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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
otiose (adjective) [oh-shee-ohs; oh-tee-ohs] being at leisure; idle; indolent

Monday, June 22, 2015

Jordan Spieth’s win was sort of anticlimactic but great for golf

Even though Jordan Spieth won the US Open Championship Sunday when Dustin Johnson three-putted from about 12 feet on the final hole at Chambers Bay, the finish was somewhat of an anticlimactic end to the golf tournament, but his victory, whether it came yesterday or today in an 18-hole playoff may be the best thing to happen to golf in a long time. It will help remove the need for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to be part of the winning conversation, for one; and, because Spieth won the Masters, it sets up great anticipation of his play in the (British) Open Championship next month. Spieth is halfway home to winning the Grand Slam of golf, capturing the Masters, the US Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship all in one year.

After watching nearly every televised second—about 40 hours—of the US Open and just then getting used to the layout at Chambers Bay and understanding more about where and how the players were to successfully complete shots, another 18 holes, especially between Spieth and Johnson, would have been a better finish than the next to the last putt falter of Johnson which made Spieth the winner by one shot. Though a game of my own is scheduled for today, and surely over the objections of my wife, the VCR would have been capturing the broadcast for replay at my leisure.

On the other hand, that would have meant spending more time listening to the awful coverage by FOX Sports. It would have meant more of football/baseball announcer Joe Buck telling us over and over again that he’s sitting next to “the Hall of Famer” Greg Norman as if those watching the broadcast didn’t already know that Norman was once the greatest golfer on the planet. And, we learned that Greg Norman adds little to nothing to the broadcast of golf except that he’s a close friend with Jason Day who suffered through a bout of vertigo to complete the tournament. With his dizzying conversation, or lack thereof, maybe it was Norman who had vertigo.

And, now a note about Chambers Bay: It had some interesting holes and some puzzling undulations on the greens, and fairways for that matter. There were too many short par 4s and the course didn’t reward risky shots as much as such attempts were penalized with bounces in odd directions, sometimes with the ball stopping further away from the pin than from where the shot was just taken. The collection of holes may have been good, with 18 individual holes laid into a sand pit to create a championship course worthy of a US Open Championship, but the layout was confusing, there was little room for spectators to get close to the action, and the conditions of the course were not just hard to play but awful to follow on the FOX broadcast. Will the US Open return to Chambers Bay? Maybe, but if so, expect some major changes to the greens, spectator spaces and the FOX effort, hopefully.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
clepe (verb) [kleep] to call; name

Sunday, June 21, 2015

So whose mug should adorn the $10 bill, part 2…

In the discussion of replacing Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with a woman of United States significance, there are the usual suggestions of Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Ida Tarbell and others who have made a meaningful contribution in general to our great nation with specific areas of notoriety for the advancement of women. With all due respect to Anthony who played an importance role in gaining the right to vote for women, she was tried on the $1 coin, and that went bust due to lack of popularity. Look at the ancient historical possibilities should stop in favor of more up-to-date selections.

As the US Treasury seeks answers to the question of the right woman to replace Hamilton, let’s look at some who would be a bit more popular than the standard, historical females in hopes that the new face finds homes in wallets though use of credit cards, debit cards and payment with smart phones is increasing so much that currency may eventually go by the wayside. Here are a few suggestions:
Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner on the $10 bill?
  • Gloria Steinem, a 1960s, bra-burning woman who was at the forefront of the surge of female idealism.
  • Betty White, an ageless actress who is loved for her wit and wisdom by women and men. On the other hand, if she’s selected, she either needs to be accompanied by the other “Golden Girls” or be holding a Snickers.
  • Michelle Obama, because she is a great role model for young African-Americans as the first African-American First Lady, we think.
  • Hillary Clinton, but only if she’s elected President because then she would be the first female President of the United States. Hey, the first male President of the United States made it on the $1. With inflation, it’s only right the first female be on the $10.
  • Rachel Dolezal, the Caucasian turned African-American (in her mind if no other way). If the debate centers on Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, Dolezal could be the compromise candidate to satisfy both races.
  • And then there’s Caitlyn Jenner, the former Bruce Jenner, who would be the compromise between replacing Hamilton with another man or with a woman. She/he is a prominent and well decorated American athlete. This is not an original suggestion at all, but it makes as much sense as any other the others.

