Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

International Adoption Trends

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Written by furthermusings

December 29, 2012 at 9:31 am

Posted in Politics

Drones in America

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This week’s New Yorker contemplates the future of life with drones as regular part of American life.  What will this mean for our privacy, both from the government and from each other?

The technology is amazing.  Hummingbird shaped drones that get attacked by other hummingbirds because they’re so life like.  And then there’s the swarm below.  So far these guys only function in the lab… but they’re coming… and I kinda want one!

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Less fun but more technically wondrous.  How awesome would it be to work in this research lab?!

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May 12, 2012 at 8:23 am

DPP Day 11: One Cool Cat?

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Written by furthermusings

December 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Politics, Travel

The Shame of College Sports

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Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and UNC grad Taylor Branch has an article titled “The Shame of College Sports” in this week’s Atlantic Monthly.

It’s a long, disturbing article.  A few of the main points that I picked out.

1) The hypocrisy of the NCAA prosecuting players for making money off of selling clothing given to them or taking small favors is spectacular, given that the NCAA is also selling the jersey at the same time.  The NCAA in these cases is more like a cartel protecting its own sales than a benevolent governing body looking out for the players.

2) The shadow court system of the NCAA is terrible.  The NCAA’s uneven enforcement of the rules enables them to bully the masses, give way to the important, and scapegoat the helpless.

3) “Free tuition” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  First, coaches have the right to cut under-performing players.  Shockingly (to me) NCAA basketball coaches cut 22% of their players after the 2008 school season.  The example from the story was of a senior who was one year short of graduating.  Now instead of a full ride he faced $35,000 in costs.  Second, students have no workers-comp right.  Unlike a normal buisness, where on the job injuries (like paralisis for instance) can result in lifetime benefits, any long-term injuries suffered on the field need not be compensated as the paralyzed player was not an employee.  He was just there for fun.

4) The NCAA deprives young men and women, schools, and teachers of due process.  Particularly horrifying (for a college professor) was how the NCAA banned all its member universities from hiring a particular instructor under threat of an intense audit (which is sure to find evidence of a violation of the NCAA’s several hundred page rule book).  The instructor in question allowed one player to type up another player’s written test answers and submit it online.  No plagiarism took place.  When it came to light, she resigned for the good of the program and fully cooperated with the NCAA’s investigation.  Nevertheless they blackballed her from academics.

5) The NCAA’s massive legal resources enable them to bully anyone who can’t summon the millions of dollars in lawyer fees that they can (like the poor woman mentioned above).  They do so with vengeance.

6) The founding myth of the “student-athlete” is powerful.  The term was created to keep universities from having give players the legal protections regular workers have.  It keeps its power in the legal world and the court of public opinion.  The term immediately conjures an image of students who are engaging hardy extra-curricular sport.  It doesn’t make one think of the money & pressure of big-time college sports.  These warp the student experience beyond anything most people would recognize.

It makes me wonder about the student athletes that I teach every week.  What are we, the university, asking of them?  What are we, as a society, taking from them?  Their rights and their health in exchange for a lot of money to the university and corporations and for our own entertainment?  Sounds broken to me.

Written by furthermusings

September 15, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Posted in Politics

It’s Not about You

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Today’s column by David Brooks captures a lot of what I’ve been thinking about lately.  I think he’s right that devotion to an institution (a church, a workplace, a community, or a marriage) brings meaning, changes you, and enables you to create changes in life.  It’s a nice tonic to the individualism that is so ingrained in American character, especially during a graduation season that extolls a new graduate’s ability to make change singlehandedly in the world.

Written by furthermusings

May 31, 2011 at 8:27 am

Posted in Politics, Reflections

NC House budget means at least 18,000 jobs eliminated

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I know you’re all reading this blog because you love to read about NC state politics.  Hope to post about more personal things soon.

That said, I can’t help noticing the news that the state budget put forward by the NC House of Representatives will eliminate at least 18,000 jobs (by the Republican estimates).  The Democratic Governor says 30,000 is closer.  That’s a lot of people without jobs July 1st.

Three questions to consider when evaluating if this was a good idea:

1) Were the people in these positions creating more value for society by teaching students, enforcing laws, or helping the mentally disabled than their salaries cost?

2) Were those jobs/services protecting the vulnerable in important ways that we value even if they aren’t productive?

