The Locker Room

June 07, 2005

In case you wondered why the Minutemen were wanted on the northern border, too

Posted by Jon Sanders at 9:39 PM

Just read this:

On April 25, Gregory Despres arrived at the U.S.-Canadian border crossing at Calais, Maine, carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood. U.S. customs agents confiscated the weapons and fingerprinted Despres. Then they let him into the United States.

Turns out the guy had just murdered two people. Who'd'a'thunk it, right? He was arrested in Massachusetts.

What would you do? Imagine you're an agent working the U.S. border. Some guy wants to enter your country. He's bearing a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles, and a blood-stained chainsaw, and he looks like this:

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What's a few thousand dead bats when the planet is facing a melt down

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 4:16 PM

Study: Bats killed at wind turbine site

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (The Associated Press) - Jun 6

A study of a Tucker County wind energy farm estimates as many as 2,900 bats were killed by the whirling blades during a six-week period last year. Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 13, 2004, researchers with the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative found 765 dead bats on the ground at the Mountaineer Wind Energy Center's 44 wind towers, a report summary released Sunday shows. Researchers estimate that as many as 2,900 bats were actually killed in that period, and many more before and after. Plans for another round of intense research are apparently on hold, according to a news release from the group's scientists. "Based on 2004 findings, BWEC scientists recommend comparisons of feathered versus normally operated turbines during periods of low wind, the condition under which most bat mortality occurred," researchers said in a statement. Turbines produce electricity only when the blades are turning. Owners can lose money from lost power any time blades are feathered, either as a safety measure in very high winds or for the proposed tests. That could raise the average price of wind power. Feathered turbine blades are turned parallel to the wind direction to keep them from spinning. "The goal is to measure exactly how much mortality can be prevented and at what cost to industry. To date, the BWEC has not been able to identify a project owner willing to host such experiments." The cooperative was organized in late 2003 by FPL Energy, owners of the Tucker County wind farm, after an initial study at the Mountaineer site found the wind turbines killed an estimated 2,092 bats in the spring and late summer of 2003. Merlin Tuttle, the director of the nonprofit research group Bat Conservation International, called that the largest known bat kill in the world and possibly the largest mortality event of any animal. Cooperative members include representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Bat Conservation International and the American Wind Energy Association, the chief industry trade group. With public, private and industry funding, BWEC scientists planned three years of experiments to figure out why bats were colliding with wind turbines and to develop possible solutions. But after just one year of comprehensive research at the Mountaineer site and the Meyersdale Wind Energy Center in Pennsylvania, the industry is apparently trying to focus research on "solutions" or "deterrents." Some sort of research will be done this summer, AWEA spokeswoman Laurie Jodziewicz said Sunday. "We're still trying to put together what research will be done this year. We have some research planned, some solutions we want to test out." Some will be done at sites where turbines are still planned, others at existing sites, she said. She declined to name specific sites, saying they are under negotiation.

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Medicaid fees

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 3:45 PM

Google's news alert service is one of the best passive research tools ever invented. Because of it, I learned that a study by Stephen Zuckerman of the Urban Institute, published in Health Services Research (never heard of it), found that "modest [five to ten percent] cuts might be an appropriate policy option when state budgets are tight."

Talk about undermining the power of gatekeepers. Have you seen this elsewhere

btw, the headline was "Higher medicaid payments are good, but not great" again missing the key point from the text

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Life imitates Al Bundy

Posted by Jon Sanders at 2:40 PM

Al Bundy: "Marcy leads a protest after Al banishes a shoe-store customer for nursing her baby." — "Married ... With Children" episode 905, "Business Sucks"

Life: "The calls for a 'nurse-in' began on the Internet mere moments after Barbara Walters uttered a negative remark about public breast-feeding on her ABC talk show, 'The View.' The protest, inspired by similar events organized by a growing group of unlikely activists nationwide in the last year, brought about 200 women to ABC's headquarters yesterday. They stood nursing their babies in the unmistakably public venue of Columbus Avenue and West 67th Street." — The New York Times

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Re: T-shirts

Posted by Hal Young at 12:20 AM

Janie, you didn't note that the colors are quickly getting snatched up. Green means "more school money", red means "less school money", yellow means "psychiatric care" (never mind the bazillion yellow ribbons in town which read, "Support the troops").

