N.C. Appeals Court rules against longtime Triangle media mogul

A unanimous three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals has ruled against longtime Chapel Hill media entrepreneur Jim Heavner in a libel case. The Court of Appeals reversed a trial-court ruling that had thrown out defamation charges against Heavner.

At issue are statements he made in a press release involving a bankruptcy filing connected to potential sale of his Chapel Hill-based businesses.

Trump, hysterical media outlets, and the need for accountability

John Daniel Davidson writes at the Federalist website that a news media industry that idolized President Obama and demonized Donald Trump cannot take on the role of holding the new president accountable for his actions.

Since Donald Trump’s election, the mainstream media have been by turns hysterical and condescending. Whether it’s Trump’s rebuke of the cast of “Hamilton or his phone call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, the press seems to think we’re already on the verge of a constitutional crisis at the hands of a dangerous yet idiotic president-elect.

Same goes for the media’s coverage of Trump supporters. Last week, a clip of CNN’s Alisyn Camerota speaking with Trump supporters made the rounds, in part because the supporters insisted that millions of illegal immigrants voted, and in part because Camerota reacted to them with the utmost disdain. …

… Right now, the media should be asking themselves: Why did Trump win white college graduates? Why did he outperform Mitt Romney among blacks and Hispanics? Why did lifelong Democrats in the Rust Belt vote for him?

If the mainstream press wanted to understand and explain Trump’s appeal, they could talk to any one of the millions of ordinary Americans with non-crazy views who voted for him. Instead, the media have gravitated toward fringe supporters and conspiracy theorists—the New Hampshire lawmakers who claimed that millions of people voted illegally, the handful of white supremacists who praised Trump at a recent conference in Washington DC, the malign influence of Alex Jones and readers of Infowars.

By insisting on an ideological narrative at the expense of honest reporting, and by reacting with hysterics every time Trump tweets something provocative, journalists are undermining their credibility. As fun as it is to laugh at hysterical journalists, we actually need them to be credible because they have an important job to do: hold the incoming Trump administration accountable for real abuses of power.

Arguably, the media long ago lost all credibility with its fawning coverage of the Obama White House. Faced with the task of covering a president who shared all their favorite progressive narratives, biases, and priorities, the press abdicated its responsibility to hold political leaders accountable.

From the collapse of Obamacare to the ginned-up narrative undergirding the Iran deal, the Washington media establishment balked every time it should have held the Obama administration’s feet to the fire.

Instead, it went after anyone who dared to question the administration’s policies.

No energy in House to pass energy bill

John Siciliano of the Washington Examiner reports on the U.S. House’s disinterest in passing a federal energy bill before the end of the year.

House Republicans aren’t likely to let a major energy bill pass before the end of the year, betting they can get a better deal once President-elect Trump is in the White House.

With Trump’s surprise victory, GOP lawmakers are moving away from their earlier efforts to pass the bill this year, now that they can push their agenda next year without having to compromise with Democrats.

The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 has been lingering in conference committee all fall as House and Senate leaders hash out what they can and cannot live with in the sprawling bill, which looks to boost electric grid security, increase U.S. shale gas exports, relax regulations and improve the efficiency of commercial buildings and homes. …

… [R]ecent back-and-forth between House and Senate conferees suggest slow progress in reaching a deal before the end of the year, according to industry lobbyists tracking the bill. And McConnell has prioritized passing a clean short-term budget resolution by the end of the week, although he said last Tuesday there is “some hope” of passing the bill.

Leadership has set a get-in-and-get-out agenda, without the bells and whistles that would allow for legislation as potentially significant as a comprehensive energy bill in the last remaining weeks of the lame-duck session.

About that plan to cut health care costs

Ali Meyer of the Washington Free Beacon delivers some bad news about U.S. health care spending.

Health care spending in the United States grew 5.8 percent in 2015, hitting a record high of $3.2 trillion, according to the latest estimates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Last year, health care spending in the United States totaled $3 trillion—or $9,523 a person. This year, per-person expenditures went up to $9,990.

“The faster growth in 2014 and 2015 occurred as the Affordable Care Act expanded health insurance coverage for individuals through Marketplace health insurance plans and the Medicaid program,” the report said.

The federal government is the biggest driver of health care spending and in 2015, 29 percent of the nation’s health care bill was due to the feds.

“Federal government spending on health increased 8.9 percent in 2015 after growing 11.0 percent in 2014, and outpaced all other sponsors of health care in both years,” the report said. “In 2015, the federal government was the largest sponsor of health care at 29 percent, up from 28 percent in 2014 and 26 percent in 2013.”

More than a third of total health care spending in 2015 was due to Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare cost the federal government $646.2 billion and Medicaid cost $545.1 billion, for a combined total of $1.2 trillion. Private health insurance spending totaled $1.1 trillion in 2015.

