The Locker Room

September 8, 2005

The Pied Piper of BRT?

Posted by Jon Ham at 4:35 PM

John Bonsall, the former head of the Ottawa-Carlton Transportation Network in Canada, sang the praises of bus rapid transit (BRT) and busways yesterday to officials in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Busways, fixed guideways for what amounts to rubber-tired trains, are perfect for Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Bonsall told the assembled local officials. And for only about $3.5-$16 million per mile.

I met Bonsall in December of 1999 when I accompanied a group from the Triangle who flew to Pittsburgh and Ottawa to see busways in person. The going rate for a mile of busway, as it was related to us by the experts more than five years ago, was $30 million, with stations, walkways, barriers, etc.

The experts who spoke with us in 1999 said a major problem is getting riders to forsake light rail for buses. In fact, Ottawa's bus ridership has decreased since 1999. Still, Bonsall travels the world touting the method. Here's how one critic, admittedly a light-rail advocate, put it:

Since the retirement of the General Manager of OC Transpo (The Ottawa-Carleton Regional Transit Commission ) and his metamorphosis into a worldwide busway consultant, T-2000 Canada has had requests for information from Charlotte, North Carolina; Auckland, New Zealand; Bristol, U.K.; and Brisbane, Queensland. Each time, the plaint is the same: "We thought we had a chance of advancing on a light rail project, but a consultant from Ottawa (John Bonsall) has come here and enchanted our decision-makers with tales of major economies and booming ridership on the Ottawa 'Transitway'.

Nothing against bus rapid transit. Just cautioning that there's always another view.

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Tickets for Medicaid services

Posted by Jon Ham at 3:20 PM

I just  endured the US House Energy & Commerce committee hearings reacting to the National Governor's Association recommendations on "Short-Run Medicaid Reform".  Of the 8 major recommendations, only one drew repeated ire from the committee:  "enforceable cost-sharing" through co-pays or modest premiums, with flexibility determined by the states. The mantra was how can allow hospitals to turn away these poor people (aka the ones we saw at the SuperDome) for lack of a $3 co-pay?   The idea of cost sharing to encourage "personal responsibility" is common sense according to the NGA, but might sink the other 7 recommendations (all over three measly dollars).  I do not see that the NGA plans to recoup significant funds by cost sharing, they are only trying to teach personal responsibility. The Committee seemed to be more interested in blocking the estate tax relief and providing more funds toward Medicaid.  

 So my idea  is to give out tickets, to the eligibles, for a select number of health services: perhaps 3/year for healthy children (with special provisions if there arises need for more) and perhaps  12-15/year for children with chronic conditions.  The tickets might accomplish the goal of preventing frivolous use of medical services, assure the care, and might even be cheaper to administer and collect than loose change which might be needed more for bus fare. Comments?



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Role of Government?

Posted by Kent Lassman at 2:56 PM

In today's Wall Street Journal David Wessel entertains the idea that Bill Clinton was wrong: The era of big government is not over. The online article is subscription-only and found offline at page A2.

Indeed, anyone who has watched the development of national policies through the last half-decade is unlikely to jump to the idea of "limited government." Where to begin? Steel tariffs. Gutting the market-oriented '96 agriculture law. NCLB. The Department of Homeland Security. The porkalicious transportation bill that recently squeaked and squealed through Congress and across the President's desk. The list could go on and on.

Wessel begins with the following:

The era of small government is over. Sept. 11 challenged it. Katrina killed it.

Of course, despite a conservative Republican president with a Republican majority in the Congress, small government has been more principle than practice lately. President Bush has presided over the nationalization of airport security screeners, the creation of the sprawling Homeland Security bureaucracy, the largest expansion of Medicare since Lyndon Johnson signed it into law and a 20% increase in all federal spending, adjusted for inflation, even before the cost of responding to Hurricane Katrina.

Now the rhetoric is fading to match the reality.

The rhetoric peaked back in 1996 when the great triangulator, Bill Clinton, delivered his State of the Union address to a receptive Republican Congress: "We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there's not a program for every problem....The era of big government is over."

In essence, the argument is that national Republicans are
in favor of "small government tax rates and big government spending plans" and that this cannot hold forever.

In some sense, I don't fault or blame the President. I don't think he ever campaigned in the tradition of Barry Goldwater, or even, Ronald Reagan. Bush promised to make government better, more compassionate, more efficient, and more in tune with American values (namely, democracy abroad and economic plenty at home) and aspirations. Many of his policies reflect these goals.

Government has an vital role to play in society. It also has the potential for collosal failure. And when it fails, the liberty and choice -- even lives -- of citizens can be lost forever. John Jay summarized the trade-off more than two centuries ago in Federalist No. 2:

"Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights, in order to vest it with requisite powers."

Wessel may be wrong. Perhaps a proper, bounded and limited understanding of "requisite powers" will emerge in this Administration.

But I suspect he is on to something. The disconnent between rhetoric and reality is creating cognitive dissonance and something is going to give. My hunch is that fidelity to conservatism -- broadly understood -- is on the decline among government officials -- state and national. I'm open to persuasion. Will anyone make a counter-argument (that also accounts for the new state lottery)?

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It is time to point fingers

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 2:35 PM

An expression that I am tired of hearing is that “this is no time to point fingers.” No, this is the time to point fingers, while the obvious failures and obvious culprits are fresh in people's mind. The fact is we know what institution is responsible for the incredible breakdown that occurred in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. In fact, everyone who is pointing a finger right now, from Nancy Pelosi and Hilary Clinton to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hanitty are all pointing in the same direction-that is toward government and the socialist institutions that were responsible every step of the way. We are getting bogged down in the fact that each little corner of government-state, local, federal agencies, the congress, the executive branch-is pointing a finger and saying “oh no, it wasn't my little corner of government it was his or hers.” This obscures the reality, this was a massive failure of a single institution--government. As far as I know, no one is saying that the Red Cross has let anyone down or that the Salvation Army has been ignoring those in harms way. In fact, it is well known now that government agencies actually prevented these private institutions from effectively doing what they were ready, willing, and able to do.

