Monthly Archives: January 2013

Higher Education And North Carolina

Our new governor, Pat McCrory, made some news this past week when he commented on higher education, and some majors, in North Carolina:

On the show, McCrory said “educational elite” had taken over, offering courses that have no path to jobs. He said he instructed his staff Monday to draft legislation that could alter the state money that universities and community colleges receive “not based on how many butts in seats but how many of those butts can get jobs.” (Listen to the audio here.)

The governor joined Bennett in criticizing certain academic areas, such as gender studies and philosophy. When Bennett made a crack about women’s and gender studies at nationally ranked UNC-Chapel Hill, McCrory said, “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine, go to a private school and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”

In typical fashion, the response from the University:

“I wasn’t surprised,” said Joanne Hershfield, chair of UNC-Chapel Hill’s department of women’s and gender studies. “But it is kind of frightening. These kinds of attacks on women’s and gender studies are pretty prevalent.”

Indeed – Attack.

In any event, the general response to push-backs like these are:

McCrory’s comments on higher education echo statements made by a number of Republican governors – including those in Texas, Florida and Wisconsin – who have questioned the value of liberal arts instruction and humanities degrees at public colleges and universities.

Sign me up as one of those question that value.

I went to the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology.  We openly mocked the general population at large, the CLA’ers – College of Liberal Arts. *  The idea being that the truly rigorous study took place in the hard sciences and not the softer social ones.

Now, do I think that the knowing of things “softer” is valuable?  Sure, to a degree.  I think it rounds a person out, I think it contributes to their awareness of themselves and of others.  But when I hire, I hire on the basis of the hard sciences; computer science, math, engineering.  And given equal qualifications in such, I may give the nod to the more generally rounded individual.

In a larger point, is there room for the PhD in Scandinavian  Art History?  Sure, but in what quantity?

Finally, I’ll leave you with this.  The cry from the left has been that of wage inequality.  All the while claiming that education should be valued for its own merit; career be damned.  So, it’s one or the other.  If education has merit on its own, then so be it, study your philosophy, your women’s studies and your art appreciation.  Just don’t come bitching to me when you find that no one is willing to pay you for those services.

* Full disclosure, I graduated with a degree in Mathematics, a minor in Philosophy and a teaching license.

R v. Wade – 40 Years On

I’m a little late on this.  I meant to post on this last week, closer to the anniversary of the monumental decision, but alas, the technical wizardry required to bring you the clips below were beyond my meager ability.  It took a bit of time to accomplish.

Anyway, I still feel the same about this debate as I did 6 months ago, 6 years ago and as a Sr. in college.  I really, honestly feel that America is much more in agreement than disagreement on the topic of abortion. For example, Gallup had a poll in 2011:

I’m afraid the debate has been taken over and dominated by the extremes.  The extremes of both sides.

Heh.  Sound familiar?

As a conservative and a Christian, I can understand where “my guys” are coming from and it’s easy to identify the crazy and disregard them.  But for the life of me, I just don’t get the far left and their position on the defense of every single aspect of the abortion debate.

Anyway, when it comes up, I always think of these two scenes in an episode from “Boston Legal”.

The context, of course, is a liberal law firm in Boston.  One of the named partners however, Denny Crane, is a staunch republican and often caricatured as such.  The show is a sounding board for liberal issues, when the show is about issues.  However, it’s more often than not funny and entertaining.

Anyway, in this episode, the two main liberal attorneys are faced with a dilemma; a 15 year old girl is seeking a court override of the parental consent required for an abortion.  The attorneys, normally in favor of such laws, take the case.  However, the scene turns complicated when the intent of the girl is not so much that she doesn’t wanna have a child, it’s that she doesn’t wanna have a daughter.

This creates a moral dilemma played out here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ntUKH0y7e4

In my experience, it’s spot on.  To the extreme supporter of Roe, it’s not so much the support of what’s going on, as it is the absolute critical nature of the ruling itself.

Finally, the bourbon scene:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3erDTg3iWX8

Notice the hint at the “beginning of life” thing.

Entitlement Programs

I’m gonna step in the mind of a bigger state thinker for a second.

In this mind, the goal is to identify all individuals and/or families that are in some sort of need.  This need could be based on a scale of sorts; usually income based.  That is, if income is too low, programs should be created or funded in order that some definition of “basic needs” is met.

These basic needs could be supplemented by straight cash, tax breaks, food programs, rent programs, energy programs or any other such program.

