Archives for category: Hypocrisy

You know our democracy is in trouble when legislators flat-out ignore the will of the voters. When a referendum goes to the voters, and the voters decisively say NO, Republican legislators create a work-around. That’s what happened in Arizona, where voters rejected vouchers by 65-35%; Republicans responded to their loss by proposing a dramatic expansion of their voucher programs.

Now in Kansas, the Daiky Kos reports that Republicans are developing ways to bypass a state referendum in 2022 in which voters stunningly rebuked a proposal to outlaw abortion by

Imagine that your party puts forward a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion before the public, and it gets demolished by voters. I mean, the kind of blowout we didn’t even see in a presidential election in Kansas, a deep-red state. In 27 out of 40 state state Senate districts, the amendment was defeated. Statewide, the amendment was a disaster for Republicans, helped set the stage for the retention of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, and made way for an equally solid win by Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids in a newly drawn district geared at making her a candidate they could beat.

So how do Republicans respond to this news in the land of Oz? I would say they are doubling down but at this point, I can’t even keep track of how many times they are going back to this old chestnut.

Legislation proposed by GOP state Sen. Chase Blasi, who recently replaced state Sen. Gene Sullentrop, indicates that Republicans have decided that, if Kansas residents won’t approve abortion bans, city councils and city governments will. Republicans hope they will find themselves stacked up with conservatives willing to ban abortion procedures everywhere in Kansas that they still exist.

Blasi represents District 27, where 54% of voters rejected the anti-abortion constitutional amendment. Despite that, the newly minted state senator wants to make a splash—by working at crafting legislation that would result in exactly the opposite of what his district chose at the ballot box.

Nothing says “I respect voters” like trying to fool them into thinking the issue is over—while putting the issue in front of friends and allies in lower offices before voters have even had a chance to consider who represents them. That’s right: Imagine passing legislation that allows a local city council member or mayor to move on an anti-abortion agenda three years into their term—when such a policy was expressly impossible for those three years, and before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The bill offers a straightforward change to Kansas statute:

(b) No political subdivision of the state shall regulate or restrict abortion Except as provided in subsection (a), nothing shall prevent any city or county from regulating abortion within its boundaries as long as the regulation is at least as stringent as or more stringent than imposed by state law. In such cases, the more stringent local regulation shall control

The endgame here is not that hard to calculate. Republicans believe that their attempt to ban abortion during a special election failed because it got the attention of voters. If they can continuously place the issue on every single ballot from now on, voters will be forced to take abortion access into consideration in city council votes and mayoral votes in every locale in Kansas.

While there are few actual clinics in the state, fear, uncertainty, and doubt could certainly propel elections in every community—including places like my own sub-1,000-population hometown—into wild debates. Does our town want to allow a clinic? Would a council member vote to permanently ban one from ever coming into town?

With more Democrat-friendly city governments and county commissions in larger communities, Republicans are hoping to take on abortion again this November. This is a strategy built on moving the goalposts, to keep trying to make it easier and easier for the side that lost—badly—to come back and declare victory.

For Kansans who believed the Aug. 2 “No” vote on the constitutional amendment banning reproductive care would be the end of Republican attacks on the issue, it’s now crystal clear: Kansas Republicans have no intent of giving up on forcing birth, and banning abortion remains one of their top goals—whether the public is with them or not.

Billy Townsend writes in the Tampa Bay Times about how Florida politicians game the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores to boast about unearned “success.” The gaming consists of bragging about fourth grade scores (which are high) while ignoring eighth grade scores (which are unimpressive).

The big Florida trick is third grade retention—holding back the children in third grade who have low reading scores. This artificially boosts fourth grade scores. But then comes the eighth grade scores, and Florida falls behind. They can’t hide the low-scoring students forever.

He writes:

A close look at ‘the Nation’s Report Card’ shows how Florida fails its students as they move up through the grades.

A few years ago, just before COVID hit, a Stanford University study of state-level standardized tests showed that Florida’s “learning rate” was the worst in the country — by a wide margin.

Florida has the worst learning rate, according to a Stanford study.
Florida has the worst learning rate, according to a Stanford study. [ Provided ]

Florida students learned 12 percent less each year from third to eighth grade than the national average from 2009 to 2018. The next worst state was Alabama, according to The Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University. Florida’s political and education leaders completely ignored that finding.

Contrast that deafening silence with the hype and misinterpretation that comes with the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), “the Nation’s Report Card.” When those results came out last fall, Gov. Ron DeSantis crowed on Twitter that, “We kept schools open in 2020, and today’s NAEP results once again prove that we made the right decision. In Florida, adjusted for demographics, fourth grade students are #1 in both reading and math.”

