1

How to Feel Like an Underachiever

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 27, 2015 in Unsolicited Commentary

QuietStorm and I worked with this guy when we were all in the Student Senate at NC State. And now he’s in the New York Times:

How to Prosecute Abusive Prosecutors

By BRANDON BUSKEY | NOV. 27, 2015

WHEN it comes to poor people arrested for felonies in Scott County, Miss., Judge Marcus D. Gordon doesn’t bother with the Constitution. He refuses to appoint counsel until arrestees have been formally charged by an indictment, which means they must languish in jail without legal representation for as long as a year.

Judge Gordon has robbed countless individuals of their freedom, locking them away from their loved ones and livelihoods for months on end. (I am the lead lawyer in a class-action suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against Scott County and Judge Gordon.) In a recent interview, the judge, who sits on the Mississippi State Circuit Court, was unapologetic about his regime of indefinite detention: “The criminal system is a system of criminals. Sure, their rights are violated.” But, he added, “That’s the hardship of the criminal system.”

There are many words to describe the judge’s blunt disregard of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Callous. Appalling. Cruel. Here’s another possibility: criminal — liable to prosecution and, if found guilty, prison time.

Right on, sir.

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4

Guess who’s bald?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 24, 2011 in Background

Happy Christmas Eve y’all! :)

This is a mostly pointless non-law-related entry, so consider yourself forewarned. I’m still working on school stuff and needed a break from law.

Top: Summer 1995, probably the longest my hair's ever been. Bottom: Today, the shortest my hair's been in my 30.75yrs of life.

And with a solid 2.5 weeks to go before school starts back, I randomly decided last night to try embracing my impending baldness and just cut off what little was left of my hair. :surprised:

It was a decision not made lightly… but one that was probably inevitable.

In the “Be Careful What You Wish For” Department, most of my younger years were spent cursing my mane. I was born with a full head of hair that tended to grow like kudzu for most of my life, and after it hit about 1/8″ in length it started to get absurdly curly.

My locks were so unruly throughout grade school that the occasional classmate would even inquire into my ethnicity (which successfully made me self-conscious about both what my hair looked like and the fact I only knew about a portion of half my bloodline). It was also problematic for pictures since the family often didn’t have the money to spend on haircuts every 2-3 weeks, but I didn’t trust anyone to cut it themselves.1

But then I joined Student Government in college and the hair thing “fixed” itself… :beatup:

My last year at N.C. State undoubtedly ranks as the single craziest period of my life, trying to juggle being a second-term Student Senate President, a first-term President of UNCASG, a legislative intern down at the N.C. General Assembly, and an about-to-be-graduated senior in Computer Science.

Top: 06/13/08, the day I was sworn in to the UNC Board of Governors (flanked by NCAT SBP Marcus Bass and ASU SBP David Mofford). Bottom: 03/27/10, explaining my proposed budget at a UNCASG meeting at UNC Charlotte.

Going through it at the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal; sure I was averaging 4-5 hours of sleep a night, drank Vault Zero (and later Diet Mt Dew) like it was water, and would frequently skip meals to catch up on work, but I still felt great. I was on a near-constant emotional high from knowing I was helping to get things accomplished.

Then one day back in Fall ’08, QuietStorm came to visit me at the NCGA interns’ suite office, sat beside me, and noticed when I turned away that my hair basically wasn’t there.2 I had her take a picture with my BlackBerry because I didn’t believe her; seeing myself daily, I never really noticed a change from the front. She did, showed it to me, and I blurted out “oh my God” :beatup:

Sure enough, after spending most of my life wishing I had less-crazy curls, I was in the process of joining millions of guys globally down the path to no curls at all.

I fought it for awhile. I’d intentionally cut the rest of my hair über-short to make it look like I meant for it to look that way.3 And when I was in my friends’ wedding last week I had let the top grow out as far as it could for a few weeks and then asked the barber to try and blend the top with the sides so it wouldn’t look quite so sparse.

A guy who used to wonder why other guy’s would ever shell out $$$ for hair transplants, I suddenly found myself trying to preserve what little of my own hair I had left… until last night when I said “@#$% it, why not?” and sheared everything off.

It’s definitely going to take getting used to; my head’s oddly shaped, and I can’t help but feel like I sort of look like the convicts I see when I watch Lockup on MSNBC. But I refuse to be one of those people having an existential identity crisis because they lost their hair.

And not having to pay anyone for haircuts anymore helps ease the pain ;)

That’s it from me for the night y’all, thanks for reading my ruminations on the averted midlife crisis :) Have a good night good night and Merry Christmas in a few minutes! :D

  1. My mom screwed up once when I was in middle school and I thought I was going to die from embarrassment :beatup: []
  2. We had dated from 03/1999 to 09/2005, so she knew all about my bad hair days. []
  3. Bringing with it a realization that I’d need to start wearing sunblock on my scalp when I went out in the summer :crack: []

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15

It’s October already?? O_o

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 10, 2011 in The 3L Life

Remember when I wrote that I enjoyed being in over my head?

I’ve changed my mind :beatup:

It’s safe to say the semester is going by entirely too d*mn fast when we were more than week into the month before I finally realized it was October.1 Midterms are this week for the 1Ls and 2Ls, and a string of papers are due for me. I’m ready for this month to be over and we just fast-forward to Thanksgiving so I can breathe for a few days…

  • The big news story from the past couple weeks has been the death of Steve Jobs last Wednesday from pancreatic cancer :( The good folks over at MacRumors have this comprehensive entry of news and reflections. I found out via a Drudge Report app alert (on my long-sought iPhone) in the middle of a reception I was attending, followed by a flurry of text messages from QuietStorm, 雅雅, and several classmates asking how I was dealing with the news.2 Steve’s been my role model for over a decade, and the combination of his own talents and his gathering other talented people around him at Apple has definitely enriched my life (and helped me get assignments done on time). Though a good many of us suspected he didn’t have much longer following his resignation as Apple CEO last month, the news still sucks. My heart goes out to his wife and kids :heart:
  • On a less depressing note, Wednesday was a whirlwind day in general — starting with me dropping off Samson for his last round of heartworm shots! :D He had to stay overnight at the Durham APS for two separate injections, but after another few weeks of activity restrictions he should be heartworm free and able to resume life as an active dog! :spin:
  • After dropping off Samson and heading to class, I then drove down to my alma mater for a videotaped interview with staff from N.C. State Libraries. A couple years ago they created a page in their “Historical State” archive chronicling former Student Body Presidents… and at some point expanded it to this Student Leaders page where they’re including folks like me too :surprised:  So they had about two-dozen questions on stuff that happened in Student Government when I was around back in 2006-2009, covering stuff like my role as a Senator when I wrote or sponsored 49 different pieces of legislation, the extensive drama surrounding the Spring 2007 SSP election,3 my first term as Senate President when I had a less-than-cooperative relationship with the Executive Branch, and so on. Makes me glad I did a decent job as SSP, otherwise my incompetence would be enshrined for all eternity :beatup:
  • Right after the NCSU interview I went out west to a reception for incoming UNC-system President Tom Ross, held at the Joint School of Nanoscience & Nanoengineering shared by UNC Greensboro and NC A&T State. I’d been to receptions before back when I was UNCASG President; I expected a sit-down dinner thing where you make small talk with 6-7 other education-oriented folks seated at your table, eat, and exchange pleasantries before departing. This was apparently more of a “make friends and influence people”-type thing, because the place was swarming with politicos, judges, fundraisers, and other people famous by NC standards, with no fewer than 4 different “liquor stations” where attendees could imbibe a variety of beverages.4 In general I’m not a particularly huge fan of these types of big, unstructured social events — see, e.g., my abject terror/awkwardness during the “mixer” at 1L Orientation two years ago — but I appreciated the opportunity to catch up with some folks I hadn’t seen since my term on the Board ended :D
  • Plus I got to meet Governor Easley!5 I saw him while talking to someone about the state budget and the budget cuts going on across the UNC system, and finally worked up the nerve to say hello. I tell him I’m a 3L at NCCU Law and the current SBA President… and he starts motioning other people over to come meet me instead :crack:  It easily ranks among the most surreal experiences of my life
  • My lapel pin collection, now with pins from all 17 UNC institutions! (the top 3 rows)

