Thursday, May 29, 2008

A dumb dunkin'

Wear a scarf at your own risk these days if you’re going to appear in an ad on the internet.

Food Network star Rachael Ray donned one to hawk Dunkin’ Donuts new iced coffee and conservative bloggers screamed jihadist. The ad got dunked, and Ray's image is taking beating as well.

Is Ray pushing terror by wearing something that may or may not look like a keffiyeh, the traditional scarf of Arab men? That’s what blogger Michelle Malkin says.

Or, is the whole thing moronic, as blogger David Kiley writes.

Is there any doubt?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Beam me up, Scotty

Scott McClellan, former White House press secretary and longtime Bush loyalist, says President Bush used propaganda, not facts, to sell the Iraq war.

In a soon-to-be-released memoir he accuses the president and his top advisers of deceit and secrecy.
McClellan writes:

“I still like and admire President Bush. But he and his advisers confused the
propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally
needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war. … In this
regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those
involved directly in national security.”
Really. How about that?
Is anybody surprised?
Why did McClellan, who left the White House in 2006, wait so long to clear the air?
More reading.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

SAT: Biased and useless?

Wake Forest University is the first small, private, academically elite university in the nation to not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT (American College Test) scores.

Why? Standardized tests, especially the SAT, are biased. They favor wealthy, white students and tend to keep out lower income and African-American students who perform well academically.
Here’s what Wake Forest associate professor of sociology Joseph Soares said:
“It’s a rotten predictor of college grades. It’s a very reliable predicator
of family income. If you are picking students from the higher end of the SAT
Bell curve you are overwhelmingly picking students from economically
Researchers and advocates such as FairTest have been saying the test is biased and of limited value for years, but for Wake Forest to take this step is big. Dissing the SAT can change the ground rules for who goes to college where.
Will this dumb down higher education? Or should other universities such as UNC Chapel Hill, Duke and UNC Charlotte follow Wake’s lead and toss tests that have been under fire for decades?

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Nightmare Ticket

The Onion, as usual, gets the scoop:

"No other ticket is capable of rallying this nation around a clearer, more unified message of chaos and hopelessness," the candidates said in unison from three separate podiums, each adorned with its own American flag arrangement and personal message. "Together, we will lead this nation into the future—a future where absolute deadlock over even the most minute decisions and total inefficiency on matters of the war, the economy, and the environment will launch a bold new age of confusion and social decay. For America, the only choice is [indecipherable]!"

Got a worse suggestion?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Let police investigate themselves?

Another Charlotte man is dead at the hands of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, and once again the department will investigate its own actions in that shooting. Aaron Quentin Winchester was shot twice in the back Tuesday and died on a residential street north of uptown.

Most police departments in North Carolina ask the State Bureau of Investigation to do an inquiry when that happens. But not Charlotte. Here, CMPD conducts the inquiry into a police shooting.
Winchester's family has asked for an outside investigation, and state law requires one be done if that request is made.
Yet CMPD's inside-only policy raises an obvious question: Can a police department investigate itself objectively? Why would it even want to?
What do you think?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kathleen Parker's nutty heritage, not hate, column

From Jonathan Chait of The New Republic:

Right-wing syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker got some attention last week for writing a distinctly un-American, and somewhat fascistic, column (which ran in The Observer May 15) describing Barack Obama as not being a "full-blooded American." Parker defined the concept thusly: "It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots." This concept is many things, but one of them is a device that's historically been used to deny the possibility that rootless, cosmopolitan Jews can be full members of a society.

Anyway, my friend Paul Campos points out that this column is now running on "Jewish World Review." I wonder how many of the readers count as full-blooded Americans?

McCain's roadmap to beating Obama?

Newsweek’s Michael Scheer recently listed seven key strategies the John McCain campaign seems to be devising to defeat Barack Obama, should he be the Democrats’ presidential nominee. Take a look:

1. Paint Obama as a False Messiah: Republicans have been painting Obama with the “all rhetoric and no substance” brush for a while, and it’s working among some groups. McCain himself has lobbed several grenades, essentially calling Obama an unfulfilled prophet, propped up only by lofty rhetoric and charisma.”

