As usual, a lack of transparency and accountability in DC’s public and charter schools

All that is laid out in detail by Valerie Jarrett.

Here is her article:

Tomorrow, Wednesday June 26, the city council will hold a hearing on two bills, which are generally aimed at budget transparency in our publicly funded schools—most notably, for better recording and tracking of all public funds, especially at risk funds. The latter are supposed to supplement, not supplant, other expenditures in our schools, to target resources to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children in our city.

(See here and here for each bill–0046 and 0239, respectively. School data expert Mary Levy has a good redline version of DC Code to show what would change with each.)

Transparency in at risk funding in DC’s publicly funded schools has been historically bad. While it has reported its use of at risk funds generally, DCPS has repeatedly not followed the law regarding use of the money. Charter schools, on the other hand, have only voluntarily reported their use of at risk money–and the incomplete reporting in available documents varies wildly, with seemingly inappropriate uses (i.e., check out the $20,000 for 5 uniforms recorded here for Digital Pioneers. I’d like to think this is a mistake–OTOH, what if it isn’t??)

To the extent that these bills would ensure greater budget clarity overall, and specifically WRT at risk funds, it would be a help.

OTOH, holding a hearing mid-2019 on these two bills is a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on a rapidly sinking Titanic as a way to ensure passengers are comfortable.

Take this handy chart, from EmpowerEd, which graphically outlines some of the most obvious areas of public exclusion from our schools. But there isn’t a piece of paper big enough to outline more fulsomely how we the public have utterly NO clue what happens in our schools or their governance–by design.

Here are just some recent items:

–All videos of charter board meetings before 2018 are gone, with no back-ups. For some meetings, there are just notes, not official transcripts. Charter board staff confirmed this to me at the end of April 2019, when I tried to access video of the June 2017 charter board meeting and couldn’t find it.

–Who actually owns the building of St Coletta’s–paid for in large part by DC taxpayer money–is unclear.

–The executive director of the charter board urged the schools his agency regulates to lobby against the suspensions bill that became law and mocked the student suicide prevention act–all with the assistance of FOCUS, a private charter advocacy group.

–There are no records of outsider visits to the mayor and council, while an ed reform-supported group buys council members and staff breakfast and lunch every year, but is not registered as a lobbying organization.

–What control individual DCPS principals have over their own budgets (and buildings) appears determined by politics as well as power, with DCPS keeping two sets of books for accounting purposes. (See video of the exchange between DCPS budget specialist Allen Francois and council members at the April DCPS budget hearing here starting at 3:38:37.)

–More than a quarter of all charter board meetings between October 18, 2017, and October 31, 2018, were closed to the public.

–In 2019, Chavez and Monument charter schools closed without parents or teachers involved in the decisions (see here and here), while Mundo Verde charter school blocked parents from entering and hired a consultant to intimidate unionizing teachers.

–The expansion of Washington Latin charter school was not made known publicly until its application with the charter board in April—despite having been announced in a blog a year earlier.

–Teacher turnover within our schools is only self-reported at best—and, as school data guru Mary Levy noted, not accurately.

–Lead has been found in yet more school playground surfaces—but testing was not done, nor initially reported, by any city agency.

–Sexual abuse in one school’s aftercare revealed lack of oversight in the entire vetting process of employees for at least one company; whether the lack of vetting is more widespread remains unknown, amid a bevy of unanswered questions from elected officials.

–According to investigative journalists, DC schoolchildren have been subjected to unusual, harsh, and detrimental treatment, including seclusion and restraints and restricted bathroom passes.

–Also according to investigative journalists, there’s an ongoing grading and graduation scandal in at least one DC charter school that remains unexamined by city officials.

–A member of the charter board, Naomi Shelton, recently took employment with KIPP—and no city leader has publicly stated any problem with that, despite the fact that it appears to violate two sections of DC code (see here and here).

Neither of the bills here addresses most of these things. In fact, they don’t address well or at all the most basic items of true democracy, FOIA and the Open Meetings Act (OMA).

