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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

03
I know that people in the Governor’s Office read this blog. So please pass this message on to Governor McCrory: Josh Ellis needs some time off.
 
Josh, the Governor’s communications director, responded rather sharply to my blog yesterday about McCrory’s new Governor’s Teacher Network (GTN). (See “McCrory's Make-up Test.”)
 
Josh’s email is below, but first some background. I’m gratified when important people in government read our blog and take time to respond in writing. Art Pope has done so a couple of times. Most always, I post the response in full, without tagging on my usual ad hominem sarcasm. (Don’t try this at home. I am a trained professional.)
 
But I can’t do that here.
 
This is Josh’s response, in full:  “Gary, I hope you’re doing well. I just read your latest post. I probably shouldn’t be surprised that a consultant is criticizing a plan that would pay teachers instead of consultants. Josh.”
 
Help me here. I have no idea what consultants have to do with GTN. I don’t know GTN from GNP. Plus, I was quoting criticism from TEACHERS. Talk to them, Josh.
 
But I feel Josh’s pain. I sat in his seat for eight years, and I’ve done the same thing more times than I care to remember. Josh spends every day caught between a hypersensitive boss and a hypercritical pack of reporters, bloggers and political opponents. Even fellow Republicans like Senator Berger & Co. go out of their way to make life miserable in the Governor’s Office.
 
Maybe Josh had been looking forward to some time off this weekend. Then comes Hurricane Arthur, and he has to go into Storm Communications Mode. All hands on deck – and to the cameras!
 
(By the way, one reader asked: “Why does Governor McCrory always tell us not to do anything ‘stupid’ during a storm? Does he think we’re stupid? And if we are stupid, would we listen?”)
 
Anyway, Josh needs a break. As do a lot of people in Raleigh.
 
So, the spirit of the holiday and of national unity, I wish Josh, Governor McCrory and all of you a Happy Fourth. I hope your plans (and ours) survive the storm. Enjoy some dogs and burgers, a cold beverage and that great American pastime of watching stuff blow up.
 
And listen to your Governor. Don’t do anything stupid.
 

 

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02
Governor McCrory acts like a man who had a serious health scare and now vows to eat right and exercise.  His main exercise is running away from the state Senate as fast as he can.
 
Clearly, the Governor has seen the Senate’s poll numbers on education. He doesn’t want to catch that bug.
 
Too late. He’s got it all over him, and there’s no escape.
 
Believe me. I’ve been there. Governor Hunt froze teachers’ pay during the 1982 recession. Teachers didn’t forgive. Some of them even sat on their hands when he ran against Jesse Helms in 1984. And remembered it when Hunt ran again in 1992.
 
McCrory’s latest effort to get immunized is “the Governor’s Teacher Network,” which promises $10,000 bonuses to 450 teachers for creating professional development, teaching, and assessment plans for other teachers.
 
But there’s a big catch, according to one teacher expert: The plans have to be approved from on high. It’s “basically a covert way for the administration to carefully select what 'innovation' they want to see, and continue to punish the rest of experienced teachers who collaborate and innovate on a daily basis, without bonuses. He's saying ‘Yeah, here's a $10,000 bonus if you can do exactly what I want and convince your colleagues to do the same’."
 
Here are some other teachers’ reactions: “Everyone has their price….This (is an) obvious divide and conquer ploy….”
 
And: “This is not a bonus or reward. This is pay for another job added to their normal teaching duties….Teachers are already sharing their expertise at their schools….”
 
And: “Just great. We’re headed into the last quarter and McCrory wants to distract 100s if not 1000s of teachers in the next four weeks as they scramble to compete for $10,000 when they should be focusing on getting their students ready to end the year at or above grade level.”
 
And: “This is so far removed from what really improves teaching. When I was in the classroom, I learned far more from hallway conversations with experienced teachers than I ever did from planned CE programs offered by the ‘system’.”
 
And: “Are we supposed to do this before, after or during benchmark and EOG/EOC prep? Can we take a “short session” and use, oh say, a week of personal leave to accomplish this? Nope, I forgot, we can’t find subs and we can’t use personal leave. I guess we could pull this off between 11 and 3 AM – about the only time most of us sleep.”
 
