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Nov. 10 In Raleigh: Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol On Election Results

You’re invited to hear election perspective from one of the most respected national analysts working today: Bill Kristol.

Monday, November 10, 2014, 12:00 p.m.
Renaissance Hotel, 4100 Main at North Hills Street, Raleigh, NC 27609 – View Map
Price: $40 – Purchase tickets here.

Join us for a post-election analysis with one of the country’s most influential political analysts and commentators.

Bill Kristol is editor of The Weekly Standard, which, together with Fred Barnes and John Podhoretz, he founded in 1995. Kristol regularly appears on Fox News Sunday and on the Fox News Channel.

Before starting The Weekly Standard, Kristol led the Project for the Republican Future. Prior to that, Kristol served as chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle during the Bush administration and to Secretary of Education William Bennett under President Reagan. Before coming to Washington in 1985, Kristol taught politics at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

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Did UNC’s academic/athletic malfeasance start in 1993?

The staggering finding by Kenneth L. Wainstein’s investigation into UNC-Chapel Hill’s “shadow curriculum” for athletes — discussed in some detail by Jane Shaw at the Pope Center — was that it lasted not one year, not a few years, but an entire generation, from 1993 to 2011, involving (and I would say victimizing) thousands of student-athletes.

Perhaps the “paper class” system arose in 1993, but if so, it would merely have been the logical next step down the path that has led the once-proud university of the “Carolina Way” to its great shame. Consider these passages in autobiographies by two of UNC athletics’ favorite sons.

All-American linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who came to UNC-Chapel Hill in 1977 and was drafted by the New York Giants in 1981, wrote this in his 1987 autobiography LT: Living on the Edge (co-written with David Falkner):

There were a number of courses that were ready-made for football players. You know, large lecture classes, 1,200 people or more, with two tests – a midterm and a final – both multiple choice. In those courses, you’re gonna get what the guy sitting next to you gets. The only thing you have to do is remember not to copy the same name on your paper. But there are only so many of these courses.

I did take some courses I cared about and learned things from, but that didn’t get me through school. I learned every little bit I could about how things worked, and I took advantage of them. The rules, for example, said I had to take a full schedule of so many hours. I took half loads and made sure I had a good supply of add and drop cards, properly dated, for the end of the semester. Then I’d go around the school during exam week looking for those courses where 100 percent of the grade was based on that final exam. I’d sit next to somebody I knew, copy his paper, and hand in mine while slipping an add card into the pile of papers before I left the room. Simple. Any fool could grab a “C” that way.

Taylor called the system a “total fraud” that “doesn’t start with colleges” but whose ultimate fault rests with society.

Current men’s basketball coach Roy Williams was at UNC-Chapel Hill from 1968 to 1973. He played for the freshman team. He was not a student-athlete during the time he recounts here in in his 2009 autobiography Hard Work (written with Tim Crothers), pp. 51-52:

In the final summer of my graduate school year, I needed two more courses to get my degree. One was required and the other I wanted to be really easy. I heard about a guidance counseling course taught by Dr. Perry. I’d heard it had no tests, no papers, and no projects. That was my kind of class. My roommate, Roy Barnes and I went to find out about it and were told it was full. So I told Roy that we were going to see Dr. Perry at his house. Roy didn’t want to go, so he hid behind a bush when I knocked on Dr. Perry’s door.

When he opened the door, I said, “Dr. Perry, my name is Roy Williams. I’m in graduate school in health and physical education finishing my master’s. I need one more course to graduate. I would like to take your course, but they said the only I could get in was with professor approval. Dr. Perry, this is it for me. They told me your course has no tests, no papers, no projects — and I’m being honest with you, that’s what I want. I can contribute to the class with the best of them. Will you let me in?”

According to Williams, Perry allowed him into the class for having the “mighty big balls” to come over there and say that to him.

In other words, the system was broke well before 1993. To be sure, it is hardly a UNC-specific problem. As I wrote in 2011 (see comments) back when this was still beginning to unfold — years before Mary Willingham came forward about some athletes reading below a fourth-grade level:

The ongoing charade of college athletics requires, mostly in revenue sports, a pretense that functional illiterates who don’t know the past tense of arrive or the term ambidextrous belong in the same academic environment as, e.g., future brain surgeons (UNC) and rocket scientists (NC State). It is certainly an underlying problem here.

UNC’s downfall is the sheer, breathtaking, previously unheard of and nigh on unthinkable scope of the corruption of academics for athletics glory and money.

