Taking Dolorous Umbrage at Betsy DeVos With No Apologies to Dolores Umbridge, But I Miss Alan Rickman

When you teach a number of years coupled with the fact that social media has become such a mainstay in our culture, you have the opportunity to stay connected with former students much more easily.

It is rather a humbling that these younger people (younger than I) would want to tell you about how their lives are progressing: their victories, their obstacles, their journeys.

And they also share with you their observations of the world and its changes.

And then there are the memes. One of my more outgoing former students who happens to be a fantastic dramatist as well sent me the following meme in response to Betsy DeVos’s recent appointment and hearing in front of the HELP committee.

It’s rather brilliant.

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(Credit:?)

And funny. I do not know who the credit should go to, but if you find out, then let me know.

Here are two women who have no real experience with public education (or the education of wizards) and no IDEA of what growth is versus proficiency. Entitled with the power of a ministry, both women have a certain agenda to force into schools that seems more in line with their own personal ideologies rather than the public benefit.

And then there are the standards that each strives to put in place within the schools.

For Dolores Umbridge it was the use of Educational Decrees. Defined by the Harry Potter Wiki website (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Educational_Decree), these decrees are,

“The Educational Decrees are laws created by the Ministry of Magic to set or modify standards at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

…the Ministry (spearheaded by Dolores Umbridge) created new educational decrees to suppress and outlaw behaviour of which the Ministry did not approve, some of which would outright expel the students found to be in transgression of. In truth, however, is just an excuse to strip Albus Dumbledore of his headship of the school and give it to Umbridge.”

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In the book the Educational Decrees were as follows (thanks to Harry Potter Neoseeker – http://harrypotter.neoseeker.com/wiki/Educational_Decrees).

  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-four: All Student Organizations, Societies, Teams, Groups, and Clubs are henceforth disbanded. An Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students. Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge). No Student Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor. Any student found to have formed, or to belong to, an Organization, Society, Team Group, or Club that has not been approved by the High Inquisitor will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-five: The High Inquisitor will henceforth have supreme authority over all punishments, sanctions and removal of privileges pertaining to the students of Hogwarts, and the power to alter such punishments, sanctions and removals of privileges as may have been placed by other staff members.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-six: Teachers are hereby banned from giving students any information that is not strictly related to the subjects they are paid to teach.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-seven: Any student found in possession of the magazine The Quibbler will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-eight: Dolores Jane Umbridge (High Inquisitor) has replaced Albus Dumbledore as the Head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

And in the movie where so many got to meet Dolores Umbridge in a more personal way, these decrees were more numerous and amended somewhat. (Again, thanks to Harry Potter Neoseeker – http://harrypotter.neoseeker.com/wiki/Educational_Decrees).

  • Educational Decree Number 22 – In the event of the current Headmaster being unable to provide a candidate for a teaching post, the Ministry should select an appropriate person.
  • Educational Decree Number 23 – Dolores Jane Umbridge has been appointed to the post of Hogwarts High Inquisitor.
  • Educational Decree Number 24 – NO MUSIC IS TO BE PLAYED DURING Study Hours.
  • Educational Decree Number 25 – The High Inquisitor will henceforth have supreme authority over all punishments, sanctions and removal of privileges pertaining to the students of Hogwarts, and the power to alter such punishments, sanctions and removals of privileges as may have been placed by other staff members.
  • Educational Decree Number 26 – Teachers are hereby banned from giving students any information that is not strictly related to the subjects they are paid to teach.
  • Educational Decree Number 27 – Any student found in possession of the magazine The Quibbler will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number 29 – Although never actually passed, it was mentioned by Argus Filch, and would have presumably allowed Filch to torture the students as a punishment.
  • Educational Decree Number 30 – ALL WEASLEY PRODUCTS WILL BE BANNED IMMEDIATELY.
  • Educational Decree Number 45 – PROPER DRESS & DECORUM IS TO BE maintained AT ALL TIMES.
  • Educational Decree Number 68 – All Student Organizations, Societies, Teams, Groups, and Clubs are henceforth disbanded. An Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students. Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge). No Student Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor. Any student found to have formed, or to belong to, an Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club that has not been approved by the High Inquisitor will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number 82 – ALL STUDENTS WILL SUBMIT TO QUESTIONING ABOUT Suspected ILLICIT Activities.
  • Educational Decree Number 98 – THOSE WISHING TO JOIN THE INQUISITORIAL SQUAD for Extra Credit May sign up in the High Inquisitor’s OFFICE.

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While I cannot confirm if DeVos has an affinity for cats or for the color pink or office décor centered on putting plates on the wall, it is this adherence to the wishes of the “ministry” where she and Umbridge have a magical connection.

Since Cornelius Fudge is the Minister For Magic who places Umbridge in her educational post, he directs what Hogwarts can and cannot do in the classrooms. In fact, Umbridge on many occasions simply talks about herself as an extension of Fudge within Hogwarts.

“I am sorry, dear, but to question my practices is to question the Ministry, and by extension, the Minister himself. I am a tolerant woman, but the one thing I will not stand for is disloyalty.”

“Your previous instruction in this subject has been disturbingly uneven. But you will be pleased to know from now on, you will be following a carefully structured, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic. Yes?”

“It is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations, which after all, is what school is all about.”

Now that’s loyalty.

