Afternoon News Report; March 9, 2012

Ok, it’s ACC Tournament Friday and I’m having trouble concentrating since every TV in our building is on the Carolina-Maryland game. Going to do this quickly!

DAWSON NAMED 2A ALL-STATE

Kinston’s Josh Dawson, who has helped lead the Vikings to tomorrow’s 2A state championship game in Raleigh, was named to the ncpreps.com 2A all-state team today.

The 2A state player of the year, though, is Waxhaw Cuthbertson’s Shelton Mitchell — who Dawson and the Vikings face tomorrow for the title.

My take: I know Josh pretty well and the young man doesn’t need much motivation … but I think this might just be one of those things he’ll use tomorrow. Just sayin’.

And congrats to Josh — this is a well-deserved honor for the heart of Kinston’s team.

Also — don’t forget I’ll be blogging play-by-play from the game tomorrow; Ryan Herman will be tweeting the game (@KFPSports). I’m also helping with the pep rally at 2 p.m. today, so come on out if you have a chance.

Finally, if you haven’t checked out this podcast, featuring Wells Gulledge, Perry Tyndall and Ryan Herman, you’re cheating yourself. One of our best.

DALTON VISITS KINSTON AGAIN

Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, one of the leading Democrats in the N.C. governor’s race, visited Kinston and The Free Press yesterday.

My take: While I still think he jumped into the pool a day early, I was pretty impressed with the lieutenant governor yesterday. He’s confident, well-spoken and ready to take on the presumptive GOP candidate, Pat McCrory. Should be a great race.

ROMNEY LEARNING TO LIKE GRITS

Leading GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is touring the Deep South — and is now saying “y’all” and eating grits.

My take: A bit funny, but he doesn’t need to try too hard. He certainly doesn’t need a Michael Dukakis in the tank photo that buried that candidate:

Fantastic.

The iPod shuffle

I Will Buy You A New Life — Everclear

Melissa — The Allman Brothers Band

Just You ‘N’ Me — Chicago

Dip It Low — Christina Milian

Love Me Tender — Elvis Presley

Morning News Report; March 7, 2012

ROMNEY WINS SIX OF 10 SUPER TUESDAY STATES

GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney won six of the 10 Super Tuesday primaries yesterday — including the key state of Ohio — while challenger Rick Santorum took three and Newt Gingrich won his home state of Georgia.

My take:While the pundits want to scream that this isn’t over, I can’t understand why folks don’t realize that it is.

Romney has more delegates than Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul combined. He’s exponentially outspending them. Unless there’s something in his closet that hasn’t come out yet — and I sincerely doubt that’s going to happen — Romney has the GOP nod wrapped up.

I’m not trying to go all conspiracy theorist on you here, but there’s one group who sincerely hopes this gets dragged out to the Republican National Convention in Tampa — Obama supporters. And who is characterized as being most closely aligned with Obama supporters? The alleged “mainstream media.”

While I don’t think CNN, Fox News and MSNBC (OK, I do believe MSNBC wants Obama reelected) are advocating for four more years of Obama, I know this much: as long as there are competitive GOP primary races, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC get better ratings — and more advertising dollars.

If the GOP was smart, though, they’d start concentrating on Obama instead of beating the hell out of each other the way they are now. I watched more political coverage last night than I have in the past year and couldn’t believe all the shots the four took at each other.

You know who loves that? Obama … and the networks. We have a poll up at Kinston.com asking which GOP candidate has the best chance of beating Obama — and the option “no one can beat Obama” is leading at 42 percent. Romney is “winning” at 28 percent, followed by Santorum (12 percent) and Gingrich (9) and Paul (9).

PEYTON SAYS GOOD-BYE TO COLTS TODAY

Today at noon, future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning will bid farewell to the Indianapolis Colts, a franchise for whom he won a Super Bowl.

Speculation is that he’ll end up signing with a new team soon; frontrunners include my beloved Washington Redskins, along with Miami, the New York Jets, Seattle, San Francisco, Kansas City and Arizona — among others.

My take: Honestly, I’d rather have Peyton than Robert Griffin III, for whom the Skins are allegedly attempting to trade up in the NFL Draft. At least with Peyton, you have a known entity (assuming he stays healthy) and all you’re spending is money, not draft picks.

