Typepad has been a reliable host for this blog for many years, but yesterday's prolonged outage was the second in about a month. Not good. Neither was the company's communication with customers. Would hate to leave you, Typepad, but will if I must.
Typepad has been a reliable host for this blog for many years, but yesterday's prolonged outage was the second in about a month. Not good. Neither was the company's communication with customers. Would hate to leave you, Typepad, but will if I must.
Jeff Gauger nails it in this morning's column about the defamation suit against local blogger Jeff Martin, aka Fecund Stench, by founders of a local Tea Party group: The core issue is the right of Americans to say terrible things, not the terribleness of the things Martin writes.
Gauger makes a good case that the plaintiffs are public figures. He necessarily rehashes the backstory about strip clubs and sex offenses, facts the controversy has enshrined in Google searches forever.
And he cites some posts the plaintiffs claim to be over the legal line, including a prize-worthy line about Jodi Riddleberger founding Conservatives for Guilford County with “wads of bills still damp from the garters of strippers” and a reference to the imaginary malady of "erectile narcolepsy." These quotes presumably are cribbed from the lawsuit, through which at least some of Fec's material will live on long after the blog itself is gone.
Bonus points to the N&R editor/publisher for including as an example of Martin's scabrous tone his own on-site nickname, "Wet Fart Gauger."
One reader who thought less of the column than I did: Martin, as explained at his new blog.
As part of the settlement terms, Martin would have to agree not to speak publicly about Douglas or Isabella Adkins, or C4GC co-founder, Jodi Riddleberger.
Riddleberger contributes a column to the local daily. Could Martin write an LTE about it? Join a comment thread someone else started about it? Jodi is very active in local politics -- if she said or did something on behalf of CFGC, is that off-limits?
Both Jodi Riddleberger and Isabella Adkins have public Facebook profiles and post frequent photos of themselves, often dressed up in costumes or in formal attire...The settlement terms require that Martin not publish photographs that might be considered private.
"Might be considered private" by whom? Is a photo published on a public profile private?
This thing's got more holes than that book about the kid who had to dig all those holes (it was called Holes).
"I have never been involved at any point with the group in a formal or informal way."
--6th district congressional candidate Mark Walker, in the N&R, backpedaling furiously from his suddenly-toxic supporters in CGGC.
What counts as "informal" involvement? Anyone got pics or docs or anecdata to share re Walker's closeness with the group?
FWIW, I was leaning toward Walker in the run-off.
Good coverage in the N&R of the ready-fire-aim satire lawsuit.
At issue in the lawsuit: satirical blog posts in which Martin mocked the fact that members and financial backers of Conservatives for Guilford County, a Tea Party-inspired political action committee, include the owner of area strip clubs and a convicted sex offender.
Analysis: "[T]he lawsuit’s real damage could be to political candidates associated with the group."
Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who herself has been mocked by Martin’s blog in the past, said he can be crude and insulting — but that’s sometimes the cost of free speech.
“Jeff Martin’s style is parody. It’s satire,” Vaughan said. “Sometimes it’s very funny. Sometimes it’s not. But people didn’t take the things he wrote seriously. This group is only hurting itself with this lawsuit. It’s very ill-advised, just silly really.
Jeff Sykes covers CFGC's war on satire in the new Yes! Weekly:
Martin, who blogs under the pseudonym, Fecund Stench, lampooned Isabella Adkins and the group Conservatives for Guilford County often using a fictional character to relay experiences from the Greensboro strip-club scene.
The character, Tami Tightenloud, was described as a "dwarf, transvestite Hooters waitress" who would often find herself at strip clubs in Greensboro after hours. It was during these fictional encounters that Martin often wrote about members of C4GC.
The plaintiffs' lawyer on his clients:
“They are quiet people,” attorney Culbertson said. "They are not trumpeters of a lot of negativity, unlike other people around here."
The first thing I said to Jeff Martin when he told me he was being sued was that his discomfort, expenses, marriage and livelihood were not my own, and so any advice I might have for him about fighting the suit was of limited value compared to his own needs and feelings.
Still true. So I have to respect his decision to settle and, as I understand it, shutter the Fecund Stench blog and refrain from writing about the Adkins and Riddlebergers in the future.
But, still, dammit.
I hate to see a writer get bullied into silence, especially when his case seems so winnable, and he has ample legal resources and offers of funding at his disposal.
All that said, it's hard to see how this ends up as a win for the plaintiffs and CFGC.
The details of their personal lives and business that have percolated in the blogosphere for some time now will be in the N&R and Yes! Weekly tomorrow, and the damage to CFGC will be real.
The candidate they championed, Mark Walker, will be backing away quickly from their embrace, even as he's asked to explain his financial support of the organization and his relationship to the litigants; it's hard to imagine that attack ads leveraging those relationships are not on the way.
