Archives for category: Democracy

David Dayen, executive editor of The American Prospect, expresses his concern about billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who is a plutocrat and an autocrat.

In many ways, Dayen writes, Bloomberg is like Trump, only richer. How strange would it be for the Democrats to nominate a Republican to run against Trump.

He writes:

Two Wisconsin legislators published an opinion piece about the harm that school choice is doing to the state’s public schools.

Jon Erpenbach and Sondy Pope object to the way that vouchers have taken money away from public schools without the compose top of the governed.

It hasn’t been long since many Wisconsinites have had to vote on referendums to keep their public school doors open, and now in this new year, our schools continue to be underfunded. This spring 50 school districts will go to referendum, with 29 seeking $915 million in operating costs alone.

During last year’s budget deliberations, Gov. Tony Evers put forth a proposal that would have made significant investments in our public schools. Many of his ideas stemmed from the Republican controlled Blue Ribbon Commission on K-12 education. Unfortunately, the task force recommendations could not make it past the Republicans on the Joint Committee on Finance, including $10.1 million from sparsity aid for rural districts compared to the Governor’s plan. Senate District 27 lost $600,000 alone due to Republican rejections of their own recommendations, with 82 other districts statewide also losing funds.Fast forward to this year, andinstead of doing their jobs and convening for a special session to address the farm crisis, Republicans chose to hold a political rally to promote voucher schools.

Unfortunately, while taxpayers will be voting on referendums this April, voucher school operators are able to take $145.5 million from property taxpayers with zero transparency, oversight or ability to vote “no.”

On Jan. 8, 2020, Senator Bewley (D-Mason), Representative Considine (D-Baraboo), and both of us introduced Senate Bill 661 (SB 661), to prohibit the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) from making reductions in the amount of state aid that is paid to school districts, unless the voters agree to the reductions by a referendum vote.

Under current law, school choice programs are able to drain funds away from public schools, and SB 661 would give power back to Wisconsinites to decide how they want their tax dollars spent.

A recent memo released by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows that vouchers caused $145 million in aid reduction to public schools. That amount is up 30% from last year, and this problem is only going to grow if it is not addressed. The trend in tax dollars going away from public schools towards unreliable voucher programs shows the decline to our education system at the expense of our taxpayers. Wisconsinites should have a choice in whether or not they want to fund two separate education programs, and that is why we introduced the bill to bring accountability back into the fold.

For-profit education is chipping away at our democracy with misinformation and misleading standards for education, with the approval of our current presidential administration. Wisconsin Democrats believe in doing what is best for our children, and unfortunately, forcing taxpayers to fund competing education systems will only hinder their future.

Discounting for the rhetoric and hyperbole, it is worth reading Bill and Melinda Gates’ letter about what they do and why they do it.

They claim that Deborah Meier was one of their primary inspirations for their work in education, but knowing Debby Meier, I doubt that they read her book The Power of Their Ideas or that they understood what she was saying.

Both of us had the chance to attend excellent schools, and we know how many doors that opened for us. We also know that millions of Americans, especially low-income students and students of color, don’t have that same opportunity.

Experts, of course, have a much more rigorous vocabulary to describe this situation. In 2001, I met an educator named Deborah Meier who had a big impact on me. Her book The Power of Their Ideas helped me understand why public schools are not only an important equalizer but the engine of a thriving democracy. A democracy requires equal participation from everyone, she writes. That means when our public schools fail to prepare students to fully participate in public life, they fail our country, too.

I think about that a lot. It really helps drive home the stakes of this work for me.

If you’d asked us 20 years ago, we would have guessed that global health would be our foundation’s riskiest work, and our U.S. education work would be our surest bet. In fact, it has turned out just the opposite.

Deborah Meier believes in democracy. She believes that democracy should be the norm inside schools and outside schools. She does not believe that billionaires should fund a national standardized curriculum and pay to impose it on everyone.

The Gates’ should invest more in global health, where help is desperately needed, and stop imposing standardized curriculum, standardized technology, and and standardized testing on everyone.

They truly  don’t understand Deborah Meier.

Jan Resseger describes the chaos and disruption caused by Ohio’s choice-made Legislature.  

The Ohio House is trying to curb the overreach of the expanded voucher program, which unexpectedly swooped up some white, affluent schools. The hardline Senate, lobbied by generous campaign donor Betsy DeVos, will hang tough to give out as many vouchers as possible, even if it bankrupts entire school districts.

I wonder why no one has put a referendum on the state ballot about whether the public wants vouchers to pay the tuition of religious school students.

At the end of Jan’s excellent article, there is a nugget of good news.

The failed state takeovers are under fire:

On Wednesday, the Ohio House passed another very welcome emergency amendment to Senate Bill 89: to end Ohio’s state school district takeovers established without adequate public hearings in the summer of 2015. The House amendment would end the state takeovers and the top-down, appointed Academic Distress Commissions in Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland. Elected representatives from Lorain and Youngstown spoke passionately for the need to restore local control and community engagement in their school districts, which were thrust into chaos in recent years by their Academic Distress Commissions and their appointed CEOs.

