The Locker Room

June 10, 2009

Tonight's Last Act

Posted by Becki Gray at 11:04 PM

One more amendment from Rep Paul Luebke (D - Guilford) has an amendment that  is House Bill 1588 which was the revenue package from yesterday - rolled into the budget bill (SB 202). With some restoration of services that have been cut.
Rep. William Wainwright asks if this is the exact document from last night that passed - HB 1588.  Luebke says yes.  House Majority Leader, Paul Stam (R Wake) says no it's'different in that the title is much tighter to prohibit anyone from making changes, like removing the franchise tax.  Stam says he objects to the process and can't vote for it.

Rep David Lewis (R Harnett)  makes argument that he hasn't had time to read this amendment/bill, has not had it available on line, wants more time to read and study the amendment.  Rep Larry Womble (D Forsyth) wants to know if there is money available to pay for some programs that are being restored here.  Majority Leader Hugh Holliman (D -  Davidson) says, sure.  Womble says okay, he supports the amendment.  Rep Thom Tillis (R Mecklenberg) says a yes vote says there is no compromise on making the business economy competitive - good ideas are off the table - no opportunity to provide tools to grow the economy.  Rep John Blust (R. Guilford) says revenue estimates have been off before, are you sure these estimates are accurate?  Finance Chair Rep Paul Luebke (D Guilford) says staff has been working hard to get accurate estimates and have been conservatively cautious - we're relying on our professional staff.  Rep David Lewis (R Harnett) asks if the amendment passes will it go the floor tomorrow?  House Finance co-chair , rep Pryor Gibson (D Anson) says yes.  Lewis asks about previous concerns regarding the fee on policemen>  Gibson says it will be fixed on the floor and Lewis can ask only one more question cause it's getting late. Lewis says on pages 38 and 39, nunerous non-state entities are getting funds, grassroots science programs don't look like essential services.  Luebke says they are essential services and you can't have it both ways - are you in favor of restoring the deep cuts or not?  Says that is what the amendment is all about.
Gibson won't let Rep Johnathan Rhyne (R Lincoln) offer a perfecting amendment.  Parlimentary procedure arguments.  Gibson won't let Rhyne state his motion, cuts off debate and won't recognize him, Rhyne moves to adjourn, Gibson says he;s out of order

Roll call vote on the amendment:  party line vote:  16 -13  the amendment passes.  Welcome tto democracy.
Now vote on the bill. Gibson says he'll allow two people to speak in favor of the billl and two against it and then vote.  Rep Rhyne tries to make a motion, Gibson again won't let him make a motion.

Stam says the preceeding until about 10 minutes ago was fair.  Bill spends too much, taxes too much, overstates cuts, title is a disservice to the House becuase it ties the bill too tightly - he'll vote no.  Rep Dale Folwell (R Forsyth) says we talk about priorities, they talk about cuts. He wants opportunitie to talk to his constituents over the weekend and see what they want.  Luebke says do you want to restore deep cuts or not.  Folwell says he represents same people as everyone else. Speaker accuses some of not meeting their constituional duty.  Folwell argues there is no constitutional duty  to agree with your tax increases or your cuts.  He wants to talk to his constituents - real people - and see what they want. Vote ont he bill is 16-13. Bill passes along party line vote.
Lewis asks for list of projects funded under Grassroots Science Museum tomorrow line in the budget.

Meeting adjourned.  Budget bill will goes to House floor tomorrow for first vote.

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Fee for Marriage and other Fees from the House Floor

Posted by Becki Gray at 9:36 PM

An amendment to eliminate the fee for a marriage license by $10 ($50 to $60) is displaced.  Amendment sponsor, House Minority Leader, Rep Skip Stam (R  Wake) says he will try again on the floor.   No word so far on challenging the proposed doubling ($75 to $150) of the divorce fee.

Rep David Lewis (R Harnett) expresses concerns over a new fee for law enforcement officer certification (paid for by the law enforcement officers - seems a little unfair)  generating $4 m part of first year; $8 m the second and proposes instead increasing a court cost imposed against a criminal convict fee increase to make up the difference in revenue.  Lewis suggestion is temporarily displaced as Rep Van Braxton ( D - Lenoir) and Rep Bill Faison (D - Orange) had similar concerns.  Matter will be addressed by the Appropriations Chairs..
Rep Paul Stam (R Wake) proposes adjustment to the  fee on deeds of trust and mortgages.  Passes.

