Saturday, June 30, 2018

Confessions Of A Phonebanker


Modern phone-banking isn't this glamorous-- and you needn't leave your home

-by a Phonebanker

After 8 years, making phone calls to voters on behalf of progressive candidates comes easy. Every afternoon or evening during election season, I open my laptop and log on to one of the many remote phone banks operated by political action committees. I obtain a login pin, dial a number, and wait for the beep that connects me to a voter in the district I am dialing. I talk to the voter about the candidate I am calling for, log their response, and wait for the next number. After an hour or an hour and a half of this, I hang up and log out.

I first started making calls to voters in 2010. A populist Democrat in Arkansas, Lt. Gov Bill Halter, was challenging the incumbent, Blanche Lincoln, for her Senate seat. It was just after the passage of Obamacare and Lincoln was one of the many Senators who opposed a public option, much to Halter’s criticism. Halter looked like he had a good shot to win the primary and I agreed with his positions, even though I didn’t live in the state. was backing Halter and running a phone bank for him. I logged on to their page and started making calls. Although Halter ended up losing, it was not the end for me. I continued to make calls for MoveOn, Democracy for America, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) throughout the year. When the 2012 cycle came around, I made calls again. This time, I was recognized by the PCCC as one of their top callers. And when I began interning on campaigns, I continued to make calls on behalf of candidates in other districts when I wasn’t phone banking for my internship.

This year, I have been making calls for candidates endorsed by Justice Democrats and Democracy for America. I first made 12 ½ hours worth of calls on behalf of Greg Edwards, an African-American pastor running in the redrawn Pennsylvania 7th District. Edwards was endorsed by Bernie Sanders and up against two candidates, a liberal Democrat endorsed by Emily’s List and a conservative, Trump-supporting Democrat who was backed by the deceitful No Labels. When I read that one of their PACs was spending money to attack Edwards in favor of their right-of-center candidate, I made sure that the voters who I talked to were aware of No Labels and their deceptive mailers. Although Edwards ended up losing the primary, so did the No Labels-backed candidate. Still, I managed to get people out to the polls who I don't think would have done so otherwise and to sign up people to volunteer for Edwards.

After the primaries in Pennsylvania, I began making calls to voters on behalf of Doug Applegate, Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, and Katie Porter. For Katie Porter, I was making calls using Hubdialer and found the system to be much more difficult than Justice Dialer, which I used to call voters in PA-07 and NM-01, and PhoneBurner, which Doug Applegate’s campaign used for their calls. Once again, I had to inform voters about interference by No Labels, this time in New Mexico, where they were supporting Damon Martinez. When June 5 arrived, Porter defeated New Dem PAC-endorsed Dave Min in the primary. However, Doug Applegate and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez ended up losing their primaries. While Lopez lost to Deb Haaland, a candidate who is expected to be our nation's first Native American Congresswoman, Applegate ended up losing to one of the "Johnny-Come-Latelies" who were absent in 2016.

To me, making calls in primary and general elections is a crucial element in whether a candidate wins or loses. It is just as effective as canvassing door to door and, unlike television advertising, is inexpensive. Many people who I have spoken to over the phone expressed their appreciation for what I am doing. A father in the Pennsylvania 7th who was unsure about supporting Greg Edwards in the primary changed his mind when I talked about Edwards' support for debt-free college. Spending large amounts of time on the cell phone can be taxing though. Especially on the day of the election when you’re trying to get as many people out to the polls as possible to support your candidate.

I have recorded a wide variety of responses from the voters I talked to. The calls are usually par for the course, with potential voters expressing support for the candidate, politely declining to answer, or hanging up all together. There have been instances when I have dealt with hostile callers, who have said that I am "fucking crazy" or that my candidates could go fuck themselves. A person who I called on behalf of Doug Applegate attempted to evangelize me over the phone. Another voter who was living in the California 45th told me that she was a Jehovah’s Witness and was not concerned with politics. There have been numerous instances where a prospective voter has asked how I have obtained their number. The explanations that their number came through the call dialing software that I was using did not ameliorate their discomfort. And then there are the times where a voter tells me that they have been overwhelmed with contacts from campaigns that they ask to be taken off the list of calls and mailings. One person in the California 49th told me that the political mailings he received exceeded the last 5 years combined and that he had enough of them to fill a dumpster. I think that if there are multiple Democratic groups endorsing one candidate, there should be greater coordination with the phone banks, so that potential voters aren’t overwhelmed with excessive calls.

In these trying times, we must all remain alert and ready to fight for the 99% of Americans. Ordinary Americans cannot allow hard-fought progressive achievements to be scuttled by politicians in both parties who are more focused on their donors and consultants. If we turn out, as we did last summer when Obamacare was threatened, we can elect politicians who will be more responsive to the citizenry and send a message to those who are comfortably entrenched in their, to quote Bernie Sanders, "1st Class Seats on the Titanic." All it takes is setting an hour or two a day and picking up the phone.

HUAC by Chip Proser

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Reviving The Democratic Party Will Require Making The Party Democratic


Our old friend, Norman Solomon, asked us to share his newest TruthDig! essay with DWT readers. I'm sure you'll find his title, What Joe Crowley’s Defeat Has to Do With Democratic Party Superdelegates, as provoking as I did. Take my word for it-- it gets more compelling when you get down into it.
Conventional wisdom said that powerful Congressman Joseph Crowley couldn’t be beat. But his 20-year career in the House of Representatives will end in early January, with the socialist organizer who beat him in the Democratic primary in the deep-blue district poised to become Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The defeat of Crowley shows how grass-roots movements can prevail against the corporate establishment and its vast quantities of cash. The Crowley campaign spent upward of $3 million in the Democratic Party primary. The Ocasio-Cortez campaign spent one-tenth as much. He wielded money power. She inspired people power.

As the 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez was quick to say after her victory Tuesday night, the triumph belongs to everyone who wants social, economic and racial justice. She ran on a platform in harmony with her activism as a member of Democratic Socialists of America and an organizer for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

In a simple and symbolic twist of fate, the stunning defeat of Crowley came a day before the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic Party voted on what to do about superdelegates.

Conventional wisdom said superdelegates-- who exerted undemocratic power over the selection of the party’s presidential nominee in 2016-- couldn’t be stopped from putting the establishment’s thumbs on the scale again.

But on Wednesday afternoon, the party committee approved a proposal to prevent superdelegates from voting on the presidential nominee during the first ballot at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. (The last time the party’s convention went to a second ballot was back in 1952.)

As NPR reported, “A Democratic National Committee panel has voted to drastically curtail the role ‘superdelegates’ play in the party’s presidential nominating process. The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee voted 27 to 1 to block officeholders, DNC members and other party dignitaries from casting decisive votes on the first ballot of presidential nominating conventions.”