And: “As a teacher, this is a slap in the face. As if we are not doing this already???This is not going to encourage collaboration among teachers. It is going to create animosity and the loss of more good teachers. I have been teaching since 1987. I will most likely retire in NC making under 50,000.”
 
The moral: You can run, Governor, but you can’t hide.

 

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01
This is one of the oldest battles in our Republic. And you ain’t seen nothing yet.
 
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision ignites a battle over women’s health care, which will command center stage. But it’s really just part of the long-running battle over the proper relationship between corporations and the government/the people. (See Mitt Romney: “Corporations are people, my friend.”)
 
Corporations as we think of them today didn’t exist when the Constitution was written. They appeared In the early 19th Century, according to one history, as “bridge companies, water companies, transportation companies, banks, and insurance companies…essentially public service corporations or public franchises.”
 
After the Civil War came the first trusts: oil, steel, finance, cigarettes and the like. They dominated politics and government through the Gilded Age and into the 20th Century. Then came Trust Buster Teddy Roosevelt, who characteristically had a pretty clear view on the subject:
 
“We must have complete and effective publicity of corporate affairs, so that people may know beyond peradventure whether the corporations obey the law and whether their management entitles them to the confidence of the public. It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced. Corporate expenditures for political purposes, and especially such expenditures by public-service corporations, have supplied one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs”.
 
The anti-corporate wave ebbed in the Roaring Twenties, then came roaring back in the New Deal and Square Deal. From the 1950s on, corporations and big business worked their way back into the driver’s seat.
 
Now, the Supreme Court has held that corporations, like citizens, have the right to spend unlimited funds to influence elections and the right to religious views that overrule the law of the land.
 
Oy!
 
So here’s a safe prediction: The wheel will turn, as it always does in the cycles of history. There will be a turn against corporate power, especially given the growing economic gap between the top (CEOs, owners, mega-billionaires) and the rest of us.
 
Politics is like physics. For every action, there is (or will be) an equal and opposite reaction. It may start in the Democratic presidential contest next year. (Hillary Clinton, are you listening?) And it may dominate politics for decades to come.
 
But it’s coming.

 

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30
Maybe Chad Barefoot really believes Putin reared his head and Russia reached its tentacles into the anti-fracking forces in North Carolina.
 
Or maybe it’s just a cynical attempt to raise money from a Fox-fed mob of ignoramuses.
 
Or maybe it’s a desperate overreaction to a poll showing that voters don’t like fracking.
 
Whatever, Barefoot’s claim that Russia may be fighting fracking here (the theory is that fracking in North Carolina jeopardizes Russia’s economic power as a natural gas monopoly) could end up supporting my pet theory that Triangle voters have gotten wise to ludicrous and unsupported claims by politicians. And that they punish said politicians.
 
Barefoot started a recent fundraising email this way: "The environmentalists are on the attack again – and this time, Russia is in the mix."
 
You may laugh, but Mark Binker at WRAL did a serious investigation into Barefoot’s claim. (You don’t know whether to applaud that, or just sadly shake your head in dismay.)
 
WRAL’s fact-check decision: “Hit the brakes. There seems to be scant evidence that Russians are funding the European fracking debates, much less dabbling in fracking policy here in the United States. Experts say it’s unlikely, bordering on silly,’ to suggest the Russians would have the time, money or inclination to bother with a North Carolina legislative race. Therefore, we give this fundraising email a red light on our fact-checking scale.”
 
Of course, this proves nothing. Binker may be a fine reporter and all. But do you really think he or any mere journalist is capable of cracking this Kremlin conspiracy? Surely these ex-KGB men can outwit WRAL.
 
So stay alert. If you see something, say something.

 

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26
It’s a rite of summer. The House, the Senate and the Governor can’t agree on a budget. They tell themselves that millions of North Carolinians are in suspense, following the latest twist in the budget deliberations like they’re binge-watching Netflix.
 
This year, Governor McCrory and Speaker Tillis decide a bold stroke is needed to galvanize public opinion. They arrange a huge photo op at the Mansion with educators behind and beside them. They unsheathe their sharp sword to cut this Bergian knot: a “split budget.”
 
Yawn.
 
Earth to Raleigh: We don’t care. We’re not paying attention. We rarely pay much attention to you, and we’re paying even less now.
 