Rep Bill Faison (D' Orange) concerns about Home Inspectors fees (says they should be eliminated  and to make up for it, securities salesmen fee should be raised to $250.  His amendment fails.

Luebke says he always has problems with the fee bill becuase the fees, paid the same by everyone,  are progressive.  But seems to have no problems with the money it will take from taxpayers  (progressive or not, it seems) -  $88.7 m in 09-10 and $104.6 m in 10-11.

School zone speeding violation fee is $50:  work zone speeding is $275.  Amendment to make them the same.  Rep Stam says the Finance Committee should not be doing criminal law policy decisions; it should not be a revenue issue.  Let the judge decide.  Amendment to make the fees the same.  Amendment fails.

Committee recesses until 9.  More amendments on the way after recess.

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Big Brother Is Watching....

Posted by Becki Gray at 6:06 PM

Better behave.  Big brother is watching and it will cost you in extra fees:

  • Increases in fees for front seat and helmet violations
  • $25 more for certain alcohol, traffic, hunting, fishing, state park and recreation areas, boating and littering offenses.
  • It will also cost you $25 more if you are caught violating rules regarding dune or beach buggies in beach areas
  •  Using a mobile phone while driving with a learner's permit
  • Parking in a handicapped parking space
  • Failure to use proper signage to mark a handicapped parking space
  • Improper use of dealer license plate
  • Failure to use headlights when driving in smoke, fog, rain, sleet, snow
  • Failure to use seat belt when driving, front passenger seat and back seat
  • Transporting children under 16 yrs old in open bed of a vehicle
  • Violation of child restraint requirements
  • Unlawful use of cell phone by drivers under 18
  • School zone speeding
  • Work zone speeding
  • Failure to yield to a pedestrian at an intersection
  • Violation of biking and helmet laws
  • Improper use of headlights
  • Littering
  • Parking violation in boating access or boat launching area
  • Failure to display hunter orange 
The proposal has been presented to committee members and they will take a break and return in an hour or so to begin debate and amendments.

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And More Fees

Posted by Becki Gray at 6:02 PM

Here are some more fees proposed in House finance committee:

  • $75 restoration fee for a revoked drivers license
  • Additional feed for adult care licensure, acute hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, mental health facilities, nursing home facilities, Hospice.
  • Additional fees for licensing child care facilities
  • Continuing fees on utility commission, electric membership corporation, industrial commission.
  • Increases from$50 to $75 annual inspection fee for restaurants, bars and public school cafeterias
  • New fees for dental, chiropractic, doctor and podiatrist  x ray equipment.
  • Increase fees on commercial fertilizer and pesticide.
  • Will develop a plan to charge parking fees at state parks
  • Increase fee for bingo and boxing licenses.
  • Increase fee on tanning beds
  • New fee for both sheriffs'. And criminal justice education and training standards commission
  • It will cost you $10 more to retain your maiden name

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More Fees

Posted by Becki Gray at 5:56 PM

Fee, fi, fo. And more fees

House Finance Committee is meeting to consider a fee bill - or how to get more revenue when you've exhausted your tax options.

In the bill, the House increases fee revenues by @$88.7 m the first year; $104.6 m the second.  This is about double what the Senate did.

New fees in the House bill include:

Medicaid provider fee
Hospice licensure
DENR monitoring fee for voluntary remedial actions at inactive hazardous disposal sites
Bond forfeiture set aside processing fee
Community work crew fee
Recording real estate transactions
Contested case filing at OAH
Several new court related fees
$350 for drivers convicted of speeding over 25 mph over the speed limit or any impaired offenses
Further increases fees for vital records
Additional fee for filing for foreclosure, record checks, business court filing, recording mortgages and deeds of trust
Fee to participate in the inmate release work program
Increases marriage license fee and the fee to file for divorce.  (Gets you coming and going)
Increases fees for manufactured housing, collection agencies, motor clubs, bail bondsmen, and home inspectors


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"Game-changers" that won't

Posted by Rick Henderson at 4:17 PM

Last week, we cited former Reason editor Virginia Postrel, who highlighted a report from the Obama economic team claiming that "nearly 30 percent of Medicare’s costs could be saved without adverse health consequences."

To his credit, Obama Budget Director Peter Orszag not only responded to Postrel, but also launched a blog where he'll discuss the Obama administration's views on health-care reform.

