The Locker Room

March 2, 2009

While we're on the topic of wasting money

Posted by David N. Bass at 4:17 PM

Could this be the final frontier in the fight against global warming?

In its ongoing quest to reduce the emissions of gases blamed for climate change – and placate grumbling green activists – the Australian government has earmarked $17 million for research into how to prevent the country’s 120 million farm animals from emitting so much methane.

The project, launched this week by Agriculture Minister Tony Burke, will fund 18 areas of research, including dietary changes, genetic manipulation and ways to control stomach bacteria to reduce methane production.

As the animals chew, belch and pass wind, they release methane, while nitrous oxide is released from their waste. Both are “greenhouse gases” and are, scientists say, considerably more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas that gets most attention from global warming proponents.

My question: why is the former penal-colony down under so preoccupied with biological functions in its quest to end global warming?

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A saint in the family

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:34 PM

Learning that an Italian relative was on the path toward sainthood turned out to be more than just a curious fact for Justin Catanoso.

The Triad Business Journal's executive editor turned his exploration of that relative's life into the book, My Cousin The Saint. Catanoso discussed the book today with the John Locke Foundation's Shaftesbury Society.

Click play below to hear Catanoso describe the impact the book has had on him.

3:25 p.m. update: Watch the entire 44:06 recording by clicking the play button below.

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

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Well, the new lottery's going to need a retooled logo

Posted by Jon Sanders at 12:17 AM

This one was inspired by David Bass registering his lack of surprise at the same news I found unsurprising:

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Yet another completely unsurprising news item

Posted by Jon Sanders at 11:45 AM

Per Under the Dome:

Gov. Beverly Perdue may use up to $88 million in lottery funds.

When it passed in 2005, lottery supporters pledged that proceeds from the state's lottery would only go to education. Then Gov. Mike Easley even called unsuccessfully for a constitutional "lockbox" on the funds.

But given a potential $3 billion shortfall, Perdue is considering tapping into the money for the general budget. ...

This is in line with other recent unsurprising news. Also, the Locke Foundation essentially predicted it in Agenda 2008:

There's an old principle that governments raise taxes not to support key functions, but to support the most trivial ones — i.e., ones that lawmakers would cut in the name of efficiency and good government, but decide to keep in the name of higher taxes. The wisdom of this observation is illustrated to absurd extents by appropriation replacement, as funds that once would have gone to education now find their ways into various other public programs, liberated, as it were, by the lottery revenue.

The replacement problem first raised its head in North Carolina in early 2006, when The News & Observer reported that lottery revenues would supplant more than $200 million in general funds devoted to schools. It turned out that the original bill included language intended to prevent new lottery proceeds from replacing existing school revenue, but that language was dropped from lottery provisions in the state budget bill (not that legislation could effectively stem the replacement problem, owing to the fungibility of money).

Older state lotteries begin to compound the problem of supplanting through something lottery researchers have termed lottery fatigue. ...

In the long run, studies have shown, lottery states are left with lower per-capita spending on education than states without lotteries. This is the next step for N.C.'s lottery.

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Lotto money is for the kids

Posted by David N. Bass at 09:26 AM

Except when it's not.

From the Charlotte Observer:

Three years after casting the tie-breaking vote for an education lottery, N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue has said she may use up to $88 million in lottery money to shore up the state's general coffers – a move that has some N.C. lawmakers steaming.

“This is exactly what the opponents to the lottery said would happen,” said Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg. “And if they continue to bill it as an ‘education lottery,' it's a farce.”

When it passed in 2005, lottery supporters pledged that proceeds would only go to education. Then-Gov. Mike Easley even called unsuccessfully for a constitutional “lockbox” to make sure that happened.

But Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said Friday the governor had little choice. Already $2 billion in the red, the state faces a $3 billion shortfall next fiscal year.

Why is anyone surprised? It's important to remember that supporters had to tie the lotto to an idea that generates warm fuzzies among voters (in this case, public education) in order to get it passed.

I seriously doubt we would have a lottery today had it been called the "general fund lottery" instead of "the education lottery."

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Teachers like their jobs, say pay is decent

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 08:35 AM

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher is a pretty fascinating look at how public school teachers view their schools and the profession.

Findings included:

- Nearly twice as many teachers in 2008 agree that their job allows them the opportunity to earn a decent salary (66%), compared to 1984 (37%).

- A majority of teachers (62%) are very satisfied with their careers, compared to 40% in 1984.

