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The Rhinoceros Times

®

Vol. XXIII No. 18

© Copyright 2013 The Rhinoceros Times

Greensboro, North Carolina

www.rhinotimes.com

Thursday, May 16, 2013

This Issue Is A Collector’s Item by john hammer editor

Mostly, I want to say thanks. We put out a paper for 21 years but fell short of being able to put one final issue out on the streets.

You’re reading this paper because the people of Guilford County wanted one more issue, and we thank all of those who (Continued on page 24)

Bledsoe Memoirs Chapter One ... by Jerry Bledsoe

Orson Scott Card’s

Civilization Watch by orson scott card

Unlikely Events This is the column where I predict how American democracy ends. No, no, it’s just a silly thought experiment! I’m not serious about this! Nobody can predict the future! It’s just a game. The game of Unlikely Events. It isn’t my work as a writer of science fiction and fantasy that prepares me to write about unlikely events. My job in writing sci-fi is to make impossible events seem not just possible but likely. Inevitable.

That’s because the reader enters a work of fiction knowing that it didn’t happen. So the writer’s made-up characters and events must seem truthful. We must pass the plausibility test. History, now – we expect history to be true, and therefore, instead of plausibility, we depend on evidence. While many participants in real events might be working as hard as possible to conceal the truth, the historian must ferret out whatever documents and testimony can lead us to discover what actually happened.

Historical lies have great persistence. There are still people who think that Winston Churchill “failed” at Gallipoli; who believe that Richard III murdered his nephews, though the only person with a motive to kill them was Henry Tudor; who believe that George W. Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq. That’s because politically useful lies are treasures, not to be easily given up by those who benefit from them. Even when the facts are known, however, historians still argue (Continued on page 17)

This is the first chapter of Jerry Bledsoe’s memoirs, tentatively titled, Back When It Was Fun: Confessions of an Unlikely Writer. It’s never been published, so even with our last edition we are breaking new ground. Jerry has not finished the book but he is hard at work, so look for it in a year or so. Jerry promises it will not be as long as the 92-part Cops in Black & White series he wrote exclusively for The Rhino.

Inside this issue

High Point News.......... 14 Sound of the Beep........ 20 Uncle Orson..... 21, 23, 26 Yost Column................ 22 Puzzles............ 28, 52. 72 Letters to the Editor..... 50 Editorial Cartoon.......... 76 under the hammer....... 79

If I wasn’t overcome by anxiety I surely would be by sweat. Obviously, this was not a good condition to be in at this moment, but I was trapped. There was nothing I could do about it. The anxiety was partly due to an overlong northbound Southern Railway freight train that was laboriously blocking my path and threatening to make me late for my appointment, the main source of my anxiety. (Continued on page 59)

Rhino Rumors From staff and wire reports

One reason there is not a big list of thank yous in this edition is that there are way too many people to thank and we didn’t want to leave people out. But I would like to thank those who (Continued on page 68)


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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thanks to The Rhino Times for

OVER 20 YEARS

of being the conservative conscience/voice of the 6th District of North Carolina.

Paid for by Coble for Congress.


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Learning to Change by john hammer editor

When I realized The Rhino Times was in deep financial trouble in May of last year, I began stopping in Fisher Park on my way to work and praying for a few minutes. Those prayers, along with the prayers of many others, must have gotten us all the way to today, because even a fool looking at our financial situation last May could have told you we were done for. So I’ve been parking at the same spot in Fisher Park five to seven times a week for a year, which means I’ve come full circle season wise. When I first stopped at my spot the foliage was so heavy you couldn’t see houses in any direction except the rear view mirror, and I could barely see an open grassy area down by the creek. I liked the sense of privacy. After months of being in my green cocoon looking at out the same trees and one stump, fall came and I realized that I might be able to see part of a house across the park. I thought I would have to find a new private spot. But the leaves were gorgeous and once the deciduous trees turn yellow and orange the evergreens pop out clad in bright green like they didn’t get the memo. I wasn’t going to leave my spot and miss the fall show and day-by-day parts of houses started appearing. I’m always amazed at just how long it takes the trees to completely lose their leaves. For days I thought, this is as clear as it will get, but it wasn’t. The next thing I knew it was late December, The Rhino was still in business, and not only could I see the houses directly across the park, I could see cars, people on the sidewalk, joggers on the street and houses at the far ends of the park that I didn’t even realize were there. I could also see birds across the park and down by the creek, squirrels not only in the trees nearby but in the park and in trees I couldn’t see at all in the summer. I hadn’t liked the idea of change, but once the change came I found it had real advantages I hadn’t anticipated. It wasn’t as private but there was so much more to see. Lately, sitting in my car at my spot nature has been going the other way. A few weeks ago I watched a group, a family I think, preparing for a reunion or wedding, or that is what I imagined down in the grassy area by the creek. It was a touching scene and I thought about how in a couple of weeks I wouldn’t be able to see them at all. It made me kind of sad to think about going back to only being able to see a few trees and not being able to watch people walk their dogs through the park or jog down the street. But now I’m back where I started in my private green glen with my trees and I like it. It’s a long way of saying that The Rhino closing down is sad and I don’t like my life changing. For 20 years I have had the best job in journalism, and I’m ever so thankful for that. Most journalists never get to sit down and write what they want. I not only did that but people read what I wrote and reacted. Some liked it and some didn’t, but either way The Rhino got people thinking about the government. I’m going to miss it. I’d like to stay here in my office typing away on an old iMac until I wear out another keyboard. But life changes. Some people naturally embrace change but most of us don’t. I’d like to write a column and then walk down to the Rhino Club and have a beer with the crew that hung out there when I first started The Rhino Times. But the Rhino Club is gone and the crew has scattered all over the place. Some are no longer with us, and now The Rhino Times is gone too. Greensboro is a wonderful city and a great place to live, and it was long before anyone ever thought of having a weekly newspaper named for a large, powerful, herbivorous, thick-skinned, perissodactyl mammal, and will continue to be so after we’re gone. It’s been a great run. Thanks to all who played a part.

The Rhinoceros Times

®

We Make Conservatism Cool TM The Rhinoceros Times, an award-winning newspaper, is published weakly by Hammer Publications, 216 W. Market St., Greensboro, North Carolina. The Rhino Times is intended to entertain and inform its thousands of readers worldwide. Mailing address: P.O. Box 9421 Greensboro, NC 27429 News: (336) 273-0880 Advertising: (336) 273-0885 Fax: (336) 273-0821 Beep: (336) 273-0898 Website: www.rhinotimes.com Letters to the Editor: letters@rhinotimes.net

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The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

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The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

12th Commissioner Gives Up His Seat by Scott D. Yost county editor

Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz. The first time I realized that Guilford County government was drastically different from the norm was in July 2005, while standing in the lobby of the main convention center in Honolulu, Hawaii. I was in a crowd of county commissioners and other county officials from all over the country, and I was standing next to Commissioners Bruce Davis and Paul Gibson – the only two Guilford County commissioners who had made the 5,000-mile trip to the tropical paradise on the dime of the Guilford County taxpayers. It was the first day of the National Association of Counties convention and everyone was meeting each other, and somehow the issue of commissioner pay came up. At that time, the Guilford County commissioners had just voted to raise their own pay by an astronomical 40 percent in one fell swoop – so I pointed to Bruce and Paul and I informed everyone within earshot of that fact. “Well, the Guilford County commissioners just voted themselves 40 percent raises!” I said. The commissioners from other counties looked stunned. They thought I was joking. I said, “No, no, that’s not a joke – they really did.” The other county officials were absolutely fascinated, and they began asking Bruce and Paul if that were true, and the two Guilford County commissioners acknowledged that it was. Everyone gathered around them; they were instant celebrities. The other commissioners and county officials began asking Bruce and Paul how in the world they pulled off something like that. One man said that, in his county, he and the other commissioners had tried to give themselves a 3 percent raise, but, even with that proposed modest pay increase, the citizens had gone ballistic, and the commissioners were forced to nix the plan. As I watched that conversation, it was a real eye-opening moment for me because – even though I’d covered the Guilford County commissioners for two-and-a-half years by that point – I had nothing to compare them to. I guess that, in the back of my mind, I had always assumed that Guilford County’s way of doing business was the norm, and it was the same way everywhere. However, what I discovered at that moment, and in the following years, is that Guilford County government is exactly as crazy as it seems to be. On maps, Guilford County is listed as being on the planet Earth, but in terms of its government, it is a distant outlier in a galaxy far, far away. A few days into that convention in Hawaii, Bruce, Paul and I attended a seminar on open meetings laws, one led by an expert from some Midwestern state. He spoke about the importance of open government and he explained the applicable laws and then took questions. I raised my hand and explained to the people in the large meeting room the way the Guilford County commissioners arrived at their budget each year. Six members of that 11-member board constituted a majority, so, if the board’s six Democrats reached an agreement among themselves, they could do what they wanted. However, the six couldn’t legally meet in private; six would create a quorum and would therefore be a violation of open meetings laws. So, in order to get around the law each year at budget time, five Guilford County Democratic commissioners would hold a secret meeting at one of their homes, where they would decide the county budget behind close doors. In order to skirt the open meetings law, which prohibited having all six at the meeting, five of them would meet and then the sixth would walk into the house just as another commissioner was walking out. The most important county business each year – the county’s $500 million plus budget – was decided behind closed doors, and, then, the six Democratic commissioners would show up to a meeting and vote to adopt the budget with little to no discussion – because the discussion had already taken place behind the scenes. I explained the practice to the legal expert teaching the open meetings law seminar, and, when I did, he got this wide-eyed and disturbed look on his face – as did many of the county officials in the room. After I told him how it was done in Guilford County, here is the first thing he said: “If they had done that in my state, they would be in jail.” And I was like, wow. I turned to Bruce and Paul to make sure they had caught that answer. (Continued on page 64)


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

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Mayor’s race, music hall, budget wrap-up by john hammer editor

Since The Rhino isn’t even going to be around for the budget season, much less the election, I do want to get in a couple of points before we close up shop. One, there is absolutely no reason for Greensboro to raise taxes or water rates or cut services. If you don’t believe the city has plenty of money, go to any meeting and watch what happens when some councilmember wants to give $10,000 or $50,000 to a pet project. The money is there. Last year, out of the blue, the city found over $250,000 to put into the Greensboro Performing Arts Center project. The city has piles of money hidden all over the place. One problem is that without state Sen. Trudy Wade on the council there is no one to ask the tough questions and find out where that money is hiding. The talk about cutting the hours at the Sportsplex is the oldest trick in the government employees’ handbook, but it appears this City Council, which is the worst in a couple of decades, may fall for it. The Parks and Recreation Department recently did a couple of things that were completely unnecessary. It replaced perfectly good basketball goals in parks with nearly identical basketball goals. Only an expert could tell the difference. How

does a steel pole set in concrete wear out? Pulling them out of the ground couldn’t have been cheap, and it was a completely unnecessary. It also looks like they have replaced a lot of playground equipment that wasn’t broken or worn out; it just had a few years of wear and tear on it. When I moved back near Kirkwood Park after an absence of 40-some years, the playground equipment looked the same as it did when I played down there as a child. I’m sure the merry-go-round was the same. But in the last 10 years they have switched everything out at least twice. Furthermore, for some bizarre reason, parks and rec decided that the walking and biking trail in Latham Park had to be 12 feet wide and of concrete thick enough for heavy truck traffic. Are joggers really going to wear out a trail like a heavy truck? The guys who were being paid to put in the concrete had no idea why it was so thick. Parks and recreation also decided to put ugly, confusing signs on its property. I think they stopped that because I haven’t seen any new ugly confusing signs in a while. But all of those things are just wasteful. The Sportsplex gets an incredible amount of use, which is why it was slated to be closed. And the Greensboro Youth Council Carnival also has a lot of support. Schools traditionally threaten to get rid of

Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy For over 20 years I have listened to men and women say, “Hey, Dr. Willard, you’ve got me looking great on the outside with cosmetic surgery, but I don’t feel right on the inside!” For many patients, the loss of the youthful levels of our hormones explained what was going on. Natural hormone replacement therapy corrects the loss of our hormones that comes through aging and menopause. The term natural hormone means the bioidentical hormone our bodies make and not synthetic ones made by the pharmaceutical industry. With replacement therapy, patients report an increase in their psychological well

programs that are popular and have a wellorganized and vocal following. Police departments say they will have to take officers off the streets in heavy crime areas. Parks and recreation departments say they have to close popular facilities. It is all about getting more money. Anyone could go into the Parks and Recreation Department and cut enough staff to solve any budget problems and no one would notice except the people out looking for jobs. Some city managers have had one assistant city manager. City Manager Denise Roth has four. Maybe she could get by with three or two and save the city over a quarter of a million dollars. But there is no one on the City Council right now pushing to cut spending, so look for popular facilities to be slated for closing until public outcry forces the city to raise taxes or cut some less popular service. The mayoral race between At-large City Councilmember Nancy Vaughan and Mayor Robbie Perkins is what Perkins would call a no-brainer. Let’s be nice and judge Perkins, not on his personal problems, but on the success of his administration. Perkins was swept into office and, in the beginning, had six or seven votes on the council to do anything he wanted. The Perkinettes, and Vaughan was a member

being; PMS symptoms can be resolved, not uncommonly in weeks. The medical benefits include a decrease in cardiac disease, vascular disease, strokes, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and even cancers. In order to determine what hormone levels are deficient, blood work is performed. Our goal is to return hormone levels, not just to normal levels, but to an optimal level – the normal range of a youthful individual. Thyroid hormone regulates temperature, metabolism, cerebral function and energy. It can protect against cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, memory loss, fatigue and weight gain. Commonly patients complain of being weak, cold, tired, with thinning hair, thin skin and brittle nails, weight gain with increased truncal body fat, a loss of energy and motivation, mood swings and in general an overall loss of well being. Bioidentical thyroid can reverse this. DHEA is called the “mother of all hormones,” coming from the adrenal glands. DHEA stimulates the immune system, can restore sexual vitality, improves moods, and decreases cholesterol and body fat. It improves memory, increases energy and has anticancer properties by enhancing the immune system. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. It influences good quality deep sleep as well as the quantity of sleep. Melatonin is also an energizer, a mood enhancer and an antioxidant. It has also been shown to decrease the incidence of nocturia – getting up at night to urinate. Some individuals have even seen a reversal of graying of the hair! Estrogen opened the doors to hormone replacement therapy. Estrogen has been proven to reduce the effects of heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s, memory loss, menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, skin thinning, the incidence of depression and reverse the lack

at one time, were behind him 100 percent. He ran on a platform of jobs, economic development and public safety. But once he got into office Perkins decided that what Greensboro needed more than jobs, police, roads or recreational facilities for children was a downtown Performing Arts Center for well-off adults to watch Broadway plays and listen to the symphony and opera. Perkins said over and over that this was the most vital thing the council could do for the city. Perkins had his campaign manager hired to run the project to make certain it was done right and had an 80-member committee appointed that included everyone who was anyone. They even let then Councilmember Trudy Wade appoint a couple of conservatives. The plan was to get a bond referendum on the ballot in the fall of 2012, so that construction could get underway. The Greensboro Performing Arts Center (GPAC) as the mainstream media refers to it, or Perkins’ Music Hall as we refer to it, has been an unmitigated disaster. The Eleven County Area News & Record has been nothing but a cheerleader for the project, but even TECAN&R had to report that the money supposedly raised by the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro was fictitious. Perkins made (Continued on page 58)

of libido. Estrogen is one of the key hormones of intimacy. Without estrogen sexual intercourse can be painful. Progesterone and estrogen are the two central ovarian hormones. It is the balancing of these two hormones that gives us the best success in the battle against age-related diseases. Progesterone is the hormone of pregnancy. Progesterone acts as an antidepressant, mild tranquilizer and natural painkiller, leading many women to state that they have never felt as good as they did when they were pregnant. Bioidentical progesterone can eliminate symptoms of menopause, PMS, emotional instability, headaches and mood swings. Andropause is the word for male menopause. By the time a man reaches 50, there is a significant drop in testosterone, which can account for a loss of a man’s sense of well-being, decrease in morning erections, maintaining an erection during sex, decrease in intensity of the orgasms, loss of general muscle mass, increasing abdominal obesity, osteoporosis, decrease in mental acuity, and decreased strength and endurance. Many women find it surprising that the ovaries produce testosterone. Testosterone levels are only about 10 percent the amount found in men, but this makes all the difference in the world in a woman’s health. Of all the hormones we replace, testosterone is the one responsible for a significant amount of the health benefits and feel good effects. Testosterone therapy can reverse the gradual sexual apathy that occurs over time. Testosterone increases sexual desire and sensitivity, while increasing energy and strength. Call for a consult. The conversation you and I have may be the best investment you ever made in your health and well being!


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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Bad Reporting, Not Guns, Kills Happiness by Jerry Bledsoe

Leadership. Honesty. Integrity. For Greensboro’s future.

To the Rhino staff “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.” ~Garrison Keillor

Paid for by the Committee to Elect Nancy Barakat Vaughan

Not long after I came to work in the High Point bureau of the Greensboro Daily News nearly half a century ago, the managing editor Chuck Hauser, a great and courageous newspaperman, called a meeting that included all of the outlying bureau reporters. One of the purposes of the meeting was to discuss the upcoming opening of the General Assembly and how we were to cover it. One of those in attendance was W.C. “Mutt” Burton, the Rockingham County reporter, who had been with the paper since ancient times and looked it because of his long white beard. I had only recently met Mutt, a gifted writer, actor, photographer and master of limericks, and despite the wide age range between us, we would become dearest friends and remain so until his death many years later. At one point, Hauser turned to Mutt, who had not yet engaged in the discussion, and said, “Mutt, you’ve seen a lot of legislatures come and go….” “Indeed, I have,” Mutt responded in his best actor’s voice, “and I’ve watched with a-MAZING indifference.” That’s been pretty much my attitude about legislatures. I’ve rarely paid any attention to them and figure that I’m far better off for it. I’ve grown too old to worry about whatever shenanigans legislators may be up to. I’m much more concerned with the weather and how it will affect our garden. The garden gives me much satisfaction, even on dreary days, something that legislative dreariness is not apt to do. But last week I was browsing through headlines at the News & Record’s blogging sites and got caught in, of all things, a snare involving the legislature. This was the headline that did it: “H 937: Happiness is a gun.” I was aware that bills introduced in the General Assembly are given such numbers and wondered if somebody actually had titled a bill that way and why? I clicked on the headline and was taken to the North State Politics blog, which is written by reporter Travis Fain, who covers the legislature. The headline was quite bold and I began reading the article beneath it. It didn’t seem to fit the headline. It was a run-of-the-mill report about a bill that would, among other things, allow guns to be kept in locked vehicles on college campuses by people over age 21 and expand areas where people with permits could carry concealed firearms. Fain reported some details and went on to let proponents and opponents have their say about the law (Republicans for, Democrats against). I kept trudging on, wondering when I would get to the happinessis-a-gun part. But it didn’t come until the final sentence, which left me in a state of wonder and confusion. Let me offer the last three paragraphs of the article so I can attempt to deal with this happiness business. To set it up, Rep. John Faircloth, High Point’s former police chief, a supporter of the law, told Fain he wanted his granddaughter to be able to lock a gun in her car on campus so she could have protection when she drives to and from classes at night. Fain reported these comments then followed with this: “Bill opponents worried that, when tempers flare, the temptation will be to go get that gun, and to use it. Proponents noted that licensed gun owners, almost by definition, respect the law. “State Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, reduced this argument to paper, as only he can, and distributed it to fellow House members. “The bad guys always have guns, he argued. For the good ones, happiness depends upon them.” Fain offered a link to Blust’s purported argument and I clicked on it. Up popped a dim page with four sets of mechanical-like drawings of stick figures that had appeared on the Twitter page of somebody named Tricia Cotham. (I won’t wander off here into Twitter, which may well be the most destructive force to meaningful journalism ever created.) The page looked like something Blust might have seen on the internet and sent around to colleagues for amusement. Each set of drawings had three figures, all the same size and without gender identity. Two of the sets were side by side at the top of the page, the other two beneath them. In the top set all six figures had arms at their sides with stick-like guns pointed downward attached to one arm, although none of the arms had hands, thus no ability to fire the guns. The group on the left was labeled “Good Guys With Guns,” the group on the right “Bad Guys With Guns.” The good guys had upturned mouths on their noseless faces, the bad guys, downturned ones. Beneath these were the other two sets of figures. The set on the left was labeled “Good Guys Without Guns” (downturned mouths), the set on the right was “Bad Guys With Guns.” The bad guys had upturned mouths and were aiming their guns at the good guys. In this drawing one of the bad guys had grown a third leg for reasons unknown. Across the top of the page were these words: “Let’s Make This Simple.” Across the bottom was a question: “Do You Get It?” (Continued on page 69)


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

&FRANK

JULIE

5, 6 & 11

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

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The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

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2012 Award - Winning Sales Associates Greensboro International Sterling Society

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My favorite thing about the news business is that you learn more about a city you cover in a year than you would learn by living there for a decade. I retreated from Washington, DC, to North Carolina in 2007 with no intention, after a couple of decades in the news business, of getting sucked back into it. It seemed like a good place to retreat after years of political firefights covering Capitol Hill. North Carolina has beautiful scenery, cheapish rents, and Greensboro is close to my family hometown in Montgomery County. I have friends here, and if trouble followed me from Washington, well, North Carolina has liberal gun laws and Greensboro has good lines of sight for defensive fire. Unfortunately, I overestimated the marketability of a reporter and editor’s resume in Greensboro, and moved here cold, without a job. I was also broke, after a period of unemployment in a city where $2,400 a month gets you a decent one-bedroom apartment. It didn’t help to have a lengthy, complex and hard-to-explain resume, particularly one larded with job titles that don’t exist outside the Washington Beltway. Most hiring managers held it gingerly and peered at it if it was something potentially radioactive from Mars. I floated some resumes, including one to The Eleven County Area News & Record. “We’re not hiring anyone,” a harried-looking woman there told me. “We’ve even laid off our Human Resources Department.” I’d seen that at other newspapers and magazines. It was never a good sign. I took my business elsewhere. After a brief period working at that great magnet for Greensboro residents with college degrees and no jobs – Measurement Inc., the test-grading company on Meadowview Road – I took a temporary job at the nearly bankrupt CompUSA. From years of tech work, I knew they were evil. Their business model was based on selling senile grandmothers bogus extended computer warranties. But I knew they wouldn’t have time to fire me for refusing to sell them before going bankrupt. Still, working at CompUSA was miserable. Take hell, assign it a manager from the lower ranks of demons with a chip on his shoulder because he thinks he deserves Beelzebub’s job, then populate it with desperate people who know they are soon going to be living in abject poverty. That was CompUSA in its final weeks. One day, while polishing a glass case with my posterior and dozing fitfully, I saw a slender, attractive woman with short hair come into the store. I pulled myself out of my depressive doze to help her – probably because she didn’t look like a usual CompUSA customer or a candidate for a fake warranty. She was a friendly, talkative type. She asked questions about not only the computer speakers she wanted to buy, but about retail in general – a subject I cheerfully admitted I knew nothing about. Sales, I told her, was not my usual business. “What do you usually do?” she asked. “I’m a newsman,” I said. “But there are no jobs in that trade in this town.” “Well, what do you know?” she responded. “My husband owns a newspaper. You ought to come talk to him.” God moves in mysterious ways. The gregarious woman who pulled me out of my CompUSA funk was, of course, Elaine Hammer, full-time muse and part-time editor, ad sales rep, photographer, layout person, cat-and-dog maintenance technician, coffee cup washer and just about everything else at The Rhino Times. She was also the wife of Rhino Editor-in-Chief John Hammer. Elaine later told me she was prompted to talk to me because of my lack of artificially sunny attitude and the fact that, forced to wear a name-tag, I had written “PAUL” in angry magic marker on a business card and stapled it to my shirt. It hadn’t occurred to me to consider independent weekly newspapers. For some reason, I assumed that, in a Greensboro-sized market, they were vanity press – filled with pieces contributed by people who wrote to see their names in print. I had read a couple of copies of The Rhino over lunch. The first things that jumped out at me were John’s sometimes over-the-top, but always full-attack Under The Hammer national affairs column; that someone named Jerry Bledsoe had written a news series so long that the number on each story had to be a typo; and that some guy named Yost could write well. I’ve written humor columns for a living at times, and it’s much harder than it looks. Humorists never get their due, which is the only reason Hemingway is considered a great writer and P.G. Wodehouse, who was writing Hemingway-clean prose when Hemingway was in diapers, is shelved in the entertainment section of Barnes & Noble along with Peanuts compilations and books of crossword puzzles. (Continued on page 70)


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

John

Blust N.C. House District 62

Congratulations On 21 Years

Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it and then hand it to them with the well-taught lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same.” For 21 years, John Hammer and The Rhinoceros Times have been in the forefront of the fight to protect and defend freedom at the local level here in Guilford County as it is threatened by oppressive big government, which wants to remain unaccountable to the people – the real sovereign power in our constitutional republic. They will be sorely missed in this fight as it goes forward. It is a fight that those who believe in conservative principles must win if we are to stay a free and prosperous nation. This nation, conceived in liberty, was founded by architects of consummate skill and fidelity, who, with a firm reliance in the protection of divine providence, mutually pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in the defense of the eternal principles that undergird our liberty. We, too, as the posterity they spoke of in the preamble to the Constitution, must also pledge our lives, fortunes and honor in this ongoing effort. This must not be the generation that loses freedom in America. I predict that John Hammer will soon be back in this fight.

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HIGH POINT

HIGH POINT

HIGH POINT

HIGH POINT

HIGH POINT

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro HIGH POINT

HIGH POINT

HIGH POINT

Sims In Legal Trouble On Two Fronts by paul C. clark Staff Writer

High Point Mayor Bernita Sims may face criminal charges for writing a $7,000 bad check in North Carolina, and is being forced by a Maryland court to explain what happened to $47,000 from her sister’s estate. A Prince George’s County, Maryland, court has scheduled a hearing for May 23, 2013, to get Sims try to explain to the court why it should not order her to pay $47,038 from the estate of her deceased sister, Virginia Sims of Maryland, to another sister, Annie Ponce of High Point. The Maryland hearing results from a claim by Ponce that she is owed the $47,000, and could result in a contemptof-court charge against Bernita Sims if she doesn’t pay, or doesn’t have the money. A decision is also pending from the North Carolina attorney general’s office on whether or not a grand jury will indict Bernita Sims on a felony charge as a result of a claim by Ponce that Bernita Sims wrote a $7,000 bad check that was supposed to provide Ponce with some of the money owed to her. Virginia Sims died on April 2, 2008, and her will was filed with the Prince George’s County Register of Wills on May 7, 2008. According to court records, five years later,

the estate has not been closed out and all the proceeds of the estate have not been distributed. The will of Virginia Sims gave Bernita Sims almost unlimited control of the estate as her personal representative of her sister. She could invest money, sell properties and do almost anything Virginia Sims herself could have done with her property while she was alive. But it also tasks her “To distribute assets left in this Will as soon after my death as is practicable.” Alleged problems with Bernita Sims’ administration of the estate became an issue in High Point in March, when Annie Ponce walked into the High Point police station and complained that Bernita Sims had written her a $7,000 bad check as part of her share of the estate. Whether Ponce claimed there were insufficient funds in the account to cover the check, or that the account had been closed, is unclear. Sources familiar with the investigation said the $7,000 check was written in November 2012 and that Ponce, who said she had discovered that the check might not be good, delayed depositing it, doing so in January at the advice of her attorneys. Sources said that Ponce, after receiving the bounced check back from the bank in February, approached police the first week

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in March. Since the investigation involved the mayor of High Point, police turned it over to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). The SBI investigated the sole legal issue – whether or not the check was bad – and turned it over to the district attorney’s office, which in turn, because of the investigation’s sensitivity, turned its results over to the office of the North Carolina attorney general for a decision on any prosecution. No charges have been filed as a result of the investigation. The $7,000 check to Ponce made the estate an issue in North Carolina, with the possibility of felony charges, and it was the tip of the iceberg. The estate of Virginia Sims, which must approach $500,000 in value, has been a complicated legal proceeding in Maryland for five years. Virginia Sims, an administrator in the Prince George’s County Public Schools, had done well for herself, and, according to court documents, owned at least a house in Brandywine, Maryland, a property in the District of Columbia, $100,000 in a checking account and two cars. According to a claim by one of the beneficiaries, Bernita Sims invested the money from the checking account in a money market account and then in bonds. The will’s provisions for the distribution of the estate were simple enough in theory, but were complicated by the number of beneficiaries. The essence of the will was that, except for some small bequests to individuals and a church, the estate would be divided into two piles of money. Of that money, 75 percent would be divided between Virginia Sims’ five siblings: sisters Bernita and Doretta Sims and Annie Ponce and brothers Gregory and Charles Sims. The other 25 percent would be divided between 20 nieces and nephews. Several proceedings have contributed to the unusual length of time it has taken to close out the estate of Virginia Sims – all in

one way or another challenges to actions of Bernita Sims. On Jan. 15, 2010, Tracy Humphrey of San Francisco, presumably the “Tracy Humphries” listed as a niece and beneficiary in the will, challenged two accounts of the estate filed by Bernita Sims. Humphrey questioned numerous actions by Bernita Sims, including what Humphrey claimed was a discrepancy in mortgage payments on the house in Virginia Sims’ accounts. She also claimed that Bernita Sims said the two cars were given to Bernita and Doretta Sims as gifts and were not part of the estate. Humphrey asked Bernita Sims to prove they were gifts. Humphrey also claimed that Bernita Sims’ son, Robert, lived in the Maryland house, without paying rent and while running up large utility bills. Humphrey asked Bernita Sims to reimburse the estate for rent and utilities. Humphrey also asked about the ownership of the interest on the money market account and bonds, and claimed that Bernita Sims would not put the properties on the market. She claimed that the estate had paid $94,000 in mortgage payments since Virginia Sims’ death. Humphrey asked the court to order the properties liquidated, and to remove Bernita Sims from control of the estate if they weren’t. Humphrey wrote, “At this rate, there will be nothing left in the estate.” Humphrey also claimed that Virginia Sims’ second estate account listed an American Express card debt that was not on the first, and asked the court to determine whether or not that credit card account had been opened since the first account. Humphrey won the challenge to Robert Sims living in the house in a lower court, which ordered Bernita and Robert Sims to pay fair rent. Bernita Sims appealed that decision to the Circuit Court of Prince George’s County. On Sept. 21, 2011, Bernita Sims’ (Continued on page 74)

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The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Rhino Horned In On Closed Meetings by john hammer editor

So many people have asked me what I think The Rhinoceros Times has accomplished, I feel obligated to say something about it. Whenever I speak to a group, I try to work in the quote by Thomas Jefferson, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.” We are a self-governing people, or are supposed to be, but if people don’t know what their government is doing how can they be a part of it? County Editor Scott Yost was explaining to me why he used the Guilford County Board of Elections office to find out the party affiliation of the new county manager in Brunswick County. I said, “It’s a public record. All you had to do was call down there and ask.” Yost agreed that it was a public record but pointed out that Brunswick County is a long drive and, if they didn’t know it was a public record, it would take hours or days to get the information. We run into it all the time when we have to deal with other jurisdictions or with employees here recently hired from other jurisdictions. The law in North Carolina makes just about everything in a government employee’s office a public record, which means anyone can ask to see it at reasonable times and can request a copy, which is supposed to be provided as promptly as possible. It’s the law, but it doesn’t make a bit of difference what the law is unless people who have the records know what it is. When we first printed government salaries in the paper, people were astonished. We did it in part because every year at budget time the managers and school superintendent would complain about how poorly paid their employees were. Since even lowlevel government employees usually make more than experienced journalists, it was particularly galling to us. But when those first salary lists came out people asked us if we weren’t afraid of going to jail, and they were serious. So one thing that we have accomplished in 20 years of fighting and complaining is that Guilford County, City of Greensboro and Guilford County Schools are all much more open in their public records policy. I fear that next week they will go back to their same old tricks, but I hope my friends in the mainstream media will work to keep them honest. The same can be said for closed meetings. Here we have had some problems of late. Mayor Robbie Perkins is in favor of doing business behind closed doors and no one on the City Council is standing up to him. When state Sen. Trudy Wade was City Councilmember Trudy Wade, she made it known that she was not going to participate in any secret closed meetings. If all the councilmembers won’t play the game, then it doesn’t work. Years ago when Joe Bostic was a Guilford County commissioner, he singlehandedly put a stop to economic incentives by first announcing that he was going to walk out and tell the press everything that was done in closed session and then doing it, once. Companies knew that if they came to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners for free money it would be known, and they quit asking. Unfortunately, we have too many elected officials right now who don’t know the law and pay way too much attention to government employees who would like to do everything in secret. John Dinan, who is a professor of political science at Wake Forest University, a good friend and a fan of The Rhino, said the other day that Winston-Salem politics just wasn’t at interesting as Greensboro politics. I doubt that he’s right. I’ve never covered Winston-Salem so I can’t say for certain, but my guess is that Winston-Salem politics is just as interesting as Greensboro politics, but nobody is writing about it. We found that the stories in Charlotte, where we had a paper from 2002 to 2008, were very similar to the ones in Greensboro, just twice as big. High Point is its own world, but there is no lack of interesting and sometimes bizarre stories there. The daily newspapers used to have the staff to put people on stories for weeks at a time. Now short-staffed like everyone in the business, they are just fighting to put a newspaper out every day. In their defense, they don’t have the time to put in the kind of research that is needed. One reason Scott Yost was able to break all those stories on Guilford County government was because he had a week to work on them. It didn’t hurt that he knows everyone in county government and is a subtle but relentless interviewer. Our business model stopped working, which is why this is our last paper, but I think someone will come up with a business model that does work because one thing we have proven is that people are interested in their government. But to answer the original question, our biggest accomplishment was putting a paper out every Thursday for 21 years.


