Corona Shock: Getting Perspective and Taking Action to Protect Ourselves and Our Nation

Besides keeping ourselves mentally clear and calm and physically healthy, and helping others do the same, we have to stay informed about what DT is doing to further undermine the health, any remnants of democracy and the security and stability of our nation. After three years of shocks to  our personal emotions, our collective mental health and our political and legal system, almost two months of the coronavirus has changed almost every aspect of our society. So many changes that we can barely digest it.

 

DT did not cause the coronavirus. And our health care system was inequitable, too expensive, cumbersome, etc. even before DT. But so much has been revealed about how his lack of judgement, incompetence and greed has made the crisis even worse.

 

Let’s go back to January 13, 2017, 7 days before DT took office. As Politico reports, DT’s aides, future cabinet members, even a future press secretary, were briefed by President Obama’s aides as part of the transition of power, on topics like preparing for a possible pandemic, and securing funding from Congress to improve our health care system, prepare antivirals, masks, etc. Besides the fact of the instability of the DT administration that has led to about two-thirds of those officials no longer being in their position, there is little evidence that DT took any of the briefing to heart. Susan Rice, who was at the meeting said: “Rather than heed the warnings, embrace the planning and preserve the structures and budgets that had been bequeathed to him, the president ignored the risk of a pandemic.”

 

He further set up this crisis with his tax cuts to the rich passed in 2017. This reduced government income and increased the national debt, thus making the nation more vulnerable and  less able to respond to a crisis such as the one we are in now. He proposed to help pay for these huge handouts to the rich by cutting programs that serve and protect the majority of us, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

 

DT and the GOP in general have made us all more vulnerable to a pandemic by wasting government time and resources with their attacks on the Affordable Care Act (Obama-Care) and proposing legislation that helps insurance companies more than the insured. If people cannot afford health care, they might not go for treatment when they feel ill, and thus spread the illness to others.

 

DT’s attitude toward public health could at best be called short-sighted and at worst idiotic and cruel. He proposed cuts to the 2020 and 2021 budgets for the CDC. Cuts to the CDC began in 2018 or earlier, when Obama-era health security funding was cut and the agency ran out of money. According to Fortune Magazine, “Overall in 2018, Trump called for $15 billion in reduced health spending that had previously been approved, …cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the CDC, National Security Council (NSC), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Health and Human Services (HHS) in the process.” He dismantled the entire White House team in charge of global health security that was also created by Obama. Later, he denied knowing about this cut, but video of his talking about the cut shows that is clearly untrue. He proposed Medicaid cuts to nursing facilities for the elderly.

 

In fact, The Atlantic ran an article about how DT’s response to the Coronavirus insured the worst possible outcome. As the New York Times reports, DT has continuously minimized the scale of the coronavirus crisis, treating it as a foreign threat that could be eliminated by building a wall to keep it out. He has contradicted his own public health officials, by talking about going to work when sick, shaking hands with people on his travels (as if the warning by health officials to wash one’s hands was nonsense), and claiming a vaccine will be available soon when it will take a year or more to produce. He has politicized the crisis while blaming the Democrats for doing so, blaming Obama (again), making false statements about how our previous President handled the swine flu epidemic, implementing rules that made testing more difficult (but never happened).

 

DT claimed that the media coverage is part of a political conspiracy to destroy his presidency. He focused more on creating his wall against the “foreign virus” then getting out the test kits that are needed to actually stem this crisis and find out who and how many people actually have the disease.  In fact, the US is clearly far behind other nations in terms of the numbers of those tested.

 

It is good that DT relatively quickly stopped travel to and from China. It is good that this week he is trying to actually, finally, listen to scientists and speak more moderately in his briefings. But some of his proposals to reduce the crisis and help those of us who are sick or have lost jobs or businesses due to the illness, will make things worse. For example, his proposal to cut Medicare and suspend the payroll tax will further hurt those most vulnerable in this crisis. Suspending the payroll tax could undermine SSI while doing nothing to help people who have lost their jobs or businesses due to the virus. If you have no paycheck, a suspension of the tax does nothing for you. It predominantly helps the wealthy. Also, his cuts in the food stamp program and proposed cuts in sick leave will only worsen the situation.

