News that the government has been secretly collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top-secret court order must have come as a letdown for members of the Washington press corps. They thought the government was waging a quiet war on a free press when it took the phone records of a Fox News reporter. Now it turns out the government is doing it to everyone.
That this is an outrageous intrusion on civil liberties ought to go without saying.
That it would happen eventually, however, was completely predictable.
Who do our state’s colleges and universities exist to serve? The popular short answer is their customers.
But who are their customers? Students? Parents? Potential employers? College professors and other instructors certainly can tell you that students and their parents think they are the customers, demanding a high level of service and constant access.
But their view is at odds with the one that put Gov. Pat McCrory in headlines back in February, when in a radio interview he criticized liberal arts courses that he perceived as having no benefit in terms of getting a job. He said he would propose legislation to change higher education funding “not based on how many butts (are) in seats but how many of those butts can get jobs.”
Not often does a politician in a position of power so publicly burn a bridge the way that state Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, did on Wednesday.
Announcing that he was stepping down as chairman of the House Finance Committee, Brawley issued a public letter to the Republican House speaker, Thom Tillis, that WRAL accurately described as “blistering.”
If there are any NASCAR fans left who have hope that there remains a trace of the sport’s soul, Bruton Smith is here to implore them to abandon all hope.
Smith, whose Speedway Motorsports makes more money off of NASCAR than anyone or anything without the name France attached to it somewhere, is one of the money-grubbing sons of Mammon who bought the North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1995 for the sole purpose of cutting out its heart -- taking its two Winston Cup races to other, bigger tracks where the races would make more money.
In that same spirit, Smith told Charlotte television station WBTV last week that he likely will move one of the two races -- the October one, deep in the championship chase -- that are now held at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Las Vegas. Why? He was crystal clear.
The state Senate proposes eliminating the part of the law creating the state lottery that requires spending its proceeds on four educational purposes.
When the lottery was created in 2005, the General Assembly said that half the proceeds should go toward class-size reduction and pre-kindergarten, 40 percent for school construction, and the rest for college scholarships for needy students.
Now budget-writer Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, says it makes sense to eliminate the legal language because no one follows it.
Are the original Charlotte Hornets far enough in the past for us to feel nostalgic about them?
Michael Jordan has asked the NBA to let him change the name of his Charlotte Bobcats to the Charlotte Hornets, the name that was taken by Charlotte’s first NBA team in 1988.
Looking over a list of the changes proposed by the state Senate in its budget proposal for fiscal 2013-14, the mind reels.
There is too much in it begging for commentary. Trying to cover it all would be too confusing. Here are a couple things – or 22, depending on how you county them – that caught our eye.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
That’s cornerstone wisdom passed down through generations.
We might suggest a corollary: If you need a tune-up, don’t buy a new car.
But at first blush, that seems to be the approach that Senate Bill 127 takes toward the state’s economic development efforts.
The state NAACP has pledged a weekly civil-disobedience campaign called “Moral Mondays” at the General Assembly in protest of what the civil rights group calls the extremist agenda of the legislature’s Republican leadership.
Risking arrest while marching, standing or sitting in place in protest is a time-honored element of non-violent, civil disobedience to draw attention to a cause and demonstrate how strongly those protesting feel about it.
But we question whether the cause in this case is clear and tangible enough for this tactic to be effective.
Legislators are free to spend all their time passing resolutions in favor of sunshine and puppy dogs if they like, but it’s not a useful way to spend their time.
A current bill under consideration in the Senate is not quite that frivolous, but it’s not far off because it would accomplish nothing.
The bill says students can pray, express religious viewpoints, possess or distribute religious literature and organize religious groups as long as they don't disrupt schools.
In other words, it says students have the same First Amendment rights they already have.
In theory, toll roads in urban areas could free up tax money for rural counties. But under a plan like Gov. Pat McCrory’s that would lock in 40 percent of funding for “statewide priorities” and would leave just 20 percent of funding to be split among districts for local priorities (rural legislators on a House committee tentatively got that increased to 30 percent on Tuesday), toll revenue would free no tax money for use elsewhere, only ensure that urban areas have plenty of money while everyone else waits.
Everyone thinks someone else’s ox deserves to be gored.
Prepare for the wailing when the details of Gov. Pat McCrory’s transportation funding proposal eventually get translated to dollars and asphalt.
