Stop Saying the U.S.Election Was Unaffected

From The National Observer.

Russian interference decided the election

One thing is certain, it’s impossible to overstate the impact of Russia’s interference in the election, which was decisive. People, especially Democrats, should dispense with the mantra that it had no effect.

Average voters aren’t news junkies like you. Most people have no idea of the difference between Wikileaks and the FBI investigation into Clinton emails.

For the average voter, Wikileaks and Comey were two sides of one coin: emails. Which became shorthand for “Hillary lies.” When Comey’s letter came, it electrified the election because the public had already been primed to distrust Clinton by Wikileaks.

Trump knew it. He pounded the Wikileaks drum relentlessly, mentioning them a total of 164 times in the last month of the campaign alone. Half the time he did it on free national television coverage as his speeches were broadcast live.

The media danced so hard to Putin’s tune you could write a Broadway musical just from the headlines.

It was because of the relentless pounding of the Wikileaks stories that Comey’s letter nailed the Clinton coffin shut. (Comey himself is now under investigation.)

Data trackers Echelon Insights reports that, with 33 million mentions, the Wikileaks hacking stories were by far the most talked-about election issue on Twitter, closely followed by Clinton’s email (Comey). Together they combined for an astonishing 54 million mentions–about ten times the impact of the Access Hollywood tapes.

So what remains today is the suggestion, through this mysterious document, that the Kremlin and Trump campaign sought to benefit themselves by supporting Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. There’s no evidence that either knew about this plot, if it existed.

All of it worked, and it worked on the left as well as the right. All of it damaged trust in Clinton. Having maintained approval ratings well over 50% for 15 straight years, over the course of the campaign Clinton’s positives plummeted into the 30’s almost overnight.
Source: Gallup
The single most damaging narrative, that Clinton was untruthful and untrustworthy, only got traction when Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin, intervened to help Sanders, Stein, and ultimately Donald Trump.

If the Steele memo is to be believed, a very great deal of the pro-Stein and Sanders, anti-Hillary Clinton rhetoric was a Russian propaganda op. It certainly silenced and intimidated a great many of Hillary’s supporters who deeply wanted to cheer for her unabashedly and without reservation.

That gap gave doubt an open runway.

In the end, the election turned on about 100,000 votes in three states. That’s .07% of the electorate, while Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes.

By any objective standard, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence suggests that Americans were deprived of the president they chose because of Russian interference.

Putin “hated and feared” Clinton

The propaganda effect continues today. Despite having the most popular outgoing president in recent history, Democrats are so demoralized by internal divisions that they haven’t been able to mount a serious challenge to Trump, whose legitimacy is surely poisoned. They should flat out repudiate his inauguration. Until he is cleared by an independent investigation, Trump’s victory is no more legitimate than an ill-begotten Russian Olympic gold medal.

This scandalous conspiracy cannot be rewarded by handing him control of all the levers of power that assert the rule of law in America.

I would add one final note, perhaps the most important sentence in Christopher Steele’s entire dossier.

In describing the coordinated plotting between the Kremlin and Trump campaign, one of Steele’s sources said: “the two sides had a mutual interest in defeating… Hillary Clinton, whom President Putin apparently both hated and feared.” (Emphasis added)

At this moment in history, the United States deserves a president that Vladimir Putin is actually afraid of, instead of the reverse.

 

 

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Let Obamacare Go

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The U.S. election is over and GOP zealots are almost peeing their pants to finally repeal Obamacare. Killing “job killing” Obamacare is their mantra, their raison d’être.It is their sacred duty to exorcise this creeping cancer. They don’t even know why anymore, their eyes are glazed over in hysterical solidarity.

Having spent most recent congressional sessions voting fifty six times to repeal it, they now have the troops and the mandate, to be successful on the fifty seventh and (hallelujah) ,the final,vote. “Can I get an amen?”

Instead of dying on this hill, Democrats should lay down their arms and let Republicans die on it.

Let it go.

Because Obamacare isn’t what progressive Americans wanted in the first place. It was a compromise, a sop to Cerberus, a watered down Republican scheme that was “the best we could hope for”. Many Democrats held their noses and supported Obamacare because at least it moved the ball down the field towards accepting health care as a right not a business venture.

Obamacare became the embodiment of evil immediately the black guy brought it in. It is the focal point of Obama hate, a dog whistle for racism and ungodly socialism.

GOP zealots and a compliant media have convinced 75% of Americans that Obamacare is bad and should be repealed.

So let it go.

