The Locker Room

August 15, 2008

Re: Exhausted and Thick as a Brick

Posted by Becki Gray at 4:55 PM

Not as eloquent as Jethro Tull, but this captured my thoughts on the ad nausea political messages this week:
"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or
not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy."

—Sir Ernest John Pickstone Benn, 2nd Baronet (1875 - 1954), British
publisher, writer and political publicist.

Have a nice weekend. 

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Bills still sitting on the governor's desk

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:03 PM

Time is running out for Gov. Mike Easley to sign bills from this year's legislative session, veto them, or allow them to become law without his signature.

He's signed bills today dealing with gang penalties, ethics and lobbying changes, and clarification of the auditor's role in ethics investigations.

Gerry Cohen lists here the bills that await action before a midnight Sunday deadline. 

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Appreciation for the mooning debate coach

Posted by Jon Sanders at 2:58 PM

My pal Randy, who like me has a Mr. Bennet–esque appreciation of human comedy (see, e.g., his reaction to Princeton "bioethicist" Peter Singer), wrote the following about the perfecter of the Dismissal Via Hippie Skivvies:


It’s beautiful. It is a shimmering jewel of absurd behavior. My boy keeps jumping around like some bantamweight boxer on crank yelling “I’m a #@&$ing #@$hole!!!!!” that ratty ponytail flying around, ye gods! Just beautiful.

“IT IS BECAUSE I CARE! AND THAT! IS A GOOD! THING!”

Beautiful


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Does Dole plan cut NC out of the prosperity?

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 1:50 PM

Elizabeth Dole has been getting high praise from some on the right for supporting something called the "Gas Price Reduction Act." In fact, both of North Carolina's senators support the legislation.

The centerpiece of the bill is more drilling, most significantly off shore. But let's look at what the bill says (summary of the bill is pasted in below): "Exploration must be at least 50 miles from coast."

Here's the rub: most experts agree that the new energy resources to be found off the coast of North Carolina are in the form of natural gas and that exists about 40 to 45 miles from our coast. If that is the case, then our Republican senators are touting a bill that cuts NC out of the direct economic growth effects for the state that would come from it. By the way, this legislation says nothing about allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR).

Clearly, this legislation is meant to appease the eco-alarmist John McCain, who has always opposed exploration in the ANWR and continues to do so. Tht is easily explained by his (and Senator Dole's) support for the massive energy tax known as "Cap and Trade," which exposes his real feelings about actually using more oil.


THE GAS PRICE REDUCTION ACT OF 2008
Summary of Provisions

TITLE I – DEEP SEA EXPLORATION (OCS)

14 Billion Barrels On Atlantic and Pacific OCS – More Than All US Imports From Persian Gulf Countries Over The Last 15 Years – 1 million barrels per day
• State Option Nationwide (except Gulf of Mexico)
Governor petitions to allow exploration, with concurrence of state legislature
• Exploration must be at least 50 miles from coast
• 50% of revenues to Federal Treasury, 37.5% to States, 12.5% to Land & Water
Conservation Fund

TITLE II: WESTERN STATE OIL SHALE EXPLORATION

More Than 3 Times The Oil Reserves Of Saudi Arabia
• 800 billion - 2 trillion potentially recoverable barrels in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming
• Democrat Congress put moratorium on final regulations for development of this resource
• Republican proposal would repeal the moratorium and allow exploration to move forward

TITLE III: PLUG-IN ELECTRIC CARS AND TRUCKS

• We need better batteries to maximize electricity range & use less gas
• Increased R&D for advanced batteries
• Direct Loans for advanced battery manufacturing facilities
• Sense of Senate that the Federal Government should increase its purchases of these vehicles

TITLE IV: STRENGTHENING U.S. FUTURES MARKETS

• Authorize increased funding/staff for Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)
• Directs the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets to study the international regulation of commodities markets
• Codifies CFTC action on Position Limits and Transparency for Foreign Boards of Trade
• Requires the CFTC to Gather Information on Index Traders and Swap Dealers


Linkable Entry

'Corporate welfare weekly'

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:47 PM

From the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law:

Raleigh, NC. — During the week of August 9 to August 15, 2008 the following “incentives” were publicly announced:

$8,500,000.00 to Mack Trucks, Inc <http://www.charlotteobserver.com/business/story/128092.html> ., by the North Carolina Job Development Investment Grant program. The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, NC.  August 14, 2008.
 
