The Locker Room

May 6, 2009

Message to NC Senate: Please Treat Us Like Dirt

Posted by Daren Bakst at 7:37 PM

Tomorrow, the North Carolina Senate will be voting (third reading) on a bill, SB 600, that does the following regarding eminent domain:

Before taking land, the government must "include a statement that describes in detail and with information sufficient to demonstrate that there is no prudent and feasible alternative to condemnation of the property.."

In addition, "a jury shall hear and determine whether or not a prudent and feasible alternative exists to condemnation of the property. If a jury determines that a prudent and feasible alternative does exist to condemnation of the property, the court shall dismiss the action and award.."

Sounds great!

There's a catch.  This common sense protection only applies to properties that are encumbered by conservation easements.  The property owner has no rights, just the holder of the conservation easement (which may or may not be the property owner).

In other words, this sensible protection is needed to make sure that the government doesn't disturb some trees but this protection isn't needed when the government seizes your house, your business, your church, etc.

My recommendation to the Senate (which voted 48-0 in favor of the bill today):  I get that you don't care about citizens, but could you at least treat us equally with grass.  I literally want you to treat us the same way you want to treat dirt.

Please amend the bill before the third reading so the bill applies to all property.

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Cognitive dissonance on health care

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 5:40 PM

Adam Linker of the N.C. Justice Center complains in an op-ed in the Raleigh News & Observer that the State Health Plan wants to make smokers and the obese pay more for their health insurance but the state is reluctant to ban smoking in public places.

Somehow Linker thinks it is perfectly fine for the government to infringe on property rights in the name of public health but cruel to charge people more for their health choices.

Linker thinks we should all get the same health plan and pay the same amount for it, meaning the healthy will subsidize the unhealthy either through higher insurance premiums, higher taxes, or less access to doctors.

Wouldn't it be better to allow state employees to use their own money and make their own health decisions? Oh, right, Linker thinks we can't trust state employees to make their own decisions, we need to leave that to the State Health Plan.

But he was complaining about the State Health Plan.

Can you square this circle?

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Forced annexation foes state their case

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 5:02 PM

Forced annexation opponents blasted the state's current annexation law during a rally and lobbying day at the Legislative Building.

Click play below to hear highlights from the morning's speakers, including John Locke Foundation President John Hood, Cathy Heath of StopNCAnnexation, Bob Pleasants of Good Neighbors United, and Brian Irving of the N.C. Libertarian Party. The video runs 31:29.

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RE: Oil and gas, green jobs

Posted by Rick Henderson at 4:16 PM

In Colorado, where I lived until recently, state officials are doing their best to kneecap the "old energy economy" as they pursue their green dreams.

The administration of Gov. Bill Ritter used a couple of 2007 bills allowing modest revisions in the regulations controlling oil and gas production as the pretext to scrap the old rules and rewrite them, giving environmental activists and NIMBY types unprecedented powers to effectively veto oil and gas production on both public and private land. Oil and gas companies threatened litigation, arguing that the bill didn't authorize such a sweeping change in the rules. So the legislature passed another bill earlier this year codifying the new regulations. (And the industry sued anyway.)

This is a big deal in Colorado because in 2007, an institute affiliated with the Colorado School of Mines, the state's elite engineering school, concluded that energy production was the state's largest industry, accounting for 6.1 percent of gross state product, giving oil and gas drilling a larger stake in the economy than tourism. State tax revenues on oil and gas production have soared from $32 million in 2003 to $250 million last year. But the state is expecting only $40 million in the next fiscal year.

To be sure, part of the drop in revenues can be attributed to falling natural gas prices and the slumping economy. But energy companies also say that the rollout of the new oil and gas rules told drillers they should move their rigs to states with friendlier regulatory environments.

"Obviously, with the economic downturn, the state government has created an uncertain business environment where companies might be more comfortable to Louisiana or Texas," said Nate Strauch, [Colorado Oil and Gas Association] communications coordinator.

"Colorado's permitting already takes longer than the national average. Under the new rules, after the permit has been approved, different entities can come in and challenge the action. Surface owners can come in and second-guess the decision. So can the Department of Public Health and the Division of Wildlife. This gives them a second bite of the apple after being involved in the process already if they don't like the results," he told OGJ in an Apr. 24 phone interview.