Make no mistake: Those in the top echelons of the Democratic Party aren’t moving in this direction out of the goodness of their hearts. Grass-roots pressure to democratize the party-- mounting since 2016-- is starting to pay off.

But that pressure needs to increase. Corporate power brokers of the national party are in the midst of a tactical retreat, which should not be confused with surrender.

During the latest Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting, former DNC Chairs Donald Fowler and Donna Brazile voiced strong-- and in Fowler’s case, bitter-- opposition to changing the superdelegates status quo. They may have been foreshadowing an escalation of insider pushback before the full DNC decides on rules in late August.

In recent weeks, some of Crowley’s kindred corporate Democratic colleagues in the House-- angry at the prospect of losing their privilege to vote on the nominee at the next national convention-- have been railing against the superdelegates reform proposal. Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia said that “it disenfranchises the elected leadership of the party” and, if adopted, “is going to do terrible damage to party harmony.”

A New Jersey congressman, Bill Pascrell, said: “I think this is absolutely an insult to us. We’re no better than anybody else, but we stand for election. That has to mean something, that has to stand for something. That’s a lot of baloney.”

DNC Chairman Tom Perez has become an advocate for blocking superdelegate votes on the first ballot. That has put him in the line of fire from Capitol Hill, as Politico reported in early June: “Rep. David Price (D-NC.), executive director of the early-1980s Hunt Commission, which created superdelegates, said lawmakers were ‘infuriated’ by Perez’s stance, although he’s not sure there’s anything that can be done. ‘I think there was a good deal of incredulity and some pretty severe criticism,’ Price said.”

Very few entrenched Democratic officials were willing to criticize the setup when most of the 712 superdelegates made Hillary Clinton the far-ahead “front-runner” by announcing their support for her before a single ballot was cast in a primary or caucus to choose the 2016 nominee.

Now, the huge defeat of quintessential hack Crowley by Ocasio-Cortez underscores the importance and the possibilities of what Bernie Sanders urged during a recent video interview: “Open the doors of the Democratic Party. Welcome working people. Welcome young people in. Welcome idealism in.”

Of course, “idealism” is hardly a word that comes to mind when listening to Democratic congressional leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Crowley. No wonder young people’s support for the party has been eroding.

“It may take liberals by surprise to hear that a recent Reuters/Ipsos mega poll of 16,000 respondents found that the Democrats are losing ground with millennials” even while “their support for Republicans has remained roughly stable,” Guardian columnist Cas Mudde wrote days ago. “While millennials still prefer the Democratic Party over the Republicans, that support is tanking. In just two years, it dropped sharply from 55 percent to 46 percent.”

Reviving the Democratic Party will require making the party democratic in the process of winning genuine progressive victories. Ocasio-Cortez is helping to show the way.

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Are Those Alarms Ringing Alarms For America?


Make America Great Again by Chip Proser

According to numerous polls, most likely American voters-- obviously not Trumpists-- are seeing November as an opportunity the put a leash on Trump by giving congressional leadership back to the Democrats. Among Democratic voters enthusiasm in special elections has been high and Republican turnout has lagged. Will that last through November?n Republican turnout could spike at the thought of a fifth right-wing ideologue on the Supreme Court and Democratic turnout could fall off in Florida if Bill Nelson takes a gamble to try to save his own hide by making the mistake of his career and voting for confirmation. As we saw this morning, Democrats could also lose Senate seats in West Virginia Missouri, Montana, West Virginia, North Dakota and Indiana in this no-win trap.

On Thursday Yascha Mounk penned an essay for Slate about how Kennedy’s retirement proves we can’t count on elites to constrain Trump’s worst excesses. When Trump managed to grab power in 2016, Mounk wrote that "'serious' social scientists argued that the institutions of the American Republic would constrain his power... As we now know, it hasn’t quite turned out like that. Though Trump’s White House certainly faced a steep learning curve in its first months-- and remains deeply dysfunctional even now-- the administration has gradually grown to be surprisingly effective at turning the president’s instincts into public policy. From immigration to trade, and from foreign policy to health care, the past months have brought big and worrying changes. It is not just that the administration that is proving to be more effective than we might have hoped; it is also that the institutions meant to constrain it are proving far more pliant than we might have feared."
This is obviously true of the Republican Party. At the time of Trump’s election, smart observers debated whether party elites would continue to disdain and regularly oppose the president (as the optimists claimed) or whether Trump would prove capable of building a slate of his own candidates and gradually changing the nature of the party (as pessimists like me feared). The truth turned out to be much more radical than either the optimists or the pessimists predicted: Members of the conservative movement who had spent decades professing their commitment to balanced budgets and constitutional values proved willing to sell out their principles with astounding rapidity.

The knock-on effect in Congress has been as immediate as it has been frightening. Even a year ago, institutions like the House Intelligence Committee still seemed to be animated by a sense of bipartisan mission; it was imaginable that, if only Special Counsel Robert Mueller found sufficiently compelling evidence of wrong-doing by the president, a large number of Republican representatives and senators might vote to impeach Trump. Today, the House Intelligence Committee is openly running interference for Trump; it is very hard to believe that 67 Senators would ever vote to impeach him.

Though the overall cast of characters has not changed all that much, the Republican Party-- and the Congress it controls-- has essentially become an agent of full-blown Trumpism.

What this week has brought into focus is that this institutional rot now also seems to be spreading to the last bastion on which defenders of democracy thought they could count: the Supreme Court. This week, the court has taken two decisions that significantly and lastingly impede America’s standing as a liberal democracy. First, it green lit the administration’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries despite ample evidence that the policy  was motivated by religious animus. As Sonia Sotomayor argued in a scorching dissent:
Ultimately, what began as a policy explicitly “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” has since morphed into a “Proclamation” putatively based on national-security concerns. But this new window dressing cannot conceal an unassailable fact: the words of the President and his advisers create the strong perception that the Proclamation is contaminated by impermissible discriminatory animus against Islam and its followers.
Second, the Supreme Court held a Texan Congressional map to be constitutional despite ample evidence that it had been designed to dilute the voting power of the state’s minority residents-- and assure the Republican Party an unfair advantage. As a result, it is even more likely that Republicans might be able to hold the House of Representatives in the coming midterm elections despite losing the popular vote. When other states follow suit in the coming months and years, as they inevitably will, the playing field between the ruling party and the opposition will become even more uneven.

The most shocking thing about both decisions is by now so familiar that it is rarely remarked upon: Rather than being a truly independent institution that is able to transcend partisan politics, the Supreme Court increasingly acts as just another staging ground for the fight between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, both of these hugely consequential decisions were taken with the narrowest possible margin and with a clear partisan split: the five judges who had been appointed by Republican presidents voted in favor, the four judges who had been appointed by Democratic presidents against.