 

And his constant lies, not only about the coronavirus but almost everything, the disinformation campaign propagated by his followers, and his attempts to gag health officials, scientists and others, makes the crisis worse because we can’t trust anything he says.

 

And remember: this crisis began just after DT interfered in the Roger Stone sentencing, fired the former acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire (after he had his aides brief Congress on Russia’s threat to our next election), and replaced him with a DT loyalist. He is clearly trying to turn the intelligence community into an agency to serve his personal political interest, not the nation’s, as he already did at the DOJ. We could go on and on describing his attempts to undermine the rule of law and what’s left of democracy in this nation.

 

We need, once again, to make calls to Congress. We can’t have big protests, due to the virus, only persistent little ones. But we can call and demand investment in health and other infrastructure⎼ we need health care for all, better and free testing, money targeted to assist those most in need, not further entitlements for the rich. A check for a thousand dollars might be nice, helpful for many of us, but will be a bitter pill to swallow by those who lose their food stamps, Medicare, Social Security, hospital bed, or life.

 

 

Here are a few phone numbers of Democratic Senators: NY Dems: Schumer: 202-224-6542 & 212-486-4430, Gillibrand: 202-224-4451. Others: Doug Jones, Al. 202-224-4124; Joe Manchin, W. VA. 202-224-3954; Krysten Sinema, AR: 202-224-4521.

GOP: Lamar Alexander: 202-224-4944, Cory Gardner: 202-224-5941, Mitt Romney: 202-224-5251, Susan Collins: 202-224-2523, Lisa Murkowski: 202-224-6665, Portman: 202-224-3353, Ben Sasse: 202-224-4224, Mike Lee: 202-224-5444.

Dem House: Nancy Pelosi: 202-225-4965

Steny Hoyer: 202-225-4131

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DT’s Revival of the American Spirit Is the Revival of Hate and Divisiveness

I’m sorry but I couldn’t watch the whole annual speech to our nation by the President. I did listen to a few news reports and analyses and read parts online, and a PBS fact check.

 

DT talked about the “Great American Comeback” while for three years he has been destroying our future, undermining the protections on our environment and thus the habitability of our world by rolling back regulations protecting our municipal water systems from sewage or protecting our air quality. He undermines our future by attacking the science that should inform environmental regulations and protections on public health.  He has been undermining public education. He undermines our national security not only by sudden and ill-informed reverses of foreign policy, as in Syria and Iran, but by undermining our relations with allies.

 

He further undermines our health not only with the environmental policies but by withholding monies for agencies that protect us from pandemics. He has cut the National Institute of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Agency for International Development, and dismantled the entire White House team in charge of global health security.  He has threatened to cut back Medicare, Medicaid, and, of course the Affordable Care Act.

 

He has been undermining our national union by attacking not only people of color, as in Charlottesville, etc, etc, and stimulating the hate that has exploded in attacks on synagogues, LGBTQ & others, and young people in schools, but also by his fluency with lies, which makes him seem to his followers the origin of all accepted truth.

 

I think his revival of the American spirit is really the revival of hate and divisiveness. But of course, maybe I will get criticized for sowing hate because I point out the truth of his hate.

 

Meanwhile, he claims America is doing well economically, there is high employment, and we have the biggest economy in the world. And biggest military. But his “good economy” serves the rich more than Mainstreet. We have one of the biggest debt rates in our modern history, thus making our nation more economically vulnerable in a crisis and making it difficult for us to come up with the needed money to improve our infrastructure and schools. The debt increases the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands and shifts so much power to the rich that the rest of us will soon be left with little power. And his tax cuts have not only made the debt worse, but he proposes to help pay for these huge handouts to the rich by calling for cuts in the programs that serve and protect the majority of us, not only with the public health protections already mentioned and Medicare and Medicaid, but also Social Security. And meanwhile, half of America is living near the poverty level.

 

He undermines the very system we use to maintain a democracy, by disenfranchising millions of voters, destroying faith in our electoral system by resisting efforts to safeguard our election technology and, as illustrated by his Ukraine scandal, by calling for interference in the election by Russia and China. He undermines the rule of law and our constitution, as shown by his corruption, his impeachment in the House, the Mueller Investigation, his attacks on anyone who opposes him, and his own lawyer basically arguing on the Senate floor that whatever DT does is legal.

