Archives for the month of: January, 2018

In his budget proposal for 2019, Trump will ask for dramatic cuts to Research on behalf of clean energy.

He prefers fossil fuels. He likes nuclear plants too.

Nothing beats “clean coal.”



Andrew Tobias writes about money, investing, and politics. We have engaged in a civil offline discussion about his favorite NYC charter chain, but I find his political insights valuable. I subscribe to his blog at Here is his rephrasing of the SOTU last night, if it represented the real world:


“The state of the Union is precarious.

“In my first year I have:

“1. Told more than 2000 public lies or falsehoods.

“2. Ended the American Century and abdicated our leadership of the world.

“3. Plunged the nation into economic peril through what is — according to Reagan budget director David Stockman — a massively irresponsible tax cut at exactly the wrong time in the business cycle. (We will be running a $1.2 trillion deficit in the tenth year of a recovery!)

“4. Prioritized those lower taxes on the rich — including real estate developers like me — over borrowing that same money to employ millions of Americans at good jobs revitalizing our infrastructure.

“5. Denied and ignored the massive and ongoing attack on our democracy ordered by a former KGB operative with whom I enjoy a warm relationship and against whose country I have refused to impose the sanctions mandated by Congress.

“6. Ceded economic leadership in the Pacific to China.

“7. Taken credit for the low unemployment and steadily improving economy I inherited (slightly more jobs were added in Obama’s last year than my first).

“8. Decimated the State Department, hobbled the Environmental Protection Agency, neutered the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and put agencies like HUD and the Departments of Education and of Energy in the hands of people with no expertise.

“9. Destabilized the health insurance market in ways that will lead to higher premiums and more uninsured (despite my promise of “great health care for everybody at a tiny fraction of the cost”).

“10. Demonized the free press, the FBI, and our intelligence community.

“11. Widened inequality, praised as “very fine people” torch-bearing white supremacists, set an example of incivility for your children.

“12. Solicited contributions to my campaign with the promise of running your name over the leave stream of this State of the Union address. No president in history has thought to cheapen and politicize the presidency that way, but then neither has a president embarrassed America on the world stage as I have. And if the —-holes of the world don’t like it, —- ’em.

“There’s more, but that’s enough for now.

“God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”


Masha Gessen has written extensively about Putin and Russia for the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, and the New York Times, as well as books.

This is one of her best articles. 

Written immediately after the 2016 election, it contains rules for surviving autocracy.

She begins by reminding us that we should not normalize Trump.

“Trump will be only the fourth candidate in history and the second in more than a century to win the presidency after losing the popular vote. He is also probably the first candidate in history to win the presidency despite having been shown repeatedly by the national media to be a chronic liar, sexual predator, serial tax-avoider, and race-baiter who has attracted the likes of the Ku Klux Klan. Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat—and won.

“I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:

“Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all posture. More recently, the same newspaper made a telling choice between two statements made by Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov following a police crackdown on protesters in Moscow: “The police acted mildly—I would have liked them to act more harshly” rather than those protesters’ “liver should have been spread all over the pavement.” Perhaps the journalists could not believe their ears. But they should—both in the Russian case, and in the American one. For all the admiration Trump has expressed for Putin, the two men are very different; if anything, there is even more reason to listen to everything Trump has said. He has no political establishment into which to fold himself following the campaign, and therefore no reason to shed his campaign rhetoric. On the contrary: it is now the establishment that is rushing to accommodate him—from the president, who met with him at the White House on Thursday, to the leaders of the Republican Party, who are discarding their long-held scruples to embrace his radical positions.”

Trump is not normal. We must not lose our bearings. He will destroy our values and our institutions unless we change the leadership in the Congrrss. There must be at least one brake on the ruinous delusions of this vain, ignorant and autocratic man.



Great news!

SOS Arizona scored a significant legal victory over the billionaire Koch brothers in court.

After the legislature passed a bill expanding vouchers, SOS Arizona collected enough signatures to force a referendum on the expansion. Republicans intend to keep expanding until every student in the state is eligible to leave public schools.

