Archives for the month of: May, 2022

Parents have pressed the New York Legislature for years to mandate smaller class sizes. They are close to achieving their goal.

State lawmakers have struck an agreement on bills that would extend mayoral control of the New York City school system for two years and mandate reductions in public school class size.

State Sen. John Liu of Queens, who chairs his chamber’s New York City education committee, and Assembly Education Chair Michael Benedetto confirmed the deal Tuesday morning.

“As you can imagine, there were many parties to the negotiation,” Liu said in an interview with Gothamist. “At the end of the day – or I should say at the end of the night – the Senate and Assembly concurred with this pair of bills.”

Legislative leaders reached the agreement late Monday, introducing a pair of bills that will be ready for a vote Thursday – the last day of the Legislature’s annual session in Albany. The two-year timeframe is less than what Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul were lobbying for and is designed to give parents more control over school governance

Class Size

If passed, the class size bill could dramatically shrink classes, a move many parents and educators say is the key to improving public school students’ academic and social growth.

The new bill would cap kindergarten through third grade classes at 20 students; fourth through eighth grade classes at 23 students; and high school classes at 25 students.

That’s compared to current caps for kindergarten at 25 students; first through sixth grade at 32 students; middle school classes at 30 (for Title I schools) or 33 students (for non-Title I schools); and high school classes at 34 students.

The reduction would be phased in starting this fall, and would have to be complete by 2027. If the city does not comply, money will be withheld.

“If enacted I think it will be a sea change for New York City students and their ability to learn,” said Leonie Haimson, executive director of the advocacy group Class Size Matters. “These are really, really big class size changes, but they’re within our grasp.”

Haimson has been advocating for Class size reduction for many years. She has led countless rallies and organized parent actions. This act is a tribute to the power of parents.

The same bill will renew mayoral control for two years. Mayor Eric Adams had hoped for more. After two decades off mayoral control, it has lost its luster.

Please sign up now for our Annual Parent Action Conference on Saturday June 4 from 4 PM to 6 PM EST, co-sponsored by NYC Kids PAC and held via Zoom.  

Invited keynote speakers include Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Sen. Robert Jackson and NYC Council Education Chair Rita Joseph.

We will also brief you on the proposed budget cuts to NYC schools, and what parents can do to prevent them from happening.

This will be followed by a choice of workshops on these important issues:

  • Reforming Fair Student Funding
  • Resources for parents navigating the special education system
  • How DOE puts your child’s privacy at risk
  • Literacy in NYC: How parents forced a change
  • The problems with charter schools
  • Parent organizing and advocacy

Please register now at Eventbrite here or at https://tinyurl.com/PACconference22  

A flyer you can download and share is here.

Hope to see you there!

thanks Leonie

PS Please keep those calls going to your Legislators about including requiring that class size be reduced in any agreement on Mayoral control; links to their contact info as well as a script is posted here.

Why do people run for school board in their local community?

It has never been a more perilous time to be a school board member. When the pandemic began, local school boards bore responsibility for whether to open or close schools, whether or not to require masks. Whichever decision they made, a sizable number of parents were sure to be angry.

School board meetings in some communities became scenes of outrage and heated exchanges. Then came the manufactured claims that schools were rife with “critical race theory” and inappropriate sex education, and school boards were again under fire. Extremists set a goal of seizing control of local school boards, but have been largely unsuccessful. Here and there, a local school board capitulated to or even led the cries for censorship and book banning.

But most local boards have remained steady as a bedrock of grassroots democracy. Ninety-five percent of school districts are governed by an elected school board. Privatizers and disrupters would love to abolish them all and turn the nation’s schools over to corporate management organizations. But as long as there are local school boards, they must stand for re-election and face the voters in their district.

Given the intemperate attacks on public schools, on school boards, and on our democracy, we owe them our thanks for their service to our communities.

Lawrence A. Feinberg wrote the following tribute to local school board members. He is a passionate advocate for public schools, who has served on his local school board in Pennsylvania for 22 years.

He writes:

“The short answer on why people want to run (for school board) these days is because we are out of our . . . minds.” That was my answer back in May of 2011, long before COVID, when the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Anthony Wood asked me why folks would consider seeking school board seats.

I first ran for the school board in 1999, and then five times more because I believe that public education is the foundation of our democracy and that our mission is to create informed American/Global citizens.

Asked a similar question on a League of Women Voters Zoom panel last month, my colleague, friend and former William Penn School District Board President Jennifer Hoff had a clear, concise answer: “the kids.”

Why would anyone want such a thankless, unpaid role? Here area few reasons:

• To get to shake hands with hundreds of graduating seniors who were in kindergarten when I was first elected.

