Archives for category: Democracy

Catherine Truitt, the Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction in North Carolina sneered at critical thinking, as she put forth her own definition of what education is for.

North Carolina teacher Stuart Egan wrote:

A Little Soma Made in 1984 Cooked At F451 Degrees For You? Why Every Teacher Should Be Insulted By State Superintendent Truitt’s Words

“Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change.”

– FAHRENHEIT 451

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which [leaders] control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

– ALDOUS HUXLEY, AUTHOR OF BRAVE NEW WORLD

“The ideal set up by the Party was something huge, terrible, and glittering—a world of steel and concrete, of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons—a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting—three hundred million people all with the same face.”

– 1984

“We’ve got to redefine what the purpose of K-12 education is. Some would say it’s to produce critical thinkers. But my team and I believe that the purpose of a public K-12 education is to prepare students for post-secondary plans of their choice so that they can be a functioning member of the workforce.”

– STATE SUPERINTENDENT CATHERINE TRUITT, JANUARY 6TH, 2022

That last statement is a hell of a statement from the top ranking official for public education in the state – especially that part about free thinking.

In her short tenure as state super, Truitt has said many things to insult teachers, demean advocacy for public schools, and belittle the profession.

This is the most insulting – not just because as a teacher my job is to help students become critical thinkers, but as a parent of young lady who has graduated from public schools and a son about to enter high school, I don’t want the person who makes the biggest decisions about our schools to think of my children (and others’ children) as “functional members of the workforce.”

It’s almost like saying that our job as public school teachers is to create good workers for those who can profit from them.

Writing in “PoliticsNC,” Alexander H. Jones was incredulous. He wrote:

In my years of following state politics, I have heard North Carolina Republicans say stupid, outrageous, incomprehensible and otherwise foolish things. Pat McCrory said Caitlin Jenner would have to use the men’s shower if she ran track at UNC-Chapel Hill. Larry Pittman and others declared that the State of North Carolina has a right to nullify U.S. Supreme Court decisions within its borders. And so forth. But nothing I have heard echoing out of right-wing avenue was more utterly discrediting to a public servant than what DPI leader Catherine Truitt recently said about the purpose of K-12 education. Read on, if you can stomach it.

““We’ve got to redefine what the purpose of K-12 education is,” she declared. “Some would say it’s to produce critical thinkers. But my team and I believe that the purpose of a public K-12 education is to prepare students for the post-secondary plans of their choice so that they can be a functioning member of the workforce.” In one quick stroke, the leader of public education in North Carolina discounted and disparaged critical thinking, the foundation of an enlightened citizenry. In saying this she definitively sided with the forces of political authoritarianism and capitalist plunder, the two great foes of the American experiment that have always fought against liberal education.

Open the link and read the rest of his post.

Peter Navarro was Trump’s Trade Advisor. He recently published a book about his time in the Trump administration. The most fascinating part of his book, according to those who have read advance copies, is his story about the plan to overturn the 2020 election and keep Trump as president. He has done several media interviews. This account in Rolling Stone relies on this one that appeared in The Daily Beast.

Navarro says that he and Steve Bannon orchestrated a plan called the Green Bay Sweep.

Rolling Stone writer Tim Dickinson writes:

The plot sought to keep Trump in office by exerting maximum pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of the Electoral College votes from pivotal swing states, by drawing out the proceedings on national television for as long as 24 hours. “It was a perfect plan,” Navarro told the Daily Beast. “We had over 100 congressmen committed to it

Navarro is a Harvard-educated economist whom Trump tapped, originally, to escalate his trade war with China. But as coronavirus struck, Navarro’s role at the White House expanded to include pandemic response, in which he pushed the quack treatment of hydroxychloroquine. By the bitter end, Navarro was compiling cockeyed dossiers of (now-exhaustively-debunked) allegations of election fraud — “receipts” Navarro believed justified tin-pot measures to keep Trump in the White House.

So what was the Green Bay Sweep? The plot, Navarro writes, was named after a famous football play designed by storied 1960’s NFL coach Vince Lombardi, in which a Packers running back would pound into the end zone behind a “phalanx of blockers.”

For the 2021 Green Bay Sweep, Navarro writes, Bannon played the role of Lombardi. The plan was to have members of the House and Senate raise challenges to the counts of Electoral College votes from six pivotal battleground states.

“The political and legal beauty of the strategy,” Navarro writes, is that the challenges would force up to two hours of debate per state, in each chamber of Congress. “That would add up to as much as 24 hours of nationally televised hearings,” Navarro writes. The hearings would enable Republicans to “short-circuit the crushing censorship of the anti-Trump media,” Navarro hoped, and broadcast their Big Lie that Democrats had stolen the election “directly to the American people.”

The goal was not to get the election overturned on Jan. 6. Instead, they aimed to create such a spectacle that Pence would be forced to exercise his authority as president of the Senate to “put the certification of the election on ice for at least another several weeks” while Congress and the state legislatures pursued the “fraud” allegations. The dark particulars for how Trump would remain in office after that are not spelled out, and Navarro did not immediately answer an email seeking clarification. But he writes that the Green Bay Sweep was the “last, best chance to snatch a stolen election from the Democrats’ jaws of deceit.”

The problem with the plot was that its success hinged on “Quarterback Mike” — and Pence wasn’t solidly on board. Navarro writes that he tried, with Trump’s backing, to brief Pence on his claims of election irregularities, but that Pence was kept off-limits by his chief of staff, Marc Short. (Navarro seethes that Short was part of the Koch brothers wing of the GOP, having previously worked for a nonprofit backed by the Kochs. When Short came to work for the vice president, Navarro writes, “it was like the Soviet Union taking over Eastern Europe. As an Iron Koch Curtain fell over the vice president, the only way you could speak to VPOTUS was to go through Short.”)

