Manufacture NC’s Dream: Gambling on Poverty and Education

The big stories in North Carolina over the past few years have been heavy on attracting jobs, poverty, and education. Public education funding, common core repealing, teacher pay raises, medicaid, unemployment benefits, corporate tax cuts, and fracking. Sensationalized headlines–“Gambling with Teacher Pay” and reports of teachers leaving the state link on the homepages of most local news organizations. Even while understanding the need to cut spending in a strained economy, many still struggle to understand why the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) chose specifically to devalue public education. Why they would chose an income tax cut that then creates a dependency on funds for public education on powerball ticket sales? They are trying to manufacture NC’s dream by gambling on poverty on education. While ignoring how teacher’s–and quality public education– break the cycle of poverty.

Or maybe that IS the goal: keep the poor uneducated now, protect the availability of your low-cost workforce later.

 The North Carolina Education Lottery 

In 2013, the North Carolina Education Lottery (NCEL) spent $354,000 on advertising. They also added new games, brand-specific instant win tickets, and second-chance drawings for losing scratch-off tickets.

It worked; the sales for the NCEL in 2013 were up 5.4 percent from 2012, a total of $1.6 billion. After paying for lottery winner payments, advertising/marketing, and other expenses, $478 million remained.

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Unequivocal Support of Teachers and Cops? No way.

I sent my 5 year old off to kindergarten today.  It wasn’t my first time, I did the same thing with my oldest son two years ago.  I left him in the care of a teacher I know well, with the potential to be influenced by many that I know not at all. 

I left him in a room with a few dozen other children.  Some of those children come from families packaged in a similar demographic box as my own, though many do not. 

I left both of my sons in the care of teachers, some that I know well, most of whom I know not at all. I left both of my sons in a school with hundreds of other children, each one affected by an ever-changing series of external, uncontrollable influences.

I left my both of my children at school with the understanding that I am trusting the lives of the only two people whose protection would see me gladly tossing aside all ethical and moral barriers.  In my deepest, darkest heart I accept that there is not a single boundary I would not cross to see to their safety.

Five days a week, I decided to place the lives of my children in the hands of strangers based on nothing more substantial than the trust I have assigned to the institution of public education.

I’m trusting their lives to strangers, and I do so despite the growing number of arrests for pedophilia and/or child molestation offenses in education professionals.

Wait, What?

Nods, I know.  Stay with me for a minute.

You see, there are teachers arrested for child molestation.   And some types of child molesters (acquaintance molesters) choose jobs to deliberately maximize and legitimize their access to children.

I sent my children to school despite this potential risk for sexual abuse, because I know that the most of those working in public education are neither pedophile, nor child molester.

But when a teacher is charged and prosecuted for those criminal acts against children? Hmmm.

A recent op-ed in the New York post attacked the criticism of police officers, stating:  

  • “We support the cops.  Unequivocally.”
  • Are there police-related tragedies in a city where 35,000 uniformed officers interact with 8.5 million residents 23 million times a year? Who would expect otherwise?” 

This is just one example of dozens of similarly held opinions I have read over the past month.  I have to admit that announcing unequivocal support for each police officer, support that by its definition is “given in a way that is not subject to conditions of exceptions”  strikes me as an effort both nobly offered, and disingenuous.

On the one hand, I understand that many of those expressing support live in a sub-community of officers and families of officers where violence is a daily occupational hazard.

However as a non-member of the law enforcement sub-community I have to ask, on behalf of the public:  Unequivocal support for all cops?  No matter what?  Really?  What about the Connecticut state trooper that robbed a dying motorist? Or this Oklahoma City serial rapist whose day job included law enforcement? 

As a member of the “weak” public whose very safety is determined only by those in law enforcement (an attitude with which I kinda disagree),  I am expected to demonstrate my regard by unequivocally supporting even those officers?    I should excuse the extraordinary violence of a few police officers as one of statistical expectation?  

Or is this unequivocal support limited to only officer-involved shootings?  

See, not all cops are good people. Some people seek a profession where they will be afforded a position of legalized power.  Some cops might even deliberately choose law enforcement to feel that legalized power over a certain social/economic demographic.  

Are all teachers undercover child molesters?  No.  Are all cops undercover murderers? No.  Should the public attack an entire profession based on the criminal actions of the few?  No.

Should the organizations employing the people with whom we place our trust for our children’s safety, and the enforcement of laws react with swift authority over those that deliberately abuse that trust?

Abso-damn-lutely.

