Sunday, April 1, 2018

Last Call For Teaching Them A Lesson

Following a successful teacher's wildcat strike in West Virginia that shut down schools for nine days, Oklahoma teachers are following suit with a strike of their own starting Monday.

Craig Troxell steps precariously across a customer's roof, marking hail damage from yet another Oklahoma storm. He still smells of the freshly cut grass from the swanky side of town, where he had just mowed lawns to make a few extra dollars. 
But Troxell, 50, isn't a landscaper nor roof salesman by trade. He's a full-time high school science teacher who works four jobs to make ends meet. 
"Teacher morale gets worse every year," said Troxell, who also drives a school bus before and after school. "I've heard a lot of my (teacher) acquaintances walk away and get a different job. They don't want to do it anymore." 
Oklahoma is among the bottom three states for teacher salaries, where educators often work about 10 years before reaching the $40,000 salary mark. And they haven't gotten a raise from the state in 10 years
While educators nationwide have seen slight paycheck bumps over the past decade, when adjusted for inflation, teachers have actually lost 3% of their income from 2006 to 2016, according to the National Education Association. 
Recently, the Oklahoma teachers' union called for $10,000 teacher raises, $5,000 raises for support staff and more than $200 million for education funding
Lawmakers agreed on an average teacher raise of $6,100, $1,250 for support staff and a $50 million increase in education funding -- a measure Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Thursday. 
But many teachers say it's not enough. So on Monday, Troxell and thousands of other teachers will walk out -- prompting some schools to shut down indefinitely
"We're at the end of the rope," Troxell said. 
He's far from alone. Several teachers told CNN they're working multiple jobs in food delivery, retail, rideshare driving, restaurants and even surrogate pregnancy to pay the bills. Some now rely on a food bank to feed their own children

You have to go into it for the love of the job and kids, because you'll never do the job for the money.  We live in a nation where we value education as the great equalizer, and then make sure the men and women providing it are themselves college graduates and are making less money than retail store managers or kitchen managers.

Then we constantly attack them as greedy agents of a manipulative conspiracy to destroy our kids' minds and cut their salaries as a result.  Ten years ago in the last recession thousands of teachers were laid off and tens of thousands more saw their benefits dismantled by states.

It's gotten so bad that even here in Bevinstan, teachers are taking to the streets this week too.

Multiple school systems in Kentucky were forced to close Friday, as teacher absences soared amid growing protest over legislation that educators say would strike a blow to pension plans.

Teachers from across the state descended on the capitol in Frankfort, outraged about what they described as a surprise move to pass legislation their union said Friday would mean existing employees pay more for pension benefits and new hires don’t get the same plan that previous generations relied on.

The protesters hung a sprawling banner from a capitol balcony — “Kentucky deserves better” — as hundreds converged, according to the Louisville Courier Journal. A rally is planned for Monday, when lawmakers return to the Capitol and most teachers are on spring break, union officials said.

The action in Kentucky came as the latest flash point over pay and benefits for the nation’s teachers. In West Virginia,educators closed schools for nine days as they held out for a 5 percent raise, which they won for teachers and all state workers in March.

More recently Arizona teachers, among the nation’s lowest-paid, threatened to strike over raises and funding cuts to school programs. Oklahoma teachers are planning a walkout Monday if they don’t get what they want before then.

In Kentucky, the teacher absences touched off school closings in the state’s largest school systems, in Louisville and Lexington. School officials in Lexington said more than one-third of school employees did not show up Friday, and they did not have enough substitutes to compensate.

The Courier Journal found more than 20 counties announcing school closures Friday, as tensions flared. Kentucky has 173 school systems, located in 120 counties.

The state teachers’ union, the Kentucky Education Association, with a membership of 45,000, had not called on teachers to skip the workday but issued a sharply worded statement about the legislative action.

“This kind of backroom dealing is shameful,” the statement said. “Pitting government interests against the interests of current and future educators is cowardly.”

The walkout here in Kentucky is expected to continue tomorrow with a major protest in Frankfort with thousands of teachers coming in from across the state.

Arizona will most likely be next.

Hold on, folks.  We're seeing something work this time.

Bibi Wags The Dog

Facing an increasingly growing bribery and corruption scandal involving payoffs to the media, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is struggling to keep his government afloat as calls for his resignation are getting louder and louder.  As a result, the Israeli military went into Gaza on Friday as Palestinians living there marched to protest the ongoing blockade and opened fire on Palestinians, killing at least 15 and injuring hundreds in the resulting bloodbath.

Israel will target militant groups inside Gaza if violence along the territory’s border with Israel drags on, the chief military spokesman warned on Saturday, a day after 15 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the area’s deadliest violence in four years.

