Setting the Record Straight

Undermining a lynchpin of success

BY: - February 26, 2010

New Wake County Board of Education plans jeopardize magnet school grants

Here's a topic that hasn't received the attention it deserves in the ongoing battle over the future of the Wake County public school system: magnet schools. This is surprising since, in many ways, the accomplishments and prevalence of Wake County's magnet schools have been synonymous with the system's national reputation as a beacon of progress and success.

A history lesson on our public schools

BY: - February 13, 2010

One of the most common problems for those involved in contentious policy debates is a lack of historical perspective. For those with little or no memory of the events that led up to present-day controversies, it's often difficult to see the forest for the trees.

The myth of “liberal” corruption

BY: - January 30, 2010

The connection between prominent political leaders and the causes they stand for (or, at least, the causes they come to be associated with) is often very strong in the minds of the members of the general public. Sometimes, it's as if the political leader and the stands he or she takes are indistinguishable. It's hard to think of New Deal, for instance, without thinking of Franklin Roosevelt (and vice versa). For those who champion a particular cause, however, these kinds of automatic connections are frequently a two-edged sword.

Wanted: “Lifeline” for conservative lawmakers

BY: - January 9, 2010

Fifth grader sought to act as resource and provide basic science lessons. Good grammar and spelling a plus.

Are you smarter than (or at least as smart as) a fifth grader? If so, you probably know the difference between "weather" and "climate." In case, however, you find yourself having a senior moment and wouldn't mind a little refresher, here's a brief one courtesy of good ol' Webster's New World College Dictionary:

Wanted: A little courage when it comes to crime and punishment

BY: - December 24, 2009

North Carolina's hypocritical approach to criminal sentencing continues to produce bad results

Few things are more irresistible to a politician contemplating reelection than a good old "get tough on crime" bill. Whatever your political party or constituency, there's something intoxicating about having one's name attached to a new law that "cracks down" on a particular class of criminal offenders. It's almost like pulling a string in front of a cat: Shop such an idea around the legislature and chances are that you'll have a dozen lawmakers begging to be your champion.

The harvest of shame continues

BY: - November 6, 2009

And most of the N.C. congressional delegation doesn't appear to give a damn

Forty-nine years ago this month - the time in which most Americans gorge themselves on the fruits of the nation's incredible agricultural bounty - legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow hosted one of the most acclaimed documentaries in the history of television. The program was entitled "Harvest of Shame" and it explored the largely hidden scandal of American agriculture: the treatment of the nation's farmworkers.

Making the market economy work

BY: - October 17, 2009

Why stronger consumer protection laws are essential

Here's a question to ponder the next time you buckle yourself into a seat in a commercial airliner: which approach would you rather see the United States take toward air carrier safety - the free market fundamentalist approach (in which airline safety would be left up exclusively to airlines responding to "consumer demand") or the regulatory approach in which a public watchdog is charged with enforcing a basic set of safety standards? How about when it comes to restaurant inspections? Hospital licensing? Stock exchanges?

Not an either/or question

BY: - October 9, 2009

Drawing the right conclusions from the Dell closure

Reactions to this week's announced closure of Dell Computer's incentive-inspired, Winston-Salem manufacturing facility are already coming fast and furious. Incentive opponents have been swift to display the "we told you so" banner and with some justification. In today's light speed world of commerce, the idea that any state would realistically expect to create decades' worth of jobs in one company - especially one that didn't even exist that many years ago - always seemed fanciful. Anti-incentive crusaders like the conservative Institute for Constitutional Law can thus be forgiven if they're crowing a little in the aftermath of Dell's downsizing.

Mission (partially) accomplished

BY: - October 2, 2009

Not that it ever went very far away, but the issue of ethics in state government is back in the news these days. The main hubbub this week surrounded the disclosure that officials of the state Division of Motor Vehicles and Division of Air Quality accepted all sorts of goodies from the corporate behemoth Verizon Business. That would be the same Verizon Business that received a no-bid state contract worth more than $50 million.

Debunking the conspiracy theorists

BY: - September 26, 2009

Why everyone ought to chill out about ACORN

It's probably human nature to concoct fanciful conspiracy theories. Whatever one's political persuasion, there's something almost irresistible about the idea that some powerful entity somewhere is engaged in a diabolical plot to undermine one's interests. Sometimes conspiracy theorists are motivated by sincere belief and/or delusion. Other times it's simply a matter of political opportunists building a mountain out of a molehill. Often both phenomena are involved.

American Capitalism Day

BY: - September 4, 2009

Is it time to rethink and rename our annual September holiday?

Many American holidays have a rich tradition of being roundly ignored. For most among us, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Labor Day amount to little more than a welcome Monday off: a day to sleep late and maybe clean out the garage or partake of that most sacred of modern national pastimes - shopping. Independence Day usually fares somewhat better - given that the object of the remembrance and the rituals (as well as the date) are a little better ingrained in the common consciousness - but not much.

Improving our language

BY: - August 21, 2009

Five ways to talk more accurately (and persuasively) about health care reform

Health care reform is going to happen in the coming months - in one form or another. It will be a messy process and an imperfect final product, but it's going to happen. There's simply too much riding on the issue and too many good and smart people working too hard for it not to happen. Notwithstanding the rants of big insurance companies and their unwitting (or maybe "half-witting") allies in the world of right-wing ideologues and conspiracy kooks, the stars are simply too well aligned.