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I’m just back from a family cruise to Alaska, a trip I highly recommend if you want to see a part of America that is a different world.
(And a big thank-you to the guest bloggers whom I trust kept your interest and blood pressure high while I was gone.)
We saw just a tiny part of this huge place, and it was awe-inspiring: towering mountains, impenetrable forests, mountainous glaciers, rocky cliffs, icy fjords and rivers, icebergs, whales, dolphins, eagles, bears – a feast for the eyes and imaginations.
I understand the draw the place has had for adventurous souls for hundreds of years, although it’s hard to imagine the fortitude of those willing to live in the wildest parts through the dark, frigid winters. And it’s not all cold: Juneau had a milder winter this year than Boone.
(By the way, Alaskans are big believers in climate change. Especially as they watch the glaciers retreat every year.)
Alaska is all about huge spaces. To illustrate: Take your right hand, and make a fist. Turn it upside down. Stick your thumb down and your index finger out. That’s Alaska.
We spent seven days just in the thumb, southeast Alaska. We took the Inside Passage between islands from Seattle up to Ketchikan, Juneau and finally Skagway. Skagway was where the Gold Rush miners in 1898 landed to head into Yukon, most to end up just bone-cold and gold-less, if not dead.
No, we didn’t see Sarah Palin’s house. Wasilla is near Anchorage, up past the thumb. And we couldn’t see Putin rearing his head in Russia. But we were close enough that we’re now foreign policy experts.
It was a great trip, and it’s great to be back. As always with a trip like that, your horizons grow and the petty political concerns back home shrink. But you’re reminded again what a special place North Carolina is, even with Republicans in charge.


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According to the newspaper one super powerful group is going to pick the winner in the Senate race: Women. 
Not money. Or virtue. Or sin. But Women.
Which, of course, if you’re a woman, may sound like floozy flattery. 
Or if you’re a woman, and a tad skeptical, you might be wondering, Why are all these politicians whispering sweet nothings into my ear? 
Could the answer be there’s a serpent curled in the weeds whispering to the politicians, Just tell her she’s got the power to fulfill her heart’s desire – that’ll get you her vote.’

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There are scads of Super PACs running around attacking Thom Tillis or Kay Hagan so one more came as no surprise except when Planned Parenthood said it was going to whack Tillis I thought, Whoever heard of a government-funded group spending $3.3 million on a Super PAC? It didn’t seem quite right. Planned Parenthood spending taxpayers’ money to elect Kay Hagan – so she’d give them more taxpayers’ money.
But then I thought that wasn’t fair – that, after all, the Chamber of Commerce has a Super PAC doing its best to elect Speaker Tillis and what its members get from the government makes Planned Parenthood look like a piker. 
For example, just last month, the local  Chamber spent a quarter million dollars to help Republicans defeat a Democratic Supreme Court judge then, at the Chamber’s behest, Republicans in the State Senate sponsored a law to give pharmaceutical companies (who’re members of the Chamber) a legal pass so they can’t be held responsible when they sell defective drugs.
Super PACs: A new wrinkle in a very old kind of politics.


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Gary is taking a break from blogging. Here's one from a Tapster.
The Senate’s headlong rush this week to jumpstart hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina proves they’ve learned absolutely nothing from the Dan River coal ash spill.

Senate Republicans say they want to create jobs and stimulate home-grown energy, and the sooner the better (especially in case the political world changes and they lose control in NC!) But the chatter around town is the Senate is moving too quickly, perhaps even recklessly, to mess with the state’s groundwater without imposing sufficient regulation and oversight on the front end.

The Dan River spill occurred at the site of an industry which is totally regulated by the state, yet it still happened and will affect that river system for years.

In the afterglow of that spill, North Carolinians understandably are skeptical of their regulators and corporate leaders, which is why the legislature and Mining Commission should take time to reassure the public with a rigorous framework of expectations, requirements, controls and penalties before any fracking pioneers start poking around in our aquifer.

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Gary is taking a break from blogging. In his absence, he asked Thomas Mills to fill in. Thomas blogs at where this article is cross-posted.

