The Locker Room

June 14, 2006

A quality institution

Posted by Andrew Cline at 5:15 PM

I received an op-ed submission today from North Carolina Central University Chancellor James H. Ammons. It is an attempt to polish NCCU's national image, such that it is, in the wake of the Duke lacrosse rape scandal. Ammons wants to correct what he suggests is a misunderstanding that Central is a lesser institution than Duke. Here is the second paragraph:

"As Chancellor of this great university, I want to address a few concerns that we-the NCCU family and friends-have about the portrayal of our university. References in news stories to North Carolina Central University as 'scrappy and willful' or 'a poor cousin to Duke University' create a picture of an institution that is financially strapped, lacks sophistication, and is devoid of excellence. Nothing could be farther from the truth."

That last sentence pretty much undermines his entire premise. I bet Dick Brodhead knows the difference between further and farther.

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The joys of parenthood revisited

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 5:12 PM

One suspects that Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert is not likely to pick up any great gifts from his kids this weekend.

I'm guessing the parents among you will take issue with his thoughts in this week's TIME

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The joys of parenthood

Posted by Jon Ham at 4:57 PM

This is a great essay on parenthood. I especially love her point that people who don't want to have kids have a strange view of time. They see parenthood (or the child-rearing part anyway) as a life sentence when it's over in a flash. I heard an ad on radio this morning for a backyard playground system. I thought, "What's the point? Before you know it they'll all be in college."

Some of the anti-parenthood people she quotes seem pretty selfish and narcissistic. They reminded me of an aunt of mine who never had children because she said it would "ruin my figure." She died a few years ago and her figure was long gone. She had no children to come to her funeral, but thanks to her three sisters she had some nieces and nephews show up.

(Hat tip: InstaPundit)

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Property Rights: Be Careful

Posted by Daren Bakst at 4:34 PM

NC needs a constitutional amendment to protect against eminent domain abuse.  There are several amendments that have been introduced, some much better than others.  As any amendment is considered, it is imperative that it truly protects property rights owners, and is not a watered down amendment to get something passed at all costs.

For example, it is important to prohibit economic development takings.  However, this prohibition is not that helpful if there is not some protection against the government doing an end-run against this prohibition by abusing the state's joke of an urban redevelopment (UD) law.  Since the UD law would allow the government to seize certain property that causes economic harm, it is for all practical purposes permitting the government to seize property for economic development purposes.  In other words, when the government is allegedly fixing economic harm (which is allowed), it is promoting economic development.

There is a bill introduced by Senator Boseman (D) and co-sponsored by Senator Snow (D), that while not creating a constitutional amendment, would make a major difference for all property owners and for those most affected by the UD law: low-income individuals and minorities.  Their law would prohibit the use of eminent domain in the UD law.

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House begins amending budget bill

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:10 PM

It could be a long afternoon for the N.C. House.

Four hours after representatives started discussing their $18.9 billion budget plan, they have just start considering amendments.

(They haven't spent the entire time dealing with the budget. The House took a nearly two-hour lunch break, then addressed other items before returning to the budget bill.) 

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Joel Schwartz in the Washington Post

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 2:50 PM

JLF Associate and author of our latest study on the health effects of air pollution has a great article in today's Washinton Post. I am happy to say that Joel borrowed heavily from the research that he did for us in this latest op-ed.

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Mayhem in Chapel Hill

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 2:10 PM

Chapel Hill police have some big fish to fry. I found this article on the town's (unofficial?) 9 p.m. rule amusing.

Alison, I like, SO agree with you that the rule is dumb.

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Fern making headlines

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:00 PM

Former N.C. senator and GOP gubernatorial candidate Fern Shubert is embroiled in a tax hike contoversy

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Is Hillary too "Right"?

Posted by Michael Moore at 1:01 PM

Hillary seems to be having trouble with some Liberals. Well, maybe the crowd at the Liberal meeting got Hillary on one of her conservative days.

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Re: School Choice

Posted by Daren Bakst at 12:58 AM

Besides the fact that I don't think that education should be considered a right, the problems with most state educational amendments in constitutions, including NC's amendment, is the way the amendments are drafted--they are drafted as positive rights, not negative rights.

A positive right is a right that requires the government to ensure that an individual enjoys the right.

A negative right is a right that prohibits the government from keeping individuals from enjoying a right.

NC Constitution, Article I, Section 15. Education.

The people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the State to guard and maintain that right.