$43,000.00 to Harmony Labs, Inc <http://www.salisburypost.com/Area/081208-kann-council-harmony-incentives> ., from the City of Kannapolis. The Salisbury Post, Salisbury, NC. August 12, 2008. 

The North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law compiles this information from media sources only as a public service to all North Carolina taxpayers.

Linkable Entry

Exhausted and Thick as a Brick

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 1:44 PM

The idea of listening once again after many, many years to the Jethro Tull piece Thick as a Brick seemed absolutely imperative today. Inspired, I am guessing, by the incredibly tedious stuff spiraling ad nauseum out of the state and national political campaigns, by almost every political candidate's personal perfidy, by the apparent lack of real public concern or even expectation of anything approaching consistency, honesty, truth, or any of those other 'extreme' values civic leaders once upon a time were asked to uphold—or even seriously pretend to embrace.

YouTube was entirely accommodating, with this Madison Square Garden performance. Sometimes you just gotta sing it out [apologies to "Grey's Anatomy" for the reference shamelessly swiped from their "dance it out" idea] and make the nonsense and disappointment into a long musical ode.

Watched it. OK, that's better.

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Re: Libertarian paternalism

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:06 PM

George,

The problem lies in the fact that "paternalism" is the operative word. It could be "totalitarian" paternalism, "libertarian" paternalism, or even "vegetarian" paternalism. As long as the basic facts involve government acting as a parent, the concept is bad.

If you accept the notion that government should exercise some authority in the spheres of life Sunstein and Thaler discuss, then "libertarian" paternalism is better than other options. But the best option is to get government out of the way of private decision makers, ensuring that "libertarian" is the operative word. 

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State subsidizes half of capital cost for Mack Truck HQ move

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 12:09 AM

Mack Trucks is relocating its headquarters to Greensboro where its sister company, Volvo Trucks North America, already is headquartered. The company may move as many as 493 of its current 680 HQ staff members from Allentown, Pennsylvania. The state has provided a grant of as much as $8.5 million to subsidize the company's potential $17.7 million investment.

Just to repeat, Mack's sister company already has its headquarters in Greensboro and Mack seems to be cutting 197 jobs (28% of its HQ staff) as part of the move. Seems like a strategic move to save money and consolidate operations. Why did the state have to subsidize this at all? Parent company Volvo Group did not have any other options to achieve the same result, unless it wanted to have massive upheaval and move both headquarters to a third location.

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How to argue like a university debate coach

Posted by Jon Sanders at 11:54 AM

We have, on occasion, discussed different forms of argument. We have not, however, encountered this:


An argument between two debate coaches that was caught on video was not the sharp-witted dialogue typically associated with college debate teams. Instead, the two traded profanity-laced barbs and one of them pulled down his shorts, exposing his underwear. ...

"In 18 years of taking part in debates, I have never seen an incident like this one," said Gordon Stables, first vice president of the Cross Examination Debate Association, which sponsored the March tournament in Wichita, Kan., where the argument took place. ...

The argument, which appears to be at least in part about race, is punctuated with frequent cursing and name-calling. [Fort Hays State University debate coach William] Shanahan, who is white, and [University of Pittsburgh debate coach Shanara] Reid-Brinkley, who is black, scream criticisms about one another's body language during students' debates.

At one point Shanahan screams as he jumps up, then yanks his shorts down to his knees and points his rear end at Reid-Brinkley.


But what to call it? Argument Ab Natibus or a form of Reductio Ad Nudum Corpum? Or perhaps simply the Ace Ventura Technique?

The video is at YouTube, of course. Now that I've seen it (moment of truth at the 0:36 mark), I think I'll dub it Dismissal Via Hippie Skivvies.

Update: Reader B.B. writes to remind me of something that I, of all people on here, should have remembered (link added):


Actually, like most "life imitates art" instances, it comes from "The Simpsons". Homer, who joined the forensics society in high school to meet Marge, once mooned for rebuttal.

