The Locker Room

July 7, 2009

Tax talk on your early morning commute

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 5:03 PM

I'll be on 680 WPTF with Scott Fitzgerald in the Raleigh area tomorrow morning talking about Gov. Perdue's tax hike on for the children.

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AFP's response to Perdue's tax plan

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:54 PM

From Americans for Prosperity North Carolina:

Americans for Prosperity Outraged with North Carolina Governor Beverley Perdue’s Proposed Tax Increase
 
RALEIGH - The North Carolina chapter of the grassroots free-market group Americans for Prosperity (AFP-NC) today warned taxpayers about the “temporary emergency” taxes proposed as part of Governor Perdue’s proposed scheme to raise  $1.6 billion in new taxes this year.
 
“Governor Perdue is trying to sell massive sales and income tax increases as a temporary solution, but we know better,” said Americans for Prosperity State Director Dallas Woodhouse. “As Lt. Governor in the Mike Easley years, Perdue witnessed the temporary sales and income taxes extended year after year, until finally some of them became permanent. No person in North Carolina should have any confidence that any of these tax hikes will go away next year.”
 
The proposed taxes include an emergency income tax surcharge on single taxpayers who earn more than $500,000 and married couples filing jointly making more than $1 million. In addition, Perdue wants a 1-cent sales tax increase, a 50-cent-per-pack increase in cigarette taxes, plus 2-cents-per-can more on beer and a 2 percent increase on alcohol. 
 
Woodhouse further pointed out that lawmakers would likely blame the loss of federal stimulus funds to keep the taxes in place far longer than the one year suggested by Perdue.
 
“We have seen this bad movie before, with Easley’s ‘temporary taxes’ and Governor Terry Sanford’s ‘temporary food tax’ that was on the books for more than 30 years. Neither Governor Purdue nor the North Carolina Legislature is serious about budget cutting in the face of the current economic crisis.”
 
Additionally, the governor implied that a vote against her proposal is a vote against children. She said, ‘The decisions we make today are not about our political future, they are about our children’s future.’ 
 
Woodhouse responded, “The people of North Carolina will hopefully see through such rhetoric and tell their government that they want to see real cuts and real change in the budget.”

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Bev: An artist with the malarkey

Posted by Jon Sanders at 4:34 PM

Marvel at it:

When asked how North Carolinians could be sure that temporary tax increases would not become permanent, Perdue's answer was simple.

"Because I'm the governor," she said.

Frankly, with her skills at justifying a massive tax increase smack-dab in the midst of a severe recession with the state looking at unemployment at 13 percent, the governor had me at think of the children! So her comments were already in the top quintile of the dumbest things I've ever heard. Now they have to be in the 99th percentile.

You're in good hands, North Carolina!

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More on the eminent domain amendment

Posted by Becki Gray at 4:24 PM

House Bill 1268, Eminent Domain Amendment

Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, presents an amendment to take out physically blighted properties from eminent domain takings. 

As debate ensues, Rep. Lucy Allen D-Franklin, makes  a motion to send the bill back to the Judiciary II Committee. Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, says it needs to be rewritten. Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, is concerned about the physical blight language and what to do about it. She says it needs to be in a form that everyone is comfortable with. She addresses cartway issues.

Rep. Phil Haire, D-Jackson, says our statutes are just fine and the need for a constitutional amendment is farfetched.

Rep. Ronnie Sutton, D-Robeson, says he is concerned about a poorly written bill that changes the constitution and needs to go back to a judiciary committee for serious consideration.

Stam says 101 of you voted for the bill two years ago. Opponents of the bill want it killed. It can be fixed on the floor. One fix would change "paragraph" to "two sentences," and the other is to delete "physical blight." He advocates the deletion of the blight language as a way to prevent discrimination against poorer properties.

Allen says the statutes are the way to change these things. If we have a hard time understanding this, we should not put this before the voters.

Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, says she doesn't want to kill it. She says she has a responsibiluty and needs to know more about where we're heading with this.  This is a major move to amend the constitution.

