Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Scam That Cripples America!

Nothing has crippled our country more in the last thirty years than the demonization of taxes and it was deceptively easy to perpetrate.

Essentially the “perps” (or demons if you prefer:-) have worked incessantly to persistently dissociate taxes paid from services rendered.  They simply tapped into both a bit human nature and folklore.taxes

Everyone to some degree resents parting with their money even if just a tinge.

Couple that resentment with the age old scam that somehow you can “get something for nothing” or “get someone else to pay for it” and you have the formula that has gridlocked the country and throttled what had arguably become one of the greatest in the world.

Don’t give me that current distortion about the original “Tea Party” being a revolt against taxes.  The real Tea Party was a revolt against a tax loophole and taxation without benefit.  

People who buy into demonizing taxes are no better than the welfare, unemployment or loophole cheats they decry.  They know very well that by definition it is nearly impossible and impractical to exempt them as beneficiaries of public services.

A good example is that demonization of taxes contributed big time to America’s crumbling infrastructure by browbeating officials into deferring maintenance and replacement of roads, bridges, sewers, water systems and more.

Brilliant Sherlocks, now it will cost far more to get things back in shape under crisis!  Oh, I forgot, you don’t need roads, clean water, clean air, health or sanitation.  Or is it that you just don’t feel you should have to pay for it…as one individual protested to the late journalist, Daniel Schorr, “I don’t want my taxes being used for that, let the Federal Government pay for it!”

It is often abetted by reporting such as this recent news story (no it isn’t Fox this time, it’s NPR) that fails to connect the dots between taxes, what we pay, and the services they provide.  Similarly this one in USA Today barks about what failing to extend the tax cuts will do, without noting that only half of those who should, pay any taxes at all or that extending them will run up the deficit by $4 trillion.

This is more than the two wars we put on the credit card during those years when those who demonize taxes were in power, more than the bail-out to rescue the economy and more than health insurance reform (oh, except that last one will actually decrease the deficit.)

I’m not surprised the “perps” demonizing taxes have twisted the issue of healthcare insurance reform because they don’t believe they should be forced to have it.  Given their selfishness, we should check immediately to make sure they have their vehicles safety inspected and liability insurance in force.

These folks know the rest of society won’t take their dare and won’t deny them access to emergency assistance or ambulances or hospitals or medical equipment when they need it.

Let someone else pay for it…right? -

These yahoos are in the “outrage” business and therefore, the “calm down” business of hope doesn’t have a chance. 

- unless the rest of us get equally outraged whenever we hear someone go off on taxes…or call their bluff one day when they come begging for public services.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pros and Cons of The Durham News Service Website

I’ve had time to thoroughly test-drive the new website for the Durham News Service. Here are a handful of pros and cons:dns_screencap


  • It is very easy to add DNS as a tab on your browser (go to the top left, click on tools, then internet options and add this URL by coping and pasting into the list of home page tabs.)

  • Well laid out with DNS releases, new accolades and community organizational changes on the left, buttons for blogs, factoids and the all inclusive community event calendar in the center and a feed of news stories about Durham down the right side.

  • DCVB staff, who facilitate the DNS on behalf of all Durham messengers is updating the site now several times a day.

  • You can just check the tab on your browser whenever you want an update or you can subscribe to receive updates via email or RSS feed etc.

  • This is definitely going to make eNews obsolete and soon make real-time information possible. Savvy communities are already eyeing it as a best practice but again DCVB gives Durham a 20 second head start.

  • The DNS is evidence of yet another innovative DCVB strategic partnership, this time with Zift to get the real time feed of news stories about Durham from local and national sources.


  • Works well enough on my iPhone but DCVB needs to push ahead with mobile-specific formatting.

  • The need will never end for DCVB staff to get quicker and quicker at updates while as with any paradigm shift, continuing to produce and distribute the same information in older formats like eNews until everyone “gets it” (same reason we still have ‘80s fax technology around.)

  • Only time will tell how rapidly other messenger organizations will catch on and increase the feed of information to the site. I suspect a couple stubbornly won’t “get it” or somewhat threatened, will try instead to reinvent the wheel as one or two still seem to do with the all inclusive community calendar and the overarching Durham brand, two other tools designed to save time and money for other messenger organizations.

  • Alas, this won’t overcome the resistance of far too many in top positions to the simple act of “reading.” Or is it they just don’t want others to read preferring the push and shove of lobbying? As I was taught handling horses on a ranch, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” As a society we just can’t afford decision-makers who won’t read.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rabbi John Has The Right Idea

Linked here is a new blog by Shelly Green, chief executive of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB)  summarizing a visit to a Sikh Gurudwara near the Braggtown neighborhood of Durham, one of only two established in North Carolina since Sikh’s first began to migrate here in the 1960s.Sikh_Gurudwara

The visits are the idea of Rabbi John Friedman at Judea Reform here in Durham.  He has arranged for Sophomore high school age members, like Shelly’s daughter, to visit and learn about different faiths including over the next few weeks Muslim, Mormon or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-saints, Buddhist, Greek Orthodox, Pentecostal, Catholic and Presbyterian.

It is particularly interesting in light of the recent Pew research survey showing on average Americans can correctly answer only 16% of the questions about other faiths.  If we’re to safeguard religious tolerance in this country we’ll need to do better than that.

Remember, the Puritans had barely set foot here when they began to persecute Quakers and Baptist.  Then there is the infamous “extermination” order the governor of Missouri issued on Mormon Christians in the 1830s.  For more information, a new book is being released entitled American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.

I wish every faith was secure enough in its own faith to expose its young people to other beliefs by following John’s lead.

To receive the new blog by Shelly and other DCVB staffers:

Good News: 90% of the Bail-Out Recouped – Bad News: So-called Deficit-Hawks Want To Run It Up $4 Trillion with Tax Cuts

A columnist wrote in the current Newsweek that the best evidence TARP has worked is that 60% of the people in the country think it was a bad idea.

Yup, we’re obviously feeling “10 feet tall and bullet-proof again.”  How quickly we forget the dramatic economic crisis that focused the minds of politicians from all different persuasions into action.ru882085350

Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria also writes that this will be the cheapest financial bail-outs in history with 90% or more of the funds recovered.  He makes the point that bank bail-outs have always been unpopular.  However, we had to save the banks to save the economy.

We nearly all get hung up on moralistic solutions or as I term it the “fairness standoff.”  Everyone hates having to pay the bills for other people’s stupidity, especially when they are perceived as rich and/or trying to scam the system.

We’re all frustrated that we were put in this pickle.  Fortunately,  the crisis focused even politicians  (from nearly every persuasion) on a strong course of action or we might be sitting here less peeved but a whole lot more broke.

Very telling to me are two things.  First, it appears Tea Party activists, particularly political candidates, suggests an alternative to what had to be done to save the economy.  It is like they disassociate the economy from their jobs just as we’ve all been taught by Conservatives to disconnect paying taxes from the services we receive.

Apparently these people would miss a flight over a $15 fee for checking their bag, even if they get 90% of it back at the end of the flight.  Guess that would show the airlines who’s boss.

Second, now those same Conservative voices, primarily Republican, who decry the deficit (ahem!, I assume they equally decry both the larger one they created and the smaller one created to save the economy) want to increase it by $4 trillion to continue to extend all of the temporary tax cuts to the rich.

