Archives for category: Cruelty

Now, here is an example of the extremism and stupidity that has overtaken the Republican Party. A group of 21 Republican legislators in South Carolina want to impose the death penalty on any woman who gets an abortion. They assert that life begins at the instant of conception so any act that ends the life should require the murder of the woman who ended the pregnancy, even if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

Let’s say that a 12-year-old girl is raped by a member of her family. She must carry the child of rape to term or be killed by the state. Meanwhile, her rapist walks free. Her life is worth nothing compared to that of the fetus.

It seems clear that the pro-life Freedom Caucus cares only about the lives of the unborn, not the lives of women who are pregnant. Why is one life more valuable than the other?

South Carolina Republican lawmakers are considering a bill that would make a person who has an abortion eligible for the death penalty.

The bill, titled the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023, would change the state’s criminal code and redefine “person” to include a fertilized egg at the point of conception.

According to the bill, the change would “ensure that an unborn child who is a victim of homicide is afforded equal protection under the homicide laws of the state.” Under South Carolina law, that includes the death penalty.

The bill provides exceptions for pregnant people who had an abortion if they were “compelled to do so by the threat of imminent death or great bodily injury” and also provides an exception if the abortion was done to save the life of the mother. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

Rolling Stone wrote about this story as well.

Rep. Rob Harris, a sponsor of the bill, is a member of the Freedom Caucus. Asked if he saw any irony between being a member of the so-called “Freedom Caucus” while proposing such harsh restrictions on reproductive freedoms, Harris responded simply: “Murder of the pre-born is harsh.”

John Thompson is a retired teacher and historian in Oklahoma who follows the goings-on in his state closely. I wish there were someone like him in every state: wise, experienced, intelligent, articulate.

What was Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters thinking when, this weekend, he posted on Twitter a photo of a White, blond, young woman washing her hands in a bathroom with two Black, young women in the mirror next to her? To see the photo, click here.

Walters added the message, “I will always fight for students,” and “Student Safety over liberal agenda.” But, why would Walters see the photo as a real-life portrait of Blacks threatening Whites?

Since I’m not familiar with the insides of female students’ bathrooms, I checked out the 1.3k replies to the post. One responder found the same three young women in another photo that indicates it didn’t capture a real-life interaction. Another apparently found the source of the photo, a Linkedin post by Femly, entitled Period Equity Laws: Here’s why organizations should go above and beyond to ensure their period care offering is equitable! So, it appears to me that Femly’s message is about combating the stigma and shame that surrounds menstruation, even though Ryan’s use of the photo obviously sent the opposite message in terms of race.

One response on Twitter asked why Walters would choose “a period equity ad and then present it in such as a way that it looks pro-segregation?” But another had a different answer, noting that one of the Black students “clearly has books in that backpack. I’ll bet they’re books that promote CRT—books about the Tulsa Massacre or the Trail of Tears.”

Seriously, these tweets all add support for the editorial, It’s Time for Ryan Walters to End Disparaging Rhetoric or Resign, by the Oklahoman’s managing editor for diversity, community engagement & opinion, Clytie Bunyan. Bunyan wrote the “tweet was the latest of Walters’ blatant and unapologetic insults on Oklahoma.” She also provided context:

When you’re looking at curricula and allowing European history but surgically removing Black history, that’s racism. When Walters poses for a Christmas photo with his family with a white Santa and declares “No Woke Santa this year” at a time when stories about the popularity of a Black Santa and representation from a Native American Santa are published and aired in local media, that’s racism.

Bunyan correctly noted that Walters has:

Problems with messaging. His incessant video tweets are filled with offensive racist implications. He apparently believes we, the people of Oklahoma, have given him the authority to be unabashedly racist in his dog-whistling pronouncements.

Buynan notes that the “confusing tweet” … “leaves no positive benchmark, only angst, tension and more poison spreading through Oklahoma.” So, if he can’t do more than spread discord, he should “resign.”

