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27
I wish I had a dollar for every time a Democrat has told me over the last decade: “We need something like a John Locke Foundation.”
 
Democrats don’t, because they don’t have an Art Pope: somebody who puts his money – big money – where his convictions are.
 
You know he’s made it big when the N&O anoints him on Page One as a one-man Republican equalizer. Wrote Rob Christensen:
 
“Pope's influence is omnipresent this election season, with groups tied to Pope spending $2.1 million so far to influence the legislative races, according to state and federal campaign records filed in recent days.”
 
Pope’s network of organizations – the Locke Foundation (and its various publications and events), the Civitas Institute and Real Jobs NC – may deliver control of the legislature to the Republican Party.
 
It’s the most powerful political organization the state has seen since the Congressional Club that Carter, Tom Ellis and Jesse Helms built.
 
Democrats are whining about Pope. As Christensen wrote, “For Democrats, this is a case of one of the richest men in the state trying to buy the legislature.”
 
But there are plenty of rich Democrats who could counter Pope. They haven’t.
 
I don’t like Pope’s politics. But I respect what he’s done. Maybe – just as we woke up in the 1990s to the need to counter the Congressional Club – Democrats will wake up now and get to work.
 

 

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27
A friend of mine who has done well as a lobbyist in Washington told me this story about the unintended consequences of campaign-finance reform.
 
Congress decided that the integrity our democracy is threatened by lobbyists buying meals – even a cup of coffee and a sandwich – for members.
 
So a lobbyist now can’t spend $7 for coffee at Starbucks to chat with a Senator.
 
But there’s another way.
 
The Senator, you see, has a “leadership PAC.” To which my friend’s company gave $5,000. Which enabled him to attend a recent golf outing. Counting flights, hotel, golf fees, etc., the company spent $7,000 for the lobbyist to chat with the Senator.
 
But democracy is safe from the $7 coffee chat.
 
And which can the average person afford?

 

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26
Every now and then a fellow stumbles across a fact so eye-popping the moment he sees it he feels the ground shifting beneath his feet.
 
The other day in the newspaper a headline blared in big black letters that North Carolina’s unemployment rate had dropped, which sounded like good news until I read (in the first paragraph) that the number of people out of work hadn’t dropped one bit.
 
Now, how could unemployment drop, but the number of people out of work stay the same?  Suspecting that the politicians might be jiggering the unemployment rates I read on and discovered the drop wasn’t because people had found jobs – but because they’d given up looking and dropped out of the work force. The article didn’t explain where the ‘drop outs’ went but it left no doubt they’ve vanished. As one economist said bluntly:  The work force shrunk.
 
It got odder.  In September, North Carolina’s economy created 10,100 new jobs, which didn’t sound too bad either.  But then the blow fell:  9600 of those jobs were government jobs and only 500 were in the private businesses.
 
Surprised, I thought, That must be backwards. But it wasn’t. Government is growing like topsy. While the private sector is stagnant. Or worse.
 
Up until now I’d figured all the talk about America turning into a socialist nation under President Obama was election year hyperbole – that there is surely, given Obama’s proclivities,  a lot more government today than there used to be but we were still pretty far from becoming France or Greece. But it’s hard to argue with a statistic: Anyway you cut it last month, probably for the first time ever, nineteen out of every twenty new jobs created in North Carolina were government jobs.
 

 

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26
Ten days before the election, we learn there is a federal investigation into Governor Perdue’s 2008 campaign.
 
It drowns out her push on state government reform. Which I seriously doubt was going to solve her political problems anyway.
 
The first thing I heard from Democrats: Why is George Holding still there? Would a Republican White House (and United States Senator from North Carolina) have let a Democratic U.S. Attorney stay on for two years?
 
Does anybody remember Ken Starr?
 
Here’s a prediction: As campaign spending rises, as new ways of raising and spending money are invented and as politics increasingly becomes a blood sport, we’re going to see more investigations, more subpoenas and more scandals – involving both parties.
 
Republicans are enjoying it now. On a panel yesterday, Jack Hawke chortled: “Gary, how is Governor Perdue going to solve the budget problem when she’s spending all this time testifying in court?”
 
But look out. You can expect payback when Democrats get the chance – especially after all the “Citizens United” spending this year.

 

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25
The economy’s in tatters, fifteen million people are out of work, Obama’s stimulus plan’s a bust and in Raleigh state government’s got a $3 billion hole in the budget – but, not to worry, the Governor’s got a plan.  She’s ready to make the tough choices.  And she’s already announced the first step:  SHE’S GOING TO GET PRACTICAL.
 