And from what I read, the economy began to tank after those tax cuts were created rather than strengthen.  Unfortunately, bullied by polls reflecting our renewed cockiness, the Democrats want to extend enough to create $3 trillion in deficit.

As another Newsweek columnist notes, remember the good old days when we were angry about deficits.

Are these people crazy?  Extending the tax cuts creates a bigger deficit than the stimulus and bailout and healthcare insurance reform (oh, I forgot, that last one actually decreases the deficit.)

I’m beginning to see that for many people all of this crap about “being so angry” is just about regaining power.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mastering The Loop-A-Plane!

I took my first four hours of flight training yesterday and today. Why, you may ask, wasn’t taking up motorcycle riding at age 61 enough? You may be surprised to learn that neither motorcycles nor flying have been passions I abided until retirement.

My late maternal grandfather, Mark White, always made fun of Eleanor Roosevelt’s distinctive voice, probably, as a conservative Republican just to rib my grandmother Deane, raised a moderate to liberal Democrat (they taught me first-hand about bipartisanship.) He did a pretty good imitation too, but I was far more influenced by one of the First Lady’s quotes my grandfather often used.lee_eyerly_3

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Now, I assumed Mrs. Roosevelt’s meant “challenges,” “pushes,” even “discomforts.” Anyway, the saying resonated with me and I took it to heart.

I would have been happy just learning to ride the big bikes or even something smaller but after training to ride them, I realized it opened up a whole new world of challenges. Believe me, it is both humbling and exhilarating but never boring. You’re always a bit “scared” and the same is true of flying an airplane.

The same was true of my approach during four decades of leading Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs.) Becoming qualified for the job was a never-ending process of change and growth both for me, the organization and the three communities I represented. I woke up every morning determined to push myself by doing things outside my comfort zone.

Not everyone in similar positions goes at it with zeal, passion or never-ending drive to improve and grow. Many in the same profession appear satisfied to practice community marketing today, just as I did when I first started out in the early 1970s and apparently that’s what works for some communities.

Fortunately for Durham, though, some do - including my successor, who as I observed over 20 years of working together, goes about the job in the same way albeit, much to the relief of some I’m sure, with a very different personal style.00014_p_10aeuyf6sw0479

Flying has always seemed romantic to me but in a historical sense. I love old airplanes and air museums but I always seemed to get more than a bite nauseous on amusement park rides as well as during occasional flight seeing over the years.

Never a Fremont County Fair went by, before or after I came along, without either my Dad dragging me up on a plane ride (that’s a 1935 souvenir of his first on the left,) always in a “tail-dragger” and from a very short St. Anthony, ID gravel strip.

Those who know I also grew up hearing stories about my Dad’s first cousin and best friend who was killed in action during WWII when as the tail-gunner his B-26 Marauder was shot down over Italy or watching as my uncle, just seven years older and a good friend growing up, flew fighter planes on more than 300 north missions over Vietnam, only to be killed flying for the DEA, might bethinking I could or should have taken a pass on learning to fly, right?

Perhaps, but it is a challenge and falls under “doing one thing a day that scares me. I’m also drawn to the challenge of seeing if I can master a whole new set of procedures, controls and techniques. Fortunately, while I still dislike amusement rides, flying a plane (knock on wood) doesn’t make me feel nauseous.

Just as I learned as a kid growing up, first riding and then even reading in the back seats of cars, for me, it all has to do with keeping my eyes focused, or at least I hope:-)

Maybe if I can learn to fly, I can circle back for my next challenge and master that old loop-a-plane without throwing up and make my late father proud? Nah, I’ll stick with learning to fly the real thing. Sorry Dad, it is a lot more tame!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Putting Hometown Above Dollars

Kudos to Duke University for passing up millions of dollars to keep the Alabama game here in Durham. If local officials are penning thank you notes, that single act of selflessness alone yielded nearly $6 million in spending and nearly $200,000 in local tax revenues, all by out-of-towners. You know, visitors, the purest way to generate economic development!dollar-sign

The two teams that played in Durham last weekend were offered beaucoups bucks to move the game to a so-called neutral site just as the nearby University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did with its LSU season opener this year.

Duke elected to keep the Alabama game and the dollars here in Durham as well as the State of North Carolina which reaped just as much in tax revenue, maybe more than the City and County of Durham local governments.

To put the Alabama football game in further perspective, it generated an impact larger than is anticipated by the the NHL All-Star Game this winter in nearby Raleigh and didn’t require hundreds of thousands in underwriting incentives. The football game drew even more overnight visitors.

Gosh, maybe RDU should have hastened completion of phase two of the new Terminal 2 for the Duke-Alabama instead instead? Seriously, Durham should never take Duke for granted, just as Duke should never take Durham for granted. It is a two-way street. Oh, be sure to carbon-copy Dr. White, Coach Cut and Dr. Trask on those thank you notes.

Sure Duke has quietly anchored and enabled virtually every one of the mega-developments in Durham. But the impact of this one game alone is significant because overnight visitors generate 10 times the taxable spending of non-residents commuting to work in offices in Durham.

Hats off to Duke University for saying NO to the lure of big bucks to move the game out of Durham and for understanding and respecting that the impact both the university and its hometown mutually experience can be much more than dollars and cents.

Cities with little or no college football began the trend of stealing games away from hometowns in the ‘80s and now they are being joined by cities that have good college programs even though the move cannibalizes needed sponsorship dollars. Huh! - Guess those post season bowl games weren’t enough…so then lets junk them and get on with a playoff system.

By the way, I thought the ESPN announcers did a terrific great job on the Duke-Alabama broadcast, tip-toeing around the name of the jointly owned airport and stumbling only when misled into saying that Duke is 15 miles from Raleigh because that from where the ‘Bama kicker hails. The distance is 31 miles.

Give you odds the misinformation came from someone from Raleigh. The Charlotte Observer sure had our neighboring community’s number when it called it out for obsessively over-reaching in any way it can to steal thunder in other communities.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mary Neely’s Endurance Ultimately United My Family

It is interesting to think of how close different branches of your ancestors may have come to being acquainted were it not for the Shawnee.

While one of my maternal great (5) grandfathers, a first generation German-American was defending one side of the frontier in the late 1770s with the Virginia Militia, another, a second generation Irish-American from Charleston, SC was moving his family further inland to the protection of Fort Nashborough (present-day Nashville, TN.)

Sounds crazy to move further into the wilderness until you realize that running between Johannes Messerschmidt and William Neely was the Great Indian Warpath, an alliance of northern tribes including the Shawnee with southern tribes like the Cherokee. Any safe haven, however, was short lived.Mary Neely Spears

Abducted by a band of Shawnee as she and her father were boiling water at a bend in the Cumberland River (at one time called Neely’s Lick,) my great (4) grandmother Mary Neely saw her father killed and scalped, learning all too personally that the alliance was fueled in part by a British bounty at Fort Detroit for the scalps of colonial settlers during the Revolutionary War.

Only 19 years old at the time, she proved to be very tough, surviving slavery and smallpox and escaping her Shawnee captors three years later, with the aid of a French underground. She survived a near ship wreck and a stint as a British prisoner-of-war before finally making it to Niagara, NY and freedom.