• To hear elementary students speak eloquently and effusively at a public meeting about the character development initiative in their school.

• To read to elementary school students on Read Across America Day.

• To see and hear, year in and year out, innumerable opportunities and accomplishments for and by students in the arts, music, theatre, robotics, culinary arts, industrial arts, medical trades, community service, athletics, countless clubs and activities, student publications and academics.

• To listen to teams of students demonstrate and describe their science experiments.

• To watch our Best Buddies Unified Bocce team (that includes students with and without special needs) in action and to see them get statewide recognition.

• To see students learn to respect and value their similarities and their differences.

• To see our students register their peers to vote.

• To see our graduates move on successfully to college and careers.

• To marvel at the professionalism, dedication, patience and competency of administrators, teachers and support staff and their clear, constant focus on what is best for kids.

There is no denying that the past two years have not been easy for our school communities. For myself and most of my school director peers throughout the state, our attitude has been to assume that everyone has good intentions and wants what is best for their kids, and to treat others with the same level of respect, civility and dignity that we would like to be treated with.

A profound thank you to all Pennsylvania school directors for their dedicated volunteer public service to their students, communities, taxpayers and school districts.

Special thanks to all our superintendents, administrators, and principals, many of whom worked 24/7 throughout the pandemic in the face of immense challenges.

And thanks to all our teachers, aides and all staff – nurses, counselors, social workers, mechanics, bus drivers, custodians, office personnel, food service workers and librarians. Thank you!

Lawrence A. Feinberg is serving his 22nd year as a school director in Haverford Township, Delaware County. Currently board vice president, he served as board president from 2017 through 2021. He has been an active advocate for public education at the local, regional, state and federal levels.

This commentary was first published by the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

Christopher Hooks wrote in The Texas Monthly about the boundless hypocrisy and moral vacuousness of Texas’ elected leaders.

In the run-up to the 2022 primaries and election, they made a big show of “protecting the children.”

They obsessed about the danger of transgender children, even insisting on criminalizing parents’ efforts to get medical help for their children. They obsessed about teachers allegedly “grooming” children for lives of deviant sexual behavior. They obsessed about “obscene” books that might normalize sexual behavior they—these men of high righteousness— deplored. They obsessed about “critical race theory” and demanded the banning of books that taught children about racism, whether past or present, or anything about human sexuality.

Yes, the children of Texas would be protected from any teaching about race or sexuality.

But they would not be physically protected. They would not be protected from an 18-year-old with two AR15s.

When the bad man with a powerful weapon came into their classroom, the children were left to fend for themselves while 19 police officers stood in the hallway. The bad man killed their teachers. He killed children. Little girls called 911 and begged for help. One said 8 or 9 children were still alive. But the police remained in the hallway.

The parents in the schoolyard pleaded with the police to save their children, but the police had their instructions: keep the parents away.

Almost an hour passed before the police broke into the classroom and shot the murderer.

The Governor called a press conference , where he commended the police for their courage and bravery. He commended the men who waited in the hallway for almost an hour, while the children were dying, one after another.

Hooks writes:

Texas, a friend used to say, is hard on women and little things. That would come to mind over the years when reporting seemed to bear it out. In 2015, I watched a foster mother testify in court, via telephone from her daughter’s hospital bedside, that state cuts to the Medicaid acute therapy program were having disastrous consequences for her child’s incurable, debilitating genetic disorder. In 2021, an eleven-year-old boy in Conroe suffocated from carbon monoxide poisoning after seeing snow for the first time, as his family tried to keep their home warm after the collapse of a horribly mismanaged electrical grid. And then there were the perennial horror stories from the state’s spike-pit child welfare system—a three-year-old found dead, bleeding from the ears, after his day care repeatedly warned state agents about signs of abuse by his foster parents; a teenage girl who killed herself the moment she could despite orders that she was never to be left alone; and countless others who survive through the heavy prescription of psychotropic meds before being kicked out to the streets at the age of eighteen.

Each revelation of new misery brings a new wave of revulsion, but—I hate to say this—as you learn more about how the social safety net works in Texas, the revulsion starts to fade, and it becomes a dull undercurrent to an awareness of the world instead of something sharp that pokes through. As it fades, so comes the realization that it has faded in the same way for those in power—and that nothing gets fixed because leaders have been immunized from caring to an even greater degree. The grid remains unsteady; children in foster care still get abused. Legislators make a show of passing partial, temporary fixes and resist looking at problems head-on. The Texas Legislature, with all its self-regard and jocularity and pride in itself as an institution, turns out to be suffused with a very dull and banal kind of evil.

