Dec 5, 2016

Christian Nutbags—Killing Public Schools for god

Scott Walker is the face of the religious right in Wisconsin
The presidential election of 2016 highlights the scenario that most everyone thought could happen, but guessed it wouldn't.

The election of Donald Trump is the consequence of the mass base for fascism that has long defined white America and opportunistic rightwing money willing to use the white, 'liberal-Jews-did-it' lunatics populating rural Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Never could figure out why so many otherwise bright political commentators pass on describing rightwingers for what they are. In any event, it is not merely the white-christian-gaping-puke vote that propelled Trump into office. Rightwingers need funding and organization.

Rightwing money is forever busy, post-Citizens United, (Cornell University Law School).

Rightwingers, the white-supremacist Alt Right, are here.

They are staffing up poll worker rosters, municipal committees, school boards, state legislatures, and gubernatorial seats, and so consider Betsy DeVos, Trump's nominee for the United States Secretary of Education, (Zernike, NYT).

Rightwingers are dumb, they're bigoted and mean, and buoyed by Trump in a way most of us will never understand, they are now unmoored declaring: 'They're in charge now.'

DeVos wants to eviscerate public education, a long-term project of the Evangelical rightwing still resentful of biological evolution, climate change, rules of inference, and empirical science.

Those know-it-all liberals, Universities, pubic education, civil rights, god is watching and the rightwing will burn it all down, though likely in Wisconsin at least, you won't read about it in your daily newspaper.

Look, if Wisconsin can normalize Scott Walker and the radical religious right, (and Wisconsin has), the United States can normalize Trump, DeVos and other assorted loons.

Here's a cautionary tale of Betsy DeVos and the coming demise of public education from a pro-public school voice in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

By John Thompson, NonDoc

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma— Yes, the Donald Trump nominee for the U.S. Secretary of Education is the same Betsy DeVos who cheered the defeat of SQ 779 and helped fund pro-voucher candidates for the Legislature. She’s the same Amway heiress who pushed the expansion of Oklahoma City’s KIPP charter school

And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Betsy DeVos wants to make America’s public education sector into a national version of the starved Oklahoma school system. The founder of the American Federation for Children wants to complete the full ALEC, Koch Brothers, Walton Foundation for-profit, privatization agenda in our state and the rest of the nation.

But it is even worse than that.

DeVos’ political ties like a who’s who of conservatism

As the Mother Jones analysis reports, Richard DeVos Sr. “was an early member and funder of the Council for National Policy, a secretive network of hardline conservative leaders founded by Left Behind author Tim LaHaye.”

Betsy’s father was also a founder of the conservative, Christian, anti-choice Family Research Council. Her brother founded the infamous Blackwater private-security company. Disgraced Texas congressman Tom DeLay advanced their agenda under the informal name of the Amway caucus.

Other DeVos allies include gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson, Texas investor Harold Simmons, activist attorney Jim Bopp, general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, who also was the chief architect behind the controversial 2010 Citizens United case and, last, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, of course. DeVos also used the Oklahoma Right to Work experience to inform her campaign to break unions in Michigan.

Intertwined conservative zealotry

And that brings us back to the imminent threat that the DeVos/Pence/Trump team represents for Oklahoma. A recent Oklahoman editorial praised the role of business leaders, who invested millions of dollars in a “wide range of education reforms, including vouchers, charter school expansion, merit pay and more.” Responding to a presentation by a reformer from Pence’s state of Indiana, the Oklahoman proclaimed, “The lessons of Indiana apply not only to education reform in Oklahoma, but to all conservative policy areas.”

A national exposé by Media Matters explains how those intertwined, mostly hidden, corporate-funding networks have choreographed an extreme, anti-government campaign. It notes:

Betsy DeVos is also the co-founder and current chair of the boards at the anti-teachers-union state advocacy groups Alliance for School Choice and American Federation for Children (AFC) and a close friend of teachers union opponent Campbell Brown, who also serves on AFC’s board. DeVos also sits on the board of [Jeb Bush’s] the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Through the DeVos Family Foundation, the DeVoses have given millions to anti-teachers union and pro-privatization education groups.

