Lottery and teacher raises

So, the Republicans in NC know they are getting hammered for their lack of concern for K-12 education.  Our teacher pay has fallen close to bottom in the whole country.  The political solution– teacher raises, of course.  The state Senate plan calls for pulling this off by removing thousands of teachers’ aids from the classroom in early grades.  Hmmm.  It’s not like those aids are helping kids learn how to read or anything like that.

The NC House has an even better plan to pay for teacher raises, though– budget alchemy.  They are simply going to find millions of new dollars by increasing the lottery advertising budget.  More ads-> more lottery tickets sold -> more money for education.  Alas, the lottery administrators say that the changes will never bring in the amount that the legislature is planning on for the raises.  In part, because other parts of the budget place restrictions on what the lottery can do.  The lottery officials explained this to the legislators, but they are not interested.  Via the N&O:

 — The state’s lottery director said in public on Wednesday the lottery cannot meet a $106 million target set by lawmakers in the state House because they wrote several other lottery restrictions into their plan, undermining a signature part of the House budget that passed on Friday.

The lottery’s target would help finance pay raises averaging about 5 percent for school teachers across North Carolina, under the House plan.

In an interview, Alice Garland, the lottery’s director since 2011, said she expressed concern about missing the target privately to a key House budget writer, state Rep. Nelson Dollar, before the House adopted its spending plan – and that documents were provided to key officials.

She said she was told by Dollar to stay quiet about it.

Wonderful.  My theory…  They know that next year it won’t actually bring in enough money for the 5% raises; but  this year, before the election, they can say– look, we care about teachers and education.  And heck, even if that’s not their actual intention, hard to see how it doesn’t play out something like this if this is the version of the law that comes to pass.  Shame on NC voters if they are fooled (though I fully expect them to be).

Scalia and language

Scalia’s originalism is such intellectual crap.  I always love a piece that cogently makes this point.  In this case, the New Yorker’s Jeff Shesol does so in regards to Scalia’s dissent in a recent 2nd amendment case where the Supreme Court, 5-4, allowed a law that prevents straw gun buyers:

What Kagan has done, in a neat twist on Scalia’s analogy, is to highlight the ambiguity and contingency of language. And that, for Scalia, is something that can never be acknowledged, because it would lay bare the game he plays. His approach has always been to reach for a dictionary; find, in one edition or other, a definition that drives toward his predetermined decision; and express, eyes wide with disbelief, utter amazement that anyone could even think of seeing it any other way…  [emphasis mine]

In other instances, Scalia’s word games have had profound, societal implications, leading to—in at least one case—a dramatic shift in constitutional law. In District of Columbia v. Heller, which Scalia considers his greatest achievement, he relied not on one but on three eighteenth-century dictionaries to “clarify” the Second Amendment, which reads, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” By the time that Scalia had finished his exegesis, the “prefatory clause” about a militia had been clarified into irrelevance, and “bear arms” had been so scrutinized and squinted at and worked over that Americans awoke to find that they had a new, individual right to carry a handgun—a right that cannot be found in the language, plain or otherwise, of the Constitution. Michael Waldman, who has just published a book on the Second Amendment, observes that Scalia, in his opinion, “has the feel of an ambitious Scrabble player trying too hard to prove that triple word score really does exist.”


The utter failure of Iraq

Great post from Ezra putting Iraq in big picture perspective:

The news that the US and Iran might cooperate to save Iraq’s government is a measure of just how badly the Iraq war failed to achieve its aims…

This is crucial context for the Iraq War. The Bush administration didn’t just want to invade Iraq because of Saddam Hussein’s (nonexistent) stockpile of illegal weapons. They wanted to invade Iraq to create a liberal, democratic counterweight to radical Islam. They wanted to create a country that would, through its glittering example, erode the foundations of Iran’s theocratic regime and al Qaeda’s deadly ideology.

It was called the Democratic Domino Theory. First Iraq would become a beacon of political freedom and economic success. Then, one by one, the populations across the rest of the Middle East would rise up and force their countries to follow. The war on terror wouldn’t end with a fight. It would end with a vote…

A decade later Iraq is becoming the things it was meant to destroy. It could become a Shiite dominated state dependent on Iran for its security. It could become a weak or broken state that serves partly as a haven for the Sunni terror organization ISIS. It could end up as both.

The one thing it will not be is the liberal, democratic counterweight to radical Islam that the Bush administration sought. There is no one in the Middle East who looks to the Iraqi state and sees a better life for them and their children.

The totality of the Bush administration’s failure in Iraq is stunning. It is not simply that they failed to build the liberal democracy they wanted. It’s that they ended up strengthening theocracies they feared…

And all this cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives.

Yep.  Meanwhile, Dick Cheney– the wrongest of the wrong and a genuine war criminal– has the nerve to blame it all on Obama.  Nice takedown by James Fallows.  And a much more strongly worded response from truth-out concludes thusly:

Really, there’s no one who’s done more to damage America’s reputation around the world and embolden our enemies than our former Vice President.

The Iraq War was the best Al Qaeda propaganda video ever, and whatever Cheney might say about the surge and how successful it was, the truth is that there were no terrorists in Iraq before we invaded…

American history has had its share of villains – J. Edgar Hoover, Joe McCarthy, and Richard Nixon come to mind as some of the worst – but there is no one in recent history who has disgraced our country quite like Dick Cheney has.

He lied his way into an illegal war, profited off that war, and shredded the Constitution. He’s a war criminal and has the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent people on his hands.

Dick Cheney should be rotting in a prison cell at The Hague, not writing editorials for the Wall Street Journal.

I’m sure there’s reasonable arguments to be made about what Obama could have done differently and better with regards to Iraq.  But it’s kind of like blaming a firefighter who used bad hose technique for a house burning down rather than blaming the arsonist who spread gasoline and lit the match.

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