Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Nail in the Gas Tax Coffin

The Charlotte Observer has an excellent piece on the editorial page from a couple of weeks ago about the gas tax and the state highway budget funds and how they are used. It gives a lesson of fairly recent legislative history that serves to shine a light on the ignorance of many critics of the gas tax and how the money is used by the legislature.

Revenues for roads/highways goes into one of two funds in the state budget. The Highway Fund is used to pay for general maintenance and repairs of state-owned roads. It also pays for some smaller construction projects and transportation programs. Revenues that support this fund come from the state motor fuel tax and vehicle registration fees. No money from this fund is transferred to the General Funds in the state budget.

The second of the two funds is the Highway Trust Fund. It is used to pay for large construction projects. Revenue from a 3 percent sales tax on motor vehicles along with 25% of the gas tax revenue is deposited into this fund. This is the fund that has transfers to the general fund.

Here's where the confusion comes in. When legislators created the Highway Trust Fund, they abolished an existing 2 percent automobile sales tax and replaced it with a 3 percent highway use tax collected when autos are sold or transferred. Until then, those revenues had gone into the General Fund, which funds teacher pay, universities, prisons and other general expenditures.

To avoid a large loss from that "raid" on the General Fund, legislators directed the annual transfer of $170 million from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund, about the sum the 2 percent tax had generated before 1989. In 2001, the Highway Trust Fund had a big surplus and legislators ordered adjustment of the annual transfer to reflect inflation, raising it to $252 million.

Some lawmakers carelessly refer to that transfer of Highway Trust Funds as a diversion of gasoline taxes to general purposes. That's not accurate, since most of the trust fund money comes from the 3 percent tax on auto sales and transfers. All the money sent to the General Fund comes from those revenues.

Some politicians also find it convenient to forget that they supported a 1986 law -- reaffirmed in 1995 -- that created North Carolina's variable-rate gas tax. The legislature agreed to a formula that reassesses the gas tax every six months, based on the preceding six-months' wholesale gas price. Sometimes it goes up, sometimes down.

It is important to understand why certain things are handled the way they are and the Observer did a good job of giving a brief history lesson on the two transportion funds. We have an election coming up and you can bet that there will be some mud slinging based on the gas tax hike aimed at those who wouldn't get behind a tax cut. We can now respond with a better understanding of the two transportation funds and why the transfers to the general fund are not taking money away from our roads.

Our Condolences to Mayor Pat

Mayor Pat McCrory's mother died this week. My family and I send our heartfelt condolences to the McCrory family. We are very sorry for your loss.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Call to Action

On a day when many of us are reflecting on the lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Al Gore delivered a speech that was awe-inspiring. He has called the American people to defend the Constitution and our civil liberties against the tyranny of a president who refuses to obey the rule of law.

The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.

Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable.

Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.

While I supported and voted for Gore I was never inspired by him. This speech just about did me in. I was with a group on another blog discussing it live and each of us at some point simply stopped and listened. We were reduced to one word posts and many were in tears by the time it was over.

I urge each of you to read this speech or go to
Crooks and Liars or C-Span to see the video. It will be worth your time. We cannot sit and wait for justice. We have to demand it over and over again. Mr. Gore has called us to action:

The intricate and carefully balanced constitutional system that is now in such danger was created with the full and widespread participation of the population as a whole. The Federalist Papers were, back in the day, widely-read newspaper essays, and they represented only one of twenty-four series of essays that crowded the vibrant marketplace of ideas in which farmers and shopkeepers recapitulated the debates that played out so fruitfully in Philadelphia.

Indeed, when the Convention had done its best, it was the people - in their various States - that refused to confirm the result until, at their insistence, the Bill of Rights was made integral to the document sent forward for ratification.

And it is "We the people" who must now find once again the ability we once had to play an integral role in saving our Constitution.


Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive Branch and the President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.

I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, "The President has dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."

We have a job to do folks. Let's get busy.

