Archives for category: Accountability

Jeffrey Epstein, sexual predator and child abuser, became a very rich man as a financial advisor to the rich and famous. When he died awaiting trial, he was allegedly worth $600 million. His estate paid off claims to more than 100 women whom he had abused.

Due to his notoriety and his many powerful friends, he continues to be a fascinating figure. The Wall Street Journal somehow obtained his daily diaries and has written several stories about his interactions with his important friends.

This one was published a few weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal:

On Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, Jeffrey Epstein had a full calendar. He was scheduled to meet that day with Bill Gates, Thomas Pritzker, Leon Black and Mortimer Zuckerman, four of the richest men in the country, according to schedules and emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Epstein also planned meetings that day with a former top White House lawyer, a college president and a philanthropic adviser, three of the dozens of meetings the Journal reported he had with each of them.

Six years earlier, in 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution, and he subsequently registered as a sex offender. He was arrested again in 2019 on sex-trafficking charges, and died that year in jail awaiting trial.

Mr. Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, has said they discussed philanthropy, and it was a mistake to meet with Epstein. Mr. Black, a co-founder of Apollo Global Management, who has said previously he met for tax and estate advice, declined to comment. The other two men haven’t previously discussed their meetings with Epstein and didn’t respond to requests for comment. Mr. Pritzker is chairman of Hyatt Hotels and Mr. Zuckerman is a real-estate investor and media owner.

That Monday featured appointments at two luxury hotels in midtown Manhattan—the Park Hyatt and Four Seasons. Epstein was also scheduled to host several visitors at his sprawling townhouse near Central Park.

Epstein’s driver picked him up in the morning and brought him to meet the Microsoft mogul and Hyatt hotel heir at the Park Hyatt hotel near Central Park.

Epstein had met with each of them before. In 2011, Epstein was discussing a multibillion-dollar charitable fund with JPMorgan Chase executives and wrote in emails to them that he could involve Mr. Gates and Mr. Pritzker.

On this day, Mr. Gates was scheduled to spend several hours with Epstein, accompanying him to various meetings. Mr. Gates runs, with his ex-wife, one of the world’s biggest philanthropies. 

“As Bill has said many times before, it was a mistake to have ever met with him and he deeply regrets it,” said a spokeswoman for Mr. Gates.

Mr. Pritzker, part of a wealthy and politically connected Chicago family, was a frequent guest at Epstein’s townhouse, according to the documents. 

Mr. Pritzker and Hyatt representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment about the scheduled meetings.

The schedule called for Epstein and Mr. Gates to head two blocks along 57th Street to the skyscraper that houses the offices of Apollo Global Management. 

Epstein had been scheduled to meet with its co-founder Mr. Black the day before, and the two men were slated to meet again three days later, the documents show.

Mr. Black had more than 100 meetings scheduled with Epstein from 2013 to 2017. They typically met at Epstein’s townhouse and occasionally at Mr. Black’s office, the documents show.

The billionaire stepped down as Apollo’s CEO in March 2021. An Apollo review found he paid Epstein $158 million for estate planning and tax work. 

Mr. Black declined to comment about the scheduled meetings. Apollo has said Epstein was working for Mr. Black, not Apollo.

Epstein and Mr. Gates were next scheduled to head to Epstein’s townhouse to meet with Mr. Zuckerman, the owner of U.S. News & World Report.

At the time of the meeting, Mr. Zuckerman also owned the Daily News and was executive chairman of Boston Properties, a big owner of office buildings. 

Mr. Zuckerman was scheduled to meet Epstein more than a dozen times over the years. On some occasions, the two men planned to meet at Mr. Zuckerman’s office or home, which was near Epstein’s townhouse, the documents show. 

One night in January 2014, Epstein waited past 11 p.m. to meet with Mr. Zuckerman, who was scheduled to visit his townhouse at 10:30 p.m., the documents show. 

A spokeswoman for Mr. Zuckerman had no comment on the scheduled meetings.

The Four Seasons, a luxury-hotel chain in which Mr. Gates’s investment firm holds a stake, was the next scheduled stop. There, Epstein introduced Mr. Gates to Kathryn Ruemmler, who until earlier that year had served as President Obama’s top White House lawyer.

Over the next few years, Epstein often had appointments with Ms. Ruemmler, who was a partner at Latham & Watkins at the time and is now general counsel at Goldman Sachs

Ms. Ruemmler had a professional relationship with Epstein and many of their meetings were about a mutual client, a Goldman Sachs spokesman said. “I regret ever knowing Jeffrey Epstein,” Ms. Ruemmler said. 

The spokeswoman for Mr. Gates said Epstein never worked for Mr. Gates. A spokeswoman for Latham & Watkins said Epstein wasn’t a client of the firm.

Epstein returned to his Upper East Side townhouse in the afternoon, the schedule shows. One of the largest private homes in Manhattan, the townhouse was originally built for a Macy’s heir.

At 4:30 p.m., Epstein was scheduled to meet with Ramsey Elkholy, a musician and anthropologist. Mr. Elkholy had several other meetings with Epstein over the years.

Mr. Elkholy said one of Epstein’s girlfriends had introduced them, and that he occasionally went to Epstein for financial and book publishing advice. “When I heard about everything that happened, I was sick to my stomach,” he said.

“In hindsight, I realize that Jeffrey was a very good con man,” Mr. Elkholy said. “He could give the impression that he was helping you when in fact he was mostly B.S.-ing.”

The next person on Epstein’s calendar, Leon Botstein, was running late that day. The longtime president of Bard College was arriving at LaGuardia Airport and planned to head straight to the townhouse, the documents show.

Mr. Botstein said he first visited Epstein’s townhouse in 2012 to thank him for $75,000 in unsolicited donations for Bard’s high schools, then visited again over several years in an attempt to get more. He also invited Epstein to events at the college.

Mr. Botstein said fundraising for the school was his responsibility, and that he met just as frequently with other potential donors.

“It was a humiliating experience to deal with him, but I cannot afford to put my pride before my obligation to raise money for the causes I’m responsible for,” Mr. Botstein said.