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On "libertarian paternalism"

Posted by George Leef at 11:39 AM

In his Friday column my Freeman colleague Sheldon Richman evaluates the case for "libertarian paternalism" recently made by professors Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler in their book Nudge.

If you were thinking that "libertarian paternalism" sounds oxymoronic, you're right. Richman rips the idea to shreds.

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Shuler and the TVA

Posted by David N. Bass at 11:28 AM

Critics are raising conflict of interest questions in connection with a real estate development company partly owned by U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-11. From the article:

A real estate company partially owned by U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler won the right from the Tennessee Valley Authority to build a marina along the shoreline of a lake, an action that has raised concern because Shuler serves on a committee that exercises oversight of the TVA.

Shuler owns 80 percent of Highlands Development Group, which has a 50 percent stake in a development called The Cove at Blackberry Ridge near Knoxville. Shuler’s interest in the project was valued last December at $5 million to $25 million, according to financial disclosure records.

The TVA on June 3 approved a swap that allowed the Cove access to 145 feet of shoreline on the Watts Bar Reservoir in Roane County. The developers wanted the Watts Bar water access for a 10-slip community dock and a boat ramp. In exchange, the developer agreed to give up 150 feet of water access rights in Rhea County, Tenn., and give $15,000 for a bank stabilization project on a Watts Bar island and bird sanctuary.

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Spell it like it is

Posted by Jenna Ashley Robinson at 11:05 AM

From Spiked!:

"The idea that we shuold except student’s spelling misstakes as merely ‘variant spellings’ speaks to the denigration of Trooth in education."

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The history of 'boondoggle'

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 11:01 AM

William Safire's Political Dictionary tells us that a boondoggle is "any project on which government funds are wasted through inefficiency or political favoritism."

Safire also explains that the word once described both braided leather lanyards worn by Boy Scouts and, among Scots, "a marble given as a gift without the recipient's having worked for it."

At one point Safire describes an appearance of the term during a 1935 investigation of New York City relief payments:

[The Board of Aldermen] discovered money was being spent for the teaching of tap dancing, manipulation of shadow puppets, and the geographical distribution of safety pins. One Robert Marshall told the aldermen he was paid for teaching "boon doggles."

Had Mr. Marshall been working in North Carolina in 2008, he might have secured a school dropout prevention grant.

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Missed an important point

Posted by John Hood at 10:59 AM

I missed an important point, that is, when writing yesterday's CJO column on Judge Howdy Manning's order to the state to pay about $750 million in civil-penalty collections to public schools that were entitled to them under a provision of the state constitution.

My argument was that such revenue earmarking within a government's General Fund budget is essentially meaningless, because lawmakers can just redirect other revenues that would have financed the program if the revenue earmark didn't exist. The argument doesn't apply to truly separate government functions, such as the Highway Fund, because there is no General Fund financing for road construction that the earmarked gas and car taxes could be displacing.

Reader Tom Davis, who is a member of the Hyde County Board of Commissioners, emailed me to say that while he agrees that General Fund dollars are fungible, I did not recognize a better justification for retaining the civil-penalty earmark in the state constitution — it deters corruption in North Carolina law enforcement:

By directing that all fines and forfeitures go to schools the N.C. Constitution prohibits sheriff's departments, police departments, and state agencies that enforce various laws from working on commission.

A number of years ago, the sheriffs in North Carolina could run their drug cases through the Federal law enforcement and court systems and end up with a lot of cash from fines and forfeitures resulting from those cases.  By working through the Federal systems, they were above to circumvent the state constitution.  This led to undesirable results.  For example, local officials paid less attention to less lucrative, but still bad cases.  It increased the temptation for entrapment and manufacturing cases (although I know of no instance where this happened).  I do not know whether this practice exists today, but at least in this part of the state it does not seem to occur as much as it used to.

State officials would not be immune from temptation.  Mr. [Boyce] Hudson just pulled a 30 month prison sentence for selling environmental permits.  Do you think for a second that he would not be just as willing to make spurious claims for civil penalties for made up environmental violations if it meant more money to his office?