Obamacare, though complex and a masterstroke of political finagling, is really not much. It’s a mandatory private insurance plan. Whoopee.The rest of the world shakes their collective heads.

Republicans want to repeal it and replace it with an optional private insurance plan of some ilk. (To be decided sometime after their repealing bile has subsided).

So let it go.

Let them remove Obamacare as a scapegoat that allows private health insurance companies to fleece the U.S. public with jacked up premiums and deductibles.

Let them transfer ownership of an untenable private health insurance system to themselves.

Let it go.

I know, Obamacare, was the first American homage to universal healthcare.

I know that lots of Presidents (and first ladies) tried and failed to reform heath care after having faced the withering blast of big pharma and lobbyists that carpet bomb any attempt at reform.

I know Obamacare was a modern miracle of political prestidigitation.

And I know Obamacare was a move forward. To require all people to have health insurance, and to help those who couldn’t afford it was a worthwhile goal. To outlaw “pre existing conditions”, lifetime caps and staying on parents plans until twenty six are things that even Republicans grudgingly support.

Ironically, the GOP “replacement” of Obamacare will be – guess what? While mumbling something about “state lines” and competition the GOP will come up with a  private insurance scheme in which companies can’t disqualify for pre existing conditions, can’t have a lifetime benefit cap, and must allow children to stay on their parents plan until they are 26. Sound familiar? It should, and it’s all the Republicans can do.

They can’t tell insurance companies, “OK, now that we’ve repealed that awful Obamacare, you can resume the life and death abuse you  foisted on Americans for a hundred years.

There’s nothing else they can do but re-fiddle Obamacare and perhaps re-name  it Trumpcare.

Without removing the profit motive from health care, the U.S. is doomed to a game of health care whack a mole – closing one care disqualifier as private companies find another way to disqualify patients or simply raise rates and blame the system.

Neither Obamacare nor any shiny new GOP system based on private insurance will work. They both depend on a model that expects private health insurers to serve the patient for a reasonable fee.

Currently, medical insurers get $.33 of every $1.00 spent in medical care.

Ultimately, it’s ending this travesty that will be the answer, not re jigging ways of having people pay $.33 of every dollar to pay for health centre waterfalls, foyers, and CEO bonuses.

So let Obamacare go Democrats, and work towards removing the profit motive from health care. Everyone knows this is the right answer but they are afraid of the fight and the unknown.

Let it go – and let the Republicans take their turn demonstrating the unfairness and inefficacy of for profit health care for a while.

Obamacare will still be President Obama’s legacy, and real, single payer health care may some day come to Americans out it’s modest beginnings.

But as long as Obamacare is around to take the blame for untenable health care costs, it will.

Let it go.

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F.S.A. Exams – A Political Football

AS I SEE IT – Jim Nelson

So the annual hand wringing over the Foundation Skills Assessments tests begins again: Why are teachers so dead against them? Is it just that awful B.C.T.F. being radical again?

Should we keep our children from writing thePhoto tests?

The trouble with the FSA is not the tests but how they are used.

F.S.A. exams are the B.C. banner of the accountability movement in education, a movement that has ruined American public schools over the last 20 years and yet is catching on in B.C. despite its disastrous effect on U.S. schools.

The accountability movement started in the U.S. and was born of the American tendency to analyze, regulate and measure things.

A good example of this is the development of American football.

Now, I enjoy an NFL game as much as much as the next person but a look at American football’s metamorphosis from rugby is instructive in understanding the development of the accountability movement in education.

Americans didn’t play rugby for long; rather, they quickly felt the need to change it, to regulate and delineate the hell out of it. They divided the field into one-yard segments with 200 hash marks, added five officials, helmets and padding, statistics, instant replay, score clocks and down chains. They broke the game into quarters. Time-outs, huddles, motion rules, penalties — with designated yards for designated offences — all marched off precisely. There are signals for everything, a ritualized kicking game and 300-page playbooks with X’s and O’s and arrows.

Instead of rugby, with one ball, one referee, an emphasis on spontaneity and creativity, and an almost chivalrous adherence to fair play, our southern cousins ended up with football, a testament to rules, measures, specialization and intervention. I reiterate that I love watching NFL football.

But back to the analogy.

Unfortunately, the same cultural compulsion that changed rugby into American football proved unhelpful when applied to education.

Because education is like rugby. It is interactive, free-flowing, spontaneous and creative. It’s not easily quantifiable, pre-packaged or measured. It is too complex to be judged by a standardized measure, no matter how strong the cultural imperative may be to do so.