As was demonstrated in the previous week, Walters is not alone spewing hatred and racism. So, I wonder what was on the minds of the Republican House members who censured and removed Rep. Mauree Turner from her committees. What did they think was in the head of the nation’s first, non-binary, Black Muslim, when she spoke with Capitol law enforcement agents before giving them access to her office and a trans-gender demonstrator? As Politico explained, “the spouse of a protester who threw water on a state lawmaker sought shelter in their office.”

Politico also recounted the abuse and death threats Turner has received, and it added an Editor’s note:

Turner read aloud from an email sent to their inbox. The sender hurled racist, transphobic, homophobic and Islamophobic insults at Turner and said they should be shunned from society because they were a burden. POLITICO has chosen not to print the insults so as not to elevate hateful rhetoric.

So, what did Turner have in mind when speaking with the police? Rep. Turner has witnessed the stress created by 40 anti-trans and/or anti-LGBTQ bills that have been filed this session. The protest was against “HB 2177, a bill that would outlaw gender-affirming health care for transgender minors.” And clearly, Turner and her supporters were being treated differently than the two legislators who are being prosecuted for felonies.

And, I wonder what the Republican leadership was thinking when they failed to talk with Turner before filing the censure without warning. And I wonder what Republicans who were quietly embarrassed by it were feeling when they stripped Turner’s and her district’s representation in committees.

Of course, there are questions about what plenty of Oklahoma MAGA’s had in mind when they’ve made extreme statements. For instance, what did Gov. Stitt mean when he claimed “every square inch” of Oklahoma for Jesus? And what was Sen. Shane Jett thinking when attacking Social and Emotional Learning as a leftist plot to “psychologically manipulate children and surveil Oklahoma families under the guise of addressing trauma.”

Then, what was in the minds of Republicans who voted down a bipartisan bill, HB 1028 which “would prohibit schools from administering corporal punishment to “any student identified with disability in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

As the Washington Post reported, “Oklahoma state Rep. John Talley thought his bill to bar schools from spanking children with disabilities would find little to no opposition at the state’s legislature.” After all, he “had a call with a U.S. Marshal who told me his autistic daughter got spanked three times in a day for not doing her math correctly — there’s a point when you have to step up and say ‘this is just wrong.’”

But, “what seemed like a rare bipartisan moment quickly came crashing down as other Republican lawmakers invoked the Bible to argue against Talley’s House Bill 1028, claiming in some instances that ‘God’s word is higher than all the so-called experts,’ as Rep. Jim Olsen posited during the proposed legislation’s debate.” The Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel reported that Olsen further explained, “Somebody mentioned that American (Academy of) Pediatrics thinks (spanking) is a bad idea.” Then, “After reading Bible verses he said prove that God condones corporal punishment. ‘I disagree. And I have a higher authority.’”

In other words, every week since the Oklahoma legislature convened, rightwing extremists have continually hurled one cruel and irrational assault after another at our democracy. It seems like more Republicans are disturbed by this MAGA craziness. A few have spoken out against a few of the behaviors that they see as wrong. So, I wonder what is in the minds of Republicans who are being pressured to vote for such a brutal agenda. I wonder when they will reach a point when you have to step up and say “this is just wrong.”

John Thompson added as a postscript:

“Several people were a little nervous about voting for it because they thought they were voting against the Bible,” said [John] Talley, R-Stillwater,” and he’s working to get those Republicans to reconsider their votes.

In 2025, Texas passed a ridiculous law stating that if a school district had even one school that was deemed to be “failing,” the state could take over the entire school district. Houston has one high school, Wheatley High School, that has persistently low test scores (and also unusually high percentages of students with special needs and other groups of high-needs students).

The State Department of Education has been trying for years to seize control of the Houston public schools. The state superintendent, appointed by callous Governor Gregg Abbott is software engineer Mike Morath, whose sole claim to educational “experience” is having served on the Dallas school board.

These Republicans do not believe in local control of schools. They believe the state should take away local control, the easier to erode democracy and advance privatization.

Ruth Kravetz, a former teacher and administrator in the Houston Independent School District, now leads an organization called Community Voices for Public Schools. She wrote an editorial in The Texas Observer (where I published my first article) denouncing the threatened takeover as “unfair, racist, and wasteful.”

As a 1956 graduate of HISD, I take this personally.

