Archives for category: Corruption

The New York Daily News reports that lobbyists for billionaires who support charter schools had a cozy meeting with Democrats in the State Senate. 

Even though pro-public education progressives swept control of the State Senate away from the charter-crazy Republicans in the State Senate, the lobbyists know that money is still green, no matter who is in power.

Jeffrey Cook-McCormac, a lobbyist working under Dan Loeb, one of the state’s most prolific political bundlers and once a pariah among Dems for racist comments made about now-Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), can be heard on the tape praising Democrats for not taking steps to scale back charters.

“I just want to say that I think a lot of people are breathing a sigh of relief on how you governed in your first few months in the majority,” Cook-McCormac told an audience that included Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) as well as Sens. Brian Benjamin (D-Manhattan) and Jim Gaughran (D-Long Island)…

The comments came in the wake of a legislative session in which Dems, in control of both chambers for the first time in years, were bolstered by a slate of progressive members who are either openly wary of charters or the moneyed interests behind them….

Cook-McCormac’s presence at the Nov. 4 fundraiser at the swanky Midtown outpost Aquavit was especially surprising to some Dems considering his boss’ past comments about Stewart-Cousins.

In 2017, Loeb came under fire for a Facebook post saying that the Senate Democratic Leader had done “more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.”

Lawmakers, including Benjamin, staged protests outside of Success Academy charter schools at the time, calling for the billionaire founder of the Third Point hedge fund to be fired from his position as chairman of the board for the city’s largest charter-school operator. Loeb later apologized.

While Dems accepting cash from charter proponents isn’t new, some were stunned by the chumminess on display.

So, to be clear, billionaire Dan Loeb implies that State Senator Stewart-Cousins–now the majority leader– is worse than the Ku Klux Klan.

But that is no reason not to take Loeb’s money, right?

 

On a flight yesterday, I watched a documentary that was a biography of Roy Cohn. It is called “Where Is My Roy Cohn?,” a phrase uttered by Trump when he was disgusted by his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who apparently had some scruples about destroying the Justice Department on behalf of the man who appointed him.

The biography is short. The story is compelling. It portrays a man who had absolutely no scruples, no ethical core, no moral values. He was willing to lie, cheat, steal, twist words, anything to win. Winning was everything. He was a closeted homosexual who gleefully collaborated with his mentor Senator Joseph McCarthy to find and expose other homosexuals. He died of AIDS, but never admitted that he had the disease (he preferred to call it “cancer of the liver”).

The loathsome Cohn was Trump’s attorney and his mentor. He defended the Trump Organization against federal charges that the Trumps excluded blacks from their federally-financed housing projects. He helped to prosecute the Rosenbergs and assure that they got the death penalty. He was the chief lawyer for the Mafia and helped many of its leaders avoid long prison sentences. He was disbarred for stealing from his clients.

It is contemporary history. If you can find it online, watch it. It explains a lot about the world we live in now.

For the fourth time in only five years, the leader of a charter school has been arrested for siphoning money away from the school.

The Houston Chronicle reports:

The founder of a now-closed Houston charter school network failed to properly disclose more than $1 million in payments to his brother’s companies and used taxpayer funds to cover costs associated with a timeshare in Hawaii, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Richard S. Rose, who served as superintendent, CEO and chief financial officer of Zoe Learning Academy, was arrested Monday after a grand jury returned an 18-count indictment against him. The charter school enrolled several hundred students per year at campuses in Houston’s Third Ward and Duncanville, a city south of Dallas, prior to its abrupt closure in 2017.

Rose is the fourth Houston-area charter leader in the past five years arrested on charges related to illegally taking money from a school.

The Varnett Public School founders Alsie and Marian Cluff were charged in 2015, and sentenced to prison last year for spending more than $4 million in campus funds to support their lavish lifestyle. Houston Gateway Academy Richard Garza awaits sentencing after pleading guilty in October to participating in a $160,000 kickback scheme involving an information technology contractor.

Investigators said Zoe Learning Academy paid bus service fees totaling more than $1 million over four years to companies owned by his brother, as well as about $60,000 to Rose’s wife and a company the couple owned. Rose failed to disclose the payments to the Texas Education Agency on annual governance forms, violating a state law that requires charter leaders to detail any school funds paid to their relatives, federal officials said.