Regardless, Jan. 6 began auspiciously — to Navarro’s view of things. He told the Daily Beast that Trump was “on board with the strategy,” which he writes also had the backing of “more than 100” members of Congress. Navarro elaborated that the plan started off “perfectly” as Congress opened the proceedings to count Electoral College votes. Rep. Paul Gosar objected to results from his home state of Arizona, seconded by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — an action that received standing applause from GOP colleagues in the chamber.

Navarro insist that the violence at the Capitol disrupted the Green Bay Sweep by putting pressure on Congress to conclude the certification. Apparently he forgot to tell Trump to keep his mob away from the U.S. Capitol, because Trump urged them to march to the Capitol, told them that they had ”to fight” or they would lose their country, and egged them on to do what they did: Storm and ransack the Capitol. some were chanting ”Hang Mike Pence,” which may have stiffened his spine.

Two things are clear: Mike Pence didn’t deliver for Trump, Bannon, and Navarro, and Trump was too dumb to remember that he was not supposed to send his mob to disrupt the Congressional proceedings.

Since there is now a deep partisan divide over what happened on January 6, it’s helpful to remember that there is extensive video footage of the events. Some footage was taken by the media, some by video cameras installed in the Capitol, some by police body cameras, and some by the participants who wanted to have a record of what they did. Hundreds of arrests have been made of participants in the riot; many recorded their actions. Others were identified by friends, acquaintances, and family members who recognized faces in the video and reported them to the FBI.

Anyone who believes that nothing unusual happened in January 6 should watch these videos, as should anyone who believes the intruders were peaceful. They were not peaceful. They brutally beat officers of the law that day.

On January 6, our democracy was in peril. If the intruders had managed to capture Vice President Pence or Nancy Pelosi or any other members of Congress, there might have been political assassinations. I give Vice President Pence credit for refusing to turn the election over to Trump, as Trump wanted.

How close we came to a disaster. Imagine this mob beating, abusing, even murdering the leaders of Congress in public view. Thanks to the Capitol Police and other law officers, our nation was spared from such an atrocity.

This is the video that was shown at the first meeting—July 27, 2021– of the House Committee investigating the events of January 6. It lasts 5 minutes.

This is the Washington Post video, published on January 16, 2021. It was the first effort to provide an overall picture of what happened.

This is the New York Times’ video, probably the fullest account available. It was released June 30, 2021. It lasts 40 minutes.

This video was released by CNN on December 24, 2021. It is new video footage taken by security cameras inside the Capitol. CNN wrote:

CNN)—The Justice Department this week released a three-hour video of a battle between rioters and the police at the US Capitol Building on January 6 where rioters brandished weapons, officers were viciously beaten, and a member of the mob died on Capitol steps. The assault on the Lower West Terrace was one of the most violent confrontations between Capitol Police and the crowd. Officers held the line until the building was cleared without letting rioters inside. Some officers have since said they did not know the Capitol had already been breached in other areas. The video, taken from a Capitol security camera, does not have sound. It starts as officers retreat, helping each other as they stumble inside and washing their eyes out with water from chemical spray. Rioters crowd in behind them, coordinate efforts to attack and push through in infamous moments that have haunted the public, and officers, ever since.

The Justice Department released the videos after CNN and other outlets sued for access. It is the longest video from the riot released by the government thus far.

January 6, 2021, was the day we almost lost our democracy. Those who say that nothing happened or that the crowd was peaceful should watch the videos.

January 6 was an insurrection, planned by scoundrels to overturn the election of Joe Biden and maintain a sore loser in power, a man who knows no history and never read the Constitution that he wanted to shred. Having failed, he has spent the past year doing his best to persuade the public that our system of elections is corrupt. Having failed to destroy democracy by mob violence, he now hopes to weaken Americans’ belief in democracy itself. Trump has succeeded this far in destroying and corrupting the Republican Party, which repeats his lies and dutifully accepts his leadership. We cannot allow him or his lackeys to return to power.

Never in the history of the United States has the U.S. Capitol been invaded and ransacked by its own citizens. Never in the history of this nation was there a violent attempt to prevent the Constitutional process of certifying the election of a new President. It happened on January 6, 2021.

The fact that this unprecedented insurrection was encouraged and abetted by the sitting President is also remarkable.

So much about this day was and is unprecedented. Republican leaders called the White House and pleaded with the President to call off the mob. He waited for hours to do so, telling his violent friends, “Go home. I love you. You are special.”

Republican leaders were briefly outraged but soon realized that they dare not offend Trump, whose mob it was. Their outrage soon dissipated, and they agreed that January 6 was nothing out of the ordinary. They blocked a bipartisan investigation of the day’s events. They fell in line with Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen from him. They joined Trump’s campaign to rewrite history and purge any Republican who dissented.

A year after the insurrection, the Washington Post reported the results of a poll conducted by the University of Maryland. The Post wrote:

The percentage of Americans who say violent action against the government is justified at times stands at 34 percent, which is considerably higher than in past polls by The Post or other major news organizations dating back more than two decades. Again, the view is partisan: The new survey finds 40 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents and 23 percent of Democrats saying violence is sometimes justified.…

Overall, 60 percent of Americans say Trump bears either a “great deal” or a “good amount” of responsibility for the insurrection, but 72 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Trump voters say he bears “just some” responsibility or “none at all.”

Trump’s attacks on the legitimacy of the election have spawned ongoing efforts in some states to revisit the results. No such inquiry has turned up anything to suggest that the certified results were inaccurate. That has not blunted a persistent belief by most of his supporters that the election was somehow rigged.

Overall, the Post-UMD survey finds that 68 percent of Americans say there is no solid evidence of widespread fraud but 30 percent say there is.
Big majorities of Democrats (88 percent) and independents (74 percent) say there is no evidence of such irregularities, but 62 percent of Republicans say there is such evidence. That is almost identical to the percentage of Republicans who agreed with Trump’s claims of voter fraud a week after that Capitol attack, based on a Washington Post-ABC News poll at the time.