3) Who gets more money in their pockets by having the lower taxes that these cuts allow?

Written by furthermusings

May 5, 2011 at 10:38 am

Posted in Politics

Keynes vs. Hayek: The Rematch

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Fabulous.  If you want some nicely done macroeconomics thrown at you this is the way to go.

Written by furthermusings

May 4, 2011 at 8:01 am

NC House Budget Cuts Universities Budgets

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The campus paper reports that the first draft of the state budget proposes a 17.4% cut to the university system’s budget for next year.  That’s 3,200 jobs and 9,000 classes.  For perspective that is the equivalent of closing UNC Asheville, Greensboro, Wilmington, Western and Winston-Salem State.

As the News and Observer said “the proposals bring into focus a new era of fiscal austerity.”  This article also mentions the serious cuts to the other branches of government.

Most of it could be avoided by keeping our current tax rates . . . but the Republicans think it is very important that we pay a penny less in sales tax next year and have a lower corporate tax rate.

Whew.

Written by furthermusings

April 13, 2011 at 10:39 am

Posted in Politics

Public Colleges become Private?

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The NYTimes ran a nice article today on the changing nature of “public universities.”   State budgets are in a pickle, legislatures won’t or can’t cut K-12 & Medicaid so universities are the next big target.  Universities can cut some and make classes bigger but they still need funds.  Higher tuition is the answer.

More expensive public universities gradually undermines the ability of poor kids to go to college.  The implicit claim, “work hard as a high school student and you can make it to college even if your family doesn’t have much money” is gradually being undercut by the reality of 100% tuition increases in the last 5-10 years.  You can still go, but decades of debt await (as we know).  States still subsidize higher ed by the billions but that doesn’t change the reality that college is more expensive today for a freshman than it was a decade ago.

Tis a sad new reality and I think an important shift in our society.

Written by furthermusings

January 24, 2011 at 8:52 am

Posted in Politics

North Caorlina’s State Budget Choices

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The N&O ask the liberal North Carolina Budget and Tax Center and the conservative John Lock Foundation to present two visions of what the state budget might look like.  Both do a great job of saying how they suggest closing the gap.  Decidedly worth reading if you live in NC.

Written by furthermusings

January 23, 2011 at 8:47 am

Posted in Politics

State Budgets . . . Oi

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Seems like every newscast I hear these days talks about state or local budgets.  They probably should.  A crisis is arriving and will hit this spring as states start to make their budgets for next year.

This graphic from the NYTimes does a nice job of visually conveying the magnitude of the crisis.  It really isn’t the ideal time to try to become a state government employee.

Written by furthermusings

January 22, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Posted in Politics

Talk of the Department

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This was a favorite slogan from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

Has had me laughing all day.

(Photo from a larger slide show at Salon).

Written by furthermusings

November 4, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Politics

Historic Change at the NC Legislature

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For the first time in 110 years the Republicans control both houses of the General Assembly.  They come in with a 3 billion dollar budget shortfall  (~15%) that must be balanced and a Democratic governor who will probably have very different spending priorities.  It will be incredibly interesting to watch how Republicans go about cutting spending.   Wow.

Written by furthermusings

November 3, 2010 at 6:51 am

Posted in Politics

A Taxpayer Receipt

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This report showing how much of your tax bill is spent has gotten a lot of press. Interesting eh?

Would love to see how they calculated it all.

Hat tip to Planet Money.

Written by furthermusings

October 4, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Posted in Politics

North Korea: A Land of Sorrows

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The NYTimes is currently running this story about life in North Korea during the last year.  It’s a pretty amazing look into the poverty and helplessness of the people there.  The whole thing held me in rapt attention and had several stunning sections.

The interviewee “taught primary school for 30 years in Chongjin, North Korea’s third-largest city, with roughly 500,000 people. What once was an all-day job shrank by 2004 to morning duty; schools closed at noon. At least 15 of her 50 students dropped out or left after an hour, too hungry to study.

“It is very hard to teach a starving child,” she said. “Even sitting at a desk is difficult for them.”

Teachers were hungry, too. Her monthly salary scarcely bought two pounds of rice, she said.”

Oi.  I wonder how it all will end there . . .

Written by furthermusings

June 10, 2010 at 1:52 am