Monday, April 30, 2007

Tax Reform Delayed in NC

Inspired by what I learned at the rally for a state earned income tax credit held by ACORN and Working Families Win a couple of weeks ago, I've been trying to pay closer attention to news about our local and state taxes here in NC.

I was a bit surprised to find out that a panel of business and government leaders, charged with making tax reform recommendations to the legislature, has decided to delay passing along their conclusions. I don't know how long this panel has been working on the issue, but when I see that they are trying to lift the Medicaid burden from counties and shift the tax burden off our working poor, I'm not happy with the delay.

WRAL had this on their web site, last night:
The commission was asked to consider how to retool the state and local tax systems as North Carolina has moved from a traditional manufacturing economy to one that relies more on services and Internet-based sales.

Two weeks ago, commission members said their top priorities for tax reform included eliminating the counties' share of Medicaid expenses and reducing both individual income and sales tax rates while expanding what could be taxed.
Basically, the panel is looking at taxing services in North Carolina to help broaden the tax base. Some on the panel think only certain services should be taxed, while others think fairness requires all services should be included if any are taxed at all.

When it comes to easing or eliminating the amount that counties must pay for Medicaid, the panel isn't sure whether money is available to remove this burden from all counties or just the poorest of the 100 counties in the state.

The panel has also said that low income residents could see the amount they pay in taxes eased or eliminated through an increase in the standard deduction. Good, but not good enough. I didn't see any discussion about a state EITC. This delay by the panel might give groups pushing the tax credit for the working poor a chance to be heard before a final decision is made.

It's an interesting piece and I'd like to know more about the panel.

In my research I was surprised to find this little morsel by Jack Betts from last year. It's hosted by the NCSU Institute for Emerging Issues and curiously enough Betts says that tax reform doesn't appear to be a priority for Easley or his staff.
The mere mention of tax reform seems only to drive the governor - or at least his staff - up the wall. It's a good topic to mention if you want to see some serious eye-rolling in the governor's office.
Hmmmm.... Do you think that maybe the panel wasn't feeling a sense of urgency from the state's top CEO to complete this task?

Or maybe, they simply had a hint that this news was about to break:
Legislative leaders received more good news about North Carolina's financial picture Monday, learning the state has $260 million more than had been expected in its coffers from April tax filings.

The extra money means North Carolina has brought in $1.1 billion more than anticipated through the first 10 months of the fiscal year, giving budget-writers more breathing room in forming a two-year spending plan that begins July 1.
Excess cash and lots of it. I'm thinking now isn't the time to back away from reform. Now is the time to find the way to ease the medicaid burden on counties, broaden the tax base and eliminate the undue tax burden on the working poor.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Congressional Democrats Come Through for NC's 8th District

It's a well-known Robin Hayes campaign stunt, going from town to town carrying a giant blank check that he can fill in and erase at will to show his audience how much pork he plans to deliver to their county. This past campaign cycle, Hayes made more campaign promises than he and his fellow Republicans were prepared to deliver.

After the November elections while they still held the majority, the Republicans intentionally chose to leave Washington without passing the final spending bills. The very bills that would have allowed Robin Hayes to keep all those giant promises to his constituents.

Instead, Hayes let those giant checks turn into failed giant promises. He and his fellow Republicans intentionally didn't deliver. At first Republicans in the two houses of Congress blamed each other.
Kingston (R-Ga) said the blame rested with the Senate. The House had passed all 11 appropriations bills by last July and sent them to the Senate, which then passed its own versions, on which House leaders say senators were unwilling to compromise.

"The Senate got into a trap of inactivity,'' said Kingston.

Senators say they passed the money bills by August and blame the House.
Not long into the new year, Robin Hayes decided to blame the new Democratic majority. In an article from The Charlotte Observer [Sun. Feb. 4, '07]:
The biggest insult of all is that the new congressional leadership cut our local projects while boosting foreign aid," Hayes said in a statement. "I think that was a display of bad priorities.
Blaming someone else for his failures is not something we'd expect from a wealthy, powerful man, but that's what we have in Robin Hayes. So much for personal responsibility.

After the CAFTA debacle, you'd think Hayes would be shy about making promises he wasn't flat-out, completely, horizontally prepared to keep. Heh. You would be wrong.

Who didn't get what was promised? Stanly County was a double loser. According to the Stanly County Press:
The Albemarle-Stanly County Airport and Stanly County Water Authority will not be receiving funds thought to be earmarked by Congress.