How can a standardized test measure the “A-ha!” moment when a student suddenly appreciates the brilliance of Shakespeare? How can it measure the ability to co-operate or persevere or to help another student?

Learning takes place through relationships with peers and teachers. It can only be measured somewhat accurately using an aggregation of many and varied assessments, both objective and anecdotal.

We all wish it was simpler, that we could judge how students are doing with a simple urine sample or a multiple-guess test.

My opinion, although I’m a bit radical, is that an even more accurate indication of how well your child is learning is whether they are happy at school, whether they feel safe, are confident and engaged at school. If they “like” the teacher, have friends, feel good about their studies and enjoy school, they are learning just fine.

The B.C.T.F. is dead right on this issue. Although the union brings up red herrings such as how the poor children suffer undue stress when asked to write tests or how the poor teachers have to mark them, or the time it takes out of the curriculum or that the reason they are no good is because of demographic differences, yada yada yada, these are peripheral reasons for objecting to the FSA.

Teachers and the B.C.T.F. know viscerally that trying to legitimize standardized measures is harmful to our schools and, thus, our children’s learning. They are the only ones standing against the accountability movement.

As a former school principal in the Tri-Cities, I applaud this stance. Were my children in Grade 7, I would encourage them to not write the F.S.A. exams. Had I a child in Grade 4, I would send him to school and quietly but firmly instruct the school that he is not to write the F.S.A. exams and that perhaps half an hour in the gymnasium or on the playing field might be a good alternative.

Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and Principal.

SO SING ALONG…

Following is “Turfin’ FSA,” sung to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ U.S.A.-by Jim Nelson and Dennis Secret:

Turfin’ F.S.A

If everybody had a notion, ’round District 43,

We’d call BS on the testing and we’d go on a spree,

We’ll throw ‘em all in the dumpster, autonomy has its day,

Tell the super we’re turfin’, turfin’ FSA

We’re giving testing the boot,

’Cause it just don’t compute.

And then we’ll set our sights on, the Fraser Institute.

Every district in B.C. will see us leadin’ the way,

Tell the super we’re turfin’, turfin’ FSA

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$50 Million? Look Out B.C. Teachers, You’re Being Fleeced.

PhotoCall me a cynic, but B.C.’s teachers shouldn’t accept a nickel from the B.C. government until the government publicly explains what the money represents.

B.C. teachers and government negotiators have reached a deal to add $50 million dollars to the system this year to “jump start” negotiations. Neither side wanted “children and schools to suffer” while complex negotiations went on.

But what is this money? Is it a small down payment on a larger debt, or “new money” as chronically tone deaf Minister Mike Bernier posits? Will government try to sell it to voters as “new money” or what it actually is – a small portion of returned heist money?

And unless what it represents is clear, the beatings at the hands of the government will continue, despite their embarrassing and long overdue trip to the woodshed at the hands of the Supreme Court of Canada.

While $50 million dollars will be a welcome first drip in refilling the education bucket kicked over by Christy Clark in 2001’s contract stripping, the money represents different things to different people.

To public school advocates and educators, $50 million is a quick down payment on a much larger settlement, to be negotiated later. The B.C.T.F. has conservatively pegged the amount taken from schools over sixteen years at $300 million (it’s likely closer to $2 billion). Teachers think negotiations have just begun, and that more money will be forthcoming.

To the B.C government, $50 million is merely a strategic political move.

First, $50 million allows the government to buy educational altruism in the minds of voters fed up with sixteen years of B.C.’s education wars.

“The Supreme Court said we’ve been bad and mean for sixteen years; but now we’re excited about investing more money in children because now we suddenly care about public education- families first!” ( somewhat paraphrased)

$50 million buys the government a tube of culpability ointment which they will apply liberally (pun intended) from now until May’s election.

Second, to the government, $50 million is not a down payment, it’s a cap. Because there’s a provincial election in May they won’t ever be required to give a higher sum than $50 million.

Were the government to lose May’s election, they need only sit in opposition and snipe about why the new government wasn’t following the Supreme Court of Canada’s judgment, a process which their government had magnanimously just begun?

And should the government win May’s election, they will be purged of all sins and be able to claim a mandate for their prudent educational governance.

And don’t forget the card teachers have just dealt the government. If pressed, the government can now finally point to a successful, meaningful negotiation with teachers.

They also have the “taxpayers can’t afford anymore/ no one can negotiate with this militant union” strategy, which they can easily resurrect, having given so much new money to education.

Armed with a new mandate, how expeditiously might we expect further negotiations to go? Having won the election while touting a huge, $50 million dollar infusion of “new money” into the system, does anyone actually think they would immediately offer more the following year?

