How do Putin’s Russia and Trump’s USA Compare?

A screenwriter whom I knew back in junior high school here in DC, and who, like me, was an anti-war activist back during Vietnam, and with whom I sometimes agree and sometimes disagree, wrote:

Retweeted Doug Henwood (@DougHenwood):

Anyone left of center who took the Russia paranoia seriously, look where it’s taking us. This is extremely bad news. https://t.co/64ZUUe4p9K

I replied as follows (edited by me for clarity and accuracy):

======================================

I cannot find any actual facts in that tweet. (And yes, I followed the link)

On the other hand, here are a few things that I think are objectively true, and a few that are my own opinion:*

the Russian government is… (1) oligarchical,

(2) a kleptocracy on every level,

(3) steals from its own people and rapes its environment for the benefit of a small group of billionaires,

(4) murders, muzzles, or imprisons people who dissent,

(5) supports friendly dictators abroad,

(6) builds and sells military weapons all over the world, and

(7) meddles in the internal affairs of foreign countries.

By contrast, the American government has recently been adjudged by experts (not me) as

(1) an oligarchy that systematically works for the benefit of a small wealthy class of businessmen to thwart the wishes of the majority,

(2) assassinates lots of people (mostly overseas; the murders of black men by police seems to be a local, not an explicitly national, policy),

(3) while the billionaires have been quite successful in breaking labor unions in the US and reducing wages for working people, we have had over time all sorts of vigorous [and sometimes somewhat successful] movements [which are now under hard attack from the current party in power] to preserve the rights of workers, consumers, and the environment,

(4) the US does in fact allow critics [for example, I’ve been to any number of anti-government demonstrations over the past 50 years and have only been arrested a couple of times for it, never beaten up by police; however, there have been plenty of times when the power of the State lined up firmly on the side of corporations to help break labor unions],

(5) supports friendly dictators abroad [of course proclaiming them to be lovers of freedom,

(6) builds and sells more weapons than anybody, and

(7) meddles in foreign elections and so forth [I recently saw a very long list of countries where the US had interfered with internal affairs or overthrew the government since WW1].

There are a couple of differences, though:

In many countries, you can’t get ANYTHING done at any level of government (from the head of state down to dog-catcher) without bribing somebody. That is not (yet) true in the US. However, it looks to me like Trump and his family are working hard to bring the US up to the level where our corruption is even higher than in Russia, China, India, the Philippines, or Nigeria. And 45 has certainly called for beating up protesters like myself, and praised corrupt, murderous foreign dictators like Putin and Duterte. However, there is still a lot more freedom of the press and assembly here than in the four countries I named!

Vive la resistance!

===

* which statements are fact, which are opinion? I type – you decide.

Advertisements

Trump Administration Opposes Actual Science, Because That Would Cost Money to the 0.001% and Instead Help Ordinary People and the Planet

I predict that history will judge that this Administration is by far the worst that the American people ever elected. Yes, worse than Bush2, Harding, or Buchanan.

Unless future history is written by flunkies hired by Jerry Fallwell or the Koch brothers.

God forbid! (If there is one; if God actually exists, all the evidence shows that he/it/it/she/they is/are incompetent, when you think of all the mass murderers, swindlers, and dictators who have lived to a ripe old age surrounded in luxury, while millions if not billions of people suffer in unimaginable squalor in slums, favelas, tent cities, or refugee camps, while we simultaneously wipe out all the big land- and sea-dwelling mammals and pollute the air, land, and oceans for posterity with poisons, plastics, and poop.)

One piece of evidence comes from this rather long article in the New York Times which points out how much they have been either attacking science directly or simply ignoring it: science advisory positions that have existed since World War Two aren’t filled, science advisory panels to government agencies are ignored or eliminated, scientific data is ignored or denied, and instead, polluters who used to be regulated and fined by agencies are instead put in charge of them.

Here is the link.

And, yes, this is new. There are many things for which you can find fault with previous American administrations, including Obama (who was worse on education even than GWBush, and we know that all American governments lie constantly [eg Gulf of Tonkin Incident, The Sinking of the Maine, Iraq’s nonexistent Weapons of Mass Destruction, etc, etc), but actively fighting science was never one of them.

#45 is even going to try to ‘negotiate’ next week with North Korea without having actual advisors on nuclear weapons. What could possibly go wrong with that?

It’s really scary.

Full Text of NYT article on Neo-Nazi Bannon’s National Security Council Coup

WASHINGTON — The whirlwind first week of Donald J. Trump’s presidency had all the bravura hallmarks of a Stephen K. Bannon production.

It started with the doom-hued inauguration homily to “American carnage” in United States cities co-written by Mr. Bannon, followed a few days later by his “shut up” message to the news media. The week culminated with a blizzard of executive orders, mostly hatched by Mr. Bannon’s team and the White House policy adviser, Stephen Miller, aimed at disorienting the “enemy,” fulfilling campaign promises and distracting attention from Mr. Trump’s less than flawless debut.

But the defining moment for Mr. Bannon came Saturday night in the form of an executive order giving the rumpled right-wing agitator a full seat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council — while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities. It is a startling elevation of a political adviser, to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president’s top military and intelligence advisers.

In theory, the move put Mr. Bannon, a former Navy surface warfare officer, admiral’s aide, investment banker, Hollywood producer and Breitbart News firebrand, on the same level as his friend, Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, a former Pentagon intelligence chief who was Mr. Trump’s top adviser on national security issues before a series of missteps reduced his influence.

Continue reading the main story

But in terms of real influence, Mr. Bannon looms above almost everyone except the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in the Trumpian pecking order, according to interviews with two dozen Trump insiders and current and former national security officials. The move involving Mr. Bannon, as well as the boost in status to the White House homeland security adviser, Thomas P. Bossert, and Mr. Trump’s relationships with cabinet appointees like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have essentially layered over Mr. Flynn.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Bannon — whose Breitbart website was a magnet for white nationalists, antiglobalists and conspiracy theorists — always planned to participate in national security. Mr. Flynn welcomed his participation, Mr. Spicer said, but the general “led the reorganization of the N.S.C.” in order to streamline an antiquated and bloated bureaucracy.

Former White House officials in both parties were shocked by the move.

“The last place you want to put somebody who worries about politics is in a room where they’re talking about national security,” said Leon E. Panetta, a former White House chief of staff, defense secretary and C.I.A. director in two Democratic administrations.

“I’ve never seen that happen, and it shouldn’t happen. It’s not like he has broad experience in foreign policy and national security issues. He doesn’t. His primary role is to control or guide the president’s conscience based on his campaign promises. That’s not what the National Security Council is supposed to be about.”

That opinion was shared by President George W. Bush’s last chief of staff, Josh Bolten, who barred Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s political adviser, from N.S.C. meetings. A president’s decisions made with those advisers, he told a conference audience in September, “involve life and death for the people in uniform” and should “not be tainted by any political decisions.”

Susan E. Rice, President Barack Obama’s last national security adviser, called the arrangement “stone cold crazy” in a tweet posted Sunday.

Mr. Spicer said the language the Trump White House used in its N.S.C. executive order is, with the exception of Mr. Bannon’s position — which was created during the transition — almost identical in content to one the Bush administration drafted in 2001. And Mr. Obama’s top political operative, David Axelrod, sat in on some N.S.C. meetings, he added.