On Tuesday, though, something poked through. For me, it wasn’t the knowledge that there had been another school shooting. Who could be surprised by that? Every detail was familiar. A once-bullied eighteen-year-old, two AR-15s, 22 dead, and 19 injured. The thing that shocked was the pictures of the dead when they lived. They were so little! Do you remember what it was like to have a body that small? A round fired by an AR-15 at close range enters the human body at three times the speed as those fired by a handgun, disintegrating and liquefying bones and organs around it. “It’s like a grenade goes off in there,” one trauma surgeon told Wired. Parents had to submit DNA samples so their kids could be accurately identified.

This spectacular violence, it sometimes feels, has not left much of us. At his initial press conference, Governor Greg Abbott wore his traditional white disaster-response shirt and offered details of the massacre as if reading a weather report. At a press conference the next day, where the governor sat alongside Texas senator Ted Cruz and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Abbott told Texans that the disaster “could have been worse,” and the primary flash of anger shown by elected officials came when Beto O’Rourke, who appeared in the crowd, tried to talk over them.

Appearing on Newsmax TV the day of the shooting, state attorney general Ken Paxton suggested that more armed guards at schools would help, “because it’s not going to be the last time.” Can you believe that, as a response from one of the most powerful elected officials in the state to a massacre of fourth graders? “It’s not going to be the last time.” There used to be at least a perfunctory mourning period, some hugs given in front of cameras, before those in power turned to one another other and shrugged. But in truth, leaders are only handling this the way they think about the foster care system they oversee, and every other death trap run by the state. The revulsion dulls, the novelty fades, and it becomes normal.


The shooting took place on the day of the Texas primary runoff. The composition of the Legislature and the rest of state government for the next two and a half years was set that night, barring extraordinary circumstances, by the conclusion of the Republican primary, which in Texas is more influential than the general election. Paxton, who had shrugged off the Uvalde shooting on Newsmax while wearing a campaign T-shirt, won renomination and almost certainly a third term in office.

It is a grotesque and cruel irony that the Republican primary this year, and several years of political activity before it, have been dominated by an all-consuming and comically misdirected argument about the “protection” of children and by a war on public schools. There was essentially no policy contested in the GOP primary that could affect the practical and economic circumstances of all Texans. (There rarely is.) There was, however, ceaseless argument about the well-being of children, their morals, their internal lives.

The most acute panic was over transgender children. In February, Paxton’s office issued a formal opinion holding that the prescription of puberty blockers to transgender children represented “child abuse.” Shortly after, Abbott tasked the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, an overworked and underfunded agency he had overseen for close to eight years, with investigating the families of transgender children for child abuse.

The more widespread crisis concerned books. The panic was conjured by parents and elected officials in equal measure. The first target was books with “divisive” material about race. Then, elected officials began to panicabout “pornography” in schools, a category that mostly included literature featuring queer characters and sexuality. Lawmakers proposed lists of books to be banned. In November, Abbott ordered the Texas Education Agency to investigate cases of “obscene material” in public schools and prosecute those responsible “to the fullest extent of the law,” because, as he wrote, it had to be a top priority to “protect” Texas students.

Public school teachers and children’s librarians—two professions that offer a strongly beneficial service to society for little pay—became villains for parents and candidates alike. They were called “groomers” and pedophiles on social media. In a press release, Abbott called for criminal charges to be brought if librarians were found to have put “pornography” in front of children. In Granbury, southwest of Fort Worth, half a year later, one woman lodged a criminal complaint against the librarians of Hood County ISD, prompting a police investigation. At a subsequent school board meeting, she condemned the fact that a committee brought together to review troublesome books had “too many” librarians instead of “people with good moral standards.”

The deterioration spread. A record number of public school teachers, already weary from the pandemic and now faced with a sort of siege, started quitting en masse—and forfeiting their licenses, indicating they probably wouldn’t come back. “I’m tired of getting punched. It shouldn’t be like this,” ninth grade math teacher Gloria Ogboaloh told Texas Monthly. As more teachers left, the quality of life for remaining educators got worse. Then, just four months after ordering that libraries be investigated, Abbott ordered the TEA to create a task force to investigate why so many teachers were quitting.

Hooks goes on to describe politicians who are liars, braggarts, cruel, indifferent to the safety of children, callous. How long can they continue to fool people with their charade and their fake concern? They don’t care about thechildren

When I suggested that the way to eliminate gun violence in America was to have one billionaire buy the votes of Republicans in Congress and state legislatures, I was walking a line between reality and satire. I thought that $1 billion would be enough to do the job (make the purchase, sale or manufacture of assault weapons illegal), in tandem with a gun buyback program.