So, lose-lose. Fitting, in a way, but kind of a drag.
Updates on the Fecund Stench lawsuit:
So glad this isn't really happening.
"The collapse of large parts of the ice sheet in West Antarctica appears to have begun and is almost certainly unstoppable."
Fortunately, our state is totally prepared: "After promoters of coastal development attacked a science panel’s prediction that the sea would rise 39 inches higher in North Carolina by the end of this century, the General Assembly passed a law in 2012 to put a four-year moratorium on any state rules, plans or policies based on expected changes in the sea level."
[Updates to this post, including its possible impact on the 6th district congressional race, here]
A defamation lawsuit filed recently pits four members of Conservatives for Guilford County against a no-holds barred blogger in Greensboro.
Douglas Adkins, whose wife, Isabella Adkins is one of the most prominent members of the local political action committee, filed a defamation suit against blogger Jeff Martin of Greensboro.
Jeff Sykes covers the story.
I'm not a lawyer, but I've seen the lawsuit and this looks like a very heavy lift for the plaintiffs.
Fec's stuff is often scabrous (even when it's not written in the voice of fictional transvestite Hooter's waitress Tami Tightenloud, as I believe to have been the case for at least some of the offending posts) but that doesn't mean public figures can shut him up.
At his best, Fecund Stench is Guilford County's own, digital H.L. Mencken (and like Mencken, his use of racial and religious stereotypes can be an issue). At his not-best, duck.
Unfortunately, he disappeared his blog when the suit was served. I hope it can be reconstructed.
I'd expect a legal defense fund to be established for Martin if this goes on much further.
Owning it at last, and taking the fight to Tillis.
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) used her time to trumpet the benefits of Medicaid expansion -- and emphasize the downside of not expanding.
Left unsaid, but strongly implied, was that her opponent, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, who locked up the GOP nomination earlier this week, had been instrumental in stopping the state from expanding Medicaid under the law.
"Last year in North Carolina, our state legislature and governor decided against expanding the state's Medicaid program," Hagan said as she started her questioning, "and as a result, about 500,000 people who would have qualified for coverage through Medicaid are not now able to do so."
Meanwhile, the Tillis campaign this morning sent out a rambling email about Hagan and Obamacare and how Tillis doesn't think Obamacare is a great idea even though Hagan said he does and Hagan is running away from it anyway.
That last part may no longer be the case, which would be great.
A divisive figure in Greensboro politics, Hyde may seem an unlikely choice to lead a major political money operation like Justice for All NC.
Chris Kromm has a gift for understatement.
Seriously, though, who handed Jeff Hyde the keys to such a powerful machine?
Also, nice list of corporate donors to a group responsible for "perhaps the most despicable political advertisement ever aired in the state."
Ten years ago I wrote that "gay people can already have religious services to celebrate their unions at amenable houses of worship, with everything but the ;by the power vested in me by the State...' part. They can enjoy the ceremonial consecration of their relationship..."
One of the heinous things about Amendment One is that it took away that religious freedom, too.
Thanks, United Church of Christ, for taking this to court: "In a novel legal attack on a state’s same-sex marriage ban, a liberal Protestant denomination on Monday filed a lawsuit arguing that North Carolina is unconstitutionally restricting religious freedom by barring clergy members from blessing gay and lesbian couples."
This bit of number-crunching from the post-Nate Silver NYT shows a couple of things:
The voter-turnout analysis certainly looks grim for Hagan -- but the article ignores some key factors that might influence turnout.
Like, say, the long-running and highly-visible protest movement against the GOP regime in Raleigh, and the underlying ire upon which that movement is built. Hagan could well have a more motivated base in 2014 than is typical of off-year elections, and a sophisticated GOTV machine to activate it.
Writer Nate Cohn seems to be looking at statistics in a vaccum (he also ignores factors like the extreme dysfunction of the NCDP, and the influence of outside money). The raw numbers tell a story, but they don't tell the whole story.
Following on yesterday's post about GSO's opportunity to be a part of AT&T's new broadband rollout -- and the importance of that infrastructure to our economic development -- the last I heard is that AT&T is "interested in working with communities that appreciate the value of the most advanced technologies and are willing to encourage investment by offering solid investment cases and policies," and that "Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said Monday she hasn’t heard from AT&T."
I assume she's picked up the phone since then.
Beyond that, what's the plan?
GSO actually did a pretty good job of courting Google during the national contest to host its big fiber network.
That courtship generated serious, sustained attention across the community, with organization at the highest level and energy from the grassroots. A key consideration then was not focusing on what Google could do for us, but what we could do for Google -- and letting the company know, in detail.
Time to get the band back together again.
I didn't see anything about this in Friday's report from the City Manager. That was disappointing.
