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One of the most widely read stories over the weekend was the column by Matthew Brown, a Raleigh banker, entitled: "One NC husband who's happy his overburdened wife is leaving teaching."
It has gotten more than 128,000 page views since it was published on Saturday.
Teaching is a hard way to make a modest living.
Let me give one example.
As I write this, I know that I can stop what I am doing whenever I want, and go down to the vending machine and get a Coke. I can attend to other personal needs. I can make and take phone calls. Teachers don't have anything close to this flexibility. They are stuck in the classroom, often on their feet for long stretches, managing sometimes unmanageable students.
If you happen to know a middle school teacher, ask about the most recent time the teacher found him or herself between two hormone-amped students who were trying to clobber each other.
Ask a teacher what it's like to deal with parents who believe their kid is telling the truth and it's the teacher who is telling whoppers. If you can get the parents to come to a conference.
Teaching is physically and mentally draining.
That is often surprising to some people who think that because they are trained in mathematics that they can easily switch careers and become successful math teachers. Some can, but a lot of the lateral entries wash out.
If I had it within my power, I would require anyone who wants to serve in the state legislature and on a local school board to spend a week working with a teacher. Don't base your policy decisions on your experience as a K-12 student years earlier, perhaps in a well-funded suburban school district. Or as a parent who, like most parents, kinda, sorta knew what their kids were doing in school. Go into today's classrooms for a week.
I keep thinking that Jennifer Wiley Thompson must think this is a nightmare, and eventually the alarm will go off and she will get ready to go to school and teach youngsters. I don't know if she really thinks that, because she hasn't talked to reporters.
The state now has an economic policy. Lower taxes and less regulation. There are asterisks all over that. The lower taxes part may vary depending on your income and the skills of your accountant. The less regulation part applies to some industries and not others, such as abortion clinics.
But in general, in the wake of the legislature's adjournment, you can see the general trend.
Realistically, it's probably more important who President Obama selects to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, and whether Congress can refrain from scaring the daylights out us with talk of shutdowns and defaults. Assuming we get a Fed chairman in the mold of Bernanke (reasonably easy money, even if the Fed rachets back its quantitative easing), the stock markets will continue to rise. That will produce a nice wealth effect as people see their portfolios continue to recover from the depths of 2009.
Also contributing to the wealth effect will be the recovery of home prices.
So these larger forces will probably tend to have a bigger impact on North Carolina's economy than what happens on Jones Street.
Still, the ship of state has definitely turned in a different direction in North Carolina, and at the margins that can have consequences. We will be on the lookout to see a smaller regulatory footprint, which typically translates into a more business-friendly climate, spurs more economic activity. Economists are generally pessimistic about the impact of tax reduction, but we shall see there, too.
There is an ongoing debate about what is more important to economic growth, spending more to improve the education and skills of the workforce or shaving a few points of tax rates. Republicans make the point that this is a false debate: We already spend a lot of money on education, but we aren't getting enough value because our public education system hasn't been well-manged. The education system needs to be reformed so the money will be better spent, they say.
This Republican position drives some people crazy, and angry letters to the editor have been rolling in. But as long as the Republicans remain in charge of the legislature and the governor's mansion, the education establishment in North Carolina had better be prepared for questions about whether it is doing a good job.
In Chapel Hill today, Gov. Pat McCrory told a business audience that "At $7.8 billion, this is the largest K-12 budget in North Carolina’s history.....In all, 56 percent of our state tax dollars will go to pay for education."
What this means is, aside from tax cuts and regulatory tweaks, the governor is looking at $7.8 billion in checks that he's writing, and thinking that that's probably the most important lever for revitalizing North Carolina's moribund economy. If that dough is being spent more efficiently and doing a better job of educating kids, there's your real economic program. That's not a crazy idea. As he and the legislative leaders cast around for ways to kick-start North Carolina, they're sure as heck not going to see 56 percent of the state taxes as off-limits to their ideas, no matter how many people demonstrate in Raleigh.