Tellingly, DeSantis ignored the eighth grade results, which came out far worse than fourth grade — just as they have in every NAEP cycle since 2003.

The “Nation’s Report Card” is a snapshot of group proficiency taken by different cohorts of kids every two years in reading and math in fourth grade and eighth grade. It produces state-by-state results and proficiency rankings. It does not track individual kids year over year. But it does tell you how Florida’s fourth and eighth graders compare with students in other states. I crunched the data, and here’s the bottom line: Florida’s students perform worse as they move up through the grades. There is consistent, massive systemic regression with age. And the gap is widening.

This is a state failure, not a local one attributable to individual districts. Yet, in every NAEP cycle, Florida politicians and education leaders brag about fourth-grade NAEP results in press releases.

But ignoring the eighth grade results or the “learning rate” study does not change these facts:

· Florida kids regress dramatically as they age in the system. Since 2003, Florida’s eighth grade rank as a state has never come close to its fourth grade rank on any NAEP test in any subject.

· The size of Florida’s regression is dramatic and growing, especially in math.Florida’s overall average NAEP state rank regression between fourth and eighth grade since 2003 is 17 spots (math) and 18 spots (reading). But since 2015, the averages are 27 spots (math) and 19 spots (reading).

· No other state comes close to Florida’s level of consistent fourth to eighth grade performance collapse. In the last three NAEP cycles — 2017, 2019 and COVID-delayed 2022 — Florida ranked sixth, fourth and third among states in fourth grade math. In those same years, Florida ranked 33th, 34th and tied for 31st in eighth grade.

· For comparison, Massachusetts typically ranks at or near #1 among states on both the fourth grade and eighth grade NAEP for math and reading. Its eighth grade rank has never been more than one spot lower than fourth.

· Florida has never matched the U.S. average scaled score on eighth grade math NAEP.

· In COVID-marred 2022, Florida’s eighth grade scale scores in reading and math both lost 8 points relative to the national average, compared to fourth grade. That’s larger or equal to the overall collapse of NAEP scores nationwide attributed to COVID.

To restate, what happens every NAEP cycle between fourth and eighth grade in Florida matches and mostly exceeds the negative impact of COVID. Overall, recent NAEP cycles show Florida collapsing from elite test scores in fourth grade reading and math to abysmal in eighth grade math and average in eighth grade reading, even after its much-hyped approach to COVID in 2022.

And, worse, there is no reason at all to believe Florida’s test performance regression with age stops at eighth grade. The only two years the NAEP tested 12th graders — 2009 and 2013 — the Florida collapse worsened significantly with further age, but against a smaller pool of states.

Willful ignorance, useless testing

So what to make of this?

You can rest assured that your top education officials know all about Florida’s eighth grade NAEP and learning rate failures, which is why they never discuss them. I suspect these test data realities helped drive Florida to drop its big state growth test — the Florida Standards Assessment — and move toward a “progress monitoring” regime this year that may or may not create functionally different data reporting models.

The discourse around Florida’s NAEP performance — and the catastrophic learning rate that we ignore on our state tests — makes me deeply skeptical of standardized tests and their use in our education systems and society. I see them as punitive political and social sorting tools, rather than “assessments” designed to help individual children reach their potential.

Forget whether test results are valid or biased. We can’t even accurately describe what the test results say — on their face — about the success of our state school system. So what use are they?

Florida’s politicians, education leaders, policy community and journalists should look at these results and ask this basic question: The data tells us your child will regress dramatically every year he or she stays in the Florida system. What’s going on?

If we can’t do that, then why do we force standardized tests on kids at all?

What we should be studying

I’ve been attempting to draw attention to this dramatic Florida regression dynamic for years. So I was pleased to the see the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board and Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis notice and publicly address the massive drop in test performance between fourth and eighth grade in Florida on the 2022 NAEP. But I was puzzled by suggestions that it was something new, caused by COVID. It isn’t; and it wasn’t.

Indeed, if we took standardized tests seriously as diagnostic and development tools, we would have long ago started asking: What causes this? What changes need to be made beyond rebuilding and supporting a developmentally focused teacher corps? What are the system quirks of Florida that cause this dynamic?

Here are some good questions to ask and study:

· Why doesn’t “learn to read, read to learn” work in Florida?

One of our treasured education cliches is “learn to read” so you can “read to learn.” It’s essentially the policy justification for imposing mass retention on third graders, as Florida does. And yet, although Florida routinely ranks high fourth grade NAEP reading, our readers immediately lose massive ground relative to other states. The data shows that Florida’s often punitive emphasis on “learn to read” by third or fourth grade creates no benefit in “reading to learn” in later grades — in math or reading. Why not?

