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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

27
Once upon a time, in the Shire of Raleigh, there was a company called Progress Energy, nee CP&L. The residents of the Shire oft complained about the company, but with affection. After all, its employees and managers and overlords and even its King lived amongst the people and even walked amongst them. The people knew that, when hurricane winds blew and wintry mixes fell, when lights blipped and power failed, and when their homes fell cold and dark, their friends at the company were hard at work getting things back in order. After all, their own families suffered with the people.
 
Then, one day, the Evil Empire of Duke invaded the Shire, seized control of Progress, beheaded the King, banished his court and moved the castle to the faraway Emerald City.
 
So when winter’s winds howled again and when ice and snow felled trees and snapped power lines, the people of the Shire wondered: Will the Empire come to our aid? Will the Emerald City care about our lowly Shire? Will the Queen even know of our plight?
 
For hours, thousands upon thousands of them shivered and shook in the cold and dark. They huddled together before fires. They trudged long distances to seek food and ale in nearby taverns. They looked for a hopeful word or a sign that they weren’t forgotten.
 
Whereupon one member of the Queen’s court decided to play a little joke on the people of the Shire. This courtier thought it amusing to tease the Shire with a picture of a warm and sunny waterfront in one of the Duke Empire’s far-flung colonies: St. Petersburg, Florida. The message to the Shire read: “To the snowy Carolinas: A picture from our St. Petersburg, FL office to warm you. Stay safe.”
 
To which the people of the Shire said, “Off with their heads.”

 

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26
A snow-day deep-dive into current political commentary finds three things. One, Republicans are becoming more and more deranged. Two, Democrats are falling deeper and deeper into despair. And, three, it’s all about President Obama.
 
Politics has come unhinged since Election Day 2008 and the election of a black President. It just gets worse as time goes on and he stays in the White House.
 
Look at the Republicans lately. Rudy Giuliani says Obama doesn’t love him or America, which Giuliani apparently considers one and the same thing. Scott Walker isn’t sure Obama is a Christian. Bobby Jindal doesn’t think the President who ordered the raid on Osama bin Laden, drone attacks on al Qaeda and a war on ISIS is protecting us. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell want to shut down Homeland Security because they’re mad at Obama about immigration.
 
Democrats can’t or won’t see that all their problems are simply part of the reaction to Obama. Witness the DNC task force that bemoaned the 2014 election results. Its solution is this gobbledygook from Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear: “We need a cohesive, values-based narrative that quickly and succinctly defines our beliefs and helps voters identify with who we are and how we best represent them.”
 
Get a grip.
 
Democrats ought to be proud. They did something historic, remarkable and praise-worthy. After centuries of slavery and decades of discrimination, they elected the first African-American President. He and Democrats then saved us from a depression, saved the banks, saved the auto industry, gave millions of Americans affordable health care, attacked climate change, knocked down walls of discrimination, reduced the federal deficit, drew down two wars, killed the world’s number-one terrorist and got America back on track after eight years of war, waste and mismanagement.
 
Naturally, there has been a reaction. There always is. American history is two steps forward, one step back.
 
This too shall pass. Obama will be gone in two years. Then we’ll get back to more familiar turf, back to doing what we’ve done for nearly 30 years: hating the Bushes or hating the Clintons. 

 

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25
Something was missing from the usual snow day TV fare. Bill and Renee ran down the shutdowns. Elizabeth and Greg kept predicting the snow would end any minute. Gilbert was giddy. Various teams showed us various roads. But…something just wasn’t there.
 
Oh yes! The Governor’s snow briefing! Where was Governor McCrory warning us not to put on our stupid hats? Where were the beefy, serious guys in uniforms standing behind him? Where, oh where, was DOT Secretary Tony Tata on a day when more than a thousand accidents were reported on the state’s roads?
 
WRAL tracked him down: “Tata traveled to Chicago Monday night and Tuesday to promote his new novel, ‘Foreign and Domestic,’ one of a number of titles the retired brigadier general has authored about fictional elite soldiers fighting threats overseas.”
 
We’ve twitted Tata before about thriller-novel-tweeting during snow emergencies and the State of the State. He good-naturedly assured us those tweets were from his publicist and he was full-time on the job.
 
But that was the real Tata on TV Tuesday, live from Chicago. (Note: You can do live links with CNN and Fox from Raleigh.)
 
His DOT spokesman made a heroic effort to make a molehill out of an ice mountain, assuring us that Tata had been on the phone back to Raleigh all day.
 
We must ask: With Tata reputedly being a master of logistics, would DOT trucks have been deployed earlier in the battle against snow and ice if he had been in command on the scene?
 
Governor McCrory’s office “did not immediately respond to a request for comment.” Which raises another question: Where was the Governor? He was last spotted in this odd clip with other Republican governors in Washington. The Governor appears to be blowing smoke rings in the cold. Or maybe hyperventilating as Bobby Jindal holds forth.
 
Democratic bloggers already are pouncing. Will the mainstream media pursue the issue?
 
