The Locker Room

March 7, 2011

You might be a progressive if...

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 5:01 PM're saying "yeah, so what's the problem?"

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McCrory aids AFP's campaign to save House Bill 2

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:40 PM

From Dallas Woodhouse at Americans for Prosperity North Carolina:

Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory will be urging voters to contact their member of the General Assembly this week as part our effort to override Governor Perdue’s reckless veto of the Health Care Freedom Act. Click here to watch a special message from Pat McCrory. It is clear that the citizens of North Carolina want to be protected from President Obama’s overreach. If you haven’t yet, take action on this critical issue! Click here to send a message to your legislators urging them to override Gov. Perdue’s veto.

Pat couldn’t have said it better himself: “A majority of states have challenged the worst parts of ObamaCare, and two federal judges have agreed that the bill is unconstitutional. The NC General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill to protect North Carolinians from a federal government mandate to buy health insurance and other unconstitutional parts of ObamaCare.

However, after a trip to Washington and meetings with big government liberals including President Obama, Governor Perdue vetoed this common sense legislation.  I urge citizens to contact their members of the General Assembly and ask them to override the Governor’s veto.” It is clear Governor Perdue is standing with Obama over the interests of North Carolina citizens. With your help and the help of leaders such as Mayor McCrory, we can not only support this important piece of legislation, we can be influential factors in its passage.

Remember, while Governor Perdue has exercised a veto of this legislation, she can not veto the will of the people to be protected from Obamacare. If you’d like to contact your lawmaker and ask them to protect your health care freedom, click here. Thank you for your continued support and activism to protect economic freedom and prosperity across North Carolina. Together, we can make a difference.

John Locke Foundation experts and others from across the country also have explained to the governor why she had no constitutional grounds to veto House Bill 2.

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The diversity mania creeps into engineering

Posted by George Leef at 3:56 PM

Last Friday's Wall Street Journal included this revealing letter:

David Finch's "Credential Bloat Is a Hiring Problem" (Letters, Feb. 19) is correct as far as it goes. Credential verification is certainly easier than skill verification. In fact, skill verification is intentionally made difficult. As a senior technical staff member I have been previously criticized by the human-resources department for asking technical questions during interviews of the flavor, "Please describe for me how you would approach solving or setting up the following type of engineering problem." Similarly, questions like, "Given the following observations of a particular process, what do you think is causing that?" were off limits. In other words, delving into a candidate's critical thinking skills was frowned upon.

HR exists to keep the company out of legal hot water and these well-meaning folks are totally without skills related to the core competencies of what we do. While a previous supervisor would be a trove of useful information about a candidate's skill set, lawyers have ensured that checking with references, except to verify previous job title and salary, is forbidden.

All U.S. corporations are under intense diversity pressure in the hiring process. Credentials are easier to acquire than are skills, and thus quickly expand the available diversity pool to meet politically mandated diversity quotas. I know professors at major universities who were told point blank by recruiters that unless they quickly increased the diversity of their candidate pool, the recruiters would stop recruiting there. Quality is irrelevant in the face of diversity.

Rick Cunnington

Oro Valley, Ariz.

One more source of drag on the economy -- pressure to hire people not because they're the best applicants, but to fulfill quotas and thus avoid legal trouble.

Hat tip: John Rosenberg

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Optional Mandate? I think the President needs a Dictionary

Posted by Nicole Fisher at 3:30 PM

Definition of the word optional: “left to one’s choice; not required or mandatory”.

President Obama has stance on individual mandates a lot. When running for the Presidential nomination against Hillary Clinton he came out in strong opposition to Clinton’s proposed mandates saying they would leave many "worse off."

However, as we all know now the President signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in 2010 which clearly calls for an individual mandate. This mandate however hasn’t been as well received by anyone as the President had hoped.

Now in another shift that surprised many, the administration announced last week the approval of 126 more mandate waivers, meaning that people who fall into specified categorie have the option to evade the individual mandate. These additional 126 waivers bring the total number of waivers to over a staggering 1,000, exempting more than 2.6 million individuals.

Am I the only one who thinks this oxymoron in terminology is all too representative of the lack in PPACA planning?

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New CJO exclusive: Perdue's pension payment proposal is inadequate

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:00 PM

Anthony Greco's latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive focuses on an expert's review of Gov. Beverly Perdue's plans for shoring up the state pension plan.

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JLF expert discusses N.C.'s budget outlook

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:41 PM

The governor has presented her budget proposal, and state lawmakers are busy crafting their plan. Joseph Coletti discussed their contrasting approaches and offered his own budget proposals during a presentation today to the John Locke Foundation's Shaftesbury Society.