Madame Mayor, please let us know your plan, and what we can do to help bring this necessary project to town.
This is a potentially tragic turning point in American politics and policy. We are on the verge of turning over the internet – the most important communications system ever invented– to telecoms that grew huge through the government granting them monopoly status. Barring a genuine shift in policy or a court stepping in to ensure fair treatment of captive customers – or better yet, genuine competition – companies like Verizon and Comcast will have staggering power to decide what bits of information reach your devices and mine, in what order and at what speed. That is, assuming we're permitted to get that information at all.
Do we want an open internet? Do we want digital innovation and free speech to thrive? If we continue down the regulatory road pursued by the former cable and wireless industry lobbyist [and FCC chair] Tom Wheeler, all of those good things will be in serious jeopardy.
More here: Why You Should Care.
Worse, when Dan says "the telecom cartel has frantically worked to get state legislatures to prevent [communiity broadband networks] from existing," well, that frantic work was effective in North Carolina. Our econ dev and political leadership in GSO missed an opportunity to build out some rare and important infrastructure while they could.
But we are where we are. And where we are looks somewhat better than it did just few days ago, because we are maybe in line for some serious broadband service from AT&T (caveat: "Before anyone gets too excited, AT&T isn't promising that it will actually build in any or all of these cities.")
And AT&T is making nice noises about competition with the cable giants. So, good.
If it happens.
Kay Hagan needs a really good Get Out The Vote effort to hold onto her seat.
But the GOP has put a lot of resources into catching up with the Democrats in terms of technology. While I'm sure the Democrats have not been standing still, closing tech gaps -- or even leap-frogging them, as the Democrats did between 2000 and 2008 -- is very doable.
And the best GOTV tech won't overcome a lack of enthusiasm.
Here's where Hagan has an advantage some of her Senatorial peers may lack. North Carolina progressives are highly pissed off at the GOP regime in Raleigh. They're looking for reasons to love the moderate Hagan.
She's already running against Raleigh, which is smart.
You know what would be smarter? To run against Raleigh's obstructionist strategy on healthcare.
ACA is yours in this race no matter what, Kay. Owning it is good politics, and good GOTV fodder for the liberal wing of your party.
From an N&R op-ed by Cone Health CEO Tim Rice:
The plan was that states would expand Medicaid coverage to more uninsured people, and hospitals would offset some of their reduced revenue through the increased volume of patients paid for by Medicaid. But North Carolina has not expanded Medicaid coverage, which means Cone Health and others are being paid less while still caring for the nearly 80,000 uninsured in Guilford County alone.
This has had an impact on access to health care in our immediate area. For example, Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine closed a major clinic that provided care for adults and reduced services for infants and children. Our response to the loss of this vital service was to partner with our pediatric teaching service to open Cone Health Center for Children, which will help care for nearly 40,000 uninsured children in our community. We plan to open a facility for adults later this spring. Still, the numbers are daunting. Cone Health provided $245 million last year in care for which we didn’t get paid. That’s nearly $60 million more than the year before. How can we keep that up?
And of course the human costs are even higher than the financial ones.
Greensboro is fortunate to have a strong, locally-controlled health system (disclosure: I am still on its board) and to have had Tim Rice running the show during tumultuous times.
Read the whole article for a sense of the issues facing hospitals -- the two-midnight rule is another tough one -- and some of the local responses to them.
Items listed under the "Issues" tab at KayHagan.com:
Like if they ignore it, it will go away.
As if it's not Kind of a Big Deal Around Here.
I've been banging on the Hagan campaign for months about this.
Maybe they'll listen to the President and the NYT.
Obama: "I think there is a strong, good, right story to tell."
NYT: "When one of those programs begins to do its job, its authors shouldn’t be afraid to say so."
Obamacare is doing pretty well.
The numbers aren't just better than they were this winter, they're better than many supporters of the ACA allowed themselves to hope they would be.
The law is far from perfect. The rollout has not been flawless, either, even beyond the deliberate sabotage inflicted upon it in many states.
But at this point, the unreconstructed failure narrative -- the essential GOP talking point of the past few years, rising in volume with the website fiasco late last year -- sounds like a press conference conducted by Baghdad Bob.
None of which necessarily gets Kay Hagan reelected.
But the good news on ACA -- which is to say, good news on healthcare and good news for millions of Americans -- doesn't just give Kay the green light on those Hal Riney-esque ads I've been pitching.
It creates a nasty wedge issue to use against her eventual opponent.
As noted here, "GOP [...] strategists have started to hint that flat opposition - repeal with no alternative that provides something like the same range of benefits - may no longer be viable from a political standpoint."