It is the bitterest of ironies that, in its annual quest for No. 1, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill achieved the top spot for worst athletics/academic fraud scandal of all time.

If anything good is to come from all this, it is that — in the weeks and months to come as this report’s revelations sink in, fester, and create upheaval — the nation’s institutions of higher learning will find a better way to offer athletics without harming a university’s first purpose. UNC can lead the way out. It offers a sobering, Terrie Hall-like cautionary example against athletics indulgence to the detriment of academics.

As I wrote earlier this year:

Beyond that, beyond the money, there is a long, sad train of barely literate athletes victimized by the universities and the NCAA’s system that “works to keep them on the field and get them through college, but it is a terrible failure at helping get them through life when the cheering stops.”

This situation has long been suspected, however — which means that the public has been willing to be blind to it, or at least to tolerate it insofar as it remains hidden. UNC is one of the top standard-bearers for college athletics, so this scandal resonates all the more.

By the same token, however, UNC can set a new course for student-athletes in revenue sports that could inspire other universities to follow. That should be the aim now.

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A Sure Sign Regulators Have Over-Stepped

Teeth whitening — who can provide the service in our state and who can’t — is now the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court case. The N.C. Board of Dental Examiners wants to keep non-dentists from providing the service. Carolina Journal reported on the case/issue in 2012.

The eight-member dental board was created by the General Assembly to regulate the practice of dentistry. The board has justified tougher enforcement by pointing to a subsection of state law that defines practicing dentistry as including the removal of “stains, accretions, or deposits from human teeth.” In the board’s view, teeth whitening is deemed a dental treatment that can be provided only by a state-licensed dentist.

Entrepreneurs, however, say they are being targeted unfairly and forced out of business for applying the same teeth-whitening products that are sold over the counter as cosmetics. Consumers can purchase the products — which are approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration — online or in stores and apply to their teeth at home without a prescription or professional supervision.

Joyce Osborn, president and founder of the Alabama-based Council for Cosmetic Teeth Whitening, a trade association, told Carolina Journal that the issue is not about public health or safety, or even a concern that non-dentists are motivated only by financial self-interest, as the N.C. dental board asserts. Osborn says dentists want to maintain a lucrative monopoly and protect their own revenues from lower-cost competitors. Dentists charge as much as $300 to $700 per treatment, whereas some non-dentists offer the service for less than $100.

Osborn, who invented and markets an FDA-cleared teeth-whitening system, says she’s battled the N.C. dental board and other state boards for several years. “That’s why I founded the council,” Osborn said, “to inform and help members on issues of safety, training, best practices, and appropriate marketing.”

What’s really at play is whether or not there should be competition in the marketplace for these services. And, as you might expect, there are some who don’t like competition. They’d rather circle the wagons and keep everyone else out.

We’ll see what the Supreme Court has to say about it.

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Some Have Just Given Up Hope

There was a time when Americans presumed they would be better off than their parents, and parents hoped they would live to see the day when their kids prospered. But is that still possible today? Is there an expectation that if you work hard, you will naturally prosper? There are competing polls on how Americans view their circumstances. Patrice Lee writes for the Independent Women’s Forum. 

In June, a CNN poll found that 63 percent of Americans believe their kids will be worse off than they are – a stunning reversal from CNN data at the end of the last century (1999)– when two thirds of Americans predicted that children would grow up to have it better than their parents. That touched off a host of commentaries and criticisms like “The American Dream is Dead, and Good Riddance,” “The American Dream is Out of Reach,” and “The American Dream: Is It Slipping Away?”

A new Fox News poll provides another perspective. When asked “However you define it, do you believe you personally have achieved the American Dream, you’re on your way to achieving it, or do you feel the American Dream is out of reach for you?” 33 percent of Americans said they achieved it and 39 percent said they are on the way to achieving it. When looking at the age ranges, not too surprisingly, most of those over 55 years have achieved the American Dream compared to those under 55 who are largely working on it. However, across all age ranges about a quarter have given up hope or think it’s out of reach.

What has happened in our country to make one out of four people of all ages give up? How very, very said it is.

There IS hope for these folks, but it comes not in a government subsidy, but through a thriving economy. But thriving economies don’t happen by chance. They’re the product of concerted efforts to keep government to its core services, businesses free to compete and innovate, and ensure men and women are able to tap the skills that interest them and that the marketplace needs. We see the opposite approach from the federal government, and we see the predictable results. Thankfully, we have reformers in the General Assembly who are leading this state back, in concert with the governor. It doesn’t happen by chance. It happens when the right policies are followed — and we know which ones work, and which ones don’t.

