When is a PR flack not a PR flack?

When he’s “a writer living in Chapel Hill.”

That’s how Eric Johnson is described in his tag line at the end of an op-ed piece in the News & Observer on October 19 entitled “NC Needs a Patient Investment in Higher Education,” calling for continued high state spending on the UNC system. A tag line is supposed to identify the writer and tell people why his or her opinion is of significance, especially if he or she has some sort of self-interest in the subject discussed. A more appropriate tag line would have read: Eric Johnson is the Assistant Director for Communications for the Department of Student Aid at UNC-Chapel Hill.

He also used to be employed at the system’s General Administration, where his considerable talent for crafting arguments that represent the UNC establishment view first came to light. It is hard to imagine that, considering Johnson’s frequent publishing of opinions promoting the UNC system’s interests in the N&O and considering that he has a relatively high profile among media types who cover the UNC system, that the newspaper’s editors were unaware of how Johnson makes his living.  It instead appears to be a deliberate obfuscation of an opinion writer’s self-interest.

Of course, the problem could be at Johnson’s end, if he deliberately hid his real employment and interest in the topic discussed from the N&O. Either way, this was an egregious breach of journalistic ethics on somebody’s part.

I guess any day we can also expect Gene Nichol’s N&O tag line to read “a writer living in Chapel Hill.” That would certainly make UNC happy.

Lobotomy and the post-World War II incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder

Long before post-traumatic stress disorder gained its name, society dealt with soldiers who returned from combat with “battle fatigue,” “shell shock,” or other mental problems. One of the more disturbing responses to those problems was the frontal lobotomy surgery.

Dr. Philip Miller practiced internal medicine and cardiology for 34 years with Wake Internal Medicine Consultants Inc. and works now as a part-time physician with the Military Entrance Processing Station. He discussed the history of lobotomy surgeries during a speech to the John Locke Foundation’s Shaftesbury Society.

In the video clip below, Miller discusses North Carolina’s experience with lobotomy surgeries.

3:25 p.m. update: Click play below to watch the full 45:32 event.

You’ll find other John Locke Foundation video presentations here.

A very good analysis of women and voting by Mona Charon

This is a very good and insightful discussion of Democratic campaigns and the women vote by columnist Mona Charon writing for the Washington Examiner. It is very long with lots of important insights. She breaks down demographic voting patterns of women; looks at how the Democratic party has, in recent years, appealed to women voters (basically by lying about Republicans’ positions on all things gynecological); by examining why women, not just in the US but in much of the western world, tend to vote left (they are more risk averse than men); along with a number of other issues. As I said it is a very long piece but worth the investment.

You might be a progressive if……

If you think that the nation needs an “Ebola Czar” and the best kind of person for that job would be a Democratic Party lawyer with no medical expertise at all. (Read all about Ron Klain and his ties to Solyndra here.)

Of course, the Obama regime appoints political operatives to jobs such as overseeing the “investigation” of the ideological targeting of people and groups by the IRS, but at least here you’d think the optics would dictate not going that route. Nope.

Dispatches from the campaign trail, October 20, 2014


• National Review Online looks at the controversy surrounding energy grants received by businesses owned by family members of Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. Over the weekend, the News & Observer and WRAL News entered the fray. Carolina Journal’s reporting is here.

• The Charlotte Observer’s Jim Morrill suggests the Hagan-Tillis race will surpass the 1984 Jesse Helms-Jim Hunt Senate race as the most expensive election (in inflation-adjusted dollars) in state history. Sort of. Once you account for registered voters, as CJ’s Barry Smith did in June, it may wind up third. The 2014 candidates and their surrogates are on a pace to spend around $15.85 per voter. This would rank behind the 1990 Helms-Harvey Gantt contest ($16.11 per registered voter), and, of course, 1984, where Helms and Hunt altogether spent more than $20 for every registered Tar Heel. Maybe next time?

• Former Secretary of State (and likely Democratic presidential candidate) Hillary Rodham Clinton will appear with Hagan at a Saturday rally in Charlotte.

The Washington Post and The Hill name Hagan as a winner of the third-quarter fundraising wars.

• UNC undergraduate Noah Lieberman is entering the statistical prognostication business, launching the pollinglab.com website to evaluate and analyze other polling services.

• Remember: Early voting opens Thursday. Find an early voting site by searching your county’s Board of Elections site through this portal.

TIME gives Rand Paul the cover treatment

2011-just-called-it-wants-itsTIME devotes its latest cover story to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul‘s recent political maneuvers.

The tattooed and pierced longhairs never showed up to see Senator Rand Paul speak with students at the University of South Carolina in Columbia last month. Those in attendance drew instead from the preppy set, with brushed bangs, blue blazers and proper hemlines, some wearing sunglasses on neck straps like jock jewelry. They mostly hailed from college Republican circles, and the room where they gathered, a wood-stained memorial to the state’s old power structure, was named for the politician who led the fight to protect school segregation in the 1960s.
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You could call them activists, even rebels in their way. But this was not a gathering of losers and outcasts. Paul knew this. And that was the whole point he wanted to make. The freaks, the geeks, the oddballs–they mattered too, even here. “I tell people the Bill of Rights isn’t for the high school quarterback or the prom queen,” he said, pacing with a microphone, in blue jeans and cowboy boots he’d borrowed from his brother. “The Bill of Rights is for those who are unpopular.”