About 7 in 10 Americans say Biden’s election as president was legitimate, but that leaves almost 3 in 10 who say it was not, including 58 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of independents. The 58 percent of Republicans who say Biden was not legitimately elected as president is down somewhat from 70 percent in a Post-ABC poll conducted in January shortly after the Capitol attack.

Among those who say they voted for Trump in 2020, 69 percent now say Biden was not legitimately elected, while 97 percent of Biden voters say the current president was legitimately elected.

The poll is here.

On January 4, PBS “Frontline” ran a chilling documentary about the armed groups that are behind domestic terrorism.

The program is called “American Insurrection,” and it is an eye-opener.

You no doubt have heard about or read about all the groups that are interviewed–the Proud Boys, the Bougaloo Bois, and many others–but this documentary ties them together.

They are armed, and they are dangerous.

One of these groups plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and kill her.

They want a revolution or a civil war.

It is not clear what their grievances are.

They hate the government.

They love Trump, who validated their existence when he said in Charlottesville that “there are fine people on both sides” of the violent encounter between white supremacists and their opponents.

This is a gripping program. It is worth your time to watch.

Teresa Watanabe wrote a wonderful story about kids in a public school in Los Angeles who are college-bound, despite their demographic profiles. They don’t have college-educated parents or SAT tutors. What they do have is a school—the DowntownMagnets High School— where the professionals are dedicated to their success. Read about this school and ask yourself why Bill Gates is not trying to replicate it? Why is it not a model for Michael Bloomberg or Reed Hastings or the Waltons? Why do the billionaires insist, as Bloomberg said recently, that public education is “broken”? Despite their investing hundreds of millions to destroy public schools like the one in this story, they are still performing miracles every day.

They represent the new generation of students reshaping the face of higher education in California: young people with lower family incomes, less parental education and far more racial and ethnic diversity than college applicants of the past. And Downtown Magnets, a small and highly diverse campus of 911 students just north of the Los Angeles Civic Center, is in the vanguard of the change.

Last year, 97% of the school’s seniors were accepted to college, and most enrolled. Among them, 71% of those who applied to a UC campus were admitted, including 19 of the 56 applicants to UC Berkeley — a higher admission rate than at elite Los Angeles private schools such as Harvard-Westlake and Marlborough.

This month, the Downtown Magnets applicants include Nick Saballos, whose Nicaraguan father never finished high school and works for minimum wage as a parking valet but is proud of his son’s passion for astrophysics.

There’s Emily Cruz, who had a rough time focusing on school while being expected to help her Guatemalan immigrant mother with household duties. Emily is determined to become a lawyer or a philosopher.

Kenji Horigome emigrated to Los Angeles from Japan in fourth grade speaking no English, with a single mother who works as a Koreatown restaurant server. Kenji has become a top student and may join the military, in part for the financial aid the GI Bill would provide.

“The main thing my kids lack is a sense of entitlement,” said Lynda McGee, the school’s longtime college counselor. “That’s my biggest enemy: the fact that my students are humble and think they don’t deserve what they actually deserve. It’s more of a mental problem than an academic one.”

What the students do have is a close-knit school community, passionate educators and parents willing to take the extra step to send them to a magnet school located, for many, outside their neighborhoods.

Principal Sarah Usmani leads a staff mindful of creating a campus environment both nurturing and academically rigorous; she has scrounged for money for a psychiatric social worker to help with mental health problems, an attendance counselor to stay on top of absences, an intervention counselor to monitor whether grades drop and an additional academic counselor.

And the students have McGee, who since 2000 has helped shepherd thousands to higher education.

On a recent morning, students lined up to see her in the campus College Center, an inviting space with comfortable sofas, a bank of computers, colorful pennants and stuffed toy mascots from dozens of colleges.

Never mind that it was Thanksgiving break. UC and Cal State application deadlines were just a week away, and McGee’s students needed her.
Ms. McGee, I need a fee waiver! I’m not sure about a major. How do I figure out my weighted GPA?

“I can say no to evening, weekend and holiday work, but that means someone won’t go to college,” McGee said. “There are too many kids, good kids who will take themselves out of the process, and they’ll go to a community college with a 3.9. I can’t carry that guilt.”

McGee keeps close tabs on as many students as she can, often suggesting they consider options other than “the religion of the UC,” as she says many parents, particularly Asian Americans, regard the renowned public research university system.

It’s all about fit, she tells them. If you like personal relationships with faculty, consider smaller private colleges. Think about leaving California to stretch yourself. She gently nudges students with low GPAs away from pinning their hopes on hypercompetitive UCLA and Berkeley and suggests well-regarded but more attainable alternatives: Cal State Dominguez Hills, Woodbury University, Mount St. Mary’s College, Dixie State University.

But she also needs to make sure her top students are aiming high enough.

The day before UC’s Dec. 1 deadline, McGee called Nick into the College Center to check in. The soft-spoken senior and his family live on an annual income of $30,000; at one point, when his father lost his job and the family faced eviction, they had to turn to relatives for help. His parents instilled in him an ethic to never waste — not money, not food, not college opportunities.


At Downtown Magnets, Nick entered the International Baccalaureate program, staying the challenging course when his friends dropped out. He tackled his weakest subject, English, by poring over Harvard professor Matthew Desmond’s exploration of evictions and poverty, to master academic language, text analysis and oral expository skills.

Physics is where Nick soars. His face lights up as he describes his hunger to unravel the mysteries of the universe: why it expands and whether it will stop; how stars become black holes.

Nick has earned a 4.47 GPA, making him the school’s fifth-ranked senior. He didn’t realize that until McGee called him in to tell him.