She traveled to Philadelphia as the War for Independence wound down and caught a lift with a family back to Virginia where she was reunited with her bother who never stopped searching for her and found her there thanks to newspaper accounts of her survival.

She married Revolutionary War veteran, George Spears and settled in Kentucky. In her 70s, Granny Spears as he called her, met a young Abraham Lincoln when her family settled in Menard County near New Salem, IL and prophetically commented that he was smart enough to be President of the United States of America one day. She died in 1852 before seeing that come to pass.

A son enlisted with Lincoln during the Black Hawk War which ended before they saw action and after her death her ordeal was retold on the pages of both Harper’s Weekly and Putnam’s magazines. She is also recognized with a historical marker.

While Mary Neely never found it possible to forgive her Native American captors, in 1859 her grandson and one of my great-great grandfathers, Marion J. Shelton, is credited with the first translation of English to Hopi vocabulary for that northeastern Arizona tribe of Native Americans while on a linguistic mission for Brigham Young.

I descend from Mary Neely’s great-granddaughter, Marion J. Shelton’s daughter and my great-great grandmother Elizabeth and Ralph Messersmith who was the great-great grandson of Johannes Messerschmidt. The couple finally linked those two immigrant families from opposite sides of the Virginia frontier in the late 1770s.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thomas Jefferson & A Palatine Farmer

Thomas Jefferson idealized people such as my maternal great, great, great, great, great (5) grandfather as the epitome of true Republicanism as the term was used in Colonial times.germany

Born the same year as John Adams, Johannes Messerschmidt (aka John Messersmith) turned 24 the year Thomas Jefferson was born. Seven years earlier, he had stepped off the ship Nancy at Philadelphia with his father Andreas after a voyage across the Atlantic from Rotterdam, preceded I assume by a trip down the Rhine from ancestral Ofterdingen in the Southwest corner (Baden-Wurttemberg) of what is now Germany.

At age 16, Johannes was part of the migration of Protestants from the Palatine area of Germany, enabled by the then German-born King of England, George II and the promise of America and intimations of free land initiated by, Queen Anne, his father, George I’s second cousin and predecessor.

My ancestor’s immigration was part of what grew the population (white and black) of Colonial America from about 250,000 in 1700 (about the population today of my home city and county of Durham, North Carolina) to over a million by 1750.

In 1769, Joannes left south-central Pennsylvania for Virginia, just as Thomas Jefferson began practicing law following his education at William & Mary. Even though Virginia's population at the time was just shy of that of the Durham metro area today (500,000,) I doubt the two ever actually met in person.

Five years later, as a member of the Virginia Militia, Johannes was guarding the frontier and lost friends at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774, just as Jefferson was penning A Summary View of the Rights of British America, a precursor to the Bill of Rights.

The Battle of Point Pleasant took place less than a year before revolutionary skirmishes at Lexington and Concord and just as Jefferson was appointed as a replacement to the Continental Congress.

Point Pleasant is credited with creating the peace with Native American tribes along the Ohio River like the Shawnee, Mingo and Delaware. This was pivotal to the Revolutionary War because it allowed the Continental Army to singularly focus on defeating the British without fear of being squeezed by a western front alliance between Native Americans and the Red Coats.

Thomas Jefferson went on to author of The Declaration of Independence (a kind of case statement for the Revolution and a mission statement for the soon-to-be United States of America) and eventually to be President.

Johannes lived peacefully after the revolution on land granted for his service about 174 miles south and west from Jefferson’s beloved Monticello and 200 miles west and north from where I live. It was along a creek feeding the South Fork of the Holston River where today it is hemmed by the southern tip of the Jefferson National Forest and the northern tip of the Cherokee National Forest.

Johannes Messerschmidt was just the type of yeoman farmer that Jefferson idealized and apparently my family had a knack for selecting good fly-fishing areas, long before another side homesteaded along the Henrys Fork of the Snake River a little more than 100 years later.

Coincidentally Johannes’ land at the time of his death and burial was in a county named for George Wythe, the country’s first professor of law who instilled in Thomas Jefferson, while he was at William & Mary, that “all men are created equal.” Wythe also co-signed The Declaration of Independence.

Both Jefferson’s and Wyeth’s views would have resonated with Johannes. Although Lutheran he had arrived at a time when German Mennonites and Amish were also seeking religious freedom here and Moravians moved south to found Salem, NC, now part of Winston-Salem just before Johannes moved to Virginia.

It is also probable that while his father had funds to pay for their crossing, as an impressionable 16 year old, Johannes would have witnessed other passengers being held aboard ship for up to three weeks until purchased and released or indentured as servants to pay for their voyage, adults 3-5 years, youth 10-15 years as well as Africans being sold as slaves.

Yes, I have no doubt that “all men are created equal” had meaning for Johannes as would “freedom of religion.”

While his son Barnabas didn’t remain in Virginia, the connection with Jefferson continued. Barnabas headed out West to Missouri as part of then President Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase . Barnabas named the son from whom I descend, Rufus. Can you guess his grandson’s name? My great-great grandfather’s name is appropriately, Thomas.

Hypocrisy? Out of Raleigh?

Durham hoteliers warned a Raleigh lobbyist and former Raleigh hotelier not to stir up opposition over here to the Durham incentives for a Greenfire Development project Downtown.

Alas, it was still no surprise when he got his orders from three Raleigh businessmen to use their names on a last minute letter of opposition to the Durham plan under the guise that they each have interest in a lodging property located here.hypocrisy

It’s anyone’s guess how vehement the three were but they knew they had nothing to lose. Durham doesn’t hold grudges or retaliate (remember when another Raleigh businessman lied to get the names on the co-owned airport reversed?) nor do we interfere with or even give much attention to Raleigh issues unless like Falls Lake, they are trying to strong-arm Durham to clean up their water supply.

Ironically or should I say hypocritically, these Raleigh businessmen, so willing to stick their noses into Durham’s business, avoided stirring up a stink back where they live, when a few days ago their hometown upped a slush fund used to bribe groups into using its convention center, oh, and adjacent hotel, where that city owns an upfront equity position by purchasing the land, not the mere back-end incentives Durham approved.

These are among the same Raleigh businessmen who hypocritically enabled or funded opposition to a prepared food tax proposed in Durham for tourism-related uses, while their own city was already using the very same tax to build the convention center, subsidize the adjacent hotel and build a sports arena.

Bug off Raleigh!…stop shamelessly carping in an effort to deny things for other communities around the state until you can first walk the walk at home. Let us see you start with pushing for repeal of your prepared food tax.

Oh, and stop hiding behind that “holier than thou” defilement of the term regionalism (in that guise these same guys have openly resisted the emergence of Durham over the years as a distinct destination even as it was making their projects here viable.)

Kiss my Harley seat!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Muhammad Ali’s German Auto Center

I had to get out early Friday morning. Fall mornings are great for a Harley ride, but this time the Cross Bones took me to a meeting of a board on which I serve. As I turned off Geer Street, I spotted a sign with the words in the title of this blog and smiled. The incongruity is so Durham.