They were elected to try to pull this state out of the ditch, with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Our 8.8 percent is higher than Michigan's, for God sakes. That didn't start when the Republicans took over state government. The status quo has not been working for quite a while.
N.C. State recently completed perhaps its greatest baseball season ever, advancing to the College World Series for the first time since 1968. For decades, State has had a strong home-field advantage at Doak Field, a cozy park on campus with loud, engaged fans. The Wolfpack has played more than 1,000 games at Doak and won about 75 percent of them. A decade ago, the field and seating area received a major upgrade and were renamed Doak Field at Dail Park. Now it's time for State to reward its loyal baseball fans with another upgrade that would make Dail Park a better place to watch a game. Here are three steps State could take, in order of importance:
1. Remove the six posts that hold up the protective netting behind home plate and the dugouts. These posts block the view of a substantial number of seats. There has to be a way to engineer a solution, possibly involving the light posts along the first- and third-baselines. No modern ballpark should obscure the view of so many otherwise good seats.
2. Build a roof to cover some of the seats behind the plate and the dugouts. A roof would give fans protection from the sun and rain. It would make the park a more comfortable place to watch a game. It also would give Dail Park a more traditional baseball feel. Think of the covered grandstand at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
3. Add some permanent seats. Dail Park has about 2,200 seats. That is enough during the cold-weather and mid-week games. But when the weather warms up and conference play begins, the park needs more seats. I'll bet State could have sold at least 5,000 tickets for regional and super regional games this season. More than 11,000 tickets were sold to the State-Carolina game in Durham during the ACC tournament. State sold tickets to the grassy bank along the third-base line at Doak Field but it's difficult (and uncomfortable) to sit there without slowly sliding down the hill. NCSU should fill in that area with permanent seats.
Interest in State's baseball program is at an all-time high. State will have two of the best players in the country (pitcher Carlos Rodon and shortstop Trea Turner) returning next season. Now is the time for State to give its fans a better home-field experience.
The Washington Post has analyzed the Republican caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives to try to understand its various factions. The factions range from representatives who won't vote yes on anything to representatives who stand squarely behind the speaker, John Boehner. I was curious to see which faction the Post had Rep. Renee Ellmers in.
They have Ellmers, who represents North Carolina's 2nd District, in the "Maybe Yes" faction. This is how it is described:
The largest of our five groups with 114 members (49 percent of the House Republican conference), this is a faction that has backed four of the six key votes. These are people who are almost always going to be behind the leadership — not a single person in this group voted against Boehner for speaker — unless there is a specific issue in their district (or their personal belief system) that keeps them from saying “yes”.
Here is the Post story.
I wrote one recent Saturday about Gerald Baugh, 70, who has been a member at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church for more than 50 years. For decades, Gerald has been a member of the Starnes Sunday School Class for adults with developmental disabilities.
By coincidence, the following Sunday my wife was scheduled to play piano in the Starnes Class for Gerald and about six to eight other regular members of that class, who sang along. We sang Gerald's favorite, "Church in the Wildwood." We also belted out "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," "Jesus Loves Me" and "The Lord Bless and Keep You."
When I say we belted out the songs, I mean it. That was some singing. A tone-deaf singer like me fit right in. What we lacked in quality we made up for in volume.
Before class, Gerald attended the 8:45 am service, as he always does, sitting front and center. Before church, he was surrounded by well wishers who had seen my column with Gerald's photograph. Gerald reminded Rev. LuAnn Charlton before the service to mention his appearance in The N&O. When Charlton completed her sermon without mentioning the column, Gerald reminded her again -- during the service, as only Gerald could do.
Charlton told Gerald (and the seated congregation) that she had not forgotten him. Indeed, a few minutes later, Gerald's photo popped up on the multimedia screen behind Charlton as she talked about the column and Gerald. When she finished, there was loud clapping for Gerald. As the applause washed over him, with a huge grin on his face, Gerald stood up and bowed.