Here’s the real danger DeVos represents: She is not just a run-of-the-mill corporate school reformer who promotes “public charter schools” under the auspices of bringing disruptive innovation to public schools. She pushes a for-profit privatization agenda that is doing for schools what privatized jails and prisons did for nonviolent offenders; what privatized water systems did for the citizens of Flint, Michigan; and what Blackwater’s mercenaries did for Iraqi noncombatants (and the American soldiers who faced the retaliation sparked by Blackwater’s abuses).

Even Oklahoma reformers shy away from DeVos’ platform

The reformers I know personally are uncomfortable about the Christian Right component of DeVos’ and Pence’s ideologies. They’d prefer not to think about the way that 80 percent of the charters in DeVos’ Michigan are for-profits, or the way that Pence’s Indiana vouchers break down the constitutional separation of church and state (as well as the homophobic dimension of that state’s movement). Reformers who are actually connected to schools tend to distance themselves from the multitude of scandals spawned by for-profit charters and virtual schools.

Not many Oklahoma reformers feel comfortable with online charters like ABLE Charter School, which the state ordered to close. As Oklahoma Watch reported in July, “Of the 93 students enrolled at the start of the school year, just 12 remained in the [ABLE] program for the full year.” After all, virtual charters are perfect examples of schools that collect state funds for as many students as they can recruit, but they don’t have to keep those students for long.

Neither do Oklahoma reformers like to think about the three-year investigation into our state’s Epic virtual schools. Epic is the state’s largest charter, serving more than 8,000 students, but it can’t even document its attendance rate. Neither does Epicseem able to answer charges filed in California for predatory practices and that state’s findings that the Oklahoma-based charter is “without any transparency, accountability and oversight.”

Two kinds of reform

Non-educators and educators alike have failed to fully distinguish between so-called “public charters,” which are pushed by people who at least hope that they will figure out ways to hold choice schools accountable, versus private charters, which don’t have to try to make that claim.

Still, I admit to paying more attention to the charter supporters with whom I can converse and try to persuade and/or collaborate than to the real powers behind the corporate reform movement and their “dark money.”

Most reformers whom I know personally support the private governance of charters and charter management systems (CMOs), but they would reject the total privatization of public schools — just as they would oppose the privatization of prisons, social security and the military. I’m sure that some local reformers will be tempted to support Trump’s and DeVos proposed $20 billion campaign for public and private, non-profit and for-profit schools, but others will refuse to cooperate with the racist, sexist and xenophobic administration.

‘Choice’ options under DeVos would threaten OKCPS, [Oklahoma City Public Schools]

Here’s the big irony: Corporate reformers who have demonized teachers, unions, education schools and school boards have often spoken privately of their mixed feelings about uniting with right-wing reformers. They did so, I’m often told, because they believed it was necessary for Democrats to prove their toughness by battling unions and other loyal Democrats. The Obama administration, for instance, adopted an ALEC-lite, Scott Walker-lite and Betsy DeVos-lite education agenda in an effort to keep the far-right from completely destroying public schools. In doing so, they inadvertently opened the door to mass charterization and an American president with strong support from the alt-right.

Now, we must prepare for the second half of the “one-two punch.” Under a DeVos administration, “choice” options will be defined as including the unchecked expansion of vouchers, for-profit charters and virtual schools. If conservative, neoliberal and liberal supporters of “public school charters” don’t reconsider their relationship with DeVos, Pence, Trump and the rest of the ALEC/Koch brothers agenda, the future of the OKCPS, (Oklahoma City Public Schools), is even more in doubt.

[Dr. John Thompson is an award-winning historian and an award-winning inner-city teacher. Now retired, he is the author of A Teacher's Tale: Learning, Loving and Listening to Our Kids.]


Dec 2, 2016

Neighborhood Activists Fight Fitchburg, Wisconsin Mayor

Fitchburg, Wisconsin  — Used to be Fitchburg, Wisconsin pols would gloat to reporters over holding the line on taxes, opening up city government, and abiding by simple platforms of safe-and-clean streets to maintain this rustic paradise less than ten miles out from the capitol.