My guess is that a lot of hardcore Obamacare-haters in NC are not ready for that reality. So if Tillis is the nominee and mouths some ACA-lite platitudes, the base will be furious; if he tries a harder line, he risks his credibility with the rest of the voters.
And if Tillis is not the nominee, Hagan's chances look better from the start.
Kay Hagan owns Obamacare in this year's Senate campaign, so she should make the most of it.
In February, I wrote that "Obamacare will need to maintain the momentum it's gained for this campaign to work, so pushback ads probably can't run until April."
So, April, and the numbers look pretty good. I'd start running ads now. Feel-good stories about the stuff even GOP strategists know they can't roll back -- families with insurance, people with pre-existing conditions who got coverage, and so on. Positive positive positive. Like an old Hal Riney spot for Reagan, or a Coke commercial.
Meanwhile, Hagan's eventual opponent is about to be the victim of some serious elephant-on-elephant violence, If she's lucky, this will continue into an ugly and expensive run-off. If the GOP survivor is an unrepentant ACA repealer, the changing healthcare narrative presents a problem; if the nominee is more in the Richard Burr Obamacare-lite mold, the base will be furious. (A local version of this drama is reviewed here.)
Last time around, Hagan surprised much of the country by winning a race she was supposed to lose, but it wasn't such a shock if you paid attention along the way. Early days, but it looks like it could happen again.
When Brian Clarey raided his former employer to staff his new paper, Yes! Weekly seemed destined to become a listings rag supported by strip-club ads. Instead, publisher Charles Womack brought in the thoughtful and web-savvy Jeff Sykes to run editorial, and suddenly GSO has three alt-weeklies. None are great right now, but maybe as they find their voices and sharpen their foci we'll see them push each other to new heights. Certainly Uncle Warren's daily could benefit from the competition.
Anyway, Sykes followed up the fight over disclosing salaries at City-funded non-profits with some details on the compensation of Mike Barber, who opposed the transparency proposal. I don't think there's any real a-ha in the relationship between the City, the Wyndham golf tourney, Barber's golf charity, and the proposed Wyndham hotel downtown, but the whole package gives off a whiff of cozy old-boyism (for example, tourney director Mark Brazil is listed as treasurer of Barber's organization on the 2012 IRS form).
It does look like our local chapter of The First Tee spends an awfully high percentage of the money it raises on salaries. Maybe the value the organization delivers justfies the expense ratio; Barber says as much here.
In that same email, Barber makes allegations about public drunkeness by Yes! contributor George Hartzman, which Barber says explains Hartzman's hostility to him. But ol' BS George has been playing this game for years. In fact, he's done some sloppy work re Barber's non-profit at his blog.
First, he words his headline to make it apppear that the total executive compensation listed on the 990 is Barber's personal compensation, although you can see clearly on p. 8 that the total includes compensation for both Barber and his executive director. Worse, his headline number is twice as big as it should be, because he's adding the total compensation to its three sub-components listed in the columns next to it on p. 10 (when he says "$121,458 + $54,041 + $37,230 + $30,187 = $242,916," he really means "$121,458 = $54,041 + $37,230 + $30,187") and, as just noted, he implies that this wrong number goes to one person instead of two. (Mr. Transparency has now edited the post without comment to remove some of his more embarrassing errors, but fortunately the screen-cap above shows his work.)
This incorrect analysis has been parroted already by at least one local blogger, so it would be good to shut it down quickly. Hartzman makes much of his skill at reading financal documents, but any such abilities are not on display here.
Joe Guarino comes out swinging against outside money in the NC Senate race, calling the massive infusion of cash "profoundly wrong and unjust on several levels."
The 17th Amendment to the constitution clearly intends that the people of North Carolina choose their United States Senator. Our extraconstitutional party system determines who the major nominees will be. It is terribly wrong that out-of-state, wiser-than-thou national party bosses have such a disproportionate influence on choosing the state's nominee. This is supposed to be for Carolinians to decide.
To be clear, Joe is pissed about Karl Rove funding Thom Tillis, but I'm sure the same logic applies to those Koch-financed anti-Hagan ads and the general election. (Sidenote: I rarely see North Carolinians refer to themselves as "Carolinians.")
Joe's a Brannon man. I've seen Brannon supporters, like Palin fans before them, say Democrats pay so much attention to their favorites because they fear them. Trust me on this one: North Carolina Democrats are rooting for Brannon just as hard as Joe is. This GOP primary is Kay Hagan's dream scenario; combined with her ability to run against Raleigh and the improving ACA story, her seat looks a lot safer than it did a few months back.
I don’t understand the arguments against Tony Wilkins’ request for more transparency into executive compensation at non-profits that receive money from the City. I know the City already gets reports on total salaries for these organizations, and that it’s easy enough to access individual salary info that’s already public via IRS form 990. I just don’t see how those facts make the request for further data unreasonable.