 

The House should now call John Bolton and Lev Parnas, and cut off the GOP victory dance. And then expose the GOP agenda of ripping off the American people by discussing health care, protecting Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security.

 

And sometime we need to do something about the lying in the media, the media which  insulates people in information or propaganda cocoons and incites violence. For example, a follower of DT and FOX News threatened to shoot Adam Schiff after his speech on the Senate floor about impeachment. The same person also threatened Mr. Schiff on October 1st, after DT said Schiff should be questioned for fraud and treason. As seen in the movie Vice, which is about Vice President Dick Cheney, once the Fairness Doctrine was ended in 1987, it allowed the media to give up any attempt at balanced and fact-based reporting. And DT continues to threaten Congressman Schiff.

 

And all of us who want to live in a nation of laws, who want influence on the political process, who want to be able to live without a threat of violence due to our gender identity and loves, friends, religion, economic class, or race, who want there to be a habitable world for ourselves and our children⎼ we have to not only vote but get others to vote.

 

Anger at Boomers: We Can’t Allow Ourselves to be Manipulated Into Setting One Generation, Race, Religion, Gender Against Another

In writing and publishing two of my last three blogs, I ran into people angry at Boomers or the 60s. The anger was sometimes loud and aggressive, and it was difficult, when it was in a one-on-one situation, to say anything in response that the attacker would hear. One person criticized my post on resolving to vote and imagine a true democracy, claiming I was glorifying the Boomers and blaming Millennials for the situation we are in today. I never mentioned Boomers anywhere in the piece, although I clearly spoke from a Boomer perspective, being part of that generation myself. In the other post, I described someone who blamed Boomers for DT.

 

Where is the anger and blame coming from? Certainly, people are feeling hurt, possibly that they were treated unjustly. But what is the source of that hurt?

 

At the heart of one critique was a study by Yascha Mounk at Harvard who had found that the people of the 1930s who fought the Nazis said democracy was extremely important to them, and people born much later (like Millennials) did not value democracy as highly. One reason for this difference, speculated Mounk, was that Millennials and Gen-X’ers had not fought against Nazis or against other non-democratic governments in order to safeguard democracy. The younger generations of Americans were not familiar with the threat to our freedoms these other governments could pose.

 

The critic said I had claimed Boomers had fought the Nazis and thus knew what it was like to face a threat to our democratic institutions. Maybe I wasn’t as articulate as I could have been, but clearly we Boomers could not have fought against the Nazi Germans. We weren’t alive yet. Once alive and speaking, we certainly heard about the war and Nazis quite often, from relatives who had fought, as well as from the news and literature, as we were born right after the war had ended.

 

All of us alive in the US in the 1950s felt the threat of Soviet Russia daily, whose leaders threatened to destroy US democracy. We went through the McCarthy Era, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and “duck and cover drills” that were created in fear of a nuclear war. Likewise, people today are feeling the threats of gun violence, global warming, increasing terrorism, the loss of democratic institutions, etc.

 

While young people in general tended in the past to vote at lower rates then older people, as I said in my earlier blog, this is changing. The Pew Research Center, whose statistics showed, for example, that the number of millennials who voted nearly doubled from 2014 to 2018 ⎼ and more voted than older generations of Americans. Things are changing quickly, and I welcome this particular change. Young people today are leading in several fronts, including the environment and ending gun violence.

 

Boomers are attacked for dropping out of society and also for dropping in and becoming greedy capitalists. For being too idealistic and for not caring at all about democracy. For drugs, sex, and rock’n’roll or being without morals and for being too judgmental. I was attacked for dropping out of society to return to the land as well as for supposedly claiming Millennials were responsible for all the ills of our society today, or for DT ⎼ but I never said they were responsible. Neither are all the Boomers or Gen-X’ers. The people who support DT are responsible.

 

The 60s decade was alive with experimentation, protests, art, music, and the promise of great political and social change, of increasing equity and opportunity. It was the decade that saw not only the anti-war movement but civil rights advanced, and the passing of the Voting Rights Act, Medicaid and Medicare. And early in the 70s, we saw the women’s rights and environmental movement grow, the Clean Air Act passed and the EPA created. The Clean Waters Restoration Act was passed in 1966 and the Clean Waters Act in 1972, all resulting in a great improvement in air and water quality. There was Woodstock ⎼ and there was Altamont, the assassination of a President, his Presidential candidate brother, as well as civil rights leaders.