Those were the ones who needed to be protected, he went on, from government’s attempts to collect their phone records, to confiscate their property without charges, to throw them in jail without a day in court. He mentioned slavery, Japanese-American internment and America’s history of anti-Semitism. He even name-checked Richard Jewell, the Georgian falsely accused of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing, who was considered suspicious in part because he lived an introverted life. “My goodness, if that was the prerequisite for being arrested, then a lot of people would be arrested,” he said. …

… It would be one thing if Paul had stopped at Jewell, having injected a bit of counterculture sympathy into dorm-room debates. But his mission these days is far more consequential. This was South Carolina, after all, an early presidential-primary state that Paul happens to have visited more in the past couple years than any other likely Republican candidate. And his pitch was not just that America needs to think more about the freaks and geeks. He was arguing that the Republican Party, with its back against a demographic cliff, needs them too and that he is uniquely suited to play matchmaker.

“If we want a big party, then the party has to look like the rest of America,” he said, repeating a line he now uses across the country. “And that means with earrings, without earrings. With tattoos, without tattoos. With ponytails, without ponytails.”

Barron’s D.C. man brings up the W word

Jim McTague‘s latest “D.C. Current” column for Barron’s ponders the possibility that the IRS scandal will turn into the Obama administration’s version of Watergate.

President Obama is taking his time in naming a replacement for longtime friend Eric Holder, who resigned Sept. 25 after six years as U.S. attorney general. A White House official says don’t expect a name until after Nov. 4, “so that this nomination does not get mired in election-year politics.”

Obama’s nominee is guaranteed to be a red-hot potato best left in the oven temporarily, lest he or she scorch Democrats currently engaged in uphill midterm election battles. You can bet that Republicans will demand that Obama’s pick say whether he favors appointment of an independent counsel to investigate what looks like an IRS dirty-tricks campaign against the Tea Party before the 2012 presidential election. The IRS, beginning around 2010, held up applications by Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status as social-welfare organizations. Tea Partiers allege that the agency, at the urging of the White House and Senate Democrats, wanted to prevent them from raising money for ads opposing Obama policies. The White House blames the situation on a screw-up by ill-trained employees.

“The administration and its fronts in the Senate accomplished what Richard Nixon wasn’t able to accomplish, which was the suppression of an entire movement against him. That’s how you steal an election; you make sure your political opponents can’t open an office,” says Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which is suing the IRS to obtain documents related to the controversy. Fitton has said the IRS continues to withhold documents and that a federal judge is set to determine if the group can be granted limited discovery to advance their release. …

… THE FBI IS INVESTIGATING THE IRS, but its neutrality is questionable. In 2010, the IRS pressed the FBI to investigate Tea Party groups and provided the bureau with 1.1 million pages of tax data on 12,000 returns—including 33 with confidential information. The FBI claims it never used the data and returned it upon learning of its confidential nature. But the FBI did little to reassure the public of its impartiality when, in January, it told The Wall Street Journal that no criminal charges would be filed, because it had concluded that mismanagement, not political conspiracy, was the culprit in the Lerner incident. Says Fitton: “It strikes me that Holder was required to appoint a special counsel, given the real conflict of interest that his lawyers and his agencies have exhibited.”

Remember Watergate? This IRS scandal has a similar aroma, which explains the foot-dragging on Holder’s replacement.

Barron’s writer labels latest Nobel economics prize a dud

Gene Epstein explains in his latest “Economic Beat” column for Barron’s why the latest Nobel Prize awarded for economics misses the mark.

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded last Monday to French economist Jean Tirole for what the committee referred to as “his analysis of market power and regulation.” To understand why Tirole’s win was not exactly a victory for economic thought, imagine a rough analogy.

Say Adam Smith and others had never shed light on the gains that result when one nation freely exchanges goods and services with another. Without a compelling theory of the benefits of free trade, we would no doubt assume that tariffs, duties, and subsidies to domestic exporters were just a case of government doing its job.

Then along comes an economist who determines just what kinds of tariffs, duties, and subsidies work optimally. With a nod to the efficacy of markets, he might even caution that government shouldn’t always shield domestic industry from the pressure of global competition. Lacking a theory of free trade, we might award this dismal scientist a Nobel for his useful formulations.

Happily, we do have a theory of free trade that mainstream economists honor, even if the theory is often honored in the breach. Unhappily, since the mainstream lacks a theory of free banking, Jean Tirole can be given a Nobel for useful formulations that include the optimal regulation of finance.

The Nobel committee’s paper duly acknowledges that regulation of financial markets isn’t always warranted. But such nuances are brushed aside once the paper discusses his 1994 book, The Prudential Regulation of Banks. In that book, Tirole and his co-author “focused” on the implications of a special “problem.” Since “many bank lenders, such as depositors, are too small and dispersed to exercise any control over the bank,” the paper declares, “…the role of regulation is to represent the interests of these lenders, exercising control over banks and mitigating excessive risk-taking by bank managers.”

Economist George Selgin, author of a 1988 book called The Theory of Free Banking that Tirole and the Nobel committee probably haven’t read, has a very different view. “The book’s premise that banks will be insufficiently monitored and disciplined by depositors,” he remarks, “is flatly contradicted by history.”