Does Wilkins know something embarrassing about non-profit pay in GSO, or is he just fishing? Are his colleagues worried about him exposing something in particular, or are they reacting to what they perceive as grandstanding by Wilkins? Neither possibility is a good reason to limit information. If it's really not good policy, someone should be able to make that case.
Not unrelated: Eric Robert has become a valuable advocate for transparency on the DGI board while going beyond showboating to outright hostility toward the downtown Old Guard he seems to perceive as personal enemies. His proposed sunlight measures should be discussed openly (some guidelines for non-profit transparency here and here). Meanwhile, kicking him off the board would make DGI look thin-skinned and uninterested in change, no matter how obnoxious he’s been in meetings and on his blog. And it may be what he wants, in which case making him serve out his term without giving him the thrill of martyrdom looks like an even better plan.
N&R has changed the name of its infotainment feature from "Online Poll" to "Question of the Day."
As long as reporters refrain from pretending the results are meaningful, it's an OK way to engage readers.
I voted "Yes" in today's inaugural version. Wahoowa.
UPDATE: Romenesko on our small victory.
The High Point University chapter of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity had its charter revoked by the board of directors of the national fraternity.
This is the chapter where HPU student Robert Eugene Tipton Jr. was a pledge when he died two years ago. That terrible event led to a recently-filed lawsuit, but national Executive Director Patrick F. Jessee tells me "the decision to revoke the charter was not related to the tragic death of Mr. Tipton or any threats of litigation." Jessee says the board acted on March 17, 2014, prior to the filing of the lawsuit by Tipton's mother, and informed the Delta Zeta chapter six days later.
Other sources close to the HPU chapter say the revocation followed a raucous recent party, which came after multiple warnings to the chapter about unsanctioned activities.
Note re the Tipton case that lawsuits are one-sided documents. That's not a judgement of the suit's merits, just the nature of the beast.
See also this article about frat life and its enablers.
The News & Record runs a feature at its website billed as an "Online Poll." Although it appears to be part of the news coverage, the tool is unscientific: The sample population is self-selected (that is, anyone who shows up can participate) but also limited to people who use computers and visit that particular site at a given time. And it's easy to manipulate: I just voted several times, raising the dark green bar in the image at left, and a coordinated group effort to direct voting could dictate outcomes. This is not a robust method of measuring public opinion, it's infotainment.
So, not great. But things get worse when the results of these pretend polls are touted by the paper's reporters via social media, without any caveats. Now the infotainment is granted a new layer of legitimacy. When veteran journalist Lorraine Ahearn and I said so to N&R reporter Amanda Lehmert on Facebook, re a recent question about GSO's panhandling laws, Amanda and another commenter replied that it's understood that these things aren't scientific. Ahearn's response: "Then stop calling it a poll!"
In fact, I doubt that some readers are quite so numerate as claimed, or that they think much about methodology when they see a paper put its brand on this feature. People do cite the results without any sort of health warnings attached. Meanwhile, the N&R participates in some actual polling, in partnership with High Point University. The casual reader may not differentiate between the two.
All of this is more than inside baseball. It raises questions of accuracy, influence, and ethics. An issue like the panhandling law deserves respectful treatment, as Donna Newtwon and Sharon Hightower said in that same FB thread. By billing this online popularity contest as a poll and having its news reporters pass it along with a straight face, the News & Record risks skewing the public opinion it purports to measure, and in the process it afflicts the afflicted.
Lots of papers run stuff like horoscopes for fun, but you don't see that content in the news hole, or find reporters promoting it to readers. Jeff Gauger should label his pretend poll accurately at the N&R site, and discourage his reporters from treating it as news.
UPDATE: Alert reader Nancy points to the BizJournal, which runs a similar poll but at least adds a note saying, "This survey is not a scientific sampling, but offers a quick view of what readers are thinking." More accurate to say "some readers," but still better than the N&R.
UPDATE: More comments here.
UPDATE: Small victories.
Tonight the Greensboro city council heard nearly a dozen speakers from the floor debate a toothless resolution urging the state to expand Medicaid under the ACA. Then the council members themselves each held forth briefly on the topic before passing it by a predictable 7-2 margin, whence it was dispatched to a circular file in Raleigh.
Former mayor Bill Knight and State Rep. John Blust, both congenial as always, speak in opposition. It’s expensive. No such thing as free money. We have a lot of debt already. Hmm. That’s all true! George Hartzman makes some good points about pricing transparency, negotiated rates, and insurance companies, and also takes an odd little side trip into the economics of abortion and says something inscrutable about the price and value of human life, so, you know, George. And a nice man whose name I miss says the council shouldn’t address the issue because it’s a partisan issue.