The sign came to mind again as I read the excellent editorial notation in the Herald-Sun Saturday exposing a couple of Durham-bashing web posts by people in neighboring communities trying to scare ‘Bama fans about Durham. Reduced now to just 1 in 10 of the population of those communities, rants by people like this try to make up for impotence with the toxic spitefulness of back-fence gossips.

You could read between the lines, though, that the real issue shared by those non-resident posts is that they can’t stand that Durham is eclectic, kind of like that sign. Two of the core, overarching Durham values distilled several years ago following a two year process of community input and research (now a best practice) are that this community is diverse and accepting.

Scientific public opinion surveys during the process confirmed that Durham “owns” these values both in the minds of the vast majority of residents but also in minds of the vast majority of people across the state and country. In brand terminology, “owning” these values doesn’t mean Durham is the only place that does but the community is known for the way it manifests them.Capture

A sense of humor is also one of Durham’s values as summed up by the tongue-in-cheek, incongruity (if you like irony and don’t take yourself too seriously) bumper-sticker I spied as I was pulling away after the meeting (click on image above to enlarge.)

Being accepting doesn’t mean we don’t poke fun, as the Herald-Sun editorial writer did Saturday by referencing where one of the “posters” lived as “Stepford On The Amtrak (for those unfamiliar, that’s the polar opposite of eclectic.) A sense of humor and being “unpretentious” are also integral to the overarching brand of Durham.

For more information on the overarching Durham brand (meaning it is an umbrella personality stretching over hundreds of individual brands based here) including a more complete manual, check in with the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB.)

As Durham’s official marketing agency, DCVB was designated to facilitate it by the 20-organization Durham Public Information & Communications Council. If your community still confuses slogans with brands, I recommend the book Destination Branding for Small [and Large] Cities.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Secret Behind The Impact of Events!

Where do they turn, when news outlets (local and national) or stakeholders like Duke University need to obtain or document the $5.9 million in spending related to the big game tomorrow with Alabama?7718_1

By the way, the net impact for the game weekend (lower than spending due to leakage) rivals the value added to the Durham economy by huge events like the six week American Dance Festival or the four week, 32 performance run of touring Broadway’s “Wicked” or the two plus month El Greco art exhibition at Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art.

Of course, Wallace Wade Stadium is a much larger venue and Alabama fans travel like few other universities not only in volume but length of stay.

In Durham, both news outlets and stakeholders like Duke invariably turn to the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) because Durham’s community marketing agency has earned both the reputation and expertise for generating reliable, conservative and highly credible analysis of event impact.

I say earned because DCVB has not only earned its stripes on how to deeply mine data and then employ accurate methodologies but the organization has earned the trust of stakeholders with sensitive, proprietary information. The result makes Durham a best practice.

Of course, DCVB’s deployment of this expertise goes far beyond relevance to the news media or stakeholders like Duke. Reliable data, intelligence and analysis is at the heart of good, efficient, measurable marketing.

If your community and its news media are still just “ball parking” economic impact and/or basing marketing decisions and performance measurement on opinions and anecdotes rather than facts, I’d run, not walk to Durham to see how to turn that around.

Good data upon which to drive decisions isn’t free but it is definitely a whole lot cheaper in the long run than just WAGing or taking the slippery slope to artificially amplifying numbers just to be impressive. It is astonishing how many communities get away with doing both.

Win or lose on the football field this weekend (don’t chuckle, Duke beat Alabama in ‘44,) hosting the game is a huge economic win/win for Durham (including $189,000 to fund local government services) and just one more reason Duke University is a key part of making this community “Where Great Things Happen!

Go Duke!

BK - Another Cipher The Greenfire Hotel Is Worthy!

There is another reason I’m confident the Greenfire hotel conversion in Downtown Durham will be a success that wasn’t included in an earlier blog.BillKimptonPhoto

During stays in San Francisco in the mid and late 1980s, I witnessed the emergence of a creative genius and then little known, Midwesterner named Bill Kimpton.

Just five years earlier, he had begun transforming old downtown buildings in that city into small boutique hotels, pioneering that concept. His formula included a small restaurant just off the lobby with a separate entrance and name and a good chef with the potential to be a great chef.

In fact, Bill launched the careers of many chefs who are famous in that city and elsewhere. Bill passed away in the Spring of 2001, a little more than a decade after I first learned of his work. The hotel chain that bears his name has continued to expand and while in my opinion it has strayed somewhat from his formula, it’s still in the ballpark.

When he died, far too young at 65, he had launched, in just twenty years, 34 boutique hotels including 29 restaurants and he wasn’t really a hotelier or a restaurateur by trade. He was an IBM typewriter salesmen turned very successful investment banker.

He had a passion for bringing old buildings in downtown neighborhoods back to life and he was the first to put his finger on what a significant niche, now more a slice, of travelers want from lodging. He understood how to make old historic structures sustainable in a way that makes their surrounding environs and neighborhoods thrive.

What Bill did is being copied by numerous hotel chains. What managing partner Michael Lemanski and partners including Steve Mangano and Carl Webb at Greenfire Development are planning for conversion of the historic Durham Bank & Trust headquarters in the city center of Downtown Durham would make Bill proud.

That’s how I know it is a great investment and that lending them some of the very tax revenues their project will generate is a very wise investment by Durham officials.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It’s All About Mindset!

Preaching accountability and self-reliance is fine but to me it also seems like kind of a duh! Those values are esteemed among people from all political persuasions.

The real issue is whether these values are inherent or self-induced as one extreme believes or the luck of the draw as another extreme believes. Let me explain why I believe they are both correct. We all, in fact, have the potential but some us fall victim to circumstance.

One pivotal circumstance is how both our parents and teachers taught each of us to process failure.

When it comes to unwrapping issues around student/family achievement and teacher/school performance, I've been an ardent reader since the late 1990s of Dr. Carol Dweck from back in her days at Columbia and a little book called Self Theories: their role In motivation, personality and development. It is a very insightful read but a little research heavy.Capture

She’s now at Stanford and her new book, Mindset, The New Psychology of Success, pulls together her work and the work of others into the role of "mindset" and it is an engrossing read even if you’re not information or research-driven and especially if you think you’re all about accountability and self-reliance.

As you can see from the links, Dweck isn’t all about selling books. For people who don’t read or want cliffs notes style,so to speak, she’s put plenty of information in bite-size, problem-solving chunks on her website.

There are essentially two mindsets. One worried about looking smart or feeling dumb and the other charging right through those issues and failure in general as learning and growing opportunities. It is possible of course for an individual to have both mindsets. I have the former when it comes to participating in "skits" and talent shows but my primary mindset, particularly in school, work and retirement is the latter.

I firmly agree with Dweck that you can change a person's mindset from one to the other.

I believe that core to what makes teachers both good and great teachers is a firm belief that every student has what it takes to academically succeed. If they don't and instead have the mindset that kids are either smart or they aren't, they and any administrators with that mindset need to be taken off-line immediately, given the opportunity to shift gears or move on.

Maybe, communities, not just schools and teachers, need to take on the challenge of shifting parental mindsets.

Unfortunately, as I blogged earlier in the month, it has been proven time after time, that school systems play what Chatanooga’s Benwood Foundation terms “dancing the lemons around” which ultimately means the “forgotten” schools serving the poorest and most disadvantaged students get poor teachers with “fixed mindsets.”