· What is the role of mass third grade retention in Florida’s fourth grade peak and subsequent collapse?

Florida pioneered mass third grade retention based on reading standardized test scores in 2003. This prevents the lowest scoring third grade readers from taking the NAEP with their age cohort in fourth grade. And when that low scoring third grader finally takes the fourth grade NAEP, retention has made it as if he or she is a fifth grader taking the fourth grade NAEP.

Florida law theoretically subjects more than 40 percent of Florida’s roughly 200,000 public school third graders to retention because of low scores. A smaller — but still significant — number is actually retained. Florida does not appear to publish that actual total number of third graders retained.

· What is the cost to the individual children and overall system performance?

Essentially all data shows that ripping kids away from their age cohort because of testing leads to significant human harm and increased drop out rates over time.

Is that affecting Florida’s learning rate for older kids and the eighth grade NAEP collapse? A 2017 study of a cohort of southwest Florida students showed that seven years after retention, 94% of the retained group remained below reading proficiency. It also showed that third and sixth graders find retention as stressful as losing a parent.

· How many voucher third grade testing refugees are there? What effect do they have on the fourth grade NAEP?

Third grade retention is not Florida’s only way to get low scoring fourth graders off the books for the NAEP. It’s been well-established that Florida over-testing and third grade retention is a primary sales tool for vouchers.TheOrlando Sentinel’sPulitzer-worthy “Schools without Rules”report in 2017 about voucher schools reported: “Escaping high-stakes testing is such a scholarship selling point that one private school administrator refers to students as ‘testing refugees’.”

How many testing refugees are there? And how does Florida’s massive voucher program — America’s largest and least studied — affect performance on the NAEP by allowing low scoring kids to duck it?

· What effect do voucher school dropouts have on scoring when they return in massive numbers to public schools?

At the same time, 61 percent of voucher kids abandon the voucher within two years (75 percent within three years),according to the Urban Institute, in the closest thing to a study ever done on Florida vouchers.

Enormous numbers of “low-scoring” kids duck third and fourth grade tests and then come back into the public system to be counted in the eighth grade NAEP and other yearly tests. That’s likely a recipe for score collapse. But there is no hard data to analyze. Florida is long overdue for such a study, and voucher advocates know it will be a data bloodbath.

Perhaps that’s because independent studies of smaller state voucher programs — with much greater oversight — shows attending a voucher school will “meet or exceed what the pandemic did to test scores,” according to Michigan State researcher and former voucher advocate-turned-critic Josh Cowen.

· Does chasing test scores kill test scores over time?

Test-driven instruction isn’t engaging. Kids come to understand how useless these tests are to their lives; and they behave accordingly. Teachers come to hate the test-obsessed model and leave the profession. How has that affected test scores?

A longstanding waste of human potential

For me, the eighth grade NAEP and “learning rate” failures are evidence that we’ve wasted a generation of human potential and severely damaged Florida’s teaching profession. Will anyone “follow the data” where it leads? Will anyone ask: Should our kids peak at age 9 and decline inexorably from there?

I believe Florida has long had one of America’s worst test-performing state school systems because of its governance model and intellectual corruption and pursuit of useless measures and fake accountability.

I

Billy Townsend was an award-winning investigative reporter for The Lakeland Ledger and Tampa Tribune. He oversaw education reporting as an editor for The Ledger. He has been an independent writer and journalist since 2008, focused on Florida history, education and civic systems. He was an elected Polk County School Board member from 2016-2020. Today he writes the Florida-focused email newsletter “Public Enemy Number 1.” He can be reached at townsendsubstackpe1@gmail.com.

Nancy MacLean, professor of history at Duke University, and Lisa Graves, board president of the Center for Media and Democracy, warn readers not to be fooled by billionaire Charles Koch’s efforts to rebrand himself as a nice guy who has mellowed, who no longer wants to fund divisive, hateful organizations. A nice guy.

The media fell for it. The new, nice Charles Koch.

MacLean and Graves write: Don’t believe it. Koch won’t stop until democracy is dead.

They write:

Koch, the single most influential billionaire shaping American political life, never changed course. And the head fake he pulled off in 2020 succeeded in securing for his vast donor network—and the hundreds of organizations they underwrite—the freedom to operate, virtually without scrutiny, over the two years since. In that time, far from ceasing their efforts to divide the country, they have ramped them up. Like a snake shedding its skin as it grows, Koch was merely rebranding—yet again after exposure—and grouping his numerous operations under a sunny new name: Stand Together.


In August, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reported that Koch-funded organizations spent over $1.1 billion in the 2020 election cycle. At the same time his book claiming to have changed course was in press, Koch spent almost 50 percent more than the record amount the Koch network had raised in the 2016 cycle: $750 million. Koch did not endorse Trump, though his spending buoyed the top of the ticket and helped maintain a GOP Senate majority to secure Koch-backed policies and judicial nominees embraced by Trump.