No doubt the administration will profess nonchalance. But here’s betting that McCrory and Tata will be all over TV if there’s a repeat tomorrow.

 

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24

 A TAPster reminded me of a snow day blog I did once in memory of my father. It's apropos today.

My dad, Jim, was a printer and, at one time, foreman of the N&O composing room. In those hot-type days, printers used house ads to fill in columns of type. The ads would tell you to subscribe to the paper, buy classified ads, read the comics, etc.

On snowy days, Jim would make up a series of ads in all sizes and shapes reading, simply: "Feed the Birds!" He reminded readers that snow keeps birds from their usual fare. They need what you might call a handout.

So feed the birds!

 

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20
We’re in the Great Mentioner season of the political cycle, when the names of potential 2016 candidates start floating through the rumor mills, media and blogosphere.
 
And nothing talks like money.
 
An enterprising TAPster looked at the year-end cash-on-hand numbers for potential statewide candidates and Council of State incumbents.
 
Not surprisingly, at the top of the list were Governor McCrory, with $1.6 million, and his presumptive opponent, AG Roy Cooper ($1.5 million).
 
Next were Senator Josh Stein ($798,634), who will run for AG, and Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin ($304,776). Those are healthy numbers. Any challenger to Stein or Goodwin better pack a lunch.
 
Then come Treasurer Janet Cowell, a potential U.S. Senate candidate ($80,282), and Lt. Governor Dan Forest, who is sure to face a tough challenge (only $29,395). Followed by Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry ($16,157), Auditor Beth Wood ($14,698), Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson ($9,448), Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler ($8,200) and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall ($4,399).
 
The TAPster noted, “Given that June (Atkinson) hasn't raised any funds for Superintendent at all since 2012, might there be an opening on the Council of State other than Attorney General? Word around the Legislative Building is that Rep. Tricia Cotham is interested in the race.”
 
Further, “And what about all the national mentions of Janet Cowell potentially running for U.S. Senate, in tandem with her lower cash-on-hand numbers for her state campaign account? Some have said that she'll decide her plans for 2016 after the legislative session concludes.”
 
(Why wait? $100 million was spent in last year’s Senate race.)
 
Low cash-on-hand doesn’t tell us everything. But it does start the who-will-run-for-what buzz.

 

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19
Yesterday we talked about Senator Jeff Jackson’s tweets. Today’s Twitter topic is Tony Tata.
 
Specifically, his two Twitter identities: DOT Secretary Tata and Thriller-Novelist Tata.
 
This week, Thriller Tata posted tweets touting his books while DOT Tata backed up Governor McCrory at snow-emergency briefings. Earlier this month, Thriller Tata tweeted while DOT Tata was at the Governor’s State of the State address.
 
Tata assured us he’s not short-changing taxpayers: “@jgaryp didn't touch my phone during state of state. Publicist runs personal Twitter and schedules tweets. Thx for asking.” His personal Twitter is @ajtata, and it’s separate from his DOT tweets. 
 
Still, there’s something disconcerting about two Tonys. Maybe it’s the publicist putting out his tweets. Maybe it’s a nagging fear he’s thinking about a plot twist instead of ice on I-40. Maybe it’s Twitter envy. (“Darn it, why don’t I have two Twitter handles?”)
 
But here’s wishing both Tatas well. Writers should sell as many books and make as much money as possible.
 
Just don’t tweet while driving, Tony.

 

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18
While Governor McCrory was doing what politicians usually do to get snow-day news coverage, state Sen. Jeff Jackson was showing how it’s done in a new media world.
 
Tuesday morning, Jackson (D-Mecklenburg) showed up at the Legislative Building at 8 am and tweeted: “No problem getting a great parking space this morning.”
 
While McCrory was holding briefings timed for live coverage, Jackson began a series of tweets and Facebook posts tagged #JustOneLegislator.
 
8:12: “think I'm the only legislator in the building. Let me take care of a few things. Medicaid = expanded. Teachers = paid. Film = jobs.”
 
8:36: “We just invested heavily in wind and solar energy.  I'm moving onto education reform.  Any thoughts?”
 
8:49: “Independent redistricting Invest heavily in wind and solar Support early childhood education NC is suddenly a national model.”
 
By now, Jackson was being followed by growing numbers of homebound souls seeking an online escape from cabin fever.
 
9:28: “Went ahead and got rid of puppy mills. Not sure why that took so long.”
 
9:39: “Remember that time we eliminated NC Teaching Fellows?  Guess what.”
 
Word began to spread. 9:50: “Am now receiving lots of calls from actual lobbyists. Even the false appearance of power gets their attention.”
 
10:31: “Hey Charlotte - it's your airport.”
 
10:54: “Just had a big debate over cutting the university system even more. Decided not to, because obviously that's a bad idea.”
 
He kept his priorities right. 11:32: “I’m hearing there's no cell phone reception in the press room.  That goes on the list, but I'm putting it at the bottom.”
 
And had the right touch of self-mockery. 12:38: “I just defeated a filibuster because I needed a drink of water. That removes any opposition to new child care subsidies.”
 