Betsy DeVos in her confirmation hearing stated her allegiance with her own Cornelius Fudge, Donald Trump, as she would back up his policies, especially when she was pressed in her conversation about guns at schools.

And when you talk about advancing the wishes of a “ministry,” then DeVos certainly is a proud disciple of that. The Mother Jones magazine article (yep, it’s liberal) entitled “Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build ‘God’s Kingdom’” is rather eye-opening and it includes some rather zealous statements about DeVos’s devotion to another cause that may be rather cloudy according to the separation of church and state (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/betsy-devos-christian-schools-vouchers-charter-education-secretary).

Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on philanthropic dollars—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied, “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…[versus] what is currently being spent every year on education in this country…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”

From 1999 to 2014, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave out $2.4 million to the Grand Rapids Christian High School Association, $652,000 to the Ada Christian School, and $458,000 to Holland Christian Schools. All told, their foundation contributed $8.6 million to private religious schools—a reflection of the DeVoses’ lifelong dedication to building “God’s kingdom” through education.

Makes the word “ministry” take an even more celestial meaning.

Imagine the new guidelines for finding effective teachers after DeVos’s Common Core issues are finally politically cemented and then implemented (if she is confirmed). Umbridge went after many of Hogwarts’s most established professors with the acumen of an educational novice, but with the authority derived from being granted undeserved powers by a man bent on profit, there’s no telling how DeVos will measure effectiveness or growth or proficiency once she looks those words up in her dictionary.

In the books, during a round of standardized testing, Fred and George Weasley literally “drop out,” probably hum some Pink Floyd quietly and make a rather stunning display of civil disobedience that ends with Umbridge being “swallowed” by a dragon-shaped firework. And dragons are appropriate for this because – well, just read this post – “Teachers, Winter Is Coming, So Get Your Dragons!” – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/01/07/teachers-winter-is-coming-so-get-your-dragons/.

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So the meme that puts both Umbridge and DeVos together is quite appropriate and shows that the magical world and the real world might not be that far apart.

At least in some people’s minds.

However, the meme does say that “we needed centaurs to get rid of” Umbridge.

Well considering that DeVos and her family have given heavily to organizations that are blatantly anti-LGBT, centaurs may not be the best choice of helping us rid ourselves of the “deforms” of Betsy DeVos.

So I suggest,

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And after they are done taking away DeVos, they can go to Raleigh and get rid of HB2.

But, just in case DeVos is confirmed it might be time to go ahead and put Defense Against the Dark Arts on the registration list.

In fact, it should be a prerequisite.

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For Alan Rickman – “Always”

FrankenMoore and BergerStein – Uncle Victor Was Telling You Something

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

And nothing is so detrimental to the health of a great commonwealth as a great and sudden misuse of law.

The preceding quote comes from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the first great dark romantic / Gothic novel. It was written at the ripe age of twenty from an idea born of a scary story-telling contest with her soon-to-be husband, Percy Bysshe, and his friend, the very famous George Gordon, Lord Byron. Also present was whomever Byron was dating that hour.

frankenstein

Rumor has it that on this same fateful weekend Byron concocted one of the first vampire stories, which is appropriate considering his own voracious appetites. But Mary won the contest with a story of a man so bent on obtaining knowledge and pursuing the idea of recalling life that he created something so unnatural that he defied the laws of nature.

Now to even call what Sen. Phil Berger and Rep. Tim Moore have done to be even subpar to what Mary Shelley had Victor do in her novel would be a disgrace to Mrs. Shelley’s brilliance, and even Victor’s, who is not even a real person. For that matter, it would be an insult to the fictitious monster who never gets a name but shows so much more logic (and at times regard for human life) than what many in our North Carolina General Assembly have displayed within the last few years.

That does not mean that FrankenMoore and BergerStein have not spent a few nights in special sessions behind closed doors concocting experiments with the law and the state constitution to create what has become a monster of a political landscape here in North Carolina. But unlike Victor who recognizes the effects of his actions and hubris, the leaders of the NCGA GOP have not yet understood that they have created a monster themselves that is hurting our citizens.

If you have never read the classic novel, it actually is one of the most well-framed books of all time. There are three narrators – Captain Walton, Victor Frankenstein, and the Monster.

Captain Walton is leading a foolhardy quest to the North Pole. He has been writing letters to his sister and then by chance encounters Victor.

Victor relates to him his own story of hubris-filled questing in rather painful detail and even narrates what the monster relates to him within his own story.

You got it – a man tells the story of a man who tells his story and includes what his creation told him in his story that the first man is telling to his sister in a series of letters.

And since we have already established that Berger and Moore could not be Frankenstein or the monster, they must be more aligned with Capt. Walton.

And they are. Because they are on the cusp of a tipping point with their own monster.

Early in the novel Capt. Walton makes this statement to his sister,

“One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race” (Letter 4).

Substitute the words “political Power” for “knowledge” and “government” for “race” and you pretty much have the exact image of what has happened in North Carolina these last few years.

  • Consider the special sessions that gave North Carolina the blemish of HB2.
  • Consider the Voter ID Law.
  • Consider the Gerrymandering.
  • Consider the attack on the Public Schools.
  • Consider the special session that brought SB4.

Recently Jonathan Katz in Politico Magazine wrote an expose on North Carolina entitled, “In North Carolina, Some Democrats See Their Grim Future.” While it is not the type of reading one wants to have for the holidays, it did prove eye-opening considering that it specifically points out the “monster” that people like Phil Berger have created and now are having a hard time containing.