One last thought for you “eye-rollers.” Dweck notes that the then-Parisian who first developed the IQ test, did it not to quantify fixed intellectual ability but to improve the performance of all students in that city’s educational system.

Alfed Binet understood it was and still is all about mindset.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pedal-Steel Digs Right Into My Soul

There’s just something about a pedal-steel guitar that digs right into my soul. Maybe as Neil Young penned, “all my changes were there.”

I was reminded last week when my Daughter texted me a link to a new recording by Ray LaMontagne, one of her favorite artists. We’ve always exchanged music we like beginning when she was 13 or 14 and discovered what she called the “old music” of the 1950s and 1960s.Zumsteel

But I also smiled when I cranked up LaMontagne’s New York City’s Killing Me using both pedal-steel and a great opening line that reminded me of a time or two during my 40 year career in destination marketing, “there’s just something about this hotel, got me wishing I was dead.”

The pedal-steel first resonated with me at 5 years old in my my Mom’s ranch house kitchen when Webb Pierce launched its country popularity with “Slowly” in 1953. Its “coolness” cemented though when 5 years later, my Mom was teaching me to dance listening to Santo and Johnny Farina on “Sleepwalk.”

It was cool both because the song seared into my mind and because my Mom was actually listening to rock and roll. Seems like we could only get one radio station during the day back then and it rotated from genre to genre every couple of hours until it had to sign off the air at dusk.

Pedal-Steel took me right through high school making appearances and/or slide mimiced in recordings by Elvis, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and local Pacific Northwest bands like Paul Revere & The Raiders.

One of my favorite Rolling Stones songs is a pedal-steel laden 1978 country parody that came out just as I reached the “backside” of 30 titled The Girl With the Far Away Eyes. And I never hear pedal-steel without hearing the mimic of the instrument in ex-Beatle George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” or the pedal-like sound he created on the group’s 1968 “My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Seems like pedal-steel started to become ubiquitous just as I graduated high school in 1966 when the Monkees used it on their first album, influenced I’m sure by Mike Nesmith, “the tall Monkee” who was already pioneering pedal steel laden “Country-Rock,” the genre also inspired by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, JD Souther, Jackson Browne, The Eagles, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and the Grateful Dead and close kin to Outlaw Country like Willie, Waylon and Kris.

Maybe when it comes time for the soundtrack to my life to go off the air, they’ll take me out with a little pedal steel and Kristofferson’s “Why Me Lord” featuring here The Highwaymen with Kris, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.

Weaning From Over Reliance on Property Tax Revenue

Non-residents may be the fastest growing source of revenue to fund local services for Durham NC.   Analysis conducted by DCVB at the request of  Durham County documents evidence that non-residents (visitors for purposes other than school or work plus commuters) now fuel 25% of the retail sales tax alone.

Even more striking is that non-residents now drive 2 out of every 3 dollars of taxable revenue in many Durham businesses like restaurants - 1/3rd visitor, 1/3rd commuter, 1/3rd resident.  A very healthy mix for one of America’s “foodiest” towns.City of Durham Revenues

It isn’t hard to predict that if the pace of Durham’s emergence as a visitor destination continues as it has since marketing commenced just 21 years ago, this source of revenue and economic impact will become one of Durham’s primary means of sustaining its quality of life in a single city-county that has always had far less developable land than others.

Today, even though eroded by the downtown, the City of Durham expects to reaps 20% of its revenues from sources like retail sales tax, compared to the current national average of 15% and up from 14% in 1990 when marketing commenced to draw taxable visitor spending.

Of course, Durham visitors also fuel significant property taxes from businesses and residents fully or in part sustained by tourism.

Durham’s tourism future offers a way out of the dilemma inherent in over reliance on land development in a community with far less developable land than others.  I predict that the proportion of public services funded by sales tax and property tax respectively can flip flop in the next 20 years, lessening over-reliance on property development and property taxes.

By lessening the need to develop every square inch of Durham, increased visitor-related economic development lessens pressure on open space and natural recreation amenities.  Drawing visitors also helps make existing development much more sustainable through adaptive reuse of historic structures, revitalization of historic neighborhoods and locally-sourced foods to name just a few examples.

And visitors augment rather than compete with Durham’s other economic engines like biotech, hi-tech, education, social entrepreneurialism, research and development and pharma-related research and manufacturing.  The amenities upon which successful visitor marketing relies are the same amenities important to drawing and retaining the creative class workers upon which these enterprises rely.

At the same time, visitors also help offset the tax burden on residents and local businesses in part by requiring far less infrastructure than more traditional, land-intensive forms of economic development.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shaking Hands Just Took On New Meaning

People must think they are invisible in public restrooms.  At least on the men’s side, where all of my post adolescent observations have taken place, you see guys dart out the door without washing up after using the facilities like it was protected by the 2nd amendment.images

Both observational and self-reporting studies released yesterday indicate “us guys” are doing better with hand washing up from just 66% in 2007 to 77% this year.

Still, knowing that one in four men don’t wash up means the custom of hand-shaking can be a bit disturbing…but hey, at least 82% now wash up after changing a diaper:-(

But 6 out of every 10 respondents still fail to wash after coughing or sneezing. But by the looks for many public wash rooms, that’s the least of our problems.

By the way, holding hands with females is a lot safer with 93% washing their hands…but then there’s always that one in 10…

Behavior is trending in the right direction but for those more worried about individual salvation,  the percentage reporting they wash-up, 96%, falls to 85% during the observational phase…

Now before we vote,  if Harris Interactive can just cross tab a few panels and shed some light on whether liberals are more likely than conservatives or TPers to wash up:-)

Durham’s Restless Innovator

Restless is a good word to describe the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) and the trait Durham’s marketing agency one of the most innovative in the nation.

Part of the challenge of publicizing a community to external stakeholders including visitors, newcomers, event planners, location scouts etc. is making sure to also empower internal stakeholders including residents, neighborhoods, other messenger organizations, local officials, businesses and university leaders with the same information.Capture

The Durham News Service (DNS,) another DCVB innovation, will become even more accessible when it launches today as a website.

Stakeholders will now have one dashboard ( that can be added as a tab to browsers or kept handy and accessed at will as a centralized, near-real-time resource for the latest news about Durham whether from local or national news sites, the community-wide calendar, blogs, other newsletters and of course DNS news releases.

It will be the place to go to stay in-the-know without waiting for weekly eNews or twice-weekly “Where Great Things Happen” emails or weekly community-wide calendar snapshots. Of course, those options as well as RSS feeds will still be available.

For nearly 100 years, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) like DCVB served as repositories of information that was then dispensed in response to inquiries or as part of promotions or in annual reports and newsletters.

Distribution frequency varied over time from annual, semi-annual, quarterly or monthly but then in the mid-1990s, everything changed. Early adopters like DCVB used the Internet not only to launch information much more frequently but at the same time make as much information as possible available self-serve, 24/7.

Things sure didn’t get any easier, they just got a whole lot faster and real-time. DCVB isn’t just a “fast-follower,” it continues to be remains an innovator in the worlds of destination or community marketing and community organizations.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Sharpshooter With Twinkling Eyes!