To use a huge example as my reference point for criminal opportunists– Penn State.   I could not have picked Sandusky out of a line-up before 2011. The news of his crimes made me sad, as it always does when I read about child abuse.  But as the story unfolded to include the at least 9 years that the athletic department chose to cover Sandusky’s actions, as support for the abuser unfurled from Penn State fans that had decided to ignore the taint on their chosen hero, my sadness transformed into rage.   Who had we become when we stood proudly defensive of the abuser, rather than in support of his victims? 

To Protect and Serve.

Some police officers are not good people.   Some of them do not see their job as being about community protection.  Some of them become cops for the same reason a child molester might become a teacher.

Some teachers are not good people.  Some of them do not see their job as being about community education.  Some of them become teachers for the same reason a psychopath might become a cop.

Some. 

I do think that society’s dismissal of the value in these professions erodes the culture required to attract compassionate people.  Examples of that lacking compassion hit our news-feeds every day.

However just as most schools are probably not full of pedophilic teachers, most police stations are probably not full of racist psychopaths.  And even then, not all pedophiles are molesters, and not all psychopaths are murders.  

Yet those truths don’t necessitate that I default to a “with us, or against us” type of support for a police officer–or a teacher– that deliberately abuses their position of trust.  For every amazing teacher, how many are like the two I show below, taken from The Conservative Treehouse?  How many students do you suppose were influenced by the attitudes of these teachers?

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If I were to demand unequivocal support of all teachers because they work in a thankless, under-compensated field, that would require that I support the obvious racists.  Or the child molesters.  Or the apathetic.

Participation in that “with us, or against us” thinking allows these fungal pockets of abusers to surround us with their mushroom forests.

With us, or against us thinking has suggested that I must excuse a police officer that shoots badly, because all cops are underpaid and disillusioned.

Okay then, where is the hard-line limit for my understanding and excusing?   I’m certainly not supposed to extend that line beyond the cops, and into the low-income communities where criminality might be motivated out of necessity, proximity, or accident.  Oh no, because those are the thugs that don’t deserve any compassion.

I am mostly law-abiding, but I will not stand here and suggest that this makes me morally superior to those that are not.   I can conceptualize the lines I would blur, if not outright erase, to provide care for my children.  I can think of at least five crimes that I would commit without a smidgen of remorse to prevent my children experiencing homelessness, or hunger.  I can consider the contempt I might feel for the cop whose job it is to keep the ugliness of my existence away from windows of those that prefer the scenic view to be filled with rainbows and unicorns. 

And in truth,  I can also understand the contempt I might feel as a cop, repeatedly seeing the same criminals committing the same crimes.  I can understand the rage I might feel as a cop when arresting a gang banger whose bullets killed a toddler during a fight over a city-owned street corner.  I can admit that it might be difficult to maintain the objectivity required to avoid defining individuals by their stereotype. 

I can conceptualize both perspectives, because I’m trying to, because I am interested in listening.  No, I don’t think it’s right to seek out Darren Wilson for vigilante justice. But it’s just as wrong to decide that Michael Brown’s life ceased to matter because he stole a box of cigars.

I don’t think it’s appropriate to defend each police officer that engages in unnecessary force. And I sure don’t think it’s appropriate to murder police officers in protest.  In truth, the “hate all cops” and the “hate all black people” occupies are defined the same to me–as Westborian extremists that add a lot of shouting, and no quality, to any given conversation.  

But. BUT.  As I wrote before, the events in Ferguson are multi-dimensional, they exist outside of the realm of simplicity.   Maybe Darren Wilson is just a young cop that made a bad decision, marking his actions as the tipping point for a public growing more concerned about the unlawfulness of those responsible for enforcing the law. It seems likely that a growing number of police officers are suffering from a war-like combat fatigue (militarized weapons came with psychological side effects, free of charge). 

Perhaps this idea of war is where those of us that don’t fall to a Westobrian extreme should focus; those that demand accountability for criminal cops, and safety for good cops.  If I might offer a gentle suggestion? I watched Ferguson unfold, and, yes, I felt deeply angry about the crowd-control methods being used.  I wanted it to stop, but I never defaulted to chanting “all cops are killers” because that’s just not true.

And conversely, those that continue to dismiss the importance of racial bias in all areas of the legal system? Also, not the truth.  Institutionalized racism is well-documented by those that study that sort of thing.  Frankly, the only people that I have ever heard say the phrase “playing the race card” are rich, white people.  Which, in effect, means THEY are the ones playing the race card.  Technically.