The problem with any of the traditional possibilities is the relationship to today’s currency users. Today, we may see a name and face on current currency but my guess is few know the significance of any, including George Washington. Show a $50 bill to someone in their 20-years of age and all they’ll know is that a man with a beard in a military uniform is on the $50 bill. It’s just money which is intended to be spent not horded. 

Maybe the US Treasury should copy a page out of the US Postal Service playbook and issue several $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills, rotating faces of women every month or so or during specific seasons. That way, all bases would be covered from the traditional to the ridiculous.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
swashbuckler (noun) [swosh-buhk-ler; swawsh-buhk-ler] a swaggering swordsman, soldier, or adventurer; daredevil

Saturday, June 20, 2015

So whose mug should adorn the $10 bill, part 1…


So, do you know who is on the $1 Million bill?
Do you know who is on all US currency?
It’s more than four years away, sometime in 2020, until the unveiling, but that day will be here before you know it. A major decision has to be made before we get there: Which woman in United States history will replace Alexander Hamilton as the face on the ten dollar bill? Or will there be two $10 bills, one with Hamilton and another with the face of a deserving woman?

A new $10 with a new face, that of a woman, will be issued in 2020, but the selection of the new face of money will be made a long time before then. The US Treasury is on a mission to make that determination, searching through social media and any other way to find out who America wants.

Before we get there, though, how about a look at who is now on United States currency:
  • $1: George Washington, our first President and the only portrait required by law on our currency; GW is also on the quarter.
  • $2: Thomas Jefferson, the second president of the USA; he has the nickel too.
  • $5: Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President who is also on the penny.
  • $10: Alexander Hamilton, our first US Treasurer; he wanted to be President but lost his only attempt and was later shot in a dual by Aaron Burr
  • $20: Andrew Jackson, our 7th President who is claimed by North Carolina and South Carolina as being born in those states. He’s also on the $1 coin.
  • $50: Ulysses S. Grant, the Yankee General in the War Between The States and who was our 18th President; he’s also on the “fiddy-cent” piece.
  • $100: Ben Franklin, scholar, poet, inventory, idiot for flying a kite in a lightning storm; for a few years he was on the “half dollar” coin, not to be confused the “fiddy-cent” piece.
  • $500: William McKinley, 25th President and one of four US Presidents assassinated (killed) while in office. Can you name the other three? Only two are on US currency. McKinley is also on the gold dollar coin.
  • $1,000: Grover Cleveland, our 22nd and 24th President and the only one two serve non-consecutive terms.
  • $5,000: James Madison, 4th President who died in 1836 in Orange VA, the town where our son was married in 2003.
  • $10,000: Salmon P. Chase, Treasury Secretary under Abraham Lincoln, and the 6th Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.
  • $100,000: Woodrow Wilson, 28th President.
  • $1,000,000: Oops, no one! It's bogus so if you ever receive one don't try to cash it!

Tomorrow, a discussion the historical selection of a woman to replace Hamilton on the $10 bill. Who to choose; how to choose; what is the significance? Does the current generation, ages up to 30, maybe 40, maybe 50, really care?
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Dictionary.com word of the day
cavil (verb) [kav-uh l] to raise irritating and trivial objections; find fault with unnecessarily

Friday, June 19, 2015

Par for the course doesn't change though par for the holes might

At the US Open at Chambers Bay, there’s a good chance that par on the first and last hole will not be the same each round. The total of the two—the standard par 4 1st hole and the usual par 5 18th hole—is 9 and that will stay the same, but by lengthening the 1st hole and shortening the final hole, the pars can be switched and the risk reward factors on those holes will change. It’s an interesting twist to a golf tournament that’s more gut-wrenching than any other golf championship.

Come Sunday night, changing the par on those holes may not make any difference. Par for the four days will remain at 70 each 18 holes, 280 for the golf tournament, and the USGA usually looks for the winner to finish right around that number. Some years, the final 72-hole total is under par by a few strokes and some years the winner is a few strokes over par. Rory McIlroy’s 16-under par at Congressional Country Club in 2011 and Tiger Woods’ 12-under at Pebble Beach in 2000 are the only double digit under-par US Open winners.