Investigators also said Rose withdrew money from Zoe Learning Academy accounts and used the charter’s credit card to pay for a Honolulu timeshare, a $75,000 personal legal settlement and $30,000 in fees to a lawyer who represented him in matters unrelated to the school. Rose’s indictment did not detail the amount paid for the timeshare.

The charges against Rose include money laundering, conspiracy and theft from programs receiving federal funds. Rose did not have a defense lawyer listed in court records Wednesday. Efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.

The charter elementary opened in 2001 and shuttered in September 2017, weeks after Hurricane Harvey landed in Houston. At the time, Rose said the school’s enrollment was too low to generate enough revenue to remain open.

Zoe Learning Academy received a failing grade on the 2017 state financial integrity rating scale for schools, one of four Texas charters to receive the designation. The charter district also failed to meet state academic standards in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

Will Betsy DeVos and other charter cheerleaders claim that the parents chose Zoe Learning Academy and we should respect their choices regardless of its academic ratings or its founder’s financial practices?

After all, it is the parents’ choice and we should respect that choice, right? Even if the founder has been indicted and arrested.

Bill Phillis in Ohio sent out this message. 

Cyber charters have a very poor record, both academically and financially.

The former head of the now-closed virtual charter school Akron Digital Academy misused $167,753 of school money through a shell vendor, according to a state audit released Tuesday.

“This is a very serious abuse of taxpayer dollars and we will seek to recover every penny,” Ohio Auditor Keith Faber said in a news release. “Abuse of public trust has a rippling effect on communities and will not be tolerated by my office.”

The school, burdened with financial problems relating to improperly tracking enrollment, quietly closed in June 2018. At the time, it was housed at 133 Merriman Road, the former home of Temple Israel owned by the Akron Hebrew Congregation, which moved to Bath in 2011.

From December 18, 2009 to February 8, 2013, the school issued payments totaling $167,753 to a vendor known as Individual Development and Education Achievement Services (IDEAS), supposedly for professional development services, according to the news release issued by the state auditor’s office. IDEAS would send invoices directly to Lashawn Terrell who signed them, signifying receipt of services.

On July 1, 2013, the state auditor’s Special Investigations Unit received a complaint alleging embezzlement. Auditors examined the bank activity of Terrell and the owner of IDEAS, Danielle Lumpkin, the news release said.

They identified 78 withdrawals totaling $137,575 issued from the IDEAS checking accounts that corresponded to deposits totaling $65,735 and $71,840 in Lumpkin and Terrell’s personal bank accounts.

Additionally, auditors found $30,160 in expenditures issued from the IDEAS checking accounts comprised of checks issued to Lumpkin for cash and debit card activity in merchant stores for personal purchases, the news release said.

Auditor Faber issued a finding for recovery for $167,753 against Lumpkin and Terrell.

The school closed last year after repayments to the state involving not properly tracking enrollment became too much of a burden on the virtual charter school’s budget, the school said at the time. .

The school’s monthly payments on the $2.8 million the state said it owed created a negative financial outlook through the next school year, said Linda Daugherty, the schoool’s former executive director said at the time. .

Akron Digital Academy was founded in 2002 by former Akron Education Association President Neil Quirk. The new school was meant to provide an alternative for Akron Public Schoolsstudents who were leaving for other charter schools and wanted more digital learning. It served students in grades 6-12.

Akron Public Schools was the sponsor until 2013, when Superintendent David James proposed closing the school for a range of issues. The school continually posted low academic scores. And enrollment had dipped to about 600 students as competition crept in from other charter schools, which were springing up in Akron.

James served on Akron Digital Academy’s board of directors at the time. The other board members blocked his attempt to close the school. And the district severed ties with the academy a month later by dropping its sponsorship agreement.

In this post, Jan Resseger challenges Cory Booker’s newly rediscovered support for privately managed charter schools. She says “that school choice privileges the few at the expense of the many.” That’s not quite right. If the charter school is staffed with inexperienced, under qualified teachers, if the charter is operated by grifters intent on profit, if the charter exercises harsh disciplines and has high suspension and dropout rates, if the charter lacks the financial stability to keep its doors open, then the children who enroll in them are by no means “privileged.” Instead they are marks, dupes, collateral damage.