 

But although we heard President Eisenhower’s warning in 1961 about the Military-Industrial Complex, the people of the 60s grew up in a capitalist society, as did everyone else who was born in the US alive today. Some of the super-rich capitalists are Boomers, but you can’t blame Boomers for capitalism.

 

But much of the promise of the 60s rebellion never bore fruit and fell apart, and there is anger about that. The 60s became the 70s. And then the 80s, Ronald Reagan, and the economic divide between the top 1% and the rest of us started to increase once again. The limitations on the rich that were enacted just before and during the war and were extended through the 60s and 70s, were undermined or terminated in the Reagan years, and the economic divide has been getting worse ever since. And the Boomers did not stop that injustice.

 

According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group in 2017, around 70% of the nation’s wealth will be concentrated in the hands of millionaires and billionaires by 2021. Matt Bruenig of the Peoples Policy Project, said “…the top one percent owns nearly $30 trillion of assets while the bottom half owns less than nothing, meaning they have more debts than they have assets.” And according to CBS news, the rich pay a lower tax rate than most in the middle class. If my math is correct, and we took the total income earned in the US in 2018 ($17.6 trillion) and divided it by the number of full-time workers (128.57 million),  we get $136,890. Imagine that as the salary of each worker. All this accumulation of wealth in so few hands is undermining the future for most Americans.

 

Many factors contribute to the ease by which we attack each other, but one could be social isolation, which can negatively affect our physical and emotional health. How we use social media and other technology plays a big role here. For example, instead of going out to the movies, or to work, or to shop, or even gather with friends, more of us stay home on our computers, Prime or Hulu or Xboxes or FB or texts or whatever. This makes it easier for us to experience loneliness, anger, and lose sight of the humanity of others. Face to face communication is so much more than words. It is the felt presence of a breathing being, and texts, written words, even images cannot replicate that.

 

With all the talk about different generations of Americans, it’s easy to pit one generation against another.  But a generation is simply a group of people born at a certain time in history under a certain set of conditions, and we need to remember that. Any statistics about a generation can be useful to know, but it is just a generalization. In-between the generalizations are the truths about individual people, and it is those individuals who we meet in the gym or on the street ⎼ or who write blogs.

 

There is cause for anger, but it should be directed at the actions of those super-rich people who are trying to undermine democracy right now by setting one generation, one group of people ⎼ or one race, religion, or gender ⎼ against another. And we can’t let ourselves take part in that manipulation or allow it to succeed.

 

 

This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

 

 

 

 

You Can’t Concede Democracy To A Would-Be Dictator

After the midterms, a majority of Americans breathed a collective sigh of relief. Now that Democrats have won control of one branch of Congress, they will be better able to act to hold the President and this GOP administration accountable for their actions.

 

But if you listen to some news commentators, the biggest challenge facing Democrats is to avoid the temptation to go after T or try to impeach him. A Monmouth University poll reportedly found that only 36% of Americans thought T should be impeached. Instead, these pundits argue, Dems should try to pass health care legislation, rebuild infrastructure, establish a higher minimum wage and control gun violence. These are all worthy pursuits. But it’s not enough.

 

Focusing on health care instead of impeachment helped most of the Dems win in the midterm elections last week.  And the party itself is unsure just how progressive they are or can afford to be. I get that. But to ignore T’s assaults on the rule of law, on our rights, voting systems, environment, on our ears and hearts, would be suicidal, not only to the lives of many people but to any remaining semblance of democracy.

 

And many Americans know this. We feel fear and anxiety almost every day about what T is doing. We care about our humanity. And, I hope, most won’t let T have his way.

 

The Monmouth University poll also found 52% of the public think keeping T in check should be the major priority for the new Congress. Even a majority of Republicans (54%) join 92% of Democrats in saying that keeping Trump in check should be at least a minor priority.

 

According to a Pew Research Poll, about 60% of voters in the 2018 election said T motivated them to vote: 38% were motivated by an opposition to T, 26% supported him. And 7.1% more people (about 4 million) voted for Democrats for the House in the midterms than voted for Republicans.