The second most shocking thing about these decisions is that they demonstrate just how much Trump’s election has changed the prevailing political winds-- and how much influence that has already had on the country’s highest court. Of all the current Supreme Court justices, Kennedy was the one who has, over the course of his tenure, proven most susceptible to the shifting tides of public opinion. Originally aligned with the court’s conservative wing, he slowly grew to be the court’s swing voter. With Barack Obama in the White House and a strong majority of Americans much more tolerant of homosexuality, he helped to legalize same-sex marriage. But now, with Donald Trump in the White House and respect for democratic institutions and the rights of minorities sinking ever lower, he has swung the other way-- and acceded to two highly partisan attacks on liberal democracy.

Today’s announcement that Kennedy is retiring only consummates his abdication of responsibility. Instead of standing up for the values he so loudly professes, and staying on the Supreme Court to fight against executive overreach, Kennedy has chosen to let a deeply dangerous president and his allies steer a badly damaged ship out to sea.

...The question that will likely consume us over the coming days and weeks is how the Democrats should respond to this latest political twist. Should they follow the precedent set by Mitch McConnell, and refuse to grant Trump’s nominee a hearing? Or should they take the high road, and assess the nominee by the kinds of standards—basically, a high degree of professionalism and some degree of ideological moderation—that both parties have applied as recently as a decade ago?

Both options are terrible. If Democrats follow McConnell’s precedent, they give up their claim to being consistent defenders of constitutional norms, and pave the way to an even more dysfunctional Congress. Given that Republicans have an inbuilt geographical advantage in the Senate, they would also undermine their ability to wrest back control of the Supreme Court in years to come.

But if Democrats allow Trump’s nominee to take his or her seat on the Supreme Court, this too is likely to do grave damage to liberal democracy. A year ago, Neil Gorsuch looked like the kind of justice who might protect our institutions: though he was deeply conservative, little in his record indicated that he might have sympathies for a populist assault on the rule of law or the separation of powers. And yet, he has participated in the court’s most recent assaults on religious liberties and free elections. There is no reason to assume that Trump’s next nominee, even if he or she should look reasonably sensible on paper, wouldn’t prove equally willing to follow the prevailing winds.

The longer I think about it, the more I agree with my friend: Trump has been consolidating his power for many months. As of now, it is no longer clear that any single institution in the United States will consistently prove willing to stand up to his assault on democratic institutions. Even by the horrific standards of the past two years, today is a very dark day for our country.
Worse: are there any effective checks on Trump and his authoritarian nature? Any? He destroyed much of the media's credibility (at least for Republicans). They don't even care about truth. They have their own. That's why the midterms mean more this time than anytime in my life-- and I'm old. I hate lesser-of-two-evils politics... but November may be a time we just have to hold our noses and vote for anyone with a "D" next to his or her names, even the worse most disgusting Blue Dogs like Jeff Van Drew in New Jersey.

The Enablers by Chip Proser

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Big Surprise! Reactionaries Don't Like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


Odd how the establishment is perfectly fine with this, but rails hysterically against Ocasio

The attacks against Alexandria Ocasio are coming in hot and heavy from a very freaked out establishment worried that their power is being challenged my someone with two much color, two few years, two little fealty to "the system" and too wedded to ideas that, if enacted, would do far more than Trump even meant about draining any swamps. And yesterday, straight from an especially vile swamp, reappears Lloyd Green, an especially repulsive opposition research slime bag from George HW Bush’s 1988 campaign. Green was always a Lee Atwater wannabe. Green was part of the team that portrayed George Dukakis as an out-of-touch liberal elite. Green and his team put together the infamous and disgustingly racist Willie Horton ad. And now Green is back, helping lead the change against Alexandria.

Desperate to fill up space, The Hill gave some of it to this especially unsavory swamp creature-- and without even mentioning the Willie Horton ad-- to soak its readers in his crocodile tears. "Democrats," he wrote, "can kiss swing voters bye with progressive candidates." He then proceeds to join establishment hacks from both parties in attacking Alexandria. He was certainly right about one thing: her ability to defeat the most corrupt Democrat in the House, Wall Street puppet Joe Crowley was a "convulsion." He described her as "an unvarnished leftist. Think of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, just younger and ungrizzled, and she does not bother to hide it." No she doesn't. Perhaps Green should ask himself why polls consistently show that Bernie Sanders is the single most beloved political leader in America while showing the Mitch McConnell is the most loathed.

"Clintonian neo-liberalism and triangulation just got belted with a left hook to the jaw," he wrote, "and the national party’s poohbahs are looking dazed and confused." Is there anyone other than "the national party’s poohbahs" and the Beltway lobbyists and donor class that leach off them who isn't happy about that? Lloyd Green... this Lloyd Green:
Ocasio-Cortez calls for single-payer healthcare, the abolition of ICE, and free college for all. Forget about the underlying arithmetic and how to pay for all of it-- which is either requires sky-high taxation or flat-out sorcery. Rather, this is a cultural manifesto, a cry for open borders, and a demand for one ginormous nausea-inducing free lunch.
Let Stephanie Kelton, among other things, a Bernie Kelton economic advisor, explain how to talk about these things:

Unlike Lloyd Green-- very much unlike Lloyd Green, Oklahoma Berniecrat and congressional run-off candidate Tom Guild was celebrating Ocasio's big win this week. "I’m very proud to run in Oklahoma while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez savors her huge and stunning victory over the corrupt old guard in New York. She is making politics relevant in the Empire State just like Bernie did in his presidential run in 2016. Day care is essential for families across America, an affordable college education is necessary to achieve success for millions of Americans who choose to pursue higher education. If the American economy can’t produce jobs paying a living wage, the government has to lend a helping hand. Alexandria was heavily outspent, but her humble upbringing and hard work on the campaign trail overcame those handicaps. I hope she has a long and productive run in the U.S. House and hope I’m fortunate enough to serve as her colleague on Capitol Hill." It's going to take people like Alexandria Ocasio, Tom Guild, Randy Bryce, Kaniela Ing, Kara Eastman, Rashida Tlaib, Jess King, etc, to move the conversation-- and the country-- forward, not a bunch of old white conservatives from the two establishment parties.

Did you see Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone piece this week, Pundits and politicians are playing point-and-shriek with the new Democratic Socialist contagion?

Another one-- albeit smarter-- than Lloyd is Steve Schmidt. Drawing a blank? Taibbi:
Steve Schmidt-- ex-Dick Cheney aide, new liberal hero and not at all the guy who helped unleash the modern far right by inviting Sarah Palin onto a presidential ticket-- had a few things to say in the wake of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking win over long-serving Democrat Joe Crowley.

Schmidt told MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle that the result was a boon to Donald Trump.

"What Trump is doing is radicalizing American politics," the conservative strategist continued. "And he is a beneficiary the more radical politics becomes."

Schmidt pooh-poohed the Ocasio-Cortez platform of a government jobs program, free day care and free college education, among other things. These things can't be paid for, he insisted. Therefore, the Ocasio-Cortez brand of politics is inherently dishonest.

