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STEM - the keys to our nation’s competitiveness

It’s a fair question and it’s one that as a former school board member I feel awkward even asking. And that is, “just what is a modern high school degree worth in the 21st century?” I don’t have an answer for that, but for decades, there has been a growing body of evidence that students leaving high school aren’t ready for the workforce, or for that matter, aren’t even adequately prepared, or ready for their post secondary school education.

This doesn’t seem fair. We put a lot of time and energy into our schools, our kids work hard, and we should be

Read more: STEM - the keys to our nation’s competitiveness

McDonnell wants to harness the wind

If you drive through Montana, Wyoming, or South Dakota, you’ll notice a relatively new addition to the landscape and that’s wind turbines.  They look like propellers mounted on tall polls and here and there they’re perched on hillsides, lined up on the open planes, and on some days, when the wind really gets going, their speed controls have to kick in to keep them from turning too fast.  On the open prairie the weather is unpredictable, but there is one guarantee, there is always a wind blowing.

The same is true when you get a little closer to home.  But in this case, it’s not the open plains of the American

Read more: McDonnell wants to harness the wind

The GOP nomination for President is still an open contest

It’s been said that the field for the GOP nomination for President has been set.  The last candidates who are going to enter the contest are in the ring.  And that’s probably true.  To some in the media that means it’s all over.  To them, it’s now a choice between Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.   The press and pundits love to decide these match-ups early.  But, they should remember, that in the past they have had a terrible problem getting it right.

2008 is a perfect example.  At this point in 2007 the pundits, the media, and the political regulars, had it all figured out.   For the GOP this meant that the “hands on” favorite was Mitt Romney.  John McCain, in the eyes of the media, was a spent force.  Some wondered why he didn’t drop out.  As we all know the story turned out differently.  McCain managed a come from behind win in New Hampshire, started on roll that led to his not only beating Romney, but also dousing the campaigns of Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson.  He managed to take this momentum all the way to the convention in Minneapolis.  Romney, understandably, since he was the guy who was supposed to win, was still looking for the license tag of that truck that ran over his campaign.

The media treated the Democrats no differently.  After Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses it was just “assumed” that he would beat Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire.  Obama even started acting like the presumptive nominee.   However, what happened was that Hillary just campaigned hard, won that primary and what followed was one of the feistiest primary campaigns in American history.

That’s why we need to be a bit more careful with the 2012 GOP field.  A candidate’s position as leader of the pack can dissolve in a matter of days.  The Democrats, of course, have their nominee.  But the Republican cast of candidates, while having two leading contenders, is still a crowded field.  What’s more the two leading candidates have their weaknesses.  The Party is by no means sold on them.  Perry’s performance in the debates has been poor.  He has trouble forgetting he is running for President and not Governor of Texas.  Also, his strong play to evangelicals, while pleasing to the party base, has at the same time been disconcerting to Main Street Republicans and Independents.  As for Romney, while highly competent and likable to many in the party, he changes positions far too often.

As far as the media is concerned it’s a choice between these two.  But, hold on, the GOP field has a few prospects, and some outliers, that though long shots to get the nomination, are still fighting on.  One candidate, who following Sarah Palin’s official departure from the field (thank goodness) is sure to pick up delegates in the caucus states is Michele Bachman.   Dismissed as too far to the right, even ditzy (talk about a sexist term) she is still a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and to those who doubt her abilities, they should remember that not only is she a lawyer, but she also has a master’s degree in tax law.  I ask you, when was the last time we

Read more: The GOP nomination for President is still an open contest

After 10 years together, saying farewell to my squirrels

I sometimes get in trouble with my neighbors when it comes to my fondness for the local squirrel population. You see, it all began with a bet with my wife, many years ago, that with a better diet I could make our local squirrels, known to most of us as the Eastern gray squirrels (their Latin name is Sciurus carolinensis), look as nice and fluffy as the squirrels we had just seen during a visit to Williamsburg. Everything, of course, looks pristine in Williamsburg and that includes the squirrels. They have lush coats and fluffy tails. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that they get their fur set and combed each day.

And so the bet was on. That was more than 10 years ago and I have fed the squirrels every morning since. The local squirrel population and I have gotten to be

Read more: After 10 years together, saying farewell to my squirrels

Unemployment: It’s probably worse than you think

There are a lot of indicators used to assess the health of the nation’s economy. There is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the sum of all we buy, sell, and produce. There is also industrial output, orders for durable goods, various leading economic indicators, and surveys of consumer sentiment. However, for most people, the ultimate measure of economic distress or well being is unemployment. While the other economic statistics are just that, statistics, unemployment is personal.

As Harry Truman said, “a recession is when your neighbor loses his job and a depression is

Read more: Unemployment: It’s probably worse than you think

Poverty rate increases, working poor are more squeezed

I don’t write about this topic all that often. Some readers will see it as just another bleeding heart liberal talking about what’s wrong with America. Sometimes, when this topic comes up, one that seems so intractable and seemingly so unsolvable, I can understand their point of view. Don’t we have enough problems already?

Awhile back I wrote about the group I call the “squeezed.” These are the working poor. Many of them, contrary to popular belief, work harder than most of us can imagine. They work and work hard. Welfare programs aren’t a part of their life. For some, the wolf is at

Read more: Poverty rate increases, working poor are more squeezed

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