One of these organizations, Koch’s Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization, claimed it was involved in more than 270 races in the 2020 election, reaching almost 60 million voters with door-knocking, phone calls, postcards, digital ads, and more. AFP also played heavily in the battle for U.S. Senate seats in Georgia, in January 2021—even as Koch was still getting favorable coverage for his supposed withdrawal from divisive electoral politics. AFP Action, the super PAC arm, alone raised and spent $60 million nationwide in that election cycle.

Meanwhile, other key organizing enterprises, think tanks, litigation outfits, campus centers, and more that were previously backed by the Koch network continue operating today, sometimes under new names, and with expanded funding. These include endeavors we consider unethical, only some of which we have the space to highlight here.

Take, for example, Koch’s longest running quest: enchaining democracy by rigging the rules of governance to free corporations from customary oversight and to prevent the will of the vast majority of Americans from securing federal, state, and local policies to improve their lives. With the connivance of Trump, the generalship of Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo, and the well-funded campaigning of Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network, the arch-right billionaire succeeded in capturing a supermajority in the U.S. Supreme Court. Koch had told his allied billionaire backers that this was one of his top priorities for the Trump Administration—along with the dramatic tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy that he also secured.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, a climate hero and senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, exposes how they did it in a recently published book, The Scheme: How the Right Wing Used Dark Money to Capture the Supreme Court. The long effort to reshape the judicial system, going back to the notorious Lewis Powell Memo of 1971, culminated in the Trump Administration’s appointment of more than 230 “business-friendly” federal judges, including three Supreme Court Justices, in a project overseen by longtime Koch allies Leo and Donald McGahn, who served as Trump’s legal counsel until 2018. The 6-3 stacked court is already delivering bombshell decisions for the coalition that put it in power, from undermining our options for mitigating devastating climate change and limiting the power of agencies to regulate corporations, to revoking people’s Constitutional freedom to decide whether and when to bear children. The current court term with the Koch-backed faction in control is expected to soon overthrow affirmative action and other hard-won reforms.

The Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) also continues its long campaign to shackle democracy on behalf of its corporate backers. Passing voter ID restrictions that make it harder for Americans to exercise their right to vote became a top ALEC priority after the United States elected its first Black President, Barack Obama. That measure was first voted on at an ALEC task force meeting co-chaired by the National Rifle Association in 2009.

ALEC is one of the nation’s leading promoters of charter schools, vouchers, and anti-union legislation. You can learn more about ALEC by reading Gordon Lafer’s The One Percent Solution.

Please open the link and read the article. Learn about the “new” Charles Koch, same as the old one.

If you are looking for a good read, read Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, which provides the context for understanding the links between the Koch brothers, Milton Friedman, and free-market economics. Suffice it to say that one of their goals was to privatize Social Security. Still working on that.

David Frum was a speechwriter for George W. Bush. He writes for The Atlantic. He reminds us why Kevin McCarthy is as contemptible as the 20 members of the Chaos Caucus blocking his ascent to the Speakership.

The defeat of Kevin McCarthy in his bid for the speakership of the House would be good for Congress. The defeat of Kevin McCarthy would be good for the United States. It might even be good for his own Republican Party.

Because the people attempting to inflict that defeat upon McCarthy include some of the most nihilistic and destructive characters in U.S. politics, McCarthy is collecting misplaced sympathy from people who want a more responsible Congress. But the House will function better under another speaker than it would under McCarthy—even if that other speaker is much more of an ideological extremist than McCarthy himself.

McCarthy is not in political trouble for the reasons he deserves to be in political trouble. Justice is seldom served so exactly. But he does deserve to be in trouble, so justice must be satisfied with the trouble that he’s in.

McCarthy deserves to be in trouble because he refused to protect the institution he now seeks to lead. After the January 6, 2021, insurrection, he told fellow Republicans that he would urge President Donald Trump to resign immediately. When that vow became public, McCarthy denied he had ever made it, until a contemporaneous audio recording exposed his lie.

“I’ve had it with this guy,” McCarthy said after the January 6 attack—then voted in the impeachment proceedings to protect this guy. Eight days after Trump left office, McCarthy flew to Florida for a photo opportunity with the ex-president who had sent a mob to rampage through the Capitol and harm, abduct, or do worse to McCarthy’s own colleagues. Trump then released a statement boasting that he and McCarthy would be working closely together into the future, a statement McCarthy never contradicted.

McCarthy then enabled and supported a purge of every House Republican who had acted with the integrity that he himself had failed to muster. He endorsedthe primary opponent to Liz Cheney. He stripped committee assignments from Republicans who served on the committee to investigate the Capitol riot he had once condemned and now condoned.