Several things from his post stand out. Orszag claims the administration plans to find an extra $900 billion to finance their plans for universal coverage, and the money will come in part from taxing medical benefits from high-income Americans -- a proposal candidate Obama scoffed at last fall. 

But most of the money is supposed to come from what Orszag calls

real, scoreable proposals that have been deemed by CBO (which has a good reputation for analytical rigor and a healthy skepticism about such proposals) to save money or raise revenue.

In addition to insisting that reform be deficit neutral based on these CBO-scored proposals, we also embrace a set of initiatives that will help transform health care and mitigate the increase in health care costs – steps such as health IT, research into what works and what doesn’t, prevention and wellness, and changes in incentives so that Americans get the best care not just more care. These "game-changers" are critical to the sustainability of health care reform; without them, cost growth will eventually creep back up. But they will not pay for health care reform; that is from the Medicare and Medicaid savings and new revenue. Instead, they should help to lower the rate of health care cost growth and sustain reform over time, and thereby help us achieve a more efficient system.


Problem is, a December 2008 report by the Congressional Budget Office, which Orszag headed before joining the Obama team, found that any savings from these "game-changers" may be illusory or even non-existent.

From the report (my emphasis):

Serious concerns exist about the efficiency of the health care system, but no simple solutions are available to reduce the level or control the growth of health care costs. Steps to restructure the insurance market and to encourage people to purchase less extensive coverage could reduce the use of treatments that provide minimal benefits, but enrollees would face higher cost sharing or tighter management of their care.

Other approaches — such as the wider adoption of health information technology or greater use of preventive medical care — could improve people’s health but would probably generate either modest reductions in the overall costs of health care or increases in such spending within a 10-year budgetary time frame.

Makes sense to me. Putting the medical histories of 300 million Americans in some sort of universal database would require a jaw-dropping investment in software development, hardware purchases, and plain old data entry. The report goes on to note that even after you've created the database, there's no guarantee that overall medical costs will go down or that their growth will slow. The culprit: third-party payment.

As former Bush administration economic adviser Keith Hennessey puts it, "those of us with private health insurance are largely protected from the costs of the medical care we use because of the general prevalence of low deductibles and copayments.  Even if we have better information, we may not care if the benefit of a particular medical treatment is small, as long as it seems really inexpensive.  The Administration’s proposals on health information technology, electronic medical records, and medical outcomes research may improve health, but they will have little effect on slowing the growth of health care spending for those with low-deductible, low-copayment private health insurance."

And I've always been suspicious of claims about significant long-term savings from wellness and prevention programs. Businesses and insurers like the programs because they appear to improve the health of employees and reduce medical costs while a worker is covered by an employer's health plan. But wellness programs may simply delay the inevitable; people with chronic illnesses may not require a lot of care until they reach retirement age, and then they're on Medicare. Paying for them then becomes a problem for the taxpaying public at large, not their former employers.

Besides, the language about medical "savings" eventually gets very squirelly. Even Orszag says these "game-changers" will merely "help to lower the rate of health care cost growth," which sounds to me like proclamations that the president's stimulus program will "save or create" jobs. It's a proposition you can neither prove nor disprove.

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AFPNC hits the radio to fight tax hikes

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:50 PM

Americans For Prosperity North Carolina doesn't like the House's tax plan.

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Re: Easley e-mail irony

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 3:22 PM

Isn't the ultimate irony that we are talking about email at all -- all these long years after the email-spurred fall of Speaker Jim Black?

This is what pains me so -- not that these folks are utterly corrupt, it is that they are absolute morons.

Oh, one more time, Dan Gerlach, resign. Keith Nichols, resign. Go join Cary Allred in the SRO Hall of Shame.

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Overlooked Cap and Trade Provisions

Posted by Jacob Burgdorf at 3:14 PM

In addition to some of the overlooked economic effects of a cap and trade system, or some of the overlooked benefits a warmer climate would entail, Washington seems to be overlooking the effects Waxman's cap and trade energy bill. Instead of being a market based method of controlling externalities, it has many federal controls that are not well known-- perhaps this has something to do with Washington not thinking it is important to read bills before voting on them. The Washington Post reports:

...[T]he bill also contains regulations on everything from light bulb standards to the specs on hot tubs, and it will reshape America's economy in dozens of ways that many don't realize.