The first two paragraphs read,

“In the end, even Phil Berger, the powerful Republican leader of North Carolina’s Senate, couldn’t stop the debacle. A state law that effectively banned legal protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people—a law he’d pushed through the statehouse less than a year before—had become such a national embarrassment that even he wanted to see it repealed. But the far-right members of his caucus, happily ensconced in ultra-safe Republican districts he’d help draw, saw no reason to back a full repeal, and what was supposed to be a last-minute deal with the incoming Democratic governor fell apart.

“I cannot believe this,” Berger said, throwing down his microphone and slumping back into his leather chair at the front of the senate chamber, as the last session of the year came to a close, the stain still indelibly affixed to his state’s reputation, and his own (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/in-north-carolina-some-democrats-see-the-future-214553).

That is no stain. That is a full-fledged monster.

Fortunately for Capt. Walton, Victor’s story does help convince him that his quest for fame and power is ill-fated and will do more harm than good. Victor lived the experience that Walton would learn from to spare him and his crew a life doomed to death and despair.

And while there has been no Victor Frankenstein that has appeared out of the tundra of North Carolina to teach Moore and Berger their lessons, there have been instances where some sort of Ancient Mariner has come to halt them in their baseless quests: the courts.

  • They did it with the Voter ID Law.
  • They did it with the gerrymandered districts.
  • They have intervened with due-process rights for veteran teachers.
  • They will have a say on HB2.
  • And now they have placed a temporary hold in Wake County on the effects of SB2.

What 2017 holds for this state may actually be a blueprint for how other states may begin to proceed with their own political voyages.

However, it may also be the beginning of an end because if the citizens of North Carolina are tired of being passengers on an ill-fated expedition, then those voices may begin to get louder and ironically, we have election day again in 2017 because of the courts, at least for a few districts.

Probably one of the most haunting quotes in Shelley’s novel occurs in Chapter 20 when the monster, mad at Victor for destroying a would-be companion, warns Victor,

“It is well. I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night.”

Maybe in this instance, it will come back on election night.

The Shriveled-Up Sour Grapes of Pat McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory’s legacy was just sealed with his signing of the bill called House Bill 17 into law.

pat-mccrory-x750

It literally strips a lot of power from his successor, Democrat Roy Cooper.

  • This from a man who only vetoed his own General Assembly five times in his only term.
  • This from a man who defended HB2 as common sense after signing it into law minutes after it was passed in a special session of the NCGA.
  • This from a man who when he did challenge his own party it was over it trying to take power away from the governor’s office on a smaller scale than he is allowing now.
  • This from a man who challenged the voters in over 50 counties because he could not believe that he actually lost an election in a year that Trump carried North Carolina.

And earlier today he called another special session for December 21st for the “repeal” of HB2.

McCrory’s office, always in its emasculated political voice, issued this statement just hours before signing HB17.

“Governor McCrory has always publicly advocated a repeal of the overreaching Charlotte ordinance. But those efforts were always blocked by Jennifer Roberts, Roy Cooper and other Democratic activists,” said McCrory spokesman Graham Wilson. “This sudden reversal with little notice after the gubernatorial election sadly proves this entire issue originated by the political left was all about politics and winning the governor’s race at the expense of Charlotte and our entire state. As promised, Governor McCrory will call a special session.”

Such a statement marks a remarkable turnaround from the explanation for HB2 given during the Chuck Todd interview on Meet the Press last March.

And remember the “Common Sense” ad from the campaign? Here it is – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hniBMPPN3hM. So he will call a special session to repeal a law that was to protect our children statewide from an ordinance that was passed in one city against the discrimination of the LGBT community?

I guess?

Amber Phillips’s Dec. 19th column “North Carolina’s outgoing GOP governor just stuck it to his Democratic successor” for The Washington Post’s political blog The Fix does a great job of showing how both the calling of a special session to repeal HB2 and the signing of the HB17 bill may have one common denominator – to throw mud at Roy Cooper (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/12/19/north-carolinas-outgoing-gop-governor-just-stuck-it-to-his-democratic-successor/?utm_term=.209cba33427a) .

“So, are the two related — Cooper’s loud proclamation the bathroom bill would be repealed, and McCrory’s decision to sign legislation to limit Cooper’s power? It’s unclear.

But until Monday evening, it wasn’t even clear whether McCrory would sign this last-minute bill that limits his successor’s power.

He kept his head down last week while his party in the state legislature rushed through two bills aimed at reducing the governor’s influence in state government, the judicial branch, the education system and elections oversight, all while strengthening the GOP-dominated legislature’s influence in all those areas. In McCrory’s statement, he pushed back against some proposals to limit the governor’s power even further, like by moving major departments out of the governor’s authority and court-packing the state Supreme Court.

But he wasn’t opposed to it all. On Friday, McCrory signed legislation that would effectively give Republicans control of the state Board of Elections during election years. (The bill also contained a provision approving his chief of staff’s wife to the Industrial Commission.)

McCrory said nothing on the other, more controversial proposal until he announced Monday he decided to sign it, releasing one statement publicly — and sending another, unspoken message to his successor.”

They are related. To those outside of North Carolina, the idea that Charlotte and/or Roy Cooper is responsible for all of this is ludicrous, but to the McCrory camp it is a comforting slippery slope that rivals any Direct TV commercial from their ad campaign from a couple of years ago.