    …and when the event was winding down, on the shuttle back to the parking lot I had the serendipitous opportunity to meet Dr. J. Todd Roberts, the new Chancellor of the N.C. School of Science & Mathematics (North Carolina’s residential high school for high-achieving students). :D I noticed the NCSSM lapel pin on his jacket when his wife asked if  I had enjoyed the event. I replied that I had, then asked if he was “the new guy” running NCSSM.6 We exchanged introductions, and I somewhat-imperiously asked if they sold NCSSM lapel pins anywhere; it was the only institution still missing from my collection, where I had gathered lapel pins from all 16 other UNC institutions. He told me they didn’t, and he really needed his for President Ross’s inauguration the following day… but he offered it to me anyway! I basically pledged my undying loyalty to NCSSM right there on the shuttle, and sent the school a $50 donation when I got back to Durham — right after filling the one remaining gap in my collection :spin:

  • I wish I could say academics were going quite as well :( I’m currently sitting on a legitimate, bona fide “F” in Tax right now. Right alongside another “F” in Appellate Advocacy I. Fortunately both courses still have 80%+ of the grade still remaining to be earned, but the current standings highlight that I’m in deep sh*t academically. I’ve been trying to pare back my extracurricular activities to focus more on the papers and other miscellaneous stuff we have to do. It’s a deep hole to climb out, and will be taking me awhile to get there…7
  • To highlight how bad things are going, I was walking through the law clinic earlier today when Prof Tax herself called my name — in that “Go straight to the Principal’s Office young man” tone of voice that I think all teachers, from K-12 to college, have innately mastered — to make known she wasn’t happy with my sub-standard performance in her class. I pleaded my case but at the end of the day I’ve just been doing too much non-academic stuff. I promised I’d be in class on time tomorrow and work to catch up.
  • (On a somewhat-related note, I really dislike paper-based classes :mad: My colleagues gravitate toward them because it’s easier to get an A on a paper you can pour hours of time into — but I just can’t seem to find the time. I miss going through a couple weeks of hell studying for exams, having a test, and being done. Having four different classes with various papers due at various points over the semester currently qualifies as the most grating experience of my law school career…)
  • Even so, I’m still trying to write a brief to apply for our Moot Court Board8 :beatup:

There’s more stuff to write about, but I think I’ll cap it for this particular entry because I really need to get back to reading for class.

I hope all of you had a great Monday, and have a great week! (and a great October! ;) )

  1. And the only reason I noticed was because the 1Ls were panicking about midterms. []
  2. And yes, I’ll confess I cried a little when I got home :beatup: []
  3. For more details see Technician’s SSP Timeline 1 and SSP Timeline 2, along with the FIRE Act. []
  4. I stuck with the lemonade since I was driving :) []
  5. And yes, I was/am still excited even if he was/is our first governor to plead to a felony — he’s still a graduate of NCCU Law, the namesake for our 2L Opening Statement competition, and was both a superlative District Attorney and the twice-elected Governor of the 10th most-populous state in the nation. Bill Clinton was the first President impeached since Nixon, but I’d still be honored to shake the guy’s hand :P []
  6. When I was UNCASG President I had worked with NCSSM’s former Chancellor Gerald Boarman, who left to work in Maryland soon after my term ended. []
  7. Note to 1Ls/2Ls: DON’T REPEAT MY MISTAKES. #kkthxu []
  8. Just trying to see if I’m competent enough to do appellate work, that’s all! :angel: []

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“It’s a Small World After All”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 18, 2011 in The 2L Life

Well that certainly didn’t go as planned  :(

First round of the TYLA regionals ran from 6pm-9pm tonight. I wasn’t prepared last night but thought I was where I needed to be by today. Co-Counsel and I represented NCCU Law, facing off as the Prosecution against a pair of 3Ls from Emory Law on Defense. And there’s just no other way for me to describe it…

…they completely kicked our ass :beatup:

Evidence we expected them to oppose, they let in without objection.  Stuff we just knew was coming in, they managed to get excluded. My normally-10-minute cross-examination of the Defendant was pared down to 5min because of all the evidence that didn’t come in :crack:

The only thing keeping it out of “unmitigated disaster” territory — just in merely “disaster” range — was that my opening statement was on-point and Co-Counsel’s closing was flawless.  But beyond that I was totally thrown off my game and the two of us got beaten like rented mules.

None of that has anything at all to do with the post title of course :)  The main point for tonight’s entry is a reminder of how surprisingly small the world can be sometimes.

After the competition was over, the guys and I went to a small restaurant on the same block as our hotel for some soul food.1 No sooner do I walk in the door of the restaurant than I hear my name being called from a few feet away. I turn to the right and see one of my college roommates from my N.C. State years :surprised:

Now I’ve only been to Charlotte twice in the past year, and the last time I was in the downtown part of the city was over a decade ago with QuietStorm. And yet somehow, out of the 8,760 hours in a given year, on the one weekend I’m downtown, in a city of almost a million people, I ended up being at the same restaurant at the same time as one of my closest college friends.

It’s a small world out there folks! Keep that in mind when you’re interacting with your law school colleagues who you just might bump into in a random restaurant a few years from now — and remember, don’t burn your bridges ;)

  1. A place called Mert’s Restaurant — some of the best western NC barbecue, mashed potatoes, green beans, and cornbread I’ve had :spin: []

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1

Summer ’10 Final Grades

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 16, 2011 in NotFail

A couple days ago I posted an updated entry on how my 1L Spring grades turned out, and this entry is a follow-up with my summer school grades so y’all will have the “full picture” of how my 1L academic life turned out :)

====================
SUPERIOR COURT MEDIATION
====================

This 5-day, 40-hour pass/fail class doubled as a CLE for practicing attorneys and is required for all certified mediators in North Carolina.

Tagged by me as “Lobbying for Lawyers“, essentially we learned about various types of alternative dispute resolution and then plowed in-depth into various aspects of mediation, followed by a series of role-playing exercises where we rotated as mediator with other classmates acting as attorneys or clients.

The variety of ages and student-vs-practicing-attorney split made for a different dynamic than the other classes (in a good way). Even though there were some boring moments, I enjoyed it overall and feel like I learned some useful snippets from it. It certainly helped with my ADR Clinic experience :)

Expected final grade for class: Pass
Actual final grade for class: Pass

Synopsis: Useful topic + free food == #win

====================
ADR PROCESSES AND PRACTICE
====================

While Superior Court Mediation focused on teaching the various types of alternative dispute resolution and training people on how to be effective mediators, this class focused on ADR from the vantage points of the advocates.

The first day of class covered some of the essentials on ADR that I had already learned, but beyond that each subsequent class involved reading a chapter or two on negotiating styles, competitive tactics, and so on along with learning a new fact pattern. Then we’d have a mock settlement conference with opposing counsel for each of these sets of facts.

The professor for the course was hilarious and laid-back. I also surprisingly enjoyed the course textbook (even though it was dry in parts).

Final grades for the course were based on a journal maintained throughout the summer session1 and two essays critiquing the results of a negotiation session and a mediation session respectively. I figured I aced the essays but also lost points on the journal because I missed an entry or two. Luckily it wasn’t enough to alter my grade :D

Expected final grade for class: A-
Actual final grade for class: A

Synopsis: Good professor + good textbook == #win

====================
ADR CLINIC
====================

Most of my experiences in this class already got written about elsewhere on the blog under the ADR tag. Basically every participant had to mediate about a dozen cases, the bulk of which were in Criminal District Court in Wake County. We also mediated cases involving child support, 50(B) protective orders, Medicaid cases pending before the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings, and had to sit in on a session with Wake County’s Drug Court.