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, asks Glazier: if it goes back to committee, what's the plan? The response: First thing, confer with staff and bill sponsors and address concerns about the seriousness of a  constitutional amendment. Would he consider letting the second reading vote occur and addressing concerns before a third reading? That's right, but he doesn't think 24 hours is enough time.

Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, says this is a simple vote. If you want to protect property rights, vote no; if you don't want to protect property rights, vote yes.

Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, questions the right to jury trial and just compensation.  Stam says he doesn't think a trial by jury should be required. 

The vote to send the bill back to committee, essentially killing it: 60-56.

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Back to committee

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:02 PM

That's where a proposed constitutional amendment linked to eminent domain (House Bill 1268) is heading after a 60-56 House vote.

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Re: Tax money for campaigns. No wonder there's a budget deficit.

Posted by Becki Gray at 4:00 PM

Senate Bill 20, Voter Owned Election for State Treasurer, is on the Senate floor today. Sen Andrew Brock, (R-Davie) proposes an amendment to get rid of the office of State Superintendent of Instruction. Sen Phil Berger, (R-Rockingham) sends a substitute amendment that would require a photo ID to vote and argues nothing could be more germane to an election bill. Sen Rules Chair, Tony Rand, (D-Cumberland) says it is not germane to the bill - Lt Gov Walter Dalton, (D-Rutherford), says it's not germane.  Berger asks for role call vote - looks like all Rs voted to overrule the decision and allow the amendment; all Ds voted no. Procedural questions, Dalton, Rand and Berger confer, ruling of chair sustained is before the body for a vote, to sustain wins 29 - 19.

Sen Brock's amendment on getting rid of the State Superintendent of Education position fails with 18 voting yes; 30 voting no.

Sen Phil Berger asks about a fiscal note.  Sen Doug Berger, (D-Franklin) says no there is no appropriation now. A follow up bill will address financing, with an intent to use private money but estimates $2 to 3 million but dances around the question of where the money will come from and how much it will be.  P. Berger argues the state can hardly afford to be financing public campaigns but we don't know where the money is coming for - $2 to 3 million that we don't have.

Sen Martin Nesbitt, (D-Buncombe), says we have to do something now.  As new laws say different groups cannot contribute to campaigns, it leaves fewer sources to run a statewide campaign. Unbelievably, they are  looking at fees in some of these offices to put money in these campaign coffers. 

Sen Eddie Goodall, (R-Union) says people don't want to give up their money, just because candidates take the free money does not mean the program is successful. It's bad public policy.

Sen Andrew Brock says this is no way to take money out of politics. Other outside groups, 527s, and political parties are still able to give unlimited money to campaigns.  Election law needs to be reformed.

Appropriations Chair, Sen Linda Garrou, (D-Forsyth) moves to move the bill back to Appropriations Committee.  And back it goes!  Hopefully to never see the light of day and keep politicians' campaigns away from taxpayers' money.

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Re: Biggest

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:40 PM

Want more of Joe's thoughts on this topic? Follow this link or click play below.

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Biggest. Tax Increase. Ever

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 3:10 PM

Since there is no history of a temporary tax hike expiring on schedule, we can expect taxes to be $2.5 billion higher in FY2011, not the $1.7 billion Gov. Perdue claims. That $2.5 billion is more than 10 percent of even the largest spending plan.

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Water, water everywhere but who really owns it?

Posted by Becki Gray at 3:04 PM

SB 967, Creation of Yadkin River Trust was discussed (and only discussed) in the House Water Resources and Infrastructure Committee. More than half the folks in the audience are from Stanly County.

Bill sponsor, Sen. Fletcher Hartsell (R-Cabarrus) explained the bill - single most intriguing, challenging and complex issue and yet fundamental in his legislative career. He started out on the side of this issue. The question the bill addresses is Who can be the better steward of the state's water?