Instead of simply saying that all citizens have a right to an education, and the government can't abridge that right, NC's amendment requires that the government "guard and maintain that right."  Ironically, without getting into a detailed legal analysis, even the guard and maintain language is weak when it comes to requring any positive action on behalf of the government to ensure an education.  It also is interesting (or amusing) that people have a "right to the privilege"--which one is it, a right or a privilege?   The amendment's language is worth analyzing.

In the U.S. Constitution, most rights clearly are negative rights.  We have the right to free speech, but the government doesn't have an obligation to ensure that we have the means or forum to speak.  We have the right to own guns (despite what some may say), but the government has no obligation to buy us guns.

In my opinion, this is a key distinction in the education "rights" context and in other areas.  Leftists think that, at least for the rights they like, the government has to ensure that all rights are enjoyed.  Citizens don't simply have a right to vote, but the government needs to take steps to ensure that citizens do vote and we have to make it easier and easier so they can vote.  The conservative/libertarian position would focus on prohibiting the government from keeping people from being able to exercise their right to vote.  One other example: While conservatives and libertarians believe in equal opportunity, leftists believe in equal outcomes.

This last line relates to Roy's initial post that discusses CEO's mission--their mission talks about ensuring that rights are enjoyed, not on ensuring that families have an equal opportunity to enjoy all educational and economical options:

"Our mission is to be agents for equity and quality in education, and to be advocates for the rights of African American and other minority families to access all educational and economical options." 

These distinctions and perceptions on how we examine rights are critical.  How do you require more government?  Create more positive rights.  For example, a right to health care means the government has to provide you health care.  The list could go on--the right to clean air, the right to work, the right to a living wage, the right to drive, etc.

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Re: School Choice

Posted by Hal Young at 12:20 AM

John correctly separated the two questions of a legal obligation to educate one's children* and a North Carolinian's right to expect taxpayers to provide it.

Roy is correct to say that as long as the state defines acceptable means of satisfying the obligation, the state will have to define what is or is not an acceptable school.

However, even if we allow the argument of Hood, Friedman, Jefferson, & Smith that tax-funded education is necessary to provide citizens which are able to govern themselves, it leaves open the question of what those citizens need to know. IOW, what is irreducible content of necessary education for the citizen.

Beyond that point, I don't think you can argue that taxpayers still have the responsibility to fund it - nor the state to require attendance.**

* BTW, the General Assembly last year boosted truancy to a class 1 misdemeanor, which category carries up to six month's jail time and can be further elevated to a felony at the judge's discretion. Playing hooky ain't what it used to be.

** By my calculations, we're saving our fellow taxpayers about $39,000 a year by teaching our own kids. From what I've seen so far, they'll be pretty good citizens at the end of it, too.

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Some really inconvenient truth

Posted by Jon Ham at 12:15 AM

Professor Bob Carter of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University, in Australia, is quoted in a Canada Free Press article giving his reaction to Al Gore's global-warming propaganda epic "An Inconvenient Truth":

Gore's circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic. It is simply incredible that they, and his film, are commanding public attention.

So, Carter must be some fringoid right-winger who knows nothing about climate or weather, right? Not according to this article. Making a point that Roy Cordato makes constantly, the article reads:

Carter is one of hundreds of highly qualified non-governmental, non-industry, non-lobby group climate experts who contest the hypothesis that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing significant global climate change. "Climate experts" is the operative term here. Why? Because what Gore's "majority of scientists" think is immaterial when only a very small fraction of them actually work in the climate field.

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Re: Socialist Choice

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 12:14 AM

This is exactly what needs to happen: people responding, as they do and overwhelmingly will, to what they perceive to be the higher authority and the best interests of their children. Given that the law shackles them to whatever the government deems to define as education, at least they can finally abandon the stinking ship of government schools.

The best model is private education, privately funded. To promote attendance at quality private institutiions, private donors can offer scholarships coupled with either a universal tax credit or tax deduction to the scholarship contributor. This provides the correct incentives on both the giving and the receiving sides, and not incidentally, on the services delivery side.

As I have long maintained and argued numerous times, the end of compulsory attendance laws would be a real solutiion—superior to either a futile hope that the government school culprits, including the train wreck of education schools, will reform themselves such that children are educated. Who cares if they are 'schooled' in the government education sense?

Note also that the end of compulsory schooling is not necessarily the end of public schools (tax funded, or funded via some hybrid method). Parents could have their children continue to attend and pay the tax fee associated with that attendance. BUT—if people are free to simply stop showing up, before very long there will have to be be an implosion and collapse of bad schools, or provision of a real education, in accord with the interests of the education clientele (these would be the students and parents, to be clear, not the teachers and administrators).