Clinic grades were based on performance/professionalism during the mediations, teaching a class on an ADR-related topic of choice, completing three different reflections on various mediations (mine were late), and compiling a portfolio including a résumé and pricing list for use if/when we became real mediators.

The main upside to the class was learning that I’m probably not cut out for mediation. I’m incredibly talented at it, but I’m also accustomed to having an opinion and I’m ill-suited to simply facilitating :beatup:

Expected final grade for class: B-
Actual final grade for class: B+

Synopsis: Tangible experience + decent grade == #win

====================
RACE & THE LAW
====================

This class was the highlight of my summer :spin:

It’s a seminar course that focuses on the impact race has played on American jurisprudence, through the lens of 5 different groups (lumped together in the casebook as whites, blacks, asians, hispanics, and American Indians). In addition to examining the core case law — sizable chunks of which are still surprisingly considered good law, even though they were based on what we now know are inaccurate perceptions of race — the book then follows with looking at race-based cases as applied to issues such as free speech, marriage/adoption, immigration, political participation, and so on.

As you can probably guess, conversations in the class periodically got emotional but everything was kept at a high level of professionalism. It was engaging to hear the different perspectives based not only on folks’ own races, but also their age, socioeconomic status, sexuality, upbringing, military service and various other factors. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though my somewhat-outspoken views aren’t exactly politically correct.2

Final grades were based on two different group presentations and two essays. I had to give myself a crash course in constitutional law because all of the essay options included either First or Fourteenth Amendment considerations, but I anchored myself to a desk at the law school until I learned it and wrote solid responses. The effort was worth it ;)

Expected final grade for class: A
Actual final grade for class: A

Synopsis: Engaging discussion + “A” in a 3-credit course == #win^2

====================
FINAL SCORE: SUMMER 2010 FINALS
====================

Expected End-of-Summer GPA: 3.523
Actual End-of-Summer GPA: 3.810

Actual End-of-1L GPA: 2.898 (Law school median: 2.000)

*****

I’ll be focused on the upcoming TYLA regional competition in Charlotte for the next few days so I don’t know when I’ll have a follow-up post, but once life settles down I’ll go through the Fall 2011 semester and I’ll finally be more-or-less caught up with things :)

Have a great night y’all!

—===—

From the grade-related archives:

  1. I hate those things []
  2. While I recognize actual racism still exists across society — a recognition affirmed throughout the 7 years I dated QuietStorm — I think the overwhelming majority of problems attributed to “race” today are more accurately attributable to class / socioeconomic differences, particularly for people 35 and younger. []

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Weird Sh*t in My Life #137

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 17, 2010 in The 2L Life

My memory’s a bit fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure I’ve only received 3 international phone calls in my life.

One was to my family back when I was a kid, from my dad when he was deployed overseas with the United States Navy. Another was from QuietStorm when she studied abroad in the UK back in 2004. And the other one was…

…today :surprised:

In one of the most certifiably weird moments of my life, I was sitting at my desk during my lunch break at the internship when I got a phone call. From Mexico.

Given my history of being called for political polls and telemarketers and other wastes of time (and not knowing anyone who lives in Mexico) I decided to let it go to voicemail and if it was important they’d leave message.

Then they did :eek:

The first thought running through my mind was “This has gotta be a scam.” So I dialed my voicemail and started listening to the message.

The first words were “Hi Greg, my name is [Some Person].1 My [former spouse in a Midwestern state] and I want to hire you…” — at which point I thought definitely a scam :roll:  — “…for advice on how to help our [kid] at [a UNC-system institution].”

The caller left their Skype contact info, and also said they’d call me back in 30 minutes if I didn’t have Skype. A prospect which, being the still more-or-less-brand-new guy at the job, I figured was probably a bad idea since I wouldn’t be on my lunch break anymore when they called back.

So I fired up Skype and called them myself :crack:

Turns out the call was legit. Their kid is a highly-accomplished student facing the most serious penalty a university can provide, for what I’d consider a fairly minor (and notoriously common) offense… all due to the UNC system’s zero-tolerance “circumstances don’t matter” anti-drug policy. They were looking for background info on how the judicial process operates, what they should do as next steps, recommendations for attorneys in the area, and so on.

I’ll forgo the rest of the details and our conversation back-and-forth2 — I’ve got a rant about zero-tolerance policies for another day and time — but the crazy part is that so far as I’ve been able to tell I don’t know these folks, haven’t heard of them, and have no apparent connection to them of any kind beyond the fact the kid and I attend separate institutions in the same statewide University system.

And like a dummy I didn’t think to ask how they found me :beatup:

On the exceptionally-slim-but-nonzero chance the kid (or either of the parents) happen to read this entry, I hope things turn out better than they usually do for folks who find themselves in the crosshairs of the student conduct folks. And if they don’t, it’s nothing that can’t be overcome through patience and perseverance; very few punishments in life are permanent.

Consider: if they let someone like me get a degree, damn near anyone can do it… ;)

Just thought I’d share that particular oddity from my day :)  Have a good night everybody!

  1. I’m keeping genders and other identifying info ambiguous so these folks aren’t readily identifiable. []
  2. I respectfully declined the offer for payment since the meager non-legal help I provided wouldn’t do much good anyhow :beatup: []

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7

Things TDot Likes: Apple, Inc.

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 28, 2010 in Things TDot Likes

Hey everybody! :D

I took the weekend off so I could focus on the presentation I told y’all about Friday along with wrapping up my final exam for ADR Practices & Process. In between I went through the laptop to free up space, including shrinking my Bootcamp partition that contains Windows Vista.

Each of those experiences in some way reminded me how appreciative I am to have access to Apple products.

Some of Apple's Products

Yes folks: appreciative ;)

And I’m not talking about the new-fangled iStuff either. I can’t get an iPhone unless/until they come to Verizon Wireless,1 and although the iPads are flying off the shelves they’re not really my thing. I’m talking about good ol’-fashioned Macs running MacOS X.

I’ve been an Apple fan most of my life. Back when I was in elementary school, Apple IIs were all over the place. Then the Mac line came out and they were everywhere too — I still remember going to the library in middle school to type my papers on a Macintosh LC II, because I preferred ClarisWorks and seeing when I bolded or italicized or underlined my text rather than having to decipher what different highlighting meant in WordPerfect on a PC :beatup:

But by the time I hit high school Windows 95 was out and school systems were deploying PCs everywhere to save money. My parents bought a PC and that’s what I had to use at home, where BSoDs2 became a part of life and I screwed up the Registry on more than one occasion trying to use the uninstall scripts that came with most programs (Macs, by contrast, use packages that you can just drag to the trash bin). Apple was in its own death spiral back then, as CEO after CEO found ever more innovative ways to piss away millions of dollars.

Then Steve Jobs came back and knocked some sense into folks ;)

I didn’t have a computer when I started college at NC State, and one day in the spring I flipped through the Classifieds in the Technician (our school newspaper) looking for someone selling a PC that I could buy. It turned out that was the only day Apple ran an advertisement looking to hire a campus representative as part of a new Jobs-approved outreach program. I applied on a whim, got an interview, and for reasons I still don’t understand I was given the job. In exchange for being a general Apple enthusiast, salesperson, and IT support guy for the campus, I was loaned a 333MHz G3 iMac (Bondi Blue), was paid $200/week, flown out to California each summer for “Campus Rep Boot Camp”, and hooked up with all the latest software.