UPDATE: ReddHedd, Jane Hamsher and all the fine folks at FireDogLake are worth a visit.
The Washington Post is weighing in, as well.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Congratulations Carolina Panthers!

We're on the way to Seattle! The team, that is. I'll have to watch the game from the comfort of my living room. Go Panthers!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Give 'Em Hell Harry

Senate Minority Leader is heading into some red states to raise money for fellow Democrats and spread the news of culture of corruption in the Republican Party. Go, Harry, Go!

The article is at the Washington Post.

Newsweek's Isikoff Likes His Kool-Aid

Newsweek's Michael Isikoff has posted an article on how the Abramoff scandal will impact Washington. While he provided a decent rundown of the scandal, he really didn't inform us of anything new. I found myself nodding along thinking that Mikey had turned away from the Kool-Aid and was tired of his WhiteHouse steno gig until I see this:

But the public is likely to remain appropriately skeptical of both parties. According to a Gallup poll taken last month, some 49 percent believe "most members" are corrupt and are about evenly divided over who is more corrupt, Republicans or Democrats.

Please, Mikey, please! I know there are some Democrats who have made me less-than proud at times, but I have yet to hear that one has been indicted or even targeted with an investigation recently. What do you mean that Americans are appropriately skeptical of both parties? Which Democrat has given you cause for skepticism? Can you please give us specifics? Oh, and I want recent specifics, not something that happened ten years ago.

I really am trying to find a reason to read Newsweek. So far, I think reading it online for free will have to do because I'm simply not paying good money for that crap.

The article was also written by Holly Bailey and Evan Thomas.

Go Panthers!

I won't be posting this afternoon. I'm watching football with the man of the house. I have to go finish setting out the spread. The girls are dressed in their Jake and Julius jerseys and the Panther tablecloth is on the table. Beer and sodas are chilled and the cooler has ice. We don't even have friends coming over. We do this just for our family when there's a big game.

We are ready for some football! Go Panthers!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Way to Go Heels!

What a game! Go Heels Go!

DeLay Quits Leadership Post

Tom DeLay has given up hope of regaining his leadership post in the House. CBS has more on the decision.

UPDATE: The text of the letter from DeLay to Hastert is here. The text of the letter from DeLay to the House GOP is here.

Duke Wore a Wire, Oh My!

This aughta make 'em pucker.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Patsy Kinsey Chose Neighborhood Meeting

I'm not sure how many Democrats attended Nancy Carter's pre-retreat strategy meeting, but I know one who chose to keep her commitment to a neighborhood in her district.

Patsy Kinsey decided it was more important to support her constituents in the Commonwealth Morningside Neighborhood as they presented the new plan for Morningside. "It's a very exciting plan and I'm glad I was there to see it," Kinsey said Thursday night after the meeting.

In his blog,
Running Mate, Richard Rubin reported the meeting saying they would avoid the open-meetings law by including only the 5 district council members. Rubin said that Democrats need this strategy session because, "Democrats often lack a coherent agenda and have difficulty rounding up votes. "

Rubin seems to be advocating that a party should vote with one voice. I guess that would be fine if they were voting with the voice of reason, but there are too many individual agendas on the council for that to happen.

Fineman Gives Winners and Losers in Abramoff Scandal

Howard Fineman has written an article about the winners and losers in the Abramoff scandal. When I saw the headline I was expecting to see a few more specifics, but I'll let him slide since I happen to agree with him on most of it.

Fineman says the biggest losers will be members of Congress, the Republican Party, the DeLay-Hastert groupie set and the Rove-Bush White House. You can read his article

I think there are some other losers as well. As sappy as it sounds I think the kids who were never helped by the phony charity, Capital Athletic Foundation, are on the losing end of this deal. And what about all those people who donated money to CAF? Aren't they on the losing end as well? But then, I haven't noticed much outrage coming from the influential congressmen and senators who usually attended these galas. Do you think that maybe there's no outrage because they all knew CAF was just a phony front anyway?

It's just a little something to think about.

Narrowing the Choices for 2008

That does it! Hillary is out. I had never actually considered voting for her, but she's making it much easier to go ahead and narrow the field.