“It looked like he was someone who was convicted and served his time,” Mr. Botstein said. “That turned out to be corrupt, but we didn’t know that.”

The last meeting scheduled for the day was with Barnaby Marsh, a philanthropic adviser to wealthy families. At the time, Mr. Marsh was an executive at the John Templeton Foundation, which donates to various science and research groups. He had roughly two dozen meetings with Epstein.

Mr. Marsh said he often went to Epstein’s townhouse for gatherings because it was full of academics and wealthy people who discussed philanthropy ideas. “So many of these billionaires knew him,” Mr. Marsh said. “And he would sit in the corner, just kind of watching.”

Mr. Marsh said Epstein openly discussed his jail time. Mr. Marsh said, however, that he never saw evidence Epstein made significant donations. “He was a lot of talk, but he never did anything.” 

That is just one day in Epstein’s calendar. He was scheduled to meet regularly with some of those same people, and infrequently with others. Here is a look at how often they appeared in Epstein’s schedule in the year before and the year after that day:

Paul Bonner is a retired teacher and principal. He suggests a way to undermine the complaints about CRT, WOKE, and other scarecrows.

Perhaps the greatest injustice of all of this sound and fury for nothing, is that few of the individuals who are the most outspoken concerning cultural disinformation have set foot in a school in the last decade, much less observed or engaged in classroom instruction. Most of the right wing celebrities who profit from all of this noise send their children to private schools. Well intentioned policy makers and Washington politicians also opt for private schools when they are available. It is my experience that when school officials open their doors the reception from the public is very positive. I was principal of an elementary school where my predecessors actually barred members of the community from the building. There was a metal pull down door at the front of the office that was always closed by 4:00 pm. The neighborhood perception of the school was bad because there were no relationships between the school and community.

When I got there, I stopped using the metal door and invited the real estate developers to come and see what we were doing. The overall outlook toward the school from all constituencies, including the staff, improved dramatically. I took similar steps at my previous school, invited the “difficult” parents in, and increased afternoon activities to accentuate the positive. According to Gallup (August 2022) 76% of parents are satisfied with their child’s public school (Compare that to 22% for Congress), it was 82% before the pandemic.

My experience has taught me that if we are open to parents being in the schools and participating in activities, the dissatisfaction reduces significantly. Yes, it is well documented on this blog and through other media outlets that there are nefarious actors pushing a destructive agenda, but it is important that we fight their lies with the good that takes place in schools. The knee jerk firing and isolation of teachers who teach about diversity is one example of the the defensive posture taken by district and state leaders.

Part of the reason, certainly not all, that the right wing disinformation campaigns take root is because school officials too often take cover and act to separate schools from the greater community. We simply don’t know one another. Our best weapon against false opaque charges of indoctrination is to open our doors, invite the community in, and get the positive out.

The Washington Post tells the story of Baby Milo. His mother learned midway through her pregnancy that the fetus had a rare fatal condition. It would die within hours or days of its birth. She wanted to get an abortion but Florida abortion law made it impossible. The unborn baby had a heartbeat. No doctor would break the law by performing an abortion despite the fatal diagnosis. She had to carry the baby for three months. Baby Milo was born, then died in 99 hours. That must have made legislators happy to know the baby was born, despite the toll on its mother and father.

Milo Evan Dorbert drew his first and last breath on the evening of March 3. The unusual complications in his mother’s pregnancy tested the interpretation of Florida’s new abortion law.

Deborah Dorbert discovered she was pregnant in August. Her early appointments suggested the baby was thriving, and she looked forward to welcoming a fourth member to the family. It didn’t occur to her that fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a half-century constitutional right to abortion would affect them.

A routine ultrasound halfway through her pregnancy changed all that.

Deborah and her husband, Lee, learned in late November that their baby had Potter syndrome, a rare and lethal condition that plunged them into an unsettled legal landscape.

The state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of gestation has an exception for fatal fetal abnormalities. But as long as their baby’s heart kept beating, the Dorberts say, doctors would not honor their request to terminate the pregnancy. The doctors would not say how they reached their decision, but the new law carries severe penalties, including prison time, for medical practitioners who run afoul of it. The hospital system declined to discuss the case.

Instead, the Dorberts would have to wait for labor to be induced at 37 weeks.

For the next three months, the Dorberts did their best to prepare for their second son’s short life. They consulted with palliative care experts and decided against trying to prolong his life with high-tech interventions.

“The most important thing for us was to let him know he was loved,” Deborah said.

The day before Milo was born, the Dorberts sat down with their son Kaiden to explain that the baby’s body had stopped working and that he would not come home. Instead, someday, they told Kaiden, they would all meet as angels. The 4-year-old burst into tears, telling them that he did not want to be an angel….

Without functioning kidneys, a fetus with Potter syndrome cannot produce the amniotic fluid that allows the lungs to expand and that cushions the growing body. The babies who survive until birth typically have contracted limbs, club feet and flattened features from being compressed against the uterus wall.

But after Deborah’s 12-hour labor, Milo turned out to be 4 pounds and 12 ounces of perfection, with tiny, flawlessly formed hands and feet and a head of brown hair.

“I thought I had my miracle,” said Peter Rogell, the baby’s grandfather, who attended the delivery. He allowed himself a moment of hope until the obstetrician cut the umbilical cord that for 37 weeks had performed the functions Milo’s underdeveloped lungs and missing kidneys would now take over.

He never cried or tried to nurse or even opened his eyes, investing every ounce of energy in intermittent gasps for air.

“That was the beginning of the end,” Rogell said, recalling the persistent gulps that he thought at first were hiccups but turned out to be his grandson’s labored efforts to inhale.

Lee read a book to his dying son — “I’ll Love You Forever,” a family favorite that the Dorberts had given Kaiden for Valentine’s Day — and sang Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”

For 99 minutes that lasted a lifetime, they cuddled and comforted their newborn.

Ron DeSantis recently changed the Florida abortion law to make it more restrictive: abortions not permitted after six weeks. The Governor and legislature have essentially banned abortion in the state since few women know they are pregnant within six weeks. They may think their period is delayed, and they won’t have time to get the required doctor’s approval.