Ritter's made other moves stifling oil and gas production. For instance, he stalled federal officials who had worked seven years drafting rules that expanded drilling on the Roan Plateau -- which sits atop the largest untapped pool of natural gas resources in the lower 48 states -- so that they didn't take effect until the final weeks of the Bush administration. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who was a Colorado U.S. senator before last year's election, has long opposed new wells on the Roan, so Ritter's game of Four Corners wound up placing those resources beyond reach.

The quickest way to make the "new energy economy" the primary generator of jobs in the energy industry is by strangling fossil fuel producers with higher taxes and draconian regulations. And that's no way to help consumers or restore the health of the economy.

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UNC life outdoes 'Office Space'

Posted by Jon Sanders at 4:02 PM

UNC life: Here's how thick the bureaucracy is at UNC Chapel Hill - there is at least one department where the worker bees on the front lines are literally 10 levels away from Chancellor Holden Thorp.

In essence, that person has nine bosses ...

'Office Space': Peter Gibbons: And here's something else, Bob: I have eight different bosses right now.

Bob Slydell: I beg your pardon?

Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses.

Bob Slydell: Eight?

Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob.

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The green jobs hoax

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 3:05 PM

The Heritage Foundation recently sponsored a forum on the idea that new corporate subsidies to produce energy from non-carbon based fuels--wind and solar--will help us out of the recession by creating "green jobs." The panel featured three economists, Gabriel Calzada, King Juan Carlos University, Spain; Robert Murphy, The Institute for Energy Research; and William T. Bogart Professor of Economics, York College (PA). None of the three argued that these subsidies would not create jobs in the industries targeted by the subsidies. That's a no-brainer. Jobs could be created in any industry, including pyramid building, if the government decided to heavily subsidize it. They also all agreed that the real question, typically ignored by the eco-Keynesians proposing this shell game, is how many jobs would be destroyed in the process. Since the government cannot put anything into the economy that it does not first take out of that same economy there is no reason to believe that net new jobs would be created. In fact, since there is certainly going to be a loss in efficiency in reshuffling the deck, a net loss of jobs should be expected. As Gabriel Calzada pointed out in his presentation, Spain, which the advocates for a new eco-industrial complex point to as the model of how to create green jobs, is losing over twice as many jobs as it's creating with its subsidies. Calzada wonders why in the world the US, with just under a 9 percent unemployment rate, would be looking to Spain with over an 18 percent unemployment rate as a model for how to create jobs. Anyway, the Heritage program is definitely worth watching.

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We have a winner!

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 2:38 PM

In the contest for most bizarre mixing and matching of academic titles and specialties.

Professor John Mueller of Ohio State University.

He currently is the Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies and a professor of both political science and dance at The Ohio State University.


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Progress, God, and man

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 2:10 PM

Stanley Fish expresses his frustration "at having to expend so much mental and emotional energy refuting the shallow arguments of school-yard atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins" in a post on a new book, Reason, Faith, and Revolution.

we are where we always were, confronted with a choice between a flawed but aspiring religious faith or a spectacularly hubristic faith in the power of unaided reason and a progress that has no content but, like the capitalism it reflects and extends, just makes its valueless way into every nook and cranny.

Unfortunately, there is another alternative to "science, reason, liberalism, [and] capitalism" - and that is the man on the white horse. The elected official who will protect us from the scourges of capitalism and uncertainty.

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First They Came for Ashton Lundeby

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 12:26 AM

And some of us still defended the PATRIOT Act.

Lundeby is a 16-year-old homeschooled kid from Oxford, NC. Two months ago a dozen FBI agents aided by two NC Highway Patrolmen, and at least one Granville County Sheriff's deputy bum-rushed the Lundeby home to arrest Ashton and imprison him under the PATRIOT Act. The FBI suggested, but Ashton has yet to be formally charged, that he made bomb threats directed at Purdue University in Indiana back in February.

Ashton has an airtight alibi on where he was when the threat was supposedly made. Federal authorities have evinced no interest in that information.

Ashton has spent the last 60 days in an adult federal detention center to South Bend, Ind. He due to finally come before a federal judge on May 22nd.

The terrorists have won.

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Venezuelan Nationalization-Type Policies Proposed for NC

Posted by Daren Bakst at 11:52 AM

The following, as Alcoa rightfully has said, is something that one would expect in Venezuela, not North Carolina:

Alcoa, the largest U.S. producer of aluminum, had North Carolina's backing in 1958 when it won a federal license to run the dams, which powered an aluminum smelter that employed nearly 1,000 people. But the company closed the plant in 2002, its 50-year license expired, and state officials said they see no reason why the company should keep running the dams and keep the $44 million a year in electricity sales they generate."