Next come a bunch of speakers in favor of the resolution. Rabbi Guttman says non-expansion is hurting people, shutting down clinics and hospitals. Wayne Abraham makes a broad economic argument, Andy Brod a specific one (expansion will help, not hurt, the state budget). Sober words from the League of Women Voters, passionate ones from Rev. Peeples (she follows one sometimes called the great healer). Jay Poole (UNCG, social work) says vulnerable people are forced to use expensive emergency services.
Nice work, speakers from the floor.
Councilmembers speak concisely and well.
Go Greensboro. Sometimes you make me proud.
Jeff Gauger says "many" people wanted a Trader Joe's on Friendly, while rezoning opponents were "few."
If he has any evidence to support these contentions about the relative size of the two groups, he does not offer it in this column.
He also says most rezoning opponents live near the site. Really? Opposition leaders may live nearby, but what evidence does Gauger have for his broad assertion about the demographics of this story? I don't live near the site, and I doubted the wisdom of the plan, as I did the previous attempt to spread retail development west of its current boundary.
Likewise, Gauger says there are many "fans of Trader Joe’s who don’t live close enough to Friendly Avenue and Hobbs Road to care much about more commercial development in that area." So he thinks all oppostion to sprawl is based on selfish NIMBYism and nobody has serious questions about land-use or GSO's profusion of unused retail space unless they can see it out their windows?
Here's an idea: Lots of folks from across the city would welcome Trader Joe's to town, but not at any cost or in any location. Contrary to Gauger's argument, the dispute really was not about the chain, except in the case of passionate advocates of that chain.
Which leads to another problem with the column: Gauger's roster of participants in this drama leaves out one interested party: The N&R itself. He acknowledges criticism of the paper's ludicrous front-page cheerleading for TJ, but makes no effort to justify the embarrassing article.
It's been two years since Gauger's cringe-inducing first column, which he quickly followed with something much worse. Back then, it seemed sporting to give him a bit of credit for being new to the area and not really having his bearings.
What his excuse now?
Early this month, confidential informants told Greensboro Police Officers that the Phongsavanh Oriental Market at 1810 Coliseum Blvd. was selling meth and operating a gambling room in the back of the store.
Interesting stuff, as is what came next.
But so far, the paid press hasn't touched it.
You can see his petition to shut the place down here.
Happy headline from the BizJournal: "High Point University rates perfect score on finances."
But things get weird a few grafs into the article:
Other for-profit and nonprofit schools in the Triad that rated a perfect 3.0 composite score are Leon's Beauty School in Greensboro and Winston-Salem Barber School. Elon University received a 2.8 score and Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem garnered a 2.5.
The local weekly reports this odd grouping of schools without comment.
Other sources are more skeptical:
By the U.S. Department of Education’s standards, a small institute on the verge of collapse in California and numerous beauty schools across the country have lately been in better financial health than any university in the Ivy League.
Poor little Harvard. Your $30 billion endowment gets no respect.
Good news for GSO: Prospect Brands is moving its HQ to South Elm St. It's good news as well for online flamethrower/real-world nice guy Eric Robert, who lovingly restored the old North State Milling Co. building (photo by Lisa Scheer, 2007).
The north end of downtown gets a lot of love, and with big wins like the baseball stadium, Center Pointe (sic), Center City Park, Elon Law, and the planned TPAC, it's enjoyed a run of success that once seemed impossible.
Positive things have happened on the other side of the tracks, too, including the Southside developments, Elsewhere, and CTG. But the southern gateway to downtown has been uninviting and activity there has stalled. Now, with Robert's success and serious plans for a mixed-use campus on the old brownfield site at South Elm and Lee, we may hit critical mass.
South Elm and its cross streets -- an urban area built to human scale -- should be among GSO's greatest assets. Downtown itself is not just another neighborhood or collection of neighborhoods, but our public face and shared public space.
The fact that Prospect is coming without government incentives is great, but downtown's revival has many drivers, including non-profits, developers, investors, government, entrepreneurs, and, if all goes well, education and healthcare. And, of course, people who like to live, work, and play in an urban landscape. It's been four decades since Betty Cone and a small band of stalwarts started what was then a lonely fight to make our city center relevant again, and progress has been uneven and sometimes painfully slow. But good things keep happening there.
Pricey speaks truth to power: Both parties in Raleigh have put water quality at risk for years by favoring big donor Duke Energy.
Duke is not the only corporation to have fought against coal ash regulation.
And coal is not the only industry in this state that throws its weight around at our expense (I'm looking at you, cable).
It took an epic financial crisis to restore some half-ass semblance of banking-industry regulation at the national level.
If the Dan River spill leads North Carolina to better balance monied interests with the public interest, then something good will have come out of the disaster.
