The Locker Room

July 26, 2006

Re: Gas pains

Posted by Jon Sanders at 4:55 PM

Jeff, I share your dismay. I'm at a loss at effectively describing the enormity of the idiocy behind such a measure. The legislators responsible are so dumb they could throw themselves at the ground and miss.

Here's the best I can do. They're at least ten times dumber than this guy, who tried to set off a bottle rocket with his keister (*warning* for buttocks-baring content).

Except, as is always the case with chowderheadedness at the General Assembly, we're the ones who'll get burned.

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NC School of the Arts needs Bluegrass & Folk Music....

Posted by Michael Moore at 4:50 PM

In response to the blog entry from Friday I couldn't help but think about the need for Folk and Bluegrass music at the School of Arts in Winston-Salem.  Since taxpayer money is being pumped into the classical forms of music that are already being taught at the NCSA, why not go ahead and have NC Roots Music.

The reason behind this is because look at how many Folk/Bluegrass Musicians North Carolina has produced, here are a few:
Doc Watson; His yearly event Merlefest has evolved into a very distinguished music festival held each year in Wilkes County.

Earl Scruggs; a Cleveland County native changed Banjo playing in the 1940s with Bill Monroe and he went on to form Flatt and Scruggs with Lester Flatt.

Del McCoury; a modern Bluegrass star and he grew up in Mitchell County.

 I cannot list all the numerous groups and bands from across North Carolina but here are a few of them:

The Steep Canyon Rangers, Grass Cats, Carolina Road, Al Batten, and Chatham County Line.


So that brings me to my conclusion is it just me or has this type of music really had a huge impact on North Carolina?

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Gas Pains

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 4:40 PM

That the General Assembly is even thinking about such a thing as regulating gasoline prices confirms that North Carolina is governed by mouth-breathing, knuckle-walking cretins.

In the wake of Katrina I posed this, I thought, far-fetched question: "What if the buses in New Orleans had been privately owned, and the gasoline supply had been a nationalized, government-run quasi-utility?"

I noted that as the city of NO let its buses be consumed by the storm while gasoline supplies were conserved up and down the East Coast via a price signal, public control of an asset at least confuses, if not totally negates, important information about the value of that asset in times of emergency.

Although craven politicians refuse to see this, the long-term profit-maximizing route for private gasoline production seems to be to try to spread out a constrained supply for as long as possible until something like full capacity is available. In other words, distributors raise prices enough to deter sales, not to “gouge” people. As supply dwindled nearly to exhaustion in some markets, wholesale “over-allocation” fees kicked in. These were intended to discourage one or two distributors from buying up the remaining supply. Try to “corner” the market in gas, and you’ll pay an extra 50 cents a gallon. Clueless consumer groups predictably screamed bloody murder about the surcharge, heedless of how this pricing mechanism helped save and spread out a scarce supply and ensure consumers would have some gas to buy at some price.

And now we have the hollow demagogues of Raleigh come to save us all. Have they no shame? No, shame is a higher brain function. You can no more shame a politician in full vote-grubbing mode than you can shame a barnyard animal at the trough.

Were it not exceedingly cruel to the animal, I'd say slap some lipstick and a dress on Koko the gorilla and point her towards the statehouse. We might both improve the gene pool up there and marvel at elected representatives who can communicate beyond grunts and tics.

But as it stands, I fear we are doomed.

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Re: Regulating Gas

Posted by Daren Bakst at 3:05 PM

1) There is no competitive market that has price caps--anywhere--not on the state or federal lavel--if I'm wrong, please tell me. 

2) Hawaii tried to cap gas prices.  It should be noted that Hawaii is unique and tends to experience higher gas prices than any other state (at least they have a bad excuse).

Here's what happened to Hawaii's public utility-regulated petroleum idea, as described in this article.

- "The island state whose drivers pay the highest pump prices in the United States has given up on price caps after an eight-month, first-in-the-nation experiment. Some complained that the restrictions actually led to higher prices, because oil companies knew they could charge up to the maximum allowed."

- "An analysis by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism estimated that island motorists paid $54.9 million more than they otherwise would have in the first five months under the cap."

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Woody at 70

Posted by Paul Chesser at 1:57 PM

For a lifetime Woody Allen, despite his limited box office appeal, has been indulged by studios with broad creative freedom (if not budgetary freedom) and widespread critical acclaim, whether earned or not. Many of the world's greatest actors have worked for him for peanuts. He just enjoyed the release of his most popular work in years, "Match Point."

But he's bummed about his age. Why? For one reason, he's too old to chase skirts.