To the race card players I say: Stop it; please, just stop talking.  Your stance is based on distanced misinformation,  In other words, don’t talk to me about thugs in the ghetto when you’ve never stepped a shiny loafer into a housing project.   Read the tone and language of some of the conversations on the St. Louis cop talk forum (below),  and tell me that racism isn’t a legitimate part of the conversation.  Tell me if you think cops with attitudes like these below are at all invested in protecting that community.  I cannot think of a way forward that doesn’t include acknowledging that 1) these attitudes exist– and diversity training doesn’t fix them, and 2) that these are the attitudes of cops that see themselves more as prison guards to criminals not-yet-in-prison, rather than participant members of the community.

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White People Don’t Riot and Other Stupidity

I wrote a post about White Privilege, citing several examples of my past events where being white, and probably also female, did not result in my arrest.

Like Michael Brown, I stole something.  Unlike Michael Brown, I was not shot. According to the internet comments I’ve read lately, I deserve to be marked for death because I’m a thug. Except I’m a white female, so those rules don’t apply to me.

The events in Ferguson are multi-dimensional, they exist outside of the realm of simplicity. Similar to, you know, life.

Ferguson is about a black teenager, killed in the street, yes. Because there was a black teenager killed in the street. Whether that was a justified/unjustified shooting is still undetermined.

Ferguson is about Chief Tom Jackson’s response to the shooting. The considerable amount of dodging and weaving makes it hard to believe what he says. Jackson’s in charge, every decision he made after Wilson shot those bullets are his responsibility. Actually, even Wilson’s decision to shoot is Jackson’s responsibility. That’s what being in charge means.

This is a police chief that responded to media and citizen demands for the officer’s name by releasing the name, but no picture. In fact, there is only one picture available of Darren Wilson, in a country where very few 28 year old adults maintain digital media anonymity.

Instead of providing Darren Wilson’s picture in the article naming him as the shooter, Chief Jackson included surveillance video stills of Michael Brown allegedly committing a strong-armed robbery of a corner store. According to Jackson,  “we needed to release that at the same time we needed to release the name of the officer involved in the shooting.”  

What they needed was a tactic. A demonically brilliant plan that effectively molded the algorithm of the google image search results to present evidence of Michael Brown’s criminality, while simultaneously providing reasonable doubt for Wilson’s actions. That Officer Wilson did not know about the robbery when he stopped Brown doesn’t matter. Those pictures tattooed the Thug Life image onto the brains of the Americans that would cast all black men as criminals.

The Saturday after Darren Wilson’s name was released as Michael Brown’s shooter, a google image search for “Who Shot Michael Brown” returned page after page of the stills from the surveillance video, and not a single photo of Wilson.

In the days that followed, the search finally had a photo of Wilson, but not in the Top 10, Top 20, Top 30… you see my point?

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#Ferguson is about breaking news that had to trend on twitter before capturing national news media attention. Or rather, before it redirected national news attention from a few rioters to the other, non-rioting, citizens of Ferguson.

Before the night of the Great Twitter Scoop, this event ranked no higher than a brief mention of an officer-involved shooting of a black male and resulting riots. Pictures, if they existed, were of a half dozen black people wearing masks, and a burning gas station. No mention of the peaceful, law-abiding protesters being sprayed with rubber bullets and tear gas;  they didn’t exist in the national news.

Tell me again about this constitution we are all patriotically-honor-bound to protect with our guns? Where Freedom of Expression, including speech and assembly, are the very first of all of the rights?

Should the rioters and looters be arrested? Yes. Does the actions of 30 rioters/looters cancel the rights of 200 protesters? NO. It is not the fault of the responsible protesters that a few criminals are breaking the law. (This logic should be familiar to you, as it is the argument used by gun advocates at every opportunity.)

That’s not been blog-comment-opinions I’ve read at places I would consider “across the aisle”. Apparently Americans have become so accustomed to seeing large groups of black people as threatening that they can see nothing else.

I’ve also read enough essays and thoughts by people, of all races and genders, to believe that Ferguson will become more. That both the shooting and the resulting — ongoing– aftermath will not fade away.

Ferguson is about how digital media is spreading and breaking news. Without twitter and a few people refusing police order to stop taking pictures, what would we have known? Nothing.

That attempt to silence the journalists in, and the citizens of, Ferguson is the second most chilling example of police misconduct I’ve heard in a long time. Without those people standing up to an armored car, tear gas canisters, and snipers, none of us would have known. We wouldn’t have known.  

I like to consider myself an informed person, both by choice and degree (sociology). These past few weeks, reading the history behind the continued racism in this country? I knew a lot, but not as much as I thought.

