It Wasn’t John Horgan’s Fault – Don’t Even Think About It…

 

Socreds win again. Four more foreflushing years focsussed on the health of business not people, crony capitalists rather than public service, of lies and scandals, punishing public schools and teachers. Worst of all it ‘s all buoyed by a complicit corporate media.

But after this tragic loss, let’s not waste our post mortem time tut tutting about the leader or the campaign strategy. Neither John Horgan nor the NDP strategy lost this election.

“Horgan should have done this… the campaign should have done that.”
No. This election , as in most provincial elections, the NDP was doomed from the start by B.C.’s corporate media (especially Postmedia) strategy.

They started slowly with stories of an early big NDP lead due to voter anger with myriad Socred scandals. They described a few of the dozens of scandals and set in the minds of BC voters that this time, it looked like the NDP’s election to lose.
By doing this early groundwork, the media did two things:

First they set high expectations for an NDP win. Over the subsequent weeks, it allowed them to cherry pick polls and chronicle a Socred “comeback”, a comeback they could attribute to prudent Socred fiscal mangement. It also gave them lots of time to change the other side of the narrative by discussing the tax and spend proclivities of the NDP in the horrific 90s, a false narrative that is no longer even questioned it’s been sold for so long. Coupled with coverage of a surprising “surge” of Green Support on the Island, where Socreds can only win seats with a split vote, the media campaign to re-elect the Socreds was well on it’s way.

Second, and more important, giving the NDP a big early lead in the “polls” got voter anger out there early so it was easier to diffuse later on, and most importantly, it could fizzle out early with the indifferent voter, who really doesn’t “follow politics much.”

Having chronicled the “comeback” with a series of cherry picked polls , the 2017 election media campaign culminated with an almost surgical final week of manipulation of the undecided voter.

The Globe and Mail started it off, with a glowing endorsement of Socred fiscal mangement – “5 balanced budgets!”. They threw in an embarrassingly fawning column by Gary Mason who sung Christy Clark’s praises.

The Sun was on board all along, with headlines like “Horgan, a leader looking for a backbone”. They finished it up Saturday with an outright Socred endorsement without mentioning scandals, fudge it budgets, poverty levels, or BC Hydro bankruptcy.

CKNW, always a reliable Socred player, interviewed Keith Baldrey in a nauseating segment on Saturday , Mr Baldrey feigning political objectivity. Giving the impression that he had sifted through all the information which yielded the inescapable conclusion that Socreds were the prudent vote.

The Province did one better on Sunday, placing, just below the paper’s gleeful Socred endorsement , a letter to the editor that they headlined “NDP Will Bankrupt Us ”.
It’s quite simple. About 40% of British Columbian voters favour the NDP. About 35% favour the Socreds, 12 -20% are “undecided” or indifferent.

It is this group of voters who decide every BC election.

If they walk into the voting booth having most recently heard anger and disgust with Socred scandal and mismanagement , the NDP wins.

But if, like this election, the last thing they heard was the orchestrated testimonials of the media and the amazing comeback of a gifted campaigner, the NDP gets beat.

The latter is usually the scenario, and it was the scenario this time.

A carefully coordinated comeback, a push of the Green party, a last minute characterization of the stuck NDP bus as analogous to the failed NDP campaign and it’s all over.

But this time,let’s please not blame the candidate. Let’s instead blame the real villain(s) –  a coordinated, corporate media campaign which never laid a glove on the most odious government B.C. has ever had.

 

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Premier Clark Dismisses Horgan as a Leader Who Lacks a Spine

Now there’s an objective headline from Postmedia’s  Vancouver Sun, fast becoming a B.C. facsimile of Breitbart News.

In his full front page hack job of NDP leader John Horgan, columnist Rob Shaw allows Premier Clark to muse unchallenged about what she sees ( strictly clinically of course) to be Mr.Horgan’s shortcomings:

“I know people sort of thought (former NDP leader) Adrian Dix was flip-flopping, but John Horgan … has got a bigger problem in terms of finding his spine, finding his backbone. That was something I’ve learned about him over the last little while in watching the NDP.”

“John, he is not as strong a leader as I thought he would be,” said Clark. “He hasn’t been able to corral his caucus, there’s so much disunity in the group, they are always fighting with each other. He can’t seem to take a position on any of the important policies, things it’s obvious we are all going to have to take a position on.”

The fact that the Vancouver Sun would give the Premier a free front page to trash her political opponent without rebuttal is a terrifying indictment of what the paper has become.

With Global T.V. News offering nothing but traffic reports and recipes and C.K.N.W. solidly in the bag for the current  government, where can British Columbians possibly get any kind of factual information or analyses?

Shaw’s  swiftboating article also featured a photo of Premier Clark’s back, as she is symbolically walking back into the Parliament buildings. Disgraceful.

The Vancouver Sun has always shown it’s right wing stripes.They could be counted on to play a crucial role in past media coups of NDP Premiers, from Dave Barrett to Mike Harcourt to that other reviled Premier Clark.

