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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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16
It turns out not having ‘boots on the ground’ isn’t quite what it seems.
 
The other day when the President said he was sending 425 more soldiers to Iraq he added, These American forces will not have a combat mission – we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.
 
That sounded reasonable – sort of – but, it turns out, not all of the American soldiers in Iraq will be sitting around offices in Baghdad.
 
In fact, some of our soldiers are going to “be advising Iraqi Army commanders in the field” and coordinating airstrikes for advancing (hopefully) Iraqi troops — which makes it sound like ‘boots on the ground’ could land a GI pretty close to the front line in a shooting war.
           

 

 

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15
 Not long after President Obama pressed the go-button Kay Hagan chimed in, “The President and our military leadership have now developed a plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels and defeat ISIS with a sustained campaign of airstrikes.”
 
Moderate Syrian rebels? Do you reckon such a creature really exists?
 
Basing a military campaign on finding Syrian moderates, well, might turn out to be like finding the Abominable Snowman.

 

 

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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
Back in 1939 (when a varmint was on the loose) there was hardly a mother, father or wife around who felt enough fear or saw any good reason to send their sons or husbands to Europe to fight what looked like a modern version of the bubonic plague – which left Franklin Roosevelt facing a knotty problem.
 
Because sooner or later the varmint was going to land on our doorstep fully armed with German tanks and dive bombers – so Roosevelt had to get all those mothers, fathers and wives scared enough or angry enough to stop saying, It’s none of our business, and start saying, We don’t have any choices left – we have to fight.  
 
It was a tall order: Roosevelt had to turning a slumbering and naturally divided Democracy into a single-minded juggernaut that figured no one was safe with a fellow on the loose who didn’t think twice about shooting anyone that looked at him crossways.
 
So, as Hitler crushed France and bombed London and rolled toward Moscow, as each blow fell Roosevelt nudged and poked and prodded using each crisis to build the fear and unity to whip the varmint.
 
Then, in 1941, Roosevelt cut off oil to the Japanese – which mattered back then because the Japanese got most of their fuel from American oil companies. Then the Japanese decided to bomb Pearl Harbor to sink our fleet so they could sail South to capture the Dutch oil fields in Indonesia and, by sunset on December 7th, Roosevelt had a united (and white-hot angry) nation on his hands.
 
Today there is a varmint on the loose over in Syria and Iraq beheading Americans (and Kurds and Syrians) and posting videos on the Internet (which even Hitler didn’t do in the newsreels of his day) and sooner or later this varmint’s going to land on our doorstep too.
 
It’s a hard fact: We’re no more united – or ready to fight any kind of real war – than we were in 1939. But it’s also a fact there’re crazy folks on the loose who have a mean streak a mile wide.
 
So – instead of saying ‘stay calm, don’t worry, the world’s always been a messy place’ and promising he can serve up a painless victory without ‘putting a single boot on the ground’ – maybe the President ought to start poking and prodding to open people’s eyes to the threat so we can whip the varmint and get it over with.

 

 

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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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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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