Click play below to view Coletti contrasting the governor's and legislature's approaches to filling a $2.4 billion budget hole.

2:05 p.m. update: Click play below to watch the full 45:16 presentation.

You'll find other John Locke Foundation video presentations here.

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Abolish Fannie and Freddie

Posted by George Leef at 1:34 PM

Cato scholar Mark Calabria argues in this paper that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two giant "government sponsored enterprises" that came to dominate the mortgage market ought to be abolished. Calabria right. I'd just add that these government programs meant to encourage home ownership, should never have been started. Just as with Social Security, Medicare and other federal programs begun long ago with the stated goals of doing nice things to help people, Fannie and Freddie became political kudzu, growing like mad.

Nothing in the Constitution authorizes Congress to be in the housing business at all. We'd be far better off if Fannie and Freddie had been killed off at the idea stage by someone pointing out that they are not proper uses of federal authority.

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The sad effects of mass college credentialing

Posted by George Leef at 10:43 AM

In today's Pope Center piece Tulane University sociology professor Carl Bankston writes about the new, very revealing book Academically Adrift in light of his own experiences with college students.

Do waffle house managers really need to have earned college degrees?

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Another NC mascot, said to freak out the animals

Posted by Jon Sanders at 09:15 AM

God bless us, we North Carolinians just don't do mascots very well. Our signature one is a unwashed foot, for crying out loud. There's also one inspired by terrible football, and another one honoring the soldiers ... French soldiers. Then there's Raleigh's attempts.

And now the North Carolina Zoo has adopted a mascot inspired by the "green movement" (not exactly paragons of sense and good judgment). His name is ... "Snotty."

"Snotty"? What a great name!

As the Wall Street Journal explains, the mascot is to publicize the plight of the endangered snot otters, which are "nocturnal, mud-colored, prehistoric amphibians [that] look a bit like eels with stubby legs and can grow to be two feet long" and which have "toxic skin secretions" and are cannibals. The WSJ reports that

the zoo's nonprofit arm is gamely trying to popularize the creature. In the works is an ambitious marketing campaign that could ultimately involve not just T-shirts and educational posters, but also sock puppets and Christmas ornaments.

Already up and wriggling is the mascot, Snotty, a big-tailed lizard look-alike with brown skin, beady eyes and stubby teeth.

He made his debut--with mixed results--at the New River Celebration in Laurel Springs, N.C., this past summer.

The WSJ says that "Snotty's appearances at the zoo are limited to areas where real animals can't see him, so as not to 'freak them out,' says public-relations manager Rod Hackney." This being the NC Zoo, the places where real animals can't see him (and where he can't see the animals) would be pretty much the entire zoo.

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Regulation didn’t work, so let’s have more of it

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:44 AM

Joe Klein essentially makes that argument in his latest TIME column:
The financial police we have, agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), have been laughably inept in the era of financial deregulation. The SEC wasn't even able to spot the broad-daylight highway robbery committed by Bernard Madoff. And so, in 2010, the Obama Administration nudged through Congress the Dodd-Frank financial-reform bill, which was designed to put real cops, with real regulatory heft, on the financial beat. And now, in 2011, the Republican House seems intent on quietly gutting the bill under the sordid camouflage of budget cutting. "They're defunding the police after we had the biggest bout of looting in history," an Administration official told me. "That's just crazy."

As crazy as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

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Our ‘crisis of confidence’

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:43 AM

Some critics have dubbed President Obama’s administration the “second Carter term.” That description came to mind as I read Fareed Zakaria’s new TIME cover story. It documents the evidence of American decline.

Turn back the clock to 1980, and Zakaria’s words would fit right in with our 39th president’s description of the American “crisis of confidence.”

TIME offers a counterweight to Zakaria’s gloom and doom: an optimistic column from David Von Drehle:

Even worse than flawed statistics, though, is the tendency to interpret the gains of other countries as losses for America. It's true that the U.S. used to generate more patents than the rest of the world combined. Now we produce slightly fewer than half. It is a safe bet that we will generate a smaller and smaller proportion in the future. We're not inventing less; instead, others are being empowered to imagine and invent. Will we always have more airports than the next dozen nations combined? Will we always have three times as many miles of railroad track as China? Probably not, because the rest of the world wants to be as connected as we are.

The fact that students in Finland score well on tests is no threat to us — even as we keep trying to improve our own performance. Attempts by China and Saudi Arabia to create world-class universities don't endanger our institutions — and nothing prevents us from making better use of those resources for more and more of our people.

Looking for more reasons for optimism? The 39th president’s administration eventually ended, and the 40th president’s administration commenced.

