Archives for category: Democracy

While many primary races are too close to call, due to large numbers of uncounted absentee ballots, Jamaal Bowman scored a decisive upset in his race to replace veteran Cingresman Elliot Engel, chair of the House Foreigh affairs Committee.

Jamaal is/was a middle school principal who was active in the opt out movement. He received the endorsement of AOC, Sanders, Warren, and many others, including me.

Here is the speech he gave when his victory appeared certain.

Jamaal will be a strong, clear, and informed voice for the voiceless in Congress.

This is one of the most important posts you will read today, this week, this month. If you want to understand the hoax of so-called “education reform,” read this post. Share it with your friends. Tweet it. Put it in Facebook. It rips the veil away from the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Thomas Ultican has found the beating heart of the Disruption movement, the organization where plans are hatched and funded to destroy public schools. He tells the story of the NewSchools Venture Fund, where very wealthy people collaborate to undermine and privatize one of our most essential democratic institutions: our public schools.

He begins this important post:

The New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF) is the Swiss army knife of public school privatization. It promotes education technology development, bankrolls charter school creation, develops charter management organizations and sponsors school leadership training groups. Since its founding in 1998, a small group of people with extraordinary wealth have been munificent in their support. NSVF is a significant asset in the billionaire funded drive to end democratically run public schools and replace them with privatized corporate structures.

Read this remarkable account that ties together the masters of the universe, who have decided to rearrange the lives of lesser mortals, that is, people who lack their vast wealth and political connections.

Audrey Watters gave a talk at the Academic Technology Institute. I am always interested in her writing because she is truly an original thinker. She sees the future of surveillance, control, and loss of human agency. She is our Cassandra. Some things never change. Some things seem to change despite our efforts. Audrey gives up hope in a desperate time that we can still stop the machines that seek to own us.

The Washington Post published a statement endorsed by 89 individuals who served in the U.S. Department of Defense.

President Trump continues to use inflammatory language as many Americans protest the unlawful death of George Floyd and the unjust treatment of black Americans by our justice system. As the protests have grown, so has the intensity of the president’s rhetoric. He has gone so far as to make a shocking promise: to send active-duty members of the U.S. military to “dominate” protesters in cities throughout the country — with or without the consent of local mayors or state governors.

On Monday, the president previewed his approach on the streets of Washington. He had 1,600 troops from around the country transported to the D.C. area, and placed them on alert, as an unnamed Pentagon official put it, “to ensure faster employment if necessary.” As part of the show of force that Trump demanded, military helicopters made low-level passes over peaceful protesters — a military tactic sometimes used to disperse enemy combatants — scattering debris and broken glass among the crowd. He also had a force, including members of the National Guard and federal officers, that used flash-bang grenades, pepper spray and, according to eyewitness accounts, rubber bullets to drive lawful protesters, as well as members of the media and clergy, away from the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church. All so he could hold a politically motivated photo op there with members of his team, including, inappropriately, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Looting and violence are unacceptable acts, and perpetrators should be arrested and duly tried under the law. But as Monday’s actions near the White House demonstrated, those committing such acts are largely on the margins of the vast majority of predominantly peaceful protests. While several past presidents have called on our armed services to provide additional aid to law enforcement in times of national crisis — among them Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson — these presidents used the military to protect the rights of Americans, not to violate them.

As former leaders in the Defense Department — civilian and military, Republican, Democrat and independent — we all took an oath upon assuming office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” as did the president and all members of the military, a fact that Gen. Milley pointed out in a recent memorandum to members of the armed forces. We are alarmed at how the president is betraying this oath by threatening to order members of the U.S. military to violate the rights of their fellow Americans.

President Trump has given governors a stark choice: either end the protests that continue to demand equal justice under our laws, or expect that he will send active-duty military units into their states. While the Insurrection Act gives the president the legal authority to do so, this authority has been invoked only in the most extreme conditions when state or local authorities were overwhelmed and were unable to safeguard the rule of law. Historically, as Secretary Esper has pointed out, it has rightly been seen as a tool of last resort.

Beyond being unnecessary, using our military to quell protests across the country would also be unwise. This is not the mission our armed forces signed up for: They signed up to fight our nation’s enemies and to secure — not infringe upon — the rights and freedoms of their fellow Americans. In addition, putting our servicemen and women in the middle of politically charged domestic unrest risks undermining the apolitical nature of the military that is so essential to our democracy. It also risks diminishing Americans’ trust in our military — and thus America’s security — for years to come.

As defense leaders who share a deep commitment to the Constitution, to freedom and justice for all Americans, and to the extraordinary men and women who volunteer to serve and protect our nation, we call on the president to immediately end his plans to send active-duty military personnel into cities as agents of law enforcement, or to employ them or any another military or police forces in ways that undermine the constitutional rights of Americans. The members of our military are always ready to serve in our nation’s defense. But they must never be used to violate the rights of those they are sworn to protect.

Leon E. Panetta, former defense secretary

Chuck Hagel, former defense secretary

Ashton B. Carter, former defense secretary

William S. Cohen, former defense secretary

Sasha Baker, former deputy chief of staff to the defense secretary

Donna Barbisch, retired major general in the U.S. Army

Jeremy Bash, chief of staff to the defense secretary
Jeffrey P. Bialos, former deputy under secretary of defense for industrial affairs

Susanna V. Blume, former deputy chief of staff to the deputy defense secretary

Ian Brzezinski, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Europe and NATO

Gabe Camarillo, former assistant secretary of the Air Force

Kurt M. Campbell, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Asia and the Pacific

Michael Carpenter, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia

Rebecca Bill Chavez, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Western hemisphere affairs
Derek Chollet, former assistant defense secretary for international security affairs

Dan Christman, retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Army and former assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

James Clapper, former under secretary of defense for intelligence and director of national intelligence

