The Locker Room

July 19, 2006

Public voice or campaign assistance?

Posted by Lindalyn Kakadelis at 4:05 PM

At the Mecklenburg County Commission meeting last night, two Democrats voted to oppose the School Building Solution Committee’s recommendations. Their “no” vote lies in their opposition to the county issuing Certificates Of Participation (COPs), and desiring a 2006 bond vote so “the public can voice their opinion.”  However, no one mentions the fact a bond campaign pours money into a “get out the vote” campaign in Democratic precincts.  Last year the bond campaign raised and spent more than $300,000. Since county commission campaigns would coincide with the 2006 bond campaign, motivation probably lies other than simply giving the public a chance to “voice opinions!” 

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Re: Non-voting lottery

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:28 PM


I would also like to know how many people would give up their opportunity to vote in a given election -- for the opportunity to win a $1 million lottery.

The implications for the quality of our elected leaders could be immense. 

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The Wizard of AZ

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 2:12 PM

Mark Osterloh's proposal to enter AZ voters into a million-dollar lottery has odds of winning higher than most lotteries, apparently, despite the legal and ethical questions. Which raises a further question: if it's OK to provide a million-dollar lottery ticket as an incentive to vote, would a lottery ticket as incentive to non-voters be equally OK?

Clarification: the $1 million lottery has better odds of winning than most lotteries; as for the odds that the proposal to enact such a lottery will be approved, who knows?

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Norris, Culpepper in the news

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:00 PM

Click here for a link to video showing Meredith Norris and Bill Culpepper heading to Raleigh's federal building this morning.

Norris is the former unpaid political director for N.C. House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg. She's been indicted on a misdemeanor lobbying charge. Authorities charge her with failing to report lobbying work she conducted for Scientific Games, a lottery vendor.

Culpepper is a state utilities commissioner and former state representative from Chowan County. He served as one of Black's top lieutenants -- chairing the powerful House Rules Committee. 

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Batten Down the Students, Full Spend Ahead

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 1:52 PM

Rep. Bernard Allen at today's Civitas Institute lunch praised the General Assembly's $11 billion spending on all education and said the lottery was a great tool to improve schools.

Rep. Allen acknowledged that money alone will not improve schools and that competition and choice are good, he was adamant in his opposition to charter schools, vouchers and other methods of making money follow the child. He did not even give a nod to parents who homeschool their children or send them to private schools.

Classic defense attorney strategy -- blame the student.

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"Accepted" — the comedy where a kid recreates contemporary academe to placate his parents

Posted by Jon Sanders at 1:40 PM

Last night I saw an advertisement for the movie "Accepted," a comedy "from the studio that brought you 'American Pie.'" I can't say for sure, of course, but it looks like a serviceable spoof. Its main character is a teenage boy, Bartleby "B" Gaines, with this problem: "after every college turned him down, his only option was to make one up."

The things revealed just by the ad that B does with his made-up college, South Harmon Institute of Technology (nothing subtle about the acronym; it's ever-present), lead me to think the film could be Cordato's Law brought to the big screen. Which is to say, the writers of "Accepted" don't appear to have thought up anything for B's spoof college that you can't find at real ones. A few quotations from the ad (viewable here) should suffice.

Very early in the ad we see B's father proclaiming THE college message in a way even John Edwards would envy: "Want to have a happy and successful life? Go to college!"

Successive denials prevent B from his "happy and successful life" proxy, but he must realize that his parents haven't questioned the old saw (or surely they'd see through his scheme) because he's seen telling a friend, "All we have to do is lease a place near Harmon so we can fool our parents." (Obviously B has enough ingenuity to succeed on his own without of a college degree, as many others have.)

Fool his parents B does (why, there's even a "leaky roofs" scene), but when B opens the hoax school's door, he's surprised to find:

New 'student': We're here for orientation!
B: Did you just say that you got accepted here?
Student: Yeah, we all did! (Camera pans to reveal dozens upon dozens of 'students' outside the warehouse.) Thank you so much!

