Political Commentary

Education

The Arizona teachers were on strike for a week.  My daughter, at home with three kids because of it, took them to Phoenix one day to join in the protest.  What a great thing to do!  Education in Arizona is poorly funded because the Republicans, who often send their kids to private schools, would rather pass tax breaks.  Here’s why I left: phew!  You can read that blog and the ones preceding it.

This from Wikiedia:

The 2018 Arizona teachers’ strike was held from April 26–May 3, 2018 by 20,000 teachers to protest low pay and cuts to school funding.  Arizona Governor Doug Ducey had approved a proposal giving a 20 percent raise to teachers by 2020 with a 9 percent raise in 2019; teachers rejected this proposal as it did not provide increased funding for schools themselves or raises for support staff. It has coincided with a similar strike in neighboring Colorado.

The walkout occurred after similar actions in West Virginia and Oklahoma, and is the third in the ongoing wave of teachers’ strikes in the United States…

The strike ended on May 3, 2018 when the Government of Arizona conceded to increase funding to increase salaries for support staff and to decrease student to counselor ratios.

…Before the walkout, teachers’ salaries in 2018 were between $8000 and $9000 lower than teachers’ salaries in 1990, when adjusted for inflation. Wages for teachers in Arizona are some of the lowest in the United States, averaging $48,372 per year. In 2017, Arizona ranked last of all fifty states for average elementary school pay, and second to last for teacher pay at the secondary level

But the strike ended with only a few promises.  Someone asked, What happens now?  One of our state  senators answered:

Steve Farley — Arizona State Senator for District 9, April 29

As the son of two public school teachers and the father of two daughters who got a great education in Arizona public schools, I know we need to increase pay for all K-12 public educators, including support staff, as well as restore funding for textbooks, computers, and building maintenance…

We need to do it now. We are in an unprecedented crisis in which more than half of our teaching positions are either vacant or held by someone without proper qualifications, because so many teachers have left teaching entirely or left the state because they could not afford to teach in Arizona. Our future as a society and economy depends on adequately funded and well-run public schools…

The Governor’s “plan” still does not have details in legislative form, so we do not know how he is claiming to fund the proposal. From what we have seen so far, this is not financially sustainable beyond the upcoming fiscal year, and nonpartisan legislative economists project a $300 million deficit within two years.

In the past when deficits have happened, this Governor and this legislative majority have traditionally voted to cut public education…

While the legislature is famously unpredictable, here’s my best guess on what the upcoming week might look like, so you can be prepared to act when necessary. There are no set times for any of these steps to commence.

This could be the last week of session if there is a budget deal, as the Governor has asserted. If there is a deal, it will only be with Republicans because neither legislative Democrats nor the leaders of the Red For Ed movement have been consulted.

If there is a deal, it will be a part of the overall state budget (including all funding for all state agencies and many other policy changes, not just education) and the first bills will be introduced on Monday.

Most of the action will take place on Tuesday, starting with Appropriations Committee hearings on all budget bills, with an opportunity in both House and Senate for public testimony. It is likely that the committee chairs will severely limit public testimony — in the past they have asked for three people in favor and three against with as little as one minute each. This is the only opportunity for the public to be heard in a formal setting. Not my idea of true democracy…

Later that day, there will be a Committee of the Whole on the House and Senate floor. This is where the bills will be debated by elected members and the public can watch in the gallery. Please pack the galleries. As your elected official, I need you to witness this. We as Democrats will attempt to amend the budget bills to address the true priorities of Arizona, including sustainable education funding. Our amendments will likely be voted down, but we will make the case for investing in ourselves instead of giving taxpayer money away to out-of-state corporate interests. This often happens in the middle of the night. Sometimes from midnight till 6am. I’m not kidding.

Then on Wednesday, the final vote will be tallied for or against the bills, they will be submitted to the Governor for signature, and the session will likely end.