How?  By doing away with SILLY rules.  It’s just the kind of tough leadership we need in a crisis.
 
And, in case you think this is just another political P.R. stunt:  Don’t.  The Governor’s dead serious:  She’s set up a HOTLINE and a WEBSITE to battle SILLY rules.
 
 And she’s made an adamant statement, saying, “If you hate it, and it doesn’t work in your mind, let us review it, and if there is no purpose, we’ll get rid of it or fix it…
 
Did she just say if a rule has no purpose…she’ll fix it.?
 
So, there’s no need to worry anymore.  About the economy.  Or government spending.  Or taxes.  Happy days are here again.  Governor Perdue’s abolishing SILLY rules.  It’s a profile in courage.
 

 

 

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25
A wise old Democrat I know offered this thought about the prospect of big Republican gains next week:
 
“Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. This may not be too bad a time to let them have the ball.”

 

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22
It has to be the most insincere and overused political phrase of the year: “I apologize if anyone was offended by what I said.”
 
In other words, “you’re an oversensitive wimp to be upset about what I said but I’ve got to make some kind of apology to satisfy the media.”
 
The latest:
 
Tom Fetzer re Hugh Holliman: "I told him that I was sorry if the mailer caused him or his family any anguish,"
 
Jerry Brown’s “infuriatingly insincere sounding apology wrapped in excuses” to Meg Whitman:
 
Saying "whore" is not equivalent to using the N-word. It was a "five-week-old private conversation picked up on a cell phone….I'm not even sure it's legal" to have released the tape….I'm sorry it happened. That does not represent anything other than things that happen in a campaign."
 
I yearn to hear: “I’m sorry. I screwed up.”
 

 

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22
When Zahra Baker – who is 10-years-old – showed up with bruises and black eyes her friends and relatives reported their concerns she was being abused by her parents to the Department of Social Services.
 
Then, a week ago, Zahra’s disappeared.
 
And now the police, saying it looks like homicide, have jailed her stepmother for writing a phony ransom note.
 
As for the Department of Social Services it isn’t saying a word. It claims under state public records laws its lips are sealed. But, last weekend, the Charlotte Observer reported that what until now sounded like one child’s a tragedy may be a lot worse because, according to the Observer, over the last five years 137 children have died in cases “where abuse or neglect is suspected” – and DSS had received complaints or had contacts with the families in each case.
 
It’s not hard to understand how normal government foolishness can lead to the Department of Transportation bungling the paving of I-40, so the just laid asphalt has to be torn up and repaved costing millions. Or how, in the middle of a recession, the governor can waste $25 million building the grandest fishing pier anyone ever heard of at Nags Head.  
 
But it does seem when a relative calls andsays a child is being abused that even the most hard-bitten politician or bureaucrat (once he saw the 10 year old child’s black eye) would think, We have to get this one right.
 
What malady festers in the bowels of government that allows this to happen one-hundred-and-thirty-seven-times?
 

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21
There ought to be a play in the theatre of the absurd about Wall Street: After making trillions in bad loans, and then getting bailed out by taxpayers, the banks and finance companies are staring into the abyss again: This time because foreclosures have ground to a standstill.
 
And the reason (Wall Street is – temporarily – out of the foreclosure business) is ripe with irony.
 
It seems to foreclose on some poor Joe’s home, mortgage lenders have to prove they own the note. But over the past few years Wall Street’s been so busy bundling mortgages and selling and reselling them (and earning a commission each time) the ‘chain of ownership’ of the notes is no longer clear.
 
Not being a Harvard MBA I’m not entirely sure but it sounds like what happened worked like this: Bank X (say, five years ago) made a loan. Then it lumped the mortgage with a hundred other loans and sold them in a package to a Hedge Fund.
 
At that point Bank X was out of the picture – except for servicing the loans.

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21
The economy’s in the tank, the deficits soared past a trillion dollars, and the economy’s so shaky all that’s saving the government from bankruptcy is the Chinese loaning us money.
 
Listening to the news it sounds like half the country’s being foreclosed on and half is out of work – but, while the rest of Rome is burning, Apple Corporation’s profits have soared 70% to $4.3 billion.
 
What’s wrong with this picture? We’re broke, unemployed, in debt up to our eyeballs and buying iPhones like crazy.

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