The six-week ban won’t go into effect until after the state’s Supreme Court has decided a challenge to the 15-week ban. Since DeSantis appointed four of seven justices, the court’s approval is expected.

Expect more heart-breaking stories, more grief, more sadness.

Nancy Goldstein writes in the Texas Observer about her pleasure in watching the state’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives impeach Ken Paxton, the state’s Attorney General. Paxton, a stalwart MAGA-man, has been under indictment for corruption for eight years. Eight years! Paxton is the Trump ally who filed a lawsuit after the 2020 elections, joined by other Republican attorneys general, to throw out the votes of states that Biden narrowly won. The Supreme Court rejected his suit, saying that Texas had no standing to sue.

For another account of Ken Paxton’s pickle, read this story in The Texas Tribune.

Was yesterday’s performance by the Texas House of Representatives intended to restore public faith in the body’s commitment to the rule of law? Separate the good cops in the GOP from the bad cops? Or prove that a legislature that spent a year cravenly ignoring the pleas of Uvalde victims’ relatives for common-sense gun safety laws before rejecting them outright while rushing through an attempt to put the Ten Commandments in every classroom isn’t really the 10th circle of hell? If so, the hearing leading up to a 121-23 vote to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton for corruption was an epic fail.

What the public saw—regardless of the lawmakers’ intentions—were the open of fissures that have more to do with pride and power than justice. It was a cross between the state’s largest intra-party catfight and its most public self-inflicted gunshot wound, as the bad blood between Paxton and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, who serve as proxies for Trump and Republicans trying to distance themselves from Trump in advance of next year’s elections, finally spilled out into the open.

The lineup featured, on the one hand, GOP representatives who suddenly had a lot of worries about “due process,” “precedent,” and “evidence” that had not been evident while banning abortionand stripping transgender youth and their families of access to healthcare. Opposing them were those GOP colleagues who solemnly intoned about what appears to be their newly discovered “obligation to protect the citizens of Texas from elected officials who abuse their office and their powers for personal gain.”

Various media outlets, and a few of Paxton’s defenders, have made much of the lightning speed of this past week. But while it may have been mere days between the Republican-led House General Investigating Committee’s announcement of their investigation and their unanimous vote to introduce 20 articles of impeachment to the full House for Saturday’s hearing and impeachment vote, Paxton has been under felony indictment for securities fraud since he became attorney general in 2015. The FBI had been investigating Paxton on allegations that he used his office to benefit a wealthy donor, Nate Paul, since late 2020. Only in February of this year did the Department of Justice take over that probe, breathing new life into it.

Paxton’s overreach the next month, in March of this year, appears to have been the second-to-last straw. According to the committee’s own memo, released the day before the full House hearing: “But for Paxton’s own request for a taxpayer-funded settlement over his wrongful conduct, Paxton would not be facing impeachment.” Not, please note, the wrongful conduct—that is, Paxton’s firing of four whistleblowing members of his own senior staff after they accused him of using his office to help out Paul. Nor Paxton’s decision this past spring to pay $3.3 million to settle out of court. Or even the $600,000 the House spent defending Paxton. But Paxton’s request that taxpayers pay that $3.3 million—and that his fellow GOP colleagues go on record approving that request.

The final straw? Paxton, likely knowing that Phelan was going to try to gloss this most recent disgusting legislative term by ending it on a high note, called on him to resign last week over alleged drunkenness—via a tweet. Making it look super-extra-duper political when the House General Investigating Committee revealed that afternoon that it had been investigating Paxton in secret since March. The committee then heard a three-hour presentation from its investigators detailing allegations of corruption against the attorney general and voted to forward 20 articles of impeachment to the full House.

Believe me when I say that I, like many people who have been burned by the Texas GOP’s seemingly endless appetite for cruelty, ignorance, and hypocrisy, felt a certain satisfaction as I watched yesterday’s coverage of it setting itself on fire. Top moment? When the first group to appear outside the Capitol in Austin in response to Paxton’s call for supporters to turn out was around 100 people preparing for the “Trot for Trans Lives,” a 5K run held in support of transgender Americans affected by the waves of anti-trans rights legislation passed in recent years, including by Texas lawmakers.

Small pleasures aside, none of this is as satisfying as it sounds, nor do I think it will end well. First of all, because of all the bureaucracy that lies ahead. Governor Greg Abbott, who has remained curiously silent this past week while he sticks his finger into the political wind, has 10 days to tell the Senate to start a trial. A trial that would be presided over by Paxton buddy arch-conservative Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and that’s likely to be kicked down the road infinitely and/or end with an acquittal.

But ultimately because the bottom line is that while Paxton burns—or simmers or escapes entirely—and intra-party fighting and dirty laundry airing be damned, the members of the USA’s largest, richest, and most powerful wing of the GOP have screwed Texas on such a large, systemic level that they’ll still prevail. In the state, through control of both chambers and the governor’s seat, held in place by voter suppression and gerrymandering. Nationally, with courts packed with ideologues, including a Supreme Court that has already demonstrated its willingness to let Texas gut constitutional rights, overturn precedent, and play an enthusiastic role in the new national sport: playing on whatever field offers your agenda the best advantage. That means valorizing states’ rights when it’s convenient, or passing the ball to the Supreme Court if a federal ban looks more likely or appealing.

Call this, with apologies to Taylor Swift, the “Errors Tour” or, in a nod to the Ziegfeld Follies, “Hypocrisy on Parade.” Or let’s go “Paris is Burning” and give the representatives a Realness Award for their impersonation of legislators who seriously care about integrity, democracy, and the will of voters.

But whatever you do, don’t hold your breath waiting for justice.

The Texas legislature refused to pass voucher legislation!

Governor Greg Abbott said that getting a voucher law was his #1 priority in this session of the legislature. Republicans have a supermajority in the legislature but rural Republicans and urban Democrats blocked the bill. He pressured every Republican to back his bill.

Once again, vouchers failed to pass!

In rural Texas, public schools are often the only school in town and the biggest employer. Public schools are the heart of the community. Parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins went to the public school. The teachers are well known and respected. Rural Republicans said no to vouchers.