Oh, and Keith Sutton told us yesterday that white T-shirts can get you suspended in Durham, so we probably ought to steer clear of them, too.

What we need to do, and I mean really quick now, is appropriate a color for the conservative/libertarian cause. My vote is orange, or maybe cobalt blue.

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Cultural illiteracy -- what did we expect?

Posted by Hal Young at 12:04 AM

Tom Shuford, a columnist for, starts his column today with a quote from one of my favorite historians, David McCullough, on one of my favorite subjects -- the importance of history in current affairs:

The Founding Fathers “were steeped in, soaked in, marinated in, the classics: Greek and Roman history, Greek and Roman ideas, Greek and Roman ideals,” says two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough. “It was their model, their example. And they saw themselves very much like the Greeks and the Romans, as actors on a great stage in one of the great historic dramas of all time, and that they, individually and as a group, had better live up to these heroic parts in which history had cast them.”

Although Greek and Roman civilizations were of the very distant past, they were vital to the task at hand. Had the Founding Fathers not been supremely literate in a cultural sense, there would have been no United States of America.

McCullough, in another context: “Historical memory is as much a necessity to the preservation of liberty and American security as is our own armed forces.” In that light America's young face coming threats unarmed. They do not read, few can write, they know little. They ignore the civic life of their communities and the nation. When their time “on a great stage” in the next great historic drama comes, they will be mute and confused.

Personal note: when we told the nurse our newborn son was named Samuel Adams, she was incredulous -- "You named him after the beer?" She was not joking.

Schools of education are aided in promoting culture-free schooling by another efficient device for that purpose: standardized tests. Culture-free, high-stakes standardized tests produce – over many years – culture-free young adults. What is tested is what is taught. America’s standardized reading tests ... contain NO TRACE of Western culture, history, literature, politics, art.

Standardized tests’ cultural sterility does not trouble leaders of school systems. It does not disturb presidents of universities or CEOs of testing companies. These were “educated” in schools and universities much like those they now lead or serve. We can expect nothing from them. Not in the way of understanding or of remedy. They cannot tell us why the young – after thousands of hours and years upon years of seat time in their institutions – and hundreds of hours taking their tests – know so very little.

It's long for a column (over 2000 words) but worth a read. Shuford, btw, is a retired teacher in Lenoir, N.C.

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Reading is fundamental

Posted by Jon Sanders at 11:59 AM

Having finally received a copy of the Carolina Alumni Review magazine's story on the Western Civ controversy at UNC-Chapel Hill ("The Wild, Wild West," by David E. Brown), I agree that it does attempt to get most sides of the story. Brown interviews the Pope family, the protesting UNC faculty, and the UNC administrators working for the Western Civ program (the article even goes so far as to point out early on that the idea originated at UNC, not with the Popes). And frankly I am used to the portrayal of myself as the Ogre Who Does Not Deserve Calls for Clarification. Nevertheless, I simply must take issue with this particularly egregious misreading: "Sanders, who has said the term 'Podunk College' was a good analogy for Carolina." Here is the source for that quotation. In that article I was taking issue with "the assumptions driving the recommendation" for a sexuality studies major at UNC, which I said sarcastically were "exactly the justifications one would expect from top scholars for beginning a new program of academic study." (Note for UNC readers: That means I'm saying precisely the opposite, that those are not at all the sort of justifications one would expect from top scholars.) Among those poor justifications:
"In the last five years, just about every podunk college [aside: good analogy] in the United States has established something [in the field of sexuality studies]," said John Younger of Duke University in the N&O.

