Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Fwd: [New post] Ignorance and Arrogance – the Defining Characteristics of the Betsy DeVos Hearing

Called a twit too.

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From: "gadflyonthewallblog" <>
Date: Jan 17, 2017 10:53 PM
Subject: [New post] Ignorance and Arrogance – the Defining Characteristics of the Betsy DeVos Hearing
To: <>

stevenmsinger posted: " Betsy DeVos wouldn't commit to protecting students with special needs. She wouldn't commit to keeping guns out of school campuses. She wouldn't commit to holding charter and voucher schools to the same standards as traditional public schools. She did"
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Ignorance and Arrogance – the Defining Characteristics of the Betsy DeVos Hearing

by stevenmsinger


Betsy DeVos wouldn't commit to protecting students with special needs.

She wouldn't commit to keeping guns out of school campuses.

She wouldn't commit to holding charter and voucher schools to the same standards as traditional public schools.

She didn't know the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was a federal law.

And she couldn't explain the difference between proficiency and growth.

That's your nominee for Secretary of Education, America!

During a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) tonight, DeVos showed herself to be hopelessly out of her depth.

She tried to cover her ignorance by being noncommittal. But it was obvious that she had no idea what she was talking about more than half the time.

And far from being a fair arbiter, Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican chairperson of the committee, did everything he could to shield her from further embarrassment. He artificially limited each member of the committee to only five minutes of questions.

Why? Because in the past the committee had fewer questions for President Barack Obama's nominees for the position, Arne Duncan and John King.

What a farce! Duncan and King were terrible Education Secretaries, but at least they had some experience in the field! Duncan was Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools. King started his own charter school and was New York Commissioner of Education.

Betsy DeVos was never anything. She has never held a real job. She's never had a job interview, nor has she ever been hired by anyone!

Her entire portfolio is being a rich Republican mega-donor. All she's ever done is use her and her family's obscene fortune to push for school vouchers, remove charter school accountability, advocate for Common Core and persecute LGBT people.

Of course there will be more questions! It's not because she's a Republican or that she was nominated by GOP President-elect Donald Trump!

It's because she's a twit!

Moreover, she hasn't yet been cleared of conflicts of interest from the ethics commission nor have her financial disclosures been made public.

But no worries. Big Daddy Alexander was there to protect her from Senators on both sides of the aisle who had pointed questions for her about her experience, knowledge and about what she planned to do to public education if confirmed.

Never in the history of this nation has a more unqualified candidate been presented for such an important job.

How ironic that under the Trump administration we're presented with a potential Education Secretary so in need of education, herself!

It's an insult to the nation's parents, students and teachers.

So how did she even get here?


She's given nearly $2.7 million in political donations to 370 individuals and causes over the past 20 years through 819 total contributions, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. A little more than $2 million of that has gone to Republican candidates or causes, while a mere $8,000 went to Democratic candidates or groups.

That includes at least five members of the HELP Committee who will get to vote on her nomination. Sen. Tim Scott (R–SC) has received $49,200 from the DeVos family and was a keynote speaker at DeVos' American Federation for Children annual summit in May 2016. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has received at least $70,200 from the DeVoses. Two other HELP committee members, Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), each have received $43,200 from the family. Newly elected Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) got $48,600 from the DeVos family in 2016.

However, those are just direct donations. Ten members of the HELP committee have received donations from Alticor Political Action Committee, or ALTIPAC. This PAC belongs to Alticor, the DeVos family company and parent company of Amway—the multilevel marketing giant that fueled the DeVos family fortune—and receives nearly half of its funds from the DeVos family. This includes Sen. Alexander, himself, who received $4,500 from ALTIPAC.

Devos has been rather upfront in the past about why she's donated so much money to politicians.

In a 1997 op-ed she wrote for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, DeVos explained: "[M]y family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party… I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point... We expect a return on our investment."