In the unlikely event they were forced, by the public, the media, or whatever Supreme Court police assure people comply with court rulings, a media honeymooning government might toss another $20 million of “new money” at education in year two, and perhaps a few million the following year.

To the government, this $50 million agreement represents at least a settlement cap, at worst, the final solution.

Let’s be clear. This provincial government has proven its dishonorable intentions since Christy Clark’s original sin in 2001 and sixteen years of pogrom and obfuscation.

B.C.T.F President Glen Hansman, social media and even Vaughan Palmer have adamantly described the $50 million dollars as a small refund on money unconstitutionally taken from schools.

But in discussing the $50 million dollar agreement, Education Minister Mike Bernier emphasized repeatedly that the $50 million was “new money ” piled upon the substantial 5 billion plus the government already gives to public education, despite plummeting enrolment. (up significantly since 2001 zzzzzz..)

The Supreme Court settlement is the only thing teachers have that can get this government to put any money into education.

By allowing government to take education off the front burner for this election cycle and tout $50 million dollars of “new money” as meaningful atonement for their sins, teachers may have sold their leverage at a bad time and far too cheaply.

 

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Five Steps to Buck Up for B.C. Education

PhotoMy two kids were lucky enough to graduate from Tri City high schools, one in ’99 and one in 2001. They were lucky because they graduated just before  government cuts  began to affect educational resources  and programmes.

Now they’re both high school teachers in the same school district (one at his alma mater). Neither can believe the scarcity of  resources and paucity of student opportunity compared with when they were in school. Art, shop programmes, Journalism, Library, sports teams, drama, after school activities have seemingly withered away they often report when they (too seldom) drop by Mom and Dad’s.

Ancient technology,neglected maintenance, field trips – things that make school memorable and developmentally important to kids. Public schools have moved back in time and it’s possible they won’t get their vibrancy  back.

The B.C. government seems to  think PISA scores and measurable outcomes is what counts.They believe that teaching is easy, a soft touch, and that teachers require instruction and curricula from Ministry people unschooled in school and learning.

Every education initiative, announcement and re-announcement is a political strategy. Suspicion and disrespect for public schools and teachers permeates their actions and words.

And it’s so discouraging to see our public schools going the way of U.S. public schools.
The strategies are the same. Tried  and true. Defund,measure, indict,and repeat until the public is on side and demands “choice”, vouchers, merit pay, testing, measurable outcomes.

Do we have to go down this old, potholed, school privatization road?
Most, who know education, know public schooling is not that mysterious, and will only fail if we continue to Goebbles it into disrepute, using standardized testing ,underfunding and union bashing as weapons and corporate profiteers for patrons.

We don’t have to continue, like lemmings, down this road over the privatization cliff.  Why would we in B.C. want to ape U.S. public school strategies, repeatedly proven the least successful public school strategies in the world?

We don’t have to. It’s not that complicated.

What if instead , we did these five things:

1) Funded public schools( not private schools) equitably & adequately – no, I mean really.

2) Demanded extensive training for teachers – perhaps Masters degrees.

3)  Negotiated broad,reasonable terms of employment and budgets, leaving details to local  districts. ( end per pupil funding)

4) Allowed teachers professional autonomy for designing the teaching and learning within broad provincial curricula established by educators.

5) Adjusted teacher’s salaries to be the second or third highest in  Canada, then committed  to meeting annual cost of living increases in hard costs and teacher and support staff salaries.

We’ve done half of  number 4 already, although we did it badly, offering scant consultation and no money for implementing sweeping new curricula.

Alas, we have made no attempt at the other four suggestions however and they, or a similar amalgam are the only way to resurrect our wounded public school system.

By doing so,perhaps B.C. could avoid the following, frightening statistic:

U.S.      – 50% of public school teachers leave the profession within 5 years of entering it.

Finland- 97% of public school teachers remain in what is seen as a career, not a job.

Given this statistic, no PISA test is required to determine which country’s education system is operating more successfully. (One might be quite surprised to discover which system is more expensive, however.)

I wonder if my own two, high school teacher children will continue to see teaching as a calling,as in Finland  or just a poorly paid job ,as it’s seen in the U.S. and increasingly in B.C.

There has been a significant disrespect for teachers and public schools  baked into B.C.’s battle fatigued public by the government’s fifteen year vendettta.

