The Locker Room

June 22, 2010

The Greatest Love of All

Posted by Paul Chesser at 7:07 PM

If there was ever any doubt about the resemblance, it was removed with this weekend's Pixar Studios release.

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'The Supreme Court is going to strike down any rescue-fund system'

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:11 PM

You would expect Daren Bakst to utter the words in that headline. He's an opponent of taxpayer-funded election campaign schemes.

But the person who actually offered that comment was public financing advocate Larry Lessig, during an interview this afternoon with Carolina Journal Radio. Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor and co-founder of the group Change Congress, is pushing a program for taxpayer funding that involves no "matching funds" or "rescue funds."

Unfortunately for proponents of North Carolina's existing taxpayer-financing system, this state does provide "matching funds" when a candidate who shuns tax dollars spends beyond a certain threshold figure for his campaign.

The Supreme Court's recent order in an Arizona case prompted Bakst to urge state leaders to place a moratorium on North Carolina's constitutionally suspect "matching funds" system. Lessig's comments, which you can watch below, back up Bakst's argument.

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Tax Incentives Bill Passes House

Posted by Bill Flanigen at 3:52 PM

In case you missed it, the "Keep North Carolina Competitive Act" - a motley collection of industry-specific tax breaks and incentives, the largest of which will flow to the benefit of the film industry - passed its third reading in the House yesterday, and will now be taken up by the Senate.

The final House vote - 80 to 28 - was even more lopsided than the 76 to 28 vote that followed the bill's second reading last Thursday.

Becki Gray's twitterfeed is great for keeping up with this stuff. Follow!

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Federal judge ends drilling moratorium; slaps Salazar

Posted by Rick Henderson at 3:02 PM

In New Orleans, U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman overturned the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling projects (PDF of decision here). In the process, he slapped down Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's justifications for imposing the ban:

After reviewing the Secretary’s Report, the Moratorium Memorandum, and the Notice to Lessees, the Court is unable to divine or fathom a relationship between the findings and the immense scope of the moratorium. The Report, invoked by the Secretary, describes the offshore oil industry in the Gulf and offers many compelling recommendations to improve safety. But it offers no time line for implementation, though many of the proposed changes are represented to be implemented immediately. The Report patently lacks any analysis of the asserted fear of threat of irreparable injury or safety hazards posed by the thirty-three permitted rigs also reached by the moratorium. It is incident-specific and driven: Deepwater Horizon and BP only. None others.
In Feldman's words, the moratorium was "arbitrary and capricious." It's not the first time Salazar has been a bit, er, slippery about energy drilling. When he was a U.S. senator in Colorado, he (along with two Democratic House members from Colorado, Mark Udall and Salazar's brother John) erected a host of procedural barriers to natural gas drilling in one of the richest, mostly untapped reservoirs of fossil fuels in the West: the Roan Plateau.

Federal energy and environmental officials spent more than seven years developing the most comprehensive drilling plan in the nation's history, and the Salazars and Udall did all they could to stop it. (See editorial coverage I was behind here and here.)

Even after taking over at Interior, Salazar reversed a host of terrestrial energy production plans approved by the Bush White House, for reasons a lot less compelling than the Deepwater Horizon spill. This time, an aggrieved party sued -- and the rule of law prevailed, at least for now. We'll see if Feldman's decision withstands the Obama adminstration's appeal.

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Court Blocks Obama Drilling Moratorium

Posted by Daren Bakst at 2:46 PM

A federal court has blocked Obama's moratorium on deepwater drilling projects.

From the AP article:

Several companies that ferry people and supplies and provide other services to offshore drilling rigs asked U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans to overturn the moratorium, arguing it was arbitrarily imposed.

Feldman agreed, saying in his ruling the Interior Department assumed that because one rig failed, all companies and rigs doing deepwater drilling pose an imminent danger.

"The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an unprecedented, sad, ugly and inhuman disaster," he wrote. "What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm."

Some sanity at last, at least temporarily--of course, the case will be appealed.

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Senate committee's plan to expand taxpayer-financed election campaigns labeled 'shocking'

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:18 PM

Daren Bakst already has offered you some reasons for his concern about a legislative ethics bill that would expand taxpayer financing of election campaigns.

You'll learn more here and in the video clip below.

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Slope Construction Act attaches slippery amendment

Posted by Kellie Slappey at 2:16 PM

HB 1870 Artificial Slope Construction Act was heard today in the Environment and Natural Resource Committee on the House side.