This is something she shares with Trump, who has also bragged about paying for influence with his own campaign donations. "I've given to everybody. Because that was my job," Trump bragged at a rally last January. "I gotta give it to them. Because when I want something, I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass."

That's what we saw tonight on Capital Hill. It wasn't a confirmation hearing. It was a bunch of bought politicians lining up to kiss DeVos' white privileged butt.

There was resistance, but to what end?

Reason, knowledge, ethics - none of that matters here. We are truly in the age of the plutocrats where money has arrogantly attempted to buy governmental power outright. Right in front of our noses.

Only time will tell if she is ultimately confirmed.

In the meantime, our system of public education hangs in the balance.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fwd: Let there be proof

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: John Hemington <>

It's well past time for the Obama administration to put up or shut up on this issue – and time is running out.  In the first article More than 20 U.S. intelligence, military and diplomatic veterans are calling on President Obama to release the evidence backing up allegations that Russia aided the Trump campaign – or admit that the proof is lacking.  This is not a trivial issue and could eventually lead to a nuclear confrontation with Russia.  If it is true Americans need some certainty before unleashing the dogs in the Defense Department.  If is nothing but a cover for Hillary's election loss it is doubly preposterous and destructive.   Senator John McCain has already declared it an act of war which must be retaliated against.  We must know and we must know before Obama leaves office. 


Links to articles in PDFs

Fwd: . . . and on it goes

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: John Hemington

We remain deeply embroiled in a serious class war in which young adults have become the most recent victims.  It's not just college graduates broken down with almost unpayable debts, it's also those without an opportunity to go to college who can't find jobs paying a living wage or any job at all.  It's minority youth of all stripes who are denied essential opportunities in a not-so-colorblind society as we would like to think.  Check out the attached article for additional information.

And lest we forget, young adults are not the only Americans suffering from this long-standing class war which resulted in the election of Donald Trump.  As this excerpt from Greg Maybury's article in Consortium News,  Fall and Rise of the Forgotten 'Deplorables' (see second attachment for full article), points our two major political have long ago abandoned and declared war on the rest of us also:

"In what must serve as the quintessential master class of prolonged, consistent, truly bi-partisan cooperation American politics has on offer, both parties have contributed enormously over the past three-plus decades to the dismantling if not effective destruction of the American Dream in its hitherto real and imagined dimensions.

Whether on broad economic, social, national security, or foreign policy issues, both parties have demonstrated a recidivistic, palpable indifference to the concerns and needs of average working- and middle-class Americans, with both repeatedly showing themselves prone to elitism, corruption, cronyism, manipulation, greed, deception, bribery, hypocrisy, opportunism, self-interest, contempt, cynicism and arrogance.

In the process democracy's once "proprietary" domains — equal justice, freedom, human rights, equality of opportunity, civil rights, liberty, and most everything from habeas corpus to the pursuit of happiness — have effectively been declared "no-fly-zones" for ordinary people, accessible only to those increasingly privileged, mostly unelected, and thoroughly unaccountable few.

Most significantly, both parties have undermined, possibly irreparably, the sense of pride and place folks had in their once beloved — but now maybe not so — United States of America.  Along with that, they have all but conspired to "deep-six" that once famously enduring, optimistic mindset that by some accounts enabled the country to thrive and prosper as a "paradise of opportunity" (or even a reasonable facsimile thereof).

Let's term that period The Era of Future Promise, or that time in history — from 1945 to say 1975 — where a whole generation or more of the majority of folks could not only envision a progressively better future for their kids and grandchildren, but anticipated it, and all things equal, if one was willing to strive for such, rightfully expected it.
That is no longer the case for an increasing number of people, and it is this sentiment — one whose seismic impact we have just witnessed — that's been neglected by both party majors.  That this envisioned future is no longer realistic for many comes as a direct result of neoliberalism — the roll-out of which was overseen by both parties — and with it the globalization of economic and financial activity itself culminating from there via "casino capitalism" in the inexorable transfer and consolidation of historically unprecedented wealth, power, and income into the hands of fewer and fewer people — is inarguable.

