Target Aims for Tolerance

As a small business owner, I know the dangers of one’s company taking public, political stances on firey topics. So when Minnesota based retail mega-chain Target came out in full support of gay marriage via new fund raiser this past week, I knew it was a courageous decision. Like my home state of North Carolina, this November MN voters will decide whether to put a gay marriage ban into the books. Not content to sit ideally by and let discrimination be written into their home-state’s constitution, Target has decided to take a stand and sell T-shirts to raise money for a group working to defeat the gay marriage ban in Minnesota.

Predictably, anti-gay marriage supporters are none-too-happy. Chuck Darrell, spokesman for Minnesota for Marriage said of Target’s decision – “Target is attacking traditional marriage, which is an incredibly misguided thing for them to have done. It’s an insult to the overwhelming majority of their customers.”

I never quite understand how traditional marriage supporters believe that by extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians, their own beliefs are “under attack”. How does it affect heterosexual’s rights to marry simply by allowing homosexuals to do the same? It makes no sense to me and demonstrates the “our way or the highway” mentality of the anti-gay marriage mentality.

Standing up against hate is always tough especially when traditional marriage proponents are sure to call for a sweeping boycott, potentially costing Target millions in revenue. Just ask North Carolina’s own Replacements Ltd., one of the country’s largest suppliers of replacement silver, china and glassware what happened when they took a stand against NC’s Amendment 1. Hostile letters poured in, customers cancelled their business and the owner’s personal safety was in doubt. Unlike Bank of America, Duke Energy or any of the other NC Fortune 500 companies that stayed conspicuously silent during the run-up to A1, Replacements Ltd. took a stand and in so doing, earned the respect of those of us who support gay marriage like myself.

I’ve always enjoyed shopping at Target brand stores and now I have a new reason to frequent their chain over their competitors, which I fully intend to do. It takes guts and wherewithal to do what Target has done and they seem to have both in abundant supply. Such companies deserve both our praise and our business.

NC’s Silver Lining

I have to say that when I went to bed last night I was feeling pretty darned depressed about what transpired here in North Carolina with Amendment 1. I just don’t understand how people can treat their fellow Americans with contempt just because of whom they love. I firmly believe the state has no business interfering in our lives in this way, and the passing of A1 with such an overwhelming majority (even if they were confused about its implications) was quite heartbreaking.

But then today the President finally finishes “evolving” his position and comes out in favor of gay marriage. Suddenly things just don’t seem as bad. I know his stated position doesn’t change anything for the thousands of lgbt couples in NC and around the country, but what Barack did today is symbolic and it does indeed matter.

I was very proud of the President when he was elected. He’s strayed on some important issues, bent his promises on others, but in his heart, I believe him to be an honest and good man. Today he re-affirmed my faith in him, for that, and for lifting the specter of Amendment 1′s passing, I thank him.

Thinking Critically Pt 2

Back in March I wrote about a helpful series of TechNYou videos that outlined how to think critically when making arguments. I recently came across another resource in that same vein that outlines all the various types of logical fallacies in one handy and convenient place. YourLogicalFallacyis.com is great because it lets you refer to the various types of fallacies quickly and easily. You can even download a poster of the site’s content as a PDF, print it and hang it on your wall as an ode to logic.

These resources have been invaluable to me as I try to wade my way through discriminatory arguments filled with logical fallacies concerning North Carolina’s upcoming vote on Amendment 1. Next Tuesday, May 8th, NC voters will decide if the state has the ability to seriously curtail the civil rights of same-sex couples in what is unfortunately promising to be a close decision. If approved, the constitutional provision would read:

“Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

The proposed Amendment is unnecessary since NC law already doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage as such, but right-wing Christian conservatives felt it wasn’t enough and proposed stronger wording in the form of Amendment 1. If passed, these couples would be barred from the same legal rights that heterosexual couples currently enjoy like health care benefits, end of life decisions and more. The President opposes the measure, and so do I.

Local writer and blogger, Ed Cone has been a strong opponent of Amendment 1 since it first came on the scene and his blog has been a great place for NC natives to discuss and debate the issues at hand. It’s also been the political equivalent of a petri dish for logical fallacies like straw man arguments, slippery slopes and unfortunately ad hominem attacks. As I transition from a young man to a more seasoned one, I find resources like YourLogicalFallacyis.com invaluable to help me keep my cool and make calm, rational arguments. Check it out and always remember to fight the good fight.

Even Faster Food

Blame the ailing economy if you like, but in recent years businesses have become more and more willing to experiment in order to get a leg up on the competition. Seeking to capitalize on the increasingly tech-savvy public, the acclaimed burger chain Five Guys, has introduced a new iPhone and Android application that aims to make your dining experience quick and effortless.

Five Guys joins the ranks of restaurant chains like Chipolte Mexican Grill and Outback Steakhouse that let customers not only browse their menus but also place a to-go order right from their smart phones. I take food out from local Greensboro eateries a lot and I usually try to call ahead so I can get in and out as quickly as possible. The breakdown in efficency usually occurs at the time of payment and so I end up waiting in line to fork over my debit card while I hope and pray my food is even ready.