There were key differences. Mr. Axelrod never served as a permanent member as Mr. Bannon will now, though he sat in on some critical meetings, especially as Mr. Obama debated strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “It’s a profound shift,” Mr. Axelrod said. “I don’t know what his bona fides are to be the principal foreign policy adviser to the president.”

But Mr. Bannon’s elevation does not merely reflect his growing influence on national security. It is emblematic of Mr. Trump’s trust on a range of political and ideological issues.

During the campaign, the sly and provocative Mr. Bannon played a paradoxical role — calming the easily agitated candidate during his frequent rough patches and egging him on when he felt Mr. Trump needed to fire up the white working-class base. The president respects Mr. Bannon because he is independently wealthy and therefore does not need the job, and both men ascribe to a shoot-the-prisoners credo when put on the defensive, according to the former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Mr. Bannon is a deft operator within the White House, and he has been praised by Republicans who view him skeptically as the most knowledgeable on policy around the president. But his stated preference for blowing things up — as opposed to putting them back together — may not translate to his new role.

The hasty drafting of the immigration order, and its scattershot execution, brought a measure of Mr. Bannon’s chaotic and hyperaggressive political style to the more predictable administration of the federal government. Within hours of the edict, airport customs and border agents were detaining or blocking dozens of migrant families, some of whom had permanent resident status, until John F. Kelly, the new homeland security secretary, intervened.

Mr. Kelly’s department had suggested green card holders be exempted from the order, but Mr. Bannon and Mr. Miller, a hard-liner on immigration, overruled him, according to two American officials.

Mr. Priebus, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, indicated a softening of the stance, saying the order would not block “green card holders moving forward” — but said anyone seeking to enter the country from the listed countries would be subjected to tighter scrutiny.

People close to Mr. Bannon said he is not accumulating power for power’s sake, but is instead helping to fill a staff leadership vacuum created, in part, by Mr. Flynn’s stumbling performance as national security adviser.

Mr. Flynn still communicates with Mr. Trump frequently, and his staff has been assembling a version of the Presidential Daily Briefing for Mr. Trump, truncated but comprehensive, to be the president’s main source of national security information. During the campaign, he often had unfettered access to the candidate, who appreciated his brash style and contempt for Hillary Clinton, but during the transition, Mr. Flynn privately complained about having to share face time with others.

Mr. Flynn “has the full confidence of the president and his team,” Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump, said in an email. Emails and phone calls to Mr. Flynn and his top aide were not returned.

A president who likes generals and abhors political correctness, Mr. Trump found in Mr. Flynn — who joined Trump backers in an anti-Clinton “lock her up!” chant during the campaign — perhaps the most politically incorrect general this side of his hero, Gen. George S. Patton.

But Mr. Flynn, a lifelong Democrat sacked as head of the Pentagon’s intelligence arm after clashing with Obama administration officials in 2014, has gotten on the nerves of Mr. Trump and other administration officials because of his sometimes overbearing demeanor, and has further diminished his internal standing by presiding over a chaotic and opaque N.S.C. transition process that prioritized the hiring of military officials over civilian experts recommended to him by his own team.

Mr. Flynn’s penchant for talking too much was on display on Friday in a meeting with Theresa May, the British prime minister, according to two people with direct knowledge of the events.

When Mrs. May said that she understood wanting a dialogue with Mr. Putin but stressed the need to be careful, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Flynn when the two were scheduled to speak.

Mr. Flynn replied it was Saturday — he had delayed it to fit in Mrs. May’s meeting for “protocol” as a United States ally, adding at length that Mr. Putin was impatient to chat.

Mr. Trump, the person said, appeared irritated by the response.

Still, the episode that did the most damage to the Trump-Flynn relationship occurred in early December when Mr. Flynn’s son, also named Michael, unleashed a series of tweets pushing a discredited conspiracy theory that Clinton associates had run a child sex-slave ring out of a Washington pizza restaurant.

Mr. Trump told his staff to get rid of the younger Mr. Flynn, who had been hired by his father to help during the transition. But Mr. Trump did so reluctantly because of his loyalty during the campaign, when dozens of former military officials were dismissing Mr. Trump as too unstable to command.

“I want him fired immediately,” Mr. Trump said in a muted rendition of his “You’re fired!” line in “The Apprentice,” according to two people with knowledge of the interaction.

That has not stopped the general’s son from spouting off: On Saturday, at a time when Trump surrogates were pushing back on the idea that the executive order did not discriminate against any religion, the younger Mr. Flynn tweeted his approval of the policy, adding “#MuslimBan.” The tweet was subsequently deleted; his entire account disappeared later in the day.

Still, the national security adviser has also continued to dabble in the kind of bomb-throwing behavior that concerns Mr. Trump’s allies, such as planning to attend an anti-Clinton “Deploraball” event at the time of the inauguration. He was urged to skip it by Trump allies, and ultimately agreed.

Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon still regard Mr. Flynn as an asset. “In the room and out of the room, Steve Bannon is General Flynn’s biggest defender,” said Kellyanne Conway, another top adviser to the president.

But it is unclear when the maneuvers to reduce Mr. Flynn’s role began. Two Obama administration officials said Trump transition officials inquired about expanded national security roles for Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner at the earliest stages of the transition in November — before the younger Mr. Flynn became a liability — but after Mr. Flynn had begun to chafe on the nerves of his colleagues on the team.

Mr. Flynn’s reputation has raised questions among some in the cabinet. Two weeks ago, both men held a meeting with Rex W. Tillerson, Mr. Trump’s pick to run the State Department, Mr. Mattis and Mike Pompeo, now the C.I.A. director, to discuss coordination — Mr. Flynn was invited but did not attend.

Part of the meeting was devoted to discussing concerns about Mr. Flynn, according to an official with knowledge of it.

MORE THAN THREE HUNDRED MILLION AMERICANS NOW ENROLLED IN TRUMP UNIVERSITY

 

By Andy Borowitz   January 20, 2017

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In an astonishing comeback for the scandal-scarred educational institution, Trump University enrolled more than three hundred million new students at noon on Friday.

“Congratulations,” the President of Trump University told the new students. “For the next four years, you are all in Trump University.”

Some Americans who supported the President of Trump University in his long-shot bid to reopen the school made the journey to Washington, D.C., to hear his welcome address.

“He said we’re all going to be rich!” Harland Dorrinson, a new Trump University student, said. “I just know that this is going to end really well.”

But even as students like Dorrinson celebrated, there were complaints from other students, millions of whom said they had been enrolled in Trump University against their will.

“I never signed up for Trump University,” Carol Foyler, who is one of those students, said. “The President of this school is some kind of a con man. And why are so many members of the faculty Russian? The whole thing seems fishy.”

“Not my University,” she said.

While the original program offered by Trump University had a price tag as high as thirty-five thousand dollars, the next four years are expected to be far more costly, experts say.

 

Andy Borowitz is a New York Times best-selling author and a comedian who has written for The New Yorker since 1998. He writes the Borowitz Report for newyorker.com

Thoughts on Day 3 of the Reign of the Orange Kleptocrat-in-Chief

Yesterday I took part in the largest protest demonstration I have ever experienced, right here in Washington, DC. Our numbers were so large that it was simply impossible to have us all march together down any one avenue – even that Mall was too small to contain us! Essentially we took over the entire Mall, the entire Federal Triangle, and much of downtown DC, entirely peacefully. We had no official marshals and the police mostly stayed out of our way except to occasionally usher an ambulance or wheelchair through.

