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Entries for December 2009

31
Republicans – including Senator Richard Burr – couldn’t wait to blame the Obama administration for the Christmas Day terrorist scare.
 
In other words, to indulge in the kind of politics they called unpatriotic when Bush and Cheney were in charge.
 
Let’s look at some facts.
 
A. Burr agrees with the President that the failed attack in Detroit was a colossal failure in communications between the State Department, the intelligence community and the Department of Homeland Security. 
 
B. Burr concludes that the Obama administration isn't being tough enough in the war on terrorism.
 
C. The 9/11 attacks took place almost 100 months ago.
 
D. Obama has been President for 11 months.
 
E. Bush and Cheney were in charge of American security for 89 months.
 
Now let’s play the blame game.

 

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31
At breakfast the other day, a friend pointed to his mocha and cinnamon-crunch bagel. “I’m doing this today because starting January 1 I’m losing 20 pounds,” he vowed.
 
I congratulated him. And wished him luck. That’s a hard resolution to keep; most resolvers fail.
 
But Governor Perdue has done it.
 
She recently confessed that she once packed 180-plus pounds on her small frame. That’s a lot of woman.
 
Her best friend after a week at the legislature was a bag of Doritos.
 
But – armed with discipline and, no doubt, a desire to look good in TV ads – she took the pounds off. And, hardest of all, kept them off.
 
She ought to use that story more – not to brag about her personal resolve, but as a metaphor for what state government needs to do and what all of us need to do.
 
The biggest budget buster – our society’s big bag of Doritos, if you will – is health care costs. Few things drive up health care costs more – for individuals, for families and for government.
 
If the Governor can do it, my friend can do it. And we can save big bucks.
 
Just don’t spend the savings on Doritos.
 
Happy New Year.

 

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30
Sometimes folks get so carried away with their passions they just go plain crazy – and I’m not talking about Tiger Woods.
 
I’m talking about two Environmentalists at Victoria University.
 
In addition to wrestling with the problem of trying to be open-minded instead of blinded by their passion to save the planet Environmentalists (especially at universities) suffer from the handicaps of intellectual pretensions and moral indignation – but, still, it comes as a shock to read a couple of well-meaning (I think) tree huggers have crossed the line and sailed into hysteria by calling for eliminating pet dogs to combat global warming.
 
It turns out, according to Environmentalists Robert and Brenda Vale, man’s best friend has a carbon paw print more than double a gas-guzzling SUV. The Vales proved this astounding fact beyond a shadow of a doubt by studying pet foods, how much the average dog eats and the land required to grow (or graze) the food. Then they announced with absolute confidence:  Fido must go. Another scientist at the Stockholm Institute, doing his own study, confirmed their theory, adding primly, “Owning a dog is really quite an extravagance.”
 
What happened next was even more peculiar:  The Vales sparked an international uproar with, of all people, the French leading the counter attack. You wouldn’t expect it but in cynical France there is an animal rights group with thirty million members – so now the tree huggers and the ‘don’t wear fur crowd’ are going at it hammer and tongs with the French saying adamantly that eliminating pets will be every bit as devastating (emotionally) as the icecaps melting.
 

“Pets are antidepressants,” the commander of thirty million Frenchmen declared and another Frenchwoman, the proud owner of seven cats and two dogs – the environmental equivalent of a small fleet of cars – told the tree huggers defiantly, “Our animals give us so much that I don’t feel like a polluter at all.” 

In retreat the Environmentalists made a counteroffer:  Get rid of the dogs, they said, and buy a hen. A hen lessens its environmental liability by laying edible eggs. Or better yet, if you want a pet, buy a rabbit. Owning rabbits as pets is a foolproof way to save the planet. Then the Environmentalists added – provided you eat them.

 
In some academic circles – unrelated to this controversy – for decades philosophers have been debating the idea of human progress and citing, say, mankind’s no longer believing that the earth is flat as proof we are steadily marching toward sunlit uplands of enlightenment.
 
On the other hand, there are those who say all that happens from age to age is we go from one set of crazy ideas to another.
 

 

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30
Tony Rand is Chairman of Law Enforcement Associates, and when he got accused of insider trading he told shareholders there’d be an ‘independent’ investigation – then picked his buddy Lyndo Tippett (the former Secretary of Transportation) to lead the investigation.
 
About the same time a lady in Florida was suing Rand’s company, saying it didn’t pay her $1.5 million it owes from 2 years ago when LEA bought her company; the lawyer who’s representing the lady from Florida (who’s doing the suing) is Secretary Lyndo Tippett’s son.
 
So now we’ve got Lyndo on the LEA board, investigating Tony, and Lyndo’s son suing his father or at least the company his father owns 40,000 shares of stock in – and Tony says all that’s fine and no kind of conflict of interest because the Tippetts are unusually independent minded people.
 
Meanwhile, down in Raleigh, when Governor Perdue’s son asked the state to give one of his clients $9 million in state tax incentives (or subsidies) the Governor announced she was recusing herself – and leaving it up to her aides to decide.
 
Over at DHHS Secretary Lanier Cansler’s done the same thing:  When a company he’d lobbied for wanted a $24 million no bid contract he said he was recusing himself – and that his staff was handling it.
 
Now whoever heard of a fellow recusing himself due to a conflict of interest – then picking who made the decision?
 
Anybody want to guess what happened?
 

 

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30
A year is a long time in politics. One year ago:
  • Barack Obama was a colossus, a superstar who had transformed politics
  • Bev Perdue was about to enjoy a (short) honeymoon
  • The clouds over Mike Easley were just gathering
  • Tony Rand was ready for another turn as second-in-command of the Senate
  • Wake County Democrats were celebrating winning control of the county commissioners.
You know what happened next – and why Republicans are confident, even cocky.
 
