Archives for category: Bigotry

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, posts his reaction to the first episode of the new series by Ken Burns, Sarah Botstein, and Lynn Novick: “The U.S. and the Holocaust.”

I just watched the second episode, and it is very powerful. Burns has said that this is the most important documentary he has ever made.

The U.S. made almost no effort to open its doors to Jews trying to escape Hitler’s killing machine. Why? For one thing, the American public was deeply anti-Semitic. For another, the leaders of the U.S. State Department were anti-Semites.

The Ku Klux Klan sprang back to life. The heroic aviator Charles Lindbergh, who admired Hitler, was a leader of the infamous “America First” movement, which opposed our entry into the war and was certain that Hitler would conquer all of Europe. Henry Ford was a virulent anti-Semite, whose publication printed the notorious “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

This series is MUST viewing. It clears away the cobwebs of lies propagated by rightwingers who want to cleanse the schools of the dark side of U.S. history. Hate, bigotry, racism, and anti-Semitism are woven into our history.

Thompson writes:

Ken Burns’ The U.S and the Holocaust is being shown on PBS. It begins with a jolt: telling how Anne Frank and her family were denied entry to the U.S. As our country denied entry to the vast majority of Jews threatened by Adolf Hitler, 1 million were murdered. Episode One helps us understand why President Franklin Roosevelt and other leaders were unable to persuade the American public to support assistance to Jews fleeing Nazism.

Of course, there is plenty that is great about our democracy, but our histories of the genocide of Native Americans and Slavery, as well as eugenics and its false claims that people of color were biologically inferior, contributed to our failure to respond appropriately. In fact, Hitler patterned his crimes against humanity after America’s eugenics movement, the genocide of Native Americans, the Ku Klux Klan, and Jim Crow. During the Great Depression, more than 1 million people of Mexican ancestry were expelled even though more than 60 percent of them were born in the U.S. And, even before American Fascists like Father Coughlin and Henry Ford ramped up hatred of Jews and advocated for pro-Nazi policies, the U.S. had a long history of violent anti-Semitism.

Ken Burns and his team started to make this film in 2015, before Charlottesville, the shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and at the supermarket in Buffalo, and before the January 6th insurrection. A similar “fragility of civilized behavior” was also on display in Berlin under Hitler. In the late 1920’s it was one of “the most open and cosmopolitan city in Europe” but four years later, the Nazis were in charge. What lessons can we learn from that past which could inform today’s “fragility of democratic civilization all over the world, not just here?”

The U.S. and the Holocaust also raises questions such as “what are the responsibilities of our leaders to shape public opinion rather than follow it?” and “what does this history tell us about the role of individuals to act when governments fail to intervene?” It also raises tough questions about the role of the media in spreading hate, as well as constructive information.

The film’s website also links to Oklahoma’s and other states’ Academic Standards. They call for high school students to “examine the causes, series of events and effects of the Holocaust through eyewitnesses such as inmates, survivors, liberators, and perpetrators,” and examine the “rise of totalitarian regimes in the Soviet Union, Germany, Italy, and Japan.” Such Standards also call for an examination of “how the media we consume shapes our beliefs, opinions, and actions both historically and in modern contexts in this media.”

These Standards are very consistent with the concepts that Burns explored. If I were still teaching high school, I’d be carefully building a unit that follows the Standards and instructional techniques that were carefully prepared by state and national experts. For instance, I would begin with the recommended, first question, “Why do you think many people did not question or push back against the harmful ideas presented by people who believed in eugenics?”

As also recommended, as students watched video clips, and read and analyzed the primary source materials in The U.S. and the Holocaust website, I’d ask them to share their “feelings or thoughts after each clip as some of the content covered is very heavy and may be emotional for students.” Students would take notes and engage in classroom discussions. I’d end with the recommended question, “Although the images and videos shown in the last clip are very challenging to watch, why do you think U.S. Army leaders said they needed to be shown to people in the United States and across the world?”

I would try to repeat the previously successful practice of inviting legislators, state officials, business and political leaders to the lessons so they could witness the dignity and wisdom of my students at John Marshall, Centennial, and other high-challenge schools. As recently as four years ago when I guest-taught and/or engaged with very conservative Republicans, I knew the discussions would be civil and enlightening. Now, I know such communications would be different, and that I might get fired for violating HB1775.

