Edwards and Iowa

If John Edwards wins Iowa, it’ll be because of one reason – he worked for it.
The Midwest is much more about “do” than “say” and folks a lot more interested in who you are than who you say you are. Perseverance, determination and taking time to learn the issues are greatly respected among Iowa voters. And they’ve learned a bit over the years about looking beyond the chatter and to the person. Edwards has spent a lot of time there and it is likely to pay off, but not because CNN, McClatchy or some other media outlet says he’s surging and the Iowans are getting on board. While most of the media seems to be covering a horse race in a distant galaxy, Iowans have been more focused on picking a presidential candidate.

Lots of luck

Once or twice a year, usually on long road trips, I buy a scratch off ticket. I think I’ve bought an NC lottery ticket twice, both times sure I was feeling lucky. That’s it. Sorry.

It looks like I’m not alone. The lottery’s recent effort to drum up enthusiasm has been another disappointment. Not that they’ve proven they can’t even run a decent raffle, we can expect a series of proposed “fixes” to our lottery system. Hints of that are these comments from Tom Shaheen via a story on WRAL:

Shaheen said promoting the lottery with no more than 1 percent of sales is difficult.

“We’re able to get some advertising with restrictions, and we work within these guidelines,” he said.

I like how this store manager responds to that:

JoAnn Dryman, an assistant manager at a Raleigh convenience store that sells lottery tickets, said more frequent payouts, which the lottery now promises, will provide the needed promotion to build sales.

“It’s still better across the state line,” Dryman said. “It could be better (in North Carolina), but I think he has made a step toward the right direction.”

So, will the legislature get in there and allow the lottery to splash more ads around? Ad limits were a worry at the outset, but it made it easier for some House members to vote for it.  Get ready for round two.

Higher Ground

Higher ground

This county is no more awash in illegals than it was at another time “awash” in Italians, Irish and Germans. If it is awash in anything, it’s in racist and dangerous rhetoric contrary to the highest principles on which it was founded.

Occasionally, this column has joined the attempt to inject some simple sanity into the increasingly polarized debate over this country’s policies and attitudes about immigration.

And as the presidential election nears, and the hyperbole and the hate speech jacks up, the need for a little clear thinking is waxing.

Credit Marisol Jiménez McGee, advocacy director of El Pueblo, who, with a child due in a little more than a week, recently gave a powerful, laser-sharp analysis of what has become this nation’s key conflict.

It was, in my mind, the single best speech, talk or utterance I’ve ever seen on the subject and the points she made are worthy not just of repeating, but ought to be inscribed on a set of handy, wallet-sized cards for anyone looking for how to knock down some of the blunt, extremist arguments you hear cascading into mainstream dialogue.

Speaking last week before an audience of progressive Democrats at Chapel Hill’s Community Church, Jiménez McGee offered an analysis of the new “war of attrition” against immigrants.

Quoting the leaders of this new movement (coming soon to a community college, a social service agency, hospital or an employer near you), Jiménez McGee said that since “loading them up on boxcars” isn’t practical, the idea is to starve them out – to deny the undocumented access not just to social services but to the basics of our society, like a sound education and equal protection.

Such efforts, by tradition, require a bit of “dehumanizing” of The Other, such as a popular online game that allows you to assume the role of a border patrol vigilante shooting drug dealers and/or “breeders” – the icon for such being that of a woman with children in tow.

Meanwhile, the federal government’s push to make local police and sheriff’s deputies enforcers of immigration laws pushes people farther into the shadows, making them reluctant to report crimes and allowing criminals in their communities to flourish unchecked by the safeguards enjoyed by the rest of us.

The system is broken, Jiménez McGee said plainly, but it won’t self correct.

The way the laws are crafted now, someone who’s been here and wants to “get legal” would have to return to their country and get in a line roughly 12 to 15 years long.

And now that the federal government has decided to simply walk away from immigration reform, state legislatures that had been on hold while waiting for the feds will cut loose. It is, after all an election year.

Like the civil rights movement of the last century, which by necessity is still, well, necessary, resolving the moral and legal issues around immigration won’t wait for politicians, business leaders and polite society to work things out. Like the civil rights struggle, law and economics and the basic guarantees of human rights are in profound disagreement. Just as it was under Jim Crow, an underclass has been created, one full of individuals who are only permitted limited participation in society and are disenfranchised politically just as hardily as they are exploited economically.

This era, probably this election cycle, marks a turning point for our political parties and institutions.
For the Republicans, this is the party’s Voortrekker moment, its wagons circling as it embraces an apartheid that would institutionalize the underclass for the sake of their friends in the corporate class.

Like apartheid, it comes at a heavy price for both the dignity of the oppressed and the soul of the oppressor.

For the Democratic party, this is a pivotal moment. Buying into the rhetoric, even a bit, means turning its back on its social justice past and returning deeper into its history – to its darkest days. This is not, as one party official recently opined, “a second-term issue for a Democratic president.” There’s a war on. And its time is now.