The Pastors for Texas Children have worked diligently to stop vouchers in Texas. PTC issued this press release today:


No Vouchers In Texas!

The Texas House of Representatives has once again stopped a private school voucher program in Texas.

Rep. Ken King’s public education funding bill, HB 100, was saddled in the waning days of the session by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick with a one-hundred page Senate substitute calling for universal ESA vouchers. When the House refused to concur with the substitute, the bill was sent to conference committee where it died.

Although Gov. Greg Abbott made private school vouchers his #1 priority this legislative session, the House was crystal clear in their opposition to it. Three times throughout the session, they repudiated a voucher proposal.

First, the Herrero Amendment prohibiting tax money for private school vouchers passed the Texas House of Representatives during the budget debate on an 86-52 vote. Second, the House refused to grant the Public Education Committee permission to hold an impromptu meeting to push out Senate Bill 8 calling for a universal voucher. The final straw was when the committee failed to garner the votes to pass out SB 8. The plan died in committee.

That’s when the Senate, in a last-ditch effort, attached a comprehensive voucher program to HB 100 which would have provided much-needed funds for local public schools and well-deserved teacher pay increases.

Rep. King did not mince words: “Teacher pay raises held hostage to support an ESA plan. Teachers are punished over a political fight.”

This session’s rejection of vouchers is particularly powerful because Gov. Greg Abbott made the passage of a voucher policy an “emergency item” this legislative session, conducted a statewide campaign in anti-voucher House districts, and personally lobbied House members on the chamber floor to pass it.

“Vouchers are fundamentally unjust and inequitable,” said the Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of Pastors for Texans Children. “It is wrong for public tax dollars to be diverted to subsidize the private education of affluent children. To pay for religious education is an especially egregious violation of both the public trust and of God’s moral law of religious freedom.”

“Gov. Abbott has tied up the entire legislature this session, at the cost of millions of tax dollars, for his own petty personal political agenda. Sadly, his stated intention is to continue calling special legislative sessions until he bullies the House into submission.”

“There is only one way to deal with a bully: a firm, patient, courageous confrontation. Precisely what our morally oak-strong caucus of pro-public education rural Republican and urban Democratic House members can provide.”

The Texas State Constitution, in Article 7, Section 1, calls for the suitable provision for “public free schools.” There is no constitutional provision for public funding diverted to private schools.

Pastors for Texas Children is grateful that the Texas House of Representatives once again stood firm, as they have throughout the 30 year voucher debate in Texas, for the true conservative value of universal education for all Texas schoolchildren, provided and protected by the public.




Pastors for Texas Children mobilizes the faith community for public education ministry and advocacy.

PO Box 471155 – Fort Worth, Texas 76147

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times explains how Republicans agreed to the increase in the debt ceiling: by cutting aid to the neediest. He wrote: The cruelty is the point.

No one should be surprised that the resolution of our most moronic fiscal policy, the federal debt ceiling, involved our stupidest social policy, work requirements for assistance programs.

But that appears to be the case. In negotiations between the Biden White House and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s Republican caucus, one of the last sticking points was whether, and by how much, to tighten work requirements for food stamps and welfare.

In coming days, as Congress moves toward votes on the deal, political commentators will thoroughly masticate the question of whether Biden or McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) prevailed in this dealmaking and which of them will be hurt or harmed politically by the outcome.

Democrats right now are willing to default on the debt so they can continue making welfare payments for people that are refusing to work.

— Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) tells a giant lie about the debt ceiling negotiations

That’s not a very interesting parlor game. (Personally, I’d go with the judgment of Timothy Noah of the New Republic, who thinks Biden emerges as the political victor and McCarthy’s days as speaker are numbered, thanks to the choler of his far right wing.)

More important is what the deal says about the principles of both camps. The granular details of the agreement were still murky Sunday, and it could still collapse because of objections from congressional Republicans or Democrats.

The deal, as reported, freezes discretionary federal spending — that is, most of the programs for which Americans depend on the federal government — at current levels for the next two years, with increases lower than inflation. That means an effective budget cut, relative to inflation. In return, the debt ceiling is suspended for two years.

But Biden managed to preserve the accomplishments of his presidency thus far from the GOP’s knives. He fended off their efforts to torpedo the support for renewable energy in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, their harshest proposed budget cuts, the rollback of student debt relief, and repeal of his budget increase for the Internal Revenue Service.

(Reports say that $10 billion will be shaved off the $80-billion 10-year IRS budget increase, but the money can be redirected to other programs.)

Biden rejected Republican demands to impose work requirements on Medicaid, but allowed some tightening of the rules for food stamps — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, which is what’s left of traditional welfare.

Make no mistake: No rich American will be harmed even a bit by this deal. Some may even be advantaged, if the carve-out from the IRS budget comes from the agency’s enforcement efforts; that would help the rich, who are the nation’s worst tax cheats.

The most vulnerable Americans, however, will bear the brunt of the deal points. Let’s take a look.

Start with work requirements. As I’ve reported ad infinitum over the years, work requirements on safety net programs accomplish nothing in terms of pushing their beneficiaries into the job market.

They are, however, very effective at throwing people off those programs; that’s what happened in Arkansas , where 17,000 people lost Medicaid benefits in 2019 after only six months of a limited rollout of work rules. A federal judge then blocked the changes.

The debt ceiling deal will tighten work requirements for SNAP by requiring able-bodied, childless low-income adults younger than 55 to work 20 hours a week or be engaged in job training or job searches. If they don’t meet that standard, their SNAP benefits end after three months. Current law applies to those adults only up to the age of 49. The change will expire in 2030.

This rule will do virtually nothing to reduce federal spending, which Republicans say has been the whole point of holding the debt ceiling hostage. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in April that the change would reduce federal spending by $11 billion over 10 years, or $1.1 billion a year.

By my calculation, that comes to 17 thousandths of a percent of the federal budget, which this year is $6.4 trillion.

If it’s scarcely a rounding error in federal accounts, however, it’s critically important to the recipients of food aid. The CBO estimated that about 275,000 people would lose benefits each month because they failed to meet the requirement.