  1. Charlotte passes a local ordinance that extends protections to the LGBT community in the city limits of Charlotte.
  2. The North Carolina General Assembly calls a special session and passes HB2 which also takes away rights for people to sue in state court for wrongful termination and also prohibits local municipalities from establishing their own minimum wages. Of course those last two provisions are directly related to bathrooms.
  3. North Carolina loses face in the country and the world for the HB2 law and companies, entertainment, and sporting venues boycott, hurting us economically.
  4. Roy Cooper as Attorney General says HB2 should not be defended because as legal counsel it cannot be in court. That’s what good lawyers do.
  5. Pat McCrory runs on a platform that embraces HB2.
  6. Pat McCrory becomes the first sitting governor to not win reelection. Over 60,000 voters who chose Donald Trump did not vote for Pat McCrory, presumably over HB2.
  7. Under the auspices of helping victims of Hurricane Matthew and the wildfires in the mountains, the General Assembly calls another special session to remove power from incoming governor Roy Cooper through HB17.
  8. Pat McCrory signs bill and blames Cooper for HB2.

It defies logic. It defies reason, but it sounds like a sore loser who blames others for his misfortune. And now Roy Cooper has something that McCrory does not have anymore because McCrory did not do a good job.

Actually, those are sour grapes.

Shrivelled up sour grapes.

A pair of them.

Dried up.

Into raisins.

You know where.

 

Open Letter to Our Governor and General Assembly – Keep the Special Session About Those Affected By Matthew

Dear Gov. McCrory, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate Pro-Tem Phil Berger, and other members of the North Carolina General Assembly,

Last March, many of you called for and orchestrated a “special session” of the North Carolina General Assembly in order to respond to so-called “government overreach” by the city of Charlotte and their decision to place protections for its LGBT citizens into local statutes. Yet what may have started as a “special session” quickly morphed into a covert operation to seize even more partisan control over a supposedly democratically-run commonwealth.

What convened on that eventful day has not only defined how the rest of the country (and some of the world) views us as a state, but it has damaged us economically, socially, and created a divide between us and the rest of the country. It was the one issue that distinctly had the largest impact on state-wide elections for governor, Attorney General, and state Supreme Court.

Not only was HB2 an egregious bill that negatively impacts our state, but the surreptitious provisional statutes that were added to the bill which now frame how we as citizens of North Carolina have come to see your “special sessions.”

Over sixty thousand North Carolinians who voted for Donald Trump as POTUS did not cast a vote for either Pat McCrory or Buck Newton, who was a primary sponsor of the “special sessions” landmark bill, HB2. To deny that the shadow of your actions on that fateful March day would be laughable. To deny that many North Carolinians are looking at this next “special session” with a tad bit of skepticism would be senseless. To think that many of us are not looking for the same shady political dealings to occur on December 13th is simply foolish.

Hurricane Matthew was a catastrophe for many of our fellow North Carolinians. I truly hope that you as a governing body put into place measures that will help them rebuild. In fact, if it meant that I had to pay more in a special tax for disaster funds, then so be it.

Their children go to schools like mine do; their citizens work to support the local and state economy; their tax dollars help to build roads that I drive on each day.

However, there is talk, rumor, and conjecture that there might be measures taken by the GOP supermajority and the governor to appoint more justices to the state supreme court in an effort to “pack the court” and make it lean conservatively again although the voters have spoken. There is even talk that you might even introduce measures to limit gubernatorial powers in response to Roy Cooper’s election.

When asked about these possibilities, people like Sen. Berger and Rep. Moore have been rather silent. There has been no denial from their lips that this will happen. Considering that there is so much still at stake, it seems that a silent non-answer on such matters would create even more cause for concern.

Elected lawmakers should be forthcoming on such matters, and they should be willing to abide by the will of the people who have voted in a democracy, even one that has been tainted by measures of voter suppression by this current administration.

Consider that you as lawmakers have taught us how to perceive you and treat you. Consider how history will treat you if you overstep your obligations and place personalities before principles.

I urge you to keep the events of the special session focused on relief from Hurricane Matthew for our fellow citizens. To couple that with brazen acts of political partisanship would be antithetical to your mission and would constitute an act contrary to your duty as elected servants.

You are supposed to help people, not further agendas.

Sincerely,

Stuart Egan

Welcome to Betsy DeVos’s BLACKWATER CHARTER SCHOOL, Home of the “Mercenaries” and Pioneers of the Pyramid Scheme Curriculum

Welcome to Blackwater Charter School, Home of the Mercenaries and pioneers of the “Pyramid Scheme Curriculum.”

Considering that the new Secretary of Education appointee is married to the heir of the Amway fortune, a pyramid selling scheme, and sister of the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince , the idea of such a school is not that far-fetched.

If you do not remember what Blackwater was (as it is defunct), you can see that it is still on the radar of many in the federal government. Just take a look at this –

“Mr. Prince, who founded Blackwater — since renamed Academi — in 1997, gained notoriety when security contractors employed by his company killed 17 Iraqi civilians during a 2007 assault in Baghdad. Four of his guards were later convicted in U.S. court of either murder or manslaughter charges as a result of that incident.

