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.

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.

Map It And It Becomes Very Apparent That Medicaid Expansion Refusal Affects Schools

On Sept. 5th, I constructed a post concerning the high correlation between poverty, school performance grades, and the gerrymandered districts within North Carolina.

Yesterday, NC Policy Watch referenced a study by the North Carolina Poverty Research Fund in Chapel Hill entitled  “Putting a Face on Medicaid Expansion in North Carolina.” You can reference it here:

http://www.law.unc.edu/documents/poverty/publications/medicaid_report_final.pdf

The title graphic literally explains it all.

medicaid

Now, I invite you to reread that post (in italics) and consider the new graphic shown above, “Percent without Health Insurance by County”, in relation to the original graphs.

Political leanings and lenses aside, sometimes data can create a picture so vivid that it is really hard to argue against the conclusions.
Last week, the state of North Carolina released its school performance grades for the 2015-2016 school year. With pretty much the same parameters kept in place, the results really did nothing but reconfirm that the majority of schools which receive low or failing grades are usually schools with high poverty rates in their respective student bodies.
But there’s another correlation in the data that needs to be made note of – how it aligns to the gerrymandered districts recently struck down by the court system.
If you have not visited EdNC.org, then take the time to do so. They have been kind to post some of my op-eds and they do try and show / represent all sides of the educational debate. And there are many viewpoints passionately defended.
They also have a feature that is invaluable. It’s the Data Dashboard. You can find it here – https://www.ednc.org/data/.  Take the time to peruse this resource if public education is a top issue for you.
Here is a dot map of the 2014-2015 school performance grade map for the state (https://www.ednc.org/2015/08/03/consider-it-mapped-and-school-grades/) .

map1

Take notice of the pink and burgundy dots. Those are schools in the “D” and “F” category.

medicaid

Now look at a map from the dashboard for Free and Reduced lunch eligibility for the same year.

map2

If you could somehow superimpose those two images, you might some frighteningly congruent correlations.

medicaid

Now look at a map that shows the percentage of African-American students in each county’s population. It is also from the EdNC.org dashboard.

map3

If I could superimpose all three maps then I could show readers how confident I am that the correlation between the population of African-Americans, poverty, and school performance grades is incredibly strong.

medicaid

And there is a reason that I have not included other minority groups. That’s because when the Voter ID law was recently repealed by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and the subsequent appeal to that decision by the governor  was dismissed by the Supreme Court, the courts specifically pointed to the “surgical precision” that the law targeted African-Americans and poorer people.
And here is a map of our current congressional districts, two of which were considered to be “gerrymandered” districts by federal courts, specifically districts 1 and 12. Images come from The News & Observer report  from Feb 6, 2016 entitled “Federal court ruling corrects gerrymandered NC  districts”   (http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article58911173.html).

districtmap1

 

medicaid

congressmap01

See any correlation to the maps above with the data that appears in the maps concerning school performance grades, numbers of free and reduced eligible students, and percentages of African-American students? I do.
Wow! Do I ever.

See any more correlation?

Wow! Do I still ever!

Priceless – Lt. Governor Dan Forest’s Mercurial Moral Compass

 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” – Matthew 25:45

When the NCAA made its decision to pull seven championship game/matches out of North Carolina in response to the discriminatory nature of HB2, Kami Meuller, the spokesperson for the NCGOP released a rather unprofessional, seemingly inebriated, response meant to attack the NCAA for its “political peacocking.”

The immediate backlash to Meuller’s statement was swift and strong, but its illogical premise was adopted in another statement made by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest who released this a day later on Sept. 13th.


The NCAA’s action sends a message to every female athlete and female fan attending their events that their privacy and security in a bathroom, shower or locker room isn’t worth the price of a ticket to a ballgame. We have seen the NCAA’s attitude towards women before when they stood by and did nothing during the rapes at Baylor. For years, we’ve seen the NBA turn a blind eye towards women victims of domestic abuse at the hands of their star players. Why should we be surprised now at the NCAA continuing this pattern of discrimination and degradation of women? The line has now been drawn in the sand, first by Hollywood, now by the NBA and NCAA, either accept their ‘progressive sexual agenda’ or pay the price. North Carolina will not play that game. We value our women too much to put a price tag on their heads.” 