Par is a relative term meaning an average or normal amount. In golf, it’s the number of strokes set as a standard for a specific hole or a complete course. It’s an easy way for golfers to determine how well they are playing against the golf course. Noting a player is under or over par, showing a leader board at golf tournaments or on television is specifically for the fans and helps the players easily keep up with the competition as the event progresses. Showing in on TV broadcasts was an idea hatched by CBS golf producer/director Frank Chirkinian. He wanted to keep the viewers informed about the status of the players against par, making it easier for those who play golf and those who don’t to understand who is winning and how far back a favorite player may be.

As far as changing par on a hole, we believe it’s never been done during a tournament until now. Holes have been made shorter and longer, but par for the holes has remained the same. Courses have been changed between tournaments with par for holes varying year to year. At Pinehurst No. 2, site for the 1999, 2005 and 2014 US Open tournaments, the 4th hole was designed as a par 5 and the 5th hole was designed as a par 4. Actually, the architect Donald Ross claimed the 5th hole as his favorite par 4.

In 1999 and 2005, those holes—4 and 5—played as designed. In 2014, last year, the holes were changed—the 5th made a little shorter and turned into a par 4; the 4th lengthened a great deal and played as a par 5. The result was lower scores on the average in 2014 than in the other two years.
  • In 1999, the 4th stroke average was 4.926, slightly under par, and the 5th averaged 4.529, nearly half a shot over par.
  • In 2005, the average score on the 4th was 4.756, more under par than in 1999, and the average at the 5th was 4.395, still over par but better than in 1999.
  • When par for those holes changed for 2014, the 4th, now a par 4, averaged 4.262, much better than the previous US Opens there but now over par. The average score on the now par 5 5th hole went to 4.8, under par but a higher average score than the other two US Opens at Pinehurst No. 2.
  • The average scores for the 4th and 5th combined for those years were: 1999—9.475; 2005—9.151; and, 2014—9.062. No doubt, in relation to par, those are two tough back-to-back holes.
On the other hand, only three players finished the 2014 US Open under par. The other 64 players who qualified for four rounds were a total of 554 over par, an average of 8.7 over par for the tournament. Add in the three who were under par, the average drops to 8.1 over par, and that, for the USGA, may be par for US Open courses.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
inviolable (adjective) [in-vahy-uh-luh-buh l] prohibiting violation; secure from descruction, violence, infringement, or desecration

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tiger Woods afterthought story placement perfect: afterthought

Someone in the layout department at The News & Observer either deserves a lot of credit or simply stumbled onto the perfect placement and headline of a story in today’s print edition. As the US Open, being played at Chambers Bay in University Park WA, starts today, coverage in the newspaper will not be extensive as last year’s event when it was played on the Donald Ross masterpiece, No. 2 at Pinehurst Country Club. However, in today’s newspaper, there are three stories, two placed prominently on the front page of the sports section. The third was staged on the last page of the section along with where the front page stories were continued from page B1.

There’s a nice story about the course—Chambers Bay—itself and how the players are responding to it after playing practice rounds and a discussion of who is favored including mention of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. That is the lead front-of-the-sports page story, and it is accompanied by a column by contributor Ron Green, Jr., who concentrates on the course itself. Ron has a knack for interesting descriptions and in this case comparing the view of Chambers Bay to that of Mars. We assume he’s talking about the planet not the candy bar. When you watch, you'll get a better idea.

Most interesting of the coverage today is a column by Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel who focuses on Tiger Woods who at age 39 is dwindling in ability and in stature within the league. He’s still a top draw for the crowds and the viewing audience at any tournament, but when he shot 85, his highest score ever as a professional, in the third round a couple of tournaments ago, it showed even more than he’s waning. After the 85, Dan Jenkins, probably the best ever golf writer, tweeted, I’ve never shot my age, but congrats to Tiger who did it today: 85. Tiger could fool us all this week and contend, but it’s doubtful.