Well, friends, the tobacco industry is already doing that, but for way less money.

To hold off the danger of laws making menthol cigarettes illegal, Reynolds American—maker of Newport and Camel cigarettes—has given out almost $6 million to more than 800 legislators.

Menthol in cigarettes and flavored cigars could soon be outlawed, as the US Food and Drug Administration and state legislatures carefully prepare to regulate or legislate them into history.

But one tobacco giant — Reynolds American— is actively spreading millions of dollars to hundreds of state-level political candidates and political action committees, according to an internal corporate governance document reviewed by Insider.

Cheapskates!

A regular reader who identifies himself as Joel wrote the following critique of the media’s negative narrative about the economy and crime. He was responding to the Robert Hubbell post about “the Media Doomsday Machine.”

So back in September the BLS [the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics] released the monthly Jobs number. A terribly disappointing 234,000 Jobs +- . It was disappointing because the same economic analysts who could not see a Housing Bubble bigger than the Stay Puff Marshmallow man had predicted 300,000 + . The fact that it was as high or higher than all but a handful of the previous 120 months never seemed to dawn on the talking heads. In October there were 677,000 Jobs added. And at the same time the number for October was adjusted 200,000 higher. It took the media all of 10 seconds to shift the narrative to “oh but inflation”
As stated by some CNBC talking head that day, inflation is an expectations game. If workers expect inflation they will ask for higher wages. If employers expect inflation they will charge more for goods and services. Inflation in September was all of 4.4 ,% high but not earth shaking. Then the (respectable) media ran stories of almost $6 dollar a gallon gas as if that was the norm. Of a Tex-ass couple who goes through 9 gallons of milk a week and was bankrupted by the cost (don’t ask about birth control). Of a Station owner in NJ who spends $1000s a week on gas for his 1970 muscle car and his 2000 Escalade.

Well the message was received, the expectation of inflation was created. Wages now contribute 8.5% of the inflationary spike. Raw materials and supply chain issues 27% of the inflation we see. And excess profits contribute 53% of the price hikes we are seeing. (EPI). It would seem the right people got the right message but it was not the American worker who in spite of all the hype does not have the power to demand wage increases on a broad based scale as they did in the past. In previous inflationary spikes inflation was driven 70% by wage increases . The media hype on inflation prior to the Ukraine war enabled corporations to profit vastly. The expectation was there. Corporate America hopped right on the band wagon. Don’t expect the corporate media to hop on board calling for an excess profits tax, or even to harp on those excess profits. Instead we will hear nonsense about low wage workers holding out for a living wage.

Was it a conscious conspiracy ? Probably not . Is it a combination of of group think and inferior reporting (IMHO) absolutely.

Moving on to Crime in NYC . In a nut shell if NYC was the safest big city in America in 2010 (according to Bloomberg) than how did it get unsafe in 2021 when every Crime Stat released by the NYPD is lower than 2010, when people felt the City was safe.

My favorite NYC crime category is rape. In 2021 there were 1491 reported rapes in NYC up from 1427 in 2020. Women be afraid be very afraid!!!. But wait there were 1755 in 2019 and 1791 rapes in 2018, when everyone thought the City was very safe.

The Right wing media generates a narrative and instead of countering it, the supposedly Liberal MSM run with the story. . Cowardly Democratic politicians who call themselves moderates hop right on board not wanting to seem like they are ignoring an issue.

If Trump was President every Republican would be calling inflation fake news and their Ivermectin downing base would be swallowing it hook line and sinker.

Robert Hubbell is a blogger who writes consistently insightful, common sense commentaries. In this one, he makes an important point. What happened to outrage?

I recall when presidential candidate Senator Gary Hart of Colorado dropped out of the race after the press got photos of him on a boat with a woman who was not his wife. Imagine that! I remember when a president (Nixon) was forced to resign his office because he lied about his role in burgling the offices of the Democratic National Committee. At least official Washington had public standards of behavior. Republican Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee was as appalled by Nixon’s behavior as members of the other party. Yet Lamar Alexander, who claimed Baker as his role model, twice refused to vote to impeach Trump for violating his oath of office and for actions far more dangerous than anything Nixon did, even though Alexander was retiring.

Hubbell wrote this before the Uvalde school massacre. Watch the process: Americans are outraged. The media are outraged. What happens next? Our attention shifts. Uvalde fades, as Sandy Hook faded, as Parkland faded, as Buffalo will fade.

The capacity for outrage—in the political class, in the media, and in the public— seems to have vanished.