Just an idea, but maybe there should be a rule that anyone in elected office who openly expresses the thought that his or her elected position – one to which the public elevated that person – entitles him or her to special treatment, that person needs to be immediately ineligible for re-election.
This idea came up after reading the other day about a California congressman who had scripted what he apparently thought would be simply an awesome display for the TV cameras but, not surprisingly, was overmatched by his opponent, who happened to be Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno.
It’s a given that the majority of North Carolina voters either are conservative or lean that way on a great many issues.
Perhaps that’s why most of them don’t seem to like what they see coming out of the General Assembly this year.
Public Policy Polling reported on Monday that the General Assembly has an approval rating of just 20 percent; the legislature gets a thumbs-down vote from an eye-opening 56 percent.
Google’s announcement that it will spend $600 million to expand its data center in Lenoir – on top of the initial $600 million announced in 2007 – prompted more songs of praise at Friday’s press conference than you’ll hear anywhere outside of a revival tent.
Journalists generally are awful singers, but we agree: This is nothing but good news.
But the journalists and dignitaries had barely left Google’s property before the first contrary voice was heard.
Like pretty much all general-circulation newspapers, the News-Topic gets a fair amount of advertising revenue from the legal advertising and public notices that governments now are required to publish in newspapers. It is that very expense that SB287 purports to try to save local governments.
But we doubt that those behind the bill truly believe local governments will realize much savings, if any.
In many ways one of the most egregious of the proposed education reforms is one under Senate Bill 337 that would remove requirements for charter schools to hire not only certified teachers but even teachers who have a college degree of any kind.
The implication seems to be that there is nothing more to teaching than knowing your subject and talking about it.
You have to wonder whether, if it were anyone other than Google coming in, Caldwell County leaders in 2007 would have thought it reasonable to close a five-mile section of railroad and use $1.3 million in federal, state and local money to create the freight-transfer facility that has introduced this area’s residents to the word “transload.”
The transload facility – “transload” refers to moving shipments from one mode of transportation, such a rail, to another, such as trucks – makes it possible to continue serving the freight needs of industries beyond the current end point of the rail spur. And it potentially could serve new industries as well, as some Lenoir City Council members mentioned at their meeting Tuesday night.
But as council members also noted, while there is a company willing to lease and operate the facility, no one seems to want to own it, including some of the government officials who have voted in favor of the city and county joining to buy it.
One of the frequent criticisms of moderates is that they don’t hold true to core tenets that more avid members of their party believe are vital.
In politics, a synonym for moderation is pragmatism, the land from which leaders in the furniture industry now are beckoning Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly in an attempt to head off a McCrory budget proposal that aligns well with free-market ideals but not so well with reality.
We suppose it’s possible Tillis is not telling the truth. But how do you know unless you engage and try to work with the legislative majority – a veto-proof majority, by the way, even if the governor were a Democrat – to craft a measure that, though you think it unnecessary, at least makes you think it will cause no harm?
The first instinct when confronted with the topic of drones in Lenoir is to laugh. It seems silly.
But 10 years ago it seemed silly to think that soon we would have readily available handheld supercomputers that answered our spoken questions (and there is talk of shrinking them down to wristwatch size). When the first conceptual images came out a few years ago of a Google project to create glasses that could project data about your surroundings onto lenses in front of your face, people thought surely that’s a long ways off, but go to your computer now and Google “Project Glass.” It’s here. Soon it will be for sale.
Sometimes it’s nice to be known as a hot spot. When it’s the Red Cross saying it about Caldwell County, that would mean this is not one of those times.
Those outside the 11th District who don’t much more about U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, the newly elected Republican in the district, than that Tea Party groups are firmly behind him might ascribe a series of stereotypes to him.
If Meadows’ performance Friday evening during his first official visit to Lenoir, a town hall meeting at the Caldwell County Public Library on Hospital Avenue, is typical of how he operates, that would be a mistake.
Although fans of the two-story, inflatable Frosty the Snowman that beckoned to drivers on Morganton Boulevard during the Christmas season wasted no time booing the decision not to make an exception for it in Lenoir’s advertising restrictions, it’s hard to see how the Lenoir Board of Adjustment could have ruled any other way.
It goes without saying that we hope new NC Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker is right in saying that "the best is yet to come."