Print column closing

Since starting the daily grind of putting out a weekly newspaper, I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether/when/how to end the weekly print column, which runs in The Citizen, here in Carrboro and Yes! Weekly in Greensboro.
Hem: It’s kinda the opposite of blogging – boiling things down and being non-newsy because deadlines are such that you can’t be.
Haw: Hey, it’s beer money.
Hem: Blogging a bunch of things first and building a column from the posts is a cool idea.
Haw: Who has time to reconstitute all that stuff?
Hem: The online and print world must merge someday!
Haw: In reality, the goals/mission of a print column and the goals/mission of a blog are different.
Hem: Having a a print column is very prestigious.
Haw: Sure, unless it starts to suck.
Hem: Um . . .
Haw: Beer money

While all this deep thinking was going on Mr. Womack called and settled things by offering to let me out of my contract saying Yes! is making a few changes and won’t be needing my services in 2008.
We had a nice talk about newspapering and such and it was a swell end to a decent run of typing.

So, since the beer money has dried up, that’s that.


News on the Speaker’s illness

This from Speaker Joe Hackney’s office:

Speaker Joe Hackney had his prostate removed this morning at UNC Hospitals. Doctors found prostate cancer this fall during a biopsy prompted by elevated PSA levels. Hackney, 62, is expected to be released from the hospital this weekend and will recuperate at home with his family during the holidays. His doctors do not expect that he will need additional treatment.

“He’s doing fine. His prognosis is excellent, and he is expected to make a full recovery,” said Dr. Eric Wallen, the urologic surgeon who performed the procedure.

Prostate cancer strikes 1 in 6 men in the United States. Hackney encourages all men to have regular prostate screenings, as he has, to detect malignancies early, when they are most easily treated.

We wish him a speedy recovery.


Bill Gross says we’re in a recession.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. economy this month has fallen into a recession, which should last for the next four to five months, Bill Gross, chief investment officer of the world’s largest bond fund manager, told the Financial Times.

Catch all the action here.

TWC: Blue Yodel No. 171

Blue Yodel No. 171
Randy Parton said it best the night he was told to leave his namesake theater. Speaking to a couple of reporters upon exit, Parton – brother o’ Dolly – noted that he’d fulfilled his obligations to the City Of Roanoke Rapids and then neatly summed up in a pissed-off-country-singer kind of way the state of what was once touted as Branson East.

“You see anything else out here?” he snarled.

Indeed, sport.

Parton was, save a Tuesday Christmas show with Charlie Daniels, the only thing on the schedule in the only building in a complex meant to rescue another beleaguered mill town from economic gloom.

Now, thanks finally to the release of expense records, the taxpayers are learning a little more about what Mr. Parton did with his free time and the folks that cut the deal with him are shocked, shocked, that there was high living and tomfoolery afoot.

So they canned him and called him names. There will be lawsuits flying before long and my hunch is that “Take This Job and Shove It” got added to Parton’s set.

And while the city fathers will try to pass off some surprise at what was happening, this relationship was headed for a heartache from the beginning.

A look at Exit 171 on prestigious Interstate 95 where sits the Randy Parton Theater reveals exactly the kind of not much that the singer referred to. This may be an interstate exit ready to hit the big time, but not this year and not anytime soon. No, it is not yet, as one press release put it, a “music and entertainment venue that will become a nationally-recognized travel destination for our state.” No, for now this is another boondoggle you can pin at least in part on some star-struck local leaders, but mainly on this state’s provincial patchwork of economic development “partnerships” – a system that rewards the politically connected and well-heeled, but rarely dreams big for the rest of us. (One may recall that the Tall Ships fiasco in 2005 was championed by a similar regional partnership.)

There may be folks involved who really, truly believed that the first phase of the “quality, family entertainment venue” on Exit 171 would directly create 2,595 new jobs and millions in new revenue rolling into Halifax County, but it was clear that those folks, along with the people charged with its oversight and analysis, were not tethered to this earth.

In announcing the deal a couple of years ago, the state’s Northeast Regional Partnership noted that the project was supported by findings from a consultant and a study by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Center for Competitive Economies, which according to the partnership estimated the music theme park would have an overall economic impact to the state of more than $500 million and would lead to 12,250 jobs.

But when you’re filling the roles of both booster and oversight, it’s easy to make the numbers dance the way you want them. Until the state, which created these partnerships, steps in and reforms the structure, this won’t be the only blue yodel for the taxpayers.

EJS: Dec. 6

Backblogin again.
From the column on December 6

The Guv gets it
Affix blame, if you would, firmly with the campaign class – the pollsters, consultants and money folks – and shame to the candidates who listen to them. I’m talking about the reaction of our gubernatorial candidates to a ruling that allows undocumented immigrants the opportunity to a community college education in the state of North Carolina.

Immigration is the new gay and thanks to the steady work of demagogues, those afeared of being “soft” on immigration are trying to outrun each other to whatever quadrant political game theory says is safest. Read more