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21

“If teachers were motivated by money, they wouldn’t be teachers.”

– A motivated teacher

Republican legislators brag about their pay raises for teachers. Governor Cooper says teachers deserve more.

But what do teachers want?

It’s more than more pay.

If you talk with concerned, motivated teachers, they care more about:

  • too much testing
  • arbitrary standards
  • a lack of autonomy
  • over-bearing and under-informed administrators
  • no voice in how they do their jobs.

One teacher said, “The only people talking about teacher pay are politicians and journalists.”

Which raises two questions, one political and one policy. Political: How potent is the teacher pay issue, really? This is especially crucial for Democrats who want to be seen as public-school champions battling public-school-bashing and private-school-promoting Republicans.

The policy question is: What do teachers really need?

They need, first of all, for their voices to be heard, their experience respected and their ideas put front and center in education debates.

During his third and fourth terms, Governor Jim Hunt became a revered figure among teachers. It wasn’t just because he raised teacher pay here to the national average – and to the top 20 among the states.

He listened to teachers. He respected them. He included them in policy-making, priority-setting and legislation-writing. He gave them a voice, and he heard and acted on what they said and what he learned.

Is that happening today in the education debates – at the local, state or federal levels?

Or is the situation still the same as when one of the teachers quoted above took an education-policy class in college? The first day, the professor warned: “Everything you do in the classroom will be dictated by a bunch of old white men who haven’t been in a classroom in decades.”

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20

One can’t help feeling Ned Barnett down at the News and Observer was a little relieved when he read the Duke professor’s report. ‘Only 1 in 4 of Trump’s voters were working class people,’ Ned wrote quoting the professor. ‘The claim that working class voters elected Trump is a myth.’

Unfortunately, there was a bit of numbers juggling going on.

No one – who’s studied the numbers – would claim a majority of Donald Trump’s voters were working class people. They weren’t. But the numbers do say more working class people voted for Trump than voted for Mitt Romney and that shift – in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania – was a key to Donald Trump’s victory.

What mattered was simple: The shift.  

It happens all the time: In the name of debunking an old ‘myth’ a professor – or a newspaper editor – creates a new myth.

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19

A frustrated Donald Trump called Jim Comey a no-good liar but, in the next breath said Comey’s testimony proved he hadn’t colluded with the Russians. The words of a liar proved he was innocent, Trump said.

Next Trump’s lawyer said he was filing a legal complaint against Comey for leaking ‘privileged information.’ But Trump, himself, had just told the press the conversation Comey described – in the memo he leaked to a friend – never happened. It was fiction. So how could a conversation that never happened be privileged?

For weeks Trump’s hinted he has a tape of his meeting with Comey – if the tape exists why doesn’t he release it? And prove he was right? And if the tape doesn’t exist, why tweet about it?

The contradictions are piling up.

Trump once said NATO was obsolete then he said it was not obsolete. He said China was a currency manipulator then he said it wasn’t. He said he fired Comey on Jeff Sessions’ recommendation then he said he decided to fire Comey before he received Sessions’ recommendation.

Donald Trump is a hard, strong man. But he’s oddly blind: Can’t he see each time he contradicts himself doubt grows like a virus?

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17

In 1967, H. Rap Brown supposedly said, “Violence is as American as cherry pie.”

Our nation was born in violent revolution. Fourscore years later, Americans killed each other in a bloody civil war. Throughout the century, white Americans and Native Americans massacred each other.

In the 20th Century, we won two world wars. We fought two land wars in Asia. We’ve been at war since the beginning of the 21st Century,

Then there is all the violence, murder and carnage of daily life. Assassinations, lynchings, bombings, mass shootings, drive-by shootings, family shootings.

Millions of guns, easily available. Millions of unhinged people.

Today we throw in toxic politics. The politics of vilifying, demonizing and destroying your enemies (not “opponents” any more).

Toss in a media that thrives on conflict and rewards extremism. Stir in social media and technology that enable anybody with a grievance to log into vast, shadowy webs of hate, racism and more violence.

Then we see congressmen and lobbyists gunned down on ball fields. Worshippers murdered in their church. Would-be vigilantes invading pizza restaurants with automatic weapons.

All fueling more hate, more resentment and more thirst for revenge. More political anger. More personal attacks. More vilifying, demonizing and destroying.

In years past, we had leaders who spoke to the better angels of our nature – Washington, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Truman, Ike, JFK, LBJ, Carter, Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton and Obama.

Today we have Trump.

Sad indeed.

Posted in: General
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16

When an outspoken critic of UNC’s ‘athletic scandal’ decided he’d teach a course called ‘Big Time College Sports’ it was bound to rub some people the wrong way.

Jay Smith, a professor of French and European History, wrote Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham about his new class and asked if he could bring his students over to the athletic center for a tour.

Cunningham wrote back he had a better idea: He’d teach the course.

Smith wrote back, Sorry, I’m the historian.

Smith went over Cunningham’s head to Carol Folt, got his tour, and started teaching his class. Summer school passed, the fall semester passed then the new semester rolled around and the earth shifted beneath Smith’s feet.

When the controversy – over cancelling Smith’s class – began the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences ducked. Passing the buck he said it was up to the History Department Chairman to decide.

The History Department Chairman ducked too – he said he’d have to consult the Senior Associate Dean.

The Senior Associate Dean didn’t duck – he vanished.

Forty-five UNC history professors wrote a letter saying cancelling a class – about ‘Big Time College Sports’ – was an infringement on their freedom and a blow to their intellectual life.

The History Department was in turmoil.

But, oddly, no one asked the one question you’d expect. What’s more important: A professor of European History teaching students about the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the French Revolution or ‘Big-Time College Sports’ at Chapel Hill?