Okay, I may disagree with that mindset, but for now, that’s the mindset I’m in.  Now, given this reality, the goal, as a criteria for success, would be to make sure that all qualified individuals and/or families, would be identified and enrolled.  We don’t want a shadow population of folks who are in need of assistance or care, to exist.

In this aspect, I get that the bigger state thinker would want to expand the rolls of these programs.  I get that, right?

To the point that we want to include all qualified individuals in the program, I understand why someone would want to make sure the program “grew”.  I can even see the logic behind expanding the criteria of “need” to include an ever growing population.  What I am NOT sure about, and what I really truly guard against, is, “Do our goals change when all qualified individuals are enrolled?”

In other words, when all the poor and less fortunate have been enrolled in these programs, is there any effort to get them UNqualified?  For example, give them what ever it is that is needed to be able to create a level of income that allows them to leave the program.

To me, there are two kinds of charitable giving, two kinds of programs that can be set up.  One is where resources are gathered and distributed just to make the ends meet.  Food to feed the hungry, coats to warm the cold.  Stuff like that.  I think of that as “give a man a fish” kinda program.

Me?  I’m interested in the “teach a man to fish” kinda programs.  And I just don’t see the rigor, the discipline, the will or, frankly, even the desire on part of the policy makers to craft such steps into their programs.  I don’t see a willingness to exhibit the tough love that even parents engage in with their own children.  A love that says, hell-demands, that by paying your rent and your heat and your car payment, I am not helping you in life, I am, in fact, hurting you.

Liberals often claim that the right cares more about the unborn than about the orphan or the single mom or the poor.  There may be something to that, maybe.  But given that it’s the conservative that is more charitable than the liberal, I don’t buy it.  Rather, I see it that the programs favored by the conservative more resemble the “programs” that they teach and enforce upon their own children.  Namely sacrifice, hard work, goal deferral and plain old “do the job right”.

I just don’t get how feeding and housing a person for years and years helps them.

Am I wrong?

This Wasn’t Offered When I Went To The “U”

Those darn kids these days:

Students at the “U” are invited to a lecture this spring all about women and orgasms. Some say it’s interesting.

From the University:

As the state’s preeminent education and research institution, the University of Minnesota provides information on a wide range of topics. The vast majority of these topics are not controversial, but some are.

“The Female Orgasm: A Program About Sexual Health and Female Empowerment” will be held on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus on April 10 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The workshop is an educational opportunity for participants to talk openly in small groups about healthy sexuality and relationships broadly, and discuss and analyze the messages women receive about their bodies and sexuality from media and elsewhere. The intent of the workshop is to educate individuals in making decisions about what is right for them as they seek to build healthy relationships. The departments hosting the workshops know that this program will not appeal to every student. Participation is not mandatory.

School just ain’t what it used to be!

The Cost of a Pencil

The other day my daughter and I were walking through the grocery store when she saw a pencil.  She asked me if she could have it.  Normally I like that kind of “toy” request; I can make the deal contingent on a poem, a math problem or a little story.

But this day I said “no”.

But daahhh-ad!  It’s only a dollar!  How long does it take you to earn a dollar.

So I bought her the pencil and when we got home I taught her about taxes.

It turns out that just accounting for my portion of the North Carolina sales tax, my federal income tax and then North Carolina income tax, the cost of that $1.00 pencil goes to $1.68.

I didn’t bother to go through the FICA, the gas tax, and the tax on the car that drove us to the grocery.  Just the three.

Think of that, 40.48% of my income, just accounting for those three taxes, are consumed to buy a simple pencil.

Spending Cuts

Before the compromise that pushed the sequestration out 3 months, I was in favor of allowing the cuts to take place.  I know that the result would have been recession but it would have been short and only technically accurate.  In reality the cuts would strengthen the economy and we would find ourselves better off.

However, the compromise isn’t such a bad thing.  On the one hand it forces the senate to actually take up a budget AND we still can let the cuts take place.

But are we serious?

“I think the sequester is going to happen,” Representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the House budget panel and the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, told the NBC program “Meet The Press.”

House Republicans, most of whom had strongly opposed any tax rate increases in the “fiscal cliff” debate, have now started to shift their focus away the issue of tax increases and toward the spending cuts.

“We think these sequesters will happen because the Democrats have opposed our efforts to replace those cuts with others and they’ve offered no alternative,” Ryan said.