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Civilization (Continued from page 1) endlessly over cause. Why did this or that event happen? No matter how much evidence you have, causality always recedes into the realm of wishful thinking – historians assign weight to various causes according to their own systems of belief. With fiction, on the other hand, causality is the one certain thing. We know that the events didn’t happen and the people didn’t exist, but when the author tells you why things happened, it is meaningless to argue about it. It’s not as if you can provide evidence for a different view! The place where fiction and history come together is in the absurd business of predicting the future. Absurd, because predictors are inevitably wrong. In predicting the future, we are bound by the same rules of plausibility that bind fiction writers, yet we must also respect the rules of evidence that bind historians. The biggest problem with prediction is that there is almost always an underlying assumption of: “If present trends continue.” But present trends never continue. If the increase in bottled-water sales had continued to grow at the same rate shown in the 1980s, we would already be running out of fresh water. If birth rates had continued at baby boom rates, we’d already be at 500

Thursday, May 16, 2013

million Americans (or more). Present trends never continue. But when they’ll end, and what will replace them, are the questions that lead almost all predictions to be absurdly wrong. Nobody knew that Communism would fall in the Soviet Union, or that Eastern Europe would win its freedom bloodlessly, after years of failed revolts. (Actually, I was laughed at in the 1980s for publicly predicting the possibility of the fall of Soviet Communism, but I certainly didn’t know the schedule or the means by which it would happen.) Nobody predicted the collapse of Japan’s “economic miracle.” The dotcom boom became a bubble only after it popped. The crash in the housing market was completely, obviously predictable – after it happened. Yet this doesn’t mean prediction is useless or meaningless. There were plenty of people who foretold the disaster that Hitler would bring to the world if he came to power in Germany, and those predictions were exactly fulfilled. The only reason people were taken by surprise was that they simply refused to believe (a) what Hitler himself said he would do, and (b) the previous related examples from history. So today we have a president whose faith in the good will of Muslim leaders is touching but groundless, whose threats

and promises mean nothing, and whose ignorance of history is terrifying. Iran and North Korea are led by dictators who don’t care about the survival of their own people, and who have clearly announced their intentions. Yet our president sits on his hands. Does it take any particular brains to predict that if Iran is not stopped, they will use nukes against Israel? Or that if someone stops them, it won’t be Barack Obama? North Korea is a different matter; the Kims don’t care about their people, but they do care about their own continuation in absolute power. The Iranians, however, are ideologues. They believe that it doesn’t matter if they achieve success by the world’s standards, as long as they please God. The real question is whether Obama would actually do anything in the event of a nuclear attack on Israel – or on anybody. From Benghazi to Boston, his policy is to pretend that Muslims never do anything bad. So he chums about with Islamist Turks, his “red line” on war crimes in Syria meant nothing, he is funding the Christian-killing Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and when our consulate in Benghazi was under attack and we had the means to stop it, he did absolutely nothing.

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Predicting that Obama will continue to do nothing is easy and obvious. Like Neville Chamberlain, who went straight from optimism (Hitler will never start a war) to despair (we might as well make whatever peace with him we can get), Obama would certainly respond to a nuclear strike on Tel Aviv and Haifa with a call for negotiations and a complete abandonment of whatever part of Israel survived. The only way he would go to war would be under the threat of rebellion from his own party in Congress, who would be destroyed in the next election if the US did nothing. On foreign policy, Obama is already the dumbest president in American history, and there’s so much competition for that title. Only the fact that Al Gore, John Kerry and Joe Biden were never president leaves him in sole possession of the crown. But that brings me to a little thought experiment that seized my imagination a few weeks ago and won’t go away. Obama is, by character and preference, a dictator. He hates the very idea of compromise; he demonizes his critics and despises even his own toadies in the liberal press. He circumvented Congress as soon as he got into office by appointing “czars” who didn’t need Senate approval. His own party hasn’t passed a budget ever in the (Continued on page 66)


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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

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The first thing I felt when I came to The Rhino Times more than five years ago was the warm, fuzzy feeling you get from serving alongside sympathetic comrades in arms. The first such comrade was Rhino Times County Editor, Hooters Outreach Agent, columnist and soulless cat-hater ScottfromtheRhino, also known to the masses as Scott Yost. Scott’s desk was, for years, five feet across the “newsroom” from mine. The room was a “newsroom” rather than a newsroom because it was a writer’s ghetto that contained our two metal government-surplus desks, two chairs, two lamps that didn’t work, boxes full of notes and government paperwork inherited from long-dead reporters and Scott’s five-year collection of empty Diet Coke cans. Editor-in-Chief John Hammer, Publisher Willy Hammer and others up the food chain had desks made of wood and actual windows overlooking the concrete Brutalist horrors of the Greensboro, Guilford County and BB&T buildings across West Market Street. “Yost” (after years of headlines beginning with that word, it’s hard to think of him as anything else) glared at me and said, “Hey. I’m Scott. The average person in your job lasts three weeks.” I later recognized the response, which was the same Scott and I came to have to new ad sales reps. Until they had been there six months, we didn’t bother learning their names. It was like the scenes in Band of Brothers in which hardened 101st Airborne paratroops were afraid to get too close to replacement soldiers, whose life expectancy was shockingly short. There are almost a half-million people in Guilford County. At one time or another over the last 21 years, at least half of them worked for The Rhino Times. To add to my warm, fuzzy welcome, John delighted in telling me how the other quarter-million had quit, been fired or disappeared under mysterious circumstances – including one poor soul hired to cover Guilford County Board of Education meetings who, after sitting through one of the school board’s nine-hour painfests, said, “I just can’t take this,” and quit on the spot. My first job at The Rhino Times was covering the school board, something I hadn’t done in years. Up to that point, Rhino Times school board reporters were like Spinal Tap drummers – there one day, inexplicably gone the next. Given the Mafia-like culture at Guilford County Schools, most of them probably died of blunt force trauma from slamming their heads into the school system’s wall of silence. The truth is that working for The Rhino Times isn’t, and has never been, for everyone. Certain less fiendishly crafty newspaper editors in Guilford County pay their reporters by the hour and stick to an oddly primitive concept called “shifts.” That, apparently, is a system under which, after eight or 10 hours, a reporter hands off his job to someone else. John was too smart for that. He paid his reporters salaries, and The Rhino had no concept of “shifts.” At least, a Rhino shift could last up to 30 hours, and John didn’t hold with certain tenets of physics – such as the idea that a reporter could not be in two places at the same time. Everyone at The Rhino eventually had at least two jobs, and, if they conflicted, tough. That may have something to do with my relative longevity at The Rhino. After more than two decades in the news trade during which I worked for newspapers, magazines and a passel of government policy publications, I was used to 24-hour days, imaginary holidays and vacations and work that inevitably bled into weekends. I was, you might say, pre-trained to be a sucker. My early days at The Rhino were replete with screaming matches with John over my stories. Or screaming game, set and match for John, as I usually just waited for the gales to blow over. I’ve worked both sides of the editor’s desk, and know the stress that’s on an editor trying to simultaneously write, edit other people’s copy and make a publication come together by deadline. I still suspect that was John’s traditional hazing ritual for new reporters, which would go a long way to explaining their high turnover rate. You might ask why I stayed at The Rhino at all. For one thing, the coffee at The Rhino is remarkably good. You’d be surprised the difference three cups of free gourmet coffee, instead of one of 50-cent fake coffee, makes after 30 hours of work. Also, The Rhino Times World Headquarters was never without at least one office cat and one office dog – at times, expanding to two of each. Late-night writing went much more smoothly with JJ the News Cat sprawled across my desk, purring. Mostly, I began to notice that the tiny cadre of Rhino reporters were good. Very good. I’ve covered government from the smallest town meetings in New England to the US Congress and federal regulatory agencies in Washington – and I’ve never worked for (Continued on page 72)


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Page 19

The Rhino Times Says A Sad Farewell by john hammer editor

This originally ran on rhinotimes.com on April 30, and it turned out to be not quite true because this is the last edition. It is with a great deal of sadness that I announce that the April 28 edition of The Rhinoceros Times now on the stands is the last. I’d like to thank all of our readers for making a point of picking up The Rhino Times for the past 21 years and I wish we could continue to provide you with the news, opinion and humor every week that you have come to expect, but we have simply run out of money. Like a lot of small businesses, we took a huge hit in 2008, and although we have done everything we could think of, we simply can no longer pay our bills. Newspapers got hit with the double whammy of the recession and increasing competition from the internet, and we join a long list of newspapers that have closed their doors. I would especially like to thank our advertisers, some of whom have been advertising with us for over a decade. We appreciate their support. They are the ones who have been footing the bill for us to bring you The Rhino every week. And I’d like to thank our employees. I can’t say enough good things about our art director, Anthony Council, who we

hired while he was a still a student at NC A&T, and 16 years later he is still running the show. Anthony is an extremely talented graphic artist, but he has a skill that is rare for talented artists ¬– he is incredibly well organized. And when we were on a tight production schedule, which was every week, Anthony always knew exactly where we were and what needed to be done. Anthony is one of those people who has so many gifts he can do anything, but I really think with another couple of years I was going to find something that Anthony couldn’t do. County Editor Scott Yost knows more about what is going on in Guilford County government than anyone. His coverage has been remarkable. He has consistently been first with the news about Guilford County. His columns should have won far more awards that they did and he has made a lot of young women famous for a week in Scott’s Night Out. Paul Clark has gotten more information out of the schools than I thought possible. He is so tenacious that even the schools give in. It’s an incredible accomplishment and he does that and covers High Point. Thanks to Orson Scott Card, who after 9/11 decided that he had some things he wanted to say to the people of Greensboro, and for over 12 years provided a column every week. Card is internationally famous and is about to become much more famous

when Ender’s Game the movie is released later this year. He can and does write for anyone he wants, but he chose to write for his hometown newspaper every week, for which we are eternally grateful. Jerry Bledsoe got involved with The Rhino and almost never escaped. He started to write a four- to eight-part series on the Greensboro Police Department, and 92 parts later he finally broke free, but not entirely because we were sued so he had to keep coming back for court. We won every single time we went to court, thanks to our attorney Seth Cohen, who we also need to thank. Melissa Smith, who has been our inside sales person for years, has managed to handle the changing nature of classified ads with remarkable agility. We have far more classifieds than a newspaper our size should. Johnny Smith (no relation) is on his second go round with The Rhino and stepped in to take over the real estate section. Johnny has won just about every sales contest we ever had at The Rhino. We have some newer employees who were coming along well, Alex Jakubsen covering the city, and my nephew Will Hammer and Marianne Rowe in sales. Geoff Brooks, our cartoonist, is not an employee, technically, but he has been working with us longer than anyone. Having had our own cartoonist has been an

invaluable addition to the newspaper every week. Sandy Groover is also not an employee, but someone who has contributed photographs from events all over town. And although we can’t thank all of our former employees because the list would be too long, we would like to thank Erika Sloan, who also served two tours at The Rhino. This second time around she was technically our office manager but did far more and kept us in line as much as that was possible. Also my brother Willy Hammer, who was the publisher for 17 years and took The Rhino from 24 pages to 132 pages before the economy went south. Most of all I’d like to thank my wife, Elaine, the Muse. She has put up with a husband who for 21 years spent Tuesday nights at the office and Wednesdays as a demanding editor trying to meet the print deadline. She has also done every job at the paper. She started off in sales and then became the copy editor, the real estate editor, the managing editor and lately had taken on the mantel of office manager. Elaine has almost always been behind the scenes doing whatever needed to be done and doing it well. We would have been out of business years ago if we hadn’t had access to the many talents of Elaine, not the least of which was handling telephone calls (Continued on page 74)


Page 20

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

The Sound of the Beep What follows has been transcribed from the answering machine tape on our comment line 273-0898. We edit out what is required by the laws of the state, of good taste and of good sense. The limit on phone calls is one minute and each caller may make up to two calls per week. If you have something to say, call our comment line at 273-0898 and start talking at The Sound of the Beep.

Thanks For 21 Years

You comment about how the mayor’s house foreclosure and personal bankruptcy looks to someone who might be considering moving a business to our city. Between the tournaments and other events at the Coliseum, the furniture market, golf tournament and other events in the area, we have hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city every year. How many of them might pick up The Rhino and read all the criticisms of the mayor, the City Council, our daily newspaper, the school board and the county commissioners. What kind of image does The Rhinoceros Times project about our area? %%% Editor’s Note: Not too many after this week. But the truth is that we frequently received letters from people visiting Greensboro who picked up a Rhino and wrote to say that they wished they had a paper like it in their hometown. %%% Well, if you think for two seconds that these are the only people that are interested in blowing us up, you’ve got it timed about right. The aunt up in Canada or wherever said, show her the evidence. They need to actually show the man setting the bomb down beside that little 8-year-old boy. To quote a lawyer that used to write into the paper all the time from down south of Greensboro, hell is going to be way yonder too cool for them two fellows. And naturally preacher Obama had to get on television just as soon as that was over, because he jumped in front of the camera. If there’s one on, he gets in front of it. Anybody that don’t believe this, just watch the news. %%%

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From 1978 to 1996 in Australia they had 14 mass shootings over that 18-year period. After the last one in 1996 they had sweeping gun control laws that (Continued on page 52)


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Page 21

An Uncle Orson Review Truth in Advertising: The Novel by orson scott card

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I heard about this novel at a dinner in downtown Los Angeles. I was with two of the producers of the Ender’s Game movie. One of them had just decided to try to option a novel called Truth in Advertising. The other, who had long worked in advertising, was enthusiastically affirming that yes, this novel tells the truth about the advertising business today. Well, that’s true – author John Kenney has been a New York advertising copywriter for many years. He has also written for The New Yorker. This is his first novel. And it’s got the earmarks of artiness. Present tense. First person. Things that I usually loathe – but only because they’re usually so badly done. This is not badly done. In fact, I suspect it could have been done no other way, because part of the charm of the book is that the narrator is a writer, and an introspective one at that. Most of the time that’s the kiss of death. But not this time. To be fair, I didn’t read this book – I listened to Robert Petkoff’s powerful narration of it in the Audible.com download. Maybe if I had been reading it to myself,

the first-person present tense would have put me off and stopped me from staying with it, the way I’ve never been able to get past the same problems with Hunger Games. Though, to be fair, what really annoyed me about Hunger Games as a novel (the movie was good!) was the really shoddy world-creation. That is absolutely not a problem with Truth in Advertising. In fact, Truth in Advertising has no problems. Well, the character telling the story has problems! At first the problem seems to be the chaos of trying to please the client and  making everything work on a complicated commercial shoot. It features Gwyneth Paltrow (she’d better show up for the movie version – the novel is very kind to her!) as the star, and a director who’s a vain idiot, and somehow the hero, Finbar Dolan, has to keep all the balls in the air until it’s done. But soon we realize that, like any good novel, this one isn’t about what the main character thinks it’s about. It’s really about the fact that Finbar is utterly alone, even though he has four living siblings and several really good and interesting friends. His friends, you see, are all “work

friends,” which does not always translate into real friendship. They really enjoy each other on the job. They really do care about each other. But if you left the job, would you still be friends? As for Finbar’s family, that’s way more complicated. Because his mother died in a car crash when he was a kid, and his father, long estranged from the family, is dying and Finbar has to do something about it. He doesn’t want to see his father. He hates his father. All the kids do. They blame him for their mother’s death – for good reason. And they blame him for filling their childhoods with fear and wrath. Which is a fair judgment. Fair but not complete. Because their anger – at their father, at each other – leaves them all damaged. And it ultimately led Finbar, nearly a year ago, to break off his engagement with a good woman that he almost loved. Because he finally realized that marriage is too perilous a territory to enter into with someone you only almost love. But is real love even possible? Halfway through the book, the reader is already saying, Open your eyes, moron! She’s right there! But that’s not the point of the book.

Yeah, she’s there, and he’s not an idiot, so he eventually realizes it. The story, however, is not Finding True Love. It’s Forgiving Your Parents. I really approve of Forgiving Your Parents. Because, as a parent, I would really appreciate it if my kids would really get into that concept and embrace it. Meanwhile, though, Finbar’s family is interesting. His friends are interesting. His job is interesting. He is interesting. The book is designed to be a movie – a quirky movie, the kind of movie that I will love. There are lots of “false takes” – scenes that we watch spin out and then find out that’s only what he imagined, or what he now wishes had happened, while the real scene then plays out very differently. Not always stupidly. Not always badly. But not ideally. This will all play very well. The movie will have great, great roles for so many actors that the cast will look like a Who’s Who of the coolest people in Hollywood. The movie will also be nearly stolen by a Korean actor playing the son of the company’s owner. Because that’s how the part is written. I laughed. A lot, out loud. Which can (Continued on page 70)

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

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The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

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I began writing for The Rhinoceros Times on Monday, Dec. 9, 2002. As it turns out, I had a lot to say. Basically, each and every week I’ve written three stories and a column, and, for the last half of that 10-year period, I’ve been doing Scott’s Night Out, which involved taking a lot of pictures of beautiful women and writing captions for those pictures every week. So, that’s about 10 years and five months, writing an average of, to the best of my calculations, about 5,800 words a week – which comes out to just a little over 3 million words. With those 3 million words, I’ve written about the county commissioners, the City Council, the school board, marriage, divorce, relationships, God, penguins, the Large Hadron Collider and the impending earth-devouring black hole, Frank Auman’s party to end all parties, scandals and more scandals, the flying car scientists – or should I say the flying car scam artists – Generals cheerleaders, the Zombie Apocalypse, Revolution cheerleaders, the end of the world, Panthers cheerleaders, the girl who left me and broke my heart, and the one named Magic who saved my life and won us both a lot a money in Vegas with her magical dice rolling skills at the Bellagio’s craps tables. There are many other things I wanted to write for The Rhinoceros Times in the coming months, which saddens me. For instance, I will not be here with The Rhino to cover the long-awaited arrival of the flying car, which is expected to be announced any day now. I had a lot of big plans for this year and beyond, but then here’s what happened … On Tuesday morning, April 30, I got a text on my iPhone asking if I could come into the office for a 10 a.m. meeting. I had no idea what the meeting was about – we never have meetings at The Rhino – but I thought maybe it was about selling the building and I figured our office would be moving. I knew that The Rhino Times had been struggling over the last few years, but it never occurred to me that the 21-year historic and event-filled legacy of The Rhinoceros Times was about to come to an end. The family-owned free weekly paper that had, for over two decades, been the eyes and ears of Guilford County citizens would be no more. At the April 30 morning meeting, which didn’t take long, Rhinoceros Times Editor and Publisher John Hammer walked into the small conference room and quickly stunned the employees by announcing that the last Rhinoceros Times was on the stands. No one cried and, in fact, moments later, everyone was joking around. For me, it kind of felt like when I was 6 years old and my parents called my brother and sister and me into a room to tell us they were separating – something which later turned into a divorce. My mother and father asked if we had any questions. That night, some friends and I were supposed to camp out in a tent in the back yard, and I remember that I asked, “Does this mean we can’t camp out tonight?” That was a long, long time ago, but I still remember my parents’ relief at my question – because the nature of the question indicated that I wasn’t crushed by the sheer gravity of what was happening. That 6-year-old kid didn’t know what any of it meant, but here was the bottom line: Everything had changed. The world in the future would be different than the world as I had known it before. Which is very much how it feels again now. When John Hammer said The Rhinoceros Times was closing, I didn’t think about my future or the implications it had for me – at that moment, I remembered I had a picture of Carly and Mandy that I loved and that I think they really wanted in the paper. I remember thinking, “Well, if they don’t put out The Rhinoceros Times, then where will I run the Scott’s Night Out of Carly and Mandy? (I guess that’s just the kind of guy I am – always thinking of others before myself.) But now, a couple of weeks have gone by and it’s all starting to sink in. It is all very strange too: Even now, at this moment, here I am writing a column for The Rhino Times despite the fact that it is out of business. Even though it’s gone, it is still here. And I will miss it here. (Continued on page 62)


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Page 23

An Uncle Orson Review Iron Man 3 vs. Iron Man 2 by orson scott card

My expectations were low. All I asked was that Iron Man 3 suck less than Iron Man 2. By that standard, Iron Man 3 is borderline brilliant. By the standard of “good movies,” however, it’s barely adequate. But these days, “barely adequate” is pretty much a rave. Of how many movies so far this year can even that faint praise be said? Every episode of Person of Interest, Elementary, The Good Wife, The Mentalist or Burn Notice is better written than, and usually at least as well acted as, any big blockbuster movies this year. Staying home and watching cable is not only cheaper, it’s higher quality, as a rule. The same goes for comedies. Any episode of How I Met Your Mother or New Girl or Cougar Town or Castle is funnier and sharper and better performed than any comedies released in theaters so far this year. When you think about how much money is put into movies, it’s almost shocking that the results are so mediocre. But the money is part of the problem. Each episode of a television series needs to be good, but the whole series doesn’t rise and fall on this one ’sode. (Yes, I said “’sode.” Does it help that I’m being sarcastic?) With a film, however, so much money is at stake that a flop can end careers. Therefore, everybody with something to lose – i.e., everyone with any power, so not the writer – is in a constant state of panic. They are terrified of something going wrong. Therefore they fiddle and meddle and say no to anything good and insist on changes that make things worse – and that’s the thing that goes wrong.

I’m not saying that big budgets guarantee failure. But they do make failure more likely. Iron Man 2 was stupid and dull because it mostly existed in order to milk cash out of the success of the first Iron Man. The first one succeeded for two reasons: The script, which was smart, and Robert Downey Jr. The second one stank because Robert Downey Jr. cannot compensate for an empty script. It’s as if the movie existed only to introduce the team being assembled for The Avengers. But it exposed the emptiness, the silliness of superhero comics. Any time you bring together absurdly unrelated superheroes like Thor, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and that guy who shoots arrows, you are doing something so silly that only an incredibly tight and clever script can conceal the deep emptiness long enough for the film to be entertaining. Iron Man 2 died during that utterly stupid, meaningless fight between Iron Man and War Machine. The script to Iron Man 3 did all the right things – the kinds of things that J.J. Abrams did to make the silly Star Trek  franchise stand up and sing. The script blew up the house. It forced Stark out of the suit. It showed him rediscovering his roots as a mechanic, while his highest-tech stuff behaved very badly. The ending? Well, it was OK. The movie was only good because of the kid that Stark meets when, suitless, he has to face the enemy. That one invention in this script is what lifted the movie up into the lofty realms of adequacy. Will I ever see it again? Oh, get real. Why would I? But I did stay through the

whole movie, and I actually found myself liking it. I didn’t regret going to the theater instead of staying home and catching up on Good Wife. These days, that’s a blow-out rave review. Just for comparison, the other night we stayed home and re-watched Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Way lower budget, and therefore fewer panicked idiots insisting on stupid decisions. The result? I still think it was the best movie of last year, and it is definitely in my top 20. Maybe inching up toward my top 10. And there is no way in which, moment for moment and scene for scene and character for character and dialogue for dialogue, it is not a better movie than Iron Man 3. But Seeking a Friend will never have a sequel. And sequels are the only things that frightened studio executives want to make.

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Staff Sgt. Jeff Reichl on the last convoy leaving Camp Victory, Baghdad, on Dec. 2, 2011.

Collector’s (Continued from page 1) donated money, and all those who called, wrote, stopped in, emailed, texted or tweeted to offer encouragement. And a special thanks to all of those who advertised. We are fortunate to live in a city filled with kind caring people. You really can’t ask for much more than that. And we have great weather to boot. But thanks to the kindness of all of you we have another edition, and it is a great one to go out on. The first chapter of Jerry Bledsoe’s memoirs Back When It Was Fun, Confessions of an Unlikely Writer starts on the front page. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you can’t run out and buy the book because not only has it not been published, it hasn’t been written yet. By the time it is finished, I hope we have some way of publicizing it because it’s going to be great. Orson Scott Card has a Civilization Watch that, by the time you’re reading this, may have already gone viral on the internet. He also has Uncle Orson Reviews Everything and a few shorter reviews. Card has been writing for The Rhino since 2001, and the addition of having a writer of his caliber contributing each and every week cannot be exaggerated. Scott Yost has his usual column, and a column on covering the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, as well as a Scott’s Night Out and a retrospective Scott’s Night Out. Yost has been doing

Scott’s Night Out for a mere seven years, which is just shocking. He has been so identified with that by his fans that it is hard to believe he hasn’t been doing it longer. Paul Clark couldn’t go out without a final news story, and he fills in a lot of the details on the mayor of High Point, Bernita Sims, being investigated for writing a bad check to her sister for $7,000. He has also written about writing for The Rhino and covering the schools and High Point. No Rhino would be complete without a cartoon by Geof Brooks. I think it is The Rhino’s longest running feature, since his cartoons date back to 1993. Politicians around here come to take it for granted, but high-level local government employees who move here are shocked to find themselves in a political cartoon. They often call to see if they can get the original. Under the Hammer is in the back, where it has been since it was Clinton Watch many years ago. I’ve got a couple of columns and a more newsy piece about all the events I’m going to miss. In 1861, the editor and publisher of the Chicago Times, Wilbur Storey, said, “It is the newspaper’s duty to print the news and raise hell.” For 21 years in Greensboro I think we have done a good job of both. Some would say that we concentrated too much on raising hell and not enough on the news, but others would say we printed too much news and didn’t raise enough hell. I think we did a pretty good job of both and I’m proud of that.


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Page 25

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Uncle Orson Reviews Everything Change Is An Opportunity, Not A Tragedy by orson scott card

When you drive around town, do you find yourself noticing all the places where Blockbuster Video stores used to be? The one on Battleground, where the bagel store still is. The one at the Golden Gate Shopping Center. Blockbuster emerged as the complete victor in the rental video competition. And then Netflix came along, followed by the download video services, and now Blockbuster is gone. Video cassette recorders were a luxury item in 1980. By 2000 everybody had them and they were cheap. Now nobody bothers. Gone like 45 rpm records. Audible.com is wiping out the oncegrowing audiobook section of the bookstores. Yet people are listening to more audiobooks than ever. But it’s hard to notice the shrinking audiobook section, considering that most of the bookstores are gone now. Only Barnes & Noble and a few tough independent stores are hanging on – by their fingernails. Thirty years ago, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Crown Books, Books-a-Million and other big-box chains were putting great bookstores in towns that had barely supported newsstands before.

They killed local stores in Greensboro – like News & Novels, Atticus, Wills. Then Crown died because its bestsellersonly policy didn’t bring browsers into the store. The rest added coffee shops and free Wi-Fi, and that helped for a while. Borders, the one with the best selection, went bust – but we saw it coming as they cut back on employees, on their CD selection. Even the main survivor, Barnes & Noble, is diversifying. More games and puzzles. Trying to find reasonably related products to sell along with books, so people will keep coming in, or buy higher-markup items along with books. There Was No Evil Conspiracy. The businesses that failed were not badly managed – or if they were, that’s not why they went out of business. It just happened that a new product or service was markedly better or more convenient or cheaper than the old way, and so the old way died. Without UPS, there would have been no Amazon.com. We drive cars rather than carriages. Horses eat whether you’re using the carriage that day or not. But cars only “eat” gasoline when you drive them. Plus

The same thing has happened to network television, but you don’t really notice that if you aren’t an employee of CBS, NBC or ABC. Because you have more television than ever before. Dozens or hundreds of channels, even if most of them suck. (Bruce Springsteen: “Fifty-seven Channels and Nothing On.”) But you have all these channels because you’re paying for them. You pay dozens of dollars a month to have all those channels available, and now the service can include the ability to record any show without using a VCR. Your shows can be stored up till you have time to watch them. Remember the “good old days” when television was “free” – advertisingsupported like The Rhino – but you only had four channels? Why would you remember that? My kids never experienced over-the-air television. We’ve had cable for more than 30 years. They also never had to get up out of the couch to change channels.

you get there way faster in a car. Is it a tragedy, then, that blacksmiths were out of a job? It’s not a tragedy that The Rhinoceros Times can’t stay in business using the old advertising-only model. The Rhino has been well-managed and well-written. The Rhino was the only reason you got the real story about local politics, since the other paper not only ignored many important stories, it actively obscured some of them. The Rhino has long had the highest readership of any paper in the county. Would a stronger advertising sales team have made a difference? Maybe it might have added a month or a year – but all newspapers are dying, and no matter how they cut back on pages, no matter how they switch to local news and features, Craig’s List is killing them. “Free” Because of Advertising People still read The Rhino and look in The Rhino ads. Craig’s List didn’t have to take every potential customer. It only had to take a certain percentage, and the business model of the free advertising weekly evaporated, slowly but surely, week after week.