B's college turns out to be the perfect place for loads of kids who lack the academic drive or wherewithal to make it in a real university but whose parents cling desperately to the "happy and successful life" vision of university education. So B apparently realizes the way to satisfy the parents and the kids is to do what real universities with the same problem are currently doing now: double-talk the folks, give the kids beer and circus, and everyone's happy. Here are quotations from the rest of the advertisement, with hot links to their counterparts in actual universities:

B: All our lives we've been told what to learn. At South Harmon, the students are the teachers.
Girl: There are no tests, required reading, or any of that nonsense?
B: Whatever the students say they want to learn.
Crazy uncle: You want me to be the dean of your college?
B: Come on; what do you say?
(Seque to next clip.)
Crazy uncle as dean, to parents:
"We throw a lot of fancy words in front of these kids in the belief that they're going to have a better life." (Laughs uproariously.)
(The ad's concluding scene: several "students" sitting on bleachers next to a pool watching girls in bikinis float past them.)
One student:
"I can't believe this is a class."
The rest, in unison: "Yeah."

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World court judges

Posted by Paul Chesser at 11:28 AM

For anyone suffering "American Idol" withdrawal, the show's panelists have taken on a summer project.

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Brain surgery as ... comedy?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:44 AM

It's good to know that brain surgery didn't dull Michael Kinsley's sense of humor.

You must read the editor's note of this column to get the punchline from the longtime Lefty. 

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Re: How would you stock....

Posted by George Leef at 10:43 AM

Steve Balch, president of the National Association of Scholars, likes to say that we don't so much have higher education any more, as longer education. Going to college for many students doesn't entail anything that bears much resemblance to demanding intellectual work. They're just there, at considerable expense which falls mostly on other people, to enjoy the "beer and circus" atmosphere while accumulating enough course credits to be entitled to a diploma.

The TLC at UNC-G is pretty good evidence for the accuracy of Steve's observation.

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Does sex matter in Science?

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 10:41 AM

No, and yes. Depends on what is being evaluated, and by whom. The professional vs. intellectual realities don't always mesh, either subtlely or overtly, according to Ben Barres, scientist and former woman.

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Zizou, do that voodoo that you do so well

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:27 AM

This headline alone merited a blog entry: "Three Cheers for Butthead!"

While I disagree with Bill Saporito's apology for Zinedine Zidane's soccer antics, I did appreciate the writer's comments about FIFA. Like the United Nations, soccer's governing body is described as "a world leader in bloviation over action." 

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How would you stock a university's "Teaching and Learning Center"?

Posted by Jon Sanders at 10:25 AM

Here's how UNC-Greensboro does it, per the UNCG Carolinian:

TLC staff have noted an increase in student use of the facility in recent years. However, the TLC's budget for new materials is not affected by the number of students who utilize them. In choosing which materials to add to the collection, "We work closely with faculty members, production companies...we're able to preview materials before purchasing them," said Foster. The browsing collection follows major releases and popular movies, even popular TV shows like "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost." The staff also receives many requests for independent films and documentaries that are harder to find at commercial movie rentals.

"We've seen a greater diversity of titles in the last few years," said Foster.

Profs take note: a sure way to gain quick recognition with a Course of the Month is to have it rely on "teaching" popular culture such as "major [video] releases and popular movies, even popular TV shows." Also note that your peers who are inclined to euphemism dub them "filmic texts" to teach "critical thinking." Or you could use music videos, video games, even spin the FM dial. As I wrote two years ago in a Course of the Month entry,

Great Books are challenging, making them seem boring to those who are loathe to engage them. Paradise Lost might be a masterpiece, but it won’t play in the VCR — unlike so many of today’s texts. Bored students are more likely to receive lower grades and consequently less likely to give favorable reviews of the professor. Unfavorable reviews also hurt one’s chances at receiving tenure. ...

In such an environment, it’s wiser to choose a topic interesting to students, then select among the myriad omnipresent “texts” to fit the topic. Popular TV shows therefore become excellent choices upon which to base a literature class. The same goes for sports, movies, fads, the nation in general, etc., and one subject of particular interest to college students: sex.

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You say tomato, I say tomahto

Posted by John Hood at 09:53 AM

I just flat-out missed this one until it was too late: Tuesday was “Tomato Sandwich Day” at the NC General Assembly, thanks to the machinations of Sen. Hugh Webster of Alamance County. From Freedom newspapers reporter Barry Smith’s account:

Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives and everybody in between couldn’t resist stopping by for a sandwich on Tuesday. “It crosses all boundaries,” Webster said, noting that sometimes animosities fester in the halls of political power. “I specifically make it a point to try to invite everybody,” he said.