When ordering with Five Guys’ or Chipolte’s apps, you specify what time you want to pick up your food, pay for it via secure ordering and even save your favorite selections for future reference. I tried the Five Guys app today and it was a dream. I entered the store, went directly to the pickup counter and simply gave my name. The order was ready to go and I was enjoying my lunch all within minutes of walking in the door.

I can envision a time in the not-too-distant future when customers won’t even need to pull out a wallet when eating at their favorite restaurant. The advent of smart phone payment apps like Square and iOS 5′s geo-fencing technology have already started to revolutionize the way people shop, and soon dining experiences like the one I had today at Five Guys will be the rule, not the exception. Now if we could only design an app to get us through TSA lines as quick and “painlessly”.

[Dan Frakes and David Lanham contributed to this post]

Exceeding Expectations

Local lawyer and conservative blogger, Sam Spagnola is running for county commissioner. Sam and I have had dust ups over on Ed Cone’s blog and it’s no secret that I disagree with the vast majority of positions he’s taken on national politics. So when I spotted (what I assumed must be) his truck at the Quaker Village shopping plaza, I had to snap a few pictures.

Even though I’ve never met Sam in person, I have to say that the messages conveyed on his vehicle fit the man to a tee. Typically politicians seeking office take the moderate route so Sam’s slogan of “Elect a REAL conservative!” could be considered a bold, fresh marketing move. Unfortunately for voters like myself, seeing his mocking of our president on his bumper sticker and license plate turned me off. Then again, I guess local constituents and business owners like myself are not his target audience. Best of luck, Sam!

UPDATE: Turns out I assumed wrong (bad me!) and the truck isn’t Sam’s after all but one of his bigger supporters. The good news for Sam seems to be that his identity as a true conservative politician appears to be hitting the mark with his voters. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, major props to someone who takes action and runs for office instead of just standing on the sidelines grumbling to the crowd. Local government could use more of this, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on.

Teabagistan is Born

The Tea Party took decisive, measured steps today toward becoming a full-fledged domestic terrorist group. Some of its members faxed death threats to congressmen, other vandalized offices. An investigation was launched into the cutting of a gas line of the brother of another congressman and meanwhile, Greensboro’s conservative bloggers were all deadly silent on the topic. I wonder why that is.

The Tea Party has been filled with extremists from the day it was born, but now, egged on by Sarah Palin, and suffering a devastating loss at the hands of Obama for health care reform, they’ve decided to “double down on the crazy”. What’s worse, members of the U.S. Senate like John McCain and North Carolina’s very own Richard Burr are encouraging them with their infantile obstructionism to prevent the business of government. Are these representatives men or children? Are they so obsessed with exacting retribution for the health care loss that they are willing to put national security at risk? Seriously?

This is what the right-wing in this country has become. A gang of unprincipled, dishonorable thugs. They are starting down the path of violence and domestic terror, and are being supported by the actions of some of this country’s most (previously) distinguished elected officials. This must end now before it’s too late. A storm is on the horizon, and unless cooler heads prevail and the course is corrected, we’ll all go down with the ship. Call Senator Burr’s office and tell him to grow the hell up. Send him a tweet and demand that he get back to work and stop throwing a temper tantrum.

Time Warner’s Predatory Pricing

Like many communities across the country, Greensboro is attempting to lure internet giant Google to the area to lay the foundation for their super-fast broadband service. City officials have begun to mobilize and there is even a Facebook group that has cropped up where citizens can show their support for the project. I missed the following video when it first was posted, but thanks to a comment posting by Jim Caserta at Ed Cone’s blog, it was brought to my attention.

The town of Wilson, NC has become famous in these parts for launching their own, privately held high-speed fiber network. They did this despite enormous pressure from Time Warner Cable. The network in Wilson is also noteworthy because it has demonstrated what Time Warner is willing to do in order to put such locally owned high-speed networks out of business. Catharine Rice gave a presentation recently that outlines the kinds of price slashing TWC is willing endure in order to hold onto business, even while customers in nearby Raleigh have seen their rates rise from 5-50%. We can’t see the data she’s presenting in this clip, but it’s not necessary, the facts speak for themselves.

Time Warner cable has had a monopoly in North Carolina for far too long and I firmly believe that Google’s entry into the region would serve all of us well. I wasn’t able to make it to the initial community meeting to discuss ideas on how to lure Google to the Triad, but I damn will make the next one. I’m tired of paying ever-increasing cable rates for inferior broadband service. I can’t record HD shows in my Time Warner DVR because half the time they’re not available when I tune them in. The price breaks the people of Wilson are getting are almost obscene compared to what we pay here in Greensboro and it’s high time we let them know. I’ve had enough.