But they should wish the 2010 elections were today. And Democrats should be glad they’re 10 months away.
 
A year is a long time in politics.

 

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30
The cable-TV blabbermouths are all over the Obama administration over the Christmas Day terrorist scare.
 
The know-it-alls proclaim that this is a PR disaster for the White House. The message machine was asleep. Obama was slow on the uptake. Janet Napolitano blew it.
 
Napolitano did blow it. But I’m not so sure Obama has.
 
By coincidence, I’ve been reading the book Renegade, Richard Wolffe’s account of the Obama campaign.
 
Wolffe notes that Obama’s campaign was never as good as McCain’s at winning the daily and weekly news cycles.
 
In the end, it didn’t matter. Obama won the overall message battle – party by seeming to be above what voters saw as petty partisan bickering.
 
The national media, naturally, believes that the most important test of a politician is his or her ability to play the national media’s game.
 
Obama has always played a different game – taking a longer view of how the public takes in information and reaches conclusions.
 
So far it has worked. I’m not betting against him this time.

 

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29
You can’t really fault the State Democratic Party Chairman for tying himself in knots to praise Governor Perdue – but, then, maybe you can. Or, maybe, we should fault whoever on Bev Perdue’s staff wrote David Young’s latest email to voters.
 
Chairman Young (or his ghostwriter) begins his lament by telling voters about all the long years Governor Perdue spent laboring in the legislature, enduring chauvinism and gender abuse (I think he may mean Marc and Tony and the boys calling her ‘Dumpling’) then announces – voilà! – by the time she got to be Lt. Governor she had conquered all obstacles to become a master lever puller in the Senate.
 
Next he chronicles how Perdue metamorphosized from Senate lever puller into a peerless crusader fighting to end corruption in North Carolina.
 
The Governor is, Chairman Young says, singlehandedly holding government appointees to higher standards – which explains why she put Tony Rand on the Parole Commission.
 
She has also toughened ethics standards – which explains why she made a lobbyist head of DHHS then let him pass out $250 million in no bid contracts to his friends and former clients.

And of course, Young concludes, she is to be praised for recusing herself when one of her son’s clients applied to the state for millions in subsidies – except what she did wasn’t a recusal it was a flim-flam; she simply told her staff to decide her son’s client’s fate.

Anyone want to guess what happened?
 

 

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28
The state’s received a whopping $7.5 billion in ‘Stimulus Funds’ and a good part of it was to pay for Medicaid but, despite President Obama’s help, Secretary Lanier Cansler’s got a train wreck on his hands after he gave out $250 million in no bid contracts, a lot of them to his cronies and former clients.
 
So, Cansler’s budget’s in the red and he’s working on getting himself out of this mess or, more concisely, shifting the blame.
 
His problem, Cansler explains, isn’t no bid contracts or his just plain bungling his department’s budget – it’s that suddenly the number of people needing Medicaid is growing by leaps and bounds and how could he have expected that to happen?
 
To hear the Secretary explain it he’s the victim of an enexpected and undecipherable turn of events.
 
But, of course, what’s happening is that’s what usually happens during a recession – people lose their jobs and apply for Medicaid.
 
The recession was no secret last August when Cansler submitted his budget to legislators – did he expect it to end by December?
 

 

 

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28
Governor Perdue’s Parole Commissioner Tony Rand’s got plenty of troubles: He’s being investigated by the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission (and, maybe worst of all for a politician, an investigative reporter from the News and Observer) for what looks like a scheme he cooked up to have the state buy police equipment from his company so he could turn 140,000 shares of penny stock into a goldmine.
 
But Rand’s nothing if not innovative – so he’s come up with a solution to clear himself. It works like this: First, he announces his company is doing its own ‘independent’ investigation; then he picks one of his cronies, former DOT Chief Lyndo Tippett (who also owns penny stock) to head the investigation; then Lyndo announces to the press – without missing a beat – his ‘independent’ audit is done and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt Tony’s innocent.
 
Well, next the tough-edged investigative reporter – who’s nobody’s idea of a babe in the woods – calls Tony and asks how on earth he figures his buddy saying he’s innocent proves anything and, without missing a beat, Tony rears back and says Lyndo Tippett’s (whose department bought about $100,000 in products from Rand’s company while Tippett owned 40,000 shares in penny stock) integrity is beyond question.
 
Overall it looks like Tony may have had a little larceny in his heart when it came to those penny stocks but you have to give him credit he ‘ain’t afraid of nothing’ and if sheer brass will get him off the hook – he’s home free.
 

 

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28
There’s been a lot of back and forth about new polls in the Senate Race. For instance, The Civitas Institute poll has Senator Richard Burr up:
 
·         Richard Burr               40%
·         Elaine Marshall           32%
·         Undecided                  28%
 
Some folks are saying this is good news for Burr but it looks to me like the news here isn’t that Burr is now leading by 8% – it’s that after five years in office he only has 40% of the vote.
 
I remember back in 1992 when Lauch Faircloth ran against Terry Sanford we took a poll and Lauch was way behind with something like 40% of the voters undecided and I said, That doesn’t look too good, and the pollster said, It’s not as bad as it seems, as a rule of thumb 2/3rds of those undecided voters will vote for Faircloth.
 
His point was every one of those undecided voters knew Sanford and were looking for an alternative – but hadn’t heard of Faircloth, yet. So, in the latest round of polls either they know Burr and are looking for an alternative or, worse, after five years in office Burr hasn’t done anything that struck them as notable enough to make them remember he’s their Senator.
 
Either way, for Burr, it looks to me like the polls continue to be bad news.
 

 

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