The Locker Room

December 01, 2008

Re: Economic Realities of Alternative Energy

Posted by Becki Gray at 3:48 PM

As Chad pointed out earlier today, the government subsidized alternative energy world is having devastating and unintentional (one would hope) consequences. Just reported in the Triangle Business Journal here, Pilgrims Pride, the Sanford chicken processor with 1,300 employees, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company cites as one of the contributing factors, “the high cost of ingredients for chicken food”.  They’ve already closed an 800 employee plant in Siler City earlier this year.  Perhaps Pilgrims Pride can use this restructuring period to convince the left to stop inflating the cost of corn and save some North Carolina jobs.


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Greenville South Carolina's bad example

Posted by Becki Gray at 2:48 PM

In an opinion piece in the Greensboro News and Record, staff columnist Doug Clark relates how groups from High Point and Greensboro are looking to Greenville South Carolina’s revitalization of their downtown area for ideas to implement here.  Heaven help us!

Seems Greenville city leaders set out to create a magical pedestrian experience. The project included such “magic” as walkways and a curving 355-foot suspension bridge just for pedestrians, a zoo, a minor league baseball park, performing arts center and statues and other public art.  There’s even a Hyatt hotel that is built around a “gigantic interior public space.  Not surprisingly, the plan drew stiff resistance.

In describing the development and re-creation of Greenville’s downtown district,  Clark says,

“Skepticism continued, but strong, visionary leaders forged ahead, using tools like tax-increment financing, hotel taxes, food and beverage taxes and, on occasion, eminent domain. The city acquired properties and resold them to developers with stipulations about what projects were allowed. Plans were executed with discipline.”

JLF has written extensively on all of these bad ideas. For a few look to these JLF reports on the problems with tax increment financing here and here, visitor taxes here, smart growth proposals here, convention centers here and eminent domain here and here.   Like to see more? Search here.

At least South Carolina has stronger annexation laws than we do.  Why aren’t the High Point and Greensboro city leaders looking to that for guidance?  Daren certainly gives them plenty of reasons to reform North Carolina’s forced annexation laws here and here

 Could it be that city governments everywhere just want the right to take over our lives as Ellis Hankins with the North Carolina League of Municipalities explained to a legislative committee last year?

 HT: DA 

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Planning your future

Posted by David N. Bass at 2:19 PM

Raleigh city planning officials will unveil the first draft of their new comprehensive plan this Wednesday evening at (where else?) the downtown convention center. The event is open to the public (details here).

Several news outlets have picked up the story, among them The News & Observer of Raleigh (headline: "Raleigh plan picks areas to pack growth"), ABC 11 (headline: "Raleigh puts brakes on urban sprawl"), and WRAL-TV (headline: "Raleigh officials unveil growth plan").

Each story could be a Planning Department press release. No attempt to provide a balanced perspective or ask tough questions (e.g., where does city government get the right to restrict citizens' freedom like this?).

Carolina Journal covered the issue of Raleigh city planning in February.

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Macon time

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:35 PM

If you've never heard of Nathaniel Macon, you've missed an important figure in North Carolina's history.

Troy Kickler of the N.C. History Project reminded a John Locke Foundation Shaftesbury Society audience today about Macon's importance.

Click the play button below for Kickler's description of Macon's fundamental distrust of government.

4:45 p.m. update: Watch the entire 45:22 presentation by clicking the play button below.

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

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Economic Realities Of Alternative Energy

Posted by Chad Adams at 11:15 AM

One need look no further than the poultry markets to see the latest casualties due to the government subsidized alternative energy world.  Such subsidies of corn to produce ethanol have dramatically increased the price of corn used for food.  The number one crop used to raise chickens is corn.  The net result is a devastated chicken industry on the verge of collapse.  And while there are many other devastating effects of ethanol subsidies, just consider what is happening in poultry.

Pilgrim's Pride, one of the nation's largest poultry producers traded as high as $29.59 in the past year, currently trades at .92 a share.  Tyson Foods, another large producer of poultry traded at $19.50 a share in the past year, now trades at $6.59.  Other poultry producers are suffering similar fates.  Context and consequences are rarely put into perspective by print or televised media.   

The good news for government planners is the demise of chicken houses throughout North Carolina, never mind the loss of jobs.  You can read many of the damaging effects of ethanol production here.  The left should seriously reconsider using corn as a food rather than a fuel.