The bill establishes a legal entity to deal with the re-licensing of the Alcoa plant, identifies where the money goes - that's all. It doesn't take anything, nor does it give anything. Three issues that are addressed: Who controls? Environmental impact? Economic development?

Gives a history of Alcoa's 50 year license. Says the federal license allows for the licensee to recoup their expenses. There was no guarantee of subsequent licensing. The people of NC now have the opportunity to control the water.

As the state grows, need to control it for usage and in droughts. Claims Alcoa has not been environmentally responsible and cites recent pcb levels in fish in the lake. It is important for the state to have access to the hydro electric power - shouldn't let Alcoa have it for free.

Bruce Thompson represents Stanly County and talks about fish pollution and fish consumption warning in Badin Lake. Says Alcoa fought the postings of warning signs and questioned that they were responsible for pcb elevations. Studies showed that the poisons around the Badin Works (Alcoa) were the same ones tested in the fish. He says action must be taken now.

Gene Ellis representing Alcoa speaks in opposition to the bill. Never thought I's see the day that the state of North Carolina would take over a private business and at a cost ($500 million) that the state can hardly afford right now.

Alcoa bought and owns 38,000 acres and the land under the lake, they built the hydro electric plant with no government subsidies - profit of $8 million a year

Cost to taxpayer of more than 1/2 Billion dollars. Deadlines for takeover have passed. The only way they could take it is through condemnation and pay just compensation. State would inherit $2 million in needed upgrades.

Violation of property rights. The taking of private property by governent is not a very popular idea.

NC does not have to take over Alcoa to control the water. Alcoa doesn't take the water, it simply passes through the hydro electric plant.

Alcoa has built and maintained environmentally responsible waste sites. Addresses the fish warning. Div of Public Health made the decision not to post the signs. NC Div of Waste Management says the pcbs cannot be traced to fish exposed to Alcoa.

He addresses jobs. The licensing process does not require creating or maintaining jobs. Alcoa has gained support in neighbors, environment, and business communities. This is not about protecting -it is about taking of private property.

Committee questions:

Rep Mitch Gillespie, (R-McDowell), asks how does the Yadkin Trust change control and what Alcoa can do now? House of Reps should be able to come up with a more balanced proposal. Doesn't want to see China own the water and doesn't want to burden taxpayers with $500 million debt. There has to be something that would solve the problem and better serve the people of NC.

Rep Ruth Samuelson, (R-Mecklenburg), asks how the use and control is different for Duke Power that has hydro electric plants on Catawba River? Why is it not an issue? Hartsell says duke is a regulated public utility, not a private company.

Is there anything that would prohibit Duke or another public utility from buying the Alcoa plant? Hartsell says no but the question is who owns the license.

Rep Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke), says the concerns have to with the control of water and environmental issues. Maybe these rules should apply to everyone, Duke Power, Progress Energy and private hydroplants. Hartsell says public utlitlies are different.

Meeting adjourns and will hear questions and debate from committee members at the next meeting.

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Re: Perdue: Raise taxes for the children

Posted by Jon Sanders at 2:51 PM

You wanna make a decision for my future? Then listen closely:
CUT TAXES! SHEESH!

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Perdue: Raise taxes for the children

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 2:30 PM

"We must remember that the decisions we make today are not about our political future, they are about our children’s future."

Governor Beverly Perdue
Plea for 1-cent sales tax hike
July 7, 2009

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Understatement

Posted by Jon Sanders at 2:10 PM

From the Times (UK):

Mr Gore admitted that it was difficult to persuade the public that the threat from climate change was as urgent as the threat from Nazi Germany.

Indeed, what a challenge. That'd be like convincing the public that Obama is fiscally responsible, Britney Spears is a virgin, the Founders envisioned socialized medicine, 2+2=5, $100 million dwarfs $8 billion, state lottery revenue is for education ...

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Perdue unveils tax wish list

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:48 PM

"Under the Dome" offers a recap

The governor's income tax hike proposal is different from the one that generated this projection of 2,800 lost jobs in the private sector, but the concept is the same. Higher marginal rates discourage entrepreneurs from making the investments that create jobs.