And while Forest parrots Mueller’s misinformed analogy to the Baylor University scandal and vilifies the NBA for its “blind eye,” it is the last statement that really solidifies Forest’s selective use of morality that paints a wider picture of our state’s government.

We value our women too much to put a price tag on their heads.

And while I value the women in my life as well, I find their value used as a matter of convenience in this case in order to fit a narrative.

I wonder if the LT. Governor would have communicated those same sentiments when Medicaid was refused in North Carolina. If he identifies protecting women from nonexistent transgender sexual assault as a holy crusade, then his strong Christian values would not dismiss a moral obligation to ensure that as many women and children have access to healthcare.

But his actions say the complete opposite. Apparently some people do have a price point.

I wonder if the LT. Governor would have communicated those same sentiments when the Voter ID law was passed in North Carolina. If he identifies protecting the poor and underrepresented from nonexistent voter fraud as a righteous campaign, then his strong Christian values would not dismiss a moral obligation to ensure that as many of our citizens have their constitutional right to use their voice and vote.

But his actions again state the opposite.

I wonder if the Lt. Governor would have communicated those same sentiments when unregulated charter schools and Opportunity Grants were siphoning monies from traditional high schools and allowing tax payer money to fund education for a selected few rather than strengthening the educational system for all.

And still, according to his actions, some people have a price point.

When faith is used to enflame fear and cover up facts, there is a price to be paid. If the Lt. Gov. really believed that there was no price that could be placed on “the heads” of our North Carolinian women, then he would also know that our children and our poor and our sick are also priceless.

In his fervor in defending HB2 in the court system, promoting the unconstitutional Voter ID law, and not helping expand Medicaid, Lt. Gov. Forest has shown that his moral compass is driven by his hardline conservative platform.

Looking at the entirety of “The Sheep and the Goats” excerpt from Matthew 25: 31-46 (see below), it seems that Christ very much wanted his followers to take care of the sick, poor, and disenfranchised as if they were taking care of themselves. That moral obligation would not be situational or politically motivated like the Lt. Governor’s.

Christ looked upon all as priceless. Does Dan Forest?

And if Lt. Gov. Forest was so against the NCAA or NBA’s “stance” on women, then he should be celebrating that these entities have chosen to not to have their championship/All-Star games here.

In fact, with his logic, Dan Forest should be thanking them.

The Sheep and the Goats – NIV

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Open Letter to Kami Mueller Concerning the NCAA, HB2, and “Political Peacocking” – Sorry, the Political Peacocking Bit Makes Me Laugh

Dear Ms. Meuller,

I read with great feigned interest your statement on behalf of the NCGOP concerning the NCAA’s decision to remove all championship athletic games from the state of North Carolina because of their stance on HB2, otherwise known as the “bathroom bill.”

kami-mueller

It reads,

“This is so absurd it’s almost comical. I genuinely look forward to the NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams. Under the NCAA’s logic, colleges should make cheerleaders and football players share bathrooms, showers and hotel rooms. This decision is an assault to female athletes across the nation. If you are unwilling to have women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, how do you have a women’s team? I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor. Perhaps the NCAA should stop with their political peacocking — and instead focus their energies on making sure our nation’s collegiate athletes are safe, both on and off the field.”

Actually, it was more like surprise and bewilderment with which I read your statement. It almost made me wince and cringe like when I would watch The Office and Michael Scott would say something so insensitive that you became embarrassed for a fictional character in a satirical sitcom that made fun of office dynamics.

However, after having read your statement a few times, I sensed that there might be more method to this madness – that there was an ulterior motive – some purpose in the way your message was framed to an unsuspecting audience.

