Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This Old State is on vacation

This Old State is on vacation until Sept. 3.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Carter Wrenn on race

One of the best blogs about N.C. politics and national politics is Gary Pearce and Carter Wrenn's blog Talking About Politics at http://www2.talkingaboutpolitics.com/

Some folks think they're an odd couple because they come at it from different places on the political spectrum -- and because they went head-to-head in one of the epic races in American politics, the 1984 U.S. Senate race between Gov. Jim Hunt, the Democrat, and Sen Jesse Helms, the Republican.

A lot of political blood was shed in that bruising, expensive campaign, but Pearce and Wrenn came out of it with respect for one another. Their blog is always interesting,with the kind of insight you get from two political insiders who know where the bodies are buried -- and who put them there.

One such blogpost in particular was Carter Wrenn's recent post about the playing of race cards. Carter knows something about this because -- as he has said in the past -- the Helms campaign and the Congressional Club he used to run used racial images in a ruthless way. His recent posting "A Catch-22 for Obama" was especially interesting on how John McCain cleverly put Barack Obama on the defensive over race.

Rather than give you a link, here's what he had to say in full:

A Catch-22 for Obama
There are two race cards.
One is a no-holds-barred, two-fisted, blunt-edged appeal to race that’s hardly ever seen anymore. These days only a desperate politician, or one bent on suicide, plays that race card.
The other race card is more subtle. It can be as simple as a candidate having a campaign slogan like, “He’s one of us.” A lot of times that’s not racist at all. But other times, subtly, it is.
Because, just naturally, when folks see even a friend who has a strange accent or a different skin color or round eyes, they think, He’s not like me. And then, without even thinking. a shadow of doubt flashes across their synapses about what that difference means, and sets off little alarm bells. Chalk it up to original sin, but that’s the way it is.
When a steel worker in Ohio looks at Barack Obama, then looks at John McCain, one looks like his grandfather and one doesn’t.
Black people look at McCain’s new ad and the pictures of Barack Obama and the two blonde celebrities and say, I know where this is going. I’ve seen this before. White people look at the same ad and say with equal sincerity, Give me a break. That has nothing to do with race.
Blatantly, what McCain is saying loud and clear in his new ad is that Obama’s a shallow rockstar celebrity who’s nowhere near tough enough to be President. And that’s a perfectly legitimate, above the belt, point. But, subtly, a lot of steel workers will also see that ad of Barack Obama, ‘world-class celebrity,’ with 200,000 Germans fawning over him and, just naturally, the message flashing through their retinas is ‘He’s not one of us.’
And Barack Obama seems to recognize that. And he seems to want to talk about it. As if he was walking on eggshells, he said, ‘Look, they’re going to tell you I don’t look like those other guys on the dollar bills.’
Then a shocking thing happened.
He got slammed by John McCain for playing the race card – which must have seemed to Obama pretty odd. Because for 200 years playing the race card has meant getting white people to vote against people like him.
Worse, for Obama, it worked. Without thinking twice, the drumbeat started: ‘Obama’s playing the race card.’
And, even worse for Obama, he’s got to keep on talking about race. Because if he doesn’t his campaign sinks. Because that ‘he’s not one of us’ sentiment is one of the hurdles he has to clear to get elected.
Which means McCain’s attack was pretty darn clever. Or pernicious. Or both. Because suddenly he’s turned the debate on race upside down. McCain says, in effect, I’m taking the high road. I don’t believe race has any place in this campaign. Obama says, That sounds fine, but let’s face it: It is part of this campaign. Then, tying Obama in a knot, McCain says, That’s despicable. You just played the race card.
So even if Obama’s race – like Yossarian’s sanity in Catch-22 – matters, Obama can’t talk about it. Because that’s playing the race card.
That’s a box Obama has to get out of.
posted @ Monday, August 11, 2008 12:10 PM by Carter Wrenn

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A 3/4 billion-dollar political bomb

Here comes another one: A state judge has ruled that state agencies must repay about 3/4 of a billion dollars in fines and civil penalties that should have gone to local school districts for technology. Wake Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ruled Friday that the agencies owe local schools $747.9 million dollars. The list includes the Department of Revenue,$583 million; the Department of Transportation, $104 million; UNC system campuses, $42.4 million; Employment Security Commission, $18 million; and several others that owe less than $100,000.
Manning's order did not specify when the money must be paid. But this does not come as good news for either Democrat Bev Perdue or Republican Pat McCrory, who are vying to be the next governor and who, along with the 170 state legislators, must figure out how to pay the money back. This has happened before,when the court system ordered the state to repay moneys in several retirement funds cases. It means the next governor potentially starts his or her administration in the hole -- at a time when the economy is declining and revenue growth is slowing.
This case has been winding through the courts for a decade. The N.C. Supreme Court made the decision that the money should have gone to the school. Judge Manning's order determined how much.