Now, the city of Fitchburg is under assault by the Mayor's office whose vision includes higher property taxes, higher rents, grand urban designs, and mayor-knows-better-than-neighborhoods twaddle, and an off-putting arrogance that should offend households of most every political stripe.

None of the above characterizations are even controversial, so insular has become the Fitchburg mayor. 

What's the matter with Mayor Steve Arnold? At base Arnold is officious and malignant, treating residents showing an interest in City affairs as interlopers, (Thomas, Wisconsin State Journal).

Those beautiful, rustic Fitchburg roads where families have lived for decades? Arnold has decided they need sidewalks and major retrofits, and objecting residents just don't see the big picture that Arnold has divined and laid down in Arnold's Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.

Fortunately, a motley coalition has grown in opposition to Arnold, and residents appear to be fishing around for an opponent for the mayoral election next April.

Alders Carol Poole, Julia Arata-Fratta, Jason C. Gonzalez, and Dan Carpenter are responding to the voice of the people, and deserve plaudits.

The four alders have drafted a resolution, (Resolution R-185-16), calling for the residents in existing neighborhoods to be the deciders on the question of whether bucolic roads and neighborhoods need to be retrofitted by Steve Arnold, and whether neighborhood residents should be socked with the unwanted bill.

Mayor Steve Arnold opposes the democratic citizens' resolution of course. Residents just don't realize Arnold will develop policy and their concerns are being addressed, says Arnold.

Arnold couches his opposition to neighborhood sentiment by assuring residents that he too opposes elements of his own mandatory-sidewalks push and that Resolution R-185-16 really is just going to bring more unwanted sidewalks, and "actually weaken ... prohibitions on installing sidewalks in existing subdivisions." Alice in Wonderland.

Mostly, Arnold declares that he knows what's best, hopes residents will come to see this, and that democratic, anti-mandatory sidewalk resolutions are not required. I hope you will see that I am right, says Arnold.

Seriously, and with no hyperbole.

In an email dated November 28, 2016 12:38:02 AM CST to numerous Fitchburg residents, Arnold writes in part, "no resolution is needed," and Arnold hopes residents should "not see a need for a separate resolution."

For a dose of reality, below is a reproductions of Resolution R-185-16, and part of an email chain to Arnold stating in unequivocal words that mandatory sidewalks are a terrible idea, and that Resolution R-185-16 is the mechanism to protect neighborhoods from Arnold. Arnold's repulsive reply is reproduced.

Fitchburg Resolution R-185-16

Email dated November 28, 2016 12:38:02 AM CST

From: Steve Arnold
Date: November 28, 2016 12:38:02 AM CST
To: Jay Hochmuth Cc: , Ahnaray Bizjak , Thomas Hovel , Wade Thompson , Patrick Marsh
Subject: Re: Sidewalk Resolution, R-185-16

... Thank you for your input on the bike and ped plan update and on resolution R-185-16. I think I understand your goals, and believe they are better served by the updated ped policies in the draft bike and ped plan, which were sent to all interested parties on 11/23. Adopting the resolution will actually weaken the plan's prohibitions on installing sidewalks in existing subdivisions. 

In any event, I oppose the concurrent passage of a resolution, [Resolution R-185-16], addressing the same subject matter as the bike and ped plan. Upon adoption, the plan will be Council policy, and no additional resolution is needed. Anything that the Council, as a body, wants for pedestrian policy should be in the plan. 

It is my hope that your concerns will be addressed by the plan itself, and that after review of the next draft, you will not see a need for a separate resolution. 

Feel free to share this with interested neighbors.
 -- Steve Arnold, Mayor ...

Nov 30, 2016

Wisconsin Pols Jettison Voter Intent, Republicans Say They're "Very Pleased"

Update - The rejection of a petition to order a hand recount does not offer high hopes for the intent and liberty interests of Wisconsin voters seeing elections as a means of protecting their interests.

Jill Stein, joined by the Hillary Clinton campaign, sought a judicial order in state district court, mandating a hand recount in the Wisconsin presidential recount.