The bill would require local governments to adopt ordinances to regulate site planning, design, and construction of artificial slopes in mountainous area of the state. The bill is being proposed in an effort to promote safe stable slopes and to reduce the likelihood of slope failure. While safety may be the stated purpose, this bill is eroding away personal property rights as Becki Gray has mentioned in a previous article.

This is the second time the ENR committee has met to hear this bill and debate today focused on Representative Harrison’s proposed amendment, which would require disclosure of landslide hazards from the homeowners to potential buyers. A representative from the North Carolina Associations of Realtors informed everyone that typically a realtor discloses this information; however in a transaction where there is no realtor this amendment would push that burden off on the seller. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Goforth, opposed the amendment and raised some concern to putting this kind of burden on sellers since sometimes they are not well informed of slope construction limitations. Rep. Underhill also pointed out that the “research” that sellers would be expected to go out and gather about their property is supposed to be based on the NCGS maps which will not be completed for several counties for another 7 or so years.
Rep. Floyd reiterated this point- that the owner would have to know about potential landslides to disclose but they wouldn’t necessarily know about the landslides until the mapping is complete. The amendment passed 9 to 7.

A representative from Environment North Carolina encouraged passage of the bill, arguing that slope erosion is polluting mountain streams.

The North Carolina Homebuilders also had a representative speak at the end who discouraged sending a favorable report of this bill due to the fact that local governments are able to make the best decisions on their own for their citizens safety. She listed how several local entities have already passed ordinances that comply with the artificial slope construction act and this bill is not addressing any real problems. The representative argued this bill is forcing local cities to follow what Raleigh dictates to them.

The bill’s sponsor Rep. Goforth concluded that we’ve got to protect  the counties who are not choosing to do something.

The committee passed a favorable report on a vote of 8 to 6.



 

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Vuvuzelas aren't the only problem

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 12:23 AM

Charlotte is in the news again for the still-birthed NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Charlotte, N.C., coughed up $154 million to become the home of the new NASCAR Hall of Fame -- which employs just 115 people. Other communities build museums, convention centers and concert halls. It's hard to measure, but it's unlikely they all return equal value to taxpayers.

They don't even make good tourist attractions as ruins afterwards.

It is emblematic of the money wasted on billion-dollar stadiums, amphitheaters, and the like. These projects are increasingly paid for with financial instruments designed to hide the cost to taxpayers and avoid a referendum on the debt.

State and local debt is now 22 percent of GDP thanks in part to these deals.

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Obamacare: hype versus reality

Posted by George Leef at 12:12 AM

One of the pitches used to justify the gargantuan bill was that health costs were being driven up a lot by uninsured people going to emergency rooms for non-emergency medical problems. In this report NCPA's John Goodman shows that if anything, Obamacare is apt to increase reliance on emergency room care.

But heck, if you pass a 2000 page bill no one has completely read, much less carefully analyzed, you should expect a few little problems where hype and reality collide.

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HSAs gaining popularity, but not guaranteed by health care law

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 11:59 AM

More companies are choosing consumer-directed health plans as a way to deal with rising health care costs, according to Kaiser Health News. Jonathan Cohn claims that these companies are to blame if their plans don't meet as-yet-unwritten federal regulations set to take effect in 2014. So Cohn and President Obama think it's a good thing that in three years you could lose health insurance that saves money on premiums and puts you in charge of your own care, you might lose it in three years anyway.

More employers are adding high-deductible plans to the mix of health plans they offer or using them to replace their traditional plans. In 2009, about 12 percent of employers offered workers a consumer-driven health plan, and many more said they plan to do so, according to an Employee Benefit Research Institute analysis. Bigger companies were most likely to offer them: More than 40 percent of companies with more than 10,000 workers did so. But the plans also have fans among small business owners, because of their lower costs.

The plans are likely to become more popular with time. "As costs rise, it makes the high-deductible plan more attractive, because it's one way to keep premiums down," says Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI's health research and education program.

Jim Geraghty has said all of President Obama's promises have an expiration date. This is just another example - if you liked the insurance you had the day health care reform passed, you could keep it. If you like the new policy you have purchased since that day, however, you lose.

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Ethics and election law bill being debated

Posted by Becki Gray at 11:28 AM

Feel free to head to http://twitter.com/beckigray for details.

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Re: At least Cary is being consistently jerkish

Posted by Daren Bakst at 11:16 AM

David,

In response to your post, Cary is trying to protect itself legally.  If it didn't go after the pro-Cary message, it would indicate that their actions aren't content-neutral, which would mean its actions would probably be unconstitutional. 