We made history.

img_6343

Never in American history has there ever been a demonstration (strike that, HUNDREDS of simultaneous demonstrations, all over the entire NATION) so big against any president, the very day after his election. Actually, including all those others, this was probably the largest demonstration in US history against anything whatsoever.

I felt euphoric! As soon as I got onto the very crowded Metro subway train at the Brookland-CUA station, almost all of whose passengers were also going to the March, I realized that we were indeed doing something historic.

But it’s not enough.

 

Not nearly enough. It’s got to be just the beginning! What we need to do is first of all, make it impossible for Trump to confirm his remaining Cabinet appointees. Let me explain why:

Many Trump voters chose him because he pretended he would do something about the fact that so many American factories went out of business, which meant that across the nation, untold thousands of workers (and their families) lost their jobs AND their pensions AND what used to be a decent health-care plan, all won by the strength of organized labor. They also lost their homes, having been suckered into taking on way more debt than they could possibly handle. Many of the machines were shipped overseas. Local, state and federal regulations or laws were maneuvered around by high-priced lawyers so that the financiers who took over the corporations were able to get out of paying for any of these losses. Quoting Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post:

Wilbur Ross, the pick for commerce secretary, started out trading distressed debt at a Wall Street investment bank before setting out on his own as a vulture investor, buying up dying steel mills, coal mines and textile factories for pennies on the dollar of outstanding debt. As a turnaround specialist, Ross became a grand master at using the bankruptcy process to break leases and union contracts and renege on pension obligations in order to get the companies back on their feet before selling them at a handsome profit. His net worth is estimated at close to $3 billion.

So, if you would like to pick any single person responsible for the distress of many Trump voters, it would be the man that Donald Trump has picked to be US Secretary of Commerce. As Pearlstein notes, there are are NO actual businessmen on Trump’s list. Instead, you have con-women (Betsy DeVos) and mortgage vultures like Steven Mnuchin; and you have several Goldman Sachs financial wizards. But that wizardry is just being good at moving money around in very complicated ways to make it end up in their own pockets — it doesn’t actually build or make anything to benefit anybody else.

And coordinating all economic policy will be Gary Cohn, the new director of the National Economic Council, who like Icahn started out trading options and over a 25-year career rose to become No. 2 at Goldman Sachs. According to Bloomberg, he’ll walk away from Goldman with $266 million of stock and an exit package valued at $59 million.

When will Trump voters finally wake up and realize they have just been conned? The very vultures who made your lives miserable — using complicated financial transactions nobody can understand, and whose actions dRumpf has been railing against during his entire campaign — are the very same people whom Orangehead has nominated to be in charge of Federal policy for the next four years!

We need to make it impossible for these frauds to be confirmed!

Phone calls to your senators and congressmen are good, if you have them. Here is a link to a schedule of hearings and a list of appointees. (I don’t have any congressional representation, since I live here in Washington DC. Our token DC representative, E.H. Norton, has no vote.)

But actual bodies, with signs and chants and possibly mass civil disobedience at the Capitol or wherever the hearings are being held, are even better. We need to make them back down or else to have the whole world see what criminal frauds they really are.

After that, we need to organize to do a HUGE number of things, to prevent the Plutocratic Party agenda from being rolled into place, to impede their plans, to remove these truly crooked politicians from office, and install politicians who really DO represent the people. Instead of the plutocrats and kleptocrats that many American voters were fooled into voting for.

Again – that has got to be merely the very first step. We must resist, we must be smart, and we must be organized for real social justice and against legal thievery by the billionaires.

 

 

Tom the Dancing Bug on the Electoral College

electoral-college

No comment needed.

A Tweet-Storm from Eric Garland

(I have no idea who Eric Garland is, but this was excellent rant, on Twitter, of all things. I took out all the nasty Twitter lingo to make it more readable. I suspect he is part of the IC, or ‘intelligence community’.- GFB)

From Eric Garland,  Strategic analyst for businesses and government agencies. Linguist. Bassist.

I’m now hearing this meme that says Obama, Clinton, et al. are doing nothing, just gave up.

Guys. It’s time for some game theory.

ACTOR ANALYSIS: The Russians enter the Game with a broad objective, flexible tactics, and several acceptable outcomes.

Russian interests have been, for many years now, the subversion of Western institutions, principally NATO, but any will do.

This subversion can take many forms: driving wedges between US-Commonwealth-Euro intel cooperation, break up NATO, create chaos.

This game has been developing for many years, is asymmetrical, and much cheaper than building a decent aircraft carrier.

Plus, the Russians f**king rule at covert shit. Always have. Ask a cold warrior. Mucho respect for our adversaries. They do clever work!

Post-communism, they’re reduced to Drunk Uncle status in the global balance of power. Mouthy, smart, degraded, much reduced in stature.

Russians as *people* are civilized, artistic, enamored of brilliance and tragedy, and generally proud. And should be. They do not like this.

From this position launches an initiative from an old hand at the KGB, now solidified in influence: Subvert for the throat. Go big. Go hard.

While the West is frivolous and lazy and “Post-History,” the clever take advantage. And here begins our present story.

Let’s skip ahead to “Wikileaks.” BRILLIANT. Ingratiate the Left into this anti-establishment distrust of Western intel.

George W Bush and Dick Cheney being slovenly, reckless idiots, the moral authority of Iraq and US intel is nil. In step “journalists.”

Stealing hard drives from US intel and dumping them to foreign agents? That’s *snicker* “journalism!” FREE SPEECH! ROFLMAO.

Oh, and such grand characters, so well run: Manning, Greenwald. So righteous, yet fragile! And feisty! Try a Twitter war with Glenn!

OH YOU PHILISTINE, YOU JUST HATE JOURNALISM! *sigh* *swigs something strong* And Moscow must have been doubling over.

THEN, OMG, that worked so well that the pièce de résistance was next: SNOWDEN!!! BOOYAH! THE BIG GAME! NSA! PRISM! SPASM!

 (incidentally, the NSA was about the only agency the Russians took seriously) But then this EARNEST young man. He tells THE TROOTH!

DID YOU KNOW YOUR TOASTER IS SPYING ON YOU? THE GUBMINT! IT IS EVERYWHERE! THEY SPY ON (*controls snickering*) ALLIES! ALL BAD!

And still hungover from the rotten venality of the Iraq War and Bush’s perversion of the IC as reliable, Wikileaks journalisms the NSA!

DON’T YOU CALL IT SOMETHING ELSE. HARD DRIVES FROM THE NSA IZ JOURNALISM! Even when you take the files to Brazil! Honest! Ask Glenn!

And then, automagically, our man Ed ends up…what’s this now? In Russia? Well, they are such welcoming folks! How…nice!

Langley and Fort Meade run out of bourbon in about three hours, and every intel guy in Russia is drunk, dancing on the desks, and LAFFING.

AND THE LEFT! HOLY F**KING ADORABLE BATMAN! Honi soit qui mal y pense! How dare you suggest untoward Russian involvement! Journamalisms!!!!

US intel snorts all of the Robotussin in the DC/MD/VA area. Putin calls Snowden “A weird guy.” LOLZ.

Moving on to the current chapter.

MEANWHILE, AT THE FOX NATION FORUMS: The other part of this impressive op is percolating – the buttress of the Alt-Right.

ONCE UPON A TIME, Dan Rather chased Nixon around a room asking him questions VERY HARSHLY and the notion of the Evil Media Elite was born.