Eliot A. Cohen, former member of planning staff for the defense department and former member of the Defense Policy Board

Erin Conaton, former under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness

John Conger, former principal deputy under secretary of defense

Peter S. Cooke, retired major general of the U.S. Army Reserve

Richard Danzig, former secretary of the U.S. Navy

Janine Davidson, former under secretary of the U.S. Navy

Robert L. Deitz, former general counsel at the National Security Agency

Abraham M. Denmark, former deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia

Michael B. Donley, former secretary of the U.S. Air Force

John W. Douglass, retired brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy

Raymond F. DuBois, former acting under secretary of the U.S. Army

Eric Edelman, former under secretary of defense for policy

Eric Fanning, former secretary of the U.S. Army

Evelyn N. Farkas, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia

Michèle A. Flournoy, former under secretary of defense for policy

Nelson M. Ford, former under secretary of the U.S. Army
Alice Friend, former principal director for African affairs in the office of the under defense secretary for policy

John A. Gans Jr., former speechwriter for the defense secretary

Sherri Goodman, former deputy under secretary of defense for environmental security

André Gudger, former deputy assistant defense secretary for manufacturing and industrial base policy

Robert Hale, former under secretary of defense and Defense Department comptroller

Michael V. Hayden, retired general in the U.S. Air Force and former director of the National Security Agency and CIA

Mark Hertling, retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Army and former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe

Kathleen H. Hicks, former principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy

Deborah Lee James, former secretary of the U.S. Air Force

John P. Jumper, retired general of the U.S. Air Force and former chief of staff of the Air Force

Colin H. Kahl, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Middle East policy

Mara E. Karlin, former deputy assistant defense secretary for strategy and force development

Frank Kendall, former under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics

Susan Koch, former deputy assistant defense secretary for threat-reduction policy

Ken Krieg, former under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics

J. William Leonard, former deputy assistant defense secretary for security and information operations

Steven J. Lepper, retired major general of the U.S. Air Force

George Little, former Pentagon press secretary

William J. Lynn III, former deputy defense secretary

Ray Mabus, former secretary of the U.S. Navy and former governor of Mississippi

Kelly Magsamen, former principal deputy assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs

Carlos E. Martinez, retired brigadier general of the U.S. Air Force Reserve

Michael McCord, former under secretary of defense and Defense Department comptroller

Chris Mellon, former deputy assistant defense secretary for intelligence

James N. Miller, former under secretary of defense for policy

Edward T. Morehouse Jr., former principal deputy assistant defense secretary and former acting assistant defense secretary for operational energy plans and programs

Jamie Morin, former director of cost assessment and program evaluation at the Defense Department and former acting under secretary of the U.S. Air Force

Jennifer M. O’Connor, former general counsel of the Defense Department

Sean O’Keefe, former secretary of the U.S. Navy

Dave Oliver, former principal deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics

Robert B. Pirie, former under secretary of the U.S. Navy
John Plumb, former acting deputy assistant defense secretary for space policy

Eric Rosenbach, former assistant defense secretary for homeland defense and global security

Deborah Rosenblum, former acting deputy assistant defense secretary for counternarcotics

Todd Rosenblum, acting assistant defense secretary for homeland defense and Americas’ security affairs

Tommy Ross, former deputy assistant defense secretary for security cooperation

Henry J. Schweiter, former deputy assistant defense secretary

David B. Shear, former assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs

Amy E. Searight, former deputy assistant defense secretary for South and Southeast Asia

Vikram J. Singh, former deputy assistant defense secretary for South and Southeast Asia

Julianne Smith, former deputy national security adviser to the vice president and former principal director for Europe and NATO policy

Paula Thornhill, retired brigadier general of the Air Force and former principal director for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs

Jim Townsend, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Europe and NATO policy

Sandy Vershbow, former assistant defense secretary for international security affairs

Michael Vickers, former under secretary of defense for intelligence

Celeste Wallander, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia

Andrew Weber, former assistant defense secretary for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs

William F. Wechsler, former deputy assistant defense secretary for special operations and combating terrorism

Doug Wilson, former assistant defense secretary for public affairs

Anne A. Witkowsky, former deputy assistant defense secretary for stability and humanitarian affairs

Douglas Wise, former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency

Daniel P. Woodward, retired brigadier general of the U.S. Air Force
Margaret H. Woodward, retired major general of the U.S. Air Force

Carl Woog, former deputy assistant to the defense secretary for communications

Robert O. Work, former deputy defense secretary

Dov S. Zakheim, former under secretary of defense and Defense Department comptroller

These are the worst of times.

Police brutality in Minneapolis murdered a black man who allegedly used a fake $20 bill. Petty crimes are adjudicated in a court of law. Police do not have the authority or right to use lethal force when confronting an unarmed person. After a long string of similar incidents where black people were unjustly murdered, the killing of George Floyd ignited protests across the nation. Some of the protests turned violent, and fires were burning in widely scattered cities in the midst of confrontations between police and protestors.

Racism is America’s deepest, most intractable sin.

The explosion of protest is unlikely to lead to any productive change until the racists in the White House are ousted and replaced by people who are determined to fight racism. We currently have a government of old white men who have used their words and deeds to stoke the fires that are now burning. Trump has no credibility to calm the situation or to offer solace or to promise meaningful change. He has spent many years expressing the anger of racists, repeatedly claiming that President Obama was not born in the U.S., demanding the death penalty for the Central Park Five (who were ultimately found innocent), pretending never to have heard of David Duke when Duke offered his endorsement of Trump, referring to the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville as “very fine people,” appealing again and again to the gun-toting, violent people who thronged to his rallies and praising them. No need to point out that Trump has stoked the fires that are now burning. We have all seen it with our own eyes. He is like a boy who plays with matches and eventually burns down his own house.

