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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

23
Watching the Republican Senate debate, it would not have been surprising if all four candidates had sworn that the earth is flat. Because they went right over the edge.
 
You saw four candidates who would pay any price, bear any burden, destroy any branch of government, defend any outlandish right to have a gun and deny any reality in order to pander to a narrow and apparently narrow-minded primary base.
 
The high (or low) point came when the candidates were asked if climate change is real. They greeted the question not only with emphatic “no’s,” but with laughter.
 
Think about that for a minute. No hint that the overwhelming consensus among scientists is that climate change is a real and present danger.
 
Forget scientists. How about the Pentagon? Its 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review says: "The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence."
 
Well, who believes those soft-headed, do-good ninnies at the Pentagon?
 
Now, take Thom Tillis (please). He seems to be a smart man. He was a successful business consultant. You don’t do well there by pooh-poohing facts.
 
Tillis surely knows better. But he’s afraid to say so. He would rather pander to a voting base that is trapped in the iron grip of ignorance.
 
Which tells you all you need to know about where the Republican Party is today – and where they would take North Carolina and the nation.
 

 

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22
UNC-Chapel Hill just can’t get out of the academic fraud tar pit. The harder the school struggles, the stickier it gets.
 
First UNC got a new chancellor. Then a new vice chancellor for communications and public affairs, whose charge is clearly to get the school past this mess. They said all the right things, but nothing seems to work.
 
They paraded an all-star team of scholar-athletes in front of the media and trustees. But the exercise looked a bit contrived.
 
Then, yesterday, the employee who blew the whistle met with the chancellor, announced she is resigning and accused the chancellor of “berating” her.
 
True or not, that didn’t look good – especially on top of the Gene Nichols affair.
 
Some true-blue Heels will tell you this is all a vendetta by The News & Observer. Some of my fellow Wolfpackers – who haven’t gotten over the N&O’s pursuit of Jim Valvano – are loving it. I’m not. The university is a big part of why North Carolina has long been a progressive state. And the J School is a veritable well that waters the state with aggressive, progressive journalism.
 
Now, two of those great progressive institutions – the university and the N&O – are at war. Can’t somebody negotiate a truce here?
 

 

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21
Democrats are no doubt playing in the GOP Senate primary, but some of the parallels being drawn may be exaggerated.
 
Rob Christensen compared Democrats’ strategy against Thom Tillis to what Democrats did in Missouri in 2012 to help re-elect Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. There, Republicans nominated a Tea Party nut who promptly lost to the otherwise-vulnerable incumbent.
 
Yes, Democrats are running ads targeting Tillis in the primary. Both the Hagan campaign and Senator Harry Reid’s PAC are playing that game.
 
But Tillis is going to be the Republican nominee. And while I’m no expert on Republican politics, Tillis should win on May 6 without a runoff.
 
The more plausible strategy is to damage Tillis now, when people are looking at the Republican candidates. And it’s working. The negatives against Tillis are adding up. As Carter noted, the Speaker hurt himself by using taxpayers’ money to pay off staffers who had affairs. Remember Pearce’s Law: the worst wounds in politics are self-inflicted.
 
Now, it would be sweet for Hagan if Tillis is forced into a runoff. He then has to spend more time and money, as well as take more hits. And he has to decide whether to remain Speaker during this year’s legislative session. If he does, House Democrats should beat him like a piñata.
 
What’s important is that Democrats are learning to play hardball.

 

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18
When hundreds of teachers leave in the middle of the school year – in one of the nation’s best places to live and one of its best school systems – we have a crisis. But Republicans are in denial, and Democrats have a winning issue for this fall.
 
About one out of every 15 teachers in the Wake County schools has resigned this year. That’s up 41 percent from last year.
 
Republican leader Skip Stam sees no problem. His response was essentially, “Nothing to see here. Move along.”
 
You begin to think that Republicans’ callousness toward public schools and teachers has blinded them to the political consequences here. If your child loses a teacher, you want action and answers – not denial and evasion.
 
Underwood School Principal Jackie Jordan said she’ll lose five teachers, or 25 percent of the school’s total, by the end of this school year. The N&O said, “She noted that two of her teachers have had their houses foreclosed on this year and that one teacher is receiving food stamps.”
 
“If we’re losing teachers at this rate, what’s happening in other schools around the state that may not have as much support from the community, that may not have a beautiful facility?” Jordan said.
 
Amen.

 

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16
While Governor McCrory and his patrons at the John Locke Foundation were bragging about tax cuts on Tax Day, Republicans in the Legislative Building were digging an even deeper teacher-pay hole for themselves and McCrory.
 
The N&O’s page one headline said: “Broad teacher raises unlikely.” McCrory proclaimed, “we’re leaving a little extra money in everyone’s paycheck.”
 
Here’s the rub for the Republicans. Everybody in North Carolina knows the Governor and the legislature shafted teachers. But who really believes they got a tax cut?
 
Democrats don’t need to overdo this. They don’t need to say: “Republicans cut taxes and didn’t give teachers a pay raise.” They just need to say: “Republicans didn’t give teachers a pay raise.” Make Republicans try to tell people they cut taxes.

 

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15
Thom Tillis is a lot like Mitt Romney, and he learned one big thing from Romney’s 2012 campaign: Don’t get on the same stage and same page with the nuts in his party.
 
So Tillis may be making the right strategic decision by ducking the WRAL debate. It’s better to look chicken than to be a punching bag or, even worse, look like you’re as far-right as some of your opponents.
 
Besides, Tillis may be up against two candidates who believe they were called by God to run. Greg Brannon says God spoke to him while he was running on the beach on Good Friday. (He works in mysterious ways!) I don’t want to put words into Mark Harris’ mouth, but he is a minister, so he might feel called from on high too.
 
