Wednesday, March 18, 2009

So, the governor goes into a bar …

"Those of us who choose to use those two products can afford to suck it up."

That was Gov. Bev Perdue, explaining that smoking and drinking alcohol are voluntary, and that's why she decided to propose increasing the cigarette and beer taxes rather than personal income or corporate taxes.
Bet the guv wouldn’t say it quite that way in a smoky bar, with grog in hand. But it's a great line, and hard to argue with.

Incremental alcohol tax: 5 percent (or thereabouts)
Incremental cigarette tax: 285 percent
Bev's comment: Priceless

(With apologies to that famous credit card commercial)
- posted by Mary Schulken

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In hard times, condoms hold up

A new Nielsen tracking survey hones in on the best-selling products during this recession. And what do you know, condoms are at the top of the list. Not just condoms, but over-the-counter female contraceptives too. For the first two months of the year, such sales were up 10.2 percent, according to TIME magazine.

TIME magazine,8599,1884149,00.html asked the Nielsen Co. to identify the best- and worst-performing product categories during this recession. Apparently, consumers aren't too eager to pro-create during an economic downturn. A child equals more expenses at a time when many are trying to conserve cash. Of course, there's another reason why condom and other contraceptive sales are up. More consumers are going out less and "entertaining" themselves at home more. Contraceptives are good protection from the consequences of that fun.

Among the other product beneficiaries of the recess? Food prepared at home, especially canned goods, as fewer people eat in restaurants. Among the casualties are home furnishings, considered discretionary items. Wine and liquor sales are also up; bottled water sales are down.

So, what products are you buying more of? Which are you now leaving on the shelf?

United for the wrong cause

North Carolina’s two U.S. senators are from opposite parties. That means they’re seldom working the same side of issues.
So it should be a welcome sign for Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Kay Hagan to team up ... should be.
But they united for the wrong cause – to help tobacco companies and cigarettes escape meaningful regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.
The two have submitted legislation billed as an alternative to Rep. Henry Waxman’s bill requiring that tobacco be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
It would create a new government bureaucracy that does nothing but oversee tobacco – a bureaucracy that does not even have the authority to control how much nicotine goes into cigarettes. Nicotine is what makes cancer sticks addictive.
Tobacco puts money in some North Carolinians’ pockets, but it’s deadly. The way to oversee a deadly product is to control the ingredients strictly and by listing the contents and risks prominently so consumers know it up front. We require that for lipstick. We even require it for aids to help people quit smoking. Why not cigarettes?
Burr and Hagan’s so-called alternative is nothing more than a smokecreen. They’re looking after the tobacco companies, not the health interests of their constituents.

- posted by Mary Schulken

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

N.C. Republican brags about his earmarks

We're confused. We thought politicians hated earmarks. Oh wait, Democrats love them but Republicans hate them?
Then here's something to mull: Republican U.S. Rep. Howard Coble of Greensboro sent out a press release this afternoon trumpeting his success at landing six earmarks worth $4.5 million for his district around the Triad. Wait 'til Rush hears about this! Or S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford.
Coble said he favors earmark reform. "But as long as earmarks remain a part of the legislative funding process, I would be doing a disservice to the citizens of the 6th District by not seeking funding for worthwhile projects."
Among the projects: $2.28 million for the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor Initiative to double-track three rail sections from Charlotte to Greensboro. This is money worth spending, as some earmarks are. That train runs hours late most nights because it gets stuck behind freight trains on the one-rail line.
The complete release is here.
-- Posted by Taylor Batten

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Longer school year, days? Bah humbug!

Talk about heresy! President Obama made a pitch for something many N.C. parents may not be too keen on - a longer school day or longer school year.

Those are fighting words to North Carolinians who think summer time is sacrosanct. Some parents and lobbyists for tourism successfully got N.C. lawmakers to pass a law mandating that public schools start no sooner than August 25. The parents and other supporters have a continuing organization called Save Our Summer, which is dedicated to keeping that they call a "traditional" school calendar.