"When we have dishonest progressivism and we have dishonest Trumpism," the former Karl Rove devotee went on, "an alienated middle… surrenders."

Many others agreed.

"Oh, please, she just promised everyone a bunch of free stuff," noted Ben Ritz, director of the Progressive Policy Institute, an offshoot of the old Democratic Leadership Council.

"Democrats need to choose: Are they the party of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or the party of Michael Bloomberg?" asked Business Insider columnist Daniella Greenbaum.

Bloomberg is best known as a Republican mayor, although he's apparently thinking of running for president as a Democrat-- hence Greenbaum's fork-in-the-road thesis. The columnist argued we should, of course, take the billionaire-plutocrat turn.

Greenbaum went on:

"That kind of rich-oppressor versus poor-oppressed framework might work in New York's 14th Congressional district, but it is sure to fail on a national level."

First of all, so what? If that kind of message works for the 14th congressional district, isn't that why you'd want a person bearing that message representing the 14th congressional district? This is exactly the purpose of representative democracy, allowing local populations to have an idiosyncratic voice in a larger debate.

Secondly, why is poor-vs-rich messaging "sure to fail" on a national level?

Despite extensive efforts to rehabilitate their reputations, Wall Street billionaires are unpopular more or less everywhere in the United States outside maybe Nobu Downtown...

The concept of a financial-transactions tax in particular has polled well in at least four different surveys since the 2008 crash. And both Republicans and Democrats tell pollsters they believe Wall Street has too much power.

There have been lots of other swipes, both subtle and not, at Ocasio-Cortez in recent days. Headlines often left out her name or used dismissive descriptors like "young challenger" or "Democratic Socialist."

The Washington Times, representing the loony-right section of the media, chimed in with Reefer Madness-level hysteria: "Ocasio-Cortez, New York's Socialist Congressional Contender, An Enemy of America."

Then there was Nancy Pelosi, who last year famously said that voters "don't want a new direction." Pelosi made sure to point out that the results in the 14th mean only that voters "made a choice in one district," so "let's not get carried away." Pelosi is often a trenchant inside-baseball observer of the political scene, but her continual inability to sense or understand the dramatic shifts going on in the electorate are beginning to sound like the famous "Stay calm, this is not happening" routine by Monty Python great Terry Jones, who played an aristocrat smiling as his kingdom disappeared underwater.

A common theme in most of the backlash against Ocasio-Cortez is this idea that allowing the "fringe" inside the tent will lead to total chaos and alienate the great "middle" that supposedly decides elections. It's incredible that leaders in both parties still seem to believe in this concept.

They don’t seem to realize that the vast changes ushered in by decades of economic catastrophes-- the disappearance of the manufacturing economy and the busting of two giant speculative bubbles, among other things-- has left America, and most western democracies for that matter, as top-heavy nations run by increasingly small groups of wealthy political and business leaders, surrounded by massive disenfranchised populations with little or negative net worth.

...[V]oters are making different choices because they've concluded that the "accomplished" politicians were the ones hustling them. What else are people supposed to think, when they hear long-serving elected officials somberly insisting that we can't afford health care or higher education just days after a bill boosting our already unnecessarily massive defense budget by $82 billion passed 85-10 in the Senate?

If we can afford to spend more than the next 10 countries combined on defense, why can't we afford higher education? Really? Who's hustling whom?

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Trump And The GOP Rev Up Their War Against Women Again


Trump, Rapist by Chip Proser

The headline of the new Kaiser Family Foundation poll tells us a lot about America: Poll: Two-thirds of Americans Don’t Want the Supreme Court to Overturn Roe v. Wade. Two-thirds is a lot. But one third is the hard core Trumpist base. 67% of the American public do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, although 53% of Republicans do want to see it overturned. (81% of Democrats don't want to see it overturned and neither do 73% of independents.)

The poll found some other factors that should play a role-- even a decisive role-- in the 2018 midterms. "While not at the top of voters’ concerns heading into the midterms, most voters (56%) do say it is at least 'very important' for candidates to discuss issues that primarily affect women."

When this group is asked to say in their own words what issues they mean, about four in 10 (44%, or 25% of all voters) mention issues related to equal pay or fair employment. This is twice as many as those who mention reproductive health issues including abortion or contraception (20%, or 11% of all voters).

In addition, substantial shares of voters say that a candidate’s position on certain policies that mainly affect women will influence their vote.

For example, six in 10 (60%) voters say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports increased workplace protections against sexual harassment and assault, and a majority (53%) say the same about a candidate who supports a law requiring paid parental leave. Democratic voters and women voters are more likely to favor candidates who support each of these positions than are Republican voters and men voters... Half (49%) say they are more likely to support a candidate who is a strong supporter of the #MeToo movement, while just 7 percent say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who does not address the issues raised by the movement.

...Most of the public (57%) say they oppose new Title X regulations proposed by the Trump Administration that would block federal family planning funds from going to organizations like Planned Parenthood, which also provide abortions, even though the money can’t be used for abortion. Nearly four in 10 (38%) say they favor those proposed regulations.
Despite polling, Trump and the Republican Party are absolutely determined to appoint a Supreme Court Justice who will fly in the face of every single finding above, especially, of course, overturning Roe v Wade. It is Trump's top litmus test (likely just behind personal fealty to himself). Early yesterday, CNN reported that the plan to overturn Roe is rolling along.
Over the past year, state legislatures in Iowa, Louisiana and Mississippi have advanced strict limits on abortion that some lawmakers believe could trigger a successful challenge to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

"I think it's virtually certain that some or all of those laws will wind up before the Supreme Court," said CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. "And they will get a much more favorable reception with any of the judges on President Trump's list of 25 possible nominees."

When Trump ran for president in 2016, he pledged to appoint "pro-life" justices to the Supreme Court, while his running mate, now-vice president Mike Pence, said that he hoped to see Roe v. Wade end up on the "ash heap of history."

Trump's first Supreme Court pick, made after Senate Republicans blocked President Barack Obama's pick to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, was Neil Gorsuch, who has been a reliable conservative vote. Trump said he will pick from a list of 25 conservative candidates.

Trump's opportunity to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had voted to uphold Roe in 1992, is "exactly what we had hoped for," said Jim Carlin, an Iowa Republican state senator.

"With (Kennedy) as the swing vote, I don't know that we would have had the capital on the Supreme Court to reverse Roe v. Wade," Carlin said. "If we were to get another conservative justice to the bench at the Supreme Court, I think our chances are much, much higher."

"Anything that we can do to soften the blow of Roe v. Wade or weaken it or dilute it, it's up to us to do that," said Lawrence Bagley, a Louisiana Republican state representative.