“You are in the top five, and this is a very competitive senior class,” she said. “If you want to apply to the Ivy Leagues, go for it! Know your worth, and give yourself the opportunities.”

Ivy League schools offer large financial aid packages that can make them cheaper than UC for low-income students, a point McGee amplifies by handing out lists of schools that meet full financial need without loans.
Nick had applied to UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and UC San Diego, along with Stanford. But McGee’s encouragement expanded his thinking beyond top California colleges to the Ivy League.

“I didn’t think I could apply to the Ivy Leagues,” he said. “I didn’t have that much confidence. Hearing from Ms. McGee that I can, I’m going to try.”

The story goes on to offer many other stories of students who came from homes where money was scarce. At Downtown Magnets High, they learned to believe in themselves, and they had the support and guidance to make good choices.

Don’t write off public schools. They have been the gateway to opportunity for millions of students, and they still are.

Someone please send this story to Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, the Waltons, Reed Hastings, John Arnold, Laurene Powell Jobs, and all the other billionaires who waste their money on charter schools, instead of paying attention to successful public schools like Downtown Magnet.

Tom Ultican has written extensively about the greed and politics behind privatization. In this post, he reviews an important new book about the dangers of privatization by Donald Cohen and Allen Mikaelian. I urge you to buy the book.

Ultican writes:

Ronald Reagan claimed the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” The new book, The Privatization of Everything, documents the widespread theft of the commons facilitated by Reagan’s anti-government philosophy. His remark echoed a claim from the “laissez-faire cheerleader” Friedrich Hayek that government has us all on the “road to serfdom” (Privatization 120). Sherrilyn Ifill, the former Director-Council of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund observed,

“What we’re seeing in our country today: the rhetoric, the hate, the ignorance, the coarseness, the vulgarity, the cruelty, the greed, the fear is the result of decades of poor citizenship development. It is a reflection of the fully privatized notion of citizenship, a feral conflict for the scraps left by oligarchs (Privatization 13).”

Libertarian politicians like former speaker of the house Paul Ryan and Senators Ron Johnson and Rand Paul claim Hayek and writer-philosopher Ayn Rand as their guiding lights. In a 2012 article, Politico reported“…, to bring new staffers up to speed, Ryan gives them copies of Hayek’s classic “Road to Serfdom” and Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” — books he says inspires his political philosophy.” Politico also stated,

“But Hayek and Rand were violently opposed to each other’s ideas. It is virtually impossible to hold them in the same brain. When the termagant Rand met Hayek, she screamed across the room, ‘Compromiser!’ and reviled him as an ‘abysmal fool,’ an “ass” and a ‘totally, complete, vicious bastard.’”  (Termagant: a violent, turbulent, or brawling woman.)

Ayn Rand’s problem with Hayek was that he was not really the “laissez-faire cheerleader” he was purported to be. He certainly opposed many of the ideas emanating from Franklyn Roosevelt’s New Deal believing they would lead to worse problems than the ones being addressed. Fundamentally his thinking was shaped by a fear of communism. However, unlike today’s libertarians, he was not opposed to all government programs or interventions and that is what stirred Ayn Rand’s fury.

Robert Nielsen’s 2012 review of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom observes,

“He also calls for social insurance in case of sickness and accident, as well as government assistance after a natural disaster. ‘But there is no incompatibility in principle between the state providing greater security in this way and preservation of individual freedom.’ I think most advocates of Hayek have not read this passage and don’t realise he is not an extremist arguing against all forms of government. Let me repeat this, Hayek is arguing there is a good case for the government to get involved in healthcare, either in the form of universal healthcare or government insurance.”

John Maynard Keynes is thought of as the liberal economist whose theories guided President Roosevelt as he grappled with the great depression. Hayek’s and Keynes’s economic theories were in some ways polar opposites. However, Hayek came to London to work at the School of Economics where he and Keynes who was 16-years his senior became friends. They exchanged several letters concerning Hayek’s works in which Keynes found some agreement.

Chet Yarbrough’s audio book review of The Road to Serfdom states,

“Contrary to a wide perception that John Maynard Keynes (a liberal economist in today’s parlance) denigrated ‘The Road to Serfdom’; Keynes, in fact, praised it.”

“Though Keynes praised ‘The Road to Serfdom’, he did not think Hayek’s economic’ liberalism practical; i.e. Keynes infers that Hayek could not practically draw a line between a safety net for the poor, uninsured-sick, and unemployed (which Hayek endorsed) while denying government intervention in a competitive, laissez-faire economy.”

It is disingenuous to cite the theories of Friedrich Hayek as the justification for privatizing government functions and the commons.

The Privatization of Everything

The Privatization of Everything co-author Donald Cohen is the founder and executive director of In The Public Interest. Co-author Allen Mikaelian is the bestselling author of Metal of Honor and a doctoral fellow in history at American University. Besides the authors’ individual work, the team at In The Public Interest contributed significantly to the book with research and documentation.

Of their intention in writing the book, the authors state,

“Our approach is both idealistic and practical. We want readers to see the lofty values and big ideas behind the creation of public goods, and we want readers to feel empowered to question those values and introduce new ones. We want to help change the conversation, so we can stop talking about ‘government monopolies’ and return to talking about public control over public goods (Privatization 19).

They detail several cases showing the downside of the government being forced to give control over to private business. In this era of human-activity-induced climate change, what has been happening at the National Weather Service (NWS) is instructive.

In the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy believed that the US and the Soviet Union could find a field of cooperation in supporting the World Meteorological Organization. As a result, 193 countries and territories all agreed to provide “essential data” on a “free and unrestricted basis.” “Each day, global observations add up to twenty terabytes of data, which is processed by a supercomputer running 77 trillion calculations per second (Privatization 267).”