2. Work, Woo and Win the Referees: McCain has been and continues to be a press favorite – he’s accessible - and campaign aides admit they will try to use that to their advantage. Now, his campaign has taken to have a “bad cop” regularly criticize the press, alleging, for instance, that the media has formed a “protective barrier” around Obama.

3. Meet With the People, and Force Obama to Follow: McCain's best moments on the trail come in the uncontrolled give-and-take with a crowd. He likes town hall meetings. McCain's aides even hope to bring Obama out of his stadium events and put him on the same level.

4. Claim the High Road Without Leaving the Low Road: McCain says he wants to run "a respectful campaign." But he hasn’t shown much willingness to lay off hardball politics he played during the GOP primaries.

5. Use A Vice President to Temper: The Age IssuePolls show that McCain’s age — he will be 72 by Election Day — could have an impact at the ballot box. But both McCain and his advisers have a prospect they hope will neutralize the issue: a relatively youthful vice president, who might lessen the fear of McCain's death in office. In 1980, Ronald Reagan was running for President as an older man at 69. The day he picked George Bush to be vice president, the age issue pretty much went away.

6. Make Inroads Among Traditional Democratic Voters: Republicans love to talk about the larger crossover vote that McCain wins in the early and unreliable general matchup polls. In one Pew poll from late February, as many as 14 percent of Democrats say they will vote for McCain, compared to eight percent of Republicans who say they will vote for Obama. McCain's staff see hope in Obama's trouble shoring up the Democratic base of working-class voters.
7. Rely on the Historic RNC Advantage: The McCain campaign hopes to contain the Obama big fund-raising advantage by depending heavily on the Republican Party machinery, which has a historically superior general election get-out-the-vote operation. the campaign has been encouraging wealthy donors to give even after they have reached their $2,300 donation limit for McCain. Under a program called "McCain Victory '08," donors are encouraged to give up to $70,000 to state and national party funds.
Ummm. What do you think?

Monday, May 19, 2008

McCrory's "vanishing" education policy

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory knows urban North Carolina. He knows about transportation issues. But, as Daily Views pointed out during his successful campaign to be the Republican nominee for governor, Mr. McCrory’s vision needs to expand beyond those things.

In particular, he needs a more credible understanding – and a deeper slate of positions – on public education to be a well-rounded governor.

A puzzling vanishing post about charter school policy on his campaign web site suggests ... well, we don’t know what it suggests except perhaps that Mr. McCrory’s vision for education is ah, still emerging.

Jeff Taylor writes on his Meck Deck blog:

“Under a “More Choices” bullet point on the education policy page was this prescription: “Parents know better than the government what is best for their children. We need to lift the cap on charter schools and provide tax incentives for parents who choose to send their children to non-traditional public schools.”

As Hal noted, this seemed to suggest that McCrory was proposing tax credits or some sort of government benefit for parents who opted for a different brand of public schooling. In the case of CMS, for example, that would presumably extent to its crazy quilt of magnet schools and its school-within-a-school offerings, such as the multiple high schools now housed at Olympic High."

Hmmm. Now you see it now you don't. Did McCrory change his
mind? Was this a strategic flip-flop? Did he take off the charter schools
bit in hopes of appealing to Democrats whose votes he needs?

What do you think?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Time for media 'Mac Attack' on McCain?

The Boston Phoenix thinks the media largely has given Sen. John McCain a pass on his stands on issues as he’s campaigned for president. But as the presidential race shifts into high gear for the fall elections, reporter Adam Reilly offers some places to probing:

1) The economy: This past January, the Huffington Post reported that, in a meeting with the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, McCain said he “doesn’t really understand economics.” McCain denied the report. But what is McCain’s economic IQ? And what concrete steps, beyond tax cuts, would he take to keep America’s economic woes from worsening?

