The Locker Room

January 13, 2011

Obama as pontifex maximus

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:38 PM

Richard Brookhiser reacts to the president's Tucson speech for National Review Online: 

Walter Dean Burnham described the president as the pontifex maximus of the American civil religion — the king replacement, the presider in chief.

What is curious about the role is that only a president may perform it, but not all — not even many — actually do so.

Franklin Roosevelt, with his Hudson squire manner and his radio voice, was by all accounts superb. Harry Truman, scrappy little jerk: no. Ike — better at D-Day; as president he seemed more like a nice uncle. JFK — his courtiers dearly wished to cast him in the role, and his inaugural showed promise, but he died too young. Johnson — “lugubrious bohunk” (a line of John Updike, who was trying to praise him): no. Nixon — anxious, embattled: no. Ford: no. Carter — tiny whiner: no.

Reagan — superb: forceful yet relaxed, dignified yet humble, at ease with words and with himself. Bush 1 — English as a second language: no. Clinton — God no. Bush 2 — English as a third language, yet in the aftermath of 9/11, beginning with his Ground Zero appearance, yes.

Obama’s acolytes were certain that fulfilling the pontifical role would be among the least and easiest of his accomplishments. He was so eloquent! Yet his speechmaking began to deteriorate with his inaugural, until he developed an array of tics — aloofness, petulance, long-windedness.

In the Tucson speech he stepped into the role. His political enemies will sigh, but must acknowledge that he has grasped an opportunity uniquely open to the president.

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NCICL reacts to Revenue report on film (star) tax credits

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 12:48 AM

From the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law:

New Department of Revenue Study: Massachusetts issuing tax credits to cover movie stars' wages 

NCICL Executive Director says story demonstrates why NC is headed down the wrong path 

RALEIGH, JANUARY 13, 2011-According to the Associated Press, a recent review of a Department of Revenue report on Massachusetts’s tax credit program found that a quarter of the tax breaks given to movie companies under the state’s film tax credit program have gone to help filmmakers cover the paychecks of Hollywood millionaires. Within the last year, North Carolina has instituted a film tax credit program very similar to that of Massachusetts. 

"This clearly demonstrates that North Carolina is headed down the wrong path with increased credits for film incentives,” said NCICL’s Executive Director and Senior Counsel Justice Robert F. Orr. “We cannot afford to continue to reduce funding for critical public services like education and mental health while subsidizing Hollywood millionaires.”

The Department of Revenue report documents that $82 million of the $330 million in film spending eligible for credits in 2009 went to pay the salaries of nonresident actors earning over $1 million in Massachusetts. 

Want more evidence that film incentives don't work? You'll find Joseph Coletti's analysis here.

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Using every tragedy as an excuse to expand state power

Posted by George Leef at 12:47 AM

Glenn Greenwald, one of that endangered species of liberals who actually care about preserving liberty, writes here about the rush to enact draconian new legislation in the wake of the Tucson shootings. He calmly observes that such legislation (focusing in particular on a proposal that would make it easy to lock up people who are thought to perhaps have mental illnesses) would do a lot of harm, open up the potential for abuse, yet probably do little or nothing to prevent violence.

Hasty legislation enacted in the wake of some tragedy or crisis (remember -- politicians hate to let a good crisis go to waste!) can make politicians look concerned and effective, but it usually does far more harm than good. Just think of all the New Deal laws meant to deal with the economic crisis of the early '30s. They did not work, but actually made economic conditions worse, and almost 80 years later, they're still doing that.

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New Carolina Journal Online exclusive

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 12:40 AM

David Bass' latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive reports that at least a half dozen freshman N.C. senators will lead committees when the new General Assembly starts work later this month.

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Dirt worshiper (I'm not making this up)

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 12:08 AM

I passed an SUV on the road today (that's right an SUV), that was sporting a bumper sticker that said "All Soil is Sacred." I've heard of worshiping the ground someone walks on, but this takes it to a whole new level. Indeed, this would suggest that walking on the ground at all is a sacrilege. After all, a Christian would never walk on a crucifix. Not surprisingly this dirt worshiper also had a Carolina sticker and an Obama sticker on his car. Somehow the pieces of the puzzle all fit together.