As for the sales tax, it will be interesting to see whether those who consider themselves champions of the poor will go along with a regressive tax that undoubtedly hits hardest those who have the least ability to pay.

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NC mental health reform is not a good model

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 1:13 PM

Community-based support services for the mentally ill wasted as much as $226 million of state money and $635 million overall, one fourth of the new money spent on the program.

Carol Ripple, who did the evaluation, told a legislative committee the wasted money shows the need to plan, conduct small experiments, and evaluate programs. Piedmont Behavioral Health is the only local mental health management organization in the state that controls all funding in its region, and is the only one to avoid most of the surge in spending.

In case you are wondering, none of the bills offered by Democrats in Congress would incorporate experiments, local control, or responsiveness to changing conditions.

Mental health reform in the state illustrates how even the best intentions can lead to bad results. Now, Democrats in the state legislature have cut mental health spending as part of their bid to balance the budget. Some of the cuts they propose are unnecessary and excessive. Health care is too important to leave to the whims of state or federal legislators.

More market forces would help North Carolina's public mental health system and the nation's health care.

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U.S. Senate might post staff salaries, benefits

Posted by David N. Bass at 12:12 AM

Maybe the U.S. Senate is worried that it will be the next government body to be graded by the John Locke Foundation's new transparency project.

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The cost of low-skilled labor has been increased by nearly 41 percent since '07

Posted by Jon Sanders at 11:43 AM

Despite multiple stimulus bills and unprecedented spending, we are in a steep recession. North Carolina is at double-digit unemployment. Families are hurting. People across the state and nation are having to deal with smaller budgets and make tough choices.

Of course, federal, state, and many local governments are also worried about smaller budgets, but since they have the legal power to take money from others, most are opting for that tack instead of cutting spending. Heaven knows North Carolina is.

So not only are people oppressed by a sour economy in general, but also they are being hit from all sides by governments. Their incomes are down and their taxes and fees are being increased at all levels.

Obviously, such a situation is bad for people and terrible for employment prospects. The last thing governments need to do in such a dire period of unemployment is raise costs on people and businesses and thereby make it that much more expensive to employ people. It's not only bad, it's immoral.

But there's something perhaps even more immoral: making it especially hard to employ the poorest people among us. Yet that is what is also going on:


The federal minimum wage is set to increase later this month as the job market shows signs of further decay.

The federal minimum wage will go to $7.25 an hour on July 24 from its current level of $6.55, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. ...

Last July, the wage floor was raised from $5.85 per hour. The increases were mandated by a bill passed by Congress in 2007, when the minimum was $5.15 an hour, where it had stayed for years.


So in two years, the federal minimum wage has been increased by nearly 41 percent. Such a massive increase in the price of low-skilled labor will lead to much fewer jobs for low-skill workers, the poorest among us. Demand curves slope downwards.

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Certificate of Need changes (CON)

Posted by Becki Gray at 11:17 AM

This is the time of a legislative session when bills that are requests or subjects of specific circumstances are moving through. It is particularly worth watching because often, in addressing one matter, others are impacted and often with unintended consequences.

Such is a bill being considered in the House Judiciary II today.

Rep. Rick Glazier (D Cumberland) explains a proposed committee substitute for Senate Bill 804, CON Changes.  The new bill does the following:
1. Specifies that the applicant who received a CON can petition to the Court of Appeals for a high bond rather than the holder of the CON
2. Prohibits any CONs for certain type of emergency depts for a certain time period
3. Requires DHSS to study the licensure of hospital based offsite emergenct depts.

The bill also changes some effective dates for issuance of a CON. Reportedly the effective date changes are made due to a conflict between US Oncology (in line for a CON) and Rex Hospital.