Photo by Lisa Scheer, 2007
If productions staged inside the planned GSO performing arts center turn out to be as entertaining as last night's pass-the-popcorn City Council meeting, the place is not going lack for business. Drama, comedy, mystery, star turns...
The envelopes, please:
One of the many good things about GSO's new downtown performing arts center is the amount of private funding it has attracted. The project simply would not have happened without that $35 million investment.
And there's more good news in the details of the private funding: A lot of the money is coming from the quick instead of the dead.
Greensboro has been fortunate to enjoy the strong support of local foundations during a time when our economic fortunes were eroded by globalization, automation, corporate consolidation, and financial meltdown. Those foundations, created with industrial-age fortunes, helped immensely during some fallow years, and they're represented among the donors to the PAC.
But look closely: The two lead gifts, comprising more than 1/3 of the amount pledged, come from living people (Steven Tanger and the Kaplan family, the latter through a foundation). A third big gift comes from the Phillips Foundation, a new player on the scene.
The spirit of philanthropy is alive in Greensboro, and it's backed up with fresh resources.
And because of it, we're going to get a great new facility. Our downtown, which has made enormous progress in the ten years since I wrote this column, is about to get better, with the prospect of the mixed-use campus at South Elm and Lee on the horizon.
There's a lot of work left to do, and we need a few breaks to go our way.
Tonight, though, if the City Council votes as expected, we will have something to celebrate.
1) The problem at hand is unsafe storage of hazardous material.
2) Inadequate regulation in NC is a long-festering issue that has come to a head now because a long-feared spill actually happened.
3) Discussing the problem without mentioning the policies and direction set by the current administration would be pointless.
4) Addressing the deeper question of the state's long-term lack of action, going back through years of Democratic control, would be a great thing to do.
5) An honest examination would mean confronting the reality of corporate political power and acknowledging that regulation is not always a bad thing.
6) That's a conversation I'd love to have.
The NYT article linked at FB and previously at this blog has plenty of vaulable info in it, but it also misses the deeper story about Duke's influence across the decades and across party lines.
Think of every cavalry charge you’ve ever seen in a Western movie; now think of every time all the troopers in the scene were black. Our national myth-making machinery was programmed to elide the truth about the Buffalo Soldiers, but for some reason it reversed itself in the case of the art student from Greensboro.
Here is a PDF of my O.Henry magazine article on Thomas Reese Alexander, a Buffalo Soldier from Greensboro.
The story turns on incorrect newspaper reporting, yet relies on the same now-suspect papers for many of its facts. I tried to find multiple sources, but of course some of these may have been repeating each other, and it all happened a long time ago. I used original documents where possible and think the published timeline is accurate, but I'd be happy for certain items to have an asterisk. And there's probably more out there -- the fate of Britton/Britten, for example, and maybe some understanding of how this 17-year-old from GSO ended up studying art in New York years before the Harlem Renaissance.
I also pondered the question of cultural appropriation and the ethics of challenging the heroic narrative. And I wrestled with perspective. The main character's voice is missing, and many documents I found were written by officers and scholars who tend to be older and whiter than the Troopers themselves. My own point of view got in the way, and I had to remind myself to imagine the city Reese Alexander left more through his eyes and those of his parents, and less as my great-grandfather might have seen it.
Not done with this subject yet.
In recent years, the county’s economic development officials have pushed tourism-related strategies to promote its most enduring assets — the vast forests and miles of rivers for fishing, tubing and boating. Cruelly, now that Rockingham County and idyllic-sounding Eden are gaining national attention...those assets are connected to an environmental disaster. As state health officials warn people to stay off the river below the spill, experts predict the economic losses could reach into the millions.
Justin Catanoso, on the Dan.
"The General Assembly doesn’t like you," an official in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources told supervisors, who had been called from across the state to a drab meeting room here. "They cut your budget, but you didn’t get the message. And they cut your budget again, and you still didn’t get the message."
The only solution is less regulation, amirite?
Make no mistake, the biggest Triad business story this past week — in quite a while — was the news that RF Micro Devices plans to merge with Hillsboro, Ore.-based TriQuint Semiconductor.
I'd quibble only to say that if the combined company is effectively based in GSO, it's not just the biggest business story in the Triad but the biggest story, period.
I keep saying this to people, here and in the physical world, where I've bent the ears of some movers and shakers in the past few days.
I get a lot of polite nods.
I don't think people quite get what this could mean to the region and the state.
It's easy to understand why the RFMD merger matters to the mobile phone industry: It creates a major supplier to one of the most important growth businesses on the planet. And phones are just the beginning -- we're headed into an era of mobile devices and smart machines that will take us far beyond the handsets we use today.
But this is also a huge deal for Greensboro. We need HQ jobs and advanced manufacturing jobs. We need companies to build around as we create a new economic ecosystem to replace the one devastated by globalization, automation, the financial crisis, and corporate consolidation.