She writes:

The essential point to remember about school choice—whether it is a system of private school tuition vouchers or privately operated but publicly funded charter schools—is that school choice privileges the few at the expense of the many.

The scale of the provision of K-12 education across our nation can best be achieved by the systemic, public provision of education. Rewarding social entrepreneurship in the startup of one charter school at a time cannot possibly serve the needs of the mass of our children and adolescents. In a new, September 2019 enrollment summary, the National Center for Education Statistics reports: “Between around 2000 and 2016, traditional public school… enrollment increased to 47.3 million (1 percent increase), charter school enrollment grew to 3.0 million students (from 0.4 million), and the number of homeschooled students nearly doubled to 1.7 million. Private school enrollment fell 4 percent, to 5.8 million students.”

Booker argues for well-regulated and high-performing charter schools. The problem he fails to acknowledge is that charter schools were established beginning in the mid-1990s by state legislatures smitten with the idea of innovation and experimentation. None of these legislatures, to my knowledge, provided adequate oversight of the academic quality of the schools, and none imposed protections to guarantee the stewardship of public tax dollars.  Malfeasance, corruption, and poor performance plague charter schools across the states. Charter schools have now been established by state law across 45 states where stories of outrageous fiscal and academic scandals fill local newspapers. The Network for Public Education tracks the myriad examples of outrageous fraud and mismanagement by charter schools. Because advocates for school privatization and the entrepreneurs in the for-profit charter management companies regularly donate generously to the political coffers of state legislators—the very people responsible for passing laws to regulate this out-of-control sector—adequate oversight has proven impossible.

 

 

Jan Resseger is a profound thinker and a clear writer. I love reading what she writes. Jan is one of the Resistance leaders in my new book SLAYING GOLIATH: THE PASSIONATE RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZATION AND THE FIGHT TO SAVE AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

In this post, she explains to Democratic candidates why they should not waffle in their support for public schools.

Her explanation is a rallying cry for educators and parents. Print it out and pin it on the bulletin board next to your computer or tape it to your filing cabinet. Read it over and think about it.

She writes:

Here are my seven reasons for believing Democrats running for President ought to express strong support for public schools and opposition to charter schools:

First:   The scale of the provision of K-12 education across our nation can best be achieved by the systemic, public provision of schools.  Rewarding social entrepreneurship in the startup of one charter school at a time cannot possibly serve the needs of the mass of our children and adolescents. In a new, September 2019 enrollment summary, the National Center for Education Statistics reports: “Between around 2000 and 2016, traditional public school, public charter school, and homeschool enrollment increased, while private school enrollment decreased… Traditional public school enrollment increased to 47.3 million (1 percent increase), charter school enrollment grew to 3.0 million students (from 0.4 million), and the number of homeschooled students nearly doubled to 1.7 million. Private school enrollment fell 4 percent, to 5.8 million students.”

Second:   Public schools are our society’s most important civic institution. Public schools are not perfect, but they are the optimal way for our very complex society to balance the needs of each particular child and family with a system that secures the rights and addresses the needs of all children. Because public schools are responsible to the public, it is possible through elected school boards, open meetings, transparent record keeping and redress through the courts to ensure that traditional public schools provide access for all children. While our society has not fully realized justice for every child in the public schools, it is by striving systemically to improve access and opportunity in the public schools that we have the best chance of securing the rights of all children.