Lobbyists for several hospital and medical groups speak on behalf of their clients. There are outstanding court and agency cases currently being litigated around stakeholders' capital expenses and investments. The discussion confirms some of JLF research into the inherent problems with CON laws.

Glazier has an amendment that has to do with the bond and changes part of the effective dates to being effective immediately and says "The policy is that there should be the right to appeal and the appeal should not be muted because of the way the law is written."

The bill passes by a voice vote and goes to the House floor next. If it passes there, it would go back to the Senate for approval of the changes made by the House. Parties affected by these CON changes want this done before adjournment.
 

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Gender bill not 'inclusive' enough

Posted by David N. Bass at 10:33 AM

State lawmakers approved a bill yesterday that would call for a study of making general statutes "gender neutral." Not sure what needs to be studied about this -- perhaps the cost of substituting "him or her," or better yet "her or him," in all state documents?

A far more "inclusive" option, however, would be to replace every instance of "him" with "him/her/it/she-man/he-woman/no gender/an undefined gender/anything else we left out purely by accident and not because we are sexist homophobes."

Doing so would satisfy everyone and prevent any costly lawsuits for the state.

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GOP legislative leaders challenge Perdue to series of budget debates

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:20 AM

Republican legislators used their regular weekly news conference to criticize their Democratic counterparts for continuing to haggle over the types of tax increases they plan to impose on North Carolinians.

Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, also unveiled a letter he's sent to Gov. Beverly Perdue that challenges her to a series of five budget debates over the next two weeks.

Click play below to watch the 14:23 news conference.

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Tax money for campaigns. No wonder there's a budget deficit.

Posted by Becki Gray at 10:02 AM

Just when you thought your money was safe from political campaigns….Senate Bill 20, Voter-Owned Election for Treasurer is on today’s Senate calendar.  If taxpayer funded elections were a bad, very bad idea for municipal candidates, paying for council of state races can’t be any better.  And consideration of using taxpayer money for politician’s campaigns while claiming there is no money for mental health, (while wasting millions)  no money for teachers, and a bulging deficit seems insulting at best.  And do we really want the person in charge of all the state's money to start out on the public dole?

Message to politicians:  Pay for your own campaigns! 

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Health care in Georgia vs Massachusetts

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 09:57 AM

New video uses Legos to illustrate the point

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RE: Comparing Robert McNamara and Obama

Posted by Andrew Schreiber at 09:38 AM

While I was reading the comment that President Obama and Robert McNamara are, "'whiz kids' who are so certain they know the answers that all they need do is draw up the plans for action by government,"  I thought back to a Michael Ramirez comic that I saw two weeks ago:

 
 

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Wake County Transparency

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 09:30 AM

Wake County just put its checkbook online here so citizens can see how the county spends its money. 

The County Commissioners did not budget themselves any money in fiscal year 2009 beyond their salaries, but that did not stop them from spending a total of $30,552. 

Here  is the breakdown:

Betty Lou Ward         $3,557

Harold  Webb            $7,429

Joe Bryan                 $6,017

Kenn Gardner            $4,228

Lindy Brown              $7,671

Paul Coble                     $30

Stan Norwalk             $1,620

Most of this was included in the "Conference/Training Registration" category. Lindy Brown for example, spent $4,087 in this category with the largest single amount, $2,444, going to the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.   

That must have been some "training." Courses at UNC or NC State might have been cheaper.

For more financial data from other counties, cities and state agencies see the new JLF website NCTransparency.com  

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Comparing Robert McNamara and Obama

Posted by George Leef at 09:25 AM

In this WSJ piecetoday, Bret Stephens draws a very useful parallel between the late Robert McNamara and our Beloved Leader -- "whiz kids" who are so certain they know the answers that all they need do is draw up the plans for action by government. Stephens contrasts that sort with what economist William Easterly calls a "searcher." That is to say, someone who realizes that he needs to search for answers and that if any are to be found they may not involve government.