See, because Nixon got impeached, that meant the media was in on it! WaPo! NYT! Traitors! We look bad! And the media hate begins.

Never mind that to know something in Topeka, somebody’s gotta send you a newspaper or a radio signal or whatevs: The Media Is Lying.

Now, it’s true, high level journalists and editors don’t always see the world like Johnny Lunchpail in Missouri. True facts. But. Trouble.

Republicans decide to create a whole new layer of think tanks and media outlets in the 1980s dedicated to The Other Side.

The think tanks have a POV, but some are quite good, Cato in particular. Heritage came up with what’s now Obamacare. AEI…ehhh. 2 outta 3.

But then the media play comes in. The cranky insane tent pastors on AM radio get…a makeover. They become Legitimate. Embraced.

Magnates start investing in outlets. Brand new pundits get huge audiences yelling about The Way Things Ought to Be (for White People).

David Fahrenthold ‏@Fahrenthold  Dec 11

@ericgarland damn, man, this is great writing, using a form that doesn’t usually lend itself to greatness.

We go kick a bunch of barbarian ass in Afghanistan, as well we should have. They were beating women and destroying Buddhas. F**k ’em.

We are at present in a place of danger where some of our fellow citizens have forgotten our most cherished values.

We’ve been here before.

America, reluctantly but dutifully, recognizes its internal contradictions and failings.

Slavery. Racism. Internment. Classism.

The genius documents that gave rise to noble American sentiments were themselves authored by those who failed them. (h/t @ Mr. Jefferson)

We spilled the blood of our brothers to resolve the contradictions of slavery and then abandoned the project while killing Indians.

Americans proclaimed the equality of all men while treating women as chattel and all non-whites as lesser. We are indeed hypocrites.

But to be American is to accept that unflinchingly and to soldier forth for future generations, and DO BETTER, GODDAMN IT.

There are those who would mire us in worldly cynicism, to anchor us in a world where our institutions betray forever, where values perish.

And to be American is to face that intellectual, moral, and spiritual assault with the unshakeable devotion to something more lofty.

And when that loftiness fails, as it so often does, to be American is to seize it again and again, knowing that our Creator desire Progress.

Progress can come from Traditionalists or Labor Unionists or mystics or musicians or doctors or Senators or journalists. All are exhorted.

The Progress demanded by our Creator can be achieved by immigrants and natives, skeptics and believers, the elite and the humble alike.

That is America. That is the promise that Americans oft ignore and which more cynical nations would defile for their own gain.

That America will last long after I have died, long after new people have picked the torch.

Long after we betray it again, as we will.

But America will go on, even if by another name, unless all who have heard her name are extinguished.

This is just the locus of promise.

America came from the olive groves of Italy and the shipyard of Plymouth and the islands of the Philippines. Indivisible.

America came from the Torah and Voltaire’s Candide and Adam Smith and zen koans and Greek mathematics and Rumi’s poetry.

America is all these things, and should yet another absolutist demagogue, foreign or domestic seize her, it will be far from the end.

Now is a time for patriots.

It’s also Sunday afternoon. I’m gonna get a beer and watch football.

God Bless America, and all nations.

 

Stealing hard drives from US intel and dumping them to foreign agents? That’s *snicker* “journalism!” FREE SPEECH! ROFLMAO.

Oh, and such grand characters, so well run: Manning, Greenwald. So righteous, yet fragile! And feisty! Try a Twitter war with Glenn!

OH YOU PHILISTINE, YOU JUST HATE JOURNALISM! *sigh* *swigs something strong* And Moscow must have been doubling over.

THEN, OMG, that worked so well that the pièce de résistance was next: SNOWDEN!!! BOOYAH! THE BIG GAME! NSA! PRISM! SPASM!

 (incidentally, the NSA was about the only agency the Russians took seriously) But then this EARNEST young man. He tells THE TROOTH!

DID YOU KNOW YOUR TOASTER IS SPYING ON YOU? THE GUBMINT! IT IS EVERYWHERE! THEY SPY ON (*controls snickering*) ALLIES! ALL BAD!

And still hungover from the rotten venality of the Iraq War and Bush’s perversion of the IC as reliable, Wikileaks journalisms the NSA!

DON’T YOU CALL IT SOMETHING ELSE. HARD DRIVES FROM THE NSA IZ JOURNALISM! Even when you take the files to Brazil! Honest! Ask Glenn!

And then, automagically, our man Ed ends up…what’s this now? In Russia? Well, they are such welcoming folks! How…nice!

Langley and Fort Meade run out of bourbon in about three hours, and every intel guy in Russia is drunk, dancing on the desks, and LAFFING.

AND THE LEFT! HOLY F**KING ADORABLE BATMAN! Honi soit qui mal y pense! How dare you suggest untoward Russian involvement! Journamalisms!!!!

US intel snorts all of the Robotussin in the DC/MD/VA area. Putin calls Snowden “A weird guy.” LOLZ.

Moving on to the current chapter.

MEANWHILE, AT THE FOX NATION FORUMS: The other part of this impressive op is percolating – the buttress of the Alt-Right.

ONCE UPON A TIME, Dan Rather chased Nixon around a room asking him questions VERY HARSHLY and the notion of the Evil Media Elite was born.

See, because Nixon got impeached, that meant the media was in on it! WaPo! NYT! Traitors! We look bad! And the media hate begins.

Never mind that to know something in Topeka, somebody’s gotta send you a newspaper or a radio signal or whatevs: The Media Is Lying.

Now, it’s true, high level journalists and editors don’t always see the world like Johnny Lunchpail in Missouri. True facts. But. Trouble.

Republicans decide to create a whole new layer of think tanks and media outlets in the 1980s dedicated to The Other Side.

The think tanks have a POV, but some are quite good, Cato in particular. Heritage came up with what’s now Obamacare. AEI…ehhh. 2 outta 3.

But then the media play comes in. The cranky insane tent pastors on AM radio get…a makeover. They become Legitimate. Embraced.

Magnates start investing in outlets. Brand new pundits get huge audiences yelling about The Way Things Ought to Be (for White People).

And it’s more successful than free chicken and beer. The money flows, the ratings swell. An Australian starts a TV network in the US.

What develops is an attractive, well-produced alternate universe. You no longer need an alternate take. You have alternate facts.

Al Gore mutters and bores his way out of a presidency in a race against a guy who spoke English like he learned it from Rosetta Stone.

And now, the stage is set for a metastasis of batshit nuttery, jingoism, and irrational autocratic fervor. A party becomes a cult.

September 11, 2001 occurs. A buncha guys are in DC who couldn’t wait to go to Iraq. And the right wing media is shiny and tuned-up.

We go kick a bunch of barbarian ass in Afghanistan, as well we should have. They were beating women and destroying Buddhas. F**k ’em.

But then, The Axis of Evil Speech. And all the analysts in DC I know collectively go, “Oh, fuuuuu…they’re not serious, are they?”

Bill Clinton spent most of his years pounding the living snot out of Hussein. Dude built anything funny lookin’, in came the rockets.

There was one concerning nation-state for most, and – hint – it’s in Asia. The other threat was non-state actors. *ahem* Which played out.

And now – *headdesk* – they’re going to Iraq. With bullshit intel.

Goddamn it. GODDAMN IT. This is going to suck, said smart people.

And there’s the entire right-wing think tank and media machine blaring, careening, gloating. From the gov’t itself, and from every outlet.