 

Many of us recognize that T is selling out our nation to a group of super-rich individuals, maybe selling us out to demagogues and oppressors like Putin. Many of us know that he is using his office to directly enrich himself and violating the emoluments clause. His tax legislation funds the rich and robs from the rest of us.

 

If Democrats, for example, do not fight the appointment of Matt Whitaker as Attorney General, T might be protected from being held accountable for his actions. We could see an increase in unlawful behavior, rights violations, even religious persecution initiated by the GOP. For example, in his 2014 Senate bid, Whitaker said he would not support “secular judges” and any judge should “have a biblical view of justice.” Non-Christians, particularly atheists, Jewish and Muslim people are, according to Whitaker, unfit for such a position.

 

Former lawyer to the President, Don McGahn interviewed Whitaker to join T’s legal team as his “attack dog” against Robert Mueller. Whitaker has openly spoken out against the investigation, and the very idea that he could even appear as a neutral and qualified attorney general, or as anything other than T’s protector is absurd. He also claimed states should have the right to nullify federal laws.

 

How can we get legitimate health care legislation with a GOP controlled Senate and with T as President? Remember it was the GOP who, according to Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan, called for Congress to go after Medicare, Medicaid, (Social Security) and the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. It was the GOP who last year proposed health care legislation that would make big cuts to Medicaid and undermine health care for millions.

 

How do we get gun control when the GOP is controlled by the NRA?

 

T warned Democrats “investigate me, and I’ll investigate you.” Mitch McConnell warned Democrats not to “harass the President.” It is not harassment if legislators speak the truth or act in accord with their sworn oath to defend the constitution. I think the news analysts who caution Democrats not to spend much time investigating and prosecuting T are serving the interests of the GOP, not the majority of the American people.

 

Democrats can and should propose legislation that actually serves the interests of the great majority of Americans. This includes resurrecting voting rights and protections, eliminating gerrymandering, and even more comprehensive health care legislation that would protect Americans and lower health costs. (The list could go on and on.)

 

They can keep in mind the great diversity of citizens in this nation. A Democracy only exists if people listen to and are willing to work with others and even compromise. Too much is at stake for Democrats to fight amongst themselves or vie for who is the most progressive, for example, or most independent. They have to remember it was the GOP who turned ‘compromise’ into a dirty word.

 

However, without using their new House majority to protect Mueller and carry out their own investigation into exactly how much T (and other GOP) aided Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, or how deeply he is beholden to Putin, financially or otherwise—without prosecuting him for interfering in the Mueller investigation and a myriad of other crimes, the Democrats could concede democracy to a would-be dictator. Many Democrats have said they are ready for this challenge of fighting T. For the well-being of our nation and world, I hope they are right. And I hope we are ready to work with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Aim of T and the GOP Is Not To Win An Election, But End Elections; Not To Foster Democracy, But End It.

A democracy is a government where the ultimate power belongs to the people of the nation (demos is Greek for people). It is the will of the people that should guide decisions. The views and lives of the great majority of people, their education, livelihood, health and security must be valued. Since the will of the people is paramount and must guide decision-making, relationships amongst the people must be carefully fostered. Compassion must be fostered.

 

Yet, what is the reality of T’s GOP? Kevin Baker, in a recent article in the New Republic, describes what almost everyone who pays attention has observed: our politics has become open warfare, with the aim being not to serve the people but to make sure the other party never again comes to power. It is to seize power and keep it, by any means. That includes lying and distorting the truth, attacking the institutions that keep us safe, undermining voting, civil and legal rights, enormous corruption, and even colluding with the dictator of a foreign and hostile government.

 

Our government was deliberately structured to prevent a return to power of a monarchy or one-man rule. Three branches of government were established by the constitution in order to have checks on power. Today, we have a one party government; one party controls all three branches of the government. Since the party is led and controlled by one individual, we have a government controlled largely by one individual.

 

A government of a small group is an oligarchy. A government by a class is an aristocracy. A government by one legally prescribed hereditary ruler is a monarchy. A government wherein one person takes power and/or eliminates his or her opposition is a tyranny. A kleptocracy is a government of corrupt rulers who use their power to exploit the people and the nation’s resources in order to extend and keep their own personal wealth and power. Which kind of government do we have now?