After years of wrangling and legal battles, the state took control of HISD a few days ago.

Kravetz writes:

I am a parent and teacher with Community Voices for Public Education, a Houston-based nonprofit rooted in the belief that our community schools are a public good, not a commodity to be sold off to the highest bidder. That is why we, along with many other Houstonians, have protested the attempted state takeover of Houston ISD for years—a dramatic assault on local control that may take place this week.

At a February protest, HISD student Elizabeth Rodriguez stated, “Instead of punishing us with a takeover, our schools should be better funded to make sure students have all the support we need and the facilities we deserve. We are not just test scores.”

Contrary to what you may hear from some Republican leaders, Houston Independent School District (HISD) is not a failing district. HISD received a B grade in the most recent state school ratings and is AAA bond-rated.

Why, then, is Houston ISD even under threat of a takeover?

In 2015, Texas passed a law that allows the state to take over an entire school district if even one campus is rated F in standardized test performance for five years. The state says the rationale for the takeover is Wheatley High School’s low 2019 accountability rating and problems with the HISD school board. Since 2019, when the takeover bid began, Houston ISD had successfully delayed Texas’ efforts, but the GOP-controlled state Supreme Court cleared the state’s legal path in January.

In the past few years, HISD already proved that local control works: Since 2019, voters elected an almost entirely new school board, and students and teachers worked to bring Wheatley’s state score up to a C in 2022. Since 2015, HISD reduced its number of low-performing schools from 58 to nine, which is fewer than are found in Dallas ISD. Even using the state’s deeply flawed accountability system to rate schools, Houston ISD comes out fine.

Nevertheless, the state’s takeover efforts persist. If successful, a state-appointed board of managers will make all policy decisions with Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath pulling the strings behind the scenes. HISD’s democratically elected board will only have a ceremonial role with no voting authority. And the kicker is that the unelected Morath, who’s appointed by Governor Greg Abbott, has full discretion to expand the takeover. The superintendent could also be replaced, and individual schools could be parceled off to charter school operators—such as YES, KIPP, IDEA, and churches—with the usual consequences as seen around the country.

Charter schools often purposefully underenroll students with disabilities and other at-risk children, inflating their state accountability ratings. Should this occur in Houston following a takeover, the state will likely take the credit in its accountability shell game.

A takeover may also lead to teachers leaving the district, creating more classroom vacancies. The chances for a bond to replace older elementary schools will go out the window. If other takeovers are any indication, we can also expect more of our taxpayer dollars to go to costly consultants than to the needs of children.

If all this doesn’t make you mad, how about this? Over and over again, the governor and the TEA commissioner have moved the goalposts in the middle of the game.

In 2019, Wheatley High initially received a passing grade from the TEA, but the agency later changed its scoring criteria and applied them retroactively. And in January, TEA publicly announced more rule changes that will be implemented immediately and applied retroactively to last year’s seniors, whose data is counted in this year’s accountability rating. At the high school level, schools that were projecting a B rating are now projecting a D. School districts around the state are raising the alarm about the change.

We tell our children they have to be honest and to play by the rules; we should expect the governor and TEA commissioner to do the same.

Unfortunately, the state takeover of Houston ISDhas nothing to do with student needs. It is about power, profits, and a willful disregard for children living in poverty.

As I ponder the district’s future, I am reminded of a student I once taught. When I went to his house to help him think about college, he had no electricity and the only furniture in the house was a bed, an engine block, and a chair. He did his homework by a street lamp outside. The last thing he needed was more pressure to meet arbitrary standardized testing goals or for the state to punish his school for serving low-income students like himself.

From Beaumont to New Orleans to Detroit, takeovers—which disproportionately target districts with high Black and Brown political participation—do not improve student achievement and experiences.

Please open the link to finish this excellent article.

Governor Abbott and Mike Morath don’t have any idea how to improve schools or districts. They do know how to loot them and privatize them for the benefit of their cronies and campaign donors.

Shame on you, Governor Abbott and Mike Morath!

ProPublica wrote recently about a powerful organization of far-right conservatives that carefully avoids public scrutiny. They are wealthy, powerful, and networked, thanks to the Federalist Society and its mastermind Leonard Leo. Leo is the guy who picked judges for Trump and engineered the selection of Brett Kanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett.