Now the end of this earlier era might have been heralded by Reagan's ascension in 1981 and the advent of neoliberalism.  But its sustained demise was enthusiastically presided over by Bill Clinton, in cahoots of course with this year's DNC candidate for president, his wife Hillary, and the then Party establishment.  Some folks clearly haven't forgotten that.  In short, there was no clear sign from Clinton that things would be substantially different under her regime than under that of her husband's administration.

And for those who understood there being such a thing as a "class war" and viewed globalization and neoliberalism through such a prism — if we recognize that the upper class won that war a long time ago — we might posit the following:  Why when after the vanquished have long since surrendered to distraction, disillusion or outright despondency are the victors still fighting the war?  Before this election, the short answer we might have suggested is that it's because they can!

The ascension of Sanders and Trump in this election demonstrated that vast masses of Americans have finally given up on the two elitist Parties and are ready to fight back; but unfortunately most of us still don't understand what's behind the system which oppresses so many while promising so much.  It is now imperative that we somehow figure out a way to redirect this anger and frustration into meaningful action.

Fight on!


Links from John's collection

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Fwd: Health care disaster continues

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: John Hemington

As we are dragged kicking and screaming into the frightening new era of Trumplandia, it is worth reexamining one of the issues which is most important to most Americans.  As most of you are aware, I am no fan of either Barak Obama or his namesake health abomination the Affordable Care Act.  Don't get me wrong, the ACA has, in fact, helped many Americans who would otherwise not have been able to get any health insurance at all.  That is, however, a very sad commentary given the kind of efficient, effective and affordable health care all Americans should be entitled to receive.  As it is, even with the ACA the U.S. has the least efficient, least effective and most expensive health care system of any developed nation in the world – and this is not an accident.  Obama and his New Democrat cohorts deliberately crafted the ACA (actually it was crafted by lobbyists from the pharmaceutical and insurance oligopolies and simply implemented by the New Democrats) to benefit their moneyed paymasters; and sold as the most wondrous thing since Wonder Bread (another not very good idea).  I know that I'm preaching to the choir on this, but it cannot be overstated – we deserve better, and we must demand better. 

There is no better time to stand up and demand what should have been done long ago than when things appear to be at their bleakest.  Many of us are depressed (though not defeated) by the ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency.  But, think about it, is the prospect of a Trump presidency really all that much worse than what we have had forty years or so?  It could be but for the first time in a while people who have been seduced by lesser evil Democratic Party scare tactics may be willing to get off the fence, stand up and fight for something important.  And yes, I realize that the issues included in the "identity politics" milieu are important; but also important (and in some ways more so) are issues of endless war, health care for all, control of the financial overlords, corporate money in politics, elimination of austerity politics, meaningful jobs for the poor and working classes paying living wages, global warming and environmental destruction and a host of others the New Democrats have chosen tot to address with any real gusto or ignore completely.  This is a process which is designed and intended to keep Americans separated and effectively at war with one another.  It is the essential construct of neoliberalism and it has worked far better than even the most hard-core neoliberal could have imagined.

Like the Republican Party the Democratic Party has no present intention of addressing any of these core issues.  We are, and have been for many years like it or not, been embroiled in an ever escalating class war and the plutocrats and their political minions have so disarmed the rest of us with ceaseless propaganda and endless new techno-toys intended to keep us helplessly indulged in a mindless frenzy of consumerism.  They tell us that only their "experts" can understand, explain and establish government policy.  They tells us the federal government out of money and being hopelessly constrained by unpayable debt – but it is never a problem when the funding of endless war or the bailing out of the financial system to the tune of 29 trillion dollars is concerned.  The money is always available for corporate needs, but when peoples' needs are mentioned the cupboard is bare and austerity is the stock answer.  This is why we have no government provided health care for all.

