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Duct and Cover, the B.S. is Flying



Maybe now the American public is starting to catch on to the flawed quality of the Bush administration's case for war on Iraq. Europe's overwhelming opposition is getting harder for the Bomb Saddam crowd to blink away. And it's not just the flaky French or gerontocratic Germans standing against Bush. Millions of citizens in Spain, Britain and Italy poured into the streets Saturday, notwithstanding their pro-war governments.

And then there's the duct tape.

It was just too convenient when Bush's homeland security team called a Code Orange just as Colin Powell tried to clinch the deal at the United Nations. But when they started advising on the proper use of plastic and duct tape, even the most committed war fans had to wonder: Do these people know what they're talking about?

No, they didn't. Their key "source" soon flunked a polygraph and came clean: He'd told the Bushies what he knew they wanted to hear about imminent attacks with dirty bombs.

At the peace rally in Raleigh, everybody was talking about how the mainstream media bends over in the prevailing, "official" winds. (And about the complete absence of Triangle politicians--of either party.) Many folks said they rely on Internet sources that rocket their news to the readers who want it--a kind of "coalition of the willing" on the left.

We want the pro-war side to listen to us. Should we also listen to them? How do we save Iraq from Saddam Hussein?

Perhaps it takes an experienced researcher to strike the right balance. Patricia Garrett-Peters of Durham, who studies child-development issues at UNC-Chapel Hill, said she's "scared for the future of the country ... (because) the public is just so willing to accept the information that's fed to them."

Not an activist before Sept. 11, she's made it a point since then to educate herself about what the rest of the world thinks of the United States, Garrett-Peters said. At the same time, she acknowledges that her sources are skewed to the left and everyone she talks to--family and friends--is anti-war. "As we've become more politically involved, we surround ourselves with others who are like-minded," she said. "We don't typically get exposed to people who don't feel like we do."

Political science isn't real scientific, but one thing it's proven empirically: Americans tend to believe "evidence" that fits with what they already think. They dismiss or ignore contrary information, no matter how accurate. In a dangerous world, that close-mindedness is perhaps the biggest danger we face.

We'll Miss Chris. One thing Chris Fitzsimon isn't is closed-minded. Which starts to explain the gap he'll leave in Raleigh when he exits the Common Sense Foundation at the end of February. Fitzsimon started Common Sense nine years ago to argue the progressive side of things to state policymakers and the North Carolina media. That it's done. And Chris, its executive director, has done it with force and--here's a rare politial commodity--class. That's because he masters both sides of an issue before staking out his own.

No one's in a better position to appreciate that talent than John Hood, Chris's counterpart at the conservative John Locke Foundation who's frequently matched up against him on TV (including the weekly N.C. Spin), radio and the after-dinner circuit. "On my side of the fence, there was an appreciation for someone with a good B.S. detector and a sense of humor," Hood says.

The two have never been afraid, Hood adds, to agree in public--both opposed the lottery, for example--which tended both to disarm audiences and also sharpen their inevitable disagreements. Without either of them raising his voice or calling names. "I admire his ability to see the other side, even if 'wrong,' and engage the issues on their terms."

Fitzsimon, a former TV reporter and aide to then-House Speaker Dan Blue, comes armed with the facts and a strong bass voice to get his point across, traits our progressive team will miss, especially since Hood (a tenor?) has an encyclopedic memory. He's headed now to the Rockefeller Family Fund, which pursued him--and wouldn't take no for an answer, we're told--to head up its Environmental Integrity Fund, based in Washington.

Common Sense is looking for his successor. If not his replacement.

Same Crap, New County.We'll say this about Asphalt Experts chief Doug Robins--he's no quitter. The Indy's Jen Strom stomped on his bid last year to put an asphalt plant in Durham within 600 feet of a residential neighborhood. It failed. (See "Paving the Way," Feb. 20, 2002.) Now he's back, but in Orange County. Robins wants to build a plant on a Valley Forge Road site that's in Hillsborough's planning jurisdiction but also borders land owned by the county. A public hearing on the proposal has been continued until March 12 before the town's Board of Adjustment.

County opposition? If so, Robins has an experienced lawyer at his side: Will Anderson, who went down in defeat with him in Durham, did manage to get himself appointed to the Durham City/County Environmental Affairs Board (a citizens advisory group!) in the bargain. EndBlock

Is the Wake school system coming apart? And is that what Cary Mayor Glen Lang really wants? Weigh in at or 412-5051.

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