I would put little faith in any effort to limit the ability of state or local officials to funnel the proceeds of fines and forfeitures to the source of those revenues other than by directing them to some independent use such as schools.

Sending fines and forfeitures to the schools has more to do with segregating law enforcement efforts from law enforcement rewards than it as to do with providing funding for schools.

Well said, and worth remembering. 

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Separated at Birth? The better-post version

Posted by Jon Sanders at 10:53 AM

After reading Terry's post, my original thought, to spoof the glowing report of Glorious Restaurant built by "the people" (and still losing money, like its precedessor, almost as if their failures to attract private investment were prophetic).

To do so, given the goggle-eyed review, I thought I would post a picture of a project from another government planner: in this case, unrealized projects of Moscow architecture — Soviet dream palaces that went unbuilt when the greater economic progress of the New Soviet Man turned out to be entirely false (so false, in fact, that socialists worldwide were forced to adjust, though not in a way a rational person would expect).

When, however, I saw the unbuilt Palace of the Soviets, I realized I had stumbled into yet another Separated-at-Birth post:


A few previous "Separated at Birth" entries: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

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Look out, John Edwards

Posted by Paul Chesser at 09:35 AM

Serge Kovaleski, the New York Times reporter who outed Gov. Eliot Spitzer's activities with a prostitution ring, is on your case.

Cross-posted at American Spectator.

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Olympics

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 09:02 AM

If you are like me, you watch the Olympics with mixed feelings.  On one hand, I am attracted to the drama of the world's best athletes competing for the gold. On the other hand, I am revolted by the politicization, corruption and commercialization of the Olympics.

If you are watching the Olympics, you owe it to yourself to read this NYT op-ed by the author of "Friday Night Lights."

A sample: 

I will keep an eye on the medals table, curious to see how the Russians perform now that several of their finest athletes have been suspended for failing drug tests. I will watch women’s beach volleyball, not because it’s a sport, but because skimpily-clad leggy women rolling in sand does put me in a state of excitement right up there with mud wrestling (no doubt the next sanctioned Olympic sport given NBC’s need for strong television ratings and the correct calculus that soft-core porn under the guise of sport does have its benefits). I will watch the short-distance races to see if I can determine by naked eye alone who is cheating, because history tells us that somebody inevitably will be.

But most of all I will watch the enormously popular women’s gymnastics competition. The performances are incredible and fearless, but it isn’t the athleticism that draws me in. In fact I can’t think of any competition in the Olympics, or all of SportsWorld, more creepy and disturbing: these largely shapeless girls in their leotards and flaxen-waxen hair and bouncy-wouncy ponytails. “They look like girls from the neck up,” I was told by Joan Ryan, whose 1995 book, “Little Girls in Pretty Boxes,” blew a sky-high lid off the sadomasochistic training regimens that young female gymnasts were being subjected to. She continued: “From the neck down they look like prepubescent boys.”

 

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N&O reviews The Mint and I review the review

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 09:00 AM

I recently came across Greg Cox's (the News & Observer's restaurant critic) review of The Mint, the Fayetteville Street restaurant that received a $1 million gift from the City of Raleigh.

Cox is dazzled by the taxpayer-subsidized setting (emphases added),

A gleaming, six-ton steel bank vault door built into the entryway is the first clue. Then follow strings of faceted crystals, suggestive of diamond necklaces, suspended from the dining room's soaring two-story ceiling; yards of polished stone and custom fabrics, including the sumptuous silken upholstery of deep banquettes; dramatic modern sculptures backlit in the copper and green of money. Upstairs, in the sleek lounge that overlooks the dining room, the bartender mixes cocktails with esoteric ingredients such as absinthe and elderflower liqueur, then sets them on a bar whose glass top, like a jeweler's case, displays more of those cut glass "diamonds" on black velvetbullion glow.
The food is hit and miss, according to Cox. He praises entrees like the "deconstructed Fiddle Faddle" and desserts like the "sinfully grown-up deconstruction of the childhood classic, PB&J."