For weeks after January 6, McCarthy denied that he’d telephoned Trump that day to blame him for the attack. When then–Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler exposed his denials as false, McCarthy brutally rebuked her.

“You should have come to me! Why did you go to the press? This is no way to thank me!”

“What did you want me to do? Lie?”

Well, yes, obviously. That’s what McCarthy did.

Herrera Beutler then lost the nomination in a primary battle against one of the most reactionary Republicans of the 2022-midterms slate—who then proceeded to lose a seat in rural Washington State to a Democratic newcomer.

There’s more but you have to subscribe to The Atlantic to read it.

Steve Hinnefeld, Indiana blogger, writes about the political donations of billionaires who claim to be “liberal Democrats.” First and worst is Reed Hastings, who is CEO of Netflix. Hastings claims to be a supporter of women’s reproductive rights, but he has funded Republicans in Indiana who passed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the nation. Why? Because these same conservative Republicans support charter schools. Hastings has said that he looks forward to the day when there are no more school boards, and every school is a charter. So, his passion for charter schools is stronger than his commitment to women’s reproductive rights. His allies in Indiana also loosened restrictions on guns. Michael Bloomberg, who favors abortion rights and gun control, also bankrolled the same Republicans.

Hinnefeld writes:

Indiana Republicans are spending several million dollars to protect and extend their supermajority status in the state House and Senate in Tuesday’s election. If they succeed, they may want to thank a California billionaire. One who’s usually described as a liberal Democrat.

Reed Hastings is a CEO of Netflix. Politically, he’s known for donating to Democratic politicians, nationally and in California. Netflix supports liberal causes, like abortion rights. But in Indiana, his campaign contributions go almost entirely to Republicans, who trample on his supposed principles.

It’s possible Hastings has given more money to the Indiana House and Senate GOP campaigns than any other individual in the past couple of years. Not directly. The money is funneled through a political action committee called Hoosiers for Great Public Schools. The PAC, headed by former Democratic Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, was founded in 2020 to promote charter schools.

Almost all its direct support for candidates goes to Republicans.

Hastings has given the group $1.4 million, half of it in 2020 and half this year. It also got $200,000 from John Arnold, a Texas billionaire. That’s all the money it has raised.

Hoosiers for Great Public Schools has made campaign contributions totaling $926,000. Some $400,000 went to RISE Indy, a PAC that has supported charter-friendly candidates for the Indianapolis Public Schools board. Another $100,000 went to Hoosiers for Quality Education, which promotes school choice, including vouchers and education savings accounts, and gives exclusively to Republicans.

Of the remaining $426,000 that Hoosiers for Great Public Schools contributed, nearly all went to GOP candidates and groups. It has given $190,000 to the House Republican Campaign Committee, $45,000 to the Senate Majority Campaign Committee, and $75,000 to House Speaker Todd Huston, along with four- and five-figure donations to individual Republicans.

That’s who Reed Hastings is helping elect in Indiana.

A similar story can be told about Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City. He’s known for supporting liberal causes, including gun control and abortion rights. In recent years, Bloomberg has given $550,000 to Stand for Children Indiana, which supports charter schools. All of Stand for Children’s state-level contributions this year have gone to Republicans.

There’s a cynical argument for such behavior: If you have money and you want to influence Indiana politics, you give to Republicans, because they have the power.

Peterson, CEO of Christel House International, which operates charter schools in Indianapolis, told me in 2020 that the purpose of Hoosiers for Great Public Schools was to support charter schools. But Indiana Republicans are no longer in love with charter schools. In 2021, they gave charters a modest funding increase. In 2022, they did nothing. They have moved on to favoring a more radical form of school choice in which state money “follows the child,” including to private and religious schools.

What did Hastings get with his support of the Indiana GOP? For one thing, a new law that says Hoosiers don’t need a permit to carry a handgun in public. For another, a discriminatory anti-trans law that bars transgender students from school sports teams. Republicans also tried to restrict what schools could teach about “divisive topics” – i.e., racism and slavery – but fell short.

Shame on Reed Hastings!

Shame on Michael Bloomberg!

Shame on John Arnold!

Hypocrites!

So much for free speech at the new Twitter.

Kathy Griffin, you may recall, is a stand-up comedian who specializes in doing and saying outrageous things. For ten years, she was co-host of CNN’s New Years’ Eve coverage with Anderson Cooper. One of the running jokes was her effort to be seductive, since Anderson is gay.