Last night on CNN, the Reverend William Barber referred to the protests as an expression of “national mourning.” The protestors are reacting, he said, not only to the death of George Floyd, but to poverty, joblessness, unequal treatment, hunger, injustice—to systematic racism and inequity that have been ignored for too long. For too long, our nation has been on a trajectory that creates and enriches billionaires while millions of people of all races, but especially black Americans, are expected to live a life of want and need and hopelessness without complaint.

Last night, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center released the text of a speech that Dr. King gave in 1967 in which he said that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” He said, prophetically, “And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt laid out an “economic bill of rights” in 1944, which has since been forgotten as a small number of extraordinarily wealthy people rig the system to intensify economic inequality, abetted by willing allies like Mitch McConnell. Even a huge multi-trillion dollar bill to relieve those suffering from the effects of the coronavirus turned out to be a package of goodies for big corporations.

Trump did not create racism, but he has used it and exploited it for his political benefit. He has ignored it, belittled its consequences, and courted the support of racists. He has made plain his contempt for his predecessor, our nation’s first black president. When Obama was elected president, many commentators declared that America was finally a post-racial society. With a man of African descent in the presidency, with a racially integrated Cabinet, with a black man leading the Justice Department, the stain of racism would at last be abolished.

The commentators were wrong. Racism is thriving. It will destroy our nation until we assure equal justice to every citizen, until we guarantee that everyone has the same rights and privileges, until we provide every man, woman, and child with decent health care, housing, education, and a decent standard of living.

We can’t eliminate racism entirely, but we can remove its adherents from the seats of power, we can stigmatize it. We can choose leaders who fight for freedom, justice, and a decent standard of living for all people. Unless we do so, our tattered democracy will not survive. We can’t let that happen. We must be willing and able to pursue genuine change, a social democracy in which every one of us is protected equally by the law and has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Amy Frogge is one of the heroes of my book SLAYING GOLIATH. A lawyer, she ran for the Metro Nashville school board with no foreknowledge of the privatization movement. She ran as a concerned citizen and a mother of children in the public schools of Nashville. The privatizers outspent her 5-1, but she won. When she got on the board, she realized that there was a sustained and well-funded campaign to replace public schools with charters. She became a truth-teller, motivated by her deep concern for the common good.

When she ran for re-election, she again faced a well-financed opponent, backed by Gates-funded Stand for Children and DFER. Frogge scored an overwhelming victory.

Amy Frogge is still fighting the fake reformers.

Every school board needs an Amy Frogge, who sees clearly and is not afraid to speak truth to power.

She recently wrote an open letter denouncing Eli Broad and his Broadies.

She wrote:

Dear Nashville (and others),

Please pay attention to those with whom you choose to align yourself on education issues. If you are supporting anyone funded or trained by California billionaire Eli Broad, you can bet you’ll end up on the wrong side of history.

Eli Broad created and funds a blog called Education Post. The folks who run it would like for you to believe they are just activists for low-income families and minority children- but in reality, they are dripping with dirty money. Education Post’s first CEO, Peter Cunningham, was paid $1 million for 2 1/2 years of blogging. Board member Chris Stewart, known online as “Citizen Stewart,” was paid $422,925 for 40 hours a week across 30 months as “outreach and external affairs director.” As author/blogger Mercedes Schneider concludes, “In ed reform, blogging pays juicy salaries.” (For the record, I have never earned a penny for any of my social media posts, of course.)

Paid Education Post leaders regularly try to infiltrate online Nashville education discussions (Nashville is a national target for charter expansion), and Education Post also pays local bloggers to write posts. Local bloggers Zack Barnes and Vesia Hawkins are both listed as network members on the Education Post blog.

Many of the big players in Tennessee were “trained” by Eli Broad through his Broad Superintendents Academy, which recruits business leaders with no background in education to be superintendents- with the purpose of privatizing schools (closing existing schools and opening more charter schools). The current Tennessee Commissioner of Education, Penny Schwinn, is a “Broadie.” Two former heads of Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District (a ploy to expand charter schools without local approval) were Broadies: Chris Barbic and Malika Anderson. Former superintendents Jim McIntyre (of Knoxville) and Shawn Joseph (of Nashville) were also affiliated with the Broad network. Shawn Joseph claimed both McIntyre and former Baltimore superintendent Dallas Dance, a member of Education Post’s network, as his mentors.

The school “reforms” pushed by Broadies all center around profit-making through public education: standardized testing (money for private test companies), computer learning (money for IT companies and cost-savings on hiring teachers), charter schools, vouchers, scripted curriculum that can be monetized, etc. Broadies typically see teachers as expendable and believe teaching can be mechanized.

Since charters and vouchers have become an increasingly unpopular cause, the latest angle is for Broadies to increase the number of (sometimes rigged) vendor contracts for programs and services, as well as consultants, with school districts. Former Baltimore superintendent Dallas Dance went to federal prison for rigging no-bid contracts in a kick-back scheme. In a similar scheme, his mentee (Nashville superintendent) Shawn Joseph was caught inflating no-bid contract prices (in violation of state law) for vendors connected with the recruiter and Broadies who placed him in Nashville through a rigged superintendent search. (See comments for further information.)

Billionaires like Eli Broad who fund school profiteering efforts like to hire/fund people of color to act as front-men for their efforts. This provides the appearance that the push for “school choice” (i.e., charters and vouchers) is grassroots. When these folks are questioned or caught in the midst of wrong-doing, they are able to cry racism. Meanwhile, everyone has their hands in the cookie jar of funding meant to serve children.

The ploys used in school profiteering are particularly nasty- the worst of dirty politics. The goal is usually to smear, humiliate, shame and discredit anyone who is an effective critic of the school privatization agenda. Lots of money is spent on PR for this purpose. (I’ve even been attacked on this Facebook page by a paid “social media specialist” for my opposition to charter schools.)