The airport will not have $1 million set aside in an appropriations bill passed last June. The new water authority will lose $500,000.
Cabarrus County was another big loser with money missing that was critical to the development surrounding the new North Carolina Research Campus. According to the Independent Tribune the total amount of promised funds that fell through for Cabarrus was $3 million.

All is not lost, though. The new Democratic leadership in Washington is coming through with critical funding for county water infrastructure for both Cabarrus and Union Counties.

Robin Hayes' mouthpiece, Carolyn Hern, says it's just business as usual, no big deal, something congress does every two years.

I almost believed her until I saw how hard Julia Oliver of the Charlotte Observer worked to show that Robin Hayes should get credit for requesting this from the Democratic leadership. It turns out the Union County manager has been talking with Hayes about water infrastructure needs since 2000.
The designation came out of discussions that have been going on since 2000 between Hayes, the county manager's office and the county's Public Works Department, Hern said.

Putnam refuses to speak with the media by telephone and only answers questions in writing. She said in an e-mail Wednesday that she has discussed the county's water and sewer needs with Hayes' staff in recent months, but not specific projects.

Former County Manager Mike Shalati, whom the commissioners fired in January, said he had spoken with Hayes over the past few years about water and sewer infrastructure needs.
In other words, for the past six years Robin Hayes has been completely ineffective at getting any help for his counties while his Republican party controlled the purse strings even though Hern describes this legislation as "not controversial". Pa.the.tic.

I keep looking for good in this man and I keep coming up empty.

S.C. Dems Alive and Kicking

Jim Morrill has an encouraging report from the S.C. Democratic Convention. Excitement abounds.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Desperate for Dollars, the RNC Hangs State Parties Out to Dry

First it was the NRSC sending out a fundraiser last year that had the potential to scam those easily intimidated. Now the RNC appears to be throwing the NCGOP and other local GOP organizations under the bus.

The latest fundraiser? It's the mass distribution of "limited edition" photographs of Dubya and the wife. Yes, I'm a proud owner of one of these unique "limited edition" photographs of George and Laura Bush.

I'm sure it is quite valuable. It's a limited edition.....and it's signed.

I know, I know. You're all thinking what a lucky girl I am to have such a valuable photograph. Admittedly, I wouldn't have it without the help of my Republican husband. You see, he knew how important the photograph would be to me, so he wasted no time bringing it to my office. Unframed. This facilitates the application of a cork backing.

You might be wondering how selling a magnificent picture of George and Laura hangs state and local parties out to dry. Well, that part comes out in the four page letter that accompanies said exclusive, limited-edition photograph.

They are really pleased as punch with this photograph.
I hope you are as proud to receive the enclosed personalized photograph of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush as I am to send it to you today.

For more than six years, the liberals have peppered President Bush with personal insults, brazenly blocked critical legislation for partisan political purposes, and even issued bullying threats of impeachment....
Trust me. I'm freakin' thrilled to own this new dart board photograph. I can think of no better way to combat those scaaaaaaary libruls than to sell photos of Dubya to stoopid Republicans. Puh-leeze!

The letter goes on to make other completely false claims like:
I have no doubt that our nation is safer, freer, and more prosperous today because George W. Bush is our President.
Now isn't that a load of happy horse manure?

But, here's the part where the RNC proves just how greedy they really are. Instead of joining with their state parties to strengthen them, the RNC chooses to differentiate themselves as the "official" Republican organization.
I am writing to you today on behalf of our President and the entire leadership of the Republican Party to invite you to join our cause as the newest member of the Republican National Committee (RNC) from North Carolina.

The RNC is THE national Party organization. We serve as the umbrella group for state and local Party committees, leading the effort to elect Republican candidates to office at all levels, all across the country.

The President has given the RNC a broad, yet clear, mandate -- Build the Party's grassroots base of support and lay the groundwork for Republicans to regain control of both Chambers of Congress and hold onto the White House in the 2008 elections.
Get that? They are THE national organization. The "have no imitations", "we're the big boys with the presidential mandate" language has got to have some state party leaders feeling just a bit emasculated. Quick! Somebody ask Linda Daves how it feels to have the RNC pull the rug out from under her just when she's getting to sit in the big boy chair.

If you've read this far thinking I'm going to provide a link to a scan of my valuable, personalized, signed, limited-edition photograph, you can keep on wishing. If I violated the RNC's copyright and shared an image of the photograph, I would immediately devalue the millions limited number of photographs currently on the market.

As thrilled as I am with my new prized piccie, I wonder how many Republicans will be equally thrilled. The RNC decided to take no chances that the photograph alone would entice their loyal base into sending money. They resorted to a favorite Republican tactic.