More recently, Mr. Prince has “sought to secretly rebuild his private CIA and special operations enterprise by setting up foreign shell companies and offering paramilitary services,” The Intercept reported http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/mar/24/erik-prince-former-blackwater-chief-under-investig/.”

Academi? How appropriate is it now that his sister is about to become the mother of public schools?

But think about it. Blackwater Charter School just might be the perfect school for pro-charter GOP legislators to establish in North Carolina. Why?

Well,

  1. It would be supported on a federal level by DeVos. That wouldn’t hurt.
  2. It would be funded by tax payer money. Even Blackwater was funded with taxpayer money during the Iraq War.
  3. There would be no need to contract security from local police officials. The school would have Academi. It might be the safest place in the state. But don’t worry, their bill will be footed by the taxpayers.
  4. It would have a hidden curriculum and a grade distribution system that would mimic the pyramid selling scheme that is manifested in Amway which means that…
  5. All health and beauty supplies needed by the school already have a supplier – Amway. In fact, when the taxpayers buy the products for the school to use, then it actually is pocketing money for people like DeVos because she is at the top of the Amway Pyramid.
  6. Considering that North Carolina has in place HB2, a piece of legislation that discriminates against the LGBTQ community, it makes since to have a charter school crafted in DeVos’s image as she is considered one of the more anti-LGBT individuals in the country with her contributions to organizations that oppose LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.
  7. As a devout conservative Christian she surely would agree with the religious freedom bills that many in the NC General Assembly so religiously embrace.
  8. And as seen with schools that use public money through the Opportunity Grants, the Blackwater Charter School could also maintain an admission standard that allows it to exclude a number of potential students whose religious backgrounds and sexual orientations might come in conflict with the school’s vision.
  9. With HB2 and the ability to funnel money into a strong security presence, Blackwater Charter will also have a person at the door of all bathrooms to check birth certificates to assure that HB2 is being followed,

And just imagine the athletic teams all decked out in desert-camo uniforms with black trim. Even the mascot, the Mercenaries, would strike fear in any opposing teams.

Excuse Me, Elected Officials? It’s Okay to Listen to Others

It’s OK to listen to others.

On November 8th North Carolina elected/reelected to serve in the NCGA, and while I may bemoan the fact that there still exists a supermajority in the General Assembly for the GOP, I hope that the actions seen in other states’ races and ballot items might allow for some perspective as to how our representatives might handle our public education system.

The first comes out of Massachusetts. On election night, over sixty percent of voters cast their votes to not allow for the removal of the charter school cap that would have permitted for more charter schools to be created. Many of the parents interviewed (according to various reports) about “Question #2” simply said that they did not want public money to help fund charter schools.

And Massachusetts has a good public school system – like North Carolina once did before all of this “reformation.”

Our neighbors to the south in Georgia voted against Amendment 1, which would have allowed the state to take over low-performing schools and in essence allow them to become privately managed charter schools. In essence, they defeated a bill that would have allowed the state to create its own version of the Achievement School District.

And Georgia is a “redder” state than North Carolina. Much redder. Even the clay there is red. I know. I grew up there.

However, North Carolina removed the cap on the number of charter schools and even created its own version of the Achievement School District without either being on a ballot to allow for the very people who finance such measures with tax dollars to have any say in those matters.

Why?

That is not a rhetorical question. It deserves an explanation.

When my home county (Forsyth) overwhelmingly voted for bond measures to finance projects for the public school system and the local community college, they made a big statement on the importance of traditional public schools. These citizens were willing to spend money and resources on improving their schools, and every precinct in the county voted in favor of the bonds. The support for the public schools spanned all socio-economic boundaries.

And when the NCGA decided to remove the cap on charter school creation that takes siphon money and resources traditional schools did they not think to put it to a public vote?

When the NCGA decided to create an ASD district, did they not take into account that the citizens might want to have a say in how their money should be spent?

Again, these are not rhetorical questions. They deserve answers.

Considering that the same people who passed HB2 and the Voter ID bill through fairly surreptitious and opaque methods championed these very educational “initiatives,” it is not surprising to see that none of these was put to a public vote.

HB2 is being reviewed in the higher courts because it is being challenged, as it should be. The Voter ID law was overturned by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The fact that the constitutionality of measures like these were already in question shows the shortsightedness of those who pushed these laws through. Now, tax payer money has had to finance the feeble defense for these laws.

And when you ask for the input of the citizens and ultimately receive it, heed it. THAT’S DEMOCRACY.

If rumor serves true, the governor and members of the General Assembly are considering a rather rare and highly partisan action of appointing two additional state Supreme Court justices to help flip the partisan affiliation of the state’s highest judicial body back to the GOP. This would be after the citizens of North Carolina elected Michael Morgan, a registered democrat over incumbent Robert Edmunds, a registered republican.

When representatives were elected, they took an oath to represent people and respect their opinions. They were not elected to alter policy to fit a political script that benefits a few.

When representatives were elected, they took an oath to communicate with your constituents, especially those who needed the most help from government. They were not elected to skirt questions and not ask for feedback.

And when representatives were elected, they were to not just hear the concerns of the people you serve, they are to listen to them and take them into account.

 

Why Pat McCrory Has Already “Lost” This Election

If the current numbers pan out, Pat McCrory will be a one-term governor. But more glaringly apparent is that his defeat came in a year of another GOP wave of victory in the nation.

If the numbers are correct, over 60,000 people in North Carolina who voted for Donald Trump as POTUS DID NOT CAST A VOTE for Pat McCrory.

