Political frustrations

I have been wondering more and more about my obsession with politics. Like many obsessions, it borders on unhealthy. Often its frustrating, particularly to watch progress get thwarted come the next election.

I was feeling this way about the recent Democratic primary for the Wake County Commissioners. I’ve felt the incumbents on the ballot, Sig Hutchinson, John Burns, Erv Portman, and Matt Calabria, have done a fine job guiding the county but several fellow Democrats had a differing opinion. Portman and Burns were sent home Tuesday in favor of former school board member Susan Evans and newcomer Vickie Adamson. Hutchinson and Calabria retained their seats.
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Raleigh woman hunts down thief after $4K stolen from her bank account :: WRAL.com

This is why you don’t ever use debit cards for anything. It is also a story for why crooks continue to get away with these crimes of fraud: we are essentially powerless to prevent it.

How far would you go to track down someone who used your debit card number? When a Raleigh woman became a victim, she took matters into her own hands.After she was robbed of $4,500, Amy Milslagle launched her own investigation to catch the thief.

“I used to use my debit card daily, multiple times a day — pretty much for everything,” said Milslagle.Then, last February, her debit card stopped working.

Source: Raleigh woman hunts down thief after $4K stolen from her bank account :: WRAL.com

Drawing the lines on sexual harassment

Rep. Duane Hall

Once upon a time, I learned of a former female coworker who had allegedly been sexually harassed by an executive at the company where we both worked. He had locked her in his office and demanded sexual favors from her. The man held all the cards: she was fresh out of college, she reported to him, and who would believe her word against his?

I was shocked and sickened by this allegation, having never had a clue it was going on, and lost all respect for this man to the point that I later turned down a lucrative job offer simply because it would have made him my boss.

I think it’s pretty clear when your boss locks you in his office and attacks you, that’s sexual harassment if not outright rape. It certainly isn’t consensual nor anywhere near that. It’s plainly wrong.

Then the #MeToo movement came around, a long-overdue reckoning of bad-boy behavior. Creep behavior from the likes of Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Matt Lauer, and Louis CK was rightfully called out and, I believe, we could all agree that what they did was wrong. But then Sen. Al Franken was forced to resign for a scripted kiss with LeeAnn Tweeden, a female fellow performer, and for pretending to grope her in a photograph. Both were on a USO tour that was clearly sexually charged by all involved parties.

Is this sexual harassment? Franken had no power over Tweeden. Both had agreed to perform and perhaps both had gotten carried away at times. I failed then and I fail now to see how a scripted kiss between two actors could possibly be construed as sexual harassment. My Democratic Party was all too happy to throw Franken – a man of great integrity who was known to champion women – under the bus to serve some absurdly unrealistic appearance of purity.

Bad taste? Perhaps. Sexual harassment? I’m not so sure.

These incidents were on my mind when last week news broke from Billy Ball at N.C. Policy Watch that several women were accusing N.C. Rep. Duane Hall of sexual misconduct. Hall was accused of chatting up a female Democratic campaign worker when they met at a bar, had a few drinks, and the topic of relationships was broached. I’m sorry, but I fail to see how the banter between an unmarried legislator and a female campaign operative who agreed to meet at a bar could be considered sexual harassment.

It’s a bar, for goodness sakes! That’s what people do at a bar! Stuff that goes on at a bar should be off the record.

As for allegations that Rep. Hall grabbed a woman at the Equality Ball and snapped a selfie with her against her will, he denies the allegation and makes a valid point that there were hundreds of people there, making it difficult to hide any alleged misconduct.

Is what Hall is accused of a hanging offense? I am not convinced. I know Hall and, yes, he can be flirty. I’ve only seen this in social situations, however, and have never seen it in any professional setting. A single male legislator chatting up women in social situations does not strike me as strange. It might seem stranger to me if this weren’t the case. Politics is, was, and always will be a very sexually-charged business. Confidence, competitiveness, and political power are attractive. Not to mention that the unique challenges of holding public office can make it a lonely endeavor.

And it’s not just males who take advantage of this. Many women in political office are known to be just as flirty, even some who are almost certainly speaking out against Rep. Hall under the cover of anonymity. Having been around politics for a while now I, too, have been the subject of this flirting on several occasions, including an unwanted kiss from an elected official. You know what? It’s no big deal to me. My wife chuckled when I told her of the kiss, taking it as seriously as I did. No harm, no foul.

What I do have a problem with is the pretense that our elected officials should be saints because saints are in very short supply and those that arearound tend not to make good leaders. There are degrees of appropriateness in any situation and it’s wrong (and, frankly, stupid) to paint every supposed transgression with the same brush. To group what Rep. Hall allegedly did with the deeds of Harvey Weintstein and others is false equivalence and a dangerous trap to fall into.

How about we always let the punishment fit the crime and not submit to knee-jerk reactions for the sake of saying we’ve done something?

Raleigh charities signed off on Simple Recycling deal

I’m still poking through all the meeting notes, but I thought it notable that the local Salvation Army signed off on the deal when it was presented to Raleigh City Council at its 3 January 2017 meeting. From Council minutes: [PDF]

Lisa Rivers, Salvation Army Advisory Board, told about herself, work she has done and stated she and the Salvation Army Advisory Board are huge advocates of the proposed program. They feel it would be cost efficient, provide positive environmental impacts, etc. Ms. Rivers pointed out she is on the committee which looks for/receives donations and feels the proposed program will actually increase the donations many nonprofits receive. She stated most people who donate do not consider their donations “trash.” She feels the proposed program is a great opportunity for all and feels it will create a lot of awareness related to needs, donations, be a great thing, and
be much more effective and provide a return for all. It is a great opportunity and will provide a great partnership.