So I got out my rhetorical triangle complete with lenses to detect changes in diction, imagery, details, language, and syntax and came up with a few possibilities why your statement may have been more meticulously planned rather than the fart in the wind that others claim.

  1. It’s really satire.

Actually, it could be farce. You said yourself, “This is so absurd it’s almost comical.”

You even comically suggest that there should now be unisex collegiate sports. And why not? We have unisex classrooms where both men and women sit in congress with each other mentally engaging in a variety of subjects taught by members of different genders. Sometimes there are even study groups with members of the opposite sex.

It’s so apparent that it is the intent of the NCAA to “merge” all teams together. Talk about equal rights! And you brought it to light for the world to see!

And the way that you equated sexual assault with transgenderphobia? Wow! Even more hilarious. You literally paralleled the egregious acts of rape by football players who were identified as men on their birth certificates against women in Texas with fantastically unsubstantiated claims that there was ever a sexual assault committed by a transgender individual against a woman in North Carolina! Brilliant!

Forget that Baylor University, a Baptist school nonetheless, tried to cover it up from the NCAA and the world outside the campus. You go ahead and satirically blame the NCAA for that! Another fantastic move! And the way that you never mentioned it was Kenneth Starr who resigned from Baylor because he failed to act on the information properly – the same Kenneth Starr who tried to get Bill Clinton impeached because he had “relations” with an intern, but fumbled the opportunity (forgive the pun) – the same Bill Clinton who is married to the very presidential candidate who may win NC’s electoral votes? That’s gold!

And the best tongue-in-cheek part of your statement? That’s right – “political peacocking.”

No explanation needed for that.

  1. You are secretly working for the democrats.

That’s right. You delivered a surreptitiously calculated statement meant to make the NCGOP look so bad, so infantile, so whiny, so illogical, so stupid, and so insipid that you were really swaying more people to become prone to voting democratic in the November elections.

Maybe you knew that if you threw a rotten red herring out there in the form of egregious acts committed on a Texas college campus that voters here in North Carolina would know that it is a totally different issue than the one that HB2 brings to light.

You knew that a fear of the LGBT community did not equate to automatically assuming that all LGBT people are sexual predators, but in explicitly saying there was a correlation you created a statement so full of BS that the NCGOP would get blamed for it.

You knew that even insinuating that the NCAA condones rape openly when it has sensitively wrestled with issues linked to Title IX (sex discrimination in sports) and Title VII (minority rights) would make people look at your statement as an absolute joke of an explanation and wonder why they would even vote for a party that would think this way.

  1. You actually were serious and therefore recorded one of the most ill-advised statements that could ever be conceived in the minds of humans.

This is the worst scenario of all for the NCGOP and the one that is most accepted by pundits in the media.

It may be that it was rashly constructed then immediately printed in the heat of the moment with emotions so high like the actual HB2 bill was prepared, passed, and signed into law in a very short secret session last spring.

But to make it at this time is simply senseless. The GOP governor and the GOP-led NCGA are dealing with coal-ash spills, fallout from an unconstitutional Voter ID law, fallout from gerrymandering, and other efforts to slight the citizens of North Carolina and you deliver this delectable piece of ammunition for those who oppose the NCGOP’s actions.

You rely on empty arguments to defend a bill that could never be enforced, has economically hampered our state, and really takes away protections from people while discriminating others all while sexual assault was already against the law no matter what gender committed the crime.

And for someone who holds a rather high ranking job as a professional communicator, you make a statement that is insensitive, absurd, and overwrought in histrionics.

But I do have to admit that “political peacocking” makes me laugh every time I hear it.

Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam’s Ridiculously Below “Average” Op-Ed on Teacher Pay – I Mean, It’s Not Even Average

Rep. Paul Stam’s recent op-ed in EdNC.org entitled “Teacher Pay: Rhetoric vs. Reality” is yet another example of the strong confirmation bias that the senior Wake County representative suffers from in his explanation of teacher pay.

And there are many different aspects of his meandering argument that could be rebutted with ease.