The Senate voted 44-4 to tentatively approve creating a state corporation that would acquire and control the dams if North Carolina is able someday to get control away from Alcoa.

Both Republicans and Democrats are trying to seize a business so the state can run the business. 

Here's a little nugget from Senator Hartsell (R-Cabarrus):

"I think it's important for us as North Carolinians to be able to control our water, clean up our environment and encourage appropriate economic development in the area," said Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus. "The dams are going to be run, but the first thing they're going to be run for is for the people of this state."

Hugo Chavez couldn't have said it any better. 

Try distinguishing what Venezuela is doing and what state Republicans and Democrats want to do.  Good luck.

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Ladies and gentlemen, Obama has just left the building

Posted by David N. Bass at 10:12 AM

The president and vice president are just regular guys, don't you know.

They picked up a couple burgers yesterday at an "independent burger joint" in Arlington. Biden ordered "a swiss cheese burger with jalapeños and a root beer" (breath mints, anyone?).

Watch the video to the end to see Obama exiting the building.

When ordering, the president has a somewhat pregnant pause before asking his burger be cooked medium well. Looking for the teleprompter, perhaps?

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State revenue update

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 09:46 AM

"State spending will have to return to the levels of three or four years ago," said Rep. Mickey Michaux in response to the latest news on state revenues.

The final budget will need to find another $1.5 billion in savings for FY2010 (7.5 percent) and $2.0 billion for FY2011. This would mean a final budget of $18.9 billion.

Funny enough, $18.9 billion is the amount of spending in our Back to Basics budget.

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Your stimulus oversight job, should you choose to accept it

Posted by David N. Bass at 09:05 AM

The Washington Times reports:

So just who's tracking that $787 billion in taxpayer money that President Obama and the Democrat-led Congress are doling out? You are. Or you're supposed to be, anyway.

"We are, in essence, deputizing the entire American citizenry to help with the oversight of this program," said Rep. Brad Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology's subcommittee on investigations and oversight.

So, too, said Earl Devaney, the ex-cop who's now chairman of the Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board, charged with tracking the torrent of cash now pouring out of federal coffers.

"I'm going to have millions of citizens to help me," he said, comparing run-of-the-mill Americans to inspectors general, the high-ranking officials charged with ferreting out waste and abuse in federal agencies.

"I'm going to have a million little IGs running around," the chairman said Tuesday after his testimony before the subcommittee.

If full-time inspectors general frequently can't locate fraud (or are unwilling to), what makes them think regular Americans with families and 8-to-5 jobs will?

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The N.C. constitution and the power to tax

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:04 AM

The first forum in the new series, the State of Our Constitution, packed the Historic Chowan County Court House April 23.

The crowd heard John Hood, former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, Raleigh attorney Gene Boyce, Barton college historian Jeff Broadwater, and Wake Forest political scientist John Dinan discuss the state constitution and the power to tax.

If you missed the event sponsored by the N.C. History Project and N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, you can watch it now as the “lead story” at Carolina Journal TV.

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Samuelson makes the case for oil and gas jobs

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:03 AM

Want to boost the number of high-paying jobs in the United States? Robert J. Samuelson explains in the latest Newsweek that an increased focus on the oil and natural-gas industries would boost the number of jobs for “geologists, petroleum engineers, roustabouts, steelworkers.”

Though straightforward, this logic mostly eludes the Obama administration, which is fixated on "green jobs," and wind and solar energy. Championing clean fuels has become a political set piece. On Earth Day (April 22), the president visited an Iowa factory that builds towers for wind turbines. "It's time for us to [begin] a new era of energy exploration in America," he said. "We can remain the world's leading importer of oil, or we can become the world's leading exporter of clean energy."

The president is lauded as a great educator; in this case, he provided much miseducation. He implied that there's a choice between promoting renewables and relying on oil. Actually, the two are mostly disconnected.

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One really good piece of news

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:02 AM

There’s at least one major highlight of Newsweek’s announcement that it plans a major restructuring: the new structure will include no regular column from Anna Quindlen.

I chuckled when I read editor Jon Meacham’s assessment of Quindlen’s decision to leave:

Readers of her novels will benefit, for she will now have more time to invest in her fiction.

No, I think she’ll probably spew about the same amount of fiction as she has for years.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:55 AM

Today's Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Don Carrington's report on a new federal sentencing for former N.C. Ferry Division official Jerry Gaskill.

John Hood's Daily Journal examines punitive tax policies.

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