With RG3, you’re spending money AND draft picks to obtain an entity you’re not entirely sure is going to be successful.

As for Peyton … it’s a bittersweet day for Indy fans. Yes, it’s sad he’s leaving your franchise, but it’s a pretty sweet prize to get Andrew Luck in the draft, a player virtually everyone has marked for stardom in the NFL.

Here’s my brother’s take on the Manning situation — and he takes a look at the possibility of the Colts being traitors for letting their quarterback go.

RYAN KELLY OUT FOR ACC TOURNEY

Duke forward Ryan Kelly will miss this weekend’s ACC Tournament in Atlanta after spraining his right foot at a Tuesday practice.

My take: I think that seriously hurts Duke’s chances of winning the tourney this weekend, too. Although he has much more talented teammates (see Rivers, Austin and Curry, Seth), Kelly is the heart of that team. I think Duke won’t make it past Florida State without him — and the Blue Devils might not make it past Miami on Friday.

But here’s the rub — I think UNC is going to have a tough time winning the tourney, too. Ol’ Roy is famous for not putting weight on the ACC Tournament and, frankly, it’ll mean more to Virginia (UNC’s likely Saturday opponent) or FSU (UNC’s likely Sunday opponent).

ACC AWARDS HANDED OUT

In what was a surprise to virtually no one, UNC’s Tyler Zeller was named the ACC player of the year, UNC’s John Henson took top defensive player of the year honors for the second year in a row and Duke’s Rivers was unanimously named the league’s best rookie.

What was a surprise — at least to me — was that FSU’s Leonard Hamilton was picked the league’s top coach … by a single vote over Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.

My take: While I agree that Hamilton did a fine job, he would’ve been my FOURTH choice for COTY, behind Virginia’s Tony Bennett, N.C. State’s Mark Gottfried and Krzyzewski.

FSU was picked to finish third … and the Seminoles finished third. Duke was picked second and finished second and even my Hoos were picked fourth and finished … you guessed it, fourth.

Gottfried’s squad was picked to finish eighth and are in fifth place and on the threshold of the NCAA Tournament in his first season.

The iPod shuffle

Imagine — John Lennon

Fergalicious — Fergie featuring will.i.am

W.T.P. — Eminem

Don’t Do Me Like That — Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Lookin’ Out My Back Door — Creedence Clearwater Revival

P.S.: Democratic N.C. gubernatorial candidate Walter Dalton is coming by The Free Press tomorrow; if you have any SERIOUS questions you’d like to have asked of him, post them here or email them to me at bhanks@freedomenc.com. I’ll get to as many as I can in the short amount of time we have him in our office.

Morning News Report; Monday, March 5, 2012

UNC NO. 1, DUKE NO. 2 IN ACC TOURNEY

Following UNC’s 88-70 whitewash of Duke in the regular season finale for both teams, the Tar Heels are the No. 1 seed and the Blue Devils are No. 2 in this week’s ACC men’s basketball tournament in Atlanta.

My take: Gotta admit — Carolina is the class of the ACC and I doubt anyone is going to make a run at the Heels, especially with the added motivation and knowledge that they probably need to win this week’s tourney to get a coveted No. 1 seed.

The bigger question is this: who will get into the NCAA tournament from the ACC? I think the top 3 — UNC, Duke and Florida State — are locks and that my beloved Virginia is a highly probable. And that’s it — unless N.C. State or Miami get hot this week, the ACC will only get four teams into the tourney.

And although I no longer have a vote for ACC player of the year and All-ACC, here’s how I would vote for player of the year — Kendall Marshall, UNC. Marshall is the most indispensable player in the league, period. Could Carolina win without Tyler Zeller, John Henson or Harrison Barnes? Yes — but they’d be a fourth-place ACC team without Marshall.

My first-team All-ACC: Marshall; Mike Scott, Virginia; Zeller; Henson; and Austin Rivers, Duke. I can hear Heelatious already losing his mind — “What? No Harrison Barnes on first team? Oh my God!” It’s this simple — Barnes is a one-trick pony; he’s a hell of an offensive player, probably the best in the ACC. But at this moment, Rivers is a better player than he — and a better pro prospect.

ELECTION 2012 IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER

In my Sunday column, I took a look at the local races; later this week (very likely, tomorrow), I’ll do a quick hit on the statewide and national races — hopefully, with your input.