By early afternoon, as his army of followers swelled, Jackson was featured on the national website BuzzFeed. Tuesday night, he got a shout-out from Rachel Maddow on MSNBC.
 
Today, he’s all over the traditional media. Craig Jarvis and Jim Morrill noted in the N&O/Charlotte Observer: “Tuesday was not the first time Jackson, a former prosecutor from Charlotte, has garnered national attention. Last summer, shortly after he was appointed to fill an unexpired seat, he made a 6-minute speech – caught on video – admonishing Republicans for not giving Democrats a chance to weigh in on or read the budget before scheduling a vote. More than 2.65 million have watched the video and Jackson received comments on it from as far away as South Africa.”
 
Was Jackson brilliant or lucky? It doesn’t matter. He demonstrated the power of creativity + humor + issues + new media. And that he’s a political power to be reckoned with.

 

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17
For years, Dana Cope and the State Employees Association of North Carolina have pursued a vendetta against State Treasurer Janet Cowell. They didn’t like the way she manages the state’s pension fund.
 
They're the ones to talk.
 
Cope and SEANC demanded more answers and more transparency from the Treasurer’s Office. But, to them, openness and transparency apparently go only one way.
 
SEANC barred the media and public from its meeting this weekend to discuss the sorry mess, which reportedly heard a motion of no confidence in management and the executive committee.
 
Most remarkable was John Drescher’s account of how SEANC tried to head off the N&O’s story. During the meeting, Drescher wrote, SEANC’s lawyer read this statement: “SEANC requests that The News & Observer respect the integrity of SEANC’s ethics process and refrain from printing a story that not only is unsubstantiated but which has been disproven by our own democratically elected governing body.”
 
SEANC’s 13-member executive committee told the N&O “there was nothing to see.” SEANC president Wayne Fish said the story was “quite simply, not true,” but Drescher added, “he didn’t say what was not true.”
 
And there was this classic dodge: the lawyer “said at The N&O that there was an explanation” for a phony invoice, “but he would not discuss it because it was a personnel matter.”
 
Ah, “personnel matter.” The last resort of the stonewaller.
 
SEANC’s visit worked about as well as any first-year Journalism School student could have predicted. The N&O ran the story. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said she’d ask the State Bureau of Investigation to conduct a criminal inquiry. Then Cope resigned. And Drescher promised, “We’ll keep reporting.”

 

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16
UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham seems determined to (pardon the expression) tar the Heels’ image.
 
When he paid $27,000 and change for the damages UNC’s football team did to Duke’s practice facility turf and visitor’s locker room last year, Bubba should have just said: “Coach Fedora and I apologize to Duke University for our team’s actions, and we apologize to our University for the embarrassment. We will not tolerate this kind of behavior.” Period.
 
But noooooooo.
 
Bubba had to whine that he was disappointed because Duke football coach David Cutcliffe never returned UNC coach Larry Fedora’s apology call.
 
Well, excuuuuuuuse me.
 
Then Bubba had to enclose a photo of spray paint damage to UNC’s South Building on campus – four pillars were tagged with the letters D-U-K-E, before the Duke-UNC basketball game last February. Bubba grumped, ““The University of North Carolina bore the cost of sandblasting these pillars and did not make public comments of the transgression. I acknowledge we have no idea who did this, but I simply included it to demonstrate that all fans, teams, coaches, students, etc. need to appreciate and respect the rivalry.”
 
After a week of moving remembrances of how Dean Smith represented UNC with class and grace, Bubba should have asked himself: WWDD – what would Dean do?
 
As it is, Dean is probably rolling over in his grave already.

 

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13
Walter Cronkite was “the most trusted man in America.” Brian Williams became the least trusted man in America overnight and had to leave the set. The same day, Jon Stewart, who had become the new most trusted man in news to many, left on his own terms. Just days before, WTVD anchor Larry Stogner, whose face and voice spelled “trust” and “pro” to many in North Carolina, left because that voice was failing him.
 
Williams’ tale is as old as Greek mythology: hubris. It wasn’t enough to be a network anchor and crossover star on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. He had to exaggerate his experiences in Iraq, apparently among others.
 
Stewart’s rise reflects those of us who read Mad Magazine in the 60s and love the snark and cynicism of today’s satirical media, online and on cable, especially when it’s aimed at Fox News and Republicans.
 
Larry Stogner is something different. He represents something true and lasting. Maybe, even, something fundamental in the North Carolina we love.
 
Larry is a small-town North Carolina boy who never left. He never hopped to a bigger market or took a network job. He stayed here. He stuck with us.
 
He is a Vietnam veteran. But he never boasted about it, or exaggerated it. He was always Larry, and he was comfortable with that.
 
This is personal. Larry and I were capital reporters together in the early 1970s. He covered Governor Hunt when I was Hunt’s press secretary. We both went to China with the Governor in 1979.
 
Now, the cruelest of diseases is robbing Larry of what outwardly made him Larry. But it can’t touch his heart, his soul or his character.
 
For being who he was, nothing more and nothing less, I thank him.

 

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