Such as the claim that there was a “cumulative average pay raise of about 13.8 percent” for teachers in the last three years that is wildly misleading.  Any person following the teacher pay debate can see that most every teacher did not see a 13.8 percent raise in salary, but a fraction of that, especially veteran teachers. Those raises were reserved mainly for beginning teachers at the lower rungs of the pay scale.

Or that he used selective figures for rise in cost of living to substantiate arguing that “from 2013 to 2016, the cumulative increase in cost of living was about 3.02 percent.” Most people would just look at the consumer price index conversion calculator to see what the effect of inflation has been.

Or that he used a Koch Brothers funded think tank like the 1889 Institute to argue that teacher pay really ranks at 29th in the nation. So many other trusted outlets show North Carolina still lags behind most all states like the NEA report that focuses solely only education and teacher pay.

Or that he ignores that North Carolina’s state constitution stipulates that the state has the responsibility for the financing of basic functions for public education like salaries for personnel, services for special-needs students, technology, professional development, and even textbooks. Rep. Stam simply says it is the biggest expense and does not explain that in the past we have even spent a bigger percentage of the budget on public education.

Or that he relies on older U.S. Census numbers to substantiate his argument. Most people in education look at more recent information like the National Education Association to get a more current view.

Or that he says all teachers get $16,000 in benefits when most of the teachers are now paying more to have the “benefits” they receive. Many teachers do not even get their health insurance from the state as it is not very competitive with spousal plans. Also with salaries topping out at $51K for new teachers, the state’s commitment to retirement funds is now lowered.

However, it is Stam’s raging addiction to the word “average” which he uses throughout his unfocused and meagerly developed op-ed that really needs rebutting.

Rep. Stam states,

“Now WRAL, the News & Observer, and others are trying to deny the obvious – that there was a significant pay raise this year for teachers. They apparently don’t know what the word “average” means. They find someone who received less money than the “average” and claim that the “average” pay raise is irrelevant. Someone at these media giants should read the dictionary and learn what the term “average” means.

The 2014-15 pay raise was oriented towards beginning teachers, some of whom received pay raises as high as 18 percent. This year’s raise targeted middle and more experienced teachers, some of whom received raises as high as 13 percent. It would not be proper to use these high outliers in ads. Neither is it proper to use outliers on the other side of “average.”

That’s a whopping five times that the word “average” was used in those two paragraphs. That is an average of 2.5 times per paragraph just quoted above. In fact, Stam uses the word “average” a dozen times in his entire op-ed for an average of 1.3 times per paragraph.

He used the word “average” so many times that he made “average” just an average word.

But it is his insistence that media giants should read the dictionary to learn what the word “average” means that was so out of place, because the Average Jane or Average Joe knows that “average” does not necessarily mean “actual” and while dictionaries offer denotations, there are many connotations associated to words like “average.”

Teachers know a little bit more about the spun rhetoric surrounding teacher pay than the average bear would. Teachers know that while Stam claims that teacher salaries are above average, the really are below average.

On the average, a GOP politician like Stam would tout “average” teacher raises in an election year to hopefully persuade voters to still vote republican in November in order to average out negative publicity surrounding HB2 and Voter ID laws.

However, while Stam may believe that his op-ed is a cut above the average in terms of hailing his party’s accomplishments, it cannot defy the law of averages because his argument does not hold even an average amount of water.

In this case, Stam’s rhetoric and the reality of the situation do not average out.

And in a complex issue like teach compensation it is very hard to try and average something up and expect the average teacher to just accept it as gospel.

Map It And It Becomes Very Apparent That Poverty Affects Schools

Political leanings and lenses aside, sometimes data can create a picture so vivid that it is really hard to argue against the conclusions.

Last week, the state of North Carolina released its school performance grades for the 2015-2016 school year. With pretty much the same parameters kept in place, the results really did nothing but reconfirm that the majority of schools which receive low or failing grades are usually schools with high poverty rates in their respective student bodies.