Right now, nearly half our kids attend charters for which neither FOIA nor the OMA apply. Although one of the bills here (0239) does provide for the OMA to apply to charter schools, it doesn’t mention FOIA at all.

This is especially weird given that the council actually has a bill that provides for both OMA and FOIA in our charter schools. But that bill, 0199, is not officially part of this hearing. Rather, its hearing is slated for–wait for it–October. Here is what 0199 provides for our charter schools:

–Transparency in contracts greater than $25,000;
–Complying with FOIA and the Open Meetings Act;
–Teachers and students represented on boards.

(See here for Mary Levy’s handy write-up of the differences in the THREE transparency bills (0199, 0239, and 0046), and here for a write-up by EmpowerEd of the differences between 0199 and 0239, only the latter of which is part of the June hearing.)

In an ideal world, of course, all of what is provided for in 0199 would be in at least one of the bills (0239 and 0046) at the June hearing. But the fact that FOIA is explicitly being excluded from tomorrow’s hearing on budget transparency suggests that something else is at play.

Although charter schools elsewhere do follow FOIA, charter advocates here have noted that those schools are governed differently than in DC, being under either one board of education or the leadership team of traditional public schools. Thus, those charter schools are all directly controlled by government actors–unlike in DC, where charters are run more like publicly funded nonprofits than government agencies.

All of which constitutes a rather charming excuse, given that there is a much bigger unstated reason to not have FOIA in our charter schools: the interests of government actors in a system of school choice.

In DC as elsewhere, school choice endeavors to turn what is provided as a public good (public education of right in every quarter for everyone) into a marketplace, ensuring that people whose schools of right may not be well-supported or with high ratings have a way of opting out of them and choosing something else.

But in DC, the public cannot inform or shape this marketplace *at all*.

[Confidential to the DC council and Mayor Bowser: People make demands. Waitlists are lists. People are not waitlists. Waitlists are not demands.]

It’s not merely that no DC parent has a choice of what school will be selected for their child in the lottery by a computer. The DC public also has no agency in what schools are planned, created, approved, or closed. Just this school year, for instance, our city created Bard, expanded Banneker, approved many charter schools opening, expanding and closing, and in none of those did the public have any meaningful part before the decisions were made and announced.

Perhaps worse is the fact that we have relatively few city leaders with actual power over our schools. Here’s the sum total: the mayor, the council, the charter board, its executive director, the DCPS chancellor, the deputy mayor for education, and the state superintendent of education.

Together, these 25 people have absolute power over our schools and their budgets of more than $2 BILLION every year. Eleven of these people–those with the most direct authority–are unelected. The 14 elected officials have many other duties besides school governance, which means their ability to monitor the unelected officials (much less be directly answerable in the event of “bumps in the road”) is necessarily limited.

So it is that DC’s school “marketplace” is entirely determined without any unbiased, neutral assessment of need either by government actors, who often act in private (i.e., Kenilworth, Banneker, Bard), or by private operators making their case to an unelected board not directly answerable to the public (and that now has a member with an apparent conflict of interest).

In addition, none of the true costs of DC’s school “marketplace” are ever disclosed or accounted for, despite new charter schools implicating millions in new facilities fees every year and consequent loss of resources and enrollment at existing schools.

Perhaps expectedly, such a “marketplace,” created with insider knowledge and decision making, confers true choice and freedom only to insiders:

–private operators, free of the responsibility of rights in education and free of reporting most uses of public funds to the public and

–government actors, free from ensuring all schools of right are equitable because if any school can be chosen, there is no need to bother fixing any, thus continuing proliferation of new schools; defunding existing schools of right with poor students; enrollment loss; and closures, all of which ensures a steady stream of revenue and buildings to privatizers (who, not coincidentally, help fund campaigns–a win-win!).

But into this casino-shiny narrative of choice, competition, and “quality” in schools, FOIA provides a democratic disruption. In our city, where “options” stand in for education rights, and schools are treated like toilet paper (a commodity chosen, used, then discarded based on facts and figures that measure nothing as much as demographics), the costs of imposing choice, competition, and “quality” as stand-ins for rights are never accounted for publicly. Indeed, those costs are not even borne by the people monetarily benefitting from choice, competition, and “quality,” but by the people with the least say in any of it: the public!