The book notes, “In the 1990s, at about the same time that forecasting got consistently good, private interests and free-market absolutists started insisting that the NWS and related agencies were ‘competing’ with private enterprise.” Barry Myers, head of AccuWeather was loudly accusing the government of running a “monopoly.” He went to the extreme of calling for the government to get out of the weather predicting business which made no sense since AccuWeather is completely dependent on NWS predictions. (Privatization 268)

After a killer tornado in 2011, NWS employees proposed a smart-phone app to better inform the public. The author’s report, “… this ultimately took a backseat to Myers’s insistence that his AccuWeather apps shouldn’t face ‘unfair’ competition (Privatization 270).” To this day, NWS has no smartphone app.

Weather forecasts are pretty good for up to a week but after that as time passes they become more and more useless. The models for predicting the weather are highly dependent on the preceding day and the farther you get from accurate data for that day the more error invades the predictions. NWS restricts its predictions to a one-week time-frame but AccuWeather and the Weather Channel in order to attract customers provide meaningless 2-week up to 90-days predictions. (Privatization 272)

Extreme weather events are life threatening. The authors state,

“The NWS’s mission includes saving lives. The business model of corporations like AccuWeather includes saving lives of paying customers only (Privatization 273).”

There are many episodes like NWS detailed. In the section on private prisons, we read about such atrocities as the Idaho correctional facility known as the “Gladiator School” (Privatization 140). When detailing the privatization of water we are informed of Nestles CEO, Peter Brabeck stating how extreme it was to believe that “as a human being you should have a right to water (Privatization 54).”

Privatizing Public Education Stabs Democracy in the Heart

The First Public School in America

Boston Latin School was founded April 23, 1635. America’s first public school only accepted boys for their curriculum centered on humanities including the study of Latin and Greek. Its more famous revolutionary-era students were Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin. These revolutionary thinkers who gave America democracy were educated in a public school and would latter agree that free public schools were necessary to a functioning democracy.

When Betsy DeVos was calling for vouchers and charter schools, she was implicitly demanding public dollars support religious schools that would not accept transgender students or homosexual teachers. She wanted schools free to teach a doctrine of science denial and religious bigotry. “Freedom of choice in this case meant the freedom to discriminate, with the blessing of public funds (Privatization 210).”

One of the several disturbing stories about the menace of privatizing schools comes from Reynolds Lake Oconee, Georgia. Wealthy real estate developer Mercer Reynolds III made a charter school the center of his community development. The charter school application called for 80% of the children to come from Reynolds properties. The other 12% would go to students in nearby wealthy white communities and the remaining 8% would go to countywide residents. (Privatization 211-212)

With a mix of taxpayer and private funding, Reynolds built an impressive school. It had a piano lab with 25 pianos, a pond and offered 17 AP classes. The school is 73% white. The nearby public school that is 68% black and would never dream of a piano lab has seen the Reynolds school continually siphon off more of their students. They have been forced into laying-off staff and tightening budgets. (Privatization 212)

Cohen and Mikaelian concluded,

“This was a clear-cut case of rich whites diverting money from struggling black families in order to further push them to the margins. And they used the ideas of school choice and free market to justify it.

As the book makes clear, every time a public good is privatized the public loses some of their democratic rights over that lost good. This is a powerful book that everyone should read. In the last chapter the authors call out to us,

“We can’t let private interests sell us public goods as consumers, because the free market can’t avoid creating exclusions. School choice quickly devolves into segregation. Public parks and highways are divided into general versus premium services. In the midst of a notional health crisis, ventilators go to the highest bidder.”

Heather Cox Richardson is an American historian at Boston College. I enjoy reading her views, which are always well-informed.

She writes:

December 30, 2021

Heather Cox RichardsonDec 31

On January 6, insurrectionists trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election stormed the U.S. Capitol and sent our lawmakers into hiding. Since President Joe Biden took office on January 20, just two weeks after the attack, we have been engaged in a great struggle between those trying to restore our democracy and those determined to undermine it. 

Biden committed to restoring our democracy after the strains it had endured. When he took office, we were in the midst of a global pandemic whose official death toll in the U.S. was at 407,000. Our economy was in tatters, our foreign alliances weakened, and our government under siege by insurrectionists, some of whom were lawmakers themselves.

In his inaugural address, Biden implored Americans to come together to face these crises. He recalled the Civil War, the Great Depression, the World Wars, and the attacks of 9/11, noting that “[i]n each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.” “It’s time for boldness, for there is so much to do,” he said. He asked Americans to “write an American story of hope, not fear… [a] story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history…. That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.”

Later that day, he headed to the Oval Office. “I thought there’s no time to wait. Get to work immediately,” he said.

Rather than permitting the Trump Republicans who were still insisting Trump had won the election to frame the national conversation, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as the Democrats in Congress, ignored them and set out to prove that our government can work for ordinary Americans.

Biden vowed to overcome Covid, trying to rally Republicans to join Democrats behind a “war” on the global pandemic. The Trump team had refused to confer during the transition period with the Biden team, who discovered that the previous administration had never had a plan for federal delivery of covid vaccines, simply planning to give them to the states and then let the cash-strapped states figure out how to get them into arms. “What we’re inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined,” Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, Jeff Zients, said to reporters on January 21.

Biden immediately invoked the Defense Production Act, bought more vaccines, worked with states to establish vaccine sites and transportation to them, and established vaccine centers in pharmacies across the country. As vaccination rates climbed, he vowed to make sure that 70% of the U.S. adult population would have one vaccine shot and 160 million U.S. adults would be fully vaccinated by July 4th.

At the same time, the Democrats undertook to repair the economy, badly damaged by the pandemic. In March, without a single Republican vote, they passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to jump-start the economy by putting money into the pockets of ordinary Americans. It worked. The new law cut child poverty in half by putting $66 billion into 36 million households. It expanded access to the Affordable Care Act, enabling more than 4.6 million Americans who were not previously insured to get healthcare coverage, bringing the total covered to a record 13.6 million.