I hope that this means the republicans are serious.  It’s very clear that, whether Obama really has capital or not, he THINKS he does, and isn’t going to negotiate.

Fine.

Time to take our medicine.

The Gun Debate Just Got Interesting

An big city sheriff in liberal Wisconsin just upped the ante in the gun debate:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdhcbkm_xvs

The sheriff’s advice is sure to flame the debate on both sides.  To be sure, it already has:

Jodie Tabak, Mayor Tom Barrett’s spokeswoman, released this statement:

“Apparently, Sheriff David Clarke is auditioning for the next Dirty Harry movie.”

And there’s more:

Jeri Bonavia, executive director of Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, said she hears “over and over” from most law enforcement officials that the community should work to “take more guns off the streets, not add more.”

“What (Clarke’s) talking about is this amped up version of vigilantism,” Bonavia said. “I don’t know what his motivations are for doing this. But I do know what he’s calling for is dangerous and irresponsible and he should be out there saying this is a mistake.”

However, the sheriff is not without his supporters:

Asked about Clarke’s assessment of 911, James Fendry, director of the Wisconsin Pro Gun Movement, said, “It’s never been a great option (calling 911). Unless you can take care of yourself, you’re kind of SOL.”

Fendry, a former police officer, said that he tells citizens, “You’re not armed to be law enforcement. You’re armed to protect your own life and the lives of your family until law enforcement arrives. Do not go on search and destroy missions in your home.”

I tend to agree with the folks who are calling on Clarke to show restraint.  The debate is amped up as it is; folks are already looking for any and all reasons to buy a gun.  Heck, in many cases they’re looking for reason NOT to buy a gun.  And when a cop comes out and says that the white hats can’t get there in time; well, it only serves to embolden the guys in the black hats.

County Executive Chris Abele said Clarke is sending the wrong message.

“I think it’s irresponsible and it doesn’t help public safety to tell the public there’s some kind of imminent danger that they need to go buy guns,” Abele said. “Essentially, you’ve got a (public service announcement) that’s recommending people need to go buy guns because they can’t rely on the response they’ll get from 911. I’m here to tell you, we have phenomenal police departments.”

Roy Felber, president of the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, said the ad sounded to him like a call to vigilantism.

“That doesn’t sound smart,” Felber said. “That’s why society has police officers.”

One the main and best deterrents to crime is that the cops are on the way and that they WILL catch you.  To break that seal, to allow even a hint of doubt tears down that curtain and what’s behind, may or may not be, ugly.

North Carolina Senate Seat – Kay Hagan

Already there is talk about the 2014 elections.

Ugh.

I never really cared about politics until about 2006.  That’s when I heard a bit of trivia concerning the upcoming 2008 Presidential primaries.  For the first time in a long time there would be no sitting President or Vice-President running.  It would be a wide open primary on both sides.

Interesting.

Since then I’ve paid more attention and am just now learning that there isn’t a time when someone isn’t thinking about the next election.  With that said, North Carolina has a senate seat up for bid this time around.

And the front runner is democrat Kay Hagan:

 The Rothenberg Political Report ranks U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s seat “leans Democrat” in the first 2014 Senate election ratings. The report – a leading Washington handicapper – says: “Given the GOP’s recent victories in the state, Hagan is almost guaranteed a serious challenge.”

The Washington Post’s political prognosticators rank the race No. 4 on their list of most competitive Senate seats. The write-up: “A recent poll from Democratic-leaning automated pollster Public Policy Polling shows Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan’s approval rating is underwater, but she nonetheless leads potential GOP competitors. If Republicans can find the right candidate, Hagan will face a tough road to reelection.”

Ms. Hagan ran in 2008 when Barack Obama’s ticket carried many a democrat to office.  However, even without Obama carrying her, I would have voted for her except for one thing: The senate was in danger of, and then did in fact, move into democratic super-majority status.  Our sitting senator at the time was Elizabeth Dole, a rather nondescript politician without a large base.  Further, she ran an especially nasty ad featuring Hagan that sealed the deal for me – almost.

I like the idea of splitting senators.  I like that Hagan spent time in the state government of North Carolina and I thought she was moderate enough.  But I just couldn’t vote for her and let the democrats get 60 seats.  Of course, as we all know, they did.  Alaska elected a democrat after their republican was subject to scandal.  And then Minnesota allowed that dipshit Al Franken to cheat his way into office and seal the deal.