Most Americans are still decidedly more conservative than Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democrat (sic) Leader Harry Reid, and other leading Democrats such as Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton.

Now is clearly not the time to walk away from your Party and your President. Now is the time to rally behind all we believe in, to move our Party forward, for the good of country and future generations.
Boy, do they sound scared. They should be. Bush's approval ratings among Republicans is still between 72% and 76% according to most recent polls. However, that's down about 20 points over this time four years ago. That can put a pinch on fundraising. Even worse for Republicans, Bush has only about 24% approval among Independents. At a time when Republicans are struggling to maintain their voter base, it's going to be next to impossible for them to expand their donor base.


State Senator Malcolm Graham Declines to Run for Mayor of Charlotte

State Senator Malcolm Graham has decided against running to replace Pat McCrory as mayor of Charlotte. Jim Morrill of The Charlotte Observer has the expanded story on Graham's announcement.
State Sen. Malcolm Graham found his epiphany in the closet.

Saturday morning, he had to decide what to wear -- a suit, to attend Mecklenburg County's Democratic convention, or sweats, to go to his daughter's basketball tournament.

He chose the sweats.

"That was a telling moment about what I really wanted to do, and where my focus was," Graham said Monday.

The choice helped Graham clarify a decision not to run for Charlotte mayor this fall, ending weeks of speculation. The two-term senator also said it's "unlikely" that he'll run for re-election in 2008.
Malcolm Graham is my senator and I've known him for a while. I think he would do a terrific job as mayor of Charlotte. I know a lot of people who agree with me.

Graham owns his own consulting firm where he works to help African American business owners and entrepreneurs. Given his background and career choice I feel certain he would prioritize efforts to continue breaking down barriers that run along racial and socio-economic lines.

When faced with a difficult decision, Malcolm Graham is a man who would do the right thing. I trust that is what he is doing now.

If he ultimately decides against continuing in the NC Senate, I won't count him out for the long haul. His girls will be in college and that empty nest might just send him looking for a new hobby. He has enough fans among Charlotte voters to assure an easy return to politics if he ever decides to seek office again.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Candidate for NC Lt. Gov, Dan Besse Speaks to BlueNC

Dan Besse, one of our strong Democratic candidates for Lt. Governor in North Carolina, attended the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party convention on Saturday. We had a chance to speak with him and he was kind enough to allow an impromptu video introduction.

Dan Besse speaks to BlueNC:

Thank you, Dan Besse for giving us this wonderful introduction. Thank you for doing it with zero notice. You obviously know why you are running and you've given us a great deal to think about.

Update: I meant to add that we are working to feature the other candidates for Lt. Gov. at later dates. I have only met Hampton Dellinger and Dan Besse, but would have no problem supporting either of these men.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Larry Kissell Finds one of His 330 Votes, Robin Hayes Running Scared

The Larry Kissell team has found one of the 330 votes we were missing in 2006. Not only that, this vote actually takes one away from Robin Hayes. The young lady you see pictured on the left was willing to speak to us on Saturday at the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party convention in Charlotte. She explained that her family had always voted Republican and she followed suit.

Then, she made friends of a different political persuasion and she opened her mind to the things they were saying. It didn't take long for her to become a Kissell convert. Before you hear her testimonial, though, Larry needs your vote. No, not for congress. That comes later. Larry is in the running for DFA Grassroots All-Stars. At last check he was running a close fourth and we need to bump him up into the top three. Please visit DFA and vote for Larry Kissell.

Meet voter #1 of the 330 missing in November 2006:http:

OK, so we got a little silly at the end. Meredith is real. This isn't a stunt. She's also a very good sport. She had no idea we were going to drag her out of the convention to tape her. Not only did we catch her by surprise, she had just sat through her first Democratic convention. That's a lot in one day for a former Robin Hayes voter. Please join me in welcoming her to the Kissell voting family.

How can one voter make Hayes run scared? It isn't one voter. It's Larry Kissell and the enthusiasm surrounding his campaign that has Hayes running scared. There have been several indicators, but I'll just go into a couple today.

I took a look at the contribution levels of his family members. Granted, many have given and have been generous through the years. One, and I won't name names, stopped giving after 2001. Now, she and her husband(?) are both in with two donations of $2300 each. They've each given for the primary and general of the '08 cycle.

Another relative typically gave $500 a year until the 2006 cycle when Hayes was so scared by Larry Kissell this person forked over so much he had to refund her $1400. If Open Secrets is correct, Hayes still owes this poor woman a refund. Ooops.