 

Dana Milbank has been covering the impeachment “process” for the Washington Post. He describes the most brazen assault on our democracy in modern times. The damage this man has done to our society will embolden future presidents to believe that they can do “whatever they want.” The Senate is prepared to abandon its role as an independent branch of government. The Republicans are acting like sycophants, with no judgment of their own, as if they are wholly owned by Trump. With an acquittal, Trump will feel no restraints on his instinct for dirty deeds and lawlessness.

The Capitol dome looms behind the Peace Monument statue in Washington.  (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
The Capitol dome looms behind the Peace Monument statue in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Susan B. Glasser writes in the New Yorker about Alan Dershowitz’s bizarre defense of Trump in the impeachment “process” (not a trial, which has witnesses and evidence). Dershowitz is  criminal defense attorney, not a Constitutional lawyer. He also had the dishonor of being in pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s black book of clients, which he denies.

His defense is that Trump is above the law. He is like an emperor or a king or a dictator. He can do, as Trump himself asserted, whatever he wants.

 

An hour into the Senate trial of Donald John Trump on Wednesday, the emeritus Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz came to the floor to answer a question from a former Harvard law student, Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas. In theory, it was a question that went to the heart of the impeachment case against Trump, about the President’s imposition of a quid pro quo on military aid to Ukraine and whether his motivations mattered. Dershowitz had something larger and more profound to say, however: Donald Trump has the power to do just about anything he wants to do, and there’s nothing that the U.S. Senate can or should do about it.

For more than a week, House managers prosecuting the impeachment case against Trump have argued that the Senate’s failure to convict him would make Trump an unaccountable leader; in effect, a dictator or a king. When Dershowitz spoke, it was as if he completely agreed with them. Two days earlier, Dershowitz had told senators that Presidential “abuse of power” should not be considered an impeachable offense under the Constitution. On Wednesday, he took that further—much further. “If a President does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” he argued. Dershowitz was offering Trump—and all future Presidents—a free pass. His argument seemed unbelievable: as long as the President thinks his reëlection will benefit the country, he can do anything in pursuit of it without fear of impeachment. Really?

Trump has already said that he considers himself empowered by Article II of the Constitution “to do whatever I want.” Video of this extraordinary moment has been played, repeatedly, by House managers in the trial. They clearly saw it as a damning statement made by a power-grabbing President—and then the President’s counsel, in effect, endorsed Trump’s power grab on the floor of the Senate. So long as Trump believes himself to be acting in the national interest, Dershowitz said, he can do whatever he wants. If the past three years have taught us anything, it is that Trump is a President who is comfortable conflating his own interest with the national interest. L’état, c’est Trump.

As matters now stand, it appears that the Republican majority in the Senate agrees that Trump can do whatever he wants. In effect, they are abandoning their responsibility as Senators to hold the president accountable.

Someday Trump will get his comeuppance. If not now, in good time. We cannot let one coarse ignorant bully destroy our democracy.

Arthur Camins warns us against the prophets of doom and gloom, the pundits who say that we can’t hope for anything better, who try to persuade us not to fight for a better future.

He begins:

Beware the apostles of dystopia. They come to destroy your hope.  There are two sects. One preaches survival-of-the-fittest disdain for any social responsibility.  The other preaches defeatism and accommodation in the face of wealth and power. They are all hope, destroyers.

The necessity of hope struck me hard on Saturday, January 25. In the morning, I read two provocative op-eds in the NY Times.

Trump-disdaining conservative columnist, Bret Stevens, cautions, “Anyone but Trump? Not So Fast. Let’s not exchange one reckless president for another.” Essentially he argues that Trump, while personally reprehensible, hasn’t changed life for most Americans.  He goes on to plant fear of radical progressives: Too much hope for a more equitable future is dangerously destabilizing.

Historian David Motadel warns us about, “The Myth of Middle-Class Liberalism. The bourgeois are supposed to ensure open, democratic societies. In fact, they rarely have.” Historically, he argues, “the middle classes have frequently sided with illiberal forms of government when they feared for their privileges and social stability.”

In the evening, my wife and I watched the movie Just Mercy.  It dramatizes the relentless efforts of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, to exonerate death row victims of racial injustice and fear.  Freed from jail after many years wrongful imprisonment, Walter McMillan tells Stevenson, “We’ve all been through a lot, Bryan, all of us. I know that some have been through more than others. But if we don’t expect more from each other, hope better for one another, and recover from the hurt we experience, we are surely doomed.”

Between now and the 2020 presidential primary and general election, apologists for and defenders of our inequitable, livable climate-destroying status quo will try to scare hope out of middle-class voters into selecting anyone but the dangerous progressives in the race, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Every fear-based, divisive scare tactic will be employed.  In fact, they are our best hope. Some will allude to, but not explicitly advocate, exclusionary authoritarianism as the only viable path for America.  Others will plead with voters to take the safe “moderate” path.