It’s summer. The sun is hot, and the days are long. The beach, the lake and the mountains beckon. Next Friday is the 4th, a long weekend. So let’s start now! Pack up the sunscreen, fire up the grill, pop open a cold one.
 
You guys – and it’s nearly all guys – will work it out. Somehow, sometime. The reporters and lobbyists are consumed with how long you’ll be here and how you’ll work it out. We’re not.
 
We’ll get back in a while. We’ll see what you did. And we won’t like it.
 
In the meantime, don’t kid yourselves that we’re paying attention. We’ve already made up our minds – those of us who plan to vote in November. We know two big things: One, you’re hurting the schools and teachers. Two, you want to frack our water full of dangerous chemicals.
 
That’s all we need to know. See you in November.

 

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25
To quote Slim Pickens in Blazing Saddles, “What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?”
 
What is politics coming to when a deeply conservative Deep South Senator rallies black Democrats to win a Republican primary? When a GOP bridge-builder beats a fire-eater? When a big spender beats a budget slasher? When a courtly white-haired DC insider beats a take-no-prisoners Tea Party outsider? When GOP Washington PACs pour big money into turning out blacks and Democrats?
 
We have left the gravitational pull of Earth.
 
Thad Cochrane’s narrow victory was the opposite of Eric Cantor’s landslide defeat. But the cause was the same: Democrats and Independents voting in a Republican primary. Or, as some Republicans might say, interfering.
 
Cantor tried to out-Tea Party the Tea Party candidate. He moved right and lost. Cochrane went the opposite way. He moved left and won. He actually grew the electorate from the primary turnout.
 
Maybe there’s a lesson for those who bewail today’s polarized, hyper-partisan politics. Maybe politics should use some more openness – and competition. Like opening up primaries to more voters. Ending gerrymandering. Even getting more people to vote.
 
The results will be entertaining, if nothing else. 
 
 

 

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24
A lot of Democrats are “Ready for Hillary,” but is she?
 
The doubts erupted after talked – and talked again – about whether she and Bill really are rich.
 
The Washington Post headlined: “Some Democrats fear Clinton’s wealth and ‘imperial image’ could be damaging in 2016.” It quoted “multiple Obama campaign advisers” saying anonymously that “they fear Clinton’s financial status could hurt her as it did Republican nominee Mitt Romney, whom Obama portrayed in 2012 as an out-of-touch plutocrat at a time of economic uncertainty.”
 
Today the N&O’s Barry Saunders jumped in. He put his finger on the real concern here: not wealth per se, but that elusive political quality of “touch.” He wrote, “Clinton is already one of the most polarizing political figures out there, so every word she utters is going to be parsed for ways to demean, denigrate or disqualify her. With her at-best imprecise language, she is merely providing ammo to those of her detractors who claim she is imperial and out of touch.”
 
This all harks back to 2008. After the fact, a strategist for John Edwards said research showed that Democratic voters had clear ideas about their three then-candidates. They agreed with Edwards on the issues (“Two Americas”), and they agreed that Hillary was best-qualified to be President (and that was pre-Secretary of State), but they just felt good about voting for Obama.
 
Yes, that was partly because voting for an African-American was making history. But so is electing the first woman President. Obama also had a cool charisma that voters responded to.
 
Being likable can take you a long way in politics. And vice versa. Obama himself presaged today’s “rich” kerfuffle in the 2008 debates when he famously snarled, “You’re likeable enough, Hillary.”
 
For all her strengths and experience, Clinton has something of a distant and forbidding aura about her. People who know her say the reality is far different, that she is warm, funny and down-to-earth. But few people get that face-to-face experience. And she suffers by comparison to politicians who exude that “touch” – say, Bill Clinton.
 
She is no doubt ready for the job. But is she ready for the campaign? Are Democrats ready, as they often do, to fall in love with a charismatic challenger (see JFK, RFK, McGovern, Carter, Hart, Clinton, Dean, Obama)?
 
It’s hard to imagine a stronger candidate for Democrats in 2016 than Hillary Clinton. It’s just as hard to imagine Democrats sitting still for a coronation. This is her first test, and they’re watching.