Here is just one: The bill would give the federal government power over local building codes. It requires that by 2012 codes must require that new buildings be 30 percent more efficient than they would have been under current regulations. By 2016, that figure rises to 50 percent, with increases scheduled for years after that. 

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Blue Cross unveils its health care reform Web site

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:09 PM

You'll find it here.

Click here for John Locke Foundation ideas.

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Re: A leader-challenged GOP

Posted by David N. Bass at 3:04 PM


Very good points. It's also worth noting that Barack Obama was a favorite of the Democrats, especially after his 2004 keynote address at the DNC, but never viewed as the party's leader until his nomination for president in 2008. In the same way, the GOP need not have a single standard-bearer between now and 2012.

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Re: Easley e-mail irony

Posted by Paul Chesser at 2:57 PM

I am sure Gerlach rationalized in his mind that he was not conducting official state business -- he was just helping the wife of his friend (who just so happened to be his boss as well) the governor get a job. So having made that determination, he hopped onto his handy Hotmail account and got the ball rolling with NCSU political science chairman Jim Svara.

Another curiosity is that Gerlach sent emails from his personal account to either Svara or McQueen Campbell at 10:05 a.m., 11:18 a.m., and 1:44 p.m. during workdays in the last week of April 2005. Also there was one morning (April 25) where Gerlach had spoken to Svara about a position for Mrs. Easley before 11:00 a.m. So since this was not official state business, he must have been conducting it during his legally-allowed 15-minute coffee/smoke breaks.

Anyone care to request emails that circulated about how Gerlach got his Golden LEAF job? I would think that in certain peoples' minds -- maybe even his -- that that would not fall under the "official state business" category either. Or am I nitpicking?

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Re: A leader-challenged GOP

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:47 PM


Another factor to remember is that unlike the European countries so many would like to emulate, we don't have a parliamentary system. Our political parties don't have elected party leaders who form shadow governments to mirror the real governments formed by the majority party (or by the coalition of governing parties, in many cases).

Plus it's a case of revisionist history to suggest that Ronald Reagan ever was considered the undisputed leader of the Republican Party before his presidency. He was a favorite among conservatives from the time of his famous 1964 speech for Goldwater until his election 16 years later, but Reagan always faced opposition from elements of the GOP who considered him too extreme, too old, too much of a Hollywood actor, etc.

The search for a single Republican leader seems to me like a media-driven exercise rather than an accurate reflection of the way the American political system works.

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A leader-challenged GOP

Posted by David N. Bass at 2:34 PM

USA Today highlights a recent poll which found that 52 percent of Americans couldn't say who leads the Republican Party. From the article:

Of those who could [name a leader], the top response was radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh (13%), followed in order by former vice president Dick Cheney, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Former president George W. Bush ranked fifth, at 3%.

So the dominant faces of the Republican Party are all men, all white, all conservative and all old enough to join AARP, ranging in age from 58 (Limbaugh) to 72 (McCain). They include some of the country's most strident voices on issues from Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court to President Obama's policies at home and abroad. Two are retired from politics, and one has never been a candidate.

While I don't agree with the way USA Today characterizes the situation above, the question of who leads isn't a new problem for the GOP. Even when Bush was in office, a significant part of the party's base wasn't happy with him. The GOP has yet to find a Reagan-like leader that all components of the party can unite behind.

At the same time, however, the poll isn't as big a deal as some might make out. Recall the numerous discussions/debates/news stories during the Bush years about who led the Democratic Party -- Nancy Pelosi? Harry Reid? Howard Dean? It's often part and parcel of being an opposition party.

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The next generation eco-friendly car

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 2:30 PM

Yesterday it was Government Motors, today it's the new car from Congressional Motors.

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It's the school

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 2:07 PM

Why do kids drop out of school?

A new report, "Late High School Dropouts: Characteristics, Experiences, and Changes Across Cohorts," published by the National Center for Education Statistics answers, "it's the school!"

According to the report,

• Most dropouts (83 percent) listed a school related (versus a family- or employment-related) reason for leaving. These reasons included missing too many school days, thinking it would be easier to get a GED, getting poor grades, and not liking school.

• Seventy-three percent of dropouts said their parents tried to talk them into staying, while 37 percent of them said their school tried to talk them into staying.

• Fifty-three percent of dropouts said that their parents offered to help them with personal problems, and 24 percent said that schools had made such an offer.