 

A democracy requires that laws rule and must protect the people as a whole, not serve the interests of any one person or small group of persons. Yet, T asks the department of justice to protect and serve him, not the law. He tries to undermine investigations by his own DOJ and attacks the FBI.

 

According to a great body of evidence, T and several people from his campaign and administration, including his own son, son-in-law, campaign manager, etc. colluded with a foreign dictator to undermine US elections. And he has largely refused to protect our own election infrastructure.

 

A democracy needs the participation of the people. Yet the GOP undermines voting rights. T encourages hate instead of compassion, calls immigrants whores, criminals, and animals. He rips children from their parents as a deterrent for immigration. He divides the nation and whips up hatred against these fellow humans, despite the fact that immigrants, even undocumented immigrants, are less likely to commit a crime than those citizens born in this country.

 

He not only whips up hatred against immigrants, but against anyone who opposes him, even from his own party. He viciously attacked, in the past and even just recently, John McCain. He insulted and/or or threatened Senator Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, and others for going against his wishes. Certainly, he attacks Democrats and the press almost daily.

 

To make political decisions that actually solve problems and improve the well-being of the people, a democracy needs educated people. It needs to support and promote the dissemination of scientific discoveries and information. This administration attacks education, both in public K-12 schools and universities, and has blocked access to scientific data.

 

This administration shows a profound disregard, even contempt, for health care for a great number of citizens, and has consistently advanced policies that most Americans oppose, creating pressures that cause insurance rates to rise and undermining protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

 

It has attacked supports for the poor, like Medicaid, and programs that all Americans contribute to as insurance for when they are older or retired, like Medicare and Social Security—and they do this in order to protect tax cuts to the super rich who don’t need more wealth.

 

When a very small group of people get a large percentage of the nation’s wealth and income, a democracy of, by and for the people becomes impossible. According to the Congressional Budget Office, between 1979 and 2007, the income for the top 1% in the US has grown by 275%. Since last year’s GOP tax cut, income inequality is growing even more. Instead of one person one vote, and freedom of speech for all, we have one person’s voice drowning out millions of other voices.

 

Hate destabilizes a nation. When we hate, we feel hated in return. We then strike out. Anger boils up with the least provocation. Increasing numbers of us experience a deep sense of dread or anxiety. The number of children suffering from anxiety has been greatly increasing. Increasing numbers of people can’t tolerate hearing the news.

 

We have to be careful not to become what we oppose. One of the worst results of this administration is that too many have begun to doubt the efficacy and strength of kindness. There is so much to be angry about that we can forget the deleterious effects of anger. We mistake actually listening to others for weakness.

 

The aim of this administration might be to end democracy, but they haven’t succeeded, yet. And we can’t let them. Anyone who wants a real democracy, who has compassion for other humans and believes in the rule of laws, not rule by a few powerful individuals, must do what we can to make opposing the policies of this administration a normal part of our day. Must make activities to keep us sane and compassionate part of our day. This is our only viable option if we wish to uphold our humanity.

The Healing Cries of Outrage and Compassion

So much has happened in the last week or more. So much cruelty, so many lies. Yet, the hearts of many have awoken, have reached a point where mutual feeling and compassion has overcome fear or disbelief or inertia and has led so many to speak out. It feels like, or maybe I am just hoping, that the opposition to T is growing and will continue to grow.

 

T’s policy toward immigrants, of separating children from their parents so their pain will scare others away from our borders, is not only so inhumane and cruel I can barely stand to think about it, but ignorant in terms of the long range effects of this policy. If our borders are marked with red in the hearts of so many, then we, as a people and a nation, are marked with red, like targets. Like a cruel threat to eliminate. As an immoral nation. It is unbelievably costly in terms of human suffering. It is costly in terms of the money spent in building and staffing the prisons to hold the people, and providing judges to judge them, food to feed and doctors to care for them (and hopefully that will get such care).

 

And it is based on so many lies. As most of us know, and despite T’s statements and tweets to the contrary, undocumented immigrants from the south, and elsewhere, are less likely to commit a crime than US citizens. The border, despite T’s claims, has not been overrun by illegals, certainly not more than in past years.