Electric Cars The same thing is going to happen again. Right now, electric cars don’t work, because they take too long to recharge. (Continued on page 30)

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The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The staff of

the Rhino for many years of great service to

Greensboro.

Page 27


Page 28

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

The New York Times Crossword Puzzle

No. 0512

SIMPLY PUT By David J. Kahn / Edited by Will Shortz

Across

41 Louisiana area

111 N o t w i t h s t a n d i n g that, briefly

1 Certain laureate

44 See 29-Across

5 ___ Fine, “The

5 2 “ T h a t ’s t h e w a y

11 2 T h r e e - s i d e d

9 Planet, to a 1-Across

53 Shoes without heels

11 3 O n e w i t h d e s i g n s

12 Get a little richer in

54 Remain unresolved

Nanny” nanny

Monopoly

18 Slave whom

Amneris was jealous of

19 Hindu epic hero 20 “Zero Dark Thirty” o rg .

21 Kind of garage 22 Some mixers 24 One way to measure a s t u d e n t ’s progress

26 Possible cause of

turbulent weather

things are”

56 Ninny 59 Fitting conclusion? 60 Blackmore title girl 61 Quick 63 See 29-Across 68 Flows out 69 Fleming of opera 70 Home of the U.K. 7 1 C a r t o o n i s t H o ff 72 Supermarket aid 73 Full of animal fat 74 Pair on ice 77 See 29-Across

27 Swearing

8 4 D o e s n ’t s t a y

28 As an end result

85 180s

2 9 Wi t h 4 4 - , 6 3 - , 7 7 -

86 Subject of the 2002

and 93-Across, a

long-winded piece of advice

RELEASE DATE: 5/19/2013

35 Lei Day hellos 3 6 Va l i d a t e s 3 7 “ Ve r y n i c e ! ” 38 Standard home page feature

39 Journalist Marvin or Bernard

For any three answers, call from a touch-tone phone: 1-900-285-5656, $1.49 each minute; or, with a credit card, 1-800814-5554.

book “The Perfect Store”

87 Doing perfectly 90 Stout ___ 91 Fla. vacation spot 93 See 29-Across 100 Something to strike

101 Oration locations 1 0 2 Wa k e - u p c a l l s 103 Charlie Chaplin

persona, with “the”

106 Acquires

unexpectedly

11 0 E x c e p t w h e n

Uncle Orson (Continued from page 28) And if you run out of power somewhere far from home, nobody’s going to be able to bring you a can of electricity. But electric cars are going to work, and here’s how. The government or the car industry will form a council, and that council will determine a form factor for batteries. As with D, C, AA and AAA batteries, they won’t determine how much electricity each battery unit will hold. They’ll only determine the size and shape, and how you hook them up. It’s not going to make them userchangeable – that’s a lawsuit nightmare. Only highly trained professionals will change out your batteries. You’ll drive till you see your power indicator show that you need more juice. Then you’ll pull into the nearest service station – no doubt we’ll start to call them “juice bars” because your car needs more juice – and drive into the pull-through power bay.

weapon

on women

11 4 P l a c e s 11 5 _ _ _ l a n e 11 6 P i t c h i n g m u s c l e , for short

11 7 B i g s h o w Down 1 Campaign-funding grp.

2 Garage supply 3 School address ending

4 Wo r k s t h e r o o m , maybe

5 Facades 6 Arm bones 7 Dryer brand 8 ___ passage 9 A lot

2 4 T h i s p u z z l e ’s l o n g winded advice, simply put

2 5 C a s e w o r k e r ’s t i t l e ? : A b b r.

29 ___ Alto 30 Former Swedish P. M . P a l m e

3 1 S e n a t e c o v e r- u p 32 Having no active leads

33 “From all of ___ all of you …”

34 Actor McGregor 39 Carp in a pond 40 Auction category 41 Steak ___ 42 Kefauver of old politics

4 3 S u e G r a f t o n ’s “ _ _ _ for Lawless”

45 Start to go surfing? 46 Helps in a bad way 47 Opposite of alway 48 Intimate

10 Fashion

49 Automaker since

11 S u ff u s e

50 Cravings

photographer Herb

12 ___ ejemplo

1899

51 Not go beyond

13 “Life of Pi” director

55 Unnatural?

14 Not flustered

57 Biblical matriarch

Lee

1 5 L i k e e m b a rg o e d goods

56 Power option who lived to 127

58 Bag

62 Blender setting

78 Impression

90 “Nemesis” novelist

64 Evening, in ads

7 9 N o v. 11 h o n o r e e

91 Place to play

65 Go ballistic

80 Snorkeling site

6 6 Tu r n s s u d d e n l y

8 1 “ Ye a h , y e a h ”

67 Pressure, informally

82 Canberra chum

73 Reagan antimissile

8 3 Vi e w e d

program, for short

16 Thingamajig

6 0 To o t h : P r e f i x

74 Mucky place

17 Lunchbox treats

61 One side in a 19th-

75 Ring results

2 3 W h e r e Ye m e n

Airways is based

c e n t u r y w a r, w i t h “the”

In that bay, you will remain in your car (government regulations!) Or you’ll get out and stay out of the bay while the attendant (“juicer”) swaps out your battery and replaces it with a fully charged one. You’ll get a credit for the age, brand and capacity of the battery they take out of your car. You’ll be charged for the age, brand and capacity of the one they put in. The point is that instead of waiting four hours for your battery to charge, you’ll be in and out in five minutes – time to use the bathroom, buy a soft drink and a bag of potato chips. Then you’ll be on the road again, with a range of 100, 200 or 300 miles, depending on how much power your car uses and the capacity of the battery you swapped for. It will take about as long for these juice bars to spring up all over the country as it took for Blockbuster Video to show up in every town. The network of juice bars will grow along with the number of electric cars to use them. Within 10 years, it will be hard to find a gasoline station.

76 Let someone else take over

87 Formally name 88 Corner piece 89 Cooler in hot weather

With electric power, cars will be quieter and cleaner. Ultimately, their electricity can come from any source – coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind, geothermal, natural gas, even gasoline – but it will be generated in the ordinary power grid. You’ll also have a juice outlet in your own garage, of course, so you’ll start each day with your car fully charged using household current that you pay for in your power bill. Driving around town, you’ll never stop at a juice bar at all. It’s only for the long drive that you’ll need the service. This model has existed before. It’s how stagecoaches and the pony express worked – you didn’t stop and wait for your horse to rest and eat, you just changed your tired horses for fresh ones. But only big companies could afford to own that many horses. Everybody who can afford a car at all will be able to afford the batteries to run them. That’s a change that we can easily foresee. And it won’t put anybody out of business – not even the oil companies or the gas stations, certainly not the car

stickball

92 Rolaids rival 93 Mark of distinction 94 Elect 9 5 6 1 - D o w n ’s

opponent, with “the”

96 The Snake River

snakes through it

9 7 D i d n ’t t u r n a w a y from 9 8 F l y a w a y, i n a w a y 99 “A horse designed by a committee” 104 Cause of a trip 105 Host follower? 1 0 7 Tu r n d o w n 108 Surpass 109 Guanajuato gold

companies. It’s an entirely benign change. But it will free us from dependence on oil. We won’t have to switch to no oil – batteries are heavy, so airplanes can never carry enough of them to fly anywhere. Big diesel trucks will probably stick with petroleum fuel. But, like the demand for Rhino ads, the demand for petroleum will drop to a percentage of what it was before. And when the demand drops, the value drops, and suddenly the vast oil wealth of Kuwait, Qatar, Iran and Libya will turn into something closer to the value of coal. Not nothing, but not so valuable that it will control the world’s economy or allow the luxury of funding worldwide terrorism. What about Newspapers? So if there’s a post-gasoline business model for highway transportation, is there a post-want-ad business model for a paper like The Rhino? Some magazines have “moved to the (Continued on page 54)


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

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Page 29


Page 30

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

CELEBRATING 7 YEARS OF

Scott’s Night Out

Many, many thanks to all the wonderful ladies who have graced the pages of Scott’s Night Out over the years, with special thanks to Carly Wrenn, Lauren Martin, Nichol aka Magic, HalleyBear, Rachel, Erika, Chelsea, Jamie, Allyson, Sherry-Berry Stevenson, Sabrina,

Roxy, Julie, Jen, Jenny, Jennifer, Hooter’s Greensboro, Hooter’s High Point, Hooter’s Burlington, Jessica, Sana, Megan, Robin, Tara, Angie Michelle, and on and on and on … - Scott D. Yost


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Page 31


Page 32

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

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CAROLINA

INSIDE THIS ISSUE:

JOURNAL

Senate proposes regulation of transmission lines/3

A MONTHLY JOURNAL OF NEWS, ANALYSIS AND OPINION FROM THE JOHN LOCKE FOUNDATION

May 2013 Vol. 22 No. 5

Check us out online at carolinajournal.com and johnlocke.org

DEPARTMENTS North Carolina Education Local Government From Page 1 Higher Education Opinion Parting Shot

2 4 6 8 10 12 16

TRIAD EDITION

Stolen-Identity Tax Refund Fraud Widespread

Durham-style scheme reaches several states, also federal returns

By Don Carrington Executive Editor

A

DURHAM

stolen-identity tax refund scheme uncovered by a Durham retiree in March apparently is so widespread that one federal official has described it as the “No. 1 tax scam for 2013.” It’s called SIRF, stolen-identity refund fraud, and it affects an untold number of innocent taxpayers, costing the federal government billions. It relies on two weaknesses in the operations of the Internal Revenue Service: its desire to get returns to taxpayers quickly, and a timing gap in how it deals with employees and employers. In short, criminals file fake tax returns in the name of a taxpayer, but do it before the real taxpayer gets around to it. Then, the IRS and some state revenue agencies, in an effort to provide good service, send a refund check to the criminal before they learn from employers if the refund actually

Want all 28 pages of Carolina Journal? This version of Carolina Journal, inserted into your local weekly, consists of just 16 pages of the full 28-page CJ statewide edition. If you would like to get those extra 12 pages of first-rate journalism and policy analysis, all you have to do is go to CarolinaJournal.com and click on “Subscribe” in the top right corner of the page. Just fill out the form you’ll be put on our monthly mailing list. Or you can call 919-8283876 and ask one of our helpful representatives to put you on the mailing list. We look forward to hearing from you.

Victims Surprised To Learn They Were SIRF Targets

By Don Carrington Executive Editor

T

RALEIGH

he victims of stolen-identity tax refund fraud are real people, not just statistics. Two of them, whose names came up in a Carolina Journal investigation into tax refund fraud, are Jody A. Freed, of Slatington, Pa., and Evan Russell, who lives in Raleigh. Until CJ contacted her, Freed did not know she was a SIRF victim. On April 2, the Durham homeowner on Sherron Road who first brought the tax-fraud scheme to CJ’s attention found correspondence in his mailbox from the IRS office in Birmingham, Ala., addressed to a Jody A. Freed. In a separate envelope was a $4,108.08 IRS tax refund check made out to a is warranted. As reported at Carolina Journal Online in March, and in Carolina Journal’s April print edition, a Durham retiree found that his mailbox was being used as a drop box for people engaged

Evan Russell, manager of the Gorman Street Pub in Raleigh, is one of many victims of the tax scam called stolen-identity refund fraud. (CJ Photo by Don Carrington)

person with that name. Two days later, the homeowner received a letter from the N.C. Department of Revenue addressed to a Jody Freed. It said the department could

not process Freed’s return and that it must be resubmitted with W-2 and 1099 forms as well as a copy of Freed’s

in tax fraud. He had received tax refund checks from Maryland and tax correspondence from the state of South Carolina. It turns out that this was not an isolated incident. Since the earlier sto-

ries by CJ, the Durham retiree has received more tax mailings, including a federal tax refund check for $4,108.08 made out to someone who doesn’t

Continued as “Victims,” Page 9

Continued as “Stolen,” Page 8

Three Convicted in Perdue Campaign Probe Number of associates taking plea deals now totals five By riCk HenDerson Managing Editor

T

RALEIGH

hree associates of former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue — New Bern attorney Trawick “Buzzy” Stubbs, Morganton businessman Charles Michael Fulenwider, and former Western Piedmont Community College board member Robert Lee Caldwell — were convicted April 24 of misdemeanor charges for obstruction of justice in an investigation of fund-

raising violations during Perdue’s 2008 campaign for governor. With the 2011 felony plea of Perdue’s former campaign finance director Peter Reichard and the 2012 misdemeanor plea taken by attorney Juleigh Sitton, who ran Perdue’s Western North Carolina office, five people con-

nected to the Perdue campaign have been convicted of fundraising crimes. Stubbs and Fulenwider each were fined $5,000, and Caldwell was fined $500. The three men were banned from participating in any political fundraising activities for 18 months. “Rational people do irrational things,” said Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens during an April 24 hearing. “They seem to take leave of their senses during political campaigns.” Prosecutors have stated that Perdue never has been implicated in the criminal activities. Perdue, who served two terms as lieutenant governor before winning the governor’s race in Continued as “Three,” Page 9


PAGE CJ2

MAY 2013 | CAROLINA JOURNAL

North CaroliNa

CAROLINA

JOURNAL Rick Henderson Managing Editor Don Carrington Executive Editor Mitch Kokai, Michael Lowrey Barry Smith, Dan Way Associate Editors Chad Adams, Kristy Bailey David N. Bass, Lloyd Billingsley Kristen Blair, Sara Burrows Roy Cordato, Becki Gray Sam A. Hieb, Lindalyn Kakadelis Troy Kickler, George Leef Elizabeth Lincicome, Karen McMahan Donna Martinez, Karen Palasek Marc Rotterman, Michael Sanera John Staddon, George Stephens Terry Stoops, Andy Taylor Michael Walden, Karen Welsh Hal Young, John Calvin Young Contributors Joseph Chesser, Hubert Papes Mathew Schaeffer, Daniel Simpson Interns

Published by The John Locke Foundation 200 W. Morgan St., # 200 Raleigh, N.C. 27601 (919) 828-3876 • Fax: 821-5117 www.JohnLocke.org Jon Ham Vice President & Publisher John Hood Chairman & President Herb Berkowitz, Charlie Carter Jim Fulghum, Chuck Fuller Bill Graham, Assad Meymandi Baker A. Mitchell Jr., Carl Mumpower David Stover, J.M Bryan Taylor Andy Wells Board of Directors Carolina Journal is a monthly journal of news, analysis, and commentary on state and local government and public policy issues in North Carolina. ©2013 by The John Locke Foundation Inc. All opinions expressed in bylined articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors of CJ or the staff and board of the John Locke Foundation. Material published herein may be reprinted as long as appropriate credit is given. Submissions and letters are welcome and should be directed to the editor. CJ readers wanting more information between monthly issues can call 919-8283876 and ask for Carolina Journal Weekly Report, delivered each weekend by e-mail, or visit CarolinaJournal.com for news, links, and exclusive content updated each weekday. Those interested in education, higher education, or local government should also ask to receive weekly e-letters covering these issues.

Indy Brewer Wants Out of Wholesaler Controls Legislation would raise limits on how much independents can distribute on their own

By Barry smitH Associate Editor

B

WHITSETT

ill Sherrill feels like he has an uphill battle in an effort to continue self-distributing the beer he brews at Red Oak Brewery in Guilford County. He chooses to hire people to distribute his beer instead of going through a distributor. But under current state law, that option would not be available to him once he tops 25,000 barrels of beer per year. “I’ve invested $10.5 million in this place,” Sherrill said. “I just invested $500,000 in tanks.” Those tanks, Sherrill said, would lead to the brewery exceeding the 25,000-barrel limit. And once he reaches that cap, every drop he brews — not just the first 25,000 barrels — would have to be handled by a separate distributor. Sherrill believes he’s fighting against a powerful lobbying group in the N.C. Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association. He’s tried to get the cap raised in past years, but his efforts have gotten nowhere. Indeed, bills have been introduced in the last three legislative sessions to increase the cap to between 60,000 barrels and 100,000 barrels. Sherrill, who employs 22 people, says he wants to keep controls on the beer once it leaves his brewery until it gets to the retailer. He doesn’t pasteurize his beer or put preservatives in it, so it’s important that his beer stay refrigerated. “If you don’t keep it cold, it will go bad quick,” Sherrill said. Sherrill said that a contract he would have to sign with a wholesale distributor “is prohibitive.” Sherrill said he’s even pulled his beer out of some sporting venues because it wasn’t refrigerated properly. This year, Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, who has sponsored similar bills in the past, is taking up his cause. She has introduced House Bill 781, which would raise the cap to 60,000 barrels a year. “It seems to be common sense that if you want to distribute your own product, you ought to be able to,” Harrison said. Harrison has sponsored similar bills in previous legislative sessions. She said the last time her bill was considered in committee was 2010, when she eventually removed it from consideration because it had no chance of passing. Tim Kent, executive director of the N.C. Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, said the law is in place for good

reason. “The three-tier system promotes a fair marketplace that cannot be dominated either by mega-brewers or bigbox retailers,” Kent said of the process of getting beer from the brewer to the retailer. He said the system in which the brewer gets beer from the brewery to the retailer through a wholesale distributor helps promote product variety, providing a buffer between breweries and the retailers. “Alcohol is a highly regulated product, and for good reason,” Kent continued. “It’s highly regulated because if it’s misused and not traced properly, the consumer is placed at risk.” Kent said that in previous years the legislation to increase the self-distribution cap has failed because beer distributors have been able to convince legislators that the current system works well. He said that the bill’s chances of advancing this year, without the support of the Republican leadership, “are minimal at best.” He said that at least 16 states in the country allow no self-distribution. “By comparison, we have a fairly relaxed system of distribution,” Kent said. Kent said the reason the 25,000-barrel annual limit was put in place was to give “incubator companies” a chance to get started. Kent also said distributors are prepared to handle Red Oak’s brews. “Mr. Sherrill does not have a product that is unique to brewing,” Kent said. Wholesale distributors have refrigerated warehouses, and they use refrigerated trucks to transport beer to market, he said. Erik Lars Myers, owner of Mystery Brewing Co. in Hillsborough, said he used to self-distribute, but now uses a wholesale distributor to get beer he brews to market. He said he favors the bill. “I think they both are very important options for breweries,” Myers said. “I do think that people should be able to self-distribute to an unlimited cap.” Myers said most smaller breweries likely would choose not to self-distribute as they got larger. “I don’t think this is nearly as threatening to the wholesalers as they think it is,” Myers said. However, Myers said if a brewery has the resources and the desire, then it should be allowed to self-distribute. Not allowing them to do so punishes success, he said. Myers said about half of the 70plus craft beer breweries in the state self-distribute. Harrison said she thinks the current situation is anticompetitive. “The three-tiered system that requires a distributor just doesn’t make sense to me,” Harrison said. “It confounds me that an individual isn’t allowed to distribute CJ his own product.”

‘It seems to be common sense that if you want to distribute your own product, you should be able to’


MAY 2013 | CAROLINA JOURNAL

North CaroliNa

PAGE CJ3

Senate Proposes to Regulate Construction of Transmission Lines By Dan Way Associate Editor

T

RALEIGH

he N.C. Senate in April passed legislation regulating electric transmission lines that some Democrats and energy industry critics say will shield major power providers in North Carolina from competition. Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, primary sponsor of Senate Bill 635, told senators during floor discussion that there was no opposition to his bill from the state’s power industry. Senators approved the measure 42-4. The House had not considered it at press time. The bill would allow only public utilities to obtain a certificate to construct a new electricity transmission line. The bill redefines public utilities as investor-owned companies, electric membership cooperatives, joint municipal power agencies, and cities or counties furnishing electricity for public or private use. “The federal government has said competition and competitive pressures are in the best interests of consumers,” said Sharon Segner, assistant vice president of LS Power, an independent power company with offices in four states that develops and invests in power generation and electric transmission facilities. She believes S.B. 635 would trample the ability of out-ofstate interests to build power transmission lines in North Carolina. Newton said during Commerce Committee debate that nothing in his bill would prevent LS Power from becoming a public utility in North Carolina. The only thing the bill protects, said Newton, is ratepayers from outof-state profiteers who potentially

would squeeze a targeted return on investment from their project and then abandon transmission lines or refuse to upgrade them. LS Power has generation facilities in South Carolina and Virginia. The company does not have a presence in North Carolina, but Segner said it has explored generation possibilities here in the past and “there very likely in the future could be marketing opportunities.” The underlying issue is an order issued July 21, 2011, by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It requires criteria and procedures to be established allowing regional transmission projects to be sponsored, built, and owned and operated by “nonincumbent” transmission owners if the state law allows such nonincumbent entities. A nonincumbent entity would be one that owns electricity transmission lines but does not serve retail customers as a public utility. Third-party and joint-venture ownership of transmission would be proscribed under the bill. “Our business model is to apply for state public utility authority and to be under the authority of the state,” Segner said. “There appears to be no advantage to North Carolina ratepayers to allow this FERC ruling to go forward

as it is, and it would be in our ratepayers’ and our state’s best interest to push this bill forward and make sure we have the lowest cost and greatest reliability” in electricity transmission, Newton said. Because FERC sets higher allowable return on equity rates than North Carolina, there is a risk that without his bill North Carolina ratepayers would pay more for a transmission line, Newton said. LS Power believes Newton’s bill “needs to be clear in the language because otherwise it could subject a new company to litigation once it hits the North Carolina Utilities Commission,” Segner said. “Some could try to turn the language into making it an anti-competitive [measure].” Segner said North Carolina is “already fully protected with or without the legislation” being proposed. It has the authority to deny applications from unqualified companies. Newton disagrees. “If this bill doesn’t go through, then they [outside owners] would be in a position to, with only federal regulation, decide to build transmission lines through and in North Carolina, and our Utilities Commission essentially would have no ability to control the siting, the quality of construction, and ongoing maintenance,” Newton

said during committee debate. “You could theoretically have a situation where the investors had a return on their investment and made all they wanted to do, and they didn’t want to upgrade and could abandon it. These are some of the risks that the Utility Commission came up with,” Newton said. “If anyone is to build transmission in the state of North Carolina, they’re going to need to go through a CPCN [certificate of public convenience and need] process in order to get involved, and nothing has changed from that standpoint,” Segner said. During committee debate, Sen. Dan Soucek, R-Watauga, agreed the state should respond to the FERC ruling, “but there seems to me to be an advantage to North Carolina ratepayers to have competition,” he said. “If somebody can [install] a transmission line and lower the cost of capital in a better and more efficient way, and somehow benefits North Carolina ratepayers, and be prepared to be subject to the public Utilities Commission oversight, I don’t know why we wouldn’t encourage that,” Soucek said. “I was not satisfied with those explanations” of why Newton rejected LS Power’s request to amend and add clarifying language to his bill, said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham. “It certainly struck me as being anti-competitive.” “I do believe in the market power to determine who the players are as long as, again, you can do it within certain parameters” under Utility Commission oversight, said Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake. CJ


PAGE CJ4

EduCatioN

MAY 2013 | CAROLINA JOURNAL

‘Opportunity Scholarship’ Plan Geared to Help Low-Income Families

By Dan Way Associate Editor

H

RALEIGH

ouse Speaker Pro Tem Paul “Skip” Stam proposes to spend $90 million over the next two years providing “equal opportunity scholarship grants” to low-income students for private education, an initiative he says will save the state money. The school choice measure, House Bill 944, provides for a maximum $4,200 scholarship per child. A scholarship cannot exceed 90 percent of the cost of a private school’s charges for tuition and fees. Feedback has been “very positive, except for the folks you would expect to oppose this — school superintendents and the NCAE [North Carolina Association of Educators], the usual,” Stam said. He’s also gained bipartisan support, he said, having talked to “about 30” Democrats regarding his proposed legislation. Stam said, “One of the primary sponsors [of H.B. 944 is] an AfricanAmerican Democrat,” Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford. Along with Brandon, two other Democrats — both black — had signed on as sponsors, Rep. Elmer Floyd of Cumberland County and Rep. Edward Hanes of Forsyth County. In all the bill had 31 sponsors. It was awaiting its first committee hearing when this issue went to press. “I’m definitely in favor of it,” Bill Cobey, chairman of the State Board of Education, told Carolina Journal. He said the measure is “very consistent” with his longstanding school choice stance. “If this bill becomes law, our state would advance to the forefront of the school choice movement in the United States,” said Terry Stoops, director of research and education studies at the John Locke Foundation. Stoops outlined his ideas for a voucher program, another name for opportunity scholarship, in a reent JLF report. “North Carolina would become just the 13th state to pass school voucher legislation and the sixth to approve a means-tested voucher.” Stoops outlined his ideas for a voucher program in a recent JLF report. It now costs state and local governments $6,745 to educate a typical child in public school, and $8,414 when including federal allocations, according to Stam. The average opportunity scholarship is expected to be $3,990, according to a fiscal analysis memorandum by the legislative Fiscal Research Division.

House Speaker Pro Tem Paul “Skip” Stam (left) is seeking $90 million in the first two years of the “opportunity scholarship” program. (CJ file photo by Dan Way)

Paying for a lower-cost private school grant would reduce state public school expenditures by $17.7 million in 2013-14 and $25.4 million in 2014-15, according to the fiscal analysis. The memorandum states 52 percent of public school students would meet grant eligibility requirements in 2013-14, rising to 65 percent in 2014-15. Of those, 3,669 public school students would receive the opportunity scholarships in 2013-14, and 5,990 in 2014-15. There would be 9,635 new scholarships in 2013-14, and 62 percent of them would go to existing private school students in 2013-14, according to the fiscal analysis. There would be 11,493 student scholarships for 201415, with 48 percent going to private school students. The grant money could be applied to “whatever the school requires the students to pay. That could be called tuition. It could be called a fee. But if it’s a required payment it qualifies,” Stam said. “The money is following the child. This is not a subsidy to the school,” Stam said. “The check will be made to the parent but mailed to the school” chosen by the parent, Stam said. “But the parent will have to physically come in and endorse the check to the school.” “I’d say it’s a great opportunity for the children of North Carolina to have some options, some practical options,” if they are unable to afford private education, Stam said. Opponents of the proposal say it would undermine public education. “Our organization and our members oppose tax credits and vouchers, including the one proposed in this bill, that siphon both students and community support from our public schools,” said Katherine Joyce, assistant executive director of the N.C. Association of

Scholarship bill has the backing of several black members of the legislature

School Administrators. “Vouchers of this kind also shift taxpayer funding to private entities that are not held to the same standards of accountability and accessibility as our state’s K-12 education system, and for that reason, they should not be approved by our General Assembly,” Joyce said. Cobey disagrees. “I’m for parental school choice, student school choice, in public education, in private education,” he said. “And yes, I’m for public charter schools. Yes, I’m for opportunity grants, and I think it will give us a mix of education that will greatly benefit the children, the parents, and the prosperity of the state,” Cobey said. “I just believe that one size does not fit all,” Cobey said. It is vital to offer educational options “in order to keep young people in school, engaged, interested, and moving towards getting the kind of education that will give them an opportunity to have a ca-

reer, whatever that is.” “We’ve been trying to do this for about 20 years. It is nice to have a majority in the legislature to be able to actually do it,” Stam said. According to a March poll taken by the Civitas Institute, 78 percent of Democrats surveyed support a $4,200 opportunity scholarship, and 12 percent oppose it. Among Republicans, 67 percent were in favor and 17 percent opposed. The Civitas poll showed 83 percent of black respondents favored a $4,200 scholarship grant, and 6 percent opposed it. Among white respondents, 67 percent supported it, and 19 percent were against it. Stam wants the state to allocate $40 million the first year and $50 million the second year. The amount could be adjusted in succeeding years according to demand. The State Education Assistance Authority would administer the opportunity scholarships under Stam’s bill. The authority would establish rules and regulations for awarding the scholarships and verify eligibility through random checks. Stam’s measure would broaden the authority’s oversight from college financial aid and savings programs to K-12 students for the first time. “Their expected administrative expenses will be 1 percent. They’ll keep $400,000 the first year to do the administration,” Stam said. “Compared to most government programs, 1 percent for administration is pretty good.” To be eligible for a grant, household income would be restricted to 225 percent of the federal poverty level the first year, or $52,988 for a family of four, and 300 percent thereafter, or $70,650 for a family of four. CJ


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Proposed Board Would Oversee State’s Charter Schools By Dan Way Associate Editor

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Senate committee in mid-April approved a bill creating the North Carolina Public Charter Schools Board, shifting oversight of the state’s expanding number of charter schools away from the State Board of Education. The multifaceted bill includes provisions addressing such thorny issues as funding formulas, allowable enrollment growth, and the relationship between local school districts and charters. It relaxes teacher licensure requirements and states that only nonprofit corporations can apply to operate charter schools. “There is no fiscal impact to the budget for this,” Sen. Jerry Tillman, RRandolph, sponsor of Senate Bill 337, said as the measure found near-unanimous approval in the Senate Finance Committee. At press time, the bill was in the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget subcommittee.

Independent of SBE The bill would empower the state Department of Public Instruction’s existing Office of Charter Schools as the principal administrative unit, working under the direction of the Charter Board. The Charter Board would operate independent of the State Board of Education. “The charter staff … is in place, and I don’t believe that there is going to be any extra cost attached to that,” Tillman said. The Charter Board would replicate many of the functions now performed by the state Charter Schools Advisory Council, but it would be smaller — 11 voting members instead

of 15. Nine members would be appointed by the governor or the General Assembly. The lieutenant governor and state treasurer also would be voting members. The State Board of Education would be granted veto authority over any Charter Board action, provided it had assent from a three-quarters majority of its board and the veto was voted on within 45 days of the Charter Board’s action. The Charter Board would provide technical assistance to charter schools and applicants, establish rules, oversee the application and approval process, monitor existing charter schools, renew charters, and revoke them. The bill would require charters to pay a “reasonable” application fee for the first time. Tillman said the application fee has yet to be decided. It would

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not be refunded if an application is rejected or a charter is revoked. “In the event that somebody does not have the capacity to pay the fee, is there a provision for a waiver?” Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, asked Tillman. “No, sir,” Tillman responded. “The reason we have an application fee is to ferret out those wannabes that are not financially stable enough to pay for an application fee,” he said. “You’ve got to be well-fixed to establish a charter, and there are all kinds of applications that come by individuals and fly-by-nights if we don’t have a pretty hefty application fee. That was intentional.”

