Tuesday News: Just retire, already


CRANKY OLD WINDBAG WHINES ABOUT EDUCATION FUNDING: “There’s been no evaluation of how $30 billion in hardworking taxpayer money has been spent,” said North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx, the ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee. “Yet here we are with Democrats pushing those same taxpayers to dole out more of their hard earned money at a time when many Americans are being forced to tighten their belts.” Foxx, of Banner Elk, repeatedly cautioned against federal spending, even pointing to the Constitution to suggest education was not a responsibility of the federal government. “I’m a student of the Constitution, and I’ve read it many times,” she said. “And I’ve failed to find the word ‘education’ in there.” But people who testified before the committee talked at length of the additional aid they felt was needed, even with CARES Act funding.

NC SENATE REPUBLICANS PASS INSUFFICIENT TEACHER PAY BILL: The state Senate backed a $350 bonus for North Carolina public school teachers Monday after a tense and partisan debate that trod much of the same ground Republicans and Democrats have fought over the last 3 years. The Republican majority, conscious of an expected $4 billion state revenue hit from COVID-19 closures, shot down a Democratic push to more than triple those bonuses, and to give non-certified school staff – the bus drivers, cafeteria workers and school custodians – a $1,000 bonus, too. Those workers may be left without raises this year. The proposal was tabled, cutting off debate. The final vote on Senate Bill 818 was 33-16, with five Democrats voting for the bill with the Republican majority. All 16 no votes came from Democrats. The bill moves now to the House for more debate. The governor has not said whether he would sign this bill, if it comes to his desk.

JUDGE BLOCKS NC'S AG-GAG LAW OVER 1ST AMENDMENT CONCERNS: The law allowed allowed any business — not limited to farms — to sue employees who recorded meetings or publicized internal documents. More than 20 media organizations, including companies like the now-merged Gannett and GateHouse chains that own many newspapers across North Carolina, filed a legal brief calling for the law to be overturned. “If whistleblowers (and other would-be sources) are punished for documenting evidence of dangerous, illegal, or unethical activity that they encounter, journalists will not be able to do their jobs effectively,” their brief said. The groups that led the lawsuit included People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, or the ALDF. Both said they have done undercover animal rights videos in the past in North Carolina, and had plans to do more, but had to stop because of this law. The federal district court judge who ruled in their favor, Thomas Schroeder, noted their argument that the law didn’t just ban such undercover animal rights videos but also banned other activities, “such as the reporting of crimes. They further argue that there is a realistic danger that the Act will compromise the First Amendment rights of parties not before the court.”

MILITIA MEMBERS ARRESTED IN NEW MEXICO AFTER SHOOTING PROTESTER: The gunshots, which left one man in critical but stable condition, have set off a cascade of public outcry denouncing the unregulated militia’s presence and the shooting, although police have yet to announce an arrest or describe exactly what happened. The victim is also unidentified. “The heavily armed individuals who flaunted themselves at the protest, calling themselves a ‘civil guard,’ were there for one reason: To menace protesters, to present an unsanctioned show of unregulated force,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said in a statement. “To menace the people of New Mexico with weaponry — with an implicit threat of violence — is on its face unacceptable; that violence did indeed occur is unspeakable.” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller (D) said the statue would now be speedily removed as an “urgent matter of public safety” until authorities determine a next step. The militia, which identified itself to a New York Times reporter covering the protest Monday, has a controversial history. The right-wing group has repeatedly shown up at Black Lives Matter protests in recent weeks with guns and militarylike garb. On Facebook, the group has shared materials encouraging people to arm themselves, promoted military training on infantry tactics and “ambushing,” and shared multiple posts opposing the leveling of monuments to Confederate figures in the South and Oñate in New Mexico.

SUPREME COURT RULING DEFENDING LGBTQ WORKERS LEAVES EVANGELISTS WAILING: For conservative Christian groups, Monday’s Supreme Court ruling protecting the rights of gay and transgender workers was not only the latest sign that they are losing the American culture wars over sexuality. It also caused widespread concern that it could affect how they operate their own institutions. Many faith-based organizations, like schools or nonprofits, do not allow L.G.B.T. people to work there, citing religious beliefs that sex should only be between a man and a woman who are married. “No question it is going to make it harder to defend our religious freedom, as far as an organization being able to hire people of like mind,” said Franklin Graham, who leads Samaritan’s Purse, a large evangelical relief group. In a 6-to-3 ruling on Monday, the Supreme Court determined that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex, also applies to many millions of gay and transgender workers. The ruling would have “seismic implications” for religious freedom and would potentially set off years of lawsuits for religious organizations, said Russell Moore, the president of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. Forecasting a coming fight over religious liberty, Americans United for Separation of Church and State urged a unified strategy. “The progressive, inclusive faith and secular communities must come together to make clear that religious freedom is a shield that protects, not a sword that licenses discrimination,” the group’s president, Rachel Laser, said in a statement.



Scientists fighting back against Trump

I didn't want this story to go unnoticed:

On Sept. 1, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that Hurricane Dorian, which was then approaching the East Coast of the United States, would hit Alabama “harder than anticipated.” A few minutes later, the National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Ala., which is part of NOAA, posted on Twitter: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama.”

Alabama was not struck by the hurricane.

Five days later, Dr. Jacobs’ office issued an unsigned statement calling the Birmingham office’s Twitter posting “inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

That unsigned statement turned out to be the result of pressure from the White House on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees NOAA and who threatened to fire the political staff at NOAA unless the contradiction of Mr. Trump was addressed.

In Monday’s report, Stephen M. Volz, an assistant administrator at NOAA who was chosen to review the complaints and make recommendations, called for the agency to better ensure “the right of NOAA scientists to review, comment, and amend any official communication that relies on their scientific analysis.”

Mr. Volz also recommended that the agency create a formal agreement guiding interactions between NOAA and Department of Commerce officials, “acknowledging the responsibility for NOAA to own the scientific content and allowing for Commerce to weigh in on policy content.” And he called for NOAA’s senior leadership and political officials “to take scientific integrity training” and then sign a statement saying they would follow those principles.

In other words, you do the politics, and we'll do the science. And if you cross that line, we will call you out and embarrass the crap out of you.

More of this, please.

SB 818 is an insult to teachers.

While we've been working our hind ends off converting the state's entire education system to distance learning, our GOP legislators have been cooking up this garbage. It not only does not provide any real salary increase for teachers, but then throws in this $350 bonus as though we can be bought off with such a paltry sum and not notice that we're being screwed by the rest of the bill. If you read into it, they actually cut back the maximum allowed contribution to our health benefits that districts are allowed to make, effectively giving us a pay cut rather than a raise and cutting the amount of money flowing into the State Health Plan system during a pandemic. That's what they really think of us, right there. And come November, teachers are going to remember.

I'll also add, re: SB 818...

that the entire justification they're using is also garbage. Note this line from the WRAL story: "The Republican majority, conscious of an expected $4 billion state revenue hit from COVID-19 closures..." They're apparently not conscious of the fact that this revenue shortfall is largely a result of the economic downturn combining with the massive corporate tax cuts passed by these same GOP legislators. But heaven forbid that they now reconsider raising taxes on these same corporations (many of which are still phenomenally profitable) in order to plug the holes in the state revenue stream. This is where Republican ideology leads, to fiscal idiocy and the shifting of burdens from the rich to everyone else.