It’s hard to debate with people called by God.
 
This reminds me of a little-known opponent Governor Jim Hunt had long ago. Hunt sat down with the man to discuss the race and, he hoped, persuade him not to make the race. But the man told Hunt that God had told him to run.
 
Hunt said later that he thought to himself, “Well, God didn’t tell me to run, but if He told you, I can understand you running.”
 
As it turned out, God might have told the fellow to run, but He didn’t tell him he’d win. He finished far back in the pack.

 

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14
“Will no one rid me of this troublesome professor?” (Paraphrasing King Henry II on Thomas Becket.)
 
Fifty years ago, the legislature brought shame on North Carolina, dishonor on themselves and harm to UNC when the honorables passed the Speaker Ban Law to protect college students from a feared invasion of pro-Communist speakers. Eventually, wiser heads prevailed, the law was repealed and the Communists lost.
 
Now, Raleigh’s Republican regime appears determined to purge the university of the troublesome voice of Gene Nichol, a UNC-Chapel Hill law professor.
 
Nichols committed the grave sin of criticizing Governor McCrory in a column, calling him “hapless Pat” and “a 21st century successor to Maddox, Wallace and Faubus.” The hapless-Pat line is pretty good, even though the comparison to the trio of Southern segregationist governors is a stretch.
 
But McCrory, again demonstrating the rabbit-eared sensitivity that hears a critical squeak uttered in any corner of the political arena, can’t take it. He was almost as upset as the time when the grocery store chef mouthed off at him.  Even though he was in Mississippi for a meeting, the Governor called a political ally on the UNC Board of Governors to complain.
 
A flurry of emails and phone calls ensued, as Jane Stancill reveals in her excellent N&O story. So now Nichol puts a disclaimer on his writings that “he doesn’t speak for UNC.” No more, one assumes, than Obama-hater Chris Conover speaks for Duke University when he appears before legislative committees to denounce the Affordable Care Act.
 
Clearly, Republican operatives are out for Nichols’ head. They won’t be satisfied until he is banished from the University and an example is made of him for any other pointy-headed professors who have the audacity to speak out against the powers-that-be in Raleigh.
 
You would think that someone in the Republican Party might realize how damaging this will be to a UNC system already battered by budget cuts and cheap political shots, to a state whose “brand” (if you will) was built on a great university and – yes – to their own personal reputations.
 
Ask Henry II. History is not kind to those who seek to silence the voices of dissent.
 
Plus, it doesn’t work. The victims become martyrs. And more people pay attention to them.
 
 

 

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09
This is a story about how even “good” money – that is, money spent for candidates and causes I like – can be bad.
 
It’s a story about how outside donors and independent campaigns, not candidates and office-holders, are setting the political agenda. You can walk, and run, but money talks.
 
Most every poll you see in North Carolina today shows that education is the number one issue. And the Republican legislature’s biggest vulnerability – as is Thom Tillis’s – is its war against teachers and public schools.
 
But what issue dominates the pro-Democratic TV ads? It’s not education. It’s the environment, clean air and water, and the coal ash spill.
 
Now, those are great issues. Great Democratic issues. But why is TV filled with ads about the environment, and not education?
 
Because the big donors – big national and in-state donors – care more about environmental issues than education issues.
 
This is what the United States Supreme Court in effect believes should happen: People with money should be able to decide the agenda and define the issues. The Court says that is fundamental in our Constitution.
 
You can decide for yourself whether that’s good or bad. But how many ads can you afford?

 

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08
How would Republican primary voters feel about a prominent supporter of gay marriage holding a fundraiser for Thom Tillis in New York City?
 
That would be Paul Singer, a hedge-fund CEO whom the Washington Post calls “the money man behind pro-gay marriage Republicans.”
 
The Post reported that, “Last week, Singer and other donors threw two fundraisers for Republican candidates in New York City. The first one supported Thom Tillis, the House speaker in the North Carolina state legislature….The event raised about $280,000.”
 
The Post calls Singer “one of the foremost backers of LGBT rights on the right. Since 2010, Singer has spent more than $10 million trying to get states to legalize gay marriage and get Republicans to join the battle.”
 
Tillis is walking a fine line here. He was Speaker when gay-bashing Republicans pushed through the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. But he predicted that it would be repealed before very long. And he’s being pressed in the primary by opponents who would love to bash him on the gay-marriage issue.
 
Now, in fairness, Singer’s political giving also reflects his conservative views on economics and financial regulation. But we wonder whether Tillis wants Republican primary voters in North Carolina to know about Singer.
 
We’re glad to help. And maybe this is a sign of how fast public opinion is moving on gay marriage.

 

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07
Maybe the attack-Koch strategy is a good idea after all. I had questions, but I’m coming around.
 
Every story needs a villain. That lesson is as old as the Bible. (See: the Serpent, Garden of Eden.)
 
Just as Republicans here want to make William Barber of the NAACP the face of the Democratic Party, the Kazillionaire Kochs are the ideal face of a Republican Party that is firmly committed to looking out for the 1 Percent – or the one-tenth of 1 Percent – at the expense of people who want good schools, good jobs, good health care and safe water to drink and air to breathe.
 
The Kochs are perfect villains in a political environment where the public suspects there’s a corrupt link between Big Business and GOP Government. And the Kochs are just an extension of the Bain Capital brand that Mitt Romney bequeathed to the GOP.
 
Even better, there are two of them. Evil Twins!
 
And it must be working. Charles Koch felt compelled to take to the friendly pages of the Wall Street Journal to protest that “collectivists” are being mean to him.
 
Let’s pile on!

 

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