- Eight in ten teachers (82%) agree strongly that they love to teach, a level similar to 1984.

- Many teachers (43%) agree that their classes have become so mixed in terms of students’ learning abilities that they can’t teach them effectively, compared to 24% of principals who agree.

- Most teachers (73%) and principals (70%) report that getting enough qualified teachers is not a serious problem for their school.

- Most teachers (67%) and principals (82%) report that teacher turnover is not a serious problem for their school.
In sum, teachers like their job; believe that their pay is adequate; want more homogeneous classrooms; and are not concerned about teacher supply and turnover.

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Not making the grade

Posted by David N. Bass at 08:09 AM

Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, references George Leef and the Pope Center for Higher Education in his column today in the American Spectator:

Our lives are filled with measures of achievement. From cleaning our rooms as children and taking a driver's test as teenagers to annual job reviews through the course of a career, there are benchmarks of achievement that follow us through the entirety of our lives. As we grow, these benchmarks become more numerous and the stakes become higher.

Curiously, these benchmarks are being consistently eroded in primary and secondary education, a stage of life when they should be most emphasized. Standard benchmarks in educational achievement are increasingly falling by the wayside and the results are troubling.

George Leef with the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy wrote of this problem at the college level, noting that more college students today expect high grades for simply showing-up in class or completing reading assignments. The New York Times explored the issue as well, quoting college educators bemoaning the fact that too many students are equating effort with quality of work.

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With special guest, Al Gore?

Posted by Becki Gray at 07:45 AM

Saturday, March 7
11 a.m. | An organization called hosts a town hall meeting on the future of the Internet, Durham Marriott Convention Center, 201 Foster St., Durham. Contact: Lindsy Embree, 413-585-1533, ext. 306.

The Service Employees International Union, ACLU and ACORN are just a few of the sponsoring organizations.

This from the InternetforEveryone website:

Laying a nationwide network for high-speed Internet access is estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars at the very least.

The United States could also consider adopting the type of matching-grant program used in Canada, where the federal government, the province and the network owner each contribute one-third of the funding for every broadband construction project.

Get ready for high speed taxes.  


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Another reminder that we don’t need a New New Deal

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:00 AM

In the latest Commentary, James K. Glassman of the World Growth Institute explains some history that people like Newsweek scribe Jonathan Alter tend to ignore:

The track record is discouraging. Despite Franklin Roosevelt’s aggressive spending, unemployment reached 25 percent in 1933, fell only to 14 percent by 1937, and was back up to 19 percent in 1939.1 In the end, the New Deal did little or nothing to resuscitate the economy. Certainly, inept monetary policies helped prolong the Great Depression, as did tax increases, constant interventions in the conduct of business, and the erection of global trade barriers, beginning with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff in 1930, more than two years before Roosevelt took office. There was a stretch of twelve years from the stock-market crash to Pearl Harbor, and, during that time, fiscal stimulus simply did not jump-start the economy (or, in Keynes’s own metaphor, “awaken Sleeping Beauty”). Now, some do attempt to make the case that Roosevelt did not increase government spending enough during the early and mid-1930’s and that it took World War II and the unprecedented infusion of government dollars into the economy to provide the stimulus that finally pulled America from the swamp.

But even if that were true—and considering the fact that federal spending tripled during the Great Depression, rising from 3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product to nearly 10 percent in 1939,2 it does not seem the likeliest explanation—it still does not offer much in the way of guidance through our current thicket. Few economists today believe the United States could tolerate the kind of budget deficits that developed during World War II, which ran more than 50 percent of gross domestic product, or about $7 trillion annually in current terms. When the federal government ramped up its spending during the war, it had not yet grown into the entitlement cash machine it is now, spitting out trillions of dollars a year in retirement and health-care benefits.

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A nice synopsis of the housing problem

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:58 AM

The headline TIME assigns to Joel Stein’s latest column tells as good a story as the column itself:
I Bought a Bad House. It’s overpriced, and I’m an idiot. That doesn’t mean the government should help me.

The online version is more succinct:

I Bought an Expensive House. My Bad, Not Yours

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If only he had meant what he said

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:57 AM

We also learn from the latest National Review that President Obama had some interesting things to say about public education during a closed-door meeting with some Wall Street titans early in the Democratic presidential contest:
Instead of his usual homily, Obama delivered what one insider describes as a “blistering attack” on the American public-school bureaucracy in general and on teachers’ unions in particular. Busting chops — that got Wall Street’s attention. He said he was close — “this close” — to supporting vouchers, an almost unthinkable heterodox position for a Democrat seeking the keys to the executive suite.