...In the end, the Supreme Court doesn't have to entirely overturn Roe v. Wade to leave the legal standard substantially weakened or even effectively gutted, said Steve Vladeck, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

"The Supreme Court could do quite a lot of damage to the right recognized in Roe without ever formally overruling it, simply by upholding state laws that make it harder and harder for women to obtain abortions without banning them," Vladeck said.

That idea could be tested in Arkansas.

The 2015 state law says that any physician who "gives, sells, dispenses, administers, or otherwise provides or prescribes the abortion-inducing drug" shall have to have a contract with a physician who has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The Supreme Court last month refused to take up an early challenge to the law, which cleared the way for it to take effect in mid-July, but did not say if the law is legal or not, leaving that to a lower court to determine. Earlier this month, a federal judge imposed a temporary restraining order on the law, setting the stage for the case to potentially return to the Supreme Court at some point in the future. Planned Parenthood has said that the law is both medically unnecessary and would effectively ban medication abortion in the state.

Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research organization, said the Arkansas law "conflicts with Roe by imposing an undue burden on a patient seeking an abortion."

In Mississippi, after Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill banning abortion after 15 weeks, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging it as unconstitutional and a federal judge temporarily blocked the law from going into effect. Louisiana's 15-week law is also on hold pending the outcome of litigation in the Mississippi law.

The Center for Reproductive Rights points out that in recent years, the Supreme Court has declined to review a number of lower court decisions striking down abortion bans prior to the point of viability.

"The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the right to abortion over many decades and it has done that with many justices from appointed by many different administrations," said the group's senior director of litigation, Julie Rikelman.

State lawmakers pledge to keep trying.

"Until the Supreme Court chooses to touch on that issue again, you're going to continue to see states push the edge and push the envelope on pro-life protections," said Louisiana state Rep. John Stefanski.

"I think inevitably we're going to come up with something that I believe the Supreme Court is going to have to take a look at again," the GOP lawmaker added.
Goal ThermometerIf what I think is going to happen in November happens, Republican lawmakers are going to be too busy looking for new jobs to put too much time into their systematic attack on women's rights. All of the Blue America-endorsed candidates agree on a broad agenda of strengthening and expanding women's rights and complete equality, women like Rashisa Tlaib (MI), Katie Porter (CA) Kara Eastman (NE), Ellen Lipton (MI), Alexandria Ocasio (NY), Lisa Brown (WA) and Jess King (PA), as well as the male candidates, Randy Bryce (WI), Alan Grayson (FL), James Thomson (KS), Tom Guild (OK), Jared Golden (ME) and Kaniela Ing (HI). The actBlue 2018 congressional thermometer on the right is one way to help support these candidates' campaigns. If you've never clicked on it, please give it a try. We're coming right up to being just 4 months away for what could well be the most important midterm election in any of our lives-- and you may hear that every two years from the DCCC and from candidates, but in the dozen years Blue America has existed you've never heard that from us before.

Kara Eastman is the progressive Democrat running for the Omaha congressional seat held by Trump rubber stamp, Don Bacon. And while they disagree on Choice, the contrast between the two candidates on almost every key issue is remarkable. "Immigration and campaign finance are two of the major issues that separate us as candidates," Kara told me earlier."I will not take corporate dollars from controversial for-profits like GEO. But this group has given the maximum political contribution to Congressman Don J. Bacon. And they directly grow their business from detaining immigrants at our borders. According to the Sun-Sentinel, GEO has empty beds in facilities and already operates detention services for ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service. They are 'likely to benefit from President Donald Trump’s executive order that ended his controversial policy to separate parents and children who are caught entering the country illegally'... I strongly back pay equality for women, pre-K education that allows mothers to stay in the work force, and strong domestic violence legislation. I also firmly believe women's reproductive freedom and access to healthcare are crucial components of women's lives and contribute to stronger families. Therefore, I support all Democrats who are committed to these values and who will fight to ensure our constitutional rights and that Roe v Wade stays the law of the land."

Katie Porter is the best of the Orange County candidates running in the cycle after Hillary swept the county and took it away from the GOP for the first time since FDR. "My opponent Mimi Walters has repeatedly stood with Paul Ryan and Donald Trump in their efforts to ban a woman's right to choose," Katie told us yesterday. "I  will always protect a woman's right to choose.  I believe, like women and men across the country, that access to quality, affordable healthcare, choice, and birth control are fundamental rights-- and that we must defend them at any cost."

James Thompson is running for the Wichita area congressional seat (KS-04), occupied by Trump enabler Ron Estes.James, an attorney, gets the last word on this today: "A concerted effort is underway to abolish the rights so many have fought for, and in some cases died for, in this country. Chief among those are the rights of women. We did not just lose the office of President in 2016, we lost the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary, which has often been the last bastion of strength against an overreaching conservative agenda. With the election of President Trump, and complete lack of any intestinal fortitude by our Senate, we lost the ability to replace not just Justice Scalia but apparently also Justice Kennedy, who is set to retire in July. President Trump is also picking approximately 200 new federal judges. The loss of these judicial seats and subsequent decisions sure to come will reverberate throughout our country’s history. Ultra Conservatives across the country are foaming at the mouth in anticipation of overturning Roe v. Wade with a new conservative majority in the Supreme Court. In addition, further attacks are sure to come in an effort to roll back protections against sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and equal pay. If ever there were a time to stand up and fight for the rights so long fought for, now is the time. We must demand passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, and staunchly defend against any encroachments upon women’s bodily automony. We must shout from every mountain and valley that women’s rights are not for sale and are every bit as important as men’s rights. Equal means equal, or equality means nothing at all."

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

It's fitting on so many levels that Herr Trump would be lured by the flag of Putin's old Soviet Union while swimming in a pool of warm yellow water. Why? Do you really have to ask? First of all, Putin's dream is to rebuild the former Soviet Union, and whatever Putin wants, Trump wants too.

Herr Trump confirmed on Wednesday that, just like Putin's folks said, he was going to Helsinki to meet up with his BFF. That's right, he's going to shake hands with the man who attacked our country. Imagine if FDR had agreed to go to Manilla to meet with the Japanese Emperor in 1942 instead of sending Lt.Col. Jimmy Doolittle and a fleet of 16 B25M bombers over Tokyo and other parts of Honshu.

Priorities: As I write this (Thursday afternoon), Republicans in the House of So-called Representatives are grilling Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about, you guessed it, Hillary's emails, and, telling him to end the Russia probe. This is our tax money at work in Washington, folks, not to mention our democracy (or what little of it is left) at risk. I'm old enough to remember the good old days when we held our foreign enemies accountable, one way or another. But, back then, republicans had at least some measure of a sense of patriotism.