After the federal government, households were responsible for the next largest share of health care spending. These individuals spent the most on out-of-pocket spending that went to copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance. Total out-of-pocket spending in 2015 hit $338.1 billion and increased by 2.6 percent this year.

Trump and Taiwan

Ian Tuttle of National Review sees good news in President-elect Donald Trump’s unexpected decision to speak with Taiwan’s president.

When the president-elect of the U.S. took a phone call last week with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, he may not have known that he was breaking a four-decades-old precedent and potentially disrupting the delicate state of affairs that prevails between Taiwan and its neighbor across the Taiwan Strait, China. Needless to say, such an approach to international dealings is not ideal. But neither is an “expert” approach that fails to distinguish friends from foes — which has been America’s approach for the last eight years. Taiwan is the sort of country the United States should seek to support. Instead, the U.S. remains beholden to a decades-old, Cold War arrangement that favors the Communist regime in Beijing over the vibrant democracy in Taipei — an arrangement to which the Obama administration has been far friendlier than its predecessor. Donald Trump should aim to shift this balance of power.

Which country is more amenable to American ideals is not difficult to discern. As the 20th century made clear, People’s Republics tend to be extraordinarily unfriendly to the people who reside in them — for instance, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a.k.a. North Korea. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is no different, having existed for 70 years under varying degrees of Communist oppression: at one end, Mao Zedong’s, responsible for mass slaughter on a scale comparable to Joseph Stalin’s; at the other, Xi Jinping’s, which also “disappears” political dissidents, but does so quietly in order to earn the admiration of Thomas Friedman and other gullible leftwing luminaries. …

… This is a movement the United States should support. There are economic reasons, certainly: Taiwan occupies an integral place in the global technology supply chain, for example. But, more important, Taiwan is a country of freedom-loving people who are governed by legitimately elected representatives, who operate a free press, and who seek to work amicably with a community of international partners. China is a large, sprawling, complex country, in which many people are flourishing economically; but it is ruled by a one-party dictatorship that seeks to maintain — and is presently working to consolidate — power. The contrast between the two countries is perhaps most visible at the entrance to Taipei 101, the tallest skyscraper in Taiwan and formerly the tallest building in the world: Visitors will see Falun Gong adherents practicing their religion openly and protesting the Chinese government. But just 110 miles to the west, across the Taiwan Strait, Falun Gong practitioners are imprisoned and used to source a state-run organ-trafficking trade.

Conservatives and Trump

John Fund of National Review Online assesses conservative response to President-elect Donald Trump’s efforts to assemble a Cabinet and other top officials in his administration.

Trump has reached out to former critics such as Nikki Haley and James Mattis and offered them key Cabinet positions. He’s met with Mitt Romney, one of his fiercest critics, twice. His picks for the heads of such departments as Health and Human Services, Education, and Transportation are knowledgeable conservatives. The pace with which he’s been naming top officials is faster than that of any modern president-elect.

All of these developments have cheered conservatives, who feared that Trump would surround himself with loyalists and spurn help from those who backed his primary challengers. Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s nominee to head the Treasury Department, and Wilbur Ross, his choice for Commerce head (both of whom are lifelong New York Democrats), may fit that bill. But they are the exceptions so far.

Trump remains suspicious of many of the advisers who guided both of the former Presidents Bush (both Bushes declined to endorse Trump). “Basically, if your name appeared on a Never Trump public letter or you declared him ‘unfit’ to be president, you can expect your job application to remain in the bottom of the pile,” a key Trump adviser told me.

With the sidelining of the Bush League, others will fill the vacuum of the Trump transition team. Conservative are cheerful at the thought, in large part because the Trump transition team is relying heavily on groups such as the Federalist Society. Among such groups, perhaps the biggest role is being played by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that played a major role in Ronald Reagan’s transition in 1981. Back then, its 1,100-page book of policy analysis, Mandate for Leadership, offered specific recommendations on policy, budget, and administrative action for all Cabinet departments, as well as advice on agencies staffed by political appointees. Reagan gave a copy of the book to each member of his Cabinet at their first meeting. Heritage boasts the 60 percent of its recommendations became reality in some form during Reagan’s tenure.

New Carolina Journal Online features

Kari Travis reports for Carolina Journal Online that a UNC system official wants students to be taught self-defense tactics.

John Trump’s Daily Journal urges Gov.-elect Roy Cooper to make transparency a top priority.

JLF Shaftesbury Society videos

Those of you accustomed to seeing video each Monday afternoon from the John Locke Foundation Shaftesbury Society meeting might have noticed some changes with the last couple of videos.

Nov. 21: Matt Bales

Nov. 28: John Hood

The extra production work takes a little more time. Moving forward, you can expect to see these videos posted the day after a noon event. This is true starting with this week’s speech. We’ll post the video Tuesday.