Hubbell writes:

“The apparent death of outrage is one factor driving many Americans to distraction, if not despair. Stories that would have shaken the foundations of democracy a decade ago barely reverberate for a single news cycle today. Quick! Answer this question: What was the biggest story of last Friday (as in two days ago)? It is that the wife of a sitting Supreme Court justice actively encouraged Arizona legislators to overthrow the Constitution by appointing fraudulent electors. The January 6th Committee previously discovered that Ginni Thomas forwarded emails from other election deniers to members of the Trump administration, but the most recent revelation clarifies that Ginni Thomas was a direct participant in the plot to subvert democracy. But by Sunday evening, the story has dropped from the pages of every major newspaper in America.

And, of course, Justice Clarence Thomas reviewed Mark Meadows’ request to block the disclosure of emails and texts from Ginni Thomas about the attempted coup. Before the endless stream of Trump scandals killed outrage, those facts would have prompted Justice Thomas to submit his resignation and spend the remainder of his life in solitude and shame. Instead, Thomas is on a revenge tour at the Antonin Scalia School of Law, where he is scolding women for protesting an impending decision that will grant state governments control over their reproductive choices.

Over the weekend, Senator Rick Scott couldn’t find the decency to say that leaders of the GOP should condemn white supremacy. Talking Points Memo, Scott Deflects On Whether GOPers Should Condemn White Nationalism. Scott agreed that racism was bad and that “all Americans” should condemn “any hate” and “any white supremacy,” but repeatedly dodged the question of whether Republican leaders had a responsibility to do so. Instead, he volunteered that “We have to stop asking people on government forms for their skin color” and “every Senate candidate on both sides is going to decide what is important to them”—evasions that leave room for his Republican colleagues to wink-and-nod to white supremacists on the campaign trail.

Also over the weekend, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held its annual meeting in Hungary so that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán could lecture aspiring American autocrats on how to subvert “illiberal democracy.” The panel of speakers included Trump, Tucker Carlson, and a Hungarian journalist infamous for writing that Jews are stinking excrement,” that Roma are “animals,” and that Black people are [unprintable]. See Times of Israel, Hungarian journalist who called Jews’ stinking excrement’ addresses CPAC conference. Do either Trump or Carlson feel any need to distance themselves from the reprehensible views of their co-presenter? Ha! It was not worth the electrons to type that rhetorical question on my laptop.

On Friday of last week, Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy attempted to explain away the high maternal mortality rates in his state. Cassidy made the following repugnant statement:

About a third of our population is African American; African Americans have a higher incidence of maternal mortality. So, if you correct our population for race, we’re not as much of an outlier as it’d otherwise appear.

See Business Insider, Maternal death rate isn’t as bad if you don’t count Black women, GOP senator says. Cassidy’s statements were so offensive it is difficult to know where to begin. To be clear, Louisiana’s maternal death rate among Black women is worse than the maternal death rate for Black women in other states, so Cassidy’s racist statistics are wrong. But what does Cassidy mean, “if you correct our population for race?” By “correcting” for race, Cassidy clearly implies that the “correct” race in Louisiana is white. But Cassidy’s comments have been largely ignored by the mainstream media.

And then there is Dr. Oz, who went out of his way on election night thank Fox News personality Sean Hannity for helping his campaign. That would be the same Sean Hannity who was busy trashing one of Dr. Oz’s opponents in the primary (the late-surging Kathy Barnette) as Hannity acting as a a “behind the scenes advisor” to Oz. See Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner in Steady, Crossing the Line. Rather and Kirschner write that Fox News “is a functional arm of the Party of Trump.” Does anyone care? As Rather astutely observes,

Needless to say, if a reporter at a news organization other than Fox supported a candidate with half as much complicity as Hannity did Dr. Oz, it would be grounds for immediate termination. Not surprisingly, at Fox News, Hannity’s actions don’t even earn a slap on the wrist.

And therein lies the problem: The capacity for outrage is becoming a one-way street. Hannity can break all rules of journalistic independence, and no one cares. Senator Cassidy can suggest that Blacks are not part of Louisiana’s “correct” race, and no major mainstream sources bother to report on the comments. The wife of a Supreme Court justice can encourage insurrection, and the justice goes on the attack against “liberals.” But . . . If any of those situations were reversed such that a liberal journalist, Democratic Senator, or liberal justice was involved, the outrage from the right would be unending, unforgiving, and shrill.

We must not lose our capacity for outrage. We cannot allow insurrection to be normalized. We cannot allow the sheer volume and velocity of GOP scandals to overwhelm and exhaust us. Indeed, we must recognize that conservatives try to turn outrage to their benefit by making more of it—to provoke “outrage fatigue.”