It's a good bet that Trump was summoned to Helsinki by Putin. Why else would we hear about the meeting from his people two days before we heard it from Trump's? You can also bet that the meetings will be as private as Trump's meetings with Kim Jong-un were, and you can safely guess that ways to meddle in the 2018 and 2020 elections will be on the agenda. It's to the advantage of both men and they are both every bit as evil enough to have that mutual goal. Meanwhile, our complicit media pundits feign concern by wondering aloud if Trump will "confront Putin." Confront? What planet are they living on? Who the fuck do they think they're kidding (other than sheep)? Whether the media hacks are actually naive enough to think that Trump has a problem with Putin's acts of warfare against us and would be confrontational about it or they know the truth of Trump's treachery hardly matters. Either way, they have willfully abandoned their responsibilities, no doubt to please their corporate masters.

Meanwhile, Trump's ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, has arranged for three Republican $enators to go to Russia to meet with Putin and other Russian leaders to discuss "common interests" ahead of their boss's visit. The visit will be on the 4th of July. How perfect! In case you'd like to contact the offices of these dubious un-American subhumanoids, they are: Richard Shelby (R-AL), John Neely Kennedy (R-LA), and John Hoeven (R-ND).

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Melania Speaks... Sort Of


It was 90 degrees in Texas when Melania wore her "I really don’t care. Do U?" trench coat. Her spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, didn't want to discuss it: "It’s a jacket... there was no hidden message." OK, the message wasn't hidden, but did it mean something? Was there something we really doesn't care about?As one wag put it, "So . . . the First Lady tries to show her sympathy for thousands of children torn away from their parents for months, while wearing a shoulder-warmer saying 'I really don’t care.'  Where was her scarf saying 'screw you?'  Where was her tank-top embroidered with an upraised middle finger? Well, it finally has happened. For once, words speak louder than actions.... we just passed putrid, and we’re well on the way to gangrenous. This is not entirely unprecedented. As Rousseau wrote, when a 'great princess' was informed that the peasants had no bread, she replied 'qu’ils mangent de la brioche' (let them eat cake)." Is that how how Melania sees it? For real?

But now we find out she actually was sending a message with that jacket the other day.

Who knew? It didn't look good and engendered a lot of comment but... no one really understood what it was supposed to mean exactly. Jesse Nutter solved the mystery:

If you click on the image it'll blow up and be easier to read. It's worth it

And a quick couple of words before you go to sleep from my friend Jerry Leichtling, reminding us that Deutschebank, through Justice Kennedy’s son, provided hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to Trump. Deutschebank financed Hitler too.

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If Only My Gramps Had Stayed In Russia, Maybe I'd Own My Own Jet Now Too!


Mafiya by Chip Proser

Before I retired a few years ago, I was president of one of the divisions of TimeWarner, Reprise Records, a label started by Frank Sinatra as a refuge for artists, like himself, who didn't want to be pushed around by suits or by a producer. By the time I took it over, Sinatra had sold the company to Warner Bros. but I tried to run the company the way he intended it to be run. I took that seriously. Our artists did too. The roster included artists like Green Day, Neil Young, Morrissey, Joni Mitchell, Depeche Mode, Lou Reed, Rickie Lee Jones, Fleetwood Mac, Chaka Khan, the Barenaked Ladies, the Replacements (and a hundred others)-- and none of these people fool around when it comes to artistic freedom.

After I retired the place started falling apart... actually, the whole music business was falling apart. For real. I was hired for a one-off job by Deutsche Bank. They wanted me to put my imprimatur on a bond offering they were doing for the company, basically so they could make a plausible claim to due diligence. They paid me an enormous sum of money to rubber stamp the bond offering. But I recognized it was a fraud almost immediately, a ponzi scheme. I was horrified, refused to give it a thumbs up and they told me to take my money and STFU.

Not long after, Time Warner sold the Warner Music Group to a Russian gangster, Len Blavatnik. He seemed to want the company, not because he was a fan of Ministry or Prince or even Cher or Madonna. Nope, as far as I could tell, Sir Leonid, wanted the storied record giant as a money-laundering operation for dirty Russian money.

He's also contributed many millions of dollars to the Republican Party, Republican candidates and, of course Señor Trumpanzee. Like many Putin cronies, he cut the Trumpanzee inauguration a cool million dollar check, money that has never been accounted for but is widely assumed to have gone right into fat-ass' pockets. Sir Leonid, by the way, is the richest man in Britain and Forbes ranks ranks him the 16th richest in the world. Still, laundering the billions and billions Putin stole from Russia-- now we're talking about the actual richest man of earth-- takes a lot of laundering. Trump's idol.

Yesterday Matthew Mosk and John Santucci broke a scoop for ABC News: Special counsel eyeing Russians granted unusual access to Trump inauguration parties. Hello, Sir Leonid! "Several billionaires," they wrote, "with deep ties to Russia attended exclusive, invitation-only receptions during Donald Trump’s inauguration festivities, guest lists obtained by ABC News show." Who remembers when it was a big deal just to be a plain old millionaire? That's how old I am.
These powerful businessmen, who amassed their fortunes following the collapse of the Soviet Union -- including one who has since been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department -- were ushered into events typically reserved for top donors and close political allies and were given unprecedented access to Trump’s inner circle.

Their presence has attracted the interest of federal investigators probing Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, three sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Matthew Olsen, a former senior national security official who now serves as an ABC News consultant, said their presence at inaugural events is “very concerning.”

“This reflects a Russian strategy of gaining access to our political leaders at a time when they are just forming a government,” Olsen said. “They don’t need to be spies in the James Bond sense. They are powerful people with significant wealth who are in a position to exert influence on U.S. policy makers. And they’re in a position to report back to Russian intelligence services on what they’re able to learn.”

The presence of people with Kremlin ties in Washington for Trump’s inaugural celebration was first reported by the Washington Post. But the guest lists obtained by ABC News offer a new glimpse at the level of access granted to several well-connected oligarchs.

Several donated enough to the Presidential Inaugural Committee to qualify for tickets to a “Candlelight Dinner” in Washington’s Union Station on the eve of the inauguration, a perk for $1 million contributors, the list of attendees show. Guests were treated to a preview performance by singer Jackie Evancho, a one-time runner-up on "America's Got Talent," who would go on to sing at the inauguration the following day.

A handful celebrated Trump’s surprise victory at the black-tie “Chairman’s Global Dinner,” an exclusive 500-guest affair held the same night in the Greek-columned Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium whose attendees included close Trump friends, high-ranking campaign aides, and an array of foreign ambassadors and dignitaries. The inaugural committee treated them to a dinner of butter-poached lobster, coffee-crusted beef tenderloin and chocolate raspberry dome. For entertainment, casino mogul and Trump pal Steve Wynn flew in Las Vegas show girls to perform a Broadway-style rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
Kerchhhhhing! Another few cents into Sir Leonid's account.
According to a source with knowledge of the congressional investigations, at least one oligarch was ushered into Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol for the traditional Inaugural Day luncheon, hosted by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies-- an event typically out of reach to donors and even most rank-and-file members of Congress.