Please read this article about Teneo, an organization with long tentacles and a goal of crushing liberal ideas, ideas that are central to our democracy.

A few tidbits:

ProPublica and Documented have obtained more than 50 hours of internal Teneo videos and hundreds of pages of documents that reveal the organization’s ambitious agenda, influential membership and burgeoning clout. We have also interviewed Teneo members and people familiar with the group’s activities. The videos, documents and interviews provide an unfiltered look at the lens through which the group views the power of the left — and how it plans to combat it.

In response to questions for this story, Leo said in a statement: “Teneo’s young membership proves that the conservative movement is poised to be even more talented, driven, and successful in the future. This is a group that knows how to build winning teams.”

The records show Teneo’s members have included a host of prominent names from the conservative vanguard, including such elected officials as U.S. Sens. J.D. Vance of Ohio and Missouri’s Josh Hawley, a co-founder of the group. Other members have included Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, now the fourth-ranking House Republican, as well as Nebraska’s attorney general and Virginia’s solicitor general. Three senior aides to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, are members. Another is the federal judge who struck down a Biden administration mask mandate. The heads of the Republican Attorneys General Association, Republican State Leadership Committee and Turning Point USA — all key cogs in the world of national conservative politics — have been listed as Teneo members…

Teneo co-founder Evan Baehr, a tech entrepreneur and veteran of conservative activism, said in a 2019 video for new members that Teneo had “many, many, many dozens” of members working in the Trump administration, including in the White House, State Department, Justice Department and Pentagon. “They’re everywhere….”

Soon after Leo took an interest in Teneo, the group’s finances soared. Annual revenue reached$2.3 million in 2020 and nearly $5 million in 2021, according to tax records. In 2021, the bulk of Teneo’s income — more than $3 million — came from one source: DonorsTrust, a clearinghouse for conservative, libertarian and other charitable gifts that masks the original source of the money. In 2020, the Leo-run group that received the Chicago business owner’s $1.6 billion donation gave $41 million to DonorsTrust, which had $1.5 billion in assets as of 2021.

Teneo’s other funders have included marquee conservative donors: hedge fund investor Paul Singer, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, the Charles Koch Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and the DeVos family, according to Baehr.

As the group’s finances improved, its videos became much more professionally produced, and its website underwent a dramatic upgrade from previous iterations. All of this was part of what Baehr called “Teneo 2.0,” a major leap forward for the group, driven in part by Leo’s guidance and involvement….

Many of the connections happen at Teneo’s annual retreat, which brings together hundreds of members and their spouses, plus allies including politicians like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and DeSantis as well as business leaders and prominent academics. Speakers at past Teneo retreats have included luminaries spanning politics, culture, business and the law: New York Times columnist David Brooks, federal judge Trevor McFadden, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, “Woke, Inc.” author and 2024 presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, former Trump cabinet official and 2024 presidential hopeful Nikki Haley, ultrawealthy donors and activists Dick and Betsy DeVos, and Chick-fil-A board chair Dan Cathy.

These are the only posts today. Read them. Think about it. What did you learn? What should we do? None of us is a billionaire. How can we save our democracy?

Organize. Be informed. Vote.

Several years ago, I went to an art house cinema to see a film about Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Society. I didn’t know much about this group other than that they were students who stood up to the Nazis and lost their lives. I am always interested in learning true stories about people who demonstrated courage against overwhelming odds. The film was indeed moving and inspiring. It ends when Sophie and her brother are guillotined. The audience knew the ending, yet many sat in stunned silence as a gesture of respect for these brave young Germans. Some wept.

Thanks to Greg B., I learned that the last surviving member of the White Rose Society just died, at the age of 103. Her name was Traute Lafrenze. She was repeatedly imprisoned. After the war, she moved to the U.S. She married an American. She died in South Carolina. The German government awarded her its highest civilian honor on her 100th birthday.

Read about her in The Smithsonian.

Or the New York Times.

She and the White Rose Society, these courageous idealistic young Germans, should be remembered forever. That is their ultimate triumph over the monster who murdered them.

