That Wily Foxx

January 29, 2009

January 29, 2009
Categories: Antics

That Wily Foxx
Rep. Virginia Foxx’s debut in the Rules Committee Monday night “might go down in the history books,” according to an attendee. That wily Foxx managed to get crusty Rep. Dave Obey not only to stop speaking but also to apparently not return, leaving his papers and pencil.

During Foxx’s testimony, she reportedly said: “Mr. Obey, you keep saying you will try. You will try to stimulate the economy. You will try and make the stimulus package work. You will try. I see you have a fascination with pencils, as do I.” (Bringing them even closer together, since both were fiddling with pencils.)

Then, she continued, “Mr. Obey, can you put down your pencil?” A “bewildered” Obey “reluctantly put down his pencil,” we’re told. Foxx then gleefully exclaimed: “See?! You didn’t try to put down your pencil; you did it! Why can’t you stop saying you will try and just do it?!”

Obey apparently didn’t return — not even to fetch his popular pencil and papers — due to a “meeting.” As for Foxx, her spokesman Aaron Groen told us: “I’m not surprised to hear that coming from her. She’s used that line on me before.”

If this is what we’re in for, the Rules Committee just got a hell of a lot more interesting.


N.C. considers sales tax on digital products

January 28, 2009

N.C. may apply sales tax to music, books, software and that distinctive phone ring.

By Mark Johnson
mjohnson@charlotteobserver.com
Posted: Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009
MORE INFORMATION
N.C. legislature: Big goals, little money
Downloading that Miley Cyrus hit from Wal-Mart for 94 cents might soon cost about another 7 cents. A Beyonce ringtone purchased from a cell phone company may get tagged a few extra cents, too.

The money wouldn’t go to the musicians or their record companies. It would go to the state of North Carolina.

N.C. legislators moved closer Tuesday to applying the state sales tax – 6.75 cents in most counties and 7.25 in Mecklenburg – to products that are delivered digitally, such as music, books, ringtones and software downloaded to a computer.

The tax would apply only to products that already are taxed when they are in a more tangible form. In other words, if customers pay tax on a Lil Wayne CD from the music store at the mall, then they’ll pay tax when they buy his songs from an online music vendor.

“It’s reacting to electronic realities,” said Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat who is co-chairman of a legislative committee that overwhelmingly recommended a bill Tuesday to impose the ringtone tax.

Vendors will collect the tax only if they have a physical presence in the state, such as a retail outlet like Wal-Mart or Best Buy. Apple stores may qualify as a toehold in the state for the company’s online iTunes store, and other vendors may have computer server farms or other network installations.

Otherwise, it’s up to the consumer to pay voluntarily.

As many as 17 states, including Alabama and Tennessee, have asserted the authority to tax digital products.

Digital service companies oppose the tax. Steve Kranz, a Washington lawyer who represents digital vendors around the country, said such taxes may drive companies out of the state. Because they don’t need a retail store or warehouse, it’s easier for them to move.

“It sends a message to the digital vendor community,” Kranz said, “that North Carolina is on the ‘do not call list’ for locating their companies.”

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Stam wants to start over on the state budget

January 28, 2009

Stam wants to start over on the state budget
Published: Wed, Jan. 28, 2009 12:30AMModified Wed, Jan. 28, 2009 02:23AM

State Rep. Paul Stam of Apex says the legislature should start from scratch.
Given a potential $2 billion shortfall in tax revenue, the House Republican leader says the legislature should use zero-based budgeting.

Traditionally, the budget is based on incremental increases or decreases from the previous year’s budget. But Stam argues that legislators should do a wholesale rewrite of the state budget, looking at each expense.

“We need to go back and see if the stuff we added in decades ago is still working,” he said.
In addition, Stam wants to know whether the state’s Medicaid program has the controls in place to determine whether providers and recipients are eligible to receive payments. That could save several hundred million dollars, he said.

On other issues, he expects the legislature to rehash old debates about whether to restrict smoking in public places, how to protect schoolchildren from bullying and whether to reinstate the death penalty, along with less controversial issues.

“Ninety percent of legislation is not partisan,” he said. “It’s often common sense — or common nonsense.”

http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/1384496.html


Foxx statement on today’s meeting with President Obama

January 27, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                              Contact: Aaron Groen

January 27, 2009                                                                   202-225-2071

 

Foxx statement on today’s meeting with President Obama

 Washington, DC—President Barack Obama today met with Republican’s in the House of Representatives, including Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC-05), to discuss the need for an economic relief package.  Rep. Foxx issued the following statement after the meeting with President Obama:

 

 “Today’s meeting with President Obama was an encouraging sign that our new President is willing to listen to the ideas and concerns of House Republicans. 