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Worthy reads for today

Posted by David N. Bass at 10:43 AM

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Delta to drop Jacksonville

Posted by Michael Lowrey at 09:57 AM

Look for Delta Air Lines to drop service from Jacksonville (the one in North Carolina) to its big Atlanta hub come April. Jacksonville will still have US Airways flights to its Charlotte hub.

And in other negative route developments — and don’t look for press releases on these sorts of changes — Delta also looks to be dropping its daily flight from RDU to its Salt Lake City hub. The airline ended its daily Charlotte - Salt Lake City nonstop back in September.

These changes highlight that Delta is the big airline that’s most willing to experiment with routes and markets. They throw things at the proverbial wall; some things work (stick), some don’t. Ask Hickory, Kinston, and Southern Pines/Moore County, all of which have seen Delta come and go in the past few years.

Of course, this also means that if the recently announced RDU - Paris service doesn’t do as well as hoped, it will be cut in a year or two and Delta will just try someplace else.

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Does competition make kids cheat?

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 09:45 AM

From an AP article courtesy of the Washington Post:

In the past year, 30 percent of U.S. high school students have stolen from a store and 64 percent have cheated on a test, according to a new, large-scale survey suggesting that Americans are apathetic about ethical standards. ..."The competition is greater, the pressures on kids have increased dramatically," said Mel Riddle of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "They have opportunities their predecessors didn't have [to cheat]. The temptation is greater."
Competition, temptation, and technology are excuses, not reasons why kids cheat. You know why kids cheat? Kids are rotten little creatures that lack awareness of their penchant for evil. More than that, schools fail to enforce rules about cheating, particularly plagiarism, and parents fail to respect those rules, as well.

Of course, leave it to a public school teacher/principal to observe, "We need to create classrooms where learning takes on more importance than having the right answer." Is it any wonder kids lack ethical standards when teachers and principals insist that the "right answer" should not matter?

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Puncturing myths about tax havens

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 09:12 AM

Regular Locker Room readers have doubtless seen previous videos from Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute dealing with economics-related themes. He now unveils the third part (here are links to parts one and two) of a three-part series on tax havens.

Click play below to watch Mitchell take on tax haven myths.

By the way, Mitchell and Cato colleague Chris Edwards recently wrote a book about global tax competition. You can get a brief take on that book here.

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What about Larry Summers?

Posted by George Leef at 08:48 AM

Recently, Obama has received some applause for choosing a "first-rate economics team." Karl Rove said that last week in the Wall Street Journal, but who cares? Rove doesn't know much about economics and can't tell the difference between the standard Keynesian retreads Obama has tapped and economists who understand that our troubles are deeply rooted in Keynesian thinking.

The biggest name in the group is Larry Summers. Supposedly, he's a "centrist" but Professor George Reisman thinks he's just a lightweight lefty with a strong desire for redistribution of wealth. Read his piece on Summers here.

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40 years and Lou didn't learn a thing

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 07:19 AM

Louis Gerstner shares "Lessons From 40 Years of Education Reform" in a Wall Street Journal article today.

Put simply, Lou wants Barack Obama to centralize nearly every aspect of our public school system - curriculum, operations, testing, etc. His proposals include the following:

- Abolish all local school districts, save 70 (50 states; 20 largest cities).

Comment: Lou argues that, "The U.S. Department of Education can direct all of its discretionary funds to this effort." Why should we trust educrats in Washington any more than those on the local and state levels?

- Establish a set of national standards for a core curriculum.

Comment: Will ED be in charge of this too? No matter who is in charge, we would see test questions written by interest groups, lobbyists, politicians, and sundry ideologues.

- Establish a National Skills Day on which every third, sixth, ninth and 12th-grader would be tested against the national standards.

Comment: Why test 12th graders? At that point, it is too late to do anything. Why not test at grades 4, 6, 8, and 10 instead?

- Establish national standards for teacher certification and require regular re-evaluations of teacher skills. Increase teacher compensation to permit the best teachers (as measured by advances in student learning) to earn well in excess of $100,000 per year, and allow school leaders to remove underperforming teachers.

Comment: The merit pay idea has, well, merit, but, again, who sets the national standards for teachers?

- Extend the school day and the school year to effectively add 20 more days of schooling for all K-12 students.

Comment: That doesn't do much good.

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He must not have listened to Limbaugh lately

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:38 AM

In his latest TIME column, Peter Beinart tries to stifle groans from the Left about the potential make-up of the Obama administration’s foreign policy and defense team.

In a nutshell, Beinart suggests that Obama is turning to moderate voices to sell a more progressive agenda:

That's the beauty of his emerging national-security team. Even Republicans will find it hard to call Gates and Jones latter-day Neville Chamberlains, and even many Likudniks will think twice before claiming that Hillary Clinton is in league with Hamas.