I had the pleasure of speaking by Zoom to a meeting of the Pastors for Florida Children. The event was reported by Baptist Global News.

The morning session was also addressed by Baptist minister and retired Arkansas Judge Wendell Griffen. Although we have never met, our messages were in synch: Do not let the authoritarian Governor Ron DeSantis intimidate you!

Baptist minister and retired Arkansas judge Wendell Griffen stood before an audience of faith leaders and education advocates in Tallahassee, Fla., March 9, pointed to his lapel and dared Gov. Ron DeSantis to have him apprehended for being politically and racially aware.

“I wore a ‘woke’ button on purpose. I want to get arrested for being woke. I plead guilty to being woke. I want to be convicted of being woke,” Griffen said during a prayer breakfast sponsored by Pastors for Florida Children.

Wendell Griffen

Griffen, a BNG columnist and pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, urged the in-person and virtual interfaith and multiracial audience to be equally defiant of Florida’s political leaders. “Be a community of prophets but teach as one and correct, confront, organize, interact, defy, dissent, disrupt.”

Jewish, Christian and Muslim participants who prayed ahead of the speeches by Griffen and education historian Diane Ravitch focused on DeSantis’ prohibition of books that teach about racial injustice and inclusion….

Please open the link and read his bold, wise, and brave advice.

Ravitch opened with a double-barreled barrage at DeSantis’ efforts to dismantle freedom of inquiry in public schools.

“I write a daily blog, and I find that it’s being overwhelmed by the bad news from Florida,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be anything good coming from your elected officials. If anything, it seems to be building a more and more authoritarian empire to control the thinking of everybody in the state.”

She said DeSantis seems to be going out of his way to disprove Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous saying that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“Your governor and your legislature are trying to flatten that arc so that it does not bend
towards justice,” she declared.

Current political events in Florida do not impact public schools alone, Ravitch said. “Florida today is at the very apex of a movement to turn the clock back a century, to turn the clock back on religious freedom, on racial justice and on all the evolution we have experienced over this past century to make ours a more just society. Your governor is creating a model of thought control and calling it freedom. Every time I see him standing in front of a banner that says ‘freedom,’ I’m reminded of George Orwell’s 1984, where freedom equals slavery.”

The conservative attack on the concept of “woke” is another sign of burgeoning authoritarianism, she said.

“We have to redeem that word. It means being awake — awake to injustice, awake to history, awake to all the things that are wrong in our society and that have been wrong over the centuries. And his (DeSantis’) idea of woke is simply to eliminate critical thinking about history and even knowledge of history. And this is very dangerous.”

And that’s only the beginning.

Dana Milbank, a fabulous columnist at The Washington Post, reviews Kevin McCarthy’s long record of claiming that he didn’t know, he didn’t see it, he didn’t hear it, he has no opinion.

After McCarthy gave 40,000 hours of security video from January 6, 2021, to Tucker Carlson, he was surprised to hear that Tucker Carlson took clips to “prove” that nothing much happened that day. He was confused. I’m confused too as I thought that Carlson had long advanced the claim that the insurrection and violence that we saw that day was actually a “false flag” operation, manipulated by the FBI, Antifa, and Black Lives Matter. All along, Carlson has pandered to his viewers by insisting that Trump supporters had nothing to do with the turmoil and desecration of the nation’s Capitol.

Just another day at the Capitol is the new line at FOX. If you thought otherwise, your eyes deceived you. The insurrectionists were actually peaceful protestors, now victims and patriots.

This new line was too much for many of the Republicans who were there that day and ran for their lives.

Milbank wrote:

Not since the Know-Nothing Party disappeared in the 1850s has a public figure boasted about his ignorance with as much gusto as Kevin McCarthy does.

It doesn’t seem to matter what you ask the speaker of the House. He hasn’t read it, seen it or heard about it.

The explosive documents from the Dominion case showing Fox News hosts privately said Donald Trump’s election lies were hokum but promoted the lies on air anyway?

“I didn’t read all that. I didn’t see all that,” McCarthy told The Post.