Other bills will be voted on throughout these last days as members try to get their other priorities through, and bills once thought dead could come back to life, so I will be watching for those carefully. I suggest you do too.

Keep up the pressure. Your advocacy is working. Thank you for helping to revitalize our democracy, and stay involved. It’s worth it.

Steve

Does anyone know how it went?

North Korea

Education was last week’s News.  This week it’s North Korea.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was just there and brought back three American “detainees”.  Yesterday I heard Associated Press reporter Matt Lee (who was one of two journalists allowed to accompany Pompeo) on NPR’s All Things Considered (Copyright © 2018 NPR):

KELLY: … I want to ask you, Matt Lee – this is not your first time traveling to North Korea, not your first time traveling there with the U.S. secretary of state. You went along on the plane with Madeleine Albright when she traveled in 2000, and I’m curious what differences you saw… as you’re driving by … what do you see out the window? What’s it look like?
LEE: We arrived early in the morning, like what would be rush hour in a normal city. There was more traffic than certainly there was 18 years ago… Most of the morning commuters that we saw were either on bicycles or on foot – farmers, soldiers, people who are potentially office workers and lots of children in school uniforms walking to school along the side of the road. The city, from what I remember from 18 years ago, was not a sprawling metropolis of skyscraper-type buildings. That has changed.
KELLY: Suggests money is coming from somewhere to pay for that.
LEE: Exactly, exactly. Despite …severe sanctions on North Korea… the city is still growing up and out.

That made me think of an article I had read in the NY Times Magazine last Sunday, bank-heist

The New York Times has reported that North Korea is believed to maintain a network of about 1,700 computer hackers around the world, aided by 5,000 trainers, supervisors and other support staff. Many operations are aimed at harvesting intelligence from South Korea; others, as in the case of Sony, are intended to avenge slights, or others to reap financial gain. North Korean hackers have become especially adept at targeting the weak links in the financial system: banks in developing nations, especially those in Southeast Asia. “They are easy prey,” says Vitaly Kamluk of Kaspersky Lab, which found Korean-language coding embedded in some Lazarus Group malware and claims it definitively linked the Lazarus Group to North Korea, through an I.P. address that the group briefly used during a wave of attacks in Europe and Central America in 2017. “These central banks often cannot afford good security, good software, or hire a proper specialist to configure their network,” Kamluk says. “They are low-hanging fruit.”

Seen Today

A church across the street from the office has three Sunday morning services.  The first is in Creole.

A woman waiting in line ahead of me at a store Pickup had her hair in about 30 narrow braids.  Asked her how long it took – 10 hours!  Her son, age 7 he told me, was shuffling around doing basketball moves the entire time.  A woman leaving the store behind me had two children; the daughter, who looked about eight,  was bouncing sideways, perhaps a soccer move.  Kids have such energy!

Each evening, when I get home from work, I get a glass of wine and the newspaper and sit on the patio overlooking Sand Lake.  Much better view than my last place, which was mostly plants, although it was interesting to see a squirrel in a palm.

English Proficiency

Can you tell what this quote refers to?

“Against the luminous sky the rays of her halo were spikes of darkness roweling the air; shadow flattened the torch she bore to a black cross against flawless light — the blackened hilt of a broken sword. Liberty.”

Backstory from the New York Times: Thousands of German Students (taking pivotal final secondary-school exams) Protested ‘Unfair’ English Exam … which they said was absurd, with obscure and outdated references.  Kudos for my seven-year-old grandson who knew the answer!  english-test

Past our Shelf Life

A friend of mine in her mid-80’s, whose husband had died a few years ago, had moved to a retirement village.  This last year she hooked up with a fellow retiree whose wife had just passed away.  Serendipity!

Another friend, 94, who lives just outside of DC, and whose husband passed away a year ago, broke her hip a week ago, tripping on a carpet on her way out of exercise class!  It is DC, but I didn’t ask her if she exercised with the Notorious RBG.  (Here is a video of Stephen Colbert working out with her: RBG.)

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