And I haven’t looked back :spin:

I had to quit being a Campus Rep when I dropped out, but since then QuietStorm and I bought another Rev. D iMac, then upgraded to an eMac, then when I came back to NC State I snagged a Mac mini and then got my trusty MacBook Pro. I’m now running MacOS X “Snow Leopard”3 and looking forward to upgrading my laptop to the latest technology.4

I’ve got a lot of experience with Windows and various Linux distributions as well, so I’ll sidestep the quasi-religious war some Comp Sci folks believe in. But for anyone planning on going to law school, I strongly recommend getting a Mac. Here’s why:

  • High-quality hardware. It took 4 years for the circuit board on my MacBook Pro to die, and that was after using it a solid 8+ hours/day nearly every day for that entire time. Most of my colleagues had to buy 2 (or even 3) laptops during that same timespan due to failing parts. Apple’s computers are solidly built and include a ton of high-end technology, making them cost-competitive to a similarly-configured PC.
  • It just works. I’ve got a partition on my laptop running Windows Vista that I use solely for taking law school exams with ExamSoft. When I loaded up Vista last night, it began downloading the dozens upon dozens of software updates that Microsoft spews out on a near-daily basis… and during the installation of some of those updates I got a Blue Screen of Death and had to restart the computer :crack: Something is awry when the total system failures I learned to accept in 1995 are still happening in 2010. I haven’t had a “kernel panic” — the Mac/Linux equivalent of a BSoD — on any machine since MacOS X Panther came out 6 years ago. MacOS X is built on top of crash-resistant Unix (dubbed “Darwin”), which also gives you the perk of virus resistance as well. Plus its Quartz graphic engine uses PDF internally, so it not only looks amazing but you can print anything to a PDF file — great for sharing papers, essays, projects and so on. With MacOS X you don’t get a feeling like the operating system is standing in between you and your productivity; it’s more like a partner helping you get things done.
  • The iApps are amazing. Apple has an expansive slate of software products, including its iCal calendar program, its Mail app, its Safari web browser, its iLife suite (iTunes / iPhoto / iMovie), its iWork suite (Keynote / Pages / Numbers), and on and on and on.5 These are some of the slickest and most user-friendly applications on the market, and for many of them there simply is nothing comparable on Windows or Linux. I’m a particularly huge huge huge fan of Keynote, Apple’s competitor to PowerPoint. Keynote was in-house software Apple developed for Steve Jobs’s use in preparing his keynote presentations at MacWorld Expo (hence the name). The features built into this thing make it trivially simple to put together excellent presentations. I’ve been using it regularly since 2006 — for English class, my Senior Design project in Computer Science, UNCASG presentations, the list goes on — and the hours of time it saved me between Saturday’s plea bargaining piece and my group’s two presentations for Race & the Law make it more than worth the price.
  • The other apps are amazing too. Run a website? Panic’s Transmit is one of the best FTP programs I’ve used on any platform. How about instant messaging protocols? Adium combines over a dozen chat protocols into one refined interface. And although you might not be able to tell from this post, I’m actually a big Microsoft fan: their 2008 Office for Mac is far more intuitive than the Windows counterpart, and makes using Microsoft Word and Excel a lot less tedious. There are thousands of other really cool apps out there, far more than I can highlight in this already lengthy post. There’s a website dedicated to tracking these applications over at versiontracker.com — head over there and poke around :)
  • And, for the switchers, Windows is only a few clicks away. I mentioned up at the top that I’ve got a partition for Windows Vista. What I didn’t mention is that I’ve also got Windows XP, Windows 7, and Ubuntu Linux on here as well — a side effect of the Computer Science education :beatup:

    Windows running inside MacOS X with VMWare Fusion

    If you’re a PC user switching to a Mac, you can ease into it by having Windows only a click away. Apple includes a program called Bootcamp that helps you add a full Windows installation alongside MacOS X, enabling you to boot your computer directly into Windows.

    But the really cool stuff happens when you use virtualization. A company called VMWare has a product called VMWare Fusion that let’s you run “virtual OSs” at native speed inside MacOS X. I’ve included a screenshot of my Windows XP installation running (along with my terminal running the Unix top program). You can share files between the operating systems, connecting to the internet “just works”, the list goes on. Although virtualization has long been the refuge of technophiles like me, it’s great to ease the transition from one OS to another.

I could go on even more about some of the other features, applications and perks6 but you get the idea ;)

Thanks for letting me preach a bit :) If any pre-Ls out there have technology questions, let me know! Until then have a great night!!

  1. Soon, I hope :D []
  2. The Blue Screen of Death, basically what happens when Windows crashes. []
  3. Also known as MacOS X 10.6.4… roughly 7 full OS revisions from MacOS 8.5.1 that was released the day after I started as a Campus Rep :beatup: []
  4. Which currently includes multi-core chips clocking well over 3GHz+… well over 10x faster than my first iMac :crack: []
  5. As a highlight of how long ago it was when I worked for Apple, iTunes v1.0 was really just a reengineered SoundJam MP — a program that I’ve still got on an installation CD! []
  6. Like using IPP to successfully print for free on a Windows-centric network :angel: []

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1

Crazy, or just lazy? You be the judge (or, “Erroneous trash masquerading as punditry”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 15, 2010 in Student Government

My apologies in advance to the new readers here at law:/dev/null. This is a long post and has nothing to do with my 1L tenure at NCCU Law. Regular law school postings will resume tomorrow :D

—===—

==============================
I. INTRO
==============================

When I got elected President of the UNC Association of Student Governments back in April 2008, winning by a 1-vote margin after a 3.5 hour debate, it turned out I was the first conservative Republican elected to the presidency in at least a decade.1

I wasn’t surprised by the discovery, but it did make me a bit skittish considering the Association had been known for bitter political divisions in the years immediately preceding my election. For a group representing 215,000+ students from 17 institutions — including 5 historically black universities,2 1 historically native american,3 1 historically female,4 a fine arts conservatory,5 a residential high school,6 and a number of other universities across the state ranging geographically from the mountains7 to the coast8 in both urban9 and not-so-urban10 areas — trying to forge consensus is a tall order even in the best of circumstances.

And back then wasn’t “the best of circumstances.”

So when the other ~80 student leaders in the Association worked with me to put together one of the most successful years in the group’s 38-year history, I took it as a point of personal pride.

We had folks from all 17 institutions regularly attending for the first time in history. We set records for attendance. We restructured the group to focus on areas where it could have a tangible impact, and actually did have a tangible impact in the areas we focused on.

There was occasional drama throughout the year of course, but it was often over easily-addressed issues of transparency (the more the better) and accountability (perform or get fired). The political divisiveness was largely absent — folks were mature enough to accept that they have different political opinions, and that those different opinions have approximately -0- relevance to whether people can work together on higher education issues.

That success was reflected in my reelection: instead of 3.5 hours and a 1-vote margin, the vote was unanimous after about 20 minutes :)

You can probably imagine my amusement then, when — after successfully unifying seven-dozen college students from across the political spectrum — I found my reputation trashed by so-called “adults” for being either too conservative or too liberal depending on the issue.  It’s even more mystifying when those attacks are apparently manufactured out of whole cloth, completely and totally refuted by the very sources of information cited to create them.

One of those hit pieces came out last week during Spring Break, from the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. In their Commentaries piece “Other People’s Money,” Pope Center authors Jay Schalin and Jenna Ashley Robinson go out of their way to condemn the Association of Student Governments and do their best to run my own reputation through the mud for good measure.

When I first read the full piece yesterday, I had no intention of responding in writing to the Pope Center itself — and I still don’t. The column has multiple factual errors that could have easily been corrected with a 2-minute phone call to me, several of the quotes cited/paraphrased are deliberately stripped of context, and the qualitative conclusions it makes demonstrate the yoga-like rhetorical skills of the authors by condemning in the opening paragraphs what it embraces in the closing.

Writers have to make a deliberate effort to twist facts that much, and that typically translates into having no interest at all whatsoever in any honest dialogue.

But for better or worse we live in the age of Google, and I’ve already had politically-minded folks asking for explanations. So rather than repeat the same “This is wrong. This is wrong. That is wrong. That part right there? Wrong. Here? Wrong too.” over and over again, I figured I’d offer a line-by-line dissection with links to supporting documentation.

