Pete's Prep: Thursday, May 31, 2018

Let me begin with a plea:

Please do not spread the videos of the Florida school shooter. They have virtually no news value and it will only encourage copycats. Thanks!

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend

So goes the cinematic axiom.

And in the age of social media, legends get created pretty quickly. Especially when journalists from major media outlets rush to tweet out information that has not been verified.

Like this, from a CNN reporter:


That surely is a soft-pedaled retraction.

From today's New York Times:

Over the weekend, you may have seen a horrifying story: Almost 1,500 migrant children were missing, and feared to be in the hands of human traffickers. The Trump administration lost track of the children, the story went, after separating them from their parents at the border.

The news spread across liberal social media — with the hashtag #Wherearethechildren trending on Twitter — as people demanded immediate action.

But it wasn’t true, or at least not the way that many thought. The narrative had combined parts of two real events and wound up with a horror story that was at least partly a myth.

The fact that so many Americans readily believed this myth offers a lesson in how partisan polarization colors people’s views on a gut emotional level without many even realizing it.

The editor of the New York Times Magazine helped this fake news, by the way.

Which makes this analyses all the more enlightening...

Long-running social science surveys have found that since the 1980s, Republicans’ opinions of Democrats and Democrats’ opinions of Republicans have been increasingly negative. At the same time, as Lilliana Mason, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, writes in a new book, partisan identity has become an umbrella for other important identities, including those involving race, religion, geography and even educational background. It has become a tribal identity itself, not merely a matter of policy preferences.

So it’s not that liberals didn’t care about immigrant children until Mr. Trump became president, or that they’re only pretending to care now so as to score political points. Rather, with the Trump administration’s making opposition to immigrants a signature issue, the topic has become salient to partisan conflict in a way it wasn’t before.

Ah. I see.

When liberal reporters tweet an old photo in an effort to blame President Trump, it's not really their fault. It's just that their opinion of Republicans, in general, is negative. And it's actually President Trump's fault that journalists spread this misinformation, because he has focused on this issue. 

I don't see how this convinces anyone to trust media.

$24 billion NC budget moves towards passage amid Democrats' outcry

North Carolina state lawmakers debated the budget proposal yesterday, with Democrats opposing the plan because it doesn't spend enough money. They also object to the secret process in which the budget was crafted, as well as their inability to offer amendments.

I agree that the GOP process is bad and unhealthy for the body politic. I also admit that I have a hard time offering a soft shoulder for Democrats to weep upon, given their similar transgressions when they controlled the General Assembly.

The process under the Republican leadership stinks, but the budget is generally good.

The process under the Democratic leadership stunk, and so did their budgets.

NC Civitas has a good summary of the budget plan:

North Carolina legislative leaders released their agreed-upon budget proposal Monday, with votes  expected to take place this week.

The spending total of $23.9 billion marks an increase of less than four percent over current year expenditures, and about half a billion less spending compared to Gov. Cooper’s spending plan.

The proposed legislative budget would allow previously-scheduled tax cuts to go into place in 2019. Specifically, the state’s personal income tax rate will fall from 5.499 percent to 5.25 percent, while the corporate income tax rate would drop from 3 percent to 2.5 percent. The tax relief will result in 99 percent of North Carolinians either paying less or paying no state personal income taxes.

The budget also includes the fifth straight pay raise for teachers, along with raises for other state employees. Budget writers also add $161 million to the state’s rainy day fund, boosting the balance to $2 billion to better prepare the state for the next natural disaster or recession.

Also, there is a separate $3 billion transportation bond proposed. You can read about it (and the politics) in this John Locke piece.

One of my favorite stories from yesterday's coverage was this News & Observer "analysis" of how the budget vote could be used in the upcoming election. The imagery created by professional wordsmiths leaves a pretty clear impression of who is being bad and who is being good.


In another News & Observer story about money going to religious-affiliated groups. It later added additional charities.

The new state budget unveiled by Republican legislators Monday night will send hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to religious groups, including more than $1 million to pro-life pregnancy clinics.


Perhaps the biggest religious recipient of state money is Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, a pro-life group that operates clinics for expecting mothers statewide, which will receive $1 million.

However, that's actually a cut from the $1.3 million legislators had previously approved for the group. This year's budget takes the $300,000 cut from that group and redirects it to a different pro-life group, the Human Coalition, which describes itself explicitly as opposing the "abortion industry." It operates clinics in Raleigh and Charlotte, and the new state money is for its Raleigh clinic. 

I note the absence of the phrase "women's health."

Likely it's a simple oversight, however, it's a way the abortion debate gets framed by the language used to describe the participants.

Meanwhile, the 87-year old Democratic Representative Mickey Michaux called it "the rape of this budget."

Which does really make any sense.

Nonetheless, it's a comparison that usually triggers massive outrage mobs on social media. But, in this case, not so much.

Michaux explained his thinking in an interview on Wednesday.

"What I was saying was that it’s something that certainly shouldn't happen," he said. “Particularly if you have the numbers (to pass a budget through a vote), there’s no reason to do this … unless you’re afraid that what the other party has to offer would be better.”

In response to a question, he acknowledged that rape victims might be offended that he compared the budget process to what they suffered through and said he didn't mean to diminish their pain.

“You don't think about that on the spur of the moment," he said. "That’s not the context under which I said it.” 

Nonetheless, Michaux said he stood by his comparisons to rape and to North Korea, saying he'd received no calls about the former comment. He did say he had received a couple of calls from people concerned that he compared North Carolina to North Korea.

So, he got calls about comparing NC to North Korea, but nothing about the rape comparison.

It's almost as if people are willing to overlook this kind of language when it's their guy using it.

Buncombe County CFO resigns

The Chief Financial Officer of Buncombe County, Tim Flora, resigned yesterday.

The Citizen-Times has the story:

Buncombe County Chief Finance Officer Tim Flora resigned Wednesday, nearly a week after commissioners discussed his job performance during a private meeting.

Flora's last day is June 15, according to a news release issued by the county Wednesday afternoon. He offered a 30-day notice but is "mindful of board needs and prepared to make whatever accommodations to ensure a smooth transition," according to his resignation letter.


He is the latest of several key departures since former Buncombe manager Wanda Greene fell under federal investigation. Longtime assistant county manager Jon Creighton retired in December; board attorney Bob Deutsch resigned in October; and earlier this month, commissioners hired a replacement for Clerk Kathy Hughes, who will retire after a more than 30-year career with the county.

"The time is right for me to leave," Flora said in his letter. "I am a legacy from a prior administration. You as a board should be able to choose a CFO meeting your needs. I have enjoyed my 10-year career with the county and am proud of the many accomplishments of the past three years as your CFO."

When reporter Jennifer Bowman lists all of the departures like this, it conjures a certain analogy about a sinking ships.

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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