 “My sincere hope is that the President will seriously consider the proposals presented by Republicans to cut taxes for families and small businesses across America.  His openness to dialogue is an important first step to fixing the serious flaws in the House Democrats’ $825 billion spending bill.

 “As this process moves forward perhaps my Democratic colleagues in the House will follow the example of President Obama and include House Republicans in the economic relief negotiations that we have thus far been locked out of.”

 ###


Perdue proposes retooling N.C. education leadership

January 27, 2009

She wants to consolidate power in state’s public schools

Published: January 27, 2009

RALEIGH – Gov. Bev Perdue said yesterday that she wants to retool the state’s public-school leadership by consolidating power with a new N.C. Board of Education chairman who would also manage day-to-day operations.

She proposed naming Bill Harrison, a current board member and the superintendent of Cumberland County Schools, to the new job, which would carry the additional title of chief executive.

Perdue said that the increased responsibility for Harrison would improve a 1.5 million-student education system — often criticized for its shared decision-making structure — by eliminating the lines between policy and operations.

“I believe the people of North Carolina believe that the governor … is responsible for education in North Carolina and the buck stops right now with me,” Perdue said.

“This is the most important job in North Carolina at this point in time,” she said of the new post. “He literally has North Carolina’s future in his hands.”

Perdue needs some help to complete the task. She appointed Harrison to the board, but the full panel must elect him chairman and give him the increased authority. Most of the current board members were appointed by former Gov. Mike Easley, but Perdue said she would be able to get approval.

“If I can’t deliver that, then I can’t deliver much of anything,” said Perdue, who was on the board the past eight years as lieutenant governor.

If approved by the board, Harrison could begin as early as next month, Perdue spokesman Tim Crowley said.

As part of the changes, current chairman Howard Lee would step down and take another new position as executive director of the N.C. Education Cabinet. That panel includes UNC system president Erskine Bowles and community-college-system president Scott Ralls, both of whom attended the announcement.

Perdue has said she wants to revive the panel to improve cooperation among leaders for programs from pre-kindergarten through higher education. Lee, a former state senator and Chapel Hill mayor, was appointed to the board by Easley in 2003.

One of Harrison’s top tasks will be to increase a high-school graduation rate in which three out of 10 students do not graduate in five years.

“We’ll do everything we absolutely can to make sure that not one of them drops out and they all have the opportunity to attend one of our community colleges, private institutions or university system,” said Harrison, who previously served as the superintendent in Orange and Hoke counties.

Perdue said that the post of deputy state superintendent would be eliminated. Deputy superintendent J.B. Buxton, a former Easley adviser on education, announced earlier yesterday that he was stepping down from the post that he had held for two years.

Perdue said that state schools Superintendent June Atkinson will continue in her role as an “ambassador” to other school officials and the business community to strengthen public schools.

Sen. A.B. Swindell, a co-chairman of the General Assembly’s education oversight committee, was pleased with yesterday’s proposed changes, saying that local education leaders did not know where to go in Raleigh to get help.

http://www2.journalnow.com/content/2009/jan/27/perdue-proposes-retooling-nc-education-leadership/news-ncpolitics/


Bill Clinton returns to area today

January 26, 2009
Bill Clinton returns to area today
 – Staff Writer

Published: Mon, Jan. 26, 2009 05:19AM

Modified Mon, Jan. 26, 2009 05:22AM

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RALEIGH — The last time Raleigh saw Bill Clinton, he was standing in the bed of an antique Ford pickup, wrapping up a furious 11-city barnstorm.

Gesturing with his fist, he insisted that North Carolina voters would start an earthquake that would send Hillary Rodham Clinton to the White House — a trick he suggested President Barack Obama couldn’t pull off.

So today, when president No. 42 returns to the Waterloo of his wife’s campaign to give a speech at N.C. State University, the question arises: Just who is Bill Clinton now?

SORRY, NO TICKETS

No tickets are available for former President Clinton’s 10:30 a.m. speech for the Millennium Seminars Series. It can be seen live at www.ncsu.edu/ wolfbytes. It will be rebroadcast on UNC-TV at 9 p.m. tonight. 

Is he still a charming but roguish southern governor at heart, a politician who feels as comfortable at a raccoon roast as he does addressing the United Nations?

Clinton swung through more than 50 North Carolina towns in support of his wife last year, from a community center in Apex to a Baptist church in tiny mountain-bound Arden. In a May swing through Morganton, The News Herald reported, he incited “hysteria.”