Currently, Roy Cooper is approximately five thousand votes ahead before canvasing and provisionary vote counts establish a clear winner. Even if by a stroke of demonic luck the results are overturned, Pat McCrory has already been dealt a stunning blow to his credibility.

To not be reelected as a republican governor in a state that sided with Trump and Burr with relative ease is stunning, but McCrory’s reelection bid was actually doomed way before the fiasco of HB2 ever started.

McCrory actually began to get unelected from day one of his administration as he became a rubber stamp for the GOP majority. The former moderate republican mayor of Charlotte who was elected to four terms by the Queen City morphed overnight into a cheerleader for ultra-conservative movements and eventually a scapegoat for policies established by leaders from rural counties.

Simply put, Pat McCrory alienated people. He was a metaphorical parent who did not love each child best.

That, and he lacked the ability to communicate effectively. In fact, he lacked the ability to unite while taking a back seat and allowing others to further drive our populace apart.

Look at the miniscule number of vetoes that he issued in his term. Even as a means of stalling legislation to give an opportunity for clarity and debate, McCrory rushed to agreement on policies that he as a mayor of Charlotte would have never championed. That alone shows a lack of strength, a lack of standing up for people, a lack of standing up to others.

Look at his compliance with the Voter ID law. The entire country was witness to its reversal as it was described as one of the most alienating pieces of legislature by the court system. That alienated poor rural voters, especially African-Americans.

Look at his bragging about a “Carolina Comeback” when almost a quarter of our public school students still live in poverty. That alienates those who really needed a comeback.

Look at his appointment of Margaret Spellings as president of the UNC system. That alienated younger students who will be leaders of tomorrow’s citizenry.

Look at his treatment of teachers and traditional public schools. Using electioneering tactics to tout his “pro-education” agenda, McCrory in truth alienated public school teachers and staff, parents of students in underfunded schools, and advocates for the public school system because he was not helping to curb the privatization movement.

Look at his giving cookies to protesters as a passive aggressive means of not acknowledging grievances against state actions. That alienated those who were peacefully looking for ways to create discourse and debate.

And now look at his inability to talk to his own hometown about toll roads and holding special sessions to overturn local ordinances.

And in a last stroke of self-defeating genius, McCrory alienated those who simply asked for an explanation.

Look at all of the times he skirted questions from the media about HB2. Look at all of the times that he had a “town-hall” meeting only to field softball questions pre-prepared to be non-confrontational. House Bill 2 is egregious. It is discriminatory. It is indefensible. It is unenforceable. And he did not confront his own lack of an explanation.

Look at all of the times that he went to Charlotte to explain why he defends HB2. Actually, there were no times.

In truth, McCrory showed no spine. No backbone. No foundation. And without a spine, one becomes floppy and easily managed.

Below is a map of the y counties voted in the 2016 gubernatorial race.

gov-2016-map

Now look at a map where all of the UNC campuses reside.

gov-2016-map-2

The only university campus that is not in a blue county is UNC-Pembroke, which was surrounded by three blue counties.

For a governor who has claimed to make it easier for students to go to college, this information is an indictment of sorts. The very people McCrory has claimed to help, he really didn’t. And on top of that, he never really communicated with them. He didn’t acknowledge them.

If anything is to be learned by Pat McCrory from Nov. 8th’s results it is that actions speak, but lack of action speaks loudly.

And silence screams.

That’s why McCrory is losing this election.

“Give Me My Damn Bowl Back!” And Other Things Said By Jilted People

“Give us the bowl back.”
These five sternly crafted words seem to be the best that our N.C. Commerce Secretary John Skvarla can muster in dealing with PayPal’s decision not to expand in North Carolina in response to HB2.

The Charlotte Observer’s Katherine Peralta reported on Oct. 24th in a story entitled “Jilted NC to PayPal: Give us our stuff back” Skvarla stating,

We reached out to them and said, ‘Give us the bowl back.’ That is a North Carolina artifact from the North Carolina state capitol made by North Carolina artisans for companies that are coming into North Carolina.

“We got it back, gave it to a charity auction, and they raised money that is for the benefit of the state capitol.”

“Jilted.” Great word.

Sounds as if a “jilted” groom-to-be was left at the altar because he openly bashed the family of the bride at the rehearsal dinner in a discriminatory manner, and then asked for a gift that’s not the ring back from the bride-to-have-been. Maybe it’s a necklace or a pendant.

But the ironic thing here is that the bowl was then given to a charity auction that raised money for the benefit of the state capitol. Maybe that money can be used to help create more gifts to give to companies that may not be expanding in NC because of HB2.

I am also sure that the amount of money raised from the auctioning of the bowl is equal to the amount of revenue lost by the state because of the HB2 bill in the first place. Even the state capitol would have benefitted greatly from the 450 jobs that PayPal would have brought through taxes alone on the salaries of the workers.

Besides, that money should have gone to Charlotte for the loss of the revenue in their local economy.

In the same edition of the Charlotte Observer, Peralta had another report entitled “HB2 ‘hasn’t moved the needle’ on NC’s economy, Commerce Secretary says” that states,

Major sporting events like the NBA All-Star Game have pulled out of North Carolina over House Bill 2, and prominent business leaders have criticized the bill for damaging the state’s economy. But state Commerce Secretary John Skvarla says the bill’s business impact isn’t anything to worry about.

