Mark Binker dies

Mark Binker


I was shocked to learn of the death of reporter Mark Binker yesterday. Mark died unexpectedly at 43, leaving behind a wife and two kids. I can’t say I knew Mark well (we were Facebook friends for a short while) but whenever I visited the General Assembly I was bound to see him there and he was always friendly and appreciative of a quip. His reporting on North Carolina politics was second to none and helped explain to the masses the often arcane operations of the General Assembly. Reading his stuff you could tell Mark did his homework and you could always take his word to the bank.

Sometime last year the family and I went out to eat at a North Raleigh restaurant, perhaps to celebrate a family event. After we had settled down with our food I looked across the restaurant and saw Mark and his family enjoying dinner. I wasn’t entirely sure it was Mark (as I said, I didn’t know him that well) and I didn’t want to be That Guy Who Interrupts TV People Everywhere so I didn’t bother them. I did enjoy watching how doting he was as a father and husband. Sometimes people aren’t the friendly, kind people in real life that they appear on TV, but that little scene told me all I needed to know about Mark.

I’m sure he’d hate that I called him a “TV person,” too. He always looked so damn uncomfortable in front of the lens but his reporting was always rock solid. I’m so, so sorry for his family.

The Fear Bubble

The Bogeyman

Facebook can easily become an echo chamber, only showing you posts that its algorithms think will reinforce your worldview (and thus keep you engaged). This can result in a very skewed perspective of the world. On the other hand, Facebook does offer a window into the perspectives of people who don’t think like you do … if you actively seek this out.

I maintain friendships across the political spectrum. People are more alike than disalike, no matter how some might try to accentuate the differences. I do have some conservative-leaning friends and think they’re generally reasonable people. If they were unreasonable and not open to my gentle, loving prodding I might have turned away from them. Some of the less reasonable indeed have made it to the Facebook “unfollow” stage, where I remain connected to them but don’t get updates from them. I like to maintain a window into their worldview because I think it’s important to understand how people think, especially people with whom I sometimes disagree.

It was peering through this “window” that I began to notice a startling personality trait that many conservatives share which came to light after last week’s United debacle. While almost all of my left-leaning friends immediately faulted the airline for its brutal treatment of a paying customer, there were more than one conservative friends who defended the airline. In their view, the senior-citizen doctor must have done something to deserve getting the shit kicked out of him. He argued with authority, he was disruptive, so he earned what he got, their thinking seemed to go.

How can this be? How can some people side with authority in spite of ample warning signs that authority is wrong? Is it part of their personality, their religious upbringing, or some combination? I’m not entirely sure, but there seems to be a class of people who are almost completely authority-driven and these people are conservative people. It doesn’t matter what the orders are, you follow them. No gray area. Everything is good or evil, black or white.

When I look at the appalling treatment visitors to this country have been given by some in the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agency, this comes to mind. Orders were given that must be carried out. I think ultra-authority-driven people are drawn to these jobs.

I can also see how, given the right authority figure, people can be convinced to maintain order in ways that are detrimental to others. Germany’s Nazi Party held powerful sway over the German people. At present, Russians adore Vladamir Putin in spite of his looting the country, murdering opponents, and stirring up other lawlessness to bolster himself. Finally, Trump gained the same kind of support from people who were (and are) convinced that there’s a bogeyman behind every tree. Walls must be built, immigrants blocked, and sharia law prevented from taking root here.

A threat is raised and the fearful rally around the strongest authority figure. Oldest trick in the book. I never thought I’d see it here, though. Here we are in 2017 and there are people out there – friends of friends – who are so freaking spooked out of their minds that they have bought into the batshit-craziest fake news stories out there. Honestly, when I see some of these poor folks screaming about ISIS in their neighborhood I can only shake my head.

So, why didn’t these people fall in line behind Obama? After all, being President of the United States should come with some heft, right (well, until recently)? How were today’s fear-mongers able to keep Obama from being their savior? First of all, Obama was too pragmatic to get himself tangled in intractable wars. His job was to get us out of them, which he did fairly well. That meant no jumping with both feat into the ages-old quagmires of Middle Eastern relations, ISIS or no ISIS. The right, therefore, latched onto the Benghazi attack as proof to the fearful that Obama wasn’t going to protect them, no matter that far more diplomats were attacked during Bush’s term.

The other thing the Right did, and this was crucial to their strategy, was to de-legitimize Obama’s presidency, casting doubt on his citizenship and (of course) his race. As long as doubt was sown among the conservative fearful, the Right could drain his authority and keep these poor, petrified folks that they were all alone. As one gun shop owner put it, there was no better gun salesman than Barack Obama.

Somehow we have to get to these people. They are stuck in a “fear bubble,” fed sensational lies by the right-wing media to falsely believe they are under attack. Perhaps if they came out of their bunkers for a bit they would see that the sky is not falling and ISIS is not, after all, roaming their neighborhoods at night.

Can they be reached? It will take a lot of time and effort. One thing’s for sure: American discourse will suffer until they can be freed from their fear bubbles.