Marjorie Nichols, Alan Fotheringham, et al, would carpet bomb them int0 submission for sins much less serious than any one of ten current or past Socred scandals. Still, there seemed to be some nuance required in their assassinations, and there was the occasional dissenting voice allowed, strictly to inoculate the public into accepting the paper’s objectivity.

But any pretence of objectivity has long since disappeared. This is the Sun’s most blatantly partisan story since the Supreme Court of Canada publicly spanked  Premier Clark’s government and forced  them to return B.C. school staffing levels to 2001 levels. So,after a fifteen year battle with a government the Supreme Court said acted unconstitutionally, what headline did the Vancouver Sun feel best encapsulated the story?

“Premier Hints at Extra Educational Funding” was the Sun’s headline.

Even worse,in this recent Horgan trashing piece, after columnist Rob Shaw had dutifully recorded all of Premier Clark’s ad hominem remarks about Mr H0rgan, he had the gall to include a most spectacular irony:

“Clark said she’s not worried about the race, because she prefers to focus on being positive.”

It would be laughable if not so viscious and inappropriate.

The Vancouver Sun has lost all objectivity.It has become a shameless government shill.

If you must read the Sun, do the crossword puzzle, find out how the Canucks did, but please, consider their significant and transparent political bias when reading any “news” story or op ed.

 

 

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B.C. Education Budget is Fake News

 In full rant recently, CNN’s Don Lemon, defined “fake news” as stories purposely concocted to mislead the public.

If that’s the criterion, government’s 2017 B.C. Education Budget is fake news. While the budget appears 256 million higher than 2016/2017, it does not represent the major
education funding increase it would have us believe.

Here’s there budget for 2017/18 and the proceeding two school years.bc-budget

bc-budget

 

 

 

Yahoo! Happy days are here again!

Substantial right? Well, not really. Not if one takes a look at how it actually shakes out.

Line 176 million – allotted for enrolment growth. This is a formula –  not a funding increase. Throughout many recent years of enrolment decline, lower per pupil funding was never described as “cuts” by the government – a formulaic increase cannot now be claimed as a funding increase.

Line 2120 million “annualized cost of interim agreement with B.C.T.F.(or more accurately,”teachers”). This money is to continue paying the teachers hired this spring as a result of the 50 million dollar “interim agreement to jump start”  addressing the Supreme Court of Canada decision against the Government. This is not a 2017/2018 funding increase, but a continuation of a 2016/2017 initiative.

Line 3 – 15 million – “for increased funding of student transportation.This is also continuation money for a transportation adjustment began last year. A cynic might say that transportation, the first thing cut by school districts years ago in response to annual funding cuts, was centrally resurrected to assure that students can get to their schools of choice.

This is not a funding increase, but another continuation cost of a previous policy.

Line 4 – 3 million – “ Rural education enhancement funding.” This is a sop to interior schools that the government has already announced will stay open despite local imperatives to close them in response to serial government budget cuts. This was committed to last year, and is a return of funding long removed, not a funding increase.

Line 5 – 28 million – “Relief of various school districts and other pressures”. This is the most dishonest of all the government’s budget   misrepresentations.

First, the money is pay back to school districts for downloaded expenditures already billed them for the “Next Generation Network”, a technological hardware upgrade.

Second, it’s not real money, merely the non- collection of an announced 2016/2017, 29 million dollar cut to “administration”.

Line 6 – 14 million – “Second “Economic Stability Dividend” – salary increase as per last year’s “affordability zone” contract.Increased educational funding? Hardly.

And finally, the 27.4 million dollars mentioned in the concluding paragraph for “curriculum implementation”. Clearly it was not included in the budget table because it is so obviously a mere re-imbursement of downloaded costs for curriculum resource needs paid by school districts in previous years.

In short, while the Education Budget has grown, there has been no significant increase in  education funding.

One would be remiss to not mention the  “Learning Enrichment Fund” into which the government will plough 100 million  dollars next year. The “L.I.F. , is a liquid fund,  controlled by the government, who can target it as they see fit. It’s a contingency fund, to offset litigation imperatives if it becomes absolutely unavoidable.

So, there is no  actual education funding increase for 2017/18.

Yet  once again, the government appears to be getting away with their claim that education funding will increase massively in next year’s budget.

It won’t.

Inarguably, and in pure Trump fashion, it’s fake news -fake news gone unchallenged by a media and public whose brains hurt from the government’s continuous  funding shell game. From multiple announcements of the same money to drive by, one year funding announcements, to cut and replace  funding, to representing routine maintenance as new funding, the misrepresentation and obfuscation is mind boggling.

It takes too much time, digging, and analysis to cut through the  subterfuge, and neither public nor media has much of a taste for it.

But the worst part of this fake news is that the government’s considerable circuitousness once again shows the considerable depth of their  animus toward public education .

 

 

 

 

 

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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

Photo

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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