Biden’s negotiators did get the Republicans to waive SNAP rules for veterans and the homeless, which will probably lower that figure and limit the reduction of federal spending.

Work requirements for safety net programs have been a Republican hobby horse for decades. It’s based on the Republican image of low-income Americans as layabouts and grifters — the “undeserving poor.”

Sure enough, Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), one of McCarthy’s debt-ceiling negotiators, couldn’t resist slandering this vulnerable population during the talks. “Democrats right now are willing to default on the debt so they can continue making welfare payments for people that are refusing to work,” he said during a break.

Of course, it was Republicans who showed willingness to default on the federal debt. Nor is there a smidgen of evidence that any sizable percentage of this target population is “refusing to work.”

The vast majority of SNAP recipients already work, but they’re in low-paying jobs that are so unstable that they often drift in and out of employment. According to the Census Bureau, 79% of all SNAP families include at least one worker, as do nearly 84% of married couples on SNAP.

In other words, the GOP insistence on work requirements is nothing but the party’s typical performative malevolence toward the poor. If they really cared about getting SNAP recipients into the job market, they’d fund job training programs and infrastructure projects. They never do.

In any case, the only cohort of beneficiaries that tends to move into the job market at all are younger recipients — not those in their 50s. All that work requirements accomplish is to erect bureaucratic barriers to enrollment in the safety net. But that’s the point, isn’t it?

The work rules for TANF are managed somewhat differently — they’re directed at the states administering the program, which have been required to ensure that a certain percentage of beneficiaries are working or looking for work. How the debt ceiling deal applies to that program is unclear.

In the next week or so, before June 5 — the putative date at which the Treasury Department says the government runs out of money to pay its bills without a debt ceiling increase and thus flirts with an unprecedented default — Biden and McCarthy will hit the hustings to claim victory.

But there’s really only one way to think about the exercise we’ve just gone through. It was a supreme waste of time.

Republicans showed they were willing to crash the U.S. economy to make some bog-standard complaints about the federal deficit, most of which they created themselves through the 2017 tax cuts they enacted for the wealthy. Their initial negotiating stance was so extreme that they must have known it could never gain Democratic votes in the House or pass the Democratic Senate.

The Democrats held reasonably firm. They agreed to some modest budget constraints for two years, moved the next debt ceiling cabaret off to beyond the next election, and saved millions of Americans from serious economic pain.

As I’ve written before, if Republicans were really serious about restraining federal spending, they wouldn’t have voted for the tax cuts and budget increases that that contribute to the deficit.

Instead, they said the only way to control spending is to refuse to pay the bills they ran up, by refusing to increase the debt ceiling. They lied, and every thinking American knows they lied. So tell me, why did we go through this again?

Jim Hightower is a gadfly who keeps stinging the Texas GOP in the backside. He was elected State Agriculture Commissioner from 1983-1991. I recently subscribed to his blog to get a deeper insight into the clowns who now control my native state. You might consider doing the same.

He writes here about the latest embarrassment to the state by its leading yahoos.

Cartoon via

Once again, the Texas Legislature leads by example! Erroneous and wrongheaded example, but, Bless Their Little Hearts, they’re just not real good at thinking complicated things through.

The present lawmaking adventure of the GOP-controlled Lege is an attempt to impose a militant brand of Christian Nationalism as the official public religion of Texas. Throughout history, such right-wing attempts to subvert a pluralistic society’s sense of the Common Good with the narrowest mindset of one particular pietistic group has led to both great harm and unintended hilarity. Indeed, the Lone Star State has a long and daffy history of getting the Bible jumbled up in public policy. In the 1920s, for example, Governor Miriam A “Ma” Ferguson rejected a proposal for bilingual education in our schools: “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ,” she explained, “it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas.”

Likewise, today’s trio of Republican numbskulls running our state government – the governor, lt. guv, and attorney general – are acting as Bible-thumping Pentecostals. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick recently rose up on his hind legs to proclaim that ours is “a Christian nation,” that “there is no separation of church and state,” and that God Almighty himself “wrote the Constitution.” To enshrine this religious absolutism into law, these sanctimonious Texas politicos are now enacting a dictate that all public schools must conspicuously display The Ten Commandments “in every classroom,” and the nitpicking autocrats even specify that the displays “must be at least 16-by-20 inches.” It’s rule by rulers.

TIDBIT: The sanctity of the Ten Commandments derives from its devotees contention that the instructions were literally handed down by God. So, every word is sacrosanct. Except “ass.” The 10thCommandment directs: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house… wife… manservant… maidservant… ox… ass….” But the sponsor of the Texas bill, a self-righteous pissant of a senator named Phil King, took the ungodly liberty of removing ass from the holy version of the Lord’s Word. Thus, the children will be instructed by law to obey a religious code co-authored by Yahweh and Phil King. And, thanks to Phil’s red-ink editing pen, they will be morally free to covet their neighbor’s ass.

As proof that these Christian edicts are the holy foundation of US law, pushers of the public indoctrination of children point out that a frieze along the east Wall of the US Supreme Court is emblazoned with the numbers I through X. This shows, they assert, that our nation’s laws are derived from the higher authority of Christian commandments.

But – Holy Ma Ferguson! – they’re flaunting their ignorance. Those numbers refer not to the Bible, but to the Constitution, specifically the 10 Amendments that itemized our people’s original Bill of Rights. And remember that the very first one of those secular amendments prohibits government from enacting any law for the “establishment of religion.”

Note, too, that none of America’s founding documents (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Federalist Papers) even mentions the Christian commandments. Finally, the various writers of the Bible itself don’t agree on the proper wording of the so-called commandments, how many there are, and what they mean.


To get the lowdown on the Ten Commandments (or is it 13? Or more?) The Freedom From Religion Foundation providesfactual insights and historical context for each one. FFRF is the leading source for tracking theocratic assaults on religious freedom and for providing how-to action items for battling right-wing efforts to turn our local, state, and national government into autocratic theocracies. Connect at

The editorial board of the prestigious journal “Scientific American” lambasted Ron DeSantis’ hostility to science, which endangers the people of Florida. Should he be successful in his quest for the Presidency, his retrograde ideology would endanger the entire nation. His combination of “cruelty, bigotry, and megalomania” will cause endless harm to the U.S.

Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is running for president of the United States on a record of anti-diversity, pro-censorship, white nationalistmeasures. He has targeted education, LGBTQ rights and access to health care, and should he prevail, his anti-science candidacy stands to harm millions of Americans.

DeSantis has banned books in school libraries, restricted teachers’ classroom discussions about diversity, prohibited high school classes that focus on Black history and people, politicized college curricula, limited spending on diversity programs, ignored greenhouse gas reduction in climate change policy, diminished reproductive rights and outlawed transgender health care.

The governor has refused all evidence that masks are safe and help prevent COVID, appointed a surgeon general who advised against vaccines, and continues to paint science and evidence as restrictions to the freedom of Floridians. Instead of limiting the role of government, as he claimed in his fight against masks, he is expanding it to selectively promote a particular religious agenda.

The maternal mortality rate in Florida is rising, yet DeSantis signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, outlawing it after six weeks of pregnancy and endangering people who have life-threatening complications that termination could help. Black women in Florida have the worst maternal mortality rates of any group in the state, and research has shown that people who are denied abortions and forced to give birth suffer mentally, financially and educationally. These statistics surely won’t improve under these new laws, which are pushing health care providers to move out of the state.

By making gender-affirming care for youth illegaland disparaging the use of preferred pronouns and names, the governor and his followers will undoubtedly add to the suffering of transgender individuals. Multiple studies have looked at the mental health of transgender teens. Researchers have found that giving puberty blockers to youth questioning the gender they were assigned at birth reduces depression, anxiety and anger. In another study, 56 percent of transgender youth surveyed had attempted suicide, and causes included feeling they didn’t belong, being excluded and a profound lack of self-worth.

Despite Florida’s vulnerability to climate change, whether through natural disaster or sea-level rise, DeSantis has ignored scientific evidence again, refusing to address the role of greenhouse gas emissions in global warming. He has focused instead on adaptation, or resiliency measures. He’s also nixed sustainable investment efforts like bonds that would fund renewable energy measures in the state. But adaptation and mitigation go hand-in-hand. Without reducing the cause of climate change, adaptation will only go so far, and under DeSantis, Florida remains at high risk of climate-related disaster.

DeSantis has signed bills allowing people to challenge school library books they deem unfit for children. To date, books pulled from library shelves include a biography of baseball player Roberto Clemente (which was later restored), poetry from Amanda Gorman, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and books about Black, Cuban and LGBTQ perspectives.

The authors of several books that have been pulled from Florida’s shelves have sued the state for violating both their First Amendment rights to free speech and their 14th Amendment rights to equal protection under the law. The teachers’ union and other groups are suing on the grounds that the law extends beyond schools into public libraries.

His “Don’t Say Gay” law prevents teachers from talking about homosexuality or being transgenderthrough high school. Such rules prevent comprehensive sex education and invalidate LGBTQ students, adding to the mental health burden of a state that has a severe shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists.

DeSantis and the far right misrepresent critical race theory (which examines the role of race in the legal system) and pressured the College Board to remove references to the theory from the Advanced Placement African American Studies curriculum. The governor’s actions are part of a large-scale misinformation campaign to stoke white fear and uphold white nationalism. Yet, racism is reality, and in our multicultural, multilingual, global society, promoting white nationalism will create a generation of students who cannot reason and think as critically as their peers.

The governor has also banned Florida colleges’ efforts to promote diversity, inclusion and equity. The bans could affect all aspects of education, including efforts to recruit nonwhite STEM students and scientists to higher education. He has stacked the New College of Florida board of trustees, historically apolitical, with conservative ideologues to create an institute of higher learning that adheres to his version of American education and white exceptionalism, which is explicitly modeled on conservative evangelical Christian colleges.

What Ron DeSantis has done in Florida mirrors efforts in other states, including Texas. He is among a new class of conservative lawmakers who speak of freedom while restricting freedom. This political maneuvering is part of building his national presence yet it does not represent most Americans’ views. The population of Florida is growing fasterthan most other places in the U.S., but the state is now poised to have fewer critical thinkers, fewer people of color as educators and as the subjects of education, more deaths in childbirth, and scores of people in the throes of crisis because of their identities. A country led by someone wielding such cruelty, bigotry and megalomania will never be “a more perfect Union.”

Pro Publica investigated the case of a child at Success Academy who was disruptive and learned that at a charter school, the chain is free to write its own disciplinary rules. The public schools are governed by regulations, but Success Academy is exempt from those regulations.

ProPublica told the story of Ian, whose mother left work repeatedly to find out why Success Academy had called the police about the child. It seems clear that the school was trying to persuade her to withdraw Ian. But she kept showing up. It also seems clear that Ian’s behavior got worse because of the school’s rigid discipline.

In a panic, if she floors it, Marilyn Blanco can drive from her job at the Rikers Island jail complex to her son Ian’s school in Harlem in less than 18 minutes.

Nine times since December, Blanco has made the drive because Ian’s school — Success Academy Harlem 2 — called 911 on her 8-year-old.

Ian has been diagnosed with ADHD. When he gets frustrated, he sometimes has explosive tantrums, throwing things, running out of class and hitting and kicking anyone who comes near him. Blanco contends that, since Ian started first grade last year, Success Academy officials have been trying to push him out of the school because of his disability — an accusation similar to those made by other Success Academy parents in news stories, multiple lawsuits that resulted in settlements and a federal complaint.

When giving him detentions and suspensions didn’t stop Ian’s tantrums, Blanco said, the school started calling 911. If Blanco can’t get to Ian fast enough to intervene, a precinct officer or school safety agent from the New York Police Department will hold him until an ambulance arrives to take him to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation — incidents the NYPD calls “child in crisis” interventions.

The experience has been devastating for Ian, Blanco said. Since the 911 calls started late last year, he’s been scared to leave his house because he thinks someone will take him away. At one ER visit, a doctor wrote in Ian’s medical file that he’d sustained emotional trauma from the calls.