But the consequences for teachers are nothing like the suffering of victims of the Holocaust or the potential destruction due to the failure to stand up for democratic and educational principles. So, I would also ask what would happen if thousands of educators would stand for our students and teach Ken Burns’ film and website. They would need to thoughtfully plan the process, hopefully working with school system administrators. Many or most of whom would have a long history of opposing censorships of books such as Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl,” but who are intimidated by bills like HB 1775 and similar censorship laws in other states. Educators would almost certainly have to seek the backing of parents and community leaders.

Educators who are too frightened to use Burns’ work, could at least borrow from SummerBoismier, whose teacher certification is being threatened for linking to the Brooklyn Library, and post links to his and PBS’s websites. Or they could organize off-campus community films or read-aloud events (such as the “Banned Book Read Out” at OKC’s First Unitarian Church) for students and/or provide information on The U.S. and the Holocaust to students when they enter the building.

Such efforts would be terrifying if done alone. But would legislators who voted for censorship of school curriculums want to admit out loud that they want Anne Frank’s story banned? And would even the most extreme legislators follow through with mass firings at a time of teacher shortages? We must wrestle with Burn’s question about whether so many millions of people from all nations would have quickly abandoned democracy and humanity if there had been more resistance to Hitler in the U.S. and across the world before Nazism took control in so many places?

As Ms. Boismeir concluded, “you have a choice to make for the future of our state and the state of our public schools: a politics of inclusion or exclusion. So what’s your story? What side are you on?

Jitu Brown has built a national civil rights organization called Journey for Justice, with chapters in 38 cities. He is a large and powerful man who speaks from personal experience and brings a message of determination and hope.

Jitu Brown is leading a national equity campaign based on a Quality of Life agenda that will be released with congressional members, union leaders, and others in Washington D.C. on September 22, 2022. This will be part of an Advocacy Day with hundreds of leaders from across the country supporting this platform.

Brown, a member of the board of the Network for Public Education, was recently profiled by The Hill, an influential publication in D.C. He spoke at the annual NPE conference in Philadelphia and challenged the audience to commit themselves to equity in education.

On Saturday, September 24, 2024 there will be a Quality of Life Festival held in D.C. with speakers and music, attended by thousands of people from across the country.

Most recently, Jitu and his team brought clean water to the people of Jackson, Mississippi, where the municipal water is unsafe.

The Hill wrote about him:

Speaking to The Hill from a Chicago office adorned with posters screaming “Equality or Else” and “Water Is a Human Right,” Brown talked about growing up in the Rosemoor neighborhood of Chicago’s Far South Side during the 1970s.

The son of a nurse and a steelworker, Brown was the beneficiary of the civil rights movement: He lived in a working-class, Black community and had educators who looked like him and a school that encouraged cultural awareness.

“I remember growing up as a child, feeling very warm, feeling protected, not being afraid to walk, catching the bus all over the city,” Brown said.

That didn’t mean there weren’t issues in his community. Brown’s neighborhood was straddled by two of the city’s most prominent rival gangs: the Gangster Disciples and the Vice Lords.

Brown said he could have easily become wrapped up in the gangs, but he had the support of his family and friends.

Jitu had his own personal struggles, but then joined a hip-hop musical group that was signed by a major label.

He left the music industry to become a community organizer with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization in Chicago.

Brown started KOCO’s youth development and youth leadership programs. As he worked with the students, schools began to take an interest. They wanted, in particular, Black men to bring their experience and knowledge into the classrooms. So Brown did.

And as he did, the inequity in the schools became quite clear.

“You’re working with these young people, but you’re noticing that at this school, there’s one computer in the entire class and there’s no air conditioning,” he recalled. “Then I’m also going to schools and other communities and I’m working with student councils. You walk in and the school is bright. The classrooms are small. They got world language. They have counselors. They have teacher aides in every class.”