But Obama said today in a speech before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that:
"We can no longer afford an academic calendar designed when America was a nation of farmers who needed their children at home plowing the land at the end of each day. That calendar may have once made sense, but today, it puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea. That is no way to prepare them for a 21st century economy." Research does should that students in countries where students attend school in the summer, and where the school day is longer, are the top performers on international academic tests.

What do you think? Should the school year be longer? Should the school day be longer?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

GOP Rock

Despite Kathleen Parker's tendency to hero-worship brainy males, even she succumbed to the same comparison umpteen columnists and bloggers have made lately, noting the similarity between Gov. Bobby Jindal's recent performance during his GOP Response speech to Kenneth the Page from NBC's '30 Rock'.

In case you were wondering what she meant:

courtesy of

-- posted by Kevin Siers

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Spinning the credit

Did Sen. Kay Hagan take the credit, or give it, when announcing North Carolina's portion of Congress' Omnibus spending funds? Depends on who you ask.

Here's the Observer's story on Sunday:


Hagan issued a news release announcing that North Carolina will get $5.2 million in funding for 13 projects in the 2009 spending bill the Senate is expected to vote on in the next few days.

What's notable about that is the news release states that the earmarks were requested by Hagan's predecessor, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C.

Giving credit where credit is due, apparently.

But here's how it's played in Anne Schroder Mullins' Politico column:

Sen. Kay Hagan replaced Elizabeth Dole in the Senate, but that hasn’t stopped her from trying to take some credit for Dole’s past doings, anti-Haganites say . . .

That’s funny. It’s nice that she’s excited about money that’s coming to her state, but she clearly had nothing to do with that money.

Luckily, there’s a short sentence — which is the best line in the whole thing — where she does admit: “The funds were requested for 13 projects across North Carolina by former Sen. Elizabeth Dole.”

One North Carolina GOP-er scoffs: “In this new era of transparency, at least Hagan acknowledges that she had nothing whatsoever to do with securing the funding and that it hasn’t even passed yet — not that that would get in the way of trying to take credit for it.”

Hagan spokesman David Hoffman is also quoted:

“A large part of Sen. Hagan’s job as a U.S. senator is keeping folks informed.” And he does note that they do give Dole credit.

-- Kevin Siers

Monday, March 2, 2009

A snow day smorgasbord …

Had enough cute pictures of dogs and kids in the snow? Take a break. Here's what Daily Views is browsing while waiting for the white stuff to melt:

A smokin' poll
The latest Elon poll shows strong support for anti-smoking laws in the state tobacco built - so strong the poll director predicts a statewide smoking ban is a done deal in the state legislature.

“I suspect this may be the year that we see North Carolina go smokeless,” said
Hunter Bacot.
There's also interesting results about driving and cell phones, transportation and the death penalty. Click here for the link.

The ugly details
UNC Chapel Hill has posted the specifics of its 3, 5 and 7 percent budget cuts online. (a nod to the News & Observer's Eric Ferreri for reporting this in his Campus Notes blog.)
It's hard to read in places and the names of staff and faculty affected are blanked out. But it's worthwhile browsing. It shows the detailed kinds of things the oldest public university in the nation is doing to live within means in a terrible economic environment.

Black like Rand?
Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, is one powerful pol in Raleigh, and a well-know face across the state. His family can trace its roots back to the 1700s. But until he watched the 2008 CNN documentary "Black in America," he had no idea that some of his relatives were black.
Here’s the story.
Here’s a great Fayetteville Observer column about it.

- posted by Mary Schulken

Next question: Describe 'forever', Governor

Gov. Bev Perdue's answer to a May 2, 2008 Raleigh News and Observer candidate questionaire, "Describe the lottery under your adminstration:"


Would keep limits on advertising and supports a constitutional amendment ensuring that lottery money would forever augment educational funding, not replace it.

Story in Saturday's Charlotte Observer:

Perdue may use lottery funds to cut shortfall

Bonus: Here's a link to the county's website describing how the lottery fund cuts would affect school funding here.

-- posted by Kevin Siers