The wife of a supreme court justice participated in an attempted coup. That fact is outrageous and should matter to every American and should remain on the front pages of every newspaper in America until the justice resigns or recuses himself from all election-related cases.

More one-sided reporting in WaPo.

The Washington Post is running a story in its Monday edition, Democrats See Headwinds in Georgia, and Everywhere Else. The subheader says that Democratic candidates will “be running against President Biden’s low ratings as well as their G.O.P. rivals.” The article accurately reports on the challenges facing Democrats but does not acknowledge that Republicans are led by a twice-impeached failed coup-plotter who insists on absolute allegiance to a disproven conspiracy theory and has led the effort to deny women the right to control their reproductive choices.

About two-thirds of the way through the story, the author makes a nod to the difficulties faced by the GOP—but only by describing comments from a Republican voter:

[Democrats] need to do more to communicate clearly with voters that they are a steady hand at the wheel of getting the economy back on track for people.” Ms. Bourdeaux said. But she, too, saw a chance to draw a sharp contrast with what she described as ascendant far-right Republicans. “The other side, candidly, has lost its mind,” she said, pointing to efforts to restrict voting rights and abortion rights.

Hmm . . . if a Democratic voter had said that the Democratic Party “has lost its mind,” that would be the headline in the article. Oh, and here is the clincher: The author concedes near the end of the article that “Most polling shows a close race for [Georgia] governor and Senate, with a slight Republican advantage.”

Got that? The races for Governor and Senator in Georgia are “close,” but the story focuses on “headwinds” faced by Democrats because of the economy and Biden, with almost no mention of the challenges for the GOP created by an out-of-control Trump, reversal of Roe v. Wade, and unrestrained concealed carry of handguns by June.

More accurate headlines for the article could include, “One reporter’s attempt to trash the Democrats by rehashing the economy and Biden’s favorability ratings” or “According to one Republican voter, ‘The GOP has lost its mind.’” I will let you choose your favorite headline or suggest alternatives in the Comments section or by reply email to me.

Concluding Thoughts.

There is an old joke that goes like this: “I just flew into Las Vegas and, boy, are my arms tired.” My wife and I just spent forty-eight hours taking care of one granddaughter while simultaneously pinch-hitting with a second granddaughter for eight hours on Saturday, and boy, are my arms tired! It was tough writing the newsletter tonight because I could not get the words of the literary classic Good Dog Carl Visits the Zoo out of my mind. (Reading a book out-loud dozens of times over the course of forty-eight hours will do that to you.) A sign of my desperation is that I was delighted to take a mental break by watching The Little Mermaid after failed multiple failed attempts to get our granddaughter to take a nap. Let me say that The Little Mermaid is an underappreciated classic that deserves a place alongside The Godfather and Citizen Kane (at least that’s how I feel tonight).

In lieu of my own closing thoughts (which are often the most challenging part of the newsletter to write), I include a list of Democratic candidates to support, supplied by Ellie Kona. Many of you may know Ellie as a frequent commenter on Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletter on Substack, Letters from an American. Per Ellie, “Here is a handy-dandy list of Dems to support, along with their Twitter handles (courtesy of Nick Knudsen):

PA Gov: @JoshShapiroPA

PA Sen: @JohnFetterman

PA Lt Gov: @AustinDavisPA

NC Sen: @CheriBeasleyNC

NC-01: @DonDavisNC

NC-13: @wileynickel

OR Gov: @TinaKotek

OR-04: @ValHoyle

OR-06: @AndreaRSalinas

Provided by NickKnudsen at DemCast

The overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners, are sick of gun violence. They support gun control of various kinds. After the massacre of 20 elementary school children and six educators at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut, people thought that Congress would act to ban assault weapons or to demand restrictions on guns. But nothing happened. After the massacre at the Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, people thought that Congress would act to stem the slaughter. But nothing happened.

Now a sort of public apathy has descended, even after the massacre of ten shoppers at the Tops grocery store in Buffalo, even after the slaughter of fourth-grade children and their teachers in Uvalde, Texas.

Nothing will happen, the public believes, because the Republican Party is owned by the National Rifle Association, which contributes about $70 million per election cycle to its allies.

Nothing will happen, they say, because there are 400 million+ guns already in circulation, and no amount of gun control will eliminate them.

But there is a solution. It is breathtakingly simple. It depends on the boldness of one person.

That one person actually could be any one of about fifty people with the resources to carry out the plan.

But for the sake of argument, let me arbitrarily choose just one of them: McKenzie Scott. (It might just as well be Michael Bloomberg or some other billionaire.)