Third:   Charter schools are parasites sucking essential dollars from the public school districts where they are located. The political economist Gordon Lafer explains that the expansion of charter schools cannot possibly be revenue neutral for the host school district losing students to charter schools: “To the casual observer, it may not be obvious why charter schools should create any net costs at all for their home districts. To grasp why they do, it is necessary to understand the structural differences between the challenge of operating a single school—or even a local chain of schools—and that of a district-wide system operating tens or hundreds of schools and charged with the legal responsibility to serve all students in the community.  When a new charter school opens, it typically fills its classrooms by drawing students away from existing schools in the district…  If, for instance, a given school loses five percent of its student body—and that loss is spread across multiple grade levels, the school may be unable to lay off even a single teacher… Plus, the costs of maintaining school buildings cannot be reduced…. Unless the enrollment falloff is so steep as to force school closures, the expense of heating and cooling schools, running cafeterias, maintaining digital and wireless technologies, and paving parking lots—all of this is unchanged by modest declines in enrollment. In addition, both individual schools and school districts bear significant administrative responsibilities that cannot be cut in response to falling enrollment. These include planning bus routes and operating transportation systems; developing and auditing budgets; managing teacher training and employee benefits; applying for grants and certifying compliance with federal and state regulations; and the everyday work of principals, librarians and guidance counselors.” “If a school district anywhere in the country—in the absence of charter schools—announced that it wanted to create a second system-within-a-system, with a new set of schools whose number, size, specialization, budget, and geographic locations would not be coordinated with the existing school system, we would regard this as the poster child of government inefficiency and a waste of tax dollars. But this is indeed how the charter school system functions.”

Fourth:   While some predicted the expansion of charter schools would improve academic achievement on a broad scale, children in traditional public schools and charter schools perform about the same.  According to the new report from the National Center for Education Statistics, “Academic Performance: In 2017, at grades 4 and 8, no measurable differences in average reading and mathematics scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were observed between students in traditional public and public charter schools.”

Fifth:   Opposing for-profit charter schools misses the point.  In most states, charter schools themselves must be nonprofits, but the nonprofit boards of directors of these schools may hire a for-profit management company to operate the school. Two of the most notorious examples of the ripoffs of tax dollars in nonprofit (managed-for-profit) charter schools were in my state, Ohio. The late David Brennan, the father of Ohio charter schools, set up sweeps contracts with the nonprofit schools managed by his for-profit White Hat Management Company.  The boards of these schools—frequently people with ties to Brennan and his operations—turned over to White Hat Management more than 90 percent of the dollars awarded by the state to the nonprofit charters. These were secret deals. Neither the public nor the members of the nonprofit charter school boards of directors could know how the money was spent; nor did they know how much profit Brennan’s for-profit raked off the top. Then there was Bill Lager, the founder of Ohio’s infamous Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow—technically a nonprofit.  All management of the online charter school and the design and provision of its curriculum were turned over to Lager’s privately owned, for-profit companies—Altair Management and IQ Innovations. ECOT was shut down in 2018 for charging the state for thousands of students who were not really enrolled. The state of Ohio is still in court trying to recover even a tiny percentage of Lager’s lavish profits.

Sixth:   Malfeasance, corruption, and poor performance plague charter schools across the states. Because charter schools were established by state law across the 45 states where charters operate, and because much of the state charter school enabling legislation featured innovation and experimentation and neglected oversight, the scandals fill local newspapers. The Network for Public Education tracks the myriad examples of outrageous fraud and mismanagement by charter schools.  Because neoliberal ideologues and the entrepreneurs in the for-profit charter management companies regularly donate generously to the political coffers of state legislators—the very people responsible for passing laws to regulate this out-of-control sector, adequate oversight has proven impossible.

Seventh:   The federal Charter Schools Program should be shut down immediately. Here is a brief review of the Network for Public Education’s findings in last spring’s Asleep at the Wheel report.  A series of federal administrations—Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump have treated the federal Charter Schools Program (part of the Office of Innovation and Improvement in the U.S. Department of Education) as a kind of venture capital fund created and administered to stimulate social entrepreneurship—by individuals or big nonprofits or huge for-profits—as a substitute for public operation of the public schools. Since the program’s inception in 1994, the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) has awarded $4 billion in federal tax dollars to start up or expand charter schools across 44 states and the District of Columbia, and has provided some of the funding for 40 percent of all the charter schools across the country. The CSP has lacked oversight since the beginning, and during the Obama and Trump administrations—when the Department of Education’s own Office of Inspector General released a series of scathing critiques of the program—grants have been made based on the application alone with little attempt by officials in the Department of Education to verify the information provided by applicants. The Network for Public Education found that the CSP has spent over a $1 billion on schools that never opened or were opened and subsequently shut down: “The CSP’s own analysis from 2006-2014 of its direct and state pass-through funded programs found that nearly one out of three awardees were not currently in operation by the end of 2015.”