 

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Will We Rub Our Hands And Wait, Or Will We Act?

Having grown up in a working class family where money was always short and we sometimes went without, I am particularly drawn to writing about how best to help the poor. That’s why I read this column distributed to the Herald-Sun by the progressives at N.C. Policy Watch and written by Sarah Jacobson of  the North Carolina Alliance for Health. Sarah laments what she sees as lack of access to healthy foods and laments as well that a legislative committee failed to live up to her expectations.

Recently, state elected official started the conversation on this issue through the work of the House Study Committee on Food Desert Zones. Unfortunately, however, with only four meetings and an incredible volume of complex information, that effort concluded with little in the way of tangible next steps and only weak legislative suggestions. We need to continue to educate our elected officials and our communities about food insecurity and the policies that can change things for the better.

The bottom line: Spirited conversation on this issue needs to continue. Let’s help that process along by letting our community and state leaders know that we care about the health of our kids and communities and that healthy food should not be a luxury.

I won’t quibble here with Sarah’s data or definition of who is food “insecure” and why, but I reject her notion that helping the vulnerable is the responsibility of a narrowly defined legislative committee. Rather than spend time rubbing our hands at committee meetings of this sort, let’s act with boldness to tangibly help lift people in these circumstances out of their problem.

We do that by enacting economic policies that we know, based on years of data, are correlated with economic growth: growth that leads to more job opportunities and easier/greater access to more and more products and services. The General Assembly is to commended for taking steps over the past three years to do just that: lowering the tax burden and reforming the tax code, paring back job-killing rules, and beginning the process of more energy production and extraction. I know from my life experience that my family’s situation improved when my father had more opportunity in the workplace. Let’s hope more legislators listen to John Hood discuss the data on which policies lead to growth, and which do not. 

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“I think that is extremely disingenuous and extremely inappropriate”

Carolina Journal’s Barry Smith reports today on disturbing information about a possible plan to disrupt voting in North Carolina.

As early voting opens for the 2014 general election, an attorney representing the state in the lawsuit fighting state election law reforms is seeking further information regarding statements made earlier this month by the Rev. William Barber at the state NAACP convention.

The statements, according to a memo by Butch Bowers, indicate that Barber urged those attending the convention to take people who have not registered to vote to early voting sites and transport registered voters to their wrong precincts on election day. Both practices — same-day registration at early voting locations and out-of-precinct voting — were prohibited by the General Assembly’s 2013 election law.

Snip. And then:

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, who helped author the state’s new voting laws, said he had heard reports of Barber’s comments. “If indeed, any group is more concerned with causing havoc to the election process than simply getting people registered to vote, I think that is extremely disingenuous and extremely inappropriate,” Lewis said.

Lewis said those moves, along with the late-breaking court orders, could create confusion at election time.

“I believe that is intended often to create confusion and uncertainty,” Lewis said. “It’s like my mom and dad always said, if you spend your time on how to do things right, you’d have a lot more success than if you tried to beat the system.”

The Bowers memo said that the comments were made Oct. 11 during the state NAACP’s convention in Fayetteville.

If true, this effort is reprehensible. Any effort to create problems is a disservice to every voter and minimizes the hard-fought and valiant efforts of those who, decades ago, fought very serious and very real discrimination at the ballot box. Sad.

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Why Do We Penalize Savings & Investment? We Should Encourage It.

One of the ways we become self-sufficient and able to pass on the fruits of our lifetime of work is to save and invest. Yet the North Carolina tax code discourages savings and investment through the tax code. JLF’s Roy Cordato explained in his recent Spotlight report.

In 2013 North Carolina instituted sweeping tax reform and began the process of making its tax system more efficient and more consistent with liberty.

There are important areas of the tax code that still need to be reformed, and the treatment of capital gains is one of those areas.

Capital gains taxes penalize saving, investment, and therefore entrepreneurship.

They do this by imposing a second layer of taxation on equity investment.

The most straightforward way to end this bias is to eliminate the tax on capital gains completely.

If abolition of the capital gains tax is considered to be too difficult a task politically, then North Carolina could take the same approach as the federal government and tax capital gains at a lower rate than ordinary income.

Another approach would be to follow the lead of some other states. For example, South Carolina allows taxpayers to reduce their capital gains by 44 percent before applying the tax, while Wisconsin allows for an exclusion of 30 percent.

Fiscal reformers in the General Assembly are to congratulated for taking on tax reform when previous General Assemblies chose to kick the can down the road. Now it’s time to move ahead with the next step of putting North Carolina back on track with more freedom and more prosperity.