Brown began to realize the discrepancies between the schools were systemic. KOCO started organizing more and more, working to stop the city from closing more than 20 schools serving predominantly Black and Brown students and conducting sit-ins at City Hall for more youth job opportunities.

The goal was — and remains — to create an equitable schooling system regardless of the students’ races, leading to the founding of the Journey for Justice Alliance in 2012.

The Alliance focuses on enacting a “sustainable community school village.”

Sustainable community schools are rooted in the principles that everybody in the school community should have input on what an engaging and relevant and rigorous curriculum looks like, schools should offer high-quality and culturally competent teaching, and wraparound supports should be available to each child.

Wraparound supports are a big focus for the Journey for Justice Alliance, Brown said.

Keep your eyes on Jitu Brown and Journey for Justice. They are on the ground and teaching people how to speak, get active, and advocate for equity.

Nothing less will do.

Carol Burris is the executive director of the Network for Public Education. She recently received a press release from Betsy DeVos’s organization, the ironically-named American Federation for Children, asserting that the drop in test scores during the pandemic was the fault of the unions. The purpose of the “American Federation for Children” is to promote vouchers, especially for religious schools, and it is always eager to criticize public schools and teachers’ unions. AFC much prefers religious schools where children are indoctrinated without apology and where discrimination against unwanted children is common. Maybe they should change their name to the American Federation for Some Children (who share our religious views).

Burris writes:

Walter Blanks, the Press Secretary of the American Federation for Children, got on the rickety old soapbox of Betsy De Vos to blame teacher unions for the recent drop in student performance on NAEP. Moms for Liberty then jumped on calling for parents to “fire teacher unions.”

Did children suffer a decline in learning progress during the pandemic? Of course.  Anyone who has ever taught in a school, unlike Mr. Blanks, could have predicted a drop.

As a former teacher and principal, I know that the relationship between a student and teacher and the relationship among students is critical for learning. And I also remember all those students who, without my cajoling and watchful eye, would have been content to put their heads down or look out the window instead of at their books. That’s kids. The warm smile directed at them, the subtle tap on the desk, you can’t do that over the internet.

But are unions the culprit for the NAEP score drop? There is no evidence of that. 

First, if union influence in keeping remote learning were to blame, we would expect to see a larger drop in city scores than suburban scores. Suburban schools, with or without unions, were far more likely to open. However, suburban scores dropped significantly more in Reading for both low and high achievers than for city students, whose scores barely budged. In Math, the point drop for high achievers was the same; suburban low achievers lost more ground than their counterparts in cities. 

Second, we would expect regional differences depending on the influence of unions.

But there is only one point difference in the scores’ drops between the union-heavy northeast and the right-to-work dominated south. And western states, where unions are prevalent in the most populous states, saw much smaller score drops than the south.  

Not content to blame unions in general, Walter Blanks singles out Randi Weingarten as a national villain. Ms. Weingarten, a woman and strong leader, married to Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, has become a prime target for the misogynist right. But the facts do not bear out his accusations. Even as Weingarten was listening to her members concerned with their own family and student health, she was quietly working behind the scenes to get schools safely opened.

As a New York City public school grandma, I know it. And I am thankful for those efforts. My granddaughter returned to in-person learning in the fall of 2020 as New York City public schools opened. There were bumps and starts, but they opened. Even so, the majority of NYC parents still kept their children remote. 

Will Mr. Blanks blame those parents and hundreds of thousands like them who were fearful of sending their children back to school? 

Covid 19 was a national tragedy. Over one million Americans died horrible deaths.  We will feel the pain and ramifications for years to come. And yes, our children deserve all our efforts to repair the academic and emotional damage of the pandemic. But using that tragedy to push an anti-union agenda does not help repair the damage. It continues to enflame the anger of parents still reeling from the pandemic themselves.

Blanks ends his essay by touting how school choice is the answer. I am scratching my head to reconcile that with the American Federation for Children’s stalwart support for low-quality online virtual schools and homeschools. You can’t blame learning loss on a lack of in-person learning and then support virtual learning solutions. Will AFC now advocate for the closure of online charters and homeschools? Don’t hold your breath. 

Polymath Bob Shepherd, a frequent contributor to this blog, lives in Florida. He recently received a survey from his member of Congress. He shows how deeply deceptive such a survey can be.

