The Locker Room

September 6, 2007

Researchers pit chimps against babies in a battle of the brains

Posted by Jon Sanders at 4:59 PM

A battery of tests determines that "our brains are not just bigger, but also better than those of our nearest evolutionary relatives."

I am, you know, a fan of monkey research, as this previous Locker Room post shows. Incidentally, there was more research along those lines, too:


Study: Multiple Stab Wounds May Be Harmful To Monkeys

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How Greedy is Goodyear?

Posted by Becki Gray at 4:45 PM

Everyone is talking about the $40 Million giveaway to Goodyear, and it's pretty bad.  But that's not the end of the story. In addition to the $40 million in taxpayer money through the Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund (JDIG), they also get:

$10 million in tax breaks towards the plant’s electric power bill
$4.4 million in cash from Cumberland County and the city of Fayetteville
$2.6 million worth of free training at the local community college for the plant’s workers

How much did you get today? 

Better question: how hard did you work today so this international, multi billion dollar company could get your tax dollars?


 

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Tom Campbell's best idea yet

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 3:30 PM

Legislators Should Take Next Year Off

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All eyes on the coast this weekend

Posted by Jon Sanders at 3:19 PM

Our pal Joe Bastardi and his AccuWeather colleagues are calling for a tropical storm to form in the Atlantic and strike N.C. this weekend, possibly as a Category One or Two hurricane:

Keep an eye on the weather and keep refreshing the AccuWeather Hurricane Center for updates. (I hope we get the rain!)

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What price incentives?

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 2:14 PM

Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in 1996 did a case study on "North Carolina and the Battle for Business." One item that stuck out to me in the online archive for the case study was a Charlotte Observer editorial that considered the state's educational system, AAA bond rating, and good roads and water systems as incentives before noting the "modest financial incentives" offered by the Hunt administration. The editorial writer also complimented the efficiency of North Carolina's incentives:


The Industrial Recruitment Competitive Fund [since renamed the One North Carolina Fund], set up by the General Assembly in 1993, is North Carolina's only cash incentive. It has brought nearly 10,000 new jobs and more than $1 billion in investment to North Carolina. Over a three-year period, the General Assembly's investment of $12 million in the fund has helped 55 companies create new jobs. That is compared to an $86 million incentive package provided by Virginia to Motorola.


We've come a long way, baby.

UPDATE 9/7: corrected the name of the school

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Charter schools hold their own on state tests

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 12:45 AM

My preliminary analysis found the following:

Regular Schools: Percent Meeting or Exceeding Growth Standard*
District: 71.4 percent (1591/2227)
Charter: 64.3 percent (54/84)

Regular Schools: Performance Composite
The percentage of school-wide test scores at or above proficient.
District: 71.3 percent
Charter: 70.4 percent

Regular Schools: Average Growth
Minimum expected growth is 0.0
District: .06
Charter: .06

Alternative Schools: Percent Meeting or Exceeding Growth Standard*
District: 89.3 percent (67/75 schools)
Charter: 85.7 percent (6/7 schools)

Alternative Schools: Performance Composite
District: 32.5 percent
Charter: 36.4 percent

Alternative Schools: Average Growth
District: .27
Charter: -.16**


* With the huge disparity in the number of schools, comparisons between district and charter schools should be made with caution.

** Charter growth without the now defunct Baker Charter High School was .06. With a -1.25 average growth, Baker Charter obviously skewed the charter average significantly.

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New Alliance for Worker Freedom blog

Posted by George Leef at 11:37 AM

The Alliance for Worker Freedom has an excellent blog: http://www.workerfreedom.org

Good source for info on all the nefarious things Big Labor is up to.

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State test score release follow-up

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 11:21 AM

Some additional bits of information:

• Only 44.7 percent of schools made Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind. The remaining 55.3 percent had one or more subgroups (race, socioeconomic, disability) that did not meet state testing standards.

• The four year (cohort) graduation rate was 68.3 percent. The five year (cohort) graduation rate, reported for the first time, was 70.3 percent. That means that nearly 30 percent of students entering the ninth grade in 2002 did not graduate in five years. Students with disabilities (53.5 percent) and Hispanic students (55.2 percent) had the lowest five year graduation rate.

• A clarification on the drop in high school test scores. While "higher" standards may account for the drop off in proficiency in Algebra and English, such a sharp decline indicates that the bar was set pretty low in the first place.

• The bottom line is that 1/3 of our elementary and middle school students are not proficient in reading and math. Well over half of the black students in the state are not proficient in reading and math. This is nothing to be proud of.

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Taxes and Health Insurance

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:48 AM

George,

My comments on the tax treatment of health insurance last week touched a nerve with some people. For those without a subscription to the Journal, Havighurst has made the argument before.

UPDATE: Revised to acknowledge George's earlier post.

