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28
The other day when one of the bureaucrats over at the Department of Health and Human Services slipped up and made a mistake, the blame landed squarely on Secretary Aldona Wos’ shoulders. And Wos landed back on the front page of the newspaper again.
 
Secretary Wos had a tough year. And Governor McCrory ought to cut her a break. She’s suffered enough.   Out of old-fashioned kindness the Governor ought to give her his blessing to return home to the happy life she led before she accepted the worst job in North Carolina.
 
Then, when he replaces her, the Governor ought to pick the person he likes least on earth – and allow them the pleasure of heading the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

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28
The internal politics of the North Carolina Democratic Party are a mystery to me, so I’m lost when people ask, essentially, “WTF is Randy Voller up to?” So I refer you to an insightful piece by an observer I trust: Bob Geary with Indy Week.
 
Geary begins: “After a stormy year as state Democratic Party chair, Randy Voller should step down for the sake of his party's candidates and North Carolina. I say this knowing that he won't, because Voller sees himself as a visionary leader—but he can't see that he's hurting Democratic prospects for 2014.”
 
And Geary concludes with a spot-on observation about a party chairman’s duty: “In election years, the job is to elect candidates—not be the story instead of them.”
 
Amen. The future of Democratic candidates – not to mention that of North Carolina, the nation and the free world – might depend on whether the party’s executive committee remembers this admonition when it meets March 9.

 

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27
Your eyes may glaze over reading about the McCrory administration’s plan to reform Medicaid. But this may pop your pupils: It adopts a key feature of Obamacare.
 
Like the Affordable Care Act, DHHS’ new and improved Medicaid plan depends on an animal called “Accountable Care Organizations.”
 
One health expert describes ACOs this way: “One of the main ways the Affordable Care Act seeks to reduce health care costs is by encouraging doctors, hospitals and other health care providers to form networks to coordinate care better, which could keep costs down. To do that, the law is trying a carrot-and-stick approach in the Medicare program: Accountable Care Organizations.”
 
Compare that to the N&O’s description of DHHS’ Medicaid plan: “Instead of pursuing managed care, DHHS proposes that hospitals, doctors and clinics form networks called accountable care organizations, an option that state health care groups publicly supported.”
 
So a tip of the hat to Governor McCrory’s administration for recognizing the good features of Obamacare.

 

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25
Immigration, the newspaper says, is ‘bedeviling” Congresswoman Renee Ellmers. It’s also bedeviling Speaker John Boehner. And half the Republicans in Washington. 
 
It’s a knotty problem.
 
Part of the politicians have decided it’s best to send every single illegal immigrant back to where they came from – but no one’s quite sure how to go about rounding up 10 to 20 million people. 
 
Another group of politicians, who’re mostly Democrats, want to make all the illegal immigrants citizens. 
 
And, as  a sort of compromise, a third group of politicians propose to let the illegal immigrants stay here but not make them citizens.
 
It gets more complex.
 
Groups like the Farm Bureau say they desperately need workers and without illegal immigrants the crops won’t get picked.
 
And, to make it more complex still, amid all this hollering, no one’s answered a couple of questions.
 
For instance, how, in the middle of a recession with high unemployment, is there a lack of workers? Is there really no one to hire? Or are the farmers simply looking for cheap immigrant labor?
 
Farmers have given their answer to that question loud and clear.
 
But isn’t there an independent study by Harvard or North Carolina State that proves it’s a stone cold fact unemployed workers won’t touch a job on a farm with a ten foot pole?
 
There’s another question.
 
Out of the ten million or so illegal immigrants living here now there must be at least one who’s a saint. Or genius. 
 
Should we deport saints and geniuses?  Or let them stay here?
 
There’re also bound to be some thugs and gang members among the illegals. If we make everyone a citizen, what do we do about them?
 
The politicians are treating illegal immigrants as a class which is a lot simpler than treating people as individuals – but wouldn’t it be more practical to ship the ne’re-do-wells home and allow the saints and geniuses to stay?
 
Sorting out the good guys and bad guys would be another complex problem but, instead of answering tough questions, all we hear is politicians howling: Keep ‘em all here. Send ‘em all home.

 

 

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25
This poll result caught the eye: “Obama at 42 percent approval in NC, McCrory at 36 percent.” Yes, the Governor’s approval rating was lower than the President’s in a High Point University poll.
 
Now, a big caveat: The poll was of all adults, not just voters. The results might be different among voters alone. Of course, McCrory probably would do even worse in a poll of grocery store cooks and clerks.
 
The point is that, GOP bluster to the contrary, North Carolinians don’t hold McCrory in much higher esteem than Obama.
 