You’ll notice that the atmosphere tends to become particularly dysfunctional and circus-like when Broadies are in charge or involved. You’ll also notice that Broadies like to push the narrative that locally-elected school boards are too dysfunctional to lead (even when the Broadie in charge is causing all the dysfunction!). This is because Eli Broad and those affiliated with him want no public oversight of public education spending.

So- when you witness education conversations on social media, be sure to figure out who is funding those claiming to promote “school choice” or to advocate for children in poverty. Follow the money, y’all. Always!

Juan Gonzalez is a veteran journalist who wrote a regular column for the “New York Daily News” for many years. He retired from the “News” but frequently appears on “Democracy Now” as co-host with Amy Goodman. Gonzalez is renowned as an investigative reporter and champion of justice. He wrote this post for the blog.

New Brunswick, New Jersey Community Fights to Save a Public School
From Corporate Hospital Industry Expansion

A plan by the political and financial elite of Central New Jersey to demolish a downtown New Brunswick public school this summer so that one of the state’s largest hospital chains can embark on a $750-million expansion has provoked repeated street protests since January, drawn hundreds of angry parents and community residents to public meetings and has already spawned two lawsuits – even in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown.

​The fight to save the Lincoln Annex Public School has emerged as a classic David-and-Goliath battle. On one side are New Brunswick’s low-income Latino residents. More than 50 per cent of the city’s population is Hispanic. Most are immigrants from Mexico and Central America, and many reside in rented houses surrounding the downtown business district. They have garnered support from a dozen Rutgers student organizations and the Rutgers faculty union, AAUP-AFT.

Arrayed against that community alliance is a group of powerful and entrenched institutions that have long pursued a policy of gentrifying the city. They include Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the Rutgers Cancer Institute, the New Brunswick Development Corp. (DEVCO), and the Middlesex County Democratic Party machine, led by Mayor James Cahill, who has ruled New Brunswick for nearly 30 years.
​Last June, RWJ/Barnabas Health, Rutgers and several major state politicians announced plans to build a new 12-story $750-million cancer research and treatment pavilion. At the time, however, they didn’t specify the exact location of the new building, even though internal emails later obtained by parent advocates show they had already decided where. Within months, some local media began reporting that talks were underway behind the scene for the city’s Board of Education to sell a public middle school across the street from RWJ, so that the school could be demolished and the cancer pavilion erected there.

​Lincoln Annex School has an enrollment of 760 children, more than 94% of them Hispanic and more than 80% from economically disadvantaged families. Many parents of the students are not eligible voters and therefore have very little political influence. The school, however, was only opened in September of 2016, after the city purchased the former St. Peter’s elementary and high school, and completely renovated the site at a cost to taxpayers of $22 million. As a result, Lincoln Annex is in far better condition than other schools in the district, and it happens to be one of the city’s best performing schools, with an excellent gifted and talented program.

​Throughout the fall and winter, hundreds of parents and residents began attending the monthly school board meetings to ask if it was true that the city was about to sell their school. At each meeting, the BOE members insisted these were just rumors, or informal discussions, that nothing was on the table. Not until early February did Mayor Cahill officially acknowledge the school would be sold and demolished by this summer. He immediately launched a public relations campaign, claiming “cancer can’t wait,” and he labeled opponents of the plan as somehow opposed to cancer treatment.

​The plan is to relocate the Lincoln Annex students in September to a “swing space” the school district leases on the outskirts of town, nearly two miles from the current Lincoln Annex. The building is actually a warehouse in an industrial park that was converted into classrooms. The students would attend that “swing space” for at least three years until a replacement school is built. Given the notorious delays in school construction, it could likely be much longer. The last school population that was relocated there, the Redshaw School, ended up with pupils spending 10 years in the facility due to such delays.

​Robert Wood Johnson and its developer, DEVCO, have promised to pay for the new school. Initially, they mentioned $25 million. But as community opposition grew, they upped the offer to $50 million, then to $55 million. Still, the students would have to be bused to the “swing space” for years while the new school is built, disrupting their education.

​To make matters worse, Mayor Cahill initially proposed a vacant brownfield site also on the outskirts of town for the new replacement school. The Coalition to Defend Lincoln Annex, the alliance of community groups that formed, soon obtained state environmental records that revealed the site was hopelessly contaminated with heavy metals and carcinogenic chemicals, which the city and its private owners had not been able to remediate after 10 years of effort. Once the group made that information public, the city came up with a new site, one closer to the current Lincoln Annex, but one that is still a contaminated brownfield site. The extent of that contamination is not known because of delays in state responses to freedom of information requests since the COVID-19 lockdown.

​All the while, parents and community residents mounted numerous protests – at Board of Education meetings, at meetings of the Rutgers Board of Governors, at City Council meetings and at Planning Board meetings, but officials continued to ignore the public pressure and bulldoze ahead. As many as 200 people showed up to the Feb. 25 board of education meeting, all in opposition.

​Even the Catholic Church was drawn into the fray. When the Diocese of Metuchen sold the site to the Board of Education in 2013, it specifically included a deed restriction that the property had to be used as a “public school or for public administrative purposes” for fifty years. The parents, most of whom are Catholic, began to ask Bishop James Checchio to invoke the deed restriction and prevent the sale. They even appealed to Cardinal Joseph Tobin in Newark and to Pope Francis for help. Church leaders have declined to meet, but the bishop keeps issuing statements that he wishes to reach some kind of agreement with all parties.

​Faced with such overwhelming uproar, the New Brunswick Board of Education has resorted to limiting public testimony, ousting people from meetings, conducting official business in private, and otherwise violating state regulations on how to close or erect new public schools.