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Respect for bailbondsmen

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:55 AM

Alex Tabarrok says private bounty hunters do good work and are getting more of it from states. (h/t Schumpeter)

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Headline: 'Neighboring states gleeful over Ill. tax increase'

Posted by Jon Sanders at 10:30 AM

WRAL offers a very instructive article today (emphasis added):

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — While many states consider boosting their economies with tax cuts, Illinois officials are betting on the opposite tactic: dramatically raising taxes to resolve a budget crisis that threatened to cripple state government.

Neighboring states gleefully plotted Wednesday to take advantage of what they consider a major economic blunder and lure business away from Illinois.

"It's like living next door to 'The Simpsons' — you know, the dysfunctional family down the block," Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said in an interview on Chicago's WLS-AM.

But economic experts scoffed at images of highways packed with moving vans as businesses leave Illinois. ... "The idea of competing on state tax rates is . . . hopelessly out of date," said Ed Morrison, economic policy advisor at the Purdue Center for Regional Development. "It demonstrates that political leadership is really out of step with what the global competitive realities are."

Is it now? Go check out Rich States Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index by Arthur B. Laffer, Stephen Moore and Jonathan Williams. Of the 50 states, Illinois has the 48th worst economic performance rank, and its economic outlook ranking is just as bad (47th). Furthermore, Illinois' absolute domestic (that is, among U.S. states) migration from 1998-2008 is -637,979, and the state has been losing 60,000 to 80,000 residents per year. It's what the authors call "voting with their feet":

Why on earth would a state with the natural and cultural amenities of California be losing people (over 1.3 million from 1997 to 2006) in comparison with, say, Nevada (plus a half million in that time)? Because California has the highest "progressive" income tax rate in the nation outside of New York City, and the costs for businesses to comply with California's byzantine menu of regulations is over twice as high as those of other Western states. As Laffer and Moore write, "It takes a lot of public policy folly to persuade people to pack their bags and abandon California's sunshine, 70-degree weather, scenic mountains, and beaches, but lately the politicians in Sacramento have proved themselves up to the task."

You know, if I were a resident of Illinois' neighboring states whose politicians demonstrate knowledge (to the point of "gleeful" excitement!) that low taxes and regulation bring in people and jobs, and then don't observe those politicians doing their best to lower taxes and regulations, I'd be outraged, wouldn't you? Why wait for other states to become more dysfunctional than yours?

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"Improving" Huck Finn by deleting the N-word?

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 10:15 AM

I agree with Rich Lowry at National Review:  Don't rewrite Huck Finn.  When I read the book as a kid, I reached the same conclusion.  

It is Jim, the character who is demeaned and hunted like an animal, who is most humane. While Huck’s father is an ignorant drunk who beats and robs him, Jim desperately misses his own family, and his conscience lashes him for having once hit his daughter unjustly. Huck reflects on this and remarks, “He was a mighty good n——, Jim was.”

Strike the offending word from the text and you lose the point. The attitudes of the time kept Huck from seeing what was obviously in front of him — simply a man, and a better one than most. Twain said that Huck had “a sound heart and a deformed conscience.” The boy’s triumph is rising above the forces that shaped him and deciding to help Jim run away, even though it’s supposed to be wrong. “All right then, I’ll go to hell,” he tells himself.

Huck thought — because he was told by every adult around him — that it was a sin and a crime to free Jim and treat him as equal, and resolves to do it anyway. It’s hard to imagine a more devastating critique of antebellum America, or a more affecting portrayal of the power of human fellow-feeling, than that. Please, don’t try to improve Huck Finn.

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So much for bright ideas

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 10:13 AM

John Hood's Daily Journal article for today reminds me that I also wrote about the light bulb coercion problem a few years ago, when it was still a nuisance looming on the horizon. Now that it's here, we are bound to see even more reports that shed light on the stupidity of regulating sources of light that consumers can choose for personal use.

And by way of scooping both my and Hood's pieces, it turns out that the lighting 'problem', and it's proposed policy solution are nothing new. They predate both of our recent comments on the subject by a very long period of time.

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Lefty bloggers misleading readers on Loughner's gun

Posted by David N. Bass at 10:10 AM

Liberals don't have a clue when it comes to guns. The tragic shootings in Tucson have reinforced that opinion. Their ignorance of firearms is astounding.