It’s All About the Twitter

News Channel 12′s Bill O’Neil gave the Iconfactory a ring this past Friday to get our input into a story he was putting together on the power and appeal of Twitter. Our schedules didn’t jibe, but fortunately Bill was able to hook up with some of Greeensboro’s best known bloggers and Twitter users for a piece called Bringing Business Through Twitter.

In the piece Bill interviews two new friends I met up with for the Tastecasting of Table 16 a few weeks back – Ryan Robbins and Danielle Hatfield. They’re joined by local blogger and internet strategist Sue Polinksy as they each discuss how Twitter is changing the face of communication in the Triad. I’m really happy I’ve gotten to meet so many of the local online community lately, mostly thanks to Twitter. If you want to learn more about how the power of Twitter is being harnessed in the Greensboro area, head on over to the WXII.com website and check the piece out.

Police Begin Probe Into Brad Miller (D-NC) Death Threats

The recent strong-arm tactics of the GOP and their insurance run corporate backers turned ugly last Monday when a caller to North Caroina Congressman Brad Miller’s office turned into what police call a “threat” situation. The caller was trying to provoke Miller into holding a town hall meeting. These forums have been disrupted lately by conservatives and Republican operatives to make their, sometimes violent, displeasure known about insurance industry reform. Well, now the police are involved and are starting to investigate threats to Miller’s life:

“The threatening caller, when told by a staffer that Miller was not planning a meeting, claimed the congressman didn’t want to meet with people face to face because he knew it would cost him his life, according to Canipe. The staffer then asked if the caller was making a threat. The caller, said Canipe, replied that there are a lot of angry people out there.”

As the incidents of inflammatory rhetoric such as Congressmen being hung in effigy and right-wing talk show hosts joking about poisoning the Speaker of the House increase, so does the likelihood that some angry citizen will go too far. During his inauguration speech, President Obama professed his belief that “We can disagree without being disagreeable.” The caller who threatened Brad Miller and the thuggish behavior of conservatives the past few weeks proves those the right never heard a word the President said that day.

Wishful Dining

I’m going to apologize right up front to the scores of local folks who will read this post and complain that I’m poo-pooing the Triad’s dining scene. This post isn’t about the lack of dining quality in the Triad, it’s about the lack of establishments that meet the criteria to be on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Several weeks ago, a producer from Triple D emailed local bloggers to ask for suggestions about places in the Triad that might be right for the show. Ed Cone put up a post to ask for input and many people chimed in. The trouble is, none of these people actually seem to watch the show.

If they did they’d know that there are very few, if any restaurants in the area that Guy Fieri should be visiting. That’s not to say the diners, drive-ins and dives in Greensboro, High Point and Winston aren’t good, many of them are. Take one of my favorite sandwich places, Jams Deli, which is just up the road from my office on Friendly Avenue. I love Jams very much and I and the guys at work enjoy eating there at least once a week for lunch. Yesterday I noticed a sign on Jam’s window asking for people to email Guy and suggest Jams to be on the show. As much as I love Jams, they too, seemingly have never watched Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. If they did they’d know Jams isn’t Triple D material.

The eateries that are featured on the Food Network show have at least three things that make them TV worthy. First, they make all their food from scratch. Last time I checked, Jam’s doesn’t make their french fries, hot chips, onion rings, buns or rolls from scratch. Second, they usually have waiting lines out the door at all times of day. The closest place Triple D has featured, The Penguin Drive-In in Charlotte, NC typically has a 20-45 minute wait to get a table any day of the week. Third, they serve interesting food. Over at Cone’s, Liv Jones suggested Johnson’s in Siler City for their yummie burgers. While I respect Liv’s opinion, Siler City isn’t the Triad, and Johnson’s burgers have nothing on burgers featured on Triple D. The places the producers are looking for have notable items no one else has. Like homemade fried pickle chips or a giant hot dog affectionately called “The Homewrecker”.

Same goes for almost all of the other places I saw suggested at Cone’s blog: Country BBQ (it’s good, but it’s also standard NC fair) Beef Burger (ate there 2 weeks ago, absolutely over rated, not all food made from scratch), Texas Tavern (in Virginia, not the Triad, no interesting food items). About the closest I think would meet the show’s criteria is Yum Yum. Because it’s a college hangout, it’s always busy and people rave about the place, but I don’t know if the food is made from scratch or what.

At this point I can sense you really are upset with me. Upset because I’m not begging the producers of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to come to Greensboro and film their show. Trust me, I’ve watched every episode and no one would love for them to come here more than me. I would just love to be able to point them at a place like Henrietta NY’s Dibella’s Old Fashion Subs and say “This is the place you’ve been looking for!” But I can’t. If there was a place in the Triad that deserved to be on the show, I’d be eating there every single day. Of course there are plenty of places in Greensboro I’ve never been, so go watch a few Triple D clips and get a sense for the kind of food they showcase. If you still think you know a place that can measure up, suggest it in the comments. I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong, wrong, wrong on this one. In the meantime, I’m heading to Charlotte to check out Penguin. Who’s with me?