I'm not knocking Hayes for turning to family for support. That's normal and everyone does it, even people worth $55 million like Robin Hayes. I'm just looking at the trends of family giving for Hayes and the heavy, early support shows they know he is in for a battle.

Another indicator, but I haven't looked at all specifics of the donors is that the PACs are giving earlier to the Hayes campaign than normal which boosts his early numbers. In the 2004 cycle Hayes had $16,000 in PAC donations for the first quarter. In the 2006 cycle he had $29,500 and in this cycle the amount has more than doubled to $61,000. That's a good thing for Hayes, too. The man is still retiring campaign debt and has less cash on hand than he did to start the 2006 cycle.

That's gotta stink.

Yes, he has more cash on hand than Larry Kissell. So, if you feel inclined you can help out there after you've voted at DFA. Just follow this link. Larry has just kicked off his 2008 campaign and fundraising has started. Believe it or not, Rahm Emanuel, the one person who came along too late for a lot of our tastes, is going to do his best to make up for that by headlining a fundraiser for Larry Kissell in Raleigh, NC.

There will be a lot of resources drawn to the presidential campaigns, so lets make sure the DCCC sees the netroots still supports Larry Kissell.

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Meck Dems on Solid Footing and Ready to Move Forward

I spent time at the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party convention yesterday and have decided to take a brief sabbatical from criticizing my local party. There is new leadership and an almost entirely new executive board. There were positive briefings from the state and city and a spirited talk from James Ferguson, a local civil rights leader. The only thing that seemed to be lacking was a good supply of Democrats.

Hopefully, that too will change as new leadership and the approaching presidential elections breathe new life into our local party. The key will be keeping the folks involved year round who just seem to crop up during the big election cycles. Helping make that happen will be the positive energy from new leadership. It will also help to have positive energy from local elected officials and that will improve the further we move away from the scandals surrounding former NC House speaker, Jim Black.

Good news on the financial front for local Dems. We aren't rich, but all bills are paid and there is money in the bank in every account - from GOTV to checking. Woo Hoo! That doesn't let donors off the hook, though. Our party deserves a nice permanent facility. We need a place to hold phone bank sessions and meetings, to organize and to celebrate. If you're worried your money won't be used wisely, then get INVOLVED!

One thing I'd like to see our party do is move away from paid canvassers. If more time, money and energy was put into organizing precincts with effective local volunteers, our outreach efforts would be so much more effective. People would open their doors to canvassers who are their neighbors and not to strangers they are less likely to trust or listen to. Door-to-door canvassing works, but not if people won't open their doors.

Back to the convention......

The meeting chambers were too dark and my flash wasn't powerful enough to get good pictures inside, but I was able to get pictures of a couple of our local candidates before the meeting started. Patsy Kinsey (disclaimer: she's my mother), who represents city council district 1, enjoyed chatting with friends and supporters. I'm not sure how many people were there from her district, though.

Senator Dan Clodfelter was scheduled to bring greetings from the state legislature, but appropriately enough Tricia Cotham stood in for him. Most of you know she's one of our newest reps in the lege, having replaced Jim Black in district 100. She gave a spirited speech that I wish I had caught on tape so I could quote for you. Toward the end she was almost cheering us on and Pam B., my mother's campaign manager and a true saint of a woman, turned to me and said, "I really wouldn't want to have to follow that." Cotham received a healthy round of applause.

Many of the usual suspects were in attendance, but I noticed a few missing as well. One person in attendance, John Autry, announced his intention to challenge Larry Kissell for the Democratic nomination for the 8th Congressional District seat. Most of you, knowing my love for Larry, might assume that I would immediately eviscerate John Autry. Nope. I happen to like John and think he will do great things as an elected official. It just won't be as the congressman from the 8th CD in this state. He doesn't have a snowball's chance on a warm day of winning the nomination. Trust me. I would support Autry in a campaign for just about any other elected office and I hope I will have the chance.

Finally, a word about the MCDP's new chair, David Erdman. First, I know and trust David Erdman. He is a good man and has been a good friend to my family for years. In a past endorsement for political office, the Charlotte Observer had this to say:
Mr. Erdman has a thoughtful demeanor and strong analytical skills and is a creative thinker about government. He has presented an insightful and challenging view of Charlotte's future, from improving neighborhood quality to enhancing the police force....(He will be) the most effective in analyzing the city's needs and contributing to the council's efforts to meet them. We recommend David Erdman, who knows the city well, has an incisive mind and is likely to work effectively with others in charting the city's course.
This is the talent we now find leading our local party. The Mecklenburg County GOP should be quaking in its boots.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Working Families Win & ACORN Kick Off Campaign for a State Earned Income Tax Credit

Working Families Win and ACORN held a kick-off rally Saturday, April 14, for their campaign to promote the implementation of an earned income tax credit in the state of North Carolina. Several elected officials were there to speak and between 20 and 30 enthusiastic supporters cheered them on.