I believe strongly that one of our most important tasks is to share as widely as possible the reality behind the neoliberal myths which have been promulgated via state and think tank propaganda and political lies ever since Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan assumed power in Great Britain and the United States in the 1980s.  We are most certainly engaged in a class war and for the moment only the ruling class is engaged.  It is time that the rest of us began our offensive against our rulers.  But in order to effectively organize ourselves, I believe that we must first come to understand the myths we have been sold and why they are destructive lies which have kept us separated for so long. 

Socialists, Progressives, Liberals and those on the political left cannot effectively engage, nor can we ever win this class war on our own – and we have a long history of fighting one another.  We must somehow learn to engage with those on the right side of the political spectrum, remembering that they are just as splintered and confused as are we.  We have to stop being enemies and become allies wherever possible.  And, yes, there are some on both sides we will never be able to reach.  That is just the way things are and won't be changed no matter what we or they do.  But that should not dissuade us from the task at hand.  When I speak of education I certainly do not mean "smart" liberals talking down to "dumb deplorables" as the New Democrats seem prone to do.  I mean listening exchanging views and ideas, explaining differences and hearing others' experiences and what they have learned from years of systemic abuse and neglect.  This can be much more important and more powerful than anything we might have to offer from our life experiences.

I started this by talking about health care because I believe that it is an issue we can all discuss and share experiences and ideas.  It is a problem for all of us who do not dwell in the gated compounds of the 1%.  I also believe that the reality behind fiat money, debt and credit are subjects which must be brought into the open if we are to have any change to break through to the other side with social solutions.  As long as a majority of Americans continue to buy into the myth of the national debt as a constraining inhibitor limiting their and their children's opportunities there will be no opportunity to convince them of the benefits of collective action and governmental social programs.  In short we need two-way teaching and we need it now.  I am not at all certain how best to accomplish this, but I think that some significant collective effort must be put forth to find out.  Absent that we will continue to get kicked to the side of the road by our "betters" in the plutocracy.



Fwd: SAR19: Pre-Summit | Volunteers | Workshops | Registration

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Can't attend the full Summit? We are offering a special half-day rate of $20 that does not include lunch.

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Fwd: [New post] The Racists Roots and Racist Indoctrination of School Choice

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From: gadflyonthewallblog <>

stevenmsinger posted: " "Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, subsidizes, or results in racial discrimination." -President John F. Kennedy "Injustice anywhere is a threat to jus"
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New post on gadflyonthewallblog

The Racists Roots and Racist Indoctrination of School Choice

by stevenmsinger


"Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, subsidizes, or results in racial discrimination."
-President John F. Kennedy

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Billionaires and far right policymakers are pushing for school choice.

I say they're pushing for it because voters always turn it down.

Every single referendum held on school choice in the United States has been defeated despite billions of dollars in spending to convince people to vote for it.

But advocates aren't discouraged that the public isn't on their side. They have money, and in America that translates to speech.

The Donald Trump administration is dedicated to making our public schools accept this policy whether people want it or not.

But don't think that's some huge change in policy. The previous administration championed a lighter version of these market-driven plans. The main difference goes like this: Democrats are for charter schools and tax credits for private and parochial schools. Republicans are for anything that calls itself a school getting your tax dollars – charter schools, private schools, religious schools – if some charlatan opens a stand on the side of the road with the word "school"in the title, they get tax dollars.

In all this rush to give away federal and state money, no political party really champions traditional public schools. Ninety percent of children attend them. In opinion polls, a majority of Americans like their local community schools. But like most things Americans want, politics goes the other way. Universal healthcare? Have Romneycare. Universal background checks on all gun sales? Nah. That sort of thing.

However, what often gets lost in the rush of politicians cashing in on this policy is its racist roots.

You read that right. School choice was invented as a mechanism of white flight. Before the federal government forced schools to desegregate, no one was all that interested in having an alternative to traditional public schools. But once whites got wind that the Supreme Court might make their kids go to school with black kids, lots of white parents started clamoring for "choice."