As vaccinated people started to venture out again, this support for consumers bolstered U.S. companies, which by the end of the year were showing profit margins higher than they have been since 1950, at 15%. Companies reduced their debt, which translated to a strong stock market. In February, Biden’s first month in office, the jobless rate was 6.2%; by December it had dropped to 4.2%. This means that 4.1 million jobs were created in the Biden administration’s first year, more than were created in the 12 years of the Trump and George W. Bush administrations combined.

In November, Congress passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will repair bridges and roads and get broadband to places that still don’t have it, and negotiations continue on a larger infrastructure package that will support child care and elder care, as well as education and measures to address climate change.

Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal report that U.S. economic output jumped more than 7% in the last three months of 2021. Overall growth for 2021 should be about 6%, and economists predict growth of around 4% in 2022—the highest numbers the U.S. has seen in decades. China’s growth in the same period will be 4%, and the eurozone (the member countries of the European Union that use the euro) will grow at 2%. The U.S. is “outperforming the world by the biggest margin in the 21st century,” wrote Matthew A. Winkler in Bloomberg, “and with good reason: America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden’s first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years….”

With more experience in foreign affairs than any president since George H. W. Bush, Biden set out to rebuild our strained alliances and modernize the war on terror. On January 20, he took steps to rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accords, which his predecessor had rejected. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized that Biden’s leadership team believed foreign and domestic policy to be profoundly linked. They promised to support democracy at home and abroad to combat the authoritarianism rising around the world.

“The more we and other democracies can show the world that we can deliver, not only for our people, but also for each other, the more we can refute the lie that authoritarian countries love to tell, that theirs is the better way to meet people’s fundamental needs and hopes. It’s on us to prove them wrong,” Blinken said.

Biden and Blinken increased the use of sanctions against those suspected of funding terrorism. Declaring it vital to national security to stop corruption in order to prevent illicit money from undermining democracies, Biden convened a Summit for Democracy, where leaders from more than 110 countries discussed how best to combat authoritarianism and corruption, and to protect human rights.

Biden began to shift American foreign policy most noticeably by withdrawing from the nation’s twenty-year war in Afghanistan. He inherited the previous president’s February 2020 deal with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, so long as the Taliban did not kill any more Americans. By the time Biden took office, the U.S. had withdrawn all but 2500 troops from the country.

He could either go back on Trump’s agreement—meaning the Taliban would again begin attacking U.S. service people, forcing the U.S. to pour in troops and sustain casualties—or get out of what had become a meandering, expensive, unpopular war, one that Biden himself had wanted to leave since the Obama administration.

In April, Biden said he would honor the agreement he had inherited from Trump, beginning, not ending, the troop withdrawal on May 1. He said he would have everyone out by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks that took us there in the first place. (He later adjusted that to August 31.) He promised to evacuate the country “responsibly, deliberately, and safely” and assured Americans that the U.S. had “trained and equipped a standing force of over 300,000 Afghan personnel” who would “continue to fight valiantly, on behalf of the Afghans, at great cost.”

Instead, the Afghan army crumbled as the U.S began to pull its remaining troops out in July. By mid-August, the Taliban had taken control of the capital, Kabul, and the leaders of the Afghan government fled, abandoning the country to chaos. People rushed to the airport to escape and seven Afghans died, either crushed in the crowds or killed when they fell from planes to which they had clung in hopes of getting out. Then, on August 26, two explosions outside the Kabul airport killed at least 60 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. troops. More than 100 Afghans and 15 U.S. service members were wounded.

In the aftermath, the U.S. military conducted the largest human airlift in U.S. history, moving more than 100,000 people without further casualties, and on August 30, Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, boarded a cargo plane at Kabul airport, and the U.S. war in Afghanistan was over. (Evacuations have continued on planes chartered by other countries.)

With the end of that war, Biden has focused on using financial pressure and alliances rather than military might to achieve foreign policy goals. He has worked with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to counter increasing aggression from Russian president Vladimir Putin, strengthening NATO, while suggesting publicly that further Russian incursions into Ukraine will have serious financial repercussions.

In any ordinary time, Biden’s demonstration that democracy can work for ordinary people in three major areas would have been an astonishing success.

But these are not ordinary times.

Biden and the Democrats have had to face an opposition that is working to undermine the government. Even after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, 147 Republican members of Congress voted to challenge at least one of the certified state electoral votes, propping up the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 presidential election. Many of them continue to plug that lie, convincing 68% of Republicans that Biden is an illegitimate president.

This lie has justified the passage in 19 Republican-dominated states of 33 new laws to suppress voting or to take the counting of votes out of the hands of non-partisan officials altogether and turn that process over to Republicans.

Republicans have stoked opposition to the Democrats by feeding the culture wars, skipping negotiations on the American Rescue Plan, for example, to complain that the toymaker Hasbro was introducing a gender-neutral Potato Head toy, and that the estate of Dr. Seuss was ceasing publication of some of his lesser-known books that bore racist pictures or themes. They created a firestorm over Critical Race Theory, an advanced legal theory, insisting that it, and the teaching of issues of race in the schools, was teaching white children to hate themselves.

Most notably, though, as Biden’s coronavirus vaccination program appeared to be meeting his ambitious goals, Republicans suggested that government vaccine outreach was overreach, pushing the government into people’s lives. Vaccination rates began to drop off, and Biden’s July 4 goal went unmet just as the more contagious Delta variant began to rage across the country.

In July, Biden required federal workers and contractors to be vaccinated; in November, the administration said that workers at businesses with more than 100 employees and health care workers must be vaccinated or frequently tested.