• Most of the dropouts (75 percent) never participated in any alternative program (such as dropout prevention, job placement assistance, or special vocational or technical skills training).
Here is a summary:

1. Most kids drop out because of the school, not because of family difficulties or need to seek employment. School-based initiatives, not social welfare programs, are the way to curb drop outs.

2. Most parents try to keep kids in school, but most schools want the kids gone and do little to keep them there.

3. Few dropouts have had access to alternative programs, including career and technical education.

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Re: Easley e-mail irony

Posted by David N. Bass at 1:45 PM


Interesting anecdote:

Gerlach did not deny that he might have used his private account for state business, but said it would have been rare and under unusual circumstances.

I guess participating in some hanky panky to help get Mary Easley a job qualified as "unusual circumstances." Wonder what other "unusual circumstances" came up?

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Repeating the Amtrak blunder

Posted by George Leef at 1:26 PM

Ron Paul contends that the federal takeover of GM should remind us of the promises made by the politicians back in 1970 when the feds got into the passenger rail business. It was supposed to be temporary, but 40 years and billions in subsidies later, the taxpayers are still paying to keep Amtrak on life-support. It would be foolish to think that Obama & Co. will act differently with their car companies. Read his piece here.

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Re: Easley e-mail irony

Posted by Michael Lowrey at 1:15 PM


As someone who has taught part-time at colleges and universities, I don’t find Dan Gerlach’s using a private e-mail account while teaching part-time strange at all. I’ve done it too.

How long has Dan been teaching at NCSU? There was a time at places I taught when adjunct faculty just didn’t get e-mail accounts. Simple as that. And once you start using a certain account, it’s natural to continue to use that same address.

I used my private e-mail address even when a school address was offered as the school account won’t be set up until after the semester start (i.e. after I gave out the syllabus.)

Also, I can understand the advantage of using a limited number of e-mail address.

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UT Staff Silence Dissent at Orientation

Posted by Jenna Ashley Robinson at 12:37 AM

When Young Conservatives tried to hand out fliers decrying the diversity segment of freshman orientation as indoctrination, UT staff physically blocked them from doing so.

Read a first-hand account here.

So much for the first amendment.

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Re: Easley e-mail irony

Posted by Paul Chesser at 12:36 AM

I inquired with The N&O's investigative reporter, Andy Curliss, about Dan Gerlach's use of a private email account and Andy said he had asked him about that. An explanation has been posted at Under the Dome:

The reason is straightforward, Gerlach said in an interview, Andy Curliss reports.

He had been teaching at State as an adjunct member of the faculty — and used his private account often in that role. That kept student emails and the like separate from his state account, he said.

So when the Easley matter came up, he somehow contacted the political science chair, Jim Svara.

The first email in the chain is from Svara back to Gerlach.

Gerlach said that was natural because it would have been the email account that Svara always used to contact Gerlach.

So, why wasn't Gerlach assigned a NCSU email account? I would think anything he (or any professor at any level) does on behalf of the university, or in his role as a professor, would be public record as well. It would serve as an accountability mechanism for his communications with students and others when he did NCSU business.

As for Gerlach's views of his personal email account use, Curliss reported:

Gerlach did not deny that he might have used his private account for state business, but said it would have been rare and under unusual circumstances. He recalled a time when a News & Observer reporter was trying to get some information, and the private account was used because the state one was down.

Gerlach said he knows the law is clear on this subject anyway. That state business is state business, no matter how it is conducted.

That's all fine and good (not really), but consider that using a personal email account is a very easy and convenient way to avoid public scrutiny. Even though Gerlach realized legally the personal account was subject to state records laws, it is much easier to evade a public records request that way. For example, we now have a new governor. Let’s say Andy Curliss wants all emails regarding the hiring of Mary Easley from the previous governor’s administration. The state’s tech geeks must now scan the email accounts of the previous administration. Do their efforts turn up Gerlach’s emails from his personal account? I doubt it.