Since the rampage, lefty bloggers and columnists have perpetuated the falsehood that the model handgun Jared Loughner allegedly used, a 9mm Glock 19, was outlawed under the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 (which expired in 2004). That’s flatly incorrect.

The AWB prohibited the manufacture of new “high capacity magazines,” which it arbitrarily defined as mags that hold 10 rounds or more. Even then, the ban didn’t apply to previously manufactured extended magazines. The price-point was higher for these due to a limited supply, but they were still available in stores as a used commodity.

So, the notion that Loughner couldn’t have gotten his hands on the 31-round magazine prior to 2004 is ludicrous. Even more ridiculous is misleading readers into believing the Glock 19 itself was a banned commodity. is one of the worst offenders.

A headline from Jan. 9 for one of its blog posts reads: “Weapon in Rampage Was Banned Under Clinton-Era Law.” Again, the Glock 19 was never banned, and the ban on the extended magazine only applied to new production, not existing magazines. And a magazine is not a weapon; it’s a component of a weapon.

Readers have to proceed to the sub-head to get a somewhat fuller picture: “The now-expired assault weapons ban made it illegal to make the type of magazine used in the Giffords shooting.”

Partly true, but the blog post delays the full truth until the fourth graf:

Between 1994 and 2004 when the assault weapons ban was in effect, gun manufacturers such as Glock could not market handguns with high-capacity magazines … Stores could legally only sell used high-capacity magazines at that time, and new magazines could not be manufactured.

Kevin D. Williamson at National Review Online has an apt response to the argument that Loughner would’ve had a tougher time buying the extended magazine if the AWB had been renewed:

The only difference the AWB is likely to have made is that the shooter would have had a used magazine instead of a new one (assuming he did in fact have a new one), and he probably would have paid five bucks more for it.

Why didn’t Salon use a more accurate headline? Could it be that liberals want to mislead readers into believing the Glock 19 is “an assault weapon”? Even after explaining the facts, albeit poorly, the Salon blogger quotes a source from the Brady Center who characterizes the Glock 19 as a people-killing machine:

He also notes that Glock pistols are particularly easy to fire, letting off rounds as quickly as the operator can pull the trigger. ‘They are very good at killing people quickly,’ he says.

“Letting off rounds as quickly as the operator can pull the trigger” is the definition of a semi-automatic weapon. It doesn’t make the handgun unusual, and certainly not an assault weapon — unless one defines an assault weapon as anything above a single-shot firearm.

Left-wing bloggers and journalists: Please get your facts straight.

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Not something you see every day

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:07 AM

UNC Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina announced plans earlier this week to join forces in a new clinic. This clinic fits with UNC Health's drive to create an Accountable Care Organization (ACO), which is essentially an HMO run by a hospital and one of the big "features" of ObamaCare. I raised questions about the wisdom of this from a consumer perspective, since fewer choices for care means higher prices. The federal government is gung-ho for these organizations and is rewriting and reinterpreting anti-trust and anti-fraud laws to ease their creation and expansion.

This is all standard issue market consolidation with government approval. What makes this one different is that William Roper, whose $717,600 salary as CEO of UNC Health Systems is fifth highest among all state employees, was a vocal advocate for ObamaCare and a hero on the left. So when his hospital moves to increase its power in the Triangle market, the left is remarkably supportive and not overly concerned about consumers.

ObamaCare is creating more centralized health care organizations, making insurance and care more expensive, and putting more people on Medicaid. This is not a recipe for better access, higher quality, or lower cost. While Wasington works on repeal, Raleigh needs to resist.

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York dissects the president's Tucson speech

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:15 AM

Byron York's latest Washington Examiner blurb probes President Obama's remarks Wednesday in Tucson:

After days in which some Democrats and their supporters in the press assigned blame for the violence in Tucson on Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh, and Republicans in general, President Obama says "none of us can know exactly" why accused killer Jared Loughner attacked Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others last Saturday.

"None of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack," Obama said in prepared remarks.  "None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind."

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:04 AM

Sara Burrows' latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive focuses on a forced annexation controversy involving Lexington. 

John Hood's Daily Journal explains why a federal law against standard light bulbs isn't a bright idea.

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