July 2006


Citizens aren’t geese and, for most, the golden eggs they pay in taxes don’t come easy.

While I’ve been critical of both the county’s and town’s 2006-2007 budgets, it’s Chapel Hill’s efforts that have disappointed me the most.

Why? The advertised “balance” was based on reductions in fiscal responsibility, a “lucky” sales tax windfall and some other sleight-of-hand. Beyond that, last years political promises to directly include our saavy citizenry in improving the cost-effectiveness of services were not followed through on. Additional campaign-promised expenditures made it into the budget but not the concomitantly discussed reductions.

I believe that a realistic appraisal of our community’s financial future should start with our elected officials weening themselves off the idea that real-estate values in our community will constantly accelerate. Both Orange county’s and Chapel Hill’s 2006-2007 budgets forecast a continued growth in real-estate values – a projection that belies macro-economic events.

To wit. Gross (as in vulgar) national debt. Accelerating energy costs. Potential war-related chaos. Stagflation. And the very real possibility of the real-estate boom busting.

Today’s rant on locally short-sighted taxation trends comes via UNC Prof. Eric Muller (isThatLegal.org) who tipped me last week to another excellent local pool of talent – a group of UNC Law School folks ‘blogging on credit, debt and bankruptcy ( Credit Slips ).

From today’s post Deregulation Drags Down Economy

The NYT ran a story that connects two dots—the housing bust and a slowing economy. Because housing has been a big employer, as new home construction comes a standstill, the effects will reverberate through the economy. Thus comes the answer to a question I’ve heard many times: So long as I’m not strung out on some crazy mortgage, why should I care if the housing market implodes? Because it affects the whole economy.

Not just the whole economy but the whole financial infrastructure of our country. This, of course, includes our local ability to fund required programs, let alone “nice to haves” (intern programs, swimming centers, etc.).

A prudent step would be to evaluate local tax revenue against longer time frames and a broader, maybe a bit more negative, perspective.

I’ve been reading UNC Law School’s Eric Muller’s ‘blog IsThatLegal for several years.

He has an incredible knack ferreting out information and reporting on one of the low points for American democracy – World War Two’s mass detention of citizens of Japanese origin (covered in his book Free to Die for Their Country).

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[UPDATE: More (via Paul Jone's) from The Carrboro News]

One of my concerns about Chapel Hill’s impending Lot #2 and Lot #5 developments is the restriction of public access to what was once public property.

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Also, from our July 19 column: we regret the insinuation that Mr. Alex Trebek is a robot, and has been since 2004. Mr. Trebek’s robotic frame does still contain some organic parts, many harvested from patriotic Canadian schoolchildren, so this technically makes him a “cyborg,” not a “robot.” Ken-Jennings.com regrets the error.

Version 2.0 suggestions.

Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.

“The Trial”, Kafka

Stumbled upon this troubling account from Denver’s ABC 7:

You could be on a secret government database or watch list for simply taking a picture on an airplane. Some federal air marshals say they’re reporting your actions to meet a quota, even though some top officials deny it.

San Jose Costa Rica
Outskirts of San Jose, Costa Rica

“Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft … and they did nothing wrong,” said one federal air marshal.

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From the Boston Globe

The federal government has inflated the “No Fly List” to 200,000 names. But the list has nabbed more members of Congress than it has terrorists. US Senator Edward M. Kennedy and US Representative John Lewis have been inconvenienced by it, and anyone named David Nelson is likely to face a major interrogation each time he flies. Federal officials make it very difficult to correct the list, thus tormenting citizens who are guilty of nothing more than having a name resembling a name suspected sometime by some government official.

That’s the “No Fly” list. The “reach into ones pants” or “feel up ones bra” list is much, much bigger – an expansive and encompassing list – mutable based on secret recipes that seem to vary by airline.

And it’s a bit more than an inconvenience if you are on the wrong side of a SSSS ticket designation and draw a TSA agent who fondles your genitalia.

Bush’s Presidency should go down as the worst in our Republic’s short history. In the rush to create a new American Imperialism, Emperor Bush’s profligate Constitutional trespasses – the calculated, unchallenged scope and breadth of abuse of his Executive powers – have set a new standard of political authoritarianism.

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An interesting mix of groggy and chipper Barcamper’s this morning. Fred quickly shook out the details of an “unconference” – a set of sessions were pitched (I’m doing a citizen technology session) and off we went.

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“First comes love, then comes marriage“, then comes what in that Web 2.0 carriage?

Two of our strongest local blogging activists, Ruby and Brian are tying the knot today (forever memorable because it’s also my wifes b’day).

Congratulations and fondest good luck on what promises to be a sweltering July 22nd.

Saturday, July 22nd’s RDU Barcamp should be a yearly highpoint for the Triangle tech community.

A “who’s who” of producers and consumers on ‘net-related tech will gather (@ 8 am as ibiblio’s Paul Jones notes) to thrash through some of today’s trendier tech topics.

As local social justice activist (and newly minted groom) BrianR, over at Yesh.com, observes, UNC’s Fred Stutzman has gone above and beyond planning what promises to be an incredible tech unconference

Fred Stutzman has a written a wonderful post called Advice for Planning a Bar Camp. It contains a lot of excellent info about how to plan an unconference. In this case doing it BarCamp style. The RDU BarCamp is this Saturday July 22. (Congratulations Fred for pulling this off. I’m sure the event will be a huge success!)

and documented how to put together such a beast.

Excellent way to wag the long tail Fred!

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Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett died July 7th (as announced today). Syd’s influence on Brit rock was comparable to the Beach Boys’ Wilson’s (whose Pet Sounds often appears neck-n-neck with “Madcap Laughs” in lists of influential albums) on the US scene.

My copy of “Madcap” is sorted into a special sub-section of my album collection along with other unusual standouts of the 60′s/70′s Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, Gong,Henry Cow, et. al.

Fireworks [map]

If you get a chance next Sunday (July 16th), take a listen to DJ TJ (that’s Dance Jam Tucker Jones) from 2-4pm on Carrboro’s local low-power FM WCOM. I caught a snippet of his show a couple weeks ago – interesting, eclectic stuff.

Can’t get WCOM? No worries, they stream.