Cary will need to argue that its sign regulations address time, place, and manner issues (content-neutral issues).  If its restrictions on speech aren't content-neutral, then courts are far less likely to find them constitutional.

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Ethics Bill: Unethical and Illegal

Posted by Daren Bakst at 10:51 AM

Leave it to the North Carolina legislature to address ethics issues by pushing illegal, self-serving policies.

A North Carolina Senate committee (Senate Judiciary I committee) is taking up a government ethics bill (HB 961) that would expand taxpayer financing of elections to all Council of State races.

The audacity of this action should anger everyone:

1) Unethical: The Senate would be trying to address ethical problems by forcing the public to give these same politicians money for their own self-interests.  Instead of taking money voluntarily given to them from supporters, politicians want to force you to support them.  Only politicians would think to solve ethics problems by being more unethical.  You will be forced to support candidates and policies you oppose.

2) Illegal: The taxpayer financing system is illegal.  The United States Supreme Court just a couple of weeks ago blocked what are called matching funds (a central part of taxpayer financing) from being issued in Arizona.  These are the same matching funds we use in North Carolina.  The Court is making it clear that matching funds are illegal, yet instead of passing a moratorium on them, the legislature wants to ignore the law and do whatever serves their political careers.

3) Proactive: I have just sent a letter to the State Board of Elections to urge them to block matching funds from being released in North Carolina.  Unless the SBOE believes people in Arizona have greater First Amendment rights than North Carolinians, there should be no matching funds.  It is not unreasonable to say that SBOE officials could be subject to individual liability for issuing matching funds--the illegal nature of matching funds is that clear.

Will the legislature set a low-mark for unethical behavior this term or will it decide that pushing illegal and unethical laws is not such a good idea?  It is a tough call.

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Not the liberal America that Dr. Faustus imagined

Posted by Kellie Slappey at 10:35 AM

The NY Times is running an Op-Ed piece this morning that is highly amusing and enlightening-

Contributor David Brooks sets up a hypothetical situation where liberal Dr. Faustus is granted five wishes which he thinks will make the, “United States a bastion of liberalism forevermore.”

He wishes first that our country would go into an economic crisis caused by Wall Street greed and recklessness- to discredit free-market fundamentalism once and for all. Second, that the smartest Democratic politician will become president.  Third, to create a political climate so that the president can immediately enact an $800 billion spending package- helping to avert economic collapse and show the American people how effective government can be. Fourth, for the Democrats to pass a universal health care law- show a grateful nation that government can provide basic security. And finally, a multinational oil company to cause the biggest environmental disaster in American history. This will completely discredit corporate America and remind people why they need strong regulations and global warming legislation.

Not in 70 years had there been a sequence of events so perfectly designed to fortify liberalism, yet much to Dr. Faustus’ surprise our country isn’t swinging to the left; it is swinging to the right!
 

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Poll: Dem incumbent trailing GOP opponent in N.C. House 116

Posted by David N. Bass at 09:49 AM

N.C. Rep. Jane Whilden, D-Buncombe, is trailing her Republican opponent, Tim Moffitt, by seven-percentage points, according to a poll from the conservative Civitas Institute:

According to the poll of 350 registered voters in that district, 45 percent of voters said that if the election for state representative were held today they would vote for Moffitt. Thirty-eight percent said they would vote for Whilden, and 17 percent said they were undecided.

Of those most likely to vote in November, 49 percent said they would vote for Moffitt, while 40 percent of voters said they would likely vote for Whilden.

“In a rematch of a very close race in 2008, Moffitt appears to be riding the favorable Republican tide into office,” said Civitas Institute Senior Legislative Analyst Chris Hayes.

Civitas' House Partisan Index ranks Whilden's district, the 116th, as R+2, meaning it leans slightly Republican. It's one of about a dozen Democrat-held districts that Republicans consider competitive this year.

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At least Cary is being consistently jerkish

Posted by David N. Bass at 09:35 AM

It's the battle of the signs in Cary, that wealthy Raleigh suburb known for its statist tilt. On the bright side, at least the Cary comrades are being consistent.

The News & Observer reports:

A love note to the town may get a Cary man in trouble.

Keith Ramsey's newly spray-painted message - "We [heart] the Town of CARY" - is a direct response to a contested sign just down the street, the bright orange one that reads "Screwed by the town of Cary."

The latter, posted last year by homeowner David Bowden, is being debated in federal court. In a lawsuit, Bowden says his First Amendment rights were violated when town officials asked him to remove his blaze orange sign at 305 SW Maynard Road.

