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Archive for March, 2012

It’s About This Durham Man’s Right To Work

The North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law is representing “outlaw” hot dog vendor Steve Pruner of Durham in his appeal to the N.C. Court of Appeals. He was convicted  of selling hot dogs without a license. Take a few moments to watch the NCICL videos of Steve, and be sure to read Carolina Journal for background on his plight. In short, this is a man who is trying to support his family, despite unreasonable bureaucratic regulations.

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Cue The Violins: Women Are Complaining. Again.

The victimhood syndrome has been passed on to a new generation of women.

When there’s around 40 million Millennials in the workplace, there’s a lot of competition. 

In the study “Generational Differences in Young Adults’ Life Goals, Concern of Others, and Civic Orientation,” researchers say that Gen Y-ers exhibit an increase in anxiety, depression and mental health issues compared to previous generations.

“A millennial female burnout syndrome is emerging,” says Erica Dhawan, an MBA student at MIT and MPA student at Harvard, specializing in Gen Y, co-founder of the Galahads: the Secret Society for Kickass Women and a speaker at this year’s World Economic Forum at Davos.

 

Enough, ladies. Just grow up, stop whining, and make choices that fulfill you. In other words, enjoy your life.

 

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Should A Product Be Priced “Fairly”?

I’m fascinated by the field of study that looks at why consumers act as they do — behavioral economics.  I love the work of Duke Professor Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational.  Today I came across this fascinating story about JC Penney’s new marketing strategy of “fair and square” pricing of its products. Next time you shop, think about what entices you to buy.

Using a high-profile ad campaign that involves spokeswoman Ellen DeGeneres poking fun at coupons and markdown gimmicks throughout history, JCPenney has been leading the movement against “fake prices” in the world of retail. Instead of listing an item with a severely marked-up original price, and then almost always selling it at a major “discount” of 30%, 40% or 50% off, JCPenney recently knocked down all prices by about 40%. It also got rid of annoying prices ending in .99, and now lists shirts or belts at a flat $15 rather than $14.99.

The efforts are all part of JCPenney’s overarching new “fair and square” approach, which CEO (and former Apple executive) Ron Johnson introduced in January. Fair and square has been described as “sane” and a “breath of fresh air.” What it hasn’t been called is a success.

 

Could it be that for all the talk about wanting life to be “fair,” what people really want is to think they’ve gotten a great deal?

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If They’re Surprised, They Haven’t Been Listening

The Left’s reaction to questions posed by the justices during oral argument over Obamacare have made a lot of folks — including me — wonder why they’re so surprised. Limited-government conservatives have been making some of the same points for more than two years. That’s what the town halls were all about as Obamacare was debated. So why is the Left acting  as if they’ve never heard these concerns and issues? Here’s one take from The Weekly Standard’s blog. Even if the law ultimately is upheld, I am thankful that the Left finally understands that serious intellectuals realize there is a limit to federal power and that Obamacare turns the Constitution on its head by forcing every American to buy a government-approved product or face a government penalty. That coercion is unprecedented and should be struck down.

 

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This Should Be a Fascinating Senate Hearing

Today in the U.S. Senate, a committee will hear testimony about how major federal departments/agencies assess the costs and benefits of using contractors. Evidently there is no uniform assessment and accountability tool, which as you might suspect, leads to questionable decisions. My view is that contracting out for services isn’t inherently “good” policy or “bad” policy. It must make sense financially and in terms of skill sets and experience needed, and, in the case of sensitive information, security clearances. A well thought out assessment tool is the foundation of that. Hopefully, today’s Senate hearing will shed light on best practices, as well as deficiencies, so we can ensure that contractors are efficiently and effectively used to handle federal work. From the Federal Times:

 

The Defense Department, for example, was unable to report how many contractors were replaced in 2010 when the department created nearly 17,000 new government civilian positions to perform previously contracted services, committee members noted in their letter to agencies.

Workforce management officials from the Army, Department of Homeland Security and Office of Personnel Management are scheduled to testify at the committee hearing Thursday morning.

Agencies have failed to track the use of service contractors as required by law and lack a common, effective method for calculating and comparing costs between contractors and federal employees, government watchdog and industry groups said in testimony submitted to the committee.

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“This would just not be acceptable in the private sector or any other place”

From the City of Los Angeles comes yet another example of the waste and/or fraud that occurs in a government bureaucracy. Los Angeles spent $12 million on a system to track the use of taxpayer-funded gasoline. And now an audit shows that $7 million in gas has “gone missing,” according to the LA Times. It seems the control system is being bypassed, which means LA taxpayers may well be paying for cheats to fill up their personal cars at taxpayer expense. Shameful.

The tools to bypass the tracking system are supposed to be used only when normal systems fail. But auditors found they were used to dispense millions of gallons of fuel over a 22-month period beginning in 2009.

Master cards were swiped 56,000 times to pump $2-million worth of fuel, the audit found, and another $1.2 million in fuel was pumped using the manual bypass. In most cases, there was no paper trail showing why the backup was used and for which vehicle.

At 22 Los Angeles Police Department fueling sites, an override button meant for emergencies was used to pump $3.9 million in gas.

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Rasmussen: Just 29% Of Likely Voters Say Country Headed In Right Direction

It’s a shame that failed policies have led us to the point where not even one of three likely voters believes the country is going in the right direction. Sure, folks can have different reasons for responding this way, but it is clear that very few Americans are satisfied with where we are. Incumbents who’ve been absorbed by the system, beware.

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April 10 at Duke: Condoleezza Rice

She is a brilliant and talented woman, and now former Secretary of State and former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to speak at Duke on April 10. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required.

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Cate Edwards: Court That Rules Against Obamacare “would unduly injure the welfare of American women.”

Cate Edwards, daughter of John and Elizabeth, opines in this piece at Politico about the impact on women, should Obamacare be held unconstitutional.

Our Constitution was created to “promote the general welfare.” So a court that strikes down the health care law would not only shirk its constitutional responsibility, it would unduly injure the welfare of American women.

My mother, using everything from blog posts to congressional testimony, challenged this country to translate the Constitution’s focus on each American’s welfare into health reform.

“Can’t we start with something easy on which we can agree,” she asked in 2008, “…that no one should die of a disease we can find and stop?” The Affordable Care Act not only protects women with pre-existing conditions like breast cancer, it guarantees women access to preventive services.

 

With all respect to Ms. Edwards, women have access to healthcare in this country. The issue at the heart of Obamacare is whether the federal government can force every American to engage in commerce — force every American to buy a government-approved and government-endorsed product — or face a government-imposed penalty for failing to do so. If Obamacare stands, the floodgates will open to other products and services that will be forced on Americans in the same way. I predict that those who believe as Ms. Edwards does will be very willing to create a list other items they’d like to force everyone else to buy on behalf of “the welfare of American women.”

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There Is The Bad, And Then There Is The Good

The river of bad news and poor policy-making by public officials rarely slows down, but now and then comes a story that helps renew the spirit.

Compassionate strangers from across the country have banded together and donated more than $17,000 to support a handicapped Cary boy who had his cash stolen Thursday when he was raising money for a wheelchair basketball event.

A flood of donations from $5 to $500 have poured in since Friday to help 12-year-old Nolan Turner bring the experience of playing wheelchair basketball to Briarcliff Elementary School. More than 450 people have donated nearly $18,000, far beyond Nolan’s original goal of $1000.

The only thing that can make this story even better is when the police catch the malcontent who stole this child’s money.
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