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How A Right-Wing Political Machine Is Dismantling Higher Education in North Carolina

by Zoë Carpenter

On a Monday afternoon in April, a few dozen people gathered in a windowless room in Raleigh, North Carolina, to discuss the crisis in higher education. As they dug into plates of Tex-Mex, the featured speaker, Jay Schalin, ascended the podium and adjusted his notes. The crisis isn’t cost or access, he informed the room. “The main problem has to do with the ideas that are being discussed and promoted,” Schalin explained, those being “multiculturalism, collectivism, left-wing post-modernism.”

Schalin is the director of policy analysis at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education, a right-wing think tank funded by discount-store magnate Art Pope, the conservative kingmaker who helped flip the state legislature to the Republicans in 2010 and bankrolled the 2012 election of Republican Governor Pat McCrory. The organization that hosted Schalin’s lecture, the John Locke Foundation, is also funded by Pope’s family foundation. As I walked into the building, I passed the local office of Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party group founded by Charles and David Koch; Pope once chaired its national board. Two blocks away is the John W. Pope Civitas Institute and Civitas Action, another Pope-funded think tank and dark-money group, respectively.

Though Pope’s tentacles reach into many state institutions now, his empire of conservative idea-factories was originally established to counter what he and his associates perceived as liberal bias in the North Carolina’s university system, as Jane Mayer reported in a 2011 profile in The New Yorker. Pope’s interest in UNC goes back to his father, a trustee at UNC–Chapel Hill, who believed that the university, as Mayer reported, had been “taken over by radical scholars.” Pope himself made a bid for a seat on UNC’s Board of Governors in 1995. He was rebuffed. So he turned his attention upstream, to the North Carolina state legislature, which appoints the 32-member board. When Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2010—for the first time since 1870—Pope’s network looked less like a counterweight to campus liberalism than a conservative wrecking ball aimed at the entire state.

Up at the podium, Schalin laid out part of the Pope Center’s vision for “renewal at the university,” which, he argued, could be achieved through the propagation of privately funded academic centers. In a related report Schalin described how these centers would balance “academia’s gradual purging” of courses dedicated to “liberty, capitalism, and traditional perspectives,” more specifically by supplanting the “French communist[s]” Derrida, Bourdieu, and Foucault with Ayn Rand. Schalin assured his audience that these centers wouldn’t be political—though, he said, “when you study capitalism on an objective basis, you are going to notice this very strong correlation between prosperity and capitalism—and that’s okay to bring up.”



Gov. Peter Shumlin will not seek re-election

Source: VTdigger

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Monday that he will not seek a fourth term.

Flanked by his girlfriend, Katie, and current and former members of his cabinet, Shumlin told reporters that after much thought and consideration he wanted to return to private life.

“I decided to make this decision now because I want these next 18 months in office to be focused entirely on continuing the work we started together,” Shumlin said.

The governor would not say what prompted his decision except to say it was his plan all along to serve no more than three terms.

Read more: http://vtdigger.org/2015/06/08/breaking-gov-peter-shumlin-will-not-seek-re-election/

Suicide rate of female military veterans is called 'staggering'


New government research shows that female military veterans commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of other women, a startling finding that experts say poses disturbing questions about the backgrounds and experiences of women who serve in the armed forces.

Their suicide rate is so high that it approaches that of male veterans, a finding that surprised researchers because men generally are far more likely than women to commit suicide.

"It's staggering," said Dr. Matthew Miller, an epidemiologist and suicide expert at Northeastern University who was not involved in the research. "We have to come to grips with why the rates are so obscenely high."

Though suicide has become a major issue for the military over the last decade, most research by the Pentagon and the Veterans Affairs Department has focused on men, who account for more than 90% of the nation's 22 million former troops. Little has been known about female veteran suicide.



Scott Walker Is Clueless About His Jails

Unbeknownst to the governor, Wisconsin’s jails are flooded with non-violent offenders—and he may pay a price for his ignorance on the 2016 campaign trail.

Gov. Scott Walker says he is proud of the way Wisconsin handles non-violent criminals.

The Badger State governor traveled to Disney's Magic Kingdom last week to speak at a forum hosted by Florida Governor Rick Scott for some of the 2016 presidential contenders. He spoke very highly of his own record on criminal justice.

“I think, nationally, that’s something we need to look at,” Walker said, discussing reform of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. “In our state, we have relatively few compared to the federal government.”

Then he added, “The challenges in terms of people being incarcerated for relatively low offenses is not a significant issue in the state of Wisconsin.”

The only problem? Criminal justice advocates argue he’s totally wrong.


Medical Marijuana Growers in Washington Face Prison

During their trial at the federal courthouse in Spokane last March, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey and her two fellow defendants—her son, Rolland Gregg, and his wife, Michelle Gregg—were not allowed to explain why they were openly growing marijuana on a plot in rural northeastern Washington marked by a big green cross that was visible from the air. According to a pretrial ruling, it was irrelevant that they were using marijuana for medical purposes, as permitted by state law, since federal law recognizes no legitimate use for the plant. But now that Firestack-Harvey and the Greggs have been convicted, they are free to talk about their motivation, and it might even make a difference when they are sentenced on Thursday.