But the scene has shifted. Chastened by Obama’s primary wins, Clinton retracted his criticism and urged the Illinois senator’s election, calling him “America’s future.”

It won’t be the first time Clinton has worked to reinvent himself.

As a former president whose two terms were wracked by scandal and impeachment, he rose to be the globe-hopping head of a foundation worth hundreds of millions of dollars in charitable donations. He teamed up with former President George H.W. Bush, father of the man who just left office, to raise money for tsunami relief and other worthy causes.

Out of the White House, Clinton also found a comfortable spot to toss barbs, whether at George W. Bush for his handling of Hurricane Katrina, or at candidate Obama for being inexperienced.

Now, with a fellow Democrat as president and his wife as secretary of state, will he rein in the rhetoric? Can a political figure who towers as tall as Bill Clinton stay stuck, idle, on the sidelines?

Or will he become a male version of Eleanor Roosevelt, a first spouse of sorts, still prominent though out of office, carrying an activist’s heart?

His address at Reynolds Coliseum today is titled “The Way Forward,” and in it, he will “chart the course of America’s future after the 2008 election and delve into the effects of new presidential leadership on the nation’s important issues,” N.C. State’s Web site explains.

As listeners, we might also expect a clue to how Clinton will handle his new role in the glare of the spotlight he seems to both crave and enjoy.

josh.shaffer@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4818

Abortion funding back with Obama

January 24, 2009

01/24/2009 13:51
ASIA – UNITED STATES
Abortion funding back with Obama
The new president has revoked the ban imposed by Bush for eight years. Obama has also promoted financing of UN population control policies. Pro-life movements are sending critical messages to the president.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) – U.S. president Barack Obama has reauthorized funding for organizations that perform or promote abortion abroad, removing the veto put in place by his predecessor, George W. Bush. The decision of the new president, just three days after the beginning of his inauguration, was announced shortly after the conclusion of a pro-life march at the capital, attended by hundreds of thousands of people. The evening before the march, Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali provided over a prayer service for the defense of life.

Speaking at the march, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx remembered the “millions of unborn children whose blood has been shed in the abortion mills of America.”

Obama is a supporter of the idea that the unborn have no rights, and that abortion can be performed up until the ninth month of pregnancy. The new president has also said that he will restore American funding to the United Nations population fund. Bush had blocked the funding because some of the programs of the UN organism were linked to abortion, and to forced sterilization in China.

In the past, Obama had promised total liberalization of abortion in order to “safeguard the health and freedom of women.” His cabinet includes staunch abortion supporters, including White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

The website Lifenews.com has launched a campaign among its visitors in order to send messages of criticism on this decision by President Obama, through the link http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.


Locals return from inauguration

January 24, 2009
Locals return from inauguration
by Tom Joyce
5 days ago | 403 views | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Anise Hickman

It’s been four days since the inauguration, but Surry County residents returning from the historic occasion continue to be full of excitement about their experiences in the nation’s capital.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget it,” said Anise Hickman of Mount Airy, one of a handful of local residents who made the journey to Washington to witness Barack Obama become the nation’s 44th president. “It was almost indescribable.”

Hickman and others shared the highlights of their trip this week after returning to Surry County and having a couple of days to reflect on what it meant to them. Others interviewed included Trooper Ricky Lawson of the North Carolina Highway Patrol, who was part of the security operation for the event, and Jody Crawford of Mount Airy, a major supporter of Obama locally.

“Great Anticipation”

Hickman, who retired in 2007 after a 26-year career with the city of Mount Airy, for which she served as personnel in charge of benefits, had worked for the Obama campaign during the primary and general election seasons. Therefore, his actual “crowning moment” was especially significant for her.

With Obama’s candidacy proving victorious in November after a long, hard campaign, Hickman said she was happy to have the opportunity to see those efforts reach fruition. “It was just great anticipation that this time has finally arrived,” the local resident said of her thoughts upon being present for the swearing-in of America’s first African-American chief executive.

“It was amazing — there were so many people there.”

Hickman attended the inauguration with her brother, Wayman Strickland Sr.; both are natives of this area. The two drove to Washington last Sunday and stayed at the home of a cousin while there. They had obtained tickets through family connections to the senator who headed a joint congressional committee that staged Tuesday’s ceremony.

“We got them through Dianne Feinstein,’’ Hickman said of the senator, who also spoke at the event.

Luckily, Hickman and her brother escaped the horror stories surrounding the anticipated crowds of more than 2 million and the accompanying traffic and other problems. For the most part, they were able to time their travels so that they avoided the brunt of the gridlock, including on the Beltway, the major and notoriously congested artery that runs through the area.