Many of those supporters were at the Police Athletic League to take advantage of another service offered through ACORN. PAL had been chosen as a free tax preparation site by ACORN. Benita Little, the Executive Director of PAL was gracious in her welcome and thanked ACORN for choosing PAL as a site for the tax prep service. According to Little, the families that had taken advantage of the free tax service at PAL had collectively received almost $150,000 back through the federal EITC.

One of the first speakers, Niksa Grier with Working families Win is a very passionate advocate for this cause. The crowd behind me were vocal in their agreement as she spoke. You can see a brief portion of her speech in the following video:

The next speaker was Charlotte's Mayor Pro Tem, Susan Burgess. Some of you might remember a couple of months ago when I posted that Burgess had been diagnosed with cancer. She is undergoing fairly extensive chemo, but that doesn't seem to have slowed her down one bit. Her energy level is just as strong as it was when she and I campaigned door-to-door for Larry Kissell back in early November last year. If the campaign can find one advocate with the enthusaism and energy that Burgess brings to her support, this issue should have no trouble finding the support it needs to get pushed through the legislature. For an excerpt of the Mayor Pro Tem's comments please see this video:

A friend who worked hard on the Kissell campaign here in Mecklenburg county introduced me to the next speaker last summer. Becky Gomer is an organizer for Working Families Win and she is phenomenal. Tami, known as Working for Change in the blogging world, and my friend mentioned above has asked Becky to write a guest post for BlueNC. If I ever needed information on issues that impact working class families or those living at or below the poverty line, I would ask Becky. The following video gives you a preview of what she has to say:

After speaking, Becky called on our friends from the legislature in attendance, newly appointed Rep. Tricia Cotham and long-time state Senator Charlie Dannelly. Rep. Tricia Cotham was selected to replace ex-speaker Jim Black and many (including myself) were not happy with some of the methods used in the selection process. However, Cotham is working hard to learn the ropes and to get out and meet constituents. She attended four events on Saturday and was holding a meeting at her home for Young Dems of Mecklenburg County on Sunday evening. It is admirable that she is working as hard in an off year as she will have to in an election year.

She also didn't do a bad job speaking to the issue. Her experience as an educator obviously is already coming in handy. With the condition of CMS schools as poor as it is, her background in education will be a benefit to Mecklenburg County.

State Senator Charlie Dannelly was the next to speak and he kept it brief. He has been representing this area in Raleigh for a good number of years and let it be known that he doesn't make a lot of promises. It means a great deal that he publicly offered his support for this issue.

My mother, Patsy Kinsey who represents district one on Charlotte's City Council joined her voice to the voices of the other elected officials to offer up a few words of support as well. Her district includes a good number of famlies that would benefit from a state EITC, so it was important for her to join in support of this issue.

The Charlotte Observer had committed to attend the rally, but was a no-show. Sue Myrick must have had a hang nail or Robin Hayes had another textile mill to close and they thought that was more newsworthy. Fortunately, Chanel 3 news came and interviewd Niksa and showed coverage of the event on their evening news.

This rally was simply the beginning of the campaign to bring a state earned income tax credit to North Carolina. I'll follow up tomorrow with more details and add an action plan for Tuesday.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Welcome BlueNC Visitors

I'm heading out to a rally to promote the idea of a state earned income tax credit. It's here in Charlotte at the Police Athletic League at Statesville and Oaklawn from 1:00pm to 3:00pm with the press conference at 1:30pm. Join us for this very worthy cause hosted by ACORN, Working Families Win, AARP and many other organizations.

Also, please visit the NCDP headquarters and make sure you have your county convention listed on your calendar. Many are being held today, so make sure you check the time and place.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Fannie Flono: Journalistic Goddess

I have spilled a bit of ink criticizing professional journalists for performing their jobs poorly. My degree in journalism, that has sat around gathering dust for a number of years, apparently gives me the right to offer this criticism - at least in my mind.

Today, though, I am calling out a journalist in order to heap praise. Fannie Flono, as associate editor at The Charlotte Observer, has written a column that has me cheering. She handles the explosive Imus and Duke cases with grace and speaks with a voice of reason. She also manages to smack down professional journalists and bloggers without really saying anything unkind. Ouch!