Sure, it’s about serial funding cuts and eroding salary. But it’s the continuous disdain and disrespect heaped on schools and teachers that has really drooped the shoulders of  B.C. public educators. Too many teachers have been forced to teach defensively to cope – closing classroom doors, pulling out worksheets, hoping to make it through the week. Embracing volunteer activities with kids or going for a Friday beer or to a staff get together is not even an option to many, stressed teachers.

If we don’t rehabilitate our commitment to public schools soon, they will  be beyond repair, physically and politically.

I don’t want my uniform clad grandchildren to be bussed across town to a “Learning Academy ” that stresses rigour,test results and competition and is run for profit by poorly trained and paid trainees and corporate consultant.

Rather, I want them to walk ,with friends, to and from their neighbourhood school, where the grass is cut,the weeds pulled, and the school freshly painted. I want their teachers to be enthusiastic and well trained, empathetic and patient. I want my grandchildren to be active in school activities that are happily supervised and organized by teachers who have the time and inclination to do so.

What could possibly be a better investment in our future?

It’s about money and respect. A lot of money and a lot of respect. Teachers and public schools have gone  fifteen years with little of either.

Come on B.C. Let’s take the five steps above, buck up and defend our kids schools, their embattled teachers and support workers, and parenthetically, my own two ,not quite completely disillusioned, children.

 

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Sir Ken Robinson excerpt…

Sir Ken Robinson…. in his 2006 TED talk “Do schools kill creativity?”

. .. schools around the world are using too narrow a definition of intelligence and, worse, in their obsession with tests, are actually educating children out of being creative.

Schools’ drive for conformity is at odds with the rapidly changing world, where being flexible, curious and creative are more important qualities than ever.

Engendering these qualities in future generations matters to adland and the wider creative industries because they rely on a steady stream of diverse thinkers who can creatively solve business problems.

“We are human creatures that live in bodies. It seems a simple thing to point out, but if we all exercise regularly, eat and sleep properly, our sense of vitality and achievement is naturally enhanced,” Robinson says. “If you sit kids down day after day indoors at desks, doing what often amounts to low-grade clerical work, then don’t be surprised if they fidget, don’t achieve a great deal and don’t feel very good about themselves.”

His contention is that education is not just about imparting factual knowledge. It is a broad brief that should encompass cultural understanding, social learning and development of empathy and compassion. The goal should not just be about creating competent workers but rounded individuals.

“I’m not promulgating a theory; I know it works. If you have a more dynamic approach to teaching and learning, if you promote links between disciplines, if you set creative questions for kids to explore, if you engage their curiosity, if you nurture their imaginations – they become more fully involved and excited about learning and their achievement levels go up,” Robinson explains. “It is a human process, not a mechanical process.” These principles apply to the teaching of both the arts and sciences, he adds.
Read more at http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/ken-robinson-you-dont-want-caste-system-creativity/1403876#CVWowwOJO1PguSgC.99

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Lock Him Up, Lock Him Up, Lock Him Up

PhotoEvery  recent  U.S. President elect has known ( or been forcefully told by handlers) that the U.S. has only one President at a time.
Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama each forcefully said these exact words while being badgered by the media to comment on the foreign policy of the president they were soon to replace.

Clearly, U.S. allies and enemies alike need to know with whom they are dealing during presidential transition periods.

While public criticism and free expression are rights guaranteed every private citizen under the first amendment, intervening and negotiating on behalf of foreign countries is illegal. It is covered by the Logan Act of 1799, a law passed to assure that no U.S citizen actively undermines or confounds U.S. foreign policy.

By any measure, Trump has done just that.In past months, he has directly  intervened on behalf of Israel (and arguably Russia) in direct opposition to the foreign policy of  the United States.

In the recent U.N. vote against Israeli settlements, Trump, at the behest of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi and convinced him to postpone the scheduled vote in order that the new administration could deal with the U.N. initiative. Trump also demanded the U.S. veto the resolution and, when it was clear this wouldn’t happen, he continued to negotiate to “bury” the resolution indefinitely.

The Logan Act (1 Stat. 613, 18 U.S.C. § 953, enacted January 30, 1799 ) is a United States federal law that forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments having a dispute with the U.S. It was intended to prevent the undermining of the government’s position.Contravention of the Logan Act is punishable by up to 3 years in prison.

The Logan Act has seldom been used ( only once), because President’s elect have, in the past,been circumspect and knowledgeable enough to recognize the importance of the law’s purpose.

This President elect wouldn’t know a Logan Act from a Loganberry.

I know it won’t happen, but a group chanting of “lock him up” is a delicious temptation.It’s also warranted , given Trump’s blatant disregard for transition protocol and the Logan Act, a law of the land for over two centuries.

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