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TIME tackles the public-sector union issue

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:42 AM

In case other entries in this forum have yet to convince you, perhaps Mike Murphy’s new column will do the trick:

The cost of state employees' benefits has skyrocketed in tandem with the rising power of public employees' unions. It has become a perverse and semicorrupt arrangement: the unions raise millions from dues, which are then used to elect labor-friendly politicians who cave at the contract-negotiating table, especially on long-term employment deals, whose cost really begins to crush the state or city budget in the years after the agreeable politician has left office. This is where public-sector unions lack the moral authority of their private-sector brethren. When the United Steelworkers negotiate with a steel company, they don't also control the company's board of directors.

Few Americans understand how the public-employee-union money machine works. Many unionized state and local public workers have their dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. On average, a teacher in Wisconsin pays more than $1,000 per year to the union (from an average salary of $51,264). A decent chunk of this money is used to fund political activities. That doesn't mean just making contributions. It also means running lavish independent ad campaigns in support of their chosen candidates and against their opponents. Even Democratic candidates who oppose union priorities can face massively funded negative campaigns targeting them in primaries. Engaging in such well-funded political activity is the unions' right, of course, but their immense financial power means they are bringing a machine gun to a fistfight.

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Governors and public-sector unions

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:41 AM

While Wisconsin has generated the most headlines, other states are struggling with the future role of public-sector unions, as documented in a brief article in the latest Bloomberg Businessweek.

Sure, you’ll read what Republicans Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Mitch Daniels are up to, but you’ll also read that California’s Jerry Brown and New York’s Andrew Cuomo are also calling for changes that would affect government workers.

And here’s what the article says about New Jersey’s Chris Christie:

Christie is no stranger to clashes with organized labor, having picked a fight with the state teachers' union over wages and benefits soon after taking office in January 2010. In his quest to cut costs, New Jersey's governor, a Republican, has effectively pitted neighbor against neighbor. His Feb. 23 budget calls for state workers to shoulder 30 percent of health-care premiums by 2014, compared with 8 percent now. If Democrats in the state's legislature don't approve the measure, the governor says he will hold up $190 million in scheduled homeowner tax credits. Public sector workers are getting the message that it is time to punch out—for good: More than 20,000 filed for retirement in 2010, a 60 percent jump from the previous year.

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Shale gas potential

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:40 AM

Carolina Journal Radio listeners recently learned about the potential for North Carolina to take advantage of shale gas in the years ahead.

A legislative committee learned that the state could have as many as 59,000 acres with the characteristics to produce this potential fuel source.

State environmental regulators are already raising some red flags about the “fracking” process that would secure access to the shale gas.

The latest Bloomberg Businessweek discusses the issue in more detail here.

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For the big bank watchers

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:39 AM

If you’ve been watching with interest to see how the banking changes connected with the financial crisis will shape Charlotte’s future, you might be interested in a new Bloomberg Businessweek article focusing on Bank of America’s wealth management unit.

Near the end of the piece, we read:

For retaining brokers over the long term, the metric that matters most is the financial health of Bank of America. "The clock is clearly ticking," says Tony Plath, a finance professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. "If they don't find a way to get earnings per share higher ... . how long will his shareholders be complacent?" Plath gives CEO Moynihan "a year or two to turn it around" amid multiple obstacles, many stemming from Lewis's acquisition of mortgage lender Countrywide. BofA is spending billions to repurchase its defective loans, while fending off lawsuits from those who bought or insured the assets. Larry Dirita, a spokesman for Moynihan, says shareholder value "depends in part on aggressively cleaning up legacy mortgage issues" as well as on the synergies from the integration of Merrill and Bank of America.

"Every day that Bank of America trades [this low] is another day closer to pressure starting to form from big shareholders and Wall Street to break the thing up," says Greg Donaldson, chairman of Donaldson Capital Management, an investment firm based in Evansville, Ind., that holds Bank of America shares. "You win if Moynihan can pull everybody together and execute. You also win if he doesn't, because if he doesn't it swirls out of control and they break the thing up." While Bank of America has a market value of $142 billion, a breakup would unlock far greater value, according to Richard Bove, a veteran analyst at Stamford (Conn.)-based Rochdale Securities. "If one were to value the multiple businesses of Bank of America based on [individual unit] values, it would be worth $53 per share," he says. The stock now trades at $14.

Moynihan’s exploits have attracted attention from this forum in recent months.

For more of the backstory of the financial crisis’s impact on Charlotte, you might want to check out the recent book from Rick Rothacker. He described Banktown during a recent Carolina Journal Radio interview.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:31 AM

Anthony Greco's latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive previews this week's action from the N.C. General Assembly.

John Hood's Daily Journal explains why Gov. Beverly Perdue now "owns" ObamaCare.

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