It was intended as a way to get around Brown vs. Board. In 1953, a year before that landmark decision, many white southerners felt it was vitally important to continue a segregated education. They deeply desired to continue having "separate but equal" schools for the races, yet the US Supreme Court seemed ready to strike that down.

Enter Georgia's Gov. Herman Talmadge who created what became known as the "private-school plan." Talmadge proposed an amendment to the Georgia Constitution to empower the general assembly to privatize the state's public education system. "We can maintain separate schools regardless of the US Supreme Court by reverting to a private system, subsidizing the child rather than the political subdivision," Talmadge said.

The plan goes like this. If the Supreme Court mandates desegregation (as it did), the state would close the schools and issue vouchers allowing students to enroll in segregated private schools.

Fortunately, Talmadge's plan was never implemented in Georgia. But it became the model for segregationists everywhere.

In Prince Edward County, Virginia, the plan actually came to fruition – sort of.

Two years before the 1959 federal desegregation deadline, local newspaper publisher J. Barrye Wall explained what county leaders were planning:

"We are working [on] a scheme in which we will abandon public schools, sell the buildings to our corporation, reopen as privately operated schools with tuition grants from [Virginia] and P.E. county as the basic financial program," he wrote. "Those wishing to go to integrated schools can take their tuition grants and operate their own schools. To hell with 'em."

Ultimately the county refused to sell the public school buildings. However, public education in Prince Edward County was nevertheless abandoned for five years, from 1959 to 1964. During that time, taxpayer dollars were funneled to the segregated white academies, which were housed in privately owned facilities such as churches and the local Moose Lodge.

The federal government struck down the program as a misuse of taxpayer funds after only a year, but even so whites benefited and blacks lost. Since there were no local taxes collected to operate public schools during those years, whites could invest in private schools for their children, while blacks in the county were left to fend for themselves. Since they were unable and unwilling to finance their own private, segregated schools, many black children were simply shut out of school for multiple years.

In other states, segregationists enacted "freedom of choice" plans that allowed white students to transfer out of desegregated schools. Any black students that tried to do the same had to clear numerous administrative hurdles. Moreover, entering formerly all-white schools would subject them to harassment from teachers and students. Anything to keep the races apart in the classroom – and usually the entire building.

Eventually, segregationists began to realize that separate black and white schools would no longer be tolerated by the courts, so they had to devise other means to eliminate these "undesirables."

Attorney David Mays, who advised high-ranking Virginia politicians on school strategy, reasoned:

"Negroes could be let in [to white schools] and then chased out by setting high academic standards they could not maintain, by hazing if necessary, by economic pressures in some cases, etc. This should leave few Negroes in the white schools. The federal courts can easily force Negroes into our white schools, but they can't possibly administer them and listen to the merits of thousands of bellyaches."

Mays turned out to be somewhat prescient. Though desegregation efforts largely succeeded at first, in the last 20-30 years whites accomplished through housing and neighborhood segregation what they couldn't legally enforce through outright school segregation. District lines were drawn to minimize the number of blacks at predominantly white schools and vice versa. Moreover, since funding was often tied to local property taxes, whites could legally ensure black schools got less resources than white schools. And with standardized tests constantly showing students at these schools as failing, policymakers could just blame the school instead of what they'd done to set the school up for failure.

Today racist policies undermine much of the structure of our public schools. We should acknowledge this and work to peel it back. We need to ensure all schools are equitably funded, that class sizes are under control, that all students get a broad curriculum and the services they need. But in the absence of a new, robust desegregation policy, our schools will always be in danger of racist programs that can easily select which students to benefit and which to ignore.

Instead of doing this hard work, we're engaged in resurrecting the school choice policies of the deep South and universalizing them across the country. School vouchers are extremely similar to Talmadge's private school plan. The main difference is that vouchers don't close public schools outright, they simply allow them to be defunded and ignored. With universal school vouchers, public schools often become the de facto holding area for whichever group of children the private schools refuse to accept or who can't afford private school tuition even with the vouchers.

