How to report the news

I love it when satire is 100% dead on.  This is brilliant.  (Viewer discretion advised for a bit of bad language about 25 seconds in]

The anti-stimulus

I was sitting in on the discussion section (run by a grad student) for my American Government class today and one of the students asked how can it be that Obama is calling for thousands of new math and science teachers while at the same time North Carolina is anticipating firing thousands of teachers in the coming year.  Good question.  Of course, the problem is that unlike the USA, North Carolina (and most states) has to balance its budget every year and cannot rely on borrowing to do so.  Last year ended up being not so bad for the state budget due to a modest sales tax increase, but mostly the stimulus money.  This year, there’s no more stimulus money so NC is looking at a yawning $3 billion budget hole.  Given that most of any state’s expenses are on education (and law enforcement/prisons) you can guess where the bulk of these cuts are going to come from.  In essence, last year we had a illusory cushion and this year it’s all pulled away, leaving us the anti-stimulus.  And its not pretty.  Of course, we could keep the modest sales tax increase, broaden the sales tax base a bit, maybe raise the rate for highest earners just a bit, and that would go a long way.  Of course, not that Republicans are in charge of the legislature, it’s all about firing teachers (it’s not like they want to let non-violent drug users out of prison to save money).  NC State is, of course, protecting tenured and tenure-track faculty, but our students are going to have a devil of a time getting the courses they need and the quality will go down as course sizes increase.   As for K-12 education, I shudder to think of what might happen to class sizes and the impact on kids (hang out for a while in an elementary school classroom and tell me class size doesn’t matter).  It’s all very depressing.

Friday book post (Cancer edition)

Haven’t done one of these in a while, but I just finished reading a fabulous book I want to mention: The Emperor of All Maladies A biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee.   Fascinating book that tackles the history, the sociology, and the science of cancer.   Took a lot longer to finish than I’d like, as the new baby cuts into reading time, but it was terrific.  I think the history of breast cancer treatment is particular interesting.  I knew a “radical masectomy” was removing a whole breast, but I had no idea how radical.  Surgeons were in a competition to see who could cut away more of a woman’s flesh to presumably get every last possible bit of cancer.  Of course, now we know that once cancer has metastaticized and spread beyond its local origin, it can go anywhere and it doesn’t matter how much tissue you cut away around the tumor.  Should you not be up to reading the book, there’s a great interview with the author on Fresh Air.

Also, reminded me of a seemingly unrelated science fiction novel that’s one of my favorites of recent years– Calculating God by Robert Sawyer.  The main theme of this book is the implications of discovering that amazing similaries with other extra-terrestial civilizations which would seem to prove the existence of God.  Really thought-provoking stuff.  A secondary plot, though deals with universality (in the broadest sense) of cancer where ever life is found and the implications for the relationship between cancer and life.  There were definitely some echoes of the cancer science in Sawyer’s work.

Anyway, two great and totally different books which you should both consider reading.

 

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