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09
Is everybody in state government crooked?
 
No, they’re not. But the average person might think so when – in one skinny issue of the paper – they see ABC boards investigated, the ex-DMV director accused of wiretapping and the State Highway Patrol questioned about missing records and sexual misconduct.
 
Does this ever end?
 
Well, you know where the buck will stop: Right on Governor Perdue’s desk.
 
She’s not to blame. But she has to take charge and clean up the stables. Or she – and the Democratic Party – will pay a price this year and in 2012.
 
Just as the airplane-bomb scare was President Obama’s crisis wakeup call – one he answered well – this is the Governor’s.
 

 

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08
Democrats need to stop wringing their hands and worrying about November. And start fighting back on health care.
 
Here’s the message:
 
This year – over the opposition of every single Republican in Congress – we did something that Americans have needed for 50 years.

When the health-care bill passes, every American will be able to get insurance. Every American will be able to see a doctor. No American will get turned down.

And if the Republicans win big this fall, you can be sure of one thing: They will take that health care guarantee away from you.
 

 

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06
As the health-care battle resumes in Washington, some history may be just what the doctor ordered.
 
Most people believe this battle traces back to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s failed effort to reform health care in 1993-1994.
 
Actually, it goes back to 1991 – and a now-forgotten special election for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.
 
Harris Wofford, who had been a civil rights adviser to John Kennedy, was appointed to the Senate by then-Governor Bob Casey (father of the current Senator Casey) to succeed John Heinz (who was married to Teresa Heinz – now Teresa Kerry) after Heinz died in a plane crash..
 
When Wofford ran in 1991, he was an underdog to former Republican Governor Dick Thornburg, who was seen as a potential presidential candidate.
 
Wofford’s campaign was run by two then-little known Democratic consultants: James Carville and Paul Begala.
 
They found that Pennsylvania voters were worried about paying for health care. And they adopted as their battle cry something a voter said in a focus group:
 
“If every criminal has the right to see a lawyer, every American should have the right to see a doctor.”
 
Thanks to that issue, Wofford won.
 
The next year, Carville and Begala ran Clinton’s presidential campaign. Everybody remembers Carville’s famous war-room sign: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
 
But few know what else was written on the sign: “Change vs. status quo. And don’t forget health care.”
 
Democrats should remember that lesson now. Their reform message must be just as simple and strong.
 
If it is, the Republicans’ rock-solid opposition may come back to haunt them this November.
 

 

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05
In 2008 while running for Governor, Bev Perdue said:
 
 
Then, this year, she put a lobbyist in charge of health care, gave him the green light to spend $250 million to pass out no bid contracts (many to his former clients), then gave him her blessing to cut health care to thousands of Medicaid patients – which didn’t sit too well with the Obama Administration which, last week, joined a lawsuit to stop the Governor’s Medicaid cuts.
 
Now, I expect, if you asked Governor Perdue to explain why her views on health care changed from moral to practical, she’d say, Well, there’s no money. But that’s a bit perplexing. Because after the Governor raised taxes a billion dollars state spending actually went up this year compared to last year – so why does the Department of Health and Human Services need to cut its budget $1.7 billion? If DHHS is broke – what happened to the money?
 
All this must be even more puzzling to Gov. Perdue’s Democratic friends – a year after Democrats won their first Presidential election in North Carolina in 34 years we have the new Democratic President suing the new Democratic Governor – for denying patients health care.
 
Who’d have imagined it? 

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04
Go back 50 years in North Carolina. To 1960. The year Terry Sanford was elected governor.
 
Tobacco was king in North Carolina – politically and economically.
 
WRAL-TV started its broadcast days (after a devotional) with the Farm Report. The News & Observer had a regular farm reporter.
 
And the health of the tobacco economy was always Topic A.
 
Suppose you had told North Carolinians then that, in 50 years, you would not be able to smoke in a building, restaurant or bar in North Carolina.
 
Suppose you had told them then that, in 50 years, the state’s cigarette, textile and furniture industries would have shuttered plants and laid off thousands of employees.
 
The 1960-era Tar Heels would probably have expected us to become an economic disaster area, lagging somewhere behind Mississippi.
 
Instead, the tobacco ban is welcomed in thousands of new offices, businesses, restaurants and stores across the state – populated by millions of people who are happy about the smoking ban. And working in fields not imagined 50 years ago.
 
Change happens.

 

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01
The Teens may come to be Barack Obama’s decade the way the Eighties were Ronald Reagan’s decade.
 
Ideology aside, the two Presidents have much in common.
 
Both were outsiders who ran campaigns that upset conventional wisdom.
 
Both had lives before politics – Reagan as an actor and union leader, Obama as a community organizer and law professor. And both were ridiculed for those pursuits.
 
Both made themselves into good writers – and great public speakers.
 
Both came to the White House when Americans desperately wanted change.
 
Reagan’s sunny optimism was a welcome relief from the gloom, malaise and economic stagnation of the Seventies.
 
The question is whether Obama’s laid-back style will wear as well as a contrast to the last decade’s hyper-partisanship, terror of terrorism and near-economic catastrophe.
 
If it does, this will be his decade.

 

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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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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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