Those who fade out of public schools will coalesce around alternatives—that would be the reason for exit, and is entirely likley to be guided by self-interest. I cannot but believe in addition that some tax reform/relief would necessarily follow. Citizens will simply not tolerate en masse paying for a system they do not use, unless a radical, incredible metamorphosis of public schools takes place. In a public choice world, some people will still want to get elected, meaning taxes will have to drop.

Is the transition going to be rough? Yup. Public schools should be viewed as a resource malinvestment—propped up by the incorrect signals of continued flow of tax dollar payments exacted by force—like to the analysis Hayek offers of the 'boom' phase of the business cycle. The retreat from these malinvested resources (no, not 'education' in general, just most government education specifically) is going to be painful, particulalrly to some, but not as damaging as continuing. It is entirely possible that good public schools will survive, on what becomes essentially voluntary payments, while taxpayers demand relief from the burden of funding the schools they have abandoned.

Public schools don't need reform. The practical details of marginal change are irrelevant. Public schools are standing in the way of education. At this intolerable point, education in the U.S. requires nothing short of revolution.

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Harvard Speaks

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 11:48 AM

Harvard University's Civil Rights Project released a study that declares No Child Left Behind a failure, even though it has another 8 years to meet its goals. According to the report, only 24 to 34 percent will meet the reading target and 29 to 64 percent will meet the math target by 2014.

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Now who's being insensitive?

Posted by Jon Ham at 11:31 AM

Interesting juxtaposition of the "Hadji Girl" AP wire story and another story in Raleigh The News & Observer this morning on page 6A.

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House starts budget debate

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:56 AM

The N.C. House started discussing its proposed budget plan a few minutes ago.

Speaker Jim Black has told colleagues he expects them to debate the bill much of today before the first of two required votes. (For the uninitiated, this is consideration of the bill on "second reading.")

The third reading and final vote are scheduled tomorrow. 

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Re: Marines "Hadji Girl"

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:54 AM

For those who watched the video, here's why the chorus isn't just an insider joke among Marines.

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"Redneck Divorce Letter"

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 10:50 AM

Dear Cooter,

Me an Sue Ellen have devorced, the judge gave er the double wide and the pickup. So, like the court order said, I delivered the truck before 2 o'clock, yesterdee afternoon! I took a pickcher fer proof that I delivered it... Wanted to make shur she found it when she got home!!!

How's yur day goin? See ya later,

Your Best Buddy,


"Git er done!"

From a continuation of the recent 'mountain' theme.

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Don't the Marine brass have something better to do?

Posted by Jon Ham at 10:40 AM

Islamic groups are squealing about an amateur video of a Marine singing his amateur song, "Hadji Girl," about being lured into an ambush by a terrorist-sympathizing woman (scroll down for the video).

It looks like the video was taken in a service club in Iraq. Bowing to the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Marine higher-ups are calling the song "insensitive" and "contrary to the high standards expected by Marines."

Hey, it's Marines relaxing after being shot at all day. The line about using one of the ambushers as a human shield, which is causing most of the commotion, is an obvious joke about the terrorists' tactic of using civilians as cover. Get ready for several days of manufactured outrage over this.

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Jonah Goldberg on Al Gore and environmental extremism

Posted by George Leef at 10:30 AM

Goldberg asks why people like Big Al who claim that global warming is the equivalent of the Holocaust don't do far more than just put out lousy movies. For example, why not denounce popular ones such as "Cars"?

Read this sharp essay here.

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Re: Hurricane Victims

Posted by Shannon Blosser at 10:16 AM


As I learned in Gulfport last week, if it weren't for the levies breaking in New Orleans, the city would not have been part of the story. The northeast quadrant, the most dangerous, never passed through the city. It did pass through Gulfport and Biloxi.

Of course, the media had the story they wanted and stuck with it and only touched on the need in other parts of the region. What's even more pathetic, is that this belief that the need is only in New Orleans is stuck in the mind of people. It was stuck in my mind until I went to Mississippi and saw the images that I saw. The entire region has need, not just one city, and that need is still there today.

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Re: Hurricane Victims

Posted by Jon Sanders at 10:14 AM

Shannon — Why on earth were you doing "hurricane recovery" in Gulfport, Mississippi? As I told my relatives in Mississippi, I was very relieved for their sakes to hear from all the many media reports about Hurricane Katrina that all of the damage was localized to New Orleans. Surely it's not the case that the media have completely ignored poor, black, rural areas of Mississippi and perhaps even Alabama that — crazy as it sounds to even say it — could have been affected by the same hurricane! What possible motivation could they have for it?