​Even after the coronavirus pandemic erupted, city officials kept moving forward with their plans, holding all meetings in telephonic conversations that further limited public participation. Initially, they claimed that the new school would not cost taxpayers a penny because Robert Wood Johnson would pay for the whole project. But then early this month, the Middlesex County Freeholders suddenly voted out of the blue to provide $25 million for the new cancer pavilion.

​At one point, members of the Coalition attempted to seek help from New Jersey’s non-profit Educational Law Center, which famously spearheaded the historic Abbott v. Burke decision thirty years ago that mandated the equalizing of state funding for public schools. But the center never responded. Only later did Coalition members learn that David Sciarra, the civil rights attorney who heads the law center, is also on the board of directors of DEVCO, the non-profit developer that is sponsoring this project!

​The Coalition eventually went outside of New Jersey, to a New York based Hispanic civil rights law firm, LatinoJustice/PRLDEF. Last week LatinoJustice filed two key actions. One is a complaint in Middlesex County Superior Court on behalf of parents and residents to enforce the deed restriction against a sale and raising key issues of violations of due process in the decision to sell the school. The other is a complaint to New Jersey Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet, asking him to reject the Long-Range Facilities Plan that New Brunswick submitted a few weeks ago to the state, which must approve any school district’s amendments to its school facilities.

​The degree of wealth and power confronting this parent-community coalition is breath-taking. Twenty executives of the the non-profit RWJ hospital and its parent chain received more than $1 million in compensation in 2018, a review of their IRS 990 tax form shows, topped by RWJ/BarnabasHealth’s CEO Barry Ostrowsky’s $4.9 million, northern regional president Thomas Biga’s $3.5 million, and RWJ President John Gantner’s $2.1 million. Dr. Steven Libutti, director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute, was paid $1.1 million; Christopher Paladino, the chief executive of DEVCO, received nearly $700,000. All of this raises serious issues about how public education policy is being driven by corporate interests, how public officials are seizing on the COVID-19 pandemic, in shock doctrine style, to push through their agenda without public accountability, and why a supposed “sanctuary city” like New Brunswick is running rough-shod over the interests of its immigrant community.
​Meanwhile, parents and community leaders have repeatedly said they will continue to resist the sale of Lincoln Annex.

​For more information, follow Defend Lincoln Annex on facebook:

Perhaps you recall that Republicans used to favor local control of public schools by elected boards. That time is now gone, since Republicans bought into the idea of privatization of public funds. Now they support state takeovers, even though there is no evidence that state takeovers have ever been successful, and a good deal of evidence (see the Michigan “Education Achievement Authority” and the Tennessee “Achievement School District”) that they have failed.

In Ohio, as Bill Phillis reports here, the state Supreme Court just approved a state takeover of school districts where test scores are low.

Ohio Supreme Court strikes a major blow to local community control of school districts and the rule of law

On May 13 the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the egregious HB 70 of the 131st General Assembly. HB 70 removes the control of certain school district from the elected board of education to an appointed entity. HB 70 was enacted in a short timeframe in violation of Article II section 15(c) which requires, “Every bill shall be considered by each house on three different days, unless two-thirds of the members elected to the house in which it is pending suspend this requirement, and every individual consideration of a bill or action suspending the requirement shall be recorded in the journal of the respective house.” Additionally, the enactment of HB 70 violated Article II section 15(d) which requires that “No bill shall contain more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title.”

HB 70, as introduced, provided for wraparound services as a means to help low-performing districts to improve student outcomes. The amendment, which was void of public input and the opportunity for public input, is totally antithetical to the purpose of the original bill.

Justice Donnelly, in a dissent, clearly shows how the legislature violated the Constitution. The dissent provided a chronology of events that led to the unlawful enactment of HB 70.

We have all read mealy-mouthed articles and editorials in which the writers tiptoe around the unquestioned fact that Donald Trump lies without shame. We know he has fired anyone in the federal government who has dared to question his often absurd judgments. We know he has fired several independent Inspectors General whose job is to monitor Cabinet agencies for waste, fraud, and abuse. Most recently he fired the Inspector General of the State Department, who was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for using State Department personnel to run personal errands, like walking his dog, picking up his dry cleaning, etc., and allowing his wife to run State Department meetings as if she had been hired to be his deputy. The Inspector General had to go.

Trump glories in insulting the media, mocking them for asking questions that he prefers not to answer. At his rallies, he enjoys ridiculing journalists, treating them like criminals. His tweets are vicious and self-aggrandizing, unbecoming of a man who sits in the White House.

Bit by bit, he is destroying the norms and institutions that have protected us in the past from incompetent presidents.

This newspaper, the Las Vegas Sun, called him out for what he is: an incipient dictator, a man whose fascist tendencies grow stronger with every passing day and with his fear that he might lose the election. The editorial board also called out the Republican party, a party that once identified with Abraham Lincoln but which now allies itself with white nationalists, bigots, and every sort of rightwing extremism. To be a Republican today is to identify with the most hateful elements of our society. I am ashamed to say that I worked in a Republican administration, that of President George H.W. Bush. Today, the Bush family should be speaking out against this mad interloper who has destroyed the last shreds of decency and moderation that once typified the Republican party. Instead, they stand silent, even when Trump mocked George W. Bush for issuing a call for national unity during the pandemic.

The Las Vegas Sun editorial warns that we are moving headlong towards dictatorship.

We have been warned.

Anyone who is tempted not to vote in 2020 or to vote for a third party candidate should read this editorial.

The time has arrived to confront a grim realization in calm but forthright terms.

Since 2016, observers in the U.S. and around the world have remarked on President Donald Trump and the Republican Party exhibiting authoritarian “tendencies.”

With a sense of numb shock, we now must acknowledge the facts before us. By any objective standard, the Trump administration and GOP leadership have moved well past authoritarian reflexes.