According to
CNN, Hillary and campaign officials hired three-time felon, Peter F. Paul, to help finance a lavish Hollywood fundraiser in 2000. There were huge financial discrepancies between real costs and what was filed with the FEC.

Paul has claimed the event cost more than $1.9 million, even though campaign reports at the time put the price tag at about $500,000. As part of the agreement, the actual cost is now put at $1.2 million, with almost $400,000 unreported for the cost of producing the concert, and nearly $100,000 unreported for travel and lodging costs.

That's not really the part that bothers me. Clinton has agreed to pay the fine which is more than Elizabeth Dole has agreed to do with her FEC fine. (I'll rant more on that later.) What bothers me is this. THREE-TIME FELON! What in God's name were you thinking Hillary? Please tell me you were a little more hands-on than that.

So, the field narrows by one.

And one more thing.....a fundraiser is where you actually make money for the campaign, not spend grotesque amounts to entertain the Hollywood types.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sue Myrick has Some Splainin to Do

Well, well, well if sweet Sue hasn't just ruined her chance of making it to the Governor's mansion. It seems that Sue signed a letter for Jack Abramoff urging the Bush administration to reject a Louisiana Indian casino back in February 2002. During the following two years she accepted about $2000 in contributions from Indian tribes that were rivals of the Louisiana tribe.

This doesn't mean that Myrick was necessarily accepting a bribe, but I'm having trouble believing that Sue Myrick would sign this letter for the helluvit especially since Indian tribes in North Carolina have their own little gambling thing going. Have you ever heard of Harrahs in Cherokee, N.C.? Why would Sue have a problem with any other tribe having gambling facilities, especially one in a state so far away?

If Sue Myrick was predisposed to work against gambling in her role as a legislator I wouldn't have a problem with her signing a letter urging the Bush administration to deny the Louisiana tribe their chance at making money with a gambling facility. Has she worked against gambling in N.C. and we just don't know about it? I will be studying her voting habits in regards to gambling and Indian casinos over the rest of today and will update this post once I am finished.

Accepting money from Jack Abramoff doesn't make her guilty of doing anything wrong and if there was no quid pro quo I don't even think she needs to consider returning the money. Remember, Sue is innocent until proven guilty and she may be guilty of nothing more than using very poor judgment.

Sue Myrick needs to explain exactly what motivated her to sign a letter that had no bearing on North Carolina business. Did the power brokers in the Republican Party encourage it? Did she do it without putting any thought into it? Did she realize that she was receiving money from rival Indian tribes?

The Charlotte Observer has
this to say. I will update with more information as I find it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

N.C. Dems Take a Lesson from Texas

I was doing my morning readings of lefty blogs when I found a comment on Daily Kos made by a candidate for Attorney General in Texas, David Van Os. It appears that Democrats are coming out of the woodwork in Texas to challenge incumbents, especially Republicans. Os said:

I'm not talking about fringe lefties, I'm talking about millions of mainstream working people and middle-class Texans who have seen through the fraudulence of the Bush Family for two decades, have detested them for at least that long, who've been frustrated beyond measure at the ease with which the Bushite con artists fooled friends and neighbors, and who now are seeing the irrefutable evidence that those friends and neighbors are finally awakening from the spell. And when they awake to how they've been suckered and fooled, they tend to be mad as hell. It's going on all over the state right this minute.

It is so palpable that grassroots Democrats from all over the state came in to the State Party office in heavy numbers to file to run against Republican incumbents. By the close of the filing period at 6:00 p.m. Monday, Democrats had filed for all the statewide offices and for 31 of the state's 32 congressional seats. 20 of the 21 Republican U.S. House incumbents will face Democrats in the fall. There are even contested Democratic primaries in some of those 20 Republican-held districts. The same thing is going on in the state legislature filings and in some of the state appellate courts. The Democratic fire is burning hot as a firecracker in the Lone Star State.