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Re: School Choice

Posted by John Hood at 10:04 AM

No, Roy, I certainly don't agree that school attendance is only an obligation, not a right. Right now, North Carolina children have a constitutional right to attend a public school paid for by general taxpayers. Under the law, their parents also have an obligation to either 1) send them to a public school until age 16, or 2) educate them via a private school or homeschool until age 16.

What I would change is the nature of the constitutional right: that North Carolina families have the right either to send their children to taxpayer-funded public schools or to send them to non-public schools with either taxpayer-funded scholarships (for poor families) or with the benefit of tax deductions or credits up to some amount of the tuition and other expenses they incur (everyone else). I would also allow other taxpayers to make contributions to private-school scholarship funds and take a tax credit for them, on the grounds that they are simply choosing an alternative means of satisfying their duty, under the constitution, to help finance the education of low-income children.

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Water System Enforcement is Expensive

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 09:53 AM

One part of the House Budget Bill that may deserve some attention is a large increase in fees for community water systems and the expansion of fees to include "non-transient, non-community" systems (such as schools, colleges, hospitals and factories). Operators of non-community systems would pay $150 each year (what community systems for 100 or fewer people currently pay). Community systems would start at $225 per year and rise to $5,950 per year. The top fee is currently $850. That means the largest community water systems will pay seven (7) times more for the privilege of having water. New fees are added for "approval of construction or alteration of a community water system." What makes this truly remarkable is that "All fees collected under this section shall be applied to the costs of administering and enforcing this Article." It seems that it costs a lot to inspect NTNC water systems and that cost is being placed on community systems.

Oh yeah, this is in addition to the private well water inspections first passed by the Senate.

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Smoking allowed in the Legislative Building...

Posted by Michael Moore at 09:45 AM

The Legislative Building is the only public building I know of that still allows smoking inside.  Now some lawmakers want to ban smoking in the Legislative Building.  So my question is if ashtrays are still in there, why not have spittoons?

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Re: choice socialism

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 09:44 AM

John--First I'm glad you agree with me that education, i.e., school attendance is not a right but an obligation. Let's stop using the euphamism of rights here.

Then you say:

"As long as compulsory education laws are not specific as to the means, allowing parents to decide how best to educate their children (including in private settings or at home) I think they are an appropriate expectation for all parents, much like requiring them to feed, clothe, and shelter their children. Totally unnecessary for the vast majority of parents, but necessary and proper with regard to a few."

If this includes the right of parents to choose to educate their kids in a non-government approved setting--i.e. the parent decides what is and isn't a school, then we agree. On the other hand I have yet to see any so-called school choice advocate include in their list of “all educational options”--non-government approved educational settings.

I think the problem is that as long as there is compulsory attendance the state will have to define what is and isn't a school. If I had the opportunity to make only one change in the education system I would abolish compulsory attendance laws. This is because I think the state gets the bulk of its power in the education area from this one law. I would expect that you would not make such a change because you think the state gets the bulk of its power in the education area from this one law. This is the fundamental disagreement beyond which we will never get.

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Take THAT, Paul Krugman

Posted by George Leef at 09:02 AM

Paul Krugman takes it right on the chin from Professor George Reisman for his whiney "but you'll hurt the poor!" argument in favor of keeping the estate tax. Read it here.

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Re: Hurricane Victims

Posted by Shannon Blosser at 08:33 AM


The abuses of FEMA funds the GAO report found, I must say, irked at me a little bit yesterday and today as I read about them. After spending a few days last week working to help restore homes in Gulfport, Miss., you were able to get a feel for the need that still exists nine months later. There are churches that still need to be repaired, businesses that look as if a bomb, not a hurricane, destroyed it, and roads that are still out. Yet, FEMA is paying for someone's adult entertainment pleasures. This is absurd to say the least. My question is simply why didn't FEMA do a better job interviewing those who applied for assistance.

Someone from my native West Virginia sought FEMA help, did I read that right? What, did it rain too much in his yard?

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It's not easy being green

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:27 AM

Just ask the governator

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Does it have to make this little sense?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:23 AM

In this piece, Newsweek's Allan Sloan argues that the complete repeal of the federal estate tax would actually turn out to be a bad deal for some 63,900 estates across the country.

I would need much more training in tax law and/or economics before deciding whether I agreed with the argument.

One thing is clear after reading the piece: This is just one element of the federal tax code that could benefit immensely from simplification. 

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Rogers' upturned nose

Posted by Jon Ham at 08:18 AM

Dennis Rogers, the "class" part of The News & Observer's race-class-gender trio of local columnists (in case you're wondering, Ruth Sheehan is the "gender" columnist and Barry Saunders is the "race" columnist) writes today about Helen, Ga., the ersatz Bavarian village in north Georgia. He is appalled by the fake German storefronts and the tacky tourist prosperity he found there:

We came around a mountain curve in north Georgia and there in the valley before our wide eyes lay an entire make-believe German alpine village. It looked like the illegitimate love child of Myrtle Beach and Gatlinburg. I've seen high school theater sets for "The Sound of Music" that looked more authentic. ...