So are Jay Schalin and Jenna Ashley Robinson crazy? Or are they just lazy? You be the judge…

—===—

==============================
II. BACKGROUND MATERIAL: DOCUMENTS
==============================

I’m a big fan of the Fox News “We Report. You Decide.” model of debate, so in dissecting any editorial it’s necessary to have all of the objective facts first. Reasonable people can disagree on the conclusions drawn from those facts, but if those same people are arguing from two different sets of facts then they end up talking past each other.

Fortunately, my undergraduate degree was in Computer Science — meaning over the past 2 years UNCASG has generated a boatload of documentation on its operations ;)

Here are some items you may want to either review online, print out, or just have ready at your fingertips:

1) Pope Center commentary “Other People’s Money” (03/07/2010): [HTML] | [PDF]

2) Pieces cited by the Pope Center —

  1. UNCASG’s Tuition Petition event listing on Facebook:  [HTML]
  2. Durham Herald-Sun article “UNC panel OKs tuition increases systemwide” (02/11/2010):  [HTML]
  3. Carolina Review article “Waste, Bureaucracy, …and the ASG” (September 2009, pages 8-9):  [HTML]
  4. Daily Tar Heel article on tuition (October 2008):  [This DTH piece is conspicuously absent from their online archives, but I recall the story — if I can get my hands on a PDF copy I’ll upload it, but for now you’ll have to check the physical archives in Chapel Hill]
  5. Facebook correspondence between myself and Jenna Ashley Robinson (02/08/2010):   [PDF]

3) Pieces cited by me —

  1. UNC Board of Governors policy on the Association of Student Governments (10/11/2002): [HTML]
  2. 2010-2011 Proposed Tuition Rates presented to the Board of Governors (02/01/2010): [PDF]
  3. Pope Center commentary “The High Cost of Low Tuition” (12/10/2007): [HTML]
  4. UNCASG Resolution 29 on tuition and fees (01/30/2010): [PDF]
  5. UNCASG Finance Bill 14, amending the budget for FY2009-2010 (09/26/2009): [PDF]
  6. Pope Center piece “Myths of the Ivory Tower” (03/10/2010): [HTML]
  7. Facebook note by me re “pornstar healthcare” (03/09/2009): [HTML] | [PDF]
  8. Facebook note by me re “pornstar healthcare” update (07/08/2009): [HTML] | [PDF]
  9. N.C. State Technician column “Could Higher Tuition Actually Be a Better Deal? (Part I)” (09/12/2005): [HTML]
  10. N.C. State Technician column “Higher Tuition a Better Deal? (Part II)” (10/03/2005): [HTML]
  11. Raleigh News & Observer letter “Look elsewhere, UNC” (07/28/2006): [HTML]
  12. N.C. State Student Senate Resolution 26, “Tuition Certainty Act” (03/14/2007): [HTML]
  13. “The Clock is Ticking…” campaign platform (04/19/2008): [PDF]
  14. UNCASG Resolution 18 on tuition and fee increases (10/25/2008): [PDF]
  15. UNCASG Resolution 23 on tuition and fee increases (01/24/2009): [PDF]
  16. Federal estimate of median income for a 4-member family (03/13/2009): [HTML]
  17. “Four families” charts from UNC General Administration (01/26/2010): [PDF]
  18. Facebook note on the Daily Tar Heel and UNCASG (09/04/2009): [HTML] | [PDF]
  19. Facebook note on tuition stand-in media coverage (02/09/2008): [HTML] | [PDF]

—===—

==============================
III. SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS
==============================

Enough background, let’s get on with the analysis.

People who have worked with me at NC State, NCCU Law, UNCASG and out in the “real world” will tell you I’m usually a pretty good sport when it comes to folks disagreeing with me about a political issue. I appreciate being challenged because it forces me to reexamine my arguments and make them stronger.

I’m not as forgiving for people who intentionally make arguments in bad faith, particularly when they cite factually wrong data for support.

But again, I’ll let you be the judge. Below are blockquotes from the Pope Center piece (directly copy/pasted with no editing by me) with my notes underneath.

***

Snippet #1:

Understandably, the UNC Association for Student Governments (ASG) is also battling the legislature’s tuition plan. The student organization, which purports to represent UNC students in general, has circulated a petition with over 20,000 signatures that decries the legislature’s plan as a “backdoor tax increase on students and their families to balance the state’s budget.”

There’s no “purports” to it — the Association is the student organization “designated to represent the interests of students in the deliberations of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.” See the very first section of the Board’s policy on the Association (Item 3(a) above).

How effectively UNCASG fills that role is certainly a topic for debate. I’m confident I’ve executed my minor role in the group well over the past two years, though I’ve also readily accepted criticisms that I haven’t.

But let’s not pretend like the Association’s claim to represent students’ interests is a false one. It’s a bit like claiming the U.S. Congress “purports to represent taxpayers” — it does represent taxpayers, regardless of whether you personally like Congress or any of its actions.

The quote cited is a copy/paste from UNCASG’s Facebook event listing for the Tuition Petition (Item 2(a) above).

***

Snippet #2:

However, the ASG is oddly in favor of the universities’ proposal to raise tuitions nearly as much-—even though it also hurts “students and their families.”

The “nearly as much” weasel words should be a giveaway that this particular statement makes no logical sense, but just for the sake of argument I’ll pose a question to you:

Let’s say you’re a student at a random UNC institution like, for example, UNC Charlotte. The state legislature has already decreed that you’re going to pay $200 more (~8%) in tuition starting Fall 2010. Would you be in favor of an alternative proposal to only pay $103 (~4%)?

See Item 3(b) for rates at other universities.

Now yes, it’s true that 4% is “nearly as much” as 8%. And if you’re above a certain income threshold I’m sure it’s also true that $100 is “nearly as much” as $200.

But I’m having a hard time seeing how favoring a plan to pay half as much as the N.C. General Assembly has already decreed is “odd.”

The argument seems particularly disingenuous coming from an organization that has opposed low tuition rates (see Item 3(c) for an example), but I digress…

***

Snippet #3:

In a recent Durham Herald-Sun article, ASG president Greg Doucette declared that “all the students are on board” with the tuition hike—-obviously overstated rhetoric. In November of 2009, students at UNC-Chapel Hill protested when the trustees voted to raise tuition by 5.2 percent.

The weasel words in this snippet? “In a recent Durham Herald-Sun article.” Go take a minute to read that particular article; it’s Item 2(b) above.

Notice anything unusual?

That’s right, it’s an article on what was said at the UNC Board of Governors meeting. The very meeting that Jay Schalin attended right before he asked me questions about the petition afterwards (we’ll get to that in Snippet #10).

So why quote the newspaper article instead of his first-hand experience?

You see when I made the statement “all the students” were on board with the increase, I was referring to the members of the Association — the same people who unanimously adopted a resolution on the tuition/fee increase proposals (see Item 3(d)), two dozen of whom were present at the BOG meeting and were asked to stand and be recognized.11

That should have been obvious considering my presence at the podium was by virtue of the committee chairman recognizing me to give UNCASG’s position on tuition/fees.

Folks who were present at the meeting (like Jay Schalin) know that’s who I was referencing, but it’s not clear in the writing of the Herald-Sun news article. So rather than quote from his personal experience and then get exposed as a fraud, Schalin instead chooses to reiterate a context-free quote in another publication so he can claim he’s still accurate.

Now no one’s ever accused me of being a genius, but if I know there’s going to be differences of opinion among the 80ish students in UNCASG (see the 2nd paragraph of this post) I’m pretty sure I know there’s going to be differences of opinion among the 215,000+ students UNCASG represents ;)

Hopefully you’re willing to believe me on that :)

***

Snippet #4:

And some students are not happy about paying for others’ educations. N.C. State student Quinten Farmer emailed the Pope Center to say he was adamantly against “the plan to use 50% of the tuition increase only to benefit students on need-based grants.” He said “this policy hurts thousands of students who don’t qualify for financial aid, but are still struggling to pay for college themselves.”