Last June in The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner defined the political philosophy known as neoliberalism and showed how this kind of thinking has driven privatization across many sectors previously operated, for the public good, by government: “Since the late 1970s. we’ve had a grand experiment to test the claim that free markets really do work best… (I)n the 1970s, libertarian economic theory got another turn at bat…  Neoliberalism’s premise is that free markets can regulate themselves; that government is inherently incompetent, captive to special interests, and an intrusion on the efficiency of the market; that in distributive terms, market outcomes are basically deserved; and that redistribution creates perverse incentives by punishing the economy’s winners and rewarding its losers. So government should get out of the market’s way.”

For three decades, neoliberalism has reigned in education policy. The introduction of the neoliberal ideal of competition—supposedly to drive school improvement—through vouchers for private school tuition and in the expansion of charter schools has become acceptable to members of both political parties.

The late political philosopher Benjamin Barber explains elegantly and precisely what is wrong with neoliberal thinking in general. I think his words apply directly to what has been happening as charter schools have been expanded to more and more states. The candidates running for President who prefer to waffle on the advisability of school privatization via charter schools ought to consider Barber’s analysis:

“Privatization is a kind of reverse social contract: it dissolves the bonds that tie us together into free communities and democratic republics. It puts us back in the state of nature where we possess a natural right to get whatever we can on our own, but at the same time lose any real ability to secure that to which we have a right. Private choices rest on individual power… personal skills… and personal luck.  Public choices rest on civic rights and common responsibilities, and presume equal rights for all.  Public liberty is what the power of common endeavor establishes, and hence presupposes that we have constituted ourselves as public citizens by opting into the social contract. With privatization, we are seduced back into the state of nature by the lure of private liberty and particular interest; but what we experience in the end is an environment in which the strong dominate the weak… the very dilemma which the original social contract was intended to address.” (Consumed, pp. 143-144)

 

 

Working with his treasure trove of emails among charter operators, which he obtained via a public records request, blogger Michael Kohlhaas explains how the Charter Lobby managed to reduce the powers of the Office of Inspector General, whose investigations into corrupt charters had been a thorn in their side.

This is an important post. Read it in full. The charter lobby dedicates a lot of time and money to avoiding accountability and transparency.

He begins:

The Los Angeles Unified School District has a particularly powerful oversight office, the Office of the Inspector General, known in the trade jargon as OIG. And in 2018 the School Board failed to renew then-IG Ken Bramlett’s contract. According to LA Times education reporter Howard Blume, pro-charter board members Monica Garcia, Kelly Gonez, and Nick Melvoin voted against renewal, which was enough to deadlock the board and prevent Bramlett’s return. Blume also noted that Bramlett had aggressively investigated some charter schools, in some cases leading to criminal charges being filed, and that charter schools had been clamoring for limits on OIG’s ability to investigate them but he stopped short of saying that Bramlett’s fall from grace was due to charter school influence.

And later a bunch of overwhelmingly salacious details of a number of really appalling and quite serious hostile work environment complaints against some of Bramlett’s senior subordinates came out along with credible accusations that Bramlett had at best failed to take these complaints seriously. Regardless of the validity of the uproar, and it seems quite valid indeed to me, this had the effect of directing most of the media attention away from charter school involvement in Bramlett’s downfall. Not entirely, though. For instance, Kyle Stokes, education reporter with KPCC, did mention that charter schools had been seeking to limit OIG’s role in overseeing them, although in that same article noted that “sources who spoke to KPCC said that concern over charter oversight was not a factor in the board’s thinking”

But newly published internal documents from the Los Angeles Advocacy Council, a shadowy organization run by the California Charter School Association and about 20 local charter school leaders, paint a very different picture. In fact LAAC and the CCSA give themselves credit for taking advantage of the chaos at OIG in order to effectively remove oversight of charter schools from OIG’s purview.