For-profits need not apply Aside from barring for-profit entities from applying for a charter, the application process has other differences from present practice. Preliminary approval no longer would be permitted from a chartering entity such as a local board of education or from a UNC constituent institution. An applicant would not have to submit its application to the local school board, and the Charter Board no longer would be required to consider information provided by the local school board in weighing an application. There would be no requirement for the Charter Board to hear local school boards’ presentation of adverse impacts on a school district when approving enrollment growth for existing charter schools. To ensure timely flow of tax dollars to charter schools, the bill would require school districts to provide the charter schools their share of per-pupil funding within 30 days of receiving their approproations. The bill mandates that school districts provide in-

formation explaining how the per-pupil share was calculated. The bill would remove the requirement for a set percentage of charter school teachers to have teaching licenses and would require the charter board of directors to establish a policy on criminal background checks for prospective employees. Charter schools would have to try to enroll a student population that reasonably reflects the racial and ethnic composition of the local school district. In a provision that addresses complaints by many parents, charter schools that hold lotteries for admission would enter one surname for all siblings. They would be required to admit all siblings if that surname is drawn. Present law requires only multiple-birth siblings be admitted jointly. In what appears to be an effort to resolve past tensions between charter schools and local school boards, the bill would require a school district to lease to a charter school any available building or land for $1 per year. Otherwise, the district would have to show those facilities are needed for enrollment purposes or that the $1 lease would not be financially feasible. Finance Committee member Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, questioned Tillman about the bill’s property tax exemptions. “If you are a charter school renting from a for-profit landlord and paying full-market rent, the landlord no longer has to pay property tax. Is that an accurate understanding?” Stein asked. “If the building’s use is education, and that property is being used for educational purposes as a school building, they would not be subject to tax,” Tillman said. “That piece doesn’t make any sense to me,” Stein said. “The tenant doesn’t pay property taxes. The owner of the building pays property taxes.” “Would you be amenable to language that qualified if they [landlords] were giving it for below-market rent where they could get a property tax elimination?” Stein asked. “No, not as long as that building is used for educational purposes,” Tillman said. He noted that there are no property taxes collected for land on which traditional schools are located. “There is a fiscal note which shows minimal to no impact” from the tax-free provision, said Cindy Avrette, a staff attorney in the legislative Research Division. “The statute even provides a partial exemption,” Avrette said. “For instance, if you have a large tract of land and a certain part of it is wholly and exclusively used [as a charter school], that part of it would be exempt but not the remainder.” CJ


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Mooresville Knocks Charlotte Out of N.C. Top-Taxing City Spot Average N.C. resident paid 4.4 percent of income in taxes to local government

By CJ staff

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Combined City and County Tax Burdens For N.C. Municipalities of More Than 25,000 Population

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he local annual tax and fee burden now tops more than $2,000 per person in seven of North Carolina’s largest cities. Mooresville ended Charlotte’s 11-year run as the large city with the highest per-person local government bill. That’s according to By The Numbers: What Government Costs in North Carolina Cities and Counties FY 2011, the 15th annual report published by the John Locke Foundation on local tax burdens. Meanwhile, the average North Carolinian surrendered almost 4.4 percent of his personal income to fund city and county government in the 2011 budget year, down from 4.5 percent in 2010. “The typical resident of the median county in North Carolina paid $1,242 in taxes and fees to county and municipal governments in the 2011 budget year,” said report author Michael Lowrey, a JLF policy analyst in economics and regulatory policy. “That’s down from an inflation-adjusted $1,288 figure for 2010. But the numbers look different when you factor in the fact that many of the state’s more populous counties also have aboveaverage local tax and fee burdens.”

Average down from 2010 Adjusting for population, the state average local government tax burden was 4.39 percent in 2011. Local governments collected $15.2 billion in property, sales, and other taxes and fees during the budget year that stretched from July 2010 through June 2011, Lowrey reports. “Local government revenues increased by $400 million in that year,” he said. “This is not to say that all revenue sources increased. Sales tax revenues were flat, while property tax receipts increased by about $150 million. Water department revenues and other tax and fee income also saw significant increases.” Since the onset of the Great Recession, local governments have become increasingly dependent on property tax receipts, Lowrey said. “In 2007, property taxes made up 56.5 percent of nonutility local revenues,” he said. “In 2011 that figure had increased to more than 65 percent.”

Among North Carolina’s largest cities, Mooresville ($2,311 per person) displaced Charlotte as having the state’s largest local government burden. Chapel Hill also moved ahead of the Queen City to rank No. 2. Charlotte, Wilmington, and Durham rounded out the top five. They topped the list of 34 ranked municipalities with at least 25,000 residents. Jacksonville ($1,197 per person), Indian Trail, Thomasville, Asheboro, and Goldsboro ranked lowest in local government burden among the larger cities. Lowrey calculates the burden by adding all local taxes and fees collected in the city, then dividing by the total population.

Coastal/resort communities Three coastal communities — Oak Island, Kill Devil Hills, and Carolina Beach — had the highest local per-person tax burdens among the 92 ranked N.C. communities with populations between 5,000 and 24,999 people. The report ranks each of these communities, along with 180 municipalities with populations between 1,000 and 4,999 people. Even residents of more than 190 municipalities with populations of fewer than 1,000 people can see how their communities rank against their peers.

Lowrey used the most recent data available from the State Treasurer, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Bureau of Economic Analysis to construct rankings of local government cost on a perperson basis. For counties, he also constructed rankings on a share-of-income basis. Lowrey continues to highlight a continuing problem that helps skew data. Four counties and nearly 40 municipalities missed state deadlines to file their State Treasurer’s Annual Financial Information Report. “Whether those local governments filed the statements after the deadline or not, the information still is not available from the treasurer’s office,” Lowrey explained. “Without those reports, By The Numbers cannot include local tax burdens for those communities. Complete reporting would result in a somewhat higher combined county municipal

median tax burden.” Lowrey also repeated his annual warning against comparing the relatively high per-capita tax numbers in resort communities to those in other N.C. cities. Communities with larger numbers of second homes and resorts — combined with small year-round populations — will see larger per-capita tax burden figures, he said. Among the 10 most populous counties, Durham (5.86 percent), Mecklenburg (5.31 percent), Guilford (5.19 percent), New Hanover (5.12 percent), and Buncombe (4.75 percent) ranked among the top 25 N.C. counties in average cost of local government. Wake (4.60 percent), Gaston (4.56 percent), Forsyth (4.56 percent), and Union (4.22 percent) ranked near the middle of the pack. Cumberland (3.22 percent) ranked No. 85 of the 96 ranked counties. North Carolina collected $21.9 billion in state tax and fee revenues from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011. That’s 6.3 percent of state residents’ personal income. Local governments collected an additional $15.2 billion in property, sales, and other taxes and fees. That’s another 4.4 percent of personal income. “Combined, they represent a state and local tax and fee burden of 10.7 percent,” Lowrey said. “Federal collections raise the total tax burden on North Carolinians to approximately 27.3 percent of personal income, on average.” Lowrey stresses that a high costof-government ranking in the By The Numbers report does not equal a judgment that a city or county is governed poorly. “By The Numbers is a tool that represents factual data only, without editorial comment or bias,” Lowrey said. “The best way to compare your city or county to others is to find municipalities or counties of similar size and demographics.” “This report helps taxpayers evaluate whether the services they receive from local government merit what they are paying for them,” he added. “We hope taxpayers will continue to ask about the proper role of local government and its relationship to the state. It’s important to keep these discussions alive and to ensure our local leaders remain acCJ countable to taxpayers.”

Four counties and 40 municipalities missed deadlines for reporting annual financial information


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JLF: Billions in Debt Added Without Taxpayer Approval By CJ staff

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ypassing statewide bond referendums has cost North Carolina taxpayers an estimated $261 million in extra interest payments on state debt since 2005. That’s a key finding in a John Locke Foundation Spotlight report. “North Carolina voters have not seen a statewide bond referendum since 2000,” said Sarah Curry, JLF director of fiscal policy studies. “That doesn’t mean the state has avoided taking on new debt. Instead all debt issued since then has been done without voter approval.” Some N.C. legislators are pushing a measure that would limit the amount of nonvoter-approved debt North Carolina could take on in the future. In the report, Curry explains why limiting future use of nonvoter-approved debt might work better than repealing the law that created that type of debt. State lawmakers have been able to avoid statewide bond referendums in recent years because of language in the state budget approved 10 years ago, Curry said. “The 2003 budget legislation included the State Facilities Finance Act, which opened the door to ‘special indebtedness,’ a blanket term for various forms of debt outside the traditional category of general obligation bonds.” GO bonds require voter approval. The three forms of special indebtedness require no vote of the people. Curry’s report discusses all three: lease purchase revenue bonds, limited obligation bonds, and certificates of participation, or COPs. “Over time COPs have become the most popular and preferred financ-

ing methods, which is attributable to the fact that they can be issued more quickly than bonds requiring a voter referendum,” she said. “By 2008 outstanding COPs amounted to almost $1 billion. The current outstanding balance tops $500 million. “ While that dollar figure has dropped, limited obligation bonds have taken on a larger role. The state’s outstanding debt from this type of special indebtedness is $2 billion. Overall, the portion of state government’s total debt that lacks voter approval continues to climb. “Special indebtedness made up about 18 percent of North Carolina’s outstanding debt five years ago, but the figure now tops 40 percent,” Curry said. “The state treasurer’s latest North Carolina Debt Affordability Study projects that percentage will grow to 46 percent by 2017.” While COPs and the other forms of special indebtedness prove more convenient for politicians, they also

lead to more costs for taxpayers, Curry said. “General obligation debt traditionally has a very low interest rate because it is secured by the full faith, credit, and taxing power of the state,” she said. “Special indebtedness is repaid by an annual debt service appropriation from the state’s General Fund, which means a higher interest rate than voter-approved debt.” Even a slight difference in interest rates can make a big difference, Curry said. “The interest rate penalty increases the cost of projects being financed and over time amounts to a significant portion of the debt.” For example, Curry estimated the cost to taxpayers from 2005 to 2011 of an additional 0.25 percentage points on the interest rate of nonvoter-approved debt. Each year, the estimated additional interest topped $10 million, peaking at more than $64 million in 2008. For the entire period, the special indebtedness is estimated to have cost taxpayers an extra $261 million.

Lawmakers have taken steps to scale back nonvoter-approved debt, canceling $232 million in special indebtedness in 2011. The cancellation included all special indebtedness authorized in 2010. Some legislators want to repeal the 10-year-old law that created special indebtedness. Curry’s report documents potential problems with that option. “The removal of these debt vehicles would be viewed negatively by the financial markets and could send investors a signal that North Carolina no longer endorses appropriation funding for debt-financed projects,” she said. “This domino contagion would negatively affect the value of the outstanding special indebtedness held by investors and possibly lower the state’s bond ratings or trigger other unintended consequences.” Senate Bill 129 would take a different approach. It would limit future use of nonvoter-approved debt. “This bill does not eliminate special indebtedness altogether but limits the amount North Carolina may have outstanding at any one time,” Curry said. “Special indebtedness makes up about 40 percent of North Carolina’s total outstanding debt, but the bill would cap the percentage at 25 percent.” That means North Carolina no longer could rely on nonvoter-approved debt until that type of debt drops below 25 percent of the state’s total debt burden, Curry said. “In essence, there is a chance for a temporary moratorium on special indebtedness,” she said. “Given the fact that this nonvoter-approved debt leads to higher interest costs, this change could save taxpayers valuable dollars.” CJ

Subscribe to JLF’s Research Department Newsletters Go to http://www.johnlocke.org/key_account/ to sign up

Vice President for Research and Resident Scholar Roy Cordato’s weekly newsletter, Environment Update, focuses on environmental issues, and highlights relevant analysis done by the John Locke Foundation and other think tanks, as well as items in the news.

Director of Research and Education Studies Terry Stoops’ weekly newsletter, Education Update, focuses on the latest local, state, national, and international trends in pre-K-12 education politics, policy, and practice.

Director of Regulatory Studies Jon Sanders’ w e e k l y n e w s l e t t e r, Rights & Regulation Update, discusses current issues concerning regulations, rights, and freedom in North Carolina.

Director of Fiscal Policy Studies Sarah Curry’s weekly newsletter, Fiscal Update, discusses issues concerning North Carolina government’s revenues, budgets, taxes, and fiscal projections.

Health Policy Analyst Katherine Restrepo’s w e e k l y n e w s l e t t e r, Health Care Update, focuses on state and national issues concerning health and human services, health care policy, and reform towards a consumer-driven health care market.


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MAY 2013 | CAROLINA JOURNAL

Stolen-Identity Tax Refund Fraud Widespread, Costing Billions A national problem

Continued from Page 1

live at his address. Additionally, two neighbors have reported receiving tax correspondence and checks to people who do not live at their addresses. Stolen-identity refund fraud is so rampant that Russell George, Treasury inspector general for tax administration, dubbed it 2013’s “No. 1 tax scam.” However, it has been going on for some time. George said that for tax year 2010 the IRS processed 1.5 million undetected stolen identity returns, representing a $5.2 billion loss to U.S. taxpayers. In tax year 2011, more 641,000 individuals were victims of identity theft by criminals using their identities to get fraudulent tax refunds, the IRS estimates. For tax year 2012, that figure was estimated at 1.2 million. Those committing this kind of fraud are brazen. For instance, someone filed 2,137 tax returns to the IRS in 2010 and used the same return address in Lansing, Mich. The illegal take from those returns totaled $3,316,051, according to the IRS. That was not the only address to which hundreds of fraudulently obtained IRS refund checks were sent. Some 765 similar refunds went to the same address in Chicago (totaling $903,084), and 741 to the same address in Belle Glade, Fla. (totaling $1,004, 897).

Why thieves are successful Government officials say their challenge is to find a balance between customer service and system integrity. Officials say they want to issue refunds quickly to satisfy tax filers, but those efforts preclude a thorough examination of tax returns to prevent fraudulent refund checks from being issued. “Stolen identity refund fraud, or SIRF, can be described all-too-simply as a series of crimes by which criminals steal Social Security numbers, file tax returns showing a false refund claim, and then have the refunds electronically deposited to a bank account or to prepaid debit cards, or sent to an address where the wrongdoer then can get access to the refunds,” Assistant U. S. Attorney General Kathryn Keneally told the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging April 10.

How to prevent it Based on testimony provided to two Senate committees, officials seem to be focusing on three things they can do to combat this type of refund identity fraud. The first would require the IRS to process W-2 forms and other information from employers before it processes individuals’ tax returns and issues refunds. Employers now have until March 31 to file W-2 forms with the IRS, but taxpayers can begin filing returns as

Since March, a Durham retiree received the above tax correspondence to a person who does not live at his address (house numbers redacted), including a federal refund check.

early as mid-January. SIRF criminals understand they have a window of opportunity to submit fraudulent returns before tax authorities receive W-2s from employers. Because of this timing, identity thieves can receive fake refunds before tax officials have any idea they’ve been scammed. Second, the IRS could implement a real-time tax system to verify many elements of a return when it is filed. The IRS now uses what it calls an “after-the-fact approach to compliance,” dealing with concerns weeks or even months after refunds have been mailed. Among other potential problems, a real-time tax system could flag addresses from which multiple returns have been filed. Third, the IRS could take better care of victims. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, whose job it is to provide an independent voice for taxpayers, and who does not represent the views of the IRS or other federal agencies, told the committee on aging that “victims often have to wait in excess of six months to have their cases resolved and receive their refunds.” Because of inefficiency, she told the committee, “Too many victims fall between the cracks of IRS bureaucracy.”

Durham scheme When the retired Durham resident received several pieces of mail from government agencies addressed to different individuals at his home on Sherron Road, and saw unfamiliar people checking mailboxes on his street, he concluded someone was using his address in a tax refund fraud scheme. He shared copies of the documents with CJ and turned over all correspondence and checks to federal authorities. After CJ’s initial meeting with the homeowner, two neighbors told him they also had received similar mailings. CJ interviewed the neighbors and concluded that the three households had received 17 official mailings addressed to people who didn’t live at those addresses. The mailings were sent from the IRS and the state revenue departments of Maryland, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The mailings included refund checks from Maryland for $1,651 made out to Sherry D. Arozarena, and another for $1,746 made out to Jessica B. Fonseca. Also, there was a $4,108.08 check from the IRS payable to Jody A. Freed.

The seriousness of the problem prompted the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Aging to hold a hearing on SIRF issues April 10, and the Senate Committee on Finance to hold one on April 16. George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, said an audit conducted by his office identified more than 76,000 tax returns for the year 2010 that were filed using the identities of senior citizens that had characteristics of an IRS-confirmed identity theft case. “Those returns resulted in potentially fraudulent tax refunds totaling over $374 million.” He explained that the identities of senior citizens are targets for identity theft because many are not required to file a tax return. The IRS is unaware of the fraud until a legitimate taxpayer also files a return using the same name and Social Security number. The IRS and other law enforcement agencies have uncovered a number of SIRF operations. For example, a February press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in the northern district of Georgia reported that Kevin Joseph Sonnier, 44, of Ellenwood, Ga., and Bernardo Davis, 26, of Morrow, Ga., were arrested and charged with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to defraud the government. Sonnier and Davis are accused of filing more than 15,000 false tax returns from 2011 and 2012 that claimed more than $15 million in fraudulent refunds. “They obtained some of these names and Social Security numbers through the use of a website and advertisements that touted the availability of an ‘Obama stimulus payment’ and provided a toll-free number. However, no stimulus payment actually existed, and Sonnier and Davis instead used the victim’s personal information to file thousands of false tax returns that claimed millions of dollars in bogus refunds,” stated the release.

Refund fraud in N.C. N.C. Department of Revenue director of business operations Cale Johnson said the department does not track identity theft statistics and it doesn’t know how much money the state loses to SIRF. He also noted that the department does not have the statutory authority to bring charges related to identity theft. He said the department saved more than $19 million last year as a result of just one of the anti-fraud initiatives encompassing SIRF-related activities. Regarding multiple, and thus likely fraudulent, refunds being sent to the same address, he said, “The department does monitor and seeks to identify and prevent multiple fraudulent refunds from being issued to the same address. ” CJ


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Three More Perdue Campaign Associates Plead Guilty to Infractions Continued from Page 1

2008, chose last year not to seek a second term. Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, who led the prosecution, said the plea agreements put an end to his investigation of Perdue’s 2008 campaign finances. Perdue’s donors attracted the attention of the State Board of Elections soon after it wrapped up its 2009 criminal investigation of Perdue’s Democratic predecessor, Mike Easley. The board fined Easley’s campaign committee $100,000 for filing false campaign finance reports related to flights he received from former N.C. State University Board of Trustees chairman McQueen Campbell and others. Easley’s committee paid a small portion of the fine. The former governor later offered an Alford plea to a Class I felony for filing a false campaign report. Easley lost his law license for two years, and it was reinstated recently.

The defendants Stubbs, who for roughly 25 years was the law partner of Perdue’s late first husband Gary, admitted that in 2007 and 2008 he provided flights worth more than $28,000 to the Perdue campaign after he had given the maximum donations permitted. He was charged with felony obstruction of justice and forcing the Perdue committee to file false reports. He is a seasoned political donor who has made at least 250 contributions to state or local candidates or committees over the past two decades. The January issue of Business North Carolina noted that Stubbs’ colleagues in the legal profession had named him the state’s top bankruptcy attorney. Caldwell, a former state magistrate, was charged with concealing the payment for a December 2007 flight Fulenwider arranged that took Perdue to a fundraiser in Manteo for then-state

In top photo, Buzzy Stubbs, center, is flanked by his attorneys Wade Smith, left, and David Long, right. In bottom photo, from left, Robert Lee Caldwell, left, Caldwell’s attorney Jake Sussman, Charles Michael Fulenwider, and Fulenwider’s attorney James Cooney. (CJ photos by Don Carrington)

Senate leader Marc Basnight. The flight originated in Hickory, picked up Perdue and her party in Chapel Hill, flew to Manteo, and dropped Perdue in Chapel Hill before returning to Hickory. The flight was invoiced originally to Fulenwider, who also had donated the maximum to the campaign. In 2010, Fulenwider told Carolina Journal he needed to find someone else to pay for the flight. He recruited Caldwell, who convinced a local barber, James Fleming, to write a check covering roughly $3,000 of the $4,000 flight. State records indicate that Fleming had not made a campaign donation in at least 20 years. Caldwell reimbursed Fleming, which violated state laws banning political donations made in the name of another person. In February 2011, Caldwell was indicted for the payment scheme. In court Wednesday, Fulenwider was named as the person who paid Caldwell for the flight, though

Fulenwider was not indicted in that scheme. Fulenwider’s guilty plea related to a separate plan in which he paid a portion of Sitton’s salary when she worked for Perdue. Fulenwider gave $32,000 to a company owned by Reichard, which then paid Sitton $2,000 a month. This scheme also provided the basis for the charges that led to the plea agreements Reichard and Sitton accepted.

The investigation Around the time the elections board convened its hearing on Easley’s campaign flights, state Republican Party officials noticed that the Perdue committee had begun amending its reports from the 2008 campaign, reimbursing donors who had provided flights as much as two years earlier. State campaign laws require any services provided to a political campaign to be reimbursed in a timely manner —

typically within a few days. The elections board later opened an investigation of the Perdue flights. After finding the committee neglected to pay for more than 40 flights in a timely manner, on Aug. 24, 2010, the board fined her campaign committee $30,000. The elections board ended its investigation without taking sworn testimony. During the board’s investigation, then-state Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer asked Willoughby to review the board’s work, accusing Chairman Larry Leake, executive director Gary Bartlett, and John Wallace, who served as an attorney for the state Democratic Party and the campaigns of Easley and Perdue, of interfering with the probe in an effort to minimize Perdue’s potential role. CJ examined the flight logs and other documents produced during the elections board investigation. A few days after the board fined Perdue, CJ reported the records implicated Stubbs and Reichard in attempts to hide payment for campaign flights. In October 2010, the State Bureau of Investigation, at Willoughby’s request, began its own investigation of the campaign. At the time, Willoughby said the board’s investigation of Perdue appeared to be less “careful and deliberate” than earlier ones. A subsequent story by CJ detailed the convoluted payment arrangement for the flight involving Fleming, Caldwell, Fulenwider, and Perdue. Perdue currently is a spring fellow in politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. She is scheduled to become a distinguished visiting fellow at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University this fall. To read CJ’s full coverage of the Perdue flying operations, visit http:// bit.ly/Q1PYHo. CJ Executive Editor Don Carrington provided additional reporting for this story.

Victims Surprised To Learn They Were Victims of Tax Identity Fraud Continued from Page 1

IRS tax return form. The document did not include Freed’s full Social Security number, only the last four digits. CJ contacted a number of people named Jody Freed and located, in Slatington, Pa., a woman whose last four Social Security numbers matched those in the North Carolina document. She said that, due to an injury, she qualified for and has been receiving federal disability benefits for the last few years, but has not filed a tax return because she was not required to do so. While she has suffered no financial loss from the identity theft, she

realizes she might encounter problems in the near future. “Didn’t the federal government know it is sending me disability checks under the Social Security number that it just issued a refund to?” she asked. Evan Russell, 27, the manager of the Gorman Street Pub in Raleigh, also is a victim of SIRF. Russell told CJ that in early March he filed his federal and North Carolina tax returns using TurboTax preparation software and expected a federal refund of approximately $1,000. His return was accepted initially, but later he got a notice saying it was denied because his Social Security

number had been used for an earlier filing. Thinking he must have made an error in completing the return, he went to an H&R Block office and had it handle his refund filing. H&R Block also received a notice that the Social Security number had been used. An H&R Block employee showed him how to file a fraud report with the IRS, which required that he download a form from the IRS website, enclose copies of his driver’s license and Social Security card, and mail the information to an IRS office in Kansas City. An IRS representative later told Russell that his name and Social Security number had been used to produce a $5,500

tax refund that went to an address in Georgia. Russell said that after he learned about the IRS issue, his bank notified him that someone in Ontario, Canada, had tried to make a $700 withdrawal from his account. He also got a notice from Google that someone had hacked into his email account and that he needed to change his password. At press time, Russell said he had not communicated with N.C. Revenue Department officials and doesn’t know if the same fraudsters made an attempt to get money from the state of North Carolina using his name. He said he had calculated his North Carolina refund to be $83. CJ


PAGE CJ10 Campus Briefs ‘Butts in Seats’ bake sale In mid-April, N.C. State’s University Honors Program hosted the “Butts in Seats Bake Sale,” a politically themed event on campus, the name of the event being a reference to remarks made by Gov. Pat McCrory in January questioning the job prospects of some UNC system graduates and the value of their UNC education. McCrory told radio host and former U.S. Secretary of Education Bill Bennett that he wanted to fund colleges “not based on how many butts in seats, but how many of those butts can get jobs.” McCrory singled out some fields, such as women’s studies programs, as being of particularly questionable value. Organizers of the event charged customers different prices for baked goods based on their program of study. For example, chemical engineers, who tend to have excellent job prospects after college, were charged the most. Some students involved with a student group called Young Americans for Liberty thought this was a partisan slap at McCrory and confronted the organizers. After confirming that the university had funded the event, a YAL member said, “this is the University Honors Program, not the Democratic Party. You can’t just use the University Honors Program to put forth an obviously leftist political event.” When challenged, one organizer walked away, and the other gave the YAL member a free cupcake.

UNC allows ammo At UNC-Chapel Hill, controversy arose in February and March when Student Congress passed a bill making it more difficult for the Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol Club (a student group dedicated to shooting sports) to purchase ammunition. Club members protested, and some tried to speak before Student Congress about the bill during debate, but were not allowed. Student body president Will Leimenstoll vetoed the bill in March, telling the Daily Tar Heel student newspaper, “I didn’t feel that everyone who wanted to have a say in the matter had the opportunity to have their voice heard.” The veto essentially killed the bill, since proponents did not have CJ enough votes to override it. Duke Cheston is a writer for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy (popecenter.org).

MAY 2013 | CAROLINA JOURNAL

HigHer education

UNC Chancellor Choice a ‘Surprising’ Selection By Jane S. Shaw Contributor

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RALEIGH

arol Folt, acting president of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., has been named the next chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill. She replaces Holden Thorp, who has resigned effective June 30. The selection was surprising to many because Folt has been an administrator for 30 years at a relatively small Ivy League college in northern New England, a setting utterly different from UNC-Chapel Hill. Not only does the school have an enrollment one-seventh the size of Chapel Hill’s, it does not offer athletic scholarships. But Folt has some strengths — charm, for one. The petite, 61-year-old seemingly won over the hearts of the UNC Board of Governors, students, and public after her election on April 12. “She just lights up a room,” said Will Leimenstoll, UNC-CH student body president. In some respects, Folt fits the mold of academic-scholar-turned-administrator, like her UNC-Chapel Hill predecessor Thorp. Also, she is an academic liberal, with a doctorate in ecology from the University of California at Davis whose research centered on the effects of fish toxins and the potential impact of climate change. She even created a “sustainability” minor, which integrates subjects such as social justice and ethics with environmental sciences. Folt also was a pioneer in creating Dartmouth’s Women in Science Project, and according to Dartmouth, oversaw “an unparalleled increase … in the number of women department chairs and holders of endowed professorships.” At a reception after her selection she talked about changes that have taken place during her professional life. Her first example was to note that academia is “celebrating” 40 years of Title IX (the law that requires parity in women’s activities, especially sports). A faculty member calls her an “educational progressivist.” Folt does come with some baggage — her years as an administrator have won her some enemies. Indeed, a red flag for the search committee might have been the divisiveness that has characterized Dartmouth for a decade or so, during which Folt has held high administrative posts — although only recently the top position. A group of alumni argue that Dartmouth is adrift — putting more money into administration and graduate schools than into undergraduate teaching. To stop this drift, alumni elected several dissenting trustees — until the board changed the governance structure to reduce the power of independently elected trustees. One dissenting candidate (he lost in 2010), Joseph Asch, ’79, a Yale

UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt (UNC photo)

Law School graduate and international businessman, became concerned about the college when he spent his summers in Hanover, auditing more than 30 courses and getting to know professors there. Asch noticed that students were unable to get into classes because there weren’t enough classes being taught, a situation unknown before 2000, he says. Academically, Asch said Dartmouth seemed “dead in the water.” But spending on facilities was lavish, and debt has risen to more than $1 billion. Now, Asch writes an outspoken blog that has been critical of Folt and

other administrators. A spokesman for Dartmouth responds that since Joseph Asch has a “longstanding, very public dislike for almost anything Carol Folt does, I would treat his current criticism with a grain of salt.” On the positive side, in the words of one search committee member, Folt was the “go-to person,” ”the fixer,” at Dartmouth when something needed to be done. The fact that she has some detractors didn’t bother the search committee. Members may have perceived that as a sign that she was willing to stand up to faculty members if necessary. Standing up to sports-loving boosters may be more challenging, however. The process of selection of UNC chancellors is highly secretive. Even the three candidates whose names were selected by the search committee, which reported them to the Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, were never revealed publicly, although one is known to have been a UNC system “insider.” UNC president Tom Ross selected Folt from those three candidates. One knowledgeable observer commented privately that Folt’s selection was a “Tom Ross-orchestrated power play.” Time will tell if it was a good one. CJ

Carol Folt is an academic liberal whom some call an ‘educational progressivist’

Jane S. Shaw is president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy (popecenter.org).