2) Islam: There’s reason to question McCain’s foreign-policy aptitude, especially regarding things Islamic. He’s confused Sunnis and Shiites on multiple occasions. Understanding Islam and the Middle East is absolutely essential to America’s national security. Does McCain grasp them well enough to be president?

3) Money/politics/ethics: Does McCain’s reputation as a reformer dedicated to reducing the influence of money on politics square with his own actions? Remember the Keating Five savings and loan scandal? What about charges he’s gotten over a million dollars in campaign contributions from lobbyists, who had interests before the Senate Commerce Committee which McCain chaired at the time.

4) Faith: McCain has his own pastor problems. McCain has cozied up to assorted figures on the religious right – including the late Jerry Falwell (McCain spoke at the commencement ceremonies of Liberty University, which Falwell founded, in 2006), Rod Parsley (an Ohio minister who’s urged the eradication of Islam, and whom McCain called a “spiritual guide” this past February), and John Hagee (a televangelist who, among other things, has called the Catholic Church the “Great Whore”). McCain has said that he doesn’t share all his endorsers’ views but hasn’t condemned them emphatically or given up their support.

For the entire list go to What do you think? Is this a worthy list to explore? Or are these baseless attacks unworthy of even considering digging into? Do you have your own list of stories to pursue?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More dead than space at Bragg

The hot topics may be whether and when Hillary Clinton will halt her campign for the Democratic nomination for president and this week’s NASCAR race in Charlotte, but there’s a war going on, too. An Associated Press report provides a stark reminder of how deadly it is for North Carolina soldiers:

"When the Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division dedicated its own memorial to paratroopers killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, three sides of the wide
granite column were blank. Three years later, there is no more room. The last name belongs to Sgt. Clayton G. Dunn, killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in May 2007. Since then, roughly 50 more names have been etched onto a granite wall that now stands behind the original column - each a grim reminder that the 13-ton granite tower wasn’t big enough to honor all those who have fallen and continue to fall."

The United States has lost more than 4,000 soldiers in Iraq and 800 in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. The 82nd lost 62 paratroopers in 2007, more than in any other year since the wars began. Three separate incidents in Iraq last year each claimed the lives of seven or more paratroopers from the 82nd.
Here’s the question: Has the war accomplished enough to justify these losses, so close to home for North Carolinians?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hillary's pot-holed yellow-brick road?

Hillary Rodham Clinton thoroughly routed Barack Obama in West Virginia Tuesday but it hasn’t slowed Obama’s march to the Democratic nomination for president. He picked up two more superdelegates today.

So what’s the deal? Time magazine, in this week’s issue, asserts Clinton “made at least five big mistakes” in her quest for the nomination. Here they are:

1. “She misjudged the mood” – that is, Clinton was slow to see the country embracing “change,” the theme of Barack Obama’s campaign, and clung to the old incumbent’s strategy of “running on experience, preparedness, inevitability – and the power of the strongest brand name in Democratic politics.” Voters weren’t buying it.

2. “She didn’t master the rules” – that is, she let loyalty to her trump skilled campaign leadership. Her chief strategist, Mark Penn, wasn’t even versed well enough on Democratic rules. He predicted that an early win in California would put Clinton over the top in delegates because she would pick up all the state’s 370 delegates. But Dems, unlike the Republicans, apportion their delegates according to vote totals, so she wasn’t going to get all of California’s delegates.

3. “She underestimated the caucus states” – Clinton thought she could win by taking the big states but Obama trumped her by piling on delegates in smaller, caucus states. She helped kill her chances by ignoring those constituencies.

4. “She relied on old money” – Money was her Achilles Heel. Obama tapped into a new, small donor base on his Web site while Clintion clung to the old fundraising ideal, the big donor. It wasn’t enough.

5. “She never counted on a long haul” – Clinton underestimated Obama’s appeal and staying power so she had no strategy beyond an early knockout punch. As far back as Feb. 21, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was spotted in Raleigh, N.C. He told the News & Observer that the state’s primary, then more than 10 weeks away, “could end up being very important in the nomination fight.”