Alas, that private conversation has not led to similar pronouncements in public. For an assessment of the public education ideas our new president has touted before a public audience, be sure to listen to Donna Martinez’s interview of Terry Stoops during the recent 300th episode of Carolina Journal Radio. (You can download the program here.)

Click play below for a sample from that interview.

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A nice summary of the ‘stimulus’

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:55 AM

From the latest print (dead-tree) version of National Review:
Perhaps the central liberal criticism of George W. Bush is that he used a national crisis as an opportunity to pursue partisan aims. Liberals do not seem to see that, to an outsider, this is exactly what the stimulus bill looks like: an attempt to use the financial crisis to enact every liberal spending wish of the last two decades. (The difference is that Democrats had input in the Patriot Act and the authorization-of-force resolution.) The political scientists John Pitney has calculated that between the introduction of the bill and its passage, Congress spent money at a clip of a million dollars a second. The next time a liberal spending program is proposed, we will have to ask: How worthless must this program be if it could not make it into the stimulus?

For more on stimulus silliness, click here, here, or here.

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Weighing the costs and benefits of policies? Shocking!

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:54 AM

This forum has not been particularly kind to the “libertarian paternalism” advocated by Cass Sunstein.

But the professor wins at least a few points for angering some of the left’s less savory characters:

Yet the choice of Sunstein has drawn protests from environmentalists, health advocates, and many others, bringing some long-simmering academic debates into the open. While these battles aren't likely to threaten his confirmation at an upcoming hearing, they may foreshadow a somewhat looser regulatory environment than Obama's constituencies anticipated.

Even his detractors recognize Sunstein, 54, as an amazingly prolific legal scholar with a keen intellect. But they worry about his insistence on tying regulations to cost-benefit analysis, the bedrock principle of his Bush-era predecessor, John Graham. They're also concerned about his prediction last year that Obama will be a deregulator. "He is off on the wrong track," says Rena Steinzor, a progressive University of Maryland law professor.

Costs? Benefits? Weighing them against each other? Who would have thought of that?

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‘Despite’ is not the word to use

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:52 AM

The following passage from the latest Business Week caught my eye:
It’s like one of those nightmares when no matter where you run, the monsters keep coming. Despite Washington’s frantic efforts, the financial crisis and resulting recession look more scary by the day.

Despite? Actually, substituting the words “because of” for “despite” would yield a more accurate statement. Maria Bartiromo’s “Facetime” column suggests as much, as she highlights an interview with global investor Jim Rogers:

What do you think of the government's response to the economic crisis?

Terrible. They're making it worse. It's pretty embarrassing for President Obama, who doesn't seem to have a clue what's going on—which would make sense from his background. And he has hired people who are part of the problem. [Treasury Secretary Tim] Geithner was head of the New York Fed, which was supposedly in charge of Wall Street and the banks more than anybody else. And as you remember, [Obama's chief economic adviser, Larry] Summers helped bail out Long-Term Capital Management years ago. These are people who think the only solution is to save their friends on Wall Street rather than to save 300 million Americans.

So what should they be doing?

What would I like to see happen? I'd like to see them let these people go bankrupt, let the bankrupt go bankrupt, stop bailing them out. There are plenty of banks in America that saw this coming, that kept their powder dry and have been waiting for the opportunity to go in and take over the assets of the incompetent. Likewise, many, many homeowners didn't go out and buy five homes with no income. Many homeowners have been waiting for this, and now all of a sudden the government is saying: "Well, too bad for you. We don't care if you did it right or not, we're going to bail out the 100,000 or 200,000 who did it wrong." I mean, this is outrageous economics, and it's terrible morality.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:49 AM

The week's first Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Colleen Calvani's report on challenges associated with the growing number of autistic children in N.C. public schools. 

John Hood's Daily Journal explains why it's a bad idea to target smokers and drinkers for tax increases to help fill the state's budget hole.

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What about the paradox of thrift?

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 00:23 AM

According to Keynesian theory, there is no net saving increase when you save your money because you've taken away somebody else's income. This is the paradox of thrift Somehow we managed to have (marginally) higher incomes in January and a savings rate of 5 percent. From the AP: "Savings jumped to an annual rate of $545.5 billion, the highest level since monthly records began in 1959."

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