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15

A Democratic warrior read that Governor Cooper’s job-approval rating is 61 percent. And the Republican legislature’s reelect rating is only 30 percent.

So, he asked, “Why isn’t Cooper whacking the Republicans harder every day?”

First, it’s not his style. He’s not one to bang his shoe on the lectern.

And Cooper is playing a long game. He’s looking to the next legislative election, whether it’s this fall, next spring or November 2018. His goal: Elect enough Democrats to sustain his vetoes. Maybe even take back one or both houses of the legislature if Trump takes down the GOP.

A Cooper insider says he’s building trust with voters. He’s seen as more genuine and substantive than most politicians: “Voters trust him.”

Cooper will contrast his priorities, education and jobs, with the Republicans’ priority: their political power.

Republicans are good at the inside political game. But Cooper is better at the outside game: going to the voters.

Exhibit A: His call on the legislature to redraw districts now and hold new elections this fall. He knew the Republicans would refuse to fix what the U.S. Supreme Court says is unconstitutional gerrymandering.

They quickly proved Cooper’s point: They care more about politics and power than people.

Democrats may want more thunder and lightning. But Cooper’s bet is that you don’t need thunder and lightning to make it rain.

 

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15

Each looked into a camera and each said the other was a liar.

Comey said Trump, sitting in the Oval Office, asked everyone to leave the room but him then, when the door closed behind the Attorney General, turned to face him and said, I hope you’ll let go of the investigation of Mike Flynn.

Trump said that conversation never happened.

Comey said when they had dinner, alone in the White House, Trump asked him for a pledge of loyalty.

Trump said that conversation never happened.

So which one is telling the truth?  

Sitting at the table in the hearing Comey looked candid and honest. He didn’t parse words. He answered Yes. Or No. And sometimes he said, Here’s how I interpreted that – but I could be wrong.  

Trump, standing on the White House lawn, hair shading his face from the sun, was blustery and flamboyant and sounded like a showman. But appearances can fool you.

Is Trump a poor truth-teller? Or Comey a smooth deceiver? Some folks don’t care: Fox News vilifies Comey. CNN heaps scorn on Trump. But the rest of us wait as the mill wheels grind because the day the grinding stops we’ll know who told the truth.

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14

Karen Handel stood in front of the cameras looking grumpy and, beside her, Jon Ossoff looked pleasant but far too young to be on that stage.

He said, You’ve got Super PACs. You’re a politician.

She said, You’ve got Super PACs too. You’re Nancy Pelosi’s pawn.

He said, I’m Independent.

She said, How can you be Independent – you’re supported by Nancy Pelosi?

He said, My opponent opposed breast cancer funding.

She said, I helped make October Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

He said, She’s Trump’s rubber stamp.

She turned to Ossoff, I’d like to ask you one question. Who are you going to vote for on election day? (Ossoff doesn’t live in Georgia’s 6th District so he can’t vote on election day.)

Ossoff said, At least I was born in Georgia. You were born in Washington, DC.

He added, You’re a career politician.

And she said, You’re a career junior staffer.

It was like watching two actors reading a script written by a thirteen-year-old.

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13

Was Michael Flynn Svengali? Donald Trump’s back door conduit to the Russians? To get them to help him defeat Hillary?

And if Flynn was Svengali does he now know – as David Axelrod has hinted – Trump’s worst secret? Is he whispering to Trump, Protect me or I’ll tell all? Does that explain Trump’s stubborn loyalty to Flynn?

 Or is Michael Flynn the opposite of a Svengali – a bumbling general who schemed to get the job he’d dreamed of in Trump’s White House then blew his own foot off?

Will Flynn (the Svengali) make a deal with the prosecutors? And scuttle Trump? Or does Flynn (the bumbler) know nothing because there’s nothing to know?

CNN howls Flynn’s Svengali. Fox howls Trump’s virtue personified. While the rest of us wait, watching as the mill wheels grind – because when the grinding stops we’ll know: Is Mike Flynn Svengali?

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13

Three overseas political stories either could, should or shouldn’t have an impact on American politics.

Russia

Trump & Co. are so set on smearing Comey, Democrats are so set on impeaching Trump and Republicans are so set on saving their skins that the Big Story from Comey’s hearing whizzed right past us.

The Russians did interfere with our election. They hacked state elections machinery. They hacked 1,000 American organizations. They spread false news. They hurt Clinton and helped Trump.

But nobody’s talking about a foreign power violating our sovereignty and undermining our democracy – and what we do about it.

We should be.

The UK

Progressive Democrats in the US love to see Tories lose and Labour gain in the UK. They love to see a Bernie Sanders-type campaign energize young voters. They love the slogan, “For the Many, Not the Few.” They love the attacks on austerity. They love the redistributionist rhetoric.

But hold on. Labour still didn’t win. And Democrats here can’t win just by promising to divide the pie more fairly. They have to talk about baking a bigger pie.

The path back for Democrats is an economic growth message. That’s why Governor Jim Hunt always talked about jobs – and education as the path to good jobs.

France

At first glance, Emmanuel Macron looked like a weakling and a little boy. Only 39 years old. Never run for office before. Married to a woman 24 years older (the same age gap between Trump and Melania).

But Macron has turned out to be tough and steely. He took down Trump in a handshake contest. He took down Putin at a joint press conference.

He organized a new political party – one that ran right down the middle, neither left nor right, but borrowing from both. He recruited new candidates, including a lot of political newcomers and outsiders, to run for Parliament. And his En Marche! (Forward!) party won the first round of Parliamentary elections.

Forward, indeed.

 

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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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