Archives for category: Trump

 

The federal government has an important role in the support and advancement of science. Science should be free of political influence. Decision making should not be based on partisanship.

Yet, as science professor John Richard Schrock shows, politics have often intruded on decisions about which policies to fund and what to make public. He cites bad decisions over the years under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

But nothing in the past equals the Trump administration’s open was against science. Trump has placed non-scientists into key roles, where they are able to suppress or manipulate scientific findings to satisfy his po,itical base. His much-ridiculed effort to compel the National Weather Service to defend his absurd claims about the likely path of a hurricane were a small example of his efforts to suppress science in the Environmental Protection Administration, the Agriculture Department, and other agencies. While the rest of the world worries about climate change, Trump insists that there is no threat and that what scientists call climate change is merely the weather, about which we can do nothing.

In addition to teaching science, teachers must teach the ethics of science, the importance of reaching conclusions based on evidence, and the necessity of excluding politics from the work of scientists.

I am speechless. Wordless. How could anyone who cares about their reputation join the most shameless department in the most shameless administration in history? DeVos showed her colors when she harassed 16,000 students to pay debts for their time at the closed for-profit  Corinthian Colleges when the debts would have been cancelled. She has repeatedly shown her views: her contempt for public schools and for civil rights enforcement.

Reported by Politico Morning Edition:

 

CAP’S COLLEEN CAMPBELL TO JOIN EDUCATION DEPARTMENT: Campbell, the director of postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, will join the department later this month to oversee strategic communications for the NextGen project.

— NextGen’s goal is to overhaul how the federal government collects student loans.It involves creating and running a new platform on which tens of millions of borrowers will manage their loans, as well as awarding contracts that are collectively worth billions of dollars to financial services companies.

— During her time at CAP, Campbell wroteextensively about the department’s student loan servicing proposals and has been widely quoted about the issue in the press.

— Campbell said she decided to take a role in “a government and an administration under someone who I don’t always agree with” because she believes the Office of Federal Student Aid has “a vision that’s borrower- and student-focused” when it comes to the NextGen plan.

— Campbell’s hiring brings new progressive credibility to a project that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has described as one of the major ways she’s working to modernize and streamline how the department operates. Read more from Michael Stratford.

In a major setback for Republicans in Virginia, Democrats swept control of both houses of the state legislature!

Trump has no shirttails.

This election and the election in Kentucky should send a message to the a Republican majority in the Senate. Will Democrats sweep both houses of Congress next year as Mitch McConnell and every other Republican Senator stick by Trump to the bitter end?

 

The county leaders in Citrus County, Florida, rejected the library’s request for a subscription to the New York Times. The Times, they said, was “fake news.” They don’t want the local citizens to hear any point of view that contradicts the Dear Leader.
This is the quintessence of ignorance. Do they also censor every cable news station except FOX?

By Antonia Noori Farzan / The Washington Post

Posted at 11:46 AM

The librarians of Citrus County, Florida, had what seemed like a modest wish: a digital subscription to the New York Times. For about $2,700 annually, they reasoned, they could offer an easy way their roughly 70,000 patrons to research and catch up on the news.

But when their request came before the Citrus County Commission last month, local officials literally laughed out loud. One commissioner, Scott Carnahan, declared the paper to be “fake news.”

“I agree with President Trump,” he said. “I will not be voting for this. I don’t want the New York Times in this county.”

In a move that is now generating intense online backlash, all five members of the commission agreed to reject the library’s request. The discussion took place on Oct. 24, the same day when the Trump administration announced plans to cancel federal agencies’ subscriptions to the Times and The Washington Post. While there’s no apparent connection – the Citrus County meeting began several hours before the Wall Street Journal broke the news of the new edict – the controversy unfolding in central Florida highlights how politicians nationwide are parroting the president’s disparaging rhetoric about the media.

While the Citrus County Commission is technically nonpartisan, the area, located amid the swamps and springs north of Tampa, is deeply conservative. At the Oct. 24 meeting, the proposal to budget several thousand dollars for a Times digital subscription was met with immediate disapproval and suspicion.

“Do we really need to subscribe to the New York Times?” Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. asked.

The other men seated at the dais chuckled.