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Art Laffer's dire but highly likely prediction

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 11:40 AM

Writing in today's WSJ supply side economist Arthur Laffer (of Laffer curve fame) paints a rather unpleasant picture of the near future economy created by the Ben Bernake (Bush Appointee) at the Federal Reserve and the fiscal policies of first George Bush and now Barack Obama. Here's how Laffer set's up his analysis:

Here we stand more than a year into a grave economic crisis with a projected budget deficit of 13% of GDP. That's more than twice the size of the next largest deficit since World War II. And this projected deficit is the culmination of a year when the federal government, at taxpayers' expense, acquired enormous stakes in the banking, auto, mortgage, health-care and insurance industries.
With the crisis, the ill-conceived government reactions, and the ensuing economic downturn, the unfunded liabilities of federal programs -- such as Social Security, civil-service and military pensions, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, Medicare and Medicaid -- are over the $100 trillion mark. With U.S. GDP and federal tax receipts at about $14 trillion and $2.4 trillion respectively, such a debt all but guarantees higher interest rates, massive tax increases, and partial default on government promises.
But as bad as the fiscal picture is, panic-driven monetary policies portend to have even more dire consequences. We can expect rapidly rising prices and much, much higher interest rates over the next four or five years, and a concomitant deleterious impact on output and employment not unlike the late 1970s.

Maybe we should call this the Republicratic knock out punch for the economy.

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Conform subjects!

Posted by Paul Chesser at 11:08 AM

Got a chuckle from Robert J. Harris's letter this morning to The News & Observer about how charter school supporters will undermine public education:

With charter schools in the equation, students from all backgrounds who stay in traditional public schools are generally at a disadvantage. If parents would put their time and energy into serving at their assigned traditional public schools instead of taking flight to charters, might we all rise together?

Yes, and we will all rise together when everyone accepts their government-assigned automobile, put money in our government-assigned banks, and accepts our government-rationed toilet paper and rice.

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Re: Easley e-mail irony

Posted by David N. Bass at 11:03 AM


The inexplicable part is that Garlach either a) thought that helping land a job for the former first lady at a public university wasn't any of the public's business, or b) that his e-mails wouldn't be subject to review under public records laws because he used a private e-mail address.

In the second scenario, Gerlach would have failed to take into account that everyone else (except McQueen Campbell) used a public e-mail address, and that his e-mails would be a part of any document request.

Regardless, any e-mail from Gerlach's private account that pertained to public business (which Mary Easley's cushy job certainly did) should be considered a public record. A private e-mail account used for state business isn't a way to bypass sunshine laws.

One question I would have for Gerlach is whether, after sending them, he deleted e-mails from his private account that pertained to the Mary Easley issue.

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In case you missed him …

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:48 AM

Meck Deck's Jeff Taylor talked taxes last night with Fox Charlotte (WCCB) Television.

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Re: Easley e-mail irony

Posted by Paul Chesser at 10:45 AM

Even if Easley hadn't let his staff "chunk" emails, it's likely the news media never would have discovered evidence surrounding the creation of Mary's job, since fiscal adviser Dan Gerlach was discovered using a private email account to initiate the process. I'd not be surprised if that practice was widespread among the guv's administration.

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Easley e-mail irony

Posted by David N. Bass at 10:02 AM

The News & Observer has a good story today on how e-mail between former NCSU Chancellor Oblinger and other players in the ongoing Easley scandal shed light where there had been only darkness. From the report:

Oblinger in recent weeks had constructed a simple story as questions mounted about how NCSU had hired the state's first lady, Mary Easley. He said he didn't remember. Other N.C. State officials said the interim provost, Larry Nielsen, had handled it alone.

The e-mail messages brought that story down. They showed extensive involvement by the chancellor and others, including at least 12 contacts in 2005 between Oblinger and a trustee who acted as a go-between for then-Gov. Mike Easley. The e-mails show the governor took an active role in the job's creation and salary.

Bowles said in an interview Tuesday that the messages made it hard for him to believe Oblinger.

The story reminded me of a lawsuit filed last year by a number of news outlets, including Carolina Journal, which alleged that Mike Easley had permitted his staff to unlawfully erase e-mail correspondence between state employees. (Bev Perdue has since inherited that lawsuit).

Easley made an infamous remark in March 2008, reported by the N&O, that he had "chunked" a hand written note that was a public record under state law.

“When I read something, unless it’s charts or something or budgetary stuff, when I read it I get rid of it. I throw it away,” Easley said.

It's ironic that public records in e-mail format, which Easley allegedly allowed his staff to delete, have already played such an important role in the ongoing investigation.