The story on Tiger was titled, Tiger Woods an afterthought at U.S. Open. Intentionally or not, it was the very last story in The N&O’s sport section today, section B, page 8, at the very bottom of the page. It was appropriately placed, relating the headline and the story to its importance to read, sort of an afterthought. The person who placed it there either has great insight to Tiger, golf and a good sense of humor or just got lucky. In either case, job well done.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
unreality (noun) [uhn-ree-al-i-ree] something that is unreal, invalid, imaginary, or illusionary

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

US Open golf tournament hits prime time TV with west coast venue

The United States Golf Association’s US Open championship gets underway Thursday at the Chambers Bay Golf Course, a public facility in University Place WA, just south of Tacoma. If you’re a golfer or if you are just interested in watching the sport, you are in for a bonanza of viewing, especially if you’re in the Eastern Time zone of the United States. With the three hour difference, there will be prime time viewing each of the four days.

FOX is the new broadcast partner with the USGA, and this is that network’s first attempt to broadcast golf. Gone with the NBC broadcast booth is Johnny Miller, one of those announcers in the Howard Cosell mold: you either love him or hate him. Greg Norman will offer his insight each day. FOX is using its FOX Sports 1 channel during the day, beginning at noon ET Thursday and Friday and at 2:00 pm ET Saturday and Sunday. Thursday and Friday, the broadcasts switch to the regular FOX channel at 8 pm ET. Saturday, FOX will pick up the play-by-play at 7:00 ET and Sunday’s final round starts at 7:30 pm on FOX. On all four days, FOX will broadcast until the last players are off the course. That’s about 11 hours the first two days and 9 hours the last two.

The course itself will remind golfers of the Open Championship, the one played in Scotland most of the time. The course demands a lot of creative play; don’t be surprised to see the professionals using putters from off the green, not just a few feet off the green but several yards off the green, maybe as many as 50 yards off the green. There will be a lot of bump and run shots. There will be interesting approach shots, both from off and on the green, being played at weird angles away from the hole. The course was built to require lots of strategic play-making from off the tee and onto the putting surfaces, probably more that most golf courses.

Tuesday evening, during a Golf Channel Live From broadcast at the course, we got a glimpse of Rory McIlroy, the number one golfer in the world, on the practice tee. It was noted he would play a nine hole practice round that day starting around 5:30 Pacific Time and that he would probably just play nine holes and those would be the back nine. He would do the same today. His strategy, the golf analysis explained, is because he expects to be on those holes at that time on Saturday and Sunday as he contends for the title, and he wants to know what's the course is like at that time of day. Don’t be surprised if he’s there at his appointed time. And, don’t be surprised if telephone calls to my home go unanswered the next four days, especially during prime time viewing.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
lackadaisical (adjective) [lak-uh-dey-zi-kuh l] without interest, vigor, or determination; listless; lethargic; lazy; indolent

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

With Donald Trump in the race, Presidential politics just got better

If you like politics, if you love politics, especially Presidential politics (and who doesn’t, hah!), then you’ll love the build up to the next election for President of the United States. With today’s announcement by billionaire Donald Trump (his net work worth is more than $8.75 billion) that he’s running for the Republican nomination, there are a dozen GOP candidates and three or four Democrats. The odds-on-favorite remains former First Lady Hillary Clinton whose best qualification is that she is the former First Lady. But she has a long way to go and will not make it to the finish line ahead of the others. (Prediction here.)

When Mr. Trump announced today in New York City, before the ink was dry, as they say, before Mr. Trump had completed his address to his audience of followers, well-wishers and the cynical media, Holly Shulman, National Press Secretary for the Democratic National Committee, was quick to make fun of the candidate with a back-handed statement. “Today, Donald Trump became the second major Republican candidate to announce for president in two days. He adds some much-needed seriousness that has previously been lacking from the GOP field, and we look forward to hearing more about his ideas for the nation,” she said through a written statement. (His ideas and accomplishments would completely overshadow anything Ms. Shulman has ever brought forth.)

Ms. Shulman is one of those disparagers who think politics, especially Presidential politics, is only open to veteran Democratic party politicians who have served in some elected capacity. She’s a longtime Democratic operative who has no regard whatsoever for Republicans of any breed. She worked for President Obama’s campaign in 2012; from there, she was appointed to a cushy job as a spokesperson for international affairs at the Department of the Treasury, though probably not qualified. Her comments about Mr. Trump specifically and the GOP field in general were meant to be disrespectful at best. She would serve her office and party better by keeping quiet while the Democratic field slugs it out to pick a candidate or to concentrate on that side of the field. There also are some nuts running for the Democratic nomination.