Citywide, staff at the Success Academy Charter School network — which operates 49 schools, most of them serving kids under 10 years old — called 911 to respond to students in emotional distress at least 87 times between July 2016 and December 2022, according to an analysis of NYPD data by THE CITY and ProPublica.

If Success Academy were run by the city Department of Education, it would be subject to rules that explicitly limit the circumstances under which schools may call 911 on students in distress: Under a 2015 regulation, city-run schools may never send kids to hospitals as a punishment for misbehavior, and they may only involve police as a last resort, after taking mandatory steps to de-escalate a crisis first. (As THE CITY and ProPublica reported this month, the rules don’t always get followed, and city schools call 911 to respond to children in crisis thousands of times a year.)

But the regulation doesn’t apply to Success Academy, which is publicly funded but privately run and — like all of the city’s charter school networks — free to set its own discipline policies.

The consequence, according to education advocates and attorneys, is that families have nowhere to turn if school staff are using 911 calls in a way that’s so frightening or traumatic that kids have little choice but to leave.

“Sure, you can file a complaint with the Success Academy board of trustees. But it isn’t going anywhere,” said Nelson Mar, an education attorney at Legal Services NYC who represented parents in a 2013 lawsuit that led to the restrictions on city-run schools.

Success Academy did not respond to questions about the circumstances under which school staff generally call 911 or the criteria they use to determine whether to initiate child-in-crisis incidents.

Regarding Ian, Success Academy spokesperson Ann Powell wrote that school staff called EMS because Ian “has repeatedly engaged in very dangerous behavior including flipping over desks, breaking a window, biting teachers (one of whom was prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection since the bite drew blood), threatening to harm both himself and a school safety agent with scissors, hitting himself in the face, punching a pregnant paraprofessional in the stomach (stating ‘I don’t care’ when the paraprofessional reminded him that ‘there’s a baby in my belly’), punching a police officer and attempting to take his taser, and screaming ‘I wish you would die early.’”

Powell also provided documentation that included contemporaneous accounts of Ian’s behavior written by Success Academy staff, photographs of bite marks and a fractured window, an assessment by a school social worker concluding that Ian was at risk for self-harm, and a medical record from an urgent care facility corroborating the school’s account that a teacher had been prescribed antibiotics.

Blanco said that Success Academy administrators have regularly exaggerated Ian’s behaviors. When he was 6, for example, Ian pulled an assistant principal’s tie during a tantrum, and school staff described it as a choking attempt, according to an account Blanco gave to an evaluator close to the time of the incident. Each time Success Academy has sent Ian to an emergency room, doctors have sent him home, finding that he didn’t pose a safety threat to himself or others, medical records show. (Success Academy did not respond to questions about the assertion that staffers have exaggerated Ian’s behaviors.)

Blanco knows that Ian is struggling. No one is more concerned about his well-being than she is, she said. But villainizing her 8-year-old only makes the situation worse.

“It’s like they want to tarnish him,” Blanco said. “He’s just a child, a child who needs help and support.”

Blanco chose Success Academy because she wanted Ian to have better education that what’s available in his neighborhood public school.

Success Academy, which has avid support from many parents and is led by former New York City Councilmember Eva Moskowitz, promotes itself as an antidote to educational inequality, offering rigorous charter school options to kids who might not have other good choices. On its website, the network advertises its students’ standardized test scores (pass rates for Black and Latino students are “double and even triple” those at city-run schools) and its educational outcomes: 100% of high school graduates are accepted to college, the network says.

Success Academy administrators say that strict and consistent discipline policies are essential to kids’ learning. Students are required to follow a precise dress code and to sit still and quietly, with hands folded in their laps or on their desks. When students break the rules, the school issues a progressive series of consequences, including letters home, detentions and suspensions.

Once students are accepted through the Success Academy lottery, the network is required to serve them until they graduate or turn 21, unless they withdraw or are formally expelled…

In Harlem, Ian started struggling at Success Academy just a few weeks into first grade. He’d never been aggressive before he started school, Blanco said. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he’d attended kindergarten online. When schools went back to in-person instruction, he was a high-energy 6-year-old who couldn’t follow Success Academy’s strict rules requiring him to sit still and stay quiet. By the end of first grade, he’d been suspended nearly 20 times.

The more Ian got in trouble, the worse he felt about himself and the worse his behavior became, Blanco said. He started falling behind because he missed so much class time during his suspensions, according to his education records. At home and at school, he said that teachers disciplined him because he was a “bad kid.”

At first, Blanco worked hard to cooperate with the school, she said. She was worried by the change in Ian’s behavior, and she thought that school staff had his best interests at heart. But then an assistant principal called her into an office and told her that Success Academy wasn’t a “good fit” for Ian, Blanco said to THE CITY and ProPublica, as well as in a written complaint she sent to Success Academy at around that time. (Success Academy’s board of trustees investigated the complaint and did not find evidence of discrimination against Ian, according to a September 2022 letter to Blanco from a board member.)

“That didn’t sit right,” said Blanco, who is an investigator at Rikers Island and is accustomed to gathering paper trails. She asked the assistant principal to put the statement in writing, but he told her she had misunderstood, she said. (Success Academy did not respond to questions about this incident.)

Several times, when the school called Blanco to pick Ian up early, staff told her to take him to a psychiatric emergency room for an evaluation. But the visits didn’t help, Blanco said. “You could be sitting there for six, seven, eight hours,” waiting to talk to a psychologist. Because Ian never presented as an immediate threat to himself or others, hospital staff couldn’t do much but refer him to outpatient care and send him home, according to hospital discharge records.

Eventually, Blanco found an outpatient clinic that would accept her insurance to evaluate Ian for neurological and behavioral disorders. She said she begged school staff to stop disciplining Ian while she worked to get him treatment, but the suspensions were relentless. Once, he missed 15 straight days of school.

At the beginning of Ian’s second grade year, Blanco reached out to Legal Services NYC, where Mar, the education attorney, took her on as a client.

The school twice reported Blanco to child welfare services as a negligent mother. An investigator came to her home to interview her and Ian. She said she was humiliated.