MAY 2013 | CAROLINA JOURNAL

HigHer education

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Opinion

Politically Correct Incidents in the Ivory Tower: My Top Picks

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he term “politically correct” comes straight out of the Soviet Union. There, it referred to activities and talk that reflected the prevailing ideology — the only ideology allowed. In the past six years, during which I have headed the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, I’ve come across the Ivory Tower variety of politically correct behavior. Lest we forget these incidents, here are some of the most notable: Replacing the Constitution: In 2007, JANE Judith Blau, a SHAW sociology professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, organized a student convention to rewrite the U.S. Constitution. As Jay Schalin reported at the time, the new constitution’s preamble had phrases like “working for collective rights will create a more harmonious society.” Its body, wrote Schalin, “consisted of a litany of liberal causes, including abolition of the death penalty and the promotion of multiculturalism, gay marriage, and environmentalism.” Instead of getting rid of our Constitution, Blau and her students might usefully have explored why it is the oldest written constitution still in effect. Yale Sex Week (and other campus Sex Weeks): Officially justified to

promote safe sex, dents rarely will in 2010 the ninestand out. They day event featured will not become Issues pornographic the favorites of in filmmakers, sex professors, and consultants, a sex they will not do Higher Education therapist, and sex as well as if they workers (one of had been in a whom has been an more congenial escort, a stripper, academic environand a “professional ment. Some of dominatrix”). Nathan Harden gave a these students would be at the top of day-by-day account on the Phi Beta the class if they attended a school that Cons website. One speaker’s goal was had not used quotas or “points” to to “challenge gender norms through admit them. Faculty and administraporn,” while another discussed tors ignore the logic of what Sander masturbation and “educated students and Nieli say because it undermines about an array [of] sleeves and plastic the push for diversity, the Holy Grail gizmos designed to enhance solitary of politically correct behavior on bliss.” campus. Affirmative The Duke Action: Sen. HuLacrosse Case: bert Humphrey In 2006, three once said that he members of the would “eat my Duke lacrosse hat” if affirmateam were tive action turned charged with rape into quotas — and of a black woman they did (but he whom they had did not). Wellhired as a stripintended efforts to per at a party. The open up education horrendous story to minorities have fit right into a poturned into catastrophe. They hurt the litically correct narrative — privileged students who are rejected and those white boys viciously attacking a black who, with an admissions boost, are female student (from a different, hisaccepted. torically black, school). Tossing out the As authors Richard Sander and presumption of innocence, 88 faculty Russell Nieli have made clear, bringmembers signed a letter condemning ing in students who are significantly the men and their actions publicly as less capable than the average student symbolic of the racism on campus. at that school means that such stuThe president and provost, too, hung

The tenets of political correctness seem to win out over objectivity and good taste

them out to dry. But the story was a hoax, the woman has since been arrested for murder, and Duke had to pay millions to settle a libel suit. The faculty members who had used the occasion to whip up alarm about racism never apologized and never were reprimanded, and Duke’s trustees blithely renewed the contract of the president a few years later. The Larry Summers Affair: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned — but in academia, hell hath no fury like women who have been treated “insensitively.” In 2005, Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University (a good Democrat, having been treasury secretary under President Clinton), gave an impromptu talk in which he suggested that one possible reason for relatively few women in the high ranks of math and science was genetic. At the top (and bottom) ends of the bell curve of scientific aptitude, there are more men than women, and that might be one factor in underrepresentation of women. A female biologist at MIT was so outraged that she walked out of the conference, and the National Organization of Women demanded Summers’ resignation. Not much later, Summers did resign. Other factors were in play, but this was the spark that ignited the fire that wouldn’t go out. So, we see how again and again, politically correct behavior wins out CJ over objectivity and good taste.

Jane S. Shaw is president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy (popecenter.org).


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MAY 2013 | CAROLINA JOURNAL

oPinion COMMENTARY

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Addressing The Keys To Economic Recovery

in reserves. He proposes no major he General Assembly is three new programs, ends raids on the months into the long session. Highway Trust Fund, and diverts More than 1,700 bills have $75 million from Golden LEAF and been filed with only 38 (at press the Rural Economic Development time) now law. The first bill signed into law Center — programs that reward poencourages students to develop job litical cronies and have no taxpayer skills through expansion of career oversight. He leaves a surplus for and technical education. The next the next fiscal year. Legislators would do well to ones include a measure shoring up adopt McCrory’s budgetary pria $2.4 billion unemployment insurorities, halting a long history of ance debt; a bill to shift funding reckless spending and regulatory from textbooks to digital learning; overreach. As they move toward a a decision not to operate final budget, lawmakers a state-based health exshould consider decreaschange and to reject an ing spending and scaling expansion of Medicaid unback corporate welfare der Obamacare; and a bill programs. A comprehento sunset on a wasteful and sive evaluation of incenineffective earned income tives and a rewrite of film industry tax credits are tax credit. long overdue. With an early sumJobs require a wellmer adjournment expecteducated work force. ed, lawmakers have only BECKI Measures are needed to a few months to tackle the GRAY ensure accountability remaining big issues and so taxpayers, parents, make good on campaign teachers, and employers know that promises to get our economy mova high school diploma has value. ing, stimulate long-term growth, Reform bills affecting traditional and create jobs. Tax, regulatory, and public schools include measures to education reform are key commodify teacher tenure, strengthen ponents to fiscal recovery and a teacher education and licensing healthy economy. standards, increase transparency For two decades, attempts on school performance, and study to reform our outdated tax system performance-based teacher pay. have failed. Current proposals While most families choose tradiinclude some old ideas: expand tional public schools, the expansion the state sales tax to include more of charter schools, a new voucher than 100 new services; reduce the to enable low-income families to attend private schools, and a personal income tax; scale back scholarship grant for children with the corporate tax; and rewrite the disabilities would allow parents to franchise tax. determine the best option for their It will take comprehensive children. Competition and choice reform and a new type of revenue are the best way to improve educageneration to spur real economic tion and provide a well-educated growth. One proposal would work force. replace current personal, corpoOverly burdensome regularate, and estate tax revenue with tions stifle economic growth. A a consumption-based flat tax of 6 periodic review and scheduled percent. The plan also would lower expiration date for rules is a being the state sales tax to 4.5 percent. considered. The Rules Review ComUnder this plan, experts predict a mission should be authorized to $4 billion growth in income (and an review not only new rules but also extra 10,000 jobs) this year, rising to existing ones. $5.8 billion and an extra 14,000 jobs With just a few months left, by 2017. the General Assembly still has imA budget for the next two portant issues to tackle. Economic years will be enacted before July 1, recovery depends on lawmakers the beginning of the new fiscal year. adopting comprehensive tax, education, and regulatory reforms. CJ Gov. Pat McCrory’s $20.6 billion proposal offers fiscally responsible priorities. McCrory imposes no Becki Gray is vice president for new taxes and no additional debt outreach at the John Locke Foundation. while setting aside $600 million

EDITORIAL

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Our Incurious Ex-Governor

ow that Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has closed his investigation of illegal activities by former Gov. Bev Perdue’s campaign, the unanswered question should not be, “What did Perdue know and when did she know it?” but “Why didn’t she try to deal with the crimes sooner?” After all, five people associated with her 2008 campaign for governor — including Peter Reichard, her campaign finance chairman; Buzzy Stubbs, the former law partner of her late first husband; and Juleigh Sitton, whom Perdue chose to run her Western North Carolina office — are criminals as the result of actions they took to hide campaign flights and salaries worth tens of thousands of dollars as Perdue was ferried from one fundraising event to another. These were not low-level operatives who failed to file paperwork correctly. They were senior members of the campaign who were orchestrating and benefiting from an elaborate criminal conspiracy. You’d think the governor would want to get to the bottom of the troubles, or at least find out what was going on. But no. As media reports of the investigation (including several in Carolina Journal) revealed the complexity of what the State Board of Elections called an “aircraft provider” program for the campaign, Perdue and her team acted as if they were learning of these events when they saw them in the press. This lack of curiosity doesn’t add up. In the spring of 2009, members of her campaign staff (if not people inside the governor’s office) began scrambling to account for as many as

100 flights Perdue took in 2007 and 2008. State campaign law says any services provided to a campaign must be repaid in a timely manner — typically within a week. Some of Perdue’s flights took place more than two years before her campaign reported or paid for them. Even so, the governor’s attitude throughout was: “Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.” CJ covered the scandals from the beginning, and our reports on a December 2007 Perdue flight involving Morganton businessman Mike Fulenwider and former magistrate Robert Lee Caldwell were the first media accounts of the scheme that led to Caldwell’s April 24 misdemeanor plea agreement. Fulenwider pleaded guilty in a separate money-hiding scheme. What may have been lost in the coverage is how much Perdue gained from these freebies. Stubbs tried to hide flights worth $28,000. Fulenwider laundered $32,000 to supplement Sitton’s salary. The dozens of unreimbursed flights were worth thousands of dollars that the campaign received from donors who had given the legal maximum. By getting those flights for free from current donors, Perdue did not have to recruit new donors and convince them to contribute. These schemes allowed the campaign to get twice the bang for its buck, if not more. With a criminal conspiracy of such complexity taking place under her nose, if Perdue really was this clueless, you have to wonder how much attention she paid to the serious matters of governance North CarolinCJ ians trusted her to confront.


MAY 2013 | CAROLINA JOURNAL EDITORIALS

COMMENTARY

Medicaid Competition

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McCrory proposes market mechanisms

here are many unknowns regarding the proposal by Gov. Pat McCrory to use competitive contracting to reform North Carolina’s Medicaid program. But what we do know about it suggests the governor is heading in the right direction. His idea is to award contracts to three or four provider networks that would coordinate and deliver services to poor, disabled, and elderly Medicaid recipients. The state currently uses a single nonprofit, Community Care of North Carolina, to perform this task, but it does not bear any financial responsibility if costs come in higher than budgeted. In other states, and in managed-care programs more generally, such at-risk contracts are commonplace. The McCrory administration doesn’t have the final word on Medicaid reform. The plan will have to pass muster in the General Assembly and receive the necessary waivers from Washington. But here’s why it is worth considering: • We have a relatively high-cost Medicaid program. North Carolina spends just over $6,000 per enrollee on Medicaid payments, plus additional funds for administration and disproportionate-share hospital subsidies. Our program costs 10 percent more than the national average and 26 percent more than the average of Medicaid costs in Southern states.

• These percentage differences translate into very large dollar amounts. If North Carolina’s Medicaid costs were at the regional average, we’d be spending about $640 million less in state money. That’s money that otherwise could be devoted to fiscal priorities such as tax relief or education. • Unlike some state programs, Medicaid is not an investment. Most Medicaid dollars go to fund acute and long-term care services to elderly and disabled North Carolinians. These are necessary and valuable expenditures, obviously, but they represent consumption, not investment. Providing this medical safety net at a lower cost would free savings to enhance the state’s economy through a combination of private investment (via tax relief) and public investment (such as roads and schools). The current Medicaid contractor, CCNC, originated as an arm of the state Department of Health and Human Services, becoming a private nonprofit a few years ago. It can and probably will become one of the comprehensive-care contractors under the new system. While the development of CCNC may have been a first step toward cost containment, it’s time to take the next step and create financial incentives for coordinating care more efficiently. CJ

Fixing Interstates

Reason-Hartgen study offers interesting choices

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e’re strong advocates for the user-pays principle in transportation. As much as possible, users of a particular asset — roads, airports, seaports, or railroads — ought to pay in rough proportion to the operating and capital costs they impose. For the most part, that’s current policy. Surcharges on airfares pay the cost of operating North Carolina’s airports. Users pay to ship freight by port or rail. Motorists finance much of the state’s automotive transportation system by owning and operating personal or commercial vehicles and paying taxes on cars and motor fuels. In recent years North Carolina has extended the principle by financing with tolls new limited-access highway lanes. While tolls are a useful tool for adding capacity, they aren’t suited for every job. In the case of North Carolina’s section of Interstate 95, stretching from Northampton County to Robeson County, tolling may prove

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viable in some places but probably not in others. A new comprehensive transportation study conducted by Reason Foundation and the Hartgen Group concludes that refurbishing and modernizing I-95 is “vitally important to the state’s economy and the coastal plain in particular.” The long-term price tag could be in the billions. The work need not be done immediately, however. North Carolina should begin by devoting about $150 million a year to address I-95’s most critical needs. Where can the state get the money? The new Reason-Hartgen report offers 20 recommendations for reorganizing the Department of Transportation, reshaping DOT’s priority list, and reforming the state’s contracting process. The plan includes the $150 million annual reserve for fixing I-95 while forgoing lower-priority projects, achieving a net savings of $21 million a year. That would be a good start. CJ

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Research Guides Policy Initiatives

or a group of people claiming gains in productivity can over time to believe in empirical study exceed the cost to the economy of and higher learning, liberal higher tax burdens. politicians and other critics of North Regardless of which of these Carolina’s new conservative leaders conclusions you find more persuaseem remarkably uninformed or sive, the evidence for the following contemptuous of the research basis two propositions is stronger: for the policy initiatives now being • At any given level of overdebated in Raleigh. all taxation, economies fare better For example, Gov. Pat Mcwhen their governments avoid high Crory’s budget proposes to convert marginal tax rates, particularly on teacher-assistant positions savings, private investin second and third grade ment, and corporate into funding for teaching income. positions. This proposal • Public assistance is not only eminently senprograms such as Medicsible but also consistent aid and unemployment with decades of research insurance do not make suggesting that addeconomies more proing aides to classrooms ductive. States such as other than kindergarten North Carolina that have and first grade does not maintained relatively produce measurable acahigh spending on such JOHN demic benefits. In higher programs have hampered grades, tax dollars are their economic growth by HOOD best spent on high-quality discouraging both private teachers and educational materials. and public investment. Outside of a few interest groups Knowing that, you are better and partisans, this fact is widely acprepared to interpret what the new cepted by education researchers. leadership in Raleigh is really doing Similarly, a bill to focus North — and why. To the extent McCrory Carolina’s early childhood spendand state lawmakers can reform ing on poor children prompted lobthe state tax code to reduce marbyists for the preschool industry to ginal tax rates, especially on private complain vociferously. While there capital formation, North Carolina’s is some empirical evidence for long- economy will likely show immeterm benefits from spending tax diate, significant improvement. dollars on high-quality preschool Already-implemented unemployprograms for truly disadvantaged ment insurance reforms and succhildren, subsidizing preschool for cessful reforms in North Carolina kids well above the poverty line Medicaid, the most-expensive simply gives their parents a free Medicaid program in the South, will service and their preschools more free up scarce resources for growthrevenue. This is a conclusion shared enhancing tax relief, infrastructure by scholars of all ideological stripes. investment, and education reform The strategy McCrory and in the future. legislative leaders have chosen to I’ve been in the public-poladdress North Carolina’s economic icy research business for nearly a challenges — reforming taxes and quarter of a century. I am under regulations in the short run while no illusions that all questions have redirecting tax dollars from public been answered. I expect and welassistance to roads and schools in come continued study, analysis, and the long run — is supported by the debate about what governments available data on what makes state should and shouldn’t do. But at economies prosper. some point, it becomes impossible Studies of economic growth to deny the existence of some firm have proliferated over the past 20 conclusions. years. Some studies conclude, for They include the wisdom of example, that the overall level of targeting education dollars to teachtaxation has a consistent, negative ers, targeting preschool dollars to effect on job creation and income at-risk students, and keeping margrowth by discouraging private ginal tax rates and welfare spending investment or household spending. as low as feasible. McCrory and Other studies, however, suggest legislative leaders have done their that it depends on how the resulting homework. Their critics haven’t. CJ tax money is used — that if the revenue is spent effectively on educaJohn Hood is president of the John tion or infrastructure, the resulting Locke Foundation.


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MAY 2013 | CAROLINA JOURNAL

EDITORIAL BRIEFS

The Needs Of Small Business

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mall businesses, especially recently established ones, are critical to the growth of the American economy. Unfortunately, we know very little about what these firms do and what their needs are, write Nathan Allen and Sander Daniels in The American, the online magazine of the American Enterprise Institute. New technologies are helping to address that, providing surprising answers. Over 91 percent of U.S. businesses have four or fewer employees. Obtaining detailed data on such a large and varied range of enterprise has in the past been difficult and expensive. New online tools are changing that, making it easier to conduct meaningful survey data. “We might expect that taxes are overwhelmingly important to small businesses when they rate the business-friendliness of their state or city,” said Allen and Daniels. “In reality, that suspicion is largely unfounded.” Instead, small business owners want to know how business-friendly state and local governments are in providing professional licensing and permits. Obtaining permits to operate can cost thousands of dollars and consume a significant amount of time. Adding to the burden, small businesses may face licensing requirements from different levels of government — state and county, for example — and may operate in multiple jurisdictions, each with unique licensing and permitting requirements. Small businesses also place great value on training and networking programs. The availability and effectiveness of such programs goes a long way toward explaining how businessfriendly a state is perceived to be.

Farmland bubble? The price of prime farmland is increasing rapidly across the Midwest. Writing in The American, Missouri farmer Blake Hurst fears that this amounts to a new real estate bubble, much like the one that burst in the 1980s, devastating the farm economy for much of that decade. Hurst notes that land prices have gone up in the Corn Belt by 10 percent or more six of the last seven years. An acre of land in Iowa that sold for $2,275 a decade ago is now priced at $8,700. Much of the runup in prices has come from existing farmers borrowing money at low interest rates to buy more land. A recent survey shows more farmers in Kansas have a 40 percent debt-to-asset ratio today than in 1979, just before farmland prices collapsed. “A debt-to-asset ratio of 30 percent can enter dangerous territory with a land price drop of 50 percent, which sounds like a lot, until you remember that is a price level last seen only 24 months ago in much of the Midwest,” says Hurst. Unlike the early 1980s, the federal government may not be willing or able to bail out farmers if the land-value bubble bursts this time around, Hurst says. CJ

Robots in Our Workplace Future?

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n the 2012 movie “Robot and Frank,” set sometime in the future, a robot is purchased to provide personal care for an elderly — and mentally deteriorating — former jewel thief named Frank. When Frank learns the robot doesn’t distinguish between legal and illegal behavior, he uses it to pull off some final jewel heists. As the police close in, Frank is faced with the decision of whether to wipe out the robot’s memory so it can’t be used to trace the burglaries. This is a tough call for Frank, since the robot now gives him more attention than do his children. I won’t reveal Frank’s decision — in case you want to watch this well-done flick — but the movie is thought-provoking on several levels: the perils of aging, the relationship of children to elderly parents needing increased care, and the emerMICHAEL gence and role of robots in our WALDEN society. Although I am experiencing — and have experienced — the first two challenges, as an economist I will confine my comments to the last issue. Historically, humans have had a love-hate relationship with machinery and technology. We love what machines, gadgets, and technical processes can do for us — making us more productive, expanding our horizons, and simply taking a lot of the drudgery out of life. But machines and technology usually replace labor and therefore cause jobs — at least initially — to decline. Washers and dryers in big hotels and institutions meant less work for human washers and dryers. The introduction of the tractor and harvester on the farm dramatically increased farm output but caused the number of farm workers to plunge. These trade-offs have led some to oppose the introduction of machines and technology. There are incidents in history when this opposition actually turned violent. How has this trade-off been resolved? Easy: Although new machines and technology destroyed some jobs, they ultimately created others. The productivity, income, and wealth created by machines and technology generated resources and spending in new endeavors, and these endeavors, in turn, cre-

ated new jobs. So, as workers left the farm in the 19th and early 20th centuries, they moved to the factories that were just developing to provide the new consumer goods — like cars, telephones, and appliances — that households were buying. Then, in the late 20th century computers made factories high-tech centers where one worker could do the work of 20 to 50 workers years before. But, fortunately, jobs were expanding in the professions, health care, finance, personal services, and the new information-technology sector to soak up the extra labor. This process — of machines, inventions, and technology destroying some jobs, but creating wealth, spending, and jobs in new areas — has, over time, kept the job market expanding. However, will it continue? Some say no. What has changed? Here, we go back to the robot in “Robot and Frank.” Frank’s robot had something called “artificial intelligence.” This means it could use information, experience, and reasoning to learn, make decisions, and solve problems. Experts say if robots actually could be made with these skills, it could be a big “game changer” for the job market. How so? Up to now, machines and technology — including robots — have been used primarily for routine jobs — such as putting fenders on a car, filling bottles, or dispensing money at an ATM. Nonroutine jobs where the situation is frequently changing, and jobs requiring high-level knowledge and complex decision-making, still have been the domain of humans. Interestingly, these jobs are at both the very high end and the very low end of the wage range. If machines can be developed to adapt to differing conditions — so their responses vary with the situation — and if they can be programmed to “think” and “reason,” then they can start to do more nonroutine jobs. Some economists say this is already occurring and is one reason for the slow growth in employment in the last three years. Could this mean the ultimate end of jobs for people? Some say yes, others say no, that just as in the past, new labor-using industries will develop. We’ll find out. CJ Walden is a Reynolds Distinguished Professor at North Carolina State University.


MAY 2013 | CAROLINA JOURNAL

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Margaret Thatcher Will Be Missed

or those of us who care about ideas and public affairs, a small handful of people, even if we have never met them, place an indelible mark on us. We follow their lives with great interest. Our words and deeds are influenced by theirs. Margaret Thatcher was one of those people for millions of Britons who came of age in the 1980s. As a tremendously polarizing figure, her impact differed greatly across impressionable young men and women. I was one of the legion for whom Thatcher’s ANDY premiership and TAYLOR political philosophy had an edifyingly positive effect. I was 13 when she was elected prime minister in 1979. I was a political science graduate student in the United States when she was booted out of office by her Conservative Party colleagues in 1990. The period in between was transformative, and nobody was more responsible for that than she. Thatcher’s ideas about liberty and the role of the state were her most important contributions. In the 1970s, Britain was widely known as the “sick man of Europe.” Frequent strikes debilitated an already inefficient economy, and governments

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were paralyzed by corporatism — a process in which the peak organizations of business and labor each effectively held vetoes over any policy decision. This forced the administration to mediate in industrial disputes rather than lead a way out of them. Labor unions’ significant influence resulted in a massive state — in 1975 government spending was about 50 percent of GDP — and led to policies that brought about unemployment and runaway inflation — UK prices in 1975 were 25 percent higher than 12 months earlier. Thatcher understood the importance of private property rights and economic liberty. She privatized huge swaths of uncompetitive industry, cut income tax rates, and greatly increased homeownership by allowing tenants to purchase their state-owned residences. My paternal grandmother, a die-hard Labor Party voter, gratefully became a homeowner as a result of this last policy. Thatcher and Thatcherism were not unalloyed successes. The prime minister put too much stock in the financial sector — of which Britain is a world leader — and did not create the economic conditions, by investing strategically in education, for example, for Britain to lead the next industrial revolution as it had the first. The UK stopped making a lot of things. There is now no domestic auto industry worth speaking of — the Indians own Jaguar, the Germans the Mini,

and the Chinese the famous London taxicab — and the once large and innovative aerospace sector is depleted. The country lost the tech and research battles to the United States and Japan. It now enjoys only a small presence in the global marketplace in these areas. Thatcher had two additional impacts on my thinking. In the 1980s — but unfortunately not today, something touched on in a previous column — the United States was a fluid and socially mobile society. The UK, with its rigid class system, was not. Thatcher directly challenged the antiquated prejudices of the upper echelons of British society. Even though she shattered the last glass ceiling for women by becoming the first female head of state in a major industrialized democracy, feminists criticized her for not doing enough for her sex. This was in no small measure because she saw class divisions as more pernicious. Thatcher believed strongly that people should be valued by their work and contribution to society, not their breeding. This naturally upset many traditionalists in her Conservative Party. It also grated on many working-class people who drew comfort from blaming their plight on social stratification, and criticized ambitious and industrious people with a kind of inverse snobbery. Millions of Britons benefited from Thatcher’s thinking, including my father, who was able to break free from societal expectations

for a man of his background and forge a successful business career. It helped me recognize the possibilities that a place like the United States could offer — and it also explains my concern about declining social mobility here. The strength of her leadership was also influential. It is true that in some regards Thatcher was not a skilled leader. She was often dogmatic and inflexible and put little stock in deliberation. But her governing style provides a superb example of execution of a decision after it has been made. Too many large organizations, both public and private, suffer from leaders who confuse pandering with consultation, vacillation with pragmatism, and extortion from those with minority points of view with democratic decision making. They do not understand the importance of steady administration and the respect holding one’s ground engenders, even from critics. Because of Thatcher, I do. I am no Thatcher clone. She might have found me a little too “intellectual” for her action-oriented politics, a little too interested in process and not enough in outcomes. But my deep love of meritocracy and liberty are directly attributable to her. She will be missed. CJ Andy Taylor is a professor of political science in the School of Public and International Affairs at N.C. State University.

The Honor and Grace of George H.W. Bush

hen I reflect on the “Greatest Generation,” I’m always amazed at the selflessness that characterized them. Men and women stood tall, rolled up their sleeves — and fought in Europe and the Pacific, saving the world from tyranny. They knew the stakes, they understood their mission in combat or back home, and they fought or worked to support the war effort. MARC In my view, ROTTERMAN President George H. W. Bush truly personifies that generation. Service to country may have been instilled in George by his father, Prescott Bush. Prescott served in World War I, and had a distinguished career in both politics and business. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, George enlisted in the Navy

and became a naval aviator at age 18. Upon completion of a 10-month course, Bush was assigned to a torpedo squadron as the photographic officer. Later in 1943 he was promoted to lieutenant and piloted one of four Grumman TBM Avengers that attacked Japanese installations in the Bonnin Islands, specifically the island of Chichijima. During the mission, the Avengers encountered very intense anti-aircraft fire. Bush’s plane was hit by flak, and his engine caught fire. But Bush and his two-man crew continued and released their bombs over the target, inflicting several damaging hits on the enemy. Still in peril, Bush flew several miles away from the island when one member of his crew bailed out of the plane. Sadly, the man’s parachute did not open. As the Avenger’s engine failed, it is unclear which member of Bush’s crew bailed out with him, as both crew members were lost in battle that day. It was reported that Bush waited at least four hours in a life raft while several fighters circled overhead until

a lifeguard submarine rescued him. During 1944 Bush flew 58 combat missions, for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Home from the war, he got married and got his college degree. After college he became a successful wildcatter in the oil business and was a millionaire by age 40. He went on to become a U.S. congressman from Texas, ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, and director of the CIA, before running in 1980 for president in the Republican Party primary and being nominated as Ronald Reagan’s running mate. After the Reagan-Bush ticket won, Bush became one of President Reagan’s most trusted and able advisers. Never seeking the limelight, Bush gave advice privately to Reagan. And in Bush, Reagan found a loyal soldier and friend. After being elected president in his own right in 1988, Bush successfully prosecuted the mission to bring to justice Manuel Noriega — the drugdealing dictator of Panama. And in a

mere 100 hours, the coalition led by Bush against Saddam Hussein pushed Iraq’s military out of Kuwait and back to Baghdad. Bush also presided as the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Empire collapsed. While in office, the country experienced a mild recession, but by mid-1992 the country had its lowest interest rates and inflation in years, even though unemployment was the highest it had been since 1984. In the 1992 presidential election, Bush lost to Bill Clinton by a margin of 43-37 percent. Independent candidate Ross Perot got 19 percent of the popular vote, which, in the opinion of most political observers, cost Bush a second term. But think about this: What would a second-term Bush presidency have looked like? For sure, Bush’s first concern would have been for the country, and as president he would have continued to conduct himself with honor and CJ grace, as he does to this day. Marc Rotterman is a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation.


PAGE CJ16

MAY 2013 | CAROLINA JOURNAL

Parting SHot

Former Gov. Easley Seeks Escape From Political Siberia (a CJ Parody) By Shea D. Deal Government Writer

A

RALEIGH

fter shunning the public eye for the past four years, former Gov. Mike Easley is back in the news expressing his views. Advisers say it ws the first step in his effort to come back from political exile. He recently told The Associated Press that the Republican-led General Assembly would be wrong to undo a law limiting class size to 24 students in kindergarten through grade three. While he was governor from 2001-09, he made class-size reduction one of his priorities. “You bet I am back. The Democratic Party needs me,” Easley told Carolina Journal. Referring to the two Democrats who preceded an succeeded him in the Executive Mansion, Easley said, “Jim Hunt’s getting old and Bev Perdue is still more unpopular than me.” Easley has made few public appearances since leaving office in January 2009. After lengthy state and federal investigations into questionable activities that occurred during his tenure as governor, he pled guilty in November 2010 to a Class I felony for violating campaign finance laws. The State Bar suspended his law license for two years but since has restored it. Even though he can practice law again, the former two-term governor said with Republicans in charge of the General Assembly and the executive branch, it’s time for his unique perspective to be heard. Easley offered CJ his views on some other recent GOP initiatives. • Voter identification: “Requiring a voter to

Easley said he missed speaking into a microphone since becoming so accustomed to doing it during elections board hearings and in courtooms as a defendant.

show a photo ID is another bad idea. Why should anyone have to prove his identity to vote? A small amount of fraud is acceptable,” he said. • Expanding charter schools: “The General Assembly approved charter schools before I became

governor. I would have vetoed that bill and certainly do not agree with any expansion of elitist, unaccountable experiments with our children,” he said. • Public funding for political campaigns: “Republicans want to end public financing for judicial and other statewide offices now eligible for it. I don’t really care much about that, but I think they should change the law so candidates and office holders can accept unlimited contributions and gifts from friends without reporting them,” he said. “I have an unusual amount of expertise in that area.” • Consolidating state universities: “This is one idea I like. I know it would be a big deal, but after my family’s unpleasant dealings with North Carolina State University, I would love to see that place dissolved. The programs could be divided between Carolina [UNC-Chapel Hill] and Central [North Carolina Central University in Durham]. Those two schools have treated us well.” N.C. State hired Easley’s wife Mary in 2005 to run a campus speaker’s program, gave her an 88 percent pay raise in 2008, then fired her in 2009 when news reports revealed the governor had a role in her employment situation. Mary sued the university over her termination, and the school settled the case out of court last year, enabling her to double her annual government pension from $40,000 to $80,000. Mike Easley has degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. Central, and Mary Easley was a lecturer at the N.C. Central law school before moving to N.C. State. When asked who might seek his political analysis, Easley said, “I’ve heard CNN is trying to restart ‘Crossfire’ again. I could pretend to be on the left or the right. But if nothing else, maybe I’ll get a slot on [Raleigh-based political roundtable program] ‘NC Spin’.” CJ

FIRST IN FREEDOM

Transforming Ideas into Consequences for North Carolina In First in Freedom the John Locke Foundation’s president and research staff apply the timeless ideas of 20th-century conservative thinkers to such 21st-century challenges as economic stagnation, tax and regulatory burdens, and educational mediocrity. First in Freedom contains practical suggestions and advice for North Carolina’s new governor and General Assembly. To get your copy, go to: JohnLockeStore.com. The John Locke Foundation, 200 W. Morgan St. Suite 200, Raleigh, NC, 27601 919-828-3876 • JohnLocke.org • CarolinaJournal.com • info@johnlocke.org


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Page 49


Page 50

Thursday, May 16, 2013

District 2 City Councilmember

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Letters to the Editor Rhino, don’t go Dear Editor, For those of you who don’t know, I am not a conservative, so I don’t lose sleep when I hear of a conservative corporation going out of business. But I don’t want The Rhino Times to go away. One of the things that I liked about your newspaper was the printing of government salaries, plus you almost always printed my letters. I am a big believer in free speech, competion, diversity and the right to dissent. Greensboro needs more newspapers, not less. Chuck Mann

Schools need to tighten belts

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Dear Editor, I support our Guilford County school system usually, and understand its annual pleas for more and more money. This year I can’t do it. Mr. Green, the school board and others need to get real these days. A lot of us out here are out of work. A lot of us find our cost of living rocketing, while our incomes are lagging behind. We’re in survival mode. This is not the time for Guilford County Schools to be asking for more money. It’s time for them to join the rest of us in some belt tightening exercises. Raises for teachers, in fact, raises for all personnel below the level of assistant principals – teachers, assistants, classified personnel in general – would be justified under any normal set of circumstances. Unfortunately, we are not presently living

Beep (Continued from page 22) were enacted and for the last 17 years they have had zero mass shootings. So, don’t tell me gun control doesn’t work. We have a proven set of circumstances in Australia to show that it does. %%% Editor’s Note: Are pressure cookers legal in Australia? %%% Yes, Steely Dan Fan Man. I’d like to say I agree with the Marine that called in. I was 18 in 1980. And I wasn’t allowed into the service, the Army, because I had quote, a troubled background, that is an arrest record. And the economy was too good. But I’d like to say that I was brought up the same way that he was taught in the Marines. And that is, honesty, integrity, hard work. I used to train people in my work. And I wouldn’t make them do anything that I wouldn’t do first. And I agree wholeheartedly with this man. And I just, kudos to this guy. I agree wholeheartedly. He should be commended. He’s a good man. All right, bye. %%%

under normal circumstances. Maybe they could find a few extra dollars by looking at excessive salaries being paid to principals and top level administrators, cutting some top level positions, discontinuing paying exorbitant moving expenses for some personnel, and moving from dreamland to reality. Living in reality is tough, but that’s what most of us are going these days. The school system needs to join us for a while. Anonymous

Vaughan for mayor Dear Editor, What a refreshing piece of news appeared in our daily paper when in bold headlines Nancy Vaughan said she will run for mayor. Here is a lady who knows what she’s doing and has proven that to herself and to the public for many years. Robbie Perkins has proven himself too. He has proven that he can’t run his own personal affairs, much less that of the city, and how he has the gall to think he would be elected again. How gullible does he think we are? He has been an embarrassment not only t himself but to our city. We need someone with fresh new ideas on how a city should be run, and she has the capability and the know how to get it done and well done at that. When election time comes, give careful consideration for those who are running and vote for the ones you think are best qualified to serve you and our city with honesty and integrity. Anonymous

I support Robbie Perkins, Mayor Robbie Perkins, as our mayor of Greensboro regardless of his personal problems. He has been a fine mayor. So many people within the city endorsed him and helped set up his platform to run for mayor, encouraged him. At least Mayor Perkins has a college degree. I feel it should be mandatory that anyone that is going to run to be a mayor of one of our cities in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point, any city in the surrounding area, they should all have one thing, and that is at least a bachelor’s degree, a fouryear college degree of a higher education. That’s something Vaughan does not possess. Have a good day. %%% Our Greensboro city manager mentioned the city’s yearly threat to close a library but this time threw in a rec center for good measure. We don’t need less healthy or more illiterate citizens. A really useless facility to close down is the new milliondollar visitor center and bathroom facility at Gateway Gardens. It’s on the side of East Lee Street going out of town. The only logical use would be to use the bathrooms (Continued on page 56)


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Jon Hardister

NC HOUSE DiStriCt 59 Paid for by Jon Hardister for NC House

In the Kirkwood parade

Taking the oath of office

With Howard Coble

With Governor Pat McCrory

Speaking with a constituent

With Lt. Governor Dan Forest

“Being endorsed by The Rhino Times is one of the greatest honors that I’ve ever had. Thank you for your support!” - Jon Hardister

www.jonhardister.com

Page 51


Page 52

Thursday, May 16, 2013

CHILDRENS

Schedule Greensboro Science Center 4301 Lawndale Dr. Endangered Species Day

On Saturday, May 18, the Science Center will offer keeper talks at 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. on several of the endangered species in its animal collections and talk about conservation efforts. Free with general admission. For more information, call (336) 288-3769 or visit www.greensboroscience.org.