Early in the Trump era, she posted a picture of herself holding Trump’s photo-shopped head, covered in catsup. She was immediately a pariah. The Secret Service treated her as a threat to the life of the president. She was put on the federal no-fly list. CNN cancelled her New Year’s Eve gig. A documentary was made about the price she paid for mocking the President. (Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story)

She is bad-ass and irrepressible. A day or so ago, she (as well as other people) posted a tweet on Twitter pretending to be Elon Musk. His photo, his name, but clearly tagged with her own name.

Musk, champion of free speech, banned her from Twitter. Not just suspended, but banned, for impersonating him. That created an outpouring of tweets supporting her and #FreeKathy was trending last night.

Kathy returned, however, tweeting on her dead mother’s account. @TpItMaggieG. It is accompanied by a photo of Elon and his name. She wrote:

I’m using my beloved mothers account. PS my IG and Facebook have also been hacked. Please remember. Today it’s me, tomorrow it will be you. Can any high profile onliners please amplify this for me? @ACLU_SoCal @elijahdaniel @BoutrousTed @StormyDaniels @JeniferLewis @sarahkendzio

She also tweeted:

Elon, this is Maggie contacting you from the spirit world tell u…you’re a douchebag. This is not parody. This is the actual ghost of Kathy Griffin’s boxed wine loving mother saying I’m gonna get tipsy & throw my bingo cards at you! NOT A PARODY.
To the moon, a**hole. #FreeKathy

So then the Trumpers chimed in to say, I didn’t hear you libs complain when Twitter banned Trump and Alex Jones.

Need I say that Trump was banned for fomenting a violent insurrection. Jones was banned for lying about the Sandy Hook massacre and has since been ordered by courts to pay his victims overc$1 billion.

Is humor equivalent? Musk boasts about his love of free speech (yet to be seen whether he includes racism, anti-Semitism, etc. in his definition of free speech, but he did fire a large part of the content moderation team).

One line can’t be crossed at Twitter: making a joke about Elon Musk. It’s only a matter of time until Kathy Griffin’s dead mother’s account is banned.

Why does it matter? Twitter has 400 million followers. It’s the biggest megaphone in the world. Controlled by one egotistical man. By the way, he urged his 115 million readers to vote Republican today for the sake of balance, since the president is a Democrat. That guarantees 2 years of gridlock, with no forward movement on any front, including climate change, which Elon says he cares about.

Blogger Robert Hubbell reports that Justice Any Coney Barrett has won a $2 million advance on a book that explains how her personal views don’t affect her judicial decisions. Tell me another. Must be a very short book.

Hubbell writes:

Why does this feel like a “reward” for overruling Roe v. Wade?

Justice Amy Coney Barret has secured a $2 million advance from Penguin Random House for a book that will reportedly discuss “how judges are not supposed to bring their personal feelings into how they rule.” Given the dissonance between the proposed topic and Justice Barrett’s religiously motivated ruling in Dobbs, it is possible that the book is intended to be satirical, but there is little evidence that Barrett has a sense of humor.

So, the most reasonable explanations are that Justice Barrett (a) lacks self-awareness and any sense of shame, and (b) the shocking advance is an indirect “reward” for being the final vote necessary to overrule Roe v. Wade. To be fair, Barrett secured the $2 million advance for a book that can be summarized in a sentence fragment before she overruled Roe. To be fairer, there is little evidence that the German conglomerate that owns Penguin Random House has any interest in US politics—apart from monetizing controversy. A group of publishing professionals is calling on Penguin Random House to reconsider its deal with Barrett.

I, for one, cannot wait not to read Justice Barrett’s explanation of how her deeply held faith did not influence her vote to impose Catholic dogma on 320 million Americans. Perhaps future confirmation hearings can ask nominees for the Supreme Court if they intend to accept an obscene advance for writing a book of judicial fairy tales. That will give nominees something else to lie about besides their respect for precedent.

If you read Hubbell’s post, be sure to see his critique of the blunders of the Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus, which released a statement calling on Biden to negotiate with Putin about ending the war in Ukraine, then withdrawing their statement as a mistake. I agree with Hubbell. Any negotiation that doesn’t include Ukraine is ridiculous. Any negotiation that rewards Putin with Ukrainian territory for his aggression encourages more aggression. I fully support the heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people in resisting Putin’s naked aggression.

The blog Fourth Estate 48 reports on news from Arizona. The latest news is that Mark Finchem, the Republican candidate for Secretary of State, wants to abolish voting by mail. He peddles the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen, and mail-in voting was a source of fraud.

Well, Dillon Rosenblatt checked Finchem’s voting record and found that he regularly votes by mail.

The Secretary of State in every state is in charge of elections. He or she must be a person of the highest integrity and must be nonpartisan.

Rosenblatt writes:

During his Arizona PBS debate for Secretary of State, Republican nominee said he always goes to the polls to vote. He lied.