One month after the child welfare visit, things got even worse. Blanco was in Queens, heading to work to pick up some overtime, when the school called to say that Ian had had another tantrum. This time, she was too late to bring Ian home herself. He was in an ambulance, on his way to Harlem Hospital….

Two weeks ago, Success Academy sent Blanco an email informing her that they requested a hearing to have Ian removed from school for up to 45 school days because he “is substantially likely to cause injury to himself and others while in the Success Academy community.”

Ian would be barred from Success Academy immediately, the email said, even though it could take up to 20 days to schedule the hearing, which will be held at the special education division of the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. If the hearing officer agrees with Success Academy, Ian will miss the rest of the school year..

To Blanco, the hearing seems like just another way for the school to get rid of her son. She thinks about pulling Ian out of Success Academy all the time, she said, but it feels like there’s no good alternative. She doesn’t want to give up on the idea of him getting a better shot than the one she got at a failing neighborhood school.

“I want him to get free of this cycle of disadvantage,” Blanco said. “I want to fight for my son’s rights and let them know that you’re not going to treat my child this way. I’ve made it my mission. You don’t get to pick and choose who you give an education to.”


Students at New College in Sarasota, Florida, conducted their own, alternative commencement in response to Governor DeSantis’ takeover of the board of the small, progressive public college. He replaced board members who believed in the college’s mission of a self-directed liberal education with new board members who were allied with the DeSantis brand of Christian nationalism.The board replaced the president of the college—an academic—with a rightwing politician who has no qualifications for the position.

In this post, which appears on Tumblr, a New College graduate explained what is happening. The commencement speaker invited by the new regime was Scott Atlas, Trump’s coronavirus advisor (who is not an epidemiologist). The students invited their own speaker, Neil Gaiman, a Bard College professor, whom you will see if you open the link.

everentropy writes:

Hi, I’m a New College alum. I have been following this closely, so I can give you a run-down…Background: New College of Florida is a small liberal arts college in Sarasota. It has around 800 students, and probably less next year. It does not have grades, it instead has narrative evaluations. There are no required classes beyond what is legally required for Common Core. As an Honors College, everyone is required to do an undergraduate thesis and defend it in front of a Baccalaureate Committee. I studied Environmental Science and I was able to create my own major (known as an Area of Concentration). I even designed an Independent Study Project that went in-depth on cholera.

As for what is happening now, the simple answer is that Governor DeSantis appointed a bunch of conservatives to the Board of Trustees (or BoT). One of these is Chris Rufo, the guy behind the CRT scare. They have been trying to systematically tear down the college. This has included things like firing the president and trying to change the school’s curriculum and entrance requirements, with a conservative evangelical Christian angle.

For a more in-depth answer, here is a list of things they have done or are currently planning on doing. (i had it under a readmore but it looks like that fucks up the formatting) They fired the previous president, even though she was ACTUALLY solving many of the issues including enrollment and bringing in donors. By every measure she was doing a great job. Of course, you can’t hire DeSantis’s cronies if someone else is in the position! They fired a queer librarian a week before finals. They denied five professors tenure, including two from the “woke” specialization of… organic chemistry. They are currently trying to change the school mascot. It is, according to the student government constitution { }, AKA the null set. They want a mascot to be more marketable, not because students are asking for it. Most insultingly, they sent out a survey asking for students’ “opinions” and one of the options they had was the Conquistadores. It’s 2023, it’s hilariously out of touch. They removed the “DEI Department”. Which didn’t exist. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was part of the admissions and outreach department. New College isn’t even big enough to have staff dedicated to that. They couldn’t even fire anyone so they made a stupid show of “eliminating it” that did nothing. They are trying to use the CLT, a Christian-based entrance exam, instead of the SAT. (Several alums have started adding an I after the CL.) Also, the formerly student-run cafe is now being run by a local business that has put (misspelled) bible verses on the cups. They want to have a “classics” education, and require students to take specific courses. New College already teaches from “the greats” for many classes, but they don’t actually know what the New College curriculum is. It will also almost certainly be from a Christian, western perspective, rather than the broader one that students currently get. New College teaches you HOW to think, it doesn’t tell you to think a specific way.

They are trying to put in both a baseball and basketball team. That doesn’t sound that bad on the surface but New College has barely enough students for ONE team, and that would have to be co-ed. It’s a school of around 800 students. (Probably less next year). There’s no way they qualify for competitive sports. It’s a grift meant to give positions to friends of the BoT through cronyism. I genuinely feel sorry for any student transferring because they were promised a sports career.

Also, New College doesn’t have sports and is proud of that fact. It’s an attempt to ruin our culture by attracting students that didn’t come here solely for learning. We even have a motto that our football team is “undefeated” (because we don’t have one). They also want to make this a pipeline for students from Inspiration Academy specifically and are trying to make it easier to enter. Finally, the cherry on top of the cake, and the reason that Mr. Gaiman gave this speech in the first place, is that they asked Scott Atlas to be speaker for commencement. He was one of the members of former President Trump’s COVID taskforce and actively downplayed the threat of COVID. His speech was not about how students have a bright future and how they will do great things. No, it was full of self-congratulations, name-dropping, and lies about COVID. If I hadn’t known what it was I would never guessed that it was a commencement speech. The only thing even remotely about the students was about standing up for your beliefs, even when people tell you you’re wrong. The people watching literally turned their backs on him and started chanting “Wrap it up!” which was pretty funny honestly. I enjoyed that. I’m pretty sure most people who attended did so to protest him. Also, the current president of the college didn’t make a speech or hand out diplomas, probably because he knew how disliked he is. Make no mistake, this is meant to be a test case. And when they are done here they will move on to other colleges, and conservatives will bring this to other states as well. That’s why resisting is so important. I will say a bright spot in all of this is the outpouring of support we have received. Thank you everyone who has reblogged this with a message of support. We appreciate it. Please feel free to message me if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

#save new college#savenewcollege#new college of florida#chris rufo#scott atlas#ron desantis#wrap it up!#long post#ask to tag#I’m pretty sure I’m missing things#but yeah that’s most of it#it’s been EXHAUSTING#it’s only been a few months but it feels longer