9.11.2016

We Are Stewards of the New America





One of the more poignant stories I’ve heard this week, as the media does its annual retrospective of terror, is an NPR StoryCorps interview withVaughn Allex, the poor fellow working the American Airlines front desk who checked in everyone on Flight 77. He remembered all of the other people he’d checked in—an older couple, a student tour group—and two men running late, who turned out to be the terrorists responsible for crashing the plane into the Pentagon. His guilt was like a millstone about his neck.

Then there was another profile, this time in Esquire, this time about the iconic photograph Richard Drew captured of a man hurtling through space after jumping from the molten crown of the Twin Towers. Its subject, dubbed “the Falling Man,” inspired a search among that Tuesday morning’s victims to uncover an identity—a name, a story, anything that would fill in the heart-stopping vacuum of space in which he dives death-ward.

Politico ran a timeline narrative that told the story of the corps traveling with President Bush in Florida, a step-by-step account built by interviews of Andrew Card, Ari Fleischer, Mike Morell, Karl Rove, presidential pilot Col. Mark Tillman, and many others. The most compelling testament of how much things can change in fifteen years was the relative lack of information available to the aloft Air Force One, where over-the-air television was the only source of images from the attacks. While the plane crisscrossed the country, the signal faded in and out.

As our country has moved onward from the smoky ruins of the collapsed buildings, leaving behind the hole in the side of the Pentagon and the charred pit in Pennsylvania, our pause in mourning this day has shifted, too. We no longer see stories focused tightly in on victims’ faces. Now we tell them through the lens of 9/11’s observers and participants.

Beyond remembering where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001, do you remember any of the decisions you made that day?

9.05.2016

No, NC Republicans Haven't Fixed Teacher Pay





Bad news: teachers still aren't getting paid what they deserve. Good news: Election Day is only two paychecks away. 

With the November elections looming ahead, Republican lawmakers are all but crowing that they're schoolhouse heroes--touting their "largest pay raise in state history" in 2014-15 and parading their slogan that teachers this year average $50,000 in salary.

They are betting, in part, that teachers suffer from long-term memory loss.

What do the numbers say? In 2013-14, Governor Pat McCrory's first year in office and the third year of the Republican-led state legislature, average teacher pay went down. That year, the legislature did not award raises to school teachers--and further, it ended supplemental pay for teachers with graduate degrees. Teacher pay hit an eight-year low.

And in 2015, the folks in Raleigh opted not to make it rain. Salaries grew that year, on average, by 0.35 percent.

Now, I cannot argue that Republicans have increased teacher salaries in the 2014 and 2016 budget amendments (is the election-year timing obvious to anyone else?), but even those improvements have come along with a relentless assault on public education in nearly every other form--eliminating teacher tenure, dismantling the North Carolina Teaching Fellows scholarship program, targeting healthcare benefits for retired educators, and even insulting hardworking teachers by email.

But even after their two modest attempts at improving teacher pay, the Republicans still haven't rewarded teachers with the same purchasing power they had in 2008-09. The proof is in the numbers:

8.18.2016

In Iredell, one less day for African-American voting




Justices decided North Carolina’s election laws illegally discriminated against African-American voters. So now they’re asking local election officials to target them instead.

Three years ago, the North Carolina legislature adopted a wide-ranging election law that significantly changed voter identification and early voting rules, as well as voter registration processes — changes that were specifically targeted, as federal courts later ruled, to suppress minority voting.

The July 2016 ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the state legislature’s changes, was seen as a victory for voting rights advocates. But in spite of the ruling, state Republican leaders have instead instructed county Board of Elections appointees to carry out as much of the original, overturned law as they can.

In Iredell County, at least one of those measures could have a negative impact on black voters.

The state GOP last weekend released a memo to partisan appointed members of county boards of election, which pushed them to restrict early voting hours, deny Sunday voting, and restrict voting access on college campuses. The Iredell County Board of Elections, which met this Tuesday, followed some of those instructions.

Based on the chart below, Iredell County citizens won’t have the opportunity to vote on Sundays — a ruling that disproportionately affects African-American voters.