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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
After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt looked the American people in the eye and said, December 7th is a day that will live in infamy forever.
 
After ISIS burned a hostage alive, President Obama told the American people, We’ve done some pretty bad things ourselves.
 
Which is the proper response to a moral outrage?
 
We need Horatius at the Bridge in the White House but have Hamlet giving a soliloquy on moral relativism: They’ve sinned. We’ve sinned. They’ve done terrible things in the name of Allah. We’ve done terrible things in Christ’s name. We are all alike.
 
It’s the devil’s own argument breeding moral ambivalence and we wouldn’t be the first poor fools blinded by it.
 
Lord knows, we’ve committed sins. But we’ve also deposed Kings, vanquished tyrants, whipped Hitler – and never asked for a thing in return.  
 
The day before the President’s soliloquy the United Nations reported ISIS has been “crucifying Iraqi children and burying them alive.” 
 
It’s time for Hamlet to move past ambivalence and stop asking, Are we any better than ISIS?

 

 

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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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12
A few days ago, Chapel Hill was the focus of mourning and remembrance for an extraordinary coach who lived a long, full life of service and leadership.
 
Today, and sadly for a long time to come, it’s the focus of grieving and remembrance for three extraordinary young people who seemed headed for long, full lives of service and leadership, before they were murdered by a pathetic loser who apparently hated all religions and all people, especially those who park in the wrong place.
 
Of course, some nitwit lawyer sought out the cameras so the man’s wife could assure us it was all about parking, not racial or religious hatred. Thanks a lot, pal.
 
Of course, some nitwit politician or commentator will seek out the cameras to complain about all this #MuslimLivesMatter stuff. Probably already has.
 
A neighbor said the guy had “equal opportunity” hatred. Pardon us for noticing that he gave only three people the opportunity to have a bullet in their heads and all three of them were noticeably Muslim. Pardon us for understanding exactly why Muslims feel they are targets of hate. Because they are.
 
At times like this, the old speechwriter in me scours the statements of politicians and public figures, hoping for a nugget of wisdom and real thought among the banal boilerplate.
 
Not surprisingly, I found it from the Congressman from Chapel Hill, David Price:
 
“This appalling act of violence has shaken our community's sense of peace and reminded us once again that we still face serious barriers to mutual acceptance. We must redouble our efforts to bridge the gaps of intolerance and hatred that divide our society."
 
Amen, brother.

 

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12
Reverend William Barber went down to the newspaper and sat down with Ned Barnett to have a chat about the state’s soul.
 
Now the main problem with the state spiritually, according to Reverend Barber, is Republicans. He’s thundered from podiums from Asheville to Wilmington that Republicans are heartless varmints who stomp on women, children, and the blind, halt and lame.
 
You could search for years and not find a more remorseless demagogue – or partisan Democrat – than William Barber.
 
But that’s not how Ned Barnett saw it at all: The Reverend, he explained in his editorial, built his ‘Moral Mondays’ movement on morality, not politics. That as Barber himself says, Moral Mondays isn’t about left and right, it’s about right and wrong.
 
Pure baloney.


 

 

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11
Once when Democratic County Commissioner Betty Lou Ward was in the hospital she asked the Republican Commissioners to allow her to participate in a board meeting by phone – but the Republicans said no.
 
Another time, in the middle of a fight, the Republicans waited until Ward left the board room to go to the restroom then promptly held a vote.
 
All that orneriness didn’t sit well with a lot of folks and, last fall, every one of the Republicans were voted out of office and we ended up with seven Democratic County Commissioners.
 
Now Wake County is blessed: We have a solid economy and a growing population and both are bringing more money into the county’s exchequer each year but, as soon as they got sworn in, the new Democratic Commissioners proved there are more vices than orneriness: They announced it was time to raise taxes.
 
Those old Republican Commissioners were no saints but the new Democrats are making them look better every day.


 

 

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11
Sunday morning, Joe Neff’s story ran on Page 1A of the N&O. Tuesday at 2 pm, Dana Cope held a 90-second news conference (no questions, please) to resign.
 
As WRAL’s Laura Leslie said on Facebook, “Well, that was quick.”
 
Maybe Cope decided his legal problems dwarf his political problems. Or maybe it would be tough to explain a $57 eyebrow wax at European Wax Center to a guy driving a dump truck at DOT.
 
For many Democrats, Cope’s downfall and Randy Voller’s departure as Democratic Party chair are signs of spring. Both organizations can now push the reset button.
 
With Patsy Keever as chair, there is hope that the party can actually become a functioning political entity.
 
SEANC has no Patsy Keever in sight, and it’s hard to have confidence in a board that stuck with Cope as late as Monday, but at least there is a chance to make SEANC an effective force, rather than just making everybody everywhere mad.
 
In other states, state employees’ associations and unions stand up to government-bashing Republicans. Cope’s strategy seemed to be to bash Democrats when they were in power and bash Republicans when they are in power.
 
It was a hard strategy to understand. Now we get it: It was all about Dana Cope. Eyebrows and all.

 

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10
Before the sun set, the day the legislature returned to town, the Bull Mooses in the Senate had locked horns with Pat McCrory.
 
The Bull Mooses are a gregarious lot but they’re dangerous when crossed and, somewhere along the way, they decided there was a hole in the Governor’s boat when it came to fixing tough problems like cleaning up coal ash ponds or Medicaid.
 
So along with the House they passed a bill that took the coal ash cleanup right out from under the Governor and gave it to an Independent Commission – that the legislators appointed.
 
Of course, none of that sat well with the Governor but he’s cut from a different bolt of cloth from the Bull Mooses: He’s affable and easy-going and would rather avoid a fight than start one but, still, he couldn’t take getting shoved aside lying down – so he sued. It was time, he told a special three judge court, to put the Bull Mooses in their place. By telling them they had violated the Constitution.   
 
That sounded reasonable but it turns out there’s a hole in the Governor’s boat this time, too: Because the folks he wants the judges ‘to put in their place’ also vote to set the courts’ budget and the judges’ salaries.
 
If Pat McCrory’s going to whip the Bull Mooses he may need a bigger hammer.


 

 

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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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