Against that backdrop, FOIA is one of the most basic tools of school transparency, providing answers to the question of who stands to lose when the public funding our school choice casinos finds out where the money is really going.

Not surprisingly, some of DC’s education leaders appear to reserve great well springs of hate for FOIA. At an oversight hearing on February 15 this year, for instance, the executive director of the charter board referenced a FOIA request filed in what he characterized as a “sheer act of spite.” (See the video here at about 2:20:45)

Notwithstanding that there is no requirement for, uh, lack of spite in FOIA requests, the idea that a government actor would dismiss a law because it might allow a perceived act of spite is, well, extraordinary.

Such apparent fear of FOIA has also raised the spectre of its cost–even when last year a total of $3 million (out of a city budget of nearly $15 BILLION) was spent by all city agencies answering FOIA requests (including $22,000 spent by the charter board). The total number of FOIA requests in DCPS last year was 184 versus 74 in the charter board.

In the end, it may not be the money spent on FOIA that’s creating fear, but the money being spent right now on what FOIA could uncover. (Like, I don’t know, emails about a government official using his government position for private gain.)

Regardless, be sure to at least listen to the excuses tomorrow for why we cannot have FOIA in all our schools–and then ask yourself who’s giving the excuses and what they stand to lose.

Because they are deeply, deeply scared.


Published in: on June 25, 2019 at 2:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why School Takeovers Fail

Three of the myths of the billionaire-led school “reform” movement are:

(1) persistently low test scores at certain public schools are entirely the fault of lazy, unionized, teachers and administrators;

(2) if those schools are “taken over” by an outside group, there will be nearly-instantaneous, amazing successes;

(3) the less experience the new teachers and administrators possess, the better.

We now have over 15 years of evidence. None of those myths are true, and none of those school takeovers have been successful, as Peter Greene explains in today’s Curmudgucation.

Here in Washington DC, Dunbar SHS was taken over not once, but twice. Both attempts were complete failures.

Published in: on June 20, 2019 at 6:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Elephant in the School Choice Room

Peter Greene explains what it is at Curmudgucation:



Magical Money And School Choice

Posted: 14 Jun 2019

Pennsylvania’s legislature is currently having Version 2,433,672,127 of the same argument that emerges every five minutes in the places where charter schools and public schools bump up against each other. The PA legislature just passed a suite of charter school bills addressing a variety of issues, but not the single issue that folks on all sides want to have addressed:

Absent from all four bills is any mention of the elephant-in-the-room issue when it comes to charter schools, namely how they are funded.

School districts complain that the bills to educate resident students who choose to attend a charter school are one of the largest expenditures in their budgets. According to the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, 37 cents of every new dollar that districts raised from property taxes in 2017-18 went to charter schools.

Charter schools, meanwhile, complain they are underfunded because the amounts they are paid are less than what a school district spends to educate their own students.

Public schools are getting hammered by the loss of public tax dollars that have been diverted from public school finances into charter and choice school accounts. Charters, having forgotten the era when they bragged that they could do more with less, complain that they are underfunded compared to public schools.

The problem here, as with several other choice-related issues, is in a false premise of modern school choice movement. That false premise is the assertion that we can fund multiple school districts for the same money we used to use to fund one single public system.

This is transparent baloney. When was the last time any school district said, “We are really strapped for funds. We had better open some new schools right away!” Never. Because everyone understands that operating multiple facilities with multiple staffs and multiple administrations and multiple overhead expenses– all that costs more than putting your operation under one roof.

But the choice pitch has always been some version of, “Your community can have twelve different schools with twelve different flavors of education in twelve different buildings with twelve different staffs– and it won’t cost you a nickel more than what you’re paying now!” This is carnival barker talk, the same kind of huckster pitch as “Why buy that used Kia? I’ll sell you a brand new Mercedes for the same price!”