Don’t bet on it. Anyone who’s ever listened to the Rush Limbaugh show for more than a few minutes at a time knows that Limbaugh and other conservative commentators give no free passes to those who support bad or counterproductive ideas — regardless of their political pedigrees.

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Change? Or more of the same interest-group pandering?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:36 AM

A sidebar to TIME’s latest cover story does a nice job of setting out the educational choices that lie before Barack Obama as president:

Obama is gifted at making people on both sides of a problem believe he is with them, and on few issues has this been more apparent than on education.Before he won the Democratic nomination, Obama gave education reformers reason to dream. …

But in the campaign's final stretch, Obama was much more muted on education; it was McCain who made the boldest case for reform. And Obama's decision to elevate campaign adviser Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford education professor whose positions are often aligned with those of the unions, to lead his education transition team worries the reform community.

Even left-leaning national magazine columnists know that an education policy that doesn’t take on teachers’ unions can’t produce real “change.” If he’s truly committed to change and doesn’t want to follow the pattern of political pandering to a vocal interest group, the president-elect could pick up some good education ideas here.

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The nation’s need to ‘grow up’

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:33 AM

Speaking of Reagan, his communication skills, and new books, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan has an interesting new offering.

It’s called Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now. In 192 pages that go by quickly, Noonan argues that our politics need a drastic change.

Bypassing the simplicity of “why can’t we all just get along,” Noonan argues instead that partisan battles need more grown-ups. Our debates must incorporate a basic agreement from all sides that “something big and bad is going to happen to America,” whether it’s terrorists claiming to act on behalf of Islam or some other existential threat to our current way of life:

If I am right, then … what we need most right now in our national political life is a kind of patriotic grace, a grace that takes the long view, apprehends the moment we’re in, comes up with ways of dealing with it, and eschews the politically cheap and manipulative.

What does this mean in practice? It means, to begin with, that we must change not only the substance but the tenor of our political discourse. …

This is no time to stop the national political debate. Conservatives are certain as to the rightness of their general philosophy, or one should say their understanding of the world. I share it. The left is certain if its rightness also. Fine. Let each side hold high the banner and make its case. But the tearing apart of the country to win, the manipulating voters you don’t even respect to triumph, the making America worse to get what you want … that will not do.

That is yesterday. It is over. Stop it.

For more Locker Room discussion of Noonan’s commentary, click here, here, or here.

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Words that live on

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:32 AM

In the 20 years since he left the White House, Ronald Reagan’s role as the “Great Communicator” has assumed almost mythic proportions. How good was he in reality?

Terry Golway’s Ronald Reagan’s America: His Voice, His Dreams, and His Vision of Tomorrow offers some good evidence to help you judge for yourself. Golway’s book contains a full CD of audio excerpts from the 40th president’s most famous speeches.

Beyond that gimmick, Golway’s book also serves as a good introduction to the Reagan White House years, summarizing the key events — good and bad — that defined the years. Those who haven’t read or heard these speeches in a while might be struck by the unfettered optimism that powered Reagan’s vision, as displayed in his second Inaugural Address of 1985:

After reciting the domestic accomplishments of his first term — tax reduction, reduced inflation, higher employment — he reminded Americans of what they, too, had achieved, and how they would be remembered.

“These will be years when Americans have restored their confidence and tradition of progress; when our values of faith, family, work, and neighborhood were restated for a modern age; when our economy was finally freed from government’s grip; when we made sincere efforts at meaningful arm[s] reduction. …

“My fellow citizens, our nation is poised for greatness. We must do what we know is right and do it with all our might. Let history say of us, ‘These were golden years — when the American Revolution was reborn, when freedom gained new life, and America reached for her best.”

That reborn revolution, he said, would “increase the rewards for work, savings, and investment; reduce the increase in the cost and size of government and its interference in people’s lives.”

For Locker Room reviews of other recent books on Reagan, click here, here, here, and here.

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In case you missed him

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:29 AM

Joe Coletti discussed the state’s budget woes during the latest edition of News 14 Carolina’s “Political Connections.”

Click the play button below to view a highlight from his conversation with host Tim Boyum.

Time Warner Cable subscribers can watch the entire program on the cable network’s on-demand channel. You’ll find more of Joe’s budget ideas here.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:26 AM

The first post-holiday Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Jana Benscoter's report on the social costs of high school dropouts.

John Hood's Daily Journal uses game-show titles to tell the story of modern conservatism.


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