"Once you get up in years, like seventies, there's nothing good about it. The dynamite women you see on the street, that world is gone to you.

"You know, it's inappropriate," he mutters, as though he's about to think better of discussing this. "One of the great pastimes of my life was eyeing girls in short skirts, and that's gone. They're unavailable to you, and in the few cases where you could work your magic, it's to no practical avail because you can't plan a future if you're 70 and she's 22. So your flirtation life goes, which is a big part of everybody's enjoyment in life."

Explains a lot about that Soon-Yi Previn thing. And there's more godlessness, deep depression and hopelessness in this Washington Post interview.

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Yep, she's nuts

Posted by Paul Chesser at 1:44 PM

A jury in the retrial of Andrea Yates today found her not guilty by reason of insanity:

The jury had spent 11 hours Monday and Tuesday trying to determine if Yates was legally insane. Wednesday morning, they reviewed the state's definition of insanity and then asked to see a family photo and candid pictures of the five smiling youngsters. After about an hour of deliberations, they said they had reached a verdict.

So they looked at the picture, looked at the definition, and decided she was out of her mind? There does have to be something wrong -- either insanity or the presence of Satan himself -- in order for someone to kill her five children.

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Re: Property Rights Upheld in Ohio

Posted by Daren Bakst at 1:39 PM


You're too quick for me.  I thought of blogging on the issue first though--I thought of it before you were even born.

Anyway, this is a big case, even though it applies only to Ohio--hopefully other states will pay attention.  It is important not only because the court unanimously rejected the economic development arguments (despite Kelo), but also because it makes it very clear that a vague blight/urban redevelopment law is unconstitutional (at least the vague provisions). 

BTW: Kelo is a federal case based on the U.S. Constitution--states, as Ohio just did, can say that Kelo is fine and dandy but our state actually cares about property rights and our citizens, and we won't allow property to be seized for economic development.  Kelo is the minimum amount of rights (the floor) states must provide, states always can provide greater rights.

NC's urban redevelopment law was amended this session in one of the only (maybe only) smart moves in recent memory.  This was a critical development for property rights--only property that is a "blighted parcel" can be taken.  I haven't jumped up and down yet because the language of the statute is still a little muddled, but it likely removes vague provisions such as the government being able to take property if it might become blighted.

However, there is a lot more to do in NC on property rights.  For example, the Ohio Supreme Court held that "heightened scrutiny" must apply when courts look at how the government uses eminent domain.  NC courts have, for the most part, given "shortened scrutiny" (my term) to the use of eminent domain.  It would be nice if NC actually would stop giving so much deference to local officials when they seize someone's property.  The government should have the burden of proof to show that taking a property is necessary and no other viable alternative exists.

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Regulating gas

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:18 PM

Members of the legislative press corps are busy today. They're trying to learn details of some of the last-minute legislation making its way through the House and Senate.

Among the items they'll find in their e-mail inboxes is the following:

RALEIGH – A John Locke Foundation research analyst is raising questions about possible state regulation of gasoline, home heating oil and other products.

The N.C. House voted 70-40 Tuesday to order a study of possible regulation. Supporters say they want to know whether it makes sense for the N.C. Utilities Commission to add new regulations for petroleum products and profits. The state already regulates electricity and natural gas.

You may attribute the following quote to Dr. Roy Cordato, JLF Vice President for Research and Resident Scholar:

“The idea that the General Assembly may be considering regulating the distribution of oil
and gasoline in North Carolina as a public utility is equivalent to announcing that the state is going to consider transforming your local gas station into the electric company or the post office. In other words, it would transform a competitive industry that serves the public efficiently and promptly into a state-run monopoly.

“The hallmark of a public utility is that pricing, production, and distribution decisions are taken out of the competitive marketplace and transferred to a public utility commission established by the state. The closest this country has had to such a regime for oil and
gasoline was during the 1970s, when pricing and distribution programs established by the Nixon and Carter administrations were operated by the federal government.

“The outcome was massive shortages, long gasoline lines, the elimination of nearly all domestic exploration, and what is commonly referred to as the ‘energy crisis.’ Those who believe that a public utility commission established by politicians and bureaucrats in Raleigh can somehow manage the local impact of global supply and demand conditions, the primary cause of the current run up in energy prices, must be still wondering why
the Soviet economic system didn’t work.” 

This amendment is part of a bill that still requires one more vote this afternoon in the House. Then state senators must decide whether to accept or reject this idea. 

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Lebanon vs. Palestinians

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 1:03 PM

Lebanon doesn't have room for Palestinians, so they need to go to Israel. That's what Lebase President Emile Lahoud told German magazine Spiegel.