My take: A preview, though (although I’ve touched on this several times): the presumed front-runner for the governor’s race, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, has already fallen to second in a statewide poll — because of his early-campaign gaffes. Ironically, Dalton will be in Kinston Thursday night and I’m hoping he’ll come by The Free Press office to talk about his campaign.

WILLIAMS POPS FOR 57 VS. TERRIBLE BOBCATS

Deron Williams finished with a franchise and career-high 57 points against the Charlotte Bobcats last night.

My take: Congrats to Williams — but to me, the bigger issue is how bad the Bobcats are. Charlotte is 4-31, which brought a fantastic tweet from former Free Press sports editor R.L. Bynum. He speculated the Carolina Panthers might end up winning more games in 2012 than this season’s Bobcats — and that’s highly likely.

Heck, I’ll take it a step further — this year’s Bobcats might not win more than the 2011 Panthers, who finished with six wins. That would mean Charlotte would need to finish 3-28 over the final 31 games, a winning percentage of .097; the Bobcats currently have a winning percentage of 0.114.

Wow. And does anyone seriously think it’s going to get better in coming years? Kemba Walker is a nice player, but no one thinks he’s going to be a legitimate star. D.J. Augustin is all right and Gerald Henderson could start for four or five NBA squads — and he’s considered the “star” of this team. Going to be some tough, tough winters in Charlotte.

The iPod shuffle

Broken Wings — Mister Mister

Another One Bites The Dust — Queen

Wake Me Up When September Ends — Green Day

Believe It Or Not — Nickelback

Poundcake — Van Halen

Morning News Report; Feb. 14, 2012

DALTON VISITS KINSTON

The leading Democratic candidate for governor, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, dropped in to Kinston yesterday for a campaign stop.

My take: One problem — he didn’t tell anyone (including The Free Press and the local TV stations) he was coming. Only because Dalton innocuously tweeted about it on his Twitter feed (and Justin “The Kid” Hill saw it) did we find out and have a reporter there to let the good folks of Kinston know about his visit.

Dalton’s campaign strategies to this point have been mind-baffling. First, he announces he’s running on the same day Bev Perdue makes her shocking decision not to run, burying his news deep in every North Carolina paper and news feed that day. Then, he visits Kinston for a “campaign stop” without telling media.

The concerning thing about the latter is that maybe he didn’t want anyone in Kinston or our area to know — other than big money folks who’ll bankroll his campaign … you know the REALLY important people.

If that’s the reason, that’s not cool; you’re coming to town to just talk to the people who are going to pay the bills? If failing to tell media was just an oversight, it’s a stupid move on his campaign’s part. So … which is it?

He may be the frontrunner for the Democratic bid, but if he continues doing things like this, he won’t be for long. He might be the best candidate for the job — who really knows at this point? — but he and his campaign aren’t doing him any favors right now.

SANDUSKY INAPPROPRIATELY TOUCHED GRANDSON, EX-DAUGHTER-IN-LAW ALLEGES

Accused child rapist Jerry Sandusky is being accused by his former daughter-in-law of inappropriately touching one of his grandsons.

My take: There’s a WHOLE lot of smoke here; hard to believe there isn’t some truth to all these allegations.

ECU TO BE PART OF HUGE-ASS CONFERENCE

East Carolina will be part of a Conference USA/Mountain West league that will include anywhere from 18-24 members.

My take: Well … this was the worst-case scenario for ECU since the Pirates never received that elusive Big East bid. Still, there really should be a BCS bid built in here or what’s the point?

KATE UPTON NAMED 2012 SI COVERGIRL

Kate Upton, a 19-year-old from Florida, is this year’s Sports Illustrated cover girl. Here she is on the cover:

Click on this for a much, much better view.

My take: Uh, wow. Happy Valentine’s Day, guys.

For poops and giggles, take a gander at a few more shots at Ms. Upton:

Again, click on these for better views.

The iPod shuffle

Wait For Me — Daryl Hall & John Oates

Easy Lover — Phil Collins

Heaven Is A Place On Earth — Belinda Carlisle

Teach Me How To Dougie — Cali Swag District

Be Near Me — ABC

Morning News Report; Feb. 3, 2012

ETHERIDGE JOINS GOVERNOR’S RACE; BOWLES SAYS NO … AGAIN

In yet another post-Bev-quitting day of excitement, former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (he of the “Who are you?” rant gloriously remembered below) announced his run for governor, while the Democrats’ favorite, former Clinton staffer and UNC system president Erskine Bowles announced he won’t run.

