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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

19
Every budding journalist is taught to look for the “local angle” in any big story. WRAL takes the prize for this one: “Scotland County residents watching overseas vote for independence.
 
The lead sums it up: “As the world waits for the outcome of Thursday's historic vote on Scotland's independence, southeastern North Carolina's Scotland County - some 3,700 miles away - can't help but keep a close eye on the decision.”
 
It turns out that Scotland County “was once the home to one of the largest settlements of Highland Scots in the country” and that “today, there's still a Scottish influence.”
 
But my late, great mentor Bob Brooks at the N&O would have told the reporter there’s a big unanswered question: Will Scotland County seek its independence from North Carolina?

 

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19
Carter and I were on News14’s Capital Tonight this week, talking with Tim Boyum about debates today and the Hunt-Helms debates 30 years ago. You can watch our segment here.
 
Tim was struck by how free-flowing and wide-open the 1984 debates were. As we talked with him, we realized that we had happened onto a format that gave voters more insight and information than debates do today.
 
For some reason, debates now are dictated by the clock: “Here’s the question and you have 60 seconds to answer.” Then: “You have 30 seconds to comment on that answer.”
 
Then the media complains because the candidates gave canned 30-second and 60-second responses consisting mostly of talking points and recitals of their TV ads.
 
Well, duh.
 
The format that the Helms and Hunt campaigns negotiated – not entirely to the liking of the broadcasters, by the way – provided for a lot more depth, back-and-forth and give-and-take.
 
Somebody will always object: “But what if one candidate goes on for five minutes?”
 
Believe me, nobody will go on for five minutes on television. And if they did, they would be committing political suicide.
 
So throw away the stopwatches. Let ‘em debate.

 

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18
Like many people who have more years behind them than ahead of them, I regularly read the obituaries. First I look for people or families I know. Then I look for their ages. Then I look for the signs of how they died. Many times it says “after a long period of declining health,” “after a long and valiant struggle with (fill in the blank),” etc.
 
So I was struck by a new study, “Dying in America,” which says, “Americans suffer needless discomfort and undergo unwanted and costly care as they die, in part because of a medical system ruled by perverse incentives for aggressive care and not enough conversation about what people want.”
 
How many of us want to be kept alive by machines and invasive procedures that add a few weeks or months to our lives, but nothing to the quality of our lives?
 
Maybe this is something we famously selfish and self-absorbed Baby Boomers can do for our country. After all, a huge chunk of the national health care bill – like Medicare – goes to end-of-life care. Let’s save the next generation some money and save ourselves some suffering. Let’s get serious about planning for the end so we can be at home and free from pain, respirators, feeding tubes and powerful drugs. Let’s get over Sarah Palin’s rhetoric about “death panels” and get serious.

 

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17
The Old Wise Leader (OWL) chuckled over coffee about Republicans’ voter-suppression drive: “They should beware the Law of Unintended Consequences.”
 
I enjoy talking with OWL. He reads a lot, and he thinks.
 
Two things caught his eye: The story about Senator Berger’s voter-confusion ad and a mailing that a friend got. The mailer read: “Important Voter Registration Information Inside.” Inside is a “North Carolina Voter Registration Application.” The headline says, “Register to vote today!” It tells you to fill out the form and mail it in the pre-addressed envelope to the State Board of Elections. (“Postage will be paid by addressee.”)
 
Here’s the odd part. It came from an outfit called the “Americans for Prosperity Foundation.” And it went to a voter who not only is already registered, but also is a regular, long-time voter. A Democrat.
 
“I smell a rat,” OWL said. “Looks to me like they’re messing with Democratic voters’ minds.” Then he chuckled, “But the rats may be walking into a trap.”
 
How so? “Well, folks don’t like rats messing with their right to vote. And they might just decide to teach the rats a lesson – on Election Day.”

 

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16
First Governor McCrory compared Senator Phil Berger to Tony Rand, Marc Basnight and Harry Reid. Then, McCrory said he wouldn’t call the legislature back into session because “after a lengthy session they need a break, and frankly I need a break from them” – a sentiment heartily endorsed by many North Carolinians.
 
This week Senator Berger had some choice words back for the Governor. Commenting on McCrory’s contention that the new coal-ash law is unconstitutional because most members are appointed by the legislature, Berger said in a statement that, “The governor’s primary concern appears to be a desire to control the coal ash commission and avoid an independent barrier between his administration and former employer” (Duke Energy).
 
The TAPster who passed along Berger’s quote found it remarkable, given that the United States Attorney is investigating the relationship between an agency under the Governor and Duke.
 
So much for Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”

 

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15
More telling than Kay Hagan’s overall lead in the polls may be her overwhelming lead with women.
 
According to a Rasmussen Poll last week, Hagan leads Thom Tillis by six points, 45-39. But then it gets confusing. The poll said Hagan leads among women by 21 points, while Tillis leads among men by nine points.
 
Say again? If the vote splits 50-50 between men and women, and Hagan leads with women by 21 and trails by men by nine, isn’t she then ahead by 12?
 
Unless Rasmussen assumes that a whole lot more men will vote than women.
 
If that assumption is wrong, and if women turn out heavily, Tillis is – as the fellow Down East once said – “Toast. T-O-S-T, toast.”

 

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11
A shadowy terrorist group with Dark Ages savagery and Digital Age media savvy beheads two journalists and posts a video. So – 13 years to the day after 9/11 – we’re off to war!
 