This is the same rhetorical device as the Herald-Sun snippet #3 above.

I have no doubt Mr. Farmer said the policy “hurts thousands of students who don’t qualify for aid” — but is there any actual empirical evidence that it actually does so?

On that, the Pope Center piece is conspicuously silent.

Mr. Farmer’s presumably self-initiated correspondence also begs the same question I posed to you in Snippet #2. Is he aware that he’s already slated to pay $200 in the General Assembly’s budget enacted last August, of which $0 will go to his University? Which “hurts thousands of students” more — paying 8% with $0 going to the University, or paying 6.5% where the University keeps the funds raised?

***

Snippet #5:

Indeed, there are indications that the ASG does not serve as an independent advocate for students, but instead is functioning like an arm of the administration (perhaps due to administrative pressure). In this case, the ASG appears to be “astroturfing,” in which the petition provides fake grass-roots support for the administration’s plan.

The weasel words here are “indications” and “appears.”

Go take a look at my responses to Jenna Ashley Robinson’s questions for this piece, where she specifically asks about whether I’ve talked with UNC General Administration (it’s Item 2(e) in Section II).

Not only do I point out to her that the campaign was “entirely student-conceived, student-created, and student-run” — I also point out that “there hasn’t been any collaboration or detailed discussion with” University administrators, and even provide a detailed history on the entire project’s genesis! :beatup:

When I notified UNC General Administration of our plans in mid-December, I got 2 responses. The first was “We recommend that you hold off”; the second was “With all due respect, your plan is not going to be helpful in getting what is most important to NC resident students, i.e., an alternative plan in place.”

With responses like those, does it “appear” to you like UNCASG is “functioning like an arm of the administration”?

I don’t know where those administrators’ opinions stood two months and 20,000 signatures later given the total lack of coordination between ASG and UNC General Administration, but deploying a project opposed by them doesn’t seem all that collusive to me…

***

Snippet #6:

The petition does not reveal what the administration’s plans are, only that “the money raised through higher tuition rates should go back to the students through higher University funding.” The omission of the administration’s intent certainly suggests the appearance of a deliberate attempt to mislead.

By this point in the post you can hopefully figure out who’s doing the “deliberate attempt to mislead” — but I digress…

This particular snippet prompts me to ask 2 questions:

1) Where would it go?

The quote was pulled from the Facebook event listing for the Tuition Petition, but go to the downloads page for the campaign and download the petition for any campus.

Where exactly would you put the language regarding the Administration’s plans? Bear in mind the proposal voted on by the Board of Governors was 13 pages long (Item 3(b)).

Had we put something in the petitions to that effect, no doubt the Pope Center would condemn us for unduly summarizing the plans.

2) Would it even matter?

I’ll again reiterate the same question from Snippet #2. Which would you choose?

==> Pay $200, with 0.00% going to your University

==> Instead pay $X < $200, with 100.00% of $X going to your University

This is a binary decision; the $200 increase is already in place, enacted in the August 2009 budget bill. Barring an effort from UNCASG, the Board of Governors and UNC General Administration to convince the Legislature to change it, students will be paying those rates in August 2010.

I might be wrong here, but I suspect the University could propose spending the money on hookers & blow and students would still prefer the cheaper University plan to the more-expensive General Assembly plan ;)

***

Snippet #7:

Also, ASG members receive considerable stipends—-some as high as $4,000-—from the administration for their service. This almost automatically creates a conflict of interest for the members.

Weasel words here: “from the administration” and “almost.”

It’s true, I receive a $7,000 stipend for my service as UNCASG President. The organization’s budget is a public record that’s been available online throughout the session (see Item 3(e) in Section II above, line item 2101).

I’m not sure how “considerable” I’d consider it, considering I had to give up a $19,000 internship working for the N.C. General Assembly to take the position.12 But I digress…

The broader point is that the stipend comes from studentsnot the administration. UNCASG’s budget is in the form of a $1/student fee, a fee that I’ve had to pay myself along with thousands of others in the University.

I can’t speak for anyone else in the Association, but the fact I’m paid by other students’ money makes me more cognizant of my obligation to do a good job, not less. It’s the entire reason why I’ve gone out of my way to solicit student feedback, promote absolute transparency in UNCASG, and be a good steward of the students’ trust.

In other words, there’s no conflict of interest at all — hence why it’s only “almost” a conflict.

On an unrelated side note, the University administration is actually forbidden by policy from “assert[ing] control” over the Association (see §4 of Item 3(a) listed in Section II above). Surely someone like Jay Schalin, who notes in another Pope Center piece that he’s been a “paid observer of academia” for three years (see Item 3(f)), should know that by now.

***

Snippet #8:

Plus, there is the possibility that general administration officials have pressured Doucette for support. Doucette himself told the Carolina Review, a student publication, that “Bowles cussed me out” when there was a difference of opinions about student health care policies (referring to university system president Erskine Bowles).

Weasel words here? “Possibility.”

Schalin and Robinson here are quoting the September 2009 edition of the UNC Chapel Hill’s Carolina Review, a conservative/Republican publication known as much for its factual errors and limited readership as any incisive analysis.

See Item 2(c) in Section II above to read the piece yourself.

I stand by my comments in that particular column, which related to the UNC system’s decision to implement mandatory hard-waiver health insurance for all students system-wide. University President Erskine Bowles did have some choice words to share with me relating to ASG’s position on the proposal…

…but that was exactly my intent :crack:

Students didn’t like the health insurance plans, and I felt like the student opinion wasn’t being listened to adequately. So I labeled the proposal “pornstar healthcare” and wrote a widely-circulated note blasting the plan. See Item 3(g) in Section II above.

My Facebook note was sufficiently flamboyant that it got the attention of several folks, even someone at Fox News who wanted to pitch the issue for a segment on Hannity (I declined). It also resulted in more questions being asked than UNCGA could answer at the time, delaying implementation of the program by an entire year.

Frankly I’d have been surprised if I didn’t get chewed out given the note’s contents. But the bigger point is that I didn’t care — I’d gladly take a verbal beating in exchange for getting what my organization wanted on behalf of its constituents, which was a year-long delay and several tweaks to the program.

That’s exactly what we got, as you can read in Item 3(h) of Section II above.

Knowing the context of this particular situation, coupled with the administration’s comments regarding the tuition petition noted in Snippet #5, should sufficiently expose as shamelessly false the idea that I care one iota about “pressure” from “general administration officials.”

You regular readers here at law:/dev/null know I’m a formerly homeless college dropout who not only fought his way through a bachelor’s degree but is now excelling at law school. I’ve worked for a former prison warden when I was an Assistant Clerk of Superior Court in Wake County. I’m training to become a United States Marine. I work for 215,000+ of the finest scholars in the country.

Someone using salty language towards me because they dislike a policy choice I made falls pretty low on the totem pole of things I care about in life…

***

Snippet #9:

When Doucette took over the ASG presidency in the fall of 2008, he initially opposed tuition raises. The main newspaper on the Chapel Hill campus, The Daily Tar Heel, quoted him in October of 2008 as saying, “I hate seeing tuition increases anytime,” and “I think it [increasing tuition] runs a great risk of pushing people out of the university.” At that time, Bowles reproached the ASG for coming out against tuition increases before the chancellors made their own recommendations. “I don’t think that’s the way business should be done,” he chided the student group, according to the Daily Tar Heel.

There are no weasel words here — the “analysis” is just plain wrong :roll:

The particular DTH news story is missing from their online archives, but I have no doubt I made that particular comment and I continue to stand by it. Raising tuition impedes access and I hate seeing increases. In my perfect world, those increases wouldn’t happen.

But I also know rising costs are an inevitability of life, and because of that I didn’t “oppose tuition raises” when I took over the ASG presidency. The Pope Center is basically playing make-believe to suit their interests.