Charter schools are built on the Prince Edward County model. They're administered as private institutions yet claim to be somehow public. As a result, they're allowed to bypass many of the rules that protect students at public schools from discrimination and fraud. In effect, they're largely unregulated. In the modern age, that means they can be incredibly substandard for long periods of time and no one knows or intervenes. The kinds of scandals perpetrated at some charter schools are simply not possible at traditional public schools. Some charters close without notice, have facilities used as nightclubs, involve taxpayer funds used for non-school purposes such as apartments for mistresses, the purchase of yachts, etc.

In both cases, charters and voucher schools often cater to mostly one race rather than another. That increases segregation at both these facilities and traditional public schools. But voucher schools can go a step further. They can even put racism on the curriculum.

Supporting the racial order is often what's actually being taught at private and religious schools. They are infamous for revisionist history and denying climate science. What's less well-known is how they often try to normalize racist attitudes.

The American Christian Education (ACE) group provides fundamentalist school curriculum to thousands of religious schools throughout the country. Included in this curriculum is the A Beka Book and Bob Jones University Press textbooks.  A Beka publishers, in particular, reported that about 9,000 schools nationwide purchase their textbooks.

These books include the following gobsmackers:

"[The Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross. Klan targets were bootleggers, wife-beaters, and immoral movies. In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians."
—United States History for Christian Schools, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2001

"God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ."
—America: Land That I Love, Teacher ed., A Beka Book, 1994

"A few slave holders were undeniably cruel. Examples of slaves beaten to death were not common, neither were they unknown. The majority of slave holders treated their slaves well."
—United States History for Christian Schools, 2nd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 1991

"To help them endure the difficulties of slavery, God gave Christian slaves the ability to combine the African heritage of song with the dignity of Christian praise.  Through the Negro spiritual, the slaves developed the patience to wait on the Lord and discovered that the truest freedom is from the bondage of sin. By first giving them their spiritual freedom, God prepared the slaves for their coming physical freedom. "
-Michael R. Lowman, George Thompson, and Kurt Grussendorf, United States History:  Heritage of Freedom, 2nd ed. (Pensacola, FL: A Beka Book, 1996), p. 219.

"Africa is a continent with many needs. It is still in need of the gospel…Only about ten percent of Africans can read and write. In some areas the mission schools have been shut down by Communists who have taken over the government."
—Old World History and Geography in Christian Perspective, 3rd ed., A Beka Book, 2004

Gay people "have no more claims to special rights than child molesters or rapists."
—Teacher's Resource Guide to Current Events for Christian Schools, 1998-1999, Bob Jones University Press, 1998

Brown v. Board of Education is described as social activism by the Supreme Court: "While the end was a noble one - ending discrimination in schools - the means were troublesome... liberals were not willing to wait for a political solution."
-Teacher's Resource Guide to Current Events for Christian Schools, 1998 - 1999 (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1998), p. 34

These are claims that are uncritically being taught to children at many voucher schools. If this were happening only at private schools, it would be troubling that racists were indoctrinating their children in the same hatred and bigotry of their parents. However, that we're actually using public money - and planning to expand the amount of public money - to increase the racism and prejudice of the next generation is beyond troubling! It's infuriating!

School choice does not enhance civil rights. It is inimical to them. It is part of a blatant policy to make America racist again. We cannot allow the Trump administration and any neoliberal Democrats who quietly support his ends to undo all the progress we've made in the last 60 years.

The bottom line is this – voters don't want school choice. It does nothing to better childrens' educations. It is a product of segregation and racism and even in its modern guise it continues to foster segregation and racism.

If we care about civil rights, social equality and democratic rule, school choice is something that should be relegated to the dust heap of history. It's time to move forward, not look back fondly on the Confederacy, Jim Crow and segregationism.

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