 

T claims his policy is nothing new. President Obama supposedly did it. Democrats passed a law to do it. And he’s helpless to stop it. Congress must stop it. Then a few days later, he signs an executive order claiming to do just what he said he couldn’t do. Of course, the order, in effect, is almost as cruel as the policy it claims to end. It creates more chaos and does nothing to help re-unite parents with the children the government ripped away.

 

Of course, Obama did not have a policy of separating children from the parents of asylum seekers or immigrants as a way to scare away other immigrants. Of course, Democrats passed no law forcing T to separate children from parents.

 

Friends have cautioned me to look behind the headlines. Whenever T does something spectacularly awful, something else awful is hiding in the shadows, or something threatening to T is being hidden. It is painful to say this, but T is ripping children from their parents not only as a way to satisfy his political base and his own base instincts. He is hiding the fact he is ripping off social welfare and health care programs from most Americans as well as hiding his own possibly treasonous and criminal activities.

 

So, while many of us are focusing on the cruelty being done to immigrants, the GOP, on Tuesday, 6/19, quietly passed through a House committee a budget proposal that would fast track large cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as well as education and other programs that actually serve most Americans, all to finance continued tax cuts to the rich. This proposal is expected to pass the House—unless there is a public outcry.

 

On Thursday, they released a plan to reorganize the federal government, and cut programs like food stamps. It would combine the education and labor departments and give private industry a more direct role in the government. This could, for example, undermine the teaching of the humanities and redirect education to be totally concerned with one goal —providing labor to corporate interests. It could undermine the power of workers in general and the enforcement of civil rights in schools.

 

However, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort remains in jail, a judge ruled that the evidence seized by the FBI from his office can be used in his trial, and new evidence has been uncovered of Trump advisers like Roger Stone meeting with Russian agents.

 

What is heartening is the outcry. Millions of Americans are calling Congress, and as Rachel Maddow revealed in a story on Thursday, 6/21, lawyers are organizing to defend, pro bono, federal officials who refuse to “follow orders” on immigration.  Multiple states are suing the T administration to stop his immigration policy. And millions of dollars have been raised in just a few days to provide legal assistance to the parents and children separated at the border.

 

Even more, the number of people who are ready to enter politics to defend America from the racism, sexism, etc., criminality, greed, and shortsightedness that this administration represents has increased dramatically this year. Over the last week, I have attended a fundraiser and/or donated to two amazing people who are running for office. One is a friend, Michael Lausell, who is running for the New York Senate in district 58. The other, a former student and graduate from the Lehman Alternative Community School, Satya Rhodes-Conway, is running for Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin. And five people are competing in the Democratic primary in New York’s 23rd district to unseat T supporter Tom Reed. I have met and talked to two of the candidates at different political demonstrations and think both are worthy of my vote (Max Della Pia and Tracy Mitrano).

 

I just hope that all those who oppose and are outraged by this immigration policy, as well as the GOP tax policy, can keep in mind that our differences are less important than what we share ⎼ our humanity, and the drive to unseat T and his whole administration. To protect our environment and create a democratic government that works for and looks to promote the rights, freedom, education, and quality of life of the great majority of people in this nation.

 

**There is a New York primary on Tuesday, June 26th.

***And remember to make calls and speak up against this immigration policy and against cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in order to continue to finance tax cuts for the rich. On Saturday, June 30th, there will be demonstrations all over the nation to support immigrants. In Ithaca, the demonstration will be on the Commons, at 11:00 am.

“A government of the people, by the people, [and] for the people…”

Last week, Mother Jones magazine ran an article about how “The GOP’s Biggest Charter School Experiment Just Imploded.” It tells the story of the failure and collapse of a charter school called the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, which recently had a student body of over 13,872 students, the largest public charter school, maybe the largest k-12 school, in the US. You might find it interesting. According to the article, the school provided for many a “sham education” and “functioned more like a profit center than an educational institution.”

 

Related to this, the Tallulah Charter School in New Orleans was closed in December after the Louisiana Department of Education voided 325 scores on the LEAP tests after finding evidence of systemic cheating. An investigation found the school was “administering incorrect accommodations, administering accommodations inappropriately and giving students access to test questions prior to the test.”