Not only that but they claim to have kept quiet about the issue in order to protect their public image. In the same document they also claim that they were asked to do so by unnamed people in the District who promised CCSA and LAAC that “they would handle it, and they followed through” Given some statements in another document it’s not impossible that convicted felon and then Board member Ref Rodriguez was one of these unnamed people. The charterites were thrilled by the outcome of their work against OIG oversight, announcing that it “should be seen as a major win by and for the charter community.” Perhaps this media strategy underlay Stokes’s sources’ comment about charter involvement in Bramlett’s non-renewal.

 

The Charter Industry has insisted that charter schools need no regulation, supervision, or oversight so they can have maximum flexibility. But where government money flows, accountability is imperative.

The importance of accountability was demonstrated again recently in Dallas, where the CEO of a charter school was convicted of steering a contract to a friend in exchange for a kickback.

Donna Houston-Woods, CEO of Nova Academy charter school, was convicted of all four counts against her: three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Houston-Woods, 65, the school’s longtime chief executive, approved the $337,951 federal contract for the firm by copying the bid of a competing company that was initially selected for the job, the government alleged.

ADI’s owner, Donatus Anyanwu, returned the favor by secretly paying Houston-Woods about $50,000 in kickbacks, prosecutors said.

Anyanwu, 61, pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme in July. He did not testify during the weeklong wire and mail fraud trial in downtown Dallas.

Houston-Woods and Anyanwu were indicted in December 2017. Houston-Woods was accused of using her position as head of Nova Academy to steer the federal contract to ADI in return for kickbacks. ADI botched the job and shouldn’t have gotten the contract in the first place, prosecutors said.

 

Josh Moon of the Alabama Political Reporter reports that Montgomery’s first charter school has devolved into a chaotic messonly six weeks after opening. 

LEAD Academy, Montgomery’s first charter school, has been a chaotic mess since it opened less than six weeks ago, with staffing shortages leaving more than 70 students crammed into one class, angry teachers left without necessary supplies, student shortages threatening the school, extensive discipline issues and an ongoing fight between staff and the LEAD board over a strange contract that faculty members are being forced to sign several weeks after school has started, according to numerous LEAD teachers and employees who spoke with APR. 

Most of the issues have remained internal, with few details leaking outside of LEAD’s walls … until Friday, when the school’s first principal, Nicole Ivey, resigned unexpectedly. Almost immediately, rumors began to swirl and worried faculty members started to discuss the multitude of issues at LEAD. 

Two staff members who worked closely with Ivey said she ultimately resigned after a heated argument with LEAD board president Charlotte Meadows, who was pushing Ivey to require the staff to sign an at-will work contract which would allow the board to fire or reduce the pay of any LEAD employee without cause. But those staff members, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear that they could be fired by Meadows, said Ivey’s resignation was likely inevitable due to a litany of mismanagement issues and odd decisions by leadership at the school….

For several weeks now, LEAD Academy staff members and their family members have been sending APR information about problems at the school. Prior to Friday, those issues ranged from the mundane to something just short of serious. But following Ivey’s resignation, a flood of information, including details of troubling safety issues and possible fraud allegations, came pouring in from LEAD staffers….

”This is the craziest place I’ve ever worked,” said one employee who has experience working in other school districts in Alabama. “There are no rules. They don’t follow the law. And when you ask Charlotte about it, or say that we can’t do something because it’s illegal, she’ll just tell you that ‘LEAD is a charter school and charter schools don’t follow laws.’”

”Lawless” is the word that teachers use most often to describe the school.

Read the story.

Then ask yourself, why do Alabama state leaders want to inflict this disruption and chaos on children? Why do Republican politicians think that schools like this are just what children in their state need? Do they want to dumb down future generations? Are they preparing children for a jobless economy where robots make decisions? What’s the game?

 

 

During the protests in Hong Kong, demonstrators carried placards of Timothy Snyder’s lessons about losing democracy.

 

On Tyranny: the Road to Unfreedom

Timothy Snyder – Yale University – Nov 15, 2016.

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics.
When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of- law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed.
Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Learn about sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. Practice corporeal politics.
Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. Hinder the one-party state.
The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a
historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. Establish a private life.
Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.