The way Fox News’s Tucker Carlson (predictably) manipulated the Jan. 6, 2021, security footage McCarthy (foolishly) gave the propagandist, giving the false appearance that the bloody insurrection was “mostly peaceful”?

“I didn’t see what was aired,” McCarthy asserted.

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, in an implicit rebuke of McCarthy, blasting the Carlson propaganda while holding up a statement from the Capitol Police chief denouncing Fox News’s “outrageous,” “false” and “offensive” portrayal of the insurrection?

You guessed it. McCarthy “didn’t see” McConnell do that.

The benighted McCarthy has been amassing this impressive body of obtuseness for some time. If ignorance is bliss, the California Republican has been in nirvana for years now.

How about Trump’s speech on the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021, provoking the sacking of the Capitol?

“I didn’t watch it,” McCarthy said.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) calling the insurrectionists’ rampage a “normal tourist visit”?

“I don’t know what Congressman Clyde said,” quoth McCarthy, and “I didn’t see it.

When his own designated negotiator reached a bipartisan agreement to form a commission to probe the Jan. 6 attack (a commission McCarthy ultimately killed)?

I haven’t read through it.”

Trump, in a recorded phone call, demanding Georgia’s secretary of state “find” enough votes to overturn the election results?

I have to hear it first.”

Trump telling four congresswomen of color (three of them U.S.-born) to “go back” where they came from, prompting chants of “send her back” among his rallygoers?

I didn’t get to see the rally.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) harassing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) with shouts and slander just off the House floor?

I didn’t see that. I don’t know what happened.”

Trump’s ludicrous allegation that former GOP congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough may have murdered a staffer?

“I don’t quite know about the subject itself. I don’t know this subject well.”

Trump’s scandalous claim that Democrats inflated the death toll from a hurricane in Puerto Rico to “make me look as bad as possible”?

“I haven’t read it yet,” McCarthy pleaded.

At best, McCarthy’s willful cluelessness is just a dodge. But this week, McCarthy’s see-no-evil approach was just plain evil.

After Carlson aired his phony portrayal of the insurrection, several Republicans finally spoke up about Fox News’s lies: “Inexcusable and bull—-” (Sen. Thom Tillis, N.C.), “whitewashing” (Sen. Lindsey Graham, S.C.), “dangerous and disgusting” (Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah).

Then there was McCarthy, questioned by reporters just outside the speaker’s office, which the supposedly “peaceful” insurrectionists had ransacked that terrible day.

“Do you regret giving him this footage so he could whitewash the events of that day?” asked CNN’s Manu Raju.

“No,” McCarthy replied, adding some gibberish about “transparency” (which is the very opposite of Carlson’s fabrication).

“Do you agree with his portrayal of what happened that day?” Raju pressed.

“Look,” McCarthy said. “Each person can come up with their own conclusion.”

Talk about dangerous and disgusting. Given a choice between fact and fiction, between law and anarchy, between democracy and thuggery, the speaker of the House proclaimed his agnosticism. In doing so, he threw the power of the speakership behind the insurrectionists and against the constitutional order he swore to uphold. McCarthy’s leadership team even endorsed Carlson’s fakery, promoting a link to the segment from the House GOP conference’s official Twitter account with four alarm emojis and a “MUST WATCH” recommendation.

Of course, were McCarthy to turn against Fox News, the speaker, weakened by the promises he made to secure the speakership, would be swiftly replaced by the likes of GOP caucus chair Elise Stefanik of New York (who claimed Carlson’s propaganda “demolished” the “Democrats’ dishonest narrative” about Jan. 6), or Rep. Tom Massie (R-Ky.), who went on Carlson’s show to congratulate him on his deception.

So McCarthy sells out democracy to preserve his title. He gave the security footage to Carlson in the first place because he promised that to the far-right Republicans denying him the speakership during his 15-ballot quinceañera in January.

Even Fox Corp.’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch, has expressed some regret over the network’s role in perpetrating Trump’s “big lie,” saying it should have been “stronger in denouncing it.” The internal documents exposed in the Dominion lawsuit show beyond any doubt that Fox News hosts knew the truth about the 2020 election and yet encouraged viewers night after night to believe Trump’s lies.