On the Duke case and Imus incident:
As Don Imus was getting canned for racist and misogynist remarks about the female Rutgers basketball team, members of the male Duke lacrosse team were being exonerated of specious and unsubstantiated rape charges in Durham. Imus, a middle-aged white radio "shock jock," aimed his incendiary words at black female athletes. A black female exotic dancer aimed her incendiary accusation at white male athletes.
She says so much more on each case and she does so using a minimum of words. I love the way she writes.

On professional journalists:
Many in the media performed badly in the Duke case. What passes for journalism these days is too often stenographic, "he said-she said" reporting. Too many of us have forgotten the main imperative: "Seek the truth." Giving both sides a say isn't the same thing.
I know BlueNC's Anglico and I have often referred to professional journalists as stenographers, especially when they parrot a candidate like Robin Hayes or an organization like the John Locke Foundation without doing personal research to determine if the information they have been given is actually true. It happens all the time. We're sick of it.

Blogging has exploded as a form of news gathering and distribution because the corporate media no longer practises real journalism. Some bloggers only present their side. The difference is that they don't do it under the guise of being an objective news source. We are openly biased.

About "denigration as sport" (shock jocks, shock bloggers, etc.):
When Imus cavalierly called the women on Rutgers basketball team "nappy-headed hos," he exposed the racist and sexist discourse many of us -- blacks, whites and others -- accept and applaud. Under the protective cloak of raging against "political correctness," Imus and others make sport of denigrating people.

Black women are a particular target, especially dark-skinned black women. Curiously, Imus called the women on the Tennessee team that beat Rutgers for the NCAA championship "cute," though many of them were light-skinned black women.

And yes, rappers, music producers and far too many men, especially black men, are guilty, too......
Flono didn't specifically say this applies to bloggers, but too many of us have strayed over the line of decency in the name- calling arena. I include myself in this group.

Fannie Flono's most recent column isn't just food for thought, it is a feast.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

NYC Vacation - Day 2

(Photos on the way)

Exhausted. Next time we fly, we won't make the mistake of getting up in the wee hours to take the earliest flight possible. The good news for today is we are starting off with just walking around Times Square and taking in some of the shopping.

Emily and I woke up early and quietly headed out to pick up breakfast. We weren't sure what to expect and after the previous night wanted to relax in the room to eat, so with coffee, OJ and other assorted breakfast goodies we headed back to surprise Dad and big sis Katie with breakfast. I hadn't been sure about staying around Times Square(42nd Street), however, it turned out to be very convenient and more fun for the kids than other areas might have been. It's easy to find little shops and eateries - oh and a Starbucks on every corner.

We headed out around 10:30 and just started walking toward 44th via 8th. There were some souvenir type shops we had seen the night before. My favorite is a nicer theater shop on 44th I think called Circle Theater. (268 W. 44th) I don't know why the address sticks with me and not the exact name of the shop. The shop carries song books, books, nicer souvenirs and the atmosphere is a bit more book shop than souvenir shop. We picked up something nice for my mother and headed to Broadway.

The girls had fun taking pictures of all the "adverts" as they call them and checking out the shops. Our second stop was Virgin Records. They were having a $10 CD sale and with three stories packed with music, tee shirts, videos, games and accessories, there was plenty to see and do. My girls love music and they both found CDs. Em picked up a game for her Gameboy and Kates purchased a tee shirt. They both found iPod cases with the Virgin Record logo on them in a small clearance cubby. Hubby picked up a few CDs. If you have teens into music, this is a must-see to put on your list.

After we exited Virgin Records we noticed the huge Hersey store display and we started heading that way. We had no idea there was a triple level M&M store across the street. We visited the Hersey store, which honestly has more going on outside than in, but the highlight between the two was the M&M store. We had fun taking pictures and looking at the merchandise. Emily picked out a tee shirt and I bought a mug. We were doing our utmost best to bolster the NYC economy this morning. Tourist tip - this shop was great for all ages.

After more picture-taking we stopped to have lunch. I remember having hotdogs from the street vendors when I was a little girl. I thought those were the best hotdogs I'd ever eaten, so I'd been talking them up. Hubby, Katie and I had a dog, but Ems wanted a pretzel. A pretzel for lunch? What the heck. It's vacation, right? We grabbed sodas and waters and headed back to the hotel room to store our loot.

We had planned the afternoon for our visit to the Empire State Building. It was several blocks away from the hotel and since our feet were a bit rested we decided to walk. It was still pretty cold and we had found out by checking the web site that the wait could be up to two hours. Ugh! It really wasn't a bad walk and Macy's had its windows decked out for the spring flower show. (sorry for the reflections)

Katie enjoyed seeing the New York versions of some of her favorite stores and shopping in a few of them. As we approached the ESB we noticed the line wrapped around the building and up the sidewalk. We waited for about 20 minutes when we heard the folks ahead of us talking about a three hour wait. Yikes! We decided to bag it and try again the next day.