Simply put, our nation has entered the early stages of a dictatorship. It’s an immature dictatorship and still gathering power. But it’s not theoretical and it has happened faster than any rational person might believe.

In 1788, James Madison stood before the state of Virginia’s convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution and issued a warning about the future of American democracy. An overthrow, the Founding Father said, was less likely to happen through a violent takeover than “by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power.”

Today, that prophecy is playing out in chilling vigor. Led by a president who lacks all respect for our system of government, today’s Republican Party, through a quickening succession of abuses of power, is acting as an authoritarian regime.

This is not a hypothetical. It’s not dystopian fiction. It’s an inescapable conclusion when you examine the evidence.

Ponder the basic elements of an autocracy, and weigh them against the actions of Trump and the GOP leadership.

This administration and Republican leadership have corrupted the justice system, purged and persecuted nonpartisan military personnel and government employees to install apparatchiks in their place, regularly encouraged paramilitary activity among supporters, thwarted any efforts of legitimate legislative oversight, claimed absolute immunity for Trump, promoted propagandistic media while falsely discrediting the accuracy of legitimate news, manipulated the courts, marbled the administration and judiciary with unqualified lackeys, driven contracts to supporters, used the U.S. Treasury to reward friends, attempted to coerce foreign governments into leveling false charges at political rivals, eagerly courted supportive dictators around the world, excused friends from their crimes while seeking political prosecutions of enemies on false charges, sought to bend our intelligence agencies to partisan ends, threatened a free press with retaliation, revised or suppressed historical records that were unfavorable, publicly smeared perceived opponents, sabotaged fair elections, created a cult of personality around its leader, distributed government largesse based on fealty to the leader, defined critics as subhuman, traded in race-baiting and nationalism, caged children and broken up desperate families, defined all events solely in terms of how they affect the leader, shattered revered institutions protecting Americans, reviled our allies while embracing our enemies, and attempted to call into question the validity of elections that go against the leader while intimating that they might attempt to postpone elections if the leader’s poll numbers are weak. And that catalog of horrors is the abbreviated list.

These are the core attributes the world has used for decades to identify dictators. And these actions are actively afoot in America today, and they are gaining greater velocity with each day we grow closer to the election.

Consider the following items from just the past couple of weeks.

Assault on independent oversight

• Friday: Trump fires the State Department’s inspector general, the fourth time in less than a month he has removed a nonpartisan government watchdog who has found fault with the administration. The Associated Press reports that in a letter to Congress, Trump says Steve Linick, who had held the job since 2013, no longer has his full confidence. Linick is reported to have been investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for using federal resources for personal benefit. The move comes two weeks after Trump fired inspector general Christi Grimm from the Department of Health and Human Services. She had issued a report highlighting administration failures to prepare for COVID-19. At every turn in these firings, Trump sought to disable impartial oversight.

• Thursday: In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, ousted vaccine chief Dr. Richard Bright says the country is woefully unprepared for further effects of the COVID-19 outbreak because Trump officials ignored his early warnings and then retaliated against him after he sounded an alarm in January. Bright, who worked for the federal government for 25 years before his firing by Trump appointees, tells lawmakers the U.S. will see the “darkest winter in modern history” unless there’s a ramped-up response.

• Tuesday: Asked by Time magazine about the possibility of the administration delaying the November election, Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner doesn’t rule it out. He also won’t affirm that the election will take place Nov. 3 as scheduled. “It’s not my decision to make, so I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other. But right now that’s the plan,” Kushner says. “Hopefully, by the time we get to September or October or November, we’ve done enough with the testing and with all the different things we’re trying to do to prevent an outbreak of the magnitude that would make us shut down again.” Kushner’s noncommittal response fuels fears that Trump and the GOP will postpone the vote if his poll numbers are weak. Constitutionally, Trump lacks the power to do this — although the frequency of rumors about a delay attempt are troubling. However, with the support of a few GOP governors, Trump could throw the election into chaos. At minimum he regularly attacks the validity of any election that doesn’t go his way.

• Tuesday: During oral arguments in a Supreme Court case involving three lawsuits Trump has filed to conceal his tax returns, the president’s lawyers contend the president has immunity from being prosecuted or even investigated by law enforcement or Congress for any crime including murder. In other words, the attorneys contend Trump has kingly powers, a level of authority that no president in history has been granted and precisely what the Constitution’s balance of powers was designed to prevent.

• May 8: Under pressure from Trump, the Senate rushes to set a committee hearing on the confirmation of Trump loyalist filmmaker Michael Pack to lead the independent agency that oversees the Voice of America, the largest American international broadcaster. The nomination of Pack, a close ally of former Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon, has fueled fears that the VOA and its sister organizations would become Trump propaganda arms under Pack. Recently, Trump has been harshly critical of the VOA, including falsely accusing it of spreading Chinese misinformation about the coronavirus outbreak.

• May 8: Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, reorganizes his agency in blatant defiance of congressional oversight. Grenell makes the changes, which affect the network of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies he’s overseeing on an acting basis, after rebuffing a request from House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., for details. Schiff contends, justifiably, that it’s inappropriate for an acting leader to make wholesale changes. A Trump crony with scant intelligence experience, Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, is expected to be confirmed as permanent DNI by the Senate in the coming weeks.

Attacking perceived enemies

• May 7: Louis DeJoy, one of Trump’s financial backers and a longtime GOP donor, is selected as postmaster general. This opens the door for Trump to force the postal service to raise prices for companies that deliver packages, primarily Amazon, and in turn damage The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Earlier this year the Pentagon denied Amazon a bid for a multibillion-dollar contract — something now under investigation. Trump’s USPS move also raises the distinct possibility of the Republicans using the postal service to hinder vote-by-mail efforts this fall.