We visited often while I was growing up but I didn’t realize what a rare treasure it was to have a living Great Grandfather until I was able to visit with him as an adult while finishing up a college degree not far from his home in Lehi, Utah.getimage

He went by Ralph M. Smith, but he was born in 1879 in Cedar Fort, Utah as Ralph Messersmith, the youngest son of Thomas and Louisa. Ralph’s father had settled there after a stint in the Union Cavalry during the Civil War, guarding the central overland mail route.

I’m sure my Great Grandfather had heard stories of his father’s gold mining partnership in Nevada with the author by then famous as Mark Twain, when in his 20s and 30s Ralph rode as a sharpshooter atop trains like the one shown above, bound for Salt Lake City carrying gold mined in nearby Mercur.

I had visited Mercur in 1971, where my maternal Grandmother had been born in 1910 but by then the bustling town of 12,000 was long a ghost town. Even for a boy from the Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho, it was pretty romantic stuff.

Having already turned 90 by my later visits, my Great Grandfather moved into a nursing facility, accompanied by his best friend Will They had been companions since boyhood I believe. Will didn’t need the facility but wanted to be there with Ralph.

Sometimes, during my visits, my Great Grandfather wouldn’t recognize me at first, so Will would call out, “damn-it Ralph, that’s Dawn’s boy.” Then invariably they would recall about how I always turned red as a teenager when the two would kid me unmercifully about taking the vintage sedan downtown (Lehi was a population of 10,000 at the time) to park nose first, slant into the curb and “watch the girls go by.”

I also learneed that apparently my Great Grandfather passed on his skills with a rifle when as a school bus driver, he would often stop along country roads at the request of parents and teach the kids how to shoot.

My Great Great Grandfather always had an unmistakable twinkle in his eye, right to the end. As a life-long Democrat who worshiped FDR, he was delighted that he lived long enough to see me, as he termed it, “come to my senses” by my early 20’s.

I’ve always considered it one of my great privileges to have known and visited frequently with a living great grandfather.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

One Ranking Does Not A Great City Make!

Fortunately, when it comes to legitimate rankings like this week’s CNN/Money Magazine ranking of “places” to retire, “anecdotal” evidence takes a back seat to statistics.rankings

That’s why the agency that takes lead on cataloguing these for Durham, North Carolina is tires to carefully vet the legitimacy of  the methodology before citing them.

It is also why the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) refrains from distilling them around anecdotes.  But traditional journalism relies on anecdotes and it is easy to find sources that will make it all about a pet project of individual observation.

People like anecdotes, especially their own.  Unfortunately, this is exactly what leads some people including journalists somewhat skeptical or jaded about the rankings in general.

Kudos though to Money, one of the first to publish them and for relying on experts who can mine the data.  Don’t get me wrong, most of these rankings also include a what we call a “fly-by” once the data is crunched, but that is largely to make sure the “place” being analyzed lives up to the the data and, you guessed it, to gather some anecdotes to use in descriptions and write-ups.

If you’re interested in how carefully and deeply the experts mine the data, check out this link for the best places to retire.  For instance you’ll see that leisure and culture is much broader than “arts.”  It also weights restaurants and libraries among other ingredients.

It is also important to note a #1 ranking does not a great city make.  The criteria are often weighted each year so it is much more important how consistently high a community ranks across a wide range of criteria and rankings.

To see the comprehensive database DCVB maintains and makes accessible not only to other messenger organizations and directly to people making decisions about where to visit, live, retire or do business, click here.

To see one of many ways that DCVB empowers residents to celebrate the rankings click here or on the image above.  How DCVB utilizes rankings is truly a “best practice” other communities study.  It is also a means of identifying where a community needs improvement.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Whew, Now I Never Have To Move!

Durham NC is no stranger to high rankings.  I’ll bet there is no community ranked so consistently high, across such a broad range of criteria.CNN Money

But having retired myself just a little over eight months ago, I am not all all surprised Durham is ranked the number one place in the US in which to do so.

Durham truly is “Where Great Things Happen!”  Now, as only Durham can, lets get back to problem-solving.

State-by-State Political and Religious Makeup

Gallup scientific public opinion polls revealing the current breakdown of political ideology and religious affiliation, state-by-state, are enlightening. It would be so interesting to contrast this with breakdowns during the "progressive era” but I don’t believe it exists that far back, at least in a context that would be “apples to apples.”No Particular Religious Identity

It may not such a surprise (when you click on the links above) to learn that 26% of California adults self-identify as liberal, but I bet it will be news to learn that 15% of adults in states like Alabama and Idaho are likewise. Even Alaskans, notoriously “independent” politically but presumed by many to all be “conservative” due to Sarah Palin’s notoriety, are 20% “liberal,” one in five.

Oregon and Vermont, assumed by many to be liberal are in fact, almost even.

Equally interesting are the state by state results for religious affiliation. But the chart above (click on the image to enlarge or go to the link above) showing the percentage with no affiliation, may be the surprise. That of course, isn’t the same as “not religious,” just no affiliation with any particular organized religion.

That’s one area, my birth state, Idaho and my adopted home state, North Carolina seem to have in common.

The Most Conservative and Republican Of All Faiths Has Deep Progressive Roots

As a progressive-independent who, though lapsed most of my adult life, was born and raised in that faith, I find it ironic that polls of all faiths in the U.S. reveal that Mormons self-identify as the both the most conservative (59%)) and the most Republican (49%.)

To me that’s ironic, in part, because up until the late 19th century, members of the then-60 year old denomination were overwhelmingly Democrats, in part, because Republicans at the time opposed statehood for parts of the

In fact, at one point back then, a Church official, John Henry Smith, was dispatched to visit congregations and explain it was okay to be a Republican and specific families were even assigned to join that party to create balance.

Fast forward a little more than a hundred years later and a Church leader was asked to give news interviews explaining that it is possible to be a good Mormon and a Democrat.

Up through the 1960s, Democratic candidates fared well among Mormons and several figures in national politics today are both Mormon and Democrats, in fact liberal Democrats. While the Church itself is generally politically neutral, beginning in the 1970s, a majority of members of that faith took a hard turn to the far right.

Today only 8% of active Mormons currently self-identify as liberal but that belies the deep progressive roots of that very Christian denomination. For instance, the Church pioneered a welfare system for the poor that served in part as a model for the one developed by the Federal government in the 1930’s.

Another example is that Utah where this Church is headquartered was the second state in the U.S. to grant women the right to vote, following adjacent Wyoming.

In the mid-1850s, the Church openly experimented with voluntary, New Testament inspired, communalistic or egalitarian living designed to increase group self-sufficiency but also to aspire to eliminate poverty and reach income equality.

The hard turn to the right over the past four decades and away from those progressive roots may be taking a toll though. Lapsed or inactive Mormons (29%) are more like me, considerably less conservative and significantly more likely to be moderate and two and a half times more likely to be liberal.

Church policy generally prohibits promoting candidates in congregations or church buildings but it took a strong position this week opposing an on-again, off-again threat by the pastor of a small church in Florida pastor to conduct a burning of the Quran.

It also played a role in the recent and narrow 5 percentage point passage of a California proposition prohibiting Gay marriage.

Mormon is a nickname often used to identify members of this restorationist (branch of Protestantism) faith initially called The Church of Christ and later formally named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints (LDS.)