Memorial Day Celebration On Monday, May 27, as a special “thank you” to service members, the Science Center is offering half off general admission to all veterans, military, police officers and firefighters with a valid ID.

Greensboro Children’s Museum 220 North Church St. Springtime Sprouts On Saturday, May 25 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. enjoy a memorable afternoon in the Edible Schoolyard. Planting seeds, harvesting crops, and preparing a snack will be the order of the day, along with outdoor games and playtime in the museum. This even is for children ages 5 to 8 years old. The cost is $10. To learn more, call (336) 574-2898 or visit www.gcmusueum.com.

$4 Fun Friday This Friday, May 17, admission is just $4 from 5 to 8 p.m.

High Point Museum 1859 E. Lexington Ave

Field Hospital and Civil War Reenactors On Saturday, May 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., find out what would have been in store for you if you were a wounded Civil War soldier. Reenactors will be interpreting the life of a Confederate Army surgeon and other medical personnel as well as demonstrating 19th century medical procedures and equipment. This event is free.

Quaker Wedding Reenactment On Saturday, June 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. discover the beauty and simplicity of a traditional Quaker wedding. Historical interpreters will reenact a typical ceremony from the early American period and explain how it exemplifies Quaker beliefs. All ages welcome. Also, make a herbal sachet to take home. $1 per person. Limit two per person. Free for Historical Society Members.

Children Are Our Future This schedule brought to you by your friends & neighbors at (336) 282-4414

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Uncle Orson (Continued from page 30) web,” with varying degrees of success. Newsweek has gone to the web – but will they make money? The web edition of The Wall Street Journal is doing well, it seems. And Commentary magazine certainly gets my attention with its online edition. Here’s how it works, or might work: First, a webzine must have new content every day. Because The Rhino has the enormous expense of printing, it groups all its content (and ads) into a single weekly edition. But on the web, readers don’t generally want or have time for a complete edition. What they want are just a couple of very brief stories – but they might have time for them every single day. Commentary sends me an email every day with the opening paragraph of a couple of lead stories, and the titles of a halfdozen others. Click on any, and I go right to a website with that story featured – and surrounded by ads. But what if the ads don’t work? Commentary is a national magazine for conservative Jews (and non-Jews like me who appreciate rigorous honesty and completeness in journalism). What is the market for The Rhino? It’s Guilford County residents, when it comes to the coverage of local news. And you aren’t going to sign on to a website for a once-a-week issue. So let’s say we put up an issue, with all the content we usually have, including the Beep (which will now be self-generating like most website comment sections), once a week. It’s free. But we charge for delivery. For 20 bucks a year, you subscribe to an app or an email service. Every day, you get that day’s new stories – still hot and fresh, not yet on the free website. For the same fee, you sign up for only the coverage you want. News about the schools, say. Or news about city or county government and events. Or my review column. Or Scott Yost’s adventures. Or John Hammer’s end-of-the-issue column. You check off which kinds of story you

Crossword Solution From last week’s issue R E A D

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want. Same fee no matter how many or how few get delivered to you. Then you click on the app on your phone or tablet, or you open your email the way you normally do, and instead of clicking through to a website, there it is right on your device. My column won’t be the 3,000-word monstrosity that it usually is on the web. There might be some long essays, but some days you’ll just have my review of a new movie – posted the day I saw it. Or a book I just finished. Or the adventures of the animals in my back yard. John Hammer’s column is already divided into brief stories. Instead of getting the whole column once a week, you can get one of those short pieces every day. Would you pay $20 a year for that? If a thousand of you subscribed, it would pay for the website and software and provide a few bucks for editing and graphics – done by part-timers with day jobs. If 5,000 people subscribed, then The Rhino could pay for a couple of full-time salaries. Especially if the paper still sold advertising on the website and one or two small ads per emailed story. But what about those of you without electronic devices? Would you pay for a mail subscription to a weekly print edition? I know The Rhino has always been free – but since advertising no longer pays all the bills, would you pay for a mail subscription? It would have to cost more than the postage, of course, but for 52 issues a year, how much would you be willing to pay to keep the print edition in business? It may be that some combination of free website and free newsstand once a week, sudoku_357A and paid email/app and paid snail mail Created by Peter Ritmeester/Presented by Will Shortz subscriptions would pay the bills, the way 7 so your cable or satellite TV8bill supports many 6 stations 9 8 which also sell ads. Or ... The Rhino could simply go out of 5 6 business and become a 4happy memory. That’s what Mayor Perkins is3hoping for, because, like Barack Obama, he really prefers to govern without6 a critical press questioning 8 2all the 1 stupid 3 and7semi-honest things he does. 4 (Continued 6 on page 56)

2

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The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Page 53

A Decade of Angie Wilkie and The Rhino Times Harvest Ridge Phase II

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Page 54

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Uncle Orson (Continued from page 54)

Archdale Ammo & Arms 10831 North Main Street Archdale, NC 27263 Phone: 336.434.1522 Tuesday-Friday 11:00 to 7:00 Saturday 9:00 to 3:00 archdaleammo@netzero.com www.archdaleammoandarms.com

But what are you hoping for? Let’s see just how many of you there are who would like to at least hear about future subscription possibilities. Sign on to http://www.hatrack.com/ rhino. There you’ll find a form asking for your email address. That list of addresses will be used for only one purpose: To inform you of how to go about subscribing to future electronic or print editions of The Rhino. You will not be charged for anything. This list is only so we can inform you when and if The Rhino offers subscriptions. If you later decide to subscribe, that will generate a new list, and those are the people who’ll actually get issues. From this list, at most you’ll get a couple of notices, and then the list will be destroyed. If we only get 50 names on this list, then it will be obvious that electronic subscriptions aren’t going to work. But if we get 50,000 email addresses, then we’ll be pretty confident that it will be worth the attempt.

Beep (Continued from page 52) before getting on the interstate to leave town. Thank you. %%% It’s ironic, don’t you think, because the word phonic is not spelled with an F? %%% Hey, I agree with God. God created marijuana, and he also created the agave plant, which is what tequila is made out of. So, this guy that wants to argue about alcohol and marijuana, you know, you know. Like I said, God created them both. So, I agree with them both. Thank you. %%% I had a dream. There was one senator for each state and three representatives. And we was saving billions of dollars a year. And, then, we started doing it in North Carolina. And there was only 15 of them worthless fellows down in Raleigh, and we were saving billions of dollars. But it was only a dream. Only a dream. Dang it. %%% I’ve been driving a bus for a couple of years now, and I have to say that some of the people in this town are the most rude, crude, obnoxious, discourteous, disrespectful drivers I have ever seen. Blowing your horns at the bus just because I’m making a turn. I mean, really? Blow your horns at us when we stop at the railroad tracks. That’s a law. OK? Get it through your thick skull. It is a law. We have to stop at all railroad crossing even if it is an old, unused track that’s out of service, we have to stop there. Going down the highway, we

Somewhere in between, and we’ll have to make decisions based on our estimates of how many of you will actually subscribe. This is your chance to vote for whether The Rhino should even try to continue providing local news, national commentary and wide-ranging reviews on a subscription basis. And if you’re one of our out-ofGreensboro readers, remember that an electronic subscription will allow you the option of subscribing to one or two items – my Uncle Orson Reviews Everything columns, or Civilization Watch, or Under the Hammer, or Yost, or ... whatever. Maybe getting the non-local items delivered to your phone or tablet or computer might be worth 20 bucks a year to you. If you think it might, then add your email address to the list. We don’t mind having an international readership. Or even six extra subscribers in Danville. Let’s see if we can invent a new business model for the “free” advertising weekly. Like replacing the blacksmith with the garage mechanic, or the gas station with the electric-car “juice bar.”

can only do 45 miles an hour. If you see us on the highway with flashers going, we cannot go over 45. We cannot turn right on red. So, stop blowing your horns and stop trying to get us to turn, because we’re not going to do it. We cannot turn right on red. Get it through your thick skulls, people. OK. That’s the lesson for today. Thank you. %%% Continuing. That also goes for all school buses, be it the short, special-needs school buses, regular school buses, what have you, it doesn’t matter. It goes for all school buses. So, just keep blowing your horns if you like, but you might as well be blowing your noses, because you’re going to get far better results. Thank you. %%% Yeah, I just wanted to say I enjoy reading Under the Hammer, and I hope John Hammer just keeps hammering the liberal Democrats and all about what all they try to get from mother government. %%% When they get to talking about Section 8, there’s a house up in front of me that is rented under Section 8. The grass is knee high. There’s five barrels of garbage sitting up there stinking. They moved out. The yard is plumb full of junk. And I’m going to tell you, that’s a sight for sore eyes. That’s what our taxpayers is paying for. I say do away with Section 8. Make these people straighten up. They get married, have a baby, move their boyfriend in, and then the state and taxpayers picks them all up. Somebody ain’t doing their job. (Continued on page 58)


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Page 55

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Page 56

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Beep (Continued from page 56) %%% Yeah, with unemployment at 8 to 9 percent or higher here in North Carolina, maybe y’all can get the information and tell me how many cases of voter fraud there were in North Carolina say in this past presidential election. And let’s get those percentages, and then we can try to figure out why we’re passing a voter ID bill for something that is almost nonexistent and doing nothing about a jobs bill for something that is very much existent. Why don’t y’all see if you can get that information for me? I’d appreciate it. %%% Well, it looks like a nasty underbelly story is about to break again, which involves the public defender’s office and the now practicing privately former prosecuting attorney and how they have been in cahoots in the past and withholding evidence so that they can plea bargain deals out, especially when they just simply don’t want to bother with trying a case. And they actually have evidence to show it’s going to take a case to settle it. In other words, late ’80s Hispanics were not given an opportunity to … %%% Continuing. I assume it involved English as a second language speakers who came along when the district attorney’s office

and public defenders were not equipped to deal with people who did not speak English well. They intimidated them into accepting a plea deal, strong armed them without telling them that they would be under a retainer for deportation. You know, we just read about the guy being released from prison and the former DA, duh, I didn’t know about that. But the facts show that they obviously did. And how many more prisoners are needing to be released or not ever even put into prison because of such shenanigans by these officials? %%% Hello. I’m calling on behalf of the article that was written in The Rhino Times on April 4. It mentions there that Wellspring retirement residents were doing marijuana with their grandmas and grandpas in their rooms. I was a bartender there for nine years and two months. I very much respect the residents at Wellspring, and I want to do grins and gripes, and I want to make my own column to let people know what this is really about. I believe that this young man has gone far and beyond the truth of what marijuana truly is. %%% Why does John Hammer think that a food should not be considered Southern unless he has eaten it recently? Shame on the News & Record for printing a picture of

Beth Hammer Still traveling cross country this year with her husband, Bill, said it was too cold in Praire Dog Town, Kansas, to wear her Rhino T-shirt, but did the best she could under the circumstances. grits without first checking with Hammer to see how long it has been since he has eaten some. %%% Could you find out if Mr. Alston is going to take his apartment complex that he’s managing private after he gets all of the federal, state and local money to build it like he did the civil rights museum, and

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The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Page 57

Beep (Continued from previous page) I’ve know the Perkins family for quite a while, and there’s some comments by some who don’t understand the importance of keeping the youngest child in Greensboro Day School. Mayor Perkins sent his two sons to Greensboro Day and on to Duke University. His two oldest daughters graduated from Greensboro Day and went on to college. Why should the youngest child not have the same good education that Greensboro Day where she’s been since the first grade? Mr. Perkins, pay the school bill for your little girl. %%% Hi, this is Otis, my man. I just wanted to tell you I wish y’all would quit picking on Robbie. I grew up with him. He’s a pretty good old boy. I thought who the heck could possibly pay $13,000 a month when you’re in bankruptcy. But I said, let’s go to Skip Alston. I said if you want to pick on somebody, pick on him. But let’s call it what it is. I mean it’s a black and white thing with him. I mean I’m so sick and tired of hearing about Skip Alston I could scream. He has absolutely destroyed this town. And he absolutely made a fortune off of it. Well, I doubt if it will ever get – it’s a

black and white thing. You know? When things don’t go his way, he uses race. %%% Yeah, the North Carolina individual income tax has a new starting point for 2012. It starts the computation from your taxable income. It changed from that to your federal gross adjusted income. Well, that just means that there is more money or more income that they are going to be taxing you on now when you do your state return. Basically, for me it works out to about a 50 percent increase by just that one change in the amount of taxable income that I have to pay on this year. Sounds like somebody has been doing their homework and knows how to rip people off. %%% Could you, please, explain to the people that call in and write in that if the Keystone pipeline is approved, it’s not going to make the price of gas go down for you and me? Price of gas is determined on the stock market. They’re not in the business of selling their stockholders short. They are in the business of making as much money as they can for their stockholders. So, they are going to charge as much as they can for gas.

Sims (Continued from page 14) Maryland attorney, Angela Dawkins, asked the Circuit Court to allow her to withdraw from the case, writing that Bernita Sims had not returned phone calls or provided her with necessary information. The court denied Dawkins’ request, saying it would unreasonably delay the trial. The Circuit Court, after a trial held on Nov. 16, 2011, found for Bernita Sims, saying she had acted reasonably in placing her son in the house as a caretaker, particularly since there had been a previous break-in at the house and the house could not be insured if uninhabited. Circuit Court Judge Leo Green ruled that no rent was due to the estate. He apparently did not address Humphrey’s other challenges. The estate sold the house on March 22, 2011 for $298,000. High Point City Councilmember Latimer Alexander, along with Sims, has been a High Point representative to the National League of Cities. Alexander said he drove, at Bernita Sims’ request after a league meeting in Washington, a rental truck full of possessions from Virginia Sims’ house in Maryland to High Point. Several High Point officials said that, for one period, Bernita Sims drove a Jaguar owned by Virginia Sims. Bernita Sims’ current troubles with her sister Annie Ponce began on Feb. 13, 2012, when Ponce filed a $47,000 claim against the estate for money she claimed she was due.

After two court hearings, a judge on Sept. 6, 2012 issued a show-cause order requiring Bernita Sims to appear before the court and explain why the court shouldn’t order the estate to pay Ponce the $47,000. The original show-cause order gave Bernita Sims until Oct. 26, 2012 to appear – only days before Sims was elected mayor of High Point. There were apparently several delays in the hearing, to the point that he court threatened to hold Bernita Sims in contempt. On April 4, 2013, Bernita Sims appeared before the court. The resulting order by Judge Wendy Cartwright stated that the contempt order was being stayed until May 2, 2013. Sims apparently convinced the judge that Ponce would get the money. “Distribution is in process of being made to Annie Ponce*; show cause satisfied,” Cartwright wrote. “North Carolina issues in process of settling.” The asterisk led to a note below that stated, “in next 10 days.” The court apparently did not send Bernita Sims notice of the May 2 hearing, which was rescheduled to May 23, 2013. There the matter stands. Bernita Sims faces two legal actions against her – the North Carolina SBI investigation, which may result in charges, and the May 23 hearing to defend herself against her sister Annie’s claim against Bernita Sims and the estate. Sims would not comment for this story and Ponce could not be reached for comment.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Wrap-up (Continued from page 7) a huge mess of the project by ignoring the public and trying to ramrod the music hall through too fast. Cooler heads prevailed and Vaughan and Councilmember Zack Matheny tried to salvage the project, which now appears to be on hold for lack of funding. So instead of a project for jobs, or to help the people of Greensboro in a down economy, Perkins wasted a year of the City Council’s time working on a pet project that failed. The noise ordinance is a smaller version of the same thing. Greensboro needs a better noise ordinance and has for years. Perkins tried to push through one that was far too restrictive and, instead, Greensboro ended up with the most lenient noise ordinance in the state, and the prime offenders can’t even obey that one. But if Perkins had been leading the council he would have come up with a proposal for a good noise ordinance rather than trying to push through one that was unrealistic. To long time council observers none of this is a surprise. For years Perkins was known as “The best sixth vote you’ll ever find.” On the council five votes is a majority, so it takes five votes to pass a motion. What other councilmembers said about Perkins is that you could never get him to commit to a project until you already had five votes and then he would be the sixth. That’s not leadership. That’s playing politics. Vaughan in her career has shown leadership. As Nancy Mincello before she became a city councilmember, Vaughan stood in front of the bulldozers and negotiated a the deal with the then Jefferson-Pilot Company to develop the old Jefferson Pilot Club, which instead of being filled with a regional mall has the Jefferson Elementary School, the Hebrew Academy, the Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Library, a city park and a really nice residential neighborhood. The development of that area is by no means perfect, but it is so much better than it was when the project was first being considered that it is incredible. Vaughan doesn’t talk about it much but she deserves a lot of credit for that. She was on the front lines out getting signatures on a petition and then putting a deal together. Has Perkins in his 20 years on the City Council ever taken the lead in any endeavor of that magnitude? Much more recently Vaughan took over the leadership role in fighting Duke Energy’s assault on Greensboro’s trees, and she pushed for changes to Downtown Greensboro Inc., a runaway agency that is funded by the city but didn’t think it was answerable to the city. Vaughan has been quietly leading the city from her council seat, something the voters should consider when voting to fill the mayor’s chair. George Hartzman has also said he is running for mayor, and if you think a mayor who poses riddles is what Greensboro needs then Hartzman is your man.

There is a persistent rumor that former Mayor Bill Knight may throw his hat in the ring in the District 4 City Council race. There is also a rumor that City Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann is eyeing an at-large seat on the City Council. Hoffmann has a huge opinion of herself, although she appears to have done nothing in her first term other than vote for everything that Perkins has asked her to vote for. Mike Barber says that he is considering running for the City Council, either the District 4 seat or at large. Barber is a Democrat but he is a conservative Democrat and represents a large constituency that is not represented on this City Council. Greensboro needs some new faces on the City Council. A couple with experience like Knight and Barber appear to be good choices. This week I got a notice from Downtown Greensboro Inc. (DGI) about its plan to remove most of the newspaper boxes from the downtown area. We, of course, will be removing ours anyway. But the letter is a wonderful example of why so many of us downtown property owners have no use for DGI. When the idea of an ordinance restricting downtown newspaper boxes was first brought up by DGI President Ed Wolverton, I suggested that Greensboro do what other cities including Charlotte have done and get the publishers to come up with their own rules, not laws, rules. Wolverton called a meeting and it was well attended by representatives of most publications with boxes downtown. There was a good discussion about what could be done and Business Journal Publisher Doug Copeland made a good suggestion about how to solve the whole problem with one more meeting. There was considerable buy-in for Copeland’s suggestion that we all get together one more time and work it out. In the next email from Wolverton he completely ignored the previous publishers’ meeting, the discussion and the plan to move forward. Instead Wolverton set another meeting to discuss his agenda. Far fewer people attended the second meeting. Now Wolverton is back where he started, planning to have the City Council pass his ordinance to restrict newspaper boxes downtown. If there is a newspaper with any guts left in Greensboro, the city can expect to be sued. It’s just what the city needs, another lawsuit. And if Wolverton had just been willing to listen to what people had to say, an equitable solution was in sight. Great news for Greensboro: Sen. Trudy Wade has sponsored legislation in the state Senate to abolish the Jordan Lake Rules altogether. The bill has Republican support and was passed by the Senate on Wednesday, May 15. It will save Greensboro $90 million for an unnecessary upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant, which means Greensboro loses its excuse to raise water rates.


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Memoirs

(Continued from page 1)

The sweat was primarily from a blisteringly hot mid-August morning that would turn into a torturous afternoon, not unusual in North Carolina at this time of the year. It already had overwhelmed the deodorant I had caked under my armpits in the hope of making an impression unaffected by body odor. The tattered three-year-old tan blazer I was wearing with a black Army-issue tie knotted under the collar of my lone long-sleeve white dress shirt clearly wasn’t helping the deodorant any. None of these items of apparel, I should note, had been donned in recent memory. There had been no practical purpose for that until now. I kept checking my watch as the clangorous bells, flashing red warning lights and overwhelming rumble of box cars and tankers rattled my brain. The train stretched as far as I could see. My fingers beat impatiently on the steering wheel. If only I had departed 10 minutes earlier, I kept telling myself, I wouldn’t be in this fix. My destination, an indistinct red-brick building, would have been in sight if the train hadn’t been blocking my view. The back of the building faced the railroad tracks about 100 yards away. I only needed to get to the front door, but from the looks of this train that might take half an hour. And my appointment was in five minutes. I had little doubt that this probably was my last shot at a dream that had begun to

Thursday, May 16, 2013

foment a few years earlier. That was about a year after I had joined the Army at the age of 18. It was an unexpected dream, surprising in a way because it was so unlikely considering my background, but somehow it stuck and refused to go away despite the overwhelming odds against it. After barely escaping the Army with an honorable discharge only a year and a half earlier, I had exerted enormous effort in several states to find a newspaper writing job, only to be met by failure. I had decided to make one last desperate attempt by going to a private employment agency that would confiscate my first three weeks pay if I landed a job. My assigned counselor knew nothing about the newspaper business but had managed to arrange three interviews on a single day, all the free time my job would allow. Each interview was about 50 miles apart, the first, this one, at 10:00. The second was at 1:00, the third at 4:00. If I blew this, I figured, I likely would spend the rest of my days as a Biff Burger manager, my current position. Tasty though 15-cent, Roto-broiled Biff Burgers with secret sauce and reconstituted onions were, that was not an appealing or promising prospect. Just as I was about to give in to despair, I thought I spotted a pale hint of caboose red looming far down the track, and miracle of miracles, it turned out to be real. As soon as the tail of the caboose slipped past, I hit the throttle of my recently acquired 1961 black Austin-Healey Sprite convertible

(the first non-bug-eyed version of that tiny English sports car), bounced across the railroad tracks as the hands of my watch slipped to 10:00 and took a quick right turn – only to discover that there was no onstreet parking near the windowless brick building which proclaimed itself to be The Daily Independent in big white letters over white double entrance doors. But just beyond the building, in a slight depression fast by the railroad tracks, I discovered an unpaved parking lot lined with scraggly trees offering only spotty shade. I whipped into the lot, kicking up a whirlwind of dust, slid to a halt beside a pickup truck and began the arduous task of unfolding my lanky, six-foot-three frame from this low-slung envelope of a car that not only clearly wasn’t designed for the likes of me but also called into grave question my judgment for acquiring it. Rumpled, sweat-stained, my hair wildly windblown, I snatched up a manila folder containing a meager collection of my published articles and dashed for the entrance. The middle-aged woman behind the reception counter seemed startled, maybe a little alarmed, by the frantic, scrambledhaired person who had just rushed through the door. “Can I help you?” she asked, a bit tentatively. “Uh,” I said, trying to settle my brain. “I have an appointment with….” The name suddenly eluded me, and I had

Page 59

left the paper with the editor’s name on it in the car. “Uh, uh …” I said, panic beginning to stir. She waited expectantly, but was taking on a look that indicated she had begun to suspect that I was one of those crazies with screwball stories to tell who so regularly were drawn to newspaper offices. “Wingate!” I nearly cried out with relief. “Wingate. Tom Wingate.” “And your name?” she asked. “Bledsoe. Uh…Jerry…Jerry.” “Jerry Jerry Bledsoe?” she asked teasingly. “No, just one Jerry.” “Okay, Just One Jerry,” she said with a little smile. “I’ll go let him know that you’re here.” While she was gone, I wiped the sweat from my brow, patted down my hair, buttoned my jacket to hide a pale mustard stain on my shirt, straightened my tie and made sure my clippings were still in their folder, all the time attempting to calm myself, although I had no grasp of how to accomplish that. “He can see you now,” the woman said when she reappeared around the corner. I followed her into the small newsroom. There were just six desks, only one not occupied. The Daily Independent was an afternoon paper and deadline was looming. Everybody was busy. Two reporters were tapping intently at old Royal typewriters. (Continued on page 60)

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Between them, a heavy-set man with a florid face was talking loudly, almost angrily, into a telephone receiver. A short, bushy-haired older man with a wearied look sat across from the three, muttering to himself as he laid out pages and scribbled headlines. A fedora hung on a hat rack behind him. Tom Wingate, the editor, had no office. He worked in the newsroom, his desk facing the rest of the staff, his back to the composing room wall beyond which impatient typesetters waited. He was marking up copy when we entered the room. He was 52, tall, with a slight paunch, his hair thinning. His shirt sleeves were rolled up, collar unbuttoned, tie pulled loose and slightly askew. He stood when he saw us coming, peered over the top of his glasses, and offered his hand as I approached. His eyes were as kind as any I’d ever seen. “Welcome to Kannapolis,” he said. “Have you been here before?” “Only passing through,” I told him. “Usually on Trailways buses when I was in the Army.” “It’s an interesting town,” he said. “I’m sorry I’m late. I got held up by a freight train.” “Happens all the time here,” he replied, waving off my apology and inviting me to sit in an ancient, wood office chair with

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a rounded back beside his desk, a chair obviously designed for short visits. The scant resume that the employment agency had mailed to him was lying on his desk and he glanced at it. “So you were in the Army,” he said. I didn’t know then that Wingate had been an officer with a tank battalion in World War II, had fought in North Africa and Italy, twice been wounded, was captured and spent a year in prisoner of war camps in Germany and Poland. My Army experience had not been so distinctive. “Yes, sir. Three years. I joined. I didn’t wait to be drafted.” That still was considered an asset in those days and only later would I realize how important an impression it had made on Wingate. “Where did you serve?” “Well, Fort Jackson for basic; Fort Slocum, New York, for Information School; Fort Rucker, Alabama, where I worked on the post newspaper, The Army Flier; then Fort Bragg for psychological warfare training, and finally Okinawa, Taiwan and Japan.” I wanted to appear as if I’d had some experience beneficial to journalism. “Were you writing overseas?” “At first just leaflets and reports, but for six months near the end I wrote features for a Korean-language magazine in Tokyo. It was supposed to make Koreans love America.” “Did you bring clips?” “I did,” I said, handing him the thin folder. It included articles I had written for Freedom Magazine about John Glenn’s first orbital flight, the future of the space program, Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s ties to the Korean War, and profiles of Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain and Robert Frost for a series called Modern American Authors. All were subjects that I had known little about. But on top was an article I had written for The Army Flier. It was about a surgeon at Fort Rucker who had invented new, more precise devices for monitoring and testing the heart and had been assigned to the space program. That article had appeared in the Montgomery Advertiser, Birmingham News and the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Georgia, three newspapers that regularly received news releases from Fort Rucker’s Public Information Office. One of them posted it on the Associated Press wire and it was distributed nationwide. I got no byline but it was my work and I was proud of it. I was 19 when I wrote it. Wingate shuffled through the short stack of articles but paused to read a good portion of the piece about the heart surgeon. “That’s a good lede,” he said. I thought so too. So much so that I had set it to memory. I could have recited it to him: “This country’s first man into outer space will be only a heartbeat away from an Army Aviation Center physician who has worked closely with the famed astronauts since the

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

project began.” “Let me tell you our problem here,” Wingate said. “We need an all-around reporter, somebody who can take obits, write news stories and features. But I also want somebody who can focus on religion. Our coverage of religion is slack. How would you feel about that?” I was a little taken aback. My experiences in the Army, and friends I’d made who were far more sophisticated than I, had led me not only to question my Methodist upbringing but all religion. Intellectually, I no longer could embrace it. But neither could I deny it. I had become agnostic, a heathen, as one of my religious friends would jokingly tag me. Yet I respected those who held sincere religious beliefs, whatever they may be, although I had little regard for charlatans and dangerous fanatics. “I could do that,” I said. “When could you start?” When could I start? Was he offering me the job? I must have looked startled because I was, although I tried not to show it. “Well,” I said hesitantly. “I would have to give a two-week notice.” “The sooner the better,” he said with a little smile. “But don’t you think we need to talk about pay?” “Well …” “It’s 75 a week,” he said bluntly. “I suspect you’re making more than that.” Considerably more, in fact, although I didn’t want to let him know that. “I am,” I said, “but I also have to work at least 60 hours a week, usually more.” “If you’re accustomed to those kinds of hours you’ll fit in well here,” Wingate said, reaching for a desk calendar. “I expect you’ll need a little time to find a place to live and get settled in,” he said, flipping through the calendar. “I’m sure I will,” I said quickly. “Well, then, why don’t we shoot on you starting on Monday, September the seventh? That’ll be your desk over there, the empty one.” I couldn’t believe this was happening. It didn’t strike me that Wingate may have just been desperate. I was in a daze of wonderment. I had a newspaper job! At a real newspaper! I couldn’t wait to get outside. I wanted to shout. It was almost enough to make me a Methodist again. As soon as I managed to fold myself back into my tight Sprite, I went in search of a telephone booth. Using a handful of nickels and dimes, I called editors in Gastonia and Statesville to let them know that I wouldn’t be making my appointments. I had landed a position. Neither seemed troubled by the news. Then I called Linda, my bride of little more than a month. We had moved into a new apartment only two weeks earlier. “We’re moving,” I told her. “Again?” she said. “Where to?” “Kannapolis.” I had just turned 23, and I was about to start a journalism career in one of the most unusual towns in America.