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City of Raleigh begins first in state curbside textile recycling program | abc11.com

Recycling bin

The City of Raleigh has teamed up with a for-profit company to collect clothing along with recycling. The company, SimpleRecycling, will resell the items.

I know Bianca Howard and I think the city’s recycling program is top notch, however I’m uneasy with the city’s staff doing the dirty work of a for-profit company. I’m especially uneasy with the idea that this clothing could instead have gone to charities to distribute to people who need it, free of charge. Austin’s deal with the company has become controversial after local non-profits complained it was hurting their donations.

I think I’ll pass.

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) –The City of Raleigh will begin to offer a textile recycling program on February 20th.Stay on top of breaking news stories with the ABC11 News AppRaleigh is the first city in North Carolina to partner with Simple Recycling, a for-profit company that sells the items domestically and internationally so residents will not receive a tax write off for their items.”They’re providing this service at no charge to residents of Raleigh,” City of Raleigh Environmental Coordinator Bianca Howard said.”Residents who prefer to get a tax deduction or help a favorite charity should continue to do that,” she said. “We really see this as another way to help people learn about textiles and keep good textiles out of the landfill.”

Source: City of Raleigh begins first in state curbside textile recycling program | abc11.com

Raleigh’s in the Running for Amazon’s HQ2. But Do We Really Want the Damn Thing? | Wake County | Indy Week

IndyWeek pretty much repeats what I’ve been cautioning about Amazon HQ2 landing in Raleigh. Be careful what you wish for.

There’s been something surreal about watching cities all over the country prostrate themselves before Amazon in hopes of landing HQ2, the company’s second headquarters, which will employ some fifty thousand workers and pump $5 billion into the local economy over the next two decades. Newark has offered the internet behemoth $7 billion in incentives. Philadelphia offered as much as $2 billion over ten years. Missouri offered in excess of $2.4 billion (which wasn’t good enough; Amazon rejected bids from Kansas City and St. Louis). Other cities that have made their incentive packages public aren’t far behind. For those that haven’t—including North Carolina—it’s difficult to imagine that figure not reaching the billions.

Source: Raleigh’s in the Running for Amazon’s HQ2. But Do We Really Want the Damn Thing? | Wake County | Indy Week

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace – The New York Times

Speaking of Amazon, here’s an NYT piece from 2015 on its workaholic ways. This is largely confirmed by former Amazon employees I know.

I read this stuff and wonder why I give my money to Amazon. And then I do it anyway.

On Monday mornings, fresh recruits line up for an orientation intended to catapult them into Amazon’s singular way of working.

They are told to forget the “poor habits” they learned at previous jobs, one employee recalled. When they “hit the wall” from the unrelenting pace, there is only one solution: “Climb the wall,” others reported. To be the best Amazonians they can be, they should be guided by the leadership principles, 14 rules inscribed on handy laminated cards. When quizzed days later, those with perfect scores earn a virtual award proclaiming, “I’m Peculiar” — the company’s proud phrase for overturning workplace conventions.

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

Source: Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace – The New York Times

From Seattle, a former Raleighite advises about living with Amazon | News & Observer

Again, be careful what you wish for, Raleigh. The question we should be asking Amazon is “what will you do for us?

Well, congratulations, Raleigh! You made the cut! You’re one of 20 cities that Amazon is considering for its second headquarters, better known as “HQ2.” (Best to get hip to the lingo if you want to stay in the game.)

Best, too, to know what you’re in for if you win the online retailer’s heart – the existence of which some Seattleites wonder about. Like Sasquatch, or sunshine past September.

But let’s not get into that just yet.

This civic lottery means one hell of a windfall: Amazon promises a $5 billion capital investment and 50,000 new tech jobs.

Win it, and the Triangle will be brimming with new energy, new money and that trademark Tar Heel satisfaction that comes from besting those bank nerds in Charlotte.

hBut I know the charm and ease of Raleigh; I lived there for 1994 to 1998. I know what’s at stake.

And I’ve lived in Seattle through Amazon’s explosive growth, which has been going on for several years and hasn’t let up.

Source: From Seattle, a former Raleighite advises about living with Amazon | News & Observer

January snowfall

A drone’s eye view of the snow.

Last Wednesday morning we got a rather significant snowfall here in Raleigh that kept us out of work and school for the rest of the week. For a while there, it looked as if the heaviest snow would be directly over Raleigh but the fictitious “Raleigh weather dome” (said by equally-fictitious blogger William Needham Findley IV to be controlled by former Raleigh city council member Bonner Gaylord) kept the heaviest snow to the west of us. When it stopped snowing at our home in East Raleigh I had measured 4.75″.

I worked from home Wednesday through Friday (ah, the joy of being a knowledge worker) but did enjoy how beautiful the snow looked on the trees. It was a clumping sort of snow that wound up sticking very well to branches but causing few issues with broken limbs. I also caught up on some technical projects I’d been meaning to get done. It was a nice winter event, though when the streets had cleared I was quite ready to go for a bike ride!