Etheridge joins Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and N.C. Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, as the three candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor.

My take: Dalton wasn’t a surprise and is the front-runner right now; no one knows Faison, so he’s going to have that uphill battle.

But most folks remember Etheridge from THIS encounter:

Oh, the Republicans are begging the Democrats to nominate Mr. Etheridge!

JOSH HAMILTON HAS ALCOHOL RELAPSE

Raleigh native and Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, who has suffered with alcohol and drug abuse throughout a lot of his life, has had a relapse with alcohol.

My take: And that’s too bad. I’m a huge fan of Hamilton’s and I pray this is either an erroneous report or it’s just a one-time deal.

There are a lot of kids who look up to Hamilton — and adults who are suffering from alcohol and drug addictions, too.

WOODMEN CENTER TOURED BY COMMITTEE

Members of the Woodmen of the World Center committee toured the construction area of the rapidly-growing center and pool yesterday. They gave the center — whose pool is set to open in June — a big thumbs-up.

My take: As do I. With the loss of the Kinston Indians, Lenoir County needed a shot in the arm — and this is it.

I know folks were bitching about the city and government combining to give $1 million to this project, but when you see the people this is going to bring to Kinston (with their dollars), you’re going to be shocked. This is going to be the best water park in Eastern North Carolina — along with a state-of-the-art gym — and it’s going to bring hundeds and thousands of folks into our town who otherwise wouldn’t come.

Let’s look past the nose on our face, people — this is going to be a major success and we need to support it.

The iPod shuffle

Vogue — Madonna

The Humpty Dance — Digital Underground

The Gank — Nelly

Touchdown — T.I. featuring Eminem

Miss Sarejevo — U2

Morning News Report; Jan. 31, 2012

MCCRORY SET TO ANNOUNCE RUN

Republican Pat McCrory, who narrowly lost the race for governor four years ago, formally announces his run for the same office today.

My take: It’s this simple — this McCrory’s race to lose. His appeal was so strong it forced Gov. Bev Perdue out of the race and there’s not a Democrat in the state outside of Jim Hunt who can come within 7 percentage points of him in November.

Unless McCrory does something really, really stupid — and he’s as polished as a new Lamborghini, so I don’t see that happening — he’ll be our governor-elect on Election Day.

THERE ARE DUNKS AND THEN THERE’S BLAKE GRIFFIN

Sure, the L.A. Clippers defeated Oklahoma City last night — but that’s not what the entire sports world is talking about this morning.

What they are raving about — according to Steve Czaban, ESPN SportsCenter showed it 56 times in one hour this morning! — is this emasculating dunk by Blake Griffin over Kendrick Perkins last night:

My take: Uh, yeah. That’s a pretty sweet dunk.

You think Perkins had trouble going to sleep last night?

FERRIS DRIVES A HONDA?

As it turns out, the Ferris Bueller Matthew Broderick Super Bowl commercial we looked at last week is for Honda. Yes, Honda. Here you go:

My take: Honda.

Could’ve been for Ferrari, a Corvette or even a Mustang … but Honda? C’mon, Ferris, you can do better than that!

However, the commercial was pretty sweet. If anything, film studios should look at the buzz this thing created and realize — THERE NEEDS TO BE A FERRIS BUELLER SEQUEL. The world is demanding it!

The iPod shuffle

Tennessee — Arrested Development

Mad World — Michael Andrews & Gary Jules

Hey Ya! — Outkast

Shadows And Tall Trees — U2

Blood Roses — Tori Amos

P.S.: I haven’t forgotten about our final standings for the blog pick ‘em — my goal is to get that up by tomorrow.

Walter Dalton announces run for governor

Fresh off the email from N.C. Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton:

“I believe that our future economy and better jobs depend on our historic commitment to education. After all, education is in North Carolina’s DNA – it’s what sets us apart and it’s what will determine our future. However, you can’t make progress if you are pointed in the wrong direction. Pat McCrory and the Republican leadership are facing the wrong way by cutting teachers, reducing scholarships and abandoning economic development. They are doing lasting damage to our state. I’ve dedicated my career to improving education at all levels and making North Carolina a great place to do business.