He writes:

I received in my email yesterday yet another transparently biased “survey” from my Flor-uh-duh Congressman Scott Franklin. It read as follows:

Do you support a Parents’ Bill of Rights to increase transparency on what children are being taught in school and how tax dollars are being spent? (yes/no)

Note that the survey DOES NOT ask,

Do you support allowing a handful of backward, provincial, undemocratic, authoritarian, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, white supremacist, Christian nationalist, fundamentalist wackjobs from among the parents in your community to decide what will be taught in your kids’ schools, what books can be in their library, who can teach, and what teachers can and cannot say? (yes/no)

These two questions are in fact equivalent.

Governor Ron DeSantis wants to make sure that students are never exposed to anything in school that acknowledges the existence of people who are gay. Maybe he thinks that if their existence is never mentioned, they will disappear or go back into the closet.

The Miami-Dade School Board got his message. Last year the board approved a measure to recognize LGBTQ History Month. It was not controversial. Recently the board voted overwhelmingly to cancel that decision, in deference to state law proclaiming that gay people should not be acknowledged.

Last year, when the Miami-Dade School Board overwhelmingly supported a measure to recognize October as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) History Month, some board members said their decision was rooted in another step toward civil rights for all people.

At the time, Vice Chair Steve Gallon III said he was “obligated to support the item because my DNA compels me to support inclusion. It compels me to support equity, it compels me to support equality.” 

The nine-member board passed the proposal in a 7-1 vote, with Board Member Christa Fraga dissenting and Board Member Lubby Navarro absent.

This year, though, during a marathon and contentious meeting Wednesday, the board voted 8-1 to reject recognizing October as LGBTQ month. Only Board Member Lucia Baez-Geller supported the observance; she put forth the proposal, both last year and this year.

This time, Gallon said, his personal beliefs must be divorced from his obligation to follow the law, despite his “love for all humanity, my commitment to inclusivity and access to representation.”

He expressed concern Baez-Geller’s measure “did not fully comport with the law,” referencing Florida’s new Parental Rights in Education law, dubbed by critics as Florida’s “Don’t say gay” bill. In March, Gov. DeSantis signed the bill into law, prohibiting instruction related to gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade and could potentially restrict such instruction for older kids.

Gallon and seven other board members voted no on the October observance and no on allowing the district to explore teaching two landmark Supreme Court decisions impacting the LGBTQ community to 12th-grade students. To some, the board’s vote on Wednesday underscores the chilling effect the law is having on school boards in Florida.

“Nearly every board member opposing the resolution voiced their belief that the proclamation violated the Don’t Say LGBTQ Law, further evidence of the sweeping censorship of this law,” said a news release sent by Equality Florida, a civil rights organization that works with Florida’s LGBTQ community.

School board attorney Walter Harvey told the board Wednesday that he believed the measure was in compliance with the state law because it did not have changes to curriculum or instruction.

Board members, however, believed otherwise. 

Law’s potential chilling effect

Throughout the hours-long meeting Wednesday, Baez-Geller tried to debunk what she called “disinformation” being promulgated by people at the podium.

For one, she said, the item included an opt-out for students on the Supreme Court lessons in addition to language that required any recognition be pursuant to state law.

Nevertheless, speaker after speaker opposed to the measure said the recognition would indoctrinate students; in some cases, speakers likened the resolution to child abuse. 

“What I think is happening, (following) the removal of members of Broward County and the language and rhetoric from the right, it’s a scary time for allies … and people who would have voted in favor of this in the past may now be thinking twice,” she told the Herald Thursday. “The law is vague on purpose and as we saw, the law is meant to have a chilling effect, and I believe the law has been successful in scaring people away from topics that are potentially controversial or that could bring a lawsuit.”

Last month, DeSantis removed four elected Broward County School Board members following a grand jury report that cited the members for “incompetent management” and “neglect of duty.” He replaced the four members with four men — the four he suspended were all women — who had ties to him or to the Republican Party.

At the end of July, opponents to the law sued DeSantis, the Florida Board of Education and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. in federal court in Tallahassee, challenging the law’s constitutionality. The case is pending.

