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Archive for August 4th, 2011

When tobacco wasn’t a dirty word

There was a time in Durham when you could smell tobacco on hot, humid summer nights, and not so long ago. The’80s, as a matter of fact. American Tobacco had not yet closed shop to move to Reidsville. Ligget & Myers was still manufacturing. And each late summer and fall the tobacco warehouse that used to be located on what is no the parking lot below the downtown YMCA would ring with auctioneer calls.

All that’s gone now. The demonization of tobacco has come full circle. The powers that be consider it a tocsin but are content to take the taxes it brings in.

I ran across this painting from a Lucky Strike ad in a 1942 LIFE magazine. It occurred to me that the people in this painting, which was “painted from life,” according to the ad, might have been from around these parts.

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Still clueless after all these years

Al Gore had this to say to his newest employee at Current TV, Keith Olbermann:

“We need to have an American spring — you know, the Arab spring,” Gore said. “The nonviolent part of it isn’t finished yet, but we need to have an American spring, a kind of an American nonviolent change where people on the grass roots get involved again. … I want to tell you, Keith, this country is in trouble. Our democracy has been withering on the vine. It really has been. This has been going on for some time. But this is not an event that can be taken lightly. I know it’s difficult to imagine that people who care about the values that this country was based on will rise up and get much more involved in the democratic process. But that is exactly what we need, and that is the only thing that can get our country back on the right track.”

Where to start. Rather than “withering on the vine,” the democracy in this country has been rejuvenated by the Tea Party phenomenon. Despite leftist conspiracy theories about the Koch brothers and Astroturf, the Tea Party movement is a truly genuine grassroots movement by exactly the people “who care about the values this country was based on.”

Always behind the curve, Gore doesn’t understand that the country already has begun to “rise up and get much more involved in the democratic process.” What does Al think 2010 was all about? Where has this guy been for the last two-and-a-half years?

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A better example of Democrat hypocrisy you could never find

A Democratic legislator in Tennessee, Joe Armstrong, got a call the other day from a student at UT-Knoxville who was offended because the campus bookstore was selling an item called “This is Change? Disappoint-Mints.” The label on the container had a version of the iconic blue-and-red Obama poster, leaving no question about the satirical nature of the product. Armstrong called the store to complain, and they pulled the mints:

Armstrong followed up Tuesday with a visit to the bookstore, located in the basement of the University Center, where he talked to director David Kent.

“I explained to him that I felt those mints were politically specific products that had no educational value,” Armstrong said.

“If it was a book or something of that nature, fine, but that’s sort of a discretionary product they have there. It wasn’t viewpoint neutral. It was very specifically insulting to the president.”

HotAir.com’s Ed Morrissey points out something important:

Had this been a private citizen complaining to a private-sector business owner, there would be nothing wrong with it. In the private sector, customers complaints require attention if a business owner wants to keep his business open for very long. Even a boycott is a perfectly rational private-sector response to a private-sector issue, even if most boycotts are demonstrations of impotence and usually misguided. … However, that’s a far cry from a legislator telling a state facility to take something off the shelves because it offends his partisan leanings.

Morrissey also points out that Armstrong had no problem a few years ago with the same bookstore at the same university was selling “National EmbarrassMints” with George Bush’s likeness on the label.

Armstrong must have missed that class in school when they defined the terms “consistency” and “hypocrisy.”

UPDATE: The Anchoress and Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds (via comments in the Knoxville News’ story) weigh in.

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The staggering cost of over-regulation

Liberals always accuse conservatives of being against things like health inspections and fire codes when we point to wasteful over-regulation. Liberals scoff when you translate regulation into dollars, failing to understand that any money spent meeting the requirements of regulations is money not put back into a business or into the pockets of employees.

Liberals also fail to understand that those costs are always passed on to consumers. They’re never eaten by the business owner, as they shouldn’t be. The amount of wealth and productivity lost each year via regulation is staggering. But just how staggering? As The Heritage Foundation reports, this staggering:

The annual cost of regulation — $1.75 trillion by one frequently cited estimate — represents twice the amount of individual income taxes collected last year. Overall, from the beginning of the Obama Administration to mid-fiscal year (FY) 2011, regulators have imposed $38 billion in new costs on the American people, more than any comparable period on record. Consider Washington’s red tape to be a hidden tax.

The mountain of regulations didn’t begin under the Obama Administration. Under the Administration of George W. Bush, for example, $60 billion in additional annual regulatory costs were imposed on Americans. But as Katz and Gattuso write, the rate at which burdens are growing has accelerated under the Obama Administration.

Many Americans are blissfully ignorant of the plethora of regulations that affect their pocket books. As Heritage points out in their report, “toilets, showerheads, light bulbs, mattresses, washing machines, dryers, cars, ovens, refrigerators, television sets, and bicycles” all cost much more because of questionable regulations.

When you think of the thousands of OSHA, EPA, IRS, HUD, USDA, and hundreds of other federal and state agency bureaucrats eager to stick it to some non-complying private citizen, the mind boggles. The recent woodpecker controversy shows just how oppressive these regulations and laws can be.

To make things worse, individuals with agendas and unhealthy personal passions are often attracted to regulatory enforcement jobs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife officer involved in the woodpecker fiasco is an example of the thousands of government officials who lack any common sense, but who are given great power. Sort of like our president and much of Congress.

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How badly did this person NOT want to receive a newspaper?

Bad enough to bring a class-action lawsuit:

A guest at the Hilton Garden Inn in Santa Rosa, Calif., filed a class-action lawsuit against the hotel over a 75-cent charge for a newspaper, officials say.

Rodney Harmon, 55, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. He alleges the hotel chain deceived him and is also hurting the environment.