HOW DARE YOU BE SKEPTICAL? WE HAVE AGENCIES! INTEL! IT’S SECRET! DO YOU WANT MORE PLANES IN YOUR NOSTRILS, UP YOUR BUTTS? BE PATRIOTIC!

And goddamn, did those media outlets sell a lot of ads for trucks, pain killers, pharmaceuticals and financial services. $$$$$$

Many earnest patriots also pointed out, hey, um, there apparently are no weapons that could have blown up Cleveland, so…

But now, this whole thing has morphed into tribalism. YES THEY DID TOO FIND WEAPONS OF MASS DEPRESSION AND YOU SUCK BUSH ROCKS PUSSY

Ann Coulter comes on TV to talk over B-roll of rusty munitions WE SOLD HUSSEIN and said, well look, there they are. Total. Propaganda.

America looks like shit. Our intel services take a helluva beating. Iraq’s invasion – which was basically unplanned – results in chaos.

Katrina. Bush. Looking out the window. Confused.

Hey, but in intel news, the National Geospatial-Intel Agency helps critically.

  1. The housing Ponzi we used to get out of the DotComBust-9/11-era recession has now gone pear-shaped. Utterly nuclear.

America’s banks, the one thing other than movies and video games we do reliably, all shit the bed simultaneously.

We then elect a cappuccino-colored president whose middle name is Hussein.

The Right goes completely over the f**king cliff into insane.

They start the TEA PARTY! YO REMEMBER BOSTON! PAAAATRIOTS SOMETHING SOMETHING! TEA PARTY! NOTHING MATTERS TAKE IT ALL BACK YAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!

This political movement happens when the only thing Obama has really said with conviction is “Fired up! Ready to go!” In late November 2008.

But ON GEORGE WASHINGTON’S GRAVE THIS HAS GONE TOO FAR!!! And the entire right-wing media gets its next several years of revenue LOCKED.

Now, we’ve got a really, reaaaally fertile field in which former KGB agents can make a long play.

And Moscow gets to work.

America’s at this weird nihilistic place, which is one thing for France and Russia, but NOT for earnest midwesterners who are agape.

Now the American Left has got some juice back again. But the Right is just apoplectic from pure suffering.

Both are ripe for subversion.

The Left is out of love with American business and military-industrial, the Right foams at the mouth against legitimate government.

And the guys who have been twisting minds from Vladivostok to Havana and back get to work building an “alt” media structure.

We’ve already covered the genius of that who Wikileaks op on the Left. SCORE!

Now for the perversion of the formerly nationalist Right.

JESUS TAPDANCING CHRIST THERE’S A BLACK DUDE IN THE WHITE HOUSE! LIVING THERE!

It’s not hard to convince Southerners this is insane.

But put a little elbow grease in on some internet forums, and pretty soon you can have Northern John Adams-type conservatives, too.

A whole generation of disaffect Rush Limbaugh fans (WE LISTENED AND DITTOED SO HARD WHY IS THERE A BLACK DUDE THERE?) is ripe for picking.

In addition to alt-finance sites and “Russia Today” a new TV network, they start infiltrating “social media.”

Disclosure: Because I’m mouthy all the time like this, RT had me on as a guest. They prop up US “subversives.” And they don’t edit you!

Fun fact: Al Jazeera and RT just let me talk. US media almost always wants some hand in your final product before booking you. Ironic, no?

But from about 2009 to the 2016 election, a madness is being brewed and slowly poured down the throats of increasingly hysterical Americans.

When you imbibe from this potion, everything is awful and everyone official is lying to you.

Only other members of the cult are with you!

US media, which is complicit in many of our problems, is portrayed for the extremists as conspiratorial liars. All the time.

Formerly sane members of US society start sounding like my schizophrenic grandfather, who said Government was keeping him from His Mission.

David Fahrenthold ‏@Fahrenthold  Dec 11

@ericgarland damn, man, this is great writing, using a form that doesn’t usually lend itself to greatness.

We go kick a bunch of barbarian ass in Afghanistan, as well we should have. They were beating women and destroying Buddhas. F**k ’em.

There was one concerning nation-state for most, and – hint – it’s in Asia. The other threat was non-state actors. *ahem* Which played out.

And now – *headdesk* – they’re going to Iraq. With bullshit intel.

Goddamn it. GODDAMN IT. This is going to suck, said smart people.

And there’s the entire right-wing think tank and media machine blaring, careening, gloating. From the gov’t itself, and from every outlet.

HOW DARE YOU BE SKEPTICAL? WE HAVE AGENCIES! INTEL! IT’S SECRET! DO YOU WANT MORE PLANES IN YOUR NOSTRILS, UP YOUR BUTTS? BE PATRIOTIC!

And goddamn, did those media outlets sell a lot of ads for trucks, pain killers, pharmaceuticals and financial services. $$$$$$

Many earnest patriots also pointed out, hey, um, there apparently are no weapons that could have blown up Cleveland, so…

But now, this whole thing has morphed into tribalism. YES THEY DID TOO FIND WEAPONS OF MASS DEPRESSION AND YOU SUCK BUSH ROCKS PUSSY

Ann Coulter comes on TV to talk over B-roll of rusty munitions WE SOLD HUSSEIN and said, well look, there they are. Total. Propaganda.

America looks like shit. Our intel services take a helluva beating. Iraq’s invasion – which was basically unplanned – results in chaos.

Katrina. Bush. Looking out the window. Confused.

Hey, but in intel news, the National Geospatial-Intel Agency helps critically.

  1. The housing Ponzi we used to get out of the DotComBust-9/11-era recession has now gone pear-shaped. Utterly nuclear.

America’s banks, the one thing other than movies and video games we do reliably, all shit the bed simultaneously.

We then elect a cappuccino-colored president whose middle name is Hussein.

The Right goes completely over the f**king cliff into insane.

They start the TEA PARTY! YO REMEMBER BOSTON! PAAAATRIOTS SOMETHING SOMETHING! TEA PARTY! NOTHING MATTERS TAKE IT ALL BACK YAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!

This political movement happens when the only thing Obama has really said with conviction is “Fired up! Ready to go!” In late November 2008.

But ON GEORGE WASHINGTON’S GRAVE THIS HAS GONE TOO FAR!!! And the entire right-wing media gets its next several years of revenue LOCKED.

Now, we’ve got a really, reaaaally fertile field in which former KGB agents can make a long play.

 

And Moscow gets to work.

America’s at this weird nihilistic place, which is one thing for France and Russia, but NOT for earnest midwesterners who are agape.

Now the American Left has got some juice back again. But the Right is just apoplectic from pure suffering.

Both are ripe for subversion.

The Left is out of love with American business and military-industrial, the Right foams at the mouth against legitimate government.

And the guys who have been twisting minds from Vladivostok to Havana and back get to work building an “alt” media structure.

We’ve already covered the genius of that who Wikileaks op on the Left. SCORE!

Now for the perversion of the formerly nationalist Right.

JESUS TAPDANCING CHRIST THERE’S A BLACK DUDE IN THE WHITE HOUSE! LIVING THERE!

It’s not hard to convince Southerners this is insane.

But put a little elbow grease in on some internet forums, and pretty soon you can have Northern John Adams-type conservatives, too.

A whole generation of disaffect Rush Limbaugh fans (WE LISTENED AND DITTOED SO HARD WHY IS THERE A BLACK DUDE THERE?) is ripe for picking.

