Tuesday, July 7, 2015

An open letter to chief N&O political reporter Rob Christensen

Dear Rob,

Your Sunday, July 5 column—Obama wants me to send $3—one would guess, was supposed to outline the many and constant financial solicitations you receive from political candidates and parties thereof every six months or so as the campaign finance reporting dates near. But your line about not voting in anything except municipal elections came across as rather disgusting. To me, even though you probably abstain from primaries and partisan elections to keep anyone from knowing your candidate and party favorites, your lack of voting participation reduces your credibility as a political reporter. Just because you are a reporter does not mean you should shirk your responsibility and throw away one of your rights and privileges as a citizen of the United States and of North Carolina.

As a political reporter, columnist and author, you should embrace the election process and participate openly, but you prefer to try to hide behind your keyboard in deference to your job. That’s a terrible example you set, Rob. While the job is important for many reasons, you’re placing it above your responsibility to your country and state. It’s doubtful your employer encourages you not to cast ballots for national, state and local partisan elections since your publisher and your executive editor both are good citizens, voting in primaries and general elections nearly every time one comes about. We already know of your unaffiliated voter registration (unaffiliated is okay; nearly a third of all registered North Carolinians are unaffiliated) and lack of participation in the election of our government officials other than those in the Town of Cary elections. It was written about it in this space in mid-March: "Unaffiliated" voter registration seems to be the norm at The N&O

Two things for you to ponder:

1.   Voting is an important part of being a citizen of this country, and unfortunately many who have a legal form of identification (if needed) and who have transportation to the polls do not participate, shirking their responsibility. And, then there is you who, as a reporter, willingly criticizes lawmakers who make it harder for citizens to cast ballots. And you do so from the sidelines and not as an engaged participant. For that you should feel shame and ashamed, though you probably do not. You’re probably proud that you do not openly root, support and vote for your favorite party and candidates. It’s time you came out of the election closet and participate openly, painting your political preferences with the broad strokes of your excellent prose on politics.

2.  While your statement is true that you have not voted in anything but municipal elections in this century (which started January 1, 2001), please go back further and tell your readers that in the year 2000, you voted in the Democratic primary and in the general election, and that you voted in other primary and general elections prior to that since registering to vote, even while a political reporter: H.Robert Christensen, Jr., voting record

Come on Rob, be a full citizen and participate by voting in primaries and general elections. It's hypocritical that you're a political reporter yet you do not fully participate in the political system. You have the right to participate or not, but it's a privilege and duty that even you should not avoid. It’s past time news reporters and columnists—especially political and sports reporters and columnists—tell the readers where their loyalties are. Newspapers are supposed to avoid bias and opinion on the news pages, but openly informing the readers of your preferences would give us better insight about what you are saying and why. You should lead the way, setting an example for other writers and for the millions who are not political reporters who refuse to exercise the right to vote and to have a direct impact on elections and the results. You are setting a bad example now, but you have a chance to turn that around. If you lived in a country that didn’t allow you to vote, you would be screaming bloody murder just as you and other political reporters who do not vote do when laws are made restricting voting.

By the way, your opening line "I am feeling the power" is far from the truth, as is the line "The candidates think I am Mr. Money Bags." Unless you previously have donated to political parties or candidates or unless you are currently a registered member of one of the two main political parties (Democratic and Republican), you would not be receiving those solicitations except for one very important reason: You are the chief political reporter and columnist for The News & Observer, and those candidates and political parties included in your July 5 column (and those you left out) are simply using you to distribute their message. It worked.
Dictionary.com word of the day
fisc (noun) [fisk] a royal or state treasury; exchequer

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Gay Marriage and the Supreme Court: civil law trumps religion

When you want something so badly and you want to impose you desires on others, your actions can sometimes backfire. The terrible shootings in Charleston was the desire of a young man to further the idea of white supremacy, but it resulted in a national dialogue of creating better race relations, of lifting society so everyone has a better chance at life, and a dramatic call to rid the nation of the symbol of slavery, the Confederate flag.