The Koch brothers know that Arizona is ground zero in the fight to destroy public schools so they hired a legal team to knock the referendum off the ballot. They are afraid to submit their plan to the Democratic will of the voters. The Koch’s even got the legislature to pass a bill denying the tight of parents to sue, but it was too late.

“In a six-page ruling made public Tuesday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Margaret Mahoney ruled that the law in effect last year when a referendum on voucher expansion was filed did not give individuals the right to challenge petition drives.

“Mahoney acknowledged that lawmakers voted to create an individual challenge option last year, but that change took effect on Aug. 9.

“The petitions demanding a public vote on voucher expansion were turned in on Aug. 8. Quite simply, Mahoney said, there is no legal basis for the challenge to those petitions.

“The judge also rejected the contention by voucher supporters that some of the petitions had to be thrown out because the required signature of the person notarizing the document did not precisely match the name on the notary’s official stamp. Mahoney said the law doesn’t require that.

“Mahoney also rejected the contention that some petition circulators made false statements to would-be signers about what the voucher expansion law would do if allowed to take effect, including that it would be the rich who benefit. The judge said voucher supporters, in filing suit, did not identify who made such statements, to whom they were made, how they were false, and whether the person who heard the comments relied on the statements in signing the petitions.”

The lawyer for the Koch brothers vowed to appeal.

The Kochs are terrified of democracy.

A Note from SOS Arizona:

“Judge dismisses lawsuit against Save Our Schools Arizona

“We want you to be the first to know: the dark money groups that sought to prevent Arizona voters from having a say on Proposition 305 in November have gone down in defeat in Arizona Superior Court.

“In her ruling, the Honorable Margaret R. Mahoney dismissed the lawsuit “in its entirety.”

“Join us in savoring this victory, which began when we turned in your petitions and your signatures on August 8, 2017.

“While many battles remain and our opponents will likely appeal the ruling, let’s take a moment together to enjoy this huge triumph.

“Thank you for all you’ve done and will continue to do!

“The Save Our Schools Arizona Core Team”

Beth Lewis, Chair
Alison Porter, Campaign Manager
Cathy Sigmon, Treasurer
Dawn Penich-Thacker, Communications Director
Melinda Iyer, Managing Editor
Sharon Kirsch, Director of Research & Training
Allegra Fullerton, Field Manager

Please help with a contribution. Send whatever you can afford. I did. I hope you will too.


Once a bright light of the charter industry, Chris Clemons pleaded guilty to major thefts from the school he founded and led and is now bound for prison.

“An Atlanta charter school founder has pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing more than half a million dollars from local public school systems.

“The former principal at Latin Academy, Chris Clemons, pleaded guilty to over 50 counts of theft and five counts of forgery after a hearing and sentencing that lasted about two  hours.

“Clemons was accused of defrauding three Atlanta area schools, and forcing at least one, the Latin Academy, to close because of a lack of funds. He faced up to 865 years in prison and $5.5 million in fines.

”The state alleged that the 39-year-old Clemon spent more than $50,000 to Atlanta strip clubs and made countless cash withdrawals.

“Parents said they were devastated when they learned what Clemons was doing.

“In the end, he has been ordered to pay $810,000 in restitution and was sentenced to 20 years, 10 to serve and 10 on probation.”

The moral of the story is that public money must be accompanied by public oversight.

Mercedes Schneider wrote about Clemons’ sterling resume. He was trained by Boston’s reformer “Building Excellent Schools” then earned an MBA at MIT, where he was featured for his vision and dedication to children.

Even for MIT grads, crime doesn’t pay.



Congressman Joe Kennedy responded to Trump’s State of the Union speech, speaking from a public high school in Fall River, Massachusetts.

13 minutes.

Worth watching to remember what this country is supposed to be.


Tim Slekar, Dean at Edgewood College in Wisconsin and public education  advocate extraordinaire, interviews the remarkable Carol Burris on his podcast, “Busted Pencils.”

carol is executive director of the Network for Public Education.