In addition to alt-finance sites and “Russia Today” a new TV network, they start infiltrating “social media.”

Disclosure: Because I’m mouthy all the time like this, RT had me on as a guest. They prop up US “subversives.” And they don’t edit you!

Fun fact: Al Jazeera and RT just let me talk. US media almost always wants some hand in your final product before booking you. Ironic, no?

But from about 2009 to the 2016 election, a madness is being brewed and slowly poured down the throats of increasingly hysterical Americans.

When you imbibe from this potion, everything is awful and everyone official is lying to you.

Only other members of the cult are with you!

US media, which is complicit in many of our problems, is portrayed for the extremists as conspiratorial liars. All the time.

Formerly sane members of US society start sounding like my schizophrenic grandfather, who said Government was keeping him from His Mission.

Only the Gubmint knew the Archangel Gabriel was sending him to find the next Jesus.

So, cut it out, CIA! Stop it, Giant Conspiracy!

And then people you knew from Functional Daily Life started talking that way. People with car dealerships. Dentists. Regular folk.

They started with CONSPIRACY, especially after 2012, because DAMMIT NO THERE SHOULDN’T BE A BLACK DUDE TWO TERMS NOOOO! NO NO NO NO NO NO

THEY ARE ALL IN ON IT. THE CORPORATIONS. THE MEDIA WHORES. THE GOVERNMENT! (except for my Medicare, don’t touch that) ALL OF THEM!

A CABAL CALLED The Pentaveret: The Queen. The Pope. The Gettys. The Rothschilds. AND COLONEL SANDERS, BEFORE HE WENT TITS UP!

If you haven’t unfollowed by now, 1. You’re nuts and 2. Thank you for indulging my So I Married an Axe Murderer reference.

MOVING ON. The conspiratorial fever at about 108, we begin the 2016 election – AGAINST EVERYTHING HOLY – in 2015.

The Republicans debate over 712 times, discussing topics such as who hated Obamacare more, and who had a large penis.

Jesus, that happened.

The Democrats all debate who’s going to get out of Hillary’s way first, except for VERMONT’S OWN BERNIE SANDERS, who…gets popular?

I’m from Vermont and have known Bernie forever, so I’m very surprised, but everyone kinda likes it.

Hillary wins anyhow.

And now, the target for electoral mischief is enormous. Hillary is the most known quantity in America, with huge backstory.

Creating a conspiracy narrative around the Clintons is like creating a “southern” narrative around NASCAR and grits.

Now – with Trump as the non-conformist, not-like-all-the-other-rotten-conspiratorial-assholes paragon, the Russians go into overdrive.

The Russians didn’t create Trump – only New York City and American gullibility could have done that.

But they’ve got a SWEETHEART outcome.

Trump – a moron – is probably unlikely to take the whole enchilada, but that’s perfect. If he gets close enough, he can cry UNFAIR! forever.

Amazing scenario for Russia – instead of RT, they get an institutional nihilist chowderhead with American credentials. They butter him up.

Hell, to hear many tell of it, the have kompromat on him. But anyhow, they invest in his stuff. He was there in 2013. They have a lever.

IF on the off chance, Trump actually (and who could guess this) wins, then…wow, they’ve got quite an opening.

Either way, on the run-up to Nov 2016, Russian involvement was as subtle as a fart in a spacesuit.

Scroll down my TL for details.

The U.S. IC had its hair on fire. This situation was incredibly dangerous. A paranoid U.S. faction backing a rogue with ties to Russia.

OK, Jesus, at LONG LAST, back to my initial premise. Why didn’t Obama and Clinton “do something?”

JESUS, WHAT CAN YOU DO?

You come out and have the CIA enter the goddamn race for Clinton? True or not, we look like some weird cryptofascist state.

Or, you let the Russkis laugh and taunt and infiltrate Facebook with majillions of propaganda tales for idiots? Just let them run around?

Do you come out the day after this totally weird-smelling abomination of an election with all its technical difficulties?

Do you tell America the day after the election that Russia spearfished all of our think tanks in brazen fashion?

Hillary, for her part, gives a brief and all-too-calm speech and goes hiking.

Probably the best move on the board.

Obama WELCOMES! Mr. Trump in an intense, welcoming welcome. To the White House. Mr. Big Winner Guy! Welcome! Fellow American!

Trump looks like he swallowed a goldfish and stares at the floor a bit too long.

As if maybe a joke has gone too far.

In the next month, a small band of propagandists run in a circle and try to look like they’re forming a government.

It’s ungainly.

And now, it’s December 11th. Trump says he don’t need no stinkin’ intel agencies.

Russia (BWA HAHAHAHAAAA) blames Ukraine! LOLOLOLOLZZZ

A lot of Republicans stare into the middle distance, except for McCain and Graham who are NOT HAVING THIS SHIT. (I salute you, gentlemen.)

And here we are. Americans. Hopefully soon united. This isn’t a partisan issue. Obama isn’t late to the party. People are doing their jobs.

If you think any of this is easy, you’re ignorant and delusional.

Tonight, though, I write to you with great hope.

This may be America’s finest hour, as we act together with unshakable resolve to deal with enemies foreign and domestic.

We have done so in the past and come out a stronger, more just, more pluralistic nation.

We will do so now.

And for me? Or die trying.

America is the steward of a genius system entrusted to flawed stewards whose descendants seem to act on the right side of history.

This system is not rotten, not beyond repair, not exiled from the future.

We have been infiltrated by agents who would drive us mad.

This is a nation built on civilization, humanity, and reason, rejecting the febrile superstitions of the past.

It must stand. And will.

We are at present in a place of danger where some of our fellow citizens have forgotten our most cherished values.

We’ve been here before.

America, reluctantly but dutifully, recognizes its internal contradictions and failings.

Slavery. Racism. Internment. Classism.

The genius documents that gave rise to noble American sentiments were themselves authored by those who failed them. (h/t @ Mr. Jefferson)

We spilled the blood of our brothers to resolve the contradictions of slavery and then abandoned the project while killing Indians.

Americans proclaimed the equality of all men while treating women as chattel and all non-whites as lesser. We are indeed hypocrites.

But to be American is to accept that unflinchingly and to soldier forth for future generations, and DO BETTER, GODDAMN IT.

There are those who would mire us in worldly cynicism, to anchor us in a world where our institutions betray forever, where values perish.

And to be American is to face that intellectual, moral, and spiritual assault with the unshakeable devotion to something more lofty.

And when that loftiness fails, as it so often does, to be American is to seize it again and again, knowing that our Creator desire Progress.

Progress can come from Traditionalists or Labor Unionists or mystics or musicians or doctors or Senators or journalists. All are exhorted.

The Progress demanded by our Creator can be achieved by immigrants and natives, skeptics and believers, the elite and the humble alike.

That is America. That is the promise that Americans oft ignore and which more cynical nations would defile for their own gain.

That America will last long after I have died, long after new people have picked the torch.

Long after we betray it again, as we will.

But America will go on, even if by another name, unless all who have heard her name are extinguished.

This is just the locus of promise.

America came from the olive groves of Italy and the shipyard of Plymouth and the islands of the Philippines. Indivisible.

America came from the Torah and Voltaire’s Candide and Adam Smith and zen koans and Greek mathematics and Rumi’s poetry.

America is all these things, and should yet another absolutist demagogue, foreign or domestic seize her, it will be far from the end.

Now is a time for patriots.