The same, according to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, can be applied to same-sex marriage and the desire by some to make it unlawful. Those interpreters of the Bible who refuse to believe there is any other way except for opposite-sex, tried to prevent gay marriage through legislation. Even President Bill Clinton got in on the debate when he signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, a statute that barred federal recognition of gay marriages. Here is part of what Justice Kennedy wrote on behalf of the majority in the 5-4 decision Friday declaring a constitutional right to same-sex marriage:

The right to marry is fundamental as a matter of history and tradition, but rights come not from ancient sources alone. They rise, too, from a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives define a liberty that remains urgent in our own era. Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the state itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied. Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right. (Justice Kennedy)

Those on the Court in opposition believe this issue should not have used the Constitution, nor, do they believe, this issue is one of constitutional interpretation. But it arrived on the doorstep of the Supreme Court because those who believe same-sex marriage is wrong went so far as to create civil laws to prevent it, pushing the issue into the courts for Constitutional reasoning, using a document which is suppose to make sure laws are applied to everyone equally. To those who are strict, Bible-toting screamers of all denominations, those who believe according to their religious beliefs that same-sex marriage is wrong and should be outlawed by civil law, well, they would have been better off to leave the justice to Jesus instead of taking it into their own hands. Same-sex marriage may be against their beliefs, but it does nothing to disgrace or reduce opposite-sex unions. Maybe, upon reflection, they felt Jesus would have allowed gay marriage so they wanted to have a law to prevent it. Now, through the Supreme Court, a civil not religious body, same-sex marriage is lawful all across the United States, objectors be damned.
Dictionary.com word of the day
stinkaroo (noun) [sting-kuh-roo; sting-kuh-roo] something markedly inferior in quality

Saturday, June 27, 2015

McCrory, Berger now in pissing match over Stars & Bars Plates

It’s typical of politicians, especially in their own party, in North Carolina to get into a pissing match over policy and who has authority to do what, especially in an election year when one believes doing something will cause problems at the polls and another who is far less conservative and believes taking the high road is best for the State of North Carolina as a whole. It’s time Governor Pat McCrory and President Pro Tempore of the Senate Phil Berger quit aiming at each other with their pants down and get together on the issue of displaying the Confederate flag on NC license plates.

Both men are Republicans, and it seems while both might (not sure Berger does) want the same thing, each desires the other to handle it, to take credit for it so when the crazy fools who display the flag on the backs of cars, backs of jean jackets, and personal property throughout the state go to the polls to vote next year, they can vote against the other person, the one who handled the issue and eliminated the symbol of hate and slavery on the license plates. Children will be children, but these two men are adults and should be forward thinkers, though many will doubt that of Berger more so than they will McCrory.
  • McCrory said: It’s my understanding that there is a clear statute that does not give me that authority. I was actually wanting to have that executive authority, but we understand clearly that the statute was written which would need to be clarified by the legislature. You know me, if I could do it, I would do it.
  • Berger responded: There is some level of executive administrative discretion involved in the issuance of those plates and what goes on those plates.

The right thing to do is this: McCrory should issue an executive order excluding the Confederate flag from North Carolina license plates while at the same time, Berger needs to introduce legislation to change whatever statute needs to be changed to do the same. And, Berger needs to press the legislation through the Senate and House and give it to McCrory to sign. Voting in the General Assembly should be electronic and not by voice vote. The pissing match would be over when the two shake hands at the bill’s signing and an ax is taken to one such license plate, destroying it in public while issuing hope this will help calm the hatred of the died-in-the-wool Rebels who remain isolated from general society with their ancient feelings toward a race other than their own.

As far as allowing current plate owners to retain the symbol, and though The News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders wants the plates to remain on the vehicles so he know where his enemies are, McCrory and Berger should also do something about that, devising a plan that disallows renewal of the plate once it expires. It’s time for the symbol of the South, once something that was displayed to honor natives of this state and other Confederate states for their efforts in the Civil War, be removed all together simply because it has morphed into a symbol of hatred, one that frightens Africa-Americans more so than one that rallies Southerners wanting to keep a hand on history.
Dictionary.com word of the day
preprandial (adjective) [pree-pran-de-uh l] before a mean, especially before dinner

Friday, June 26, 2015

Thank goodness Supreme Court upheld Affordable Care Act, again

Republicans in Congress actually breathed a sigh of relief when the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 Thursday in a case that is basically in favor of the Affordable Care Act. The case had to do with wording in the law that ultra conservatives believed the law as applicable only in states where exchanges were established. Chief Justice John Roberts, who for nearly every ruling during his term except those about the ACA and some social issues has been a conservative, might now be known as a “liberal” or “progressive” member of the high court. In the ruling he wrote: Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.