Republicans in Raleigh have a problem with their storyline. They keep insisting that North Carolina is on a “Carolina comeback” but nobody’s feeling the benefits--except the rich. They cite falling unemployment numbers but those are just statistics and don’t reflect the reality of people’s lives.
The GOP says that our unemployment rate is lower than it’s been since the recession began and that the state created more than 70,000 jobs over the past year. However, people still aren’t feeling much better. Income is flat and the workforce is still significantly below pre-recession levels despite an increase in population.
Instead, people are seeing the hit to services. In schools across the state, parents are being asked to give more to make up for the cuts that the General Assembly passed. And even as they give more money to their children’s classrooms, they are watching programs get cut. In Chapel Hill-Carrboro, entire programs for gifted children are on the chopping block.
Parents aren’t feeling better about their pockets books. They are feeling insecure about their children’s education. In essence, they General Assembly has passed along a hidden tax since families are subsidizing classrooms to a greater extent.
And contrary to their storyline, the North Carolina economy is not outperforming the nation as whole by any great extent. Our job growth is steady but mediocre at less than 2% and the drop in unemployment rate is due partially to people leaving the workforce.
We also hear about the wonders of tax reform and are told we have more money in our pockets, but most aren’t feeling it. If we are, in fact, paying less taxes, the amount is not noticeable and is certainly not enough set people off on spending sprees. Instead, we’re bracing for more cuts due to a revenue shortfall.
Pat McCrory and the GOP legislature told us they were going to fix government and get our financial house in order. North Carolina would be an economic powerhouse again and sunny skies were ahead. Instead, we have a $445 million hole in our budget, our best teachers are leaving the state and McCrory is talking about more cuts to university system. They can spout statistics ad nauseam but until people are feeling more confident about financial situations and public institutions, their claims will fall on deaf ears.

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Gary’s stepfather, Joe Dickerson, was interviewed by David Crabtree of WRAL last week.  To watch this moving interview, click the link below:

The WRAL story follows:
As D-day anniversary approaches, survivor recounts vivid memories

Joe Dickerson nearly died twice in 1944 – first from a near drowning and then from shrapnel.

Dickerson, 91, a retired U.S. Army sergeant, was at Omaha Beach during the Normandy campaign – the largest amphibious invasion in history. The offensive, known as D-Day, was the turning point for Allied forces in World War II.
Born and raised in eastern North Carolina, Dickerson, then a 20-year-old, led a group of 30 men into battle – many one or two years younger than him.
“They dropped the gate and there were so many getting killed going out the front that I hollered and told them to go over the side of the boat,” he said.
That decision saved several lives but, at 5 feet 7 inches and 110 pounds, nearly ended his.
“I went over the side of the boat and when I did, I went to the bottom,” he said. “I had 60 pounds on me and the water was over my head. Two men were with me...they were 6 feet (tall). If it weren't for them I wouldn't be here today. They pull at my shoulders and pulled me up to keep my head above water.”
Dickerson made it to shore, but then had to make it to the base of the cliffs.
“That was a long 400 yards,” he said.
He crawled inch by inch, his bayonet in front of him while he searched for land mines. Dickerson and two of his men made it to the cliffs, but many were left behind.
“We decided we had to go back and help the guys hurt in the bad,” he said.
Dickerson made the trip back to the water, passing dead and mortally wounded soldiers along the way.
Fourteen of his men didn’t make it.
“Holding a young soldier that was dying...asking for his...mother,” Dickerson said. “’I want,’ he said...’to mother.’ All you could tell him was ‘someday you'll see your mother.’ That was the worst part of it...I think about that often.”
Dickerson was wounded by shrapnel the next day. He was injured three more times en route to, and during, the Battle of the Bulge.
He received four Purple Hearts for his injuries.
The medals, along with many others, are hanging on a wall in his Hertford County home. The more recent came from the French government three months ago.
Dickerson has returned to Normandy several times, the last in 1979. He brought back sand from Omaha Beach.
He uses that sand at the funerals of his Army friends.
“When they say dust to dust and ashes to ashes, I pour this sand on the casket,” he said. “I’m glad I brought it back.”
Operation Omaha is sponsoring a free trip for veterans to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. on June 6 to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
The Triangle group will leave Raleigh on Thursday, June 5 at 1 p.m. and return the following evening. Transportation, hotel accommodations and meals will be provided. Each veteran will be accompanied by a guardian. Family members between 21-65 are encouraged to accompany their vet and the guardian. The trip is funded through donations.
First priority will be given to veterans who participated in the Normandy campaign between June 6, 1944 and August 31, 1944.