Fortunately, we did some great souvenir shopping on the walk back to the hotel and then ducked into a fun little local pizzeria on 6th (I think) not too far from the hotel. Abitino's has great pizza and friendly staff. We had tried a couple of others, but they wouldn't make plain pasta for the anti-sauce youngest. Fortunately, Abitino's was happy to oblige and we had fun eating without a long wait.

Party animals we are not. After a couple of long days, we were all ready to pass out. With both the Met and the Empire State Building planned for our final full day in NYC, we were going to need to get some sleep.

Monday, April 09, 2007

NYC Vacation

Those of you who only come to TSD for political rantings and ravings can stop reading now. For the next couple of days I'll be updating on my family's trip to visit the big apple.

I'm so glad we waited until the girls are teens/preteens to come to NYC. They are having so much fun. We all are. Oh, and for those who try to spread the stereotype of New Yorkers as being rude and gruff, you are soooo busted. My oldest has declared this the nicest city we've ever visited.

First things first: TSA employees at the Charlotte airport are very friendly and helpful. We were there early, so no crowds to deal with and we made it through without any trouble at all. I honestly can't stress enough how easy the TSA employees made the experience even while following all security procedures from what I could tell. It helps that people are slowly getting used to taking their shoes off and new equipment helps make the process more orderly. My youngest was wearing a charm bracelet that we thought set off the detector, but the TSA employee immediately asked Em if she was wearing a belt and then when Em got a look of panic the woman handled it beautifully and told her it was OK and to just take her belt off. If your child is a frequent flyer, the process isn't that big of a deal, but if your child hasn't flown before the security process can be a bit intimidating. The TSA employees in Charlotte helped prevent that from happening.

We flew out early in the morning, so had to get up about 4:30am to get everyone showered, dressed and fed. Katie had flown as an infant, so this was basically their first time flying.

John arranged for a stretch limo to pick us up at the airport and I thought the girls were going to burst. Emily had never ridden in one and they got a kick out of watching people take pictures of our limo at the street corners. He said it wasn't that much more than hailing a cab. We dressed for comfort for the plane ride, so it must have been funny to see ragamuffin southern hicks climbing out of a fancy limo at our hotel. (Hilton at Times Square)

We spent some time getting to know the subway system. It wasn't running on the regular schedule, so we had some hesitant moments while we tried to figure out where the heck we were going (South Ferry) and how we were going to get there. Once again, have to show some love to some folks I'm sure rarely get any love. The MTA employees/guards were extremely helpful. One woman waved to prevent the doors from closing so we wouldn't have to wait for the next train. Another shouted to us across the tracks to help us find the correct local train. They were running on the "local" schedule which wasn't exactly self explanatory to visitors, but we were able to get where we needed to go with a little bit of help.

We decided to try the Staten Island Ferry since I had never been in my previous trips to New York and we were too tired for a formal tour through the Circle Lines. We had a blast. First when we were on Train 1 to South Ferry we were in the last car and saw a sign that said we needed to be in one of the first five cars in order to get off at South Ferry. (This was before we realized they were running on a "local" schedule.) We decided to move up a car at each stop, so we would leave our car and run to the next one each time the train stopped. We had done this (laughing hilariously the whole time) a few times and were in the fourth car when the announcer informed us that the train would NOT be going to South Ferry. After all that we were going to have to change trains then then take a shuttle. No biggy, but it took the fun out of our "car hopping" a bit.

The Staten Island Ferry trip was fun. There were very few travelers compared to the size of the ferry, so we could move around at will. It was very cold, windy and snowy but a great time for first-timers.

Katie seems absolutely at home in the crowds, which is a little scary. She wasn't intimidated in the least last night in Times Square where the crowds on the sidewalks were huge. Every teenager in the area must have been out cruising the sidewalks. It was probably a little livelier than the teenage crowds at Concord Mills Mall on a Friday night with a few thousand more teenagers involved :), but the police presense was impressive and I think kept the crowd in control. I wasn't able to take pictures because the crowd moved constantly and it was too hard to stop, aim and shoot. However, I was able to get some pictures of theaters on the side streets.

Emily is a little smaller and more intimidated by the crowds, but is having a blast. She wants to go to the top of the Empire State Building and Katie is OK to go along since the next stop will be to Virgin Records. We also are fairly close to The New Yorker building and she wants to go there and to The New York Times. I don't know why(other than the fact that she wants to be a journalist), but she wants to go, so we'll at least head on over.