The ruling is another win for President Obama and his Democratic colleagues but it also takes the Republicans off the hot seat because other than to close it down completely, the GOP members have yet to come up with a specific health care plan—insurance or otherwise—to take the place of the ACA. And, there’s no doubt that Americans need such a plan of some sort. Relying on the medical suppliers (doctors, lawyers, etc.) and the medical insurance companies (high paid executives, lawyers, etc.) to do the right thing is akin to sticking your head in the sand. Both entities, despite creeds and oaths taken and promises given, are primarily in the game for financial gain. Okay, okay, not all doctors are in it for financial gain, but they probably over-charge. And, every now and then, there’s a story about a heroic medical provider who says he or she is practicing to help, not to make oodles of money so personal acquisitions are common place in their lives. But that’s rare.

On the other hand, sometimes you read about the beneficiaries of the subsidies that come with the ACA and you have to wonder why and how this person can take part. For instance, there’s a bike mechanic in Carrboro who makes about $15,000 a year and who signed up for ACA assistance, getting $220 a month to supplement the $15 a month he pays. To quote a story from The News & Observer: (He) is a stunt rider whose flips, spins and other gravity-defying tricks have resulted in broken bones on a dozen occasions, including reconstructive wrist surgery last year. He is currently recovering from another injury, this one to his ankle, caused by falling from a height of about 10 feet, a mishap occasioned by riding backwards on a ramp that reaches the roof of a shed. He said merciless abuse is the occupational hazard of a BMX stunt rider. (He) regards health insurance not as an option but a necessity that saves him from financial ruin. “I’d go broke if I got injured,” he said. “I’d be pretty much destroyed if something happened to me.”

Should he be so well-covered by an ACA subsidy? Or should those who hire him, probably an independent contractor, for the stunts include medical coverage for damage to him and his body during the stunts and the practice thereof. If he’s only making $15,000 a year as a bike mechanic and BMX stunt rider, maybe he needs to rethink his profession. Supplementing his insurance cost is probably a discussion for another time, but, right now, the Supreme Court, no doubt one of the most conservative at any time, has turned many heads with its agreement this time and previously with the Obama Administration through rulings in favor of the ACA. The Democrats who live for national healthcare and the Republicans who have no ideas to handle soaring healthcare costs, both the medical profession and the insurance companies, should both thank the Supreme Court.
Dictionary.com word of the day
tenderfoot (noun) [ten-der-foo t] novice

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Say goodbye to Natty Greene’s in Raleigh and the Railyard sandwich

If this sounds like a repeat of an earlier column, please forgive me, but please read on. Word comes that Natty Greene’s in Raleigh will be closing August 1. The Greensboro-based brewery is shutting down its business on West Jones Street after five years there. It has to do with a disagreement with the lease and the price thereof. A new owner of the building decided the rent isn’t high enough and raised it enough to drive Natty’s away.

The significance of this has to do with my son and one particular sandwich. My son taught me an important rule of dining out. “When you go to a restaurant and find one particular menu item that you enjoy, that you feel is simply delicious, and when you realize that particular dish can only be purchased at that restaurant, then every time to go to that restaurant, you only order one thing: What you found there that’s not attainable in deliciousness anywhere else.

At Natty Greene’s, it’s the Railyard sandwich, 8 ounces of corned beef, capicola, and salami with coleslaw, melted Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard and Thousand Island dressing on grilled rye bread. It comes with a side of your choice of fresh-made potato chips or potato salad or fries or coleslaw or a daily special which is usually some vegetable medley, but the side makes no difference whatsoever. The Railyard is an unbeatable sandwich that offers great taste, a spicy touch, and an ample helping which is sometimes so much that half the sandwich travels home for later consumption.

There are many other wonderful selections on the menu including the typical Rueben (the Big Time), another 8 ounces of corned beef, and the Cohiba: slow roasted marinated pork loin, Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese, horseradish may in a baguette, topped with their very own chiplotle barbeque sauces and pressed. And, the beer is Natty Greene’s own, brewed in Greensboro and brought in when needed. It’s a great craft brewery with excellent craft beer.