A packed house, polarized crowd

Most of the speakers Wednesday spoke against the measure. 

Patricia Moore was greeted with cheers from the packed auditorium after she said schools “are not here to indoctrinate with the LGBTQ agenda. We should not expose our children to this in school.”

Michael Rajner, however, was among those who spoke in favor of the measure, telling the board he knows what it’s like to have parents who told him not to tell others he was gay, including his siblings. 

“Our struggle is real. Our struggle is history,” Rajner told the board members.

Now, if DeSantis should be elected President in 2024, he could tell cable and network stations not to broadcast any programs with gay characters, and he could censor the Internet.

He is a bigot and a bully.

The Brooklyn Public Library provided a great public service when it offered free access to books that have been banned by states and school districts, either online or in audio form.

Unfortunately, an Oklahoma high school teacher who shared the code to the Brooklyn Public Library’s open access program was promptly punished.

Vice reported:

Summer Boismier was removed from the classroom after the first day of school last month, when she covered her bookshelves with butcher paper and posted the QR code on the covering. Oklahoma, like many Republican-controlled states, passed a law last year banning the teaching of “critical race theory” in public school classrooms. 

Boismier, who is currently a doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma, was offered her job back but ultimately chose to resign. Boismier told VICE News that there were “some fundamental ideological differences” between herself and the district, and that the new Oklahoma law “created an impossible working environment for teachers and a devastating learning environment for students.” 

Boismier did tell VICE News, however, that she planned to keep teaching. But on Wednesday, Oklahoma Education Secretary Ryan Walters—an official in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet, who’s likely to become the state’s next superintendent of schools after the November midterms—called for the Oklahoma State Board of Education to revoke Boismier’s teaching license. 

“There is no place for a teacher with a liberal political agenda in the classroom,” Walters said in a letter directed to the state Board of Education. “Ms. Boismier’s providing access to banned and pornographic material to students is unacceptable and we must ensure she doesn’t go to another district and do the same thing.” 

“Teachers are one of our state’s greatest assets and it is unfortunate that one of them has caused such harm and shame for the entire profession,” Walters said. 

Republicans have frequently claimed the books they’re banning are “pornographic” in nature, though the nonprofit Oklahoma news outlet The Frontier reported earlier this year that the dozens of books being investigated by the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office include “Of Mice and Men” and “Lord of the Flies,” as well as books that explore topics of sexual and gender identity and racism.

But in an interview last week, Boismier said that “parents are being manipulated” by Oklahoma Republicans. “I’ve been called an indoctrinator, a woke leftist, a groomer, a pedophile, all within the last several months,” she told VICE News. 

“They don’t want these conversations happening,” Boismier said of Republicans seeking to ban books. “They don’t want critical thinkers, they want American exceptionalism and this whitewashed version of history that does not require them to interrogate their own privilege.”

“That’s dangerous when you’re the one in charge.”

Understand that what legislators call Critical Race Theory has nothing to do with the graduate courses taught in law school. They have no idea what CRT really is. What they mean by CRT is any teaching about racism, past or present. Presumably, everyone will be happier and more unified if we pretend that things like slavery, lynching, segregation, and other racist practices happened in the past and that there are structural aspects to racism today (read Richard Rothstein’s “The Color of Law” to learn more). Similarly issues about gender identity will simply fade away if we pretend they don’t exist.

This is what happens when ignorant and bigoted people are elected to positions of authority.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, reviews Dana Milbank’s new book about the crackup of the Republican Party. As I have often said, Milbank is my favorite columnist in the Washington Post.

Thompson writes:

Dana Milbank’s The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five-Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party is based on his quarter of a century of political reporting. From 1992 to the present the Republicans won the popular vote only once. There were calls for diversity in their party in order to reach more voters, but it went in the opposite direction. In the 1990s, the false and polarizing propaganda of Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy, Sean Hannity, and Fox News took off, as Newt Gingrich became the key political driver of an ideology that would dismantle legislative norms and institutions.

This piece only has room for a brief overview of the 90s. I assume that readers will see and will be shocked by the cruelty and lies of that decade, and how they foreshadow today’s assaults on democracy.