Federal drug agents raided the marijuana garden, which was located outside Firestack-Harvey's home near Kettle Falls, in 2012. In addition to the three defendants who are scheduled to be sentenced this week, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Washington charged Firestack-Harvey's husband, Larry Harvey, and a family friend, Jason Zucker. Dubbed the Kettle Falls Five, all had doctor's letters recommending marijuana for treatment of various conditions, including gout, anorexia, rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative disc disease, and chronic pain from a broken back. Last February prosecutors dropped the charges against Harvey because he has terminal cancer. Zucker, who had a prior marijuana conviction, pleaded guilty just before the trial and agreed to testify against the other defendants in exchange for a 16-month sentence, which was much shorter than the 15-year term he could have received in light of his criminal history.

Although no one was supposed to talk about medical marijuana during the trial, the prosecution kept stumbling onto that taboo subject, because it was clearly relevant to the question of where all the pot went, which was central to the case. Even with Zucker's help, prosecutors had no direct evidence of distribution. They were therefore forced to argue that the defendants must have been selling marijuana because they were growing too much for their own personal consumption.

The government counted 74 plants. According to the defense, the feds double-counted some plants with two stalks emerging from the same root structure. The defendants' lawyers say the correct number is 68. Either way, the total was below Washington's presumptive limit of 15 plants per patient. Testifying for the defense, Jeremy Kaufman, a cannabis consultant, said the number of plants found on the Harveys' property did not seem excessive, especially since only a small part of each plant is usable and may be consumed in the form of extracts, edibles, and juice. Kaufman mentioned that he himself grows 150 plants for his own use. On cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks asked how on earth Kaufman managed to consume that much cannabis, and Kaufman explained that he used it to relieve the symptoms of several medical conditions.


A Crisis at the Edge of Physics


DO physicists need empirical evidence to confirm their theories?

You may think that the answer is an obvious yes, experimental confirmation being the very heart of science. But a growing controversy at the frontiers of physics and cosmology suggests that the situation is not so simple.

A few months ago in the journal Nature, two leading researchers, George Ellis and Joseph Silk, published a controversial piece called “Scientific Method: Defend the Integrity of Physics.” They criticized a newfound willingness among some scientists to explicitly set aside the need for experimental confirmation of today’s most ambitious cosmic theories — so long as those theories are “sufficiently elegant and explanatory.” Despite working at the cutting edge of knowledge, such scientists are, for Professors Ellis and Silk, “breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical.”

Whether or not you agree with them, the professors have identified a mounting concern in fundamental physics: Today, our most ambitious science can seem at odds with the empirical methodology that has historically given the field its credibility.

How did we get to this impasse? In a way, the landmark detection three years ago of the elusive Higgs boson particle by researchers at the Large Hadron Collider marked the end of an era. Predicted about 50 years ago, the Higgs particle is the linchpin of what physicists call the “standard model” of particle physics, a powerful mathematical theory that accounts for all the fundamental entities in the quantum world (quarks and leptons) and all the known forces acting between them (gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces).



Monday Toon Roundup








The Issue

We bailed you out, and now you want what!?!

By Steven Pearlstein June 7 at 2:27 PM

Americans were angry when Wall Street’s greedy and risky behavior triggered a global financial crisis in 2008. They were angrier still when the government had to borrow and spend hundreds of billions of dollars to rescue mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the largest banks and the insurance company AIG. They were outraged when they found out that executives at those enterprises were continuing to receive big salaries and bonuses.

So just imagine how it outrageous it would be if some Wall Street sharpies went to court to argue that they didn’t benefit enough from the bailouts and that taxpayers should pay them tens of billions of dollars more.

In fact, they did. And, according to legal observers, they just might prevail.

“Lawsuits of the Rich and Shameless” is how the comedian Jon Stewart dubbed it.

“An absurdist comedy . . . worthy of the Marx Brothers or Mel Brooks,” wrote John Cassidy, the New Yorker’s economics correspondent.

For taxpayers, it looks to be another example of the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished.


It would be a lot harder for them to do this if they were in jail. Just saying.

xpost from GD: House Passes Provision to End All Migratory Bird Protections in the United States


House Passes Provision to End All Migratory Bird Protections in the United States

Andrew Wetzler’s Blog:

Spring is finally here, and with it the return of birds to backyards and playgrounds across America. So, naturally, it is also the perfect time for Congressional Republicans to completely suspend one of the main laws protecting them.

First passed in 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is one of America's original conservation laws. It protects familiar visitors like cardinals and chickadees; raptors such as bald eagles and prairie falcons, and, of course, the many ducks and other waterfowl that sportsmen treasure.

Last night, reportedly without a recorded vote, the House of Representatives Commerce, Justice, Science Committee included a rider, offered by Congressman Duncan (R-SC), in the Department of Commerce's and Department of Justice's budget appropriations bill that would prohibit the federal government from prosecuting anyone from violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Here is the exact language:

Yep, forget the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (without the possibility of enforcement, laws don't mean much, do they?). If Representative Duncan gets his way it's open season for birds across the country. Because, really, who needs hummingbirds or eagles?

UPDATE: My original post was mistaken. This amendment was, in fact, added to the appropriations bill by the entire House on a voice vote. It's now up to the Senate and the President to prevent this provision from becoming law.

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