Those hosts continue to deceive and manipulate viewers nightly. The same day Carlson aired his Jan. 6 fabrication, Trump said on Sean Hannity’s radio show that he would have been willing to let Vladimir Putin “take over” parts of Ukraine. But when Hannity played excerpts of the interview on Fox News, the network edited out Trump’s proposed surrender.

The latest Fox News lies have proven too much for the Senate GOP leader. Though McConnell has enabled Trump at crucial moments, he said at a news conference this week that it was “a mistake” for Fox News to portray the insurrection “in a way that’s completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here in the Capitol thinks.”

Yet McCarthy continues to put himself before his country. In just two months on the job, McCarthy “already … has done more than any party leader in Congress to enable the spread of Donald Trump’s Big Lie,” the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, charged on the Senate floor this week. The speaker, he said, “has made our democracy weaker.”

And McCarthy isn’t finished with his depredations. Greene, given a position of influence and respectability by the speaker, is launching a probe, complete with a field trip to a D.C. jail, into the “inhumane treatment” allegedly suffered by the accused insurrectionists awaiting trial. McCarthy has also given the green light to a new probe designed to challenge the conclusions of the Jan. 6 committee.

The man who will lead that panel, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), declared this week that Americans “didn’t see the other side” of the insurrection. “I think the truth is going to be somewhere between the violent videos and the supposedly peaceful actions there,” he said.

No. The only truth is that Jan. 6 was a violent attack on the seat of American democracy. There was nothing peaceful about an armed insurrection attempting to overturn an election — even if some people there that day weren’t themselves violent.

But that truth — and this democracy — are threatened by a dangerously weak speaker of the House, who has concluded that the only way to preserve his own power is to support Fox News in its sabotage of this country.

Steve Hinnefeld blogs about education politics in Indiana. In this post, he reminds us that “culture war” legislation targets people, not just an abstraction called “culture.”

They call it a culture war, but it’s not culture that’s under attack. Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly have declared war on real people: teachers, librarians, students and, especially, trans kids and their families. They’re the ones who will be harmed if legislators get their way.

And several education culture-war bills have advanced at the mid-point of the session. Three are especially egregious: ACLU Indiana calls them part of a “slate of hate.” One would ban medical treatment for transgender children, one promotes book-banning, and another would force schools to “out” children over their gender identity.

Senate Bill 480 is the bill banning medical treatment for transgender children. It prohibits “gender transition procedures” for anyone under 18, barring not only surgery but the use of puberty blockers or hormones to delay developmental changes, even if parents approve the treatment. It’s arguably the worst of five anti-trans measuresstill alive in the legislature.

It is part of a wave of attacks on transgender people, especially children, that has spread from one state to another. Nearly two years ago, the American Medical Association spoke out against the bills, calling them “a dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine.” A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found trans youth who received gender-affirming medical care, including hormone blockers, were much less likely to experience severe depression.

It’s ironic that Republicans, who claim to be the party of parents’ rights, are trampling on the right of parents to decide on their children’s medical treatment.

Senate Bill 12 is the book-banning bill, and I don’t use the term lightly. If it becomes law, teachers and librarians, if they are accused of providing books or materials that are “harmful to minors,” will no longer be able to argue they were acting as educators. Providing material that’s harmful to minors is a felony, so teachers and librarians will likely purge their shelves of books that anyone might challenge.

There’s sure to be a chilling effect on educators who don’t want to risk controversy. In fact, that’s the intent. “I hope it does have a chilling effect,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville.

The bill requires public and charter schools to compile lists of all the books in their classrooms and libraries and post them on their websites. And it makes schools set up procedures for parents to complain about the books and petition to have them removed. Supporters claimed school libraries contain pornography but provided no examples.

As West Lafayette attorney Doug Masson points out, the legislation doesn’t provide any pathway for parents who think their children’s access to serious reading material is being blocked by conservative activists and cautious school officials. In other words, there are rights for some parents, not for others.

House Bill 1608 is Indiana’s answer to Florida Gov. Ron DeSanitis’ “don’t say gay” law, but with anti-trans variations. The first part is simple: It bans any instruction on human sexuality for students in grades K-3.