Ms. Scott, you are a person who has shown by your frequent gifts to worthy organizations that you care about the future of our nation. You care about people. You care about justice and kindness and vulnerable people. You say you want to keep giving your money away until it is all gone.

Here is a worthy enterprise.

First, replace the NRA as the most important donor to the Republican Party. But only on the condition that those who take your money agree to strong and comprehensive gun control. Offer millions of dollars to every Republican member of Congress who agrees to vote to ban the purchase and criminalize the sale of military weapons to civilians. If the NRA controls fifty Republican senators with only $70 million, surely you could spend $500 million and buy most of their votes, which would save thousands of lives every year. A good deal for America at a bargain price for you. Even $1 billion a year might break the NRA stranglehold on the Republicans in Congress. You don’t need to win the votes of 50 Republican senators. Fifteen would be enough to break a filibuster.

Second, start a national buyback program for the most dangerous weapons: AR15s, Bushmasters, automatic and semi-automatic weapons and any other military-grade weapons. Be generous. Buy them for 10 times the purchase price. Buy other types of weapons, other than hunting rifles and single-shot pistols. Buy up as many of the 400 million guns in private possession as possible. Destroy them.

Third, use your vast resources to fund gun control lobbyists in every state that does not have gun control and make the same offer to pro-gun state legislators that you do to members of Congress. Buy their votes.

If this sounds cynical, who cares?

McKenzie Scott (or Michael Bloomberg) could spend a billion or two and dramatically reduce gun violence, simply by buying the votes of Republicans and buying back unusually lethal weapons. Their assets have a way of growing no matter how much they spend. When you have $40-65 billion, spending a billion or so to eliminate America’s gun culture is a bargain.

Any one of these billionaires could lift the curse of gun violence from our land, with the expenditure of one or two of their many billions.

This would be a great gift to America.

If this plan doesn’t work, then here is an alternative: organize nationally for a complete and total ban on the sale or possession of assault weapons, and any guns other than hunting rifles and single-shot handguns. Civilians should not be able to purchase military-grade weapons. We had a ban on the purchase or sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004. It included many exemptions. It did not buy back the weapons already purchased. We should do it again with far more ambitious goals.

My first choice: ban and criminalize the purchase, sale, or manufacture of assault weapons. Let the hunters keep their single-shot guns. No one should own a military grade weapon but the military. The Founders did not write the Second Amendment to protect killers but to protect a well-organized militia.

No more massacres in schools, churches, synagogues, mosques, shopping centers, music festivals or anywhere else.

Now that conservative justices have a solid five votes on the Supreme Court (assuming that Chief Justice John Roberts will not join them on the most divisive issues), no prior decision is safe. American women had abortion rights for 49 years, and that right is on the verge of being nullified by Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.

Milton J. Valencia of The Boston Globe warns that the anti-abortion movement will not be satisfied until all abortions are ended, in every state.

The strongly worded legal language used in the draft Supreme Court opinion that appears to overturn nearly 50-year-old abortion-rights protections could provoke conservative efforts to enact a universal, nationwide abortion ban, according to legal and policy analysts on both sides of the political debate. They say the case has already galvanized advocates who want a federal law criminalizing abortion.

The Supreme Court, based on the draft opinion, appears set to not only uphold a controversial Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy but also overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that protected a person’s right to abortion. The court opinion suggests the question over abortion restrictions should be legislated at the state level.


The draft opinion was written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito and leaked to Politico, and legal analysts say it remains unclear whether the language will survive in a final court opinion. Even if it does, the ruling itself would not necessarily affect liberal states such as Massachusetts, which have built what are known as Roe protections of abortion rights into state law.

But the legal arguments cited in Alito’s opinion could give political momentum to efforts to enact a federal abortion ban similar to what Mississippi enacted — or, potentially, even more restrictive — on the grounds the fetus is an unborn human being with its own rights. Attempts to pass a federal ban have been proposed before but always failed under the protections of Roe v. Wade.

In his ruling, Alito argues a woman has no constitutional rights to an abortion and suggests that fetuses deserve protection. A federal ban based on the ruling could set up legal challenges of state laws that protect an individual’s right to decide. Massachusetts’ Constitution grants far broader legal rights than the federal Constitution allows, say legal observers, who point out the state was the first to legalize same-sex marriage. But federal law trumps state law.

“The court ruling signals to those in Congress that it’s providing a blueprint for those who want to take away the reproductive rights of all people,” said Carol Rose, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in Massachusetts. “It suggests Justice Alito is providing something of a legal road map for people trying to criminalize abortion.”