There’s still ample time to get to Natty Greene’s in Raleigh before it closes for good after a huge party on August 1, but you might want to go there sooner than later, especially to try the Railyard, because once you have one, you’ll want to return for another and another and another. Before long, though, the place will be closed, and you’ll be left without it. You might suggest a road-trip to Greensboro would be in order to satisfy your Railyard desire, but the Railyard is not on the menu there. Maybe, with enough demand, it’ll show up. If so, here comes one regular from another area.
Dictionary.com word of the day
ubiety (noun) [yoo-bahy-i-tee] the property of having a definite location at any given time

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Fedora's perfect quote; watch out for Grandmother-to-be tree

Sometimes, you can’t make this stuff up. Sometimes, someone says something, present company included, that is associated with one thing but applies to another. Take North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora about whom Andrew Carter at The News & Observer recently penned an article which pertained to a special football camp at UNC. It’s called the Freak Show, and the event and one of Fedora’s statements can easily be applied to the on-going academic/athletics scandal there.

Carter quotes Fedora in Tuesday’s newspaper: We’re always trying to do things outside the box. We are always trying to do things that other people don’t do, because we are different at Carolina. So we‘re going to always think a different way. Isn’t that kind of thinking and doing the reason the Tar Heels athletics program is in a heap of trouble with the NCAA and why UNC-CH is on a year’s probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges? Maybe thinking inside the box for a while might remedy what ails them in Chapel Hill.
No one, especially an unsuspecting postal work, should tangle with a soon to be grandmother tree. This is not to make light of a terrible accident that happened Saturday in Denver NC, a community near Lake Norman. A 60-foot tree fell from the yard of U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-NC, struck the mail truck of 43-year old Lisa Rudisill Wilkerson, killing the mail carrier. This happened during a thunderstorm. Wilkerson, the mother of two, was soon to be a grandmother by her 22-year old daughter. In Monday's local newspaper, The News & Observer, the headline was a little misleading. It reads: Postal worker killed by tree about to be a grandmother. Maybe it should have read, Postal worker about to be a grandmother killed by tree.
Dictionary.com word of the day
ennui (noun) [ahn-wff; ahn-wee] a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lact of interest; boredom

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Confederate flag needs to be in a museum, not flown publicly

It’s been 150 years since the War Between the States concluded, preventing a confederacy of primarily Southern states from seceding from the Union of the United States. During that war, also known as the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of Americans were killed, and while the Northern coalition won the battle, many continued to wage the war in various ways including display of the banner flag, the Confederate Navy Jack, which was one of five, but most well-known, flag of the Confederacy. Today, while most Southerners with heritage back to that time will tell you the war was a fight for states’ rights versus a strong central government, others will say that “states’ rights” is a softer way to say slavery should be retained.

The Confederate flag to many has become a symbol of hatred to African-Americans, and the display of such only propagates that message, especially when it is held high by a 21-year old white male who guns down innocent African-Americans attending a bible study in a church in Charleston SC. Though the flag is a reminder of a terrible past, a reminder to us all that looking to the past is a way to create a better future by avoiding mistakes, the time has long evaporated for it to be removed as much as possible from public view. Placing it in a museum with historical references is okay but otherwise it should not be flown on the grounds of any state capitol, nor should it be displayed on any license plate, though the Supreme Court says it’s okay because of freedom of speech (though the high court ruled last week that the plates are state property and therefore the state could deny the display of the flag or any display without denying free speech), nor should it be displayed on any college campus. Such abolition of the Confederate flag will not stop its complete display, but it not being there will soften anger from those who see it in public places.

While it was not the flag that caused the white male to gun down the African-Americans, the flag was a symbol that kept the young man full of hatred to a group of people he disliked. But he didn’t get the idea of dislike or hatred or killing by looking at a flag. Somewhere his life was wrongly influenced, and those who instilled that kind of hatred are disgusting and are as guilty in the shootings as he. It’s time that such bias and resentment and hatred stop for the overall betterment of the USA. If removing the Confederate flag from public view helps that effort, if taking down that symbol that reminds everyone of a terrible time in our history is a positive influence, then so be it. Let’s do what we can to forget the past, to stop dwelling on the time of slavery and mistreatment of African-Americans, and look ahead to a better future for our children and grandchildren.
Dictionary.com word of the day
otiose (adjective) [oh-shee-ohs; oh-tee-ohs] being at leisure; idle; indolent