“Today, I’m announcing that I am running for Governor. Lucille and I love this state and we understand tough political races. I am the only candidate who has run and won statewide and I look forward to waging an aggressive campaign. Elections are about choices. As a state we must decide the direction in which we will turn. With this campaign, I choose to look ahead to a brighter future.  I choose progress.  I choose a future where public education is the foundation of our economy.”

My take: Well … THAT didn’t take long! So who else joins the fray?

My second take: With 10 minutes of reflection, let me say this — I think he’s making a grave mistake announcing this, this soon after Perdue’s announcement. Why? It’s going to be buried in EVERY newspaper in North Carolina tomorrow AND under every Perdue headline online today and tomorrow.

If he’d waited until tomorrow to do this, he’d had the headlines all to himself. Now, however, he’s going to be buried deep under all the Perdue headlines.

Not a very smart first move for his campaign.

Report: Bev Perdue won’t seek reelection

Of course, I finish my first MNR in a month … and THIS breaks — N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue will not seek reelection this year, according to the Washington Post.

My take: Wha-wha-what? The Democrats in North Carolina had already pretty much resigned themselves to Perdue running — so who will feel that void now?

So why is she getting out? Are there new allegations coming against her? Did she realize she had no chance against Pat McCrory? Is it not for nefarious reasons but simply because she was tired of the game?

And why is the Washington Post reporting this and not the Raleigh News and Observer, the Charlotte Observer or another NORTH CAROLINA media entity?

Wow. Huge news. I’ll add updates here throughout the day.

UPDATE 10 A.M.: I’ve seen Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx’s name emerge as a possible candidate (and he’d be solid), along with Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton. Any other names out there?

UPDATE 12:55 P.M.: Here’s an official statement from Gov. Perdue –

Like the rest of the nation, North Carolina has been facing difficult economic times — demanding many difficult decisions.  I have had to make painful budget cuts in important areas of government.  But I believe I have approached this challenge in a way that is consistent with my values and the values that have made our state a wonderful place to live and raise a family.  I have spent my tenure in office – and, in fact, my adult lifetime – fighting for things that I care deeply about.  And as anyone who knows me will tell you, I do not back down from tough fights.

But I understand this:  We live in highly partisan times, where some people seem more worried about scoring political points than working together to address the real challenges our state faces.  And it is clear to me that my race for re-election will only further politicize the fight to adequately fund our schools.   A re-election campaign in this already divisive environment will make it more difficult to find any bipartisan solutions.

The thing I care about most right now is making sure that our schools and schoolchildren do not continue to be the victims of shortsighted legislative actions and severe budget cuts inflicted by a legislative majority with the wrong priorities. Therefore, I am announcing today that I have decided not to seek re-election.  I hope this decision will open the door to an honest and bipartisan effort to help our schools.

To those of you who have supported me throughout my years of public service, I will always be grateful for the confidence you have placed in me. In my remaining months in office, I look forward to continuing to fight for the priorities we share, by putting North Carolinians back to work and investing in our children’s future. To my children and grandchildren, and especially to my husband Bob, thank you for always being there for me – especially as I’ve weighed this difficult decision.

Thank you all, and God bless North Carolina.

My take: Nice sentiments … hard to believe, but nice sentiments.

I’ve met and interacted personally with Gov. Perdue a few times and I’ve always found her to be a very pleasant and professional person. She and our publisher, Patrick Holmes, have known each other for decades and that’s always been an aid to talking to her.

But if she was sincere about helping the education system, why not run for reelection and battle it out as the governor for four more years (if she won)? How does being a lame-duck governor help her cause to help kids? It doesn’t.

I feel pretty much the same way about this situation that I did about Sarah Palin stepping down as Alaska’s governor so her administration could continue “with great administrative and legislative success.” Palin did it to sell books and become a multi-millionaire; her reason wasn’t for the best interest of Alaska.

The same goes for Perdue — she’s doing this for one of a few reasons:

  • She knew she couldn’t win
  • She knows something’s about to come down the line in indictments
  • She’s just tired of the bickering, the fussing and the fighting

It’s one of those reasons — not for her written reason. We’ll see.