 

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22
 The prevailing Democratic view of Governor McCrory is summed up by this bumper sticker a friend saw:
 
My child is an honor student.
My Governor is a moron.
 
But Governor McCrory has a chance to mount his own “Carolina Comeback” in the next few weeks.
 
He could stand up to the legislature – and even pick a fight – on something big.  Especially something big on education: Teacher pay? Common Core?
 
Now, Democrats wouldn’t fall in love with him, although they’d love to see Republicans fighting openly with each other.
 
But Democrats would suddenly start, as the voice on your GPS says, recalculating the route to 2016. They’d suddenly be faced with an incumbent who might appeal to Independents. He might even start looking like one of those rare politicians that voters yearn for, but never find. One who can stand up to both parties.

 

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19
Great glee erupted among Democrats over Eric Cantor’s defeat – and also over the embarrassment to his pollster, who had predicted a landslide Cantor win.

Cantor’s pollster is John McLaughlin of New York, a Republican with whom I’ve worked on non-partisan projects. Full disclosure: I like John personally, and I greatly respect him professionally.
 
This week, McLaughlin sent out an email taking the blame and making an effort to understand and explain what happened. He wrote in part:
 
“There has been a great deal of speculation as to why our poll on May 28, was wrong. For this reason we undertook a post-primary survey. Knowing that our May 28, Republican primary voter poll was reflective of past Republican primary turnouts that were significantly smaller, we decided to conduct this study at our own expense to see which voters actually accounted for the much larger turnout in this year's Republican primary. The sample that we used for the May 28, poll was selected from any voter who voted in any one of three Republican primaries - March, 2012 for President; June, 2012 for Congress and March, 2008 for President. 
 
“The Virginia Republican primary system was totally open to all voters. It is now clear that Eric Cantor's national standing gave the race a lot of local interest among many more voters than just past Republican primary voters, including politically interested Independents and Democrats as well. Without a parallel Democrat primary, this election was very similar to a wide-open jungle-style primary. It created an organic turnout of new voters not included in our previous poll of past primary voters.”
 
The post-election survey concludes that Cantor won with Republicans, but the Democrats and Independents gave the victory to David Brat.
 
McLaughlin’s memo is worth reading in full. It takes issue with some widely held views about the result (the role of immigration, for example). And it provides valuable insight into how polls work – and how they can be wrong.
 
It’s easy – and fun – to ridicule pollsters and rejoice when they’re wrong. It’s a lot more useful to learn something about polls and about politics in America today. I salute McLaughlin for how he handled this: with class and courage.
 
And I’m not surprised by that.

 

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18
The most startling news of the day came at the very end of Rob Christensen’s column: “Full disclosure. Last year, I signed a contract as co-producer with a major Hollywood producer for a movie that may be made in North Carolina….”
 
Zounds! Stop the presses! This is a bombshell. And inquiring minds demand to know more.
 
What is Rob’s Hollywood blockbuster-to be? “Clark Kent: The Real Story”? You can hear the trailer now, in that ominous voice by the guy who does trailer voiceovers: “In a world where rampaging Republican barbarians trample the lives and dreams of decent, hard-working people, one mild-mannered columnist dares to reveal the truth about their real agenda and the evil genius behind their plot for world domination.” Brad Pitt will play Rob and Jack Nicholson, Art Pope.
 
Hollywood hasn’t called me, so the movie probably isn’t “The Jim Hunt Story.” So maybe it’s a Rufus Edmisten biopic: “Fast Times and High Office.” Will Farrell plays Rufus.
 
Or maybe Thom Tillis. That trailer-voice guy again: “In a world where rampaging hordes of barbarian outsiders terrorize hard-working taxpayers and impose a welfare state tyranny, one man dares to stand up for traditional populations.” Harrison Ford was set for the role, but suffered an unfortunate accident on the set of the new Star Wars sequel. We’re open to casting ideas.
 
Or maybe it’s “The Real Under the Dome.” Again: “In a world where millions turn their backs on the printed page, one newspaper dares to defy the inevitable tide of technology.” Tom Hanks plays John Drescher.
 
Seriously, Rob, you can’t tease us like this. We deserve to know the full story.
 
Alas, Rob’s final words leave little hope: “The project is stalled.”

 

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