Adding charters and choice increases educational costs in a community. Sometimes we’ve hid that by bringing in money from outside sources, like PTA bake sales to buy a public school office equipment, or pricey benefit dinners for charters, or increasing state and federal subsidies to help charters stay afloat.

But mostly school choice is the daylight savings time of education– if we just shuffle this money around in new and different ways, somehow there will be more of it.

This trick never works. And we talk all too rarely about why it never will.

The reasons for avoiding the financial elephant in the educational parlor are several. For some choice advocates, it’s a feature and not a bug. It is hard to look at, say, Florida’s legislature and not conclude that they are fully aware that they are starving public education and they’re perfectly happy about that, that the hope is that public education can be shrunk down to nothing. DeVosian dominionists like that idea as well; I’ve heard more than a few religious conservatives declare that it’s time for the church to take schools back from the government. Starve the government, starve the evil teachers’ union, shrink the whole public system until it can be drained out of the proverbial bathtub.

There are other choice advocates who are sincere believers in a hybrid system in which charters and public schools coexist, thrive, and help each other. But even among those folks, there’s nobody who has the political will to say to the public, “We want to expand our education system into a beautiful spread of shiny options, bringing freedom and choice and other swell things to education, but to do it will take a lot more money, so we’re going to have to raise your taxes to get it done.”

And so the lie persists, the false notion that we can education 100 students in either one school or in ten different schools, and it will cost exactly the same amount. Maybe if we pass the money through a different set of hands in an tax credit scholarship or some other kind of super-voucher, it will somehow multiply.

Of course, if money were no object for all students in education, we’d already have public schools so great that the subject of choice would never have come up in the first place. But the defining trait of US education has always been that we want a Mercedes at Kia prices, and Those Peoples’ Children should just use a bicycle. (and teachers should only have their wages raised when they reach the point that they’re actually embarrassing), and we definitely don’t need to talk about using money and resources to improve the societal conditions that create the environment in which education occurs.

Despite my reputation as a charter hater, I can actually imagine a world in which charters would be a useful addition to the educational landscape– but it would be a world without magic. The falsest promise that choice advocates have made is that somehow we can have a super-greater education system without having to actually pay for it. That kind of magical thinking is not going to help anybody except, of course, the hucksters with snake oil to sell.

Published in: on June 14, 2019 at 2:11 pm  Comments (9)  

The OTHER major problem with TFA…

…as Peter Greene explains, is that it pretends that total newbies with a trifling TWO WHOLE YEARS of experience and claims that they are now ready to run entire school districts and set educational policy for the whole country.

Not actual, experienced, teachers. Here is his post at Curmudgucation:


Teach for America: The Other Big Problem

Posted: 03 Jun 2019 10:31 AM PDT

Teach for America’s most famously flawed premise is well known– five weeks of training makes you qualified to teach in a classroom. It’s an absurd premise that has been criticized and lampooned widely. It is followed closely in infamy by the notion that two years in a classroom are about providing the TFAer with an “experience,” or a resume-builder so they have a better shot at that law or MBA program they’re applying to. That premise has also been widely criticized.

There’s another TFA premise that is less remarked on but is perhaps, in the long run, far worse. From the TFA website:

To change our country’s education system, we need leaders challenging conventional wisdom and the status quo, working for the long term from both inside and outside the school system. Once you become an alum of TFA, you’ll bring an invaluable perspective to any career field in working to create opportunity for students and communities nationwide.

This is the other TFA premise– that two years in a classroom makes you qualified to run a school, or a school district, or a state education department. Two years in a classroom makes you qualified to be an education policy leader.

This is nuts.

First of all, two years in a classroom is nothing. For most folks it takes five to seven years to really get on your feet as a classroom teacher, to really have a solid sense of what you’re doing (and you will never, ever, reach a point at which you don’t have much more to learn about the work). The beginning two years are a challenge for anyone, and in the case of TFA, we’re talking about the first two years of a person who only prepped for the job for five weeks! So they are starting out behind the average traditional new teacher. And if they are teaching in, say, a charter where they are surrounded primarily by other newbies, or being coached and led by TFA staff who are alumni who only have two years in the classroom– well, the problems just compound. This is not the blind leading the blind– this is the blind being led down a cliffside path into the Grand Canyon by a blind guide who is riding on a disabled Roombah.