Rejecting the vaccine became a badge of opposition to the Biden administration. By early December, fewer than 10% of adult Democrats were unvaccinated, compared with 40% of Republicans. This means that Republicans are three times more likely than Democrats to die of Covid, and as the new Omicron variant rages across the country, Republicans are blaming Biden for not stopping the pandemic. Covid has now killed more than 800,000 Americans.

While Biden and the Democrats have made many missteps this year—missing that the Afghan government would collapse, hitting an Afghan family in a drone strike, underplaying Covid testing, prioritizing infrastructure over voting rights—the Democrats’ biggest miscalculation might well be refusing to address the disinformation of the Republicans directly in order to promote bipartisanship and move the country forward together.

With the lies of Trump Republicans largely unchallenged by Democratic lawmakers or the media, Republicans have swung almost entirely into the Trump camp. The former president has worked to purge from the state and national party anyone he considers insufficiently loyal to him, and his closest supporters have become so extreme that they are openly supporting authoritarianism and talking of Democrats as “vermin.”

Some are talking about a “national divorce,” which observers have interpreted as a call for secession, like the Confederates tried in 1860. But in fact, Trump Republicans do not want to form their own country. Rather, they want to cement minority rule in this one, keeping themselves in power over the will of the majority.

It seems that in some ways we are ending 2021 as we began it. Although Biden and the Democrats have indeed demonstrated that our government, properly run, can work for the people to combat a deadly pandemic, create a booming economy, and stop unpopular wars, that same authoritarian minority that tried to overturn the 2020 election on January 6 is more deeply entrenched than it was a year ago.

And yet, as we move into 2022, the ground is shifting. The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is starting to show what it has learned from the testimony of more than 300 witnesses and a review of more than 35,000 documents. The fact that those closest to Trump are refusing to testify suggests that the hearings in the new year will be compelling and will help people to understand just how close we came to an authoritarian takeover last January.

And then, as soon as the Senate resumes work in the new year, it will take up measures to restore the voting rights and election integrity Republican legislatures have stripped away, giving back to the people the power to guard against such an authoritarian coup happening again.

It looks like 2022 is going to be a choppy ride, but its outcome is in our hands. As Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), who was beaten almost to death in his quest to protect the right to vote, wrote to us when he passed: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.”

Notes:

https://khn.org/morning-breakout/covid-deaths-skew-higher-than-ever-in-red-states/

The “vermin” and “national divorce” quotations are tweets from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) but I didn’t want to spread them on social media. They were retweeted by several other Republicans.

This is a blogger whose thoughts and writings I enjoy.

Personal Reflections on 2021

December 31, 2021

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Robert B. Hubbell

Dec 31

[Audio version of newsletter here]

Legendary House Speaker Tip O’Neill was fond of saying that “All politics is local.” I would add that “All politics is personal.” My effort to interpret the news each day through “a lens of hope” begins and ends with my family. Above all else, I am trying to sustain and lift-up my family by staring into the noisome stream of information that passes for “news” to find the thread of decency and hope that binds us together as a nation. You get to ‘listen in’ as I write for my wife, my daughters, and (now) my granddaughters.

Every story that passes through the pages of the newsletter affects each of us in very personal ways—some immediately, others over the long term. As we come to the end of 2021, my wife and I are taking this opportunity reflect on how four developments affected our family. We hope that our personal reflections on daily life will resonate with you and encourage you to reflect on 2021 with your family and friends. As you do, let me issue a spoiler alert: 2021 was a rough year, but we endured by binding together as families, communities, and Americans (at least, enough of us did to carry all of us forward). We face many challenges ahead. But having made it through 2021 should give us confidence as we face the challenges of 2022 and beyond.

The coronavirus pandemic.

Twelve months ago, we lived in a constant state of apprehension and anxiety. A vaccine was approved for emergency use but was not generally available to the public until mid-year. My wife and I essentially sheltered in place. We left the house to take walks (with masks) and made a daily drive to a local burger joint to get a diet coke at the drive-through window. (The staff behind the window eventually took pity on us and started giving us a “military discount” on a tab of $2.65.)

In April, we sat in our car in mile-long lines in the Dodger Stadium parking lot to receive our first and second vaccinations. It was reminiscent of standing in line in 1964 with hundreds of children at the local National Guard armory to receive the polio vaccine. The sense of relief was palpable. Despite the long lines, we were filled with pride at the efficiency of the national vaccination effort and the scientific accomplishment of developing a vaccine in less than a year. Our daughters were filled with relief that their “elderly” parents had received protection from the coronavirus. And we heaved a sigh of relief as we were able to gather with family over the summer months and early fall.

And now, Omicron. With two unvaccinated infant granddaughters in the family, we have essentially returned to lockdown. Despite the frustration and new round of anxiety, we feel better prepared and protected (everyone in the family is triple vaccinated). But this wave is more complicated because partisan politics tinges every aspect of the effort to contain the coronavirus. It is difficult to feel charity towards people who turned their backs on science for partisan reasons and now clog the emergency rooms in many states, preventing care for others with conditions unrelated to coronavirus. They are, of course, victims of the disinformation peddled by the right-wing news media and cynical politicians who are seeking re-election by endangering the lives of their constituents.

For me, the biggest casualty of the pandemic is trust in science. The rapid development of the vaccine saved millions of lives. But 40% of Americans believe nonsense about the vaccine and the coronavirus, including its origin, treatment, and damage to the human body from Covid-19. We have a lot of work to do to overcome that blow to science. The health and safety of our children and grandchildren depend on scientific progress, and it is up to us defend science and scientists if we hope to prevent future catastrophes.

January 6th.

There is a “before” and “after” aspect to January 6th. Before the insurrection, the notion that some members of Trump’s base would resort to violence to intervene in the democratic process seemed unthinkable. January 6th changed everything. On that day, for the second time in five years, one of my daughters said, “I told you it would happen; you didn’t believe me.” She was right, and it is humbling to be proven wrong after giving assurances that something would not come to pass. (The first was the accidental election of Trump.)