Talking TV heads spin us into a frenzy. Democratic and Republican politicians race to the cameras to out-hawk each other. John McCain and Lindsay Graham talk tough. Old Reliable Dick Cheney warns us that we’d better get back to his war that worked so well over the last decade. Rick Perry sees hooded jihadists filtering in over the Mexican border. Michelle Bachman says it’s the most dangerous thing in the world since Hitler and the Blitzkreig.
 
President (“Don’t do stupid stuff”) Obama keeps his customary cool. No doubt it’s the perspective that comes from viewing the globe from an 18-hole golf course. Yes, he says, ISIL – or ISIS or the Islamic State (why can’t somebody decide?) – is a threat to the Mideast. But not, he quickly adds, to the homeland.
 
But it’s bad enough, apparently, that lions and lambs are prepared to, if not lie down together, mount up together. Us and Iraq and Iran and the Sunnis and Shiites. Maybe Saudi Arab will even use some of the military hardware that we give them when our local police don’t want it. We’re even getting the old band together, that great Coalition of the Willing that marched into Iraq with us to rid the world of Sadaam’s WMDs.
 
Since the video beheadings were viewed by millions (not including me), public opinion in America has swung sharply. No boots on the ground, of course. We want a video-game war where we push a few buttons, blow up the bad guys and get home in time for dinner.
 
Apparently, we make all our big decisions today based on video replay – whether it’s a war, a touchdown or the criminality of a running back assaulting his wife in an elevator (as if you needed a second clip for that call).
 
We don’t have time to study the thing – and ponder what happens next. Just watch the clip, feel the requisite revulsion, and drop the bombs. Not to worry, everything will work out fine this time. Have the talking heads ever been wrong?

 

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09
When it comes to teacher pay, Republicans must feel like they’re pushing a truck up a hill with a rope.
 
Thom Tillis claims the legislature passed a 7 percent pay raise. Then Governor McCrory sends teachers a letter telling them it’s a 5.5 percent average pay raise. Then teachers like Michelle Pettey in Wake County get the paycheck and see a raise of only 1.39 percent. (A tip of the TAP hat to Mark Binker at WRAL for this story.)
 
Republicans have been scrambling this year to get out of the hole they dug with teachers since 2010. They’ve pushed the 7 percent claim hard. But if teachers like Pettey look at their paychecks and decide they’re being conned, the hole is going to get a lot deeper.
 
Will Tillis then tell teachers, like he told Senator Hagan, that they just don’t understand simple math?

 

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08
A TAPster unimpressed by the Hagan-Tillis debate says, “If you want to see a real debate, watch Jim Hunt debate Jesse Helms in 1984. That was like Ali and Frazier.”
 
Ah, take me back to those thrilling days 30 years ago. Here’s a link so you can watch two heavyweight champs. (This is the first debate, which I liked best because Hunt did best in it.)
 
Hunt caught Helms flat-footed. Carter said later the Helms campaign underestimated Hunt. They thought he would be a pushover. And Helms didn’t want to look mean. Hunt started punching Helms in the nose in the first minute and never let up.
 
In three later debates, Helms gave as good as he got. Watching clips now, I’m reminded how smart and tough they both were – and how much they truly disliked each other. I’m reminded of the tension in the rooms where just the TV crew and a few staff members were allowed. I remember thinking: I’m glad I’m not the one who has to stand up there.
 
Carter and I first met negotiating the rules of the debates. We were the junior partners in the room; Tom Ellis represented Helms and Phil Carlton, Hunt. We met under the auspices of the N.C. Broadcasters Association.
 
Our meetings started in a climate of mutual hostility and suspicion. But after a couple of sessions, an odd dynamic emerged. The two campaigns realized that we were more in tune with each other than with the broadcasters on the format we wanted. So we asked the broadcasters’ representatives to step out of the room. We quickly settled on a format that let the two men go at each other freely without a lot of rules, time limits and moderator-posturing. We told the broadcasters: take it or leave it. They weren’t happy, but they took it.
 
Hunt prepared like a boxer in training. He went through sparring sessions with Harrison Hickman, a native North Carolinian with an uncanny ability to ape Helms’ voice and style. Hunt had some rough spots during the prep, but he worked hard and did his homework, as always. He was ready when the debates began July 29, 1984.
 
After four debates, the candidates, their campaigns and the voters were worn out. But nobody could say we didn’t give them their money’s worth.

 

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05
Candidates and their advisers spend a lot of time during debate prep thinking about how to address their opponent, so it was no happenstance that Tillis called Hagan “Kay” and she called him “Speaker Tillis.”
 
Tillis didn’t want to give her the benefit of incumbency, so he took the risk of looking sexist and offending women voters, as Laura Leslie noted on WRAL.
 
Senator Hagan wasn’t being “respectful,” as her partisans suggested. She wanted to tie Tillis as closely as possible to the legislature and what it did on education. Tillis knows he has that problem, so he and the Republicans are pushing back as hard as they can on teacher pay raises. But they’re not getting any reinforcement from teachers.
 
Reporters and viewers clearly were frustrated by all the canned lines and talking points, but what the candidates said still tells a revealing story about the hidden forces behind this election.
 
In other Senate races across the country, President Obama’s ever-falling job ratings are hurting Democrats. But in North Carolina, Senator Hagan has an even more unpopular villain to attack (hard as that is to imagine). That’s the legislature, and that’s why he’s “Speaker Tillis.”

 

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