In other words, I wasn't saying UNC was analogous to a "podunk college." I was commenting on the fact that the Duke professor noticed that one feature at "just about every podunk college" was something in sexuality studies. And I was pointing to how threadbare a justification it is to say that if something is done at "just about every podunk college," then that is an argument for doing it at UNC.

If anything, my comment was based in arguing that UNC is better than, and ought to have higher academic standards than, a podunk college.

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Re: T-shirt slogan idea

Posted by Jon Sanders at 11:50 AM

Our school got a bloated bureaucracy of administrators and all we students got was this LOUSY T-SHIRT

only after we sold enough raffle tickets and candy bars

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Selective Mute

Posted by Janie Neeley at 11:17 AM

Every day another headline shakes the education piggy bank

Yet no coordinated t-shirts were printed, much less an article decrying the injustice of letting Bill S490, the Charter Schools Managed Growth Act, die in committee. All legislative efforts to raise or remove the charter school cap are now dead in the water. This will impact thousands of North Carolina families and their freedom to choose a quality school for their child. Where is the outrage? Isn't this newsworthy?

Instead of action, our politicians have decided that yet another charter school study should be conducted before making any changes. Depending on who conducts that research, I can already report the results.

I guess the politicians missed (or ignored) the Newsweek story naming Raleigh Charter as the ninth best public high school in the nation. They must have been out buying a green t-shirt when the story broke.

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Venturing into the Goofy

Posted by Janie Neeley at 10:50 AM

Short-term psychiatric treatment and public school funding are topics in the same article.

Even the reporter admits that this has "ventured into the goofy."

It was all well intentioned, but these residents missed an important point: all the listed cuts will directly impact students and teachers while leaving the school district administration untouched.

I guess I need a T-shirt to get their attention. Any ideas for a slogan?

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Violence in Schools: More Than Paperwork

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 10:43 AM

The investigation The Charlotte Observer mounted into actual reports of violence and crime at CMS was certainly welcomed and paper even had the good sense to seek out the Reason Foundation's Lisa Snell, who has been researching this topic for years. The evidence is clear that CMS has systemically covered up violence problems and that some schools have chronic discipline problems. But the issue is already veering towards a reporting or semantics problem with officials pledging a change in definitions and some different check boxes on some forms.

This misses the point.

As Snell makes clear, and thus far the Observer has resisted, public schools under-report problems and over-report success not because of fear of bad PR or simple confusion, but because money is at stake. Money. M-O-N-E-Y. Snell explains:

But while federal and state legislators congratulate themselves for their newfound focus on school accountability, scant attention is being paid to the quality of the data they’re using. Whether the topic is violence, test scores, or dropout rates, school officials have found myriad methods to paint a prettier picture of their performance. These distortions hide the extent of schools’ failures, deceive taxpayers about what our ever-increasing education budgets are buying, and keep kids locked in failing institutions. Meanwhile, Washington—which has set national standards requiring 100 percent of school children to reach proficiency in math and reading by 2014—has been complicit in letting states avoid sanctions by fiddling with their definitions of proficiency.

The federal government is spending billions to improve student achievement while simultaneously granting states license to game the system. As a result, schools have learned to lie with statistics.

The rest of Snell's June 2005 Reason cover story, How Schools Cheat, is simply required reading.

However, until CMS and educators state wide come clean about the funding incentives to keep just about any warm body enrolled in public school systems, improving matters will be a stretch.

Addendum: These undeniable facts about violence in CMS make me wonder if the Observer would like to recant its past support for forcing the best teachers into the worst schools. Do we still think that would solve anything other than school staffing issues for surrounding counties?

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Remember the blubbering about mockery not being academic?

Posted by Jon Sanders at 10:35 AM

The idea, put forth by certain UNC-Chapel Hill professors upset at li'l ole me, prompted this column in defense.