Looks like Democrats need a massive voter persuasion and turnout program this year.

 

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24
Even Governor McCrory’s critics were ready to move on, but he won't, for reasons that are unfathomable. Instead, he takes time out of his (we assume) busy schedule to write a letter to the Charlotte Observer about his now-famous encounter with a cook at a gourmet food store.
 
The letter tells us a lot more than McCrory intended. It tells us that he cannot take the slightest bit of criticism. No slight is too small to offend him. He comes off as silly, petty and self-pitying.
 
He should just let it go. Somebody around him should say, “You are the Governor of North Carolina.  He is a cook. You’ve got more important things to do.”

As the Governor himself said in his letter, “North Carolinians deserve better." Indeed.

 

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21
The number floated up off the page and hung shimmering in the air in front of my eyes: 580,834.
 
Surprised, and curious, I clicked on the computer, then stared at another number that looked dreary in comparison: 345.
 
580,834:  The number of people who have watched Clay Aiken’s video since he announced for Congress.
 
345:  The number of people who have watched Congresswoman Renee Ellmers’ last video.
 
Of course, Republicans are reeling in the face of this phenomenon.
 
How many, one said to me, of those 580,834 people live in the 2nd District? Those are people who read the Hollywood Reporter – not the News and Observer.
 
That’s fine – but, politically, that’s not the end of the story.  
 
What if a fraction (1%) of those 580,834 people send Clay Aiken a contribution of $100 – that’s $580,834?
 
When a celebrity abandons fame and fortune to run for political office the normal rule book flies out the window.  For example:   
 
38 years ago, next month, Ronald Reagan (an underdog running against Gerald Ford) flew into Greensboro, climbed onto a bus and for two weeks before the Republican Primary rolled through the small towns and rolling foothills of the Piedmont.  And each time that bus stopped in town squares, farmers and housewives and mill workers turned out in droves not to hear a candidate for President but to see the first movie star ever to roll into Wilkesboro or Morganton or Gastonia.  And an hour later, after Reagan finished speaking and he climbed back onto the bus, they’d been converted.
 
Of course, today a fellow doesn’t have to roll through town squares – we’ve invented this little widget they didn’t have back in 1976 called the Internet with little add-ons like YouTube so people can sit at home and watch videos. 
 
The Internet’s also the greatest rumor mill ever invented and the other day the gossip was flying with people claiming The National Enquirer’s in Raleigh doing a expose on Aiken. There’s a video of Aiken in a Kasbah.  In a bordello.  In a gay-chat room.  Aiken’s broke.  His records don’t sell.  He’s a washed up singer running for Congress.
 
Four years ago, Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge handed Renee Ellmers a victory in a district a Democrat should have won. Then the State House handed her a district where a Republican should win. But now, she’s landed in a different world where the old rules no longer apply – which doesn’t mean she will lose but does bring a litany of earthshaking new realities.
 
This isn’t going to be a normal political race.  Old-standards – like the advantages of incumbency – no longer hold.  Just consider one change:  Clay Aiken is going to receive more press attention and scrutiny than any Congressional candidate ever in North Carolina. And so will Renee Ellmers.  No stone will be left unturned. 
 
580, 834 means this race is going to be on the front page of the newspaper – day after day.


 

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21
The 14 men seated on the front row were in or closing in on their 10th decade on earth. Some of them were bent and wheelchair-bound. A couple were spry and alert. Several had trouble hearing, even when their names were called and their courage recounted.
 
Seventy years ago, they were young men. Boys, really. Eighteen, nineteen years old, maybe in their early twenties. They went to war. They fought in combat in France. They liberated Europe. They defeated the Nazis. They saved civilization from savagery.
 
This week, in a ceremony at the State Capitol, the oft-reviled French thanked them. The French consul general in Atlanta bestowed his government’s Legion of Honor on the 14 North Carolinians. His news release said the ceremony was “to express France’s eternal gratitude to those who liberated it from oppression from 1944-45.”
 
Senator Josh Stein, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Governor Pat McCrory spoke, and spoke well. The consul general struggled with the language and pronunciations, but was heartfelt.
 
Still, no words could do justice to those 14 men, what they did and what they experienced.
 
One of them is my stepfather, Joe Dickerson, whom I’ve written about before. Joe was in the first wave at Omaha Beach. For three months, he fought across France, Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg. On Friday, October 13, 1944, between Aachen and Julich, in Germany, he was crawling through a wire fence when a German 88 shell exploded, killed the buddy beside him and wounded Joe in the arm and head. He woke up a week later in a field hospital. They shipped him home for a long recovery. He was awarded a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for heroism. He received a Purple Heart with four Oak Leaf Clusters. That means he was wounded five times in combat. He has so much metal in his arm that airport scanners go berserk when he gets close.
 
