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29

 

Here’s, as Paul Harvey used to say, ‘The rest of the story’ about Louis Zamperini – from John Drescher’s column Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’ misses subject’s deep faith.
 


 

 

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29
During Governor McCrory’s attack on the AP, one observer compared it to Jesse Helms’ legendary battles with the media.
 
Now, Carter knew Jesse a lot better than I did. But I see a big difference.
 
Jesse attacked the media because he wanted a political fight. McCrory attacked the media because he doesn’t want an investigation of his financial dealings.
 
Big difference.
 
Helms used the “liberal media” as an ideological foil. It was a way to divide the world into friends and enemies on issues. And it wasn’t personal.
 
McCrory’s AP assault is personal. He has accused the AP and, specifically, reporter Michael Biesecker of maligning him and being out to get him personally.
 
McCrory’s fight has nothing to do with issues or ideology. It’s over ethics and possible impropriety. It’s not a debate over policy toward Cuba. It’s about whether the Governor of North Carolina should take a sweetheart payout from a company that is engaged in sleazy-looking business practices that have attracted the attention of investigators in states across the country.
 
Jesse Helms was no friend of mine, but I fought with Jesse Helms, and I studied him out of necessity. Here, Pat McCrory is no Jesse Helms.

 

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26
An outfit called Verifeed says “social conversations” on Twitter helped Thom Tillis beat Kay Hagan. Put me down as a skeptic.
 
You hear a lot of sweeping claims about how social media is transforming politics. The acolytes can drown you in numbers about “clicks” and “reads” and “open rates.” But is there hard evidence that all this moves votes?
 
If there is, please share it.
 
WRAL’s Mark Binker is another skeptic. He posted the story on Facebook and said, “Posting this mainly because I think it's wrong. For Twitter to be a place where a race is won or lost, wouldn't it need to be a more persuasive medium? My window into the platform is that people are sharing news, jokes, etc... but there's not a whole lot of persuasion going on. Tell me why I'm wrong. (Seriously, I don't buy the argument in this piece but I think there might be one to be made.)”
 
You won’t be surprised to learn that Verifeed is a company that “identifies and mobilizes powerful viral ambassadors and amplifiers to drive cost-efficient and high-impact ‘word of mouth’ marketing, customer acquisition, and conversions.” Whatever.
 
In other words, it’s selling what it’s celebrating.
 
Its report on North Carolina said, “Republican activists outperformed Democrats in sheer volume – and resonance – of tweets, with a veritable army of party activists faithfully retweeting and favoriting each other’s tweets regularly, if not hourly. The result calculated by Verifeed in the final seven days was direct engagement with 15,436,367 people by the top 20 GOP influencers – more than 14 times that of the top 20 Democratic influencers, who by contrast engaged just 1,746,178 people on Twitter.”
 
Now, maybe all this math mumbo-jumbo means something. But it looks like most people on Twitter who are interested in politics have pretty much made up their minds.
 
Until the online entrepreneurs can show with hard evidence that they can actually influence votes, hold on to your campaign dollars.

 

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24
Not even the season is free from America’s politics.

Democrats post stories on Facebook about “how to talk to your right-wing uncle at Christmas.” Republicans claim that atheists and Democrats want to “take Christ out of Christmas.” People debate over whether to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”
 
The New York Times Magazine on Sunday had a nice essay about bridging the divide. It told of a family dinner that began with an argument about what prayer should be said, or whether there should even be one. With an evangelical, an atheist and a Muslim present, no one could agree and the meal started getting cold.
 
Then one person had an idea: “Let’s skip the formal prayer and just tell each other what we are grateful for. What we are anxious about. What we hope for in the coming year.”
 
Then, “We took turns going around the circle: Muslim, Christian, atheist. And, as I expected, we ended up expressing similar dreams and aspirations for ourselves and our loved ones, similar fears and anxieties, similar gratitude for all that we’ve been given….(We) realized that we were all feeling the same way; we were just expressing that feeling in different spiritual languages.”
 
Indeed. Merry Christmas, or whatever, to you all.

 

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23
Where was this guy in October when we needed him?
 