KremlinGate Just Put the Trump White House in a Precarious Place | Observer

Last week I explained in this column how President Donald Trump, despite facing serious political challenges over his murky ties to the Kremlin, was fortunate to have opponents more motivated by partisanship than truth-telling. As long as that state of affairs continued, the commander-in-chief was likely to avoid the thorough scrutiny which his apparent links to Moscow actually merit.

A lot has changed in just a few days. Last week began promisingly for the president, with his joint address to Congress on Tuesday evening earning better reviews than many had anticipated. Then it all unraveled the next day, when it was reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a key member of the White House inner circle, had two discussions with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador in Washington, during the 2016 election campaign.

It’s hardly abnormal for sitting senators—as Sessions was last year—to meet with foreign diplomats, even Russian ones, but the precise capacity in which he chatted with Kislyak suddenly became important. Was Sessions parleying with the Kremlin’s emissary as a senator or as a top advisor to Donald Trump?

Source: KremlinGate Just Put the Trump White House in a Precarious Place | Observer

HKonJ | North Carolina NAACP on crowd size at Moral March in Raleigh | News & Observer

N&O reporter Will Doran took a stab at estimating crowd size, rightfully pointing out that Fayetteville Street isn’t long enough to hold the 80,000 demonstrators some claimed were at Saturday’s HKonJ rally.

Blending the Howard Jacobs-method of estimating crowd size that Doran used with the National Park Service’s official SWAG method (“scientific wild-ass guess”), I’ve done my own calculations, based on the drone shot I took and shared in the previous blog post and measuring streets and spaces using Google Maps.

Here’s what I came up with:
South Street area between Salisbury and Wilmington, curb to curb: 600 x 33 ft = 19,800 sq. ft.
Wilmington between South and Davie: 1224 x 34 ft. = 41,616 sq. ft.
Davie between Wilmington and Fayetteville: 300 x 38 ft. = 11,400 sq. ft.
Fayetteville St. between Davie and Morgan: 1429 x 99 ft. = 141,471 sq. ft.

Now, based on my drone photo there is a huge crowd still in front of Memorial Auditorium at 10:35 AM. The area they’re in totals 71,500 sq. ft, give or take. It looks packed.

Going by the 5 sq. ft. per person Jacobs model and assuming all of these areas are that full, I get a high-end guesstimate of 57,157 people. The low-end estimate assuming the 10 sq. ft model (and that Memorial is 5-level full) is 35,729 people. A middle estimate that assumes Fayetteville was closer to slightly half-full gives me 44,168 people.

So, did the rally attract 80,000? Not even close. Still, the numbers it did attract are still quite impressive by any measure.

Supporters of Saturday’s protest march in downtown Raleigh, the 11th annual HKonJ, said more than 80,000 people attended.Organizers including the N.C. NAACP announced the massive crowd size, then it began circulating on social media and was picked up and repeated by several national news outlets covering the event.

The march was held to oppose President Donald Trump and to voice support for a laundry list of causes, ranging from supporting Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act to opposing gerrymandering. HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street.

But many questioned whether the crowd was really as big as organizers and attendees claimed, and some asked PolitiFact North Carolina to look into it.

Crowd size estimates are a handy way of gauging people’s interest – or lack thereof – in the big topics of the day.So understandably, estimates often inspire emotional reactions from both sides – especially in highly politicized contexts like this weekend’s HKonJ.

Source: HKonJ | North Carolina NAACP on crowd size at Moral March in Raleigh | News & Observer

Huge crowd for HKonJ rally Saturday

HKonJ brings a huge crowd to downtown Raleigh, Feb 2017..

This past Saturday was the day of the annual HKonJ rally and march (#HKonJ #MoralMarch hashtags). HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street. It was one of several HKonJ marches I’ve attended. Previous marches sometimes seemed overly optimistic calling themselves “thousands” as there didn’t seem to be a lot of interest. That certainly wasn’t the case Saturday as there was arguably the biggest demonstration I’ve ever seen in Raleigh.

Kelly, Hallie, and I attended but we were running late due to all the other things that happen in the Turner household on weekends. By the time we had made our signs and were in the car, it was close to 10:30 AM. We parked the car in the parking deck at Blount and Cabarrus and snapped a quick photo before heading off. Kelly and Hallie took their signs and joined the crowd marching towards Fayetteville Street, while I took advantage of the empty parking deck to launch my drone for some aerial footage of the crowd.
Contine reading

Rahm Emanuel: Too many Dems care more about being right than winning – Chicago Tribune

Rahm has a point. If you’re not in power you have zero say about what gets done.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has warned Democrats they need to “take a chill pill” and realize that they are not going to take back national power anytime soon.”It ain’t gonna happen in 2018,” Emanuel said Monday at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in California. “Take a chill pill, man. You gotta be in this for the long haul.”

As he did last month at an event in Washington, D.C., the mayor expanded on what he believes is the road map back to power for his party — putting moderate candidates such as veterans, football players, sheriffs and business people up in Republican districts, picking battles with Republicans, exploiting wedges within the GOP and fighting attempts to redistrict Congress on partisan grounds.But this time he didn’t hold back on his frustration with some of his fellow Democrats.

Source: Rahm Emanuel: Too many Dems care more about being right than winning – Chicago Tribune