“We were just relieved that we didn’t have to encounter that much traffic,” Hickman said. She pointed out that many of those who normally would drive had chosen to use the Metro mass-transit system instead, thus alleviating some traffic on highways. “We never did come to a complete stop.”

On what seemed like an enchanted journey, they were able to park fairly close to the inauguration site. Hickman said that a major security screening was in store once they reached the inaugural grounds. While tight, however, the operation was “well-organized,” she said, also praising the orderliness of the crowd itself.

Those attending had to cross through several checkpoints, their coveted orange tickets to the inauguration in hand. “I think we were in the safest place in the nation that day,” Hickman said. “Security was tight — very tight.”

Yet, “it didn’t seem like it took that long.”

After leaving home around 8 a.m. Tuesday, Hickman said she had reached her seat about 10:30 a.m., some 90 minutes ahead of the oath of office. Her seat was right in front of the Capitol building.

“We weren’t close enough to actually see him (Obama), but, of course, the big-screen TVs were there,” the local resident said.

With the swearing-in ceremony representing the end of a struggle, Hickman admitted that there were tears on her face and those of many others in the audience. “It was such an emotional time, because we had worked throughout the year to get people to vote and to see him take office, and all of a sudden that time is now,” she said of her feelings Tuesday.

Hickman also loved Obama’s speech, which she believes stayed true to what he had said on the campaign trail. “I thought it was fantastic.”

The Mount Airy woman returned home Wednesday night and said Thursday that she’ll always remember the opportunity “just to be a part of history — just to be there — just how everything really worked out for us once we’d got there.”

“Made You Proud”

Ricky Lawson, a veteran trooper with the N.C. Highway Patrol, witnessed the 56th Inauguration from a different vantage point — serving as part of the extra security that needed to be imported to the capital to assist with the massive event.

“Since 1890, they have brought in outside agencies to assist the Metropolitan Police Department with crowd control, traffic control and additional security,” Lawson explained. He was one of about 5,000 officers who came from all across the United States. Lawson met fellow officers from such places as Colorado, Texas, Oregon, “every state in the union.”

“Virginia had 200 men there.”

North Carolina’s contingent was composed on the basis of seniority. Lawson got to be part of it due to logging 28 years with the highway patrol. The local officer had attempted to go to Washington in the past when George W. Bush was inaugurated.

He left home Saturday and rode a bus into the D.C. area Sunday. The law enforcement officers who converged from the different areas gathered at American University in Washington on Monday. “They were so many of us, they met in two shifts,” Lawson said.

On Inauguration Day, he and others departed on a bus at 3 a.m., but didn’t reach their post until 6 a.m. due to heavy pedestrian traffic.

The officers’ assignment involved being positioned along strategic points in the area. Lawson was stationed along the inauguration route on Pennsylvania at the 700 block. Although it was hard to ignore the spectacle that unfolded, Lawson said he had to remain focused on the reason he was there. That was to keep his eyes on people in the crowd and not so much on what was happening in the street.

“As far as seeing the president, I definitely wish I could say I saw him. But my orders were to have my back to him when he went by,” Lawson said in explaining the security procedure when a person such as Obama is in the immediate vicinity.

But it wasn’t all business for the Surry County trooper, who found much to enjoy about the trip, which included the event itself as well as its surroundings.

“Yes, it was a historic ceremony, but what stood out most to me was I was so impressed by the city of Washington,” Lawson said. “There’s so much history there.

“Just all those buildings and the history there — it’s just amazing.”

Another highlight for Lawson was the Inaugural Parade. He enjoyed the college marching bands participating, including those of Ohio State and the University of Connecticut. “The bands were just so impressive,” said Lawson, who also mentioned a Lunar Module parade entry from NASA and horse teams that took part.

“I just loved that parade.”

Lawson said his daughter had given him a camera for the trip, “and I took pictures of everything.

“I’m glad I went,” Lawson said of the journey, which ended with his return home Wednesday night. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“It just made you proud to be an American.”

“Very Impressive”

“What really stands out to me is how many people 2 million people is,” Jody Crawford said of her attendance at the inauguration. “I’d never experienced anything like that.

“And, of course, the inauguration itself was very impressive,” added Crawford, a diligent supporter of Obama during the campaign.

Crawford and her husband, David, left Mount Airy on the Friday before the inauguration and stayed with relatives in the Washington area. They had obtained tickets to the event through David’s role as a member of the Electoral College.

“We were in a seated area,” said Crawford, who mentioned that the local couple parked their vehicle on the outskirts of the capital and rode the Metro to the inauguration. “That worked really well,” she reported.