Milbank starts with the suicide of the Clintons’ aide, Vince Foster. Rush Limbaugh, who called the 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton “the White House dog,” claimed, “Foster was murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton.”

The prime donor of Gingrich’s political training organization, the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) was Mellon Scaife. Scaife then joined with Christopher Ruddy, who would become Donald Trump’s friend and informal advisor, to found Newsmax. They said Vince Foster’s death showed that Bill Clinton “can order people done away with … God there must be 60 people who have died mysteriously.” (By the way, such words didn’t keep Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating or Congressman J.C. Watts from helping to lead GOPAC.)

Brett Kavanaugh, who assisted in Ken Starr’s investigations of Bill Clinton and helped draft the Starr Report, knew as early as 1995 that “I am satisfied that Foster was sufficiently discouraged or depressed to commit suicide.” But he spent two years investigating, thus legitimizing, what Milbank called “all of the ludicrous claims.” In Kavanaugh’s files, that were released two decades later, were 195 pages of articles by Ruddy and Limbaugh’s transcript on the case.

Milbank writes that once Gingrich became Speaker of House in 1995, he “threw the weight of the speakership behind the Foster conspiracy theory.” That year, Ruddy, Scaife and Newsmax, would spread the lies further.

(By 2016, Rep. Pete Olson said that Bill Clinton admitted to A.G. Loretta Lynch that “we killed Vince Foster.” And Trump said the charges that Foster was murdered are “very serious.” And Milbank concluded that Justice Kavanaugh was not the most ideological of the Supreme Court’s majority, but he was the most political.)

Milbank explains how rightwingers encouraged violence. After the Waco tragedy of 1993, G. Gordon Liddy said of the ATF agents, “Kill the son-of-a-bitches.” Sen. Jesse Helms said “Mr. Clinton better watch his guard if he comes down here (North Carolina). He’d better have a bodyguard.”

Moreover, even though the Fish and Wildlife Department didn’t have helicopters, Rep. Helen Chenoweth said they were “sending armed agency officials and helicopters” to enforce regulations and “if they didn’t stop, I will be their “worst nightmare.”

In 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Building killed 168 people; Timothy McVeigh said his terrorist act was designed “to put a check on government abuse of power.” But some rightwingers claimed the bombing “was really a botched plot” by the FBI.

Also, Limbaugh asserted, “President Clinton’s ties to the domestic terrorism of Oklahoma City are tangible.” And Gingrich responded by defending the “genuine fears” of rural America regarding the federal government, and doubled down on repealing of the assault weapons ban.

Milbank goes into detail recounting how Gingrich “changed forever the language of politics.” Gingrich quoted Mao saying, “Politics is war without blood.” And he repeatedly made charges such as the Democrats “‘trash’ America, indict the president and give the benefit of every doubt to Marxist regimes.”

In 1977, a year before Gingrich was first elected, Milbank reports that a Gallup poll found that 40% of Americans had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress. After 15 years of his “relentless” attacks, that number was down to 18%. Gingrich then undermined congressional norms that encouraged compromise and constructive actions. During his legislative career, committee and sub-committee meetings dropped by nearly half. By 2017, they had dropped by almost 75%. The ability of Presidents to get laws passed was also undermined. Presidents’ legislative victories dropped from 73% of the agenda under Nixon. At the beginning of the Clinton term, he had a victory rate of 87% but by 2016, President Obama’s rate was 13%.

Another pivotal change occurred after the 1996 defeat of Bob Dole. Republican aide Margaret Tutwiler said, “We’re going to have to take on [board] the religious nuts.” A couple of decades later, White evangelicals were only 15% of the US population but about 40% of Trump’s voters.

And with the arrival of Karl Rove’s anti-gay “whisper campaign” against George W. Bush’s opponent, Ann Richards, personal attacks escalated dramatically. Another example of campaign lies was the attack on Sen. John McCain’s mental stability, and the claim he had “fathered an illegitimate black child.” Actually McCain had adopted a daughter from a Bangladesh orphanage.