• May 7: A woman who had accused Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, of sexual assault recants and says she was paid by two Trump loyalists to fabricate the claim. The woman releases an audio recording in which one of the operatives, Jack Burkman, complains that Fauci “shut the country down” and that “you have to make up whatever you have to make up to stop that train and that’s the way life works, OK? That’s the way it goes.” When the woman says that COVID-19 is a serious illness, Burkman replies: “Mother Nature has to clean the barn every so often. How real is it? Who knows? So what if 1% of the population goes? So what if you lose 400,000 people? 200,000 were elderly, the other 200,000 are the bottom of society. You got to clean out the barn.” Considering that coronavirus so far has hit the elderly, blacks, Latinos and other people of color hardest, Burkman’s talk of “cleaning the barn” suggests he considers these people to be manure.

• May 7: Politico reports that leading congressional Republicans are coalescing behind a plan to replace FBI Director Christopher Wray with someone who will be obedient to Trump. It would be another step toward dismantling the Justice Department’s independence and bringing it under Trump’s control. Since his inauguration, Trump has made a series of moves to destroy the nonpartisan independence of our country’s intelligence community. James Comey, who was fired for not ignoring former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s overtures to Russia, has now been placed under criminal investigation by Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department. So are other members of the FBI and CIA who investigated Russia’s involvement in promoting Trump. The president has long demanded the investigations and prosecutions of these people whom he perceives as enemies.

• May 7: It’s revealed that Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, used classified information for the financial benefit of himself and his wealthy friends. Burr cashed out as much as $1.5 million in stock right before the market crash based on his insider knowledge about the coronavirus threat, and his brother-in-law sold up to $280,000 in shares the same day. Whether Burr is corrupt or not is unknown, but Trump loyalists have applauded because Burr has crossed Trump in the past. Burr steps down as committee chair on Thursday, a day after FBI agents seize his cellphone as part of a burgeoning insider trade investigation.

Undermining the rule of law

• May 7: Barr subverts federal prosecutors and the justice system by dropping charges against Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to breaking the law by lying to the FBI about his involvement in Russian election interference. Barr earlier interceded on behalf of another Trump loyalist, Roger Stone, by ordering federal prosecutors to reduce their sentencing recommendation for the convicted felon.

“This is a strange occurrence — this is a man (Flynn) who pled guilty twice and was prepared to be sentenced,” says Shira Scheindlin, a former federal judge, to the National Law Journal. “He had a motion pending to withdraw his plea, which had not been decided. There’s a really bad political smell to this, particularly after the Roger Stone debacle. This is going to be seen critically by prosecutors across the country as the Justice Department being the lawyer for the president, not the lawyer for the people.”

• May 7: Asked by CBS News how history would view his actions involving Flynn, Barr says, “Well, history is written by the winners. So it largely depends on who’s writing the history. I think a fair history would say that it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law. It … upheld the standards of the Department of Justice, and it undid what was an injustice.” It’s a preposterous statement — an attorney general saying he cares about the rule of law yet obviously is eager to conduct political prosecutions. But it’s also a flagrant acknowledgment that the administration is willing to commit malfeasance and revise history to cover its tracks. Think Soviet-era practices of removing purged individuals from history books and photos. Trump and his inner circle have already shown a predilection for this on a number of occasions: ordering that aerial photos from his inauguration be doctored so that the crowd appeared larger; posting altered images that make Trump look slimmer and make his hands appear bigger; tweeting a faked photo of Trump placing a medal on the military dog that helped U.S. special forces track ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; and coercing the National Archives into editing photos of the 2017 women’s march on Washington to white out picket signs critical of Trump. More than 2,000 former Justice Department attorneys — Republicans and Democrats — demand Barr’s resignation because of abuses of power.

• May 6: A leaked audio recording reveals that pro-Trump Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., who also heads his state’s Republican Party, pressured a local party official to submit falsified election results so that a GOP activist could make the primary election ballot. “You’ve got a sitting congressman — a sitting state party chair — who is trying to bully a volunteer — I’m a volunteer; I don’t get paid for this — into committing a crime,” said the official, Eli Bremer, to The Denver Post. “To say it’s damning is an understatement.” Previously, Buck has promoted the debunked Trump fantasy that it was Hillary Clinton who colluded with Russians.

Loyalty test

• May 6: The Trump administration assigns a White House loyalist to a behind-the-scenes role vetting Defense Department employees for loyalty to Trump, prompting concerns that Trump will purge civilian military leadership of anyone not in lockstep with his political agenda. Meanwhile, career military officers such as Brett Crozier, captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, are stripped of command if they do something inconvenient to the president.

• May 4: It’s reported that individuals connected to Trump are negotiating to take a controlling stake of One America News Network, an extremist cable-news channel whose hosts include the chief promoter of the insane Pizzagate fantasy, loosely linked to the QAnon whackos, that holds Democrats actively engage in an organized child-abuse ring in a Washington pizzeria. The reason for Trump’s OAN ardor? He believes Fox News isn’t supportive enough and wants an outlet that he can turn into a private version of a state-run propaganda platform. In his coronavirus briefings, Trump regularly turned to OAN staff to lob him friendly questions. Trump, for his part, has made no secret of his disdain on the rare occasions when Fox News personalities give him even the slightest criticism. “The people who are watching @FoxNews, in record numbers (thank you President Trump), are angry. They want an alternative now. So do I!” he tweeted April 26. The irony is monumental – without Fox News softening up the American public with crazed theories, there would be no Trump presidency.

• May 1: A day after militia members and other armed individuals gather to protest coronavirus-related closures at Michigan’s capitol, Trump praises them on Twitter by calling them “very good people.” The protests included swastikas, Confederate flags and a noose, as well as a sign referring to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and containing the message “tyrants get the rope.” This echoes Trump’s support of right-wing paramilitary at Charlottesville, Va., and elsewhere. By Thursday, the Michigan Legislature canceled its legislative session because of threats by armed protesters. It is a grim foreshadowing of the possibilities of Trump-loving paramilitary assaults on democratic institutions and a stupefying development in America.