We are getting ready to leave the room, so I will update about dinner last night and today's adventures later.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Scientists & Governments Argue Over Climate Change Language

I guess the United States isn't the only country where the government tries to tell scientists what their data actually says or should say. According to articles out in news media around the world, China, Saudi Arabia and other countries have joined the United States in requesting/requiring that scientists tone down the dire warnings contained in reports on Global Warming.

From the LA Times:
A new global warming report issued Friday by the United Nations paints a near-apocalyptic vision of Earth's future: hundreds of millions of people short of water, extreme food shortages in Africa, a landscape ravaged by floods and millions of species sentenced to extinction.

Despite its harsh vision, the report was quickly criticized by some scientists who said its findings were watered down at the last minute by governments seeking to deflect calls for action.
Much of the article in the Charlotte Observer was similar. It was written by an AP reporter. I noticed it did leave at all mention of the dire effects in North America. Hmmmm.....funny, the Associated Press would toe the Bush line....again. Sad, for us that the Observer chooses to do the same. Fortunately, we can still find better, more independent reporting from the LA Times.

They end their piece:
The U.S. delegation opposed a section that said parts of North America could suffer "severe" economic damage from climate change.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a prepared statement that political agendas need to be left behind and quick action taken to cut emissions.

"Global warming is already underway, but it is not too late to slow it down and reduce its harmful effects," she said. "We must base our actions on the moral imperative and the scientific record, free of political interference."

Susanne Moser, a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., said the political changes to the report do not diminish the need for action.

"When you have it this black and white, it is very hard to deny the reality and continue to do nothing," she said. "I don't know how you do that if you have a moral bone in your body."
Horrifying and encouraging at the same time. Take these reports and imagine the news at least a little bit worse than it is and you should have a fairly accurate picture. The science of global warming is real. This isn't speculation. Please read the articles.

Here are a few more:

The source itself: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Daily Telegraph - Australia
Harford Courant - Connecticut

Oh, and if you're wondering what we can do at home besides the obvious, Tim Toben visited BlueNC yesterday and offered some simple steps. It isn't necessarily going to cost you more to save the earth.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Don Imus: Beyond Offensive and Controversial

Don Imus is someone I can honestly say should never have been let out of his cave. This man has his head shoved so far up his ass there is no hope that he will ever truly enjoy the beauty of this world for the thin film of excrement that clouds his vision.

He appears to be so afraid of strong women, black women and strong black women that he can't discuss a women's basketball team without making a derogatory or racist comment.

Now, for those of you who have seen Imus you know the biggest thing on the man is that hat he wears. It has to intimidate the guy hiding under that big old hat that any one of these women could kick his ass seven ways to Sunday without breaking a sweat. It's got to bother the guy that he couldn't hold his own against any of these women physically or in any test of intellect or wit.

So, what did Imus do that has me breaking my new year's resolution and calling him names?

According to the Charlotte Observer, Imus and his producer, Bernard McGurk both referred to the players on the Rutgers Women's basketball team as "hos". Bernard called them "hardcore hos" while Imus called them "nappy-headed hos".

Sure, the two apologized. Called their words "thoughtless and stupid". They said they were sorry. We should be good with that, right?

Only, I'm not. I have two daughters. I would like to think that we have come far enough in this country, that my daughters could accomplish great things without having to face the misogynistic, racist, ethnic slurs that men like Don Imus toss about to make themselves feel better about their sorry, miserable lives. I would like to think that women are safe from being publicly ridiculed or smeared by a hate mongerer like Don Imus.

Unfortunately, we're not.

So, let's take a little bit of action.

First, let's send some support to the Rutgers Women's Basketball team.

Email them here.

Their mailing address is:
Louis Brown Athletic Center
83 Rockafeller Road
Piscataway, NJ 08854

Send a donation here. You can specify women's basketball.

The National Association of Black Journalists has called for a boycott of his show and initially called for Imus to be fired. Let's help them out. Contact Kristin Palmer. Her contact information is:

Kristin Palmer
Communications Manager
(301) 445-7100 Ext. 107

To email MSNBC TV and urge them to drop Don Imus go here and click on "Letters to MSNBC TV" and it will open an email form. If anyone knows a better way to contact MSNBC, please let me know.

Update: I changed the title of the piece to be a little more reader friendly. Also, I mistakenly posted to have MSNBC "fire" Imus, but they aren't his employers. It would be more appropriate to have MSNBC drop Imus from their lineup.