The second part requires teachers to only refer to students by names and pronouns that are consistent with their assigned sex at birth, regardless of the students’ preference. And if any students should ask to change their “name, pronoun, title or other word to identify the student that is inconsistent with the student’s sex,” the school would have to notify parents.

I’m sympathetic to the idea that schools should keep parents informed about what’s going on with their children. But this is a sensitive area, and schools should have the flexibility to act in the best interest of their students. As ACLU staff attorney Harper Seldin writes, transgender youth face a real risk of rejection and even abuse by the adults who are supposed to care for them.

All three bills were approved by near party-line votes with one or two Republicans joining Democrats in voting against them. Committee hearings haven’t yet been scheduled for SB 480 and SB 12 in the House or for HB 1608 in the Senate.

I was thrilled to see that the documentary about Alexei Navalny won the Oscar. It will bring more attention to his unjust imprisonment by a dictatorship. I hope everyone gets to see this film. His family was there to share the award.

The KGB tried to poison him but failed. He was saved in a German hospital. He could have stayed out of Russia and remained free.

But he returned , knowing that Putin would lock him up for years. He is now in a remote prison camp, in solitary confinement.

But not forgotten.

Let’s hope this recognition bolsters his spirit.


Julie Vassilatos writes about Paul Vallas’ school reform ideas here. Privatization and choice. She says that they are no longer innovative: they have been tried again and again, and they have failed again and again. We seen this rodeo before: disruption; closing schools; high cost; poor results.

An excerpt:

Here’s what you need to know if you don’t already. Vallas is the OG of a tired, old, failed style of school reform marked by privatization of public services, charter proliferation, and school choice. These elements are now omnipresent in American public education; he helped make this so. In no school district anywhere have these initiatives enabled positive transformation, not in thirty years. But choice-based school reform does two things well—it racks up big, huge spending deficits, and it racially stratifies urban school systems. Vallas has achieved both, here and everywhere he has led districts.Vallas-style school reform has a kind of tech-bro aesthetic: spend big, break things, disrupt systems, do it all at once. But this has always come with a cost. We need to know the cost.

Vallas’s push for privatization and its ugly impact in urban districts

In Chicago, the effort to privatize is by now the rather hackneyed status quo. Charter advocates say there just aren’t enough charters yet. But critics say we can’t possibly afford to keep throwing money at this worn-out approach. After all, in Chicago we have seen the rise and fall of the UNO network, and embroilment in scandals for Urban Prep, Acero, Epic, Gulen, and many other chains.

If you click this link, you can find 26 articles on charter scandals in IL dating back just to 2017.

Privatization lacks accountability. These schools are not subject to the standards and accountability faced by traditional public schools, which eventually is what lands many of them in trouble—they say they are handling special needs and aren’t. They claim they offer bilingual services and they don’t. They get millions in funding from the district and it goes up in smoke. These schools also yield a poor ROI—that is to say, their results are not good. On top of this, these schools are prone to closing without notice.

Privatization always results in disinvestment of traditional public schools. Privatizers love to say that public schools are terrible without ever acknowledging that they’ve been deeply disinvested for decades, then divert much of what funding remains to charter schools, entrenching the cycle of disinvested schools failing to provide what students need and deserve. When you factor in poor ROIs, scandals, and instability, banking on charters seems like a pretty poor bargain. In Chicago, the district added charter schools for years prior to the school closings, very much impacting or even creating the 2012/13 “school utilization crisis” pushed by Rahm and Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Suddenly we had too many schools for too few students. The end result was 50 closed neighborhood public schools, displacing 30,000 kids.

By the way, I posted a tweet the other day, retweeting Fred Klonsky’s Blog titled “Vallas Will Defund CPS.” CPS=Chicago Public Schools. Hours later, I received a notice from Twitter that my comment had been deleted because it contained offensive content. What? An opinion about a mayoral candidate is “offensive”? And this on the giant social media site that welcomes Nazis, election deniers, COVID crackpots, and assorted conspiracy theorists.

This was the “offensive” post that had to be censored.