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Grocery Bag Ban

Posted by Jacob Burgdorf at 09:20 AM

A bill in House committee, short title “Ban Certain Single-Use Bags,” would prohibit retailers from providing customers with plastic bags. It passed the Senate 47-1. While originally it was applicable to the entire state, the version now in the House would restrict only those counties "which includes a barrier island or barrier peninsula," its population is at least 200, and “contains either a National Wildlife Refuge or a portion of a National Seashore.”
It also contains some other odd regulatory provisions. Only unpackaged fish, meat, poultry, and produce may be given a plastic bag (sorry Brach’s candy). Also, if the customer brings his or her own reusable bag (which must be cloth or at least 2.25mm thick!) a refund must be offered equal to the cost to the retailer of an equivalent number of paper bags. I wonder if a new refund program will need to be installed on every cash register, and if calipers will be supplied to every cashier.

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Buchanan gets this one right

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 08:50 AM

I disagree with Pat Buchanan on trade and immigration, but this analysis of Obama as the anti-Reagan is right on.

Despite his boldness, Barack Obama seems as fated to fail as were Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter. And for the same reason: a belief in his own righteousness and moral superiority, and a belief that his ideals and his persona count mightily in the modern world....

What is the matter with Obama that he cannot defend our Cold War conduct and Cold War presidents like Ike and JFK?

Answer: Obama cannot, because at heart he buys into the anti-American narrative that ours is a deplorable history -- of genocide against the Indians, of slavery and segregation, of robbing Mexicans of their land and of disrespecting our Latin neighbors....

Obama is the anti-Reagan. Where Reagan ever spoke of the greatness and glory of America, her history and heroes, her capacity to make the world all over again, Obama is like a dismal parson, forever reminding us -- and everyone within earshot -- of our own and our fathers' sins.

Obama is not only demoralizing Middle America, he is driving away the God-and-country patriots who are sick of hearing this rot from professors and journalists, and prefer not to hear it from their president. He is ceding moral high ground to regimes and nations that do not deserve it.

If Obama believes he can build himself up by tearing America down, he is mistaken. Cynical foreigners will view it with snickering contempt, patriotic Americans with disgust. What kind of leader is it who talks down his own country on foreign soil?



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Restrictive Covenants and Property Deeds

Posted by Dr. Troy Kickler at 07:50 AM

"Restrictive Covenants" is a new entry on   The author explores how implementing restrictive covenants in property deeds, especially after 1898, transformed Charlotte into one of the South's most segregated cities.  During the New Deal, the Federal Housing Administration endorsed the use of restrictive covenants.

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Newsweek columnist continues crusade against teachers’ unions

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:13 AM

Since I frequently criticize Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter in this forum, I feel compelled to highlight the latest instance in which he succeeds (again) in identifying a key problem with American education.

Alter’s latest column includes this passage about President Obama and his education secretary:

They understand that the key to fixing education is better teaching, and the key to better teaching is figuring out who can teach and who can't.

Just as Obama has leverage over the auto industry to impose tough fuel-economy standards, he now has at least some leverage over the education industry to impose teacher-effectiveness standards. The question is whether he will be able to use it, or will he get swallowed by what's known as the Blob, the collection of educrats and politicians who claim to support reform but remain fiercely committed to the status quo.

Teacher effectiveness — say it three times. Last week a group called the New Teacher Project released a report titled "The Widget Effect" that argues that teachers are viewed as indistinguishable widgets–states and districts are "indifferent to variations in teacher performance"–and notes that more than 99 percent of teachers are rated satisfactory. The whole country is like Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegon, except all the teachers are above average, too.

Why? The short answer is teachers' unions.

If an effective teacher is especially important, then it would seem to make sense to devote education dollars to classroom teachers rather than nonclassroom school personnel, a point Terry Stoops makes below.

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Prison problems?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:12 AM

If Dahlia Lithwick’s latest Newsweek column on problems with American prisons piques your interest, check out a recent Shaftesbury Society lecture from the head of a Piedmont-based alternative program for nonviolent criminal offenders.

Click play below for a snippet from Doug Lance’s speech.

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Imagine this headline eight months ago

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:11 AM

This tops Fareed Zakaria’s latest Newsweek piece:

Victory In Iraq: How we got here is a matter for history. But the democratic ideal is still within reach.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:08 AM

Today's Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Sam Hieb's report on funding for a new ACC Hall of Champions in Greensboro.

John Hood's Daily Journal discusses alternatives to the N.C. House's proposed tax hikes.

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