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

VOTE

Thursday, May 16, 2013

VOTE

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VOTE

For the 6th Congressional District of NC OUR PLATFORM: Revive the Economy

Throughout American history, the economy thrives when a simple formula is applied: low taxes, respect for property rights, stable currency and reasonably free trade. The federal government’s role is to foster each area so individuals can pursue their dreams.

Reduce the Government

Federal government spending and regulation needs to be checked and reversed where appropriate. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, interest payments and entitlements will consume the entire federal budget within twelve years if spending continues as projected.

Reform the Tax Code

America’s corporate tax rate is 39.2%, the highest in the world. The top individual tax rate is 39.6%. Excessive taxation stifles growth and development. The time has come to get serious about reforming the tax code.

Rebuild the Family

The family is our society’s backbone. Without strong families our nation will continue to weaken. U.S. policy should favor intact families.

Restore The Dream

The American dream transcends party. Our Constitution promises individual life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Conservatives have become the spokes people for core values and principles embraced by most Americans. We must offer more than rhetoric by putting forward substantive solutions that address jobs, the economy, taxes, illegal immigration, healthcare and much more. A 2010 analysis by USA Today found a, “record 18.3% of the nation’s total personal income was a payment from the government for Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, unemployment benefits and other programs....Wages accounted for the lowest share of income — 51.0% — since the government began keeping track in 1929.” Mark Walker brings a principled voice and commitment to representing the people of the 6th District from all walks of life, backed by his two decades of experience in business and ministry. If you would like to help put Mark Walker’s plan in action, please contact the campaign by phone, email, Social Media or visit the website. Sign up today as a volunteer and/or make a donation online.

Mark Walker, his wife and three children enjoying some time on the Carolina coast. Paid for by Walker 4 NC

Walker 4 NC

2941 Battleground Avenue #38334, Greensboro, NC 27438 (336) 500-3002

www.walker4nc.com


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Yost

(Continued from page 22)

It is amazing how much good you can bring to the world when you have free reign to write what you want for a widely read newspaper. It gives you an ability to shed light on deception and to call out evil from the dark recesses where it lives and thrives. It allows you to help set things right, and help bring a smile to someone’s face because you wrote something clever or gave them good advice or showed them a picture of something interesting or of someone beautiful. In my time here, I have tried to be honest and fair, and I’ve tried to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Doing this for the last decade has been a rare, rare privilege, and I’m profoundly grateful to John Hammer for giving me that opportunity. I am also very thankful to his brother Willy, wife Elaine and mother Hannah, who is the spiritual leader of The Rhino. It has been a lot of fun for me. Soon after I arrived here, The Rhino let me take the commissioners’ pictures and post them on the Am I Hot? website so the world could judge whether our commissioners were hot or not. That was going to be a column but it proved to be so much fun that we devoted the whole front page of The Rhino to it that week. Later, The Rhinoceros Times sent me to Hawaii to meet the Guilford County commissioners and surprise them at the

Honolulu airport. We made sure they attended meetings while they were at a taxpayer funded county commissioners convention in Hawaii. Mostly we did it because we thought it was funny. There was only one other media outlet in the country outside of Hawaii that sent a reporter to that convention and I can tell you the other one wasn’t doing it to be funny. I would wager that there is not another newspaper in the country that would pay thousands of dollars to send a reporter thousands of miles just to be funny and to aggravate the commissioners. The importance of this job first hit me years ago when I was at Hemingway’s, a former cigar club in downtown Greensboro, where a man I didn’t know came up to me and said, “You’re Scott Yost right? I owe you a big, big thank you.” I asked, “Why do you need to thank me?” He said he and his wife had always tried to get his young son to read, but nothing worked. “We tried everything,” he told me. The stranger said he’d been very frustrated about that and then one day he picked up a Rhino Times that had a column I wrote about the penguins that came to the Natural Science Center. He told me that, after he finished it, knowing that his son liked penguins, he handed my column to his son and said,

“Here, this is about penguins.” He said his son read it and really enjoyed it. “After that, he started reading everything,” he told me. He said that, ever since, his son has been an avid reader who reads just for the fun of it. “So that’s why I owe you a big thank you,” he told me. That was a powerful moment for me because, in this job, you spend so much time alone typing words into a computer that you forget that that simple act can have major implications for the world around you and the people in it. And the effects spread farther than you realize. One time I was on the phone with a woman who was complaining because The Rhinoceros Times had not been delivered to her town that week. When I asked her where it was, she told me and it was a city in Virginia. I told her that The Rhinoceros Times was not delivered in Virginia and she said it most certainly was – every week at the general store. I found out later that someone who lived their worked in Greensboro and, every week, he would grab a big stack of The Rhino Times and drop it off at the general store there so readers in that town could enjoy the paper. And, thanks to our internet site, I’ve gotten letters from readers in all parts of the world, from readers who either loved what I wrote or thought I was completely

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

insane. In addition to all the words I’ve written, I’ve taken a picture or two for The Rhinoceros Times over the years. About seven years ago, then Publisher Willy Hammer came by my desk and handed me a camera, and said, “From now on, when you go out, take pictures,” and Scott’s Night Out was born. One of the really confusing things to me over the years is that, for some reason, people think that’s a very hard part of my job. When they meet me, they often mention Scott’s Night Out, and they say, “Wow, you really have a hard job!” A lot of people have said that to me but, if you think about it, it’s really not that difficult and I actually find it highly enjoyable. If you think about it, what’s hard about spending time with beautiful women at concerts and clubs, having fun with them, and taking pictures while you do? So I’m not sure why so many people consider that such a difficult job, but, despite what many of you think, I assure you it is not, and I will miss it. (I won’t however, miss trying to explain to the IRS how buying shots of Cuervo for a semi-pro cheerleader on a rooftop bar at 1:45 in the morning is a perfectly legitimate business expense.) I will miss the people who made The Rhinoceros Times what it has been over (Continued on page 74)

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Commissioner (Continued from page 6) (Fortunately, in recent years, the Guilford County commissioners have stopped deciding the budget that way.) So, in Hawaii, that put an exclamation point on what I was discovering: There was something very different about Guilford County. I mean, the bizarre nature of Guilford County government extends into the administration. The county’s technology department pays tens of thousands of dollars to a web developer with no contract in place. A county manager signs a real estate deal potentially worth tens of millions with an obscure real estate agent who supposedly came in on a cold call. Raises and bonuses are handed out in secret. One commissioner demands that another be investigated for agreeing to take three sick cows off the county’s hands out of the goodness of his heart. That one was called Cowgate. I could go on all day; in fact, I’ve gone on for 10 years already on this subject. This year, when two inmates escaped from the jail in High Point, we all discovered that that jail doesn’t have bars on the windows. As The Rhino Times Editor and Publisher John Hammer pointed out to me when we were discussing that amazing fact: “Even the jails in the Old West had bars on the windows.” Even in the Old West – but not in

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Guilford County. You know, how does a county build a jail with no bars on the windows? Don’t you think that, in every other county in the world, when the jail was in the design stage, someone in a meeting somewhere would have raised his or her hand, and said, “Uh, you people do understand that the inmates in jail don’t want to be in there, right? Maybe we should put some bars on the windows so they don’t crawl out.” Only in Guilford County does that conversation not take place. Speaking of jails in the county, The Rhino Times recently discovered that, in the new jail in downtown Greensboro, each cellblock has its own Jacuzzi for the inmates. As long as the inmates exhibit good behavior, they get to enjoy the Jacuzzi each night while watching a movie of their choice and having popcorn. Not really, I made that up – but would it really surprise you to hear that? Would you be surprised in the least if, in Guilford County, every cellblock in the new jail has a Jacuzzi? I certainly wouldn’t be. That’s exactly the type of crazy story I’ve come to expect out of this county’s government after covering it for the past 10 years. Remember, this is the same county that elected … Well, let me go find that article from years ago. Here we go. In a decade of covering the county, my favorite opening line in a story that I’ve ever written came after the winning candidate for the soil and water commissioner seat couldn’t be found. No one – law enforcement officials, election officials – knew what was going on until The Rhinoceros Times hit the street that Thursday. The headline for the story was, “Candidate Wins With Fake Name.” Enjoy …

The man who ran in and won the Guilford County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor race in the November 2008 election did so under a fake name: “Kirk Perkins,” the winning candidate, is actually a transient whose real name is Kirk Newell. Newell, who is 51 years old,

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may have spent time in a mental institution before running for the office under the assumed name.” I mean, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. That is surreal right there. Wow, that story got picked up by the wire services and was sent around the world. Guilford County government is a treasure trove for a reporter. There is almost always something outrageous, fascinating and bizarre going on. And there have been a long line of very interesting characters over the years. The outspoken former Commissioner Billy Yow was a wealth of stories, and then there was the colorful quote machine Mary Rakestraw. Trudy Wade, Bob Landreth, but I can’t even get started … The political figure towering over the entire decade, however, is former Commissioner Skip Alston, the five-time chairman and human lightening rod for criticism. He is a hero of some, a villain to many, but I will say this: I like Skip and, in all my years, I can’t point to a single time that he has lied to me. I caught him doing bizarre things, crazy things, unexplainable things. I’m pretty good at catching people, but I never caught him doing anything illegal. So Skip is either the big one that got away, or someone who has little to hide. In the last decade, the most brilliant move was made by Commissioner Mike Winstead, when he made a motion to move the commissioners meetings from 6:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. God bless Mike Winstead. After that, county staff and reporters no longer had to wait around for an hour and a half after work for a meeting to start – plus the meetings ended an hour earlier. The dumbest thing the board ever did was accept the “gift” of Hagan-Stone Park from the City of Greensboro. Before that, the city owned the park and paid its parks staff to maintain it. After the county accepted the “gift” the county began paying several hundred thousand dollars a year for park maintenance, because now Guilford County “owned” it rather than Greensboro. Do you know who the county was paying to do that work? Greensboro, because the county had no parks staff. So everything

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was exactly the same except that the county was now paying to run the park each year. This is a Board of Commissioners that could one day vote for a multi-million dollar project without saying a word, and then spend all afternoon – as they did earlier this year – arguing whether they should each have their individual names on their county parking spaces. This is a county that last year had one person show up for a critical budget committee meeting but had 21 top-level county staff and commissioners show up at a meeting to name county meeting rooms. About six years ago, the commissioners spent $30,000 on Hollywood stage lighting to make themselves look better on TV, and they spent another grand or so on wireless microphones that they never could quite figure out how to use. In one famous incident, a commissioner left his wireless mic on while a closed session was taking place – thus broadcasting the meeting to the press in the other room. Even simple communication with the county officials was crazy. Mike Winstead once accidently sent me an interesting text meant for his hot fiance – who is now his wife. Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne’s email used to get hacked all the time and I would open my email and be like, “Why is the county attorney sending me Viagra ads?” I will miss all those guys. Not only did I cover county government, there were times I got so close to the commissioners that I fell through the looking glass and felt every bit like a member of the board. Skip Alston used to introduce me as “the 12th commissioner.” You could often find me in the commissioners’ offices writing away. Over the years, I have used the commissioners’ offices much more than they have used them – which is never ever. When they took the official board photo one year, they insisted that I jump into the picture, and I have a copy of the board with all 12 commissioners. Years ago, when our publication date happened to fall on April Fool’s Day I wrote a giant story that High Point was breaking away from Guilford County and almost everyone bought it. Two weeks later, the chairman of the Board of Commissioners demanded that I go to the podium and explain that High Point was not in fact breaking away from Guilford County. He had been telling everyone it wasn’t true, but no one believed him because the article in The Rhino was so detailed and convincing. After I wrote about the jail situation, Skip Alston appointed me to a committee to deal with jail overcrowding and, after the mental case imposter was elected soil and water commissioner, I was at the Board of Elections meeting as a reporter, but the election officials asked me to take a seat at the table, and they swore me in, and began asking questions about what in the world (Continued on page 66)


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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Commissioner (Continued from page 64) was going on. So it’s been a crazy and unpredictable 10 years, but it’s certainly been fun. The good news, is this: Guilford County seems to have turned a corner on much of what has come before, and the Board of Commissioners has actually started to run the county pretty well – like a board you might find in, say, Kansas or somewhere normal like that. I think that, as The Rhinoceros Times shuts its doors, we at least leave the county in pretty good hands. As crazy as this county is, I have faith that this ragtag group of leaders now in place can pull us

through. The newest additions to the Board of Commissioners are doing a fine job, and the commissioners who have been there a long time seem to have regained their center and found their compass after a few years of having lost their way in some pretty thick woods. Commissioner Ray Trapp is one of the new faces. He is a bleeding heart liberal Democrat, but if there is a more likable, articulate, fair-minded human being on the planet, I have no idea who it could possibly be. And you only need to talk to new Commissioner Alan Branson for two minutes to realize how hard he’s fighting for his constituents in eastern and southeastern Guilford County. Commissioner Hank Henning is a war veteran who risked his life for this country and he brings a tremendous amount of much needed common sense to the board. Hank has impressed everyone several times at meetings by his ability to go on the internet and actually research things before voting on them. He has amazed staff and others with his knowledge that you can find out things using a magic-like tool called Google, and he has raised some very good questions no one else thought to ask. Commissioner Jeff Phillips is the wonky Guilford County version of Paul Ryan, who by day is dissecting the county budget with a mental knife and by night is walking the streets handing blankets out to homeless people. Commissioner Kay Cashion is a champion of troubled and drug-addicted youths and she is the county’s representative at the state level and at the national level where she is making big strides upward and forward. Kay is also in charge of naming county buildings and meeting rooms; so, maybe, they’ll name something after me – even though I don’t really meet the naming policy criteria because I’m not dead yet, just missing in action. Commissioner Carolyn Colman has a real desire to restore this county to a position of greatness and state leadership that once defined it, and Commissioner Bruce Davis, who is also a veteran, is very good about

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calling out insane county moves whenever he sees them. Vice Chairman Bill Bencini is one of my favorite commissioners of all time, and he’s a big advocate of open and transparent government. I think he wants to be the mayor of High Point and, if he does run, he certainly will get a big endorsement from me. The board’s new chairman, Linda Shaw, has done a very good job running the meetings and leading the board, and I predict she will lead the board to a budget with no property tax increase next month. While The Rhinoceros Times clearly disagrees with Shaw on the wisdom of granting economic incentives, Linda has a good heart and she hasn’t deserved all the criticism she’s gotten from The Rhino in the last few months. (Plus, you can text her at midnight and she will text you back within 10 minutes.) Sheriff BJ Barnes told me recently that he’s going to run for reelection, so that’s good for the county. Register Jeff Thigpen, who makes about $108,000 a year, will run again as well and that also bodes well for Guilford County. I want to thank the clerk to the board’s office and attorney Mark Payne and Robin Keller for always responding in a timely manner to my constant and extensive public records requests.

Civilization (Continued from page 17)

Senate. In other words, Obama already acts as if the Constitution were just for show. Like Augustus, he pretends to govern within its framework, but in fact he treats it with contempt. How far might he take his dictatorial disposition? Is there any plausible way for him to remain as president for life, like the dictators he so admires and envies in Russia, China and the Muslim world? At first glance, the idea is absurd. The US military would never accept such a thing. Nor would the people. Nor would ... But wait. Let’s think about this. Is there any way that Barack Obama could remain president forever, the way Putin has held on to power in Russia? In his years as president, the national media have never challenged Obama on anything. His lies and mistakes are unreported or quickly forgotten or explicitly denied; his critics are demonized. It’s hard to imagine how American press coverage would be different if Obama were a Hitler- or Stalin-style dictator, except of course that everyone at Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and The Rhinoceros Times would be in jail. Or dead. So as a science fiction writer and a student of history, allow me to spin a plausible scenario about how, like Augustus Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

And I also want to thank Assistant County Manager Sharisse Fuller, who will step down at the end of this month. I would put her full title in here but it would add two more pages in length to this column. When it comes down to it, Sharisse has done an amazing job of holding the county together through very troubled times, and she has faced immense pressure from all sides. She is the best public speaker that the county has, and her only major flaw is that she doesn’t realize that the county’s strategic plan is dead and has been for years. On Monday, May 6, Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing took over as the county manager. A few weeks ago, I wanted to see what the people of Brunswick County, where he served as manager for 12 years, thought of him, and everyone was like, “Oh, he’s a walking encyclopedia” and “Oh, Marty’s fantastic” – so, I don’t know much more than what the beachcomber community tells me at this point, but my hopes for this county’s future are much higher than they were this time two years ago. You know, with all that going for us, when it’s all said and done, I think we all may end up OK. Maybe, just maybe. Whatever happens, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore. In fact, I know we’re not – we’re in Guilford County.

Hitler and Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama could become lifetime dictator without any serious internal opposition. Keep in mind that he already governs unconstitutionally, with czars and without a budget. He bullies his opponents, and ignores crimes by his own team. He treats Congress with contempt – both Republicans and Democrats. Having been anointed from the start of his career because he was that magical combination – a black man who talks like a white man (that’s what they mean by calling him “articulate” and a “great speaker”) – he has never had to work for a living, and he has never had to struggle to accomplish goals. He despises ordinary people, is hostile to any religion that doesn’t have Obama as its deity, and his contempt for the military is complete. You’d think that such a man could not possibly remain in office past the constitutional limit of two terms – but I think the plan is already in place. Look at how Hillary Clinton is being set up as the fall guy on Benghazi. Her lies under oath will destroy her in the run-up to the 2016 election, while the press will never hold Obama’s feet to the fire. This is because Michelle Obama is going to be Barack’s Lurleen Wallace. Remember how George Wallace got around Alabama’s ban on governors serving two terms in a row? He ran his wife for the office. Everyone knew Wallace would (Continued on next page)


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Civilization (Continued from previous page)

actually be pulling the strings, even though they denied it. Michelle Obama will be Obama’s designated “successor,” and any Democrat who seriously opposes her will be destroyed in the media the way everyone who contested Obama’s run for the Democratic nomination in 2008 was destroyed. But the plan goes deeper than this. Barack Obama, like Hitler and the Iranian dictators, announced his plan, though the media (as with Hitler) has “forgotten” it. Barack Obama needs to have a source of military power that is under his direct control. Like Hitler, he needs a powerful domestic army to terrify any opposition that might arise. Obama called for a “national police force” in 2008, though he never gave a clue about why such a thing would be necessary. We have the National Guard. We have the armed forces. The FBI. The Secret Service. And all the local and state police forces. The trouble is that all of these groups have long independent histories and none of them is reliably under Barack Obama’s personal control. He needs Brown Shirts – thugs who will do his bidding without any reference to law. Obama will claim we need a national police force in order to fight terrorism and

Thursday, May 16, 2013

crime. The Boston bombing is a useful start, especially when combined with random shootings by crazy people. Where will he get his “national police”? The NaPo will be recruited from “young out-of-work urban men” and it will be hailed as a cure for the economic malaise of the inner cities. In other words, Obama will put a thin veneer of training and military structure on urban gangs, and send them out to channel their violence against Obama’s enemies. Instead of doing drive-by shootings in their own neighborhoods, these young thugs will do beatings and murders of people “trying to escape” – people who all seem to be leaders and members of groups that oppose Obama. Already the thugs who serve the far left agenda of Obama’s team do systematic character assassination as a means of intimidating their opponents into silence. But physical beatings and “legal” disappearances will be even more effective – as Hitler and Putin and many other dictators have demonstrated over and over. All the abuses of the Patriot Act that Bush was accused of, but never actually did, will be the standard operating procedure of Obama’s personal army, the NaPo. But the media will cover all the actions of the NaPo as if it were merely a fullemployment program for unemployed

urban youth. Or if they finally wise up (maybe after a few reporters disappear), they’ll be cowed into submission very quickly. Meanwhile, Obama will use the NaPo to whip the US military into shape. The armed forces are largely recruited from among the half of American society that doesn’t vote for Barack Obama. So they will be relentlessly underfunded and disarmed; prominent generals who might become foci of resistance to Obama will be destroyed as Petraeus was. As for gun control, it will hardly be necessary. Obama already has his program of ammunition control. Guns without bullets are decorative. And he will have armored cars for the NaPo, precisely so that right-wing militia types can’t use snipers against them. These are simple steps, but they have worked for every dictator ruthless enough to use them. Most people want only to be left alone; Obama will leave them alone as long as they shut up and do what they’re told. But it won’t be just the NaPo. Once the government has firm control of health care, we’ll find that the families of his opponents don’t qualify for expensive medical care. Their children and parents will be medicalcare hostages. Once we get the clear idea that people or groups – or even regions – that oppose

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Obama simply don’t get any medical care, it will rarely be necessary to send in the NaPo armored cars. By the election of 2018, both parties will only field candidates approved by Obama’s people. And since polling places will be supervised closely by the NaPo, people casting – and counting – the votes will know what is expected. The Congress will become the rubber stamp that Obama already treats them like. There will be no more subpoenas. No more testifying before committees that sometimes ask hard questions. The Supreme Court justices who might oppose him will retire, or suffer medical accidents, and be replaced by judges who think the Constitution means whatever politically correct opinion needs it to mean. And if some brave congressmen or local governments try to oppose him, they will be put on trial on trumped-up charges – to which they will usually plead guilty, in exchange for continuing medical care (or employment) for their families. By the time Michelle has served her two terms, the Constitution will have been amended to allow presidents to run for reelection forever. Obama will win by 98 percent every time. That’s how it works in Nigeria and Zimbabwe; that’s how it worked in Hitler’s Germany. (Continued on page 68)


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The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Civilization (Continued from page 67)

And you can be sure that those unionized teachers who spewed venom and hatred in Wisconsin will be ready to brainwash America’s children about the glories of Obama-style “freedom.” Any teachers who don’t follow the union program will be fired. Almost all the mechanisms are already in place. It just takes a tweak here and there, and America is ready to be the country that is worthy of a Beloved Leader like Barack Obama. All right, the game is over. We don’t seriously think any such thing will happen. But if we learn anything from history, it’s this: Anything can happen. American democracy, already a pale shadow of what it once was, is only a couple of centuries old. Like the Roman Republic, it will be easy for people to conclude that a Constitution written for a bunch of backwater provinces simply can’t meet the needs of the World’s Only Superpower. The editorial writers at The New York Times and Washington Post are ready right now to talk warmly about “post-democratic America” and explain why it’s about time we eliminated the ability of primitive Republicans, with their Neanderthal reliance on “guns and religion,” to

obstruct the onward march of Enlightened government. They already hate democracy. They already demonize anyone who opposes them, and believe that their opponents have no right to be heard, and that courts should force their program on the ignorant d. They are already fascists in their hearts. They love Barack Obama precisely because his arrogance is so emblematic of their own sense of superiority. Hitler came to absolute power because the military and businessmen of Germany saw him as the one to put their opponents in their place. That’s how the American elites – the educational establishment, the unions, the media – already see Obama. Like Hitler’s allies, they won’t understand what a monster they’ve created until his power is so entrenched that he can turn it against them. And then it will be too late. That’s what history teaches us – it can happen anywhere. And when the historians write about it after the fact, they will point out how obvious all the signs were from the start – the way they write about Hitler now. Why did so many people go along with him? Because his allies thought they could control him. They thought he would serve their goals. Obama has been put into power by idiots who think they control

him even now. They think that because he’s so phenomenally uneducated and lazy, they are smarter than he is. That he is their puppet. But then, without such fools, history wouldn’t be such interesting reading. Will these things happen? Of course not. This was an experiment in fictional thinking. But it sure sounds plausible, doesn’t it? Because, like a good fiction writer, I made sure this scenario fit the facts we already have – the way Obama already acts, the way his supporters act, and the way

dictators have come to power in republics in the past. Just keep your head down, and you’ll be OK. Unless your children repeat at school things you said in the privacy of your home. Unless an Obama crony wants your house or your job. Unless you tell the wrong joke to the wrong people. Unless you have already written or said dangerous things that will come back to get you shot trying to avoid arrest ... Just kidding. Because if I really believed this stuff, would I actually write this essay?

Rumors (Continued from page 1) worked to put out this edition. We thought it would be 40 pages, but it grew to 80, which is really good news, but it did mean we had to have more content than we anticipated. Scott Yost and Paul Clark stepped up to the plate to write a little extra for us, and we had one last round of group headline writing. Both Orson Scott Card and Jerry Bledsoe, who are internationally famous writers, offered their considerable talents for this last issue. My nephew Will Hammer and Johnny Smith beat the bushes to bring in

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some ads. But most of the work as usual fell to Anthony Council, who had to create the ads and the Muse who had to lay out the paper. Geof Brooks, as always, contributed a cartoon as well as his expertise in getting The Rhinos to the people. It’s amazing that so many folks who were laid off just a couple of weeks ago would agree to come back and work. But we have a great crew at The Rhino and they pitched in one last time to put out the paper. (Continued on page 72)


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Happiness (Continued from page 8) This didn’t strike me as an argument about this particular bill at all and I wondered why Fain had labeled it as one that only Blust could have done. Almost anybody could have done that, and there was no evidence that Blust had produced it, only that he had circulated copies of it. I Googled the top and bottom lines on the drawing and Guns for Dummies in Government 101 popped up displaying the exact drawing Fain attributed to Blust. Clearly this was something that was being passed around on the internet. I was even more struck by the fact that nowhere on the drawing did the word “happiness” appear. Neither was there anything about good guys being dependent on guns for happiness. I wondered if Fain had taken the happiness aspect from the bill itself. I looked up the bill. It was eight mind-numbing pages long. Its short title was mundane: “Amend Various Firearms Laws.” Apparently that was not sexy enough for Fain, who decided it should be “Happiness is a gun” and presented it as that in his headline. I slogged through the entire bill without finding the word “happiness” even once, although the drudgery of my chore might have been considerably brightened if a few mentions had been sprinkled here and there. Now I was even more curious, so much so that I sent an email to Fain asking if Blust had made the statement to him that happiness depended on guns. This was the response I received four minutes later: “Look at the faces of the stick figures. Only the ones with guns are smiling.” Obviously, Fain equates a smile with happiness, although they are two entirely different things. A smile could mean any number of things. Unhappy people even smile. I guess “A smile is a gun” didn’t seem to work as a title for Fain, so he had to go elsewhere. Happiness, however, is a multi-layered concept rife with complexities. A smile might be an indicator of happiness, but it doesn’t represent it. In my nearly 72 years on the planet I’ve never heard anybody say that his or her happiness depended on

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Page 69

guns. Only a hardened extremist or a fool seems an ironic one for Lennon to have inaccurate claims without looking into them would say such a thing. I began to suspect written, considering what finally happened to determine if they have any validity and that portraying Blust in that manner might to him. But now, at last, I knew where the ignoring the facts when they do come out. have been Fain’s agenda. Blust, a lawyer “happiness is a gun” business came from, I have a lot of experience looking into false and long-time member of the legislature in not John Blust, but John Lennon, who reporting by the News & Record, some of both House and Senate, was one of many presumably had nothing to do with House which has created great damage and grave Bill 937. I’m not sure how Fain thought injustice to individuals, institutions and sponsors of the firearms bill. I don’t know Blust. I was introduced to that readers might make this connection communities. I’m not the only one who’s had him once. We shook hands, but I’d never to Lennon because he didn’t mention it experience with this. Roch Smith Jr., a had a conversation with him. I emailed anywhere, and clearly made it appear that Greensboro blogger and proprietor of blog him and asked if he’d made the statements “Happiness is a gun” was the title of the aggregator Greensboro 101, found himself bill. that Fain attributed to him. in an alarming situation last year because “I don’t know what else to tell you,” Fain “I don’t know what he means by of this type of reporting. A controversial added, and suggested that I could take my happiness equals a gun,” Blust replied. county commissioner falsely accused Blust hadn’t communicated with Fain complaint to higher authorities. I sent Fain this email: “I’ll tell you what  (Continued on page 70) about this, and obviously couldn’t have else you could tell me: ‘I made a mistake. told him what Fain attributed to him. I emailed Fain again the following I’ll correct it.’ Journalism is based on fact, morning to tell him what Blust said. It not your suppositions or what you consider seemed clear that what Fain had written to be indications. When you write that a was not true and I asked if he intended to person argued something that he never did and you have nothing but indications correct it. I had to go out of town for much of the to back it up, you fabricated for your own RESTORATION SPECIALISTS DELIVERING day, but when I returned late that afternoon purposes, whatever they may be. It is restoration specialist AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE I had a response from Fain. It contained incredible arrogance and blatant dishonesty delivering an amazing to pretend otherwise.” some unexpected admissions. experience Two hours later, I got a response that “I asked Rep. Blust, via text message, to call me about the drawing and he didn’t,” gave me a chuckle: “are you the jerry Your kitchen and bathroom cabinetry can be Fain wrote. “But it’s [sic] message is clear. bledsoe who wrote for the rhino?” refaced or re-colored to create a new look I confirmed that I had written for Bad people will always have guns. For for your home at a fraction of the cost of replacement. good guys to have a smile on their face, The Rhino and gave a bit more of my  CALL FOR A FREE ESTIMATE indicating happiness, they need guns. That background, including my 21 years with   is the essence of a very common argument the News & Record, a newspaper I loved deeply. for gun rights.” The next morning I got a final email:  That, of course, was not what he wrote. www.fmbyjh.com He made no mention of smiles or indications “Jerry I got nothing more to tell you on  of happiness. He wrote flat-out that Blust this. Clearly we disagree. The drawings argued that bad guys always have guns and [sic] meaning seems clear to me.” I never questioned the meaning of the for the good ones, happiness depends on them. He put words into Blust’s mouth that drawing. It would be clear to anybody. he did not say. He had based this entirely But that had nothing to do with what Fain on a drawing snagged off the internet that wrote about Blust. I was pretty sure that no correction would had not been created by Blust and thus was not his argument, although I’m sure he be forthcoming. Fain sees nothing wrong wouldn’t have been passing it around if he with creating words that do not appear on the drawing, his only source, or anywhere didn’t agree with it. The next line in Fain’s response to me else, and putting them into the mouth of a Call for a free estimate revealed even more about the article he had public official who never said them. And I knew that in the past News & written. It explained the headline, which he said, Record editors had fully supported reporters “played on the old John Lennon song who ignored and misrepresented facts. Sadly, in the past 15 years, the News & ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun.’” I was not familiar with that song, but it Record has had a dismal history of reporting

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Page 70

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Paul

(Continued from page 12)

I also noticed that every article was a hard-news article and an attack article. Surely there can’t be that much wrong with Guilford County governments, I thought. I was to learn different. On a Friday, I walked up the stairs of the new Rhino Times World Headquarters, recently moved to 216 West Market St. from the Southeastern Building on Elm Street. I liked The Rhino vibe right away. The building, a 1920s arcade, felt like a newspaper headquarters straight out of the movie The Front Page. I was later told that the Southeastern Building lacked the same charm. I liked that, for a newspaper that liked to live dangerously, The Rhino Times had casual security – handled by a hideously oversized artificial rhinoceros head on the staircase and an elderly dog and a temperamental, adopted street cat upstairs. My interview with John was short – even off deadline, he has a low tolerance for strangers invading his sanctum sanctorum. He asked me enough questions to have a fair idea that I knew what I was talking about, offered me a living wage and showed me to my desk. Compared with most of the companies I’d worked for, the lack of corporate bullshit was refreshing. In 21 years, The Rhino Times has never run the word “bullshit,” until today – but I’m told Bledsoe got

it into his last-issue piece, so I figure the floodgates have been opened. I set to work digging into Guilford County Schools, which at the time was a goldmine of corruption and incompetence. Under School Superintendent Mo Green, who followed me to Guilford County, it has improved, sometimes pushed from behind by The Rhino. Props to Mo, but I shudder at the thought of the school system sinking back into the morass without The Rhino Times to keep it honest. I later acquired the High Point beat. I think High Point, a rich, untapped well of advertising, was one of the moves that was supposed to save The Rhino. The High Point advertisers were welcome, but too few – but High Point itself was a joy to cover. Almost everything in High Point politics happens offstage, which forced me to get to know many funto-know contacts. I even like the High Pointers about whom circumstances have forced me to write nasty things. High Point has taught or reminded me many things: Journalism, like politics, is all about relationships. Mary B’s Southern Kitchen, Becky’s & Mary’s and Carter Brothers Barbecue make it worth driving to High Point for dry-as-toast City Council meetings. Calling Becky Smothers at 11 p.m. results in interesting conversations. And never bet Ed Price cash, no matter how dumb he acts. John Hammer is a walking encyclopedia

of Greensboro, and has saved me from many egregious print errors. There’s nothing and no one he doesn’t know in Greensboro. I don’t know how many times I’ve asked John about a person I’ve met, only to be told, cheerfully, “Oh, yes, his third cousin did something really interesting back in the ‘70s and just got out of jail!” In High Point I had to rely on the kindness of strangers, many of whom became friends.