“It’s incredibly unusual,” said Stephen Kerrigan, who planned the 2009 and 2013 Obama inaugural festivities and said every guest was scrutinized for foreign ties. “Particularly if they were going to be within arm’s reach of the President, they went through an intensive vetting process.”

Names on the guest lists of the Candlelight Dinner included Victor Vekselberg, the billionaire head of the global conglomerate Renova Group, who was later sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury “for operating in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy,” and his American cousin Andrew Intrater. Late last year, Vekselberg was stopped at a New York airport by federal agents working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and questioned, according to the New York Times. The Times also reported that Intrater was separately interviewed by the special counsel.

Vekselberg and Intrater were seated at the dinner next to Michael Cohen and his family, according to a source familiar with the arrangements. Intrater’s firm, Columbus Nova, later signed Cohen to a $1 million consulting contract. Emails to Renova Group went unanswered. A spokesperson for Intrater declined to comment when reached by ABC News.

Investigators for both the Mueller team and the congressional probes have also expressed interest in several of the other Russian guests who had no obvious place in Trump’s diplomatic orbit, three sources told ABC News.

Some had given money to past Republican candidates, including Leonard Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire philanthropist who holds American and British citizenship. He appeared on guest lists for both the Candlelight Dinner and the Chairman’s events. His global company, Access Industries, which holds a majority stake in Amedia, Russia’s largest producer of television series, gave $1 million to the inaugural fund.

A spokeswoman at Access Industries directed questions from ABC News to a company official who was not immediately available for comment.

...A Soviet-born billionaire Alexander Mashkevitch, who built a metals and mining empire in Kazakhstan, appears on the guest list for the Candlelight Dinner. Flight records show his private jet flew into Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19, 2017 and out two days later. European media reports indicate he settled money laundering charges with Belgian authorities in 2011 with no finding of wrongdoing by him. He has held an ownership stake in Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, one of the world’s largest mining and metals concerns, based in London.

...The Trump inauguration brought in more than $107 million, double the amount of President Obama, to finance a week of festivities that was filled with far fewer events than past inaugurations-- only three Presidential balls. In May, ABC News reported that the Special Counsel had questioned several witnesses about millions of dollars in donations from donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Is there one billionaire in Russia who's not an arch criminal? You're kidding, right? Their parents were happy with a bowl of shchi and a sip of sbiten. And now they all have their own planes and access to Trumpanzee. How did that happen? So many lucky people!

Trickery, deceit, law-breaking by Chip Proser

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Russell Walker, As Much The Face Of The GOP As Donald J Trump


Right, not every Republican is a racist. But... every racist-- at least every open racist who wants to let his freak flag fly-- who wants to get into electoral politics knows exactly which party to get involved with. In North Carolina yesterday, the News and Observer ran a story under a chilling headline, 'God is racist,' candidate for N.C. House seat says. 'What’s wrong with being a racist?' and, his website kicks in, "Jews are descended from Satan." Meet Russell Walker-- not be be too confused with far right extremist and closet racist Mark Walker-- running for the state House in district 48, which includes Scotland and Hoke counties. The 48th is 51.2% Black and 11.8% Native American.

These aren't even red counties. Both voted for Deborah Ross over Richard Burr in the last Senate race. Both voted for Roy Cooper over Pat McCrory in the gubernatorial race and in the presidential 2016 presidential contest Hoke County went for Clinton 53.8% to 43.0% and Scotland County went for Clinton 53.0% to 45.2%. The 48th is represented by Democrat Garland Pierce, an African American minister, and the GOP didn't run a candidate against him in 2012, 2014 or 2016. 2018 was going to be the big GOP come-back. There was even a Republican primary. Walker beat John Imbaratto 824 (64.8%) to 447 (35.2%). And now that's all in ashes. On Tuesday, the state GOP withdrew its support for Walker.

A multimillionaire and former congressman, Robin Hayes, who serves as the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, said on Tuesday that "based on recent behavior and previous statements, the North Carolina Republican Party is unable and unwilling to support the Republican nominated candidate for North Carolina House District 48. The NCGOP along with our local parties in Hoke, Scotland and Robeson Counties will be spending our time and resources supporting Republican candidates that better reflect the values of our party.

His website does accurately represent a vital and growing portion of the Republican Party. He didn't win the primary because he's a devotee of Martin Luther King, Jr.
What is wrong with being a white supremacist? God is a racist and a white supremacist.

Someone or group has to be supreme and that group is the whites of the world ... someone or something has to be inferior ... In all history in sub-Saharan Africa, no two-story building or a waterproof boat was ever made.
Several years ago we visited the beautiful city of Djenne in Mali

These have been Walker's themes for years and he has never tried to hide them-- quite the contrary. It's what GOP primary voters elected to support in the party primary this year.
Walker has carried signs during a protest outside a North Carolina newspaper’s office that said “What is wrong with being a racist” and “God is racist,” the newspaper said.

Walker says on his campaign website that he is suing the Hoke County News-Journal newspaper “because they have refused to print any of my letters to the editor.”

In January, the editor of the paper, Ken MacDonald, wrote on the front page that Walker holds frequent protests outside the newspaper’s office holding up racist signs.

The website Walker says is his features racism, conspiracy theories and pseudoscience, including:
• “God made the races and he is the greatest racist ever.”
• “What is wrong with being a white supremacist?”
• “The Jews are not Semitic they are Satanic as they all descend from Satan.”
A Facebook page for Russell Walker is the only account following the website’s Facebook page.

Another post on the website refers to Martin Luther King Jr. by a racial slur. “MLK wanted to destroy the Caucasian race through mixing and integration. He was an agent of Satan.”

In a 2017 Spectrum News video of Walker following the dismissal of a lawsuit he filed to keep Confederate flags and portraits of Confederate generals in a South Carolina courtroom, Walker uses the same slur against King... Walker had not stepped down as a candidate as of Wednesday afternoon, and cannot be forced off the November ballot.
And racism isn't the only way that Walker is just like Trump. He is "convinced that vaccinations, especially for young children, create a favorable climate for Autism," according to his website. The GOP is still resisting the racism label, But they ought to look at the pile of shit who leads the party nationally and get used to it... at least for a while-- a long while, in all likelihood.

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Trump May "Love" The Poorly Educated, Most Republicans Want To Create Lots And Lots Of Them


The Koch network, wrote Annie Linskey for the Boston Globe a few months ago, "has pledged to devote around $400 million toward politics and policy in the midterms to hold the GOP majorities in both chambers. That’s 60 percent more than the network spent in 2014, when Republicans picked up nine seats in the Senate and 13 seats in the House of Representatives."
A major focus for the Koch network-- known formally as the Seminar Network-- is state legislation, with an aim to remake the nation’s education system via referendums and new state laws. The Kochs are particularly enthusiastic about education savings accounts: a mechanism that upends traditional K-12 education by, in some cases, giving parents lump sums they can use to pay private schools or even online institutions to educate their children.