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Link Teacher Performance to Student’s Learning

Posted by Lindalyn Kakadelis at 10:45 AM

Yesterday reporter T. Keung Hui interviewed me for his article on Wake’s recent audit, regarding teacher evaluations. My quote in the article did express some of my thoughts – but as Paul Harvey might say, “Now, for the rest of the story,” let me share a few more of my comments.
I told him if the mission of the school was to advance a student’s content knowledge, then any evaluation must rely heavily on a value added component. It was ridiculous to only include “inputs.”
Bottom line, if students are not learning, it does not matter what is being done in the classroom.
Only 25 percent of the principals say they use any type of “assessment data” to evaluate teachers. Without using data most evaluations become a subjective muddle mass of opinions based upon feelings.
You can read the methods principals use to evaluate teachers in the classroom on page 232 of the 399  page audit.  After reading how teachers are evaluated in the county (which is probably systematic of the whole state), you completely understand why only one out of the 363 teachers surveyed received a “below standard” by their principal. Wonder what that teacher did to make the principal so mad??
 

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Abigail Thernstrom reviews Until Proven Innocent

Posted by George Leef at 10:36 AM

Today's WSJ has a masterful review of Until Proven Innocent by Abigail Thernstrom.

Here is the killer line: "Messrs. Taylor and Johnson make it clear that the Duke affair -- the rabid prosecution, the skewed commentary, the distorted media storyline -- was not some odd, outlier incident but the product of an elite culture's most treasured assumptions about American life, not least about America's supposed racial divide."

Exactly. For all the hysterics about "issue of race, class and gender," the truth was that it was all imaginary. The one black player on the lacrosse team got along perfectly well with his teammates. The strippers were glad to make some money. The lacrosse players didn't prey on women. The campus was in an uproar over nothing.

Ah, but there is a lesson about America here. It's that public officials won't hesitate to use their power for personal advancement even if it means inflicting injustice on innocent people. Fortunately in this case, the tables were turned and condign punishment has been meted out to the miscreant. Often, though, officials get away with it. The real problem in America is the abuse of power and it cuts across all the supposed lines of race, class, gender, etc.

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State test scores released

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 09:52 AM

The NC Department of Public Instruction officially released the ABCs report for 2006-07. The report details student performance on the state’s end-of-grade and end-of-course tests.

Before the release of the test scores, Howard Lee, chairman of the State Board of Education, assured the audience that, regardless of what the test scores say, “[o]ur public schools are indeed doing the job.” So, what did we get for our $10+ billion investment in public schools?

• 71.8 of schools made high or expected growth, a healthy increase from last year (54.2 percent)

• There were slight increases in reading and math proficiency in grades 3 – 8

• High school performance (percent proficient) dropped in several subjects. Apparently, the state "raised the bar" on these tests.

o Algebra I dropped from 80.5 percent to 62.5 percent
o Algebra II dropped from 80.3 percent to 65.7 percent
o English I dropped from 83 percent to 73.2 percent
o Geometry dropped from 68.8 percent to 63.9 percent
o Biology, Civics, and U.S. History increased slightly

Recall that the legislature recently passed a budget that increased K-12 education spending by $1 billion or 14.8 percent from 2006-2007 (and an astounding 30.9 percent increase from 2002-2003). Also note that this spending growth does not include likely increases in education spending on the local level and ample federal funding.

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UNC feminists, Planned Parenthood, et al.: The enemy is choice

Posted by Jon Sanders at 09:47 AM

A conference announcement:


Purpose:

To come together as a multidisciplinary collaborative to explore potential synergy between _____ supporters, women’s health advocates and providers, feminists, family planning professionals, representatives of the underserved, faith leaders, humanities’ scholars, and legislative and political bodies and other interested parties.

Context:

Advocacy for women’s equality and for _____ing behavior has not been adequately supportive of women’s roles and needs ... Many scholars have conceived of _____ing as a practice that constrains women from achieving social and economic gains ... It has been viewed as a “choice” rather than a rights or health issue. This symposium aims to re-position _____ing as an issue of women’s reproductive health, rights and justice.

Approach:

_____ing is a social and biological process wherein women must have the right of self-determination, a public health imperative, and a reproductive right. Although women’s rights to _____ require support, we ultimately need to re-orient this right from one of “choice” to one of social justice, health, and human rights. ...


Omitted are all the references to breastfeeding.

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And the prize for the rudest, lowest class and most unpresidential candidate goes to...

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 09:35 AM

Rudy Giuliani--with an emphasis on the rude,  for his obnoxious cackling during Ron Paul's answers last night.  If there were no other reasons (and there are plenty), this alone should be sufficient to keep any thinking person from supporting Giuliani for president. No matter what one thinks of his opponents' views, to essentially lay down a laugh track over top of his answers during a debate shows a distinct lack of character and class that is not becoming of a presidential candidate. I guess it wasn't enough for him simply to have the bulk of the time alloted to his canned answers, he had to try and distract the audience from the answers given by an opponent who is not threat to him at all. My big disappointment was not in Rude--y but with the Fox News cast of interrogators who did not see fit to call the former Mayor on his obnoxious behavior. Imagine if it was Ron Paul doing the cackling while others were trying to get their point across, Brit Hume would have escorted him off the stage himself.

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The trouble with health insurance in the US

Posted by George Leef at 09:28 AM

Duke Law School professor Clark Havighurst and Barak Richman get at the root of the problem with health insurance in this article in today's Wall Street Journal.