But there’s another correlation in the data that needs to be made note of – how it aligns to the gerrymandered districts recently struck down by the court system.

If you have not visited EdNC.org, then take the time to do so. They have been kind to post some of my op-eds and they do try and show / represent all sides of the educational debate. And there are many viewpoints passionately defended.

They also have a feature that is invaluable. It’s the Data Dashboard. You can find it here – https://www.ednc.org/data/.  Take the time to peruse this resource if public education is a top issue for you.

Here is a dot map of the 2014-2015 school performance grade map for the state (https://www.ednc.org/2015/08/03/consider-it-mapped-and-school-grades/) .

map1

Take notice of the pink and burgundy dots. Those are schools in the “D” and “F” category.

Now look at a map from the dashboard for Free and Reduced lunch eligibility for the same year.

map2

If you could somehow superimpose those two images, you might some frighteningly congruent correlations.

Now look at a map that shows the percentage of African-American students in each county’s population. It is also from the EdNC.org dashboard.

map3

If I could superimpose all three maps then I could show readers how confident I am that the correlation between the population of African-Americans, poverty, and school performance grades is incredibly strong.

And there is a reason that I have not included other minority groups. That’s because when the Voter ID law was recently repealed by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and the subsequent appeal to that decision by the governor  was dismissed by the Supreme Court, the courts specifically pointed to the “surgical precision” that the law targeted African-Americans and poorer people.

And here is a map of our current congressional districts, two of which were considered to be “gerrymandered” districts by federal courts, specifically districts 1 and 12. Images come from The News & Observer report  from Feb 6, 2016 entitled “Federal court ruling corrects gerrymandered NC  districts”   (http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article58911173.html).

districtmap1

congressmap01

See any correlation to the maps above with the data that appears in the maps concerning school performance grades, numbers of free and reduced eligible students, and percentages of African-American students? I do.

Wow! Do I ever.

 

 

That Email Dallas Woodhouse Sent to NC Boards of Elections Was Not The Best of Moves

When you want to do something surreptitiously, it’s probably best not to email your intentions for others to see and forward to the press.

It’s like hiding that “Peace Frog” tattoo you got on your lower back when you and your fraternity brothers got really drunk one night, but you still went to work without even putting a shirt on.

It’s like being a 32-year-old “kid” who dyed his hair, swam really fast, got a medal, got drunk, and pissed on the side of a wall and tore down a sign but claimed that he was being robbed – all the while the whole thing was on video.

It’s like trying to circumvent the law or a ruling by a higher court by sending an email with very explicit instructions on how to break the law by not really observing it and then sending that email out to people who believe that their oath to the law is stronger than partisan politics.

That first example is just a scenario, but I do know many people with unintended tattoos. There’s even a show about it – Bad Ink.

The second example concerns Ryan Lochte’s recent Olympic-sized blunder in which he actually displayed his arrogance and right of privilege in a world too much filled with double-standards. The court of public opinion will be a harsh judge on that on.

The third example actually happened this past week with Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the N.C. Republican Party.

Just check out this excerpt from the Raleigh News & Observer from a report given by Colin Campbell. ( A copy of the full email can be found here – http://www.wral.com/full-email-sent-by-dallas-woodhouse/15938449/.)

NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse emailed the request to Republican county board members and other party members on Sunday. The News & Observer obtained copies of the emails through a public records request.

County elections boards are developing new early voting schedules in response to a federal court ruling that threw out the state’s voter ID law. In addition to revoking North Carolina’s photo ID requirement, the ruling requires counties to offer 17 days of early voting….

“Our Republican Board members should feel empowered to make legal changes to early voting plans, that are supported by Republicans,” Woodhouse wrote in his email to board members. “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.”

Woodhouse made statements like,

“We believe same-day registration is ripe with voter fraud, or the opportunity to commit it. Same-day registration is only available during early voting. We are under no obligation to offer more opportunities for voter fraud.”