Hillary, the former First Lady, is the Democratic front-runner. The primary qualification she has is that she is the wife of former President Bill Clinton, the man she stood by when the going got tough just so she could try to gain an office has high as her husband. Her approval ratings among Democratic voters have been dropping lately, and her delivery on the campaign trail is miserable. She needs a speech-giving coach and a lot of practice to get the crowd to its feet. Surely, every time she opens her mouth, Bill must cringe, hoping her message is not hidden behind her dull voice. The prediction here is that she will not be the next elected President of the United States. It probably will not be Mr. Trump, either, who is as qualified as many candidates running for that office.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
technophobia (noun) [tek-nuh-foh-bee-uh] abnormal feer of or anxiety about the effects of advanced technology




Monday, June 15, 2015

So, Trea Turner is a former M.C. State, not N.C. State, shortstop???

Someone editing of sports wire copy at The News & Observer must have the comedic movie 22 Jump Street on the mind. That’s because in today’s paper, the print edition and the online e-edition, we find that Trea Turner is a former M.C. State shortstop, not a former N.C. State shortstop. Obviously, it’s just a typographical error, but it happens way too much for a newspaper the supposed quality of The N&O. 

Sometimes the error is caught and changed from one edition to the other. For instance, there was a prominent misspelling of “Sweden” the other day. In an early edition of the newspaper, the country whose women’s soccer team was playing the United States was “Sweeden.” Sweden is a Scandinavian country; Sweeden is an unincorporated community in Kentucky. Sweeden is also the name of an album by the psychedelic musical group Salems Pot.

Today’s error was not changed for the print edition or the e-edition. The story originated Sunday (June 14) with the Associated Press bureau in Milwaukee which was covering the Washington Nationals baseball series at the Brewers. When the story hit the editing desk of The N&O, someone was sharp enough to remember Turner has a local connection through playing baseball for the Wolfpack. Turner was drafted by San Diego, June 13, 2014, but traded to Washington. Yesterday, June 14, 2015, was the first day he could report to the Nationals organization.

The second paragraph of the AP story begins, The shortstop selected 13th… The person editing the story changed it to read, The former M.C. State shortstop selected 13th… So Trea Turner, through an easy typo since the ‘N” and the “M” are next to each other on the keyboard, is a former M.C. (Metro City) State shortstop. (By the way, typos are easy to make; just ask me.) While the Wolfpack faithful prefer to claim Turner, there’s a chance Turner would have loved to “play” at Metro City State in 22 Jump Street.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
definiens (noun) [dih-fin-ee-uhnz] something that defines, especially the defining part of a dictionary entry

Sunday, June 14, 2015

8s are wild at Tasty 8s, but once is enough for us

There’s a hotdog restaurant in the 100 block of Fayetteville Street in Raleigh that’s keen on “8s.” It has 8 gourmet hotdogs on the menu along with 8 craft beers, and 8 gourmet milk shakes. All prices are $something.88 such as the gourmet hotdogs at $6.88 and the milkshakes at $4.88. The Belgian frites and the sweet potato fries are $2.88. Add chili or cheese for the frites and fries for $1.88. Request an extra dipping sauce for the frites and fries and get charged another $.88. Kids 8 and under can find a meal for $3.88 and standard soda beverages are $1.88. The pints of beer, though, are $6.00. $5.88 would be a better price.

The name of the place is Tasty 8’s Gourmet Hot Dog Co., and it has a long way to go to be a go to place, except that it’s open until 3:00 a.m. (how about 2:58?) on Friday and Saturday nights (which are actually Saturday or Sunday morning). Maybe the younger crowd, after frequenting other area bars and seeking food, like it. Today was our first experience there, and while the serving size was adequate, and while a request for a hot serving of the sweet potato fries to replace the cold serving we were first served was quickly accomplished, there’s plenty of reason to take our tastes elsewhere. First, the pleasant young lady waiting behind the counter to take our order and our money knew nothing about the menu. When asked, “What’s good here?” she pointed to the menu on the wall. When the order was placed, she handed it over to a preparer who had to refer to the menu to know how to build the request. He would add an ingredient, then look at the menu, add an ingredient, look at the menu.