• April 30: The administration suppresses new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for safely reopening businesses amid the pandemic, which call for wide-scale testing and contact tracing that Trump has been unable to put in place. The guidelines call into question the White House’s narrative that the nation can proceed safely.

Think about it: These are merely two weeks’ worth of actions by GOP leaders to rig the system, tear down checks and balances, eliminate oversight, gain permanent power and reap all the corrupt gains they can get.

This president and his party have shown they will sideline any member of the administration who isn’t a partisan loyalist fully willing to lie to the American public and bend any policy to the convenience of the president. They will: assault any independent institution; wage war on the idea of independent truths; refuse to protect the next election from tampering; engage in wholesale gerrymandering; restrict voter access; offer loving words to Kim Jong Un on his health while criticizing our allies; grovel before Vladimir Putin; engage in constant dog whistles to white supremacists. What was unimaginable in America just a few years ago is now happening before our eyes on an alarmingly regular basis. We are living in a period of kleptocratic minority rule.

Minority rule

Any realist cannot ignore the wanton destruction of the system of checks and balances and nonpartisan government and the congealing of despotic abuses.

One must conclude we are living in the early days of an authoritarian regime.

History teaches us that around the world, dictatorships often don’t announce themselves with tanks in the streets. Instead they arrive with the constant erosion of just systems, finger-pointing at imaginary enemies to mobilize their supporters and the constant concentration of power in a few hands. Meanwhile, they weaponize the justice system, the purse strings of government, law enforcement and the courts to their benefit. After they get away with the early steps, those who would rule let their actions accelerate. Suddenly the population wakes up one day to realize what’s happened. Often it’s too late by then.

During an April 3 coronavirus news conference, Trump offered a telling quote when asked why he doesn’t wear a face mask. “Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens. Somehow I don’t see it for myself.”

In a simple sentence, Trump clearly elevates dictators (dictators!) to the same dignified plane as presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens. It’s impossible to imagine another president doing the same after more than 100 years when America has stood as a beacon defying dictators. But in today’s GOP, dictators aren’t simply welcome, they are a source of inspiration.

But it’s not too late for the U.S. The systems guarding our freedom retain enough muscle memory that this dictatorship is still too weak to assert total dominance.

We can still save the country and avoid the nightmare scenario that Madison described all those years ago.

There’s a way to prevent Trump and his lickspittles from completing their job of dismantling America. It’s identifying good candidates, supporting them financially, voting for them and doing all we can to encourage others to vote for them too. It is also showing vocal support for the impartial institutions of government that, in the end, report to the American people and not to a mentally unstable leader.

But the window is closing. The pace of the GOP leadership’s abuses isn’t going to slow down, because they know the trend in American elective politics isn’t in their favor. The nation is growing more ethnically diverse and therefore more intolerant of the Trump-era GOP’s racist and anti-immigrant policies. Americans are demanding an end to the income inequality that has been brought on by Republican economic policies that grossly favor the ultrawealthy. As climate change intensifies, so does opposition to the damaging environmental policies of the right.

Plenty of rank-and-file Republicans also are disgusted by what’s happened and need a home — indeed we need a healthy dialogue with conservatives in the marketplace of American political ideas. However, Trump and the GOP leadership are not conservatives, and real conservative Americans are in the wilderness now.

All the while, the largest generation in the country — those in their teens and 20s, a group bigger than the baby boomers — is coming of age and is fervently opposed to today’s Republican Party.

The GOP knows it will fade into history soon without drastic action, so it’s holding onto power by any means necessary and scheming to permanently tilt the scales in its favor.

True Americans — the spiritual descendants of Madison and his fellow founders, who recognize Trump and those around him as the vandals they are — know they can’t let that happen.

But we all need to realize that the emergency is no longer on the horizon, coming gradually closer.

It’s here. We’re living it. And only we can put a stop to it.

The time to decide is now. Either you allow our democracy–with all its flaws and imperfections–to be corrupted and destroyed, or you stand for the rule of law and the Constitution. There is no other choice.

Which side are you on?

Lisa Haver, a retired teacher and current activist in Philadelphia, wonders why state and city leaders are so fearful of democracy. When state control of the public schools ended—capping a two-decade era of defunding and additional privatization of public assets—it was replaced by mayoral control. She argues that Philadelphia needs an elected school board.

We vote for our leaders in every election.

But not for Philadelphia’s school board.

Unlike voters in every other district in Pennsylvania, those in Philadelphia continue to be disenfranchised when choosing their local school board….

Philadelphia’s new hand-picked Board of Education was sworn in recently, immediately after City Council’s one mandated confirmation. The hearing, confirmation vote and swearing-in created nary a disturbance in the force, without coverage from any major newspaper, radio or television outlet, save the independent Public School Notebook.

In fact, little notice was paid to the nomination process itself. Although many Philadelphians believe that “local control” was restored after the abolition of the School Reform Commission, the District actually operates under mayoral control. Months ago, the mayor selected his nominating panel which, at his direction, held deliberations in closed executive session, arguably violating the state’s Sunshine Act and shutting out those with a heavy stake in the District—parents, educators, students and community members.

The Council hearing on the mayor’s choices offered one brief opportunity for the public to hear from the nominees. For some reason, though, all questions were directed to the incumbents, none to the one new candidate. Ameen Akbar was sworn in without having to explain his philosophy of education, his vision for the future of the District, or his work in the charter sector, in particular his affiliation with the Universal charter network, whose former CEO and chief financial operator were indicted in January on bribery charges, alongside one Councilmember and his wife.

Will this unelected board resist the sales pitches from purveyors of technology? Will they insist on transparency and accountability for charter schools?

Philadelphia needs an elected board.