Perhaps the worst part of January 6th was that, after a few days, Republicans overcame their shock over the assault on the Capitol and began to talk themselves into believing that “It wasn’t so bad; just some overenthusiastic patriots getting rowdy.” In that sense, January 6th is about the utter, complete, and final collapse of the Republican Party. It is not only irredeemable, it is unworthy of being redeemed. It has become an apologist and propagandist for an insurrection against the United States. It doesn’t get any worse than that.

And yet, the media treats Josh Hawley like he is a U.S. Senator rather than a traitor to the Constitution. The same with Kevin McCarthy and Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson and Marjorie Taylor Green and every other member of Congress who encouraged or excused the violence on January 6th. The insurrection continues to this day as Republicans in Congress refuse to cooperate with the Select Committee’s investigation of the assault on the Capitol.

But not every act of partisan politics amounts to rebellion and not every threat by an unhinged Trump supporter portends civil war. January 6thchanged everything, but we cannot let it change us. We must remain vigilant without surrendering to exaggerated fears; we must take threats seriously but retain our ability to assess the scale of threats and likelihood of materialization. We must not suffer from a lack of imagination in anticipating new threats, but we must remain firmly rooted in reality as we defend democracy. Those competing demands will challenge us as we move toward the next presidential election, but we are up to the task.

Climate change.

For nearly two months in 2021, we believed that our small cabin in the Sierras would be destroyed by wildfire. After a monumental effort by CalFire and other agencies, the southern edge of the fire stopped one mile from our cabin. Even then, it smoldered for several months more—until December snows finally extinguished it.

It is always a mistake to point to a single event and declare that it was caused by climate change. But the 2021 wildfires in the Sierras followed a historic drought that killed more than one hundred million trees in the southern Sierras. That is not a once-in-a-generation event. That is a once-in-recorded-history event. Although the snows have returned to the Sierras in December 2021, one wet winter cannot recharge aquifers depleted by a decade of drought. The vast San Joaquin Valley, which produces 25% of the nation’s table food, depends on snowmelt from the Sierras to recharge groundwater basins and aquifers. Friends who farm in the San Joaquin Valley tell us that 100-foot wells are being replaced by 800-foot wells as farmers chase ever receding groundwater. These dramatic changes happened in a generation. Are they permanent? We won’t know the answer to that question until it is too late to do anything about it. The sensible course is to assume that the historic droughts in California are caused by climate change and act accordingly—before it is too late.

The next generation.

At root, this newsletter is about redeeming democracy for the next generation. With the birth of two granddaughters in 2020 and 2021, that task took on greater urgency and a broader time horizon. Being a grandparent is wonderful, but it is also an awesome responsibility—especially so during a pandemic. It is impossible to look at their beautiful faces and not wonder what type of world we are leaving to them. Like climate change, we won’t know the answer to that question until it is too late to do anything to change the outcome. So, the only option is to do everything in our power now to ensure that they will live a country that is free, tolerant, safe, healthy, and peaceful. As one reader reminded me recently, we must “govern for our grandchildren—and their grandchildren.” Taking the long view in governing requires discipline, sacrifice, and wisdom. We should elect our leaders accordingly. In 2020, we made a good start. And yet, despite all we hope to do for them, what they have done for us is incalculable. They are our joy, our hope, and our reason. We feel blessed.

Concluding Thoughts.

This newsletter started in response to Trump’s accidental election in 2016. After Biden’s inauguration, I had no definite plans for the future of the newsletter—except to write the next edition each day. I entertained the vague hope that it would outlive its usefulness and slowly fade away. But the events of 2021 had other plans for the newsletter. Its growth in Biden’s first year has exceeded the newsletter’s growth during four years of Trump. It is clear that we are engaged in an extended fight for the soul of democracy. We will win, but it will require decades of vigilance and effort on our part. I will be by your side every step of the way, offering encouragement, consolation, information, and the collective wisdom of the community of like-minded people who comprise this newsletter. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey. It is an honor.

Jan Resseger received an early copy of a new book edited by David Berliner and Carl Hermanns (I contributed one of the essays), and she was delighted to discover that the volume contains what must have been one of Mike Rose’s last essays before his untimely death last summer.

She writes:

I just received my pre-ordered copy of a fine new collection of essays from Teachers College Press. In Public Education: Defending a Cornerstone of American Democracy, editors David Berliner and Carl Hermanns pull together reflections by 29 writers, who, as the editors declare: “create a vivid and complex portrait of public education in these United States.”

It seems especially appropriate at the end of 2021 to consider one of the essays included in this new book—probably Mike Rose’s final essay—“Reflections on the Public School and the Social Fabric.” Rose, the wonderful writer and UCLA professor of education, died unexpectedly in August.

Rose considers the many possible lenses through which a public can consider and evaluate its public schools: “Public schools are governmental and legal institutions and therefore originate in legislation and foundational documents… All institutions are created for a reason, have a purpose, are goal driven… Equally important as the content of curriculum are the underlying institutional assumptions about ability, knowledge, and the social order… Public schools are physical structures. Each has an address, sits on a parcel of land with geographical coordinates… By virtue of its location in a community, the school is embedded in the social and economic dynamics of that community… The school is a multidimensional social system rich in human interaction… With the increasing application of technocratic frameworks to social and institutional life, it becomes feasible to view schools as quantifiable systems, represented by numbers, tallies, metrics. Some school phenomena lend themselves to counting, though counting alone won’t capture their meaning… And schools can be thought of as part of the social fabric of a community, serving civic and social needs: providing venues for public meetings and political debate, polls, festivities, and during crises shelters, distribution hubs, sites of comfort.”

Please open the link and read on!