Second, I will totally give a large number of TFAers in the classroom credit for good intentions. Yes, some have joined up specifically to beef up their grad school application or give themselves an “experience,” but I believe that a significant number of TFAers entered the classroom hoping just what most traditional teachers hope– that they could do good and make a corner of the world a little better.

But what the heck has to be going on in your head if, after two years of classroom teaching, you’re thinking, “Yeah, I could totally run an entire school” or “I bet I could really fix this district if I were in charge” or “The education in this state would be so awesome if they put me in charge.” I told almost every student teacher I worked with, every first-year teacher I ever mentored, “It’s okay. If you don’t cry at some point during this year, that just means you don’t fully understand the situation.” How bad does your grasp have to be, how deep in the grip of Dunning-Kruger do you have to be, to look at your tiny little sliver of just-getting-your-feet-wet experience and think that you are ready to run the show? This is a level of delusion I find truly scary.

And yet. Part of TFA’s goal has always been to create the educational leaders who could turn the educational ship toward the course that their fully-amateur navigators had charted.

They’ve been successful. As a reminder, look at some of the alumni notables listed on TFA’s Wikipedia page:

Mike Feinberg (Houston ’92), KIPP Co-founder

Mike Johnston (Mississippi Delta ’97), Colorado state senator

Kevin Huffman (Houston ’92), Tennessee State Education Commissioner, April 2011 to January 2015

Michelle Rhee (Baltimore ’92), Former Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools and founder of The New Teacher Project and StudentsFirst

Alec Ross (Baltimore ’94), Senior Adviser for Innovation for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

John C. White (2010), Louisiana state superintendent of education since 2012

But there are plenty of lower-profile TFA alums out there. For instance, go to LittleSis and look through just some of the Teach for America alumni connections (while you’re at it, look at who funds and runs TFA). There’s a director of industry learning at McKinsey, a vice-president at the Boston Foundation, a guy who worked for NYC’s ed department and now works in charter school development, the chief academic officer at National Heritage Academies, a partner at Learn Capital. TFA’s own alumni page includes folks now working with The Mind Trust, KIPP, and the Walton Family Foundation.

Or consider the TFA Capitol Hill Fellows Program, one of the TFA initiatives that was designed to make sure that TFA has a voice in federal education policy.

The numbers are– well, if we look at just, say, TFA in Memphis, we find there are 410 TFA alumni in town. 250 are in a classroom, 24 are school leaders, and 6 lead a school system. With two whole years in a classroom under their belts, they lead an entire system.

TFA’s own national alum figures show that 34% are in a classroom and 84% “work in education or in fields that impact low-income communities”  which works out to half the TFAers believing that their two years in a low-income classroom qualifies them to do education or community work.

You can drill down and find the specific pictures anywhere in the country. What started me thinking about this was Lorain, Ohio, a story I’ve been following that involves a state-appointed all-powerful CEO. This is a guy with two years in a classroom, and yet he has since that time launched a charter school and served as a consultant for a major urban district before coming to Lorain to run the whole system. And he’s hired “turnaround principals” who are also TFA products, who are taking over administration of entire buildings based on their two years as a beginning teacher in a classroom. And all of these folks don’t need anybody to tell them anything because they are education experts.

This is nuts.

TFA’s drive to plant its seeds everywhere is one persistent symptom of the early days of modern reform, back before when Reformsters figured out that badmouthing public school teachers was counterproductive. After all– if a two-year classroom veteran makes a good principal or superintendent or state commissioner, why haven’t more places reached out to recruit ten or fifteen or twenty year veterans of public school classrooms for leadership or policy positions (yes, teachers are allowed to rise to principal or superintendent positions, but the state capitol doesn’t call very often). If two years in the classroom make you an education expert, then twenty years ought to make you a genius. Except, of course…

TFA education policy leaders and administrators are an expression of that reform idea that we don’t just need a parallel system of education, but we need to reject all educational expertise that already exists. It’s not that hard– any person with an ivy league degree could figure out not only how to teach, but how to run a school, a district, or a state. TFA, the Broad Academy, other alternative systems deliberately reject the educational expertise that exists and attempt to build their alternative system from scratch, trusting that their own amateur-hour wisdom renders all that came before moot.

