Thursday, 24 January 2013

07:42 – Barbara’s sister, Frances, took their mom to the neurologist appointment yesterday morning. He changed her medication, which they’re hoping will help their mom’s mental state. Then, yesterday afternoon, Barbara took her mom and dad to the audiologist appointment to get their hearing aids cleaned and tweaked and then went out to dinner with them. A few minutes ago, Barbara’s dad called to say that Sankie wouldn’t get out of bed and said she needed to go to the hospital. Barbara assured her dad that the new medication would take some time to kick in, and that Sankie didn’t need to go to the hospital. As Barbara just commented to me, “At least with your parents it was just one at a time.” She just left to head over to her parents’ place on the way to work.


10:08 – There were a couple of interesting articles on the front page of the paper this morning, one about charter schools and one about state income taxes. North Carolina is now a purely red state, with a Republican governor and Republicans controlling both sides of the legislature. They’ll use that clout to try to get a lot of bad laws passed, but along the way they’re also trying to get some Good Things done.

Donny Lambeth, who led the Forsyth County school board for 18 years and is now a state representative, is championing a law that will allow the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system to go 100% charter. Don Martin, the current superintendent of schools, is trying to keep that from happening. Almost 100% of the public school teachers and administrators are against it, of course, because that means they’ll no longer be government employees. They’d be employed by the individual charter schools, which would be non-profits. Like nearly all public school systems, ours pays much, much higher salaries and benefits than most teachers and administrators could ever hope to earn in the private sector. They also have almost absolute job security. If WSFC Schools transitions to 100% charter, all of that goes away. Of course, that’d be a very good thing for taxpayers and the children, but it gores the ox of the teachers and administrators so you can bet they’ll fight to the death to stop it from happening. Let’s hope they fail and we end up 100% charter. Hell, let’s hope we end up 100% voucher. Let the schools compete for students, and let the teachers compete for jobs.

As to the state personal and corporate income taxes, the governor and many in the legislature want to eliminate them entirely and make up the difference by extending the sales tax to apply to services. That might increase the current sales tax by a couple of percentage points. The liberals are howling about “regressive taxation”, of course, but the truth is that shifting to a sales tax to raise state revenues would be much fairer than what we have now. The US has the most “progressive” income tax in the developed world. The poorest 50% of our population pay next to nothing. In fact, many of them actually have negative income taxes; the government “refunds” income taxes to them that they never paid in the first place. The middle class pays about half the income taxes collected, and the wealthy pay the other half. North Carolina is even worse for the middle class. Our highest personal income tax rate is 7.75%, and even those who are just barely middle class pay high rates on most of their income.


11:14 – How could I have forgotten? The first real web browser, NCSA Mosaic, was released 20 years ago today. I downloaded and installed it immediately, and started browsing the web, such as it was. Back then, my co-worker John Mikol and I were the only people I knew who had full-time Internet access at home. We both had dedicated telephone lines at home that dialed into a modem rack at work. We dialed in and stayed connected 24×7, although that term was not yet common. Our nailed-up dial-up connections did drop once in a great while, but I think my all-time record length for one phone call was something like 18 months. John and I did a lot of neat stuff together. I remember the first time we burned a CD-R disc. At the time, almost no one had CD burners. I forget what the burner itself cost, but the discs were $50 each. John and I watched one as it burned. The burn failed, and John invented a new term that became part of technology jargon. “Well,” he said, “that’s a $50 coaster.”

Oh, yeah, John and I are among a very small group for another reason. We both finished the world-wide web. That is, when we installed Mosaic, we both followed every link on every page that was then up on the web.