The powerful California Charter School Association collected enough votes to defeat AB 1478, an effort to establish accountability and transparency for charters, introduced by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from Los Angeles.

Here is the proposed legislation. It called for transparency and accountability and prohibited conflicts of interest. What a radical proposal! Imagine charter schools holding open meetings, making their records public, and prohibited from financial self-dealing with related companies owned by relatives or yourself! Just like real public schools. But no, the charter industry demands the freedom to use public money as they wish, behind closed doors. And they reward Assembly members to let them do it. After all, freedom from oversight is the civil rights issue of our time!

Charter schools in California take public money but evade any public responsibility. If you want to know how bad things are, read this.

The California Charter School Association reached into its deep pockets to block any oversight for the charter sector, which prefers to take public money without accountability or transparency. CCSA insists that charter schools should be allowed to do what they want, without open meetings or open records. The law would have prohibited conflicts of interest, and the CCSA wouldn’t stand for that.

The CCSA said they defeated the proposal by a “historic margin,” which was untrue. The vote was close. The numbers of yes, no, and abstain were nearly equal. Abstain counts as a no.

Here is the vote:

27 members of the Assembly voted for charter accountability; 26 members voted against charter accountability; 24 members abstained. And they have the chutzpah to call that a “historic margin”?

Those who voted for charter accountability: Ayes: Bonta, Calderon, Carrillo, Chau, Chiu, Chu, Frazier, Cristina Garcia, Gloria, Gonzalez Fletcher, Jones-Sawyer, Kalra, McCarty, Medina, Mullin, Nazarian, O’Donnell, Quirk, Quirk-Silva, Reyes, Rodriguez, Santiago, Mark Stone, Thurmond, Ting, Wood, Rendon

Those who opposed charter accountability: Noes: Acosta, Travis Allen, Baker, Bigelow, Brough, Chávez, Chen, Choi, Cunningham, Dahle, Flora, Fong, Gallagher, Harper, Kiley, Lackey, Levine, Maienschein, Mathis, Mayes, Melendez, Obernolte, Patterson, Steinorth, Voepel, Waldron

Abstentions: No Votes Recorded: Aguiar-Curry, Arambula, Berman, Bloom, Burke, Caballero, Cervantes, Cooley, Cooper, Daly, Eggman, Friedman, Eduardo Garcia, Gipson, Gray, Grayson, Holden, Irwin, Limón, Low, Muratsuchi, Rubio, Salas, Weber

If you live in California, and your legislator voted no or abstained, call your legislator and ask why he or she refused to hold charter schools accountable for use of public funds. Ask how much money the CCSA gave them. Start a campaign to buy back their vote for public schools.

One thing this vote makes crystal clear: Charter Schools in California are not public schools. Charter schools fight accountability, even the most minimal kind. They fight transparency. They don’t hold open meetings. They want the right to engage in financial conflicts of interest.

They don’t root out out fraud. They hide it and protect it.

Charter schools are private schools that make up their own rules. They are not public schools. Public schools have open meetings and open records. Public schools are not allowed to engage in self-dealing and conflicts of interest.

Public schools answer to the public, not campaign contributors.

Trump forgot to mention education.

No wonder. He promised during the campaign to get rid of Common Core. He didn’t. it is as strong as ever. He forgot that promise, and Betsy must hide her past as a supporter of Common Core.

He didn’t brag about getting $20 Billion for School Choice, as promised, because he didn’t.

He didn’t brag about removing protections for kids with disabilities, transgender students, rape victims, or students defrauded by for-profits like Trump University.

Betsy DeVos can’t appear before any audience unless it is a group she funded.

Then there is the problem that he knows nothing at all about education, nor does she.

No bragging rights in this arena.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited newly elected Virginia House of Delegates member Elizabeth Guzman to deliver the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union address tonight.

Eluzabeth is a public education warrior.

Virginia leads the way to a brighter day!