In the weeks before the election, President Obama seemed passive and powerless as ISIS ran wild in the Middle East and Ebola panicked America.
 
In the weeks since, he’s come back strong: heralding a recovering economy, challenging Congress on immigration, championing Internet openness, leading on climate change, speaking sanely on race relations, calling out North Korea and even chastising Hollywood for cowardice.
 
A few months ago, Republicans like Rudy Giuliani were swooning over the manliness of Vladimir Putin (“now there’s a leader”) and dissing the President as a wuss. Now Obama is presiding over an economy that’s coming back and Putin is pretending his economy isn’t going down.
 
Democrats can’t help but ask: If this guy had been around in October, would the election results have changed?
 
Behind that is a bigger question: Did the 2014 elections reflect a short-term dip for Democrats or a long-term decline?
 
Some Democrats say the polls looked good in early October, but collapsed as voters grew anxious over ISIS and Ebola and saw no leadership from the White House.
 
Others worry that Americans have developed a deep-seated aversion to Obama that colors (literally) their view of all Democrats – as a party that represents only minorities, the poor, gays and women who want abortions and doesn’t relate to the great numbers of middle-class and working-class Americans who think they’re getting screwed.
 
Here’s a best guess (and that’s all it is): Those Americans don’t feel any better represented by Republicans than by Democrats. Their votes in November were driven by what was happening right then. Just as Obama’s election six years ago was driven by the economic collapse right then. Just as the polls in October 2013 were driven by the Obamacare website disaster right then, just as the polls in November 2013 were driven by the Republican’s shutdown of the government right then.
 
When people vote, they think most about what’s happening right then and what they hope will happen next.
 
We over-read and overreact to every election. Democrats need to stop blaming Obama and start getting ready for 2016. The world will be very different then.

 

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23

 

When we sat down to our annual Christmas lunch our group of old white conservative men were looking care-worn and weary;---they’d voted against gay marriage and won and a year and a half later gays were marrying right here in North Carolina; the newspaper headline on the table was even more discouraging: President Obama had declared ‘Transgenders’ a minority which led Conor the Jessecrat to grumble, Do you reckon back in 1964 even one Congressman who voted for the Civil Rights Act had even heard of a transgender?
 
Something ephemeral that had made our country our country had ceased to exist and the decline seemed inevitable and irreversible: There was not enough faith left among thegadget obsessed Americans, around us, punching IPhones and Droids to engender redemption – then Eric laid a newspaper story on the table and pointed and said:
 
‘Merry Christmas.’
 
According to the Washington Post the very liberal folks at the PEW Research Center had taken a Christmas Poll. They found:
 
Three out of four (or 73%) of our sodden, wealth-obsessed, vice-loving countrymen believe – literally – that the baby Jesus was born to a virgin.
 
There was more.
 
74% of our fellow Americans believe an angel – literally – appeared to the shepherds in the fields of Judea to announce the child’s birth.
 
And 75% of our countrymen believe – literally – that wise men, guided by a star, brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the child in the manger.
 
Devilment may be afoot but we live in a country that believes in angels, guiding stars, and the Virgin Birth – so there’s plenty of faith left to see us through. Happy Christmas.


 

 

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22

 

GQ  just published a list of the 20 craziest politicians and two North Carolinians are on it: Mark Walker, the new Congressman from Greensboro who made the list for joking he’d be for bombing Mexico and that he worries Obama may not leave office at the end of his term, and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx.
 
This is a grave injustice.
 
Why, we once had a state legislator who said he wanted to set up a state religion and another who once said he wanted the state to print its own currency – and then there’s Democratic Party Chairman Randy Vollmer (who even Democrats shy away from) and William Barber who’s in a league of his own.
 
GQ needs to go back to the drawing board. When it comes to politicians, we’ve got dozens who’re crazier than Virginia Foxx.


 

 

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22
Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin and Governor Pat McCrory appear to have different ideas of what “customer service” means.
 
To McCrory and his administration, the “customers” are “corporations” and, too often, “polluters.” To Goodwin, the customers are “consumers” and, in this instance, “homeowners.”
 