With 14 million members worldwide and one of the fastest growing of all Christian denominations, its roots go back to the Second Great Awakening of the 1830’s, a very un-conservative period that fueled many evangelic or conversion-oriented faiths, that while different from fundamentalist, are typically very socially conservative.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Another In DCVB’s Tradition of Region, State and Nationwide Initiatives!

The highest form of compliment is to see a culture you helped forge or with which you once had a part continue to thrive and grow after you’ve moved on.

Formation of the Triangle Film Commission isn’t what some may see as a power grab or the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) losing sight of the provision in its General Assembly chartered legislation to promote “only Durham.”

Actually, this is just another example of the many ways that organization has often leveraged expertise to assist other communities, often with a hand up, while remaining fiercely focused on its role. hollywood-sign

DCVB, long ago officially credentialed and successful as both the official film commission and sports commission for Durham, has for many years encouraged other destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to organize their communities for film promotion.

Across the nation, film promotion is customarily handled by DMOs because it is primarily a means to generate visitor related economic development just as it is at the state level in North Carolina.  But many have preferred instead to rely solely on the state counterpart or to surrender the responsibility and opportunity.

Last year private individuals with Durham ties voiced a desire to DCVB to bring the surrounding dozen counties up to Durham’s level when it comes to film promotion.  They approached DCVB for assistance because it is a well known and successful film commission and because it already has in place a best practice inventory of film-related services and database of film location.

Hollywood producer and Durham native Thom Mount, who has long assisted and worked with DCVB, also understood, that the Bureau provides the wider effort the public umbrella as well as well-proven and audited systems of transparency, accountability and even-handedness that would give a wider effort instant credibility with other cities and counties.

Unfortunately, there have been one or two misuses of the term “commission” which by definition signals “official,” that got by the Secretary of State’s office.  For instance, had it been caught the more accurate term “association” would have been substituted for “commission” when several private individuals as sports enthusiasts adopted the term giving the misimpression they are official representatives of cities, towns or counties in an area or the credentialed commissions that already exist.

Film Commissions like DCVB are also credentialed by the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) requiring that it be officially endorsed and supported as the official film commission by the respective national, state, provincial or local government of an area.  Also mandatory is completion of an extensive program to become “official.”

The folks encouraging DCVB to backbone formation of a 13-county Triangle Film Commission are primarily enthusiasts about film as an art form, although one or two may also have a private agenda.  DCVB, already having earned AFCI credentials, will make sure everything about the wider Triangle effort is transparent with a level playing field.

The Triangle Film Commission is just the most recent in a long list of DCVB region, state or nationwide initiatives, a sample of which include:

  • Co-anchoring development of the Goodmon Award-winning, The Triangle-A Family of Communities,
  • Pioneering a region-wide initiative to encourage coherent local way finding signage,
  • Forging a region-wide agreement on criteria for multi-community mega-events,
  • Authoring a toolkit to help Destination Marketing Organizations nationwide and respective cultural-heritage stakeholders form closer relationships and,
  • Most recently a toolkit to orient tourism development authorities across the state.

But true to the restrictions of the legislation with which it was formed, DCVB achieves all of these broader initiatives without every diluting or diverting energy or resources from its primary mission as noted below:

General Assembly Session Laws 1985-969, 1991-665, 2001-480, 2002-36

...The Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau, created on January 17, 1989 in an interlocal agreement between Durham County and the City of Durham to meet provisions of Chapter 969 of the 1985 Session Laws, shall act as a tourism development authority, which is a public authority under the Local Government Budget and Fiscal Control Act.

...The Bureau may use the funds remitted to it under this subsection only to promote travel, tourism, and conventions in Durham County.

...Definitions:..."Promote travel, tourism, and conventions" means to advertise or market an area or activity, to publish and distribute pamphlets and other materials, to conduct market research, and to engage in similar promotional activities that attract tourists, business travelers, or conventioneers to the area, and also includes administrative expenses incurred in engaging in these activities.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

But They Can’t Lie On The Radio Right?"

On a recent phone call, my Mother and I discussed a recent blog. She told me how her brother and her sister are big Glenn Beck fans and she hopes they read one of the blogs in particular.lies

She went on to repeat family background about how “Republican” her father was and how much he hated FDR and Harry Truman but how her maternal grandfather was just the opposite, true blue, although he had a photo of “Ike” on his wall of presidents.

I muttered, I can not understand how my aunt and uncle can buy the deliberate lies repeateds on talk radio about the President’s religion and birthplace.

Then, in only the way she can, Mom says “he can’t tell lies on the radio can he?”

There in lies the problem folks. My Mom nailed it again! Millions of Americans believe the things these clowns put out via the public airways and franchises or satellite are factual.

But “au contraire,” apparently it is permissible to tell deliberate lies on the radio, if couched as opinion or else the FCC is asleep. The problem of course with permitting deliberate lies to be spread, via public airways, is that it has been long proven that if a big lie is repeated over and over and over, people eventually take it as gospel.

Thus the importance of identifying “folklore” or mythology . That’s how the otherwise, intelligent, advanced and artistic German society of the 1930’s fell under Hitler’s spell (click on “big lie” link in paragraph above for quote.)

Clowns or not, I’m sure this is all about free speech, right? Just like folks you hear at some intersections informing you that you’re going to hell…except you can’t tell by looking in the eyes of the folks telling lies on the radio and television that they aren’t all there.

Part of the problem is we’ve learned to expect “warnings” on movies and television dramas that tell us the contents may be offensive or fictional. However, we’re never given warnings the contents of radio and television programs masquerading as news and opinion may be full of pure and deliberate poppycock.

Bookstores have separate sections for fact and fiction and even historical novels much of which are factual, still go in the fiction section. Newspapers have ethical standards requiring that information be verified as factual although these days many don’t.

So you can’t blame people for expecting radio and television to do the same but the lines in those two mediums have always been very blurry. Nor will these idiots be liable for the damage caused when millions robotically march to the polls with these lies ringing in their ears.

But what about when these radio/tv heads preach “personal responsibility and accountability,” while often insinuating that too much is made about the problems of poor people or black people or immigrants.

Oh, that’s right, you can lie on the radio. It’s the campaign season, maybe we need warning labels on ballots? Of course, first we’d need to clear up the misinformation permitted in campaign advertising.

It is long overdue that people using radio and television be held accountable for misinformation caused by wrapping deliberate falsehoods in so-called opinion . First steps could be a code of ethics…and warning labels like “contains unverified opinion that may be deliberate misinformation.”

After all, we warn people about fiction, why can’t people be warned when so-called information presented as news, opinion or “reality” is actually fictional drama.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Another Way I’m Already Subsidizing Raleigh Water!

Paying for water can always seem a bit counterintuitive.  But my most recent experience borders on the ridiculous!

A couple of months ago I had all new faucets and all new tank innards installed along with a new pressure gizmo.  The installer said I should expect my water bill to go down.  But instead, my current bill is double what it was this time last year and, in fact higher than any other month, ever.LkMichie_03

I know the weather has been very hot and I watered more often but I can’t imagine why it was double.  But it is what it is.

What makes this all a bit surreal is that water has been spilling out of Durham’s two very well-planned reservoirs because they they have been full.  Additionally it looks like we’ll be getting some hurricane related moisture as planned and Durham has 252 days of water supply on hand.