“You had five weeks of training, so now you’re ready to take over a classroom,” was silly.

“I put in two years in a classroom, so now I’m ready to take over the whole operation,” is a higher level of delusion, and yet these deluded soldiers continue to make inroads like weeds, coming first through concrete cracked open for them by their rich and powerful patrons, and then, once through, bringing more of their crew to join them.


Published in: on June 3, 2019 at 2:53 pm  Comments (3)  

My JHS Classmate Takes on Mango Mussolini and the Venal, Liberal NYC Elite that Enabled Him and Roy Cohn

I happened to be a classmate, about 57 years ago, with Frank Rich, who went on to become an excellent writer and drama critic. In this article, Rich cites chapter and verse to show how the generally liberal media, and many New York City politicians, enabled the rise of our corrupt and pro-fascist current president, and his enabler and role model, the venal and mendacious Roy Cohn.

A couple of quotes:

“Exhibit A of the Times’ credulousness is the puffy feature that put him on the media map in 1976. “He is tall, lean and blond, with dazzling white teeth, and he looks ever so much like Robert Redford,” read the lead. At this early date, Trump had only proposed ambitious projects, not built them or closed any of the requisite deals, but the profile christened him “New York’s No. 1 real estate promoter of the mid-1970’s” nonetheless. The article accepted Trump’s word that he was of Swedish descent, “publicity shy,” ranked first in his class at Wharton, made millions in unspecified land deals in California, was worth $200 million, and with his father owned 22,000 apartment units. None of this was remotely true, but the sexy brew of hyperbole and outright fantasy, having been certified by the paper of record, set the tone for much that was to come.”


“It was a given under Rosenthal’s editorship that the Times would bring up none of this [the fact that Roy Cohn, a closeted gay man, died of AIDS – gfb] to protect the criminally hypocritical Cohn, who had threatened closeted gay government officials with exposure in the McCarthy era and loudly fought gay rights ever since. Meanwhile, the star Times columnist William Safire had joined William Buckley Jr. and Barbara Walters among the three dozen celebrated character witnesses opposing Cohn’s disbarment. Trump, however, had distanced himself from his dying mentor, for a while dropping him altogether. “I can’t believe he’s doing this to me,” Cohn said. “Donald pisses ice water.” With the help of a new young factotum, Roger Stone, Cohn’s last favor for Trump may have been securing his sister Maryanne Trump Barry a federal judgeship from the Reagan administration in 1983 despite her having received the tepid Bar Association rating of “qualified.””


It’s really juicy stuff, extremely well-written, and will convince nobody who’s not already aware of the frauds and crimes of our current president.

Fascism vs Communism

Do you understand how the Italian Fascists took power roughly 100 years ago?

Have you read letters or articles from black Southerners who were essentially re-enslaved when the Ku Klux Klan and their allies violently suppressed Reconstruction?

Have you heard the voices of those suppressed during the racist coup d’etat of 1890 in Wilmington, NC?

Have you seen eyewitness accounts of the the mass murders and lynchings of black sharecroppers in Arkansas, Oklahoma and elsewhere who dared to organize for a fair deal for the sharecroppers, or to run their own businesses?

Have you read the letters or diaries of relatives who were blacklisted or red-baited out of jobs after losing strikes in the coal fields and factories or campuses?

Unfortunately, it is the winners – who are generally the rich, the racists, and the rapacious scoundrels of this world with good PR machines – who generally get to dictate what gets written about history (and that includes the lying tyrants like Stalin or Mao who usurped the mantle of communism for their own benefit!). It is to the credit of Howard Zinn and other left-wingers that they began the process of correcting and revising the standard histories of the United States and other countries.

I was wondering how it was that in Italy, which had a very strong tradition of working-class or peasant socialist or anarchist thought and action, the Fascists were able to take over. This article in Slate, I think, explains it.