We have today around half a million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, their birth rate is three times higher than the Lebanese. That is a time bomb. It is the basic problem of our country, it led to the outbreak of civil war in 1975 and still remains unsolved today. Everybody today is talking about UN resolution 1559, but nobody mentions resolution 194, which recognizes the Palestinians' right of return (to Israel). Lebanon is small and can't integrate the Palestinians.

(via Drudge)


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Property Rights Upheld in Ohio

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 12:58 AM

From Reason, via the Institute for Justice, via the Ohio Supreme Court .

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Re: Torturing the data

Posted by George Leef at 11:41 AM

The attempt to prove that public schools are just as good educationally as are non-public schools reminds me of the attempt to prove that bumblebees can't fly. Are you going to believe the calculations or your own lying eyes?

If public schools are just as good, why do poor families in cities like New York spend money to send their children to parochial schools?

The researchers "adjusted" the data for various factors relating to student background. Maybe they should also adjust it to take into account the superior discipline found in non-public schools.

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Torturing the data

Posted by Hal Young at 11:25 AM

John Stossel points out on today the problem with the NY Times' ballyhoo over a federal report claiming "children in public schools generally performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools."

It seems the private school kids actually scored higher on the tests, but then the researchers "dug deeper." They "put test scores into context" by adjusting for "race, ethnicity, income and parents' educational backgrounds to make the comparisons more meaningful."

Maybe it's unfair to call that "torturing the data." Such regression analysis is a valid statistical tool. But it's prone to researcher bias. Statistical hocus-pocus is not the best way to compare schools. ...

In any case, it's telling that they put so much emphasis on 4th and 8th grade tests. That's just the beginning of a student's education. American 4th graders do pretty well in international competitions. It's by 12th grade that Americans are so far behind. The longer they spend in America's bureaucratic schools, the worse they do. I'd like to see The Times publish results of 12th grade comparisons, but I won't hold my breath.

H/T: Education and Homeschool News

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Behind the Bolton Nomination

Posted by Hal Young at 11:15 AM

This is an excellent piece on the reasons why half the globe hates America's Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton.

Not surprising, the article divides criticism into two categories -- one, those that hate Bush, and as an extension, hate Bush's nominee, and two, those that praise the wait-and-see stall tactics of multilateralism as a gateway to peace (lay terms: sit in your room and think about what you've done).

PS - This article comes out of Canada, no less.  So much for our northern neighbors being the final destination for the liberal Underground Railroad vis-ŕ-vis the 2000 and 2004 elections.

HT: Powerline.

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In New York, of all places

Posted by Paul Chesser at 10:51 AM

A redevelopment agency created to help rebuild part of New York City after the World Trade Center was destroyed says its work is almost done, and will soon fade into non-existence.

Stefan Pryor, the president of the (Lower Manhattan Development Corporation) and its first employee, said its role as a planning and financing body was always intended to be temporary. “The greatest accomplishment of a public agency such as ours is to successfully work itself out of existence,” he said.

How often do you see that, so willfully? Never here, that I know of.

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Re: Entitlement mentality

Posted by Jon Sanders at 10:51 AM

Let's see, George — she wants to pursue a graduate degree in ... public administration? And she's surprised she can't get a loan to cover it? What's her pitch to the lender: Hi, I foresee a life as a bureaucratic grunt on the public payroll; can I have $80 thou?

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The Entitlement Mentality on Full Display

Posted by George Leef at 10:20 AM

Yesterday's Washington Post carried this op-ed by a student who pleads that she simply MUST have more government subsidies so she can pursue the grad school program of her choice.

Cato's Neal McCluskey does a thorough demolition job here.

One interesting assertion made by the author of the op-ed is that credential inflation has reached the point where "It's almost necessary to have a graduate, doctorate, or law degree to compete with the current highly qualified pool of candidates." I think that's a piece of wild hyperbole (which characterizes the whole article), but if we took her advice and subsidized everyone's graduate school desires, we would soon find that credential inflation would ratchet up another notch. As David Labaree wrote in How to Succeed in School Without Really Learning, "The difficulty posted by (the glut of graduates) is not that the population becomes overeducated...but that it becomes overcredentialed, as people pursue diplomas less for the knowledge they are thereby acquiring than for the access that the diplomas themselves provide. The result is a spiral of credential inflation, for as each level of education in turn gradually floods with a crowd of ambitious consumers, individuals have to keep seeking ever higher levels of credentials in order to move a step ahead of the pack. In such a system, nobody wins."