 
It may be the first time since January 2013 that business hasn’t gotten exactly what it wanted from Raleigh – and pronto.
 
Why did the industry want a 25 percent increase? Why indeed, after getting an average increase last year of 7.7 percent, as high as 19.8 percent in beach areas?
 
Had some terrible catastrophe drained their reserves? Are thousands of insurance company employees being thrown out on the street in their suits and white shirts?
 
Not exactly. The industry admitted it was guessing about what MIGHT happen in the future. Its spokesman said, “Part of the problem that we have is that the rate product – which is paying claims – is some future event that we really don’t have a good handle on how much it costs. We’re trying to predict what that would be three or four years down the road.”
 
No doubt, the industry would like to base rates on a projection of an End Times combination of hurricanes, tornados, ice storms, Ebola outbreak, terrorist attacks and plagues of locusts and toads.
 
Nice try, boys.
 
Goodwin said his decision will save North Carolina homeowners $600 million.
 
Merry Christmas, indeed.

 

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19
It was a simple question but back in February after the big coal ash spill it needed a quick answer:  Were the coal ash ponds a ticking time bomb or nothing to worry about?
 
A few days ago the State Official in charge of the coal ash cleanup told the Environmental Review Commission, “We don’t have the faintest idea what’s going on under these coal ash ponds.”
 
How can that be?
 
Government is slow and cumbersome and moves like a herd of turtles but you’d have thought this once the herd would be charging but, alas, turtles are turtles – ten months later we still don’t know if coal ash ponds are leaking microscopic vermin into groundwater and who is – or isn’t – drinking it.   


 

 

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19
Two things are for sure here: First, it’s never good to be linked to Mark Sanford in a Page One story. Second, if Bev Perdue had done it, McCrory and the Republican Party would be howling for her investigation, indictment and impeachment.
 
But there are two big questions: First, how bad, and how politically damaging, is Governor McCrory’s $185,509 stock payout from Tree.com/Lending Tree? Second, is his Defcon 5/massive nuclear retaliation smart or stupid?
 
Clearly, the deal smells. And, clearly, the Governor told us as little as possible about it before now. He knew that people might question their Governor getting a post-election sweetheart deal that paid him more than his state salary.
 
Especially since Lending Tree has been accused of violating state and federal laws. And paid $3 million to South Carolina in 2012 after regulators said it hadn’t disclosed that it was being paid by the lenders it recommended as having the best mortgage rates.
 
McCrory and Sanford weren’t exactly serving on the board of a corporate citizen like Red Hat or First Citizens.
 
But what McCrory did pales beside how he has reacted. The blitz he launched against AP and its reporters was breathtaking.
 
In one statement, he said of the story, “It was written with malice and the intent to do harm without any factual consideration given.” In an interview, he said, “I almost call it the new Rolling Stone type of Journalism."
 
The N&O called the response “an assault on the AP.” Several reporters expressed amazement on social media – and defended the AP reporters. One non-media post said something you always hear in these situations: “Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel.” One PR veteran said, “If this is what works, I need to retire.”
 
McCrory critics said it’s just another sign of the Governor’s prickliness and over-sensitivity, an overreaction cooked up in the heat of anger and frustration.
 
Or maybe not. Maybe it’s cold political calculation. And maybe it will work.
 
No, it’s not PR 101. The conventional approach is to argue the facts, but not attack reporters’ integrity. This is a whole new barrel of ink.
 
Team McCrory, as they call themselves, may figure he can’t survive two years of ethics stories like this and the 60 Minutes story on Duke and coal ash. Maybe it’s easier to destroy the messenger than defend the Governor.
 
This all comes just as AP announced that it is “doubling down on state government coverage.” On AP’s website, one editor says, “...(W)e are really pushing our state bureaus to focus their time and effort on content that is exclusive to AP and that our members and subscribers can’t get anywhere else. That needs to be our guiding principle. We do that exactly as we always have: by developing sources and breaking stories, being fastest on big breaking news, and by providing explanation, analysis and depth on the stories that have the biggest impact on peoples’ lives.”
 
They sure started with a bang. And McCrory fired back with an even bigger bang. Now it’s war.

 

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