Clinton operatives didn’t see it – and neither did most of us in North Carolina at the time. But we did turn out to be very important indeed.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Do we pay or does the state?

Ladies and gentlemen! In one corner we have the majority of Charlotte’s City Council, including a coalition of Democrats and Republicans who are almost always on opposite sides of key votes. In the other corner, three Democrats, one of which rarely backs partisan votes.

The issue? How much city money to spend on Mecklenburg’s state-funded courts to help them prosecute more lawbreakers, and prosecute cases more quickly. It’s a red-hot issue because the incidence of crime has shot up alarmingly in 2008 and because some scary, high-profile crimes have lit public anxiety.
Watch the debate.
Here’s the deal: The state’s supposed to pay for courts. But Mecklenburg’s state allocation doesn’t come close to covering needs. Everybody from the police chief to the district attorney to the dogcatcher agrees the lack of resources in courts is a major contributor to lawlessness. The question is, what to do about it?
The answer from city council: Spend more local money now, and keep pressing state lawmakers hard to give urban areas better funding. That’s what seven city council members voted to do Monday night. Four did not go along. Their reason? Not enough information about what the money would buy – along with a healthy dose of concern about committing local tax dollars to pay for a state-run resource.
What do you think? Is this an emergency that requires an immediate investment of Charlotte’s money? Or are we simply making it easy for the state legislature to wiggle out of paying for Mecklenburg’s courts?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

How Bowles popped the question

Holden Thorp, UNC Chapel Hill’s new chancellor, may never be as famous as the Tar Heel’s household word, ol’ Roy, but he’s pretty good at cracking a joke.
After the UNC Board of Governors offered him the job Thursday, he told the story of how President Erskine Bowles offered him the job. Seems the two of them had taken a road trip to Greensboro to talk with board chairman Jim Phillips.
On the way home, they stopped for gas, and Mr. Bowles apparently popped the question while pumping.
"Bet you never thought you’d get offered this job at a gas station," Dr. Thorp remembered Mr. Bowles telling him.
"Erskine, I’m never going to forget the Exxon on Wendover," Dr. Thorp said at the board meeting, turning to Mr. Bowles.
"I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t go in and get some nabs," he added.

Jon Stewart: Journalist, Comedian, Both?

Ouch! In a Pew Research Center survey, Americans last year picked Jon Stewart – a comedian – as one of the journalists they most admired. He was tied in the rankings with real journalists and anchormen Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, and cable host Anderson Cooper. So it’s no surprise – or is it? – that Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism took time to study the content of Stewart’s “The Daily Show” to find out what’s up.

The show is very popular. According to Pew researchers, nearly as many people watch The Daily Show regularly – 16 percent – as watch Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor (17 percent) and more watch it than PBS’ NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (14 percent). Researchers looked at a year’s worth of content, all of 2007, and compared it to more traditional news media, examined its guest lineup and segments.

In results released today, they found – ta da! – that the show closely resembles a number of cable news shows as well as talk radio. The show blends fact and fantasy, makes heavy use of news footage and requires significant prior knowledge of news to get the jokes. Guests are pretty balanced politically but Republicans tend to get the brunt of the criticism. Ummmm. And?For more, go to

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The View from Voters

Make of it what you will, but Democratic voters in North Carolina and Indiana provided pollsters some intriguing tidbits that could have great impact come November. According to exit interviews done by Media Research of Somerville, N.J. and Mitofsky International of New York City for the National Election Pool:
- More voters in N.C and Indiana feel Barack Obama can beat John McCain in the general election - 50 percent to 47 percent in Indiana; 55 percent to 39 percent in North Carolina.
- More voters in both states feel Obama shares their values - 66 percent to 63 percent in Indiana; 70 percent to 61 percent in N.C.
- More voters feel Obama is honest and trustworthy - 66 percent to 54 percent in Indiana; 71 percent to 49 percent in North Carolina.
- The states split on who's more qualified to be commander in chief. Indiana voters gave the edge to Clinton, 54 percent to 43 percent; N.C. voters gave the edge to Obama, 50 percent to 45 percent.
- The two states also split over who was most likely to improve the economy. Indiana voters voters again gave the nod to Clinton, 49 percent to 47 percent. North Carolinians gave the nod to Obama, 53 percent to 42 percent.
Those views shine some light on the voting patterns in the states Tuesday too - Obama's overwhelming win in N.C. and Clinton's squeaker in Indiana.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Why was history made today?