I found the start of when all attempts toward creating social/racial equality became redefined as communism. Because back then the only thing scarier than black people were the commies.

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I’m trying to imagine how an 18 year old would feel about this level of attention. After all, Michael didn’t volunteer to be this generation’s Emmett Till. The St. Louis police department volunteered him for that by leaving his dead body in the middle of the street for several hours, most of those uncovered, in a lake of his own blood.   Nods, “crime scene” you say;  yes, of course.

Wonders though, if that had been a white woman lying in the middle of the street, would she have been covered? What about a murdered 7 year old? Covered? Not covered? Privacy of the dead respected in any way?

In the midst of my horror and, yes, even my embarrassment, because, really– white people? Seriously? Some of the stuff coming from your mouths, being typed from your fingers? I’m not like y’all, I don’t believe the way you believe, and yet I’m still horrified by the fact that you keep talking.

In the past week I’ve visited some “on the other side of the aisle” blogs. One of which (no I will not link to it; an awful person whose personal opus includes words like Dominate Male Group Theorem as a reason for why White Men get to be in charge) that I have–literally– had to shower to feel clean again. I’ve read comments. I’ve watched deniers of racial inequality poke themselves out from the holes they hide themselves in, announcing via their anonymous internet identity the full extent of their idiotic prophecies.

Some of my very favorite raging comments:

 “White don’t people steal and loot!”

History disagrees with you. Scandinavia, full of people that are about as white as white can get, basically invented pillaging and looting. They were called Vikings and unlike the How To Train Your Dragon movie they did not, in fact, ride dragons to other countries looking to liberate underprivileged dragons.

Leif_Ericson_on_the_shore_of_Vinland

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Or, if you need a more recent example of white people looting, here are some looting surfers from LA.  Because, you know– looting surfers. 

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“Well, white people don’t riot when they don’t get their way”.

I just… did y’all take a history class? Like, ever?

Wikipedia is not my favorite source, but look– a nice list of White American riots in the United States.

“There is no government conspiracy against black people!”  

Well, of course not. It’s not like the FBI wastes their time listening to illegal phone taps of civil rights leaders. That would be craz…  Wait. What?

“Pfft– JFK was a stupid, liberal democrat. You can’t offer up what HE did as evidence for a racial conspiracy. It’s not as if he was a COP in FERGUSON.”

Fair point. When a cop in Ferguson detains the wrong person on an arrest warrant instead of releasing him, they beat him up and then, because arresting the wrong man and beating him up isn’t quite bad enough, one of the cops presses property damage charges against the man. Why? Because the illegally detained, beaten man got blood on the officer’s uniform.

“Whatever– this is just your white guilt. You act like the KKK runs politics, or something.”

Or something. Add in the cleverly masked faces and it’s almost like you’d NEVER know that it was your Governor out there burning a cross on the lawn.

Between four million and seven million men and women belonged to the Klan in this era. It was active in every state. It found support in many northern and western cities and was particularly politically powerful in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, and Oregon, as well as the South. The Klan helped elect state and local officials and at least 20 governors and U.S. senators — from Maine to California. In Oregon, a Klan-dominated legislature passed an anti-Catholic school law, later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 1925), that required public school attendance. The Klan was deeply involved in politics, but it did not form its own political party. It was generally Democratic in the South and Republican in the North. It had no national platform. The Klan was a major issue at the 1924 Democratic Convention and the national election; in the 1928 presidential election, when New York Catholic Al Smith was the Democratic candidate, it helped the Republicans win.

“Racial inequality is over-rated. Why don’t black people just give it a rest? One time a black guy shot a white guy in my neighborhood.”

Yes. And that black guy will go to jail for a long, long time. Far longer than the white guy would have, had the shooter/victim been reversed.

One thing I have learned from the rather distasteful reading of several very excitable, pro-gun-rights forums is that bullets shot from a black person’s gun into a white person are much scarier and damaging than any other bullets. Those bullets are, I understand, 4 million times more likely to steal, shoot, and rape white women. In fact, because I am a white woman I should buy myself an assault rifle.  And then carry it with me everywhere I go to protect myself against violent criminals like John Crawford III. That guy? Just walking around walmart, in a legal open carry state, with a toy gunThe fucking nerve. 

He’s dead now. The cops shot him because people call 9-11 if you are black, carrying a gun. In a legal open carry state. And the NRA will say not a single word about how things would have been different had the black guy had a gun. Which, in light of CEO Wayne LaPierre‘s continued insistence that all people need guns to stop crime, feels, I don’t know, disingenuous. A bit like he’s a lying, liar pants.