A top priority for 2018 is in Arizona, where a measure allowing education savings accounts for all students goes on the ballot in November. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey pushed the idea and attended the weekend seminar to chat with donors about it.

Success in Arizona would have “a ripple effect” felt across the country, explained Jorge Lima, executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, the Kochs’ Hispanic outreach arm that has been playing an increasing role with the network’s education measures in states.

A similar bill is moving through the New Hampshire Legislature and is supported by Americans for Prosperity.

These efforts are the latest in a roiling education debate and face headwinds. Last month a school board in Colorado voted, 6 to 0, to end a private voucher program, which teachers unions hope is a sign that voters are showing skepticism for such policies.

“If you rip off the branding and the spin, this is all about destabilizing public schools and defunding them,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation for Teachers, which is the country’s second-largest teachers union. “You’re seeing more radical ideas here.”

Weingarten has clashed with the Kochs before. “They will do anything they can and spend any amount of money they and their allies have to maintain their power and their wealth,” she said.
But it isn't just the Koch network and Betsy DeVos who are out to replace public education with charter schools. There are plenty of Democrats on that bus as well, even so-called "liberals" like Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). Lobbyist and ex-Governor Howard Dean, still an icon to some on the left: "I do believe charter schools are the future, especially for the inner cities...Charter schools in this country are being started by young kids who probably voted for Barack Obama...The charter school movement is transforming inner-city education. It is getting kids through high school with diplomas that never would have had a chance even five years ago."

Diane Ravitch is a historian of American education at NYU who wrote an OpEd for the Washington Post a few days ago, Charter schools damage public education. I'd trust her more than the Koch brothers... or Howard Dean-- unless you want to make the GOP's dream come true of a population of "the uneducated." Ravitch is not a fan... and she explains why.
In 1988, teachers union leader Albert Shanker had an idea: What if teachers were allowed to create a school within a school, where they could develop innovative ways to teach dropouts and unmotivated students? The teachers would get the permission of their colleagues and the local school board to open their school, which would be an R&D lab for the regular public school. These experimental schools, he said, would be called “charter schools.”

Five years later, in 1993, Shanker publicly renounced his proposal. The idea had been adopted by businesses seeking profits, he said, and would be used, like vouchers, to privatize public schools and destroy teachers unions. He wrote that “vouchers, charter schools, for-profit management schemes are all quick fixes that won’t fix anything.”

Shanker died in 1997, too soon to see his dire prediction come true. Today, there are more than 7,000 charter schools with about 3 million students (total enrollment in public schools is 50 million). About 90 percent  of charter schools are nonunion. Charters are more segregated than public schools, prompting the Civil Rights Project at UCLA in 2010 to call charter schools “a major political success” but “a civil rights failure.” They compete with public schools instead of collaborating. Charter proponents claim that the schools are progressive, but schools that are segregated and nonunion do not deserve that mantle.

The charter universe includes corporate chains that operate hundreds of schools in different states. The largest is KIPP, with 209 schools. The-second-largest has 167 schools and is affiliated with Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen. About one of every six charters operates for profit; in Michigan, 80 percent are run by for-profit corporations. Nationally, nearly 40 percent of charter schools are run by for-profit businesses known as Educational Management Organizations.

The largest online charter chain, K12 Inc., was founded with the help of former junk-bond king Michael Milken and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The biggest single virtual charter was the Ohio-based Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, which collected $1 billion from Ohio taxpayers from 2000 until its bankruptcy earlier this year. The charter’s 20 percent graduation rate was the lowest in the nation.

Charter schools pave the way for vouchers. More than half of states now have some form of public subsidy for religious and private schools. Voucher schools are not bound by civil rights laws and may exclude students based on religion, disabilities and LGBT status.

Charters are publicly funded but privately managed. They call themselves public schools, but a federal court ruling in 2010 declared they are “not state actors.” The National Labor Relations Board ruled in 2016 that charters are private corporations, not public schools. As private corporations, they are not subject to the same laws as public schools.

The anti-union Walton Family Foundation  is the biggest private financier of charters. The foundation in 2016 unveiled a plan to spend $200 million annually over five years for charter schools, and the organization claims credit for opening one of every four charters in the nation.
by Chip Proser

The Waltons and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, using both public and private funds, are pouring hundreds of millions annually into what amounts to a joint effort to privatize public education. The federal government spends $400 million annually on charter schools; a congressional budget proposal seeks to increase that amount for fiscal 2019.

On average, charters do not get better academic results than public schools, according to the National Education Policy Center, except for those that have high attrition rates and that control their demographics to favor high-scoring groups. The lowest-scoring urban district in the nation is Detroit, where more than half the children are enrolled in charters. The highest-ranked charters in the nation are the BASIS charters in Arizona, where 83 percent of students are either Asian or white, double the proportion of these students in the state.

Charter schools drain resources and the students they want from public schools. When students leave for charters, the public schools must fire teachers, reduce offerings and increase class sizes. Some districts, such as Oakland’s, teeter on the edge of financial ruin because public funds have been diverted to charters.

In 2016, the NAACP called for a moratorium on new charter schools until charters are held to the same accountability standards as public schools, until “public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system” and until charter schools “cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate.”

American education seems to be evolving into a dual school system, one operated under democratic control (overseen by a board that was either elected by the people or appointed by an elected official) , the other under private control. One is required to find a place for every student who shows up, no matter that student’s academic skills, language or disability. The privately managed charter sector can limit its enrollment, exclude students it doesn’t want and accept no new students after a certain grade level. Charters can even close school for the day to take students to a political rally for the school management’s financial benefit. That is not fair competition, and it is not healthy for democracy.
Uneducated, unschooled people aren't capable-- aren't meant to be capable-- of understanding someone like, say, philosopher, historian and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky. I doubt someone who still backs Trump, after all we've seen since 2015, could possibly understand what "existential" means and how Chomsky is using it below. But it's important, very important, that they do, that every American does... and fast.
Climate change and nuclear war. These are really existential threats. And what’s happening now is just astonishing. If media were functioning seriously, every day the lead headline would be this amazing fact-- that in the entire world, every country is trying or committed to doing at least something. One country-- one!-- the most powerful country in history-- is committed to trying to destroy the climate. Not just pulling out of the efforts of others, but maximizing the use of the most destructive means.

There’s been nothing like this in history. It’s kind of an outrageous statement, but it happens to be true, that the Republican Party is the most dangerous organization in human history. Nobody, not even the Nazis, was dedicated to destroying the possibility of organized human life. It’s just missing from the media. In fact, if you read, say, the sensible business press, the Financial Times, BusinessWeek, any of them, when they talk about fossil fuel production, the articles are all just about the prospect for profit. Is the U.S. moving to number one and what are the gains? Not that it’s going to wipe out organized human life. Maybe that’s a footnote somewhere. It’s pretty astonishing.

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