“The rise of fascism in the provinces of the Po Valley, in northern Italy, occurred in reaction to the remarkable postwar growth of Socialist power. During the biennio rosso (red two years), between 1918 and 1920, Socialists made huge electoral gains nationally and locally, while labor unions unleashed a wave of strikes unprecedented in Italian history. In the Po Valley, the Socialists established a virtual “state within a state,” winning control of municipal government, labor exchanges, and peasant leagues (unions). Socialists also founded cooperatives, cultural circles, taverns, and sporting clubs.3 Such working-class organizations exercised their power largely through legal means—elections, boycotts, strikes, and demonstrations—which nonetheless often led to clashes with police, with injuries and deaths on both sides.

“Political culture and the social order had been radically altered, with rough peasants and workers occupying the halls of power and red flags hanging from town halls. For landowners, life in this new “red” state meant higher wages, higher taxes, reduced profits, lost managerial authority, deteriorating private property rights, and the threat of social revolution. Moreover, displays of red flags, busts of Marx, and internationalist slogans offended nationalist and patriotic middle-class sentiments.4 Conservatives denounced the “red terror” and “atrocities” of this period, though the landowners and middle classes were in little real physical danger.5They were not physically assaulted, nor were their homes, offices, or private property damaged or destroyed. Yet, from their perspective, they lived in a world turned upside down. The Socialists had virtually “taken over,” and the liberal state appeared to have lost control of law and order.

Fascist squads of armed men personally beat up and humiliated all of the left-wing labor or peasant leaders, threatening their families as well, in town after town. They destroyed left-wing offices, printing presses, meeting halls, and forced elected officials to quit or be killed. All the while, the local police or military did absolutely nothing to stop them, and the left was much too divided to fight back militantly. Eventually, the Italian king invited the fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, to become the official leader of the country. He, in turn, then made all other parties illegal and launched various imperialist wars in Africa and the Balkans, helping set the stage for World War 2 – helping the Fascists come to power in Spain as well.

“…the most immediate and powerfully symbolic form of squadrist violence was the annihilation of the institutions of the Socialist Party, “but the ‘conquest’ of Socialist organizations and municipalities was reinforced and made possible by terror exercised against individuals.”7 The peasant leagues, cooperatives, labor halls, and social clubs—the entire infrastructure of the Socialist “state”—were intensely parochial institutions, organized around popular, charismatic political and labor leaders.8

Fascist squads thus practiced highly personal, localized strategies of violence and intimidation, attacking the most prominent and influential “subversives” within a given province, town, or comune. Fascists sometimes beat these men, occasionally with homicidal intent, but perhaps more commonly intimidated them until they were forced to leave town, thereby decapitating their organizations. The Fascists spent their weekends chasing prominent peasant leaders across the countryside.

Thus, life for labor leaders became terror-filled, especially because Fascists did not limit their attacks to the public sphere. Nowhere was safe. Late at night, 10, 30, or even 100 Blackshirts, as these squad members became known, sometimes traveling from neighboring towns, might surround a home, inviting a Socialist, anarchist, or Communist outside to talk. If they refused, the Fascists would enter forcibly or threaten to harm the entire family by lighting the house on fire.9

In small towns, where everyone knew everyone, Fascists inflicted ritual humiliation on their enemies, a powerful strategy of terror understood by all. Blackshirts forced their opponents to drink castor oil and other purgatives, and then sent them home, wrenching with pain and covered in their own feces. In some cases, squads forced their enemies to defecate on politically symbolic objects: pages of a speech, a manifesto, a red flag, and so on. After administering a castor oil treatment, Fascists sometimes drove prominent anti-Fascist leaders around in lorries in order to reduce them in the eyes of their own supporters.10 They also accosted their opponents in public, stripped them naked, beat them, and handcuffed them to posts in piazzas and along major roadways.11

Although individual working-class leaders might have been willing to live under the constant threat of physical attacks, most were unwilling to subject their families to such danger. Deprived of leadership, meeting places, offices, records, and sympathetic Socialist town councils, the landless peasantry became subject to the landowners’ conventional tactics of strike breaking and intimidation. Having broken the leagues, the Fascists then forced the laborers into “politically neutral” (Fascist) syndicates. Vulnerable peasants had little choice but to join. Landowners used their newfound position of power to restore labor relations to the 19thcentury status quo.