Joe went on to be a successful businessman and civic leader in Murfreesboro. He’s a quiet, modest, great-grandfather today. You struggle to see him dragging the wounded, bleeding but still living, out of the water on D-Day, under withering fire all the time. Or fighting hand-to-hand with German soldiers. Or taking out three tanks with a bazooka.
 
And there were 14 stories like his Thursday.
 
Secretary Marshall noted that they are called the Greatest Generation.  They are also, she added, “tough old birds.”
 
In a blog that celebrates politics, democracy and free speech, their names deserve our attention and respect:
 
-      George F. Tyson Jr, from Mebane, NC (Ret. Colonel, L Company, 399th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division)
-      John Salop from Charlotte, NC (Commander, USS. Charles F. Hughes)
-      Allen D. Evans from  Chapel Hill, NC (Staff Sergeant, Headquarters Battery, 76th Field Artillery Battalion)
-      Gerald M. Anderson from Pinehurst, NC (Sergeant, 16th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division)
-      Jessie O. Bowman from Granite Falls, NC (Sergeant, 345th Regiment, 87th Infantry Division)
-      Carl R. Britt from Conway, NC (Sergeant, 274th Infantry Regiment, 70th Division)
-      Donald F. Johnston from Cary, NC (Sergeant, Company L, 410th Infantry Regiment, 103rd Division)
-      Joseph H. Collie from  Durham, NC (Corporal, Company B, 397th Infantry)
-      James W. Toffton from Rock Mount, NC (Corporal, 555th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion)
-      Norwood McKoy from Wilmington, NC (Technician 5th Grade, 192nd Chemical Deploy Company)
-      Joseph Q. Dickerson from Murfreesboro, NC (Private First Class, Company E, 116th Infantry)
-      Richard L. Hammel from Murfreesboro, NC (Private First Class, 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment)
-      Paul E. Haney from Reidsville, NC (Private First Class, 80th Cavalry Reconnaissance troop)
-      James F. Sansom from Cary, NC (Private First Class, 1560th Service Command Unit Station Complement).

 

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20
Governor McCrory was checking off his 2014 Reset List. Teacher pay plan: check. Televised command presence in snowstorm: check. National face time on Face the Nation: check. New communications director: check.
 
Then a river of sludge called coal ash starts gushing out of a facility owned by his employer of 28 years. Then a U.S. attorney starts issuing subpoenas. Then a cook with a ponytail gets mouthy and the Governor gets blamed for getting him fired – and for being thin-skinned.
 
Now, even some of McCrory’s fiercest critics say the cook deserved to be fired. After all, he wasn’t – as the Governor would say, “customer-friendly.” And McCrory’s allies note that the DENR subpoenas also cover Governor Perdue’s time in office. Unfortunately for McCrory, she’s no longer in office and in charge.
 
This all just shows how, despite all their efforts to control the agenda, politicians often find themselves controlled by events. How they respond is the difference between triumph and disaster.
 
The Governor could have shrugged off the cook. Or sensed trouble when DENR Secretary John Skvarla vowed to spend two or three hours answering questions about the coal ash spill.
 
Instead, Skvarla beat a hasty retreat after one hour, with reporters shouting questions at him as he walked off stage.
 
So the Governor might be adding one more item to his list: Keep Skvarla away from the cameras.

 

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20
John Drescher down at the News and Observer hit the nail on the head last week when he wrote:  ‘Steve Beam needs a boss.’
 
What’s happened to Mr. Beam (the Director of the Raleigh Housing Authority) isn’t unusual. He’s got a government job and a political board with political goals.  No one spends his own money. No one pays for his mistakes.  Instead the bills land on the taxpayers’ doorstep.
 
That’s one glitch.  Here’s another:  After over a decade in office, like Billy Ray Hall of the Rural Center, Mr. Beam runs his board – it doesn’t run him.  He takes eleven weeks of vacation a year – which is more than Mr. Hall.  State auditors reported to Hall’s board that his $221,000 salary was ‘unreasonable’ – Mr. Beam makes $280,000 and his board thinks that imminently reasonable.
 
John Drescher’s point is simple:  Mr. Beam needs a boss – and he suggests Beam’s boss ought to be Raleigh’s City Manager.
 
That would be a step in the right direction. But it may come up a bit short.  So why not get the question out of the hands of the bureaucrats and politicians entirely.  And put it to a vote.  Let’s hold a simple referendum on the ballot this fall and let voters decide: Should Raleigh’s Housing Authority Director earn $280,000 a year and receive eleven weeks vacation?
 
That should settle it.

 

 

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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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