“It hasn’t moved the needle one iota,” Skvarla told the Observer Monday during a visit to Charter Communications’ training center in Matthews.

North Carolina is in the “best position” it’s ever been in, financially and operationally, Skvarla added, citing the state’s taxes, regulation, quality of life, workforce and environment that make it an attractive place for companies to relocate.

“PayPal wasn’t even a grain of sand on the beach,” he said. “It was 400 call center jobs over five years. Much too much is being made of PayPal.” 

It sounds convenient for an appointee for the governor to say that HB2 has not had an effect on NC’s economy. However, if would be believable if it was being said by other business leaders, especially in Greensboro and Charlotte.

Maybe Skvarla should demand that the NCAA and the NBA send something back to auction to help offset the monetary loss of their removal of games. I can see an auction of basketballs, footballs, and other athletic gear garnering enough money to cover the hundreds of millions of dollars that has been lost just from pulling championship games from NC.

But there is the matter with the bowl. What should have been done with the returned bowl is not to auction it off, but put it to good use. If over 340 bowls were made and many remain in the hands of the governor’s office, then they all should be put to good use.

Last week it was revealed that there was more coal ash spilled into NC rivers after the flloding from Hurricane Matthew.

WUNC reported on Oct. 21st (http://www.wcnc.com/news/local/regional/did-coal-ash-spill-during-matthew-floods/339969172) in “Did coal ash spill during Matthew flooding?” that,

Environmental activists say they have proof of a coal ash leak into North Carolina’s Neuse River during the flooding after Hurricane Matthew, but Duke Energy says the substance visible on the water is not coal ash and is not toxic.

Pete Harrison of the Waterkeeper Alliance has been collecting evidence along the river near three inactive coal ash pits at the HF Lee Steam Plant in Goldsboro, where a white, powdery substance coats trees and still waters near the river’s banks.

“I think what this shows us is it’s inherently dangerous to store coal ash in unlined pits in the flood zones of major rivers,” Harrison says.

The toxicity of such coal ash has not been determined. But why is it there in the first place?

Maybe the returned bowl and its siblings that still reside here in North Carolina can be used by the governor and other Duke execs who have skirted punishment for harming the environment.

They should go and scoop up every bit of the contaminated water and properly dispose of it.

Seems only fair, right?

And then, if you need more bowls to give away, make them from the trees that died on the edge of the contaminated rivers affected by the coal ash spills over the last few years.

Those gifts might be more indicative of what has happened in North Carolina.

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

An Open Letter to Gov. McCrory Complete With a Song Dedication – Apologies to Gerry Rafferty

Dear Governor McCrory,

Knowing that you just celebrated your 60th birthday, I thought I would send a song dedication to you.

Specifically a rewritten version of Gerry Rafferty’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” recorded with the group Stealers Wheel.

stealersstuck

It’s a classic from the 70’s and it seems to really sum up the situation that I perceive you are in with the upcoming election and the issue of HB2 casting a long shadow on your campaign.

That, and it’s a catchy tune.

Well, I don’t know why I’m promoting this law.
It’s caused more trouble than I foresaw.
I’m so scared and I publicly whine.
Cause I didn’t veto; don’t have any spine.
I claim “Charlotte’s to the left” of me,
Berger’s to the right, and here I am
Defending HB2.

Rick Rothacker’s October 18th news story in the Charlotte Observer (“In email, McCrory’s general counsel said governor fought against HB2”), you seem to insist that you may have secretly opposed HB2 during its radical adoption in last spring’s secret, special session.

Rothacker reported,

“Three days after Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2, his general counsel told a former legal colleague that the governor battled the legislature over the bill that limited protections for LGBT individuals, according to emails obtained by the Observer.

“Bob, here are the facts: We fought against this bill,” Bob Stephens said in a March 26 email to Bob Turner, a lawyer in Charlotte. “You have no idea how hard the Governor worked to limit it. He told the legislature that it went too far. We lobbied against it and even drafted our own version of the bill but it was not accepted.”

Stephens’ comments contrast with McCrory’s defense of the measure in recent months, even in the face of major sports boycotts of the state.”

That is rather eye-opening considering the effort that you have made to defend the controversial “bathroom bill” that has seen millions of dollars taken away from North Carolina’s economy through the loss of business expansion, cancellations of sports and entertainment events, and lost tourism in protest the discriminatory law.

Bob Stephens, your general counsel, later “defended” your complicit nature by stating,

“And don’t tell me the Governor should have vetoed the bill. His veto would have been overridden in a matter of days and we’d be right where we are now. If you have other ideas about what the Governor should have done, let me know.”

Actually, you should have vetoed.

Governor, in a re-election campaign that is literally becoming more of an uphill climb, you could have done more positive for your image than any commercial, political ad, website, testimonial, or explanation defending HB2 could have ever done. You could have vetoed it and shown some spine in confronting your own party.

Yes, I know that I’m vouching for HB2,
But I’m really wondering should I continue.
It’s so hard to keep this smile on my face.
Losing control, yeah, I’m all over the place.
NCAA’s to the left of me.
Tim Moore’s to the right, but here I am
Stuck with HB2.

Instead, you became a puppet for someone else’s discriminatory agenda and a mouthpiece of a fallacious and illogical argument.

