machines these newspapers used to be.”

 

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28
Lisa Piercy was right when she tweeted: “There are too many bowl games.”
 
I figured that out as I sat freezing in temperatures in the 40s and winds in the 30s at the Belk Bowl. (When I tweeted about where I was, a friend replied: “Where are you sitting: Men's wear, shoes, jewelry???”)
 
Used to be, there were four bowl games – all on New Year’s Day: Cotton, Sugar, Rose and Orange. Then the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Eve. All in warm places.
 
Then Atlanta got in the act with the Peach Bowl and Memphis the Liberty Bowl and on and on until today we have the Beef O’Brady Bowl and the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.
 
Cities must love bowl games, because they don’t seem kind to their sponsors. The Belk Bowl used to be the Meineke Car Care Bowl and, before that, the Continental Tire Bowl.
 
At least the Wolfpack won. And it was a great game. Not like the last one I went to: the Papa John’s Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama, the Most Depressing City in America – unless you like visiting statues of Vulcan and touring sites of civil rights bombings and beatings.
 
Next year, I’m pulling for State to be a lot better – and play someplace warm. Otherwise, I’m watching it from home.

 

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28
The other day in the newspaper, below an article about unemployment, there was another article headlined “NCSU chancellor gets ‘a great venue.’
 
Now, someone thought very carefully about the choice of that word ‘venue.’
 
North Carolina State University has a problem. Because building a new $3.5 million house for its chancellor in the middle of a recession is, well, climbing out onto shaky ground – and the headline ‘Chancellor gets a new venue’ beats the headline ‘Chancellor Gets $3.5 Million Mansion’ hands down.
 
NCSU’s spokesman also carefully explained to the press how the Chancellor’s new venue is “a strategic asset to the university” which will “set the tone” for how visitors “think of NCSU” and after all, they added, “If you are entertaining in a run down building, they will leave with the impression that it’s a run down university.”
 
It sounded like NCSU’s been entertaining visitors in a barn and doesn’t own a single sky box at the basketball arena.
 

 

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Posted in: Raleigh
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28
Governor Perdue has been taking heat from Republicans for allegedly breaking the law by releasing federal job numbers.
 
Which raises two questions:
 
Since when did Republicans get so concerned about protecting federal-government information?
 
Was it since the numbers were good for the Governor?
 

 

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27
The President of Afghanistan’s in a fix: The U.S. Army, he says, hasn’t won the war so there’s no peace to give his people the “individual personal security” they need.
 
Half a century ago, in four years, we crushed Hitler’s armies and occupied his country and there was peace, but, today, it appears whatever we learned between 1941 and 1945 has been forgotten. We once knew how to win wars. We don’t anymore. And ten years and two Presidents and a trillion dollars and a collection of undefeated Afghanistani tribesmen is proof we’re no longer the nation (in more ways than just winning wars) we were in 1945.
 

 

 

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Posted in: General, Issues
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