The trouble is that the true costs are hidden from consumers because health insurance is mostly provided through employers. The fact that costs are hidden leads to a lot of cross subsidization that, the authors argue, mostly benefits the wealthy. They write, "Weak consumer cost-consciousness has left the U.S. with private insurance that functions as a reverse Robin Hood scheme, taking from middle-income Americans to support a health system that benefits many elite interests. A significant fraction of the cost individuals incur for health coverage goes not to pay for care they and their families receive, but to support a variety of industry activities and projects, including medical education and research and the building of costly facilities."

Health insurance in the U.S. would have evolved much differently if it hadn't become linked to employment, which was an unforeseen consequence of another governmental folly, namely wage and price controls during World War II. The ultimate solution here is to separate employment and health insurance so that people are spending their own money and shopping for policies that are best for them.

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Does it matter where you go to college?

Posted by George Leef at 09:11 AM

In this provocative essay Paul
Graham argues convincingly that it does not.

Graham runs an investment company that puts money behind startup firms. His company has a lot of experience, having done hundreds of them. Most of the entrepreneurs are college grads and Graham can't find any evidence that people who graduated from prestige institutions are any better than those who didn't.

Money quote: "So it's not surprising that we've found the relative prestige of different colleges useless in judging individuals. There's a lot of randomness in how colleges select people, and what they learn there depends much more on them than the college. Between these two sources of variation, the college someone went to doesn't mean a lot. It is to some degree a predictor of ability, but so weak that we regard it as a source of error and try consciously to ignore it."

He points out that there are kids at elite schools who coast through to their degrees without learning much and also kids who attend non-elite schools who take serious courses from dedicated professors and thereby improve themselves greatly.

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Another culprit in the "subprime lending" debacle

Posted by George Leef at 08:07 AM

It's the Community Reinvestment Act, an egregious piece of federal meddling in the banking business. Professor Thomas DiLorenzo explains here.

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Goodyear, maybe not so good a year. . .

Posted by Chad Adams at 07:30 AM

The Governor recently vetoed a bill that would provide $40 million to the unionized plant in Fayetteville.  Sen. Tony Rand (D-Cumberland) wants this plant to be given a $40 million tax break and the rest of us to make up the difference to the state coffers.  NO new jobs created.  In fact, if the General Assembly overturns the Govs veto, Goodyear could lay off 750 of its employees and STILL get the money.  Moreover, the plant's union contract essentially means it can't close until at least 2010 (and let's also recall that the plant is already getting a $10 million tax break HT-CH)

But this incentive story becomes more bizarre, House Speaker Hackney (D-Orange) is attempting to make this a partisan issue by keeping his troops in line to override the veto.  He needs 72 votes (three fifths of the 120 members) to do so, which means he needs help from the GOP.  Sadly, Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) is supposedly carrying water for Hackney and promising 31 Republican votes.  Lewis claims that 400+ plus of those union workers live in his district. (Fact check, 400+ live in Harnett and many most likely live in Rep. Jimmie Love's (D-Lee) district which includes northern Harnett).  Lewis also tends to forget that union votes don't go towards the GOP.  However, this has more twists and turns that most mountain roads.  Many of Lewis' promised votes aren't as firm as he thinks and are saying they'll keep the veto because the bill goes over the line even amongst those who support incentives.  Could Lewis be making a power play against minority leader Rep. Skip Stam (R-Wake)?  If the GOP were to actually stick together this might well be a reason that citizens believe that a group could stand up to bad incentive policies.   Does Speaker Hackney want a potential defeat in a special session?  And what of the people on the left like Rep. Luebke, Rep. Weiss and others who tend to truly dislike incentives?

Another twist is that all three GOP Gubernatorial candidates know a sour apple when they see one and have said they support the veto (Fred Smith, Bill Graham and Bob Orr).  Even the Democratic candidates for Governor (Bev Purdue and Richard Moore) see the light as well.  This deal is bad for NC and simply bad policy!

And this doesn't even take into account the millions and millions of dollars that will be pouring into Cumberland county due to the Base Realignment And Closure Act (BRAC) changes. Fayetteville, North Carolina can expect to welcome an estimate of 18,000 to 45,000 new citizens between 2006 and 2011 due to this change. Hardly a desperate cry for help when rural NC is getting nothing.

Better yet, try to imagine if the state had squandered millions in revenue to try and keep textiles, tobacco and furniture in NC back in the 1970s.  Think about how many schools would not have been built, how many roads wouldn't exists and we'd still have lost all the jobs.  One has to wonder what Lewis is thinking.  As importantly, with all of NC's needs, why is only one company worthy of a special session while our roads are deteriorating, our educational system lets 1/3 of the kids drop out and our state spending outpaces inflation and population growth now topping $20 billion?

The folks at MotleyFool said it best. (HT-JC)
“While there's the threat that Goodyear could always move its tire operations overseas if it doesn't get the incentives it seeks, that's not something a company can do too quickly. Nor has Goodyear shown a willingness to do so. But if it can lower its own costs at the expense of taxpayers, it will certainly try.” 

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