Progressives need to heed Motadel’s and McMillan’s warning.  Anyone who gets the dire threat of Trumpism needs to heed the warning.  Anyone with a mind to sit out the election or vote for third party candidate needs to heed the warning.  Things always can and often do get worse long before they get better. When it does, innocent people suffer and die. However, the solution is not to bend to the illusion of a safe moderate. It is to vote for hope.

Grassroots Arkansas is calling on friends of public education to wear black on January 28 to mark the death of democratic control—of, by, and for all the children of Little Rock, which has been under state control for five years.

***Call to Action***

• Wear black wherever you are and whatever you’re doing on January 28 – and tell people you meet why you’re wearing black today: “It’s the 5th anniversary of the State’s takeover of the Little Rock School District. It’s been 1,827 days since Little Rock had a democratically elected school board.” Tie a black ribbon around a tree, car, or mailbox.

• Post pics of yourself and others wearing black with the hashtag: #oneLRSD and #AsaFreeLRSD and voice your support online and in person on the 28th for a no-strings attached, democratically elected school board in Little Rock – now!

• Email Asa Hutchinson asa.hutchinson@governor.arkansas.gov with this subject line: “Asa Free LRSD”. In the body of the email simply sign your name and indicate any and all connections you have to the LRSD, e.g.: Jane Doe, LRSD student OR John Doe, LRSD parent OR Jane Doe, Little Rock business owner and taxpayer, etc.

It’s School Board Recognition month – and Little Rock still doesn’t have one. We believe that a school board election is possible in May 2020 as opposed to November 2020 when the State “says” it intends to allow an election. We believe for any elected school board to be legitimate it must come with no-strings attached, no limitations on the school board’s governing powers by the State

 

This is a very engaging video interview of Tom Ultican, an expert on corporate education reform, explaining the federal takeover of public schools via No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Ultican goes into detail about the corporate assault on public schools in the Dallas Independent School District. He names names, starting with the misguided superintendency of Mike Miles, a Broadie who managed to drive out large numbers of experienced teachers. He identifies the funders of corporate funders, both billionaires and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

He gives a concise analysis of the money behind the “portfolio model,” charters, and privatization in Texas and Dallas.

The Washington Post editorial board wrote today about the dangerous precedent that the Senate is establishing by refusing to accept any evidence and refusing to have a real trial of the impeachment charges.

By doing so, they are truly making the president an emperor or a king, who can do whatever he wants so long as his party controls the Senate. Trump’s desire to be like his friends Putin and Kim is clear; why the Senate Republicans want to make his conduct and behavior and his belief that he is above the law is not at all clear. Is it because he made large contributions to their campaigns? Are they cowering for fear of a hostile tweet? Or is it their lust for power at any price?

 

SENATE REPUBLICANS on Tuesday were laying the groundwork for a truncated trial of President Trump that would be a perversion of justice. Proposals by Democrats to obtain critical evidence were voted down. Unless several senators change their positions, votes to acquit Mr. Trump on the House’s charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress could come as soon as next week without any testimony by witnesses or review of key documents. That would be unprecedented compared with previous presidential impeachments. It would gravely damage the only mechanism the Constitution provides for checking a rogue president.

Yet the rigging of the trial process may not be the most damaging legacy of the exhibition Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) is orchestrating in full collaboration with the White House. That might flow from the brazen case being laid out by Mr. Trump’s lawyers. The defense brief they filed Monday argues that the president “did absolutely nothing wrong” when he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch investigations of Joe Biden and a Russian-promoted conspiracy theory about the 2016 election. It further contends that Mr. Trump was entirely within his rights when he refused all cooperation with the House impeachment inquiry, including rejecting subpoenas for testimony and documents. It says he cannot be impeached because he violated no law.

By asking senators to ratify those positions, Mr. Trump and his lawyers are, in effect, seeking consent for an extraordinary expansion of his powers. An acquittal vote would confirm to Mr. Trump that he is free to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election and to withhold congressionally appropriated aid to induce such interference. It would suggest that he can press foreign leaders to launch a criminal investigation of any American citizen he designates, even in the absence of a preexisting U.S. probe, or any evidence.

The defense would also set the precedent that presidents may flatly refuse all cooperation with any congressional inquiry, even though the House’s impeachment power is spelled out in the Constitution. And it would establish that no president may be impeached unless he or she could be convicted of violating a federal statute — no matter the abuse of power. Those are principles that Republicans will regret if they conclude that a Democratic executive has violated his or her oath of office. Yet Mr. Trump demands they adopt his maximalist position regardless of the consequences.

We know that many Republican senators do not accept this unacceptable defense. Some, such as Rob Portman (Ohio), Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Susan Collins(Maine), have publicly criticized Mr. Trump for calling on Ukraine or China to investigate Mr. Biden. Mr. Portman and Mr. Toomey have taken the position that Mr. Trump’s behavior was wrong but not worthy of impeachment — a response that would, at least in theory, preserve some guardrails on the president’s behavior.

Mr. Trump’s defense is designed to destroy those guardrails. If Republican senators go along with it, they will not only be excusing behavior that many of them believe to be improper. They will be enabling further assaults by Mr. Trump on the foundations of American democracy.