So I guess I’m essentially paying for water that during that two month period was going over the dams and downstream to another community?   And said community is trying to ding Durham residents for billions to clean up that community’s water supply?

Is this a great country or what?


p.s. Yes, I do understand that the price we pay for water is to fund infrastructure to capture and deliver it.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Excellent Radio Documentary On The Impact Of Teachers

This afternoon I just listened to NPR’s broadcast of the American RadioWorks documentary on the impact of good and poor teachers on student performance. If you missed it, I highly recommend you read or listen to it.Testing Teachers

To read the transcript, click here. But this is one I recommend you download and listen by clicking here. It is an incredible overview by Emily Hanford.

If you think you’ve heard it all before, you’re wrong, even if you’re concerned about this stuff and involved.. And don’t make the mistake of tuning out the minute you hear something with which you agree or disagree. You’ll be surprised if you read or listen to the end.

Here is a link to policy reports and resources mentioned in the documentary.

HR consultant David Camner told me something I learned to be true. Approximately 20% of people in any line of work are ineffective and should be doing something else. That applies to any line of work including the professions including doctors and lawyers.

I believe that this documentary’s evidence on the effect of firing and/or putting greater resources into improving teachers shows that that this percentage also holds true for the teaching profession.

What do you do with the 20% of people who are ineffective in their line of work or profession? It isn’t easy. They are often pulling down good workers or just as bad, bleeding away management and training that should go to make the other 80% of good or excellent workers even better. Many companies, including school systems just move them around, usually through transfers to schools in low income areas.

One thing struck me while listening was the fact that, in a successful program covered in the documentary, mindset is critical. It is crucial that teachers take a no-excuses approach to full accountability for student performance.

There is also mention in the documentary, without attribution of Dr. Carol Dweck’s work. In reading her books, she isolated one critical factor in parents and teachers that is the difference between students who, all things being equal including IQ, either thrive when they hit obstacles and or give up.

Those who gave up, had parents and teachers who believed intelligence is finite. You either have it or you don’t. Those who thrived and grew regardless of obstacles had parents and teachers who believed intelligence is infinite.

Many thanks to the Spencer Foundation for underwriting the documentary.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Compassion Is All About The Stories We’re Told!

The Tea Party (TP) finally made more sense to me after reading some excellent investigation by journalist Jane Mayer unwrapping who is covertly bankrolling what is prematurely termed a movement. I just didn’t realize we are contributing to it indirectly if we use Brawny paper towels and Quilted Northern bathroom tissue ;-)quilted-northern

I can see how billionaire libertarians (and being libertarian is obviously a lot easier if you’re rich) can propagandize what at first seemed a disparate group into being so hopping mad.

Compassion all comes down to the stories we’re told. Follow me for a moment.

I can understand the argument that any racists in the TP are just fringe elements, it just has “a lot of fringe” (as I read quoted once but can no longer find.)

But more compelling is an excellent article written by the guy who wrote the primer on libertarianism explaining why it seems so many libertarians may sound racist.

The libertarian part, if you read those links, also explains why TPers are grinding their teeth so hard over health insurance reform or the trillion, give or take, we’re spending to fend off an even greater recession, yet they seem mysteriously untroubled by the trillion spent to date on a war in Iraq.

This just isn’t about the theory that wars, if anything, have always been good for the rich and rich white guys in particular. Libertarians and it seems TPers see the former as an infringement and the latter as a legitimate role of government.

Polls show TPers are more about the size of government than anything else including the deficit or taxes, another thing in common with libertarians.

This plus or minus 3% April poll reveals that TPers, like libertarians are more white, male, married, very conservative (some say “holier than thou” Republicans, over 45 and financially secure.

But even more telling was the finding that TPers believe “too mach has been made about the problems of black people” and that “a disproportionate amount is being done to help the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.”

That brings me to my conclusion this is really more about the stories people are told and the “compassion deficit,” a term coined in a paper presented in January by researchers P.K. Piff, M.W. Kraus and D. Keltner.

It documents an analysis of charitable giving revealing that poor people give a higher proportion of income than rich people and by rich they mean people more like those given the huge tax cuts earlier this decade, not the super-rich like Gates and Buffet.

But to me, the most revealing part of the research is about the power of the “stories” people are told. In other words, “people who are poor become less altruistic when led to think of themselves as upper class and high-income people become more charitable when led to imagine themselves as lower class.”

Everyone it seems and TPers in particular, need to be very careful about the “stories” we’re told as well as the stories we tell ourselves.

But for the grace of God….

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Please Help Me Get This to Descendants Of Those “Gefallen” October 21, 1944!

I’m really hoping people searching the web or from where I post this on Facebook and Twitter can relay it on to others who will continue to relay it until it reaches the children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of the people noted on these crosses and in the text below.Edward Bowman's Crew Graves in Italy

The photo (click on image to enlarge) depicts the graves of six of the seven crewman who had been flying with the 439th Bombardment Squadron out of Seraggia Airdrome, one of 17 Allied airfields on the French island of Corsica .

On October 21, 1944, the crew’s B-26 Martin Marauder was flying second in formation, on the right wing of #4 flight on a bombing run to destroy strategic railroad bridges crossing the Piave River at Susegana, Italy as it flows out of the Alps across northeast Italy and into the Adriatic Sea when it was hit over the target by anti-aircraft fire exploding through the plane just aft of the escape hatch. The airplane burst into flames and crashed on the bank of the river, northwest of the target.

The plane was identified by yellow rings around the nacelles and the Battle Number 56 on the tail , much like the sister plane #64 shown the illustration below from the same squadron, same time period (click to enlarge.) The crew of Ship #731, Serial Number 42-107731 is also noted on the Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 09437, as witnessed by S/Sgt Jonathan E. Clark flying in another plane in the formation. 439th Two parachutes appeared to open.

As the war ended, it was learned that no one survived but a farmer had retrieved the bodies of six of the seven crew members and buried them side by side nearby in his orchard with a cross identifying the date and name of each as shown in the image earlier in this blog (click to enlarge.)

The remains of at least one member of the crew, the tail-gunner, Sgt. Edward E. Bowman, my Dad’s best friend and first cousin (for whom I received my middle name) was brought home after the war for re-burial in the Ora, Idaho, Cemetery on the Yellowstone-Teton area ranch/farm on which I was raised in Idaho. His wife Frankie remained close with my parents and was a frequent visitor to our home over the years (Frankie and Edward are shown in the image below, click to enlarge.)00063_p_10aeuyf6sw0427

The names on the crosses in the photo, preceded by the word “Gefallen” or killed, read from left to right:

Sgt John E Shamback (radio-gunner) Donora, PA

Sgt (marked unknown and could be the grave of either the pilot Lt Dean Rice Smith Center KA or co-pilot Lt Robert Veller Toledo OH)

Lt. Miles C. Smith jr. (bombardier) Austin TX

Col Joseph A. Miller jr. (observer) San Antonio TX

Sgt Edward E. Bowman (tail-gunner) Saint Anthony, ID

Sgt Charles J. Giarrizzo (engineer-gunner) Rochester NY

Hopefully someone reading can help me get this blog and the links to the photo to descendants of these men who may not have the fortune of having this information and memento to their heroism.