Problems, Solutions and a recipe for a Friday afternoon

There are a lot of problems with ObamaCare.  The roll-out was a disaster.  You can’t keep your doctor after all. And now that the employer mandate is adding thousands of workers small business owners are braced for soaring costs. Perhaps it’s time to look at direct care as another option for quality, affordable, care instead of just coverage.

Regulatory reform has been a key piece of transformational changes in NC, improving our economy and creating jobs.  But there is still plenty of work to do. Beekeepers, deer farmers, Uber and banks could use a little less government interference and a little more freedom.

The Common Core Standards Committee has no money. It is important to get the standards right.  $250,000 from the General Assembly will give the Commission tools to help the job done.  Let’s do it.

Starbucks Gingerbread is one of the best things I have ever eaten.  It is only available during the holidays. I want it in October. I want it in front of a fire on a snowy January afternoon. I want it for Valentines Day. I want it at the beach in July.  I want it over the holidays when Starbucks is closed.  I must find a way to make this at home.

Problem solved with this…..

Copycat Starbucks Gingerbread Loaf

for the loaf:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon orange extract, or 1/4 teaspoon orange oil (I used Boyajian Pure Citrus Orange Oil)

1 egg at room temperature

1 cup natural applesauce

1 teaspoon baking soda

for the frosting:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste

1/2 teaspoon orange extract or 1/8 teaspoon orange oil

2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

chopped candied ginger or candied orange peel for garnish (optional)

Let’s make it…

For the loaf:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9″x5″ bread pan or use baking spray. You can also use two smaller loaf pans if you want one for you and one for a friend. (Your friend will love you!!)

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in orange extract. Add egg, and mix well.

Mix the baking soda into the applesauce. Stir into creamed butter mixture. Add the flour mixture and mix until smooth.

Scoop the batter into prepared loaf pan(s).

Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean. If baking the 2 smaller loaves, bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

For the frosting:

Beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add vanilla and orange extract. Slowly beat in confectioner’s sugar.

Once the cake has cooled, evenly spread the frosting on top. Garnish with chopped candied ginger or orange peel, if desired.

This makes a lot of frosting.  Use the leftover between store-bought ginger cookies. Or if you’re home alone and feeling decadent, just eat it with a spoon.

Once frosting has set, loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. I feel it tastes so much better chilled, but this is not necessary if eating the up the same day.

A crash course in speaking progressive

James Bovard on Gruber

James Bovard gets a “10” for this column on Jonathan Gruber’s arrogance and deceit.

He’s right that progressives have to rely on such tactics to get the stupid average people to go along with what the intellectual elite absolutely knows is best for them.

Again, NC didn’t start offering film incentives till 2005

You can almost count upon op-eds and editorials written in favor of keeping North Carolina’s film incentives to cite popular, well-known North Carolina productions such as “Bull Durham” (1988), “Dirty Dancing” (1987), “Last of the Mohicans” (1992), “Dawson’s Creek” (1998-2003), etc. in making their case. Even though those examples preceded the incentives by years, even decades.
— Yours truly, The Locker Room, 7/14/2014

From Jim Jenkins’ column today in The News & Observer:

… once North Carolina and others got in the game, most states with a variety of landscapes have competed heavily for the movie business, offering all sorts of economic incentives to bring Hollywood East.

Here, literally from the mountains to the coast, the movies made in part or in all within North Carolina’s borders include “Bull Durham,” “Days of Thunder,” “The Color Purple,” “Dirty Dancing” “Last of the Mohicans” and “The Hunger Games.” Several hundred films in all have included footage from North Carolina.

The state has been using a tax rebate program for movie and television producers as an incentive, and it’s worked. …

If North Carolina curbs its incentive program, the film industry simply will not come here. The business will be finished here, period.

The implication is that the incentives brought in all those memorable movies, but in fact only one of the films Jenkins mentions in his column actually received film incentives. Here’s today’s list (compare with previous lists):

  • “Bull Durham” (1988) — before film incentives
  • “Days of Thunder” (1990) — before film incentives
  • “The Color Purple” (1985) — before film incentives
  • “Dirty Dancing” (1987) — before film incentives
  • “Last of the Mohicans” (1992) — before film incentives
  • “The Hunger Games” (2012) — received $13.8 million in film incentives
  • “The Angel Doll” (2002) — before film incentives

Here is a little North Carolina history from my Carolina Cronyism report on film incentives:

In the years before state film incentives, North Carolina was a popular off-Hollywood destination for film crews. A right-to-work state with a pleasant climate and a range of features — beaches to mountains, rural vistas to urban cityscapes — North Carolina held significant advantages for movie makers, including comparatively low wages and rental rates. For example, in the dozen years from 1983 to 1994, North Carolina was the site of such major features as “Brainstorm,” “Firestarter,” “A Breed Apart,” “The Color Purple,” “Maximum Overdrive,” “Dirty Dancing,” “Weekend at Bernie’s,” “Bull Durham,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Billy Bathgate,” “Sleeping with the Enemy,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” “The Fugitive,” and “Forrest Gump,” among others.

Dispatches from the campaign trail, November 21, 2014


• State House Republicans caucus this weekend in Randolph County to pick their choice for speaker in the 2015 General Assembly. Six members are seeking the job, and with a supermajority slated to take office in January, this weekend’s selection is a near-certainty to become speaker.