More than 2 million people went to Helen last year to eat knockwurst, go insane listening to endless polka music seeping from hidden speakers on the streets or to wonder whether they had stumbled into a bizarre reality show called "What Was I Thinking?"

Rather than appreciate the industry and enterprise of people who found a way to keep their small town from dying, Rogers, usually the friend of the woikin' man and enemy of th' innerests, seems to resent the success that Helen has become. After ridiculing Helen and its residents for an entire column, he ends by saying, "But before we get all snobbish..." To late, Dennis.

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National media sticking with Duke story

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:13 AM

I was glad to read the latest Newsweek coverage of the Duke lacrosse case.

It's easy for the national media to fly in, cover a story briefly, then move on to the latest scintillating scandal.

At least in this case, the magazine is willing to report facts that call into question the validity of earlier reports. 

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Re: Social Choice Socialism

Posted by John Hood at 07:37 AM


Fair point about compulsory attendance laws, I suppose. But if one buys the primary argument for a state role in education, that it is needed to accompany the universal franchise, then one sees the practical problem here. It would be entirely unenforceable to say that parents need not educate their children so long as their children will not be voting. Among other things, parental authority has limits — it cannot extend to making decisions on behalf of children that are binding once the children reach adulthood.

As long as compulsory education laws are not specific as to the means, allowing parents to decide how best to educate their children (including in private settings or at home) I think they are an appropriate expectation for all parents, much like requiring them to feed, clothe, and shelter their children. Totally unnecessary for the vast majority of parents, but necessary and proper with regard to a few.

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Re: school choice socialism

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 07:08 AM

As an observation on the "right" to an education in NC and other states, in reality we don't really have a "right" to education but an obligation to attend a government approved school for a certain number of years. The concept of "rights" is double edged and implies voluntarism. A right to do something or have something implies the choice not to do it or accept it. Our right to vote is simultaneously a right to choose not to vote. The idea that we have a right to an education is equivalent to saying that military draftees have a right to join the army. How can something be a right when you can go to jail for not exercising it? Compulsory attendance laws convert the right to education into an obligation to attend school.

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Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:57 AM

A new national study finds that a growing percentage of the nation's housing markets are "extremely overvalued" and at risk of falling prices.

In North Carolina, only Wilmington and Asheville are listed as having double-digit overpricing.

These are also the same two cities described as having a significant "planning penalty" in a recent JLF report.  

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Re: school choice socialism

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 06:35 AM

I note that neither Jeff nor John defended "a right to access all educational options," which of course is what CEO, and I was referring to.

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Girls Hurricane "Victims" Gone Wild!

Posted by Jon Sanders at 01:59 AM

Ah, remember those heady days last summer and fall when media leftists and flap-jawed rap stars with a Christ complex were shrieking that the federal response to Hurricane Katrina proved that President Bush hated black people? Remember how that same federal response (arguably influenced by such histrionics) was to dump a lot of "assistance money" to alleviate the victims' suffering — without bothering to see if the recipients were indeed victims? Well, per the Associated Press:

FEMA also could not establish that 750 debit cards worth $1.5 million even went to Katrina victims, the auditors said. Among the items purchased with the cards:

— an all-inclusive, one-week Caribbean vacation in the Punta Cana resort in the Dominican Republic.

five season tickets to New Orleans Saints professional football games.— adult erotica products in Houston and "Girls Gone Wild" videos in Santa Monica, Calif.

Dom Perignon champagne and other alcoholic beverages in San Antonio.

— a divorce lawyer's services in Houston. ...

FEMA paid millions of dollars to more than 1,000 registrants who used names and Social Security numbers belonging to state and federal prisoners .... FEMA made about $5.3 million in payments to registrants who provided a post office box as their damaged residence, including one who got $2,748 for listing an Alabama post office box as the damaged property.

To demonstrate how easy it was to hoodwink FEMA, the GAO told of an individual who used 13 different Social Security numbers — including the person's own — to receive $139,000 in payments on 13 separate registrations for aid. All the payments were sent to a single address.

Likewise, another person used a damaged property address located within the grounds of Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans to request disaster aid. Public records show no record of the registrant ever living in New Orleans.

Instead, records indicate that for the past five years, the registrant lived in West Virginia — at the address provided to FEMA, the GAO said.

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