“I actually was going say that,” Carnahan responded. He had seconded a motion to hear the item only so that they could have a discussion about the Times, he said, volunteering his opinion: “I don’t agree with it, I don’t like ’em, it’s fake news, and I’m voting no.”

Suggesting that a lack of resources wasn’t the problem, Carnahan said that the library could take the thousands of dollars that an institutional subscription to the Times would cost and ″do something else with it.” And community members who really wanted to read the paper could simply sign up for home delivery. “I support Donald Trump,” he concluded.

Flanked by a county flag depicting frolicking manatees, all four commissioners who were present agreed to turn down the request. When a fifth commissioner, Jimmie Smith, returned to his seat and learned what he had missed, he took no issue with denying the library funding.

“Why the heck would we spend money on something like that?” asked Smith, a former Republican state representative.

 

Remember that Trump likes to boast of his love for “clean, beautiful” coal.

Now Murray Energy is filing for bankruptcy and will shed $8 billion in pension and health-care liabilities owed to miners.

NPR reports that Murray was one of Trump’s biggest funders:

The Trump administration has spent three years trying to help the coal industry by rolling back environmental regulations and pushing for subsidies for coal-fired power plants. Still, the long list of coal company bankruptcies has continued, and dozens more plants have announced their retirement since President Trump took office.

Now the list of bankruptcies includes a company headed by one of Trump’s most vocal supporters. Murray Energy Corp. filed for Chapter 11 on Tuesday morning.

The company says it reached an agreement to restructure and continue operating. As part of that, Bob Murray — the chairman, president and CEO — will relinquish two of his roles. His nephew, Robert Moore, will become president and CEO while Murray will stay on as chairman.

“When you’re a private company and you’re in financial failure, the first person that loses everything is the owner. And that’s what will happen,” Murray tells NPR.

Murray has had a close relationship with the Trump administration. He donated $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration and has met with administration officials to advance the coal industry’s interests.

Dino Grandoni of the Washington Post writes:

Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s largest private coal giant, filed for Chapter 11 protection on Tuesday, Taylor Telford and I reported Tuesday. That move makes it the fifth coal company to land in bankruptcy court in 2019 as coal is being being squeezed out of the U.S. power market by cheaper options such as natural gas, solar and wind power.

The long-anticipated bankruptcy proceedings also put the United Mine Workers of America’s already fragile and underfunded pension plan on even shakier ground, The situation could potentially spur a divided Congress and Trump, who has championed coal workers, to bail out the miners. Currently, Murray Energy pays into the pension plan for UMWA, which represents a large chunk of the company’s full-time employees…

But it is underfunded also because other coal companies have shed their pension obligations through bankruptcy. Among the billions of dollars of debt Murray Energy wants to restructure — or get rid of entirely — are its contributions to the pension plan. Excluding one of its subsidies that is not part of the bankruptcy proceedings, Murray Energy with about $2.7 billion in funded debt, as well about $8 billion in actual or potential obligations to fund pension and benefit plans, according to court filings.

Robert Moore, the company’s new CEO, hinted in a court filing that Murray Energy may seek relief from its pension obligations.

“Murray’s employees are its lifeblood… Nonetheless, the cost of servicing its funded debt, together with the myriad of obligations Murray has to current and former employees, including to a pension fund that has been abandoned by other employers, have substantially reduced liquidity,” Moore wrote to the bankruptcy court. a court filing….

Manchin and some other senators, including Republicans Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and Rob Portman (Ohio), have pushed for legislation that would transfer certain federal funds into the pension plan.

“We’re talking about 82,000 miners who are going to lose their pensions, and we’re fighting this,” Manchin, whose state is home to large Murray Energy operations, said in a radio interview on West Virginia MetroNews on Tuesday.

But the idea of the federal government bailing out the union miners has divided Senate Republicans. Other budget-minded senators from coal-mining states, such as Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), have objected to using federal appropriations to bail out a private pension plan.

Standing in the middle of that divided Republican caucus is the most powerful coal-state senator of all: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Manchin accuses McConnell of “still sitting on” his bill. McConnell met with UMWA members from Kentucky earlier this year and shares their concerns about the potential insolvency, according to McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer. While his office added that McConnell “supports the ongoing process to find a bipartisan solution for pension reform,” it did not commit to bringing any particular legislation to the floor.