Just to remind everyone, especially my conservative friends who think that just because GW is in charge that the Feds can do no wrong, this whole mess got started because of the of a levee that failed. This levee was owned and maintained by the Army Corp of Engineers-the federal government. Therefore, the irresponsibility of the Feds in effectively maintaining property they owned was the ultimate cause of this mess. Next came the local government owned Superdome whose roof came apart soaking everyone inside. Then came the local and state government police who failed to discharge their primary responsibility-protect personal and property rights. We could easily go on with this.

Just a reminder to any leftists who may have wandered on to the Locker Room this afternoon-this is the same institution that most of you think is most qualified to run our health care system.

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God forbid that there be conditions for help

Posted by Paul Chesser at 1:07 PM

The Media Research Center reports that CBS's Harry Smith, in an interview with "Purpose Driven Life" author Rick Warren, "worried that some Hurricane Katrina victims taken into the homes of church parishioners might be forced to attend church in order to get a decent meal."


"Let me ask you this, though: is this an opportunity for a church to witness? Or if I'm a family, am, do I need to be concerned that I'm going to go live with a church family, are they going to proselytize me, are they going to say, 'you better come to church with me or else, I'm, you know, you're not going to get your breakfast this morning'?"

Yeah, and none of that satanic Count Chocula or Boo Berry in this household, either!

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More mush from the wimp

Posted by Jon Ham at 12:48 AM

You just knew that Jimmy Carter wouldn't be able to keep his mouth shut about Katrina: 

The first warnings came in 1979 while I was president, when top American scientists expressed concern about global warming. Now we know their warnings are coming true, with a notable increase in the frequency and severity of hurricanes, the melting of mountain glaciers and ice in the polar regions and a rise in the level of the seas.

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Who's to blame for Katrina's massive flooding?

Posted by Paul Chesser at 12:20 AM

The environmentalist groups may be partly responsible.

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Good book for a crisis

Posted by Jon Ham at 11:31 AM

It might not be politically correct to say so, but when it comes to self-help books for a crisis like a flood, hurricane or other natural disaster, you can't beat this one:



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Betting on Chips and Cars

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:58 AM

BusinessWeek [registration required] reports that Austin and Albany are offering scads of money for Samsung's next chip fabricating plant. The company might add to its 14 plants around Seoul and suggests China is the best location. The US Semiconductor Industry Association, unsurprisingly, claims that tax benefits and capital grants are essential to landing a fab--90% of the $1 billion cost difference between a plant in the US and one in "Asia."

Kia, meanwhile, will likely build a new plant in Mississippi, despite the poorly educated workforce and the lack of nationalized health care. (Thanks, Jeff)

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From the left coast! Really, it's ok to lie.

Posted by Chad Adams at 10:18 AM

Just when you think our state might have some legal mental gaps.

A state law prohibiting political candidates from lying about their opponents is an unconstitutional violation of free speech and chills political discourse, a state appeals court ruled. The decision puts in jeopardy one of the state's remaining truth-in-campaigning laws.
MORE: Seattle Times

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Constitution Day

Posted by Jenna Ashley Robinson at 09:25 AM

For anyone who is interested, the UNC law school is hosting the university's observance of "Constitution Day" on Monday, Sept. 19 at 4:30 in the Rotunda of Van Hecke-Wettach Hall on Ridge Road..  The event is a panel discussion: "Confirming Justice: The Supreme Court Confirmation Process." Participants include Dr. Andy Bechtel, School of Journalism, Professor Michael Gerhardt, School of Law, Professor Bill Marshall, School of Law, and Dr. Jack Semonche, History Department. 

It will be interesting to see how these UNC scholars react to the federally-mandated "Constitution Day."

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Nothing civil about this union

Posted by Paul Chesser at 08:47 AM

The custody case of Isabella Miller-Jenkins illustrates the absolute mess (NYTimes registration required) that the legalization of same-sex marriages presents for society.

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Kill that 'Bridge to Nowhere'

Posted by Paul Chesser at 08:28 AM

This New York Times editorial begins badly ("wasteful tax cuts"), but ultimately strikes the right chord.

Give up the pork, congressmen!

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No ideology allowed on that second pick

Posted by Paul Chesser at 08:13 AM

Here's The News & Observer's editorial on President Bush's nominations to the Supreme Court, summarized in one sentence:

We'll let you get away with one conservative, but not two.

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Re: UNC's Edwards Center

Posted by Paul Chesser at 07:47 AM

At least nobody can complain that the new Poverty Center (scroll down) is financed by taxpayers:

Edwards, who moved back to Raleigh in June, will serve as the $40,000-a-year director of the anti-poverty center. The center is to be privately financed. As of June, it had received only $900 in contributions, according to a university spokesman.


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DWM still have something to offer

Posted by Jon Ham at 07:43 AM

The works of DWM (dead white males), derided for the past 10 years by lefty academics, still have something to offer, it seems. 

But students' encounter with Achilles and Hector produces more than a titillating taste of blood and gore. Looking deeper, the young men see that Achilles' rash and selfish actions have disastrous consequences: his best friend's death and a crippling near-defeat for the Greeks.

"Guys tend to be impulsive, to speak and act before they think," says Lasseter. "They don't often consider the impact of their actions on other people -- how damaging they can be. 'The Iliad' prompts them to ask the big questions they don't hear on MTV: What is duty? What is honor? What is justice?"

(Hat tip: Power Line

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