“The problem with black people is their black excuses. How dare they sit there and complain.  The only time a cop stops me is when I’m speeding, ergo black people are committing more crimes because the cops mess with them more. It’s a fact.”

Did you know, my racist internet frenemy, that way back in 1870, during a time we like to call the Reconstruction, Hiram Revels became the first African American to serve in Congress? That black people had started enjoying all of the equality the constitution provided until the end of Reconstruction and the start of the Jim Crow laws? Those same laws that lasted all the way up to 1965?

I thought that was a pretty neat fact, and I just wondered if you, like, knew that.

Supreme Court Rules for Hobby Lobby.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, stating that forcing family-owned for-profit corporations to provide coverage for birth control violates the federal law protecting religious freedom.

Why?  You see, in America, Corporations marched, and fought, for their right to Equality.  And now they get to have the same constitutional protections as a person.  Awesome.

In America, we save the equality for those that really deserve (afford) it.  We legislate a society that cuts funding to social programs, denigrates abortion because, murder, and then, because those two things aren’t illogical enough, allows for-profit corporations to refuse contraception coverage.

It feels related– these no birth control/pregnancy/social welfare situations.

Joanie gets a job after high school to save up for college.  It doesn’t provide birth control coverage and because there have been so many hits to Planned Parenthood, she cannot access affordable contraception.  She has sex with her fiance’ and gets pregnant.  He agrees with his parents that he’s not ready to be a father and goes off to college in the fall. Joanie also feels unprepared for raising a child–she’s only 19 and her mother died of cancer while congress argued about the need for affordable health care.  Joanie graduated high school with pretty good grades, but not scholarship-winning.  She works a lot, but on $7.25 an hour, she’s barely supporting one person.  There’s no way she could afford full-time daycare for an infant, and she can’t afford not to work.   She counts her pathetic college fund and makes an appointment at the clinic.   

The kind voice on the line soothes Joanie.  She’s so scared and mildly horrified at the thought that she’s having an abortion.  People call it a choice, but Joanie feels like choice implies being happy with the decision.  In order for Joanie to have a shot at her own life, she has to make a choice, one that includes her inability to adequately provide for the fetus she carries. 

Alone– her now ex-fiance’ won’t even answer his phone– she arrives at the clinic. Joanie happens to live in an open carry state, so the dozen people flanking the entrance are carrying AR-15 rifles in one hand, the Right To Life brochures in the other. 

Joanie sits in her car, terrified.  How is she supposed to get in the door?  Past guns?  How does she know they won’t shoot her in the back?  How can these people be so horrible? 

She closes her eyes and presses one hand over her stomach.  “I’m sorry.  I wish I didn’t have to do this, too.  If things were different, if I was older.  If I had family to help me.  If your sperm-donor and his family hadn’t bailed on us both.  If I thought there was any sort of programs available for people like us, for people that just need someone to open a door.” 

Joanie opens her eyes. “They want to call me names as they protest my decision? Why not volunteer to babysit the infants they demand live while the mothers are at work? If they hate abortion so much, they should be demanding affordable birth control.”

Joanie has an important point: if you so vehemently oppose abortion the only logical position available is the vehement support of birth control.

Personally, I’m looking at how I can incorporate (since corporations get all the rights) my outrage.  Maybe a new line of personalized vibrators since they keep shoving themselves into All Things Vaginal.

Vibrating SCOTUS

Edited image populated with files in the public domain on http://commons.wikimedia.org/

 

 

 

Are School-Aged Kids Tested More often than Toxic Chemicals?

Are school-aged kids tested more often than toxic chemicals?  You betcha.  Most toxic chemicals haven’t been tested at all– and most school-age kids have been tested a lot.

Today’s News and Observer posted my op-ed about toxic chemical reform.   Please, I understand that knowing where to start can be overwhelming and intimidating, but we have to start somewhere.

In 1976 the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a largely unenforceable piece of legislation, became law.  All chemicals manufactured since have been regulated (unregulated) by it.

In 2014, we have two pieces of draft legislation floating in both the Senate and the House. The House version, appropriately named the Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA) combined with the Senate’s Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) does a fair amount of forsoothing and henceforthing new rules, most of which favor industry over consumer protection. Both drafts strip the power of toxic chemical regulation from the state, and neither draft replaces that state regulation with comprehensive federal oversight.

There is a middle ground where industry can advance and my children’s health can be protected.

wrote about this same issue, in greater detail and with more links, after getting back from DC with the kids last year.

Aren’t sure who represents you in DC?  Find them quickly by clicking here.