Trump’s defenders say that he committed no actual crime. Professor Frank O. Bowman III it the University of Missouri Law School says that the Founding Fathers debated the issue of impeachment and purposely chose language that does not require an ordinary crime (like shooting someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue, the sort of crime that Trump’s lawyers now say he can’t be prosecuted for).

Bowman analyzes the meaning of the term “high crimes and misdemeanors” to demonstrate that the Founders has a much broader concept than ordinary criminal actions.

He writes:

There are two strong arguments against the idea that the phrase requires criminal behavior: a historical one and a practical one. The history of the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” and of how it entered our Constitution establishes beyond serious dispute that it extends far beyond mere criminal conduct. The practical reasoning is in some ways more important: A standard that permitted the removal of presidents only for indictable crimes would leave the nation defenseless against the most dangerous kinds of presidential behavior.

Read his essay to understand the history and meaning of this crucial term.

 

Teresa Hanafin, who writes “Fast Forward” for the Boston Globe, offers some new information:

 

Tim Morrison, who works in the White House on the National Security staff as a top adviser on Russia, is scheduled to give a deposition to House impeachment investigators next week, and is expected to corroborate much of what Ukraine diplomat William Taylor told lawmakers earlier this week.

Taylor testified that Trump refused to release $400 million in desperately needed military aid to help Ukraine fend off Russian incursions unless Ukraine’s president publicly announced that his country was investigating the Bidens. Trump also refused to invite the new Ukraine president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to the White House.

Morrison is significant for a few reasons: He’s the first White House employee to testify. He listened in on that infamous phone call in which Trump told Zelensky he wanted him to investigate Joe Bidenand his son Hunter, who sat on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was VP. He also was mentioned in Taylor’s testimony several times.

> Trump’s former national security adviser (which one, you may ask), John Bolton, reportedly is in negotiations with Democrats to testify as well. Bolton, ousted in September, supposedly raised alarms repeatedly about the shadow diplomacy in Ukraine being carried out by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others.

> Trump and his bootlickers are focusing on the quid pro quo aspect of the Ukraine affair, even though it’s kind of irrelevant: The simple fact that Trump asked a foreign leader to investigate one of his political rivals is the problem. Adding pressure by withholding military funds is just icing on the cake.

Nonetheless, the Trumpsters have been claiming that no quid pro quo could have existed with Ukraine because Ukrainian officials had no idea that Trump was withholding the military aid that Congress had allocated. (That’s a little like saying that attempted murder isn’t wrong because the victim didn’t die.) But The New York Times reports that Ukraine knew about the aid block as early as the first week of August. Time for another excuse!

Jennifer Berkshire writes in the New Republic that Betsy DeVos is deeply unpopular in swing-state Michigan. Voters in Detroit can see a district disrupted by a generation of failed reforms. Suburban voters like their public schools and don’t want charters or vouchers.  Berkshire notes that the Democrats are picking up unlikely victories in districts where education is a big issue.

In 2016, Darrin Camilleri was 24 and teaching at a Detroit charter school 20 miles from where he grew up, when Michigan lawmakers took up a measure to implement more rigorous oversight of the city’s charter schools. Seemingly anyone could open a charter in Detroit, and the schools closed just as suddenly as they opened. From his classroom on the city’s southwest side, Camilleri watched the reform effort fail. “Watching that play out really showed me the downside of deregulation,” he told me. “No one is holding anyone accountable.” That year, he decided to run for state representative in southern Wayne County, a largely blue-collar area that shades rural at its edges. Rather than hewing to standard Democratic talking points—health care, for instance, or Donald Trump’s erratic comments—Camilleri made charter school oversight and school funding his central issues, and in 2016, he became the only Democrat to flip a Republican state house seat in Michigan.

In the three years since Trump turned Michigan red, education has emerged as a potent political issue in the state, thanks to a steady stream of grim studies and embarrassing news stories. Between 2003 and 2015, the state ranked last out of all 50 for improvement in math and reading. According to a recent study, Michigan now spends less on its schools than it did in 1994. Republicans have slashed funding to give tax cuts to big businesses. And the number of people who choose to become teachers has fallen dramatically….