Governmental subsidies for higher education were a bad idea to begin with and we are now seeing the results in the clamor for universal college and beyond. The only winners are those who work in the education credential business.

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Re: This study will change your life

Posted by Jon Sanders at 09:33 AM

What a great find, Terry — and from N.C. State, no less! "Distractions Impede Learning" — you know, I always suspected that, but it never occurred to me to prove it. There could be federal grant money involved, alas for my lack of initiative!

That tears it; I'm not waiting around any longer and letting the Well DUH research gravy train pass me by any longer. I am announcing my intentions now to prove the following:

• People see better in the day, not at night
• Loud noises hurt our ears
• It's hard to run on your knees
• Internet sarcasm doesn't account for much in the grand scheme of things

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Misreading Military Towns

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 09:25 AM

USA Today (thanks CJ) claims

Some of the most pointed critiques of the administration's policy in Iraq are coming from lawmakers who represent constituencies with close ties to the military. Their criticism underscores how widespread concerns about the war have become, even in areas where support has been strong for President Bush or the troops.

But are these lawmakers popular at home because of their comments? The article ends with comments from John Murtha's constituents who oppose his views on the war and notes that he's been able to win by 2 to 1 margins because of "the federal largesse that he has been able to command as a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee." The federal money is credited by Republicans as keeping Johnstown, PA, inhabited. His challenger may "get more votes than anyone who ever ran against Murtha" and there is "a negative undercurrent because of his [Murtha's] stance on the war."

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Why, Yes I have (thanks for asking)

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 09:24 AM

This message was brought to you by the lone gun in Asheville.

(Michael Moore beat me to this. But, I've got pictures.)

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This Study Will Change Your Life

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 09:06 AM

Study: Distractions Impede Learning


True Innovation
"What's new is that even if you can learn while distracted, it changes how you learn to make it less efficient and useful," said Russell A. Poldrack, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. That could affect a lot of young people.

Music makes us happy.
That doesn't mean he thinks a silent environment is essential — music can help in learning because it can make the individual happier, he said.

Distraction = Bad
But in general, "distraction is almost always a bad thing."

"In my opinion, this article represents a significant step forward in understanding the interaction between the various memory systems possessed by healthy human adults and task demands," commented Dr. Chris Mayhorn, who teaches psychology at North Carolina State University.

Sample was half the size of the JLF staff.
Mayhorn noted that the experiment was small, looking at 14 people from a limited age range.

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WNC group on immigration...

Posted by Michael Moore at 09:06 AM

A group of folks in Western North Carolina have started to take action on the immigration issue.  To talk about action, well that is the name of their group.



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Forgotten anniversary?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:59 AM

Fifty years ago today, the ruler of Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal.

Why should we care? This article suggests Gamal Abdel Nasser's move spurred decisions that still shape the Middle East today.

Here's a warning for Eisenhower fans; the old general does not come across well in this story. 


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Big government means lower wages

Posted by George Leef at 08:59 AM

So argues economics professor George Reisman here.

Key sentence: "A part of the output of the economic system that would have gone into the production of future output is instead diverted to the government's consumption and to the consumption of those to whom the government gives money."

Big government, in other words, eats up some of the seed corn.

Locker Room fans with good memories will recall that I made the same point yesterday.

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Family-friendly films take a hit

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:50 AM

Jonathan Last suggests in this article that Hollywood would rather sacrifice sales than allow entrepreneurs to craft family-friendly versions of its blockbusters.

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Education Schools and "social justice" teaching

Posted by George Leef at 08:29 AM

Sol Stern takes dead aim at a growing trend among American education schools, namely the fact that they have been overrun by zealots who want to drum it into the minds of teachers that their job is to instruct students in the many ills of the world and turn them into advocates for "social justice." You can read Stern's essay here.

Justice (or injustice) is an attribute of individual actions and it makes no sense whatsoever to evaluate "society" in those terms because it is not a conscious actor, but merely an abstraction. Hayek made that point his book The Mirage of Social Justice.

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Bureaucracy in Beaufort

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 08:12 AM

In a lawsuit against the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, Beaufort County schools insist that the commissioners should have funded a request for an additional $2.9 million, which amounts to a 32 percent increase from last year's budget. The school system complains of rising costs, while the commissioners point out that they have increased school funding over the last few years even though the system is losing students.

I agree with the commissioners. In my report on school bureaucracy, I point out that Beaufort lost 236 students over the last eight years, but the school system still added five administrators and 41 teachers.

Rather than move toward greater efficiency, Beaufort County schools have fattened the calf. Now it is time to sacrifice that sucka - Biblical style.

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