In this country, hundreds of thousands of people joined either a Socialist or Communist party at one point or another during the 20th century. In some cases, those organizations were divided by national origin (Swedes vs Russians vs Jews vs Finns vs Italians vs Blacks, etc) Many of those leftists only remained in those parties for a few months or years. But they helped re-build the American labor movement with their active, leading roles in the great industrial sit-down strikes of the late 1930s; they played important roles in the Civil Rights movement and in the New Deal. And we all know that the Soviet Red Army played the key role in bleeding the Third Reich of most of its military might and in defeating the Nazis. (Which is not to excuse any of the atrocities that the Soviet government visited upon its own people, including active communists who ended up in the gulags along with ordinary criminals or religious dissidents.)

In the late 1940s, the American government decided that all those former New Dealers or premature anti-fascists could no longer be tolerated, and the new Red Scare began. According to a recent book called “A Good American Family”, reviewed in the Washington Post,

“once the Red Scare began to gain steam, many former communists denied their pasts, refashioning themselves as ordinary liberals or refusing to talk about politics altogether. This required not only erasing the trauma of McCarthyism but also playing down the pain of breaking with a cause that had once lent so much meaning to their lives. Like many ex-communists, when Elliott did discuss his communist past, he referred to it as a mistake, a relic from a time when he was “stubborn in my ignorance and aggressive in my prejudices.”

“A Good American Family” shows us something more complex: that at one time, he thought it was possible to be a good communist, a good father and a good American all at once.”

(emphasis mine)

Who Runs the “Well-Ordered Militia”? CONGRESS!

Inspired by an article in Sunday’s paper by Representative Jamie Raskin, I looked at the text of the first section US Constitution for the first time in many years.

Here’s the part that actually surprised me, where the writers specifically list the powers of Congress, and in this section they in NO way come anywhere near the idea of letting any wack job to go get concealed weapons to bring to a school, a party, a concert, or a church, or to overthrow the government, as our current NRA wack jobs and some Supreme Court members would have you believe. Instead, the Militia is specifically in order to “…execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions”.

(I write this as a person who grew up owning a 22-rifle, and who has hunted deer in the past with shotgun slugs, sometimes successfully. But I think that unless you are really planning on overthrowing the government, then those extremely dangerous machines should be registered, and those who own them should need to undergo both a competency test of some sort and (for obvious reasons) some form of vouching for his or her mental status as well. I mean, DUH!

These things can kill you!

The more deadly the weapon is, the more stringent should be the licensure.

Again, duh.

So here are sections 14-16 of the first Article if the Constitution:

“14: To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

“15: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

“16: To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;…”

Published in: on May 16, 2019 at 10:27 pm  Comments (2)  

Lead Exposure in Childhood Leads to More Crime

This article cites four studies showing that being exposed to the element lead (Pb) causes increased levels of violence and crime about 20 years later.

However, treatments to mitigate the effects of lead exposure are very effective.

Published in: on May 16, 2019 at 7:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Firing day at a charter school

What a nightmare!

Published in: on May 12, 2019 at 8:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hundreds of Federal Prosecutors Sign Petition Saying that Trump Performed Multiple Felonious Acts Obstructing Justice

This is hot. Hundreds of federal prosecutors, both Republicans and Democrats, say that Trump’s behavior would merit multiple felony indictments for obstruction of justice — except for a single DOJ memo that claims that a sitting president can’t be indicted.

You can read their statement, and their names, at this link.

“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.

The Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming. These include:

· The President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort;

· The President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and

· The President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.”

They then explain, in clear detail, exactly what those accusations mean.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe there are many (any?) Republican politicians in Congress with the guts to vote against this unsavory menace to any pretense of democratic rule.


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