A first faint reminder of fall

The good news from Raleigh is that it's safe to go outside again. After a hot summer with heat waves in June, July and early August and a hellish humidity that made outdoor life miserable, the best place to be was inside. Over the past few days the humidity has diminished, the temperatures have moderated and this morning there was a distinct touch of cool in the morning air.
When the French Brittany spaniel Sadie and I walked this morning a little after 5 a.m., a gentle breeze harkened up memories of September. When we made the turn up the hill at the Mile of Maples on Millbrook Road, I saw an old friend that I haven't spied in month: Orion the Hunter was out, hanging in the eastern sky -- a sure sign that the summer will indeed end after all and a new season begin. It cannot come soon enough.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

What a waste

What a waste. When John Edwards decided to get into N.C. politics and came from nowhere to win the 1998 U.S. Senate race here, a lot of folks thought he might become a great U.S. Senator, knuckle down to representing the interests of working folks in North Carolina, pay attention of business and build tenure in Washington. It's the kind of thing that Sam Ervin and Jesse Helms understood: Become a long-term presence in Washington and you have a chance to have long-term impact on policy.
And it seemed that Edwards had a winning approach. He ran as a Southern moderate with a strong populist appeal, and it appeared he was in line to become a Senate rainmaker. Alas, that hope began waning just a few years after he was elected, when Edwards began pursuing a spot on the presidential ticket. After a promising early start in the Senate, where it looked like he might have an impact on the health care debate, Edwards committed to national politics and seemed never to look back. His politics turned leftward, and he lost some support in North Carolina he once had among voters who in 1998 saw him as a new and independent voice.
Still, he retained a hard core of N.C. supporters who believed in him and his message, and who today are expressing their anguish on the Internet over what they see as a betrayal -- of his wife, of his party, of those who worked hard in his behalf and of the truth they once thought Edwards would champion.
What a waste.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Biotech honcho on big grant: No thanks

Remember back in mid-July when questions were raised whether the GoldenLEAF Foundation, financed with money from a national tobacco settlement, ought to grant a quarter of a million dollars for an educational campaign to help make the case for a new biotechnology lab in Granville County? The foundation approved the grant despite questions whether it met the foundation's goal of assisting tobacco-dependent communities and economically distressed areas.
The money was meant to help straighten out what proponents believe is widespread public misunderstanding about the National Bio and Agro-Defense Lab -- a controversial proposal that has a lot of organized opposition. The Department of Homeland Security is considering five sites nationally for the new facility. Here's a link to a July 16 blog about it.

Today's News & Observer has an interesting twist in this story. Jonathan Cox reports that the N.C. Biotechnology Center, which would administer the grant and which actively supports the new lab, has turned the money down. Former state Rep. Norris Tolson, who's also a former state secretary of commerce, secretary of transportation and secretary of revenue department, wrote GoldenLEAF President Valeria Lee, "Taken as a whole, the proposed agreement vests Golden LEAF with such involvement and decision-making power over the details of the project that it ceases to be a grant supporting independent, objective work and analysis," Cox reports in his story. Here's a link to the N&O.
Not many folks in government will turn down a grant like that. But Tolson is not your ordinary public official. He's a straight shooter who looks at things with a critical eye. That's why Gov. Jim Hunt put him in charge at DOT when things were coming unraveled at the end of his last administration. Tolson cleaned up some messes there -- not always appreciated by those who liked the old way of doing things.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Most popular N.C. tourism spots?

It's high summer in this old state and the last few weeks of summer vacation for many families before school resumes in late August. Even with the high price of gas, a lot of folks wouldn't miss the chance for some time at the beach or the cool breezes of the N.C. mountains.
What would you say are the most popular counties for tourism? While I'd have to rank my favorites as Hyde and Carteret in the East and Buncombe and Swain in the West, they aren't among the leaders. The urban Piedmont counties of Mecklenburg, Wake and Guilford are -- at least on dollars brought in from tourists during 2007.
Here's an excerpt from the Commerce Department's latest compilation reporting $17.1 billion in tourism revenue:
• Mecklenburg County led all North Carolina counties in tourism revenue, receiving more than $3.4 billion in domestic travelers’ expenditures. Wake County ranked second with nearly $1.5 billion, followed by Guilford County with close to $1.1 billion.
• 33 counties each received more than $100 million in domestic travelers’ expenditures in 2007.
• 33 counties reported 1,000 or more jobs directly supported by domestic travelers during 2007.
• Nash County had the largest percentage increase in visitor spending, a 12.7 percent gain or $25 million. Of the state’s larger tourism destinations, Wake County showed the greatest increase, 10.7 percent or $143 million.

What's your favorite N.C. place to vacation, and why?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Nuggets along the campaign trail

McCrory: Let's meet; And Obama's tipping point

Two items of political note caught my eye this afternoon.
One of them is an interesting idea from the McCrory campaign for governor -- a proposal for a public meeting to discuss the assertions in a new independent campaign ad by a Democratic group backing Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue against Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the Republican nominee. The offer comes in a press release from the McCrory camp: McCrory to Perdue: Let’s change tone of campaign by discussing negative ad charges face-to-face. McCrory suggests a forum at Wake Tech. Here's a link to the McCrory campaign suggestion.
The chance of that discussion is slim, as are these kinds of unilateral proposals in the heat of a political campaign. But given the recent outburst of independent campaigns at work in this race -- with a Republican Governors Association-backed PAC helping McCrory and a Democratic Governors Association-backed PAC helping Perdue, voters in North Carolina might like a discussion that probes into what these outside campaigns -- which by law cannot coordinate their work with the candidates and their own committees -- are up to.
Perdue has agreed to five "debates" in the general election -- one of which has already been held and another is coming up Aug. 19 at WTVD in Durham.

The other item that caught my eye is an e-mail from Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling with this:" A new analysis by Public Policy Polling shows that it would take a North Carolina electorate that is 23% African American to put Barack Obama in the lead based on the current polling."
That "tipping point" would push Obama past Republican John McCain, and African-American registration is growing. Here's a link to PPP's thinking on this topic.