I suppose fine dining is all about deconstructing normal food and paying $80 for a shot of cognac. I'll stick to my burger and beer, thank you very much. (If I am in the mood for fine dining, I will deconstruct my burger by eating the lettuce and tomato separately.)

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One area where we need change -- labor law

Posted by George Leef at 08:57 AM

Today's Wall Street Journal has a letter of mine, commenting on a piece George McGovern wrote last week in which he criticized his fellow Democrats for embracing the latest enthusiasm among union bosses, namely the "card check" procedure for certifying unions. Here's the letter:


I agree with George McGovern that the proposed "card-check" legislation is an open invitation to abuse and ought to be opposed by congressional Democrats ("My Party Should Respect Secret Union Ballots," op-ed, Aug. 8). I would suggest that he think through our whole approach to labor relations law. Current law is an authoritarian assault on the liberty of workers who do not want union representation at all.

The National Labor Relations Act makes a certified union the exclusive representative of all the workers. Those who think that the union costs too much, fails to represent their workplace interests, or engages in political activities they don't support must nevertheless accept its dominion over them. The Right to Work laws of 23 states permit disaffected workers to stop paying dues without being fired, but that is only a second-best remedy.

There is no reason why labor unions must be given monopoly status. Both Democrats and Republicans ought to support reform of the law so that individuals are free to join or quit unions, just as they are free to join or quit churches, clubs, or any other organization.

If unions are beneficial, they will survive without coercing workers who prefer independence.

George C. Leef
Raleigh, N.C.

The blatantly authoritarian National Labor Relations Act would never have
been passed and would be summarily repealed if it weren't for the fact that union bosses lavish money and in-kind campaign contributions on key politicians.

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Little support for online courses?

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 08:31 AM

North Carolina's Learn and Earn Online allows high school students to take college courses over the Internet. A new survey published in Education Next suggests that there is varied support for such programs, depending on the justification given.

Respondents were generally opposed public funding of online courses for dropouts, which is one of the groups Learn and Earn Online was designed to target.

Support for online education declines precipitously, however, when the subject turns to “children who drop out of high school.” For those students, just 40 percent of respondents support public funding for courses taken over the Internet. Another 30 percent neither support nor oppose public funding for online education for students who drop out of high school, and 31 percent oppose funding.
Overall, nearly 70 percent of respondents supported online courses.

Linkable Entry

Latest dispatches from the political trail

Posted by John Hood at 07:59 AM

• So far, the only GOP gubernatorial candidate that President Bush has helped is Pat McCrory, reports the AP, though Bush may end up raising money for candidates in Washington and Missouri, too. Beverly Perdue, who as lieutenant governor serves on the state community college board, urges members not to revert to the previous policy of admitting illegal immigrants until more study of the issue is completed. A Swing State Project blogger considers the NC and Washington races to be the most-competitive gubernatorial contests in the nation.

Southern Political Report's Hastings Wyman analyzes the effects of the drilling issue on regional races, including NC's. CQ ranks the five most-vulnerable Senate seats. Elizabeth Dole doesn't make the cut, but Kay Hagan's challenge does get a favorable mention.

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This weekend on Carolina Journal Radio

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:51 AM

Labor Day is still a couple of weeks away, but some political campaigns are already spending plenty of time and money for the November election. John Hood explains why in the next edition of Carolina Journal Radio.

Both major-party candidates for the White House have shown interest in policies to target global warming. You’ll hear comments from a recent rally explaining why those policies would be far worse than any problems linked to warming. Annie Patnaude of Americans for Prosperity, Paul Chesser of Climate Strategies Watch, and Roy Cordato will all share their concerns.

You’ll get an update on the state’s mental health reform efforts from Joe Coletti, while Duke University’s Jacob Vigdor will explain the Index of Immigrant Assimilation. Plus senior staff attorney Jeanette Doran will explain the process that leads to a lawsuit from the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:46 AM

This week's Carolina Journal Online Friday interview features Donna Martinez's conversation with Daren Bakst and Geoff Lawrence about the importance of low-cost energy.

Joe Coletti's guest Daily Journal suggests free-market forces could have the same positive effects for education and health care that they've had for religion and speech.

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