Priscilla Smith, a former litigator in reproductive rights issues who now runs Yale Law School’s Reproductive Rights and Justice Project, said Alito appears to be “putting all the bread crumbs on the trail,” for what she called the decades-long conservative effort to ban abortion.

“This opinion is as outrageously conservative and extreme as it could get,” she said.

Here, according to Rose and Smith and other analysts, are the key concerns among abortion rights advocates with Alito’s draft opinion:

— The justice, and others who appear to be joining in on a majority decision, argue that there is no right to abortion spelled out in the Constitution, rejecting the argument — granted in Roe v. Wade — that a woman’s right to choose is an inherent, fundamental right built into broad due process rights to liberty. Alito’s determination, legal analysts say, undercuts the same legal principles that have affirmed other rights, such as the rights of people to choose whom they marry, or have sex with. Smith accused the court and antiabortion advocates of “cherry-picking” which fundamental rights they want to challenge, arguing that many rights are widely accepted even though they are not built into the Constitution.


Harvard legal scholar Laurence Tribe wrote on Twitter: “If the Alito opinion savaging [the Roe decision and similar cases] ends up being the opinion of the court, it will unravel many basic rights beyond abortion and will go further than returning the issue to the states: It will enable a GOP Congress to enact a nationwide ban on abortion and contraception.” Tribe added, “Predictable next steps after the Alito opinion becomes law: a nationwide abortion ban, followed by a push to roll back rights to contraception, same-sex marriage, sexual privacy, and the full array of textually un-enumerated rights long taken for granted.”

— Alito appears to refer to fetuses as human beings as a matter of traditional and common law and refers to a fetus as an “unborn human being,” which could give constitutional rights and protections to the fetus and set up legal challenges of state laws that do protect abortions. He refers to a fetus as being destroyed by abortion rights. Rose said the opinion fails to discuss the viability of a fetus. “They don’t distinguish whether you’re pregnant for one day or 24 weeks,” she said.

— The judge also appears to follow the originalist legal theory that matters not involving federal constitutional law should be decided by the states, writing, “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” But legal analysts say that reference to elected representatives, rather than state officials, opens the door for a Republican-controlled Congress to get involved. “This is not an originalist document, it’s an ideological document,” Rose said.

— The opinion would effectively call for what is legally known as a “rational basis for review” of future abortion restrictions, which is considered the lowest level of legal scrutiny, and it allows for little consideration of a person’s reproductive rights and factors an individual must consider in choosing whether to have an abortion. “It never talks about pregnant people’s bodily integrity, or autonomy, or forcing somebody to go to term. That’s really the huge shift,” Rose said.

Elizabeth Smith, director of state policy and advocacy of the Center for Reproductive Rights, an advocacy organization, said in a statement that, “Any scenario in which Roe v. Wade is overturned would open the door to a national ban — and we know that is the ultimate goal of the anti-abortion movement. For them, overturning Roe is just the beginning. They are determined to ban abortion in every state in the US.”

The respected organization Human Rights Watch issued a damning report about the widespread violation of children’s rights when they were required to use online instruction. Without their knowledge or their parents’ consent, children in many countries were subject to surveillance by online tracking devices embedded in their online programs.

Governments of 49 of the world’s most populous countries harmed children’s rights by endorsing online learning products during Covid-19 school closures without adequately protecting children’s privacy, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report was released simultaneously with publications by media organizations around the world that had early access to the Human Rights Watch findings and engaged in an independent collaborative investigation.

“‘How Dare They Peep into My Private Life?’: Children’s Rights Violations by Governments that Endorsed Online Learning during the Covid-19 Pandemic,” is grounded in technical and policy analysis conducted by Human Rights Watch on 164 education technology (EdTech) products endorsed by 49 countries. It includes an examination of 290 companies found to have collected, processed, or received children’s data since March 2021, and calls on governments to adopt modern child data protection laws to protect children online.

We think our kids are safe in school online. But many of them are being surveilled, and parents have often been kept in the dark. Kids are priceless, not products….

Of the 164 EdTech products reviewed, 146 (89 percent) appeared to engage in data practices that risked or infringed on children’s rights. These products monitored or had the capacity to monitor children, in most cases secretly and without the consent of children or their parents, in many cases harvesting personal data such as who they are, where they are, what they do in the classroom, who their family and friends are, and what kind of device their families could afford for them to use.

Most online learning platforms examined installed tracking technologies that trailed children outside of their virtual classrooms and across the internet, over time. Some invisibly tagged and fingerprinted children in ways that were impossible to avoid or erase – even if children, their parents, and teachers had been aware and had the desire to do so – without destroying the device.