The Prince Of Puppets

I have to tell you, this is about as sad as it gets. Grown men and women in Wake County who actually give a damn what John Hood thinks about anything, and especially about public education. I guess when your bossman is Art "the Puppetmaster" Pope you get accustomed to people sucking up to you, but this sorry spectacle is beyond belief.

It's hard to know exactly what writer Ruth Sheehan really thinks about this creepy scene, but if I had to guess, the word 'disgust' would come to mind.

I'd been sitting in the Wolfpack Lounge at the RBC Center, listening to the Blue Ribbon subcommittee on financing schools in Wake County for nearly two hours when my colleague sidled in to check on the group's progress. He listened and watched for a few minutes, then leaned over to whisper:

"Is John Hood the chairman of this committee?"

No. But Hood, president of the conservative John Locke Foundation, sure was the focal point. Around the table sat a selection of local luminaries chosen to help county leaders figure out how to build schools to keep pace with growth.

(Or, as Frank Daniels Jr., former publisher of The News & Observer, put it, to provide cover for a board of county commissioners scared to raise taxes.)

There were big-time developers, business leaders, the chancellor of N.C. State University. Tom Oxholm, a former school board member, drew on his years of experience to help guide the discussion. But there was no doubt that the point man was Hood. The members seemed to address most of their comments to him. Trying to convince him, perhaps. Seeking to persuade. It was a waste of time for the most part.

That's the money line from this story. A waste of time. But dealing with the Puppetshow is not a waste of time just for the most part, it's a waste of time completely and unequivocally. Because when it comes to integrity and competence in doing research and reporting the results, the Prince of Puppets has never met a fact he couldn't twist (or ignore) to suit the Puppetmaster's ideological ends.

It gets worse from there. According to Sheehan, Hood will argue that his is the voice of the voters.

In fact, on Tuesday, he came armed with a poll commissioned by the Locke Foundation, a group founded and funded by former Rep. Art Pope to promote free-market ideals. The poll indicates that a majority of Wake voters will not endorse a tax increase to support school construction.

The voice of the voters? If that is true, dear readers, North Carolina is totally f*cked.

I'd like to see John take his poll to the UNC School of Journalism, where he was trained as a writer and researcher, and see if it passes the smell test. Because what I've seen of John Locke Foundation polls, they are no less dishonest than the people funding them. But the fact is, you really can't even tell where the data came from because there's not so much as a hint of methodology anywhere that I can find on their website.

One more thought. If concerned citizens and education professionals in Wake County are willing to cower in their corners while the Prince speaks, they probably deserve every miserable piece of nothing they get. Too bad they're also taking the good of the community down the toilet with them.

PS Thanks to Lance for digging up this story for me.


I know I promised to be polite

but it's been a bad day and the image of grown men licking Hood's boots is just about enough to cause projectile vomiting.


You seem to be quite obsessed with Art Pope.... an almost disturbing fixation, if I may say so.

Additionally, I hope very few young people read this blog, given the fact that your language might make a sailor or two cringe.

You may say whatever you like.

But the sad fact is . . . my language is not nearly as obscene as the damage Art Pope and his minions are doing to this state and to this nation. I apologize if I offended you, but I have to wonder if you've ever communicated with Pope about his abominable influence?

Is this an obsession? Not quite, but close. The Puppetmaster is spending more than $100,000 every month in tax-advantaged dollars to influence the political landscape in North Carolina. I'm spending my spare time. The way I see it, if I'm not borderline obsessed, I'm not making a difference.


PS We did a survey about age. We have one person under 18 reading BlueNC. And as to sailors cringing, I spent nine years in the Navy, and I wouldn't be too worried about that.

Right, because

I'm sure lots of little kids wait until their parents aren't looking to read up on NC politics.

Look, you can't deal with North Carolina politics without dealing with Art Pope. As long as the man has money to spend, he'll continue to be a major player. When my exams are done I plan to focus on reforms to health care and increasing the minimum wage. If Anglico wants to focus on the Pope machine, so be it.

If you want disturbing fixation, go rent Fatal Attraction. Anglico's no bunny boiler.


In a fit of introspection, I counted the number of posts I've made that have anything even remotely to do with the Puppetmaster. It's 22%. I'm guessin' I'd need to be at 50% at least to even be considered fixated.

There's just so much to be upset about these days, it's like playing Whack-a-Mole at Chucky Cheese.

And a great idea is born

Anyone out there handy with flash animations? Wanna make a whack-a-mole game with the faces of key NC conservatives on the moles? Because that would be awesome.