Don’t take my word for it though, I’ve got plenty of documentation to reiterate the point:

  • Two separate editorials I wrote in the N.C. State Technician back in September and October 2005, the first (see Item 3(i)) noting that higher tuition wasn’t inherently bad, and the second (see Item 3(j)) suggesting the Student Government advocate for “fee caps” and “aggregate increase limits” — the very policy the UNC Board of Governors adopted two years later in 2007 (that I purportedly opposed).
  • A letter I wrote to the editor of the Raleigh News & Observer in July 2006, advocating a policy that “[gives] universities more political cover to raise their tuition rates, but… also protects students and their families” (see Item 3(k))
  • A resolution I wrote in November 2006, adopted by the N.C. State Student Senate, calling on the University to adopt that very same type of policy (see Item 3(l))

All 4 of those items were written long before I ever became Student Senate President at N.C. State, and even longer before I ever considered running for ASG President in March 2008.

But just to clarify the point for anyone who thinks I might have changed my mind at some point between then and the ASG Presidency, I’ll offer the following:

  • Media coverage from a “stand-in” I led at the February 2008 UNC Board of Governors meeting supporting limited tuition increases. A meeting attended by… Jay Schalin (see Item 3(s))
  • My April 2008 campaign platform for ASG President, where I advocated for the same thing (see Item 3(m) page 11)
  • Two separate UNCASG resolutions on tuition and fee increases, the first in October 2008 and the second in January 2009 (see Item 3(n) and Item 3(o)). You might notice Item 3(o) bears a striking resemblance to Item 3(d) — that’s because the resolution text is largely the same, since the political opinions of most rational people don’t suddenly change in a year’s time.

If there’s one trait I’ve had on tuition and fees over the last 5 years, it’s consistency. Both Jay Schalin and Jenna Ashley Robinson should have easily seen any of these within even 10 seconds of actual research — Robinson in particular, since most of these items are linked off my Facebook profile that she used to contact me about the piece.

But just in case, I even made the effort to note my philosophy on tuition and fees in my ensuing correspondence with Robinson via that Facebook profile. Go back to Item 2(e) and read the last section of my response.

And yet they somehow got it completely, totally, and irrefutably… wrong :crack:

***

Snippet #10:

And this year, Doucette has a completely different attitude. After the recent BOG meeting, he dismissed students who do not qualify for aid as “rich” and said they “can get loans” if they can’t afford the tuition.

The commentary from this snippet presumably came from an impromptu interview with Jay Schalin at the February meeting of the Board of Governors, when he approached me after the Budget & Finance Committee adjourned.

We just covered in Snippet #9 that the Pope Center completely fabricated my “different” attitude from whole cloth, despite half a decade of digital evidence to the contrary. So I think I can safely skip dissecting the first sentence.

Two points on the sentence following it:

1) The median income for a family of 4 in North Carolina is ~$64,591 according to statistics published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services annually in the Federal Register (see Item 3(p)). Financial aid breakdowns provided by UNC General Administration show that even families making $90,000 receive significant grant aid (see Item 3(q)).

Folks, that means if you’re at the point where you don’t qualify for any financial aid then you or your parents are pulling in six figures or more — and are substantially above the median income for a typical 4-person family.

To me that qualifies as “rich,” particularly for folks attending college who come from college-educated families. And my (admittedly unscientific) suspicion is that the overwhelming majority of the taxpaying public would agree.

2) Regardless of the above point, all students — rich, poor and in between — should be willing to get loans if they want an education and can’t pay tuition. My education was funded largely through loans because earning a degree was important to me. An education is an investment in yourself, and it makes sense that you personally should bear a significant chunk of the cost in the form of a loan you’ll need to repay.

I made the same point in my correspondence to Jenna Ashley Robinson (see the end section of Item 2(e)).

Now I may not be widely supported in that belief, but it seems comically asinine for a purportedly conservative organization like the Pope Center to chastise me for believing in personal responsibility…

***

Snippet #11:

Criticism of the ASG’s allegiance is neither new nor limited to one side of the political spectrum. Both of UNC-Chapel Hill’s major student publications, the liberal Daily Tar Heel and the conservative Carolina Review, have called for an end to the mandatory funding of the ASG for its failure to represent student interests.

Two points here:

1) Calling the low-circulating, error-filled, poorly-edited, monthly-published Carolina Review a “major student publication” is laughably ridiculous on its own. That goes double when the sentence indicates it’s 1 of only 2 such “major” entities on the UNC Chapel Hill campus, with the other being the widely-circulated, sufficiently-accurate-for-use-by-most-of-Orange-County, professionally-edited, daily student newspaper.

2) Jay Schalin and Jenna Ashley Robinson also conveniently fail to put a time horizon on the Daily Tar Heel’s criticisms or note any of its changes in opinion over time. Fortunately I did that work for them months ago so you don’t have to — take a look at Item 3(r) in Section II.

***

Snippet #12:

Several former UNC-Chapel Hill student body presidents have refused to attend ASG meetings and have called it “inefficient” and “unscrupulous.”

Another convenient absence of a time horizon. Let’s review:

===> The current 2009-10 Student Body President, Jasmin Jones, has not only regularly attended UNCASG meetings but also came up with the entire Tuition Petition idea (see the first section of Item 2(e))

===> The 2008-09 SBP, J.J. Raynor, attended as well (see Item 3(r) again)

===> The 2007-08 SBP, Eve Carson, attended as well (since that’s how I met her)

So at least since April 2007 when I became a part of the Association in my role as N.C. State’s Student Senate President, every Student Body President of UNC Chapel Hill has attended ASG meetings. I know because I’ve seen and talked to them in person — as have a number of other delegates.

Now I can’t speak for any Student Body Presidents going back more than 3-4 years, but really if you have to reach back that far to criticize an organization it should be a clue that your criticism is probably unfounded ;)

One last point of interest: the UNCCH 2010-11 SBP-elect, Hogan Medlin, has already asked for info so he can plan to attend UNCASG meetings. By contrast one of his 5 opponents, Nash Keune — the editor of the Carolina Review who included a “withdraw from ASG” plank in his platform — came in a distant 4th place in the campus’s election last month with a whopping 12% of the vote.

***

Snippet #13:

The legislature and UNC system also need to go back to the drawing board. There are countless alternatives better than either existing proposal. For instance, tuition increases could be limited to the amount needed to maintain academic quality, helping out the tuition-paying students. Or the legislature could take it easy on the people who really foot the bill, the taxpayers who provide some of the nation’s most generous higher education subsidies. In this scenario, UNC schools could raise tuitions and keep the money, but only if their state funding was cut by the amount of revenue produced.

This is where the yoga-like flexibility of the authors’ rhetorical skills go on full display, and those of us with even a vague semblance of logical thought processes get left in the lurch.

Read those last 2 sentences. Then re-read them again. Now go read the opening section of the Pope Center piece (Item 1). Then come back and re-re-read those last 2 sentences.

Notice anything?

Yes folks: the very Pope Center piece that spent the past 1,400ish words (i) condemning what UNCASG dubbed a “backdoor tax increase”, then (ii) condemning UNCASG itself, wraps up with… (iii) an endorsement of the very same backdoor tax increase it condemned 1,400ish words earlier.

You see, a scenario where universities “raise tuitions and keep the money, but only if their state funding was cut by the amount of revenue produced” is EXACTLY WHAT IT IS NOW IN THE STATE BUDGET.

Existing state appropriations are reduced by the exact same amount that tuition rates go up. In other words, the state is raising tuition and keeping the money.

I don’t really have any analysis I can offer here. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried… :crack:

—===—

==============================
IV. CONCLUSION
==============================

I used to be a big fan of the Pope Center, and their sister think tank the John Locke Foundation. QuietStorm worked at JLF for quite awhile, as have a number of other friends and an Economics professor I had at N.C. State.

But now having experienced first-hand how aggressively some of its personnel will either (1) twist or (2) invent “facts” to support an argument — even if it means writing a piece that is self-contradictory in the process — I can’t really take any of their commentary with anything less than a warehouse-sized volume of salt.