It’s also Sunday afternoon. I’m gonna get a beer and watch football.

God Bless America, and all nations.

The Blackest Heart ‏@TheReddestRose  Dec 11

@ericgarland That was amazing. Thank you. I’ve never heard anyone put the kind of patriotism I ascribe to into words. Beautiful.

 

What Exactly Are the Differences between Democrats and Republicans on Charter Schools?

According to this column by Carolyn Leith, not really all that much. I thought this is worth reading. The source is here

Last year, I wrote an open letter to Senator Patty Murray pleading with her to reconsider the lavish financial support charter schools were slated to receive in the soon to be re-authorized ESEA.

My argument:

The Supreme Court has found the Washington State Legislature in contempt for not fulfilling its duty to fully fund basic education.

The federal government made this situation even worse when it allowed aid to states to expire in 2012. This money was being used by states to keep our public schools running.

Given the precarious state of public school funding in Washington State, I’m confused by your willingness to include generous funding for charter schools in the ESEA.

Not only did the Supreme Court rule Washington State’s charter law unconstitutional, but charter schools have a track record for all kinds of financial scandals. Don’t believe me? Just google “charter school scandals” and take a look.

We can’t afford to have any dollars diverted from our classrooms. Any dollar lost to scandal is one not being spent on the 1 million public school students in Washington State.

The rest is history.

The ESEA sailed through Congress and with President Obama’s signature – became law as the ESSA.

In November, Patty Murray – supporter of the TPP and co-author of the ESSA – skated to another term with 59% of the vote.

The only kink was Trump’s victory and his selection of Betsy DeVos to be the new Secretary of Education. THAT was a buzz kill.

Suddenly, Democrats and progressives (whatever that means anymore) couldn’t stop talking about charters and the evils of privatization.

AWKWARD.

Here’s the thing: Democrats are just as into charter schools as Republicans. The only difference is the language they use to sell the idea to their supporters. Democrats talk about gaps while the Republicans complain about the public education monopoly.

Don’t believe me?

In September, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, John King, sent out a press release announcing $245 million in new grants for charter schools. $245 million !?!

“Ensuring that all students have access to an academically challenging and engaging education is critical to preparing them for college and career success,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “Innovative charter schools are continuously developing new and impactful practices to close achievement gaps and provide all students with the skills and abilities they need to thrive. We are proud to support these efforts along with strong charter school authorizing and accountability, particularly given these grantees’ commitment to communities facing steep academic challenges.”

(Did you see the word gaps?)

Selective Outrage

I’m done with Democrats who only activate their moral compasses when a Republican is President. I don’t have the time or patience to support an organization that puts scoring political points over principles.

Remember when Hillary Clinton made big headlines by trying to sell NEA members on the lesser of two evils argument that non-profit charters were a vast improvement over the garden variety charter school?

Think about it: The Democratic Party’s candidate for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton, was campaigning as a supporter of charter schools — to an audience full of teachers. You can’t be more pro-charter than that.

But now – with a Republican President and a potential Education Secretary who LOVES all things charter – Democrats and their progressive minions are beside themselves. Outraged, even.

Sorry to be a downer, but I can’t help wondering where all of these VERY concerned Democrats were a year ago.

Oh, I remember, they were in Congress, working with the charter lobby to re-write the ESSA, so privatization supporters could get EVERYTHING on their wish list.

It’s Worse Than You Think

Now, we come to the really bad part of the story. The ESSA – constructed in a bipartisan manner – is a doomsday device for public education AND it’s the law of the land.

Here are the ESSA’s three arms of destructio

  • Accountability measured designed to create turn-around schools which are ripe for charter conversion.
  • Innovative assessments to usher in online learning software, ELOs, and “anytime, any place learning”.
  • Infusion of big federal dollars so charters can push out resource starved public schools

It appears the school privatizing lobby – within the Democratic Party – was so sure of a Clinton victory, they rushed to pass the ESSA – never considering the possibility of a Clinton loss.

Well, it happened.

Instead of the happy face of privatization offered by the Democratic Party, we’re faced with a Betsy DeVos who can’t wait to push the red button and could care less about human suffering or the rubble left behind.

Charter Lobby Victory

The ESSA gave the charter lobby everything they wanted and then some. Take a look:

Specifically, changes to the Charter School Program (CSP) include the following:

The CSP now includes dedicated funding for the replication and expansion of high-performing charter schools. In addition, state grants can also be used for the same purpose.

The state grant program can now be administered by governors and charter support organizations in addition to state educational agencies.

The state grant program prioritizes funding to states that provide equitable resources to charter schools and that assist charters in accessing facilities.

The state grant program provides schools with additional spending flexibility for startup funds. For example, they will be allowed to use CSP funds to purchase a school bus and make minor facility improvements.

The state grant program includes new protections to ensure funds go to charter schools with autonomy and flexibility consistent with the definition of a charter school.

Charter school representatives must be included in Title I negotiated rule-making and must be included, like other stakeholders at the state and local level, in the implementation of many federal programs.

CSP recipients will have more flexibility to use a weighted lottery to increase access to charter schools for disadvantaged students. CSP grantees will also be permitted to use feeder patterns to prioritize students that attended earlier grades in the same network of charter schools.

And other provisions that affect charter schools include:

  • New and expanding charter schools are required to receive timely allocations of Title I allocations and to be “held harmless” in the same manner as other eligible Title I traditional public schools.
  • The highly qualified teacher requirement has been repealed. Charters are free to design personnel systems and hire staff that meet the unique needs of their school.
  • States are required to administer annual reading and math assessments in reading and math in grades 3-8, and once in high school. Science assessments are required once in each grade span: 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12.
  • States must hold all public schools accountable for improving student achievement of all students, as well as all subgroups of students.
  • Schools are also accountable for adjusted four year and extended cohort graduation rates.
  • LEAs have flexibility to use Title I funds for school improvement to increase the number of high-quality charter schools serving students attending failing schools.
  • New provisions to demonstrate compliance with the “supplement not supplant” requirement include additional flexibility in aligning federal program funds with their educational programs.

What can we learn from all of this?

Neoliberalism – and school privatization is straight out of the handbook – hurts people and the public institutions humans depend on.

The particular political leader pushing the neoliberal agenda doesn’t matter. Some will appear progressive, others conservative. It doesn’t matter.

Blind partisan loyalty is sucking the legitimacy out of our political process.

This has got to stop.

When your political team embraces part of the neoliberal agenda, you need to speak up and say “NO” – just as loudly as when the other team does.

Otherwise, we’ll continue to be rewarded with dumpster fires like the ESSA.

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

The Electoral College Should Be Retired or Abolished – Just Like Quill Pens, Buggy Whips, Powdered Wigs, and Slavery

I have just run the numbers, and it is true – the US Electoral College is one of the worst Gerrymanders imaginable.

Five times now, the winner of the total popular vote in the US ended up losing the election (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016). Clinton is now out-polling Trump by quite a bit (61.7 million to 60.4 million), but Trump is unfortunately probably going to win the presidency.

Just how perverse is the Electoral College? Beyond your wildest dreams.

I have just calculated that one party could WIN the presidency with only 31% of the total popular vote, while their opponents could LOSE the presidential election with 69% of the popular vote.

I am neither kidding nor exaggerating.

It comes from the fact that small states and voting territories like WY, DC, VT, ND, AK are wildly over-represented in the Electoral College. In Wyoming, each Elector represents a total population of about 177,000 people. In DC, each one represents 197,000 people. In Vermont, it’s 207,000 people per Elector.