It looks like Democrats in Texas are ready to oust the bugman and his pals. North Carolina is a red state, like Texas and while we may not be mired in cronyism the way Texas has been and we may not have had illegal redistricting forced on us, we need to feel the same passion to take back Washington. We can win in some of these marginally Republican districts and send more Democrats to lead us out of this deep dark hole of Republican corruption. It's time to get fired up, N.C. Dems!

A Life Wasted

The opinion piece in The Washington Post by the father of a Camp Lejeune marine who died in Iraq is one of the most powerful pieces I've read by a parent. This is more powerful than anything I've read by Cindy Sheehan. Paul Schroeder may be speaking from grief, but his thoughts are clear and expressed beautifully.

Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder died, along with 13 others, on his fifth mission to clear Haditha, Iraq. Paul Schroeder comments that the reality of the situation as told to him by his son was in stark contrast to what was being relayed by Condoleezza Rice.

I am outraged at what I see as the cause of his death. For nearly three years,the Bush administration has pursued a policy that makes our troops sitting ducks. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that our policy is to "clear, hold and build" Iraqi towns,there aren't enough troops to do that.

In our last conversation, Augie complained that the cost in lives to clear insurgents was "less and less worth it," because Marines have to keep coming back to clear the same places. Marine commanders in the field say the same thing. Without sufficient troops, they can't hold the towns. Augie was killed on his fifth mission to clear Haditha.

Schroeder goes on to say that Americans need to criticize the war more openly. He says it isn't a dishonor to those who have fallen and that Bush's claim that it is, is twisted logic. You don't honor the dead by killing more innocent Americans. Schroeder says his son's death was a waste.

Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.

As I read this piece I wanted nothing more than to reassure Mr. Schroeder that his son's death was not a waste. Mr. Schroeder, my words are meaningless, but I am so very sorry. Sadly, this attempt at a legacy by Bush has robbed our country of so many promising lives. How can that be anything but a waste?

President Bush, democracy in Iraq won't be your legacy. History will remember you as the President who killed thousands of innocent Americans for a made-up war with trumped-up causes. The names of thousands of innocent Americans who died in Iraq will be linked to your name forever. We will never, ever forget.

This is cross-posted at Americans Deserve the Truth.

Monday, January 02, 2006

One of Three Men will Oust Hayes

It's time. The May primaries are upon us. At least they aren't as far away as you might think. I'd like to dedicate time and space each day to a Democrat running for office in North Carolina. Tonight I'm running a bit short of time, so I will simply link to the web sites of the three men who are in the race to oust Robin Hayes in North Carolina's eighth district.

I only know these men from their web sites and the articles I have found from different newspapers. I am not endorsing one over the other at this point. I hope you will take the time to get to know them through the sources that are available.

If they aren't in your district you can still help by donating money or your time. The men are:

Larry Kissell

Mark Ortiz

Tim Dunn

Please visit their web sites. I hope to have an opportunity to print more information about them as we get closer to May. Good luck to each of you and thank you for your willingness to represent us.

UPDATE: There could be more challengers after the February filing deadline, but for now these are the candidates vying for the eighth.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year Round Two

I hope everyone has a wonderful new year. The May primaries aren't as far off as they might seem. I will try to bring as much information about our Democratic candidates here as I can. I will be sending questionnaires out to candidates and if they respond I will print them in their entirety. While I'm not planning to endorse for the primary, I will be spouting my opinion.

I personally think Democrats can unseat Robin Hayes this cycle. I hear Kissell is out in the district getting to know voters the old fashioned way, while Dunn is getting some face time on CNN. I think for the primary the grassroots efforts will pay off in this district in the long run. I'm a news junkie and even I missed the Dunn interview.

If any candidates (Sorry, Democrats only) have fundraisers or other events coming up, I will be happy to post them here. I will post all events that are sent in by the candidate or campaign manager and will try to verify all others. Please post them in the comments and I will bring them to the front page. Also make sure you send these to Blue N.C. They are keeping a calendar as well.

Happy New Year! Good luck and have fun!