• A new High Point University Poll finds the early “front-runners” for the 2016 presidential nomination among North Carolinians may be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (Republican). They’re the only possible contenders with significant name recognition, as well.

• At a forum in Washington, Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-2nd, says rolling back some of the Obama administration’s regulations on carbon emissions will be a top priority for the 114th Congress.

• Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-10th, says the new Republican-led Congress needs to “start from scratch” when it takes up corporate tax reform. Others disagree.

Liberals, conservatives (even Koch brothers!), and criminal justice reform

C.J. Ciaramella reports for the Washington Free Beacon on the wide-ranging ideological support for criminal justice reform.

Criminal justice reform might be the only issue that can put the Koch Institute, the Heritage foundation, and former White House green jobs czar Van Jones in the same room.

The Charles Koch Institute hosted a panel discussion last week on Capitol Hill that brought together arch-conservatives and avowed liberals to discuss the prospects for criminal justice reform.

The title of the event, “Reaching the tipping point,” alluded to the hope among criminal justice reform advocates that public opinion and organized advocacy might finally be reaching the critical mass necessary to compel change at the federal level. …

… “Today we aren’t suffering from being too lax on crime,” the Koch Institute’s William Ruger said. Rather the United States is suffering from an “overcriminalization epidemic.”

The Koch brothers, whose prolific campaign spending against Democrats and President Obama once led Harry Reid to call them “un-American” on the floor of the Senate, have quietly been funding criminal justice reform issues through their various organizations.

For example, Koch Industries recently awarded a major grant to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to fund indigent criminal defense.

The grant won praise from unlikely corners.

“There’s a justice gap,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in an interview with the Marshall Project. “And to hear that the Koch brothers would be contributing money in that way is something that I think should be applauded.”

The Koch brothers aren’t alone on the right. Last year, the American Legislative Exchange Committee (ALEC), another liberal bête noir, came out in favor of allowing more judicial discretion in mandatory minimum sentencing structures.

And the National Rifle Association worked with Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) to roll back a harsh mandatory minimum law on gun crimes in Florida.

Reform-minded conservatives say the current criminal justice system has led to profligate spending, federal overreach, and misplaced priorities.

The article goes on to cite Marc Levin of Right on Crime, whose name might be familiar to those who have followed recent debates about criminal justice reforms in North Carolina.

Improving disaster response by scrapping FEMA

Chris Edwards of explains in a recent Daily Caller column why ridding the federal government of its emergency management agency would lead to better disaster response.

In decades past, individuals, businesses, and charities took the lead on disasters. After the devastating San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, for example, the private response was huge. Aid poured in from across the country, with millionaires such as Andrew Carnegie making major contributions. Southern Pacific Railroad evacuated 200,000 people from the city at no charge. Home-products company Johnson and Johnson rushed in free supplies. Insurance companies paid out the vast majority of claims for the 90 percent of all property owners who had policies. The Red Cross and other charities also provided relief.

In recent decades, these sorts of private responses are being replaced by federal intervention. President Jimmy Carter created FEMA by executive order in 1979, and Congress created the current legal structure for disaster relief in the 1988 Stafford Act. The Act allows for federal intervention only if disasters are of “such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments.” But the government often violates that limit by intervening in emergencies that could be handled locally.

The number of federal disaster declarations — which authorize federal spending — has soared from an average of 29 a year in the 1980s to 139 a year so far in the 2010s. FEMA spending has grown from an average $0.7 billion a year in the 1980s to $13 billion a year in the 2010s. The huge and often wasteful federal spending after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 could become the norm as politicians clamor for subsidies and ignore constitutional and statutory limits on federal power.

How much does a higher education really cost?

As liberal California Gov. Jerry Brown and liberal University of California President Janet Napolitano take opposite sides in the debate over state funding for the UC system, National Review Online columnist Kevin Williamson asks a question that has been notably absent from the debate.

How much could it actually cost to provide California students with a first-rate college education? The answer … is this: Nobody knows. If there is one thing that government institutions excel at, it is ensuring that they do not know that which they do not wish to know. (E.g., How prevalent is sex-selective abortion in the United States?) The bundle of things that the University of California system does is large and complex, and a great many of them — most of them, by some calculations — do not have anything directly to do with undergraduate education.

Katherine Hafner of UCLA’s Daily Bruin highlights the work of retired Berkeley professor Charles Schwartz, whose background in physics (I’m told that “Linear Equations for Noncommutative Algebras” starts off a little slow but really picks up about halfway through) provides an excellent background for the analysis of university budgeting, a realm of uncertainty and spooky action if ever there were one. I am not entirely sold on every jot and tittle of his methodology, but he makes a more persuasive case for his numbers than the university does. His findings? Under one set of assumptions, undergraduate students already are paying in tuition and fees 127 percent of the cost of educating them; under a different set, they are paying 191 percent of the cost of educating them. The university, on the other hand, estimates that tuition costs less than half the cost of undergraduate education.

In large part, this comes down to what counts as undergraduate instruction. Professor Schwartz points out: “The accounting habits of research universities obscure the fact that professors are hired to perform research as well as teaching and simply record the totality of their academic-year salaries as expenditures for ‘Instruction.’ The phrase ‘Departmental Research’ is used to cover that deceptive practice.” In the past two years, UCLA has paid more than $500,000 in speaking fees to two people — Bill and Hillary Clinton — and who knows by what avenues of fungibilty students and their families might have been soaked for that.