Although I had been horrified by the behaviors of the rightwing, Milbank’s details provided me a much better understanding of how the views I’ve held allowed me to remain excessively optimistic. I used to believe that it was deindustrialization and the loss of economic opportunity (accelerated by Reagan’s job-killing Supply Side economics) that mostly fed the racism which propelled Trump into the White House. Now I’m convinced by Milbank’s evidence that it was racism – not economics – that spurred Trumpism.

Also, I had misremembered Mitch McConnell’s record in the 1990s. In 1993, McConnell joined Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms in defending the Confederate flag on the Senate floor, saying, “My roots … run deep in the Southern part of the country.” And he stood before a huge Confederate flag at a meeting of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

In 1997, McConnell said in a fundraising letter, “Help to protect our country from a potentially devastating nuclear attack.” And he alleged, Clinton’s White House was “sold for ILLEGAL FOREIGN CASH”

I’m assuming that readers of this blog will quickly understand how the Alt Facts spread by politicians like Gingrich are linked to today’s crises. By 2018, only 16% of Republicans trusted the media over Trump. In 2020, people who said they were “very happy” dropped to 14% compared to the previous low of 29%.

Two years later, the attempted kidnapping of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer showed how the worsening rhetoric was putting people in danger. In 2019, hate crimes increased by 30%, and over 18 months in 2020 and 2021, the FBI nearly tripled its domestic terrorism caseload. FBI director Christopher Wray said, “The violence in 2020 is unlike what we’ve seen in quite some time.” And who knows what the numbers are in the wake of Trump’s response to the subpoenaing of the Secret documents?

The 25-year rightwing siege and Trumpism has put our democracy at risk. Being from Oklahoma City, I’m increasingly worried about the chances of bloodshed. And I’m doubly concerned after reading The Destructionists.

In 1994, Vice President Al Gore explained, “The Republicans are determined to wreck Congress in order to control it – and then wreck a presidency in order to recapture it.” Now, Milbank concludes. “A quarter century after a truck bomb set by an antigovernment extremist … Republicans have lit a fuse on democracy itself.”

A billionaire named Barre Seid has given $1.6 billion to a new far-right group, to be used to fund extremist candidates.

ProPublica wrote about how the billionaire structured the deal to avoid taxes.

An elderly, ultra-secretive Chicago businessman has given the largest known donation to a political advocacy group in U.S. history — worth $1.6 billion — and the recipient is one of the prime architects of conservatives’ efforts to reshape the American judicial system, including the Supreme Court.

Through a series of opaque transactions over the past two years, Barre Seid, a 90-year-old manufacturing magnate, gave the massive sum to a nonprofit run by Leonard Leo, who co-chairs the conservative legal group the Federalist Society.

The donation was first reported by The New York Times on Monday. The Lever and ProPublica confirmed the information from documents received independently by the news organizations.

Our reporting sheds additional light on how the two men, one a judicial kingmaker and the other a mysterious but prolific donor to conservative causes, came together to create a political war chest that will likely supercharge efforts to further shift American politics to the right.

As President Donald Trump’s adviser on judicial nominations, Leo helped build the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority, which recently eliminated Constitutional protections for abortion rights and has made a series of sweeping pro-business decisions. Leo, a conservative Catholic, has both helped select judges to nominate to the Supreme Court and directed multimillion dollar media campaigns to confirm them.

Leo derives immense political power through his ability to raise huge sums of money and distribute those funds throughout the conservative movement to influence elections, judicial appointments and policy battles. Yet the biggest funders of Leo’s operation have long been a mystery.

Seid, who led the surge protector and data-center equipment maker Tripp Lite for more than half a century, has been almost unknown outside a small circle of political and cultural recipients. The gift immediately vaults him into the ranks of major funders like the Koch brothers and George Soros.

In practical terms, there are few limitations on how Leo’s new group, the Marble Freedom Trust, can spend the enormous donation. The structure of the donation allowed Seid to avoid as much as $400 million in taxes. Thus, he maximized the amount of money at Leo’s disposal.

Sourcewatch says about him.

Barre Seid is a right-wing industrialist and donor to advocacy groups and thinktanks attacking climate science and promoting Islamaphobia. He is closely allied with the Koch network and funnels dark money through the same groups used by the Kochs, including Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund.