Up until this year, Mark Finchem, the conspiracy theorist, stop the steal, election denying Republican candidate for Arizona Secretary of State automatically received his ballot via the mail since he was a Libertarian in 2008.

Despite that, Finchem has been a strong advocate of ending no-excuse mail-in voting for all Arizonans which has been in place for decades and used by at least 80% of the electorate. Finchem during his debate against Democratic challenger Adrian Fontes, the former Maricopa County recorder, last month claimed he always votes at the polls. This is a lie.

In another post, Dillon Rosenblatt reported that Republican Candidate for the U.S. Senate, Blake Masters, always votes by mail. But he’s against it, like Finchem.

In last night’s Arizona Senate debate on Arizona PBS between Senator Mark Kelly, the Democrat, Blake Masters, the Republican, and Marc Victor, the Libertarian, Masters went after the state’s vote by mail system –– a system which he utilizes exclusively.

Masters at first said, “I believe in Election Day, not election season,” but his voter file shows he’s never actually voted on Election Day while he was registered to vote in Arizona.

Masters has not lived in Arizona for long, but he has always voted by mail.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the federal judge who sentenced insurrectionist Kyle Young, gave a stern lecture to the Republicans who refused to defend the nation’s Constitution and its democratic process.

For those of us old enough to remember the Republican Party of Dwight D. Eisenhower, today’s Republicans are pusillanimous cowards who worship at the feet of a man who has no intellect, no character, no ethics, and no sense of history. The fact that such a man dominates a once-honorable party is appalling.

Judge Jackson did not mince words, according to Politico.

Kyle Cheney writes:

A federal judge delivered a blistering rebuke of Republican Party leaders Tuesday for what she said was a cynical attempt to stoke false claims of election fraud of the kind that fueled the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said former President Donald Trump had turned his lies about the election into a litmus test for Republican candidates and that “high-ranking members of Congress and state officials” are “so afraid of losing their power” that they won’t contradict him. That fealty, she said, comes even as law enforcement and judges involved in cases related to the former president are facing unprecedented threats of violence.

It’s up to the judiciary, she added, to help draw the line against those dangers.

“The judiciary … has to make it clear: It is not patriotism, it is not standing up for America to stand up for one man — who knows full well that he lost — instead of the Constitution he was trying to subvert,” said Jackson, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama.

In addition, Jackson said, Trump and his allies are using rhetoric about the multiple criminal probes connected to Trump that contain dangerous undertones.

“Some prominent figures in the Republican Party … are cagily predicting or even outright calling for violence in the streets if one of the multiple investigations doesn’t go his way,” Jackson said…

She’s not the first federal judge to rebuke Trump in the context of Jan. 6 riot prosecutions. Judge Amit Mehta lamented that many of the low-level rioters were duped by powerful figures, including Trump, into marching on the Capitol, only to suffer criminal consequences as a result. Judge Reggie Walton called Trump a “charlatan” for his conduct related to the election. And a federal judge in California, David Carter, determined that Trump’s actions related to Jan. 6 likely amounted to a criminal conspiracy to subvert the election.

But Jackson’s comments were the most stinging assessment not only of Trump but those in the upper echelons of elected GOP leadership who have echoed him. She also pushed back at claims by some Trump allies that Jan. 6 defendants had been targeted for political reasons.

“You were not prosecuted for being a Trump supporter. You were not arrested or charged and you will not be sentenced for exercising your first amendment rights,” she said to Young. “You are not a political prisoner … You were trying to stop the singular thing that makes America America, the peaceful transfer of power. That’s what ‘Stop the Steal’ meant.”

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, posts his reaction to the first episode of the new series by Ken Burns, Sarah Botstein, and Lynn Novick: “The U.S. and the Holocaust.”

I just watched the second episode, and it is very powerful. Burns has said that this is the most important documentary he has ever made.

The U.S. made almost no effort to open its doors to Jews trying to escape Hitler’s killing machine. Why? For one thing, the American public was deeply anti-Semitic. For another, the leaders of the U.S. State Department were anti-Semites.

The Ku Klux Klan sprang back to life. The heroic aviator Charles Lindbergh, who admired Hitler, was a leader of the infamous “America First” movement, which opposed our entry into the war and was certain that Hitler would conquer all of Europe. Henry Ford was a virulent anti-Semite, whose publication printed the notorious “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

This series is MUST viewing. It clears away the cobwebs of lies propagated by rightwingers who want to cleanse the schools of the dark side of U.S. history. Hate, bigotry, racism, and anti-Semitism are woven into our history.