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Over the last five-plus years, I’ve learned more about Greensboro and High Point history, culture and politics than had I lived in each city for 20 years. That, as much as the living wage, was The Rhino’s gift to me. Tomorrow I will sit in on headlines, get a good night’s sleep and then staple one of my Rhino Times business cards to my chest with “Paul” written on it. If you see it, give me a job.

Advertising (Continued from page 21)

be embarrassing when I’m listening to the audiobook while pushing a cart through Earth Fare. But it’s even more embarrassing when I’ve got tears streaming down my cheeks because this book goes to places that are so deep and true and heartbreaking and fulfilling – and did I say true? – yes, but I’m saying it twice. It’s a truthful book. Don’t wait for the movie. You want this story in your memory. It will make you a better person. It will make you a more forgiving and understanding person. It also has some bad words that will bother some people. Mom, this means you. There are so many F-words that you’ll start to think that it’s a replacement for “the.”

I’m used to it so it doesn’t bother me now. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. But I’d hate to have missed this funny, beautiful story because it is indecorous. They could make the movie without a single one of the F-words and nobody would miss them. I wish they would – because there are a lot of people who would love this movie, who would treasure it, but who will never see it if it has an R. And it doesn’t need an R. It could be made at a PG-13 level and miss nothing of value. But however the movie is made, I’m seeing it. Because something would have to go badly wrong for it not to be an Oscar contender. It’s that kind of story, that kind of dialogue, that kind of style.

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Happiness (Continued from page 69)

Smith of extortion, and according to Smith, the News & Record reported the accusation either knowing it was false or without bothering to investigate to determine if there was any truth to it. The reporter didn’t even ask Smith to comment about it. Even a false claim of extortion, which is a felony, can do great damage to a business person, but that appeared to be no concern for the newspaper. Smith reported on his blog that neither the reporter nor his editors would talk with him when he tried to complain about it. That reporter, Mark Binker, who now works for a TV station in Raleigh, later told Smith in an email that he’d been instructed by his editors not to talk with him. Smith has since listed numerous instances of documented errors and false claims on other matters that have appeared in the paper but none have been corrected, he said. What Fain has done here is not nearly as bad as what others at the News & Record have perpetrated before him. But it fits a well-established pattern and it is even more reason to mourn the loss of The Rhino Times, a newspaper that always sought the truth and had the courage to call bullshit.

Note: After I finished this piece Fain decided that he did have something more to say to me. It was this: “I spoke to Rep. Blust today and added an update to the bottom of the post. I do not think it will satisfy you, but thought I’d call it to your attention anyway. Take care.” He was right. It didn’t satisfy. Integrity requires acknowledging that he got it wrong. This was an ass-covering move, but I give him credit for trying that anyway. Here’s what he posted: “I caught up with Rep. Blust today. He said he didn’t draw those stick figures, but saw them and thought they summed up the issue well. As for the smiling faces, from which I deduced happiness: “I don’t want to say they’re happy,” Blust said. “Let’s just say less unsecure.” The bad guys look for easy targets, Blust said. And if they know someone might be carrying a concealed weapon on a walking trail or college campus, they’ll have to think twice about everyone on that walking trail or college campus, he said.” Blust may be more understanding than I would be about having words put into his mouth that he never spoke. He’s probably a much better person than I am, too.


The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Page 71

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Page 72

Five Years

(Continued from page 18) a publication that got more bang for the buck from its reporters. John was wholly focused on local government, wholly focused on breaking news and wholly unwilling to keep reporters who couldn’t beat the competition. He had gazebos of steel in a fight, which goes a long way in this business. For the last five-plus years, I’ve watched every Rhino reporter break story after story, only to be followed days or weeks later by other newspapers and television stations. We did the old-school reporting others didn’t – creating and maintaining relationships with sources that allowed us to anticipate, rather than follow, events. Look to any other Guilford County news outlet, and you will find thinly disguised press releases. The Rhino never stooped that low. John has the kind of knowledge of Greensboro politics that is only acquired through two decades of competing on the same beat – and winning. Recent and welcome reporting addition Alex Jakubsen has had the hardest job at The Rhino – getting between John and his beat. John suggested several years ago that I eventually take over the Greensboro beat. I said, “Not if you put a gun to my head.” As long as The Rhino lives, Greensboro politics will be John’s baby.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Scott knows what’s going to happen in county government, not only before the competition, but often before the county commissioners – while simultaneously writing a column and doing the perilous job of recording Guilford County’s scantily clad party girls in Scott’s Night Out. The county commissioners couldn’t even escape Scott by traveling to Hawaii. He was there, grinning, when they got off the plane. At some point, I took on, in addition to the school board, the task of covering, in theory, all of High Point. One person can’t cover an entire city, of course. That’s why they used to have well-staffed city desks at daily newspapers. I had little knowledge of High Point before taking over the High Point beat, but came to love its eccentricities and eccentrics. High Point is unlike any other city in North Carolina and has become my home away from home. Its political currents and undercurrents are a reporter’s dream. At times I still feel as I don’t have The Rhino Right Stuff, because I haven’t been threatened with being shot or had a chair thrown at me during a school board meeting (John) or had a contract for a mob hit taken out on me (Jerry Bledsoe, during his definitive debunking of the Greensboro “secret police” hysteria). Perhaps the main reason The Rhino has been a congenial place to work is that

My 21 years with The Rhino Times as a “paper boy” has enriched my life in many ways. It was a great paper, folks were anxious to read it and I enjoyed delivering it. The people on my route became my good friends, including Cindy at Pastabilities, Dewey the barber, Gerald, the Lollipop Shop, Lyn and Diane, Dr. Dave, Kerr Drug, Pack-NPost, and, of course, Frank at Elizabeth’s Pizza, who will forever call me Granma. But the best part of all was the fun Dick and I had working the same job in different cars on different routes. We would come home and talk with pride of the compliments and laugh at the insults we picked up from various and assorted readers of our sons’ newspaper. Although John and William were at the helm, other family members, from the two oldest grandsons to the two youngest granddaughters, pitched in when needed, wherever their talents fit in. My memories are filled with appreciation, gratitude and sadness for all Rhino readers, especially those on my route. I promise to come by and visit on Thursdays. After 21 years it’s probably time I found another job. So to all my friends from my Rhino route and all dear family members, may God always bless you, may he make his face shine upon you and give you peace. Now and forever, Amen. – Hannah Hammer

The Rhinoceros Times Greensboro

John, having hired and suitably hazed good reporters, lets them do their work. That is an idea so simple you would think any good news organization would use it. But most media companies, with their newsroom infighting and layers of management, don’t. John got good reporters, turned them loose and let them do their stuff. For years, The Rhino Times has had the only breaking news in Guilford County. As countless Rhino readers have told me, even if they hear about something before it hits print, they have to wait until Thursday to find out what really happened. That’s a high compliment. No more. Thursdays will come and go without The Rhino to keep government honest, and Guilford County citizens will be poorer for it. There’s been a fair amount of coverage of The Rhino’s demise, most of it focusing on John’s conservatism – which is real enough, but almost beside the point. The Rhino has attacked dishonest or incompetent Republicans, as well as Democrats. And, although John is a Republican, Scott is a Democrat and I register as unaffiliated. The news outlet that, over the past two weeks, has captured The Rhino’s function the best is National Public Radio (NPR), which doesn’t compete directly against us and could form its assessment without having been endlessly beaten by The Rhino. “It’s very closely a watchdog of city government and county government,” NPR Greensboro Bureau Chief Jeff Tiberii said on The State of Things on Thursday, May 9. “It has very consistently covered municipal politics for the last two decades … I would say it’s almost the antithesis of USA Today, if you’ve ever traveled or woken up in a hotel room and you have

eight to 12 inches on what happened in Cleveland this week, or a natural disaster in Middle East, whatever the case may be. “With The Rhino Times, you’ve got 30 or 35 inches. You’ve got a novel. You’ve got one article to sift through during lunch. It’s comprehensive and it’s much more layered than anything you’re going to see at this point on the internet or in a daily newspaper.” Breaking novels. That’s an outfit any newspaperman could be proud to have worked for. There are few left.

Rumors (Continued from page 68) --If we did nothing else, we created a place for people with stories about problems about the government to call and a clearing house on who to call to get something done. This week, even when we have told people that we had actually gone out of business, they insisted on telling us stories about government misbehavior. Also, we have fielded calls for years from people who want to know who to call for this or that, or how to get a public record. We hope someone takes over that job for us because most of the time it only took a few minutes to steer someone in the right direction. --I want to thank the News & Record for being so kind during what is a trying time for us here at The Rhino Times. Not just The Rhino Times, but our entire industry is struggling, and I greatly appreciate the kind (Continued on page 78)

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

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Page 74

Yost (Continued from page 62) the years. For instance, there’s Anthony Council, who is our graphics guy and the coolest man in the world, and Lisa Bouchey, and Rachel Bailey – who was sometimes as mean as a rattlesnake but I liked her. And there’s Sherry Stevenson, the third most beautiful woman on the planet, co-writer Paul Clark who knows all, and Alex Jakubsen. There’s Julie Wilson, the world’s only perfect woman, Johnny Smith and Jim Garrison – may he rest in peace. Jim died days before the office Christmas party four years ago and, not long before that, he was still running around working hard for The Rhino at a time that he was so weak from his illness he could hardly stand up. One year at a Christmas party, I remembered to thank everyone but the people who deliver the papers, so I want to thank them now. And, also, thanks to Jerry Bledsoe and Orson Scott Card for their contributions. If you think about it, it is utterly amazing that a free weekly paper in Greensboro, North Carolina, both brings you those world-renowned writers and the quality of news that it does. By the way, a surprising number of people confuse me with Orson Scott Card because my name is Scott and we both write a column for The Rhino. It cuts both ways: Often they are really offended by my views on gay marriage, however, on the

Thursday, May 16, 2013

other hand, many of them really enjoyed my novel Ender’s Game. I’m stopping there but that’s because there are too many people to name and this is making me sad. In 2003, when the woman I wanted to marry left me, I went through a spiritual death and rebirth. At that time, it didn’t make any sense to me why that had happened. But, a few years ago, a thought hit me and I checked it out. I looked back through my old columns and I realized that, until she left me, I had never written about God. I never wrote about God before, but, after that, I wrote about God all the time. Around that time, I also wrote about a guy named Don McLean who I met at The Rhinoceros Times monthly parties called Schmoozefest. Don was in his 50s and I realized instantly that there was something different about him. I had no idea what it was, but I could tell there was something. One night I ran into him on the patio at WineStyles and we were talking about how I had been married once before but had never remarried. “Well, in the Bible it says that its best for preachers to be single,” he said, surprising me. “But I’m not a preacher,” I said. “Yes you are,” he replied. I took that as a great compliment. By the way, he never told me what it was that was special about him, but I found out not long after that. Here is what it was: He

was dying. That was the last conversation we ever had. He didn’t have long to live and he knew it. But it didn’t make him defeated or frightened. It just made him more vibrant, more alive, more passionate about the life he had left and about what the future held after death. In reality, we are all in the process of dying. It is not just the sick or the old or The Rhinoceros Times. It is everyone. But there is another part of it too, the most important thing: Death is not the end of the story, not by a long shot. In the end, there is salvation. At times salvation might seem distant and illusory, like a mirage of an oasis across the desert, but I assure you it is very real and it is there for you simply for the asking. I am glad I’ve had a chance to write about it. I have learned a lot here and it has been a very good run. It is remarkable how much this paper has brought to this community. It is astounding how much more the people in Guilford County know about their government because of the existence of The Rhino. By the way, I have something for you before I go. If you think I would leave you after all this time without telling you the meaning of life, without letting you in on the answer to everything – well, then you don’t know anything about me. If you’ve read me all these years, then you know I would never let you go without letting you in on that. I have distilled the meaning of the universe and the meaning of life into one word. Normally I’d keep you waiting for it, but time grows short. The answer, the answer to everything, is, of course … Love.

Farewell

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from angry readers. Sometimes they were angry with us and sometimes just angry. We’ve had a really good run and are incredibly thankful for all the kindness our readers have shown us. Not many people knew about this, but the few that had been told responded, “Is there anything I can do?” The answer is yes. The Rhinoceros Times is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. We need money to pay our creditors. I guarantee all the money raised will be used to pay debts. If you have been reading The Rhino from the beginning, that’s 21 years of free newspapers. We ask you to consider paying $1 for each of those years and sending us a check for $21 dollars. Of course, if you are moved to donate more, no amount is too large, and if you can’t afford $21 but want to send something, no amount is too small. Nickels, dimes and quarters will be graciously accepted. But we thought one dollar a year was not asking too much. This would be a donation. It is not tax

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That’s it. It is the meaning of life, the answer to every question you have or ever will have. It is the solution to all problems and it is the only thing that matters. As Woody Harrelson says in Natural Born Killers, “It’s love that killed the demon,” and, as the Beatles sang, “Love, love, love … Love is all you need.” I wish all of our readers much love and happiness – even those of you who are cheering our demise. I want to thank everyone who ever told me they enjoyed my column or a Rhino Times story, everyone who ever called into the Beep or wrote a letter to the editor or sent in a picture for Rhinos Around the World, every citizen or low-level government employee who gave us a tip, and every high-powered government official who gave us such great stories through their crazy or illegal actions, everyone who advertised with us or came to Schmoozefest, every hot girl who ever shared time, drinks, food, music, poses and smiles with me, and every person I ever saw reading The Rhino to find out what was happening or just to see if their picture had made it into the club ads. I especially want to thank John Hammer and the other members of the Hammer family who made this 10-year ride possible. You know, in life, it is exactly like they say: All good things must come to an end. The last 10 years have really been something – a phenomenal run. I’ll miss writing for each and every one of you, and it is my hope that, in the future, maybe even years and years from now, on some random Thursday morning when you pass the place where you picked us up each week, you’ll pause and take a moment to think about what was, once upon a time, the highly unusual and truly remarkable newspaper known as The Rhinoceros Times.

deductible and you won’t receive anything of value for it. But right now we are deep in a financial hole and every bit helps. If you would like to send a donation please send it to The Rhino Times, PO Box 9421, Greensboro, NC 27429. Thank you in advance. And we’d like to add that The Rhino Times will continue to have a web presence for as long as possible. I’d also like to thank the loyal beepers. Some of you have been calling The Rhino Times Beep line almost every week for two decades. We hope that we have provided a way for you to blow off some steam and maybe prevented a heart attack or stroke along the way. All the people who have contributed to the content of the paper with letters to the editor, whether signed or anonymous, we appreciate them all and enjoyed being able to provide an outlet for those who had something to say, but because of their jobs had to do it anonymously. Thanks again to the community for its support over the past 21 years.


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great number of people voted for Obama because they do agree with his political philosophy that the government needs to be bigger, tax people more and provide more services. The question that no one on the left seems to be able to answer is: How big should government be? What is the limit? Government at all levels is immensely bigger than it was when I was growing up. My father said that when he was a child going to public school in New Jersey that the principal had a boss and his boss was the superintendent of schools and the superintendent of schools had a secretary, and that was the administration for the school system. My father got a much better education than I got in public schools, and I believe I got a much better education than children are receiving today. We have added tremendously to the number of school administrators. The government overhead is enormous. But education by any objective standard is getting worse. In fact, my grandmother in a one-room schoolhouse received a better education than either one of us. Or maybe she was just a lot smarter. Obama in his first term made a power grab of unbelievable proportions with the

government taking over the healthcare industry. The repercussions from that are starting and it isn’t going to be pretty. But it doesn’t have to be health care or education. There is hardly anything you can do today without the government being involved. Eating, drinking, the air you breath, the government has its hands in everything. You even pay a tax on the rain that falls on your house. One of the joys of the newspaper business is that we are much less regulated than most industries because of the First Amendment, but still we are regulated. Obama and his supporters want more government regulation, more taxation and less freedom. Here’s a wonderful example of government run amuck. It isn’t national, it’s local, and you pay for it everyday. After 2008, the Greensboro planning department was looking around for something to do because development had come to a grinding halt. Oddly enough, right at that moment when they had made all the paperclip chains they could stand, the planning director decided that it was time for Greensboro to rewrite its entire zoning ordinance. This would give the planners something to do for years, even though they were not going to do the work

themselves. Work in government is what consultants are for. The planners would have to supervise the consultants and hold countless meetings with the stakeholder committee. It worked like a charm. The planners kept their jobs and, after a couple of years, Greensboro had a new zoning ordinance that was a lot like the old ordinance except they changed the names of the zoning districts to make it look like they had done something, and they slipped in a lot of new regulations. Somebody decided that no more than four townhomes should be connected in a row. Why four and not five or seven or 12? No reason. Someone liked four. People who lived in townhome communities where more than four were connected protested and the law was changed. But why was it made in the first place? The planners got to keep their jobs even though when it was first presented to the City Council, Councilmember Mike Barber suggested they cut the city’s losses and throw the whole thing away. That didn’t happen. Greensboro has a new zoning ordinance, the city has more power and more regulations to enforce and will soon need more employees to enforce them, which

means your taxes will be raised to pay for enforcing an ordinance the city didn’t need. If that is the way local government works, imagine what it’s like on the national level.

,,, So the IRS in an election year singled out conservative groups for audits and extra scrutiny. The result of being caught is that they apologize. Wow wouldn’t that be nice if it worked the other way. Imagine if you got audited by the IRS and they found that you owed $50,000 in taxes and you said, “I’m so sorry. I should have paid those taxes,” and all was forgiven. If heads don’t roll at the IRS, which means all of those involved get fired, the Republicans in the House should simply stop funding the IRS. The Republican Party being the stupid party won’t do anything of the sort. The mainstream media, which has dutifully reported the blatant use of the power of the federal government to affect the outcome of an election, will write about it no more. The mainstream media are just beginning to find the story on Benghazi when there are a hundred stories on Benghazi. Someone should get these questions answered. Why (Continued on page 78)


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didn’t the compound in Benghazi have proper security when other compounds do? When those at the compound realized they were going to be attacked why didn’t the State Department stop whatever else it was doing and send help? When the compound came under attack why didn’t the State Department or the military send help? What in the world happened to Ambassador Chris Stevens? How did his body end up at a hospital? Who found it? If this were a Republican administration, The New York Times and other liberal media outlets would have maps of where the body was found, exactly where he was when he died and how his body traveled to the hospital. I’ve read about everything I can find on Benghazi and all I’ve ever seen is that he was in the secure part of the compound and didn’t get out when they lit it on fire. Is it really true that State Department security is so incredibly poor that they don’t understand about fire? Military attacks have used fire for thousands of years but the State Department is unaware that a force attacking a State Department compound might use fire. It is inconceivable that even an organization led by Hillary Rodham Clinton could be so out of touch with reality. It appears that the main focus of the State

Department under Hillary Clinton was to arrange for her to fly to as many countries as possible. What else did she do? Did she broker a peace deal in the Middle East? Did she broker a peace deal anywhere? We know one thing she didn’t do was make sure that her employees were working under conditions as safe as possible, or try to rescue them when they were in danger. There is certainly risk in being in the State Department, but for over 30 years, through countless wars, insurgencies, conflicts, attacks and bombings, the previous secretaries of state had managed to keep all of their ambassadors from being murdered. Hillary Clinton should go down in history as a huge globe trotting failure as the secretary of state, but since the liberals write the history books as well as the newspapers she will be lauded as a great secretary of state and Benghazi will get part of one sentence.

,,, It’s hard to know what to compare Benghazi to because it was such a bizarre occurrence. The most powerful nation in the world sits on its hands while an ambassador and three other State Department employees are killed by an attack by a group associated with al Qaeda. When it’s over, first the secretary of state blamed it on a video, when everyone knows that isn’t true. And then said that

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since they were already dead what did it matter how they died or who was at fault. Imagine if a district attorney said that about a murder, or the county coroner said that about any dead person. It is such an incredibly stupid statement that it is hard to believe even Hillary Clinton said it. But maybe that is what her husband, William Jefferson Blythe Clinton, the only elected president to be impeached, said when he would come home at 5 a.m.: What difference does it make who I was with? I’m home now, aren’t I?

,,, How about this. Imagine a house catches on fire near the city limits. There is no doubt that the house is on fire but there is a question of jurisdiction, so telephone calls go back and forth. The city says it’s too busy to send a fire truck that far out. The county says that the driver is at lunch so the fire will have to wait. In the end nobody sends a fire truck. The house burns to the ground and four people are dead. The sheriff looks around and says he doesn’t think the fire was anybody’s fault and it really doesn’t matter who should have put it out because they are all dead now so there will be no investigation. Can you even imagine something like that happening? But how is that scenario so different from Benghazi? The State Department blames the Defense

Department, the Defense Department blames the State Department, and the secretary of state says it doesn’t matter because they are already dead.

Rumors

(Continued from page 72)

words from the N&R. As Editorial Page Editor Allen Johnson said, our relationship is “complicated,” but there is respect on both sides. I have a good idea how hard they have to work to put that newspaper in my driveway every morning and I appreciate it. Some day I hope Allen and I get to continue our discussion on race relations, but I doubt if we ever finish it. --I’m going to miss the Beep. I’ve read it every week and read a lot of beeps that the readers never got to see. We had some people who called week after week and would say such outrageous things and make such damaging statements that we wouldn’t run them in the paper, but they would call back the next week. By the way we never listened to the beep tapes. Some people were convinced we’d recognize their voice but there was no chance of that – the beeps were transcribed by a service that did a remarkable job of getting it right.

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President Barack Hussein Obama is a Chicago politician, so it is shocking that the news media are surprised that he has brought his Chicago-style politics to Washington. It’s all he knows. Obama won his seat in the US Senate by having confidential files on his opponents released. He destroyed his primary opponent by having his sealed divorce proceedings released, and his general election opponent dropped out of the race after sealed child custody hearing documents were released over the objections of both parents. Obama’s buddy and the man who helped him buy his house in Chicago, Tony Rezko, is in jail for fraud and bribery. The man that Obama used to brag about getting elected governor, Rod Blagojevich, is also in jail for, among other things, trying to sell Obama’s old Senate seat. For years conservative groups have been complaining about being targeted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the Obama administration. Now we find out it is true. And it’s not just conservative groups but Jewish and Christian groups also. Perhaps the Jewish community in the US might want to rethink its unquestioning support of Obama. The evidence so far is that Muslim groups are not being targeted by the IRS. It makes you wonder. The Obama administration tried to push this down, claiming that lower level civil service employees made the decisions to spend months and years investigating conservative groups while handing out tax exempt status to liberal organizations. But the evidence is already out there to prove this is system wide. One proof of that is that Barack Obama’s brother Malik Obama got retroactive tax-exempt status for his organization, the Barack H. Obama Foundation, when Malik Obama didn’t even apply for retroactive tax-exempt status and had been illegally soliciting donations claiming to be tax exempt for years before he applied. Nobody is quite sure what the foundation does other than raise money for Malik Obama, but its application sailed right through the IRS. So legitimate conservative organizations

Thursday, May 16, 2013

are held up for years, but an obvious scam by the president’s brother sails through in record time. That is neither a coincidence nor the decision of a low-level employee. That came right from the top. The argument that the IRS has not become a political organization under Obama just doesn’t hold water. But it should be no surprise. That is how Obama operates. If Obama didn’t think he was a dictator who is above politics he would have already fired someone. But he thinks he is immune, and he has been. But a couple of things have happened that have forced the press to pay attention. The biggest, from the point of view of the press, is that the Justice Department obtained extensive Associated Press phone records. Not just of the office but the Justice Department got cell phones, office phones and personal phones of reporters and an editor. The Justice Department also got two months of records of the main number for AP reporters covering Congress, as well as AP offices in New York and Hartford, Connecticut. We have had presidents and even attorneys general who believed in the First Amendment. Obama does not. Obama from his actions clearly believes it is the job of the press to tell the people what Obama wants them to be told. The press was already starting to get a little annoyed with Obama because he and his administration so blatantly lied to them about the Benghazi terrorist attack where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. The mainstream media have routinely defended the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their actions, but now the press knows that Obama just lied to them, and that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, in a very specific and detailed manner, lied to them. Now the mainstream media are going to have to eat crow and admit that on this one the rightwing whackos were correct all along and they were wrong. Even the moribund White House press

corps (which should usually be called the White House press corpse) is starting to ask the White House press secretary real questions and demanding answers about Benghazi. And then came the revelation that the Justice Department had seized all of those phone records from the Associated Press. Washington runs on leaks. If government officials didn’t leak information to the press there wouldn’t be much reason to have reporters in Washington. So imagine that you are a reporter in Washington and you have worked your way up the food chain to cover the White House. To get there you have had to file some pretty good stories, which also means you’ve got some confidential sources. You probably have some sources you talk to regularly who no one suspects are talking. Then you find out the Justice Department is seizing phone records of news organizations. If it happened to you that would reveal who your sources are and that you talk to them on a regular basis. In other words, your sources are never going to call you again and they will not accept your calls. Leaks sound bad, but reporters have to have sources who they can call to check rumors out and just get things explained. Some of it is innocent and some not at all innocent. The Watergate scandal that caused the resignation of President Richard Milhous Nixon was the result of a source that was nothing but a disgruntled employee who was passed over for promotion. But if the Justice Department can just come in and seize phone records of any news organization it wants then there is no freedom of the press. The press becomes just another government agency, and with that, any freedom that the American people still had is gone. Confidential sources are often confidential because they don’t want to lose their jobs. If the Justice Department can, without warning, get hold of phone records for news organizations then there is no such thing as a confidential source. Benghazi is scary because of the blatant

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By John Hammer abuse of power and the belief in the Obama administration that what they say is true regardless of what really happened. The IRS scandal is terrifying because if the president is willing to usurp a government agency as all encompassing as the IRS and use it for his own political gain then Washington is even more corrupt than many of us right-wing whackos thought. But to have the freedom of the press jeopardized could end the American way of life. A people can’t be free without a free press, and it looks like Obama is doing everything in his power to end the free press before he leaves office in 2017.

,,, One of the frightening things about Obama winning a second term is not Obama himself, but the fact that the majority of the voters who voted in the 2012 presidential election voted for him. I don’t for a minute agree with Obama’s assertions that because people voted for him they agree with everything he believes. Some people voted for him because he’s a good looking man, because he is younger than his opponent, because he is a Democrat, because he is black, because he is from Hawaii, because he is from Chicago, because he graduated from Columbia, because he has a Harvard law degree, because he taught at the University of Chicago Law School, because he has two daughters, because he was a community organizer and for every other reason under the sun that has nothing to do with politics. But Mitt Romney got a lot of votes for the same reasons. A lot of people in voted for Romney because he is white, because he is older and more experienced, because he is a successful businessman, because he is a Mormon, because he speaks French, because he has five sons and all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with what his political beliefs are. But what I find so scary is that some (Continued on page 76)

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