The campaigns want voter intent to guide the recount, are vigilant against election shenanigans, and call for a rigorous, precise hand recount to verify the 2016 presidential election results.

This week political appointees in the newly politicized Wisconsin Elections Commission joined the Chair who declared his personal knowledge of the recount results prior to the inception in a bizarre statement.

Chair Mark Thomsen also joined a unanimous six-member Commission, and rejected the Stein-Clinton call for a hand recount.

Neither election bureaucrats nor Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn are impressed with arguments appealing to the liberty interests of voters.

Report Mark Sommerhauser and Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin State Journal this morning: "Clinton’s attorney, Josh Kaul, wrote in a memo to the court that a hand recount is 'preferable to a machine recount because human beings can assess voter intent in a way that machines cannot.'"

Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn, upholding the partisan Commission decision, says more evidence is needed to order a statewide hand recount over the decision of the Commission, without addressing whether voter intent remains a paramount principle underlying Wisconsin election law.

Wisconsin Republicans immediately praised the decision, saying the Republican Wisconsin Dept of Justice is "very pleased" with the ruling. Republicans want blood though.

Today, the Republican Party of Wisconsin said it will "file a federal elections complaint against both Stein and Democrat Hillary Clinton," (Stein, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel), a complaint widely viewed as a PR stunt.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin press neglects noting the liberty interests of citizens as a check on bureaucracy and partisanship even as the foundational basis of Wisconsin democracy is disregarded in the partisan Elections Commission.

The Green Bay Press Gazette, a Republican paper in northeastern Wisconsin, misreports recount costs that will be spent by the Stein campaign as tax-payer dollars. This is factually incorrect, but representative of the USA Today-Gannett Co newspapers dominating Wisconsin media.

Nov 29, 2016

Wisconsin Elections Commission Under Reign of Clowns

Mark L. Thomsen, chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission,
declared the results of the Wisconsin presidential recount prior
to the recount's inception. Thomsen is the political hack Democrats
offered up for appointment to new Elections Commission.
Updated - As national political eyes cast a glance at Wisconsin, the democratic ethos in our political culture is dissipating.

With nary a beep from the moribund Democratic Party.

So, it is no surprise to read the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) (formerly the Governmental Accountability Board until its independence offended Wisconsin Republicans), decided the best way to conduct the presidential recount is to avoid ordering a rigorous and precise hand-recount in Republican-led counties, and to then offer the public prior assurance of what the recount results will be.

Wisconsin Elections Commission, (WEC), chair Mark L. Thomsen, a Democrat and doofus, declared the recount will not change the some 22,000 Trump victory margin over Clinton.

Does anyone see anything wrong with Thomsen? [Update: John Nichols has something out at The Capital Times.]

Why is the state commission chair charged with administering Wisconsin elections offering predictions and assurance on what the results of statutorily prescribed electoral recounts will be?

Because Thomsen is a political hack, who has given $10,000s to Democrats the last two years, and knows nothing about the concerns of free and fair elections activists.

Thomsen has his gig at the WEC, and his tenure will be good for his law practice so Thomsen is careful not to step on any toes with democratic niceties like the impartial administration of free and fair elections.

Republicans destroyed an independent Wisconsin elections agency last year, and Wisconsin Democrats are going along, declaring money is the currency that matters most in administering elections, and meet Mr. Mark L. Thomsen.

Nov 28, 2016

Trump, Repubs, Racists Eye Voting Restrictions

"My concern is that this might be a signal that we will see an assault on voting rights," Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told me today. "Claims of nonexistent voter fraud and noncitizen voting are precisely the kinds of baseless justifications that we’ve seen for the wave of laws in the past couple of years restricting voting access."

Trump’s choice of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general makes this more plausible. As a U.S. attorney in the mid-1980s, Sessions tried to prosecute three civil rights activists for voter fraud, when they were trying to help poor, elderly, and illiterate people to vote. They were acquitted, (Sargent, Washington Post).

Prosecuting voting rights activists as opposed to murdering voting rights activists is not progress to a rational mind.