My selection was #6, the El Perro, the continental sausage all-natural japeno-cheddar buffalo brat with queso con chorizo, guacamole, Mexican crema, salsa, and jalapeños. We’re not sure what is all-natural about japeno-cheddar buffalo brat and we think that should have been jalapeño-cheddar, but that’s how it’s listed on the menu, so be it. The food was tasty but there’s too much “paste” ingredients and not enough real toppings. My wife, Nancy, ordered the #7, The Coop, continental sausage all-natural chicken-apple sausage with cream cheese, cucumber, guacamole, scallions, and sesame seeds. Again, there was too much “canned” ingredients and not enough real toppings. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best, she rated it a 1.5. “The sausage didn’t even taste good by itself,” she remarked. Mine was a 5 but that had to do with being hungry.

The beers were good, of course. Mine was a Bruenette, a brown ale from Brueprint Brewing Company in Apex, and Nancy had the Hoptimist IPA from White Street Brewing in Wake Forest. We looked around the place for a while, trying to figure it out. It was in the high 90s today, yet the garage door entrance was open and there was no or little air conditioning. The sanitation rating was a 93. Except to maybe try a milkshake which are probably overpriced compared to other milkshake options, we decided that once was enough for Tasty 8s.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
unquiet (adjective) [uhn-kwahy-it] agitated; restless; disordered; turbulent

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Taxing for services will not have a “big impact” on businesses

Sales tax is in the news in North Carolina; the stories about sales tax on services, which is being proposed in the State Senate, are simply funny, especially those which quote the business owners who will have to charge sales tax. Take for instance Rhonda Scarboro, the owner of The Soapy Dog in Knightdale NC who thinks that a 6.75% sales tax on top of a $45 fee for a doggie trim and bath will cause the canines from returning often. “It would have a big impact,” she said in a story written by Colin Campbell in today’s The News & Observer.

Really? A big impact? The 6.75% sales tax on a $45 fee is a whopping $3.04 additional, and anyone who can afford to pay for a $45 for cutting dog hair and giving the dog a bath can afford the $3.04. it’s doubtful The Soapy Dog will lose any business. The total is still under $50 and three times the cost of my periodical haircut at Man Mur Barbershop in Raleigh. My $16 cost could go up to $17.08. Wow! At one a month, that's $12.96 a year, so it’s doubtful there will one less haircut a year.

Then, there’s James Melcher who owns A1 Expert Autocare in Angier who thinks a sales tax on his customer’s invoices amounts to a double tax. Currently, he should be collecting and submitting sales tax on the parts he supplies for the cars he services, so the new sales tax will be on the labor he supplies, an income on which he pays income taxes. “You’re taxing twice on the same amount of money,” he told The N&O’s Campbell. “That would really hurt our business. That’s make people back up a long ways.”

While on paper, it may appear there’s a double tax on the labor, in reality it’s probably not the case. If he charges $50 an hour labor, it’s doubtful he pays income tax on the entire amount after his account gets through all the self-employed tax deductions he has, and his state income tax rate should be going down anyway. The sales tax will be on the entire amount which is just $.07 per dollar of labor. So, a $50 hourly fee is now $53.50, or thereabouts. He'll be servicing just as many cars as before the sales tax law if it passes.

Small business owners such as Mr. Melcher are against sales tax on labor (services) which will be paid by the customer, not by the business owner. It should not hurt business at A1 Expert Autocare as long as Mr. Melcher offers superior workmanship in a timely fashion. He and Ms. Scarboro, who beautifies dogs, must remember their competitors will also be collecting sales tax from the customers and submitting it to the State.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
shivaree (noun) [shiv-uh-ree] a mock serenade with lettles, pans, horns, and other noisemakers given for a newly married couple

Friday, June 12, 2015

A damn shame times two: Senate 2 override and UNC-CH probation

It’s a shame, no, it’s a damn shame that the North Carolina House of Representatives voted Thursday to override a veto of Senate Bill 2 that makes it okay for religious zealots to shirk lawful responsibilities they were hired and swore an oath to uphold. Because of the veto, magistrates in North Carolina who don’t want to perform same-sex marriages can opt out. And, registers of deeds are allowed to not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples just because they have religious differences with civil laws.