Oh, well

Jim, one might think all the profane, bigoted, paranoid name-calling here would make me angry, but the emotion just won't come. It's just sad. I guess you really don't get how much you are embarrassing yourself and your cause. It is virtually axiomatic that when you resort to ad hominem and adolescent gutter talk, it's because you aren't up to making actual, substantive arguments. And what's rather ironic about all this is that you are, in truth, a flack. That's what your company does. Nothing wrong with that, and I count several of the former employees of your company as good friends, but it makes you a paid puppet of your clients. I've never been in the PR business. What's it like?

Here is a press release on the poll in question, clearly posted on our website. Methodology information is included. I'll be happy to answer additional questions if you like, as we have for the 11 years or so we've been commissioning and reporting poll results.

I also discussed the methodology in my Daily Journal column today, which apparently you look at (if not actually read).

Oh, and whoever helpfully provided a link some days ago to "my" voter-registration records, so as to allow for knowing speculation about my secret Karl Rove decoder ring or whatever, I think you owe an apology to this "John A. Hood," a person with whom I am unfamiliar.

That was me

and as I said at the time, I was unsure which John Hood was John Hood. I think if you are going to paint yourself as unaffiliated, then it is worth checking. For what it's worth, I found no political contributions from you directly to Republicans, which supports your claim.

The truth is we can't trust anything that comes out of the mouth of right-wing think tanks. It's not our fault.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.


The mindless obsession of the far right to voodoo economics after all of its failures is akin, in my mind, to those last waning communist nations that still pretend that the Marxist ideal can work only so they may stay in power over the working class. Aristocracy may appeal to them, it doesn't to me.

In the jargon of our genre, I will no longer feed this troll. Discuss him, yes. Give credence to his arguments - no.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

John, the N&O piece characterizes you

as not being open to persuasion. (The members seemed to address most of their comments to him. Trying to convince him, perhaps. Seeking to persuade. It was a waste of time for the most part.) Why is that?

Thanks for the links.

I'll spend some time digging into the methodologies and questions you ask in your surveys. And quite honestly, though I do check CJ almost every day, I didn't read you column this morning. That'll teach me.


PS I'm glad I'm not making you angry, John, because that isn't my intention. My goal is simply to hold you and your organizations accountable. If it takes embarrassing myself in public and getting slapped on the wrist for swearing, that's a price I'm happy to pay. As I said above, I don't like the influence Pope Inc., exerts in North Carolina, and I'm doing what I can to stop it. You may not like my approach, but then, I don't like yours either.

Forgot this

I assume your question about the PR business was intended as sarcasm, but I'll answer it anyway. I love what I do - and I'm very good at it. Just look at all the extra attention I'm generating for JLF, and you're not even having to pay for it!



The reason most of the discussions in that subcommittee meeting were addressed at attempting to persuade me was that most of the members disagreed with me, and I with them (there is another conservative on that panel, but he was absent). In turn, I spent most of my time trying to persuade them to support other reforms. I succeeded some of the time. We all agreed on several key points, such as redesigning Wake's schools to make them more efficient in space and cost. A majority endorsed more charter schools as a means of handling some of the expected enrollment growth in Wake.

The main debates had to do with alternatives to the property tax. Interestingly, I am not certain that BlueNC readers would disagree with me, at least on some of the specific policies. For example, I argued against a sales tax as an alternative to property taxes, should increased taxes be needed, because the former are regressive. But most of the members argued that any and all tax options should be endorsed, regardless of equity or efficiency concerns. I strongly disagree. Yes, I was unpersuaded.

As to Robert, do you know what a troll means? That is an odd usage, to say the least. I am responding to a troll.

Good morning Class! A tax is when the King can enforce it!

For example, I argued against a sales tax as an alternative to property taxes, should increased taxes be needed, because the former are regressive.* John Hood evil tax twin

Please evil tax twin! No more on what a tax is! Your claim to fame on defined tax is your world famous frivolous Constitutional lawsuit that buying a lottery ticket is a tax! Using your Econ 101 reasoning a lottary ticket is a regressive tax.


I am afraid I never quite understand what you're saying.

A national sales tax would be regressive, but so is the Republican voodoo economic system. A true flat tax system with two levels, one for those below the living wage (not minimum wage) and another for all those above with NO deductions might be workable.

Every plan has problems, but I would prefer to simplify the tax system so everyone pays their fair share.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

A Tax is Tax no matter what Orwellian term is use!

I am afraid I never quite understand what you're saying.* robert

Don't feel bad about understanding me as you are not the first one. In simple terms, I was merely saying that Hood and the Puppets believe that if one buys a lottery ticket. It is a tax by the state. What the hood boys fail to say, that it is choice and not a enforce tax by the state if one fails to buy the lottery ticket. It's that simple! Nobody forces one to buy the ticket!