“It’s impossible to argue” while eating a tomato sandwich, Webster added.
Yes, but one might argue about the tomato sandwich. Like are the tomatoes organic or “artificial”? Should the old familiar cousins, lettuce and bacon, be allowed at the festivities? Mayonaise or “salad dressing”? Wheat or white bread? Is there any danger in bringing so many tomatoes to a packed public building? Plus, university PC-ers and Kos-be Kids might argue that the entire affair is a privileged white-male expropriation of a native-American vegetable.

Or fruit, one might argue.

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Fuel for Wal-Mart

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 09:51 AM

Check out Tom DiLorenzo's piece on Wal-Mart on the Mises daily article list today.

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War-based political ads

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 09:42 AM

A TIME columnist tackles this week the issue of Democrats using images of flag-draped coffins in their campaign ads.

The column endorses the idea, and I agree with him on that point. For many Democratic candidates, opposition to the war is the single issue they use to justify their campaigns. Without the antiwar sentiment, they would have little to say.

These critics have just as much right to excoriate the GOP leadership in the war effort as Republicans have to blast the critical Democrats as unpatriotic.

In a roundabout way, this article leads me to an issue that should concern voters of all stripes: efforts to limit any type of political speech.

Excepting libelous material (for which there is a remedy in the courts), no political speech should face excessive shackles -- especially from government regulation. To paraphrase one of our legislators from a recent debate, that scenario equates to the government saying: "Sit down and shut up! We don't want to hear what you have to say."

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Congress to Israel: "We stand behind you!"

Posted by Michael Moore at 09:11 AM

Congress gave Israel a vote of confidence, but I'm still confused about statements coming from the Democrat party. 

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"The Mother of All Electoral Issues"

Posted by George Leef at 09:10 AM

That's the title of this op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal.

So what is it? Inequality. The writer is a "centrist" Democrat who doesn't like the worst, most flagrantly anti-market policy ideas put forth by the far-left (such as trade policies that "retreat from the global marketplace"), but presses the idea that it's up to government to do something because US economic growth isn't "filter(ing) into the wallets of Americans below the top of the pyramid." Therefore, he serves as an advisor to something called "the Hamilton Project" which "has fired an opening volley of specific new ideas, some large, some small but all focused on achieving broad-based and sustainable growth while bringing along Americans who have been left behind."

That last phrase tells the tale. This Hamilton Project's wonderful ideas include stuff like "wage insurance for displaced workers and a higher minimum wage."

Wow. You'd think the writer would be embarrassed to call old-fashioned redistribution "new ideas."

The thing to notice here is the central assumption that if not everyone is gaining at the same pace, then it's imperative for government to intervene in order to "bring along" those whose incomes are lagging. Why shouldn't the government simply eliminate barriers to economic progress for those who might want to earn more? (The crowd that always talks about "diversity" ought to recognize that people are diverse in their desires for additional income; some are willing to work hard for it and others aren't.) Deregulation of the trucking industry, to cite one example, opened up possibilities for many people (women and minorities included) to start businesses and prosper.

A serious attack on remaining barriers to work and entrepreneurship (especially occupational licensing) would unclog lots of arteries in the economy and enable lots of poorer people to improve on their conditions. Old cities like Detroit that are slowly dying could become as vibrant as Hong Kong if they would erase their stultifying taxes and regulations.

Alas, we never hear any such talk from the left. Turning to more government to solve the problems they see is the only play in their playbook.

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Blue Ridge investigation continues

Posted by Shannon Blosser at 08:50 AM

It looks as though now the investigation into financial problems at Blue Ridge Community College will now continue. According to a press release from the State Board of Community Colleges, Blue Ridge and the community college system have worked out their differences so that investigators can return to campus.

The key point in this investigation are financial issues that were pointed out in two seperate audits surrounding the school's baseball program and other departments. School officials didn't want investigators on campus because of a paid consultant from the community college system who was assisting in the investigation.

Who knows where this thing will end up, the best to say is stay tuned for further developments.

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Re: Stem cell debate

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 08:38 AM


My first guess is that Newsweak just did a check to see if there was pending legislation, regardless of its prospects. The pajamahedin in me says that they just didn't want to let inconvenient facts get in the way of the pro-embryonic-stem-cell storyline.

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Some environmental advice worth taking

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:38 AM

You might enjoy Jonathan Last's recommendations for the fight to save the earth. 

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MS, food and guns don't mix

Posted by Paul Chesser at 07:56 AM

Sad story.

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