The presence of huge throngs and the fact it was “very cold” did not quell their enthusiasm for attending the event. After the long campaign struggle, “I really wanted to be at the inauguration,” Crawford said.

“I was so happy to hear him take the oath,” the Mount Airy resident added of the new president, saying she was encouraged by his message of hope and change.

Another highlight for Crawford was the presence of all the dignitaries at the event, including top leaders of government.

After the inauguration, Crawford also attended a neighborhood ball in the area, which included entertainment by major artists on several stages set up for the occasion. “I was standing eight feet from Stevie Wonder,” she said. Faith Hill also performed, among others.

“We’re really happy that we got to go,” said Crawford, who returned to Surry County on Wednesday, riding with Hickman. Her husband drove back on Tuesday because he had to work the next day.

Among other local residents who attended the inauguration was Tracey Lewis, the principal of Westfield Elementary School, who went on to Philadelphia afterward.

Also there were Rebecca Hampton and Sybil Chatman of Pilot Mountain, who were still in Washington as of Thursday.

Additionally, Michael Cokley, who splits time between homes in Pilot Mountain and Washington, got a ticket to the inauguration through a drawing held by the office of Rep. Virginia Foxx, this area’s congressional representative.

Contact Tom Joyce at tjoyce@mtairynews.com or at 719-1924.


Congressional districts need dose of sanity, not more gerrymandering

January 23, 2009

Congressional districts need dose of sanity, not more gerrymandering
• PUBLISHED JANUARY 23, 2009 12:15 AM
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Gerrymandering is loosely defined as the drawing of boundaries of an electoral district to give advantage to one candidate or party over another. Far from a bright spot for the democratic process, but it’s more common than we like to think. Though the term goes all the way back to 1812, gerrymandering is still alive and well in the U.S. and in North Carolina in particular. A recent meeting of mathematicians took a look at gerrymandering and proposed using computer algorithms to correct the offending districts.

Algorithms are equations set up in a series of “if/then” questions, often used in mathematics and physics to examine complex, multilayered data. Algorithms are often displayed graphically by flowcharts, a series of shapes connected by lines showing the flow of information.

At a recent joint meeting of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and Mathematical Association of America (MAA) in Washington, discussion centered on using mathematics in the form of algorithms to draw congressional districts.

The idea was that a computer processor, as a nonpartisan entity, would be fairer than its human counterparts in drawing up fair and equitable districts.

After the 2010 Census, states will redraw the boundaries of congressional districts to adjust for shifts in population. Most everyone involved agrees that some changes have to be made to ensure fairer elections. Calculations by Congressional Quarterly indicate that 324 of the 435 House seats were considered a lock for one of the major parties in 2008, hardly a strong sign of “representative” government.

A recent Slate magazine article notes that, “As the amount of information and computing power available to the gerrymanderers has ballooned, they have gotten much better at surgically crafting districts to their precise desires.” North Carolina leads the nation in this not-so-honorable category – four congressional districts are considered to be among the 20 most gerrymandered in the country. Those districts are the First (Democrat G.K. Butterfield); Second (Democrat Bob Etheridge); the Third (Republican Walter Jones) and the 12th (Democrat Mel Watt). The districts in some cases look to be the work of an inattentive jigsaw maker.

Using algorithms to divvy up voters makes sense on the surface. Take a state, input the required data – such as equitable population, the Voting Rights Act, central location of voting places, etc. – and let the computer use its nonpartisan silicone brains to draw fair boundaries.

Even if these groups of mathematical gurus can’t come up with an algorithm process to divide votes equitably into somewhat logical districts, let’s hope North Carolina does something to untangle its gerrymandered districts.


Kissell backs GOP bill

January 23, 2009

Kissell backs GOP bill

By Jim Morrill
jmorrill@charlotteobserver.com

 

 

 

In one of his first major votes, newly elected U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell broke with a majority of fellow Democrats Thursday to support a bill introduced by N.C. Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx.

 

Kissell, a former Montgomery County teacher whose district includes east Charlotte, voted for the bill that disapproved spending the second $350 billion of the emergency bailout money Congress approved last fall.

 

The bill passed 270-155. Kissell was among 99 Democrats who joined 171 Republicans – including Charlotte’s Sue Myrick – in support. Democratic Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte voted against the bill.

 

“I think that a well-intended desire to put America back on its feet has led some to make hasty decisions,” Kissell said in a sttatement. “There must be more oversight regarding our economic decisions. We can’t sit back and watch as the same people who have squandered billions of dollars are given another blank check. Meanwhile, Main Street America is in desperate need of our help. The American people deserve a deliberate, fair process before we spend billions more of their tax dollars.”