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Gary is taking a break from blogging. Here is a post from a guest Tapster:
We recently complained that the State Capitol Police wasted taxpayer money to install a radar gun in one of its cruisers. It seemed absurd that the Capitol Police need this capability when there are plenty of other police organizations to nab speeders.
So, it mystified us when a Capitol Police officer took his lunch break last week at a restaurant in northwest Raleigh that gives law enforcement officers a discount on their meals. We salute the restaurant, and wish more businesses would give a break to these overworked and underpaid heroes (perhaps expand it to teachers!)
But the Capitol Police officer used poor judgment to drive his cruiser to a restaurant five miles from the State Capitol and two miles from the nearest state government building. And, the officer parked around back, out of sight, mostly hidden from the prying eyes of grumpy taxpayers.
It’s frustrating that the officer drove past dozens of affordable downtown restaurants and drove miles from the capitol to get his discount. His response time to a capitol emergency would’ve been seriously delayed, and he further reinforced that the State Capitol Police Department is redundant and burning through state resources that could be better invested elsewhere.

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Gary is taking a break from blogging. Here's a guest blog from Joe Stewart, Executive Director of the NC FreeEnterprise Foundation; a nonpartisan non-profit organization that conducts research on candidates, campaigns and voter attitudes in North Carolina.

Once the match up in the US Senate race was known on primary election night, a reporter asked me what I thought the key public policy issues were that Kay Hagan and Tom Tillis would battle over. 
I said with the volume of ads coming from both campaigns and outside sources, any number of issues will be raised – which will resonate with undecided voters (the key group for both Tillis and Hagan) is hard to predict.

Then this past week I read a news report that leading economists say the Chinese economy may surpass that of the United States as the largest in the world sometime in 2014, two years ahead of previous predictions.
If indeed that comes to pass during the 2014 campaign season, the impact on the collective political psyche of the American public may well cast a long shadow over every other issue.
Media attention given this will be extensive, and how we slipped from the top spot and what it means for our nation’s standing in the world will be hotly debated along partisan lines.

In North Carolina, US Senate candidates should anticipate voters will want answers on how this global shift impacts their ability to provide for their family, and what’s needed to assure the future economic well-being of their children and grandchildren.

After all, even when election year issues are international in nature, all politics tends to be local.

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Gary is taking a break from blogging. Here is a blog from a Tapster:

We wonder if Speaker and Candidate Tillis thinks his opponent in the
fall is the singer Sting: "Every step you take, every move you make,
I'll be watching you."

How can the speaker possibly govern effectively while campaigning for
US Senate and knowing that the Hagan campaign hovers over him like a
drone, waiting to fire a missile at every decision?

This mess creates a climate for two things. One is the possibility for
a screwup when somebody trades campaign favors for legislative
attention.  That's bad, and means jail time for somebody.

The other possibility is actually worse for all of us. It is the great
likelihood that the House does nothing meaningful. Just when the state
needs creative and bold policy action, a smart politico like Tillis
will be so cautious that nothing much will happen this summer on his

All because he doesn't want to get stung.

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When you watch the evening news, you learn two things about people who watch the evening news. First, we vote, because we drown in political ads before elections. And, second, we have every disease and bad health condition known to medicine, especially the pharmaceutical industry.
We’re at risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, arthritis, hemorrhoids, dry eyes, allergies, depression and all the alphabet: COPD, BPH, ED and Low T.
Watching one ad after another will make you feel sick – or like turning off the TV. Even worse are the warnings about possible side effects. The scariest is “suicidal thoughts or actions.”
And then there’s the ever-present specter of the four-hour erection. Let’s not even go there.
So you have a choice when you watch: You can get depressed about the health of the body politic – or about your own health.


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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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