Elections have consequence. Elections matter. Let's start with that.
For nearly a dozen years, we have been at war, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. We are no longer at war in Iraq, and soon we will be out of Afghanistan. The United States has expended a lot of blood and treasure in these places. We have a reporter, Jay Price, who has been in Afghanistan for months reporting for McClatchy, and is due to be back this fall, and I will be very glad when he is back and I don't have to worry about him over there.
But now the drums are beating for the U.S. to do something about Syria. There are increasingly specific reports that the Syrian government has been using chemical weapons against the rebels, thereby crossing the "red line" that President Obama has drawn. This afternoon, various news organizations -- all apparently receiving the same briefings -- are reporting this. The New York Times has this on its web site:
"According to an internal memorandum circulating inside the government on Thursday, the 'intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year.' "
While people inside the Washington Beltway love to play armchair generals, most Americans -- according to the polls -- do not want to get involved militarily in Syria.
There are lots of good reasons to be extremely cautious.
The men and women that the armchair generals would send into harm's way live in Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Havelock and Jacksonville. They are based at Ft. Bragg, Seymour Johnson AFB, Cherry Point and Camp Lejeune. These folks have sacrificed quite a lot over the past dozen years in the service of their country.
Syria is a very complicated situation. That is an understatement. It is easy to see the Assad government as the bad guys. But the rebels are a mixture of some maybe OK guys and some really bad guys.
If we are going to use American military power to intervene in this conflict, someone needs to explain what the objective is. Is the objective simply to sharply reduce the government's ability to kill its own citizens? Does that mean we need to establish a no-fly zone with jets from Seymour Johnson? Given that the Syrian forces have sophisticated anti-aircraft systems, what are acceptable losses?
Would this lead to a stalemate that would devolve into a disintegration of Syria, with a part run by Assad, a part run by rebels we like and a part run by radical Al Qaeda affiliates we don't like? All being supplied weapons by various sponsors in a never-ending war in a failed state?
Some inside-the-Beltway strategists think that we can figure out how to bring peace and democracy to the Middle East. But we are still suffering from decisions made a century ago by Westerners who drew arbitrary borders on maps. They thought they could create order out of post-Ottoman chaos. They created a region in a state of permanent unrest.
I am tired of anonymous high government officials talking behind the veil of secrecy about what they think they have found in Syria. If there is incontrovertible evidence that the Assad regime is using chemical weapons, then President Obama should stand in front of the cameras and give us the evidence and explain his "red line" and what he wants to do about it. He should discuss what intervention would look like, and what might happen, and why an odious Assad government that doesn't seek to kill Americans (so far as we know) is worse than a Syria under part or total control of extremists who might want to kill Americans. And why the third scenario -- "the good rebels option" -- has a chance of succeeding.
And if he wants to intervene, he should ask for a congressional vote yea or nay, so all those armchair generals in Congress will have to take a recorded stand on the House and Senate floors, as opposed to their saber rattling on Sunday morning talk shows.
All this should happen before we send some dad from Wayne County up in an F-15 to risk his life over Damascus.
Triangle journalist and big thinker Fiona Morgan, an associate in research at the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy at Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy, (man, that's tough to get on a business card) challenged her friends on Facebook to come up with Office Frustration Band Names. These were some of them, with credit where credit is due.
Fiona Morgan Lost Comp Days
Andy Bechtel The Thought Leaders.
Paul Jones Outside Consultants
Maria Bebop O'Lea State Gas Card
Mark Chilton The New Health Plan
Rhonda Nicole Tankerson The Staple Guns
Sandy Smith Misplaced Synergy
Damon Circosta Press 1 for more options
William Haywood Carey Fluorescent Light Orchestra
Charles Mangin The Billable Hours
Zeno Gill Coroner Office
Brendan Love Low Hanging Fruit
and my favorite Corporate Conference Call/Webinar House Band:
Who Just Joined? posted by Carolyn Siefken Wiley
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