Civitas Review

What is it Like to be "Governed"?


“To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be place under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality."

General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, translated by John Beverly Robinson (London: Freedom Press, 1923), pp. 293-294.”
―     Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

"Professor" Nichol Can’t Resist Another Slur – 'Thug'


Today the Raleigh News and Observer reported on Civitas' request for Gene Nichol's emails and other public information in accordance with §132 of the North Carolina General Statutes. Nichol heads the Center for Poverty at UNC. Apparently we have upset some of his colleagues and they have complained to the media. We at Civitas wrote on Nichols and the Poverty Center before he penned a hateful piece about Governor McCrory in which he essentially called him a racist.   We wrote about the center back in 2012 and have written blog posts concerning the center and Nichol.

The piece by writer Jane Stancill was even-handed, but the most troubling line came at the end: "When asked whether the Civitas probe would curtail his commentary, Nichol said: 'I’m too old for that. I try to avoid being bullied by thugs, so I don’t think I’ll change.'"

So Nichol can't pass by an opportunity to call someone a name. In this case he called me a "thug." If this is what passes for civil discourse in the university, we really are in trouble. Civitas will not back down and the folks at UNC and the law school should not hold themselves above the law. The rank-and-file state employees know that everything they do is a matter of public record; those in academia making six-figure salaries should be smart enough to know that.

And all the name-calling in the world doesn't change the facts.

Ending with a quote from one of my favorite books, Animal Farm by George Orwell:

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

The Knock Out Game – Should the Behavior of Some Be Condoned Because of Age?


We have all seen it in the news — the sick new fad called the “Knockout Game.”  An innocent person becomes a victim of someone who just takes a punch at someone who isn’t expecting it. How do we punish the people who are playing this “game” — and should we differentiate between juveniles and adults?

One state is looking into punishing everyone the same regardless of their age. New York —  which is often compared to North Carolina because both states consider 16-and 17-year-olds as adults when it comes to crime — is taking an approach to “Knockout” that both adults and juveniles will be punished the same way if found guilty.

The bill has been introduced by Jim Tedisco (R) a representative in the New York State Assembly.  Tedisco’s Facebook page looks at the issue:

Tedisco’s bill, which is being drafted, would amend New York State’s penal law to make any person regardless of their age who is convicted of knock out game individual assault or gang assault to face up to 25 years in prison (currently it’s between 4-15 years depending on the age of the defendant). The legislation would ensure that youth who “play the Knockout Game” are sentenced as adults. Those who are there and take part in the action also would be held liable.

“Killing or injuring a person with one punch is no game and the state’s criminal penalties to prosecute these dastardly individuals should not be a joke. These twisted and cowardly thugs are preying on innocent bystanders and they don’t care if the victims are young, old, a man or woman. Life isn’t a video game. These are real people whose lives are not only being put in jeopardy but in many cases destroyed,” said Tedisco.

“What’s shameful is not only that these punks are knocking out innocent people but they’re trying to rack up knockouts to impress their friends. What’s even more dangerous is they’re trying to rack up the most number of knockouts because it becomes a status symbol in the gang. The youthful cowards who think they’re some kind of ‘Big Man’ for playing this barbaric ‘Knockout Game’ should be prepared to face the long arm of the law like men,” said Tedisco.

“This bill is a deterrent because it will ensure that juveniles who commit these vicious adult crimes are tried as adults. It also ensures that any gang member who is part of a ‘knockout game’ assault – even if they don’t lay a hand on the victim – could face a long prison sentence,” said Tedisco.

“Violence like this should not be condoned no matter the age of the offender. Youth should not be an excuse for this kind of behavior and young people, as well as adults, who do this should be counted out,” said Tedisco.

When we think of legislation, should the behavior of some be condoned because of their age?

Time to Move on State Pension Reform


The N&O offers up this editorial highlighting the findings of their recent series examining some eye-popping compensation packages of state government workers. Among the issues examined in the series was the practice of "spiking" – employees gaming their compensation packages to maximize their pension payouts in retirement.

Last week The News & Observer revealed this bloated upper edge of public pay in the series  “Checks Without Balances: Big pay in tough times.” The three-day series was based on the analysis of data for more than 435,000 employees from 1,216 state and local agencies.

While the agencies are public, they often are obscure. In some of those agencies, insular arrangements have allowed pay to balloon and the state pension system to be abused

Worse yet, some boards have allowed perks such as car allowances and housing allowances to be converted to salary for purposes of pension calculations.

The several community college presidents who were allowed the conversion never paid into the pension fund based on the perks’ value. Letting the value of the perks become salary in their final years of service means others in the system must subsidize their inflated pension payments.

State Treasurer Janet Cowell, who oversees the state pension fund, said the perk-to-salary conversions are legal, but suspect. She has unsuccessfully sought legislation to curb the practice. Her opposition is appropriate, but she should have been making more noise about the conversion practice.

Growing concern from Cowell and state legislators is a good first step, But merely trimming around the edges is not enough. Last year I examined NC's ailing state pension system and determined that real pension reform calls for a transformation from the current defined benefit system to a defined contribution system. Under a defined contribution system (like 401k programs most in the private sector are familiar with), the employee owns and controls their own retirement funds, and the taxpayers are no longer at risk to cover massive unfunded liabilities.