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Stunning Abuse Of Paid Leave For Federal Workers

It’s hard not to become cynical when GAO reports like this one illustrate how hard-earned tax dollars are being used and abused.  The Washington Examiner reports:

The federal government has shelled out more than $700 million in paid leave to more than 57,000 employees who were home from work for time periods stretching from one month to three years, a Government Accountability Office report has found.

In a 62-page report published Monday, the GAO analyzed why so many federal employees were home and getting paid for such long periods of time and they discovered a variety of reasons.

In many cases, employees were home awaiting the outcome of investigations into alleged misconduct and criminal actions. Some racked up paid leave for “physical fitness activities,” and others were away from work seeking professional development. Employees also took paid leave for “recuperation” from overseas work.

Hundreds of federal employees remained at home, collecting a paycheck, for years.

As you work hard today, remember how some of the dollars you’re forking over to the feds is being used. This GAO reports is one of many examples of what happens when government grows to the point where keeping abuse in check is a monumental task.

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“Please.”

Carolina Journal’s Rick Henderson adds perspective to the reporting on benefits received by Hagan family members from two taxpayer-funded grants.

It’s important to put the story into perspective, because the Hagan camp relentlessly deflects and spins, portraying these taxpayer handouts passed around from one family-owned company to another as nothing improper. And — this is the most laughable contention — that the Hagan family somehow received no benefit from nearly a half-million bucks in taxpayer largess.

Please.

JDC, a company co-owned by the three Hagan brothers, applied for and received $250,644 in stimulus dollars to install more efficient lighting and furnaces and place solar panels at its building. JDC leases the building to Plastic Revolutions, a recycling company also owned by … Hagan family members. Once the project was completed, Plastic Revolutions said it expected to save $100,000 in energy costs annually. That’s a benefit it would not have received without the upgrades, which were made possible by federal taxpayers.

Moreover, JDC wound up with a more valuable asset: a modern, energy-efficient manufacturing facility that would bring a higher price if it sold, and a more inviting location for potential new tenants. And, of course, JDC received $137,000 in tax credits — again resulting from the stimulus grant.

The Hagan family could have financed the project by investing its own money, seeking outside investors, going into debt, or draining its own bank accounts. While some of those other sources might have played a role in this project, the Hagans also went, hat in hand, to the government, and we paid for it.

Would JDC have pursued the project without the handouts? The Hagans haven’t said so, at least not to us. But it matters little now. Our money has been spent.

Moral of the story: the bigger the government and the greater its largesse, the more opportunity there is for nonsense like this.

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“The double-dealing didn’t end there.”

You may recall that the federal “stimulus” package was supposed to create jobs by spending astronomical amounts of money on so-called “shovel ready” jobs. Some of the money went into projects for alternative energy. John Hood relates how things went down for one of the grant recipients, Sen. Kay Hagan’s family.

Forget the politics and read the story for what it says about big government.

In 2010, a company called JDC Manufacturing applied to the Energy Office for a $250,644 grant to replace light fixtures and gas furnaces and install rooftop solar panels at a 300,000-square-foot building it owned in Reidsville. The total cost of the project, JDC stated, would be $438,627, of which 57 percent would come from the taxpayers and the rest, $187,983, from JDC itself.

The company was owned by Kay Hagan’s husband Chip and two of his brothers. In the application, JDC claimed that the building’s infrastructure was outdated and that current energy costs had “prevented the tenant from growing their business as desired due to the energy operating costs.” Who was this cost-constrained tenant of the JDC building? A company also owned by Hagan family members called Plastic Revolutions, as Carolina Journal’s Don Carrington has reported. Chip Hagan serves on its board.

The double-dealing didn’t end there. In its application, JDC stated that its initial estimate of the cost of installing solar panels on the building were “based on quotes or commercially available prices” but that “the final project design and installation work will undergo an open bid once awardees are notified” about the status of the grant.

The same week that JDC submitted the application, however, Chip Hagan and his son Tilden founded yet another company, Solardyne, later renamed Green State Power. Somehow, this inexperienced company managed to win the contract to install the solar panels on JDC’s building, no doubt through an “open bid.” Interestingly, JDC had included its conflict-of-interest policy in its application for public funding. “Employees are to avoid any conflict of interest, even the appearance of a conflict of interest,” the policy stated. “The appearance of a conflict of interest can cause embarrassment to the company, jeopardizing the credibility of the company. Any conflict of interest, potential conflict of interest, or the appearance of a conflict of interest should be reported to your supervisor immediately.”

 

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