NewCo fits the bill on all those particulars. It's the kind of business that could easily attract and sustain other good companies. Along with HondaJet, it's one of the best things we've got going for us.
GSO, Guilford County, and the State of NC should already be working on ways to keep the merged company here and encourage growth around it. This is a very big moment. Please don't blow it.
Let us hope that is the case.
And let's hope that Nancy Vaughan has already sent a congratulatory candygram to Bob Bruggeworth, the RFMD boss who will be CEO of the combined company, and even now is on the phone with Pat McCrory, planning ways to keep the HQ in Guilford County.
This would be an excellent time to focus our state and local economic develpment efforts on a home-grown, high-tech manufacturer.
UPDATE: As reported from Oregon, TriQuint's home, it sounds like a lot of things are up in the air:
“Both Hillsboro and Greensboro will be headquarters, if you will, for a reasonable amount of time – perhaps forever,” [TriQuint CFO Steve] Buhaly said.
The deal does create uncertainty, though, about the future of TriQuint’s Hillsboro factory, known as a fab in industry terms...
“There’s at least equal possibility that the Greensboro fab closes and this one is busier than it is now,” Buhaly said.
GSO should put the money it was going to give "lend" the Civil Rights museum toward the Retain RFMD Fund.
Ronald Reagan is sometimes credited with this nugget of political wisdom: "If you're explaining, you're losing."
Right now GOP Senate hopeful Greg Brannon has got some 'splainin to do.
The candidate favored by Rand Paul, Glenn Beck, and our own C4GC recently was found by a jury to have misled investors in a tech company where he served as a director. Brannon has to pay back $250K, although he says he did nothing wrong and will appeal.
That's good enough for some of his supporters, but it's hard to see Brannon's protestations convincing a lot of GOP primary voters who aren't already in his camp that the Cary obstetrician is not damaged goods. (Brannon isn't the only MD running as a GOP outsider to find himself in hot water last week.)
One person who must be hoping that Brannon survives the primary is Kay Hagan, who is tasked with plenty of explaining of her own over the ACA.
If you are looking for a much more detailed version of the strategy I outlined yesterday ("Force the GOP establishment to put some daylight between themselves and the repeal-only dead-enders, then hammer them on the specifics of maintaining the parts of ACA that people love") you can read one here.
That's the thing about dead ends, they don't leave you any place to go but backwards.
[P]arty leaders have decided on an aggressive new strategy to address the widespread unease with the health care law, urging Democratic candidates to talk openly about the law’s problems while also offering their own prescriptions to fix them.
This is a step in the right direction.
But Democrats shouldn't underemphasize other aspects of the strategy mentioned at the end of the article -- "optimism when talking about the law" and the fact that repeal would be a disaster.
Move the debate to what works and what comes next. Force the GOP establishment to put some daylight between themselves and the repeal-only dead-enders, then hammer them on the specifics of maintaining the parts of ACA that people love.
You could start here. Some of these "older Americans who lost jobs during the recession" live in NC. Put them on TV, now.
Here's an ad attacking Thom Tillis for his alleged stance on health insurance reform.
It's paid for by Patriot Majority USA, a DC-based advocacy group that doesn't want to tell you much about itself but seems closely tied to Democratic leadership and union funding. Complaining about opaque, out-of-state organizations pumping money into this campaign is going to be like complaining about the weather, which is to say common, legit, and useless.
The ad is deemed by people who follow such as things as, essentially, true enough (credit WRAL with a reasonable caveat for the months ahead: "It's hard to imagine any 30-second attack ad on health care getting a clean bill of health.")
As for effectiveness, it does an OK job of reminding North Carolinians that Kay Hagan's presumptive opponent (and, really, any GOP nominee) will either be against the stuff that people unabashedly like about the ACA, or have some not-very-convincing plan to repeal it and fund the popular parts only. This commercial is not as polished as the rival AFP spots, and I'd guess it's not supposed to be. While the anti-Hagan ads carry a dual message -- "Obamacare failed, and, we really do care about reg folks like you" -- this one has a single, blunt point to make.
I'd like to see some Obamacare messages voiced in a more positive way. Show me a guy from Rocky Mount who has coverage despite a pre-existing condition, and a woman from Pineville who was able to leave her job and start a company of her own. Let's hear from some of the surprisingly-large number of North Carolinians who have signed up for coverage in our exchange-free state. Less happy stories work, too -- say, from individuals and institutions hurt by the failure to expand Medicaid -- but those still would be grounded in the intended benefits of the ACA.
Attack ads seem to be effective, so I don't expect them to go away. But I prefer a positive message, and I think it's important for Hagan to stake a claim to the good things she helped bring about.