Thompson writes:

Ken Burns’ The U.S and the Holocaust is being shown on PBS. It begins with a jolt: telling how Anne Frank and her family were denied entry to the U.S. As our country denied entry to the vast majority of Jews threatened by Adolf Hitler, 1 million were murdered. Episode One helps us understand why President Franklin Roosevelt and other leaders were unable to persuade the American public to support assistance to Jews fleeing Nazism.

Of course, there is plenty that is great about our democracy, but our histories of the genocide of Native Americans and Slavery, as well as eugenics and its false claims that people of color were biologically inferior, contributed to our failure to respond appropriately. In fact, Hitler patterned his crimes against humanity after America’s eugenics movement, the genocide of Native Americans, the Ku Klux Klan, and Jim Crow. During the Great Depression, more than 1 million people of Mexican ancestry were expelled even though more than 60 percent of them were born in the U.S. And, even before American Fascists like Father Coughlin and Henry Ford ramped up hatred of Jews and advocated for pro-Nazi policies, the U.S. had a long history of violent anti-Semitism.

Ken Burns and his team started to make this film in 2015, before Charlottesville, the shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and at the supermarket in Buffalo, and before the January 6th insurrection. A similar “fragility of civilized behavior” was also on display in Berlin under Hitler. In the late 1920’s it was one of “the most open and cosmopolitan city in Europe” but four years later, the Nazis were in charge. What lessons can we learn from that past which could inform today’s “fragility of democratic civilization all over the world, not just here?”

The U.S. and the Holocaust also raises questions such as “what are the responsibilities of our leaders to shape public opinion rather than follow it?” and “what does this history tell us about the role of individuals to act when governments fail to intervene?” It also raises tough questions about the role of the media in spreading hate, as well as constructive information.

The film’s website also links to Oklahoma’s and other states’ Academic Standards. They call for high school students to “examine the causes, series of events and effects of the Holocaust through eyewitnesses such as inmates, survivors, liberators, and perpetrators,” and examine the “rise of totalitarian regimes in the Soviet Union, Germany, Italy, and Japan.” Such Standards also call for an examination of “how the media we consume shapes our beliefs, opinions, and actions both historically and in modern contexts in this media.”

These Standards are very consistent with the concepts that Burns explored. If I were still teaching high school, I’d be carefully building a unit that follows the Standards and instructional techniques that were carefully prepared by state and national experts. For instance, I would begin with the recommended, first question, “Why do you think many people did not question or push back against the harmful ideas presented by people who believed in eugenics?”

As also recommended, as students watched video clips, and read and analyzed the primary source materials in The U.S. and the Holocaust website, I’d ask them to share their “feelings or thoughts after each clip as some of the content covered is very heavy and may be emotional for students.” Students would take notes and engage in classroom discussions. I’d end with the recommended question, “Although the images and videos shown in the last clip are very challenging to watch, why do you think U.S. Army leaders said they needed to be shown to people in the United States and across the world?”

I would try to repeat the previously successful practice of inviting legislators, state officials, business and political leaders to the lessons so they could witness the dignity and wisdom of my students at John Marshall, Centennial, and other high-challenge schools. As recently as four years ago when I guest-taught and/or engaged with very conservative Republicans, I knew the discussions would be civil and enlightening. Now, I know such communications would be different, and that I might get fired for violating HB1775.

But the consequences for teachers are nothing like the suffering of victims of the Holocaust or the potential destruction due to the failure to stand up for democratic and educational principles. So, I would also ask what would happen if thousands of educators would stand for our students and teach Ken Burns’ film and website. They would need to thoughtfully plan the process, hopefully working with school system administrators. Many or most of whom would have a long history of opposing censorships of books such as Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl,” but who are intimidated by bills like HB 1775 and similar censorship laws in other states. Educators would almost certainly have to seek the backing of parents and community leaders.

Educators who are too frightened to use Burns’ work, could at least borrow from SummerBoismier, whose teacher certification is being threatened for linking to the Brooklyn Library, and post links to his and PBS’s websites. Or they could organize off-campus community films or read-aloud events (such as the “Banned Book Read Out” at OKC’s First Unitarian Church) for students and/or provide information on The U.S. and the Holocaust to students when they enter the building.

Such efforts would be terrifying if done alone. But would legislators who voted for censorship of school curriculums want to admit out loud that they want Anne Frank’s story banned? And would even the most extreme legislators follow through with mass firings at a time of teacher shortages? We must wrestle with Burn’s question about whether so many millions of people from all nations would have quickly abandoned democracy and humanity if there had been more resistance to Hitler in the U.S. and across the world before Nazism took control in so many places?


As Ms. Boismeir concluded, “you have a choice to make for the future of our state and the state of our public schools: a politics of inclusion or exclusion. So what’s your story? What side are you on?