SNIP

If Ramsey's sign doesn't comply with town guidelines by Thursday, the town will begin its compliance enforcement process, which could include hefty fines, - as much as $500 a day.

The message: it doesn't matter if you love or hate us. We're still going to screw you.

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A brilliant comparison

Posted by George Leef at 09:33 AM

In his WSJ column today, Bret Stephens compares Obama with Kipling's Man Who Would be King.

Exactly. American voters were taken in by Obama just as the villagers in Kafiristan were taken in by Dravot and Carnehan. In the story, the con artists got to live it up for a while, but when they were found out, met a horrible end.

What's going to happen to Obama, now that even gullible voters are waking up to the fact that he isn't what he led them to believe he was?

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Latest dispatches from the campaign trail

Posted by David N. Bass at 09:15 AM


  • Elaine Marshall again gets the endorsement of The Charlotte Observer.

  • Going into the home stretch, Dems in N.C. Senate District 21 runoff are turning nasty.

  • While Republicans Bernie Reeves and Bill Randall clash in the 13th Congressional District's GOP runoff, Democratic incumbent Brad Miller rakes in the dough.

  • Rasmussen Reports: Republicans hold an eight-point lead over Democrats in a generic congressional ballot.

  • Fayetteville Observer article focuses on Harold Johnson in the 8th Congressional District GOP runoff.

  • Public Policy Polling: The results of today’s runoff in the Dems’ U.S. Senate race won’t reflect whether voters are rejecting Washington.

  • All indications are that today's runoff turnout is going to be pitiful.

  • On eve of the runoff, Elaine Marshall spends the evening at a rally against the Wake County School Board.

  • Wilmington Star-News: N.C. Dems trying to mobilize scarce voters.

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"Take time to be a dad today, and let us help along the way."

Posted by Bill Flanigen at 08:50 AM

Via Radley Balko, a website "that shouldn't exist": fatherhood.gov, the website of the federal Department of Health and Human Services' "National Responsible Fatherhood Campaign."

From the site:

[Fatherhood] doesn't take a Ph.D. in child development. It doesn't take trips to amusement parks or expensive stadium seats. It does take commitment and courage and love. Take time to be a dad today, and let us help along the way.

The government is just here to help, guys.

Happy belated Fathers' Day!

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Ticking time bombs

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 08:45 AM

Sen. Ted Kaufman (Dem., Delaware) explains the dynamics of federal regulatory agencies in a letter to the Wall Street Journal.

Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr. ("The Gulf Spill, the Financial Crisis and Government Failure," op-ed, June 14) is correct in assigning blame to regulatory failure in both the recent financial crisis and the ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf. But he overgeneralizes in making two claims.

First, that Bush- and Obama-era regulatory failures share a common denominator. They do not. Regulatory failure occurs when regulators are captured by industry or, as was the case during the last administration, when regulators are told to back off and let the industry regulate itself. President Obama inherited a ticking time bomb in the Minerals Management Service and, regrettably, he was unable to diffuse it in time.

Second, effective regulation is not doomed merely because it is complex. The Food and Drug Administration is an example of one regulator that has achieved broad success, despite complexity. I have been a leading proponent of the need for Congress to enact simple, clear lines to help regulators succeed, but the success of simple or complex regulation requires individual regulators, empowered by the highest levels of the administration, to act in the public interest by steadfastly enforcing the rules.
Not to blame Bush or anything, but Obama inherited a ticking time bomb in the Minerals Management Service. Obama tried but was unable to diffuse it in time. After all, Obama is not the MacGyver of American politics.

According to Kaufman, there were no ticking time bombs in the Food and Drug Administration (that is, unless a crisis develops). Did Obama inherit a well-run FDA from the Bush administration? How is that even possible?

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A leak Obama actually could plug

Posted by George Leef at 08:37 AM

But chooses not to. The leak is the continuing leak of taxpayer dollars into the black hole of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. If the Obamacrats wanted to, they could put a tourniquet on it, but instead they have chosen to increase the level of taxpayer support for these two Government Sponsored Enterprises.

Ed Feulner discusses this fiasco in his column today.

He calls for "fixing" Fannie and Freddie, but I see no point in trying to fix what shouldn't exist at all. There was never any reason for the federal government to meddle in the housing finance market. Let Fan and Fred die.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:51 AM

The latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Karen Welsh's report about local governments' concerns about the potential impact of ObamaCare.

John Hood's Daily Journal explains why politicians' attacks on Internet sweepstakes cafes are "confusing."

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