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Ergonomic Toilets for some 

Pot holes for all

This state's politicians are deeply concerned about you -- and your toilet.

They have a dream that someday everyone will have equal access to your toilet, regardless of their age, weight, physical and mental abilities, or left-handed orientation.

They believe you have a right to be as comfortable as possible on your toilet, and that bathrooms should be built to afford everyone the same level of privacy, regardless of their income level. For a long time, evil home builders looking to save a buck built homes for lower-income people with fewer privacy features, especially in the bathroom, but our politicians are fighting to change that by providing subsidized bathroom design guidance for all.

While they're at it, they'd like to suggest that the next time you purchase a toilet, you should select one with bidet features, an elongated bowl and a 19-inch seat option to maximize your comfort level.

At the North Carolina State University Center for Universal Design, militant building-design nuts spend their days developing and advocating for something called "universal design" in the hope that someday everyone will have the same cubeless shower built to design standards that are "identical wherever possible, equivalent when not," so as to create "universal environments to be used by all people."

The $300,000 the center got in this year's state budget will no doubt aid them in their quest. But you've got to wonder: If a North Carolina driver gets whiplash from hitting a pot hole at 50 mph, does it really matter if his toilet's orientation promotes good posture?

State officials are now saying they won't start the next leg of I-485 until at least 2013, and there's a critical shortage of road building and repair money in the budget of what was once the good roads state. After taking a long look at this year's state budget, which is packed with tens of millions of dollars worth of absurdities that could fill 20 more columns, it's easy to see why. I thought readers would enjoy the highlights.

Like the $1.5 million in the state budget for the Minority Support Center to subsidize the African-American-oriented Generations Credit Union and the Latino Community Credit Union. It's unclear why the Latinos can't just use the African-American credit union or vice versa, but whatever the case, the Latino credit union was proud to announce earlier this year that it would aid its low-income customers by lowering its fee for money transfers to Mexico to a mere $3. Latino Credit Union execs must not have gotten the memo about BB&T offering free money transfers to Mexico at no cost to North Carolina taxpayers. Most big banks offer the same services these credit unions do, in Spanish, but the important thing here is preserving the integrity of the ethnic banking experience, which you simply can't put a price on.

Then there's the more than $600,000 for the "NC Center for International Understanding," including a program called the North Carolina in the World project, which is essentially a Web site for teachers with links to other cool international Web sites that they could have found on their own if they used Google. Esoteric sounding programs promise to boost students' international understanding, and heck, if we could get more than half of them to master their own language, culture and mathematics system well enough to graduate, these programs might actually do some good.

More than $1 million has already been spent to preserve a ship off the coast that might or might not have been the pirate Blackbeard's. The general assembly threw another $247,000 at the project in this year's budget. Engineers are using a risky new method to preserve the ship by creating an underwater sand dune. It might work, or it could destroy ship.

"We don't really know what it's going to do," Army Corps of Engineers biologist Bill Adams told the Associated Press.

And once again, the legislature gave Governor Mike Easley $15 million in what insiders call "walking around money." The scheme works like this: Easley decides which companies get a chunk of his cash for locating here and creating jobs, then the state writes a check.

The problem with that is that like Eisai Inc., a Triangle Park company that's been here for years and recently got $150,000 from Easley for promising to expand, a company doesn't actually have to move here to get paid off. Company execs just have to announce they're going to create jobs they were adding anyway and cozy up to the governor.

And this column wouldn't be complete without mentioning the $875,000 legislators spent to promote High Point's Home Furnishing Market. Or the two economic development specialists the state is hiring to help our Indian tribes figure out how to make more money.

Judging from the hangover I got the last time I went gambling, the Indians seem to be doing just fine for themselves. But then, what do I know? Until now, I was under the illusion that my toilet worked pretty well, too.

Got a story idea? E-mail Tara at

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