In researching another column, I came across another academic making the case for academic use of mockery. This academic is not on the same intellectual plane as Aristotle, Juvenal, Democritus, Donne et al., but I have reason to think that she means more than those to the aforementioned professors. I had forgotten that in 2001, Mary Burgan, general secretary of the AAUP, defended her colleagues who were being criticized for their gratuitously offensive remarks right after Sept. 11. One of the things she said was this: "now we are back to our usual habits of analysis, criticism, and scorn."

Scorn a usual habit? How hostile! etc.

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Subsidizing Transit

Posted by Jon Sanders at 09:41 AM

Today's N&O article on commuter benefits within businesses has an interesting line about government subsidy of mass transit.

To be recognized by the Best Workplaces program, an employer must offer several commuter benefits. Free bus passes, primarily through a Capital Area Transit program called UPASS, are the most popular commuter benefit provided by city, county and state agencies. UPASS users accounted for 14 percent of CAT ridership in the last 12 months(of course emphasis has been added).

Notice that not only is the city providing employees of businesses who subscribe to the program free transportation, but the free transportation occurs on buses that everyone else has to pay for. Of all who avail themselves of the CAT service, 14 percent are getting a free ride.

This, combined with the reduced rates of transit services, really makes me question just how important, useful, and in demand, is mass transit.

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Mrs. Easley's Donation

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 09:03 AM

In case you weren't at either of the governor's inaugural balls, you can now see First Lady Mary Easley's gowns at the NC Museum of History.

The First Lady's 2005 Inaugural Ball gown is a champagne, Empire styled, full-length gown made of satin, accented with a quilted band at the bodice that flows into a side-tied sash. The gown was created by international designer Peter Langner, who has worked for such fashion houses as Ungaro, Christian Dior and Guy Laroche. Easley also wore a pair of Italian oyster satin evening shoes designed by Anne Klein. The donation of the gown and shoes is made possible by Saks Fifth Avenue.

No word on whether the dress was made in North Carolina from North Carolina textiles, what tax incentives Saks received, or how many jobs were created.

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Maybe growth doesn't pay for itself

Posted by John Hood at 09:03 AM

In the morning Wilmington paper today comes this sobering thought:

The month-old Brunswick County Jail is running out of room.

In its first month, the jail’s average daily population reached 200 inmates, surpassing its 196-bed capacity.

Because of that, the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners is now looking to double the jail’s size by tacking $6.6 million onto the county’s $157.3 million budget for fiscal year 2005-06.

Fortunately, it doesn’t yet seem that Brunswick’s growing pains will result in a property-tax hike, unlike much of North Carolina this year, but commissioners are talking about a land-transfer tax. The local board of Realtors is promising political action to head it off. Perhaps their efforts will be counterbalanced by the political activism of prisoners seeking more spacious accommodations.

More tomorrow in my DJ. In short, don’t commit a crime in Brunswick County right now. You might end up staying on top of the prison — and it’s hot today.

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Might-y Reporting

Posted by Paul Chesser at 08:58 AM

The News & Observer's reporting on Adam Sapikowski, the Chapel Hill teenager who admitted murdering his parents, has been largely OK. But one piece of information the paper keeps reporting is that Adam "might (emphasis mine) have held a small post-prom party" at his home after the murders, while his parents bodies were in a barricaded bathroom. How macabre, if true.

But it's really unnecessary, unsubstantiated reporting -- and for sensationalistic reasons, it appears. After all, if Adam might have held that party, then he might have done a lot of other things worthy of reporting, right? In fact, he might just be responsible for all the unsolved murders in North Carolina for that matter.

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Closed-Minded on Openness

Posted by Paul Chesser at 08:37 AM

Here's a novel idea: requiring the economic development nonprofit agency that you fund to abide by open government and public records laws.

Some still haven't learned that with access to public funds comes public accountability.

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