The violence significantly diminished Saturday as just small groups of Palestinians threw stones in several areas near the border fence, drawing Israeli fire that injured 25 people, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

Friday’s mass marches were largely led by Gaza’s ruling Hamas group and touted as the start of a six-week-long protest campaign against a stifling decade-old blockade of the territory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel congratulated soldiers Saturday for allowing the rest of the country to celebrate the Passover holiday safely.

“Israel is acting determinedly and decisively to protect its sovereignty and the security of its citizens,” he said.

Palestinian health officials said 15 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire and more than 750 hit by live rounds Friday, making it the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 cross-border war between Israel and Hamas.

Naturally, the Trump regime is providing full cover for the attack. CNN reports even higher numbers for the dead and wounded.

The US blocked a United Nations Security Council statement Saturday morning, which called for an independent inquiry into Friday's violence in Gaza that left at least 17 Palestinians dead and more than 1,400 injured, two UN diplomats tell CNN. 
Following Friday's escalated confrontations, Kuwait drafted a statement asking the Security Council to take action. 
It is unclear if other countries would have also objected, UN diplomats tell CNN. If one country objects, then the statement cannot be adopted. 
But Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon lodged a complaint with the United Nations Security Council for holding an emergency session on the first night of Passover -- a major Jewish holiday -- according to a statement released by Israel's UN Mission on Sunday. 
Danon claimed Kuwait intentionally called for the session as Israel's UN Mission was observing Passover, thus barring their participation while they observed a religious holiday. 
He said the move "exploited procedural rules" and is "antithetical to the spirit of the UN," according to the Israeli Mission statement. 
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had called for an independent inquiry into Friday's violence. 
Guterres made his comments late Friday before the emergency UN Security Council meeting to address the issue. UN spokesman Farhan Haq relayed his statement to the media. 
"This tragedy underlines the urgency of revitalizing the peace process aiming at creating the conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations for a peaceful solution that will allow Palestinians and Israelis to live side by side peacefully and in security," Guterres was reported as saying.

Netanyahu is promising more military action if the protests are not stopped.  It will come anyway, and of course we can't possibly change horses in midstream like this when there's a war going on...

Wag the dog.

The Rise Of Trump's State Media

The running joke for years is that FOX News has been the propaganda arm of the GOP and in many ways it has been, replete with attacks on Democrats and liberals for well over a decade, but here in the Trump era there's a far more sinister attack on on the nation's free press, and it isn't coming from cable news at all.

Rather it's coming from your local network news affiliate, and those affiliates are increasingly owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, a conservative far-right media conglomerate that has been quietly buying up the news stations that you've watched and trusted for years.  I've talked about Sinclair before as they moved to buy dozens of local TV stations in markets across the country and then forced those stations to run pro-Trump segments on their local news broadcasts and "terror alert" segments that attack immigrants and especially Muslims.

Now Sinclair is forcing their local anchors to attack non-Sinclair stations as "fake news".

Seattle-based ABC affiliate KOMO-TV says its owner, the conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group, is forcing its reporters to air pre-scripted segments about fake news media, in an attempt to undermine non-Sinclair stations.

Sinclair has long produced “must-run” segments for its stations, dispersing them to its various subsidiaries and requiring the local stations to run controversial, typically conservative commentary promos alongside their regular news coverage. However, in recent weeks, it’s begun turning its sights on the competition, throwing in mentions of “fake news,” among other things.

“The promos, which began airing on the station last week, are part of a Sinclair campaign that forces local anchors to read Sinclair-written scripts warning of the dangers of ‘one-sided news stories plaguing our country,'” the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on Thursday.

The Post-Intelligencer published one of the scripts this week; in it, the authors lament the “trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories” and the “sharing of biased and false news,” referencing President Trump’s preferred term for the press, “fake news.”

These Sinclair stations are literally being given scripts to read, because they are Trump state media stations now.

(A) But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.

(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.

(A) Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.

Don't believe me?  Here's video of Sinclair station anchors all over the country in the last couple of weeks reading this exact script.

This would be cute if Sinclair wasn't so obviously sinister.  And yes, these are all Sinclair stations in America.

Sinclair regularly runs disinformation segments favorable to President Trump: one of its staples is a recurring pre-taped segment featuring Sinclair’s chief political analyst, Russian-born former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn. As ThinkProgress previously reported, those segments frequently include misleading talking points and misinformation from the Trump administration, packaged as actual political analysis and news coverage.

Another previously recurring segment, “Behind the Headlines” with Mark Hyman, Sinclair’s vice president for corporate relations, frequently parroted administration talking points on controversial subjects like health care, immigration, free speech, and extremism, functioning as right-wing and white nationalist propaganda.