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"Obama Proves to be Mortal"

Posted by Andrew Schreiber at 09:06 AM

More bad news for anyone who still believes that Obama is a deity, even after PETA admitted that the president is only human, following the fly-swatting incident. Politico reports that President Obama forgot where he met his wife Michelle. Obama told an audience in Moscow that, "I don’t know if anybody else will meet their future wife or husband in class like I did," however the president and his wife were never enrolled in Harvard Law at the same time. The first lady graduated in the spring of 1988, while Obama himself did not step foot on the campus until the fall of that same year.

The couple actually met at a law firm over the summer in 1989.

What implications does this have for the Obama Administration's agenda? Hopefully none, but it would be nice if the media actually began to scrutinize some of the president's policies.

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Pro-union bill attacked in Newsweek

Posted by George Leef at 09:00 AM

Here is a piece attacking the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (more accurately, the Dragoon Workers Into Unions Act) in a surprising place -- Newsweek. The editor who let that in will probably be unemployed soon.

Unions impede productive efficiency and actually do very little to accomplish their stated goal -- to redistribute wealth between business owners and employees. (As if that were a good thing; less capital means lower productivity and wages in the long run.) They do, however, produce one thing: campaign contributions for politicians who cozy up to them. The EFCA is just another example of how the Obamacrats sacrifice long-run economic benefits in order to have short-run political advantages.

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New appeals court rulings

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:54 AM

Among the new appellate rulings issued today (now as pdf files instead of html links) are cases involving:

  • the firing of a career UNC employee dismissed after an investigation of "unacceptable" racist conduct,
  • a property dispute involving the town of Oriental,
  • a medical malpractice dispute linked to Moses Cone Health System, and
  • a landlord-tenant dispute involving billboards.

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It’s not just Apex — most government agencies need to improve online transparency

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:56 AM

It’s unfortunate that WNCN decided to follow the News & Observer’s lead by singling out Apex for negative attention in connection with the John Locke Foundation’s new grades of online transparency for state and local government agencies.

Read more than just the “Triangle Politics” brief from Saturday’s paper, and you’ll see that the new Web site NCTransparency.com assigns pretty low scores to many groups.

No state agency earns better than a C grade. Most get Ds, as did Apex. That grade is not uncommon among city governments. Fayetteville, Garner, and Sanford all earned Ds among local governments within the Triangle/Sandhills television market. (Those are just the ones from the site’s first two pages.)

More important than the current grade is the fact that a government agency’s grade will improve as officials place more useful information online. We would be happy to see those grades get better and better as more government leaders see the importance of online transparency.

Joe Coletti explained why transparency benefits all taxpayers — not just those in Apex — during his interview with WNCN.

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Far right of what?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:54 AM

It’s hard to tell whether author James MacGregor Burns or TIME reviewer Randy James is the one who considers the current U.S. Supreme Court to be the “far-right Roberts Court.”

Regardless, the person who holds that opinion hasn’t spent much time chatting with Robert Bork, who sees “a very left-leaning, liberal court.”

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If you listened to Roy, you wouldn’t have to ask the question

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:53 AM

The latest TIME asks in a headline: “What Happened to the Stimulus?”

Follow this link to get an idea about the way in which Roy Cordato would respond. Click play below for another sampling of Roy’s response to federal bailouts and stimulus packages.

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Just when you thought you had heard every crazy idea …

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:52 AM

… resident TIME humorist Joel Stein describes his wife’s latest plan: dining on placenta. Here’s my favorite part of the column:
Most mammals, Cassandra explained, eat their placentas, to which I countered that most dogs eat their poop. I stopped arguing there, figuring that like many of Cassandra's hippie ideas — the compost bin, rubbing lemon on her underarms instead of deodorant — she'd give up on this in a few weeks.

If only that were true of all “hippie ideas.”

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:45 AM

Today's Carolina Journal Online exclusive features information about the John Locke Foundation's new government transparency Web site, NCTransparency.com.

John Hood's Daily Journal explains why lawmakers should have looked elsewhere before recommending major cuts in mental-health programs.

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