 

Charter schools are not subject to the same regulation as public schools, so such abuses as reported above are understandable. As Diane Ravitch argues in her book Reign of Error, they “…are deregulated and free from most state laws….” Unlike public schools, which take any and every student who comes to their door, charter schools can screen for the most advantaged. Despite this screening, they are no more successful than public schools. As educator Steven Singer put it, “school choice is no choice.” The schools chose the students more than the other way around. When adjusted for the economic situation of students, statistics show charters often do worse. Charter and other privately run schools can hire uncertified teachers who are not unionized, not as well trained, and who can be paid less.

 

But despite these problems, Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, says she is in favor of establishing a voucher system, where parents can choose where to send their children for their education. Public funds will be used to pay for students to attend charters, religious, or other private schools instead of public ones.

 

She argues, despite evidence showing otherwise, that “choice” will increase equity among all students by forcing competition in the education market. But her approach treats our children as commodities, sources of money, (as exemplified by speaking of “value added” to students by schools) and conceptualizes the purpose of education as meeting the needs of employers, (or in DeVos’ case, meeting her agenda of Christianizing education: see the NYT article on the subject) not meeting the needs and dreams of students.

 

The push for “choice” developed over many years of attacks on the image and funding of public schools. Diane Ravitch argues that education corporations worked with individual politicians to undermine public schools, teachers, and teacher unions, and have been attacking the very concept that a public institution working for the general good, instead of a for-profit corporation, can successfully manage and direct an educational system.

 

Once public education was forced into this deliberately manufactured crisis, there were increasing calls to create privately run, publicly funded, charter schools, and vouchers for private schools. In 2016-7, there were 3.1 million students enrolled in charter schools, triple the number from 2006-7. With charter schools, public money is transferred from teachers and administrators, who are mostly in the middle or lower class, to corporate investors. In the case of cities like NYC, hedge fund managers, whose primary goal is fast profits, have taken over several charter schools.

 

If our society truly wanted to create an equitable educational system it would begin by investing more money in schools where the need was greatest. It would treat teachers with the respect they deserve and need in order to creatively and compassionately meet the educational needs of students. It would do a better job of treating students as whole people with emotional, social, and health needs as well as intellectual ones. It would do any of these things before it would spend one nickel on vouchers or corporate created charter schools.

 

The call for “choice” is a call for privatization of the whole public sphere. It is part of an across the board effort to undermine all aspects of our democracy and to send taxpayer money to rich investors. It is happening with our water systems. In 2011 three quarters of municipalities had public water systems. But the Trump EPA has steadily worked to undermine the rule of law and cut back on protections for rivers and other water systems, and his calls for infrastructure improvements have been tied to pressure for privatization of municipal water systems.

 

It has been happening with prison systems. In 1983, the first private prisons were opened. By 2015, 126,272 people were imprisoned in private institutions. It has been happening with the military. Since the 1990s, the US and other nations have increased their dependence on private military firms (corporate mercenaries). This was highlighted last year when Betsy DeVos’ brother, Erik Prince, tried to get the Trump administration to privatize the war in Afghanistan and turn it over to Prince.

 

It is happening with health, pension and earned benefits systems. The GOP has repeatedly tried to privatize Social Security and end or undermine Medicare and Medicaid in order to appropriate the benefits earned by workers. Mr. T and other Republican politicians repeatedly attack the FBI and CIA. These efforts are partly to undermine the Mueller investigation. It is also to establish an intelligence and investigation institution that owes allegiance not to the constitution, “the people” or the government as a whole, but to Mr. T, personally, as evidenced by T asking for Comey’s “loyalty” and saying he expected the attorney general to protect him from the Russia investigation.

 

I could go on and on, talking about attempts to end voting rights, economic justice and racial, religious or gender equality, destroy the free press, the postal system, etc. Privatization is a vehicle for undermining democracy and destroying the best hope of this nation. President Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, called for people to dedicate themselves to “the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far nobly advanced… that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this earth.” Maybe I’m going too far here, but it seems to me that ending a government of, by, and for “the people” is exactly what Mr. T is trying to do. Thus, resisting him and the GOP is nothing less than helping to complete the unfinished work President Lincoln called for.

 

**Thank you to Jill Swenson for the heads up about the first two links about charter schools.