A distinction with a difference

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The North Carolina Republican Party is between a rock and a hard place these days, caught in a conundrum between its conservative roots and the free-market (aka Libertarian) extremists, who are staging a full-fledged takeover. Under the guiding hands of Art "The Puppetmaster" Pope, the party is sliding over the edge of sanity into the abyss of personal greed and social irresponsibility.

Nowhere is the train wreck between responsible conservatism and free-market mania more clear than in the broad area of planning. Two "reports" featured in Art Pope's privately owned Libertarian think tank tell the sad story for all to see. The first is a shallow piece of short-sighted drivel with a name only Pope's puppets could embrace. Planning Penalties in North Carolina is an ideological free market diatribe against nothing less than than the wisdom of zoning.

You see, some cities actually want to manage their growth in ways that enhance the common good and conserve resources. But according to this report, that horrid practice puts upward pressure on housing prices, making it more difficult to achieve the so-called American Dream of owning a home. Never mind that there are other American dreams, such as having clean water and air that's safe to breathe. No sirree. Cheap housing is all that matters.

The authors hold up cities like Fayetteville as better models, where land-use planners drink coffee and approve permits the same way Congress approves Bush's spending: with a rubber stamp. Well I've been to Fayetteville and I don't care what the price of housing is, the place is a mirror image of Jacksonville: a planning-free zone filled with ugliness and gross commercialism. Open space is disappearing as fast as as a Caterpillar bulldozer, and poor people are buying new houses so far from work that they can't afford the price of gas to commute.

Of course, you won't be surprised to learn that this Puppetshow publication is sponsored by the American Dream Coalition, to demonstrate that the main driver of high housing prices is the emergence of land use policies imposed by local governments. And just who is that coalition? Nothing less than a self-interest group of homebuilders, oil interests, highway construction contractors and washed up policy hacks. Their only measure of success is whether they make money or not. And they could care less about the integrity of the environment, energy independence, community, or anything else that doesn't line their pockets.

Which is exactly where they slam up against into the true conservative wing of the Republican party. You see, true conservatives actually conserve. They value the environment and land as the most finite of all resources. They think beautiful vistas and rivers should be preserved for the common good. They embrace fiscal constraint. They live by their own version of the Hippocratic oath: first do no harm. Of course, there aren't many true conservatives left in this world. Their interests have been hijacked by the theocrats on one hand and free-market neanderthals on the other.

The second Puppetshow "report" today is an amusing little piece by Puppet Darren Bakst who decries all the attention global warming is getting these days. As near as I can tell there are only a handful of people these days with their heads so far up their @$$es that they can't understand the need for a full-court press around climate change. And predictably, it all comes down to money for them. Why invest in things that might mitigate climate risks when they have a few scientists who say "Don't bother. You can't do anything about it anyway." True conservatives are interested in conserving Planet Earth itself. Free-market morons like Bakst would rather drive their SUVs off the cliff in a blaze of greed and glory.

If you've read this far, you know by now what the punchline is. Republicans in North Carolina have sold their souls to the Puppetmaster and his Free Market Sideshow. They subvert the common good and integrity in favor of personal wealth and greed. And they want to take over the government they hate so they can crush it out of existence.



So where do tattoos and titty bars fit into the American dream?