But in large states like TX, FL, and CA, the population is grossly under-represented in the EC. In Texas, there are about 715,000 people per Elector – over FOUR TIMES as many as in Wyoming. In Florida, there are 679,000 people per Elector, and in California there are about 668,000 people per Elector.

The difference mostly comes from the fact that each state has two Senators, regardless of population.

So, if one party is able to win a whole bunch of smaller-population states with 51% of the vote in each one, and the other one wins the rest of the relatively-few larger-population states with a lopsided 90% of the vote in each one, it is possible for the first party to get to 285 electoral votes by only getting 37 million votes, while the opposition could get 83 million votes but lose the election because they only got 253 electoral college votes.

In a country with about 330 million people, the winners could get by with the votes of only TWELVE PERCENT of the population!!!

That is just plain perverse: Party A gets outvoted by a TWO-TO-ONE margin and still wins the presidency!?!?!?

It is time that we got rid of the electoral college, just like we got rid of buggy whips, blacksmiths on every corner, candlestick makers, and white powdered wigs. And slavery.

For the sake of this completely lopsided hypothetical election, I am assuming that the losing side got 90% of the vote in the following states: PA, WA, VA, IL, NC, NY, GA, AZ, CA, FL, and TX. That would give them a grand total of 253 electoral college votes – not enough – but a popular vote of over 83 million people. The winning side would win all of the other states by 51% to 49% margins, giving them 285 electoral votes but less than 37 million actual votes.

This cannot be tolerated any longer.

=======================================

Notes:

  • For the sake of simplicity, I am treating all of Nebraska and all of Maine as single states.
  • Don’t think that 90% votes are impossible. Here in Washington DC, Trump apparently got only about FOUR percent of the vote. Not 14%. Not 40%. But four per cent.
  • I am using the proportion of the population in each state that voted either Democrat or Republican in this last election as the baseline.
  •  Write me a note (in comments) if you want to see the entire spreadsheet and I can post it on Dropbox.
  • The idea for this column isn’t original, but the calculations are my own, and the numbers are based on this source and this one. I don’t recall what source I got the idea from, unfortunately, so I can’t give them credit. If you know who came up with this idea, please let me know.

 

Trump, Finance, and Outsourcing

I listened to Trump talking about the Chinese and Mexicans ‘stealing our jobs’. In fact, it’s American companies who shed American jobs either by automating the production (so that 1 worker today can do about the same amount of work as 10 workers back when I had summer jobs in factories making automobile parts and clamps and such, 40 or 50 years ago) or else by closing the entire American branch of the firm down and selling off all its assets and machines and renegotiating for suppliers of its raw materials and for customers, and generally stiffing the workers who had oftentimes accumulated a promise to some sort of a pension and life long health care plan after working a set number of years. So after working in a factory or mine for their entire able-bodied adult life, they end up with almost nothing.
 
(Trump would have a bit more credibility on this topic if he hadn’t for years had almost all of his branded products made in China, Vietnam, Mexico and so on. ‘Makes him smart’ to do an end-run around American wages, worker protections, and taxes. While he complains to American supporters about other corporations like Ford and Caterpillar doing exactly the same thing.)
 
When I went to school and worked for about 6-7 years in NH, MA, NY and VT during my ‘teens and 20’s, I knew older workers (like at my college) who lost had lost multiple fingers in the textile mills — which had already closed because the corporate heads were chasing cheaper labor in the American South. The janitor in my college dorm was a really nice older fellow. I think he still had a majority of his fingers, but I vividly remember that he was unable to go up a flight of stairs without immediately sitting down for 10 minutes at an oxygen tank, because he had contracted ‘white lung’ from years working around whirring machinery and breathing hot, moist air filled with cotton dust. [The hot, moist air and high levels of cotton dust made for better production levels and thus, higher profits for the company, workers’ long-term health be damned.] Despite his advanced age, he clearly still needed to work at the College because his Social Security and whatever pension he may or may not have had wasn’t enough.] He had an oxygen tank on the second and third floors of our dorm, IIRC.
 
Extremely highly-skilled tool and die workers in Springfield, VT, which was once the very center of precision machine manufacturing of the United States, have seen the entire industry in that so-called ‘precision valley’ get shipped overseas. All of those factories are now empty shells, it’s true.
 
I talked to coal miners in West Virginia in the 1970s and 1980s who were similarly scarred for life by black lung disease; they were upset 35 years ago that their lifetime health care plans would be taken away or dramatically reduced.
But it’s not immigrant workers who sneak across our borders with secret plans to remoove all those machines in the dead of night, with the open or hush-hush agreements of state and local and federal governments, banks & other financial institutions, lawyers, and other companies that supply them with spare parts, raw materials, and markets. It’s not illegal aliens doing this. It’s sleaze bag financiers and businessmen like Donald Trump, Goldman Sachs, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, the Walton family, and the Koch brothers who do this. Not desperate workers looking for a life but who can’t afford the fees, bribes, lawyers and connections needed to get official, legitimate, visas and green cards.
In fact, one can make the argument that it’s the Walton family itself that has nearly single-handedly made China the manufacturing center of the entire world. David Stockman among many others has shown that Walmart’s relentless pressure to reduce prices forced American companies to lay off almost all of their American workers and to outsource production to countries where workers are killed by goons and their bodies bnurned or fed to crocodiles if they try to organize unions (as opposed to simply being fired, bankrupted and disgraced, which is the American way) to try to get better than starvation wages, some personal privacy and respect, shorter hours, and safer working conditions. So that’s why if you visit places like Rochester, Phoenixville, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Springfield (VT), Detroit, or Indianapolis you won’t see the factories that gave employment to (and also maimed and wore out) millions of American workers. We also don’t have the smog or severe air and water pollution of yesteryear. The heavily-polluting coke mills of Gary or Weirton WV are (I think?) all closed too, thanks both to EPA rules and the impersonal dictates of the ‘invisible hand’ and the Walton family fortune.
But all is not so wonderful in China (or India, Thailand or Vietnam) for those peasants-turned-factory workers who are no longer spending their lives hoeing rice, millet, or sorghum but instead making toys, clothing, textiles, electronics, cars, and anything else for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, all $100/month (Vietnam) see this for US, Germany, China comparisons
For one thing, the air pollution in India and China reminds me of the similar and famous problems of London or Pittsburgh back in the 1950’s (see London 1953 and Beijing 60 years later, below)
London during the Great Smog  
In addition, China is itself in a completely unsustainable bubble, where the financiers and Party heads command enormous empty modern cities to be built in the middle of nowhere, in which nobody works or lives except for a few security guards and custodians, and there are no open businesses or shops – as a way of making jobs, but nobody appears to be able to afford to buy the apartments and condos there. I don’t pretend to understand how that makes any sense, nor do I comprehend, high finance, but some people say they do, and their predictions for the Chinese economy make for pretty alarming reading.
And of course, the fact that nearly all Trump products are made overseas is a pretty good indication that he’s just pandering to an easily-fooled section of the electorate. It’s divide-and-rule: make American workers (who have been screwed by the 1/10 of 1% who rule this country) hate and blame workers overseas, especially if them furriners come here looking to make a better life and don’t have the right papers or might have some funny ideas or aren’t Baptists or Methodists …
Published in: on September 29, 2016 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: