The Locker Room

March 30, 2009


Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 3:37 PM


How's this?

The North Carolina Arts Council gave three grants totaling nearly $110,000 to the Penland School of Crafts in Mitchell County. The entry in lists the address of the school as: "No address provided." I wonder where they mailed the checks?

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Posted by Joseph Coletti at 2:55 PM

The governor's transparency site, NCOpenBook, is live. It includes minimal information on contracts and grants - hopefully to be filled in later.

What is there is remarkable enough:25 grant programs listed under "low income," 28 under "economic development," and 47 under "education."

The site raises more questions than it answers. For starters, does the state really have no contracts with SAS? When will details be made available, or did ECU really pay $14,250 for a single Fujitsu Lifebook computer? When will the Controller's checkbook be online?

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Candy and beer

Posted by Paul Chesser at 2:16 PM

After reading David Bass's Carolina Journal piece today about NC Attorney General Roy Cooper's large livin' Washington lawyers, who helped him press his state "nuisance" lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority, I went back and read some of our CJ stories that set the timeline for the case. Cooper found his authority to threaten neighboring or nearby states over pollution controls in the 2002 NC Clean Smokestacks law, which he promptly did following its enactment in June that year:

When the Improved Air Quality/Electric Utilities legislation, better known as the “clean smokestacks” bill, was overwhelmingly approved by the General Assembly in June, most lawmakers said North Carolina needed to regulate its power plants’ emissions properly before it could tell neighboring states to clean up their act.

Empowered by the new law, the state is now telling the rest of the Southeast that it has taken the environmental high ground, and to jump on board — or else.

Attorney General Roy Cooper sent a letter to his counterparts in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, notifying them of the state’s new “law that will dramatically reduce air pollution without increasing electricity rates for consumers.” Cooper said, “North Carolina’s Clean Smokestacks legislation became a model for the nation when it was signed into law.”

Justifiably, TVA of all the states felt especially threatened:

Most states that received Cooper’s letter acknowledged it, thanking him for information about the bill. However, the State of Tennessee responded in detail, including documentation showing that it has improved emissions controls for smokestacks owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The reason for greater concern from Tennessee? The TVA is the only entity mentioned by name in the Smokestacks law as a potential target for litigation.

As Joel Schwartz determined in a study of the TVA case that he did for the Locke Foundation, “The attorney general’s experts grossly exaggerate potential benefits from power plant emissions reductions, ignore evidence that contradicts their assumptions, and misinterpret study results to make their case.”

And despite not recognizing the ritzy hotel partying that Cooper's lawyers would enjoy in the future, former Republican NC Rep. Don Davis -- one of only four legislators who opposed the Smokestacks bill -- was prophetic:

Rep. Davis questioned the wisdom of potential legal action against North Carolina’s neighbors. “I don’t think it would be appropriate,” he said, “because we’d be spending a whole lot of taxpayer money and nothing would come of it. I don’t think one state can dictate over another. Just because we had a bill passed, doesn't mean we can tell other states to do that.”

But the judge-shoppers in Cooper's office found an ally in Asheville.

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The importance of free information

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:14 PM

It's hard to hold government agencies and leaders accountable if you're unable to figure out what they're doing.

That's one reason the Freedom of Information Act and FOIA requests are so important to ensuring good government. UNC-Chapel Hill assistant professor Napoleon Byars made that argument during a presentation today to the John Locke Foundation's Shaftesbury Society.

Click play below to hear Byars' description of some basic FOIA statistics.

5:05 p.m. update: Watch the entire 1:01:19 recording by clicking the play button below.

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

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Let's blame greed!

Posted by George Leef at 12:40 AM

Thomas Sowell's column today refutes the politically facile contention that the housing mess was due to greed. Instead, government policy made by politicians who were eager to appear generous and kind was at fault for the demolition of careful bank lending standards.

This is a point that's been made again and again over the last few years, but since scurrilous politicians keep saying, "Don't blame me -- blame greed! I'm against greed!" we need to keep reiterating the truth.

A point I'd add to Sowell's column. Greedy people want money, but they want to avoid losing the money they've got just as much. Greedy people are careful with their money. What wiped away the usual care? Government. If anything other than a government sponsored enterprise (Fannie and Freddie) had tried peddling the dubious mortgage paper, lots of caution flags would have been raised. Because it was assumed that the feds stood behind all that paper, financial institutions were put off their guard.

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Re: The War on Plastic Bags

Posted by Michael Moore at 11:02 AM

I have to jump in on this plastic bag discussion....

Every market and retail store I have been into lately has had their reusable shopping bags for sale, since the plastic bag may be on its way out of service.

I was thinking, that I use my leftover plastic bags as trash bags for my smaller wastebaskets around my house, and this website here shows the neat things plastic bags can be used for.  Is this a great nation or what?





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They've vaporized your wealth and your children's future

Posted by George Leef at 10:45 AM

Mark Steyn has a terrific, spot-on column today on NRO. I've summarized it in the subject line, "they" being Obama and Geithner, of course.

An important and disquieting movement Steyn comments on is the effort to keep people and companies from fleeing to less undesirable jurisdictions. Like nearly all politicians, Obama has no compunctions about resorting to coercion to prevent exercising freedom of choice to escape from the clutches of the state.

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Lottery to spend $61K on advertising survey

Posted by David N. Bass at 10:14 AM

When all is said and done, the North Carolina Education Lottery will have paid $61,000 to hire a Massachusetts marketing firm to conduct an advertising survey, according to invoices from the NCEL (pdf download).

The NCEL has already spent $19,800 on the survey and will pay the remainder of the balance in the coming months. The lottery paid the invoices through its public relations agency, the Charlotte-based Wray Ward.

According to the NCEL, the survey was commissioned in response to a performance audit (pdf download) in April 2008, which suggested the NCEL “should establish ongoing operational and market research to identify industry best practices, reduce costs, and improve operations."

As discussed on this form in the past, Gov. Bev Perdue is taking some heat for plans to transfer a chunk of lottery revenues, supposed to be used for education, to the general fund. In response, lawmakers have introduced a bill that would nix the word “education” from the lottery’s official title.

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Re: Josh Stein's War on Plastic Bags

Posted by Jon Sanders at 09:59 AM

Good grief. Is the General Assembly even more populated with petty tyrants, or are we just lucky this year?

I remember it was not very long ago that only the Really Evil wanted paper instead of plastic bags. They hated trees, you see.

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RE: Josh Stein's war on plastic bags

Posted by Donna Martinez at 09:54 AM

We can solve this problem - and help level the economic playing field - by prohibiting both plastic bags and paper bags. We should only be allowed to buy as much as we can carry in our arms. That should also help with the meat problem. The less meat we can carry, the less meat we eat, and that means fewer cows will be destroying the planet with their emissions. But to make this work, we must also ban shopping carts. The wheels are made of rubber and using them just adds to our dependence on foreign oil.

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Josh Stein's War on Plastic Bags

Posted by Jenna Ashley Robinson at 09:50 AM

Raleigh Democratic Sen. Josh Stein has introduced a bill to reduce the use of plastic bags. According to the News & Observer,

The bill would ban plastic bags at major retailers, with the exception of uses for fresh produce, fresh meat and fresh fish. Smaller retailers could continue to use plastic bags.
I'm glad NC's legislators are concentrating on such important matters during the budget crisis.

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Beating a dead horse, again

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 09:16 AM

George Will raises the most important question in all of the bailout madness here. Is it constitutional?  Unfortunately, we have been traveling down this road since the 1930s and the country is not in the mood to let the Constitution come between them and the "prosperity" promised by politicians of both parties, especially when the mainstream media is the cheering section for government action to "fix" the economy.

 It is high time Americans heard an argument that might turn a vague national uneasiness into a vivid awareness of something going very wrong. The argument is that the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA) is unconstitutional.

By enacting it, Congress did not in any meaningful sense make a law. Rather, it made executive branch officials into legislators. Congress said to the executive branch, in effect: "Here is $700 billion. You say you will use some of it to buy up banks' 'troubled assets.' But if you prefer to do anything else with the money -- even, say, subsidize automobile companies -- well, whatever."

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Many workers get tired of union representation

Posted by George Leef at 08:21 AM

One of the many obvious reasons for concluding that the so-called Employee Free Choice Act is not about free choice but is rather an effort to help unions dragoon more people into the dues-paying ranks is that it is not symmetrical. That is, while unions can use the "card check" procedure to establish a union in the first place, the workers can't use the same procedure to end their relationship with a union. Instead, they have to petition for a decertification election, which is held under secret ballot conditions and after a period of time for both sides to make their arguments.

Doug Bandow discusses "card check" and decertification on NRO today.

The idea advanced by union zealots is that unionization always helps workers, but the fact that many of them go to the trouble of petitioning for decertification elections and then voting to oust the union is proof that that isn't true.

By the way, while unions can and do organize campaigns to install themselves as bargaining representatives, it is illegal for the management to do anything to start or assist decertification campaigns. Only the workers can do that, and it takes some guts to publicly come out against the union.

The National Labor Relations Act has already stacked the deck in favor of unionization (for example, union organizers can promise anything, but the employer is allowed to promise nothing in exchange for keeping the union out) and this hideous bill would make matters far worse.

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Collapsing cap and trade

Posted by Paul Chesser at 07:38 AM

Despite the alarmists' insistence that global warming is still a threat, it looks increasingly plausible that elected officials -- even the president's pals -- don't have the stomach to go along with a cap-and-trade scheme, as I discuss today at American Spectator.

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Hood on higher education policy choices

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:00 AM

John Hood's latest contribution to National Review's print edition offers a thorough critique of President Obama's higher education agenda.

Among the highlights:

While challenging young people to achieve their potential is praiseworthy, the president is mistaken on two important points. First, the goal of leading the world in college graduation is neither achievable (because of our demographics) nor particularly worthwhile. Far greater economic and social benefits would accrue from boosting high-school graduation and encouraging hands-on vocational and technical training. Second, spending tens of billions of additional federal dollars on grants, loans, and tax credits is unlikely to boost college graduation much anyway — though it may well boost attendance, and thus revenue for the colleges.

You'll have to pick up a copy of NR to read Hood's three-part alternative agenda. For more on the benefits of investing in career and technical education, click here.

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Time to read Meltdown

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:30 AM

James C. Cooper’s latest Business Week column starts with this line:
There's an old saying on Wall Street: Don't fight the Fed.

Those who believe this saying probably haven’t read the new book Meltdown.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:25 AM

The week's first Carolina Journal Online exclusive features David Bass' report about some questionable legal bills charged to North Carolina in connection with its air-quality lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority.

John Hood's Daily Journal critiques a legislative proposal to stop retailers from using plastic bags.

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N&O reports on Easley/Hendrick friendship

Posted by David N. Bass at 05:30 AM

Definitely worth a read is the N&O series of articles on former Gov. Mike Easley's friendship with Rick Hendrick (available here, here, here, and here).

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