Fortunately for the Pope Center, I’m not a contributor so they lose nothing from my distaste. They even get to keep the moral high ground since I’m a net debtor to society given my ample student loans and relatively inexpensive law school tuition. They’ll probably even get some more hits on their website from the folks who happen to swing by law:/dev/null, and may even garner a contributor or two out of the bunch.

Even so, I expect better from folks who complain of the very same tactics purportedly employed by academicians in the ivory tower.

The sanctimony is amusing, to be sure. But whether it’s the result of laziness or mental instability I’ll leave up to you.

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Sorry again for the rant. Have a great night folks! :)

  1. And it may very well be longer than that — the Association’s records are limited before 1998-99. []
  2. ECSU, FSU, NCAT, NCCU and WSSU []
  3. UNCP []
  4. UNCG []
  5. UNCSA []
  6. NCSSM []
  7. ASU, UNCA and WCU []
  8. ECSU and UNCW []
  9. NCSU and UNCC []
  10. UNCCH, UNCP and WCU []
  11. Including, among many other attendees, the Student Body Presidents from East Carolina, Fayetteville State, NC State, UNC Asheville, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Wilmington, and Western Carolina — the top student leaders on their respective campuses, representing a combined 55% of the 215,000+ students in the University. []
  12. North Carolina’s state constitution forbids serving in both the legislative branch and the executive branch of government at the same time, so when I became an ex officio member of the executive UNC Board of Governors I had to give up my legislative day job. []

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2

TDot’s Treats #2: QuietStorm’s Beef Tips & Rice

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 7, 2010 in TDot's Treats

If necessity is the mother of invention, exam time is the father of cheap+simple meals that provide plenty of leftovers so you can spend less time cooking and more time studying ;)

Now that midterms are over and Spring Break lies ahead — complete with temperatures in the upper-60s! — here’s a not-so-quick but simple recipe for your own exam-induced munchies :D

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TDot’s Treats #2: QuietStorm’s Beef Tips & Rice
Difficulty:  1 of 5 (very easy)

I borrowed this recipe from QuietStorm about 5-6 years ago but never actually got a slow cooker until last month. This was/is the first thing I’ve cooked in it, and makes for a hearty meal around midterms and a good 3 meals’ worth of leftovers.

***

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of beef tips / stewing meat
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, ~11 oz
  • 2 packs of dry onion soup mix, ~1 oz each
  • 1.5 cups of water
  • A smidge of cooking oil (for braising)
  • ~2ish more cups of water (for braising)

***

Culinary Notes:
This recipe is on the (very) salty side, so if you’ve got high blood pressure or related health ailments I’d recommend grabbing a low-sodium version of both the onion soup and the cream of mushroom soup.  You can also add more water to the mix without it diluting the taste much.

Also be careful when you’re braising the beef tips — I burned off a couple layers of my right ring finger the last time I made this :beatup:

***

Directions:
Beef tips are a tough meat, so the first thing you’ll want to do is braise them up a bit to make sure you can chew them after they’ve been cooking for 8 hours ;)

Put a smidge of cooking grease in a sauce pan and heat to medium-high heat.  If you want to add any seasoning to your beef tips, now’s the time to do it.

Toss the beef tips in the pan (beware splattering grease!) to sear them; this’ll also lock in the flavor if you’ve added custom seasoning. After searing them for a few minutes add in enough water to cover the beef tips, put a lid on the pan, and let them stew for about 25ish minutes over medium heat. This braising process helps break down the collagen in the beef tips and makes them easier to chew once they’re done cooking.

When you’re done, drain the water/oil from the pan and pour the braised tips into your CrockPot or other slow cooker of choice.

Empty the mushroom soup on top of the beef tips. Empty both packets of onion soup mix on top of that. Then pour in the 1.5 cups of water over the mixture.

Put a lid on the everything and set your slow cooker to Low heat.

Let the whole mix cook for about 8 hours. You’ll want to stir it after about 4 hours, again at 6 hours, and again just before you eat it to make sure everything gets mixed up well.

Make some rice on the side, pour the beef tip mix on top, and you’re done! :)

***

Total Preparation Time: ~30 minutes
Total Cooking Time: ~8 hours

Serving Size: ~4 servings

Recommended Side Items: salad, cornbread

—===—

Hope y’all enjoy :) Have a great night folks! :D

Past TDot’s Treats entries:

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-

TDot’s Tips #8: Don’t burn your bridges

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 8, 2010 in TDot's Tips

I’ll confess: I was notoriously arrogant when I first got to N.C. State back in 1998.

I know that comes as a shock to all of about -0- of you :P

In hindsight I’m not entirely sure why I acted the way I did. I was only a slightly-above-average student, paired with well-above-average acne and well-below-average athleticism :beatup: But you wouldn’t believe it from how I carried myself and interacted with other folks.

Until I met QuietStorm.

We both were freshman appointees to the single most distinguished student deliberative assembly ever conceived in the State of North Carolina, and both of us got assigned to the same committee. I jumped into the policy debates in person and over the listserv from Day 1, and didn’t hesitate to employ a little vitriol in condemning proposals I considered ridiculous.

In response to one of those emails a few days after our appointment, I got a polite response from QuietStorm — our first interaction with each other — essentially telling me to STFU. My response was far less refined, including at least one reference to me “actively mock[ing]” people with her political beliefs.

She shot back minutes later informing me that I didn’t know her well enough to know her political beliefs, she was only trying to be help me avoid alienating people, and a closing admonishment: “Don’t burn your bridges. You never know when you’re going to need one.”

I realized she was right — over the next few months I learned that she was not only more politically conservative than me, but that we also made a phenomenal team. So I dialed back the pretentiousness over the next semester and adopted a policy of trying to be courteous and respectful to everybody.1

I’m sure there are plenty of folks in the world who don’t like me, but hopefully their distaste isn’t from anything I did to them :)

Days like today remind me it was a good choice.

It started this morning in response to my quote in this article for the Raleigh News & Observer. I sound like a fool, but got a Facebook message from someone who graduated in 3 years, read the story and wanted to wish me well in law school.  The name looked familiar but I wasn’t 100% sure why. A quick Google search confirmed my hunch — QuietStorm and I both worked with him in the Student Senate way back in 1999.

Then after CivPro I drove down to Raleigh to get my car repaired (again). I was talking with one of my colleagues from western NC about the tuition/fee vote at this week’s meeting of the UNC Board of Governors, and after I hung up a guy standing near the door goes “Hey are you Greg?” After my initial impulse to go “who wants to know?” subsided, I found out he was a student at UNC Pembroke (about 1.5 hours south of Raleigh) who I had met for a few minutes almost a year earlier as part of our UNCASG Listening Tour.

Here in the span of a few hours were two folks, interaction with the former separated by time and the latter by geography, who I never expected to cross paths with again. Imagine how either of those conversations would have turned out had I still been an asshole! :beatup:

And as if Life wanted to underscore the point, just before writing this post I got a terse email from a guy working for an organization I’ll leave nameless, demanding a favor from me in my capacity as President of UNCASG — the largest student advocacy organization in North Carolina, and thus a preferred audience for his group. The guy in question? One of the folks responsible for deploying various crude insults about me2) back during my first campaign for Student Senate President.

Needless to say I declined his request :angel:

As many a 2L, 3L and post-L will tell you, the folks we’re working with in law school are going to end up being our friends and colleagues for years down the road. It’s probably a good idea to treat them well so they’ve got a favorable impression of you in the future, because whether it’s in a courtroom or a car repair shop you never know when you’ll cross paths with someone again :)

Have a great night everybody! :D

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Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. Albeit only as a “no first strike” policy: folks who were rude/mean to me or friends were exempt :angel: []
  2. Mispronouncing my last name sounds similar to a feminine hygiene product, which was apparently the height of civic discourse for the campaign. It’s part of why I felt no sympathy when this poster started appearing ; []

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