If you had vetoed the bill as Mr. Stephens’s email hints at, you might have been able to show that you are not a rubber stamp for the policies of the GOP General Assembly.

You may have been able to distinguish yourself as your own person who keeps the best interests of all North Carolinians in mind, not just the ones who lead the GOP on West Jones Street.

And yes, your veto would have been overridden, but you would have made a statement and a stand that would have firmed up a rather shaky foundation of an administration.

But you willingly allowed yourself and your tenure as governor to be forever haunted with the albatross that is HB2 to go along with the Voter ID law and all of the other actions that have welcomed public education in NC.

Bob Stephens did say one other thing that seems very eye-opening in this storm of an election season.

He said,

“The Governor is always the lightning rod for these things. Not fair.”

Your blaming others for a law that cannot even be enforced and is hurting our state is not fair.

Being the lightning rod comes with the office; however, in this case you covered yourself with aluminum foil, held up a golfing putter, and climbed an even higher peak in the middle of a political and social tempest.

But no worries, if you don’t like the weather in North Carolina, just wait a while. It will change.

Hopefully on November 8th.

Trying to make some sense of it all.
But I can see that it makes no sense at all.
Can I now issue that veto?
Cause this issue won’t let me go.
Springsteen’s to the left of me,
My politics to the right, but here I am
Drowning because of HB2.

Willful Ignorance Is Not Bliss, But Rather Mean – McCrory’s Orwellian Contradiction

News that Gov. McCrory’s office asked public school leaders this past summer to find ways to cut their budget by as much as 2 percent should come as a surprise in an election year where he has touted his commitment to public education and a creation of a surplus in our current budget.

But it is not really a surprise. It’s actually consistent with the McCrory doctrine.

Billy Ball from NC Policy Watch released a report on Oct. 11th entitled “McCrory administration asks schools to submit plans for $173 million budget cut” that outlines the governor’s request. It is a very illuminating piece of journalism – http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/10/11/mccrory-administration-asks-schools-submit-plans-173-million-budget-cut/.

Ball also includes a copy of the memo that makes the original request. It is complete with annotating highlights that show the rather “benign” fashion McCrory’s office makes the entreaty. Here is a link – http://ncdp.org/wp-content/uploads/mccrory-budget-cuts.pdf.

budget.png

In a year where Opportunity Grants have been further financed to the tune of almost $900 million dollars over the next ten years, an educational endowment fund set up by the lieutenant governor for an amorphous plan, an expansion of unregulated charter schools, and the creation of an ASD district that pays an out-of-state company to run schools, news of this “budget request” is like a kick in the groin of a person already compromised.

This request for cuts is tantamount to asking a starving person to share his food with someone who just ate at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Some of the more disturbing parts of Ball’s report comes here:

“Among the choices, school board members could confine the cuts to a single spending category or spread it across the department’s spending plan. Either would have major ramifications for the state’s educators, forcing the state to possibly shed thousands of teaching positions, career and technical educators or teacher assistants.

Both proposals would also drain millions from funds designated to benefit at-risk students, special needs children and low-wealth counties in the state, according to Price.”

When the terms “at-risk students”, “special needs children”, and “low-wealth counties” are used in a proposal that involves budget cuts, then serious ramifications are certainly about to take place.

Does the governor not choose to understand if he is to be a champion for public education he does not continue to siphon money away from the very students who need the funds for resources? Ironically the very charter schools that he allows to grow and the very private schools that receive vouchers do not have to take these “at-risk” of “special needs” students.

Does the governor not choose to look at the school performance grades that his administration has rubber-stamped and see how schools in low-wealth counties suffer from poverty? If McCrory is touting a “Carolina Comeback” this election year, does that allow him to selectively forget that nearly 1 in 4 children in NC live in poverty?

Apparently the answer to these questions is a “Yes!”

I am reminded of a poem by Thomas Gray entitled “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” written in 1642. The last stanza reads,

To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemned alike to groan;
The tender for another’s pain,
The unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.

The next to last line contains that very famous saying “Ignorance is bliss.” While people may quibble over the true meaning of the poem, I have taken it to mean that there is a time in our lives (youth) where we are not cognizant of many deleterious forces in the world. We are ignorant to them; therefore, they do not bother us or cast a cloud in our reality.

But what McCrory is practicing here seems to be feigned and willful ignorance. That is a completely different matter. That denotes a willful disassociation with the consequences of his actions.

In a year where he is touting a budget surplus, Gov. McCrory is being willfully ignorant of how he seems to be financing that surplus – by taking away from the very people he should be serving.

In a year where he suggests that we take money from the disaster fund to finance fighting for an unconstitutional law like HB2, he is practicing willful ignorance – http://fusion.net/story/332612/mccrory-transfers-disaster-funds-to-defend-hb2/.

McCrory has stated that one of his favorite books is George Orwell’s 1984, the dystopian novel that eerily depicts the power of an authoritarian government. One of the most iconic quotes from the book says,

“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”

Antithetical? Contradictory? Paradoxical? Propaganda? You can have great discussions in an English, civics, or social studies class about the meaning of this quote.

But those types of discussions will be harder to have when $173 million dollars is cut from the public school system that already has been stripped bare.

Maybe ignorance really is not bliss, but a reason to teach more awareness. But willful ignorance is pure neglect.

And Orwell surely was not saying that ignorance really is strength. What he was saying is that feigned ignorance is a sign of weakness.