Hagan is going to vote for Harry Reid if she wins.  And she’ll support most of his legislation.  However, she is relatively moderate scoring 56,52 and 76 percent more liberal than her senate peers on issues economic, social and foreign policy.

If we have to have a democrat represent us in Washington we could do worse.  And with the recent republican domination in the state, sending a moderate liberal voice to the senate might be a good thing.  The only condition that might sway me from supporting her is the balance of the senate.  If it gets close to moving past 55-45 like it is now, I am going to pull for a Hagan loss.

North Carolina GOP – Unemployment Benefits

Another legislative agenda for the state’s republican dominated state government:

 Tens of thousands of unemployed workers receiving federal emergency unemployment will likely lose their benefits starting July 1 as legislators overhaul the program.

Legislative leaders said this week that they will push ahead with a July 1 start to cuts in weekly benefits for unemployed workers. The measure would put the state in violation of the recently passed federal relief package that would have provided benefits to laid-off workers through December 2013. The federal legislation specifically forbid the states from altering the weekly benefit amount, which the General Assembly is poised to do as it returns to session Wednesday.

The reason for the change?  Well, it turns out that the federal government funded the North Carolina’s unemployment payments.  Funded to the tune of nearly $2.5 billion.  And until that debt is paid, North Carolina businesses are required to higher federal unemployment taxes, or FUTA.  In fact, each year that there is an outstanding balance, businesses in NC have to shell out an additional $21 per employee per year, cumulative.

As a response to this ever growing tax burden faced by employers, the idea is to reduce the scope of the state’s UI payout to reduce the normal tax payed.

Is it popular?

Worker advocates called the measure unnecessary and shortsighted.

“This will push thousands and thousands of North Carolinians off an artificial cliff and deny hundreds of millions in dollars to businesses and communities. That money adds nothing to our debt and had already been appropriated,” said Harry Payne, former labor commissioner and worker advocate for the North Carolina Justice Center.

The extended benefits was being funded entirely by the federal government. Each week, that program funnels $25 million in benefits to about 85,000 laid-off workers.

“If anyone wants an example of thoughtlessness, I’ll hold this piece up high,” Payne said. “This is about not understanding what people are going through.”

Certainly not.

However, as the tax per job increases, more and more NC businesses will look to get out of the way of those taxes.  And the only way to do that is to constrain jobs.  Something we certainly don’t wanna do.  Further, by reducing the size of the UI check, the incentive to look for work increases, driving more and more people into the labor force.

North Carolina GOP – Welfare Reform

In what is looking like is going to turn into a trend, the North Carolina GOP feels emboldened by their recent ass-whipping of the democrats in 2012.  The next target in their sites?

Welfare reform:

State lawmakers are discussing draft legislation that would prohibit lottery retailers from knowingly selling tickets to customers who receive public assistance, such as food stamps, or are in bankruptcy, Pat Gannon at the Insider reports. “We’re giving them welfare to help them live, and yet by selling them a ticket, we’re taking away their money that is there to provide them the barest of necessities,” said Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake. He acknowledged it would be difficult for lottery clerks to know whether players get government help. But he suggested that in obvious cases, such as when customers pay for groceries with food stamps, they shouldn’t be allowed to buy lottery tickets at the same time.

So, there’s a bit to think through here, the first of which is this:

Is it really the role of a government to dictate how people spend their money?  Is not a grown adult able to make a decision to spend their money in any way and manner that they desire?

I don’t wanna bring up whether or not government CAN do this, after all, if New York City can ban large sodas, so then can the state of North Carolina ban the sale of lottery tickets.

So yes, the government can, but should they?  I, personally don’t think so.  Not that I don’t resonate with the whole, “They shouldn’t play the lottery” thang – they shouldn’t:

Combining the players making less than $25,000 per year we see that just about HALF of the population plays the lottery. Further, those people who play are spending near $600 a year! This means that these players have near $600 of annual disposable income that they are choosing to spend on the lottery.

The law maker is right, folks who don’t have money have no business spending money on a system that is, in essence, a tax on the mathematically challenged.  However, we don’t live in a world, or at least we don’t wanna live inn a world, where we need our government to protect us from every. single. bad. decision. there is to make.

The last point I wanna make is concerning the lottery itself.  I get the impression that state run lotteries are the domain of the democrats.  That, typically, republicans are against the lottery.  Which begs the question, how can a caucus that rages against class inequality support a system that takes money from the general public, aggregate it, and then give an amount of money to an individual that places them in not only the top 1%, but the top .01%?

Fascinating.