More recently, Sinclair pushed a must-run segment featuring former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka complaining about the existence of the so-called “Deep State,” and unelected group of government officials who are supposedly manipulating policy and controlling the public narrative. The segment was reportedly produced by Sinclair national correspondent Kristine Frazao, who previously worked at Russian state-run media outlet RT.

If you're getting your news from one of these stations, be aware they are Sinclair-owned and producing pro-Trump propaganda on a regular basis.  They have been for years now.  Here in Cincy they run the CBS and CW affiliate, WKRC, the area's most popular local news station, where you get happy stories like this about the "Deep State".

Welcome to the era of the regime's state-run media.  You're living in it, and odds are increasingly goo that you and your family are getting their local news from it too.

Sunday Long Read: Helping Houston, See Ya San Juan

Our Sunday Long Read comes to us from Politico's Danny Vinik, where his wide-ranging investigation into the Trump regime's FEMA response to last year's deadly hurricanes (in what should come as a surprise to precisely nobody) finds our petty child-in-chief and his GOP enablers made sure Texas got all the funds it could for disaster relief last year after hurricane Harvey, but he made absolutely sure that Puerto Rico is still ravaged, still has thousands without power, and is still tens of billions in debt.

As Hurricane Maria unleashed its fury on Puerto Rico in mid-September, knocking out the island’s electrical system and damaging hundreds of thousands of homes, disaster recovery experts expected that only one man could handle the enormity of the task ahead: Mike Byrne. 
But Byrne, a widely acknowledged star of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, remained in Houston, which had been ravaged by Hurricane Harvey less than a month earlier.

Today, disaster recovery experts still express shock that FEMA kept Byrne in an already-stabilizing Texas and didn’t send him to Puerto Rico for three more weeks. But now, the decision strikes many as emblematic of a double standard within the Trump administration. A POLITICO review of public documents, newly obtained FEMA records and interviews with more than 50 people involved with disaster response indicates that the Trump administration — and the president himself — responded far more aggressively to Texas than to Puerto Rico
“We have the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. We go anywhere, anytime we want in the world,” bemoaned retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel HonorĂ©, who led the military’s relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. “And [in Puerto Rico] we didn’t use those assets the way they should have been used.” 
No two hurricanes are alike, and Harvey and Maria were vastly different storms that struck areas with vastly different financial, geographic and political situations. But a comparison of government statistics relating to the two recovery efforts strongly supports the views of disaster-recovery experts that FEMA and the Trump administration exerted a faster, and initially greater, effort in Texas, even though the damage in Puerto Rico exceeded that in Houston. 
Within six days of Hurricane Harvey, U.S. Northern Command had deployed 73 helicopters over Houston, which are critical for saving victims and delivering emergency supplies. It took at least three weeks after Maria before it had more than 70 helicopters flying above Puerto Rico. 
Nine days after the respective hurricanes, FEMA had approved $141.8 million in individual assistance to Harvey victims, versus just $6.2 million for Maria victims.
During the first nine days after Harvey, FEMA provided 5.1 million meals, 4.5 million liters of water and over 20,000 tarps to Houston; but in the same period, it delivered just 1.6 million meals, 2.8 million liters of water and roughly 5,000 tarps to Puerto Rico. 
Nine days after Harvey, the federal government had 30,000 personnel in the Houston region, compared with 10,000 at the same point after Maria. 
It took just 10 days for FEMA to approve permanent disaster work for Texas, compared with 43 days for Puerto Rico
Seventy-eight days after each hurricane, FEMA had approved 39 percent of federal applications for relief from victims of Harvey, versus 28 percent for Maria. 
Those imbalances track with another one: the attention of President Donald Trump. In public, Trump appeared much more concerned with the victims of Harvey than Maria. He visited Houston twice during the first eight days after the hurricane, but didn’t visit Puerto Rico for 13 days. In the first week after the disasters, Trump sent three times as many tweets about Harvey as Maria — 24 about the plight of Texas and eight about Puerto Rico, including a series of comments about Puerto Rico’s debt level and quality of infrastructure that local officials considered insulting and enraging while lives were still in jeopardy. 
“Wow – Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!” he crowed about Texas on Aug. 27, two days after the storm made landfall.

At every turn, the Trump regime favored Texas with dollars, manpower, materiel, expertise, planning, infrastructure and medical help and left Puerto Rico in the mud, both figuratively and on a literal level in some locations.

And make no mistake: the US citizens of Puerto Rico are still reeling from neglect today, six months after Maria destroyed the island.
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