“He did not request a newspaper and assumed it had been placed there by hotel staff,” his suit states. Harmon accused the Hilton of intentionally hiding the cost of the newspaper by using an “extremely small font, which is difficult to notice or read” on the sleeve of room cards.

Bulk distribution to hotels has been a favorite way newspapers have padded their circulation in the past 10 years, or at least since the big, post-internet circulation slides began. If I’m traveling, I actually like to read the local rag. I DON’T want to read USA Today or some other national paper. If I get charged for those without my say-so, count me in on that class-action suit.

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To liberals who say there’s no waste in government

Don Carrington’s piece at Carolina Journal Online yesterday is a perfect example of how we dribble away billions of tax dollars in small amounts all over this country every day. His story is about alleged corruption in federal grant applications, but my takeaway question after reading it is: Why in the hell are our tax dollars being used to fix up some private individual’s house?

That puts me in the “uncaring” and “heartless” category, I’m sure. So be it. I’ve got some pretty pricey things I need to do to my house, but I don’t expect any level of government to pay for them. The sad part about the pass we’ve come to as a country in the past 50 years is that way too many people DO expect the government to pay for their personal home repairs.

Even as we are spiraling down the toilet, fiscally, the federal government’s bureaucrats (who don’t give a damn because it’s not THEIR money) are giving away money for things that would be wasteful even in a good economy with a balanced federal budget:

The National Endowment for the Humanities has announced $40 million in grants, including $3.2 million for scholars, museums and documentary filmmakers in California.

Like its sister agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, the NEH saw its current-year budget slashed 7.5% in April, down to $155 million, and its future prospects are iffy given the deficit-cutting mood in Washington. For now, there’s still money to go around.

Arguably the most wasteful of all the questionable expenditures is the $400,000 to the University of Massachusetts for a two-day seminar “about the meaning of civility and its role in the functioning of American democracy.” That’s $200,000 a day to hear about how uncivil, hateful, and terroristic the Tea Party folks are. What an investment. You can hear the same thing on MSNBC each night for free.

As Everett Dirksen was once famously misquoted by a reporter: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

P.S.: Had the pleasure to meet Everett Dirksen in June of 1964 during the debate over the Civil Rights Act. I was 16, and my aunt worked for Sen. Richard B. Russell of Georgia, a Democrat. She introduced him and Hubert Humphrey to me in the rotunda of the Capitol. It was Russell and his fellow Democrats (West Virginia’s Robert Byrd, South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond, North Carolina’s Sam Ervin, et al.) who were trying to defeat the Civil Rights Bill. It was Dirksen and the Republicans (along with some Democrats such as Humphrey) who were trying to pass it.

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Will government next REQUIRE you to buy a Chevy Volt?

That headline question may sound crazy, but think about it. When lefty, nanny-state liberals and Democrats don’t get their way, they use the government or courts to find ways to make you do something you might not want to do.

Now we learn that the savior of the Green Movement, the electric car manufactured by government-owned General Motors, is not selling:

The sales figures for the Chevy Volt are out for the month of July are out and the total number sold was 125. Not 12,500 or even 1,200. 125. And they thought things were bad when when, back in February, GM sold 281 Volts. That was apparently a sales spike.

Like foods with no salt or fat, the Volt is good for you, according to our over-reaching government. Therefore, since it makes sense to liberals to legislate away any foods that are bad for you, it makes equal sense for them to legislate away any vehicle that is not good for society as a whole.

You saw that instinct last week when Obama doubled the required gas mileage for cars, with the acquiescence of car makers who are increasingly dependent upon government money to survive. Soon, the only car that will fit liberals’ narrow view of acceptable will be, yes, the Chevy Volt and their ilk.

That’s the way they roll.

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State Tells Health Care Providers No To Surgery Center

Here we go again. State officials are preventing the building of a surgery center near Erwin. Why? Because the state of North Carolina believes it should have the authority to decide which health care services a community “needs” and which it doesn’t. It’s a ridiculous intervention by government. Yet, the state has the right to thwart a business plan due to what’s called the Certificate of Need process.

Jim Burgin, a Harnett County commissioner and member of the Good Hope Hospital board of trustees, said Wednesday that the state’s rejection of the surgery center was a political move that was damaging to the county.

Burgin said the surgery center would cost the county nothing. It also would bring 25 to 40 jobs to the community and generate about $3 million to $5 million for the local economy, he said.

Burgin said initial talks with the state about the surgery center were encouraging and that “everybody involved said it was a no-brainer.”

However, the state ultimately denied the request, saying, among other things, that it was “outside the scope” of the original certificate of need.

JLF Vice President for Research Roy Cordato has been calling for the repeal of the “CON” law for years. If a business wants to provide a legal service, then it should be up to the business to implement its plan and reap the rewards or suffer the consequences. The state has no business deciding which proposals constitute  “needed” medical services and which do not, just as the state has no business deciding which shoe stores are “needed” and which are not. Customers making buying decisions in the marketplace make those decisions.


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The Free Market as Funder of the Arts

Thanks to the Triangle Business Journal for reporting on this story about Durham musician Tom Merrigan’s use of a social networking site to pitch his dream of playing piano and, as he put it, “bring my boogie-woogie to the public!” in spots around Durham. Merrigan didn’t wait for a grant from a government arts entity and he didn’t decry the lack of public funding. Instead, he did it himself and let the free market work its magic. In just two days he’s convinced a slew of people to back his venture and fund him with more than $2,000. I don’t know Mr. Merrigan, but based on this story, I say congratulations. This is a great example of what happens when individuals pursue their dreams with creativity and enthusiasm, rather than sitting back and waiting for a program to drop cash in his lap. His project pitch is here.

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