The legislators who introduced the legislation in the Senate and the members of the Senate and House who voted for the bill and then to override a veto by Gov. Pat McCrory are shallow thinkers at best. Legislation will not stop same-sex marriage, and it will cost North Carolina taxpayers lots of money to defend the statue in court. Eventually, the law will be turned out after several years in court. Members of the General Assembly who are there to legislate on behalf of religious and social issues need to concentrate on economic realities and other law that will boost NC not tear it down.

It’s also a shame that UNC-Chapel Hill has been slapped with 12 months of probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The sanction is a result of mischievous activities related to athletics and academic courses set up to usher athletes through college academically unscathed and without a real education. In setting up bogus classes for the athletes, the University did harm to non-athletes who were sucked into those classes.

UNC-CH is supposedly the “flagship” of the 17 University of North Carolina campuses, but its reputation across the academic spectrum has diminished greatly over the past several years as the Chapel Hill campus tries to sort out the horrid affair. Probation is just one step above having its accreditation revoked which would have results in a loss of federal funds which has led to some colleges shutting down. If its accreditation had been revoked, it is doubtful UNC-CH would have closed its doors, but it would have been detrimental to the entire system.

In all of this, don’t fault the students or the athletes who parade as students. Blame the athletics administrators and coaches who try to protect their jobs with the win-at-all-costs attitude and point fingers at the faculty and staff members who are jock sniffers and want to win more than the coaches. If something needs to be revoked, it’s time to revoke the “flagship” moniker from UNC-CH. None of the other 16 institutions in the UNC system want to follow a sinking ship.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
cavort (verb) [kuh-vawrt] to prance or caper about

Thursday, June 11, 2015

College basketball rules changes better than short shot clock

Several rules for the upcoming college basketball season have been changed and much of the analytical emphasis has been on the reduction of the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 seconds. Some coaches prefer the track-meet, race-horse, fast-break style of play and would like to see the shot clock match the NBA’s 24-second clock. There’s a desire to increase scoring. By reducing the shot clock, possessions and scoring opportunities should increase, but it’s all nominal. In addition to more possessions and shots, the players still have to put the ball through the basket. It’ll be interesting to see if the game is awakened from a deliberate style through shorter possession time.

It’s the other changes to the rules which are of interest to me. For instance, the closely guarded 5-second violation is eliminated when the ball is being dribbled. That rule should have been banished long ago. A dribbled ball is a ball in action. This should result in less pressure, one-on-one defense on the ball which will result in more one-on-one play toward the basket with more shots off the dribble and therefore more scoring chances. If you can find footage in the 1970s of NC State’s David Thompson, you’ll see why he averaged more the 26 points a game. He had an accurate shot but he also had room to maneuver toward the basket.

Other rule changes: 
  • Coaches cannot call a timeout when the ball is live. This doesn’t prevent a player from calling a timeout. The coach will have to relay the desire to the players to call a timeout, but the coach cannot stop play just by getting the attention of the referee. 
  • The restricted-area under the basket is expanded from 3 feet to 4 feet which should prevent those under-the-basket charging calls, increasing offense and scoring chances. 
  • A timeout called within 30-seconds of the media timeout into a full media timeout, stopping the coach from calling a 30-second timeout back-to-back with a media timeout to give his players an extended rest.

For the fans, dunking will be allowed during pregame and halftime warm-ups, but my guess is that coaches will not allow so much of that to prevent injuries during warm-ups. And, in non-NCAA post-season tournament games (NIT, etc.), players will be allowed six fouls instead of five before being disqualified from the game. This idea is not new. Norm Sloan asked for it in the 1970s. Actually, he suggested unlimited fouls without being disqualified at all. He suggested that fouls by a player after the fifth result in additional free throws. And, he reasoned that the fans had paid good money to see the games, especially to see players such as David Thompson, and by sending them to the bench, the fans were being penalized.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
’sblood (interjection) [zbluhd] a euphemistic shortening of God’s blood, used as an oath