Math in NC

Well, just this morning I was commenting that perhaps math is a little too close to science for some NC legislators, and then I come across this excellent commentary:

The scientific method the Republican-run legislature is against now is … counting. Yep — in its desperate attempts to get rid of North Carolina’s renewable energy program, the legislature has given up the radical, liberal, lamestream, obviously subjective “science” of, um, actually counting votes. You see, when the votes were actually counted, the bill that would have removed the renewables program (and said that wind, among other things, was not renewable) died in the state house, failing to emerge from committee by an 18-13 vote.

Okay, hmm … you’re Republican legislator Mike Hager, you hate the renewables program, and your bill has just been defeated by an indisputable margin of five votes. What to do … what to do? Easy. You reintroduce the bill. And when it next comes up in committee, this time in the state senate? You have a voice vote — and have your finance committee chair, Republican Bill Rabon,refuse to count the actual votes. In a voice vote so close that both sides claim they would have won if the votes had been counted, Rabon declares that the bill has passed and runs off.

No, I wish I were, but I am not making this up. We have given up counting votes in North Carolina. The Reign of Error rules supreme here.

There’s still more committee blah blah to go through, and the whole senate, and all that kind of “I’m Just a Bill” stuff. But the facts are hideously simple. Despite the cries of Democratic state Sen. Josh Stein (“North Carolina is not a banana republic”), um … Josh? Yes it is.

Honestly, just sad.

Male babysitter

Enjoyed this essay in the Post earlier this week about society’s attitudes towards male babysitters.  I’ve got a lot of years to go before my kids are all grown (and with our age range, we could be lucky and have some grandkids before Sarah leaves the house), but I’ve thought about the fact that once the kids are all gone I’ll still want to be involved with kids.  They’re just so much fun.  But, sadly because they’re are a lot of bad men out there (even if they are a small minority), it certainly does lead to negative perceptions of the entire gender:

I wasn’t trying to be subversive when I hired a male babysitter this month. But it is apparently something that few parents would do.

Most are too spooked by Jerry Sandusky and the endless parade of other child molesters in the news. These creeps are almost always male, and they almost always find a way to work with kids. So parents aren’t being paranoid about the stranger danger that surround our kids. It’s a very real and totally frightening phenomenon.

Still, here’s what I’m wondering: Have our fears turned us into a bunch of sexists? …
When it comes to kids, we are pretty close to being a society that has demonized men. And this isn’t a totally unreasonable reaction. In one government study of sexual assaults on children, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 96 percent of the offenders they studied were male.

So, if you’re going to strap your child into that car seat even when you’re driving just a few blocks, why wouldn’t you look at that 96 percent statistic, remember what you saw on the evening news and say “no thank you” to a male babysitter? All it takes is one undetected pedophile to destroy a child’s life, right? …

I know the statistics. I spent nearly two decades at crime scenes and digging through documents in courts and social service agencies. I know what horrors men are statistically more likely to perpetrate…

Here is the real problem when we err on the side of statistics. By telling the millions of men that they cannot be trusted with children, we are reinforcing gender stereotypes at school, at home and at work.

If men can’t take care of kids, women have to do it. And that’s holding us back.

So tell me, would you hire a male babysitter?

Yes.  But, I posted this because I’m really intrigued by the larger point that this demonization of men is also bad for women.  But, there really are a lot more bad men out there.  Interesting conundrum.

Pre-K in NC

Any regular reader of this blog knows that investment in pre-K for at-risk kids is quite clearly one of the best, smartest, long-term beneficial investments we can make as a society.  Thus, the corollary is that shrinking that investment is… let’s just say, not so good.  I’m sure regular readers can also guess which direction NC Republicans are heading on this:

A proposal to cut in half the number of children eligible for the state’s free Pre-K program won tentative House approval Thursday.

House Bill 935 would lower the number of eligible children to about 31,000 by changing the legal definition of an at-risk child.

Under current law, a 4-year-old is considered at-risk and eligible for the program if his or her family makes less than 75 percent of the state’s median wage. That’s about $39,000 a year for a family of three.

Children are also currently eligible if they have an active duty military parent, limited English proficiency, developmental problems or chronic illness.

More than 60,000 children a year in North Carolina are eligible for the program under the current guidelines.

The proposal would reduce the family income threshold to the federal poverty level, about $19,500 for a family of three – about half the current maximum.

Children with limited English proficiency or chronic illness would no longer be automatically eligible.

So, if you think that’s still plenty generous enough, here’s a little math for you via a FB friend:

A little math: A single mom of two, working 60 hours a week for $8 (a little over minimum wage in NC), would make $24,960 a year before taxes, assuming no sick days and no vacation. That puts her outside the new cutoff. The average cost of a 40-hr week of child care for a 4-yr-old in NC is $7,774 a year – higher in urban areas. Paying that for one child would leave her with a little under $18K a year – less than poverty level. If both need child care,she’s left with less than $10K. Financially, she’d be better off quitting altogether and staying home with them – which of course would cost the state more, not less.

You know, though, math is awfully close to science.  And we certainly don’t need egg-head scientists telling us what to do.  And besides, I’m sure that a bunch of those kids who will be denied pre-K aren’t white like me.

Mandatory minimums

Just finished grading a bunch of papers on criminal justice policy reforms for my Criminal Justice Policy class.  Several people wrote on reforming mandatory minimum sentences and they all hit upon this article I had not come across before.  It’s by a federal judge railing against the current system– the title captures the spirit, “How Mandatory Minimums Forced Me to Send More Than 1,000 Nonviolent Drug Offenders to Federal Prison.”  And here’s a nice excerpt:

If lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug addicts actually worked, one might be able to rationalize them. But there is no evidence that they do. I have seen how they leave hundreds of thousands of young children parentless and thousands of aging, infirm and dying parents childless. They destroy families and mightily fuel the cycle of poverty and addiction. In fact, I have been at this so long, I am now sentencing the grown children of people I long ago sent to prison.

For years I have debriefed jurors after their verdicts. Northwest Iowa is one of the most conservative regions in the country, and these are people who, for the most part, think judges are too soft on crime. Yet, for all the times I’ve asked jurors after a drug conviction what they think a fair sentence would be, never has one given a figure even close to the mandatory minimum. It is always far lower. Like people who dislike Congress but like their Congress member, these jurors think the criminal justice system coddles criminals in the abstract—but when confronted by a real live defendant, even a “drug trafficker,” they never find a mandatory minimum sentence to be a just sentence.

Many people across the political spectrum have spoken out against the insanity of mandatory minimums. These include our past three presidents, as well as Supreme Court Justices William Rehnquist, whom nobody could dismiss as “soft on crime,” and Anthony Kennedy, who told the American Bar Association in 2003, “I can accept neither the necessity nor the wisdom of federal mandatory minimum sentences.” In 2005, four former attorneys general, a former FBI director and dozens of former federal prosecutors, judges and Justice Department officials filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court opposing the use of mandatory minimums in a case involving a marijuana defendant facing a fifty-five-year sentence. In 2008, The Christian Science Monitor reported that 60 percent of Americans opposed mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenders. And in a 2010 survey of federal district court judges, 62 percent said mandatory minimums were too harsh.

And yet we still have them.  Are too many politicians still afraid of being attacked as “soft on crime”?  Clearly, this calls for some real leadership.  I’m not holding my breath.

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