I agree with this.

I believe that if you stand for personal liberty, then you have to accept the lottery. The way the lottery is run is awful. But, it is not a tax. Taxes are not voluntary, unless you have a really good accountant, right Symantec?

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Not OK

There is a basic flaw in your reasoning here: no one is arguing that a lottery ticket per se, or its full value, is a tax. The argument is that the share of the lottery proceeds confiscated by the state (about a third) is a tax. It is a tax because it is mandatory, if you buy a ticket, and does not go either to pay prizes or cover the cost of the game.

Think carefully about this. All taxes are government exactions, mandates, applied to an underlying action that is voluntary. No one is forced to buy a particular pair of slacks, but if you buy them, you must pay the sales tax. No one is forced to buy cigarettes or alcohol, yet no one seriously doubts that excise taxes on cigarette and alcohol are,in fact, taxes.

Yes, because I believe in personal liberty, I do not oppose the existence of a lottery. I do oppose my government being in the gambling business, or promoting it as a good thing to do, or taxing it in a confiscatory manner. A lottery ticket should bear the same retail sales tax as any other expenditure. And, yes, that would be a tax. In the current case, the legislature created a government-monopoly lottery operation and imposed a huge tax on it without following the state constitution's rules regarding the passage of a tax.

Liberals and conservatives alike in the anti-lottery coalition have made this argument for a long, long time. It is hardly novel or hard to understand.

Yes! I did say it was alright to listen without a warrent!

Yes, because I believe in personal liberty* John

Not really John! Your friends are neo-cons and you promo the living heck out of them. When was the last time you had a anti-war speaker, or for that fact anybody who oppose the Patriot Act? Why are you here?

Do you really believe that you are convincing a bunch of folks here that you
have corner the market on truth with phony conservatism [define it] or libertarism? As to the personal stuff with A, You just don't understand how much rage is out there against your outdated conservatism. Come November you will understand just how hack off folks are mad at republicans and their fellow travelers!

Harshin' on John + Big Bad Lottery

Anon, let's welcome John's contributions - they're the whetstone to sharpening your counter-arguments.

While I think John's tax argument was a bit of a non-starter (kind of like the arguments covering "use fees" vs. "taxes"), I welcomed it as another arrow in the quiver against the lottery.

There's not one state run lottery that hasn't had some kind of corrupting influence on our institutions. In NC's case, we set a record for governmental "pre-corruption". In GA, the Hope program has corrupted their educational system. In general, the lottery has a corrosive influence on all levels of society (at least as I see it).

Yes, gambling, smoking, drinking, etc. are personal choices - I just don't think the government (which is US in the end) should be complicit in pushing these miseries.

That said, I'm also in the minority as far as being against the death penalty and a whole slew of other issues - so maybe I'm off-base here ;-)

Death Penalty

My standard reply to those in favor:
On the day you meet your maker are you willing to stand up and say,
"I know innocents have died because of the death penalty, but I think that is okay if the alternative is the loss of our ability to kill people for certain offenses."

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Let the great debate began?

Anon, let's welcome John's contributions - they're the whetstone to sharpening your counter-arguments.* Will

Nobody is against Hood posting his opinions here that I know of. But try to post your opinions at their front sites and see what is happens is another story. Hood does have a personal thing against A as one can see.

Maybe a great debate is in Order for the Hood think tank vs another Think tank or the folks here at Blue NC?

Blue NC has no doubt become the source of info that really challenges
The Pope group on its ideas. I suspect that everybody in politics in this state reads this site daily now. This is what the net is about!

I'm not against letting him post here.

I just no longer care what he has to say. It's all spin and the policies will hurt people. Remember folks, without one filthy rich backer he's just another guy with a blog. Don't give him more power than he deserves.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Anglico, you are righter

Anglico, you are righter than you know about the Puppetmaster. A client, who I will not name, worked at one of the Pope Puppet fronts. He naively believed that real research was wanted and whatever the results were, so be it. He got a rude awakening. He indicated that the research was (surprise surpise) results-oriented and they didn't want to hear anything that would shake their world view.

It may seem you are obsessed, but I don't think you are. Everyone needs to be aware of the tentacles of this octopus and how it strives to shape and manipulate the public. Keep up the good work and keep up the pressure on the Puppetmaster. One thing he can't stand is exposure.

Thanks for the words of encouragement.

I find more of those tentacles slithering into new and scary places every day. Kind of feels like a one man Mafia. Very creepy.

Anglico isn't obsessed

but he is awesome when he gets pissed at the Pope....

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.