“Many of our folks are angry and are opposed to Sunday voting for a host of reasons including respect for voter’s religious preferences, protection of our families and allowing the fine election staff a day off, rather than forcing them to work days on end without time off. Six days of voting in one week is enough. Period.”

“No group of people are entitled to their own early voting site, including college students, who already have more voting options than most other citizens.”

Wow! I don’t know what is more egregious – the fact that he literally instructed boards of elections across the state to disobey the court’s orders or that he thought he was powerful enough to send thi in an email and totally not expect to be caught Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/election/article96179857.html#storylink=cpy .

If you have not read the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reasoning for the repealing of the Voter ID Law, then do it. You can find it here – http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article92593512.html.

They pretty much said that the Voter ID law was passed to specifically limit votes by minorities and poorer people. It was a sharp indictment against the GOP-led NC General Assembly and Gov. McCrory.

But Woodhouse did this? Whether or not a law was broken is up for the courts and people above my pay grade, but what it really shows me is one very, very strong motivating factor driving Mr. Woodhouse.

That is FEAR.

What separates the North Carolina of 2012 (and to a lesser degree, 2014) from the North Carolina of 2016 is a huge influx of new voters. NC is growing fast and many of these new North Carolinians are moving in because of the change in the economy – from rural manufacturing and agriculture to urban and suburban banking, finance, technology, and other 21st century “industries”. And these people are not necessarily die-hard republicans. Charlotte is much bigger. The Triad area (Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point) and the Triangle (Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh) areas are growing. Even Asheville is growing. They also have major public college campuses.

These new Old North Staters may see HB2, the Voter ID law, the Duke Energy coal ash spills, and other legislative initiatives as backwards and regressive. And they may want to do something about it.

Furthermore, there is a “YUGE” presidential election. There is no doubt that Donald Trump is a polarizing figure. So is Clinton. But I do not see democratic heavyweights not supporting their candidate. That is not the case for republicans. Many top members have openly said they would not vote for Trump. Now, if you are a Richard Burr, or Pat McCrory, or any state lawmaker who is running for reelection as a republican, you must make a choice, and an openly vocal one, to either support or not support Trump.

Deciding to support him has repercussions. Deciding not to support him has repercussions. Not making an open decision has repercussions. The only thing that some of these people could hope for is to not have more democratic leaning people vote. Repealing the Voter ID law allows such people to vote.

Hence, Woodhouse’s email.

It does make one scratch his head to think of how unintelligent sending an email like that could be. It will fall into someone’s inbox who views it as an attempt to bypass laws, and the press will obtain a copy of it – the very same press that many in the GOP rail against.

Furthermore, Woodhouse did all but guarantee that the board of elections in each county will be under a little more scrutiny, or at least have more hypervigilant eyes upon them. When they were instructed to “make things easier for the republicans” and that was made public, you simply placed a large media target on the process.

Hell, it may ensure that more people come to the polls.

McCrory and the 17-Day Window of Time

Gov. Pat McCrory and the GOP mainstays in Raleigh have filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the Voter ID law that was overturned by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals recently.

There are two specific items that are brought to light with this action.

First, when the 4th Circuit Court overturned the law, it stated that law would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” But Gov. McCrory calls it common sense. He issued a statement that said,

“This common sense law was upheld by the U.S. District Court. Our Voter ID law has been cited as a model and other states are using similar laws without challenges.

“Allowing the Fourth Circuit’s ruling to stand creates confusion among voters and poll workers and it disregards our successful rollout of Voter ID in the 2016 primary elections. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is just plain wrong and we cannot allow it to stand. We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold our state’s law and reverse the Fourth Circuit.”

So what McCrory calls “common sense”, a higher court called discrimination. Yet the “common sense” excuse McCrory incorporates here is also used by him in other nonsensical actions like HB2 which is also discriminatory.

In November, the people of North Carolina will get to what they think common sense really is.

The second, and almost humorous, item is the timing.

Ironically, it took 17 days for the Governor to make the request.

That’s seventeen. Ten plus seven.