Seid built a fortune as the Chairman and CEO of Trippe Manufacturing Company (now known as Trippe Lite), which produces electrical equipment such as surge protectors and power strips, and Fiber Bond, which produces HVAC equipment.[1][2] In 1985, he established the Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation. It donates primarily to education, cultural organizations and the arts, and other philanthropic associations.[3]

Attacks on Climate Science

Seid is a major donor to the Heartland Institute, a vocal denier of climate science. According to leaked internal Heartland Institute documents obtained by DeSmogBlog, between 2007 and 2011, Seid contributed over $13,342,267 in donations.[4][5] In September 2013, the Heritage Foundation hosted an event for Heartland Institute CEO Joseph Bast and two of Heartland’s contracted climate denial scientists Willie Soon and Bob Carter. During the event, the Heartland Institute representatives would present a report titled “Climate Change Reconsidered” which was funded by Barre Seid. The report denies the seriousness of global warming and directly challenges the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC). According to Greenpeace, the Heartland Institute falsely claims that the report is peer-reviewed.[6]

The Heartland Institute, in addition to denying climate change, is a big supporter of vouchers.

The Sourcewatch article describes his effort to take control of a small liberal arts college outside of Chicago and turn it into a reflection of his extreme ideology.

John Merrow’s title is sarcastic. Of course he wants you to read banned books, and he is deeply concerned about the large number of eligible voters—especially young people—who don’t bother to vote.

When someone on Twitter posted a list of 25 popular books that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had supposedly banned from the state’s public schools, people went crazy. The list included Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” and Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Below is a screenshot of the list. How many of these books have you read? Have your children read most of them? What on earth is going on in Florida?

People familiar with DeSantis’s efforts to restrict classroom discussion of controversial topics had no trouble believing that he would try to prevent young people from reading controversial or challenging books. If DeSantis did draw up a list, these books might well be on it.

But the list is a fake, a clever satire.

Many people were fooled, including teacher union President Randi Weingarten and “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill. Hamill’s screenshot of the list amassed more than 100,000 likes and 24,000 retweets.

(Add my name to the list of those who were taken in.)

Like all good satire, that fake list of banned books is rooted in truth, because book banning is real and growing. Florida school districts have banned around 200 books, according to a report published by PEN America, a nonprofit that tracks book banning in the U.S. Pen America ranks Florida third among US states for banning books, trailing only Texas and Pennsylvania.

We are in the midst of a pandemic of book banning, so it’s hard to imagine any title that would never be banned by some zealous or timid school board or ignorant legislator.

One way to stop this outbreak of censorship is to get active, vote, attend school board meetings, run for school board. Passivity and complaining is a losing strategy.

Time to turn back the rising tide of incipient fascism.

Conservative activists in Texas are ready to fight for changes in the social studies standards because they smell “critical race theory” (I.e., any reference to racism in the past or present), and they are hopping mad that the standards refer to the gay rights movement. Apparently, they want a deletion of any standards that refer to racism or the existence of gay people.

The Houston Chronicle describes disagreement among rightwing extremists about whether to revise the standards now, in response to angry parents, or wait until 2023, when three new rightwing extremists join the state board. One of the new members participated in the January 6 insurrection.

The board is already controlled by Republicans. After January, it will shift even farther right into extremist territory. One sane Republican, Matt Robinson, lost his re-election to the far-right insurrectionist because he refused to support the MAGA love for charter expansion.

Conservative education activists are accusing the Republican-controlled State Board of Education of helping liberals smuggle bits of Critical Race Theory into social studies standards that were expected to be up for an initial vote next week.

But the vote is conspicuously absent from the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, as a faction on the board calls for delaying them into next year, when 3 current GOP members are expected to be replaced by new members who lean more to the right…

Their frustrations with the early drafts of the standards included: the inclusion of LGTBQ activism alongside civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, a requirement for students to define “sexual orientation,” non inclusion of Moses as a historical figure, supposed inclusion of Critical Race Theory in ethnic studies courses and the lack of a requirement for history students to learn the U.S. motto, “In God We Trust.”