North Carolina voters have served up a triple shot of history at the ballot box.
1. They chose an African American - Barack Obama - as a nominee for president of the United States by a healthy margin. That’s never happened before.
2. Beverly Perdue clobbered Richard Moore for the Democratic nomination for governor. She is the first woman party nominee for state’s top post.
3. Two women also will face off in November for one of North Carolina's two seats in the U.S. Senate - another first. Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole will face State Sen. Kay Hagan of Greensboro.

With a flick of the wrist or the push of a button, the history book changes.
Why do you think that happened in this election?

The Mackey factor?

Three local races had something in common as primary voting came to a close today: Nick Mackey.

Mr. Mackey won a special vote of Democratic Party activists to become Mecklenburg County Sheriff last year. But state party leaders threw out the results in February, saying precincts were improperly organized. Mecklenburg County commissioners then chose Mr. Mackey’s opponent Chipp Bailey for the job.
That didn’t set well with some folks who felt Mr. Mackey should have gotten the job, though his candidacy was wrapped in controversy because he filed for bankruptcy and left his job as a police officer under scrutiny for misrepresenting his work hours. Supporters said they’d remember the county commissioners who didn’t vote to give Mr. Mackey the sheriff’s office at the polls.
Thus District 2 commissioner Norman Mitchell found himself with a feisty opponent, Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board member Vilma Leake. As of 8:30 p.m., she was leading Mr. Mitchell, 65 percent to his 35 percent.County commissioner’s chair Jennifer Roberts was criticized during the Mackey debacle and supporters said they’d push for votes against her in her at-large race. She’s leading the five candidates seeking the Democratic nomination.
The three winners will face GOP candidates for three seats in the fall. Mr. Mackey himself is running for the N.C. House against incumbent Drew Saunders in District 99. Rep. Saunders tried to make Mr. Mackey’s woes in the sheriff’s race an issue but as of this moment Mr. Mackey is ahead, 57 percent to 43 percent.Of course, this is all early voting. Few of the precincts’ votes have been posted yet. The Mackey factor so far is unknown. Stay tuned.

Mike's clout's out

Mike Easley's endorsement of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary wasn't enough to help her overcome a big lead by Barack Obama. Major news organizations were calling the race for Obama minutes after the polls closed Tuesday evening, underscoring Clinton's loss and the lack of a boost from the governor, who has showed pretty good popularity numbers throughout his seven-plus years in the governor's office.
Of course, those numbers were among the general citizenry, not just Democrats, and Easley has been anything but an avid party man like his predecessor, Gov. Jim Hunt, who lived and breathed Democratic Party politics all his life. Easley won the governorship almost despite the Democratic Party.
I've never bought the argument that Easley really wanted a top job in Washington in a Democratic administration, but if he did, Tuesday night's vote probably didn't move him any closer to that job as U.S. Attorney General at the Department of Justice. (From Jack Betts)

Republicans want in!

How enticing is today’s full-scale Democratic presidential primary? So enticing even some Republicans want in. The News & Observer reports the N.C. Board of Elections has received complaints from GOP voters who’ve asked for Democratic ballots. Here’s what the paper reported:

“At Raleigh’s Falls River precinct (in Raleigh), voter Diane Earp said she was
frustrated to learn that the state does not allow crossover voting in the
primary.‘I am so disgusted with my Republican Party of the last eight years
I want to change my position,’ she said.”

Unaffiliated voters can choose which primary they want to cast ballots in, but party crossover voting is not allowed in North Carolina. Should it be? Or would that open the door and let voters in one party manipulate the outcome of the other party’s nomination?