Consider the political climate in Michigan’s suburban districts. In 2018, when Padma Kuppa challenged a Republican state representative, she homed in on the GOP’s role in undermining public education and won, claiming a seat in Troy, an affluent suburban district north of Detroit that Democrats had never held before. Suburban districts like the one in Troy regularly top “best schools in Michigan” lists, with high test scores and graduation rates, and loads of AP offerings. “People here like their public schools, regardless of what party they belong to,” Kuppa said. The GOP’s steady expansion of a largely unregulated charter school sector has very little to offer voters in communities like hers.

Matt Koleszar, a high school social studies and English teacher, won his race for state representative in suburban Plymouth with a message of what he describes as “tenacious support for public schools.” His call for adequate school funding resonated in this “purple” district, he told me, but so did tying his opponent, Jeff Noble, to Betsy DeVos. Noble had scored an endorsement from the education advocacy group DeVos founded, and raised thousands from her extended family. In 2018, he even backed a controversial law to give charter schools a cut of any property tax increases at the county level. “When I went door to door, explaining to people that this meant that their taxes were going to some for-profit charter school headquarters that’s not even in the district, they were outraged,” Koleszar said….

That relationship could backfire on Trump not only in Michigan’s suburbs, but also in rural areas, where the GOP’s education policies have even less to offer voters. There, the local schools are foundational community institutions, and the conservative push to privatize public services has transferred bus drivers, janitors, cafeteria workers, and even some coaches on to the payroll of private contractors that pay less than the state does while providing fewer benefits. “When you’ve gutted all of the insurance for these jobs, they’re not that attractive,” said Keith Smith, the superintendent of schools in rural Kingsley, Michigan. Cuts have forced school districts like his to ax “extras,” such as music, counseling, and the vocational programs that prepare students to work in skilled trades….

 

 

Here is the obituary of former Michigan Governor William Milliken, a man who reminds us of what the Republican Party was like before it was captured by a ragtag coalition of religious extremists and bigots. It appeared in the New York Times. Donald Trump had worked to destroy this wing of his party and transform it into the party of selfishness, greed, and racism.

William G. Milliken, a moderate Republican who as governor led Michigan through a period of profound transformation in the 1970s, as it went from being an economically scarred industrial state to one that embraced technology, business diversity and environmental quality, died on Friday at his home in Traverse City, Mich. He was 97.

His son and only immediate survivor, Bill Jr., confirmed the death.

Mr. Milliken was the longest-serving governor in Michigan’s history, a 14-year tenure that began in January 1969, when, as the state’s lieutenant governor, he succeeded George Romney, who had left office in the middle of his term to join President Richard M. Nixon’s cabinet. Mr. Milliken went on to be elected to three full four-year terms.

Days before he became governor in 1969, he told a joint legislative session, “It is my greatest hope that this administration will be known for its compassion, its idealism, its candor, and its toughness in the pursuit of public ends.”

That vision was largely borne out. His administration invested in urban housing and education, defended auto industry jobs and profits in the wake of the 1974 Arab oil embargo, strengthened higher education and put innovative environmental protections in place.

 

Heather Vogeli of ProPublica reports on property tax documents of Trump properties and reports some troubling discrepancies.

The story begins:

Documents obtained by ProPublica show stark differences in how Donald Trump’s businesses reported some expenses, profits and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings, giving a lender different figures than they provided to New York City tax authorities. The discrepancies made the buildings appear more profitable to the lender — and less profitable to the officials who set the buildings’ property tax.

For instance, Trump told the lender that he took in twice as much rent from one building as he reported to tax authorities during the same year, 2017. He also gave conflicting occupancy figures for one of his signature skyscrapers, located at 40 Wall Street.

Lenders like to see a rising occupancy level as a sign of what they call “leasing momentum.” Sure enough, the company told a lender that 40 Wall Street had been 58.9% leased on Dec. 31, 2012, and then rose to 95% a few years later. The company told tax officials the building was 81% rented as of Jan. 5, 2013.

New York City’s property tax forms state that the person signing them “affirms the truth of the statements made” and that “false filings are subject to all applicable civil and criminal penalties.”

The punishments for lying to tax officials, or to lenders, can be significant, ranging from fines to criminal fraud charges. Two former Trump associates, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, are serving prison time for offenses that include falsifying tax and bank records, some of them related to real estate.

This explains why Trump is so determined to hide his tax returns and is marshaling the resources of the Justice Department to conceal his business affairs. This may be the first time in history that the Justice Department shielded potentially criminal behavior.