Why is it ironic? Because part of the Voter ID bill that was passed in the governor’s term of office reduced the early voting period from 17 to 10.

Now, if I used McCrory’s common sense, then I should be able to argue that if 10 days is enough time to vote in the early process period, then 10 days should be enough time to react to a ruling about the window for early voting.

But McCrory took 17, not ten. It seems that 17 days is a minimum amount of time needed to make decisions about elections.

It’s like McCrory is telling us how important having a 17-day period is.

Seems like common sense to me.

 

Billy Pilgrim and the Sermon on the Mount – The Differences Between the Beatitudes and the Me-atitudes.

I miss Kurt Vonnegut.

Lived through the Great Depression. Fought in WWII. A POW and a social critic.

Truly a leading voice for the twentieth century. Fifty years of writing – 14 novels, 3 short story collections, 5 plays, and 5 works of nonfiction. Slaughterhouse Five is a must read for anyone (and on my suggested list of works for my daughter to read) and “Harrison Bergeron” was a staple of mine in freshmen English classes.

And probably the best cameo performance ever in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School.

He also was one of the most recognizable authors to ever walk the earth, sporting a mustache about as well as Mark Twain and Magnum P.I.

vonnegut.jpg

He also has a quote about religion and politics that a recent post by my Auntie Sherry reminded me of. It reads,

“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. “Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

There’s a lot of truth to that in this political climate, especially here in this election year. For me it is more applicable to the elections in North Carolina.

I am not a Biblical Scholar. After being christened in the Roman Catholic Church, I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition where services ended right at noon and softball season brought about a higher attendance in church for eligibility. I do not attend a regular church now, and I do consider religion and spirituality as being separate. My study of his words and deeds do not lead me to believe that he would endorse many of the people in office today who claim to follow his teachings. And I am very adamant that Jesus not be used as a political endorsement.

I do look to the teachings of Christ for guidance and inspiration, and the Sermon on the Mount where the Beatitudes are found are very dear to me.

They are as follows from Matthew 5: 3-10.

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Many believe that the word “blessed” here means “happy” and that serves well for me. I am not a Greek or Hebrew scholar, but I will trust what linguistic experts say here.

Terms like “poor in spirit”, “mourn”, “the meek”, “hunger and thirst for righteousness”, “merciful”, “clean of heart”, “peacemakers”, and “persecuted” are not simply literal references. It seems to me that what Jesus was saying was that he was going to help those (and charge his followers to do the same) who had lost faith, who suffer any form of sorrow, who put others needs ahead of theirs, who show mercy to others, who strive not to be polluted by the world, who seek peace rather than confusion, and who do right even when others disagree to find happiness.

And if we are going to follow Christ’s example, then we should as well.

I wrote a post last April after the Network for Public Education convention on Raleigh entitled “Legivangelists and Others Who Praise the Lard.” In June I wrote a post entitled “Politics and the God Complex- Putting Jesus on the Ticket.” I believe that I had Vonnegut’s words streaming in my mind when I wrote them. And both pieces deal with the use of Jesus and God as validation for what has been enacted here in North Carolina under the present leadership.

If anyone on West Jones Street can convince me that suppressing the vote through a racially motivated Voter ID bill, discriminating against the LGBTQ community, cutting unemployment benefits for many who were still reeling from the great recession, denying the expansion of healthcare through Medicaid, and allowing for people to drink polluted water, drawing election districts to deny people’s democratic voices, and allowing for over 20% of our kids to live in poverty fits in with the Beatitudes, then I will gladly withdraw this post.

It seems that in those instances it was more about the “Me”atitudes rather than the Beatitudes.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”

Is that still true? I am not asking it as a rhetorical question.

If I had a picture of every lawmaker in Raleigh who championed, sponsored, and voted for the aforementioned pieces of legislature, I think I might have the most homogenous looking group of lawmakers I have seen in a while.

I wonder what Billy Pilgrim would have said about that. Actually, I think I do.

RIP Kurt Vonnegut. Rather, please keep talking to us.